After this month, we
wrapped up Scotland, returned to England and crossed to Holland and Germany -
see October 2003 for this log.
ending 6 Sept (Bob)
Selecting a motorhome - 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:
|Planned to travel 12 months
|Fuel is $US4-5/gallon
|Ferries to Europe charge by the foot
|Roads are narrow
|Towns have little parking
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.
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:
Pots and pans
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
Eden Project -
In 1996 a horticulturist acquired a defunct clay mine, and has built several
huge domes to house plants and trees of all 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
End - The easternmost point of England, a pretty, rocky outcrop with
thriving capitalism in the form of hotels, photo-taking stands, and an
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
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.
Goes to show, different strokes for different
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 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 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
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 highest
mountain in Wales, although at 1000 meters it is not 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
Conway - This cute 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
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
Robert Burns country - Ayr, in
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.
ending 27 Sept (Bob) The week of our 3rd anniversary!
Scotland - Reaching 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 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
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
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
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 - 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
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.