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  • Writer's pictureMara Cabral

From wales to spain - the car trip!

We have been away for nearly a month. Well......3 weeks and 4 days to be more exact. My initial idea was to take you on all with me on our car trip, as we went along. But it so happened that we had so many setbacks along the way that I honestly just had too much in my hands to be able to keep it up. So I will take you now with me, on a retrospective trip with us.......I will show you the photos and the places we went through and tell you a bit about our adventure as we go along.

The plan was simple.......Leaving Wales in the morning, taking the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander, drive to Llanes, Asturias. Spend 3 nights there. Drive down to Portugal and stay in Braganca, North of Portugal for the night. Drive down to Oeiras, next to Lisbon, where my mum lives. Stay there for 9 full days. Drive to Madrid, where Angel's (my husband) family lives. Spend 9 full days there. Drive up to Bordeaux, France, sleep there one night. And then finally drive up to Cherbourg, France and take the short ferry to Poole from where we should drive to Wales. Long trip yes, but one we are used to doing every year, bar the covid years. And that's more or less how it went....well...sort off!!

Not having gone for 2 years in a row we were really looking forward to this trip. We needed this trip. We needed to see our families, our friends in our home countries and all the places, flavours, smells we missed seeing for the past 3 years. So we were pretty much expecting this to be the perfect holidays. Plot spoiler, they were great, but boy oh boy, they didn't go exactly as expected.

The first morning went well. We left our home on time. The drive was smooth, we arrived to Portsmouth just in good time for check in, after having stopped for lunch on the way. As we are looking for our check in queue in Brittany Ferries we had the first clue something was not quite right. We couldn't find a queue that said Santander, and they are usually pretty obvious to find. So my husband pulls over on the side to check our tickets.....and the unimaginable had happened! Our ferry was from Plymouth!! We had gone to the wrong city! Yes, my husband booked the tickets. Yes, he printed them and checked them over. Yes, I asked me two days before we left "Are we going from Portsmouth or Plymouth" to which he answered Portsmouth. And as we got into the car, the first thing I did as we pulled out of our driveway in Wales, was to check the tickets as I always do. And guess what? Yep, my brain read Portsmouth where it said Plymouth. Why and how we will never know! But we had just missed a 22h trip ferry to Spain and believe me, this was not a good start of the holidays we so long waited for!! After a huge initial stress, we actually managed to swap our booking for a ferry that left that evening, from Portsmouth. At a higher price and with the trip taking 30h instead of 22h and ending in Bilbao instead of Santander.......but hey ho, we were going to Spain, and by then, it was all we cared about!!

So with quite a few hours to kill and a car full of stuff we needed somewhere to go, to entertain ourselves and to relax a bit from the huge stress of believing for 20 minutes our holidays might have been totally ruined! We looked in the map (thank God for google maps, hey? ) and ended up in this place called Farlington Marshes Nature Reserve. Which was cool enough, and below you can see some photos of it. I mean, I wouldn't travel all the way from Wales to Portsmouth just to see it, mainly because we have such a stunning natural landscape in Wales. But once you're there, it's a pleasant enough walk and I loved to see all the cows laying around and the huge amount of birds flying in the skies. It was quite windy, but nothing we are not used to in our Welsh coast anyway!

After that, with still a couple of hours to spare, we headed to Portsmouth Beach, a bit closer to the ferry terminal (not wanting to tempt luck and all that!!) . My daughter was so anxious about missing the ferry by then, I think she would have happily stayed inside the car for two hours at the terminal just waiting for our check it to begin! Having said that, the beach was a lovely one, I love how all beaches are apparently made of the same stuff, but are also so different between them and have a different character to them! This one didn't exactly reminded me of our Welsh beaches but it didn't remind me of our Portuguese/Spanish beaches either. Or the ones I used to know many years ago when I lives in East Anglia. It just had a character of its own. It's a very long one with parking along the beach promenade, though I can imagine it getting pretty busy at earlier times!

We finally headed for the ferry and as we reached our check in turn in the line and the lady could find our amended booking we all let out a big sigh of relieve. I mean, we had lost the ferry, we drove the the wrong bloody city.....the worst that could happen had happened already, right?? Wrong!! It turns out we had one more surprised reserved for us! As I dealing with the check in on my side, a huge caravan, checking in on our right, drives through too close to our car, bumping into our side mirror on the drivers side, and nearly totally ripping it off the car! So at this point my husband and daughter are shouting at the guy to stop the caravan, but he drove through anyway, my son is just staring at the scene dumbfounded, the girl who's doing the check in on my side is wide mouthed just repeating ''what happened? what happened?" and I am trying to process what on earth is going on whilst trying to calm everyone down at the same time.

This time it really looked like our holidays were ruined! The mirror was all cracked and hanging by the side of the car. My daughter is sobbing saying "This was supposed to be a happy day!" We were all panicking trying to think what to do. The guy that bumped into us didn't look all that worried and said he'd put it through the insurance and we are staring at him in disbelief wondering how on earth we can drive to Spain without a side mirror. In the end, the mirror was clicked back in and although it was cracked there was still pretty good visibility, so we could drive, albeit the problem would have to be sorted at some point. But we could drive, we could get into the ferry and actually go on holidays!

My husband kept asking ''what else is going to happen" and me, a great believed in not attracting bad luck or energies (call me hippy, but I really do believe in it!) kept saying ''Do not say that for heaven's sake! That's it, we are done with bad luck now and we are going on holidays!!''

Turns out we weren't totally done with bad luck just yet but that we wouldn't know until a few days later. The ferry trip was rather uneventful, apart from us all waking up sea sick the next morning, my son nearly throwing up in the corridor just outside our cabin scaring off a bunch of tourists and my daughter managing to break the cable for my phone charger. But the weather was actually lovely for a change and we managed to enjoy the sun deck and the 30 h didn't feel as long as we thought they would!

So I will leave you with a few photos of the ferry and on my next blog post I will show you a bit of the North of Spain...and tell you some more of our adventures!

When the play are decoration matches your daughter's top. My daughter's odd sense of humour meant she just had to wear her "Moi!" top both times she went on the French ferries. And then she kept saying she really must look like a tourist to them.

Now, the above photo is only here in case you're curious about the cabins.....and also for you to appreciate the sense of humour of whoever designed these Britany Ferries cabins. That beautiful window, idyllic as it might look, is in fact a light box in a cabin that has no windows whatsoever. It did create a weird sensation of it being day time even when it was pitch dark outside. It was actually effective in making us feel a bit less cooped in, but at the same time I found it hilarious! A fake window. Maybe I should get one of those to stuck in my living room during the long dark Welsh winters?? I'm tempted!

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