Bath to Cumbria

This will be the last blog of the holiday. We set off for home tomorrow and the story of that long road through Scotland is not one I will be relating on this occasion.

Much of the last few days have been on the road as we make our way back up the country, sadly saying goodbye to Cornwall’s lovely seaside towns and cream scones.

In deciding on stopovers for the way home we chose a campsite near Bath, as we needed one by this time, and Windermere in the Lake District (in case the bath wasn’t big enough).

Our journey to Bath was carefully planned by me the evening before travel.  Hearing that Bath does not welcome vehicles to the city centre I decided that we would use a park and ride somewhere we would be able to escape easily from during the rush hour.  After considering all of the available information the park and ride on the South side of the city offered the best chance of getting in to the city centre for a reasonable amount of time and allowing us to access the road to the campsite without encountering the city jam at rush hour.

With so much planning what could possibly go wrong.

barrier

Yep – my lovely Daisy was a head too tall for the car park.

Of course the two and a half hours of driving in the heat without air conditioning did not have any impact on my reaction to this. I calmly drove down towards Bath to ‘park wherever the $%^&* we can.’

We found a suitable location just a half mile into the city limits just at the side of the road and close to a bus stop. Perfect – we headed into town for the afternoon.

Now Bath is a lovely city, and we only really dipped our toes in (ahem). With more time we could have explored the riverside and the museum. Oh and the shops.

IMG_0661

But we had to be selective with so little time (sorry – shops will have to wait). Being a Roman history nut, I wanted to see the Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths are truly terrific, but only if you are really interested. I was not completely knocked unconscious by the ridiculous £17 per person entry fee but would understand why others might be.  So – yes – £34 for the two of us to visit a leisure centre – 2000 years after it closed down.

IMG_0650

You would be right in assuming that you are not allowed to do this…

It is something quite amazing to see, though. The functioning of the hot water spring is still complete and the bath is fed in the way it was in Roman times.  And the museum they have built around it takes you carefully through the exhibits in a way that helps your understanding. It’s well done.

Now they must have had well over a thousand visitors on the day we were there. That’s £17 K for.  Based on only 200 good days per year that’s over 3 million. Not bad being invaded by the Romans was it?

But they are good at exploiting legacies in England. Not just ancient ones, very recent ones too.

We saw how a family can make a business because their grandfather decided to build a sign at the farthest point in mainland Britain; we saw how a village can be buzzing with tourist activity just because a successful TV series was filmed there, how a pub can make a killing from being written into a famous book.

Exploiting legacies is disturbingly common in England. I’m not sure we Scots are as good at it. They say we are mean?

Now lunch in Bath was street food from a vendor near the bus station. The wait was a bit long and the staff could have doubled their takings for the day if they knew how to cater for numbers. People were put off by the queue. I persevered and we had chilli and chicken wraps with spiced fries. Very nice they were too.

IMG_0629[1]

At the end of the day we returned to Daisy to discover that we were parked nose towards the town in a dual carriageway with no turning point.

So we spent the next hour in Bath’s unwelcoming rush hour traffic. Lovely. Planning is everything.

Our campsite was near Devizes, a canal side location with ‘a charming towpath ideal for walking and cycling along’. What was worrying was the number of canal barges that looked like they housed the West Midlands’ most wanted serial killers. The number of rusted bikes stacked on the top of the barges sent shivers down by spine! The trophies of a psychopathic community of canal prowling murders….?

 

Now I’m sorry if that is offensive to the good people of the canal who live near Devizes – but I can only say what I saw – and felt – the chill down my spine when a toothless hag looked me up and down, licked her lips and said ‘hello there, you’re a plump one dear  – stranger to these parts are you?’ (adopt voice of green-faced witch from Wizard of Oz for effect).

IMG_4150[1]

‘Come, come my pretties! The life on the canal will be full of joy and …. AAAARRRGHHH!!!

We walked a few hundred yards down the canal, saw the blood (or rust) stained bikes stacked high, turned back and ran into our camper van to quiver through the thunder and lightning that (coincidentally) lit up the night sky while we tried to sleep.

In the morning we moved quickly out of the campsite and headed North by half nine.

This was going to be a long and uneventful day.

The hours between Bath and Windermere are considerable. And it’s mostly motorway so ‘Camperaderie’ is very challenging. The other carriageway is just too far to see. Instead we fired up the tunes and tried to determine the best music for hippy camper van types to drive by.

So we went through the Carpenter’s Collection. Not bad – sixties and seventies hippy stuff. Middle of the road (chortle) and we could sway from side to side in perfect unison while merrily making our way.  But it’s a bit tame for my wife and I. We were of the punk era, we moved into New Romantic and Europop during the eighties.  We grew with U2, the Clash and the Smiths backtracking out formative years.

On our USB stick we found Coldplay. Not a big fan but they are quite traditional as a rock band, fairly meaty guitar stuff and plenty whining vocals from ’that guy that married the famous actress.’

Nah! It gets on my nerves.

Next up …

‘Ground control to major Tom …. Ground control to major Tom ….’

It turns out David Bowie is the perfect hippy mix for hours of travel in a van called Daisy.

From just north of Bath to the turn off for Kendal Bowie took us all the way. He was getting a bit shit by the time we arrived – ‘Blue Jean? Under Pressure?’ – but the early stuff saw us through.

Kendal is a nice little town and we strolled among the shops and found some junk shops that my wife loves to raid for … well junk I guess. She got some too.

IMG_0668[1]

Nice of them to roll out the banner for us arriving.

Our campsite was just outside Kendal and not really anywhere close to Windermere. Despite this it was called Windermere Campsite – to fool people into thinking it is somewhere close to Lake Windermere.

In fact we had that old classic English mile to contend with in the morning. ‘Yes, it’s four miles to Windermere – so you can probably walk it.’

It’s seven miles to Windermere by the shortest possible walking route. I know because we did walk it this morning.

That said – it was a lovely walk using Dales Way – a public right of way through the Cumbrian countryside.

IMG_0679[1]

A wall and scenery and stuff … on mile six of our four mile walk to Windermere.

Now my wife is a bit nervous of large animals. Big dogs she loves – anything bigger than that she can’t cope with. Dales Way passes through numerous farms and space is often shared with sheep and cows.

She was very brave though, in spite of her significant cycling injuries hampering her movements. At one point I turned to see her with a stick in her hand. Not big enough to use as a walking aid, I asked her what she was doing with it.

‘In case the cows attack.’

Is there a recognised defence against maniacal cows that involves the use of a three foot stick? Not that I am aware of.  I assumed she might consider throwing it as a distraction, perhaps hoping that cows and dogs have some common ancestry that would cause it to chase the stick instead of mauling her to death before eating her carcass.

It turns out she intended to ‘poke at it’ if it made an attempt on her life. I begged her to throw it away in case a cow did chance in her direction and she stabbed the poor thing for doing nothing more than spotting a nice bit of grass near her feet. She kept it though – until the stile took us out of harm’s way.

IMG_0675[1]

WARNING – if you have cows in your family, make them look away. She is armed.

Silly …..

After our long trek we enjoyed lunch at the Cafe Italia in Windermere. I had a chicken and bacon crepe – very nice – and my bovine battering belle had a brie and bacon toastie thing (it was named something posher than that, but that’s what it was).

