Steve and Sara Come to Stay

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Thursday 5th July 2018

Steve and Sara came to join us on this leg of our adventure. They had stayed with us on the first leg in Lisbon last year so obviously they are getting a taste for life on the open road, all be it one weekend a year, although there was talk of them getting a VW camper….watch this space! Their flight to Marseilles was delayed by a couple of hours but we still had plenty of time to catch up over a bottle or two of wine. After a few glasses of wine Steve is always keen to play the old catch a malteser in the mouth game, however Jane had neglected to tell him she had run out of her favourite chocolate sweet and made do with something the rabbits had left behind, still after a couple of bottles of wine who cares!!!

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Friday 6th July 2018

As it was a day when Jane was doing her hair,  Steve and I decided to go for a long walk in the woods and put the world to rights.  We knew that we would have at least a couple of hours and that should be long enough.  However the first thing we had to ponder on was why were there so many snails on one fence post at one time…………to which we didn’t really come up with a sensible answer!

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With the stunning backdrop of the Provencal hills,  solving the world’s problems became relatively easy……….so Teresa May give us a call, I’m sure we can fit you in, and America is easy, just get rid of Donald Trump. There that’s all that sorted………….

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Back for a small low calorie lunch, thats mine by the way, Steve had a dried cracker and a  glass of mineral water!

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Sara had work to do, so the three of us set out to explore Cotignac, a beautiful medieval village recommended in the guide book.  It was handy having a photographer with us as we don’t often get too many photos of the two of us together.

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What a beautiful place it was as well, you don’t get more typically French than this photo with a 2CV on the drive!

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The shops were particularly quiet…………….

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This could be something to do with a certain football match being played, France V Uruguay. The whole town was in the main square and every bar was packed, they even closed the main road!

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What a great atmosphere and lovely place to watch a football match, they even set a flare off after the first goal.  Steve was disappointed as for the first time in years he hadn’t packed his flares!

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I can’t believe after nearly 52 years of friendship it still makes us laugh when we take silly photos like this!

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We all thought this was a great place to visit, the faded elegance gave this place a charm all of its own!

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Saturday 7th July 2018

Meanwhile back at the silly photographs………………….

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Steve again was a little disappointed that his first choice of cafe for our petit-dejeuner was rejected by the girls, however the second choice of breakfast venue in Aix-en-Provence proved to be fine.  Aix, pronounced aches and not A, as I kept saying, is another charming city that is a must-see when visiting this area of France.

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We visited on a Saturday morning which is market day, and we were advised to catch a bus, as parking was very limited and difficult to find.

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These markets are a real joy to all your senses, the sights, sounds and smells make it more than just a shopping experience!

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Whilst I don’t mind a little bit of shopping what I really do enjoy is the photo opportunities that a place like this has in abundance !

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Well Steve finally got his choice of lunch venue, he found this small restaurant using the Yelp app on his phone and it was lovely. This eatery was well away from all the normal tourist areas and had a fresh menu du jour, and not the usual plastic coated photographic cards you might find in the aforementioned places.  The food was excellent and thoroughly enjoyable.

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All this fun proved too much for some of us, although Jane said it was probably too much wine!

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That evening we were invited around for a BBQ chez Sara’s sister Fiona and her husband Andre.  We were joined by their friends Marie-Lou and her husband Eric.  Fiona has been living in France for over 40 years now after having met Andre on a gap year from college.  Both Sara and Steve had said that Andre was an excellent cook and not to fill up too soon as they know that I enjoy my food. Well to say the food was excellent would be an understatement, and I couldn’t really pace myself, course after course of the most tasty home cooked food kept arriving in front of me, and I didn’t want to appear rude and not clear my plate……..and everyone else’s come to that!  I think I might have to start planning one of next year’s road trips so that we can all do it again!!

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Andre and Fiona have two huge great Irish Wolfhounds which were about the size of small ponies! You can see them here giving me a look of disgust as they saw me finishing off what could have been their tea!

