Monday, November 9, 2015

Viva La France!

After spending the summer in the UK we were ready for a change of scenery and some different food. English food choices seemed to focus on pub fare, Indian Curry and Pizza and after 6 months it was time for cuisine. Departing from Dover, we saw the famed white cliffs.

We crossed via the ferry into
Looks like a tough place to live.
Calais, France.  Calais is the last jumping off point for immigrants desperately trying to get to England. Travelers have set up a camp just outside the port called "The Jungle" which sadly seems to becoming permanent with entrepreneurs opening  24 hour restaurants, cell phone charging stations and money changers.
People warned us to use a different route but as we were traveling in the "wrong" direction, we weren't worried.We caught a glimpse from the highway.

Dieppe, a French seaside town was out first stop. France is very hospitable to motor home travelers offering low cost parking with handy amenities.  Dieppe featured seaside camping for motor homes and we were looking forward to an evening on the French coast.

Apparently everyone else likes the French coast as well...

Dieppe made up for the scenery with an amazing outdoor food and flower market.

So glad we came to France!

We stumbled upon this private chateau that was also a rehabilitation zoo. Beautiful grounds and a great collection of free range creatures including these adorable monkeys.

Great 'stache!

PARIS! Melanie was excited for her first visit to the city. It was worth the death defying traffic to get a photo that everyone else who visits Paris also takes.
A classic...

The first afternoon, Justin was pointing out landmarks as 
we walked along. And this conversation happened: 

Justin "Look at that.." 

Melanie, seeing the only French word she understands Boulangerie, exclaims "Oooh a bakery!"  

Moment of pained silence then "No, in the background...the Eiffel tower."

Melanie still thinking about the bakery"nice..." 

We attempted to visit the Louvre. Luckily it was off season so the wait to enter was only 2.5 hours...So we contented ourselves with some classic photos
This is a fun photo. 2,000 Asian photographers cannot be wrong...
The only line longer than the Louvre was outside Louis Vuitton....People know they can buy online right??

Paris features some beautiful views.

Having enough of city living for a while, we toured the Loire Valley and a few vineyards.
Even the cows look elegant.
 A very nice vineyard using the 500 year old limestone caves for wine storage and cooling.

View from inside the cavern

While we didn't have great weather, the views along the river and the small towns were beautiful.
Small city along the Loire.

Vineyard after harvest with the leaves turning for Fall.

One vintner gave us directions to an excellent fromagerie (cheese maker) a few kilometers away. We tasted several types of aged goat cheese and bought them all.  Thanks for the cheese ladies!

Even French goats wear scarves.

Turning to Lake Geneva, we visited Evian, the town with the famed spring.

Yep, it really tastes better here....

Everyone likes Evian spring water.....

Annacy is an old Roman city along Lake Geneva. Water forms the backbone of the city and makes it a pleasant place to stroll around.
Old part of town with canals made by the lake. 

View of Lake Geneva from the waterfront park.

As we mentioned, the weather wasn't cooperative so our view of the much anticipated French Alps was limited to the lower 500 feet. Feeling slightly thwarted, we consulted our Italy tour guide (thanks Angie!) and turned to the  Italian Mediterranean for some sun and clear skies. Last view of France, Monte Carlo and the visiting cruise ships.

Au revoir France!
Next update from the coast of Italy! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Life in the slow lane

At the end of the summer we rented a canal boat, Beatrice. Even though we had zero canal boat experience, they gave us a 10 minute lesson and off we went!

The boat engineer saying something about an engine...
I'm sure Justin was paying attention
Beatrice is a 47 foot boat- one of the smaller versions and is driven by an inboard diesel engine with tiller. Its kind of like driving a school bus, from the back... without brakes.
Justin at the tiller

The two week cruise took us through the Tardebigge Locks (30 locks over 2.2 miles) into the Avon River. This is the longest flight of locks in the UK and we undertook them on Day 1. Talk about Baptism by fire...

 Beatrice took a few lumps Day 1 as the
locks are about 4 inches wider than the boat.

