2014 Europe Road Trip

Saturday 21st June

Travelled to Dover & had carvery at Kittiwake pub. Drove on to ferry & travelled across to Dunkerque then Andrew drove from there to Bruges.

We found the apartment without too much hassle, nice but very basic, no soap, kettle etc.

Went to explore and wandered all around the old Markt area, very noisy as there was a race on. Beautiful architecture all around us, we watched the boats on the canal & found a restaurant with an outside eating area called Poules & Moules. Had a Trappiste Roquefort beer, moules & creme brûlée. Andrew had beer, beef stew & cherry pie. We went back to the apartment & sat up on the roof terrace for a while before bed.

Sunday 22nd June

Had coffee on the roof & got ready to go out.

We took same route as yesterday to the markt this time with video & camera.

Wandered around the lovely square taking photos of the Belfry, church, the stunning Historium & my favourite the Provincial Court & other wonderful buildings.

We followed the Silent walk in the Bruges city guide going passed the museum of chocolate, the baroque St Walburgha’s church, then following the canal to the 15th century artists quarter & the gothic St Giles church.we walked into Potterierei to see Bruges major seminary then on to the lock. We walked on along the canal to the last 4 windmills still here, apparently there used to be over 30 of them.

We stopped within view of the last 2 to have lunch at De Windmolen cafe.

Continued our walk then back to town passed lovely rococo houses & back to Markt.

Had a walk around the shops then stopped at a bistro for Zot beer for Andrew & I tried the Kwak a Trappist beer, bought on of the special glasses it’s served in at the bier palace later as a souvenir!

Back at the apartment we dropped of our stuff & relaxed for a while before going back our to find dinner.

We ate at the Argentinian restaurant El Churrasco huge fantastic fillet steaks with salad with lovely Mendoza wine for me & Janiler beer for Andrew.

Belgium won there World Cup match against Russia so the streets were full of celebrating Belgians all dressed in their national flag colours.

We meandered back to the apartment where we sat up on the roof terrace with some wine to watch the sunset, listened to music & and ate Belgian chocolates that we’d bought earlier. Retired to bed as we are off to Rotterdam in the morning.

Monday 23rd June

By 9am we were packed & en route to Rotterdam where we are staying on the Maria Callas Yacht for one night.

Met Willem the captain at 12pm at the marina.

Willem showed us around the yacht then made us some coffee, arranged to serve us breakfast followed by a boat trip in the morning and left us to it.

This is such a stunning yacht with a fabulous history. Onassis bought it as a love nest for Maria and himself - they were to be married, but he dumped her to marry Jackie Kennedy instead.

Frank Sinatra is amongst many famous people who have been on this yacht, Madonna being the most recent.

There are photos of Maria Callas all over the yacht & books on her life too. Stunning silverware decorates the yacht, the taps are all brass birds & the bed is set on Corinthian pillars.

The bathrooms & steps are in  marble & flowers are everywhere. I wish we’d booked longer than 1 night here.

We are sitting on the terrace of the upper deck, the water gently swaying us as I write this diary & Andrew reads - bliss 😄😄😄

Went out for a walk at 2.45pm, a long walk into the centre. Wandered around town & stopped for amazing cherry mania & lemon ice cream at *++++++then later at the Bibliotheek for a drink in the outdoor terrace surrounded by Japanese maples.

Went to see the Cubic houses then walked a while more before stopping  at De Pasta Kantine for dinner.

Returned to the yacht by taxi as our feet are worn out! Spending the rest of the evening lazing on the yacht, drinking wine & relaxing!! 😄😄

Tuesday 24th June

Up early to shower, pack etc before Willem came at 9am to gib us breakfast.

Next came our boat trip around Rotterdam, Willem was very informative so we enjoyed our trip muchly. Back at the yacht he made us coffee & gave us cake to go with it - both delicious - coffee on the yacht was excellent. Then it was time to leave for Amsterdam.

We arrived at about 12ish & parked up to find a coffee & wandered till 1.40pm when we collected the car for our 2pm check in at the houseboat.

A very frustrating time next as no one was there to meet us! We phoned several times & got the answer phone between knocking on the door. I text the owner & eventually got a text back telling me to ring the number I’d already told her wasn’t answering!

