End of our short break

Saturday 5th November

This morning we had a video call booked so had to stay in until it was finished, but once completed we headed out into town, me to the Jersey Museum and Christine to visit the liberation statute.

The “hike” to the Jersey museum took all of 10 minutes and we missed the rain!  Yes it has rained every bl…y day; expected in U.K. but for some reason anticipated better weather here, still it has been mild.

We parted company at the entrance, As Christine isn’t interested I went straight in, also I think she wanted piece and quiet and time to reflect on the nomadic life we are “enjoying” at present!!! 

The museum advertised 3-tickets for the price of two as it could cover a number of other sites, towers and battlements etc., but alas, only the museum was open so it was a single!

Jane had warned me that the museum was fairly small and compact, which it was but, it turned out to be very interesting and so informative.  Though it wasn’t loaded with wall-to-wall artefacts, it was certainly loaded with wall-to-wall facts.   I had no appreciation of the history of these islands, to me they were just a holiday destination and a tax haven.   This museum does have relics found from 250 million years ago, from the Neanderthal age when Jersey was attached to the European land mass.  From here they have traced their history through to the present day, and at times, “turmoil”.   Visiting the museum explained why English is the dominant language now, it hasn’t always been so hence so many signs are in French and all the captions in the museum have both languages.

1066 and the Battle of Hastings was the root cause.  The Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror) who “owned” the Channel Islands and England, spoke French* but in 1204 when King John lost Normandy he managed to hold on to the islands, and from that time english started to flourish slowly, but maybe it is time for them to forget their French heritage 😂😂😂😂 especially seeing how often the French tried to re-capture them!!!  Below is a simple time line for anyone interested where the predominant aggressor is France.  They were also strategic it because of their proximity to continental Europe and also being close to so many sea routes, hence the islands were caught up in every war for the last 1,000 years.

The museum closed at 1600 hrs by which time I had seen everything there was to see and I left very much more informed about the interesting history of these islands.

Returning to the flat, fortunately again I missed the rain, we had a cosy evening in, out of the rain that fell like stair rods, again!!

* The French spoken in Jersey is known as “Jerriais” developed from Norman French and has been spoken for over 1,000 years, and there are numerous variations with different spellings, even between adjacent parishes!!!

Sunday 6th November

Today is Dave’s birthday so the “call” was made but his day was marred by the news Jane’s mother has taken a turn for the worst so Jane had to shoot to Essex and couldn’t be with him on his birthday, still Mia was there to cheer him up.

Today really centred around the rugby; Autumn internationals have started and England are playing Argentina this afternoon so it was a morning out only, so once collected by Jane we headed out.  Originally our plan for this morning was to visit the war tunnels but as I found out yesterday, they were also closed.   I came here in 1974 and they were closed then, here I am in 2022 and still I’ve missed seeing them!!!!   Still en-route for coffee etc., we went to the entrance for the only “look” we will get this trip, and but guess what, it was raining, again!    After our brief stop at the tunnels we headed out to “The Hungry Man” for coffee and one of their superb bacon and egg toasted baps, but upon arrival it was still pouring with rain and their “one-and-only” table under cover was heaving, so no room for us;  We were “salivating” at the thought of enjoying one as we drove, we were so looking forward to them, but then our hopes were dashed🥵🥵🥵.  

As we drove away from the harbour we noticed a small board outside, what looked like a cottage, advertising coffee, teas and breakfasts, so parked and entered.  This was a small cafe of about 5-6 tables and just one person, a very nice lady serving and working in the kitchen.   It puts real meaning into the term “Cottage Industry”!!  Anyway the three of us succumbed to full, not English but Scottish breakfasts and being a one “woman band”, everything was freshly cooked, it more than made up for the missed bacon and egg toasted bap!!

Lovely jersey cows

On our return to St Helier we noticed a field bursting with Jersey cows so had to stop for a “photo”!!!!  Jersey Cows, famous for its rich milk have been developed over the last 200-years and no cattle have been imported into the island since 1789 but it wasn’t until the late 1830’s when selective breeding began seriously and since the mid 1800’s Jersey cows have been exported all over the world.

Back at the flat, TV on we watched the match.   On reflection it would have been better to drive around, the English performance was inexcusable and we lost, a match we should have won easily;  come-on EJ, sort yourself and the team out, bring in some new blood and say goodbye to Farrell as Captain; good player but rubbish captain👹👹👹.  If we play like this in the coming matches, New Zealand and South Africa will crucify us.   What’s even worse, we have the RWC next year in France!

After the match, feeling very depressed “and” it was still raining, we stayed in.

Monday 7th November

This morning we headed out to town, a 3-minute walk to the high street!!!   We didn’t have any particular plans other than to have a coffee out and buy a dressmaker’s tape measure, I need to take certain measurements to order my Kilt with all the necessary accessories ready for our “Hogmanay indulgence” at Stonefield Castle in Scotland.   This was easier said than done but chasing around looking for one took us to areas we hadn’t been to including the market.   It was in this market we completed our task but without this task, we wouldn’t have seen inside this bustling, colourful, vibrant market.  This lovely Victorian, cast-iron structured building, with its ornamental fountain was opened in 1882.

jersey market

After our excursion;  fortunately it wasn’t raining his morning, we returned to the flat and Jane joined us for the afternoon.

The sad thing about our visit was that all the attractions, visitor centres and castles were closed for the winter, so there wasn’t too much to entertain us however, it did give us time to re-generate ourselves ready to continue house hunting!

