Second week of our Summer 2019 hols

I know, I know readers, a slightly improved title but I know what you are saying, can she really not put more effort into it. Or as my teacher would say in my end of year report “could try harder”.The excuse is the heat. I, we, shouldn’t complain but it is the English in us. It is so nice to see the sun but oh boy is it hot. It just drains you. Our days have become very boring with little sight-seeing and just sitting under the umbrella or bobbing about in the sea. So as not to bore my dear followers I decided that it would be better for everyone if I just produce a weekly post.We ended up staying on the campsite at Blois Plage on the beautiful Ile d’Re for four nights, set up underneath the pine trees. Enjoying life and people watching over our evening G & T and sampling the local olives.We met a lovely couple John and Avril from Wales, retired and thoroughly enjoying this lifestyle even with the string of disasters theyhave had over their 9 week trip which included a tussle on the motorway with a juggernaut which peeled off large sections of new camper bodywork (now gafer taped back on) and John reversing over his wife whilst she guided him back into a pitch. The motorbike trailer caught her leg and it required 16 stiches in theater.All recounted in good humor over a glass or two of wine as you do. Hopefully the notes we made of their recommendations to visit will make sense in the future and what not to do when parking.We had another enjoyable day trip out on the scooter and stopped for a lovely lunch alongside the harbour in Saint Martin. It was just as busy as when we last visited back in 2014 with my parents for a long weekend before our trip down to the Italian lakes.

We eventually moved on up the coast and our choice was St Jean de Monts. There are three Aires to choose, although one is just a basic car park. We opted for the one in the town. €12.50 for 24 hours paid on exit, there is electricity included but only 24 points for 40 vehicles, water and waste facilities also included. The individual parking bays are nice and wide so each van had enough to have the awning half the way out and table chairs set up. It is about a 5 minute walk to a very large and busy beach.The sand is very fine which meant the water was murky and I was a real wuss as their was seaweed that I couldn’t see only feel around my ankles which I can’t stand and to top it off quite a few jellyfish. So it was one quick dip to cool off and a hasty retreat out. Then the flies started settling so we packed up and went back to Bella.After dinner, and as it finally started to cool, we wandered along the sea front. It feels very touristy with restaurants and amusement arcades, not really our sort of thing.As you probably guess we opted to move on the next morning and unfortunately our first choice was closed because of a kite surfing competition so we headed to the Island of Noirmointier and the Huttopia campsite Indigo situated on the North East coast.At this time of year it is a bit pricey at €32 a night but the position is perfect. Right on the beach and about a 30 minutes walk in to the town. We ended up staying 3 nights and now we have the maps out again working out where we will next aim for our final week.

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Summer holiday 2019

I am sorry dear reader that I have not come up with a better title for this blog. Hopefully it will not deter what I am sure is my only faithful follower, our daughter, who as we speak, is on her own adventures to Singapore and Malaysia.

This year’s journey started as per usual with its trials and tribulations. Half way across to St Malo on board the Condor ferry there is an inaudible announcement due to the day trippers taking advantage of the alcoholic breakfast on board at 9:30am. Later we realise it was to inform us that the French are carrying out their usual seasonal disruption be it either air traffic control or in this case, port blockades.

Foot passengers for once could disembark first whilst we had to wait patiently for the French police to gain control.

Finally we are on our way, however as per usual nothing goes smoothly with this scooter. Last time we were away with her, we were on our way back to the harbour at 5:30 am to catch the ferry when the drive belt snaps and a breakdown lorry has to take us the final 5k to the port, missing the boat by 5mins.

This time the oil and engine over heating lights come on whilst still on the motorway. We limp into the supermarket carpark and manage to find the last bottle of 4 stroke scooter engine oil on the shelf. We are on are way again in less than 10 minutes and fortunately no further dramas.

Bella is fine and we have soon transferred our final essentials into her lockers. We have a quick trial of what will be her new undercover storage area before we point the sat nav for the South of France.

Now I know what you are all going to say. Did we not know of the heat wave that was coming, and the quick answer is no.

