24 June 2022

Trains, trains and more trains!

The Elizabeth Line opened while we were still away in Germany, so we missed the grand opening, and one way and another hadn't got round to visiting it yet.  The Daughter did use it on the first day, but the Boys hadn't.  Today, the older Boy had an Inset day, so his mother took a day's leave and exploring the Elizabeth Line was high on his list of things to do.  We met at Liverpool Street, and took the first train along to Paddington. 

At Paddington, we came out of the station because the Daughter wanted to see the clock where it looks as though a man rubs out and redraws the minute hand

and, presumably, the hour hand.  So we watched that for awhile and then headed back, this time all the way to Abbey Wood.  Such a pity Younger Nephew and his partner no longer live there.... 

So anyway, we thought it would be a bit dull just going back to Liverpool Street and, to be honest, there is very little to see.  So we didn't get out at Abbey Wood, but caught the next train back one stop, to Woolwich, which I'd never been to before, 

and then walked the few hundred metres to Woolwich Arsenal DLR, where we just caught a DLR train to Stratford International. 

It was lunch time by then, and the Boy wanted Mexican food, so we went to the food court in the Westfield, and the others all got Mexican food, but I got noodles as I'm not just so fond of Mexican.  The Swan Whisperer had to finish my helping, it was so huge!

After that, he went off and the Boy, the Daughter and I went round Westfield on a hunt for t-shirts for the Boy, who is just not quite big enough for x-small men but dislikes, with some justification, the pictures they will insist on putting on boys' t-shirts.  I don't think the shopping trip was a success!  I also wanted to go to Lakeland, which I did, but then was going to have an ice cream but the stall, which had been empty when I went into Lakeland, was rammed when I came out.

I thought I might take the Javelin to Paddington (okay I'd have to pay, but it's not that much), but it turned out I'd just missed one and the next wasn't for over half an hour, so I thought sod that for a game of soldiers and went back to the DLR station.  Changed at Canning Town on to the Jubilee Line and then at Canada Water to the Overground, and at Peckham Rye to a bus, which fortunately came along just as I reached the bus stop.  I was, and am, beyond tired, but it was a lovely day.

18 June 2022

The Devon Pullman

This was my birthday present from the Swan Whisperer.  We had to get up at silly o'clock to be at Victoria Station for 08:00, when the train left.  We've done worse!  The train was going to Exeter and back, out via Acton, Slough, Reading, Newbury, Taunton, etc (with a most extraordinary wiggle to get it from the SouthEastern lines to the Great Western ones out of Paddington!), and back via Crewkerne, Salisbury, Basingstoke, etc.  

As it was a Pullman train, the seating was very luxurious,

and even the loos were amazing! 

Brunch was served on the way out, including strawberry wine (I didn't have much of that, it wasn't very nice) a peach bellini (well, two peach bellinis), a couple of pastries (we needed blotting-paper by then), and, over the course of the journey, a plate of fruit with yoghurt, smoked salmon with a poached egg (I think a great many people would have preferred a Full English, but that was not offered),

and a rather peculiar choux bun stuffed with passion fruit.
all washed down with tea or coffee (I had coffee) and the aforementioned bellinis!

We arrived in Exeter at about 12:00, and had approximately 3 1/2 hours in the city before the return journey.  Of course, the train had just missed the half-hourly bus into town, but it came eventually and we got off to walk up the main shopping drag and then down to the river.  We decided not to visit the Cathedral, as we had done so with a professional guide (a friend) on our last visit

I wanted to see the mediaeval Exe Bridge and it was well worth seeing - and one could even walk across it, although it no longer spans a river,

Citymapper works here, so we were able to find a bus that took us back to the town centre and was almost due, so we didn't have to wait too long.  We decided to walk up towards the Central Station (not the main station in Exeter - that's St David's) and on the way stumbled across the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, RAMM for short, which is one of the Exeter must-sees, apparently.  And it is free, so we went in and thoroughly enjoyed the very eclectic collection there of artifacts from prehistory to the 20th century, and on the upper floors various stuffed animals, someone's collection of starfish and then a page of artifacts from around the world, including stuff from colonial-era Africa and so on.  Fascinating, but time was getting on, so we walked up to the Central Station to see if it was worth waiting for our train there (it wasn't), or even catching a train to St David's, but we have Freedom passes and a bus was due in a few minutes, so we caught it back to the station and then waited on the platform until our train came in.

