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1.7.10

 A new month and who knows what's in store. Take today for instance. A McDonalds appeared a few km after I got on the road.


Before that I wandered around and took a few pics of where I was camped. I didn't like the look of the large billy goat and by his looks the feeling was mutual. His harem looked much more placid.



At Maccas I dealt with all my mail and had a good long chat with Sue and Shaun - so far so good. Then when I tried to upload the diary it again refused to connect - just like yesterday. I spent a long time trying all sorts of things but to no avail.




 







The view of the Loire on the left was just 100 metres or so from my campsite last night

The trip today was through the beautiful Loire Valley and there were lovely views of the lush and fertile countryside with the occasional glimpse of chateaux, castles and old towers.

The laptop battery was getting low but I rang my IT savvy mate Rob to see if he could solve the mystery of why my FTP won' t work. Unfortunately the battery gave in/out before we got anywhere so I'll try again with a full battery in the morning.



I've gone to a small country Municipal Caravan Site tonight and will stay tomorrow as well. I urgently need to do a pile of washing and being on power can charge a few things like the phone, the laptop and the camera for starters.

2.7.10

This was going to be such a restful day but Murphy decided otherwise. Tom took me to a nearby maccas and Rob was able to get into my control panel and check this out. After a while we decided it must be that Maccas blocks ftp access so I can't upload the diary from there. Damn!

I then went into the pretty little seaside town of Porcit where I discovered all the shops close from 12.30 till 2.30. It was then 12.45 so I had to wait nearly two hours for a Tele-shop to re open. I filled the time walking the hilly streets, looking into shop windows and sitting looking at the boats in the harbour. When they did open again I soon found myself the owner of a French dongle. The helpful man said that after the first two free days I could choose how long a connection I wanted and pay on the net. I explained that two other companies wouldn't accept Aussie credit cards and he generously offered to use his own card and me give him cash. It meant staying put a couple of days but it would be worth it I thought.

Back to the van and try to connect. It went through the motions but wouldn't connect there either. The man made numerous phone calls in between trying to serve other customers. In the end he decided my laptop is not compatible with French telecom and gave me my money back! I don't really believe that but whatever it was I still have no working dongle.

You may still read this as Rob said send it to him and he will load it for me. The files took a very long time to send but if it works I'll just send the days words and pics and that should be quicker. It means another visit to maccas - 11km from here.

Murphy's final dastardly trick was to put barriers down that limited exit from the car park to 2 metres and I'm 2.something. They were open when I went in at lunchtime but were down when I tried to leave at tea time. I'd already walked a long way before that and when I asked in a perfume shop where the police station was, a very kind lady escorted me there and insisted on coming in and explaining to the cops what had happened. Very kind indeed. I soon found myself in a police car and back to the car park. The keys didn't fit so the amiable gendarme left me there at my vehicle while he went elsewhere for the keys. I was soon out of there and back at the park where coffee followed by a beer were the first items on the agenda.

3.7.10

I arrived at the nearby Maccas nice and early and the first thing I looked at of course was my diary. Rob had done well and even uploaded the report and pic from yesterday. Thanks Rob - my many readers salute you!

Then I made use of Skype to make phone calls to friends and then I decided to ask a good friend to use their credit card to overcome the T-Mobile problem. Apparently if you purchase a 'booster' it will work in Europe. I'd no sooner hit the send button when another friend emailed offering to do the same thing. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to access the net here as I did in the UK - although this won't be unlimited access. Keep your fingers crossed as Rob's off up the Oodnadatta Track in a weeks time and Internet access is very sparse in that area.



It was a bit late when I left Porcit (spelt it wrong yesterday) but I still set my target as Rochefort where I am now in quite a nice Municipal Caravan Park with water views front and back. That's the view from my back door and you can see why I booked for two nights.














The view of the estuary on the right is what people have to look at if their site's on the other side.


Tom's got over his sulks after I told him off for taking me on the costly Motorway and now has me on much quieter toll-free roads that often pass through charming little towns and villages and give me views of the farmlands we are passing through. I did have a bit of a worry when I was running low on petrol and it was a long while before I found a servo open on Saturday afternoon. The warning light came on before I found one but later in the trip of course there were a number of service centres open.




Rob often boasts about his jardinaire - and I must admit it cooks a beaut barby - but Rob, just look at this. Now that's what I call a jardinaire. (Bit hard climbing up to turn the meat though).

