Events in 2008

On Wednesday 9th January, we travelled over to France, arriving in Cherbourg around 2PM, then driving down to Avranches where we booked a room for the night.  Reached cottage soon after midday.

On the 18th, we journeyed southwards: crossing the Loire at Oudon, then reaching Poitiers, were we stayed the night. Next day via Chauvigny and Montmorillon, also Chateauponsac, passing to the east of Limoges, stopping for coffee  at Ambazac, and later, a bite to eat at Egletons. Staying this night at Brive La Gaillarde. The following morning we thought we should take a look at Sarlet-la-Caneda - a "must see" in guide books. This is in the area of the River Dordogne. Quite hilly, so very twisty roads, not an area I would be enamored with, perhaps not helped with the dark forested trees.

This part of France is in the foot hills of the Massif Central, whose snow covered peaks were visible at a great distance. Many great rivers of France are sourced from those heights, including of course the Loire, another is the Lot, which we crossed at Carjac, on the way down to Albi, were we stopped the night. The Cathedral of this place is to me amazing; built entirely of brick, the clay for the manufacture of which is said to be from the bed of the River Tarn. The size and hight of the building is massive, little wonder it took all of a couple of centuries to construct! 

The main door gives some idea of the height of this Cathedral; while right, indicates brick size, and amount of morter used.

We then travelled down to Carcassonne. This being another 'well recommended' city to visit. We'd booked here for a couple of nights. One reason for visiting this area was that I wished to take a look at the Canal Du Midi. This, yet another remarkable example of civil engineering, done long before any form of motorized earth moving was available, in fact it was created in the latter 1600's, so it must have been one of the first waterways across countryside ever built. For those not familiar with geography, I should stress that this links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean. So it makes a 'cut through' above Spain for any boat small enough to make use of it, and large numbers of British boats do. Otherwise of course, they'd have to be carried by lorry, unless they did the long voyage across Biscay and round Spain, if they wished to reach the "Med". So following last Octobers trip, I've viewed both the newest and oldest waterways in Europe.

Obviously, by far the best method of exploring these routes, is on the water itself. However I now have a good idea of the terrain involved, being well pleased at viewing this. We did travel eastwards as far as the sea - both sides of Narbonne actually, and we also took a look round the town of Pezenas. This being famous for "mince-meat pies". Mostly bought by tourists I imagine, they are said to contain 'sweet and spicy minced meat' - I've still to sample them!

Moving west again, the next town we stayed at was Agen. This in the area of the River Garonne. Interesting farming hereabouts, many orchards growing apples and soft fruits - plums dried as prunes being a local specialty. Much land is irrigated - amazing the vast amount of French land enjoying this facility. Niort was the final stop on this trip, which covered a distance of 1389 miles.

We both thoroughly enjoyed taking our boat to Ocean Village Marina in Southampton on the 25th February. Here we stayed four days. We were lucky with the weather, and apart from enjoying the excellent range of shops, took a three hour cruise as far up as the container terminal. Here three very large ship were tied up. Two massive car carriers were also in port. No cruise liners though, perhaps not the time of year for them.

Below: Six of the 'photo's taken while on our sojourn at Ocean Village, surely a place for modern life - as the first two indicate. The following three show container workings, while the final one was taken on our journey down Southampton Water.

The first of April is reputed to be the day for fools, but we did not feel so when we drove out of the farm on that day, at twenty to two in the morning! We were on our way to Scotland, and the obvious purpose of this early start was to avoid traffic on the motorway which builds in the day between the conurbations of the West Midlands and the North. Rather surprisingly to me at any rate, was that this starting time did not seem to affect me over much later in the day. This could well have have been due to problems we encountered later -  adrenaline
getting pumped up!

Depending on the time of year, we have got into the habit of rarely pre-booking accommodation. We'd arrived at Ardrossen soon after midday, deciding it was unwise to cross over to Aran that day, but booked the complete route - three ferries(!) for the next day. So now we had to find somewhere to stay for that night. The ferry office were helpful suggesting places, so did the local library. But look as we may, nowhere in that area could we find. The fact that it was pouring with rain did not help matters. In the end, we decided a return to the large town of Kilmarnock might be an idea. Here we spied a Premier Travel Inn - but they were full! However they passed us onto another one which had a room. Good job too, what with our long day, and the rain, it was obviously a relief. Proved to be excellent quality, at a very fair rate. First time we'd used them, but we would certainly make use of them in the future.