Because of the really poor start to this year’s weather and due to all the work we had been doing around the house, we decided to just head south and had provisionally booked 10 days down on a lovely quiet campsite, Las Clapas, in the Ardeche.

Our first night was at the Aire St Denis sur Martin which is a lovely spot fortunately not used very much, next to a swimming lake about 2 hours away from St Malo.

In the morning very unusually for us, we do a weather check and realise what is about to hit France. It is going to take two full days of driving for us to reach the Ardeche to have the same temperatures that the rest of France is about to experience. Time for a re think I feel.

Andy suggests diverting to our favourite spot on the Loire near Sumaur at St.Martin de La Place. If it’s going to be hot what better site than on the banks of the river under the trees, within scooter distance of lunch in Sumaur. Sold. We contact La Clapas who are very understanding of our urgent family matter, and change course.

Two hours later we are set up and on the ‘beach’, or the dry flood plain in this case.

We spend five days here, sweltering with temperatures in the high thirties. And no let up the following week. Now, we like the sun, but this was getting ridiculous. Day after day relentless temperatures, that made sleeping impossible.

So we again consulted the forecast and decided that if we headed South, we could enjoy 10 degrees cooler temperatures. Perfect. A bit unusual but needs must. So we got up early and drove for the coast, heading for Ile De Oleron.

Visited some two or three years ago we weren’t that impressed, but with new intel we headed for Le Chateau de Oleron, on the east coast. With a choice of, Aires, private campsites and municipals, we opt for Le Ramparts which unsurprisingly is right outside the Verdun inspired fortified town and chateau. Taking a 5 minute walk into the port, we discover an amazing area of old sheds, painted brightly and converted into artisan shops and seafood restaurants. With oysters the local delicacy we are soon tucking into a well deserved chicken and chips. (Ok, Andy did , but I had Moules).

The next day we were due some exercise so a run was the order of the day , we headed off towards the beach and decided to look in on the Aire. Huge but Ok. Right opposite the beach. Apparently, the sea does come into this beach but even with squinty eyes no water could be seen. It disappears for days and only a small channel feeds the port. Something I hadn’t admitted to is that once reaching the coast and enjoying the change in temperature, the sun failed to materialise for our time on Oleron. But at least we could sleep comfortably again.

We take a ride up to St Denis and again find a nice port area, full of shops and restaurants that the French do so well, and we scout out the local campsites for future reference.

After two days we decided to move on, and head for the he next island up the coast- Ile de Re. Those of you who are subscribers to our blog channel (if only) will know we have frequented its island shores previously on a number of occasions. Lastly we were here with Tracey’s mum and Dad, but hopefully the authorities have no longer got us on their wanted list for a string of cycling offences. As a precautionary measure we slip into the island and head for a location where we shouldn’t be recognised, Le Blois de La Plage.

Situated on the islands West coast, we may well have visited here before on bicycles, but that was probably after a three course lunch and remains a blur. This time we are located right on the beach at the Les Amis camp site. Nice facilities and so convenient for the sea should the sun ever return. Oh, yes, I should have mentioned that here too the heat wave is yet to strike. We sit in hope wrapped in a fleece albeit with shorts and thankful of warm showers.

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The transfer back to the airport was different and a little nail bitting at times with the driver dashing across several lanes of traffic and pulling out infront of others as he darted from one hotel to another picking up more and more people. We are all whispering in our own languages, French, Italian and Germany are the ones I could pick out. 

Cases weighed, paid for and sent on their way, we join the snaking queues through security. They have a great solution for water bottles. You empty them this side of security in the designated areas, keep the empty bottle and they provide a refill service once through. This helps reduce the amount of plastic bottles just thrown away.

The airport is busy with flights, because of the size of America these internal flights are like large taxis in the sky. Just over and hour and half later and we are flying over Red Rock Canyon, and the dessert that surrounds Las Vagus. 

As we walk through to baggage reclaim I am quite shocked to see rows and  rows of slot machines. Once again our luggage safely arrives and we head out to find a transfer service. The heat hits us. We have a choice of a taxi or shuttle bus. The shuttle bus already waiting so we opt for that. We wait about 15 minutes with virtually useless aircon. Finally with no more passengers we set off and about 10 minutes later we are in the beautifully cool lobby of MGM Signature. Our room is on the 7th floor and looks out towards the strip. The room or should I say suite is fantastic with Jacuzzi bath, large walk in shower and his and her sinks. Large lounge area with dining area and a well equipped small kitchen.


