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 🙂

698-706: BIG Number Birthday in Dublin

698-706- Monday 23rd April – Monday 1st May 2017:  Dublin And Family

A bit of a summary as we’ve not been blogging!

Ferry from Rosslare – we were a rather late arrival – bow doors opened as if by magic. Next morning, K collected hire car using the nearby Airport hopper bus.  On my actual birthday, we drove to Enniskerry and I had a fantastic full Irish breakfast (first on over 6 months) in the local hotel (where I was barred for too much drinking as a camping young adult) and then walked the Scalp hill/mountain and  collected Kerstin from the airport – then straight to a pub in Bray pub with some family – a good night was had by all…….

Next day (Thursday), we did a walking tour of Dublin city. Kerstin and I toured the Jameson distillery – and tasted their produce – a few times! She liked it with lime and ginger…  The Brazen Head welcomed us for lunch with an outside heater!

Another magic day in Baile Atha Cliath…my spiritual home.

Friday – Kerstin went alone to Dublin sightseeing – we stayed by the van and did some jobs – K cooking. Kerstin enjoyed herself so much that she was quite late back – and she is always ‘laid back’!

The excitement is mounting – for the second big party tonight – 70 is only a small number, isn’t it?  Collected salmon from Clondalkin and then to the party house (Delia and Liam’s) in Cabinteely. Food prepping and Oscarwalking… Huge surprise when Sinead and Shane arrived – with Sarah!!!  Out of the blue, completely!   My first ever girlfriend at age 13 – Mary Garrihy (King) travelled all the way from Ennis to be here – we last met 30 years ago but always keep in touch for birthdays.  Blind wine tasting organised by K and K – much mirth ensued.  Not too late to bed – in our Jez on the roadway outside. Oscar was bemused at so many people in our gathering – but huge thanks to everyone for coming along…

Sunday, we cleaned the house – and Liam discovered our Karcher window/surface cleaning tool – we decided to buy one for them as a thank you gift – he’s been cleaning windows ever since – Delia is happy. There’s an old song – “When I’m Cleaning Windows” – Music Hall history.  Back to Camac Valley campsite – and suitably tired – a nanny nap for all, including K9…..  Supper – Bed later for J – K and K stayed up until 2:00 am – playing cards and working their way through wine and Grand Marnier – and my birthday chocolates!!!  K:  We did score them so he knew exactly what he’d missed … we saved him the one we neither of us fancied too!

Monday early – K brought K to airport and returned our hire car. A chilled afternoon.

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It might be expensive at EUR27 but Camac Valley Campsite is our Dublin home with large fully serviced pitches.

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James’ actual birthDAY and started with a full Irish!  Or English or Scottish!

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A birthday walk around the Scalp – so named due to the rocks and gorge.

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Yes we are on the right path.

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I knew about the Sugar Loaf mountain (every country seems to have one), but here there are the Great and Little Sugar Loafs and also a wee Sugarlump!

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Meeting up with some of the family in the evening..

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Kerstin working her way through different beers.

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A walking day out with Kerstin around Dublin.  The President’s Palace is in Phoenix Park and we saw the cavalcade.

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Kerstin was unimpressed with the sheer number of ‘original and best’ tour busses.  She has a thing against the little tourist trains too.  Funnily enough the next day she used the hop on hop off bus which transported her from the campsite and as no-one asked for any money, she managed to get a free tour!

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Kerstin and James toured the Jameson’s Distillery … although no distilling is still done here, they enjoyed the tasting.  They were given Jamesons, Johnnie Walker Black Label and Jack Daniels to compare.  A revelation to J – he has always been fond of Black Label, but reckoned Jamesons came out top.

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Kerstin decided the best way to drink it was with ginger ale and lime.  Meanwhile … I was freezing my butt off in a outside cafe next-door!

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Lunch to warm us up at the well known ancient Brazen Head Inn.

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Again outside … Oscar, what we suffer for you!  And you get your own glass!  But they did put the heater on for us and made a fuss of Oscar.

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Are we lost?  And still cold?

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Temple Bar area with their inflated prices.IMG 8098

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James’ 70th BIG number birthday party in Dublin was held in sister Delia and hubby Liam’s house.  We did a blind wine tasting.  Kerstin placed a sign over the sink!

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And she wrapped and labelled all the bottles … I could not have coped without her.

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A gift from Stephen and Diedre – S had come across the photo from Tralee in Kerry.  You can just make out the J Clune over the door.  We’ve replaced the glass with perspex, just in case it does fall off the wall!

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J’s niece, Mary-Kate supplied the most amazing cake … it had a motorhome and a map of Europe on it – with red dots to show where we have travelled  so far.  Sorry not a large image as my camera died.  Not sure if J is about to praise it, pontificate or weigh it!

