The Cap Finistère set out on the 30th of October from Portsmouth to Bilbao without me being on board. An ambulance ride to hospital at the end of August kept me there for a week, and what with further procedures and follow-up appointments, by the end of September, it was looking more and more likely that I would have to cancel – or at least postpone. I had no alternative other than to miss the sailing. So here we are setting out for the Costa del Sol about a month later than usual. For several years now, I’ve booked my outward sailing from Portsmouth quite early in the year, so trying to find a suitable crossing at short notice can often be difficult. It isn’t that the ferries become full, but rather than the basic cabins get booked – leaving only the more expensive luxury cabins available.
So this year my sailing is now on the Baie de Seine which leaves early in the morning. Therefore, I decided to drive down to Portsmouth the previous evening and spend the night on the dock-side. With powerful floodlighting and a Brittany Ferries parking marshal in attendance, it’s possible to spend a safe and peaceful night parked up with others.
Leaving day passed in a whirl. First, there was last minute shopping to get. Then cushions and bedding from the house to caravan. Then food items from house fridge to van fridge. Then finally, time to mover the caravan from its parking spot alongside the house, out onto the drive and hitch on. Lights checked, hitch firmly in position. All ready to start out – after a quick dinner. As I prepared to eat, my emails pinged. Shock horror – it was from Brittany Ferries. Was it possible that after nine years of travelling with them, I was about to experience my first cancellation? Several travellers do during the winter months. I nervously opened the email. Relief – – it wasn’t a cancellation – just a delay – but by 15 hours. So rather than setting off to sleep on the dockside, I took myself off upstairs to bed. I left for Portsmouth in the early evening and arrived at the ferry terminal at 7.30. Instead of one night on board, we were to get two. We were checked through at 9 pm but only as far as security.
In fact, not until half-one in the morning, did I reach my cabin. At 05.30 I needed to ‘take a walk’, and was astounded to see we were still at the berth. However, at half-eight, when I awoke, we were well and truly on our way. This crossing marks the 23rd time I’ve crossed Biscay and it must be one of the roughest. Fortunately – apart from moving about the ship, rough seas don’t worry me. I took this video from the bar window which overlooks the prow of the ship.
Needless to say, the bar was virtually empty.
This isn’t the first time I’ve travelled on the ‘economie’ service and I’ve written about it in previous blogs but for travellers who may be contemplating using the economie service, here are my views again. The ‘economie’ cabins compare favourably with those on the cruise ferries. Beds and bunks are similar, the en-suite bathrooms are the same, lighting and power sockets are similar. The only difference being that on the ‘economie’ ships, the entry-level cabins have laminate flooring whilst the cruise-ferries have carpet. Because of the postponement, I booked this crossing much later than normal. Therefore I had no option other than to choose a dearer cabin than usual. I must say, it is nice to be able to look out to daylight and sea. Also in spite of my earlier comment – this cabin does have carpet on the floor. On all the ferries, some cabins have two beds whilst others have a bed and an overhead bunk. If like me, you are getting on in years, and you are a couple, you will probably be better off with two beds, rather than a bunk. Getting up and down from a bunk might just require a bit more agility than we are capable of. The lounges and bars are larger on the cruise ferries, with at times some form of entertainment, whilst the ‘economie’ ships settle for smaller bars. Likewise with the shop and restaurant. If you need beauty salons, hairdressers, nail bars, and the cinema, then you’ll need the cruise-ferry. All the ferries have wifi in the main lounges and seating areas. To my mind, it’s usually quicker getting off the smaller ferries, but it really depends upon where you find yourself parked. Finally, the economie ferry shows a saving of between £50 and £100 per jorney over the bigger vessels.
The ferry arrived in Santander at 10.30 and having been parked on deck 4, I was quickly called forward for unloading. My passport got a quick glance and with no further vehicle examination, I was heading for the motorway. If one ignores the right turn into the town centre, the road makes its way through the dock installations till eventually, it joins the A67 motorway at a roundabout.
Route planning for this trip started during the early summer when I thought it would be nice to find new places but also to see some towns first visited six or seven years ago, so my drive this year will take me along the A67/A62.
This will be my itinerary – although it’s always subject to change.
And the first change wasn’t long in coming. Sometime before I reached my first stop, the sky had turned black, the rain was beating down and the forecast didn’t indicate any immediate change. So I drove on – finally arriving at Tordesillas. I found the site, on the river bank at the edge of town. I booked in for two nights.
To be continued. This blog can also be seen at https://jondogoescaravanning.com/spain-nov-2019-feb-2020/