Tuesday 8th November

The grave of Lillie Langtry

Today is our last full day on the island and Jane had arranged to take us out to lunch to the  Bass and Lobster, but on our way she was going to show us the grave of Emilie Charlotte, Lady de Bathe, better known as “Lillie Langtry”, nicknamed the “Jersey Lily”. Lily was born in Jersey in 1876, she was an actress and made numerous appearances on he London Stages, but she was best well-known for her numerous relationships with several of the English aristocracy and in particularly the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward Vll; “quite a gal”!!!    She died in 1929 in Monaco where she lived out her last few years.  She had requested to be buried in her parents tomb at St, Savours Church in Jersey, which she was.  Obviously this tomb is on the tourist route but it was strange to see little signposts in the cemetery pointing the way!!

St.Saviour ‘s Church

We arrived at the Bass and Lobster and enjoyed an excellent meal from a restaurant that only buys locally produced produce and fresh fish straight from the catch, yum yum and thank you Jane for this wonderful meal and all the running around you did with us showing us the island of Jersey; we will be back.

Back at the ranch later and the pack-up and clean-up started, tomorrow we fly back.

Wednesday 9th November

Our last morning; no hanging around as we had to strip the bed and get sheets etc., into the wash, have breakfast, clear up and be ready when Jane collects us.   Unfortunately the road where the flat is, is busy with minimal parking so need to be downstairs ready and waiting for Jane to pick us up.  This system has worked well all week but today it is for the last time and we have cases!!!

We have to be at the airport just after lunch so for the last time we are heading out to the Hungry Man, for a second  attempt to get a “bacon and egg toasted bun”.   We arrived “full of expectation” but left “totally rejected”, it was closed!!!  We headed back to the farm shop and had a “consolation” lunch.

After lunch Jane dropped us at  Airport departures in good time.  No queue to check-in, a slight delay to go through security, then into the lounge but no sooner had we organised some refreshment than our flight was called.

Our plane was quite empty, I had a row to myself and Christine had an empty seat between her and the other passenger and as there was a strong tail wind, our flight arrived early.   Waiting at the carousel for our case at Gatwick rather put a downer on what, up-to-then had been very good simple journey. We eventually got out of the airport, but that hold up had put pressure on our car parking.   We had pre-paid up ‘till 1600hrs but we only got on the shuttle-bus at 1600hrs!!!   Anyway we got to the barrier some 15minutes late but the barrier lifted and we escaped.

Our destination tonight is the Holiday Inn in Northampton.

Thank you Andrew for the use of your flat in Jersey, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and again thank you Jane for entertaining us whilst in Jersey.

Timeline of Major raids on the Islands

1205 Mercenaries led by “Eustace the Monk” ravage the Channel Islands

1215 – 16 Eustace Occupies the Islands for the French

1294 An estimated 1,500 Islanders were killed in a French raid

1336 David Bruce, the exiled King of Scotland leads a French raid

1337 The 100 years war begins, the French occupy the Islands for 6-months

1338 An 8,000 French army raids the Islands

1339 Three major raids on the Islands within a year

1372 The Island is ravaged by the French led by “Ifan” a Welsh Prince.

1373 “Betrand du Guesclin”; Constable of France raids the Island with 2,600 men

1380 – 82 A French army led by “Jean de Vienne occupies the Island

1403 A Breton Fleet, under Admiral Jean de Pehouet attacks the Island

1406 “Pierre Hector de Pontbriant” & “Nero Nino” lead 1,000 mercenaries in a major raid

1454 A reported 500 Islanders left dead after another French raid

1461 – 68 French occupation of the Island under “Jean de Carbonnel”

1549 French invasion force is defeated at “Jarin d’Oliver”

1580 The Bishop of Coutances attempted to raise an army to invade but failed

1628 Threat of yet another French invasion

1642 – 51 English Civil War on the Royalist side, unlike Guernsey who were    parliamentarians 

1651 Parliamentarians invade Jersey

1651 – 54 England at war against the Dutch

1655 – 58 England at war with Spain

1665 – 66 England at war against the Dutch

1672 – 74 England at war against the Dutch

1692 – 97 England at war with France

1702 – 13 England at war with France and Spain

1718 – 27 Britain at war with Spain

1742 – 48 Britain at war with France

1755 – 63 Britain at war with France

1775 – 83 Britain at war with the Americans

1778 – 83 Britain at war with France

1779 Attempted invasion of Jersey by the French defeated

1781 French troops land but are defeated at the “Battle of Jersey” in St. Helier

1779 – 14 Napoleonic Wars but Islands left alone!!!

1940 – 45 Islands occupied by the Germans

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More enjoyable days in Jersey

Thursday 3rd November

A quiet day today as Jane has things she has to do including “work”!!!  So we are going to “mooch” around St Helier, and as our flat is right bang in the middle of town, we didn’t have to walk far to reach King Street, the main shopping street.

Round the corner from us is Charing Cross, the original western gateway to the centre of St Helier and until the early 19th century, literally a gateway as it was a tunnel under the old prison built in 1688. Everything changed in 1806 when Colonel Sir George Don arrived and became the Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey who soon realised war with France was on the cards, again, and as there were no roads, just narrow tracks that prevented his troops being re-deployed, as and when needed.  (This probably contributed to the French Invasion of 1781).  With this in mind, he set about building a network of roads across and around the island, many of which are the same roads used today.   In this re-building programme, the prison was demolished to build an access road of sufficient width which would allow cannons to be deployed in St Helier, and this access road , Broad Street heads straight into “Royal Square”.

We meandered up “King Street” until the rain came down at which point we found refuge in “Waterstones”, fortunately the rain didn’t come down for too long; just as well as it was a small branch!!!  

