Paris, thro England, Scotland to Orkney
Wednesday, 27 June
Camping grounds near Paris, this is for my own reference and anybody else that wishes to use a motorcamp near Paris.
We first went to Camping Le Parc de la Colline a motor camp that is 18 kms further out of Paris than the one we used two years ago because it had WiFi wireless internet, that however worked out at €8 an hour, the camp charged €5 per person to take them to the Metro and another €5 to bring them back to the camp, the charge per night for the motorhome and two people was €28.
This morning we returned to the motor camp called Camping Paris-Est le Tremblay, (you'll find a map at this location, it can be hard to find!), the charge for two people and the motorhome was €24, there is a bus number of 101 that leaves from the gate it takes you to the train at Joinville-le-Pont from that point you catch the train to the station called Nation and then we had been told one should catch the Metro to Madeleine. You can buy a one day €8.50, two day €13.95 or three day pass €18.60 for the train and the Metro and the buses at reception. And yes there were good shops there, but they were all in the process of having their sales so were over crowded, and only their “rubbish” on sale.
Friday, 29 June
We drove until we felt like stopping then asked the Tom Tom for a location of Hanks parking spots and took us down a back road, a windy back road, to a village called Cambremer, and there we joined what was to be 15 motorhomes for the evening.
We went through the village and all of the houses were over 400 years old, however not knowing the design of the houses and when that design was popular, they could all have been very much older. It was a very photogenic little village and we did enjoy wandering through it.
Saturday, 30 June
We drove until we got to the Museum on the Utah Beach landings and we parked at the car park and then went to view the Museum when the skies had cleared of rain for a short period.
In the morning they were 18 motorhomes in the car park, again most from France, but we were parked beside a UK van that had been touring the continent for two months.
Sunday, 1 July
We drove on through all of these small villages, and after a while I decided it was time to stop so again the Tom Tom found us one of Hanks parking spots, this time it was a monster, there must be at least 100 motorhomes parked on this area, you pay €7 to Park over night and there are areas for dumping water, replenishing water, and to plug into electricity. Again at least 90% of the motorhomes are French so I guess the fishing port of Honfleur experience is a good trade from this large influx of travellers.
We were told by the English guy we are camped by last night, that we would find nothing like this in England, and he said in fact if you stopped for two minutes anywhere you'll probably have six traffic wardens wanting to give you tickets and move you on.
Monday, 2 July
Tuesday, 3 July
The passport control looked through our passports to find the stamp from the previous entry, Lula's was easy, then took him quite a few minutes to find the stamp and I've passport which is pretty full, then onto security, the guy came over the and said had we not inspected you once today, I said yes but I thought you might want another look, he said no, go, so it was on to the check-in, and we were told we were on the two o'clock sailing, were given at the row number so we drove down to that, in the rain, eventually drove on to the boat, in the rain, the sailing was uneventful, and the sea was like a mill pond, different to what it would have been yesterday with a high wind, but we did not complain.
About 20 minutes from Dover the Sun started is shining and those blue skies as far as the eye could see, and we thought this must be wrong!
But we drove off the boat into bright sunshine, drove up the A20 towards London, and the minute we got on the M2 the rain came down and bucketfuls, for about 5 miles, and then sunshine again, and then rain, they carry on like this for the rest of the day. We settled into a Caravan club site, at Abby Wood which is on the Metro line into Charring Cross.
Thursday 5 July
We had rain most of the time, so here we were sitting on top of the sightseeing double-decker bus, it had no roof, so we were sitting under our umbrella along with all of the other foreigners, the locals were too smart to go on such a bus. Later we walked across London Bridge, in the rain, however the rain did stop when we took the boat tour which was part of the sightseeing tour ticket.
It was a real Englishman that was the captain of the boat, he announced that he was just the captain, he was not a tour guide, so unless we wanted him to tell us about the sights, it would be a silent boat ride up the Thames, so he asked us what we wanted, and everyone said tell us, so he did and gave quite a professional description of what we could see, as we were docking, he then lead us to the punchline, which was he would be standing at the gang plank, with a bucket, where we could show our appreciation of his commentary, he got a thank you very much from me, which for some reason he did not acknowledge.
It was in London where I hoped to get the local Vodafone SIM card for the UK, and to cut a very long story short, it did not matter how much money you had, or how large a deposit you were prepared to give, or how much you were prepared to prepay, unless you had a English bank account, where the statement was sent to an English address, you had absolutely no show! This was with every mobile telephone company, you could of course get the prepay, which was £7.50 per megabyte that you downloaded: which of course was totally ridiculous!
