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.




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 🙂

779-784: Popping to France and Belgium.

779 – Sunday 16th July 2017: Preparations

The big day has come – the start of Summer Euro 2017 (not footie) mini tour!  Finished laundrifying at Royal Rothbury, filled with LPG in Guildford and started to a wild camping spot on the coast near Folkestone. Well, the lanes got narrower and narrower (are we in Sicilia?) – several farm vehicles and no suitable sites – so, back to good old proper aire at Canterbury New Dover Road… and only £4.00.

Zzzzzs for the night./

780 – Monday 17th July:  And We’re Off

The train terminal was busy even without the school hols – this week to commence. La Belle France – joy – straight on to free motorways.  Robin and Kensey awaited (Oscar’s latest diary preempted this – he couldn’t wait…). K and R went to town and wined themselves (K:  Only 1 glass – a rather pleasant little Bourgone Aligote).  Supper – and evening saw 30+ motorhomes in situ!!!  Obviously the place to overnight close to Calais. 

781 – Tuesday 18th July:  Bearing Up in Bergues

Nice early run – trying to up the mileage (or kilometerage) – successfully…  Coffee in town and then R and Kensey left for Calais. So nice here, we decided to stay until tomorrow – knitting, reading and resting under the awning. Parfait!   Wouldn’t normal roll out the awning on an aire, but it was blinkin hot and quite a few had done so.  K even got the twin tub out … we will need to replenish our water soon.  So warm that the laundry all dried within hours. This sun is what we came for after the cold and blowy Scottish islands.

782 – Wednesday 19th July:  Popping into Poperinge  

Mini shop, diesel fill, an aire on the border with 100ltr water for ERU3, and off to Poperinge we popped to a nice compact and central car park that takes motorhomes for a max of 48 hours. This town is a the centre of a hop growing region and WW1 troop transit and field hospital areas.  We visited a local bar for Belgian beer (a new experience – the beer not the bar – we passed the ‘Bar’ exams years ago!). Are we “Baristas” or just old socks, sorry – soaks.  The Talbot House provided front line troops with a haven – a piece of home for a few days – chapel on the top level. The UK couple who volunteer there for short periods said that people have detected a ‘presence’ in the house occasionally – not surprising as many of the young men who visited never came back.

The local brewery museum was fascinating – hundreds of beer varieties – up to 12% alcohol by volume!!! 

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We took turns at the Hop Museum to hop (!) knob with the rather merry locals.

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The original building was the hop drying building.  The museum thoroughly explained the whole process using an audio guide.

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Talbot House:  Originally a private house, it was rented to provide a sanctuary for all soldiers, regardless of class or rank.  The strongest beverage served was tea.  The towns streets apparently were awash with drunken brawls and prostitutes.

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The Chapel up some steep stairs.

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The rear garden, which at times had soldiers sprawled everywhere.  A real sense of peace.  Tea and coffee served by volunteers, who also provide breakfast for overnight guests.

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Check out our different cafe choices!  Not a pang of regret on either side.

783 – Thursday 20th July:  Bopping in Poperinge

Walking in a town park, K spotted a notice for a party tonight in the same park – instant decision to stay an extra night – because we can!  Obligatory coffee in town square. The Chinese Labour Museum told the highly unusual tale of almost 95,000 Chinese labourers recruited by the British army to work in Belgium on the war effort – most evocative stories through original photographs. Now , we don’t really mind rain (San Sebastian, Gibraltar, et al) but it was a great excuse to shelter whilst having a good lunch and sampling some more Belgian socks – damn, that old soaks thing again – beer!   Wunderbar….

The Park Party was – incredible!  Loads of families – beer ,food and good chatting to locals – inspired by our gentle “hund” in Flemish – dog, Oscar. It was ever thus. Professional dancers led and taught many local couples in Swing, Lindy Hop, Waltz and Jive.  Again we commented how mad UK Health and Safety has gone.  Candles lit on table in jam jars, logs burning in open braziers and beer served in real glass!  We left at 1030-ish still in some daylight.

We are really coming around to the Belgian people – lots have been extremely friendly and helpful and they are super dog friendly … Oscar is allowed in museums!  One local lady gave a recommendation to visit the Trappist Monastery – makers of world class beer – and holy men too!  That’s our destination sorted for tomorrow then!

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Mister Ghylbe satirising the long standing cloth wars with Ypres, Ghent and Brugges – riding a donkey backwards with spoons for spurs.

