Monday, 7 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 7 August

So our final morning dawned.  We were booked on the 13:36 crossing, so didn't need to hurry.  The Swan Whisperer went out for a final walk after breakfast, and then we set off to the big Auchan near Calais, where he used the services and I did a final shop.  It was rather fun, actually, as we hadn't ever approached Calais from that particular direction before, and we were interested to see a Shuttle train doing its terminal loop before approaching the station.

Then to the Eurotunnel terminal, where we checked in very quickly, but then got caught in a long queue for passport control.  However, we got through in the end, and had about 30 minutes to wait, during which various bits of packing and tidying were done.  Then finally on to the shuttle, which was ten minutes late.  We had lunch on the crossing, and finally got home just before 3:00 pm.  I slept all the way, so was able to help with the unpacking and putting-away, and since then I have made jam!

The van will go to its Sussex home tomorrow, and our next adventures in it will be at the beginning of September.  There may, of course, be other things happening in August!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 6 August

A lazy Sunday morning, so we set off at about 10:15 towards Guines, stopping in Montreuil for bread.  We got here and found the France Passion site where we have camped. The site is parking attached to St Joseph Village, a reconstruction of French village life in the first half of the 20th century.
It was a very odd place indeed - the brainchild of a single man, and much of the work seems to have been done by him alone. The first port of call was an agricultural museum, which, as so often in these places, made us feel old by having implements we remember from our childhoods. Less so than many, as of course the brands weren't the same, but the designs were!
 Then a fairground with a half-sized Gypsy caravan, rather lovely, swung boats, a roundabout, etc, and a short display of washing machines then and now.
Then a row of reconstructed shops - quite interesting, but nothing one hadn't seen a zillion times before. The next bit was arguably the most interesting; the "faith quarter", with a lovingly reconstructed Stations of the Cross, taken from a church that was being demolished, and several different chapels, including one that the man had built single-handed, together with copies of his testimony. 
There was a path that led down to a hide overlooking a lake, and we spent some time watching swallows and swifts swooping down to catch insects.  Then back to the village with its schoolroom, the "Salle des fêtes" now used as a museum of all the bits he couldn't find room for elsewhere, a windmill, and a seemingly endless stream of workshops, garages, cycle repair shops, sawmill, etc. Very dull unless you happen to like knowing which spanner was used for what!

And, finally, back to the main drag with a tea rooms and a restaurant that does lunches but not dinners.  We decided that tea made with boiling water is, as always, nicer than that made with tepid, so came back to the motor home.

It was interesting, but a little too much about the maker, how clever he was and how pious, and how clever to be best friends with Bernard Hinault, etc.  And no history at all - nothing about either war that had such a devastating impact on France during those years.  Still, I'm glad I went.

But there were donkeys, and, on our way back to the motor home, even baby donkeys!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 5 August

Of course, having gone as far as Arras, we then decided to retrace our steps slightly when we discovered there was a preserved railway at Le Crotoy!  So the morning was taken up by a pretty drive across country, visiting various small villages en route, and a supermarket, and we would have liked to have visited the Abbey church of St-Riquier, but it was closed until 2. 
So we had lunch in a community centre car park somewhere, and then headed on to Crotoy, where we parked rather badly (and got a ticket - they say they will send it to our home address, so no point worrying until we see whether they do or not) and went off to the narrow-gauge railway.
The railway runs as far as Noyelles-sur-mer (it isn't at all on the sea, so don't know why it's called that), and then swaps engines with the other train and heads out backwards to St-Valéry-sur-Somme, where there was just time to stretch one's legs and take some pictures before the return journey. We made sure to sit in a rather more comfortable carriage on the way back - the plain wooden seats were not the most comfortable ever; the padded ones were marginally better!

