Friday, 21 September 2012

122 Our journey to Lyon

Sunday 16th September.
As usual a nice easy morning. Leon had done his escaping through the tent again during the night, goodness knows what he'll do once we are back in the tent on Gromit. We went into Offenburg again to sit at our cafe with internet, unfortunately it wasn't working so we wandered around the town until we came across some internet and had some dinner.  Again our efforts were thwarted and we were only able to post the words and a very unflattering picture of me.  Whilst we were chewing on a delicious chicken and chips we were joined in the restaurant by 3 green clad men on horses. When we say in, we mean in. They rode their horses between the the tables, dismounted, were presented with a beer each and chatted to the customers. It was surreal but extremely quaint and funny.
Hay !!   Wheres my beer. You've neigh chance....

We are moving on tomorrow so back at the campsite we started loading Wallace back onto the trailer.  We were joined by a lovely couple from Norway, Sylvia and Nils Nordhus.  It turns out they recognized Gromit from when we were in Norway last year, even down to the fact that we had a new box on the top and now had the bike with us.  Sylvia is originally from Dundee, but speaks fluent Norwegian. Her English had a distinct Norwegian/Scottish twang.  They spend a lot of their time traveling also.  The world really is getting smaller. 

Sylia and Nils.....That Landy looks familiar...

Monday 17th September.

The tent was dismantled and Gromit made ready for take off.  We said our goodbyes and we headed deeper into the Black Forest to Freudenstadt.  The sun was shinning and it looked beautiful.  
Make with that sausages...

Freudenstadt town centre

The last time we were here it was raining, cold and miserable apart from all the Christmas lights.  We have fallen in love with the place all over again.  Our campsite is right in the middle of the forest and is very peaceful.  There is Wi Fi here so Ray went and sorted the blog out and I joined him later only to find out that he had received an e-mail from Peter who had arranged our accommodation in Santander, that they did not in fact take cats.  He was very apologetic, but it didn't alter the fact that we now had no where to stay. We searched ourselves for accommodation and e-mailed him back with the details, and awaited our fate. We set up the BBQ,  and had a meal under the stars. 

Tuesday 18th September.
We awoke to the sun pouring in the tent and birds twittering away, it was a nice way to wake up.  Better than that was the one time we were glad of the mobile phone ringing as it was Peter to say that he had got us into another hotel nearby and they would definitely take the cat.   Crisis averted.
We are headed south today in the Forest and spending a couple of days here before we go into France. 
The weather is fabulous and the area is just so picturesque, I love my life.  We lunched in Wolfach.  It is a beautiful little town and we have been here several times now.  However we had never seen it in the sunshine.  
Wolfach main street.

Their attention to detail was amazing

We ended up near Rheinweiler in a campsite, just north of the Swiss/French/German border. They served curry wurst so Ray was a happy man.  We put our new super duper tent up, but decided to sleep on Gromit.  
Leon enjoying the sunshine

It hammered down with rain through the night.

Wednesday 19th September.
The rain had finally stopped when we got up.  Ray went to look in our new tent (which had all our clothes in), and found that it had puddles in it. This is not good news, because we spent a lot of money on it because of it's durability. Our all singing and dancing tent was turning into a complete dud!.  Several phone calls later we are hoping to get a new one shipped to Billy's place in France, and Billy is going to take our one back.  It was basically a quiet day just getting everything sorted.  Several more people joined us in our little parking area.  They all had motor cycles, so straight off it was something in common.  We had Ollie and Christiana from Dusseldorf, and Annie from Copenhagen. Ollie was a loud, gregarious character and Annie had been traveling around Europe on her bike by herself.  Brave girl.  It was quite an entertaining evening.

Thursday 20th September.
Sun is shining again and we are taking down the tent, it had been cleaned and packed with tender loving care, even if it is rubbish.  That's not technically true, in principle it is fantastic, I just think the Gremlins got to it before it left the manufacturers. 
The morning mist covering the Rhine. France in the distance.

Poor Annie also had her problems, her bike chain was about to snap, so between them, Ray and Ollie found a dealer who could fix it for her but not until tomorrow.  We all left her to her fate.  

Annie with a very sick bike.

