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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cambridge, UK – Mar. 5-7, 2012

“Ooo La La!”, as my favorite BBC personality would declare, driving a motorhome in England takes some nerve.  And all of mine were shattered upon arrival at our first Caravan Club site, Cherry Hinton, just outside of Cambridge.

We picked up Curry (since Salt & Pepper are two separate vehicles but our rental is one we named it Curry) around noon and left the city of Luton barely breathing.  Alan was still sick, so I was driving (much to the amazement of the men in the rental yard) and trying not to panic.  I don’t think I have ever taken so many deep breaths in one day—heck, in one hour—as I did during that initial drive.

Sadly for everyone involved we had left the rental office without having lunch.  So not only were we driving a seemingly huge vehicle down narrow little streets on the left hand side, but we were starving.  This does not make for a joyful drive.  Indeed, there was one, “Don’t yell at me!”, retort when Alan exclaimed, “Careful!” over something.  I’m still not sure to what he was referring.  Things were happening way too fast.  Drivers coming toward me must have been highly entertained (if I wasn’t causing them to panic) when looking into our windshield seeing two huge eyes set in a very pale face.  And that was just Alan.

I pulled into the first service station I found, backed (yes!) into a spot (ok, two) and ran in for some food.  I was shaking with hunger and nerves by now.  After fueling our bodies and resting for a few minutes, we bought a road atlas, studied our maps, consulted two GPS devices, gulped down more air, and headed out again.  You see, it’s not just the left side of the street, the large vehicle nor even the sounds of the dishes and pans clanking around behind you that are so stressful, it’s the fact that you cannot simply turn down just any old road if you get a bit lost—that road might contain a bridge that you cannot fit under or a road so narrow that, well, I just didn't know what that was and I hoped never to find out.

Unfortunately for Curry we did find out:  Just before our turn off for the campground we entered one of those incredibly narrow roads.  Cars were coming down the other way so I had no choice but to hug the left as far as I could.   “Why can’t I steer all of a sudden?!?”, I asked in a high pitched, not very controlled voice, “Your tires are hitting the curb”, was Alan's reply.  Oooo La La. 

And that wasn’t even the first Oooo La La Moment:  There was the moment about an hour earlier when, stopped on what must have been the only hill in Great Britain, I complained about the gutless motorhome when it came our time to move up the hill.  It wasn’t until I almost burnt out the clutch (oh yes, did I mention it is a manual transmission?) that I realized I had it in third gear.  I almost stalled the poor thing.  Say it with me now, "Oooo La La."

But we managed to get into our pitch and I was so happy to see grass and trees after the concrete jungle of London that I let the dogs run free for a bit.  Such a joy to be back in the country! 

But ahh, today was our first full day in the Cambridge area.  We did what we imagined every day in Europe would be like (if we weren’t hiking):  We took a bus (avec chiens mais bien sur!) to the “cute town”, i.e., Cambridge, found a pub that allowed dogs inside, had a nice lunch, saw some sights, shopped in an outdoor food market, stopped at a local wine shop and bussed back home.  A delightful first day!  

Probably more delightful because it didn’t involve driving.


PS:  More pictures of Cambridge next time!