Sunday, August 23, 2015

Here it is! The now infamous 'Lilo In The Pool' episode

Is it really two weeks since we returned from our travels!  The time has simply flown by - we've been so busy.  Anyway, I've finally got around to editing the video of Angela's hilarious efforts to mount an inflatable lilo in the swimming pool!  Enjoy (and do come back again if you have nothing better to do - I will be posting more videos) ...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Day Twenty One: Paris to Stratford .... WE'RE HOME!


We made it! After three weeks covering 3,413 miles through six countries staying in six hotels and one Villa we made it safely home. We arrived a little later than predicted due to the Friday afternoon crawl that is the M25. Ironically Angela was driving yet again and she recorded a special sentiment with the GoPro camera - I'm not sure how much of it I'll be able to publish as pretty well every other word was an expletive! She was not happy.

Notwithstanding the traffic in any country, when you had a clear road ahead (or even an Alpine Pass!) the Porsche was just fantastic; a pleasure to drive (fast at times) and it didn't miss a beat. It could do with a wash now though (and a new set of rear tyres - are you reading this Nick?!)

Our chariots from the tours: 2014 Boxster; 2015 911 Targa

As we drove home we inevitably recounted parts of the trip so we've decided to make a few awards:

Best Hotel of The Tour: Apart Hotel Garni Alvetern, Samnaun, Switzerland
We were upgraded without asking so had a large apartment-style room with all the facilities and our own private balcony. Last night's hotel in Paris was a close second, if only we could get that damn TV to work!

Worst Hotel of The Tour: The one we're sleeping in tonight!

Best Breakfast: It has to be the Apart Hotel Garni Alvetern again but the Alpenhof Grafleiten in Zel Am See, Austria was a very close second. Both laid on a good spread.

Best Restaurant: It was our hotel in Carcassonne - Auberge des Lices. That seven course meal was a delight.

Best Cup of Tea: This special 'Andy' award goes to Le Senechal, Carcassonne for making the best cup of tea of the tour.

Funniest Moment: Angela demonstrating how (not) to get on a lilo in the pool! I have this on video so watch this space!

Scariest Moment: Some of the drops off those Alpine Passes are a long way down, but I wasn't worried - honest!

Highlights of The Tour: There are too many to mention but for me driving the San Bernardino Pass is certainly up there (so to speak!)

Lowpoint of The Tour: For me it was those few, heart in the mouth moments while the Polizia checked my details during the routine stop. I'm sure Angela will offer an alternative (or two!)

Wooden Spoon: The Wooden Spoon award for poor service goes to the waitress at the restaurant where we ate dinner in Strasbourg - she was unhelpful taking our order and then pretty well threw the food at us, slamming it down on the table. Needless to say we didn't leave a tip!

Highest Point: Not an award as such but I believe the highest point we reached on the tour was 2,758m above sea level at the top of the Stelvio Pass. A very close second was the top of the chairlifts in Samnaun at 2,752m so it could be when Angela climbed on the rocks she actually was highest!

Lowest point: Well that's an easy one, on the boat at sea level!

So 'Le Grand Tour' is complete. I have hundreds of photographs and hours of video to trawl through to make something out of - I know some family members will enjoy seeing them but I will post on-line in case some of you have nothing better to do.

And what of the next grand adventure I hear you ask? (No, oh well, I'll tell you anyway). Nothing more for this year that's for sure - the budget won't allow it. But as for next year? Well, we have just bought a new boat!

Will This Be Part Of Our Adventure Next Year?!


Angela's Postscript

I'll get back to you tomorrow, I'm going to sleep now, as this hotel does not clean itself, make the beds when you are out, cook the meals, mow the lawns....

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day Twenty: Paris

Well, we've almost reached the end of our 2015 adventure. We're sitting here in the balmy evening with lots going on all around us awaiting our dinner. Angela wanted to try the hotel's Peruvian restaurant (really?) but (un)fortunately it had closed so we're going Italian! (There was a Tibetian restaurant open next door but we didn't fancy that as, by their own admission, their menu was Yak!)

