DIARY 2003
What we did, where we went.

Rather quiet in the first three weeks of January, the first journey to Bleno - our cottage in Brittany, commenced on the 22nd . Talking of quiet and the cottage, what a quiet place this is, when in bed, everything is so silent, I reckon one could almost hear a feather drop, let alone the proverbial pin. Even more so than Ireland - and that was pretty quiet!

The first week was spent in more renovation, making partitions for the large rooms etc. We also installed a window in the front room on the upper floor. Undoubtedly the highlight of this visit was our trip to Paris. We drove there on the Sunday, having picked out a Ibis hotel which we thought would be convenient for trips into the city using public transport. We parked the car in what we later found to be the largest complex of car parks we had ever seen, whether they were used by commuters we never found out. The hotel itself we found difficulty in finding, when we did, they could only offer us a room for one night, despite it being a Sunday, bit surprising this, for Ibis we will obviously have to pre book in future - they're deservedly very popular. Luckily, the next morning, we were found a room at an Ibis nearer into the city, just a ten minute walk from a Metro terminus, very convenient for our trips into the centre.

Below: On the lower deck of the Eiffel - still pretty high though! Right: In the 'La Defense' district of Paris, an area of very modernistic buildings, not the least imposing of which is the Grand Arch. Offices in the 'frame', with a roof area covering a hectare. It is said that the Notre Dame Cathedral could be fitted inside the centre void.
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Below: A couple more views of the remarkable 'La Defense' area of Paris, the first showing its relationship to the Avenue De Champs-Elysees.

Three days of unlimited travel by Metro cost just 36 this we made full use of. We concentrated on viewing the sites of the city rather than looking round museums. Apart from the Eiffel and the La Defense area, we travelled to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur - walking through the "Soho" of Paris on the way! We also walked round the outside of the Elysee Palace - the main residence of the French President. This was ringed with Gendarmes, who would not even allow pedestrians onto the pavement next to the walls. One well known sight we did miss out was the Arc de Triumph, and the Avenue De Champs Elysees - an excuse to return to Paris for another visit!

It is very many years since I last took an airline flight - and Mu had yet to travel by plane! As we needed to do a little business in Ireland, we thought we could use this method for a short trip. Booking on-line proved fast and easy - less than 24 hours ahead did we book the trip. The flight from Bristol took off punctually at 8.15 and we'd reached the centre of Dublin by ten AM. After breakfast in Bewleys at Westmoreland Street, we thought our next job should be to find a room for that night. The hotel at the back and above Bewleys gave us a good price, so this we took. We then had almost two full days to enjoy the city and area. That afternoon, to give ourselves a rest from walking, we travelled by DART up to Malahide. That evening, we did a little pub crawling. After viewing a performance of Irish dancing in the Fitzwilliam, we decided to walk up to the Brazen Head - claimed to be the oldest public house in Dublin. Just after we arrived, a three man group started playing Irish music - really excellent this proved to be. First class entertainment lasting to close to midnight for the cost of just a little Guinness!

After a walk in the Moor Street area for the market, our rail trip in the afternoon was down to Greystones. The early evening we spent exploring the department stores in the area of O'Connell Street - late in closing that day. We then caught a very crowded bus back to the airport - we had booked a room in the Travelodge said to be located there. This turned out to be rather further away than we had expected. Luckily a fellow passenger told Muriel were it was, and even luckier, our bus was travelling on to pass the place. Not quite so good the next morning though, as our flight was booked to leave before seven AM, and we had to walk back the almost two miles to the airport, allowing plenty of time to catch it. This we easily did. Back into Bristol before eight.

The ease of booking plus value on this flight encouraged us to take another - this time to Rome - the third capital city we'd visited inside two months, indeed four if one included London, as this trip entailed flying from Stansted, and we had to pass through this capital to reach there.