We do say that counting the ferries we've ever used would be better than counting sheep, if difficult to get to sleep. The first of the three for the day was from the mainland to the Island of Aran, then a much smaller ferry boat conveyed us the next leg to the the Mull of Kyntyre - this couple of 'hops' had saved us the long loop round Lock Fyne. Then we had a quick drive over not such good roads to reach the terminal at Kennagraig. From here the quite large boats - two ply this route - cross the the Island of Islay. This voyage takes two hours.

Islay was an island that we have visited before, but that was very short, just one day. Memories had stayed however, it was felt a few days longer would be nice. Indeed so it proved. We've toured the majority of the larger islands off the West Coast of Scotland, and Islay is the best in our view. Large - about thirty miles across, and sustaining a population of three and a half thousand, it is very much a 'community' in its own right. Particurly in Ireland, I have formed the idea that offshore islands are kept populated partly as a tourist attraction. I do not have this feeling in the case of Islay. There are a number of whisky distilleries to provide base economic activity. The farmland could also be quite good - certainly as compared with much of the rest of the western side of Scotland. There was up until the year 2000 a number of dairy herds run on the island, but then the creamery was forced to close, these were dispersed, and only one remains.

As mentioned, we had no accommodation booked. Being that our intention was for a stay of several days, self catering was what we would be looking for - finding it could be the problem! So it proved, but luck came our way. From Port Askaig where we landed, we drove around fifteen miles to Bowmore, this being near the centre, also the 'capital'. It does possess a tourist office, and this was open. However locating availability proved difficult, partly due to some owners not being local residents. Just after we left the office, and discussing what to do, a lady came up to us and said she had a flat that was empty, this proved to be just up the road and in the main street. This was absolutely first class. We had a base in the centre, proving perfect for our stay. Our memories of Islay have been enhanced.

Harbour wall Bowmore, looking up main street, famous round church just in view at the top. Next: Looking down, our car is parked outside the flat we obtained. Bowmore's distillery proved an interesting visit. We likewise thoroughly enjoyed a days visit to the island of Jura. Above the only village, and right, the islands distillery is grouped among the houses.

We spent a total of five nights on Islay, this plus a night in a Premier Travel Inn before and after, meant we were away for a week. A couple or so days later, we took the ferry from Poole to Cherbourg - a night at Avranches, then on to our cottage. No trips away, and returned on the 28th April.

Thursday 1st May, we took Sylvania to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. Here we made really good uses of our bus passes! That afternoon an 'open top' to The Needles, and from here we walked over Tennyson Down to Freshwater, then another bus back. Next day after a slow 'pootle' round this superb little town, we left at 13.25 to cross the water to Lymington. Here we met up with a very large number of fellow Nimbus owners for the annual rally held here. Three days of activities, then a return to Yarmouth. First afternoon a bus trips to Newport, and another one onto Ryde. Next day to Shorwell, from where we walked over the high downs westward as far as Freshwater, calling in at the National Trust property at Mottistone for a 'ploughmans' on the way.
The following morning, before returning to Poole, we found time for a ride to Alum Bay, here we spent some time watching the craftsmen at work in the glass works.
We do love the Isle of Wight. Left: A view towards the mainland. Above: Alum Bay

It had been our intention to take 'Sylvania' down to the West Country, this trip to commence in the middle of May. We'd only left our berth when I felt the engine did not sound 'right', so we turned back. First suggestions were it might be something round the propeller. This was checked - not that. Looking in the bilge however, revealed a fair amount of water sloshing about. Clearing this, plus finding just how this got in there, also why it had not been pumped out, took some time. I felt also that we should try and utilise tides for this long journey. With them, but not against them, could save an hours running time.

So it was not 'till 30th May that we eventually started out. Rougher off Portland Bill, but apart from this, a really pleasent first leg down to Brixham. A couple of days later we set out, heading for Plymouth. Off Berry Head just as I was easing the throttle forward to set our usual cruising speed, at this point, an alarm sounded, the engine shut down - but thankfully kept running! We were in 'limp' mode, so back to our berth. The local Volvo engineers checks revealed a degree of muck in the fuel filters. This appeared the obvious cause. Not so! Setting out from Plymouth some days later, the same occurance, this time after hitting quite a large wave. So back we went, and the same engineer came back. Making some modifications, we felt safe to continue. This time we reached Falmouth.

