Category Archives: Europe 2017

What was Hot!

It was all pretty Hot really.

Gary and Dianne did a great job as tour guides and we really appreciated their great company and the effort they went to so we could see a bit of Europe from a Motorhome.

Dianne and Gary in their old stamping ground, Prague. They were on the Charles Bridge here with the Prague Castle behind on the hill.

The original idea was to try for Estonia and back from the UK but once we got to Brugge from Calais, we decided it was going to be far too much driving and we simply wouldn’t see anything in 5 weeks for driving so we opted for a shorter course through Holland, Germany, a week in Prague, (Gary and Dianne lived here for 3 years) back to Germany to check out the Niesmann and Bichoff factory, Luxembourg, Northern France and back to the UK.

Gary and Dianne’s new Arto 88

It was all good but from a picture perspective, probably Stow on the Wold and some of older Architecture in Prague and Germany. The villages in Northern France were amazing too.

A happy Dianne in the living area while Fiona inspects ๐Ÿ™‚

After seeing Gary and Dianne’s new Arto 88 Niesmann and Bichoff, Gary was able to organise a tour through the factory which was fantastic as they are all built by hand with minimal automation.
The factory is in Polch, Germany which wasn’t far out of our way from the Czech Republic to France. In the end we decided to go through Luxembourg as well and have a look there too.

A happy wee Ralph at Hanover

Ralph was fun but after 3000 odd km’s, I was starting to pine for something like Rafe as Ralph was hard yakka by comparison. I didn’t realise too when we hired it that it was flat out at 90 odd k so it slowed Gary and Dianne down too which was a bit of a let down but we had fun and everything worked. Its a classic case of if I was to do it again, I’d do it differently.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow of the Hot images..
click the x at the top right hand corner to close.

The whole trip was over nearly 2 months and cost a total of about $16000 NZ so was a cheap holiday given that we saw and did so much. Ralph was NZ$7000 of that for 5 weeks so it was pretty good really.

I picked up a bug in the last few weeks which I’m still trying to shake which was a bit of a bugger but still it didn’t slow us down ๐Ÿ™‚

Singapore was fantastic.

One the way to Marina Sands

We always seem to be flying through here so it was nice to actually stop for a few days and see all the changes. Its a great city and we both really enjoyed seeing Chinatown, cruising up the harbour and all the new buildings. The Marina Sands area was amazing too.

Fiona at Marina Sands. The shopping centre on the left.

Over the whole trip though, I can’t say enough about Gary and Dianne and their patience with us as they really were fantastic and we had a huge amount of laughs and fun with them.

Gary and Dianne on the Mosulย  River

Thanks heaps to you both again for everything and also storing Rafe in your XLI/Nibi shed while we were all away. We’re both looking forward to catching up with you both when you get settled with Nibi in NZ, or whatever you end up calling the new beast.

Back to Rafe

We arrived in Auckland about an hour earlier than planned around 10:30pm and immediately grabbed a cab and headed for the Hotel Ibis at the airport. Our son Alex was going to pick us up in our car around 7:30 in the morning but with the body clocks being as they were, we were awake and ready to go by 5:30am wondering what to do with ourselves ๐Ÿ™‚

It was great to see Alex, Sarah and the boys at their home in Ardmore after a long time away.ย  Unfortunately, we had to press on and pick up Rafe from Dianne and Gary’s shed in Taupo otherwise we had no where to sleep !

Click on the images for Hi Res

We left Ardmore around 9:30 and headed south stopping at Cambridge for lunch and then getting to Taupo about 1pm. Rafe’s COF had expired and it was booked in for 2pm which it flew through.

I hate the waiting and standing around with WOF’s or COF’s as you never know what is going to spring out of the woodwork but today was a good day ๐Ÿ™‚

Lovely spot

We headed up to the National Equestrian Centre which is off the road north to Rotorua, just after the turnoff from Taupo. Its a magic spot and is $10 including power, showers and toilets.

Caravan Alley

With the jet lag the way it was, neither of us felt too good about driving north until we’d had a go at our body clocks and getting some sleep so we elected to stay here, despite the weather for the next 3 days and it just came down cats and dogs.

Toilets, Showers and rubbish right opposite

Although my front wheels were close to the gravel. There was quite a bit of churned up mud just in front so I was keeping an eye on that. The land around Taupo is a little top soil over pumice so it is really well draining and although there was a huge puddle behind and partly under us, when the rain stopped and we had to get out, I simply backed back from the mud and drove sideways around it and there was no slipping at all ! The water that was behind us had drained away really quickly.

You can see some of the neighbouring thermal activity here.

Its a great spot to park and the caretaker is really helpful and a really nice bloke.

After leaving there, we thought a night at the NZMCA park at Ngongotaha might be the ticket and then after that Auckland.

At Alex and Sarah’s ย in Auckland

On the fourth day, we headed back to Auckland and stayed with Alex, Sarah and the boys in Ardmore.

Liam and Granny Fiona on the sideline.

