contentedsouls

Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Picnics and punctures

Posted by contentedsouls on 13/05/2019

We made our slow way back to the apartment; sightseeing, lunching out and then finding some nice little overnight places to park. In the early hours of one morning we were woken by a light knock on the door (my first thought was, ‘oh no; not the police saying we can’t stop here – as happened one night in the Netherlands) which sent Muttley ballistic (good boy Muttley). It turned out to be a pretty little yellow breasted wag tail knocking for food; rather like swans at your side-hatches.

The night we arrived back, we had rain overnight – the only rain the whole time we were there – and a howling gale which was strong enough to blow the skips outside up the hill. The wind kept us awake for two consecutive nights and, although  the apartment didn’t rock, it shared many similarities with boat life: the water pressure (never good in the first place) reduced and reduced until, finally, stopping altogether. This involved an emergency summoning of Geronimo and a lot of sympathetically standing with him scratching our heads and looking sadly at his water tanks – which were, apparently, the Spanish equivalent of the bane of his life. Having mustered my sympathetic face for as long as I could manage, I beat a hasty retreat before my supressed giggles exploded; leaving Graham and Geronimo to some extra male bonding time. We also quickly found out that the electric circuits were inadequate. Any attempt to run more than 1 appliance in the kitchen at a time (or any room) resulted in overloading the circuits. However we swiftly developed a morning routine of boiling the kettle for tea, then the toaster, then the coffee machine before running the washing machine when necessary. In the saloon, obviously, Daisy’s fan heater took the ‘one appliance only’ slot but we were able to run the oil filled radiators from other rooms and put them in the saloon (we always have extension leads in the camper).

For the first time in 12 years, since giving up the day job, I started to really feel retired as there was no boat to work on, so our spare time was our own and, once I got over the guilt of such self indulgence, really rather loved it. With only cooking about 3 days a week and making up picnics, our time was our own and I devoured a significant number of books in the sun whilst Graham flew his drone. Not all our picnics were ‘picnics’ though and we did get into a few scrapes due to G’s over enthusiasm for boldly taking a Ford Transit van where no Transit vans should go. There are a lot of marshy national parks which are quite water logged under the apparently dry, firm, surface and we only just managed to extricate ourselves by putting the foot mats under the front wheels when we discovered this the hard way. Another day we set off and drove through a flooded track; only to discover that the bottom was covered in sharp flints!

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Whilst G was wrestling with this ‘little opportunity’, Muttley Daisy and I took ourselves off out of earshot and whiled away an entertaining hour watching a couple trying to persuade their respective horses that they would enjoy a swim – horses 1, people 0!

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G’s plight was helped by the weather as it was one of only two cloudy, chilly days – perfect for when you have heavy, physical work to do. He was also spurred on by the fact that the Rugby 6 Nations would be on later in the afternoon.

This turned out to be the world’s most expensive picnic because, when we went to get the tyre repaired, it was too badly damaged. So we left it at the garage for two new tyres (couldn’t match the other one of course) and to put the new ones on the front and swap the fronts to the back, whilst we toddled off for lunch and a bit of sightseeing. Returning at the appointed hour, we were informed that they couldn’t get the front locking bolt off, so had to put the new tyres on the back. My first thought was delight that the puncture hadn’t been in the front tyre – we really would have been in the do do! We then had to take it somewhere else where they couldn’t sort it out whilst G waited either, but they did commandeer another customer to drive him home and they collected him the next day when it was fixed. In the end it was neither cheap, nor easy, with only the help of my Spanish phrase book.

On another day, a young Italian couple joined our picnic spot, and made the same mistake as us with the marshy stuff. Except, when they felt the front wheels spin, he put his foot down and sank all 4 wheels up to their axles a long way in. International Rescue couldn’t help without getting stuck ourselves, so we called our Spanish friend (previously the son’s au pair) who lived just up the road. She went to a great deal of trouble (including providing an Italian speaker who lived in the village as translator) and got a farmer out on his tractor to pull them out – we only found out later that the rescued couple not only didn’t give him drinks money, but didn’t even recompense him for his petrol. We were mortified as this reflected so badly on us; both as individuals and as Brits.

Around this time, G had a date for his pre-op for his knee replacement. We arranged it so that my friend Wendy could fly out for a week and then they would both drive back to Valencia together to catch their respective flights home. Having booked all this (plus car parking at Valencia and coach ticket to Northampton for G). They promptly cancelled it and the flight was non- refundable! Fortunately, they re-booked his pre-op for the day before his op, so we didn’t have to fork out a second time.