The Caravan club motor camp had WiFi for which they were charging £6 per hour or £24 per day, the Lady in reception had the good grace to admit that it was very expensive and she was predicting it would come down soon.
The Tour de France was starting in London for the first time in its history, so every motor camp and goodness knows what else was booked out from Friday to Sunday night, so we had to move on, along with lots of others, first thing Friday morning.
Friday 6 July
Canterbury it is a very old town, and there were many houses that were probably built around AD 1100 and we saw one that had the dubious reputation of being the house in which the assassination of Robert Beckett was planned.
I was of course totally furious, particularly as the girl that wrote the note, told the Germans in the motor home parked next door to us how to Park, and wrote the ticket out for us whilst we were present inside the motorhome. I was already to leave England, and the only thing that was stopping me was that we needed a visa for Lula to go anywhere else, so was not a pleasant couple of hours in the motorhome, then I stopped at a motorhome dealer to get some liquid for the toilet, speaking to him, he said forget about the ticket, they never go out of the country to recover, he then went on to talk about England and councils in general, and he was feed up with the small petty mindless that was in England, and was talking off closing his business, conducting it from the Web and he has wife would go and live in Spain or France, he said has wife was against this two years ago, but is now becoming in favour of the move.
His business was an interesting business, and so much that most of the accessories were sold by mail order, the majority of this motorhomes was sold to New Zealanders and Australians under buyback scheme, where he could arrange both the registration and insurance which is the main problem people have coming to England.
He told us that all of the roads between Dover and Canterbury would be closed off for the cycle race so if we were going to go anywhere across this region, we had to do it today, we fortunately realised this, so we set our Tom Tom the lead us to the Hastings area, and lead us it did, through what I think was every country lane between Whitstable and Hastings, all of course one-way, through beautiful English countryside and forests, fortunately very little traffic but eventually we reached our destination and wandered on until we found a campsite at a place called Norman Bay which is close to Pevensey, we decided to spend the next two nights there, they as well were packed for the Saturday night, but things quietened down on the Sunday when a lot returned to their homes.
Sunday, 8 July
Monday, 9 July
From the campsite we took the train and tube out to Heathrow where we try to change Ludas ticket from Moscow to Kiev but no a simple thing like that was not possible. So it was a two hour trip back to the campsite, were we were welcomed with black clouds, thunder, and the start of rain, which just held off until we got back to the Hymer.
Tuesday, 10 July
We managed to buy an English manual for the Fiat motor and chassis, an item, the dealer that sold us the motorhome had been promising us for 18 months.
There was back on the M25, still with no problems, the M 1 had an accident somewhere along its length, so we stayed on the M25 and took the A1 to Cambridge.
Arriving in Cambridge we looked for a parking spot and found one beside the Cambridge river, we left the motor home there and walked the 2 1/2 kilometres into the town and the University, spent a couple of hours absorbing the culture, not sure it had any effect on the writer, and then we wandered back, drove around looking for a better parking spot for the night, found one beside a restaurant, and we might be able to spend the night here without being asked to move on.
Downloaded my Visa account today, it costs me between $85 & $145 each time I go onto the internet, all of a sudden I am not interested in the rest of the world !!!!!
Wednesday, 11 July
We then wandered to Hanks parking spots, to find it was, what I would call, parked here if it is midnight and you want stopped driving and can't find anything else.
So we decided to go towards Lowestoft and parked in a camping ground next to an animal Park which we will wander through tomorrow, it is not like one of the safari parks that you can drive through, but they tell me it's more like a zoo, so it may be interesting. The other reason for being here was there is mentioned on the campsite information of seals being on the beach close to the campsite, well the beach it is a mile and a half away, there was no parking there for motorhomes and the only car park has a height restriction like so many of the car parks around England. This of course a sent a strong message to all tourists, we don't want your money here, in fact I wonder if it is not an official British policy that tourists money is not welcome!
Again I am glad that I was born in the New World, driving just a few days through the England one realises the tremendous problem they have with their Road system, which is completely dependent on the space between two rows of houses which may have been built in the 16th century, or earlier. It is no wonder so many people double Park, or Park in the wrong place, if they're wanting to do something anywhere, it's the only way they can get out of the car because is no parking places anywhere else.
Once I realised this I was a little more forgiving on some of the atrocious parking practices we seen over the last few days and just thankful to have been born somewhere holds other than this crowded island.
