We sailed overnight to Gran Canaria, the second largest island of the Canaries and docked at 8am.
We had been warned by our friends that some of the bus drivers were a bit reckless and drove too fast around the many hairpin bends around the mountains. We had such a driver who was eventually asked to slow down by many people. Our guide used very creative English and the non English speakers had great trouble in understanding the unusually made up vocabulary that she used a lot of the time.
The first stop was up to the volcanic crater of Bandama then back down the mountain to the centre of Las Palmas. we opted to walk around on our own and not follow the guide as she talked incessantly. We had a nice lunch at the ‘Rifugio’ where we had a wonderful view of the surrounding rugged mountains. A recent fire had just spared the restaurant and neighbouring restaurants and trees close by had been completed burnt.
We drove to the pretty village of Teror which was deserted as it was siesta time again and the churches were locked. Our last stop was ‘Gardens of the Duchess’ with it’s many cycads, ponds, palms and cacti and large banana plantation. It was a long 8 1/2 hour trip and not recommended for those suffering from motion sickness or vertigo.

Our last port of call in the Canary islands was Tenerife, the largest of the islands and our 4 1/2 hour tour there took us first to ‘Playa de las Teresitas’ a beach with yellow sand brought in from the Spanish sahara in Morocco. The tour to the northern part of the island was with a much more sensible driver and guide.
The views down to the coast from the Anaga mountains were spectacular. It was a national holiday so it was slow going with the large bus having to pause many times for cars coming in the opposite direction. Down at the coast past the isolated village of Taganana we had local wine, cheese and olives and then drove to ‘Pico del Ingles’ with amazing views of Mount Teide Spain’s highest mountain before descending down to the coast to the ship.
We sailed from Tenerife for two days before reaching our last port of call ‘A Coruna’ on the coast of Spain.

Known as the Crystal city because of it’s glassed in balconies which glitter in the sun, A Coruna is a charming city with interesting architecture. The balconies have been so enclosed against the fierce winds which blow from the Atlantic ocean. It is a short walk into the city from the cruise ship dock. Our tour of the estuaries or Rias took us to the south to the medieval town of Puertodueme. The second stop was a beautiful view point over the estuaries and beaches where we enjoyed a tapas lunch with the good local Ribeiro wine. We had a photostop by a castle on a small island. From there we could overlook the city of A Coruna in the distrance.
We left for our final days’s sailing via the Bay of Biscay to Southampton which took another day and a half.

The dress code on the ship was informal until 6pm where we could wear shorts etc but after 6pm a jacket was required and on the three formal nigts a suit or tuxedo was required. We had bought Maurice a suit from M&S the year before which we kept at our friend’s house until required for the cruise. We had no need for it in the campervan.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the beautiful Queen Elizabeth and it’s lovely art deco furnishings, excellent food and services. We did decide however that shore excursions on a large tour bus were not our thing so if ever cruising again we would opt for touring independantly.

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The ship was very luxurious (like staying at a 5star hotel on the water) and although there were 1600 cabins we didn’t notice the large number of people except if we ate at the buffet at meal times. We ate mostly in the dining room in the evenings where we had a reserved table for 8.30pm (the second sitting) and the service and food was excellent. One of our restaurant wait staff Sylvia was an Australian middle aged woman from Sydney who wanted to try something different, Jay Jay from South Africa,Visham from Mauritius and Marco the Sommelier from Romania. The service staff was comprised of many nationalities but the majority were Filipinos. Everyone we encountered were very professional and friendly at the same time and Dada from the tours desk gave us very informative and interesting information about the tours available in each port.
It sank in what organisation and team work must go into running a cruise ship.

We were given a credit type card which we could use anywhere on the ship for purchases from drinks to diamonds (not that we bought any of the latter). There were several dining options (some for an extra charge) and several lounges and a two storey library. The art deco style and decor was beautiful. The Queen Elizabeth was built and fitted out by an Italian company ‘Fincantiere’.

