‘Where art thou Rosie?’ I hear you ask.

This retirement lark is so busy. I thought that once retirement came I’d have ‘time’. Time for what I hear you ask.

Well, I wanted time for sewing and crafts and I certainly do that, but maybe not as much as I’d like.

I wanted time with my grandchildren and children. I get that but perhaps not as often as I’d like. The one on the right is an honorary grandchild-in-law (that’s probably not a word!)

I wanted to give something back to the community and I do that by volunteering at the community library and the church, but maybe that takes up a bit more time than I’d like.

It’s been a difficult couple of years with family illness and funerals (13 in all). So I’ve made myself some promises and hoping for more Rosie time in the future.

All I want to do is sit by Rosie, our campervan, reading a good book and watch the sun setting over the ocean. That would be heaven.

So to get me started we travelled to Yorkshire parking up on the North Yorkshire Moors at Egton. The site was the Lady Cross Plantation Camping and Caravanning site. It was a quiet, pretty site set amongst a tree plantation and was ideally placed above Grosmont where we were to meet our friend Barbara. Hi Rosie 🤗

Barbara is someone we met in Florida and is a friend of my best friend Pauline who lives out there. Anyways Barbara was over visiting family and friends and then she was doing the coast to coast walk from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. A total of 192 miles.

What you need to know about Barbara is that she just goes for stuff, real adventure stuff, nothing by halves; sometimes with a friend, but sometimes on her own. She’s a bit of a dare devil in my book and I admire that she can just go off and do this stuff even if she’s just a little mad crazy (and sometimes gets lost) – and I mean that in a sincere heartfelt way. And best of all she makes me smile.

Anyways we met her and her friend Anne when they reached Grosmont with one last stretch to go.

We shared dinner with them at the Geall Gallery where a new cafe has opened and where they were staying. The plan was we’d be their Sherpa van to Robin Hood’s Bay and we would be there to clap them in. As you can see from the map the last few miles were on The Cleveland Way so we walked along there to meet them.

The views were stunning over the bay, and the wild flowers were abundant as was the sunshine.

We were having a glorious walk.

The other thing that was important to Barbara and Anne was that it was the 4 July, so we had a little plan.

They were so excited, firstly to see the sea, then to see us and lastly to hear the Star Spangled Banner playing.

And some of the friends they made along the way also arrived so we took this picture. Happy, proud of themselves and exhausted. And actually we weren’t yet at the end! We all walked on and showed them their B&B where we had left Rosie.

We waited in the van whilst they showered and then we spotted one of Billypops’ heroes, Martin Carthy, helping someone park a car. I said to him go and say hello, but he wouldn’t. So I did. A very nice man, happy to chat and Billypops finally got out of Rosie and said hello in a starstruck (or was that dumbstruck?) sort of way.

After a while we walked with the girls for a well-earned pint at the pub in the bay which has the official sign marking the end of the coast to coast, where you can dip your toe in the water if you wish.

Very pleased girls that we contributed and celebrated your achievement.

And also gave us a taste of what we had missed all these months – Rosie.

Rosie’s Rural Retreat

An opportunity arose to pack and go for a night with two of the grandchildren so we headed off to South Leicestershire and found a small but perfectly formed campsite near Medbourne.

Rural Relaxing is a hidden gem, off the road that runs through to the village and neighbours a field of sheep. When you arrive you have to master a number of gates – there is some over-zealous notices reminding you. Must have had a lot of bother previously.

Anyway it has small, eco-friendly facilities – ladies is the left bunny and gents to the right bunny. There is a welcome cabin where there are lots of things for you to borrow plus barbecue, fire pits and sun chairs and tables. Washing up facilities could be better – just the cold tap – but we were the only campers so we nipped in the loo for hot water.

Yes we had the whole campsite to ourselves – well not quite – some young people stayed in the cabin but we hardly knew they were there. The campsite also has glamping facilities with two safari tents and six bell tents. It was very peaceful.

Camping with kids is fun if you get them involved. We had ‘tent peg boy’

And interiors were arranged by ‘interiors girl’ who was happy putting food away, laying carpet and setting table for dinner.

After a fantastic burger made by the kids and cooked by Dubber we toasted marshmallows and ate them as s’mores getting very sticky in the process. There was an amazing sunset then it got dark and chilly quickly.

Inside our heated awning I introduced the kids, now in their onesies, to the card game of Old Maid which they found funny. After a game of Uno (I won, I won) the kids settled themselves to bed, one in the hammock and one in the pop-up. Dubber and I settled down for what became a really frustrating game of Skipbo.

Morning came after interrupted sleep – there were three in the bed and the little one said I want more bed than anyone else!! Cereal and bacon butties satisfied the appetite that comes from being outside then we packed up ready for our son and daughter-in-law to reclaim them.

We all travelled about 20 minutes away to Foxton Locks Inn for Sunday roast which was excellent from the carvery.

Then we wandered by the canal helping open and close the gates on the Locks as boats went through.

Foxton Locks is a great place to take kids. There’s the watching and helping of boats through the 10 Locks plus a really interesting museum, (here’s tent peg boy as a canal boatman)

plenty of footpaths, ducks to feed and the canal shop to explore.

