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Upgrading Minou, GB-ENG


March 15th, 2022

The ferry crossing from Calais, France to Dover, England on P&O Ferries was mostly trucks and there were certainly not many people on board.  It took about 90 minutes (with an hour’s time change) and went smoothly.

The ferry windows were quite dirty so it was hard to get photos, but here’s the White Cliffs of Dover:

Our first order of business was, as usual, SIM cards; Fran had used up 34.5GB of her 35 GB Orange France plan but it was still working here.  But since it won’t hotspot, it’s not useful to us.  We went into town, it took a bit of time to find free parking, and walked over into the downtown where we found the EE shop.  We both got set up with SIM cards with working hotspots on pay as you go plans and didn’t even need ID!  Doug got 30GB for 30 days for £20 and Fran got 100GB for 30 days for £30.

Currency here is of course, the British Pound which is worth $1.30 USD / 1.66 CAD

Diesel price so far is €1.74 per litre which is about $1.50 USD which is about $5.67 a gallon so better than France but with the world situation, we expect that to get worse.  Luckily, distances are short around here.

Oh here in Britain they use miles no kilometres but petrol is sold in litres!   

{We won’t go into our usual details about history for most of Europe as many of these countries are well known to us and you all.}

It is now early afternoon and we are liking the look of this little city and decide to stick around but first visit Dover Castle – well it’s closed on Tuesdays!  Turns out that there are not many places to park a motorhome around here so as we figure we’ll be back here in a couple of months to catch the ferry back to the EU, we’ll begin making our way north.

We get as far as Stokenchurch off the M20 and it looks like heavy rain coming so as places to spend the night are few and of those the options that suit us are even less, we settle into a “lay by” about a mile off the freeway here.  Now we feel we need to dump our cassette but no options come up for that in our apps either so we decided to buy some fuel at the nearby petrol station and ask nicely if we can dump our cassette.  They young man was agreeable “as long as we didn’t make a mess” so it all worked out.  The cassette seems to last about three days when it’s the only choice as it’s not that big.  We don’t use chemicals in it so that helps if our only option is dumping into a sceptic system.

Now Doug has been having issues getting OSM maps for our Garmin and we hate using our phones all the time for directions, so Doug found an almost brand new Garmin fitted with EU maps on FB Marketplace for a better price than buying an SD card we we’ve arranged to pick that up on our way tomorrow.

It began to rain shortly after arriving and it didn’t let up until just before we went to bed so we made the right choice to stop.  We had our brunch, read, played cribbage and tried to keep warm.  We carefully monitor the battery situation with only one panel so we are hesitant to plug too much in and run the furnace too long as the fan takes power.  It was a pretty quiet night and the next morning headed to Mickelton to pick up the Garmin.  It works and apparently has lifetime maps with it so we are back to a system on our dash rather than draining phone batteries.

Next was a stop in Warwick for groceries and brekkie at McDonald’s so we could power up our laptops.  Doug heard back from another guy on FB Marketplace who has some solar panels and we then arranged to go pick those up in the south of Birmingham before getting to Norm’s farm.  That all went smoothly until we needed a hardware store for a couple of parts Doug couldn’t order online – no luck in the area we were in so we just made our way to Norm’s place, Goodrest Farm, and met the couple leasing and running the place.

Jess and Paul gave us a choice of places to park, showed us where power and water was available (but we can’t plug in until we get the adaptors we need to use our French vehicle on UK power sockets! – they arrive on Saturday) and gave us the two packages that had already arrived.  We expect the gas system to arrive on Friday as well as most of the Amazon order with the last two items arriving Saturday and Monday.

We settled in for a cold night and both slept well.

Doug went for a walk into the town of Kenilworth Friday morning for some small parts he needs with no success so we had to drive in Warwick but still couldn’t find everything so we’ve ordered more from Amazon UK since we have an address again.

It was pleasantly warm today – up to 17 C / 62F and the sun was lovely.  The morning started out foggy but that burned off fairly quickly.  Clocks don’t “spring forward” here this weekend like at home as in Europe it’s the last Sunday of the month so we still have dark mornings.

On Friday, the LPG system Doug ordered arrived so we went through it and of course, it came with no instructions!  Doug spent some time trying to figure out the bits and got them all sorted but one piece.  He emailed the company and after some photos and back and forth messages, believes he has it figured out.