I believe what I meant was a chimenea (chim-ih-nee-ah) (also spelled chiminea) A chimenea is a freestanding front-loading fireplace  or oven with a bulbous body and usually a vertical smoke vent or chimney
.



4.7.10

There's something significant about the date - but what?

I had a lazy sort of morning, walked around the park, went to maccas for a Skype talk with Sue and then Chris, dealt with emails and generally caught up with things before going for a drive to the Ile d'Oleron that took me over two magnificent bridges.                                                                                                             




 



Unfortunately it wasn't possible to get a position where I could have done them justice in a photo. It was a busy road and nowhere to stop.

The view from the top of the bridge on the left was superb - a passenger might have been able to get the shot but I was too busy watching the traffic.


The highlight of my day though was a ride in a beautiful  Morgan sports car. I've been a Morgan fancier all my life but until I met English couple Hilery and Frank today, I'd never ridden in one. Frank, who obviously just loves driving this superb motorcar, took me for an exhilarating spin around the area including some bursts of acceleration passing slower vehicles. Thanks Frank - a life-long ambition fulfilled!

Pity about the dappled shade in the picture but I'll try to get a better pic in the morning before I leave.










When I got back to the van after sharing a couple of reds with my new friends, I found I had some more friends waiting at the back door. 




5.7.10

I won't bore you with my McDonalds morning but my dongle still doesn't work despite John's best efforts in the UK for me. The money's in the account but that's as far as we've got. More news tomorrow!




Today's trip was great - again Tom took me on wide roads, less wide roads and very narrow and twisty roads, but it was all good fun and he took me through country that started off with a lot of maize  and dairy and then changed to sunflowers and some grapes and then became almost all vines as I neared my destination.

Every so often there were chateaux in the distance and ancient churches in the little towns.























I'm in a lovely France Passion free site - a Chateau no less - and I'm the only camper here. That's the view of the valley from my camping spot and the vines are behind me.

The owner, Philippe, brought me a bottle of his white as a gift to drink with dinner and invited me to stay as long as I like. I certainly will as it will be a good base for exploring the Dordogne region and the Bergerac area.
Philippe speaks a little English and with my smattering of French we get on OK. (BTW - I do sometimes drink white - especially when it's free!)

Oh boy! Since I wrote the above I took the computer to the house (Chateau) to show the pics of the vineyard. Philippe had gone home so I has a sort of conversation with his non anglais speaking parents. We got on famously and I sampled an aperitif made from what I believe were green walnuts - delicious. Then a trip to outbuildings where I had a glass of rose from the barrel  and a glass of sweet white that Vi would have loved. Somehow we had a sort of conversation and I'm a little on the wobbly side. Phew!

After that I visited Philip and Lorraine, an English couple who own a lovely property next to the vineyard. More wine and conversation and they offered use of their computer in the morning to save going to yet another maccas. If they have a wireless connection I'll be right.

6.7.10


Unfortunately the computer idea didn't work! Their PC was not on a wireless hook-up so I couldn't tap into it easily. (Rob probably could have done it!)

So yet another trip to a maccas which gave me a chance to look at different scenery but none that cried out to be photographed.

I had a chat with Chris in Adelaide while I was on the net - great thing this Skype. To actually see each other as we talk thousands of miles apart is just amazing.

John in the UK has done all he can to get the dongle working but to no avail yet.

The degustation ('tasting' to us) hasn't happened yet but I'm quite happy staying here a little longer.

The supermarkets here don't give you bags - just like a number in Oz are trying - so today I did a bit of shopping and bought a bag for use today and in the future.

There's an incredible array of products and produce and the 'check-out chicks' all sit at the registers - something our own people would find much less tiring.

Trying to read the labels is interesting - very few have any English words on them but there are some recognisable brands like 'Special K' for instance.


The pic on the right is the front of the brochure advertising the chateau's wines.


7.7.10


Boy oh boy does Tom get confused! This afternoon for instance he tried to make me turn right every 100 yards or so. I/we would have finished up in the mighty Dordogne River! I was on a little road parallel to the river but Tom's map had us in a field a bit away from the river. Sorry Tom but I wasn't having a wetting for your sake!

He kept re-calculating many times after that. We were in apparently uncharted territory but he did his best. If he hadn't sent me up a dead end I wouldn't have taken the lovely Dordogne River shots - so thanks Thomas.
   












