Archive for July, 2015

The rain in Spain

Courtesy of Wikipedia

We had a fairly passable meal last night (Tuesday) at the Campanile Hotel in Angouleme. The hotel is clean, perfectly adequate for an overnight stay and right next door to their restaurant.  We’d thought that we might walk the 3kms into the city but the never ceasing rain put dampers (pun) on that. So we stayed ‘in’ and this allowed me to have my first ever Picon Biere – it was so nice, I had two 🙂

The weather was no better when we set off for what turned out to be an almost 500 mile journey. We stopped for fuel first at the nearby Auchan (€1.04) and then got on our way. The traffic (wagons mainly) was horrendous – and remained that way until after the motorway split for Bilbao many hours later. Furthermore, the heavy rain got steadily worse; first as we approached the Spanish border and then afterwards as we climbed over the pass between the Pyrenees and the sea. 

Poor Sharon was still driving, partly so she could say that she’d driven all the way from home to Spain and partly because my back was still twinging. Anyway, after the motorways split for Bilbao, we headed south and as we passed through the tunnels (there are many, and many are very long) the weather improved. After Burgos, we saw much more sun and the temperature began to rise.

We’re staying tonight (Wednesday) at the Santana Hotel just outside Segovia, northwest of Madrid. Just before we set off, Booking dot Com offered us an upgrade and so we now have a suite. Breakfast and evening meal are included and it’s really comfortable. This is my first experience of being somewhere where language really is a barrier – they don’t speak English and I speak VERY little Spanish.  However, we’ve just manged a nice meal, some beers (with tapas) and to communicate quite well.

Thursday

After breakfast (not so good), we spent an hour looking around the old town of Segovia before setting off for our next stop in Jaén. We found the Roman Aqueduct easily enough but spent most of our time looking for the cathedral – which we sort of found on our way back to the car – but by now we now didn’t have the time to visit. Another time?

Roman Aqueduct, Segovia

The journey south was interesting with fine weather all the way, the feeling of being ripped off half of the way (we’d agreed to use toll roads, so we could get to our destination in time – but the tolls are doubled for summer) and wonderful views. We circumvented Madrid by using the outer (western) ring road and eventually dropped off the high plains and headed towards the Sierra Nevada before landing in Jaén mid-afternoon.

We took a walk up towards and then around the cathedral here and then spent little time in a nice bar; watching the world go by and eating the nibbles that are freely given. 

We also ate dinner here in the town and once again found that the prices of beer and food (as we found in Segovia) are not bad at all – certainly not what we will try not to pay once we’ve reached the madness of the Costa del Sol.

Which will be tomorrow.

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Andalusia – here we come

During our last visit to Spain in April this year we looked at a variety of apartments, with a view to ‘considering’ a purchase. To cut a long story short, we made an offer on a two-bedroom apartment in the same block we share a single bedroom apartment with nine other partners. This was accepted and the purchase was completed early July.

We are now driving down there to pick up the keys and finalise the ‘stuff’ that our solicitors cannot.

We have chosen to drive as the flight costs are so expensive at this short notice. We therefore thought we’d make a trip/holiday of it and take some of the larger things we have that we would like down there, but which could not easily be flown in. So we decided to set off on Monday 27th and booked hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Angouleme, (both France), Segovia and Jaen (both Spain) – with a hope of arriving on Friday – hopefully before siesta-lunch.

Day one was a disaster. I’d hurt my back doing nothing more than lay the table on Sunday, so was pretty much incapacitated most of Sunday (for packing and preparation) and Monday (for driving). Poor Sharon had to pack the car and then drive all the way to Boulogne. That might have been OK had we not got caught up on a 90+ minute delay en route (one hour on the A14 waiting for police to turn us all around and join the now horrendous A1 London bound traffic, and then congestion along M25). We were in fact late for our book-in at the Shuttle terminal, but managed to scam a drive straight on to the train. Wonderful.

We’d booked a Premiere Classe hotel for this night, knowing that we wouldn’t get there until 11.00pm ish and that they did at least have a gated car park (remember, we have a car full of ‘stuff’).  I’d forgotten how nasty these places can be. And, the WiFi didn’t work. And, we had to park in the not gated, car park opposite as the hotel one was full. The saving grace was that it was cheap. 

Tuesday night, after another day of Sharon’s heroic driving, we’re in Angouleme, in a Campanile Hotel. This chain are a step up from the other (although by the same group) and don’t cost too much more.  We’ll see how the evening goes 🙂 At least we have WiFi and a/c (although it is overcast and raining).

Tomorrow – Spain.

Homeward bound

Saturday.

We departed Blaichach after relaxing over breakfast in the local konditorei and retraced our route to Lindau and then on to Ludwigshafen (our destination for the night) via Meersberg. Meersberg was very busy and very ‘touristy’.

