Monday, 25 December 2017
On Christmas Day, of course, there is no public transport in London, but one can park, so we drove up to Westminster and found a parking-space behind Westminster Central Hall, about ten minutes' walk from the pier. Boarding was supposed to start at 11:30, but when we arrived, about ten minutes earlier, they had already begun - and we were glad we had not been much later, since the queue behind us swelled to alarming proportions! In fact, there were three boats making the cruise.
We had booked a window table, and, once our ticket had been checked, were escorted to it with a glass of sparkling wine.
Thursday, 21 December 2017
Tuesday, 19 December 2017
Monday, 18 December 2017
What a difference a day makes! This time yesterday, we were shivering in bed, clad in our warmest pyjamas, bedsocks, jerseys or bed-jackets and hot-water bottles, and taking what felt like forever to warm up (although once we had, we were very warm and snug!). Now we are sitting round the table in our day clothes, vaguely thinking of heading off to bed. Yes, the heating has been fixed. It was, as we suspected, the thermostat, and the man showed us how to do a temporary fix should it happen again!
However, the place (recommended to us by the farmer's wife where we had spent the night) didn't open until 2, so we went into Sedan and did a bit of shopping and had lunch, and the SW went to have a quick look at the castle there - I found just walking round the supermarket reminded me too vividly of yesterday's fall - and we then had to think what to do next.
We could have resumed our itinerary and gone to Mons, as planned, but it would have been dark by the time we got there, so no point, really. So we came to the aire in Landrecies, where we have stayed before (the place where the fishermen talked all night, and where we stopped for lunch and found we'd forgotten the picnic table), and parked up for the night. Tomorrow we will revisit Cambrai before heading to Calais and a massive Christmas shop!
Sunday, 17 December 2017
Saturday, 16 December 2017
Friday, 15 December 2017
Thursday, 14 December 2017
At the Battle of Waterloo;
The wind blew up his trousers
And froze his doodle-doo!"
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Monday, 4 December 2017
The train left at 08:18 from King's Cross, which meant that for the second time this week we had to get up at sparrowfart (the first time was to blag a free breakfast from Pret à Manger, to celebrate the opening of its Brixton branch) to get there in time. In fact, we had time to grab a coffee from the local Prets, before boarding the train. We hadn't booked a private table, but when we sat down, the Swan Whisperer said to the woman opposite, "I know you, don't I?" and she turned out to be an old friend from Ice Dance Club, who hasn't actually been to our club since the old rink closed, and has since had two hip replacements, so she isn't quite sure when or whether she will skate again. It was lovely to see her, and to meet her son, who had treated her to the trip.
The brunch, I have to say, was slightly spoilt by the fact that the scrambled egg with smoked salmon was rather cold - it was very nice, but would have been nicer had it been hotter! The coffee, too, was not nearly as nice as Prets, although later when I had another cup it had got nicer (since I no longer had the taste of Pret coffee in my mouth!). But that was the only disappointment. There was fresh fruit salad to start with, and various pastries to finish.
We arrived in Durham on time, and there were coaches arranged to drop us nearer the cathedral. We hadn't been to Durham before, and found it quite a long pull up the hill to get there, but once we were there, it was lovely. There was a craft market in a marquee, and the entry fee was covered by our train fares, so we went in, and, incidentally, found the perfect Christmas present for my father! That was the only thing we bought, though. Then it was time to go into the Cathedral for the "Carols for All" service, which was excellent, although some people complained about the quality of the community choirs who were singing. Nothing wrong with them, only a little uncertain, not helped by the organist having failed to read his service sheet.... An excellent talk by one of the Canons, and an offer of a free copy of St Luke's Gospel (I declined, on the grounds that after 25 years as a preacher, I really thought I might just be familiar with it!). We then had a look round the Cathedral (I'm sorry I didn't take photographs, but my phone's battery only just held out as it was, and I knew it wouldn't if I tried), and then it was time to queue for the farmers' Christmas market in the Cloisters, which was lovely. We didn't buy anything, although I'd have liked some of the cheese, as going home in a hot train.... not a plan! I also tasted - was it there, or in the craft market? - some non-alcoholic ginger wine, which would have been lovely but was far, far too sweet for my taste!
Anyway, after a long look round, we found some loos, and then wandered back through the Cathedral and out into the main drag, deciding to go the other side past the marquee, which was a mistake as it meant we missed the mulled wine stall! The main market didn't seem very Christmassy, and I'm not sure whether or not it was meant to be a Christmas market. There were some Christmas-market type stalls, but not all. And the indoor market is obviously there all year round. There was a super wool shop, and I was really rather tempted.... but resisted!
We then decided to wander back towards where the buses would pick us up, as it was getting dark and we were tired, but it was awkward as we knew that if we went into a café we would want something to eat, but we didn't want to eat as we knew we were getting a huge dinner. Ended up in a pub - a bit early to drink, but half a pint of what proved to be a simply delicious lager for me, and of cider for the Swan Whisperer, and we were able to sit out, although the SW felt a bit cold. I was toasty warm - had been rather too hot all day!
So then we got back on to the coach and had to wait awhile at the station for our train. The waiting area was all very well, but the automatic doors didn't shut properly, and opened every time a car moved they would open, so the poor Swan Whisperer got very cold indeed, and even I was glad to move and get on the train.
