June 9th, 2022
For our trip into London this weekend, we have purchased the “London Passes” and one of the included attractions is Windsor Castle – this is actually outside the city about an hour but not far from where we are going to visit our friend, Neels. So we will start our pass on Friday by visiting that before heading to his house.
On our route in that direction today, Fran saw a museum in St. Albans where a former Roman City was situated back around 50AD. We also saw that you can park overnight there so we made that our end point for today and spent a couple of hours touring the museum (which contains a good number of pieces of pottery and a large collection of mosaics) and then the grounds with ruin remains of two sections of wall and one gate.
The area is now a large city park with soccer fields, a playground etc., and includes paths to these small sites. The museum is situated next to the parking lot.
We had a very good night sleeping in the parking lot here and left around 9 to see the Queen at Windsor Castle! Ha, Ha, ha! Before leaving we decided we’d better figure out a bit of our plan to head into Europe. After disembarking from the ferry on Thursday morning, we will take two days to get to Darmstadt to spend two nights with Frank and Antje. We needed to decide if we want to book flights to the Faroe Islands out of Copenhagen. We did a bit of pricing and research and from what could see, it looked a lot like Iceland….and it’s not cheap to get there, rent a car there OR stay there. So we’ve decided we’ll skip it. Doug also reached out to a university friend of his, Debbie, who’s been living in Sweden almost since they graduated back in 1984 and whom we’ve kept in touch with and she has invited us to come see her when we go near her town.
We went into the village of St. Albans to get diesel and the price was not advertised at the station so we drove in, didn’t like the price and as we were leaving we nicked the mirror on a car; we didn’t realize it at the time but the fellow who works at the station flagged us down as we went to leave the adjacent lot and we went back. Luckily the outside cover and the light attached to it had just come off and Doug was able to snap it back in place.
The woman took our “play” card with our contact info and took a picture of our license plate just in case. Hopefully nothing further will come of it.
We hit some traffic on the M25 and made it into a parking lot in Windsor before 10:30. We went for a quick brekkie at Mickey Dee’s before making our way to the Castle just about 11 am. That timing was good because the changing of the guard was happening and many people stayed outside the walls to observe this (Fran had seen this at Buckingham Palace years ago and Doug wasn’t too interested) and we say a bit of it near the end from inside.
We activated our London Pass. You are given a free audio guide when you entered and the guide is included. We strolled along the way the guide took us.
You are not allowed to take photos inside but Fran grabbed these from online:
Queen Mary’s Dollhouse:
To be honest the audio guide it was way too much information for us and we didn’t listen to them all but we did enjoy the site – it’s quite beautiful and well maintained and as the sun was shining, it was that much more lovely to view. After trying to find bathrooms outside the castle walls we decided to check out the “Long Walk” a 2.5 mile walkway that starts at the castle and goes through a huge green space. We found the back entrance of the castle where it starts.
Then we wandered around the city of Windsor a bit before our parking time expired. Sadly we never saw the Queen but we did see the Queen Victoria statue:
We made our way south to Woking, where our friend, Neels and his wife, Hille, live.
They welcomed us so warmly and got us set up in their large driveway with power. Neels’ sister, Ingrid, was visiting from South Africa and they all were going out with their daughter’s family for a boat excursion at 3pm so we had the place to ourselves for a few hours in which time we showered and did a load of laundry. We then packed up our backpacks for our little weekend jaunt into London tomorrow while we leave parked Minou at Neels’. The train station is just over a click away from the house and there are some express trains right to Waterloo station. We have more or less figured out what we want to see, have a hotel reservation and our London Pass and are ready to go. Neels kindly drove us to the station around 7:30 am.
It was a very nice train and took less than 25 minutes to get to Waterloo Station where we called an Uber to get to our hotel to drop off our backpacks and got checked in. We then called another Uber to Westminster Abbey where we began our sightseeing.
Westminster Abbey is a very old famous church – but really it’s like a mausoleum as there are so many people buried there and have huge memorials.
We began walking around the city after the Abbey and saw:
We went to the “Uber” boat dock (included in our Passes) and took it to Tower Pier.