IMG_0686[1]

That might look crepe! It was very nice.

We then dropped in for a cream tea at a place called Monties and tried an ice cream at ‘The World’s Best Ice Cream’ vendor further down the road. It was all small portions – don’t judge!

In fact the single scoop of ‘world’s best’ ice cream was particularly small. £2? World’s best scam if you ask me. It was nice enough – had better this holiday.

IMG_0693[1]

Here’s some free advertising for you.

Our last adventure was to take a boat trip round the North end of Lake Windermere. For a tenner each this seemed (and was) good value. We sat outside enjoying the sunshine and the bracing air as we gawped jealously at all the big houses people somehow have the money to buy around the water’s edge.

IMG_0699[1].JPG

I just don’t get it. How can so many people afford these big houses? They must cost over a million each. Are there so many multi-millionaires in this country?

Of course there must be.

I wondered which house belonged to the people who charge you to stand beside the Land’s End sign.

Our final meal of the holiday was mediocre by any standards. The campsite has a pub and we decided to try it out. Mine was a medium rare steak and chips, the cow-assassin had a burger. I could see her relishing the moment her teeth sunk into the meat of her quarry.

IMG_4155[1]

Classic 1980s fare for a 1980s couple…

Truthfully –she didn’t finish it. It wasn’t good.

So that is our holiday in Daisy for the year. We may take her out again before winter – perhaps the North 500. Who knows? She has been fantastic – some minor hiccups along the way but definitely a thing of beauty.

I hope you have enjoyed the trip. If you didn’t – I would have written it anyway and will probably do it all again next year.

IMG_4137[1]

Note: No cows were hurt in the making of this blog.

Advertisements

Famous Places

Surfing is big in Cornwall.

Now I decided that I would not learn to surf on this holiday as I wanted to dedicate the time to doing other active pursuits – for example eating.

Had I decided to try surfing though, I would have taken care to observe carefully (as I have done from the shore) the habits of the true surfing community.

Some young men (and not so young) appear to have made a few errors by not making such careful observation.  It is clear that a muscular physique is needed but the carefree attitude to displaying it in your underwear is not necessary. It is also not crucial that you remove your wetsuit on the exposed side of the camper van so everyone can see your tanned godliness.  Play fighting with your male buddies whenever a female comes into view does not give you perfect balance on a surf board either.

However it is advantageous to have long, tightly curled hair (blond or jet black) – and a beard can be useful too.

When in the water you should lie on your board for an inordinate amount of time ‘waiting for a good swell’. If you jump too soon and the swell breaks too early you risk looking like an amateur in front of the more experienced surfers (and the women) who will undoubtedly take the very next swell and surf all the way to shore. If you need guidance look for well tanned, muscular men with tightly curled long hair. They are sure to know the right swell to jump on.

In every seaside town in Cornwall there are wetsuits, surf boards and other surf-related items for sale.  It does seem to be a pretty inexpensive activity too, £20 will buy a half-decent wet-suit and a board (play sized) can be obtained for less than a tenner.

The beach is free as long as you do not intend to pass close to any wooden direction signs on the way.

Anyway I am rambling.

Yesterday’s activities took us into Penzance first of all. We were on the lookout for pirates, smugglers and some inexpensive gifts to take back home. Thoughtful but really cheap was the aim.

IMG_0506

A real pirate ship (and gift shop) in Penzance.

Why are pirates from Penzance?  They just AAARHHH!

Now Penzance is a decent sized seaside town with all the usual features of seaside towns such as Bournemouth. Enough said? Yep – we gave it an hour and headed for Bodmin.

Although our destination was not really Bodmin. We were heading for a lovely little fishing port on the North side of the peninsula called Port Isaac. Bodmin was the place Sybil decided we should spend half an hour in looking for the exit.

Sybil has been made largely redundant now that I have grown some confidence in my wife’s navigation ability. I say some confidence; I am not a complete fool.

The final straw came when she took us down a way and I chose to ignore her advice. Upset at my damn cheek she gave me a sharp toned ‘please make a U turn at the next opportunity’ warning while I drove on. She then repeated the warning after a minute, then after 30 seconds, and then almost repeatedly. Each time her flipping, posh, Mrs-almighty-know-it-all, condescending voice became increasingly irritating to the point that I snapped.

‘Turn that bloody thing off. You’re in charge from now on!’

Things improved a good deal from that point on.  My wife is now chief navigator.

After getting out of Bodmin we found Trelawney’s Garden Centre Restaurant and decided that the connection to Harry Potter’s divination teacher could not be missed. Of course there was no connection whatsoever, unless my prediction that we would have a good lunch here counts.

We waited an age to get served our Sunday lunch but it was full on gut-busting stuff when we got it.

IMG_0512

Where does it all go?   ….  ‘no porta potty!’

We had roast beef and as many vegetables, potatoes and Yorkshire puddings as we could fit on our plates – and a cream scone for the sweet department. With tea it was around £25. We left with plenty energy stored.

Port Isaac was on my list because it is the idyllic Portwenn from Doc Martin, the TV series. I love Doc Martin from the bottom of my heart. If you have followed previous blogs you will know I cannot resist romatic comedy and the relationship ups and downs of Martin Elliot and the utterly enchanting Louisa Glasson are pure gold in my sappy, mushy brain. And Portwenn is the third star of the show.

It’s also a twisty, turny and hilly little village.

So we parked Daisy at the top of the village and walked down into the harbour area where most of the action takes place. We took a series of pictures to match the ‘map’ we bought for £1.50 from an enterprising shop keeper (amazing what an A4 sheet of paper, a nice drawing and a inkjet printer can produce when there’s tourist about).

We walked up and down the street listening to the mocking laughter of teenage girls just like the Doc and we stepped into Mrs Tishell’s pharmacy to buy … eh … some fudge.

Well of course it’s not real is it!

IMG_0554

Waiting to see the Doc – slight bout of indigestion.

Port Isaac is a lovely place even without the Doc Martin connection. In the cove we explored caves, watched children fishing for crabs and enjoyed the salty sea air filling our lungs. It WAS idyllic. I could have stayed my two weeks here.

IMG_0583

View from my cave.

But that would not give me enough material for this blog would it?

So we pushed on to our campsite near Bude to get some rest for our final day in Cornwall.

This morning we got up and grabbed some flakes. We had a busy day ahead with two more locations we had decided to visit.

If you are aware of Daphne Du Maurier you will know she is famous for books set in Cornwall. She wrote The Birds which Hitchcock made into a film, and My Cousin Rachel which was recently made into a film with Rachel Weiss.

She also wrote a tale of smugglers called Jamaica Inn based at a famous Bodmin stopover. This book  was also made into a film (at least twice). My wife loves these sort of of stories – female meets man she hates at first, then sees his gentler side, she changes him and they love in love. Yeah, yeah. Mush. Doc Martin it ain’t.

But I am a patient fellow and not insensitive to the need of a woman to think a man can be better than he really is. So I go along with it.

Well I am glad I did really. The museum of smuggling was quite interesting for a start (and only £2.95 with our magazine discount voucher) and the inn is a very pleasant olde worlde set up. But, more importantly, the lunch was humongous!

IMG_0606

Now I set out to eat sensibly today as I was feeling a bit flat with all the rich food. If I die on this holiday the pathologist will discover clotted cream bubbling out of me when he splits me open. But when I saw the food I had to go for it.

