Friday 30 October 2015

Wandering the streets of Avignon and a Halloween trick or treat for Volkswagen

Our newest campsite is Camping Bagatelle beautifully situated on the
Looking through the walls 
banks of the River Rhone within easy walking or cycling distance of Avignon's historic centre. It does feel busy after our summer of isolated CLs and there is a definite ebb and flow of motorhomes through the day as overnighters appear to pitch up late afternoon and are gone again by mid-morning. Our pitch is just over €17 a night with our ACSI card which is a little pricier than Anse, but the wifi is a staggeringly good €4 for a whole week - and that's for a login code each! The site is sheltered by lots of trees which do unexpectedly drop twigs onto Bailey's roof, but it means we avoided the worst of the high winds earlier this week and hopefully will do so again early next week. Temperatures are pretty good here too - Dave's been able to wear his shorts for the past two days which he is happy about!

Our friends Chris and Marta were both enthusiastic about Avignon so we had high hopes that, so far, have been pretty much realised. Our first venture over the bridge did coincide with a couple of heavy rain showers so we sheltered in the arches of the imposing city walls. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to walk around the walls as apparently the stonework is unsafe so we just looked up instead.

Avignon walls with convenient rain shelters 

My biggest surprise was that the famous Pont d'Avignon, of "sur le pont
Le pont d'Avignon 
d'Avignon" song fame isn't actually a bridge any more - it stops mid-river. We learned that river erosion and multiple wars had made it too expensive to keep rebuilding so efforts ceased in the 17th century. Today it is possible to pay over the odds to be able to walk onto the half-bridge, but we have settled for looking at it rather than from it. There's so much else to see! The streets nearest the Bridge and the Palais des Papes - seven popes were based in Avignon between 1309 and 1377 - made me question 'what recession'! Historically there has been a lot of money here and, if the numerous boutiques are anything to judge by, there still very much is. Our first (rainy day) visit left us with this impression, yet the next day, when we ventured through the historic district into the 'real' Avignon on the other side, I saw a vibrant working city that I liked very much. Elegant architecture sits side by side with quirky modern ideas, cycle routes and pedestrian areas abound and there is a relaxed vibe that isn't just about the tourist industry.

Fun clock high on an apartment building wall 

Blocked up windows dotted throughout Avignon are painted with
Theatrical scene street art 
theatrical scenes and the town has twelve theatres which, together, host a month long Festival of Theatre in the summer. We visited the large indoor market, Les Halles, which has a vertical garden climbing its front wall. Quite a sight! Inside, it is just constant temptation - fresh produce and treats including fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads and pastries, meat and fish, olives and preserves, lavender products and honeys ... it's wonderful! We bought ourselves a delicious sheep's milk cheese, perfectly ripe pears, deep fried aubergine slices (beignets) and a feuilletée stuffed with courgette and goat cheese. I even learned to say feuilletée properly!

After Les Halles we wandered as far as Route De Lyon and a great health food shop called Biotope. They stock lots of different tofu products including yet more new-to-us flavours as well as loads more intriguing tins, jars and packets. It was quite a walk to get there and we are planning to make a return journey by bike. There's a traffic-free cycle route leading over the bridge by our campsite into town. Lots of the back streets in town are practically traffic- free for most of the day too so we are looking forward to more exploring, both in town and further afield.

On a different note, here is a kind of trick or treat from Greenpeace for Halloween:

"Volkswagen tricked us. Now they should treat us.

The VW emissions scandal revealed just how dirty our cars really are. They poison our air and warm our climate. But this nasty trick could be a turning point, a chance for companies to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and invest in greener alternatives.

The technology for electric and hybrid cars is developing so fast that zero fumes on the road and greener cars could soon be the norm. But they need to be made more accessible. If a company like Volkswagen commits to making electric cars more accessible it could be the spark that sets off a wholesale revolution of the car industry. But we also need the government to improve car testing systems so that dangerous, polluting cars are kept off the road.

Sign the petition to tell VW and the government to take action now."

Monday 26 October 2015

An afternoon in Lyon - street art and fountains

It's going to be a photo-heavy post this evening because I am exhausted
Street art in Lyon 
after our afternoon exploring Lyon and won't write much but will write a lot anyway. We knew Lyon is a large city so opted to just visit two areas, but this still involved several hours strolling around and two slightly stressful train journeys. For a start, the half hourly trains shown on the timetable at our campsite don't exist. We missed one by about thirty seconds and the next wasn't due for ninety minutes so we got to wander Anse for an hour! The train was one of the double decker ones which we still find fun as they are unusual to us. The return fare was about €11 each for a twenty-five minute journey. Once at Lyon Vaise station we were a bit baffled by which Metro platform we needed, but two friendly station staff were very helpful giving us a pocket map and directing us the right way. And it was worth the perseverance to get to the old city centre! We really liked Lyon and would return to spend more time there if back this way in the future.