Royal square with V in the paving stones

Rain stopped and some blue sky appeared as we walked into Royal Square dominated by a Gilded lead statue of King George ll in Roman dress, sculpted in 1751.   There is also a big “V” for victory built into the ground.    During the German occupation, (about 1-soldier to every 4-civilians), and despite the threat of severe punishment for acts of subversion, one Joseph Le Guyader found a unique way of expressing his recalcitrance by relaying paving stones in the shape of a “V”; it wasn’t until 9th May 1945, “liberation day”, that the majority of islanders realised there was the V for victory in the square!!     Though this square was the centre for celebrations after liberation, unknown to me, it is more famous for the battle of Jersey in 1781.

Royal square

In 1779 the French put together an invasion army but fortunately for Jersey their ships couldn’t get near enough to land as the weather was so bad and this was Jersey’s savour.

In January 1781, they mounted another invasion with a force of about 1,400, but this time they managed to land with zero opposition.  Once disembarked they marched onto St Helier without anyone challenging them and they captured the Lieutenant-Governor Moise Corbet with hardly a shot been fired.   The Governor was “hoodwinked” by the French General, “Philippe de Rullecourt” by being told the island was swarming with French soldiers, so he signed the document of capitulation, but unknown to either of them the British army were like the rescue cavalry coming over the hill.  Their leader, Major Francis Pierson  attacked the French in Royal Square on two fronts and won the day but at the cost of his own life, as well as the French general’s.   At the corner of the square is the building where Pierson was killed; today that building is “The Pierson” pub, so naturally it was where we would have a pint!!! This was a small “oldie-worldie”  pub, but it was “heaving”, lunchtime trade!!  

The Pierson Pub

After our “refreshment” we carried on walking along King Street, and found the St Helier market, but too late, it was closed so headed back home for a cuppa before heading round to Jane’s apartment for dinner.  Fortunately “nowhere” is very far from “somewhere” so the walk was reasonable, 12-minutes.   

We had a lovely meal, Christine and Jane managed to find much to chat about, in spite of being together all yesterday!!!    Time to go so headed back on our 12-minute walk.

Friday 4th November

Today following a lazy breakfast, Jane collected us and we headed out to complete our circumnavigation of Jersey.

Leaving St Helier we headed out to start where we left off on Wednesday and though the winds were still howling, the sun was shining.  Our route was basically the same, in and out of beautiful small bays and today we passed the, what shall we say, the posh end of the island with all the big houses; where the money is. Jane pointed out several, one being the last home of Lady Docker, the well documented socialite who started out in life as a dance hostess in a club, married three times with her last husband being a wealthy industrialist with a title; quite a women in her time, she died in 1983.

Lady Docker

We stopped for coffee at a farm shop Jane recommended but unfortunately they didn’t sell cakes, only breakfasts, which we didn’t want but wait a minute, they do pancakes with fruit,  maple syrup and cream etc., that will do so the three of us shared two, and they were delicious, yum yum.

At one of the bays we got chatting to a couple from Leicestershire who were holidaying for a few days, and they were telling us about their “bargain” break staying at the Longueville Manor Hotel.  Apparently the Longueville Manor is the”top notch” 5* hotel here in Jersey and presumably, like most other businesses at this time of the year, they do deals hence this couple could stay there.

Geoff’s happy with his bacon butty

We now headed to lunch but today it was going to be different.  Jane had told us about this place in Rozel  bay who does bacon baps to die for.    We arrived at Rozel bay, parked and rocked up at “The Hungry Man“, what is commonly known as a “burger van”, similar to what you see in lay byes in England.   Fear not, she assured us the food here is worth the effort and the discomfort of sitting outside in the wind, at wooden garden table bench.   I went and ordered, paid, and was invited to sit as everything would be delivered.   A few minutes later everything arrived, freshly cooked and delicious.   Our freshly ground coffee was a little on the strong side so we needed extra hot water and I went to the side where the waiter had come from.   To my surprise, I was shocked to see five people working in the tiny kitchen pumping out all this food, needless to say this was a very popular spot.

One of the small bays Rowel bay

Our tour also included the two major castles built to defend Jersey during medieval times.  “Elizabeth Castle”, and “Gory Castle” but alas they are both closed for the winter, still a drive-by will be better than nothing.

Gorey Castle

Mont Orgueil Castle, also known as Gory castle, as the name suggests is built high up the rocks overlooking the harbour of gory.  The build started in 1204 after King John lost his Normandy realm to King Philip ll of France.  This castle was the primary for the defence of Jersey and for over 400 years it withstood numerous French Assaults.  During the 1500s the castle went through intense periods of renovation and extensions due to the use of cannons but alas it was in vain and the decision was to build a purpose-built castle for the times.

Elizabeth Castle

Elizabeth Castle; the build to replace Gory was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth l and construction started in 1595 and was named after the queen by Sir Walter Raleigh.  The first time this castle was used for military purposes was during the English Civil War.     Jersey remained loyal to the Crown whilst Guernsey supported the Parliamentary side.  Again this castle has served the population of Jersey throughout the past 400 years.

Unfortunately both these imposing castles were closed but both look worth visiting; oh well we’ll have to return in the summer sometime.   We did stop and have a stroll along the beach at Green Island, as it was protected from the wind.

Longueville Manor Hotel

Returning to St Helier via Waitrose, Jane did a detour via Longueville Manor Hotel to show us the beautiful gardens the building sits in but with a gentle “nudge” we parked and went in for a drink.  The origin of this building is scarce but there was a reference to an original building on site in 1332 and the panelled dining room certainly suggests this building has been around for many years.    

Longueville Dining Room beautiful area

In the bar we bumped into the folk from Leicestershire enjoying an afternoon tea, and I must say it looked superb.   We on the other hand ordered and enjoyed a bottle of their “House” white wine but certainly got a shock at the price!!!! £58 a bottle!

