A Travellerspoint blog

Just as good


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Thaon les Voges is a small town on the Moselle that we visited 4 years ago and stayed for the weekend rather than just an overnight stop on our way down to Italy. Our visit coincided with the centenary celebrations for a building called Lago Rotonde which had been built by the local washing powder magnate as a communal space. There were performances and a bbq and dancing on that weekend and we stayed up chatting to other motorhomers until late, this was our first taste of the friendliness of other like minded people. One of the motorhomes had spent 31 years on the road, so by now Bram has been travelling for 35 years, I don't think we will do it for that long.
So Thaon still has a lovely aire by the river and a new petang hall but lacks the flowers and bunting from that celebration, still worth coming back to though. We walked past the magnificent Rotonde and the adjacent sports complex next to the river, watching swallows take insects from just above the water. We saw a sparrow having a go at catching some and, although not as elegant, he still managed to catch his tea. Never seen a sparrow do that.
The weather was not conforming to the coast start sunshine jacqui and I were after but still in the high 20s with thunderstorms so we moved on eastwards the next day, still in the Voges to St Die, whoever she was? Another little aire with everything for €10, the town was announcing festivals next weekend but otherwise very sleepy again. Bit like back home where people move into cities to get jobs I expect.
We decided to keep moving so planned a stop at Freiburg, looked round the city in an hour and moved on to Schaffhausen to see the Rhine Falls. It was a Sunday and sunny so lots of people were admiring the falls and they are dramatic and the power of the Rhein is easily witnessed.
We will have a couple of stops on the way to Berchtesgaden and Salzburg.

Posted by cjpolley 03:10 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Luxembourg


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We left Andrea and Jeff to explore more of the ANZAC history around Ypres before they headed to the UK and we headed to Waterloo, or specifically La Butte de Lion where the battle took place in 1815. We were a little disappointed after our experiences at Ypres, here the 21stcentury visitor centre was being paid for by the €20 per person entrance fee to climb the man made hill that wasn't there in 1815 to look over farm land. I can't understand why Napoleon gets a big mention, but Wellington's, " near run thing" was Napoleon's swansong.
We travelled on toward Luxembourg and stopped overnight at the pretty village of St Hubert, again very thoughtful local people providing a free aire for motorhomers. An easy drive into Luxembourg the next day with an empty tank for the diesel @ 97 cents\litre!
We had chosen a campsite outside the city with washing machines so we could do the necessary; it also had a cycle path nearby so next day we rode along the river route into the city.
The city of Luxembourg is very pleasant.
I say this because it's really tidy and quiet and has lots of new exhibitions telling everyone how pleasant Luxembourg is; only two beggars that we saw. It's a bit like a film set, waiting for the director to shout 'action'!
Our 20k round trip cycle ride was the best bit of the day, although we explored the Grund and the Haute city and took the bikes up in a lift and had some decent local beer at lunchtime.
We got back to the site just in time to put the bikes up and cover them before a belting thunderstorm poured so much water down I had to rescue not only our awning but next doors as well, good job it was still 25 °C. At least the multicoloured pigmy hippos next to the campsite didn't mind it.
We were getting back to more continental eating, more fruit, cold meats, salads with even more fruit. I'm writing this still sat outside at nearly 22:00, lovely long evenings and we have just found a lovely rosé for €1.99, quel domage!
Back into France next morning, all of 50 miles before we overnight by the Moselle, a marina aire that has everything including free washing machines and we just did ours! Sitting by the river we are being flown over by 8 to 10 herons and at least 6 eagles, plus several storks, lovely spot.
We plan to revisit Thaon la Voges where we spent a lovely weekend 4 years ago, so we are being brave and going back in the hope it's just as good.

Posted by cjpolley 06:10 Archived in Luxembourg Tagged city Comments (0)

