Sunday, 29 May 2011

60 Disneyland and Normandy

Tuesday 17th
Today was a very long 500km drive to just outside Paris where we stopped in an Aires near to Disneyland.
Wednesday 18th
An early start and we drove the 20km to Disneyland. We found an area to park motorhomes up at the park and jumped on the travelator into the centre of the park. Disney land is now divided into two parks. One is the conventional wonderland type bit and the other, newer bit is dedicated to the movie side of things. We visited the movie bit first.
Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse
 The first thing we went on was “The Hollywood Tower Hotel”. In this the scenario is the lift system malfunctioning in the hotel and visitors sit in groups of about 15 and get thrown about as if in a possessed lift. There was a warning about losing breakfast and it was not without foundation. It was brilliant. 
The “Tower”
 Then we went on a wander around and saw some special effects vehicles and the like.
The drilling buggy in “Armageddon”. It has a Humvee chassis at its core.

Karen singing in the rain...
A petrol tanker exploding in “Earthquake”.

Then the flood came and put the tanker out.
A London scene from “Dinotopia”. We’ve not seen this one.

We then moved on to the main wonderland park.
The parade.

“WALL-E” from the film of the same name.

The “Pirates” section was my favourite.

Fantastic...The Galleon.

We wandered around for a couple more hours and stopped for a bit of grub in the pirates restaurant. It was crap, I had swordfish, expecting something that might resemble that it had once swam the seven seas, unfortunately it was more like it was the skin of a beast that spent all its life eating grass and destroying the ozone layer.
With our legs giving out we headed back to Lizzy and set off for a 400km drive to Arromanches and the D-Day landing beaches. We arrived very late and knackered and parked up in a car park above Arromanches, overlooking the famous Mulberry Hartbour.

Thursday 19th
The next day we were awoken by the car park attendant who wanted 5 euros and a punch in the head for disturbing our slumber. Lucky guy only got the 5 euros.
We sorted ourselves out and walked down the hill and into the village of Arromanches. It was very pretty with French and British flags lining the streets. It was obvious that they liked us here.
Arromanches and the bay with the Mulberrys

French and British flags everywhere.

For our younger followers; Towards the end of World War 2, the Germans occupied all of Europe except Britain and were expecting some sort of invasion from Britain. They expected the port areas to be attacked due to the severe and unpredictable weather in the English Channel.
Sir Winston Churchill, the then Prime Minister, instructed a very clever British engineer to design a method of making a floating harbour that could be towed to Normandy, sank in place and allow the British and her allies to re-enter Europe in the safety of calmer waters. 
In the early hours of the 6th of June 1944, hundreds of paratroopers and gliders full of troops were flown to Normandy, just outside Caen. They met there serious resistance from the Germans but eventually won and took a strategically important bridge that has now been named “Pegasus Bridge” after the British soldiers cap badge. This allowed the soldiers that landed hours after to be protected from a German counter attack. This landing was conducted under very dire circumstances and many thousands of soldiers died on both sides. The allies eventually overcame the Germans and when the beaches were secure, the Mulberrys were bought in, a harbour was formed and the rest of the invasion force and all its supplies and tanks were able to enter and liberate the Normandy area of France. This was the turning point of the WW2 and we are greatly indebted to the soldiers involved. A year later the allied forces had retaken Europe, Hitler and his German army were overthrown and the Allies had won the war. This was the cost of our current freedom.
The initial beach invasion.

A landing craft. Many soldiers were killed before they even got off.

An overview model of the harbour and the supply train.

A model of one of the Mulberrys before being sunk in place.

A CET (combat engineer tractor) and portable bridge used by the Royal Engineers to facilitate the initial landings. Both my father, Joe, and I were in the Royal Engineers. Dad having served in Italy and North Africa during the war, to the best of my knowledge. He would not talk much about it.

Once leaving Arromanches we visited the American War cemetery where we saw a large depiction of the re-taking of France following D-Day.
The push to retake France.

W then drove to Bayaux, the town where the Bayaux tapestry is housed (this is a 224 foot long tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of Britain, it dates back to 1476AD.) There we visited the British cemetery. This was a lot more emotional for us, especially when I saw the graves of ex Royal Engineers.

An unknown Engineer corporal.
We were very respectful of our enemy and they are buried in the same graveyard.

An unknown German soldier. “Ein Deutscher Soldat”

We then drove Caen where we had previously spotted a Vet on the way through. Leon had a thermometer shoved up his bum and as usual there was not one murmur, apart from the heart one that the vet found. He was then anti-wormed and anti-ticked and we were on our way to Pegasus Bridge just up the road.
When we got there the bridge was up, very rare as we understand.

Pegasus Bridge in the UP position.

A statue of Brigadier James Hill DSO MC. Follow the link below to the life story of an extraordinary man.

A full size model of one of the gliders.
The original bridge, now placed off to the side.

A Royal Engineers Bailey Bridge. We (my Army mates and I) used to build these in the rain and dark in a few hours....memories...

We then set off for Dunkirk, having (due to the vet) to leave for the UK between 24 and 48 hours. I told the sat nav to take us to Dunkirk avoiding the toll roads. I did not tell it to avoid ferries and to our surprise we were taken straight to the rivers edge without hardly any money and straight into a queue for the ferry that we could not turn around in. Fortunately, we realised, once on the river that it was free...phew...

Crossing the river Siene

The Sun was starting to set as we arrived at the Somme and we pulled into an Aries that had very accommodating, individual parking/picnic areas for motorhomes...luverly.