We had a really good trip and the fresh air is always good for wearing kids out.

If you take kids out in the van:

-have plenty of jobs they can do or help with

– take plenty of snacks

– take plenty of games – some of the old ones like snakes and ladders and Old Maid are the best fun

– prepare for bed sharing particularly if the night is cold

– if they are your grandkids get lots of hugs and kisses in – love ’em 💕

Rosie’s Scanditour Postscript: Memories

Our trip to Scandinavia despite its ending was a wonderful experience with lots of beautiful places visited and people met. Here’s a few pictures to share with you.

Wild flowers

(More) Trees

Lakes

Doors

Buildings

Food

Drink

Statues

Friends

Wood

Museum

Textiles

Forests

Rucksack

And we made the local press …. look for the Leicester shirts!

And finally our Hosts, Ros and Sir O. Thank you for looking after us and giving us such great memories.

Rosie’s Scanditour Part 6: The Arctic Incident

July 13: FRIDAY!!!!

Not having the sun disappear day or night is amazing on one level but brings with it a few problems; not sleeping interestingly is not one of them. The first is you forget what time it is and end up staying up until 2 and 3 in the morning with Dubber and Sir O Morris dancing ( yes a few drinks had been had) or playing Skipbo.

The second is you take so many photos of trees because the light is so beautiful. It’s like having a continual sunset for hours.

Anyway Dubber wasn’t feeling too good this morning, all that late night Morris dancing or so we thought. Took some ibuprofen and seemed ok. We took a trip to Kemijaarvi to buy provisions and then came back to chill, because in such a beautiful setting and when it’s so hot (32 degrees, in the Arctic Circle remember) that’s all you feel like doing. Well no you take a sauna don’t you.

Now the Finns love their sauna and so Sir O was frantic for us to participate. I wasn’t too sure in this heat but the men went off for theirs.

The Finnish sauna is an important part of their culture being healthy and sociable. Usually involving little or no clothing it is a great way to relax – even in 32 degree heat. The boys were very brave and went in the lake a couple of times between saunas.

Followed by a beer…

Meanwhile us girls chill inside where there are no mosquitoes with our own beer.

Dinner followed, Sir O style, but during dinner Dubber wasn’t feeling well. Feeling unwell became struggling for breath and whilst trying to keep him calm, Sir O had already phoned for an ambulance. Twenty minutes later, bearing in mind we are in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic Circle in 32 degree heat, the paramedics arrived and very calmly dealt with Dubber. He had had an irritable cough for a few days, could he have cracked ribs.

Dubber ended up having a night in the local cottage hospital 25kms away with the very nice paramedic being on call through the night. It felt very strange leaving him there, particularly as very few staff had any English and were definitely of Russian descent, Russia being 30kms away.

July 14-16: new monia as opposed to old

The following morning we get to the hospital to be told he has pneumonia. Antibiotics administered we take him back to the cottage for rest and recuperation before we travel back to Oulu. It was worrying times.

I have to say Aviva, our travel insurers were very helpful from the word go. There was always someone on the end of the phone giving advice. The initial advice from doctors back in Oulu was that Dubber couldn’t travel and needed to rest and see how the antibiotics worked.

In the end we had an extra week with Ros and Oskari (see next post); Dubber made three visits to a clinic in town to get more antibiotics and blood tests or certificates for the insurers. Several phone calls and emails each day with the insurers and eventually we flew back on the day we planned to arrive home. Our car insurers brought Rosie back home, but only after Sir O moved her around on the drive. Oh he looks so pleased with himself. He finally got to drive Rosie.

Unfortunately we missed out on the return trip in Rosie. She did us proud doing 1500 miles and we would have enjoyed the car train to Helsinki and the Baltic Cruise but they will have to be done another day. We were duly recompensed by Aviva, who I would highly recommend and Rosie came back with Rick to be met by our visitors to England – you’ve guessed it, Ros and Sir Oskari (we were sunning it in Dorset).

And Dubber – he’s getting over the pneumonia and we’ve enjoyed a weekend away in Rosie since getting back. And we are already thinking of next year’s epic trip.

Rosie’s Scanditour Part 5: I spy with my little eye, something beginning with T!

July 10: Making ourselves at home

Holiday photos always have to start with the Haynes feet. So job done. Rosie gets a rest and so do we. Sir O and Ros have really done a lovely job in making their home together. And it’s not long before Sir O has his work gear on. Sorry forgot to get a photo.

We do a bit of food shopping whilst Dubber has a rest. Have to say thought it was a bit of man flu but it’s not shifting, not helped by the heat at 28 degrees. I love going around supermarkets whilst on holiday and seeing all the different things. Have to say there’s rather a lot of American brands but I did find some Moomintrolls.

Back at home we are served, as we are going to be for the next couple of weeks, by Sir O’s fantastic cooking, ably assisted by sous chef Ros.

Oh and we are so far north now that the sun really doesn’t go to bed.

July 11: It’s coming home, It’s coming home, football’s coming home….

