Tuesday 5th July, Day 1 (Home to London)
Moose/elk count = 0 (but that’s not surprising geographically. The Home Counties are not known for their moose).
This was in some ways the first day of our holiday even though I was working from home, not wanting to go into London and back out only to have to then turn round and go back again! As a result it involved wrangling all three cats to the cattery at once, something that can be tricky at the best of times. The cleaners were due sometime during the day so I figured as the critters tend to get panicked as a result and vanish in all directions, and given that just after 09:00 they were flat out on various surfaces around the house, I should probably round them up, bung them into their cages, and get them there early. At the end of the afternoon that just left the packing of the car with what for us were frankly unprecedented levels of luggage before we headed off for an overnight stop with friends in south London.
Wednesday 6th July, Day 2 (London to Travemunde)
Moose count = still 0 (again it’s down to geography)!
We made a slightly earlier than needed start to go and get the car on the Eurotunnel, largely because I don’t entirely trust them! We have history and some of it’s not good, including one infamous occasion where we ended up taking a ferry instead.
As it turned out it was just as well. We arrived to the news that a train had broken down in the tunnel, and there were delays of up to an hour. There was plenty of contingency so I wasn’t overly worried, and we eventually arrived in France around 40 minutes later than planned. What I probably should have taken into account, but didn’t, because we’re not used to “holidaying” like normal people, was that half of Europe seemed to be on holiday as well, at the same time as the Germans were digging up all the autobahns. Also Antwerp was at a standstill, but as I have long believed the Antwerp motorway ring to be one of the circles of Hell this was no great surprise. What it was was annoying.
We’d planned a stop at a Belgian supermarket en route to stock up on wine as we’d be self-catering at several points and I for one didn’t want to have to shop at the Finnish Alko stores. Belgium would give us a supply of wine at sensible prices. We considered not stopping after we reached escape velocity and were spat out onto an Eindhoven-bound motorway but decided we were already behind schedule. Another 20 minutes was neither here nor there.
A series of roadworks in Germany slowed us down ever more and the plan to have a nice dinner somewhere in Travemunde and I had even booked a table in Brechtmanns Botschaft at 19:00, which was supposedly completely achievable. Mid-afternoon when it became clear we’d not make it much before 21:00 I called the restaurant and asked if they could shift the booking. They were closing at 21:00 however because they all wanted to go home early to watch the football! We cancelled the table and decided we’d worry about dinner once we got to Travemunde and established the location of the ferry terminal.
A quick recce of the departure point showed there was very little there apart from a somewhat bleak looking cafe, so we turned the car around and headed back towards the town centre, eventually deciding that turning towards the nearest beach area (Timmendorfer Strand sounded promising) might well provide sustenance of some sort. A bit of hunting around and we finally found somewhere that was open and had a parking space fairly nearby.
Johannsens’ proved a good idea, with a very pleasant glass of sekt first, followed by prawns in a crispy potato coat for me, and a goat’s cheese salad for Lynne.
Mains might not have been necessary but we had them anyway, with my first chanterelles of the year, accompanied by a schnitzel and fried potatoes while Lynne had the world’s largest currywurst with more frites than anyone could have got through.
There would be no food on the ferry until 08:30 the following day but even so it was a bit much.
Suitably stuffed full of food – the portions could have fed a hungry windsurfer and were much too big for us – we made our way back to the ferry terminal for check in just as a spectacular rainbow appeared in the sky. It would be the first of many we saw during the trip.
Eventually, in the early hours, were allowed to board and found our cabin. Total collapse followed after around 10 hours driving. There was a distinct possibility of cramp in the night, but hopefully I would be so tired I’d know nothing until the late morning.
Thursday 7th July & Friday 8th July, Days 3 and 4 (Somewhere in the Baltic Sea)
Moose count = 0 (see above. I know they can swim but probably not that well)
The boat was quite restful and Finnlines seemed to have thought of everything essential. Our cabin was very comfortable, and a good night’s sleep was followed by our first encounter with the dreaded Finnish buffet, in this case a brunch version. It gave us the option of taking a very late breakfast and we picked at this and that for an hour or so, enjoyed a “complimentary” mimosa, though I think we paid for that in the cabin price. It was too windy to spend much time on deck so we spent time drinking coffee in the cafe, and in our cabin reading up on what we wanted to see.
There was a little light shopping, including some Finnish minttu and some moose-related items, which shouldn’t be too surprising I suppose. Anyway, I bought a bag which was an ideal size for guidebooks, a camera or two and a sweater. It would see quite a lot of service once we got started on the tourism.
Later we repaired to the bar for a cocktail or two before dinner (which was again a buffet).
The buffet dinner was OK, perfectly adequate, with some items better than others though it wasn’t anything to get excited. Among the best things were the various smoked and cold fish and seafood starter options, and the roast elk in a very creamy sauce.
The same could not be said for the “included” wine. The red and the white both came from taps on either side of a pipe and were served at much the same temperature, which is to say warm. It wasn’t pleasant and we resorted to ice to cool off the white before giving up on it and buying a bottle from the bar. It too was slightly warmer than it should have been.
After dinner we retreated to bed as the band was just getting started in the bar! Instead we found ourselves watching the 2016 Tangomarkkinat, an event that could not be more Finnish if it tried. We hung on through to the end of the competition to crown the Tango King and then fell asleep, to wake up on Friday morning with Finland looming in the cabin windows!