Wendy came out and we had a ball – taking her to our favourite places and finding new ones. It’s such a delight to travel with a ‘native speaking’ friend who can ask the chef to, “choose us food that you would serve your friends”. He chose well! The time flew and all too soon G drove her back to the airport. Shortly after, Mick stopped by overnight (we hadn’t seen him since we wintered together in France when we bought Francoise.

The days drifted away gloriously and we felt that we had all the time in the world but, suddenly, the days were gone and there wasn’t enough time left to do another road trip – it was time to pack up and start the long drive back. Would I do it again? Oh yes!!!!!! I’ve loved this little bit of non-English speaking Spain; the people, the language, the food and the weather.

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A rude awakening by the locals

Posted by contentedsouls on 01/05/2019

I crashed out of a deep sleep by the noise of full pelt bang, thump, base music. Soon followed by shouts of “Orlando, beunos dias” and loud volume, rapid responses in all things Spanish that I couldn’t decipher. Then another radio – again full volume – on a conflicting channel. Within another 5 minutes, the apartment reverberated with the sounds of grinding machines.

We should have thought about this; it was out of season and the time when the apartments are re-furbished for the summer rentals – sitting out on the balcony was impossible for fear of flying debris (i seem to have lost the photos of great chunks of masonry on our balcony from the floor above) and paint! The other thing we should have thought about was the aspect of the apartment; North facing, so it never got a jot of sunshine and was permanently cold. Fortunately we were left 3 oil filled radiators and we had the electric fan heater off of the van – all of which we ran round the clock (even though it was lovely and warm outside). If our rental hadn’t included utilities we’d have been seriously in the do do! Daisy was apalled and took to her ‘cocoon’ in front of the fan heater by day and the bidet next to the radiator, when it was switched off overnight.

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It only took us 2 hours to come to the conclusion that ‘Orlando’ was either hard of hearing or very lazy and we did, quite quickly, get heartily sick of hearing his name being shouted. We were, sort of, pre-warned about the need to access our apartment to paint the balcony by a ring at our doorbell one evening. An elderly gentleman with a beard presented himself with the name of Geronimo – after all the ‘Orlando’ stuff, this was too much for me and I had to remove myself to another room in paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter, leaving G to wrestle with Geronimo’s, self professed, perfect English! I’m sure, when he was born, he was the apple of his Mother’s eye and Geronimo seemed a perfectly good name; or maybe, her labour was so long and so hard that, when he eventually popped out, she shouted Geronimo and the name stuck – I suppose it could have been worse; he could have introduced himself as Eureka! Either way I was, by now, in total hysterics and requiring an emergency supply of Tenna Lady. Needless to say, his ‘perfect English’ took a phone call to our landlady to unravel (and yes, his English was a lot better than my Spanish). We agreed to take ourselves out for the day to leave them access and we packed a picnic and drove down to a deserted beach where Daisy could run free outside. The odd hiker that we encountered was highly enchanted by the idea of me walking a dog and a cat.

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Needless to say, having purposely stayed out of the way all day, they hadn’t got around to starting on our balcony when we arrived back.

Mike and Annie turned up to stay for a couple of nights, which was fabulous as we hadn’t seen them since the ‘excitement’ of Utrecht’s narrow, bendy bridges. We didn’t have a lot of choice re taking them to lunch, but we did find a little pavement bar doing a menu de dias; a beer each, bread, salad, a choice of starters, mains and puds – all in, for 10 euros each. We went back their several times and found that a whole bottle of wine between the two of us was also included!

After their visit, we went on a road trip in the van to visit an old Air Force pal of G’s and take in some of the scenery further South. We had planned to be gone for a week, but told the builders we would be gone for 3 days and wanted the balcony sorted before we arrived back.

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Gary and Rita’s place was lovely and they looked after us so well. Their area was much more geared to English speakers (including a book shop stocking only books in English where I finally managed to purchase a Spanish/English phrase book) than ours, and far more restaurants and shops open. After lunch we watched the fishing boats coming in and going straight through to the auction room.

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Each crate went passed on a conveyor belt and the buyers bid via a hand held device for each numbered crate. A number of species was still alive, like squid, and climbed into adjacent trays – so some would have gained a bit and some lost! Amongst the buyers were the people who owned the adjacent wet fish stall who opened it up and put it straight on sale – doesn’t come much fresher than that and it is all so cheap; very easy to eat both well and cheap in Spain.

We then went up to look at a little, remote, finca which G had seen for sale – just because we could – but the details failed to mention that it was 1 of 3 terraced cottages. Not much point in being beautifully remote if you have two lots of neighbours attached.

