Day 1: Essex, UK - Bruges, Belgium - 26/08/2012
Miles: 163 appx.
Not a lot to mention really. The first day was all about getting down into Europe, using Bruges as a gateway to the rest of the trip. As I was playing on this day we packed up the bikes prior to the concert ready for when we got back. As you can see in the picture we did not have much in the way of luggage racks, panniers and top boxes but that didn't matter. Emma packed up high while I added a Renntec rack and packed across. We also took tank bags with food and essentials, as well as valuables. Our stuff was tied down with cargo nets, bungees and initially a ratchet strap (but this proved to be more dangerous than useful!). We also used PacSafe security meshes to secure the luggage, mainly for convenience whist on the ferry.
Heading down to Dover we went via the M25 (over the Queen Elizbabeth II Bridge, Dartford), followed by the M20 as advised by Google maps. However, in hindsight I would say that going via the M2 is quicker after heading back from Dover this way.
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It took just over an hour and a half getting to Dover via the M20. We stopped at the BP garage for fuel as we approached the ferry terminals. As we started to head off, Emma's SV failed to start. This highlighted the beginning of the troubles we were to face with her bike for the majority of the trip. Fortunately, Emma brought her jump leads with her (Motorcycle jump leads available from Halfords, although they do not seem to have them on their website, so for an idea visit: http://www.gps4touring.com/WEB_PAGES/Product-pages/products-sub-pages/jumpleads.html), so off came the side panels, then the seats, and jumped the bike - which luckily enough started first time.
We got to the terminals early enough but due to a medical emergency on the French side were delayed by about an hour. Got chatting to a Dutch couple who were heading home. He had this huge old-style bike carrying most of the stuff whilst she had something reminicent of a 1960s bike you'd expect to see at the Ace Cafe. Once on the ferry, we locked the lids to the mesh via padlocks and put on the large ratchet straps they give you to go over the seats. They can be quite tricky to do and often get stuck so bear that in mind. Also, if like me you have an air seat then you can't put the ratchet over this as you'll burst it. I removed the seat and reattached to the straps once I got to Bruges, but you can just about slide the ratchet pad under the air seat, which saves taking it off (which I did on the way home). We went with P&O ferries and although a bit expensive (we paid about £78 each for flexi return tickets) you do get the shops, restaurants and bars. As the crossing only takes about an hour we just about had time to get something to eat for dinner before getting across to France. The food isn't all that good and definitely pricey for what it is - but if you want convenience then it suffices. There are usually first class restaurants and brasseries on board but I do not know how much they cost or how good they are.
Once on the other side (and running late). We headed to Bruges. Its a nice easy ride east of Calais and you just follow the A16/E40, takes about an hour and a half.
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We arrived at the Hostel Passage at about 10:30pm local time and were confronted with an envelop addressed to me on the reception door. It felt a little bit creepy seeing as it was late at night, really quiet and we were in another country. Inside was a telephone number to call. We spoke to a lovely lady who gave us the access codes to the door and the safety deposit box which held the key to our room.
After letting ourselves into the main building we discovered that the room we were in was up two flights of stairs. This was an old characteristic town house, with high ceilings and long stairways and so dragging all our stuff up to the room really took it out of us (which is another reason we may consider just camping for the next trip)! As said in my earlier post though, the location was right in the centre of Bruges and really convenient seeing as we only had the following morning to take a look around.
[Next Up: Day 2: Bruges, Belgium - Steinfort, Luxembourg]