Friday, 28 December 2018

The British Library

We managed to get in another trip before the end of the year!  Our friend J is on her annual visit from across the Pond, and we decided to meet her, and her hostess A, in the courtyard of the British Library today.

I have been to the British Library before - I was part of a panel of speakers there at an event a couple of years ago - but not often.  We went to the café there to buy lunch, which was a bit of a failure as the food was very, very expensive for what it was (industrially-produced sandwiches for nearly a fiver each, anybody?) and they sold their coffee in disposable cups, which meant I wasn't about to buy any.  AND most of my eye-wateringly expensive BLT fell out of its wrapper and landed on the floor when I opened it.  SIGH.  But hey, the company was good and we sat and chatted for a long time before deciding to visit the exhibition that had first drawn us there, which was the one called "Cats on the Page".   It was really rather glorious; lots of familiar friends, from My Cat Geoffrey to Mog, via Old Possum and some splendidly Victorian moralistic cats.  But no cat that walked by himself... I suppose they can't have everybody, but I did feel that was a particularly egregious omission.

Once we had looked round that, we thought we might want to go to the Anglo-Saxon exhibition, but we found you had to pay for that, unless you were a member, so we decided not to, but instead went into the permanent exhibition of the Treasure of the British Library, which I have been to before, but which you can spend hours and hours in.  The "Treasures" are eclectic, ranging from the Codex Sinaiticus to draft lyrics of Beatles songs, via Magna Carta, Jane Austen and P G Wodehouse! 

The Magna Carta has a room to itself - you see the copy of the charter itself (one of only a very few in existence) with a modernised transliteration on the opposite wall.  And there is a video that highlights the salient points of it.  An awful lot of it was very personal: "We will remove completely from their offices the kinsmen of Gerard de Athée, and in future they shall hold no offices in England. The people in question are ,. . .." with a list of names. Fascinating stuff, and I could - and might - spend a long time studying it!

But the highlight of the exhibition is the displays entitled "The Art of the Book", lots of lavishly-illustrated manuscripts, often of the Bible.  Many of the Bibles and prayer-books were commissioned by wealthy landowners, and sometimes the illustrations are of them and their family.  There was one lovely Nativity scene inside a letter "P" (starting Puer Nobis).

We eventually had to tear ourselves away as time was getting on and the Swan Whisperer needed to get to Figure Club.  J and A headed for Library shop, and we headed home.  A delightful afternoon, with brilliant company!

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 22 December

Before we went to bed last night, we didn't turn on the heating, as we didn't really need it, and we were not sure how much gas we had left. It was amazing how much difference it made to the warmth of our bed when we got into it - the boiler is in the "garage" underneath the bed, and some of the heat does rise.  Dreadfully windy and wet overnight - "gales" is putting it mildly!  Awoke at 07:00 local time to find the storm had blown itself out, and, despite our misgivings, the gas did hold out for hot water for our showers and cooking our breakfast.

I dashed into Carrefour to get some cooking wine, which I had forgotten to do earlier, and then we headed into an incredibly busy terminal. Fortunately we didn't have to wait, and ended up on a train that left 20 minutes earlier than planned. And so home, and now - it's CHRISTMAS!

Thank you for following our travels in 2018; we are now going to hibernate for a couple of months while the worst of the winter passes, but maybe there will be short breaks or days out to report on. Meanwhile, I wish you and yours a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2019.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 21 Decenber

The weather broke overnight, and we were treated to a howling gale and pouring rain. This was not conducive to a good night's sleep! 

As the only thing planned for today was the long drive to Calais, we didn't hurry away, and it was about 10:30 mm we set off. We stopped in Suippes to get diesel and patisserie (the latter at the SW's request) and then at some random aire to have lunch. One of the aires on the A4 has motorhome services which we assume were working as they were advertised on the boards outside, which the ones at Toul were not, although you could see where they had been. We didn't need them, so didn't bother to stop.

We had one further stop en route for the SW to have coffee. I should have liked a cup of tea but he said he didn't know if he had enough hot water for his coffee so I left it and had one when we arrived at Coquelles.  En route, we listened to a podcast of the Messiah that the SW had downloaded before we came away. 

After tea, we did an enormous shop in Carrefour, stocking up on tea and coffee and so on, and some last-minute Christmas presents. Then, before supper, we drive round Calais to look at their Christmas lights that they do so well.

It is still very windy - I'm glad we go under the Channel, not on it!

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 20 December

So that was the Christmas markets all visited and now we are on our way home. The first port of call was for diesel, which  is several cents  per litre cheaper in Germany than it is in France. We had thought to go to Edeka, but there didn't seem to be any parking (probably underground, so no good to us) and it was raining, but there was a Lidl so I popped in for one or two last bits. Then we set off on the long journey home.

Our first port of call was some random parking on the N4 for coffee, and then we stopped at Toul services where we had hoped to get water (the water at Kehl was out of use and we didn't have enough to get home) but it too was out of use, so we had lunch. Many services are put out of use in the winter to avoid frost damage, you can't blame them. However, we knew we could get water in Reims if all else failed, but the SW found a place called Les Ilettes which was said to have them all year. And we eventually found the water, and decided to spend the night here, although it is €7, but that does include electricity. Actually a very nice place and you can use the services without paying, if you've a mind to. It had been noted for future reference!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 19 December

Up in good time this morning, all ready for our trip into Strasbourg. The plan was to park in the park-n-ride by the station and get the tram into town. However, when we got there, we found to our disgust that they had closed the barriers so that vehicles over 2 metres high couldn't get in. We knew such barriers existed, but they had been left open in November.

So we drove sadly back to the aire, via a Rewe supermarket where we returned dead beer bottles and I bought some Nürnberg sausages and mixed mince, among other things.

But Kehl has had a revolution in public transport in the last five weeks, and one can not only get a tram into Strasbourg from downtown Kehl, but they have also expanded their bus network dramatically and we can now catch a bus to the tram terminus. So after plugging ourselves back into the on-site electricity, we duly did that, and headed into Strasbourg.

The main part of Strasbourg is on an island, and what they do is to close the whole island to traffic and let rip with the Christmas markets. Because of the recent atrocities, trams were not stopping on the island itself and bags were being checked at all entrances.

Once we got in, we found the Place Kléber, where they had made an impromptu memorial to the recent dead and wounded.

Before, it had been one of the main areas, but only charity stalls remained. We headed towards the cathedral, but got turned round and ended up just by the restaurant where we had had lunch with the Daughter last month, so we went in there (I'd asked if we could have lunch sitting down, as a rest and a chance to get comfortable) and had a delicious tarte flambée with mushrooms.
Then we headed back to the Cathedral, having got our bearings, and drank mulled wine, but I don't know what spice mix they had used, but it wasn't to my taste. So the SW drank most of mine!
We said goodbye to the Christmas markets and got the tram back to Kehl, but only as far as the station, as I wanted to walk through the main shopping drag, so we did that and then got a bus back to the aire. After a cup of tea, the SW headed back to see the illuminations (I'd had enough for one day!) and now he is back and getting supper. Duck breast with red cabbage and mashed potato, yum!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 18 December

Another lazy morning - well, the Swan Whisperer did go for a run, but that was about it - and it was 11:30 before we set off. Our first port of call was the big E Leclerc just across the Ill from the camp site; I did a fairly big shop and then made the SW come in with me as there was stuff I thought he might want to buy people for Christmas, which he duly did.   

I had a ghastly shock when I came out of the supermarket, though, as the bright sunshine that had been a feature of the day so far had quite disappeared and there was only freezing fog! Fortunately not too thick, and it, too, disappeared before too long. 

Originally we had thought we might be visiting three Christmas markets today, but when I looked at the web site, two of them were weekend-only affairs. Some people might have checked that earlier, no? However, we decided that the Alsatian Wine Route was still worth going up, and we stopped at the very pretty little town of Kaysersberg for lunch. I discovered that I'd rather overdone it yesterday so I rested while the SW explored both it and the Christmas Market in the neighbouring town of Riquewihr. This was a mistake, as he treated himself to a mulled apple juice and then didn't want a cup of tea, and I was longing for one, which I didn't get.

We decided to go on up the wine route towards Strasbourg and only came off it when it began to get dark. We are now in Kehl, after a rather hairy drive through freezing fog, and will spend two nights here to have a full day in Strasbourg tomorrow. I also want to do some shopping here, if I can. And I finally have my tea!