Sat down to wait while Andrew sat with the car as he’s had to move as the road was so narrow, eventually Mirijam came out of the houseboat - she hadn’t heard me knocking, but was waiting for us. We unpacked the car & after showing me around while Andrew went to re park the car Mirijam left & we settled in & watched the world go by out on the sun deck garden & laughed at people taking pix of us as they went passed the houseboat!

Later we went out & wandered around town. We stopped at Droog for an open sandwich & a drink then wandered around their little museum/shop area. Lovely stuff there including a fabulous blue chandelier. We walked around the flea market then the flower market where we bought some bulbs.

Found a shop selling wibbly wobbly pictures of Amsterdam so bought on to add to our collection!

Strolled around taking in the atmosphere, then found Ricardo’s in the Odeon for dinner. They don’t have a menu, just a set 4, 5 or 7 dish option & prefer to surprise you with each course - excellent idea. I let them choose my wine for each course and we were amazed by each wonderful course & the matching wines. This is undoubtedly one of the best meals we have even eaten. Home made prawn crackers with coconut, watermelon amuse bouche, white tuna, sea bass with pea foam, pork neck, fab cheeses & cherry white chocolate pud - all blissful! 😄😄

We wandered back to the houseboat sated & happy for a last wine on the deck before bed. Found an elderly black cat outside when I went out for last ciggie so I gave him a fuss & some cat food.

Wednesday 25th June

After coffee, Andrew took me out for a surprise day out to explore.

We started at the Bibliotheek & went to the 7th floor which has an outside deck with lovely views of Amsterdam took some pix then walked to the harbour for a hip on hop off boat trip.

Our 1st stop was to the Hortis Botanicus circa 1638 one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world.

Had lunch in the orangery then wandered for a couple of hours, stunning plants & lovely butterfly hothouse. Walked back to the boat stop & annoyingly missed a boat so sat around for nearly an hour for the next one.

Our next stop was all the quirky little shops that are by the bridges where we wandered, drank beer & had a Dutch pancake each. A lovely relaxing afternoon except for a car going too fast down narrow streets & hitting Andrews elbow with his wing mirror - bastard didn’t stop of course! Thankfully no serious damage at present.

Walked back to the boat stop in time to catch last boat at 6pm.

Back at the houseboat we relaxed on the terrace then went to Cafe Captein & co for dinner - tomato tapenade, curried hummus, steak & salad with good wine & beer. Thoroughly enjoyed all, only 5 minutes walk away too!

Found black cat 12 way back & he came back for more fuss & cat food with us.

We sat out on the terrace watching the world go by until bedtime.

Thursday 26th June

All packed & ready to check out at 10.30am.

Mirijam arrived about 11.20 & Andrew collected the car, loaded up & we are off to Hameln to visit Sabine!!! Stopped at services for lunch & diesel & arrived with Sabine about 4pm.

Had coffee & chat then went to a beer garden to watch the Germans beat USA world cup match. That’s 3 countries in a row have won while we were there!

Afterwards we went to Ingenico a Mexican restaurant for fajitas.

Back at Sabines place we sat out on the balcony with beer & wine & chatted till we were all too tired to talk anymore. So lovely to be spending time with Sabine again.

Friday 27th June

Sabine made us a lovely leisurely breakfast which we had on the balcony.

We drove to Einbeck afterwards and strolled around the gorgeous little town, walked through the park & around the ancient town wall which dates back to the 13th century.

Drove to a lovely restaurant on the river which specialises in fabulous cakes & roast their own coffee, also excellent. We went back to Sabines place for a rest & chat, Sabine & Andrew are both in pain with their knees.

Later we went out for a lovely Chinese meal, then back to the balcony for more beer, wine & conversation.

Saturday 28th June

Sabines at a prearranged brunch today with friends so after Andrew has fixed Sabines laptop we are off out to explore Hamelm on our own.

Made our way to the river & stopped at Me Lounge for brunch before going on a river boat cruise. Poor waitress threw our bottle of water at Andrew, she was so embarrassed when we laughed - at least she managed to save the coffee!

Had a boat trip down river Weiser??? Then a wander along the river before returning to the apartment to meet up with Sabine.

Relaxed & chatted for a while before going to the Akropolis Greek taverna for dinner. Later we chatted some more before bed.