We really enjoyed Falmouth, staying at the towns visitors berths. One day we explored the Truro River almost up as far as Malpas. Another day was spent in the Helford River, up in fact virtually to Gweek, as well we did not linger here, or the tide could have held us for the next twelve hours. Back down, and we managed to anchor just off the National Trust quay. Here we stayed peacefully for the next five hours. Never felt so quiet before - I shall not forget that spot! Funnily enough, this was the day that Dolphins were found stranded in a creek just near St Mawes, but we ignored this, Helford was better.

The lovely cottage above Old Harry Ferry, where we mooredfor tea. 'Sylvania' is behind, and to the left of Muriel.
Above: A closer viewThe north side of Old Harry Ferry
Below: Serene in the HelfordAt Gweek.

Tuesday 1st July we travelled over to France. For a change, we thought we'd try a different route - Plymouth to Roscoff. This port was reached soon after six in the evening, and we managed to reach our cottage in time for bed. This year, the Tour-de-France started in Brest, with racing to the finish on the first day just down the road from us in Plumeluc. Here we spent most of the day, a large mobile television screen showing the cyclists as they sped towards us. We also viewed the stage from St Malo to Nantes from the road side a couple of days later.

Main trip of this visit was to spend a couple of nights in the City of Nantes. We had stayed here before, and remembered the trams. The Ibis we chose to stay at claimed to be just a hundred metres from one of the termini - though I think it was a little bit further away than that! In the centre, parking in the city would have been chargable, but free were we stayed. Really well worthwhile once we found out just how low the cost of tram rides where - three pounds was all it cost the two of us for the whole weekend!

We returned into Plymouth late in the evening of the 16th - to be told that the room we had thought had been ordered was not on the hotel system! They did have one spare, but not nice when that does happen. We did locate the human error which was the cause. The next morning we travelled down to Penryn - to check what was happening to our boat since we'd left it there.

We'll explain furthur regarding "Sylvania". in the meantime we ended July with a trip into mid and North Wales. Travelling via Gloucester and Ross, directly to Hay for lunch. Then Painscastle and Glascym to Kington and Knighton, ending for the night in Clun. Next day, a meander across Mid-Wales and a stay of two nights at Dolgellau, while here we did a trip to the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula. North to Conwy, looking at the Castle here, also the marina. The last night was spent in Llangollen.

Looking through the page of the year 2000 I see that the August of this month, is almost a repeat of then. We visited both the country shows we did then - though this year only a day separated these. We also as then took a trip down to Bicton, though I'd forgotten till I was there we'd been there only eight years previously, though must say I'd only remembered that I might have mentioned the previous trip here. Nothing there reminded me of it. Weather this August is much worse
even than then however! Glad I'm not harvesting.

Now to report on the problem which has been troubling us this summer - our boat. As we were returning from Falmouth in June, we spotted dolphins. We stopped the boat, but not the engine, to try and take some 'photo's. No luck, but as we moved forward again, an alarm sounded, and the boat shut down into 'limp' mode. So back to berth. We called out an engineer, the upshot being that it was decided the boat should be left at their base in Penryn. We returning by rail. The work took longer than I had thought - over three months. in fact. It was not until 8th September that we managed to leave Challenger Marines base
for the voyage to Brixham, then another wait till the 12th before we could at last return to
our home berth at Poole. Right:  We passed close to the Eddystone Lighthouse,
on our Falmouth to Brixham voyage

Interesting trip on 26th September - to Exeter. Took the train from Sherborne, had a good look round, then lunch in a 'buffet Chinese - we do like these! Walking back towards the city centre, we found a bus heading out towards Totnes, so to there we went. We had visited several times previously, the large three story warehouse usually has something of interest to purchase.

Journeyed across to France in the afternoon of 16th October, staying that night at Cherbourg, then to Bleno the next day. Some days later we commenced another of our long drives through Europe. Across France to the German border just north of Basel, halting on the way at Blois and Digon. Our first night in Germany was at the small town of Laufenburg, just over the River Rhine from its identically named neighbour in Switzerland. Travel the next day was to the south of Lake Bodansee, and then trying to avoid Bregenz, before climbing up the Alpine foothills, to spend that night at the town of Fussen. On again the next day, the first hundred miles or so were on the usual 'local' roads. As we reached Salzburg however we realized it would be difficult to get through without the use of the Autobahn. We then considered wise to continue on with this route to Vienna.