This morning, our attendant had asked if it was true that simply nobody had any dietary needs - no vegans, vegetarians, gluten-frees, dairy-frees, etc.  We all agreed this was so - until we read the dinner menu.  The first course was scheduled to be baby beetroot, which I think almost the entire carriage said they didn't eat.  So we were offered heritage tomatoes as a substitute (and very good they were, too), except the people sitting opposite us didn't care for tomatoes, either.  Not sure what they had in the end!  Plus the pudding was scheduled to be rhubarb - no thank you!  I was offered a summer fruit jelly instead, which was very delicious indeed!

We started off with champagne, and our ticket included a bottle of wine, so we had ordered rosé, and I regret to say that despite two glasses of champagne, we managed to polish off the entire bottle between us!  Mind you, it was over about 5 hours, but even still!  There were a couple of nibbles waiting for us when we got back on the train, and they started serving our 5-course dinner about 4:30 or 5:00.  Started with the afore-mentioned heritage tomatoes, then courgette and green pea soup (one of my favourites - the trouble is, we don't usually drink soup in the summer when they are in season, so I seldom make it) followed by wonderful roast lamb and vegetables,

the cheeseboard, and the aforementioned rhubarb

or jelly.
And yes, it was as delicious as it looks! 

We got back into Victoria (after a wiggle after Clapham Junction to get to the SouthEastern lines) at our scheduled time of 20:37 and a quick trip down the Tube and we were home before 21:15 or thereabouts.

Although we did have a very great deal to drink, it's only once in awhile!  And the food, while delicious, was judiciously portion-controlled so we didn't feel bloated and stupid.  In fact, my only complaint was that I was cold - the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees since Friday's high of 32!  And all the windows were open on the train, which was lovely going down but really cold coming back.  Even the Swan Whisperer put on his jacket, and I wished for a cardigan rather than the light jacket that goes with my blue dress.... but London is a bit warmer than the countryside and we soon thawed out.  

All in all, a Grand Day Out!  Thank you, my beloved Swan Whisperer for a lovely day.

11 June 2022

Stockwell Bus Garage Tour

Stockwell Bus Garage is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and, to celebrate, held an Open Day.  You could just go and potter round the garage, looking at the large variety of buses they had gathered for our delight,

plus an extremely large number of stalls selling bus memorabilia, but, as the Swan Whisperer said, we weren't keen enough to want to buy anything (although I was very tempted by a book on the nadir of Southdown Bus Services during the 1950s; those wonderful years when the buses crossed at Castle Goring Gates on the hour and the half-hour; the 9 going to Littlehampton on the half hour and the 10 to Arundel, and both buses going to Brighton on the way back!  But I digress.).  You could, however, also book a guided tour of the garage for a small fee, and the Swan Whisperer had managed to score practically the last available tickets just before we went away.

We gathered outside the Binfield Road entrance just before 2, and our names were checked off on the list.  The tour was absolutely fascinating; our tour guide, Ricardo, who has been a bus driver for 21 years, was knowledgeable and friendly.

  We started off in the check-in area, where drivers checked in for their shifts, and were shown the various notices of diversions, etc, they had to know about.  Then we went upstairs to the heart of operations - the iBus area.  We weren't allowed to take any photographs there for data protection reasons, but it was fascinating, as the controllers knew where all the buses were, and you got the occasional announcement from TfL headquarters saying that so-and-so routes were to be on diversion during an event in Central London that was just starting.... and the controllers could talk a driver who was not very confident through a diversion, and tell someone to wait for a few minutes if they were running late.  If there are fewer than 4 buses per hour they run to a timetable and shouldn't be more than 5 minutes late or 2 minutes early; if there are more than 4, they must leave a certain amount of headroom between buses (so you don't get half a dozen coming along at once).  And so on.

We were then shown the canteen - there is also a games room and a television lounge for drivers between shifts, although the canteen isn't open at night so night bus drivers have to provide their own food - there is no take-away service.  I asked whether there was a gym, but didn't get a very clear answer.

After the canteen, we went back downstairs and were shown the engineering areas, where the buses go in to be washed and cleaned after use,

and also where they go for their monthly inspections or if anything has gone wrong.  The drivers have a long checklist of things to look for every time they take a bus out, and if they are not all correct, the bus doesn't go.  All the engineers can service all the buses, and the drivers, too, are trained to drive all the various kinds.

