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Archive : July

Europe – Summer 2016 – DAYS 7-9

Day 7 – relaxing 6th July

This was scheduled to be another relaxing day and we had planned to spend it messing about in the boat but it was very breezy, with white horses on the lake so we gave it a miss. We spent the day reading and blog-writing, punctuated by food and drink. We popped into Interlaken in the early evening for more supplies – mainly fruit – although I did pick up a bar of chocolate called Ovalmaltine. It was lovely. A bit gritty in texture, but a lovely flavour. Paul was less keen, but that didn’t seem to stop him scoffing it!

The evening brought football. The first time the TV had made an appearance all holiday. It was the Wales versus Portugal match and sadly gallant little Wales could not withstand the might of the Portugese team and their run of luck ran out. I spent the evening browsing the internet, reading and sighing LOUDLY.

Base camp
Ready for a barbie.

Day 8 – to the hills! 7th July

Off to the mountains again today. We set off for the very pretty town of Wilderswil, effectively the starting point for most tours of the Jungfrau region It has many hotels, accordingly. Our next stop was at Lauterbrunnen, where we viewed and took the obligatory pictures of the most famous (of many)  and impressive Staubach Falls. At just under 300 ft, most of it freefall, it’s a great sight amongst valley of waterfalls. There are 72, apparently, in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, including the equally famous Trummelbach, which – rather annoyingly –  we missed completely! Next time! We had a coffee at a cafe with great views over the valley towards the Schilthorn mountain.

Staubach Falls – Lauterbrunnen

On the way to our next destination, Grindelwald, we went through a very unusual tunnel. We had noticed an odd circular-looking road on the satnav and it turned out that it is this 1200m long tunnel that is virtually circular, climbing steeply throughout its passage.  It was also a single track road with passing places – an altogether different  experience! At least!

Screenshot form the satnav showing odd round thing!
Screenshot from the satnav showing odd round thing!
Just because she’s beautiful

Grindelwald is a ski town, obviously so, with all the requisite shops, bars and hotels/lodges. It’s an attractive town nonetheless, with a selection of cable cars. We stopped and had our picnic in the shade, overlooking the again shrunken Oberer Grindelwald glacier (gletscher in German Swiss).

Oberer Grindlewald Glacier
Signage showing shrinkage
Signage showing shrinkage. 🙁

After lunch, we set off for the Pfingstegg Cable car, which Arch was quite happy to ride in.  At the top, where there are stunning views, there is also a sommerodelbahn (this video gives a great impression of the ride) – or summer toboggan run. Someone had to look after the dog and I knew Paul would love it, so I was left with dog and camera. I am not the most expert with an SLR and I thought I had taken two really good shots as he raced down the curves.  Sadly not! My bad! I did manage to get a couple of shots of him on the climb back up, which is a slow rack and pinion affair and not ideal for action shots – Oh dear!

Going up! View of Grindlewald
View from the top
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Archie admiring the view – and looking for Paul
Paul - at the end of his summerhodelbahn run. Oopsie.
Paul – at the end of his summerodelbahn run. Oopsie.

By now it was very hot and we beat a hasty retreat back to the van. The weather was perfect for the boat, so we dug it out of the car and blew it up. Didn’t take long and we were soon out on the water. Archie was quite happy, being used to boats, and we had a very pleasant time, followed by a swim for all of us. The water was refreshing – cool but refreshing.Sadly no pictures because i was “advised” not to take any photographic equipment with me. I did manage to grab a shot of the boys in it though, from the shore.

Our new boat
Our new boat

Day 9 – at leisure 8th July

It was a sunny day so we had breakfast and then jumped in the boat for a quick row and a long bob around and then another swim. So glad we got the boat – gonna be a lot of fun. For those interested, it’s an Intex Excursion 5 inflatable. It gets great reviews and we saw it for a good price. It’s really tough and durable and you can also get an outboard for it, which we will do at some point – maybe after we have got over the Swiss cost of living!!

As we were moving on the next day, we did a little desultory tidying up before returning to our books and snoozes.

We dried the boat out in the hot sun and deflated it – which again didn’t take long – and replaced it in the handy carrying bag it comes with, ready for next time.

The evening was largely spent packing away the awning and the awning carpet and then we went for an early night as we thought we’d make an early start on our journey to our next lake! We will be very sad to leave this lovely spot, a real wrench. Let’s hope our next pitch is as nice –  although it will have to go some!