We sailed for three days and Cunard offered a myriad of activities on the ship from Deck sports to theatre performances, indoor games, dance lessons etc.
One day we experienced the formal afternoon tea in the ballroom and were served by white jacketed waiters with white gloves. They served a selection of sandwiches (as well as a raft of other savouries), cakes,scones with jam and cream and very good tea. I had missed my dancing from before we left home years ago so I took advantage of going to the ballroom after dinner to refresh myself with ballroom dancing and the jive. The dance partners from the ship ranged from geriatric to a younger couple who were all good dancers.

We had lovely weather and calm seas through the Bay of Biscay and on to Madeira, our first port of call and only Portuguese one we were to visit.
Funchal it’s capital is named after the Portuguese name for fennel (a variation thereof) which was found all over the island when it was settled.

We opted to do a tour in each place, not having been there before. We went on a jeep excursion for 4 1/2hours with only two jeeps and about 12people which suited us as we went where a tour bus could not go and therefore we had a very quiet time up in the mountains and had a good guide in David who took us to various viewpoints in the interior of the island and then along the south coast to Camara de Lobos. He gave us much information about the island and it’s inhabitants. Some of the narrow two way roads were very steep but the
offroad portions which looked very much like the bush tracks in Australia were not as bad as expected. Much of the mountains were covered with Australian Blue gums which have proved to be a curse but the island has started in the last few years to fell the trees and send them to mainland Portugal to make pulp. We stopped at a very local bar and tried the ‘poncha’ a mixture of rum, honey and orange or lemon juice and I tried the middle dry Madeira wine for which the island is famous. The island is very mountainous and most of the arable land is a patchwork of either banana, sugar cane or vines which were turning a redish/brown colour. The farmers have a hard life trapesing up and down many steps or paths to tend their crops,most of which are planted on mountain slopes. Some farmers wisely cover their houses with the vines for shade in Summer and other vines grow at least a metre from the ground so that potatoes or other vegetables can be grown underneath. Bananas seemed to be the main fruit exported from the Canaries.
We were returned to the ship and we could then walk back into Funchal to wander the streets. It was very quiet as it was a Sunday and people were having their siestas. Most of the shops even on weekdays closed in the afternoon only opening at 5pm.

Our next port of call was Santa Cruz on La Palma where we again docked within walking distance of the city. Our tour here was on a coach which took us up to the ‘Caldera de Taburiente’ in the national park which was unusually not a crater made by a volcano but from an enormous landslide millions of years ago. The island had been covered in palms but now these had mostly been replaced with pine trees. We saw the remains of a fire which had swept all of the Canary islands with varying degrees of damage. La Palma’s main crops were again bananas, sugar cane and Avocados. Just off the old airport runway we stopped at an old 17th century farm for some local refreshments. The garden was beautiful with the most amazing crop of Strelizias (bird of paradise) plants which the owner cultivated and sold. We later stopped at the ‘Mirador de la Concepcion’ to take in the wonderful views along the coast and to the north of the island. We had a stop at the ‘Santuario Virgen de Las Nieves where we could buy a coffee or relax for a while. We were again returned to the ship and later walked into town with our friends to have a look around the city.
We saved money as the shops were closed again for siesta so we used the internet at a local cafe before returning to the ship at dusk.
The internet on the ship was a little too expensive for us $48 for a couple of hours.

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We experienced a blustery night in Treaddur Bay in North Wales. The wind was howling as it came off the bay. The sign in the facilities said ‘no wetsuits or dogs in the shower’ so some people and dogs must have ventured into the sea.
We set off for Windermere in the Lakes district reasonably early the next day which was fortuitous as the clutch went and we broke down about 20miles from where we were heading. It took us many phone calls to get us picked up and to a garage 4miles away where the owner and his sidekick at the garage were very helpful and managed to take the gearbox out, replace the clutch and rear brake pads in a day and a half.
We made the most of it by taking a scenic bus route via Windemere to Keswick further north in the Lake district where it was very cold but the views along the way were spectacular.