The next day grandson Ayden was playing rugby at his rugby club around the corner so we all went around and watched that.

Ayden off for the Tryline. On the left, Grandad Paul, Granny Fiona and Grand Gran Mary all providing plenty of encouragement !

A great family occasion. Sarah’s parents Paul and Mary were there too. Ayden scored about 5 tries which was great so a lot of family excitement.

Ayden off again with the ball

Its lovely to be back in Rafe and we don’t realise how spoilt we are until we drive something a bit older. Its nice to be back.

Rafe’s track to the equestrian centre from Taupo

On the way home

After dropping of Ralph to Hireahymer in Milton Keynes, we caught a bus down to Heathrow directly and another local bus around to the Ibis at Heathrow for our last night. All very easy.

Click on the images for Hi Res or a Slideshow

In the morning we caught a cab to the Terminal and we were off.

The Singapore Skyline

In an effort to break up the long flights, we decided to stop off in Singapore for two days. We haven’t been here without just transiting for a long time so I was blown away by the changes.
Singapore was hot.. 32 C plus and it was only early in the day so the air conditioning was wonderful.

The Architecture was something else

The architecture is stunning. Trees in little pockets of glass 10 or more stories up and better. The most impressive of course is the Marina Sands Hotel area with the rooftop garden and pool.

One of the old famous Hotels

We got a ferry from Clarke Quay and cruised down the river to where they dropped us off at the Marina Sands shopping centre.

Marina Sands

We spent a couple of hours cruising around the shops and having a good look around. There is part of the shopping complex where there is a internal river with bridges over it for access to the shops. Locals will take you for a Gondola ride down this Pool/River as you can see from the photo.

We eventually made our way up to the Observation Deck on the 51st floor and had a drink at the cafe at the top. You’d only have one drink as it was expensive! .. A glass of wine was S$24!!

A panorama from the Observation platform.

We spent a good hour or so up there and then made our way down to the train station and back to the hotel.

The Marina Sands Hotel

The train system is fantastic. Unlike most places in Europe where the train pulls in to the platform, there is no platform. The train pulls in to the walkway area which is closed of to the track until the train comes in. The doors in the station line up and open with the doors on the train. Clever as there is no requirement for the platform.

The old and the new

As our hotel was on the edge of Chinatown, we spent the next day having a good look around there. The atmosphere was great and the people were fantastic.

Fiona at Marina Sands. The shopping centre on the left.

I came away feeling that we could have done with a couple more days there to have a better look around.

Our Last Day in the UK

There was free parking provided in a carpark right next to the Chunnel entrance so we took advantage of that for our last night in France. We woke up early to see if we could get an earlier crossing in the Chunnel as our booking was for 10:55am. Gary and Dianne were ready early so we were off.

Free parking in Calais

When we checked in, we found that we could get on an 9:50 crossing so we were in.

The Chunnel train port

After checking underneath and see if any stowaways were hanging on, as requested by the British border man, we headed off to Starbucks in the duty free pavilion until our time for boarding.

Driving onto the Train
Driving up to our spot Gary and Dianne in front

It was all really easy. After spending 20 minutes or so in the carriage inside Ralph, we were in Folkstone, UK and drove straight out onto the the motorway towards the Dartmouth Crossing.

A bit of traffic on the M25 around London slowed us down but we by 2.30pm, we were in Milton Keynes picking up our suitcases from Ralphs home at Hireahymer.com.

The camp

After this, we followed the Gary’sย  GPS settings to the Old Dairy Farm campground which is right by a canal. Just beautiful. A really small camp with about 15 powered sites on an old Farm.

Looking over towards Harry

We headed off in Ralph up to a pub about 3 k’s called the Three Locks Hotel which is as it says, right by 4 locks and by the canal.

A beautiful setting. We went with Dianne and Gary and shouted them ย a meal out on our last night as a way of saying thank you for being in their hair for the previous month or so and being great tour guides, especially of their old home country of the Czech Republic. We wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it without you guys. Thanks heaps to you both.

We had a great night there. I think we were all pretty tired as starting out in France early and driving to where we were was all a bit hectic.

Water coming through the lock gates
Two narrow boats in the lock

It was a relatively early night but what a lovely spot to finish off the trip.

Through the hedge is the Canal

In the morning we were taking Ralph home and catching a coach to Heathrow Ibis for a night and then our flight home to NZ.

The Market Town

Making our way slowly back to Calais across Northern France, we stopped in a small village called Boiry Notre Dame. The area around here is loaded with War cemetaries and references to both wars where the Germans absolutely hammered the place and often for no reason apart from to destroy the culture.

Fiona puts a poppy down at an unknown Soldiers grave on the way to Arras

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Hymer caravans coming in to the camp.

The camp we were staying at was on the edge of the village with a Maize growing area which went for miles on the other side. From there we could also see about 40 odd giant Wind Turbines grinding away and they were earning their keep as it was blowing. They had really bright LED lights at the centre and at night these change red and they all blinked at the same time. Quite a sight!

