Saturday, 15 June 2019

Birthday Celebrations

Today, the Great Western Railway celebrated the 175th anniversary of the route between Didcot and Oxford.  And yesterday, it was my 66th birthday.  So I asked whether, for my birthday present, we could go to the celebrations.

We took advantage of the occasion to travel to Oxford from Marylebone, a route we had not done before.  It's cheaper than via Paddington, and the train was absolutely rammed!  We did manage to get seats, but many people were not so lucky.  We went on the Underground, changing at Oxford Circus, but the Bakerloo Line was crowded and there was no step-free access at Marylebone.  Still, it didn't really matter.

When we arrived at Oxford, we went out of the station to ask about buying tickets for the 175th anniversary, which the website said could be done at any GWR station.  However, the woman at the information desk had never heard of such a thing, and didn't know what we were talking about!  Fortunately, the staff at the ticket office were better informed and, armed with a ticket, we went out on the platform just in time to see the 175 Luncheon Circular Tour depart. 

Then there was a modern train heading to Paddington
and, a few minutes later, one of the regular shuttles to Didcot.  This stopped at Radley, where we tried in vain to see any trace of the branch line to Abingdon that had been such a feature of my childhood, and at Culham, from which my father had commuted to London every day over 62 years ago!  Then it arrived at Didcot, where we found the entrance to the railway centre was just a few steps from our platform.

Our tickets included entrance to the railway centre, which was good.  First port of call was the café, where we had rather dry coronation chicken sandwiches and incredibly weak coffee, and then I had a
Toblerone ice lolly and the Swan Whisperer had tiffin and his weak coffee.  Then we set out to explore.  There was lots to see, including a museum which also had a 1960s signal display being demonstatrated, locomotives in steam and hauling passengers from one end of the site to the other
to the skeletons of carriages awaiting restoration

(is that Alexei or Sergei in the first picture?).  There were replicas of the original engines and carriages that ran on the broad gauge

And so on.  After a while, we decided we had finished with the site, and caught the next train back to Oxford.  We could, perhaps, have visited a funfair in Appleford or an exhibition at the Old Ticket Office at Culham, or even a fair on the site of the original Oxford station, about a mile from the present one, but there are limits on my energy, so we caught a train back to Oxford, and had a cup of tea in the station buffet there before getting a train back to Marylebone and a no 2 bus home.

Well worth the entry fees!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 5 June

Up at 06:45 this morning - well, not really up, but awake enough to put the hot water on and make tea - and we were away by 08:15.  First stop was the petrol station where we could empty the grey water, although I think we did make a little more during the homeward journey.  Then straight to the check-in, where they offered us a place on the 09:20 crossing - 08:20, UK time, which we must get used to again.

This was great, as it meant we could drive the van straight to Sussex, arriving there about 11:15, just in nice time for coffee. We had lunch with my mother and sister, and then my mother went to her WI  meeting and we finished unloading the van and packing the car, and then the SW did all the bits for the van that wanted doing, like emptying the loo, sweeping it out, double-checking everything and packing it away until next time.  We left for London at about 14:45, the car feeling very strange after so long in the van, and got home about 16:30; we have unpacked, put things away and started the first of many, many loads of washing!  I have gone through my blog and added photos, where I had some nice ones, and corrected such typos as I noticed - if you see any particularly egregious ones, let me know!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 4 June

I didn't feel great when I got up this morning - nothing serious, just headachey, and feeling as though I hadn't slept, which was not at all true. So I was thankful that the morning required nothing more of me than to sit quietly in my seat and sleep while the SW drove! I woke up when we reached Gent and felt a lot better.

After lunch we drove on to Calais, and parked up in the Cité Europe while we had a cup of tea and then drove over to the Auchan garage to get diesel and gas. Then we drove through Calais and waved at the Bourgeois, and then back to the aire.

I then went into Carrefour to do some last-minute shopping, and was rather startled when I came out to find that it had got dark and all the car park lights were on. As I was not expecting the sun to set before 10:00 pm, I wondered how on earth long is been in there! 

The darkness, needles to say, was the prelude to a huge storm, which lasted a good hour, but eventually cleared off and the sun has reappeared. I was glad if got back to the van before the storm started in earnest - one poor man wasn't so lucky and was soaked to the skin before he got his shopping put away! I have just seen him walking past in a quite different pair of shorts! I am really watching the wind turbines, not the people, but...

Monday, 3 June 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 3 June

I wanted to do a Last Shop in Germany this morning, so after breakfast I headed up into the Old Town to find an ATM, and then up outside the walls to the supermarket, which was a Tegut. There was also a Kik, and I'd thought I'd go in there if I couldn't get ice packs in the supermarket, but as it turned out, they had exactly what I wanted.

So I took my time over the shopping, as the SW was coming to get beer from the off-licence across the car park, and to return dead bottles. By the time I'd got back to the van, he had programmed the Sat-nav for the day's drive.

Well, neither of us has any real idea where we went; basically it was south of Kassel and east  of Dortmund, but full of places we'd never heard of. And it was lovely, despite a massive thunderstorm! Next holiday we will head straight for the area and explore it properly - there were hills and rivers, pretty little towns, most with a factory, mine or quarry to account for their existence, lakes, woods, all sorts. Really lovely and just waiting to be explored.

