For the past month Kay has been contacting shipping companies to get quotes and dates on shipping our camper back home. Our plan (that 4-letter word that never goes away) was to ferry from Calais, France to Dover, England , spend a few weeks exploring the countryside of Britain, Scotland and Wales, ship the camper home from Southampton, England and spend some time in Ireland while the camper is en route to Baltimore. We contacted the company we used to ship over here and they put us in touch with two shipping agents, one in Southampton and one in La Havre, France. Basically these two ports are just across the English Channel from each other and we could ship from either one. We contacted both and waited for information. The company in the UK got back to us right away and provided great customer service but they were about 25% more than we had budgeted for the return trip. Besides, the closer we got to the UK the more anxious Kay became about driving the camper on, what is to us, the wrong side of the road. So we waited for a quote from the company in La Havre. And waited. And waited. And waited. Not a good sign. They did finally get us a quote which was almost equal to the company from the UK. Both companies came in at around $10,000 to ship to Baltimore. Out of our budget but if we had to, we had to.
On a whim we decided to contact the shipping company we used to enter Belgium. Rita was the agent we worked with and she had an immediate reply for us. She provided us with shipping dates and they got a quote to us within 24 hours. Customer service we liked! And, the quote was for almost the exact amount it cost to bring it over, $7,500. Perfect and our exact budget number. So now you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Wow? $15,000 dollars to ship round-trip? Why did they do that.” Believe it or not, even with the shipping costs it was the least expensive way for us to do this trip. Renting an RV in Europe and/or buying one is even more expensive than how we did it. I would guess you could rent a camper van or something smaller for less but with a family of four, including two teenagers, we wanted a bit more space than European campers provide. There are so many ways anyone could choose to do this type of trip – ultimately you have to choose what is the best situation for your family. So that’s what we did.
So to ship we needed to go to Antwerp. That’s where we started. We ended up loving the idea of shipping out of where we started – we lapped Europe! How cool is that? Kay didn’t relish the idea of another day of driving but it turns out it wasn’t that far, about a 6 hour drive, and all major motorways. We were heading to Antwerp but knew we didn’t want to stay at the campground where we started. It worked well for our first few days on the trip but now we knew enough that we looked for someplace else. Looking back at the beginning of our trip we had a terrible time getting propane in Belgium so we left Belgium sooner than we had planned in order to head to Holland in search of propane. Because of that we didn’t get to see Brugge or Ghent, both places I had wanted to go. Now that we were returning to Belgium, we could go there. We found a great campground just outside of Brugge and made ourselves comfortable. Our goal over the next five days was to pack up the camper, get rid of things we acquired along the way that wouldn’t fit on the trip home, and to pack our own stuff up for traveling via hotels for the next few weeks. And I, of course, wanted to sight-see.
What happened was the “Paris cooties” that Noah had – he gave them to me. I ended up in bed for the 5 days we were in Brugge leaving Kay to do all the packing and purging. The cooties eventually made their way to Kay and onto Madison although no one had it as severely as I did. So much for sight-seeing in Brugge.
On the day we were leaving we emptied our waste water tanks as much as we could, checked out of the campground and headed to the port. I thought we were going to Antwerp where we had picked up the camper when it shipped here, turns out the actual port was in Zeebrugge. Very close to our campground. It was an easy drive and then Kay went to check in to see what we do next. Basically she had to fill out some paperwork and then drive the camper to a specific parking spot where they measured it and sent her on her way. Simple! We then took a cab to the train station in Brugge (so I did get to see some of it), and took the train to Antwerp where we had our first overnight in a hotel since last July!
The camper will take about 3 1/2 weeks from the time we leave it at the port to the time we can pick it up in Baltimore. During that time our plan is to travel to London, then Cardiff, Wales and then onto Ireland. We made arrangements to stay in a flat in London and an apartment while in Ireland. We have a few nights in a hotel in Cardiff and we’ll be in a hotel in Baltimore for one night. This end of the trip is requiring a whole different set of planning skills. We have grown very used to finding campgrounds and deciding our route as we go – now we have to make solid plans. But, so far, so good. The next few weeks should provide a good contrast to how we have been traveling for the past 9 months. I feel like it’s a great experiment! Can’t wait to learn the outcome.