The tour finished on the upper deck of an open-air bus, so we could see the famed ceiling of the garage, very avant-garde for its time.  

08 June 2022

Oberstdorf and more, 8 June 2022

 And we are home!  The SW plodded through the rain this morning to get croissants and a baguette for breakfast, and we set off about 10:00 to Cité Europe, although in the event we only went to Lidl.  German Lidl gave me a €3 voucher because it was my birthday; French Lidl gave me a €5 one, but I found out, too late, you had to have spent €50 to qualify.  Oh well.  Did get some nice bits, though - but I wish we had gone to Carrefour as I quite forgot to get citric acid.  Not that it is that important - I can get it on-line - but I like the jars they come in.  

Anyway, it was then  just gone 11:00 and not too early to check in; they offered us a place on the 12:20 rather than the 12:50 we were booked on, but in the event we got on the 11:50, which was really nice.  We stopped at Clackett Lane Services to have lunch, and then arrived at no 6 at about 14:00.  My mother and sister are away, but we were able to let ourselves in to empty the loo, change keys, etc.  It was about 16:00 by the time we set off, and a rather slow journey due to the rush hour, but we were home by 18:00 and unloaded the car and have done a great deal of unpacking and the first load of washing.  Not quite sure when we'll be going away in the MoHo again, but we have a few adventures planned, so watch this space.

The peacock that I spoke of yesterday appeared after I posted last night; I did put a picture of him on Facebook, but in case you didn't see it: 

07 June 2022

Oberstdorf and more, 7 June 2022

The holidays frequently start off with a long, slow, usually wet drive across Belgium, and they frequently finish with one, too. And today was no exception. We have been in four different countries today: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France!

We started off with a trip to Lidl where I did a Last Shop in Germany (they gave me a €3 coupon because it is going to be my birthday) and then the horrible, long, slow, wet (why does it always rain in Belgium, especially round Brussels?) drive, first to Dunkerque and then when we decided we didn't really like that aire, another 30 minutes to this very nice one at Esquelbecq, which is free except for water, which we are not going to want anyway.

The SW, who went for a run this morning, went for a short walk this evening while I got supper. He says it is lovely, and I expect it is, but I am tired after the drive - I did doze a bit, of course, but mostly sat and was bored! Still, the holiday as a whole has been worth it, and I am very sorry it's almost over. 

There is a peacock somewhere - we can hear it but not see it. The SW says there is a woodpecker, too, but I can't hear that. 

06 June 2022

Oberstdorf and more, 6 June 2022

It is Whit Monday here in Germany, so most shops are not open and people are not at work.  I was surprised how many goods trains were going through Königswinter, both yesterday and this morning.

Meanwhile, as we only had an hour's run today, we decided to go up the Drachenfels this morning on the rack railway that takes people up to the top. It was a steepish pull up to the bottom station from the main railway station, and I was out of breath when we arrived. This would not have mattered, but I had to put a mask on when we got to the station, and being out of breath in a mask is not pleasant!

We had a good look round the top when we got there; gorgeous views over the Rhine in every direction, and you can even just see the spires of Cologne Cathedral.Just, and I think you have to have a bit of an imagination!

I treated the SW to coffee and apple streusel, and I had coffee and mandarin cheesecake. Then we got the train back down (not nearly as many passengers as going up!), and walked down to the river and back to the station along the river.

We set off almost at once and arrived in Düren an hour later, where we used the services and then had a late lunch and then the SW went for a long walk round the town and I had a quiet afternoon reading and playing computer games. 

05 June 2022

Oberstdorf and more, 5 June 2022

This has been rather a "nothing" day from my point of view. I slept badly  with many anxiety dreams, and really only left the van to go to the local bakery and buy breakfast rolls and our Pentecost cheesecake.

After which I went back to sleep and really slept on and off for most of the rest of the day, including, I regret to say, while watching the service from our Church (can't do that next Sunday - I'm taking the service!) . We parked up in Limburg-an-der-Lahn to do that and then have lunch, and then we drove here to Königswinter where we are parked across the road from the station and I can watch the trains go past from my bed! And we have just eaten a seriously good courgette, mushroom and pea risotto!