Almost 22 years ago, my husband and I made our first trip to Europe. This was the pre-Chunnel era, when flights were still expensive, and so we decided to take the ferry to France, from Dover to Calais. I’m so glad we did. I got to see the White Cliffs of Dover, as we sailed away on a bright blue June day. We’d been living in Thailand for 18 months, so I remember being struck by the familiar on the ferry – the cakes they served at the cafeteria were the same ones my mother used to bake. I don’t remember much else about the trip, except being disappointed with the unglamorous arrival in France, transferring to the train that would take us to Paris. And after we’d spent about four weeks driving around Europe, we returned to London via another ferry, from Ostend, Belgium back to Dover, where we picked up a car to explore the southwest. I remember even less about that journey, except that the ferry seemed to have few windows and so I felt a little claustrophobic.
A third ferry crossing took us from Delaware to New Jersey in (I think) May 1997. We were following a route recommended by friends in DC, after I’d concluded some business there. We had looped around Virginia, and taken the magnificent highway Bridge-Tunnel across Chesapeake Bay, driven up the peninsula (I don’t know what it is called), through Delaware, and then caught the ferry from Lewes to Cape May, New Jersey. It was a small ferry, we just bowled up with no bookings, and only had a short wait to take the crossing. However, after the Bridge-Tunnel, the ferry was a bit of an anti-climax. Though we loved Cape May, and would never have gone without our friends’ recommendation.
Our first visit to Venice, in 1998, saw us take a ferry out to the islands, Murano and Burano. We had to visit for the Murano glass of course. It was a freezing November day, and we were grateful for the heat of the fires in the workshop we visited, watching the glass artist. Burano was equally freezing, tiny and filled with colourful houses and boats and a small canal, with friendly locals just emerging from their Sunday services, we joined them in the bar (though we indulged only in warming hot chocolates) whilst we waited for the next ferry to leave. The ferry itself was a pleasure though, mainly because it was one of the few places that was blissfully warm, as an Arctic blast swept across Europe.
Then we seemed to have a ferry drought. The next ferry I remember taking was in Canada, in 2006. I was there for work again, but my husband wasn’t letting me go without him, and so we took a few weeks and travelled around the north-eastern provinces. We had to go to Prince Edward Island (home of Anne of Green Gables) of course, and had a fantastic time there (after a wonderful train journey from Quebec City to Moncton, NB). Then we took the ferry from the southeastern tip of the island – I remember a ferry terminal seeming to sit amongst the fields – to Nova Scotia.
Again, I remember little about the ferry crossing except for the ease of getting a place on it. The convenience of the trip was, to time poor travellers, a major bonus. We could never have visited Nova Scotia without it, as we simply didn’t have the time to double back to the western side of the island. When travelling like this, ferries equal convenience.