Treading Water….. 15/5/19

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Well, the plan was to be on the road by now but after a quick trip back to the UK to catch up with family, a deviation down to Bath for Keith to go to the dentist – squeezing in a tactical catch up with a few friends – we arrived home last Tuesday to the gas alarm going off, gas off – thankfully! – and a defrosted Fridge/Freezer!

All we can say is that it was an eventful day, the flight back from Gatwick was delayed due to the plane apparently being in Pathos the night before …. I haven’t ever been but apparently a good time can be had by all as even the plane had a mother of a hangover!  Joking aside we were really lucky though, as whilst sitting in the airport lounge at Gatwick with a glass of wine and beer in hand a drone flew up to within about 50m of us….. so the delays could have been quite a bit worse!

As the flight was so late the trams had stopped running so we opted for a taxi, eventually getting back to the motorhome just after midnight opening the door cautiously, not turning on any lights just in case there were gas fumes but thankfully all was good.  We had been warned that there may have been a problem by one of our neighbours who did a daily walk round for us and on Tuesday afternoon could hear an alarm inside the motorhome but couldn’t hear the gas on the fridge which he had heard on previous days.

In the week leading up to us flying to the UK we had smelt a slight smell of gas and thought that it was possibly the end of one of the bottles before it changed over but the smell had lasted longer than expected so we had called and booked an engineer to come and have a look on the Wednesday morning following our return…. hindsight being a wonderful thing, we probably should have dealt with it before we left.  Thankfully however, the motorhome has an alarm and a cut off, which means that should the gas toxins within the motorhome get above a certain point the system cuts off and stops the gas supply…. we don’t want to think about what could have happened if that wasn’t in place – losing the food in the freezer and a few yoghurts is a small price to pay!

We were back in Hattie though and were pleasantly surprised by Jose Maria, a retired Dometic engineer who turned up at 10 am on Wednesday morning, pulled everything a part, swept the chimney, fixed the problem and serviced the Fridge/Oven unit.  It appears that at some point someone has tried to clean the gas injector with a pin – something that you should never do – and has made the hole larger, burning the gas at the incorrect temperature….so a new part is required – hence we are currently treading water, waiting for the part to arrive from Madrid which will hopefully be over the next couple of days.

With Hattie temporarily sorted and needing to hang around a little longer we were happy to receive a message from a friend who lives in the states and will be in Alicante next Sunday …. so it was obviously fate that we hang on for an extra few days.   We were also hit by a heatwave last week which was a bit of a shock coming back from the UK as temperature rose to high 20’s during the day and barely went below 20 overnight … thankfully it only lasted until Sunday and is now happily sitting at around 23 degrees during the day but going down to 15 overnight – a little more pleasant for us cold blooded Brits…. slightly different to the horrific weather that we had over Easter that left the beaches in a really bad state, taking a couple of weeks to clear up…

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Although it is difficult to believe, we have now had Hattie for a year.  Who would have thought that the mad dash home and up to Melbourne in Derbyshire was at the end of April last year… where does time go? We can happily say, without any hesitation that it was the right decision to make the change and despite a few hiccups along the way, she suits us perfectly for our lifestyle…. lets hope that the next 5 years are slightly cheaper but as enjoyable as this last one!  Despite having to change our plan slightly, we are still looking forward to taking her to lots of new places in France, Germany and the UK this summer.

With a bit of extra time on our hands and not having ever stayed here this late we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Tapas competition has started in San Juan Pueblo, so we ventured out for a few cheeky tapas – which come accompanied with a glass of wine or beer for 2 euro 50 cents – last Friday night.  The first two (oddly, one was vegetarian which is still a bit of a daring choice for Spain) were pretty good – although we both agreed probably not to the El Campello standard of last year –  however unfortunately, the other three varied between ‘Average’ and ‘Pretty Poor’ …. just going to have to try some more this weekend before we head off!

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We also caught up with Pilar and her sister for lunch on Saturday in Santa Faz at one of their favourite restaurants ‘Pro Bar’ which serves quality seasonal produce full of flavour in small dishes …. delicious.  It also enabled us to finally see the infamous Santa Faz Monastery which is where once a year, thousands of Pilgrims walk to from  from Alicante.  Oddly, the pilgrimage  two weeks ago and we were caught up in all the Pilgrim traffic on the Tram whilst on the way to the airport, they were apparently all on their way to get the free wine and cinnamon buns that are put on by the local town council!!  Apparently roughly 260,000 Pilgrims do the 8km walk, eating roughly 1000kg of cinnamon bun and drinking 800 litres of Mistella (Sweet white wine) …. not bad for 8am, although I am sure that a fair few bring their own supplies as well having seen the state of the teenagers by lunchtime on the beach in previous years!

It cannot be denied though … the Monastery isn’t too bad!

