When I last wrote an entry, I said that my next blog would be all about our UK trip, as all we had to do was move the boat and head for the airport. The best laid plans etc., etc. – on Friday morning, the plan was to take Sol Purpose to the pump out station and the fuel dock, before heading to the boatyard. I would drive there, while Moray would single hand the boat. We settled up with the marina, started the engine, and left the slip. Just as we turned into the fairway, the motor died. Moray started it up again and we headed toward the pump out dock. We had just made the turn, when the motor died again, leaving us drifting toward the railway bridge. Unfortunately, in an effort to be efficient on arrival at the pump out dock, we had moved all the spare anchor chain in the anchor locker onto the primary anchor chain so we could get to the pump out deck fitting, so now we couldn’t drop the anchor. And of course, we had removed all the sails to storage for the summer, so we now had no means of propulsion and no brakes! Moray was trying to get someone’s attention to help us, while I took the wheel and tried to steer the boat away from the bridge. We realized that we still had some control over the direction, so between us we managed to get into a slip, and get Sol Purpose safely tied up. Moray immediately took a look at the engine to try to figure out what had happened. Before long everything was fixed – just a couple of pipe clamps tightened a little too much on the new fuel lines he had just finished installing. This caused the fuel pipes to be restricted. With much relief, we started the motor and headed to the pump out station!
Moray took the wheel and drove the boat down the river to Wayfarers Marina, where Sol Purpose was lifted out of the water and onto the stands where she will spend the summer. We packed bags for the trip home and then headed to our Air BnB for the night. The next day, we went back to the boatyard, to complete a few final tasks. I cleaned the now defrosted fridge and freezer, while Moray worked on some repairs to the prop shaft. It was very hot in the boat, and the work was tough, but eventually everything was done. We spoke with the boatyard manager and a craftsman there to organize work that would be carried out while we were in the UK. This included the repair to the skeg, new bottom paint and some small gelcoat repairs. We then headed back to the Air BnB. Sunday morning saw one final trip to the boatyard to wrap things up and secure the boat, before heading to the airport to pick up a rental car. Then it was back to get an early night as we would have a long day the next day.
Monday morning, at 5:30am, we began the long drive to New York. We took turns at the wheel, and arrived at around 4pm, dropped off the car and checked in for our flight. Of course, it was delayed, but not too long, and by 8pm we were on our way to Brussels. We arrived at around 7:30am, picked up our bags and stowed them in an airport luggage locker. Then we took a train into Brussels to spend the day sightseeing. We didn’t have a huge amount of time, and we were very tired after the traveling, so we didn’t do too much, but we enjoyed seeing the Manneken Pis and his sister, the Jeanneke Pis! Something caught Moray’s eye, in the same area as Jeanekke Pis was a Space Invaders Pis!!
We stopped for a Belgian beer or two, while people watching in the town square. We walked around a beautiful park, and had a picnic lunch.
Finally, we bought some Belgian chocolates, before getting the train back to the airport. Right on time, our flight to Bristol departed and by 10:30pm, we were at Mum’s house in Clevedon.
We had a relatively lazy day on Wednesday. Mum had a list of tasks for each of us, so we researched what was needed to complete them. We also started looking on Gumtree for a vehicle. Our first thought was to get a campervan, but those proved to be far too expensive, so we started looking for an estate car that would be big enough for us to sleep in. In the meantime, Mum kindly insured us to drive her car so we would have transport.
The next day, Mum dropped us off in Clifton, and we went on a trip down Memory Lane (for me, that is!) First we walked through Clifton, where I used to work, then down Park Street, stopping off at Browns for a cold drink. Next we went to Bristol Museum, and saw Alfred and the Gypsy Caravan. The next stop was Brandon Hill and the Cabot Tower, which Moray climbed to see the great views of Bristol. Then it was time to head to the Waterfront. Since I left, the whole area has been revitalized and now is a bustling area with restaurants and bars. We had a lovely dinner, sitting watching the boats, before heading to Avery’s. I had found that there was a classic film festival going on and had bought tickets to see Casablanca in Avery’s wine cellars. We were really excited about this, which was a shame, as the film was actually being shown on Friday! Luckily, Mum was still in Bristol, so we called her and then headed to the Llandoger Trow and had a drink while we waited for her come and pick us up! This is a pub that has been open near the waterfront since 1664.
