Gas man closed.

28th October 2015

We knew of a garage in Ayumente, which is just over the border in Spain that refills gas cylinders  from other countries and decided that was our mission for the day.

We have French cylinders  as the motor-home was purchaced in France, and need an attachment to refill from another country’s tanks.

Aftrer a pleasant drive over the bridge, having been stopped at the border for a survey, we decided to go into the town first.

We were hungry and decided to have lunch in a fish restaurant near to the fish market, which of course was superb. Then Bernard went into the Chinese “Euro” shop and bought bits and pieces. Then he went into the supermarket and stocked up on foody things.

After that we drove to the garage only to find it was closed as it was now past 4 o’clock which is when it closes for the day!

The whole purpose of going into Ayumente was to get the gas and now we must return another day.

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Trouble with E-mails.

22nd October 2015

Having spent ages typing a general email letter and sorting the addresses so they could be sent as a group, the blessed messages would not go.
We then sent them individually, which was defeating the object of a group email.
Why they would not go as a whole, we did not know. Weeks later we learnt that some of our friends were receiving the E-mails  that had been floating in cyberspace!
Oh the trials and tribulations of relying on technology.

Vila Real has great cotton articles.

20th October 2015

We took the motor-home to Vila Real, which is the last town before Spain and had a great lunch near the market.
The town is known for its many shops selling cotton articles; tablecloths, sheets, towels and dressing gowns. My dressing gown was very old and quite tatty, but we have not been able to buy a 100% cotton one. Bernard has a dressing gown which is even older and a little too small for him and we have not found him a 100% cotton one in his size without spending a small fortune.
Not only did we find one for me but one for Bernard too and some pyjamas for me. The dressing gowns were of a superior quality and very cosy.
A good afternoon’s buy.

Bed problems at Camping Ria Formosa

19th October 2015

The promenade at Cabanas had been improved since our last visit with a boardwalk and there seemed to be more cafes along the riverside front. However, it is now too far for us to actually walk to the front and so we have to drive our motor-home there. This we did whenever we had to move the motor-home either to go shopping or to empty and replace water.

Cabanas village street

Cabanas village street

There were quite a few days of rain and we took the opportunity whilst staying in to organise our flights from and to Faro airport to Stanstead for November and to catch up with work on the computer.
A big problem was now our bed. When we bought the motor-home in 2003, we were much fitter and the bed was very comfortable. Now, with us both suffering from back problems, the bed was not helping at all. It is a fixed bed with a shaped end, slightly narrower to my side. What to do? The best solution was to buy a memory foam topper but we could not find one locally so we bought two sun-bed mattresses and cut one to shape. We laid them side by side, put the sheet over and hoped for the best. It did help a little and we had a better night sleep but by the morning the mattresses had slipped down and everything was skewiff!
We tried by attaching Velcro from the end of the “new” mattress to the base mattress, but every morning it looked as if we had had a tremendous fight in the night and it was a pain trying to sort it out. Then we bought a mattress cover that goes all the way round and zips up, which we placed over the two sunbed mattresses. Next morning, same problem. Then we tried using Velcro to the mattress cover to the base mattress. Still no luck. We knew that we would have to buy a proper memory foam mattress topper at some stage.
Every morning we had a discussion as to who was to sort out the roving mattress for the day.

From Praia da Rocha to Cabanas

Pt Cabanas 676

Camping Ria Formosa Cabanas

14th October 2015
The camper stop by the marina at Praia da Rocha charges 2 Euros a night. There is water disposal facilities and metered fresh water. It is in a superb position for the marina, the board walk, cafes and of course the beach. The bus stop into Portimao is just outside the gate, which makes it a very popular place to stay and there are motor-homes from all around Europe parked there.
We stayed for a few days but my back was still not too good and we needed to be on a campsite with facilities for the disabled. Regretfully we decided to go and as we had been on a very nice campsite at Cabanas, Ria Formosa, which we knew had all the facilities, we made our way there.
The original owner had died and his children now ran the site. A previous time we were there we enjoyed a very enjoyable Christmas, New Year and 6th January celebrations. However, we were informed that we could not stay for Christmas as they were fully booked. We were placed near to the toilet block and given the keys to both male and female disabled bathrooms.
As we knew that we had to return to UK for hospital appointments and for our daughter Lara’s exhibition in November we decided to stay until we return from the UK as we could leave the motor-home there whilst we were away.

If I could surf I would choose Cabo Raso

After the horrendous start to our journey from Porto we eventually arrived at Cascais, which was a very fashionable resort in the 60s and 70s eras. It still looked good except for the railway running along the beach. Quite a lot of grand buildings still existed, many of them hotels or apartments.

PT Cascais 0152

sunset at Cabo Raso, Cascais

sunset at Cabo Raso, Cascais

It was a lovely afternoon, so we drove along the front, north away from the main drag. Just outside of the town was a long promenade and fantastic natural beaches.  Cars and vans were parked and surfers were collecting their equipment together to put into their vehicles after a good days surfing no doubt.  This seemed a good place  for us to park and had been recommended. We settled ourselves down. Out to sea cruise liners, yachts and fishing boats dotted the horizon.

Once again we saw an amazing sunset.  This is the life!

Driving on Portuguese motorways is something else!

View from the ort at Pontevedra

View from the port at Pontevedra

We spent a night at the port at Pontevedra before making our way to Porto. We drove on the motorway for some way  and into Portugal. The motorway toll system is very confusing.  Well at least to us it is.  We took a ticket at the toll booth and drove.  However, when we came to the exit to Porto we saw the sign to the left and drove through but there was no pay booth!  We should have gone through the exit to the right , which had pay booths, but we thought that was to another destination. We drove on thinking we would find another pay booth, further along the road, but this was already inner city and not a toll road.

Once again we were unable to park in Porto  central, as per other towns, and drove round and round. We did at least get a good idea of the city. In  a suburb we found a parking spot opposite a cafe and went in  there for some lunch.

We had been told about semi official parking on the south side of the river, eventually finding it., after seeming to go round in circles.

Porto from the south side

Porto from the south side

It was overlooking the city and there were quite a few motor homes parked there. It was a good place to stop for the night, enjoying a beautiful sunset.

In the morning we set the navigator to Cascais and set off from the parking site. It led us up a side road which was very steep and narrow.  Bad enough, but coming down towards us, too far to the centre of the road, was a car.  Bernard had to brake to allow the car to swerve over and pass us.  Then he had to do a hill start, which fortunately he achieved with very little effort, it seemed to me.

This road led to the motorway feeder road, and he negotiated the vehicle whilst cars sped by. Phew!   There were roads leading off the feeder road and onto it too.  Very busy. A little further on, a car had nosed itself onto the feeder road and was proceeding to come in front of us, and Bernard had to brake.  The lorry behind us, which was a little too close for Bernard’s comfort, braked too. Another Phew.  The lorry drew back and kept a safer distance from us. But this was not the end of our adventure on this road.  Ahead of us a car had slightly overshot his exit and decided to REVERSE. This is a very busy main road. Once again Bernard had to brake and hooted like mad.  Fortunately, the lorry was a safe distance behind us this time. The driver of the car was not able to exit as he wanted and drove on to the next exit.

We eventually drove onto the motorway which did not have any toll booths, just cameras. We would have to sort out the payment somehow as we still had the ticket from when we joined the Portuguese motorway.

Great lunch but don’t ask me where!

Our next destination was Santiago de Compostela and we took the route the pilgrims take except they walk and we were travelling in a motor home. We saw quite a few walking with their backpacks, hopefully feeling every step was worthwhile.

Santiago was not  what we expected.  We drove around looking for a place to park, which proved impossible. We were unable to drive into the old quarter as it was  only for pedestrians and could only glimpse through the window down the side streets. We thought we might have been able to stop and have some lunch in the town, but that was not to be, so we drove on, towards Pontevedra.

Some way after Santiago, becoming quite hungry the decision was should we stop at a lay-by and make a snack or find a restaurant. There was no suitable stopping place and now it was becoming quite late in the afternoon. We noticed that  many restaurants were closed and then I espied a restaurant with a large car park with cars in it. We managed to park our seven meter vehicle  and entered.  It was buzzing.

We were told we would have to wait about ten minutes and sat at a side table in the foyer. After a while we were led into the main restaurant and saw the generous helpings that were being served. Bernard ordered the meal of the day which was not suitable for my dietary needs.  I asked if there was fish and was told there was sole; perfect. After a few minutes Bernard was told his first course was finished and could he choose something else, which he did.  Then another waiter told me that there was no more fish at all, except shell fish which I do not eat.  After much deliberation and discussion we decided upon a french omelette and chips. Then Bernard’s first choice of first course arrived  with a third waiter, as they had found another serving.

Meanwhile no sign of my omelette as I sat and watched Bernard tucking in with relish. Then his second course arrived and I told him to eat on. He said it was good. Eventually my omelette, chips and a generous salad arrived.  Although I was really hungry originally, I just could not manage to finish  my meal. Somehow I found enough appetite to eat the delicious dessert that was served! All three waiters that attended to us were so helpful and friendly and went out of their way to try and accomodate our needs.

We were well sated with food and continued on our way. So, somewhere between Santiago and Pontevedra there is a roadside restaurant with a large car park suitable for motor homes! Just don’t ask me where exactly.

Anchovy Tapas turned into sausage and chips!

Reluctantly we left the Cabarceno National Park to continue our journey south, first of all on the A8 , past Aviles, before we took a side road to a harbour at Cudillero. We were both not feeling too great and decided to stay  for the rest of the day and the night.

The sun was shining in the morning and we were feeling a bit brighter. The harbour car park was filling up so we decided to forego breakfast and leave, stopping on the route at a service station, where we had a really good cheap breakfast.

We were making for a campsite, Gaivota, at Barreiros. Simple enough? No, because Barreiros is inland and the campsite is on the seafront. It took us an extra hour of driving around up and down the road before we found it. It was only after we decided  to forego the instructions in the ACSI book and key into our navigator the place name and co-ordinates that we found it. It was a small, clean and friendly campsite on the coastal path. We spoke to another British couple who also said that they had trouble finding the place.

SP  Praia De baroras  0119We needed to do some washing, but I was still not too great with my back and did not want to risk another set back, so my “carer” Bernard dealt with the washing and drying.  Then he was exhausted. In between trotting back and forth to the launderette, Bernard joined me in sitting on our sun-chairs, a welcome break for us both.

The next day we decided to stay and recoup some energy by lazing around. The campers that we had spoken to the day before, decided to walk into town for lunch. They found a restaurant that served tapas, and ordered a selection of anchovy  and other fish tapas.  A little while later they were served with sausage and chips! Did they complain? No, they are British!  The woman did not even eat sausages and only ate the chips, but would not dream of complaining. Incredible!

Cabarceno National Park is a must visit place.

The motor home was purchased in France and has two French gas cylinders. We were intending to travel through Spain to Portugal and needed full gas cylinders before we left France so first thing in the morning, we changed both cylinders at the supermarket and started our journey onwards.

Spain was only down the road and soon we were approaching Bilbao, with heavy traffic. It was horrendous. After the ring road the motorway was not a toll road and it became a pleasant drive through green Spain. The countryside is rather like Normandy or Switzerland.

We had been advised to go to a National park near Santander where there is an Aire. We actually thought we could visit Santander from there, but again we were wrong.

SP Cabarceno 0080The Cabarceno National Park was a very good choice. Not only is the Aire free, but it is right by the elephant enclosure. There we watched the elephants dusting themselves down, going into the waterhole and washing themselves. The youngsters were playing and the large leader looked on. SP Cabarceno 0059What more can you ask for for free? But there was more. The other side of us was a large lake with birds and ducks and at dusk each evening (we stayed a few days), flocks of white egrets performed their nightly dance before descending upon a very large tree at the other side of the lake. This gave the appearance of white Christmas lights twinkling in the tree before they settled down for the night.SP Cabarceno 0097

One reason why we stayed a few days was that when we arrived we dealt with our water situation as the Aire provided water and emptying facilities, but also fresh spring drinking water. I filled up our two five litre water bottles.  However on lifting the first one, I stupidly put out my already aching back and was in agony. There was no way we could travel on-wards until I was a little less in pain. We resolved to change to two or one and a half litre bottles, to avoid any further back problems.

It was a beautiful place to spend a few days even in pain!