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Sunday 8th July 2018

After the previous late night we decided a restful day around the pool would be a good idea. Still the household chores still need to be done and with a bit of basic training Steve slotted right in to the caravanner’s life, although holding his stomach in and sweeping at the same time did prove to be a little difficult……………..and he did however  draw the line at emptying the loo!

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And still the silly pictures keep coming, I’m not sure how Steve could tell it was me in there!

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Monday 9th July 2018

Fiona had recommended a few places to visit and told us of a great route back to the airport.

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First stop Cassis. We all had a great time when we visited the home of the inventor of the open-toed sandal, Phillippe Flop, although Sara did find some of the scenes sole destroying !

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Cassis is a lovely port on the Mediteranean, and our plan was to drive along the Corniche to Marseilles and have lunch there.

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So before the coastal drive we thought a couple of pre lunch drinks would be in order, so we had a couple of corniche pastis ( I know its a bad pun but it made me laugh!)

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This photo is in here for no other reason than I like the colours!

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Marseilles proved to be a fitting place to end our great weekend together, where will the next place be that Steve and Sara join us on our travels?

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When we arrived back at our site that night we found that we had new neighbours.  I had my reservations at first but the were a very nice quiet friendly family!

 

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St Tropez

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Tuesday 3rd July 2018

A scenic drive down to St Tropez and along the coast was the plan for today.

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The colours of the bushes along the verges were beautiful, the bright colours of the pink flowers the green leaves and the clear blue sky certainly added to the pleasure of this trip.

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Our first stop of the day was at a town Jane had read about in the guide book called Bormes-les-Mimosas. This was well worth taking time for a little diversion to go and see.

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This beautiful place was perched on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean………….

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I’m not too sure if the guide book had mentioned the handbag shops but Jane managed to find them without too many problems!

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Whilst I on the other hand was content to sit in the shade and look after the picnic!

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After sightseeing, shopping and lunch, and a bit more driving, the lure of the sea was getting too much for me. We found a little  beach at a place called La Croix-Valmer to stop and have a swim, and seeing as everyone else was going topless I thought I would join them (Jane still hasn’t fixed the hole in the elbow of my other swimming costume!) The water was lovely and refreshing; just what I needed to wake me up for the drive along the windy backroads to St Tropez.

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Arriving in St Tropez from along the smaller backroads we came upon the Citadel. After about 20 minutes of trying to figure out the parking meter we arrived at this impressive building.

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The castle had commanding views of the bay and the surrounding area.

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This is a view through the glass of the light which is used to guide the multi-million pound yachts into port, although I expect they have Sat-Nav as well!

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We were going to hire a super-yacht for a week but the one we wanted with the helipad had been taken and Jane had had her heart set on that one so we will have to wait until  next year for that!

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We were lucky to find not one, but two, parking spots in town.  At the time we didn’t realise how lucky that was until speaking to friends afterwards. So a short stroll from our second parking space (outside Dior and Gucci, and no we didn’t go in!) and we were in the harbour. The old port was full of small sailing boats…………

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……..and they looked very much in keeping with the surroundings…………….

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…….but turn around and you see all the huge great boats absolutely oozing with money, with young bikini clad girls posing all over them, mind you I didn’t mind that too much! This is a picture of the inner harbour, there are many many more craft of all different  sizes just around the corner, out of shot. I did enjoy my visit to St Tropez, however I found the atmosphere to be slightly “false”, with money seeming to be too much in evidence,  and because of that the charm of this place was slightly diminished in my eyes. Mind you if we hire that yacht next year that feeling will probably change!

 

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The Night From Hell

Saturday 30th June

 The Night from Hell

We had chosen a campsite in the Provence region for a longer stay of 9 nights as we were to be joined by Steve and Sara for a long weekend. We decided to break the long drive with an overnight stop, and we would just decide on a campsite when we were getting tired. This system has worked very well for us in the past and we couldn’t see any reason why  it wouldn’t work again. At 4pm, after 6 hours of towing the caravan, we decided to look for a site, and picked one in Serrières-de-Briod in the Rhône-Alpes.

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On arrival all seemed well, we set up camp and I went for a swim………..

