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Photo of me at Land's End, Cornwall

Here, there, everywhere and some other places too …

Resting up for a while

The trip we completed at the end of May was for us, a momentous event. We had set out to go further than before and to travel with an open style, meaning that we had no fixed idea as to where we were going. Turned out to be an interesting way to do things. We visited a lot of old favourites nicely intermingled with some new destinations and no shortage of fun experiences..

So now it was time to rest up a bit, check the van and enjoy home life for a while as we contemplated the next trip.

Back on the Isle of Man we took stock. The thinking was straight forward. We had been to Scotland as we had been to Wales. England had been well covered , Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lincolnshire, London, Oxford Stonehenge, Devon Cornwall and many sites in-between.

So the decision, my native Ireland so what follows is, I hope you will find is worth the read as we unravel aspects of Ireland that many know about but don’t really know!

Summary of the trip...

Trip summaries

2013-05-29 at 21.04.23

2013-05-30 at 08.28.26

and finally the trip is over...

Lincoln Farm Park is one of our favourite sites and is reasonably convenient as a stop over point when travelling down to the south coast for travelling abroad.
2013-05-24 at 08.40.10

I have said it often throughout this blog that pleasant helpful staff very often define the quality of the site and here it is no exception.

It is truly self contained with a well stocked shop, an excellent pub within 2 minutes walk serving very good food and facilities you just couldn't fault.

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We have been coming here for several years and always look forward to it.

On this occasion it was very much a stopover as the following day it was a long drive to Ellesmere Port to prepare to store the van and have it looked at by Barry Jones, a mechanic who makes sure all the bits do as they are supposed to.

While we have been away our car has been in storage and Barry, kindly, had it charged up and ready for action. We collected it and drove both vehicles to another favourite location, The Caravan Club location at Chester Fairoaks (53.257230 -2.886266).

This is always a popular site and we make sure to book well in advance. The Caravan Club has, over the years, managed to achieve a level of consistency throughout their sites and that is one of their great strengths; you always know what you are going to get and they are to be commended for that. Sandy was on duty when we arrived and could not have been more helpful. The pitches are very generous in size so there is plenty of room for the van and a car which was great for us as we had to swap over lots of cloths and equipment which was coming back home with us.
2013-05-24 at 08.53.38

Chester Fairoaks also happens to be just beside one of the best outlet Malls in the UK so everything is on hand just a few minutes walk away from the site.

A one night stay over, lots of packing and unpacking, tidying and then its time to return the van to Barry who will service it and return it to storage ready for the next trip.

Then its off to the Docks and the boat back to the Isle of Man.

A departing shot from the Ferry to the Isle of Man. The iconic Liver building with its Liver Birds atop and a special guest appearance of a seagull!


The End of the World is nigh….

I always wanted to write a piece with a heading like that but in this case there is a modicum of truth about it. This is a story that needs a bit of background.
2013-05-23 at 12.23.43

For most of the past two months we have been travelling with our good friends Loretta and Gianni Carbone. We parted company in Alsace as they have a special date in Paris and we are headed homewards. Originally we intended our group to be three couples the third being Pam and Geoff Masden from Doncaster. However earlier this year they made a decision to buy a new motorhome and, as fate would have it, they have to wait until October to collect it. Still they have been tracking us all the way and we chat regularly on Skype when the WiFi is strong enough.

When we settled on our return date Geoff suggested that we meet up for a meal en route to our destination, Liverpool. Our first stopover was to be Lincoln Farm Park in Oxfordshire and we thought that should be the meeting place. Then Geoff discovered that the dealership where he is getting his new van has a branch near Lincoln Farm and suggested we might like to stop off and have a look at what their new acquisition looks like. He sent me the coordinates and it was just 20 miles from our base.

It was great to meet up with them again and we truly enjoyed the conducted tour around their new vehicle. They are so excited and geared up for a lot of fun in the months and years to come.
2013-05-23 at 13.57.14

When the inspection concluded we asked if there was a decent restaurant in the area and we were directed to The Langley Hall Inn just a quarter of a mile up the road. Turned out to be quite a find.

