29.09.2012 - 29.09.2012 18 °C
Got up at 6:45 am as the ferry leaves at 9am and you have to be on it at least an hour before so we needed plenty of time to repack the bike boxes and find fuel for the bike. The decision to stay in the Premier Inn was a great one as the ferry port was literally across the road from the hotel. Luckily Morison's was open so we grabbed some fuel and breakfast snacks before queuing for the check in gate. It took about 45 mins to get through the check in so we were glad we'd been up so early. The guy at the desk told us to drive to lane 1, which seemed weird as everyone else was in lane 3. I was hoping that this was something to do with the bike going on first and not that they were about to search us for illegal contraband! Sure enough almost as soon as we had stopped at the end of the lane, a guy with a fluorescent jacket and walkie talkie waved us through and up a long winding concrete ramp. The ferry was waiting at the end of the ramp looking like a massive hungry metal beast that the men in fluorescent jackets could only satisfy by feeding motorists into it's wide open mouth!
A guy waved us to the end of the deck where we parked up next to a metal bulkhead and the guy explained that the wheels needed to be lined up with markings on the floor so that they could strap it down for the trip. We took most of our bags with us as we had booked an outside room and headed up the lift to the public decks.
The boat was huge and the corridors seemed to go on into eternity,
but we managed to find our little door and putting the key in wondered how small our single room would be...
But we were massively surprised! We had a fairly large cabin with a double bed and a single bed above it. There was a giant porthole window and an en-suite which was surprisingly spacious!
We changed out of the bike clothes for a bit and headed out to explore the deck. There was a cinema, casino, games rooms, bar and just about everything else you could want for.
We opted for spending a few hours out on deck catching some rays before retiring to the room for a snooze.
Arrival in Holland
Packed the bike back up and made our way off the boat into a beautiful sunny day in Holland.
Set the sat nav on the phone for Beer and Martijn's house in Leiden and off we went. It was weird riding on the opposite side of the road on my own bike, it didn't feel right at first but after a few dodgy roundabout moments it was becoming natural.
The main road to their town was closed which left us following another car that we hoped was trying to divert around the closure. Luckily it was because it took around 10 minutes of driving down little alleyways with every road seemingly closed or blocked before we finally made it back to the main route!! And the sat nav seemed rather insistent that we turned around and head back to the original closed road so it was quite a relief to find sign posts again.
Jayne also saw her first genuine Windmill as it shot by...
It took around another 45 minutes to find their road and it was great to see Beer walking down the street towards us with a beaming smile.
They live in an apartment above a shop (a bit like us!) and although it's small it's very open plan and cute! We took all the luggage off the bike and Beer suggested we try and fit the bike down a small alley to a lockable compound where they keep their push bikes. It was a bit of a squeeze but I JUST squashed it down the alley and put it to sleep for a few days.
Beer laid on a huge feast including cheese fondue and we stuffed it all down before spending the evening being show around Leiden on a walking tour (Martijn was at a party in another town until late, so would join us later).
Leiden is a very pretty town, little cobbled streets with rivers cris-crossing through it and more churches than you can shake a stick at.
After our walk we headed to a local 'CAFE' (read as busy bar) called 'Oliviers' which serve around 50 different Belgium beers! They give you a card with 6 beers on it and if you drink all six you get a pile of free deep fat fried nibbles. Game on!
I should explain that the card was between 3 of us but was still a challenge as Belgium beers range from 6% - 11.4% !! They are ridiculously strong and more than 2 does start to kick your ass. We had our first 6 which included Duval Green, Orval, Delirium, Barbar, Chimay Blue and others I can't recall.
We had a great night catching up and the free nibbles were much appreciated. Martijn joined us at around midnight and we carried on drinking ridiculously strong beers until the early hours.
Somehow we managed to get back to their pad and had a completely comatose sleep on airbeds in their lounge.
What a fantastic start to the trip.