The whole of the area's activities is centred on grapes and wine and to see the lovely straight lines of lush green grapevines on the flat and on the hillsides is just great.

The pic on the left shows the river near Moulon and the many Chateaux and vineyards in the district.

I bought another dongle today with the proviso that if it doesn't work I get a full refund in the morning. It doesn't and I will! I'm beginning to think it must be a setting in the laptop that's causing the angst but I can't work out what it is. Since writing that I've had another play and stone the crows it's worked!
It was a work-around method but by crikey it's good to sit here and be on the net without maccas noisy atmosphere.

The coffee machine worked off the inverter this morning but not tonight! Show yourself Murphy darn you.

8.7.10

Well we done it! With infinite patience, the man in the electronics shop and me, went through all the hoops to get some time loaded on to the dongle. We used a shop computer but even then it was agonisingly slow loading each page. Then a call to the hot line and they were going to put the time for us - until they struck the old foreign credit card problem! Then they came up with the simplest trick of all. Buy a top up from the shop, ring a number, quote the top up number and hey presto it was done just like that. And can be from any shop in the future that now all my details are recorded.

That took quite a few hours but a cup of strong coffee and a croissant revived me and I looked at maps and the France Passion Directory and decided to head for this chateau on the coast north of Bordeaux. I hate cities and was pleased Tom took me on good roads that skirted the outskirts. Pun intended!

Once again I'm the only one here at the Chateau Tour Castilon - amazing. It's a nice spot about 1.5km from the village/town of Saint Christoly Medoc.


After getting settled,  I went for a stroll along the flower bordered track and came to the ruins of an old tower. Further along I saw a number of fishing piers. No-one was fishing and the tide was out but I'm sure a lot of fish have lost their lives on this stretch of coast


























9.7.10

Just thought you might like to know exactly where I am. Going straight up from Bordeaux you will find St-Estephe. Well I'm not far from there and it's in the Medoc region on the Gironde estuary.

Libourne, where I finally got the dongle to work, is to the right of Bordeaux.













These barrels are just a few of the many at this chateaux - you should see the vats! Unfortunately they are not in a position for photos. I'm the last of the big spenders - bought just one bottle.




In the afternoon I went for a drive of about 100km round trip to the tip of this peninsula where the Gironde meets the Atlantic Ocean at Point de Grave.

It is interesting countryside although quite flat.

I found out how the French spend their  Friday afternoons in summer while I sat in the shade sipping a cool coke.





11.7.10

You and I both will be sick to death of reading about my dongle! Today when I fired up the computer ready to check my email I got a message in French that I took to mean I had no credit! This after hours finding a way to put credit on in the shop. I was by now about 140km from there but decided the best thing was to go back there and try again to sort it out. More hours on the computer and the salesman on the phone to the company. The final decision was that buying a top-up in the shop wouldn't work and it had  be done by credit card! Mine don't work with the phone companies! "What about using your card and I'll give you the cash?" I asked. A big smile and "Certainly". In what seemed a flash I had 12 hours browsing time plus another two days bonus of unlimited browsing. It could have happened three frustrating days ago. Only small problem is getting back the useless 20 Euro paid in through the shop. It will be added to my credit said the girl on the phone. Ha Ha - and pigs might fly!

I hope that's the last time I talk about the dongle.

I was near a maccas so I took the opportunity to contact my eldest daughter only to find her partner is in hospital and so far they haven't been able to find a cause for his violent headache, nausea and dizziness. A bit worrying!

By the time I left Liborne it was late afternoon but I decided to press on to the a farm well south of Bordeaux that I'd picked as today's destination. What I didn't anticipate was terrific traffic snarls on the motorway south. This reduced progress to a crawl twice and sitting in 30+ degrees creeping along, when moving at all, was not fun.

The farm where I'm now camped is much different to the places I've stayed at in the wine regions but it's pleasant enough and there is just one other motorhome here.

No pictures today folks - I was beat when I arrived - I'll see if I can do better today.

11.7.10

I said I needed some R&R and today was it. The motorhome hasn't been started all day, I haven't walked anywhere, I've taken no pictures and I've read my Kindle quite a lot.

Tomorrow I'll have to shop as the cupboard's getting quite bare.  

Towards late afternoon a motorhome pulled in and then later two more arrived. The first couple, Hubertus & Elke, from Germany are spending just three weeks in France in their rented vehicle. They are very friendly and helpful and over a couple of beers they shared a lot of good information with me.

