Monday, 29 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 29 May

The day started badly. The Swan Whisperer woke me by saying he was going for a run, but when I surfaced I found that he had neither made tea nor turned the bathwater on.  Not had he taken his water bottle with him. And then he didn't come back, and wasn't answering his phone......  I was very frightened,  imagining that he had had a heart attack or torn a muscle or something, but when he eventually turned up, it transpired that he had just run round the lake as far as the Dripping Rock and back, which the Chalet School girls may have done every morning, but is not actually practicable in real life.  And his phone, for some reason, was on silent.....

So breakfast was a lot later than I had hoped, but finally we were able to get away and catch a bus into Pertisau, where we visited the slate oil museum. The mining seems all to have been done by one family, so perhaps the poverty EBD describes was real.... Anyway, I then bought some shampoo and conditioner, which I hope will be nice, and some of the original ointment, which I gather never expires, like honey.

After which, we were in just nice time to buy tickets for a round trip on the boats that ply the lake, which was lovely, and then a sausage in a bun before the bus back to Maurach. We had a wee bit of shopping to do, so did that and spent the next hour enjoying iced coffee in the nearest restaurant.  And just as we got on the bus back to Buchau, it began to rain! 

We had hoped to eat in the campsite restaurant this evening, but it was closed, so I made lentil curry, such was very good.  The rain appears to be away, but who knows for how long. Certainly it could do with being cooler - EBD was not wrong when she had the girls go limp in the heat!

Oberstdorf and Austria, 28 May

The day started with the necessity to change our sheets, as we are over half-way through the holiday and three weeks is really too​ long to use the same sheets and towels.  It is not easy in a confined space, but we managed in the end.

We had decided that we would go for a swim, as we were parked up by an open-air pool, and this we duly did. It was lovely, and excellent value for money - there is a huge park with loads of chairs and tables and sun-loungers and so on; one could easily bring a picnic and stay all day, and you could see a lot of people were planning to do just that, this summer Sunday. 

I was shocked to find I could barely swim!  Oh, my body knew what to do and I was in no danger of drowning - I'm fat enough that floating is really easy -  but I did seem to be flailing rather and not getting anywhere!  I worked out afterwards that the last time I went for an actual swim, rather than helping a grandson, must have been on Minerva in 2012!

We enjoyed our swim but, sadly, found that the showers were either locked out of use or you needed​ a token to open the door.  And I had been so looking forward to a proper​ hair-wash! Ah well. So I had a quick one in the motor home, and then when we were both dressed and the place was ready, we headed on. 

The Achensee!  One of the loveliest Austrian lakes and the setting, of course, for the earliest (and arguably the best) of Elinor M Brent-Dyer's Chalet School books.  It was a lovely drive, too, via Bad Tolz and then down the Achenpass into Austria.  The camp site is very nice, we are parked right by the lake, although it is mostly reed beds just here, with a view over to Seespitz and the little train. 

I did very little the rest of the day, and had an early night, but the Swan Whisperer has scouted the lie of the land and found where we get buses to Pertisau, etc.  He has gone out for his run, so I must get up....

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 27 May

Today was the final day of competition, and our last day in Oberstdorf.  We spent the first part of the morning getting the motor home in travelling rig, using the services, making sure we have plenty of drinking water, tidying up, doing last bits of shopping,etc. We had arranged to meet friends at the rink for a coffee at 10:45, and this we duly did, having time for a pleasant chat before the free dances started at 11:15.  These were great - the low level ones often make me wish I hadn't hung up my skates, and the high level ones are just gorgeous to watch. 

We grabbed a sandwich in the rink during an interval, and then watched the masters men, who were utterly fabulous!  And on that happy note it was time to go back to the Wohnmobilstellplatz for the last time to unplug the electricity, close the windows, turn off the gas, check all the cupboards and head on.

We are headed for the Achensee, but I didn't know, when I was planning the trip, what time we would want to leave Oberstdorf, so I found this aire in the car park of a swimming bath about half way there!  It has 3 motorhome spaces, but when we arrived it was full of cars from people swimming, so we parked up where we could add later went to get diesel, and by the time we came back, the spaces were empty. Sadly, it was 6:30 by then, and the pool closed at 7, so we didn't really think we had time for a swim, but we might have one tomorrow before we head on.  We'll see.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 26 May

I went into town this morning to do some shopping. The small Feneberg supermarket in the town had no tinned tomatoes that I could see, and only Innocent fruit juice, which costs the earth.  Also I couldn't see any sausages, although there were posters advertising them on special offer.  I did get cream cheese reduced, though. 

Then I went to Woolworth's. Big mistake - they had wonderful crochet cotton in bright colours which would make a perfect crochet jacket like someone was wearing in the rink the other day. I resisted temptation, however, only to fall prey to a pair of sandals in the sports shop reduced from €39.99 to €7.99. Rude not to, really.

Back to the motor home via Norma on the bus (no point having a Kurkarte and not using it) where I got the rest of my shopping. Then after lunch there was still an hour before any skating I really wanted to see, so I thought "soddit!" and went back to Woolworth's on the bus and bought 7 packs of the crochet cotton, and was just in time to get the bus back up! 