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Shedding the pounds…. 25/4/19

Fortunately or unfortunately …. I am not sure which but I am not talking about weight, instead the ever deteriorating exchange rate which isn’t doing us much good for the health of the wallet!

No surprises that nothing happened on the 12th April in so far as Brexit goes and it appears that everyone has decided to chill out, go on holiday and forget about it now they have the extension…. glad to see that its high up the priority list.

It is however good to see that the journalists can still do their jobs and find other news to report on as by now you would have thought that they had lost their touch.

With Brexit on hold though we are now being bombarded by Spanish politics in the lead up to their general election on the 28th April – whatever happens it isn’t going to be good but lets hope that they can do better than last time as this is their third general election in four years.  The only thing is that appears to be certain is that it will yet again be a hung parliament leaving the question as to which parties will join together to make up the government and whether they will actually manage to do it this year rather than like last time taking over a year and having to hold another general election to progress forward.

Anyway, enough of politics – I think we have had a lives worth of them in the last 6 months and life is here to enjoy …. so we have been doing our best!

Following on from my last blog no surprises in that we have continued along the same theme… lots of good food and good company!  We had Richard (Gonzo) over for a couple of days who is a self confessed foodie so we took him out for a lovely Paella, Keith tried out some new bits on the Bar B Q …. including some Calamare and Anchovies

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And we found a great new bar on his last night by mistake where the barman plied us with Jamon, Lomo and Queso (Cured meats and cheese) and a couple of extra free drinks too, restricting our movement enough to make us stay for just one more until they gave way finally enabling us crawl out of there at around midnight paying a measly 28 euros for the whole evening…. I guess we shouldn’t complain!

No surprises but we have also been ‘entertaining’, as well as ‘been entertained’ quite a bit – always trying to push the boundaries a little further with new recipes and ideas. As part of our ‘being entertained’ we were invited back to the campsite owners (Jorge) house a couple of Sunday’s ago for lunch which was almost an exact repeat of three years ago – although they separated not long after and is it wrong to say that Yolanda made some amazing Croquettes last time??!! – we still however,  had Octopus (caught by the eldest son), Mussels and an enourmous Seafood Paella… all of which were absolutely delicious!

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Keith has been trying out a few new ‘rubs’ on the BBQ, the first was a little raw, heat wise as it used chilli flakes, however the second was a definate success …. a homemade Louisiana Cajun Rub – just the right amount of heat and tingle along with flavour.

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I have also had a play at making bread on the BBQ today.  It is Moroccan Khobz bread and this particular version is made with a mixture of white and wholemeal flour which we cooked on the pizza stone once we had taken the pizzas off….. not bad for a first attempt if I don’t say so myself!

To divert away from food for a minute – as it will soon be time to eat again – we are back on track with the photo competitions.

Zak was away in the lakes and his picture for ‘One colour to fill the frame and create interest in your subject’ to go alongside my prawns from the last blog is the following …

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We then had the challenge to ‘It is easy to use leading lines to show the depth of an image or to lead the eye to a certain point – instead, use the leading lines to show the concept of infinity….

Zak’s using the trees to take you to infinity…

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I have chosen the tram lines which are bordered by palm trees as far as the eye can see….

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We then had the challenge of ‘using your mood as your artistic inspiration, take a photo that demonstrates the mood you are feeling today’.  My mood was tranquil and relaxed…. it was a corker of a day and we had just cooked lunch for some friends before heading down to the beach….

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A few days later however and the weather broke and we had a typical British Easter ….four days of torrential rain and strong winds, the complete reverse to the UK!

My beautiful scene of tranquility above turned into a warning for anyone contemplating dipping their toes in the rather rough sea….

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Our planned BBQ for friends from Madrid got changed to a Fish Pie that we took to Santi’s along with lots of other bits to munch on and thankfully Manolo, Sergio and Tania picked us up en route as I have never seen so much rain come down in such a short period.

Normal service has now been resumed and although the clean up process is taking a few days we are pretty much there and the only sights left of the storm are the huge amount of seaweed and debris on the beach with a bit of excess sand on the promenade.

I am not sure where the last couple of months have gone but it is difficult to believe that we are closing in on the end of our stay in San Juan….. only a couple of weeks until we set off in search of new places so we better get stocked up on all things Spanish before we head north!

Pumpkins….. 1/4/19

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Well, we made it past the 29th March and haven’t yet turned into Pumpkins – although to be fair we have eaten rather a lot over the last few weeks so I do feel a bit like one….

We are still in San Juan Playa and have been making the most of the generally sunny (18 + degrees) days and cool (9 degrees) nights to catch up with friends and get back into a routine.