Today was all about 'Divebomb Tourism' on the Open Bus Tour. We were planning to get off at a couple of locations but they were so busy we thought better of it so, while we swapped between different routes, once we had our seats we stayed on the bus. So from the top deck we saw ...

Musée du Louvre

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

L'Arc de Triomphe

La tour Eiffel

It's flippin big when you get up close!

La Seine

There's a quaint custom where lovers lock a padlock to a bridge over the Seine and throw the key into the river as a sign of their undying love (no, we didn't!) ....

And much more besides. We did eventually get off the bus for lunch and strolled back across the river and through the Louvre - it was mayhem with all the tourists getting in the way, just like Stratford on a Saturday afternoon!

I'm also pleased to report the temperature has picked up once again, back into the 30's and sunny. I wore a hat all day, Angela didn't .... (rewind to Day Six!)

Tomorrow we head for home :-( Leaving the weekend clear before going back to work seemed like a good idea at the time, but now?

Angela's Postscript

...I do NOT have a sunburnt head Mr numb bum! Who would have though he would moan about sitting down too long!...we had booked on the night bus tour but Andy has had quite enough of buses for one year so we relaxed in our room instead...

...the buildings in Paris are beautiful, but after you've seen the first 500 they all start to look the same! The bus tour was not quite as good as others I have been on, the audio comentary was hillarious, a man and a woman talking over each other and dialogue ending just as you get to the....and pointing out buildings at the wrong time on the wrong side of the road!!!

..long day tomorrow, lots of driving, probably loads of traffic jams and queues, people and crying kids...the joy of holidays :)


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Day Nineteen: Treignac to Paris

As it's been a fairly uneventful day today I thought I'd start with one of the photos taken of us on Day Six by FotoStelvio. As the name suggests they position themselves on the Stelvio Pass, take your picture which you can then buy on line. What a nice looking car! What a good looking couple!! Anyway ....

Today we rose to a sunny and warm (but not too warm) morning overlooking the lake, breakfasted basking in the sunshine then jumped into the "air conditioned ice box" that is our car according to Angela. She even started singing Buddy Holly's "Raining In My Heart" but with the lyrics "Freezing in My Car".

We hit the road and made very good time arriving in Paris just about on schedule. Neither the motorways nor the infamous Paris Périphérique (one of the busiest roads in Europe) were that busy. We even found our hotel without any difficulty (thanks TomTom). However that's where it all went wrong!

While the hotel had our room booking they claimed to have no record of us booking any car parking. As I had booked all our hotels through, and all the others had the booking details correctly, I was sure it was not operator error. So I did what any good, proud Englishman would have done, I stood my ground, spoke LOUDER AND S L O W E R until they understood I was not going to stay here without car parking! Fortunately they had a partner hotel just 'round the corner' where they had rooms AND car parking! The fact it was a 4* where we had booked a 3*, and we were getting it at the same price, sweetened the deal!

So here is our Parisian view - a bit of a change from the lovely lakeside!

Tomorrow we're hopping on/off/on/... the open top bus for a trip around the sights - how very Stratford!!

Angela's Postscript

..where has all the time gone???...boring driving today, nothing much to see, had a nice lentil, pasta and smoked salmon salad lunch from the motorway cafe and bought some biscuits for my midnight snack!

..hotel is Peruvian themed (has some scary looking Igwanas in a tank in reception, Andy asked if they were to eat like when you choose your fish/lobster - hmmmm) as Andy still has a delicate tummy we didn't eat the spicy tapas in the hotel tonight but I did have a couple of cocktails before we went out...