In many ways this turned out to be an excellent trip - that is with one exception - the traffic! We had decided to hire a car after we had spent some days in Rome. We've more or less decided that we'd best not tour Italy again by this method, the amount of traffic on the roads, but worse, the speed and manners of the drivers, made us wonder if we could return our vehicle without out damage to that and ourselves. We did! But felt ourselves lucky we'd done so.


In the Vatican.
In Rome itself traffic was not much of a problem, partly due to the fact that it had had a 'Ken Livingstone' done to it - vehicles were discouraged from the centre, there was very little space to park cars in any case. In fact this was a major problem throughout urban areas of this country, I do not think I saw a multi-storey car park anywhere. We found that virtually all places worth visiting was within easy walking distance, in fact we did use the metro once, partly to see it, also not to repeat an area we'd already passed through. One interesting point we noticed regarding this city was the absence of 'skyscraper' blocks. these of course would have negated the impact of the many historic buildings, and have been quite out of place in this outstanding city. Four nights we spent there, really enjoyable!

The next place to explore was Naples. We took the train to get there, and after finding somewhere to stay, took a local train to Pompeii. This was of great interest, though rather tiring to look round. The following morning was spent in exploring the city. The old centre with such narrow streets - almost alleyways in fact, was well worth walking through. Very glad I don't have to work or live in this area though. Southern Italy is prone to earthquakes, I dread to think of the death and destruction if one occurred in this city. That afternoon we took the 'underground' - very good value the local transport system, also a funicular, to the local viewpoint (not Vesuvius this being rather too threatening for me!)

Next morning, we took a local bus to the airport, this being where we'd arranged to collect our hired car. The map indicated a maze of roads in this area. Not surprising we ended up taking the wrong road - an autostrada in fact, this we'd certainly wanted to avoid, once in front of the toll barriers however, no escape, we had to continue. Worse, it was not going the way I'd planned! Clockwise round the 'Boot of Italy'. In the end this turned out to be a blessing. We turned off the autostrada as soon as we could, and managed to work our way into the 'Cilento', this is mountainous country with national park status. As usual in these areas, driving not easy. In one period, it was over two hours before I could use the higher gears of the car. Interesting villages, quite large, with a surprising amount of facilities. Very isolated though, I imagine many inhabitants did not leave the village often, certainly in days before modern transport became readily available. May be quite an event for some to do so even today.

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Above: A lady returns to the village of Trentinara in the Cilento with wood for her fire. The road is in good condition!

That night we stayed in Vallo - at the Hotel Mimi. Mountains can be tiring after a while - certainly for drivers, so we then got ourselves onto the coast road running along the 'top' of the 'foot'. My intention was to head for the tip of the 'toes', and I had hoped to get a glimpse of the Etna Volcano across the Straights of Messina. Unfortunately this did not happen, due as much as anything to the haze that perviates Southern Italy so often. I was surprised by the economic activity in this area, being previously under the impression that it was backward and rundown. Most certainly not so, indeed our progress through this area proved much slower than I had anticipated, due to the amount of built up areas and resulting traffic. Thus the reason why I was pleased our journey round the 'boot' was anti-clockwise. We knew what we faced.

To be candid, at least two days in this part of Italy was a waste as far as sightseeing was concerned, the amount of traffic - not to mention standard of driving, adding to discomfort. Improvements began when we had passed the 'instep' of the 'foot', and we reached Matera. This is the town famous for its inhabited caves. That evening we stayed at Bari. Here again the amount of traffic encountered staggered us - towns and cities of England no way compare. Possibly this is due to lack of parking - we did not encounter a multi-storey car park on our entire trip. We were certainly lucky to find a spot, a car pulled out in front, otherwise I doubt we could have stayed in this city.