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Quite sleepy now and hard to envisage all the troops marching through.

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We saw the jail where rowdy soldiers were incarcerated with their graffiti carved onto the walls.  It also was the place of the last night for 4 soldiers who were executed in the square of the town hall.  Overall 3,080 British soldiers were sentenced to death during WW!, but ‘only’ 346 executions took place.  90% of them have since been pardoned with posthumous apologies to families.  600 men were executed by the French (not sure of this includes the 2 random men shot per regiment when they refused to advance after the awful losses at Verdun), only 48 German and 750 Italians.  No recorded executions for the Australian army as they so not use it as a form of military punishment.  Many of the deserters were put back with their regiments, who were unsympathetic.  77% of the executed soldiers were for desertion.  Other crimes were cowardice (5%), mutiny, insubordination, falling asleep on your watch, throwing away your weapon and striking a superior officer.

This poem translates as:

Light, bleak dawn.

The worn out night bursting open in my chest and fading.

My hands holding the glass –my last one.

The priest bringing his God, the doctor his opiates.

Mother of God.

Out there she’s warming her feet against the coal.

Out there she’s turning in her sleep.

Do not aim at me, lads.

Aim at the white cloth on my chest.

Light, bleak light etching words, bare words in the wall.        Erwin Mortier

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This was the actual wall.  We only knew this as we ear wigged a knowledgable English chap doing a tour for some friends.  He’d served and lost friends in Afghanistan, been a policeman in Guildford and now worked for United National Peace Keeping.  

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Back to beer as an aperitif … comparing Blonde and Brun Leffe.

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Our own Strictly Come Dancing – they got quite few folk up learning steps.

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Some locals were in shorts and a light jacket … J and I, from more Northern climes, had full winter layers.  Oscar coming up for a tummy rub!

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No, it’s a full sit on.

784 – Friday 21st July:  Must Taste – Best Beer in the World

We visited the Lijssenhoek Military Cemetery and we were immediately saddened to see the grave memorials – from age 19 to 42 years young. So many lives lost in this “War to end all Wars’ – did it? No, tragically. A modern visitor centre with audio witness accounts … very moving.  A famous war poem comes to mind…

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

we will remember them.”        Robert Laurence Binyon

We arrived at a brand new aire in Westvleteren near the above recommended Saint Sixtus Abbey Trappist Brewery/Monastery…..  Euro12 with electric is reasonable value – highly recommended, as only 1.9km from the beer.  We supped prime Trappist beer at the Cafe across the road from the Monastery – the Brewery and Monastery are closed visitors. They only brew enough beer to support themselves, and yet the 10.2% proof version is in high demand having been voted the best beer for several years.  It is only sold commercially the the cafe or via the small shop there.  Today the shop had signs up “No beer for sale today” and reading Trip Advisor, you have to be quick when it is available as queues form quickly. If you really want to buy some, you can ring the hot line, but the monks only answer it occasionally and book for months ahead to come to the gate to collect your two cases limit. 

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11,800 + graves.

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Some countries repatriate their fallen .. French gaps on the left.

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Only 6 breweries in Belgium brew Trappist beer and it has to be on the premises.  Bottles are unlabelled, but the caps are colour coded and contain legal information.

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J went for the blond and I threw cation to the wind and went for the Westvleteren 12 … 33 ml bottles so equivalent to a third of a bottle of wine.

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Spotted a Belgian Welshie … we saw another one in Ypres, but he went for Oscar … must be a breeding nest of them nearby.

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On the camper stop, steps made out of the beer crates.

679-693: Travelling North and the First Birthday Party

A very late post …. lost our internet 10 days short of returning to the UK and then, somehow, we’ve been amazingly busy!

679 – Wednesday 5th April 2017:  Driving Day

We hadn’t driven all day – since we flitted from Portugal to Nice…. 8 hours travelling – and a nice aire in Cusiance – near where we had stayed before on our way home, this time last year.  Met a motorhome neighbour….  Now, when a young lady meets a nice Swedish man – what does she say, eh?  Obviously – in fluent Swedish – “I’m drunk and I love you”!!!  K seemed taken aback when his hands suddenly became more tactile…. and her Swedish wasn’t that fluent, either… I wasn’t impressed.  Perhaps, that’s the direct line Oscar should try with Kensey?  K’s excuse was that she learned it from some sailors?  I wanted a Harry Potter wand – to turn the Swedish man into – a tartcitron with extra mushypeas – deepfried!  

A quiet night…..

