Journey to the Top of the World : 4

Finally after 2 weeks and 3500 miles on the road we have stopped for a break. The past few days have been spent chasing or running away from the weather. Norway’s climate is never going to betropical but after a couple of good months it has turned decidedly below the seasonal average for August. We expected cold and occasionally wet in the north but it was 5-8 degrees below average and not much better in the south.

After our day trip to the Nordkapp we opted to stay in Alta for an extra day. The weather was cold but bright and we needed to shop, wash the van after the dirty tunnels and there is a an area of prehistoric rock carvings worth seeing nearby the camp site at the Alta Museum at Hjemmeluft. The museum is at the centre of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes 45 prehistoric sites across the area. Around the museum itself are stone carvings depicting daily life and stories from as long ago as 4500BC. They were discovered beneath turf in 1973 and would have originally been a the shoreline but are now several meters above. They depict people and animals, farming and hunting and they also have boats firstly with just a few people but in the end with many. And all this in the Arctic 6000 years ago.

The next morning we set out for Tromso for no other reason that it was the major city and warranted a visit. We decided to use a couple of short ferry crossings to shave some distance off and the route took us down some smaller roads. There were several small glaciers either side of the road and at one point we passed below one where the meld was shedding a scree of stones and boulders down the mountainside to the fjord and the road had had to be tunnelled through.

The weather had miserable most of the day and it was late afternoon by the time we got to Tromso’s one and only camp site in the city. A modern site and very regimented but oh so busy that the nice new facilities were overloaded and very expensive. And so after a very damp night with our kit stashed all over and under the van out of the rain we woke the next day for a look around the city. I cant say that we were overly impressed but at least we looked and had coffee and a bun outside a smart cafe.

Back on the road the next place we wanted to visit were the Lofoton islands. It was a pleasant afternoons drive and we ended up on a campsite by the shore in Harstad. However nice though it was there were several families of ducks that drove Fred mad and he us! WE had intended to drive to the western tip the next day but the weather forecast was not good at all so we decided to head south. We drove through some dreadful cloud bursts to a town called Furske that was having some kind of music festival. We pitched up at a site on the edge of town and hid amongst the trees from the weather and listened to the noise of the festival until the small hours.

Still the weather forecast was bad. It wasn’t much better further south but we decided to make tracks anyway. Up early and on the road we made the first 100 miles to the Arctic Circle centre, where it was only 7C, by 08:00. It was here that we saw the last herd of reindeer. It was going to be a long day, 400 miles to Trondheim, and to start with being a Sunday the roads were quiet but by late afternoon we became embroiled in weekend traffic until we reached the camp site. It is another expensive site but we decided to stop for a couple of days to do laundry and write blogs in the hope that the weather will improve a bit in the coming days.

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Journey to the Top of the World : 3

We got to bed extra late on Sunday, we were too busy writing blogs and listening to the wildlife at Skibont. Not to mention that dusk wasn’t until nearly midnight and I don’t know if it ever got fully dark all night. So we managed a wee lay in until gone 07:00 and subsequently didn’t hit the road until 09:00. Today would be a short journey, when I looked the next site in Alta up the site finder said 66 miles which of course was as the crow flies. In reality it was 135 along the shores of the fjords some “follow me” roadworks through tunnels and rock falls and over a couple of passes and a short ferry crossing.

As it turned out today’s views the most spectacular yet. As we drove along across the other side of the fjord we could see snow on the mountains and numerous small glaciers between them but the best was to come. We stopped for lunch in a lay-by next to a large UK registered motorhome with a covered trailer containing a car and a boat. We watched an attractive lady drive an articulated tarmac truck in to clean the back out and get told off by the highways people – all very interesting. After lunch as the road climbed up a pass we noted that the pine trees had given way to stunted silver birch. As we crested the pass the view that unfolded before us took our breath away. The fjord was turqoise with snow capped mountains and glaciers beyond. The stunning scene was further enhanced by reindeer grazing at the road side. Difficult to believe that in WWII the battleship Tirpitz was holed up here until the RAF managed to sink it.