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Back at the apartment, the builders had finished with us, but not the rest of the building – we looked forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings when they didn’t work and we could have a lie in….oh no. A bit more into the season now, so the local ‘events’ started up on the beach (a few yards down the road) at the weekends.Whether it be horse racing, cycling, mountain bikes, roller skating, et al; the common denominator was the loudest PA system I’ve ever encountered.

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Moving into bricks & mortar in Oropesa del Mar

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/04/2019

We were greeted by the lady with the keys to the apartment at the allotted time, and were pleasantly surprised to find we were on the 2nd floor (it could have been the 6th). The first thing we noticed was how cold it was inside; although they had put 3 oil filled radiators on – we assumed it was cold because there had been no heating on over winter. So back down in the lift (which responded reassuringly promptly) to start mustering the menagerie and their requirements and our few clothes. Heavily laden, we found the lift occupied by builders and locked out of use; so up the stairs again like a pair of over loaded mules – in fairness, it was the only time it happened; but I didn’t know that at the time!

The apartment itself was, although by no means luxurious, considerably more comfortable than I feared it would be considering how cheap the rent was. Also, the quality of the knives, pans and paella pan, were excellent; so all we needed to liberate from the van was our coffee machine, fan heater and toaster, and give the place and crockery a bit of a clean. The blurb, when we booked it, said we would have a cleaner once a week which seemed highly unlikely as it wasn’t very clean when we moved in– and I’m not house proud. By this stage it was around 1.45 pm and we had eaten neither breakfast or lunch, so we dumped everything, left Daisy in her cocoon in front of the fire, grabbed Muttley and went off to find some food.

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Trying to eat on Monday 14th January in a coastal resort is not that simple. Eventually we found an open Supermacado – due to close at 2.30pm – so I suggested we pop in and get some basics like bread, milk, olives and cerano. G suggested that we walk a bit further up the street to see if there was an alternative and there was; but it didn’t appear to do food.

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Leaving G to order the beers, I hot footed it back to the Supermacado to get some bits before they closed for their afternoon siesta. Given that it was 2.10 pm, you can imagine my mutterings when I found that, not only was it closed, but their ‘afternoon siesta’ was to last the entire time we were there (ironically, they appeared to be getting ready to re-open the day we left)!

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This, of course, was all G’s fault because he stopped me from going in when it was open. The beer was some consolation, and at least it came with peanuts. Just about to order a second beer, the loud bell over the bar was rung – this resulted in an unseemly tussle to untie Muttley from around my legs, without falling flat on my face, and get to the bar before we were told the bar was closed. With two more beers firmly clutched in my mitts, we were pleasantly surprised to receive two delightful little cheese omelettes in bread – gotta love the free tapas. It took a few more trips to that little bar before we discovered that the bell was rung whenever someone won a prize on a scratchcard!

Heading back to our accommodation, we took in our new surroundings and realised we were only 20 metres from the prettiest of the two beaches, and the one that caught the last of the evening sun before it set. After a bit of unpacking, and knowing we wouldn’t last until the 8.30 opening of any restaurants, we sunk the last of my ‘one pots’ and settled in for an early night – I, particularly, was delighted to see that every window had proper black out shutters and was looking forward to a long lie-in in the morning, undisturbed by the light of dawn …………….. little did I know what the morning would have in store for me…..

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Road trip to Spain–part 3

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/04/2019

Having re-packed the van (a lot of trips up and down the hotel stairs with litter trays, dog bowls, etc. – as the lift is always full of cleaning trolleys at check out time), it was only a short drive to the coast on Saturday; a stone’s throw from Oropesa. However, we hadn’t rented the apartment until the following Tuesday – G’s ability to arrive everywhere early expands, pro rata, with the estimated travel time – so we found ourselves a nice little spot by the beach to park up for a few days.

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This was no hardship.

Following a picture G posted on Facebook, we were contacted by Carla who was just up the road having lunch (Carla was G’s son’s first au pair and G had met her on several occasions whilst in the UK visiting family). It wasn’t long before she turned up at the van and filled us in as to all the best places to eat both well and cheaply. She also rang our apartment owner and managed to bring our ‘moving in’ date forward to Monday.

Sunday we followed Carla’s recommendation and walked Muttley along the beach to Torre Nostra to eat Paella. Again we got the food timing thing wrong again and the lovely (but non English speaking) lady indicated that her paella wouldn’t be ready for 2; 2 what was quite difficult to ascertain –2.00pm, 2 hours? It mattered not to us, sat outside in the sun with a beer and a few calamari and olives to reduce the likelihood of starvation and malnutrition before the allotted ‘2’ arrived. This, when it came, was a delicious – and snormous – paella Valencian at 7 euros each. Not quite sure where the rest of the afternoon went, but it was close to dark by the time we got back to the camper.