The Saturday market in San Juan itself is as good as always and we have got back into the routine of cooking lunch for Santi and Manolo after a trip to the market.  I think Santi’s mum must hate us – or perhaps love us, depending on how you look at it –  as whenever we are here he doesn’t see his parents anywhere as much as he does when we are gone!!  We have been the recipients of her rather good Tortilla, although are still awaiting the invite for the infamous Paella!!

Apart from using the BBQ a lot to perfect the Babaganoush recipe, Spatchcock more chicken, extend our repertoire with the pizzas – Keith has now gone Italian with an egg in the middle – And having a go at garlic bread to go with a lovely homemade lasagne.  We have also been cooking for the neighbours… a delicious Fish Pie, lots of soups, a few foccacias, many rounds of bread rolls,  cheesecake, a couple of crumbles, Belgian Fridge Cake, lots of Flapjack and a couple of batches of fruitcake muffins…. we certainly aren’t going hungry and nor are the neighbours!

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We have also been out to eat quite a few times, notably trying out a new Moroccan restaurant with our Spanish friends, revisiting the Cuchara del Carmen in Alicante which serves delicious food from Asturias with Mary and Melvyn and more locally, Casa Julio which is one of our favourite restaurants on the beach…. this time we opted for a mixture of starters which included calamari, some pretty sizeable mussels (although they were tiny in comparison to those in New Zealand!), a pretty delicious Monkfish and Clam Paella and dessert … which I have just realised would have been Zak (my Nephew’s) ultimate dessert plate as it contained Cheesecake and Chocolate Fudge cake!!

Thankfully we have been keeping up with the running, exercise and walking as otherwise I would have definately needed a new pair of jeans by now!

I know it is odd but strangely, we have also fallen back into our routine of going to the cinema thus far, we have seen The Green Book – well worth seeing if you haven’t done so, Taxi to Gibraltar which was ok (and thankfully reasonably short) and Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria) which is a film by Almodovar which is also worth seeing if you like his style as he is a bit ‘Arty’ for some!

The photography challenge took a brief interlude as Zak was knocked out by tonsillitis, however he is fighting back and promises to have a couple of good photos for the next blog!!

My photo last week to ‘Fill the frame, using one colour to isolate the subject and create interest in the photo’ is the following …

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Let’s now see if the next couple of weeks changes anything with Brexit …. or not !

 

The road to Sunshine… 7/3/19

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After a good nights sleep, a beautifully hazy morning run along the Somme and a bit of exercise we packed up, replenished our water and set off with a couple of extra bits – no prizes for guessing that additional wine and cheese were required!!-  that we picked up from the Intermarche the previous night.  For the first time ever we are trying out the boxes of wine to see whether they are half decent instead of buying bottles and we have been working way through a 3ltr box of Cotes de Rhone Village which it is fair to say is pretty good.  It was one of the more expensive boxes but still works out as pretty good value – as well as quality – but it makes a huge amount of sense from a storage and weight perspective ….. one box vs 4 bottles…. happy days!

The sun quickly burnt off the haze and warmed everything up from the 2 degrees or so that it was when I went out for a run and day two took us through Rouen and on to Vendome for the night.  Rouen is probably one of our least favourite cities to travel through as it has either had the main bridge shut due to a fire or major roadworks for the last 10 years.  We were however pleasantly surprised and had a good journey although we were grateful that we were travelling on a weekday as the presence of the ‘Yellow Jersey’ was high at most major junctions.  The camps and fires at the side of the road were very prominent and the roads at many of the main junctions were severely burnt, obviously where fires had been lit over the past months whilst the Yellow Jerseys set up blockades.  Rouen was by far and away the worst city that we travelled through for the presence of problems, the further south we got the less we saw of any manifestations or issues but that may have been just sheer chance of our route and which cities we touched.

We arrived into Vendome late afternoon and parked up by the sports center in the center of town having negotiated our way through a few narrow streets and roadworks to get there.  The area they allow you to park up motorhomes in was just outside a campsite on the edge of a park and despite being very central, as well as being  close to a busy road, was pretty quiet.  We set off for a quick walk around town and found a lovely mix between old and new architecture as well as shops and green spaces, we couldn’t spend too long wandering though as there was bread to be made, so headed back to Hattie but we would definately stop here again if we were passing close by.

Another good nights sleep and once exercised, showered  and breakfasted we were on the road again to head further South to Saint Romain la Vervee, roughly 20km North of Bordeaux.  It was a long days’ driving but all pretty simple apart from the rather long detour through some tiny villages that Keith took in on his watch again… guess I have just been lucky!  The Aire was next to a village school which was shut for the holidays so pretty quite although they were doing some construction out the back which meant a few trucks passing by from 8am.  Teh construction traffic was nothing however in comparison to the local kids who decided to play with their scooters at mid-night …. grrrr!  The Aire had eight places and oddly we had already said that as it wasn’t the easiest to get to, we would probably try a different one next time but we were surprised how busy it was, 11 motorhomes stayed overnight and a few came and left … must be the proximity to Bordeaux.

