Thursday, 21 September 2017

FL17 - A week to go

The last few weeks have been filled with the worries about the hurricanes.

The latest one is Maria. Don't know what happened to one starting L. One Katia was in the Gulf but fizzled away.

Maybe with so many of these massive storms brewing up maybe time to think about the causes. Pretty much us. Humans.

We haven't even thought about what we should take.  Usually we take too much and it has an 18 hour return flight and a drive in the car!!

For space saving it looks like the small cameras again. The Samsung that we both have take decent pics and are pocket sized. Plus they have wifi to get photos off them and onto a app on our phones.

Shame they have no GPS! It would help remember where we took photos.

Clothes.  Weather seems okay and I buy underwear and shorts from Walmart.  They sell Wrangler stuff at about half the UK prices.

Anyway.  Please Maria bugger off up the Atlantic.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

FL17 - Hurricane Jose now!

Another one now that Jose had upped from tropical storm to full Cat 4 Hurricane. 

Terrible for the people on those Islands. And for me. $1200 in flights will be lost if we can't go. Plus $400 in accommodation!

Soon have to start thinking of an alternative. Hopefully BA will offer an alternative flight rather than cancel.

At least Flotida and us have missed the other hurricane, katia, that formed up in the Gulf and was ahead of Irma and Jose.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

FL17 - Hurricane

Firstly we have Harvey blowing up and flooding Texas and causing devastation.

Now we have Irma angling on a more northerly course from the Leeward Isles and destined to hit southern Florida by Sunday.

On the map there's tropical storm Jose. 

Great news. 24 days until we set off.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

SP18 - Tour de Extremadura - More Hotels Added

After a look through the Rough Guide to Spain and then TripAdvisor a rough plan was established that we should do a clockwise circuit around the central region of the region.

The distances involved in this trip won't be too great so we should have time for a good look around without too much driving about.

I have booked another Parador in Trujillo for two nights. On the booking sites there weren't too many hotels available for our dates. I thought about an anti-clockwise trip around the circuit but that didn't help. So a quick trip to the website and I signed us in there.

I booked another hotel in Mérida,  Again for two nights. This one a little less luxurious but it looks very nice.

As we have seven nights to play with, the above leaves two to book.   So I have gone ahead and booked a single night in Badajoz and the last night in Cáceres. These are also decent looking hotels. We will have to get used to the standards after the Paradors. 

That will give us time to meander back to Madrid to return the car in good time for the return flight.  As usual these are on the free cancellation basis.

All of the hotels look pretty decent but finding any with parking other than in public parking was a problem.  Although we will have a hire car.  it needs to be safe.  

Why Extremadura?  Why not?  The area is well served with archaeological stuff to visit and is somewhere we haven't been before.  

Of course. I'd much rather be on the bike than in a hire car, but it's the trip that counts this time. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

SP18 - Tour de Extremadura - First Hotel Booked

With the Extremadura as the destination for some serious touristing I have booked the first night just short of the border from Castille.

A bit of luxury before we enter the "Frying Pan" of Spain.   The Parador at Oropesa.

I was looking last night and the Parador site has discounted rates for over 55's and in the Extremadura there are quite a few Paradors in the area.

Oddly, had a much cheaper rate than the official site. Even with the senior citizen discount the cheapest rate is non-refundable and was way more than the refundable price.  How? I have no idea.

The Parador's official booking site used to have a special "bulk" purchase rate. Something like four nights for the price of three or something along those lines.  Worth checking out.

I need to get the Rough Guide out to see what we can see in the area.

I have also bought a copy of the regional Michelin map #576. It covers Extremadura and across to Madrid and the east. Although I have the satnav it's good to have paper too.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

SP18 - Tour de Extremadura

The Tour d'España has come about really because we wanted an early holiday.  Most often we have been to the US in May but with the changes to my contract at work, where I am stuck with school holidays for the bulk of my leave, it has meant that two week trips are out of the question unless done at Easter or Summer.

I would like to have gone back as we did in August 2014 on the Explorer - Revisita España 2014, and on the bike but it is not practical with Claire's hip.

The next best thing is to fly/drive. I have been checking on Skyscanner and the way it works it seems impossible to get the flight out and back into UK when you want them at a reasonable price. 