On The Road Again III


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The day of our departure from the UK was also Jacqui's dad's birthday so we took him to Thrupp from where 3yrs ago on his 80th we had hired a narrow boat and he became Captain for a day. It was a lovely May day, the start of that hot spell and we had coffee and cake and a picnic, hand picked from Waitrose no less. We had a lovely time and whilst John and I walked the town path, Jacqui chatted with her Mum. The time flew by and we were half an hour late leaving Abingdon, consequently the M25 was a nightmare and we missed our check in at Eurotunnel. Add that to delays of the trains and we didn't leave Folkestone until 21:30, this meant we didn't get to an aire until about midnight, so a long day for us. When we arrived and tried to connect up to the electric, I tried 3 sockets and no joy, turns out you have to arrive by 19:00 and the office turns a socket on for you!
Apart from all that, the aire was very pleasant and next to a petting zoo and canalside walks and cycle path, so we had a wander round before we set off to meet Andrea and Jeff, our Kiwi pals we met on the Douro. We had picked an aire near Ypres, now returned to the Flemish name of Ieper after a hidden stream. The aire was at a small bar and restaurant, with an unusual private museum.
The bar owner, Johan, had been excavating WW1 tunnels for more than 40 years and his collection of military hardware and personal items was both amazing and moving. The tunnels were originally dug to undermine the opponents trenches and lay explosives. This area in 1917 was at stalemate, with thousands of men dying.
We met a Yorkshire couple called Elvin and Sylvia who had been coming to Ypres for many years and asked us if we were going to hear the Last Post at the Menin Gate, well we had heard of the Gate but not the nightly performance. We all drove in one van to nearby Ypres and waited for the performance to start, the Lost Post Association had organised this nightly event since 1928, soon after the Menin Gate was finished.
The crowd swelled to a couple of thousand and silence fell as the local fire service band marched the various flags into the centre of the Gate, followed by a 100 or so UK soldiers from several regiments. A bugler played the last post, to remember all the names chiselled into the Menin Gate, those men and one woman whose bodies were never found to be buried, there are 54,896 names. I don't mindS admitting it made me well up.
Then, in pairs and singles, members of the audience laid wreaths, mostly of poppies but other flowers too. Local junior school children, British teenagers, Harley Davidson chapter members, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, Moslems; we even witnessed a group with German insignia on their leathers laying flowers.
Then they played the British and Belgian national anthems and I just about managed to crook my way through ours; again the unexpected had delivered us an emotional evening. We still found it staggering that, apart from WW2, this ceremony had taken place, nightly for nearly 90 years; the crowds at the 11th November commemoration are huge.
The next day, the kiwis and us visited the Cloth Hall and St George's Church in Ypres, both as grand as any structures we have seen on our travels. The Cloth Hall was used for storage and sale of Ypres cloth in the 14th century, but was demolished by bombardment in WW1 to be beautifully restored to the grandeur of one of the largest medieval commercial buildings. The information available was brilliant and we gathered up leaflets to read more of this towns
A hot day called for ice cream and I couldn't remember better!
But at the bar we decided on a couple of beers as a payment for our two night free stay and Elvin asked Johan to show us the film that an Australian TV company had made about some unidentified soldiers remains that Johan had exhumed from roadworks near the bar.
If this is long winded please bear with me.
Johan exhumed 5 bodies from a grave that was found by road workers, he is recognised as an expert locally and licensed by Ypres council. Something struck him as odd because of the way that one body had been interred, one hand was placed over the heart, the body was pointing toward home, Australia and had be covered carefully with a ground sheet. This protection had mummified the remains to such an extent that the colour of the soldier's eyes were still identifiable.
DNA was taken from the five remains and records studied to try and narrow down the search for the families of these forgotten soldiers. Eventually two of the five were identified and Johan told us that soon a third may be verified, he has personally provided the identities of 236 lost soldiers to their families. He sees this as his mission in life and can't stop doing it.
The soldier who was buried with great care was found to be an Australian called John Hunter who was buried by his younger brother Jim. This connection started Johan's quest to erect a memorial in dedication to the two brothers as a symbol of all Australians that fought in this horrendous battlefield.
To read more this is the website:
http://brothersinarmsmemorial.org

Posted by cjpolley 11:49 Archived in Belgium Comments (1)

Back home


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Leaving France a month earlier than last year meant evenings back home were a bit chilly but the few days before we travelled to NYC to see Jordan were really warm. We dropped in on Lee and Nic for the night to see their lovely new house and Toni and Chris came over for a meal cooled by the nearly newlyweds. Next day, after popping in to Dad and Mum's, we were back on Ian and Jacqui's drive, again! Where they always welcome us like one of the family.

A few days of van jobs and we were off to New York to see Jordan. It seemed strange packing suitcases but we enjoyed the journey out and our Airbnb was great. We have Facebook posted loads from that trip so we don't want to repeat ourselves. But Jordan is loving it out there and us still looking for his next visa opportunity to stay longer

When we got back from seeing Jordan we still had the need to get in the van and travel so we headed, first, north to stay with Jan and Carl, obviously no shopping involved! Then to Banbury to catch up with my Kraft/Mondelez/JDE colleagues, as a pensioner I got to sneak in and see what has happened to the place in the two years since I left. It was lovely to see Del and Rowena that evening for a steak, big Dave was there too as well as the younger maintenance guys who were such a big part of my job at Banbury. We stayed at Kevin and Sue's so it was lots of chatting to catch up on two years.
Next was Lorna and Derek and a day out at Foxton locks that used to operate an inclined plane, the remains of which still showed what a feat of engineering this was back in late Victoriana times. Derek and I had two bottles of Gattinara we brought back from Italy, the ladies had blue bubbles from Spain, how continental!
Tom and Lou's in Cambridge was our next stop and an added bonus was seeing a chap Louis and I had worked with in Oxford, Chris and his wife Hazel were there for the weekend, so more catching up. Tom's cousin was also there, up from Plymouth, he was taking part in a Wings for Life marathon being chased by a car driven by David Coulthard! Some of the competitors ran 93km before they were overtaken, madness!
We spent the next week mooching around Suffolk as we really liked it last time we were there and it's one of the options for buying a place again when we settle down again. Then onto Norwich to see Jacqui and Albert, we haven't seen them for two years and they subscribe to our blog. We were mortified when they told us we had missed them out of it on the start of our trip, I checked and Jacqui had written that one, phew!
So back to East Hagbourne for a couple of weeks because we can only use our tesco points on the tunnel with 14 days notice, why I don't know, then head for Waterloo, Belgium.

