Fugitive fences at the UK border force checkpoint
My day starts with a train journey to the railway station where my travel companion will pick me up. He lives closer to London and his car insurance policy covers whole Europe while mine doesn't. It takes some time before we meet each other at the railway station since he's waiting at the back of the station and I am waiting at the front. Once we've met, we start our journey. We will drive through four countries in order to reach London and our first goal is the harbour of Calais, France. We should arrive there an hour before departure of our ferry and we have approximately 35 minutes to spare. We expect queues on the ring road of Antwerp but we're lucky to have no queues at all during the trip. We reach the French border before we expected it and suddenly, we have to leave the motorway. We have to go round a roundabout and re-enter the motorway just to have the French border police checking our cars. The traffic isn't too busy so our delay is just a few minutes. We continue our journey along the North Sea coast and after some 4 hours driving, we reach the Calais ferry port.
Entering the ferry
Calais has been in the news for many times the last few years since many fugitives lived in the Calais 'jungle' while trying to reach England as stowaways. The French have built a fence to prevent the fugitives from entering the vehicles that are waiting to cross the English Channel and I see lots of fences but no fugitives. Before we can enter the ship, we have to cross 3 checkpoints. First, the French border police wants to check our car. We have to open our trunk and I think they're still checking on illegal passengers. The second checkpoint is the British border force. They're smart enough to have the passport control before the crossing. It would be nonsense to have people ferry to Dover just to hear they can't enter the UK. Finally, we cross the checkpoint where our ferry tickets are validated. We receive a number and have to line up in the lane with that number.
Some 30 minutes later, we can enter the ship, but I can't manage to start the car. We've been consuming power too long with the engine turned off and now, the battery's almost empty. With the help of a few passengers from another vehicle, we manage to start the car and once we're aboard, we keep the engine running for a few minutes to give the battery some time to recharge. We change the car clock to GMT and add some tape on our headlights before we leave our car and go to the passenger deck.
The White Cliffs of Dover
90 minutes later, we reach the port of Dover. We reprogram our navigation system to the Pembury Hotel in London N4. In Canterbury, we take a break to have lunch. We now have plenty of time to reach our hotel and by choosing Canterbury, we also have a smaller town to adapt to left hand driving. In our opinion, it's better to adapt in a small town rather than driving on the motorway all the way to London just to find us adapting to left hand driving in the London rush hours.
After we leave Canterbury, we continue our journey over the M2 towards London. As we pass Dartford, I can't help but think of it as the first dart we see in the UK, as many other darts will follow later that night. We drive on to Greenwich and pass the river Thames through the Blackwall Tunnel. As we approach the O2, I recognise its name as the location for the Premier League Finals Night. London has several locations where dart tournaments are or were held, and we're also not too far from Purfleet, where the PDC World Championship was held before they moved to Alexandra Palace.
Approaching the Dartford Crossing
The traffic in London is not too busy and with the help of our navigation system we reach the hotel some 3 hours before we should arrive at Ally Pally. We check in, park the car and while my companion tries to get some sleep, I go out for a walk to Finsbury Park to buy a few bus tickets. There's still some time left, so I walk back to the hotel to borrow a pencil and walk to Clissold Park, just outside N4, to find a simple geocache. I walk back to the hotel and plan our bus trip to Alexandra Palace. Google tells us that our bus W3 towards Northunderland Park might have some delay because of a football match of the Spurs, so we decide not to wait any longer and take the bus to Ally Pally.