Next Stop was Spain and a little town called Berriozar just outside Pamplona.  The journey took us along the coast around Biaritz which was nice but generally a lot of the driving was in or around towns, so pretty busy.  We climbed over the mountains and although Hattie marched on up like a trouper, we obviously needed some lessons on how to manage her gear changing on hills as a semi-automatic, as when we got to the top a red light came on and we needed to pull over.  It was the semi-automatic clutch which apparently gets a bit confused if you switch into manual and it just needed five minutes of downtime to sort itself out before we carried on.

The Aire in Berriozar was on the edge of the town by a school but as we were arriving at going home time on a Friday afternoon we knew it would be pretty quiet on Saturday.  We headed out to stretch our legs before coming back to make some more bread and settle in for a quiet evening.

Waking to blue skies and lots of sunshine (if not a little fresh), I headed out for a run whilst Keith did his exercises by the motorhome and I was surprised to see that the cycle path/greenway appeared to go all the way from Berriozar to the next town and then on into Pamplona…. joining everything together.  Despite being quite a built up area there weren’t many people out as it was a Saturday morning…. perfect for a nice peaceful run!

The next stage of the journey was to Teruel, pretty much all on good roads so a fairly simple days driving. We have been to Teruel a few times before and it is a lovely town.  As I still needed to get a photo for my ‘Challenge’ we headed into town for a wander around …. this weeks task was to simply take an excellent Black and White photo – easier said than done!  Walking around Teruel with its bright blue skies and sunshine, the beautiful towers which weren’t covered up for restoration fought with the locals out for an afternoon stroll…. finally I found a couple having a lazy post dinner nap on a bench and think it captures it all…

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Zak had his cousins staying over half term which means lots of distraction and late nights but he has taken a really good photo of one of his cousins, Amira and I think he has not only got the light right but also the depth to the photo.

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Black and white photography doesn’t really leave a huge margin for error so you have to make the most of the subject to make it stand out.

Teruel was tranquil as always and we woke to blue skies and 0 degrees on our last day of travel down to San Juan Playa.  The roads and traffic were good and we arrived just after 3pm, breaking up the game of pétanque as everyone welcomed us back…. always a nice feeling.

Once emptied and refilled we assessed our spot which had overhanging trees that were going to cause an issue for Hattie’s height.  We soon found someone willing to lend us a little saw though and with the help of our extension ladder cut the branches back and managed to get settled fairly quickly.

The last week seems to have flown by, with us going out with friends for Tapas a few times as well as cooking up lots of different food that we haven’t done for a while on the BBQ…. Pizza, Smokey Beetroot Burgers, Bacon butties, Sausages, Normal Burgers, Calamare, Spatchcock chicken, Chargrilled Veg as well as roasting aubergine to go into our first ever Babaganoush…. all rather nice.

We also made some drop pancakes for breakfast and tried out a new recipe for Goan Fish Curry which was pretty good…. we are certainly eating well, and I think my jeans are showing it!!

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Hattie has now been washed and her face has been polished and is looking pretty good. Apart from a little issue with the gas deciding to stop working on the fridge this morning, life is definately starting to get back to normal with a fair amount of walking and some lovely runs along the promenade.  We have also caught up on the chores so all we need to do now is wait to see what Theresa May delivers over the coming weeks in regards to Brexit but it will be what it will be and we will find a way to work around it.

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On the road again…. 19/2/19

The last couple of weeks have seen the UK at its best in the winter.  Cold and crisp and generally dry with blue skies, however we have had a couple of mornings with freezing fog… which inevitably led to freezing Gail and Keith whilst outside doing exercise but at least we have managed to get back into our routine!

Slightly less manic than the first week or so back in the country we are pleased to report that since the last blog I have only managed to break the tap in the kitchen sink…. which was easily replaced courtesy of Amazon.  Hopefully therefore we have got all breakages out of the system and are ready for the road again….. even the snow chains arrived earlier than expected so things must be going our way!

I have now completed two weeks of photography challenges with my nephew.  Week one was ‘Take a self portrait to reflect your personality’….. for everyone who knows my 13 year old nephew, I think that it is fair to say that he put a lot of thought into his and it represents him to a ‘T’ ….

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As with most teenagers, getting him out of bed is hard work!

Mine was a little more difficult but eventually decided on using my travelling companion, who as most of you also know has been most of the way round the world with me over the last 32 years….

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He doesn’t appear to have anywhere near the same amount of grey hair or wrinkles as I do… but he could definately do with a bath!

Week two is all about Composition and Movement, so a little more creativity required….

