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2018: A Year on the Road
This is my site Written by Fred Hart on December 28, 2018 – 18:13

As 2018 comes to a close I’ve been enjoying looking through the last 12 months worth of holiday photos, choosing what to put in to the calendar I get printed for my desk at work each year.

The end of the year means my countdown to the shortest day (ie, counting down to when the days start getting longer) has also come to an end – so I now need something else to count down to. Another holiday, maybe?

2018 is the year in which I’ve probably travelled more than any previous year – both in terms of the number of countries I’ve visited, and the number of miles I’ve driven: 16689 as of 28th December.

Cyprus: Λευκωσία (Nicosia)

My first holiday of the year was a long weekend in Cyprus at the end of February. While it was snowing back home, I was enjoying some warmer mediteranean weather. For the first time, I rented a car for a few days, and I spent each night in a different town on Cyprus. I also spent some time in Northern Cyprus, a country unlike any other I’ve been to before – the least European, not surprising, given that it is closely aligned to Turkey.

After returning from Cyprus it was a good few months before I really got travelling again. In May I took to the roads and headed to Northern Germany, to attend the annual Weinfest in Cirencester’s twin town of Itzehoe.

Along the way I stopped off for a night at De Panne, on the North West coast of Belgium, and called in to the War Museum at Overloon in The Netherlands. But Mostly, I was in Germany and was a little nervous to come off the motorway on my first day to drive straight in to the centre of Cologne, Germany’s 4th largest city.

Germany: Köln (Cologne)

On my return journey I hopped over in to the old East Germany and spent some time in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, then it was on to Cochem in the Rheinland. Always one for getting my money’s worth from my holidays, I was still in Cochem less than 24 hours before I was due back at work.

That became my longest drive to work ever. Leaving Cochem at about 13:00 on a Sunny Wednesday afternoon, I reached the Dutch at tea time and stopped for a bite to eat. Then it was on to Calais, getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the Brussels Outer Ring Road.

If I remember rightly, I think I reached Calais some time between 9 and 10 in the evening (around Sunset) – just enough time to get a few hours sleep in a local hotel. I was up again at 1 to get the ferry back to Dover, where I arrived at around 3 in the morning before driving straight to work from Dover, arriving back in Gloucestershire at around 7:30 in the morning.

2018 was also the year in which I did a fair bit of city driving! Instead of driving round London on the M25, more often than not I go straight through the centre. On days when I need to pop in to Central London, I no longer go in on public transport…Trains are so expensive, it works out cheaper to drive in from Cirencester and park near Oxford Circus! A day’s parking in the underground car park there is cheaper than a return train ticket to and from Paddington.

Belgium: Antwerp, the second city of Belgium

Just under 2 months later was the start of my biggest road trip yet. The idea came about in the Summer of 2017 when we first looked at flights to Kristiansand in Norway to attend my cousin’s wedding. Not being keen on the idea of having to change planes I joked that I’d rather drive, could take all the luggage in the car so the rest of the family could travel handluggage only.

Germany: Burg-auf-Fehmarn

What started of as a “Why don’t I…” type of scenario became reality and just over a week before the wedding I set off for Dover. Spending time in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark (but mainly Germany) I arrived in Kristiansand at the beginning of August, about a week after I set off from Cirencester.

Norway: Kristiansand

The return journey – accompanied by my sister for the first half – took be back through Denmark, then over the bridge in to Sweden (briefly) before I got the ferry back to Germany, drove my sister to Hamburg Airport for her flight home, then returned to the UK from Hamburg with just 2 overnight stops along the way.

Denmark: Copenhagen
Sweden: Ystad
Germany: Warnemünde

Back from my Norweigan road trip, I felt I needed another holiday. Within a month, I had booked to go to Scotland to visit Granny’s home country. One Friday after work, I got on the road and headed North… the Isle of Arran being my destination – just for a 1-night trip! It was a long drive but worth it.

Scotland: Isle of Arran – Brodic

As the nights drew in I largely have remained at home since September, but I did catch the travel bug once more at the beginning of December, when I flew out to Greece and spent a long weekend in Athens only a couple of weeks ago. The winter months are a great time to visit the med!

Greece: Athens

Now in the closing stages of 2018, I’m starting to think about plans for 2019. Already definitely going ahead in May is my road trip to Greece, via France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Italy – returning via Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France.

A return visit to Cyprus in on the cars for early February (not yet decided). I’m quite keen on spending a bit more time in France. I don’t speak French, but that doesn’t put me off to much. Google Translate should be quite handy… I just stick a German accent on it so they don’t think I’m English, that way they will start talking to me in English (and if they talk to me in German, so be it: I won’t complain).

I’m still trying to teach myself Dutch, might try and re-learn a bit of French, and maybe a bit of basic Italian might be useful too…

If I’ve not spoken to you over the last few days, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Plenty of TV to watch this evening so that’s what I’m off to do shortly.

FH.

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