Above left: The hilltop town of Vezelay in France was on our route. Right: The Alps with the light behind them, are an interesting site. Below: Laufenburg straddles the Rhine, this serving as the border between Germany and Switzerland, left in the latter, and right in Germany.

We had driven a thousand miles across Europe in an easterly direction - and to be honest felt pleased and satisfied we had done so. From looking at the town plans we had obtained, we thought we could walk into the centre - not so! It is a very large city. It has though an excellent transport system, in fact the Underground could equal Paris or London. So we made use of this with the purchase of travel passes. We found the 'museum quarter' which appears to have the most interesting buildings. Here we met an individual dressed in period costume who was persuading visitors to purchase tickets to a concert to be held that evening in the "Golden Hall". This is the very same concert hall from which every New Years day, a concert of Vienniese music is beamed round the world - we've often watched this. So we bought tickets. I had assumed that cameras would not have been allowed, so did not take mine - wrong! Virtually all the others in the audience were flashing away. Pity! Well worth going though, we shall watch next new year with renewed interest.
Vienna is full of fabulous buildings, above pictures just two.

Next day we enjoyed a hydrofoil trip down the Danube, this as far as Bratislava. Must confess I had thought this city was in Hungary, thus was surprised to note almost all vehicles had "sk" on their plates. Later I found this to be the capital of Slovakia. Like many other Mid-European towns, attractive buildings; examples below - also smart guards! These we enjoyed as we walked up to the railway station from which we found a train to return us to Vienna.

A drive south out of the city towards Hungary seemed a good idea for the next day. Though in practice, actually finding a route in the general direction one wishes to exit a very large city, is often not easy, and made worse this day due to it being overcast, so the sun could not give us a lead. Eventually we did get out though - and on the right road too! The Hungarian border crossing is like so many other borders nowadays, unmanned. Country borders have always interested me, and I realise that in this part of Europe, they are relatively recent in historical terms, and it's good that they seem to be dying out again. Always interesting to cross however, there is certainly perceived differences in countries. As is quite often found in former "eastern bloc" countries, side roads in rural areas can be unsurfaced. Even main routes often having rather weaker surfaces than we are used to, this not helped by the heavy lorries these often carry. We drove into the town of Sopron, with the intention of trying to find the centre, I had thought this would be worth a look at. But somehow we missed it. A look later in guidbooks confirmed it to be worth a visit. Our stop that night was In Graz, Austria's second largest city.

We stopped for a coffee at this Hungarian village.

Graz was another town we found difficulty in locating our desired exit route. Once out though, and heading roughly westwards, I confess to difficulty in the recall of much of our journey. Event overload is partly the reason. Doing a long trip, with something fresh every day, one can usually recall the highlights. But understandably perhaps, there are gaps regarding views and scenery failing to imprint in our minds. We most certainly will not forget the small town we stayed in that night however. It was Mittersill. We had stopped and parked our car,then walked round looking for a suitable place to stay. Entering likely looking hostelry, the owner said he could not give us a room, but indicated he did good food. Obviously he wished us to return, so he told us of another house offering rooms. Excellent these were too, very large, and good rates. So we eat that evening in the restaurant we'd already visited - a meal I shall not forget. in fact the best cooking of all the many hundreds of places we've eat at in all the years of travel, both in the UK, as well as the rest of Europe. Shame its so far away!

Davos in Switzerland was the next town we stayed at. We had been climbing through the Alps. and the last 'climb' was the trickiest of all. Over the Fluela Pass in fact. Constant zigzag bends, and two degrees below freezing at the top. Really glad to come down and reach Davos! Switzerland being as it is, more mountains to negotiate the next day, we passed through Liechtenstein, we turned westward and eventually found the town of Appenzell. This was already well known to us, previously viewed during our Swiss Railway tour of 2003. Muriel found the restaurant we had previously visited, and here we enjoyed a most excellent milky coffee. We turned to another previously used haunt for that evenings stop - Zug Barr. The receptionist to our surprise could give us the dates of our earlier stay. Three following stops were in France, Pontarlier, Moulins, and Mezieres - in the area of Brenne. Thus completed a total mileage of 2,565.