Europe – Summer 2016 – DAYS 5 and 6


Day 5 – Relaxing 4th July

After our long day of travelling, we decided to have a day off from being on the road. We spent most of the day relaxing in the sun and reading – with maybe the odd snooze thrown in. Around 6pm we decided that we needed to stock up, so we went off to the small town of Unterseen where we knew there was a Coop. That done, we went for a quick spin around the edge of Lake Thun and then back to the on-site Italian restaurant (Restaurant Landhaust) where we had a very pleasant meal before returning to the van for some strawberries and cream.

I should mention here that, as we had expected, the cost of living in Switzerland is considerably higher than France (or home).  What I would consider to be a fairly meagre shop, came to over £70!

Not much more to say about day 5, other than that relaxing by a lake surrounded by mountains is a pretty cool way to spend the day.

The view from our pitch – Thunnersee

Day 6 – Exploring the Mountains 5th July

We set off for our first destination of the day which was Brienz , a town on the banks of Lake Brienz or Brienzersee, the second of the two lakes between which Interlaken is sandwiched and, of course, which gave it its name. I had visited this town as a young teenager and at that time it was famous for its wood carving shops. Uncle Derek had visited not long before me and had given me the money to buy a carved figure for him. Today we could only find one such shop (Huggler) and the cost for a similar figure was a small fortune. Shame.

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Traditional wooden, carved figures – Brienz

We went and got a coffee and a pastry at a restaurant on the shores of the lake, and sat for a while drinking in the view. The colour of the lake is incredible.

As we were driving towards, our next destination, Meiringen (alleged birthplace of the meringue!), we saw that someone was using an ex cable car cabin as a shed/garden room in their front garden. Great idea and a nice bit of up-cycling. We saw much hay-making going on. The Swiss make even the smallest patch a source of hay and it looks like very hard labour for the small man. We saw whole families raking, turning and gathering the hay. Important winter fodder in a snowy country, I guess.

From Meiringen, we pressed on up into the mountains, driving through the low cloud and eventually reached the still snowy Susten Pass, which at 2224 metres, is the highest Archie has ever been. We marvelled at the Steinglestcher Glacier, today, sadly considerably smaller than it would have been 100 years ago.

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On the way up to the summit
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Stein Glacier
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Archie and the snow at the summit of Susten Pass

Meandering around in the mountains takes far longer than you would estimate and we eventually found ourselves well over an hour away from home, even by the fastest route,  and by now it was late afternoon. We thus picked up the fast road to Lucerne and then bashed back to Interlaken. We so love the mountains and had had a great day.  Incidentally – the temperature down in Brienz had been around 24C and up at the pass we recorded only 14C. Brr!


Europe – Summer 2016 – DAYS 3 and 4


Day 3 Exploring Luxembourg 2nd July

Luxembourg may be a small country, but too big to explore in just one day.  We had thus decided to concentrate on the Mullerthal region – also known as Luxembourg’s “Little Switzerland” or Kleine Schweiz. We’ll see! As we had to pass through the City, we decided on a brief look round but, as cities often are, it was pretty busy so we had a quick look and continued our journey. As we arrived, though,   on the hour of 11, a carillon was playing a tune. It gradually dawned on me that it was Hosanna from Jesus Christ superstar! Interesting. We thought the city had some fine buildings.


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Carillon at Notre Dame Cathedral,Luxembourg
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Luxembourg – Adolphe Bridge
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Official Building in Luxembourg City
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Luxembourg War Memorial

Our first destination on the Mullerthal tour was Beaufort, which has a pretty fine mish-mash of a castle, being built in 4 separate periods. A good photo opportunity.

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Beaufort 1


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Beaufort 2

We then passed on through the Mullerthal Gorge, where we stopped for a while at an amazing spot where steps have been built into a crevice in the rock which lead up to a high rock – very like a priest’s pulpit. It’s called Predigtstuhl– which I now find actually means pulpit. Who knew? Amazing place.

Pulpit Rock
Approaching Pulpit Rock
Paul and Arch about to make the climb
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The 39 Steps (or more!)
Nearly there
Top of the world Ma

Whilst there a trio of old – really old – VWs roared up. The camper, as you can see had only a couple of inches clearance from the ground! How they get around without bottoming out all the time, goodness knows. They made a fine sight though – and noise!!

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Could it be any lower? Camper
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Low flying Bug!
Rusty bug

After this, as we running close to the border,  we poked our nose into Germany and I popped into a Norma supermarket. It wasn’t great. No Aperol or Asparagus darling?! Slightly below the standard of a LIDL/ALDI, I would say. LOL


We stopped to see some cows on the way back and Archie took the opportunity to have a rest after his exertions in the Gorge.