Vieux Lyon is, as its name implies, the old district of Lyon and it
St Jean cathedral 
reminded us of Trastevere in Rome. There are more eateries than you can shake a stick at, cute little boutique shops, narrow streets and architecturally pretty buildings. The area is dominated by the huge Saint Jean cathedral which towers up into the sky and was just too big the capture on my phone. Instead this image shows one of the arches over the gigantic wooden doors. Originally all these figures would have had heads!

We could also see the Basilica de Notre Dame de Fourviere high up on the hillside above the cathedral. It is an impressive white structure reached by way of a funicular railway.

Lunch was at a creperie called Le Banana. I loved the olde-worlde decor
Inside Le Banana 
inside and they had an interesting range of savoury pancakes. I chose the Fjord which was filled with smoked salmon and goat's cheese, both hot. I wouldn't have thought to pair those two flavours, but the crepe was delicious. Dave had the Margharita with three types of cheese and fresh tomatoes. We enjoyed people-watching and were delighted to spot two cycle rickshaw-like taxis which are operated by Cyclopolitain. After lunch, we spent longer wandering Vieux Lyon and visited a 'traboul' - an alleyway like a twitten which leads into a courtyard. There are several in the area, all privately owned, but with a few open to the public to view.

View along Le Saone, Lyon 

Views from the frequent bridges over Le Saone vary. We saw more
Roman amphitheatre in Lyon 
dismal and grim functional buildings than impressively historic architecture although I did like this particular view upstream. Lyon does have its fair share of grand buildings - the Bank Of China being beautiful - but they are hemmed in by concrete monstrosities. Once over the river we headed towards Roman ruins and the ancient amphitheatre. This was fenced off and I don't know if it was just shut on Mondays or more permanently. We were able to look through the fencing and helpful plaques explained the history. The amphitheatre was built in 12BC and enlarged under the rule of Emperor Hadrian some hundred and thirty years later. (Yes, the same Hadrian of Wall fame!) It seated twenty thousand and was used as the annual meeting place of the sixty-four nations of the Three Gauls as well as for torturing the first Christians (AD177) including Sainte Blandine. Not much of the amphitheatre now remains - more than in Chester but far less than in Italica.

We saw fabulous street art 'over the river' including this tall yellow
Amazing mural
 in Lyon 
apartment block which is painted with residents from several historical eras on its balconies. I also liked the mural of a man painting a mural (shown in the first photo) especially as we had actually seen a man painting a mural last weekend in Brixton. The painting man was on this same building, but around the corner.

Streets were noticeably quieter in this district than in the touristy Vieux Lyon. The area used to be home to silk weavers and we did see a shop selling its own woven silk wares. Fortunately it was closed as the fabrics were stunningly beautiful and probably pricey! Artists have studios and small shops there too. I couldn't get good photographs of their works, but window displays that caught our eyes included a truly fantastical collection entitled Machines A Rever created by Lionel Stocard.

Nearby was the Lyon Opera House which is a grand building alongside
Louise Labe sculpture, Lyon 
the equally as grand Fine Art Museum. The Place outside the Opera House was hosting lots of skateboarders and some rehearsing dancers too. I loved this sculpture of  Louise Labe, a Lyonnais poet, created in 1981. Louise Labe is also shown, together with fellow poet Maurice Sceve, in the yelliow building mural but, unfortunately not on the side of which I took my photo. You can see it on this terresdecrivans page though which also has a short biography of her life (in French).

My final wonderful Lyon scene is the oversized La Fontaine Bartholdi which was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and realised by Gaget and Gautier in 1889. I guess the only reason Dave is happily smiling for the camera is that he hasn't seen the four huge horses bearing down on him! The fountain depicts France as a chariot-driving woman controlling the four great rivers of the country depicted as the almost out-of-control horses. Bartholdi first designed the fountain for a Bordeaux competition which he won, but apparently Bordeaux weren't actually interested in making it happen until they learned of the impact of another Bartholdi sculpture - The Statue of Liberty. Then Bordeaux's mayor got in touch again, hummed and hawed over the cost, and eventually sold the monument to Lyon. Definitely Bordeaux's loss!