This farm specialises in Fois Gras and other duck (canard) products so I bought a small tin when the owner made a brief appearance at tea time. I'll give you a report when I open the tin. Apparently the season is over and the ducks have been eaten as there are none around.

I rang Jackie and the hospital is still in the dark about her partner's health problem.

12.7.10

I forgot to tell you yesterday that I watched live timing of the Silverstone Grand Prix and had the inverter hooked up all the time charging the laptop and my phone. Plus I used the net a lot as it was my last unlimited free day.

This morning the car battery wouldn't start the engine and I had to ask the farmer for help with jumper leads. I won't be doing that trick again! Still no resolution to 'Duck's' health but he will be going to Perth for an MRI scan one day soon.


Today started with travel through flat wooded country with lots of pine plantations but after lunch I came into the undulating Pyrenees-Atlantique with magnificent views around every corner and at the top of every hill.

Unfortunately the road was narrow and twisty so I couldn't stop for pics. The houses on the hillsides and in the valleys were all white with red roofs and looked fantastic against the rich green backdrop.

It's not sunny today for a change and the hills are a bit misty but I have a great view from the area I'm sharing with a few chooks.

I wonder if the black sheep in the flock over the fence is an animal version of Murphy?






















13.7.10

Every day is different. This morning it was misty and drizzling with rain - and I'd left my chair out all night! It soon cleared up and Tom took me through some lovely country as we avoided the high speed toll roads and sampled some good, but lesser, routes.

We did go through a couple of major towns and one had the most beautiful floral display but there was no-where to stop for a pic and just after that there was a clever example of the art of tree pruning - can't think of the name - but it was in the middle of one of the countless roundabouts. I've never seen so many of these in my life! Tom must have been sick of telling me to "cross the roundabout - second exit".

 Someone asked the price of fuel so today I took a pic after paying a small fortune to fill up. 95 - E10 is what I use.

I'm at a Fromangerie (Cheese maker) today and the owner gave me a guided tour of the operation. He had no English at all but with gestures and my smattering of French I understood most of it. Then a sip of red and a taste of cheese convinced me I needed to buy a small amount. The van will be full of cheese if this keeps up.

























Once again I'm in a scenic location here at Lombres in the Pyrenees and the road often winds through pretty little villages. It's two-way traffic so you need to keep your wits about you.




There are lots of workmen here and they look to be doing major renovations. A load of materials arrived on a big truck and the driver did a fantastic job unloading - he used a remote control to operate the on-board forklift/crane.





14.7.10

The date didn't mean much to me until I tried to shop at lunchtime. The supermarket was shut and the notice said words that meant open until lunchtime. A small supermarket in the nearly town was open and when I asked what time the chemist next door would open he explained that it was the 14th July. The penny/franc/cent dropped. Of course - Bastille Day! That also means the Chateaux where I'm camped is also closed for tastings so I'll have to wait until the morning for that treat.

Avoiding all the toll roads and choosing to stay at out of the way villages means that Tom leads me through some of the most scenic routes and on twisty single lane roads through picturesque little towns and villages.

Today was a great example. He started off taking me on a boring high speed motorway complete with the obligatory countless roundabouts but then, after a good bit of that, we were back in the real countryside amongst hills and valleys and stunning views.









It was sunflower and maize mostly but with quite a lot of barley - some already harvested. Nearer my destination at Villesiscle, grapes began to appear once more and I only have to stroll 5 metres to touch the vines where I'm parked at le Chateau Robert.  (Not you Rob!) Every so often a little village appeared just crying out for its picture to be taken despite the hazy conditions.

15.7.10

This was a red letter day. Ever since being told I needed to renew my hormone implant in three months, it's been niggling in the back of my mind as to how I would accomplish this. Today I did it and it turned out to be a pleasant experience  - if having a needle stuck into your stomach can ever be called 'pleasant'! A helpful chemist directed me to the doctor - I decided to walk and it was quite a long way.  The doctor was a very pleasant - and good looking - young French lady working alone and once again it was a combination of her little English and my bit of French that got us by. She hadn't done one in the stomach before as she usually gives injections in the 'derriere' but she was willing to have a go and my worries were over. Let's hope it's doing its job and fighting the 'invaders'.