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Hello girls!
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Rustic bench

Then it was home and a bit of prep for leaving tomorrow and then we popped down to the on-site fritierie and had a beer (Bofferding seems to be the most popular round here) and some croquettes and chips. Reminded me a ittle of FEBO food. Was delish though.  A bit of work on the blog and bed followed. Oh – and as for Little Switzerland? No. I don’t really think so. Beautiful, but only a very teeny tiny Switerland.

Day 4 – to Switzerland 3rd July

This was always expected to be a long day of driving and indeed it was. Some 310 miles. We find that long journeys are made more bearable by stopping little and often and this is just what we did. We set off and soon crossed back into France and through Thionville, where the mighty Moselle river flows and which also featured heavily in WWI and II. We also crossed the Maginot Line. We next passed through Saint-Avold. I went to school with a chap named Avold. His surname was Carter – as was mine but not a relation. What an interesting aside!

St Avold is home to the largest WWII American cemetery, with 10,500 graves. A staggering figure.  All this time we had been travelling through the Lorraine Region and then we crossed into the Alsace region. Shortly after we had crossed the border, we saw  that, as well as the usual signs for deer, we saw a sign for Wild Boar. Alas we did not see one in the flesh.

We passed through Strasbourg – which grandly advertises itself as the “crossroads of Europe”.  Our next stop was at the Haut Koenigsbourg aire just outside Colmar, where we were surprised and delighted to see storks (European White storks to be precise). They had obviously spent quite a while at the site and had sadly become far too accustomed to humans feeding them and they were behaving like seagulls or pigeons at the seaside!

It was great to see them though. We also had a great view of the castle after which the aire was named.

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Haut Koeningsbourg

By now it was 16.30 and the journey was starting to pall a little by now and we still had another couple of  hours to go. We had a lively game of Trivial Pursuits to entertain ourselves, which whiled away some time. By now we were in the Haut Rhin region and soon (finally!) crossed into Switzerland. Our first task was to stop and purchase our vignettes at the border crossing (one for the car and one for the caravan – total €80). The vignettes are in lieu of road tax.

With the technicalities taken care of, we got back on the road and came to our first Swiss town – Basel. We went through Basel largely in tunnels. In fact, we had been in Switzerland only a short while and already been through half a dozen tunnels!

We were now on the last leg of our journey and began to see glimpses of the views we had come all this way for! Exciting.

We arrived at our destination – Camping Manor Park, Untersee near Interlaken – at 1830. The site is in the shore of Lake Thun (or Thunnersee) and I had booked back in January I had been able to select what I hoped would be the perfect pitch. It actually exceeded my expectations and I had to keep pinching myself, so beautiful was the view. Definitely the best ever pitch – in Europe at least.

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Our amazing lakeside view to the left
The view from our pitch – looking ahead

We set up for our 6 night stay and I made a curry for dinner, which went down very well indeed. We retired full of anticipation of seeing that view again in the morning, with good weather forecast. What ho!

Europe – Summer 2016 – DAYS 1 and 2

Day 1 From home to France 30th June

Weeks of planning and research had finally come to fruition. Everything was packed in the car, the bikes were on the roof and Archie had a shiny new pet passport. Paul had actually, finally turned his PC off and we jumped in the car. We drove to the bottom of our very short road, had just rounded the corner when it happened. BANG!! One of our neighbours had reversed out of their drive without looking and hit the caravan squarely on the corner.


We were devastated. We thought it was our holiday down the pan. On inspection, whilst our pride and joy was looking very sorry for itself and will probably cost quite a lot to repair, the damage seemed to be pretty much cosmetic (although none the less annoying) and after consulting with another neighbour, caravanner and key witness, we decided to go for it.

We were delayed by about half an hour by the incident, by the time we exchnaged insurance details and had consoled our poor neighbour who was distraught and very close to tears. I ended up feeling very sorry for her despite the damage she had caused, no one was hurt, it was all repairable and we had a very good witness. It could have been SO much worse.

Luckily, we had allowed plenty of contingency time and we set off up the A3 in reasonable spirits. All was going swimmingly and then just as we approached the Hindhead Tunnel portal, we noticed brakelights coming on and then we ground to a halt. Here we sat for 45 minutes, finally ascertaining that the cause of the delay was a load of spilt gravel ! Could things get any worse ?

We continued our journey, hitting a few rough spots on the M25 but arrived in time to check in at Eurotunnel, by the “skin of our teeth”. Check-in was a simple matter and there was no requirement to show Archie’s new passport, so we sailed straight on to the train.



Driving through the train
Driving through the train

We were a little concerned about how Archie would react to the train, as he is a bit of a wuss when it comes to trains, but he did not bat an eyelid. In fact he snoozed all the way across, until that is, we started eating our late lunch !

