It has been only three months since we last went on holiday, but these three months have been very tiring and stressfull, so we are glad we have some time to discover new things and relax abroad. In the beginning of the year we have made a list with countries we would like to visit, but there could be only one winner and that was Great Britain, although Teije would have liked to go to France, but we made a compromise and will go there next year.
Check-in time at the harbour of IJmuiden is only at half past 4, but we want to be on our way early, so we already taste the freedom of a holiday. And so we do, we drive away from home very early and make a detour now and then, for example to Muiden where we want to have a look at the Muiderslot, one of the most famous castles in Holland.But that costs us more time and effort than we expect, since we can't pay with coins on the parking lot. On the ticket machine is a notice that we have to walk a few hundred meters back to use a machine that accepts coins. So we walk there but on that machine is the same notice but the next machine is much further away. In the meantime we see the parking officers being very busy writing (much higher) tickets, so we have to think of another way. What they all think off, just to get us away! So, we drive up at the castle, Teije stays in the car and I take a picture and have a quick look.
Near Haarlem we decide to visit the town, since we still have lots of time. There is some festival going on and the city is teeming with life. The weather also cooperates nicely and after some time the sun starts shining. We walk through the old town with many nice houses dating back to the wealthy times of the Dutch sea-faring empire and have a drink on the central square. But when we return to the car it suddenly starts raining. Just in time...We fill up our car with LPG and petrol before we enter the harbour, since the prices are higher in the UK. Although, we are not sure about the gas price, that has really gone up quite a bit with the high oil prices of the moment (almost twice as much as a few months earlier). We are glad our car uses mostly LPG, which is much cheaper!
We have to wait for almost an hour in the harbour before we can board the ferry but finally we are inside and our journey really begins: we leave the Netherlands. I don't love boats very much, and surely not to spend a whole night on, but this way we are very close to our destination tomorrow morning. For me it is the same as with planes: I don't like flying, but it gets you somewhere very easily and quickly!The prices on board have risen also quite a bit since we last used this ferry (2000): we have to pay € 5,20 for a can of almost undrinkable coffee! The 3 euro for a pint of lager (half a liter) isn't really exceptional, and Teije carry a few cans with him, so his glass fills up miraculously all the time.
But we are most surprised by the behaviour of the people: as if it is their last night they are dressed in costumes and dresses on high heels (very awkward on a boat we think) and dance on the rhythm of music that we abhor, but it must be popular. We probably become too old for this, we think, we better like the music from the 70's and 80's. This all seems so fake, we never see people behave like this in the 'real' world, so why would they do it now? We just sit in a corner and watch the crowd. It is not very late when we are off to our cabin to sleep.
Sunday 21 August 2005, from Newcastle to Beauly, ScotlandThe last time we were on this ferry we were sleeping above the engines of the boat, this time we have a cabin with endless seaview. So this time we hear the noise of the sloshing sea and the strengthening of the wind. One disadvantage of being on the outside is the fact that we feel the boat rolling much more. We both sleep a bit uneasily and wake up now and then. When a voice wakes us at half past 6 that we are going to land in 2.5 hours we are glad we can sleep another hour.
At 9, English time, we drive out of the harbour at Newcastle and soon we are on our way to Scotland, on the coastal road. Just after Berwick-upon-Tweed we pass the border. Officially, this town is still at war with France, we have read somewhere. When the English and French signed a peace treaty in 1747, they forgot to invite this town that probably was a third party in the war.
In this holiday we want to see more of England and Wales, but we are glad we can start in Scotland. So we skip castles in England today, like Alnwick (very big and impressive and used in the Harry Potter films). We will see enough of England the next weeks.
As soon as we have crossed the border we go into the nearest village (Lamberton) for a coffee. A still somewhat dozy barman likes to help us, even though he is still busy cleaning the mess from last night's party; what a night, he sighs. When we ask him if we can take a beer mat with a funny text on it, he brings us a whole packet of beer mats! Then he gets us our coffee and we go sit outside in front of the pub, in the sun. We have to pay only one pound for the coffee's.
In Ayton, not so far from the border, we come across our first Scottish castle, with a nice gate lodge. And soon after that we see the first hills and mountains appear, the extinguished vulcanos around Edinburgh. The sun is shining abundantly, again we have beaten the weather forecasts which said it would be raining and only 15 degrees Celsius.When we stop at Birnam for a cup of soup, like we did 3 ago, a thermometer tells us it is 25 degrees and we are sweating outside. We have lots of time today, so we don't go straight to Beauly but make a detour now and then onto small roads. But just before we enter the Highlands it starts raining and it doesn't stop before we arrive at Beauly, west of Inverness. The last 15 kilometers from Inverness are rather hilarious: we know the roads here reasonably well, but we have a navigation carkit now which we are trying out with the voice of John Cleese. He is doing very well until we reach Inverness. We know which way to go but we try to follow his advice to sea where he leads us. But he gets confused, wants us to take exits that aren't there, or he leads us onto a muddy path where we almost get stuck. Eventually we arrive, but it has taken quite some time. You always have a good laugh with this man!
We are greeted warmily at the Caledonian by Iain and Cathy and later also other old acquaintances. An English man in the pub asks us if we are locals or at least live here. Well, that feels like a sort of compliment... yes, we feel very at home here.
After a warm meal and a lively evening with acquaintances and people we don't know, we feel very contented when we go off to bed. We are travelling again, so we feel at home!