Friday, 25 November 2016

FL17 - Flights and Skyscanner

Of all the comparison sites I have found that the best, for me at any rate, is Skyscanner. Today I had a quick look, always remembering to change my internet cache before searching and was amazed to see that Virgin had a direct flight from London Gatwick (LGW) on my dates, and cheaper (not much!) that my earlier searches.

The times were good and so I thought "I'll have some of that". I clicked on the "offers" page and was taken to TravelUp. An agents we have used before. I filled in all my details, Claire's details and got to "pay now", and a box popped up, "flight details changed".

Clicking on it took me back to Skyscanner and it began another search.  This time Virgin was cheapest still BUT the outward aitport was LGW but we'd arrive back at London Heathrow (LHR), some 50 miles away. Not much use with my car in the parking at LGW and an expensive transfer to negotiate.  

Instead for £4 more I can fly direct from LGW and come back to LGW with Iberia. The Spanish national carrier and a British Airways partner. So I booked that.  No problems this time.

I had to change the car from Tampa to Orlando and as the rates are higher I dropped down a few groups too.

We arrive Friday evening.  The timeshare is from Saturday so I booked a hotel with Booking.com for the Friday evening.

Not much else to do now until nearer the time.



Thursday, 24 November 2016

FL17 - Orlando it is then

Checking on RCI (rci.com) shows that there are quite a few options for the Orlando area. I have finally booked one that gets good ratings from visitors and also is allegedly "quiet".

At all the other places we have stayed over the years, US and Europe, we have never had to pay for the amenities;  pool etc.  

There is always a swipe of the credit card to cover "security" and deposits for keys, usually apartment and parking garages, but never to use the pool or a lounger.

However, this seems the "norm" for Orlando. I'm sure most of the people going there are headed for Disney and the other parks and spend less time at the resort than they might at other places in other parts of the country and even the state.  So I don't think that $10 a day per apartment is appropriate to use the pool at all. So that ruled a few out.  I found one that was charging $1 a day?  It must cost more to collect it in receptionists time than they bring in.

In the end I booked us into Silver Lake Resort. It has good reviews and close to the parks should we want to go to any.  


Back in 2015 when we were last in that area I had planned trips to Canaveral and "Spaceport USA" , where I last went in 1991, and also to Epcot.  But my heart attack six weeks before we went meant we had a more relaxed and "local" holiday, with less driving.

The car is sorted. When we go to the US from Europe where we have shitty little cars, we look forward to gas guzzlers.  Sadly that seems to be fading and the hopes of a V8 recede every year with sensible options taking over. Even the SUV market has smaller engined cars. So I booked the group that is supposed to have these.

Now we have to look for flights. Looking at flying into Tampa as it is cheaper than Orlando, but there's not much in it but Claire wants to have some of the days after the timeshare ends on the Gulf coast and Tampa makes slightly better sense.





Sunday, 20 November 2016

FL17 - Orlando or Other

So for 2017 we are looking at using the timeshare again for a week and after this year in Arizona we started looking at Florida.

One change will be that instead of going in May we are planning to go at the end of September.  

Fingers crossed that hurricanes stay away.

But where?

The quality of resorts in the US are much better than in Europe. In our bracket they are far better and so the only downside is the length of the flight. And possibly the cost but that's to be expected.
So far the plan is to fly to Orlando or Tampa. Depending on flight times and which UK airport!
Last year our return flight arrived at London Heathrow and six hours later we were finally home.  So I'd prefer Gatwick.  Nearer home and doesn't involve driving through the packed traffic in West London.

What I have done so far is a bit of surfing to look at places and flights and booked a car.

So...

Sunday, 16 October 2016

FR17 - Dordogne

Dordogne.

After a couple of successful trips away with Reggie we took the plunge and booked another trip to France.

This time in the Dordogne region staying in a mobile home again, like we did in October this year, but in May! Except this time with a company called Eurocamp.

Claire has some reservations about going so far with Reggie in the car as it about 500 road miles. I have built in an overnight stop on both legs.

I don't think it will be a problem as there will be plenty of stops on the way.

Plenty of time to decide.

Monday, 10 October 2016

FR16 - Day 8

The last day.

We had to be up early as the mobil-home had to be cleaned and the floor washed before we could get one of the staff to come over and check that we hadn't broken or stolen anything....

We had checked the inventory on arrival and they check it when we leave.  Many of the FB and TripAdvisor comments seemed to find this strange.

We hadn't used any of their bedding as we had taken sleeping bags and our own pillows, plus throws to stop Reggie leaving hair or mud on the furniture.

We brushed round and then I washed the floor with the sachet of hospital cleaning grade cleaner they had left. 

