Homeward bound.

Tuesday, 31st July, 2019

Shock to the system. We had to put an alarm on this morning. A quick breakfast & then off to catch the Shuttle at Calais, a couple of hours away.

Managed to say goodbye to Johan, which was great as I’d hardly seen him. He’s a bit vague on how the Memorial Park is going, but it looks pretty good & the Brothers in Arms statue is being commissioned. He’s off to Australia in February to do some promotion, so hopefully it will generate the necessary funds.

Got to the Eurotunnel in plenty of time, and headed straight to the Pet Reception. Why they think a bit of plastic grass is going cut the mustard, when it comes to a last minute wee, I’ve no idea. It was then that we spotted a back entrance that opened straight onto a Lidl’s. It was a bit like a magnet saying come in and have a look around, we only need bread for lunch, but you never know there might be something interesting to take home. As it was Niall did come out with the essentials, plus a set of Japanese scraper blades! Anyway, long story short, that’s when we realised it was one way, and we were now in the huge Cité Europe shopping centre, and it was going to take us forever to get back to the Check In. Well, needs must and all that, a nifty drive back the way we came, and we were back on track. I hope we’re not on CCTV.

The lovely thing about the Eurotunnel is, it only takes 35 minutes & gives Niall a chance to have a rest. I’ve not been a lot of help with the driving this time. the weather was lovely when we left Calais, but the forecast on the other side wasn’t looking good. By the time we reached the M25 it was tipping down. That coupled with horrendous traffic didn’t make for a pleasant journey home. Welcome back to Blighty.

Doesn’t appear to have been any disasters whilst we’ve been away. There’s usually something: power cut, emergency drainage works, or road dug up for some reason. All looking good. Wahoo. Let’s have a takeaway curry to mark the end of the hollybobs. Only downside is, I made the mistake of getting on the scales. I’m sure Daisy must have had a paw on them. Too much ‘kuchen’, me thinks. Never mind, off on a dance break to Blackpool next week. Got plenty of time to ditch those extra pounds.

Thank you all for reading our ramblings, and we’ll let you when the next trip is. I think Scandinavia is next on the list, but maybe just dipping our toes into Denmark for starters.

That’s all for now, folks. Daisy dog, over & out.

Mileage

Start: 48862 Zonnebeke, Belgium

Finish: 49071 Southampton, UK (Home)

Miles: 209 Running total 1915

Back where we started.

Monday, 29th July, 2019

Breakfast at 0900hrs, as off to the Vet for 0945 hrs. We had to leave it until today, as couldn’t find anywhere on Friday.

Luckily, Denise managed to get us booked in for this morning, so we’re within the time limit for the Pet Passport. We don’t usually leave it until the last minute, but the weekend always causes a problem. The Vet was great, but we had the normal production of eating the meat & spitting out the worming tablet. It got a bit messy! Well impressed though, she only charged us €24.50. It’s normally €30-€40, but every country is different. Even got away without paying anything once, as I think the Vet was in a hurry to go to lunch.

Temperature just right today. Bit of sunshine, but not too hot. Denise has given me some interesting plants to take home: Liquorice, ginger & a white pepper. See how I get on with them. Last year we brought home tomatoes & chillies, and we had a bumper crop. Still eating the chilli jam now. It will be interesting to see how my plants at home have survived. Sounds like Marian next door has taken good care of them (Thank you).

Gutty day driving on the motorway all day, with an unpleasant stop at a services near Gent. Not even a services really, as the kiosk & toilets had a fence around them, and a picnic area with rubbish all round. Lucky, we can be self sufficient.

Got to Johan’s, The Anzac Café (De Dreve), Zonnebeke about 4pm. Never seen it so busy. Unfortunately, this meant we had to wait until it calmed down to get our normal spot in the corner. The cars didn’t seem to stop coming in & negotiating around us until about 8pm. Still managed to cook a seafood risotto without too much disruption though. The difference is we don’t normally come in the peak season, but it’s good to see that trade is good. Niall went in and had a beer later, and I wondered if Johan would be too busy to talk. He didn’t come back until gone midnight, so I guess the answer was no. He’s obviously has got more staff in now Wife No.2 has left, and it’s actually gone a bit upmarket with menus in English & everything! Never realised what half the things were before, and the Flemish language didn’t make it sound very inspiring.