After that, we had a much-needed cup of tea, and then decided to come to this place - a France Passion place in a meat-preserving factory!  We drove via Crécy, and made a brief detour to see the site of the eponymous battle, which is basically a field full of cows, although there is a car park. We decided not to stop, but came on here. The shop is, thankfully, closed, but we were warmly welcomed by the proprietor, who wished us a pleasant evening.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 4 August

For me, particularly, today has been a much-needed rest day. We have driven about Hauts-de-France, finding first a Lidl to do some shopping (leaves the one at home standing!), then a lake near the banks of the Somme where we had lunch, and then in the afternoon we drove to a town called Doullens, where there was a citadel, which we looked at the outside of, and a museum which we should perhaps have visited. It also had services, which we used (€2), and we had a cup of tea.
After which we decided to go to Arras again and park up in the big car park by the cemetery where my uncle's name is on the Royal Flying Services Memorial, where we plan to spend the night. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 3 August

Discovered today that the region is actually called Hauts-de-France, not Grand Nord (which I'm sure I read somewhere that it was going to be called), so have edited everything.
I made an effort this morning and we were up and doing somewhat earlier than on other mornings.  We discovered how to use the local buses and caught one into the main part of town, which we wandered round, including visiting the Cathedral (which we also did a few years ago with a friend), and then a cup of coffee in a local café. We walked back to the station (where the buses went to and from) and did a little shopping in a local supermarket before returning to the van for lunch.
Then it was time to go to the Hortillonages, a series of gardens in the extensive canal network around the town.  You go on a boat trip - only €6 for an hour, excellent value - and the various gardens range from bare earth to jungle, via some lovely displays of flowers.

The canals themselves were full of wildlife - mallard, coot, a moorhen.... Only snag was the guide who was appalling and didn't really tell us anything. He kept saying do ask if you have any questions, but he never knew the answers, so what was the point?  But it was a lovely ride and well worth it!
Then back to the van for a cup of tea. I had hoped to go out again and make the most of my day ticket, but exhaustion overcame me and I slept. The SW went for a walk, though. 

Now we have anything really planned until Sunday; don't know what we shall do for the next couple of days!  We will need to use a services soon, and I need to shop (again!), but we have no real idea what we shall do. Watch this space.....

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 2 August

We had been going to go to the Hortillonages in Amiens today, and to the prehistoric museum at Samara tomorrow, but the Swan Whisperer rightly pointed out that, actually, Samara was on our route into Amiens, so we might as well swap them round. 

So we did, finding an Aldi to shop at en route, and arrived at the Samara car park in time for lunch. They meanly put a height barrier in place at night to stop camping-cars spending the night, but we are welcome in the daytime. We had our lunch, and then bought entrance tickets and went in.
I have to admit that I was disappointed with it.

There was lots to see, and we went on a guided tour of the main building following a guide whose mission it was to debunk "history" (eg they wouldn't have dug pits for woolly mammoths as the ground was frozen solid), but after that it went downhill, as nobody seemed to be doing any reconstruction or experimental archaeology except one potter and a flint-knapper, and the animal enclosures were all empty. I suppose it is better in term time, but the place was heaving with families. Plus there was an awful lot of walking, mostly uphill, between things; I flaked out before the end and left the Swan Whisperer to explore the marsh area on his own while I went back to the van and had a very welcome cup of tea!

So only one star, I think. We then drove on into Amiens and are parked in a public car park with several other motor homes, not too far from the Hortillonages, and I am making shakshuka for supper. And drinking the cider from last night - the apple juice, which we started at lunch time, is a great deal nicer than the sample we tasted!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Hauts-de-France, 1 August

Another very leisurely start to the day, during which we wandered round the leisure centre and saw where they rented pedalos and ran the Teleski from. There were a bunch of children in tents, and some kind of pods where people could sleep, although I've no idea what they did for sanitation.
We also saw the first ride of the day, some of the children obviously experienced, others less so.
After coffee, we headed to Mers-les-Bains, first of all calling in at the local aire to use the services. It was a privately-run site, and not free, but the very kind man who ran it said not to pay his fees as we weren't stopping, but to go to the Auchan petrol station instead, which would be cheaper.
So we said we would do that, but first decided to wander round the town. Mers-les-Bains is a lovely place - much of it is a conservation area from the Belle Epoch, with the houses decorated in Art Nouveau and Art Deco style.  It isn't very big - we walked most of the length of the beach, and then back through the town, and had a croque-monsieur in a café on the seafront, and an ice cream from the place next door. Then back to the motor home - amazingly, we hadn't had to pay for parking - and I went to the Auchan while the Swan Whisperer dealt with the services.