We eventually left about 1015.  First stop the recycling bins and then off towards home.

A coffee stop again a Baie de Somme.  Reggie had people laughing as he was looking in the water out back when a huge carp swam towards him. He jumped in the air like his legs were springs. After that he wouldn't near the edge, not even to bark or growl at the ducks.

And then we were off again. Cruise control at 70mph and we passed maybe one other car in 60 miles.

Before pet check-in we went to the Auchun to fill the tank with cheap French diesel.  The price was €1.119 a litre. Today's exchange rate about 1.159 to the £. So less that a £ a litre. At home the same in £'s at Tesco.

And then to the fiasco that is border controls.

Pet check-in was easy and Reggie and his passport sailed through.  ANPR picked us up and we joined the relatively short queue to French controls. Slowly edging forward through empty booths. The French not bothering to check the passports.

The slowness was because UK Border Agency, or whatever pseudo US name they have given themselves now,  had only three booths open. Plus one for coaches only. There was one coach...

We edged forward and then it was all done and dusted. Only 45 minutes from checking in and getting 400 metres up the tarmac.

It did mean we could go straight onto the train. A miracle that it left on time. The first time in many years

And 40 minutes* later we arrived at Folkestone for the short journey home.

Holidays for 2016 over.

* you don't believe all that 35 minutes advertising spiel do you?

Sunday, 9 October 2016

FR16 - Day 7

Our last full day of the holiday. I had hoped to get to St Valéry and ride the train but a bought of back ache meant I could hardly move for hours. Okay sitting or walking but nothing in between.

In the end a it was also our wedding anniversary we decided to have lunch out. We had exhausted St Valéry and so headed for Le Tréport again.

We have always thought of France as being more dog friendly that UK but we still felt odd asking at L'Aquarius whether Reggie could go inside with us. "But of course" was the response. The food was good and Claire got her mussels.

We had a walk around before heading up to the heights above the town to check out the views.
It's also up here where the Funiculaire has its upper terminus.

As we walked along the top of the cliff to overlook the town. Below it looked like a model village.
The funicular runs through the cliff and like parking in Le Tréport it is free.

Of course in lieu of missing the train ride we had to go down to the town and back up again.
Then it was bak to the camp to start packing and another dinner in.

Tonight was Reggie's second encounter with a hedgehog. This time a much bigger one but with the same result.

FR16 - Day 6

Today is pet passport day. A drive into Abbeville where the TomTom took us straight to the door.
We were very early and so we parked,  again free, and went for a walk around a garden before a coffee.

Abbeville can't be confused with an interesting city centre. The town hall looks like it was styled on an ancient design with a tower but in white concrete....

The church is old though. Still ugly.

We had time for a pannini and then it was gone 3pm. The short walk to the vets gave Claire a chance to pop into a boulangerie and buy a meringue for after dinner.

The nice lady vet checked Reggie over and filled in his passport and gave him the worming tablet.  He thought it was a treat and gobbled it down. We left ten minutes later and €30.10 lighter in the pocket but with the passport filled in to get him back into the UK.

On the way back to the campsite I saw a sign for a WW1 military cemetery dedicated to Chinese workers.

This one at Noyelles has 811 registered burials.

Later I Googled it to find that the allies employed 96000 Chinese workers during the course of the war. Many of these graves show no names but others have names in English and Chinese.

The traditional entrance has been replaced with a Chinese style arch. Still designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.  The architect of many British memorials.

The inscription from the Chinese ambassador in Paris at the time.


Another night in after a stop at the supermarket for beer and some dinner.

Tonight Reggie encountered his first hedgehog. A bit of barking and lunging at it ended up with the hog in a prickly  ball and Reggie having to be tugged away.

Noyelles Chinese Cemetery from front
Rear of Lutyens gate
Only a number....


FR16 - Day 5

Today we had a lazy day, or at least start to the day.  Late breakfast and a walk for Reggie to do his ablutions.

Today we stayed local again. Going into St  Valéry for a walk about and down to the railway station on the harbour to watch the train leave.

The train is a heritage line and runs from Le Crotoy to St Valéry almost all year and in the summer there is an extension to Cayeux.

We were lucky enough to arrive in time see it leave at 1430.

After we watched it fill up and leave there was time to have a barquette of frites between us.
Once again we ate in for the evening meal.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

FR16 - Day 4

Another disturbed night due to whatever has Reggie awake and growling plus today the locals are out with their shotguns.

It is a miserable existence for anything that can fly in France as the brave hunters will shoot it. From endangered songbirds to ducks if it takes to the wing some twat in camouflage gear will shoot at it.