One of the remarkable aspects of this trip was the lack of places to eat. Not a major problem in finding a place with a room for the night, but with the notable exception of Rome, finding somewhere were we could obtain a meal in most other towns was very problematic. This applied to quite large ones too - Bari with a population of over 350 thousand, none could we find, though an ice cream parlour sustained us, luckily we had eaten well earlier in the day. Seems eating out in Italy is not much of an activity for local citizens. Following Bari, the next town we stayed was Venosa  nice town, here we did obtain a meal - a restaurant being opened specially for us! Two more nights before we reached the airport, with the traffic getting ever worse. The last morning, even well before 7 AM it was a continual stream, I really was thankful to return the car, and get off such appallingly busy roads. Perhaps the following letter from the "Times" sums up Italian drivers attitude to for example traffic signals in parts of that country: In Milan these are instructions, in Rome suggestions - but in Naples treated as Christmas decorations!

Tuesday 22nd April we commenced a local Rail Rover jaunt - four days, each one starting at Yeovil Pen Mill. First day started with a trip down to Weymouth. Then back up to Bath, and another train to Swindon, back down through Melksham, changing trains at Westbury, and back to Yeovil. Next day to Bristol, on to Cheltenham, back to Gloucester for lunch before catching a train through Lydney to Cardiff - lovely route this, running as it does beside the Severn Estuary. We had not enough time to catch a reasonably early train home, so stayed an hour and a half in Cardiff, then roughly an hour each in Bath and Trowbridge. Next day to Weston-S-Mare and lunch, back to Parkway, onto Newport, and then back up the nice route to Gloucester. From here down through Kemble to Swindon, where we took a look around. Back to Parkway, onto Bristol TM, then the late train home. The last day journeyed to Trowbridge, down to Salisbury - early lunch here. To Swindon again via Melksham, back again on the same train, changing at Trowbridge for the Weymouth train. This we rode to its destination, just time enough to touch the sea, as we had done three days previously. Same train home to Yeovil, arriving just after 6 PM. Good value at at just over 31 for the two of us.

The first two weeks of May were occupied by the second visit of the year to Bleno. This time we travelled via Plymouth and Roscoff - just to make a change of scene. It was around ten or after by the time we got off the boat, and already very dark. We'd not as usual booked a room - would we get one at this time of night? Moreover, this area was unknown, so we had to find one. Yes OK we were in luck, first place we called had a nice room at a very reasonable price. I expect they are used to late arrivals off the Ferry.

The fortnight was a bit hampered from my point of view due to the fact that I had a cold - this as we all know, takes 'it out of you' somewhat. Apart from that, we counted the visit as quite a success. In spite of some private doubts on my behalf - it was my suggestion, the pump we had brought to use to pump out the cess pit, did not flood our little garden, this being what I thought it could have done. The dry ground soaked up what the pump threw out, though admittedly this was much less than normal, due to the height pumped. The next problem might have been getting the new Satellite kit we'd bought on our previous visit, fixed up, and then made to work. Again luck was in. After very little time spent in orientating the dish, a picture arrived on our new French television. The only downside being the fact that as we later found out, the signals were in analogue form, also only three channels we could obtain in English being CNBC, and CNN, but the third one was Eurosport, so I will be able to watch the Tour-de-France. In fact the Tour of Italy cycle race was being shown while we were there, so I did get a taste of the viewing. I'd already heard about the commentator David Duffield - this chap would be lucky to get a job on mainstream TV channels!!

Not a single trip away did we take between that visit and the next which commenced on 1st July - very unusual this! We had though been quite busy round the farm, a water pipe being re-laid across the yard, also grain loading, etc. The main factor here in France on this visit is the heat. All day long, the sun pours down through a cloudless sky, and being at a lower latitude - 47 as compared with 52 in England it is more directly overhead. Even worse however in the south of France, perhaps foolishly at this time of year, and with this type of weather, we spent six days driving down there and back again. Here I measured the latitude as being at 43 degrees, it really was hot here! I gather the heat was above average even for that area. The temperature for most of the day being recorded as at 36 C and not much cooler at night. No bed cover needed, and in the day, a high consumption of liquid was required, the vast majority of which drawn out via the skin.

