Thursday, 15 June 2017
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.
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:
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
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
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!
Monday, 5 June 2017
Saturday, 3 June 2017
Thursday, 1 June 2017
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
Monday, 29 May 2017
Saturday, 27 May 2017
Friday, 26 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
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
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
Sunday, 21 May 2017
Saturday, 20 May 2017
Friday, 19 May 2017
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Having been far too hot most of yesterday, it then proceeded to rain all night. Very little wind - or we were sheltered - so very soothing for one's night's sleep.
I went out first thing to try to find the bakery, but couldn't, which was dim of me, but the Swan Whisperer knew where it was and went out rather more successfully. We set off just after 10:00, and told the Satnav we wished to go via Verdun and Metz, which again was fairly slow, but enjoyable. However the first port of call was to the services in Reims, which were rather necessary, and then our journey proper could begin.
We stopped for lunch on the far side of Verdun, and afterwards we stopped for diesel. And then we arrived here, at the Ferme du Steinbach, which we stopped at on our last trip, too. We bought some cheese, and a saucisson sec for the Swan Whisperer, and treated ourselves to an ice cream - mine was strawberry and his was coffee, and very good they were, too.
The SW hadn't had any exercise for a couple of days as it was too hot yesterday and this morning too wet, so he went out on a ramble for a couple of hours (the weather here being delightful, although a little humid still) and texted me, very amused, to say that he was walking along the border between France and Germany, and Google maps was showing all the paths on the French side, but none on the German. "Here be dragons!"
We tried to go out to dinner in the village but the two restos in our price range were closed and the third far too expensive, so we came away and I cooked aubergine pasta with some of the goats cheese, and it was lush! Lidl's Creme Caramel rather a come-down for pudding, but also very good.
Wednesday, 17 May 2017
Today was hot. Even when we woke, at just before 7, French time, it wasn't cold. After breakfast I weft over to the Carrefour and did a little shopping, and then after getting diesel, we set off.
It was a long, hot old drive to Chaméry, especially as we didn't use the motorway. I drove for a little, but mostly dozed. We stopped for lunch at the Aire in Landrecies, where we had spent the night last time, and rather annoyed to find we'd left the picnic table at home, so we had to eat in the motor home.
We thought the tyres might be a bit low, but when we tested then they seemed fine. The first two petrol stations we tried didn't have air, but third time lucky.
We were the only people in the aire when we arrived, although there is another van here now. We do have our chairs, so we sat out and read for a bit, and then I got supper. It is cooling down now, thankfully, and I expect I'll go to bed and read.
Such an easy journey yesterday it is hardly worth commenting on! I did a lot of loading up in the morning, and packed all my clothes away, except my coat and shoes, then went to look after my grandsons for the afternoon. Got home about 6:00, we had supper at 6:45 and were away shortly after 8. I fell asleep on the motorway, and was very surprised to find we were already at the check-in. A 10-minute wait and then we were off. I got into my night clothes and then knitted until we arrived, when we had a cup of tea and a snack - supper had been a long time ago - and then bed about 1:00 French time. Came awake just before 7, have had my tea and am about to shower, dress and get breakfast! It is a lovely morning.
Monday, 1 May 2017
However, today, being that peculiarly British institution of a Wet Bank Holiday, we decided to go to the London Wetlands Centre, which is run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust - we have been to their sites in Arundel and in Caerlaverock. As we needed to change our gas cylinder at Homebase, we drove there, and as we had printed off our tickets before we left home, we were in very quickly.
The first thing we did was have lunch - sandwiches and chips, yum - and then we set off down what is called the South Route, past a very great many children's playgrounds and exhibitions showing what the centre was all about. There were also several hides looking out over the lake, where we saw swan, coot, tufted duck, moorhen, gulls and various other birds.
