A very easy first leg, 306 miles from London to Maastricht in the southern Netherlands.
£80. The price you pay for lolling in bed and setting off when you feel like it – as opposed to getting up at the crack of dawn and dashing down to Dover to get the earlier, cheaper ferries.
The other price you pay is giving the weather the chance to get going. As we drop down into Dover the road is enveloped in thick, swirling fog. At lunchtime, in May!
It’s only a 30 minute delay in the end, but long enough for us to forego our traditional Olympic Breakfast on board in favour of a Burger King from the terminal building.
The drive to Maastricht is a deliberately easy, first day 195 mile cruise via Brussels, all motorway. We land smack in the middle of Brussels’ rush hour but in the circumstances feel lucky to get away with a 45 minute delay.
We touch down in Maastricht – in a little globule of the Netherlands hanging down into Belgium, close to the German border – at 19:30, eight hours after leaving London. The anxiety is that all the river view rooms at the Crowne Plaza will have gone but, not only do we get a great room, but at £189 all in – B&B and parking – it’s about 20% cheaper than it was this time last year.
The biggest issue in Maastricht is in which of its three main squares to have dinner. We settle on Vrijthof. Four large ice cold beers, cod and mixed grill comes to a surprising €55 but they offer us 10% off the next time.
Maastricht is on the front line of international drug tourism. Just the day before, the ‘coffee shops’ illegally re-started selling hash to foreigners – meaning only Germans and Belgians. Huge row, police raids, etc, etc. This all passes us by at the time.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, you don’t need to be on drugs to enjoy Maastricht!
Next: we’re in Baden Baden, south west Germany, in the Black Forest. A great drive down yesterday, cannot wait to write about it but we’re barely coping with the technology and need to go and eat breakfast by the river. Twitter is costing £10 per day. It all might have to wait until we’re on the boat to Greece. Today we’re off on the famous wine routes down to the Swiss border. Prost!