Tag Archive: ferry


Our third ferry journey of the day loomed, 5.5 hours from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.

We had plenty of time before departure, so took a detour which led us alongside a runway at one point – I’m sure any airplanes would appreciate the fact that it was a tad more level than the road!

Checking in was a little chaotic as Lerwick is not the largest of towns and the ferry port is in the town itself. There were some minor traffic management issues, but eventually we got through and onto the ferry.

There was the added complication of the staff needing to load all vehicles that were disembarking at Kirkwall in the correct place so that we wouldn’t be blocked by those continuing on to Aberdeen, just to add to the logistics. Hats off to these folk – they really know their business (which is reassuring when you think about it!).

Bikes secured, we grabbed the picnic we had bought before boarding, and headed for the upper decks. We munched on a few supplies on the rear deck while we watched the Shetland Islands gradually recede, whilst keeping a hopeful eye out for whales, but the only sea life we spotted was a seal in the harbour and a few birds.

We did at least espy our first Northern puffin, who kept nice and still so Tony could capture a photo.

Eventually we gave up on the whale watching and strolled through the main deck past shops and cafe, looking for a place to sit. Just before reaching the forward bar, who should we see but the Estonian barman from Saxa Vord, who had left for a visit home the day before us. He had a table to himself, so we ensconced ourselves, bought a round of drinks, and settled in for a chat.

We had an excellent view of Fair Isle as we went past, but still no whale or non-stationary puffin sightings…

After a lesson in just where Estonia is and a good old natter about life and travelling, we left our friend to continue on to Aberdeen and his long journey home, and headed back to the bikes for our arrival in Kirkwall.

We were due to dock at 11pm, so had pre-booked a night in a Bed & Breakfast. We didn’t relish the thought of trying to find somewhere to stay at that time of night, nor of setting up camp.

It was only a few miles to the B&B, and still light enough even at that time to make it easy to find our way. We parked up and found the door open and a nice note from the owner with our keys, as he had gone out for the evening. How lovely to be in a place where folk can still leave doors open without fearing for their safety.

We unloaded as quietly as we could as we didn’t want to wake our fellow guests at this late hour, and settled into our cosy room with a can of cider each to celebrate our arrival.

Welcome to Orkney! 🙂

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Back on the motorcycles for a mini-fled at last! In June we returned to Aberdeen for the 4th time in 4 months, this time on our trusty Moto Guzzi V7s. We had bought tickets for the Simmer Dim Rally on the Shetland Islands, which is held every year over the closest weekend to the Summer Solstice, our wedding anniversary.

We saw a bit of it from the road!The first days ride was lovely – both of us were happy to be back on the road again. We broke the journey at Stirling, staying at a hotel right next to the Wallace Monument.

Sadly our schedule didn’t allow us time to actually visit the monument as we had a 50th Birthday party to get to, so it will have to wait until another time. After a decent nights sleep we packed the bikes up and set off for our second days riding, just as it started to rain.

Gone was the warmth of the previous day – as the rain started to soak through our “waterproofs”, we found ourselves getting colder and colder. I was so very grateful for my heated grips, which I had used on a number of occasions in the past. Tony doesn’t feel the cold as much as I do, so had never used his before. Unfortunately as he tried to turn them on, the control knob broke off in his hand. Bugger.

We were staying with friends about 20 miles North of Aberdeen. Luckily as fellow bikers they anticipated the depth of cold we would be feeling, and greeted us with hot drinks, towels, and a roaring log burner, all of which were very welcome! Once we had defrosted a little we headed over to the 50th party for a few drinks before coming back for a fairly early night.

The following Wednesday we rode back to Aberdeen to catch the ferry to Shetland. It is an overnight crossing so we had treated ourselves to a cabin, as we knew it would be a good idea to stock up on our sleep before the rally.

The ferry port was flooded with motorcycles, all heading to the rally – the lady at the gate said there were only a handful of cars booked for the ferry – I should imagine they were feeling a tad outnumbered!

We settled into our cabins before heading for the bar. Tony commented on how surprisingly quiet it was, considering the ship was full of bikers…

Cue a strolling bunch of biker “minstrels”: a couple of guitar players accompanied by several kazoos. Unusual to say the least, especially as they were playing “Ring of Fire” which is not generally known as a biker favourite. A jolly night of singing ensued before we retired to our cabin for some sleep.

The next morning we awoke bright and early to leave the ferry on arrival in Lerwick, Shetland. The rally site was only about 20 miles from the ferry terminal, which meant that we were there, had the tent up, and were finishing our breakfast by 9.30am.

Now normally we arrive at rallies on Friday afternoon or evening, so once the tent is set up we start socializing over a pint or three, but 9.30 on the Thursday morning was a tad early even for us. The weather was dark and drizzly, so we retreated back to the tent with warming cups of tea and coffee.

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Wallace Monument photo credit: Son of Groucho via photopin cc

Back to Blighty

Our last day in Spain dawned fine and bright. We packed the bikes up for the ferry back to Portsmouth, and headed off to a local supermarket to buy supplies for the trip. After stocking up with as much wine as we could carry (not  a lot!) and some food to sustain us, we took our last Continental ride of the trip.

