Saturday, 30 July 2016

July Holiday: 30 July

We spent the night in the Cité Europe car park, as so often before, and in the morning I went over to Carrefour and did a last shop.  Maddeningly, they didn't have any dried flageolets, which I'd seen in every other supermarket I had shopped in during the week!  Grrr.  And I bought too much yoghurt and cheese, but we'll eat them.

Then it was time to go through the check in for the Shuttle - we were very unimpressed by the so-called heightened French security, they didn't even bother to look at our passports!  We squeezed on to the shuttle before the one we were booked on, which is always pleasing, and were back in the UK by about noon, UK time.  We stopped at Maidstone Services to have lunch, and were home by 14:30.  Now unpacked and tidied up (mostly) and catching up!

Friday, 29 July 2016

July holiday, 29 July

This morning it was time to visit the museum in whose grounds we had parked overnight.  It was just beside the longest canal tunnel in France, and it was about the way the boats were, and are, hauled through it by electric-powered boats on a chain.  There was quite a lot about the lives of the canal folk - very similar to that of their UK counterparts, although the barges are a lot wider, and the canal is still a way of life here.  Very interesting!
So we drove on up to Cambrai, stopping at a bakery for bread, and in a services to have lunch.  I got very sleepy after lunch, and by the time I came properly awake we were near St-Omer and looking at La Coupole, a planetarium-cum-history museum, which is where the V2 rockets were fired from. There wasn't time to go in to the museum, but we plan to do that another day.  The exhibits outside and in the visitor centre were superb.
Then it was across country to Calais, a quick nip into Auchan for milk, eggs and fruit juice for breakfast, and then dinner in the Buffalo Grill to use their WiFi (and enjoy a steak!).  We'll sleep in the Cité Europe car park, and then home at lunch time.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

July holiday, 28 July

I did NOT sleep well last night. Snuggled down around 10:30, and came awake at 01:00 needing to spend a penny, which is normal. Went straight back to sleep to be woken up a couple of hours later by very heavy rain, which meant I had to get up and close the skylights as the rain was coming in. And then I just didn't sleep well after that, so went back to sleep this morning after the SW had gone for his run.
After breakfast, we drove to the Armistice clearing and went to the museum there, which was rather super. They had a full-sized replica of the railway carriage in which it was signed, laid out as it had been, and then various exhibits about life in the trenches, including a huge collection of 3D photos that I couldn't look at for long as they made my eyes hurt. There were also displays of gifts made by soldiers and sent home, and explanations of some of the shifts they got up to - pipes and lighters, for instance, worked better than cigarettes and matches in the very wet trenches..... and other improvisations.
Then there was the 1940 room, showing how the museum had been destroyed or removed by the Nazis, with only the statue of Maréchal Foch allowed to remain.  And how it had been rebuilt in the 1950s.
Then we drove on, via the usual supermarket, a Super U this time, to a place called Ourscamp, where there was an abbey and where we had lunch, and then on through Noyon, where Jean Calvin was born, and so to this little village of Riqueval, where we are parked up in a canal museum courtyard (two spaces for motor homes, both now full, plus services), and will visit the museum in the morning.  The SW went for a walk and explored the area a bit.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

July holidays, 27 July

We didn't wake this morning until my phone alarm went off at 07:30, and by the time we were ready to leave Beauvais it was already after 10:00 am. Our first stop was (after a quick dash into an E Leclerc) Chantilly, where we parked with a wonderful view of the training gallops and the SW went for a walk while I got lunch.
After lunch, we drove to Senlis, which is a town you mostly go roaring past on your way to Paris, but is actually well worth a visit, with lovely cobbled mediaeval streets which we wandered round for a bit and then stopped while the SW had coffee and I had a Perrier.
Then it was on to Compiègne cross country, mostly through woodland with loads of walking, riding and cycle tracks criss-crossing it. And so on to this little village whose aire is said to charge €3 a night, but thus far nobody has come to collect it.
At first we were the only camping-car here, and there is masses of room, so we decided to see how the tent awning goes up. We need some tent pegs for it, and it was a steep learning curve, but we sort of managed it in the end and sat out to eat supper, which was mince and pasta, very good even if I do say so myself as shouldn't! 
Another van has arrived since, also British.  I think we will probably take the tent down before we go to bed, as it is not secured and the weather may deteriorate. It keeps threatening to, but thus far we've had lovely weather, not too hot but no rain.  We have not really needed either hats or macs.
And here is the farmer to collect our €3!  And we are taking down the tent, so soon time to settle down in the van for the night.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

