Dzien dobry from Poland! I have to admit that since the last blog, we’ve not spent one night in the van. But that will soon change!
So anyway, how did we get here? I spoke last week about the ferry crossing to France, but, as you can imagine, with Covid & Brexit both having something to say about it, this isn’t quite as simple as it once was … but it also wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting either! As a UK citizen, I am entitled to 90 days within the EU. Although we couldn’t find a lot of info, we felt that it wouldn’t be too difficult to extend, if need be, due to being married to an EU citizen. When it comes to the Covid side of things, whilst I don’t want to push an opinion either way on anyone, it does seem that being double-vaxxed is the simplest way. Simply showing the NHS health pass seems to be good enough – no tests needed. As for the van, it too has 90 days within the EU. We simply had to ring up our insurance and they sent us a ‘green card’. We were told there was a possibility of extending this too, and that if we were to ring closer to the time, they would see what they can do. I found it interesting that they said they would do 90 days ‘per year’, as in, for each year of insurance policy … so I have a feeling that it could be as simple as cancelling one policy and taking out another .. but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!
So the legal side travel isn’t really all that difficult, if you’re prepared … as for the rest of it – I couldn’t help but feel a bit like I’d forgotten how to travel! We didn’t bring any adapters, and I had made a pretty big mistake when researching our accommodation for Paris.
As it turned out, Paris has a low-emissions zone, similar to London. And, our van being pretty old, did not fit the bill. We would be allowed in without charges after 8pm. No problem, we would take our time driving across from Caen, stop to eat, and get there 9ish. What I failed to notice, until we were about 5 minutes out from our hotel, was that in the small print, in French, it said that the check-in desk closes at 8pm … I like to be optimistic, and also I couldn’t fathom how stupid it would be to close at 8 when many of your guests couldn’t even get into the city before then. Sadly my optimism wasn’t realised, and yes, the hotel was closed. At least, being in a city, it’s not like it was the only hotel around! We did a bit of searching, and found something else that was available. I have since been in contact with AirBnB, and the hotel. The hotel refused to see how it was ridiculous to close at 8, but AirBnB were very good and did refund. They also sent me a ‘gift’. This is completely random, but clicking on the email, it turned out my gift choices were a pair of socks or some baby bibs. I don’t need another pair of socks, so I had some bibs sent to our nephew. Random, but I appreciate the gesture AirBnB!
Anyway! That’s enough moaning! Let’s talk about Paris. Of course, we had coffee and pastries for breakfast as we wandered in, and, although I’m not a ‘city person’, it was a really nice day to see some of those such famous sights. There was a slightly strange sort of exhibition at L’arc de Triomphe – it was wrapped in some kind of fabric … I did Google it, and couldn’t really figure out the point of it, but it looked pretty cool anyways. And, of course, seeing the Eiffel Tower had to be done.
What I do like about cities is finding that little bit of the unexpected. Maybe this isn’t news to more cultured people, but there’s a street in Paris that seems to just be full of flower and plant shops – loads of them! This was a nice little place to wander through. It wasn’t just your average plants either, there were some super big cacti, and, my favourite, a good amount of ‘Monsterra’, or ‘Swiss cheese plants’ (the ones with the holes in the leaves!)
Actually our favourite part about Paris was that we travelled round all day on those electric scooters! Yes, these are absolutely awful if you’re driving a car – but if you’re the ones cruising around on them they’re super fun. There are at least 4 or 5 different companies (and we’ve come to find that this is similar in many places!) so, if you love saving every penny like me, take 10 minutes to shop around a little. What we didn’t know until we’d both signed up and paid is that many offer ‘refer a friend’ offers, where you both get free rides, or a free first ride etc. Many also offer an unlimited day pass. Usually you’ll pay a small unlocking fee (roughly £1) and then per minute. But with a pass, you usually get free unlocking and then as many rides for the 24 hours as you like. We kind of figured that this is around the same price as your Metro / Subway / Underground day pass would be – except this way you actually see the city! It may not be a way to travel for everyone, but we’re definitely converted!
After our day in Paris, we started the long drive east to Poland. Thankfully, we have a really usefully placed friend, in Cologne, Germany, which was right on the route anyway. His family were kind enough to put us up for the night before we tackled the final 12 hour-ish drive. We were planning, of course, to split up the driving. But once again, feeling like I’d reverted to being a travel newb, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to as I don’t have my license on me (I do have a license, but it was sent off to the DVLA about a year ago, and I’ve still not received it back! There is no way to contact them – web chat always says no-one is available and ends it, the phones say no-one is available and just hang up…). This isn’t a problem in the UK, as it’s not actually the law to carry it on you, but in much of Europe, it is, and, being not the most conspicuous in a van with a huge GB sticker on it, we felt the chances of getting pulled over were actually pretty high. We didn’t, but Konrad really was a trooper, driving the whole way. I guess with a place like Europe, where you have a whole continent to roam, long drives are not unusual. I think due to that, we found that every layby seemed to have toilets, and places to park up and sleep if need be. A bit more low-key than the UK’s service stations – with much less pressure to buy something and get out of that car park for fear of over-staying the 2 hour limit and getting a ticket!
And so that ends the week – we’re in Poland. Specifically, Gdansk, which is on the north coast. Here, where his parents still have a flat, we’re able to set up a sort of base camp while we contemplate our next moves. It’s been really nice to fully unpack the van too, clean and re-tidy everything. Having a day or two to sort out from time-to-time really does keep you sane! Next week, we will start our travels again, travelling south and seeing what Poland has on offer!
Check out more of our travels here!