Zak’s photos are clever, definately showing good usage of shutter speed and movements

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And mine was a bit of a blur…. but its good to be forced to do something that I haven’t done for 20+ years as you can get some fantastic effects. We may need to revisit this one in six months time and see what we both do then!

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It’s a good little challenge for both of us and hopefully I can use each weeks challenge to bring you some slightly different photos that I may never have thought of adding previously!

We have also had some time to get back into a bit of cooking in Hattie – baking bread,  making soups, cassoulets, fish pie and even some brownies, it is lovely to have an oven!

We also needed to check the Bar B Q to ensure that it wasn’t mouldy, obviously the best way to give it a good clean is to burn it off…. whilst cooking some bacon…. yum! Definately a couple of packs coming with us for the journey!

Keith has wanted to learn how to fillet fish for a while – possibly something to do with my hatred of bones – so we had a quick lesson over at Paul and Carly’s (Keith’s brother and wife’s) house last week before eating the produce the following night when there were only a couple of bones found… still plenty of time for practice!

As we were getting closer to leaving and we couldn’t avoid it any longer, we finally decided to actually look at the detail around what may or may not be required should there be a ‘no deal’ at the end of March.

The complications are greater for us as we are going before the 29th and don’t plan on coming back until afterwards.  Therefore we have to assume the worst which as we found out this week actually means the following for us: –

  • Green Card for the motorhome – not an issue, although needed to pay £20 for the privilege as it isn’t a legal requirement yet.
  • International Driving Permits (IDP) – we needed two each @ £5.50 each
    • 1949 – covers Spain, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Iceland
    • 1968 – covers pretty much everywhere else
  • Maximum of 90 days out of 180 days travel in Europe without a visa

Well, that makes our life interesting….. Green card is fine although we would need a new one sent out to us when our Insurance runs out in May.  The maximum of 90 days travel in every 180 days will be interesting if it happens but we can deal with it if necessary, just means we will be back in the UK a bit more or possibly get a visa. However the Driving Licence for Spain is a bit of a nightmare.  If there is a ‘No Deal’ and everything stays as it is currently, we will not be able to drive our motorhome on our standard licence after the end of March in Spain as the IDP 1949 doesn’t allow us to drive anything over 3.5 tonne as it is so old, not breaking the categories down on the driving license in the same way.  Therefore if we want to drive anything over 3.5 tonne in Spain we would need to do our Class C license which enables you to drive anything static (not arctic) up to 32 tonne….. this would have been the same for Mika our old motorhome as she was 3.85 tonne.

So….. the current plan is to head down to Spain and take a call on the 27th March as to whether we need to get into France before the end of the month.  Then, depending on how long we can be out of the UK for, probably spend a bit more time enjoying France but we will see what evolves over the next few weeks.

We set off this morning and had a good journey arriving in Saint Valery sur Somme this evening, even getting on and off the train with Hattie was a doddle…. although just as we were arriving Keith realised that he forgot to pick up the levelling blocks for our jacks which we left in the field.  Thankfully we don’t always use them but it helps if the ground is soft …. heh ho, life goes on, we’ll get them back at some point!

As always, if you want to keep track of our route and progress you can see where we are on a map by clicking here.

Things can only get better…. 6/2/19

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Well, when you land into Heathrow at 5:30am the temperature is -2 and whilst leaving the airport you look at the incoming traffic which is already stacked up almost all the way to the M4 you realise that this is the reality check of the UK in January …. cold, Dark and way too many cars!

The flights from New Zealand were fine, the first which took us to Singapore was during the day and took just under 10 hours but was pretty painless.  The stopover in Singapore was just under six hours which was hard work as we were just waiting around and it was way passed what should have been our bedtime… although access to the airport lounge definitely helped.  The second flight was fourteen hours and we were pleasantly surprised when the doors shut and there were still a lot of empty seats – so much so that pretty much everyone in the area where we were (right at the back of the plane) had a set of seats to themselves … Keith and I had four seats each.  You never really ‘sleep’ but it certainly helped get some rest.

Thursday was a long day but we made it through to dinner, when Keith’s mum very kindly cooked us Stew and Crust (Keith’s favourite) with Jacket Potatoes (my favourite…. I am pretty simple!) and Veg …. it may not be everone’s cup of tea but on a cold day when you are tired, it was very welcome and enabled us to crash out on full bellies by about 9pm!

Bright eyed and bushy tailed – well it is all relative – I set out for a run into Eton whilst Keith worked out the jet lag with some HIIT training…. enough to get us ready for a quick breakfast before we packed up the car and headed to collect Hattie.

