Monday, 15-06-2015. Day 299.
On a Ferry from Calais to Dover
Monday morning it was straight outta Bruges (there's nothing going on in Bruges on Monday morning) and right into Calais so we could catch the ferry across the English Channel to Dover. This would be our last day in the Schengen Area (at least until we got to Iceland) and we'd only used up 75 of our 90 days.
We heard the horror stories that long-term travelers can face when entering the United Kingdom, especially with kids during the school year. But we were in summer break, so we were hoping that would be mitigated. As we approached the immigration window we were prepared to pull up bank statements and departure tickets and ready to answer any potential question that would come our way.
But the whole thing was pretty routine. We were asked where we were staying, how long we we'd be staying in the U.K., and where we'd come from. The gent didn't even check previous stamps in our passports. Instead, he stamped all four with a Calais stamp and waved us on.
And just like that, we were out of the Schengen Area and in the United Kingdom.
Our ferry ride from P&O Ferries (there are a few different companies to choose from) cost us $92.18 (U.S. dollars). We'd paid for the cheapest available crossing and we'd arrived a little early for our scheduled departure time. We figured we'd have to wait until our turn came up, but after we checked in at the ferry gate, they just let us drive onto the Pride of Canterbury with all the other waiting cars.
The crossing itself was very similar to the ferry across the Cook Strait in New Zealand (from the north island to the south), but this boat was a little bigger than the one in New Zealand and the waters were a lot choppier. Walking inside the boat was definitely an adventure.
The ride was relatively quick, only about 90 minutes. We stayed inside the comfort of the passenger cabin during the whole ride, and the glass didn't really lend itself to taking good pictures. Soon enough, though, we saw the White Cliffs of Dover and the mad dash down to the the vehicles began.
In my mind, I was ready for the challenge of driving our right-side-driving car (with the steering wheel on the left) on the opposite side of the road—and then I looked over at the car on my left, which was a left-side-driving car (with the steering wheel on the right) and I got a little nervous. It felt strange, but I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it—it was time to drive off the boat and hit the road.
Once we got through the twisting one-way streets around the docks we hit the highway and got our next surprise—the U.K. uses miles, not kilometers like most of the rest of the world, so until we figured out how to change the car to display miles on the odometer and speedometer (which took a little while) we had to convert back into miles. We'd been thinking in kilometers for so long, this gave us a bit of trouble. Kilometers really are much easier.
Once we had all that sorted and we stopped for a round of bathroom breaks and a little lunch, we headed toward Brighton to see Charly and Martin, old friends of ours we'd met in Bali all those months ago.