Well, denied initially but she made it… here’s the story….
I had been worried for weeks, maybe months about going through immigration to get into the UK as I had heard they can be especially tough in their questioning on people who they think might be working while on a tourist visa in their country. They can detain you for hours and even deny your entry if they think you might be doing anything besides being a tourist on their “tourist visa”. They are known for being one of the strictest regarding their rules around this and under no circumstances are you allowed to work while on this visa and that includes answering email or pet sitting–both of which I planned to do. I read several personal accounts of people being ruthlessly questioned, detained, denied entry and sent home! They want their tourist visa to be used for the sole purpose of coming to see their country, taking a look around, spending some money and then leaving right afterward. They want you to have a plan, a place to stay, a way of funding your trip without working while there and a return ticket or onward ticket to wherever you are going next. Most longer-term travelers like myself don’t have very much of that. I work from the road, without a clear plan and no return ticket to anywhere. Their whole stance is that they don’t want you to illegally immigrate, take jobs away from their citizens or live off their dole. It didn’t matter that you weren’t going to be doing any of that but not everyone is up to speed on the new way of “office-less” working so any inkling that you might “work”, and a look at your passport that you’ve been on the road for several months and alarm bells go off. So, I was nervous. I have been on the road for 6 months now, had my dog with me and a leased car for the next 6 months. They could easily wonder how I was going to support myself if I wasn’t going to be working and was I, in fact, with my dog in tow coming to live there?
With all of this weighing heavily on me especially since I had several people counting on me in the UK to take care of their pets while they were away on vacation, I hadn’t given much thought to Harper’s paperwork other than I knew I had taken care of it all. I had gotten her EU Passport in Croatia which allows dogs to move freely around Europe without showing papers and I had gotten her the additional tapeworm treatment that the UK requires in Spain before we left. Animals must get a tapeworm treatment no more than 5 days before entering the UK and no less than 24 hours for it to take effect. She was all set having gotten it on Monday before we left and drove to France. I also had a stack of paperwork from the US with me with every shot record, microchip record, a 10 page USDA signed health certificate that we flew over with and every other record that I could think of from birth that I might need to show. I knew she was good to go–or so I thought. We were due to leave on Wednesday on the car train through the Eurotunnel and the procedure is to take them to a special pet service center for everything to be checked making sure it was all in order and they give you a plaque to stick on your window accepting her into the UK. Confidently, I handed all of the paperwork over to the woman at the counter and scanned Harper’s microchip in expecting that we’d be on our way in a number of minutes. And then came the furrowed eyebrows, the sighs, the shuffling of papers, the typing on computer, the speaking in French to her colleagues, other colleagues looking through the papers and then finally she said “I am sorry, I can’t let her in for the following reasons–#1, the Croatian EU passport was dated wrong-they needed to put the date of her microchip in a specific spot and they had put the date of the appointment in it instead. #2, the US paperwork showed the correct date but because it was past 4 months, the paperwork had expired and was invalid. And #3, the treatment brand for the tapeworm from Spain was not one that they accepted and we can’t let her in under any circumstances without having that treatment.” UGHhhhhhhhhh! What???? NOOOOOOoooooo! She then informed me that I could go to a nearby vet, get the acceptable tapeworm treatment and get a new EU passport with correct dates and come back in 24 hours because that’s how long it takes for the preventative to take effect. She handed me back her paperwork and said sorry but she was DENIED entry… (pictured: all of the paperwork from 4 different countries)
Ugh, aside from the added hassle and expense of having to take Harper to another vet and have everything redone, I had already paid for a hotel room in the UK in Canterbuy for the night and it was non-refundable. I didn’t really want to have to pay for another one in Calais where the Eurotunnel is, not to mention that Calais is a concrete jungle, arm-pit-port-city that is filled with immigrant camps everywhere and frankly, I couldn’t imagine much worse than having to spend the night there. The woman had given me a name of a hotel that was located by the vet’s office (apparently I am not the first one that this has happened to) and when I went to drive by it-it was the equivalent of a shabby Motel 6 located literally right off of the highway on a busy round-a-bout with no green grass in sight for Harper. Ugh. My stomach literally did a flip when driving by. NO WAY was my only thought. I am willing to compromise on a few things when traveling–but accommodations are not one of them.
So, what’s a girl to do but go and find a French Chateau!
Knowing Calais wasn’t going to have anything that I wanted to stay in, I opened up my Trip Advisor app, plugged in “cute villages near Calais” and read a few posts and settled on Recques-sur-Hem about 30 minutes away. Then I jumped on Hotels.com and prayed there would be something cute that wouldn’t break the bank and it just so happened- I was in luck- “Chateau Cocove” came up and it looked like a gorgeous French estate from the pictures! Woo-hoo! Off we went! And oh my gosh–it couldn’t have been more charming! There was an enormous grassy lawn in front of the most beautiful French chateau that I had ever seen. The grounds were perfectly manicured with herb gardens, lavender plants, chestnut trees and chickens running around on at least 10 acres of gorgeous green grass The rooms were huge and lovely with king beds and lots of fluffy down pillows and comforters with beautiful French appointments. I couldn’t have been happier!!! Maybe I wasn’t going to be too terribly disappointed that we had to spend the night after all!The next day arrived and Harper’s paperwork was up to date and correct so she was good to go. It was my turn! The moment I dreaded but had prepared for. I had read every post that I could find in digital nomad travel facebook groups, several travel blogs and even spoke with someone via email about it and they said it could get brutal–they could detain you for hours questioning your every move and asking for proof of your reservations, return travel and bank accounts for funding and worse be prepared for them to deny you entry which happened more frequently than you would think. Her advice was actually “Don’t do it, it’s not worth the risk”. So being the uber-planner that I am–I had so much proof on paper that I could have filled an entire file cabinet that I was just going to “tour” the country. I had dummy reservations printed out for places to stay for the times that I would be pet sitting, a ferry ticket back to France in 3 weeks (which I won’t be using), a United Airlines reservation back to the states (which was on farelock but not ticketed), letters showing a home address which is my old nextdoor neighbor’s Lisa’s that I receive some mail at, a lesson schedule printed out from a barn that I am going to take lessons at while in the UK, bank statements showing plenty of funds in all of my accounts to last me for the duration of my stay. And my story was locked down and polished that I was just going to be going there touring their beautiful country for exactly 3 weeks, staying in 3 different places and then I would be promptly back on the boat to France without ever muttering the word “work”. But did I need ANY of that? NO!!!!!!!! They literally asked me 3 questions-“Why are you going to the UK?” and I answered “tourism” and “How long are you staying?” and I said “3 weeks”. And the 3rd question was “Are you traveling alone?” and I answered- “no, with my dog” and at that time Harper popped her head through the window, they made a huge fuss of her, stamped my passport and on to the car train we went! 35 minutes later we were driving off of the train on to the motorway in the UK…. (pictured: inside of a car train)
And then it was time to tackle driving on the left side of the road!!!!Eeek-gads….I’ll save that for another post but at least we’re BOTH here now-safe and sound and ready to “tour” this beautiful country!