Driving around all day and wandering about in the wind seemed to “knacker” us, so back to the flat for dinner and a quiet night in

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Our first full day in Jersey

Wednesday 2nd November 2022

Following a very comfortable night in a rather unusual apartment and breakfast, Jane collected us and we started our personal tour of the Island of Jersey.   Though Christine had visited Jersey on numerous occasions, I had only spent a weekend here in 1974 and a day trip in 2000, so looking forward to the next 8-days.

One of the small bays Rozel bay

Driving around the narrow roads at speeds NOT exceeding 30 MPH!!! with many at 20 MPH and several at 15 MPH, it took all day to cover “half” the circumnavigation of the island which has 50-miles of coastline.   Apparently there are 12- major beaches around Jersey but there are numerous small bays around every corner, many with “moles” to protect a small bay from the weather, and all with coastal defences of one sort or another but predominantly “Martello” towers.   Seeing all these defensive buildings including: Martello towers, canon batteries, forts, sea walls and casements built into the cliffs etc., I became interested, Why so many????   The other question I wanted an answer to was, why are most road names and other signs in French, after all it is part of the English Crown???

One of the many Martello Towers around the island

After cursory investigation I was surprised at the history of this small island living off the French coast.   I had always assumed it was the occupation by Germany in WW2 when the Channel Islands were invaded, but no, there is far more history that I need to explore whilst here; a trip to the museum is called for.

old Court House

Our “tour’s” first stop was for coffee at the “Old Court House” in St Aubin, a building that stretches back to the 15th century and was also the bar used in Bergerac, known as “The Royal Barge”: How one forgets, the Bergerac series ran from October 1981 to December 1991, 87-episodes; oh dear, how time passes!!!

Smugglers inn

After driving in and out of several bays we arrived at Ouaisne Bay where the “Smugglers Inn” can be found, the oldest pub on on the Island, and as the name suggests is steeped in history.   Jersey was a very handy base for smugglers to sort out their wares, much of the contraband came from France and was then shipped to England, “an early example of a distribution hub?”  Naturally a pint was called for here!!!!

Corbierre lighthouse

Our tour continued, passing the famous Corbiere Lighthouse, standing proudly at 62 ft tall and built on the stack of rocks just off the shoreline, and is only accessible at very low tide.

El Tico restaurant

The weather today was mixed, rain with sunny periods and what seemed gale-force winds. By now it was getting late for lunch and Jane recommended a particular restaurant called “El Tico”  that overlooks the sea.  Arriving to an empty car park should have given us a clue; we walked in only to be told they were closed for their “annual” paint job, just our luck!   Anyway we moved on and eventually stopped for lunch at Corbiere Phare,  again over looking the “wild” sea smashing over the rocks; not a day to be sailing anywhere around the Channel Islands.

View from window overlooking Corbierre lighthouse

After a prolonged lunch we did a few more bays but before heading back we went to look at the Puffins at Piemonte; not your regular Puffins, no, these were two giant Puffins forged in steel and woven in Willow.  They stand 4-meters tall and they are part of Jersey’s campaign to highlight the plight of the species, and their role in protecting seabirds.   Quite a magnificent sight.

Enormous Puffins, they were so lovely

Back to St Hellier for a quiet evening in our flat where we have to plan our excursions to minimise the number of times we climb the steps leading up to our second floor, still a small price to pay for the use of Andrew’s apartment.

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Continuation of travel

Following on from our last post, (10/10/22) the farmers field became our home for the next week, and very comfortable it was until our boiler packed up, we lost all hot water and heating🥵🥵🥵, but we were fortunate that the weather was mild.

The new motor

With Rosie settled we borrowed Jane’s Mini, again! and set about buying a car.  We couldn’t keep borrowing her car, and taking Rosie everywhere was painful.  Just down the road was branch of “Carbase”, a chain of used car dealerships who all carry 100+ cars in stock.   We had been to one in Bristol earlier but having one on our doorstep was more convenient.  Walking about, “scrutinising” all their cars from the outside, we decided to test drive three and “collared” a salesman only to be told he was so “busy” he could only let us test one!!!! Unbelievable, we reminded him he was here to sell cars and that all being well we would buy one of the three.   He grudgingly said we could test two!!!!   Anyway the first didn’t float our boat, a plug-in Hybrid, the second we felt to was too closed in, and by now we had persuaded “Josh” to let us test the third, a Mercedes A180 Sport, in white.  Though traditionally I’m a big car driver we had decided to be sensible this time and get something a little smaller and this “A” series fitted the bill; it was comfortable, clean, a reasonable mileage and had good performance, so said yes.    My my, when I was in the motor trade many years ago, it was all about “get the cash and send the buyer on their way” but no.   The rigmarole and hoops I had to jump through were extraordinary; forms for this, forms for that, money laundering and personal information protection etc., etc., etc. registering my ownership and taxing it was straight forward doing it on line.   Insurance for 5-days came with the car and eventually, after some considerable time I have to say, they wanted paying, well that was easy, a bank transfer using a debit card and at last we were on our way.   

Home sweet home

Now we had wheels of our own we were up and away; house hunting preoccupied us, naturally.   We put in several sensible offers, but all rejected.   The housing market has gone “bananas” in the U.K. it seems the “advertised” price is the “starting” price!!!, not helped by covid when working from home took off and Londoners especially, moving out just paying over the odds!!! 

During this time we had a great weekend in Northampton with grandchildren and family followed by a trip to Derbyshire to Visit Marian before arriving in Castle Donington where Rosie was booked in for the transformation of a Spanish registered vehicle to a U.K. registered vehicle.  They also converted headlights, speedometer etc., to conform but she is still a “left hooker”

Returning Rose to Hope Farm, we set off the following day to Portsmouth to visit Kathleen who had been in hospital, again, before heading to a hotel for the night in Horsham.   Tomorrow we are flying to Jersey.

