The white cliffs of Dover loomed in front of us.
After a thousand-mile long journey across Northern Italy and then through France we and our little red car had made it to the British shores.
‘How do you feel?’, I asked my husband. ‘It’s good to be back!’, he replied.
Like thousands of other expats spread around Spain, Italy and France, we were on our annual pilgrimage to England by car. Some choose to do the journey in one long spell of dozen or more driving hours with minimum breaks. Others, like us, decide to stretch it as much as possible, turning it into an unforgettable road trip with lots of sightseeing thrown in.
As such, in the past eight days and starting from our current home-town of Vicenza we had ticked off Cremona, Asti and Turin in Italy, crossed the Alps, passed by France’s deepest and largest lake and then took in Burgundy, followed by Reims, Lille and Dunkirk.
The cherry on our travelling cake though was ferry crossing the English Channel.
I had flown many times over it, always admiring its elongated blue shape through the plane’s window and trying to spot ferries criss-crossing it between the British and the French shores.
This was to be my first time on one of those ferries though and I, equally, couldn’t wait and had my heart tied tightly in a knot.
You see, for the past few weeks the British newspapers were filled with stories about the situation at Calais and, in all honesty, things didn’t look good. So, on my insistence, my husband and I decided that we would travel through Dunkirk, even though crossing times are slightly longer in comparison with Calais.
After an uneventful night in Dunkirk, we arrived at the ferry port an hour before our crossing time. Lorries and cars were lining up to go through the border checkpoints. It was all very efficient and well organised.
Before we knew it, we had cleared all checkpoints and were waiting to be allowed on board.
The DFDS Seaways ferry was docked right in front of us. It was huge and white, with several decks. I love travelling by sea and couldn’t wait to go out on the deck, breathe in the salty air and enjoy the sea views.
Just then the cars started to board and up the ramp we went onto one of the vehicle decks. We quickly grabbed our bags, locked the car and went up the stairs eager to explore our new surroundings.
Upstairs the restaurant was bursting at the seams. People were carrying enormous plates with full English breakfasts.
Having become accustomed to the generally smaller portions in Italy, I marvelled at the quantity of food. They say that the sea air makes you work up an appetite though, so I could understand the eagerness with which everyone seemed to be tucking in.
The restaurant was nice and spacious and enjoyed unparalleled views thanks to the large windows overlooking the ferry’s prow.
From there we continued to explore.
Soon we found out that there was another small restaurant serving fast food at the other end of the deck.
A coffee bar backed on it.
The lovely kids’ play area with its maritime theme was duly appreciated by our little daughter.
As for me, my favourite place on board was the seaview deck.
It was both windy and warm, with people enjoying the sun on their faces whilst tying up their hair so as not to have to push it out of their eyes with every gust. It was also both noisy and quiet with the constant rumble of the water through which the ferry ploughed making it difficult to talk and be easily heard.
It was from the seaview deck that we waved good-bye to France and looked forward to arriving in England in two hours time.
The crossing was smooth and time flew by. Above us seagulls were balancing in the air currents created by the ferry’s speed.
Large boats were crossing the Channel in the opposite direction to us.
Everywhere I looked around us it was all blue and just the ferry as a big white flash kept going straight ahead.
Only too soon there was another flash of white in front of our eyes.
We had reached the edge of England. It was an emotional moment. Our road trip was at its end and my husband had arrived home.
Our journey didn’t stop there though. Join me again during the week, as I will be telling you where we went to from there and the country we explored afresh over the course of two weeks.