Hattie has been in storage for three months so although we cleaned her up and turned everything off, naturally we were a little concerned as to whether any pipes were frozen or whether there would be any mould like we had with Mika a couple of years ago…. on the positive note there wasn’t any mould and everything looked fine, however when we tried to start the engine all we got was a bit of tick, tick, tick, ticking ….. flat battery.  It shouldn’t have been as the solar panels were set to trickle charge both the engine battery as well as the leisure batteries but for some reason something had gone wrong.  After a bit of faffing around we eventually called the AA as the battery is really difficult to get to to attach jump leads … the guy from the breakdown company had to remove a couple of the pipes and virtually climb inside the engine compartment to get to it, I am not actually sure how we could jump start it ourselves, so it was well worthwhile.

Once started we left it a good ten minutes to run, turned it off and it wouldn’t start again …. totally dead.  So, the advice was to drive straight to the IVECO dealer without stopping the motor and leave it there until they could look at it, so that is what we did.  Thankfully for a Friday afternoon the M25 was actually kind to us for once.

Unfortunately as we didn’t get to the garage until 5pm there wasn’t any way that they would even think about looking at it until after the weekend and as we had Hattie booked in for her MOT on the Tuesday we just succumbed to the fact that we wouldn’t be back in Hattie for a few more days.

We had pretty much planned every day within an inch before we got back so we had a busy weekend catching up with friends and family before finally picking Hattie back up on Tuesday late afternoon and getting her back to the farm just as the sun was going down…. not great for getting her set up.

En route to the farm we found issue No.2, obviously whilst changing the battery something triggered a fuse to blow for the VB Air suspension and it had completely stopped working.  To be fair, IVECO were great.  As soon as I called them they said they would send someone out to have a look at it in the morning and see whether they could fix it on location or if we had to go back to the garage.  The guy who came out (Richard) was great and managed to find and fix the issue without us having to go back to the garage, bending over backwards to help us and full of useful information.

Issue No.3 was a little more complicated unfortunately, bearing in mind that we appear to have moved back into the motorhome on the coldest day this winter, we couldn’t get the heating to start.  As a last ditch attempt we called Southdown motorhomes who have done some of the work on Hattie and are the UK Concorde dealers/service center.  It was just gone 5:30 and amazingly they picked up the phone and the Service Center manager called us back twenty minutes later and spent nearly an hour trouble shooting the problem with us until we resolved it, finally getting the heating started. We left it running to warm up Hattie whilst we popped out to get some food and collect the rest of our things from Keith’s mums house and it was lovely and toasty by the time we got back.

The reason the heating wouldn’t start initially was due to the liquid in the heat exchange being too low.  So once topped up to the correct levels it started to work.  As always there is a reason why the liquid levels are low and in this case, our fears were proven to be correct and we had a leak.  We kept topping up the water during the night but it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that Keith worked out roughly where the leak was and there was a lot of liquid to mop up.  It was later in the evening that he managed to localise exactly where the issue was and we were able to pin someone down to come and look at it and hopefully fix it…. unfortunately he wasn’t available until Tuesday though so we would just have to ‘manage’ it until then.

A couple of rolls of Kitchen towel, a few cloths and a t-shirt later we found some plumber absorption pads online which are amazing. They are basically flat incontinence pads/nappies which are rectangular and soak up 2 litres of water each … great little things, you never know when they may come in use again!

If nothing else we are getting to see what it would be like should we decide to stay in the motorhome in the UK over the winter.  With temperatures dropping to -5 or a bit more over the last week or so, we have definately had a feel for how ‘winterised’ she is and we can happily say that despite the few issues, she is lovely and cosy.  Everything else appears to be working ok and during the snow over the last week we have been comfortable doing our exercise inside… although it was nice to get out for a run yesterday!  We have now also found Issue No 4,  water leaking in from the windscreen….. I had wondered why there was such a big pool of condensation last week when the temperatures were so low, I know it has dropped to -4 or so but a small swimming pool…. I think we will wait until a warmer climate to get that fixed as they will have to take it out and reseal it.  We have however invested in another little gadget …. A Karcher Window Vac – its great, works a treat on the windscreen and doesn’t leave any ‘wipe’ marks!

As the temperature warmed up it snowed, just to give us a good mix! On Friday morning we woke to about 4cm of snow on the field although as the day went on most of it disappeared to slush only to freeze overnight as the temperatures dropped to sub zero again…. definately no running for me!

The weather was obviously a natural way to tell us we shouldn’t have organised something everyday as we ended up having to cancel a few trips.  A shame, although it meant that we got to spend a bit more time in Hattie sorting things out and getting back into a routine which was nice….. I even managed to bake some bread!

Unfortunately as we have been staying locally there aren’t many interesting photos, although I went up to London on Sunday to be ‘guardian’ on a photography course with my Nephew who is just starting to get interested in photography so you can have a few of the photos I took in Soho square whilst playing around with my camera….