July holiday, 26 July

A much less emotional day. The Swan Whisperer went for his run while I got breakfast, and then we used the services and headed on, first stop towards a supermarket which both Google and TomTom said was there, but wasn't.  However, we found one in the end, so all was well, and I even scored some lavender honey shower gel for MrsRev and me.
Then we decided to follow one of the circuits in our book, and headed to the village of Folleville, which was supposed to have a mediaeval site and church, but we found neither. Quite a pretty village, though, so we then had lunch and drove over to the preserved village of Gerberoy, which we liked, but I wouldn't care to live there.  So many of its inhabitants feel, judging by the number of For Sale signs around the place.

After that, on to Beauvais via a couple of other pretty villages, and we are parked up in a very nice aire with free services!

Monday, 25 July 2016

July Holiday, 25 July

After breakfast this morning we followed the satnav to the Arras Memorial, and found my great-uncle's name on the Flying Services Memorial. The cemetery and memorial were very lovely, and I took a lot of photos.
Arras provided a free shuttle bus into town (in hindsight, we'd have done better to have gone to that car park last night, but we didn't know that), so we took that and explored the city centre for a bit, and bought memorial crosses in the Tourist Office (sold by the British Legion, not a do-the-tourist scam). Then we caught the bus back to the car park and had lunch, and then, after placing the memorial cross, and taking a photo of a friend's great-grandfather's grave for her, we drove to Thiepval, where we found my other great-uncle's name on the memorial where they said it would be. Rather high up so difficult to photograph, but we managed in the end, and left the cross. 
Then the Swan Whisperer went to explore the Ulster Memorial a few hundred metres away, and then we drove to Amiens and the aire here, just outside the camp site but half the price.
The Swan Whisperer went to explore the area, and I got supper, and now just lazing around until bedtime. A very moving day.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

July holiday, 24 July

It wasn't the road traffic that kept us awake, it was the seagulls at 4:00 am, and the pigeons at 5:00!  We got up about 7, and the Swan Whisperer went for a run while I got dressed and breakfast. When we had cleared up, we caught a bus into Whitstable and went to the service at the Baptist Church, where the Daughter's Godmother's husband is the minister.  Lovely service except we sang "Teach me to dance", which i like, but is such an earworm!

After this, we caught the bus back to the motor home and had lunch, and then set off for Folkestone. We soon realised we were going to be far too early, which they do ask you not to be, so we parked in a Forestry Commission car park and the SW went for a walk. We had been told there would be a wait of about 30 minutes to check in and then a delay of about an hour before crossing, and that was pretty accurate, but we got across at last and drove down to Arras. The aire we had hoped to park in was full, but there is on-street parking, so we have parked up across the road from it.  And are having supper and then what will be an early night by UK standards, but France is, of course an hour ahead.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

July holiday, 23 July

We slept well in the aire in Canterbury last night, and were up betimes in the morning.  We set off about 10. First stop Halfords for more loo chemical, and we also bought a clip-on bin for the van. We then drove down to the former airport at Manston to the Spitfire and Halifax Memorial Museum as we had planned to spend the night there and wanted to see if it was gated (it isn't).  We visited the museum and had lunch in the café there, very nice, and then the Swan Whisperer went to the RAF museum in the same site while I had a nap. 