Why don't the British go to Germany more? In the camp site outside Brno we were the majority, and there were loads in Prague, too, but I don't think we've seen another British vehicle, never mind motor home, since we left Czechia! And it has been the same on most of our recent holidays here. Yet it really is the most beautiful country, with loads of varied scenery. I love the South of France, especially the Pyrenees and points west, and I love the Alps no matter which country I'm in, but Germany just has so much to explore.

However, it will have to wait for another time, as we must head home. We eventually hit the motorway and now we are in a camp site in the south of Holland which seems to be about half way between Fritzlar and Cité Europe, and which I chose primarily because it is on the edge of a nature reserve and I thought it would be nice for the SW to have his run there in the morning. He has gone out to explore. It's not nearly so hot this evening; the earlier storm seems to have cooled everywhere down.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 2 June

It being Sunday, we wondered about going to the English church in Leipzig but, alas, the church was in the Umweltzone and we do not have, nor should we, a green sticker. We could have undoubtedly gone there on public transport, but that would have taken time and we had a long drive today, so we sadly  abandoned the idea and set off shortly after 10:00 am.

It was all motorway, very dull, but we listened to From our Own Correspondent and The News Quiz and random music, stopping once for coffee and then again for lunch. We arrived in Fritzlar about 3, only to discover that our favourite aire only had emptying facilities, no refilling, and although we could have got water this morning, we didn't. So we went to the other aire, seeing far more of the town than we had done before, and got water. The other aire  was very nice, but we do rather love this one by the city walls, so came back to it and then had a drink before flaking out for a couple of hours.

I decided it made more sense to get supper up and running before we went out for a walk, so I did that and then we went out for our walk round the old town, and then back to the van where we had supper sitting outside - it has been very, very hot - and are now sitting and relaxing which I suppose we shall do until dark. We have finished the wine, which was probably unwise of us, but I hope it means we shall sleep well.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 1 June

Having exhausted myself in Prague on Thursday, and further depleted my resources in Terezin yesterday, today has, of necessity, been a rest day.

We were delighted to discover there was a parkrun less than a mile from where we spent the night, but, alas, a prolonged search did not turn up the Swan Whisperer's barcode, and he is 99% certain it's in his skate bag, in the middle of our living-room floor. We didn't think he ought to use mine, so no parkrun today.  The SW compensated by going for a walk to visit the Old Town and the Frauenkirche instead, before we headed off. 

First stop was a supermarket where I did a massive shop - we were out of almost everything except milk, eggs and fruit juice, which I had bought in Prague. I could have cobbled together a delicious meal with lentils, but had no fresh fruit or veg. And tomorrow is Sunday and German supermarkets will not be open, although we can probably get bread for lunch.

Anyway, we drove up the B6 - and very much up the Elbe - to Meißen, where we stopped on the banks of the river for lunch,
and then drove on to Leipzig, where I thought we were going to a car park but turns out to be, like Prague, an aire in someone's back yard and very nice, too. The SW has gone to explore and will be back soon. And tomorrow we seriously start home.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 31 May

I was overtired last night and didn't sleep too well, which was annoying as I knew we would have to do quite a lot of walking today. However, paracetamol settled the worst of my aches and pains, and I did sleep in the motor home!

After using the services, we headed off towards Terezin, where the infamous ghetto was situated. Most of the town seems to be a museum, and you'd have needed a great deal more energy than I had available to see it all, so we walked into the town and decided to visit the ghetto museum, detailing the history of, and life in, the ghetto, and how towards the end of the war it was used as a transit camp to the extermination camps and so on. I wish I could think that nothing so ghastly could ever happen again, but....

When we had finished in the museum it was lunch time and we had a traditional Czech meal of pork and dumplings, mine in a bed of cabbage with caraway seeds which was lush. The dumplings were interesting - they looked and tasted like ordinary slices of white bread, and a quick Google confirmed that this is more or less what they are, only boiled rather than baked. I must try this at home.

After lunch, and an ice cream from a stall in the car park, we headed on and stopped somewhere for the Swan Whisperer to go somewhere and do something that I expect he did tell me but I was asleep. I do know it involved a ferry across the Elbe, and there was a very busy train line where we were parked, but he has taken some pictures which I hope he will post.

When he came back we had a cup of tea and then drove on to Dresden, where we grabbed almost the last space in the aire! The SW is getting supper.

Late Spring Holiday, 30 May

So, Prague. We set off around 10:00 and caught the tram to the Old Town. It was a lovely day, bright blue skies, such a contrast to recent ones.

We walked across the Karlovy Most, or Charles Bridge, full of statues and tourists, and on the other side found where we could catch a tram up to the Castle. It was quite funny as the tram was, of course, packed full of tourists and every time we came to a stop someone  would think we had arrived and people would pile out, only to pile back in again when a local said it wasn't. However, we finally did arrive at the correct stop and the tram promptly emptied.

They have had to introduce security at the various entrances to the Castle grounds, so we duly queued up to have our bags searched and to walk through a metal detector, as at an airport. Then we were free to explore.

