Wednesday 30 October 2013

Blenheim Palace

1704 - Duke of Marlborough leads England to a great victory at the battle of Blenheim and is given 2,000 acres at Woodstock by Queen Anne.
1874 - Winston Churchill born at Blenheim Palace.
2013 - Christine and Darren visit the Palace for a day trip.
Startling fact of the day - If the Palace had been built today it would have cost £2.5 billion pounds.
Disappointing fact  - Our campsite was only one kilometre from the entrance and we decided to go for a little walk in the grounds looking for the perfect photo of the bridge over the lake.
14 k later we arrived at the front door as we seriously underestimated the distance. I am not sure if the finished article was worth it.
I also couldn't get our shadows out of the photo of the Palace and fountains, so I think Daz is actually doing a flying dove, but it looks more like he is trying to shoot me.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Winston Churchill's grave

Arrived at a campsite next to Blenheim Palace today and walked to Bladon church to see Winston Churchill's grave.
It is made of granite and very understated. The whole section is full of graves for the Churchill family and is very well kept and peaceful.
The church had a little exhibition of Churchill photographs so I bought one for the camper.
It is up on the wall and he is looking very fierce - no cigar though.

Monday 28 October 2013

St Jude's storm

I followed the weather forecast with interest and trepidation yesterday, due to the potential imminent arrival of St Jude's storm.
It was quite calm in the evening but I woke at 1.05am to buffeting wind and heavy rain hammering on the van. The storm had started!
As Vicky said rather wittily (and unfortunately accurately) yesterday, we would be sleeping in a 'tin can', so of course it would be noisy.
By 5am the wind was still screeching and the van was rocking about - far worse than our cruise ship last week.
It was dark outside so we couldn't see much, but we put the telly on just after six to hear that it would get worse for the next two hours and then we would be done.
Once it had all calmed down, I got out to give the tin can - sorry 'van', a cuddle to say well done.
We then left the campsite and drove past Camber Sands where it was still pretty breezy, to our campsite at Hythe ready to set up for the night. Unfortunately, they had no electricity and had no idea when it would be back on, so we drove inland to Maidstone where all is as it should be.
Hopefully back to normality tomorrow.

Sunday 27 October 2013

World Crazy Golf championships 2013

Supported four British competitors in the fiercely fought World Crazy Golf championships on Hastings seafront this weekend.
Of our group the highest finisher was Chris, who ended the weekend with a creditable 44 over par in 38th place. In 47th place was his dad, Charlie, Tim finished 59th, and his mum Hazel (Chris's that is not Tim's) ended in a well fought 61st,  coincidentally at 61 over par.
It was blowing a gale which played havoc with the golf balls, and my hairdo, neither of which would stay in the right places. Horizontal rain also featured in two of Hazel's rounds, but she kept on smiling.
The worthy winner was a lady (hurrah) from the Czech Republic who finished on two under par. A Brit was second and 21 shots behind, with a Finn in third. Congratulations to Olivia Prokapova (see pic 4 in the woolly panda hat).

Saturday 26 October 2013

Sights of Hastings

Very entertaining afternoon people watching in Hastings.
Lesson of the day - don't expect to be alone for long if you eat fish and chips on the beach.
Picture two - surprisingly, two canoers decided it was a good day for a paddle. One chickened out and never really made it off the beach and in to the sea. (See tiny yellow blob in the middle of the photo.) His friend managed to get a long way out, and I half expected the lifeboat to come and rescue him. He obviously knew what he was doing though, and eventually turned his little boat around and surfed expertly back to dry land.
Thirdly - always watch out for zombies when walking in the old town.

Hastings Country Park

Morning walk in the Country Park where the leaflet promised views of France and Dover. No sign of either, but it was pretty spectacular. Lots of muddy, slippery steps and a good workout at around 14k ending up at the crazy golf course.