Monday, 17 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 17 December

The Swan Whisperer was underwhelmed by the Christmas jollies at the Ecomusée, largely, I think, because he didn't understand what was going on. Some kind of tableau, he said.  So he came back to the van and we ate liver and bacon, and had an early night. 

We had a long and lazy meting this morning, too, and did not move on until about noon. We asked the Sat-nav to take us to the centre of Mulhouse, not really expecting to find the Christmas markets there, but were delighted to find a parking space about 5 minutes walk away. So we walked down and had a great time exploring the market, and treating ourselves to some kind of cheesy potatoes with sausage for lunch, and I had mulled wine and the SW had mulled orange juice, which he said was delicious.

Then, very full, we walked back to the van - we were in a paying space but, as so often in France, it was free between 12 and 2 - and trades of to the next port of call, which was. Colmar. We had arranged to park in a camp site here, but Reception was closed "for ten minutes" - long enough for a queue of motor homes to build up behind us! When he did turn up, though, he was very efficient and told us where to get the bus and gave us a map of the various markets (there are 6), so once we had settled in and got water and had a cup of tea, we headed off into Colmar. 

We only did two of their markets, but did buy one or two Christmas oddments for various people, plus a mulled wine for himself and apple juice for me. And so back to the bus stop - we just missed one, but they are quite frequent at that time of night, and so back to the van to flake out for awhile before supper.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 16 December

It was bitterly cold when we went to bed. I curled up under my duvet, thankful for a backlit Kindle. But when I woke up after my first sleep, the temperature had gone up and I even shed my bed-jacket before snuggling down again. I also developed a sore throat, courtesy of the Swan Whisperer who had one last week., and then wondered why he felt unfit on his run this morning!

It was very foggy all morning, and I was glad enough to sit and doze in the front passenger seat while the Swan Whisperer drove. We stopped at a supermarket in Saint-Dizier for necessities, and then again for lunch in a layby somewhere - it had been snowing, and with the fog it was something of a white-out!

But when we came through the Tunnel de Dié, it was like entering a different world. Still bits of snow, but no more fog and the sun even came out for a bit! No colours, though - the world is in its winter hibernation.

En route we saw two cranes (the birds, not the building variety, duh!), an every and two herons. And more geese this morning.

We are parked up in the Ecomusée motor home park, and the SW has gone in to enjoy the Christmas Market there, but I don't feel well enough and am flopped in bed. This isn't one I really mind missing, and we can't go in tomorrow as it will be closed.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 15 December

Today is the Swan Whisperer's 68th birthday. I gave him a Bluetooth earpiece so he can listen to music or podcasts while he is washing up and so on, plus more comfortable to listen in bed.  He had a nice shirt from the Daughter, which he promptly wore, and cards from my parents and sister, me, and the Daughter's family - Boy Two's very new signature rather dominating everybody else's!

It was bitterly cold but we had both pretty much slept the clock round, and didn't stir until past 08:30 (mind you, that's only 07:30, UK time). We were in no rush, though. The A16 was blocked - probably demonstrators, but it might  have been an accident - but the Sat-nav cleverly knew that and took us across country as far as St-Omer before joining the motorway. We stopped for lunch in a service area not far from Rheims, and again after the gare du péage a few miles later to tell it to take us on non toll roads for the rest of the day. As we came off, we saw one of the gares du péage surrounded by demonstrators in yellow jackets and were very glad we were going another way. We did pass one more demo, but very quiet, just someone burning palettes on the central reservation. And at one stage there was a new road which the poor Sat-nav didn't know about, which gave it a conniption fit!

We drove on and arrived here, outside a sailing club at Ste-Marie-du-Lac-Nuisement just before dark. We closed up the habitation to keep in residual warmth and then went out for a brisk walk round the club to get the blood flowing and shake the kinks out of our legs, enjoying watching endless Vs of wild geese flying overhead, and then back to the van for a cup of tea and toasted hot cross bun (yes, I know, wrong festival, but I do love them).  The SW, whose hearing is better than mine, says he can still hear the geese, but I can't. 

It's supposed to snow later, but then the temperature will rise quite dramatically, so I hope we won't be quite so cold tomorrow, which is another "driving day"

Friday, 14 December 2018

Christmas Markets, 14 December

Tomorrow is the Swan Whisperer's birthday, and he suggested that, for our last trip of the year, we visit some Christmas markets in France.

Normally we would have crossed rather later, but it is a busy time of year and the only evening crossing we could get was too early to make grandparent duty feasible, so we rearranged that, and the Swan Whisperer decided he could miss Figure Club for once, and we booked a crossing on the 16:20, the first one that doesn't attract a peak-time supplement.

When we got to Folkestone, we had half an hour to wait, so we were going to put the heating on and have a cup of tea, but a steward said we could go straight through, so we did. This was a mistake, as we didn't get on an earlier crossing and didn't quite like to put the gas on after the PTB had assured themselves it was off. And, of course, after having been so mild it is now very cold.  Oh well.

The crossing was uneventful, except for being 15 minutes late, but we used the time to finish unpacking and have some tea (we had a Thermos of boiling water), and arrived at Cité Europe shortly after 6.  I did a big shop in Carrefour, getting food for the weekend, and the Swan Whisperer went  to Lidl to see if they had any mini sausages (they didn't), and then we came back to the van and are getting supper. An early night will, I think, be welcome.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday - the End

So yesterday morning we set the alarm for 07:00 and got up as soon as the water was hot; a quick breakfast and then it was time to go and check in for our crossing, the 09:50, which was very slightly late, but  not late enough to matter.  We had an easy run home, and then a busy hour or so emptying the van and getting everything unpacked and the first few loads of washing done.

Today we drove it down to Sussex and put it away for the next few weeks.  Watch this space.....

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 15 November

France is making itself awfully easy to say goodbye to - today was thoroughly Novemberish, misty and foggy and cold and generally nasty!

We didn't hurry out of bed this morning, as it was dark and dreich. With no artificial lights in the area, it had been very dark overnight, to the point where, when I got up to use the loo, I had to keep my not-Fitbit on so I could see, if not what I was doing, then at least where I was doing it! 

When we eventually got away, we drove along the canal for about a kilometer to where it ran alongside a sausage-shaped lake, and we could turn round. We saw lots of Mallard and a heron, and there had been owls in the night. No dawn chorus this morning, though - at this time of year the songbirds are more interested in survival than they are in sex and turf wars!

We were always going to have a long drive today, but it wasn't so long that we wanted to pay French motorway tolls. We stopped at Landrecies for the SW to have his coffee (I was asleep!) and then went well off our route to try to find somewhere nice to stop for lunch.  It wasn't that nice, but better than a motorway service station, but by then the Sat-nav decided that we would have to go on Belgian motorways as far as Lille.

It didn't take long to get back to the Cité Europe and the aire here, and after a cup of tea I went over and had a lovely long, slow shop, mostly in Carrefour. Then back to the motor home and got supper (kidneys in Madeira sauce with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and very good it was, too), and am shortly going to get under the covers with my knitting. And up early, sadly, and home tomorrow!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 14 November

Last night, after I had written up yesterday's blog post, we were invited to a wine tasting by the owner of the camp site - I think he also owns a local vineyard. We didn't get to taste any champagne, alas, but there was a not-very-nice Chardonnay (I only really like the New World ones), a pinot noir that didn't taste nearly as good as it  smelled, and a Bordeaux wine that was nice. My I don't like red wine nearly as much as I used - I hint know if it's my age, or my medication, or what. We did think of buying 3 bottles of the claret, because it was nice, but the Ditch could who were there bought 6 of everything so we didn't feel we really needed to!  And so back to the van, not wanting any beer with our supper, but we had bacon hash with, just to make a change, a local concoillotte cheese on it, and very good it was, too. 

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, and even I went for a blow by the lake after breakfast.

We were not sure where we were going to spend the night tonight, but "What's halfway" said a place called Remies was, and Park4Night found us this lovely aire, a few miles south of Laon, by the canal joining the Aisne and the Oise. Beautiful, and really quiet. There were some anglers here when we arrived, but they have gone now and we are on our own except for ducks!