We found a marvellous small hotel in the town with its own car park and directly behind was an Indian restaurant called the “Rajkumar”;  the food in this restaurant was excellent but the surroundings were quite magnificent, this building is well over 200 years old and all the exposed beams looked genuine, and the decor complemented the interior.

Lovely curry

Tuesday 1st November

After a very comfortable night and a superb breakfast, everything cooked to order, we headed up to Gatwick, we had precooked the north terminal car park.   The moment we parked the car the heavens opened, it came down in stair rods and we had to walk about 100 meters to catch the shuttle bus👹.    Fortunately after several minutes the rain eased off so a quick dash and we were at the bus stop.😁.

Gatwick north terminal was really quiet.   We checked our bag straight in, sailed through security and and found our members lounge but having already had breakfast could only hit the bar!!!!

Our flight was called on time and we got through the gate and boarded with reasonable ease, the ‘plane’s doors were closed on time and we were off; well our push back was all of 10-meters when the pilot came over the p.a., apologising and telling us the weather was so bad all flights have been grounded so we had to wait.   This morning we had experienced very heavy rain and intermittent gale force winds, so not surprised, annoyed yes but not surprised.  Anyway an hour and a half later, we were on our way to the runway.   The pilot got the all clear and we accelerated, zig-zagging down the runway until liftoff but next we had to get through the cloud cover.   To say this takeoff was “interesting” would be an understatement, the chap “up-front” must have had his work cut out controlling the plane as we buffeted our way up through the clouds with one or two passengers making their fears heard!!!    Still once through the clouds and into the clear blue sunny sky, the flight settled but the cabin staff had suspended all services, still it’s only a one hour flight so no problem.    Coming down was far more comfortable, not good, but better than take off!!!

Jane met us at the airport and took us to Andrew’s flat where we settled in.   This 3-story  building has a garage and small bedroom on the ground floor, a very large open space office on the first floor and the open plan flat on the third floor; one big room with kitchen and areas separated with interesting, very big furniture on wheels.   We presume if one gets tired with the layout, one can easily change everything around.  The flat has a balcony running the length of the building but alas the view is other buildings!!!

Later this afternoon we were collected by Jane, given a run around St Helier to give us our bearings then back to her apartment for a welcoming dinner.

We returned back to the flat before 2200hrs and into bed, though it was not a particularly long day, we were ready for it

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Back in Blighty

Wednesday 5th October 

Following a strange night; being in a pitch black field with no noise seemed eerie, still we woke up to dry albeit to field covered in dew; haven’t seen that in many years!!!

Early morning

Today we had two missions, both pre-booked.  Firstly we had arranged a viewing in a place called Woolvington this morning and secondly an appointment at the BMW dealer in Cribbs Causeway (Bristol) to test drive a Mini Cooper S, John Cooper Works Countryman. 

We arrived in our field fairly late last night and here we were, 1030am and just about to head out for our first appointment and we hadn’t seen the farmer whose site we were on.   We were a little concerned he may have thought we had done a runner, especially as when we booked, he said he would come and meet us, so a quick email was sent to allay any fears he may have!!!

Needs a bit of work!

We arrived at the property, in the rain, and the lady to show us around was just opening up.   We knew this was a “project” prior to visiting, and had examined the pictures carefully on the Estate Agent’s site so when we got inside we were prepared for what we saw.   Christine, having spent numerous hours trawling  through “Rightmove”, “Zoopla” and “on The Market” had a very good understanding of prices etc., so armed with this knowledge we made a fair offer a few days prior to our visit.   The only response we got was message saying the vendor won’t accept an offer until we’d seen the property, well here we are.   There was a lot of work to be done and it hadn’t helped being empty and locked up for a year or so.   There was a lot of damp etc., but everything was “doable” but we certainly will re-consider our offer; down!!!

Having had a good “poke-about” we left and said good bye to the agent but just “hung around” until she had gone.   Once she had gone, we knocked on next door to make some “local  enquiries” and more importantly if there was a history of damp in these properties.  This small estate of 7 bungalows was built in the ‘60’s and one never knows!!!   Any way a very nice, friendly lady answered the door but unfortunately couldn’t tell us too much as she didn’t live there, it was her daughter we should speak to and informed us she would be back in about 5-minutes.

We were parked directly in front of this bungalow so got inside to make coffee & tea, and waited.  Just as the drinks were made, the daughter arrived so we dropped everything and walked across the road and introduced ourselves.  She was very helpful and allayed any fears we may have had about the construction, damp etc., so with that, turned to get into Rosie.   Oh dear the door wouldn’t open and worse, the two cab doors were also locked!!!!  All the windows were closed and still Rosie wouldn’t let us in👹👹👹.  Looking through the window we saw the keys in the middle of the table winking at us, naturally there were a few words, “why did you leave the keys inside ?”; I wonder who said that!!!!    Anyway after examining every possibility to get in, we decided to smash the quarter light window on the passenger door; “Christine’s side”, but being a left hooker, the door in the middle of the road.

Geoff having a mid life crisis!

