Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Big Move

Saturday 3rd October was a momentous day in my life - and not just because I woke up at 5am. This was the day I left England behind me and headed for my new life in Switzerland.

Having packed everything in my car on Friday night ("packed" is definitely the right word to use, it was full to bursting), I woke to the sound of my alarm and rubbed the sleep from my eyes, before getting ready for what would prove to be a very long day. I had precious little sleep the night before, caused by a mixture of anxiety, apprehension, and the giant Mixed Grill I devoured at the Corey's Mill Beefeater just a couple of hours prior to climbing into bed.

After I had showered and dressed I grabbed myself a cup of coffee (which was greatly appreciated), I decided to double check my room to make sure there was nothing I had left behind. It was a good job I did, as I ended up loading a lot more into the car, including a ton of clothes and my PlayStation (how would I survive without that?).

With the car now closer to the ground than an over-fed snake's belly, it came time to say my goodbyes and get started with the long journey from Datchworth to Lausanne. I don't mind admitting that saying goodbye was an emotional moment for me - many a tear was shed as I bid farewall to my parents, my brother and his fiancee, all of whom I knew I would miss terribly. With a last hug from my mum, I clambered into the car and Bernard and I set off on the road to Dover, waving goodbye until my family disappeared from sight.

The drive to Dover was surprisingly smooth, with very little traffic - admittedly it was 7am on a Saturday, a time when all sensible people are still tucked up in bed, but I had imagined there would be a few delays along the way. With Tom (I'm on first name terms with my Sat Nav now after a journey like that) giving us accurate directions, we soon made it to the ferry port at Dover. I feared the worst when we were directed into the Customs area, with images of us having to unload everything from the car to prove we weren't smuggling any Albanians into France flitting across my mind.

Waving goodbye
from the ferry
However, I need not have worried; Customs Man (I didn't get his name, but he's only an extra in this story) asked me to open the boot, took one look at the big box labelled "Kitchen Stuff" and then promptly waved me through to the queue to board the ferry. Perhaps he thought checking the full contents of my overloaded Peugeot was more trouble than it was worth?

With a great sense of relief after getting through Customs unscathed, I drove the car onto the SeaFrance ferry (a process that was fantastically well-organised, much to the credit of the SeaFrance staff), and Bernard and I headed straight for the bar. It's not what you think - we didn't follow the traditional British trait of getting a beer in before 10am - we ordered croissants and coffee and then took a sit near the window to keep an eye on the water level.

As the ferry's enormous engines powered into life and the boat lurched forward in the general direction of France, we made our way outside to wave a final aurevoir to the White Cliffs of Dover, and - more significantly - to England. Conditions on deck were choppy at best, as we struggled to keep our footing long enough to take some photos with the boat tilting from side to side.

Ironically, drinking beers like the English might have meant the bobbing boat would be counterracted by our drunken swaying, allowing us to walk normally. As I stood on the deck I couldn't help but notice the poetic ending to my UK residence - good old Blighty wished me "bon voyage" by throwing rain and gusting winds at me.

Having survived the stormy conditions that battered the boat for the duration of our crossing, my next big challenge lay ahead of me - driving in France.

Despite countless trips to Switzerland in the past, and the fact that my family and friends had to drive rental cars to and from our wedding in September, I had never actually driven on the right/wrong side of the road before (at least not legally). So, as we all disembarked the ferry in an orderly manner, I firmly gripped the steering wheel and sucked in a deep breath as Calais opened up in front of me.

I think it would be fair to say I kept within the speed limits as I followed Tom's instructions to head into France, partly because I was not used to adhering to limits in kilometres and also because I didn't want to crash my over-loaded car and spill all my wordly belongings across a French autoroute.

Actually, once I got used to the road positioning, driving on the right wasn't that hard, even if I was only following the autoroute so didn't have to worry about roundabouts or traffic lights. After a couple of hours' drive, we stopped at a little service station to fill up both the car and our stomachs.

Having "eaten" at English service stations before (the word is used loosely here as service station food is generally only borrowed for a brief amount of time before it quickly comes out one way or the other) I did not hold much hope for the quality of the food in France either, and I sucked in a deep breath as I took my tray over to the counters to see if I could find something with as little e-coli as possible.

Edible service station food!
However, I was greatly surprised, as Bernard and I tucked into some steak hache avec frites, both of which were rather tasty. Washed down with a glass of Coke and then a coffee, that helped to satisfy my hunger and ready me for the next stage of our journey.

Bernard drove us away from the service station, and we followed the autoroute further into France. To say there is not much to see around the autoroute would be an understatement - the rather bland countryside that surrounded us offered little to keep the eye interested. It was only when driving through the Champagne region of France, with Bernard providing tour guide-like information, that I was able to prevent myself from falling asleep.

Indeed, I struggled to keep my eyes open for some of the latter parts of our trip through France, a combination of lack of sleep and lack of things to see, but eventually we made it to the eastern region of the country to cross into Switzerland. By now it was already dark, and I am thankful that Bernard continued to drive as we moved into Switzerland, as the roads were small and winding, with little potential to see oncoming traffic.

We arrived at Bernard and Nelly's apartment building at around 10pm (Swiss time), where my wife greeted me with a big hug, then grabbed everything of value from the car and took the elavator up to the 10th floor. As I crossed the threshold of their apartment (more commonly known as "the front door") I did not really feel like I was entering my new home... instead it felt more like one of my regular trips to Switzerland, where I would stay with Chris' parents while we visited her friends and relatives. Perhaps it will be some time before I fully accept Switzerland as my new home?

Mmm... croissants...
After eating some bread with cold meats and cheese, Chris and I settled into bed for the night as I attempted to recover all the sleep I had lost through angst about leaving my real home. The next morning (not too early in the morning) I awoke to my first day as a Swiss resident, and was greeted by a nice breakfast of croissants and coffee.

I grabbed a few essential things - like clothes - from my car and set about moving in; it didn't take long, surprisingly things seemed to go very quickly, although that might have been because I couldn't be bothered to unpack everything (there is still a fair bit in my car's boot).

Later that day the four of us headed out to Vidy, where we ate fillet de perche (the Swiss version of fish and chips) and had some nice wine before going for a leisurely stroll next to Lac Leman. With the sun shining and bright blue skies above, and my stomach full of delicious food, could this be the start of a happy life for me in Switzerland?

Above: I enjoy a nice meal in Vidy and messing about in a children's playground.
Below: The delicious filet de perches meal we had.


Steph Reed-Peck said...

Have you unpacked your 'Kitchen Stuff' box yet LB? - Me and Ham left you a little surprise in there ;) hehe

Steph x

Paul Reed-Peck said...

No - we moved the box into Chris' sister's basement, where it will stay until we find an apartment of our own.
What did you put in there?
Not something that will stink, is it?
P x

Anonymous said...

Adam's socks?

Paul Reed-Peck said...

Good God, I hope it isn't Adam's socks...
The box won't be opened this side of Christmas, so we'll need gas masks to open it next year!!

Steph Reed-Peck said...

Lol, only just seen this! Its not Adam's socks, it is something much nicer...

Adam Gristwood said...

Fillet de perche?! Does it beat Harry Ramsdens? I bet not! ... Those chips do look tasty though. Weather is properly setting in here, will have to make sure we do the pre-christmas sea-side trip next year? Fancy doing the draw soon?! I think fate has told us never to go to skegness!

bennycrime said...

For a moment there I was like, who is Bernard? Why have I not got a ferry going sidekick called bernard? And imagined him to be a seafaring west country accent type.

Then I read the rest & the answer was there all along!

Congrats on the move & looking forward to reading more about your adventures here.