The Locks have to be cranked opened and pushed closed by, hand making for pretty physical day on the water. A few locks intersect with roads. Can you believe the let us stop traffic?!?

Pushing the gates open
It's considered good form to make sure a car isn't crossing
the bridge before hitting the up button.

The canals gave a lovely view of the English countryside and some wildlife.
Anyone with a dog will recognize this expression...

We caught glimpses of many lovely country houses.

We stopped for a few days at Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's home town. His house still stands as does the farm where his wife lived. Stratford has a beautiful waterfront.
The Bard's childhood home

In the back garden
Anne Hathaway's farm is still a working farm with typical animals, organic fruits and herb gardens. 
The museum/farm is one of the better that we visited.

Justin makes nice with the goats

The owl demonstration gets a little close and his wings brushed Melanie's face. 

Guess who wants a donkey for Christmas??

Back on the boat, we floated along the Edstone Aqueduct- almost 500 feet long that passes over grazing fields and modern roads. It feels little odd to be floating overland. Looking down over the tiller.
The sheep never saw us coming...

And the view from the road....

The locks on the Avon River fit 2 boats and we were happy to make friends with two Australians, Ian and Jock. They were also kind enough to explain the rules of Rugby to us during the Ozzy/Argentina match. True to form we rooted for Argentina so Australia won.
Jock and Justin pilot along the Avon River.

The crews enjoying a well earned brew. 

After a beautiful and relaxing two weeks. We turned south toward Canterbury and France.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The ABCs of England; Abbeys, Boats and Cottages

We spent a week visiting York one of England's oldest cities, surrounded by a wall with Roman origins and medieval  history.

View of a ruined Abby and public park.
The entrance to York via the Micklegate Bar. The bar or gate, has
welcomed kings and queens and occasionally displayed
the heads of losers in battle.  

The base of this tower dates to 300-700 AD. It's
old enough that it was a ruin by 1,000 AD.

York boasts many, many beautiful buildings, among them is the York Minster Cathedral. The Cathedral is undergoing a major renovation. One of the most interesting aspects of which, is the masonry apprentice program. We stood for a while and watched them recreate the old stone work.

York Minster Cathedral seen from blocks away.

Mason apprentice at work

One of the replica stones.

Searching for better weather and an ocean view, turned up the east coast to the little town of Whitby and the most picturesque Abby ruins we've seen to date. Due to Henry VIII's pressing need for a divorce, he broke with Rome and dissolved the Catholic Abbeys and churches. He distributed the assets among himself and loyal barons. The largest Abbeys were dismantled. They make lovely places to picnic but we found it sad that magnificent buildings and educational institutions were scrapped.

The Abby, viewed from the sea cliff

Beautiful stone work

If the crypt fits...

View of the Abby in sunlight from our camp site.

 Whitby is a charming small port village with a fishing fleet but they seem to catch more tourists and visitors.
Some visitors are not so well behaved!

The working water front and
brick buildings reminds us of
Portland. We watched fishing boats
lower their antennas and nets to
fit under the red bridge.

We took some of dog sitting charges to the great cottage, Wallington for a tour:

Not a bad little country retreat owned by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, Socialist MP and self-described ‘illogical Englishman.’ He bequeathed the 13,000-acre estate to the people in accordance with his socialist principles. However, he made The People wait until his family was done with the house. Upon the death of his last descendant, it became a public park.

The house has exceptional plaster work, furniture and painting.   

The dining room

The salon, all of the trim and picture frames are crafted plaster. 

The cottage is skirted by lovely and extensive gardens...

We spent time visiting Oxford, below are scenes from town and the wonderful Oxford Botanical Garden.

Radcliffe camera, part of the famous Bodleian Library and it's the best coffee shop view  to date. 

The gate to the Oxford Botanical Garden
And we thought artichokes grew in jars of brine....

Melanie has no idea what this is but admires the textures.
Archway near Oxford square

We are headed to The Avon River for a two week canal boat cruise. 
This is a typical canal boat...
Image result for canal boat images

If we don't sink, we will send a missive from the river!