I know that is a crass thing to say, when we ourselves are tourists, but there’s a difference to independent travelers such as ourselves and the bussed in hoards; half with selfie-sticks and half with walking sticks; catered for with kiss-me-quick hats and sticks of rock (not actually, but the German equivalent).

At Ludwigshafen we were disappointed to find that our 4-star hotel did not have air conditioning.  It was >38ºc outside with no wind and no clouds to reduce the built up heat. Sharon and I had been given an attic room with south facing velux windows – it was horrendous. So, the short story is – we had to be moved. Despite saying they were full, faced with two angry Armstrongs (one of whom speaks German like a native, the other who can be unreasonably tenacious) we were given what turned out to be better rooms in the hotel next door. It appears that this hotel was owned by our hotel but didn’t have the 4-start rating required by our Booking.Com reservation. It also turned out that this particular hotel reserves the smaller, less desirable rooms for Booking.Com customers and advises them to ‘find us’ on the site and then contact direct.

Breakfast was a laugh a minute with stereotypical German correctness on the one hand (“no, no, you cannot have THAT coffee, I will bring you a different one”) and idiotic food v personnel placement planning on the other. Staff and customers were using the same narrow throughways (and therefore bumping into one another) and the breakfast buffet was in what could be described as a cave, where only one or two people at a time could gain access. Whilst Ludwigshafen is a pretty place, we have no desire to visit there, or, especially, the hotel again.

Sunday.

Today we drove to Freiburg (Freiburg im Breisgau) via Schaffhausen, adding another country (Switzerland) to our tally for the trip (5). Schaffhausen was more or less en route so we all wanted to see the falls – http://www.rheinfall.ch/en/. As we drove into the car park and as we saw the falls through the trees, we all uttered ‘wow’. It was a magnificent sight.

I’m not sure that I can describe the views, or the noise, suffice to say that if you ever get the chance to visit the falls at Schaffhausen – take it.  It’s worth the time and moderate parking fee.

We took one of the many boat trips available, a round trip taking in a bit of history with facts and figures via an audio-link-up and sailing close up (REALLY close up) to the falls. I had been advised to take a trip to the island in the middle but when booking we really didn’t see that option, although it was there. It’s not really clear what is available on site so visit http://www.maendli.ch/ first and check out what’s available.

And then, heading up through the Black Forest, we called in at Titisee.  It was by now blisteringly hot again and the going was tough. The lake is obviously used as a major leisure resource and it reminded me of Ambleside, without the narrow streets. Again there were the busloads of tourists, the kiss-me-quick stuff (like I said – German equivalent) and lots of food outlets. We had stand-up food (sausages, bretzles etc.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretzel.

Our hotel in Freiburg had been hastily arranged by the Armstrongs and it DID HAVE a/c.  So that was a relief.  We were here for two nights and slept well, unlike the previous few evenings.

No one felt like eating the first night, as it was so hot. It cooled a little the day after so we drove around the Black Forest and headed for Triberg, where we could see the falls and sample the ‘original’ Black Forest Gateau.

Tuesday – From Freiburg, it’s only about an hour to France and our first stopover there, in Colmar. Once again the girls had re-booked a hotel so that we had a/c. This hotel, The Hotel Europe: http://www.hotel-europe-colmar.com/uk/index.php is situated out of town but has everything we needed, including our first hotel pool of the trip. What’s more it is just u[p the road from a huge E. Leclerc Hypermarket where the diesel was around 6 cents per litre cheaper than anywhere around.

We were disappointed with Colmar.  The pictures and information had promised so much, but the waterways were dirty, the town itself wasn’t as ‘appealing’ as we’d hoped and the waiter who served us for lunch was downright rude and surly. So we spent a good bit of our Colmar time in the hotel pool.

The weather eased somewhat overnight, following the storm that passed over.

Wednesday – Our next stopover was at Chalons en Champagne. En Route, we stopped for a coffee in Nancy, in Stanislas Square. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_Stanislas. This is a large pedestrianised area, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our hotel in Chalons was undergoing some repairs and renewals, so upon arrival we went out for a walk around the town. We had our evening meal just down the road from the hotel and in the morning set off for Calais.

Thursday –

We were in Calais for 14:00, just in time for the hotel to allow us to book in. Sharon and I then went out for a walk and found lots of interesting places we’d never had time to find before.  We also saw many more of the elephants we first noticed on our first evening in France way back in June.  There are 21 elephants to be found – I managed to catch 11 of these.

 

Kempton

(Days 13 and 14) – 02/07/15 and 03/07/15Meat and cheese platter

We spent most of Thursday just lounging around. The temperature was up in the mid thirties – so we just soaked up what we could. We all walked down to the local bakery in the morning but then failed to move out at all until that evening.

In the evening we went just up the road to enjoy the meat and cheese platters available at Sennalpe Derb http://www.alpe-derb.de/.