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I have decided to set him a photography challenge so we can both take certain photos throughout the course of the year and compare them…. so over the next week he has been challenged to take a self portrait, ensuring that the photo demonstrates something about his personality ….. watch this space!

Tuesday came around fairly quickly and Kevin Lewis from Car Care Services came down and sorted out the leaking pipe and also serviced our gas whilst here….. happy campers!

We had planned to head South next Monday but because of the issues we have had and also the weather we have decided to give it an extra week or so, so will be around in the UK until around the 20th February.  Enough time to get the snow chains delivered too!

 

Pppppppick up a Penguin….23/1/19

 

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If you aren’t over 35 and from the UK the above probably means nothing to you…. but there are two types of Penguin in my world, one is about two and a half inches long and comprises of two rectangle chocolate biscuits stuck together with chocolate cream and then covered in chocolate and the other are short and feathered and waddle a lot.  I was going to say that they are also black and white but that is not the case as the four that we have seen over here have all been Little Blue Penguins, one loner just as we were leaving Wellington contemplating what the ferry was doing in his waters, one chilling out in Doubtful Sounds mid afternoon and now two more coming back to their nests in the rocks at Timaru – well, to be fair one went to his nest and the other decided to hang around on the beach for a while having a little clean and waddle but I am sure he found his nest after we left!

We left Lake Tekapo and headed to Timaru with the hope that we would get to see Penguins but it is getting towards the end of their nesting season as the chicks are getting bigger and the parents are now getting into the period where they shed feathers and therefore don’t go out to sea.  We set out just before 9pm and sunset was at 9:22pm and the first penguin came in riding the waves just after 10pm.  We were really lucky as they were only a few feet away from us – very, very cute. The little blue penguins grow to a maximum height of 40cm and weigh less than 1kg but they can swim up to 25km at a time and go at up to 6kph underwater …. pretty cool little things!

We stayed one night in Timaru at the RSA club so we could catch up on washing, get our last shop in and of course ppppick up a penguin…. not really, although it was good to see them!

Leaving Timaru in the morning we did a slight detour via a small town called Geraldine as it is known for being a bit of a foodie area.  Very pretty, considering that pretty much everything from Timaru feels like an extension of Christchurch, built up all the way along the main highway.  We managed to buy some more cheese but held back on the Barkers jams and preserves – although they were delicious – as we just wouldn’t get through them in the next few days.

After rejoining the main highway again we continued to trawl through industrial areas until we were about 15km South of Christchurch when we arrived at the NZMCA.  We decided to use it as a quick stopover to check out the facilities (as we had heard there was a washing machine) as we were planning on spending the last night or two here before we hand Ava back.

Needless to say that the washing machine has disappeared…. although there is a dryer.  I am guessing that it broke and they have decided not to replace it – ah well.  It is a lovely site with all the other facilities and we had a lovely BBQ with homemade Burgers … so not going to complain.

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As it rained overnight it was very grey and overcast in the morning but we were still able to get on and do our normal routine before heading off to The Banks Peninsula and Akaroa.  As we drive towards the peninsula we did question our sanity as you could barely see it, thankfully however we continued and as the journey went on the sun came out and the cloud started to lift.  Akaroa was settled in by the French starting in 1840 and the French still have an influence on the shops and restaurants.  We had planned to have a walk round the town and bay before heading back to Little River for the night but as it is such a pretty little place and we found a lovely route to walk on Saturday, we decided to stay as they have a Freedom Camping area which amazingly had space.

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After a very warm night I had a run along past the lighthouse tussling with a few of the Cruise ship passengers who had arrived on the early boat whilst Keith did some exercise back at the van before heading in to Akaroa to have a look at the Saturday morning market.  It was small but very French and probably the best pastries we have seen in the last few weeks …. not including the Carrot cake at the top of Mount John!

Not in the market for additional food – really hard with only two nights left in the motorhome – we put on our walking shoes and headed up the big hill in the middle of the peninsula.  The route was called the ‘Around the Mountain Curry Route’ and I am sad to say that there wasn’t any curry in sight but it was a steep climb for a couple of hours to get to the summit where the views were fantastic.  A lovely 11km circular route taking in both sides of the peninsula although the legs were definitely feeling the 750m climb on the way back down… especially after this mornings run!

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Back at the motorhome we packed everything up and headed back to the NZMCA in Christchurch via the scenic route which was absolutely stunning.  The road was narrow and it worked its way along the ridge (where we had walked in the morning) and then back around the bottom of the inlet before winding back towards the mainland.  We arrived back at the site just after 5 and although it was pretty full we managed to find a space and settle in for the evening where we had a spectacular sunset disappearing behind the rest of the motorhomes.