Going home, I got to sit by the window - big deal, as there was nothing to see by then - and we were heading forwards, which I do marginally prefer. The meal was lovely - first there was a glass of champagne and nibbles, and then the starter, which was a trio of fish. I chose not to have that, as really it didn't sound very nice, so I got offered, and accepted, ham hock terrine, which was lovely. Then there was celeriac soup, but I declined that, too, and, having tasted the Swan Whisperer's, was rather glad I had as it didn't taste of anything much at all except a vague hint of cooked celery. The main course was a 3-bird roast with a bit of partridge on the top (I wouldn't have known that was what it was, to be honest!), brussels sprout purée, red cabbage, roast parsnip and fondant potato. It was very good, but I was so sleepy by then (I had fallen asleep between courses) that I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have done had I been wide awake. Then there was a cheeseboard, and then pudding - an individual Christmas pudding with brandy custard, which was OK, but not the nicest (I gave half of mine to the SW), but also a bit of chocolate mousse cake, which was lush, and a scoop of cherry sorbet, ditto! Then tea or coffee, if you wanted it, which I didn't, and a mince pie (I gave mine to the SW). Our fare apparently included £24 worth of drinks, so we each ordered a glass of wine - red for him, rosé for me - some fizzy water and a fruit drink for him. This was possibly a mistake, as we then didn't have a bill at the end, and those who did were taking the opportunity to tip the stewards quite heavily.
By the time all this had happened, we were nearly at King's Cross, and after a lovely day, I was very tired indeed! We were home just before 10:45 pm, after a lovely and memorable day!
Wednesday, 4 October 2017
After that, it was a long and dreary drive to Calais. Originally we had planned to break our journey somewhere in Belgium, but of course the extra day in Hungary put paid to that, and the long drive isn't impossible, just boring. There had been a couple of bad crashes on the border - the only crashes we saw all holiday, thankfully - which held us up for a bit, but not too badly. We stopped a couple of times for breaks and lunch, and arrived at Cité Europe at about 5:30. After a cup of tea, I went shopping in the Carrefour there, and the SW went for a walk, and then we decided to visit one of the restaurants in the Cité Europe instead of going to the Buffalo Grill like we usually do. Big mistake - the meal was foul. The snails were okay, but one of them was so tightly stuck in its shell that I had to break it to get it out. The duck was edible, I suppose, but its sauce was way, way too salty for my taste, and the potatoes that came with it were undercooked. Plus the helping was too large. Then I ordered crepes with jam for pudding - they were tepid, tough, and he'd sprinkled them with sugar and THEN expected me to put jam on them. I did eat one, but really.... not good. Won't be going to that restaurant again.
Sad to wake up this morning amid those motorhomes that were heading off on holiday as well as the ones coming home. Wishing we were going in the other direction, we presented ourselves to Eurotunnel hoping for an earlier crossing. Oh dear, disruptions, and a two hour delay.... but fortunately it caught up with itself and we crossed at our booked time of 11:20 - home in time for lunch, although then there were hassles with the builders who fill our car park each day and make it so impossible to come in and out.... sigh... how soon can we go away again?
Monday, 2 October 2017
Sunday, 1 October 2017
Friday, 29 September 2017
Thursday, 28 September 2017
Wednesday, 27 September 2017
Tuesday, 26 September 2017
Monday, 25 September 2017
Saturday, 23 September 2017
Friday, 22 September 2017
Thursday, 21 September 2017
Wednesday, 20 September 2017
Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Monday, 18 September 2017
Saturday, 16 September 2017
Friday, 15 September 2017
Thursday, 14 September 2017
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Monday, 11 September 2017
Scotland, even the Lowlands, is a lot further away than Brussels or Paris, so our first night was spent at a camp site near Knutsford. We arrived at about 5:45 pm, and settled in, and when I posted a check-in on Facebook, a kind friend let me know that we were very near the Jodrell Bank telescope. So the next morning, we headed off there to have a look.
We decided to have lunch there, but it really wasn't very nice - you ordered something - a piece of quiche, for instance, or a sausage roll - and were offered a choice of chips or salad. This was the "salad":
After this, we headed on and finally crossed into Scotland. We spent that night in a hotel car park - one of the nice pubs that allow motorhomes under the BritStops scheme - in Leadhills, which was as beautiful as ever, and on Friday morning we arrived at the Swan Whisperer's brother's home in East Kilbride. We went out to lunch with him and his wife and then set off to Stirling.
However, we decided to go via the new Forth crossing, as it had just opened. This was a Big Mistake, as, instead of just adding one hour to our journey, as we had anticipated, it added a good two hours! But it was worth waiting for:
The hotel did a really good breakfast, including haggis! After this, we assembled into two coaches - we were asked to use the same coach all day, so they could be sure they weren't leaving anybody behind - and set off for Dunblane, where we saw the Cathedral:
The Leighton Library (which opened specially for our group - the librarian was brilliant and very informative):
Our after-dinner speaker was the author Val McDermid, and very good she was, too! I think everybody enjoyed her talk on how the Chalet School had influenced her life and writing.
Peter and Jane Facebook blog and whose first book is due out next month. I think this was the first time she had been asked to speak, although I am very sure it won't be the last!
By then, the weather - which had been glorious on the Saturday - had closed in again, and the Swan Whisperer and his brother had also run out of things to do, so they came and picked me up, and we headed on. Because we were quite early, we decided to visit the Falkirk Wheel, which the SW and I had long wanted to see. It was well worth the detour, especially as we were lucky enough to see it in action:
Then we took the SW's brother home, and headed south as far as just outside Wigan, where there was a canalside pub that allowed us to park up (Britstoppers, again), and we had dinner there. The weather was dreadful, though - after dinner, I went straight back to the van, and was soaked to the skin. The SW, however, had waited a few moments while making himself comfortable - and was bone dry!
That pattern of weather continued all day today as we drove south, but we got home about 5:00 pm, ready to sort out the van and do some washing before heading off again in 48 hours!