Friday 25 October 2013

Hastings, old town

Excited about a weekend in Hastings. Had a look around the old town and it is a bit mysterious. They have three storey high sheds with doors on the outside and no way of getting inside on the upper floors.
I asked about them at Tourist Information Office but the lady didn't know the answer. She just said that the fishermen hung their nets on them.
I also asked her about things to do locally but she said it was out of season so there wasn't really anything. Not sure how she keeps her job for six months of the year. Anyway, we have something planned, so there.
We also found an interesting little building made from half a boat next to the tall sheds. It is the first thing I have found that made our van look spacious.
Finally, Daz said the blog was too serious yesterday, so included is a shot of him from the Brighton museum wearing a rather attractive traditional mask - hopefully it will lighten the mood.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

King George IV built the Royal Pavilion in the early 1800's. It is Indian in style on the exterior, and Chinese inside. He never visited either country, but just thought that they were exotic places that would look good in a building.
He spent a fortune on completely over the top decorations and was always in debt. He was also very unpopular with his subjects because of his extravagant lifestyle.
He often hosted dinner parties where over 60 different dishes were served - including swan, song birds and other weird delicacies.
His niece, Queen Victoria, didn't really like the Pavilion, so she eventually sold it to the local Council. They have looked after it very carefully ever since, which is why we were able to visit it today.
No photography was allowed inside so I couldn't get a pic of the 30 feet high chandelier that is attached to the ceiling by an enormous silver gilt dragon.
I did manage one shot of the Music Room ceiling,  but was almost caught by one of the guides, so if you want to see more you will have to visit.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Waves at Brighton

Last night we watched a dramatic thunderstorm from our campervan with lightening that lit up the land as if it was daytime. Overnight the rain rattled down on our metal roof - it is amazing how loud a bit of water can sound. It was nice and cozy inside though, and I woke to the sounds of Daz making cappuccinos.
Today we have driven to Brighton and we watched the waves at the Marina. Another exciting natural show with enormous waves, bright sunshine and the wind blowing a gale.
We wanted to walk out along the harbour wall to get up closer to the sea, but unfortunately it was closed. Probably for the best really.

Monday 21 October 2013

King Alfred the Great

King Alfred ruled Wessex from 871 until his death in 899. His base was in Winchester which he made the capital of England.
He has an impressive statue on the main street of the city, and it was the first thing we saw when we walked in from our campsite.
It is a very blustery and rainy day, so we were very fortunate to disembark from our cruise yesterday after a very calm passage across the Bay of Biscay.
We met some lovely people on the cruise at our dinner table each night, and when we said we were coming to Winchester, they broke out into song. Apparently 'Winchester Cathedral' was a popular tune back in the day!
The Cathedral was very elegant, as was the Buttercross, see pic 3. Our leaflet says that it has been on the Main Street for over 600 years. Strangely, a couple of hundred years later, someone must have thought it a good idea to build a large shop within a couple of feet of it.
Still very beautiful though.

Wednesday 16 October 2013


Last port of call on this trip today in beautiful Madeira.
We got the bikes out again and cycled along to Camara de Lobos which is a little fishing village. It was a favourite destination of Winston Churchill who used to sit at a viewpoint and paint.
Today there were lots of fish drying in the sun.
In the background are the second highest sea cliffs in the world, but we gave them a miss and just admired them from afar.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Balconies, bananas and boats

Having a bit of a day off today after our exertions of yesterday. We are strolling around La Palma, which is the steepest island in the world.
Another good reason to stick to two feet and no wheels.
Apparently, it is renowned for its beautiful balconies although this example also had a pretty spectacular window box.
It also grows millions of bananas and in the background of the third picture is our boat - Oriana.
Just enjoyed two local delicacies, sangria and new potatoes in a spicy chilli sauce.

Hors category climb

No wonder we were tired after our mountain climbing on Tenerife. This is a screenshot that says we cycled to a height of nearly 1,000 on our little folding bikes.
On Strava which Darren recorded for us, we came 37th out of 39 people to climb to the top. I am really chuffed that we at least beat two people!
Unfortunately, it also told us that we took 2 hours 28 minutes and the fastest person did it in 52 minutes. However, that could easily have been Bradley Wiggins.