Bartholdi Fountain, Lyon 


Sunday 25 October 2015

A Sunday cycle from Anse to Trevoux + travel blog linkup

I hosted a little linkup for travel bloggers this time last month and
Book sculpture at Camping Les Portes du Beaujolais 
enjoyed reading two posts which were added by A Wandering Woman's Travels: Postcards From Thailand and A Train Trip To Wellington (New Zealand). Both are countries that I have not yet visited although know people who have and were very enthusiastic about them. There's another linkup for travel blogs at the end of this post. Let's see where you have loved (or hated!) visiting.

The unusual metal book sculpture pictured above is near the entrance to our current campsite, Camping Les Portes du Beaujolais. It is a Camping Municipal and a particularly nice one with some posh log cabins and chalets and even a wellness centre. It closes at the end of October for everyone except, apparently, self-sufficient camping cars and motor homes. They can use limited facilities all year round. We got chatting to the guy on Reception who has moved here from Alsace and is wonderfully enthusiastic about the region. Thanks to his advice we found our pretty cycle ride today and will also be staying on longer than planned in order to take advantage of the walkable distance to Anse station where we can catch a train into Lyon. He explained why many of the French municipal campsites are becoming very run down: the Mairie issue three year licences and any investment on the part of the licencee remains at the campsite after that period. However, the manager here had her licence renewed for a further six years and again now for another nine years so it is worth her while to make improvements. It's working too! Visits are up from 6,000 campers staying an average of two nights in 2003 to 22,000 staying an average of four nights this year. Our ACSI card gets us a price of €16.80 per night including electric. Wifi is extra at €8 for three days. A bit pricey, but we got two codes for than so can be online simultaneously!

Just outside the campsite entrance, a downhill slope leads to an earth
Bridge at Trevoux 
path which is an offroad walking and cyling route. We followed this until it met up with a bridge over the beautiful Le Saone river. Once over the bridge, a quick detour through narrow village streets got us down to the river and to a great cycle route sur les bords de Saone that we followed all the way to the picturesque town of Trevoux. It's only about five kilometres and I loved cycling through woodland with all the orange and yellow leaves. France in the autumn has spectacular colours! The route was quite busy with other cyclists and pedestrians, it being a Sunday afternoon, but no one was rushing and we exchanged a lot of Bonjours. We definitely must have looked like tourists though. For us, it is lovely and warm here so we were wearing t-shirts. All the locals have already dusted off their winter coats.

Two huge cruise ships passed us including this pictured one, the Scenic
Emerald, which had glass sided cabins for ultimate views. We mooted the idea of a river cruise for ourselves as we would both enjoy sightseeing at that pace and I shouldn't get the same travel sickness as I do out at sea. We would just need to find one that doesn't insist on dressing up too smartly for dinner every evening. Perhaps we'll look into what is on offer for the Danube - or the Nile!

Once in Trevoux, we sat awhile in the sun watching the passersby, then rode over that elegant bridge shown above which is only crossable by pedestrians and cyclists. There are tracks back along the other side of Le Saone, unsurfaced but perfectly rideable even for a nervous ninny like me! A 'Route Barre' sign turned out to be a fib, for cyclists at least, and we got out into agricultural land for a while before returning to the motorway over which there is a bridge. We did have a slight problem with a bramble-covered path which put paid to our Short Cut! If you also ride this circuit, ignore the potential track shown on google maps. The industrial estate after the motorway bridge IS a dead end. However there's cycle route markings on the edge of most of the road into Anse and all the car drivers gave us a generously wide berth. We easily followed the Gare signs back to our camping after a good two hours out. I was considerably less saddle sore than the last time too.

Seize the night! 

Friday 23 October 2015

Cycling the Velovoie from Geraudot

As you might have guessed from a couple of words in that title, we are
Velovoie on the levee alongside the reservoir 
now in France. Nous sommes en France! I had probably the best ferry crossing ever - lying down in the cabin as we left Newhaven and only being awakened some four hours later by a banging on the cabin door which turned out to be one of the crew letting us know we had arrived. Those Stugeron travel sickness tablets are good! Perhaps I should have just had one instead of two?

Our first afternoon's driving took us to a campsite at Peronne which would probably be a fantastic base for exploring the Somme region in Summer, but was damp and a tad dingy in October. It was open though and many sites along our route south have already closed up for the season so we were happy to pull in there for a night and would definitely return in warmer months.