I almost feel sorry for the French airforce as they flew along  the course of the Somme the day before.  A target that big?

After breakfast and a short walk we both had an extra lay in to get some rest. Relaxing this holiday isn't! !

It meant we were late going across the bay to Le Crotoy.

With pay to park everywhere I moved the car a few times to more convenient places all on the one ticket.

Reggie wasn't enjoying today's walk and he wasn't allowed on the beach here.

We had a coffee and sit in the sun for a while. Nice to soak up the warmth.

On the way back we stopped in another Carrefour and got some sandwiches or lunch plus some tarte de pommes.

We ate the sandwiches at St Valéry overlooking the river. The tartes waited until we got home.

The late afternoon spent reading and blogging.

FR16 - Day 3

After another affected night we awoke to bright sunshine. Again Reggie and I went to get the bread.  The cats that live near reception kept a low profile.

After breakfast we drove into St Valery and parked up. Pay again.

As we walked along the pedestrian area Ali guide the bay the tide was us starting to turn. We had a coffee at La Terrasse before walking to the end where the river opens into the marshy bay.

The tide was rushing in quickly and in less than half an hour the beaches on the far side of this inlet had gone and it was lapping up against the concrete sides on the town side.

We stopped in La Terrasse again. This time for lunch. A goats cheese salad for Claire and a blue cheese burger for me. Amazingly I could eat all the chips/fries.

We called in a Lidl for some supplies on the way back and noticed a McDonald's as well.....

After Reggie's dinner we went into Cayaux for another walk as it was still bright and sunny.

Tonight's dinner is fish soup and bread bought in the Carrefour.

FR16 - Day 2

I mentioned that Reggie can be protective but what I really meant was overprotective. It rained heavily overnight and as well as that there were strange animal noises to keep him busy at intervals all night.

The beds are okay and the sleeping bags are similarly okay. But having a dog having mental barking fits is not so good.

Luckily being off season the four similar units we drive past to 136 are all empty.  At least no one for Reggie to annoy.

The people in 137 across the roadway are in their own caravan and they seem to talk loudly all night until gone midnight. Reggie does not like that either.

So Day 2 dawned a little dull and we had a walk to reception to collect our bread order. The French love their fresh baguette every morning.

Once breakfast was over we set off for Cayaux and after a walk and coffee we went to look for the tall chalk cliffs that extend from Ault almost to Le Tréport. We found them.

Le Tréport is a very lively town on a Sunday with free parking everywhere after 30th September. 

Something other places might like to note to attract visitors to spend money rather grubbing about for €1 an hour parking.

We had a walk around the harbour and  coffee and gauffres before setting off back to the campsite. 

A long day ended with Carrefour couscous and a beer to wash it down.

It is easier with the dog to eat out if need be at lunchtime and in for the evening.


FR16 - Day 1 Pt2

From the Baie de la Somme services it was a short run to the campsite at La Mollière.

We checked in quite quickly and drove round the one way system to emplacement 136 where our mobil-home is placed.

As Reggie takes ownership of anywhere he stays, he gets protective and defends. This means there is liable to be barking. I asked for a spot with little passing traffic.  That's what we have.

After unpacking we had a walk across the road to the dunes. We had imagined the sea to be there. Wrong.

We also climbed this 60 foot sand dune when a walk along to the west would have seen us walk through a gap on a path....

It was good exercise and we were the only ones daft enough to do it.

For dinner we ate in on Carrefour supermarket microwave lasagne. Yum.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

FR16 - Day 1 Pt1

A bit of a fraught start with the car seemingly needing to be bigger than it is. In the end the Tardis effect worked and the boot/trunk was full and half the back seat not occupied by Reggie was packed too.

Once we had filled the tank and checked in to find we had an hour delay we had time to let Reggie have a run about in the dog exercise area.

Our original departure time was 1020. The huge board by where I parked said it was now 1050.

We rushed into the terminal to get a coffee. Huge queues so made do with a crappy machine.

We should have bothered. We sailed through passports, UK and French, and into Lane 12. It was 1014.

Our place for the next 50 minutes was that queue. It rained a few times and that 1050  crossing faded.

Almost an hour was up and we moved up to the next queue, tantalisingly close to a train.

On the down ramp we could see another train loading in parallel.

1120 came and went. At 1141 we finally wheezed out of the station.

Delays of over 30 minutes on UK railways are eligible for compensation but not Eurotunnel.  The lack of information is the main source of frustration.

Finally in France and the exit from the train was to turn left and out of the back entrance rather than the usual right turn and out past the petrol station.  Who knows why. No one bothered to explain!!!