After disembarking we went to the London Tower for about an hour including the crown jewels (you cannot take photos of them), the white tower, the old roman wall ruins, the prison, some ravens and the former mint.
Next was the Tower Bridge where we walked across the pedestrian level and back including the glass floor:
There are many cool iconic buildings here in London. We walked to see the Gherkin
Lloyds of London
The cheese grater
By now we were quite hungry but being Saturday and being in the more business end of town seeing these buildings, a lot of restaurants were not open. We found a small mall/food court and had lunch in a pub.
We then took a long walk to St Paul’s Cathedral where the bells were ringing away:
Doug climbed dome (500 stairs was a bit much for Fran today given, we’d already gone up and down SO many steps!)
and we both went into crypt.
We tried to get into Ritz just to have a drink but the doorman said we were dressed well enough and pointed to our sneakers!
We then used our Pass to get on the hop on hop off bus a while before catching an Uber back to the hotel. Doug went out to the nearby shopping/restaurant area and got us some takeout food for the room. Fran was grateful for this as the lift in the hotel was not working!
On Sunday we started our day with a stroll through Kensington Gardens towards Kensington Palace. We took the tour inside as well as going to the sunken gardens to see the new Princess Diana Statue that was placed by her sons on what would have been her 60th birthday.
Queen Victoria spent most of her life here and the rooms you are able to tour take your on a tour of her life.
Then it was on to see Royal Albert Hall but the place only had two tours that day due to events in the afternoon and we were too late.
Across the street is the Albert monument which Victoria had built for her beloved husband.
We then walked over to Harrods and took a look at some departments looking for an England souvenir but the only souvenirs that had all said “Harrods” on them and Fran really wanted something to do with the Jubilee as there are not many of those events.
We tried to get to Buckingham Palace but due to last weekend’s Jubilee events, close access was denied due to the dismantling of all the seating, etc.
We took a short stroll in St James before getting on the Hop on hop off bus again which we took to Kings Cross to see the Harry Potter Platform 9 ¾.
Then it was back on again to go back on to Piccadilly Circus where we had lunch at the Hard Rock Picadilly
Bellies full we made our wat to Trafalgar Square:
The Savoy (which we didn’t attempt to enter!)
And Covent Gardens which was decked out with jubilee flags:
We were pretty tired by this point in the late afternoon and took the Hop on Hop Off bus to Marble Arch – the closest point to our hotel.
To get back to the Comfort Inn we walked through Hyde Park and say Speakers corner but didn’t get great pics. Before going upstairs we went to the nearby Subway to get dinner and had a quiet night.
Monday morning we checked out of the hotel but left our bags to pick up later. We took a long walk over to Abbey Road and had fun watching people doing the “walk across” and then Fran did it herself.
We took an Uber over to the British Museum which is free which was our plan since the Pass ended yesterday. We had a small snack in a sidewalk café before entering. The line up into the museum at the main entrance was humungous! Fran got in line while Doug went to the front to see how long it was going to take to get inside and was told if we’d rather not wait, head around the back side where there was no long. Now the back side is a good five minute fast walk because the building is HUGE but it was worth it; we walked right in!
As mentioned this place is ginormous and we really had no idea where to start except that we wanted to see the Rosetta Stone. Luckily the brochure they give you, gives suggested things to see so that’s what we did.
The Rosetta Stone is a stele composed of granodiorite inscribed with three versions of a decree issued in Memphi, Egypt, in 196 BC. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts respectively, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek. The decree has only minor differences between the three versions, making the Rosetta Stone key to deciphering the Egyptian scripts.
The stone was carved during the Hellenistic period and is believed to have originally been displayed within a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was probably moved in late antiquity or during the Mamluk period, and was eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was discovered there in July 1799 by French officer Pierre-François Bouchard during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. It was the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times, and it aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher this previously untranslated hieroglyphic script. Lithographic copies and plaster casts soon began circulating among European museums and scholars. When the British defeated the French they took the stone to London under the Capitulation of Alexandria in 1801. Since 1802, it has been on public display at the British Museum almost continuously and is its most visited object. The term ‘Rosetta Stone’ is now used to refer to the essential clue to a new field of knowledge.