The Daughter's godmother lives in Whitstable, and when she heard we were in the area, she invited us over. They were busy all day but told us where to look for parking and we arranged to meet in the evening. In the end, we found a long-stay car park where we could park overnight, and we had our supper and then she came to meet us and walked us back to her house along the sea front.  We spent a very pleasant couple of hours with her and her husband, and then they walked us back to where it was just half a mile or so along the road to the car park.

Friday, 22 July 2016

July holiday, 21 and 22 July

We decided to profit from the daughter's being away next week to have a short holiday ourselves. But by the time we decided, all off-peak and most peak crossings were fully booked until Sunday evening. But we decided to have a few days in Kent, as although we pass through it often enough, it's not really a place we know.
We set off at about 7:30 last evening, to spend the first night at a café (a former Little Chef, now independent) at Gate Services, where they said you could spend the night.  It advertised itself as being open until 10:00 but was firmly closing when we arrived just after 9.  We were not impressed (managed to get junk food in the petrol station which was open 24 hours), and less so this morning when they served instant coffee with breakfast!  I could have sent it back and asked for a cafetière instead, but life was too short.  And they ran out of mushrooms so we couldn't have them in our breakfast. Very unimpressed.
We moved in to the New Dover Road Park and Ride outside Canterbury, which has a proper motorhome aire, so rare in this country. It is very crowded, but hey...  And after lunch we caught the bus into Canterbury. We had a good walk along the main shopping drag and up to a farmers market place near the West station, which had been recommended to me by Abbeybufo. We bought some strawberries and some cherry tomatoes, and also an ice each - I had brown bread ice cream (yummy) and the Swan Whisperer had coffee. 
We walked back into town a slightly different way and went to the Cathedral, which was wonderful. I've never met a cathedral in so many levels before, and we saw where Thomas a Beckett had been murdered. When I was little, I'd thought it was at the pub that bears his name in Broadwater, where my brother's school had lunch each day, and was so disappointed when I learnt it was miles away.... But I've seen it now.  And the rest of the Cathedral. I know I post nothing but photos of cathedrals, it seems, but no two are alike....
Then a much-needed cup of tea, and back to the Park and Ride, where we are enjoying a drink before I get supper.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

TfL Transported by Design

On summer Sundays, Regent Street is apt to close for special events.  Two years ago, there was the Bus Cavalcade, and today there was the Transported by Design exhibition.

There are some excellent photos on the BBC report of the event.

Two years ago, The Boy was not quite four and Boy Too was about 9 months.  Now he is nearly 6 and his brother is 2 3/4.  It makes a huge difference - Boy Too was loving the exhibits, especially the ones he could climb on or get into, while The Boy was able to read the captions and generally realise far more what was happening than that someone had put all these buses there for his pleasure.

I didn't enjoy the exhibition as much as I'd liked the Bus Cavalcade.  There were several old buses, a tube carriage ("The same as the one in the Transport Museum" said The Boy - it probably was that one) and a couple of taxis, but after that it was rather more static exhibitions about the present and the future of transport design.  The most popular - from the boys' point of view, anyway - was a giant London train set, with Tower Bridges, buses, and Underground trains.  Both boys were promptly absorbed, and the Daughter worried about an exit strategy, but in the event Boy Too is learning to do without nappies and didn't quite make it ("I'm all wet!" he said, ecstatically), and once he had been put in dry clothes, The Boy came away very cheerfully, with no sulking.

There were also things you could colour in, and people giving out free yo-yos and boxes of peppermints, and endless stickers.  And various concession stalls.  "Frozen yoghurt!" said the Boy, blissfully, but we pointed out that there were six of us (Mrs Rev had joined us for the afternoon, lovely to see her) and it would be too expensive.  I noticed the Swan Whisperer eyeing the ice pops stall thoughtfully, but again, probably too expensive if you bought one for all of us.

But I don't think any of us were really sorry to arrive at Oxford Circus and meet the boys' father who had come to join them.  And The Boy went into one last tent to do one last colouring, and we went our separate ways.