Then to the rink to watch various short dances and a rather dull Silver Ladies class followed by a very far from dull Masters and Masters Elite.  Then it was pairs, which I hate watching, so we went and had supper at Zorans, the restaurant above the rink, and then back to the motor home.

The motor home park is absolutely rammed now - far too many vans parked far too close.... I just hope we'll be able to get out tomorrow!

Oberstdorf and Austria, 25 May 2017

Hrrmph. Grrrr.  Aaaarrgh!  It was the day when we needed to do the laundry if we were to have enough clothes to last us the trip.  But I didn't expect it to take me ALL DAY, and most things still not to be quite dry at the end of it. Next year I must do the "Express" wash, and make sure the dryer is set on "Jeans", and I might get away with it taking just the while morning!

By the time I had finally finished, the Swan Whisperer had come back from the long walk he'd been on with friends, and he agreed with me that the cab of the van, which gets very hot in the sun, was a perfect substitute airing cupboard.  So our clean clothes are piled on our seats!

Anyway, I was too fed up to feel sociable, so the SW went to watch the pattern dances while I watched them on the live stream and cooked dinner, and we ate while watching the last few.  And I went to bed early to sleep off my bad mood!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 24 May 2017

A long day today! I decided to start watching skating at 10:35, so spent the early part of the morning wandering round the village and doing a little shopping.  Got the Ortsbus back as far as Norma, where I stocked up on groceries, mostly tomatoes, and then there was just time to dump them in the van and rush to the rink for the start of the day's events. And there we stayed until mid-afternoon, when we went back to the van and I watched the Bronze Ladies on the livestream and the SW went for a walk. Then back to the rink, although I did pop out to buy a shamefully greedy ice cream at one stage.  Finally saw all the skaters we'd wanted to see and came away at about 21:30, to watch the rest of the class on livestream while eating a belated supper.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 23 May

A horrible night of wandery fever-dreams and I couldn't get up this morning, so went back to sleep instead. Eventually got up in time for lunch and then promptly went back to sleep again - it was quite an effort to wake up enough to go to the rink to do accreditation duty (and I may have dozed off a bit doing that, too!)

The Swan Whisperer had found a chemists and got me a throat spray, which is horrible and makes me heave, but which is effective, although it doesn't stop me coughing. I must get some cough sweets tomorrow.

Anyway, all this meant is was after 6:00 pm when we were free to go to the rink, but we watched various masters men and ladies artistic programmes, might very good indeed, and by then it was 8:15 so we came away and had supper in a restaurant near the rink.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 22 May

The first day of the competition. Lovely to watch so many really good artistic programmes in Bronze Ladies IV and V.  This took up a lot of the morning, and in the afternoon we were on accreditation duty, which was quite fun. I mostly read and knitted. Then I came away to get supper, and my sore throat, which has been there or thereabouts all day, suddenly ramped up a notch. We watched the Gold Ladies on the live stream while we ate supper, and the SW is about to go back to the rink while I go to bed!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 21 May

To wake on a fine morning and watch the mists lifting from the mountains while the cows walk past, bells clanking.... Oberstdorf!

The Swan Whisperer, who felt energetic, went out for a run, and after breakfast we made our way to the rink as is offered to hold a short service. Only four of us, but that didn't matter - some who would have liked to have come were having practice. After this we stayed at the rink to chat to old friends, make new ones and watch the ice dancers practising.  Then it was lunch time, after which I went to sleep and then read and played video games while the SW indulged in his favourite pastime of walking up and down mountains, strange man! 

When he finally came in there was a quick cup of tea and then we went to join the others at the bar called The Loft, where an Apérol Spritz took away much of our sore throats (we both have them now, and I had earache in the night), and a very good burger was also had.  Then up to the rink again for the welcome party, which was noisy but so many friends... Wonderful to see people, especially someone from Greece who we had met at the Mountain Cup many years ago. She kindly said I was much thinner than in 2003 - all the same, I know I'm not as slim as I was, say, ten years ago.  Oh well....  But it was a fun evening and I am now enjoying a last cup of tea before bed.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 20 May

We found we had only a 2-hour drive to Oberstdorf, and we didn't want to get here too​ early and have to pay another night's fees, so we didn't hurry.  We set off at about 10:00 am, and arrived in Memmingen at about 11, so I did a little shopping and then we had coffee and a rather delicious slice of strawberry gateau to go with it. Then we set off again and parked up at the entrance to the Breitachklamm, where we had lunch and then the SW went for a walk.  He came back with some spectacular photos!

Then it was time to move on to Oberstdorf, and we arrived at the Wohnmobilstellplatz, used the services, paid and collected our Kurkarte, and then the SW went to to the rink to see who was around, but I was busy catching up on things I wanted to do while I was on WiFi - plus I have rather a sore throat, which I hope it's not going to develop into a cold.  An early night might have been called for were it not already nearly 10:00 pm!  And kind Phil has bought us a little jar of Marmite!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 20 May

It rained.  All night (there was even a rather splendid thunderstorm) and all day.  So although in theory today's drive was only a little over 2 hours, in practice it took a lot longer.

