Day 2/1: Off again!


So, we’ve left Dundee behind, driven down to Hull, taken the overnight ferry to Zeebrugge and then cruised through the Ardennes to the town of Troyes, east of Paris. We’re staying in a city centre Ibis budget hotel which is perfect for our needs and I’ve just demolished a Chinese takeaway! It has been very, very warm today with temperatures in the low 30s and still the high 20s here at 11 o’clock in the evening.

Bye! Bye! GB

Bye! Bye! GB

The crossing was smooth although the vibrations coming from the engines were a little OTT and must have kept some of the light sleepers off their kip. Fortunately we were both pretty catatonic and slept like logs (wooden not mathematical ones). Come to think of it, even those wooden ones don’t sleep. do they? But we did sleep the sleep of the just and the innocent and that really helped on the 6 hour drive south today. Being incredibly tight-fisted, we avoided all the motorways and enjoyed the pleasures of the hills and rolling farmlands of Ardennes. How beautiful they are! Our comfort was ensured by the Audi’s a/c system which kept up a constant blast of chilled air to stop us from roasting in our own juices inside the car.

I must admit that the trip from Hull to Zeebrugge was a bit of a bargain so I have no hesitation in recommending it to all who may wish to take a drive on the continent. The one-way trip for 2 people and a car came to £139 including a 2-berth overnight cabin with en suite. Take the saving on diesel off that as well, not to mention the nervous energy. I bought the dinner/breakfast combination on board (£24) and that got me an all-you-can-eat dinner last night and a full buffet breakfast both continental and cooked this morning. Great value!

Speed bonny boat!

Speed bonny boat!

Tomorrow we drive down to Nevers to visit the incorruptible remains of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, will try to pop in on my cousin Renée’s cousin on her father’s side who lives in Magny-Cours (famous for the French Grand Prix), then it’s up into the Massif and Clermont Ferrand before stopping overnight in another Ibis hotel, this time in Issoire on the way down to the Millau Viaduct again.

As we had an hour to spare on our way to Hull we tried to pop in to see Uncle Terry and auntie Ellen in Leeds. Oh, we saw them alright, except it was in Ward C3 of Chapel Allerton Hospital where Ellen is recovering from a replacement hip operation she had on Tuesday. What a brave person she is, and what a happy welcome she gave us when we strolled in. It was nice to see my cousin Gillian too, no matter how brief our visit was. I wish all my family in England the very best (as long as you don’t win the next World Cup!)

I offer a welcome to anyone new to the Blog. Although I won’t be posting every day, I will keep you up-to-date with year 2 of our adventure with 2 or 3 posts a week. Remember to keep the comments flooding in as we really enjoy reading what your take on things is while we’re so far away living with Johnny Foreigner!

A special kiss for our 2 brilliant grandchildren, Ben and Artemis. We love you dearly. XX

We’ve been in Troyes for 6 hours now but still haven’t seen the wooden horse. I’ll ask at the Greek restaurant!


Day 207: Spaniards!

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What’s going on here? The campsite is suddenly full of Spaniards! Where did they come from? Of course I know they came from Spain, but what are they doing here? Vilanova Park has for the past 8 weeks been populated by Johnny Foreigner, Brits, Dutch, French, Germans and Danes, plus the odd Swede or Finn, but there certainly haven’t been more than a handful of Spaniards onsite.

Now as Easter approaches, they’re here by the barrow load, and a right proper noisy lot they are too! Another phenomenon to add to the ones we’ve already noticed on our adventure. The Spaniards aren’t the only ones who shout all the time though (although the women are particularly loud in comparison to other countries). In Germany the Turkish men tended to converse at high decibel while all Italian men sounded like they are about to have a fight! The Orientals in Oz were quite loud too come to think of it and I happened to notice in more than one country that West Indian and African men seem to really enjoy talking at the top of their voices into mobile phones.

That reminds me of my dearly departed father, Frank, who never quite got the hang of using the telephone. For a start he didn’t have one in the house until he was about sixty years old! But, God bless him, he clearly assumed that the further away the recipient of the call was, then the louder you had to speak into the mouthpiece (which, for some inexplicable reason, he tended to hold up near his forehead by the way). It used to reduce us to tears just watching him make a call to the family in Leeds, screaming his head off down the phone. Dear aunt Cissie is another who has compensated for long distance by raising her voice over the years, but it would be really nice to hear that voice again soon, loud or not! Renée, tell her I’ll call soon.

Everyone by the way gets very loud when they’ve had a few drinks, especially young folk from any country. The Danes over the wall from us are raising the roof as I write but that’s because they’ve been on the sauce since midday and that combination of alcohol, sun (and bacon!) seems to be absolutely lethal. I’m expecting a Viking raid at any moment!

We have a new friend in the old Welsh guy (whose name I’ve forgotten) whom we’ve met a couple of times up at the bar. He is a wonderfully interesting person with a thousand tales to tell and I have revelled in his company this week. By coincidence, on the day Uncle Gerard sent us information about the Picos region of North Spain, this guy recounted a string of adventures he’d had in that very area, walking from mountain refuge to mountain refuge. He highly recommended that we spend some time in the mountains which he described as some of the most beautiful in the world.

Well, I went for a walk this afternoon and bumped into him again. He was on his way to the bar for his teatime pint and invited me to join him for a quick one. I reluctantly agreed (stop grinning!) and sat in rapture for half an hour listening to his tales from the Pacific Islands where he was stationed with the R.A.F. in the 50’s. Mary must have thought I’d fallen down the pan, considering I’d told her I was just popping to the loo!

As you can guess, we didn’t do anything we’d planned to do today. However, while the normal excuse is the weather was poor, this time the weather was so good we just couldn’t prise ourselves out of the chairs outside the awning where we ate and read for most of the day. My head got a little burned too because I inadvertently left off my hat, never thinking it would be so hot at eleven in the morning. They tell me it peaked at 22 degrees today before the clouds came over and showers peppered the late afternoon.

We’re happy to report that the dongle is working quite well and we can have Internet access wherever and whenever we want. The signal can be a bit temperamental but in general it’s efficient and fast enough to cater for the things we download or browse most. As I said earlier, we have plenty news channels on the TV now in any one of seven different languages so we have no problem keeping up with what’s happening around the world. We were sad to hear that the wonderful Nelson Mandela may be nearing the end of his epic life, although he already appears to have lived several lifetimes. What an amazing person he is and a great example to us all.

Mary passed me a short story to read on the Kindle yesterday. It was actually a rant by someone encouraging the readers to get on and live life to the full as this is not a rehearsal and every single minute we waste is gone forever never to return. Although not all that well written, the essay made its point quite strongly and left Mary and me feeling very glad we have chosen to come away on this adventure. We have no regrets at all about what we’ve done because we realized we could if we wanted. So, dear friends, if the opportunity presents itself to you, remember the saying “Carpe Diem” seize the day and enjoy your life while you can, doing above all what you want to do and not what others want you to do.

Remember all you carnivores; it’s Fast and Abstinence tomorrow for Good Friday. Thank God for tuna!