So back in Rosie and noticed the catch on the motorhome door had dropped and hence it was locked; note to self, always take keys!!!   Now it was time to head to Cribbs Causeway to test drive the car.   By now time was getting short so had to head straight there to meet our “time slot”; back in the day potential buyers called the tune, but today, it appears that the dealership calls the tune!!!   We had 14.30 slot, we did try to alter it but couldn’t, the salesman didn’t have any other slots, unbelievable and still we were kept waiting!!   To add salt on everything, when I presented my licence, they couldn’t put me on their insurance, what?  They suggested I just test drove it in their car park; no chance.   Eventually they decided I could drive it on the road and what a good job I did.    This vehicle has a power output of 260 BHP but when I put my foot on the throttle I had want I can only describe as “turbo-lag” and it sounded like a “bag-of-spanners”, the salesman suggested I put it in sport mode, no change and I was not happy as this is not how a performance car should perform, in fact Jane’s diesel Mini went much better.     Eventually and after numerous derogatory comments by me, the salesman decided to look into the cars computer only to find, “surprise-surprise” the engine had shut down into safety mode as there was something wrong; I was vindicated🤭🤭.   Returning to the office and his assurances the car would be alright, we agreed I would return the next day, after it has been repaired to try it out,

Next we had to find an “Auto-screens” to sort out Rosie’s window and fortunately there was one around the corner, so headed straight there.   It turned out it was only a fitting service and therefore by appointment only as they don’t carry stock.  The guy was very apologetic but recommended I headed into Bristol and visit “National Windscreens” as they are a distribution centre as well as a fitting service, but they close at1700hrs, it was now 1615hrs and the SatNav said it would take 30mins in a car to get there!!!   Rosie “rose” to the challenge and we arrived with 10minutes to spare, phew!

They were extremely apologetic, but they didn’t have one of ours in stock and had to order it🥵🥵.  They made the Point that for us it would be more convenient to go to Weston S Mare, so that was where it as going to be delivered to and that “Pete” would ‘phone me when he could do it.  Oh well time to head back to our field for the evening.

Lovely and peaceful, even have electricity

Soon after our arrival the “Farmer” turned up, he had seen our email but wasn’t worried, and the reason we hadn’t seen him was due to him being at a show, showing his prize Welsh “black” sheep.     Anyway we got chatting and it transpired he had a milk round so we got some fresh milk and eggs.   He gave us his bank account details so we transferred 3-nights plus, milk and egg money.   He also told us to use the electric hook-up point as this was included in the price😁😁

Thursday 6th October

We were up at a reasonable time and had a quick breakfast as we had arranged to be at Jane’s this morning to lighten Rosie’s load.   We had brought “quite” a lot of “extras” in her, not least numerous bottles so it was good to take some weight out.   This morning I also telephoned “Pete” at National Windscreens to see what is happening.   To our surprise he had sourced a new window and he would fit it around 1500hrs this afternoon.  We also booked a hire car and we were collecting it for the weekend as we were due to spend the weekend with Andrew and Elton at Centre Parks, in Woburn woods, Bedford.   The good news the sun was shining!!!

We arrived at Hope Farm and we set about our chores.   I started the “emptying out” into the “smoke room”, and Christine headed to the two washing machines.   We broke the back of it before the ”residents” returned!!!

After a quick lunch we headed to National Windscreens for our new window, fortunately they weren’t busy and they started immediately.   I have to take my hat off to National Windscreens, the replacement was done in no-time and we paid and left.   If anyone wants replacement glass, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Our next stop was Enterprise car hire, just round the corner and arriving in Rosie, we compromised their parking slots!!  Being about half an hour earlier than planned they booked us in and when I went to sign the agreement the cost was circa £100 more than originally quoted. Naturally I queried this and the guy said “ah!!! Yes, you are booked out at 1600hrs on the Monday but as you’ve are collecting it early, you have triggered another day’s hire”.   As you can imagine I was not a happy Chappy and we agreed to bring the return date back to equal the collection time.   What a cheek, for 35minutes they wanted a days hire and if I hadn’t of queried the cost, they would have got away with it👹👹👹. This of course was on top of the scandalous charges around these days.   Anyway they gave us a Fiesta and off we went, back to our field.

Friday 7th October

Our intention was to take Rosie to Hope farm early, as we are leaving her there for the weekend whilst we head off to Centre Parks in Woburn Woods, Bedfordshire to meet up with Andrew and Elton for the weekend.

We skipped breakfast and left our “cosy” campsite field for the last time as we had decided to look closer to Hope Farm.  We dropped Rosie off, jumped into our “gold plated” hire car and headed off to Bedfordshire.   

We eventually stopped at Tesco in Bicester for “brekky” but more importantly supplies for the four of us over the weekend.

small part of the park

Arriving at Center Parks around midday was fine but we weren’t allowed into the chalet ‘till 1500hrs so parked up and walked to one of their “social centres” to meet up with Andrew and Elton.   Though Friday is one of their changeover days, the place was heaving.   We were in the sports bar but this building also sported umpteen badminton courts, several squash courts, a roller skating section, kiddies play area, pool tables and upstairs’ several restaurants and above the, a hotel, no wonder the place was heaving!!!!    Of course this isn’t all, there is the aqua centre which is home to every imaginable water slide, rapids, wave machine and other scary water devices etc., to entertain everybody.   There is also a boating lake with a zip wire overhead and naturally a mini-golf putting course.

Soon after 1500hrs we got into our chalet and very nice it was.   There were 3-double bedrooms all, with en-suite and TV’s.   The open area living was quite spacious and the kitchen part was well stocked with appliances.  Our chalet also had a “private sauna” outside!

Once we were settled in time was marching on so it wasn’t long before Christine started dinner, after all we were all here for Elton and he eats early, so we did as well.

Whilst dinner was being prepared I was amused watching Andrew trying to build a wooden train set he had bought, and Elton helping!!!!   It didn’t get too far when dinner arrived at which point it was abandoned.

We had a quiet evening once Elton went to bed and looked forward to the next day.

Saturday 8th October

Christine was up at some ungodly hour  amusing Elton whilst Andrew went for a run and a session in the gym.   I on the other hand took the prudent route, I stayed in bed and watched the news!!!

feeding time!

