Portsmouth to Bilbao

The first leg of Eurotrip is a loop of Spain. We decided to take the ferry direct as it’s still fairly early in the year and pretty cold, so the express route to southern latitudes seemed like a smarter choice.

Our ferry was from Portsmouth, early in the morning so we decided to drive down the night before and stay in a site nearby. We camped at the Chichester Camping & Caravan Club site. The site was small and compact, but was pleasant enough for a stop-over. It was only a 15 minute drive to the ferry terminal, so at 7am when the site gates were unlocked, we joined the race with the 5 other motorhomes and caravans from the site to the ferry terminal.

The ferry terminal is well sign posted and we found our way to check-in easily. We would however recommend having your ticket and passports ready before you set off. There was very little queue and we had a mad 2 minute panic trying to find Dave’s passport, which neither of us could remember packing!

Queuing for the ferry

Once through passport control, we were directed to a lane of vans and motorhomes. As is usual at ferry crossings, we then sat there until all the other lanes of traffic had been loaded, before it was finally our turn. Our gaggle of vans ended up on the last bit of deck space on the upper exposed deck, slotted in amongst trailers. We had to trust the manoeuvring directions of some very competent and very French deck hands to get us parallel parked into our spaces.

We were on the Brittany Ferries ship called the Baie de Seine which is a smaller, slower and older ship, but there isn’t as much choice when sailing in February. With this crossing, you have to book a cabin. On check-in we were given our cabin number and paper swipe door key. We had already packed an overnight bag which included clothes and toiletries, but also stuff to keep us entertained (books, Bluetooth speaker, laptop) on the 28 hour journey. We also brought on lunch, water and snacks as the on-board prices aren’t particularly cheap.

The cabin was basic, but clean. Bedding, towels and shower gel are provided. There are wall plugs over the bedside cabinet, but you’ll need a euro adaptor.

Our cabin

Facilities on the ship include a bar, self-service restaurant, lounge area and a reading room. I assume that the ship must be full of trucks and not tourists as the public areas were very quiet for most of the trip.

Although there wasn’t much wind and the sea didn’t have many peaks to the waves, there was quite a lot of swell. The ship pitched and rolled quite a lot, particularly in the evening and overnight. There were warnings over the public address system to be careful due to the bad weather when items started moving about on tables. If you are prone to motion sickness, you need to take the first tablet a couple of hours before. I waited until I was already starting to feel bad, by which point it was too late. Feeling rotten for 28 hours isn’t fun. Dave did, however, have a very nice lamb roast dinner in the evening. It appears he does not suffer from sea sickness.

Before disembarking the crew wash down the vehicles that have been outside as they do get salty!

Deck hands hosing down the vans – can you spot The Van?

The views of the Spanish coast are impressive on the way into port. Getting off the boat is easy enough, again follow the directions of the crew. We were prepared with our passports at immigration this time!

Land ahoy! Bilbao in sight.

Our first stop was a Carrefour and Lidl in Bilbao to stock up on fresh food and fill up the van. Carrefour was amazing! It is huge and some of the shop assistants wear roller skates to get around! We nearly managed the whole shop without issue until we tried to buy 2 oranges at the self-service checkout. Much gesturing was required before we realised we should have bagged and weighed these in the fruit and veg section. Our beginners Spanish lessons didn’t cover this topic!

Our first overnight was planned to be a free motorhome area about an hour outside of Bilbao however when we got there it was pretty bleak so we moved on to the next motorhome area about 25 minutes further on called Pedrosa de Valdeporres, which cost 4 Euros.

First night in Spain

It was a clear and cold night, but there was a fantastic view of the night sky as there was virtually no light pollution. And the view by day was pretty impressive too. Note the snow on the mountains in the distance!

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