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Road trip to Spain–Part 2

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/02/2019

We had travelled through Luxembourg en route and filled up all the gerry cans in the trailer with diesel at 1.03 euros – this lasted both the van and the generator (used to run the fan heater whilst away from houses) but, whilst my ‘catering department one pots’ were also doing well, the wine and pet food departments were both swiftly depleting so it was supermacado time. We pulled off the main road and found one where we could park the van and trailer; not always that easy and, leaving G in the van, trundled off for my first Spanish catering department experience. Only a small supermarket but the fresh fish counter had me dribbling; I couldn’t utilise it in the van (my smelly socks were bad enough) but it foretold, very accurately, of the delights in store for us when we reached Oropesa. If I only want a few things I just take a bag in with me; emptying out my purchases at the till; it seems the Spanish do this too. Unfortunately, the lady in front of me at the checkout queue had done the same but had managed to break something in her bag which was full of a sticky liquid. I stood and twitched, aware that G was waiting for me, as a long Spanish dialogue ensued whilst each item of her shopping was meticulously cleaned off with copious amounts of kitchen roll; followed by the checkout conveyor, the checkout scales between each item and,finally, her ‘bag for life’ meticulously disinfected! When I finally returned to the waiting G I expected to be greeted with, ‘where the hell have you been?’ or, at least, ‘I thought you only wanted a few things!’ but, to his credit, he never said a thing (I mentioned in the previous blog that we were being nice to each other – aware of our small living space!).

We really weren’t far from our destination now so, in much need of showers and dinner out (I, for one, was pretty fed up with the ‘one pots’), we booked into an hotel in Tortosa for two nights. This went fairly well given that we were on the 4th floor with the cat and the dog as we had a lift – except it was the only lift, and the demands on it by both guests and domestic staff were extreme; one cleaning person and associated cleaning/laundry trolley left no room for guests – let alone Muttley – and the wait could be interminable. So what with the 4 flights AND the 3 steep flights up to the main entrance I found it pretty hard going; especially after spending 18 months in the flat lands of the NL. Daisy slept happily in the bidet with no concerns for my pain.

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After soaks in the bath and a nap, we headed down to reception about 5.30 to enquire as to where we could get the best Paella. One of the biggest delights about travelling for me is that a) you have no idea what anyone is talking about b) you have no idea how anything works and c) you don’t understand what anything is on the menu. Our first mistake was that we had become used to the Dutch early eating hours (5.30 – 6.00 pm with everywhere closed by 9.00pm – not in major cities, obviously; but we are not ‘major city’ types of people).

We head off for recommended restaurant and it was closed, so we found a local bar and consumed a beer in leisurely fashion before returning to said restaurant; still closed. No problema (see how quickly I am picking up the lingo), we’ll walk up into the main town and eat there. By now it’s 7 pm and all the shops are open and all the restaurants closed. Somehow we got tied up with young Spanish tourists who spoke English and were heading to a restaurant highly recommended by Trip Advisor so we followed them gladly at their invitation – it was closed. They informed us that it would be open about 8 ish but, by then, we were a long way from the hotel and shattered so we left them to it and headed back. En route home we found a covered market with food stalls open and we sat and picked out delicious Tapas (unlike any I have eaten before or since); we engaged in conversation with two Spanish policemen who were eating there before going on night duty who informed us that we had, ‘found the best Tapas in town’ and we certainly enjoyed them, so all was well that ended well.

Breakfast in the hotel was a sumptuous buffet; the coffee fabulous with the expected choice of juices, cold meat, cheeses, fruit etc. Now, I’m not much of a one for cold foods at anytime of the day, let alone breakfast, so my eyes lit up when I spied eggcups and a big bowl of eggs. I handed my egg, joyfully, to the lady and returned with my coffee to the table to make my bread and butter soldiers whilst I waited the 5 minutes (well 5 fingers held up anyway – so one assumes) that she indicated it would be. I waited and waited. Nothing. I tried to re-engage the conversation with her but she stoically avoided all contact with me. The following day at breakfast I saw a lady pick up an egg and put it in an eggcup – I pounced on her and she was very happy to show me how to squeeze the top of the egg and shell it!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why one needs an eggcup for a sub zero temperature hard boiled egg I’ll never know; it would appear that she had been trying to tell me that the eggs had already been cooked for 5 minutes. However, I’ve jumped the gun and missed our first full day there.

