|Some things make us feel quite boat/homesick – more later|
Sunday was our last complete day in Norway and we took it relatively easy by taking a walk along Vega’s southern coast from Nes. Whilst having breakfast we watched about three dozen siskins that were pecking on the ground. They were there for about ten minutes but we couldn’t work out what they were eating. Maybe, even though they are seed eaters, they had taken to grubbing insects from the ground.
At the fishing harbour of Nes we passed one of the eider houses; I mentioned the other day about the centuries old tradition of the islanders providing houses for eider ducks to nest in and, in return, the eider down was taken, cleaned and used for its warmth retaining properties.
|A sad looking eider duck house in need of repair|
Several of the islands off Nes used to be inhabited and causeways had been built to enable the islanders to reach Vega. These little islands now only have a few cabins; used by locals and other Norwegians as getaways for fishing or weekends away.
|One of the causeways – note the red painted stone marking the footpath|
|Looking back to the north of Vega – the island of Sola is to the right and in the middle is the mountain we climbed on Saturday|
|Looking across to the mountains on the mainland|
We travelled back to the UK on Monday and Matthew dropped us off at the ferry landing stage on his way to work. The boat left at 7.45am and we were accompanied by the senior school children, who go to school on the mainland, and also a couple of dozen commuters who go there for work.
As we were waiting for the boat we had a look at the island’s ambulance boat. This is used if a patient needs fetching in an emergency form Vega or any of the many other islands covered by Matthew’s practice, and taking to the hospital on the mainland.
|Vega’s ambulance boat|
|Arriving back at Brønnøysund|
We had very poor connections and had to wait five hours for a plane at Brønnøysund and then another six at Oslo. We finally got back to Lauren & Lewis’s in Reading soon after midnight and were as quiet as mice as we didn’t want to wake them as they get up early to commute to London.
Tuesday was another round of seeing children and friends. First of all, we drove to Brooklands, near Weybridge, to have lunch with my youngest son Jake. We hadn’t met up for a while so it was good to have a catch up over a lunchtime meal.
On the way back to Reading we stopped off at Henley to see Chris & Sue who were moored there for a day or two on their trip up the Thames and then onto the Oxford canal. We both felt quite a pang when we went aboard their boat as we had been away from ours for over a week by that point and it made us feel quite homesick. It was no good feeling like that as we had another 10 or 11 weeks to go before our holiday was over and we were back aboard.
As usual, Chris & Sue had lots of entertaining stories about their travels and it was lovely to find out that they are having the same ups and downs as we did when we first started living aboard. Like us, they don’t really see the downs as downs but just part of the life we have chosen.
|Chris on South Downs moored at Henley|
Sophie & Yanos had looked after Buddy while we were away in Norway and whilst we were away had taken him up to the Derbyshire Dales. Sophie had been on a yarn dyeing course there which she really enjoyed and had even dyed some yarn in colours of butterflies that I was able to recognise without prompting which was really pleasing.
|Yarns dyed in brimstone and peacock colours…|
|…and Sophie's first attempt at freehand embroidery – an orange tip|
When we got back to Reading, Buddy had been dropped off at Lauren’s and (of course) was really excited to see us. In the evening, Sophie & Yanos popped back and we all had dinner together.
On Wednesday morning we set off in the pouring rain for the channel tunnel to begin our three-week camping trip through France down to southern Tuscany where we shall be holidaying for a month in the hills above Seggiano.
|Car packed to the gunwales outside Lauren's|
On the way, we stopped at Mereworth for a coffee and catch up with Pete & Val who live not far from our old house that we have now rented out. It was good to catch up on all the local gossip and hear how things have (or haven’t) moved on.
It was still pouring with rain when we got to the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone for Buddy’s first foreign trip. When we lived in Kent (and before the equalisation of French alcohol prices) we often had evening trips across to Calais to stock up on wine and beer and have a meal but had never taken a dog with us.
|Showing our passports at border control|
|Buddy not too sure about the movement of the train|
We have three weeks to get down to the middle of Italy and our only constraints are visiting friends at various places on the way (not really constraints 😉) and not travelling on motorways. There was one exception, we had wanted to travel on the autostrada around Genoa as Karen hasn’t been through there in a car before and the alternating tunnels and viaducts are (or were) amazing.
Those of you who drive in France will know that their N and D roads are generally really quiet and so much better than the UK equivalents (A and B roads), making driving a pleasure. Whenever we’ve driven to the south of France for summer holidays or to the Alps for skiing we have always hammered down the autoroutes overnight to arrive in the morning. As we had half a dozen or more children with us it made for much easier travelling 😉
Once through the tunnel we drove south towards Hardelot and Le Touquet to look for a campsite for our first night. We eventually found one at Camiers just as it stopped raining. It was still pretty dismal and chilly, so we put up our flappy thing, in order for us to sit out in the evening.
|Camp set, complete with flappy thing|
The awning is called a flappy thing because that’s how Malcolm, the farm & campsite owner at Gordale Scar refers to it.
Karen has a rough plan for our meals for the journey. She has an app that pools all her recipes and enables her to add her own categories to each one. She has gone through and marked up all the ones that are camping friendly – fairly simple to cook, previously tried and known to be really enjoyable.
After dinner we took a walk on the beach and, as you can see, it was hardly summer weather in northern France:
With my dad being immobile he enjoys keeping in touch by reading the blog and he has asked for us to include a picture of our daily route so here’s the rough journey we took on Wednesday:
After a leisurely breakfast on Thursday morning we packed up and set off on the country roads
We stopped for a picnic lunch by the Canal du Nord and Buddy was soon at home, drinking water from the canal even though the steeply sloped sides looked rather precarious:
Just after arriving a large liveaboard came cruising past and made us feel quite boat/homesick again – see picture at the top. The Canal du Nord is about 60 miles long and links the Canal Lateral a l’Oise with the Sensee Canal. The canal was built to transport coal from the coalmines in the Calais area. It was started in 1908 but wasn’t completed because of WWI. During the war it was badly destroyed, and building didn’t recommence until 1960 and was finally opened in 1965. Unlike the UK, the northern French canals support a lot of commercial traffic still and for that reason are often avoided by smaller boats like Brits abroad on narrowboats.
A little while later we passed over the Canal Lateral a l’Oise:
Our previous journeys through Champagne were always on the autoroute and the vineyards lining the wide valley sides could be seen in the distance long before reaching them. This time, we didn’t see any vineyards until we broke out of woodland at the top of a hill. We had started getting concerned that we had gone wrong as we knew we should be in Champagne but there was no sight of it.
We were at the top of the western side of the Marne valley and soon realised we were in the middle of grape picking time (vendange). There were white vans and little cars parked everywhere; the pickers were mainly from places like Poland and reminded us of the fruit picking season when we lived in Kent.
|Hillside dotted with vendange white vans|
|This Polish bus had just disgorged a crowd of pickers who quickly dispersed amongst the vines|
We started getting concerned that the local campsites would be full because of the influx of the pickers. We were lucky though, it seems that the pickers are crammed into the campsites in special areas or on other spare patches of ground around the town.
We soon set up camp again and decided to stay a couple of nights so we could have a day exploring the area without doing any driving.
It has taken both of us a while to stop looking for Victorian post boxes as we drive through the villages but no doubt we may see stanking plank stores as we investigate the various canals 😉
|Our journey on Thursday|