Then to finish our London experience, we took a London Black Cab back to the hotel to get our bags and another cab (using an app called “Free Now”) to get to Waterloo Station to catch our train back to Woking Station.
We knew that Neels and Hille were entertaining some old college friends of hers, so rather than bother them, we walked back to their place and were back by three. After unpacking, we met their visitors who left around 5 and then Neels warmed up dinner around 7. We called it a night about 8 and had a great night’s sleep back in our own beds.
Tuesday morning, Hille, picked up their grandson, Theodore, whom they take care of three days a week and after a light breakfast, we left. It was a wonderful visit with very hospitable friends whom we will have for life. South Africans are SO welcoming and love to entertain people in their homes. Neels and Hille, as well as Ingrid, made us feel so at home and it was hard to leave! Danke!
It was another lovely sunny day and we had made plans to meet our friend, David Duggleby (Dugg) in Steyning that evening. We met Dugg back in 2016 in El Salvardor where he was working at the Tortuga Verde Hostel. He got stung by a sting ray the day after Doug did.
Dugg had told us about a small campground on the edge of town and made our way there by mid-day. Adam met us as he was leaving and said he or his wife Kelly, would come see us later and to just pick a spot.
This was the FIRST time we were anywhere in Europe where it was nice enough and we had enough room to put out our little patio and our chairs!
Dugg showed up right on time walking into our campground. He is a geography teacher at the local school and gets board there as well in a 17th century old school master’s house.
We went for a walk trying to find a pub for dinner with no luck; one closed and the other two didn’t serve food Tuesday nights. We ended up at the local Italian place where Dugg said their pizza is quite good but the pasta not so much, he’d heard. We enjoyed drinks and excellent pizza before walking back to Minou and Dugg went his own way.
By morning we’d not seen the owners but expect we will on the way out. Doug checked our propane situation and as we’re getting low he decided now is the time to empty the one bottle and then he can hook up the second one into the system finally and we’ll get them filled before hitting the ferry tomorrow. Fran boiled up some eggs and made tea to use up some more gas.
We began the drive to Dover for Thursday’s ferry, wanting to follow along the coast as much as possible. Our main challenges today were to get propane, some diesel to make it to France where it’s cheaper and one sightseeing stop.
We used an app to LPG locations and the first one came up in Brighton – got there – not working!
We then found the Meridian Memorial. We didn’t get to the Greenwich Mean Time spot outside London and didn’t push it to go there since Fran had found this one on the coast. It’s actually not quite on zero but we walked over to where we could see we were closest:
It was a lovely drive along the coast and the ocean looked inviting. Driving on the left hand side of the road when traveling east along England’s south coast is not so conducive to taking photos but trust us, it looked wonderful.
We next stopped in Eastbourne to get diesel at the Tesco (usually the cheapest place) then moved on down the coast. Second LPG station we tried was in Hastings and that one panned out (we had a backup in Dover if necessary) and filling went smoothly. There appeared to be a small leak (this was the first time we were filling the second new tank so that was not a surprise) but Doug tightened up the nuts and it was all good.
So now it’s about 1:30 and having not eaten yet, we finally found a layby to stop and make brekkie. As mentioned above, we wanted to drive along the coast but after this stop, seems the coast is not visible from the road so despite a beautiful sunny day, no more oceans views for us.
We had a parking spot in mind for our final night in England outside Dover that we’d found on park4night but upon arriving there, we saw that height restricting barriers had been installed and we were out of luck. We had a backup plan in town and arrived there to find plenty of room and got settled. We had to pay for two hours of parking and then it was free after 6. By bed time there were virtually no cars but five other motorhomes/ campervans.
Our ferry is early tomorrow so we’ll be gone before the 9am start of pay parking again.
We have been so happy with the weather the past week; temps have reached mid 20’s C / high 70’s F and the sun is so appreciated.
We now have 88287 km on Minou so we did about 7000 km in the UK.
June 16th, 2022
BACK TO MAINLAND EUROPE to begin our new 90 days in the Schengen
We did not slept well the night before we caught the ferry in Dover because it was rather warm and we have no fans. Being in a parking lot we were a little anxious about leaving windows wide open too. We were awake before our alarm so we left the lot before 6am and drove the 3 km / 2 mi to the ferry terminal.