A quick click to one-way revealed a lot more flights. It also revealed that their website creates round trips groups of flights that when checked as singles come out at a very different (and lower) price. 

In the end I booked Iberia out from London Gatwick to Madrid for €141 out for the two of us and with British Airways for €100 back and that includes rounding-up to the nearest € for charity.

The single fares check produced flights when I want to fly and at acceptable prices for both legs but they needed to be booked as single journeys. Also at a saving against the round trip fares it put on screen. As an example the two flights I booked didn't get offered by the system as a round-trip, and the nearest to them came out about €120 more.  At the paltry Brexit blamed exchange rate that's about £110 or $140 - not to be sneezed at.

BA and Iberia are part of the same trading group and both flights are operated by Iberia Express, the budget wing of Spain's national carrier. The downside is that there is a hand luggage only stipulation. We have smaller cases that are airline approved for hand luggage use.

Over the coming months I will start looking for car hire and places to go in late May 2018. The dates are in the team diary at work.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

BE17 - Day 2

We were up early for breakfast. The paperwork said that the parking along Beselarestraat from near Beselare towards Zonnebeke was open until 10am.

The first problem was leaving the A19 as instructed that the junction wasn't policed on this section and we took nearly 15 mins to get the left rurn onto the N303 road into solid traffic through the town. Way before the start of the parking we were directed into a field and told to walk up the road.

I had put a way marker into the TomTom for the road junction at the bottom of the parking. It was still some 600m to go. We were stopped by police and could see buses up ahead and a queue of people. By the time our column got up to about 200m  long the queue at what was Bus Stop F has disappeared. We were then told buses would come.

With the traffic we were far too late to have a look around the museum site and went through accreditation and straight onto buses to Tyne Cot.

We eventually arrived there about 11 o'clock. We were supposed to be seated well before 1145 when the VIPs would arrive.

Instead around 1145 the bands arrived. RAF, Guards and the Royal Marines.

We had really good seats with a clear view of the memorial cross and the microphone where the readings would be from.

Then the honour guard arrived and formed up next to us. Then to our dismay the choir came and stood in front of us. To have taken photos through their ranks may have been "inappropriate" as they were teenaged girls, at least the ones in front of us.

Luckily after several short blasts of the National Anthems the Guard marched off. And the choir moved into their vacated space. So as the VVIP's arrived we had a decent view. 

Although we were told to remain seated unless instructed. The people in front nearer the Royals stood up. We could see eff all.

I have a few photos of the King and Queen of Belgium, Prince Charles and Prince William and Katherine.

Prince Charles opened the ceremony with a reading. He was followed by Theresa May, our Prime Minister. During the session there were actors and serving soldiers from UK, Commonwealth and Belgium that read out letters, poetry and diary entries from men that died during the 103 days of the Battle.  Third Ypres also known as Passchendaele.

I was interested in going as many years ago my great grandfather Joseph Shaw, once or twice only, mentioned the mud and rats when there with the Lancashire Fusiliers. Luckily he came home and lived until the mid-1960's.

Following  the readings,  Queen Mathilde and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, laid wreaths at the graves of unknown soldiers.

There was a German soldier there . He read out a letter home from one of their men who was also killed. His wreath was laid by Queen Mathilde.

After this,  the party sort of broke up. The VVIP's left by the entrance to our rear left. Too many people spoiled the photo op.

Then began the long long wait for buses. We decided to try the infirm access after about an hour.  Just as people started to flock to that same exit point.  It worked and after a few minutes waiting we were on a bus back to Zonnebeke.

Once there we were directed to our picnic lunch.

There were displays set up for visitors and we looked at a few before joining the bus queue. The use of dogs to work as a team to tow equipment was highlighted. With two large dogs towing a machine gun on its small limber. 

It had been sunny all day and without a hat I knew that I would become lobster man. I am. We found shade eventually. The queue for the buses back  to the parking was generally good natured humour.

Traffic was heavy as the bus went to the parking and went from A to F. At F our driver chucked us off and we had to walk the full 600 plus metres to the cars. No consolation was that the buses behind came right there!!

The hit or miss system meant that the 5 kms of solid traffic from the morning didn't happen. It was all pretty plain sailing past Ypres and Poperinge and back into France and to the Tunnel. 

