Author: 2017onceinalifetime

Chloe 28/09/2007 – 23/06/2020

We are completely and utterly devastated to have said a final goodbye to our most adored Chloe on 23rd June. She made her last journey with us smothered in love and a full belly of Gravy Bones.

She came into our lives when we needed her most. We moved into our Barn in the Essex countryside back in 1992 and took on the mammoth task of converting it from an apple storage barn into our home, which we only finished when we sold up in 2015. We first bought Ally, Chloe’s Mum for £50 from the next village, she was a litter of 8 or 10 and I remember seeing them all in the outbuilding, complete bundles of fluff. Ally was a cross between a Labrador and a Collie with a white fleck on her chest and she took up residence with us. There had always been dogs throughout my childhood in our family but for David, Ally was his first dog and oh how much we loved her. She was 9 years old when a neighbouring dog got his wicked way with Ally in the garden. This day was pivotal in our lives 28 July 2007 because it was also the same day that we had returned from the hospital after losing our first son Daniel, born at just over 24 weeks. I remember laying in bed thinking if puppies would arrive and saying to David, well that’s the least of our worries right now. Nine weeks later, an emergency caesarean and 3 puppies arrived, Chloe, Olive and Betty. Ally was in complete shock and as a result I reared the puppies for the first few days of their lives, feeding every hour and a half. Chloe was certainly the runt of the litter, the smallest and most fragile. At one point, my Mum had her in the palm of her hand and said it would be better to have he put to sleep. But Chloe was having none of it, she was a fighter. She was the one that looked most like her Mum and from when she was born she has a crease down the front of her nose that stayed forever more. It was wonderful to have the puppies running around the barn and the garden, although at 9 poor Ally took awhile to adjust bless her. Betty and Olive went to specials homes, loved and pampered. I wanted Mum and Dad to have Chloe, but one day my Dad took me to one side and said, ‘you keep her and if there is ever a day when you can’t, we will have her.’ I think my Dad knew how much we needed her. Chloe use to cuddle up to her Mum soaking up the sun in the living area of the Barn and it was wonderful to have Mother and Daughter. Ally was a good Mum and tolerated Chloe in her loving way and brought a spring into her step for a while. There were together for 3 years. I never knew how much a dog could mourn, as Chloe did for over 6 weeks when we lost Ally. We buried her in the garden and slowly we all adjusted.

Chloe was never far from my side, I was the softy and David was the one that trained her. For some strange reason Chloe loved anything leather, David’s golf shoes, my leather gloves and one day whilst I was ironing the leather patches on the backs of David’s jeans were all missing. Chloe had sneaked them out of the ironing pile and chewed all the patches off. If she was ever in trouble David was the one to tell her off. At the back of the Barn was an oak tree which became known at the naughty tree. David always sent Chloe there to sit, we always knew when she had been naughty because of the look on her face and even without telling her in the end she use to run to the naughty tree and just sit there.

Chloe came into her own when on the 11th November 2010 we lost our twins Charles and Genevieve just short of 25 weeks. After nearly 10 years of IVF we knew this was the end of the road for us and that we would never have children of our own. We poured all our love into Chloe and through the darkest of days she was our rock. The number of times I use to sneak off to the greenhouse to have a good cry and Chloe was always by my side with her head on my lap and letting my tears fall on her head.

One day we sat in the kitchen and David said what are we doing it all for, we were like two people and a dog in a small boat in this huge ocean and we were just drifting aimlessly. This is what started our path of adventure, selling the Barn and buying the Motorhome. To be honest, if it wasn’t for David I would have probably have still been there but it was the best decision we ever made.

We set off on the 21st September 2017 and the photos and the memories we have with Chloe are priceless. She would sit between the two seats at the front as we were driving along and go from one person to another to be stroked. Chloe loved cuddles, and if you stopped she would nudge your hand to start again or go to the next person. Our morning ritual was that Chloe would go from one side of the island bed in the Motorhome to first have a cuddle with me and then walk round the other side to have a cuddle with David. Then morning walks and then chilling for most of the day. Being black she was happiest lying in the van, away from the flies, which she hated. She learnt to swim in later life, coaxing her with the ball in the water, slowly, slowly and getting further and further out. When we were in Greece in Summer of 2018 it was the perfect swimming conditions, shallow and warm. There is one time when all three of us were swimming together in the beautiful calm, warm waters of the Greek sea and this is one of the best memories of the whole trip for me. From then Chloe was hooked. Last year when we went to Norway and were up in the Arctic Circle all Chloe wanted to do was get in the water and swim, she just loved it. She loved a beach and could smell it I think, because the utter excitement of running with the sand between her paws chasing a ball, was such a joy to see. The miles and miles we walked together along the beaches all over Europe, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Croatia always wanting a ball thrown.

Chloe was a people dog, some dogs love other dogs and some dogs prefer people and Chloe was more interested in people than other dogs. She did tolerate my Mum’s little Westie Hamish, who adored her. But other dogs would come to say hello and she would just walk on by.

For the last 3 years, since we have been travelling, Chloe has been with us all day every day and showered in love. Someone said to me yesterday she was a gift and she was the best gift we ever had.

The pain is so very raw, for over 21 years we have had a continual Ally / Chloe dog in our lives. No more greetings at the door, no more eyes looking up at us as we are eating, no more crumbs to be eaten, no more cuddles of her velvet ears. Life will be very different now, but we wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Sleep tight dear Chloe, run free.

