Our Interrail adventure spawned as a way of taking the dog away to Transylvania for a Christmas holiday without sedating him and treating him as luggage when flying. Options to get to the continent were very limited and we had 2 choices either the Harwich to Hook of Holland Ferry or the one from Newhaven to Dieppe. We chose the route through Harwich in Essex primarily due to the strikes happening in France and did not wish to risk that this time.
Trains From Stroud to Harwich Via London
The Journey started in Stroud railway station a very nice station with backpacks on, dog on its lead and full of optimism. We arrived in plenty of time but quickly decided we should stock up with liquid for our vapes to ensure we were not spending any time searching for shops on the journey. Anyway, after a false start of a phantom vape shop on google maps, I procured some liquid and some spare coils for the adventure from KNG, a very good shop IMO.
Stroud To Paddington
The GWR train arrived and Interrail diary updated we enjoyed the first leg into Paddington station, London. This train was quiet and the puppy had no distractions so stayed settled while I took the opportunity to get some work done. I like the new GWR trains on the Cheltenham to London route these days and much nicer than when I was a regular on the line a few years back. The only incident was a dramatic lady who had a fear of dogs winking at her and she wanted him held so she could move down the train, this was quite amusing as ours is a very un-scary dog.
I was dreading London as the dog wishes to be friends with everyone so the journey was planned to ensure we were past the capital by 4pm and avoid rush hour. On arrival we hiked from Paddington station to Lancaster Gate and popped into Kensington Gardens to give him a run and potty if required.
Lancaster gate station has lifts to get to the the platform, great for us with backpacks as dogs have to be carried on escalators on the tube. As predicted the tube was not too busy to start with but hitting Oxford circus it very quickly filled up. People were very aware he was there, many looking at him and a few gave him a quick pet, puppy heaven for him.
After his calm impressive behaviour on the tube, we had to navigate the Liverpool Street escalators without incident. A quick run around and a sniff in Liverpool Street was his reward for being a trooper.
Liverpool St to Manningtree
Back into the impressive but not yet heaving station, we found the platform for the Anglian Train to Manningtree that was out next connection. It was decided by the puppy that the platform minutes before the train was potty time and squatted down to have his biggest poo to date. My cortisol levels went through the roof but cleaned up, got rid of the poo bag then with seconds to spare we were on the train.
Not the nicest train in the world but had plenty of seats our main requirement after reading how busy this line gets in rush hour. We had an event-free journey as puppy likes to curl up for a nap after potty time. Unfortunately for him he was woken up and the leaving the depart train routine was enacted, bags on waiting for the doors to open.
Manningtree Station had an outside area for smokers and we opted to sit there to wait for the Harwich train. We were close so out come the new Trespass hip flask procured for the journey, this included shot glasses so toasted our successful navigation out of London.
The next train of the day was a quick journey to Harwich city on a little regional line, we passed Harwich International were we needed to catch the ferry and got off in the town centre. Although dark the town had a nice pier on the estuary/seafront and let the puppy have some exercise before heading for a pint.
We had researched dog-friendly pubs in Harwich and had recommendations from @ernpup on Twitter to Visit The Alma Inn. This pub was not far from the pier and was a very nice place to set down the backpacks and enjoy a few pints to recover from the journey. The dog was made very welcome and fed him his dinner on the Quality Street lid that was the best-shaped food “bowl” we chose to fit in the backpacks.
After the Alba, we popped into another dog-friendly venue, The New Bell Inn. This was another friendly pub but we had opted to pop in on their Christmas Quiz night so no free tables during the3 quiz.
An executive decision was made to leave and visit the chippy we spotted on the way and have a chippy meal on the platform and head for the ferry. Pieseas chippy cooked everything fresh so we had a 10-minute wait for our sustenance to be ready. Batter sausage, fish cake and chips were the delights of our alfresco meal enjoyed on the platform while awaiting the connection to Harwich International. The chips and mains were delicious and very filling and didn’t dent our budget for this leg.
The final train of the day was a few minutes to Harwich International to the port where we were catching the Holland bound ferry.
Stena Line Ferry From Harwich to Hook of Holland
We had pre-booked the Stena Line night ferry with 30% Interrail pass holders discount, a cabin was compulsory as was a kennel for the dog. To keep this as cheap as possible we chose the double bunk bed option cabin.
Check-in and customs were painless, we showed tickets, passports and the Pet Passport which was a legal requirement to travel. After the formalities, we navigated a walkway onto the ferry and directed the correct way to board with a dog.
Stena Line Ferry Kennels
First port of call was to the secure kennel deck where we put the puppy into his home for the night. We blinged up his quarters with his trusty bed, a blanket his friend ChipMonkey and a bowl of water. The kennels were clean and Stena Line provided blankets, bowls and some good instructions the help canine travellers.
There was also a deck to walk the dogs on the next level down, this was small but served the purpose for toilet breaks including “Midnight Potty Club”. Bins and bags were provided and the area was spotless.
The cabin was fine for our needs, very clean, had a fantastic shower and was pitch black when the lights were off. I had a fantastic night sleep and missed departing the UK I was that comfortable. On e of the TV stations was dedicated to the CCTV of the kennels where we watched to check up on the sleeping dog who seemed relaxed.
In the morning I woke early and fresh, got showered in a fantastic hot shower with high pressure then I had a wander on deck to see the coast of Holland. There were lots of announcements for breakfasts and the shop for those that need an extra alarm in the morning, for others this may irritate.
When the ferry had landed, announcements were made on how to exit, we collected the puppy from his home for the night. He said goodbye to his new buddies including a boxer and a Chihuahua. We disembarked again down a long walkway.
We navigated successfully out of the UK to enjoy the upcoming month of travel,1st stop The Hague working towards Christmas in Transylvania and dreams of seeing some snow.