Final Days in Northern Ireland & Ferry Bound In Rosslare

Our second night in the van we decided if this was to be home for the foreseeable future we should start behaving like it – people needed fed.  Anyone who has shared a kitchen with me will tell you that I need space – lots of space – I use every utensil, pot, pan, plate, knife and fork to prepare even the simplest of meals.

Surveying the vastly reduced size of my kitchen area in the van, I wondered how this was going to pan out.  It didn’t take long to realise that tidying as I went along would be essential if this was going to work – with a sink half the size of normal and four gas rings the size of a small tin of beans – things were restricted to say the least.  But where there’s a will ……

cooking bacon
Nothing nicer than the smell of cooking bacon

Alan realised he needed mayo and headed off towards the nearest shop, while I got busy in the kitchen – pasta it was!  Alan returned and immediately thought the Belfast Lough had broken its banks and flooded the caravan park – not so – while my back was turned the hot water pipe had blown off the water heater with the pump on and flooded the van.  Some panic ensued while Alan fixed the pipe, mopped up the water, and I managed to get something to eat on the table.  Sure wasn’t this going to be great 🙂

The hot water softens the hose. It needed a double clamp.

I’d love to say I just went with the flow as the new (wet) lino curled up round my feet but secretly I thought “I want to go home” – a thought that would come back to haunt me several times in the coming weeks.

Its maybe worth pointing out at this point that when I told my family and friends that we were planning to travel in the motorhome, it was the cause of much hilarity and “yeah right Michelle” – you see I don’t really do outdoors – never been camping, hate picnics, take my BBQ food inside to eat, hate the cold, don’t participate in outdoor activities.

In short I like comfort – I like to know where my hairdryer and straighteners are plugged in – I don’t do casual and unkempt.  So this motorhoming thing was a complete turn around from the norm.  I had an idea in my head of how it was all going to go and sitting eating cold pasta with damp lino and a leaky water pipe hadn’t really featured.

Deciding the only way forward (for me) was to take each day as it came was difficult as I overthink EVERYTHING – and if I was going to cope with the ever changing events when we were away I needed to cut down on the brain chatter and just concentrate on the here and now, not on the what ifs.

number plate
A final reminder of our home in Northern Ireland, number plate stickers

We spent six nights at Jordanstown getting to know the van and its funny little ways.  Two days before we were to leave the flush on the toilet stopped worked – for no reason that we could see. The pump was still running and we could hear flowing water – it just wasn’t flowing into the toilet!

Alan phoned the local caravan/motorhome dealer who was reportedly a Thetford Service Agent.  They were somewhat less than helpful suggesting they might be able to fit us in on Friday – Alan explained that we were booked on the ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg on Thursday night and might they possibly squeeze us in before then.  They were being their usual belligerent selves until Alan threatened to contact Thetford to have them removed as an authorised service agent, at which point they relented and asked us to bring the motorhome in on Wednesday morning.

abbey caravans
Abbey Caravans, Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland – Keep on driving past!

Now we have had unfortunate dealings with this motorhome dealer before. When we were first considering buying a motorhome, we went to have a look at some models to give us an idea. I went to open the door of one and found it locked at which point the charming (NOT!) owner came over and said “Can I help you”.

When I said that I would like to have a look in the motorhome, he looked at us both and said “have you got 60 grand to spend?”. He then went on to try and sell us a caravan and then turned his nose up at our car saying that it would never tow a carvan! How charming!

Wednesday morning we were at their door bright and early – after a lot of pursed lips and sharp intakes of breath, the owners son (who was helpful, friendly and brilliant – and is wasted working for his dad) said it appeared the problem was that the plastic neck had broken off the cistern pump so we needed a new pump.  A new pump was duly fitted and we were relieved of £109 including a new handle for the habitation door.

abbey caravans 1
Working on the cassette toilet at Abbey Caravans

Thursday morning, thankful for a working toilet – we set off towards Rosslare, 200 miles away, via Belfast and Dublin. First we went to fill up with diesel and visited the Fuel Shed which sells diesel cheaper than the supermarkets. Just how Alan managed to get a 9m van in and out of there I will never know, though it did cause some traffic chaos for a while as other cars were wanting to come in as we were wanting to leave. Guess who won that argument 🙂

fuel shed
Filling up at the Fuel Shed

We stopped  off for a bite to eat in a nearby Asda car park as we seemed to be way ahead on time.  Our first of many mistakes.  Once finished, Alan plugged the co-ordinates of Rosslare port into the satnav. Google maps had said it would be a 3 hour drive, but Alan’s satnav said 5 hours with an arrival time of 8.45pm. Check in was due to close at 8.00pm with the ferry sailing at 8.30!

Down the motorway to Dublin, we seemed to be making good time, and the arrival time for Rosslare was slowly climbing back towards 8.00pm. Once we reached the Dublin ring road though, it became obvious it was rush hour and we were stuck in the middle of it.  We sat in traffic crawling along for a couple of hours, realising that we would need to get a move on if we were going to make the ferry.

Eventually the traffic cleared past Bray and we had a straight run in front of us – unfortunately we were badly behind time and needed to shift ourselves.  Alan managed to get the old girl up to 70mph at some points as we flew down towards Rosslare, coming across a Garda checkpoint at the entrance to the port.  We were already 10 minutes past the check-in close time and just prayed there had been a delay in boarding.  We ended up the third from last vehicle onto the boat, but thankfully we made it.

rosslare ferry
The ferry at Rosslare

As I was getting out of the van I noticed one of the side lockers didn’t seem to be closed securely – I mentioned it to Alan but neither of us paid much attention to it – an oversight that was to cost us dearly.

The crossing to Cherbourg was calm and stress-free – the beds were comfy and I slept like a baby.  We arrived in Cherbourg around 16.00 the following day and promptly parked in the aire closest to the port before darkness fell to gather ourselves.  Couldn’t believe we were actually HERE – let the fun begin.