The A25 was free running northwards. It is in far better condition than it used to be. Being a free motorway it has less spent on it than the toll roads that criss cross France.

We stopped in Auchun to fill the tank. Even with the shitty exchange rate diesel is still cheaper there than here. But nowadays not as much as it used to be.

At the tunnel the screen seemed to be offering us an earlier crossing at "no extra charge " but actually was the 2020 we were booked on! Nice to know they hadn't changed the fare when we were away and after we paid...
The delays at our immigration weren't as bad as in previous visits.

We were waved through and then on the screen saw that our crossing was timed to load at the same time it was due to leave.  Blame for this was laid at immigration's door.

By some fluke though we were loaded onto the train before the one booked. It was 13 minutes late leaving but we were 5 minutes earlier than booked. This in no way clears them for the last four or five occasions when we have been upto two hours late.

In the end a great trip and a great event and another display that Britain truly is great at pomp.

There was a casualty on the trip. On Sunday I bought some chocolates to take to work. There was a selection of white, milk and dark chocolate discs about 2.5 ins in diameter with nuts and candied fruit. Sadly they were in a bag in the back of the car. When we came back we had a molten mixture.

The Tyne Cot Memorial 

Irish Guards

Tyne Cot Cemetery 

Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge 

Prince Charles

Marine Buglers before Last Post

Dog team towing maching gun

Tyne Cot Memorial built on top of concrete German bunker

1917 Renault tank

Field dressing station and ambulance

Molten chocolates

Royal Irish Regiment Pipers and Buglers

Views of the Tyne Cot Cemetery

Monday, 31 July 2017

BE17 - Day 1

With the Shuttle booked for 1136 we arrived about an hour in advance and checked in.

"Here we go". Disruption caused by a train being taken out of service. Three an hour.  Work it out 
In the end we rolled out at 1305. What a superb service.

That meant we were late in France. Late for lunch.

In the end we stopped for a coffee and a sandwich at St Eloi services on the A25 just before the exit where we would head towards Poperinge and first stop at the B&B in Vlamertinge - B&B Pottebreker -

We arrived before 4pm but the owners were there and showed us to the room. Modern and clean.
We dropped off the luggage and headed for Ypres (Ieper) and the special events for the Menen Gate ceremony.

After wandering about trying to get a bank with an ATM we finally found a viewpoint of the screens as we hadn't been lucky in any of the ballots.

We saw the ceremony on the screen. The bands marching passed us (video below) and Queen Mathilde of Belgium as she waved from her car.

Prince William and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, represented the Queen. The UK Government was represented by Theresa May, the Prime Minister. Only the latter came along past us. On foot and shaking hands will well wishers.  

Once the "VIP" guests had passed and things opened we decided rather than wait an hour for things to start and given our poor view of events that we'd make the long walk back to the car and watch the "show" on TV. The BBC and Belgian producers did a superb job. Live action from actors and current serving men and women in small sketches and reading out letters and poems from the front.

Fantastic. We watched part in the friterie also owned by the B&B and the rest in our room. On TV you can see so much.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

BE17 - What to wear?

Ideally we should be dressed in suits for the occasion but after several days of torrential rain the area is likely to be almost as wet and therefore muddy as it was in 1917.

However, as we are going to the remembrance ceremony I don't think we need to get as embroiled in the mud as they did back then.

So it looks as though we we will take clothese that are more suitable for wet and muddy conditions.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

BE17 - Pin

The Royal British Legion have created a pin for the centenary.

I bought a couple from a poppy seller recently.

Friday, 21 July 2017

FL17 - Orlando City SC - 55 West

By sheer fluke I went onto the Sunrail site to show someone at work how convenient it would be and that's when I noticed the "not weekends" banner.  I'd not seen it before!

With all the talk of pollution in the world having a light rail system that doesn't work at weekends and holidays seems like a very bad idea.  As I said that I pursed my lips and paused for effect.  :)

So it was back to the drawing board. Parking!

In the end I got onto the City of Orlando local government site and found the parking they control. I had emailed a while back as to book online it needed a US address and phone number, or at at least one that would wedge into the pre-formatted boxes on the web page. They suggested using the resort address and phone.  So I have. MasterCard seems to have accepted my new temporary Kissimmee address.

