861-864: Pootling Around Provence

861 – Tuesday 10th October 2017:  A Change of Plan

We stopped to change pilots en route to Castellane – K walked Oscar towards the town of Entrevaux – and lo and behold – roofs of motorhomes in a not too distant car park!  Well, we moseyed on down to find – an aire beside the Chemin de Fer rail line…  should we stay, we asked ourselves? Amazingly, we answered – ‘why not’?   Jez settled easily into the aire – and your faithful correspondents dragged themselves into town for a meander and forced down a glass of wine…sitting in the sun.  Another poetical piece (featured by K on this glob, sorry blog before):

“What is this life if full of care

we have no time to stop and stare”

We do.  We’ve seen many hill towns with Gated entrances and narrow streets – they never fail to impress…

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Entrevaux.

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The main gate….

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The cathedral.

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No cars and lots of small lanes.

862 – Wednesday 11th October:  Le Champ (Field – NOT), it was a Hill!

The intrepid team embarked on a 12k, 5-hour promenade from Entrevaux to La Champ, a nearby (?) hamlet. The uphills were rather steep (understatement of the day) and I developed a minor blister – pas de probleme…  Lunch in a squady share (you’re doing it again, James – behave s’il vous plait!)  We saw the lady post, heard someone gardening – and ’the sound of silence’.  Memorial to 3 who died in WW1 with two of the same surname.

Right then – pay attention, Class of 2015-17!  Hands up who knows about “Earworm”?  It’s not a wriggly thing wot gets in yer eardrum!  Have you ever experienced a song, saying, poem or wotsit that gets into your head – goes round and round and you cannot shift it?  It is an “Earworm”!!!  It happens to me a bit – and it must be the correct term – because I found it on ’t’internet’.   Remedy – wash behind your ears? No, get busy with summit else – and hey presto, it worms it’s way out.  You cannot say we don’t try to educate our 3 readers – that includes you, Amelia, Diane and Grahame – or is it 4?   No, it’s more – Mags and ShIrls, Edward and Frances, Stephen and Kay – goodness knows – we could get into double figures!  

Back along the upclines and declines to our aire – K called to see an Estate Agent – part of our putative 2018 Provence house purchase…    My be difficult to find someone to manage change overs for potential holiday lettings, but a lovely town.  The search will continue.

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Vauban strengthened the citadel, and it has never been taken.  The old town has the gorge of the river on 3 sides.

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You can just make out the steep walk up to the Citadel.

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Our lunch stop at Le Champ.

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We ran out of water, so J replenished the bottles.  Hope there was not a dead sheep further up stream!

863 – Thursday 12th October:  A Short Hop to Annot

The town small supermarche was closed for hols so we found an Intermarche 5 minutes upstream. A brief rec. to a campsite by the local lake – the staff thought we might be sneaking a quick camper services – reassured them and off we went.  Thinks – we cannot avoid Annot – oh dear, a minipun – another aire!  An airy aire, you say!  This punning Annot continue!  Or, canit? I could can it, perchance?  Agreed, all round, James!  Considerate it canned, not far from Cannes!!!  

Another lovely town walk (ending with wine!) – the TIC gave us a very comprehensive walking leaflet – the walk seemed vaguely familiar – more anon. 

One of our motorhome neighbours at the aire – chatting – an intrepid traveller, advertising his travel company – invited us to supper with another neighbouring couple from the Voges. Lively evening and good chats – nice vino, curry, pasta and cheese dishes – but it “grew wondrous cold” (Ancient Mariner, again) later.  Tres froi….

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More narrow streets – Annot this time.

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Built into the rocks.

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864 – Friday 13th October:  Chambre du Roi Walk – It was not like this last time!!!

Ah, the walk – details from the TIC…  Back in 2012 ish, we took K’s daughter and friend Katharine for a week in Nice – we had a rented apartment on the 100th floor (ask K) in the Vieux Ville.  Train up into the hills for a promenade…. 18c in Nice – in the hills – cold and snow – it was January (Maddy thought we had arrived in Narnia). The walk (said to be suitable for baby strollers!) was slippery, hazardous with narrow paths and sheer drops, muddy – and some of us came down on our bottoms – very unfunny!   Today, it’s the self same walk!!!  How about that for coincidence?

This time, it was sunny, warm, firm underfoot – and bloody gorgeous!   The photos tell the tale better than I can…

News of the day?  After 7 months, I finally received my over-70 3.5 tonnes+ driving license from the good old DVLA – hurrah for the lads and lassies in Swansea!  Just need to lay my hands on it!

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You can just make out the narrow path behind J – imagine this with ice and mud!  The rock here looks like folds of a lava flow.

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In serval places, there are huge rocks and boulders forming arches.

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And we got quite high .. according the walk leaflet, we climbed 350m.  Doesn’t seem a lot, but hard on the knees on coming down.

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Surprisingly there is a chestnut and oak forest at the top.

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Pretty sure this is the same lunch spot where we ate with Maddy and Katharine.

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No chance of a nanny nap with Oscar nudging me to keep stroking him!

   

855-860: Passing to a New-Union & a Re-Union

855 – Wednesday 4th October 2017:  Passing on Good Wine!

We arrived quite late to the aire at Cornas, so the designated 5 van spaces were taken – we parked separately not blocking anyone.  Grahame and Diane had suggested trying the local vino – but no!  Out of our price range…..  we walked young Oscar between the vines – and rested our bones…

856 – Thursday 5th October:  Passing through the Luberon!