Our current campsite is Les Rives Du Lac just outside the very pretty
Wooden dog at Camping Rives du Lac 
village of Geraudot. This site is open all year, has good facilities and gravelled pitches. It is pretty busy with lots of permanent-looking setups and several of us travellers making use of it for just a night or two. We chose to stay two nights as we wanted to see the Lacs de l'Aube which are an important element of the Paris flood defences. The basic theory is that water is diverted from the rivers along canals into huge lakes and reservoirs during the rainy winter months which prevents said rivers overflowing their banks. Then, during the dry summers, the water is returned to the rivers keeping their water levels high. It's a fantastic engineering triumph and one that we were able to see close up both by walking on the lake edges yesterday and by cycling part of the Velovoie cycle route this afternoon.

The lake did look very strange yesterday and we weren't aware of its
purpose until we got back home to google it. The water level is amazingly low and we were intrigued by the remaining tree stumps which dot the sand and, at certain angles, look like animals. We 'saw' turtles and a small dog that could almost have been Toby from The Homestead campsite in Hailsham. The sand is very sticky and turned our shoes into platform soles which were fun to try walking on. There are lots of wild birds here, but we only recognised egrets as the others were too far away to identify. There must be significant fish stocks too, both for the birds and for the half dozen or so fishermen we saw out in their little boats this afternoon.

I think the Velovoie is an entirely off-road cycle route which runs from
Canal taking water from the barrage-reservoir Aube
Troyes out to these lakes a right along one side of them. We covered about 28km out and back today and only saw one end of it. It's practically flat and has a good tarmac surface. Our first half hour was through deciduous woodland with beautiful orange and yellow leaves fallen everywhere. Then we got out and up onto a pretty high levee overlooking the waters on one side and farmland on the other. There were huge heaps of potatoes across the end of one field and we had seen several similar heaps on on the way here yesterday.

In the other direction from Camping Rives du Lac, on the Velovoie just
K Rinke sculpture 
before Lusigny, there is an eyecatching hairpin weir with water thundering with great force over its curve. Above it is a sculpture in homage to Gaston Bachelard who was a significant philosopher of the 20th century. The sculpture was created in 1986 by K Rinke. I didn't understand all the French text describing its purpose, but the gist is to illustrate the tension between the point of the pendulum which is only fractionally above the tumultuous waters. It appears as though it should be moved by the water, yet hangs perfectly still.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Waiting for the ferry to France

By the time this post publishes itself on Thursday we will (hopefully) be well on our way through France, but at the time of writing (Tuesday night) we are holed up on the outskirts of Seaford, at the Buckle Holiday Park. It's right next to the beach so I took a walk up there earlier on to get these photos. There's a small shower block and the pitches are generously sized. It's a bit of a shock though, both the £20 a night price and the being surrounded by other caravans after a summer of CLs and CSes. Quiet by Buckle standards, but suddenly ridiculously busy by ours! We decided to come here instead of staying Hailsham because our ten o'clock ferry means we need to be at the port soon after eight o'clock. We couldn't risk getting snarled up in the early rush hour traffic on the A27 and missing our boat. From Buckle Holiday Park we still need to get back into Newhaven, but this shouldn't take more than about fifteen minutes.

Dave said his tearful farewells to everyone at Hailsham Tennis Club. Of
Buckle Holiday Park 
the twenty-four sets he played over the past couple of weeks, he lost five and won nineteen. Woo hoo Davey! Kim even baked an incredible chocolate cake for the occasion which I got to taste as Dave brought some slices home. We've had some fare-thee-well emails too which is really nice. Thank you all :-)

I was pleasantly surprised to receive just over $100 on Kiva repayments day. We were up in London at the time so I didn't get to relending straight away. However I have now made four loans: to Sady for her bookstore in Costa Rica, to the Don Lorenzo Group for a different bookstore in Bolivia, to Nadia for her beauty salon in Palestine and finally, in a new country for me, to the Motk Group enabling Guirlene to buy supplies of soft drinks in Haiti.

In 'other news', don't forget that Sam Baker and Carrie Elkin have started their European tour. They are currently in the Netherlands and will arrive in the UK on the 26th October. If there's a gig near you, get yourself a ticket booked now. They are both fabulous and fascinating musicians!

And if you're already getting organised for Christmas, I have now have four woven bags and some crocheted flowers in my Etsy shop. I'm very pleased with how the Green And Black bag turned out and am just as happy to ship from France!

