Friday, 20 May 2011
A long rambling post after being away from net connections for what seems an age.
Something like normal service has been resumed. The sadness of he past few weeks is not forgotten but we are now too busy with being on the road to often think about it.
We left after lunch on Tuesday, lunch was in a smart restaurant, research for the family business! It only took three hours so we were on the road by four pm! Farewells were done as if nothing was amiss, probably for them nothing is.
By early evening we were settled into a chambre d'hôte in an old farmhouse deep in the country on a farm growing asparagus and serving their own kiwi fruit juice at breakfast.
In the morning we set off to a small town to collect a package of bed sheets ordered too late to arrive with us in the south but promised to be at a shoe repair shop in a supermarket complex in the middle of nowhere. I had nothing to do with these arrangements but had noted where to find the place the previous evening. The building seemed to be being totally rebuilt whilst business continued as normal, our shoe repair, key cutter parcel holder etc etc guy was one of the first of the new small enterprises to start in the new complex. He saw us standing at his counter while he chatted to someone a short distance away and came over to serve us beaming a smile and asking in that charming french way, good morning, how can I help you ladies? As I said normal service has resumed.
A picnic lunch acquired, we set off to explore the Ardeche gorge, think very small grand canyon. The road wandered over the countryside in the shape of a piece of dropped cooked spaghetti. Marvelous views along the way and not enough traffic to hinder much or block parking at the laybys to hang over the edge. By he time we had exited the gorge and joined the road along the Rhone we had traveled a fair way south, switching on the satnav it said you have 500 Km to go north and it will take you most of the day to get there!
It was not far wrong but we reached our next stop in Alsace just before eight o be greeted by a cat horse and goose at the front door of a wooden gabled house at the end of the village.
That was an eternity ago now. We have stayed two nights in Alsace spending one day in the Shlumpf museum in Mulhouse which has a marvelous collection of the earliest attempts at building a motor car then gets obsessed with nearly a hundred Bugattis including two of the Royals which have to be seen to be believed. A fascinating day.
From there we quickly passed into Germany with it’s free motorway system but a better equivalent to hell than such a place on a Friday is hard to imagine so we got off quickly and headed into the Black Forrest where we could smell the cut timber in the air and hear the birds sing. Our lazy route soon meant that we had to do the last part of the route on a second parallel motorway at Friday rush which is practically stationary! Better than a mix of trucks in one lane and black overpowered 150 mile per hour screamers we had earlier. Clearly these drivers have noting to do with paying the driving costs and I would advise investment in brake replacement parts as a good bet. Castration of male drivers as a requirement to receiving a driving licence would be an excellent idea for the overall safety of the general population!
Eventually we were with Lucy in Wurtzburg in her apartment on the edge of town with views into the street in several directions and a small roof terrace to catch the afternoon sun. Actually there was too much sun for the time of year and the air conditioning in the car had given up! It was quite hot and there was little air movement so deep into the continent, thankfully the apartment was still remaining cool.
A lazy river trip reached by tram took us down river to the bishops summer palace gardens and the next day we explored the quiet Sunday town roads by car and had asparagus for lunch in the shady part of the town center where a children’s festival was in full fling. Germans take asparagus very seriously when in season!
On Monday we departed taking care to avoid all major roads and had a delightful drive through a clipped and tidy rural landscape to the west, not a ruin ripe for restoration in sight. A red squirrel is watching me type from about ten feet away while I type this in the garden of Heinka & Woolfgang who have been determined to lavish us with hospitality from the moment we arrived. The hell of the autobahn has been replaced with a warm glow of charm but I feel a chill having looked at the map of where we are headed with almost no space between the roads!
Naturally they have no wifi and much time was wasted trying to purchase a ferry ticket with the usual impossibility of confirming the cards were not being used for fraud, we phoned before we left telling them exactly which countries we were visiting and when! In German and on a PC it was close to a nightmare the when it was done I found they had a cable which fitted the Mac! Mixed feelings as after a while away from the net both joy and sorrow always seem to be waiting there.
Country food and a world champion cake shop distracted us from the usual round of museums and galleries. One day trip was made to Heidleberg with it’s romantically ruined castle hanging over the city fortunately with a funicular to drag us up there along with hoards of river cruise passengers who whizzed through but missed so much, especially the gardens which had been built but not fully laid out to the elaborate plans when the French arrived in the 1600’s and set off the powder store! After centuries of new additions the Germans lost heart, abandoned the site to a romantic ruin and decided to build elsewhere.
No net at next stop! Blogger down for last evening and morning before departure so no blog update possible.
No Rhine-maidens seen on our gentle drive along the river from Bingen past Koblenz. The river, blocked just a short while ago due to a sunken barge lost in the raging floods is now working at very low water levels but still huge barges pass in both directions every few minutes with tour ships and cruises dodging between. Steep terraces of vines cling to the sunny hillsidesand ancient castlesperch on the high cliffs each side of the gorge. After a roadside lunch we bought a kilo of fresh asparagus and set the satnav to get us to our next temporary home. When we saw that we were an estimated hour from our destination we called ahead, no sooner were we off the phone than the first Friday holdup occurred! Two hours later we arrived though Julia could not recognise the house even though she had visited there soon after Gabriella had first moved in in the 90’s. Our definition of “too much stuff” has changed! Our task of rationalisation now seems like a small task compared to poor G who has even more things to places to put things than we do plus she has three parrots, two cats and a dog! The parrots have decided not to show off their repertoire and remain speechless.
The nearby city of Essen had been European city of culture last year which coincided with the rebuilding of the local art gallery so that had to be one of the things to do. A huge crisp modern gallery made us glad that Julia now had a set of wheels to save energy though once in a gallery with we hope the requisite reduction she leaps to her feet and we can’t keep up and took turns to take advantage of the wheels ourselves. I have always thought that every gallery visitor should be supplied with an electric wheelchair and I am now convinced! What joy to be able so sit in comfort and study a work closely. Too closely often for the legion of attendants as we regularly triggered the silent alarms!
The continent is now far behind us, we passed through the well ordered Netherlands with it’s tall elegant girls and the highest concentration of bicycle users I have ever seen though very few of them could ever be called cyclists! I thought I knew much of what there was to know about bicycle design but the vast interpretations on the theme by the Dutch had my head spinning. A few hours wandering the streets and canal sides of Delft had us feeling we could come back to this country even though all signs appeared to be sets of scrabble letters and I was more lost than in Germany and for a few minutes truly lost when searching for where we had parked the car, thank goodness it was one of the few red cars in the country!
After a poor fish meal near the shore we took the overnight ferry to the south of England, briefly visited my youngest sister to abandon our luggage the surprised one of Julie’s oldest friends who had not been seen for forty years and we had been warned would make an excuse if we gave her warning! She admitted that our warning had been right but was glad we had just turned up. A few hours catching up were followed by a magical mystery tour of Cambridge as she as a pedestrian and bus user tried t direct us to all the places she wanted to go.
Now with yet another set of old friends chatting till midnight when they gave me the web code, one of our few sets of friends who are not ludites!
Feel this has rambled on but … Normal service can’t be far off now.