Sunday 11th Sept
We finally set off from Scotland today and with the impending tornado about to hit the UK we decided to spend a couple of days in a hotel instead of camping. After an arduous 370 mile drive we arrived at the Churchgate hotel that although looking a bit tired, it was OK. The good thing was that there were not too many staff about and smuggling Leon in and out was a piece of cake.
On the Monday we paid Karen’s friend, Mac, a visit and ended up having a spot of dinner with her and her 2 grown up kids, Damien and Rebecca. Much merriment and slagging off of the inept organizational capabilities of the Metropolitan police. No change there then.
Tuesday was spent on admin and child minding
We paid the cheque in for the sale of Lizzy the motorhome whilst carting around the latest addition to the Hall bloodline, Naomi’s 20 month old sproglet, Charlie. He was a little darling and a real boy. He was into everything and ran off at every opportunity. After a while the grandparents could not keep up so a trip to toys R us for a set of reins and a straight jacket (I can dream can’t I – only joking) order was restored along with sanity.
Whilst there we decided to purchase a cuddly toy in order to quietly claim back Karen’s favourite cuddly mascot, the Help for Heroes bear. We went through a few including one that Charlie kept squeezing the foot of only to hear it laugh and then fart, then laugh – fart ......you get the idea. Fortunately he fell in love with a purple monkey the same size as he was and the bear was reclaimed.
We then popped down to our favourite local, the Rye House, for a Shandy and a bit of dinner. Whilst there we bought a loaf of bread and decided to take Charlie to feed the ducks and swans. All was well and the swan nearest to Charlie will not need to eat for a month or two. The only slight problem was Charlie trying to climb into the river. He managed to get one leg over while my attention was in the bread bag. Fortunately the reins saved the day.
That evening following a lot of driving backwards and forwards, we all sat down to a Chinese buffet in The Stow. It was great to all sit down together and watch Charlie decorate the floor with food. My hat goes off to Paige for preventing the whole floor from being covered.
Following the final skull dugerous extraction of Leon from the Hotel we popped in to see Trula as promised and she ran some washing through for us while we took Damien and Rebecca to the cinema to see a film that we had wanted to see for some time, namely, Cowboys and Aliens. The film was really funny and a bit of escapism as you can probably imagine.
Then it was back to Harlow and back to Trula’s for the washing and a dinner – luverly, thanks Trula.
We set off for Harwich and the Ferry about 7pm and on arrival booked in, found our cabin and headed for the bar. However we were both knackered and soon went to bed. Poor Leon had to stay the night in the Land Rover on his own but in the morning he did not seem any the worse for it.
Thursday morning we were in Holland and drove to Amsterdam. En-route, imagine our surprise to see this in the middle of the motorway.
|Imagine what this looked like 30 seconds ago|
Once in Amsterdam we went to visit the house of Anne Frank. She was a teenage Jewess who, along with several members of her family went into hiding in at the top of a house from the Germans during the Second World War. She wrote a detailed diary of her life in the hide and during the last year of the war someone informed the Germans and they were all arrested and the only person to survive the concentration camps was her father, Otto. Anne died within a month of the camps being liberated. Her father on his return, retrieved the diaries and the story she was writing and put the book into print. It is one of the famous books of WW2 and has been translated into 70 languages including German. Another very moving experience.
|The top rooms of this house were the hide|
|The secret doorway to the hide behind the bookcase|
|Margot and Anne Frank|
Then it was back into Gromit and off to Germany. We drove to Osnabruck where Zoe spent her first years and set up camp It was the first time we had put the whole lot together and we did get a lot of funny looks from the other campers. Here’s why....
Next to the camp site was a large lake and it was used by water skiers. However there were no speed boats to pull them along. The lakes owners had rigged up a pulley system like in a snow ski resort but it goes round the lake instead of up and down the hill. Water skiers hook on to it and get towed round and round the lake. Weird. We sat and ate my favourite curried sausage and chips whilst watching it.
Friday, 16th Sept.
Our first night in the tent was not as bad as I was expecting. It was a little bit painful at times and it got very cold through the night, however tomorrow sleeping bags will be used. Leon seemed to enjoy his first night and didn’t nick as much of the duvet as Ray does. We had a lazy pack up and the weather was lovely during the day. We had decided to head for Hamburg but changed our minds and drove round it to the North-eastern tip of Germany, Fehman Island. We arrived at the campsite called Wulfener Hals at about 7pm, parked up, went for some dinner and then came back and put the tent up and were in bed by 9;30pm. Leon was trying to get up the ladder before us. The site was surrounded by the sea was a haven for water sports enthusiasts.