Obviously weather such as this affects land management. Harvest being earlier and of course easier, I saw oats being combined at 10.15 in the morning, unusual in England to be able to get going before mid-day, and even then the grain would often need to be dried. I doubt much grain drying is required in France! There is a downside to this however, the ground does get very burnt up. While many farm animals are outside, there is virtually no feed for them, they having to be fed as in the winter, though obviously less than at that time due to the heat.

Left: I take a paddle in the Med. Due to the heat I felt a little cooling would be beneficiaAbove: Flamingo's feeding in the Camargue.

The trip south added 1340 miles to the milometer, the whole route as usual being driven on 'local' roads. While this does cause a little extra work in navigation,

actually following the the chosen roads is made very much easier by the really excellent French sign posting. One major advantage of this type of travel is that we get a better view the countryside, also pass by and through the very individualistic small towns, villages, and country properties.

The first night we stayed at the little village of St Groux, this between Angouleme and Ruffec. The next night at a place I'd not heard of called Cordes. Montpellier for our third night, is of course well known, large and interesting, I did look round part of the centre in the evening, but think I could have missed out some of the most interesting sights. Time was short however, and wishing to press on along the coast of the Med towards the Camargue. Which we did, Then, turning north again, we managed to reach a place called Millau for that evenings stay. This place I had read about a few months previously due to the fact that a new road was being built around the town, and this was involving some dramatic engineering work in the crossing of a deep wide valley. I did manage to spot the site of the viaduct and what looked like an interesting bridge, from our hotel window, and tried to get closer to it the next morning, but was not as successful as I could have been. We reached Rochechourt for the last night away, and due to the heat were quite glad to reach our French home at 6.30PM the next evening.

Bastille day in France is always enjoyable. I thought there were somewhat fewer people around in Josselin than on the previous years 14th July. But the fireworks justified opinions that the French often do these display's better than the English.

The three days 15 to 17th August was occupied with a trip to the Lleyn Peninsula of North Wales, the first night spent at the White Lion in Machynelleth, the third time we've stayed at this hostelry recently.

Not much travel in September it would seem, but we made up for that in October. On the 2nd we got up very early - I think we were off by 4 AM, along the M4, round the M25, and to Harwich, time enough to look round this little town, before catching the ferry we had booked to the Hook of Holland. Coming off the boat, we hit the commuter traffic of this highly populated area, only managing twenty miles in the first hour on the road I reckoned. Our usual policy of getting off the motorway onto side roads did not improve matters, we encountered very serious hold-ups on these too - in fact we felt it best to return to the auto route A12 off which we managed to find an Ibis hotel at Veenendaal for our first night's stay - it had been a long day!

The next day we crossed into Germany - although we'd done so without noticing, the actual border being obscure. We found the town of Emmerich right beside the Rhine, with the promenade bordering it almost like the seaside, except we were looking out onto a river, with the shipping traffic as busy as I recalled it being over twenty years ago. After a coffee here we pressed on, circling the Ruhr to the north and east, then heading south. That evening, the first town in which we stopped to look for accommodation - Winterberg was chock full of hotels, turned out it being in an area that the Germans liked to visit for leisure activities. However, what we had not realized that this was a holiday weekend in this country, and every hotel we visited - quite a lot actually, had no rooms available. Seemed hopeless, so we thought it best to move on. Luckily we found a room in a hotel a few miles further along the road out of town.

We only drove 174 miles the next day, down to Bamberg. Looking back, I am not sure why this was so small, certainly though we did not rush, and had no major hold up's. We'd have done this much speedier by Autobahn.

We did in fact use this the following day. It was raining heavily, a Sunday, and the two roads ran along side each other all the way to Regensberg, where I wished to stop and look at the Danube. In fact, we followed this river down to that nights halt at Linz in Austria, stopping for some time at Passau on the way. Large passenger boats on the Danube, but nothing like the amount of commercial traffic that we'd seen on the Rhine a few days previous.

