Sept. 2003
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Check out weeks ending: [6 Sep 03] [13 Sep 03] [20 Sep 03] [27 Sep 03]

After this month, we wrapped up Scotland, returned to England and crossed to Holland and Germany - see October  2003 for this log.

Week ending 6 Sept (Bob)

Selecting a motorhome - Hymer side view.jpg (17070 bytes)Hymer interior.jpg (19825 bytes)We spent 3-4 days driving the countryside looking at everything from converted VW microbuses to Class A US-style behemoths, all the while visualizing narrow Italian streets and mad drivers.  We finally settled on a 10-year old Hymermobile, a German-built motorhome on a Fiat Ducatto chassis.  Once selected we had to orchestrate insurance (had US company that handled it instantly with no hassle) and payment (electronic transfers made it only slightly painful).  In 7 days all was set, the vehicle was ready for us to pick up the following week.  In Australia, we had bought a 23' Winnebago, and were happy with our choice, but the situation in UK/Europe is different.  Our decision matrix looked something like:

Topic Small van Small RV Large RV
Planned to travel 12 months No OK Best
Fuel is $US4-5/gallon Best OK No
Ferries to Europe charge by the foot Best OK Worst
Roads are narrow Best OK Worst
Towns have little parking Best OK Worst
Best Overall Fair Best No

In the end the Small RV type won the day, and we selected the Hymer based on recommendations of a friend and the fact that the one we saw was clean, appeared to be in good shape, and had adequate storage and living space for our purposes.

Catching up with Friends - We were fortunate during the week to meet up with Tom Skelly, a long-time friend of Bob's from IBM, and we shared stories, a few brews, and a county cricket match at the local pitch in Southampton.

 Week ending 13 Sept (Bob)

Back in a Motor-home -  After a delightful week with John and Margaret (and Rory and Sandra), we piled into Iain's old Golf and headed West to pick up our new wheels.  The salesman had it sparkling clean and we traded the old, tired VW Golf (plus some cash) in on our new home for the next few months.  After a night at the local caravan park (where a Tom Jones look-alike entertained us until late), we set out to explore Britain.  But first, we had to outfit it, and so we visited every 'superstore' in sight and dropped �500 on:

  • Dishes

  • Pots and pans

  • Linens

  • Living Essentials

The Trip Begins - With the springs sagging a bit, we finally set out on 10 September.  The highlights to date:

  • First 'Incident' - Driving down a 1-lane road, a van passed too close and removed one of our mirrors - without stopping we might add!

  • Jamaica Inn - A beautiful inn in the Bodmin Moor with views of rolling hills and livestock roaming free.  This was the inspiration for Daphne DeMaurier to write her novel of the same name.

  • Eden Project -England  Eden project biospheres.jpg (24128 bytes) In 1996 a horticulturist acquired a defunct clay mine, and has built several huge domes to house plants and trees of all England Eden Project inside tropical biosphere.jpg (28297 bytes)varieties.  They are cleverly organized to educate the visitor about the environment in the tropics and the temperate zones, and attract thousands of visitors per day.

  • England Land's End.jpg (13667 bytes)Land's End - The easternmost point of England, a pretty, rocky outcrop with thriving capitalism in the form of hotels, photo-taking stands, and an amusement park.

  • Bath - This cute town had shops galore and our first introduction to Roman influence in Britain.  The Roman Baths are a complex of buildings and baths built in the 1st century AD, abandoned when Rome was expelled from Britain, and restored in the 18th century.  The 1900-year old stone-work is amazing and still functional and water-tight.

  • Weather -  The weather has been fantastic so far - locals tell us we are having an unseasonably warm and dry Fall, and we are ecstatic 

Fan Mail - Recently we received the following 2 emails on the same day:

  • After reading your reports and possible "solutions" I recommend you 
    properly educate yourselves on seamanship and navigation before you 
    further endanger your lives and those of fellow mariners. With 
    minimal education, nearly all "horror" situations could easily been 

  • Wanted to say the you have one of the best sailing web sites I have 
    seen on the net. I have always had power boats (small 18 -21 Ft) 
    but I have been bitten by the sail bug and I am learning to sail. I 
    have gotten tons of info from your site and will refer to it often. 
    Its great!!

Goes to show, different strokes for different folks.

Week ending 20 Sept (Bob)

Heading North - After our visit to historic Cornwall, we have headed north to an area that vacillates between England and Wales. We Wales Snowdonia Natl Park.jpg (15886 bytes)have really been impressed by Wales, the beautiful scenery, the friendly people, and the un-pronounceable vocabulary.  On our first day here, we had to seek out the village with the longest name Wales LLfair town sign.jpg (19235 bytes)in the UK; see it in the picture to the right (along with its meaning in English).  It starts with "Ll...", and the Lonely Planet guide offers the following: "ll has no equivalent sound in English; try putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth, near your teeth, as if to pronounce'l', then blow the 'l'".  After that help, you are on your own...

Some of the places we have visited:

  • Symond's Yat - We were reminded of Maryland as we drove across the Severn river and took a boat trip on the Wye river from the quaint village of Symond's Yat.  The river had ducks, geese, and swans, lots of locals in kayaks, and beautiful inns along its banks.

