Thursday, 15 December 2016

South Bank Christmas Markets

Don't bother, is all I can say!

We picked up Boy Two from Senate House shortly after 10:00 am and got a bus down to Waterloo Bridge, and then walked down the steps to the South Bank - but not a Christmas Market hut in sight.  Frantic Googling not only ate most of my phone's battery but also discovered that there were markets on the Queen's Walk (near the Eye) and at Bankside.  As we were near the Queen's Walk, we went there first - but despite the fact that it was 11:00 nothing was open, and there were only about five stalls anyway.  Huge disappointment.

So we decided we'd try Bankside.  Since it was the Swan Whisperer's birthday, we thought we'd be extravagant and get a river bus down there, but of course we just missed one!  Still, we had the tickets, so we wandered about the Eye.  Boy Two asked if we could go on it, but we explained that it was very expensive and the kind of thing we reserved for a birthday treat - we did actually wonder about treating the SW, but he thought not.  We said we might take him next birthday.... Anyway, we wandered round the souvenir shop, with the caveat that "We're not buying anything today" (the boys have been brought up to respect that, and don't nag, which is wonderful); both Boy Two and I fell in love with stuffed Corgis with Union flag coats on, but resisted temptation!

After which, it was time to go back to the pier, and we duly caught our riverbus to Bankside.  We nipped into Tate Modern to use the loos there, and then explored its Christmas market.  Also disappointing, although the stalls were open.  We had the obligatory mulled wine - a non-alcoholic punch for Boy Two - and the SW and I both had a Bratwurst in a roll.  Boy Two said he would prefer a hamburger, so we got him one - the biggest you ever did see, but he ate almost all of it, most of the onions and half the bun before admitting to being "a bit full up now"!   So we mopped up and then walked to London Bridge for a bus back to Walthamstow so that he could have a nap if he needed to, which he did.  So, I may say, did the Swan Whisperer! 

All in all I was very unimpressed with the Christmas markets this year.  Time was, they would stretch down between Waterloo and Westminster bridges, practically, and were splendid with gingerbread and other stalls, but not this year..  I believe there is a third around More London, but we didn't go there, and I don't intend to. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Brittany, 7 December

Not doing that again!  Dieppe, I mean.  It was an expensive aire, and, because we were right by where the ferries come in and out, we were woken several times during the night by them doing just that.  And then the one that was due in at 4:00 am came in, and KEPT ITS ENGINE ON until it went out again at 6:00.  So not much sleep for us!

However, we got up at 7:00, as planned (in fact, I got up a little earlier and turned the hot water on, but then went back to bed again), and were away by 08:30.  Before sunrise, although not before dawn..... we drove across country to Tréport/Eu enjoying the sunrise over the "big sky", and then up to Abbeville and so to the motorway.  We reached Cité Europe about 11 and did an enormous, mostly Christmas, shop, and then were lucky enough to get a berth on the Shuttle going an hour earlier than the one we'd booked.  We spent the crossing eating lunch, and only realised afterwards that by UK time it was actually only 12:15.... oh well.

A swift and easy drive home, where we arrived by 2:00, and then an hour's hard work and we got everything put away.  Although as we are using the van as an extension of No 6 over Christmas, we have just put a bedspread on the bed and left the towels in the bathroom.  Now just the laundry to do, and to take the motor home down to Sussex on Friday, and that is it for this year.  Next trip early in the New Year..... Barcelona, perhaps?

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Brittany, 6 December

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, but the downside of going for a run before dawn in a strange place is that you don't realise that the town has carefully laid out a 3k course for you to run!  I found it later when I went for a walk to stretch my legs before a long day's drive.  I didn't do the whole 3k, but about half that round a very pretty lake.  I should have taken my trekking poles to have a proper workout, but didn't think until too late.
Most of the day was spent driving - on the motorway as far as Caen, then via Deauville (where we had lunch) and Honfleur to the Pont de Normandie, and then via Fécamp (where we got lost!) to Dieppe.  Then a cup of tea and we got rather cold waiting for it to be time to go out to dinner. We found a very nice restaurant that was slightly more expensive than we usually go for, but there food was delicious and the waitress made us giggle by looking exactly like Julie Walters in that sketch, only efficient and didn't spill things.
And so back to the van for the final night of the trip, although as we'll be sleeping in it over Christmas, we won't unmake the bed or bring the towels in. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Brittany, 5 December