There are 3 camp sites in Alta all next to each other on the banks of the river. We chose the last in the row and were not disappointed. We booked in for 2 nights with the intention of doing a day trip to the Nordkapp and back the following day. A day ahead of our contingency plan which was useful. We were up early on Tuesday for the final push. It would be about 150 miles and 4 hours and we planned to have lunch there, admire the view and send some postcards.

Did I say earlier on this page that the views that day had been the most spectacular yet? Well forget that, yes they were good but the awesomeness of the land and seascape on the final part of our Journey to the Top of the World was simply gobsmacking. It was a cold, grey, damp and sometimes wet day but that was immaterial.

We headed North out of Alta climbing on to a treeless wilderness plain. The road was  long and mostly straight for the best part of 50 miles. There were Sami (the local indigenous peoples) camps and settelements at the side of the road and stalls selling their goods. On the hillside and beside the river there were occasional holiday cabins, skidoo’s for sale. A real wilderness, that must be inhospitable in the extreme in the winter but so much life going on. An then there were the reindeer herds, hundreds of them in large tracts of crudely fenced land and to think Sue had been worried about seeing just one.

Eventually we got to the small town (if it could be called that) of Olderfjord with fuel, shops, campsites and a hotel that we thought might be the last civilisation after which the road followed the coast line for 60 miles. Sometimes shiny new 2 lane and others barely 5 metres wide with uncomfortable drops off the edge. The views out across the Porsangen Fjord and the mountains beyond were stunning as were the clouds with sheets of rain where they met the sea. Still people lived and worked along the way mostly fishing but also still bailing hay obviously for winter feed and one guy who was the local helicopter service. Along the shore there were family groups and rafts of Mergazer and Goosander  ducks with the occasional Wigeon and Long Tail ducks.

At the top of the Fjord the road crosses to Mageroya island through a 6.8km tunnel. As you drive in it starts to drop until it is eventually 212m below see level. Shortly after we stopped at a road works waiting for a “follow me” through a tunnel and watched an Eider family with still very small chicks. The roadworks inside this tunnel turned out to be cleaning with big spray trucks washing the roof and walls (these tunnels are all rough hewn from the rock) and here I have a bone to pick – we had to go through is in both directions and it cost me 80NKR (£8) to get the van anywhere near clean again.

Immediately after this tunnel we came upon Honningsvag which seems to be a bustling small town with tourism (there was a small cruise ship came into the harbour), fishing and other shipping or perhaps oil related services. Continuing up the road with just 21 miles to go we passed a large and recently built Scandic hotel before climbing high across the very wet and windswept moor until we came upon the Nordkapp visitor centre at 71.10.21N. They charged us 55NKR (£55) for the pleasure but after 2390 miles we were hardly going to turn around. The temperature was as low as 7C but we just had to do the photos before seeking shelter in the visitor centre. So we had made it, an itch well and truly scratched.

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After a hot dog and a bun in the visitor centre and sending the obligatory post cards we set off back to Alta. Of course the same journey was just a retrace, and that tunnel, but we knew where to look for things. We stopped and got a great view of a Black Throated diver on a pond on the moor and got fabulous views of 2 pairs of Golden Eagles soaring above the road. By now we were suffering from reindeer overload so it might be time to start looking for some for the BBQ when we get further south to warmer weather. As we got closer to Alta the weather did improve and we returned to a not unpleasant but still chilly evening.

A couple of things that have struck us are the number of different countries cars and campers have come from apart from the obvious Scandinavian and Northern European. We have seen Russian and Ukrainian, hardly what we expected, Italian and Spanish, hell of a long way, and even one Australian BMW bike but we have seen precious few British certainly in Norway. Sue saw a car a few days ago and we passed a VW camper and then there was that Burstiner motorhome wit the trailer. On the way back from the Norkapp to Alta we sa a UK plated Unimog type camper and big 4×4 van camper with UK plates but that is it. Another surprising thing especially to and from the Nordkapp was the number of cyclists laden with tents and luggage battling the elements, the hills and tunnels and the traffic to reach the Top of the World – to be frank they must be bonkers.

