On The Road (To Recovery)

After the family members returned to their homes, Sheila and I carried on our trip hugging the French coast heading south towards Spain. By the town of Peyreac-De-Mer  we passed salt lakes and plenty of flamingos.

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Then beside an unusual row of restaurants that sold only shellfish.

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Their middens were all the same and just on the waterside.

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As was this beast of a motorhome spotted in a car park near Perpignan.

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We crossed the border to Spain on a very windy and steep road that hugged the coast at the extreme western part of the Pyrenees that took us to the beautiful town of Portbou. 

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There were plenty of fish in the sea and I caught a few but nothing we wanted to eat so they went back.  Most interesting thing in the port was the yellow yacht in the background.  We struck up a conversation with a couple of Brits mending their boat who told me the story of the Marguerita.

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According to the Brits and the town’s Tourist Information Office, this once beautiful yacht had formerly been the pride and joy of John Wayne who owned it in the 1940’s and named it after his lover.  If you search there are photos on the web of him on the vessel. 

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Now, unfortunately the hulk lies rusting and rotting away on the harbourside with little chance of anyone forking out the half a million euros needed to buy her and probably just as much to get her seaworthy again.  The Marguerita was modernised in the nineties and brought over the Atlantic to sail around the Mediterranean where she sprang a leak and was beached just along the coast a little. The French coastguard hauled her out at the nearest port which was Portbou.

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The Marguerita, a long way from Sausalito California and no hope of ever going home.  Anyone want to write a song about this? It has all the elements needed for a hit.

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Still heading south along the Spanish coast, we parked along the seafront in the beautifully named town “Roses” and walked out along the breakwater where I had a fruitless spot of fishing.  (Well I only had a slice of brown bread for bait – that’s my excuse anyway.)

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Then stopped in L’Escala to listen to the bronze band on the prom.  Away then from the coast we drove on to the city of Gerona (Girona) for the manhole covers.

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Oh and they also have a cathedral with nearly a hundred steps to go down and back up just to take this photo.

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This is the river Onyar which was full of big carp that were just crying out for me to go fishing but I would have been a bit conspicuous in the city centre.

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We camped by the lovely lake Banyoles, just outside of the city.  There was a good track around the lake shore that we walked once and cycled twice.  The lake had been the venue for the Olympic Games rowing events and has marked lanes for races.  It is a natural lake formed by a subsidence into an underground abyss during the Pliocene era but bits still fall in, the latest fall was in the 70’s. 

One mystifying and totally inexplicable road sign spotted on the adjacent road had me guessing as to its meaning. 

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No Wellington Bombers? 

Do Not Land In The Water?

Danger Low Flying Junkers Ju88?

Ghost Planes Emerging ?

Your suggestions on a self addressed envelope please.

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On then to Saint Joan De Les Abadesses which just like every other part of Catalonia was caught up in the drive to become independent.  The Catalan flag was displayed on every available space. 

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Pont Vell has its origins in the 12th century but has been through a run of bad luck.  It was destroyed by an earthquake, rebuilt then blown up at the end of the Spanish Civil War.  It was rebuilt in 1976 but purely as a decoration as only pedestrian traffic crosses it now because of the bridge on the bypass.

Someone built this wall from just about any material they could scrape together just to confound future archaeologists.

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By this time, autumn had set in and displayed her subtle colours across the landscapes. 

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Reflected in the ever present Catalan flag.

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Even up in the Pyrenees near the French border in the village of Pallerols.  This is it.  The entire village.  It isn’t difficult to know everyone of your neighbours in the mountains.

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Just beyond Pallerols we pulled in to a layby to do a little birdwatching.

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Or more precisely to give the Griffon Vultures a chance to do a little people watching.

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The vultures circled around us for 20 minutes or so then decided another spot over the other side of the valley was slightly more interesting then just winged it.  I wished I had the odd chicken carcass on me or a dead donkey to scatter over the cliff side just to have kept them there.

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The impossible to pronounce “La Guinguetta d’Aneu” just south of the French Border northern Catalonia.

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This cow paused to ring it’s bell prior to emerging from the wrong carriageway……no concept whatever of the highway code.

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Well, this is what separates the French from the Spanish up there in the Pyrenees. Even in the height of summer you could go skiing if you really felt the urge. 

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If you are small enough, you can create your own micro-climate even at these altitudes.

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A beautiful hidden valley that had no access to those motorhome type travellers – 4WD only I am afraid.