I made the huge mistake last night of failing to put on my bedsocks.  This meant I could simply not get my feet warm, and thus could not sleep.  I finally gave in and put then on - I do hate wearing them and one always comes off and gets lost - and of course, transformation. It wasn't even that cold, which is what is so annoying!
This morning we drove down to Pointe du Raz, which is about as far west as you can get in France. I should have liked to have stopped at the supermarket that said it was the "last supermarket before America", but we didn't. We thought might if we came back that way, but then we didn't.
The Pointe du Raz is obviously, in season, a huge tourist trap, with paying parking and a huge crescent of shops and a museum - all closed! We were reminded of Land's End, rather.   You could still park, but the barriers had been lifted and there were no attendants. We walked out along the path to the first viewpoint, which was lovely - sea all around, a lighthouse at the end, and plenty of rocks with lighthouses on them, too.
We walked back to the van and drove a little way north, past some wonderfully-situated hotels, to the Pointe du Van. This part of Finisterre is known as. Cornouaille, and the French for Cornwall is Cornouailles, so there is some connection.  The local languages are mutually intelligible with both Welsh and Cornish, I understand.
But it was time to turn eastwards, so we drove on, past Quimper (bypassing it, this time) and L'Orient, and turning south to Quiberon, which turned out to be a seaside resort at the end of a really long peninsula.
We stopped there for lunch, and then drive back through Carnac. This, however, proved to be a failure as there were roadworks and we were diverted hither and yon to the extent that I didn't realise we had been there until we were no longer there!  We did, however, see a field of menhirs (so that's what they did with all the ones Obélix carved!), so we felt honour was satisfied.
Then we drove on along the main road - Brittany doesn't have the toll motorways that are ubiquitous in the rest of France, but has some very good dual carriageways instead - to Rennes, and this pleasant aire in the suburb of Cesson-Sévigné.  It is the first aire that has been even remotely full this holiday, but we have a place by the river Vilaine, and very nice too.
There is so much more of Brittany to see, but it will have to wait for another time. And not in the summer - I imagine it would be heaving with tourists and no fun at all!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Brittany, 4 December

I forgot to say yesterday that we passed a town with the simply glorious name of Villedieu-les-Poêles! 
This morning, we woke at 7, but it was still past 9 when we got away - it's not easy to be quick when you have to wait for the kettle to boil for your tea, and wait for the water to hot up for your shower, and then get breakfast and wash it up, make the beds and ready the van for the day's travel. But we got away at last, and our first stop was the town of Perros-Guirec, where the Swan Whisperer said there were some pink rocks he wanted to see, so he went off to look at them, and when he came back he had some coffee before we moved on round that peninsula. On the way we saw the rocks he'd been to, but I was distinctly underwhelmed.
Then a little further on we saw the real pink rocks, much more impressive!
We realised that we were, of course, in the very region where Astérix' village was supposed to have been, and I saw a dolmen by the side of the road, whether natural or put there for tourism, I wouldn't care to say. Apparently, Goscinny was wiser than he knew, as a real iron age village had been found in almost exactly the right place!
We then drove to Roscoff, where we had lunch overlooking the ferry.
A pleasant little town. We also decided to investigate where to go to this afternoon. We decided that we would head down to Audierne, but go through Brest and Quimper - we reckoned, correctly, that the traffic would not be too awful on a Sunday afternoon - and if time go right out along that peninsula to the Utmost West!  Or, failing that, to park up in Audierne overnight and go out to Pointe du Raz tomorrow.
Best was lovely - one of these days we want to come back and spend a couple of days there. Quimper less so, a bit meh.  Audierne, where we did end up for the night, is lovely - we are parked along a river, with a château the far side, and in view of a bridge. Not that we can see anything right now as it is dark and we have the shutters drawn to keep the heat in....
Dinner in the van - a sort of shakshuka, but with the end of the potatoes in it. And I have just remembered I had been going to use some chorizo, too!  Never mind, it'll keep....

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Brittany, 3 December

I had sat the alarm for 08:00 this morning, but by the time we got away it was 09:30 and we had wasted at least an hour's daylight.  Tomorrow, even though it is Sunday, we will be up at 07:00 and, I hope, away earlier. Or out for a walk, but the days are so short it is a pity to waste daylight.

We set the Satnav to take us to Saint-Brieuc, but decided not to go into the town itself. The first part of the trip we went across country, and then along a nearly motorway-standard N road, stopping for lunch at a service area. Our own lunch, I hasten to add, not what was provided by a café. Then we drove on, catching a glimpse of Mont Saint Michel in the distance, and up the coast to this town, Paimpol.  We are in a very nice aire, nobody else around, with services. It cost €4, and there is free parking in the town, but we need services. 

The Swan Whisperer went out for a walk and then we had a cup of tea before we walked into town and had dinner at a random, but very good, creperie.  And then back, and more or less straight to bed, although we did put the heating on for ten minutes, and boiled the kettle for bottles and tea.  He is now charging his phone and checking the sports results... Which I am so not interested in, but he persists in taking me anyway.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Brittany, 1 and 2 December

We couldn't really let the year end without another short trip in the motor home; after all, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a booze cruise! 

We couldn't leave on our usual 10:30 pm crossing as the Swan Whisperer had a rehearsal for the Christmas Show, so we were never going to be able to leave London much before 9:30 pm.  In fact, the next crossing was not until 1:30 am, arriving in France at 03:00 local time.  Eek!  However, we managed it, but by the time we had made our way to the car park (and they have changed the exit from the Eurotunnel yet again), turned on the gas, sorted out windows and blinds, etc, it was at least 3:30 am.  I had travelled in pyjamas, on the grounds that I wouldn't need to get out of the van once I was in it, and had spent the crossing curled up in bed, so it didn't take too long to snuggle down.