Upon returning to our “spot” at the farm, Fran went for a walk on some of the bridle paths.  Seems it’s part of the community life to open your farm pathways to horses, bikes and pedestrians and right beside where we’re parked is the start of footpath/bridle path so we see people heading down it several times a day.

Part of our original Amazon order arrived today so the website said but it’s a bit confusing here at Goodrest.  A the top of the lane by the road, there are three cottages; seems two of Norm’s sons live in two of them but down where we are parked, there is one larger house where the tenants who run the farm live and right beside the spot we’re parked at, there is another house on the other side of the fence and is a different property BUT they all have the same address! So we’re not sure where are parcels were delivered because they were not delivered here to the house where we’re parked.  Doug spoke to Paul and he said we’d sort it out in the morning.

So Saturday morning, we needed to dump and it was too early to go ask Jess & Paul if we could use their bathroom to do so.  We learned of a place in town, a rugby club, that allows motorhomes to stay over, and they allow you to dump (supposedly grey and black) and get water and have a shower in the clubhouse.  We called yesterday and they told us how to open the gate if no one is around and where to leave the £5 fee.  We readied “Minou” – (means “kitty cat” in French and is also a term of endearment so in keeping with the “Tigger” feline theme of our first rig, we thought it appropriate) – and we drove the 3 km there.  There did not seem to be anyone around and we saw no WC dumping station so we dumped into a toilet and then Fran went to check out the showers in the locker rooms; after several tries she still couldn’t get hot water so we decided what we’d do is shower in Minou and then dump the grey and then refill our fresh tank.  Well our hose did not seem to fit the faucet (uh oh, are faucets different sizes around Europe!?) so we gave up as we knew we could fill up back at the farm but were a bit worried that again, the hose would not connect.

We returned to the farm and found the faucet and all was good.

In the meantime, we still had no packages so we checked at the house next door; nope.  We then went up to the 3 cottages; first one had an older gentleman outside and we asked him.  He said they should be at the middle cottage and luckily, Becky was home.  She is Norm’s daughter-in-law and she had them all.  We chatted with her a bit, told her there were more coming over the next 3 days and she has our contact number for WhatsApp to let us know when they do.

Fran went for a walk before lunch and then Doug went afterwards.  While today is full on sun again, there’s a cold wind so it won’t be so warm today but we’ll take dry and cool, over wet any day!

Sunday, Doug began work on the solar panel installation

He got them up onto the roof but was awaiting the sealant and legs to complete the job (see pic at top of page): that arrived on Monday and he completed the job – and lo and behold, we had a stronger solar system – Doug used to be afraid of electrical work but now he’s done solar installs on both our trailer back in the US and now this – expert now!

As for the gas system, we still don’t have an empty gas bottle yet to try filling one of the new gas bottles; despite our first French bottle emptying within a week and us swamping it out for a full one while still in France, the other bottle is still in play (we think maybe when ECC told us they filled our gas bottles before arriving, they filled one and the other was not empty so we used up that latter first and are now working through the one they did fill).   In the meantime, we have received the adaptors we need to fill these new bottles around Europe; last one we need is for Morocco and we’re working on that.

In the meantime, we’ve received other things we need; one of which is an adaptor to use our French extension cord in the UK; unfortunately, it seems the type C plugs have changed since our motorhome was built and the plug wouldn’t connect!  So what we have ended up doing is buying a new short extension cord to hook up to that and then it should work; we’ll try it out.

On Monday afternoon we drove over to dump and have showers again.  We asked our host, Jess, if we could poke around their old wood pile for pieces we could use for leveling Minou and she told us to help ourselves so Doug grabbed several pieces and Fran when into town to get a saw to cut them down to the size we needed.

On Tuesday afternoon Fran went for a haircut and later we went out to see the Kenilworth Castle – building in 1260.  Just like Dover Castle: it was closed on Tuesdays!  We had a walk around the outside and there were lots a spots where we could peek inside:

After dinner we checked out the oldest pub in Kenilworth – Virgins and Castles and stayed for dinner:

As we finished our starter, Doug lost a tooth!  No pain or blood it seems to have just broken off from its roots.  We’ll ask Jess for a recommendation for a dentist in case it should be dealt with right away.

Our last packages arrived on Tuesday and we decided to hang for a couple more nights and sort out our plans.  Doug wants to get Minou an oil change but after calling around to a few places, no appointments were available for weeks!