A beach and a Ball.
All swimming in the Greek Sea
Swimming in the Artic Circle
Just the best
Sunset Watching
The best Memories

Praia De Pera & Tavira Portugal & Jerez Spain

01 March 2020 – 06 March 2020

We left Lagos behind and only drove an hour up the road to Praia De Pera, the reason for this was our friend Jorge had invited us to Decante 2020. The most prestigious wine event in Portugal for the trade to taste the new wines from the vineyards of Portugal. It was held in the stunning Vila Vita Resort & Spa. We had such an amazing time, beautiful food and beautiful wines, David was in his element. David loves his wines and has educated himself on the French wines as we have spent a great deal of time in the country, but never really delved into the Portuguese wines. We tasted the whites and was following with the rose and then the reds. I am not a big drinker and but the end of the white tastings I was drunk. David told me to keep eating to soak up the alcohol and not to drink anymore but to pour it away, but Jorge says drink, drink and so I did. David continued and after 5 hours we left full of beautiful wine, food and company. We certainly needed the 50 minutes walk back to the van, to sober up. We were so lucky to get invited.

The next day was a wash out, not with the weather but with a hangover, we stayed local and with the beach on our doorstep we had a lazy day. There is a small inlet, that has the most amazing birds, Herons, Glossy Ibis, black birds with long beaks that each morning were feeding on the grass next to us. Little White Egrets, Cormorants, Mallards and your local Seagulls. I took hundreds of photos, just to get one decent one. I was also very intrigued by a man’s pair of leather sandals that has been on a bench by our Motorhome since we arrived. Two days passed and they were still there. I often wondered how someone could forget their shoes and thought what had happened to the person, they were quite good sandals to be honest. I had also seen a red pair of ladies high heeled shoes abandoned in a forest aswell whilst we have been in Portugal. Anyway, the day we left, the shoes has disappeared. I often wonder if the owner had remembered and come back, or someone had pinched them. I will never know.

We headed East when we left to Santa Luzia, just outside Tavira. We have stayed here last year and it is a beautiful unspoilt little coastal village, famous for it’s Octopus. After afew days of not doing any exercise , Mr and Mrs Joe Wicks has gone out of the window since we have left Lagos, we thought we would walk into Tavira, taking an hour and 10 minutes according to google. We set off and remembered that there was a bus stop in the village, and low and behold there was a lady waiting. We looked at the timetable and there was a bus due in 10 minutes. So, what did we do, we caught the bus. We are so lazy ! We has a wandered around Tavira and of course was going to walk back, but guess what we had another bus trip ! We stopped for a wonderful Octopus lunch, in Santa Luzia came back to the van and slept.

We left the next day and crossed the border into Spain, sad to leave Portugal behind and even sadder when the journey time nearly doubled due to well we do not know what, roadworks we think, but there was a convoy of police cars coming up on the hard shoulder. I don’t think we have seen that many UK police in over a year, let alone a convey of them. Anyway, we finally arrived at our destination Jerez de la Frontera. In the province of Cadiz in the southern western area of Spain, Jerez is known as the city of flamenco, sherry, horses and motorcycles. Now we are not great sherry drinkers but we felt that we must indulge whilst we are here. We caught the bus into the town and meandered around the old part, stopped for lunch and sherry of course, one dry and one sweet. We thought we would give both a try but sent the dry one back and had two sweet. Let me put it this way, we will not be buying a bottle to bring home !. What I will remember from Jerez a city filled with orange trees lining the streets, is the sweetest aroma of the orange blossom, it just filled the air as you walked under the trees, just beautiful. As usual we were in awe of the food market, bursting with life, lots of little stalls and the most amazing varieties of fish, fruit, vegetables and meat. We couldn’t believe how cheap the fish was, I had to drag David away. As usual, I would have given anything to have my Dad with me, he would have so loved all the varieties of the fish, the freshness and the market buzz. We noticed that Jerez is made up of an elderly population, or is it that all the young people are at work ? Anyway, everyone was out, I only saw one person in a face mask and they were Chinese, but there is no anti bacterial hand gel to be had in the city of Jerez. It’s not only the U.K. that are hoarding, I will be investigating the toilet roll situation in the supermarkets tomorrow! My brother has told us to dump everything in the van and fill it with toilet rolls before we come back.

David enjoying some wine tasting with Jorge at Decante 2020
Food Galore at Decante 2020
The beautiful Vila Vita Resort & Spa – Porches Portugal
The beautiful view of Praia de Pera Portugal
Tavira Town Portugal
The famous Bridge in Tavira Portugal
Tavira Town and the traditional Portuguese Architecture
Just off the main square in Tavira Portugal
Jerez City in Spain Portugal
The amazing fish market in Jerez Spain
Fruit & Vegetables Galore in Jerez Market
Beautiful Fresh Fennel in Jerez Food Market in Spain
Jerez City Spain
Sweets Galore in Jerez Spain
Hidden Beauty behind the door Jerez Spain
The Street of Jerez Spain
Dry & Sweet Sherry Jerez Spain

Lagos – Portugal

01st January 2020 – 01st March 2020

Where has the time gone and how lazy have I been not to update the Blog, will I remember all that has happened. Properly not, but I will try to remember the best bits.

Well another decade begins, what I have learnt is not too look too far forward, a defence mechanism I think. Anyway, life in our little world has taken on a very relax period. We settle back into our routine when we are in Lagos trying to get fit, by joining the gym, going to every free class that is on offer and enjoying the sunshine. I am sorry, please skip this part if you are having awful weather. But the weather in Portugal since we have arrived has been beautiful, clear blue skies and sunshine. The best of the last three years, we have been coming to Lagos. It is cold at night and so we put the up floor heating on, especially for Chloe to make sure she doesn’t get cold. David keeps saying, she’s a dog. Yes I know but a very precious one and in her 12th year she deserves all the comfort. She has been enjoying lapping up the sunshine aswell during the day. This has resulted in a great deal of moulting going on, he poor coat doesn’t know what’s going on. One minute in Sweden and Norway and the next in Portugal.

