Monday, February 6, 2017

Ardglass, The Standard, and Ballygally.

Not our first outing of the year by any means, but I thought it might be good to get myself into writing mode because Euro 17 is only seven weeks away.
We find ourselves at Currans Bar in Ardglass, a quaint pub in the nineties style, and full of interesting people. We had quite a yarn with retired motor homers, that is, retired from motor homing. They had a van for some time but he got fed up doing all the driving.
Now back to the bar where the food was nothing to write home about, the fish was very disappointing, but Margaret had a steak, which was flavoursome and cooked nicely.
We arrived in the town around three, and parked up by the marina and got the kettle on. The rain had started pouring down about five minutes after we arrived and kept at it till about eleven.
Ardglass is a working port, and accounts for much of the northern Irish fish catch. Back in the day, this is where my fish came from. It has had its fair share and more of marine tragedy, the pit fall of the very hard working fishing fleet.
There is plenty of parking at the marina and different spots in the vicinity, lots of eateries, and a couple of large shops.
The locals are a friendly bunch, except for the young moron that thumped Helga while we were watching telly about ten thirty. Still, thats the joy of parking up in a country pub at the weekend. Especially if there’s an eighteenth birthday party going on!

There are three routes to our next destination, and one off them would take us past our daughters house, so we chose that. We called in, it’s always a joy to see Adam our grandson. The reason for this trip was based around the pride we both in him, and now that he’s playing in a rock band all the better. We hijacked Adam and took him on a mini road trip, much to his pleasure. After a walk along Belfast Lough, we had tea in the van, which as usual, Adam loved, and then to the venue which not only was our stop for the night, but where his band were playing.

The club is fine, and they have no problems with parking overnight. The car park is monitored and they have a night watchman. We both slept like lords, not even hearing the revellers at throw out time. Mind you, I can’t remember what time we left, that might account for the sleep!

Having nothing better to do, we headed for Ballygally, it was going to be Glenarm, another favourite spot, but the main car park in Ballygally was quite empty so we parked up. 
One of the greatest or even the only problem, with our hobby is finding somewhere to empty the toilet cassette. We’ve been fortunate never to have had problems, and this was no different. The public toilet almost on our doorstep facilitated our need very well. 
So, as we were 98% charged battery wise, and an empty cassette we went for the first walk of the day, under clear blue skies and a chilly 4 degrees, we walked up and down the beach before walking down to the Half Way House for a nice warming hot port.

These have very special memories for me, apart from working as sous Chef in the castle, and our Saturday night foray down to the Halfway, where they kept the bar open till we were gone. Some nights when we had been very busy, it could have been after midnight before we even got out. Cant imagine what four drunken chefs and a few equally drunk waiters sounds like on the walk back home. 
The other memory is of the time I threw Margaret into the sea here! We were not long going out together and we were out for a run with our Dawn and Des. I was giving Margaret a twirl, and as we gathered pace, she shot from my grasp into the cold Irish Sea. I thought that was the end of that romance but 45 years later it has been proved that even if you throw a wee girl wearing a brand new hot pant suit into the sea, she’ll still torture you.


Enough of that, we returned to the heat of Helga and after a coffee, a short siesta, before dinner and a post prandial stroll along the sea front.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 New Year in Newcastle

We nearly didn't get away this year, to celebrate throwing 2017 into the sea,  had to wait in for a parcel delivery. I decided it might be a good idea to get a dehumidifier for Helga, to keep dampness out. Amazon were offering a really good one, so it had to be done. Turns out, it has drawn about 5 litres of water from the atmosphere in as many days.
It's a bit like the air con unit we bought at the start, a couple of folk said it was a waste of money, but last summer when it was thirty something in Croatia, it was definitely not a waste of time. Seriously, after sitting out sunbathing it was a real treat to go into the cool van for a wee siesta.