Again we had the ‘eat all the veg you want’ offer – and did. It was reasonably priced too, hot and tasty. Proper pub grub.

Sadly this mean’t that we were destroyed for the rest of the day, and that was  a regret for what came next.

We drove our  Daisy to Wadebridge, a town on the Camel River, and an entry point for the lengthy Camel Trail cycle path.  Wadebridge is very cycle friendly and very car unfriendly. It has sleeping policemen every hundred metres (Daisy goes ‘bounce’ every hundred metres, Porta-potty goes ‘sloosh’ every humdred and one metres – ‘porta potty no like sleepy police people’)

The Camel Trail is a cycle path (disused railway again) that runs from Bodmin to Padstow on the coast, via Wadebridge. We wanted to visit Padstow but felt that 6 miles out and 6 miles back would be enough for the day – hence our starting point at Wadebridge.

The cycle was not uneventful (but some stories I will leave for my wife to tell herself). On arrival in Padstow we remembered that this was Rick Stein country. He has a restaurant on every street corner. In fact the place is a seafood, ice cream, and cake paradise!

Still burping from the feast at Jamaica inn I ordered a single haddock in Rick’s special batter just so I could say on this blog that I had eaten in his restaurant (well chip shop).  That’s dedication for you.

IMG_0621

Posh fried fish from Rick Stein – parsley!

But that was me definitely full. I was oozing food from every pore.

Padstow wouldn’t let up though. The smell of cooking fudge followed us down one street, then it was seafood stalls on the front, then tea rooms beckoning us in with sponges the size of pouffe cushions. We were going insane.

We escaped with our lives – and a small tub of whipped ice cream of course.

IMG_0626

Ignore the scraped wrist – it will just encourage her….

We returned to Wadebridge and bounced  and slooshed our way out of town (my stomach did both). Back to our campsite we headed.

The evening meal will be meagre. The tins will be coming out again I’m afraid – if anything.

IMG_0624

We tried – we wanted to – we just couldn’t …

Being a sad computer geek I put together the whole tour of Potwenn from my guide here…

https://alastairgarrow.000webhostapp.com/portwenn.html

Land’s End

We set off for Cornwall without any breakfast. We had run out of flakes and milk and decided that we should treat ourselves to a traditional English breakfast.

Where better to go for such a treat than a quality establishment with fine oak tables.

 

 

 

Architecture that is sympathetic to the natural surroundings.

That’s cheap.

Yes, we ate breakfast at Morrisons.

IMG_0434

Morrisons low cholesterol vegetarian option (out of shot).

 

Our next stop was to be Truro and we had a game of Camperaderie on the way to while away ths hours. We got this one badly wrong.

Truro is a pleasant, small city with more or less the same shops as you get in any comparable town. It has some quirky, local stuff going on and a lovely Cathedral which is free to enter (always a bonus) – and it’s interesting to boot. It is actually a Victorian building despite the very classic style of architecture. You would assume it had been there for centuries.

IMG_0438

A poor man’s Buckfast if you ask me…

One thing I found particularly interesting was the lack of thumbprint access to the side rooms. It seems the abbey at Buckfast has more secrets to keep – or more money to spend.

Anyway, also of a Victorian era is the wonderful tearoom called Victoria’s Tea Room (what an excellent name for a Victorian tea room!). The nice thing about this place (it is award winning by the way) is that the waiting staff dress in the style of the Victorians, that they serve excellent tea in proper china cups, and that their cakes are the size of Dartmoor

IMG_0440

Lemon Meringue Death

After our feast we departed Truro for Sennen Cove on the South West Coast, just a few miles from Land’s End. We took a stop at a camping superstore in Redruth and then got lost in the maze of Cornwall’s B roads trying to find a way back to the main route.

When we got to the campsite we were given an excellent welcome and directed to the coastal path that is ‘just 300 yards from the campsite’ (where have we heard that before?).

Now at this point I should say something of Cornwall’s road network. In fact this probably goes for England generally.

The A-roads are pretty good and drivers are generally well behaved. Some A-roads do end up in the town and villages though in which case they can become quite twisty-turny and extremely hilly. They are often twisty-turny and hilly all at the same time.

The B-roads are all twisty-turny and hilly at the same time. At this time of year they are just as busy as the A-roads.

Now when a local tells you in Cornwall that you can walk down a quiet country lane this generally means you can take your life in your hands and share a narrow path with open top buses, tractors, camper vans, local delivery drivers (particularly dangerous) and frustrated locals who know the corners like the back of their hands (they don’t know what’s round the corners but that is by the by).

And 300 yards of English road is roughly about a mile.

We went to explore the coastal path in the evening and discovered it about two miles away. We arrived at a neighbouring campsite a little dishevelled from all the leaping into the hedgerows. This campsite, it turns out, has the access path to the coastal route and you need to pass through it to get there. It also has better washing and toilet facilities, larger camping spaces, late evening shopping and a restaurant. We should have camped there.

We stopped and ate dinner there.

Diverted by food we decided to do the coastal path to Land’s End (about 4 kilometres apparently) the next morning.

After a comfortable sleep in Daisy we got up sharp to walk to Land’s End from our campsite. The plan was then to get the open-top bus to St Ives and return to campsite late afternoon.

Now the coastal path is absolutely stunning. It takes you through the most beautiful, rugged coastline, looking down on wonderful beaches and into the little town of Sennen Cove. It then rises up and over the hill to Land’s End.

 

 

 

But it is not about 4 kilometres. It’s about 4 miles.

And it is ‘rugged’ coastline – properly rugged coastline.

So it was delightful, but it was four hard miles of delightful.

What was NOT delightful was the revelation at Land’s End.

Now we were told it was a bit commercial these days.  But we were not told (and have never at any time had been given any hint or suggestions) that it cost a tenner to stand beside the Land’s End sign!

It’s a family business! A ‘been in the family for generations’ type family business. They are proud of it!

IMG_0465

It’s so quaint and traditional … generations of one family scamming money from tourists.

So in order to get your picture taken beside the Land’s End sign you have to first get there. A lot of people walk, cycle, drive, crawl, wheel their chairs or do some other amazing feat of endurance all the way from John O’Groats to get there. Hopefully they don’t have support vehicles because it costs £4 to park them there. They then have to line up a few yards from the finishing post waiting for the photographer from the family run business to position them by the privately owned sign and take their picture. Oh, and pay £9.95 for the basic package.

Now, as you know, I don’t pay to walk on piers so I certainly don’t pay to stand beside signs.

I walked round behind it and (inside my head) screamed ‘nah, nah, nah, nah, nah – I’m further South than your sign!’

IMG_0469

As close as you can get without chucking away a tenner. I may be breaching copyright here.

We had an ice cream at the First and Last House which was excellent. All the Cornish ice cream has been amazing. We then did a little bit of shopping which included the purchase of my first ever pair of flip-flops. These are required, my lady wife tells me, to prevent nasty campsite shower room diseases getting at my toes.

IMG_0497

Over-commercialised? What do they mean?

Thereafter we boarded the bus to St Ives.

Naturally the ‘when I was going to St Ives I met a man with seven wives’ poemy thing went through my head as we boarded and (would you believe it) we DID meet a man who must have seven wives.