First stop was at a supermarket to stock up, and then later we stopped for lunch and then, briefly, for me to buy some money. We found the aire here at the second time of asking. It is supposed to have services, but we can't see any. However, it is definitely the right place. And tomorrow to Oberstdorf!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 18 May

Having been far too hot most of yesterday, it then proceeded to rain all night. Very little wind - or we were sheltered - so very soothing for one's night's sleep.

I went out first thing to try to find the bakery, but couldn't, which was dim of me, but the Swan Whisperer knew where it was and went out rather more successfully.  We set off just after 10:00, and told the Satnav we wished to go via Verdun and Metz, which again was fairly slow, but enjoyable. However the first port of call was to the services in Reims, which were rather necessary, and then our journey proper could begin.

We stopped for lunch on the far side of Verdun, and afterwards we stopped for diesel.  And then we arrived here, at the Ferme du Steinbach, which we stopped at on our last trip, too.  We bought some cheese, and a saucisson sec for the Swan Whisperer, and treated ourselves to an ice cream - mine was strawberry and his was coffee, and very good they were, too.

The SW hadn't had any exercise for a couple of days as it was too hot yesterday and this morning too wet, so he went out on a ramble for a couple of hours (the weather here being delightful, although a little humid still) and texted me, very amused, to say that he was walking along the border between France and Germany, and Google maps was showing all the paths on the French side, but none on the German. "Here be dragons!"

We tried to go out to dinner in the village but the two restos in our price range were closed and the third far too expensive, so we came away and I cooked aubergine pasta with some of the goats cheese, and it was lush!  Lidl's Creme Caramel rather a come-down for pudding, but also very good.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 17 May

Today was hot. Even when we woke, at just before 7, French time, it wasn't cold.  After breakfast I weft over to the Carrefour and did a little shopping, and then after getting diesel, we set off.

It was a long, hot old drive to Chaméry, especially as we didn't use the motorway. I drove for a little, but mostly dozed. We stopped for lunch at the Aire in Landrecies, where we had spent the night last time, and rather annoyed to find we'd left the picnic table at home, so we had to eat in the motor home. 

We thought the tyres might be a bit low, but when we tested then they seemed fine. The first two petrol stations we tried didn't have air, but third time lucky.

We were the only people in the aire when we arrived, although there is another van here now. We do have our chairs, so we sat out and read for a bit, and then I got supper. It is cooling down now, thankfully, and I expect I'll go to bed and read.

Oberstdorf and Austria, 16-17 May

Such an easy journey yesterday it is hardly worth commenting on!  I did a lot of loading up in the morning, and packed all my clothes away, except my coat and shoes, then went to look after my grandsons for the afternoon. Got home about 6:00, we had supper at 6:45 and were away shortly after 8. I fell asleep on the motorway, and was very surprised to find we were already at the check-in. A 10-minute wait and then we were off. I got into my night clothes and then knitted until we arrived, when we had a cup of tea and a snack - supper had been a long time ago - and then bed about 1:00 French time. Came awake just before 7, have had my tea and am about to shower, dress and get breakfast!  It is a lovely morning.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria

This is the usual pre-trip post to tweak Networked Blogs into checking the feed when I post things!  It will be deleted when we're home again.  We're off to Oberstdorf, taking 4 days over the journey, then after the competition we go to the Achensee for two nights, then Graf for one night, and then two nights in Vienna, and then another four days to come home.... should be fun, and of course we are longing to see friends in Oberstdorf!

Monday, 1 May 2017

The London Wetlands Centre

Anybody would think we'd been sat on our bottoms at home ever since we came back from Alsace, but that isn't true.  But I don't think a description of how we went on the railway replacement bus from the Angel to Seven Sisters, and then back all the way home on two buses would have been very interesting.  Nor was taking the Boy round railway bookshops and then lunch at Nando's.  Nor do I particularly want to write about the day I spent learning how to drive the motor home more confidently, although that was fun, too.  The car had broken down, which meant we had to go to and from Sussex by train; it felt quite like old times to see my father waiting for us at the station!

However, today, being that peculiarly British institution of a Wet Bank Holiday, we decided to go to the London Wetlands Centre, which is run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust - we have been to their sites in Arundel and in Caerlaverock.  As we needed to change our gas cylinder at Homebase, we drove there, and as we had printed off our tickets before we left home, we were in very quickly.

The first thing we did was have lunch - sandwiches and chips, yum - and then we set off down what is called the South Route, past a very great many children's playgrounds and exhibitions showing what the centre was all about.  There were also several hides looking out over the lake, where we saw swan, coot, tufted duck, moorhen, gulls and various other birds. 

By the time we walked back to the main entrance, I had had enough, so I sat down with a cup of tea while the Swan Whisperer went off to explore the other wing of the site, which is where the various home-bred ducks and wildfowl from other parts of the world live, and he said there was an otter, too.  I, meanwhile, was entertained by friendly robins and jackdaws:

And then we came away, after a quick glimpse at the gift shop (nothing really caught our eyes), and came home via Homebase to get the gas.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 7 April

There was frost on the ground this morning!  It had been cold enough in Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, but not frosty!  We had been kept awake most of the night (well, on and off) by intrepid fishermen who seemed to have been up all night, despite the frost, and were chatting all night.  "Whatever did they find to say?" asked the Swan Whisperer.