Tom can't count! Several times today he's had me leave a roundabout at the wrong exit and that has once or twice seen me in the middle of congested town centres where I didn't really want to be. Naughty Tom. However he's made up for it by taking me along routes where the wonderful vistas were in danger of giving me sensory overload. You can only take in so much - and unfortunately most of the time when the view appeared I couldn't stop for a pic. I did manage a couple though and one tonight where I'm camped at a winery near Frontinac and have already sampled - and bought - some of their fine muscat and champagne.

If I ever write a book on this trip I should call it, 'A McDonalds Tour de France!'. Or maybe, 'How I went deaf trying to hear in McDonalds!' Today was the noisiest ever as I was trying to talk to my daughter Jackie in Kalgoorlie.

I think this was my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea or an adjoining lake - but there were sure plenty of oyster beds.












The campsite view tonight is enhanced with olive trees - always something different to gladden the eye.







16.7.10

 I said I liked out of the way places - but this? It's a France Passion site - but you need to be a rally driver to get here up the steep and twisty gravel road! I'd be amazed if anyone ever visits here but it will do me for one night.

It's not quite what I envisaged for my first night in Provence though. I'm not that far from Nice and Cannes but this is a far cry from the Riviera!
Along the way, Tom brought me glimpses of blue sparkling water and hundreds of pleasure craft at times between stretches of traffic laden motorways. Then he showed me stunning views with brooding hills in the distance and ancient villages in the valleys.

I didn't get many pics as there
were once again few places to stop and snap. At one stage I did a double take as I thought I was back in Central Australia!

I'm well stocked up now after a shopping spree along the way. The supermarkets are lovely cool interludes when it's so hot on the road. To give you an idea - it's 34.5C in here now at 5pm - and we are in the shade under a tree! Lucky I like it hot.

Two weeks from now I'll be getting ready to return to the UK but I haven't booked anything yet as my itinerary is too flexible.

By the way - the comments you send are very encouraging and make keeping the diary going a worthwhile thing. Stay with me as we climb the Alps on our way home. (Just click 'Send a comment to Lionel' below if you want to say something,)

17.7.10

There are some days best forgotten and today is one such time! I woke in the night as usual for a scheduled comfort break - usually about five times a night - but this time the igniter on the fridge was flashing. Yes - I know I should have turned it off once the fridge lit but I forgot. The little camping Gaz bottle that Paul gave me had run out.  I settled back to sleep with the thought that I'd  better renew the bottle in the morning but I'd hardly got zuzzing again when my phone started telling me its battery was flat! Try again and sleep eventually came.

No coffee this morning! I changed the bottle for a nice new one at the first opportunity and went on my way with the thought of coffee at my morning stop. No such luck! No gas - or even gaz - came from the jets and I presumed I'd got a duff bottle or the regulator was crook. I continued on and even the beautiful panoramas constantly unfolding could not take my mind off the lack of gas problem - I rely on gas for the fridge when I'm free camping. I decided to look at Cannes while I was so near but heading into that city and its terrible traffic confirmed my love of the countryside and the uncrowded roads I adore.

I decided to return to where I'd bought the new cylinder - more than 100km -and hoped they'd be still open on Saturday afternoon.  Fortunately they were and I bought a new regulator at a special price and that seemed to be the answer.

Then I spotted the 'Lavage' cubicle outside the shop and, glory be, I could do my much needed washing while I did a little retail therapy and enjoyed the long awaited coffee. Beautiful!





Washing done and dried, I consulted Tom and my France Passion Directory and decided to head north to here - Valensole. A good choice as the site is right next to a lavender field and the perfume in much nicer than yesterday's 'eau de donkey'! I struck up a conversation with a nice French couple and once again his English and my French allowed a certain intimacy helped by a little of their Scotch. Tomorrow I have a Board Meeting and this seems a good place to take part in it. 

18.7.10

I heard from a couple of people that some of the text on the 16th were obscured by a pic. I don't know how that happened but my guess is that you are using some version of Internet Explorer. I just opened the diary in IE and was horrified! Gone was the lovely page background colour and the reddy/brown typeface. Gone was the page layout that sometimes takes a bit of work to achieve. Instead was stark white pages and black text with pics often one under the other! 

I use Firefox and it reproduces my pages perfectly.



This morning they were harvesting lavender right next to the camping area and the air was heavy with the lovely fragrance as I was involved in the ACC Board Meeting using Microsoft Messenger to reach fellow Directors in Australia.