Today is an important day because England are playing Croatia in the World Cup Semi-final. We have a day to chill and the live-in chefs prepare a barbecue. We are to be joined by Ros’ friends Tim (from Leicester) and Timo who we met last time we were in Finland, which we reckon was about 10-11 years ago.

Anyway we are fed and watered and ready for the match. Tim’s even got his Leicester shirt on. Unfortunately we were not pleased with the outcome but we are very proud of what the boys achieved and enjoyed another evening with friends.

July 12: off to the woods we go

Next day we say goodbye to Rosie, pictured here with ‘Rucksack’ and head off north in Bertie Beamer, later to be known as Dirty Beamer because he collected so much dust after this trip that he changed colour!

Now this bit of the trip comes with a health warning if you dislike trees. There’s going to be a lot of them. I’ve checked my photos and there’s about 500, photos that is not trees – there’s about several million at the last count. Oh you want to see them all? Ok then, here’s a few for starters.

We have about a four hour drive up to ‘the cottage’. Now all Finns have cottages, places away from where they live, in the woods, usually by a lake and they go whatever the weather, to be with nature and as I’ve been reading Sisu. More of that later.

We are headed north on what becomes a very straight road, with, yes you’ve guessed it more trees. But the further north we go and the more remote it becomes we have to be on reindeer watch. The problem is you see things ahead that are not trees, shout reindeer and then it turns out to be something else, so we had bridge reindeer, skid mark reindeer, stone reindeer and cyclist reindeer. But eventually Dubber gets the photo we wanted.

They literally walk where they please and at a pace they please and if it’s hot like today they come out of the woods to get away from mosquitoes and sunbathe.

On the way we stop at an outlet for a well known Finnish brand called Pentik. Well I was in heaven wasn’t I. Might have bought a couple of things 🙄. Boys didn’t seem interested.

Anyway whilst there for a spot of lunch we also visited their little museum about life in traditional Finnish houses. Lovely photo opportunities.

Anyway time to move on and into the Arctic Circle

and a little further on we reach the cottage. Wow!

Just look at the view. What a beautiful place. I will leave you with some pictures. Words can’t explain as well.

Well someone has to 😃

Rosie’s Scanditour Part 4: Hei Finland

July 7th: Naantali

….so we arrive off the ferry in Naantali, Finland and take the five minute drive to the campsite where we are met by two smiling faces, one of which is jumping around with excitement as if England has won the World Cup. (It might yet happen!)

Ros and Sir O are here to join us on our trip up to their home in Oulu. We are breaking the trip up with a couple of campsites. The first is here in Naantali.

Sir O and Dubber do the necessaries to book us in and then some very precise rules start kicking in.

Vehicles and tents should be 4m from the next vehicle and tent. Having found our pitch, parked and set up the awning, we find the pitch isn’t big enough on one side to be 4m away from the vehicle parked next to us. Even if we turn the vehicle any other way, it still won’t fit and the rule applies across the campsite (and the rest of them in Finland -fire regulations apparently). The problem was made more difficult because Rosie is right hand drive so the sliding door is on the left, the opposite of everyone else.

We need the awning as that’s where Sir O and Ros are going to sleep and we booked Rosie in with the awning before we arrived, measurements and all.

THEN the campsite police arrived. Yes literally. We couldn’t set up unless we were 4m apart, even though a very nice German family in a T25 next to us were happy for us to be up close. International relations went on for 20 minutes and then a solution was found. We could put the awning up on another pitch, the other side of the campsite at no extra charge. Defeated the object of camping together but we went along with it.

Anyway there was a football match to watch.

With light refreshments we watched World Cup football on Sir O’s small tablet screen and then settled for the night in our separate quarters

July 8th: onwards north

Next morning we enjoyed a quick breakfast and then walked to the old town. We didn’t realise we were on the doorstep of a beautiful town by the sea.

Naantali (pronounced like naan bread plus the latter half of italy) is a lovely place. The old town has beautiful buildings with lovely carvings.

We enjoy a coffee before getting in the van to drive north. Dubber’s looking relaxed.

We drive a bit further north to a place called Rauma, a world heritage site. The buildings here have historical significance and have very beautiful carvings. Whilst there we go for lunch in a lovely building which is obviously very old.

and there was an interesting sign inside for the loos …. so true.

Fed and watered we drive north on tree-lined roads to our next stop, Vaasa. Yes a similar name to the ship we saw in Stockholm,

We camp on an island off the mainland city of Vaasa. The 4m rule still applies but there is loads of space to set up camp.

The setting is beautiful. Surrounded by water and trees, and as the sun dips (not sets) it is even more beautiful.

July 9: boat trip to a pub

Because the driving is lengthy and it’s quite hot we decide to stay here for two days. Next morning we go into Vaasa by taxi to catch a boat for a trip around the islands to the ‘pub’ as Sir O puts it. It’s lovely out on deck with the breeze and spray.

The boat journeys through the waterways where the water apparently is a greater balance of fresh water than sea, so wildlife flourishes. We eventually stop at an island, Kuusisaari, that literally just has a cafe/pub on it. Salmon and potato soup (staple lunchtime meal) with rye bread and a beer. Very satisfying and lovely view.