We quickly change and decide to go and sit around the pool, relax, cool off and have some lunch before heading out.

As we head through MGM we enquire about the show Ka. We are informed that the cast are taking an extra days break this week so tonight would be the only night we would have a chance to see it. We now have 10 minutes in which to decide to go to the 7pm show or the 9pm show, choose and pay for our ticket and get in to the auditorium if we opt for the 7pm show, which we do. Our seats are perfect if expensive. We are about 4 rows up from the front right in the middle. The show had just started so we try not to disturb too many people.

Wow what a show, so glad we went. It is a Cirque de Soliel production that tells the story  of twin brother and sister who set

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Budapest Day 2 – Rain, History and tired legs.

After a really good nights sleep we made it down for the excellent buffet breakfast at 09:30 am.  Although it would be another day of walking, I did managed to restrict myself to only going up twice.

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Note the staff uniform of checked shirt – makes a nice change

With so much to see on our last day, there was no hanging around, bus tickets in pockets, umbrellas and our best foot forward we stride out in the rain.  First stop was the brilliant concept of the Szimpla Farmers Market http://en.szimpla.hu/farmers-market. You can’t miss this place as outside the entrance are various objects from mis matched chairs, an old motorbike and side car and various brightly coloured plastic objects.

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Door of the Day

Once in side, the ground floor is where on a good day between 30 and 40 local farmers are selected to sell their produce ranging from spices, cheeses, vegetables and breads.

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Upstairs you can sit and listen to the live music and enjoy a Sunday brunch prepared from the ingredients being sold in the market. It was popular at 10 am but unfortunately we really don’t have the time to stay any longer.

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Making our way back toward the Danube river and the Houses of Parliament we pass several buildings whose gabled ends have been adorned with art work. The first we came across was the Rubik’s Cube, whos inventor, Erno Rubik was from Hungary. (It was Andy who provided this bit of information.)

Not sure what this one was about but looks good

Continuing on we pass the Tree of Life Memorial in the garden of the Great Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter. It was designed by Imre Varga in 1991 and paid for by the late American actor Tony Curtis for his Hungarian-born father Emanuel Schwartz.

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life stands over the mass graves of those murdered by the Nazis in 1944-45 and on the leaves of the tree are inscribed the family names of some of the hundreds of thousands of victims.

After lighting a candle for my Nana in St Stephen’s Basilica we move on through Liberty Square where a controversial memorial was erected during the night on the 20th and 21st July 2014.

The monument was ordered by the government of Hungary without any consultation with the people of Hungary. Critics of the Monument, which has Hungary represented by the Archangel Gabriel, being attached by a German Imperial Eagle, feel that it appears as if the Hungarian State and Hungarians have been exonerated of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation and are rewriting history. As a way of silently protesting people have been leaving pebbles, personal items, photos and documents.

Arriving at the banks of the Danube we stop and admire another statue. Hungary has so many, this one is of Attila Jozsef, who is one of the best know modern Hungarian poets and wrote “By the Danube” earning very little and starting to show signs of schizophrenia it is believed he either committed suicide or died from a terrible accident when he was crushed by a train starting whilst he was crawling along the railway tracks.

We turn and make our way towards Chain Bridge. But first we take time to reflect at one of the newest monuments and one I really wanted to visit. The Shoes on the Danube. It is a very poignant memorial to the memory of the victims, many of who were Jewish, who were lined up on the banks of the river so when they were shot their bodies fell into the river and were swept away, removing the requirement of graves to be dug. As they lined up they were ordered to remove their shoes as they were a valuable commodity that could be reused or sold.

We continue along the bank reflecting the sadness of such atrocities and how fortunate we are. The grey skies and damp day seem very poignant. Dodging muddy puddles we arrive at the start of Hungary’s first permanent bridge across the Danube know as “The Chain Bridge” built by a Scottish engineer and opened in 1849 .