Sunset over the harbour 

Tuesday 20 October 2015

A weekend in London - Brixton

We were invited to spend last weekend with Dave's daughter Carrie who
New streetart mural near Brockwell Park 
has a gorgeous little flat in Tulse Hill, London. I drove up on the Saturday afternoon which was a little stressy, but nowhere near as fraught as city driving has been on previous occasions. We got there in just over two hours and even managed to park right outside! Carrie had booked for us all to see the new Suffragette film in the evening so we spent the late afternoon walking around Brockwell Park towards Brixton which is one of my favourite London districts. To be fair, I don't know much away from the touristy centre, but I do love the vibrancy of Brixton. There are so many different peoples and cultures represented giving us the opportunities to try cuisines from all over the world, see fruit and vegetables that I haven't a clue how to cook, browse gorgeous fabrics and homewares, hear music and chatter in dozens of languages ... love it!

The new mural being painted in the first photo (top right) was just over
Brixton Market 
the road from the Herne Hill entrance to Brockwell Park. The Park has a miniature railway too, but it wasn't running. We paused for refreshments in The Lido Cafe which was nicely busy and cosy against the October chill although there were some tough swimmers doing lengths in the outdoor pool. I had a rooibos tea and a very good carrot cake while Dave treated himself to a new taste experience: an Espresso Martini. Apparently it's delicious!

Brixton Market was surprisingly calm for a Saturday evening and Carrie said this was because we were much earlier than everyone else. It was only about half past five! This gave us a good chance to browse the vintage clothes shops and also to start narrowing down our choices of where to go for dinner. There was already a bewildering choice in the Market, but then we also went to visit a new commercial area called Pop Brixton. This is a brilliant iniative utilising waste ground where a temporary ice rink used to be. The shopping, eating and office-y area is entirely constructed from shipping containers. I remember reading about a similar space created in Christchurch, New Zealand, after that terrible earthquake. Pop Brixton is now home to microbusinesses, artisans and bars and looked fabulous in the dusk with plants in tubs and lights strung across the walkways. The only think I didn't like was being able to see through the stairs - not good for those with vertigo! I wonder how many of my woven bags I would have to sell in order to pay the rent on a little shop unit?

Pop Brixton
Pop Brixton
After much wandering and deliberation we decided on a Latin American style tapas meal and returned to Brixton Market and The Provincial. This tiny looking restaurant actually seats about two dozen people and had a good offer of six tapas dishes and a litre of sangria for £35. The Broken Eggs with Onion and Fries was good and slow cooked Aubergine was fantastic. We can also recommend the Meatballs and the Cassava, but the Chorizo With Beans and Potatoes wasn't so good - the veg was nice, but the chorizo a bit tough and burned. Overall I we enjoyed our meal and the retro music playing was fun.

I was very impressed with The Ritzy cinema where we went to see
Vintage mural near to The Ritzy 
Suffragette. There's a popular bar area - which was full and loud - and a few quieter tables in the lobby. The screen seats are comfortable with loads of room and a good unobstructed view. It's £12 a ticket though!! We're certainly not used to London prices!

We all loved the film. It is pretty hard-hitting and doesn't shy away from showing the violence meted out both by suffragettes against property and to their persons by policemen, prison guards and (indirectly) by the political establishment of the 1910s.  Such basic inequalities as a woman being unable to sign a cheque for her own money - her husband must sign - or having any rights over her own child - her husband's decision is all that is legally needed - or even to run her own pharmacy - her unqualified husband owns the business. (We learned about the pharmacy inequality during our summer travels, but I can't remember exactly where now. Women could train and qualify as pharmacists because an oversight meant they weren't specifically excluded. All other professions had made sure to state 'men only'!)

The performances, especially from Carey Mulligan and Anne-Marie Duff, are superb. This is definitely a film that everyone should see! Before the credits a list of dates shows when various counties around the world gave their women the right to vote. Switzerland was particularly surprising, not having gained equality until the 1970s. However, I would also have liked a statistic showing what percentage of British women actually USED their right to vote in the recent General Election. Hopefully seeing what the suffragettes endured will encourage more of today's women not to waste their vote.

Friday 16 October 2015

So many restaurants, so little time!