It’s quite amusing watching the daily life of the rest of the people here, all nationalities and I am very bi-lingual with my ‘Good Mornings’ as Chloe and I do our morning walk around the site. There is a lovely older couple that walk hand in hand to the showers in their dressing gowns and the other morning they were doing their daily exercises outside their Motorhome. Hats off to them, they are well into their 70s, I think. Most people that are staying here are here for several months and so you get to know your direct neighbours quite well. Now Alain our French neighbour next to us, is a rather handsome, fit, trendy and amazing chef and he’s single. We have since found out that he has had 3 wives, a child with each and now a new fiancé in Nice. He is 72 but so suave and David says a complete charmer with woman ! He’s charmed me, I can tell you ! Each lunchtime he’s preparing what can only be described as a Michelin Star food and it always smells absolutely delicious. We were invited for lunch together with our Jersey friends and the stew was superb. The other day Alain came with a bowl of Percebes also known as Gooseneck Barnacles. An expensive delicacy no less, costing over £200 a kilo in posh restaurants. They tasted like winkles but looked like alligators legs, a first for everything. Alain lived in St Tropez, with a yacht, posh car but gave it all up to tour in his Motorhome as he absolutely loves it, or it could be the divorce of 3 wives !. It’s funny, he stayed at a friend’s house for a week, a huge beautiful villa on a golf course up the road from here, looking after the owners pampered dogs. But he came back and said he was lonely, just goes to show you can have oddles of money but it can’t buy happiness. Another time Alain prepared the best paella we have ever eaten, enjoyed with our other neighbours Irene and Reinhard from Germany.

We joined a Thursday walking group and savoured some of the hidden beauty of Portugal on these walks. All nationalities, some living in the Algarve, some just here for afew months avoiding their homeland weather. We met Margaret and Tom and Ann and Derek, who both avoid the UK winters and at last after 3 years David found golfing partners ! We spent some lovely time with all of them, sad to say goodbye when we left but promised to meet up in the UK with them all.

Chloe unfortunately had several visits to the vets, her back legs have started to deteriorate and one of them shakes most of the time. X-Rays done and a course of steroid injections, she seems OK but will investigate further when we see our own vet in the UK. This meant that our daily walks to the beach were curtailed, as I had read, little and often walks were best and so we stuck to the routine of our morning campsite walk with cuddles at the shop whilst buying the fresh rolls and then a walk outside around one field in the afternoons. We met Hula Hoop Lady as I called her with her two lovely Labradors. Every day as I passed her on her pitch, I would see her hula hooping. Hats off to her, she is very fit. With her husband having health issues, she decided they needed an adventure to stop him feeling depressed and so they bought a motorhome and here they were. Most people would just sit in doors but she said, she could she her husband deteriorating and that she needed to do something. Everyday she walks the two Labrador’s to the beach, a good round trip of 5km or more and her husband cycles down on the electric bike. I so admire them.

I went on a stained glass course for a couple of days which I really enjoyed and made my first little sun catcher. We went to the weekly market in Lagos on a Saturday morning which I loved. It was so busy, local people selling their own produce from fruit and veg to cakes, flower posies and plants. It turned into a weekly ritual, with a coffee and Pastel de Nata (Portuguese custard tart) stop . God, I am going to miss those little custard tarts. David’s sister came out for a week with Warren her fiancé and it was really lovely to see them and spend quality time with them both.

We went to the local cinema and watched 1917, a great film if you haven’t seen it and all for 4.50 euros. It was brilliant, nothing like in the U.K. The lady served us with our tickets then ran over to serve us with our chocolates and then ran to the other area to serve drinks. I wouldn’t like to think what would happen if there was a rush on.

We spent many hours with Paul & Steve our good friends from Jersey, eating, drinking and laughing. My birthday came and went, another year older. David bless him decorated the van with balloons and bunting and a nice lunch in the Sagres fish market cafe ! It rained aswell, which the Portuguese were really happy about, but it was my birthday and we were going to take a boat trip but now this will be saved for another time.

We took a trip down memory lane into Carvoeiro where I had first holidayed over 38 years ago. Our dear friend Jorge who I have know for all of that time, has opened a new Wine bar and it was lovely to see him and spend time with his family.

After a staggering 71 days we finally prized ourselves away from Lagos, out onto the open road once again.

Portugal Bound.

12th December 2019 – 31st December 2019

We’re off again, this time heading to Portugal to find some sun. We have left 2 months later than planned, life takes unexpected turns and we stayed home to help my Mum recover whilst she was unwell. Thankfully, on the road to recovery we felt we could leave her and so once again we packed up and headed off. Now although we should be experts at packing and setting off, oh no, that’s not the case. To be honest it is mainly me and with the worry of Mum I think this had a big influence of us driving the van out of the storage unit, heading off and suddenly getting a phone call from my Mum to say we had forgotten the Christmas Cake. Now this is not just some shop bought cake, it was lovingly made by me following Mary Berry’s recipe, baking it, pouring brandy on it, icing and decorating this cake, I wasn’t going to leave it behind. I had left Mum a quarter of the cake, because it is massive and could feed 30. When Mum rang us to say that the cake was still in the kitchen, followed by ‘It’s gorgeous, I’ve just had a slice’ I fluttered my eyelashes and lovely David did a detour and I ran to her house collected the cake, the dog lead, 2 tea cups and my soap that we had also left. Mum did say, ‘I was hoping you would have left cake’. I kissed her and promised to make another when we are back. On the way to the Euro Tunnel for our 11.20pm crossing David suddenly looks at me and says ‘did you feel that’. I hadn’t felt anything but David said that there was something wrong with the Motorhome. ‘Do you want to stop’ I said, ‘No we’ll keep going’ was David’s reply and so we did and finally reached the tunnel. Parked up, David turned the engine off and went to turn it back on again and absolutely nothing. Deep breathe, deep breathe I said to myself. David shot his seat back, said right, get the floor mats and carpet up and fiddled with the new battery, turned the engine and it started. I am amazed how practical he is and very lucky. We high fived, Chloe had a wee and then we drove onto the tunnel. The weather was appalling when we reached France and we had an hour’s drive to our first stop. The rain was horrendous, cars had aqua plainned and we were relieved and tired when we finally stopped for the night, but we had the cake !