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A glance at the satnav shows you the way up over the mountains is not going to be quite straightforward. 

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The road ahead confirms this. 

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So does the river.

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Back almost on the flat on the French side of the Pyrenees we camped for a couple of nights overlooking the town of Montrejeau.  We walked down through the town  to the lake and River Garonne.  By far the most amazing thing about this place was the abundance of lizards.  They were everywhere.  I counted at least one per metre along a sunny stone wall as they dashed in to their hiding place as I passed.

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There were other creatures there but not in the abundance of lizards.

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The journey beyond this became a little familiar to us as we were on our way to stay with our friends Nigel and Lindsey.  We passed the familiar landmark of Montpezat’s windmill and much of that part of the world has been covered elsewhere in this blog. 

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After our stay with friends we stopped in the pretty little town of Bellac for a peer in to the waters of the river Vincou from the 13th century bridge.

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And this believe it or not is the last picture I took before my heart attack the next day. 

I had a heart attack in Baziages but passed it of as arthritic pain in my right shoulder and arm.  Another one got me that night in Gien on the banks of the river Loire but that was similarly passed off.  It wasn’t till the next heart attack the following morning that we decided enough was enough and we went to the nearby hospital Clinical Jeanne D’arc.  whilst the heart attack was proceeding and staggered in to the emergency entrance.  Unfortunately the doctor who examined did not recognise what was happening right in front of him and sent me on my way with a prescription for pain killers.  (They still haven’t forgiven us for what we did to Joan of Arc.)

Strengthened with the false belief that this was not my heart, Sheila set her mind to driving me to the only place where we could stop, unwind and investigate the problem and that was my brother’s place in Evesham – England.   Sheila drove without a pause for over 500 miles.  Through the centre of Paris at rush hour, north to Calais for a ferry, up the M2, around the M25, up to Oxford and across country to Evesham.  She drove that van like she stole it with me in bed groaning in pain for much of the time.  Sheila’s determination to get me to a safe place saved my life for which I will be eternally grateful.

The problem was recognised immediately I set foot in the local hospital and from that moment on I was in the hands of a confident and competent system.  I received a couple of stents and am now well on the way to a full recovery with the help of Sheila, Dave and Jackie. 

We will be back on the road one day soon. – PROMISE!

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Family and Sightseeing In Southern France

It is always a special time when anyone comes to visit us on our travels. 

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When we picked up Wendy in Beziers, we had booked in to  magnificent “Camping Les Sablons” campsite in Portiranges Plage just 20 minutes from the airport.  It had half a dozen swimming pools and direct access to the beach where we watched a kite flying display.

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There were even a couple of good looking guys willing to chat up the English Tourists.

 

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Beziers has an interesting medieval centre with many churches such as this Eglise De La Madeleine

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The shopping centre had a rather unusual way of keeping the shoppers dry

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and the trees warm.

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This building had no windows or doors so someone kindly painted them on.

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All is dominated by the Cathedral Saint Nazaire over the river Orb. 

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Beziers is also famous for its proximity to some of the most impressive 17th century engineering achievements on the 240km long Canal Du Midi.  The canal effectively cut off the bottom half of France ant the entire Iberian peninsular allowing cargo to be taken from the Med to the Atlantic and vice versa without all that messing around with pirates,Spaniards, Portuguese,  Gibraltarian rocks, English privateers and Biscayan storms.

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The Fonserannes Locks were originally eight locks taking boats up or down 21.5 metres in just about 300 metres distance.  Much of the original construction is still in place and used very frequently.  Whilst we were there, a dozen boats went through and a dozen more waited for their turn. 

 

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The “Cargo” is no longer horse or man pulled “Ivory and apes and peacocks sandalwood, cedarwood and sweet white wine” but petroleum powered tourists in 300 seater cruise liners, converted houseboats, sleek motor launches and “cheap tin trays.”

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The canal is lined with 42,000 lime trees (I counted them!) which stabilise the banks and provided shelter for the horses and men who pulled the boats.  (A horse can pull a barge 120 times its own weight.—Ha! Bet you didn’t know that!) Unfortunately the trees are succumbing to a “canker” and will have to be replaced.

Here are some of the inspectors counting and checking out the trees.

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Parallel to the Fonserannes locks is a sloping concrete channel over which a decrepit blue leviathan resides.

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Built to replace the eight ancient locks, the Fonserranes Waterslope operated only sporadically between 1983 and 2001 when it was de-commissioned so it never achieved its goal and the ancient locks still plod on.

