Plymouth to Santander
'28th - 29th July 2021
Pont Aven : https://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/booking/trip
Let's get this European Adventure on the Road!
After a quick trip McDonalds (fueling up before boarding the ferry), it's time to head to the Docks and prepare to board.
We arrive happy and full of nervous excitement, quite confident that we have no goat's head stuffed with cocaine in our van, and pretty sure that we have all the necessary paperwork to leave the UK during a global pandemic. Turns out that was a bit premature.
Passports - CHECK
Covid Vaccination Certificates - CHECK
Spanish Contact Tracing Forms - CHECK
Negative PCR Test Certifications - CHECK, I mean NOPE, well, actually MAYBE.
When I completed the online registration for the boy's PCR tests, there was an option I noticed on Harry's form to add the swab time to the certificate. I'd not noticed it on Eddie's, and hadn't read anything (in all my research), about it being necessary, but we found out exactly how significant this ommision was when we reached the front of the queue. Only one of the boys forms conformed fully with the requirements to enter Spain!
We managed to persuade the lady inspecting our paperwork that the boys did their swabs at the same time, and that the ommision was an accident. Thankfully after checking with her Supervisor she allowed us to board with the warning that the Spanish Authorities had the right to "refuse us entry". With this ringing in our ears, we boarded the Pont-Aven, filled our picnic basket and headed up to our cabbin.
We were allocated exactly the same cabbin as the year before, so it was all nice and familiar. As they boys set off to explore and play hide and seek, I set about the task of getting hold of Randox and arranging for a replacement of Eddie's PCR Certificate to be emailed to me. I spent over an hour on the phone, then several hours nervously waiting and trying (unscuccessfully) to get on the ship's free wifi.
After getting bored of hide and seek, spending all their money in the duty free shop and eating all the snacks, the boys booked tickets to watch the latest Fast and Furious movie in the Cinema. Tickets were £6.50 per adult and £5 per child. Bargain! One really odd thing we noticed; the movies with an older age rating were often shown earlier in the evening! The boys returned to the cabin around midnight, and we they all slept well until the following morning. I however was up all night worrying about Eddie's PCR test.
When we awoke the next morning we all took full advantage of the shower before heading down to the restaurant for breakfast. We were actually midly surprised that the "Full English" was better than last year.
We arrived in to Port around mid-morning. The PCR test email never did arrive. As we sat in the van waiting to disembark I was almost sick with nerves. Steve got out of the van and struck up a conversation with a man we later realised was Beverly Callard's partner. We heard all about the details of her upcoming TV show documenting her tour around Spain in a motorhome. In my front seat I kept flicking through all the paperwork in my file, as if touching it would make it all correct and conform.
The ship slowly, oh so slowly emptied. And from down on the very deepest deck we eventually crept out in to dazzling sunshine. The warm sky and blue water reflected golden sunlight sparkling and teasing us with it's brilliance, but my worry was dark. As we followed the queues of cars, lorries and motorhomes the sense of dread only darkened. After a long snaking 40 minute queue we reached the front checkpoint. The local policeman eyed me with dark heavy set eyes, he demanded our passports, and without even checking our faces, he stamped them and waved us through with a cheerful "Adios".
It took us another 2 full minutes to realise that there were no further checks. Nobody was going to ask us for our Vaccine or PCR Certificates. Nobody was going to refuse us entry! We had safely made it to Spain!
Top Tips for Travelling on a ferry.
1. Take a picnic basket.
If you want to save money on buying food and drinks, make sure you pack up what you need. We had breakfast booked in the restaurant, but took a selection of quiches, sandwiches and easy picnic food to snack on up in our cabbin. We also took wine and drinks for the boys.
2. Travel Plug adapter
The Pont-Aven is operated by Brittany Ferries, which is a French ship. All the plugs in the cabbin are European style so it is absolutely worth taking a plug adapter so you can use the power in the cabbin.
If you are partial to a hot drink, and don't want to pay restaurant prices for a nice cuppa, don't forget to take small travel kettle and what every "makings" you like. We've even considered cuppa soups and pot noodles in the past!
4. Charging Cables and Headphones
This one is probably a dead obvious reminder (especially if you have teenagers too), but don't forget your cables. The headphones are important if you are unlikely to want to watch or listen to the same thing. The cabbins are very small and there is no where to go if you want some peace and quiet, so a decent set of headphones might just save your relationships!
5. Travel Sickness remedies
If you are susceptable to motion sickness, or travelling through winter, it might be worth considering taking what ever medication, or remedies you know work for you. We've been really lucky and only travelled on relatively calm days, but I understand that in winter the Bay of Biscay can be pretty "choppy".
6. Wash bag
The cabin bathrooms do have complementary shampoo, showergel and towels, but if you are planning to wild camp when you arrive, this may be your last opportunity to enjoy a long luxurious (ish) shower! Take your favourite smelleys and really enjoy all that lovely hot water!
There is no connection to the outside world once the ship leaves the local waters. 24 hours is a looooong time to be away from the world especially when you are waiting for something important like a revised PCR Test Certificate. There are several "wifi hotspots" around the ship. they are awful, the connection is terrible and if you can connect it's super slow. The ship offers several paid options. I paid about £5 for enough premium wifi to stalk my emails! The streaming options were really expensive!
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