Driving through the beautiful Luberon National Park, we decided to return – explore more fully and investigate property prices. Stopped at Les Mees for the stunning rock formations…

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Stunning cliffs at Les Mees.

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Stayed at Dignes Les Bains – headed for Castellane but getting late and spotted an aire sign – not the one we’d stayed at before but closer to the town centre and along the river.  We walked along the river and it’s outdoor leisure complex of a boating lake, climbing wall etc.  One young lad was exercising his dog by being towed along on a skateboard – he then got the dog to dive into the lake off a pier …  the dog was suspended mid air for a nano second with all limbs out wide.

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The path along the river has a leisure activities; this is the boating lake.  And all with great mountain views. 

857 – Friday 6th October:  The New-Union … Meeting Cian

A.M. – K ran along the river with trusty O (not towed!).  I rested and brekkied, got Jez ready to sail – a quote from “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” seems appropriate here….

“The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast – and southward aye we fled”

(not sure whose blast roared loudest – Oscar!!!)

Southward brought us swiftly to Les Maurettes campsite where we had stayed last March/April – to see Sarah, Gareth and Jade and the new addition to the family – Cian.  Lovely site but office closed until 2:00 pm – a French/German couple were quite upset at their wait for a pitch where they could get a good TV signal – he wanted French and she was German, so they were loyal to their national TV stations.  They’d spent all morning moving the van and testing out pitches!  Much easier to not have a TV on board, like us.

The site was very busy. We got our pitch OK – the choice of one!  We seemed to be the sole GB van. A lot of French and Germans with the off smattering of Scandinavians.  Over our 4 night stay, there was relatively little movement off the pitches … the weather is still warm here – low 20s and obviously people are happy to stay for a longer time on the Cote d’Azur … understandable.

Sarah and Gareth brought 12-day old Cian to meet us – my new grandson – good Irish name (Cian Healy, front row for Ireland) a perfect baby for the perfect Grandpa Pig (?).  

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Proud Grandpa Pig.

858 – Saturday 7th October:  The Re-Union … 30 Years On

K here:  As well as heading back to Antibes to meet J’s new grandson, I also had an overnight flight booked to Gatwick.  A Thames Polytechnic (Greenwich Uni, depending on whom you talk to!) Business and International Marketing reunion.  Gill lives in Twickenham and I’d reserved a bed there and used her address for some very important post.  About 2 years ago, I frugally bought an iPhone 5c with only 8GB and have regretted it ever since.  Not being able to store more than 4 photos and virtually no apps has been a real pain.  When we were home in Bristol, Kay mentioned she was thinking of replacing her iPhone 6 …. she and Stephen both like their tech and frog leap each other with the latest.  So I purchased Kay’s phone and she posted it to Gill’s.  A quick cuppa with Gill and Gordon and I was off into town to buy a protective case for it … and thence soon after I’d swapped over and downloaded apps I wanted, with still loads of space left.  Oh joy!  Other things I notice are how sensitive the keyboard is and the screen is really clear.  Loving it.

The appointed drinks time was 5.00 and we managed a couple of Aperol Spritz before catching the train into St James’ for the reunion.  Gill and Bron (sadly Al was poorly and did not make it) are ‘me old muckers’, but I’ve not seen any of the others for 30 years.  Most were instantly identifiable … but wow, the girls really have aged well.  Not even approaching middle age … any of us.  Some had brought pix and the 80’s clothes and hair styles were very Bananarama!  It was a pretty alcofrolic evening with lots of laughs … Gill and I lost track of the time and had to do a 400m sprint across the concourse at Waterloo to catch the 0046.  

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A couple of Aperol Spritz before we set off.

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And none of us have changed at all!

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Gill and Bronwen.

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Not changed … Much!

 859 – Sunday 8th October: A Return to Nice is Nice

The next morning we giggled and exclaimed our way through Gill’s photo albums.  It was wonderful to catch up with people I’ve not seen for such a long time, but reunions are pretty much about curiosity and mine has been satisfied.

My 2.00 flight was delayed an hour due to a faulty laptop … seems mad that it took an hour to replace / repair something that is essentially disposable and not part of the plane’s infrastructure.  Polite announcements from the Pilot about our patience with the delay … as if we the choice!  Lovely to arrive back just in time to see the blue skies again.  Great time, but very great to be back with my boys.  

And guess who are so glad to see you back – the Boyzzz!

 

860 – Monday 9th October:  Jobs and Antibes

We both ran down into the local park.  J managed to get lost and had to ‘ring a friend’.  K found him on the Find a Friend app and navigated him back to base.

K started to ‘laundrify’ with the onsite facility – clothes line from tree to tree, jobs done including finalising my tax return/amount owed to HMRC – not too much… then out with the e-bikes for a jaunt to Antibes.  Oscar barked a bit to begin – then the Kay-suggested covering the Os-car solution kicked in – almost silence, again.  And not a bark on the return leg.  He’s learning :).  A visit to the e-cig shop to remedy a minor issue.  Ice creams (as always) although our favourite shop was closed. 

Tomorrow – “to fresh fields and pastures new…”

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Playing with my ‘new’ iPhone 6 – loving the camera definition.

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849-856: Wine Tasting with the Aged P’s

849-850  – Thursday 28th – Friday 29th September 2017:  E-Bikes Outing and Welshies

Wednesday saw us in a France Passion – eggs bought and then all day driving to Meung sur Loire aire for 2 nights  to sleep under autumn leaves falling…. the town beckoned – as did a glass of vin blanc…

A first e-bike ride with Os-car- a test? Mega thanks to Kay (and Stephen) for suggesting covering the Os-car with something to reduce his visibilty – and barking – hey, it worked !!! I didn’t bark at all ! Neither did Oscar…..Lunch and sedatecycling back to Jez. Some issues with the bikes were sorted by phone back to Brizzle. 