Blond bombshell could not persuade Bernard to buy anything for me!

St Jean de Luz is another of our favourite towns. It is close to the Spanish border and there is an Aire right by the train station. Noisy but convenient to the centre. The Aire is now charging six Euros a night.

It was a tiring walk for me this year we therefore did not do a very long walk. We were determined to find the shop where two years ago I bought two very stylish coats, when Bernard was persuaded by a rather attractive blonde assistant to part with his money!

Yes, we found it and she was still doing the sales talk. Unfortunately there was nothing there that suited me or, if I liked it, in my size. Bernard’s ego was much boosted though as she chatted away to him.

We were pretty exhausted by now and found a table at a cafe in the square with the bandstand. No band playing today though. Last time there was a concert with singers singing in the Basque language and the audience joining in. We sat and enjoyed delicious, thick but not sweet hot chocolate.Then we hobbled back to the motor home and flopped down, totally spent. Is this how it is going to be? We had not unloaded the electric buggy as we were only staying the one night.

We did not sleep well that night, what with the trains and the aches and pains. St Jean de Luz still remains a favourite place though.

Five Kilometers from motorway is actually five Kilometers from the town!

The route to Spain that we had chosen took us through the forest of Landes south of Bordeaux. It is a long straight road that had recently been made into a motorway and Bernard was becoming tired, so I looked in the camping site book for a place to stay.

I found one which seemed to me not far from the motorway. I read what I thought said five Kilometers from the motorway, but I was very wrong. We left at the suggested exit and drove down a decidedly country road. The Kilometers mounted up and we had not reached any sign of life. On and on. Then after about half an hour, we reached a village, Parentis en Born, and saw signs for a campsite. Another five Kilometers and we reached the site, L’Arbre D’Or. Bernard was not best pleased with me!

Campsite L'Arbre D'Or Parentis en Born

Campsite L’Arbre D’Or
Parentis en Born

The reception staff were very helpful as when the electric would not switch on they discovered that our lead was broken. Fortunately we had another one which did work. The campsite was close to a lake but we were too weary to look at it.It was a pretty busy campsite as it provides walking, sailing and other sport facilities all year round.

The time we spent driving, we could have reached the Spanish border!

Charcuterie from Caen

A short drive from Honfleur is Caen, home of William the Conquerer. However to us it is the home of one of our favourite Charcuteries, Marcel.

Marcel Charcuterie at Caen

Marcel Charcuterie at Caen

Our disabled parking bay by the Mercure Hotel was once again waiting for us. This is so good as it the last bay in the road and is longer than usual bays. We are normally unable to park in bays, as the motor home is too long to fit into one bay. It is just over the bridge from the road where the butcher is.

As it was just lunch time the shop was closed, so we went round the corner to the pizza restaurant where we ate at last time and tucked into really good pizzas.

We then stocked up on pates and meats for our journey. Marcel remembered us and was pleased to see us.

It was then on to Le Mans to the Aire near the Ibis Hotel. We were lucky as soon after we arrived, the seven places were all filled. Just in time.

A dead village square became alive at night.

It was a beautiful hot sunny day as we drove south, sometimes on the National route and sometimes on the motorway.

Just south of Poitiers is a village, Sauze Vascais, with an Aire in the market square. It is only a small village and when we walked around it, so many shops were permanently closed.The place was dead. It looked like we were to have a very quiet night.

We stopped at a bar and had a drink for which we were charged some exorbitant price. We were not even given bits to have with it and when we asked for olives, a very small bowl appeared. The guy saw us coming.

Back in the square, about eight o’clock, groups of teenagers appeared with their radios and suddenly there was singing and dancing. This went on util after ten when they dispersed and silence returned.

During the night it started to rain and we had our ceiling vents open. Bernard had to quickly jump out of bed to close them!

I don’t think we will return to that village.

Korean meal in Honfleur

Typical village shop

Typical village shop

Fr Honfleure1339After disembarking at Le Havre, we drove over the Normandy Bridge to Honfleur, one of our favourite places.

Sadly, as now we are not too ambulant we knew we would be unable to meander through the town as we wished so instead drove around to soak up the atmosphere; lively, buzzing but not noiisy.

Last time we came we ate at a Korean restaurant and we were delighted to see that it still existed. It is a buffet where you cook your food yourself at your table on hot stones. How much fresher and to your own taste can you get?

Having enjoyed our meal we drove to the Aire which now charges 11 Euro. Electricity and water facilities are included. That is all we need for an overnight stop.

Harbour at night

Harbour at night

Thank you Brittany Ferries

WW2 tank outside museum

WW2 tank outside museum

Having spent a few days with Lara, we headed for Portsmouth where we were to catch the  overnight Brittany Ferry to Le Havre  at midnight, arriving mid afternoon.

We had never really visited Portsmouth before, just driving through en route West, so we were pleasantly surprised to see how attractive the seafront was at the Southsea side. A very pleasant few hours were spent enjoying our last glimpse of Blighty!

After an enjoyable meal at a port-side restaurant we bordered the boat with trepidation.We had read bad reviews about Brittany Ferries but were pleased to say that the crew were most helpful in assisting us onto the boat and making certain that we were settled in our loungers close to amenities.

The crossing was good and we managed to grab a few hours sleep before we disembarked at Le Havre.  Once again the crew were very willing , helping us to the lift and to our motor home.

Thank you Brittany Ferries.

Heading south for the winter

Bernard and I are once again soon to be off to head south for the winter warmth. I can finally restart my tales for you to read.

My daughter Lara has just set me up a Twitter account: @Tortoisetale How exciting!

Frances

x

No room at the campsites

After spending a night in a side street in Albir, near Benidorm in Spain, we drove to Benidorm and tried a number of camp-sites, only to be told that they had filled up before Christmas. Last year we came to Spain in December, so we were too late.

We drove to Bernard’s cousins who live at Alfaz del Pi. They said we could stay outside their house. As it is on a hill, we had to park facing the wrong way so that our heads would be higher than our feet! We would not be able to cook or use our shower so would have to bother the cousins.  We decided to stay just a few days.

C70 over the mountains is not a good idea.

After we left Cambrils we drove towards Benidorm in Spain. We confused ourselves about the AP7 and A7. We took the A7 and then went wrong somehow. We were travelling on the C70, which on the map showed it cutting across the area. Also the Sat-Nav directed us that way too. However, it goes over the mountains, up, down and round and round!

It was now late afternoon and becoming darker. We reckoned that it took two and a half hours longer coming this way than along the AP7 to get to Albir, which is near to Benidorm!

We drove to the campsite that we stayed at last year and could see from the street that it was full. By now it was dark and we found ourselves a spot in a quiet road and settled down for the night. Bernard was exhausted and not at all happy.

Reus was a bit of a disappointment

We were staying in Cambrils and decided to take the bus to Reus. The books say that it was a Gaudi town and had a number of Art Nouveau buildings. We followed the tourist trail as instructed by our leaflet but were quite disappointed as we expected more interesting artistic buildings.

We did have a very nice meal of the day in a side street and after catching the bus back, spoiled ourselves by buying “churros” from a popular stall. Churros are a doughnut delicacy often eaten with a chocolate sauce, but as we were eating them on the way back to the camp-site we ate them solo.

By the time we arrived back, Bernard’s back was paining him from pushing me in the wheelchair. Will we be able to continue?

Lemons straight from the tree at Cambrils

Leaving France, we drove through to Spain to Cambrils, near Tarragona, arriving at an “Acsi” site “La Llosa”. We had bought the latest “Acsi” book where we can have discounts at approved sites  and in previous years had certainly had our money’s worth. The book had been worth it.

This camp site was a short walk to the promenade and we took the wheelchair for me to hop in and out of. It was windy but not cold and quite sunny. The resort looked pleasant but closed for the winter. 

On the way back we decided to go via the back streets. We came across an old man working in his front garden and we stopped and chatted to him in Spanish. We praised the size of the lemons growing on his tree and he picked a few for us. Just as we were thanking him he walked to the back of his garden and came back with two red grapefruits, which he presented to us saying that they were really sweet. There is nothing better than fruit eaten after it has been just picked from the tree.

We stopped at a vegetable shop where we bought ready cooked Calcats and sauce.  Calcats are a small leek type vegetable which are grilled. We heated them up in the microwave later that evening and enjoyed eating them with the sauce.

All in all a fruitful day!

Camping car parking site locked

At the pretty village of Le Barcares on the Leucate peninsula near Perpignan, South of France, is an official Camping Car Park. It is a secure site with facilities the book states; however on arrival we discovered that the gate would not take any of our credit or debit cards.

We drove towards the village and, stopping at the bakery to buy fresh bread, I asked about the car park.  The girl laughed and said that it has been locked for a while and directed us to a large waste land outside of the village where lorries park and cars too. She gave us directions but omitted that there was a fiesta in the village and the road through the village main road was closed off. We had to drive the motor-home the wrong way down a one way street and eventually arrived at the parking lot and settled down for the night tucking in to beautiful fresh bread.

Bernard will e-mail the Camping car parking people to complain that if it is to be closed in the winter, it should state the fact.

Raining and misty on the Millau Bridge

It was pouring with rain when we left the Aire at La Charite sur Loire  and drove towards the Millau Bridge.  The last two occasions when we have crossed it it has been raining.  The first time was just after it had opened and we were really looking forward to stopping at the viewpoint and taking photos.

The same weather was when we last crossed it a few years later and now we are again out of luck.

At least now they have higher protective sides as it was quite frightening when we first drove across it with the wind lashing against our vehicle.

We do not know if we will return the same way from Spain and if we do let us hope that the weather will be better.

Fourth time lucky perhaps?

The French Sim for the phone doesn’t work.

After leaving La Chapelle St Mesmin we drove through Orleans to La Charite sur Loire. The Aire is right on the Loire and free unless you  want to fill water from the machine. It is also quite close to the shops. There was a beautiful sunset over the Loire and we decided to stay a day and do some housework.

Bernard tried to use the French phone Sim  that he bought in Calais but he could not make it work. We usually buy a Lebara Sim but the shop did not have any and sold him another make. Apparently it needs to be registered on line which was unsuccessful when Bernard went into a McDonalds and used their WiFi.

When we return to Calais Bernard will return to the phone shop and try to reclaim his money. We shall soon be in Spain and buy a Spanish Lebara Sim.

In France Again.

After nearly a year since we took the Motorhome  over the channel it was good to be able to feel a new adventure coming on, we hoped!

We took the ferry from Dover to Calais and after buying delicious looking baby lemon soles from the fish huts for fifty cents a fish we drove to the Aire at Valerie sur Somme, only to find it was too far from the town for us to walk and that there were no Motorhomes or caravans parked there so we continued on to Dieppe. We could not find where we parked last time we were there, but found  a designated Aire on the seafront, parked and walked into the town for tea and coffee, returning to make supper with our gorgeous fish.

It poured all night and was still raining when we left  the next morning to continue towards Orleans.

We stopped for the night at La Chapelle St Mesmin on the side of the Loire. We had to pay 5 Euro at an automatic gate which gave us electricity.  The ground was too wet so we parked on the driveway.

It is a beautiful site which if it had not been pouring with rain would have enticed us to stay, but in the morning we drove on. 

It is a

Three wheels on my wheelchair.

After a pleasant walk in Altea and tea and “tostada” in the market hall, we decided to take the bus to Benidorm. But, calamity, just as we were getting onto the bus, a wheel fell off the wheelchair, which was folded shut.  Bernard picked it up and was looking for the bolt on the pavement when the driver announced he was closing the doors. He hastily climbed aboard, holding the wheel in his hands.

We got off before reaching Benidorm sea front as we knew that there was a motorcycle shop and a camping shop on a parade en- route. The motorcycle shop was nearest to the bus stop and two very helpful mechanics spent over half an hour looking for a nut and bolt that fitted.  Eventually they managed by fixing some washers in too and, hoorah, we now had four working wheels once again. They were most embarrassed when we offered them money after they refused to charge us.

Lunch was fish and chips nearby, and very good it was too, and then a slow walk down to the sea front, with me walking by using the wheelchair for support and being pushed by Bernard when I was weary.

Walking along the promenade of the Levante beach, we remarked that at this time of year it really is not too crowded and, along with the sunshine, it was most pleasant.

Altea is a very pleasant town.

