May 9, 2010

manchester IV, journey home

we had a great time in manchester, despite the fact that we didn't know when we'd be able to get home, or maybe because of it. i certainly wasn't in no hurry, my nephew loved the extra days off school and my brother's employer was understanding of the situation. i guess folks at home were more anxious of the situation.

on sunday, which would have been the day to fly home, it had become certain we wouldn't be flying on monday either. the receptionist at our hotel was kind enough to let us use their computer to check when and how we'd try to make the journey. the news were all saying the ferries across the channel were packed and that they were not taking recervations, "only first come first serve".

we finally found a website that allowed for us to get to page where bookings were possible, we seized the opportunity and made reservations for an over-night ferry from hull to zeebrugge, belgium. we then needed to figure out how to get to hull from manchester, the train, naturally. slowly but surely we got a plan and necessary reservations (thank god for the internet and credit cards!)

we left the hotel on monday morning around 9.30, first took the metrolink to piccadilly station for a train to hull. i think we were travelling fairly light, despite all the shopping we did. here waiting for the train at piccadilly station in manchester

fancy looking train, found the timetables and bought tickets from, easy as baking a cake

the weather was rainy and grey, this was about the best picture i got of the yorkshire landscape that we passed on our way

naturally, we brought lunch on board with us. the marks&spencer at the train station had tons of options, i finally decided on this delicious salad

the boys had taken a liking to these sandwiches, and crisps (as potato chips are called over there)

the train took only 2 hrs to hull, where we got a taxi to drive us to the harbour. the driver told us that the day before the ferry was packed with 700 people on it...we ended up waiting for hours and hours for the ferry to sail off (and it didn't do it exactly on schedule either...) well, i remembered i had these shortbread cookies that were meant as souvenirs... (must admit, by copenhagen they were all gone)

i had no expectations as to what kind of cabin we would have, this was quite spacious for the three of us

there was more space than in some hotel rooms i've been in

by now it's monday afternoon, we're on board, my brother making sure all got equal shares...

they had fancy restaurant on board but none of us felt like stuffing ourselves, so we opted for microwave pizzas. lame, i know, but they kept us alive until morning. the ferry was far from being packed, i guess it paid to sit and wait for one day and let all the busy people go first...

we had gone to bed early as we knew that there was a long day (and night) coming up. we took the "cheaper" of the breakfast options and ended up at this fancy setting

love those miniature jam jars (almost pinched one)

we could choose from yogurt, corn-flakes, porridge or fruit salad, which was my option

in addition to the toast, we were served these, each. yes, we all got a basket of our own, and no, i didn't manage to eat them all...

once in zeebrugge harbour we headed for the info desk and asked if they'd call us a taxi. "it's not possible, and it would take too long. take the bus". well, we kinda had no other option, here waiting for the bus in chilly and windy weather. the bus finally came, we went to brugge, took a taxi only to find out that the car rental company was closer to the harbour than it was to where the bus had taken and learn

finally, on tuesday at 11.30 am in a rental car heading to stockholm, 1700 km and 24 hrs to drive it in. why rental car, you ask. well, train tickets for the three of us would have been close to 1400 euros and the car only half of that, and the trains would have been packed. later in stockholm, i heard one lady say that she'd had to stand from hamburg to copenhagen on the train as there were no seats, eventhough she claimed she had paid for one

there were many curious vehicles on the road, like this tiny fiat (that didn't go very fast)

and these side-car motorcycles

we are now in germany, you can tell that from the rye bread. my lunch/dinner on tuesday

this jam went on for kms and kms

now in northern germany where these "grow" all over the place

finally, around 10 pm on tuesday, we approached the ferry terminal in puttgarden, germany, for ferry to rödby, denmark

by the time we got on the ferry we all were a bit tired. also my nephew who had been sleeping on the backseat the whole day!

i bet you all know the great öresund bridge from denmark to sweden. no? we had thought that crossing over this bridge would be an elevating experince and i even woke my nephew up to see it...this was around 1 am...i must say we were quite disappointed, maybe you need to see the bridge in daylight to appreciate it. these surreal flickerings of light would be the bridge...

around 2 am we stopped at a gas station "somewhere" in southern sweden (i honestly don't know where) and tried to sleep for a few hrs

we started out again so early that it was still dark and we had to drive quite long before finding a gas station that was open. the scenery was all white when the sun started to come up. my breakfast on wednesday here

the weather wasn't particularly nice (grey and rainy) that morning. i don't know how my brother managed to drive, i dozed off and on on the way before we arrived at stockholm at around 10 am

luckily my brother has gps in his mobile, it made finding the place to return the rental car so much easier. we returned it in time, with one hr to spare

by this time we had been on the journey for 50 hrs, but as sweden is almost (but only almost) home turf, we were fine. we took the tunnelbana to harbour where we would board the ferry to helsinki. we only had 5 hrs nephew had this for lunch

i ordered the fish, which (i think) was hiding somewhere on the plate...

normally, the ferry terminal would be quite empty in the afternoon but as so many people were trying to get home any way they could, a line was starting form well ahead of time of boarding. lots of people were making phone-calls, some happy to get home, some very angry yelling about how badly they had been treated here and there

my sister-in-law had booked us a cabin, the only thing we needed to go look for! this was the "view" from our cabin

we had opted not to go the buffet. we were all too tired to be able to eat like mad men. we just wanted to have something to eat and get to bed early. we chose an italian type restaurant, here is my appetizer, bruschetta with marinated seafood, very nice

nephew's ceasar salad, which he liked a lot

brother' i can't remember how this was called but there was prosciutto in between the bread, balsamico on top

we all had the same main course, chicken with lemon cream sauce (that i tried to mimick once at home, pictured on my april 25th entry)

my brother went to bed at 8 pm, nephew and i an hour later. we did manage to get up just in time for breakfast...the breafast buffet had everything, and i chose bacon! i promise, now i will not touch that stuff for months

the passage to helsinki harbour is quite narrow at places

once back in cold and wet helsinki, certain someone was at the harbour to pick us. i then took my brother and nephew to the airport where they had parked their car 8 days earlier. by this time the first post ash-cloud planes had started to take off and land

it had taken us 72 hrs to get to helsinki from manhester, not bad. now that i've finally un-packed everything, i'm already ready for another "little trip"