In the end it was $11 and I have a pdf with a ticket to print out and put in the car window. The route from the hotel and then back to the resort is in the satnav already, or will be when I get home tonight.

There are a few toll roads in the Orlando area and I have used Tyre to plan all the routes I need. Hopefully, with an internet connection to my phone, when on the ground in Florida, I'll be able to use the TomTom MyDrive app to load routes up on the 410.  I must remember to set the default routing to "avoid toll roads".

Sunday, 16 July 2017

BE17 - Passchendaele

The e-tickets arrived in the inbox on Saturday morning.  I had a quick look through and sent them to the printer to make sure we have the hard copy available for the day.

I need to get my suit out this week and make sure that it is cleaned and pressed.

Given that the battle one hundred years ago was renowned for the sea of mud that aided the massive casualty list,  we need to be ready for inclement weather. So I will take shoes able to resist.

Of course what can be carried is limited. But a waterproof coat is essential.

If only I had bought the "dude" boots to ride the bike. They look like ankle boots with a light brogue pattern but are motorcycle quality and waterproof.

What the guys in the trenches would have given for even simple water resistance.

The tickets don't mention a seating area for Claire. With her hip problem standing I'd difficult. I forgot to tell them that with my heart still under performing that I too could do with a seat.

Wait and see I expect.

Update: 20/07/2017

A further email arrived with more instructions linked and outlining access to the sites plus how to find the parking. They have sectioned off a long length of road way to the south-east of Zonnebeke with shuttle bus stops to get people from their cars to the Museum area. parking in a herringbone pattern along the road.

Along with this were other links that have given us the parking pass and the seating passes.

Suit still not taken to the cleaners!

Update: 25/07/2017

Checked that Reggie is booked on his holidays at the kennels from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday morning. He is booked in and we have paid for one night as a deposit.  Good job as they are fully booked up until September 3rd with no reserve spaces left.  Better check that he is booked there for FL17!

Update: 26/07/2017

Forgot all about breakdown cover in case the car decides to pack it in. A tenner for two days cover. Not bad I suppose and that includes getting it back home should the worst happen.

MA90 - Day Trip to Morocco

Is it that long ago? Another tale from the photobox archive.

A year before I was made redundant for the second time and things were good. I had a job I liked and we set off for Spain.

This was a two bike job. My Suzuki Cavalcade LX  and my partner at the time, Audrey,  on her own Yamaha  XJ900F.  We rode down through Spain after a trip on the Motorail. We had a large tent with us and camped in Cordoba and as it was way too hot in Sevilla we chose a hotel.

Our next camping was at Tarifa. It was here that we thought about a quick trip to Tangier.  Although the ferry goes from Tarifa we bought a ticket from Algeciras to Ceuta. The cost for the bike was pence.  We booked one - the Yamaha!

The Cavalcade stayed tucked away and locked up in the tent. Out of sight.

Algeciras is a much bigger port and the ferry was packed. Mostly with Moroccan's in large vans also packed to the gunwales and on the rooves.

Ceuta is still a Spanish enclave on the African mainland. Buy whatever you do, never tell a Spaniard "it's their Gibraltar".

Exiting the Spanish border was easy. A wave of the hand. Getting into Morocco took a lot longer. Our passports disappearing into windows and out of others. Then they wrote the bike details in a book. We were then off.

My first trip to Africa.  Audrey had been before as a solo traveller on the coast near Casablanca during the long school holidays.

Immediately it seemed "different". The road signs in French and Arabic.

Our first stop was Fnideq for a drink and to buy some water. We had cashed about £20 into dirhams.  This was going to go a long way.

The next stop was Tetouan.  We were looking for somewhere to stop when Ahmed on a moped caught us. Mr Gift of the Gab.

He became our guide. He arranged for a guy at the car park to look after our gear. He then led us through the medina to the main square and then into the tiny alleys to a carpet shop. This is his money earner. If the tourist buys a carpet. We didn't despite some very good prices.

In the end he took us back to the bike and we gave him some money. Not much as it happens but he was okay. The old man looking after the bike got about 25p. Both seemed happy.