The weather was sunny but there was a chilly wind, but  not bad enough to stop us going for a walk.  We wrapped up warm and with the wheelchair walked to Altea. It is a fair walk into the town itself.  The promenade is a pleasant walk and then there is the climb up the steep streets.

We knew we were not going to be able to go right into the original old town as that is far too steep a climb but were happy to wander round the lower town.  There were some very interesting shops catering for the more fashion conscious clientele.

In the back steets were the small shops where the local people shopped and we flopped down in a cafe for a drink and tapas for very little money.

Roman Remains in Albir.

We decided to take a walk into Albir, the town just west of where we were staying on the Costa Blanca.  Since I have been having problems with my spine we had bought when  a wheelchair.  I walk a bit and when weary, sit in the wheelchair and Bernard pushes me.  That way we get out and about.

That is how we walked to the Roman Remains in Albir. At the moment it is not very large, but they are still excavating.  It was once a villa and although there is not too much to see the descriptions  on the walkway information boards were good and very explicit.

After our visit we continued our walk into the town, had  lunch, walked slowly back down to the beach, along the promenade back to our campsite.  The town of Albir is a typical Spanish tourist town but without the high rise hotels and apartment blocks of Benidorm.

By the time we arrived back we were both exhausted. I had not walked much but even that tired me and Bernard had been pushing me up and down curbs and sloping roads and he was shattered.  Time for a well earned siesta!

Friday night at Benidorm Jewish Community.

Whenever we plan to stop somewhere where we think there is a Jewish Community we look on the internet to find out what is in the area. Benidorm, on the Costa Blanca in Spain, has a  Jewish Community and a place of worship. Having decided that we were going to stay a while in the area, I made the phone call to a number listed. After answering various security type questions  we were given directions and details. They hold a Friday night service and this Friday night being Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, they were having a party following the service.

We were welcomed by everyone and made to feel part of the community immediately. The congregants include Spanish, British, French, Brazilian and Dutch.  The service is Sephardi, which is the Spanish and Portuguese side of Judaism.  Bernard and I are  Ashkenazi as our families originated from Eastern Europe. The pronunciation and the tunes are different but I soon joined in as the reader was easy to follow.

The party afterwards was delightful.  Candles were lit, food including fried tasties, to represent the miracle oil that we remember is the meaning of the festival, were plentiful.  Everyone chatted to one another and we received invitations to peoples houses and for trips out.

We have attended further Friday night services since and really do feel that we belong.

Camping San Antonio at Altea is so friendly.

Last year, when we stopped at Altea, near to Benidorm, on the Costa Blanca, Spain, just for three days, we stayed at Camping Cap Blanche. This site is very large, very crowded and not one we would like to spend time at, so we moved on to Portugal.

Before we left Altea we made contact with Bernard’s cousin and family and have kept in touch since by email. We thought we do the same this year and then go again to Portugal. However, on arriving at Altea we discovered that a new campsite had opened after we had left last year.  We went and investigated. The owners are charming, so very friendly and they keep the site spotless.  It only has room for 50 camping cars and  it also has  a separate bathroom for disabled people, to which I was given the key.  This would certainly be a great help now that I am a bit shaky standing for too long.

The site is right on the sea-front, which has a flat promenade.  In one direction is Albir,  a very busy, but pleasant, resort, and in the other is Altea  with, high up in the old town, its blue domed church .  The bus  to Benidorm is just a short walk a way and the little train from Altea  goes between Denia and Alicante. This train meanders through the hilly countryside.

Both the site owners are retired professionals and have decided to reset up the disused  family campsite. They have arranged that every Monday morning a Doctor comes and takes everyone’s blood pressure! We all have great fun whilst queuing up outside the medical room comparing our readings. There are people from U.K., France, Holland, Belgium, all the Scandinavian countries and Germany and we chatter away in a mixture of languages, everyone trying to make conversation in at least two languages.  Bernard speaks in English and Spanish and I in English, French  and Italian!

We liked it here so much and as we also are in contact with the cousins who live nearby, we changed our minds about moving on and decided to stay for a couple of months.

Yes, we really recommend Camping San Antonio.

Bordeaux is very grand with Christmas lights.

The campsite for Bordeaux in southern France is open all year, and is a bus and tram journey to the centre, which takes about an hour, but if you have never visited the city before it is worth an overnight stop and a trip around the sights.

The last day-time bus from the tram terminal back to the campsite stops at 8pm and then the night bus starts and is every hour. We meandered around taking in the beautiful buildings, the Christmas fair and all the lights and caught the tram back to the terminal to catch the bus but arrived at 8.10pm.  It was cold and windy and there was nothing open, no shelter, no cafe no supermarket.  Fortunately we had taken the wheelchair, which I now use if we are to do a fair amount of walking, so I had somewhere to sit. 

Bernard spoke to a bus driver who was not aware of the night bus schedule but said that he was pretty sure it would come to time.  We waited.  The due time came and went and the same bus driver that Bernard had spoken to earlier reappeared after his circuitous trip  and was surprised to see us still waiting.  he said that he was about to do his last trip and would make enquiries  if we were still waiting on his return.

We were!  He drove up with his lights off and told us to jump  in and he would take us back to the campsite because he had pity on me with the wheelchair.  He drove at breakneck speed and deposited us at the gates to the site.  He was supposed to take the bus back to the depot and now was late of course.  Boy, were we grateful! We were so cold and won’t forget his kindness.

In the morning Bernard spoke to the  receptionist at the site who said she would lodge a complaint to the bus company as it is not good for the campsite.

Yes, Bordeaux was a memorable trip!

St Benoit at Poitiers beautiful setting

After many months in England we eventually set off to make our way to , we hope, sunny Spain, arriving at Calais from the ferry, the night of the 27th November. After buying gas and diesel and delicious tiny sole and plaice and some cod from the fish stalls at the port we made our way south through France the next day.

It had been a foggy and crisp morning and by mid afternoon we were near to Poitiers. Our book gave us directions for an “Aire”(camper stop) but having arrived there we found it was very much closed, however, there was a notice informing us of another “Aire” the other side of town.

By now it was dusk but we made our way there only to find that too was closed.  It was at a campsite by the side of  a river with a weir.  It was a beautiful setting and in the summer it must be a very busy campsite. We parked across the entrance and settled down for the night as now it was dark.

Soon we heard the whoosh of a very long train and looking out saw, amongst the trees, the rail-line overhead.  The freight trains ran all night long, but being so tired we soon dropped off, waking every so often to hear yet another train. We have parked by train lines before so this was not something new to us.

We would still recommend this setting unless you are a very bad sleeper!

We are in the Jewish Chronicle

Suddenly thanks to our daughter we have an article in the Jewish Chronicle about our travels in Europe. For those of you just reading this blog for the first time, I am in the process of updating my diary entries… so do enjoy what I have posted so far and  keep looking back to see what new items I have added. http://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/food/88095/our-euro-kosher-meat-mission

You can find other articles by our daughter Lara on her blog at: www.photofeature.co.uk

Stand Alone Tent Room

 

We had decided that as we had a double pitch and intended to stay on the Ria Formosa Camp-site at Cabanas, on the eastern Algarve in Portugal, for a while, we would put up our stand alone tent-room. It has been quite some time since we last put it up and our memories and strength are not as great as they used to be.

There had been some torrential storms with amazing lightning, thunder and fierce winds which had slowed down our progress in this task. But even without the inclement weather, we would have had to do things in stages. We “aint” so strong as we used to be and which colour pole do we insert first, also how many pegs do you think are needed to keep it secure? Bernard’s knees are dodgy and all that kneeling whilst banging in the pegs results in a three day task. Other people were putting up there tents and awnings in a few hours and were somewhat amused by us. “Not finished yet, then?” “Congratulations, you managed it this year!”

It was well worth the effort, though we vowed never to do it again. I could use my computer sitting in it whilst Bernard was on his in the motor-home, or I could tinkle away on my keyboard with my earphones on, so that no-one would hear me play. Bernard said they could probably hear me singing though I do not believe I was.

We stored our fruit and veg and extra bottles in it and, as the weather was somewhat changeable, house the table and chairs for the nights and rainy days. It gives us an extra room to our 7 metre long motor-home. A very useful addition, but will we ever put it up again?

Tavira and Olhao

 

The Ria Formosa Camp-site is very close to the train station and bright and early, we caught the train to Tavira, just a short ride along the Portuguese Algarve coast. By showing our driving licences we were allowed to purchase tickets at the pensioners’ rate.

Having been to Tavira on a number of occasions it was really just remembering the layout. It is a pleasant town to walk around. It was founded in pre Roman days and has always been an important fishing port. One of the two bridges that span the river Gilao is Roman. After the earthquake in 1755 it was rebuilt and many of the 18th century buildings remain, albeit that some are in dire need of loving care.

After a pleasant walk rekindling old memories we caught the train to Olhao, which is the largest fishing port on the Algarve. It has an attractive river front with gardens and promenade, together with a superb market for fish and vegetables, it is a busy working town. We ate lunch, fish of course, at a restaurant on the front and after walking it off, we returned by train to Cabanas.

We returned to Olhao on a Saturday, with some friends we had made on the camp-site, who had a car and gave us a lift. This time we took advantage of the lift to buy lots of fish, fruit and vegetables from the market. Saturday is also the main market for clothes, household goodies and souvenirs and stretches along the promenade. Even off season it is very busy with locals and visitors.

We revisited both Tavira and Olhao a number of times during our stay on the eastern Algarve.

Ayamonte on Spanish/Portuguese border.

 

The drive from Albir, near Benidorm was beautiful as we had decided not to take the coastal route but go inland. We drove through Elche and on to Guadix, which is a town with Troglodyte caves that people are still living in. Although having visited and looked at the cave houses three years ago we thought we would have another look, but, we took a different road out of town west towards Portugal and missed the main Troglodyte village, only seeing just a few random cave-houses, on the hillside, as we drove.

The road got higher and higher, over four and a half thousand feet/ one and a half thousand metres. We were now in the Granada district and the mountains around us were even higher and snow capped with ski slopes. The sun shone, casting gorgeous colours on the mountain tops and through the leaves of the autumnal trees. A truly spectacular journey.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at Ayamonte, the border town in Spain to Portugal. It was too late for us to cross the bridge over the Rio Guardiano that separates the two countries as it was getting dark. We made for a fish restaurant that we had frequented last time we were in the area, that served amazing fish and as much as you can eat, which also had a large car-park next to it. To our dismay it was closed for refurbishment. We parked up anyway and I cooked in the motor-home.

It was a Friday night and I said to Bernard that perhaps they use this car-park as a market on Saturdays. Bernard got out to see if there were any notices about parking. No, it seemed that it was going to be OK. Never-the-less, I set the alarm for early the next morning. It was such a noisy night as parking was on the main road out of the town to the border and cars sped up and down it all night.

Before the alarm went off, I heard a lot more noise outside and peering through the window saw white vans arriving, parking and disgorging their goods! Bernard and I got dressed at super quick speed, and without waiting to make breakfast, we sped off before we were hemmed in, unable to move until the boot-sale (for that is what it was) had finished and the vans had left.

It wasn’t until we were in sight of the beautiful bridge that spans the river that we stopped laughing.

Innsbruk

Innsbruck: Where the golden roof glistens on a cloudy day

Golden Roof Innsbruk

Glistening Golden Roof Innsbruk

It wasn’t raining at 10am, when we caught the free bus from outside the campsite, but it looked like it was very threatening so we were suitably dressed. The bus took us into Netters village and still using our free bus ticket we caught the second bus into Innsbruck bus station. Read the full post »

The Fridge Has Given Up Again.

Cavalino Lido de Jesolo

A Burnt Out Fuse-box.

We left Lazise and drove through to Venice.  Bernard and I planned to stay at the Lido di Jesolo with Lara for about five days  and then drive her to Bassano di Grappa, which is north of Venice, where she was setting up a photographic project; ”Boxing Bassano”.

As we approached the Venice area, Lara and I could smell burning.  We sniffed and sniffed, yes definitely burning. On arriving at the Miramare campsite at Punto Sabbioni, in the district of Cavalino, on the Lido di Jesolo, and parking, we discovered the fridge had blown once again, but this time the electrics were not working either. The campsite manager told us of a large camping accessory and repair shop not too far away, which we had in fact passed and had noted it’s position. Read the full post »

Lido de Jesolo

A Typical Italian Resort

The fuse-box for the motor-home had not arrived yet, Bernard’s computer seemed to have a virus, I had done the washing at the campsite launderette and we were fed up. Time to take a bus into Jesolo for the afternoon.