You go through immigration first and we were stamped into the Schengen and then checked in for the ferry and told where to park. Then we did our ablutions and made tea. The ferry left just a few minutes late and we began the two hour crossing. We will lose an hour getting into France so we hope to be on the road after filling up the tank (diesel cheaper in the EU) by noon.
In the late morning Doug began to experience a sore throat. Not a good sign.
As we went through Immigration on the English side, we drove right off the ferry at Dunkirk and began the drive into Belgium enroute to Frank & Antje’s house in Darmstadt. (This is the couple we met in Uganda who are also big supports of Kitojo School). As we bypassed Bruges we heard that same terrible racket we’d experienced about a week before in northern England – another blow out! – this time, on the other side also at the back. WTH?!?!? We stopped immediately and pulled off the freeway. Fran walked back a bit and then Doug joined her we found a few “things” that had been broken off.
Like the last time, not only did it damage to the underside (under the plumbing and furnace) but also to the spare tire release and the side running lights. The tire itself was not flat this time but the tread was mostly torn off. Doug slowly drove Minou over to an exit and we pulled off on the ramp. It took him a good hour to finally get the tire to lower without the release and come off due to the missing parts and Fran began calling around to see if we could get some mobile help. By this time, a police officer pulled up behind us to ask if we needed assistance; when we said yes, it took him a good twenty minutes but someone showed up in a special vehicle and put out cones behind us. We have ordered ER triangles but they are waiting for us at Frank’s place (as we often do when going to visit someone, we had place an Amazon order). By the time the fellow came over to check on us, Doug had removed the tire and was already placing the spare on. The guy did nothing but watch. As he soon as he saw Doug tightening the lugs, he said if we were okay, he’d leave now and wouldn’t have to charge us! Charge us – for what pray tell?
Fran found a tire shop up ahead off the main freeway and we drove over there. Luckily they were not busy, took us in right away and after telling our story they mechanic looked at all the tires; they are all 2016 and he felt that was too old and that the rubber was disintegrating – hence the blow outs. The tires had good tread when we bought Minou and still did but it seems age is a factor. We bought four new tires, and the one we bought last week has become the spare. We should be good now. These new ones are 2021’s. The mechanic was also able to more or less straighten out the tire release bar but could not help us reattach it.
We carried on quite a distance, getting stuck in rush hour traffic passing by Brussels but found a large rest area to park for the night. Before stopping we stopped in a small town at a hardware store to get supplies to repair the floor etc. When Doug went under the vehicle to take some measurements, he kept up stinging and itchy – we think he laid down in the some stinging nettles but have no calamine lotion for it. We tried some vinegar which was useless so we hope it dissipates quickly. We’ll have to get some calamine in Darmstadt even if the stinging is gone in 24 hours.
We’ve noticed that the fridge seems to be having issues running on the truck battery when driving. It’s supposed to automatically detect whether we are on power or using 12V truck battery and if neither is available, switch to LPG. Well it’s not recognizing the 12V for some reason when we’re driving and sometimes when not driving; you have to manually switch to LPG. Doug think’s maybe it’s a fuse but the fuses seem to be located in the BACK of the fridge which you cannot access without removing rivets! So we’ll have to keep an eye on this issue. In the meantime, we emailed EuroCamping to see if they can help us but we know how long that can take to get an answer. Doug found the fuses for the coach and saw that the one that should be running the fridge looked fine but it’s socket looked burned. He reinserted it and we’ll see what happens. The fridge works on LPG and the light comes on so we don’t think it’s that.
Upon arriving Doug got out and managed to get a few things repaired since it stays light so late these days. We are still having an issue with the running lights so that still needs to be sorted but we rarely drive at night, so we’ll leave it for now.
By this time, Doug is feeling quite bad and his throat is worse; he’s quite fatigued and has some brain fog. We figure he better test for COVID in the morning and we’ll let our friends know he’s not well. He did manage to see a wire loose that appears to be a ground wire and may be our fridge issue. He stuck it back in but it’s not secure so we’ll have to watch it. Now the fridge seems to be doing the auto switching, so that’s a good sign.