After the meeting I relaxed with my Kindle - a great piece of technology that lets me buy e-books from Amazon in the US, pay instantaneously from my Credit account in Australia and the books are downloaded straight away, wirelessly, into the Kindle.



19.7.10

How I wish I hadn't used all those glowing adjectives earlier but had saved them for today. Actually there are no words to describe the indescribable beauty of the Alpine scenery that kept unfolding all day long. Those majestic mountains, the sparkling lakes and rivers. the lush green valleys, the climbs up cols and the long descents back down to the lower levels were awesome to use a word I hate but in this context is valid! One descent of 5km was 12.5% - use of gears and brakes very advisable.

You didn't realize how high you had climbed until you got a view of where you had just come from - incredible. And equally it was amazing to see the valleys and towns below during descents.

It was about 250km of the most memorable day's driving it's been my good fortune to have ever experienced.

Tom still can't count!

I could have taken hundreds of pictures today but settled for just five. They are here.


I'm the only camper tonight  - in a farmyard with calves for company but the location here at Granieu is superb.


















20.7.10

Today was very different. Gone were the rugged mountain peaks and hair-raising twists and turns and in their place was the lovely smooth highways through the Rhone Valley. The river itself was beautiful - but sorry - again no pics. I kept thinking there would be another chance but it wasn't to be!

Each day takes me further north and I may have to amend my return date for the UK. However in the mean time I'm still enjoying my France Passion stopovers - today it at a Cave in the Jura District. Caves it seems are like cellars - except the one today seemed like a real cave with wine barrels and vats in different parts and the temperature way down low.

















I sampled some of the local wines but wasn't too impressed except the aperitif wasn't too bad so I parted with 12 AU for a bottle.

Churches seem to play a very prominent role in French life and even the local church in this sleepy village where I'm staying was  quite impressive. It's warm here still so I took my camera while wandering down to the little village bar for a cold ale!



21.7.10



Yesterday I was talking about it being warm - today is so much colder and then my friend Ros sent me a picture that really made me shiver!

You may remember me talking about my visit to Castleton in the Peak District - well this is how it looked earlier in the year.


I've come to the conclusion that France must be over-run with deer! Everywhere I've been, I've seen these deer signs - mind you, I've yet to see one bounding across the road.





















The bridges across the River Seine are famous - but I don't think that includes this one way upstream.







22.7.10

Today dawned  grey and wet. Much colder as well so I decided a singlet would be in order under my shirt. It drizzled all day and the wipers were on intermittent all the way.

This was farming country and the harvest was well under way. Barley was the main cereal I saw and had either been cut or was waiting its turn, while the straw was lying in rows or had already been made into huge round bales.

I found a McD's along the way with great reception from the car park so used a fair bit of their bandwidth talking to Chris in Adelaide, checking my bank accounts and dealing with email. I don't want to use all the dongle time before it runs out as I use that to post the diary each night. It was nice to have peace and quiet and not the usual clamour of lunchtime diners all talking loudly in French.

I also did some route planning and booked a ticket for the Euro  rail back to the UK on Monday morning.  It's cheaper during the week so that's why Monday was the choice!


Tonight's camp is at a farm with a shop selling its own cheese, fresh bread and produce. The cheese I liked was similar to Edam so I indulged in some together with a bagette with a crunchy crust, a pork sausage and a cheese tart. Wicked extravagance!

It looked like it would be just me here but a nice Belgian couple came in - and they speak good English - and then as we were talking a Dutch family arrived - also English speaking and friendly. It's the first time I've been able to communicate without  trouble since arriving at Dieppe nearly a month ago.

23.7.10

No hurry to be off this morning as there was less than 200km to go to my chosen stop at Girondelle. The day was off and on showery and then sunny and the roads sometimes very narrow with blind corners at times hiding approaching farm tractors - good fun just the same as long as you were alert.










I passed by some horses with water in the background and thought it would make a fine picture.

As I drove on I became more and more convinced
that I should have stopped so after about 3km, I turned round and went back! By this time of course the sun had decided to go in but I got the shot just the same










 






Near Verdum, as I drove through thick forests, I
came to this memorial from WW1. There had obviously been a lot of fighting around there because signs pointed out areas from the war. 



I didn't go in to look around as war sickens me and I'm always sad and horrified when I'm reminded of what those poor servicemen suffered in such appalling conditions.