As we still had a couple of hours to drive, we got up at 07:00 and were away before 09:00.  I know that sounds slow, but bear in mind we have to wait for the bath-water to heat up (well, shower water, but you know what I mean), boil kettles for tea and coffee, both of us shower, cook breakfast, eat it, wash it up, put everything away (and I do mean everything!), make the beds (even on the last morning, as otherwise you can't see properly out of the back window) and so on and so forth. 

Still, it was a lovely drive as far as Valenciennes, and then motorway all the way.  We stopped at the Auchan in Grande Synthe to do some last-minute shopping, and, although we were told we were on the shuttle we'd booked on, fair enough, we started off the second they called us and ended up one of the last cars on the earlier one, which was useful!  Lunch during the crossing, and then an uneventful drive home, during which I fell asleep, lots of unpacking, and now gradually thinking of getting back to the home routine. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 6 April

This morning we went for a walk around Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, although I only saw one church. I think the other was a now-defunct priory. 
We set off at about 11 for a long drive across France, from Colombey-les-deux-Eglises to Saint-Dizier, to Vitry-Le-François and so to Chalons-en-Champagne, where we stopped for lunch.  The Swan Whisperer had beef tongue and chips and I had a "Salade d'Alsace" which had the makings of a Full English on top of a bed of over-dressed lettuce! Delicious, but i couldn't finish it, although i did rather greedily have a crème brulée afterwards!

I noticed that the Swan Whisperer had a sore eye, so i made him stop at the first pharmacy we saw and they have given him some drops, with strict instructions to go to the doctor if it doesn't improve. We also called into Reims and used the services we'd used on the way out, as we were low on water.
Then we stopped again for petrol, and then on and on across the French prairies to this little town called Landrecies, where we are parked up beside the Sambre in a tiny aire where we got the last space!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 5 April

We have actually said goodbye to Alsace now, and are on our way home. I am not quite sure whether we are in Lorraine or in Champagne, but it is still the "Grand Est".

This morning we both went for walks in different directions, and I wandered around the shops, but ended up at the supermarket where we were parked up.  Then we set off and drove here to Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, home of General de Gaulle.  There is a museum and memorial to him which we may or may not visit in the morning. 

We drove via Vittel and Contrexéville, but the Swan Whisperer had said not to bother to tell the satnav to avoid tolls as it was only a little way, but the machine didn't at all take him the way he thought (and he didn't check, not me!) and we ended up going quite a long way, which will be expensive!  We don't mind paying if we are really trying to get from a to b in a hurry, but not when just pottering. Plus we are sure it took us all round the houses!  Oh well. And the fridge gas ignition has gone wrong - we did make it work in the end, but not sure how. At least it is the end of the holiday, not the start.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 4 April

This morning it was peacocks and storks, this evening it is trains and traffic!  Still, I highly doubt it will stop us sleeping.

We did not dawdle (much) this morning, but set off after using the services and arrived at the Cité du Train before 11:00. A wonderful museum - a bit confusing in the first hall, but the second one, which was a much more straightforward affair, was fascinating, telling the story of French railways down the centuries, from the first tentative efforts to today's TGVs and Thalys.  They also told you when the various locomotives and/or carriages had been taken out of service, as well as when they entered it.

By the time we had finished it was definitely lunch time, so we went back to the motor home and ate, and then the Swan Whisperer went to the Electropolis next door, which I think he found interesting. I had a nap, instead!  After which we drove up here to Thann, where the parking is free and there is an interesting street of shops to be explored in the morning!  But it is a bit noisy!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 3 April

UWe had rather a late breakfast this morning, as the Swan Whisperer decided he would like to go for a walk. So it was quite late when we set off for Mulhouse, stopping en route to shop at Cora, as we were out of essentials.

Found that the Cité de l'Automobile had its own car park, although it charged, but not to excess and not between 12 and 14:00.  So we had lunch, and then went into the museum, which was - odd. It's based round two brothers' collection of Bugattis, with other cars thrown in, including a Citroen 2CV a DS and a Renault 4, but no Morris Minor or original Volkswagen.  And very few 1950s cars at all.