We were going to motor through France, Spain and into Portugal as quickly as we could. We wanted to get to the warmer weather. We stayed with our lovely friends near Limoges once again for the night and then Debs packed us off with a huge Santa’s sack filled with home made Christmas pudding, mince pies, chocolates, champagne, presents and chocolate euro coins ! Totally spoilt. We passed Bordeaux, then into Spain, San Sebastián, Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca and stopped in Badajoz. The weather was rainy, windy and cold, but between the showers we walked around the town. We love traditional Spanish towns where they do not speak any English. Google translate comes in useful when shopping though. An old castle, beautiful churches and little shops to meander around. We only stayed a night, but I would love to re-visit in better weather. The next stop was Evora, which looks an absolutely beautiful town but the weather was so bad once again, we did not venture out of the van. It was so windy, I did ask David if the van would blow over, of course he said ‘No’. We plan to visit Evora on our return journey.

We finally reach Lagos 8 days after we left the U.K. just in time for the local Christmas Carol Service in Praia Da Luz Church. I had to drag David, as believe it or not, it is not one of his favourite pastimes. Anyway, as we filed in and were given a programme of service David looked at it and said to me ‘we’ll be in here for hours’. We made our way to the second set of pews, great seats and I sung my heart out for the 7 Christmas Carols. On the way out as I shook the vicar’s hand, he said to me ‘ You nearly put me off, next time I am going to sit you at the back’. I asked David if my singing was that bad, but gallantly he said no. I couldn’t fathom out what I had done, but made a swift exit. Now as we had left with the Christmas hype in full throttle in the U.K., we were able to buy all the lovely Christmas luxuries of mince pies, crackers, cranberry sauce and our lovely local butchers created a perfect size rolled turkey breast to fit in my remoska (a fantastic electric pot) along with pigs in blankets, stuffing and sausage meat. There was five of us for Christmas Lunch and even if I say so myself it was delicious, followed by Deb’s beautiful Christmas Pudding and mince pies. Peter, who is from Germany, said it was his first experience of an English Christmas and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Champagne from Debs in France and lovely wine from Steve and Paul from Jersey and then a good snooze to recover topped a great day.

A week later we celebrated New Year’s Eve in the local Indian in Espiche. Entertainment was in the form of a belly dancer much to the delight of the male customers. Another year passes and another one begins. I get reflective at this time of year and going into a new decade makes me look back and think how much has passed over the last ten years. Is it as you get older, that you think time goes quicker ?. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be living full time in a Motorhome, having travelled to some of the places that I use to just look in the Sunday Supplements and dream about. Our life looked very different ten years ago and if life had given us a different path that we had hoped and dreamt about for so long, we would never have seen the fjords in Norway, seen reindeer and moose in the wild. Crossed the arctic circle, swam in the Greek sea with Chloe, oh the list goes on. All I can say is we took a leap of faith and if David hadn’t been holding my hand, I don’t think I would have ever done it. But, oh what an adventure we have had so far. As a result of our ‘Once in a Lifetime’ journey we have inspired 3 friends who have now bought Motorhomes and are one their own little adventures, which is just wonderful. So, if you get the chance, take that leap of faith because you never know where it takes you.

Chaam, Poperinge & Homeward Bound

17th July 2019 – 30th July 2019

We absolutely love van life, but with the horrendous heatwave due we decided to hunker down in a campsite where we have plenty of water, electric and hopefully some shade. We stayed in a small family run campsite near the town of Chaam North East of Antwerp. We found the only tree in the whole campsite that would give a little shade, but only in the afternoon. The heatwave hit with the temperature reaching 42 degrees and hotter in the van. We were certainly suffering, but poor Chloe coming from a chilly 12 degrees in Norway only a matter of weeks ago to 42 degrees was suffering more. We filled buckets of water, let the sun warm them up and then slowly poured them over her. We cycled to do some shopping ( yes in the heat !) and found a paddling pool for 6 euros, thinking Chloe would lay in it. How wrong we were, we had to pick her up and put her in, but she didn’t like it. However, David and I loved it, big enough to lie flat in, it was the perfect dunking pool and the best 6 euros we have ever spent to date on this trip. We stayed for four days, melted and then headed west to Poperinge in Belgium. We stayed a couple of nights in the rolling countryside, lovely and quiet, just the sheep bleeting and the geese hissing at Chloe as she passed. We cycled into the town on Sunday for lunch, passing through the hop fields. Know as the hop country, with it’s imposing hop vines, there are many Belgian hop farms producing 80% of Belgian beers. We sampled the local poperings hommel beer with lunch, a big fat steak and chips. We couldn’t remember the last time we ate red meat and it was delicious, oh what carnivores we are ! Poperinge during World War 1, was one of only two towns not under German occupation. It was to billet British troops and also provided a safe area for the field hospitals. In the middle of the town and a stone’s through from the main square is Talbot House. In 1915 chaplain Philip Clayton opened a club for soldiers there. A home away from home where every soldier was welcome, regardless of rank. There were no soldiers,officers or lieutenants in Talbot House, only people who wanted to escape the horror of war. Today, it is a guest house where you can stay or you can just have tea in the lovely gardens. David said that my Dad has some affiliation with Toc H as it was know, he remembered him talking about it. I wish he was alive to ask him. On the way back we cycled to Dozinghem Military Cemetery, here lies 3024 British soldiers together with 81 Canadian, 14 New Zealand, 15 South African, 34 British West Indian and 65 German casualties. We have visited many other cemeteries during our various trips and it is humbling and so, so very sad to walk amongst the beautifully tended grounds and see thousands of graves. To read, the ages of these brave men, 18, 19, 22 years old it breaks my heart. An important place to visit and one that puts into perspective how very lucky we all are. As we cycled back to the van, David turned into a big kid, riding down the hill as fast as he could, with me trying to play catch up all the time. What is it with men and boys on bikes, always a race. I like to look around at the fields, houses and like a gentle cycle, always looking at David’s back as he is getting further and further away from me. I was pleased to see a family pass us on their bikes, the husband and son way out in front and his wife and daughter some way behind. It made me feel better,to know that I wasn’t the only one always playing catch up on a bike. For our last day we drove to the coast to enjoy the sunshine and a nice 26 degrees. Just 30 minutes from Calais we found a beautiful sandy beach that went for miles and miles, as far as the eye could see. Chloe of course was in her element, although she desperately wants a ball to be thrown, sadly those days are over as arthritis is setting in. I think we need to get her into the Greek sea again to massage her joints.