Still walking off the extra calories consumed at breakfast we forgo the funicular and instead walk up Castle Hill to the old town of Buda on the west bank.

We had timed our arrival just perfectly, unbeknown to us the changing of the guard in front of the Presidential Palace was just about to take place. It is a short ceremony not much hype made of it but was nice to witness.

By now it is really pouring with rain, so we take a short rest in a cafe overlooking the square next to the Presidential Palace and treat ourselves to one of their local dishes – a slice of apple strudel.

At 1,800 HUFF per person to enter, we decided to give it a miss, and just wander around the outside of Matthias Church and with the weather continuing to deteriorate it was a dash from turret to turret before giving up and making our way back down via Buda Castle.

This afternoons agenda was a visit to the Gellert thermal baths, but by the time we had caught the bus and made our way there it was gone 6pm and with the baths closing at 8pm this would realistically only give us an hour in the water. So we remain on the bus and give our legs a rest. Perfect excuse to re visit Budapest. We will just make it a priority when we do return as I am sure we will be back although next time in the spring.

Walking back to our hotel we pass the Cat Cafe. The owner of the cafe has various breeds of cats including Main Coons and rescued cats. They wander around the cafe, sitting on tables and enjoy being cuddled. What a great way to reduce stress.

Its a short soak in the bath instead before we get dressed up and head out again, its about a 20 minute walk to Matula Bar Bistro where we have a lovely authentic Hungarian meal, starting with Goulash Stew, a first for me.

Love the quirky lampshades

Monday morning arrives all too quickly and it is time to leave. We have had a lovely break if a little damp at times. It is another squeeze to get us all on the airport shuttle bus and no chance of anyone else getting on at the next two stops. Luckly, we manage to get a seat again. Security is once again a bit of a shambles having to walk from one end of the departure hall to the other as the correct gate we should go through is too busy. Now I am worried we will end up in the wrong place but thankfully both gates merge into the same departure area with plenty of shops and cafes to while away the time, as I like to be everywhere early, so we now have a few hours to wait. I hate being late for anything. Before long we are landing back in Gatwick airport and head over to Wagamama’s for tea and then our flight back to Jersey. It has been a wonderful break and hopefully not too long before we manage to visit another European city and then it will be time to get Bella prepared for her six sunny summer months in France.

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Mini Break to Budapest

With winter feeling long we decided to have a weekend away. Browsing on the internet using Easyjets citybreak offers we settled on Budapest. That was about 4 weeks ago and after reviewing various articles on what to see we had our itinery sorted and bags packed. Our son kindly gave us a lift to the airport after work on Friday evening for our flight to Gatwick. We had to stay overnight as our flight to Budapest was at 08:40 Saturday morning. Half an hour later than scheduled which a couple glasses of Prossecco helped and we were on our way. We had a nice if rather late meal at the Sofitel and retired at 11:30 pm with the alarm set for 6am.

Saturday morning its a quick cup of coffee in bed before heading back into the departure lounge. By the time we are through security and snaking our way through duty free our gate number is already displayed. No time for a croissant. On board and we have been allocated the emergency exit row, an unexpected win for Andy as at six foot one (and three quarters) the extra leg room is a bonus.

Two and half hours later and we have arrived at Budapest and exiting the airport is chaos. It starts with the usual immigration check but they have three options – EU, EU and all passports or all passports ?? We opt for EU as it won’t be much longer that we can go for this option.

We are finally into baggage reclaim that we can skip through, and now there is an enourmous queue to get through customs. As we inch very slowly further we can see the issue – suit cases have to go through another x-ray machine, and there is only one. With the elderly struggling to lift up their large cases on to the conveyor belt it is causing the tail back. Finally they give up and creat a contraflow to just let us through.

But the arrivals hall is still full with drivers holding up boards, family waiting for relatives and loved ones and all the rest like us looking lost. We locate the tourist information desk and enquire about the tickets for the shuttle bus into the city centre. Go to the next desk along. they say. Return tickets bought (which on departure date we would be grateful for) we finally exit – hay ho into another queue.

