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We awoke on the 10th September to desert, desert and more desert for the last few hours before Baku. On the train there was no food or drink except for a large urn with boiling water to make tea. We had eaten the night before and had taken a couple of bananas and as we were 2hours late and didn’t get in until 11am we ate those. The two ‘Ludmillas’ in our carriage had lightened up overnight and were our best friends by the time we departed.

We couldn’t imagine the city arising from the wasteland but suddenly we were in a very European type of
environment with beautiful architecture and a huge promenade and park along the Caspian sea. The city
was spotless with many people cleaning the roads ad emptying rubbish bins.
As a 90percent muslim country I expected it to be much more conservative than we found it.
There were very few headscarves and most people dressed in a western way.
When I asked our driver Vugar if I had to dress more modestly in the outer regions he said not at all and such was the case. Like Georgia it seemed to be a very secular and tolerant society. The older peopole however spoke little English like in Georgia but a lot of young people either spoke English or wanted to practise their English.

We had not heard much or anything really about Azerbaijan except for what we read online so we decided to
spend just ten days there otherwise if we were there for longer we would have to report to a police station
which wouldn’t have been a problem as they were everywhere. No one liked the President whose picture
was on large posters all over the country or the police who were corrupt and liked to stop cars willy nilly
to fulfil their budget. There was especially a heavy police and military presence before the 15th September,
Baku’s independence day when they were practising for the big parade. Maurice and I were lucky to witness it
with aircraft and helicopter flyovers, infantry and cavalry along the Bulvar promenade.

Unfortunately there was no ATM at the train station even though it was new and a state of the art facility.
I parked Maurice with the luggage and walked 5minutes to the 28 Mall down the road to an ATM. I then organised
a taxi (a dreadful driver as we found out) and managed to change my money into smaller denominations back at the
station and got our return tickets printed all within 1/2 hour so it was a good start.
Our lovely airbnb apartment was in the smallest street in the old town and in a very quiet location. A man in
from the carpet shop kindly helped us with our luggage.
There was a little boutique hotel opposite where I could get a good coffee in the morning and we had a parting
coffee there the day we left on Maurice’s birthday and they wouldn’t let us pay for it. The little Russian
receptionist was a fountain of information and even though we weren’t staying at the hotel he helped us with
the bags as we had a flight of stairs to the apartment.

The day we arrived in Baku we did another free walking tour, this time with Gani and it was excellent. There were only four of us on the tour – another Australian and a local who wanted to learn more about his city of just over
2.5million people.

We met our driver/guide Vugar the next day (who I had found on Indy Guides) and we did a day’s trip to Qobustan
about 70kms away to see the many Petroglyphs and interesting rock formations there before heading back to the
peninsula to see Atsegah a former Zoroastrian town. Yanadag was our last stop for the day where a continuous
fire burns on the hillside from the underground gas in the region.

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We were glad to reach Tbilisi having forfeited one night and a day’s tour with a driver. We download the Maxim taxi app so that we could avoid the thieves of taxi drivers at the airport who like to dupe the foreigners out of their money. We paid 15Lari instead of 50Lari.

We made the most of our day after leaving the bags in our nice new airbnb apartment.

We took the metro to the city and walked a long way up a hill before taking the very steep funicular stopping midway to see the church built into the side of the hill.
There was an enormous and opulent function/restaurant at the top and the views of the city were spectacular. We returned to the lower funicular station and walked down another hill passing run down but interesting old houses from pre soviet and soviet times. The courtyards of many of the communal houses were dotted with banana and other trees.
We ate our first Georgian dishes at a large restaurant/pub called ‘Bernard’ and we tried several dishes with local cheese and tasty Georgian bread. The cheap local wine was also very good. Prices were very reasonable for food and the local fruit and vegetables especially the tomatoes were delicious. Nicholas our driver the next day told us proudly that Georgia grows everything except for pineapples and bananas which are imported.
We caught the metro back to near our apartment and fell into bed, not having slept more than 4hours the previous night.

We had hired a driver the next day to take us the 2 1/2hours to David Gareja Monastery south east of Tbilisi. The drivers were erratic, impatient, beeping their horns incessantly and all in a hurry. The Georgians seem to operate at a very slow pace but once in a car that changes dramatically. Nicholas our driver was a fountain of information about Georgia in general and the drive passed quickly. The scenery along the way was of undulating steppes developing into stark mountainous areas with a beautiful variety of colours. The monastery and it’s position was amazing and we spotted a couple of monks perched amongst the caves high up on the mountain. On the other side of the hill was Azerbaijan.
We stopped at a local outdoor restaurant for a delicious lunch of trout, a spinach dish, eggplant with walnuts,
potatoes with onions and the tasty Georgian bread which seems to accompany every meal. Nicholas proved to be a
very genuine and pleasant person. All the people we met in the first couple of days in Tbilisi were friendly and helpful.

