Having a Wales of a Time

IMG_3430Friday 11th August

The weather forecast for today wasn’t very good so we decided on a day catching up on jobs in and around the caravan. I was running behind with the blog so I got up to date with that, and Jane did the ironing. We visited the Rhug Estate farm shop late in the afternoon and I was amazed at how many different types of pork pies that they had, I was very restrained and settled on a small selection of just 4 varieties !

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Saturday 12th August

We had pre booked train tickets for a trip up Snowdon and as we drove to the station the weather wasn’t looking promising !

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And on on the the journey up the weather showed no signs of improving

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I was amazed at how many people had climbed to the top in the awful weather.

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But the rain did stop long enough for us to take a selfie of the stunning view!

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Don’t look now but the clouds are lifting!

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The clouds did begin to lift on our downward journey.

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And we got a sense of what we had missed. I will be back, and the next time we will get a site nearer to snowdon so we can react far quicker to the weather and I WILL walk up !

 

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We stopped at Swallow falls on the way back

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And although Jane enjoyed the scenery, she was more excited that the town of Betws-y-coed was near and that the prospect of looking around a fine selection of SHOPS, was getting closer!

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Sunday 13th August

A nearby walk was recommended to us, so after only a 10 minute drive,

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We started the torrent walk,

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Which wended its way down a small quiet valley

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full of interesting flora and fauna.

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After such an energetic stroll, and as the weather was improving we bought the Sunday papers and went to the beach to read them.

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And unbelievably when we returned to the caravan  the sun was still shinning !

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Monday 14th August

Llangollen was the destination of today’s walk, which was entitled the Sun Bank walk…..

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it didn’t quite live up to its name…….

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but it was lovely none the less, and quite a tiring 5 mile walk.

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We finished with a visit to horseshoe falls before our exciting trip to Aldi!

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The drive home took up the famous Horse Shoe pass and the views were stunning!

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Tuesday 15th August

The weather at our campsite today was great so we decided to climb the hill behind us..

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The tracks were a bit muddy

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and some a little wet

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but the peace and tranquility near the top was worth it!

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A Week in Wales

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Sunday 6th August

Ty Cerrig is a lovely quiet working farm situated between Bala and Dolgellau in North Wales, run by Myfanwye and her husband John.  Well it has stopped raining, but it’s still a bit cloudy, however we have packed for whatever weather comes our way!  We took a drive down to Barmouth today which is the local seaside resort, for a quick look around.  The heavens opened and I delved into my rucksack for my Berghaus jacket only to find I had packed two pairs of waterproof trousers and no jacket! So we returned to the car, Jane nice and dry and me soaked to the skin.   We then decided on a drive around the vicinity to get a feel for the place, but the rain got worse so we decided to buy the Sunday papers and head back to the caravan for a lazy afternoon.

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Monday 7th August 

Off to Portmeirion today by the scenic route. The sat-nav gave us the option of going over the hills or through the valley.  We chose the former, and what a stunning journey it proved to be.   After having to open several gates I was a little concerned that we were going  the right way, so I stopped at a farm along the way and the farmer confirmed that we were headed in the right direction.

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The peace and quiet in the hills was wonderful and we didn’t see another car for an hour.

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Just as well because this was about the widest bit of road that we travelled.

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I was a little concerned that the farmer might have been pulling my leg when I saw this sign

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Portmeirion is situated on a peninsula near Porthmadog, and for those of you who are old enough to remember (not me!) this was used as the setting for the 60s T.V drama, The Prisoner.  I thought the place was nice but Jane thought it was a bit twee, but we both agreed that the surrounding area was absolutely stunning.

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The golden sands stretch for miles

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Not too many people explore beyond the village, and they miss a lot !

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The walk to the headland was well worth it!

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Whilst we were in Portmeirion we got a call from Dave and Kate who were in the nearby area (although it turns out that nothing in this part of Wales is nearby!) so we met up in Bala and had a lovely meal and a great chat .

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Tuesday 8th August

The weather forecast for today wasn’t so good, so we decided to head for Wrexham to go to see Dunkirk at the cinema and to get in a walk if the rain held off.

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The weather was kind to us and so after some helpful advice from a very lovely lady in the nearby country park we walked from the viaduct to the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.  As I might have mentioned before I’m not great with heights, so I was pleased that I managed to walk across (and back) this great feat of engineering .

