Wednesday 30 August 2017

Claydon (80th birthday celebrations)

The bank holiday weekend promised to be hot and dry which was ideal for Ann, Karen’s mum, as her friends and family were getting together to celebrate her 80th birthday.  Ann treated us all to a good old traditional English afternoon tea at Hartwell House, a National Trust property, outside Aylesbury.

Ann being presented with a birthday cake

As it was such a hot day it was a welcome relief to be inside a stately home with high ceilings.  Ann did us proud and we had a walk around the grounds afterwards to help the food go down – we had all overeaten of course ūüėČ

With her daughters, Heather and Karen

When we got home on Tuesday we decided to move up to the top of the Claydon flight of locks.  We still think it would be foolish to lock up on my own as my back is still not completely recovered.  As there is an 11-mile lock-free pound until we start heading downhill again at Napton I can now move on during the week on my own if the fancy takes me.

Going into Claydon top lock

Moored above Claydon top lock

The weather had broken by the end of the weekend as you can see from the grey clouds and rain in the pictures above, but we were fortunate it had been warm and sunny for Ann’s birthday.  

We are having a weekend in the Lake District soon, to walk up Scafell Pike with Steve and Lauren and I really hope my back is fine for that.  I need to get back to walking at least seven miles a day this week, without problems, otherwise we shall have to have a rethink.

Sunday 27 August 2017

Claydon (leaving Cropredy with helping hands)

Our evening view at Claydon

On Wednesday morning Mike ran me to Banbury station so I could catch a train to Birmingham airport; I was off to Hamburg to visit Sophie who is living out there to finish her PhD.  I’d forgotten it was a bank holiday weekend coming up and, at first, couldn’t understand why there were so many youngsters with camping gear waiting for the Reading train on the opposite platform.  I then realised it was Reading festival weekend and mused to myself (no pun intended even though Muse were headlining)  how young and clean they all looked and how different they would look in a few days’ time.

Apart from being delayed an hour it was an uneventful trip to Hamburg and, after dropping my bags at Sophie’s apartment, we went off to the nachtmarkt for a drink or two.

Beer and prosecco in the night market

We had a full day of sightseeing on Thursday and Sophie thought it was funny that I found a lock within 15 minutes of walking around.

Three sets of traffic lights for one lock – seems a bit overcomplicated

At least a narrowboat would fit in here

I knew Hamburg was one of the largest and busiest ports in Europe (the third after Rotterdam and Antwerp) but not that it was the second largest city in Germany.  It’s amazing that it’s such a large container port considering it is nearly 70 miles from the sea.

Tourists looking at some container cranes

I also hadn’t realised how many man made waterways there were in Hamburg – mainly built in the 17th century

Many of the old waterside buildings made us feel like we were in Holland

Sophie explained about ‘stolperstein’.  Artist Gunter Demnig has been commemorating the victims of the German Nazi regime through his project "Stolpersteine” – Stumbling Stones.  All over Germany and many other mainland European countries, he has been laying small memorial stones in pavements outside the houses where the people, who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime, lived or worked .  Set into each stone is a brass plaque engraved with the person's name and dates of birth, deportation and death, if known.  If you get the time I think it’s well worth reading about these and the background to them on the web.

A stolperstein

We spent a lot of time on ferries seeing the city from the River Elbe and spent the afternoon wandering around the town watching the tourists.  I had completely forgotten my geography and that the River Elbe starts in the mountains between Poland and the Czech Republic.  When we used to visit Matthew when he lived in the Czech Republic we often saw the River Labe but I never clicked that it was the River Elbe.

Russian submarine built in 1976 for the cold war and is now open to the public - I wonder how many people initially think this is a german U boat because of the registration.

One of the ferry stops

The new opera building reminded me of the ones we visited in Oslo and San Sebastian this year – completely out of place with the rest of the architecture and stuck in a prominent position in the harbour.

The new opera house

There are two long, unusual, escalators in the opera house.  They are unusual as they are arced rather than straight so you cannot see the top until you are nearly there.  Quite a strange sensation.

Part of the Berlin wall displayed outside the opera house

View downriver from the opera house

More waterside wharves and warehouses…

.. and more – these contain the world’s largest model railway exhibition

Watching the nightly display of water and lights set to music in the botanical gardens - a popular place for local families to have a picnic on summer evenings
We visited the town hall and I was fascinated to learn a lot about German politics from Sophe.

Sophie came back to the airport with me on Friday afternoon and kindly took my bag  because of my back.  She found that she could wear it ike a rucksack:

She didn't realise I put the handle up on the undergound making her look like a bumper car

I got home on Friday evening and Karen picked me up from Banbury station.  I sat next to a German girl, Isabella, on the plane and she was so excited as it was her first trip to England and was staying with an old boyfriend who now lives in Birmingham.  Her English was so good that we could have a good old chat and the two hours soon passed.

Isabella, the excited German

Catherine, Karen’s eldest daughter, came to stay with us for a couple days on Friday having now returned from living in San Sebastian for the best part of this year.

On Saturday, it was finally time to leave Cropredy and Mike and Lesley joined us for the three miles and seven locks to Claydon where we will probably stay awhile.  Just before we left, Gill came past on her yogurt pot called ‘Yogurt’.  She stopped off and came in for a chat and a catch up – she is on her way back to Leamington so we will have plenty of chances for a proper catch up over the next few months.

Mike and Lesley giving a welcome helping hand
Karen getting on with the important task of watering as soon as we moored up

Our mooring above Claydon middle lock

After mooring up we all went back to Cropredy for some drinks and a meal at the Red Lion.  We’ve really enjoyed our stay in Cropredy and look forward to our next trip there and seeing how Mike and Lesly’s house build has progressed.   By the same token it is always good to move on as we make our slow journey to our next major destination, Birmingham, by the middle of November.