Portsmouth – Salisbury – Cirencester – Doncaster (289 Miles)
We were relieved to be on the ferry and we made our way to our pre-booked cabin, so okay, we splashed out a bit and went for one of the nice ‘Commodore’ Class Cabins with balcony, not that it would be warm enough to lounge on the chairs outside but at least I didn’t have to go very far to have my cigarettes !! We had been pre-warned to expect a bit of a rough passage with Thirteen Foot ‘Swells’, thirteen feet ! that’s not a swell that’s a bloody ‘Tsunami’ !! I don’t tend to suffer with sea sickness but Shazza does, so she had already had the forethought to take her ‘Quells’ tablets. Last year’s trip back, albeit the middle of January so a rough passage was only to be expected, lived up to expectations and was horrendous, Shazza didn’t make it to the Restaurant for dinner. This time we had come prepared and we had packed up with sandwiches just in case, and that ‘just in case scenario’ was played out. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate but I am glad that the Cabin had a good strong door as when the ship rolled one way the door stopped me from running downhill into the corridor, when it pitched the other way I was even more pleased that we had the balcony sliding doors shut, otherwise it could have been a man overboard scenario !! Shazza had a bit of a rough night as the boat pitched and rolled until the early hours, although I have to take her word for that as I slept like a baby. However, by morning the sea had calmed down and it became quite a pleasant trip, we were grateful for that as we were not due to arrive in Portsmouth until 9:30pm.
So, before our ‘Winter Trip 2014’ is actually over, the mark of which will be the start of our second season as Elf and Elfette on 13th March, we have ten days left. Our first stop was a short 46 mile drive to Coombe Caravan Park, a ‘Open All Year’ site on the outskirts of Salisbury and located at Salisbury Racecourse. We arrived a little earlier than we had thought we would but it was still late at 11pm and so we found ourselves a Hardstanding pitch, hooked up to the EHU point, had a coffee and then went to bed. The site is pretty much ‘out in the sticks’ unless you have alternative ‘motorised’ transport but we were there to see our daughter Stacey, and Dean her partner, before they flew out to Australia for 3 years and they had a car. Stacey was just days from submitting her ‘Thesis’ for her PhD, the culmination of three years of very hard studies and we are so very proud of her achievements. It is a bitter-sweet pill to swallow, the fact that she will now be thousands of miles away, but she has secured an excellent job near Melbourne and I guess I have to put my hands up as being guilty for encouraging her to follow her dreams. Anyway, it was great to see them both again and we had a great night out before having to give her some big hugs and wave goodbye. I did the manly thing and saved my tears until after she had gone !!
Our next two night stop was a further 66 miles away at the Caravan Club site at Cirencester, another ‘Open All Year’ site and one that we had stayed on several times previously. However, before we made our way there we had an appointment in Swindon, or rather Shazza did, she had broken a tooth whilst in Spain and so needed to visit her Dentist to get it sorted. It was strange being back in the town where we used to live, even stranger to be parked up in the ‘Orbital Retail Park’ just a fifteen minute walk from our former house. Now you may think it is only me that suffers with OCD but I can now tell you that Shazza suffers with it as well, we went into the ASDA store, the one we always used to shop in, but because of where we needed to park ‘Big Momma’, we entered the store at the opposite end to that which we usually did. We started to walk up one of the Aisles but Shazza turned to me and said “Do you mind if we start at the other end because I like to do it in a certain order and I know where everything is located” !! My response was, I thought, quite an innocent one, “Does it really matter which route we take to the Bakery aisle ? Her short response was “Yes !”. We had actually only gone in for a loaf of bread but I have to confess that I was a bit worried on how big this loaf was going to be when she told me to grab a trolley !! All I will say, and you can make your own opinion on what we actually came out with, was that this was probably the most expensive loaf of bread in the world, and the heaviest, as it took up four shopping bags !!
Once Shazza had her broken tooth fixed, and had been relieved of a substantial sum of money in the process !! we continued our journey to Cirencester. We had just got set up on our pitch when Chris and Sarah arrived, ‘the parents of our future grandchildren’ and they don’t believe in doing things by halves, so at some point in August we will be presented with two grandchildren !! We spent some time chatting, although I am sure I cannot remember what the main topic of the conversation was !! Then a short fifteen minute walk into the town where we enjoyed a really lovely meal in an Italian restaurant. We had of course already seen them during our travels as they had visited us whilst at Albufiera last October, but it was still good to catch up with them again.
We had booked two nights stay at the Caravan Club site so our final day was a chance for Shazza to catch up with some washing and to just generally relax. Now that word relax means different things to different people, for example, to me it means doing absolutely nothing apart from a bit of pottering around the van. However, to Shazza it means ‘walking’ !! Of course she could go on her own but you know as well as I do that that was never going to happen !! Fortunately, the site is within easy walking distance of the town and as an added bonus, between 08:00am and 5pm, you can walk through the park. We were not out long, just long enough to walk 7km !! I can only think myself lucky that she wasn’t in search of more ‘Tombs’ !!
We were not in any hurry to depart from Cirencester and head to Shazzas mums house near Doncaster and we partook of our usual duvet coffees. It would be a three and a half hour drive so we did the usual, Shazza made the munchies and I made the flask. It was a nice dry and sunny morning as we pulled out of the site gates and before long we were back on to the familiar A417 heading towards the M5 Motorway. In all the years we had lived in Swindon and travelled this same route numerous times, we had never stopped at the viewpoint at ‘Birdlip’, but today we decided it had to be done.
Once we had done the ‘viewpoint’ thing it was back on the road and there were no more ‘planned’ or ‘unplanned’ stops before Doncaster. There were three things that were quite noticeably different driving in UK from driving in Spain or Portugal, okay so the obvious one is driving on the left-hand side of the carriageway, always important to get that bit right !! The other things though are, how busy the UK roads are, it certainly isn’t as relaxing to drive on these roads as it is on European roads and the other thing is the number of road works going on !! My goodness, the red and white cones stretch for miles, the speed restrictions go on for miles yet there are no signs of any road works going on over these miles, what’s that all about then ?
We now have just six days before we head to Berwick-upon-Tweed on the North East Coast of England, right on the border of Scotland, with Edinburgh just a one-hour drive away, there we will commence our ‘Elf & Elfette – Season Two‘ duties, sounds a bit like one of those DVD Box Sets !! However, before then we have to visit some relatives in the area, take a trip to Leeds to visit my parents, get into Shazzas mums loft to retrieve our Elf & Elfette work kit and then sort out some Admin stuff, but with a bit of luck I may get a short reprieve from any of those ‘Shazzas Expeditions’, well for now at least !!