Returning to Jersey Pt 1
From our new home in Portugal we had been keeping an eye on travel restrictions, covid levels and ‘R numbers’. Watching and waiting for our opportunity to make a break and head back to Jersey for the first time since we left in September 2019, when the world was a much easier place to navigate! We had already made the decision to take Stevie (our motorhome) back to Jersey for a whole host of reasons; we didn’t need such a large vehicle now that we have a base in Portugal, we won’t be living in the motorhome full time anymore and more importantly, importing a vehicle into Portugal is prohibitively expensive. As we were now Portuguese residents we also couldn’t legally drive Stevie around Portugal anyway so we started to look at planning our journey back.
Living on a beautiful, sunny island has so many benefits but getting to and from Jersey is always has to be a well planned mission. Your travels are dictated by the tides, the weather and the availability of transport and now, added into the mix, covid travel restrictions. Taking Stevie back to Jersey would mean a gruelling few days of solid driving all the way up through Spain then France and finally crossing the English Channel by taking the ferry from St Malo to St Helier. Our options in March 2021 were few and far between. The ferry company was only running boats for passengers with vehicles every other Sunday and at a much reduced capacity so the spaces were very limited. We initially booked for March 28th, hoping to be back (& out of the 10 day quarantine) in time for the Easter weekend. Unfortunately, that particular ferry was then cancelled, due to government restrictions, so we were moved to Easter Sunday (March 4th). We begrudgingly booked our new date and told our friends and family that we were headed back and would see them the week after Easter. We were happy to be headed back but sad that we would be missing the Easter weekend when all our friends and family would have time off together… until we took the chance to ask the ferry company again and they squeezed us onto the boat for March 21st. But this time we decided to surprise our friends and families so didn’t tell that we would be coming back earlier.
By then it was the end of February so we had less than a month to organise ourselves, have Stevie serviced ready to be sold and plan our trip back including the dreaded PCR tests. Servicing and deep cleaning the van went well in the Portuguese sunshine and we had given ourselves a week to drive up to St Malo, with time for a rest day in the middle, PCR tests in Spain and a quick visit to our friends in Cubelles, near Barcelona. Thankfully our wonderful friends John & Kate offered to look after our home, Theodore and newly planted garden in Portugal whilst we were away. We have been so lucky to meet them. We decided that leaving Theodore in a place where he had just started to settle, without us there, with no confirmed return date and always a possibility of being stuck in Jersey should covid numbers suddenly skyrocket again, would be too stressful for all of us, so he would be coming too!
Monday 15th March rolled around, we loaded up the motorhome for the last time and just had the last checks to do and then Theodore to move into the van when he escaped from our home and hid underneath the neighbours static. We spent the next half an hour trying to extract him, to no avail, until Callum commando crawled under the static, pushing Theodore towards the gap he had jumped through where I caught him by the scruff of the neck. He was not amused to be leaving Portugal (& his new cat friends) and going back into the motorhome but thankfully, as always, he settled back into vanlife well (after a couple of days of sulking, of course!).
We were back on the road again and it felt so strange. We fell back into travel life straight away and were feeling a bit emotional about having to sell Stevie after all the adventures we had been through together. The crossing into Spain from Portugal went smoothly with just a check of our passports. We spent the first night wild camping next to a reservoir and the second day driving all the way to the east coast of Spain where we had booked to have our PCR tests on the Thursday afternoon, giving us 72hrs to get across the border into France then up to northern France and on our boat on the Sunday.
Whilst we were parked up in Benicarlo on the Wednesday evening, we met a lovely Spanish couple called José-Luis and Maria-Terésa, who told us all about their years of motorhoming. It was so nice to spend time with fellow travellers again and just live in the moment, watching the sunset together as we walked along the beach, without worrying about the craziness of the rest of the world. We have definitely missed that. After our horrendous PCR tests (the technician literally held the backs of our heads whilst he thrust the probe up our nostrils and deep into our sinuses) we treated ourselves to churros and continued north to meet with our Spanish, Catalonian and Argentinian friends for one night in Cubelles. Then up early the next morning to drive from the Spanish beaches, through the Pyrenees and across the French border where we were met with no checks at all but we did find lots of snow!
Saturday meant another long driving day up through France until we reached a small motorhome stop just outside of St Malo where we met up with our Jersey motorhoming friends Neil and Chantal, who were heading back to Jersey at the same time as us. One night catching up with them and another early start got us to the ferry terminal on Sunday morning. The ferry journey was unusual as all passengers had to be escorted to their pre-booked cabins by staff, where we stayed for the duration of the voyage and then escorted back as we arrived in Jersey. We were delivered a free breakfast of croissants and orange juice though so we can’t complain!
After much, much gentler PCR tests at the harbour in Jersey, the next step in keeping our arrival secret was the most nail biting, as we drove from the port in the south to Callum’s parents house in the west of the Island. There is no way to stealthily drive a 7.5 meter, 3.5 tonne motorhome on a tiny 9×5 mile island! Thankfully we got back without being seen and parked up on the driveway which would be our quarantine hide out for the next 10 days (& 2 more PCR tests!). Hopefully we could keep the surprise going until then!