It was quite interesting, but.... As it is no longer owned by the same people who own the Cité du Train, which we hope to visit tomorrow, the is some upgrading going on, and one set of loos were out of service, the tea-rooms weren't open, and so on.  But we got round in the end, and then came away, first to check that the Cité du Train also has parking we could use (it does, free!), and then to see something of Mulhouse before driving back here to the Ecomusée where we are parked up again.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Alsace trip, 2 April

Although where we were driving was technically from Strasbourg to Mulhouse, the Satnav took us mostly through Germany and almost to the Swiss border. We thought we were going to be stopped crossing into France, as the van in front of us was, and I was just about to go and rootle out our passports from the cupboard where they live while we are travelling when they waved us through.
We arrived here at the Ecomusée d'Alsace at about noon, and parked up in their Aire, such is very nice and peaceful, or would be were it not for braying donkeys, screaming peacocks and clattering storks! 
After an early lunch we went to the museum, and very interesting it was, too. Some houses and sheds made us feel old, having stuff we remembered from our childhoods, but not all. We would have liked to have seen the milking, but it didn't happen and I rather suspect the cow was dry. We did, however, see smiths, carpenters and saddlers at work, and ate locally-baked goodies. And there was a drink of local liqueur given out - took one's head off, but still!
Alsatian houses, though, were much of a muchness - the front door led into the kitchen (if it was 2 floors the was a lobby for the stairs), with the "Stube" or living-room on the right. This was where you are, slept and entertained visitors, and was probably the only room that was heated, usually by a big ceramic stove.  The one we saw had a great bench all round it, instant press, I shouldn't wonder!  If there was another room, it would be to the left of the front door.
By the end of the afternoon my head was spinning rather, but it was nevertheless well worth visiting.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 1 April

I went back to sleep after my alarm went off​, oh dear, so we were not very early setting off!  But once we had had breakfast and tidied up (so necessary, in such a small space), and I had been very clever indeed and managed to tether my Kindle to my phone to download a book I had bought that was published today, we were set for the day.
We walked into town the pretty way, via an oxbow lake, and our first port of call was the tourist office where we bought day tickets for public transport, and found out about sightseeing trips, which here are done by boat. To get into Strasbourg, at least until the end of this month, one gets a no 21 bus from outside the tourist office, and changes to the tram at the end of the line.  The tram is being extended out here, but won't be ready until the end of the month.
We arrived in the centre of Strasbourg and had a lovely walk around the old town, enjoying the sights, and then had lunch - traditional Flammekueche, with beer, and an ice to follow - before getting on our boat. The tour takes you right round the island on which the old town is built, and then out to the European quarter, where there are the Parliament buildings and the European Court of Human Rights.  You then return to your starting point. Thoroughly enjoyable, but not very comfortable, alas.
When we got off, we walked back to the nearest tram stop, and decided, just because we could, to take a tram back out to the European quarter, and then back to the main railway station, as we had been told it had been built while Alsace was a German city under Kaiser Wilhelm, and we wanted to see whether it was as overblown Gothic as Metz station is. Well, the European buildings were almost more impressive at street level, and we passed a load of Art Nouveau houses, which was apparently a Thing here back in the day.
The station was, indeed, a Gothic palace, but has a modern atrium built out the front, like Kings Cross, which spoils it slightly. However, we made use of the facilities and I bought some coconut water since I was really thirsty. I don't like it much, but it is very refreshing.
The tram back to Germany was in the basement of the station, which was rather fun, like a metro, and the next excitement was that the bus was stopped by the border police and our passports were checked!  Then we couldn't find the entrance to the shopping centre and walked all round it, and of course it was where I had said it was all along, but still. So we did some unexpected German shopping and then walked the hundreds of miles (it felt like) back to the motor home, where it was fortunately beer o'clock....

Friday, 31 March 2017

Alsace Trip, 31 March

We were up betimes this morning - well, the Swan Whisperer was - we had been told the bread van would arrive about 8:00, which it duly did. After breakfast, we went for a walk into the village which was very pretty,
but sadly one could not do a round trip, but had to walk back the way we came. Then we said goodbye to our hosts - we will certainly go back there - and set off to drive round a few more very pretty little villages until we reached the banks of the Rhine, where we had lunch. I drove for about 10km, gradually gaining confidence, but I do find it heavy to drive.
After lunch we came down the motorway to Strasbourg, where we had hoped to spend two nights, but the aire there was closed, although the services were open.  So we crossed the river to Kehl, a suburb of Strasbourg that is actually in Germany (how are we going to manage after Brexit if we need visas for every separate country?), and found a very nice aire here with services.
The Swan Whisperer went for a walk and when he came back we had a cup of tea and then walked into the town to find somewhere to have a celebration meal, as it is our wedding anniversary.  We found a nice resto that did us very well indeed, and are about to wander back to the motor home. All the signs here are in two languages, and we hear more French than German spoken!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Alsace Trip, 30 March