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The rain started on the return walk back to the car,

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But it was mainly under the trees, so we didn’t get too wet .  We then went into Wrexham for our trip to the cinema. I found it a great difficulty finding a parking place, when you have two bikes on the roof of your car it adds another dimension to worry about, and this obviously rules out multi story car parks.  I was pleased to find a normal car park but disappointed to find that the maximum time limit was 2 hours.  I asked a local  young lady if she knew of anywhere I could park, she said she worked near by and she phoned her boss who let me park in their car park for free.  Have I said how lovely everyone we meet here is?  I can’t get over what a kind thing that was to do for a complete stranger!

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Wednesday 9th August

We had a cycle ride along a disused railway line from Dolgellau to Barmouth.

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The sun was shining

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The scenery was beautiful

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And Jane was pleased that there were no hills!

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Thursday 10th August

The weather was looking good today so we drove to Snowdon in a vain attempt to catch the train to the summit. By the time we arrived that days allocation had sold out, so we checked the forecast and booked tickets for Saturday lunch time.

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So whilst we were up in this corner of Wales we thought we would explore. First stop Caernarfon Castle.

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Then over to Anglesey.

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Then to Penrhyn Castle in Bangor………..Didn’t we have a lovely day, etc etc!

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Llandudno was our last port of call before our return journey to the campsite.

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With all the typical sights and sounds of a seaside holiday resort, I was still surprised to see a Punch and Judy show which still managed to enthrall the crowd of young children.

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The pier maintained a little of its Victorian dignity but showed a great deal of its present day tackiness, but the kids seem to love it !

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Back at Dads

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The caravan has now been cleaned inside and washed and polished outside. It has also been serviced after our 4,000 mile journey to Croatia, and all the little niggles put right.

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We have spent a lot of time catching up with family and friends,  we are very fortunate to have lots of both and we haven’t been able to see everyone this time around. Kevin and Maggie cooked us breakfast on the beach at Poole early on a Saturday morning. It was all very tasty and we were both amazed how much equipment they can carry in their cycle  panniers! However we weren’t surprised that Kevin hadn’t lost his shy and retiring personality !!!

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We had an early start leaving Braisfield at 7am, as did Kevin and Maggie, who cycled from Mudiford. But it was well worth it, as 8am on a Saturday morning in July and the beach was empty, however there were a couple of people having an early swim before the crowds arrived.

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It was lovely to catch up with most of my nieces and nephews, Zena was so happy to see us again she said she would bend over backwards to please us……and she did!

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Whilst back at Dads we used the time to catch up with all the important jobs such as seeing the dentist, refilling our prescriptions, opening the mail, paying some bills  and getting our hair done…..hope you like my new style!  We did also make time to enjoy some of the beauty that Hampshire has to offer, the photo above was taken along the Itchen Navigation not far from Hockley golf club.

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After 3 weeks at Dads we set off to northern Wales to enjoy the best of a British summer, however the weather on the journey up there didn’t look too promising…….

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We are told that when it stops raining and the mist lifts we will have a great view of the hill tops !………. Fingers crossed then

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The Journey Back Home

14th July

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Liverdun

Liverdun was our penultimate campsite. This was a lovely site on the banks of the river Moselle, the sun was shining and we had a very pleasant walk alongside the riverbank, it never ceases to amaze me that theses charming places are so quiet !

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Then after an exhausting stroll it was time to catch up on the reading.  We were here on the 14th of July which is Bastille day and the French celebrate this day in some style.  We went to a firework display, and for  small town they put on a terrific show !

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And it was free !

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Sunday 16th July

After a very pleasant stop at Liverdun it was time for the last long drive of the trip, 300 miles back to Calais. We chose the Sunday, as no lorries are allowed on the roads on the sabbath and this makes for a nicer, quieter drive, more time to chill whilst listening to more Desert Island Discs.

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A trouble-free drive through France, Luxembourg, Belgium and back into France again saw us arrive at Grand-Fort-Philippe, the last campsite of this leg of our trip.

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After setting up camp, Jane and I took a little stroll to the beach……

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A gentle breeze helped wake me up after the long drive.

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This site is close to Dunkirk, and when you see how far the sea goes out, you can only imagine the horrors that the British Expeditonery Force went through during the evacuation.

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On the ferry back to Dover, after her full english breakfast, Val tried a taste of a new blend of whisky.  After many returns to the sampling table, Kevin and Val were asked to pose for a photo to be used in a national advertising campaign ( I might be stretching the truth there!)

