Our next stop on our trip was England. Since we had a rental car, and we were planning on camping most of the time, we ended up taking the ferry ride from the port in France, across the channel, to the white cliffs of Dover. As we were queuing up in line we were accompanied by about 20-30 BMW minis that were obviously going to or coming from some kind of car convention. We made it on and for the next hour and a half we walked around the boat and people watched in the cafeteria. The duty free shop on board was filled with Union Jack paraphernalia and miscellaneous gifts, although tempting, we didn’t purchase anything. It was a smooth sail across and before we knew it we were driving towards London on the left side of the road in a left hand steering wheeled car, or, the proper way if you’re from the states. The round-a-bouts felt a little odd but nonetheless, we were on our way to meet up with Caro’s brother, sister in law, Caro’s dad, sister and for the first time, meet Carolin’s newborn niece. Since this was my first time to the United Kingdom we spent a fair share of a couple days site seeing and wandering through some of the markets nearby.
We stalled for a couple hours on our way to London at a town called Canterbury. We took some photos and made good use of McDonald’s two story free internet palace. We found a park to lounge around in for a while and then we continued.
For me personally, I should state that visiting England has always been high on my list. Although I don’t have any family who live in the UK, my father was born and raised outside of London. I’ve always seemed to wonder about this part of the world. More particularly the outskirts of the major cities and coastal communities.
With all the food and clothing/knickknack markets, Staying busy was not a problem in London. But just like any big city, it felt like you’d need to spend some time there to really harness all it has to offer. We ended up staying at Steve and Martina’s new house just outside of all the riff raff of downtown and then the last 2 nights at a rental apartment down the street. We had a welcome home BBQ for Carolin’s newborn niece Emmaline as it was the first time she came home from the hospital.
We spent those days walking around and even jumped on a double decker bus. Basically hit all the tourist spots, but for somebody who has never seen it before it was pretty interesting as a whole. Up until this point on our travels, big cities had been a bit overwhelming. Every time we entered a big city we felt like we couldn’t wait to get back to the countryside. Plus, Carolin and I had a particular budget to follow and the bigger the city usually, the bigger the bill was at the end of the day. With that being said, it was time to start moving on toward Cornwall.
So we heard mixed numbers about how long it would take us to drive straight to Cornwall. We set out and things seemed to be going fine until we hit the Stonehenge traffic. Stonehenge was on the way to Cornwall so we figured we’d check it out. Apparently everybody else was thinking the same thing too. We sat in hours of stop and go traffic all the way to Stonehenge. From the road we saw it off in the distance and snapped a photo. This was the closest we would get to it. Pulling into the parking lot, the parking attendant wanted a quarter of our daily budget just to park. Then she informed us they would take another large percentage of our budget and leave us trying to figure out how to eat and find accommodations for the rest of the day. That was just to get in. Once you’re in they won’t let you go within a certain distance of the unexplained relics. We didn’t go. It was a zoo and we really didn’t feel like it was worth it. So, we pushed onward. Since every Tom, Dick and Harry was at Stonehenge, the rest of the way down was much more enjoyable.
When we arrived in Newquay we learned that most of our first pick campsites were either unavailable or overbooked. We were referred to a kind of family camping/ activity park. There was a massive general store, restaurant, Game Center, deluxe aquatic park among many other amenities and daily activities which would contradict the very nature of our camping mission. Most people who were there had multi bedroom, multi faceted tents, compared to our 40 year old, duct taped, living room , dining room, master bedroom all in one special. (For the record, our tent is awesome!) These people had elaborate light systems and television sets centered in their living room vortexes of their tents. It was amazing actually. Amazingly bad. The place was a trip to say the least. The only thing they didn’t have in their tents was sound proof walls to absorb the theatre quality speakers. But, if that’s how they want to camp, more power to them and thank god they have a place that will accommodate them.
We decided to head further south the next day and we ended up posting up at Beacon cottage to call home for the next few days. It was from here we could take walks on the bluffs overlooking Chapel port and Porthtowan. We scoped out little coves and inlets hoping to find a glimpse of a wave. Well, we found surf and we found plenty of beach-goers as well. Turns out the surfing community in Cornwall is alive and thriving. I had looked up a couple forecasts and found out there was some swell on the way, although small, we welcomed anything we could surf and had a couple great little sessions. The weather was perfect.
Driving around the area was interesting at times. Since we were out on country roads mostly, navigating traffic or one lane roads kept us both on our toes. (See pictures below) I guess it makes sense having random pubs in the middle of these areas because having a drink is exactly what you want to do after maneuvering your rental car within inches of the locals.
We took day trips to fishing communities like Mevagissey and historical lands end. Coming back from lands end we stopped at the first and last inn which was actually not highly recommended. We heard some rumors about the friendliness of their hospitality. We ended have some really good beer and kinda felt like we were in the bowels of a pirate ship. If your passing through, it’s worth stopping for a pint.
As we headed back up towards London, we stopped at the Dartmoor visitor center and decided to drive through the national park. Again, see pictures below. The drive was amazing. Wildlife everywhere. Vast rolling hills and green is what we were graced with. It took a bit out of our drive heading north but it was well worth it. Our next mission was to drive back to Dover to catch the ferry back to France. From st. Agnes to Hastings usually takes about 5 and a half hours. Unfortunately for us we got stuck in traffic all day. Dover’s camp sites were sold out so we were forced to go to Hastings. Barely got there before dark. As we got to the gate to check in, (delirious from driving 12 hours straight mind you) the heavily thick accented man asked us if we would care for an iced lolli. I must have made him repeat himself a half dozen times because first of all, I have no idea what’s going on from driving, second, an iced lolli is the very last thing I’m expecting to talk about at this point in the day. Apparently he was asking us if we wanted ice cream. He said he’d offer us a beer but it was against the law. So we drove to our campsite happily enjoying our unexpected frozen treat. Posted up our tent, hit the sack because we were exhausted, and then it started pouring down with rain. To accurately describe the rain I’d say it was more like a torrential downpour.
It was a sad night. We knew it was our last night camping in Europe. We had already booked accommodations for the rest of the trip to stay in hostels and such, so the coincidence of our tent collapsing on us full of water on our last night was almost meant to be. We had a river running through half the tent and most of our gear was soaked. It was really just the perfect ending to the trip. We were up early the next day to try and dry everything out and made our way to the ferry and said good bye to beautiful England. Next stop, Netherlands…