It’s been two years from the start of this adventure, and our UK visa is about to expire. We’re not done yet, though — there’s so much still to see! So, we’ve applied for Danish visas, and booked a ferry across into Belgium from Hull.
We catch up with Mike (and a very large portion of fish and chips!) one last time, then drive to the ferry port, via a big Tesco supermarket, where we stock up on things we don’t think we’ll find abroad (mostly, more Vegemite — we have about 15 jars now). We park in front of the gates at the port — we’re very early, so we have lunch while we wait. An official opens the gates and waves us through — I jump up and move forward, present passports and collect our tickets, and proceed onwards. A different official, rather than directing us onwards, wants to see our tickets first, and steps unexpectedly in front of Nettle. I brake to avoid him, and there’s the sound of stuff falling off the table behind me, and a curse from Katherine.
Dumb, dumb, dumb. No, bloody freakin’ stupid: I’ve left my MacBook Pro on the seat, and an opened jar of jalapeños has tumbled forwards and spilled over on top of it! I don’t have time to deal with it though — I drive up onto the ferry, directed by the attendants, and park.
The laptop’s still on, and actually seems okay — until it goes to sleep, unexpectedly. There’s nothing we can do for now; we’ve wiped off the jalapeño juice, and we cross our fingers that it’ll resurrect itself.
With thoughts of having to replace my laptop weighing heavily on our minds, we collect our cabin key, drop off our bag, and go have a cream tea (our last for a while!) from the ship’s café. The crossing passes uneventfully — we claim a corner of a couch for the evening and read, then retire into our tiny little cabin with its two narrow bunk beds and, surprisingly, en suite bathroom.
We wake the next morning and when prompted, make our way back to Nettle and off the ferry. An immigration official cheerfully stamps us through, and we’re in Belgium!
I’ve found us an aire to stay at, beside a canal at a jachthaven — we drive there from the Zebrugge port, through the industrial area and past straight tree-lined canals and farms. The aire is a bit plain, but it’ll do.
The laptop is in a worrying state — it boots fine, but while the trackpad works, the click doesn’t, and neither does the keyboard. I open up the laptop and have a peer around — I don’t see any obviously damp areas on the logic board, and I’m hoping the top part, with the keyboard and trackpad, can be replaced. We find an open WiFi network, and I look up an Apple store in the nearby town of Gent.
We drive in to Gent the next day, and walk into the centre, sick laptop in hand. We leave it in the hands of the service staff at the Apple store, fingers crossed, and go for a wander around the town.
Our initial impression as we walked in was a bit lacklustre — it looked pretty drab — but as we headed into the centre, we realised our first impression was wrong: Gent is lovely! It’s a town of cobbled streets, canals, delightful Germanic-looking buildings. Trams rumble by, stallholders sell pastries from carts beneath flower-festooned lamp posts, students wander around, shopping, ducking beneath the eaves of buildings when short rainstorms pelt the cobbles, before the sun comes out again to dry the puddles.
We have a craving for pizza, and we end up wandering into a Pizza Hut restaurant in a big cobbled square lined with other restaurants and cafés, tables spilling out into the square. The coffee at the Pizza Hut is better than anything we’ve had in the UK for quite some time.
I’ve found a WiFi network there, and check my email — there’s one waiting for me, from the Apple store. It’s bad news. The logic board needs replacing. To the tune of €1,347.