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The last photo of us all together on this trip before Kevin and Val head back to Dorset and we set off on our way back to Romsey…

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Back at Dads, the caravan has been cleaned inside and out, ready for the next trip…………..Wales look out, we are on our way on the 5th of July, time to explore more of the U.K.

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This is the map of our trip,

7 Countries,

66 Days,

19 Campsites,

4000 miles ( Kevin only did 3678miles as he is a better map reader!)

4 Great friends having one terrific holiday!

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A Slow Drive Back Through France

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Sunday 9th July

After a lovely two weeks around the lake, it’s time to start the return journey up through France.  No lorries are allowed on French roads on a Sunday (with a few exceptions) and this makes it ideal for us to travel.

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So far this trip we have stayed at 18 campsites, so we are getting to be quite expert in setting up camp and packing away. Each campsite has its own little quirks that you have to get used to, and that adds to the fun………..although finding out that a particular site doesn’t supply the toilet paper can’t necessarily be included in that category!

 

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Our first stop on way back home, was at a little site in the hamlet of Cromary on the banks of the Ognon river, just north of Besançon.  The weather was a little overcast, however that didn’t spoil our enjoyment of this place.  We walked from the site for 5 miles and only came across 3 cars!  The tranquility of rural France is amazing, and we both love it!  Next year we plan to spend even longer in France. We intend to take our bikes and spend longer in one place and thoroughly  explore it.

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Whilst out exploring the local area you often find the locals causing a traffic jam !

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Even on a dull day a drive out can bring you to stunning little villages such as Lods

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Dodging the showers……

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…….is worth it, as no-one else is about………

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…….and then you get rewarded when the sun does come out, as you have all this to yourself !

Thursday 13th July

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Getting a bit cocky now, doing some shopping en route, and taking the caravan in to the supermarket.  As you can see I did take up quite a few spaces!

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We are now in Liverdun,  a small walled town on the banks of the Moselle. The campsite is lovely and is managed by a very friendly chap who praised Jane her on her wonderful french accent and this made her day!  He was not so complementary about Kevin however and had misunderstood him and booked him in for 3 weeks instead of 3 days !

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We were told of a small firework display put on by the local town, and it was only 10 minutes walk away.  Well what a fantastic display! It was 20 minute long and it was FREE!

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This is a very helpful campsite, it even gives you helpful hints on the best way to have a pee!  (Note from the editor, this was only in the men’s loo!!)

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Mind you with the exception of the kid with the tin whistle its a great place!

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Mooching About Around the Lake

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A View of Lac d’Aiguebelette from the Col de l’Epine

 

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The bad weather that we had earlier in the week subsided and Charlotte was able to enjoy the lake at its best.

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When the weather is like this its great to just sit around and chill, reading a book, sun bathing, writing a blog or chatting to your mum!

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And after a hard days mooching, there is nothing better than a lovely meal and nice wine with great friends .

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We took Charlotte for a quick trip around the lake to check out a few different views, but as it was so hot we returned to the campsite for a bit more mooching!  We were up early the next morning to get to Lyon airport for Charlotte’s return trip to reality, but lucky old us, we have still got 2 more weeks before we have to return!

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Steve and Josie only had one more day left before they had the long drive back home. They decided on an action packed day, starting with a canoe ride around the lake……….

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…….after which they gave up on that idea, and settled for a bit more gentle lazing about!

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Time for Steve to pack up, and he was exhausted, poor thing, what with that, and all the mooching!

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All good things must come to an end, time for Steve and Josie to head north. Steve was a little upset as he had planned to leave at 8am, but after a slight problem with the jockey wheel they didn’t get on the road until 8.02am! I was particularly sad to see them go, as Josie always laughed at my jokes!

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Time for Jane and I to have a trip in the canoe, so after a few helpful tips from Jane we got on our way.

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After all that exertion I needed a nice low calorie lunch to keep me going….. the pie was lovely !

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There is a young girl here, who after about a week has got the swans eating out of here hands, she is far braver than me !

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Friday 7th July

We had a drive over the mountains to Aix-les-Bains, not a particularly inspiring town, however the drive was lovely and the picnic spot was lovely and cool !

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On the way home Kev surprised us with a trip to a vineyard for a wine tasting…….

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……Val was delighted, she wished she had the glass behind her on the barrel, as she said it was just like the one she uses at home !

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As we were leaving the tasting we noticed a T-shirt that Steve had left behind, but with all the wine that Val had bought there wasn’t enough room in the car to bring it back !  (Actually the t-shirt is there because the Tour de France will be travelling through here on Sunday.)