Jesolo Beach Scene

Waiting for Tourists, Jesolo

Jesolo is the main town on the island and a very popular seaside resort. It has a main road of designer shops and a long promenade along the seafront backed by hundreds of hotels.  Each  hotel has it’s own pitch on the beach with sunshades and loungers, each laid out in rows like soldiers on parade. Being mid season, not all the umbrellas were opened and represented upright lances. Read the full post »

Venice Has A Very Secret Garden.

Venice from Guidecca

Venice from The Isle of Guidecca

Guidecca´s Garden Is Too Secret

Lara was being met outside the station at Venice  by a hire car to take her to Bassano di Grappa. This had been arranged due to a train strike. We accompanied her from Punto Sabbioni as she had her camera equipment with her as well as a suitcase of clothes. This was fine by us as we could spend another day in Venice.

We still had our travel tickets for hopping on and off boats or buses. Today was to be a day exploring yet more of this area. First stop was Guidecca Island, which lies opposite the main Venice island. It was so named as once it was where the Jewish population lived before being forced to downsize in the very first Ghetto on main Venice. Read the full post »

Islands of Venice

Venice from Guidecca

Venive from The Isle of Guidecca

Taking advantage of our travel passes we took the ferry from Punto Sabbioni to Burano; a very pretty small island with colourful houses and a very busy main square. Yes, it is a tourist island with gift shops everywhere selling lace items supposedly made on the island and glass items made on the nearby Murano Island. Read the full post »

Venice.

Typical Venice Canal Scene

Typical Venice Canal Scene

Whilst we were waiting for the new fuse-box for the motorhome, we took advantage of our time with Lara to visit Venice in Italy. The ferry port at Punto Sabbioni on the Lido di Jesolo is just a short distance from Camping Miramare and having purchased a three day ticket which entitles us to hop on and off buses and water buses/ferries, we planned to take full advantage of them. Read the full post »

Verona

Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou in Verona?

We had arranged to meet Lara at Verona station in Northern Italy and as she had luggage and a heavy camera bag, we took the motorhome and parked it at the designated parking spot for motorhomes, not far from the station.

Having met her and returned to the parking lot, I made lunch, and then we set off once again into town. First stop the Arena, but as the Opera season had not yet started, there wasn’t the spectacle of the gigantic scenery, which, when we last visited the city, was stored all around the outside of the Arena’s walls. This in itself was worth the visit let alone the amazing Opera performance. Read the full post »

Lazise, Lake Garda.

Municipal Campsite At Lazise Is A Great Place To Stay.

We have stayed at Lazise Municipal Campsite at Lake Garda in Italy before; last time we had to leave as they were closing it down for the winter at the end of October.  The staff are very friendly and helpful and it is in a great location, being at the end of the town, right on the lakeside with beautiful rose gardens outside. The perfume wafts into the well kept but small campsite every evening and a stroll along the promenade is bliss. Read the full post »

Florence is still superb.

Camping Michealangelo

View From Our Pitch

Camping Michealangelo

With the motorhome repaired, we set off once again not knowing quite where we would end up! Before long we decided to revisit Florence in Tuscany and made our way to the campsite at Piazza Michelangelo.  The position we were given this time was not as good as previous visits, when we had spectacular views over the rooftops of Florence. Read the full post »

Trigano At Cusano, Tuscany.

Trigano Are Great People To Do Business With.

Our main reason for going into Italy was to see if we could have some repairs done to the motorhome.  The manufacturer, Trigano, has its’ factory at Cusano near San Giminiagno in Tuscany.

After leaving Milan we made our way to the factory and went into the office early the next morning to see if they could accommodate our repairs.  We had been there twice before and they had been more than helpful. This time was no different. Although they couldn’t book us in for the same day we made a date for ten days ahead.  They went round the vehicle making notes as to what needed doing so that they could have the correct parts in stock ready.

When we returned on the specified date they set to and two and a half hours later all was completed and we were on our way.

What more could we ask for?

Thank you Trigano.

City news: Rome now charges to visit the Forum.

When we last visited Rome we wandered around freely; there was so much to see and day bus tickets are a waste of money as everywhere is within walking distance.

Our trip to Rome this time, once again on the train from Orvieto, awakened our memories.  It was a bit of a shock to see that the Forum now charges an entry fee.  There were not the same amount of tourists in the enclosed area. We sat and rested our weary legs at the entrance gate and then we espied a notice saying that European pensioners have free entry. With free tickets it seemed even more exciting to walk over ancient pathways!

We were truly shattered by the time we arrived back at our motorhome but it had been a very enjoyable day. Rome is still magic.

City news: Orvieto still magnificent.

Having parked the motorhome at the Sosta at Orvieto Scalo that afternoon we took the funicular up to Orvieto and caught the mini bus to Piazza di Popolo. A slow walk around confirmed our memories that it is a very special town. The Duomo is one of the best in Italy, it’s gold encrusted facade and interior of the cathedral are breath-taking and the medieval sections of this hilltop town in Umbria transfer you back to centuries ago.

We had telephoned and e-mailed some old friends and luckily were able to meet up with some of them over the few days we stayed in the area. A visit to a lakeside restaurant for lunch at Bolseno with one couple was a particularly pleasant afternoon.

Italian Sostas: Orvieto great for Rome too.

After having had excellent and courteous attention at the Trigano factory, near Poggibonsi in Tuscany, Italy, in the morning and arrangements made to have repairs carried out on the motorhome for 23rd May, we made our way to Orvieto in Umbria to visit old friends.

Naturally, we, parked our vehicle at the Sosta, the Italian equivalent to a authorised car park for Motorhomes.  This Sosta, at Orvieto Scalo, is run by Renzo, who has  made this into a mini campsite, having installed spotless toilets and very efficient shower facilities, washing-up area and washing and drying machines, with each plot surrounded by some well manicured grass, trees and bushes. It is positioned right by the escalator to the station which has fast, direct lines to Rome and Florence and the funicular to Orvieto itself.

Renzo greeted us warmly and we reminisced in our broken Italian about previous visits. We have stayed there a number of times since 2004 and found it so easy to hop on the train which is one hour from Rome and two hours from Florence, with the knowledge that our little home on wheels was safe in this guarded parking site.

The only downside to the Sosta is that it is positioned between the two railway lines; the commuter and freight train line and the fast bullet train line, with trains whizzing by all day and night. However one soon gets used to the noise!

If any of you decide to park there, please give Renzo regards from Frances and Bernard.

Jewish interest: Israel Independence Day barbecue in Milan.

The owners of the Milan campsite, in Italy, are  an Israeli family.  We discussed with them in the morning where the Kosher butcher was in the town and were told to go in the morning as they might be closing early as today was “Yom Hatzmaut”, Israel Independence Day and there were to be a number of celebrations-

It was a really hot day and after we had been to the butcher and had a snack in a Kosher restaurant nearby we decided to take the bus back before the meat went off!

On arriving back at the campsite we were invited to join the family for a barbecue that they were holding that evening.

It was a really enjoyable evening with three families totaling sixteen including children and ourselves eating, drinking and talking in three languages.

Last year we joined in a barbecue picnic on the side of the Rhine at Cologne for another Jewish Festival, “Lag B’Omer” and had a great time until it rained. Where next and what festival?

Campsite news: Camping Milan still a good stop.

We have stopped at the campsite for Milan a few times before and we were greeted like old friends. It is a convenient site for visiting Milan as buses are nearby and it is a simple  and cheap way to journey into town, especially if you are planning to stay more than one day as the two day bus pass can really save you money.

There had been quite a number of improvements to the site over the last few years including a snack bar and extra shower and toilet facilities. We soon made ourselves at home and phoned our friend to make arrangements for the next day.

The next morning we set off taking several buses just for the fun of it and had a really enjoyable day meandering around Milan.  Last time we came they were busy renovating the Duomo but this time, although there was scaffolding on the side of the building, we were able to enter the cathedral and take in once again the immense glory of this magnificent church.  We sat in a pew resting our weary feet and soaking up all around us.

Later that evening we joined our friend and had a great evening reminiscing about thirty-five years ago.

On the road: Gotthard Tunnel is long when you are tired!

After leaving the Metz campsite we drove through to Mulhaus.  What a beautiful journey that was.  Spectacular scenery kept us oohing and aahing and we stopped several times along the way to take in all around us.

We planned to stop for the night on the French side of the Gotthard Tunnel but as the evening drew on, we both saw a notice that stated “Gotthard Tunnel – 17.5 kilometres”. Bernard said that we must stop before we get there as he was too tired to drive through a long tunnel at twilight as it might be dark when we come out the other side.

Just as he was saying that we entered the tunnel! Oops, too late. We stopped as soon as we could on the other side on the motorway Aire with a very tired Bernard.  Although it was quite noisy he was asleep in no time!

Campsite news: Revisiting Metz.

It is a year since we last visited Metz in Eastern France, when we were on our way home to a dying mother.  Then we stayed outside the campsite at the Aire and were not in a great mood for sightseeing.

Today we stayed in the campsite which is right on the river, is well  appointed and offers Wifi facilities. The staff were also extremely helpful and cheerful.

A leisurely walk around the town enforced our view that Metz is a really beautiful town. We also discovered the Synagogue and a square dedicated to those that lost their lives in the second World War.

We were really glad that we had revisited this little gem of a place.

On the road: Binche in Belgium.

We arrived at Dunquerke  in France at 1.30 a.m. and parked at the ferry waiting area for the rest of the night.  It really is a good place to park before boarding or after arriving at the port. 

Then…

We travelled through Belgium once again.

Plenty of sunshine and no rain.

We stopped at Binche in the district Hainault.

“But that’s in Essex”, I’m sure you thought.

It is a medieval town with twenty-two towers.

A walk around its ramparts could take hours.

Parking Des Pastures is where we stayed the night.

The sky was clear, the weather bright.

We did enjoy our mini stop

Also the tea and pastry in a cake shop.

It is a town of art, history and folklore.

If there had been time we would have seen more,

But we had to get along the way

To travel through to Metz that day.

Poem to my granddaughter: point-to-point.

Dear Rheannon,

We’ve come back from Aunty La,

It wasn’t near but not too far.

She took us to some pretty places

And even a day at the horse races.

Point-to-point is what it’s called.

It was so cold we were not enthralled.

The wind it whistled across the grass,

Especially when the horses pass.

They jumped the fences and some fell over,

Tossing their riders in the clover.

No jockey was hurt, thank goodness for that,

They were well padded and wore hard hat.

We had taken a picnic to eat “al fresco”.

No we did not buy it all from Tesco.

Whilst we sat and shivered as we ate

The food from off the plastic plate

All we wanted was to be warm

Like a crocus in a corm.

We didn’t wait ´til the end of the day,

The wind was crisp and the sky was grey,

So we left the Duke of Beaufort’s land,

Which was vast and very grand

And set off back to Lara’s  place,

With red noses on our face.

Not clip on ones, but you know that.

Granddad wore his furry hat.

Now we are in our tin home

Until we decide once more to roam.

Come and see us, we hope, soon.

It’s not large  but there’s plenty of room.

Am looking forward to a reply.

all my love

Grandma Frances

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Campsite news: Moreton in Marsh is great for Cotswolds.

We had a car load of our daughter Lara’s belongings from our garage to take to her new abode at Blockley in the Cotswolds, but as she has not been able to set up her second bedroom yet we also took the motorhome.  I drove the car and Bernard the “Roller" and we had arranged to stay at the campsite at Moreton in Marsh, just five miles from Lara.

After booking in and setting up, we drove  the car to her house to unload her “goodies”. It was pouring with rain of course.

The next day was miserable weather too, and, as we had not arranged to see Lara, it was spent at Moreton. The campsite is large, nicely set out, with excellent shower blocks and helpful, pleasant staff.  It is only a short walk into Moreton, which has pretty shops and a market.

Moreton in Marsh is in a very central position, near to Stow on the Wold, Broadway, and other pretty Cotswold villages and towns.  There are buses (even going to Stratford upon Avon) and  trains to London.

All in all, a good stop for visiting the area, which no doubt we shall use again.