After a quiet day working on our task list, Mum took us into Bristol and we went for a meal before round two of trying to see Casablanca. This time we had it right! We were welcomed with a glass of Prosecco, before heading into the candlelit cellars to watch the film. A representative of the film festival gave us some interesting details about the film, before handing over to the Avery’s representative. He explained that the film would be stopped at a number of places, and we would then be given a glass of wine from a country related to the film. We had four glasses – one each from America, France, Germany and Casablanca (which is in Chile!). We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and will be signing up for another when we get back to Bristol! Once the movie was over, we headed to the bus stop to get the bus back to Clevedon. The bus was late, but it was not a big deal as we met the Nailsea Nutters – a great group of older gentlemen who all meet up at a pub on Friday evening, have a few drinks and then ride back home on the bus. They sang songs all the way home!
We spent most of the weekend working on our task lists. Mine was easy – all knitting and crochet based. Moray’s was much more difficult and involved building shelves in the pantry, the kitchen and the bathroom, as well as hanging mirrors and mounting a TV on the wall.
On Monday, Mum, Moray and I took the train from Yatton into Bath. First stop, straight off the train was a coffee shop which is manned by, and in support of, people with autism. Then we walked around Bath, looking at the Roman Baths (outside only!), and Bath Abbey, before heading to Sally Lunns Bun shop for lunch. After lunch, we walked across Pulteney Bridge, past the Weir, and over to the Royal Crescent, before heading back to the train. Bath is a beautiful city, and we hope to spend a bit more time there later in our trip.
Our next trip was to visit my aunt Chris and her husband Bryn in Ross on Wye. After coffee, a chat, and a haircut for Mum (!), we all jumped in the cars and took a drive through the Forest of Dean to Symonds Yat. There is a lovely pub on the river bank, right by a working ferry crossing. It is fascinating to watch the ferry as it is pulled across the river by hand. After a lovely pub lunch, we drove a little further up the road to Symonds Yat rock. This is a huge rock, where the views are amazing.
Mum left on Sunday for a week’s holiday in Germany with my nieces and one of my nephews so we decided to travel a little farther afield for our sightseeing while she was away. On Monday, we drove over to Cardiff to do a little shopping, including looking at a car. We had arranged to see a car at 6pm, so went to St Fagans for the afternoon. This is a park with a castle, and over 40 buildings which have been moved from various parts of Wales to St Fagans as a museum of Welsh history and culture. There is a mill, a tannery, a number of farms and shops. Our favourite buildings were the weaver’s workshop and the terraced ironworkers houses. The former has someone taking the wool through the whole process (after the shearing), through to woven blankets and shawls. The loom was huge and very complicated to work, but fascinating to watch. Each of the houses in the terrace is decorated differently, starting with the fashion of the period when the row was built, and then progressing along the row to the 1970’s, when the row was moved to St. Fagans. It was really interesting, but a bit odd to see a house furnished exactly like my grandmother’s house!
After a few hours walking around the park, it was time to head to Caerphilly to view the car. We had already seen a few other cars, but this was the one we liked, so we made a call to get insurance in order that we could take it home. We ran across a by now familiar problem, in that the insurance company couldn’t accept a foreign credit card (and while I had opened a bank account, my cards had not yet arrived). Disappointed but not too bothered, we paid a deposit and headed home to Clevedon.
The next day, we set out reasonably early to drive to Donington, to visit Moray’s sister, Jane and her partner, David. Moray’s brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Lorraine, had been on holiday touring England, and had arrived the day before. After coffee, we had a tour of the wonderful house and garden.
We then drove to the Royal Horticulture Society’s gardens at Wisley. There, we met up with Moray’s uncle, Alistair and his friend Pam. Moray hasn’t seen Alistair since he was about six weeks old, so it was quite a meeting! After a wonderful roam around the beautiful gardens, we headed back to Jane and David’s for a wonderful dinner of BBQ and home grown vegetables.
