As I sit here on my parents decking, it still hasn’t quite sunk in that we are now four weeks into our Portuguese adventure. Our arrival was not without its bumps along the way.
The day before leaving we fitted the dog cage to our Land Rover and that took some figuring out, even reading the manual. We had bought it soon after buying the car but had never fitted it and were going to get rid of it. However, I felt it would be better to have it installed in case the dog thought about joining BattleKid in the back seat. Or God forbid if we had an accident. After almost an hour we got it in.
The next morning, after some last packing, signing of papers for the sale of our first house, and clearing the last of furniture out of the house to buyers, we left South Wales. Sunny as it was that Tuesday, following the trucks containing our belongings until we passed Abergavenny, we passed over the Severn bridge with a little bit of emotion. We headed for Portsmouth, stopping at Leigh Delamere services to grab some much-needed food before containing on.
Five minutes down the road we heard “mammy I need a wee wee” and into the next services we pulled. He’d only done one in the previous services! Toddlers, hey! Bladder emptied, we soon turned off from the M4 and headed south along a route we hadn’t taken before. We arrived at Portsmouth just before 3 as we planned and checked in.
Both our own passports, as well as BattleDog’s, were checked and we even had to use a micro-chip scanner to prove his microchip was still there. I was quite impressed by the Port Authority’s thoroughness. At 4pm we started heading to our ship, the Pont-Aven, a very nice looking Brittany Ferry indeed. Once on board, BattleDad got BattleDog up to his kennels and soon came racing back for his bed, which we had stashed in the back. Dog settled, we headed upstairs to find our cabin and unload our things for the 24-hour sailing.
I must say I was very impressed with the ferry indeed. Two cinemas, several restaurants and cafes, a large shop and even a pool (unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to try it out). Ferries have certainly come a long way since my overnight trip to France as a teenager for a school trip. Even the dog facilities were better than I expected although the kennel could have been slightly bigger for our large German Shepherd.
I had been quite worried about how BattleDog would travel after reading some stories but he was brilliant. Some dogs around him got sick, one had a bad stomach the other end, and some just didn’t stop barking the whole time. However, he was fine, just excited to see us when we went up to him to walk and toilet him.
We even got some great compliments about him, especially in the late evening when it was just me and him. BattleDog was trained by Chaperone K9, a company we have dealt with before when we got BattleDog #1 (who sadly passed away last September). BattleDog #2 is fully obedience trained and is also a personal protection dog. He is so chilled and relaxed but hugely loyal and obedient.
During this particular visit to the dog walking area, there were lots of dogs and owners so I kept him close to me and just walked around in circles. It soon started raining and everyone cleared the deck except us. I took the opportunity to do some extra training and heel work off the lead, and after a few minutes another owner arrived to walk their dog. I put BattleDog back on his lead and carried on with heel work.
She was very impressed and asked if we did Crufts! I said no, that he was trained to police standards (which he is) and she then asked if I was police woman! She was mightily impressed by how good he was and how well he walked to heel. I went back to BattleDad to tell him, all chuffed with myself.
The next morning we had breakfast and took BattleKid to the soft play area which was nice enough. While there, I stupidly faced backwards and soon started feeling ill. A cup of black tea and two packets of salt and vinegar crisps soon settled my stomach. We chilled out mostly, allowing BattleKid as much screen time as he wanted. I did get a snooze in the early afternoon as I hadn’t been able to sleep much thanks to a sweet cake and caffeinated tea after 8pm, which is always a no-no for me. Caffeine and sugar after 7pm does nothing for my mind switching off at bedtime.
The most exciting part of the trip was seeing hundreds of bottle-nosed dolphins swimming off the port of the ship. They were amazing to see, jumping out of the water and swimming alongside the ship.
We docked 30 minutes behind schedule and were unfortunately the last ones off the ship. We made our way through Santander and headed for the motorway which connects Santander with Bilboa, as we were staying an hour outside of Santander in a dog-friendly hotel I had managed to find online. After refuelling, we were on our way, heading into the mountains of Northern Spain….
To be continued…