Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Monday, 27 August 2018

An Unexpected Summer Baltic Cruise.

We had planned to spend Summer at home after our return from the month's tour of Europe in the camper in Spring. However, not long after settling back in we received a message from our dear friends Doug and James (ex narrowboat Chance), to tell us they had booked a cruise aboard P&O Cruises Arcadia which had recently been significantly reduced in price. The last line of their message which was received around 7.30pm one evening was "fancy joining us?" or words to that effect. I looked at Margaret, she looked at me, I visited our cruise agent and within half an hour our cruise together was booked and paid for! This was now set for about 4 weeks time ahead.

We drove South the day before our schedule to join the cruise to stay overnight with Doug and James to share a taxi together to Southampton the day after. Our lovely hosts showed us their delightful home in the South of England and the beautiful beach which lay at the end of their street, where we enjoyed the warm evening sun and dinner out later.

Once in Southampton the next day, we were whisked straight on board Arcadia as we arrived at midday, to enjoy our complementary fizz and private buffet before visiting our luxurious outside cabin that we had been upgraded to at no additional cost. After the usual lifeboat drill, it was time to settle down into the carefree routine of cruising again. Unbeknown to us all, Doug's schoolfriend Chris and her husband Kevin were also aboard, and before long we all met up for pre dinner nibbles and enjoyed dinner together at our table for 6 every evening thereafter, with much laughter.

Our cruise was to take us to all the Scandinavian Capitals including Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallin after our first port of call - Skagen. However, the highlight of this cruise was to be St. Petersburg which included an overnight stay on board ship. On Doug's advice we booked what turned out to be a fantastic 2 day independent grand tour by who provided us with the very best of everything St. Petersburg had to offer over 2 days, and included lunch in a 4* hotel and a lovely picnic packed lunch on the second day. We visited all the usual places including the Hermitage Museum and Summer Palace, but also more unusual ones such as a ride on the spectacular underground railway.

There was much spectacular scenery to view from the ship as we cruised in and out of port, the best of which, in our opinion was through the fjord into Oslo. Throughout our two week cruise the weather was also hot and sunny every single day.

The timing of this cruise took us within a few days of my birthday, so using that as an excuse we arranged dinner for us all at the ship's speciality restaurant Ocean Grill where we had the most amazing celebration evening together.

We enjoyed the most fabulous cruise, probably our best yet, and also had the benefit of lovely company throughout. Once disembarked back in Southampton, we again shared a taxi with Doug and James to collect our car from their place, but not before enjoying the most wonderful day out again with them, making our way home the day after.

We really must now gather our thoughts before our next travel adventure which isn't too far away.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

A Spring Round Trip Of Europe.

It was the last few days of April and our first planned trip of the year in the camper was looking a little damp. We drove South first to Deal in Kent to stay a couple of nights on Solley's, one of our favourite Caravan & Motorhome Club Certified Locations (a small area set aside for a maximum of 5 units usually part of a bigger business, such as a farm or garden centre). The weather was dire with driving rain, although it cleared a little for our short stay. Unfortunately, when it was time to depart the sideways driven rain was back again for our short journey to Folkestone where we had passage booked on the Channel Tunnel Shuttle. We arrived in good time, but were told of a three hour delay because of an electrical issue as a result of the weather. There was me being thankful we weren't booked on the ferry - but they were severely delayed too.

After the wait on the car park - at least we had our own facilities, our departure time came and we were effortlessly loaded onto the train, a first for us. In no time at all we were whisked across the channel where we again disembarked in the rain for the short drive to one of our favourite French campsites, Chateau Du Gandspette at Eperlecques. We were booked to stay the week here, and thankfully after our first night the weather turned to warm sunshine and blue skies. This site has a lovely bar and restaurant which we used frequently. There are also many interesting places to visit nearby, none more so than Le Blockhaus d'Eperlecques which is right next door.

Our week here came to an end, and still with fine weather now becoming very warm, it was time for our planned journey to the Moselle Valley which we also hoped to complete in the day. The European rural roads and motorways are fantastic to drive on as opposed to what we now have to put up with after years of little investment at home. They are clean, well maintained and importantly, free of traffic in the main. We arrived at another one of our favourite sites in Ellenz-Polterdorf in the wine making area alongside the Moselle. It is also directly opposite the picturesque village of Beilstein with a small ferry right next door, and just a few km outside Cochem where all the supermarkets can be found. This little place is Campingplatz Happy Holiday a lovely little site on the banks of the river and next to a cozy Imbiss (roadside Cafe and bar). It is also within walking distance of another Imbiss which deserves special mention here as the owner is so friendly but importantly serves the most delicious meals after a few cold beers, and all so casual. We walked here most evenings....Kalles Imbiss.

Our most enjoyable two weeks in Germany came to an end all too soon, and next we were off to The Netherlands for a week. We chose Witmarsum as the location of our first three days, and this was our lovely site.....Camping Mounewetter.

Then we were off across the 35km dyke taking us to the other side of the Ijsselmeer, to our final site Boerderij de Westert Mini Camping. This is located in Limmen and is on a working dairy farm. It was the most delightful site you would want to stay on with much interest around the farm, a short walk to nearby restaurants and great services. it is also just 16 miles from the centre of Amsterdam, so on the Saturday of our stay off we went on the very easy 40 minute train journey into the city where we met, by chance one of our Australian narrow boating friends Elli (ex Narrowboat Parisian Star), and her friend who were at the start of their own tour heading into Scandinavia. After a coffee with them off we went to explore the city on our own.

An evening at the lovely Chinese Restaurant Nieuw Hof in Limmen

This camper tour had been planned to be a round trip, so at the end of our week in Holland, we made the very easy journey to Rotterdam to take our place on the overnight P&O Ferry Pride of Hull - to Hull.

However, the best had yet to come. During our last days in Holland we were contacted by very dear friends who we met on a cruise on P&O Cruises Oriana late last year.

We all got on like a house on fire, and have already met up with them once since our cruise where they took us to see their very talented daughter Joanne Clifton who is currently on tour in the musical Flashdance. She co-stars in that show with Ben Adams. The music and dance routines are truly spectacular with a very obvious display of huge commitment by the whole cast. If you get chance it is a "must see". We saw the show as guests of our friends at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. Joanne is a former winner of the popular BBC TV show Strictly Come Dancing, together with Ore Aduba.

On this occasion, and a complete surprise to us, once landed in Hull we made our way to Grimsby where Judy and Keith showed us around Cleethorpes and treated us to a fabulous fish and chip lunch at Steel's Corner House Restaurant, a favourite of theirs - and we now know why - truly delicious.

Our friend's lovely little dog - Chelsea
Cleethorpes Pier

Then they drove us down to Nottingham where their equally very talented son Kevin was appearing in his own touring show that evening together with Karen Hauer - both fabulous dancers. The atmosphere in the packed Theatre Royal was electric with the most energetic dance routines and spectacular performances from the whole cast. Kevin and Karen are of course also Strictly Come Dancing favourites, and are joined in their show by another talented Strictly dancer, Dianne Buswell. This Nottingham show was a sellout, and there were 4 spontaneous standing ovations towards the end.

We were also so lucky to be introduced to the cast on this occasion too, just as we had been at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. An hour or so of drinks together with Kevin and friends followed the end of this show, also just like Manchester with Jo.

The Kevin and Karen Dance Tour is also very much a "must see" too if you get the chance. Click the link on the title here for details.

Both truly fabulous occasions and we look forward to keeping in touch with such lovely new friends.

Currently after the very easy drive home the day after that down the M62, we are back home enjoying the unusually fine British Summer weather.