He was so grumpy!

The bus driver.

In fact let’s face it. All bus drivers are the same aren’t they? They are always confused at anyone who doesn’t know exactly what they are required to pay for their trip, they don’t give advice and they don’t give change. And they don’t ever do any of it with a smile.

The bus drivers of South Cornwall, however, have a perfectly reasonable excuse for this manner. The roads are turny-twisty and hilly at the same time, and they have to stop and start every few yards to let tourists by. Our driver had to reverse his bus into lanes I would never drive forward into. It was a roller coaster ride I would have paid twice the fare for (if I liked high adrenaline roller coasters).

We were lucky enough to get the front seats at the top of the bus so we had the full effect of the madness. It was also a rather disconcerting vantage point for seeing inside the upper windows of the houses lined either side of the narrow streets. I tried not to look but I have to shout out to the owner of the property on Chapel Road, St Just (the house with the blue beanbag in the first floor flat bay window) – that pile of ironing won’t do itself you know!

Now St Ives is the perfect Cornish town. Great harbour, beaches, quaint shopping areas, twisty-turny and hilly streets, funny street names.

IMG_0472

It also has the terrific ‘Yellow Canary’ bakery where we had lunch.

We had two lovely crusty sandwiches, hot tea and a fruit Cornish pasty with a bucket of clotted cream dumped on it. Best lunch I have had on this holiday.

 

 

My dear lady wife successfully managed to obtain two garments from a little shop in the town. Having the good sense to provide a ‘man seat’ with magazines is an incredibly mature marketing strategy for such a small business. She will go far.

Now we had a slight mishap during the day’s activities that we must put down to the shock of being asked to pay to stand beside a wooden sign. On the bus to St Ives we discovered that my toes were likely to remain under severe threat of infection due to the fact that the flip-flops we bought were not in the bag (dramatic DUM-DUM-DUM music)!

Our dilemma now was that a) we could return to Land’s End to get them and have to walk back by the coastal path (more long, hard delightfulness), or b) we could forget the £4 we paid and just let it go.

Yes, you guessed it.

So we took the roller coaster back to Land’s End (it all seemed so familiar) and steeled ourselves for the long walk along  Cornwall’s rugged coastline.  We mused a little that, with it being that bit later in the day, maybe the family business was closed and we could sneak our picture beside the sign.

After a short scare (the shop had closed but the lady was still doing her accounts in the office) we obtained my toe-saving footwear and strolled round to the Land’s End sign.

The cursed family business was still operating.  Milking every last visitor.

We noted that they had their cast iron sign cover with 24 digit combination ready for closing time and a van load of Dobermans snarling and barking ready for patrolling the six metre perimeter fence. This put us off waiting the remaining hour until they left for the day and set off for the campsite laden with additional shopping.

By the time we got in our feet were in complete tatters. We completed around 14 miles today (mostly rugged coastline). It was delightful, beautiful, stunning even. It truly is a lovely place.

But I needed a hot shower.

And praise the Lord – I had my flip-flops to protect me.

 

Devonshire

Up with the lark (the late one) at the back of nine, we were keen to get a hearty feed in our bellies after such a drought the day before.

Yes I know we ate most of the day but not that much of it was any good.

We made bacon and egg baps in the traditional camping style, which means we stunk out the van for the rest of the day. With a hot cup of tea we set off, a few scores to settle from being scuppered by the weather yesterday.

Daisy fired up and descended the slope we had parked on (I was wondering why my circulation had gone South). Out of Corfe Castle we headed south to keep a date with Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.

Now I won’t dwell too long on Lulworth Cove. It’s a lovely little natural bay with clear water and a pleasant little village beside it. In fact I will give you a flavour via dash-cam footage since it is a thatched cottage village and people like that sort of thing.

Now let’s focus on Durdle Door. Say ‘Durdle Door’ without thinking of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

swedish

Copyright ‘Some Internet Site’

If you were not thinking of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets I now challenge you to say ‘Durdle Door’ without putting on the accent of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

Impossible?

Now my wife can say Durdle like it was a normal word, like it didn’t rhyme with girdle. It doesn’t make her snigger or want to put on a Swedish chef accent in any way whatsoever. What is wrong with her?!!

So what is this Durdle Door (singger)? Well it turns out that it comes from an Old English word ‘thirl’ which means to pierce (and that came from the internet so it must be true).  There is this volcanic formation in Dorset’s coast that looks like a rock with a hole in it, a piercing so to speak.  It’s a great thing to see even if you do have to scale a mountain up and down twice to see it. Oh and pay £4 to park.

IMG_0371

Putting the scenic beauty aside, wouldn’t it be lovely to bring back this wonderful old English word now that so many piercings take place amongst our young folk? We could be having our ears durdled, our noses durdled and even our belly buttons. How amusing is that!!? ‘I am having my belly button durdled today.’

If we recovered this word from the annals of history we could even enjoy the moment someone caught their girdle on a nail and tore a small hole in it. ‘Oh no I have durdled my girdle!’ It’s British seaside comedy magic!

After the joyous comedic sight of Durdle Door (you can’t help it can you?), we decided to enjoy an ice cream at Lulworth Cove. It was wonderfully creamy and sweet. I was only a little put off by the little wooden spoon they served it with. I prefer plastic as I worry about catching a splinter with wood in my mouth. I could have durdled my tongue!

IMG_0383

Look at that silly cow!

Our next destination was Dorchester, a short drive away, to get provisions for our two night stay in Devon. Now I have been in a few supermarkets in my time (way too many in fact), but the Tesco in Dorchester has to have the poshest entrance to any of them. If you know of a better one please prove me wrong. My God, it’s got a fountain and everything.

IMG_0387

The poshest Tesco in the UK?

The checkout girl explained that, as Dorchester is in the Duchy of Cornwall there are certain standards to be maintained. It couldn’t be a ‘monstrous carbuncle’ in Charlie’s back yard could it? It was still Tesco though.

As this was such a beautiful setting we ate lunch in the car park – a ham and cheese ciabatta made with Cornish butter, local mature cheddar and … eh … Tesco ham. It was delicious and we could hear the fountains filling the air with Dorset’s clear water, singing ‘whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, ten pence off Dorset Spring Water one day only, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.’

Off to Devon we were bound, Daisy struggling on the hills somewhat (laden with our purchases), and Sybil trying to send us down every single track road in Dartmoor.

The road can be quite dull when the distances are long and we found amusement in the simple game of ‘Camperaderie’. There are several rules to this game and they are highly complex. It is your understanding of the rules that can score you points.

Firstly the main rule is – some campers on the road like to wave to each other.

The important word here is ‘some’. When we first started playing we foolishly thought that ‘all’ campers on the road like to wave. That’s a mistake – do not pass go – go to jail.

The rules get even greyer.

The most reliable wave comes from VW T25 owner to VW T25 owner. But it depends if they are British. Foreign campers tend to ignore the friendly wave.

Older style VW camper van owners tend to keep themselves to themselves. These are the pure blood VW owners (a bit Slytherin if you ask me). They MIGHT wave though, depending on whether or not the driver is an arse. Modern VW owners (like those with T5s with flashy paint jobs) are in a similar club as the classics. They tend to look down a little or are too pissed to notice anyone else.

