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 


789-794: Os-Car goes Mobile

789 – Wednesday 26th July 2017:  Doggy Ride

Oscar’s new bike trailer!  K did some research and for good quality and mid price dog bike trailer.  We do not tow a car or have a moped … just bikes or our legs.  In some countries dogs are not allowed on public transport, so getting around can be quite limiting if we park some distance from a site or don’t want to move Jez.  We are thinking about buying E- Bikes to extend our range, but at £1500+ each, we need to be absolutely sure that Oscar is happy in a trailer.  Anyway – DoggyRide came out tops.  We made contact with the European office in Holland – the owner is Dutch but lives in the States.  We went for a Novel 10 – it is aluminium so weighs in at 15kgs with the extras:  soft memory foam cushion (only the best for O), a kickstand and cargo rack.  The choice was also influence a little by the orange colour to match his fur, lead and collar!  

What can we say?  Well, he will have a lot to say – not all good, though…. Euro400 is worth it – and he slept happily there on day 1 – but…. on the road, his barking is – well – loud and incessant!!!  Any motion and he’s off again … it does stop after about an hour.  More anon – we will travel (as always) hopefully – in Oscardillacville.   Every time we return to the bikes and Os-car he bounds right up to rear and happily hops in to be rewarded by a treat … he is a real greedy boy.  Wish he could understand that his options are limited … stay home alone or come with us and travel in the Os-car along roads.

BBQ in the evening…  Wonderful cycle tracks – great for running.

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Stage 1 of becoming accustomed going well.  He was happy to sleep in it to.

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790 – Thursday 27th July 2017:  Houten

Houten is a large and modern.  We reckon every building was under 20 years old.  However, as we cycled in we spotted a small market.  K managed to NOT buy some of the wool … she has enough for about 4 projects stored!  We did buy a few cycle items … a high pressure pump, a rear view mirror and a kick stand for K’s bike  … Oscar – the bills associate with you are mounting up!

A small lunch out and local beer, again!  And we followed the signs to the old town … we think we found it, but is only amounted to a small square.  With so many cycle tracks, we managed an involuntary detour the long way home!  At least it was flat.

 

791 – Friday 28th July 2017:  Waterlinie Museum and Bunnik

As we said, the Os-car is a work in barkness (not darkness).  We cycled and O ran most of the way as it was off road to the fort which houses the Waterlinie Museum.  This is one of the most unusual and best we’ve visited. Interactive, informative about how Holland used water to defend the country for a few hundred years, successfully until WW2.  We took turns in the museum or had a coffee in the newly opened bar.  Lovely chap with the student running it; interestingly he’s studying security and safety in the contact to urban planning.  Couldn’t do enough to be helpful, free crisps and offered to top up coffee.  Another nice experience.

We bought some more cycle bits in the main town – I cannot remember the context but K used the word “cycle logical” for one bike bit!!!   

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Newish interactive museum inside a Water Line fort … yep we go through that crack.

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The enemy are attacking.  Which polders will you flood?

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The threat of the flooding also preserved the Netherlands neutrality in WW1 – A report from a few years before stated that once the water line was flooded, the rich west was impenetrable.

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These different characters told their side of the water line story using projected faces.  The easterners were not allowed to relocate to the west but their lands were flooded, even in practice.

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The best bit – you were flown up over the landscape and shown it in its agricultural state and then flooded.  Loved it.

792 – Saturday 29th July 2017:  Huizen

Free Aire.  We walked along front – all suburbia and completely devoid of people – at a weekend in summer!  Alan – a lovely man we met (American and converted Dutchman) said they’re all in Espana, chasing the sun … which is where we should be!   We gave up trying to find a town centre.  Not somewhere to put on your must visit list!

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The boats are here, but WHERE is everyone and the town centre?

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Nothing for it, but the obligatory drink stop.  A baby shower going on behind us. 

793 – Sunday 30th July 2017:  Naarden

Sunday – we both ran early – I managed to get my distance up to 7K – best since the Severn Bridge a month ago – improving… 

We loaded up the Os-car and cycled towards Naarden. Sunny to start – then the heavens opened with almost ‘Gibraltar-esque’ heavy rain (24hr stair rods). We were quickly soaked through and sought refuge in a restaurant – much to the amusement of staff and patrons!  K gave me her nice girly t-shirt and I posed suitably…  (K:  Bless, didn’t want my man catching a chill!).  A light lunch turned into two courses, as we spotted the dessert served at another table:  J just had to try hot apple pie, cinnamon with ice cream and cream … K did a taste test.  And we dried off mostly… Back on the trail and – warm sun emerged! 