After a leisurely breakfast Christine, Andrew and Elton set off to the aqua centre, I on the other hand stayed back at the ranch, firstly and most importantly there was the qualifying highlights for the Japanese Grand Prix and secondly I had been “charged” by Andrew to build his train set!!!

Firstly I decided to build it on the table as there was sufficient room for the train set and space for the three of us to eat.    I thought it would be straightforward, after all it was for 3-year olds but I soon realised why Andrew had given up; it took a lot of fathoming out.  I don’t know any 3-year old who could assemble this correctly so that it worked.   Eventually I not only had to read the instructions several times, I had to rely on the picture on the box to get an idea as to what the finished article looked like!!!    Anyway I completed the task set in time to watch the Qualifying, 

Elton loves the water

Once they returned from swimming, Elton and Andrew made a bee-line for the train set and yes it was a success; a good buy Andrew.   Once it was being used we soon discovered it’s short-comings and then set about “engineering” them out, which we did with the help of a cut up breakfast cereal box, worked a treat.

After lunch and “nap” for little one we headed back to the centre, tonight we were dining out in one of the restaurants.

Back in the chalet we chilled out, but Elton was fixated by his train set, he couldn’t leave it alone, it was a great success which of course had its draw backs; he didn’t want to go to bed!!!!! 

Sunday 9th October

Today was a repeat of yesterday in so far as Christine, Andrew and Elton headed to the pool whilst I stayed back.   The aquatic centre was a “route march” away from our chalet, then there was the up and down hills and my knee is bad, it is giving me so much “gip” I wasn’t interested in going, besides I have the Japanese Grand Prix highlights to watch!!!

On the route march

After lunch we all headed down to the lake, we were going to take a boat out.  Today the sun was shining and in the sun it was rather warm so a trip on the water sounded good.  Christine booked and paid for the boat and we waited for our allotted time with a glass of wine.   I should mention at this time; apart from the aquatic centre everything else one has to pay for which rather surprised us and theses charges weren’t nominal, no, they were somewhat higher than normal.  An example was 3-days bike hire was £60!!!!!

Lovely excursion though

Anyway before we could set foot into the boat we had to don life jackets which was rather strange as the depth was only about 3ft; children I understand, but grownups? we hit the water in this odd boat, a cross between a large pedalo and a boat driven, it was driven by an electric outboard motor, still Elton enjoyed it especially when Andrew was driving and tried to run over the swans and ducks, hooligan!!!!   The other end of the lake was the “Zip-wire”, a somewhat pathetic one but it entertained Elton when folk went wizzing overhead.

Two competent sailors who had crossed the Atlantic having to wear life jackets!

Another exhilarating evening chilling in the chalet watching tv followed by an early night, we leave tomorrow.

Oh dear! Fire

Minding our own business, fast asleep, when our door burst open and there was Andrew in the all-together telling us to wake-up, dress and get out as there was a fire in a neighbouring chalet.   Well you can imagine how quickly we were up and out!!!   Centre parks is set in a 300-acre woodland, with 625-wooden chalets nestling in amongst all the trees; a potential tinderbox, especially following the dry, hot summer.  Outside were 5-fire engines with blue lights flashing, load of fire fighters with several hoses pumping water into a burning inferno, two chalets away!!!!!  They were also dousing the local neighbouring chalets, naturally.  The three of us were dumbfounded we hadn’t heard any of this commotion and Andrew told us later the fireman had just entered our chalet, opened the door into Andrew’s room and said the immortal words, “get out of here”, hence his waking us as he was!!!

The fire was soon extinguished though damping down continued, but we were allowed to return, fortunately Elton slept right through this noise!!!   The fire engines left somewhere around 0400hrs.   This was a “free extra”!!!!

Monday10th October

Naturally the first thing on the agenda this morning was to view the fire damage from last night and to see how close it came to us.

Fire damage

The first thing to note was the speed Centre Parks people had cordoned off the area with large panels covered with camouflage and a member of staff telling people not to take pictures, I wonder why, but Christine managed!!!!

The fire brigade certainly did a good job.  One chalet was a total “write off” but the ones either side were only superficially damaged and the trees around were fine.

Quickest way to get around

After breakfast we cleared up and the train set returned to its box; I wonder if it will see the light-of-day again!  Once Andrew and Elton had left, the whirlwind stopped and the two of us sorted ourselves out and vacated the chalet at “our” leisure.   

We headed down to the car park but passing the burnt out wreck, there was a guard (Hitler)  stopping traffic and turning “rubberneckers” back; they did let us through as our chalet was virtually next door.   Our only appointment today was getting the hire car back by the 1536hr deadline!!!

The return journey was uneventful and we arrived back at Weston a couple of hours early so went around a few garages to look at cars before returning the car back to “Enterprise”.

Car returned with no issues and we were picked up by Jane who returned us to Hope Farm.   We jumped into Rosie and headed to a new, and a nearer certified caravan club site to Hope Farm.

Rosie all on her own, what a lovely place to stay

Arriving down a narrow, dead end lane, we wondered where we were heading, fortunately it was still daylight.  Driving through the farmyard we passed peacocks, ducks and other “unknown” species before approaching the farmhouse.  We spoke to “Mrs Farmer”, and once we had settled up we were pointed in the direction of the “site”.

Being a certified site, they are limited to 5-vehicles max., but today we are the only one here so had the pick of where to position Rosie.  We are in a long paddock secluded by trees and there is a “rhine” running alongside; we only booked for one night, I suspect we will stay here for the week.

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The final leg

SUNDAY 2nd October

An early start but first, as usual we serviced Rosie.