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The sun was slowly sinking in to the lake and all was tranquil. We had booked a nearby restaurant as we were both exhausted after a long drive through the mountains.  We had chosen the scenic, very windy route and not the more direct quicker autoroute as we wanted to enjoy the journey, and it was beautiful.

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We could see the restaurant from our pitch, in fact if we could have walked there directly it would have taken us 2 minutes, but as it wasn’t part of the campsite it took us 20 minutes to get there by a more circular route.  Before we left, a sound check started and VERY loud music began emanating from said restaurant!  A little concerned we went to reception, and as we passed a large marquis en route  a disco started up!!!!!

On arrival at the front desk we asked in our best French what was going on and how long the music was going to be blaring out. The kindly receptionist let us know that the campsite was celebrating a local fête and the music would go on until maybe midnight and it was the restauranteur’s birthday so probably midnight as well.

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Well that didn’t sound too bad, it was nearly 9pm and we were going out to eat and so we wouldn’t be overly inconvenienced.

We had a lovely meal and the music was at an acceptable level which we assumed would continue for the party after…….how wrong we were!!!!!

Midnight came and the volume in both venues was cranked up to max…. and carried on until 2.30am.

Two very grumpy sleep deprived people woke up very late the next morning to continue their drive to Provence!

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Strasbourg

 

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Thursday 28th June 2018

The drive to Strasbourg was littered with many road closures and traffic jams.  This is really the first time on all of our travels that we have encountered any problems. The road layout in the city also caused me a few worries and I think I may have driven the wrong way up a one way street! The next concern was the height of the underground car park, but as you can see there was nothing to worry about as I had at least 2 inches to spare!

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It was about time we visited Strasbourg to try and see if we could lend a hand with this BREXIT thing. We understood that they were having a problem with a customs agreement and I thought I would help if they needed me. My main worry being when we travel around Europe in our caravan are we going to encounter any problems bringing wine and cheese back home? I know there are other aspects to this, such as the motor industry and airplane manufacturing, but I do like my cheese!

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Anyhow before we got in to all that, there was still time to have a look around the city. We started at Strasbourg Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady) which was for 400 years the tallest building in all Christendom.

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The Cathedrals spire stands high above the streets full of half-timbered houses……..

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And inside the building the intricacies of the stained glass windows really stand out as the sun bursts in.

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The canals of “Petite France” on the tow path are a joy to walk alongside, and you can even forget that you are in the middle of a big city!

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This is one of four covered bridges that were built in the 13th century as part of a defensive network.

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You can still find a space for a little quiet time with your girl friend even in this big city!

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Friday 29th June 2018

After a busy day in Strasbourg (hopefully we will see the fruits of our labours with Teresa May in the next few months!) we decided on a little drive out and a picnic beside a waterfall.

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This is the Grande Cascade de Tendon. An ideal place for a bit of a climb………

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……….although there were those amongst us who thought it……………

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……….. more prudent to wait and watch ! And the picnic was lovely

 

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Colmar

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Tuesday 26th June 2018

So after our failed attempt the previous day to get to Colmar, we thought we would give it another go. This time we would take the most direct route. But first things first, I still have to wait for Jane to “do” her hair, still it gives me plenty of time to catch up on Facebook!

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Colmar is a town in the Grand Est region of France, near the border of Germany.

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Its old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings.

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Everywhere you look it’s as if Walt Disney had designed it!

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Look,  its Mickey and Minnie!

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The town is on the Alsace wine route and the local vineyards specialise in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines. Jane had a glass of Riesling which she said was very good, I tried the water as I was driving and that was very nice too!

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It was very hot on the day we visited so we decided to cheat on our exploring and caught the “petit train”, lazy I know, but very informative.

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This stunning fountain was next to the restaurant where we had lunch.  It took a while for Jane to stop worrying about eating in an Alsatian restaurant and when she realised we weren’t going to be having a large dog for lunch she was ok.  What we did have for lunch was Flammekueche, this local  dish is to Alsace what pizza is to Italy. This is a tarte flambée topped with cream, cream cheese, lardons and onions……….it was lovely!