Well, our ‘Once in a Lifetime’ trip part 4 has come to a close. We have travelled for 112 days and covered 5,822 miles. This has been the trip with the most miles covered, Norway is a long way ! It has been a trip where we have constantly felt on the move, but to do this trip we could not spend weeks on end in one place. For me, I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. Norway is just so amazing, as you probably have guessed with our blog posts on the country. We have seen the country in probably the best mode of transport, being able to park up and sleep on the edge of fjords, fish to our hearts content, find beautiful sandy beaches and watch the midnight sun. See moose, reindeer and white tailed eagles. Drive to the base of glaciers and sleep looking over turquoise lakes. We have to look at the photos to remember all the amazing places we passed through and wonderful vistas we saw. I had been so excited to set off on this trip and wow, it didn’t disappoint, memories to last a lifetime.

Lubeck & Munster – Germany

6th July – 16th July 2019

As we crossed the border into Sweden, we were like rabbits in headlights, cars and people everyone. It is funny how you get use to near solitude and it felt strange to be back into the hustle and bustle, which by no means is like the U.K. but from driving along roads and not seeing anyone to suddenly seeing lots of vehicles on the roads felt strange. We stopped at the first supermarket we found and with the packed car park it looked like everyone else did the same, even the Norwegians heading back into Norway. We got excited at the prices and we were still in Sweden so not that cheap, but cheap to us after Norway. I lost David, he was in the alcohol aisle, which still had limited choice, but enough and reasonably priced. So,with alcohol purchased and the cupboards replenished we set off again. We are now retracing our route through Sweden and Denmark and heading back into the U.K. to avoid the school holidays and packed roads . We stayed for 3 days just North of Gothenburg in a lovely small campsite owned by a young couple. Within walking distance there was a salmon river where you could fish, but we have a sea fishing rod and not a fly fishing rod and so, reluctantly we couldn’t fish. I think I was more upset that David! We walked all along the river and there is a lovely waterfall which the salmon jump up through. To assist with the conservation of the salmon, concrete stepping pools have been constructed to help the fish jump up. We watched a salmon jump in the water, but were told later that with the weather being so warm last year there had been a reduction in the number of salmon in the rivers. As we were preparing to leave, we met our first Englishman in 101 days of travelling. He was staying in an apartment on site and he was with his daughter who was playing football in England under 17’s. He lived in Essex and his daughter Ruby placed for Arsenal, what a small world. We would have loved to have visited Gothenburg but we had heard rumours of Motorhomes being broken into and when we looked at places to park in and around the area, nearly all said that there was problems with break-ins. We didn’t want to chance it, especially with Chloe being left in the van. We left Sweden at Helsingborg over the very expensive bridge, but it is certainly impressive and into Denmark. We deliberately stopped for lunch at the most delicious burger restaurant, that we had stopped at on the way into Sweden, freshly made to order. If you are ever in Sweden and fancy a burger check out Carls Junior. We stayed the night in the same place as when we had travelled through Denmark before, just outside Middlefart as we had read that there was some harbour porpoises swimming in the area. This time, it was busier with vans but we were lucky enough to see the porpoises swimming. No photos unfortunately, as they are too quick to capture and then it would only be a fin out of the water ! After one night we headed to the nearest supermarket to spend our remaining cash on alcohol before leaving Denmark. We sound like alcoholics! We then headed into Germany, I was losing track what country I was in, but we were back in the EU so no more different currencies. We stopped for lunch and the normal ritual is David takes Chloe out to have a wee etc. I prepare lunch, beverages and get Chloe’s biscuits ready. This time, David come back just as we are about to have an exciting cheese roll and says, they do Bratwurst sausages. Now in David’s language this means I want a Bratwurst sausage ! So our first meal in Germany was a very healthy German sausage and of course chips. We stayed the night in Lubeck and our first draught beer which went down very well. A beautiful town on the river Trave with extensive Gothic architecture and listed by UNESCO as a world heritage Site. It was here that we saw the first bus that changes into a boat. A tourist bus that I saw first on the road and then when we were sitting having a drink it goes past on the river. It looked like something out of a James Bond film. Telgte was our next destination, where after so muchmuch travelling we decided to stay for 4 days. Again we stayed just outside the town, but within easy cycling for groceries etc. Now some of you will think this weird, but opposite where we were staying was this beautiful wooded cemetery which we walked Chloe in. It was vast and surrounded by mature trees and shrubs. I think I have said before but I find cemeteries fascinating. At the very end of this vast cemetery there were two separate war grave areas. One German and one for the Allied Forces. I have never visited a German war cemetery before, all the stones were formed out of a very dark grey stone and there was not a flower or shrub adorning any of the hundreds of graves. Many woman were buried here aswell and it felt a very sad place. What is different in this cemetery is that there are many family plots and they are spread apart and tended with loving care. Mature shrubs and very unique and original headstones or rather sculptures make this a fascinating place to wander. It is a beautiful place to rest your head after your time is up. We visited the vibrant town of Munster, known as the bicycle capital of Germany and guess what, we were cycling in it. It reminded me of the Tour de France again, bells going behind me to let me know they are coming up on the outside, I need to get one of those mirrors for my bike ! Older people burning me up on a normal bike, no electric for them. Germany is brilliant with their cycle paths and you certainly feel safe from cars, but not other cyclists. It is fantastic though seeing 70 and probably 80 year olds cycling away in their everyday lives. Muster has a brilliant market on a Wednesday and Saturday, full of colourful plants and flowers and the most mouth watering of foods. We found a cheese stall with a Comte cheese called ‘David’ of course we had to buy some. A wedge was cut and it was a large wedge but at 20 euros we were hoping it was going to live up to it’s name. We bought fruit, nuts, beautiful fish, cheese, the most amazing apple and raspberry juice and savoured mini fish and chips before cycling home for siesta. Oh what a life !