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The moving lock was powered by diesel engined hydraulic torque converters driving 16 rubber tyred wheels up and down the 22 metre rise. The waterslope hauled many vessels (and can be seen working on utube) but unfortunately the hydraulic fluid persistently leaked on to the concrete driveway causing the wheels to slip so the project was abandoned.  I mean abandoned.  It looks as though they simply didn’t turn up to work it one day 16 years ago and left it to rust away.  There is a tourist information office within 100metres of the slope so I asked them what they knew of it.  Even though the girl could see the great blue monster from the counter she knew nothing of it and seemed surprised that it was there and very much regretted my bringing it to her attention.

 

The highlight of the entire time was getting Wendy in the sea, the first time for over twenty years.  By the looks of their faces it may have been a little chilly.

 

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Crossing Borders, Bumps and a Family Visit.

One of the interesting aspects of our journey is the contrast between the countries we visit.  Just crossing a border gives us a new set of experiences that are sometimes quite remarkable.  The next four photographs are of houses overlooking a river or in other quite touristy places.  The first two in Germany, the second two in France.  Although there cannot be said to be a rule governing external decoration of houses and public buildings, these four give an indication of the different attitudes between the two countries. 

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The differences are also apparent in the prices of everyday necessities such as beer or ice for G. & T.s.   In Germany the cheap Lidl beer is €0.50 a litre but cross the invisible border to France and it leaps to €1.00.  Two Lidl shops within a couple of km. sell practically the same beer, one for twice as much as the other.  Cross the border from France to Spain and the price of ice cubes drop from €2.50 to €0.95 a bag.  (There may have been price differences in the food but I wasn’t looking.) 

 

Less obvious differences appear in the way people greet you or ignore you on campsites, the cost of eating or drinking out and having to pay extra for filling the van with water.  One difference, however, leaps at you and that is the standard of driving and road etiquette.   We played a game in southern Spain called “Spot The Dentless Car”  It got too boring because we never saw one.  Cars there get abandoned, not parked.  Zebra crossings are just decorations on the road, traffic lights are “mere guidelines” and overtaking is a sure way to display your “Inner Macho” (or inner workings!)

We have been lucky (Sheila says that it is her driving skills.) to have escaped any serious accident.  A pinged wing mirror or two on narrow city streets without damage until we parked in a motorhome stop in France.  It was enormous.  It was nearly empty.  We were tucked right in to the hedge.  That didn’t stop Frans Outelet, an octogenarian Citroen Picasso driver from attempting an enormous “U” turn and smacking in to our rear panel.  DSCa-0959

Insurances and details were exchanged.  Promises of payment were made.  Photographs were taken.  Apologies made.  Witnesses were assembled. As he left, Frans backed in to a railway sleeper giving him a corresponding dent in the rear of his Citroen.   Unfortunately we were in a hurry to be somewhere else and in the end we just said “Oh! Forget it”, rubbed it down with a pan scourer in the absence of T-Cut and stuck an “Ouch” band aid on it promising to fix it when we get back to G.B.

 

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Our rush was that we had made arrangements to meet these four:

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Rob, my son, Jennie, my daughter, Jack, our grandson and Edi, our granddaughter.   We met them at Nimes airport where they hired a car then we all drove to “La Corconne” , a campsite on the Herault river near Ganges in the South of France.  We had booked two weeks of good weather, good fun, good eating and good company. 

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Best part of shopping in France is the Baguette Run in the morning.  It is easy to see where Rob gets his good looks from.

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Driver and navigator in the hire car. (Good looks all round.)

Nearly the most important part of camping in France is the balanced and healthy diet.  Here is Rob applying the finishing touches to a “Crepe” or pancake as real people call it. 

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Note the peanut butter, banana and the only source of “Vitamin N”in the world;  Nutella.  (I think there may be a token squeeze of lemon somewhere in this picture.)

Here, however, is the really important part about the Rivers in this region.  You can jump from 5 metre high rocks in to 5 metre deep water…..if you dare!

 

 

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I must admit, the climb up is scary, the approach is terrifying, the launch is petrifying but once you are in the air it is so exhilarating that you just have to have another go. 

 

We did manage some sightseeing whilst together and drove up to Mont Aigoual, the highest point in the Central Massif where they have so many electrical storms they have a lightning research centre and Rob once camped out alone at the summit during a thunderstorm.

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And some old haunts for Rob and Jen: L’Arch campsitenear  Anduze on the Gardon River.

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The old mill.