The hotel was right next door to a lovely huge park with an avenue of beautiful Plane trees which was perfect for Muttley and, once again, gloriously warm if you stayed in the sun and out of the wind. Although it did hold one potential hazard – what appeared to be a pergola at the entrance to the park, contained rather a lot of domestic rabbits, so I needed a bit of a detour to find an alternative entrance/exit for fear of frightening the children when Muttley tried to eat them.

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Quick to learn, we went in search of somewhere to buy full fat milk for Daisy before the shops closed at 1.30; I don’t think I have ever seen so many different varieties of milk and, inevitably, I picked up fully skimmed instead of full fat (it clearly said so in English in the small print….doh!). We sat out and had a light lunch of squid and prawns, and I was going to leave the ‘useless’ milk on the table but G handed it to a man begging on the streets, before retiring for our siesta. This time we left for dinner at 8.30pm and the recommended paella restaurant still wasn’t open, so we walked back to the place that the Spanish people had guided us to the night before. By then, of course, it’s well gone 9pm and the place is packed; not a seat to be had if you hadn’t made a reservation! The look on our faces must have been priceless and they took pity on us and said we could eat at the bar if we wished; we did wish, and very good the food was too, but it was way passed my bedtime by the time we left. On the way home we found the begging man had drunk his milk (or tipped it down the drain) and slung the empty carton on the pavement!

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Road trip to Spain

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/02/2019

It didn’t start well! it was lunchtime by the time we set off having winterised the boat and we were both pretty stressed but we found a lovely place to moor park overnight by lake Roermonde. Catering and housekeeping department had cobbled up some decent ‘re-heat in one pan’ meals which we scoffed and walked Daisy and Muttley before assembling the bed for an early night. Happily and soundly asleep, we were woken by the Dutch police who said that we couldn’t stay the night; it was illegal in their province. So poor old G got dressed and, by then wide awake again, drove 1 1/2 hours to a service station near Maastricht on the Dutch/Belgian border. The lady in the van stayed in bed with Daisy. An extremely noisy night with lorries coming and going; so not a lot of sleep.

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The second night we used an app for overnight parking and stayed by the Moselle in Gironde without being hassled and it was really nice to be back in the land of happy bonjour Monsieur/Madame territory and engage with some people playing boule. To our shame, we couldn’t stay awake long enough to avail ourselves of the village bar which would have been nice; but we were so tired after the previous night’s debacle and we re-heated another catering department one pot.

Daisy has taken to sitting on my lap the whole time we travel; which is fine on the motorways but I turn into a pincushion on back roads and roundabouts – it gives a whole new dimension to, ‘3 points of contact’.

It has taken some adjusting for me to live on the van – and no doubt for G too because it has been a bit of a ‘man cave’ for him as he travels to and fro from the NL to England and, usually, sleeps on it whilst there. By the third night we had a bit of a system going; the bed started to free up and pull out more easily and we had learnt that only one of us could move at a time. We also learnt to be gentle with each other because it is not a big enough space to have a row.

Then, of course, there is the toilet issue – l bet you wondered how long it would take me to get around to that subject? I have the porta pottie and we tended to get on the road about 9 ish and stop for breakfast and coffee mid morning and avail ourselves of the facilities. I must have been in my early 20’s when I last did a road trip through France; I remember the service stations as being really clean and with great food compared to their British equivalents – not so anymore. Now I was encountering loos without toilet seats and loos full of men rectifying plumbing; thank goodness the ‘holes with footprints’ days have gone as my knees can’t handle that procedure anymore!!!!! We won’t dwell any longer on this subject; suffice to say it did become a bit of an ‘issue’!

These photos were taken at an overnight stop by the Rhone at Cruas, just outside Montelimar and we were going to go into the city in the morning to load up with sweeties but, to be honest, it was too bloody cold and we wanted to push South to warmer climes asap.

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It was still very cold and, when the wind blew, it was icy as we climbed over the mountains and into Spain. Being ‘off grid’ we couldn’t use the fan heater so relied on the two gas hob rings to warm up the van in the mornings. Unfortunately Daisy (being a heat seeking missile) also gravitated to the gas rings and doesn’t have a lot left in the way of eyebrows or whiskers!

