Sailing Santander to Portsmouth, Again

We’re back in the UK for our first visit in nearly a year and once again we chose the ferry to get us (and all of our many, many bags) here. As our family love affair with ferry travel continues, it seemed rather appropriate (although entirely coincidental) that we set sail from Santander to Portsmouth on Valentine’s Day. Particularly so as it was on February 14th some seven years ago that we first voyaged in the opposite direction, in a hired van laden with all of our worldly possessions, hearts full of excitement and heads a-whirr with the adventures that awaited us in our new life in northern Spain.


Scoping out the horizon from the porthole in our cabin

I can’t quite believe that a full seven years has passed since we first abandoned British shores but it has and I am very pleased to report that there is no sign of a seven-year-itch on the horizon. Asturias now feels very much like home.

That said, a trip to the UK does paradoxically still feel like a return home. Familiar faces and places, precious time spent with much-missed loved ones and the chance to stock up on some old stalwart products that you just can’t get in Spain. All the space in our car that the distribution of a few cases of Rioja and Albarino wines to our hosts in the UK has liberated will be occupied on the return journey by cases of peanut butter and Marmite, securely packed in place by sacks of teabags. We are living the expat cliche dream.

In fact, in this bi-located life of ours it’s fair to say that the decks of the Pont Aven ferry itself are also beginning to feel a little like home. Or should I say, ‘the big boat playground’ as Jack has taken to calling it.

The soft-play area is certainly the place where I invariably spend the most time onboard. Luckily it has some comfy seats for adults and I always end up enjoyably whiling the time away in conversation with other parents as our offspring bounce riotously around in preparation (hopefully) for a good night’s sleep in the cabins below.

Operation 'tire out toddler' takes to the outside deck

Operation ‘tire out toddler’ takes to the outside deck

I love hearing these other travellers’ stories – from that of the Spanish family who have swapped the sunny skies of Andalucia for life in a cold and draughty Scottish castle that they are renovating as a hotel to that of the mother who only holidays in destinations reachable overland or by boat because of a particularly vivid dream she had 20 years ago in which she both had a child in her forties and also perished in an air crash. When she unexpectedly gave birth to a son at the age of 42 she instantly forswore air travel. To be fair, I think I probably would have too!

Meanwhile, the highlight of the voyage for my other half was the fact that the Manchester United match was being shown on the big screen in the bar. That was my cue to retire to our cabin with an exhausted, blissfully sleeping toddler and a George Clooney movie on the laptop. A perfect Valentine’s Day all round.

Disclaimer: this post was sponsored by Brittany Ferries and we received a discount on our sailing. All words and opinions expressed are entirely my own.


  1. Pont Aven eh? Been there, ferried that.

    A Santander post:

    Was your post really sponsored by Brit Ferries? !!!!

    All the products you mention are available here in Gib, which probably accounts for this Morrisons attracting half of the Iberian peninsula and raking in shedloads of profits.

  2. This post rang true for me in so many ways, from the delights of slow travel by ferry, to the odd feeling of going on holiday “back home” and most especially the exchange of (for me) French bottles of wine for jars of Marmite and peanut butter! It’s also very nearly four years since I took the Pont Aven from Portsmouth to St Malo to start my new life here in the Pyrenees :)
    Bon vent et bonne continuation! Fran

  3. I must admit I’m not a fan of ferries, but I enjoyed that journey vicariously through your words – enjoyed hearing about the stories about the family who took up residence in Scotland, and the mothers vivid dream which later dictated she would only take the ferry!

  4. This is something theoretically I’d love to do with my children but in practice the altered state of my two in uncharted territories would find me feeling the strain. I loved the tale of the journey and look forward to hearing more about your visit home.

    • Oh, maybe one day? One great thing I will say about travelling with children on the ferry is that you have your own cabin to retreat to as a safe, calm space, plus you have the opportunity to bring as many toys and general supplies as you need with you. As a result I certainly find it a lot less stressful than travelling by plane for example. But travel of any distance can certainly present challenges that’s for sure and especially so when your children are particularly sensitive to uncharted territories. Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely, thoughtful comment. x

  5. I’ve did that Ferry trip in 1991. Was deathly sea sick, I remember it as the voyage from hell! Your experience sounds much nicer . I’ve not been back to UK since left 4 years ago. Envy you to opportunity to go to M&S :-)

    • Oh dear! Sea-sickness sucks. Luckily I don’t suffer from it (touch wood!) and even though my partner has done in the past he’s found on recent trips that eating lots and taking a preventative anti-sickness tablet sorts him out.
      4 years is a long time without a visit back to the UK but I guess your journey would be rather longer than mine. That must feel tough at times. And, just to make you even more jealous, I did get to go to M&S – I even got to go to an M&S outlet store in Portsmouth. Bliss! :)

  6. Not I’ve did! I did! :-)

  7. Trish @ Mum's Gone To says:

    That poor woman with the vivid dreams! No wonder she doesn’t fancy flying!

    Your photos in this post are really striking, by the way.

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