More chaos, the queue for the bus is so long but most in this queue don’t have a ticket. We check with the staff, show our ticket, but still have to get in the queue. I am afraid to say that when the bus arrived we did jump the queue and slid in near the beginning and bagged a seat each. Every single inch of the bus was filled with people, no maximum passenger numbers here.

Half an hour later we are deposited at Deak Ferenc which is the city center main bus hub and with the use of the brilliant Maps.me app we easily find the K and K Hotel near the Opera house.

We quickly dump our bags, change of foot wear and off out again. Having researched the best way around the city we purchased our hop on hop off tickets and made our way to Hero’s square.

The public square which is Budapest’s largest was created in 1896 to mark the 1,000 anniversary of the country’s birth. In the centre of the square is the tall Millennium Monument completed in 1929 to honour the Magyar tribe who founded the country with the equestrian statues surrounding the bottom of the seven Magyar chieftains. Behind this monument are two curved colonades each with six pillars. Between each pillar are statues of famous Hungarian kings and important historic figures.

We wander around the park, pass the ice skating rink which is created each year by freezing the lake and on through the museum set in the park gardens.

Back on the hop on hop off bus we listen to the commentary as we cross over from the Pest side to the Buda side on the west bank of the river Danube. As night approaches everywhere starts to be illuminated and looks magical. Included in the hop on hop off bus ticket is a boat trip up the Danube with the last one leaving at 6:30 pm. I like to be early but this time we were a whole hour early and were first.

However it wasn’t long before a considerable queue formed along the narrow walkway. Later as the departure time approached the ticket lady made her way up the gangplank and very miserably moved us back with much protest further down the queue until we were off her gang plank. All she kept saying was 2 boats 300 people. Eventually the two boats arrived, 300 people disembarked and pushed their way through. And we were now allowed on. Sat up the front with hats, gloves and scarf on we enjoyed the views. I will only bore you with a few of the many photos we took between us.

Houses of Parliament

Chain Bridge

Houses of Parliament

Statue of Liberty

Cold and hungry we make our way back towards the hotel stopping at the first restaurant that takes our fancy, an Italian, not very authentic but no energy left to keep looking. Pizza, pasta and a bottle of wine later, feeling revived for some window shopping on the way back.

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Heading for home at Changè

So Thursday morning has arrived and after a tremendous downpour all night we woke to blue skies and a much fresher feel. Such a shame we need to move, but move on we must.

Now dear reader we have had a problem with our electronic emobilser contol for the whole of this trip. It started as we tried to disembark the ferry in Saint Malo. On turning the key the engine starts to turn over but doesn’t ever do the final turn and fire up – if you know what I mean. The boat crew are waving us forward as we are at the front so no one can disembark. Try again – nothing. Try the old take the key out, put back in method – nothing. More frantic waving from the crew. Andy notices there is a yellow light now lit on the dashboard. It seems unusual. Not somthing we have noticed before. Closer inspection reveals its a padlock. Umm. At this time we had no idea what it meant. After several attempts, taking the key out and trying again – Bingo, the padlock stays off and we finally got the engine to fire up. Much to the crews delight and all other vehicles on board. Sorry Condor- technical issue, you know how it is.

Parked up just round the corner from the port, all those nights ago, we get out the manual and discover what the light means. It is to prevent anyone who hasn’t got the correct key from starting the engine. It also mentions this can happen if the key has had a sudden knock – not aware of this happening since boarding the boat. There is also a guide on how to fix the issue, we have tried it numerous times but it hasn’t worked for us. We rescue the spare key from its hiding place in case we need to use that one.

Since then everytime we need to start the engine we have had to play key shuffle and try several times. We have googled the issue but not found anything about the intermittent issue we are experiencing. The only thing we are beginning to think is that the engine battery is just slightly low, not enough to stop it starting but just enough to upset the electronic emobiliser, as once we have been driving for a bit it starts fine first time with no yellow padlock light staying on, but if we stop the engine after just 5 mins we have the issue again. So in the mornings when we need to make use of the emptying and filling facilities we have had to leave the engine running.

Anyway, back to today, and Bella starts after two attempts and we settle our bill.