Sunday 29th June

We packed then had a last yummy breakfast with Sabine, fresh rolls, croissants, ham & cheeses & some of Sabines home made strawberry & elderflower jam.

Then it was time for fond farewells & a drive to Wuppertal to visit Margrit & Clive. Arrived without a hitch due to Billy’s sat nav, Andrew managed a bit of German speeding on the autobahns.

We had a coffee with Margrit & Clive then went out for a late lunch and were treated in Wuppertal to a lovely steak & salad at one of their favourite restaurants.

Wuppertal has a metro railway in which the train hangs below the track, looks really cool.

Margrit showed us around the apartment which has a wrap around balcony & a wonderful view of the treetops in summer & town in winter as they are on the -3 level of the block. Wuppertal is very hilly so although it feels like you go under to the apartment the view is gorgeous from all the windows. It’s a lovely apartment with an underground car park for residents.

Later we drove to Dusseldorf  to stay at the Villa Achenbach hotel, lovely little lounge in our suite.

We unpacked then walked to La Luce a great Italian restaurant for dinner then back to the hotel & to bed.

Monday 30th June

After breakfast of fresh fruit salad we went out & found a tram to take us to the Aldstadt (old town) for a wander. We walked up the main street of what is called the longest bar in the world. Stopped for coffee at a gorgeous cake shop, then sheltered as there was a sudden heavy downpour.

The sun came back out so we headed for the river for a “Panoramic Rhine river cruise.” Had 34 hour wait for the boat trip to start - then it was changed to 1 hour instead of 2 hours - but eventually we got going. The crew were good & kept us supplied with drinks during the wait & the boat trip. Beautiful architecture along the Rhine & a huge fun fair on the opposite bank.

After the trip we had lunch then a wander around the rest of the old town. Beautiful old buildings - but nothing we wanted to buy.

Took the tram back, found a hairdressers called Holy Cuts (mistook the name which gave us a laugh!) to do my hair. Back at the hotel there was a knock on the door our receptionist was there with a bottle of champagne, chocolates & a card for my birthday! A fabulous surprise 😄

We faffed about trying to book next place then opened the champers - it was delicious as were the chocolates, a lovely touch, they had checked our passports when we arrived and we assume they’d noticed my birthday then, so sweet.

We walked down to Cala D’or a tapas restaurant that our receptionist recommended later for a gorgeous meal. Back at the hotel (room 41) we went to bed.

Tuesday 1st July

After a lovely breakfast where Gadi the receptionist checked if we’d had a good day yesterday & enjoyed the champagne - she’s such a sweetie, it was time to finish packing.

We had another chat to Gadi about the hotel it was built in 1907 and the present owner bought it, renovated it  & it then became an hotel in 2008. It’s a lovely building with lots of wooden wall panelling & ceilings & a rather grand wooden staircase & bannister.

We had to fill up with diesel, now we are en route to Baden Baden.

A rather hairy 3.5 hour drive on the autobahns to Belle Epoche, a fabulous hotel. We parked, checked in and went straight out to explore.

We took the river path as recommended by the man at the desk, passed all the beautiful old buildings - a few now hotels on the river. Baden Baden is an idyllic old town, so tranquil and stunningly beautiful. The architecture is all wonderful, the flowers, trees & fountains so picturesque. We loved this place instantly!

We wandered for hours, lovely quirky shops, pretty squares & a lovely atmosphere everywhere.

We stopped for ice cream as we both wanted to try the rhubarb flavour having never seen it before.

Later on we stopped at the Porterhouse grill to gave dinner - fantastic steaks with truffle mash, spinach & pepper sauce & mango curry dip. Weisen ???? Beer that Andrew really loves & a lovely cab sav for me.

This was definitely our 2nd best meal of this holiday.

We took the scenic river walk back to the hotel, asked if we could book a second night, then after a last glass of wine in the lovely garden we retired for the night.

Wednesday 2nd July

After a breakfast of lovely fresh fruit we set off in the car to drive the 60 kilometre scenic Black Forest route, we stopped several times to take photos, the forest is beautiful & really does look black even in full sun.