  • Mappa Mudi - In Hereford, the main cathedral contains one of the few remaining maps of the world from the 13th century (i.e. 2-300 years before Columbus' trip).  Drawn on parchment (usually animal skin), the map shows Europe, Britain, Africa, Asia, China, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka, as well as many seas such as the Mediterranean, Red, and Black Seas, and Persian Gulf.  Although not drawn to scale, it shows an amazing insight into the world.

  • Stokesay Castle - Our first castle, this is supposedly the best-preserved 13th-century castle in England.  It was very interesting; the structure well-preserved but with no artifacts or furnishings inside.

  • Mount Snowdon - This is the Wales Snowdon mountain railway.jpg (20027 bytes) highest mountain in Wales, although at 1000 meters it is notWales ocean views from Tyddyn Du Touring Park.jpg (22974 bytes) huge!  We took a cogged railway to the top, and had fantastic views in all directions.  Reputedly we could see Wales, England, Scotland, and Ireland but we found it hard to tell one from another.  Our caravan park for the evening had stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and a golden sunset across Anglesey island.

  • Conway - This cute Wales Conway town with castle behind.jpg (19516 bytes)coastal village features an encircling wall (similar to Xi'an in China, but smaller), quaint and narrow streets, and an imposing castle.  Built by Edward I in 1287, the castle and town walls were in great condition and we toured the castle for several hours, climbing parapets and trying to visualize how life might have been 

  • Lakes District - This famous British Wales Keswick in the Lakes District.jpg (19009 bytes)vacationland has a well deserved reputation for beautiful scenery and lakes.  Sails were seen, even this late in the season as we enjoyed continued beautiful weather.  The quaint villages around the lakes sport 1st class shopping; outdoors shops of all types, lots of wool sweaters, souvenirs, and books galore!

  • Robert Burns country - Ayr, in Ayrshire,Scotland Robert Burns cottage.jpg (21454 bytes) seems to make its living from tourists flocking to the home of this famous Scottish poet.  We visited the cottage where he was born (in 1759), the monument erected to memorialize him (in 1823, and were amazed at the amount of material on display at the museum.  He apparently saved all of his writings, and made copies of the letters he sent to friends, so his life is very well documented. 

Week ending 27 Sept (Bob) The week of our 3rd anniversary!

Scotland - Reaching Scotland quaint inn in Ambleside.jpg (18742 bytes)the northernmost country of the United Kingdom, we found it as beautiful as the stories, and the people have been very friendly. In England, folks seem too busy to be anything other than courteous, but in Scotland most have been outgoing and friendly.  The scenery is lush and green, with flowers everywhere.  So far we have been fortunate to see:

Glascow - Spotted a Scotland Glascow Queen's Square.jpg (20295 bytes)few marinas along the way and we were really enthralled by this scenic city.  Rain curtailed exploration the first day, but on the next we roamed through many ornate buildings with a 18th century feel, a park with many statues, and a neat pedestrian mall to cater to the shoppers.  We would like to return and spend more time in this pretty city.

Fort Williams - Cute town, but rain made it hard to enjoy.

Loch Ness - We went Nessie-spotting, and had the same success as most others - enjoyment at seeing a beautiful lake, with diving birds, but no Nessie.  We did get a peek at another castle, this time Urquhart Castle, a ruin on the shores of Loch Ness with a million dollar view.

John O'Grout's - The northernmost settlement in Scotland, a parking lot, caravan park, and a few souvenir shops catering to those of us who wanted to reach the end of the island.  Its only other claim to fame is a passenger ferry that takes tourists to the Orkney Islands.

The Orkney Islands - A wonderful surprise!  This collection of 70 small islands, just north of Scotland really made our day!  We had great weather, a tour guide took us by rolling hills with sheep and cattle, traditional stone houses all the while giving us a rundown of colorful history of the islands.  The sights:

  • Scapa Flow - The islands surround a sheltered body of water that was used to protect the English fleet during WWI.  One German U-boat made it through and sank the Royal Oak, which prompted:

  • Churchill Barriers - The openings between the islands that faced Germany were filled with debris - sunken ships, concrete, and rocks on orders of Minister of the Navy, Winston Churchill.  At the end of the war, 70 Germen ships were scuttled by their crews in the harbor.

  • Skara Brae - Scotland Skara Brae house.jpg (28532 bytes)5000 years ago, 1000 years before the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Neolithic people lived in Scotland and built stone houses that survive to this day.  We visited the ones at Skara Brae, an amazing collection of partially-buried houses with stone beds, storage shelves, bait boxes, and possibly running toilets.  The whole village was discovered by accident in 1850 after a storm uncovered part of it - many more may lie under the surface of this fascinating country.

  • Killkirk - The capital, small and cute with a few craft shops, many friendly people.

  • Ring of Brodgar - Another of the stone rings found all over the UK, this one had 60 stones in a circle, and special alignment that happens at the Winter Solstice - not as visually impressive as Stonehenge, but much older. 

  • Italian Chapel - When Italy surrendered in WWII, Italian prisoners of war were brought to Orkney to work on strengthening the Churchill Barriers.  They transformed a pair of quonset huts into a cute chapel, still used today.


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