Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Eleanor of Aquitaine Tour

Some years ago now, we got hold of this book:

When he had read it, the Swan Whisperer proposed that we go on an Eleanor of Aquitaine tour round that part of France, and take three weeks or so about it.  We agreed that this would happen after retirement, and when we had bought our motor home.  Well, these two things have happened, and so our holiday is about to start.  We leave tomorrow evening, after supper, and have booked a late crossing on Eurotunnel, after which we plan to spend the night in the motor home area of the Cité Europe car park.  And head on next day.  The tour will include Rouen, Falaise, Barfleur, Cherbourg, Le Mans, Angers, Saumur, Chinon, Fontévraud, Poitiers, Limoges, Rocamadour, Cahors, Agen, Bordeaux, Angoulème, Saintes, Niort, Tours, Gisors and Wissant.  At least, that's the plan for now.... don't know how closely we'll stick to it!

I will try to update this daily, if only briefly, but will be mostly limited to data on my phone.  We do plan to eat out in Buffalo Grills sometimes to take advantage of their WiFi to upload photos, etc. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Totally Thames

This week we have been on two outings, both of which involved the river Thames.  On Wednesday, there was a flotilla of boats to celebrate the Queen's becoming the longest reigning British monarch ever, or, to put it bluntly, not being dead yet.  Tower Bridge was due to open at noon as a mark of respect, so we went up there on the Northern Line, and decided to watch from the middle of London Bridge.  This proved not very practical, as HMS Belfast had a friend visiting, so you actually got a better view from the far side of the bridge.
The Bridge duly opened and the flotilla - not a very impressive one - passed under it, and then under London Bridge. 

We were amazed how busy London River is these days - time was, you scarcely saw a boat on it, but this time, the flotilla was almost lost in the stream of barges, tourist boats and others that were going up and down stream.

After lunch in the nearest Prets (I do like their coffee!), we headed home on the bus.

Today's excursion was rather more exciting; it was organised by the Zoological Society of London, and was called "Thames Alive".  I'd seen this advertised on-line, and thought it looked interesting, so booked tickets for it.  These were free, it was basically a matter of signing up so they knew how many people to expect, and could limit numbers, if necessary.  I had received about three emails from them saying Not To Be Late, and we were a bit panicky as we needed to be there for 9:30 and Strand on the Green is quite some distance from here!  Citymapper suggested we pick up the train from Queenstown Road Station, which we hadn't done before (and I don't actually care if I don't do it again, as the platforms are very narrow, and even sitting down I felt slightly off-balance), and it turned out to be nearer the station than we'd thought, so we were there in plenty of time to put on wellies (me) or walking boots (the Swan Whisperer - he does own wellies but his, and my best pair, are in the motor home!) and gather on the Thames foreshore. 
The first thing was dipping, rather like pond dipping, to find out what sort of invertebrates there were - mostly freshwater shrimps, but also a couple of estuarine prawns, some leeches, etc, and probably loads of algae, etc. 

After this, some of the ZSL people went out in a boat to put out a seine net to see what sort of fish they would catch. 

These proved to be two or three varieties of rather small fish - apparently, it does depend on the time of year, and, of course, whether you are where it is more maritime or more fresh water.  But it was interesting.  The ZSL were disappointed not to have caught a flounder, as we had seen a cormorant eating one earlier, but as they had to trawl slightly further upstream than they'd anticipated, due to a fallen tree blocking the place they'd wanted, it's perhaps not too surprising. 

I'm not too sure what the purpose of the day was, other than to educate the interested public; there was no attempt to catalogue or count the specimens, which were just returned to their natural habitat.  I rather suspect it was to get volunteers for future surveys - apparently there is a lot of volunteer work to be done with the society.

So anyway, that was the end of that, and we came away to have a good wash and a coffee and croissant at the local Café Rouge - it proved more cost-effective to have their coffee-and-croissant option than to have either separately - before getting the train back from Kew Bridge.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Making Mistakes

Last weekend we spent four nights in the van - we didn't actually go anywhere, as we were helping my parents move house, so we basically parked up in their front drive, hooked up to the electrical outlet in their garage, and used it to sleep in and have breakfast in - we showered, etc, in their downstairs bathroom, and pooled resources for meals other than breakfast.

Anyway, the point is, I made one or two mistakes getting ready to go, and wanted to document them so that I would remember why what I thought was a good idea turned out not to be!

Firstly, I packed my clothes into a bag that folds right down into its own pocket.  Which seemed like a good idea, but meant there was nowhere to put dirty clothes once I'd worn them.  A large cloth shopping bag or two works much better!  And if you're showering elsewhere, you also need a shopping bag to carry your clothes, towel, etc, over to where you are showering.  I think I'll also take a smaller bag to keep my socks in - they tend to roll all over the cupboard and then I can't find them.

Secondly, I forgot the thermos.  Now, that mightn't seem a big deal, and it really isn't - but it is so very useful to put the end of the kettle in it, and to kickstart that early morning cup of tea that I, for one, can't do without!  And especially if you're not turning on the hot water, as we didn't, you can keep what's left in the kettle for use in washing-up later.

Thirdly, when we go in October, we will really need to take hot-water bottles.  Our duvets are lovely and warm, but one night I got very chilled before I went to bed - sitting by an open window in an inadequate cardigan will do that to a person - and it took me awhile to warm up, even with an extra blanket on for the first part of the night.

Fourthly, if you are not moving on that day, for heavens' sake be strict about tidying up, otherwise the living area very quickly becomes a mess!  At least when you're touring you have to tidy up or things fall on the floor!  Charging cables do need to be put in their bag, not left trailing over the table.

The camping saucepans really are far too thin, and far too old.  I have bought a lidded frying pan, a sauté pan and a saucepan to use instead, which will join the tiny milk pan and tiny frying pan (one egg size), plus a saucepan my mother gave me, which I may discard....  

And we need to buy a large bucket, in case we can't empty the grey water directly into the drain. 

Edited to add:  I also need to remember to take my bedside clock with me - it no longer functions as an alarm clock, but I have my phone to do that.  Only, when you wake up in the night, it is good to be able to see what time it is without having to get out of bed and find the phone.....  Also, pack a comb in one's beauty case - a hairbrush is grand, but you want a comb as well.