Then we went for a drive across country, trying to find where the daughter had been on an archaeological dig many years ago - it did not, until too late, occur to either of us to ring her up and ask if she remembered - and finally came to this orchard where we are spending the night. It sells apple juice (too sweet for my taste) and rather nice cider, so we bought a bottle of each.
There is another motor home parked here - the first time we've had company so far this holiday; surprising, really, since it is the height of the high season.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Hauts-de-France, 31 July

We had a leisurely breakfast and then visited the Blockhouse d'Eperlèques, in whose car park we had spent the night. The museum turned out to be basically a walk around, and in, the enormous structure, with various stops where sound broadcasts (in a variety of languages, including English) told you about it. The first stop was a cattle truck with sound effects to show a tiny bit of how it might have been. Only not really, as you could move and get out at any time!

The other sites told of the history of the building, how it had been intended to arm and fire up to 12 V2 rockets per day. However, a huge bombing raid in 1943 destroyed much of the work in progress (and, sadly, many of the slave labourers who had to work on it), and they cut back on their plans. I think it did still provide liquid oxygen to fuel the rockets, but not the rockets themselves.  The Allies finally liberated the site in 1944.

Then we headed off, stopping in a random Auchan for supplies, and we had lunch in its car park, and then again at the Hyper-U in Abbeville for diesel.  And so to the Lieu Dieu, a former abbey that now hosts a variety of random countryside activities, and welcomes motor homes under the France Passion scheme.  We are the only ones here, surprisingly -another one came in but went away again.  Out of one side there is a stream, and on the other a field full of horses!  And I can hear poultry and ducks!  Lovely.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Hauts-de-France 30 July

The two regions of France that used to be Nord-Pas de Calais and Picardie have been concatenated and are now known as Hauts-de-France and this is where we are spending the week.

We were up early this morning to load the motor home, and then I was preaching, but we came away quickly and, after lunch, set off for Folkestone. Unfortunately, there was quite a long delay, as we didn't get away until nearly 6:00pm rather than the 4:30 we had booked.  Which meant it was past 7:30 French time before we got off the shuttle, and a 45 minute drive here, to Eperlecques, where we plan to visit the blockhouse tomorrow before heading on.  And I have made a chicken casserole, and we are just going to eat it.  And then, it may be early, but I want my bed!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Great Central Lament

Yesterday was my 64th birthday, and the Swan Whisperer gave me the present of a Railtour, called the Great Central Lament.  He even splashed out for First Class Dining, and I am very glad he did, as, unlike on the Railtour we went on last November, there weren't any stops where food could be had.

We had to be at Finsbury Park for 7:49 am, so got up at silly o'clock and were away by 7:00.  Finsbury Park is NOT a user-friendly station, nothing but steps, firstly up from the Victoria Line to street level, and then more steps up to the Network Rail platforms.  My poor knees - and I was certainly not the oldest and lamest person on the tour, by a long way.

The train came in on time and we found our seats - an old Pullman carriage (built in 1956, I was told later)  - at a beautifully-laid table.
I was hungry by then, having only a cup of tea inside me, but they took a long time to serve breakfast, which was orange juice, the choice of porridge or fresh fruit with  yoghurt and almond slivers, then a Full English or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and tea and coffee, plus various rolls and toast, including a chocolate twist that I accidentally took the last one of.... so I shared it with the Swan Whisperer, and then he got another one so shared it with me.  It was really rather good.  He had the porridge, although I told him he wouldn't like it as it was sweetened and had fruit in it, but he said it was actually quite nice.  I had the fruit.  And we both had the Full English, although I declined the bubble-and-squeak and baked beans that came round later.

We had hoped we had the full four seat bay to ourselves, but were joined at Stevenage by a very nice couple - it was her birthday treat, too - and they were very knowledgeable about railways and so on, which was nice.  The route we went was as follows:
I expect you can read it if you click on the image to enlarge it.  We went up the West Coast Main Line as far as Peterborough, and then all through the wilds of the old Great Central Line, including some Network Rail test track.  We stopped at the closed station of Ollerton to stretch our legs.

When we got back on the train, lunch was ready - a baked potato with coleslaw and cheese, and tea or coffee if you wanted it (which I didn't, at that stage). 

The train rolled on throughout the afternoon, sometimes running late, sometimes making up the time and having to wait for itself.  We knitted (my seatmate and I did; the menfolk didn't!), dozed, and enjoyed watching the beautiful English countryside, truly at its best at this time of year, roll by.  There were some interesting rail depots, too. 