Hadet Norway

3rd July 2019 – 5th July 2019

As we continued South through Norway I was desperate to see some of the famous Norwegian wooden stave churches. You know me and a church !. More than 1000 stave churches were built in Norway during the Middle Ages and are Norway’s most important contribution to the world’s architectural heritage. Today, only 29 of these churches remain and they are mostly located in the south of Norway in areas not easily accessible. David being the great navigator however, drove us to the first of these in Uvdal. Located on a slope overlooking a high valley, it was a very impressive sight to see and pure excitement for me. The staves, or columns are the bearing elements that gave the stave churches their name, but there are many other structural elements that are unique to these churches. The interior of Uvdal Church gives you the impression that time has stood still. The wooden font shaped like a hour glass is made from one pice of solid wood and is a rare item in ecclesial art. All the interior wood is painted in robust colours dating from 1600s. There are painted wooden masks beneath the ceiling and carvings on the gallery dado from the Middle Ages. Our guide told us an interesting story of a bronze and enamel crucifix that had been hidden in a time of danger by nailing it into the interior ceiling of the church and painting over it to look like it was part of the ceiling. It came from Limoges in France and was made during the 13th century. Today it is the National Museum in Oslo, but a replica is on display in the church. Family names are painted at the end of the lines of pews, however, originally there was no seating in these churches everyone had to stand, seating was a later addition. What is wonderful is that the church is still used in the summer months and what a place for a wedding ! Outside the church there are a scattering of other wooden buildings that have been preserved and you are able to look back in time to see how these very hardy Norwegians lived and survived. We then visited Nore and Flesberg Churches, both beautiful in their own rights and each having their own individually. I was so pleased to be able to visit during the short few months that they are open. The other 26 will have to wait for another time, as David had had enough by then ! We visited Fredrikstad old town, which is Northern Europe’s best preserved fortified town and a beautiful place to spend afew hours. The buildings have been well preserved and a honeypot for tourists with shops and cafes. The sun was out and so we decided to buy ice-cream. When I popped into the little cafe and bought the most delicious ice cream, the young woman asked where we had come from and I always say London, England, as if I said Essex, I am sure they would glaze over !. She gave me a small pin and asked if I would put it into their world map on the wall. We were the first visitors from England ! The central square of the town had a set of stocks which David was keen to keep me in, as the shops were too tempting !. I was good though, all I bought was a cookie cutter. Our last night in Norway was spent near Steinringfeltet at Hunn. One of Norway’s finest heritage sites. It looks like Stone Henge with stone rings, a spectacular cultural monument, with large stone blocks placed in rings. People have pondered the nine circles for centuries and archaeological evidence suggests it was an Iron Age meeting place. Chloe loved running in and out of the stones and to me it had a magical feel. I laid down in the middle of one of the rings, shut my eyes and just breathed. We feel so, so grateful for our journey through Norway. I have no words to say how amazing it has been, there are no best bits as it was all wonderful, (maybe not running out of alcohol !). David catching his first fish, me catching mine, the competition of catching the biggest fish. Jumping out with our fishing rod as soon as we stopped the van. The visits to the fishing tackle shops to buy more supplies, better than visiting sweet shops. The scenery, to say it took our breathe away, just doesn’t do it justice. Waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, turquoise lakes, moose, reindeer and white tailed eagles. OMG we loved it. Thank you Norway.

Jostedalsbreen National Park – Norway

27th June 2019 – 2nd July 2019

Well Norway keeps producing the most amazing sights and our next stop did just that. We had just left the turquoise lake with the Briksdal glacier in the distance but there was a glacier that we could drive to and see close up and this we wanted to see (well me mainly). After a short drive, we arrived and there were quite afew tourists buses with us, we assume it must be on the cruise ship itinerary. With a walk of 10 minutes you are at the foot of the mighty glacier. As you look around you the mountains are flowing with waterfalls and finally pooling into the lovely turquoise meltwater lake. Oh it is such a beautiful sight. The Boyabreen glacier in the Fjærland area is located in the Jostedalsbreen National Park and forms part of the huge Jostedalsbreen Glacier, the largest in Europe and this glacier is the fastest moving glacier in Norway, moving two metres a day towards the glacier front. The steep and short shape of Boyabreen gives a quicker response to the changes in weather and climate than most glaciers in Norway. Heavy snow at the glacier one winter will result in an increase in ice at the glacier front after only three years. Looking up close the glacier with it’s captivating hues of blue and white it is an astounding sight. I stood and just gazed in awe at nature, totally memorised by it. David had had enough and had gone back to the van, but I just stood there not really believing my eyes. Japanese tourists ran passed me, posed with their hands in the air and then disappeared into their coaches and then in the evening we had the glacier to ourselves. I went back down again with Chloe, who dipped her paws into the lake. I think she was keen to get in, but I didn’t think that was a good idea. The next morning, we were surrounded by the local cows which grazed in the nearby pastures, Chloe’s early morning walk was cut short and a hasty retreat to the van, as they seemed to take a great interest in her. We also found a natural swimming lake which looked so inviting, if only it was as warm as the water in Greece, I might have gone in. We took one last walk down to see the glacier and left before too many more tourists arrived for the day. (I know, we are tourists ourselves !) We drove for afew hours and parked in a small village, bought some more delicious strawberries and chilled out for the rest of the day, with David fishing of course. (No fish caught !) The next day we caught our last ferry in Norway, a total of 13. They were like catching buses and Chloe never got up from her bed in the end as we boarded them. The weekend was approaching and we decided to spend a couple of days hunkered down, we chose a little place called Borgaholmane. It had lovely views out to sea and perfect for you know what ! After spending many hours fishing David came in for dinner without having had a nibble of a fish. I go out after dinner and only land my first Mackerel, OMG how happy was I ! There was a small VW van parked near us and they had the all singing all dancing kayak and David hears him telling his girlfriend as he is coming back to shore that he has caught the biggest fish in his life and it took him 20 minutes to land it. If only we had a Kayak ! The next day David catches a huge mackerel, the biggest I have ever seen. But this is where the competition starts, we weigh both the fish we had caught and David’s is far larger than mine, so now what do I go and do, I go out fishing at 9 o’clock at night trying to catch a larger mackerel. However, the cold wind get the better of me and after an hour I retreat to the van, empty handed.

