Friday, 22 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 22 September 2017

What a difference a night makes!  The rain stopped sometime during the night, and when we woke, it was to bright sunshine. Which has lasted all day.

So we did various domestic-type things like using the services and changing the gas bottle, which decided to run out on us just before breakfast.  Then the Swan Whisperer trotted up to the metro station to get me a day ticket (we were told he didn't need one, being over 65) and then we headed to the tram stop at the end of the road.  We changed trams when we got to the river, and ended up in the centre of Pest.

After pottering about a bit and deciding not to go into the cathedral, we found somewhere to have a rather expensive cup of coffee, and then walked down the main shopping drag to get the SW a new pair of shoes, as his have demised and let in the rain. Mission accomplished - oh, you have never seen such a Euro high street with familiar brands from all over Europe, even Tiger - we decided to have a real tourist lunch - goulash soup, followed by chicken paprikash, followed by a pancake with jam. Very traditional, very predictable, very carb-heavy, and very delicious!

Then we walked back up the street to the metro station and caught the "Foldalatti" up to the park to check on the opening times of the baths there, and to see whether there was anywhere we could park nearby, as we thought we might do that before we head on tomorrow. 

The next hour or so was spent on buses heading over to the Buda side and back (the main tram terminus/interchange there is considerably posher than it was ten years ago, or whenever we were last here).

Then we found a tram that would take us to a big Tesco's, for shopping purposes, and thence back to the camp site. Now we (well, the Swan Whisperer) are doing a mid-holiday washing (it isn't quite half way through, but we can do another load later if we feel the need), and then it will be a light supper tonight!

I am tired but because I didn't run for any buses or trams, I don't feel unwell as I did after our day in Vienna, so I'm hoping not to flake out again.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 21 September 2017

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, and did I say rain? It has done nothing but rain the entire day, although it appears to have stopped for a moment at nearly 10.00 pm.

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, in the rain. Then we drove from our overnight place on the Tihany peninsula to the town of Veszprem, where we went to the zoo, in the rain. 99.9% of the animals - all those that could - were sensibly indoors or if the rain so could not be seen, and the plan they gave us was not very accurate. And the café wouldn't take cards or euros, and we had no local currency. And it rained. I was exhausted.

So we drove to Budapest, in the rain. September is supposed to be the driest month here, so goodness knows what the rest of the year is like. Last time we were here it was October, and it was hot and sunny. Today, it has rained all day.

We arrived at the camp site, and haven't really left it, although the Swan Whisperer did go and find some currency. I cooked a delicious chickpea stew, and have been reading the new Jodi Taylor, which I commend to you.  It rained.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 20 September 2017

I felt much better this morning, but still took it easy, and after a late breakfast we finally set off to explore the city, if such it can be called. The tourist part, in the middle, is tiny, and only takes about ten minutes to walk round. We started, though, by taking a tram across the bridge, which dropped us off at the edge of the Old Town.  We wandered hither and yon, and ended up in a café for coffee - the SW had a huge brownie, too!  How he could, after a huge breakfast, I do not know!

After this, we walked back to the far end and, in order not to waste our day tickets, we took another tram up to the main railway station (which we had been through before, but never seen from outside - still a touch Communist-era), and then a trolley-bus down to the river again. This cleverly dropped us outside the other main shopping mall in the city, which also had a huge supermarket, so we did some more shopping, and then got a tram back across the bridge to the motor home.

It was lunch time, so we had that, including ice creams we had bought in the supermarket, and then we set off for Hungary.  I was tired, so wrapped myself in my mermaid sleeping-bag and went to sleep, waking to reprogram the Satnav at the border to tell it it was all right to use toll roads again (I had bought the e-vignette before we left home), and then not until we arrived here, on the Tehany peninsula on Lake Balaton.

The SW has, needless to say, gone for a walk, so I am going to sit and knit and watch the sun go down....

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 19 September 2017

Yesterday was the only day of our holiday so far when it didn't rain. And that didn't last - the rain came in the night and has barely stopped all day.

We hadn't far to go today - only to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia which is nearer both Austria and Hungary than anywhere else, and at one stage acted as the administrative capital of the latter.  We told the sat-nav not to take us on toll roads as it seemed hardly worth buying a Slovakian vignette for such a short distance.