518-523: A Surprise for Dad’s Planned 80th

518 – Thursday 27th October 2016:  Collecting the Surprise

Grahame and Diane had no idea that Kerstin (Kooky Kerstin) was coming to stay at chez Jez/Perechat  – so we had an extra day away from them as a pretext for collecting KK! We identified a secure parking near the Bordeaux Merignac airport – Katherine dropped me at the Arrivals Building and awaited at the parking for my call. Kerstin arrived very quickly and K/Jez appeared right on time. Kerstin had not experienced Jez and was suitably impressed – she was particularly pleased with the sleeping accommodation… having previously called Jez a folly by email!!

We drove to the coast W of Bordeaux to an aire … due to the heavy traffic, we arrived just as the sun was setting…. another of those moments in time, which you cannot plan.  As K and K walked Oscar, K tried to persuade K to let out her properties in Germany and buy a motorhome … you don’t get moment like this stuck to a desk and a computer screen.

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519 – Friday 28th October 2016:  Dune de Pilat

The largest sand dunes in Europe lived up to all our expectations – and more! Beautiful soft sand and convenient steps up to the top – stunning views for miles/Kilometres in every direction. Oscar even managed to run in the sand – we had a very sandy van later….  It grows and moves every year … so far streets and houses consumed and one guid book said a campsite was next in line.

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Kerstin determined to ‘control’ Oscar!

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All 3 sliding down the sand … K took the steps to catch the pix.

 

Arriving at Perechat, where the family were convening, we parked with Kerstin lying low – K brought Diane and Grahame from the house – and mega surprise – a loving reunion!  Much jollification – and some drinkies also…

520 – Saturday 29th October 2016:  Aubeterre and Supper

We hd been to Aubeterre before, briefly for coffee last July – this time a better tour and the 2 K’s visited the underground church – much impressed – see photos! A good wander in lovely warm sunshine.

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Oscar not allowed into the Church but having a look anyway.

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Aubeterre is a derivative of alba terra / white stone and the stone work of the old properties was indeed soft.

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Noteworthy carvings … acording to the guide book.

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The underground church was more impressive than we imagined.   Dug out during the Crudades by hand.  They think to house a relict.

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It was also the town cemetery, so locals and Pilgrims had to walk over the graves.

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The rellilquary  – carved out of one peice of stone.


The evening was the first restaurant meal for the  Grahame birthday celebration – we drove G and D and Katherine’s navigational skills were – in Kerstin’s way of speaking – “How shall I say?” – “interesting”! In other words, we got lost! But we arrived eventually to a super meal – complete with – the Birthday cake – no jokes about Grahame’s windy skills in putting out the candles…   A special treat was Danielle travelling from her University life in Birmingham to mark the occasion – one of many treats indeed!  She’d managed to have her parents book her Business, whilst they travelled with her siblings in steerage … she only managed one bottle of fizz … wasted on her!

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All in our Sunday best!

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I may need that wrapping paper!

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An expert in recycling!

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A different gift in the same paper … honest.

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Enough puff?  Oh I think so!

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Angelic or what?

 

521 – Sunday 30th October 2016: Angouleme

Day out to Angouleme provided us with a test of motorhome parking – seriously! We almost got stuck in the local Gare car park but escaped with our van intact – the first very narrow streets test… in Jez.

On street – and free – parking was found not very far away. K checked with a local who quizzed her on how the English find the French!!!!!  A good walk around the town ramparts – more spectacular views – and a coffee outside a dog friendly bar – most bars/restaurants are dog welcoming here.  The Basilica was well worth a visit – not overly adorned like some churches – a local christening was in progress. Back to Perichat for a Baker organised evening meal.

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Yes – chrysanthemums 

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Lots of official graffiti.  K sporting new ‘home knitted’ poncho.

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Angouleme is know for its annual car race around the ramparts.  Much be a bit hairy as the roads are twisty and narrow.

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It sits high over the undulating surrounding lands … nothing special, but pleasant.

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The exterior at odds with the plain interior.

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522 – Monday 31st October 2016:  The Big Day Itself

Monday was the exact day of Grahame’s birthday – starting at ‘breakfast o’clock’, Kerstin revealed her ‘piece de resistance’ with her usual understated aplomb!  A sort of “This is your life” version of Grahame’s life – with individual pages written by all the extended family members – from windy underpants – to odd sayings of his – to many holiday and camping adventures….. all bound and beautifully presented.  Amazing how once you start the memories keep on coming.