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Journey to the Top of the World : 2

Our crossing to Kristiansand was smooth and took just over 3 hours. The Colorline fast ferries are large vessels and a cut above your average cross channel fries. The terminal in Kristiansand spilled us into the into town in the middle of the afternoon and we were soon on our way north. The next week was going to be all about travel as we wanted to get to the Nordkapp first and then meander back south taking in sights and detours on the way.

It was another cooking hot afternoon when we dropped off the main road to find a small camp site by the lake at place called Hisoy. The sun was so hot that Sue and Fred had to sit in the van with the blinds down to avoid it and it hardly cooled down all night. Like most Norwegian campsites it was a mixture of caravans, campervans, motorhome and cabins but on this site someone was staying in a full on Kenworth long nose semi tractor.

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Fred woke us about 06:00 on Thursday so we were soon up, dressed, breakfasted and on the road. Some of the road from Kristiansand to Oslo is now motorway but there was one section under construction and boy do the Norwegian road builders know how to deal with rocks. Sadly Norway has fallen in love with road pricing and every so often there is a gantry across the road that collects your registration number. We found just a few of these before so at least we have an account but there is no escape for foreign tourists as their agency will collect the tolls.

We came off the motorway before Oslo to take a scenic route to Lillehamer. It was picturesque but not a very good road and busy so for the second half of the journey we opted for the main E6 road (that would take us to a 100km short of the Nordkapp) that was equally busy and still pleasant enough. On the way into Lillehamer we looked up local campsites and found one by the lake. Fred managed to get a swim in the lake and bark at the ducks so he was happy. That evening we started to notice the lengthening days as sunset was getting later and the light it left over the lake was stunning.

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For Friday our plan was to make it past Trondheim to a camp site we stayed at last time but first a trip to the supermarket for fresh provisions. By the time we were on the road it was already busy and for much of the way it was a frustratingly slow Norwegian cautions speed limit dawdle. We crossed over the vast wilderness at Oppdal where the road summit is over 2000 feet eventually reaching Trondheim in the Friday rush hour. Finally we got to the campsite at Steinkjer and the same pitch we had last time overlooking the lake where we could watch the Merganzer ducks among others dividing for food.

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We made an early start on Saturday and this time the road was quiet. We were aiming for Mo i Rana but in the end made it way past there. The road passes through a mixture of geography and terrain but whatever there are a lot of pine trees. Like the rest of the journey there were several tunnels and todays longest of 8.6km is going to take some beating. Sue was on the look out for Elk and was rewarded with one this morning a bit off the side of the road. Long before Mo i Rana and beyond there were significant roadworks where the road is being widened and realigned. We saw the beginnings o this last time so it is going to be a long term project. That afternoon we crossed the Arctic Circle and continued to Nordnes campsite for the night. The van is taking the journey well in its stride and passed the 2000 mile mark just a few short of the Arctic Circle. By now the weather was much cooler, about 16C during the day and 10C at night.

We were away sharp on Sunday morning and again the roads were very quiet. This afternoon, 7 days after leaving home, we passed 2000 miles. Our aim was to get a little way past Narvik before stopping. We had an easy journey through some very big scenery stopping on one occasion to admire it and finding we were close by the WWII concentration camp. Just before that we had both seen an Elk on the road margin before it scuttled off into the woods. We ate lunch on small ferry just before Narvik and were looking forward to stopping for the night. Well this had to be the longest stretch of road with no campsites and we were contemplating a wild stop. Fortunately though we found a pleasant site next to a wildlife reserve that apparently has abundant bird life – except of course when we visit although we did see a red squirrel on the drive which fortunately Fred did not.

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Driving through Norway is often slow and always torturous. Distances as the crow flies are great but by road they are twice as far. I am sure Fred, being a Spaniel, understands this. They can be tedious at times but rarely boring. It is easy to become blasé about the stupendous scenery that is seemingly endless. One could take a million photos but never capture the essence of bowling along through this fabulous place.

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Journey to the Top of the World : 1

Well at least to the Nordkapp which is the most northerly point in Europe.

