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 gave located one not far from where we are saying and he is booked in.

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?

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.

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!


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.

Friday, 10 June 2016

AZ - Day 12 (PD)

Grand Canyon Day

We were up bright and early. The new Walmart $14 rucksack was packed with essentials; sun cream, cameras etc.

Breakfast was across the road at Pine County before we went across to the station to watch the western shootout before boarding.

We had seen a different group shoot-out in the street the evening  before and this group were as funny, with an (un)willing volunteer from the crowd assisting.

Then we boarded. We had the dome car out and in the heat I was dreading it, but the aircon was excellent. Our carriage crew was Nickolaus. From Williams and very funny all through with his commentary and advice on what to do for a mere three hours at the Canyon. 

On the way up as we were in the more premium seats, drinks and snacks were free.. We had a few OJ's and doughnuts.

On arrival... TBC.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

AZ - Day 11 (PD)

Not so much driving today to Williams where we will spend two nights.

After a good and healthy (except for the bowl of Lucky Charms) breakfast we ch ckecked out for points south-west.

Our first stop was at the Cameron Teading Post, established in 1916. This is in effect a massive gift shop with attached motel and restaurant. Alongside is a US Post Office sturdily built in stone. 

We had coffee and a look at the trinkets. I was unable to be Sheriff of Cameron as all the Paul badges had gone. Had I been christened Shelby there were loads. I wonder why?

From here the next stop was Flagstaff. Despite being told we wanted Route 66, TomTom had other ideas and we almost went past on I40.

Although everywhere advertises Harley Davidson, I felt it only right to fly the flag for Triumph.

The visitor centre is in the old railway station. 

We picked up a map for the historic town that extends a few blocks in every direction north of the station. As we crossed the road a large freight train came through the crossing and the station.

We wandered around before stopping for lunch, cameras whirring as we took photo after photo. Such is the marvel of digital photography.

It was cooler than Phoenix but still in the 90's. We had lucked out with the on street parking as the car was in a little shade.

The next stop would be Williams.

Again we were lucky on arrival to park outside the Grand Canyon Hotel. I chose it for its historical significance (oldest hotel in Arizona), location (eyesight of station and on 66) and price. 

In the end it was okay but the lack of air-conditioning was a big downer. The old style of the hotel helped but it was hot. 

Once checked in we went across to the station and picked up the train tickets for the day after, and a walk along R66 checking out the shops and ending with dinner at Cruisers R66 Diner. Not the cheapest dining experience of the trip but the food was good.

Then it was bed time and ready for an early start and the teain to the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

AZ - Day 10 (PD)

Once we were away from the motel the plan was to get breakfast and also get a picture of Joe & Aggie's in daylight. Sadly someone had parked blocking a large chunk of the mural on the wall so we couldn't get a clear shot of the whole thing.

The other side of the parking lot had a Holbrook mural.

Fuelling the car took $36 and the range on the onboard computer went from 56 miles to 505. When we picked it up the average mpg was showing 19.5. Sticking roughly to speed limits (sometimes you have to floor it!!) and we now have it showing over 33mpg to the titchy US gallon. 

The trains we had heard so much about weren't too bad. They ran all night but apart from few hoots, the earplugs weren't needed.

We headed up R66 to the freeway and headed east and had breakfast at the Hopi Travel centre. We opted for the BK. The breakfast croissant was filling.

Here we turned left onto SR77 into the Navajo Nation and headed north east to Chinle and the Canyons de Chelly.

We stopped for a coffee break at Denny's near the park entrance.

Through the oblong window

After Claire stepped in to assist some French tourists in the visitor centre, we took the south rim.

People live off the road and there are wild horses walking about. 

Each overlook gives views of the canyon walls and the river below. Temperatures are lower this far north, around 95F. On the news we saw Phoenix had a record for 3rd June of 113F.

We opted to miss the north rim as we had to get to Kayenta, some 80 miles away and fit in Monument Valley as well.

The drive north west on Indian 59 was very pleasant. Kayenta itself is hardly holiday central. A Navajo town full of wooden buildings and a few hotels for the tourists. The Wetherill Inn is motel style with two storeys. 

We had room 112 and could park outside which is a boon.

Luggage dumped we headed north for the 20 drive to Utah. The entrance to Monument Valley is about 200 yards  past the state line.

We took loads of pictures of the red rock formations.

Dinner was in Kayenta at the Golden Bowl Chinese restaurant. Good value and huge portions.

Then back to the inn for TV and bed.