We return to the mainland Vaasa and wander the town for a while and have a drink to cool us down. There is some interesting architecture in this town which feels quite modern. Also gives me chance to enter a Marimekko store. Lots of lovely things to be tempted by.

Back at camp Sir O has taken responsibility for dinner and uses the wood burning grill on the campsite to make the first of many splendid meals. He’s an excellent chef.

After dinner Sir O had spotted something of interest…

…so we took the opportunity to play Skipbo and sample the local beer. The music was very good too. Rucksack fancied a game of crazy golf.

July 10: We made it!

Next morning we have a leisurely pack up after breakfast and it’s another glorious day. We continue north and we play I-spy something beginning with T. Not difficult to answer because Finland has miles and miles of forest. While we drive we have to be on reindeer watch and there could be the odd elk.

Ominously Dubber is developing a cold so the last stage of the journey is very sneezy. After a couple or three hours we arrive in Oulu to Ros and Sir O’s house on Raatteentie. And rest!

We made it.

Rosie’s Scanditour Part 3: The Bridge

Day 5: July 5th Linkoping, 🇸🇪We have another very long drive the three of us. 253 miles today at fairly slow speeds. Scandinavian roads are generally good for Rosie because there is an acceptance of slower speeds. Ok the trip takes longer but we can take it easy and Rosie is doing so well.

The day begins with ‘The Bridge’. The Øresund Bridge was made famous by the Swedish drama ‘The Bridge’ which Dubber and I have really enjoyed. We watched the last ever episode a couple of days before we left. The programme’s titles show this bridge which links the cities of Copenhagen and Malmo. The theme music played is called ‘Hollow Talk‘ and I tried to attach it to the video but neither will load so a picture will have to suffice.

Once on the Swedish side we bypass Malmo and start the long journey up to Linköping. We are taking it steady and to be honest there isn’t much traffic. Ooh there’s a Swedish Ikea!

We soon are amongst very few cars. Green flat farmland soon becomes rolling hills. The style of farmhouses and barns is very reminiscent of those we’ve seen in the countryside of New York State and apart from the Swedish road signs you wouldn’t know otherwise.

Rosie is doing so well. I’m amazed at our little van. Even more amazed at Dubber for driving, but we are due a break so we stop at a service station, this time with a Swedish shop and an Elk Park. Obviously a tourist destination as a bus load arrived when we got there.

We had a wander round the store, bought some postcards, filled up with fuel and continued steadily north. We found the campsite, Nordic Camping & Resort near Linköping, really easily. The site was sparsely filled although there were quite a few motor homes and quite a green site. Facilities were basic so to eat out we either had to drive into Linköping, 6kms away or walk into the locality.

We did the latter using Google maps and found ourselves in an estate which had two fairly dodgy restaurants. We chose the pizza with a Swedish beer but to be honest the Thai might have been a better option. After a quick wander to the supermarket we returned to Rosie for some games of Skipbo and I won!! As a postscript here we had several emails from Nordic Camping that we hadn’t pre-paid but we had so there were several emails back and forward with evidence we had. Probably the worst part of the trip to date but we did see some lovely Swedish houses.

Day 6: July 6th Stockholm

On the way to the next campsite we take a minor detour to Stockholm. I had had recommendations from an acquaintance who had worked there often, how best to spend a couple of hours and we headed for a museum.

We had researched a park and ride on the north of the city so that we were on the right side for going further north still. At first we couldn’t see how it worked and then saw a public transport bus stop. When the bus arrived the driver informed us we needed to have bought a ticket before boarding and most shops sold them. Now this was quite strange because there wasn’t a shop, this was a park and ride and it didn’t explain how it worked on the website. However we had the loveliest of drivers who said in perfect English not to worry. He would take us for free and we could buy a single ticket back from the Visitor Information near the museum. As we arrived he told us exactly where to go and wished us a good trip.

We loved what little we saw of Stockholm. We went to the Visitor Information first bought our ticket back to park and ride and a couple of postcards. We decided to have lunch and sat by the river with a sandwich and a cooling drink before going to the Vasa Museum.

This 17th Century ship was requested by the then monarch Gustav Adolf to build the biggest and best. It was lavishly carved and in August 1628 it had its maiden voyage. Sadly a thousand metres into the voyage the ship capsized and sank. 333 years later in 1956 the ship was found and salvaged and luckily mostly intact. It is breathtaking when you walk in and there’s plenty of side exhibitions to see. Well worth the visit.

We left for an ice cream and the bus and headed for Kapellskar, an hour away. Kapellskar Camping. This was a lovely site and only a few minutes away from the next ferry. However there was poor WiFi reception so we missed out on football and Dubber won at Skipbo.

We are so far north now it really is light so much later.

Day 7: July 7th ‘We’re nearly there!’

We are up and off early because we have a ferry to catch. First some pictures of wildflowers including these wild orchids.

We make good time and after a little bit of confused queuing we were pretty much boarded on time.

As we went through ticketing it just happened to be mentioned brunch and dinner were included. Wow! We hadn’t realised that so we found ourselves a table and had a lovely brunch. You could tell who the Russian truck drivers were. I’ve never seen such big plates of food. We headed off to find our cabin. Time for ‘rucksack’ to make an appearance.