Two years ago we drove up the west coast of Norway as far as the Arctic Circle before turning for home through Sweden. Ever since then we have regretted not going further north in Norway even though we would not have had time to get to the Nordkapp. So now here we are on that journey for 5 weeks. Our plan is to get to the there reasonably swiftly although without busting a gut especially driving through Norway.

We set out on Sunday 29 July to catch the shuttle to Calais. For several days before Eurotunnel had been having tremendous problems caused by the heat wave and high traffic levels at the start of the school holidays. It seems that the air conditioning in their ageing rolling stock could not cope with the heat and the hot vehicles so that carriages were being taken out of service causing delays of many hours. However by Sunday things looked better so when we arrived everything was apparently running normally – that is only 30 minutes late. Waiting in the camper van park for our slot to be called we were one of many VW campers – at a guess about 1/3 of the vans there were VW of all ages. Oh and we had the first rain for weeks – but of course we were off on our travels.

Hitting the road north from Calais the Sunday traffic was busy and it was still raining. After about half an hour we crossed the Belgian border and it started to warm up. The autoroute through Belgium was extremely busy slowing to a crawl on several occasions. Our intention was always to get through Antwerp and into Netherlands before stopping for the night. Antwerp didn’t disappoint and we queued all the way up to and beyond the Kennedy tunnel even on a Sunday.

img_0934Once in the Netherlands we came off the motorway at Ousterhout to find a campsite. The surrounding area seemed to be a leisure park with a lot to choose from but in reality most were holiday camps or static vans. We stopped at one that was ASCI listed but as the lady totted up the extras it came to €40 for nothing special so we made our excuses and left. With a bit of snooping we soon found a site. A few miles away, it was bit old and tired but it was fine for the night and substantially cheaper at €13.50 and no formalities.

It was a hot night and we all had difficulty sleeping. We struggled to get Fred to stay in his bed but a bit of forceful persuasion eventually did the trick and we all got some sleep until about 06:00 when he decided it was time to jump on the bed and wake us.

On Monday 30th our plan was to reach the Danish border, about 400 miles away but the autobahn gods had other ideas. It was 30C and more for most of the day so we were running fast with the air condition blasting. Our first big problem came approaching roadworks joining the A1 near Osnabruk. We both saw the sat nav direct us off to the right but as we moved over I noticed the road signage was different and by the time we looked back at the sat nav we were committed. Annoyed and frustrated we drove about 7 miles to the next junction with queuing traffic on the opposite side that we were going to have to come back through. We had lost about half an hour.

 

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Back on the move we stopped briefly for lunch with an eye on making the border by 17:00. Our plan ran it to trouble when we hit the back of a queue caused by a recent accident in the roadworks ahead. In all we sat there for about 2 hours with an outside temperature that maxed at 36C – it wasn’t fun. Once they cleared the accident and the traffic was on the move again we dove through many miles of 2 lane restrictions with more queues around Bremen and on to Hamburg. Hamburg was another nightmare, it was rush hour and we crawled through the Elbe Tunnels and into 30 or 40 kilometres of roadworks where the A7 going north is being widened.

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By now we had given up on making Denmark and so dropped off the motorway to find a nearby camp site. What we found was a holiday camp site around a small lake. They even had a beach with loads of activities for kids. The touring pitches were a free for all which despite our having driven around the lanes off the autobahn was right next to it. Whatever the facilities were superb so we ended up clean and refreshed. It was another very hot and stuffy night.

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We were up early the next morning, 31 July, courtesy of Fred and on the road where even at 09:00 it was 28C. After the previous day our drive was spectacularly uneventful and we made Hirtshals by 14:45. At the camp site by the beach our details came up on their system and we pitched just a few places away from where we had before. After a walk around town we had planned to sit out for the evening but the inevitable happened, the wind got up, the sky clouded, there were claps of thunder and the heavens opened so that was that until later when the sun set with a gorgeous orange turning to red glow.

Wednesday 1st of August and we were off to Norway. We killed time with a walk around the extensive German fortifications for the big guns that were there to protect the straight. And then before checking in top the tank up with cheap Danish diesel and a trip to the supermarket for a few essentials. Finally after 865 miles arriving at the ferry terminal for our 12:15 sailing to Kristiansand.