The run down the A16 to Abbeville tested the new toll tag I got from SANEF the French autoroute operator in the North. You just drive up to the toll, it peeps and off you go. Pay later.

First stop the Baie de la Somme services for a coffee and sandwich. It's always a reliable stop and plenty of parking.

Friday, 30 September 2016

AZ16 - Day 13 Continued (PD)

In Oatman we parked up on the right at the top of main street.

Walking down the boardwalk we encountered one of the first donkeys.  This one was on the boardwalk itself and eating some flyers from one of the attractions. I guess printed paper tastes good to a donkey?

Many of the shops had already closed and in need of a comfort break we headed to the public facilities. Dodging donkey byproducts is a normal occurrence but nothing could prepare anyone for the rest rooms smell.

We had a look around the bric-a-brac stall next door and then over to the car park where there were a few donkeys and some foals (?). One with a sticker on its forehead saying "do not feed". It seemed to be doing a good job eating for itself.

https://flic.kr/p/HzcvCd

From Oatman we headed south towards I40 with the intention of taking a slight detour into California.  And we did.

Stopping to get a photo of the R66 logo on the road. As I was driving Claire had the phone camera go take pictures. Hopefully we got a good enough picture of the state sign as we crossed the Colorado River from Arizona.

After a little loop on an old section of 66 we headed back into Arizona and our final stay at Lake Havasu.

We arrived in Havasu and I guess the first sighting of London Bridge is a shock. You know it is there but seeing it spanning what appears to be a man made channel is quite a surprise. 

The hotel was nearby almost on the lake itself.  We had a view over the lake and the entrance to the channel under the bridge.

Pretty well appointed and our home for two nights.

FR16 - One day to go

Packing and sorting had begun.

From the reviews it looks as though the units are quite sparsely furnished so I have emailed to check what we need to take.

A bit late but I didn't expect to take essentials like kettles with me.

I knew we had to take our own bedding and we have sleeping bags plus half the car will be taken up by Reggie and his paraphernalia; food and bedding.

We take throws with us to cover furniture.

The vet in Abbeville is booked for Reggie's passport. So that should ensure he gets home again.

Monday, 12 September 2016

FR16 - France with Reggie

Since we were married we have tried to get away for our wedding anniversary and this year we have booked a week in France with Reggie in a mobile home.

We tested the water last year with a weekend away and with a week to Scotland with him. He was generally very good on both trips.

This year though we'll need to have his pet passport kept up to date with a visit to a French Vétérinaire before he can come back. I have located one not far from where we are saying and he is booked in on October 6th in the afternoon.

The mobile home is in a seaside town at Cayaux sur Mer.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

CZ16 - T -4

Pepe is ready to roll, only needing a top up of petrol before heading off to the Shuttle on Wednesday morning.

Before then I have a day at work,  a day work from home and a visit to the hospital to see about a hearing aid.

Then I need to pack.

The weather forecast looks pretty good so I'll need to get out the sun screen. And the insect repellant.

Clothes? I like the idea I read about in a magazine of simply taking old stuff and binning it rather than carrying it about.  I'm sure I have pants and socks that could fill that role!

The Saddlemen bag is pretty huge for one person so the panniers can be used to carry heavier low down stuff. 

Our Czech hosts like wine and live in a wine producing area. So taking English eine might seem like selling sand to Saudi but I am sure with enough bubble wrap I can get a few bottles safely 800 miles across Europe. It might need a few days or weeks to settle before drinking.

What else?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

AZ - Route 66 Pictorial

A lot of pictures taken on Route 66 this summer. I have saved them to Flickr where they can be seen by eveyone.

Click here.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Somme 2016 - Trip Reports

I sent these to the wrong blog and rather than re-type or cut and paste.... here are the links.

http://invictamoto.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/fwd-somme-commemorations-day-one.html

http://invictamoto.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/the-somme-commemorations-day-two.html


Friday, 1 July 2016

Somme 2016 - Ulster Tower

It rained. It was sunny. But it was a great day at the Ulster Tower for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Some pictures.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Somme 2016 - All entries arrived

Today over a five hour period the emails from Canada came in and everyone that booked has one or two to choose from.

In the end we will have Meldrews at all three services.

The lucky ones at Thiepval and their 4.30am reveille - Cal,  Neil and Trevor

The Ulster Tower group of David, Elaine, both Ken's,  Claire and me. Breakfast and train to Albert.

The Newfie group of Ian, Paul and Tom.

Report to follow.

AZ - Day 13 - Route 66 (PD)

Although this was my first time on Historic Route 66 I felt I knew it already, and still it amazed  us both.

Arizona has the longest section of the Mother Road of any of the states it passes through. 