The road follows the Loire for a few miles before cutting across passing fields of corn that have been flattened by the heavy rain last night. The journey is only two hours and no toll roads today. We pass our first fields of sunflowers this trip, normally the country side is ablaze in yellow during our holiday.

Driving up to one village Andy points out the crooked spire in the distance, being very knowledgeable as he is he calls it a spiral spire and sure enough as we pass it you could see the spiral design.

By lunch time having stopped at a Super U to just get a few small bits for the next couple of days, we pull into the Aire in Changė. We last visited here Easter 2017. It is only a gravel area but with the canal on oneside and a large boating/leisure lake the other it is quite pleasurable. The town is five minutes walk over the bridge and yes they have a nice restaurant. Finally we can easily have a meal out.

After our usual G&T it was time for showers and to dress up a little.

The meal was lovely, I had lobster with a pea puree, sounds weird but was so good, to start and Andy had prawn and strips of sundried tomatoe risotto, I had cod for main and Andy lamb. We both indulged and had a dessert (sorbet-ah) but it was included in the price. Feeling very full we stroll back for a coffee and a couple of rounds of Rummekub before bed.

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Change of mind – Saint Martin De La Place

About half an hour into our drive from Gastes Andy puts out the idea of going straight on to the Campsite on the Loire at Saint Martin De La Place and miss out Hourtin. We don’t have the bicycles this year so it won’t be quite so quick and easy to get to the beach. I know, we have the motorbike but the beach is at that in between distance from the Aire. Much too short for the motorbike, just a little too far to walk in this heat (read that as getting lazy). Now I had my heart set on an evening meal out at Hourtin as there are several restaurants at the marina so wasn’t too sure about this change of plan. I put the town of Saumur in the Satnav just to see how long, 4 hours. Your driving, I say, up to you.

Beautiful straight tree lined roads just so French.

Love their roundabouts. This one had grape vines too. Anyone home?

Andy then offers a meal at the restaurant along the river bank that we saw last year and a promise of a fruit de mer in Saint Malo as compensation. Ok, let’s go as we will be able to enjoy a longer spell relaxing and swimming in the river will be great during this hot spell.

We need to do a “big shop” before we get there as the nearest supermarket is about 20/30 minutes away and there is only so much you can carry in a rucksack. Two hours into the drive we spot a Super U with easy access, makes life much easier. It is bliss inside with their air conditioning, so we travel up and down each aisle, a bit fatal as more and more goes in the trolley (£100+ which includes wine and cider)

Back in Bella and Andy opts to do the final hours drive as we had swapped after two hours. At 5,o’clock we roll up to the gate. The barrier is up and a notice on the reception door. They have gone to their daughters birthday party, be back at 7pm and a list of pitches already booked. We find an available pitch river side and go and have a swim.

Our view

More of our view

We arrived Friday 29th and today is Tuesday, yes I know dear reader, I have been lazy with the blog. We have been swimming, sunbathing and watching the most amazing sunsets each night.

Their has only been one fly in the ointment, excuse the pathetic pun, mosquitoes. We have never been bothered by them when we have stayed here before, but this year there are hundreds of them. We have tried everything, citronela candles surround us at night, smokey bbq, repellents sprayed and rubbed on us and in desperation we even rubbed lemon juice on ourselves as we had read on Facebook it worked. You should have seen us, now we smelt lovely but covered in bits of lemon that slowly dropped off us as they dried. We had to have another shower before we went to bed.

Church at Saint Martin De La Place

Yesterday in desperation we walked up to the little villages pharmacy and have purchased repellents for body and clothes, room repellents and antihistamine cream. What works best short term is a very hot tea spoon on the bites to get rid of the itching and then the cream on afterwards. The numerous bites are beginning to go.

Now on the way to the village we pass the said restaurant that was mentioned when we were changing our minds, guess what. It isn’t open. Now I don’t know whether it is permanently closed or just waiting for the season, but we won’t be having our meal there. That fruit de mer is getting bigger and bigger now.

The plan at the moment is to stay here relaxing till Thursday when we will move up to Changè and then Evian on Friday before catching the ferry on Saturday.

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