After a late start on Wednesday, we headed off to Caerphilly to buy the car. We had found that it is possible to get car insurance for 24 hours to cover test driving and buying cars. While it wasn’t ideal, it meant that we would at least be able to get the car home to Clevedon, while waiting for my debit and credit cards to arrive. Everything went smoothly, and Moray drove the Ford Mondeo Estate back, while I drove Mum’s car. Once back, we went to the Post Office to tax it, which entailed rushing to an ATM to get cash because, surprise, surprise, the Post Office couldn’t accept a US credit card!
On Saturday, July 22, we took our next road trip. We had hoped to be able to use our car, but luckily, we were able to use Mum’s. First we drove down the M5, then headed on to the B-roads across Dartmoor. Moray thoroughly enjoyed driving on the small country roads, as well as the great views across the Moor. At one point, we had to stop as our road was blocked by a Dartmoor pony! When we came to a halt, the pony came up to the car, obviously expecting to get a treat. Moray wound down the window to take a picture and the pony reached into the car itself. It was hilarious! [Moray Note: until it started chewing the windscreen wiper lever!]
That encounter over, we continued across Dartmoor, past the prison, to another landmark – Jamaica Inn. We stopped at the Inn for lunch, but I must admit to being a bit disappointed. I had visited the Inn about 30 years before and loved it, but over the years, it has become much more commercialized, and there were a couple of coach loads of people there.
Then it was back to the country lanes, heading for Port Isaac, which is called Port Wenn in the TV series, Doc Martin. We saw the buildings used as Doc Martin’s house, the school and the pharmacy.
After a short time there, we headed to Mount Hawke, where my Aunty Joan and Uncle Brian live.
Aunty Joan welcomed us with a traditional Cornish cream tea – a cup of tea, and a scone, smeared with jam, then clotted cream. (If you reverse the cream and jam, it is a Devon cream tea!) After tea and a chat, we drove down to a nearby town, St Agnes. Uncle Brian’s sister-in-law and nephew live in St. Agnes, and they came out to visit with us, bringing coffee, cake and a jar of honey, which we enjoyed, while sitting on a bench overlooking the harbour. Then it was back to Mount Hawke for dinner.
You may well have noticed a recurring theme in this blog – every time we get to someone’s house, or reach a town, coffee/tea and cake seem to appear. We are going to be huge by the time we get back to Sol Purpose!
Early on Sunday morning, Moray and I headed off to another nearby town, called Porthtowan via some abandoned tin mines which are prolific in the surrounding countryside.
There is a popular surfer’s beach in Porthtowan, so we sat having breakfast, watching people arriving to surf. Moray was really interested in one house, which is a converted tin mine.
After a traditional Sunday lunch, we said goodbye to Joan and Brian, and took the motorway back to Bristol. We had intended attending the closing event of the Harbourside festival but as it was pouring with rain, we decided to head straight back to Clevedon. And finally, we had fish and chips for dinner!
We spent Monday getting the car ready for our trip. I bought a black bed sheet, and Moray got hold of some cardboard boxes. We cut out blackout covers for each of the windows, and covered them with the black sheet. We bought an inflatable bed and pump which fits perfectly in the back of the Mondeo, so we were all set. On Monday evening, Mum got back from her holiday, arriving at Tracy’s house at around 8:30pm so we drove over and picked her up. We finally managed to get our car insurance sorted out, so we were now all set to start the next stage of our trip.
On Tuesday morning, we said goodbye to Mum and headed away from Clevedon towards Oxford. We parked in the Park & Ride and took a bus into the town to spend a few hours sightseeing. We saw the School of Divinity, which was used as the Infirmary in the Harry Potter movies. We ate lunch at a lovely old pub, just next door to Diagon Alley! We spent a couple of hours walking along the Canal, looking at the narrow boats. We stopped to chat with one of the boat owners, and learned a lot of interesting information about the logistics and costs of canal boating in the UK.