Roger at the garage let us plug in the van for two nights so that we could stay in it rather than having to find a hotel which was lovely of him to do. On the third day we made our way back to Windermere to see the ‘world of Beatrix Potter’ a favourite of mine from my childhood and we took the ferry across the lake to see her house in the very small village of Little Sawrey. It was a long day’s drive from there across the beautiful Yorkshire moors to Wyse House farm campsite near Malton which was a great campsite.

We visited my mother’s cousin’s wife and had a nice day with her before visiting Castle Howard of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ fame and then we continued on to Hitchin Leisure where we bought the campervan and could stay there for a week. We had a few things to do to the van and to catch up with friends there. We walked into Hitchin every day or to the train station to get to London on several occasions to visit various friends and relations and catch up with Maurice’s sister Maura who was on her way back from Canada to Perth.

We made the most of our forays into London visiting the famous architect ‘John Soanes’ house which contains over 40,000 pieces of memorabilia and is quite amazing.
I found it a bit overwhelming with everything that was crammed into the four storey house.

A very interesting renovation was ‘The department store’ in Brixton which cousin Hugh and Joelle took us for an afternoon drink as they were both members.
A group of architects had renovated beautifuly the building which was now their offices, a bar and restaurant.

A highlight was seeing the ‘Lion king’ at the Lyceum one night before we descended the old 193steps to the Covent Garden Metro. The metros are a swift way of getting around London but to be avoided if possible at peak times and around the tourist areas especially if you are at all claustrophobic.

We left Hitchin to spend a week with our friends in the Chilterns near Cholesbury and we were again lucky with the weather. It was cold (for us) but it hardly rained for our three weeks in England.
I had the good fortune to also meet up with a cousin from my mother’s de Jong side of the family whom I happened to find on facebook after having been given a name by my mother’s cousin’s wife in Yorkshire. I am going to join Ancentry and plot as much of my family tree that I can which might be of interest to others years ahead.

We drove from Cholesbury down to Southampton on the 25th October to join the Queen Elisabeth on a 12night cruise to the Canaries with our friends. This was our first cruise and we were looking forward to it.

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We arrived at St Malo an hour late but made good time up to Cherbourg to catch the ferry to Portsmouth on Brittany Ferries. The ferry rocked and rolled all the way. We got to the campsite in Bath after 8pm and stayed the night before driving on to Bath were we had the van booked in for it’s MOT.
We got a good view of Stonehenge on the way. I didn’t realise that it was visible from the highway.

We caught up with Sarah a lovely French/Congolese girl in Bristol who we had met in Udayagiri last year and as we
We had been to Bath a couple of years ago so we wandered the streets, bought a new phone for me and some goat’s cheese for Maurice.
The weather was changeable with alternating heavy rain, cloudy periods and a bit of sunshine. Unfortunately since leaving France for Jersey we were back into Autumnal clothing of several layers, scarves and rain jackets.

We left Bath for Clearwell to visit another friend for a couple of days and drove through Wales and over the Severn bridge and into Gloustershire. Karen is a raw food chef so treated us to some of her recipes which were all delicious. She took us to visit ‘Puzzlewood’ in the Forest of Dean which was a magical woodland with features known as Scowles, natural cave systems since eroded and exposed at their surface. The veins of iron ore were mined by iron age setlers through to Roman times. 3000 Roman coins in 3 earthenware jars were discovered during the 1800’s. The whole woodland is covered with thick moss which gives it it’s magical appearance.
Films such as ‘Merlin’ and ‘Arthur’ and episodes of ‘Dr Who’ were filmed in the wood.

The brown ‘Soay sheep’ there looked more like goats and don’t need shearing. Their wool drops off and can be collected.

We visited ‘Briavel’ (pronounced Brevel) castle which since 1947 has been a youth hostel. They had an open weekend so we could look around the hostel and I could try my hand at Archery which had always interested me.

