864-874: Provence Pligrimmage to Germany

865 – Saturday 14th October 2017:  Onto Castellane

A short drive to Castellane and into a paying aire.  All of EUR 6.50 for 24 hours but free services and right on the edge of the town.  We had a wander through the small old town.  The helpful lady in the TIC confirmed my suspicions that cycling the Gorges du Verdon with the Os-car would be dangerous and stressful.  We did this as a drive some years ago in our Bongo, and it was a magnificent drive, but not to be repeated this trip.  She suggested a quieter route to the lake just north of the town with an area where we could let Oscar run free.  That’s the plan for tomorrow then.

We walked up the path to the chapel on top of the rock … some nice views of the valley, but nothing special.  At the top there were three sets of dogs all on the leads – each one growled at Oscar who was loose.  I’d left the lead with James part way up, and bless, my boy behaved perfectly and came when called and sat by me as I admired the views.  He can pull it out of the bag when necessary.  But I am sure in a couple of instances the owners were transferring their own anxiety to their dogs … one daughter tried to convince her father that the dogs were friends … they may well have been given half a chance!

 A glass of wine (or two) and an ice cream and then back to Jez to sit on our riverside pitch enjoying the sun and the mountain views.  Life is good.

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The Chapel on the Rock over looking Castellane.

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Views form the top.

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866 – Sunday 15th October:  Abortive Ride in Favour of Lunch

OK, so we had a plan – clean the inside of Jez (badly needed doing as possibly 3+ weeks since we’d done anything but the floor!) followed by the bike ride.  But then our mood changed.  We’d worked hard cleaning Jez, the sun is shining and it is Sunday lunchtime!  A walk into town just to see if we can find a reasonably priced lunch.  OK – we found lunch, but not the reasonably priced bit.  My Aged P’s laugh at us, that we state we are on a budget, but then coffee, ice creams and lunches seem to feature quite heavily on the blog.  The set menu was EUR27 for 3 courses; all very good, but the star was J’s caviar of aubergine with an anchovy cream.  A post lunch wander back to sit in the sun on our river bank pitch.  Life is indeed good!

 

867 – Monday 16th October:  With the Family

Anyone who knows us, will be aware that we have a 7 month saga of trying to get J his C1 post 70 years old licence.  He rang the DVLA and …. woohoo it has been posted.  The Aged P’s are due back from France tomorrow and can post it onto Kerstin in Germany.  Time to start planning to head that way.  But hold!  We are only a few hours away from Sarah and family in Biot and we don’t know when we will see them again … time to head for a quick stop to see them?  So we headed, via a supermarket shop to stock on on French specific items, back down to Biot and stayed over night outside their house.  Really lovely to have one final evening with them.

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Jade with ‘da rudder’.

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I haven’t done this for a loooong time!

868 – Tuesday 17 October:  What and Amazing Spot

We considered driving a different route to Reutlingen, Germany … through Italy and then north through Switzerland, along Lake Constance.  I investigated the Swiss road vignette … was it just motorways, which we could avoid?  No it is for class 1 and 2 roads.  OK … how much?  A no go … since we are 3.5+ tons, we cannot buy a standard vignette, but need to register our vehicle and then pay per kilometre.  A lot of hassle and cost for an overnight stay.  Switzerland must loose out on tourists not prepared to pay or deal with the hassle.  Back up through France it is then.

We stopped at an aire on a lake just south of Grenoble in a place called Treffort.  The aire is part of a leisure complex, including boats, and charges EUR10 for an overnight stay.  We nearly didn’t stop as we balked at the price for a quick overnight stop especially when we did not need the services.  We were tired though and asked another motorhome where to find the pay machine …. free out of season.  The other 5 vans were all hooked up to the free electric – we don’t consider it worth it for a one nighter.  Amazingly this area gets hardly a mention in our guide books, but the mountains are stunning, especially with the evening sun on the Autumn russets and golds.  This is a gem of a spot and definitely on our must come back to.  Must be a lucky spot, as I took Oscar out for his late night ‘opportunity’ and saw not one, but two shooting stars.  J has since read that Halley’s Comet is currently shedding debris, but how lucky am I?

