Thursday, September 21, 2023

Paris - Barcelona - and things that Woof in the night

Benjamin Franklyn once said "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail"  Well, two weeks ago I told you we had a plan....   

Now those 2 weeks have passed and we pulled it off without a hitch.   As I write this, we are sitting in our hotel in Southampton, about a mile from where we will board the Queen Mary2 tomorrow.    Two dogs are playing on the bed.    Yes - count em....  two.

We left the Winchcombe 9 days ago and drove to the Holiday Inn in Folkstone.   Close to where the train goes under the English Channel to France.    I dropped Kate and Annie off with our limited luggage at the Holiday Inn and I took the car to Bridge, UK to the VRBO that we stayed at last May.    The owner there said I could leave the car there while we were gone.

At dinner in the Holiday Inn.

Our Pet Taxi picked us up at 0700 and wisked us onto the train and we crossed over to France.   I picked up our left hand steer rental car in Calais, and soon we were off to Paris.

Within a few hours we were driving up to the Arc d Triomphe.

My old New York City driving skills came in real handy in Paris.    We sucessfully navigated our way thru the busy streets to our hotel just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower.

Our room was pretty large by most standards, but especially so for Paris.

A large room in Paris

We had 2 days to explor a bit so on one morning we grabbed an Uber to take us to the Arc d Triomphe and from there we walked about for the rest of the day and worked out way back to the hotel around 3pm or so.

Each day we would stop at a sidewalk cafe for lunch or dinner.   There are an endless number of places to choose from and to take them all in would take a lifetime.

Our third morning found us leaving Paris just as the sun was coming up.   We had about 8 hrs to drive today, and since it was a Saturday, the streets were empty early in the morning.

Along the way we stopped to check out the Garabit Viaduct.   Built in the late 1800's by Gustave Eiffel, it is as functional as it it beautiful.    Build from Wroght Iron, it still carries rail traffic today.

For me however, the highlight of the day was the Millau Viaduct.    I had heard about this bridge - the tallest in the world -  years ago when I saw a Discovery Channel show about it being built, and the groundbreaking enginering and construction methods that went into its construction.

The tallest pylon of the bridge is almost as tall as the World Trade Center towers were.
The roadway rides about 900' above the ground.

The bridge maintains a slight curve thru its length to help prevent drivers from getting vertigo.

Later in the day we ran into some stormy weather.   Moisture moving up from the Mediterranian was bumping into the mountain we were crossing on our southward journey, and the result was some of the heaviest rain that we have driven thru in a long time.

After clearing the storms we came up upon a real rare creature over here.   A Class A motorhome.   A Holiday Rambler no less.    I pegged it at about 36'.  Just a bit shorter than our coach.   It had tags from Sweden.     On Sunday, after we made a u-turn leaving Barcelona - I saw him pass us by headed in his original direction headed towards Barcelona.

Our stop for the night was La Villa Duflot in Perpignan.  It was like a resort which made it a nice stopover for a pack or weary road warriors.  

Kate and Annie head to dinner

We had a very nice dinner at the resturant along side of the pool.

We were meeting the breeder the next morning (Sunday Sept 17) at 0900 and it was a tad over 2 hrs from Perpignan, so we hit the road about 0600 leaving an hour extra for some cushion in case of the unexpected.

We arrived early so we sat on some benches and enjoyed the last few minutes of calm before the storm

Kate meets Phoebe

Annie meets Phoebe

Within a few minutes of meeting, Annie and Phoebe were already playing.

We finished up the paperwork for Phoebes Pet Passport, then the Vet on Staff gave Annie and Phoebe the required tapeworm treatments they would need to enter the UK on Thursday.    He entered it into their passports and within an hour of arriving, the 4 of us were back on the road heading north.

Our stop for the night was in a new Holiday Inn about 30 min north of Toulouse.

First night as a 4some.

Early the next morning we were back on the road as we had an 8 hour drive to Normandy.

Our destination for 2 nghts was La Ferme de la Ranconiere.    Located in the small village of Crepon we visted this wonderful place in 2008 and I've been dying to get back ever since.

Our room was huge and had this whole medevial vibe with the stone walls and exposed beams.
We also had a nice enclosed back yard to let the dogs run.

The hotel consists of converted farm buildings with lovely landscaped spaces spread throughout.