First, we explored the Gardens, which were very beautiful,

and led down to the Summer Palace where there was an exhibition of photographs documenting the events  of 1989 in the various countries affected, which was amazing and really interesting.

Then we walked down past the Cathedral and the various other buildings in the complex and down and down and down until we came out at the bottom.

Citymapper doesn't work here, alas, but it wasn't difficult to find a tram to take us back across the river from where we walked up to Old Town Square, which we looked round briefly. Last time we were here, it had been full of stalls selling pashminas - this was before the days when cheap viscose ones were ubiquitous - pretty glass bottles, and bread necklaces. I remembered that the SW had bought me such a pretty blue glass necklace that I wore and wore until it broke.

No stalls there now, though; just a throng of tourists. We made our way to the Mozart Café, where we met our friend J and her husband and had lunch and watched the Astronomical Clock chime, with its procession of apostles. 

After that, we said goodbye to our friends and headed a few streets on to meet another friend for coffee and cake - delicious cake, but I rather wished I'd had an ice cream instead as it gave me indigestion. But worth it! 

And then, exhausted, back to the camp site to collapse. We didn't want more than a token supper!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 29 May

Today has been a rest day as far as I'm concerned. We took one look at the traffic on the motorway between Brno and Prague and told the Sat-nav not to take us on toll roads today! 

It was, of course, a longer drive but very pretty across the Czech countryside interspersed with Czech villages and accompanied by Czach birds singing very loudly - even here in Prague. For some reason I was very sleepy, and when we arrived at this very nice campsite didn't really want to go out, so the SW went for a walk and I rested.  Tomorrow we will explore!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 28 May

So today was all about Brno. It rained. It would be a lovely city if it was fine. But it rained.
We decided to catch the 11:20 boat down the river and dam; the pier is my a short walk from the camp site, which seems, at this time of year at any rate, to provide most of the users of the boat, which dawdles leisurely down the river to the suburb of Bystrc, from which one catches a tram to the city centre. This also takes about 30 minutes, so it was lunch time by the time we arrived at the central station.

We wandered into a random restaurant which turned out to be an Italian one. The Swan Whisperer had a mushroom pizza, but as I only quite like pizza and had had one only the other day, I ordered fettuccine with salmon, and very good it was, too, with cream and spinach and Parmesan. Of course, I could have made it at home, but hey... Anyway that, with some beer, filled us up nicely, so we then walked through the city centre. 
Really, we could have spent longer, and perhaps explored further, as really all we saw was your typical Euro-high-street. But it was attractive. There was one place we turned left to see a vegetable market, but we sin turned back to the main drag, and then got a tram back to  Bystrc. Of course, we were an hour too early for the boat, so we killed some time exploring a large Penny Markt next to the tram stop, and then bought an iced lolly (me) and a coffee (the SW, who said it was instant and nasty) and sat in the rain for 30 minutes waiting for the ferry, which came at last.

By the time we got back to the camp site I was cold and wet, so got undressed and have been reading and knitting in my nice warm bed ever since. It has, of course, stopped raining, but it's very grey and "dreich".

Monday, 27 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 27 May

It was always going to be a long old drive today, so we didn't dawdle. The Swan Whisperer went for a run before breakfast, and then I went for a walk after it round a bit of the Toscana Nature Park. There was a circular walk round more of the park I would have liked to have done, but it would have taken another 30-45 minutes and I thought I'd better not take the time.
Our first stop was for diesel and groceries, mostly fruit. Then we drove on, telling the Sat-nav that we would rather go across country via Linz, even though it would take longer. It was a pleasant drive, although mostly on single-carriageway roads which were fine until you got stuck behind really slow lorries! 

We stopped for lunch shortly before the Czech border, which we crossed at Slavonice. The border crossing had a sort of duty-free shop, which annoyed me by not being able to sell us vignettes for the Czech motorways. However, we were able to get one in the first petrol station we passed, so that was all right. Again, the journey was mostly on single-carriageway roads, but the last 30 km or so was on the motorway. 

We arrived at the camp site - Camping Hana - at about 17:00, to find they have a rally of British motor homes here! Ah well.... We were also warned not to park where we had first thought, as they expect heavy rain and we might be stuck. And, indeed, the rain appears to be coming in as I write this..

The SW went into the village to get currency, and I am shortly going to get supper. We are here for two nights, so tomorrow we will explore Brno.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 26 May

I think I must have slept the clock round last night! It was not much past 9:00 when I fell asleep, and it was almost 9 when I finally came awake. I had got up at least twice in the night, of course, and at 06:30 had quite thought I was awake for the day, but no! 

Today is just over half-way through the holiday, so after breakfast the Swan Whisperer changed the sheets. While this was happening, I walked to the nearby bakery - German bakeries open on Sunday mornings - and bought rolls for lunch and, as it was Sunday, two slices of raspberry cake. The assistant found it necessary to draw my attention to the fact that it was yesterday's cake, being sold off at half price, did I mind? Well, duh....