The Georgian people are very tolerant of other religions and races and there are synagogs, churches shared by Catholics, Baptists and Copts, one mosque and many Christian Orthodox churches. The largest one on a hill overlooking Tbilisi is known as the ‘oil and gas church’ because the Oligarch that built it their billionaire president who just wanted to outdo the previous ruler. Two large tubular buildings were close to completion as concert halls by the previous incumbent when he lost office to the Oligarch. Not wanting to continue with his predecessor’s work the Oligarch halted contruction and it has been lying idle for seven years. He also refused to live in the presidential palace and built a ‘James Bond’type of glass mansion in which he lives high on another hill.

We opted for a free walking tour of Tbilisi (Tbilisi Hack) and Mo an Iranian who had lived there for 18months was an excellent guide and gave us an interesting insight into Georgians and life in general in Tbilisi. We thoroughly enjoyed the 4 1/2 hours we spent walking up and around the city and visiting the various churches, fort, statue of Mother Georgia and also visiting the oldest bakery from the 1500’s where the bread is baked in a large round oven like a Tandoor. They had a variety of long Turkish type rolls filled with either cottage cheese, mushroom or cheese. Very tasty.
The very strange looking knobbly colourful sticks we saw everywhere were a sweet made from flour, honey and various nuts and spices and naturally coloured. Our guide suggested not to buy any that were hanging up as they would be covered in dust.
Nearly every corner has hole in the wall bakery which are not signposted. The aroma of freshly baked bread just leads you to the bakery.
Nicholas gave us the recommendation of a local restaurant which was in a building called Gallery Italia but the food was definately Georgian and very tasty. We caught the metro back to ‘Station Square’ and retrieved our bags from the storage facility which was an old container and caught the overnight train to Baku leaving at 2035. It was again a long night with long stops at both the Georgian and Azerbaijani border controls. Nobody operated at a fast pace so it was 0145 before we got going to Baku again. The border guards who photographed us took two hours longer than normal making us two hours late into Baku. Their machine didn’t like our Australian passports and they wouldn’t swipe so everything had to be entered manually. We were going to return to Tbilisi for a few weeks after our 10days in Azerbaijan.

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We flew from Chennai to Aurangabad with a connection in Mumbai on the 29th August 2018. I had always wanted to see the caves since seeing a documentary about them and thinking that they were such an amazing feat of construction so many centuries ago. They did not disappoint us.
We flew into Aurangabad and stayed right opposite the Ellora caves at the Kailas hotel, a basic but good place for it’s location. We could see the caves and a waterfall in the distance. The lovely Langur monkeys loped through the hotel grounds and I saw a cute mongoose on the lawn one morning.
We went first to the Ajanta caves about a couple of hours from Aurangabad and were glad that Mr Taqui our driver suggested we go first to the viewpoint high above the caves and walk down to them. It was a spectacular sight before
walking down the hundreds of steps to the Buddhist caves. We spent some time exploring the various caves and it was pleasant not going on a weekend when thousands of Indian tourists would be there.
Our last day there we spent going to the tomb of Malik Akbar an African slave who rose to be the founder of Aurangabad.
We were surprised when we visited Bibi al Maqbara which at first looked identical to the Taj Mahal although it was not made of marble and was not in a good state. Reconstruction work was underway to repair a lot of damage which had been done over the many years.
We had a wonderful Thali meal on the way to the airport and flew back to Mumbai and to our hotel the Hotel Residency in the fort area. The old section was not so good so we transferred for a few more rupees to their new wing which was excellent, only thing missing was a lift so luckily we were still fit and easily able to climb the two storeys to our room.
It was wonderful location to explore old Mumbai with its many beautiful colonial buildings from the British Raj times.
The Shivaji railway station, the Prince of Wales museum, the David Sassoon library to name just a few.
Interspersed with these buildings was a bustling city with great restaurants – The Savoury restaurant, the Burma Burma and near Chhowpati beach the Soam restaurant. Walking around the area we found food stalls, men cutting hair, transcribing clerks using old typewritters, dogs and men resting in front of buildings, fish deliveries from near the old Crawford market which
has been re-roofed and renamed. Next door to the hotel was a good hairdresser – $3 for Maurice’s haircut and a very good and efficient laundry also next door.
Despite the construction of a major metro link from Colaba to Bandra and Seepz we could walk down to Marine Drive where a cool breeze was blowing most of the time. We were pleasantly surprised to have cooler and less humid weather than in Chennai and Pondicherry.
We treated ourselves to the cinema – an old art deco one called the Metro Inox to see ‘Christopher Robin’ at the great cost of $4.50 for both of us.
The traffic situation at peak times is horrendous and a lot of it due to increasing vehicle numbers and the metro construction which causes much consternation to the taxi drivers.
We caught a taxi to Bandra on our last evening to have dinner in a Goan restaurant called ‘O Pedro’ with our friend Nidhi.
The journey to the restaurant took 1 1/2 hours and when we left it took us 30minutes to get back to the hotel.
We flew out of Mumbai on the 5th September for what should have been a short overnight stay in Doha however we ended up being there for another 15hours at the airport. I think Doha must have paid to rate it’s airport the best in the world because we didn’t find many redeeming features, finding Singapore a far better airport even before it’s 5th terminal is completed. The flight which should have left at 4pm on the 6th September to Tbilisi ended up leaving at 7.15am on the 7th September and we were shuttled backwards and forwards to the business class lounge three times.