Waking up to a lovely morning we set to our tasks after breakfast, it was always going to be a day of ‘chores’ so we headed out to give Ava a good scrub at the car wash before coming back to empty the cupboards and do the same inside.  It is fair to say that she was sparkly … or maybe that was just relative as she has been a bit dirty recently!  However as we settled down to a glass of wine and a beer just after 6pm we were pretty satisfied that 95% of things were packed and about 80% of Ava cleaned… the rest to be finished in the morning.

Our last supper in Ava was a butterfly shoulder of lamb with a mixed bean salad as well as a corgette salad…. not a bad way to end the trip!

Where did the last twelve weeks go?  It is difficult to believe that the time to give Ava back has come round so quickly but waking on Monday morning I set off for a run whilst Keith did his exercises, showered, breakfasted and finished off the last bit of packing and cleaning.  I haven’t ever worked out how things take so long, thinking that we had done most of the work yesterday it surprisingly took us another two hours to sort out the last bits before we were ready to go to the airport and pick up Tracey and Geoff and say our goodbyes to Ava.

With everything handed over we headed into our Airbnb and Geoff an Tracey to a campsite with a rendezvous at 18:30 at the Little High Eatery.

Our Airbnb is in a new apartment block which is fairly central and was probably built as a two bed apartment and split.  So we have a room and en-suite bathroom, all perfectly formed and clean and tidy … it possibly just would have been nicer to have a bigger window that let more air in as the temperature has just decided to take a hike and it was sweltering in the room.

We headed out for a quick look around so we could work out where we were and buy some bits before wondering over to our rendezvous.

The Little High Eatery is a group of 8 or so restaurants who share an old warehouse, all of which looked like they were decent quality and the clientele certainly thought it was worth a go as it was buzzing.  After a quick drink, Keith and I ended up with two enormous burgers with a variety of fillings (it is fair to say that there was a lot of bacon), accompanied by Deep Fried Cauliflower in maple syrup – yep, sounds very odd but it was actually very good – and chips. Geoff and Tracey opted for some Dumplings and deep fried squid – so a real variety, all of which was delicious.

It was lovely to catch up with Geoff and Tracey over dinner and it is good to see that they are ready to take on the South Island where we left off.  It’s going to be really interesting now watching from the other side and seeing where they go and what they do.  All we can hope is that they have as a fantastic time as we have had and find Ava as comfortable as we have …. as ironically we have actually spent more time in her than they have!

I’d like to say we woke, but I am not sure there was a lot of preceding sleep so, we got up and I went for a tired run along the river and round Hagley Park whilst Keith did some ‘hotel room’ exercise.  It is weird how you get used to things as whilst having a shower and running the taps in the bathroom I was waiting for the water pump to kick in ….. obviously been living in a motorhome too long now!

Dull as it is, as the room had a washing machine and dryer we decided to put a load on before heading out and exploring Christchurch a bit further than our quick walk yesterday afternoon.  I hadn’t really thought about what we were expecting although I had heard from my mum that it was still ‘work in progress’ following the horrific earthquake that they had in 2011, although we were pleasantly surprised by the feel of the place.  There are still a lot of buildings in ruins and even more under construction but those that are complete look fantastic and the city itself is doing its best to be modern and provide lots of green space for living.

Like Dunedin, there is a lot of street art which brightens up some of the derelict buildings, some of it is disappearing as they rebuild though.

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The main Cathedral below has been going through a court case which was only resolved in 2017.  The Anglican Church had decided that it wanted to destroy the building and start again rather than reconstruct on top of the bits that were still stable – something the government is highly opposed to and the insurers wouldn’t pay for ….. reconstruction has now started but looking at the site below, if this is where they have got to in 16 months,  it isn’t going to happen any time soon!

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The building below however is the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ which was the ‘pop up’ replacement…. and yes, it really is made of cardboard underneath!  There are 86 Cardboard tubes, each weighing 500kg sitting on top of containers …. a common theme in Christchurch!

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Behind the Cardboard Cathedral you can find the memorial to the people who died in the earthquake – a chair for each person – nothing fancy but it delivers quite an impact when all the other buildings around have been raised to the ground.

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Whilst walking through the city and soaking up the history we felt it necessary to indulge in the up and coming businesses of Christchurch and go find the Gelato Cafe that we fell upon the day before – Rollickin’ Gelato Cafe, probably the best Gelato that we have had outside Italy – delicious!

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It is fair to say that we haven’t been disappointed by the food in New Zealand, despite it being more expensive over here, everything we have tried has been of high quality and full of flavour.

Now at the end of our 12.5 weeks it is great to see our little map of where we have been …. including a few loop the loops!  We have had a fantastic time and we have even left a few bits to come back and do next time!

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Now, with 24 hours of flight ahead of us and temperatures falling below zero in the UK we are ready to get back to Hattie and start thinking about our next trip…..