Archives for the month of: September, 2016

It was a good thing that we started early in the day as we wanted to have a good look around Lucerne which is such a picturesque city with it’s interesting buildings, covered bridges and towers on the lake. We were lucky again to get parking very close to the city. There were a lot of students and tourists around and the cafes and restaurants were full of people, the outdoor ones. The weather had continued to be hot and sunny and we counted ourselves very lucky in that regard. It took quite a bit of planning not to take the Autobahn to Lake Konstanz as the sat.nav. kept trying to take us on it but we got there in the end after many hours of pleasant driving though the hills and towns.

The first and very well recommended campsite at Seehorn near Romanshorn was unfortunately full so we ended up at Buchhorn in Arbon which was a well run campsite with friendly staff and with the train which ran by the site. Luckily it did not run overnight and it was a handy three minutes to the station.
Maurice was feeling a bit tired the next day so I took myself off to Romanshorn where I got the ferry which took 2hours to get to the island of Mainau. We criss crossed the enormous lake and sailed by the city of Konstanz in Germany to Mainau island which is known as the garden island. Count and countess Bernadotte live in the enormous chateau on the island which is known for it’s beautiful gardens with over 12,000 dahlias and countless roses,enormous sequoias and other interesting trees.
I stopped to see the arrival of a bride at the ornate church. There were many different cafes and restaurants on the island and I opted for afternoon tea in the palm garden which was suitably sub-tropical. There were well laid out paths all over the island and I found the butterfly enclosure with a stunning array of specimens.
I walked across the bridge connecting the island to mainland Germany and caught the bus to Konstanz. I didn’t know exactly how I would get back to the campsite but I had my day ticket which luckily was valid for Germany and Switzerland and there was a manned train information office which printed me out a route map taking me to Kreutzlingen back in Switzerland and then to change to Romanshorn and then on to Arbon to the campsite. I didn’t get back until nearly 7.30pm but it was a good journey and still light.

We met up the next morning with Peter who worked for a company we were affiliated with and who had visited us on a couple of occasions in Perth. We hadn’t seen him for 5years so it was nice to catch up with him. We had coffee a few doors away from the campsite in a cafe by the lake and then he took us up into what he called the Swiss outback!
We drove past the turn off for ‘Heididorf’ on the Autobahn and on the left side was Liechenstein and Austria and Switzerland on the right hand side.
We went up into the Swiss Alps and had amazing views of the surrounding mountains and small villages. It was a Sunday and there were lots of people out and about and the first restaurant we tried was full and the one we eventually found was also very full but had room for us.
It was lovely sitting outside in the sun. I took some photos in the street and found a house selling ‘self serve’ cheese. The small fridge with an honesty box on top was next to the front door so I put the money in the tin, took my change and took a piece of cheese from the fridge. I couldn’t do that in too many countries I’m sure!

After a delicious typical Swiss lunch with Rosti and Spatzli and a nice Aperol Spritz to start with we drove along the winding very narrow roads back down the mountain and back to the campsite. We had a very enjoyable day and it was nice that Maurice had a break from driving. We caught up with computer and van housework in the afternoon. The wonderful weather continued the next day when we drove over the mountains and into Liechtenstein, a principality using the Swiss Franc. The town itself is very small and after a coffee and a walk around the mainly touristy shops we only took about half an hour to get from one end to the other of the principality.
It was strange to get the three different languages – German, Italian and French on the radio as we drove along.
All the cows we saw seemed happy cows with plenty to eat in their very green fields and we could hear them from a long way off with their large bells around their necks.

We took the long way over the mountains and stayed the night at Cugnesco near Lago Maggiore in the Swiss Italian Alps where the managers were very pleasant. They didn’t even charge me for printing out some things that I needed for our Indian visas. We had to get back to Rome fairly quickly to lodge our visas and get some vaccinations so we left early on the secondary roads down through the San Bernadino pass and over Lake Lugano to Italy and Lake Como.

We will come back to Switzerland next year to Lake Konstanz as we want to take the ferry from Konstanz down the Rhein to Schaffhausen which we didn’t have time to do this year. Maurice likened Switzerland to a good looking golf course. Everything everywhere was so neat and tidy.