After leaving Oxford, we headed towards Letchworth, in Hertfordshire. The reason for visiting is this is the home of St Christopher’s School, the boarding school where Moray spent 6 years of his childhood. We walked around as much of the school as possible, reminiscing about the good, bad and naughty times he had there! As the school is closed for the holidays, we decided that we would spend the night in the back of the car in the school car park! Obviously, there are no toilets there, so we forced ourselves to go to a local pub, have a drink and, thus felt justified in using their bathroom. Then we parked in school car park, put the window screens in and turned in for our first night in the car.
We spent a remarkably comfortable night, and slept well, though of course, we woke up when the sun rose at about 6am! We headed straight to Tesco, where there was a Costa Coffee and bathrooms! After a delicious coffee, and picking up some lunch, we drove to Stamford. This is a beautiful old town where several period dramas have been filmed, for example Middlemarch. While walking along the river bank, we met a pike fisherman, who regaled us with all sorts of interesting stories!
Then we continued our journey northwards, across the Yorkshire moors to Tebay service station in the Lake District. We had researched places to stay overnight, and found that newer motorway service stations, have to offer shower facilities and a place to park overnight. We parked up and immediately made use of the free showers. We then paid our £10 fee to spend the night, before going to their café and picking up some pies for dinner. Then we moved the car a little farther away from the petrol station before settling in for the night.
The next morning, we had breakfast, bought some lunch from the Farm Shop, checked the air in the tyres, and then headed back to the road. We drove to Falkirk, where we had two sights to see. First we went to the Kelpies. These are two gigantic sculptures of horses’ heads. I must admit, I hadn’t been too enthusiastic, but they are spectacular! After a while walking round the sculptures, we headed to the Falkirk Wheel. This is an amazing feat of engineering, which is the only one of its kind in the world. Rather than have a series of locks to move people up and down the canal, there is what I can only describe as a ferris wheel with a bucket at the bottom and the top. The boats travel into the buckets, and the wheel moves round. I’m not explaining this well, but maybe the pictures will help! It is also possible to spend the night in the car park, for a fee of £15, which includes access to bathrooms and showers. That all taken care of, we headed out to dinner at the Wheelhouse, before heading back to the Kelpies. Although the Kelpies were fabulous during the day, we had heard that at night, they are illuminated. Moray wanted to try to get some night pictures. We got there far too early, so went for a walk until it started to get dark, at around 10:15pm! It was worth the wait, as you will see from the pictures. Pictures successfully obtained, we headed back to the Wheel car park, to settle in for the night.
After making use of the shower facilities, we left the Falkirk Wheel at 10am and drove to Balmoral. We spent a few hours looking around the Castle and grounds. These were absolutely beautiful, as we were there just a few days before the Royal Family were due to arrive, and the fruit and vegetables are timed to be ready just when they arrive!
Our journey was almost done, but first we stopped off in Aberdeen to see Sarah, Martin and new baby Amira. We had a lovely visit and took lots of pictures before setting off, finally, to Turriff, to stay with Moray’s Mum.
On Saturday morning, we headed to Crossfields, to have coffee with Moray’s Aunt and Uncle, Fiona and Robert. While there, Fiona showed me the yarn-bombed bicycle which had been put together for the CLAN booth at the Turriff show. There were a couple of uncovered spots on the bicycle, so I crocheted a couple of flowers to add to the wheels!
On Sunday, July 30, we went to the Turriff show. This is my first time at an agricultural show! It was interesting, but would have been better if it hadn’t been pouring with rain!
We had planned to meet up with our friend, PB, but that didn’t happen. No worries, as we got hold of him and met him and his friend, Scott, at the pub later that evening. As the Turriff show is a huge annual event, the pub was absolutely packed, so most people were actually outside with their drinks. We stayed for a while and then went back to Scott’s house for a while, before heading home.
The next morning, we stopped off at the bakery where we purchased a baker’s dozen of rowies, before returning to Scott’s house for breakfast. After a wonderful breakfast of bacon rolls and rowies, we said farewell to PB and the children, who were soon to head home to Calgary, before heading back to the Turriff show. This time the weather was much better, and we got to see show jumping, Clydesdales, golden sheep and the Highland dancing competition.
It has been a great month – great sightseeing, great visits with friends and family, and a car purchase. We are now working on the next thrilling installment…..