We had obviously travelled far enough east for the time zone to behave itself, as when the alarm went off at 07:30, it was light, which it totally hadn't been in Calais yesterday.  The Swan Whisperer went for a run and came back via the bakery, armed with croissants and a baguette.  We then discovered the services were out of use, unfortunately​ after we had put in €2, rather than before.
So we programmed the Satnav to take us to the services in Reims, on the grounds that they would be more likely to be working than the ones in the next village. And, indeed, they were. We had a bit of trouble finding them, as they had barred of the end of the obvious road to go down, but a very kind man redirected us.  When we got there, they were behind a barrier, but there was a telephone number to ring, which i did, and the person on the other end gave me the barrier code (in English - I think he was American}, and they were working perfectly plus there was rubbish and recycling.  So we made the van comfortable and then set off.
I had thought we might like to have lunch in Nancy, but it became rather obvious that we were not going to arrive there until nearly 14:00, by which time lunch would have been over, so we stopped in a small town called Void-Vacon and found a place recommended by Google. I had a steak with "pommes aux robes de champs" (boiled or steamed potatoes served in their skins) which came with sour cream, and a bit of lettuce, and the Swan Whisperer had a "Salade Vosgienne", which had ham and potatoes as well as the usual salad stuff.  Then he had a custard tart and I had an apple one, and we both had coffee.  I also had a beer (of course!).  It was good value for money, but not outstandingly good, we thought.
We then set off again and, after stopping in the outskirts of Navy to get diesel and a spot of shopping, really had a lovely drive across country, through tiny little villages, past fields and woodlands. I even saw two storks in a field!  Eventually we arrived here, in the village of Obersteinbach, which sounds as if it ought to be in Austria, and is very near the German border, but still in France. It is one of the farms in the France Passion network, where you can park up for the night and they offer you a chance to buy their products, in this case mostly goat cheese. I bought plain, black pepper and sesame, and I regret to say we sat down and tasted them on a Hob Nob with a cup of tea, in a greedy sort of way!
Then we went over to the milking-parlour to watch the goats being milked, which was fun and enough different from the cows milking we know about to be really interesting.
And now the Swan Whisperer has gone for a walk, and I am relaxing before supper, which will be eggs and bacon as we had a full meal at lunch, and will doubtless eat out tomorrow as it is our wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Alsace Trip, 29 March

I fell asleep on the crossing last night, but woke up when we drove over the junction between the carriages on our way off the train. The back of the van is not sprung!  We parked up in Cité Europe as usual - huge numbers of motor homes in the parking; last time it was just us.
I didn't sleep terribly well, but we got up at about 08:30 French time (do bear in mind that last week it would have been 06:30 UK time!), although we didn't get away until 11:00, what with doing a bit of shopping, etc.  We decided not to pay motorway tolls, so the Satnav took us via Lille and Valenciennes, almost to Belgium (there was one place, only a few yards, where we couldn't have been nearer!).
We had a couple of stops, including a relatively long lunch break, and arrived in this little town at about 5:00. It was just as well we were not later, as there is only room for five vans, and there were already two, obviously friends. So we parked up and went for a leg-stretch round what is a not very pretty little town, but full of champagne houses!

  When we got back to the van, the other three motor homes in the party has arrived and were a bit anxious.... we did offer to move over, but they squooshed themselves up and have fitted in somehow!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

From Spain, Wednesday 18 January

It was bitterly cold in Calais, although we were snug and warm in bed, and the water didn't freeze.  We put the heating on when we woke, and it was lovely to get dressed in the relative warm!

I then had some bits of shopping to do, so after breakfast went over to the Carrefour and did that, and then we still had a bit of time, so we drove into Calais and said "Hello" to the Burghers, who were surrounded by a funfair.
And then we went into the Shuttle and were offered a crossing an hour earlier than scheduled, which was nice, so we took that and were home by 3:00 pm UK time, including a stop for lunch at Maidstone Services (our own lunch, not that sold by the services!).  And unpacked the van and did a couple of loads of washing.... and so it goes.  Lovely to be home, but we'll have itchy feet again very soon, no doubt.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

From Spain, Tuesday 17 January

We basically spent all day driving up from just south of Poitiers up to Calais. We left our friends after breakfast, and stopped off at the Auchan in Poitiers for bread and diesel. Then we stopped for lunch a couple of hours later, and a final stop for a splash of expensive motorway diesel before coming straight to Buffalo Grill for our now-traditional Last Supper. 

As I didn't sleep very well last night, I slept a lot of the way, but it was a lovely day for driving, although cold. The trouble with driving days, though, is that there are few, if any, photo opportunities.

Tonight will be cold, but not as cold as in the Massif Central. All the same, bedsocks and hot water bottles, and rugs on top of the duvet.... cosy!

Monday, 16 January 2017

From Spain, Monday 16 January

A couple of hours' drive this morning brought us to our friend's house, where we are spending 24 hours. Very enjoyable, but not blogging material! 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

From Spain, Sunday 15 January

Really a nothing day; it has rained the entire day. We came to this village called Clérac, driving up the motorway in the rain and stopping at a rest area to have lunch. The village is about half way between Hossegor and where our friend lives, and was supposed to have free services, but they are closed for the winter, although there is a loo.  And there is a bakery, but of course it is closed on Mondays. Oh well.

We are having a chicken, leek and mushroom casserole for dinner, followed by some kind of chocolate dessert I bought in Spain. And a very nice Rioja that I wish we'd bought more than one bottle of.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

From Spain, Saturday 14 January

Well, I can't exactly say "To Spain" any more now that we are on the homeward leg of our journey!