We showered and wandered around the ship until we could sit and watch F1 qualifying…. however the important football match was due whilst on board the ship.

Yes England were playing Sweden in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Yes we were on a Swedish ship with some Swedish passengers but in actual fact most were Russian truck drivers or Finns returning home. There were a few Romanies too, the women dressed in interesting lampshade skirts.

Suddenly all the TVs went off and we thought we weren’t going to be able to watch it and then it came on. We sat with a Swede for the match and almost gave a little hip hip hooray at the end. It didn’t seem appropriate to chant ‘It’s coming home’.

Eight hours beyond Kapellskar we arrived in Naantali Finland ……..

Rosie’s Scanditour Part 2: Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Day 4 July 4th Copenhagen

Dubber gets a day off from all that driving and we get a bus into the city of Copenhagen. At the bus stop we worked out we needed to buy a bus ticket online which we did but it can take 20 minutes to arrive to your phone and the bus was due. Another half hour wait if we missed it but the online ticket came by text just as the bus arrived. And the driver just accepted me flashing the phone at him. Could have been anything! On the phone!

We arrived in the Central Square and wandered to Nyhavn, the famous area with canals and beautiful coloured buildings. It is beautiful.

The day was another scorcher so we went for a coffee so we could sit under the umbrella. The canal side here is full of restaurants with tables and chairs under big umbrellas and awnings like you get in most continental cities. But the backdrop of the colourful buildings make it so welcoming.

After the coffee we decided to take a boat ride and chose the hour long route because the boats are open and it was very hot. It’s great seeing a city from the water.

First we journeyed up the canal and then we were in open water. The mixture of old and new buildings is amazing. New Danish design is simple and appropriate for its setting. And then there’s the Little Mermaid celebrating the Hans Christian Anderson story of the same name, modelling a seated pose for the crowds.

As you can see she faces the land so we didn’t see much of her, and she’s not very big.

Copenhagen is a busy city down by the water, particularly on the side where the restaurants are. After the boat ride we needed lunch and chose the Scandinavian Open sandwich otherwise known as smorgasbord (various spellings dependent on which Scandinavian country you’re in). It was delicious with the traditional drink of beer (his and hers again – Dubber goes blonde, I love dunkel.

After lunch we walked around the centre and visited the Harrods equivalent, Magasin in a beautiful building, with lots of lovely Danish style design. Time was moving on and it was still very hot so we had an ice cream. Being in Scandinavia what else should I have but homemade liquorice ice cream. Why have I not had this before. Amazing! Dubber had vanilla!

We had a lovely evening, cooked food by the van and got out the Skipbo. It’s definitely light later here ….. and Dubber won.

Rosie’s Scanditour Part 1 – The whim becomes reality

And so the adventure begins.

Meeting Rosie our campervan was a tenuous one on my part as I didn’t do Camping. But this little 30 year old VW is an absolute hero with what she achieves on this trip and has completely entered my heart. Let me tell you why.

It started as a whim as many things do. Our friends Ros and Oskari live in Oulu, Finland and they have been visiting us once or twice a year for a number of years. We have loved sharing time with them and seeing England through Oskari’s eyes as he’s a real Anglophile; now known as Sir Oskari particularly when he wears his dapper outfits!

Last year when they were over we were chatting about travels and that it was about time we visited them, when in a wine-induced moment I suggested we could travel to Finland in the van. ‘Could’ became ‘maybe’ which became ‘shall we?’ which became ‘we are coming, Ros’. After hysterical responses from Ros we started planning.

The first thing was to look at dates in our busy schedule (retirement is way too busy) agree them with Ros and Sir Oskari, then plan routes, ferries and the all important distance, which we think is about 2500 miles of driving – eek! But Dubber is happy to go.

Before we go everything is booked and paid for; ferries (Scandinavia has a lot of water and islands), campsites (they do it so well on the continent) and money – I hadn’t realised Sweden and Denmark weren’t in the Eurozone.

A final check over and a bit of fettling and fantastic work by Rosie’s favourite mechanic Richard and a new spare tyre from Richard’s dad and we’re ready to go.

Day 1 July 1st (183 miles)

We travel from home to Harwich to get the Scandilines ferry. It’s a bit of a trek from our house because it’s on the eastern sticky out bit of England ie Suffolk/Essex. We make good time and got straight aboard the ferry in time for an overnight journey to the Hook of Holland.

There was time for a drink, to watch the Grand Prix highlights and a beautiful sunset before retiring to our cabin for bed.

Always book a cabin if the journey is more than three or four hours and we booked through Direct Ferries for the whole trip. And more on the rucksack later.

Day 2 July 2nd (262 miles)

The wake up call begins with gentle music and ends with a very loud voice telling you breakfast is ready. OK we are awake, have a quick shower and breakfast ready for disembarking.

Immediately we have ‘Sat Nag’ on and Bill expertly drives on the right (even though it’s wrong) side of the road. The roads from Amsterdam north to Bremen are busy and it’s quite a trek. There are lots of lorries and caravans that have to be negotiated on mostly dual carriageways, where the right lane averages at 50mph and the outside lane 90+. Rosie can manage 60-65mph easily but being pestered by a BMW up your back anytime you try and overtake something is intimidating.

