Posts for May, 2017


Mountains and a challenging road (Potes, Spain)

Journal entry for Monday 1st May, 2017 (day 48, miles 73157)

A bit of a change from the usual sightseeing diet today. Today was not old buildings, churches and squares but natural scenic 'wonders'. From Unquera on the A8 we took N621 which quickly turned narrow and twisting as it wound its way through La Hermida Gorge, a really pretty drive - but one that tested my skills as today happens to be 1st May, May-Day and a national holiday in Spain. So, the traffic on this narrow road was thick. However my challenge was dwarfed by that presented to the drives of the 40 foot tourist buses.

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The Guggenheim and a fantastic campsite(aires) (Bilboa, Spain)

Journal entry for Tuesday 2nd May, 2017 (day 49, miles 73264)

The motivation for going to the city of Bilbao was for us to visit the cities Guggenheim Museum but the campsite we chose turned out to be a bit of a feature as well, though a little more of that later.

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A taste of Tapas (San Sebastian, Spain)

Journal entry for Wednesday 3rd May, 2017 (day 50, miles 73337)

Today we made the short drive from Bilbao to San Sebastian and it became obvious quite quickly that we had entered Basque country. We no longer have any idea what the road signs are saying. After settling in to our chosen campground (this one is described as a campground - but more of that later) we ventured to the nearby bus stop and then into San Sebastian.

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France (St Jean Pied de Port, France)

Journal entry for Thursday 4th May, 2017 (day 51, miles 73392)

Yesterday in San Sebastian was really the last day of "touring" as today we started the long trek North to the Belgium Port town of Zeebrugge where we will drop our vehicle for shipping back to North America. But even so we could not pass up the opportunity to drop into the French town of St Jean Pied de Port which is a major stop for pilgrims (and walkers) on the The Camino de Santiago. While St J.d.P.P is a small village I was surprised that it catered for our (and other) large motorhome well. Right in the town it had a large parking lot that was an aires for motorhomes and the main streets were comfortably wide. Interestingly this parking lot was right next door to a Jai alai stadium. More generally the town was a jumbled mix of French, Spanish and Basque. We had a nice afternoon there enjoying the tourist bustle and a beer in a local bar.

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France (North of Bordeaux, France)

Journal entry for Friday 5th May, 2017 (day 52, miles 73562)

Today the trek started in earnest, tedious day on motorways paying hefty tolls. The two photos are of a segment of the Camino that Nina walked before we got underway. Finished the day a little North of Bordeax.

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France (North of Tours, France)

Journal entry for Saturday 6th May, 2017 (day 53, miles 73765)

The trek continued today, more motorways and rain

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France (South of Arras, France)

Journal entry for Sunday 7th May, 2017 (day 54, miles 73985)

The roads were a little quieter today as France, like many European countries, prohibits cargo trucks from driving on the highways on Sundays. As a consequence traffic was lighter on the roads but the roadside rest areas were packed with parked trucks and bored drivers; what a waste. We had to skirt Paris this afternoon got a taste of Paris car drivers. I must say it was a bit of a challenge as many of the drivers preferred to occupy part of two lanes presumably on the assumption that it gave them more flexibility in that they could dart into either depending on future traffic conditions.

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Park and Ride (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

Journal entry for Monday 8th May, 2017 (day 55, miles 74172)

Today marked the end of the long trek from the south and while we are not yet in Zeebrugge the long driving is over and now we start concentrating on preparing the vehicle for shipping. One aspect of that preparation is the repair of an oil leak in the left rear axle hub. This started a few weeks ago and needs to be fixed before we get to the port as the shippers will not accept a vehicle with visible oil leaks. So we are back in the Eindhoven area as Erik at Adventure Trucks has arrange for the fix to be done at a local truck repair. However we arrived in the area a day early and decided to stay in another aires for two nights and spend some of that time repacking the junk that has accumulated over the 4 years since the truck was last at our house.

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Park and Ride (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

Journal entry for Tuesday 9th May, 2017 (day 56, miles 74172)

As well as the repacking some sightseeing of Eindhoven and the area around our parking lot was on the agenda. Of course no photos of the repacking only the sightseeing. The Dutch are into bicycles like no other country we have ever visited. The photos of the bicycle parking lot is astounding but very common. On our walk around the town Nina noticed many outdoor markets selling cloth in bulk and commented that with all this cloth for sale there must be a lot of people (presumably mostly women) making clothes. Something that was common in our childhood but rare now, at least where we come from.

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Hotel and vehicle repairs ('s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands)

Journal entry for Wednesday 10th May, 2017 (day 57, miles 74222)

This morning we dropped into the truck repair place in Sint Michielsgestel and hung around for a few hours while the left rear hub was partly dismantled. Sure enough the outer oil seal was leaking. So new parts are required and that means an overnight (at least) stay in a hotel is required. Erik helped us find a place in a local town ... wait for it 's-Hertogenbosh. Thats where we are tonight.

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Truck fixed (Eindhoven, Netherlands, A Country)

Journal entry for Thursday 11th May, 2017 (day 58, miles 74263)

You would be excused for being a bit perplexed by the strange mixture of photographs in todays posting. The image of a painting with all the folks seeming to have a good (but not virtuous) time is included because a print of this painting was on the wall of our hotel near the elevator on our floor. It happens to be The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Jheronimus Bosch. You might be interested to know (or maybe you already do know) that this is part of 3 painting fold-out called a triptych. This particular painting was the middle image of the triptych. The left panel depicts Adam and Eve (before their sins) and the right panel depicts the tortures of damnation. As a complete change of pace the photos of the truck show the left hub with wheel and brakes removed and oil leaking from the offending seal.