Dinner was served quite early, and was a bit of a marathon.  The first course was a choice of prawn skewers (which the Swan Whisperer chose as he doesn't get prawns at home) or Crème du Barry soup, which is a posh name for cream of cauliflower soup, and very good it was, too.  This was followed by roast pork with all sorts of vegetables and apple sauce.  I know there was cod on offer, too, but I don't know what, if anything, they supplied for vegetarians; it is possible there were none on the tour, but I think you had to say when booking if this was what you wanted.  Anyway, I didn't want, so that was all right.  Then there was a choice of sweet or savoury - we all had the sweet, which was a delicious lemon tart with a fresh berry compote and cream, yummy, and, just as you thought you couldn't eat another mouthful, there was the cheeseboard!  I didn't have much cheese, but a token amount.  And they very kindly found me some lemon to have in my tea - I had had rather a lot of coffee with breakfast and didn't want any more that day - so that was nice, too.  And chocolates, which would have been nicer had they been chilled, but you can't have everything....

Meanwhile the train rolled on; the tables were cleared and people dozed or chatted.  Our new friends got out at Stevenage, so we had the table to ourselves for the last half hour and could get our things together ready to get out when we got back to Finsbury Park.  And down all those stairs, then straight on to a Victoria Line train and so home.

It really was a lovely day.  Quite apart from the pleasure of being on a train - always enjoyable - it was very luxurious, and the views from the train windows of the English countryside (and of Sheffield, if you like views of Sheffield!) were magnificent.  Most people would have liked a second leg-stretch before dinner, though, and were sorry there was no opportunity for one.  But it was a lovely day.  England really is beautiful on a summer's day.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 7 June

So we are home!  We were up betimes this morning and as soon as Carrefour opened I went in to buy a few last-minute things - as always, I thought I only wanted coffee and bread for lunch, but ended up buying other bits that I like (mayonnaise in a tube, French tinned peas, various teas and tisanes and a new pair of flip-flops, mine, which I use as bedroom slippers during the summer, having demised the day before yesterday!). 

After this, we decided to investigate the motorhome dealers in Calais, of which I had heard good reports.  We bought a new bin, and a new set of levelling blocks, one of ours having been accidentally left in Vienna, and then my husband saw one of those containers with pockets in, and said he would buy that, but it would be too big for beside my bed.  Ever since we have had the motor home, I have struggled with the lack of a bedside table - but I have several perfectly good cosmetic bags which unroll, and a couple of hooks.... problem solved!  Just when I can't spend the night in the machine to test it!  Oh well....  I don't quite know why I didn't think of that before - my spectacles, Kindle, overnight medications (mostly peppermint spray for a dry mouth) and little clock can all be much more easily available than when they are under my pillow.  Still won't be able to drink a cup of tea in bed, though - looking forward to that tomorrow morning!

We also tried to get a new lock for the gas cupboard, but to no avail.  Then it was less than 2 hours before our booked crossing, so we went straight to the terminal and were given a crossing an hour earlier than the one we'd booked on.  Stopped at Maidstone services to have lunch, and then home very quickly, and now have unloaded the van and unpacked.

More adventures soon.....

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 6 June

We have been in four different countries today, as every time we crossed a border, Virgin Mobile  texted twice to tell me I could now use my allowances and no longer needed to buy a pass. I knew that!  Plus the fees for out-of-allowance use, which I am unlikely to need to know.

So we started off in Düren, in Germany, and our first stops were in an Edeka to do some take-home shopping (most sausages and bread mix, and Schwäbische Maultäschen!) and at a nearby petrol station for diesel.

Then it was off on the long trek across Holland (the Maestricht peninsula) and Belgium as far as Ghent. For once, all the accidents were on the other side of the motorway, and the jams on our side weren't too bad.  It was the weather that was appalling - heavy rain and very strong winds - and when we parked up in Ghent the thought of getting out of the motor home and finding out way into the city was distinctly unappealing.

The Swan Whisperer did get out and go for a walk, but he said transport links into the city seemed few and far between.  So we decide to drive on as far as Dunkerque, where we stopped for a very good meal.