The aire is lovely - beside the Danube looking across it to the old town. However, I overdid it so badly yesterday that I couldn't face much more walking, so my exercise was limited to going to the big supermarket about 500 metres away.  And even that was too much, really - so annoying!  The Swan Whisperer did explore a bit, and we are hoping to have a walk round the town tomorrow, taking a tram or two to get there.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 17 and 18 September 2017

Yesterday was a bit of a non-event, as far as I was concerned. I found I simply didn't have the energy to face walking round Passau, so stayed in the van and knitted while the SW went round on his own. We did drive a bit round it, to see the Inn and the Cathedral from a distance, but the town itself will have to wait for another time.  We then drove to Vienna, in the rain (as usual) stopping for lunch at a services (Landkreis, I think they call then, descendants of the old Marché restaurants we loved so much), and arrived at the camp site about 5:00 pm.

This morning we set off at about 10:30 and were in nice time to catch the bus that runs between the campsite and the nearest U-Bahn station.  We got as far as Praterstern, and the SW expressed a wish to revisit the theme park. I don't like theme parks, but I did want to go on the Riesenrad, the oldest Ferris wheel in the world, so we did that and also went on the little tourist train that takes you round the park.  Nothing appealed, although I thought their offer of 20 rides for €45 (€92 if bought individually) was great value.

However, we contented ourselves with the Riesenrad, which was fabulous, and great views all over Vienna.  Then we caught a tram into the city centre and found a random restaurant for a sausage lunch (the poor SW ordered the wrong thing, and ended up with a plate of luncheon meat!), and then we walked across the Rathausplatz to get a tram and then a tube down to Gasometer, the old gasholders that have been repurposed as a shopping mall. But the area has been redeveloped, and although the gas-holders are still there, you can't really see them in all their glory any more, so we came away, and got off the tube at the Stefansplatz, where we had a most enormous and delicious ice cream sundae each. And so back to the campsite, catching the bus by the skin of our teeth, and a small shop in the local garage which has a convenience store attached. I am exhausted now, and hope I will recover before tomorrow!

The SW, meanwhile, has crossed the city to have a quick look at the Schönbrunn palace, and had only just got back. It's a good thing neither of us really wants any supper, isn't it?

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 16 September 2011

When we were nearly ready to leave this morning, we found that someone had left what we thought at first was a bag of rubbish beside our van, but on closer investigation, it turned out to be three bread rolls!  I believe this is a thing on that campsite, and very nice of them, too. 

Sadly, the water dispenser was broken and we could only get 10 litres at a time, for 10 cents each, and we only had 3 10c pieces between us. Still, 30 litres is 30 litres, and enough to do us until tomorrow, if we are careful.

Our first port of call was a supermarket, and then we continued down the A3, further and further, stopping once for lunch and then a diversion to Regensburg, which we wandered round in the rain, and have decided to visit properly next time we are in this part of the world, before or after Oberstdorf next year.

Then on, and our first glimpse of the Danube, or Donau as they call it in this part of the world - it will be our companion for the next few days, to Vienna and beyond.  We crossed it a couple of times coming to Passau, too, where we are spending the night in an aire just out of town.  Just beside the Danube - we can hear ducks!  And earlier today, on our way to the supermarket, we saw a red squirrel! 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 15 September 2017

It was a great deal lighter this morning at 07:30 than it had been the previous day, showing how the time zone works. Or something. The Swan Whisperer went for a run and came back and said that he had seen "people out jogging with their dogs, but no other serious runners!"

After breakfast we both went for walks in different directions - I don't know where he went, but I went down to the river and walked along there a bit, then back via the supermarket.  Then I made salad for lunch, and we set off shortly after noon. The rest of the day was spent driving down the A3, which took longer than it should have due to road works and rain. I slept most of the way once we had stopped for lunch.

We are now parked up in an aire provided by a motorhome factory just outside a place called Schlüsselfeld, which is very nice. Quite quiet, flat, there are services (badly needed, as the loo had somehow got displaced, and its cupboard needed a serious wash!) and there could be electricity, but for one night it's not worth it.  Risotto for supper!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 14 September 2017

[As always, photos have been posted on Facebook. When I get home, I will edit these posts to add the relevant photos, but this doesn't work until the photos are uploaded to the cloud, which only happens in WiFi.]