Ollie and Christiana. Mad as frogs but good fun.
We are  on our way to France, but driving through Switzerland just because we can.  High up in the hills we found a lovely spot for lunch and for Leon to stretch his legs.  
Lunch in Switzerland

Most of the scenery was this good

Our campsite tonight is called Las Fuvettes in Malbuisson, near Champagnole in France.  It is on the side of the lake and really quite lovely.  We met another British couple, although they might argue that as they come from North Wales.  We cooked in the open again and then had an early night.  

Friday 21st September
My god it was cold last night, 2 degrees.  This is the coldest we've had for a long time.  Leon and I cuddled up together in my sleeping bag. It was still cold when we got up, but the sun was out and a low mist was hanging over the lake.  It was lovely, but eerie too.  
The early morning mist on the lake beside our campsite. It was only 2 deg C

I think I may have got Karen up too early today

We are headed towards Lyon today.  We drove through the country side. It was very pretty and we found another beauty spot for lunch.  
More French sscenery

Lac de Coiselet. A hydro electric dam is at the far end.

We passed through some lovely little towns, one of them being Bourg on Bresse.  
Bourg de Besse, catherderal

We arrived at the next campsite about 5 pm.  It is called "Camping Indigo International de Lyon"

Sunday, 16 September 2012

121 Into Germany...again...he ..he ..he

Monday 10th Sept
And were off again.... The next installment arrives.
After a hectic morning, dropping off the caravan after decommissioning it (we do not want to buy another water heater) and the final clear up and admin type bits and
bobs. Its funny, no matter how many times we do it it is still difficult to decide what to pack for the differing scenarios that we envisage coming across.
After parking the caravan in its allotted slot at the Kingsburys we popped in to see Billy and Sue for a cuppa and to make sure we were still on track to visit them in France in 2 weeks time. We also stopped off at Trulas work place at the hospital and saw her in her security guards uniform. It was weird to see her in a police type set up. Karen was promptly arrested as she got out of Gromit. 

We then drove back to the Hertford campsite to collect Wallace.
We then had a marathon run around to buy a full gas canister as they are not available in much of Europe. Then it was the final mind numbing trip to Sainsburys (Karen is easily pleased - sometimes ;-) ).
Our main mission for the day was to be in the midnight ferry from Dover to Dunkirk. This was thwarted to some degree by our late departure, having decided to have some grub and let the evening rush our go past first. We actually arrived at Dover at 9pm and they let us on the 10pm ferry. The crossing is 2 hours and with adding the Euro time difference on we arrived at about 1:15 am. I managed to get some sleep on the boat but Karen did not.
We then drove straight down to Disneyland Paris....

Tuesday 11th Sept
We arrived at Disneyland just before 7am, knackered and stiff. The park was shut and it was clear that they now charged for parking. At 7:30 the gates opened. 15 Euros later we parked near the entrance and waited (slept - ish) till the park opened at 10am. We were in a bit of a daze but we will get over that. The day was warm and overcast so we decided just to go in in T shirts and shorts. The entry fee was 75 Euro each -Whaaaaat.

Celebrating 20 yrs of fleecing the public
The whole experience was significantly more expensive that our previous visits. It was legal robbery. Just after we got through the gates the rain started and stayed on all day. We decided, rather than go the 5 minute walk back to Gromit to get our coats we would buy a thin plastic (throw away) poncho each. A snip at 9 Euros (bloody hell this is taking the mickey - pun intended).
How do you like our new sexy kit ?
The good thing about the time of year and the weather is that all the rides had no queues so we did not get grumpy standing around all day long. The Space Mountain was the best ride and we did that twice (when does that ever happen ?). 

Shaken and stirred

After the second one we were both dizzy, shaken, stirred and had the makings of a headache. Either it was one Mountain too far or we are getting old.
Karen grumbled something about my ancestors here. Under her breath needless to say

The pirates of the Caribbean set

The dragon under the castle

It was animated and very good
Whilst browsing the shops we refrained from buying any T shirts, Grumpy for me and Dopey for Karen. We decided to call it a day at the park and moved outside to the Hollywood bit with the bars in. We stopped in a German bar and paid a measly 10 Euros (£8) for a Pint (yes a pint).
We were sat next to an English couple and fortunately the clocked tipped forward into Happy Hour where drinks were half price - at last.
After the bar we staggered back to Gromit and moved to an area of the car park set aside for motor homes and pitched the tent. We were asleep by 9:30. Needless to say we got our moneys worth out of the parking fee. 