We half thought of spending the night parked up in front of the rink there, but it is very exposed, so we thought not, and drove the last hour down to Calais and are parked up in the Cité Europe, but, along with all the other motor homes there (it is busy tonight), we are "hove to" with our backs to the wind.  It is very noisy, but because the van isn't badly shaken with every gust, we have known worse!

Oberstdorf and Austria, 5 June

It was supposed to be the day roaming charges ended in Europe, but when I woke up early and grabbed my phone, it was still telling me I had to buy a pass.  I was unimpressed, but decided to give them an hour or so, and to ring them up if it was still saying so at breakfast time.  I went back to sleep, and when I woke an hour later, I had data again.  So that was all right! Was less impressed when I went to have my shower to find we'd forgotten to turn the hot water on and I had to wait 20 minutes, but we were in no rush.

It was a Bank Holiday in Germany, but the local café-cum-bakery was open and doing a roaring trade. I bought rolls for lunch (we had them for supper, too) and a delicious flan with blackcurrants and redcurrants for lunch pudding.
We drove on the motorway in the morning, as with it being a public holiday there were no lorries, but Bank Holiday traffic is the same everywhere, and the Satnav was warning of jams ahead, so we came away and went cross country.

This was only a little better, as we were going past the Nurburgring at the time, where it turned out that the Rock am Ring - Germany's biggest rock festival - had just finished.  What one could see of the place bore eloquent testimony to that - absolutely knee-deep in detritus, with volunteers picking it up and putting it in black sacks. Horrifying - why can't people make sure that they have all their rubbish with them, and that, when they leave the camp site, nobody could tell they'd been there?  Anybody brought up in the country, or who has ever been in the Scouts or similar movements, would know to do that without being told - are we really such a minority?

Anyway, we eventually arrived here at Düren via some hair-raising spaghetti of roads - hairpin bends all over the place, not fun!  The SW went for his usual walk - there is a river here he likes which is why we came here for the night rather than just using the services and then parking up in the station car park, which is cheaper.  I have come awake early as my window was open and I was not quite warm enough, but have remedied that now....

Monday, 5 June 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 4 June

The weather broke in the night with thunder and heavy rain, and a gust of wind blew or dustbin out the door and broke it. Oh well...  They are not expensive.

We had 346 kilometres to drive, but German motorways on a Sunday are pretty much lorry-free, and it was far cooler than it has been - almost unpleasantly so, in fact. The first 30km or so was on the B8, and then just before Regensburg we joined the A3 and stayed on it more or less all the way. We are parked up in a car park we have been to before, just outside Hanau; I only vaguely remember it and the SW doesn't remember being under the flight path to Frankfurt airport!
He went out for a long walk last night, including to a confiserie we had passed that was open to buy our Pentecost cheesecake, which we had for supper pudding.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 3 June

So we started the long homeward trek today. The worst thing about the van is it doesn't have air-conditioning, and today was very hot. Fine for me, I could, and did sleep much of the time, but the SW has to drive.

We went out to Schonbrunn before setting off, just to have a quick look at it, and we also did some shopping and got diesel.
  We went on the motorway as far as Passau, stopping a couple of times to stretch and once to eat ice cream, and then drive along the Danube to our parking space in the middle of nowhere!  Very peaceful, except for an elderly German gentleman who insisted on making friends while I was trying to get supper, but he was rather a sweetie!

Oberstdorf and Austria, 2 June

Yesterday was All About Vienna.  We knew we would have to pace ourselves, so didn't set off until about 9:30, giving the rush hour a chance to get over, too.  The camp site is about 800 metres from the U-Bahn (there is a bus, but only every 30 minutes on weekdays and we had just missed it), and it didn't take long to get into the centre of town, where we wandered through the parks and past the Hofbrunn palace complex (I'm sure you used to be able to walk through it, but we must have been in the wrong part to do that).  And so into the old town where we had coffee, and then walked past the Stefansdom (Mass was being said, so we couldn't really visit it).  We caught a bus to the Naschmarkt, more of a tourist trap than ever, where we had lunch.  We could probably have walked, but I had a blister which was getting sorer by the minute.

Then a visit to an apothecary for blister plasters (oh, the relief!), and a bus to where we could change to a tram.  We wanted Line 1 of the U-Bahn, to take us out to Kagran, where we had been some years ago now to watch friends skating.  The ice rink, of course, is closed for the summer, although they were still advertising their hockey team outside.  There is also a large shopping mall, the Donauzentrum, but it seemed tiny compared to Westfield, and even to Cité Europe, and the ice creams we scored there were not very nice.