From there we headed back towards Tangier and the coast. Most of the two films of pictures we expended are ruined.  Audrey being unused to an SLR kept clicking away without focusing the lens once. With the law of averages,  at least some images should have been in focus. A couple on the edge of blurred. Bugger.

After a snack meal in Tangier we headed along the coast road to Ceuta. Getting out was easy. A bit of money to some young uniforms at the border and we were through in five minutes.
By 9pm we were back in Spain and Tarifa for dinner.

We did say we preferred blue....

IT01 - Roma!

Rome. The Eternal City.

Claire and I went on a short break from an offer in the Daily Telegraph.

We flew into an airport way to the south of the city and then actually had to pay for their bus into the city. It dropped us off alongside Termini station.

Already forewarned with Claire's Dad being robbed by a cab driver a few weeks before, we were equipped with stash wallets inside our jeans. Luckily the thieves were elsewhere when we arrived.
Our hotel was not far away and within walking distance.  For the next few days we were on foot most of the time with the occasional bus or team trip.

"Typrewriter" and Trevi Fountain 
We ate locally most evenings at the same restaurant where there were few tourists or at least English tourists.  Great value and very friendly staff and locals.

The only fly in the ointment was as we waited for the bus back to Ciampino a lady had her handbag stolen. I guess we were lucky given the amount of street crime!!

The city is small enough to walk around but the fear of some light fingered bastard dipping your bag or pocket was always there.

The other con are the gladiators by the Colloseum.  Surround you, put their gear on you then try to charge ridiculous money for it. We got caught. In the end the "f*** off" and a few lire was enough to escape them.

Bottom pic is Vatican
Spanish Steps
Some steps and Trevi

Colosseum and Gladiator conmen

FL91 - From the Archive

In those far off days before they invented the digital camera,  you may recall we had something called "film".

It came in a variety of sizes. 35mm and an assortment of cassette type systems made for the amateur  - 110 and 126 being the most popular.

Usually the films were taken to your local chemist (drug store for my North American cousins) or posted to Kodak or another company, such as Truprint or Bonusprint.

It also came back from the processor in an envelope containing the film itself,  the negative for prints,  and the prints themselves.

A week later the excitement built and unless you were the kind of guy that could get your pictures on the front of Time, then disappointment soon followed.

Another format was called "slides". These were positive images at 35mm in a card or plastic surround.  A whole industry built up around equipment to enable the photographer to bore the arse off their visitors with a "slide show" of their holiday pictures.... or "snaps" as they might also be called.

Oh the irony of it. Now we have Flickr and Photobucket amongst others where we can upload our digital photos.... and let's not forget blogging and the terminally awful vlogging.

So. Back to Florida 1991.

Why I opted to take a Kodak 110 film camera with me on this trip I have no idea.   I had a Zenit 35mm camera that was large and very heavy. The 110 fitted in a pocket. That's probably why I took it.

I was going through a box of photo envelopes and came across a couple marked "Florida 1991".

Oddly there are none from my trips to Key West and Sanibel/Captiva.  But there are some of the trip my host at Burger King, Carole, took to Orlando.

I tried to fit as many as possible on the scanner plate. At least I think these are in focus.

Refer to disappointment above.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

FL17 - How much!!!!

Google is a marvellous thing. So after much googling I ended up asking a friend that went a few weeks ago for tips.

Her daughter is a travel agent or was, and she gave me some links to check out and then I saw the prices.  A two day Disney ticket came out at £189!! Each.

Whilst I liked the idea of a visit to a park, paying that kind of money to stand in lines for hours to get on a ride and then repeat at the next one seems too ridiculous.

Another link took me to a site to get entrance tickets to Kennedy.  The official site is $50 each for the day. The link was £29 or about $35 at the current exchange rate. Booked.

I saw on Facebook that the Ace Cafe in London had some franchises opening up in Beijing, Barcelona and Orlando, so I guess that might be a drive out one day too. Plus the almost obligatory HD shop!

I can't say that I have been a great fan of the Ace in London, but have been there a few times since it re-opened.  It's become a tourist haunt and not particularly easy on the wallet. Every night seems to be a different "theme". 

I also went there in the wilderness years when it was a tyre depot and had a puncture plugged on one of my Fiats! I used to work nearby just down from the Hanger Lane Gyratory system.