Col de Tenerife

I was in two minds when we arrived at Tenerife this morning. Should we catch a tram to the local town and have a lazy day, or should we have a bike ride?
We found a round trip cycle route that we thought might be a bit hilly, but should be a nice bit of exercise, hopefully with pretty views, so we went for that.
We also knew that a lot of the professional cyclists on the Tour de France do their winter training locally, so we would be in good company.
We started with a flat, easy 10 kilometres along the seafront, and then it was a steady 21k climb that took us along all of the roads in the first two photos.
It was beautiful, but also never ending, and we kept thinking after each corner we would reach the top. Eventually we got there, but not before Darren's legs were shaking and I was considering crying.
We then cycled along the ridge at the top of the mountains where we could see right down to the sea on both sides.
The downward ride through the trees was brilliant, although, just like in the Tour de France, I could have done with a newspaper to put down my teeshirt as it got pretty chilly.
Fantastic day overall, although it was easier to appreciate it once we were back at sea level.

Sunday 13 October 2013


Arrived this morning at Lanzarotte and we have been trying really hard to find Cesar Manrique's house. Apparently, he is Lanzarotte's most famous son, and the house is built in lava bubbles underground, but we have had to give up as although it is somewhere nearby, we just can't find it.
Instead we have been to a Sunday morning market that seemed to hold the whole of the population. It was almost 16 kilometres gradually uphill so we then freewheeled down through the amazing landscape to the sea.
It looks as if it hasn't rained for years and even the fields are just dry, black soil surrounded by walls made from lumps of lava. Very strange.

Friday 11 October 2013

Cadiz and fino

Friday afternoon and we are spending it in Cadiz. We haven't opted for culture today but have wandered around the town, including a beautiful garden, paddled in the sea and seen the outside of the Cathedral.
We have now come to rest in a little bar in a shady side street. We are sitting outside on little stools, the table is a large barrel and we are sampling the local sherry, known as fino.
Four hours until the ship leaves so we have time to get to know it better.

Thursday 10 October 2013


Got up early today to watch the sunrise and see the ship dock in Lisbon.
We got the bikes out and followed the waterfront down to Belem to see the Monument to the Discoveries, which commemorates the quincentenery of the death of Henry the Navigator.
The next stop was just along the coast to see the Torre de Belem. This five story fortress was built in 1515 and stands in the water,  so that prisoners in the dungeon were submerged up to their necks at high tide.
We then followed a bike path along the coast to the beaches of Estoril and Cascais. It looked so inviting that I had a little paddle. Good but a bit nippy.
Finally, we followed the path back and stopped in Black Horse Square. It was named this is the 19th century by the British who lived here, but it has now been scrubbed and is green.
47 kilometres of nice flat ground, but too many cobbles for my liking.

Bay of Biscay

Tuesday and Wednesday. We have no Internet access whilst at sea, so I can't post this until we are back ashore.
We are currently crossing the infamous Bay of Biscay. It is being quite kind to us, but there is a definite roll to the waves. You might just be able to see in the photo that most of the water in the swimming pool is at the top end.
No one is in it and that is because it would be more like sitting in a washing machine than having a relaxing float about. 

Monday 7 October 2013

Southampton docks

Parked our lovely campervan in storage just outside of Southampton. All that was needed then was to pack our bags for a cruise, strap them on our backs and cycle to the Mayflower Dock.
Unfortunately, I was in charge of directions and I took a bit of a wrong turn. We then had to cycle up a long hill, and the only way to get up on to a road with a bridge across the River Itchen was to walk up about 50 steps.
The bags were getting heavy by then but we kept smiling and Darren took charge of the route.
Eventually we arrived at the cruise check in desk and there was a pretty big queue. However, as happened last time we took our bikes on board, the staff were amazed to see the bikes. Also, in a happy repeat of last time they ushered us down the Priority Check In lane and we are aboard within a few minutes.
Good to be on board the Oriana for a trip to the Canaries and Madeira.