Now I must mention supper … I had to attempt to recreate J’s starter of caviar of aubergine with anchovy cream.  It was not the same, but it was bloody good.  I really should start a recipe section on the blog.

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Inspired by fellow motorhomer Dan’s favourite socks, which a friend knitted him … thought I’d have a go too.  Managed not to drop stitches with knitting on the round and amazingly it came out sock shaped!  Just it’s pair to knit now.

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Our most stunning overnight spot.

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Should have taken the pix when we arrived and the sun was in the Autumnal hills.

869 – Wednesday 18th October:  

Another driving day, but we got just past Besancon:  Note to self … use the motorway to bypass it as it was very slow driving through it.  We stopped, once we found the right place at a free aire in Montebeliard … the original GPS coordinates were plain wrong, the second, close enough but not quite and then, thank you Wild Camping POIs – we got there in the end.  I was starting to have a hissy fit from being tired and hungry when J spotted the 4 dedicated spaces, and we squeezed ourselves in and had a thrown together ‘chef’s salad’ as it was quick!

 

870 – Thursday 19th October:  Onto Reutlingen

I texted Kerstin giving her the option that we could arrive tonight or tomorrow lunchtime … she is a Uni Prof with a stupid work load and strong work ethic!  Come tonight, as no lectures / meetings tomorrow.  We park up in a bit os spare land a couple of hundred metres from her house.  We could stay in her ‘guest apartment’ on the top floor, but we prefer our own bed.  The spot of land is used by some of the residents for parking but is destined to built on to house Syrian refuges.  Now, why is it these residences are generally for young men only?  Where are the women and children.  A village near Kerstin’s other house in Engers had the village population more than double due to the refugees … how is this integration?  Enough politics.

We had a great local walk as it really is quite rural here with some lovely views.  Supper in Kerstin’s downstairs kitchen (she has 3! Don’t ask how many loos!!) in front of the log burner.  🙂

 

871 – Friday 20h October:  Rottweil Towering

When we left here in August we headed to Rottweil, a pretty old town known for its painted buildings and iron shop hangers.  A new feature, not open in August, is the Thyssen Krupps lift tower.  It had just been topped out when we saw it before but now it is open to the public.  

A few facts:

  • 2640 tons of steell
  • 3.6 m progress per day
  • 246m highest visitor platform in Germany
  • 21m diametre
  • 16,000m2 tefloncoated self cleaning glass fibre fabric around the outside
  • 15 mins is the time the fastest employee took to climb the 1617 steps
  • 30 secs for the visitor lift
  • 12 shafts for lift testing
  • 1.5km of shaft
  • 18m/sec the fastest test escalator, about 65 km/hour
  • 240 tons active mass damper to balance wind forces
  • unique simulation to make the tower sway to mimic extreme conditions in which to test the lift.
 
Kerstin and I went up the tower first leaving Katherine with Oscar. Superfast elevator to viewing platform – immense views 360 degrees – I expected some wind movement – but nil – hence the success of the damping mechanisms…..
 
Kerstin stayed and I let K join her at the top – it’s over 800 feet in old money!  Incredible feat of German engineering – a world beater, definitely.  A brief walk around Rottweil, coffee, ice cream, of course – and back to base HQ.

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The cladding is the fibre glass self cleaning fabric just going on.  Quite a few worker abseilers.

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View from the top.

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The almost see through glass fibre mesh.

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A very small old prison in the centre of Rottweil, has a football captive!

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Perhaps this double tower was a forerunner of the Thyssen Krupps lifts?

872 – Saturday 21tst October:  Biking to Tubingen

The e-bikes reappeared – Kerstin borrowed one from her Uni – a quiet Os-car (mostly) and we sailed the short distance to Tubingen sedately. A lovely and lively town – world famous university. Lunch by the river in a busy restaurant – it was peak time – I had a local beer and K’s had wine.  We discovered that there is/was a Mr Alzheimer who studied in the town – medical science owes him a lot.  And Friedrich Miescher who discovered nucleic acids. A leafy park (the Autumn leaves are really falling, now…) and a magnificent building completely covered in street art/graffiti…   Another splendid day in Germany!

