31 August 2012

Gelsenkirchen and back?

On the map it looks like a pretty straight line. Get off the train in France and then point the front wheel east and 260 miles later arrive at the hotel. Simples?

And that is about it.  Had the Arsenal drawn Anderlecht from Brussels or Lille from er.. Lille, then maybe the journey would have been shorter, but Gelsenkirchen is defintely doable in maybe 4 hours?

Some years ago, maybe even as long ago as the mid-eighties, we did a trip to the bike show at the Messe in Cologne.  There was me on my new 1000 Katana, Tony on a BMW R100RT and his mate Jim on another BMW.  "Three figure touring" Jim said.  Once up to three figures on the A3 it was the last I saw of either of them for an hour.  In the end I stopped at the side of the autobahn and they eventually caught me up!  It took as just over three hours from the Port at Calais to Cologne outskirts and another hour to get to the place we were staying in Leverkeusen.

If we make the trip to Gelsenkirchen for the Champions's League game on November 6th, it won't be at "three figures" at all. I am older and wiser and my GS is older than the space rocket that was the Katana. It got a bit boring, but singing "Silver Machine" every time I got on it was essential.

According to Google Maps, the trip should take 4 hours and 1 minute. Although it reckons an extra 41 minutes in current traffic. 

View Larger Map

My brother, Neill, was off the mark pretty quickly, he's an old hand at the quick booking for CL game in Europe, and booked us a couple of hotels near the Veltins Arena that have parking. I was almost as quick and booked one of the same hotels.

If we go on the bikes we need decent off road parking.  As usual we used booking.com to secure the rooms and with the free cancellation up until the day before travel our options are open.

Both hotels are within walking distance of the Arena so we have a chance to get out of biker gear and into football hooligan (joking!) gear.

It's quite a while since I last went to an away CL game.  In Lens we had a particularly eventful night after the match had finished; being caged in the stand for an hour after the game had ended, no loos, no food or water, then bombarded with missiles including fence posts as we dashed over (yes over!?) the CRS Police to the car parks. I was on the bike that night and rode across country, sometimes down paths and across open space (usually grassed) to get to the A21 autoroute and the Shuttle at Calais some 60 miles away.

All good fun.

The problem is whether we will have enough credits to get two match tickets.  Otherwise all is easily planned and we are ready.....

Another question is the weather in early November. We do have the fall back of the car!!

30 August 2012

Champion's League Draw

The draw for the group stages of the 2012-13 Champion's league was today and Arsenal haven't fared too badly. Could have been much worse.  Some pretty long journey's and really only one close enough to get to by road.


Let's see what the ticket situation is like.....

Tripadvisor? Real World or Cuckoo-Land? Part Two

After reading a few of the madder reviews of places I have been, and having just come back from a trip to France I decided to inject a little less plain text into a few of mine and see what happens.

Maybe share YOUR favourite reviews!

Reviewed 28 August 2012 NEW

As soon as we turned off the road into the parking looking for a coffee store, we found Starbuck's, we realised we had entered a parallel world where designer shops were the norm and normal people were excluded like the snot nosed kid looking at the giant Easter Egg that he'll never afford...

The Village looks like the set from the remake of The Prisoner; fully expecting No 6 to walk around the corner......As we sat outside drinking our latte with Armani opposite and two different Burberry shops around us, having passed Ralph's polo shirt emporium, I fully expected to see some millionaire footballers or film stars. Instead the car park was full of pre-2005 Peugeots and old Fiats.

It was all rather disappointing to see some of last year's must-have fashion at such high prices.

Visited August 2012


29 August 2012

New Cover Picture

As I am easily bored I changed the cover picture again.

This one was taken in St Rémy de Sillé in Normandy. It is tribute to the farmers that spend their lives growing wheat, the combine harvester dirvers that cut it sown again and mainly, to the guys that drive tractors all day and every day with piles of bales on the back!

Why it needs to be transported across the countryside seems a mystery.  Every field seems already jam packed with the bales, some round, some rectangular, but all seemingly in the wrong place!

St Lambert sur Dives
Near St Lambert sur Dives

MAG Hythe Fundraiser

Wifi Underground

Virgin may have lost the West Coast Railway, but free wifi for the summer is good! it features ion quite a few London Underground stations for free, and afterwards at cost for non-Virgin users.  It started before the Olympics.

Sadly, they didn't think that Highbury & Islington warranted it, despite it being a junction for three different rail services, one, London Overground, has a direct service to Stratford, where it just happpens they built the Olympic Park is situated!

Superb when it works! The iPhone shows a full wifi signal, but the browser doesn't work and email doesn't work! This happens pretty much on and off all week.

Maybe with the Paralympics starting today service will get better.

28 August 2012

Tripadvisor? Real World or Cuckoo-Land?

