Back Home Again :: Γύρισα στην Αγγλία

Departure from Calais

It has been a long week, but the good news is I’ve arrived back in the UK and have spent the weekend recovering from my adventure with the Belgian breakdown service.

After the VW garage in Belgium opened on Tuesday they quoted a very large sum to repair the car, at which point I asked my breakdown company just to get me + car back home – It took 48 hours to organise but eventually they towed me back from Belgium; I was able to drive the car on to and off the ferry which made things much easier.

As a result of Brexit, P&O Ferries ships are now registered in Λεμεσός (Limassol) and fly the Cypriot flag…

I arrived in Dover at 22:45 on Thursday night and was then towed back to Gloucestershire, arriving in Fairford some time between 04:00 and 04:30, and getting back home at 05:00 on Friday morning.

Following all this I’ve since spoken to my garage who couldn’t find the fault the Belgians said they found – other than perhaps the timing chain is a little noisier than it should be but just keep an eye on it for now…

I trust my own garage’s judgement more than a VW main dealer in another country who have never worked on the car before – although I have my car back now, it does mean that whatever the underlying fault, whatever it may be, hasn’t been fixed – but if/when it does resurface, at least I’m not too far away from home this time!

Apart from the breakdown spoiling the end of my holiday, it was otherwise a great 3 weeks and I would definitely drive to Greece again – Not every year, the cost is comparable to a 2 week holiday for a family of 4 who are flying over; but maybe in 2-3 years time I’ll consider it again.

As well as driving to Greece for the first time, I also went in to some countries I’ve never been to before – my thoughts on those as follows…

Italy: I wasn’t too sure what to make of Italy. I didn’t feel as welcomed in Italy as I do in Greece, Cyprus or the German speaking world – perhaps not speaking Italian was a contributing factor – and I found their motorways (Autostrade) a little crazy, not like the German Autobahns where I feel quite comfortable.

Austria: I only drove through Austria in the pouring rain on the way to Greece and called in briefly at Bregenz (near the Swiss and German borders) on the way back – but it seemed nice enough. I speak German and can understand TV and radio in Austria – one to explore more of.

Bregenz from Above

Switzerland: I liked Switzerland a lot, despite only really driving through it in a single day. If I could have stopped in every Alpine village I liked the look of, I’d still be there today!

The scenery in Switzerland as I drove over the top of the Alps was brilliant, and the roads there are good too.

Swiss Alps in June

After crossing in to Switzerland from Italy, I tuned in to the national German-speaking radio station (SRF 1). It was the first time in a number of weeks I’d listened to a proper news bulletin on the radio so it was almost like coming home, re-entering the German-speaking world and catching up with everything I’d missed since being away.

It was through listening to the news on SRF 1 I learned that Theresa May had formally stepped down as Conservative leader, signalling the start of the leadership election.

Liechtenstein: A bit like Switzerland in that it also uses Swiss Francs as the currency (and therefore the prices that come with that) – Definitely one to visit again.

Vaduz, Liechtenstein

That is it for my Greece Road Trip 2019 and my blog.

Back to work on Monday – I’ve bought a shed load of Belgian chocolate to make up for the week I wasted while sitting on the phone in Belgium for most of it; to compliment the bag full of biscuits I bought back from Greece.

Think I need another holiday to recover from my holiday. Can that be arranged?

FH.

Thurday’s Mileage: 307
Total Mileage for my Greek Road Trip: 3813

Journey Map

Completed Map

I’m Not Back At Home :: Δεν Γύρισα στην Αγγλία

Today was not the end of the holiday I really wanted it to be. Instead of driving back to England, I’ve only really made it half way.

I had a good breakfast in Boppard before getting on the road shortly after 9 – Earlier than planned but I wanted to leave sooner and get some miles covered early in the day.

I’d been on the road for a little under 3 hours when the car started playing up; The engine management light came on and it went in to its limp home mode – just as it had done in Greece. However this time I couldn’t clear it; Cue 2 hours of sitting on the hard shoulder of a Dutch motorway waiting for a breakdown truck. The truck came, he plugged his thing in to the car’s data port, said it was a faulty sensor, cleared the error, and sent me on my way.

All was fine until I got to about Brussels. I’d stopped at the Services just past Brussels for a drink and got on the road again – then the real problems started; The engine was misfiring. No warning light (probably because the guy who came out had cleared it), but something certainly wasn’t right.