Mileage

Start: 48730 Lommel, Belgium

Finish: 48862 Zonnebeke, Belgium

Miles: 132 Running total: 1706

On our way to Lommel, Belgium

Sunday, 28th July, 2019

No particular hurry, as not too far to go today. Weather still miserable, but managed to get all the necessities done (Electric, water, cassette emptying) without getting too wet. Scrambled eggs & toast for breakfast, then headed off to have a look round Stavelot just down the road. I wasn’t expecting the eighteenth century abbey to be painted red, but what do I know. Apparently it houses some interesting museums, one containing some F1 cars from the the nearby Spa racetrack, but not interesting enough to entice me in. The ancient foundations in front of it were worth a look though.

Started heading North west, mainly on the motorways, skipped round Liège & Maastricht, up to Hasselt, where we joined the N74 & N71 to Lommel. Tried to find a green patch on way to let Daisy stretch her legs, but ended up on a village green trying to look discrete. I nearly mistook someone’s post box for a bin, which I don’t think would have gone down too well considering the contents of my plastic bag.

Arrived at Denise & Marcel’s about 5.00pm, and we’re greeted with tea & pastries. Yum, yum. Roel, one of their twins wants to be a pastry chef, and was practising his skills. How lucky are we. Ferre, their youngest is fascinated by anything mechanical, and there were cars, planes & trains everywhere. At one stage there was a remote controlled helicopter flying around the lounge, and I have to say, he made a good job of landing it on the dining room table. Gave the lavender plant a bit of a trim though. The amazing thing was, he explained it all to me in English. So when Denise said she had never heard him speak English before, and had never been taught it, I was amazed. Youhri (I think I’ve spelt it right) was a bit wary of Daisy, but she was really good, and didn’t try to bother him too much. She made herself at home as usual, and was completely non-plussed by the chickens in the back garden.

Eventually retreated to our little home on wheels in the front driveway after a lovely BBQ. We are so lucky to have such lovely friends.

Mileage

Start: 48632 Waimes, Belgium

Finish: 48730 Lommel, Belgium

Mile: 98 Running total 1574

What a difference a day makes.

Saturday, 27th July, 2019

Well, the storm never arrived, although the temperature dropped considerably, and the rain arrived by the morning. A welcome release, although after a couple of hours, we were bored with it already. Be careful what you wish for. Decided this is definitely a ‘come back to stop’, and worthy of being a ‘Favourite’ in the Sat Nav. There are mountain bike trails everywhere, and therefore good for dog walks. It’s next to a Park & Ride, so worth investigation. And free electricity, or have I said already. Plus, the cheap diesel, and beautiful scenery, Luxembourg is definitely worth a detour to.

On a mission to find a capacitor for the air conditioning,we set off towards a place called Fuussekaul, next to Heidescheid. We know there’s a good camper shop there, as it’s next door to an Aire which we’ve stayed on before. Bit of a long shot, but they were really helpful before when we lost a key for one of our outside cupboards. No luck this time, but worth a try.

Next stop, at bit of shopping at Doncols, on the N15, just before the border into Belgium. Not a pleasant experience as it was a Saturday, but we felt like it was our last chance to get anything to bring home. Nearly had a disaster when we tried to squeeze a few more gallons into the tank, and it over spilled. Luckily, no harm done (Except to Niall’s sandals!)

So glad we invested in a Benelux map book, it’s allowed us to explore more. The Sat Nav just doesn’t cut it when you just want to have a bimble around. We’re on our way to visit Denise at Lommel, near the Dutch border, so looking for somewhere to stay on the way. Stavelot looks interesting, so headed towards an Aire near there. We could have gone back to a lovely place called Petit Coo, which is by a waterfall, but also next to a Water Park & Activity Centre. It was out of season last time, but I bet it’s heaving now.

We found another one close by at Waimes. It’s behind a restaurant, called La Faitafondu, and you get it free if you eat there. As it was, we’ve already defrosted some chicken, and promised ourselves a curry tonight. The restaurant looks really interesting though. Not sure that a fondue in Belgium would be as good as one in Switzerland, but never say never, and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme looked intriguing. Apparently they pull the tables out later for a dance (Which could mean anything)

Daisy had a chance to have a sniff around, and try to get the robotic lawnmower to play, before the next lot of drizzle set in. It may be wet now, but it’s certainly not cold.

Bring on the storm

Friday, 26th July, 2019

After another sweltering night, and having to get up to get cold flannels for us, and water for the dog, it’s time to move on. Glad we loaded everything back in the van last night, as the heat is building up again today. After good old bacon & eggs for breakfast, we set off to Nancy.