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Saturday 8th July

One more day of mooching left before we have to start our journey home.  A couple of the birds that Kev had been chatting up came over to say farewell !

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A Week at the Lake

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Wednesday 28th June

Not a bad start to the day, the morning mist just floating across the lake, another half an hour and I think I’ll swim to the other side and that will set me up for the day!

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Its so peaceful swimming across the lake first thing in the morning, the only sound you hear is the church clock as it strikes the quarter hour.

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Not sure if Jane has set her chair up so she can admire my athletic swimming style, or watching in case she needs to call the emergency services.

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Thursday 29th June

Charlotte has arrived for a week with us, Jane is so excited and has been talking of nothing else for a couple of weeks! The flight arrived on time, without any problems, so all was well.

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Charlotte was over the moon with the suggestion that we stop off at the hypermarket to get some provisions, as whilst we were there she got enough wine to see her through the weekend!

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Just as well we had got some wine in as Fridays weather was terrible……..

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……..so there wasn’t much else to do other than play cards and have a little drink (the girls declined this photo opportunity as they said they weren’t looking their best!)

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However, at the end of the day the sun did make a brief appearance.

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Saturdays weather wasn’t looking too good either, so we decided on a drive out for lunch followed by a visit to a couple of vineyards. Both Jane and Charlotte thought this was an excellent idea!

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Whilst visiting the charming riverside village of Chanaz, Kevin tried to ingratiate himself with the locals by performing his own tribute to the anglo-french building of Concorde!

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Chanaz was a lovely place for lunch, the service was unhurried and this gave Kev time to fine-tune his route for the afternoon trip to buy some wine ………

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……. although I wasn’t so sure that this short cut was going to pan out exactly as expected!

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I can only imagine how the conversation was going with Steve and Josie in the car behind.  If it was anything like what Val was saying to Kev, I dread to think!

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After 20 minutes and at an inconvenient fork in the track, I spoke to Steve and we decided that the best thing to do was turn back. At least we had 4x4s and it wasn’t too bad, in fact I actually enjoyed it (but don’t tell Kev!)

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We finally made it to the vineyard unscathed, and celebrated that we were still alive by buying a couple of crates of wine!

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I think Kev felt a little guilty about the state of our cars after the trip!!!!

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Sunday 2nd July

Jane and Charlotte were both excited about a trip to the market even though it was raining.

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Charlotte got a new pair of trousers, and I was excited because we got a roasted chicken (I’m easily pleased)

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In the afternoon we visited the site of a Second World War Jewish orphanage, where on the 6th April 1944 three vehicles pulled up and forcibly removed forty four children and their seven adult supervisors. They were all murdered at Auschwitz with the exception of one. It was heart breaking to read the letters that the children had written and it would be fair to say that I had a tear in my eye at the end of the visit.  It is so important that places like this survive so that other generations are aware of the terrible things that have happened in the not too distant past.

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Monday 3rd July

The sun has returned and a chilled day by the lake is in order…….

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…….and everybody else agreed !

 

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The Lake

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Tuesday 27th June

This was our first full day at the lake, and after a couple of days of longish drives, I was looking forward to a restful day.

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We met up with Steve and Josie, they had arrived on Saturday and were already looking pretty chilled.

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We all gathered to chat and put the world to rights……..

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…….and they all agreed with Jane that my hair was getting too long…….

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……..and Val was elected to resolve the issue, much to Steve’s amusement!……

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…….the new streamlined look!  Ideal for swimming – I managed to shave 30 seconds off the cross-lake swim!!!

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Meanwhile, Val, exhausted from her haircutting, called for Kevin to bring her the inflatable pillow!

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So, after an extremely taxing day, we settled down to a bit of tea and a little light refreshment.

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Venice to Lake Garda to Turin to France !

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Tuesday 20th June……on the way back from Venice

When you look at this picture of K&V, and then look at the picture of me below, its hard to believe that we have both been on the same sightseeing trip to Venice.

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I put this down to the fact that K&V are more used to hotter climates.  Kevin has led an expedition to the Amazon, whilst Val has led many trips to Carrefour!

Wednesday 21st June

Time to head to Lake Garda.

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The drive from beautiful Venice to beautiful Lake Garda, was far from scenic.   We avoided the motorways as they were expensive, and ended up driving through one industrial estate after another.  Mind you we did see some interesting shops along the way!  Not sure what they sold here, and Jane wouldn’t let me go in to find out !