We decided that, as we were not in any hurry, we wouldn't pay motorway tolls, but the Sat-nav took us along rather busy N-roads with lots of lorries. However, the last few miles were across country on a very narrow little road, we thought the Sat-nav had quite lost the plot. But it hadn't. This place would have been prettier last week when the autumn colours were so lovely - now the leaves are nearly all down and the trees beginning to stand winter-stark against the sky.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 13 November

It rained most of the night and into this morning. From all I gather, it's badly needed - I saw a municipal notice board in one of the towns we passed through yesterday saying that in view of the drought, water restrictions would continue until (and a date I didn't see). The Swan Whisperer did not go for a run, I noticed!

However, we did go for a walk through the town, which was rather lovely. If I'd had my act together in time, I'd have treated myself to a spa day, but we think we might come back to Plombières-les-Bains next month, so maybe then.

We set off across country towards the Lac de l'Orient, doing first at a supermarket for the day's bits and pieces, including gas (we have plenty to do us until the end of our next trip, but always good to have a spare bottle, just in case), managing to do that just before they closed for lunch, and again in some random lay by to have lunch and a nap - the SW woke me from a sound sleep, I was not impressed! Then we drove on, stopping once for petrol, and finally arrived at this site which turned out to be a campsite - only €16.20 for the night and all included, not bad. The SW has been for a walk along the lake and there is to be a wine tasting in Reception at 18:30! Sounds good to me!

Monday, 12 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 12 November

We were both tired today, and haven't done much. We had a bit of a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast. I enjoyed playing some of the games on my tablet that really need WiFi to get the most out of them.
We used the services as they were there and free, and then headed on. First port of call was a supermarket - a Cora, this time. I wish I'd known we'd be going past a Super U, as they are my favourite of the French chains, but I didn't. Anyway the Cora shocked me by having its Christmas displays up - Carrefour in Cité Europe is always early, because of the British visitors, but most places in France don't start thinking about it until December. No sign of it in Germany, except that mulled wine in both alcoholic and children's varieties has replaced the federwein!  I was tempted to buy a thing of 3 French chutneys for my parents, but we are planning a Christmas trip next month. Did, however, buy a new stool to replace mine, which had broken, as well as some choucroute for supper.

Then we drove on to Xonrupt-Longemer where we parked up near the eponymous lake and had lunch, and the Swan Whisperer walked round it.
Then a very pretty drive to here, which is Plombières-les-Bains, where we have parked up for the night. The SW went exploring (like a dog, he needs two walks a day!), and now we are both flopped on the bed reading until it will be time for supper.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 11 November

It rained in the night. A lot. All night, it felt like. But when morning came, the clouds cleared away and the sun came out.

Today was the pivot of our holiday, the day around which it was built. Our daughter's choir, the London Forest Choir, was joining with Les Petits Chanteurs d'Alsace for a Remembrance Day concert in Strasbourg. So we got up at a reasonable hour, for once, and just as we were finishing breakfast the Daughter contacted us to say there was nowhere to get coffee on a Sunday morning at the concert venue and could she beg some off us?  We said of course, but we would be at least half an hour, as we had to use services, etc, but eventually we arrived and gave the poor woman some breakfast in good time to go into the theatre and enjoy the concert.

It kicked off at 11:00 with 2 minutes silence, and then the LFC sang an arrangement of Lawrence Binyon's "For the Fallen", the poem that "They shall grow not old" is taken from. Then the Petits Chanteurs sang a Howard Goodall arrangement of two war poems, one English and one German, and an arrangement of Paul McCartney's "Pipes of peace". 

Both choirs joined together for the main event, a performance of Rathbone's "Christmas Truce", which I love and which always makes me cry, even this version in French!  There was an encore, Fauré's "Cantique de Jean Racine". A lovely concert. 

When it was over, we said goodbye to the Daughter and headed off into the Vosges. We had thought of stopping at Ste-Marie-Les-Mines, but it wasn't very nice so we drive on to St-Dié, ugh we like, and there is a very nice aire, all found for €6, except that the advertised WiFi isn't working* and for some reason the SW can't get any data on his phone. Or couldn't - it has just this second come back!
He has been for his usual walk, and now we are settled for the evening. I'm amused - having brought our good coats specially for the concert, it was too warm to wear them today!  Long may it last! 

* It did start working a bit later, and we were both able to log on.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 10 November

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, so we were not particularly early setting off, but after breakfast we drove up to the Park'n'Ride by the station and took a tram into Strasbourg, where we had arranged to meet the Daughter who is enjoying a child-free weekend with her choir. We walked past the Cathedral and the rows of tourist tat, and found a very nice place to have a cup of coffee. Only it was raining - nearly  the first rain we have had all holiday apart from six spots at Freudenstadt.

The Daughter had left her music in her hotel room, and didn't particularly want to walk back there, but we had bought an up-to-three-person ticket so she could go on the bus with us. We did that, and then got a tram to the Opéra area, where she was to have a rehearsal. There was a very nice restaurant where we treated ourselves to flammekueche and a beer, and then the Daughter left for her rehearsal and we went back into Germany and did a Last Shop (in Germany) as we'll be in France from tomorrow onwards. 

After that I have spent the afternoon listening to the radio, reading and knitting while the SW decided he wanted to go back into Strasbourg to see if it was illuminated, which I don't think it was much. He has just returned, rather wet!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 9 November

This morning was cold and foggy, but by the time we had had breakfast, it had cleared and was a lovely day. We went for a walk round the town and I was delighted to discover that I could cope with quite a steep slope, even at altitude, although I had to take it very slowly and not talk!

We walked down to the lake via acres of do-the-tourist shops, mostly wanting to sell you Black Forest ham, which I dislike or cuckoo-clocks. We wandered round one shop which was full of them. I had no idea of buying one, but they were lovely to look at in their displays, all set to a different time so there was barely a moment in the town when you couldn't hear a mechanical cuckoo. This was nearly disastrous as it's what the Swan Whisperer has as his phone's ringtone, so when he got a call we almost didn't notice!
When we got back to the motor home we used the services and then headed on. We had hoped to visit the biggest cuckoo clock in the world, which is really a tourist shop in its own right, but we couldn't see how you got there without paying, which we were not prepared to do. So we headed on and drive through Freiburg im Breisgau, a town which we last visited some 4 years ago, pre-motorhome. We even drove past the hotel where we had stayed!

However, the place where we had planned to spend the night, not far from there, was a bust as it was full and they were expecting more so we asked if we could stop long enough to eat our lunch, and then we decided to come straight here to Kehl, across the river from Strasbourg. We had been going to come here tomorrow and head on on Monday morning, but as it is, we'll probably leave mid-afternoon on Sunday, after the concert. So we get an extra day in France, always good, but we'll need to rethink our itinerary!

Meanwhile the SW has gone for a walk and I am relaxing.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 8 November

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning. Not as long a one as he had hoped, but still.
We had discovered that the camp site where we had hoped to stay tonight was, in fact, closed until 15 December, but a bit of detective work led us to discover that there was a fully-serviced aire near Titisee Station. So we decided to head off, but hardly had we left Vohrenbach when there was a sign saying "Road Closed", and a diversion. After a few minutes, we were delighted as we found ourselves driving over the prettiest Alpine scenery (no, the Black Forest is not the Alps, but at over 1,000 metres, who can tell?), with cattle grazing on green pastures and farms dotted about the place seemingly at random. We stopped at what I think was the highest point for the SW to have his coffee, and then he went on an explore before we drove off.
Next stop was an Edeka in Neustadt, which was very big and very difficult to find anything in until you realised that all the groceries were round the perimeter of the store and all the non-food stuff in the middle.  However, I got our bits and pieces in the end, and then we came down to the parking area we had thought of. It is expensive for what it is and, worst of all, very noisy as they are obviously working on the railway - no trains - so getting on with it and even now at 19:00 still the sound of pneumatic drills.
I was very tired, for some reason, so read and dozed most of the afternoon while the SW went for  a walk around what I gather is a very tourist town. Hope to see it for myself  in the morning.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 7 November

This morning, after breakfast, we both went for walks in different directions - the Swan Whisperer walked or ran round the playing-fields and I went to the grandly-named Black Forest Shopping Centre, and spent a very happy time wandering round a huge Muller and an even huger Rewe. I was terribly restrained in the Muller and only bought some 4711 shower gel; I stopped myself from buying any more socks (they did have some lovely ones) or a really nice rucksack.... Or indeed, a Christmas present for my daughter and/or sister.