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The pedestrian access to the private beach (unless there’s a train coming!)

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The sunbathing rocks, slick with tanning lotion.

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Aaaaah! just remember that.

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Most important part of the entire holiday: The eternal quest for that perfect skimming stone.

Eagles, Choughs, Cuckoos and Black Forests

Having been recommended to go to Burchesgarten in southern Germany and visit the Eagles Nest, we made the effort to climb high in to the Alps where we were immediately thwarted by poor weather so hung around for a few days until the view from Hitler’s mountain retreat looked like this:

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There is a wiggly, windy, narrow road that takes you the last 11 km. to the top but fortunately it is only accessed by the busses that run tourists up and down, their Teutonic schedule meticulously planned to ensure that the down busses only meet the up busses at the one point where there is a passing space.  

Adolph had his own modest hideaway here and that can only be reached by going through a tunnel and up the last 160 metres in a gold lined lift.  You emerge in the interior of a rather austere building equipped with stunning views all round.

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For the energetic, a stroll outside and a little climb brings you to a point at about 2,700m. above sea level.  Here the views are even more stunning:

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and the birdlife is equally as exotic at this altitude with a pair of Alpine Choughs raising their brood on sandwich crusts, sausage ends and sauerkraut flavoured crisps. 

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The building was finished to a very high standard with impressive wood panelling, oak beams, cast iron and a marble fireplace. (Apparently a gift from Mussolini – its good to have friends!)

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A close look at the mantelpiece will reveal the scratchings of American G.I.s made after they liberated the Eagles Nest in May 1945 in order to take  home a few souvenirs.

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It was downhill from then on – literally – we drove to the Black Forest where there are towns devoted entirely to Cuckoo Clocks.  There is a recognised and well published route through the southern Schwarz Wald (Black Forest) called originally enough in English the “Cuckoo Clock Route” which takes the unwary traveller to all the places you could spend your money on cuckoo clock related merchandise.  It does, however, lead you through some very interesting scenery:

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Like the Triberg falls with an overall drop of 163 metres. (Not to be confused with the Reichenbacch Falls where Sherlock Holmes died which has a drop of over 250m.)

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We shared the rainy day with our portion of the half a million a year visitors so getting decent photographs was a challenge.  The visitors did bring a couple of bonuses, however. They brought with them peanuts to feed the red squirrels and that also attracted an unusual robber – the Spotted Nutcracker  (Aah – How suite I heard Tchaikovsky say.)

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The cuckoo clock towns though are for real.

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Here, you can buy a clock for anything from 25Euro to 25,000Euro depending  on your resistance to the annoying clicks, chimes and cuckoos they will inevitably produce. 

 

I resisted buying a clock but we did lash out on some alternative transport for Sheila and I:

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Genuine Stella Scooter with Cozy sidecar snapped through a window at 100kph.

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Yer actual “Trabi”.  One of the 2,815,547 made between ‘63 and’90.

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Electric bikes are the way forward but they aren’t as pretty as this. 

Pity we haven’t yet had a chance to try them out as the clouds came rolling in soon after:

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Castles, Cathedrals, Churches, Romance and even a bit of Liebnitz

There is, in Germany, a little tourist magnet called cleverly “the Romantic Street”.  It is loosely based on the route the Romans took crossing that part of the continent and runs from Wurzburg in almost the centre of Germany down to Fussen  on the Austrian border.  The premise is that it is full of romantic castles, medieval houses, palaces and that kind of thing. 

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The route starts at this point.  This modest semi detached in Wurzburg was built by a “Sea” of Bishops so that they would have somewhere comfortable to relax after a hard day’s Bishoping.

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Here is one of them showing just how demanding the job was way back then in 1720.  None of these endless committee meetings you get nowadays.  If a job needed doing you just wrapped yourself up in the living room curtains, Grabbed your pointiest hat and sharpest sword and got on with a bit of slaying or whatever was needed.

There are of course lots of more modest houses and public buildings all along the route.  Most of them are extremely well maintained and make a wonderful background to the towns and cities along the way.

 

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We spent several days covering the northern half of the Romantic Route but were not alone on the roads.  This man couldn’t decide whether to ride his motorbike or his skateboard so took both on the road.

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Other forms of transport, were of course accompanying us.

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The interiors of German churches and cathedrals are incredibly ornate and seem to be made almost entirely of gold. 

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No surface is left unadorned, whether by gilding, carving or by painting, not least of all the ceilings 30 metres up where no one without a decent camera and long lens can see the detail.