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Matching orange towel to block his forward view to match the Os-car (and his lead and harness!) 

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One of our new Kalkhoff bikes.

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Set lunch was a beautifully cooked piece of tuna with lots of veggies including a stack of wafer thin fried courgettes – yum!

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On evening number 1 a French chap approached us saying “Welsh!”.  Now James is Irish and I’m English.  He could only be talking about Oscar.  He was, and he had 2 Welshies – a mother and daughter.  He brought them over the next evening to be introduced.  Taking pix was not easy as they wouldn’t stay still and not even all at once for treats.  He told us that there are only 60 bred a year in France.  I later googled that UK numbers are dropping and a couple of years ago it was only 300.  Oscar – you’re a rare species!

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He wouldn’t let us keep even one of them!

 

851-855 – Saturday 30th Sept – Wednesday 4th October:  With Aged P’s

Cosgne sur Loire campsite – and the “Aged Ps” arrival to their chalet on site… They are not aged – but like fine wine, they are pickled – whoops, young…..  some imbibing took place.  It works well with Diane and Grahame renting luxury “huts” on our selected campsites around Europe…

Sunday, we discombobulated into town and had coffee – and the boys had Sancerre wine with croissants!  A large market was in full swing with a lot of local produce including crottins of goat cheese … we did not buy as we had our own little cheese store at home already..

Bourges on Monday – lovely cathedral (St Etienne) – gorgeous stained glass windows – and ? Lunch…… SkodaJane SatNav went a bit AWOL but we declined her invitation to drive across ploughed fields…

Tuesday witnessed an outbreak of “degustation” – a rare condition normally treated with care and wallet locks – it didn’t work this time. Although we watched the Aged P’s make several purchases fr themselves and on behalf of K’s sister and husband … not sure Clare and Chris had provided a budget, but they seemed happy enough.   

Sancere on Tuesday – Diane and Grahame went at the wine tasting with gusto and why not? We kept our respective bottoms up too…  The annual Rothbury AGM/staff lunch was duly called to order – and order we did – wine and good grub. 

One degustation offered a small cinema with chairs that mimicked the movement of ground in the vineyards and squirted water at us!!!  Oscar was not impressed and I took him out – with more gusto… 

Pm – Diane died K’s hair – played crib (victory spoils to Diane) – Grahame and I read and looked intelligent. The evening brought more cheese and a robust quantity of vino en Francaise… 

 

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Bourges was a really pretty town … nice to just wander and quiet being Monday, so all the shops were shut.

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The cathedral’s front entrance has been partially cleaned, but it really shows off the intricate carvings …

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… imagination running riot.

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Unearthed late C18, the original clacker on the left was used during Maundy to call people to worship as the bells had to be silence.  A similar principal and sound to the football supporters make with a rattle.

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The glass was varied in styles and truly stunning.

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On the side of the gothic Palais Jacques Coeur … looks like the figures had had a row.

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Just outside the only restaurant we found that was open.  It had only just opened when we went in and soon filled up with tourists and locals.  Surely it would be worth other restaurants opening on a Monday too?

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Sancerre:  It is on a rise and is visible from quite a way.  At the Museum of wine we learnt that the Sancerre wine comes from quite a large area, and Sancerre town is right at the southern part of it.

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Staff lunch.  J would keep calling it the Director’s lunch, but I had to put him right.  If the Aged P’s think they’ve been promoted to Directors they might start expecting voting rights!  The food was nothing special but the views and the service were….

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… and the cheese board was rather special, especially as he loaded our plates  🙂  We got to taste a mature Crottin of Chavigny, a local DOC … nice but prefer others.

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A wine tasting in the only natural underground cave in Sancerre and some more Aged P’s purchases.  Hardly room for Oscar in their car boot!

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Looking up to Sancerrre.




836-848: The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

836-848  – Friday 15th – Wednesday 27th September 2017:  The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

I crossed back to Blighty on the 15th.  Although I’ve done it before, I was still slightly nervous about Oscar’s pet passport being in order.  I checked and rechecked the vet’s entries comparing to the previous vet’s.  No issues at all and we sailed through the process quickly.

On returning and leaving England, it is normal tradition for us to stop over to see Ian, young Jimmy and Nicky’s parents in Rustington.  However, Ruth and Brian were in Brittany visiting their other daughter, Tracy, and Ian was up in town, so not this trip.  The up side was that I booked an extra night in the Brighton campsite and spent an extra evening with Maddy, who has just moved here.  I got to see her great 2 bed flat (she’s sharing with a good friend who is at Uni there) and to wander around and SPEND in Brighton.  The flat is walking distance from the centre, so we did not have far to carry a chalk board and mirror (which I promptly smashed), as well as M’s new pre-loved clothes and my new frock and costume jewellery.  If you’ve not been to Brighton, it is buzzing place.  Drug addicts, students and Barbour jackets all rub shoulders together … it is very real.  The break a mirror and bad luck happens adage happened … all electronic.  Th sat nav lost all its maps.  The sat pad (iPad with Co-Pilot) died altogether and wanted re-initialising and the radio died.  The first two have been resolved and the radio binned.

