After leaving the Lake District behind, we faced a long list of goodbyes (sorry, farewells) and to-do-before-we-leaves. This included great hospitality near Birmingham from Sam and Paul (and Charlie got to drive through his home town, Solihull), leaving drinks in Suffolk and London, an awesome Braai/BBQ hosted by Liz and Lionel, more hospitality from Aunt Mon and then Jess and Tom, as well as various drinks and meals with wonderful friends and family … And we can’t go without mentioning the very patient Juliano and Karin who put up with us not only living with them but also taking over their dining room and garage!
The thought of leaving those you care about behind is never easy, but the availability of email, Skype and various other gadgets to help everyone keep in touch certainly helps to make it a bit easier.
As for the final preparations: well, we can’t lie – and those that have been around us will vouch for this – it’s been stressful! It doesn’t matter how much preparation has been done, that last couple of weeks are always going to be frantic. Individual items on the to-do list aren’t necessarily complicated, but when you factor in traffic, systems not working properly and the inevitable general time-warp, everything just ends up taking twice as long as anticipated.
So what sorts of things have been keeping us busy other than making sure we see as many of those we care about as possible? Servicing and cleaning Charlie; setting up Power of Attorney and noting bank details; sorting out netbooks and transferring files/iTunes; buying various containers to fit things in, figuring out how they fit, then buying new containers when they don’t; scanning and copying passports/drivers’ licences and other personal information; buying and checking medical kits; researching emergency telephone numbers; ensuring final bills are paid and direct debits cancelled; booking the ferry and first campsite; arranging currency/topping up cash passports (not easy when you’ve recently changed address!); MOT; buying the final spare parts; wheel balancing; sterilising the water tank; International Driver’s Licence; physio/osteo appointments; buying malaria tablets; finalising what is/isn’t coming and typing up the kit list and, probably most difficult, figuring out where everything’s going to go and how to pack it!
Well, the fact that I’m typing this on the motorway in France on route to Reims vouches for the fact that we got there in the end and without killing each other (just)! We didn’t quite get round to everything, and those last few bits were carefully packed (chucked) into an Ikea bag rather than finding a home, but it felt great to finally set off. We were on the road by 5.50am –20 mins late – having said goodbye to Juliano and Gian-Marco who were brave enough to get up to see us off. Luckily for once for us there wasn’t much traffic as we arrived just at the allotted time for boarding the ferry.
It didn’t really hit us until we’d reached France rather than on the ferry as expected, that our adventure had become a reality. And what better place to start than in the champagne region. Wonder what we’ll be drinking to celebrate our first night??!!