Our room was the white arched doors in the distance on the left.

There is a fantastic resturant on site that serves one sitting starting at 7pm.   

I didn't want to get too heavy with the food porn, so I thought I'd just show a few deserts.
The vanila mousse and the grapefruit provided some interesting contrasts.

Kate had this Chocolate bomb.    Frozen Chocolate mousse filled with chocolate cream on a bed of chocolate toasted crunchies.

Breakfasts were served in a different room.    As is customary in France, dogs were welcome at both dinner and breakfast.    France is incredibly dog friendly and everywhere we went to eat the dogs were welcome to come without restrictions of any kind.

I'd also be remiss if I did not mention our incredibly friendly waiter Gerard.   He was a man who simply exuded joy from his pores.    Serving both breakfast and dinner shifts, he always had a sincere smile on his face and a song on his lips.    He absolutely adored the dogs and lit up each time he saw them.   He would crouch down and just love them up.    He would come back once or twice during our meals for a dog love refill.  Each time he walked by the dogs he would sing out some sort of greeting to the dogs in French.

Gerard gets a doggie fix

Our two nights flew by and it was back on the road.   Our last stop in France would be Calais where we would return the rental car and spend the night at our old Chunnel standby - the Holiday Inn in Coquelles.

Getting Phoebe has been a great addition to the family.  Especially for Annie.    I think its important for a dog to have another of its own kind sharing its life.    It seems to add a bit of stability to thier lives.

Already best friends.

Our French wheels - a Peugeot 2008

I dropped Kate and the dogs off at the Holiday Inn and turned in the rental car.   One of the guys from the location gave me a ride back to the hotel.    The enterprise location at the Calais Ferry Port was perhaps the best rental car experience I've ever had.    Great on both the pickup and the drop off.

This morning (Thursday Sept 21) our Pet Taxi driver was early as usual, and soon, their Pet Passports cheked,  we had cleared thru the pet reception center, human customs and immigration, and were boarding the train.

Arriving back at our UK rental car, we fired it up and turned our way west towards Southampton and our last overseas home for this trip.    Tomorrow I will drop Kate and the dogs off at the ship, with the luggage.   I will then return the rental car and catch a cab back to the ship, and by 5 or 6pm we should be making our way out the Solent heading for the Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.     I'll have 7 full days with nothing to do.    How sweet!

Little do they know - tomorrow they will be shipmates.

Well my time was short so I had to slam this post together quickly to get it out before we got on board.

Basically I just wanted to say that we've been successful.   We now are returning with 2 pups.

When we get to the states we still have 2 months of traveling in the PartyBus before we get back to Tucson so this is not goodbye,    Simply....    see you down the road.

Friday, September 8, 2023

North Yorkshire to The Cotswolds

Well it's almost been 3 weeks since our last update.

We left you last with a couple of days remianing in Pickering prior to our continuing journey southward thru England.

Our next to last day was spent with a very pleasant lunch with our new friends Steve & Hailey.  You might recall that we met them on day while out for a walk in Wales.   They have followed the blog and kept in touch and fortune would have it that they were visiting Haileys dad nearby so we met them for lunch at a nice pub about 1/2 way between us.      Thanks again for lunch guys!

They also presented us a beautiful gift basket full of goodies like crackers, teas, chutney etc etc.   How nice was that!

I mentioned in my post back in Wales, at the time that we met them, the best thing about traveling is not the scenery, not the food nor the history.  It is the people that you meet along the way.

Lunch with Steve & Hailey and the pups.

The map below shows our travels covered in this post.   It is from the "where are we" map on this blog, where I adjusted the time period for the last 21 days.

Leaving Pickering we headed south to Winchcombe.    It was about a 4 hr drive and we arrived in Winchcombe around 3pm.     Winchcombe is an ancient market town in one of our favorite parts of the UK - The Cotswolds.    Idyllic rolling hills dotted with farms and picturesque villages.   The buildings are all mostly built with the yellow Cotswold Stone, giving this area its own distinctive appearance.

Our home for the next 3 weeks is this old row house in front of the silver car (with the open windows)

5 Vinyard St Winchcombe

It has a nice backyard for Annie to stretch her legs a bit.

The building is a Grade II listed historic building, dating from the very early 1800''s or late 1700's.