By the time we walked back to the main entrance, I had had enough, so I sat down with a cup of tea while the Swan Whisperer went off to explore the other wing of the site, which is where the various home-bred ducks and wildfowl from other parts of the world live, and he said there was an otter, too. I, meanwhile, was entertained by friendly robins and jackdaws:
Friday, 7 April 2017
As we still had a couple of hours to drive, we got up at 07:00 and were away before 09:00. I know that sounds slow, but bear in mind we have to wait for the bath-water to heat up (well, shower water, but you know what I mean), boil kettles for tea and coffee, both of us shower, cook breakfast, eat it, wash it up, put everything away (and I do mean everything!), make the beds (even on the last morning, as otherwise you can't see properly out of the back window) and so on and so forth.
Still, it was a lovely drive as far as Valenciennes, and then motorway all the way. We stopped at the Auchan in Grande Synthe to do some last-minute shopping, and, although we were told we were on the shuttle we'd booked on, fair enough, we started off the second they called us and ended up one of the last cars on the earlier one, which was useful! Lunch during the crossing, and then an uneventful drive home, during which I fell asleep, lots of unpacking, and now gradually thinking of getting back to the home routine.
Thursday, 6 April 2017
Wednesday, 5 April 2017
We have actually said goodbye to Alsace now, and are on our way home. I am not quite sure whether we are in Lorraine or in Champagne, but it is still the "Grand Est".
This morning we both went for walks in different directions, and I wandered around the shops, but ended up at the supermarket where we were parked up. Then we set off and drove here to Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, home of General de Gaulle. There is a museum and memorial to him which we may or may not visit in the morning.
We drove via Vittel and Contrexéville, but the Swan Whisperer had said not to bother to tell the satnav to avoid tolls as it was only a little way, but the machine didn't at all take him the way he thought (and he didn't check, not me!) and we ended up going quite a long way, which will be expensive! We don't mind paying if we are really trying to get from a to b in a hurry, but not when just pottering. Plus we are sure it took us all round the houses! Oh well. And the fridge gas ignition has gone wrong - we did make it work in the end, but not sure how. At least it is the end of the holiday, not the start.
Tuesday, 4 April 2017
This morning it was peacocks and storks, this evening it is trains and traffic! Still, I highly doubt it will stop us sleeping.
We did not dawdle (much) this morning, but set off after using the services and arrived at the Cité du Train before 11:00. A wonderful museum - a bit confusing in the first hall, but the second one, which was a much more straightforward affair, was fascinating, telling the story of French railways down the centuries, from the first tentative efforts to today's TGVs and Thalys. They also told you when the various locomotives and/or carriages had been taken out of service, as well as when they entered it.
By the time we had finished it was definitely lunch time, so we went back to the motor home and ate, and then the Swan Whisperer went to the Electropolis next door, which I think he found interesting. I had a nap, instead! After which we drove up here to Thann, where the parking is free and there is an interesting street of shops to be explored in the morning! But it is a bit noisy!
Monday, 3 April 2017
UWe had rather a late breakfast this morning, as the Swan Whisperer decided he would like to go for a walk. So it was quite late when we set off for Mulhouse, stopping en route to shop at Cora, as we were out of essentials.
Found that the Cité de l'Automobile had its own car park, although it charged, but not to excess and not between 12 and 14:00. So we had lunch, and then went into the museum, which was - odd. It's based round two brothers' collection of Bugattis, with other cars thrown in, including a Citroen 2CV a DS and a Renault 4, but no Morris Minor or original Volkswagen. And very few 1950s cars at all.
It was quite interesting, but.... As it is no longer owned by the same people who own the Cité du Train, which we hope to visit tomorrow, the is some upgrading going on, and one set of loos were out of service, the tea-rooms weren't open, and so on. But we got round in the end, and then came away, first to check that the Cité du Train also has parking we could use (it does, free!), and then to see something of Mulhouse before driving back here to the Ecomusée where we are parked up again.