We had decided to stop in Bad Reichenhall for lunch, but it was further than we thought (and I picked the wrong car park) and lunch basically didn't happen until about 15:00, which was a nuisance. Then we drove on to Gmunden, but the SW wanted to go a scenic route which did not really agree with me. Oh well.... When we got here, I flopped on the bed to read and he went for a walk, and we didn't sit down to supper until gone 20:30.  I hope our meals will be at more civilised times tomorrow!

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 25 May

It has been, we are all agreed, a very long week! But a lovely one. Today we got up early and the SW went for a run. Then after breakfast we returned the van to touring condition, used the services and drove up to the Oyebele car park, which is free with a Kurkarte. The SW then returned the Kurkarten to the Wöhnmobilstellplatz and we went into the rink to watch the final day of skating.

It was well worth watching, as the last day always is, with the free dance at all levels up to the wonderful performances from Gary Beacom and Midori Ito. And then we "softly and silently vanished away" to the supermarket and then over to Peiting in the pouring rain. The swimming-pool isn't open yet, and I don't know who would want to use it, even if it were as it is very cold and wet.
It has been a good Oberstdorf, I think. 7 days now, but the extra half-day meant there were fewer very early starts or very late nights. But what there were far to many of were injuries that were serious enough that people had to withdraw. At least one of the British team had to go to hospital and have broken bones set, and there were too many other injuries, mostly caused by carelessness on practice ice. Accidents happen, of course, but there were just too many this year!

Friday, 24 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 24 May

Today's skating started at 09:00, so I set up the alarm for 07:00  and we were there in good time. The weather was once again lovely, and as, by some miracle, I had no shopping to do, I spent one of the breaks sitting in the sun!

Today is the first day all week that my fitbit hasn't registered 5k steps, but even so it is 4.5k!  I am very tired and stiff from sitting in these uncomfortable seats, but it is worth it. 

The skating has been excellent, but this evening it is pairs so we have had supper and the SW has gone back to watch. I don't enjoy watching pairs, so have gone to bed, although I have no idea of snuggling down for awhile yet.
Pink Alpengluen - rain is on the way!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 23 May

We had all asked F to bring the sun with her when she came over yesterday, and she really seems to have done  so. In a huge contrast to the last few days, today was utterly glorious, and really warm.

There was no skating we wanted to watch this morning, so I went for a walk in the town and the SW went for a walk with friends. We had invited them to lunch, and I made a Greek salad to go with our rolls and cheese, and a big fruit salad for pudding.  And we drank beer, and then went over to the rink to watch the skating, which we did for the rest of the day, slipping out for a very quick pizza at Zohran's during a resurface.

The ice dance started today and watching the Bronze dances made me sad as the ISU has admitted more dances to its canon, so one of the dances
was the Willow waltz, which I used to skate competitively, although not well. I remembered why and how much I love ice dancing, and although I know, realistically, I am never going to be able to do it again, I still miss it sometimes!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 22 May

It has stopped raining!  It woke me up when it stopped in the night, as I am so used to the white noise of rain on the roof!  But it began again, and was still drizzly this morning. 

Today was the longest day of skating, starting at 08:35 and finishing at 22:15. We had to be there for the start, as a friend was skating second and we waved tu cheer her on. She was carrying a slight injury and not quite sure whether she would be able to skate - we would  have been annoyed had she withdrawn as we could have had another 30 minutes in bed! However, she skated beautifully, adjusting her programme to her limitations, so we were glad to be there to cheer her.

We wanted to watch all morning, but there was a long gap in the afternoon and early evening with nothing of interest to us, and it had finally stopped raining so I went for a walk around the town (they have closed the wool shop!) and the SW went for a 14k walk/run in the mountains, coming back very hot and sweaty so he had to buy a shower token and use the showers in the sanitary block as we don't normally have hot water at that time of day!

We then had supper and went back to the rink to watch for the rest of the evening. On the way, my water-bottle leaked and all the contents of my bag got wet! At least there is some prospect of its drying out....

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 21 May

I was a little worried in the night as there is a stream running through the campground leading to what we think is a hydro-electric generator, and last night it was very, very full!  However, when we left the van this morning, we found a sluice had obviously been closed, and it was empty and in no danger of overflowing. Great relief!

The rain has continued all day - I wore my wellies to the rink and was glad of them. Didn't do much other than watch skating, knit, grab some rolls from the supermarket and watch skating. We had dinner in Zohrans, the restaurant above the rink, and very good it was, too. I had a steak, which was lovely, and the SW had pasta with mushrooms, which I remember from previous years is also lovely!
Tomorrow is the longest day of skating, with the artistic competitions now over and the free skates starting, so we have gone to bed early.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 20 May

We didn't hurry out of bed this morning, and when we were getting breakfast the Swan Whisperer accidentally knocked his cup off the side when he was about to put tea in it, spilling milk all over the rug. The cup didn't break, and we had plenty of milk, but we were even later than we might otherwise have been because of course the rug had to be scrubbed or it would have smelt.

So we missed the first class we would have liked to have seen, but watched most of the rest of the morning. I did skip out to go into town to buy the SW a pair of shoelaces and me a slightly more waterproof tote bag, but then got the bus on its return journey to the rink.

