Well, covid had been defeated and, almost as quickly as it arrived, it was forgotten and we could get back on our holidays again. So after two years of being locked down and terrified of leaving the house, it was time to explore Europe!
The stories of cancellations at airports and baggage delays had put us off flying a little bit and the idea of being locked in an airtight tube with other travellers seemed to be a little much to take after being careful for so long.
We decided that we would jump on the DFDS ferry that leaves from North Shields and, after an overnight journey, it deposits you just outside of Amsterdam, bright and early in time for stroopwaffles.
The excitement of getting ready for holiday had amplified hugely. Little things like getting your money changed, buying silly sized deodorants and shampoos, packing your cases, digging out plug converters and setting up playlists, god how I had missed all of this.
We were in a VW golf estate, five of us. It seemed like a good idea at the time but by the time we drove the 5 miles to the ferry terminal, it already seemed like a bad one. A 12, 14 and a 17 year old squished into the back seats with only one USB charger between them…..we were going to have to be at our best to manage this one for a week!
We drove on to the Princess Seaways, our home for the night, and made our way to our cabin. It must have been no more than 4 meters long and I am pretty sure I could have touched both walls at the same time. The five of us were going to be snug, that’s for sure.
One side of the cabin housed two bunk beds, the other three. The thought alone of the smell in the morning was enough to make me regret my life choices, and that was before the motion of the North Sea came into play.
We quickly decamped and do what all intrepid explorers do; we set out to find our bearings. There was plenty of DFDS staff pottering about giving directions and pointing people to all of the amenities including cinemas, restaurants, bars, duty free shops and arcades.
We walked around a corner and bumped into the Bluey the Bluebird, the 6 foot plus mascot of DFDS that takes the form of a bluebird in a pirate outfit. I hugged, high fived and cuddled Bluey and massively embarrassed the three kids which was a bonus.
As the ferry got underway and began to turn in the Tyne before heading out past Tynemouth and into the open sea, we took our positions on the deck and watched the familiar sites of North Shields, Tynemouth and the coast slowly get smaller and smaller.
The feeling of excitement from leaving all that you know and love behind and heading for new adventures is one that I love to feel, and had craved for the years of lockdown. It felt great to be travelling again and having a whole week of excitement to write up!
Our surroundings having been fully sussed out, we headed back to the cabin to rest up and get dressed for the evening’s entertainment. My daughter decided to jump the final five steps of a flight of stairs and landed badly. She turned her ankle and then slid on her knees along the carpet taking off a good chunk of skin…this wasn’t a great start!
We made our way, some of us limping and some of us walking, to the bar to take on a few nerve settlers and to sign up to the bingo. We had five cards between us and we were confident of winning something between us but, ultimately, we were nothing but losers. The guy that was calling the numbers had all of the charm and personality of a head of lettuce which, weirdly, made it even more entertaining.
My daughter sat with ice compressing her ever darkening and swelling ankle and we spent a while people-watching and working out who looked like they were going to have, or had had, a fun holiday and who was going to be, or had been, miserable. I hoped that we looked the sort that would have fun…..I think we probably did because, as we left, my son slipped onto the filling dancefloor and decided to do the worm and got a few laughs.
The five of us, somehow, squashed back into the cabin and got ready for bed. I had a feeling this was going to be a long and miserable night!