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It was good to be back on home turf and the thing that made such an impression on re-entry was the deep blue sky, the stars at night and the clean, white sand beaches.
It was good to meet up with friends and relations again.
We were off to Albany 400kms south in my new red WRX after our first week at home and the good wide roads and lack of traffic made it very different from most of the travel in the UK, Ireland, Western Europe, Turkey and Morocco. The roads in Scandinavia were good and also with little traffic compared to most of the other countries we visited.
We had brought our campervan home and the only downside to that was that it was ransacked on the ship on the way over and the thorough underbody clean done prior to leaving the UK was substandard and had to be redone.
Once we had put that behind us and had the vehicle licensed, a gas and electric conversion done to comply with Australian standards and regulations we had it on the road again.
We visited friends in Lancelin overnight which had us travelling 125kms north to a seaside holiday town which also made us appreciate the tranquility and lack of people and traffic.
We undertook a major renovation of kitchen, laundry and added a breakfast bar to our house and had a few repairs (a new hotwater system)to do.
We had a few parties to connect with old and new friends and were able to show them what had been our home for six months for the previous 5years. We were amazed at the amount of construction which had taken place in the form of apartments and road/bridges and general improvements since we had been away. In places it was like being in a different city. We were tourists in our own city and we were impressed with what had been done with the centre of the city with a new development on the river.
We got the house back to our home again after having tenants for 6years and decided to have a housesitter when we went away again. The nice woman was the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Commissioner of Police so it was in good hands.

Our itchy feet and the desire to miss the winter in Perth saw us fly on the 14th May 2018 to Bali for a relaxing two week break. A friend Carol picked us up and came with us for a few days and we stayed on until the 30th May, meeting up with Perth friends who happened to be there, our friend Steve in Penestanan, our Russian friend Ksenia with her partner Feisal and lovely baby Fyodor, and my old friend Gustu in Seminyak.
We had one night in Singapore and decided to stay close to the airport (15minutes by taxi) at D’Resort on the East coast of the island overlooking the South China Sea.
We arrived in Chennai on the 1st June and stayed at our usual Grand by GRT and had a wonderful meal at the very innovative restaurant JHind in the hotel. We were collected by Amalraj our driver in the afternoon for our 3hour trip down to Pondicherry.
It was good to be back to Gratitude again. The weather was very hot 35degrees and very humid so it took a couple of days to aclimatise especially riding around on our bicycles in the middle of the day. The airconditioning was a welcome respite at first but we found the fans were a much better option when not too hot.
We had a day’s trip to Gingee King’s fort and managed to climb the 1200 odd steps to the top and the girls also managed the Queen’s fort which wasn’t quite so steep.
Maurice and I had a quick 3day break at the end of July to the Chettinad part of India about 5hours by car south east of Pondicherry. It was truly amazing to see the mansions, some restored, some being renovated and some in disrepair due to lack of funds of the present owners, descendants of the original Chettiar wealthy family who made their money mainly in Burma and the far east. We stayed in three different restored mansions and they were all beautiful.
The 3months in Pondicherry went at some times too quickly and at some times too slowly. The large amount of work I was trying to achieve and dealing with the staff took it’s toll so that I was glad to say goodbye on the 28th August. I did complete most of what I set out to do in the tasks I was given so it was with a sense of satisfaction when I left.
It was also good to connect with several friends we had previously made in Pondicherry and some newly found friends. We will miss them but know we will connect again somewhere in the world or back in Pondicherry when I return in February 2019. Maurice will go to his Ayurvedic centre then and then join me in March or go home and do some work!
During the stay Maurice got a new job with a previous supplier of ours and good friend. They worked together for many years so it will be an easy transition to do what he does best – sell something he believes in. It is a part time position and he can choose his hours which will sit well around our continuing travels, the main feature of our lives.