Just as in April, our few weeks back in Sussex is packed with meet-ups!
Dave and I at The Taj Mahal, Bexhill 
I'm going to blog about the places we have been to this week, but this is definitely more of a foodie post than one of travel tips. The photo, taken by our friend Steve Royston, is of us at The Taj Mahal in Bexhill yesterday evening where we went to dine with both Steve and Frances. It's always great to catch up with them and swap travel experiences and suggestions. Their northern England trip didn't coincide with ours timewise, although they also went to Whitby. Frances recommended Brimham Rocks which I have googled this morning and Steve, a massive Beatles fan, enthusiastically described the Lennon and McCartney childhood houses in Liverpool. In return, we suggested the Cinema Museum in Almeria, in the house where Lennon stayed while filming How I Won The War.

The Taj Mahal serves good Indian cuisine with a wide range of freshly prepared dishes and there's an excellent deal on Sundays and Thursdays: a starter, main, veggie side and rice-or-naan for £10.95 per head. Plus it's a bring-your-own alcohol establishment so that saves money too. However, for non-drinkers, I can recommend the sweet lassi yoghurt drink which is delicious. My Satkora Dhansak was very good and the lemon really gave the sauce a lift. The only problem was that there was far too much to eat - fortunately foil takeaway containers were at the ready.

Wednesday lunchtime we took advantage of the Senior Citizens deal at the Eight Bells in Bolney. We met up with friends Dave and Margaret who are real music aficionados. None of us actually knew about the lunchtime deal until we arrived and the staff nervously asked if we had booked. We hadn't. Fortunately we arrived on the dot of noon and there was just one four-seat table left. The pub was packed. Ordering from 'the pink menu' means a main and a dessert are about half price - £6.50 and £3.50 respectively - and there's a pretty good choice, plus all the full priced options too. (The waitress let me choose from 'pink' too which was kind.) My veggie quiche was tasty with good thick cut chips, but Dave wasn't overly impressed with his Hog Roast Pie. The double cooking meant the meat had lost most of its texture. As the lunch was to be our main meal of the day, I had a winter warming Toffee Apple Bread Pud too - with proper hot vanilla custard!

On Monday evening The Cajun Dawgs were the guest band at White Horse Folk in Bodle Street Green. We hadn't seen them for months so pootled out there. The pub has changed hands again since the last time we were there and is now all painted white inside which makes it feel much bigger. I wasn't sure how the Dawgs music would fit into the White Horse as I think of them as a dance band, but their acoustic setup sounded great and it was good to have a catch-up chat with everyone as well as a bit of a jig about.

On a different note, I got an email a few days ago letting me know that a
short film I helped to fund is complete and ready for viewing. Compassion In World Farming are asking people all over the world Who Do You See In The Mirror? It's a great way to share the #EndTheCageAge message and fun to see my name in the credits too. I've included the YouTube below so please do take a minute to watch and share. (The film isn't full of distressing images.)

Wednesday 7 October 2015

We go to a wonderful gig and Bailey gets an (almost) clean bill of health

We had such a perfect time at our friends, Andy and Barbara's, house
Autumn colours 
yesterday evening where they hosted a house concert for Austin singer-songwriter Danny Schmidt in their pretty white marquee in the garden. Despite heavy rain threatening to flood us all out it was a magical evening. We discovered Danny's music when we all took a trip to Texas for Dave's sixtieth birthday and have been fans ever since. Regular blog readers will know I name-drop him every once in a while and I do hope that you've all got your copies of Owls?! Danny was accompanied by Carrie Elkin who is also a singer-songwriter herself but was mostly singing beautifully sympathetic harmonies yesterday. It was wonderful to be able to spend a couple of hours both before and after the music chatting and catching up with all the news. Danny and Carrie were fresh from recording a Bob Harris interview where they had gotten to meet Eddie Kramer. Dave was impressed and I think I managed to successfully hide my ignorance! Danny has nearly finished his European tour now - last date is the Glasgow Americana Festival - but Carrie will be straight back, this time touring with Sam Baker, as of the 21st October. We'll have caught our ferry to France before they get to the UK (d'oh!). However, Dutch and English folks should check for nearby dates on Sam and Carrie's Tour Schedule.

So after what turned out to be a super-late night we all had early starts this morning, ours being caused by the arrival of Melvin from Caravan And Trailer Services who visited to give Bailey a checkup. Considering the mileage we have done over the past year we thought this would be prudent, but could have done without being evicted for three hours after too little sleep! We took a walk into Hailsham, admiring the gorgeous autumnal colours on the way. I needed to collect an Amazon parcel from the Post Office which contained two Finum Brewing Baskets. I saw these recommended on Twitter as a more convenient way to brew real coffee that using my cafetiere. It's nearly twenty-five years old anyway and starting to let though more grounds than it keeps out. The baskets are already much easier to store and I will let you know how well they make coffee.