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The sunny day did my photos a favour as they really seem to have captured the atmosphere.

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We stopped in a Super U on the way back to the caravan as I was worried that I might be running out of pork pie. The lady serving me couldn’t quite believe the size of the slice I wanted.  It was lovely, and low calorie too!

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After eating that pie, and as the heat had gone out of the sun, I decided to go out for a cycle ride……

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The views were great but the cycling was hard work, 55 minutes all uphill and 5 minutes  down, still I suppose I worked off the pie!

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Wednesday 27th June 2018

Today is going to be a relatively lazy day starting with a lay in….or so we thought. Now I admire a trimmed bush as much as the next man, but not while I’m having my breakfast!

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We had a little picnic down by the lake and no sooner had I got my baguette out, the wind began to blow……….

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So we decided to head up to the mountains in search of better weather, which we found along with plenty of peace and quiet.

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Now I know you might think this is wild, but we went home and played Upwords in the middle of the afternoon………Yep in the middle of the afternoon, and drinking wine as well, we should be ashamed of ourselves at our age! (Guess who won???)

 

 

 

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The Vosges

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Saturday 23rd June 2018

After a slow drive along the back roads, avoiding all the motorways, we arrived at our latest campsite. Camping Le Clos De La Chaume is a quiet site in a small town set in the middle of the Vosges mountains.

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Sunday 24th June 2018

I awoke early on the Sunday morning to a strange loud noise, at first I thought it was Jane snoring, but on closer inspection the sound was coming from outside the caravan and not next to me (although the sounds were just the same!)…………….

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A quick look outside and we saw a hot air ballon in a degree of difficulty, only just managing to clear the trees…………………

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It was all good news as the pilot managed to avoid any problems, and a campsite full of campers, all in their pyjamas, breathed a sigh of relief !

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Monday 25th June 2018

Today we set off to drive to Colmar and decided to go the scenic way through the Ballons des Vosges Nature Park.

 

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The drive was stunning and with so many stops for photos the drive took a lot longer than expected. The road we decided to take was the Route des Crêtes (route of the ridges)

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Most of this route is at an elevation of 3,117 feet and is generally open from April to November and closed in the winter due to snow.  The road surfaces were a little uneven due to the effects of the bad winter weather, however the verges looked lovely as they spring back into life during the early summer!

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Not a good time to go on the piste unless you have got roller-skates, you see the green grass of the ski slopes as you drive through these mountains.

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Not too many people out walking today, this is the Col du Grand Ballon which is 4,406ft high and we cheated because we drove to the top!

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The areas around these mountains have changed hands many times over the years, the Alsace and Lorraine regions  were ceded to Germany in the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871 and these mountains then became the border between France and Germany.

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During World War One this road was upgraded to enable French Troops to reach the battlefields safely.  This route was built below the ridge to the west and was thus out of the range of German guns.

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It’s again hard to believe that this place, now so peaceful and beautiful,  was the scene of much death and destruction 100 years ago.

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We saw this vast cemetery where you would least expect to find one, on our panoramic drive through the Vosges!

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We never made it to Colmar, we will save that for another day………. now time for tea!

 

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Verdun

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Thursday 21st June 2018

After a slow start in the morning followed by a scenic drive we decided that we wouldn’t be able to make it to Colmar, our original destination, today. A quick look at the map showed us that there was an ACSI campsite nearby in Verdun so we decided to head for that. On arrival we were given a nice shady pitch by a stream which was lovely and peaceful, but we were unable to get a satellite signal  because there were too many trees. I know what you are thinking, how can you last in such an inhospitable environment like France for two nights with out T.V.,  but I’m glad to say we survived……..we just went out to town!

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And it was just as well we did as there was some sort of festival going on with bands playing on every corner.

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The town was packed and everyone was having fun, there was a great atmosphere with lots of people bustling around.

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The restaurants were extremely busy and so we settled on a little cafe attached to a bakery. The food was all home cooked and excellent, and of course the choice of cakes afterwards was amazing!