On the 11th of September we left Clearwell for Pembroke and the ferry to Rosslare in Ireland. We spent a night at Duncannon on the coast so that we could go and see the oldest working lighthouse ‘Hook lighthouse’ the next day.
We then spent three days in Wexford visiting friends before setting off for Paul McCarthy, Maurice’s cousin in Clonmel a beautiful part of County Tipperary. Maurice and I took part (we walked, not ran) in the ‘Park Run’ which is a 5km course around the racecourse. These runs are held all over the world, cost nothing and promote exercise on a Saturday morning. In Perth they are held at 8am but we were told if they were at that time in Ireland no-one would turn up so in Ireland they start at 9.30am.

We were lucky with the weather for the first couple of weeks in Ireland with a portion of most days having some sun but it was getting colder. A fun week in Dalkey to celebrate Maurice’s birthday and get together with many cousins was most enjoyable before heading for another cousin Brigid in Avoca in the beautiful county of Wicklow. We decided to take the longer route there over the Wicklow mountains where the pink heather was blooming. Another relaxing few days playing scrabble and catching up with computer work before heading back to Dublin for Maurice to revisit the dentist for ‘crown’ work and then back to the south for another few days.

In Wexford we met up with many of our friend Fritz’s relatives at his memorial mass and lunch before returning to Avoca for a last stay with Brigid before leaving from Dublin to Holyhead on the 3rd of October. We will miss Ireland, friends and cousins but not the weather which had turned cold!

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I had always wanted to visit the island since reading Gerard Durrell’s ‘My family and other Animals’ and other books that he had written.
He established the zoo on Jersey with his wife back in 1959 as a wildlife conservation area for endangered species.

It was an expensive ferry trip – over Euros200 for the 1 1/2hour trip on the smart Condor Ferry.

We had to have a special permit in advance to be able to drive on Jersey. Some large campervans are prohibited from even coming to the island as most of the streets and laneways are very narrow and there is a lot of backing up to allow cars and small vans to pass.
I thought Ireland had narrow lanes but these were narrow with stone walls on at least one side so all the vehicles were being very cautious. Although Jersey is a very small island and you can drive around it in and hour and a half however traffic holdups are frequent because of the nature of the roads.

Rozel Campsite came highly recommended and we were not disappointed. Unusually the only birds we heard were seagulls and doves unlike most of the other campsites at which we had stayed. In southern and middle France we heard many owls at night and some very close to the van and it was lovely to hear them calling to each other.

We left the van at the campsite and walked to the zoo about half an hour away. We were lucky to have a nice day after the previous day’s rain on the way over.
We enjoyed seeing the various animals at the zoo especially the gorillas and we listened to an interesting talk by the their keeper.
He explained that the gorillas of which there are four kinds are in danger because their habitat in the wild is being destroyed by mining metals used in mobile phones,tablets and computers. He asked that instead of keeping old devices people should recycle them
so that the metals needed for new products can be used from the old models.
We were also lucky to see the otters who had just been fed. They were so quick to dart underwater and retrieve the fish thrown for their lunch.
Along some of the roads there were signs and a thick blue rope strung high up to alert motorists to the path of the red squirrels who live on Jersey.
The buses were not large but they had to do a lot of manoevering around the roads and traffic. We were told that by nature the natives were stocky and short and this was reflected in the seats on one side of the bus which was like sitting in a sardine tin.

We saw many Jersey cows in the rural areas or parishes as they call them. Each parish or small village has a church and church hall and many of the houses were built using the pretty Jersey or Guernsey granite. All the villages were very neat and lush hydrangeas were planted along some of the roads and avenues. Jersey has a micro climate in places and we saw many tropical and sub-tropical plants such as banana trees and ferns growing in different areas. There was much rural land especially along the north and east coasts.
Jersey has started cross breeding the Jersey cow as they experienced some genetic problems a few years ago.

We caught the bus into the harbourside capital of St Helier which is a pleasant city with a wealth of eateries and shops.
Although the weather was not kind to us the following day we did the 4hour bus tour around the island and learnt a lot from the driver who was very knowledgeable about Jersey although not originally a local. Jerriais the local language is spoken by about 2000 people mainly in the north east and is taught at various levels in schools. It is classed as a kind of ‘Norman French language’. We did not hear it spoken while we were on the island.
It is an affluent island for many with 25% of businesses in the financial arena but there are also those in public housing who are not doing so well.