Travel the next day was south through the Austrian Alps, reaching Klagenfurt. Only 175 miles, but very scenic.'Photo loading
Above: Autumn colours as we entered Slovenia.

Local time, we left the hotel we'd found a couple of kilometres outside Klagenfurt, at 9.28. Perhaps an hour later, we were passing through the border post's and on into Slovenia. For various reasons, I'd thought it might be best if we travelled across this country, and into Croatia without stopping. This we did, taking not much over two hours to do so. Not a very easy drive. The roads not all that good, but carrying much heavy traffic. Much more of a strain than usual, so I felt the value of a stop once I'd got through the border between Croatia and Slovenia. In fact, a bit of a revelation to me was a border such as this. I had not expected it, indeed it was new, only being erected in the last two years. I've long been interested in borders between countries, but since the new United Europe, they'd almost died out. But this as I say was very new, in fact I doubt that many new borders such as this, were being erected any were else in the world - I hope not anyway. We were waved through with no trouble at all, but not so commercial vehicles, very serious holdups for them I am sorry to say. I pitied those poor drivers, many might have wasted at least a whole day, judging by the lines of queuing lorries we could see.

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Above: Near the Sava River, not far from Sisak, south of Zagreb, Croatia. Left: Maize cobs are being loaded into the upper storey, the "Fergie" tractors are common in the former Yugoslavia, being manufactured locally. The houses with open verandas are a feature of this district.

While we stopped, I was perusing our Guidebook, it was not much after mid-day, and I had not made any plans as to where we should travel once inside this country. Our 'Rough Guide' mentioned an interesting town called Samobar which we found was very close to the border post. So this we drove to. Just outside the town we passed a small hotel, we thought it might be an idea to investigate if we could get a room there. Yes, we were shown a really excellent room - a small suite in fact, if we paid in Euro, we could have it for sixty - otherwise it would work out much dearer in local currency. We took this, then spent the rest of that day looking round Samobar.

The next day we set out to explore the area further into Croatia, we'd not so far used the 1:250,000 maps of this country bought in England. A map of this scale by the OS would show almost every road, so I had assumed we could find our way round this country without much difficulty. Not so! Moreover, to make matters much worse, local sign posting was either poor or often non-existent. Not surprising therefore perhaps that we found ourselves back at a main road we'd passed some time before! Poor start, this would not do. So we then got onto that road and travelled towards Zagreb. What we'd wanted to do was to travel down through the villages close to the River Save. By  luck Muriel spotted a sign to a district which might lead to the direction we should travel. Strange names, few signs, not forgetting traffic, a second pair of eyes is of great value in situations such as this.

Once we'd found we were on the route we wanted, we could relax rather more. In this regard, we were of course helped by driving via lightly used side roads. Quite a lot of new houses being built near Zagreb, these for Croats moving back from Serbian areas of former Yugoslavia, so we were told. In the country through which we were travelling however it was like it always used to be, flocks of geese freely wandering the road, mixed with the occasional pig. The population struck me as being self contained. The quality of the roads discouraging much travel, the only work locally seemed to be from the land. Roads got worse as we drove south, the map showed a road going eastward which should get us toward the auto route which would return us to our hotel - we had booked a second night. However while the first sign confirmed direction to the district we wanted, that was the last sign we saw! Worse, roads divided, which one should we take? We were forced to guess - not a good idea, the map giving no guidance at all. Luckily, we eventually came upon three locals with a vehicle, who appeared to be just perusing the countryside. As best we could, we indicated we were lost, and by showing the map, indicated that we desired to travel back to Zagreb. Very kindly, they conveyed they would lead us back to were we could get onto the motorway. This they did, how lucky we were! And what kind people.

To be candid, this experience put us off any more exploration of this country, certainly on rural roads. So next day we travelled north and east towards the town of Varazdin - interesting sights on the way - as the following illustrates:

Worth waiting for this!