..the bed is enormous!...the shower is also big and the room has 'mood' lighting, which is very pretty but sounds like a loud microwave...the TV doesn't like us and switches itself off, we couldn't get it to work and tried to call reception to help but all the phone numbers are on the TV, which doesn't work!...for the third establishment in a row the sink plug doesn't work either...c'est la vie!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Day Eighteen: Treignac

Well, it looks like I've got over the tummy bug or whatever it was that made me unwell last night. Or maybe it was just the heat! As even Angela conceded it got very hot yesterday just nudging 40C and even one of my GoPro cameras shut down protesting "Too Hot"!

To finish off my post from yesterday, here's a few pictures from Carcassonne ....

En route we stopped at a vineyard and sampled the various wines on offer

Someone got into the swing of it pretty quickly!

Our hotel is a simple affair but with stunning views from the room across the lake

Last night we had a huge storm with torrential rain which has (thankfully) bought an end to the high temperatures - we awoke to a cool, overcast morning, lovely! It warmed up during the day but only to the mid-20's. I was still feeling a bit 'fragile' so we spent the day relaxing around the hotel. We popped out for lunch and found a little rural cafe where the proprietor could not understand what we were asking for so proceeded to teach us the correct pronunciation of our French!

Tomorrow we head for the last stop on our tour, Paris.

Angela's Postscript

...he seems to have recovered now, he has all his electrical devices around him and is planning the next two days with precision!!!

I've had a relaxing day catching up on my reading and watching a documentary film about Nina Simone...

..we went to the same restaurant as last night and I had local trout (no this is not going to be my new nickname either!) and I demonstrated to Andy how to remove the flesh from the fish whilst leaving the skeleton intact, he wasn't impressed, he says that he expected me to be able to the amount of fish I eat (I had to explain that a Filet-o-Fish off of Mackies just isn't the same!

....I think I've worked out why France is closed...they are all hiding behind the shutters in their houses because no-one has told them the occupation is over...'allo 'allo!!!!


Monday, August 3, 2015

Day Seventeen: Carcassonne to Treignac

Well today went pretty well as planned - thankfully! No more mega holdups at those flaming toll booths, but it was HOT! More of that later.

We had a relaxed start to the day, vacating our room and heading into Carcassonne itself for breakfast where an old guy in a brasserie, who couldn't speak a word of English, did everything he could to make us welcome - lovely chap! Then a gentle stroll around town to do a bit of shopping - just one minor flaw in this plan, all the shops were closed! Those that looked like they might eventually open would do so after lunch; many looked like they would never open! Strange way to make a living.

There are some great photo opportunities in towns like this and Carcassonne was no exception.

*****Andy has come over all unnecessary (he claims it's the heat) so I shall take over and he can post script with pictures tomorrow****

...for the past few days we have been transported back in time to the 1980's with the hotel decor! Do you remember corner baths?!!! Having said that the B&B we are staying at tonight is immaculately clean and freshly painted albeit in garish colours! Andy does not like not having aircon but i am loving the warm room with the windows OPEN...the proprietor cannot do enough for us and has already shared his movie and pictures of a Porsche rally that was in the area recently...we have just had a delicious meal at a nearby Brasserie, which hopefully we will visit again tomorrow if Andy is feeling better (he didn't manage to eat much tonight)...

...the weather was as predicted and Andy watched in horror as the car thermometer rose to a high of 39 degrees (even I found that a little excessive and was glad of the car aircon - but keep that between us and don't tell Andy)...the majority of the day was spent on motorways but it was a leisurely drive and we stopped at a winery en route, tasted some wine and bought a case...

...and why is France always shut? when do they eat, shop, socialise, do anything??? is there a secret code to use a back or underground entrance? for the interesting stuff...two mornings ago (at dawn) I was rudely awoken (more than once) by Andy's left arm crashing down on my head, the first time I asked nicely if he would mind "moving your arm darling" but by the third (may have been more) time I was not happy and shouted "STOP F***ING HITTING ME!" needless to say this did the trick and the beating was over....that night I decided to take measures to prevent being battered by Mr Car Park Barrier Arm and strategically placed myself further down the bed, the plan worked, although it was quiet difficult watching netflix on the ipad with his arm going down and up between my face and the ipad...bless!