Thursday, 12 July
Consequently we saw a little of the route, very interesting driving through the small villages with houses right on the Road, every where parking is a problem and parking on one side of a 2 Lane Rd making edge one narrow lane is common throughout the whole area.
Once we finished at the tour we set the GPS for Loughborough, the city which is where the head office of Gaslow is located, we had there LPG cylinders fitted last year and had a major problem with the hose when we got to Finland, now hopefully it will be fixed. We spent the night parked in their forecourt, which is in the commercial area of the city, and it was very peaceful.
Friday, 13 July
Initially I could get no reply from Gaslow, they did not appear to be interested in my problem, but once you have face to face with them all the problems disappear, and probably a lot of the problems were created by the German registered motorhome being stored in Holland, owned by a New Zealander living in New Zealand, if I was resident in the UK that would have solved all of the problems.
After that successful visit we headed off to Lincoln to the Lincoln Showgrounds to attend the motorhome show that was happening over three days. It was raining so when we arrived at the Showgrounds and found that we could camp there but only for three days for a fee of 54 pounds, one night would be the same, we headed all to a small camping site a few hundred yards from the showground where we were squeezed in for the night, they were very full, and we settled down to a wet night outside but fortunately dry inside.
Saturday, 14 July
They had on display the gas generator I was considering when I was in Italy, it was working and it was making minimum noise, they will still be cheaper to buy and have it fitted in Italy.
After about two hours I had seen everything so was back in the motorhome and on our way North to our next destination which was Scarborough.
We drove over the Humber Bridge and skirted around Hull, so we saw nothing of the 30,000 houses that had been wrecked with the floods, but as we drove through villages on our way to Scarborough, we came across a few houses with large skips out the front that were full of wrecked furniture, wall boards and other flood damaged articles, the a few houses that had caravans parked outside and the news indicates it may be two years before some of the houses are liveable again.
I originally thought the flooding would have been caused by rivers or creeks overflowing, but having seen the situation it would appear that they just had many weeks of rain, that they were in low lying land, the land could not absorb the water, and what ever storm water drains there were there were totally inadequate.
We arrived there and parked in the “Park and Ride’ car park and hopped on one of the buses that went into the city every 10 minutes for 40 p. It was a very large car park and almost completely full of cars so it would seem they have gone a long way to solving the parking problems within the city.
It was a very old city with some of the shops having been rebuilt, we found an Internet cafe and downloaded the 300e.mails that were waiting for me, every so often a spammer takes my e-mail address and places that on a lot of his Spam's, and of course I get all of the bounced e-mails and goodness knows what it does to my possible reputation as a spammer!
We went for a walk along the beachfront, there was a cold wind blowing and I had good jacket on, but there were people sitting in deckchairs, children building sand castles, children going for donkey rides and all the fun you would expect an English beach Midsummer which of course it is, although you would only know from the calendar and not from the weather.
At 5:30 p.m. we caught the bus back to the car park, then drove 5 km to a campground that was close and settled in there for the night.
Sunday, 15 July
Monday, 17 July
We then headed to the sea to an area called St Abbs Heads which was a cliff area on the coast that had a walking path that took one a half to two hours to complete where you could view the birds, the Cliff faces, the little islands, and some of the birds. The closest you can get to the gannets was hundred metres is a little different to Cape Kidnappers NZ where you walk amongst them, nevertheless Lula went for the walk and came back saying she seen better in New Zealand, which made me feel very wise for not doing the two hour walk.
We then headed all off to a campground we had seen very close to this area but took the wrong turning and ended up by the sea, which made me aware we were going the wrong way, but we turned into this beautiful Bay and found the whole inlet was filled up with mobile homes, no vegetation all trees and the whole thing looked at blot on the landscape, I actually would have preferred to have seen some of our crummy New Zealand batches, most of these are quite old and are now blending within the landscape where as the English mobile homes will never blend!
And there was no camping available there for motorhomes, so we turned on the GPS for our route back to where we made the bad turning, got on our route in and found the camp ground very easily, they however were full, so we moved on to the next one that was not full, so we paid our money, drove on to the sloping ground there was grassed, but soaking wet, the first attempt we could not get to the location, so we had enough gravity to go back down the incline, and then reverse up to choice number two, where we got firmly stuck, we spoke to the owners, they arrived with a four-wheel drive, a simple tug was enough to extract us.
This was a good lesson early in the Scottish tour that one should avoid grass pitches, Scotland has had the wettest June on record, and I guess from the floods South of the border most of Northern England collected the same rain.