Wednesday 12th Sept
We were rudely awoken by the cat being sick. Luverly. After a clean up we slowly struck camp for a slow (as is always in Gromit) drive to Trier in Germany, just past Luxemburg,  so we could get a Currywurst. A mere 419km (about 260 miles) drive for a sausage. We (Karen says I should have written "I") are nothing but dedicated sausage munchers. On the route there we did see a Honey Buzzard (exiting for us anyway) and lots of wild deer.
We parked up in a small campsite where we had stayed before and wandered into town in search of a currywurst. We struck out on the sausage and had to settle for a very nice Italian. At about 10pm we went in search of a bar only to find them all shut. Bloody inconsiderate considering that we won the war after all. Time for bed said Zebedee.

Thursday 13th Sept
Having decided to spend a few days in Germany, as we both love it so much, we are heading down to Offenburg near the French border and on the edge of the Black Forest. 
We saw this at service station. Eat your heart out the Rhino's of Dumfries.
The land of cuckoo clocks and witches. The route we took took us back through France and Via a place called 'Bitche'.  Karen thinks I am trying to give her a subliminal message.
No comment...
We found a campsite just North of Offenberg. It was a nice place but appeared to be mainly used as a stop off site as the residents did not tend to stay long.
As we intended to stay for a few days we pitched the big new Jet Tent intending to sleep in it instead of the roof tent. On erecting it we found that the front door fly screen had been sewn on upside down and would not zip up. 
This was the only bit we did not test out after purchase - Doh!
Now, the more cynical among us would say that we should have tested the tent before leaving the UK. Well, we did. We erected it in Bob and Liz's garden but as the fly sheet is on the outside (unusual for tents but this is an unusual tent) we tested the door and not the screen - Doh!
This left us with a bit of a problem. We could not take it back as we were some 1000 miles from the dealer and we would struggle with the postage. We rang the dealer who despite it not being his fault, was very apologetic. We did a mutually beneficial deal on the phone. He would supply another part of the tent, an extension part, (I told you it was an unusual tent,) that was not available when we bought it due to it being brand new and imported from Australia, for a reduced price and we would ignore the screen problem. In reality, Mum has given us an old sewing machine and I can fix it when back in the UK. Job done. They don't call me Cinders for nothing. All we need now is somewhere to send the new bit to, not as easy as it sounds with out life style.
This is our current set up.
Friday 14th Sept
We dragged Wallace off the trailer and set off on two wheels into Offenburg town. Yippee....back on the bike again....
We needed to find a place with WiFi access so we could send some pictures of the defective tent to the suppliers in the UK. Offenburg is a typical German town with very clean streets and window boxes everywhere. One of the reasons we love the place is that responsibility for the up keep of the street immediately outside your property is yours and fines are issued if it is not done. In practice, this works very well and the country as a whole is very clean and proud of it too. We eventually found an internet cafe but what a nightmare that was. The German keyboards are somewhat different with the Z and Y keys being reversed - Not funny when your first name ends in a Y  and the @ key location had to be shown to me by the shop owner. I still do not know where the +  or - keys are!
When I eventually got onto my e-mail site, it was a piece of cake to load up the photos but for some strange reason it would not let me write any text. I had to send another e-mail with the text in it via the dealers own web site. I pitied the poor guy at the other end trying to make sense of it all. On our way back to the bike we popped into a little bar in the main pedestrian precinct and whist supping on delicious Greman Pils, I opened my phone and discovered that the bar had WiFi (or WLAN - pronounced VeeLAN) and we could have done the whole lot very simply on Allan. I cannot remember if we have introduced Allan. He is basically a computer tablet, like an iPad but better, as he also comes with a detachable keyboard which I am currently typing into. It runs Google software, like most smartphones, so if you can use a smartphone, you can use one of these beauties. We then rode back to the campsite and had a bite in the attached restaurant.