Our park out of town

In the morning, we caught a cab into Arras which was about 17 odd k’s (30 euros in the cab) and headed for the main square where there was a huge market on. Arras has three big squares all linked together and there are stalls everywhere you looked.

Lovely Crepe lunch

We sat down and enjoyed a Crepe lunch which the area is famous for in the main square. The square is dominated by an amazing old building which is the town hall, which has been rebuilt after the Germans dealt to it during the war.

The Town Hall

The main square is called Place de Heros which gives you an idea of where the locals stand with the history.

Fiona, Gary and Dianne getting into the shopping

After checking out more shoe and dress shops, we worked our way towards an old Cathedral around the back of the old square.

There are photographs and the story behind the cathedral is posted to the railings of the Cathedral which the Germans destroyed during the war. The Cathedral like many others has been rebuilt and looks fantastic.

At The Markets

We were going to check out the Wellington Tunnels but the people who run would only let us go in at a time that was too late for us so unfortunately we couldn’t do it. The Wellington Caves are a series of Tunnels dug by Kiwi Soldiers during the war under the town to surprise the Germans. Now part of the towns history and named after the soldiers who dug it out who came from Wellington, NZ.

Great atmosphere

We caught a cab back to the camp and sat outside for a while before tea.

A great day out in Provincial France.

The Village Bike Run

One of the things that we’d decided to do when we left Luxembourg was to find a spot we could stay in that gave us close access to some french villages.

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Ralph can be seen slightly behind the small tree in the middle

Dianne found a lovely community run campground in a little village area about 20 k’s west of Reims called Courmelois. There were two other villages close by within 10 minutes of biking and the fee at the camp was very reasonable. It was 20 euros for both of us with EHU (power or electric hook up) and nice showers, toilets and dumping facilities.

Harry and Ralph

It was all very relaxed and they basically gestured us to two power boxes and said we could park anywhere between them which gave us heaps of room. There were no sites marked out.

Pastries and Free Wifi. Dianne, Gary and Fiona.

We settled down on the first night and made loose plans to do the bike thing around the local villages.

The Village and the Campground. Canal along the bottom.

The next morning came around and it was time to get organised. I couldn’t find the key for the lock on the bikes. After an hour or so of stewing and turning the place upside down for the said key, we turned to plan B. I won’t say how we got the bikes down except to say it involved a toolbox and and the lock was useless afterwards but as Gary does, he had a spare ๐Ÿ™‚ We could use it to secure the bikes until we got back to the UK. Fantastic!!

Gary checking the map on his phone by the Pastry shop – Thuisy

We set off and within 10 minutes or so, we were in a lovely little village called Thuisy and there was one shop only there.. a Bread and pastry shop. Just what we were looking for so after a few minutes, we were off again to another village called Wez. As we came in to the village, we found a neat wee Pub on a corner and popped in for a cup of Coffee.

Gary, Dianne and Fiona outside a closed champagne place in Wez around the corner from the Pub.

They had a nice attached Restaurant so we decided to go for a ride and come back for lunch and it was amazing. We ended up staying here for several hours.

Gary giving Fiona encouragement to get up the hill!
Stopping at the canal to watch someone going through the lock

Leaving there, Gary found another village a little further away by the canal so we headed off down there but the village was deserted. Lots of lovely homes but no action at all and no sign of any people apart from the odd farmer. This was on a weekday too.

Gary following Fiona up the canal tow path

With it all being quiet, we decided to head back to the camp and had an early tea with the stuff we got from the pastry shop. Yum .. A nice day out biking in the fresh air dodging showers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our route around the villages

On the Border

Right on the river border between Germany and Luxembourg is a fantastic MotorCamp in a town called Echternach.

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Gary and Dianne walking through 500 odd campsites to our site..

The camp is huge with more than 500 sites, most of them powered and quite a few are permanent. We managed to get two spots near the river and they were huge and included a couple of trees between us.

Ralph and Harry at Echternach

In the morning we walked over the bridge into Luxembourg and caught the bus into Luxembourg city with all day passes each for 4 euros.

The bus in the narrow back streets

Luxembourg has one of the highest earning ratio by GDP anywhere in the world but despite this, we didn’t find it that expensive.

Luxembourg City is like the Czech Republic where it didn’t suffer from bombing during the war like the rest of Europe so many of the old buildings are still in good shape.

Gary Dianne and Fiona walking through the shops..

After lunch in a quiet Cafe, we had a good look through the town. After running out of more shoe shops to look at :-), we walked down to have a look at the Notre Dame Cathedral. What an amazing building. You can feel the history.

Outside Notre Dame
Notre Dame

We headed back to Echternach on the bus and stopped off in a bar for a drink and then a walk through town. Again, more lovely old buildings and all of them in good shape.

In the Echternach Village

In the main square on the wall, there was a picture of the square taken in 1899. I did one of the same angle and there is very little change between the two.

Echternach in 1899 (Before)
Echternach now (After)

We had a great day and enjoyed checking out Luxembourg. Nice people who mostly speak English so its easy everywhere and plenty of interesting stuff to see.