The town itself has seen human activity for at least 5,000 years as there is an old tomb outside of town dating to 3,000BCE.  The current town is at least 1,000 years old as it was the capital of the old Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Mercia.   (Watch "The Last Kingdom" on Netflix for more)

High St Winchcombe

North St Winchcombe

Long time readers might remember that we spent 3 weeks here in 2018, and stayed at the Sudley Castle Gatehouse.   This is just 300 meters or so down at the end of Vineyard St from where we are currently staying.

Annie guards the Sudeley Castle Gatehouse

One day we drove about 20 minute south to Cheltenham, the main large town closest to Winchcombe.
The city has a very pedestrian friendly city center and a lovely garden right in front of town hall.

Cheltenham City Hall and garden

On Saturday we drove into London to pick up Kates friend Kirstyn who came to visit us for a week.

While Kirstyn was here we visited some places that we've been to and enjoyed, plus explored some new ground.     One crowd pleaser is always a visit to the pretty Cotswolds town of Burton on the Water.

Burton on the Water

The River Windrush flows right thru the town which along with the picturesque stone bridges makes for a lovely quaint village.

While Kate & Kirstyn hit all the shops, Annie and I enjoyed the cool weather and did some serious people watching.

A new place for us was a visit to Eastnor Castle.    Built in the early 1800's it is what is reffered to as a "mock castle".   It was built to copy the castles of old and was a private residence of the 1st Earl Sommers.

One of the really nice things about the place is that not only are dogs allowed on the grounds like most castles, but they are also allowed inside!

Eastnor Castle Dining Room

So all of us, including Annie, got to roam all around the inside of the castle.

Eastnor Castle Library

Eastnor Castle Bedroom

The castle has been used as the venue for many different movies and TV shows.   It also serves as a destination for weddings and such.   Guests can stay in some of the rooms on occasion, and it is still used as a part-time home by the owners.

Outside the castle

Another trip was about 50 minutes south to the market town of Cirencester.   The largest town in the Cotswolds, it has a charter market that has been going on for hundreds of years.  

Friday Market in Cirencester

We stopped for lunch and a pint at the Bear Inn Pub under the umbrellas on the left.

Heading back to Winchcombe we were treated to blue skies and the views that make the Cotswolds one of my favorite places in England.

On Kirstyns last day I decided that we needed to find her a proper real castle.   One that was built for, and indeed did partake, in fighting.    I found that about 50 minutes west of here at Goodrich Castle.

Built after the Norman Conquest, it was then englarged in the 12th and 13th centurys.

Entry thru the gate

The present state of disrepair is mostly due to damage suffered during the English Civil War and then its subsequent slighting.  

The Chapel

Below, the Keep stands on the left.   

In the middle a dog is laying on the ground.   It had been bitten in the hip by a wasp.    Some of the English Heritage workers retrieved a bag of ice and after about 20 minute the dog thankfully got up and shook it off.

Most castles and great homes served many purposes.   One obviously was as a residence.   Another was often to be an administrative center for the local area.     Inside the castle or home, there would often be a great hall that would be used for banquets and state functions, but could also be used as a courtroom or a meeting hall where the Lord might meet with locals to hear and address their issues of the day.

The great hall

On the way home we were again treated to those idyllic Cotswolds views.

On Sunday Winchcombe had its annual country fair.   

Cobberdogs like Annie were bred specifically for therapy work.  The breeder that she came from has a division dedicated to therapy work and works with numerous organizations in Barcelona and further afield.   Additonally, all the dogs used for breeding are Therapy dogs in their day jobs.     

Annie already has had several opportunities to spread some joy.

The young lady below met Annie when we first arrived.   Then throughout the day she kept making a point of finding us and petting Annie some more.

The country show had a fun dog show.   Several different categories, and open to all.   We arrived to late to enter, but at least 4 different people approached us and told us that if Annie had been in the show she would have won.     Well I can't say that is true, but she sure does manage to draw a crowd around everywhere we go.

Dog Show

During the dog show, a little yapper type dog on the other side really started to get barking in an aggressive manner.   That got a big Newfoundland over on this side of the ring upset, and all of a sudden he took off, bounding over to the other side dragging the young girl who was holding his leash along on the ground.    Fortunately the Newfoundland just wanted to see what the noise was about, but the poor girl started crying becasue she thought she was going to be kicked out of the show or disqualified.   In the end all was good.

