Welcome to the blog for our round the world trip.

27 April 2008

Back to Blighty.... and farewell RTW2007!

We arrived in Dubrovnik in glorious sunshine and were able to enjoy it at its best: no tourist crowds as you would get in the middle of summer but warm enough to wander around the city walls, the old town and the water front in short sleeves. Its a lovely city and they have done a great restoration job after all the (sickeningly pointless) bombing during the Yugoslav war.

We had by then discovered the happy news that Helen is pregnant with our first child, so we decided to return to the UK about three weeks early in order to get her to the hospital for appointments and scans. We booked ourselves onto the ferry from Zeebrugge to Hull and planned a route back from Dubrovnik through the Alps and into Belgium. Sadly, the weather wasn't playing ball and the beautiful mountain scenery which we had hoped for was replaced by fog, rain and almost no views at all. We broke the journey with a stop in Zurich to see Michael's cousin Steve and his girlfriend, and to consume a rather dramatic meal of steak served skewered on a huge sword and really enormous beers flambéed at the table (no beers for Helen any longer, though!).

We eventually arrived in Brugge just as the rain and fog cleared. We spent a pleasant day wandering around, eating in lovely cafes and sending our last postcards of the trip before heading off to the ferry. It all felt quite emotional: it seemed like such a long time since we had left home all those months ago, yet at the same time the trip suddenly seemed to be coming to an end just a bit too quickly. We went to a cafe on the way out to the ferry and found it full of people from Yorkshire who had popped over for a few days from Hull on the ferry. It felt strange to think where we and the van had been since we left the UK on a ferry..... yet suddenly we were plunged back into hearing Yorkshire accents and watching people sup pints of Belgian lager like they were going out of fashion.

After a night on the ferry, preparing ourselves to break the pregnancy news to our family and friends upon our return, we drove the Van of Dreams off the ship and onto English soil for the first time in a very long while. Needless to say, when we got to customs and they asked how long we had been gone, then looked at the stamps in our passports, we were pulled into the vehicle inspection bays pretty sharpish. The two vehicles in front of us, loaded with booze and tobacco in every nook and cranny, took absolutely ages to process. So we feared that we, with a camper van which had been to India and back and which was stuffed full of a year's worth of kit, would be there forever. But the customs people were friendly and efficient, not to mention surprised and interested in our trip. They obviously decided that our tales of travels to far-flung lands were not as far-fetched as they might seem ("Tajikistan.... are you joking?" was a typical reaction, but our visas helped us to confirm that we were not joking at all). They put a sniffer-dog through the van, but he remained quiet despite the huge bag of none-too-fragrant laundry which we had stashed in the boot.

So we were cleared to leave the port and drove into Blightly proper, heading back to Silkstone where we started our journey and thus ending what has been an incredible trip. Helen's mum was there to greet us on our arrival, madly waving Union flags from the driveway. We have spent our time since we came home sorting things our for our impending new arrival, including buying a new house; getting Michael a much-needed hair-cut; and giving the van some TLC at a VW garage.

Thank you to everyone who has read the blog and posted comments or sent emails during our travels. We have been amazed by how many people have read the site: we had intended it for family and friends to dip into if they wanted to track our progress, but we have had all sorts of people from all over the world following our travels. It was great to get all of your messages when we were so far away from home and it really encouraged us to keep up the blog, which is now a fantastic record for us of everything we got up to on our trip.

We have added links on our home page to the various bits of magazine and other publicity which have come out about our trip and we'll get the rest of our photos onto the site very soon.

Well, that wraps up the blog for RTW2007.... goodbye from Michael and Helen (and the Van of Dreams!)