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1975: France – Aug 17, Hornchurch to Lez-Eaux, Cotentin

Awakened at a dreadful hour 5.45am (I think!) and dressed, packed ice-box and picnic bag, got into the car and drove off more asleep than awake except for Sarah who was revoltingly lively.

Drove to Southampton along quite peaceful roads and breakfasted at the service station on the M3 which was very nice, lots of choice of cereals, hot food etc. Filled petrol tank at Southampton and drove to docks where we then sat for hours – our line was the last one on, and we got very cross watching everyone else sail on and get places to sit.

Our boat was the Vikint Venturer, a large ship with terrific capacity for cars etc. and we had to go ‘upstairs’. Then got seats in the restaurant part and ate our bacon sandwiches and drank our orange juice, and looked around. Weather misty and drizzling, sea calm.

Boat sailed at 10.30am and for at least 1 1/2 hours we were sailing past the Isle of Wight. Good view of Alum Bay and the Needles, lots of sailing boats out and some very fast power boats zipping around. Went to the duty free shops and stocked up with gin, Martini, sherry, and cigarettes and tobacco for Grandad’s birthday – it was a little supermarket in fact, not a shop, and very well stocked. Price far too high really, but they have one over a barrel in these situations. Large numbers of people on board, lots of whom were sitting on the floor which seemed a scandalous state of affairs.

Arrived at Cherbourg at 3.30pm-ish and were promptly off the boat, driving through the back streets of picturesque Cherbourg… Followed some amazing straight roads to Valognes, Coutances and finally Granville. Streets of Granville seething with traffic, crowds everywhere. To add to the fun, we had no idea where the site was, and there were remarkably few sites about anyway. Drove desperately round narrow, jammed streets, time was getting on and we were getting worried. Finally stopped at the Syndicat d’Initiatif and got directions (and the impression that it was not the first time they’d been asked that question!).

Found the site, drove in, went to the office and discovered the site was full…! What a gruesome moment, after all that searching. Said hopefully that we were hoping to stay 6-7 nights. Mme said dubiously that peut-ĂȘtre… they had been let down by people who said they were staying and then went after a day or two… we assured her we weren’t intending going;.. so she decided we could stay, thank heaven, despite the fact that they were really ‘complet’. Heaved a great sigh of relief and followed young Nicolas on his bicycle to a very nice spacious pitch where we thankfully pitched our tent and the little tent, opened some tins and had a tasty supper of Cup-a-Soup, Chunky Chicken and rice, and fresh fruit, and the remains of Gareth’s birthday cake.

The site is very pleasant, not a bit crowded, and surrounded by peaceful fields and woods. There is a lake with water lilies in which one can fish, a games room, television room, showers, hot water and English loos as well as French (relief! relief!) and a farm selling fresh milk and eggs.

After the washing, retired to bed for a fairly early night, feeling very relieved to be here and encamped.

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Happy New Year to you all and thank your for reading and commenting on this blog. There is more to come…!

1970: May 29, Natters

Friday
Again a fine sunny day and everything looking beautiful. Did some shopping in the Spar supermarket in Natters for lunch etc. and got 2 pork chops at the village butcher for our tea, then set off for the Brenner autobahn. Whizzed along east until it abruptly finished, then made much more erratic progress through picturesque small villages and towns. Came to Kitzbuhel along a delightful valley, full of winter sports villages with their gast hofs, ski lifts and ski tows. The Alpine slopes very green and dotted with summer huts, houses, either all wood and ornately carved or stucco and painted either with religious pictures of local scenes.

Kitzbuhel is big (has a very attractive camp site incidentally) and has very nice looking hotels and shops, lots of trees and some pretty, narrow streets. Came to Mittersill of the Thurm Pass (3,819′) and saw our first snow patches at close quarters and stupendous snowy peaks around.

From Mittersill an easy run down the Salzach Valley to Zell am Zee where we ate our lunch beside the deep green water. A lovely spot, mountains around with green lower slopes, lots of pretty chalets, boats on the lake. I could spend a holiday there very happily. Gareth fascinated by the boats, also by the trains, the other two like the gliders, Z am Z being a good place for gliding. Had a very enjoyable meat and salad lunch, then visited a small shop and bought our usual pile of postcards and a Tyrolean belt each for Sarah and me.

From here we made our way to the Grossglockner road, paying our toll 130sch. The Valley became more and more rugged towards the toll gates and houses thinned right out. Once through the toll we were in real mountain country and were soon at the snowline. The peaks all round shimmered in the sunlight and with the blue sky above were a marvellous sight. The road climbed in hairpin bends (the surface on the bends being cobbled) and before long we were driving between high walls of snow. Children had fun playing snowballs in summer clothes and gloves and we looked down on the forest from our snowy/rocky heights and wrote our names in the snow with our fingers. There was a souvenir shop at the top, and toilets so of course we had to visit both. Passed some people in swimsuits sunbathing in the snow which seemed a bit much! Road was blocked for a stretch and we had to wait while it was cleared, in fact there were several men keeping an eye on the snow as it was still very thick (about 10′) at the top and in the warm sun it was melting quite fast. Went through tunnels and past tiny Alpine crocuses growing on the recently exposed ground, the grass still brown and dead from being snow covered. Couldn’t get all the way along the road in fact as it was blocked again further along, but did see a glacier, complete with big crevasse as it pulled away from the rock.

Drove on to Heiligenblut, which has a church spectacularly perched on a rocky outcrop, and bought the children some sunglasses which they could have done with up on the snowy peaks of course. Also had coffee and chocolate cake, they had chips, as we were ravenous. Drove back past more winter sports villages, and had spectacular glimpses of the Dolomites, quite different in character from the Alps, being much more ragged, and a more silvery colour, very pretty in fact.

Came home via the Fettenbauern (?) Pass, which includes a long tunnel and several avalanche tunnels. Road is very good, a toll road, of course, and runs through beautiful mountain scenery. Continued via the Gerlos Pass (more toll!) and past the Krumul Waterfall which is very beautiful; This was a good time to see waterfalls as with all the melting snow they were full. Saw a wild stag up on the hill too. A long drop then to the Inn Valley, past small farms and through some lovely villages (Zell am Zillen very pretty, full of apple blossom and chalets) till we joined the Brenner auto route again, and home.

Quite a day, but well worth all the travelling to see such scenery.

286 miles