Sunday, 2 April 2017
Saturday, 1 April 2017
Friday, 31 March 2017
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
I then had some bits of shopping to do, so after breakfast went over to the Carrefour and did that, and then we still had a bit of time, so we drove into Calais and said "Hello" to the Burghers, who were surrounded by a funfair.
Tuesday, 17 January 2017
We basically spent all day driving up from just south of Poitiers up to Calais. We left our friends after breakfast, and stopped off at the Auchan in Poitiers for bread and diesel. Then we stopped for lunch a couple of hours later, and a final stop for a splash of expensive motorway diesel before coming straight to Buffalo Grill for our now-traditional Last Supper.
As I didn't sleep very well last night, I slept a lot of the way, but it was a lovely day for driving, although cold. The trouble with driving days, though, is that there are few, if any, photo opportunities.
Tonight will be cold, but not as cold as in the Massif Central. All the same, bedsocks and hot water bottles, and rugs on top of the duvet.... cosy!
Monday, 16 January 2017
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Really a nothing day; it has rained the entire day. We came to this village called Clérac, driving up the motorway in the rain and stopping at a rest area to have lunch. The village is about half way between Hossegor and where our friend lives, and was supposed to have free services, but they are closed for the winter, although there is a loo. And there is a bakery, but of course it is closed on Mondays. Oh well.
We are having a chicken, leek and mushroom casserole for dinner, followed by some kind of chocolate dessert I bought in Spain. And a very nice Rioja that I wish we'd bought more than one bottle of.
Saturday, 14 January 2017
Well, I can't exactly say "To Spain" any more now that we are on the homeward leg of our journey!
We left our very nice aire of last night after using the services, and drove north towards France. We stopped, as we had on the way in, at a huge shopping centre, 95% French cars, and I went shopping. Took ages, because so many things were on offer for €1 each, things I wouldn't have thought of buying but which I would certainly use, like dried beans and chick peas and a thing of 6 small containers (perfect for mixing curry powder for a trip like this) and a cake cooling stand because I can't find mine! Also wine and stuff. What we needed was bread and milk, and I took ages to find the fresh milk, which was in a fridge beside the UHT stuff; logical, I suppose, but I had to ask... Also a bottle of Grant's whisky for €10.50, do nicely for my mother's birthday next week. Anyway, I bought masses of stuff and only spent €50 or so. Very pleasing.
Then we drove on and into France (eventually; we took a wrong turn and ended up on the motorway going the wrong way!), and are now parked up outside Hossegor, a little town on the edge of the Landes where I direct a holiday as a child, although I don't remember it very well. It was where I first learnt to like Astérix! The SW went for a walk, and then we had supper. It is cold - not freezing, but dank and wet - so we have gone to bed early to read and listen to the radio (free WiFi at this site!).
Friday, 13 January 2017
I said, when I planned our trip, that where we spent last night, on a headland overlooking the Port of Bilbao, would be lovely unless there was a storm. There was a storm! We were horrendously exposed, and I slept very badly, being quite convinced that a window would blow in, or the van would blow over, or the solar panels would blow off. However, none of those disasters occurred, and morning came at last.
We didn't hurry to get up, and when we eventually set off, we asked the machine to take us into Bilbao, which looked really rather nice once you were there, and then we drove to Donostia (San Sebastian), and again, had a quick peek at it before we headed to the parking, which turns out to be a very nice aire by the university. Not free, but not expensive (€3.25 per night), and services are provided. And it is sheltered, so although it is raining steadily, we are not buffeted as we were last night.
As this is our last night in Spain, we decided to go out to dinner (plus I hadn't been out all day) to a nearby burger bar which was well-reviewed, but of course when we got there it had closed down. So we went to another one, which was ok, but not brilliant, but perfectly edible, and delicious beer, only €2.50 for 500 ml, and then came back to the van and ate coffee-flavoured "flan" and ginger biscuits before getting into our cosy, warm and dry beds!