Needless to say, we didn't surface until after 10:00 am this morning!  And there was a late breakfast and some shopping before we got away. The Carrefour looks amazing, and French supermarkets do Christmas so much better than ours do!  Lots of foie gras, smoked salmon, champagne, etc.... 

Anyway, we got away at last and headed to the Aire du Baie de la Somme for lunch, and then on as far as Falaise, where we are parked up for the night.  And drinking wine.... 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Regency Javelin Tour

A few weeks ago, I was looking at railtours, like you do, and found this one, which was not too expensive, involved a Javelin train (okay, not so romantic as a steam train), and was on a day when we had nothing else planned.  So the Swan Whisperer bought tickets, and this morning we got up very early and made our way to St Pancras via the Victoria Line.  The train was waiting for us on the platform - when we finally found Platform 12, we discovered we had come a very long way round, but we had been able to buy a coffee at Costa en route.

Our seats were in either the first or the last carriage, depending on which way we were going!  And there were several route reversals during the day.  They gave us a printed itinerary, so we knew where we were and whether we were in time or not.

It was a very grey and dreary November day, with very little colour about.  As always, perhaps the nicest part of the journey was the Mid-Sussex line, aka the Arun Valley Line, which runs through the water-meadows of the Arun valley, and passes Arundel Castle.
But it was fun going out on HS1, which we have only ever done on Eurostars (I did once go between Stratford International and St Pancras on a Javelin, because I could, but it only takes 2 minutes or so....).  We went down via Rochester and Strood to Tonbridge, and then along the line to Redhill, and thence to the Arun Valley Line once we reached Three Bridges.  Then at Littlehampton it reversed again to go along the West Coastway line, which I know like the back of my hand, so not as interesting as it might have been....  However, instead of running straight into Brighton, it went up the Clifton Curve to Preston Park, and then down into Brighton from there - not sure where.  Brighton was basically lunch time - I'd brought sandwiches, and then we went and got the Swan Whisperer a coffee - and after it we headed off to Hastings, via Eastbourne (where we reversed again, only I'd fallen asleep by then, and missed it).  I think these semaphore signals were at Hastings:


After Hastings, we headed back to - I was going to say Birmingham by way of Bethnal Green - but back to St Pancras via places like Sevenoaks, St Mary Cray, and then Rochester again to rejoin HS1 at Ebbsfleet.  It was dark by then, of course, so one couldn't see much, and I was a bit stiff after sitting all day, but we had had plenty of opportunities to get up and move around and stretch, so it wasn't as bad as it might have been!

All in all, a very enjoyable day, and on-train sales, raffle tickets (no joy, of course) and a silent auction which I didn't participate in raised about £2,500 for the Royal British Legion.

But would somebody please tell me why it is easy to find the King's Cross exit from the Victoria Line platforms, very close to it, but utterly impossible to find the Victoria Line platforms from the King's Cross entrance?????  There seems to be a wormhole that means whatever way you go you have to walk down endless claustrophobia-inducing tunnels with horrible lighting.....

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Regent Street Motor Show

Tomorrow is the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, and, in preparation for this, today was the Regent Street Motor Show.  This event is one of those occasions when Regent Street is closed to normal traffic, although the shops stay open.

We nearly didn't go - the Rostelecom Cup was on all afternoon - but dragged ourselves away from the television after the ice dance, and got a 159 bus up to Piccadilly Circus.  This was nearly a mistake as it took about half an hour to cross Westminster Bridge, which seems to have been reduced to one lane in each direction.  However, once it had done that, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square were relatively free, and we got off at Regent Street/St James and walked across Piccadilly Circus to the start of the show.

The actual vintage cars only took up part of the street; the first part was about vintage racing cars, rather dull really, except there was the late great James Hunt's racing car.
Then there were some sponsors' vehicles, and a couple of old coaches/charabancs before the Veteran Car Concours d’Elegance, as it was called. 
And then came the veteran cars, all dressed in their best.  Only about 1/4 of the ones that will be running tomorrow, but they were very splendid indeed!
Then came one car that has obviously languished somewhere for years and years and is presumably about to receive some TLC very soon:
And that section ended with a wonderful vintage charabanc!
Then there was a section of low-emission cars, which was quite interesting, and some Minis, and finally some ride or other sponsored by Top Gear.  At which point we had arrived at Oxford Circus, so we wandered off to find a Prets to have lunch, and then the 137 bus back home, where we arrived in time for the end of the Pairs, and all of the Ladies' Free!

It was quite interesting - probably not worth a special trip to London, but certainly worth a visit.  Presumably this happens on the first Saturday in November every year, so there will be other occasions. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Nunhead Cemetery

It is All Saints' Day, so what better place to spend the afternoon than in a cemetery?  Nunhead cemetery, to be exact.  It was part of a guided walk organised by the Cooltan Arts Centre, not as exciting as the blurb suggests - the guide to the cemetery wasn't available until 2:30, and then he was held up, so really, touring the cemetery was all we had time for.