Once we crossed into Spain the motorway service stations took a marked upturn; immaculate loos and bacon and eggs for breakfast AND their coffee is the best I’ve ever drunk. Looking for our place to stay the night we ended up in the craziest, tightest, windiest, mountain village (trailer on the back) with the sat nav playing silly sods and I have no idea how G managed to negotiate through it without taking out someone’s doorstep or window box. He stuffed the phone into my hand and said ‘which way do we go?’. ‘I don’t know where we are so I don’t know’ I responded. ‘Where the blue triangle is’ he replied sharply. ‘If there was a blue triangle I’d know where we were’ I replied angrily. Our first ‘nearly’ a row though; so we’d done well. We did find our ‘place for the night’ but we couldn’t open the doors for the strength of the wind so had to drive back into the valley to find shelter – a shame though as the views were fabulous up top. By the end of our journey the next day the sun was (and continues) shining and the icy winds had gone. Time to slow down and start enjoying ourselves.

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Wishing you all a Merry Christmas

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/12/2018

After Gill and John left us a lot seemed to happen.

With temperatures forecast for a week of minuses, a bit of panic set in and we decided to hot foot it to Dokkum early to reach the comforts of shore power (getting soft in our old age!).

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We were only back a few days before we found out that G had an appointment back in Blighty, to discuss/assess his other knee replacement on the 11th December. I was desperate for a break before he left again, so jumped a train to Amsterdam where I spent some time with Voirrey on her boat and we met up with the lovely Val Poore for lunch; feels like I’ve known her forever but this was the first time we’d met. Way too brief but, nonetheless, sooooo very special.

Not many pictures from Amsterdam as it peed with rain for most of the time but we still managed to get out and about and eat lots of oysters and go to the new Van Gogh museum; stick it on your ‘must do’ list. So nice to have some ‘girl’ time, drink too much wine and put the world to rights.

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I arrived back late Saturday and G and I had the Sunday to sort the boat before he left at 7.30 am Monday. As most of you will know by now, I had to say goodbye to Baxter later that day; we won’t dwell on that one but I must say a heartfelt thank you to the friendship of Gary and Jill who quietly took Muttley out of the way and tiptoed around me and made sure Muttley was walked and that I ate something and so many more things besides. I hadn’t realised how stressful our lives had become with his round the clock care; nor how sleep deprived we both were. I slept for 16 hours that night.

The consultant agreed to replace G’s knee in the middle of April so now there are plans afoot to migrate South, after Christmas, and then come back to move the boat out of Dokkum by the end of March before finding somewhere to stay near Oswestry for 8 weeks whilst G has the op done and all the check ups, physio, etc., before returning to the boat again and, possibly, cruising to Germany.

Whilst G was away we had snow, so I’ll leave you with some pretty pictures and wish you all a Happy Christmas and hope 2019 is a good year for all of us. Thank you for staying with us through our ups and downs this year xxx

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Visitors and Sunsets

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/11/2018

After all the excitement en route to Sneek; it was time to get the boat cleaned up, re-provisioned, and some cooking done before Gill and John arrived. I try to get as much cooking done as possible before visitors arrive so that I can spend as much time as possible with friends and as little time as possible in the galley once they’re here. They arrived in glorious sunshine and we ate out in the evening before heading off in the morning to give them a taste of island moorings and cruising in Friesland. Unfortunately it was foggy and frigging freezing in Friesland so they didn’t get to see a lot! It did, however, cheer up for the cruise the next day; at least enough for Gill to see where she was going!

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This seems to be the only picture I took whilst they were here; sorry John, nothing personal! We really enjoyed their company; it was good to catch up and play daft games. I really missed them when they left; a definite case of understaying their welcome – better that than the other way round I suppose – but I felt a bit flat, so I took Muttley for a blast down the beach, replenished the wine stocks (which seemed to have evaporated a bit!) and we headed out onto Goaiingarypster Puollen (I love the Dutch place names, they are so easy to spell, pronounce and remember!). We spent several days there in glorious sunshine and enjoyed some spectacular sunsets straight through our big windows, not to mention bird watching.

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I wanted to stay longer because of both the views and the excellent Muttley walking, but G was starting to twitch about the forecast consecutive minus temperatures, so we headed on to Akkrum where we’d left the van. It was a bit of a scrabble time wise, but we made the drive back into ‘closed down to boats’ Sneek and managed to get to the matinee performance of Bohemian Rhapsody. It was good but the sound quality wasn’t, which was a shame as we didn’t get the full benefit of the music and couldn’t hear what they were saying to each other; the Dutch sub-titles didn’t provide a lot of assistance in that area either! I’m glad we went though and, amazingly for us, we both managed to stay awake!

The neighbours at Akkrum were pretty cool.

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Hitching a ride

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/11/2018

From Lemmer we went on to Workum to spend the day at their annual cattle market and horse racing through the town. Finally, I managed to find a restaurant that sold the famed local mussels which certainly lived up to their reputation; I think they were the best I’ve ever tasted – which is saying something having lived in France for 3 years. We were joined by Gerrit and Gezina after lunch.

