Bye Bye Britain 2015

Sitting on the Harwich to Hook van Holland ferry this afternoon brings a strange mix of deja vu, excitement and nervousness. It's hard to believe that a little over 11 months ago, on 25th May 2014, we caught this same ferry service as we embarked on the start of our European adventure as novice travellers with little idea of where we would go or what we would do when we got there. Now, with a little experience under our belt, countless memories of beautiful places and images of happy times in our minds we are lucky enough to be setting off once more on the next leg of our adventure. We're starting out with a trip to Holland, where we'll be visiting Esther's family once more since Esther's Dad has broken his ankle and we're keen to see how he is. From here we'll be able to see whether Esther's health has improved enough to travel further and also to think about where we might go.  With many more mountains to see, valleys to visit and cols to cycle, we feel we have the whole of Europe laid out before us as we seek to recapture that wonderful state of mind that travel gave us and that we enjoyed so much last year; a state of wonder and joy at each new day and the excitement of what it might bring.

Since waving farewell to Phil in the gathering dusk on Stadhampton Green on Monday evening our final 36 hours on UK soil were a blur of activity and driving. Monday evening bought another happy reunion as we made our way through the Oxfordshire countryside to the tiny hamlet of Adwell where we met with our friends Jonathan and Rachel. Our former neighbours in Durham who moved to Oxfordshire shortly after we set off last year, it was such a wonderful occasion to see them again, albeit briefly since it was a 'school night'. It was lovely how easy and natural it felt, after almost a year since we had said goodbye, to relax in their picturesque cottage and chat again.

After a rainy night back in Homer, which had felt very exciting being back 'on tour' again, Tuesday bought more reunions. After a brief visit to see Ann, who is looking after Esther's parents dog Sam and collect the mail from Esther's parents house (as they have been delayed due to Esther's Dad breaking his ankle last week and so not expecting to stay as long in Holland), we travelled to Haddenham where Esther grew up to visit Shirley and Ron who helped to look after Esther when she was little. Esther had kept in touch during our travels with regular letters and postcards, but arriving on their doorstep for a big hug was a special moment. The next couple of hours relaxing in their living room, catching up on news and sharing stories was lots of fun.  They even had the short tour of our moving home and it felt good to share this with them.



After saying goodbye in early afternoon we took a pause to prepare a meal and then the business of driving began. With our boat booked to sail the next morning we planned to be in Harwich that evening to spend the night on the quayside and avoid any stress the next day. We also had the possibility of paying a visit to see some friends we had made in Spain, Dereck and Christine, who live very close to the port. With some traffic and roadworks en route we were concerned for a while that we'd arrive too late, but the final hour was much smoother and we found ourselves around 7.30pm sitting in their cosy caravan enjoying a cup of tea. Meeting and staying in touch with such kind and genuine people really has been one of the highlights of our travels so far.

Arriving at the port quite late it was time for some final phone calls from UK airspace to friends and family before finally settling down for the night shortly before midnight, tired but excited for the journey ahead.

Which brings us to today and after almost 7 hours on the boat overlooking the choppy sea, the mouth of the Rotterdam canal, lined with windmills and industry, is in sight. Our plans are to spend some time with Esther's family in Holland, seeing how her Dad is after breaking his ankle last week and also spend quality time with her 98 year old Oma (Grandma) before, if Esther is feeling ok, thinking about setting off towards....we don't know where. Having had so much fun in the Alps and Pyrenees last year on both foot and bike we know that we feel most at home in the mountains, but are also eager to explore and try new things as well.

We've said to many people while we've been back in the UK, when asked what our favourite places were last year, that it wasn't the places that mattered but how we felt that gave us the most happiness. That thought is at the forefront of our minds now as well. Although we are very excited to visit new places we know that wherever we end up, whatever we do, as long as we feel connected to each other and the world around us, with time to enjoy and explore, we know that we will feel fulfilled.





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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!: Bye Bye Britain 2015
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