The walk started off outside Nunhead Library, which is closed for redevelopment until 5 December, but is really rather an enchanting building.  We then stopped on Nunhead Green to talk about the area - a craft beer shop and an enormous estate agents providing proof of gentrification!  Then it was along Linden Grove (where Charles Dickens apparently installed one of his mistresses) to the cemetery.

It was really lovely!  It is, of course, on of the Magnificent Seven suburban cemeteries established in the 1830s and 1840s when London's churchyards were overflowing.  It was used for burials for over 100 years, but closed in 1969.  And left to rot for the next 20 years, while wildlife and nature took over.  And, of course, there was a lot of urban exploration, drug-taking, and downright vandalism going on.  Eventually the cemetery was bought by Southwark Council for £1, and eventually it was restored - there are Friends of the Cemetery who volunteer to help keep the walkways open and so on. 
Because it was All Saints' Day, some of the graves had fresh flowers, and some had flameless candles on them.  Not all, by any manner of means, but enough to show that people still care.  There was one modern grave that just said "Harold and Tim RIP" (it might not have been those names) with no date; we wondered whether it  had been an unofficial burial while the cemetery was closed, in an era when Harold and Tim might not have been welcome to be buried together elsewhere.
There was a very moving memorial to some scouts who had drowned in a disaster off the Isle of Sheppey, near a World War 1 cemetery. 


From the top of the hill, there is a protected view of St Paul's Cathedral, but it was too foggy to see it today!
And then we walked back downhill to the exit. 

Contrary to popular perception, it wasn't in the slightest bit spooky - it was lovely and peaceful.  Apart from people walking their dogs, of course, but then, how lovely that they should have such a big space available for to do that in!  It really is a lovely place, and I would happily go back if it wasn't slightly awkward to get to! 


Friday, 28 October 2016

A third trip to the Museum!

Half-term Friday, so I picked the Boy up from Senate House, as usual, and we had decided that we would visit that part of the Museum of London we'd failed to visit last time we went.  We decided to go on the Metropolitan/Circle/Hammersmith and City lines from Euston Square, and were delighted to find that the first train was a Metropolitan one (neither of us gets much opportunity to go on these!) which we duly took to Barbican.  Then we walked down Aldersgate Street to the Museum, discovering on the way that the no 56 bus went to Whipps Cross Roundabout, very near where The Boy lives.  So we decided that after we'd been to the Museum and had lunch, we'd go on it.

We knew where we had finished our last tour, at the end of the Regency period, but weren't quite sure how to get to it without going through the whole museum, but it was fairly well signposted, and after one false start, fortunately terminated by the Boy's need to visit the loo, we found where we had been, and headed on through the Victorian section, where they have mock-ups of shops as they would have been back then.  And a very splendid penny-farthing bicycle, which neither of us could imagine riding.  And so on through the sections until we reached the point we had reached three years ago, where there are model trains and things to play with.  And, just as three years ago, he was promptly engrossed and spent a very long time playing!
I was happy enough sat down at the table from an old Lyons Corner House, but eventually persuaded him it was time to move on!  Of course, the nice thing is that now he can read, he is much more interested in the interactive displays and so on; we spent a long time on the ones about the future of London, and about the clean and dirty water of "the olden days".  And rather fun to sit on a comfortable sofa and "Watch with Mother" snippets from Andy Pandy, The Woodentops and Bill and Ben, all childhood favourites of mine....

So then to lunch at Pret's - the Boy had his current favourite tuna and cucumber baguette, and drank 3/4 can fizzy lemonade, and I had a their falafel mezze salad and some coffee.  I do like Pret's coffee!  Then we went back and eventually found the bus stop - I had got turned around and needed help from my phone to find where I was, compared to where I meant to be - and waiting for a 56, which took us up through Islington and Hackney Downs and past the Lee Valley Ice Centre and Riding Centre.  We changed buses at the Bakers Arms and went the rest of the way on a W16.

 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Sunken Cities at the British Museum

Lunch with an old friend today.  We had arranged to meet outside the British Museum, and as I now have a membership card, after we'd had lunch I decided to visit this exhibition.

I have to admit to being a bit underwhelmed.  It ought to have been fascinating, but somehow it wasn't.  Archaeologists had discovered two cities near Alexandria, called Thonis-Heracleieon and Canopus, and the exhibition showed some of the things they had excavated.  Which were good, especially the heads of two sphinxes, one of which looked exactly like my old headmistress....

The selling point was supposed to be the links between the Greeks and the Egyptians back in the day, but mostly they concentrated on who worshipped what, and how, which was very dull.  I'd have loved to have seen more about how ordinary people lived, and what they did.  But I suppose that sort of thing doesn't survive long immersion in the Mediterranean, whereas votive statues and so on do....

Ah well.  En route to the museum, I was amused to notice the signs at Tottenham Court Road station which will, one day, direct the traveller to "Crossrail" - presumably they are now going to have to change these as it's going to be called the Elizabeth Line instead!  What a waste.  Very slow journey home on the 59, there must have been a diversion somewhere as the Royal Mile down to Aldwych was gridlocked.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Wednesday 28

And so the adventure ended, as it began, in the aire at Calais.  We slept well, and then I did a big shop in Carrefour while the SW cleaned the van, and then it was time to head home.  We decided to lunch during the crossing, and after it I vaguely remember coming off the Shuttle, but fell so very soundly asleep that I didn't stir until we got to Forest Hill!