A video of the action

There was also a small collection of some neat antique cars.   This was a Ford (model A I think) with a right hand steering wheel.   I did not know that Ford made right hand cars in those days.

And a staple of British fairs and anyplace kids gather....  Punch & Judy.

I've said before how dog friendly it is over here.   You wind up taking for granted that your dog can go almost anywhere that you can.    Consequently - anytime you go anywhere - everyone has their dog(s) with them.

How many dogs can you spot in the picture below?

The following Sunday we drove Kirstyn back to Hethrow and then when we got back home we walked up to Sudeley Castle where the start and finish line was for the HONC (Hell of the North Cotswolds) bike race.  A 100Km off road bike race that takes place on the miles and miles of walking trails to be found here.     We were in time to see some of the later finishers crossing the finish line.

We also received a new photo of Phoebe from the breeder in Barcelona.  This was a week ago at about 12 weeks old.

Just 10 days from today we will be picking her up in Barcelona.  (Sunday 17 Sept)

Kate and I took a ride up toward Chipping Camden and walked up to the National Trust site on top of Dovers Hill.   From here you get a great view of the surrounding countryside.

Annie stood watch over a herd of sheep on Dovers Hill.

Another day we discovered another gem in the Cotswolds - the lovely village of Broadway.
I did not get any real good photos of the place....  I was too busy looking and admiring the place.

We might have to get back up there one more time before we leave on Tuesday

Today - Friday 8 September - we gave Annie her first bath.    Getting her ready to meet her new sister and then travel on the Queen Mary2.    Like everything with this dog....   she was just sooo good.   No complaining, she just got her bath with no muss and no fuss.    We are still waiting for some sort of wart to appear.    She is just such a perfect dog.   Still had not done even one thing that we had to scold her for.  We tell her stuff once and she just seems to know what we want and does it.    I just hope Phoebe is like her too.   How sweet will that be?

Not much dog under all the hair

One fluffball out of the tub

So...   here we are.    It's Friday 8 Sept.    We get on the ship in Southampton 2 weeks from today.

In between we have quite an itinerary:

1    Tuesday 12 Sept
depart and drive to Dover,   Drop Kate & Annie off at Holiday Inn Folkestone, then I drop our car off at a place we stayed at in June.    Catch an Uber back to the Holiday Inn.

2.   Weds 13 Sept
Get picked up at 0700 by pet taxi, taken on train thru the chunnel to Enterprise in Dover where we will pick up rental car and drive to Paris for 3 nights at a hotel a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower.

3.  Sat 16 Sept
drive 6 hrs to Southern France and stay overnight at a hotel there that I've booked.

4.  Sunday 17 Sept
drive 2 hrs to Barcelona, pick up Phoebe and get both dogs tapeworm treatments for return to UK.    Then turn around and drive 4 hrs to Toulouse France to a hotel I have booked for the night.

5.  Monday 18 Sept
Drive 8 hrs to Crepon France (Normandy) to a cool converted Farm / hotel with a Michelin Starred restaurant.   Kate and I stayed there in 2008 just before we got Gracie and I'm really looking to visiting Normandy again.

6  Weds 20 Sept
Drive 3 hrs to Calais to Holliday Inn.   Drop off Kate and dogs, then turn in rental car and get taxi back to hotel.

7.  Thursday 21 Sept
Pet Taxi arrives at hotel at 0800 and takes us back onto train, clear dogs thru customs, thru Chunnel, and drops us off where I left the car 8 days ago.

Pick up car and drive 3 hrs to Southampton and drop Kate and dogs off at Holiday Inn.   I then go to our storage locker and retrieve our hanging suit bags containing our big boy and girl ship clothes.    return to hotel and spend the night.

8. Friday 22 Sept
Boarding day for the Queen Mary2.       Drop Kate and dogs off at ship with luggage.   I then drive 30 min to drop off our 6-month rental car (bye bye good old Passat) and catch a ride back to ship and finally board the ship.    

I finally will be off duty for the next 7 days at sea.

When we hit NYC the rat race resumes and we hit the ground running because the day we arrive in the US, we have to get 4 hrs up to Albany, fire up the bus and get to Foxboro (Boston) Mass where we'll spend 5 nights.

But all of that are tales for another day.