We whiled away a very pleasant half hour in an elegant new coffee shop
On the Cuckoo Trail 
called The Snug. It's at the top end of Hailsham High Street opposite the Raj Dutt. Good coffee, excellent lemon muffin and I love the red and black decor. Well worth a visit, especially as they've not quite been open a month. The Snug was already pretty busy which is a good sign. Another great little shop I discovered when hunting out weaving supplies is The Pumpkin Patch which is in St Mary's Walk. I didn't know Hailsham even had a proper haberdasher's but there it was. There's a superb range of fabrics too.

And the good news on our return was that Bailey doesn't need any major work and the only real issue is that the tyres are now five years old and so should be replaced soon. This was news to us - especially as the caravan itself is only four years old! - but apparently the tyres are date-stamped. I had a google and Caravan Club advice is that the maximum amount of time they should be kept in use in seven years. However getting them changed after five years is strongly advised as the tyre walls can begin to deteriorate quite quickly even though the tyres may still look to be in good condition. So that's more expense then. (Commission from affiliate link purchases in this post will be put towards the Tyre Fund!)


Tuesday 6 October 2015

I have pledged to buy only #JustTuna

I received an email from Greenpeace's India Thorogood today which
helped to clear up something that had confused Dave and I a while ago. We sometimes have a tuna sandwich for our picnics and I thought that John West tuna was sustainably caught. However, when shopping we couldn't find any mention of pole and line fishing on the tin so have been choosing different brands instead. Now I learn that my bafflement is caused by their u-turn in policy. John West publicly said they would achieve 100% sustainability by 2016. Apparently they have achieved a massively disappointing 2%! India's email, copied below, has more information and links to the Greenpeace Pledge:

"News just in: the biggest tuna companies are at it again. They’re breaking huge promises by slaughtering sea life - and one company is even linked to human rights abuses.

Take action against them now:

Imagine this: you’re John West, the biggest seafood company in the UK, worth over half a billion pounds. You believe that people buying your tuna don’t care about ethics or the environment. You believe you can make promises and break them with no consequences. Well, you’re wrong.

Together, we can force John West's hand. When thousands of us take action, they know we can trigger bad stories in the press and, even worse, send share prices plummeting and investors running scared. If every single one of us stands up to say we will never buy unjust or unsustainable tuna, companies will have no choice but to clean up their act, or watch their profits crumble:

In the last few years, tuna companies told us they cared. John West told the public they’d achieve 100% sustainable tuna in 2016 but – get this – so far they’ve scraped a measley 2%. To make matters far worse, John West's owners, seafood company Thai Union, have been linked to human rights abuses. It might seem like they don't care. But like most companies, they do care about profits and reputation.

Remember our last tuna campaign? Thousands of us turned up the heat on Tesco's to make Oriental and Pacific tuna clean up. They’re much bigger and more powerful than John West or Princes - yet together we made sure they helped clean up the tuna industry.

We can and will do the same again:

Thanks for taking a stand.

India and the Tuna Team"

Friday 2 October 2015

We end our UK tour in Weymouth

I'm having a great start to October, even though I am still catching up
Sculpture by Weymouth Park and Ride 
posts from our September adventures! First it's so encouraging to now have over 300 followers on Bloglovin. If you aren't aware of Bloglovin, the site is an easy way to keep up with all your favourite blogs without having to wade through emails from each every time there's a new post. I get a daily digest email which is perfect for me. If you like to try following Stephanie Jane via Bloglovin, just click here and follow t'instructions!

Then, yesterday evening, fellow blogger Inna tweeted me to let me know she's chosen Stephanie Jane as one of her Favorite Five blogs. Thanks Inna! The other four are really interesting reads too so do click through and take a look.

Now back to September and for the last Day Out of our UK summer tour:
Sandcastle sculpture on Weymouth prom 
we went to Weymouth! I was impressed by the extensive offroad cycle routes on the outskirts of town and the efficient Park And Ride which is only £3 parking per car for a whole day and the bus rides are free. Googling the link now though, I find that it has closed down for the winter and won't be operational again until April next year.