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The symbolism used is slightly different wherever you go but wherever you look you are left with a distinct feeling of awe.

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St. Aqualin, a locally born bishop seemed to have met a rather violent end and is celebrate with this statue in Wurzburg Cathedral.

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We left the cathedral by a side door leading to a small courtyard where we saw many people eating pretzel and drinking wine whilst listening to an “Oom Pa Pa” brass band.

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Never had we seen a musician more suited to his instrument than this tubist.

We mingled long enough to be handed two half pint glasses of “Muller Thurgau” wine and a couple of pretzels so had an entertaining and free lunch. 

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We took a bit of a detour part way through the Romantic Strasse and went to Regensburg on the Danube river where we saw the “Walhalla” a neo classical hall of fame created by this chap:

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Good old Crown Prince Ludwig in about 1807.  This impressive building houses dozens of busts of distinguished Germans (or those honoured by the German people.) Here are a few that I cobbled together:

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The Walhalla is a most impressive structure both inside and out.

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Here is Sheila waving from the top of the steps whilst I walk right down the bottom just to take this photo.

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The view from the top of the steps across the Danube (Donau in German) is also quite spectacular.

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Most towns and villages in this area have a “Maibaum” or maypole.  Not a simple pole and ribbon affair often seen in Britain, but an enormously tall and elaborately decorated tree trunk erected on the 1st of May in the village square, clearly a hark back to pre Christian fertility rites.

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Each pole is decorated with symbols representing different aspects of the community. 

Now comes the “Romantic” bit:

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And the end of the Romantic Strasse is the mist enshrouded fairytale castle in Fussen if you can make your way past the fields of Japanese tourists!

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Whine, Whine, Wine A trip down the Mosel with a sting in its tail.

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Take a look at these funny little bushes.  Each one is worth four or five bottles of wine. Each bottle is worth four or five euros. They grow on either side of the river for hundreds of miles and have been doing so since before the Romans invaded this part of the world.  The little chapel within the vines was built to commemorate how far the blood of martyred Christians flowed down the river Mosel from Trier (40km.) when the Romans had a leaving bash.

 

Of course a mono-culture like this cannot be sustained without a huge intervention usually in the way of chemicals and machinery.  The more level areas can be accessed by tractor but the finest wines come from the steepest vineyards. These require a more inventive and somewhat risky approach.

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The Romans left an enormous heritage in the Mosel valley including the city of Trier and its noble gates.  The Black Gate is apparently the largest surviving Roman City gate south of the Alps.

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The Stella Noviomagi is a recent reconstruction of a Roman War Galley that was used by the Romans to transport wine from the Mosel to Rome.  It has a couple of dozen oars  that would have powered it at a very sedate Roman pace but this reconstruction has a couple of diesel engines.  I wondered how long it would take to go by rowboat from the Mosel to Rome….down the Mosel to Koblenz, Down the Rhine to Rotterdam, across the North sea, through the Channel, out in to the Atlantic, across the Bay of Biscay, past Portugal, whip round Spain and Gibraltar then just about a thousand miles across the Med.  Stalwart chappies those Roman galley slaves. 

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Not like this bunch of beery tourists!

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Rowing boats aren’t the only traffic along this bust highway.  Thousands of tourists cruise along this river system like these moored in Bernkastel-Kues. 

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We met an Australian couple that had cruised from Amsterdam on an enormous ship which was heading to Budapest via the Danube.  Although that was in a ship a little more like this one:

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Most of the traffic, however, is commercial freight and these enormous potential seagoing vessels cross the watershed of Europe from the Atlantic side to the Black sea side rising up to 450m. above sea level using these river valleys and canals.

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There are much more sedate and relaxed ways to travel along the Mozel:

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brimstone butterfly

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You can cycle along both sides of the river through the vineyards to touristy places like Bernkastel-Kues with it’s bears and half timbered buildings and imagine you are in a world from several centuries ago.

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But- the modern world is catching up fast.  The new autobahn cuts out all the meandering of the Mosel and forces itself along the valley with tunnels and (nearly completed) flyovers.

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But it is still worth the effort of going the long way round:

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Warning:

Many of these photographs were taken whilst leaning out of the window of a moving vehicle where there was no possibility of stopping safely.  I can now testify that the humble bumble bee can sting twice.  One flew in to my flapping tee shirt sleeve and stung me on the shoulder.  Whilst I was screaming and wriggling back in to my seat the bee flew round inside my shirt and stung me in the middle of my back!  Good news though, I was able to release the bee unharmed back in to the wild.

