Whitby Goth

Back to England for our next foray. Haven’t been for quite some time. And this will be  a little different. Going to the Whitby Goth weekend for a little posing and a good music. Great for the kids, too with all the costumes. But what should I go as, something hideous and scary? I know, I’ll go as me!

Staying in Scarborough and will have to drive on the the left again, should be fun! Visit will coincide with Bonfire night and hot potatoes round the fire, great stuff.

Now, where ar my spare vampire teeth?

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Further Southwards into France

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Went into Avignon by bus which was cheap, clean and let me have a good gander as I was not driving. I did ask, but the driver said, ”Non”. Avignon was home to the pope between 1309 – 1377. Well he had one advantage then, the walls kept people out. They are still an impressive sight. However Avignon was beset by hoardes of tourists, they swept all before them. Really it was too much. Souvenir shops for instance. A few tacky shops are okay, however Avignon had its fair share. Nice bridge too, but when will it be finished?

Took in Aix-En-Provence which was a combination of the beautiful and the slighty grubby gracefulness. Prices for food were bad. Basically what we will pay in Polish Zlotych cost the same in Euro’s. The best way to negotiate this thorny problem was to stop and buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the roadside stalls. Great food from under the provence sun, and far better prices. Even managed to get service with  smile.

Headin’ down we drove through the Camargue. This is one beautiful place, truly. Low lying and flat, none of those pesky mountain passes with inches to spare! Driving past rice fields and then the most beautiful white horses. There are plenty of places to stop take in this area. We alighted in Cassis. Cassis in the sun is great. A long sweeping esplanade with a great beach and a free pissoir in the car park. What more can you want! Although there were tacky shops the place had a wonderful feel to it. Just walking along the roads one could see it was well looked after, with splashes of colour from beautiful flowers thrown in for measure.

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Pottered around and went to the most unhelpful information lady in history. Her Gallic indifference and shoulder shrugs were superb and her English, well, bazik. Anyway we discovered that safaris into the Camargue cost around 120 Euro for the four of us. So no thanks. Eventually we plumped for the cruise which was about 12 Euro for an adult and discounted for the children. The ferry trip went up the mouth of the (Lesser/smaller?) Rhone and although we draw close to some beautiful views, it was all a bit distant. The chop on the sea as we took in the swell of the sea on the return trip was pretty cool for me. Onwards and along the coast…

 

Road Trip Do’s and Dont’s

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In no particular order of priority.

Do -Do get off the motorways and take the quieter routes. They are toll free and give you the chance to pull over and stop in interesting place, off the beaten track.Independence is paramount.

Don’t – Don’t forget to take that spare key for the car, you know, the one you’re never going to need. So easy to lose when moving and constantly repacking from place to place. But so hard to replace when AWOL.

Do – Do take a fold up map. Useful for directions, even better as temporary sunshade on the beach.

Do – Do liberally sprinkle your tour with water parks and amusement parks for the children. Something for them to cling on to and continually ask about whilst sightseeing and travelling.

Don’t – Don’t leave earplugs or earphones in the boot, at the bottom under everything when on the move, especially when the children want to watch a particularly interesting kids film!

Do – Do down load all the maps and towns onto your mobile phone of the towns and countries on your itinerary, before leaving home. This way they can be used without connecting to the costly roaming services when abroad.

Don’t – Don’t eat heavy breakfasts when you’re going to sit in the car for hours, or later you may be sitting for hours! And make that a maximum 7-8 hour drive.

Don’t – Don’t rely on the GPS as if it is infallible. Crossing fields means the GPS may well be a little awry. Balance the GPS data with the best computer in the world, the brain between your ears!

Do – Do remember that many Southern European countries like a little snooze in the afternoon. So plan accordingly with fuel, shops and restaurants. There is nothing more desolate than a child’s face when you explain that the pizza restaurant, they are already sitting at the outside table,  is closed until later that day. Pizza DENIED!

Don’t – Don’t allow anyone, repeat anyone to remove socks in the car.

Do- Do pack a sense of humour and a smile.

Don’t – Don’t drink scalding hot coffee over your crotch as you drive.

Do- Do remind the navigator to have the map correctly orientated.

Do – Do go to the dentist before travelling for that niggly pain. Trying to sort out a dentist, and any other minor medical needs, is a nightmare, expensive and stressful.

Don’t – Don’t forget to remind the ladies to buy, pack, all of the hair clips, hair bands, hair pins and their favourite shampoos and conditioners.

Do- Do pack extra toilet roll, you have been warned!

Do – Do pack a torch, change and renew the batteries and take spare batteries as well.

Don’t – Don’t plan to travel to a country experiencing fuel strikes, rioting for assorted reasons and, oops, too late!

Do – Do learn the rudiments of polite etiquette and hello, thank you and goodbye in the language of your intended host countries.

Do – Do pack a smile as it is an international and friendly language:-)

 

 

 

Lisbon

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We arrived rather late at the airport just outside Lisbon. From there we took a relatively inexpensive super quick taxi. The kids loved the ride as the taxi took on the gravitational characteristics of a Star Wars air-speeder. Fun. Deposited centrally it was up to us to negotiate across a couple of squares to get to our hotel. Be careful, but for some reason the lovely looking stone pavements seemed inordinately, pardon the phrase, slippery when wet. And never did the phrase, ‘’don’t judge a book by its cover’’ seem so pertinent, when it came to the hotel.