Mark Jenkins is the owner and nothing was too much trouble for him. The food was top notch and the welcome was ambiance was just excellent. To add to all of this he has a little campsite in the back garden. It's a CL for the Camping and Caravan Club so for those of you who like to discover interesting new places this one is thoroughly recommended. To be precise the coordinates are 51.482219, -1.303682.

So what has all this got to do with the end of the world? Well, The Langley Hall Inn is situated in a little village called….Worlds End!

A fabulous stop over and then it was time to make our way to Lincoln Farm Park.


The Eurotunnel...

I am always interested at the views expressed by fellow motorhomers on the multitude of methods for getting from European countries back to the UK.
2013-05-23 at 09.43.03

My choice is always the Eurotunnel for a whole variety of reasons. Firstly, living on the Isle of Man I get more than my fair share of opportunities to travel by ferry and invariably I will always pick the quickest. That has largely got to do with Dougal as, very often, he has to remain in the car or Motorhome while we cross. However when it comes to France I have no hesitation in using the Eurotunnel as it takes 34 minutes, has a very efficient "get on and get off" routine and, at either end, you simply drive off and are immediately onto a motorway heading in your direction.
2013-05-23 at 09.47.53

A word here about the Caravan Club. They have a very efficient booking service and I wouldn't go past them. I have two very minor irritations. When you call you have to sit through endless recorded messages telling you that they don't make recommendations and, essentially, you are on your "ownsome" when it comes to making a decision. Then you press 1 and hear another statement about something else. Surely by now they could have a button for "If you have heard all this before" press 9! Just a thought. My other niggle is that the confirmatory emails get sent out overnight and not, as in every other case, immediately.

Still its a valuable service and reliable.

Leaving from La Bien Assise it is no more than a 15 minute drive to get to the terminal where pet owners need to keep an eagle eye for the office you have to report to before you can check in. Then it is the simplest of processes to load up by driving onto the train and waiting for it to leave.

At the other end it is the opposite, drive off and away you go. I usually pass the time by going back and having a lie down on my bed, listen to some music and, sometimes, have a sleep.

And finally, off we go.


On to Calais...

I knew what I was letting myself in for with a drive from the Champagne region to Calais. A total of 230 miles but I have to say it was very comfortable on the autoroutes and on arriving at the campsite in Guines there was a deep air of satisfaction.
2013-05-22 at 13.12.38

Le Bien Assie campsite is a very popular one with us. It is where we always start our travels in France and similarly it is the site we always finish up on.

This time the weather was a lot more pleasant than the opening day of our trip and the site had filled up, mostly with GB motorhomes and caravans. We decided to stay 2 nights so that we could do our crossing and drive up through England on Sunday morning, much less traffic.

One of the great things about this trip is the number of times we experienced very pleasant and unexpected surprises. It transpired we weren't finished in that regard as we prepared to quit France for the Eurotunnel.

More on this in the next post.

Heading North...

Leaving Equishiem was sad for us as we were saying good bye to Loretta and Gianni as they were heading off to Paris for more exploration. We were completing our travels by heading northwards to Calais stopping on the way in the Champagne region.
2013-05-20 at 08.02.52

One little task was to get Dougal seen by the vet as the regulations for bringing a pet back home from France are fairly strict and essentially you have to have a vet certify that he is fit to travel and to check for things like ticks and worms. This is followed by an entry in his passport for production at the departure point, in our case, Eurotunnel on Sunday morning. The rules are strict and rightly so.

Happy to report that Dougal passed with flying colours and, although he didn't like it he nonetheless managed to swallow the little pill he had to take after his tenth spit out! A determined little man.