When I go away, whether for a night in the UK or longer abroad I tend to look for an area and then check out the reviews on TA and also on booking.com.

You have to laugh at some of them!  Some are downright offensive and you have to take a ruler and strike off the most glowing and the most ridiculous off before you make a decision.

In May when we went across for the MotoGP I looked at the Campanile in Alencon. It was full, but we did have dinner there one night. So, TA, has remembered I had previously browsed.

I had a look through the reviews and came across this one.  Okay, it's not as mindless as the free wifi is too slow or that you can't get baseball on the TV.... But has this women never been to France before?

Restaurants are like homes, dogs are accepted.

""Dog in Restaurant!"

3 of 5 stars Reviewed 5 July 2012

The room was a typical Campanile but in need of a refurb - the catch was broken on the window so we could not leave it open while we were asleep ensuring a very hot night! We had dinner in the restaurant and were disappointed with the Plat de Jour as it was a scrawny lasagne with a huge bowl of lettuce. Our biggest gripe was the fact the a lady was allowed to bring her Yorkshire Terrier into the resaurant which was bad enough but she then sat it on her lap with its head on the table - yuk!!! We have stayed in Campanile for many years bur our experiences this year have led us to look for other accomodation in future."

Gave me laugh at any rate. On many occasions I would prefer a well behaved dog to people's kids.....

27 August 2012

On the Marsh

I dug the bike out of the garage. After a few weeks off I always feel nervous, despite a new battery, that I'll press the button and nothing will happen. I shouldn't have worried as she fired up no problem. Maybe thanks to the Odyssey fitted in the Spring.

I set off along Burmarsh Road to the end, then left towards Dymchurch, then back on the Marsh towards Newchurch.  It was here I came across a grave along the side of the road. I don't remember seeing it before.

It is the grave of Pilot Officer Arthur William Clarke. Aged 20. Killed in action nearby on 11th September 1940 during the Battle of Britain.

Grave of PO A. W. Clarke
I stopped to pay my respects. A reminder of the sacrifice that our young men have been giving for years and still are.

After the stop at the war grave, I set off back across the Marsh a little more and up to the petrol station near the M20 to fill the tank up.

Once back at home I did some googling to find more info on 504 Squadron and the events of the day.


Sissinghurst Castle Garden

After a few days of doing nothing since we got back from holiday apart from a few days relaxing and only shopping trips, including collecting Claire's new specs and an iPhone 4S, we had a proper trip out.

Sissinghurst is one of the nearest National Trust sites near us, and we love the gardens. This is our third or fourth visit of the year.  With the changing of the seasons, the planting changes in the gardens change to make the visits different. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst/

We usually take a picnic and park right at the back of the car park where there are picnic tables for visitors to use.

Sissinghurst Castle

Back of the outer courtyard

From the rose garden





Castle Tower

Orange Garden Cottage

Sissinghurst Oast Houses



25 August 2012


I was looking in the Carrefour for a different beer to bring home.

Found this. Desperados. A beer with the flavour of tequila. I saw a few people drinking it in a bar in Rouen.

But once the bottle is opened rather than tasting a little sharp, it tastes like shandy. Strong shandy though at 5.9% ABV, but not really tequila tasting!!


23 August 2012

Day Five

The last day.

Up late after having a lie in to make up for the valley of a bed in Room 2 at the Arts & Seine hotel. Breakfast and out on the road.

I set the TomTom to take us home with the toll road option turned off.  We would need petrol before home and decided to divert off the toll free A28 towards Forges les Eaux but at Buchy a few miles down the detour we saw the signs for a Carrefour and immediately changed our minds.

In the end we bought lunch; baguette, ham and several cheeses, plus lemon tea (and a beer for home!)

Then Claire thought we should buy a bottle of Vodka for our neighbours looking after the cat. We checked a few and opted for Polish - not the cheapest but a good looking label!

After fuel we decided as we had about 6 hours to get to the Shuttle we would head north to the coast and work our way along, find a picnic site and have lunch.

I added a "via" to the route home. On the A28 we seemed to be getting nearer Abbeville and still no "left turn clyde" to the sea.

In the next aire I checked and reset the via and it was sorted. Although Le Tréport is probably very nice TomTom decided to avoid it and make sea fall further east.

In the end we ignored the voice telling us to turn one way or another and headed for Cayeux sur Mer. When we were last there the parking along the coast was deserted. In 22c hot sun it was packed and we found a single parking space!

Chichi Bar - Cayeux
Cayeux Beach
Cayeux Beach Huts

A turn along the boardwalk to a small bar, Chichi Bar, for a coffee, was enough. Too many people roasting themselves in the sun, but the beach huts that line the boardwalk are really nice. I took a few photos on my iPhone.

We hopped back in the car to look for a better picnic spot. Drove through historic St Valery sur Somme, which was William the Conquerer's last port before crossing the Channel in 1066. Then onto Le Crotoy across the Somme estuary to a nice stretch of almost empty beach with benches on the seafront; one of which was our lunch spot.