We took Kerstin to the Airport – she had work on Tuesday, after a diversion via Amsterdam (her not us!)… she needed to get to S Germany!!!   Back at Perichat, we readied ourselves for the second restaurant meal of the multiple celebrations – after all, you’re only XX years old once…  K driving to the restaurant – a short distance – with her navigational skills relegated to the sidelines – Diane guided Jez and us the short distance. A truly amazing meal again. K tried baked marrow bone!  Oscar started in his crate in the van.  when K went to check on him … he was sitting on the front seat looking right royal regal!  The little sod had burst through the front mesh.  He ended up in the restaurant again with us, but he was by no means the only 4 legged guest, but at least he did NOT sit on our laps!  J has effected a gaffer tape repair across the crate’s mesh, as we read dogs HAVE to be secured in Spain and it is safer too … we’ve been building to putting him in the crate for journeys.

Back at Clare & Chris’ pad … Did I mention “Baileys” – Katherine, Clare and Diane?  Somno vinoque prevailed later with lots of zzsssss…

 

523 – Tuesday 1st November 2016 – A Much Needed Down Day

After all the eating out etc, we all pretty much stayed around the house.  Both the Aged P’s and us were leaving the next day … the Aged P’s heading north back home and us migrating south.  I later discovered that the french is oiseaux de passages … I rather liked it.  A number of jobs were done, including trying to level out the deep ruts Jez had dug in the drive.

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Zoe pruning Oscar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

229-230: Eruptions and an Almost Satisfied German!!!

229 – Saturday 5th December 2015:

Guest writer, by popular request!:

Today is E-Day, Katherine came up with a place that is (in her opinion) far enough from Etna but close enough for her not to be struck of my x-mas card list  But before setting off from the campsite, the two went running. I got such a bad conscience that I went swimming instead (well actually I love swimming). The water was probably as warm as our showers in the campsite. I also had a male guest watcher whose best part got very excited seeing me on the beach fully dressed… 

We arrived at the very idilic harbour of Taormina to park the van. By public transport we went up to this hilltop town (I am not sure why the two always complain about the small roads, the bus driver charged up the roads as it was the motorway). Katherine guided us through the town like a local (pointing out restaurants that they already visited). Arriving at the wonderful gardens we were greeted by Mount Etna spitting lots of smoke. Fantastic sight. James took some really good photos as you can see for yourself. On our way to the town centre we struck gold. We saw the Etna light show! Amazing how much we could see and how high Etna could spit out the lava. But Etna lost the battle to wine. Two of my companions who again cannot be named due to confidentiality reasons left the light show before the end! Can you imagine this. The biggest happening in Sicily that night and they wonder off for some drinks.

We got the last bus back into town and had a good night (at least I had one because Katherine lost big time playing cribb against me, they might claim it is beginners luck, but I know better) 

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Open air showers amongst the lemon trees – shame they were near cold!

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Our overnight pitch 

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Taormina – Part of the Roman cistern.

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Taormina is full of small street up and down off the main drag.

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Whilst it was still daylight we wandered into the Park let to the town by Forence Trevelyn

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The weird and wonderful structures are called ‘beehives’.

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From the balcony of the gardens we could see the smoke plumes from Etna.

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As the sun was setting, the clouds cleared and it got a bit more interesting.

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We just made it out of the park before we got locked in and walked through the town

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From the large balcony, Etna started putting on a show for us …

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… and it got better and better

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Along the coast to Giardini Naxos, where Chardonnay is parked and Etna, not so very far away!

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Our overnight view: looking up to Taormina from the parking on the harbour wall

230 – Sunday 6th December 2015:

Katherine sold me the blogging as “due to popular demand”. I think she is just so happy to have found a poor sod who does the typing.

Today we got up late and left even later. The weather was not really nice therefore it made no sense pushing Katherine out of bed.

We arrived at the parking lot for the cable car station. I inquired about the fares. They are really taking you to the cleaners, 30 Euros to go up to the middle station and another 32 Euros to go up to the top. But as the weather was nice and Etna was busy smoking I decided that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and went up. Katherine and James could not be persuaded even with bribes to come with me. Once up it was an amazing sight. Etna was busy billowing out smoke. I would also hear the noise of the “explosions”. To some extend it sounded like a steam engine. The trips up to the crater were cancelled and visitors were advised to stay near the middle station. Watching Etna for nearly 2h I knew why. From time to time he jugged out stones, too. I did not see any lava. I very much enjoyed my trip up to see Etna. Katherine was able to secure her position of my x-mas list again. 

Now I have to check my flight details to see whether my flight leaves on time tonight.

To all dear readers thanks for staying with me. Enjoy the blogging.

K’s postscript.  On the evening trip to the airport, Kerstin was delighted to be able to observe Etna erupt again and then we could see a growing red lava flow.  Really amazing.

 

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Previous craters

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Kerstin went above the cloud line

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Kerstin saw a number of eruptions, smoke and spitting of debris.  Sorry, the video clips are not going on the blog … I’d have to upload to YouTube and embed!

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Smoke and steam

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Evidence:  She was most definitely there!

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