The plan is to visit a potential venue for IQ at a place called Chez Paulette, which has been going for years. We thought we were going the wrong way when we entered some narrow back roads, but after flagging down this poor lad on his bike (He nearly lost his baquette), he pointed us round the corner. We were meeting the promoters there, as they hadn’t managed to talk to the band at Loreley. Paulette is still around although in her nineties, so the place is run by her son, Luke. Such lovely people. They even found a champagne bucket for Daisy to drink her water out of. I hope it all comes off.

Eventually headed off towards Luxembourg. Had a few spots in mind, but as the Friday afternoon rush hour was building up, decided to cut the journey short at Dudelange. The description didn’t sound very inspiring Parking Gare-Usines (Station/factories), but it was free & had electric. Filled up with diesel as soon as we crossed the border (€1.08/lt), and although the Aire was above the railway line, it didn’t look too bad, so decided to stay. Even more impressed when we realised the electric was free as well. Result. At the moment there is more noise coming from the old folks playing Pétanque behind us, than the youngsters in the Skate Park below. We’ll see how the night goes.

Simple supper of pasta & tuna, followed by a congealed block of Maltesers! Rescued from the cupboard into the fridge & not too be wasted.

Mileage

Start: 48364. Villé, France

Finish: 48535 Dudelange, Luxembourg

Miles: 171. Running total: 1379

Diesel: Luxembourg €1.08!!!!!

Villé en Alsace.

Thursday, 25th July 2019

Early start for the household. Jan to work for 5.30am again, 2 cars to be dropped off at different garages, and Nat to a hospital appointment. Best keep our heads down. As it was, woke up quite early, and decided to walk the dog before it got too hot.

Lovely walk up the hill behind Chris’s house. Through the forest, narrow path, and faint hint of a breeze. Even tried some the of the Parcours Vita (Exercise stations) on the way. Glad no one could see me though, and didn’t do any jumping around. That would be just silly. Admired the view from the little shelter, than back down again before Niall had even surfaced.

Chris came back later with some interesting provisions for lunch: pistachio sausage, Knacken sausage (Like frankfurters), and smoked duck (Now you’re talking!). Niall & Chris go back to Woolston Fire Station days, and food was always an important issue. I can remember them both going over to Mr. Underwoods, the Butchers to choose what we would have for dinner that night. I can also remember the curries that used to burn the roof of your mouth off! Took me a while to realise that they weren’t all like that.

Too hot to go out again today. Another day of 38°C. A storm is due on Saturday and the temperature should drop. Mind you, they are still saying 28°C. Still hot in my book. The car issues today mean that we won’t be going out to dinner as planned. Never mind, I think a homemade Tarte Flambée (French for Flammkuchen. Mr Davis. You’ll be multilingual soon!) seems to be on offer. Chris managed to borrow a car, so a trip to Super U has guaranteed we won’t starve. Not that I ever doubted that when Chris & Niall get together.

Only in Germany!!!!

Wednesday, 24th July, 2019

Decided to get going before the sun got too hot. Slight detour back to Hunspatch, where we had breakfast in the shade.

On the way, something made me do a double take in one of the lay-bys. I thought was a speed camera being set up. Imagine my surprise when a naked man popped out of the bushes. He was not in his younger years, but obviously very proud of his accoutrements. Now I’ve heard of FKK (Free Body Culture), but it was only 9.30am. He might have been swimming, but I couldn’t be sure. Could only happen in Germany! Anywhere else you’d be arrested.

Eventually got to Chris & Nat’s at Villé about 1.30pm. Not pleasant driving round Strasbourg on the Motorways. First time I’ve seen speed restrictions for pollution control. So nice to drive up, plug in the electric, and have a pint of iced water. Sleeping inside for a couple of days, so gradually brought our stuff in. When I said, could I do some washing, I don’t think they realised how much. All dried so quickly in the heat. It was in & out & before they realised. Now we’ve got the hang of the coffee maker as well, they’re going to find it hard to get rid of us.

Finding the heat hard to bear. The house is so well insulated, we have to keep the doors & windows shut. I don’t whether it’s because we are used living outside now, or because we come from the coast, but I miss a breeze.

Nat’s son, Jan, came home about 6.30pm after a hard day working on a building site. I know he’s young, but I don’t how he does it. They start at 5.30am, and are supposed to finish early. At least it’s only temporary before he goes to university in Aix-en-Provence. Chris brought out a bottle of wine for Niall! 😉 Brought back memories of this morning. Nat magic’ed us up a lovely meal, and by 9pm, it finally cooled down enough to sit outside & watch the bats fly around.

Mileage

Start: 48250 Sasbachwalden, Germany

Finish: 48364 Villé, Alsace, France

Miles: 114. Running total: 1208 miles