 

Food news: the fish were jumping!

The fish stalls at the harbour at Calais  are always a must stop place for us if we are returning to England. Today was no exception.

There were only a few stalls open when we arrived there, but how many do you need? The one we chose had some lovely little plaice and larger ones and we chose a selection.  They were still jumping, even when the assistant chopped off the heads!  No argument about their freshness then! She packed them in ice and we put them into our insulated picnic bag.

The ice had not melted when we returned to England the next day and the family enjoyed the most tasty, succulent fish that we had eaten for a very long time.

It is almost worth taking a trip over as the price was really good too!

Bus trips: Sluis is pretty even in the rain.

It was a cold dull morning and we decided to take the bus into Ostend, but unfortunately missed it by five minutes.  The next one was due in an hour and we were too cold to wait around so we crossed the road and took the first bus to Brugges which came after just waiting fifteen minutes.

We then chatted to the assistant in the Tourist Information Office about decent reasonably priced restaurants and she told us about a little town just inside Holland where she goes to eat. As it was possible to take advantage of our bus card (10Euros for 10 trips), we decided to go for it. It was too cold to wander around  Brugges  or Ghent (another town on our list) and a pleasant bus ride suited us well.

By the time we arrived in Sluis, after a very interesting bus trip through the countryside, it was starting to rain. The town is on a canal with a large working windmill and many, many restaurants and tourist shops. It was very pretty, even in the rain.

We had an enjoyable meal, but it was pouring when we emerged from the restaurant, so we decided to take the next bus back to Brugges.

On alighting from our bus we noticed that the next bus to Jabbeke was in five minutes so we stayed put at the stop to catch it.

It was not only pouring but extremely windy when we got off.  The Pharmacy clock said it was 2degrees Celsius! By the time we had walked the fifteen minutes back to the motorhome, we were soaking wet, freezing cold and very exhausted from battling against the wind.

Enough was enough we said, and decided that the next day we would leave and make our way back to the UK.

Jewish news: a kosher meal in Antwerp.

Belgium really looks after its elderly people, even visitors. After taking the bus from Jabbeke into Brugges, we decided to take a train trip into Antwerp, discovering, that as we were Senior Citizens, we could take advantage of the reduced fair. That was quite a bonus.

Our first stop was of course the Tourist Information Office, where we gathered more leaflets and had an interesting chat with the helpful assistant.

It is many years since our last visit to Antwerp and we really couldn’t remember much although we had visited museums and watched paper being restored. The trip last time to the diamond area was interesting.  The jewellers were being re-housed and were in temporary cabins on stilts. The diamond museum was fascinating  and we had eaten an enormous meal in Hoffy’s Kosher restaurant. What would we find this time?

The jewellers were now in proper shops and try as I could, there was no persuading Bernard to buy me another diamond ring! We found a Kosher butcher and bought some meat for the motorhome and some charcuterie, and then managed to find Hoffy’s.

It looked a little different to last time, but we decided to have another meal there. The helpings were not as large but the owner said that people do not eat such large amounts now, which we agreed was true. It was more than sufficient for us and very tasty.

Antwerp has some grand architecture which we stood and marvelled  at.  The war had not decimated the city, thank goodness.

It was a very pleasant day trip, we decided as we took our train and bus back to Jabbeke.

Poem to Granddaughter: a chocolate E-mail

Dear Rheannon,

We are in Belgium now you know,

It’s quite cold although there is no snow.

But there’s chocolate, chocolate everywhere.

Granddad says, “It’s just not fair”.

He cant have some ‘cos he’s too fat,

No chocolate bunny or chocolate cat.

There is so much chocolate that they make,

Chocolate sweeties and chocolate cake.

He looks in windows and goes “Ooh and Ah”.

I won’t let him buy even a chocolate bar.

And that’s the end of my chocolate tale.

Is this the first chocolate e-mail?

City news: Brugges has magnificent architecture.

Traditional Lacemakers Shop

It was a pleasant bus journey into Brugges from Jabbeke. This part of Belgium has very attractive little villages and towns, through which we passed.

The Tourist information Center at Brugges had changed somewhat since our last visit some years back.  It was now a large modern glass building. We gathered our leaflets and asked lots of questions from the helpful assistant before setting off on our walk around the town.

We had visited museums in the past, so today was to be spent looking at the architecture. It was bitterly cold, but we were dressed up warm. However, looking at buildings means lots of standing around, shivering.

In the past we had not walked down the pedestrian shopping road. Perhaps it had not been made traffic free then. We were amazed to find the most beautiful Art Nouveau shopping arcade.  The outside facade gave us a hint, but once inside we just stood and gazed in wonder. It had been refurbished sympathetically and it was beautiful. It was well worth going in to get warm!

Listening to the clock with its unusual chimes and watching the horses taking the tourists on trips in the open topped coaches whilst we sat and munched our picnic in Market Square just added to the pleasures of the day.

Campsite news: Jabbeke, good for visiting the cities.

The Acsi campsite book didn’t give us much hope when looking for a campsite that was open in February and convenient for visiting the beautiful cities of Brugges, Ghent,and Antwerp in Belgium.  However, they recommended Kleine Strand at Jabbeke, with buses running from the centre of town to Ostend  and Brugges which is open all year and offers 7 nights for the cost of 6 off season.

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On the road: Beatles talk in Paris.

We were staying  on a campsite at Villevaude, about 26 kilometres from Paris, France, but the transport from there to Paris was diabolical and rather expensive. However we decided to give it a try for one day. After all so near and yet so far.

It was a short walk into the village to the bus stop and we waited for the hourly bus. It took us to a nearby suburban railway station but travelled for over half an hour around the villages.  Then we took the train into Paris, another  three-quarters of an hour, arriving at Haussman/St Lazare at midday.

We had a pleasant stroll around Paris, looking at the great architecture but no time to take in a museum, as we would have to start making our way back by 4.30 pm, to be able to catch the last  bus to the village.

The guy, at the information kiosk at Haussman station, when asked if he spoke English replied, “Only beatles talk”. Naturally we said, ” Help us if you can, we need a ticket to ride!”  There ensued the most bizarre conversation, with words like “Don’t ride in the yellow submarine”, but we did get the details as to which platform to take.

Our final words to the guy were “We love you yeh yeh yeh!”

Well, thet kept us giggling all the way back on train and bus.

Campsite news: Soissons a great little town.

 

Having left the campsite at Villevaude near Paris in France, we decided to make our way to Belgium, but, as is usual with us, we made a detour and stopped off in Soissons in Picardy for a short break for refreshments.  The Aires book stated there was a free Aire here, but we couldn’t find it. We took the riverside road looking out for it without success, so we stopped a council gardener working on the pretty parkland adjacent to the riverside. He had no idea where it was but directed us to the campsite just a few hundred meters along.  Perhaps we should stay the night as it was now mid-afternoon?

We were greeted by three very friendly and helpful wardens who directed us to our pitch and explained about this municipal site and the town itself.  The campsite was well kept, the toilet facilities immaculate and modern and there was free Wifi! Serendipity! All this for 13Euro per night, what more could we ask for?

After settling ourselves in, we took a walk into town along the riverside, passing the Aire we had missed when driving in.  It was by the Nautical centre and not too well sign posted from the direction we had  driven in from.

The Tourist Information Centre provided us with local maps and blurb and we learnt that Soissons is known for its butter beans.  There was a Gothic cathedral and a ruined Gothic Abbey they recommended us to visit.  As we had no idea how far these sights were we decided to buy a book of 10 bus tickets for 10Euro, so that we could hop on and off buses.

The next morning was market day and we walked into town again, discovering that the market was near to the Cathedral. At a vegetable stall we purchased salsify and black radish.  We had never eaten salsify, which when cooked and peeled and eaten with a sauce is rather like asparagus in taste.

It was a small local market and we soon had taken it all in and had bought cheeses which we had not intended to do, and then proceeded to look for the Chinese restaurant we had passed when driving into town the day before.  After walking for an hour we arrived at the train station and decided to give up and take the bus back to the campsite, where we slumped onto the bed exhausted.

The next morning we took the bus, which went all around the northeast of town, to the Cathedral. We were amazed to find a Rubens painting that had been restored, having been hidden from the Germans during the war. The centre part of the nave of the cathedral had been blown out but all had been replaced as original.

It was a short walk up the hill to the Abbey which is now just an amazing facade, as the Calvanist Bishop decided to demolish the entire building but the townspeople strongly objected and the front with its two towers has remained.

In the museum adjacent to the Abbey the curator was delighted to have some visitors and gave us a very interesting information about the towns history.

Soissons is a town that we would certainly return to and stay at the campsite, which we highly recommend.

City news: Jewish Museum, Camden.

We were meeting Lara later that afternoon and had some time to spare. What should we do? We were in Camden, North London, so decided to visit the Jewish Museum, where I had been meaning to visit for some time.

It has a very welcoming entrance and pleasant staff on duty, who even made the security check less of a drag. There was a free video exhibition in the entrance lobby which was very cleverly done with screens positioned around and seats available so you could sit and take in what you were viewing. After spending some time there, we paid our money and took the lift to the second floor where there was an excellent exhibition of how and why the Jewish people had found there way to the U.K. over the centuries, the lives they lived once here and of the families they left behind, never to see again . There were many artefacts, photos and voice-overs, and seating in abundance. Seating is so important if you wish to really spend time and take in what is around you.  Staff were on hand to answer any questions too.

We then walked down to the first floor where there was an exhibition of a typical Jewish family’s life throughout the year, explaining about the Sabbath, festivals and Holy Days.

It was all so clearly arranged and interestingly portrayed that you do not have to be Jewish to visit. It is aimed at all ages from small children to adults. Go there to understand more about our religion, whatever you religion. There is also a very inviting Cafe at the entrance, so even if you decide not to visit the museum upstairs you can grab a snack and take in the free ground floor exhibition. 

City news: Pricilla is a great show.

Lara was commissioned to take some photographs backstage at the Palace Theatre, in the heart of London’s theatre land, where Pricilla Queen of the Desert was showing and managed to get us some tickets. What a great show; outrageous amazing costumes, over the top acting, super songs and dancing, and a great fun night out.

We came away with sore throats from singing and laughing and sore hands from clapping. Just what we needed to lift us on a bleak late Autumn night.

If you go, which I recommend you do, don’t expect an in-depth story, just enjoy the fantasy and take it as it comes, which is with a bang.

Thank you Lara for thinking of us.

City news: Olympic Park revisit.

Following our disastrous first visit with the grandchildren to the Olympic park in London’s Stratford in the summer, Bernard had written to complain and we were promised a revisit, not a general weekend visit but to be part of a corporate tour.

Today was the day! We met up with a group who were from a livery company as we joined their bus.  The security was very low key and the tour guide was a London Blue Badge Guide.

Wow, what a difference  a decent guide makes. She was most informative without following a script; answering questions with humour, as we went around on the bus. We thoroughly enjoyed this trip.

It is so bad that the Olympic Authority use guides who are not trained, as per our original guide, as it can give completely the wrong impression and put off future visitors due to adverse comments from disgruntled “customers”.  What a pity the Grandchildren were not with us to see just how good a tour can be with the right guide.

 

London life: those pesky rabbits.

We bought some unusual herbs in pots

To grow and add flavour to our food.

There was grapefruit mint, sweet cecily,

Creeping savory, thyme, oh lots.

They grew so strong outside our door.

I nurtured them with love.

I picked a few bits now and then,

But now they are no more.

The herbs that once were growing tall,

Waiting to be cooked,

Those pesky rabbits that run around

Have eaten one and all.

On the road: Great Tews, Little Tews and Shipston on Stour.

It was a cold grey miserable day but Lara picked us up from Riverside campsite for another foray into the beautiful countryside.

We “oohed” and “aahed”  as we drove around the “chocolate box lid” villages, even though the skies were threatening.

We stopped at Great Tews, which is just entrancing and had lunch in the village pub. Then on to Little Tews and her villages.

Eventually we stopped at Shipston on Stour. This was once a thriving sheep town, hence the name. We enjoyed a tea in the cute cafe before making our way back to Stratford upon Avon.

On the road: a walk around Stratford upon Avon.

We took the 10am taxi-boat from the Riverside campsite along the Avon to Stratford upon Avon city centre.  It is a twenty minute leisurely cruise with a very friendly informative skipper. As we had arrived ahead of time, the skipper took us further up the river as far as the weir, showing us the famous theatre and other sights.