When we got back to the van it was time to head on to Donaueschingen, whereupon we had lunch and then set off to find the source of the Danube. This is a spring in the grounds of the Schloß, with seats all round it reminding me of the Pool of Bethesda!
However other places also lay claim to being the source of the Danube, and the SW wanted to visit one at a place called Martinskapelle, about 35 km away. So we headed on, right up into the mountains, and there was a car park and a pub called the Donauquelle, but no phone service, and as I really didn't want to be out of touch for so long, we came sadly away. We didn't really want to go all the way back to Donaueschingen, but the first place we thought we might be able to stop at turned out to be a building site.

But a couple of miles down the road I saw a sign for motorhome parking, so we followed it, and here we are by a children's playground in some random town which I think is called Vöhrenbach. We are at altitude - 799 metres - but my lungs are ok; not sure how they would have liked Martinskapelle which was a good 450 metres higher.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 6 November

Pforzheim is not the prettiest of towns, although it has some lovely suburbs. It is very industrial, and our first port of call this morning was to an industrial area where we used the services (we knew they were there) and then investigated what they can the 360° Gasometer.
This turned out to be a museum, but entry was €11 and we couldn't see that they had any bumph in English, so we thought not and came away. There was an ice rink, too, but guess what? It closed at noon on Tuesdays and we were now 11:45 (had we known there was one there, we might have got up earlier!). But I did the necessary daily shopping, and used a cash point, so that was all right!

Then we came away and drove down through the Black Forest, stopping somewhere to have lunch - it was a hikers' car park so no signal, but peaceful. Then we drove down here, to Freudenstadt - we came here in September, but I'd forgotten that when I was working out our itinerary! There is a shopping centre on one side and a swimming-pool on the other; we thought of going for a swim, but it's a bit cold now so have decided not to.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 5 November

It feels odd to remember the date with no fireworks to remind us.  It was a dark and cloudy morning  but that had meant it was much warmer overnight. I didn't even have my rug on top of my duvet, although I did have a hot-water bottle.

The Swan Whisperer went out for a run, and while he was doing that I got breakfast and then went to the local bakery. I did intend to get cash, but the nearest bank, just across the road from the bakery, made a minimum charge of €6 to get money out not using their own card, so thanks but no thanks, and I ended up borrowing from the SW again! Not that the rolls I got at the bakery cleaned me out - they were only 50 cents each, and huge and delicious.

We drove down the A8 to a town called Pirmasens, though some truly spectacular autumn colours. I didn't take photos as I thought the colours wouldn't show very well. I visited an Edeka there and we had lunch, resisting the temptation of a sausage from a stall because we already had rolls and need to finish the sliced bread at breakfast.  And, just as we were about to head on, I lifted up the bolster I use to support my lower back while we are dining, and there was my favourite black cardigan with pockets! I originally bought it to replace one I'd accidentally left in Sussex (since returned) and liked it better as it was softer and had pockets, and was so sad when I'd lost it. I am ridiculously pleased to have found it again, even though it is not quite warm enough at this time of year. 

We drove on to a tiny little village on the border as the SW had walked along the border on the French side and wanted to do so again on the German side. I did some knitting while that was happening, and would have liked to have had a cup of tea when he got back, but he wanted to get a much driving done in daylight as possible, so we headed on, and had the tea when we got here on the outskirts of Pforzheim.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 4 November

Today marks the 40th anniversary of our engagement, which amazes me somewhat. It was bitterly cold overnight and there was a frost, but we were warm in bed and it wasn't bad enough to freeze our pipes. And the heater is very efficient!

After breakfast, we walked into the town up a rather steep hill, which my lungs did not like, and bought bread and a slice of cheesecake to celebrate (it was not very nice - too sweet).  We set off after using the services, and set sail to Luxembourg, where we parked up near a statue of a man on a horse to have lunch and a quick glimpse of the Grand Palace. The railway station seemed grander!

We then drove to Saarbrücken. It appears that our family doesn't have much luck visiting this city, as when my daughter came here with her French exchange, many years ago, it was a Saturday afternoon, and all the shops were firmly shut, as was the case in Germany, back in the day. They are more civilised now!  But when we arrived at the aire where we had planned to spend the night, there it wasn't! It was being built on. However, we have found a car park behind a church which is OK - a bit  noisy as it's just below the motorway, but nice and near the river so the SW can go for a run in the morning.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Remembrance Holiday, 3 November

Despite our late night, we were awake before 08:00, and it was not long before we discovered that I had forgotten to pack the Lady Grey tea I enjoy drinking at that time in the morning. Not that it mattered, for once. We also found, when getting breakfast, that I had forgotten to pack the pouring salt (as opposed to the grinding salt which I had packed). I wonder what the third thing will be.
After breakfast, I went over to Carrefour and did a bit of shopping, including the missing Lady Grey, and when I got back to the motor home, I found the Swan Whisperer dealing with an extraordinary infestation of fruit flies! We don't know where they came from, although someone in the flats had said they were infested but they were everywhere!

Once we had dealt with as many as possible, we set off  stopping at the Auchan in Grande Synthe for enough diesel to get us to Luxembourg and then on to our favourite Strépy-Thieux canal lift, where we had lunch. I got out to see whether there was a barge coming out of the lift, which there was, and then realised I'd left my phone behind when I saw a kestrel hovering!  I did get the phone and took a few photos of the lift going up again. 

While we were there, we realised that the fruit flies had congregated on the inside of the screen that shields the skylight, which was wide open (it was a lovely day), so the SW unscrewed it and all the flies went up out of the skylight!  We then opened the big window and encouraged the stragglers to go out that way, which seems to have done the trick. We took advantage of the screen's being down to give it a good brush - it needed it.

Belgian motorways, as I have frequently said, are often very congested, but they weren't today, and even the endless trees were quite attractive in their autumn dress. We have come to the town of Rochefort, and a campsite recommended by a friend. It was not expensive, and all included, so very nice. The Swan Whisperer has been for a walk, but it is dark now (the disadvantage of late autumn/winter trips) and we are set up for the evening with the blinds and curtains drawn and the heating on low. Cosy!

Remembrance Holiday, 2 November

So we are off on our travels again. I had been going to do grandmother duty, but their school was closed due to a burst water main so it didn't happen. This meant we could take our time over loading up the van, and there was no rush. 
We had decided to leave an extra 30 minutes because of road works on the M20, which is being turned into a smart motorway. The Swan Whisperer came home early from Figure Club, and after supper we set off.
We needed every minute of the extra half hour, as they decided to close the motorway at Junction 8, and we followed what we thought were the diversion signs only to find we were back on the motorway at junction 7,and it was all to do again. The second time of asking, we realised they wanted us to go up to the M2 from J7 - but why on earth didn't they put us off there instead of sending us all round the houses? We did get there in the end, just in time to check in for our booked crossing, which was late.  Tonight, or what's left of it, will be spent at Cité Europe.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 25 September

We hauled ourselves out of bed this morning and had a quick breakfast, and were in such good time at the terminal that we got a crossing half an hour earlier than scheduled - 09:20 instead of 09:50.  I had been a little worried as my debit card had had to be cancelled while we were away, and I wasn't sure whether we would need it at the terminal, which is why we were early, but luckily we didn't.

Despite endless roadworks on the M20 and heavy traffic on the South Circular, we got home by 11:00 UK time and have unpacked and done the first of many loads of washing!  Home now until early November.... watch this space.  I'm hoping we'll have an excursion or two between now and then, but am not sure.

Edited to add: we finally gave in, this last morning, and put the heating on while we showered and dressed!  As it was Calais, right on the edge of the time zone, it wasn't even light at 7:00 am, and it was very cold.  I nearly wasn't warm enough in bed last night and had to use my extra rug for the first time, too.  Pyjamas next holiday, rather than summer-weight nighties!

Monday, 24 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 24 September

We did not hurry this morning, and it was gone 10 when we left Metz, stopping first for more gas, and then there was the long, dreary road through Luxembourg, Belgium and France back to Calais - 297 miles in all. It would have been shorter, and an hour quicker, to have gone through France, but motorway tolls being what they are, we thought not! 

We stopped for diesel in Luxembourg (cheap!), and for lunch in Belgium - don't ask me where; I was asleep and didn't really wake up until we were approaching Calais!