So that's two things booked. Orlando City and Kennedy. I am sure we'll find other things to do in the week before we move to the R&R spot on the coast.

BE17 - Seating?

Have had an email confirming that we have got seating tickets for the main event at Tyne Cot. The tickets themselves haven't arrived. It's still two and a half weeks away though.

I've been planning a few routes to get to the hotel and then across to Zonnebeke to park the car and look around the museum.

The event the night before in Ypres itself means that we will check in the B&B and our hosts will get us a cab into town.  Getting one back will prove possibly more complex.

Monday, 10 July 2017

NO18 - Booked

After a few days of looking and exchanging emails with a travel agent we have booked.  But not with her.  

The Cunard cruise on Queen Victoria sails from Southampton on August 3rd. A Friday.  A further examination revealed very few Norway sailings for August.  But P&O have one on the 4th.  Much better.

Both are for seven days with slightly different ports in Norway.  We have been to Stavanger and Bergen before but didn't have much time to look about. Hopefully, in Bergen we'll dock in the city port, Bergen Havn,  rather than way out in the industrial point and lose time waiting for coaches into the centre.

NO18 - To cruise or not to Cruise

Hardly a Shakespearean conundrum but one for us. 

Further enthused (read jealousy on my behalf) by my brother. Neill, and his mate Patrick being there as I write on their Scandinavian Tour, Claire suggested another cruise.

She has wanted to go on another one and although I was a little hesitant before, I really enjoyed the Fjord Cruise with Saga.

So we started the Google hunt. Where else?

When we were in Stavanger in 2013 we were joined by the behemoth that was Cunard's Queen Elizabeth. A ship that dwarfed the smaller more intimate Saga vessel.  

With the Council changing our employment rights so that we have to take the majority of our holidays in school holidays, and meaning that we now get lumbered with higher holiday prices from hotels to transport, the search parameters were more restrictive.

We have found a cruise to Norway in August 2018. It's aboard the QE sister ship Queen Victoria. Another floating city hotel.

Let's see where this takes us!

Friday, 7 July 2017

FL17 - Places to go

"How can you go to Orlando and not go to Disney?"  A frequent question when I say that although we love Florida we haven't been to Orlando before and don't really enjoy theme parks.  

That's not strictly true. I have been to Orlando before, back in 1991. Back then a friend and I drove up from Miami and stayed in a hotel on International Drive for a couple of nights in December.  We did Epcot and Universal Studios.  I have photos somewhere!  

On the way back we called in at what was then called "Spaceport USA", at Kennedy Space Center.   We didn't have much time and had to be back in Miami so Carol could go to work the next day.

I really enjoyed Epcot. Okay, you got to ride about but none of the high jinx of the other parks and none of the queues. Plus the fireworks at night are fantastic.

So this year. On the top of my list are Epcot and Kennedy. I'll start the ticket hunt soon. Not wanting a 14-day family ticket seems to be a problem for the ticket agencies!!

Onwards and upwards.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

FL17 - Orlando City SC - Getting there?

The problem as I see it is the large area around the stadium that it closed.  There seems to be ample parking and apparently you can book in advance.  I have tried all the links and none of them seem to work.

Then I saw a link for the Sunrail system.

It looks like that would suit us alright.  There looks to be a lot of parking at one of the terminals and then it is two stops and a ten minute walk to  the stadium. The train journey is $2 each way and about 11 minutes.  

As kick off is at 4pm we need to be there in good time and with so many food outlets there is plenty of opportunity to have lunch between the hotel and the parking.  The drive will be about half an hour if we avoid the toll roads. After the game it's back to the station car park and off to the resort we are staying in.

At last a plan seems to be coming together.

I contacted the resort as the game kicks off at the same time that resort check-in opens. They can check us in at any time and so we are cool with that.  

Thursday, 15 June 2017

FL17 - Orlando City Tickets

Entry to the stadium is with an e-ticket. Having read up on it I spent my lunch hour getting my Ticketmaster US login to sync with a new Orlando City login.

Then I could view the tickets. These are by QR code on my phone.

On the day they need to be shown and so the LionNation app needed to be downloaded. This uses a different login to the ones above and links to them.

Now I can see the QR codes but they are greyed out until 72 hours before the game.