On alighting we made our way to Shakespeare’s birth-house, which is an excellent museum, with superb audio and visual exhibits and guides, dressed in authentic style clothing, giving interesting information and accurate renderings of snippets from some of Shakespeare’s plays.

We walked to the theatre, but it was still being renovated and the smaller theatre was closed in preparation for the oncoming pantomime season. We could see the work in progress in the foyer on the security camera.  So no play for us this time.

After lunch we visited Nash House and New Place with the archaeological dig in the beautiful garden, which had some amazing modern bronze sculptures dotted around. 

Finally, we visited Halls Croft, the home of Shakespeare’s son-in-law, an eminent local physician. Again a very interesting museum. The museum advertised a cafe, where we had a pleasant afternoon tea, only to be told that it is about to be closed due to financial cuts. How sad.

It was too late and it would have been too far for us to walk after such an energetic day to visit Ann Hathaway’s cottage.

We then tried to find our jetty to catch the taxi-boat back to the campsite, but after being somewhat confused to the exact jetty, we arrived just a few moments after it had left and had to wait an hour for the next boat. We took advantage of this glorious crisp autumn afternoon and we sat on a bench thoroughly exhausted.

The journey back was skippered by another man who gave us more information on the riverside houses we passed by.

All in all  a really enjoyable day.

On the road: herbs, road runner pheasants, and Stow on the Wold.

Lara collected us from the Riverside Caravan site near Stratford upon Avon and took us to the cottage where she is staying at Clifford Chambers just a few miles down the road. She is there until the end of October having won this bursary for women writers for time to write.

It was a very quaint one up, one down cottage in a pretty village. The bath was in the bedroom up the rickety stairs, which gave us a laugh. Behind the cottage was a tiny courtyard with just enough room, for a small round table and two chairs, to be able to take tea outside.

We walked down a little lane between the cottages to a further extension garden belonging to the property and the hen house and run.  The hens are rescue hens and not up to giving much in the way of eggs just yet. Even though the cockerel makes enough noise he seems to be all noise and no oomph!

From there we continued down to the riverside on our short country walk.  Yes, it was peaceful and quiet and conducive to getting down to work without interruptions, except when parents come to call.

Lara was taking some time off to take us around the local villages where she has been looking at properties as she is keen to rent a property here from December.

We stopped off at Honeycote Farm which specialises in chilly peppers and herbs.  Some of the chilly peppers are so hot that they have to be handled with gloves on as the skin on our hands can blister.  Certainly not for me, I don’t like chilly peppers even when they are weak.  Bernard and I chose quite a lot of herbs to buy including a creeping sage, grapefruit mint and a chocolate mint. Some of the herbs were finished for the winter and in fact the farm closes from the end of October until the end of April. There were herbs there I had never heard of and those that I already had.

Whilst driving along, a flock, if that’s the name for it, of pheasants were strutting along the middle of the road. Not a care in the world, they continued right in front of the car, obviously having an afternoon ramble. Lara slowed the car to a crawl, expecting them to fly away, but no, they continued on ignoring this lump of metal on wheels behind them.  It was not until Lara tooted that they flew off with much indignation. After all they were there first.

Our last stop was Stow on the Wold where we stopped for tea after having a leisurely walk around this bustling little town. We had been to Stow before but many years ago.

The countryside around has some very beautiful picture postcard villages and it is easy to understand why Lara wants to try living in this neck of the woods. She wants to rent for a couple of years to see how much she likes it, having always been a city girl.

U.K. Campsites: close to Stratford upon Avon.

Our daughter Lara had won a bursary for women writers, to spend two months in a cute little cottage at Clifford Chambers, a small village just outside Stratford  upon Avon, in the heart of England, and we decided to pay her a visit. As the cottage was a one up, one down, we knew we could not stay with her, so it was time for “Roller” to have a spin for a few days.

Bernard had pre-booked into the Riverside Campsite at Tiddington for four nights.  We had thought about staying for five nights, however, the campsite was offering four nights for the price of three, but if we wanted to stay five nights we would have to pay for five nights!

We arrived on a glorious autumn afternoon at the reception at exactly five p.m. to be told that the office was closing and we would have to come in the next morning to fill in the documentation  The manager also told us that we should take advantage of the superb 99pence breakfast served at the campsite cafe.

Bernard went to investigate only to find that if we did not want the sausage and the bacon but just egg on toast, we would have to pay £1.50! The maths here just does not add up as we would have to pay more for less. We would not be partaking of their breakfast.

The campsite was clean,  had spacious, flat pitches and a taxi boat service into Stratford town centre. However, also on investigation, we found that the grey water outlet for motorhomes was not suitable for our model, as it had a drain cover without a handle to lift it up, and we could not straddle it because it was too near to a short brick wall surrounding the waste water outlet and tap.

One camper told us his caravan was pitched further along on another field and the only waste water outlet and w.c. contents disposal  for the whole site was this one. He therefore had to trundle his  water carrier quite a distance.  He said that he was young but felt sorry for older campers.

The reception had informed us of the Mop Fair being held that evening and the next evening in Stratford town centre. We phoned Lara and she came to collect us. We were envisioning jesters, Morris dancers and old fashioned stalls.

What a let down when we drove into town to find a 21st century fully blown mini Blackpool type fair instead.  The noise of the people shrieking, as they were thrown around on their rides, the machines mechanisms and music and the smell of the burgers and hot dogs was too awful  for us and we quickly made an exit to find a nice quiet restaurant.

This was Monday night. We would have to wait until Wednesday for our foray into Stratford.

 

U.K. Campsites: short break in Norfolk.

Having been in London for a few months and knowing that we were not going touring for a while, we decided to give our “Roller” an outing and take a few days holiday. We were going to visit our daughter Lara, who is at Stratford- upon-Avon for two months, but she told us that she had appointments elsewhere and would not be there, so we decided upon Norfolk.

We ended up in Hunstanton and stopped at Searles campsite, which, luckily,  were offering four nights  for the price of two. We were only going to stay four nights so that was serendipity for us.

It is an enormous site, with static caravans and touring spaces. It has shops, bars, indoor and outdoor pools, a golf course, hairdressers, entertainment, and a land train to the centre of town. Coast-hopper buses go from the entrance of the site to Cromer and to Kings Lynn. It is also close to a Tesco supermarket.  The bad thing was that the site charged a ridiculous amount of money for the Wifi. Quite outrageous. Luckily we had our “dongle” with us.

The reception staff were extremely friendly and helpful and, being just off season, were able to give us a choice of plots. The plot we chose had our own electricity and water and enough space for an awning to be erected, if we wanted to, in the enclosed pitch.

The ducks were very friendly too, coming right up to our door to greet us every time we opened up.

We were hardly on site, taking advantage of our pensioner bus passes and taking trips on the Coast-Hoppers. But we did go to the Monday and Wednesday night entertainment. The troopers were very good, worked hard, had many costume changes and gave us a good show. And it was free, except for the drinks.

I would not like to be on the site in mid summer, but then I don’t like sites to be too crowded.  Late September is perfect.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we were blessed with great weather, and on Thursday it poured. 

Our trips on the buses were great, an entertainment in themselves.  The drivers were unofficial tour operators pointing out little things along the way, like the village with unusual topiary.  “Just on the left, coming up, you will see the pheasants and further along on the right you will see a herd of baby elephants”. On another bus trip we stopped and the driver said, “Why did the chickens cross the road?  Because the driver stopped to let them.”  And sure enough a family of chickens and fluffy baby chicks calmly crossed over the road. Everyone spoke to each other, whether they knew you or not. It was so definitely not London

We visited Cromer, Wells-next-the-sea, and Kings Lynn. Taking in the local sights, using the information gathered at the Tourist Offices and walked along the promenade from the campsite to the centre of Hunstanton, in and around and back again.

It was a good few days spent and our motorhome needed the run.  It also reinforced our realisation that we really enjoy being in our little home on wheels.  We shall look forward to taking it up to Stratford-upon-Avon in a few weeks time.

London Life: the Bank of England Museum.

The three granddaughters were getting ready to start the new school term, so it was one last outing with them this summer holiday and we decided to take them to the Bank of England Museum in the City of London.

“Oh no” the girls said as I bleeped when I went through the security X-Ray machine, remembering the fiasco at the Olympic Park. The man just laughed when I said it was my metal  hip bone. He was aghast when I told him about the last outing, and said it was not lawful to have subjected me to a strip search.

At the reception desk each girl was given a work sheet, suitable for their age, with a pen and were told that there was a prize when handing in a completed sheet.  That was a good start.

They set off on their quests to fill in their sheets, requesting help quite frequently as it was not that easy to find the answers to some of the clues. We really did have to read the information at each exhibit.

Unfortunately, the girls couldn’t lift the gold bar! It sat there in a glass case, with an opening for hands to reach in , but at two kilos it was just too heavy for them, and me!

We spent two full hours there. One of the younger ones said that it was far more interesting than she imagined it to be and would not leave until she had completed her worksheet. They were given postcards and badges as prizes and came away happy.

This museum catered for all ages, including adults and if Bernard and I were not so involved seeking answers for the girls we would have spent time listening to the audio and visuals. The architecture itself is something to take in. We will certainly return there.

And it is free.

 

Sorry about the gap!

We returned to England on the 10th May as my mother was very ill and she eventually died on the 4th June aged 97.

So no Tortoise Tales to tell I am afraid.

Bernard and I are still in UK and I will be using the opportunity to catch up on some stories from previous years, so do look at the side bar on the right to see what has been entered up.

London Life: a trip to the Olympic Park.

It was pouring with rain when Bernard, the three granddaughters and I arrived at the Olympic park bus stop outside Stratford Station in East London.  We were early but the bus was there waiting with its door open.

“Can we get on?”, we asked, as did the others arriving at the same time. But NO we were not allowed to and had to wait in the rain, although the driver and one of the tour guides were there on board.

Eventually we all clambered aboard, wet and bedraggled and none too happy. After a brief check by the tour guide who informed us that he wasn’t our tour guide, we were given some information leaflets and shown a video about the lead up to achieving the honour of being able to host the 2012 Olympics and how the work had begun in this designated area.

By then our very own tour guide arrived.  It was pretty obvious that this was all new to her as she begun to read from a script, which we felt sure she had not looked at before entering the bus.

The bus drove us around  the streets of Stratford and into the Olympic Park itself, where we had to dismount for security checks. The children were whisked away from us as Bernard and I entered the “X Ray” machines. I could hear the children calling “Grandma, Granddad” as they did not expect to be separated from us. Bernard went through but I “pinged”.  The woman called me aside and I explained it was my false hip-bone.

“Come with me “, she said and led me into a cubicle. “Do you have evidence of your operation? Does your scar show?”, she said and when I said it did she made me take down my trousers to show her. I was amazed and angry. Never had I heard of people having to strip to show an operation scar.

By then the children were not very happy as Grandma had disappeared. Not a good start to the outing that they had been looking forward to.

We re-boarded the bus with our tour guide who proceeded to read from the script, interspersing the word “iconic” when describing  each and every  building. The script was certainly not aimed at children as our trio kept asking us what it all meant and in fact found out more information from the leaflets they had been given. She also did not know her right from her left, which amused the kids somewhat when it was obvious that we should be looking in one direction but had been told to look at a pile of earth or rubble on more than one occasion!

It certainly is an enormous area, and so much has been achieved so far. It really is quite exciting that it is well on the way to completion in the time allotted for each stadium and site.

After leaving the bus at the end of the tour we walked up to the viewing platform, where we were told there was a cafe.  A nice cup of tea would have been welcome, but one look at the prices changed our minds. We looked around from the platform and at the small exhibition  available and called it a day.

In fairness, we did enjoy the tour but it was spoilt from the word go. The children did say that they would like to return in eighteen months time to see the difference and that they had learnt a new word…ICONIC!

Some prose: in memory of my mother.

She is at peace now

Her suffering is over.

She fought to stay alive

She fought to die.

What else was there to do

At ninety-seven years old?

 

They were angels

The Carers in the Home.

They gave not just attention

They also gave love,

Even through her tempers

Over the years.

 

And to us the family

They gave support.

How can we ever

Express our thanks

For caring for our mother

And for being there for us?