We are parked in the usual place, and I did a Last Shop including delicious kidneys for supper, and we will have to hurry in the morning to present ourselves at the terminal by 09:00.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 23 September

Last night's parking was a dismal failure! It was a lovely place, surrounded by vines and fruit trees, but random cars kept driving up and stopping, with young men getting out of them and, a few minutes later, going away again. I've no idea what they were up to, whether legal or otherwise, but it kept on happening, and I felt quite frightened and hence slept very badly.

We tried to go up to the very end of the Avenue Road, and probably succeeded, but we aren't quite sure where it officially starts/ends. After buying bread at a random bakery, we headed off home up the motorway. I fell asleep and missed, so I am told, a lovely drive through the Black Forest, on minor roads as there don't seem to be any motorways! I woke up in time to help the SW find relatively cheap diesel (it has got more expensive during the holiday, but that is, we gather, pan-European, not just Germany). 

And so we crossed the Rhine (again - and we had already crossed the Danube that morning!) into France and stopped for lunch soon after Strasbourg. We decided to leave the motorway after a couple of junctions and go the other way, with the distinct advantage of no tolls. It was still mostly along fast roads and very quiet. But as we approached Metz, the heavens opened and we were deluged. And had to be very careful indeed getting to our parking for the night, by the Moselle. But we are there now, and the rain is away, and supper is nearly ready. The van next to us has burnt their supper - their door opened and an arm waved a very smoky pan around, followed by a smell of burnt food.... Hope it was still edible!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 22 September

Although we still have two more and three  more nights to go, they will basically just be "driving days", to get us home. 

We have finished the Avenue Road, from its start on Rügen Island, in the Baltic, I it's end on Riechenau Island, in the Bodensee (Lake Constance). 1,255 miles in all, plus the 800-odd miles to get to Lauterbach and, I assume, another 800 miles to get home. But it was the Avenue Road we wanted to follow, and follow it we did. I'd like to last the states we went in, but can't find a map of them! From the north-east to the south-west of the country, beautiful little towns, towns which were once border towns but are now as central as you can get. We've travelled past vast fields - former collective farms - and past vineyards and, today, apple orchards. We've seen how little villages celebrate the start of the wine harvest and drunk several bottles of "Federweißer", the young wine of the country dry has to be kept cool and upright, and you mustn't tighten the lid of the bottles!

Today was the last day of the Road, and we started with a walk round Riedlingen, then visited a Rewe for a Last Shop in Germany (the supermarkets are closed on Sundays), and a DM as I've fallen in love with their own brand moisturiser!  Then we followed the Road all the way, including across the ferry to Konstanz, and have found a lovely secluded place to park up for the night. The SW has, of course, gone for a walk!

Friday, 21 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 21 September

We were not sure this morning whether it had rained in the night or whether it was falling leaves. In fact it turned out to be sycamore seeds which fell down from the roof on to the windscreen wipers every time we moved off for a while.

The Swan Whisperer went for a short run this morning, and then got breakfast. This was a mistake (not his cooking - the poached eggs were perfect!) as he forgot to tell me we had run out of eggs so when I went shopping at the local Rewe I didn't buy any! So we stopped there and I made him get them, before we headed to Tübingen, and then on to Schloß Lichtenstein, where we had lunch, and finally down the Avenue Road to Riedlingen where we are spending our penultimate night in Germany. Tomorrow we will be on the Bodensee, then two long days driving and home on Tuesday morning. It has been a lovely trip.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 20 September

I was really disappointed to discover that the town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße, despite its lovely name, was not a pretty town at all! There were a couple of churches near the aire, which we went to have a look at and a bakery which I bought rolls, and then a Rewe, Lidl and Ali which I went to the latter of.

One look at the proposed route today convinced me that if we were to go on the Avenue Road at all, it would only be for a token distance. We still stayed on minor roads, mostly the Weinstraße, and stopped just outside Landau in die Pfalz for lunch and just outside Gaggenau for a cup of tea, passing through Karlsrühe en route.  It was a lovely drive especially as we are on the edge of the Black Forest here.

I had planned for us to stay outside a hotel which let one park up for free if you had a meal there, but the car park was full and there didn't seem to be anywhere reserved for motor homes so we came back into town and have parked up in the municipal aire which is free and has services. It seems very nice.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 19 September

Only a short drive today. We were woken up, as threatened, in the wee small hours by the grape harvesters - mechanical, these days, not students - going out and fully-laden trailers reappearing. But we went back to sleep and even though the Swan Whisperer went for a run, we were away by 10:00. The drive was partly down the Alleestraße and partly down the Weinstraße (do they overlap?) first going slightly all round the houses and having to reset the Sat-nav at one stage as it had defaulted to a route we didn't want! 

We wanted to stop in Bad Durkheim for lunch, but it was a bit of a bust as we had just missed the wine fair but the big car park was still full of vans. Then the restaurant which had had Federweißer a couple of years ago didn't have it and the food wasn't very good. Oh well. 

Now we are at Neustadt an der Weinstraße, within spitting distance of an Aldi and a Rewe and the SW has gone to explore, but we don't know whether it is a nice place or not.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 18 September

This morning we were rather alarmed to see that almost every other motor home had left the site by about 10:00, and wondered whether the owners wanted it cleared, but there was still one other machine there, so we went into Limburg and had a lovely walk through this very pretty town, including a visit to Woolworth's, which shocked us by having Christmas decorations already for sale - it isn't even October!

Back at the van, another machine came in and, after all I said yesterday they were English, although I gather they lived in Penang, and were headed to Brisbane after their European trip!

We decided to abandon the Alleestraße after only a token stretch in favour of driving along the Rhein, and that was lovely. It is still very hot - even overnight and this morning it wasn't exactly cold - and we enjoyed a ferry crossing at St Gaur. I thought I had mis-set the sat nav when we got here, just outside Bad Kreuznach, but just as we were about to go sadly away, we saw the signpost telling us where to go. We are in the yard of a vineyard and have been warned that the grapes will be brought in at an unearthly hour of the morning because of the heat!

Monday, 17 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 17 September

The SW went for a run this morning, and then after breakfast I went to the Norma across the road to shop and then did a scrap of washing, as he said his running shirt needed it, and he didn't have quite enough pants to finish the holiday. And the forecast is for it to be very hot over the next few days, I also washed the one light pair of trousers I have that don't  need ironing, in case it is still too hot for jeans by the weekend. Mind you, it's bitterly cold in the early mornings, and I am thankful for my bed jacket while I am drinking my tea, and for my bathrobe to dress under when I have had my shower. We haven't yet switched the heating on first thing, but it's been close!

I really haven't felt up to much exercise today, so we drive through Fulda, and I took a couple of photos out of the window, and then we had a very complicated drive to Limburg an der Lahn, trying to stay on the avenue route, which the SW calls the "Alley Way" ("Alleenstraße", you see), but not really succeeding. Despite an ice-cream break mid-afternoon, we were both tired when we got here. And the place I thought I'd found us to stay turned out to be outside a motorhome dealers outside of town - wonderful c you were just passing through, but no good for this sort of trip. However, we knew we'd seen signs for an aire, and duly found it on Park4Night, so now we are parked beside a tributary of the Lahn, not far from the town. The SW, who has been for a walk, says it is wonderful and he reckons the reason it's not in the guide books is that the Germans want to keep it for themselves!  Not that we've actually seen any other British tourists since Hamburg, and few of any nationality other than German! This will change, of course, as we get further south.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 16 September

Another lazy Sunday morning. We decided to go to the automobile museum, which was just across the road from where we had parked, and it was very interesting, telling the story of the motor industry in Eisenach from its earliest beginnings right through to the modern Opels made in an out-of-town factory. They decided, I think, that the factory of which the museum is the only bit that remains could not be made state-of-the-art post-reunification, so they tore it down and started again.

But while it existed, the factory built all sorts of cars. The most interesting, of course, were the little 2-stroke Wartburgs, built during the DDR years (you can always tell a former East German town as they have those very splendid "Ampelmänner" on their traffic lights.

Anyway after leaving the factory we used the services we had found last night and then  headed on, leaving Thuringia for Hesse and the town of Fulda where we are parked up opposite a Norma, which will be useful for the morning. Except what we really need is more Federweißer, dvd the discounters tend not to sell it. Never mind, there is always beer!

Saturday, 15 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 15 September

I don't seem to have taken any photos today. We started off by going to Edeka, as we were running out of everything, and tomorrow is Sunday when the supermarkets are closed.