The sign at the car park reflected  how little respect some people have for others - even in a place like this.





24.7.10

How can I describe the lovely night I enjoyed last night? Girondelle is a small village with no shops but where I camped belonged to a boarding house for want of a better name that also advertised meals. When I walked in there were five people sitting around a low table sipping drinks. It turned out to be the owner and four guests from Belgium - some spoke English. I was made very welcome and soon had a glass of the rhubarb wine aperitif in my hand. I asked if they took credit cards for the meal and showed my remaining 20AU note. "It's OK", she said.

After more conversation, one couple left and the three of us sat at the nicely laid out dining table for a very different but interesting meal. It started with Black Pudding and apple sauce that was surprisingly good, then thinly sliced roast pork with a mix of creamed potatoes and a green vegatable and a plate of soft fried eggs. Again surprisingly nice. Then came a selection of three different cheeses - one redolent of garlic - with crusty bread and concluding with fruit salad and home made ice cream

I didn't mention the large carafe of a nice red wine! Another Belgium couple came  and sat at the table while we had coffee and tea and husband Jon asked everyone to speak English for my benefit - very thoughtful although unfortunately our hostess only spoke French.

A night to remember and 20Eu well spent.

Today's journey was pretty ordinary until we reached our planned destination only to be told they were full. Oh dear! Tom and I had a hasty conference and found another place about 45km away so headed for that. Unfortunately is was the most built up section we had encountered in France and as we headed for Armetieres (know the song?) it was one speed-retricted zone after another and I thought we would never reach here - Neuf Berquin.

What a surprise when the helpful owner showed me the power point for connecting the van plus two toilets and a shower! I was a bit concerned that the gas might run out overnight but now the fridge is on power, the camera battery is charging and best of all the coffee machine works and I'm enjoying a lovely fresh cup as I type this. Heaven!



I've been meaning to tell you about the traffic lights here. Besides the normal lights they have a little replica down low so if you are close to the line you can still see when the lights change. Brilliant.





There wasn't much to photograph today but it was interesting seeing a huge barge going into a lock on Le Canal Nord.

 There wasn't too much room to spare.


























Le Canal Nord



25.7.10

This wasn't a brilliant day to mark my last day in France. An ordinary drive along quite good secondary roads with no outstanding scenery brought me fairly early to my overnight stop at Audingham, near Calais, where I will use the 'Shuttle' to get back to the UK in the morning. I'm booked on the 9.50 train that arrives at Folkstone  at 9.20! There's a 1hour time difference that accounts for arriving before you left.

I did find a nice quiet Maccas to have a chat with Jackie and found their trip to Perth had been OK and the scan done. Now we just have to wait for the results - probably on Tuesday.

This place is a tourist shop plus a licenced bistro so I indulged myself at lunch-time in a huge, rare steak with chips and salad washed down by a glass
or four of red. I wasn't driving any further so no worries. It was the first steak I've had since leaving home and it was delicious.

The French dongle time expired today so I won't post this entry until I'm on the net in England tomorrow. No pictures today folks - sorry.


26.7.10
Computer problem - there will be a delay in updates - back soon


27.7.10

Thanks to Rob and the staff at the Apple Store in Cambridge my computer didn't stay dead for long! The first time I had trouble was the day after I arrived in the UK when I tried to load the software for the Internet Dongle. That time it was the Grays, Essex, Apple people who came to the rescue.

This time it was exactly the same - I arrived back from France yesterday and tried to reactivate the UK dongle and once again the computer refused to restart.

I made an appointment by phone - thanks to Roger, the helpful warden at the Caravan Club site at Houghton Mill, who looked up the address on Google and then let me use their phone to make arrangements. I arrived at the huge shopping cmplex right in Cambridge only to find the car park had a height barrier so I couldn't get in! It was raining now and the streets were busy but I eventually found a spot with a two-hour parking limit and set off in the rain to find the store. My appointment wasn't until tate afternoon but they must have seen I was soaking wet and took pity on me because Rob came and checked the hard-drive and then re-installed the operating system including the latest updates. It worked and if you are reading this it's because the dongle is also working.

I was sitting at my table trying to get the computer going when a lady came to the open window and invited me to join the group she was with known as the 'Loners'. It was happy hour time and I joined their friendly gathering for a few drinks and then they produced a lovely dinner and I shared that as well. It was a lovely evening and this morning I had coffee and cake with them before heading for Cambridge - they even made me an honorary member. There were only five ladies and two men at this get-together but they have about 400 members altogether who travel alone with caravans or motorhomes.