So home, and unpacking and putting away and tidying up....  and on Friday the van will go home to Sussex until the next time.  When and where that will be we don't know yet.  Probably at least one more holiday this year.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Tuesday 27

Our last full day, and we knew we had a long drive ahead, so we got up early.  We had spent the night in a campsite, which ok, there was electricity and free WiFi and services, but imagine our frustration when we arrived at the local Park and Ride to find it full of smug motorhomes who had spent the night free of charge!  And there were services. So we were most frustrated, but we will know for next time.
We took a bus into town and wandered round the sights, and then found a ReWe to do some last-minute shopping, and an Eiscafé so I could finally have my sundae, which was lovely.  But i don't want another one for a long time!


Then it was back to the motor home and a long, boring drive across Luxembourg and Belgium, stopping once for lunch and once to stretch out legs. We have now arrived at the Buffalo Grill in Calais for our traditional Last Supper before home tomorrow.

German Fairy-tale Tour, Monday 26

We did not hurry in the morning, as we didn't have far to go. Our first port of call was Bad Durkheim, just down the road, where they had a spa, and an extremely lovely park, which we both enjoyed walking through, but whose main claim to fame was a restaurant with an enormous wine keg!  We had lunch there, and I had more new wine, which was a failure as I then slept all afternoon and missed most of an (allegedly) scenic drive to Trier, where we spent the night. The SW went for a walk, as per usual, and then flaked out for an hour or so before supper.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

German Fairy-tale Tour, Sunday 25

We decided that the little we had seen of Würzburg wasn't nearly enough, so we went back there this morning and had a proper look round this exceptionally pretty, even by German standards, little town. Slightly spoilt by the fact that there was a stall offering bottles of new wine (Federweisse, and I've also known it called Ström), but when we got there they said they didn't sell it like that and didn't have any bottles anyway (what were those in the fridge, I'd like to know?), which was disappointing.  In the UK I'd have reported then to the TSA for misleading advertising....
So we drove on along the Main valley and up to Worms, only I was asleep and missed most of the latter town.  Then down to Ludwigshafen and the most enjoyable hospitality of our niece, once more. Including her broadband. My phone has been shrieking at me to upgrade it for the past week, so I have done that and now have Android Nougat, but don't know what difference it will make.
And our niece kindly produced a bottle of new wine... Great minds obviously thinking alike. It was delicious!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour. Saturday 24


Not a great day. We started off in Bayreuth, which was lovely, and wandered down the main shopping drag, only then the Swan Whisperer realised he had mis-set the thingy you put in the windscreen to say what time you arrived so you don't outstay your welcome, which he bought one of the other day.  So he rushed back to the van leaving me to carry the rather heavy grocery shopping - and had we but known, there was a Netto much nearer to where we had parked.
So we set off to Nuremberg, and it would have been lovely. We found somewhere to park near the old town and had lunch and then we were just enjoying a walk in the old town when he suddenly said that we were parked illegally - which we weren't - and that we must leave at once, so we had to cut our visit to the town short, and I had been looking forward to funding an Eiscafé and having a delicious bowlful of something with whipped cream and fruit on the top. Plus I wasn't allowed to change my shoes - and my feet were hot - or spend a penny. I was very unimpressed and said so, in no uncertain terms, and then went to sleep.
We then arrived in Würzburg, which is a really lovely town but, sadly, the aire there was absolutely full, mostly of cars, so there was nowhere to park. But we had seen a place en route and went back to it, in the middle of nowhere but quite nice. Also busy, and rather noisy from a railway line nearby.  Oh well.

Friday, 23 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Friday 23

Today started off well with the most beautiful drive between Carlsbad and Marienbad (yes, I know they are called by other names now, but in Germany they are still known by the old names, and nobody minds if one says Vienna instead of Wien, or the Danube instead of the Donau....). It was on a narrow road through pine-forests, occasionally clearing into agricultural land. There's was very little traffic, and we reached Marienbad by about 11:00. We parked just outside the town and walked up a mile or so and had Kaffee und Kuchen in one of the many cafés that line the main street.  I had one of those luscious Czech honey cakes and the Swab Whisperer had an Apfelstrudel, which he said was delicious.

We then walked back to the motor home and decided to call in at the local Tesco to get a sandwich for lunch, but the one thing Czech Tescos don't seem to do is sandwiches. There was, however, a Chinese restaurant in the complex, so we went there. And then headed off towards Bayreuth, where we are spending the night. But we had got about 35 km down the road and were well into Germany when I suddenly realised that there my cardigan wasn't, so we had to drive all the way back. Luckily I had left it in the restaurant, and they had kept it safe for me, but when we came away, we went a different route!

