Clear sky, light winds and temperature forecast in the high twenties. Very crowded on Deck 15 as we have our last breakfast aboard. There's no rush but we clear the cabin and head for the Elite/Suite lounge on Deck 7. Some small pastries, a cup of coffee and a British Sunday paper keeps us occupied until our designated disembarkation at 10:00.
We walk ashore to one of the largest luggage retrieval spaces we've ever seen. It is huge and by this time almost empty. Our lot is not difficult to find and we push out to find a taxi. No Immigration, no one even wants to see the passports. The waiting area for taxis and coaches is enormous and fully under cover. The traffic flow is orderly and well managed. Must be about the best disembarkation we've experienced.
Taxis are a bit thin on the ground though as there are three other ships in port. In reality it only takes 10 minutes and we're off to the Coach Station. We arrive there to find hundreds of people and their luggage with nowhere to sit. We have over two hours to wait for our coach and there are a number that arrive over 30 minutes late due to heavy traffic. We find a place in the shade and wait. Our coach arrives on schedule and we're off at 12:20 with a minimum of fuss. The coach is very modern and the leg room in the front rows is very generous. The seat-belts are very firm though and after a while the pressure on the chest needed to be eased. The air-conditioning works so well we need to put on our jackets.
The driver finds a route that is moving at least. We appear to travel along freeways - 3 or 4 lanes each way - down to country lanes - one narrow lane each way. All that is nothing compared to the congested city streets as we travel through the outskirts of London. Arrival at the Victoria Coach Station is a bit of a shock. The temperature is up to about 30 and the crowd of people, coaches and luggage reminds we of scenes from third world countries. It is hot, seriously crowded but appears to work. We have to make our way from Arrivals to Departures and are lucky to attract the attention of a Porter with a hand-cart. Not only does he take care of our luggage, he finds the correct departure gate and even finds a seat for Jenny.
At 15:30 we board the coach and negotiate the narrow, congested back-streets of London to eventually find the motorway to Canterbury and Dover. The traffic is heavy but better in our direction. The driver comments that most of London's population must have spent the day on the beach. That wouldn't surprise me, they love any chance to get their gear off and bake in the sun. Traffic on the motorway is flowing smoothly, 4 lanes in each direction, when suddenly the warning signs indicate some problem ahead. There has been a burst water or sewage pipe and all lanes on both sides are flooded. A sole policeman on a motor-bike is trying to manage the traffic into a single very slow line. It must have recently happened as we were clear of the area in just 5 or 6 minutes.
We are only slightly late when we arrived at the Canterbury Coach and Bus station. First impression of the city centre is of age. Stone walls and ancient buildings with narrow cobbled lanes. We've no idea where we have to go and although we'd been told that our hotel was withing walking range we hunt down a taxi. The driver at the front of the rank was not delighted to see our luggage and learning of our destination. The intervention of another driver convinced him to take us to the hotel. We drive along those narrow lanes and arrive at a less than imposing hotel entrance. We're really put off by the narrow steep stairway just to get to reception. I decided to leave Jen and luggage outside on the street and climb up to find out if we need to cancel our booking.
There are two problems, the room is quite small and our luggage generous :-) the other is that access is a multitude of narrow steep stairways. There was no real alternate, we were going to stay. The young fellow at reception helped us wrangle the five pieces up to our top-floor room. The heat, the stairs and the bags certainly took some of the starch out of him. The room is small but has most of what you'd expect but is definitely more suited for a one or two night stay.
Having found our feet and waited for the sun to drop a little, we took off for walk around the neighbourhood. There are dozens of bars and eateries in the area and despite it being a Sunday and getting late we chanced on Cafe Mauesque where we enjoyed a mixed Tapas plate for two. From there a short stroll back to the hotel. Not quite the comfort of the ship's stateroom but adequate all the same.
We'll explore more over the coming days.
Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony