Across the English Channel

Ed and I have had wanderlust that has taken us all over the world.  Our first seven years we lived in Europe which gave us frequent opportunities for travel.  Initially living in Germany, our travel was by car.  We explored Germany, the Benelux countries, France and Spain by spending our vacations on the road.  When we moved to England, international travel became more difficult because of the English Channel but it’s not enough to stop anyone.  The only way to “drive” to the continent was by taking a car ferry or hydrofoil.  At that time, travel by hydrofoil was very expensive because it was much faster than normal ferries (90 minutes Dover to Calais vs. six hours by ferry).  Since the chunnel was built under the Channel between France and the UK, hydrofoils have become the norm for water transportation and prices have come down considerably.  I could have probably afforded the hydrofoil then but I was a thrifty young man.  The price we paid for traveling by normal ferry was a trip that took seven to nine hours.  The ferries had their own on board culture.  There was an interesting mix of people from teens backpacking across Europe to folks traveling First Class which meant they had a sleeping cabin.  These ships were not anything like cruise ships – everything was utilitarian.  They were designed to get as much money from passengers as they could before they got to the other side of the channel.  The same well-worn linoleum could be found throughout the ship and usually the walls could use paint.  There were rows of slot machines in common areas as well as multiple bars, snack bars and souvenir stand.  When we went to visit my sister, who was an exchange student in Germany, our intent was to use one of the “sleeping rooms” to rest up for our road trip on the continent. The rooms were closed dark rooms with rows of lounge chairs.  The experience was not great because of the challenges.  The first challenge was the number of international travelers with different hygiene habits that were crowded into a single room.  These divergent odors came together in the sleeping room which made the air heavy.  The second challenge bright fluorescent light that invaded the dark room every time the door was opened.  The third challenge was the cacophony of noises in the room including belches, snoring and flatulence.  We tried to sleep for about thirty minutes when one of the other passengers loudly expelled a particularly vile odor.  With that, we fled the room to spend the rest of the voyage playing gin rummy.  From then on, air travel was the only way we crossed the channel.

2 thoughts on “Across the English Channel

  1. Reading your experiences caused a flashback for me, back to my trip over the channel with Suzanne. We tried the community sleeping (separated by sex – at least you and Ed could stay together) and ran into the same problems. It wasn’t long before we met up in the lounge area and spent the night drinking and playing dice. Another worrying thing was that the sleeping area was below the cars. All I could picture was us sinking with tons of cars directly overhead to insure my death. Never took the ferry again.

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