The journey to our first overnight spot was uneventful and we were greeted by Guy, the proprietor like old friends. We had checked ahead and been told by his wife Bridget that the on-site restaurant would be open, but on checking, we were told it was not open. We ordered our bread and Viennoiseries, for tomorrow’s breakfast and went to our allocated pitch.

We had decided to do a very rudimentary set up, to save time, so we did without hook-up, used an old washing up bowl for our waste and employed a kettle to fetch water from the tap – we have done this before and it worked out fine.

We did not fancy cooking on our first night, so went off in search of food. We had heard tell of a friterie in nearby Lederzeeler, but sadly this was closed, so it was off to Saint-Omer the nearest “big” town. Sadly it seemed that Saint-Omer was also closed but we did take the opportunity of having a little explore, despite our grumbling tums.

There is a canal (canalised portion of the River Aa) running through St Omer, which connects with the Neufosse canal before exiting in to the North Sea. We also particularly liked the old ruined St Bertin Abbey, closed during the revolution and demolished in 1830 – all but the tower.

The 157ft high Tower collapsed in 1947 due to WW2 shelling. The ruin created a suitable backdrop for the dramatic statue of St Bertin, who unlike most Saints had a fulfilled, long and happy life lasting 94 years.

Abbey St Omer
The ruins
St Bertin
St Bertin
St Omer Canal
The canal in St Omer – lock view

By now we were getting desperate, and to our eternal shame, we had to resort to the local “Drive In” McDonalds, although I must say the  French Franchise does seem to produce a higher grade of burger and very good coffee ! Worth bearing in mind if you find yourself in similar desperate circumstances.

Day 2 Buysscheure to Luxembourg 1st July

Camping La Chaumiere (where we have stayed before) really is in the sticks and there was not a sound to be heard all night. We slept until 9 and then Paul went to collect the bread. Whilst out on his walk, he met another camper who told him that the lovely Bridget has left Guy and he is managing the site alone now, very sad and perhaps the reason for the restaurant closure.
After breakfast, packing up was a quick matter and we were on our way to Luxembourg. The first large place we passed through was on an unusually high (for this region) piece of land. It was called Cassel and there were some beautiful Gardens of Remembrance. It was particularly poignant as today was the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The gardens have a vantage point over the fields of Flanders and we took a moment to think of our poor dead boys.
Actually, the entire trip was like a tour of WW1 battlefields as the route took us near such famous names as Armentieres, Loos, Bethune , Tournais and Mons.
We crossed into Belgium around midday. We thought it was time Arch stretched his legs and relieved himself. We stopped at the very first aire in Belgium and it was like a dirty, disgusting run down car park. We would have driven straight out but the traffic was backed up so we had a quick stretch, Archie performed and Paul found some – er – human waste. Yuk!

We pressed on towards our destination and eventually found a very pleasant aire, complete with a Starbucks so we stopped for lunch. I hastily knocked up some rolls whilst Paul went to get the coffees. Very nice it all was too.
Belgium is pretty flat and – dare I say it – unremarkable. Sorry Belgian people. We crossed quite a few rivers and canals – some very wide, with some large locks and commercial shipping. But the most impressive was at Namur, where the road crossed the river Meuse. Namur is the capital of Wallonia, one of the 3 regions of Belgium (the others being Ardennes, home of pate and the Flemish region – home of er……) and hosts the Walloon Parliament.
We crossed the border into the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg around 3 pm and found it to be very woody. It is, apparently, the size of Northamptonshire and, interestingly, it is the only Grand Duchy left in the world.
We were heading for Camping Kocklescheuer which is just south of Luxembourg City. We are staying for two nights, giving us a day to explore a bit. We found the site easily and did a proper set up and then had a snooze (or beepy, for the initiated). It’s very pleasant on the site, although it does seem to be on the flight path for the airport!
We awoke refreshed and eager to orientate ourselves. We set off towards Bettembourg in search of food but once again, struck out. We really need to get better at this!! We are too fussy (OK it’s me. I am too fussy). We weren’t that bothered as there was an on-site friterie. We arrived back on site at 8.10. The friterie closed at 8 pm. I hope this run of bad luck ends soon!
Luckily, I had brought a couple of pouches of ham and cheese risotto in case of emergencies, which this seemed to be. I have had worse things to eat. But not much! It was fuel at best. We read for a while to let it digest and also did a little work on this blog and then it was time for bed. Fortunately the aircraft noise had more or less subsided and we had another peaceful and restorative night.