And beer – although I only had alcohol-free 🙂

The alcohol beers over here are served everywhere and all taste so much better than anything I’ve had at home in England. Thursday night’s AF beer was strange tasting (weissen beer) but still better than at home.

3 kingsOn Friday, we awoke once more to the rising sun shining through the meagre blinds and had our cup of tea on the sunny terrace (as usual) at 06.30am.

We’d decided to visit Kempten today. http://www.bavaria.by/allgaeu/a-kempten-bavaria-germany En route, it started to rain. And not just rain as we know it but rain like we’re told it rains by everyone here. It bounced down. Once we’d parked we just sat in the car and waited for it to (sort of) stop. Massive bolts of lightening, loud bangs of thunder and hailstones like bullets, were our welcome to Kempton.

The rain eventually stopped and we investigated the busy town. However, we’d only parked for two hours so we decided to eat elsewhere. 3-kings-lunchWe wound our way through the little towns south of Kempton and eventually ended up in Immenstadt, where we had a delightful lunch at the Gastof Drei König – http://www.drei-koenig.de/cms/index.php?kat=86. I had (what turned out to be) Roast Pork with Serviettenknödel. See: http://www.food.com/recipe/serviettenkn-del-bread-dumplings-467470

We bought cakes (and pretzels for me and ‘tmissis) for our evening meal, in Blaichach and settled in for our final evening here in the apartment. 

The car said it was 39° outside!

IMG_4644

Southern Germany

Blaichach – w/c 29/06/15

As I said on the previous post:

The apartment is in-between Sonthofen and Immenstadt, in a village called Blaichach. We’re on the top floor of a large three-storied house. There are three bedrooms; we’re using one as a sitting room, two W/Cs, one with bath and one with shower and a huge kitchen-diner. All rooms have magnificent views over the mountains just to the south and west.
See: http://www.urlaub-alacarte.de/index.php/en

Sharon, hidingWe spent most of Sunday loitering around the apartment. I had, as stated previously, walked into Blaichach to forage for bread but then later in the day Sharon and I walked up and over the hill opposite us, back down into Blaichach and back to the apartment in what was turning out to be a cracking day weather wise. I made a ratatouille pasta for tea, with salad and it was right delicious.

On Monday, we decided to try out Immenstadt for size. It’s not a huge town and seems to be fairly work-a-day; busy but not especially tourist orientated. We did a little shopping and then drove further up the road to Alpsee. We parked up down the river and went for a walk, (not quite) around the lake. The weather was now gorgeous and looked like setting in for the week. We then had to take Sharon and Jo to a place where they could throw themselves off a mountain. See: http://www.alpsee-bergwelt.de/spass/neuer-alpsee-bergwelt-film.html

Mike, still suffering with his back, and I, stayed at the bottom and had the most unlikely, fart inducing German sausage so far – Landjäger.  You have to remember that our translator had gone to throw herself off a mountain, so given the option of weiner (hot dog) or weiss (mostly yuk) we thought we’d picked winner. It turns out that landjäger is a cross between jerky and pepperami – not the most sought after food in my culinary universe ;-(

Anyway, once the wanderers had returned we moved back into Immendstadt to go up the Mittagbahn. This is a ski-lift thingy that took us to the top of Mittag, the mountain we can see out of our apartment’s western looking window.  This takes you up in two stages and the views from the top are magnificent, we thank only thank our lucky stars that the weather was kind to us, or it might not have been so good, or so warm ☺

Jo_Mike_Chair_lift-2

Tuesday, we lounged around again until we thought the sun might have cooled a little. Then we went into Blaichach, parked and took a walk along the river towards Immenstadt. This is a lovely walk, with river on one side, the German version of allotments on the other, and for part of the way a small lake. Bought bread and then back for tea – salad I think.

Today, Wednesday, we drove to Lindau, to spend time on Bodensee, or what the Swiss (and most other countries) call Lake Constance. It’s only about an hour away from us, so not a great hardship, and we were under way just after nine. We parked on Lindau Island, had a coffee and then strolled around the Island until time for lunch. We’d booked tickets on a 90-minute boat trip, which en route, passed by Switzerland and took us into Austria before returning to Lindau. These boundaries are, by the way, apparently, arbitrary!

All the time, the sun shone brightly and all in all, this was a great day.  To see the mountains behind the mountains that line the southern shores is quite a thing to see and to see the River Rhine at its point of entry to the lake is quite surprising. You can easily see the flow as it enters and there is a difference of the water’s colour at that point. Interesting.

Diesel has been around €1.20 – €1.21 throughout most of Germany and France (we paid more in France, but that was because we were on a motorway) but in towns like Lindau and Fussen the prices rose to around €1.24 – €1.25. Sneaky. The car is averaging just less than 50 mpg, it would be more, but the first fill up, after driving through the UK, was not so good.