Where we were, Duderstadt, appears to be in the exact centre of Germany, from north to south and from east to west. But thirty years ago it was a very different story, as Duderstadt was right on the border with the DDR. In fact a major crossing was built there in 1972, which saw over 6 million people use it during its lifetime. And one of the buildings is now a museum about the "Inner Border" and life on the frontier.

It was really fascinating; lots of stuff not only about the border but about how it was strengthened over time and how one village realised they were going to be deported once the 5km exclusion zine was put in force, so, led by their Priest, they escaped in the dead of night. They were not very happy, missing their farms and so on, but preferred life in the West to the East. The village has since been re-established. There was a lot of stuff about the events of 1989, and reunification. Fascinating!
By the time we had finished, it was lunch time. We did look in the snack bar, but it was very greasy spoon so we didn't.

We then tried to drive to Eisenach, where we thought we could park up in a museum car park but we had trouble getting there due to closed roads and then when we did, the museum car park was a bust and the official aire was full. But we have found somewhere, although this is a dull town and we will not linger.

Friday, 14 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 14 September

Today we are approximately half way through our holiday, so we spent the first hour or so changing the sheets (and, incidentally, discovering we had packed the wrong undersheet for the second week. We also had trouble finding the clean table napkins I'd washed earlier, but they eventually turned up in the bag with our swimming things instead of the bag where they live. This morning also involved frantic counting of shirts and pants, to see whether we had enough of each to do us, and a quick hand wash of pants and table napkins, the latter in case of spilled coffee or other such emergency.

Once this was done, we set off to explore Quedlinburg, and after a very pleasant walk round the town (including buying a new sheet) and a cup of coffee/ice cream /apple strudel, we found  that the little tourist "train" was about  to leave, and it was only €6.50 for a 45-minute tour, so I suggested we take it. I'm glad we did, although neither of us understood much of the commentary. Nevertheless it really did take us all round the town.

Then back to the motor home, and after a very light lunch we set off again. We decided to temporarily abandon the Avenue Road in favour of a glorious run through the Harz Mountains National Park including a stop for a cup of tea in one of the many car parks along the route. We have ended up here, in a town called Duderstadt (so unfortunate, as the poor cars all bear the registration "Dud"), which is very, very close to the former border, and there is a museum which we think we might visit tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 13 September

After yesterday, which was a lovely warm day - to the extent that we put on sun cream to walk round Brandenburg, and I, at least, wore a hat - today was  bitterly cold. The Swan Whisperer went for a run, and we didn't hurry over breakfast, or getting services. Everything was provided, but we couldn't find anybody to pay, so eventually had to leave without.

We drove to various little towns which were supposed to be lovely, but weren't, really. Or if they were, we couldn't find the lovely bits! So when we reached Quedlinburg, which we know is lovely - we have  been here before - we decided to call it a day and have parked up in an aire near the town centre. I had a bad headache so didn't feel up to a walk, but lay down to try to sleep it off, not very successfully, while the SW explored, and we are looking forward to further exploration tomorrow.
On the plus side, I finally scored some Schwäbische Maultaschen (a filled pasta) which we had for supper with a sauce Forestière and green beans. Followed by stewed plums and yoghurt. Yum.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 12 September

This morning we walked round Brandenburg. Well, perhaps not all of it, but certainly round the Cathedral Island, the New Town and the Old Town! Lots of churches, including a very splendid Evangelical Free Church that was shaped to resemble Noah's Ark.

Also a modern shopping centre, which we looked round, and very noisy cobbled streets. I was glad I didn't live there - the traffic noise must be horrendous!

We got a bit stuck then, as after coffee it was time to move on and the card didn't work, and there was no one on duty to let us out! Fortunately we didn't have to wait too long! How we got in last night we'll never know, unless the guardian saw us and raised the barrier without our realising. He obviously thinks it's time the PTB modernised their arrangements, too. But it was a lovely aire, even though services were somewhat lacking for €10. Walking distance to the city centre, and there was a bus if we'd wanted it, has to be good.

So we headed on, stopping at an out--of-town supermarket and having lunch in its car park, and then down the Avenue Road to Wittemberg, now rather grandly known as Lutherstadt-Wittemberg. No place to stop there as the centre is pedestrianised and time was getting on, so we went on down the road to Dessau, where the aire is in the local aerodrome. Fully serviced, too! Only thing is we are low on gas, but it is our small cylinder that is nearly out, not the big one,and we have plenty.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 11 September

Rheinsberg, it turns out it's such a pretty little holiday town; we had been too anxious to notice this last night. But we liked it.

First stop today, though was a little town called Gransee - we didn't  see the eponymous lake - which had spent the first 20 years of reunification in restoring itself and was very proud of the result. With good reason! The heart of the town was a tiny grid of streets, with a tower to guard the entrance, city walls (we didn't have time to walk round them, alas) and a very pretty church, with a former Franciscan monastery, in the throes of being restored but with an exhibition about the building. While in the town we scored some plums (now plum compote) and some local honey which the woman who sold it to me said came from her father's bees and was linden blossom honey. Also delicious Federweiße, the young wine which you mustn't tighten the top of. Love that stuff!

After visiting Aldi for more prosaic groceries, we drove down to a town called Neuruppen, simply because it was en route, and then set sail for Brandenburg, stopping a couple of times. We had heard that the aire here - which is lovely - only took EC cards, and the emergency button we pressed answered with a long string of numbers - obviously a number to call but my German really isn't up to phone calls. But the SW's card used to be an EC one, so we tried it and, to our surprise, it worked!
He went for a walk while I dealt with the plums, and tomorrow we will explore the town together.

Monday, 10 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 10 September

The Swan Whisperer announced that we were going to retrace our steps this morning to visit the Hanseatic Town of Greifwald, so after stopping at Demain to shop and to catch up once we had decent phone signals, we headed there and I'm glad we did as it was very pretty. We had lunch there, and then a walk and visited the Cathedral of St Nicholas. The guidebook said it was disappointing inside, but we loved it. Very plain and grey, and beautiful. I didn't take a photo as you had to pay to do that.

Then I stopped off at the local pound shop (euro shop, really) and bought a couple of egg spoons, and by the time I got back to the motor home, the Swan Whisperer has programmed the satnav, but I am not sure what had gone wrong but it kept on not going where he thought it was going and madpanicarrgh, and it took forever to arrive at where we thought we were going to spend the night, but no sign of the place, and we were very nearly out of diesel, so we had to retrace our steps and it was very expensive when we finally found some. But we did, and then we found a camp site by a lake, which is lovely. Rheinberg, that's the name of the place.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 9 September

We have very little signal here, so although I'm writing this on the date stated, it won't be posted until I have 4G again.

The weather here is lovely now; we hope we've seen the last of the rain for the time being. The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, and after a rather late breakfast, we went for a walk around Lauterbach. We had discovered last night that there was a narrow-gauge steam railway - we had both heard the train although neither of us had seen it - but when we got to the station we found there was a special service running because of an Iron Man event based at Binz, and the dreaded words "replacement bus service" were used. So we came away and walked a little further round the harbour, wishing (at least I was) that we had had breakfast somewhat earlier so we could have enjoyed coffee and/or an ice cream at one of the many cafés dotted about the place.

We had hoped to drive up to one of the official starts of the Avenue Road - there are three on Rügen Island - but the Iron Man put paid to that, so instead we drove to the little village of Wreechen which seemed to be all thatched houses, and then back to Putbus, where we saw some of the cyclists in the Iron Man, and then drive down to Stralsund. Unfortunately, the Sat-nav took us on the main road, but it didn't really matter. It is a gorgeous bridge - I'd been asleep when we crossed it yesterday. Into Stralsund where we found a parking place and had lunch, and then we drove on down the Avenue Road, so pretty, until we got to our current overnight place, by a lake in a hamlet called Meesiger.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 7and 8 September

Friday 7 September
I had a feeling all wasn't quite right when I went to the little supermarket near where we had  been staying, and couldn't see anything I fancied to eat. I knew we had enough food to do us, so came away without buying anything but by the time we got to Hamburg, all I wanted was my bed! No excursions no visiting the city, no photos, no lunch, no dinner.... Just sleep and horrid fever-dreams. The Swan Whisperer went out, of course, but oh, what a waste of a day!