680 – Thursday 6th April:  Langres

Driving for a few hours, we stopped for lunch at an aire in Langres…  A Dutch van parked alongside us (a bit close) – they appeared tone a bit taciturn….  However, quite understandably so – when we saw they unloaded a completely shredded rear tyre – and the chap closely inspected their spare which he had fitted. We picked up some of the local cheese – orange skin  and the lady in the shop gave me some paper bags so it could breathe … nice.

We walked the walls around the town and thought it a pleasant town.  We drove on a France Passion vineyard … with views over fields, including one with Llamas, one sheep and one goat!  Peaceful and on an Oscar walk, I discovered that the town housed the country retreat and museum to Charles de Gaulle.

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With M. Didier – something to do with encyclopedias.

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All that remains of the funicular, as Langres is built on a rocky promontory.

681 – Friday 7th April:  Vet Day

We contemplated visiting the de Gaulle museum etc, but at EUR16 and with limited time to us, we declined.  Met Robyn and Kensey in a car park very close to the centre of Troyes.  We wandered and imbibed several glasses of Chablis with Robyn.  Oscar had his first visit with a non-English vet.  A thorough examination and prescribed the worming tablets required for the pet passport.  My vet had said that he should not have a certain type as they contained a medicine already in his Advantix or Advocate …. I tried to get the vet to give him Droncit, which I knew was OK, but no go.  Fortunately he gave me the tablets to give to Oscar with food later that evening.  Completely against the rules, but I was able to ring my UK vet practice and verify if this particular tablet was OK for him to take.

Robyn had identified a Sport Centre parking just on the outside of Troyes, which was a lot quieter than the city centre car park would have been on a party night.

 

682-683 – Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th:  Moving North – Another Shangri-La 

Robyn, again identified another superb aire at Mareuil le Port.  Not on most of the apps, just as well or it would have been over run!  A park next to the river.  The motorhome bays had their own water and concrtete patio area.  As well as electric for those of us that parked where it worked.  So lovely we decided to stay two nights – Robyn longer.  Robyn started hand washing, so I got the old twin tub out and was guilted into doing a load of ours too.  Perfect sunshine and a gentle breeze for drying the washing and us being outside pretty much all the time.  J lost a bet over when the Sicilian earthquake devastated the SE corner … 1693 is now engrained on his memory!  Consequece for J was to get the ladder out and clean the road kill on the from to Robyn’s van!  We had a ‘slight’ incident where I slammed j’s hand in Jez’s door.  Bearing in mind we have to really REALLY slam it, I was convinced all the bones in his fingers were crushed to a powder.  The neighbouring French motorhomers shot out with some magic Arnica cream and J did not have bruising or swelling.  I’ve bought some now, for the next time I try to damage him!  BBQ both nights.

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Foot care! 

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Amazing Pitches.

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Kensey basking in the sun.  Oscar finds the shade … they are so incompatible!

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Pilates class … who is absent?  That would be the photographer!  Oscar tied up or he would try to join in ….

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… he seemed to derive much enjoyment just watching … little perv!

684 – Monday 10th: Bergues for an Overnight

A longish drive up north and we overnighted at Bergues, just 35 mins from the Tunnel.  Far enough away from trouble and really quiet.  I took Oscar for a walk around the Vauban fort and walls and then into the town centre.  Being British, I was all bagged up to poop scoop by one of the outer paths, to be told, most insistently, by locals that it really was not necessary to pick up not in towns.  J struck up a conversation with our Belgian neighbour who told him that he had fought in the war and was on his way Normandy in his motorhome to meet up with some surviving members of his regiment.  Just how old would this have made him?  Almost 90 at least!

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Bergues.

685 – Tuesday 11th:  Back to Blighty and with the Reads

Early for our tunnel crossing as slightly anxious about how long the Pet Reception area would take.  In the event, it was super quick and we caught an earlier train.  We did not experience the sinking feeling we had this time last year … the sun shone and the M25 behaved!!!!  We parked up straddling Ian and his neighbour’s drive (they kindly move out and we pay motorhome parking rent in the form of a bottle of whence became).  A great evening, only marred by the fact that Nicky’s father really was not well.  Got to watch Robot Wars with Jimmy …. forgot how much I used to enjoy it.  