From then on it was a long haul to a site in the Champagne region. The site is part of the Yellow Group and is called, Yelloh! Village en Champagne and if you are interested in having a peep the coordinates for Google Earth are 48.571850, 4.847970.
2013-05-20 at 08.06.14

Its a pleasant site which seems to major on static homes with pitches for motorhomes scattered around.
2013-05-20 at 08.18.30

It is a site that is clearly a holiday centre for families but for motorhomes it is obviously a stopover point going north or south. And a good one it is too. Its located neat to a lake which has its own man made beach

A nice restaurant with delightful staff and the food was excellent. I am writing this at 8:30am on Friday, May 17, 2013 and they are opened for breakfast so it will be Cafe au lait, Croissants and an Omelette! Well, I have a long drive ahead of me.

I had a chance to chat with the restaurant owner, a charming lady called Julie Chamerois who works hard to present a professional restaurant and certainly does a good job.

Cream of Asparagus, good friends and Jimmy Bock…

2013-05-17 at 23.01.20
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 was special. Very special.

Actually, it all started a year ago when Nancy and I were travelling through Alsace on our way back to the Isle of Man following our motorhome trip to France and Switzerland. We had met a couple en route and, as usually happens, we exchanged opinions on the places we had been to and the sites we had visited. We mentioned that we intended travelling through Alsace and, in particular, visiting Colmar. I had never been but my late parents used to visit some friends and often enthused about it.
2013-05-17 at 23.09.38

The couple suggested that we go to Equishiem and mentioned Camping des Trois Chateaux as a well placed campsite. We took their advice and spent a few days in what is a very enchanting region of France.

The town is simply beautiful and so full of atmosphere and I hope the earlier pictures give an indication of that. On our first stroll into Equishiem we passed a very pretty restaurant called Caveau Heuhaus (see picture). We decided to stop and have dinner and we sat outside. During the meal piano music started to drift through the air from inside the restaurant and we were very impressed because it was 60s and 70s classics and we knew every one. We passed on our compliments to the lady who was looking after our table and she told us that the pianist was from the area, retired and played for them once or twice a week. Turned out he was quite famous having been Chuck Berry's piano player for some 25 years.
2013-05-17 at 23.24.122013-05-17 at 23.19.31

When we returned last Sunday we made a bee line for the restaurant to see if he was still around. There we met the same waitress and she confirmed the pianist was still playing and would be on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. As Wednesday was to be our last night with Loretta and Gianni we booked a table.
2013-05-17 at 23.43.24

What happened last Wednesday was utterly fantastic. The food was wonderful and there was an abundance of asparagus dishes, the local speciality. We all settled for the cream of asparagus soup which was to die for. Different main courses followed and then on came Jimmy Bock. For the next two hours he captivated the diners and within no time at all people were up dancing and singing along. From piano playing to singing to harmonica playing and occasionally doing all three at the same time, honestly, it was simply fabulous and made for the most incredible night.

As we ambled back to the campsite the four of us chatted and agreed that it was truly a night to remember.

Google Jimmy Bock and see there are a number of Youtube videos.

If you ever find yourself in Alsace, check out the restaurant and if you get a chance to see Jimmy Bock grab it with both hands. As a piano player myself I have never seen anything quite like it. He is fantastic.

And finally...


And so to Alsace...

2013-05-16 at 21.01.08
On Sunday, May 12, 2013 we had a reasonably early start as we left Camping Waldpark Hohenstadt en route to Alsace. This was our second time in the little town of Equishiem and we were really quite excited to be going back. I suppose returning to the scene of a prior enjoyable experience can be a bit risky as very often it doesn't measure up but, truthfully, I will never tire of Alsace. It is an incredibly beautiful part of the world and hopefully the pictures here will give you a bit of an idea of what it is like.

2013-05-16 at 21.10.00
2013-05-16 at 21.18.08

First of all, a few words about the campsite. It is called Camping des Trois Chateaux and it is a municipal site. It is not the best campsite you will ever stay at but it is certainly adequate and the facilities are impeccable. It seems to be a favourite stopping off point for German and Dutch people but the occasional GB can be spotted.