There was really nothing to keep us in Ronquières - or in Belgium, for that matter - so we set off betimes and the Swan Whisperer drove across Belgium and Germany while I slept!  If there is one thing I like better than an afternoon nap,  it's a morning one!  Seriously, though, we made good time and arrived in Königswinter in time for lunch. We had a little trouble finding the motorhome parking we knew was there, but found it in the end.

After lunch, we went out to explore. I went to the Drachenfels on the little train that goes up and down - the oldest cog railway in Germany, apparently. I remember it from my stay here almost 50 years ago, but I am not sure we ever used it then, preferring to walk up and down the mountain.  I can't do that now, and was irritated to find that, when using my trekking poles, my legs coped better than my lungs. Still, it didn't matter.

On the train going to there were only me and another English couple, but up at the top there were loads of tourists of different nationalities.  The SW, who had elected to walk up, arrived fairly soon, and we wandered round the various viewpoints. Then he went off to walk down the other side of the hill and back along the river, while I caught the train back down and walked back along the main shopping drag. 

Back to the van, and I was cold, so made tea and filled a Thermos for the SW so he could make his when he came in, but he wasn't long behind. Then we both read for awhile until it was time to go out for a meal. It was raining, and not a place evening. We ended up in a sports café, but the food was delicious!  Still raining and rather cold, so an early night is called for!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Beyond Vienna, 13 September 2017

Time for our long autumn road trip again, and this time we are heading - well, beyond Vienna! 

It has started with minor irritations - we put off leaning until this afternoon as I had a meeting scheduled for last night, and neither of us liked it when we crossed at 01:00.  So I paid a premium (on top of the fare is already paid) to cross in the early afternoon. Of course, last night's meeting was cancelled!  Had we known, we could have taken our normal 10:00 pm crossing.

Then when we arrived at Folkestone, it was to learn that there was a 2.5 hour delay!  We didn't get away until 16:50, which was a serious pain when we had hoped to have arrived in France an hour before that I just hope they'll refund the premium I paid for a privilege I didn't receive, and have emailed them to this effect!

So then we still had nearly 3-hour drive to our stop for the night, at the inclined place at Ronquières - we have stopped here before. It was 9:00 pm before we arrived, local time, and we hadn't eaten, but luckily is made a double portion of vegetable spaghetti yesterday, so it was only a matter of heating it up.  Not impressed, Eurotunnel; not impressed.

Monday, 11 September 2017

A long weekend in Scotland

This past weekend was the AGM  of the New Chalet Club, which took place in Stirling.  So I suggested that we go in our motor home, and pick up the Swan Whisperer's brother en route, so that they could enjoy a day's walking in the Trossachs while I was otherwise occupied.  All concerned thought this was a good idea, and, last Wednesday, we set off at about noon.

Scotland, even the Lowlands, is a lot further away than Brussels or Paris, so our first night was spent at a camp site near Knutsford.  We arrived at about 5:45 pm, and settled in, and when I posted a check-in on Facebook, a kind friend let me know that we were very near the Jodrell Bank telescope.  So the next morning, we headed off there to have a look. 
The Discovery Centre was excellent; informative without being too pedagogical.  There were plenty of interactive exhibits, so you could see how, for instance, a black hole eventually sucked everything into it.  The Jodrell Bank telescope itself was built well over 50 years ago, but is still very much in use, and is part of several clusters of telescopes - these, apparently, allow a much more detailed view of our galaxy than a single telescope would.

We decided to have lunch there, but it really wasn't very nice - you ordered something - a piece of quiche, for instance, or a sausage roll - and were offered a choice of chips or salad.  This was the "salad":

After this, we headed on and finally crossed into Scotland.  We spent that night in a hotel car park - one of the nice pubs that allow motorhomes under the BritStops scheme - in Leadhills, which was as beautiful as ever, and on Friday morning we arrived at the Swan Whisperer's brother's home in East Kilbride.  We went out to lunch with him and his wife and then set off to Stirling.

However, we decided to go via the new Forth crossing, as it had just opened.  This was a Big Mistake, as, instead of just adding one hour to our journey, as we had anticipated, it added a good two hours!  But it was worth waiting for:
We found the hotel in Stirling at about 5:30 pm, and I left the men to their own devices, and checked in.  There was about half an hour to relax and have a cup of tea before the first formal dinner of the weekend, which I duly did.  The food was good, and it was good to meet some old friends and some people I've only ever "met" on-line before.  However, after supper they laid on "progressive games", which are totally not my thing, so I went straight to bed and read!

