Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The World Wide Wait - Monday 6th November
Aéroport Charles de Gaulle

After one final hug, oh OK, but just one more…. we set off this morning on what was the last leg of our little road trip.   With plenty of time between breakfast and our airport hotel to reflect on what a sensational week we’ve had.  Can it really be a week since we spent that last frozen night aboard our little ship?

Apparently so.

After a week in the company of great friends spread across four countries that seemed to go on for ever yet was over far too quickly, we are back in France.  We dropped the car at the airport, shuffling through it as quickly as possible, after all we will be seeing plenty of it tomorrow as our wait begins.  

Scattered sunshine - Sunday 5th November

We have fond memories of our first visit here when Dave and Ria, eager to show us the sites, walked us along the beach on a far from fine spring day.  Then, we were sand blasted from behind by a mix of ice and freezing grit, having to stop for hot soup every few hundred yards to give us the strength to tackle the next few hundred, all the while trying to look as though we were having a good time.

Autumn weather thankfully is a little more forgiving and therefore good times come perhaps more naturally.  It was still a little chilly, but not enough to spoil our morning stroll through the backstreets of De Panne and Koksijde.  

The sailing season is over and now it's hunting season apparently and as we sat in the Koksijde Yachting Club lunched heartily on game bird and deer and eel, with the odd extra hardy kite surfer flashing past the window, we had to ponder over who was having the most fun.

Was it, we wondered, those who are out braving the cold winds and soggy ground and occasional hailstorm?  Or could it possibly be us, sitting in the warmth of the cosy clubhouse, on sheep skin seat warmers no less, smiling perhaps a little too smugly as the odd outdoorsman ventured in, blue-lipped  and bedraggled, dripping with sand and ocean, in search of a little thaw?   

Slowly slowly - Saturday 4th November
Utrecht To Koksijde

There is a song from many decades ago of the “protest” genre, which talks about taking paradise and putting up a parking lot.   Perhaps Belgium has been mistaken for paradise because whenever we travel through it, the whole country seems to be a huge lot of the parking variety.  Since Bluey and Davo live in Belgium and that’s where we were headed tonight, it was going to be a bit difficult to avoid, so we packed away another set of wonderful memories from the past few days, bade our fond farewells to Vanessa, Marty and Louis, took a big deep breath, a photo to remember the canals by, and launched ourselves into the wild grey yonder.

We were barely out of the Netherlands when we encountered out first eight kilometre long line of stationary traffic.  This sadly occurred even before we reached the Antwerp ring road, one of our least favourite parking lots in the world apart from perhaps its Brussels counterpart.    

Having once again turned a journey which should have taken a few hours into one which took quite a few more, we emerged out of the rainy gloom well and truly ready to stop, into the stunning warmth of Dave and Ria’s welcome. Its probably fair to say that if we didn’t like being in their company (which we do, rather a lot) we’d come back whenever we could just for the food!  Why hasn’t anyone told us about hamrolletjes before ?

Monday, November 06, 2017

Having a Nice Stay. - Friday 3rd November

The Speelklok Museum is hands-down our museum of the day.  It’s not just because it houses a wondrous collection of Mechanical Instruments, Orchestron and Dance Hall Organs either, nor that it is all so well presented that even if the collection were valueless it would still be worth visiting, but it is in Utrecht, a city which is rapidly working its way under our skin in the nicest possible way.

This is an ancient city with a pulse, It’s a city with a delightful mix of modern outlook respectful of but apparently not constrained by its mantel of history.  It’s not however a city which is noted for blue sky at this time of year, and apparently the very fact that no actual rain fell on us during our lengthy exploration today was a cause for celebration. 

This we did in style; Louis, working hard all the while on his first tooth using only a particularly delicious bread crust, one of us going forth somewhat gingerly in deference to the lingering effects of his roadhouse currywurst, and the others sampling the cuisine of the (indoor) garden restaurant with some delight.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Saying Goodbye - Thursday 2nd November
To Utrecht

We travelled for half an hour down that long winding and very colourful road that leads to Marty and Vanessa’s door, and then of course the remaining five hours on the dull grey motorway taking an ill-timed stop for lunch.  Ill-timed because that two tour buses arrived co-incidentally with ourselves, leaving us a hasty luncheon choice of currywurst and chips, or currywurst.

Since our first visit to Europe all those decades ago, we have been fascinated by the abrupt cultural change one experiences when one crosses the arbitrary line on any map which defines the border between countries.   

Travelling from the Rhine region into the Netherlands the changes are more than cultural.  We’ve certainly seen our last grapevine for the year, quite possibly our last hill as well, and if the forecast is to be believed our last blue sky to boot, but we haven’t seen the last of the good times, of that we can be certain, the aftermath of the  roadhouse currywurst not withstanding.


Thursday, November 02, 2017

Alliteration - Wednesday 1st November
Rüdesheim am Rhein

When last evening the lady in our phone calculated that we had a little over a kilometre still to travel, and that it was going to take us twenty minutes, we thought she may very well have blown a valve.   To compound our doubt, we were on the wrong side of the Rhine which is a rather wide river and sure that there was no bridge for a lot more than twenty minutes, yet our projected path had us crossing the river a few hundred metres hence.   

“Turn right”, she said then after a short pause as we sat staring at the water at the end of a boat ramp… “and drive onto the ferry.”   So it was that we arrived at our accomodation just three minutes late, disappointed perhaps that she didn’t know about the delay at the train crossing.   

Autumn colours, rivers, mountains, vineyards and castles aside, our route of the next few days will take us past two of the best mechanical music museums in Europe and in here Rudesheim, Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett or Mechanical Musical Cabinet Museum was mighty marvellous, magical even.  There was plenty of time in our guided tour for goosebumps and even perhaps an itty bitty tear as we heard and watched some of the wondrous machines of just a century ago, from a time before the entire musical collection of the world could fit in our pocket beside the navigation lady.


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

On a clear day - Tuesday 31st October
Baumwipfelpfad Saarschleife

The weatherman did not disappoint.  We set the car heater to a conservative twenty degrees, twenty-two more than outside, and because it would take some time to melt the ice on the windows, wound them down and drove the five hundred metres to the boat with as little of our heads out as was possible consistent with avoiding obstacles.    Surprisingly, breaking the ice out of the ropes and re-tying the covers on the boat proved to be relatively painless, perhaps because our bare hands were so numb even the numbness could not be felt.   

When finally our boat tasks were complete we thawed over a coffee on Bill’s own “new” boat, basking in the glorious five degree sunshine before finally setting off on our long journey to Paris.  Long, because instead of spending an hour or so on the TGV, we have chosen "the scenic route”.

Our first stop, two hours by car was a revisit to the “Saar Loop”, the beauty of which we had failed entirely to see by boat in the day's journey between Mertzig in the top right of the picture to Mettlach in the top left.  During a momentary lightening of the cloud cover, we had caught a glimpse of the viewing tower on top of the cliff, and thought that it might be a nice spot to visit on a clear day.   It was.

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