But it was raining. It has rained the entire day and shows no sign of stopping. After a sandwich lunch at the rink, we watched a bit more skating, but when we had seen all our friends in Bronze Ladies II Artistic (2 of whom finished 2nd and 3rd) I came away. Did a bit of grocery shopping and then curled up in my bed and read (well, dozed) for a bit and got very, very cold. Don't know why as I was dressed and had the duvet over me, but I got so chilled I couldn't even reach out to turn the heating on. The SW, who had wrapped up against the rain and gone for a walk, turned it on when he came in, and soon I was warm enough to make a very lazy lentil curry. Which was lovely, but would have been even nicer with a handful of sultanas in it. Maybe next time I'll chop up an apple... We had asparagus to start with and ice cream to finish.

I decided against going back to the rink and am now curled up in bed with a hot-water-bottle and a rug over the duvet! I might even fish out some bedsocks - I think I packed a couple of pairs just in case.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 19 May

I set the alarm for 07:00 this morning and we hurried through washing and dressing (and running, in the case of the SW) and breakfast to get to the rink before 09:00, only to find that they had changed the system and were now doing the accreditation in the office and our help wasn't wanted. We were most unimpressed, particularly as the main reason to volunteer was to get a free pass into the competition. As it was, we had to buy an all-event pass.

So we hung about watching practice and chatting to friends until it was time for the opening ceremony. We were saddened to learn of the death of a friend, who had been seriously ill for two years and more so not altogether unexpected, but still very sad.

After the Opening Ceremony (fizzy wine at 11:00 am, how decadent!), we went back to the van and had lunch. Virgin Mobile had given all its customers 5G of data to use today so I allegedly watched videos on my phone but in fact fell asleep!

We made it back to the rink in good time for the start of competition at 15:30,coming back to the van during Bronze Ladies I, as we didn't know anybody in it. We had an early supper and went back to watch the last couple of classes of the day, only to find that my cowbell wasn't in my bag. I thought i must have left it in the rink and some kind soul had given it to Lost Property, but in fact found it on my bed when we got back, and the SW admitted to having tipped out when getting something earlier, which I do wish he had told me! Ah well, no harm done. In fact, rather the reverse - I couldn't find my folding mac this morning and assumed I'd left it at home, but found it in the bottom of my bag when I was looking for the cowbell!

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 18 May

Up fairly early this morning to have breakfast with the Niece, which was very pleasant and it was late morning before we got away for the third day's long drive. We stopped for lunch, and then at Memmingen to get diesel and a quick look round DM, and then on to Oberstdorf, where we are parked up for the week. I did a dash to the Norma and got some food, and then there was a nice cup of tea. The SW went up to the rink to see people, but I am not quite adjusted to the altitude (although it's a zillion times better than last year) so stayed in the van, and we decided to have a quiet evening.

Late Spring Holiday, 17 May

Another long drive today, to Mannheim, where our niece lives.

First thing, the Swan Whisperer went for a run while I got breakfast and then we started off by retracing our steps a little to a very large Carrefour, which made the one at Cité Europe look tiny!  I did a bit of shopping, wincing slightly at the prices of things like tinned veg. However, fresh fruit and veg, which is what I mainly wanted, were reasonable and I got some, plus the cream cheese I had forgotten to get the previous day and ice cream for supper pudding. Plus a tray of olives and sliced salami for nibbles.

We then drove and drove, doing at a random aire for lunch and again for diesel, and arrived here about 16:45, in nice time for a cup of tea and the SW went for a leg stretch while I stayed in the van as it was hot, so we had everything open to air it out, and someone had to be there!

Our niece arrived about six and we had a lovely evening with her, eating the aforementioned nibbles and ice cream with a butternut squash and mushroom risotto in between and killing off a bottle of Mas Alart rosé. It was great.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Late Spring Holiday, 16 May

The worst thing about the trip to Oberstdorf is the drive across Belgium on the first full day! Belgian motorways are dull and slow.

At breakfast it was nice to be able to listen to the radio on our new portable via Bluetooth from our phones.  It doesn't seem to use much data, and of course we should have WiFi in Oberstdorf.
First thing after breakfast was shopping. We were able to get a new mini-jack cable, which works, so we can play music through the new car radio despite the USB connection not working. The Swan Whisperer also bought himself a new pair of shorts so he can run, having decided to use yesterday's t-shirt as the top. He wears ordinary socks, so that's OK. 

I forgot to buy cream cheese, though, which is a bore, but easily rectified. 

We decided to break the journey at the Strépy-Thieu boat lift, which is always nice, even though the route is a little longer.
Not helped by the fact that the new Sat-nav decided we were over 3.5 tonnes so must obey the HGV speed limits.  This didn't really matter in France, where they are 100 Kph on the motorways, as the SW tends to drive at that speed anyway, but was a bit in Belgium where it is 90, as it kept beeping at us for being over the speed limit. Which we really weren't as we are not over 3.5 tonnes.  I was able to fix this eventually, though, through the simple expedient of telling it we were a light camper, not a heavy one which was what I had originally told it. It still knows our dimensions and will programme routes accordingly.