Fiat Ducato owners often wish they’d bought a VW so they can be a bit stand offish but, in certain circumstances, will wave. Other conversions such as Transits and Mazda Bongos are rarely seen waving.

The really difficult one is the big camper. The motor homes. They are lovely people but they can get a bit confused by all the camperaderie going on. They are often hired of course, so we don’t condemn them.

Finally there are the caravan towers. These poor folks are so stressed with the thought of getting stuck on a tight bend that they can barely keep their eyes off the road to see a wave. Some highly skilled and pleasant owners will, however, respond to a wave.

So those are the rules. The game is simple. Decide to wave or not – if you do wave and you get a wave back, you score one point.  If you don’t wave and you get a wave you lose two points because you are an arse. If you wave and they don’t wave back you feel stupid.

As we travelled towards Plymouth we came across Buckfast Abbey, where all the ‘Buckie’ comes from. We stopped off and took some snaps of all the splendour and wealth that Buckfast has achieved over the years from selling this fortified wine. I had mixed opinions about this place. On the one hand you could think that feeding alcohol to bored and disaffected teenagers and profiting from it is wrong. On the other hand you cannot make these Benedictine monks responsible for what a generation of wayward teenagers choose to be their poison. The wealth is a worry though – they have thumb-print access control to some of the abbey’s doors!

IMG_0394

The grand Buckfast Abbey. 

We arrived in Tavistock about half six, pitched up, lit the BBQ and grilled some 20% fat mince. We ate perfect bacon and cheese burgers for tea and christened them Duchy Burgers.

IMG_4017

Dirty camper burgers…..

In the morning we took our bikes out for their first turn of the holiday.

Drakes Trail is a path running from Tavistock to Plymouth for cyclists and walkers only. It’s a terrific idea; a disused railway track has been set aside for safe cycling. It’s the only way to be safe on these little roads.

IMG_4021

Now the campsite literature told us this route was a mere 300 yards from the entrance to the site. That’s nonsense. Three hundred yards I can walk in five minutes. The trail is over two miles from the campsite.

Perhaps as the crow flies you can walk 300 yards get to a point where you can see the trail in the distance, but 300 yards it aint.

In fact if you are rubbish at map reading it turns out it is more than two miles, it is over four miles! We decided to climb the hill to an entirely different location in the opposite direction of the trail just so that we could overheat, swear disgracefully and slander the good name of the campsite staff at the top.

You should understand that my dear lady wife is not a frequent cyclist. She is a terrific long distance runner and, it turns out, can run faster than she can cycle; a good bit faster.

We rode out to a place called Yelverston on the trail before returning, an 18 miles round trip. The trip involved several miles of undulating track through some beautiful countryside, farm-yard animals including llamas, a hell of a lot of moaning about the undulating countryside and a viaduct that I thought of either jumping off or throwing someone else off.

IMG_0401

Don’t look back in anger.

I am being cruel. She was actually outstanding for a first time over this distance.

In Yelverston we ate at The Game Larder, just some Devonshire ice-cream and a pork and pickle pie (yes in that order). Both were great, thankfully because that is the highlight of Yelverston.

IMG_0422

When we got back to the campsite we took Daisy out to the local village for some shopping (yawn). We had plenty time so we walked slowly round the local craft market and I ‘oohed and aahed’ when it seemed appropriate. It seemed to work because all we bought was a charity shop shirt to replace the one I sweated half my body weight into today, and a 50p book.

We ate a terrific cream tea and Victoria sandwich at Karen’s Tea Shop in the village and blethered with the couple next to us about politics, expensive train travel and the joys of driving long distance. I paid the bill and it ran to a mere £7.20. I thought she was joking. Two teas, a cream scone and a wedge of Victoria sandwich that would kill an jersey cow if it fell on them – for £7.20?

I tipped generously and still didn’t break a tenner.

IMG_0427

Dinner tonight is to be a campervan special. I think I will skip the pictures because you will think less of me if you see the tins.

Dorset

We stayed one night in the New Forest, walked on the nearby moor (because our bikes were out of action) and then set off for Dorset.

That was quick eh?

The journey to our current campsite was a little more eventful.

Sybil appears hell bent on taking us down the most challenging single track roads possible, regardless of what settings I fiddle with. Worse still, she is one of those satnavs that went on sale at Aldi some time ago and everyone in the country seems to have one. That means we meet everybody in the country coming the other way and they’re all is as frustrated with the damn settings on their satnav as me.

There were horns honking, red faces, foul language and near misses aplenty.

Not that I can blame Garmin for the tractor in Dorset that just about ran me into a field of tatties. Having tyres the height of my camper seems to make the farmers here feel invincible and the road is ‘damn well theirs’. Tourists have no place it seems. Daisy hit the ditch, I wrestled with the steering as we passed through a letter box sized gap, and something caused us to bounce (cartoon-like) into the air (I swear we left the ground by at least a foot!). When we landed we couldn’t believe we had not mashed the farmer’s tatties and ourselves along with them.

Daisy seemed none the worse for the ordeal – but then she is something quite amazing.

I can only imagine Porta-Potty got a bit of a slooshing in his little cupboard. ‘Porta-Potty no like slooshing in cupboard….’ (remember the robot voice for these gems).

After that we made our way into Bournemouth (or Borinmouth I now call it) which was nothing to get too excited about. That’s unfair of course, we didn’t have too much time there, but the time we had was boring. We did have a fantastically sweet New forest ice cream by the beach and we saw lots of … yawn … nah it was boring. Sorry Bournemouth – we moved on.

IMG_0334

The highlight of Bournemouth.

Here are some views of Portsmouth which is much nicer.

We decided we would head for a campsite in Corfe Castle right on the South Coast. We took the ferry across to the peninsula and found the campsite close to a lovely little English village. Now this is a great little place. Not at all like Borinmouth.

 

We were put into a reserve pitch as the campsite was full but it turned to be the best corner of the whole site. Nice and secluded and close to the path to the village. We meandered off into the village and visited the National Trust Norman castle. We also had a fine high tea in the little cafe.

I visited their excellent facilities 😉

IMG_3926

‘What a lovely castle! Pity it’s on that big hill – we’ll just have tea instead.’

Now with so much in the area to explore we booked two nights in this lovely setting and decided to do the local bus tour next day. With such lovely weather we looked forward to a little seaside shopping in Swanage, a nice bar meal in the bustling town of Wareham, some great photo shots of the unusual rock formations on the coast and countless cream teas in the shady gardens of Dorset’s charming tea shops.

When we got up it was teeming down with rain.

Undeterred we headed into the village to catch the bus praying they left the open top back at the depot. It made no difference; we were soaked by the time we got to the bus stop.

Swanage is a small version of Borinmouth – but less interesting.  We hunted down a side street bike shop (just to find that they didn’t stock the part I was after) and then we made our way to the harbour to find that we had to pay £1 to go onto the pier. Since I don’t pay to go on to piers that was a waste of time. Borinmouth had the same ‘pier toll’.  A tourist rip off if you ask me.

We were double soaked by this time.

IMG_0352

Beautiful architecture in Swanage.  (this is actually a painting on the wall…)

Still undeterred we took the next bus to Wareham, confident a hearty pub lunch and a visit to the local shops would cheer us up. We walked up and down the street passing a few lovely looking pubs all offering some excellent looking grub. We had to choose right so we took our time.