Actually, regarding land work, I did notice how often the women were helping their men. Often they were either sat on the back of the tractor, or perhaps in the trailer. Struck me as a civilized way of living. Also strikingly civilized was Varazdin - we even had to park our car with a meter ticket. I might have been under the inpression that economically this area was rather backward, with the exception of farming, I felt reality proved me wrong. As I recalled the BBC correspondent Kate Adie remarking while reporting on the war in Sarajevo, this made the situation at that time much worse. The population caught up in that awful conflict, had previously been used to all the benefits of civilised life.

Varazdin is not a large town, well worth a short walk round. Interesting shops - we looked in one very good bookshop, with quite a selection of English language books. English might well be almost a second language in former Yugoslavia, though this part, due to proximity to Germany and Austria, gets the majority of visitors from those countries. Following our halt there, we journeyed north towards the border with Slovenia, stopping before we got to it at a filling station to refuel and use up the Croatian currency which we had left. The border post was like that we had crossed over entering the country, a long queue of lorries held up while waiting to be allowed over. I did feel sorry for the poor chaps driving them.

In Slovenia we were travelling with the Drava river nearby. The countryside was very flat, and looked very rich indeed. Judging by the numbers of small "Fergies" being driven around, I assumed the holdings were not large. Actually we did not see any large farm tractors at all in these areas, very unlike most of the rest of European agriculture. Here all the land seemed to be cropped, few animals about. This small country - said to be about the size of Wales, runs lengthways east to west. We had previously crossed it through the narrow part, now we were travelling its length. As we travelled westwards, hills and mountains started appearing, we were again approaching the foothills of the Alps. Our intention had been to work our way back up toward Austria. However the sign we expected to see did not appear - we were looking pretty hard, I doubt we missed it. As it turned out though - and this is often the case - finding another route, turned out to be no bad thing. We drove further west than we had intended, this resulted in us passing up the valley closest to the Italian border. A remote and interesting area of Slovenia.

We had decided to look for accommodation in a large town for that area. Walking round the streets we found a place that looked closed. Standing outside was a lady, so we enquired if she knew anything about it, or anywhere else she could recommend. "No" she said, "it's impossible". So we had to drive on, and it was getting dark, and apart from the stop in Varazdin, we had been travelling all day. As we travelled through the extremely twisty roads up the valley we suddenly spotted a sign for a guest house just off the road, it was certainly worth a try, luck was with us, they gave us a very nice room, and an excellent meal. Amazes me, how all these people speak such very good English, specially considering it is not a neighbouring country, they would not have visited it, and most non local guests would be either Italian or German speakers. The lady who helped serve breakfast the next morning was so well educated she gave me the impression she was a school teacher. But this she denied when I asked her.

The next morning we continued on up the valley. These areas always interest me. Only two ways to go - up or down the valley, apart of course from the few side valleys that open off. Thus the locals live and have to work in isolated self-contained communities We later learned that an appalling battle had taken place in 1917 in just a four or five mile section of the route we had travelled.  Hundreds of thousands of troops had been involved - the Germans alone using six divisions. The Italians it was said lost half a million soldiers, with another quarter of a million taken prisoner. A beautiful place nowadays, but unthinkable vistas in that terrible time. Later that morning we crossed through a little used border post into Italy. Thus we were in the area known as The Dolomites - high very distinct sharp peaks. That night
in Brunico - after our usual slog of looking - we found one of the most high tech hotels I've ever stayed in, it had just re-opened following a seven month re-vamp so we were told. Good rate they gave us in spite of this.

We crossed back into Austria via the famous Brenner Pass the next morning. Quite an easy route I thought as compared with many of the Alpine crossing's I'd been through. Very impressive viaduct carrying the Autoroute on the Austrian side. We passed round, but did not stop at Innsbruck. We did though take a short look at the twin towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Leaving the Alps, we came to the well farmed land of Southern Germany, staying that night at Ravensburgh. Rather a dear hotel there, including our evening meal, the total cost came to 82. The room the previous night - though as I said, very modern, cost less than 50. The German room was an exception, our experience is that room costs in mainland Europe are reasonable as compared with Britain.