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The pretty old town.

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The waterside restaurant where we had lunch later.  Spot the punt – reminiscent of Cambridge?  

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History has not been changed here … this statue was allowed to remain even though it is is of a composer whose works were later adopted by the Nazi Party.

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The lab within the castle and part of the university where Miescher worked. 

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View down to the old town hall.

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So lovely to not be tour guide for once!

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The main town square.

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You can just make out the Os-car and our bikes were very safe … it takes 20 mins to fix all the locks.

 

873 -Sunday 22nd October:  A Chocolate Pilgrimage

Yesterday, it was 18C and nicely warm – today dawned at 6C and never got above “very cold” – I know – we’re softies these days, chasing the sun around Euroland…  Yesterday’s cycle ride was about 14k – today was to be approx 60k!!!   Extra layers of clothing – and my Orkney wooly hat was packed – it very soon made it from the saddle bag to my head!   K worm cashmere tights under her trousers.  Forest trails, uphill and down dale – thank goodness for the e-bikes for that extra power – more excellent German engineering… We reached the Ritter Sport chocolate factory (nobody called ‘Charlie’ there, though) and museum, after 3 hours in the saddles. I believe it was getting colder – coffee – and it rained…. The 2 Ks toured first and then I followed suit.  Mega chocpurchases later, we pointed our pelliton towards Reutling.  Our bike batteries had run down quite a bit – we hoped they would see us powered home.   Katherine and I swopped batteries as she needed the extra oomph to tow his nibs.  Not long later, I ran out of power. Now, this meant I was back to cycling a non-powered bike – as we had done for years – no problem?  Yes, problem – these machines are much heavier than standard cycles…..  I got used to walking uphills. The girls offered to seat me in a bar and fetch Jez – but the indomitable Irish spirit declined the kind offer (madness?). It rained again and I swear it got even colder.  K:  My Hero 🙂

The journey home was a bit shorter – thank goodness – and no sooner in the door of KerstinHaus, we wrapped ourselves around some good Muscatel – and Kerstin lit her roaring log fire/Aga stove…

Oscar had barked his way home solidly at the end – why? Even K telling him p**s off didn’t work.  Think it might have been dinner time! But a fantastic day, again – in the Arctic/Germany – well worth the conditions. We are definitely getting softer…..  would we survive a Winter in the British Isles – no!!!

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Two slaves for one turkey … know which I’d rather have.  But where to put them in Jez!

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Clare Ritter invented the square bar so people off to exercise could put a bar in their top pocket without breaking.

Oscar’s Diary

“Guten Tag, mein herren und damen” – that’s German, you know – boyos!  Now then, these ‘owner’s of mine have shown me quite a few countries since last August when I allowed them to adopt me from Solihull… All excellent fun – and some games. J is doing nicely with his ‘playfighting’ lessons – he gets carried away with the biting thing – but dammit, he’s only 70, after all – some concessions to age must be made.  Where was I going with this?  Yes – the chocofrenzy pilgrimage thingy wotsit – of yesterday!  Ok, I pretend I don’t mind the Ocarcarriage to humour them – but – they put me in the pram – in zero temperatures, bounce me along 60k of forest trails, up and over kerbstones, etc. – and they have the cheek to tell me not to bark!!!  The European Caninevention of Human Bites – section 13 para 6 – clearly states that a K9 must not be subjected to ‘bouncing, freezing and kerbing’ in any vehicle – my owners are in clear contraflagration of the law.  My remedy before the courts?   Freedom to bark, extra rations and bedrest – at my leisure…

Yours, respectfully (with bedsores) 

Oscar

 

874 -Monday 23rd October:  A Water Pilgrimage

The Ks left J minding Oscar and Jez and made a return visit to the Spa they visited back in August.  Two exercise classes, two Zen steam rooms, massage jets and various pools of various temperatures, they returned somewhat wrinkly.  J tidied and sorted and blogged.  Our last night here, Kerstin has to return to the day job, until we get the nod that the green cards for the Balkans have arrived.  





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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