Before J joined me I moved between Farnham (close to parents and sister), Bristol for dentist, John Lewis and e bike shop and Shropshire to drop off Christmas presents at my brother’s.

  • Teeth:  X ray and all fine – good to know as will be away, if all goes to plan, for a year.
  • John Lewis:  Purchased a few last Christmas gifts … all my Christmas shopping is done and wrapped!!!!  A chap on the escalator was moaning that it is too soon for Xmas cards and wrapping paper …I gleefully told him that some of us are all wrapped, cards written and stamped as we are off travelling.  And I pre-bought and am using my birthday / Christmas gift from the Aged P’s and a little bit from James – a GPS sports watch.  One of the really good things about it is that the time digits are really large … I no longer have to squint or reach for glasses to read the time!
  • E-Bikes:  this was phase 2 of the get Oscar about with us.  We bought the Os-car doggy trailer in Holland, but I could not get up hills towing the combined 35kgs+ of Oscar and Os-car.  Also, we want to travel a bit further when parked up.  We do not want to tow a car; a scooter is no good unless we had a side car for Oscar … and we’d both want to drive anyway … so e-bikes it is.  I’d done some research and looked at lots of forums, ordering the bikes from a shop in Bristol, who had stock and gave a decent discount.  We’ve gone for Kalkhoff Agattu …. both in matt black as no stock of the white, and I have a bigger battery to compensate for the towing.  We found time to test them for all of about 15 mins before we left for France and they really do make a difference, especially up hill when you switch to high power mode.  Setting off is assisted too.  I was a bit reluctant about cheating and loss of exercise, but everyone we’ve spoken to loves their e-bike and I think we will too.
  • I’d not seen brother Tim and Sarah for about 2.5 years, so it was good to catch him between his house parties … think modern day Downton Abbey and you have their lifestyle!  They were off to a shooting party in Yorkshire and I was given a bag of veggies from the walled kitchen garden.  They are planning a trip to the Balkans somewhere in Spring, so I hope we can meet up then.

James left Antibes on the 20th; his flight left 30 mins after his ex-wife landed … so Sarah really was not alone long should the baby have decided to make an appearance.  This is the longest by far we’ve ever been apart – 9 nights.  Boy, was it good to be back together.  However, little time to enjoy being together as more jobs to be done!  Including:

  • J’s eco cardiagram for the DVLA.  Yes, his birthday was in April, but the doctor’s two errors on the form were picked up separately and because he was identified with a heart murmur, they then wanted his heart checked out.  Anyway, the consultant said she could hardly identify the murmur and they he would have no problems with his license …. I should think not, when he is a runner!  But good to know, all the same.  Now that we are back in France, we just need to work out where to get his license posted to …. Kerstin, are you reading this???
  • Jez had his engine and habitation service – all good.
  • Fiat in Guidlford …. thrice! They’d not ordered the replacement part for the dashboard (under warranty) when it was booked in over 2 months ago, so we had to go back the morning we caught the tunnel to France … I put the crossing back a few hours and it was just as well I had, as the mechanic had out the radio back in up side down, so we had to go back again.
  • Vet for kennel cough and to stock up with a year’s supply of drugs!
  • Washing, more washing and cleaning
  • Sorting ‘stuff’ in the Aged P’s attic as a) we’ve had notice not to add to the expanding pile in case the roof comes down! and b) we wanted some of the stuff, such as Balkans guide books and winter clothes. We’re spreading our love (as one of my pilates videos says) … no, I mean, our stuff.  Our normal bikes are in Clare & Chris’ garage.
  • Weigh bridge … we need to drink the glass bottled beer and wine, eat the two massive sacks of dog food and stop stock piling tins and toothpaste!

We managed to catch up with a few people, but really only a few people.  Stephen and Kay, our old next door neighbours cooked and always delicious.  Frances and Edward to belatedly celebrate E’s special birthday, which we missed as we were on baby watch in Antibes.  And I had a great Sunday afternoon with the girls – my old muckers, and Ian and Jimmy in Twickenham.  Just not enough time.

We crossed back at 1416hrs on 27th – the next adventure begins 🙂

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Maddy tucking into a Full English (she justified it by going to the gym before) …

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… whilst I froze and wo-manfully smiled whilst she ate!  I did nick a piece of bacon.

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Moreton Corbet Castle, an extended castle and Elizabethan House which was owned by the same family who own Tim’s house … his is in slightly better nick!

 

And announcing the safe arrival of Cian Ash Weston on Sunday 24th September.

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820-835: Waiting For Godot / Baby

819 – Tuesday 29th August 2017:  Arrive In Biot

A leisurely start and a run and pilates for K.  We had another interesting journey, where we nearly ran out of fuel – again!  The fuel gauge does some significant dipping when negotiating sharp bends and hills.     

Biot near Nice was our landfall and Chez Sarah, Gareth and Jade…..   Now, for those fans of Peter Sellers and “The Pink Panther” film series – Sarah has “Le Beumpe” – 8.5 months work of “Le Beumpe” in fact. New house – with pool – and Cote D’Azur wall to wall sunshine!  As the gated driveway is too narrow, we parked our Jezabeumpe by the neighbours in the “Impasse”/cul de sac.  Sarah’s neighbours are quite happy about Jez and they’re also awaiting the arrival of Le Beumpe…  one way to meet the new neighbours to apologise for the large grey motorhome lump in the parking area!