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Shipping prep and picturesque Brugge (Brugge, Belgium)

Journal entry for Sunday 14th May, 2017 (day 61, miles 74366)

After Eindhoven a short drive took us to Brugge and Camping Memling. Interestingly this is the the only campground we have ever found recommended in a Rick Steves guide book. More interestingly when we arrived there was a recording of a Rick Steve TV show playing on the TV in the campground recreation room. To extend the interest of this place it is worth noting that registration was via a computer kiosk. Finally access to the campground wifi was dispensed from another electronic kiosk which gave out tickets with a username and password good for a single hour, but since these tickets are free we eventually worked out that taking them in groups of 6 or more was the more convenient strategy. The first picture shows us parked in the campground with the local forest as a backdrop.

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Brussels and Luxemburg (Brussells, Belgium)

Journal entry for Wednesday 17th May, 2017 (day 64, miles 74366)

After dropping the truck at Zeebrugge we found our way by taxi and train to Brussels (Bruxelles to the locals) and our AirBnB apartment not far from Flagey Square in the Ixelles district. After the charms of Brugge we found Brussels a bit of a let down. But dutifully we spent a day in the sun touring the must-see sights. It will not surprise any of my fellow cynics that while much of what we saw in Brussels was somewhat time-worn and graffitied-up the area around the European Parliament Building was throbbing with activity, expensive cars and up market eating houses. Is it not amazing the way 'the political class' can justify spending other peoples money.

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What a spectacular city! (Bugapest, Hungary)

Journal entry for Sunday 21st May, 2017 (day 67, miles 74366)

While one would not describe Budapest (or at least the little we have seen of it), as neat, clean, well maintained and modern, it is never the less - IMHO - a spectacular city. The Citadel and Castle on the Buda side look down across the Danube River to the flatter but more intensively built Pest. All around us there are spectacular old buildings that speak to an incredibly wealthy past. And we have a small newly renovated apartment in an old and quaint 19th century apartment block right in the middle of the action in Pest almost directly on top of Astoria subway station. Also right next to a very famous (though until now unknown to us) Synagogue. Thats what the does are in the photo of our apartment block. The weather cooperated and we had our first taste of real summer while in Budapest with the combination of sun and open top buses allowing us to do a bit o work on our tan.

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Monet's Garden (Beauvais, France)

Journal entry for Tuesday 23rd May, 2017 (day 70, miles 74366)

This morning we collected a rental car from Charleroi airport and will spend a couple of days with it exploring a little bit of France. First stop was href="http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm">Monet's Garden in the little town of Giverny. The drive from Charleroi initially was mostly motorway, fast and relatively crowded. But eventually it turned into a nice sunny meander through beautiful countryside. It was a good thing we enjoyed the drive and the countryside generally because to be honest Monet's Garden itself was a bit of a disappointment with the experience being further diminished by the crowds and the general feeling of tourist exploitation (Euro 4.0 for a coke). But the good news is that we have ticked that box for Nina.

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French Coast (Saint Inglevert, France)

Journal entry for Wednesday 24th May, 2017 (day 71, miles 74366)

First stop today was Rouen where we visited the grave of Nina's paternal grandfather - Donald McDonald - who died late in World War I and like very many colonials now rests in one of the many large cemeteries in the area. Thanks to previous visits by Nina's sisters we had no trouble finding the grave. The experience was surprisingly moving, for Nina because of the thoughts about what it must have been like for her father (Frank) who never met his father Donald, and for both of us getting a glimpse of the huge scope of the loss that the world wars inflicted on peoples from all parts of the world.

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On the square (Mons, Belgium)

Journal entry for Friday 26th May, 2017 (day 73, miles 74366)

After some final glimpses and photos of the coast near Calais we had a couple of days to kill and a car to return and we had decided to spend those days in the French town of Mons. Why Mons ? no particular reason other than that it was within easy driving distance of Charleroi and so the car return would be easy and we could find AirBnB accommodation there. As it turned out Mons was a really interesting little town and our accommodation was an apartment overlooking the Grand Place (main square). Further we happened to be there over a major religious holiday, Ascension Day so the place was swarming with people and noise - our apartment gave us a great vantage point for people watching.

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The Chunnel, Rye and the Mermaid (Rye, England)

Journal entry for Sunday 28th May, 2017 (day 75, miles 74366)

Saturday morning we were up early waiting in the square to be picked up by our son Brendon and his fiancé Jessica. We were off to England for a few days on the south coast at a town named Rye and for all of us it would be the first experience of the Channel-Tunnel. We did not really understand how the crossing was going to work so it was with great interest that we all observed the loading of vehicles onto the train that carries all passengers and vehicles through the tunnel.

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Indirectly to Canada!! (Glasgow, Scotland)

Journal entry for Tuesday 30th May, 2017 (day 77, miles 74366)

Monday morning we said our goodbyes to Jessica and Brendon and caught a train into the heart of the Bank Holiday weekend British Airways debacle at Gatwick Airport (but experienced no problems ourselves). From there an easy flight with Easyjet delivered us to Glasgow late on a wet cool afternoon. Glasgow is on the itinerary as it was the only place in the UK from which we could get a direct flight to (without going via Toronto) Halifax Canada, our next stop and where we hope we will be re-united with out yellow truck.

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