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I love the fact that, within an hour of the event finishing, the town was cleared of straw, sawdust and manure. A nice little town with bags of character and open spaces

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Then it was onto Koudum where we had been offered a berth at a small boatyard whilst G was away. Gary and Graham arranged a van recovery trip (thank you guys) whilst Jill and I drank wine and danced in the sunshine to some big band sounds. We stayed there for a few weeks (even after G arrived home) because it was so nice and there was no reason to leave; excellent dog walking too. Yep! Chula IS asleep in that position. Whilst there, Vim welded our hoist onto the roof (to make getting the dinghy on and off a lot easier) and we enjoyed several evenings in Vim and Anne’s company.

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We also drove back to Workum to join in the celebrations and watch the start of the annual shit race; First one to Rotterdam with manure for the tulip bulbs wins (in a nutshell). It is forbidden to use engine power so everyone had to bow haul themselves out of there – one helluvva lot of boats in a small space with a terrific atmosphere; a great day out.

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Toilet facilities were provided by the local penis fountain. Everytime the toilet is used they squirt water out! I love the humour.

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When we, eventually, dragged ourselves out of Koudum, we headed slowly back towards Sneek where we intended to provision the boat and pick up John and Gill (so many ‘G’s’ and ’J’s’ in my life) who were coming out to stay with us for a few days.

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We moored up in Sneek and, come evening, the friendly young harbour master turned up to collect our mooring fees. He remembered me from our previous visit and I teased him about the exorbitant charges, given that it was the 30th October. He replied that after that night it would be free as it was the last day of the season, which was jolly good news as we wanted to stay a few more nights; we needed paint and curtain fabric and a big supermarket shop, and we had had a great lunch at a restaurant that we wanted to take Gill and John to for dinner the night they arrived.

Sat outside in the sunshine the next morning, the man in a van from the council turned up. He wound down his window and shouted across that we had to leave today. I said that the harbour master said we could stay (not, strictly speaking, true but….), to which he responded, somewhat grumpily, “one night then, the port is closed for winter now” and drove off before I could respond. So I took a wander in to the town hall to let them know we wanted to stay until Monday morning….this didn’t go well. The nice lady wasn’t a boaty person and, unusually, her English wasn’t that good. She phoned somebody at length and reported back that we had to leave because the bridges would be closed from 7pm that day, but that we could stay one more night. Some of the bridges are operated by the waterways and some by the towns but all (according to our nav systems) are bookable in advance; she just shrugged and gave me alternative places to stay (which we knew about and were not any good to us) repeating that all the bridges were closed at 7pm but that we could stay one more night. Completely confused now, we decided we couldn’t risk getting trapped for the winter; so I did a frantic dash to the nearest supermarket and we left; having decided to pick up our friends back at Lemmer instead. That was quite a bit of money we would have spent in the town had we not been evicted.

It was around this time that G started to find pictures of Francoise on Facebook; posted by J-M and Leona on a commercial ship, ‘Syracusa’. Turning out onto the PMK (the Dutch boating equivalent of the M25) the next morning, we found ourselves behind Syracusa. J-M called us up and the fellars switched to the chat channel whereby he invited us to come alongside so we could meet properly. So he slowed down, we speeded up and went alongside tying off to them, switching off our engine and going on board the commercial; all whilst we were both moving and with other commercials around. It’s a bit difficult to get an idea of the scale of things from the photos but think of an ant on the side of an elephant; Francoise has never seemed so tiny. So thank you Sneek for evicting us; if they hadn’t, we would have missed out on the experience of a lifetime!

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As we approached the big lock (still not wide enough for us to be alongside), we returned to Francoise, untied and went in behind them. After the lock, we peeled off into Lemmer, waving them on their way with their cargo of salt to Amsterdam and Rotterdam (they passed us again 2 days later on their way back!). Our thanks to J-M and Leona for a truly memorable morning.

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Things that go bump in the night

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/10/2018

Before leaving Aldeboarn, we couldn’t help but spend a happy hour enjoying the antics on passing hire boats when they arrived at the low bridge adjacent to us. This lot tried to use their hands on the bridge to assist their braking power.

