“Stuck at the Lights”

If I had a Euro every time I heard “stuck at the lights” it would have paid for my holiday tour.  Other memorable comments are “good, good”, “toppie, toppie” “don’t go without me” and “ice-cream”

I am not experienced in overseas holidays, let alone driving overseas, let alone driving in an unpredictable 1972 Fiat so believe me when I say I was out of my comfort zone more times than I can count.  However, I was not alone when we all had to make a sudden turn off to the left.  What on a Motorway? A left turn? Surely Paul has his left and right mixed up? Surely the Sat Nav is upside down? No both Paul and Sat Nav were correct, pull over the two speeding lanes to join another motorway on the left, we just made it with a couple of chevrons to spare!

The first 2 night’s accommodation could not have been more different.  Night one was on the Harwich/Hoek of Holland ferry – loved it, loved it, loved it.  Relaxing with a beer, entertainment from the local constabulary dealing with a miscreant, who was eventually handcuffed, and literally, carried away face down and, more importantly, millpond seas.  I even got a friend to travel with me – an orange model balloon dog.  After retiring to the very comfortable room (no Sally I did not have a Porthole), I lay in bed after my shower to watch the TV through a camera on the front of the boat, so could see us on the move.  I was pleased that this experience will be repeated on my last sad night.

The second night – Oh my word!!  We loaded the little babes onto the train transporter and went in search of the rooms.  Cramped, hot, no water. I asked if there was a bar or communal area and was told “this is a sleeper train” to which I replied “not at 9pm it is not!”.  The Scanes and I squeezed in with the Shirley’s for the evening and we had a beer or complimentary sparkling wine and made the most of it.  At least the noise drowned out any snoring, and they did do a very good breakfast.  I woke on a stationary train and on peering out of the window was shocked to see commuters peering back in!  Not being en-suite I hoped to sneak out of my cell room, unseen, in my PJ’s, only to be face to face with a nightie clad Dee looking for a working shower – what makes people get up at 5.30am when there is no work to go to!

Don’t panic – I am not going to describe every 16 rooms (otherwise Christine may edit me!), suffice to say some were better than others, only 2 with a bath ☹, and I may take my complaint about discrimination to singletons to the European Commission, having slept in servants quarters whilst the couples had luxury!!  I felt I managed my suitcase manoeuvres fairly well for a first attempt, having a different hotel almost every night does test the sanity, and memory – now what has been worn already?

By the third day I threatened to go home – one more eyeroll from Paul or tease from another and that was it.  Mind you that is what makes these events, it was all given in jest (I hope) and received in jest.   The more relaxed I got the less they were able to successfully tease me, and I knew when to expect an eyeroll 😊.

Time became a source for discussion once we met up with Lidwina/Tom in Holland, and Christina/Barnie in Hungary – I still do not understand why six thirty really means five thirty on the continent or was it the other way round?!  Then there is the question of how many minutes is “prompt” or “at” or “ish”, I just made sure I was early (so they “don’t go without me”!)

Breakfast chats were comparisons – who had a bath (not me), did your shower head light up(!), how comfy the room was, what complimentary items were taken whether needed or not, and, for a few days, a competition over mozzy bites i.e. quality or quantity – I lost on quantity but won on quality and had to make for a Chemist for some stronger cream, but, I am pleased to say my Lake photo is rather good.  Assistance was rolled out from the first person as to how to use the coffee machine, where a spoon or milk was but most importantly in Sopron – don’t put the chopped prunes on your yoghurt as it is actually pickle 😊.  A daily mystery to me was, what seemed, the illogical layout of the breakfast buffet i.e. butter not near the bread, and pickle near the yoghurt!

Evening conversations were, mainly, about the day’s excitement, Fiat Fiddling, splendid views, have we really just parked inside a mountain!  But it became apparent I seemed to be the only one who saw anything smaller than a mountain!  Apart from the Storks which were abundant and made themselves comfortable atop chimneys or electricity posts.  My spots were carrot/asparagus fields, huge chairs, huge bowling pin, Christine narrowly missing a scurrying mouse. But even I could not spot a Pig!

Apart from the standard traffic queues behind us due to our max speed of 50mph, we also caused a few to the side. This was due to being filmed or photographed, we were waved and smiled at, hooted and flashed (all in a good way). Now surely that is why we all drive these lovable cars?

We only got lost twice that I knew about, and that was only some of us, yes you know who you are!  Once when we opted to walk back to the hotel, and within minutes we were onto Google, trying to remember what landmark was in the area to use as a pinpoint, I remembered the name of a little supermarket selling cheap wine!  And the second time, the next day, was in a Car-Park.  Vince and I stood in the lift, for it to wander up and down and deposit us back on the same floor, we could hear the other few sussing out the different staircases and we all made it out safely in the end.  We found out the next day that the lift did not belong to the Car-Park!

We had our fair share of car “issues” but only 2 major(ish) ones, Gino/Dee had 3 concerning hours whilst various diagnostics were tried and tested, finally I believe it was the petrol filter at fault.  Rod/Sally had a similar time when Lidwina thankfully spotted Rod’s engine trying to escape!  A mounting had slipped. We pulled off the Motorway to find a lovely little grassy area, with a couple of trees for shade and “the boys” set too.  Half way in and a gorgeous 1963 Volvo pulled up with a local offering help.  Rod hoped he was about fixed but we took his number anyway.  Unbelievably, 15 mins later Josef rolled up again with his wife and a flask of coffee, biscuits and cakes.

Other issues around the group were – wobbly wheel, 2 punctures (same car, same day!), spark plug cap, 2 fuses (different cars), clutch adjustments, 2 oil leaks (one minor, one major), lost accelerator return spring, juddering first gear, lost window latch, squeaky door, loose nut, replacement points – this is all normal (“no leaking oil, means you have no oil!) but what really matters is that we all got home on our own four wheels.

This holiday, yes holiday, had all emotions running – worry (will I breakdown today), fear (crossing 2 lanes of speeding traffic), apprehension (will I make it up the next mountain) and finally nervousness (will I be arrested at Customs for my herb plant) but that was all part of the fun and was outweighed by sights never seen before, laughs at/with the group, camaraderie, support and forever-lasting memories – a 2,135 miles well spent 😊

                                                                                                Felicity Greenfield