Abbenes, Etten-Leur, Antwerp, Calais
344 days away
244 miles / 393 km since last post
14,760 miles / 23,754 km total
Welcome to the final blog post of our Europe trip. We have enjoyed a very relaxing final week on the continent, and taken things nice and easy before having to head home. We are certainly feeling the effects to travelling for almost an entire year, so we felt this last week was a good opportunity to slow things down and not worry too much about where we are or what we are doing.
On Wednesday and Thursday we stayed put at out nice camper stop in Abbenes, save for popping out to the nearest Lidl to stock up on food. It was a quiet place, with free wifi and the sun was out most of the time, so we decided to make the most of it. The free wifi meant we could start sorting out some bits and pieces to do with our return to the UK, and our forthcoming emigration plans.
On Friday, deciding that after four days in one place we should probably move on a little bit, we drove about 80km south to Etten-Leur. The camper stop here was in a really nice spot, beside a small harbour along a canal. We decided to make the most of the sunny weather and headed out for a bike ride. The Netherlands really is the perfect place for this. Not only is everything perfectly flat, but all the main roads have great bike lanes, and there is just a generally nice attitude towards cyclists. We did a big circuit around the farmland nearby, coming back to the camper stop through the town. We opted for a couple of beers at the harbour cafe to round off the afternoon nicely.
We decided we didn't want to leave this nice spot on Saturday, so hung around for another day. Seeing as the previous day was so enjoyable we decided to more or less repeat it! This time we took some homemade lunch with us, and took a slightly different route. The weather was a little cooler but it was still a great afternoon.
On Sunday we drove further south, into Belgium and towards Antwerp, stopping at a large camper stop about three kilometres out of the city centre. We took the bikes for a ride into the city after some lunch, and we found the historic centre of Antwerp to be very pretty - a great cathedral, town hall and other attractive old buildings - reminding us a lot of Brugges. We took a casual wander around - not able to cycle some of the time as it was really busy. I guess with it being a Sunday and a sunny day, everyone had the same idea about coming into the city for a drink or a bite to eat.
After exploring the centre for a couple of hours, we decided to head back. We passed a quieter pub on the way back, and sat outside with a couple of beers, before cycling back to our site.
Today (Monday) we left Antwerp, and Belgium, driving the 200km or so back into France once again, towards Calais. We noticed the weather cooling down quite significantly along the way - starting at 23 degrees in Antwerp and getting down to 17 degrees once we arrived in Calais. Our stop for the night was a big area especially for motorhomes, right next to the ferry port. As our ferry leaves just after midday tomorrow, we thought it would makes sense to stay close by.
So, save for our ferry trip tomorrow, this marks the end of our big European adventure. It has been such a fantastic trip. Certainly we have had a few stresses along the way - I think being away for nearly a whole year, not everything is going to be perfect. However, we have done this trip exactly how we wanted to do it, and we don't regret a thing.
Stu and I have reflected on our trip quite a lot in the last few weeks or so, and we are in agreement that we have successfully made the most of our time, while also knowing when to take a break and slow things down. We are both ready to stop travelling for the time being, head back to the UK and catch up with our friends and family, who we have missed while we have been gone.
We also still have plenty to look forward to with our emigration to Australia coming up later this year too. So whilst this trip has come to an end, we are certainly ready to get out of the motorhome and live in a real house - for a while, at least!