820-835  – Wednesday 30th August – Thursday 14th September:  Waiting for Baby

Lovely walking/running along La Brassiere – whoops – La Brague river.    To explain, Jade calls me “Grandpa Pig” – followers of “Pepa Pig” cartoon will understand. (I ain’t no ornery Oinker, though).  Happy family, ice creams, swimming and sun – could it be better? Non! 

Some DiY and playing with Jade – Sunday lunch in Valbonne…..it gets better. K and J an evening meal out back in Valbonne and nearly unable to get home … Uber and a friendly local helped out.  A couple of trips into Antibes and lunch in Nice.

As Sarah would be alone for some time (G gone back to his seafaring work), we decided I will stay on for an extra week and K will pilot Jez and Oscar back to Calais for 15th September crossing.  I could be in charge of a lively 2-year-old on my tod!  Takes me back 40 years!!!  But, sample nappy change brought the old skills back sharpish…

On the 11th, K set off for the tunnel having visited the vet in Biot for Oscar’s pet passport.  3 days of solid driving and she made it to the aire at Bergues with a day in hand.  A rest day and lunch in the local town.  Crossing to the UK tomorrow on 15th.

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Pool with a house 🙂

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La Brague – local river with  beautiful walking.  We walked into Biot along it in one direction for an … ice cream!

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Oscar was tricked into swimming in pursuit of a stick … once he realised, he headed for the nearest rocks and then had to swim back.

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Lunch in Valbonne … can’t beat French cuisine and presentation.

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Don’t fall over Grandpa Pig!

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of course the nappy will stay on!

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Organising the crayons.  Apparently Sarah was accused at work of OCD … in the genes?

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Sarah’s uncle and partner over from Oz came to lunch.

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Where Oscar waited when we went out for supper.  He set up howling when Sarah went to bed, so she had to get up again.  Pathetic inconsiderate dog!

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Sinead, daughter No.2 flew in for a few days, so whilst K drove all day, they all had lunch on the beach!  Followed by lounging around the pool!!!

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Sarah spotted this on a friend’s Facebook – very much our anthem. 

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798-819: Gastarbeiter

798 – Saturday 5th August 2017:  A Long Drive to a Wine Event

Services completed, we left the campsite and headed south into Germany – for a 5 hour trip… the A3 motorway looked busy but flowing…..until about 2:30 pm.  everything ground to a halt.  Not to worry (we said) just a minor ’bouchon’ (I don’t know the German for traffic jam).  4 hours later, we moved again, well more than 2 yards – folks had been walking about on the motorway – and using the hard shoulder for wc visits – we could have made money renting our toilet facilities…  Anyway, an accident had happened (no injuries thankfully) and substantial roadworks – so a 5 hour journey became 9 hours!   We almost had to call the emergency services to us, just to add to the stoppage … we were almost out of fuel.  In, fact when we did make it to the fuel station, we put more in than we ever had before – 73 litres and a whopping EUR100+.

We did arrive just on time for the street/riverbank party (our intended international table decorations did not happen) and we joined 100 metre long picnic tables!  All to celebrate the local village’s wine production.  Wine, food and fireworks along the Rhine!  Thank you Leutesdorf.  A lovely family evening with Kerstin’s god-daughter and her parents. Kerstin stayed in our van parked at a local winery…  

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At the end of the wine tasting picnic, Oscar had drunk himself under the table.

IMG 1304The Leutesdorf firework display.

799-813 – Sunday 6th – Monday 21st August:  GastArbeiter

“Guestworkers”?  How about “Non-restworkers”, Kerstin? 17 days hard labour – but well worth it….. wood chip wallpaper sticks like ’tihs’ – work that simple anagram out? Answers on ‘toiletenpapier’ please.  2 evenings out for dinner at Engers – and a whole days freedom – more below….. Kerstin’s cousin Axel joined the workers for the weekend and dined out with us. We drove and watched the ‘Rhin in Flam’ fireworks from a vantage point where we could see about 4 displays.  And it was far enough not to upset Oscar with the noise.  We’d head a lot about these firework displays … villages host they own fireworks and then a final display at Koblenz.  Actually, it happens all along the Rhein.  What should have been a spectacular evening damaged to deliver deposit the teaming rain.  K&K found chairs and sheltered their legs with a sleeping bag, that absorbed the water like a sponge.  J and A sheltered under a tree.  Not a damp squib in sight and  it didn’t dampen our spirits.

When the ‘gaffer’ had allowed us a day off, we cycled to watch a local triathlon – mega exciting – and I got my boat ride!  We could have entered a hybrid team – Kerstin swimming, Katherine cycling and me running – maybe next year? Our team name could be “The Gassybelters”!    Kerstin is a member of the local dive club who were part of the water safety crew so wangled J a Rhein ride in the slowest boat on the river.  J should not have expressed the wish for a Rhein ride as he got another one as we crossed to Leutesdorf, which provided an excellent lunch and we pedalloed home to the accompaniment of an “Oscarchestra” in – of course – O Minor – or O major?  He certainly gets an O-Level for barking…  

17 days labour for the whole team saw an amazing result – the whole house ready for the professional trades people!!!  K: aren’t we the pros??? We were paid … ice cream and wine!

Thus, the Jezacaravenette migrated south towards Reutingen – HausK3… 

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How many rooms stripped?

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Still at it …

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A night off with Kerstin’s cousin Axel:  supper in the dry, but not dry followed by the Rhein in Flam firework display in the wet!

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Kerstin investigated a vantage point where we could see 2 or 3 villages’ firework display and then the main Koblenz one.  And far enough away so Oscar was not worried by the noise.

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Another Frikadelle night out … yum.