We are parked in a very nice aire, with services - that was another of today's worries, that we had run out of water, and when that happens the pump just runs, and if course the SW worried that it had broken. Which it hadn't at all, and soon stopped running once we had some water.
Then he went out for a walk, and then it was supper time.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

German Fairy-tale Tour, Thursday 22

One does not spend any time in Colditz without visiting the infamous castle, so after breakfast we drove up there and had a good look round. Party of it is a youth hostel, built as a hospital a couple of centuries ago, and part is now a museum. We didn't go in, but had a good look round the outside.

Then we drove to Meißen, what we also had a good look round. Unfortunately, the town was preparing for a wine festival over the weekend, so was not at its best, but it is still very pretty.  We didn't go as far as the eponymous porcelain factory, but still saw a good bit of the town.
And then finally to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.  I wasn't sure what I'd chosen for us to spend the night in, but it turned out to be a very nice, shaded aire.  Unfortunately, it had no services - and our extra night meant the loo was a bit full!  We have services tomorrow night, but.... So came away and eventually found a camp site just outside the town, where we have been able to empty the loo, and the showers are free and hot! 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

German Fairy-tale Tour, Wednesday 21.

The open-air banquet last night wasn't actually too bad - a rather loud band, but we quite enjoyed it, and it stopped at 10:00, so no problems with sleep.  And it was much warmer this morning than it had been the previous day.
The Swan Whisperer said he wanted to see more of Saxony, so we would go to Weimar, which is in Thuringia. I am not sure if the logic of that..... So anyway, we set off about 10:00 am and arrived at about 12:30.  We found somewhere to park, and went for a walk, seeing the statue of Goethe and Schiller, and various other sights, and bought ourselves a delicious Thuringian sausage in a bun to keep ourselves going until we stopped for lunch just before we got to the motorway.
We asked the Satnav to take us via Chemnitz, as we wanted to see what a town that had been called Karl-Marx-Stadt for 36 years of its life would be like.  Actually, much as you would expect - lots of buildings dating back to the Communist era and a very modern city centre.  And they still had their statue of Marx, which surprised us - Weimar had a place where a statue of someone like Marx or Lenin had been removed.
We couldn't resist spending the night in Colditz - not, alas, the allegedly escape-proof castle, but a car park about half a mile away. It was raining when we arrived, and by the time it stopped, it was too late for me to go for a walk if we wanted to eat, so the SW went by himself.  Hope to see it in the morning.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Tuesday 20

Another busy day!  We didn't get up as early as we meant to, but were away by 10:30, to arrive at our first stop, Wittenberg, in time for lunch. The town is really lovely, full of American - pilgrims, I suppose, as it is, of course, Luther's home town. We saw the church door where he may or may not have nailed up his 95 theses, and the Town Church where he was married.  The town is very busy preparing for the 500th anniversary next year, with loads of street art by Käthe Kollwitz, and all sorts of things in preparation.
All the same, the High Street was typical Euro high street, with familiar German and pan-European chains; I wished I could have seen it 25 years ago!
We moved on to our next stop, Leipzig, where we are spending the night. I don't think it will be a very quiet one, though, as the hotel next to the car park has an open air banquet for at least 50 people, if not more, all laid out!  The SW has gone for his usual walk.
Tomorrow we have a change of plan - we were going to go to Meissen and then on to Karlovy Vary, but the SW insists he said he wanted to go to Weimar, so we are going there instead, and then spending the night in Colditz (well, who could resist?) en route to Meissen and Karlovy Vary the following day, which puts us 24 hours late for the rest of the holiday. We had allowed for this (we will drive to Cité Europe directly from our last stop, rather than stopping in Belgium), but it means we won't see as much of our niece as we had hoped, although we will still park near her flat on Sunday night.

Monday, 19 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Monday 19

Today was all about Berlin. We got up early and were away shortly after 09:00, walking to the U-Bahn station at Alt Tegel to buy one-day Travelcards.  We took the U-Bahn to Friedreichstraße, and went to see if we could find a river boat, but the company we found offered 1-hour tours for €13.50, and 2.5 hour tours for €16, so we said we would go on the latter, and they said it left at 11:45. It was about 10:00 by then, so we went off down to what had been Tempelhof Airport (just!) last time we visited, but closed very soon thereafter. It had, I believe, been turned into a public park, but the entrance was too far away for us to get there in the time, so we went back a couple of stops to Checkpoint Charlie, which has a lot more museums and a lot less wall than it used to have! 
After which it was back to Friedreichstraße, only to find that the 11:45 wasn't running today.... They couldn't have told us that earlier?  I was not impressed, and certainly not going to pay €13.50 for such a short tour. In hindsight, we'd have done better to go to Alexanderplatz, where there were a choice of tours and tour companies.
However, that was later. For now, we walked up to the Reichstag by way of the Tiergarten, and then to the nearby Hauptbahnhof, where we made use of the facilities and then went to see which of the tour bus companies would give us the best discount. We ended up with one that took us all round the city, with live commentary in English, and then got out at the Brandenburg gate, whence we caught a bus down to Alexanderplatz, which we had not seen properly, and then to Potsdamerplatz, where we had a coffee, and finally to the Anhalter Bahnhof. Whereupon we decided we had had it, and took the S-Bahn and a bus back to the camp site. And then the SW went to do a load of washing and couldn't open the dryer.... And when he could, it wasn't quite dry. He has gone and got us a take-away for our supper, which I am now going to eat.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