 

Her room is empty

The clothes are packed away,

There  was not much else

Except photos.

So many years

In Residential Care.

 

She was always there

For the family she loved,

In good times and bad

When she was able.

She is gone

But our life goes on.

 

She died on my birthday

After a long struggle.

We shall never forget her

Remembering the good years,

The songs she loved to sing,

The food she used to make.

 

Rest in Peace Mother Dear.

Gourmet news: induction hobs are great if you have the correct pans!

When we are plugged into electricity at a campsite we have been using a single hotplate.  It takes an age to heat up and we decided we were going to buy an induction hob, which works by magnetism, is instant heat and instant cooling and is cheaper to run than normal electric hobs.

Whilst in France in March we noticed at a supermarket an offer of a set of Tefal pans with a single detachable clip-on handle.  Perfect for the motorhome cupboard as there is very little space and the handles of the saucepans we had kept catching on the tambour door. We looked at the box carefully and we were sure that it stated  they were suitable for induction hobs. We bought the set and were very happy to use them on the gas or normal hotplate and left our “normal” saucepan set at home, in the box which the induction pans had been packed, when we returned for Easter.

Looking on the internet we noticed that single induction hobs were made in Germany. As we were intending to drive through Germany on our way to Eastern Europe we decided to buy a hob on our travels.

Whilst in Worms in Germany we managed to buy a single induction hob at half the price that we had seen  on the internet. That night we were not on a campsite with electricity and I had to wait until the next night to cook with the new induction hob. I took out a saucepan with clip-on handle, put some water in it and tried it on the induction hob. Nothing happened. I tried all of my saucepans; the pressure cooker was ok and so was the pasta/steamer saucepan. Ah well, at least I could use some pans on my lovely new hob!

When we returned to England in May we found a set of saucepans with handles that hooked over the pan, for people with gripping disabilities, which were perfect for the induction hob and stacked together with the handles facing down, so that they took up very little space.

The moral of the story is to carefully read instructions before purchasing, as it can be quite costly to have to buy two sets before finding a set that works!

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On the road: ferry operators want to charge too much at the kiosk.

 
Leaving Metz in the Moselle district of France, we sped on our way to Calais along the motorways.  It was Sunday and in France no lorries are allowed on the motorways so the roads were virtually clear. We really do not like using motorways but needs must; we needed to get back to UK quickly. 
We went straight to the dock, to the booking kiosks and investigated the prices. One wanted 167 Euros and the other 145Euros! We tried to barter but they are not allowed to reduce the price.  We told them that it is cheaper on the internet to which they replied that they knew that and we should go and book on the internet.
Off we went to a restaurant with Wifi availability and booked for the next morning’s 10 am ferry for 57 Euros!  How ridiculous.

On the road: Metz is a grand town.

Having left the Heidelberg district in Germany, taking the motorways on our speedy journey home, we arrived at Metz in the Moselle district of France late afternoon.
It had been a delightful journey through forests and interesting farmland and we would have been happy to have stopped and investigated the area if we had not the urgency of getting home to my very poorly mother. We must return to that part of France and Germany in the future and meander through as we like to do.
The Aire at Metz is outside the campsite, and as our engine had been well and truly charged up during the journey, we were happy to stay on the Aire. The notice on the gates of the campsite stated that it had free Wifi internet access, but as Bernard was unable to log on I asked the campsite reception assistant if there was a code, only to be told that we had to be staying in the campsite to use this facility.
We decided to take our Notebook with us into town and find a restaurant with free Wifi.  There is always a McDonalds as a last resort.
We have never been to Metz before and were pleasantly surprised. The old town has many 18th century grand buildings set around squares with canals running through, and being a university town was pretty lively on a Saturday night.

We found a restaurant which advertised that it had free Wifi and ordered a meal. Bernard could not log on at all and asked for assistance.  The waiter could not understand why it was not working and in the end we gave up.  Ironically, I had decided that I was going to cook pasta in the motorhome prior to our decision to go for the walk, and we had pasta in the restaurant which we agreed was not as tasty as what we think I would have cooked.

Ah well, that is life, no internet and a mediocre meal and if we had paid to stay on the campsite and cooked our meal we could have had free Wifi!  At least the Aire was free.

On the road: not quite Heidelburg

Having left Worms in Germany, our next destination was Heidelberg and we arrived at the campsite Haide, which is 5 Kilometres from the town, in the late afternoon as is our norm after meandering along and stopping at little villages.
The campsite is on the River Neckar and is quite a pretty site. We decided to wait until the morning to take the bus into town and settled down for the evening.
We befriended a young American couple who have been touring Europe in a battered old campervan, which they bought in the UK and hope to sell when they return at the end of their tour. We spent an interesting evening with them, chatting away about their life and background and exchanging  information on places we have visited and hope to visit.
Later that evening my brother telephoned me, informing me that our nearly 97 year old mother was very poorly. I telephoned the residential home in which she resides and was told that they “think she is slipping away” and  decided that in the morning we must start our return to London. 
After a restless night we were ready early to start our return only to find that the engine battery on the motorhome was flat! Why is it always when you really need to do something urgently that the odds are against you?  Bernard had turned on the ignition to open windows and the headlights were on, unbeknownst to him, which had drained the battery.  Luckily, we had decided to stay on a campsite with electricity and not at a  Stellplatz without, as we were able to put the engine onto a drip charge and two anxious hours later we were on our way.

Heidelberg must wait.

City news: Worms is well worth a visit.

The charge for the Stellplatz, official parking for motorhomes, at Worms in Germany, was only 4 Euros. It is only a short walk into the centre of town, but it was pouring with rain when we set off to discover it.

Worms has a very grand Cathedral, a rebuilt Synagogue, Jewish museum, the oldest Jewish cemetery and an attractive shopping centre.

There are no longer any Jews living in Worms, but the city have rebuilt the Synagogue exactly as it was, before it was ransacked and ruined during the last war, according to photographs and plans. On the site of the original community hall a Jewish museum has been built in honour of the renowned Rabbi Raschi who studied at Worms.  Rabbi Raschi wrote  a commentary on the Talmud, the five books of Moses, over 500 years ago which is still studied today by Jewish scholars.

The cemetery dates from 1067 and survived all the wars.  It was absolutely pouring down when we visited the site so did not walk all the way round as it is a vast site. There are thousands of graves the majority being very ancient.

Whilst we were in Worms we bought a single induction hob to use in the motorhome when we are plugged into electricity. More about that in another missive!

Campsite news: just opposite the Loreley rock.

St Goar is on the River Rhein in Germany.  It is at the very narrowest part of the river as it winds it’s way through Germany. The Rhein is the busiest river in Europe.  50,000 vessels ply the river each year and the stretch by St Goar is treacherous with the twist in the river and the rocks causing many an accident. The Loreley rock became famous with the song about the beautiful maiden sitting on the rock enticing the sailors in their little boats to their deaths.

The campsite nearest to the Lorelay Rock is the Loreley Blick.  Blick is German for view, and what a view we had. It is set right on the river bank immediately opposite the rock which is covered in greenery and trees. The barges and travel cruisers sail up and down day and night. On each side of the river run busy roads and railway lines with freight and passenger trains passing constantly.  So if you want a quiet rest then don’t stay at this campsite!  If however you want to discover the beautiful surroundings this is a great campsite.  They have recently built new shower blocks too.

It is only a short walk to St Goar village with the biggest external working cuckoo clock and the biggest beer Stein. It also has a small Jewish quarter, now as a memorial to past residents.

There is also a well advertised castle which is accessible by taking the village tourist “Train”.

A family run the foot and car ferry that crosses from St Goar to St Goarhausen on the other bank, which is not so commercialised. They too have a castle and also the road leading to the Loreley Rock site.

A well earned place to stop when travelling down the Rhein.

On the road:Lag B’Omer at Cologne.

Strolling along the River Rhein

Its a Sunday afternoon

The cyclists travelling in a line

Dogs running, children playing

All enjoying the sunshine.

 

Further ahead between the trees

A group of people gather

They’ve set up barbecues,

Lots of salads, drinks galore

Celebrating the festivities.

 

Men wear scullcaps on their heads

We notice as we draw nearer

Someone’s singing, someone reads

It’s Hebrew that we know

As we approach the man that leads.

 

“We’re Jewish too, and visiting Cologne,

We’re staying at the campsite

And we are quite alone.

Its good to see you’re Jewish

It makes us feel at home”.

 

He says,” Today’s a Jewish Holiday

Lag B’Omer is its name.

Join us in our festivity

Stay a while with us

Eat, you do not have to pay”.

 

We eat and drink and chat away

As best as we can try

In all the languages we can say

We cannot speak the Russian

Whose people are the majority.

 

They came from the Soviet States

When they were still the U.S.S.R

To seek asylum and make a place

To live together in Germany

In peace and harmony whatever race.

 

It was good to talk and while away an hour

Bernard drank some Vodka

A child handed me a flower.

But then the clouds came over

Umbrellas up, here comes a shower.

 

We started back as quick as we could go

The rain was heavy, then thunder

I hope it doesn’t snow!

It was a pleasant afternoon

But we’re soaked right to our toes!

Tortoise tales: a poem

I never thought I could

Write poems that were good

Or funny tales like Pam Ayres.

But sitting on a sunchair

At a campsite by the Rhein

With the weather more than fine,

Reading Pam’s little ditties,

Which are really very witty,

Gave inspiration to my thoughts.

To try my hand I ought

And write my very first rhyme

On how we spend our time

Whilst travelling in our camper,

Which we have named "the Roller",

Exploring exciting places

And meeting friendly faces

From France to Spain and Italy,

With all it’s famous history,

To Holland’s Keukenhof flowers

Where we spent many hours.

Like tortoises we roam

Content and slow in our little home.

There is so much more to see

How lucky can we be

To travel in this way

A new adventure every day.

A tortoise life for me!

City news: Cologne Cathedral hits you in the face!

We took the bus from the campsite into Rodenkirchen centre where we caught the train into Cologne, in Germany, alighting at the stop for the Cathedral.

You can’t miss the Cathedral as you come out of the station. There it looms, a Gothic masterpiece, right in front of your eyes amidst all the modern architecture surrounding it. Cologne was badly bombed in World War Two but amazingly, just like our St Paul’s Cathedral in London, it survived. Inside the Cathedral it is very dark and Gothic but massive and most impressive.

After taking in the Cathedral, we went in search of the Cologne Synagogue. The warden there was most helpful and showed us around, giving us lots of information. Pre-war, there had been a very large Jewish community which did not  exist post war. A small community returned and the synagogue, which had been internally destroyed, was rebuilt. Today the Jewish community of Cologne numbers over 5000 people but over 4000 of these came from the former Soviet States during the 1980s.  There are now three synagogues in Cologne, but the one we were in is the main one and the only “original” building.

Cologne Synagogue

Cologne Synagogue

This building also houses a kindergarten, an old folks club, Sunday school classes, a restaurant and banqueting facilities. The corridors are a mini museum too with glass display cases, pictures, old photographs  and a memorial wall.

Hearing that there was a restaurant, we asked if we could have lunch there and he telephoned through to ask if it was possible.  We were told to return two hours later, which we did.  We were the only people in the restaurant and a lunch had been prepared for us especially.

In the meantime, whilst waiting for our lunch, we visited the local Jewish “Deli”, purchasing meat and tasties to restock our fridge and freezer.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the centre of Cologne, with Bernard carrying a somewhat heavy backpack.

We returned to the campsite that evening absolutely exhausted, to find that there were preparations for a party to see the “May” in which would go on until the early hours of the morning!

We had no intentions of joining in and flopped into bed, sleeping soundly even though there were fireworks popping at midnight!

Campsite news: good for Cologne.

The four-star Campsite Berger at Rodenkirchen is right on the River Rhein in Germany  and an easy trip from there by public transport into Cologne.

We arrived at lunchtime and seeing a rather inviting restaurant on site we decided to partake of their food on the patio. It was an upper-medium priced restaurant with decent sized portions, and well worth a meal there at least once!

The owners were extremely friendly, the shower block superb, the view great and good walks along the riverside. Perfect for a few days stay with visits into Cologne.

Wandering around the campsite we could see that many pitches were set up for long term stay, and when enquiring, were told that because the campsite often floods during the Winter these pitches have to be set up every Spring. In fact the campsite has flooded up to 22 feet above river level.