Journey to the Top of the World : 2 >>>

Fred’s Bed

Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges

Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges not least of which is getting him to go to bed and stay there until we want to get up. We have long since given up the notion of a lie in but it would at least be nice not to be woken or get up with the sunrise.

Fred has gone through several sleeping travelling arrangements since we got him. Like all dogs he likes an enclosed sleeping space overnight and indeed at home he has an indoor kennel built in to a utility cupboard. fullsizeoutput_15deHe also has a nice folding travel kennel that still comes with us if we go to stay in other peoples houses. At one time we did try travelling with him in this but it wasn’t popular so now he travels on the back seat with a view out of the window and he is happy to do that all day long. At first we had a large drive away awning with a bedroom section so we put his travel kennel in there but it could be cold and we fretted about him being outside the van. Then, because we hadn’t put the awning we tried using it in the van but it left zero space for us to get in and out of bed. Anyway we got rid of the large awning because it simply didn’t suit our style of travelling.

So for the past couple of years we have tried various versions of sleeping Fred in the passenger footwell with a soft basket and blankets. At first we had to restrain him to persuade him to say in there. IMG_0891Then we tried a mesh curtain to divide the cab area but he found his way through that. However for the last year or more he has pretty good and simply gone to bed there and stayed until 6 or 7 in the morning. That is until Le Mans this year when he took fright at the noise of campsite revelry outside and slept on our bed! We have sort of decided that it is OK if he goes to bed and stays there until 06:00 and then he can get on our bed but not into our sleeping bags. Something else we had to do with his bed arrangements was to drape blankets over his bed area as draughts or light will wake him.

Before we set of for 5 weeks in Norway we are determined to have a good go at making a secure bed area in the footwell that he will look upon as his own and stay in. We decided to make a foam base to make the most of the space, iron out the irregularities and provide some insulation with a tent like top that would provide the draft and light protection. And finally that would fold flat for travel and not require too much effort to put up.

We started with some 20mm dense foam floor mat cut into a main base with 2 pieces that would take up the shape of the seat base. On to this we stuck some foil backed form van insulation. This provides a stable base without lumps and bumps and that will retain warmth. Sue covered this with some of the left over material from the seat back and door cards and also made some sides with a bit of stiffening to form the base basket.

We had thought to make a tent frame structure but in the end we opted for a much simpler upside down bag supported by a tent frame rod that clips to the head rest. It means the the tend isn’t held rigid but it leaves plenty of room for Fred to move around, stand up and have a shake. Once he is in the tent his weight holds it down fine and tends to push the side out to maintain the space.

The whole thing folds flat into a 600mm2 bag along with his mat that goes on the seat when we are parked up and in his bed overnight. It will take a matter of seconds to put up and take down and takes no more space than his soft basket did once it is packed for travelling.

So here is hoping he makes a lot of use of it.

The Rest of June

Since our trip to Edinburgh the rest of June has been spent doing things we have done before. This was our 23rd trip to Le Mans and the 15th year we have been to Treboul including the 7 when we had a house there.

We got home from Scotland on the Sunday night after the Rolling Stone concert – 450 miles and 10 hours of hot boring motorway. It took a couple of days to clean the van inside and out, do all of our washing and the prep and pack for heading to France.

quvIcG2aTX2keyuJGo6aDAThe 08:30 ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe was packed with petrol heads in all manner of cars and campers en route to Le Mans. The 200 mile drive down through Rouen was pleasant and uneventful save for the fact we could see the effects of the previous few days deluges – burst rivers, flooded fields and washed away soils. We were slightly nervous that the camping fields would be more than a little wet. Once we got to the outskirts of Le Mans city the public roads that become the race track were closed for the evenings qualifying sessions and the signage for our camping area had us driving all over the place. We found it eventually and made a bee line for a piece of ground that was higher than the rest around it – just as well when we saw others, including the location organisers, have need of a tractor to get pulled out of boggy ground.