Of course because Rosie is an old lady and only has old fashioned air conditioning (windows) it’s hot work in the van and we found that it was too noisy having both windows open with Dubber’s Tinnitus. Good job we bought the little fan. It kept Dubber cooler.

Poor Dubber is very tired when we finally arrive at Hanse Camping near Bremen.

The campsite is lovely. The facilities are the best I’ve ever seen on a campsite ie large, clean and plenty of them for showers and toilets and kitchens. Dubber did well in his choice as he did with all the sites. In the Community building was an interesting statue which is the symbol for Bremen known after ‘The Four Musicians’, a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.

We decided once we had set up to go investigate the nearby lake and possibly the bar. Sunhats on our heads because it really was a beautiful day we wandered along the track to the lake, took a right turn towards the water and realised we were on a nudist beach and did a quick about turn back to the main track. What is it about Northern Europeans always wanting to be naked? Anyway more on that later.

We found the lake and beautiful it was. Time for beer back at the little restaurant which did lovely food so we went back later for dinner and to watch the footie. Have I mentioned we are on holiday during the World Cup. So there is some scheduling to be had through the holiday.

After sitting outside for pre-dinner drinks and dinner itself, we went inside to watch the football with Johann and Brigitte who were Dutch. I congratulated them on Verstappen’s F1 win which had happened earlier in the day. Football and travel became the conversation, drinks were bought and Belgium won which made the couple sat behind us very happy.

Time for Skipbo and a drink before bed – well that was the plan until Dubber knocked his red wine all over me and the cards and my white wine had to be used to compensate for the stains on me, the cards and Rosie. Goodnight Dubber 🙄

Day 3 July 3rd (164 miles)

We enjoyed sitting in the sunshine for breakfast and it is already warm.

As you can see ‘Rucksack’ has made an appearance. My dear friend Pauline bought it for Dubber for his birthday and I’m taking a picture of it everywhere we go and sending it to her.

We pack up and make the drive north to Puttgarden. Along the way we are in the usual routine of driving for a couple of hours then stopping at a rest area come service station which I have to say all through Europe are excellent. The ones in the Netherlands tend to have fresh bakeries and the German ones a very broad choice of food.

We arrive at the Puttgarden Ferry Terminal and see signs for the Scandishop. I had visions of lovely Scandinavian gifts and interesting food – no it’s a floating booze shop. So that’s why Sir Oskari called it a booze cruise. Danes and Swedes were filling their cars and trailers full of crates and I do mean crates of booze. The shop had four floors dedicated to beer, wine and spirits. Through the wine there were tasting bottles or boxes so you can try before you buy. If you’re not careful you’d be drunk before you got on the ferry which was only a 45 minute sail to Rødbyhavn. We bought a his and hers box of wine and left it at that.

On arrival in our third country, Denmark, at Rødbyhavn we then drove the short journey through beautiful farmland to our campsite Charlottenlund Fort just outside Copenhagen where we planned to stay for a couple of nights so up went the awning.

This is a really unusual, small and very friendly site. Set in the grounds of a fort dating back to Napoleonic times, it is close to the beach, a very nice restaurant and a bus ride away from Copenhagen.

After a quick homemade supper we went across to the community kitchen with a TV, kicked the kids off the TV to watch England v. Columbia, except the station showing the match was blocked. Dubber and fellow Brits all tried to get it to work to no avail so we resorted to my phone on WiFi thanks to SkyGo. Hilarious really all of us sat around my little phone propped up against a plant pot, but it suffices to appease the panic that had set in earlier when the TV wouldn’t work. England won of course and we all went to bed happy.

We are liking this place.

Lessons learnt so far or general advice.

1. Always book a cabin on a ferry if the journey is more than three or four hours.

2. Don’t worry if there’s a BMW up your back when you’re in a classic vehicle.

3. Make sure Dubber is playing Skipbo on a level table and the wine isn’t where he can knock it over.

4. Germans really do like being naked.

5. Rosie is amazing.

Mind the bridge!

As Rosie has the equivalent of a hip replacement (a bit of body work) and cosies up for the winter, we head off to Northamptonshire with our friends for a week on a 66 foot barge.  No problem I do camping; can’t be much different on a boat.

Our barge is the Rufus Castle and sleeps six.  We pick her up from Gayton Marina and begin our journey along the Grand Union Canal, heading for Nether Heyford, our first mooring.  For half the week there are five of us, with the Tiller Girl with us on the first day and then joining us mid-week.  The captain is a seasoned barger and known to us as Unc but on this trip as Chief Engineer which means he puts the engine on every morning, gleans his ‘gland’, clears the weed hatch and puts on the central heating so the rest of us don’t get cold and can use the hairdryer.  It’s civilised barging.


The First Mate also known as Gate Crasher, is a seasoned sailor (ooh-aargh) usually sailing the high seas off the south coast, looking for treasure …..or rather a pint of good beer at each watering hole.  We all help out in that endeavour this week and the girls make a good start!