I loved the whimsical street sculptures near the Park and Ride car park including the chariot pictured at the start of this post, and a huge golden picture frame that looked to be part of the same series. Susan Hogben's blog post told me that they are by artist Andy Kirby and there is a third in the area too. If we're ever back that way, I must search it out! I will also mention the Jurassic Stones which we saw as we drove in. This work consists of large pieces of rock held up above a pond on long steel poles. Apparently there has been plenty of discussion about the stones locally - this Dorset Echo article has more information - but we really liked the installation. Then, as soon as we left the bus on Weymouth prom, we saw yet more sculpture in the form of the traditional sand creations for which Weymouth is famed. We learned that their sand is particularly fine grained which makes it perfect for sandcastle building and the one shown here was a superb example.

We did our usual town visit practice of walking every street we could find.
Unexpected architecture in Weymouth 
There is a great mix of shops, independents as well as standard high street names, and we liked that they are mixed up together. This seemed to make the whole area feel vibrant although there were some off-puttingly vicious sandy winds on certain street corners. I guess locals get to know which junctions to avoid! Several buildings caught our eye for their elegant architecture and we were both fascinated by this Moorish style facade. It reminded us of Cordoba. Most of the prom had been reminiscent of Hastings. The 'Cordoba building' was boarded up and partly scaffolded. I hope it will be sympathetically restored.

Stanley's Coffee House was our choice of lunch spot. I had the spicy bean burgers and Dave went for a Brie and Bacon sandwich. Stanley's is a lovely little cafe with quick and friendly service, and the window table we had was perfect for whiling away time people-watching. It would seem that Weymouth is a town for everybody!

We were serenaded back through town by an enthusiastic school group
A Ford, but not ours 
who were all in 1940s style dress complete with small cardboard boxes marked Gas Mask. Apparently 'It's A Long Way To Bournemouth'! I don't know if this Ford car is of the same era. It was parked up at Lidl so we both gawped and Dave posed. It seems as though everyone we talk shops with recently has been a Lidl fan so we thought we would give the chain a try. I do like that they pay their employees at least the Living Wage, rather than just Minimum Wage, but I don't think we will turn into Lidl advocates too. The bill was certainly cheap, but there were certain staples that we couldn't find and far too many temptations that we don't need but struggled to resist!

And I nearly forgot to mention - I have bought a loom! I haven't been particularly crafty this summer and have missed making stuff. While reading The Bitter Trade recently, I was interested by the novel's descriptions of weaving so, when I saw a Learn To Weave kit in The Works in Weymouth, I thought I would give it a try. Even better, in the time it took to get to the till, the £9.99 price had reduced to £7.99!

Thursday 1 October 2015

Jane Austen country - a day in Bath

I am starting to wonder if everywhere in the UK could actually be linked
The Pulteney Bridge in Bath 
to an author - if I knew about enough of them. What do you think? After being reminded in Dorset that I really must read some Thomas Hardy, we spent an afternoon in Bath over the weekend and I realised that I have not yet read a single Jane Austen novel either. I have seen several filmed adaptations of Pride And Prejudice but that doesn't really count!

Austen lived in Bath for five years, from 1801 to 1806 and there are several themed attractions for fans as well as an annual festival. We spent our time wandering the streets and lanes admiring fabulous architecture including the Pulteney Bridge which was designed by Robert Adam in 1768 and apparently initially thought to be a bit of an eyesore. Other complaints were that it was too narrow and would, in time, be frequently overcrowded. In fact, we thought the whole town was overcrowded! We had inadvertently chosen to visit at the same time as the Morris Dancing Federation's AGM and I wondered if having troupes of Morris Dancers on practically every street corner was to blame. Our guides, Dave's daughters Gemma and Carrie, said no. Bath is always popular and heaving! At least we had taken the bus from Bristol so didn't have to struggle with parking too.

Away from the main shopping areas, the streets were calmer. I was
Royal Crescent, Bath 
pleased to see the iconic Circus and Royal Crescent. The Royal Crescent especially felt familiar from having seen it many times in the past on television.

Lunch was a picnic in the pretty Parade Gardens where we were able to ignore yet more Morris Dancers. I liked the rugby player topiary, but forgot to get a photograph. The Guildhall Delicatessen at The Guildhall Market had a good selection of hot and cold foods. My vegetable samosa was perfectly spiced but Dave wasn't so impressed with his spinach and feta pie. He did love another not-so-little shop we discovered in the back streets. Vintage 'n' Rare Guitars has three floors of vintage instruments ranging in price from a few hundred to ten thousand pounds. Some were even models that Dave had owned himself back in the 1960s. I was surprised that he didn't stay put in the shop for the rest of the weekend!