We purchased the Museum Card, which gives us free access to about 400 museums in the Netherlands for EUR60 for a year.  K had done a costing and with Amsterdam coming up in a few days, it will be worth it.  The fort museum was a bit uninteresting and all in Dutch – and we would have voted it not worth the money at EUR 9pp, but somehow with the museum card it counts as free!  This was another case of where the card reader will not take anything but a Dutch debit or credit card.  So far our cards have been rejected at a campsite, restaurants, the Doggyy Ride place and now a national museum.  We are having to use an ATM every few days, making us more conscious of our spending!  The fort goats were quite  interested in Oscar, who was allowed in.  The town centre very pleasant – and with a few people here although mostly tourists.  And a beer stop… The main church in town has a fascinating timber roof and the Town Hall is worth a look.

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Suits you!  All J needed was a medallion!  Or boobs!

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Naarden fort. 

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It is star shaped and surrounded by a twin layer of moat and canal.

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Hey you orange dog.  You looking at me? …

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…You still interested?  Got me mates to back me up!

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The Town hall

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The great church had a super painted nave.

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Funny little green men.  We’ve seen a lot of these … even families have them outside their homes for when the children are playing.  Good idea. 

794 – Monday 31th July 2017:  Markham

A very late start as K read till 2.30 a.m.!  We drove to Markham – too touristy and prices to match (EUR7 for 2 hours parking!).  Pretty wooden houses and surrounded by water and connected to the mainland by a long causeway.  A quick visit and Oscarwalk, then off again.

Our overnight stay – in the car park of a local “Clog and Cheese” emporium near … Edam – lovely!  A quick tour explained how the cheese was made, lots of gifts to buy and a cheese tasting.  See K as buxom Dutch lady! (K:  I wish … buxom that is!).  So many clogs – and so much cheese – edible purchases, naturally!  10 van as of 7:00 pm – and still squeezing in… early evening sunshine, too.

J took O for an early evening walk and he came back green!  Oscar that is.  O had either assumed that he could walk on water or that the green on top of a drainage ditch was grass!  Oops.  Apparently J had to help pull him out as he was in shock!  He got a good rubbing down before he was allowed back in the van. 

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Markham:  Seriously busy and touristy.  Car park EUR3 per hour!!!

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Mark:  Clog Tree.  Outside a clog shop – selling clogs at EUR60-70 – we saw them later for EUR35.

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Markham:  Pretty wooden houses.  Though so squeaky and immaculate they could be UPVC rather than wood.

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Gosh, I’ve put on a few lbs here!   The cheese and clog maker allows Motorhomes to park overnight in his car park, so here we are!

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Cheeses are left to mature at room temperature.  We tasted a fair few and came away with an Edam (I know!!!, but it tastes so much better than what you buy at home … Edam is a style of cheese not a geographic area) and a cumin Gouda.

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Clog City.

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Not my size!  Tried some on and found them quite hard to walk in.

787-788: Going, Going, Gent

787 – Monday 24th July 2017:  Ieper and onto Gent

The Lone Tree cemetery included Irish graves – we were nominally neutral but thousands enlisted in Irish regiments. The Pool of Peace was mad from a large crater – best use….

Onwards to Ghent (Gent in Flemish) and a convenient riverside free parking. Short reccce into town – and coffee of course!

Lovely evening – sans alcohol (!) and some rain overnight. The forecast for all this week was dire – but it’s improving as we speak.   

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A final cemetery – The Lone Tree with mostly Irish graves.

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The Pool of Peace created in a … crater.

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Wall art – wonder if this lad attended this school ….

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… I’d like to have taught there!

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More wall art – possibly with live inhabitants.

788 – Tuesday 25th July 2017:  Walking Gent

Am – no running – slept a bit late – and a full visit to Gent – our tour guide (unpaid – except for lunch and ice cream – lots) was K.  Quite similar to Bruges but bigger (third largest city in Belgium) and much more to see.  A definite good visit.  The TIC turned up trumps as usual and self guided walking tour commenced. O was the normal focus of attention (can I disguise myself as a Welshie – I could learn to bark?).  We are now getting used to dodging bikes – O will take a bit longer to train….

Lots of photos – and I do know about babies, K – mine were all delivered after 9 months by the stork and placed carefully under a medium sized cabbage leaf – so there!!!   

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Gent is a low motorised zone, except for bikes.