686 – Wednesday 12th:  Sinead and Shane

Ian and Jimmy were off to Barcelona the next day, so we took Jimmy for a blowy walk along the sea shore and for a muffin and hot chocolate in Rusty … Ian could pack and still deal with work (he works from home).  We then legged it to Farnham to Coxbridge Farm, where we stay near my family home.  We collected the car from the Aged P’s on the way and then battled our way up the M3, M25 and cut across W London to Ealing.  It all felt incredibly built up and busy.  just where do all these people come from?  Our destination was to dine with J’s baby daughter and partner, Shane in their new flat.  

687 – Thursday 13th:  Supper with the Aged P’s

We sorted out the rest of the garage and lugged a LOT of stuff back over to the Aged P’s for storage in their attic.  We now have room for the bikes 🙂  It will be interesting to see how oscar copes with us on bikes!  The former Welshie, Will, knew to avoid wheels and when I called him to heel, would run around the back of my bike and trot along bedside my left foot.  Somehow, I am in no doubt, that Oscar is not going to be so bike friendly.

I cooked at Rothbury for the Aged P’s and since we were sampling the Portuguese Moscatel that I’d squirrelled away (had buried it deep in the garage so we were not tempted to drink it when our own supplies ran out) and the Rasteau from the France Passion Cotes de Rhone vineyard we’d stayed on, we stayed the night.

688 – Friday 14th:  Supper with Caroline and Terry

Another boozy night with food away!   It started with a bottle of proper Champagne to celebrate J’s forthcoming BIG birthday.  We started the night here too!

Their No. 1 Daughter is Maddy’s bestie and they had news of the intimidation and bullying that goes on for freshers on the Uni Hockey Tour to Croatia.  She had been forced to eat and drink all sorts of obnoxious concoctions, including the pee of one of the lads …. Just horrid.  Given how much anti bullying education goes on in school, it is just incredible that they are all too intimidated to speak up.

689 – Saturday 15th:  Meeting the NEW Boyfriend

Maddy (she now spells her name Madi) and Brad came to supper.  Their friends have dubbed them Bradi!  We really liked him.  They’ve known each other a few years and he seems to have the measure of how she will wind him up when she’s bored!

690 – Sunday 16th:  Cooking and a Turkey Easter Supper

I spent most of the day food prepping at the Aged P’s.  So that I could use her kitchen, Mutt moved her food prep to Clare and Chris’ house.  Cx2 have, for the second Easter running, been tow path support crew for Louis who was competing in the Devizes to Westminster rowing race.  The competitors have to camp and prepare their own food in the evening.  The support crews, literally wedge food in them as they pass by, but it means very early starts and a lot of driving.  Hence Mutt cooking an Easter meal at Clare’s.  J and I have not had a proper turkey dinner for 2.5 years … just scummy.

691 – Monday 17th:  BIG Party No.1

We had a great evening with some England based friends for the first of J’s 70th birthday parties.  The raffle, where you can steal what someone else has was fun … with people hunting down the whisky, port and the camper van mug.  The BBQ sauce bottle nearly ended up with Clare – she did keep offering it around.  Madly, so busy I forgot to take any pix. 😦

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Besties Maddy and Dayna – besties and their youthful mothers!

Frances and Edward gave J two hedgehogs … we named the Van Jez, which is Slovenian for Hedgehog (so named after it’s brand Adria Sonic Supreme – Sonic the hedgehog.  We’ve named these two Jez and Belle … Jezebel.

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Jezebel.

692 – Tuesday 18th: Cleaning

Thank goodness for dishwashers!  And I had forgotten (put it from my mind) how long it takes to clean a proper house, and we only cleaned a few rooms!  Think we’ll stick with a motorhome.  No garden either!!!

693 – Wednesday 19th:  Warranty Work

Our list of Jez faults, included a dodgy step, no hob ignition, a leaking kitchen sink, no rear view / reversing camera and some smaller items such as bits of trim falling off.  An early start and down to Family Tavel Centre in Bristol for the repairs.  Nearly all completed and at no charge :).  Having walked Oscar in Stoke Park for the best part of 2 hours, we left him in the car whilst we shopped till J dropped!  I then carried on – buying something pretty much from each floor in John Lewis!

Then over to Stephen and Kay for a lovely tapas / grazing supper.  They are really pleased with their new motorhome – an 8m AutoTrail …. I have storage envy!  

We had booked to stay in Bristol for a few days, but the doctor had rearranged J’s over 70 DVLA for tomorrow and I was off on a TRIP!  Barcelona with Maddy – Ola!

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Stoke Park with the Dower House in the distance … we lived next to it for 3 months.

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Pleased to be back in time for the bluebells.