Saturday 8 September
Felt a lot better this morning, and was able to eat some breakfast and go round a supermarket, but that was about as much as I was able for. Fortunately, it was a "driving day", so I didn't have to!  We made a detour into Lübeck, such a pretty town, and found a parking-place to have lunch in, and then headed on for the Baltic Coast and the start of the Deutsches Alleenstraße. Unfortunately, we chose not to believe the Sat-nav when it wanted to route us off the motorway and got held up for a couple of hours by a series of accidents and road works. But we got here in the end - rather a lovely place called Putbus - including a short drive along the Avenue Route, which looks as though it is going to be very pretty. Then the SW went for an explore - he says that we and the motor home next to ours are the only two without satellite dishes. I had been thinking, in Hamburg, that I hadn't seen so many so far this holiday.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 6 September

We were woken up a couple of times by mosquitos in the night, and at 06:00 decided we were thirsty so made tea and turned the hot water on. So we were up at 07:00 and, despite doing a little washing and using the services again, we were away just after 09:00. We decided to drive over the Afsluitdijk that separates the North Sea from the Ijselmeer, although it was too wet, gloomy and misty to see much. You can't see the North Sea at all as the dyke is too high. Half way over, or windscreen wiper decided to break again, so we had to stop to make running repairs with a bit of duct tape. 

We were fortunate that the first auto parts repair place we found was able to fit new wipers on the spot - it took longer to pay for them than the repair itself took, so we were not badly held up. We enjoyed our drive across the Netherlands, a land where field are bordered with wide ditches/narrow canals instead of fences. There were few crops - a few fields of maize and we saw one of sunflowers, but mostly animals - cattle, sheep, goats, a few horses and once, improbably, camels!

I dozed off and missed the crossing into Germany, but we are parked up in a small and rather popular aire in the village of Jade. The SW has spent most of the time hunting mosquitos, although he did go out for a short run. I have new books on my Kindle and have been reading and knitting.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 5 September

In the night it started to rain. And rain. And rain.  We spent most of the morning reading and dozing, waiting for the train to stop, and as it didn't, we went out about noon.

We decided to go via bus and metro across the Ij, and while we were at it, to go one stop further to Rokin, in the city centre. But hang on, which city are we in? Here we have a Body Shop, a Waterstones, a Primark, H&M, Hema.... We could have been in Clapham Junction! 

However, w there was also a specialist cheese shop which we obstacle and bought cheese at. - probably a tourist rip-off, but you know what? I don't care! 

And then we found a Dutch restaurant in a side street that fed us croquettes and chips; the latter were lovely, the former a bit meh! It came with some apple sauce, which I kept 2/3 of to eat as pudding, but the SW had apple pie and ice cream. He drank hot chocolate, and I had a beer and then coffee, but the place to take care of the inevitable consequences was up three flights of incredibly steep stairs - proof that it was an authentic old house, said the SW. 

After lunch we caught a tram to the Dam, and looked at the royal Palace and then walked back tu the Centraal station. We had vaguely meant to go to the Red light district, but seem to have missed it. Oh well. Anyway it was going on raining and raining and the rain got heavier and heavier, so we went down and exchanged our canal trip vouchers for real tickets and went on a canal trip. Which would have been lovely, had one actually been able to see! However, the rain stopped about half way through and we could open the windows and see out. 

We had hoped that the tour would take us past the Anne Frank House but that particular tour didn't go that way. So when it was over, we took a tram to the Westernmarkt and had a look. No possibility of going in, of course, and we didn't plan to, but we walked up to the next bridge across the canal and back the other side. A quick stop at a convenient supermarket, and then it was back in the tram to Centraal. We were going to catch a ferry back to the so nearest the campsite, but had just missed one, but I remembered that one of "our" buses card at where the next ferry was going, so we went on it. We were right about the buses, but what we didn't realise was that buses going in both directions used the same stop, so the inevitable happened and we got on one going the wrong way.

Once we realised this, we got off and, of course, just missed one going the right way. The next one wasn't for 15 minutes, but there was a supermarket across the road and the one thing we hadn't bought was beer, so we went into the attached offie and bought 2 bottles of Amstel and 2 of Heineken, incredibly cheap. And then the bus came, although it was on diversion due to building works, it dropped us where we expected to be dropped. Back to the motor home, used the services and supper is ready.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 4 September

Google told me there was a supermarket only a few yards from where we had parked up last night, so after breakfast I popped in, following Google.'s directions to get there. What Google didn't tell me, and I only found out when I'd finished my shopping and had left the supermarket, was that we were parked just opposite  the rear exit of the car park and I needn't have walked all round the houses at all! Ah well.

We set off about  09:30 and, apart from one stop for coffee and a detour for diesel before we reached the border - a mistake, as although we knew petrol was more expensive in the Netherlands, we didn't realise diesel was actually cheaper. Oh well.

The motor home park isn't the nicest, or the cheapest, but is secure and has services, although no sanitaires. We paid for 48 hours, and I wish we hadn't, as I find the city not at all to my taste. Just walking to the ferry, it was all hippyish and really rather hideous. Then we caught the wrong ferry and had to walk miles to a bus stop. Meanwhile, I had tried to buy transport tickets on line, but what we didn't realise was that what they sent me wasn't a ticket but a voucher to exchange for a ticket. So when service after service turned us away, we quite thought we'd been scammed.  Which I suppose wasn't the city's fault, but it didn't help. 

We eventually ended up in the Nieuwmarkt, where we had a beer, but even that was silly, because the waitress insisted in bringing us 250 mls when we had asked for 330, and even when we showed her on the menu she swore they didn't sell that size of beer.

We walked back to the Central Station and got the ferry back, and it was during the crossing we realised the problem with the tickets. So back we went and then queued for half an hour in the ticket office before finally getting our tickets!  So we went back to the motor home and the Swan Whisperer cooked eggs and bacon and now I am going to bed.

Monday, 3 September 2018

German Avenue Road, 3 September

We are several days from the start of the featured route of this holiday, but as it is much cheaper to cross after 16:00, we have not got very far yet.

I was spending the night with my parents, and at breakfast my father reminded us that today is the 79th anniversary of the day the Second World War started. He was only a schoolboy then, but he said he couldn't wait to leave and join up. He did join the Home Guard, and did dawn patrols, so he told us, and, of course, later he did join up, and was recently awarded the Légion d'Honneur as a Normandy veteran.

After breakfast I got a very crowded train to London - the first off-peak I've of the week - and bought sandwiches, etc, in Prêts so that we didn't have to think about lunch, which we ate fairly last thing before leaving at about 13:30.

The journey to Folkestone was uneventful - at least. I assume it was as I slept a lot of the way - as was the crossing. A quick dash round Carrefour to get one or two basics, and then we drive up to here, which is about half way between Bruges and Ostend. Now getting supper, including delicious home-grown beans, and then I expect there will be an early night before heading to Amsterdam in the morning.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Museum of Jewish Life and the Regent's Canal

This will be the last museum visit of the holidays, as the Boy appears to be museumed out!  Don't blame him.... however, his mother suggested we take them to the Jewish Museum as there was an exhibition there about the life and work of Rene Goscinny, the co-creator of Asterix, and, of course, the Boy loves Asterix.  To the point that, uninterested in the displays, he sat down and read the various books on display, although he knows them well. 

I found the displays quite interesting - they were mostly about his life and early work, once he and Uderzo invented Asterix, he never looked back.  Of course, he also wrote the "Petit Nicolas" books, but they weren't mentioned. 

The display was on the top floor of the Jewish Museum; the displays further down were arguably more interesting; there were plenty of things for the children to do - a broken jug to reassemble, a game of snakes and ladders to play, and the Boy spent ages with an interactive display of Yiddish theatre.  Boy Two kept having to be reminded to use his indoor voice and not run, so I hope he wasn't too bored.  The curator tactfully steered them away from the displays about the Holocaust. The first floor of the museum was about Jewish faith and worship, and again there was plenty to interest the children, asking them to find the various animals on the menorahs, and so on.

When we had finished with the museum, it was just about lunch time, so we got our coats and bags back from the cloakroom - still wet; we had been caught in an extreme shower just after leaving the Underground - and walked up to Camden Lock market to choose street food.  Boy Two and the Swan Whisperer both chose burgers, and got a chips to share; the Boy chose a pizza with pepperoni on it, and I got a vegetarian pita bread - that stall was really nice as they had two vegetarian choices; one was mushrooms and halloumi, which I had (although it would have been nicer had the halloumi been crisper, but it was still tasty), and the other was hard-boiled egg and something.