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We arrived at Camping Zocco on Lake Garda at mid-afternoon and managed to find a couple of pitches amongst the olive trees.

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The site had a great swimming pool and also access to the lake.  I had a swim every morning in the lake and spent most of the afternoon around the pool.

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The extreme temperatures that we were experiencing even surprised the Italians, I think it got to 37 degrees one day!  It was too hot to do much sightseeing; this would have to be left until the relative cool of the evening. Still, on the upside we got to see Jane wear a bikini for the first time in many years and I got to read an awful lot of my book.

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One of our evening trips out was to Sirmione, which was a lovely little walled town with more ice-cream shops than I have ever seen before.

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Jane took her time deliberating over which of the many flavours to choose.  It was hard work trying to eat an ice-cream in the 30 degree heat, as it was melting so quickly, but we managed admirably, with as Jane pointed out only a little mess on my shirt !

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We have seen some great sunsets this trip, but I think eating real Italian gelato by the lake will count as among the best.

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It’s interesting to see how some people commute to work.

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Saturday 24th June

We couldn’t leave the lake without having a little look around, so on the Saturday morning we took a little trip to Salo, and as it was only 29 degrees it was bearable.

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By the time we had walked along the promenade, and met this family who were out for the day, the temperature had risen to 34 degrees. So back to the pool was the best idea.

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The only thing that Jane didn’t like about this site was you had to take your own paper to the loo, and in this heat it was difficult to be discreet !

Sunday 25th June

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Packing up in a thunderstorm the next morning was surprisingly pleasant, although at times the volume of water was slightly too much, and we had to take shelter in the van until it slowed a bit.

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We started the long drive to Lépin-le-Lac, so with  300 miles to do we decided to split the journey in two and stop just over half way, past Turin.  We found a lovely pitch in the shade,  at a nice quiet site,  ideal for a nights stop over.

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The next day we set off on the last leg of this part of the trip. We were heading towards Camping Le Curtelet at Lac d’Aiguebelette where we intend to have a two week break from all the exertions that we have been putting ourselves through, before the drive home!!!!

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But first we have to cross the Alps……

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… which is both exciting and expensive.  58 euros(!) to drive through the Fréjus road tunnel, which connect Italy to France and is 8 miles long.

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A Day in Venice

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Tuesday 20th June

After our late night the previous day, we finally got motivated to go out  at 2.30pm, and bought our tickets for our day in Venice. 20 euros for an all day transport ticket, which we thought was great value,  as that included the bus journey into the city.

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After the road bus trip, we caught the water bus to the Rialto bridge, which saved a lot of effort in the 36 degree heat.

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The whole area was so busy with boats and gondolas on the water, and hundreds of people on the narrow walkways.

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The atmosphere was bubbling with excitement as tourists and locals alike were drinking in this gorgeous day!

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We decided to walk the quieter route to St. Marks square, to avoid the crowds, although actually this was more luck than judgement as it’s very difficult to follow a map in Venice!

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The Doges Palace in St. Marks square was a fantastic sight, and surprisingly at this time of year there weren’t  too many people around to spoil the view.

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St. Marks square lived up to all my expectations, although Jane was slightly disappointed that she didn’t find the Spencer area of St. Marks !

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We sat and ate our sandwiches whilst watching all the traffic on the water coming and going.

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Whilst we were having our “sarnies” K&V texted us to see if we would like to join them for afternoon tea at the Cafe Florian.  Kevin had mentioned in the morning that this was the oldest cafe in the world, and it opened on the 29th December 1720.  He said let’s throw caution to the wind whatever it costs.  When we found out it was 15 euros for a coffee and an extra 6 euros a head for the orchestra,  we soon  changed our minds!

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We found a little cafe near the bridge of sighs where we got 3 coffees and a glass of wine for 18 euros, a sigh of relief you might say!

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We took a little stroll along from St. Marks square, and the further we got away the quieter it got.  It was interesting to see that normal life does go on not far away from the centre, even in a tourist trap like Venice.

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We found a park that was showing an exhibition of sculptures

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We both found it very interesting, I’m not sure if I found it great because the subjects were nubile young ladies in swim suits, or it was the quality of the work…….. probably the latter!

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After a lovely day with several boat trips, drinking in the ambience,  and loads of photo opportunities, we caught the boat back to the bus station for the journey back to the campsite and a well earned bowl of pasta!

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