One of the features of this part of the world is the presence of storks. Just a few hundred meters from the campsite there is a stork farm and, apart from that, they seem to travel quite freely in the area as their nests can be seen on roof tops in the town and equishiem. Don't be surprised if one or two turn up on your doorstep in the campsite as they tend to visit regularly in search of the odd hand out from kindly travellers!
2013-05-17 at 08.39.38

The town of Equishiem is known as “The cradle of the Alsatian vineyard” and for good reason. Local vineyards stretch for miles and many independent wine producers have their cellars in the little streets of the town. The blue building in the picture entitled “The Equishiem style” is one such example.


Thoughts about Rapido...

There are many forums online where motorhomers gather and exchange tips, tricks and stories of their trials and tribulations. Unquestionably they are a source of good advice and get you out of little scrapes here and there. I can certainly point to a number of things about this trip which were helped by going on line and posing a question.

Again, driving in convoy with another couple is comforting as there is always someone there if anything goes wrong. So it is with us on this trip. Inevitably we have had things go wrong where the principle of two heads being better than one saved the day.

There was the time at the beginning of the trip when, mysteriously, the heat stopped working and simply wouldn't start. We tried every trick we could think of but to no avail so we went to bed early and decided we would seek out an engineer in the morning. That was the night it snowed!

The next morning the system mysteriously reset it self and hasn't been a problem since.
2013-05-15 at 09.00.11

Arriving in Alsace from Germany we discovered that the water had stopped running through the system. Nothing when you turned on any tap, no flushing in the toilet and no shower.

Gianni, who knows a bit about these things joined me and the manual and we tried to logically get to the bottom of it. The fuse was ok, we tried the "turning it off and turning it on again" routine over and over again but it stubbornly refused to perform. We concluded it must be the pump so that took the problem beyond our reach. I went down to reception to enquire if there was any local engineer who might help but I got a blank expression and a card indicating a garage about 40 miles away. We tried to phone this place and all we got was music and nothing else. Their Web site wasn't any better.

Then we noticed on the back of the Rapido Manual a telephone number so we took pot luck and tried it. Straight away we got through to Rapido and a helpful lady responded favourably to my initial, "Parlez vous Anglais?". I told her my dilemma and wondered if there were any Rapido dealers in the area, after all it is a French company. She then asked me if I was driving a UK model and I said that I was. At that she transferred me to another department where I was greeted to a english sounding gentleman called Anthony. Straightaway he asked me for details of the problem and then asked me for my telephone number so he could call me back.

He had located a suitable dealership some 30 miles away but for some reason they were closed all day Monday and despite several phone calls there was no response. I was very pleasantly surprised at his attentiveness and, in truth, it sounded very comforting to know that help was on hand. He gave me the address and the directions to the dealership and suggested I go up there first thing Tuesday morning and he would pursue them till he got a reply. Well, that is exactly what we did. We left at about 8:30 and drove slowly to a small down near Strasbourg called Benfeld. Along the way the phone rang and it was Anthony telling me that he had spoken to the dealership, they were expecting me and he wished me luck.

When we arrived the receptionist spoke perfect English and informed the service manager that we had arrived. He accompanied me to the van where I explained as best I could what the problem was. He drove the van into the workshop and I joined Nancy and Dougal in the little lounge area. We assumed it would be hours and so we started to think about exploring the local town and having some lunch.

Within 15 minutes the service manager returned with a big smile on his face and gave me a thumbs up. They had found the problem. An electrical connection somewhere under the sink area had become corroded and had finally broken off. A few minutes and it was repaired and the Vinny Van was as good as new. The garage was CLC Alsace Route National 83 Direction Colmar 67230 Benfeld. The whole repair cost me €17!

When I go back to the site I called Anthony to thank him for his efforts and was interested to find out a bit more. He is Anthony Pfaff and works in technical support especially for the export market. He is based in France and I have to say he reminded me of the long gone days when customer service really meant something and when nothing was too much trouble. I counted 7 calls he made to me during a period of just under 48 hours. So a very big thank you to Anthony and also to Rapido for providing such a service.


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