But enough of that drivel. We made it to Newcastle and were more than surprised when our favourite spot had one tight wee space left. It was getting late, or past three anyway, after we got parked up, so we decided since it was NYE it would be good to go on a pub crawl.
Newcastle is a small town, with only nine pubs and a couple or three hotels. They are all completely different, with their own uniqueness, and charm. If we had to choose a favourite, it would be The Donard Hotel . Very sports orientated, and yummy Guinness.


By the time we reached The Avoca Hotel all thoughts of cooking had disappeared like gin and tonic out of a frosted glass! We had dinner here, and it was truly like something out of the seventies. The food was good, the manageress was a stern harassed looking lady, and the barman was a Newcastle version of "Manuel".


Needless to say, we slept well after seeing in 2017 with some fizz which we couldn't even finish.
A nice walk down to Newcastle harbour, miraculously blew the hangovers away. the seas were heavy,  the wind was strong. The sun was out, and all was well in the world.
Monday morning saw us catch the bus to Kilkeel.  We were the only two on the bus so we sat up top in the front seats like two school kids. It's the simple things, you know.We like this wee fishing town, and always walk all around it. The fleet was in and so was the wind, so a quick call into The Whistle stop for their delicious coffee, would bring us up to bus time.

We were originally going to stay out till Tuesday, but it was to cold to go walkabout, considering I had left my warm winter coat at home. We just packed up and went home.
That's the fabulous thing about our passion, do whatever, whenever.




Anyway, after getting home and getting the van sorted, I started trawling for a ferry. After comparing prices and calculating mileages, I opted for a change of plan and booked with Stena to go Rosslare Cherbourg. This year is different, I'm going out on my own and six weeks later Margaret will fly out to Vilnius in Lithuania, where I will meet up with her, and we'll have a further six weeks touring. Can't wait.

Monday, August 22, 2016

2017

Well? Have you had enough Christmas greetings, enough Happy new years?

Seems to me this year we have had more than an abundance of them, and sadly I was as guilty of posting as the next person.
So let me wish you all the very best for 2017, if I've missed you!

2016 was a very interesting year for us three. I have to include Helga in everything because she is such a big part of our lives, and I make no apologies for that.

I learnt for the second time in as many years, that it's virtually impossible to do a road trip with people you don't know very well. I'm set in my ways, it's a privilege proffered to people with a certain amount of life experiences, and life has taught me not to accept fools gladly.

So, having had my new year rant, I think I owe it to my followers to have a little fore taste of what 2017 has in store for us.

Margaret still has commitments at home, in the form of her mother, and her daughterly duty to take the old girl shopping once a week. I, on the other hand have none, and want to spend more time on the continent, so a compromise has been reached.
I will take Helga over to Amsterdam, on my own, and from there go to Germany, for a lot of days, Poland, for another lot of days, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
When I get to Tallinn, about five or six weeks after Holland, Margaret will fly out to meet me. Seems to me it will be a bit like a scene from an old romantic comedy when we meet up at the airport.

We'll hang around Tallinn for a few more days, if the weather is good, and then slowly make our way back, spending time in Warsaw and Berlin before going to see the Kentish brigade and up through England, to home.

As usual, we'll be meeting up with fabulous new friends on our travels, taking millions of pics, and sampling all life has to offer.

Stay warm in the meantime, and we look forward to filling you in with all the details.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