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The first leg of the triathlon.  Swimmers did not have to work hard as the current is so strong, but they needed ‘catching’ to make it out of the water.

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J had expressed an interest in a boat ride along the Rhein.  Not quite what he had in mind, but Kerstin got him a ride on one of the water rescue boats … it just happened to be the slowest one of the water!

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Another boat ride … from Andernach to Leutesdorf, with the bikes.

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Fab location and food for lunch.  An ice cream on the cycle back!

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One of Kerstin’s neighbours owned what was formerly a quarry and now a pleasure ground.  However, the council want to close it so he’s had to cancel the fishing club and can’t allow people to picnic there now … a real shame as he has spent 50 years creating art and picnic spots and it has become a nature park.  With lack of use and the owner’s age against him, it is now looking very overgrown and un-cared for.  A crying shame.

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The owner may be 80, but he is still building … this is a volcano, and he lit some papers and you can just see smoke coming out of the top!

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Little seating areas and views all over the grounds. 

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Kerstin’s garden over looking the Rhein.  The pool may look blue, but was putrid and the pool man never came to sort it … promises, promises Kerstin! 

814 – Tuesday 22nd August:  The German Wine Route

We don’t need a compass to steer us along the German wine road….just followed our noses!  The aire we originally wanted – approach far too narrow so we aborted. A very helpful local man guided us at top speed on his bike to a lovely alternative pleasant aire – and we were alone – no other vans….  We walked in search of a restaurant for supper out – but in spite of more local knowledge, ‘nil by mouth’ was the disappointing result!  Oh well, more K Haute Cuisine – left over Frikadelle!  What could be better? 

815 – Wednesday 23rd August:  Reutlingen

At Kerstin’s invitation, we Jezaparked just near her residence – K3 of course. Her Mum, Erika joined us too.  A walk around the huge allotments that people buy here – chaps have livestock and massive sheds and summer houses.  A boozy supper and an Award Ceremony!  We were aptly rewarded for our decorating labours!

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We were presented with medals and wine for our efforts … Master Wallpaper Remover and Master Painter.  Our medals are now hanging proudly in Jez!

816 – Thursday 24th August:  A Run, A Spa and Rotweil

Morning dawned and I set off for a 10km run – the furthest for more than 2 years – ambitious?  I had run 8km recently…  Directions from Kerstin and map ‘roughly’ in my head – off I ran through the forest – lovely with nice ups and downs.    Out of the woods (I had followed excellent trail markers) and on to the main road.  Hmmmm – no markers – nothing daunted, off I went following ‘the yellow brick road’ – slight exaggeration, dark asphalt road…..  Half hour later, I was sort of lost…. I could visualise K laughing – in her magnificent spa experience with Kerstin…  Thinks – “I must not phone for K directions unless desperate.”   Keeping to the main road, I knew (?) roughly where Kerstin’s village was….  Stopped to ask – and was pointed back in the opposite way!  I had now covered 8 km and was visualising 12 or 13 in total – not as planned… 

Back uphill, I spotted a left turn with some trees in the distance – could that be the woods I started in?  Took a chance – and hey Bisto (gravy?) – presto – it was the woods!!!  I dance around for joy and trotted home…….  Exactly 10 km and only 2 hours on the road. When the girlies returned, suitably pampered – I had consumed 4 bottles of zero alcohol beer!  A bit teedryated, you know! 

K:  As well as my medal, Kerstin reward me with an amazing morning in a Spa.  It was amazing.  Have I used that word?  Really amazing.  Lots of pools in and out, different temperatures and lots of massage jets.  The best massage area, had a light to tell you to move round to the next jet … they started on the feet and moved around different areas of the body.  My fav was the twin jets that hit each butt cheek?  Exercise posts, which we did attempt and then an hourly aqua aerobics … we managed one class.  We wandered into the Steam room and thought this was bit un hot or steamy.  A member of staff arrived, flicked a switch and poured some lemon into the central post.  Darkness followed by a ZEN light show as the temperature rose … and rose.  I think Kerstin aborted first and set off a wave of exodus.  I was one of the only 3 who stayed till the end … followed by a vocal cold shower.  To complete our chill out, we bobbed around one of the main pools floating on ‘poolnoodles’.  And all for EUR11 per person …. worth driving back here from miles away … truly amazeballs.  And I’d spotted a Gery Weber (clothes brand I and Mum like) outlet store.  So we stopped on the way home … 3 jeans and 3 tops later for all of EUR138 from the biggest Gery Weber store I’ve ever seen … I was a completely chilled and a happy bunny.  Oh, and I picked a voice mail from a lost James!

A quick lunch back at Kerstin’s and then we set off back for a wander around the discount shopping town – shoes for K and shorts for J!  Next destination – Rotweil – home of the barking variety …  late arrival at a convenient aire next to sports centre and close for town walks.   If we’d had the time, we would have stayed longer just to use the superb sports facilities – in and outdoor pools, climbing walls and tennis courts.

817 – Friday 25th August:  Rotweil Walk and Onto Belfort, France

Lots to see – K picked up a town walking tour – and ice cream too of the Tiramasu variety.  Nearby, the Krupps company had built a massive tower – for testing speedy elevators – 200 metres tall.  It has only just been topped out.  When it opens in October there will be a visitor info centre and a viewing platform.  We’ll definitely visit next time we are nearby as it really is an impressive structure with views.

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Spot the Rotweiller!

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Seriously pretty Rotweil.

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Lots of wrought iron signs to advertise the shops.