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Our exedra shaped hotel was located on Praca Dos Restauradores. The VIP Eden Aparthotel looks like an Art-Deco cinema, and the front of the façade sported a group of people who had drunk a lot and weren’t featured in the promotional material! The hotel looked closed and it was not until walking across the front of the building that we discovered the front door, tucked away almost on the side. We were welcomed by a receptionist who spoke excellent English, seeing as he hailed from the Midlands! The under-lit corridor ended with our apartment which was laid out like a number 3, bedrooms at the end, bath and toilet in the middle. It had seen better days, but the rooms were clean and gave straight out onto the square.  Even more importantly it had free wi-fi for the kids.

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Lisbon for the children was great. Of course our ambling around the centre, taking in the atmosphere was dull for them. For us the alleys, the ochre roofed aging buildings and thoroughfares were fascinating. But then we headed out to the Lisbon Expo Park. This included an Oceanarium, the Vasci de Gama Tower, a cable car ride, a great waterfall and the kids loved all of these attractions. There was also a great indoor attraction that mixed science and hitting bouncy rubber things. Great for  kids of all ages J Another trip out was to Sintra Park. This didn’t have the fast rides and gleaming technology of other parks, but they loved the place. They could run into grottoes, climb stone steps and disappear into foliage, climb small towers and give full rein to their imaginations.  All without wi-fi and sitting! We also went to check out Belem Tower, got caught in the rain waited and hour then decided to buy an umbrella for 5 Euros, and yes, then the rain stopped. The zoo was also included on the kids wish list. Always a sad place for me, full of listless creatures, but with reassuringly expensive ice-cream when feeling too hot.  As always heights have to be included in our perambulations. The Castle of the Moors, built circa 8-9th century,  is set on a  rocky hill  high above the plain, which it dominates. The combination of heights, strong winds and lack of hand holds added since it was first built made it a joy to visit.

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View from the Hotel rooftop, which had a  swimming pool, but sadly to nippy for a dip.

Back in Lisbon, we ventured out at night for some Fado. We had been warned not to pick at the seemingly free food that would be placed on our table in warm and cosy bars/cafes. This was because it would actually be included in our bill. The area was interesting and the people friendly. Strangely enough there were not too many shops to buy fresh fruit and odds and ends for kids to munch on in central Lisbon. All in all a great city to visit with plenty to keep the children happy, too.

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Road Trip to Castle Neuschwanstein

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On to a slice of 19th century romanticism on what can be only termed, the grand style, courtesy of Ludwig II in beautiful Bavaria. Our faithful car laboured up the twisting, narrow switchbacks roads (get the picture?) until we finally swept into Hohenschwangau.

After some nifty maneuvering the driver got us parked behind a small restaurant for a nominal fee. Well done driver.Safely leaving and forgetting our bottles of water in the car, so that they would be at boiling temperature on our return, we set off on foot in earnest.  Hold onto the hands of young children as motorbikes cars and tour buses  pound up the stretch of road to the shops, restaurants and ticket offices serving the castle’s visiting public.

The  town was packed and temperatures had risen to 40 degrees. Everything was rather expensive and remember to have plenty of small change for the toilets. Which in an un-German like manner were not very clean. Having decide to visit the castle we joined a long twisting queue for tickets. Being English, queuing is kind of in the genes. However no cover had been provided and it was hot and tiring on everybody, especially people with young children. The lady who sold us the tickets spoke English well and told us that our tickets were for 4.30pm so we had time to eat.

A comment about language. We had to stop a couple of times earlier in Bavaria. On both occassions I spoke to a man over 50 in his front garden, and a woman over 60 at a small provincial hotel. On both occassions they were not only helpful but spoke pretty good English, too. Much appreciated when lost with wife children in the car:-)

Back to food. We went through the town until we came to a restaurant opposite a lake and a small beach for the children to paddle and play in. For ardent sun worshippers there is a larger beach area a little further on.

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Restaurant.The menu was in German and everything had a fancy name, and an even fancier price. What turned up on the plate was basically a burger, for the price of a steak!  Having secured a second mortgage and settled the bill we left to take a bus to the castle. We had been told by our helpful ticket seller that it would take about 40 minutes to walk. In the stifling heat the bus was the sensible option. We got on in an orderly fashion thanks to barriers that formed a snake like queue. A word on the return. The bus drops you in a small clearing and you continue up to the castle. At the top there are no barriers and people pushed and shoved almost in desperation to get back on the bus for the downward trip. Why? It wasn’t the last bus! Your status as an older person, child, or babe in arms was ignored and the tourists behaviour was atrocious! We stood apart and waited for the next bus.Cattle prod, please. Barriers would be a good idea.

Then we walked up to the castle itself which was an imposing and wonderful view.

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We took a minor detour to go onto a bridge that hangs precipitously over a gorge nearby. Oh, how I laughed when a group of people decided to show how it could be made to move a bit. Great!

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And finally the castle itself. Good, solid, well made castle. It stands majestically and shone almost white-like in the sun drenched Bavarian vista. The visits were well controlled and we waited patiently for our group to gain admittance.

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Inside the castle itself it pays homage to one man’s Wagnerian obsession along with folklore inspired murals and decor. Strangely enough one of the most interesting places was the cookhouse and its ‘state of the art’ equipment. Wonderful to look at, but in the back of the mind was the nagging thought that it is really all a bit of one man’s folly. Great to visit, wonderful to see but not exactly an inexpensive day all in all. Take small change for the toilets, a friends credit card for the restaurants and don’t leave the water in the car on such a hot day, unless you want to make tea. Oh yes,  and mind peoples behaviour getting on a bus in a a semi-remote area!!!

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Next would be an amusement park for the children and a place for me to enjoy more heights.