Our first away trip of the year was a rail trip to Cardiff for three nights, staying at the Central Travelodge from the 8th January. The first full day we looked at a couple of visitor attractions, the second day we spent traveling on the Valley Railways. We felt the city was an excellent place for shopping - a great variety, and unlike for example Bath or Bristol, in a compact area.
Another 'Travelodge' trip was to the one at Okehampton west - two days there, exploring west Devon and north Cornwall, this at the start of last week in January.
Yet another Travelodge provided a base for our third trip - this at a place called Murcot, a little south of Rutland Water. Three nights here at twenty pounds a night, really good rooms, excellent value. The first day we wondered across the Fens as far as the shore of the 'Wash'. The second day we traveled north as far as Newark. This jaunt took place in the second full week of February.
February 26th we started out on our first ferry trip of the year. This was to Brittany, and the main purpose was to take possession of our cottage which is a couple of miles outside the town of Josselin. We stayed in that town for the first three nights, and while services were being connected, went off on a trip. The first night we stayed at Angers, the next two at La Rochelle, and finally on the way back, La Baule. We had arranged for a new bed to be delivered, also the water was being turned on that day (Tuesday March 6th) so we were able to sleep in our new property for the first time that night. Other items necessary for decent living were purchased in the following few days. Six nights were spent at the cottage in all.
For a couple of days starting 1Oth April we stayed at a Travelodge four miles west of Huntington. This allowed us a full day exploring the city of Cambridge. This area is Fen country, so our trip enabled us a view of this vast flatland, and how the arable farmers were coping with the appalling weather conditions - not well it would appear, seems the immense rainfall has had much the same effect in this area as the rest of this country.
Our second visit of the year to Josselin commenced on May 1st. I give more information on the Josselin Page The ferry we were booked to return on should have left on the morning of May 15th. However while we waited at the port, we were informed part of the ships company had gone on strike, and therefore the boat could not sail. After considering the situation, we decided the best thing would be to stay another day in the area, with the hope we could leave the following evening. We were able to leave then, though unfortunately not with Brittany Ferries - I think this boat did actually sail, but the strike appears to have been settled after P&O found us a space on their boat.
From the 4th to the 7th of June we did something we last did around twenty years ago - bought a Rail-Rover ticket. We traveled round the railways of Wales at that time, this trip we were restricted to rail lines roughly based in Devonshire. After our ride to Exeter ST David, we went up to Barnstaple. Spending a couple of hours in that town, we returned down the line, and traveled on to Exmouth, were we spent the night. Our rides the next morning took us up to Taunton. After a walk into that town, we returned to the station, and back down the line as far as Teignmouth. We know a very good value pub there for food, this would have been a fourth or fifth visit, very unusual to return to the same eating house so often, in view of its distance, also the fact that it is not on any through route.
We then traveled on to Paignton, here we knew of apartments which had been good value previously, and that we could use as a base for the couple of nights we needed to complete our trip. The following day we traveled down to Plymouth, and then caught a train which went up a very scenic - and for the final few miles very slow line to a village called Gunnislake. Quite amazing how this line has escaped the cuts to the railways, and that it is still running, not carrying many passengers even now, though luckily now that this form of travel is back in fashion, it will obviously now keep running. Well worth a trip on it, but tourists should not get off at the line end but travel back to Calstock, and try and do as we did, and walk to the National Trust property at Cotehele - specially in June, when the rhododendrons are in full flower. Our final days trips were to Torquay, Totnes, and Plymouth.
27th June saw us depart for our third trip of the year to our French cottage. We managed to find a cheaper as well as quicker route for this visit. Apart from shaving over a third of the fare of the other company, we also cut the road distance travelled by exactly half - really quite amazing! Unfortunately this ferry does not run all year. We will indeed be fortunate if this repeats in future years.
We try not to take many trips away during peak holiday periods. On 21st August we crossed Wales to Aberystwyth were we stayed the night. The next two nights we slept at Machynlleth, at the White Lion Hotel. The weather was not perfect for viewing the fabulous welsh mountain scenery, but then for these areas, this is often the case.
The fourth visit of the year to Josselin commenced early on 26th September.
3rd of November we started out on a trip north. We got to Heysham at 14.15, just as the ferry was leaving for the Isle of Man - no we'd not missed it, but it meant the office was still open, so we could inquire about booking, when 'phoning, we had been told it was full, but yes, we could sail that night. This meant a very disturbed night, in spite of the fact we had got a cabin. We had to get off the boat at around 5.3O - not a good time to arrive! We spent too much time looking for self catering accommodation. Had it been a weekday, not on Sunday, the tourist office would have helped us, but eventually we found a Motor Lodge were we booked four nights. The island is 33 miles by 9 miles - we consider we know it quite well now!
As it was a long way south, and the Lake District was so close, we thought it would be an idea to go there. Good job we did, the autumn colours at this time of year made the visit well worthwhile. We were also very lucky in the accommodation the tourist office found us. A quite outstanding property divided into nine self contained flats. We shall certainly stay at the same place when we can next visit the area. The website is www.lakedge.com - do look it up!
We had intended to go to Ireland before the end of the year, but thought it best to go to France instead. The reason being that Muriel wished to discuss face to face the work being done on the cottage. We left on the evening sailing out of Poole on Tuesday the 4th December, and spent the night in Cherbourg. We get a glimpse of Mont St Michel on our journey, and on this occasion paid it a visit - a large number of people visiting even at this time of year - far too crowded in the tourist season for a comfortable view I would consider.
It was rather cold in Brittany, even the river had ice on it - thick enough that stones thrown to it, would not go through. We have a large fireplace though, and plenty of wood for fuel, this coming from a shed we had dismantled. We left St Malo on December 17th, at 9.3O AM French time, arriving in Portsmouth at 6.3O in the evening, a rather long crossing, but it does save on the car mileage. The cost of the return ferry trip was £129 - good value we think. It even included the use of a cabin to ourselves on the crossing back.