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The Krupps tower, still with a crane on top.

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 We lunched back at Jez and hit the road again. La Belle France welcomed us back – and into Belfort town. 

818 – Saturday 26th August: Belfort Walk and Mercey sur Soane 

The day followed a similar pattern to yesterday … a town walk.   Belfort has a massive Vauban fort and a sandstone lion that celebrates people repelling enemies.  A pretty town centre.  Then lunch back at Jez and then back on the road.

Our friend from Brizzle had invited us to stay for one night in Mercey near Besancon – gorgeous swimming pool (Kerstin – this pool was OK to use!!!) – hot day and straight in for a dip – after a welcoming libation…  BBQ and chilling on the veranda.  In the AM, the village was taken over for kart racing but they made room for us to drive through – huge thanks  – we’ll be back.   

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Another massive Vauban fort.

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An almond croissant for breakfast 🙂 

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The red sandstone lion was designed by the same architect as the Staue of Liberty, Bartholdi.  

819 – Sunday 27th August:  Driving South to Nice

Nicebound to see my daughter Sara and granddaughter Jade Scarlet….. 10 hours driving (longest since Portugal-Nice in march) and a welcome stop at Digne le Bains – large and crowded aire but just the ticket for the not-too-weary travellers….. Zzzzzzs.

Looked like it might be great place to buy our putative French home – but on enquiry – winter snow and lots of rain – not for us sun worshippers, though. 

Nice tomorrow to see S, G & J 🙂

795-797: Making the Most of our Dutch Museum Card

795 – Tuesday 1st August 2017: Edam and Vollendam

At 0930 hrs, we moved Jez to a free car park in Vollendam, as our free parking at the cheese and clog place likes the car park clear to attract the coaches and we oblige.  Os-car-trailer deployed – some barking resumed – horrendous crowds in Volendam and everything too expensive…there were ferryboat to Markham which we’d not cared for either – but quite pretty in a non-natural, catch the tourist kind of way.  We cycled to Edam which we did like – are we fussy? Yes.  And on our cheeses, not particularly!  Amazing merchant’s house with floating floor to compensate for the rises and falls of the water table. …  Our Dutch Museum card is saving us shed loads of Euros already. 

Our Amsterdam campsite was full to the ‘gunnels and pitches are very cosy – you need to be friendly with neighbours… nice German families on both sides.  BBQ and Zzzzs.

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Now the whole family imbibes Advocaat at Christmas … so when I saw a bottle in Lidl, I had to buy one.  Not the same as Warniks, that we get a home … so I read the label.  It may be 14%, but it is to be consumed with ice cream or used in cakes …. so I did … lovely with ice-cream 🙂  And only 14% – but still allowed on one of our dry days!

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Pretty Edam.

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Long beards was obviously a one time fashion statement … J’s comes off long before this.

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I’m in the floating cellar.  There are few still in existence in the Netherlands, but this is the only one open to the public.  To be expected, it moves as you move.  

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Short beds as people slept sitting up on pillows … they thought lying down too close to death.

795 – Wednesday 2nd August:  Amsterdam 1 – Walking Tour, 3 Churches and the Royal Palace

Our O-barkingK9 took us to the ferry “Across the Mersey” (Jerry and the Pacemakers 1962 – thought you oldies would know that one – Amelia, you’re too young!).   Across the ij river;  Amstel is further over – the Amstel beer is excellent – reminds me of ‘Hashing’ days in Amman – the “Hash House Harriers” – the worldwide drinking club with a running problem…

We did a walking tour with one other – an Italian girl, currently on an internship in Amsterdam – she was missing the art and splendour of Italy and of course, the food.  having spend 6 months in Italy, we could empathise.  Our guide was Leonard (History student) and he was full of fun anecdotes…  but a little disjointed in his delivery and a little short on depth.

The Red Light District was – hmmmm – interesting!   I tried to avert my gaze (partially successfully) from the ladies in the windows wearing ‘funderwear’ – but the industry is safe and well regulated – and no pimps!  The average time spent inside – for ‘business’ is 7-12 minutes!!!  It takes me that long to unfurl my umbrella (not speaking from experience!).  In holy Catholic Ireland in the ‘60s, we thought a condom was a salt and pepper ’thingy’…  Or was it a ‘fonduement, fun-damentally, lamentably or scandulously… we move on.  

The Museum Card again saved us money – the Neue Kerk, Oude Kerk, Royal Palace and the Attic Catholic Church… The post-Reformation liberal Dutch allowed catholics to practice their religion only in private homes – hence the ‘Attic Chapel’.  King Henry VIII would not have approved… 

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Can tell we are entering the red light district.  Wearing of comdoms is obligatory.

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Pavement art, but not much of a caress!

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Narrow tall buildings as land was expensive … a single flight of stairs is economical … a double flight indicated wealth.  The other main symbol of wealth were Tulip Bulbs – imported and traded at great expense until the market collapsed

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must’ve been difficult buying furniture for this window wide one!

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Former house name signs, until Napoleon decreed that all houses had to have numbers and street names.  Napoleon also forced people to adopt an official family name.  Many went for a word to describe with job, such as Farmer, but some reluctantly chose silly names such as NakedatBirth, which have endured until today!

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Wonder if his name is NakedatBirth … he did not drum up much custom … wonder if the unauthentic Calvin Kleins had anything to do with it?

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We went into the Beguinnes complex (Ghent had three such complexes), where single women and widows lived together and did good, mostly nursing, works.  In one of the chapels was this relic – the vomit of bread from a dying man that had not burned overnight when cleared up by one of the Beguines and thrown on the fire.