Jersey was occupied by Germany for five years during WWII and many bunkers and towers that were built to last are dotted around the whole island. The most popular tour was a tour of the war tunnels which we did not do.
There were many tourists in town, a large percentage were German. Many of the workers in the cafes and restaurants were eastern European.
As we drove around the island many of the bays were at low tide. Jersey has the third highest tide in the world around 40feet.

Although small, Jersey was a very interesting island with very friendly locals and with plenty to offer the visitor. The port was serviced with a newsagent and kiosk at least which was missing in St Malo. It does make a difference when you have to wait on the dock for a couple of hours if you arrive early.

I had luckily checked on our bookings and discovered that I had failed to book us off the island. We were going to travel Jersey to Poole a few days later but we had to make alterative plans as the ferry was full. More driving for Maurice unfortunately as we then had to travel from Jersey back to St Malo, drive up to Cherbourg and get the ferry for the 3hour trip to Portsmouth and then drive to an alternative campsite.
At least we could get off the island and resume our itinerary three days later although we had to be at the ferry port by 7.30am instead of a much later ferry. Part of the adventure!

I had not read a paper for many moons so bought the Times at the port which had some good articles but one on the front page was warning people in Cambridgeshire that they needed to carry 2 bags for their doggie do do’s or face an 80pound fine!

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It was nice to see Dieter and Hedy after two years in Pampelonne and Maurice and Dieter chatted about their time in the north west of Western Australia and then we put the world to rights.

Our controller for our air conditioner had stopped functioning so we left the next morning for a ‘Truma’ shop in Toulouse to see if we could get a replacement without any luck. It was still quite hot (in the 30’s) and humid so we could have done with it.
We had a lovely meal at ‘Les Marots’ near Toulouse with Cynthia and Mariam who we had met in India and we met Cynthia’s husband Jean Yves. After lunch we drove to Lavaur where Cynthia and Jean Yves live. They showed us around the quaint town and we had a nice evening with them and spent the night there.

After a rainy night and a cool morning when we left Lavaur and drove up to Montauban to try and get another sim card without success.
The bain of our lives all over the world is the lengthy procedures to get sim cards and we have come to the conclusion that most of the telecommunication companies are thieves and so many of the staff don’t know what their own companies are offering. The best service we had was in Morocco where we got off the ferry and were offered a free sim card which we used while we were there. We however found a very helpful postman who gave us instructions of how to get to the SFR office and we had a nice vegetarian meal in the main square.

The weather improved as we drove through the ‘Lot’ valley and then along the ‘Dorgogne’ river and had amazing views of both with more impressive clifftop castles and villages. We ended up in St Astier near Perigeux famous for their truffles. We stopped at an amazing market which had the most enormous artichokes we had ever seen. All the fruit and vegetables looked so fresh and the meat was displayed in a novel way.
I had always wanted to see a medieval chateau so we drove to ‘Chateau de Jumilhac’ where we had a tour of the Chateau and learnt of it’s history. The only thing remaining from the 1200’s was a staircase and the wife of the first owner was locked in a room for 30years with only painting, spinning and praying to keep her occupied. Her meals were even brought into the small room.
The present Marquis and Marquise live in an apartment in one of the later additions to the main Chateau.

We had virtually no traffic on our trip from there up to Nantes through a rural landscape again with old farmhouses which were very neat and tidy. Some were no longer inhabited and some were for sale. There were more quaint villages with their prominent ‘Mairie’ or town hall buildings. We passed through so many beautiful avenues of trees which are a feature of the whole region.

It had cooled overnight to 15degrees but we were warm in the campervan. Around Niort we experienced torrential rain for only 15minutes and then the sun came out again.

In France I always have a ‘cafe creme’ which is a strong coffee with a bit of milk because their cappuccinos are also usually served with cream.