We managed to bunk on down the motorhome on a corner of a farmers driveway and that presented no problems at all.
Tuesday, 17 July
Wednesday, 18 July
After the Internet we then went out and hopped on a tour bus around the city, this gave us a little bit of the history of the place, which was far from peaceful in the past. Then it was back to the motorhome on our way to St Andrews, the home of golf, however when we arrived was the home of one large religious revival, I guess it would be called, there were thousands of people there one big religious meeting, so big that of the campgrounds in the area were packed, so after wandering around the city a little, we got on the Road to Perth stopped when we found a parking spot in the trees where we settled down for the night, after I smashed into a post cracking the rear fibre glass panel that serves as a bumper bar, however a drill and a few PK screws put it back together again, however not quite looking like new.
Thursday, 19 July
After that exciting venture we moved on to Dundee, in the rain, and a temperature of 14°C, but we saw the locals in T-shirts, it was after all the middle of summer!
Was then on to Glamis Castle, and fine weather, a really beautiful Castle with beautiful grounds all around it, and we were happy just to take a couple of photographs and move on.
At this point it was fining up a little so by the time we got back to the coast, it was almost sunshine, almost, but still a little bit of rain. We stopped at a camping ground on the coast that had a height barrier of 2.1 m, I'm not quite sure how motorhomes got into this campground or for that matter caravans, we did not bother hanging round to find out that moved on towards Aberdeen stopping at a village called Maryculter where we found the camp ground for the night.
Friday, 20 July
Today was a beautiful fine day like it should be Midsummer, however we did not see anybody frolicking in bikinis on the beaches we passed, most were warmly dressed as there was a cold breeze blowing in from the sea. All the houses we are seeing now are build out of a grey stone and on a cold wet day, which would be, I guess, most days, this would make the surroundings just that little bit more miserable, which is why I guess the South of Spain and France holds such an attraction to most people in this country.
Luda wanted to sample the delicacy of Scotland, the Haggis, and one of the local supermarkets we had a choice of about five different versions of it, so we bought one of them, and without any bagpipes or other ceremony, when we got back to the motorhome, Ludas sampled it: like it, she is also confessed to liking the bagpipes in the Highland cattle, so her conversation with any Scots that she runs into should be very well received.
Most of the campsite we saw were either on the edge of the main Road or were fully booked so we ended up finding what appeared to be an old Road but now looks like it is the base for a large silage storage, which of course they would need this far North to get them through the winter! Of course in reality it's probably something totally different, and the use we will probably never ever know. We are a little north of Buckie and getting near the end of our drive north.
Saturday, 21 July
We kept on following the Coastal Route West as it followed the roads that ran close to the city, avoiding the main Road, which took us through all of the grey villages and towns on this cold overcast day, however later in the day we did get a little bit of sunshine to let us know it was still available.
We wandered through Inverness on a busy shopping day, very little parking available anywhere, but as we all the passing through this city on the way back we will keep it until then. We programmed Wick into the GPS, found Dunrobin Castle that we went past on the way, so we stopped in at that to have a look, we thought that the £11 entrance fee per person was a reasonably high to see the inside of ABC,(another bloody Castle) so we passed on that.
When we reached Helmsdale we found a delightful spot on the edge of a almost unused Road at the edge of the ocean, where we decided to spend the night. Almost every parking spot we have seen today has the message “ no overnight parking” so with the height barriers and the notices the UK is directly opposite to that of France, where they have special car parks for motor homes, for overnight parking.
Sunday, 22 July
We drove around the Wick, a wet miserable town, with at least three Chinese restaurants that we saw, no significant in that, however somebody is obviously seeing Wick from a different side.
We were there at 11 a.m., the church bells were ringing, all the shops were closed, however there was the promise that Woolworths would be open on Sunday and we assumed that this would be after church. No such problem however at Tesco's, that are open seven days a week 24 hours a day, so obviously they, like the Chinese, seeing Wick as a good business proposition.
With all this excitement we felt we had to carry on so headed for John O'Groats, with the chance to see some Highland games there at 1 p.m., however the wet weather had cancelled those, so we settled for a photograph of Orkney from this location, checked out the ferry and found it was for pedestrians only, so then headed off for our original Port, Scrabster, close to Thurso.
After you had a kilometres down the road from John O'Groats we came across another ferry that ran a service to Orkney, drove in there but they were full up for the day, there was a slightly cheaper service in all aspects so we opted for the original company we found on the Internet.