We set off heading for the “Tower of Hercules” but about 200-meters from our site, but the road was closed off.   Not knowing why, we spoke to a fellow sitting at a bus stop and enquired.   He informed us it was “marathon” day and the old town with the surrounding areas are closed off, and would be all morning.   Knowing this we aborted our trip to the Roman lighthouse; another reason to return in the future.   We headed towards Gijon and this route took us through tunnels, probably under the harbour and when we emerged, one side of the duel carriageway was also closed off, and then to our surprise the first, and fastest runners started streaming by; perhaps Mo Farrow was amongst them!!!

The tower we didn’t get to

Heading out of town we noticed a Repsol petrol station that actually sold LPG; at last.    Being a Sunday everywhere was quiet around this area, so the very nice forecourt attendant filled our gas and diesel tanks for us, he was most helpful.  We knew Spain still applied a fuel rebate but we were surprised there was also a rebate on LPG!!!

Once fuelled up we headed onto the A-6, stopping along the way for a coffee break, “no Soberano”!!!!!

To our disappointment we arrived at the coordinates we put in expecting to be near the docks.   Well we were well above sea-level and instead of “docks” we were at a Repsol “gas” terminal!!   Still we took the opportunity to have our lunch.

During our planning stage, I remember noting a place by the beach in Gijon, so set about looking for it on Google Earth and eventually I found it.   Having cleared lunch we headed for the site by the beach, found it and parked into a slot.   We were surprised how busy it was being October!!   Anyway, got sorted and headed for a walk on the beach and being a nice sunny day sat on the rocks for a bit.

A bit busy!

Though we were by the beach and opposite the port entrance, the historic part, Camavilla  was the other end of the bay, about half an hours walk and we had an appointment with Channel 4 again tonight, the Singapore Grand Prix so decided to add this to our list of things to do on our next visit.

Though we were parked up like “sardines in a tin” it was reasonably quiet and “free” plus it had the normal facilities.

Monday 3rd October

After a pleasant and peaceful night and after sorting “things” out, we emerged.  Being after 1000hrs we decided it was a sufficiently reasonable time to put our generator on to boil a kettle, so we did.   A couple of minutes before it boiled, there was a knock on the door and this “grumpy bloke” told me to switch it off as there were people still sleeping!!!   I said I would in two minutes but he said now or he threatened me with the police.   I played the age old card that I didn’t understand him which bought us enough time to complete the kettle’s boiling cycle so switched the generator off then.   He was our next door neighbour and though there were folk all milling about, we could see in his door, “not a pretty site”, his “other” half wandering about in her dressing gown.   So actually it was only his wife that was probably sleeping!!!    Anyway after breakfast the bakery van arrived so joined the queue and he was there too, we spoke, he was all right; must have been his wife that sent him out on a mission!!!

After servicing Rosie we headed out of town and started the last leg of our journey to Santander, a trip of about 2-hours.   There was no rush as Brittany Ferries had sent a couple of emails telling us the departure time had slipped; the last notification said 2315hrs departure so stopped en route and Christine cooked lunch using our brand new oven!   Though we stopped at a service ares, we were actually in a very nice one, a quite and  level spot with greenery, trees and mountains around us.

Back on route and soon diverted into Santander, filling up with cheap diesel as late as possible and of course claim our last rebate.

Being so early we half expected the entrance to Brittany Ferries to be closed, traditionally they open their booking kiosks about 3-hours before but with the inconvenience they caused everyone, I suspect they did the right thing, and open early.   Anyway as we arrived they were open but what we were surprised about was how many vehicles had already arrived.

We booked in, collected our cabin keys and then the Guardia Civil did their usual; entered Rosie looking for stow-aways!!!   None found so we drove up our lane and parked along with everyone else.   During this time we watched some tv, played crib, read and had our tea and about 5-hours later we were called, great excitement until it dawned on us we were only going through emigration!!!   About another hour later we were called again and by this time the docks were empty and we were the last few vehicles to get aboard, still we did and we’re on the truck deck; first vehicles off!!!

By the time we reached our grotty inside, not re-furnished cabin we only wanted to go to bed.

Tuesday 4th October

A very smooth “Bay of Biscay” crossing and being an inside cabin weren’t woken by light pouring through our porthole.     We’ve used Brittany Ferries on numerous occasions, been on nearly all their routes over the years and never had such a grotty cabin.   My last trip on Brittany, only a couple of weeks ago was an inside cabin but it was smartly decorated, had a tv and a simulated porthole giving amazing artificial light, it was so good it fooled me in the morning!!!   This cabin is in dire need of re-furbishment + a tv!!!   Christine thinks it was because we were very late “bookers’ on a very full ferry.

Anyway we found our way to the self-service restaurant and we were also disappointed there.   The breakfast was cold, they fooled you on the menu and charged for most things individually.    We “had” been told a couple of weeks ago that Brittany are struggling to crew up all their fleet, this May account for the poor breakfast but not the cabin.   I feel a letter coming on!!!

The boring day was again taken up with reading, video and crib but at least we were by the picture window in the lounge, near the bar to tease me; no alcohol as we will be driving later this evening.

The good news broadcast over the ships tannoy system was that the arrival time had been brought forward by an hour and half, the Captain had obviously “put his foot down”, naturally this meant a re-jig of mealtimes.   

The self service restaurant was the only place open, and bearing in mind our cold breakfast were determined to be at the restaurant door when they opened, and we were, but not quite first!!!    The plan worked and we enjoyed a hot and tasty meal; that’s better Brittany, more your old selves.

We eventually docked and though not first off this time, we were in the early “trance”, and border control had opened every booth so we were through in fairly short order and on our way.

For a number of reasons we couldn’t stop at Hope Farm for a few nights, therefore had pre-booked into a certified caravan club location just a short distance from the house we have arranged to view  tomorrow morning.    

lovely and peaceful

An hour and a half later and Christine was opening the gate and I was driving onto the field, our home for a few nights. 

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