Wednesday, Doug called around and got an appointment for a consult on his tooth for that afternoon and we decided we should look at Dublin for a place to get an oil change as we could book it ahead now. We’ve looked at ferry schedules and April first is a less expensive day to travel and then we could spend a bit of time in Wales before crossing the Irish Sea.  Fran called around after Doug found a Groupon for a chain of garages in Ireland and she got us an appointment for April 5th.  This will allow us to spend a weekend in Dublin before heading down to Greystones, about 20 miles south of Dublin.

Fran hung around in Minou for the day trying to catch up on blogging – been so much going on for weeks, there hasn’t been a great deal of downtime to go through photos but she does manage to keep up on the typing at least in point form.

So Thursday, we took the day to do some household chores, like dumping again, laundry and said our goodbyes to Jess and Paul.  They were very kind to let us stay on their property where we had access to power and water and quiet nights! Thank you both and much thanks to our friend, Norm, for suggesting and making it happen.

Friday morning we made our way to Warwick to visit the castle.  Now there are hundreds (it seems) of castles in the UK – we know we’ll get castled out if we even start to do them all so we checked a list of the top 15 and we’ll consider those to actually do proper visits to; otherwise, we’ll view them from the outside.

Now Warwick Castle is currently owned by Madame Tussauds so we expected it to be very commercialized and touristy. By purchasing tickets online the day ahead we saved about £10 off the tickets and knew there would be some cheezy stuff we’d not do.

It was another gorgeous sunny day (we’ve only had ONE day of rain since arriving) and it was supposed to go up to 19C / 68F today! Fran got out her capris and flip flops!).

We arrived before opening, got parked and chatted with a young couple outside the gate while waiting for it to open.  We spent about 90 minutes in total touring the grounds, doing a weird walk through some dark tunnels about local life, visited the apartments of the last family to live there,  the fortified mound area and one of the towers that had some history of the battles fought here.  There was also a little “time travel” film about its history and hallways full of photographs.

Warwick Castle has its own trebouchet:

This is the largest siege machine IN THE WORLD! The colossal catapult is an authentic recreation of one of the biggest and most deadly military machines of all time. The trebuchet was the largest and most formidable of the siege machines and was, in essence, a huge catapult. The trebuchet was used to hurl huge projectiles to breach the castle walls. Large rocks and stones were the main ammunition but there is evidence of more unusual material. Manure and dead animals were also hurled by the machines into the besieged castle to spread disease! Pigs were often picked as the animal of choice as they were thought to be more aerodynamic! In this case, pigs most definitely could fly!

This trebuchet  was a reconstruction built in 2005 and weighs 22 ton and stands 19m / 62′ tall. The design of the war-machine came from Peter Vemming from the medieval Centre in Nykøbing in Denmark, where he completed the first reconstruction in 1989. Notes and drawings from the 13th century were used to reconstruct these mighty machines. One such source was obviously the “Morgan Bible”, which holds some famous illustrations of medieval warfare. 

After leaving the county of Warwickshire where we’d spent the last 9 days, we headed west to Stratford on Avon to see the birthplace of Shakespeare, where he is buried and Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  This is a pretty little town and we parked on a residential street and walked to the above mentioned sites as well as had lunch at The Black Swan / Dirty Duck pub.  

Anne Hathway’s cottage was closed until the next day so we only saw it from outside (which was fine with us)

and Shakespeare’s birthplace, we just took a photo of from outside,

while wandering the little streets.  Enroute to the Holy Trinity Church where William is buried we stopped for lunch at:

It has existed as a pub since 1738 and has been known as The Black Swan since 1776, although it may have been given this name earlier.  However, the pub is more commonly known as The Dirty Duck.  It is unclear where this name originates from. One story goes that the American GI’s remained it while in England.  It is the only pub in England which has a licence under its two names. 

It was a short walk along the Avon

to the church but as it was not open, we couldn’t check it out.

Other shots in Stratford-on-Avon:

We walked back to Minou and decided another 60 km / 40  mi was about all we wanted to do and we found a roadside lay by to spend the night outside Worcester.

Saturday morning we hit the road after making tea and went to check out what is considered the UK’s prettiest town:  Ludlow (also the name of the street Doug lived on in Sooke). 

It was a cute little town with its own castle which we walked around and then checked out the open air market where we bought some food including a “Scotch Egg” which is an egg wrapped in pork covered in egg yolk and breaded before frying.

some licorice from different countries before moving on to the “border” with Wales.