...Emily and I have been calling Andy "Monsieur Andre le Plage" a very romantic way of saying Andy Beach we think, makes him sound very suave...anyway, today as we were travelling through the Limousin region I educated him in the local bovine breed and pointed out a few herds in the fields, he said "Le Limousin, maybe we should call you that" yeah, good one Andy, I love being referred to as the big GINGER COW! maybe not!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Day Sixteen: Carcassonne

As I mentioned yesterday we have a lovely room overlooking the restaurant courtyard, full of character ranging from the medieval to the 21st Century ... it'll be really nice when they've finished it!

The Auberge des Lices is best known for its restaurant so we booked a table last night, just under the windows to our room, and we were not dissapointed. Seven, yes seven, courses, all of them delicious. Along with a bottle of champagne it was all we could do to crawl upstairs to our room. Apparently I fell alseep the instant my head hit the pillow.

Today we roamed the cobbled streets of Le Cité, enjoying the bazaar-like nature of the many shops and cafes


We ventured up onto the castle ramparts and stepped back in time to those medieval days of sieges and conquests

We had a good view of the city of Carcassonne from the ramparts but Angela was not content with seeing it from afar, oh no, we had to trudge down the hill to get a better view of the old city and castle

As they say, what goes down must come up so we duly trudged back up the hill (after a couple of beers!) by which time I was knackered and in need of some serious refreshment ...

We rounded off the day before dinner with a trip round the outside of the castle, this time thankfully NOT on Shank's Pony but a different form of equine-propelled transport

And finally a visit into the Basilica we can see from our room

Tomorrow we head north to a lakeside hotel in Treignac. I do plan on taking a diversion en route but I'm sure this is one that Angela WILL approve of, via a vineyard!

Angela's Postscript

Complete opposite to the quiet villa...busy, bustling city, we were serenaded at dinner by Supertramp who were the finale of the music festival being held in the amphitheatre close by and I was lullabied to sleep by the club (Andy was sooooo exhausted after the meal he cannot remember coming to bed, I didn't even get a kiss goodnight before he was snoring away!)....however....

...he bought me a beautiful pair of heart earings and matching ring (awwwww) coz he loves me....or could it have been to distract me from making him walk around the entire city wall?

Lovely and hot and sunny (34 degrees ish), Andy is hoping that as we move inland the weather will become cooler! Well have I got news for him, the forecast for Clermont-Ferrand tomorrow is 37!



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Day Fifteen: St Tropez to Carcassonne

It was an early start this morning to get the kids off to the airport but to their credit they were ready to go before time. Needless to say after a week of fun and frolicking there was a trail of debris so Angela and I spent the next two hours clearing everything up.

While it was hard to leave The Villa behind it was made a bit easier by the overcast skies and spots of rain! With storms forecast for later it looks like we timed it just right. :-)

The drive to Carcassonne was another test of endurance due once again to the volume of traffic and the dreaded toll booths! The four hour journey on paper took us nearly eight! Good job I didn't plan any diversions!!

So here we are in the old city which was one of our stops on the 2014 tour, only this time we have a full day to explore the city instead of one hour! We're not at the same hotel (our budget wouldn't stretch that far this year) but we have a really nice room above a popular restaurant overlooking the Basilique Saint-Nazaire.

Angela's Postscript
...soooo tired! .... The drive was relentless (Andy found my pile of chuppa lolly wrappers and sticks under the drivers seat, oooops!)...remember the episode of Tom and Jerry when he had to hold his eyelids open with match sticks?...Andy slept the first half of last night and I slept the second so between us we had a good sleep! ... missing my babies already....we are staying within the old city walls, above a restaurant opposite the club Emma and I spent a night in six years ago (I may slip him a couple of sleeping tabs and party the night away) ... will take Andy shopping for shiney things tomorrow! :-)