We departed the next day, David with a full heart after landing the biggest mackerel we have ever seen and me, just hoping that my time would come. We were hoping to visit Bergen and this was the reason why we had taken this route from the North of Norway. However, the weather was awful, wind and rain and we decided to save Bergen for another trip. It turned out to be an expensive day though as we crossed the Harmanger Bridge, 1380 metres long and one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It cost us £60 for a one way drive. The bridge crosses the Hardangerfjorden and replaced the ferry connection and to be honest it is very impressive. What is more impressive though is the Villavik tunnel 7,510 metres long and it has a roundabout in it, that was put in when the Harmanger Bridge was constructed. Lit up in bright blue lights, the roundabout is a great piece of engineering I must say. Mind you, they must be racking it in, with the tariffs. The bridge has a viewing area and this again is frequented by the tourist coaches. You can also walk along the bridge, but we decided against it, far too much exercise !. It was time now to start crossing over to the east of Norway to Oslo. We had mainly hugged the coast roads coming down through the west coast of Norway but now we needed to cross over. The 40 route took us up to the highest of vistas and a dramatic new view of Norway to what we had seen to date. Our van did us proud as we climbed up and over mountains, the scenery took on a completely different view. Along the roads there were poles on each side which must in the winter be indicators of where the roads are to clear them of snow. We imagined that at this height though that the roads would be impassable. We passed the town of Geilo which had the most ski runs we have seen in Norway and through the Hallindskarvet National Park. It looks more like moorland, no trees at all as far as the eye could see. The weather wasn’t great and although it was still stunning it must look amazing on a clear bright day. We passed hard core cyclists which we are in awe of, carrying all their belongings and with calves of steel to ride these roads. There were still pockets of snow, which at this height we assume never melt. This was a truly memorable ride, one for the memory book.

Sunnmore – Norway

22nd June 2019 – 26th June 2019

Whilst we were in Ålesund we decided to climb the 418 steps to Fjellstua viewpoint which a German man the previous day had said we should see, giving an incredible view of Ålesund. We could do with a bit of exercise and so we set off. The weather wasn’t great but at least it wasn’t raining and when we reached the top, we were asked to pay £6 to go onto the viewing platform, we decided against it and just took some photos as we descended and luckily the clouds broke which did indeed give a fantastic view. As we returned to the van, after a little rain, we were greeted with a wonderful rainbow over the water. We set off after lunch and headed for Stordal Old Church. I don’t know what it is with churches, but I love them and graveyards aswell, am I weird ? Anyway, the church wasn’t too far out of our way and this church is a Rose Church from 1789. Much of the interior is from the old stave church that stood on the site in the Middle Ages. It has stunning Baroque and renaissance adornments. David of course stayed in the van and I went in and although very small it was painted with the most stunning designs and wood everywhere. It was so unusual and like nothing I had ever seen before. On the same site was a traditional Losetstova farmhouse from the 1790s. They must have been really small people as even I had to bend over to get in the door ! We are now in the Sunnmore with numerous fjords, islands and mountains. You will not find more beautiful fjords anywhere else in the world I think. Geirangerfjord is the most famous and listed on UNESCO World Heritage. David found an amazing spot, although down a very, very steep road which had no mention of Motorhomes in the parking app, just 4×4 vehicles. All I do is sit deep in my seat, hold on tight and pray. We arrived in one piece and so did the van. It was on the Norddalsforden and absolutely stunning. It is hard to put into words the beauty and to everyone it may not be beautiful, but to us it is. I look at the view and wish that loved ones and friends could see it aswell. It was a perfect fishing spot and we stayed for 2 nights, firstly for me getting over the drive down, before the drive up again and of course for the idyllic spot. The only noise you could hear was the waterfall and the odd boat that passed. David unfortunately not for the want of trying did not have any luck with catching a fish. Then I decided to have a try on the last evening and what did I do, I only caught a fish. Sounding like a fish wife echoing in the fjord ‘David, David’ I shouted ‘I have caught a fish’. David jumps out of the van and with me beaming, we decide to put him back as he’s too small. (I feel better putting them back). The next morning with David’s excellent driving we make it out and catch another ferry over to Stranda and then stop at Ljoen. Here you have the most spectacular view into Geirangerfjord. I know I keep going on but wow, the view, you can understand why all the ships cruise down this most famous of fjords. David and I have said we would love to come back in the winter, not in the Motorhome but to get a ship to sail through this most spectacular of scenery. We found a campsite for our next stop, we had a lot of washing to do and launderettes are basically non existent in Norway. You could make a killing with opening some here. The drive to the campsite was another nail biting one. There are a lot more coaches on the roads now the tourist Sean is starting and the roads are basically only one vehicle wide. Anyway, as we navigate around the mountain on a track rather than a road, having afew near misses with three coaches we come to the campsite. Right in the Nordfjord region on Lovatnet lake, turquoise in colour surrounded by ancient mountains and view of the Briksdal glacier. Could a view get any better, I don’t think so. We exhausted the washing machine, cleaned everything that moved and David of course fished. A lovely sight was a Norwegian Motorhome that parked close to us that arrived with us and a family settled in. As soon as they opened their door, a young boy jumps out, fishing rod in hand and starts fishing, followed by his sister who must of been only around 6 years old, with her pink fishing rod and reel and casts her line out into the turquoise lake. We have learnt that every Norwegian owns a fishing rod and loves to fish, just like David. We left after a couple of days and thankfully did not meet any coaches coming the other way, as we navigated out.