The ferry was easy to see as the dock is right in the middle of town, but getting to it was a little more tricky. Luckily it only took us two attempts to find the right entry, and then lo and behold, we were stopped and asked for our passports for the first time since leaving home! How ironic that it should be as we attempted to return. Checked through security, we were directed to join the rest of the motorcycle riders by the ferry offices, and proceeded to check each other’s bikes out whilst having a good old natter.

The weather Gods were with us once again, as sun was now hidden behind clouds but the rain held off until just as we started boarding, phew. After the nice chaps from Brittany Ferries had strapped the bikes down securely we grabbed our overnight bags and victuals, and headed off to find our cabin. We settled ourselves in before heading off for a look around the boat, and surprise surprise, ended up in the bar! It was only because we had such a lovely view through the big picture window of Santander receding behind us, honest guv. That and the fact that they sold draught Strongbow, so we enjoyed our first pints since leaving England 🙂

It’s a 24 hour crossing from Santander to Portsmouth, so we had to find our entertainment where we could. Having checked out the film schedule to find nothing that interested us, and munched our way through some supplies in the cabin, we returned to our seats-with-a-view in the piano bar.

Of all the bars in all the world...

There was a full-sized grand piano, complete with suited chap tickling the ivories to give us some old classics, which we thought terribly civilised. In keeping with the mood we switched to cocktails, which had nothing to do with the realisation that we could sup generous Long Island Iced Teas for only 10 pence more than a pint of cider. These things always seem such a good idea at the time…

Later there was a quiz, by which time we’d acquired an extra team member in the form of one of the other bikers we’d been chatting to at the ferry port. Now neither of us are usually great at quizzes, but somehow we managed to win this one – perhaps it was the extra help that did it!

Later that same night, I went to the bar to buy a round of drinks, only to be accosted by a couple of gentlemen who were propping the bar up and getting happily pickled. They insisted on buying me a drink, despite my protestations that my husband was waiting for me. After a little while he came down to see what was holding me up, and they insisted on buying one for him, too. You can see where this is going, can’t you…? Eventually the bar closed on the handful of us left still standing, and we staggered off back to our cabin, somewhat the worse for wear.

Luckily the rolling of our gait was cancelled out by the rolling of the ship. I think that’s what I remember, anyway.

Of course these things never seem quite like such a good idea the next day. I’m lucky enough not to get hangovers very often, but this one was a humdinger. Tony managed to get some breakfast down, but I completely wimped out and just did my best to re-hydrate a little. We struggled out of the cabin once the call came to vacate, and headed down to the bikes. Before we knew it, we’d docked and were off and away, back on to British soil.

Still very fuzzy around the edges, after two months on the Continent our mantra was, “Ride on the left, ride on the left!”.

The lazy way to ride home

To Santander

The following morning the weather looked marginally better, although I suspect that it was because we were looking at it with the benefit of a good nights sleep.

We checked the weather forecast which said that the bad weather would continue into the afternoon but would then clear up that evening, leaving fine weather the following day. A quick check of the map revealed that we were an easy 250 km ride from Santander, and with the ferry booking two days away, that meant that we didn’t have to ride through the storm. Easy choice, we could do it the following day in the dry (S: the fact that the bed was the most comfortable one we had slept in since leaving home may also have influenced our decision somewhat!). A quick word with our hosts via the wonders of Google Translate and we were booked in for an extra day.

We had a relaxing day, reading and, thanks to our hosts letting us use their internet connection, checking emails and blog writing.

By late afternoon it had stopped raining and the weather was beginning to brighten up, so we went for a walk to stretch our legs and explore the immediate area. The hostal was situated an a flat plain with the mountains in the background, giving us a great opportunity to see plenty of sky and cheer on the departing clouds.

Upon our return we were provided with a lovely meal and spent the evening with our hosts. I found it very frustrating not being able to speak more than a couple of words of Spanish and we resolved to ensure that we could at least speak enough to get by before we reach Mexico.

The following morning dawned dry and fairly sunny as promised, so we bade our farewells and set off towards Santander.

It was fine in the sun, but out of it the temperature dropped markedly and it was early afternoon before it warmed up appreciably.

The motorways were boring but quick, and the only difficulties that we had were with strong crosswinds on many of the bridges once we had reached the coast. That and Sarah’s iPod joining Mip in committing Hari-Kari, so no more music on the move for her.

Getting into Santander was easy and we quickly found a hotel to stop in close to the sea front. It was their last available room, but Sarah was still able to negotiate us a deal along with secure parking for the bikes.

Once we were unpacked and sorted we set off on foot to explore Santander, and what a pleasant surprise it was.

A lot of ferry ports can be industrial or run down but this was neither, with a beautiful beach, sea front and impressive houses and gardens.

One house was having work done on it, as evident by the scaffolding around it. There was a sheet on the outside of the scaffolding, obviously in an effort to keep the dust and mess in, but it had been printed with an image of a house just to make it look prettier. To me examples of extra effort like that show that people have a pride in their town or surroundings, which is good to see.