Lunch was the usual bread, cheese etc, and I bought us raspberry tartlets to celebrate, and also some gariguette strawberries. Then we both went for a breath of air - I had  to wind my wool first as the ball had collapsed - and then  pressed on, stopping once as the SW needed a break. We got here eventually and had a cup of tea and now the SW is going to go for a walk before dinner.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Late Spring holiday, 15 May

It is nearly time for the annual ISU competition in Oberstdorf, so we are off again. Only in Calais so far, but I managed to exhaust myself getting ready to go and am glad it was not further.

We were nearly late arriving at Folkestone, but were able to go straight through, only to discover we couldn't make the USB connection to our new car radio work, and as that was the whole point of buying a new one, we are not impressed. Then we had trouble getting the SW's phone connected to the new Sat-nav, but managed that in the end, and I was able to connect my phone to the portable radio, so we can have our favourite stations via the various apps on my phone. I have also downloaded some podcasts, and some films on to my tablet, so we shall not want for entertainment this trip.

Monday, 22 April 2019

The Markfield Beam Engine

Ever since I have seen signposts to the Markfield Beam Engine, I have longed to visit it, and today it was not only open to the public, but also in steam!  So this was an Easter Monday outing to please me, if nobody else! The Daughter invited us to a barbecue lunch and after this we set off - as their car won't seat six, the Son-in-Law decided to cycle.  The children's bikes were put in the car, as the car park the Daughter likes to use is quite some way from the site.  In fact, she was able to park slightly nearer than she thought, and we set off to walk the remaining 1.5 km to the museum.

It was a lovely walk along the River Lea,
although the towpath was jam-packed solid with people - mostly ultra-Orthodox - out for a Bank Holiday walk.  The Daughter was rather concerned for the boys, between the Scylla of falling into the river and the Charybdis of knocking someone else over, but the navigation happened smoothly, and we arrived at the museum about five minutes before the introductory talk started, and then the engine was started.  It was brilliant, and smelt absolutely gloriously of coke....

we did wonder, though, whether it would have smelt quite so nice in the days when its function was to pump sewage.  The boys rapidly got too hot - it was hot in there - so we went out and had ice-cream and then the Swan Whisperer and I continued our walk along the river to Tottenham Hale Tube station, and so home. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The Institution of Civil Engineers

Some years ago now, it was a joke that if you looked up "Boring" in the yellow pages, you were directed to civil engineers.  I think the Institution of Civil Engineers (known as "ICE", slightly to Boy Two's confusion) must have taken that to heart, as it has adapted their library to be an exhibition space, and this year's exhibition is "Water: From source to tap".

We had no idea what to expect, but in fact it was a delightful exhibition.  We arrived very soon after it opened, and were about the first people there, although it did fill up a bit later.  There were loads of videos you could watch, with headphones; there was a film (rather dull) in the built-in cinema; there were interactive touch screens and games, and even a virtual reality headset.  The Boy had a go on that, and had great fun exploring his world rather than playing the game that you were supposed to, but I, for one, would have done the same, I suspect.  There was lego and other construction materials, there were books (some free to take home) and generally, there were lots of ways to spend a morning!

Above all, two things stood out - one the slightly relentless focus on how much the world needs civil engineers and how they are "secret superheroes", and the other about Don't Feed the Fatberg.  Apparently it's not just London that has a fatberg problem, but all round the world!

I am not sure how much Boy Two enjoyed it, although he did like playing with some of the construction materials and the games on one of the touch screens.  He was faintly confused by the acronym ICE for the Institution, but I think he might have sorted it in the end.  The Boy enjoed himself, and was heard telling his father all about fatbergs.....

When we had had enough, we followed our noses to the basement, where there is a café and a brasserie, both open to the public.  We looked at the brasserie's menu, but decided that it was a bit expensive for lunchtime, so we went to the café, where I had a salad bowl, the boys had paninis and salad (half a panini each, and their "salads" were only cucumber and coleslaw, but they enjoyed them), and the Swan Whisperer had a panini with potato wedges.  This was all delicious and disappeared rapidly, and was also excellent value for money.

After lunch, we decided to head up to the Stow, specifically to Higham's Park, as I wanted to go to the big Tesco there (well, any big Tesco, really, but that one was easy enough to get to).  We walked to Green Park Tube via both St James' Park

and Green Park, which was a lovely walk, and at Walthamstow Central we were delighted to find that an Overground train arrived almost at the same time as we did.  I left the menfolk to have drinks in Costa while I went to shop, and then I joined them.  And then a bus back to theirs.....

I definitely recommend the Institution of Civil Engineers - the Boy wondered why on earth it wasn't more popular, but I don't think it's widely known.  They have had previous exhibitions, but I was never confident of finding them - but now I know, I shall keep an eye on it for an Easter holiday activity 

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 3 April

We had booked on the 09:50 crossing, so set the alarm for 06:30, and as soon as the bathwater was hot, we got up and were eating our breakfast by 07:30. This meant we were able to get to the terminal in good time, and were allowed on to the 09:20 crossing, which suited us very well indeed! So we got home (the M20 is horrible at the moment, nothing but roadworks and you really can't count on being allowed to go more than 50 mph for any of it, so if you are headed that way, leave extra time) about 11:00 UK time, and spent the next couple of hours in a frenzy of unpacking and putting away, and doing the first two loads of washing. Then we set off again shortly after 3:00 pm to take the van down to Sussex, and had supper with my mother and sister before returning to London and getting home about 10:45 pm.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 2 April

And so the holiday ends, as most of our holidays do, at Cité Europe to be ready for an early crossing in the morning.