After that, we each had a salted caramel mini-cupcake for pudding, and then we wandered through the market to the canal basin, where the water bus to Little Venice was waiting.  We were the only passengers!  It was a lovely run; the boys weren't quite as interested as I had hoped they would be, but they had workbooks to do, and they both enjoyed seeing wildlife, and the jackals in the zoo, which gratifyingly ran alongside the boat for the length of their cave!


When we arrived at Little Venice, we decided the easiest thing to do was to head to Farringdon, which is only about 15 minutes' walk from the Temple, and the boys' father met us there and took the boys back in charge, while we got the Thameslink home.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Fulham Palace and Bishop's Park

A hundred years ago - well, the best part of 50 years ago, anyway - when I first came to London, I lived in Fulham, but Fulham Palace, back then, was not open to the public - in fact, Bishops had only just stopped living there!  Bishop's Park was open, but who had time to go to parks without small children to amuse?

So neither the Swan Whisperer or I had ever been there, and we decided to take the boys there.  We picked them up from the Temple at about 10:30, and went straight to Putney Bridge on the District Line (blissful air-conditioned trains, lovely!).  There were an awful lot of steps down from Putney Bridge, which my knees didn't really like, but once we were down it was a lovely walk along the Thames Path.
When we arrived in the park, there was a large children's playground, which I think Boy 2 might have liked to have played in, but The Boy turned his nose up!  We walked round the lake, and across a bridge that Boy 2 described as "Ribenary", which wasn't a bad description, we didn't think.  The Boy was very disappointed to realise it was plastic, not real wood painted purple!
We spent a few minutes watching potential footballers training at Craven Cottage,
and then walked back to the Palace proper.  We went first of all into the Palace gardens where the boys enjoyed (typical small boys!) "picking the bishop's nose" - a carved wooden bishop, I hasten to add:
Then we walked round the walled gardens, and then it was time for lunch.  We went into the palace itself to enjoy the "Dining Room".  The children's menu was a choice of pizza or chicken goujons with baked beans - both boys chose the chicken, which also came with a small salad.  I thought they were rather optimistic, but in fact, Boy 2 ate all of his, and The Boy ate a good third of his.  Mind you, it did have a very sweet dressing (we finished The Boy's, as he didn't want it!).  I had a panini with mediterranean vegetables and hummus, and the SW had what was described as "The ulitmate" ham and cheese toastie, but frankly, that was an offence against the Trades Description act, as it looked very manky.  Then the boys and I had ice-cream, and the SW had a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. 

Then it went a bit pear-shaped, as we went into the museum, and enjoyed looking at some of the things, but then we needed the loo, so I took the boys while the SW went on looking round, but when we came back, we found the officious librarian had moved the scooters and was cross with us for bringing t hem in (though there was nowhere obvious to leave them).  So we came away, rather cross, although I felt we really hadn't seen much of what there was to see.

We cheered ourselves up, though, by a visit to All Saints Church at the entrance to the park, which was lovely.  But why do the boys have to remove their hats when they go into a church and I don't have to?  Not a question I could answer, but I still made them take their hats off!

And so we wandered back to the main road, and decided to get a bus to South Kensington to avoid the steps - just as well, as that part of the District Line promptly fell over - and so back to the Temple and a farewell to the boys.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

The London Museum of Water and Steam

I had been wanting to visit this museum for some time, so the first day that we were on grandparent duty in the summer holidays it seemed like an obvious thing to do.

The museum is a few minutes' walk from Kew Bridge station, so, after picking the boys up at Senate House, we caught the 59 bus to Waterloo and then a blissful air-conditioned train to Kew Bridge.  Great giggles from the boys because the computer went pear-shaped and kept telling us we were heading back to Waterloo, and then when they did get it to go to Twickenham, they went the wrong way.... eventually the guard, or whatever they are called these days, had to take over!  But the train was lovely - seemed incredibly spacious, air-conditioned, and generally very nice.  Wish they'd had them when I was taking SW trains regularly!

So anyway, we arrived at the museum and paid our entry fee - two concessions and two kids, but the children were free.  Boy Two, who isn't quite five, would have been free anyway, but The Boy went free as a holiday concession.

We started off in the steam hall, which was quite interesting, but slightly, when you've seen one steam engine you've seen them all.  The history of the building was interesting, though, and we all loved a model which asked you to find the four cats who had lived in the pumping house back in the day - we found them all, even though, to scale, they were the size of ants!

We then moved off into the water area, which was much more interesting - at least, I found it so, and judging by the time they spent there, so did the boys.  It was basically the story of how we got the clean and safe water that today falls out of our taps, from the earliest beginnings of piped water into the home, via the Victorians and so on.  Ditto how the waste was got rid of, and when they began to separate the two.  There were also free water-saving devices on offer, and a card game (which I meant to give the boys before they left, but forgot), and a free chilled water dispenser (you could buy a reusable bottle if you didn't have one, but we all did).  There were also life-sized sewers for the children to crawl into, and handles to pump to move water, and all sorts.  We spent a long time there, but finally moved on to the outdoor "splash zone", which was terrific fun - lots of interactive water play, including one exhibit that both boys loved, where by dint of judiciously placing barriers, you could divert the flow of water to one waterwheel or another, or none. 
Eventually, though, we got hungry and headed to the café for lunch.  The boys each chose an enormous ham and cheese baguette - Boy Two only managed half of his - and we chose quiche, which was lovely, but I'd have liked some salad with it.  Then we each had an ice, and then the boys played with a huge Brio railway layout (they've nearly given up playing with it at home, go figure) while we watched and probably dozed, and then decided to call it a museum and head home. 

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Lambeth Country Show

This year is the 44th Lambeth Country Show, apparently.  We hadn't been for several years, but certainly went every year earlier in our married life - it was one of the Great Unmissables.  In recent years, though, either we had got more staid, or it had got less fun, I don't know, but we hadn't been for some time.  And once the Tour de France had finished for the day, we were both fidgety and wanted exercise, so we decided to go down for the last couple of hours of the first day.

This year, for the first time, they had erected a perimeter fence and required security checks on entering.  You couldn't take a full water bottle in, but you could take a bottle and fill it from one of the many standpipes dotting the grounds.  And you couldn't take in your own alcohol, which has apparently led to much grumbling, quite why when it's not actually necessary to drink to enjoy yourself, I haven't quite worked out.  There were plenty of beer tents, although the product wasn't cheap (would you expect it to be?  Apparently!).  The entrances were huge, and plenty of room so we didn't have to queue for security checks at all.

Actually, there seemed at first to be more loos than anything else, but as you walked further into the site, you saw more and more of the food and drink tents, and then the various shops and charity tents, and so on.
There seems to be much more of it than there used to be, despite the adult fun fair not coming any more (there were plenty of rides and slides and things, though).  The farm section was still there, with birds of prey

and sheep
among others.  Including most of the animals from Vauxhall City Farm, which were as delightful as ever, including 3 alpacas. 

If I had been by myself, I'd have spent a lot longer looking at the various shops and stalls, but of course the Swan Whisperer doesn't really care for that sort of thing.  However, by then it was 7:00 pm so we decided to eat there, and then have our usual Saturday sausages and mash tomorrow.  There was no shortage of choice when it came to food - I had a plateful of Moroccan tagine (vegan),
and the Swan Whisperer had a cheese sausage with sauerkraut from the German stall.  He had wanted the Currywurst, but they had run out.  And we had been going to have an ice cream for pudding, but just as we got ready for that, the van closed up its windows.  It was quite nearly closing time by then, though.

We decided to leave from the Herne Hill exit, on the grounds that the buses would be less full there.  We did just miss a 37, but there wasn't long to wait before the next one, and we were able to get on and get a seat very easily, which was not true by the time it got to Brixton Water Lane!  I don't know what crowds can have been like these past few years, as the place was heaving while we were there, and there were masses of people coming to and from the site on foot (when it was smaller, they provided a car park, but they don't any more as they want, sensibly, to discourage people from using cars when it's not necessary; plus it was horrible for the grass if it was a wet year). 

It was a very enjoyable late afternoon/early evening outing.  But I've done it for this year, and don't want to go back tomorrow, particularly!