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St Michael’s Bridge with views whichever direction you face.  

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Selfie on the bridge, but my arms are not on enough and I will NOT buy a selfie stick!

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A massive stage straddling the water is just coming down after the Gent Festival.  Every street has tents, stages and litter being cleared away – must have been some party!

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The Belfry and the Cloth Hall … much smaller than the one in Ieper.

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Statue of Jacob van Artevelde in Vrijdagmarkt:  leader and politician 1290-1345 he led the insurgents and undid the boycott of English wool imports.  He is not testing for rain but pointing to his ally England.  Despite his popularity, he was murdered in his home by the head of one of the rich weavers.  The square has been a market place and place of executions; the last being in 1822.

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The lamp post lights up every time there is a birth in Gent … J wanted to wait – he has no idea how long labour may take, despite 4 children!

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Looking across to Graslei – originally warehouses and wharves.  Some of the buildings lean in to aid the hosting of grain and wool.

785-786: Ieper – Their Name Liveth Forever

785 – Saturday 22nd July 2017:  Walking Tour and Menin Gate

A nice walk took us to Ypres centre – we booked on a 5:30 pm guided tour on foot. K explored the excellent Flanders Field Museum whilst O and I supped juice and coffee and the passing Ypresians admired our noble “Hund” (in Flemish).  K returned from Outer Space (Oscar says).  The walking tour was amazing “Ypres Mysteries” and the photos show his itinerary – he told good stories – including when a group of tourists had to crawl through a small tunnel (150 metres) to appreciate the Ipresian river – and the lights failed!!!  The lights failure has now become local folklore and has been incorporated into the tours!  At the end, we visited the “Ice House” below the city ramparts – to demonstrate the acoustic our host sang “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.

The “Last Post” ceremony at the Menin Gate was the most emotional moment for us since we visited the Normandy Landings sites 3 years ago – not a dry eye in the house of hundreds..Wreaths were laid by people including a soldier – veteran of WW2 – another “War to end all Wars”.  Have we learned – again – from history?  There’s no answer, really…

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In Flanders Field Museum:  Traces the events of WW1 well.  Explains horses to mechanisation, trench and tunnel construction,  use of new of ‘weapons’ such as flame throwers and gas, medical developments such as blood transfusions and of course the lack of effective movement of the front line.

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Oscar’s a la carte dinner …. off the ground … he did not seem to mind!

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Entrance to the Fish Market.  The sculptor took the theme of the old sculpture, but used the chap from the local swimming baths for his Neptune model and a placid horse which became quite feisty after a bucket of beer.

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During the re-modelling of the town in the late C19, the tax collector could only have a tiny office, so doors and stairs took up most of this space.

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The signs for military cemeteries everywhere, in town and out.  Most have British names as this was the mostly British Front; the Belgians being north and the French south.

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Part of the Menin Gate.  55,000 names of missing in combat engraved on the walls.  I spotted a Leslie (my maiden name).

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The Last Post came from the right hand side.  Whilst a choir sang, families (front bottom) walked up and laid wreaths on the opposite steps.

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Whilst we had supper, we were blest with a rainbow.  A beautiful end to a mixed emotion day.

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Our lap dog being fed water.

786 – Sunday 23rd July:  Cycling WW1 Sites

“The time has come – the walrus said – to speak of things – and cabbages and kings”  Well, the time had come to go family cycling with our ‘king Oscar!  Bikes at the ready – my back tyre was as flat as –  canbake…  Our pump was banjaxed – but a Welsh speaking family came to the rescue – and off we set…After some initial O-wobbling did not manage to unseat K, we sallied forth.  To a WW1 crater site – good museum but too much to take in.  Lovely lunch at the cafe though and to an open air museum with original trenches and a pill box.  Hills 60 and 62 are all stark reminders of the little advances and withdrawals…   

So many soldiers graves without names but “Soldiers of the Great War – Known to God”.  

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Hooghe Crater.

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Hooghe Crater Cemetery.

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In the region of 3,600 men buried here with no named grave, I saw one grave stone with 4 soldiers, then 5 and then 6.

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A Canadian memorial on top of Hill 62.  Even thought Flanders is largely flat, it is not until you are on top of one of the rises, you realise how strategically important they were.

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Hill 60 was bought up by a British family just after the war and kept as it was … the ground was uneven from the mortars and thousands of men are still buried underneath.  

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Back from our bike ride and I got the twin tub out again and the sun shone on the laundry 🙂