We started the day in Amiens, and realised it was raining. Apart from the first two days of our holiday we have had lovely weather; warm, shirtsleeve weather, and I don't think I've worn a coat more than once or twice!

The Swan Whisperer went out to buy bread and then we had breakfast, by which time the sun was out again. I went back to sleep for a bit, and I suppose it was about 11 we set off. We decided to have a look at Doullens, as although we have been there before, we couldn't really remember it. Not very impressive - there is a citadel, but not open for visiting at that time. So we came away and drove to Arras, and parked up by the great cemetery there, where we had lunch. And then slowly, through a tremendous hailstorm at one point, up to Coquelles and Cité Europe. I did a Last Shop in the rain, and then we had supper, and I'm about to go to bed!

Monday, 1 April 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 1 April

All holidays come to an end, and this one is winding down to its close. I really haven't felt able to do anything much today after overdoing it yesterday - the tourist areas of Paris are now overrun with electric scooters, which do not add to the city's charm, but would have saved our legs a bit had we learnt how to use them.

I think I slept all the way to Beauvais this morning, but as we needed eggs I had to go into the supermarket and got some radishes and one or two other things while I was at it. It turned out to be lunchtime and so we had that, and then tried to drive on to an aire from our book that we thought sounded nice, opposite a British cemetery, with full services. But the lat and long just led us to the middle of a field, and there was neither a cemetery nor, indeed, a road by that name in the village. Had it been on-line, I'd have suspected an April Fool prank, but this was in a book. Very odd. So we came to this car park in Amiens, where we have stayed before. The SW had scratched dirt on the place I'd originally chosen, saying it was in the middle of nowhere. Not that it matters. Tomorrow to Coquelles and a Last Shop, and then home on Wednesday.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 31 March

We had to set the alarm for 06:30 this morning , so nice when the clocks had gone forward!  But we needed to be ready to get away by 08:00 to get to St Michael's in time for the 09:00 service.

We made it, though - the campsite "navette", or shuttle bus, doesn't start until 08:30 (it's a bit of a ripoff compared to public transport anyway!) But there is a public bus only a few minutes' walk from the campsite and I had some  tickets so we were able to get up to Porte Maillot metro station and buy our Mobilis, or day tickets. Then it was a quick run to Concorde on Line 1, which now has PEDs, very smart, and a short walk to Church.

After the service which was excellent and not a mention of Mothering Sunday, we walked up to the Opéra
and then got a bus  down to the river. I had said I would love to take a bateau-mouche on the Seine, something that when I lived in Paris I only ever did when there were visitors to show round.
When we went down to the quayside, though, we found something even better, a Batobus
that goes round and round between the Eiffel Tower and the Jardin des Plantes. It cost €17, but tickets were valid all day and you could get on and off as you pleased.  So we got on that as far as the Eiffel Tower
, and then got a bus to the Etoile for a very silly reason: I wanted to see whether Line 6 still did a rather tight loop there, letting passengers off on one side before allowing them on on the other. It does, and the eastbound trains still sit at Kléber, which functions as the terminus.
We stayed on Line 6, enjoying the lovely view over the Seine up to the Sacré-Coeur, until we got to Montparnasse-Bienvenue, get we got off to get something to eat. We both fancied crêpes, and Google took us to a nearby street where there was a choice of several, and we had a lovely lunch including a bottle of cider.

After lunch we caught another bus back to the river, and then got on the Batobus again back to the Louvre. I was flagging badly by then, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the motor home. We ended up getting the metro at Franklin Roosevelt Station (we got a bus most of the way there), then got the métro to Porte d'Auteuil and another bus back to the camp site which dropped us slightly nearer than this morning's bus. And A Nice Cup Of Tea and a couple of paracetamol! I am beyond exhausted.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 30 March

Today sort of turned out to be a rest day, not intentionally. It being Saturday, it was parkrun day, this week at Fontainebleau (he ran 21'59", very pleased with himself, thank you for asking), and after he had showered, dressed and had more to eat, he decided he had to rewire the broken wing mirror if it was to last until we can get it to Lancing Commercial at the end of the week. By the time he had done that, it was already 12:30, so I sent him to buy bread and we had lunch when he got back.

I, meanwhile, had pottered round taking photographs of the very beautiful Palace and grounds, and both of us read for ages, too. But eventually it was time to move on. First port of call, inevitably on a Saturday, was a supermarket to stock up for the weekend - although more and more are open on Sunday mornings, we won't be able to shop tomorrow. 