German Fairy-tale Tour, Sunday 18

Today was mostly housekeeping - changing sheets and towels - and driving to Berlin. SW went out for a walk when we got here, but I have done absolutely nothing except read, and have enjoyed it very much. Campsite crowded, but we knew it would be. Not at all bad for a capital city one.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

German Fairy-tale Tour, Saturday 17

The actual Fairy-tale part of the tour is now over, but we are only half-way through our holiday.  It was raining this morning, and quite a long way from where we were parked to Bremen Town Centre, so we drove around, getting vague glimpses of the pedestrianised area, then did some grocery shopping and headed on. We removed the Sat-nav's prohibition on motorways and drove up to the Hanseatic town of Lübeck. It is in Schleswig-Holstein, about which I gather there is some question.....


The SW wondered why we wanted to go there, but after reading his guide book he was convinced.  We arrived about 2:30 and after a quick cuppa, we headed out. I had decided that we would do a city tour, as there was probably too much to see in an afternoon, so we found out where they left from, but there was 45 minutes until the next one, so we wandered up to the Petrikirche, and decided just didn't have time to go up the tower, so wandered back down another way. Then I discovered we could buy combination boat and bus tickets for a considerable discount, and there would just be time to catch the last boat after the bus tour. In the event, we had to beg the bus driver to put us down early so as not to miss the boat, which he kindly did.  Both tours were excellent, although we didn't understand most of the commentary - there was no provision for headphones in English or anything.  I didn't take as many photos as if have liked as my phone ran out of battery! 
When it finished, we were both very cold but still went quickly to visit the Rathaus, which the bus had had to miss as it was on a pedestrian street. It reminded me of one somewhere else - another trading city, could it have been Antwerp?  Anyway, back to the van via a very pretty side street, and cauliflower cheese for supper!

Friday, 16 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Friday 16

A long drive today, but that is partly because we eschewed motorways to finish the Fairy-tale route part of the tour here in Bremen. I went for a walk in Bodenwerder this morning which was yet another pretty little half-timbered town, whose claim to fame was that it was the birthplace of Baron von Münchhausen of legendary fame.

We set off about 10:30, and stopped in Hameln to shop, and then it was a matter of sticking as closely to the Weser as possible. I forget exactly where we stopped for lunch, and then we were on the outskirts of Bremen by mid-afternoon. The SW went for a walk, and I used the very iffy WiFi to upload photos.  The management have put up a notice apologising for the lack of bandwidth, but they can't get more from Deutsche Telekom.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Thursday 15

Today we visited Sleeping Beauty's castle and Rapunzel's Tower.
Both are now posh hotels, the former in Sababurg, and the latter in Trendelburg, a few kilometres along the route.  Disney has done Sleeping Beauty no favours by imagining her castle to be like Neuschwanstein; this one is far older, with a squat little tower. It would have cost us €4 to wander round the hotel grounds, so we didn't, but took photos from the front. 

At Trendelburg, the tower and hotel are right at the top of a hill, and we thought of having lunch at the hotel, but they didn't put a menu up outside and we reckoned that, given the locality, it would probably have been horrendously expensive. So we came away and drove to the next town on the route, Oberweser, and had lunch there, but what looked like a normal pub turned out to be a Greek restaurant. Delicious, but rather more than we wanted to eat at that time of day.  And they produced glasses of something aniseedy and alcoholic at the end of the meal, so I drank the SW's as well as my own, which wiped me out for most of the rest of the afternoon!
We continued along the Weser to here, which is a town called Bodenwerder, where the Wohnmobilstellplatz is practically in the town centre. The SW went for a walk, but it was still very hot. It has cooled down now, and we hope the front is moving in.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

German Fairy-tale Tour, Wednesday 14

Today was a rest day, and Hann. Münden a very lovely town in which to spend it. We have done very little, apart from walking round the Old Town in the morning, and a load of washing this evening. Also deciding that we want to stay on the FTR until we get to Bremen, so not going to Braunschweig tomorrow but to another town that is on the route, whose name escapes me, but where I gather we can park right in the town centre, and to which we can get to via various noteworthy sights.

It is still very hot, but the forecast tells us the weather will break tomorrow night. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

German Fairy-Tale Tour, Tuesday 13

My parents' 64th wedding anniversary - they are on a cruise on the Rhone, and Mum says it is very hot there, too.

After breakfast we went for a walk in Fritzlar, which was just as lovely by day, and visited the Cathedral and the tourist office, where I found a map of the Fairy-tale route.


So we wandered along it to Hann. Munden, calling at all sorts of pretty little towns en route, and wonderful countryside in between.

Then we arrived in Hann. Munden, where the plan is to stay for two nights. The campsite isn't very nice, and at first we thought it was going to be awful, but realised they'd misunderstood what we wanted and put us in the motor-home side, which was foul. So we moved into the campsite proper, which is much nicer, although not brilliant.  I expect the one near Berlin will be worse, but the weather will have broken by then we won't mind so much.