The hotel did a really good breakfast, including haggis!  After this, we assembled into two coaches - we were asked to use the same coach all day, so they could be sure they weren't leaving anybody behind - and set off for Dunblane, where we saw the Cathedral:

The Leighton Library (which opened specially for our group - the librarian was brilliant and very informative):

and, of course, the Golden Pillar Box commemorating Olympic success:

After this, we piled back into the coaches and headed on to Loch Katrine, where we went on a steamship, the SS Sir Walter Scott.  This was a very pleasant journey and many of our number (not me!) enlivened it with hot chocolate with a shot of brandy in it, topped with "a featherbed of whipped cream". 

After the boat trip, the buses took us to the tourist town of Callander.  I had a look round the Callander Woollen Mill, vividly reminded of the very similar shop in Aviemore, where my mother and I used to spend far too much money on holidays gone by!  I also bought an ice-cream, but after that ran out of energy, so went back to the coach and dozed until it was time to head back to the hotel.

Our after-dinner speaker was the author Val McDermid, and very good she was, too!  I think everybody enjoyed her talk on how the Chalet School had influenced her life and writing. 
The next morning was the AGM itself, which didn't take long, and then we had a talk by Gill Simms, the author of the very popular Peter and Jane Facebook blog and whose first book is due out next month.  I think this was the first time she had been asked to speak, although I am very sure it won't be the last!
This ended the formal part of the weekend, but then there was a book sale and Sale of Work.  I was very, very, very strong-minded and didn't buy anything, but wandered round being tempted!  I'm not a collector, only a reader, so I don't actually mind what state my copies of various books are in, but 50p and £1 adds up when there are several of them!

By then, the weather - which had been glorious on the Saturday - had closed in again, and the Swan Whisperer and his brother had also run out of things to do, so they came and picked me up, and we headed on.  Because we were quite early, we decided to visit the Falkirk Wheel, which the SW and I had long wanted to see.  It was well worth the detour, especially as we were lucky enough to see it in action:

Then we took the SW's brother home, and headed south as far as just outside Wigan, where there was a canalside pub that allowed us to park up (Britstoppers, again), and we had dinner there.  The weather was dreadful, though - after dinner, I went straight back to the van, and was soaked to the skin.  The SW, however, had waited a few moments while making himself comfortable - and was bone dry!

That pattern of weather continued all day today as we drove south, but we got home about 5:00 pm, ready to sort out the van and do some washing before heading off again in 48 hours!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 7 August

So our final morning dawned.  We were booked on the 13:36 crossing, so didn't need to hurry.  The Swan Whisperer went out for a final walk after breakfast, and then we set off to the big Auchan near Calais, where he used the services and I did a final shop.  It was rather fun, actually, as we hadn't ever approached Calais from that particular direction before, and we were interested to see a Shuttle train doing its terminal loop before approaching the station.

Then to the Eurotunnel terminal, where we checked in very quickly, but then got caught in a long queue for passport control.  However, we got through in the end, and had about 30 minutes to wait, during which various bits of packing and tidying were done.  Then finally on to the shuttle, which was ten minutes late.  We had lunch on the crossing, and finally got home just before 3:00 pm.  I slept all the way, so was able to help with the unpacking and putting-away, and since then I have made jam!

The van will go to its Sussex home tomorrow, and our next adventures in it will be at the beginning of September.  There may, of course, be other things happening in August!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 6 August

A lazy Sunday morning, so we set off at about 10:15 towards Guines, stopping in Montreuil for bread.  We got here and found the France Passion site where we have camped. The site is parking attached to St Joseph Village, a reconstruction of French village life in the first half of the 20th century.
It was a very odd place indeed - the brainchild of a single man, and much of the work seems to have been done by him alone. The first port of call was an agricultural museum, which, as so often in these places, made us feel old by having implements we remember from our childhoods. Less so than many, as of course the brands weren't the same, but the designs were!
 Then a fairground with a half-sized Gypsy caravan, rather lovely, swung boats, a roundabout, etc, and a short display of washing machines then and now.
Then a row of reconstructed shops - quite interesting, but nothing one hadn't seen a zillion times before. The next bit was arguably the most interesting; the "faith quarter", with a lovingly reconstructed Stations of the Cross, taken from a church that was being demolished, and several different chapels, including one that the man had built single-handed, together with copies of his testimony. 
There was a path that led down to a hide overlooking a lake, and we spent some time watching swallows and swifts swooping down to catch insects.  Then back to the village with its schoolroom, the "Salle des fêtes" now used as a museum of all the bits he couldn't find room for elsewhere, a windmill, and a seemingly endless stream of workshops, garages, cycle repair shops, sawmill, etc. Very dull unless you happen to like knowing which spanner was used for what!

