In which the SC crew and Natters start on the journey across Europe to the conference.
YAPC::EU 2007: Vienna: Day One
26th August: Lancaster to Koblenz, Germany
It's midnight on the morning of Sunday, 26th August 2007, on a cool Lancaster evening and the SC crew (Mark, Matt and Chris) are ripping off on their short tour of Europe on the way to YAPC 2007, so let's recap...
If you haven't read, or heard, the relevant news prior to reading this Shadowcat Systems decided to embrace the idea of a road trip on their way to YAPC Vienna. Instead of the boring grab a cheap flight we decided it would be fun (Yes, I did say fun) to travel across Europe in a car. Whether it was with vague painful reminiscences of National Lampoon or just a desire to stare at a thousand motorway junctions, millions of roadwork cones, and argue pointlessly over the relative merits of different routes is lost to the original conversation. needless to say this had all been decided months before and most likely it was decided over a swift pint in a pub!
To further the sense of fun we also decided to bring along a chef that we knew and to get him to cook-up some recipes for the YAPC Cookbook.
So we blasted out of Lancaster at midnight for the first leg of the days long road journey. Natters (the chef) decided to drive to Dover (he's a chef of course he's mental) as he would be five hours ahead anyway as he had only arrived back in the UK from Dubai that morning (Saturday 25th). It was fairly uneventful, there was a strange occurrence of a man riding a balloon, or perhaps an elephant, on the opposite carriageway (we never saw what it was we only heard it) but no real excitement.
Dover to Calais via Sea France is a pleasant trip, if you take a ten minute stroll and grab a quick breakfast by the time your food is settled you are pulling into Calais. The Channel was calm and the sun was warming the skies nicely and it was looking to be a great day. There was a slight buzz of excitement when we got to the ferry terminal as the flyers informed us that the ferry travelled from Dover-Space-Calais. We hadn't banked on leaving the Earth's atmosphere and it was kind of the ferry company to surprise us with a trip to the stars.
The next leg of the journey would be a drive through several European countries. Chris elected to start this as he was feeling moderately rested (or temporarily insane, whatever). The first stage was through France, heading north from Calais, past Dunkirk and Ypres, Lille and towards Belgium. French road signs proved to be fun, they are often hidden behind local scenery or other road features and come in a variety of junction numbers. The most interesting facet was the numbering that ran from 47-51 then restarted, seemingly randomly though we had changed region, at the number 24 (useful to us as we wanted 28)
Due to this eclectic signing we went 'over' as opposed to 'under' Lille and had to do a swift bit of highway jiggery to recorrect our course as we entered Belgium.
It is our belief that the Belgians have started to employ UK road workers to do their highways as we encountered: a long stretch of roadworks upon which no one was working that seemed to serve no purpose and end unexpectedly only for another set to start. Not only that but the road we were travelling on seemed badly to need resurfacing (as it was resurfaced badly at some previous point)
The blur of poor Belgium roads with many roadworks and entertaining service station staff (Bad Beleinda from Luxembourg works there) seemed to shoot by and by the time lunch had been digested and mid-afternoon snack pangs had appeared we had crossed the border in to Luxembourg. we did see the magnificent and small European Space Agency Centre on the side of the motorway while in Belgium and tried to spot where the ferries land their vessels if they miss Calais.
Luxembourg is a small Duchy nestled in beautiful countryside filled with rolling hills and river valleys. The views from the highway actually make the weary traveller want t stop and stroll along one of the gentle slopes, through a small copse of trees to some magnificent thatched farmhouse where for a small price one could purchase a good rural wine, strong cheese and farmhouse bread. We, however stuck to bland service station coffee, though the cheesecake looked tasty.
While we were in Luxembourg we had the honour of being lapped five times by the Luxembourgian Space Programme. The Luxembourgian Space Programme's name is Dave, he rides a Honda 1150 at a speed somewhere approaching too-damned-fast, and due to needing to constantly accelerate to try to escape the Earth's gravitational pull has a casual disregard of all road signs and road users. We didn't see him actually take over, but we did see him come damned close, so good luck Dave, one day you will hit the European Space Agency Centre in Belgium, and at the speed you achieve you'll probably not see it.
By late afternoon, with a generous stop at a Luxembourg service station we had reached Germany and were near Koblenz, our stop-over point on the way to the conference. Koblenz is a large town that sits on the junction between the Rhine and the Moselle rivers. It is nested in a steep valley so the views coming in are truly spectacular. We settled quickly at the Ibis hotel, a mid-range hotel that is easy to find has underground parking, clean rooms and very friendly, helpful staff.
One quick wash and change and we went into town for an evening meal, Chris knows the region so he suggested a walk along the river to find a nice place and the man didn't disappoint. We finally settled at a riverside cafe/bar that served great fish meals with vegetarian specials that changed daily (there were only two meat dishes). I should also note that the local unpasteurised cheeses are strong and tasty and that the regions special sausage is liver based that has much the texture of a Brussels pate with all the flavour (and most likely calories and fat) of a fois gras. Several beers later we set to bed and the next day's drive