It's early but my attention will next be turned to parking. ...

Sunday, 11 June 2017

GB17A - Poppy Wave

Today we got up early and went out for a shortish trip across the Thames to Essex and the 14-18 War commemoration. Reggie included.

It's about 90 miles each way.

Shoeburyness was one of the Ministry of Defence bases along that stretch of the coast. Troops embarked from here to go to France during WW1.

The poppies are all hand made and planted here to show like a wave. Other places have different displays like in Derby the poppies flow from a window like a flood of water.

Friday, 9 June 2017

FR17 - Dordogne Google Album

Google Photo Creation

Amazing what can be done with very little effort.

BE17 - Passchendaele 100 - Travel Arrangements

We have the dog booked into his favourite kennels for the duration of this weekend away. He goes in there late afternoon on Saturday. We have a dog-free evening.

I had thought of going over then but finding a hotel or even a youth hostel in Belgium is like finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Unless you have that gold of course. So back to Plan A.

Plan A had alwaya been to cross over on Sunday morning and head generally towards Ypres.  There's a few places I'd like to see again plus some new (to me) sites.

Then see what parking is like in Ypres. There's a special ceremony in the Market by the Cloth Hall. It may be that as Plan A dictates that we go to Vlamertinge to the B&B and back out by taxi, we stick to it.

Monday morning we have to be in Zonnebeke to park and see the museum and displays there. We have been before a few years ago.

It was pre-Meldrews so must have been the other club we don't mention. On that visit we had to park in the entrance way and go in on foot.  There was the somewhat odd spectacle of a pipe band competition and Highland games taking place.

Coming back home after the Tyne Cot Ceremony, it starts at 13:00, is difficult to plan for. By the time it is over and we are bussed back to the car parking and get away who knows what time it will be? 

We'll need a train home some two to three hours after that. So maybe something like 8pm.  That allows the two hour travel window that Eurotunnel allow at no extra charge.  It will be a Monday evening so hopefully light traffic crossing back to UK and through the notoriously slow passport and customs controls.

So. Plan A it is.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

FR17 - Updates

Sadly the lack of wifi for most of the trip meant I was unable to keep posting and so instead here's a summary and a few pictures will be added later.

Day 1 Part 2

In the end they loaded us on a train and then announced that it had a problem and was being fixed? Why you have to ask do they load a train that has problems?

In the end we arrived in France 75 minutes later than planned. That meant that we missed lunch and instead carried on a bit further.

We stopped at Baie de la Somme again and Reggie had a walk about and his usual widdle stops and we had a coffee.

Progress along the Paris avoidance route was successful but it was gone 7pm before we rolled up at the Campanile near Orléans.  In time to check in and give Reggie his late dinner before he and us went for ours.

We opted for the buffet and Reggie lay under the table. Amazingly dog friendly. 

Day 2

Up and away quite early after breakfast.  The plan to fill the tank thwarted by the hypermarket being shut on a Sunday morning.  This is the norm for France in small towns but you expect better in large cities. Eventually filled up at Chateauroux at an automatic station. At least my UK MasterCard worked.

Arrived at the camping site at Le Val d'Ussel about 4pm as we had estimated.  Reggie settled in. Very quiet site. Had a beer at the bar and take away pizzas.  

Days 3/4/5/6

After a week my brain can no longer remember the order of things but we managed to get out everyday after breakfast to:

One day we had a TomTom "incident" when going to la Roque Gageac.  "Turn Left" Jane (the voice of TomTom) said, so we did. The lane got narrower. The route showed a right turn to the river, except we were about 100 feet above it and there were only stairs down.  

Luckily we managed to turn around and creep out and back to the slightly larger road and down into the village.  Phew.

From there we went in search of a beach to paddle in the river. The river seems to be a magnet for anyone wanting to open a canoe rental business.  How they make any money only their invisible friend will know. There are so many occupying the water's edge and the land alongside with "parkling privé" signs everywhere the river is almost impossible to access.

We found a public beach at last on the Dordogne near Chateau de Montfort. There was, of course, a canoe rental there as well, but we had access to the water.  Reggie loved it and Claire paddled.  I didn't bother as trainers and socks don't work with water.  In fact we went again later in the week. After paddles we went up to the Chateau and its village and had lunch.