Although we only had 424kilometres to travel to Nantes, taking the backroads meant continually changing speeds from 90-70-50 and to 30 sometimes which slowed us down considerably. We decided on a bit of the ‘autoroute’ after Niorte so that we could arrive while it was still light.
It rained heavily for 15minutes and then cleared with the following day being a lovely sunny day. We had a wonderful campsite at ‘Camping Nantes’right on the tramline and the very frequent service got us into the city centre in 15minutes. There were some beautiful apartment and other buildings similar to those of Paris but it was a much more relaxed atmosphere and little traffic in Nantes on the Loire river. The local Saturday market was in full swing and you could see what a multicultural city it was by the people at the market.

The impressive chateau of the Dukes of Bretagne was free to walk around unless you wanted to see inside the chateau and there were many pedestrian areas and large squares with cobblestones. We had been recommended to ‘La Cigale’ a restaurant from the 1800’s which
was beautifully decorated inside with amazing colourful tiles. We had a wonderful meal and then had dessert outside overlooking the square. The waiters were all professionals and looked the part.

I had seen the ‘Jardin des Fonderies’ on the map and I am always up to see nice gardens so we set off on the tram over to the ‘Ile de Nantes’ surrounded by the Loire and found our way to the garden and although it was a novel area with a few trees and shrubs surrounding some old foundry equipment, it wasn’t what I had envisaged.

We happened upon a huge festival on our way back on the tram so got off to see what was going on. It took place on and around the ‘Ile of Versailles’ on the L’Edre canal. We had a good walk around and listened to some music. The entrance was free but we lined up for security checks which we were happy about. There were thousands of people at the yearly event but it was a very
relaxed atmosphere and there was food from all over the world to sample although we couldn’t manage another thing.

We drove the following day to St Malo to get the evening Condor ferry to Jersey.

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It was not far from Luxembourg city to the French border where we had the secondary roads to ourselves through the vast areas of corn and grain crops, woods and newly ploughed fields. France looked different with the many poplar trees dotting the landscape.
It was a crystal clear day which continued as we drove into France. The temperature went from a coolish 21degrees in Luxembourg to a humid and warm 33degrees by the time we reached Dijon.
We made a stop on the way in Toul in the Lorraine-Meurthe et Moselle region. It had a magnificent Town hall and cathedral and interesting back streets. The main square had an attractive roundabout with fishing huts and which was beautifully planted with a myriad of colourful flowers and banana trees.
Most of the villages we passed going south had very pretty roundabout centres and lovely potted displays along the roads.
We passed through Langres in the Champagne-Ardenne region which stood on a hilltop with immense town walls surrounding it.
By the time we got the campsite outside Dijon it was a hot and humid 32degrees.

On the way down to Nebouzat in the mountains of the Auvergne area we stopped at ‘Payal la Monial’ a lovely town on a canal with the usual enormous churches and town hall. The countryside changed from a dryer one to lush woods and grassy areas where white limousin cows grazed. Even the secondary roads in France are well serviced with ‘aires’ or picnic areas as opposed to Belgium and Holland where we found only one or two.

We made a stop in Vichy where it was a humid 34degrees and home of the famous Vichy water. The original building housing the water still stood. There were a lot of competitors staggering around the town having taken part in the ‘Iron Man’ competition and most looked absolutely thrashed. The road to Nebouzat near Clermont Ferrand climbed up through the mountains and it was still hot when we arrived in the early evening.

The helpful campsite staff recommended we take the train up to the ‘Puy de Dome’ a high peak overlooking the other peaks in the Auvergne.
A steam train used to do the trip to the peak from 1905-1925 but the service was later abandoned until 2011 when new trains were installed on the route. It only took 10minutes to get to the top. We had a wonderful view of the surrounding Auvergne Volcanic mountains and watched as many people did single or tandem paragliding jumps from the mountain.