And so to our final country, France.
We changed plans slightly twice on the trip. One was a fourteen hundred miles’ round trip detour to Dubrovnik, and the other was to shorten stays everywhere so that we could wind down in France before coming home. This plan has given us two weeks in France, which will be spent mostly on the Atlantic coast.
But this is France and a fine country it is. The large supermarkets, a dream for overseas foodies, the markets, places to enjoy the real French passion and indulge your senses in the most amazing fresh produce to be seen. The markets are a bit more expensive than the supermarkets, the sights, like chateaux, huge rolling vistas of agriculture, islands with huge bridges like umbilical cords to the mainland, the positive approach to motor homing, with Aires de Service in just about every town, ranging from €0 to around €8 per night. Then there are private Aires, from 10 to 16, and campsites galore from 14 to 38. We did a five star one as a treat, each of the lux pitches had its own private bathroom and fridge and prep area. The weather was good during our two night stay here, and it was seriously quiet.
Driving down the road seeing a town name and just stopping for the night is fabulous. We’ve only had one minor let down and it was because the previous visitors had not been very careful when emptying their cassette!
Tomorrow we go home, no wait, tomorrow we return to Bleary. This is our home, wherever we are at any particular time. But we can’t wait to get into our house, a settee, a king size bed, my gardens, knowing I will not be driving very far for a week or so.
Our trip has been one of snow capped mountains and minus 6° at night to sandy beaches with 32° and blazing sunshine. The poverty of Hungary and to a slightly lesser extent, Croatia, the scenery, omg we’ve O D’d on it! The terrible service offered by restaurants and shops in each country. Then of course the drivers. We’ll not go there.
My favourite place was Ypres in Belgium, because this is where we got our first taste of what was ahead. My favourite country was split between Croatia and Slovenia.
Margaret’s favourite place was Omni near split in Croatia. This is where we met most people including the lovely Sonje and Kevin. Her favourite country was Croatia because the people the scenery the general atmosphere were second to none.
And so dear readers as we breakfast in Fougeres, 105 miles from Cherbourg harbour we can tell you our wonderful trip has been 6775 miles long, 

We have been across eighteen frontiers, three of which twice in totally different places, indeed we were in and out of Germany a dozen times.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

France.
And how remiss of me not to be punctual.
Well, I couldn’t be punctual because we’ve been off sites with wife for five days, and such a lot has happened.
Venice. Been there, got the t-shirt, not for us. The city or state is a rip off from the time you get near it. What did my head in was being charged to SIT in their restaurants, being forced to pay a 12% service charge, by law! Even when the service was fekkin atrocious?
We ate in a lovely looking restaurant, and to be, such character, fair the food was fine. But the service? Really woeful.
Walked the legs off ourselves, so much so in fact, that Margaret fell out with me. We walked that far, we got a water bus back to the station and it was thirteen stops.
Wonderful buildings, such character, we didn’t even mind when the sea started coming up through the man holes in St Marks Piazza!
Just stayed one night and headed north west towards Switzerland. We stopped at a country restaurant and asked if we could stay if we ate.
No problem.
The food was a la mama! In fact, I think mama was the cook, but it didn’t take away from the honesty and freshness of our meals. A bottle of wine and four courses, €22!!!!
No chance of getting caught drink driving, we repaid the hospitality with some Limoncellos and were last to leave. Slept really well and woke up to the buzz of small talk. The pub opens at 07:30 for cures and croissants!
Today we would be going into Switzerland, through the amazing 17km tunnel at Gothard.
More to come.

France.
And how remiss of me not to be punctual.
Well, I couldn’t be punctual because we’ve been off sites with wife for five days, and such a lot has happened.
Venice. Been there, got the t-shirt, not for us. The city or state is a rip off from the time you get near it. What did my head in was being charged to SIT in their restaurants, being forced to pay a 12% service charge, by law! Even when the service was fekkin atrocious?
We ate in a lovely looking restaurant, and to be, such character, fair the food was fine. But the service? Really woeful.
Walked the legs off ourselves, so much so in fact, that Margaret fell out with me. We walked that far, we got a water bus back to the station and it was thirteen stops.
Wonderful buildings, such character, we didn’t even mind when the sea started coming up through the man holes in St Marks Piazza!
Just stayed one night and headed north west towards Switzerland. We stopped at a country restaurant and asked if we could stay if we ate.
No problem.
The food was a la mama! In fact, I think mama was the cook, but it didn’t take away from the honesty and freshness of our meals. A bottle of wine and four courses, €22!!!!
No chance of getting caught drink driving, we repaid the hospitality with some Limoncellos and were last to leave. Slept really well and woke up to the buzz of small talk. The pub opens at 07:30 for cures and croissants!
Today we would be going into Switzerland, through the amazing 17km tunnel at Gothard.
More to come.