It was really a short drive to Scrabster, we arrived there to find everything closed, except the waiting room of the ferry terminal, a timetable told us there was a ferry at 7 p.m. so we sat down to wait for that, the office was due to open at 5 p.m., the ticket girl said there is a chance you will not get on the ferry, and then merrily sold me the ticket, asked for when I wished to return, I replied depends whether I go today, she said yes you will go today, there was obviously no doubt because we were one of the first loaded on the ferry so we sat down in the comfortable lounge, watched the scenery and read for 90 minutes.
As we arrived I saw some motorhomes parked on a peninsula so leaving the ferry I ignored the sign which showed the motor camp to the right and turned left which took me through a one-way street, really one-way, through the city of Stromness, and we eventually arrived at the peninsula to find that was the motor camp and the other Road was obviously a 2 Lane Hwy. They were full up, but said you can park on the hard standing at the end, which suited us as it had a beautiful view.
Monday, 23 July
Then it was on to the Broch of Gurness to 2000 year old settlement, we missed the tide by 20 minutes to visit the B rough of Birsay, a Pictish and Norse power base with well, replica carvings, ruins of Norse homes and a 12th century church.
It was onto the visit Mabel Eunson, a retired schoolteacher who seems to know more about the McLellan family tree in the Orkneys than anyone else, she is a co Author of a book called almost an island, a story of the Orkney Parish, Deerness. After spending some time with Mabel we travelled to the Deerness Kirk where we attempted to photograph some gravestones and decided to return when the light was better, we just hope it stays fine as was today for the next two days.
We then wandered on to a parking spot right on the Ocean where we can hear the waves as I'm writing this letter.
Tuesday, 24 July
From there we drove a considerable distance to see the “Tomb of the Eagles”, we had no idea what to expect and it turned out to be a burial mound dating back 5000 years and a more recent one only about 3000 years old. There was also another tomb in which some bones of a eagle had been discovered along with human remains, hence the name, however I do believe human remains were the principal occupant of the tomb and not the other way round. It was about a two hour walk from the ticket office along a cliff top and in the end we decided that the items on offer to equate to the effort and money involved. It certainly goes to show that if you have the correct name at least you get people visiting your door.
As small as the Orkney islands look on the map when you drive the distances you realise there is a lot of land that supports farming, and that is what the 18 inhabited islands of the 90 and the 20,000 population relies on, with beefstock rearing and dairying, fishing, boatbuilding, distilling, knitwear, and crafts. To these have been added servicing the oil industry. Most of the houses are built out of a grey stone with grey slate stone roofs, you do see a large number of abandoned houses that are slowly falling in on themselves, however this treeless series of islands that are kept above freezing point in the winter by the Gulf stream is not spared by strong westerly gales.
From the site of the Eagles first we visited a burial tomb about 4500 years old, we were the only ones there at the time then we next ventured to two sites on B9055 of a upright standing stones, one call the Ring of Brogar and the other the Stones of Stenness, on both of these sites there were quite a large number of people walking around, and evidently is on a bus route as we saw one of the local buses moved from one side to the other.
Yesterday as we are moving away from Skara Brae we passed a car park with two motorhomes parked and it, so we headed for that for the night, what other motorhomes is still here, and since we've been here with been joined by four others or so
Wednesday, 25 July
This morning we set off to visit Maeshowe claimed to be a world famous tomb that was built before 2700 BC. We got there and found that tours were strictly by appointment, I looked at the heap of earth and decided it had no interest to me even though the ticket had been paid on an Explorer Pass, but Lula was keen to see through it so we made an appointment for the 3 p.m. tour in went on into Kirkwall & visited the Bishops and Earls Palaces or should I say he what was left of them, the roofs had collapsed in them probably a couple of hundred years ago so we wandered through what was left of them which was the last item on the Explorer Pass.
We then found a Internet cafe where I downloaded my 320 e-mails 95% of them being rubbish, (bouncing emails from a spammer using my email address as a return address, a risk you run is you have a web site) we wandered through the town, countered nine major banks and the main Street, main Street the town of less than 7000 population, in New Zealand town of this size would be lucky to have one bank!
We then wandered back to Maeshowe where Lula went on the tour of the burial mound, listened to a guide giving conjecture on what the tomb was about and why it was built, I somehow knew I was wise and not going, with my artificial knees, it would have been interesting to see me making my way through a passageway 1.2 m high. 45 minutes later I collected Lula and we went on to the motor camp were used on our arrival in Orkney. Tomorrow we head back to Scotland.
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