Dubber has swapped his campervanning for his first steer on a barge as Cabin Boy.  As I found out too a barge takes longer to respond than shorter boats and there were a few connections with bridges and canal banks along the way.  


The route we take along the canal is beautiful.  The Autumn light is stunning on these unusually warm October days and the water as calm as a mill pond.  The reflections of the beautifully painted boats and the trees full of berries is glorious.

There’s plenty of wildlife too with moorhens, ducks, herons, a kingfisher or two and  Auntie, also a seasoned barger, is the Duck Spotter feeding this family of swans with its large brood of five signets.

When we moor at Nether Heyford we enjoy our first evening with beef casserole and the first of many crumbles. It’s a beautiful evening and we venture to the Olde Sun Inn with its friendly locals and excellent beer.  Then back to the barge for the first round in the Skipbo tournament. Yes we brought it along with us from the campervan. 

I’m responsible for writing the ship’s log so:

Day 1: 2 hours, six miles, no locks, Skipbo to Duck Spotter.

Day two finds us on our way at just after 9 with a bacon sarnie and a glorious sunny morning.  Quite early on we have seven locks and so us novices get instructions from Duck Spotter, who is very good at it.  It’s harder work than you think with your windlass in your  hand coiling up the paddles and then opening heavy lock gates.  


At Busby Top we went to the New Inn for a swift one before lunch on the boat before we travelled through a mile and a quarter of darkness in the Braunston Tunnel.  It’s really eerie travelling along with just a light shining in the front through pitch black, then seeing a light coming towards you as another boat squeezes by.  After another six locks we moor at Braunston to go for an evening stroll to the Wheatsheaf and then the Olde Plough for dinner.

Day 2: 7 hours, 11 miles, 13 locks, Skipbo to Duck Spotter again….

Another glorious day as we take the junction onto the Oxford Canal heading through 9 locks to Napton-on-the-hill and brunch served at two in the afternoon. Duck Spotter and I (General Dogsbody) gather blackberries for another crumble. The canal banks are abundant with hawthorn, sloes, rose hips, crab apples and blackberries.  The trees look like they are already celebrating Christmas with all their gaiety. 


We moor up at Fenny Compton enjoying a drink at the lovely Wharf Inn before home baked bread and casserole warming us from the chilly wind. Two good games of Skipbo; they are getting the gist of it now and then it’s off to bed…hold on who nearly fell in?  Now known as the First Mate’s arm incident.

Day 3: 8.5 hours, 14 miles, 9 locks, Skipbo – one to the First Mate and one to me.

Today our final destination is Cropredy so that the Tiller Girl can join us.  Early driving was through a beautiful narrow canal.


Until now locks had been double locks in which two boats can travel. Now they are single locks and generally but not always easier to deal with.  It’s international day today as we meet Australians and Germans. Besides meeting people the best thing about dealing with locks is having a lovely walk along the towpaths.  It’s so peaceful. 


And I managed a bit of driving too.

At Cropredy we shop for provisions and have a walk around this lovely village, Dubber’s choice because of its Fairport Convention connection.  We also turn round here before heading to The Brasenose pub for dinner and the Tiller Girl joins us.


Day 4: 5 hours, 7 miles, 9 locks, no Skipbo today.

We make a leisurely start after coffee in bed, breakfast and straight back into the locks.  They seem heavier today. We all have aching muscles. Some of the lock pools are really low so we have to be careful not to beach the boat. The day is spent meandering back up the beautiful canal to Fenny Compton where we fill up with water again and we have a drink too.  


We find a quiet spot to moor away from anyone else and have a splendid meal cooked by the captain with a crumble using the blackberries we picked. We were presented with an awesome sunset.


Day 5: 7.5 hours, 12 miles, 9 locks, and Chief Engineer wins two games of Skipbo.

We’re setting off early…..we didn’t!  It was a short journey before we had 9 locks and it got busier and busier as we approached Napton again.  This time we waited to get into The Folly Inn the landlord of which had the same surname as our First Mate.  This led to some witty chat about family likenesses and sharing of family details.  The food was amazing. We even managed a crew photo!


We are nearing the final stretch so we need to eat up the leftovers so it’s a tea of this and that after a couple of drinks back at The Olde Plough for early doors. Although somebody snuck in a bag of chips before we got back to the boat.

Day 6: 6.5 hours, 11 miles, 9 locks and Tiller Girl won a game of Skipbo.  So it’s just Dubber who hasn’t won yet. He’s bound to start moaning.
We have really got to get a move on today because we have to be about an hour away from Gayton marina tonight. So we are straight to it this morning and we did 13 locks and a tunnel with brunch in between.  It sounds as if we are rushing but you really can’t do this on a barge at 3mph. 

Alongside locks there are often interesting houses or old lock keeper cottages that are now either pubs or a canal shop. There are often lovely gardens and long stay canal boats of people who live and work on the canals. 


We moor at Bugbrooke and take a walk through yet another lovely village. A pint at the Five Bells before having a meal at The Wharf Inn. We make full use of the toilets there as ours are getting full on board and we don’t want to send out for an emergency pump out.  Cross your legs. No you can’t have another gin.  Oh alright then.  Just the one.  We play a final game of Skipbo and yay Dubber wins.