Today the sun was shining, so no chance of flooding, we therefore took advantage of the weather and had our siesta and evening meal outdoors too.

 

On the road: Xanten is very pretty.

Our next stop in Germany was at a large Stellplatz at Xanten, just a short walk into town. We parked in the grass field surrounded by trees and shrubs and after settling down trotted off into town.

Xanten is famous for it’s Roman ruins and it’s working windmill, with bakery attached. It’s a very pretty town and with the weather warm and sunny we enjoyed a good afternoon discovering it.

We also enjoyed our rather good fish and chip lunch sitting outside the little cafe watching the German world go by.  

On the road: stopping at a German Stellplatz.

Our intention was to drive along by the side of the Rhein in Germany as much as we could, rather than on the motorways and so it was that we found ourselves on the first evening in Germany at a Stellplatz at Emmerich.

The Stellplatz system in Germany is quite sophisticated. These are stopovers for motorhomes and caravans, some with electricity, showers and toilet facilities for a nominal fee. If only the U.K. would provide more of these.  We have used the Aires in France and the Sostas in Italy when we are just staying overnight en route to another destination. A campsite is not always necessary.

The Stellplatz at Emmerich is overlooking the yacht basin with electricity and water and paid for showers.  It was a beautiful view, peaceful and calm, just what was needed after a long drive.

The electricity proved to be a problem with a low ampage and having “popped” it twice I resorted to using the gas cooker after all. 

We watched the sunset over the twinkling water at peace with the world.

 

On the road: flower festival at Haarlem.

The sun was shining, although it was a crisp day and we needed to be dressed warmly. Just the right sort of weather to enjoy a flower festival in Haarlem, near Amsterdam in Holland.

Two days earlier I had telephoned Pauline, who lived in Haarlem and  had been an Au Pair with us in 1972.  She recognised my voice immediately and we arranged to meet on the Sunday morning at the station.

She hadn’t changed much, just a little older.  She recognised us too. We had a great day together talking of old times. Naturally, Pauline knew the route of the flower festival and walked us through the streets where the floats were.

The theme was Europe. Various countries were represented in flower on the large floats.  England was sheep and shepherds.  The models of the sheep were more than life size and very cute and the shepherds were depicted just like fairy story characters.  The millions of petals used on these floats were from tulips, hyacinths and daffodils.  Every float was more beautiful than the previous one and the perfume as we walked the streets was overpowering.

A brass band dressed in green costume kept us entertained and the side stalls offered food and souvenirs. And the sun kept shining, as we kept walking and talking, until exhausted in the late afternoon we bade our tearful farewells and Bernard and I returned to our campsite.

On the road: Jewish museum at Amsterdam.

Zandwoort am Zee, on the Dutch coastline, is on the train line into Amsterdam. It only takes about half an hour from the campsite into the centre of Amsterdam, is relatively cheap and is a pleasant ride.

What greeted us as we emerged from the station was the thousands of bicycles parked, some in multi-story contraptions with hoists to haul the bikes  to the upper levels.  Amazing!  For a country with not that many people, where do all the bikes come from?

We have been to Amsterdam twice before and have visited some of the museums  previously. So after a walk around to re-orientate ourselves and a trip looking at the flower market, we made for the Jewish museum, which we had not visited on earlier visits.

It is housed in what was three synagogues linked by a courtyard. We thought that we would spend an hour or two there, but after a full afternoon we had to be reminded that they were closing and we could have spent probably another hour there. It was informative and moving; interactive computers telling different aspects of life in the city, pre-war, during the war and modern day, as well as fantastic displays, kept us fully occupied and interested.

We had broken our visit by enjoying beautiful apple cake (Dutch of course) in the museum cafe, which also serves snacks. A well earned rest before we continued to another section.

Later we purchased some travel books, in English from a shop in the city, on the Eastern European cities we are hoping to visit and being a sunny, if not rather crisp day, we sat on a bench in a square munching the sandwiches I had made that morning, watching the Amsterdammers go by, before returning by train to Zandwoort-am-Zee.

A perfect day.

 

Campsite news: good for Amsterdam and Haarlem.

We wanted to spend a few days exploring Amsterdam and Haarlem in Holland, and to enjoy the flower festival that was to take place and decided that a good place to stay would be Zandwoort by sea.  There are regular trains to Amsterdam and trains or buses into Haarlem, which are both short trips away.

We arrived at the first campsite we came to which was  Camping de Branding right on the sea front and luckily there were places available, it being “flower festival” time.

Zandwoort is a pleasant little resort which at this time of year was still pretty quiet, but it must be heaving in the summer with tourists.  Hundreds of beach huts were being erected and many food kiosks.  Apparently, they have to be erected each Spring and taken down in the Autumn as the large expanse of beach gets very flooded.

We stayed on the campsite for five days and used the facilities available and advice given by friendly, helpful staff.

 

On the road: beautiful Keukenhof Gardens.

We were so lucky to arrive the week that we did at the Keukenhof Gardens, as the bulbs were late this year, because it had been such a bad winter, and were only just opening.

What a blaze of colour greeted us, and the perfume of the hyacinths nearly blew our heads off! The gardens were wonderful  to walk around as they were so well arranged, with plenty of seats to allow us to sit and admire the vista before us.

There was also a variety of statues and art installations dotted about as we meandered through, so our eyes were always focusing on something new.

The pavilion with the orchids was just amazing, so many varieties and so many colours.

We were absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, even though we had returned to our motorhome to make lunch and have a siesta, having had our hands “stamped” for free return into the gardens.

We spent the night on a road, that we had noticed on our way in the morning very close to the Gardens, where other motorhomes were parked, which was beside a canal and  bulb fields. We awoke the next morning to a wonderful panorama.

“Sat Nav” information: essential for Dutch motorways around Amsterdam.

Driving from Breda towards Keukenhof, we got caught up in the spaghetti of motorways around Amsterdam.  We were so glad that we had set the Sat Nav, as at one stage it was not possible to move into the correct lane at an exit and went sailing off down the wrong road. Our machine immediately directed us and  after going round in circles, we think, we were once again going where we wanted to go.

The motorways were so busy, which for a country of cyclists, was surprising.

Campsite news: free free-range eggs

Just inside Holland, south of Breda and near a village called Hoeven, is a beautiful campsite set in the forest. On arrival, Bernard jokingly asked what time they served breakfast in the morning?  The proprietor handed us a box of 10 eggs and told us they were free-range freshly laid that morning and we could have them as a gift!  Free free-range eggs, what more could we ask for?

Naturally we ate some that night.  They were delicious and I have to tell you that free free-range eggs make better drips on Bernard’s sweater than ordinary eggs!  That’s no yolk!

Motorhome problems: water-pumps leak!

On waking up one morning to find a very soggy carpet is not the best way to start the day.  It was more than an upset glass of water.  There was obviously something wrong.

We traced the dribble back to the cupboard door, under the table, behind which lived the water-pump.  We had to take down the table and move everything from around the area for a clear floor and remove the carpet. On investigation, it was indeed the pump. Bernard had great difficulty unscrewing it lying on his front with his gammy knees and portly tummy and called for the help of one of the campsite wardens at Sewardstone Road, where we were staying.

He was really helpful and they both discovered that it was the filter and a flange.  Bernard had cleverly taken photos as the operation took place so that he would remember where everything went.  How great that we have digital cameras now.  In the past we would have had to have used a Polaroid camera for instant photos.

We took the bits down to Cranham  caravan suppliers on the Southend Road near the M25.  They were able to order the bits which would be sent direct to the campsite.  We would be without water for a few days, but this would not be too much of a problem at this campsite, with its great facilities.

Three days later, the bits arrived and Bernard once again prostrated himself. The photos on his camera proved invaluable. Everything was put back into place as usual.

However the leak was not cured and the very next day the procedure was repeated with Bernard applying silicone to the joints.  Still no luck and after three attempts Bernard resorted to going once again to Cranhams and bought a complete water-pump.  So trying to save money didn’t work, just aggravated Bernard’s knees and temper!

We have now had the motorhome for six-and-a-half  years so one water-pump in fairly constant use is pretty good going.

Campsite news: great for London.

Whenever we bring our Motorhome back to London we usually stay at one of the Lee Valley campsites in North London, or both if we are going to be in London for more than two weeks.  The campsite at Picketts Lock has a ruling of a maximum of two weeks stay, so we alternate with Sewardstone Road.

Both campsites are well appointed and have excellent, helpful, friendly staff. The shower blocks are warm and welcoming and spotlessly clean.

Picketts Lock has an advantage of being part of the Leisure centre with cinemas, golf and other sporting activities and is right on a bus route throughout the year, whilst Sewardstone Road has only a summer stop at the site but is set in pleasant parkland near to the sailing clubs of the River Lee.

It doesn’t take long to get into the centre of London by public transport from either of these sites, and there are many local shopping centres nearby too with a variety of restaurants of any nationality you can name.  The choice is yours!

Gourmet news: Kosher wines from Calais.

A little gem of an emporium run by a fantastic family is Le Chai Ardresien wine shop just outside  Calais on the St Omer road.

Paul and Bea and their amazing daughters Adah and Ruth have always made us  more than welcome whether we are spending 10Euros or 100!

However it is very difficult not to spend money there. The shop has an enormous selection of non-Kosher wines but also the largest selection of Kosher wines that we know of. They import Kosher wines from all over the world and export them to many countries.  Many of the wines can be tasted and they will even lay on special tastings for group trips. Take a look at their website www.vineyards-direct.com .

However the building does not just have a great wine section but also an even greater office surplus section. There is so much there, that just wandering around you tend to find things you thought you really didn’t need but must have! Ruth seems to find these things for you and reminds you that you really must buy it.  She also has the bargain of the day; bright ear plugs because she knows that we probably snore or something just as inane!

Parking is a doddle too, even for our motorhome, as they have parking out front, but also a large delivery yard at the back.

So if you are passing through Calais, just fifteen minutes up the road just before Ardres village, pop in and see them and mention our name.  You will find a warm welcome.

Gourmet news: great Kosher charcuterie.

One of our discoveries whilst travelling through France has been the Kosher butcher’s shop, Marcel, in Rue de l’Engannerie, Caen in Normandy.

All the varieties of his home made charcuterie are delicious ( I know, we have tried them) and his uncooked meats always look so fresh and inviting that even a non-meat eater might be tempted!

Only problem we have is parking nearby.  We once tried the paid car-park nearly opposite and seeing a pay slot, we fed in our credit card as we have done in some other car-parks in Europe. However, this car-park did  not need a credit card and promptly swallowed it!  There was no one around to talk to, so I buzzed the buzzer and kept buzzing until a voice spoke to me. He asked what number car-park we were in and eventually I found a number on the gate and told him and “Hey Presto” the card popped out! 

The fiasco did not end there as when we returned to leave, the motorhome got stuck trying to manoeuvre through the exit gates. After about 90 jigging backwards and forwards and avoiding the posts as best as possible, we were on our way  

Don’t try parking a motorhome there!  So Bernard usually drops me off and drives around until he strikes lucky.

It is well worth the detour we often have to make to stock up on delicious pates and sausages. Umm, my mouth is watering just writing about it.

Motorhome scrapes: yet another towing event.

Driving through on our way back to UK, we realised by the time we were nearly at Nantes that we had better find a campsite soon, and stopping off at the Aire we spoke to some people from southern Ireland driving a “5th wheel” vehicle who told us they were going to a really nice campsite at Heric, which is just north of Nantes.

We arrived at the site in the late afternoon and were told by the owners to park on a pitch near to the shower block.  Which we did. After settling down, the campsite owner came round and asked us to move, since the recent storms had waterlogged all of the grass pitches and he wanted us to park on a hard standing.

This was the week  when the west coast of France had suffered immense inundations and storms just 50 kilometres from where we had parked.

Once again, we needed to be towed off the pitch, this time with the help of a large lorry  and ten itinerant Hungarian workers. Everyone was so nice about it, apologies all round. It’s beginning to be a regular escapade with us it seems!

Once we had settled down, we discovered a restaurant at the entrance to the campsite.  The menu looked interesting, and decided to return that evening after resting from our trauma. It was a bit late when we returned for dinner only to find that the restaurant was chock a block full with local people. So we booked for lunch for the next day, when we had a really good meal.  We  highly recommend it.