The Euro Tunnel was a different experience and remarkably fuss free. As I drew up at the self-service window my name appeared on the screen together with my booking details and I just had to confirm before passing through Immigration etc. Very smooth - as was the train ride.

















Above is the view as you drive to your spot and then for travel the doors connecting each section are closed.

 I'm sitting on a roadside parking area and am about to try to send this. Cross your fingers - here goes.

28.7.10

Thank goodness that worked!

I'm staying with my cousin Pam at her daughter and son-in-law's lovely property at Modbury Hall Farm near Kings Lynn in Norfolk and I have my own shower and toilet plus power - great spot.
















   

Pam said she had a surprise for me today and suprise it certainly was. We, Pam and her friends John, Anne and Beryl, went to Sandringham where unknown to us when we left home, it was the Annual Flower Day and there were cars everywhere.


 Luckily there was parking at the Park House Hotel, run by the Ryder Cheshire Foundation, where we had a delicious lunch and then a bonus - a thrilling air show

The hotel was where Princess Di grew up and I had my own pic taken near a picture of the Duke of Edinborough and Queen Elizabeth when they were much younger.

The hotel is for disabled people to give their carers a break. 


29.7.10

June asked me last night when she looked at the diary, "What happens if there's nothing to write about?" Well that hasn't happened so far and there's always something that's interesting  - at least to me.

Take last night for instance. Colin who owns the lovely Classic 1968 Lotus, asked if I'd like a ride while dinner was getting ready. Of course I would. It was a great thrill and the acceleration and roadholding were superb. When the speedo hit 110mph Colin remarked that we were doing a genuine 100. Fantastic!

Today after a relaxing morning we went for a drive and finished up at a typical English country pub where we had a huge Yorkshire Pudding filled with mince and gravy and vegies on the side. Then a ginger plum pudding actually made with plums.










The afternoon was nicely rounded out by a visit to an historical windmill that still produces flour. Today though was a maintenance day and painters were at work high up in the sails -if you look closely you can see one man at the top of the bottom sail.

We had a cuppa there and looked around the shop but didn't go on a mill tour as it wasn't in action.


30.7.10




I was slow to leave my lovely en-suite site this morning and to say goodbye to cousin Pam and family. It had been a happy few days but all good things come to an end and I had to move on. On the way our to the mail road I spotter two deer in the crop and stopped to get their pictue - these were the first live ones despite hundreds of warning signs.

My first stop was a maccas to talk to Sue and Jackie. No results still - they now have to wait until Tuesday as the GP is sick.

Still no reply from my friends where I hope to go next week. I've lost their phone numbers so decided to deviate via their home at Woodhall Spa to check if they were there. No one at home! They must still be in France so I left a note asking them to email me.




Coming up the East Coast meant new country for me and for once I let Tom take me over a toll bridge over the Humber River near Hull.

Arriving at York around 5pm I found a warm welcome and we spent the evening sipping some of the wine I'd brought from France and reminiscing - a very nice evening.

Pete told me that Colin's 1968 Lotus has a black steering wheel centre in memory of Lotus racing driver Jim Clarke who died after a crash during a race in Germany.

 31.7.10

The great days don't stop! This one started off slowly enough but then thanks, to the BBC, we were able to watch great coverage of Qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Two Red Bulls, followed by two Ferraris, auger well for a thrilling race tomorrow.

Then after lunch, my neice Pat picked me up and we had a lovely drive to visit her daughter Leanne and family who live in the historic town of Richmond - some fifty miles away in North Yorkshire. I don't think we stopped talking and catching up all the way there and back or during dinner at a nice local pub or later at her home where I looked at old photos and some video footage of when Vi brought our daughter Sue over for a visit and Sue had her 6th birthday here.

At Richmond we parked near the gardens and had an unauthorised look at the old theatre where Leanne is Stage Manager and daughter, Emma, is taking part in a local production.















The famous Castle was built in the 1,000s and has a commanding view of the town and the River Swale.




Tomorrow there will be the next and last page as I start my final stage of what has been a thrilling  and exciting journey.  Click to join me as we count down for take off on the 17th.

 Feel free to email any queries you may have - I'll try to help

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