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The 'photo on the right is as I understand it, the official start of the Danube. This being where the two main tributaries - the Brig and the Bregath join, then flow on under the road bridge.

On the left is  further upstream - what a long journey this water has to go before it reaches the sea!

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Next days travel was through the Black Forest, stopping on route at Donauschingen. Here, we spent some time in walking and looking for, the actual start of the Danube - the spot where the initial two tributaries met. Not the spot much nearer the town where the spring rises. We did later cross one of the initial streams coming down from the real start. Quite a lot of water in that, too wide to jump over certainly. What an amazing journey that river takes before it empties into the Black Sea. Over twenty years previously we had stopped at the town of Frieburg, noting the streams of water channelled along the streets. We thought it worth another look, but perhaps due to the recent dry spell, no water along the streets this time. That evening, we crossed the Rhine, and found a room in the Ibis on the outskirts of Colmar. We had decided to take a to look at the cottage before returning to England, from the map, appearing not to add all that many miles to the trip. Though we did have to have another nights break at the Ibis in Montargis south of Paris before completing our journey, which in total had added 2600 miles to the 'clock'.

We looked upon our short stay at Bleno as a relaxation and recovery period from our travels. One trip we did take
though while there was to the southern Brittany port town of Concarneau.

Early November in the last two years, we had taken a trip up to the Lake District. The autumn colours being the main attraction, but this period also has other benefits, not least being good value 'bargain breaks'. This our third visit, we commenced our trip on the 5th of November. Our three night stay at the Grey Walls Hotel in Windermere, including breakfast, cost us just 90. On our first full day we drove to the southern end of Derwent Water. Parking our car, then walking steadily up over a mountain using a supposedly well used path. Unfortunately for a reason I still puzzle at, somehow we ran off the recognized route - not very good while one is high on a mountain! We got ourselves off it by a much steeper route than intended. But it rankles that I missed the correct path. No 'mountaineering' the following day, just a walk from our hotel to Hawkshead, via Bowness and the ferry. This in itself is a long way, and I do admit to being rather tired at the end of these two days.

As we were not so far away, and never visited it properly, we thought it worth travelling a bit further north, and take a look at Glasgow. There was an Ibis in the city, at this we felt sure we could find a room - not so! In spite of arriving early in the afternoon, and knowing they had 141 rooms, not one was available. A pity I had not learned the lesson of our Paris trip - related at the top of this page, and prebooked. In total, including looking for accommodation, we spent just over an hour in the centre of this city. We may not have been in the mood - too tired from our previous exertion's perhaps, but we seemed to feel that the city might not be so interesting as we might have thought. So what should we do? We decided to push on westward along the Clyde Coast, surmising that accommodation in this area ought to be easy to find. In this regard, our usual luck deserted us. On and on we drove, investigating all possibilities, specially of course along water fronts. It was a Sunday, so the ferries were on limited running, otherwise we might have been tempted to cross over to one of the off islands. Eventually, we found accommodation at the town of Largs. We had not previously travelled in the south west of Scotland, so followed the coastline down to Stranrear, then across to the village of Portpatrick. That night we found a room in Castle Douglas. These two nights in Scotland cost well above our usual rates, I trust these charges
to be unusual. Certainly not good value in comparison with other parts of Europe.

We used a good route - Weymouth/St Malo - for our trip to Bleno starting 21st November. Less than 100 miles by road, and very speedy - the boat goes at 40 MPH on the open sea! Starting at 9 AM from Weymouth, we actually reached St Malo at 2.30 PM - time enough for us to reach our cottage before nightfall. This despite having to spend time at both St Helier and St Peter Port, to disembark and load cars and passengers. This is a a relatively new service, certainly in the winter. Virtually all our time at the cottage was used to make further improvements. This included rendering the upstairs walls, we also knocked down the outside stairs, and laid gravel down between the house and the roadside, thus making the outside much tidier.