Finally we plumped for the Anglebury House which looked utterly charming.

Pity the waiter wasn’t.

The jakey who spilled out of the public bar and staggered over to our table to tell us the waiter ‘might be a bit slow but he is a good lad’ was charming. The waiter didn’t want to be there.

IMG_3978

Anglebury House deceiving us into thinking it is quaint and charming.

We ordered two large diet cokes and were presented with two pints of flat brown water. I asked for a fresh one (perhaps just a tin?) and some ice and got my half drank glass back with a few cube of ice in it. I passed on it and determined not to pay for it at the end. No point in pushing it too far when the staff still have control of what is about to enter my digestive system!

We did get two quite nice meals – a short rib of beef and a chicken and mushroom pie. Now I am being generous – they were fine.  The bill (minus the flat cokes) was £20 and I did, as I always do, tip the guy a quid for turning up for work when he clearly would rather be at home playing World of Warcraft.

IMG_0353

We’ve eaten worse.

We then headed out into the pouring rain and walked a few steps before thinking – ‘I’m a bit hungry…’

We tried a couple of tea shops to see if we could cheer up our lunch with a nice cream scone but both offerings in town looked unwelcoming.

We were no longer undeterred.

We were completely deterred in fact.

So the dramatic coastline would have to wait until tomorrow. We headed back to Corfe Castle and returned to the National Trust Corfe Castle team room where we enjoyed an utterly magnificent cream tea. Best I have had so far I would venture. It made the day better but I would have preferred it if we didn’t have to spend £18 on bus tickets just to find the best time was to be had right back where I started.

IMG_3982

That’s not the castle again, it’s my scone!

The rest of the day was spent writing this blog while listening to the rain drumming on Daisy’s head, trying to connect to the internet via the mobile phone and reading the books I brought but never intended to read.

The evening came (at around seven pm for us). Tuesdays on the campsite is the day the fish and chip van comes round and the happy campers queue up to sample the traditional fare of the seaside town. We hurried down in the howling gale and pouring rain to join the feast. A cod and chip and a single cod with two English baps for dinner. It was a treat and warmed us up just fine.

IMG_0356

We are told the weather is back to unusually hot tomorrow.

Heading South

Here’s some advice for your ‘to do’ list.

Hampton Court Palace – do this only if you think its worth seeing inside of some parts of a stately home and being denied the really interesting bit for a serious wad of your cash.

U2 – spend whatever it takes.

But first some toilet humour.

We enjoyed our night in Walton on Thames and our first experience of ‘porta-potty’ life.

If you have not been camping on a campsite there are a few potty lessons I have learned over these first few days that may be worth recording – for posterity as well as your amusement.

  • It turns out most campervan/caravan types are of a similar age to me. Interestingly this makes the toilet block a place male social gathering at 3 a.m. I am told there is another such gathering at 5 a.m. for the over sixties.
  • Even though there are only two of us, the awning would have been useful to allow for me being banished to stand outside while her grace carried out her ablutions.
  • Choosing a restaurant is no longer just about the food. The availability of toilets is an important aspect. Places like Costa and Starbucks with their ‘one loo for all’ closets don’t feature in camping life.
  • Our porta-potty now has a robot voice (a bit like a baby Dalek). He likes being out at night but does not like going back in the cupboard. This has filled our evenings with amusement when there is nothing else to do.

Having survived our first night without facilities we set off for a full day of activities in the West of London. Key to our decision making was, as stated, excellent and clean sanitation. Hampton Court Palace seemed appropriate being a) posh and b) nearby.

Now my good lady loves her Royalty tosh. She just loves all the Kings and Queens of Engerland of Olde, Henry the Eighth and his fifty wives etc. She’s the girl who thinks William and Harry are ‘a credit to their mother’ instead of two privileged layabouts like the rest of the modern world.

So we forked out £20 apiece to see the grand palace where Henry VIII letched after numerous women in the name of the Bible (which he had to rewrite  in order to fulfil his desires). The gardens were lovely and you had pretty much full access to them.  The palace access was the usual … a handful of made-up rooms (all of historical significance I will grant) and a lot of barrier rope saying ‘No Public Access’ to areas you just know have the stairways to the turrets and other cool places.

The ticket price could have been £23 if we had been kind enough to donate £3 to the ‘upkeep of the palace’. I can’t quite fathom was the £20 is going on if they need every visitor to donate to its upkeep. We passed in any case.

For lunch we crossed the road to Henry’s Burger in the village. A bit trendy for us old fogeys – most of the clientele were about 20 to 30 years old, looked like a burger never passed their lips and were, in fact, eating breakfast. So not in bed by ten then?

The burger was decent.  Almost everyone is serving a good burger now. They achieve the softness of McDonalds by using Brioche buns and create a stack to tempt the eye by skewering it down the middle. This allows them to pile on the ingredients … which is no bad thing.

IMG_3866

Henry’s Burger

But they still make the meat too thick and cook it too long for me. What you get it a lovely soft bite at the start, a jarring of the jaw as you hit well done burger, and a clash of teeth as you  hit the soft bottom half unexpectedly. I had a sore head after eating it.

It was delicious. I am being harsh. The chips were rubbish … frozen fries in a cute little deep frying basket.

We returned to the palace to play briefly in the maze and then made our way to Twickenham by bus.

I was a fan of U2 in the 1980s but grew out of love with them when they got all preachy and tried to be a moral compass for the Western world. I think it is good that people like Bono try to make best use of their privileged position by being a good role model, but that doesn’t need to be so blatantly anti-capitalism. It’s capitalism that allowed an average young musician to become wealthy enough to take the time to ‘travel to Africa to see it all for himself’.

Anyway, U2 were good enough to recognise me in their audience and played 95% unpreachy, good old rock-n-roll.  The 5% preachy was appropriate and well thought through. I even enjoyed some of it.

Having missed U2 paying throughout their heyday, this was a bucket list gig and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘call to attention’ drum intro of Sunday Bloody Sunday quickly followed by the Edge’s lone piper guitar and Bono’s pleaful voice kicked off something I can describe as the largest mass-participation event I have ever experienced. They made Twickenham seem intimate and you couldn’t help being part of the hysteria. Tens of thousands sang their way from start to finish, helping Bono through the second half of the Joshua Tree (as he was less familiar with the tunes), they waved their iPhone lights in all the right places and bounced up and down whenever the drums gave them a rhythm to match. The worms under the Twickenham pitch must have been popping up everywhere to see what the fuss was.

IMG_3884

Now that’s a big telly….

We got home by midnight using the local bus service and a taxi for the last couple of miles. My sleep was disturbed by Elevation.

In the morning we set Sybil to avoid motorways and made our way down to Portsmouth. We located the road with the most motorcycles per mile in the Universe and, coincidentally, the most police vehicles per mile also. In fact we counted six police vehicles of various types in five miles of the A32 south. It was a beautiful part of the country so no hardship for them I guess.

We lunched at the village tea room in Southwick where we met a lovely couple who gave us loads of advice on places to see in Cornwall. They also let my wife pet their massive dogs so she was happy. We have missed Harry.

Two doorstep bacon butties, tea and a cake set us back £20 but it was excellent and the setting was lovely.