Rocamadour in the Lot region of southwest France was the next stop. The castle sat on the top of a cliff and the town below was accessed by two lifts. We walked a way down to the first lift which took us to the old but rather touristy part of town and then we returned via the same lift and a further one to the castle. It is a spectacular looking town and although there were many tourists it was a very relaxed Sunday atmosphere.

Only half an hour away we stayed at ‘Le Foursou’ a lovely B&B run by a friend of Maurice’s cousin Brigid. It was a beautiful spot and very tranquil. Sharon has 4dogs,5goats,4horses and a cat which keep her busy as well as running the four bedroom B&B.
We spent a lovely couple of nights relaxing there, making friends with all the animals and taking the dogs for a walk with her partner Gerard.

Sharon recommended a couple of places to visit on the way down to Pampelonne. We drove through the beautiful ‘Vallee de Cele’ to ‘Saint Cirq Lapopie’ another stunning village perched on a clifftop overlooking a river. It was another hot day as we made our way to Najac a very old village built along the side of a ridge with a castle at the end of it.

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There were several highways circling the city and we eventually found our way in the old town to drop Robert and Gay at their hotel.
We then got a little further lost on our way out to our campsite of ‘Bon Accueil’. It was conveniently located about 15minutes from the city and for 2 euros you could use any public transport for the following 2hours. Most of the buses were either hybrids or electic and the bus drivers were all very helpful as the stops were not shown on board most of the buses.

We decided on the hop on hop off bus to get our bearings which covered the old town and the very large newer banking area of the city.
The centre of the city was spectacular with the wide and deep Petrusse valley running through the centre. We walked along the high part of the city to the ‘Pfaffenthal’ where a glass lift took us down to the valley where we walked for a couple of kilometres and back up to the high centre of the city. The Ducal palace was very close to the edge of the valley. The views up and down the valley were beautiful and most of it was a green belt with many recreational facilities. There were some houses on the sides of the valley and down at it’s base. It was a tranquil and leafy area in which to wander and see the huge town walls and city from below.
I ventured down to the ‘Casemates du Bock’ which were a vast series of underground passages and tunnels. Apparently 17kms of tunnels still exist from the original 23kms and are accessible from two areas.
The narrow stone spiral staircases were a bit claustrophobic but the passages were not too bad. The ‘casemates’ date back centuries but were also used as shelters during the second world war.

The city was full of cafes, bars and restaurants many of which were Italian. Many Italian and Portuguese moved years ago to Luxembourg years ago and settled in the city and the many foreign workers have been an integral part of the prosperity of the country which numbers about half a million inhabitants.

Near the campsite was an enormous construction site of many tall buildings and a metro which was being constructed. The whole area looked like another city. We had great weather for the three days we were in Luxembourg and were reluctant to leave. The city had a great atmosphere and the people were very friendly and helpful especially those in the service industry.

Luxembourg is our favourite city so far this year.

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An old bridge across the river was blocked off as we tried to get to our camping site of Meersen and we eventually found our way after a large detour. The campsite owner was a dour fellow who didn’t like living in the village of Meersen because the people were very parochial and made life difficult if they could according to him. He told us that there used to be a bus outside the site but the council deemed it no longer necessary so we used his services for a fee to get into Wyck, just across the bridge from the centre of Maastricht which is a beautiful little city which was overrun with some of the 12,000 university students who were attending an orientation day in and around the city. The student associations were very vocal where they had set up on the banks of the river and one group running around town in a piaggio ape with a megaphone trying to cajole new students into joining their association. It was a friendly and sober atmosphere but it was early in the day!

Maastricht apart from being a university city attracting students from all over the world is known as a shopping city and there were many tourists doing exactly that. The cafes, bars and restaurants were very popular too. We met up with Tabea a friend we had made in India and she led us to a popular chocolate/cafe which had every conceivable chocolate spoon mixtures. I had a hot chocolate with vodka and lime which was very tasty. She took us to a restaurant which had cleverly built the restaurant below ground around some ancient Roman ruins. Very enterprising.

