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!