Posted by cjpolley 05:41 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

First Puncture


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Leaving the St Jean aire I did the usual draining and cable winding up and noticed the driver's side rear tyre looked a bit flat and had to drive to a garage to re-inflate it, unusual in that everytime I have checked the tyres over the past two years, they have been fine. I kept an eye on the pressure and for 2 days it didn't change but on leaving Clive and Wendy's, we had to pump it up again. We arrived at Harry and Joan's the same day and when I went out to the van the next morning it was totally flat, so much so that I couldn't have got the van jack underneath it, so we called out the RAC and a little man came out and changed it; where we found a bloody great torx headed screw in the outer inch of the tread, unrepairable! We ordered one from a local tyre place that, unfortunately, could not fit it on the van but the garage in Harry's village fitted it on Saturday morning.
Our trip from St Jean took in one of the most famous wine growing areas in the world, Bordeaux, so we just had to stay at a vineyard where you either pay €5 or go to a wine tasting and buy a bottle or two, guess what we did. We also walked to the nearby village, found an unmarked aire and got soaked on the way back.
We parked on Wendy and Clive's drive as they were arriving back from the UK late so we had breakfast with them and caught up. They have a new house built outside a small village, lots of room and well insulated with air source heating, very modern.
We only spent a day there as Harry and Joan had said they were taking us to a concert, turned out to be a local charity evening but some of the acts were really good, sort of French ethnic music. We planned to stay with them for a week and ended up collecting firewood, fitting a door shutter and repairing Joan's bike tyre that had a huge gash in; the next weekend was a vide grenier which Jacqui didn't want to miss. The weather was pleasant most of the week so we spent a lot of time in their garden, with their 200 year old house making a great backdrop.
Leaving on the Monday morning with no real plan, we headed slowly toward Caen and crossed the Loire several times and saw magnificent châteaux and once again thought of a summer in France exploring places we haven't seen. We found a lovely riverside aire outside of Laval and decided a bike ride into the town would be a good idea in the morning.
Unfortunately April showers changed our plans so we went off to find William the Conqueror's castle at Fougeres which is impressive but the blurb from the TI makes no mention of our William I? The town has wonderful gardens with colourful plantings to augment the spring contributions from primrose and cowslip. The medieval parts of the town have been preserved or restored and it's a very attractive place, best seen in the week with a bit of rain as I guess it gets packed as summer approaches. The murder holes are distinctive features above old entrances to the town.
Heading north once more we notice how busy the traffic has become compared to the Charente or Loire areas and also the style of houses is much more robust, slate rooves as opposed to pottery tiles.
Another repeat aire at Brocade so we get to spend a few hours tomorrow by the sea before the boat early on Thursday.
We pulled into a picturesque village a mile from the sea outside Caen and it was quiet as usual, had lunch and went for a walk to the beach, had this been the south coast of Britain it would have been packed with chip shops and arcades. Approaching the beach we saw memorials to the fallen of D-Day and one especially took my eye, several regiments of the Royal Artillery who landed here after firing their guns from ships and deployed around the area, this was my Dad's mob but at this time he was seconded into the navy who were short of gunners. He and Mum married a couple of weeks after D-Day I suspect as he was shipped off somewhere.
We walked back to the village, now a bit more awake where groups were playing petang, and noticed a sign to a British Cemetery. We always visit such places and pay our respects and recognise the senseless waste; some of the dead were only 18 and we saw Jewish men serving under assumed names. The men and women were brave, the war senseless.
The war graves are always well kept and this one at Hermanville had new gate posts and tree plantings. It's a long time ago now but the French still celebrate their hard fought freedom.
Up at 05:45 the next morning which is really early for us and down to the ferry, back in Blighty just after lunch. A quick drive to Crowthorne to see Nic and Lee's new house.
Next few days we caught up with Jacqui's mum and dad and Carys and Ali, with Andy and also spent some time with Ian and Jackie, moving sheds mainly. England still has that rush about it with all that traffic.
Off to see Jordan in NYC, more travelling!

Posted by cjpolley 05:27 Archived in France Comments (0)

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