I pulled in to one of the emergency breakdown lanes they have every few hundred metres on Belgian motorways…Played about with the car, stopped and started it a few more times, and decided I’d try and make it to the next services rather than sit on the motorway. Didn’t know how far ahead they were, maybe 20-30km away? I’d not long come out of one lot of services! But I didn’t make it that far. I drove off fine and for a couple of minutes it was normal again, before the misfiring began again. It was no good, I needed to stop.

Another 2 hours of sitting beside the motorway.

This time the driver managed to identify the real cause of the problem; A faulty valve was sending exhaust fumes back in to the engine. Definitely not right! When it became too much for the engine it would send out an error message and that’s when the light would come on, and when in this latest incident the engine would misfire.

So… Where now?

This late on a Sunday – and a bank holiday weekend (Pentecost) for most of Europe – there was now no chance of being towed back to Calais tonight.

So instead my car’s been towed to a garage and I’ve been sent to a nearby hotel for 2 nights. I’ve got the number of the garage and will have to call them on Tuesday morning.

The result of this is that tonight I’m in Aalst. My room has a good view of the motorway. I think there’s a park within 10 minutes walk, and about a 30 minute walk to the centre.

Might as well make the most of this… I’m here until Tuesday (at the earliest)…

But now I think I’m just going to stick the TV on.

Goedenacht,

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 214.9
Accumulative Mileage: 3505.8

Journey Map

England, France & Belgium :: Αγγλία, Γαλλία & Βέλγιο

Dover on a Friday night

Day 1: Cirencester to Antwerp

My overland trip to Greece is now under way with the first leg – the first 300 miles – done.

I arrived in Antwerp during the night, taking advantage of the quieter roads to try and cover quite a bit of Belgium.

Driving to Dover on a Friday afternoon is always fun but despite the expectation that Friday afternoon traffic slows things down significantly, I did it in approx. 4 hours which isn’t bad for a Friday rush-hour.

I’d left a couple of bits at home so after leaving work I went home to retrieve them – and got on the road at 16:35.

I hadn’t anticipated getting stuck in the first traffic jam of the day before I had even got out of Cirencester. Then there was a broken down lorry on the A419 – this means I’d got stuck in 2 separate traffic jams before I’d done 5 miles. So far so good them.

Bracknell was as slow as expected. I chose not to stop in Bracknell this time and went straight through to the M3; I crawled round the slip road from the M3 on to the M25. I’m quite sure all that stopping and starting isn’t good for the clutch. Perhaps that’s why so many people brake down on the M25!?

After a short stop at Cobham services it was back on to the road – By this time it was after 19:00 and this leg of the journey sailed by. A clear run after getting back on the M25, I made it to Dover from Cobham in 1hr 30min.

Rolling in to Dover at 20:30 on a Friday night, I recall being a little worried that Brexit might make Dover a nightmare to drive through. In the end, we haven’t yet had Brexit, and therefore I hardly stopped for border control – I held my passport up and was waved straight through before I had any opportunity to give it to the border guards. Coming back in to the country, it won’t be so simple!

I arrived in Dover early enough to get an earlier ferry than the one I booked, which meant I was at Sea a whole hour earlier than planned.

I had a passenger for the first leg of my journey out of Calais! A hitch-hiker from Germany was hitch-hiking back to Germany from Brighton and, now that his previous lift was getting off the ferry and going in the wrong direction, was looking a new lift – he was looking for cars heading in the direction of Belgium. No problem I thought, someone to talk to while I drive so late at night!

I took him as far as Ghent, about an hour and a half from Calais. He was following the E40 road so I dropped him at a motorway service station about 5km before my junction which would see me leaving the E40 and turning left on to the E17 towards Antwerp.

I had a clear run all the way to Antwerp; It took me 2 and a half hours, slightly longer than I thought but that’s mainly because my hotel for the night was on the other side (the East) of Antwerp – so I travelled most of the way round the Antwerp Ring.

On the French roads the only cars on the roads were Brits, mostly ones from my ferry I think – and quite a few of those Polish vans. By the time I got to Belgium, I think the Brits had all gone to bed.

I had been trying to take a guess as to where I would see my first car on a Greek number plate during this holiday. I hadn’t really expected that moment to be at 01:30 in the morning in Belgium, before I had even done half a lap of the Antwerp Ring.

I arrived in Antwerp at 01:55 local time – checked in and went straight to bed.

I’m going to get some breakfast now, and then I will think about getting on the road and heading for Germany.

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 317.5

Journey Map

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