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We awoke at our good campsite in the small village of Neydens to a lovely sunny day and caught the bus from there with a change at St Julien to Geneva city. We met a couple of English ladies who were also staying in the campsite so chatted on the way to town.
Geneva is a beautiful city with it’s interesting architecture, vast lake and lovely places to have coffee and eat, although a lot more expensive than France with it’s strong Swiss Franc. We found our way with the aid of a city map to the Reformation wall located in a large leafy park. It stood very high with larger than life statues depicting those involved in the reformation. From there we went to St Pierres cathedral with the ruins of the old cathedral beneath it in a very well preserved archaelogical site over three levels below ground. The Reformation museum just opposite the church was in a beautiful old house and the information was very innovatingly shown with films and clever audio explanations.
We walked around the old city and down and around the promenade by the lake with stops for coffee and lunch along the way. Everywhere was very clean and tidy and we saw very little graffiti which was a change from most of the larger european cities. The only bus to take us back to Neydens was at 6pm with a change again at St Julien and we walked from a large new shopping centre/pool complex along the backroads to the campsite. The public transport in Switzerland is excellent and runs on time to the minute.
The trees on the hills were already changing colour and the nights were getting shorter.
The campsite was very well appointed with good pitches and spotless facilities and we managed some washing in the two nights that we were there.

We drove along the east side of Lake Geneva on the French side the next day – the border as such is in the middle of the lake – to Thonon where we had a walk around and then continued to a nice quiet spot with a small jetty by the lake for lunch.
We drove on further to Montreux at a nice leisurely pace and around the pretty, very orderly city with it’s very large and ornate appartment houses which had beautiful views across the lake. On the edge of the lake near Montreux was the Chateau of Chillon which belonged to the House of Savoy from the 12th century.
The location and the chateau itself was magnificent as were the views across to the other side of Lake Geneva.
The secondary roads which we took all through Switzerland were in tip top condition. Our campsite of ‘Rive Bleue’ by the lake at Bouveret a short drive away was a nice quiet one with excellent facilities.
The following day we left Bouveret to see the town of Vevey (where Charlie Chaplin spent his last years) on the way to Lausanne to meet our friend Christian.
We managed to find a parking spot very near the centre of Lausanne and walked up hundreds of steps to the Cathedral where we had a view all over the city. Lausanne was very hilly and we had a steep climb even in the pedestrian shopping area. We found a cafe ‘Blackbird’ serving healthy food and I had a delicious salad with the tag of ‘superfood’ Quinoa and pommegranate seeds etc and Maurice a haloumi, hummus and salad sandwich and with two cold tea drinks and we did enjoy it – just as well as it translated into $55 Australian! We decided not to convert Swiss Francs any longer. Even Christian a Frenchman who has lived in Lausanne and who we met in Pondicherry a few years ago said that it was an expensive place to live compared to France and for us it was many times more expensive to eat out than in the other countries we had visited other than Norway. We found some delicious looking pastries and bought some to take to afternoon tea with Christian. He is French speaking with little English and it sure did test my French but it was lovely seeing him again.

Switzerland is such a small country compared to it’s French neighbour and it only took us an hour to get to Bern the capital which we drove through and on to Spiez,a little town which I remembered from 27years ago. It it on the the shore of Lake Aare and is the most beautiful picturesque town. There was no campsite very close so we drove on and up to Stuhlegg in Kittigen another pretty site with ‘Lurch’ for a manager. A very dour individual but we only had to book in with him and then we enjoyed the scenery it afforded. The showers were good and hot which was just as well as it was like having a shower in the field – they were not in an enclosed building. Needless to say we didn’t dawdle. We left the campsite early the next morning.

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Rain greeted us after a nice smooth crossing on the Stena ferry to Holyhead from Dublin where we returned to the lovely campsite of Riverside near the picturesque town of Betws-y-Coed in Snowdonia, Wales. It continued to pour all night and the next morning until around lunchtime when we were well in to England. From then on for the following twelve days the weather was wonderful – blue skies mostly and warm. We had a relaxing week with our friends Michael and Ruth in the Chilterns. I had a lovely belated birthday lunch at ‘The Grove’ golf hotel before driving up to Hichin for a few days to catch up with another friend Barry and get the MOT and a couple of minor adjustments to the van done. The crowd at Hitchin caravans are so nice and they let us stay there van plugged in for a few days every year.
My good and faithful Toshiba notebook died and we were able to get a new Lenovo computer in the little time we had so that was a godsend. The keyboard was closer to my Chromebook so the transition went smoothly thank goodness.
We had a few good walks to the market town which boasts a few good cafes and restaurants. We spent most of our time in the Hermitage cafe/restaurant/gift shop where good coffee and good food was served and we could do vital things like book flights to India and fill in our Indian visa forms online – a lengthy process and not a successful one as far as the flight from India with Malaysian airlines to Kuala Lumpur. Their website was experiencing difficulties and we had no luck trying to book it after many attempts so we left that for another day. We had to book this so far in advance as the Indian consulate want to sight our tickets out of India.