Looking after Fred in a less than doggy friendly environment was a priority but in reality he was fine and his usual over enthusiastic self. We walked him into the pit village on Thursday and Friday and to watch a few minutes of night qualifying at the nearby Porsche curves on Thursday evening. All of which he coped with well apart from objecting to having his Halti around his face to keep him in check. The noise of the racing cars did not bother him one bit, the loud music and and loud voices into the small hours didn’t bother him either but he did not like the fireworks that some campers need to make their weekend complete.

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There must be crisp left

We found a convenient quieter spot to watch the start of the race from on the roof of the go kart pits just before the main start area. From there we could see all the cars come past together behind the pace car just before they are let loose and then watch a few laps as the race got under way. Perhaps I should explain here that there is no need to watch the whole race, we get pleasure from watching small snippets but we listen to Radio Le Mans for much of the 24 hours for race reports and news. Indeed it would be impossible to work out what was happening without RLM. So for the next 24 hours we had a constant din of racing engines with only let up being when the safety cars came which has the effect of slowing the cars and grouping them together which creates gaps in the extremes of noise. None of which bothers us, or Fred, and we all got a good night’s sleep. There were threats of rain on the Sunday which didn’t materialise – sad to say if it had then it might have livened up a slightly predicable race at the head of the field. We watched the end of the race again from the go kart pits and as often happens the the race is a forgone conclusion on the last lap and the cars form up in parade. The outright win predictably went to Toyota and the car with Fernando Alonso in its driver line up. It was theirs to loose and something they have spent some 40 years trying to achieve so well done them. In the lower classes it was a battle to the finish with at least one win or position being decided on the last lap – quite something after 24 hours.

We let the masses leave on Sunday evening before our morning drive west to our regular haunt at Treboul. In the couple of times we have been back there since we sold our house we have taken a shine to Camping Trezulien. It is a pleasant and spacious site on a hillside on the edge of the town and just a short walk to the port de plaisance, shops, supermarket, bars and restaurants or over the barrage into the main town of Douarnenz.

In view of our impending trip to Norway we had decided that this week was going to be a lot of R&R and to be honest it was too hot for us to do much else. We celebrated Sue’s birthday a couple of times at our favourite restaurant, La Griella overlooking the port and Isle Tristan. On the Friday evening we had an interesting chat with a couple of Dutch guys who were taking part in the Mini Fastnet the next week. This is an annual race for Mini 6.50 class sailing boats, 70+ of them predominantly French with a few other nationalities, that set out on Sunday evening to sail around the Scillies to the Fastnet Rock and back. This year it took the winners 3 days and 14 hours.

We did venture out to Camaret sur Mar for the day, somewhere we haven’t been for 20 years. Camaret is a place for artists so the streets and alleyways by the quayside are full of galleries selling their work. We found a space on the quayside and managed a pleasant bread and cheese picnic lunch with a view. Followed by a trip up to Menez Hom for a spectacular view of the bay right out to the Point du Raz.

On the way back to Treboul we spotted something we haven’t seen before – a baguette vending machine!

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The weekend was spent either soaking up or hiding from the sun before we had to head home. A swift pack up on Monday morning and round to the vet with Fred to get his passport worm and while he is a favourite there he still doesn’t like vets! It seemed to take a long time to go not very far stopping at the Aire north of Avranche for lunch before we got to our destination for the night – Arromanch. We have been to the “beaches” before but there is always something about them. What struck me this time was the way that the events of June 1944 have created a tourist resort of the area. On one hand it seems a little incongruous but on the other you realise that people want to visit and the locals have to make a living.

After a very pleasant Moules et Frits for dinner the following morning we drove along the coast to Pegasus Bridge and from there along the coast to Honfleur. Having not tried an Aire before we were determined use the one by the town centre in Honfleur. The major drawback we discovered was that the toilets listed in our guide did not exists – something that is a bit restricting in a camper van, but what heck we managed. The town was heaving by day but when we went in for dinner it had died and to our surprised quite a number of restaurants had shut for the evening. Never mind we found one to sit out on the quayside for a Crepe dinner and very nice it was too. Back at the van that was parked next to a stretch of water we watched a fabulous sunset, a family off otters playing on the opposite bank, an owl hunting over the reads and bats in and out of trees by the van.