Day 7: 7 hours, 12 miles, 13 locks, one tunnel and joint winners at Skipbo Duck Spotter and the Chief Engineer.

The final morning we are away by 8am and travel back in sunshine to the marina.  By the time we arrive we have done 46 hours, 75 miles, 62 locks, and 8 games of Skipbo.  We have travelled through beautiful countryside, met lots of lovely people, eaten and drunk extremely well, walked miles, strengthened our core muscles with all that windlassing and pushing and pulling lock gates and been blessed with beautiful October sunshine with the best of friends.


And what did we learn?

Double locks are harder than single locks.

A pint of beer at lunchtime makes afternoon lock opening easier.

You meet lots of lovely people when you’re messing about in boats.

Dubber is still happier when he’s won a game of Skipbo.

Up the swanny without a paddle

Well you know how this all started, with a statement that I don’t do camping.  Obviously with over a year of camping in Rosie under my belt this statement is no longer really true.  However the idea of being under canvas camping still doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm.  Now I never said I wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t, just that it’s not my preferred accommodation when there are perfectly good alternatives with private bathrooms and a comfortable bed in hotels and motels abound.

So here I am with my best friend Pauline, and then her daughter Jessica invites us to go upstate to the woods to camp for Mother’s Day.  Several things to point out here.  Pauline lives in Florida; Mother’s Day is in May in the US and Jessica has just moved down here so it’s her first Mother’s Day with Pauline in a while; upstate may have less alligators but there are plenty of other critters to sneak into tents.  So what to do…..cheer and go of course.

Well guys, there is camping and there is camping. You have never seen so much gear put in the back of the car, so much so that we nearly had to leave the men at home.image After a couple of hours driving and a stop for breakfast at a Bob Evans, we arrived at our destination Ichetucknee Springs Campground.  This is a beautiful rustic campsite in the heart of Spring country with most of the amenities that you’d need.

So let’s unpick this a bit more.  It is a very beautiful place. With luscious canopies of trees when you look up.image The main lodge has great family facilities in a games room and there are places to sit out.  The toilet and washing facilities however are small and few for a campsite the size it is and I did have a tendency to check around for spiders which I expected to be like most American things large in comparison to anything at home. Think they must have been hiding!

So we pitched the tents in our pitch which had running water and hook up – yes I know we are camping but they are trying their best here to give me home comforts.

imageThe best comfort however was to come when Jessica and Trevor arrived with a queen size air bed which raises two feet off the ground, bought especially for me – the princess!  And it was very thoughtful of you Jess and very comfortable. Thank you.

Whilst waiting for the air bed to arrive we went off site to look for somewhere to eat and found The Gathering Place . Great food and great service.  As we were driving out we realised that we were by the Suwannee River, made a joke by singing ‘Way down on the Swanee River’ then realised that we actually were by the said same river. We were as excited as an alligator in a fish pond.  Wikipedia tells me this was written in 1851 by Stephen Foster and has actually the Florida State Song since 1935 although the original lyrics were censored in 2008.

image imageimageimageAlthough by the look of the sign on the last photo it could be a dangerous place!

After a great sleep on the queen size air bed we were treated by Jess on Mother’s Day to Mimosas and bacon and sausage sandwiches (actually cooked by Jim) and fruit pies.  imageGood job Jess, and Pauline arranged some crafts to keep us amused.

Now one thing you need to know about Dubber aka Billypops is that when he comes to the US he seems to want to become Chevy Chase aka Clark Griswald. I don’t know what the fascination is but well he just has to keep reminding us of the Griswald Vacation movies – very worrying when you think that we are camping and when the Griswalds camped they got in a bind with bears and raccoons and all sorts of beasties. (You promised no bears, Jess).

imageAnyway please see our creation over breakfast…we’re crazy, crazy!

Day 2 of this Griswald adventure sees us going off to Ichetucknee Springs.  imageThe springs are famous for being beautifully clear and absolutely pure and they work really hard to keep them that way so there are strict rules in the State Park on what you can do where.

You can kayak some stretches, swim in deep pools with underwater caves or as our gang did tube.image

Now you’re going to keep getting fed up with me with things I don’t do but I’m not a water babe, although I have tubed before.  What I did need though was exercise so whilst the gang went off tubing, I carried the shoes and went off on a trail on my own.  I imagine myself like Cheryl Strayed walking through the woods on my own, in 90 degree heat, hearing noises in bushes, being adventurous, seeing the wildlife, being brave and so it was, but always 10 feet away from the Tarmac road which takes the little tram from each site of the springs!

Anyways we all survived our adventure whether in land or water.  And the learning points this trip?

 image

1 I do love being outdoors when it’s warm

2 A queen size air bed is do-able when you’re camping

3 Citronella bracelets are effective at keeping the bugs at bay but only from waist height upwards. Note to self investigate citronella ankle bracelets next time.

4 Breakfast is really good cooked outside and served with Mimosas.

5 I can go ‘Wild’ on my own

6 Adventures are best with friends. Thanks Pauline, Jim, Jess and Trevor for a great weekend.