Most days we had lunch out and ate in the mobile home in the evening after a rest and a few beers.

The average temps for the region in May is about 22C but this week it was hovering around 32C!

On Thursday the camp filled up as it was Ascension Day and the French make it a four day weekend. Reggie was more agitated as he doesn't like bicycles and from none they were now plentiful.

Day 7

Last full day and Reggie was booked into the vet at MC-Vet in Sarlat for his worming pill and his pet passport checked that he had had it and that it was okay to get back into our rabies and certain nasty worm free country.  There are some benefits to having water between us and Europe!

Firstly we went to the beach to cool down, and then lunched alongside the river at The Chalet at Vitrac. It was okay. The croque monsieur was massive but Claire said very dry.  The frites portion was massive as well. The hotdog I had was okay.

Then it was to the Vet.  All handled very well and Marie that saw to Reggie was very nice.  Gave him the pill and a check over and then we were off.  A quick call in at the Leclerc hypermarket where they have shaded parking and we bought stuff for dinner and some cheese to bring home.

One of the Eurocamp couriers showed us some other units.  The one we had was the cheapest because of Reggie, as dog's are only allowed in some levels of luxury i.e. basic.

We think we might come back another year but avoid Ascension Day and leave Reggie in the Kennels in Kent. He likes it there and we can see more things where he can't go.

Day 8

The site still full and we had a lie in. We were the only Eurocamp customers left and Danny the site manager said we could stay longer if we wanted for no extra charge. Sadly we couldn't as had things booked plus work to go back to at home.

The plan was now to let TomTom choose the way home via fuel at Brive.  After a coffee stop on the A20 we added Chateau de Chambord into the route to Orléans. It was a detour to the east and then back.

TomTom took us right to the car park.  At times it seems that you have no idea where you are going even with it set to the fastest time routing.

And when you see it.  WOW!

We didn't want to go in but take a walk around the grounds. Parking was €6 and we were there for about an hour. Time to be amazed. It was still 30C and after an ice cream for us shared with Reggie we beat a retreat.  Another place for the next trip?

We arrived at the same Campanile Hotel as the week before and found the place full with a large group on a cycle and other means trip from Perigord to Paris. After a shower and change we left Reggie asleep on the bed (covered with our own cover) and had dinner.

Day 9 - The last day

Up and out early. No breakfast until way up the A71 with Jane taking us towards Paris and the outer ring to the west of the city and the A16 route to the coast.  At a services I discovered the problem with MyDrive and connected to it with the wifi.  

After that Jane changed the route to go to the east of Paris and the A1/A26 route to Calais.

Another of those "moments" had us turning left too soon and the correction she made took us to the A6 and onto the Périphique!  I hate the Périphique.  Things weren't too bad and we eventually made it to the A1 and then had a stop for a coffee and a cake.  The wifi allowed MyDrive to update. I added a stop at the Auchun petrol station at Calais and it was plain sailing.

On the autoroute and in the service areas were loads of Harley's and a lot of patch clubs but mostly Hell's Angels. There were other MC clubs as well that I had never heard of. They do look impressive riding in twos in a long column but its not for me!

With the tank filled with cheaper than UK diesel we went to check Reggie in and were one of only two cars at pet passport control.  We managed to get through both French and UK passports easily enough and got a crossing some two and a half hours earlier than booked and had to pay an extra £13!  Rip off really as the trains were hardly full. We had the bikes behind us.  When I have been on the bike we are loaded last and never share a carriage with cars.  This time we had two bikes behind us and we were halfway up the train...... One of the bikes was a loud HD with an HA rider.  He was in tshirt/cutoff and jeans and had very little luggage! Reggie waved his usual right to bark at the sound of a bike and slept most of the way home.

We were home via Waitrose in time for me to watch the highlights of the Arsenal winning the FA Cup the day before.  In the Campanile they were watching rugby!

Another holiday over.  Photos below by place but not necessarily in the order taken as they are from my phone and for some reason out of shooting order:

la Roque Gageac

The gardens at Eyrignac.


Le Val d'Ussel campsite

Troglodyte village and Chateau ruin.

Dordogne beach near Vitrac

Chateau de Montfort and lunch spot

Vitrac beach and lunch