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This rather flash hotel was in the centre of town and had a good view of all the action without being too close!

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I knew Verdun had been the scene of a great WWI battle but had not known of the scale………

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There are many monuments to those who were injured or who lost their live in this battle, the Germans had 336,00-434,000 casualties with 143,000 killed, and the French had 379,000 casualties with 163,000 being killed.  It’s so hard to conceive that huge loss of life in such a relatively small area!

 

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Friday 22nd June 2018

This is the entrance to the underground citadel of Verdun, there are over 4 miles of tunnels which housed a bakery, kitchens, a hospital, a telephone exchange and an amunition dump to meet the needs of an army.

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This is the Douaumont Ossuary near Verdun and it contains the skeletal remains of some 300,000 soldiers that perished on the battlefields.

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This is the view from just one of the small windows and when you see the size of the building it puts the whole thing into perspective!

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This is just one of the many cemetaries that surround the ossuary and these house the bodies that they could name!

 

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From the top of the tower you can see the size and scale of the battle.

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It really makes you want to weep when you see such destruction and loss of life.

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This is the Church built as a memorial at the destroyed village of Fleury. Fleury was one of 9 villages that were obliterated during this battle. It is estimated that in places 10 shells fell on every one square centimetre in this 50 square mile area.

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There are markers in place of the houses and businesses which stood here before the war. When the war ended this area was never reclaimed, the whole of the battlefield was planted with conifers and the ridge was to be left as a permanent reminder of the futility of war, so that future generations would never forget.

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“Lest we Forget”

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At the end of the day we went to a Son et Lumiere sound and light show which depicted the battle.  Jane had asked the ticket seller if we could park close to the entrance as she can’t walk too far at the moment and we were a little embarrassed to find we were this close!

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The show didn’t start until it got dark, but we had to get there in the light to be able to find our seats…………….

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The show was terrific…………

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and there were so many actors used to capture the horrors of war………….

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There were many tears shed by the huge audience……………..

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And as we departed the arena we were left with the message of PAIX, PEACE, lit large on the hillside………

For the French, Verdun signifies the futility of war!

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Nord-Pas-De-Calais

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Tuesday 19th June 2018

Off to France. I have a polite request to the owners of motorway services in the U.K, please can you have the proper signage and parking for those of us who have a caravan, in this case Clacket Lane services on the M25.  If the 3 spaces you have are full you have no option but to rejoin the motorway………….just as well I noticed these 10 available spots……they will do!

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The whitish cliffs of Dover!

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Well, when this ferry comes in we shall be on our way to La Belle France, just time for a quick steak and kidney pie before we leave!

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We arrived at Château du Gandspette at around 7 in the evening only intending to stay one night, but after a  quick inspection of the beautiful site we soon decided to stay another night!

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It makes my heart sing when I see Jane reading books like this, its so much better than other titles like “How to Put Your Husband on a Diet” or “Smile at Your Partner’s Bad Jokes”……..still not too sure of the hand gestures!

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Wednesday 20th June 2018

A mile away from our campsite was the Blockhaus d’Éperlecques (now a museum), which was a site set up to build and fire the V1 and V2 rockets at London.

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It was built by slave labour that arrived in cattle trucks like this one. We stood inside, closed our eyes and listened to a simulated train journey and air raid.  It was just the two of us at the time and it was hard to believe that they crammed 70 people or more in here during the war!

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There are still many craters around left from the heavy bombing that this place sustained.

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The barbed wire added to the chilling atmosphere that this austere building exuded.

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Only the blue skies added a little colour to the drabness of the surroundings.

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The heavy bombing laid waste to some parts of the the site…………..

 

……..whilst some areas remained mostly unscathed.

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The V1 (nicknamed the “doodlebug”) aimed at London……………..

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Spitfire pilots in their faster planes were able to catch these rockets and, using their wings, were able to tip the wings of the V1s and send them off course!

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It was very damp and eery inside the bunker, then you turn a corner and see this……….