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We flew on an Emirates A380 from London on the 10th November 2017 and arrived at Al Barsha apartments near Mall of the Emirates for a few day’s stay. It was an excellent apartment, very well equiped and located only one block from the metro station Sharaf DG and a 15minute walk from Mall of the Emirates.
The facilities at the beach in Jumeirah in Um Suqeim II were much upgraded compared to six years ago when there was nothing apart from sand. Now there is a rubberised running path, change rooms, toilets, mobile recharging points, lifeguards and kiosks with shaded areas.
Al Fannah seafood restaurant in the Fisherman’s harbour nearby was excellent serving fresh fish every day at a very reasonable price.

We met up with my UAE friend Salim with whom I studied Mandarin in Hangzhou six years ago. He was doing his military service for a year which he was enjoying.

The Mall of the Emirates doesn’t change much but there is a good choice of every type of shop from very upmarket,large supermarket and their famous ski Dubai complete with penguins.

The airport however seems to change all the time with more trains taking you longer distances to new departure halls with a myriad of duty free and other shops.
We flew to Singapore on an Emirates A380 which was a very comfortable flight as it was only half full. It was very noticeable on both flights however that the crew do the bare minimum and do not offer the service you get with Singapore airlines, Garuda or even Indigo.

In Singapore we stayed at the Parkroyal on Kitchener Road in the middle of Little India. We were upgraded to a club room on the 21st floor which gave us a wonderful view over the few remaining old buildings down below in Little India. We were again blessed with the weather with no rain which was fortunate as we explored the
‘Gardens by the Bay’ an extensive area of stunning gardens and the amazing engineering feat of the ‘Cloud Forest’ and ‘Flower Dome’.

Singapore has an amazing array of food choices and we opted for ‘Din Tai Fung’ for their wonderful steamed dumplings and then ‘Fattys’ a Singapore institution from the early 20’s. Fatty has since passed on but his son Skinny runs the restaurant.

On the 14th we flew from Singapore to Bali for a week’s R & R. We visited the Andree spa daily and had wonderful 90minute massages for $20. Spa treatments here especially in Candi Dasa are such good value. We visited our Russian friend Ksenia and partner Feisal in Ubud who had baby Fyodor who was very cute and only a week old. It was bucketing down in Bali which continued when we arrived at our villa in Seminyak which my old friend the ex Qantas manager ran and invited us to stay for a couple of nights.
At least it was hot and not cold but going to dinner Maurice had to go out in shorts and no shoes and me likewise to get to the car as it was raining so hard.

It was sad to see that everywhere was very quiet because of the expected eruption of Mt Agung. We could see steam coming from the crater in the distance but the evacuated people had returned to their homes. The island in general was much quieter than usual and our hotel told us that many people had cancelled their bookings. They were hoping for a better December for tourist numbers.

Maurice found a good app called ‘findship’ which showed real time as to where our ship carrying our van and our ship carrying our goods from Italy were. Amazing technology. The other one we used all over Europe to plot routes for the van and where we had flown was ‘maps.me’ a very useful app too.

We flew back to Perth on the 24th November to a lovely warm 33degree and blue sky day. Maurice’s sister and brother in law picked us up and we had a very relaxing lunch by the river before heading to the Subaru dealer to pick up my new red WRX car. It goes like a rocket and I love it.

It did feel strange seeing all the new developments around Perth the first few days and after spending a lovely few days with Maura and Tony we got our house back on the 27th November ready for a lot of sorting and unpacking.

It has been a wonderful six years of travel for us meeting a lot of interesting and generous people all over the world and exploring some fascinating places. We look forward to getting our house and garden in order (literally) and then continuing our travel for shorter periods except for a few months at Mantra the Indian guest house we look after during the Perth winter.

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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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