We had been given conflicting information as to where to get off the train the next day which found the four of us catching the train forwards and backwards to get to the main station over the river in Wyck which was a short walk down the road and over the bridge into Maastricht city.

We walked extensively through the lovely parks bordering the river and found our way to the Waldeck bastion, a fort built
originally in 1690 and to the statue of D’Artagnan. Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d’Artagnan (c. 1611 – 25 June 1673) served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard and died at the Siege of Maastricht in the Franco-Dutch War. We learn something new every day! In the Aldenhofpark there was a statue of a girl caressing a dead giraffe. This was surrounded by a dry moat with other statues of animals. Very strange and we could find no explanation for it all.

We caught the train back to Meersen and found a Greek restaurant at which to eat which was lucky as most restaurants out of the city were closed on Monday. A lot of the local shops were closed until 1pm on Monday and closed at 6pm.

We stopped on the way down to Luxembourg across the German border at Aachen or in French Aix-la-Chapelle. We parked in a very ordinary looking part of town but followed the signs to the old town which held a treasure trove of medieval buildings some which had been built for Charlemagne.

From there we headed back into Belgium and to Bastogne, a pretty town now with brightly coloured umbrellas hanging over the main street and a town which figured largely in Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
This was our last stop in Belgium before entering the country of Luxembourg and then the city of Luxembourg.

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On Wednesday 16th August we drove the quieter roads to our campsite in Grimbergen about an hour away from the centre of Brussels.
We left the van and caught a bus to a metro station half an hour away. Our tickets were valid for an hour and we tried to get down to the platform without success even getting stuck between two doors (luckily one opened). We then realised that our ticket was not valid on the metro so bought another one.
We (who had managed ticketing machines in various countries) could not see how to get a ticket and although we could change the language to English, nothing further was shown in English. There was no one around to ask for help so we went up the escalator into a small corner shop and the foreign shopkeeper was most helpful. He locked his shop and came down with us and showed us the strange method of turning a dial to the ticket that you needed. We missed a couple of trains in the meantime but made it into Metro Louize and down the Avenue Louise to meet our friends Robert and Gay who were staying in Brussels city.

We found a restaurant “Le Rouge Tomate” and sat in the garden for a long and delicious lunch and Robert and I managed a bottle of red.
From there we walked quite a long way to find the “Horta” museum which was Mr Horta’s house. He was an architect and the house was an amazing three storey work of art – beautiful woodwork, lighting, metal work and interesting stained glass. Every aspect of the house was beautiful.
We finished off the day at a small Brussels pub not far away and tried a few different beers – the cherry beer was the only one we thought was like fizzy cough medicine. Maurice and I were lucky to catch the metro back in time to catch the bus back to the campsite as there was only one bus an hour.
We had a lot of rain in the morning so we walked into Grimsbergen and around the quaint town.

Another rainy day in Brussels greeted us but we went into the city this time by bus and tram which took about an hour and we met Robert and Gay at the Grand Place, a beautiful square in the middle of the city. We met our guide together with many others who had braved the rain for our free walking tour. There are a lot of large squares in the old part of the city surrounded by interesting architecture. There were wide boulevards but a lot of the city had cobblestones which we were glad to get off later in the day.
We had a nice lunch at ‘Publico’ tasting another of the thousands of Belgian beers available in the city. One of the many museums had an exhibition of Matritte’s surrealist art. It was interesting to see but some of the surrealism was a bit too much for me.

On our way back to the metro we saw an acrobatic couple performing when the traffic stopped at a major intersection. The military were out in force all over the city and at that intersection but they didn’t seem to mind them there at all.

In the morning we picked up Robert and Gay and headed for Leuven and then on to Maastricht. It was market day in Leuven and it had a beautiful historical town centre with a very large church with interesting spires in the main square. We had a coffee (the Belgians make a strange cappuccino with a ton of cream on top). One cafe even refused to make it with milk and another one said that their barista was on holiday and was the only one who knew how to froth the milk. Very weird.
We bought some good fruit from a couple of Tunisian brothers and left for Maastricht.

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