We left our very nice aire of last night after using the services, and drove north towards France. We stopped, as we had on the way in, at a huge shopping centre, 95% French cars, and I went shopping. Took ages, because so many things were on offer for €1 each, things I wouldn't have thought of buying but which I would certainly use, like dried beans and chick peas and a thing of 6 small containers (perfect for mixing curry powder for a trip like this) and a cake cooling stand because I can't find mine!  Also wine and stuff. What we needed was bread and milk, and I took ages to find the fresh milk, which was in a fridge beside the UHT stuff; logical, I suppose, but I had to ask...  Also a bottle of Grant's whisky for €10.50, do nicely for my mother's birthday next week.  Anyway, I bought masses of stuff and only spent €50 or so.  Very pleasing.

Then we drove on and into France (eventually; we took a wrong turn and ended up on the motorway going the wrong way!), and are now parked up outside Hossegor, a little town on the edge of the Landes where I direct a holiday as a child, although I don't remember it very well. It was where I first learnt to like Astérix!  The SW went for a walk, and then we had supper. It is cold - not freezing, but dank and wet - so we have gone to bed early to read and listen to the radio (free WiFi at this site!).

Friday, 13 January 2017

To Spain, Friday 13 January

I said, when I planned our trip, that where we spent last night, on a headland overlooking the Port of Bilbao, would be lovely unless there was a storm. There was a storm!  We were horrendously exposed, and I slept very badly, being quite convinced that a window would blow in, or the van would blow over, or the solar panels would blow off. However, none of those disasters occurred, and morning came at last.

We didn't hurry to get up, and when we eventually set off, we asked the machine to take us into Bilbao, which looked really rather nice once you were there, and then we drove to Donostia (San Sebastian), and again, had a quick peek at it before we headed to the parking, which turns out to be a very nice aire by the university.  Not free, but not expensive (€3.25 per night), and services are provided. And it is sheltered, so although it is raining steadily, we are not buffeted as we were last night.

As this is our last night in Spain, we decided to go out to dinner (plus I hadn't been out all day) to a nearby burger bar which was well-reviewed, but of course when we got there it had closed down. So we went to another one, which was ok, but not brilliant, but perfectly edible, and delicious beer, only €2.50 for 500 ml, and then came back to the van and ate coffee-flavoured "flan" and ginger biscuits before getting into our cosy, warm and dry beds! 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

To Spain, Thursday 12 January

I have had a relatively quiet day today; I find I need that occasionally. We set our sat-nav to take us to a services in Vittoria-Gasteiz, as needed to use them.  While we were there we went to a Mercadona and bought the biggest bag of oranges you ever did see.
Then we drove to where we are spending the night - a car park above Bilbao, which I thought would be lovely if it didn't storm - so, of course, it is pouring with rain and very windy!  But we watched the Bilbao-Portsmouth ferry head out - sooner them than me -
and the SW went for a walk before the rain started which he enjoyed. And now I am going to curl up in bed. The rain is making the grey water tank say it is full, but we know that is rubbish! 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

To Spain, Wednesday 11 January

I always say that you don't really know a city until you have used it's public transport, but these days with the Internet to tell you how, it's almost too easy. So we found there was a bus that would take us right into Zaragoza town centre from about 500 metres from where we were parked up.
Idiot Google had said there was no pedestrian route to the nearest supermarket, but there totally was, it was just by the bus stop on the way back and a perfectly good pedestrian crossing!  Anyway, that was later; for now we caught the 41 into town and made a note of where we got off to get back with no hassle.

Then we walked through the town centre to the river, and along a bit past the Cathedral and the Basilica, and then there was a big market so we wandered through that, amazed at how cheap meat is here.  Then there was a tram, so we got on that for a couple of stops, and then only a short walk back to our bus stop, via a cashpoint, as I was running a bit low.

I went to the supermarket as I wanted mushrooms for a risotto, and was amazed at how cheap stuff was - ended up buying some deodorant, as it was a brand I use and reduced to 60 cents!  Beer is also incredibly cheap, but I'm not buying that until I don't have to carry it!
Then we set off and drive out of town - why are the outskirts of towns always so hideous? - and stopped in a random services for lunch. Then I went to sleep while the SW drove here, to Lograño, where we are parked up by a reservoir.  He went for a walk, and then I cooked risotto which was very good.  And we drank some of the wine we'd bought at Mas Alart, which was just as good as we'd thought.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

To Spain, Tuesday 10 January

We left Barcelona about 11:00 this morning, having asked the sat-nav to take us so we didn't have to pay tolls. The urban motorway in Barcelona was super, and carried the traffic very easily and quickly down past the Maremagnum area where we had been the previous day, and then down past the port area before the A2 finally branched off inland.
We drove a couple of hundred km to Zaragoza, stopping in a random aire by a lake to have lunch.
When we had found our car park for the night, we set off again to find a big supermarket, a Mercadona, to stock up and get a tortilla for supper, also since salad. It was very difficult to find the supermarket, which was in a big shipping mall, and I walked the whole length of it before discovering it was on the lower level, whereupon I had to walk all the way back to get to it. Some things much cheaper than the UK, others about the same.  Certainly cheaper than France, though.
Then back to the car park, and the SW went for a walk, and then we had supper. I have been very tired all day - suspect I over did it yesterday - and am looking forward to an early night. Plus it is much colder here, although I don't think frost.  Very dry - we drove past where some idiot had set the verge on fire, luckily on the other side of the road, but scary!  Also we were amused how many lorries were on the non-toll road, compared to in France where they all pay the tolls anyway.