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We were heading off to Sneek to meet up with Annette and Malcolm, on Rachel, before they returned to the UK for winter. Annette and I had planned a girly day in town before heading back out to moor outside the Chinese restaurant for dinner in the evening. Whilst wandering around the town we bumped into Susi and Austin who I hadn’t seen since we were in Toul in France. They were leaving their boat in Toul for the winter before returning to Australia (we had met earlier that year) so were very busy but, despite that, had walked the dogs for me for the two days before their flight home when I broke a bone in my foot and my collar bone whilst home alone. To just bump into them like that was amazing – we’d lost touch and I didn’t even realise that they were in the Netherlands; even more weirdly, Annette and Malcolm had met them the previous week but hadn’t realised the connection to us. Already late for our promised return to our boats to leave at 4pm, I could do nothing more than quick hugs and a commitment to contact them in the morning. So we waved goodbye to Annette and Malcolm in the morning and – feeling rather like a young Spanish Lothario – headed back into town to moor up next to Susi and Austin. A good time was had by all and we had hoped to meet up again in Meppel; but it was not to be!

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We trundled off toward Lemmer ahead of the forecasted weekend storms – we didn’t want to be caught out either crossing, or mooring on, the exposed lakes. Everybody seemed to be scurrying about to get moored up safely and we stopped on rabbit island; one of our favourites

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Boats and plans, of course…… on the outskirts of Lemmer we lost nearly all power on the engine and G managed to limp to the bank in an area designated specifically for commercials to load/unload their cars.

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We rang our ‘go to man’, Nieko, from the yard in Franeker who promptly dispatched a friend of his who lived locally. He struggled to find us, so G set off (with Muttley, at my insistence) to meet him, but he had a new car so wouldn’t give G a lift back with the dog (how I laughed). By the time G walked all the way back, he had been down the engine ’ole whilst I ran the engine, confirmed G’s diagnosis, whipped off the fuel injector pump and was leaving! As Muttley had had a good walk (still chuckling) and we could go nowhere, I decided to get in my PJ’s and slob out after dinner – after all, we weren’t going to see anyone stranded on our ‘dead end’.

Just as it was getting dark there was a knock on the door!

It was the local waterways jobsworth: “You have to move”. “We can’t”. “You have to”. “We can’t”. “You’ll have to get a tow then”.  “At this time of night we can’t”.“ You have to”. “Can you get us a tow then?”. “I can’t”. As this conversation was doing nothing to expand my Dutch vocabulary I was getting a bit bored and chilly, stood there in my PJ’s, so I left the men folk to their repetitions and went and watched a bit of telly. Eventually the jobsworth man rang his boss and, it transpired, that the problem was that we were in an area designated for ‘hazardous cargo’. The fact that we had a ‘dangerous cat’ onboard didn’t qualify us, apparently. They were concerned for our safety, despite the fact that there were no boats moored there carrying hazardous cargo. So it was decided that we should pull Francoise back 20 metres around the corner where we had to tie up to railings and the scaffold poles laying on the bank. Hey ho – off he went happy; in the end.

The next morning, at lunchtime as promised, our efficient engineer returned with our 1965 injector pump having found the parts and replaced the ball bearings overnight. Within 30 minutes we were on our way again. That’s service. Square ball bearings are not to be recommended.

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When we, finally, arrived in Lemmer we found that everyone else had decided to take shelter there too; made worse by the lock (there is the odd one about!) being closed for the day, so nobody could get out the other side. Inevitably, everyone ended up breasting up. We had to wait awhile to get into town because they were working on the bridge as well as the lock.

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Hadn’t been moored for long before a yacht came along asking to breast us and inviting us around for G&Ts. Frank and Diana and their puppy. It started early and finished late. At some point during the evening it was discovered that my 2.99 reading glasses came complete with headlights. Two of us and two dogs blew the cobwebs away on the beach the next morning; two of us (plus Baxter, of course) didn’t!!!!!

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En route I had been chatting to a Facebook friend, Marcha, and trying to arrange a meet. At first it looked like we wouldn’t be in Lemmer at the same time but, in the end, we managed it and I know we will remain firm friends. Marcha and Peter have two little dogs like mini Baxter and Muttleys; we shared a lunch and a dinner together and, the next day, I saw little Joep running after a lady with a dog.Thinking he’d escaped from their boat, I called Joep to me to catch him and take him back to Marcha’s boat. The lady whose dog I was trying to kidnap wasn’t best pleased, but recovered her sense of humour when Marcha and Joep appeared and she could see the likeness.

Our nights in Lemmer were not without incident. One night somebody decided to ‘dance’ on our roof. Another night we were breasted up by a hire cruiser occupied by a load of blokes in their 40’s – instead of just getting off and going out to dinner, they were  backwards and forwards half the bloody night. At 2am they took another couple back to the boat with them; ended with the couple falling off their boat onto ours … grrrrrr.

I like Lemmer a lot; great little town and I do love a beach

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The predicted storm, when it arrived, hit hard. We won’t talk about the Lemmer Webcam!

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