Saturday 15th Sept
Time for some exploring intending to blast down to Frieburg on the motorway and ride back over the mountains. We set off on Wallace at a steady (but legal) 100mph down the motorway to Frieburg (Oh Yessss...!). A small city we have previously been to in the South of the Black Forest. The market was in full swing around the cathedral and needless to say we found a Schnell Imbiss (Quick Snack) bar and devoured more sausages. 
The pride in their town center's is incredible 
 Despite the market, the square was virtually spotless. Compare that with Harlow or Walthamstow markets.
Spotless and quaint markets

We parked our bums in a busy street bar on the side of the market for a beer and when it came to paying, rather than wait for the overworked waitresses, I went inside to pay. From the reaction of the bar owner you would think I had been caught flashing at his mother. I just said OK, not understanding what he had just said but gleaning that I needed to deal with the waitress, I then turned and went back out side. A few seconds later he came outside and started shouting at me again. I gave him a look that told him he was the moron that I thought he was and turned my back on him. Karen was more confused than me but he eventually got the message and left so I paid the waitress and whispered in her ear that her boss was an idiot (it's the same word in German). She smiled in agreement.
Then it was back on Wallace for a trip through the mountains. We climbed to almost 1000m and (it was cold up there) and dropped into Triberg, another place we had visited before and went shopping. The land of the cuckoo clocks was a tourist trap, but again very clean and beautiful.
Looking down into Triberg

 Another bar, again, one we had been in last Christmas. We ordered a delightful Black Forest gateaux and whilst eating it, the proprietors son was sat up at the bar. He was about 7 years old and had a 6" bowie style knife attached to his belt. He later started to play with his 'do everything' Swiss Army knife.
The bar we visited (behind the car) and the street we had just ridden from

Black Forest Gateaux - Mmmmmm

The one man mini Army

Before leaving I decided to go to the loo. Thinking the toilet was past a closed section of the restaurant I walked past the 'closed' sign to be firmly told off by the one man mini Army. I was not going to remonstrate with a 7 year old psycho with two knives. The culture is somewhat different here.
The town of a thousand cuckoo clocks
The bear is actually climbing the rope...
Before leaving Triberg we did some more shopping and then headed for home. It was getting quite late and the sun was low in the sky when we reached the top of another 1000m mountain. The view was spectacular. We then rode down the 'bob sleigh track' style road and back to Offenburg.
It was good to be back on the bike.
A viewpoint on the way home
Once back at the campsite we found a little bar in the village and went in hoping to get some food.   The place had about 5 locals in it and 2 young female staff. We ordered some drinks and a sausage salad and sat down. When the food came we were a bit taken aback. It was sausage strips that looked more like spaghetti with gherkin on the side. It was not the best meal we have had. We ate most of it and fitted another beer in when one of the bar staff asked us what country we had come from. (Up to this point we had been practicing our bad German - hence the unexpected food presumably.) When we replied England, we were immediately joined by the other girl and then one of the locals and had an hours conversation about world travel and rafting down the 50m waterfall at Triberg (not !). The conversation was surreal, us speaking little German and them speaking only school English but it was extremely funny and we had a great time. It was a typical German encounter. They are all very friendly and will talk to anyone - like me really.
We then went to bed. The previous night, Karen had told me of how Leon had figured out a way to escape from the tent. I was a bit skeptical but as I was dropping off, she woke me to the sound of Leon scratching at the zip. Most tents have 2 zippers on one track so you can open them either way. Leon had figured out that if they are close to the ground, he can push them apart creating an opening and go in and out all night. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks but you cannot stop an old Leon from learning them for himself. Not bad for a 16 year old.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

120 Harry Potter and the slow start. by R K Halling

Saturday 25th Aug
We finished today off with a visit to a very good friend of ours, Sandy Weedon. She was in good health and looking forward to retirement in October. It was good to catch up and have it re-confirmed that we really did get out on time ;-)

Sunday 26 Aug -  Sunday 2 Sept
These few days were mainly used pottering about preparing for our move to Hertford and enjoying the company of Bob, Liz and Ben.
From L - R. Ray Me, Bob, Liz. Benjamin (no. 35) and his friend Elliot. 

We did get our heads together and they have decided to join us in our trip to Africa. Due to Ben's schooling commitments, the outline plan is to go there from Easter to the end of August 2014. There's a lot of planning in the offing. Woo hoo ! We cant wait. They are a wonderful trio and Bob has a lot of worldly experience to bring to the table so to speak. It was one of our real concerns and when Bob said we could all go together for about 6 months we were elated.
Thanks guys.
Our cow shed for 3 weeks.

The tup and cow that we made homeless.