Towns bypassed and left in desperate times have been rejuvenated by the tourist attraction it has become.

Williams the last town to be bypassed by I40 back in 1984 would have been dead had the railway not returned. Okay, for every one of the thriving towns like Williams and Seligman there are places where the shuttered and even burned out like Truxton are evident. 

It could be the same here in UK. Many towns and villages that thrived on passing trade reduced to dormitorys for larger towns and cities because they were bypassed by the motorways that started to be built in the 1950's.  Many of these old routes have been there since the Romans built the original road almost two thousand years ago.  

We fuelled up in Williams and then set off along Route 66, a trip on the interstate and finally a short stretch into Seligman, then Truxton, then Hackberry and finally into Kingman. We stopped in all of them to take in the kitsch or the abandonment.

The photos as far as Hackberry are in the Flickr link below.

From Kingman it was onto the Oatman Highway arriving a bit too late for many of the shops who had called it a day.  The donkeys were out.  More photos will be added later.



Photos from Flickr

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Somme 2016 - Commemorations

In the end we were very lucky to get entries for all three comemorations on the Somme.

Although less than two weeks away; by now most of us will be back at home in fact, we are still waiting for one.

There has been a hiccup with the Thiepval event with one nameless Meldrew double booking something the same day! Incredible I know! Especially after he checked the dates....

Eight of us have the tickets for the Ulster Tower and two latecomers missed that but once the Canadian Embassy pulls its finger out we should have tickets for their event as well.

Wait and see.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

AZ - Day 12 At the Canyon (PD)

We arrived about 1145. Entertainment on the train had included a singer who played the accordion. Being British means being reticent. But we joined in the singing.

Our carriage guy Nickolaus was very informative and spoke to everyone at length to help us get the most out of the trip. After all, we were only going to have about three and a half hours there.

As the ladies always take longer in the rest rooms, I went to take some pix of the train. Where's my phone?

I backtracked to the rail car and searched high and low. Nada. Nickolaus was changed out of his uniform and helped look. A really nice guy with a peach of a job!  

More backtracking, into the gloom of the men's room, and there it was under the washbasins. Sadly face down. Scratched but at leas had it back. 

So the tour starts, using the map in the newspaper that was on the train. Nick suggested if we walked from the El Tovar and rail depot to the visitor centre, getting the free shuttle bus back would be better. Apparently eleven stops going east but only three coming back to the depot.

So that was the plan.

Climbing the steps between the El Tovar and the Hopi House and the fifty yards to the first overlook... I can't wait.... the anticipation!

WOW WOW WOW!!!!!!

The first sight is simply breathtaking.

Photographs can never do it justice.




Firstly we walked to the west towards the Kalb Studio, calling in the Lookout Studio along the way. The round trip from the El Tovar is about half a mile. Temperatures much lower than in Phoenix at around 95F.  We had plenty of water and along the Rim Trail there are plenty of water stops.

Next stop was the Hopi House. It's now a shop and art gallery for Indian goods. Claire took a shine to a bracelet and so I bought it. Not as altruistic as it sounds but my credit card has no exchange rate juggles and commission charges!



We decided to do the Rim Trail walk  to the Yavapai Point and then around to Mather Point and finally the visitor centre.  I set Runkeeper a little belatedly and it recorded 2.7 miles, so I expect we did a bit over three miles. With plenty of stops to admire the view and look at the geological timeline. Time flew. In fact the health app on my phone recorded 17500 steps compared with my usual daily 9000. 

All along the rim you count down the millennia from about 2700 million years to present. It is impossible to get your head around these kind of numbers....


We arrived at the visitor centre with less than an hour to spare for the return train and so we got an iced coffee to cool down and then the shuttle bus back to the depot.

A quick look in the El Tovar and then back to get on the train.  There was time for Claire to have her picture taken with the Train Senior Conductor.


On the way back we were in the Pullman Class car, no aircon!  But opening windows. This car has the seats that can all face the direction of travel of forms small groups. A simple mechanism lets passengers move the backs to face either direction.


Seats all facing forward


Some seats forward other backwards

The journey back was another two and a quarter hours.

I took a few pictures out of the open window. I also took some videos that are downloaded to the computer. If you like trains, then you might like them. I'll post the link when I have uploaded them to YouTube.




At one point we had the accordion lady again, but not before the train was stopped by train robbers and they came in to rob us.  Luckily they didn't take anything other than a few people's dignity with their jokes! Then the sheriff came to chase them off.


And then we arrived back in Williams. Journey over.

The evening. Boring people we are we went back to Pine County. It had been a hot and tiring day and we were in bed about 1030pm after packing our cases.