Last Post from Ypres Menen Gate

 

 

There used to be a freebie motorhome stopover point in Ypres but it has now become an automated card operated site a little further out from the town.  It is right by the Railway dugouts Transport Farm Cemetery where over 2000 WW1 casualties lay buried.  The burial ground is a most humbling place to wander round.  I met an Australian couple there who had come to pay their respects to a grandparent’s comrades whose remains are among many commonwealth graves there.

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At 8pm in the Menen Gate every day since 1927 there is a “Last Post” ceremony.  The bugle call is played by buglers from the local voluntary fire brigade and the ceremony is administered by an association who will continue the call in perpetuity.

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In 1918 at the close of the Great War, Ypres was a ruin with most of the landmarks and public buildings destroyed.  The British wanted the town to remain as it was as a memorial to those who died there but the Belgians were determined to see their town restored to as it was before the war.  Many of the local buildings were rebuilt exactly as they were before the hostilities.  The Cloth Hall now houses a museum and records of the fallen.

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I just snapped these wonderful people as they were setting up their stall outside in the street,  what they were advertising with their marvellous  makeup was superb is a mystery but it sure wasn’t apples .

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In the 13th Century there had been a plague of rats in Ypres, then the cats brought in to clear them themselves became a plague so they threw cats from the towers above the city in times of celebration.  Nowadays in these enlightened times of course they only throw toy cats from the towers but the gold statues that were so high up and only visible to a very long lens are still there. 

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The Menen Gate with a marching band.

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Ansell is an unusual surname and I can only ever remember meeting two Ansells in my 66 years that weren’t directly related to me.  I was rather shocked, therefore, when I put “Ansell” into the computer database in the Cloth Hall Museum to find the names of 207 Ansell casualties buried thereabouts.  Here is one, perhaps a distant relative whose name appears on the list of soldiers whose graves are unmarked.

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On a lighter note:  Well! There were these two cows drinking IPSAM cocktails in a bar…..

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You just don’t see this much in the U.K. this was a tiny town with not much of a river going through it but this enormous barge carrying thousands of tons of goodness knows what went under the bridge we were cycling over.

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You do however see a few of these.

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We had just driven through a small town called Beaufort when we came to another small town with the top blown nearly off it’s church steeple by high winds.

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Our first turtle this trip, sunning itself on a log.

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Into the principality and city of Luxembourg.  Much of the city was being dug up when we got there with at least 10 enormous tower cranes in view wherever you stood. 

This bronze statue made me smile, perhaps not as much as the sheep smiled nor indeed as much as the children managed.

 

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We arrived shortly before Luxembourg’s national day. Celebrations had been taking place for some days beforehand including a music festival spread across the city.  Pianos had been installed in a dozen locations where anyone who wished could give an impromptu concert.  I did my very own rendition of “London Bridge Is Falling Down” (because I can still remember all the numbers from when my little baby Robert insisted I play it over and over again on his toy Xylophone) then Sheila played something quite complex and impressive (more than one finger and more than one hand impressive!) drawing a round of applause from bystanders. 

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There are miles (oops…Kilometres) of subterranean tunnels beneath the rocks that fortified the original city of Luxembourg.  For five Euro (OAP discount!) you can tour these “Casements”  but the info at the entrance desk does not tell the visitor that you have to climb down ten flights of spiral staircase, wander through Stygian gloomy caves suitable for dwarves or tin hatted minors then climb back up equally hazardous endless stairways like Gandalf and Frodo Et. Al. before emerging back in to daylight.  Good job Sheila was wearing her Fit Bit!

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Outside of the caves on the riverbank in the very centre of the city someone has the most perfect allotment.  Wow this is impressive stuff- not a weed in sight.

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The city is on two distinct levels.  Wandering around the upper level you encounter the usual city and commercial infrastructure but below is a wonderland of parkland and impressive architecture.  Getting down means a series of winding alleyways and stairs but fortunately for the weary traveller there is a lift to take you back up to the top. 

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The shopping area was decorated with miles of stainless steel tube that was supposed to represent the fresh air that the city experiences as it is one of the cleanest cities in Europe.

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Here is a summary of the route we have taken so far.  Only half a dozen out of thirty or so countries on our list.

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We are currently sitting by the Moselle in Germany watching the grapes swell. (Well they ought to be….Its pouring down with rain!!) Our intentions are to go further north and East in Germany and then follow the border clockwise and re-enter France sometime in Mid August.