The SW went for a walk, and I sat out and read, and we both sat out until it got too cold and midgey, and then came back into the van for supper. We have drunk rather more than was necessary, but not, I think, enough that we will regret it later. 

I am looking forward to visiting the town tomorrow, and getting some washing done.  And relaxing.

Monday, 12 September 2016

The German Fairy-Tale Tour, Monday 12

Oh, it's hot!  Unbearably hot. Even now, when it's been dark for a good hour, it's hot.  Forecast is for another two days of this, then the temperatures tumble before the weekend.
We went shopping this morning, and then drove to Marburg, which was nice, but a bit of a failure as we had parked a bit out of town, and although we found the Elisabethkirche
, which was lovely, we then decided to walk down a street called the Pilgrimsstein, which we thought would be nice but it wasn't - all modern, roadworks all the way along, and a horrendous concrete block for the university library. So we went back to the motor home and had lunch, and then drove to Schwalmstadt, but it was too hot and I couldn't cope with it so stayed in the van while the SW took a brief look.
Final stop of the day was Fritzlar, with a nice aire, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the town in the morning, before it gets too hot. We had a bit of a wander this evening, and then a meal in a not-very-nice pizzeria, and so back to the van, which is horribly hot.  But the joy of this holiday is all the little German towns we didn't know existed.... So pretty, most of them.

The German Fairy-Tale Tour, Monday 12

Oh, it's hot!  Unbearably hot. Even now, when it's been dark for a good hour, it's hot.  Forecast is for another two days of this, then the temperatures tumble before the weekend.
We went shopping this morning, and then drove to Marburg, which was nice, but a bit of a failure as we had parked a bit out of town, and although we found the Elisabethkirche
, which was lovely, we then decided to walk down a street called the Pilgrimsstein, which we thought would be nice but it wasn't - all modern, roadworks all the way along, and a horrendous concrete block for the university library. So we went back to the motor home and had lunch, and then drove to Schwalmstadt, but it was too hot and I couldn't cope with it so stayed in the van while the SW took a brief look.
Final stop of the day was Fritzlar, with a nice aire, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the town in the morning, before it gets too hot. We had a bit of a wander this evening, and then a meal in a not-very-nice pizzeria, and so back to the van, which is horribly hot.  But the joy of this holiday is all the little German towns we didn't know existed.... So pretty, most of them.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The German Fairy-tale Tour, Sunday 11

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, so it was nearly 10 before we set off to find the Park'n'ride to take us into Hanau.  Bring a Sunday, the buses only ran once an hour, but there were two going into town from where we were, and we didn't have to wait very long to catch one.
Hanau itself isn't very beautiful - it's mostly modern, although the statue of the Brothers Grimm, which is what we had gone to see, is older.  Also the Rathaus, just behind it.  We took photos and wandered around a bit, and then caught the other bus back to the van.
Our first port of call was also in Hanau, the Philipperuh palace, now a museum and restaurant.
   We had a look at that, and then drive to the town of Steinau, also associated with the Brothers. There was some kind of festival going on there but we finally found somewhere to park and wandered about the town a bit until we got to hungry, whereupon we went back to the motor home and had lunch.


Then we had a lovely drive cross country, along the Fairy-tale route (even the Satnav knew it was that!) to this place, called Alsfeld, I think, where we are in a proper aire, and have been able to empty the loo, which was getting urgent!  We also have electricity, and can fill up with water in the morning before we head on.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Gernan Fairy Tale Tour, Saturday 10

I suppose we still haven't really started on the Fairy-tale route, but today was all about Aachen. We got up early and caught the 09:14 train, which was of course late, to Aachen. We would have liked to have caught a bus up to the Cathedral, but we weren't sure which one or which way, so in the end we walked - it wasn't far. We stopped en route at the spa, where there is a display of the archaeology found around the area, from Roman times onwards.  When we got to the Cathedral it was closed for worship until 10:45, so we went and had a cup of coffee while we waited.  Slight disaster as we had sat in the seats outside one café and when we asked for Eiskaffee, the waitress explained that this was the café next door!  Oops!  So we had hot coffee instead.
I didn't really like Aachen cathedral, if I'm honest. Too ornately Baroque, or do I mean too Baroquely ornate, for my taste.  And it was too hot - I like my cathedrals to strike chill when I go in!  We couldn't see Charlemagne's tomb as it is upstairs, which you could only go to with a guided tour, and there weren't any just then. So we came away, and the Swan Whisperer said he would like to visit the Treasury, which was fabulous and I saw the reliquary holding Charlemagne's arm, which is what I really wanted to see!

Then we looked for a bus back to the station but just missed one, so walked, and then there wasn't time to buy a sandwich before our train back to Düren. This, for once, was on time and was a double-decker!
Once back at Düren we went to Also to pick up supplies for the weekend, including a not very nice sandwich each. Then we had another three hour drive to Hanau, or rather, Steinheim, on the outskirts, where we have parked up for the night. Tomorrow we visit the Brothers Grimm memorial and the start of the fairy tale route proper.