The Sun setting over the Somme.
Again for the younger followers. The Somme is an area of France (around the river Somme) where one of the worst and longest battles between the English/French and the Germans took place, this time, during the First World War (WW1 or “The Great War”). See link below for more info.

Friday 20th
Following the end of WW1 the area of the worst battles became overgrown with wild poppies and this became the emblem of, the remembrance of our war dead for both world wars that we wear on Armistice day, the 11th of November every year. The poppy was chosen to represent the blood spilled by some 1.5 million casualties of the Battle of the Somme. When we saw these we had to take some sombre photos.

We arrived at Dunkirk at about noon but they would not let us get our boarding card until exactly 24 hours had passed since Leon had his passport stamped by the vet. Oh well !

Monday, 16 May 2011

59 Germany

Sunday 15th continued
After the rain eventually stopped the rest of the day was ruined for any touring so I decided to give Wallace a bath. On top of that we were very concerned about Leon. As far as we knew, he had not had any water for 2 days so we looked in the medical bag and found a small syringe. We then drew up water from a cup and slowly “injected” water into his mouth. It was a bit of a fight but it needed doing. He can go without food for a while but not water.

Monday 16th
Leon was a lot better today. Still a bit wobbly on his feet but now drinking water on his own (probably fed up with having a syringe shoved past his teeth!).  Needless to say Karen was a lot happier too and celebrated by doing the washing.
When all that was over we went for a short ride and ended up at the highest waterfall in Germany at a place called Todtnau. We were expecting a bit more but it was still very pretty.
Karen scaring the locals.
These carvings were scattered around the woods
Oooo look a waterfall....  Trula this one is for you.

This shrine was on the path to the waterfall. Germany is very religious and these things are everwhere.
Then it was back on Wallace and back to visit the village of Titisee which was typically South German and beautiful. 
Titisee itself.

There we did the obligatory fridge magnet hunt, bought some daft souvenirs (not me you understand) and I ended up chewing on a Currywurst for dinner. This of course was on top of the one I had for lunch at the campsite. I see it as a personal mission to eat as many as possible before we leave Germany.    (There are two in the fridge, under lock and key, in glass cabinet saying “In case of emergency, break glass”, for his cravings you understand!!!!!)
Ray has obviously been here before
Don’t mention the War
Love comes in many forms

It was then back to the campsite and load Wallace onto the trailer for the long haul to Disneyland Paris in the morning. We have changed our plans again and have decided to miss out the Nuebergring and head straight for Paris and hence get back to the UK a bit earlier.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

58 France

Remember, black writing is Karen's, Blue is Rays.

Thursday 12th
Started the journey northwards today.  Our destination is Chamonix, but we will be going by the scenic roads and not the motorway, well until we get fed up with it that is.  It is quite arduous dragging Lizzie and Wallace around u turns and country roads that are narrow and go up into the mountains and back down again.  We did though, pass through some of the most wonderful scenery we have seen and it has completely changed our view on France as a whole. The roads we were on would have been a treat on a fast bike or car.
Lac De Saint Croix

Georges du Verdon

We travelled up through the Gorges du Verdon, which was spectacular and after a couple of stops in the hills to have lunch and change drivers, we finally made it to just outside Chamonix at about 9.30pm, (having left at ten that morning), shattered. We had also come through some awful storms, that seemed like mini tornados, and blew Lizzie about no end.
A spot of lunch at a beauty spot.

There’s a storm a brewin...

It was a spectacular if not scary storm when it came.

We rough camped beside some other travellers, (motor home owners – not pikeys) in a local car park. 
Friday 13th  (Glad I didn’t realise that at the time!)
Today we were up early and went into the town of Chamonix for breakfast and a look around.  During winter this is a very popular skiing resort and during summer, mountain biking and walking are the main activities.
This was brilliant. 

A more oblique view.

Our wild camping spot in Chamonix

One of the glaciers terminating just outside the town.

The town is very pretty and also very expensive, but we loved it and with the sun shining down, reluctantly left to head on towards Germany again and the Black Forest. 
I put this next picture in to show the general attitude of the French to their citizens. This is the barrier at the start of a mountain bend. Note the extra plastic barriers at ground level. This is the place that bikes end up when they fall over. I like the French more and more all the time. They look after each other and absolutely love bikers. I wish us Brits did not treat bikers as lepers.
Bike safe French crash barrier.

Again it was a long day of driving and we reached to outside Freiburg about 10pm and stayed in a service station.  We have decided to have a couple of days at Titisee, which is on a lake and has some wonderful scenery and views around it, so we will make our way there tomorrow.
Saturday 14th
I have been up most of the night with Leon.  He has been really sick and is now lying about all listlessly.  We booked into our new campsite, Camping Bankenhof Hinterzarten am Titisee.  The first thing was to get a local vet, and Ray tried three, none of which could assist as they weren’t open. Leon is not being sick anymore, but he is very tired and wants to be on his own. We will keep an eye on him and get him to an emergency vet even if I have to drag him out myself.
Again we are in a beautiful setting, hills around us and obviously the lake.  We haven’t ventured very far today because of Leon. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.  After a glorious start to the day weather wise, it has rained like it was going out of fashion today.
Sunday 15th
Leon slept better through the night, and is looking a bit brighter, I can only surmise that he caught a wee bug.  I’ll see how he gets on for the rest of the day.  It is a worry with him being the age he is.
Ray is outside while I write this, changing the tyres around on Lizzie. No mean feat.  Again the day has started off brightly enough, but we do have some ominous dark clouds hovering.  Not sure what the plans are for the rest of the day.

Wheels all swapped around, time to chill out.
And then it pissed down..........