We had seen there was a bus that would take us down to "our" U-Bahn station, so we took it, and I regret to say waited 25 minutes to go all of one stop on the next one, which dropped us outside the campsite.  And a nap, a cool shower, a light supper, and a very early bed!  I was very, very tired!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 1 June

Today started off in Graz. We found you could buy a day-ticket for public transport for €5, so we went over to the tram stop and hopped on the nearest tram, only to go off again a couple of stops later to go back and lock the side door of the van! Fortunately either nobody had noticed, or the homeless gentleman with whom we had shared our breakfast had kept an eye on it, as all was well.

Then back into town, this time right up into the centre and beyond, to go up the funicular to the Schloßberg, which was full of school children (all of Graz was, it was some kind of children's day).  So we came back down, after admiring the view,
and walked round the Old Town for a bit, but it was mostly rather Euro-high-Street and very much designed for tourists, so we came away and caught a tram to the central station, had coffee, and then caught a bus back to the P&R.

I did some shopping in the local Lidl, and then we set off for Vienna, stopping to have lunch in the first service area and then later when the SW needed a break. The traffic into the city was dreadful, although the SW says he reckons the M4 is worse.  Perhaps he's right.

We got to the campsite in the end, and very nice it is, too, and near the Métro. We have a full day to explore tomorrow, and I expect we'll make the most of it.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 31 May

The storm continued unabated during the first part of the night - at one point, enormous hailstones landing on the roof made it impossible to hear ourselves speak!  And the last loud bang of thunder was just that: "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!" like that, before dying away. And so we slept, as the rain gradually petered out, too.

In the morning, it was still a bit cloudy, but we went out to explore the local Schloß on an island in what turned out to be the Traunsee. 

You had to pay to go in, but there were two museums, one about the history of the place, and the other about climbing, and mountain rescue on, the Traunberg. 

After that, it was time to move on so we drove to Graz down a rather hairy motorway with lots of tunnels, which gave the sat nav indigestion!  What slightly annoyed us was that yesterday we had bought our vignette to entitle us to drive on "All the motorways in Austria", as it says on the back, but twice there was a tollbooth where we had to pay again!  Ah well, I suppose they have to pay for the tunnels somehow, but they might have warned us!

Anyway, eventually we got to the place in Graz where we are going to spend the night and found that, as we had been warned might happen, it was full.  It is a Park'n'Ride, so we assumed it would get empty later (it hasn't much, so far), and decided that, because we were within reach of the Slovenian border, we would head down that way and visit the town of Maribor (Mauberg, in old money) before coming back.  

We realised that we would have to buy a vignette for Slovenia, too, and we agreed we had rather "had" motorways for one day, so we came off at Leibnitz (which, alas, was not home to the eponymous biscuit, but was still rather pretty), and then continued on the slower roads to Maribor.
And a slow, and thundery, journey back - had to flash our passports at the frontier - but we found a parking space in the P&R and have parked up for the night.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Oberstdorf and Austria, 30 May

I decided that, as the showers on-site looked really nice - not the swimming pool type you can only really wash your hair in, I would treat myself to one (they were €1 each, and I only had 1 coin) and it would have been perfect had the hot water lasted just 30 seconds longer so I could have rinsed my conditioner out. Not really a problem as, once I was dressed, I could rinse my head in one of the washbasins provided, but even still.....

We used the services and then said a sad farewell to the Achensee, driving down into the Inn valley (stopping first to buy a vignette for the Austrian motorway system), and stopping to shop in a place called Wörgl, and then headed on. It is a function of what was left of Austria after 1919 and the peculiar geography of the valley that it is quicker, when travelling from Innsbruck to Salzburg, to go via Germany​.  We told the Satnav we wanted to stop in Bad Reichenhall for lunch, as we had been to several skating camps there back in the day, and we had a lovely walk remembering former landmarks and discovering new ones.

After lunch we set off again to our overnight stop in Gmunden, but it was so hot and boring motorway that I slept through most of it. The SW went for a short walk when we arrived, but had to come back as there was a thunderstorm going on, which has eased for the moment but was very violent for a while there!

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, which 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 and 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!