And, finally, back to the main drag with a tea rooms and a restaurant that does lunches but not dinners.  We decided that tea made with boiling water is, as always, nicer than that made with tepid, so came back to the motor home.

It was interesting, but a little too much about the maker, how clever he was and how pious, and how clever to be best friends with Bernard Hinault, etc.  And no history at all - nothing about either war that had such a devastating impact on France during those years.  Still, I'm glad I went.

But there were donkeys, and, on our way back to the motor home, even baby donkeys!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 5 August

Of course, having gone as far as Arras, we then decided to retrace our steps slightly when we discovered there was a preserved railway at Le Crotoy!  So the morning was taken up by a pretty drive across country, visiting various small villages en route, and a supermarket, and we would have liked to have visited the Abbey church of St-Riquier, but it was closed until 2. 
So we had lunch in a community centre car park somewhere, and then headed on to Crotoy, where we parked rather badly (and got a ticket - they say they will send it to our home address, so no point worrying until we see whether they do or not) and went off to the narrow-gauge railway.
The railway runs as far as Noyelles-sur-mer (it isn't at all on the sea, so don't know why it's called that), and then swaps engines with the other train and heads out backwards to St-Valéry-sur-Somme, where there was just time to stretch one's legs and take some pictures before the return journey. We made sure to sit in a rather more comfortable carriage on the way back - the plain wooden seats were not the most comfortable ever; the padded ones were marginally better!

After that, we had a much-needed cup of tea, and then decided to come to this place - a France Passion place in a meat-preserving factory!  We drove via Crécy, and made a brief detour to see the site of the eponymous battle, which is basically a field full of cows, although there is a car park. We decided not to stop, but came on here. The shop is, thankfully, closed, but we were warmly welcomed by the proprietor, who wished us a pleasant evening.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 4 August

For me, particularly, today has been a much-needed rest day. We have driven about Hauts-de-France, finding first a Lidl to do some shopping (leaves the one at home standing!), then a lake near the banks of the Somme where we had lunch, and then in the afternoon we drove to a town called Doullens, where there was a citadel, which we looked at the outside of, and a museum which we should perhaps have visited. It also had services, which we used (€2), and we had a cup of tea.
After which we decided to go to Arras again and park up in the big car park by the cemetery where my uncle's name is on the Royal Flying Services Memorial, where we plan to spend the night. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 3 August

Discovered today that the region is actually called Hauts-de-France, not Grand Nord (which I'm sure I read somewhere that it was going to be called), so have edited everything.
I made an effort this morning and we were up and doing somewhat earlier than on other mornings.  We discovered how to use the local buses and caught one into the main part of town, which we wandered round, including visiting the Cathedral (which we also did a few years ago with a friend), and then a cup of coffee in a local café. We walked back to the station (where the buses went to and from) and did a little shopping in a local supermarket before returning to the van for lunch.
Then it was time to go to the Hortillonages, a series of gardens in the extensive canal network around the town.  You go on a boat trip - only €6 for an hour, excellent value - and the various gardens range from bare earth to jungle, via some lovely displays of flowers.

The canals themselves were full of wildlife - mallard, coot, a moorhen.... Only snag was the guide who was appalling and didn't really tell us anything. He kept saying do ask if you have any questions, but he never knew the answers, so what was the point?  But it was a lovely ride and well worth it!
Then back to the van for a cup of tea. I had hoped to go out again and make the most of my day ticket, but exhaustion overcame me and I slept. The SW went for a walk, though. 

Now we have anything really planned until Sunday; don't know what we shall do for the next couple of days!  We will need to use a services soon, and I need to shop (again!), but we have no real idea what we shall do. Watch this space.....