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A nice way to end our holiday before a trip to the Supermarket in Dieppe and stock up for Norway and then the ferry home.

Edinburgh and the Rolling Stones

My favourite city, possibly because it’s where I come from, and the greatest rock and roll band in the world. An irresistible combination!

The decision was taken some weeks ago to forego the NC500 this year, after all we are going to the Nordkap in August and one cool holiday a year is more than enough. Oh and Jensen Button is finally racing at Le Mans against Fernando Alonso and we are not going to miss that. Still we had planned to visit relatives and we had tickets for Rolling Stones at Murrayfield and we weren’t going to miss that either.

img_1916So we set off on a grey and misty Monday morning heading round London and towards the the A1 – the Great North Road. We made an overnight stop at the convenient CCC site in Boroughbridge home to many bunnies much to Fred’s excitement. The following morning the weather cleared to give great views of all landmarks we passed, the Angel of the North, Bamburgh Castle, Lindisfarne and the Firth of Forth as the road rides along the cliff tops north of Berwick upon Tweed.

Fred at LinwaterWe had found Linwater Caravan Park just a few miles west of Edinburgh. It got great reviews and looked like it would suit us well and certainly better that the overpriced Caravan Club site at Silverknowes and we were not disappointed. A family owned and run site, well tended with spacious pitches, decent facilities and excellent service and support.

The site backs on to the Almond River valley and Almondell Country Park. There are several walks in and around the area and alongside a fast flowing channel that feeds the Forth Clyde Canal at Lins Viaduct. It was here that Fred decided the stream was perfect for drinking and cooling off in and once he had we couldn’t stop him diving in for a swim each time.

We whiled away one pleasant lunch time and afternoon at the site with cousin Ellen and Ian and another visiting the Kelpies with cousin Margaret. The Kelpies are a pair of enormous horses head statues standing beside the Union canal at Falkirk. They are amazing facsimiles of the horses that used pull the narrow boats and are the centre piece of the Helix Park regeneration project.

Just before we came away our solar panel packed up. The guy who supplied it sent me a new one to fit while we were on site and true to form the carrier, Parcel Force, mucked us about. Anyway it got there eventually and with the loan one evening of some steps from the site we got solar again and with a vengeance.

Saturday started with a shock for poor Fred. We couldn’t take him into the Rolling Stones concert and we wanted to have lunch in town beforehand. So he was booked into a local kennels and he wasn’t happy about being left there however nice the people were. A cab ride to the stadium and a tram ride into town and we mooched around the shops before lunch and after walked up the Royal Mile and sat in the sun and people watched in Princes Street Gardens. Lunch was our usual Edinburgh treat at Henderson’s in Hanover Street. It is a great self service vegetarian restaurant with an extensive and constantly varying menu.

And then there was the Rolling Stones. It turned out that our not too expensive tickets were actually quite good up in the stands with a good view down on to the stage. We have seen them before but this was probably the best yet. The play list was very similar to Hyde Park in 2015 and full of classic Rolling Stones numbers. It is said time and again but for a bunch of “old boys” the energy was incredible – but also vocal quality and fret / keyboard dexterity! Perhaps we can look forward to? Mick had a few Scottish jokes with the crowd and about the guys with mops and towels drying the runway. He introduced Ron as “we stole him from the Bay City Rollers” and Charlie as Bonnie Prince Smilie. Charlie then did cheesy grin through Sympathy For The Devil. The graphic visuals were brilliant and the fresh arrangements gave everything a very upbeat feel. The crowd were amazing too and the band looked like they were enjoying the show just as much.

We went to bed and woke again on Sunday with our ears literally numb from the sheer power of the sound. We were packed quickly and off to rescue Fred who was so pleased to see us that he could hardly stand for wagging his tail and bum. I am not sure that he was so impressed with the 470 mile 10 hour journey on a scorching hot day. But there you go – can’t have it all ways.