On the Thursday, we went out for an Indian meal with John and Jackie, my cousins. There was an Asian Elvis impersonator performing and whilst he was very good and the music was at the correct volume, when the singer opened his mouth my ears hurt. Really, especially my left one. I ended up putting a piece of tissue in my ear. At the intermission (for want of a better word) we asked the restaurant owner to turn it down a bit. Needless to say, it didn't happen so I ended up putting a large wad of tissue in each ear that stuck out about 3" either side. Even my Shrek impression did not do the trick and we eventually had to leave so we could at least talk to each other. We went back to John and Jackie's house and met their daughter Georgie and finally had a chance to talk. We may meet up at his place in Spain at Christmas. Fingers crossed, they are lovely people. On the Friday we to see Ice Age 4 with Liz and Ben. Another brilliant and entertaining film from people with a mad imagination. Karen had been desperate to see it since we got back and it was good to use Benjamin as cover for our childlike entertainment. Monday 3 Sept
Today we moved to Hertford campsite with the intention of setting off for France on Wednesday.
That evening I went out and took Naomi and Rosie for dinner at a Chinese buffet in Bishops Stortford.
Ray doing his "I'm sure I had one of those somewhere" thing.

Tuesday 4 Sept
I happened to mention to Karen about the Harry Potter film Set that my sister Trula had just visited. That was it. We booked to stay for another 3 days so we could fit it in ! We were now due to leave on Saturday.
We took Leon to the vet to get his regular check up and jabs needed to protect him in his travels. He was not a happy cat but needs must.
We also dropped the Fiesta off at Rosie's house and on the way back intended to stop in at Trula's place. We never made it. I decided to fill up with fuel at Sainsburys in Harlow and armed with a 10p a litre discount voucher put 100 litres (£140 worth) of petrol in Gromit. As I put the filler back in the cradle Karen pointed out that it was the petrol pump and not the deisel one I had used. Doh!!!!

We pushed Gromit off to one side and I decided in my infinite wisdom to buy a load of storage boxes and siphon the petrol into it. This went well until the station attendant told me to put it back in the tank or he would call the police. Needless to say I siphoned it back in. I called a number he had given me and a very nice man charged me £150 to siphon out and take away about 110 litres of useless but highly inflammable and highly expensive fuel.

I then had to fill Gromit up again from scratch. Another £150. Whilst reeling from the cost, the siphon man said the cost is nothing compared to the wife never forgetting the cock up.  Thanks for telling me what I already knew ! We never did get to Trula's, having ran out of time.

That evening I went to visit Jon Elvidge, a guy we knew from the police in Haringey. He is a Sergeant on the Traffic division. He had previously invited me to a bikers rally in Santander, Spain in early October. As we were already due to be in the area we signed up so to speak. I will be out riding the Spanish Mountains and Karen will be sunning by the pool. Whilst I was with Jon, Karen was sipping Proseco in a wine bar in Hertford with her old work friend Laura. She was the girl we took skiing 18 months ago in Italy.

Wednesday 5 Sept
Today was Harry Potter day. The visit was incredible. All the props from the film were on display and the attention to detail was amazing. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
The teachers at Hogwarts

The Great Hall

A chocolate feast

HPs common room.

Harry's invisibility cloak

The clock (seen when Harry and Hermione went back in time)

Entrance to the chamber of secrets

Hagrid's motorcycle. and a small one to make him look big.

Hagrid's house (and Fluffy)

Some of the chess pieces

Part of the wooden bridge leading to Hogwarts

Buckbeack. It was moving at the time of the photo.

Aragon and the serpents head.

The Hogwarts model used in all the films

Another view

A model of "The Model"

Diagon Alley

The wand shop

Muggles being crushed in "The Ministery" - they will never crush the fat one !

The treble decker bus

Tuesday 6 Sept
Karen happened to mention that there was bike racing on at Donnington on Sunday. Another 2 days camping were booked ! Estimated departure date was now Monday !

Friday 7 Sept
I had some last minute admin to sort out and Karen went to Trula's to do some washing and ironing. This was closely followed by a session of 'Berty Bots all flavoured Jelly beans', including vomit, earwax, soil, soap and bogies. There were some nice ones too but they were boring by comparison.

Saturday 8 Sept
We took a run down to Caterham (near Gatwick) to see my best mate Taff (AKA Robert) and spent a couple of hours talking about the demise of the police force and other such rubbish. I was good to catch up. We have an enduring bond that time apart does not diminish. I dare not tell him, but he really is a great guy. (He was also our best man).

Sunday 9 Sept
Donnington didn't happen. We watched it on TV instead and saved ourselves a load of money. I finally booked the ferry for midnight Monday whilst doing our final packing up. Now we cannot make any more excuses.