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 2 August

We had been going to go to the Hortillonages in Amiens today, and to the prehistoric museum at Samara tomorrow, but the Swan Whisperer rightly pointed out that, actually, Samara was on our route into Amiens, so we might as well swap them round. 

So we did, finding an Aldi to shop at en route, and arrived at the Samara car park in time for lunch. They meanly put a height barrier in place at night to stop camping-cars spending the night, but we are welcome in the daytime. We had our lunch, and then bought entrance tickets and went in.
I have to admit that I was disappointed with it.

There was lots to see, and we went on a guided tour of the main building following a guide whose mission it was to debunk "history" (eg they wouldn't have dug pits for woolly mammoths as the ground was frozen solid), but after that it went downhill, as nobody seemed to be doing any reconstruction or experimental archaeology except one potter and a flint-knapper, and the animal enclosures were all empty. I suppose it is better in term time, but the place was heaving with families. Plus there was an awful lot of walking, mostly uphill, between things; I flaked out before the end and left the Swan Whisperer to explore the marsh area on his own while I went back to the van and had a very welcome cup of tea!

So only one star, I think. We then drove on into Amiens and are parked in a public car park with several other motor homes, not too far from the Hortillonages, and I am making shakshuka for supper. And drinking the cider from last night - the apple juice, which we started at lunch time, is a great deal nicer than the sample we tasted!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 1 August

Another very leisurely start to the day, during which we wandered round the leisure centre and saw where they rented pedalos and ran the Teleski from. There were a bunch of children in tents, and some kind of pods where people could sleep, although I've no idea what they did for sanitation.
We also saw the first ride of the day, some of the children obviously experienced, others less so.
After coffee, we headed to Mers-les-Bains, first of all calling in at the local aire to use the services. It was a privately-run site, and not free, but the very kind man who ran it said not to pay his fees as we weren't stopping, but to go to the Auchan petrol station instead, which would be cheaper.
So we said we would do that, but first decided to wander round the town. Mers-les-Bains is a lovely place - much of it is a conservation area from the Belle Epoch, with the houses decorated in Art Nouveau and Art Deco style.  It isn't very big - we walked most of the length of the beach, and then back through the town, and had a croque-monsieur in a café on the seafront, and an ice cream from the place next door. Then back to the motor home - amazingly, we hadn't had to pay for parking - and I went to the Auchan while the Swan Whisperer dealt with the services.

Then we went for a drive across country, trying to find where the daughter had been on an archaeological dig many years ago - it did not, until too late, occur to either of us to ring her up and ask if she remembered - and finally came to this orchard where we are spending the night. It sells apple juice (too sweet for my taste) and rather nice cider, so we bought a bottle of each.
There is another motor home parked here - the first time we've had company so far this holiday; surprising, really, since it is the height of the high season.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Hauts-de-France, 31 July

We had a leisurely breakfast and then visited the Blockhouse d'Eperlèques, in whose car park we had spent the night. The museum turned out to be basically a walk around, and in, the enormous structure, with various stops where sound broadcasts (in a variety of languages, including English) told you about it. The first stop was a cattle truck with sound effects to show a tiny bit of how it might have been. Only not really, as you could move and get out at any time!

The other sites told of the history of the building, how it had been intended to arm and fire up to 12 V2 rockets per day. However, a huge bombing raid in 1943 destroyed much of the work in progress (and, sadly, many of the slave labourers who had to work on it), and they cut back on their plans. I think it did still provide liquid oxygen to fuel the rockets, but not the rockets themselves.  The Allies finally liberated the site in 1944.

Then we headed off, stopping in a random Auchan for supplies, and we had lunch in its car park, and then again at the Hyper-U in Abbeville for diesel.  And so to the Lieu Dieu, a former abbey that now hosts a variety of random countryside activities, and welcomes motor homes under the France Passion scheme.  We are the only ones here, surprisingly -another one came in but went away again.  Out of one side there is a stream, and on the other a field full of horses!  And I can hear poultry and ducks!  Lovely.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Hauts-de-France 30 July

The two regions of France that used to be Nord-Pas de Calais and Picardie have been concatenated and are now known as Hauts-de-France and this is where we are spending the week.