Monday, 9 January 2017

To Spain, Monday 9 January

Barcelona in January is really lovely!  Not hot, but not cold, either.
We set off after a late breakfast and took the metro (with a horrendous change in the middle, one had to walk for miles) to the big food market off La Rambla.  We wandered round there, wishing we were hungry, and then came away and bought a guidebook and had a cup of coffee while we looked at it. Then we got a bus a few stops and walked to the metro station called Paral.lel (with the dot!), whence we took the funicular up Montjuic, and then the cable car right up to the top, to the castle.
And then a bus down, which delighted the Swan Whisperer by going past the Olympic stadium (don't we want rather to forget the 1992 Olympics?), and this deposited us in the Playa d'Espanya.

We found a restaurant and ate tapas, and then headed down to the sea, to a huge shopping centre called Maremagnum, and eventually back to the motor home via two buses. I'm exhausted, but the SW has gone out for an explore by himself! 

I don't suppose we've seen all of Barcelona, but it's a lovely place, what we have seen.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

To Spain, Sunday 8 January

We didn't hurry away this morning after a very windy night. The Mistral was blowing like anything. I never really mind wind in the machine, but it does creak!
Bought 6 bottles of the wonderful Muscat they do here, and then headed off to Spain. Made a nonsense at the frontier, as we wanted diesel, but ended up coming straight off the motorway and were charged nearly a Euro in péage!  Our télépéage  dongle doesn't work in Spain, alas. So we got diesel at a local garage, and also bought some milk in a ginormous shopping centre which was rammed, mostly with French shoppers looking for bargains.  We drove on down a motorway which kept smelling of ham, and finally arrived here in what is basically a secure car park, not very glamorous and quite expensive. But good transport links into town, and nice loos, less nice showers, and a sitting-room with free WiFi.
We ate lunch and then went straight to the Sagrada Familia, and I regret to say we hated it! Not to our taste at all. 

And when we finally found the ticket office, we found it was €18 each to go in, so we said no, and caught various buses to the edge of the Old Town and wandered round until dark, and then caught a bus back to the machine. Citymapper works here, and is invaluable as always.

Supper in the van, and really enjoying the mild weather - it was about 18°C, such a change from two days ago. No bedsocks or extra rug tonight!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

To Spain, Saturday 7 January

I quite thought, when I got up this morning, that I would be telling you tonight that we were sadly on our way home.  There was a very sharp frost indeed overnight, and although we were snug and warm in bed, when I got up it was to find no running water!  The Swan Whisperer investigated, and it became clear that the pump was still working, but the water in the pipes underneath had frozen!  Luckily there was a public loo (the Turkish kind) just across the car which was clean, warm and had paper! Sadly it didn't have hot water, so washing was done with a kettle of drinking water and/or wipes. 
Then the heating didn't seem to want to work properly, either, so we looked and saw there was a motor home place over Limoges way, which might be able to help, (and from there we could either go on or go home) but it was closed until 14:00, and by the time we had done a bit of shopping, everything was fine, and the pipes hadn't burst. So we headed on, another interminable drive, and now we are out of the frost zone, and only a couple of hours from Barcelona. It is windy, but much warmer than last night.
Such a beautiful sunset en route. I tried to take photos, but they are too yellow. The reality was much redder.
We are at Mas Alart, where we have stayed before, blissfully quiet and we can buy some of the white wine we like so much!  Such a friendly family, they remembered us.

Friday, 6 January 2017

To Spain, Friday 6 January

We crossed last night, as is our wont these days, and despite a lazy start, we were away by 10:30, to drive half-way across France on our way to Northern Spain.
All went well at first. I didn't feel I'd had quite enough sleep, so dozed off while the Swan Whisperer drove down the A16 until he was ready for a break. This was not quite lunch time, so we decided to go on for a bit.
Alas, as we went round Paris on an outer ring, catching glimpses of the Sacré-Coeur and the Eiffel tower, it all went pear-shaped, as we got to a place where suddenly there was a height restriction, and could we make the sat-nav, either one, take us around it? You guess!  We must have wasted two hours trying to get round it and then getting lost - lunch was eventually eaten on the go, with me making sandwiches in the back, in a traffic jam.
However, after that, when we were finally back on the right route, the sat-nav told us there was a massive traffic jam up ahead, and would we like to go a different way to save us well over an hour. So we said yes please, and it took us down the old road to Orleans, and I was delighted to see the track where they had conducted their experiments with monorails back in the 1970s - I'd last seen it over 40 years ago in a company that included the present Bishop of Rochester!
We got here eventually - an aire about half-way to the Pyrenees, only to find that the restaurant advertised has closed down. Don't know if the Mairie is open on Saturday mornings, hope so, as we need a jeton for the services.  Anyway, we found a restaurant not far away and had dinner, and now are heading to bed as it is bitterly cold, well below freezing!  Bed, one hopes, we'll be warm!