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The Royal Palace was formerly the Town Hall.  When Napoleon stuck his brother on the throne, Louis cast about for a suitable palace and had the rooms converted quickly into the palace.  The Empire furniture is the largest collection outside France.

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And the chandeliers were stunning.

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The Old Church was mostly used to bless ships and over 10,000 bodies are buried underneath.  Another Napoleon edict was to bury bodies outside the church.  Stunning organ.

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Slightly surreal art – gold blankets are often used to to shroud refuges after a sea crossing and they protect the tomb stones.

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Our Lord in the Attic.  Catholicism was officially banned but since 40% of the population were catholic, the authorities ignored what the eye can’t see.  Churches in houses were created, along with a confessional and accommodation for the Priest. Here the church spans three houses, the floor and roof raters cut away and iron rods inserted to pull it all together.  

796 – Thursday 3rd August:  Amsterdam Art Museums

K:  I’m taking over the text from here, as J is busy upstairs … stripping … wall paper … we are very behind with our blogging as we’ve had no time!  More anon.

Parking the bikes again, we crossed on the free ferry … a simple system where you walk to the front and then off the other end when it docks.  People, bikes and mopeds and we even saw a small car. Very efficient.

We caught the tram down to the museum quarter and took turns in the Van Gogh Museum.  It was very good at explaining Van Gogh’s influences and how his art developed, as well as including some of his peer’s work.  His brother funded Van Gogh and his brother’s widow then promoted Van Gogh’s work, as he had not been well known in his lifetime.  During our picnic lunch, I asked J if he had his museum card safe … oops we both turned our all his pockets.  Back in the Van Gogh Museum, J left his email address in case they found it.  So I only wandered into the Rijks Museum.  This again told the story of Dutch art, including more Van Gogh.  I saw Rembrandt’s The Night Watchman (not too keen), and some Vermeer (which I did like).  And some Delft, which seemed to be heavily influenced by Chinese design.

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The Rijks Meusum – very busy but more people seemed to be interested in having their pic taken on top of the large letters of I Heart Amsterdam.

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The Museum’s reference library – good to see it being used.

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In the evening we wandered back into town to watch a Gay Pride concert.  Most of the performers were notable for being drag artists rather than their singing skills, but there was a cracking 3 girl band who finally got the audience going a bit … we did not stay long after them.

797 – Friday 4th August:  Amsterdam – The Last Day

Amazing – James checked his email and the Van Gogh Museum had found his Museum card … we elected to take the bikes across the water and brave the Amsterdam city centre so we could get to pick up J’s card and then across to the Rembrandt House Museum.  Cycling was interesting … Oscar barking pretty much most of the time, trying to avoid other cyclists, pedestrians, trams and other vehicles.  Amazing we did not see, let alone participate in, any accidents, but they do travel quite slowly.  I managed to jam my wheel in a tram line and did a slow motion decent the the pavement … fortunately the Os-car is hinged to stay upright.  Just a minor scratch to my knee and more damage to my pride.

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Rembrandt used still life and a lot of artefacts to practice line drawing and then painting on.  He made his students also practice for years.

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At this time, artists had a palate of 12 colours, all from natural sources … the red and blues were very expensive.

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On my tour, I was lucky enough to watch a paint mixing demo – and have a go mixing on the big stone … the minerals were mixed with linseed oil and sometimes stored in pigs’ bladders.

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Part of the still life collection.

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View from the bench where we took turns – no hardship with this view.

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Gassan Diamonds was nearby, so again we took turns. The different carat, colour, clarity and cut were explained and we were shown some samples and stones set in rings … as we could handle them, I have my doubts that they were real.  The Gasson 121 cut has more cuts than the standard Brilliants … but knowing nothing about diamonds, lost on me …. I just liked the sparkle.

We then attempted to get into the top Amsterdam attraction – the Ann Frank House.  Whilst our Museum Card enabled us to queue jump in the other museums, no chance of it here.  On being told the queue was already over 2 hours, we cut our losses and cycled back to the ferry and the campsite.

We liked Amsterdam a lot and would happily come back and spend more time wandering the streets and some of the other museums, but not in the summer … far too busy!  

Our plans to explore a bit more of the Netherlands changed … we wanted some sun so we planned to head south.  My good friend Kerstin has just managed to evict some tenants, who had trashed the house … we offered our decorating services … so off to Engers, near Koblenz we shall go tomorrow.


Oscar’s Diary

Yes, it’s me, readers… how about a good old ‘whinge’ then…  Now my owners (bless their cotton sox) are quite ok – ‘gutenfolx’ in pigeon Dutch (another of my considerable lingua skills).  They bought this contraception – sorry (it’s that darn Led Right Mistrict) contraption – for me.  Did I ask them? No.  Did they consult me – No!  A fecking baby trailer, for ***** sake. Pardon my Dutch. They hooked it up to K’s bra – sorry, bike – and enticed me to go inside – with treats..  Ok, inside, they string me up by a harness and cycle off with me bouncing around trying to protect my ‘crown jewels’…  So, I bark – and get ignored!!!  

Back at home – shaken but not stirred – I have applied to join the French Foreign Legion – as a Welsh “Condomerie” – that’s a sort of ‘Colonel’ with sticky bits…  I can do the ‘Entente Condomriale’ with any little Klady… 

You haven’t heard the last of this ‘double Kentendre’, owners….

Dank U (Dutch, you see…)

Oscar

xx