We were up early this morning to load the motor home, and then I was preaching, but we came away quickly and, after lunch, set off for Folkestone. Unfortunately, there was quite a long delay, as we didn't get away until nearly 6:00pm rather than the 4:30 we had booked.  Which meant it was past 7:30 French time before we got off the shuttle, and a 45 minute drive here, to Eperlecques, where we plan to visit the blockhouse tomorrow before heading on.  And I have made a chicken casserole, and we are just going to eat it.  And then, it may be early, but I want my bed!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Great Central Lament

Yesterday was my 64th birthday, and the Swan Whisperer gave me the present of a Railtour, called the Great Central Lament.  He even splashed out for First Class Dining, and I am very glad he did, as, unlike on the Railtour we went on last November, there weren't any stops where food could be had.

We had to be at Finsbury Park for 7:49 am, so got up at silly o'clock and were away by 7:00.  Finsbury Park is NOT a user-friendly station, nothing but steps, firstly up from the Victoria Line to street level, and then more steps up to the Network Rail platforms.  My poor knees - and I was certainly not the oldest and lamest person on the tour, by a long way.

The train came in on time and we found our seats - an old Pullman carriage (built in 1956, I was told later)  - at a beautifully-laid table.
I was hungry by then, having only a cup of tea inside me, but they took a long time to serve breakfast, which was orange juice, the choice of porridge or fresh fruit with  yoghurt and almond slivers, then a Full English or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and tea and coffee, plus various rolls and toast, including a chocolate twist that I accidentally took the last one of.... so I shared it with the Swan Whisperer, and then he got another one so shared it with me.  It was really rather good.  He had the porridge, although I told him he wouldn't like it as it was sweetened and had fruit in it, but he said it was actually quite nice.  I had the fruit.  And we both had the Full English, although I declined the bubble-and-squeak and baked beans that came round later.

We had hoped we had the full four seat bay to ourselves, but were joined at Stevenage by a very nice couple - it was her birthday treat, too - and they were very knowledgeable about railways and so on, which was nice.  The route we went was as follows:
I expect you can read it if you click on the image to enlarge it.  We went up the West Coast Main Line as far as Peterborough, and then all through the wilds of the old Great Central Line, including some Network Rail test track.  We stopped at the closed station of Ollerton to stretch our legs.

When we got back on the train, lunch was ready - a baked potato with coleslaw and cheese, and tea or coffee if you wanted it (which I didn't, at that stage). 

The train rolled on throughout the afternoon, sometimes running late, sometimes making up the time and having to wait for itself.  We knitted (my seatmate and I did; the menfolk didn't!), dozed, and enjoyed watching the beautiful English countryside, truly at its best at this time of year, roll by.  There were some interesting rail depots, too. 

Dinner was served quite early, and was a bit of a marathon.  The first course was a choice of prawn skewers (which the Swan Whisperer chose as he doesn't get prawns at home) or Crème du Barry soup, which is a posh name for cream of cauliflower soup, and very good it was, too.  This was followed by roast pork with all sorts of vegetables and apple sauce.  I know there was cod on offer, too, but I don't know what, if anything, they supplied for vegetarians; it is possible there were none on the tour, but I think you had to say when booking if this was what you wanted.  Anyway, I didn't want, so that was all right.  Then there was a choice of sweet or savoury - we all had the sweet, which was a delicious lemon tart with a fresh berry compote and cream, yummy, and, just as you thought you couldn't eat another mouthful, there was the cheeseboard!  I didn't have much cheese, but a token amount.  And they very kindly found me some lemon to have in my tea - I had had rather a lot of coffee with breakfast and didn't want any more that day - so that was nice, too.  And chocolates, which would have been nicer had they been chilled, but you can't have everything....

Meanwhile the train rolled on; the tables were cleared and people dozed or chatted.  Our new friends got out at Stevenage, so we had the table to ourselves for the last half hour and could get our things together ready to get out when we got back to Finsbury Park.  And down all those stairs, then straight on to a Victoria Line train and so home.

It really was a lovely day.  Quite apart from the pleasure of being on a train - always enjoyable - it was very luxurious, and the views from the train windows of the English countryside (and of Sheffield, if you like views of Sheffield!) were magnificent.  Most people would have liked a second leg-stretch before dinner, though, and were sorry there was no opportunity for one.  But it was a lovely day.  England really is beautiful on a summer's day.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 7 June

So we are home!  We were up betimes this morning and as soon as Carrefour opened I went in to buy a few last-minute things - as always, I thought I only wanted coffee and bread for lunch, but ended up buying other bits that I like (mayonnaise in a tube, French tinned peas, various teas and tisanes and a new pair of flip-flops, mine, which I use as bedroom slippers during the summer, having demised the day before yesterday!). 