Arrived  at Freudenstadt 60 k away & parked for a wander around and some lunch. Bought a pretty turquoise t shirt. We ate at a lovely Italian restaurant la Dolce Vita salmon tortellini  for me & pizza for Andrew. The heavens opened, so we sat and watched the rain! A handbag shop Haaki’s Lederwaren and bought a fabulous purplish leather handbag adorned with little pebbles for me - I love it!! Tried to buy a new wallet for Andrew as the leather is so so soft and tactile, but they were all too small - fine for euros but pounds are too tall and stick out of the top.

Bought me a lovely silky black skirt on the way back to the car, then did the scenic route in reverse back to the hotel. Went in in time for coffee & cake then sat out on the terrace in the sun with a glass of wine.

We went for a walk later, taking the town route instead and found the lovely old church and lots more lovely buildings, fountains & gardens.

Climbed the steep steps up to the old Markt square and the lovely old pink church with its sun dial.

Walked back to Porterhouse for another yummy dinner then back to Belle Epoche for a last drink on the terrace & bed. Will be sorry to leave here tomorrow.

Thursday 3rd July

Breakfasted in the garden and had a closer look at the old red wood trunk before packing to set out for Reims, stopping at supermarket on way for weisbeer to bring home for Andrew as he’s really in to this cloudy beer.

Long boring drive to Reims, scenery lovely with mile upon mile of fields & forests. Four hours later and 38 euros down in tolls we arrived & after lots of faffing found a car park.

Checked in to Best Western - apparently 3rd best hotel in Reims, a standard double room decorated in lime green & baby poo yellow about the size of a cupboard for 170 euros per night!!!! Parking there was 14 euros  (12.50 for one we found) breakfast was extra 19 so we gave it a miss. Went out & sat around for a while being ignored at a bistro, next one we tried had undrinkable beer & wine so we left that & went for a walk instead.

Found the cathedral which was beautiful though partly under scaffolding as it’s being renovated.

Lovely architecture, bright coloured trams a pretty town but not one on our visit again list.

Ate at Cafe de Reims - good wine & Metior beer very average dinner - my fish was overcooked, rubbery & inedible! Good creme brûlée though.

We went back to the hotel & tried to sort tomorrows hotel, but the free wifi was useless so we gave up & went to bed.

Friday 4th July

Up & out of Reims by 9.30am - we’ll find breakfast en route to Giverny - we are off to Monets garden today, the forecast says it will persist down!! 😢😢

10.19 am not on the bloody road an hour yet & 8.40 euro toll to pay! 10.32am another 2.10 euros toll!

11.44am 2.70 euro toll. The drive through Paris with one lane only for the north circular equivalent was utterly horrendous!! Can’t believe there’s no way of avoiding that!!!!

Eventually found Giverny & Monets fabulous garden, spent a few hours wandering around taking photos & enjoying this lovely place that I’ve wanted to visit for so long. Too many other tourists and loud people to spoil tranquility - but you can’t have everything.

Bought a calendar & ciggie case then it was time to leave.

We put Calais into sat nav & found the lovely Chateau  Du Landel in Bezancourt to stay for the night in a classic room with dinner & breakfast included, it’s in the middle of the country side miles from anywhere & is a stunning old building. Just after we arrived & checked in there was torrential downpours continually all evening so we made the right choice to stop!

It’s lovely, quiet & peaceful except when the 5 donkeys in a field across the way start hee hawing - really noisy, they woke me up twice in the night.

Relaxed with some beer, had a lovely bath, then visited the donkeys between bouts of rain.

Had lovely dinner later with an excellent St Emilion wine.

Retired to bed as worn out again mainly due to stress of Paris.

Saturday 5th July

Got up early & en route to Calais & euro tunnel home, stopped at dreadful services for horrid coffee. We arrived at the tunnel in time to catch an earlier train at 2.50pm!!

We’d decided last night that we’d had quite enough of France, we’d seen beautiful Giverny and would rather get home early than spend anymore time here plus the weather isn’t very good for exploring.

Made good time to Calais so caught an earlier train home, really weird driving on to a train, a new experience for both of us!

Landed safely in  Blighty 12 hour later - excellent journey.

We drove straight to our favourite restaurant in Canterbury, alas they have taken our lovely slow roasted lamb in Mexican beer fajitas off the menu & replaced it with a boring roast lamb! Not so good, but they still do amazing mango smoothies.

Boring drive home followed by very warm welcome from our beloved cats Mischief & Kwanjai.