Trondheim & Ålesund – Norway

15th June 2019 – 21st June 2019

Now lets talk food. We knew Norway was expensive and to be honest, some things have not been much more to buy than in the U.K. But then there are Mangoes at £5 each and 4 chicken fillets at £12. For a small bottle of beer it is £5, that’s if you are lucky to find a store that sells it. They do grow the most delicious strawberries here, with all the light in the summer as it doesn’t get dark, it is perfect growing conditions and they are delicious and the same price as home. Every time we go shopping we buy a punnet. Today we did our biggest shop as we were passing a large town and a bag and a half of shopping, no alcohol came to £98. We had depleted the freezer which we had stocked and kept until we reached Norway, so David is tasked with catching fish. He is not allowed back from a fishing trip without dinner he has been told ! As we travel further South it is getting warmer, we have lost the snow capped mountains, but the scenery of the lush greenery is still lovely. Spring and Summer is crammed into afew short months and the Norwegians love their gardens. Spring flowers and shrubs are in full bloom now and everyone is out cutting their grass. It is all so green, I can’t get over it. It’s like the first few weeks of Spring in the U.K. when everything is that lime green colour. What we have noticed is that the Norwegians must have the most robot lawnmowers per household in the world. Most houses have these little boxes that drive automatically over the lawn cutting the grass, then putting itself back into it’s charging box. I have seen them in France before but so many houses have them here. I have not seen any in the U.K. but ever the pessimist, I said to David, if we were at home someone would steal it out of the garden. We are still looking for Moose and the warning signs are still on the roads but they are very elusive. We headed to the city of Trondheim. The third largest city in Norway and that meant shops. Now I do love shopping but in van life that is very limited due to available space in the van and in Norway, well shops are very, very few and far between. So for me, any shop is a shop to walk into, regardless of what it sells. Trondheim is Norway’s largest student city with over 40,000 students. We parked the van and with only a 15 minute walk into the city we left Chloe sleeping. It turned into a beautiful day after rain in the morning and we did a whistle stop tour of the city, which we are quite good at now. Nidaros Cathedral which is the world’s northernmost gothic cathedral and an important pilgrimage site. Now if we were pilgrims, we would have got into the Cathedral free and also spoken to the priest, should we have wished to have an audience with him. The cathedral is build over the tomb of St. Olav, the Viking King who brought Christianity to Norway. It is very impressive from the outside and reminds me of the Cathedral in Reims France. Apparently you are not allowed to take photographs inside, we did not go in as David gets all churched out and I need to save him for the stave churches (more on that later !). We passed Stiftsgarden which is the royal residence in Trondheim and Scandinavia’s largest wooden palace, built in 1774. We also walked to the small fish market, which was just a large shop really but had the freshest fish I have ever seen and the largest fresh water prawns that David hasn’t seen for over 25 years he said. Although we didn’t buy anything, fish and any seafood is reasonably priced in Norway, compared to the U.K. I, of course went in to as many shops as I could but when you look at the prices, £50 for a woollen hat and £200 for a pair of trousers and David picked up a pair of shorts, price tag £150, we decided not to look anymore. We did buy some ice cream and sat in the sunshine watching the world go by around the marina, a lovely way to spend the remainder of the afternoon. The next day we departed and had been debating which route to take and if to visit Bergen, which if we did it would incorporate another 6 ferry crossings. As this is ‘Once in a Lifetime’ adventure we decided we couldn’t miss it and have therefore taken the coastal route that will take us to Bergen. We stopped for the night on a harbour, as we had read that it was a good place to catch Mackerel. Alas David was out of luck, but Chloe had her first swim in the Norwegian Sea, she is braver than me and absolutely loved it. She just loves the water now and I wish that we had taken her when she was younger to have enjoyed it. But, she hasn’t done too bad with swimming in the Greek sea last year and now the Norwegian Sea. We travelled through Averoya, Eide, Fraena and Bud, travelling the Atlantic Highway, which according to ‘The Guardian’ newspaper is the world’s most beautiful road trip. Winding it’s way over rocks and reefs right out in the ocean and travelling over the seven bridges. Everytime you turn a bend there is another stunning view, Norway certainly takes your breathe away, or if you’re me it brings tears to your eyes. We stayed the night in a beautiful spot with some pretty cows for company and our ever Norwegian companion ‘Olive’ (as I have named all of them) the Oyster Cather Bird, which is a frequent sight all along the Norwegian coast. They are beautiful birds but they do make a noise, I think it is the female making all the noise and she is loud. Our next destination was Ålesund town with it’s Art Noveau architecture, multitude of towers, spires and ornamentation. In 1904 a dramatic fire raged through Ålesund and 850 buildings were reduced to ashes, as a result. The town was rebuilt with the assistance of the Germans who brought ships laden with supplies. The town now reflects the different aspects of the building styles and expressions of art nouveau. We stayed in the town and meandered around the fascinating streets, saw the biggest yacht I’ve seen, all the way from Georgetown. We sat admiring it and the crew were busy on the deck, then suddenly a man appears who must own it, as we had already looked up if we could charter it and you cannot. Anyway, he was mid seventies I think and there was about three crew on the quay with walkie talkies obviously saying he is on his way. He was assisted onto the yacht and there waiting was a lady with a tray of hot towels passed to him with silver tongs. OMG how the elite live ! We treated ourselves to coffee and cake in ‘Wayne Coffee Shop’ and then back to the van for a spot of fishing for David. Chloe and I went for a walk and when we returned David had caught a Mackerel, we left him hoping to catch more. At 10.30pm the lone fisherman returned, but alas with only the single Mackerel. Nevermind, a fish is a fish !