Along the promenade we saw lots of obviously fairly well off Spaniards taking the air and several very well executed sculptures. One that caught my attention was a stone bench looking out to sea, with a permanent stone resident at one end and plenty of space for people to sit an keep him company.

After a paddle in the sea, we walked the one and a half miles to the old town and it was worth every step. There is a large square surrounded by shops, bars and cafes which was pleasantly full of people walking in the sunshine or relaxing with a drink. We had been recommended a restaurant by the hotel, but it was closed, and remained resolutely so as the evening progressed.

We sat at a cafe/bar on the edge of the square and Sarah tapped into their Wifi with her phone, finding an unusual wine museum restaurant nearby, Bodega Cigalena, which had great reviews on TripAdvisor. It was only a couple of minutes walk, and what an interesting place!

The walls and ceilings were covered with racks and shelves, filled with full bottles of wine and other vintner paraphernalia. The barman was of the good old fashioned kind, jolly, knowledgeable and happy to recommend suitable wines to taste whilst we were waiting for the restaurant proper to open.

Needless to say we had a fantastic night with brilliant food and wine, helped in no small degree by our waiter who was superb.

Going back to the hotel we were in good spirits, but this was tinged with an element of sadness at the thought of us having to leave tomorrow and return to England. We both would have much rather been riding south to catch the ferry to Morocco!

I love ferries. I always get a real feeling of travel and of going abroad…funny that really!

The Dancing Ferryman

It’s always great to meet someone who is happy in their work. The crew member who strapped our bikes down was brilliant and made short work of securing our pride and joys with a simple but effective ratchet strap and pad affair over the seat.

On the ferry we acquired a table in the bar with a good view of the rain out over the bow, a couple of GB stickers and headlamp beam deflectors, and an up-to-date map of France. An hour or so later we were riding off the ferry onto French tarmac in Calais. We decided to head for the seaside town of Berck-Plage, simply because we liked the name…are you beginning to get a sense of the sensibleness and structure that we want to put to our travels?

We decided on the Neptune hotel on the sea front ([S] mainly because we were riding around in circles and it was the only one we could find!) and got a room overlooking the beach. Not that there was anyone on the beach who wasn’t wearing warm clothing and waterproofs as it was rather cold, very windy and raining!

The hotel staff were very welcoming and the receptionist arranged for us to park the bikes under the reception office window in the secure parking area at the rear of the hotel free of charge. Don’t worry, they made up for that kindness with the amount they charged us for the room!

Alien Sign

We ate in the hotel restaurant and I must admit that I was feeling not at my best. I put it down to tiredness but a few hours later I came down with Sarah’s bug, which had obviously fancied a foreign holiday and had stowed away with me on the bike from Swindon. Not good.

I woke up in the middle of the night and the room was bathed in a pulsating eerie glow. I thought Great! First I get Sarah’s bug then I get abducted by aliens….but no. We were safe. It was just the hotel’s flashing blue neon sign directly alongside the bedroom window.

I fell back into a restless sleep punctuated only by lengthy inspections of the bathroom’s decor, whilst trying not to wake Sarah who was herself still recovering from the bug, and wishing for a swift recovery.

The bikes were wired up, the Sat Nav and Comms system were working, Jo had done some running repairs on the tent for us, and we were ready to go… except that Sarah suddenly came down with a nasty bug that laid her up in bed for the best part of two days 😦 After much sickness and diahorrea, fevers and sweats, Sarah was feeling much better and was keen to make it to the ferry so that we could properly do the Fled bit. After all, one friend was already jokingly threatening us with the trade descriptions act!
It cost us two re-arrangement fees as each bike and rider was a seperate booking. Only Brittany Ferries seem to have grasped that one couple may wish to travel on two bikes and let you do it all as one booking. However the up side was that the crossing was £5 cheaper so half the fees were absorbed by that.

Having thanked Tich and Jo for doing such a good job and for looking after us so well for so much longer than was originally planned, we we got onto the bikes to finally leave Swindon….and promptly got off again. The sun had disappeared behind a black cloud that had decided to christen our departure! So, a couple of minutes of looking like we were doing astronaut airobics later had our waterproofs donned, we reboarded the bikes and set off into the fine drizzle with bloody great grins on our faces.

Beneath the White Cliffs of Dover

Regardless of the drizzle, which soon eased off anyway, it felt wonderful to be on the bikes and heading for the ferry port.

We had decided that Sarah would lead as she has a far better innate sense of direction than me. I would ride behind as I have got a bit more riding experience and could catch up more easily. I could also do all of the necessary tail end charlie duties that make riding in a group so much easier, such as keeping tail-gaters away and securing the next lane for lane changes. It also meant that Sarah could set her own pace and concentrate on leading us to our destination.

The Comms were already proving very useful as Sarah could relay SatNav instructions and point out dangers such as diesel spills. It also meant that we could be alone with our own thoughts or chat if we wanted to.

We got to Dover in good time and were first to board the ferry for the 14.30 sailing from Dover to Calais. Hopefully a good omen for things to come.