IMG_0318

For dessert (cake is not dessert – it’s an accompaniment to tea) we waited until we were on the Portsmouth promenade. We had a whippy ice cream while strolling through the seaside mania that comes with good weather. Young boys were being chased by the police for obtained free entertainment by jumping in the water (sad times) while the good folk of Portsmouth were putting their money into the hands of dodgy traders offering a chance to die on one of their shoogley-bolted rides on the seafront.

Still, Portsmouth is very pleasant and watching the shipping activity is fascinating when you consider the history behind the city.

IMG_0323

Our final destination this day was to the New Forest where we intended to camp and take our bikes onto the ‘extensive cycle routes’ through the National Park. Sadly I had an argument with a tree which grew an extra branch while we left our Daisy parked beside it, and that damned branch hooked the rear wheel of one of the bikes as I pulled out and bent it out of line.

Evening cycle scuppered! Halfords tomorrow and the road West.

IMG_3909

Homemade camper burger!

Two Days of Driving

Day one of our merry camper trip started well enough. We hooked up overnight to get the fridge cold as planned and Miss Daisy fired up perfectly to get us on the road by half nine.

at the wheel

Woody Learns to Drive

My only real aim for the first two days was to get some miles behind us,  arrive safely and eat a big plate of fish and chips. We did it all of course.

Our route to the first campsite  took us via Penrith in Cumbria and across the country into Yorkshire. We had a mediocre sandwich at Marks and Spencer in Perth and an ice cream from Burger King at Gretna services. Hardly anything to write home about….

Anyway, our journey was uneventful enough until I discovered that my navigator (ahem)  decided that, instead of inputting the postcode for the campsite we were staying in, any old Yorkshire campsite post code would be near enough. Weary of my seven hours (as pleasurable as Daisy is to drive) journey we pulled into the reception of Any-Old-Campsite-On-the-Wold and discovered that, yes you would hardly believe it, we weren’t booked in there.

After checking where we were actually booked into we set off on the return journey North for another hour and a half.

Ah but that’s the joy of camping isn’t it? Wee mishaps we can all laugh about later.

We pulled into Thirsk, a small Yorkshire town in Yorkshire close to where we were staying in Yorkshire.  A pee was needed and, rather usefully, the nearest loo was inside a chip shop.

The White Horse Cafe in Thirsk served amazingly good fish and chips. Perfect in fact.

IMG_0273

A woman nearly died to bring me this feast.

The lady who served us could have moved a bit quicker, but only if she was still alive.  I had memories of Julie Walters attempting to serve ‘two soups’ as she approached – but thankfully she kept her balance and presented us with our food before I fainted with hunger or she turned to dust.

Now as went to leave the lovely market town of Thirsk, Miss Daisy and I had a small disagreement.

It went like this:

Me: (key in ignition) – that was a lovely dinner. Now to find that campsite.

Daisy: cough, cough, splutter, broooooommmmm……

Me: (throttling up) – sounding rough dear…

Daisy: Oh bugger off. (dies)

Me: (trying again): Oh come on lovely girl. I’m tired and we still have to find the Yorkshire campsite we booked into in Yorkshire somewhere.

Daisy: bleh … I’m tired too, and hot. I’m not moving.

To cut a long story short, the AA man came and Daisy got all bashful and fluttered her eye-lashes because he was ‘an actual mechanic’ and started up straight away. She even pretended to him that she had no idea what I was talking about.

Ah … camping misadventures!  They make me laugh.

We rolled into a Yorkshire campsite deep in the heart of Yorkshire about nine pm. The lovely campsite manager welcomed us with the usual friendly greeting, ‘You’re  a bit late!’ (apply strong Yorkshire accent for effect).  However she did let us in and we pitched up for the night.

Next morning we were up with the lark and heading to Walton on Thames. We decided to do it in two legs and stop off in Lincoln to see what the fuss was about.

Daisy fired up first time in the morning and took us onto the lovely Yorkshire roads in the middle of Yorkshire. We headed out through the grounds of Castle Howard to the South.

It was baking hot today and the satnav appeared over-tired and quite irritable. We call her Sybil for no reason I can recall and she sounds like a rather grumpy middle aged woman with very little time for men like me. A bit like someone I know in fact!

One bonus to her strange sense of direction was directing us over the Humber Bridge, which was not on our list. It turned out to be quite surreal as when we approached the tolls the song San Francisco came on Radio 2. See previous blog entry for why.

 

The Humber Bridge is very impressive and the road to Lincoln from here was very scenic too. We were in deepest Lincolnshire heading to its city namesake.

Now Lincoln is a surprise to me. It’s got all the lovely ancient cobbled streets, the spectacular cathedral and castle that York has. And yet it never occurred to me to visit until today. It’s far nicer than York. I was just sorry we had so little time. We had been late for one campsite already. I wasn’t taking that chance again.

I left five clear hours for the three hour journey to Walton on Thames.

We were a minute late.

Yes the M25 car park caught us good and proper – five miles from our destination!  Worse still, as I tried to bypass the hold up by taking an early exit, Sybil decided time and time again to redirect me back on to the blooming M25. She is supposed to have traffic information! She tells me every time she starts directing that she has considered ‘all the available traffic information’ so why try to send me towards the biggest traffic jam in the UK?

m2

Parked on the M25

Now guess who played a binder with Sybil?

Yes, my navigator who is not known for her keen sense of direction. On coming to a roundabout she raised a finger in a sagely manner and wagged it to caution me.

Now when my wife advises on the North, South, East, West , Left or Right of anything– you should almost always ignore her. But today, with Daisy being grumpy about the heat and Sybil saying just about anything to keep me from my bed, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

And would you believe it, she was bang on!

Sybil would have seen me parked on a motorway until the early hours of the morning and this blog would not have happened. Hurray for the navigator!

Sadly, dear reader, our eating today has been sparse. We had a lovely lunch at a little cafe called Coffee Bobbins in Lincoln but it wasn’t so special that I would advise you to travel nine hours in a temperamental van being directed by an even more temperamental satnav. We had a toasted Panini and a cream scone (Date and Walnut). The cafe was quirky though. The lampshades were balloon whisks and the tables were all recovered treadle sewing machines. Naturally I spun mine while I waited for my meal.

 

Dinner tonight had to be a camping special. See for yourself.

dinner

Yum! That’s the kind of food we expect on a camping holiday.

That’s the hardest part of our journey done. No more three to five hour drives. Now we can relax.

I hope.

Driving Miss Daisy

In the past I have treated you all to tales from some of America’s longest highways and big cities, I have regaled you with tales of bears, big trees and iconic bridges. This year I have decided that my holiday road trip should be something quite different.   Something more ‘off the beaten track’ so to speak.

To make it as ‘different’ as possible I made a purchase late last year – a fixer-upper – that would hopefully take us around the UK in search of quirky camping, summer sunshine and (of course) great food.

So meet our Daisy.

She is a 1990 – 1.9L petrol – water-cooled Volkswagen T25 camper. She has rock-n-roll in her soul and flowers in her hair. The next classic I am told.  She cost me X pounds new, I have spend Y pounds getting her ready for the summer and she is now worth X – or maybe Z if I am lucky.

And she is reliable and will definitely not break down at any point on our journey.