After this, we decided to investigate the motorhome dealers in Calais, of which I had heard good reports.  We bought a new bin, and a new set of levelling blocks, one of ours having been accidentally left in Vienna, and then my husband saw one of those containers with pockets in, and said he would buy that, but it would be too big for beside my bed.  Ever since we have had the motor home, I have struggled with the lack of a bedside table - but I have several perfectly good cosmetic bags which unroll, and a couple of hooks.... problem solved!  Just when I can't spend the night in the machine to test it!  Oh well....  I don't quite know why I didn't think of that before - my spectacles, Kindle, overnight medications (mostly peppermint spray for a dry mouth) and little clock can all be much more easily available than when they are under my pillow.  Still won't be able to drink a cup of tea in bed, though - looking forward to that tomorrow morning!

We also tried to get a new lock for the gas cupboard, but to no avail.  Then it was less than 2 hours before our booked crossing, so we went straight to the terminal and were given a crossing an hour earlier than the one we'd booked on.  Stopped at Maidstone services to have lunch, and then home very quickly, and now have unloaded the van and unpacked.

More adventures soon.....

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 6 June

We have been in four different countries today, as every time we crossed a border, Virgin Mobile  texted twice to tell me I could now use my allowances and no longer needed to buy a pass. I knew that!  Plus the fees for out-of-allowance use, which I am unlikely to need to know.

So we started off in Düren, in Germany, and our first stops were in an Edeka to do some take-home shopping (most sausages and bread mix, and Schwäbische Maultäschen!) and at a nearby petrol station for diesel.

Then it was off on the long trek across Holland (the Maestricht peninsula) and Belgium as far as Ghent. For once, all the accidents were on the other side of the motorway, and the jams on our side weren't too bad.  It was the weather that was appalling - heavy rain and very strong winds - and when we parked up in Ghent the thought of getting out of the motor home and finding out way into the city was distinctly unappealing.

The Swan Whisperer did get out and go for a walk, but he said transport links into the city seemed few and far between.  So we decide to drive on as far as Dunkerque, where we stopped for a very good meal.

We half thought of spending the night parked up in front of the rink there, but it is very exposed, so we thought not, and drove the last hour down to Calais and are parked up in the Cité Europe, but, along with all the other motor homes there (it is busy tonight), we are "hove to" with our backs to the wind.  It is very noisy, but because the van isn't badly shaken with every gust, we have known worse!

Oberstdorf and Austria, 5 June

It was supposed to be the day roaming charges ended in Europe, but when I woke up early and grabbed my phone, it was still telling me I had to buy a pass.  I was unimpressed, but decided to give them an hour or so, and to ring them up if it was still saying so at breakfast time.  I went back to sleep, and when I woke an hour later, I had data again.  So that was all right! Was less impressed when I went to have my shower to find we'd forgotten to turn the hot water on and I had to wait 20 minutes, but we were in no rush.

It was a Bank Holiday in Germany, but the local café-cum-bakery was open and doing a roaring trade. I bought rolls for lunch (we had them for supper, too) and a delicious flan with blackcurrants and redcurrants for lunch pudding.
We drove on the motorway in the morning, as with it being a public holiday there were no lorries, but Bank Holiday traffic is the same everywhere, and the Satnav was warning of jams ahead, so we came away and went cross country.

This was only a little better, as we were going past the Nurburgring at the time, where it turned out that the Rock am Ring - Germany's biggest rock festival - had just finished.  What one could see of the place bore eloquent testimony to that - absolutely knee-deep in detritus, with volunteers picking it up and putting it in black sacks. Horrifying - why can't people make sure that they have all their rubbish with them, and that, when they leave the camp site, nobody could tell they'd been there?  Anybody brought up in the country, or who has ever been in the Scouts or similar movements, would know to do that without being told - are we really such a minority?

Anyway, we eventually arrived here at Düren via some hair-raising spaghetti of roads - hairpin bends all over the place, not fun!  The SW went for his usual walk - there is a river here he likes which is why we came here for the night rather than just using the services and then parking up in the station car park, which is cheaper.  I have come awake early as my window was open and I was not quite warm enough, but have remedied that now....