Beach Huts
From Le Crotoy we followed the D940 and D901 back to the Tunnel to get the train home. At the check in we got a train 90 minutes earlier than booked. I usually don't like to do this, but it was free and it saved sitting about waiting to leave. One of the reasons I hate flying!

We arrived home about 5pm local time, unpacked the car, saw to the cat and then Claire sat in the garden and we both had a nice cup of tea.
All in all, the break was what we needed. I could take or leave Disney. Hardly anyone of the adults you looked at seemed to be enjoying their €74 day and we were ambivalent.

The days we toured between Beaux Villages and the D-Day sites were far better, relaxed and as for traffic? There was hardly a traffic jam all week.

Le Crotoy looking across the Somme

Day Four - Part Two

Once the car was secured in the car park behind the hotel we had a few minutes rest before going out to look around the city centre tourist bits and have dinner.

From the hotel it was a short two block walk to the Tourist Office and the Cathedral.

Rouen Cathedral

Old Market Square

Statue on bridge over the Seine
As we got out the cameras, Claire's Sony AS started making strange noises when turned on and again when off. From deduction it looks as though the sensors that work out when to switch the viewfinder on is causing a problem. It seems to fix itself only to start again later.

We took some pix of the Cathedral and then walked around to the Gros Horloge and then into old Market Square for a beer and then to decide on dinner. I fancied pizza until I saw the pizza place and then in a fish restaurant I saw moules!!!

Claire chose Soupe des Poissons and a fish casserole from the "menu" and I had a green salad and moules in white wine and Roquefort cheese from the carte. Lovely!

Claire's soupe des poissons
Green Salad with vinaigrette

By the time we set off back to the hotel it had turned chilly and we were happy to get in and go to bed.

After the luxury of the Domaine near Falaise, the Arts & Seine is quirkier and the bed was not very good. We clung to the edges to avoid sliding down into the middle. Breakfast was good and it is so ideally placed for the city centre.

The weather was good still and the high of 25C was perfect for touring and sightseeing.

22 August 2012

Day Four - Part One

After a better nights sleep in the Domaine, breakfast was a quiet affair with home made jams and plenty of French bread.
Domaine de la Tour
Domaine de la Tour
Domaine de la Tour
The sun is out and we are now packing for the day.

At €70 a night this is the most expensive stay of the trip but included breakfast.

Another of the guests was on the Harley.
Custom Harley
On the way towards Montormel, we came across a set of French and Canadian flags that turned out to be the observatory outside St Lambert sur Dives, where Major Currie won the VC.

The Observatory at St Lambert sur Dives
The next stop was the Donjon at Chambois. Chambois also has the the monument to the meeting between the Poles and US troops that was the symbolic closing of the Falaise pocket.

Chambois Donjon

Chambois Map

The pocket

Allied Monument to the Falaise Pocket

The satnav was re-programmed to take us to Montormel and the Monument to the Polish Armoured Division that took and held the hill then known as 262 North to stop the German 7th Army escaping the Falaise pocket.

On the way we stopped at a look out point on the Couloir de Mort. The corridor of death. The corridor that shrank from 30kms to 3kms that the Germans needed to escape.
Montormel Sherman Tank
Montormel Memorial

Montormel Armoured Car

The satnav POI is wrong. It tells you to go to the right as you enter Montormel hamlet, but the Memorial is about a half mile further up the hill and to the left. It is signposted for normal navigators!!

Entry is €5 and as well as some very informative displays and artefacts from known allied and German soldiers, there is a superb sound and light show that using small screens and a large model explains how the battle progressed to its conclusion.

This is followed by a short (15m) film interviewing survivors from both sides.

We left there with a greater sense of the achievement, but in the back of your mind you can't but be moved by the senseless slaughter of young men.

It was now time for lunch and so we headed for Camembert. My brother and I had been there in May. This time we went with the roof down and in 25C.

Unlike last time the centre now does sandwiches with a choice of local cheeses or a selection of cheeses and bread. We opted for the latter along with local apple juice. The local wasps know this and come by for a visit. Cue lots of waving as tourists try to flap them away.

We bought a small Camembert as we were there!

The next stop was Le Bec Hellouin. Another Plus Beaux Village. The only stop was at a supermarket to get something to supplement our chesse lunch. Tarte de Citron. Mmmmmmm.
Le Bec Hellouin
Le Bec Hellouin

As we tended to arrive later at the hotels we made sure we arrived in Rouen in evening rush hour! But TomTom took us to the front door despite the mapping having no concept that some of the roads are (and have been for years!!) one way!!!

We have a curious room overlooking the back of the hotel and the car park. Under the window is a small tub with goldfish.

Art et Seine fishpond

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