Now being an old girl she had the odd rust spot (which is to be expected from the model). I have patched up some rot under the roof, a couple of holes underneath and fitted power steering and two seats from an Alfa Romeo 156 (the best bits of this model). I also replaced the stereo with a USB reading player and added a drop-down TV screen with movies plumbed on from a hard drive.

Oh and some tartan curtains!

IMG_0271

The luxury interior of our mobile home for the next two weeks.

My logic in buying this classic camper is that my purchase price and eventual sale price should be about equal and my holidays this year should not be too excessive in cost. I think that makes good sense – time will tell.

In any case, Daisy has taken us a few trips already but has not yet been our overnight accommodation. She promises much including a comfortable bed, a gas stove, fridge, wash-basin and en-suite toilet facilities.  Well … the portaloo is in a wee cupboard which I guess makes it technically en suite.

My dearest wife is not what most people would term ‘an outdoor girl’ – so things could get interesting when it comes to morning ablutions. She is a spirited mare though, so she will either get stuck in or bludgeon me to death in my sleep and disappear off to a hotel room in the nearest city.

So here is the basic plan..

On Wednesday I prepare Daisy for her long journey by plugging in the hook-up cable and getting the fridge nice and cold for all the beer milk. This will also make sure the leisure battery is fully charged and we will hopefully make it all the way to our first stop with no lack of tea.

On Thursday we head for a booked campsite near York (over 350 miles). This should be the longest leg of our journey and there will be fish and chips eaten on arrival as a reward. On Friday morning we head to London where we stay for two nights near Twickenham. We will attend the U2 gig at the stadium before leaving next morning for …

.. we have no idea!

And that will be the general theme of our holiday. I know that I want to go to Devon and Cornwall and I know I need to be back for work on the 24th.

Fancy it?

I will blog as and when I can. Hopefully internet connections can be found to keep you up to date as we go.

IMG_0270

Posh seats!

San Francisco

There can hardly be anything worse than reading about people enjoying themselves while you are slaving away at work so this will be the last of my holiday blog entries from the great city of San Francisco. You may go back to your lives now and be content that I will soon be rejoining you in boring old UK, wishing I was away somewhere more entertaining, with bigger and better food and with decent weather.

Leaving Napa it took me some time to convince my Satnav that we would be entering San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge and it attempted several times to fool me into going via the much less interesting Bay Bridge – or even to add an hour to my journey and by-pass all the bridges. Quite why Tom Tom would design a system that even contemplated accessing San Francisco any other way is beyond me. In any case, I finally got it to take me the right way by adding a waypoint a mile from the bridge.

And it was well worth it….

img_8069

We ‘mist’ the top.

I can’t explain why I felt some sort of strange emotion passing under the bridge arches which were, rather perfectly, shrouded in San Francisco bay mist. Perhaps I was suddenly Steve MacQueen in my Mustang. There was something that tickled the movie buff in me and emerging from the tunnel, and then finding the bridge upon me so suddenly was like getting a surprise gift. I confess I kind of gasped.

If I were to examine the child in me I would say it’s probably because the Golden Gate Bridge is the one you could make out of Meccano. It’s the original suspension bridge of boyhood imagination.

It is, of course, still possible I was in movie star mode as I spun the tyres at least once in town (the car has more torque than a Fiat Panda driver is used to). We arrived safely though and I said a tearful goodbye to the car that took us down California’s North West coast, through a few trees and across the most famous bridge in the world.

After checking in at our hotel (which featured in the Hitchcock Film Vertigo) we took a walk out to get a sense of the city and wandered down towards the Presidio, a park close to the bridge. It’s a hilly place so walking is not really the way to go but we persevered for a few hours at least. Looking for a coffee we were directed to a cluster of buildings where we were told George Lucas has offices and where there is a small museum of Star Wars artefacts in the reception area.  It was not on any visitor guide but we were told if we found the Yoda Fountain, it was behind it.

img_8169

Hotel Vertigo

Well if there was ever a quest for an adventurer, finding Yoda’s fountain and the secret collection of artefacts behind it is it. We swallowed out coffee and cakes and scoured the park for the Jedi master. A few wrong turns and some assistance from the helpful residents of the city later, the bronze-cast statue was before us. The water trickling in the sun beneath the great sage sounded like a whispering Obi Wan – ‘use the Force’ . Behind the edifice sat the entrance to Lucasfilm’s administrative centre. And beyond the great entrance doors – the museum.

img_8139

‘Found it you have….’

 

Now I cannot tell you exactly where it is because the memory is wiped from your mind the moment you leave. I probably couldn’t find it again – but it is there. Oh yes…. it is indeed.

img_8157

‘You must never speak of this location to another….’

We returned briefly to our hotel but only to pick up our tickets to Alcatraz and there was no time for food. We would be running on empty for the four to five hours we intended to be on the Rock. What did we do to deserve such a sentence?

Alcatraz is a fantastic and chilling experience and leaving it later in the day meant we were there when dark came and it got all spooky and atmospheric.  The hotdog on the boat back was also a pretty chilling experience but needs must – we were starving.

img_8234

You really have to be there.

First thing next day we boarded the Hop On Hop Off tour bus and did the entire circuit including another freezing trip over the bridge on the open top deck. Of course we could have stayed on the bottom deck but where’s the fun in that? We did in fact repeat the circuit again that day.

img_8285

The Streets of San Francisco

The highlights of San Francisco are impossible to list, it’s a great city. A bit dirty and smelly (especially the herbal fumes) but it is a wonderful experience nonetheless. The number of movies shot in the city adds interest to the place because you turn a corner and find something familiar without even knowing why.  I particularly liked finding Dirty Harry locations.

img_8346

The Church where Scorpio threatens to kill a priest.

We visited the Fisherman’s wharf which was very touristy and spent some time in Union Square where we ate lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. The club sandwich was – meh – aliright, but the cheesecake was off-the-charts-rest-of-the-day-feeling-stuffed-and-just-a-little-pukey delicious.

img_8312

That is a solid lump of chocolate ganache on there.

Having done the tour twice we left it tight at the end of the day for the theatre we booked while in Seattle. Bianca Del Rio is a drag comedienne in the vein of Julian Clary but with more venom and with no holds barred. She is playing in the UK next year and I would recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach and no qualms about hearing EVERYONE being thoroughly character-assassinated.

Today, we booked our bus to the airport, stored our bags with the hotel and took the bus to the Walt Disney Family Museum. It traces the life of Walt Disney through to his death and describes the early pioneering of animation in movies. It’s a good way to spend two to three hours and a dreadful way to spend twenty dollars at the same time. The cafe is dire.

We had a chicken thing (dog vomit) sandwich and a cheese toastie. With one cup of diet coke – twenty bucks. Dear Lord – it ‘disney’ bear thinking about.

Reflecting on the last twenty odd days we were glad we trained for the Great North Run because we used a lot of energy and needed our fitness to pack in everything. The driving was alright at the beginning and then great when we were introduced to Trixy the Mustang. What we love about America is the attention on value everywhere. I am able to post this blog because there is free wifi at the airport. I was able to keep you up to date and research things all the way through my holiday because every hotel provides wifi as part of the deal. We could print out tickets for shows at the last minute because there are printers and computers in hotel receptions for this purpose.

The final thing I have to do is to show you which of our holiday party did that bungee jump. We drew straws and guess who got the short one?