Saturday 17th Sept.
I awoke at 6am, got up and then had to wake Ray (yes really) to see the sunrise. We had heard the wind through the night, but around the site were windsurfer boards, bits of awning and underwear flung all around. Like ourselves though, people were getting up, repairing damage, (unlike ourselves), and then disappearing towards the surf.
We were in line for the ferry to take us from Puttgarden to Robyhavn in Denmark at 10 am, and entered Denmark at about 11.
|On your Denmarks.....get set......Go....|
Ray resorted to Currywurst again on the boat, and then we drove to Copenhagen, I was singing songs from the Hans Christian Anderson film with Danny Kaye, and Ray just gave me those funny looks again.
He did however spot a family of white tailed eagles, I was sceptical but after checking out all the points we had to agree.
|Island hopping and lots of these|
In Copenhagen we had a drive around, found the old castle grounds and the old town. We parked up in the centre and had a quick walk around, then realised we hadn’t seen the “Little Mermaid “ Statue, so ended up about 200 yards from where we had started, but we did find her.
|The older side of town - could be a mining village in Wales|
|Seek out the cheeky imp in blue|
|Can anyone else do track suit bottoms and glasses like this!|
|Traditional/Obligatory Irish Pub|
|The Little Mermaid, we hunted high and low for her, never more than 200 yards away!|
From there we set off again for Sweden, drove north for 50k’s and caught the ferry from Helsingor to Helsingborg, Sweden. This is the first time we have had the cat passport checked, they didn’t check ours, but I’m not convinced he knew what he was looking for in Leon’s one anyway. There was a distinct smell of BS in the air as he waved us through smiling.
Trying to keep up with Ray, I then spotted a black Kite flying along. I have been told that I am still second, albeit a close second.
We arrived at the only campsite, open and available for a hundred mile radius at a place called Almhult. Again surroundings beautiful. Interestingly, Almhult is the home of IKEA and the guy that invented it in 1943.
On arrival at the campsite Karen drove us down to reception and we passed another white Land Rover with British plates on it. Needless to say I was excited by the thought of fellow British likeminded travellers such a long way from home. We checked in and spent 20 minutes deciding where to put the smallest vehicle on site. After parking up about 4 times we finally found a suitable spot and I noticed a Transit tipper truck and 2 tarmac compactors and some fluorescent clothing beside one of the caravans. We assumed they were building contractors away from home as we had seen on many other sites previously. See this picky.
|Not much like a Swedish plate|
Imagine our surprise when on closer inspection we note that the truck has British plates on it....as does the caravan......and another 4 caravans and another tipper. We were then approached by a dapper looking young man in a blazer, trousers and a tie. He opens up and tells us in a thick Irish accent that he is part of a tarmac crew working for the Swedish government on their small and large tarmac contracts......he was a bloody Pikey. There we were 1000 miles from home, having retired and trying to escape the dross of the UK and here they were, parked up beside us in the middle of absolutely nowhere. What worried us more was the fact that he liked our Land Rover (spares for his mates one ?) and he had an uncle who lived on a site in Leighton Buzzard (where recently, in the news, 25 slaves were rescued from by police – you couldn’t make it up !).
We had a quick re-think of our location and surprisingly, we moved again to the furthest end of the camp. It was a pleasant surprise that through the night we did not feel Gromit being jacked up for the customary wheel liberation. Surprisingly we had a very good night’s sleep.
Sunday 18th Sept.
Another early rise (I am starting to scare myself now) and a quick tent drop and shower before the pikeys woke up (they were on the beer last night) and we were checking out as they started to move about. They were in their Land Rover and Sunday best clothes as we left but fortunately they did not follow us – whew. In fairness, they waved and are obviously working for their money for a change. Obviously there are no more drives that need tarmac in the UK.
|Despite the pikeys, the view was pretty|
|And some more|
We set off on a cross country route towards Gothenberg with Karen driving. She drove on our first public dirt road.
|Move over Carlos Sainz|
|The scenery was spectacular|
We arrived at a campsite in the middle of Gothenberg at 2pm and Karen did some washing while I sat and cursed while trying unsuccessfully to get the Sky box to work. It seems that we will have no satellite signal for the next couple of weeks. Karen then set to work in the kitchen and rustled up some delightful sausages and beans. Gordon Ramsey; eat your heart out.