Across the water

August 7, 2015 - Bristol, United Kingdom

Our host, Jonathon, booked a taxi for us to go to the Ferry Terminal this morning so we would be assured of getting there easily. Otherwise the walk goes on and on and the terminal is really designed to get many vehicles on or off as quickly as possible. Not a place to be dragging a suitcase. So we were packed and breakfasted and ready to leave when the taxi turned up at 8am.

The boarding announcement was made even as we were checking in so it was a simple process of taking our boarding ticket and our cases and following the Yellow Brick Road. It was yellow actually, if not brick. The elevated walkway twisted and turned over the dockside and we could occasionally see through the foggy curved perspex cover making up the all-weather gangway. We had been told that we could leave our suitcases with security at the top of the gangway where they would be taken to baggage and we could claim them on arrival.

With a little trepidation we walked away from our cases and onto the ship and looked around at our options for seating for the 3+ hour voyage. When I collected our boarding tickets the woman at the counter wrote a number on the top which she said was our Stena Plus code. I had assumed it was for WiFi or something but we now saw signs to Stena Plus and realised it was a lounge area which Margaret had thought would be worth the extra few £'s. We were greeted at the door by a genial Welshman who explained our choices of seating, the range of hot drinks, cold drinks, juices, nibbles and fruit available. Breakfast and/or lunch and alcoholic drinks could be had for a small cost. Newspapers were complimentary and a small library of magazines could be borrowed. The door would soon be closed and if we went out again then our code was our means of re-entry. So it now became clear.

We chose a table with a couple of lounge chairs that looked comfortable and settled ourselves in for the trip. The remarkably enlightened Europeans have free WiFi almost everywhere. In hotels and cafes, in railway stations and sometimes trains and at various locations around cities. Australians are keen to accept new technology and have a very high uptake rate but for some reason want to charge for and/or restrict access to WiFi. I wonder if it is more of a regulatory thing. I know that in 2013 the British were putting in place a system to make you identify yourself to gain access to the otherwise open WiFi in public areas. 

With access to the internet we settled in to check mails, check up on a bit of bookwork and do some more on this journal.

Soon enough we were underway and steamed out into the Irish Sea. Margaret went out to watch the ship leave but I went out on deck only when we were about 2/3rds of the way across. Because my vantage point was from the port side but the Port was to the starboard, if you get my drift, all I could see was the Irish Sea. Not that I was disappointed. It is after all the expectation when at sea.

We disembarked at Fishguard with no fuss so we were in the UK with no passport control again. We will see what is said when we are leaving on on the Eurostar next week. I suppose we have an entry for Ireland and there does not seem to be any border control between there and the UK.

We claimed our bags and crossed the hall to the station platform to wait for our train. Our tickets were purchased online but we were supposed to collect them at a British Rail station. Fishguard was not one were that could be achieved; no machines and no ticket office. We knew that would be the case and had elected to collect them at Cardiff where we would change trains for Bristol.

When the train arrived the hordes of people from the ferry piled on along with their luggage. Like the airport train in Sydney this one had little concesion to the idea there would be many people with luggage although there were at least overhead luggage racks. We found two seats and jammed our luggage wherever we could. Our tickets supposedly had allocated seats but there were no seat numbers on the train and we were lucky to have seats at all.

Soon after leaving Fishguard the conductor came around checking and selling tickets. When he saw our voucher he said ' Ah, one of those. You are supposed to collect the tickets before you travel or you may have to buy another ticket'. He was sympathetic as we explained that there was no way to do that and he suggested when we arrive at Carmarthen we would be there for ten minutes and I could go to the machine or the office and collect our tickets. Carmarthen, he said, would be easier than Cardiff as we would not have to go through the barriers to access the machines which could otherwise mean buying another ticket just to collect our tickets. 'If we come into Carmarthen on platform 1 then the machine will be close by but from plaform 2 it would probably be too far to chance it', he said. I was reluctant to risk being separated from Margaret and our luggage while going to the machine but accepted that it was necessary.

When we arrived we were on platform 1 and almost alongside the machine so I jumped out and made a first attempt only to be thwarted. Please insert the card you made the booking with is the first instruction. Oh pooh. I turned to leave and go back to the train and was met by the conductor. He said there was still plenty of time. Get the card and go to the office instead. Righto then, back onto the train I went and got the card from Margaret and went to the office. Two people were ahead of me but my obvious agitation as the woman at the head of the line asked for various assurances and timings before purchasing her tickets prompted the person in front of me to offer me the next opportunity. When I eventually got to the window I was told to go outside and use the machine. Back to the machine I went and waited for the tickets to be produced. By this time Margaret had positioned herself in the door of the train, determined to stay there until I was back on board.

We still had several minutes of waiting after I was back in my seat  before the train moved off again so we were now legally entitled to be on the train. At Cardiff Central we stumbled around to find out that our train for Bristol was to leave from the same platform at which we had alighted. It was not altogether clear until we were on board and underway that this was the correct train but at least we were moving again.

At Bristol we used our hard-earned tickets to pass the barrier and were soon walking the short distance down the hill to the Holiday Inn Express and were finally able to kick off our shoes and relax

. Will or Emily had said they would probably arrange something for tonight and we could join them so Margaret rang Will so that a) he had her local number and b) she could find out what was happening tonight.

Lido restaurant in Clifton we were told so we changed and took a taxi from the railway square and headed over.

When we we looking for the address on the internet there were a lot of good reviews and the place appeared very popular but by the time we arrived they had added an extra table to the group to bring the numbers up to twenty or so. The meal was great and they made special efforts to accommodate my allergy to garlic. The venue itself is at a private swimming club and the restaurant overlooks the pool. I t

hink I am reaching the limits for blather on Fuzzy Travel so I will just say it was great to see Will, Caroline and Emily and to finally meet Tom as well as Sarah K. A great night!
















Sailing from Rosslare
From the train to Cardiff
Travelling companions
The Severn Bridge

1 Comment

August 9, 2015
How stressful getting the tickets, I don't know why they make it so hard, they encourage you to do these things on the internet and then don't issue proper tickets.
Hope the wedding went well
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