And so to Paris and the campsite here, which seems very nice. We decided we were too tired to go into town tonight, so our wedding anniversary meal is an extremely nice cheeseburger in the campsite restaurant.
Washed down with a bottle of rosé, as the waiter pointed out a bottle - 750 ml - was only €1 dearer than the 500ml pichet so much better value for money.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 29 March

No need to shop today, although I'd have liked some radishes but wasn't going to go to a supermarket specially. So while the SW went for a walk, I went to the nearest boulangerie to get bread for lunch.
Then came back and we decided to drive across country to Fontainebleau, going rather out of our way so I could see the Aérotrain track, something that I find pleasing! It impressed me when I first saw it in the 1970s, when it was a real possibility, and it still impresses me today even though it has long been superseded by the TVG network.

Once we had seen that, it was time for lunch but the trouble with cross-country French roads is that there is nowhere to stop!  And the villages were too small to have supermarkets whose car parks we could borrow. However, we decided to drive into one village we would otherwise have skirted to see if we could park by its church, and found it had a cemetery with a tiny parking attached, so had a lovely, peaceful lunch. 

Then on... And arrived in Fontainebleau about 4:00, in Nice tune for a cup of tea before the SW went to explore. Me, I'm saving myself for the weekend in Paris!

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 28 March

Well, today didn't really turn out as planned, either. The Swan Whisperer said he really didn't like the sound of the brakes and we probably needed new brake pads, so our first port of call was the local NorAuto. However, they told us they only do cars and we would need to go to the Euromaster. Which we duly did, and they were so nice. They agreed we needed new brake pads as a matter of urgency, but they didn't have them in stock. However, please come back at 3:00 and they would have them.
So we went and found a supermarket and I got ready meals for supper, and a couple of new bras (I am gradually replacing my elderly, greying ones, and these were such a good price it would have been rude not to, really). Then we found a nice place to park up by a river, and had lunch and I had a nap while the SW went for a walk and at 3:00 we reported back to the Euromaster. 

Five minutes after he started work, the mechanic appeared and said we mustn't drive another inch on those tyres, they were down to the bare metal! And when the SW had a look, he had to agree that they were. So we agreed to buy and have fitted two new tyres in addition to the brake pads. 

And there the matter rested for the next 90 minutes or so while we sat in the waiting room and read, and noticed that the mechanic had disappeared. It turned out later that the wing pads had been sent, so he had to go and fetch the right ones, wasn't that nice of him! Especially as they charged us no more for labour than originally quoted, and were most apologetic about the delay. 

Our drive today had never been going to be very long, but as it was already 5:00 pm, we went up the (free) A20, long and boring, but we got there in the end. Nice aire, plenty of space and easy to find.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 27 March

Today we started out in Montigny. The SW went for a run, and after breakfast we brought the motor home up into the town and had a very pleasant walk round. It was market day, so I bought a large beef tomato for tonight's supper, and in an artisan bakery we bought quiches and patisserie for lunch.
The SW wanted to see Lascaux, so we drove out there and he went off to explore only to find it was closed until 6 April! You can't go into the original caves, of course, but there is a replica. So he was most disappointed. I don't do caves, at all, and had stayed in the van.

After coffee we set off, stopping once for lunch, and then again to get gas; then we drove on to this very nice aire in Saint-Priest-Taurion, where we stayed on our first tour, about 3 1/2 years ago now.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 26 March

After breakfast this morning, we visited the Prune Museum, which was quite interesting, showing how the drying and preserving of prunes had evolved from simply shoving them into your bread oven to today's drying tunnels. More interesting, I found, was the video showing how it is done today. After this there was a tasting session, although I was mindful of Boy Too's dictum that eating more than two prunes a day could make you uncomfortable! I bought some prunes, and some prune-based spreads, in the shop, and then it was time for coffee after the rather sweet prunes dipped in chocolate we had been eating.

Then en route. Our first port of call was a services where we could finally empty the loo and the grey, and then a big supermarket where I did a shopping and then we had lunch. Then we drove across country to this very pretty little town called Montignac, where the aire is lovely, all provided including electricity for only €8 per night. We have had a cup of tea and the SW has gone for a walk.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Bisecting the Hexagon, 25 March

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, so I didn't hurry out of bed and it was gone 10 when we eventually strolled along the road and over to the funicular, which took us up to the historic part of Pau. We had  a delightful walk round the castle area and then back towards the centre of the town, including a Monoprix where we did a small shopping, including 2 bottles of my favourite shower gel! I was quite surprised to find we were back at the funicular, as I'd quite thought we had gone  a block further over.

The Swan Whisperer had coffee and a muffin (why, when he can have one at home any day?) in the station café, and then it was time to move on. We stopped for lunch, and again for the SW to buy new shoes as his were showing signs of imminent demise, and once where we hoped there were services, but they were out of use. We are fine for water, and can fill up here if we need to, but emptying is rapidly becoming a bit of an issue.

"Here" is a very pleasant spot which is an active plum growers and a museum and shop selling prunes and prune products. We were too late for the museum but plan to go in the morning, and I shall buy some prunes and also some prune and hazelnut spread which was yummy - I had a taste!

Then the SW went for a walk while I got supper ready and we had a glass of wine from Mas Alart which was gorgeous and went well with our butternut, mushroom and leek risotto!