Next morning Doug felt no better and did a home rapid test and it came back negative so we reached out – we know these are not super accurate, but Doug felt it was just a cold. They felt comfortable with us still coming. We left the Barchon rest stop around 8 and made it to Darmstadt by 1:30.
Frank and Antje live in a house built in 1896 (and not destroyed in WWII despite much of the city succumbing to that) in a residential area near the town centre but do not have a driveway. She had told us if we arrived in the afternoon we might get a spot our front or had found us a street nearby where many people park their RV’s. Luckily, we were early and got a parking spot two doors down from their house on the other side of the street. It’s getting hotter these days now that we are back on the “mainland” away from the sea – could be a good idea to sleep inside their house!
Neither of them works on Friday afternoons, so we had time to catch and bring our things in to spend two nights in their house. We had a lovely homemade rhubarb cake for “tea time” and then Antje made a lovely risotto with asparagus dish for dinner. We went for a long walk into the town that afternoon and they showed us what sights Darmstadt had to offer.
Saturday was sunny and warm and Doug was not well at all. He had a fever in the morning so Fran gave him some Tylenol and that broke quickly. He began to feel better but we all felt that he should just rest today and we cancelled the possible outings for the day.
As we are headed to Norway and things are super expensive there, we wanted to do a big dry goods/beverages shop before leaving Germany. Frank kindly took Fran in his van and she managed to get about 80% of where we need/want. We’ll do the rest on Monday before we cross the border into Denmark. Then Antje walked with Fran to a pharmacy to get some throat lozenges and calamine lotion.
By tea time, Doug was feeling a bit better and really wanted something cold for his throat. Antje suggested an ice cream place a few blocks away and we wandered over there slowly in the heat. By this time, Frank thought Doug should be officially tested so upon our return, Antje went online and go him an appointment for a monitored rapid test where they also swab your throat for 7pm that night.
After our monthly meeting with Kitojo, Frank took Doug over and got the results quickly: he was positive so he was contagious – proof that the home “up the nose” test is not so accurate. We felt so bad being at their house and offered to leave immediately or at least move out to our RV but they felt they’d already been exposed and it was 36C / 98F now and miserable in Minou which has no AC so even if we had power, we’d been stinking hot.
After doing some research about contagious periods, we figure Doug picked it up at the British Museum on Monday where it was rather crowded and he didn’t wear a mask or on Friday at the London Tower which was equally crowded in the hall with the Crown Jewels. Fran did wear one when there were a great deal of people around but now that she’s been with Doug all this time, we’ll see what happens. As you know we’ve not only been doubled vaxxed but have had two boosters – the latter of which was about six weeks ago. It has to be omicron he’s got as the main symptom is the sore throat and he’s had no loss of smell or taste. He reached out to the friends we’ve seen in the past week to let them know.
We had dinner outside and spent the evening sitting out there. We went to bed before ten and next morning Doug felt better, mostly tired but still had some sore throat. No one else was showing symptoms yet….
We wanted to get a good mileage day in today (Father’s Day) and we managed about 500 km / 300 mi. Doug was pretty tired by the time we stopped at around 3:15 and we hope we’ll both sleep better in our own beds. The temperature when we left Frankfurt was near 30 with a forecast of 36 again, but as we went northward, it cooled down considerably and it clouded over.
We got parked in a small “Aire” that offers dumping for free and water and power for a small fee – neither of which we hooked up to. It’s away from the freeway so it should be a quiet night.
We both slept pretty good last night and although Doug was quite congested this morning but his sore throat was gone; Fran still has no symptoms – fingers crossed. It’s cloudy this fine Monday but a reasonable temperature so Fran is back to Capri pants but still wearing sandals. She did have some Keene type sandals shipped to us at Frank’s so she has another option than sneakers when she can’t wear flops.
Today, we needed to finish our big grocery shopping list for Sweden/Norway/Finland where prices are much higher. There were three grocery stores in this small town of Salzhausen so we went to all of them and managed to get more stuff but still not everything.
Fran found a larger REWE on our route through Hamburg and there we were able to get everything else. Hamburg is a huge port city on a river and there are containers everywhere stacked up. Man, Minou must be feeling the weight! But we got it all in and we’re ready to explode!