The weather changed with a blanket of clouds on the 2nd September when we took the Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. After a lengthy wait at the port the staff were very welcoming and the three and a half hour trip got us into Cherbourg an hour late. Luckily we had decided to have our main meal in the van while we waited as we didn’t get in until 7.30pm French time. We phoned ahead to the caravan park in the lovely village of Carentan 50minutes away and I had to hurriedly resurrect my French to make sure that they would accept us after 8pm. It had the unusual name of ‘Flower Camping le Haut Dick’. It was still light and we had a nice quiet evening
with the sound of owls in the distance. It was an excellent site with very few campers. The season was officially over on the 1st September so our ACSI camping card came in handy where we only paid now between 12-18euros a night instead of the high season prices of up to 50euros. The proprietor of the campsite asked where we were from and he said he knew that we were not from England as we had no dog with us!

Leaving the village the next morning we had to turn around at the first bridge we came to as it was only 2metres wide – not enough for us. That is one drawback of the sat.nav.not knowing our size. The day got up to 32degrees with a beautiful blue sky all day as we made our way down through lower Normandy and down to the very fertile Loire valley going through the villages of Alencon, Mamers, Vendome and Blois. We decided on a break in Blois, an amazing large town on the Loire which happened to have an enormous fair all through the city with lots of activities for adults and children. There was a party air to it all and the town itself with it’s amazing chateau and associated buildings were wonderful to see. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the festivities before driving along the Loire river and then across the Cher river to our campsite at Faverolles Sur Cher not far from the beautiful Chateau of Chaumont by the river.

We stocked up on supplies at an enormous Carrefour shop where while Maurice was backing into a parking spot an impatient van driver shouted at him ‘you Anglais’ so Maurice shouted back not Anglais – Australian, to which the driver said ‘sorry, sorry, sorry!’and gave him the thumbs up.

On the 4th September we continued along the Cher river and via Mennetou sur Cher – a medieval town to Bourges where we looked for an amazing cathedral which we could see for miles before we got to the town but ended up nearly getting stuck with the van in the Sunday We luckily extricated ourselves,this time without me having to get out of the van and hold the traffic. We found the cathedral of St Etienne and departed for Nevers and to Chalon Sur Saone always taking the almost deserted country roads through many quaint small villages and agricultural land planted thickly with corn, grapevines and now wilting sunflowers. Many field had herds of the large white Limousine cows.
Many of the roundabouts had beautiful floral displays and one even told a story – a small house with farmer ploughing the field with a horse and a small vineyard. Very innovative. From the Cher we climbed into the densely forested hills and down to the Saone river where we stayed in a large but very orderly campsite next to the river. The sunset was a colourful one so we hoped for another sunny day after a cloudy but warm one.

We took all of the next day to drive across Burgundy up into the mountains and to our campsite at Neytens in France, just across the border from Switzerland.
The day was cool and cloudy with patchy rain. Although we were still in France it was only a 15minute bus ride to Geneva. If anyone asked us where we had had the best weather this year the answer was England!

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The catch phrase we heard over and over again was “well you don’t come to Ireland for the weather”.
This was very true as we were visiting many cousins and showing Maurice’s son Craig and his wife Yuko the country and introducing them to the many cousins. It would have been nice however to have some warm weather which was seriously lacking for a summer. Even the inhabitants were complaining about their lack of summer weather but that didn’t stop them from swimming in the sea and picknicking outside which we wouldn’t contemplate at home.

We picked Craig and Yuko up from Cork airport after a cancelled flight into Dublin from Amsterdam and in the two weeks that they were with us we managed to cover a great deal of the island as well as having lots of family time which was really enjoyable and all the cousins made them very welcome.

In two weeks we drove from Dublin to Clonmel and to Cork where the McCarthys came from then back to Dublin then to Avoca. We zigzagged a bit so that we could catch up with some of the cousins and friends who were either on holiday from England where they live or to see cousins who were about to go on holiday.

We continued on to Wexford where Maurice’s paternal grandmother was born to Galway (an interesting city) and found where his great grandparents had lived and then via the cliffs of Moher and across many counties to Belfast on mostly bumpy narrow roads. Only Maurice had been to Belfast before and we found it a small but interesting city architecturally and culturally. We did a Black Cab tour around the former troubled areas of the city where tensions can still run high but are a far cry from what they were when the British military occupied the city.
What they call the ‘Peace Wall’ circles a part of the city dividing the catholic and protestant areas of Belfast. Interestingly part of the wall was taken down while we were there and luckily it caused no problems. We met up with Marcella, a friend we had not seen for ten years and it was lovely to catch up with her.

Maurice and Craig went to the Ulster Moto GP – the crazy motorbike road race – which they thoroughly enjoyed while Yuko and I were more sedate and went to the amazing Titanic exhibition which is a fixed one as the original Titanic was built there. We also managed a tour of city hall and some shopping.

We had our only two really warm and blue sky days on Craig and Yuko’s last day in Dublin and the day after.
The free walking tour of Dublin on the sunny day was most informative and James did a great job while giving us a few laughs along the way. We sampled some Irish food and also a lot of seafood and fish along the way.

People were friendly and helpful all over the country – north and south.

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