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The V2.  This was another story, 3,000 of these rockets were launched over England and they were responsible for well over 9,000 casualties.

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There are many military vehicles around this site, it was very interesting for me and I’m sure Jane enjoyed it as well!

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Fathers Day and Dads Birthday

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Saturday 16th June 2018

A BBQ for Dad

John, Dorothy, Ron, Shiela and Ray join Dad for his birthday celebrations, a riotous time was had by all  The dancing on the tables started just after this photo was taken!

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Meanwhile on the other side of the kitchen the more boring members of the party were preparing the food!

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After all the frantic jiving in the kitchen it was time for some fresh air and Zena made sure that her Dad, Grandad and Uncle were behaving themselves!

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We were lucky with the weather and we did manage to sit and eat outside for a little while, and no thats not my empty dish with the foil on!

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Clive was tucking in whilst Ray, Sheila and Dad looked on……. It’s lovely to think that these guys have been friends since school…………over 70 years! (not Sheila…..she’s only 21!)

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That photo again…….who has got the best smile?

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Zena was not too fussed with all this partying, especially when Sponge Bob Squarepants is on the T.V…………….

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…………. and Sam was really enjoying his food…………..this was at least his 2nd plateful, where does he put it all?

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Jaxon was really enjoying his rainbow cake and Nan was keeping a watchful eye on him!

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We couldn’t get all the candles the cake……….the heat would’ve been too much to bear!

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………………………Happy Birthday to you……………………

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…………………….Everyone was in fine voice…………

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………and with a few puffs the candles were out and it was time to devour Charlottes fantastic chocolate cake!     Dad REALLY enjoyed his day with his friends and family!

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The Walking Club

Saturday 9th June 2018

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Cow Common, Wherwell

We have walked on this common many times before with the walking club and now we are living so close it is great for a short Saturday afternoon stroll.

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It looks like time has stood still here and it could be the scene from a 17th century painting.

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At the other end of Cow Common is a long footbridge which runs parallel to a bridleway/ford through the river, quite a sight to see horseback riders splash in to the water (although not on this occasion)!  If you get chance to explore this place it’s well worth the effort and you could easily spend a pleasant couple of hours looking around!

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Further on down the road we came across this sea of poppies, this photo doesn’t really do it much justice!

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I just like this photo, so not much more to say about it!

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Monday 11th June 2018

Jane had an appointment for an MRI scan in Lymington, so as the sun was out we made sure we had time for an hours walk along the coast !

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Tuesday 12th June 2018

We had been invited to Jane’s Auntie Pat’s 90th birthday party but it coincided with our trip to France, so we popped in to give her some early birthday cheer! Pat was on very good form and in a very jovial mood, which was great as she laughed at most of my jokes!

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Thursday 13th June A.M

I had an early start on the golf course meeting Ken for a quick 18 holes at 7am. The sun was out and Hockley looked terrific, the course is in really good condition at the moment. After a tiring game of golf I often find the best way to relax is to eat a “low calorie” sausage sandwich, which gives me the energy to get in the car to drive home!

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That evening I restarted the walking club at David Lloyd. The Hampshire club has been under many different companies over the last 20 years and when Virgin took over a few years ago they didn’t want it to continue. However David Lloyd are keen to see it resurrected and it was great to see so many of our old regulars turn up to join me for a stroll in the woods!

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Thursday 14th June

Its good to see Dad feeling a bit fitter and able to enjoy 9 holes of golf!

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And after a few hot tips from me he was soon smashing the ball down the fairway…………..

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……..so much so he took the money!

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I like my trips up to play at Royal Winchester as it gives me chance to see my name up on the club house wall……….the one and only time that has ever happened!

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Saturday 16th June A.M

Another walking club outing……… must get the hang of these selfies….and must get some posters up around the club!!!!

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Saturday P.M

Dads 82nd birthday BBQ

A picture of Dad with his best looking son and Paul and Gary! (More to follow on this.)

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Sunday 17th June A.M

Bev and Andy join me for another walk, slightly better on the photo, but David Lloyd definitely need to help me with some advertising !

 

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