Overseas Trip - 2019                                                                                                                  Pictures of our trip can be seen HERE

Well here we go again on another overseas trip. This time we are heading from NZ to Edinburgh, Scotland then a road trip to Dover, England. From Dover we cross to France where we head off on a canal boat with a group of our Adelaide friends.

The first 36 hours were spent in either an airport or in the air on a plane. Airports are a great place  to people watch. There are the lone travellers who are on a  mission and know where they need to be. The group travellers who all have their opinions as to what gate to go to and how to get there. This group always seem to lose someone along the way usually in Duty Free or gone to the loo and not told anyone.  You have to feel sorry for the person who tries to hold them all together. Then you have the couples, always a leader and follower. One heads off with the other one in tow, this always seems to end in "you don't listen, or I told you so. Unfortunately we are that couple most of the time!

Day 1 Edinburgh, Scotland - We are staying in an apartment on the Royal Mile which leads to the Edinburgh Castle gates. Today we have been on a city tour with one of the "Hop on - hop off" Buses this did a great city loop with a live guide talking about Edinburgh and the places of interest we passed. Our first stop of the day was a tour in Mary Kings Close. This area is under the city as it was built over in 1750 with a building called a Covered Place of Exchange. This was built to get the merchants off the street but over a period of time they returned. They built arched roofs to support the weight of the above building. Our guide took us down under the building to a series of rooms to show us what life would have been like living in this environment. He also told us about the plague and how it spread and how it was treated. Quite scary compared to our modern day medicine. If the plague didn't get you most often the cure did.

We walked around the city and found a large Ferris wheel which Trev was delighted with and so up we went. He took a lot of pictures which gave us a good idea of the inner city and its mix of  new and old buildings. I made a new friend on my travels her name is Hazel and she was a rather large brown owl. Trev took pictures of her on my arm (she was a lot heavier then she looked) You can check out Hazel as she has her own Facebook & Instagram pages at 'Hazel the Owl'.  The highlight of the day  was attending 'The Edinburgh Tattoo' this was amazing with Brass Bands and Highland Pipers. The NZ Army band did a incredible job which was appreciated by the audience. The  NZ team of marching girls also did a wonderful display. There was a variety of other Defence Force bands from other countries which preformed, each one put on a great show.

Day 2 Edinburgh - We picked up our rental car today, what a performance. It took an hour before we left Hertz, finally driving a car that was not what we had requested but very nice to drive and travel in, a silver Toyota C-HR Hybrid. We drove through the countryside to Linlithgow which is were Trev's family is supposed to have come from. We checked out the Linlithgow Castle where Mary Queen of Scots was born. From there we headed to The Falkirk Wheel and then on to The Kelpies. These were on Trev's 'must see' list. The Falkirk Wheel was built to take canal boats from one level to another. They are enclosed in a metal bath (best description). Once the  boat is inside, the water is trapped with it and then the wheel moves in either a upward or downward arc depositing the boat to its next canal. The Kelpies are 2 sculptures of horses heads, their necks seem to come out of the water giving the impression that the rest of the body is below. These are 31.8 metres high. Both are made of a grey coated metal and look very life like.

 Day 3 Travel day - Today we travel to Liverpool. This is going to be our first venture onto the open road. We travelled the scenic route from Edinburgh to Liverpool. This took us through small villages and rural countryside. The roads were narrow and windy. Some of the views from the road were amazing. One thing I find hard to get my head around is the amount of houses that open onto the street. As we have driven past a few open doors you can see straight into the front room, TV going, kids playing, people eating at table's, just not how I would choose to live. I love house hunting with Phi & Kristy and the homes we are passing I now see fit the areas. Small villages have large farm houses on the outer with semi detached homes then rows of joined units in a line. Scattered with Tudor style homes which I must say are very impressive. Once through these we hit the highway. As I have worked around trucks for the last 6 years I have become more in tune to them. I take notice when they are around. I have never seen so many than on the highways here its just truck after truck.  These are not old ones either they all look pretty newish and well looked after. Most are soft sided and brightly coloured with company logos. One of the things  seen today was a car transporter fully loaded being towed by an even bigger unit! (Woo listen to me)

Day 4 Liverpool - Home of The Beatles. We are staying in Penny Lane Hotel, Penny Lane. This is a lovely area it has the Barber Shop and Bank etc just as the song goes. We are doing a Beatles tour and have found out this is Beatles Week, when Liverpool celebrates the Fab-4. Our tour guide was great and kept us entertained with his knowledge of the Beatles and other Liverpudlian entertainers. At one stop there was an odd sculpture of a sheep with the tail shaped like a banana called a 'Superlambnana' (check for it in photos) This, we were told, was given to the city by a Japanese sculptor. The story went that when asked why it was shaped that way he said it was to represent the cloning of Dolly the sheep and the first shipment of bananas to Liverpool. I'll leave you to decide true or false. I was amazed at the way the city is set up and how the new buildings seem to blend into the old with glass fronts. They reflect the older buildings so nicely. Our tour took us to the childhood homes of the Beatles and one stop was Strawberry Fields. When John was a teenager this was a Salvation-Army run girls Orphanage and he used to sit in the trees and talk to them. He lived with his aunty  just around the corner. This was left to deterate over  a number of years and is about to reopened as a place to help troubled teens. There is a coffee shop and different organisations to help with mental health, getting jobs and schooling. Knowing more about the lives of the Fab-4 we now leave for York. On our way across to York we travelled under the Mersey in a tunnel then spent time checking out the Atherton Boat lift which was built in 1875. An amazing structure built 125 years before the Falkirk Wheel.

 Day 5 York - Today we explored York. This is a walled town and there are sections that you can walk on. The view from the wall gives you a vantage point which allows you to see parts of the town. We walked around York Minster which is a 13 century Gothic Cathedral with 2 working bell towers. Trev got to check out The National Railway Museum. The museum houses a huge collection of railway items from the past two hundred years. They claim to have over one million pieces ranging from railway station stain glass windows, through official china potties to historic steam engines like the fastest ever Mallard and the brother of Toitu's 'Josephine', the Livingston Thompson. It is an amazing place for anyone with an interest in trains.

Day 6 Oxford - We looked around Oxford today. It is a place I have always wanted to see being a lover of TV shows Morse and Lewis which are set in this town. The biggest surprise was that there is no actual Oxford University as such. It is made up of a variety of different colleges. We did a trip on the Hop - On Hop - Off bus which gave us a history of the city as we travelled along. The buildings are centurys old and are all heritage listed. The streets are narrow and the shop fronts still look like the would have in the Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde days. We were taken around an area which the university masters, once they were able to marry, had built large homes for the families they hoped to have (Masters of the colleges were originally celibate) These now house offices for the different colleges or have become accommodation for students and visiting masters. We travelled across the River Thames and saw some people punting on it. Looked like fun, unfortunately we are on a time limit so missed out on this activity.

Day 7 Dover - Today we travelled to Dover. We are staying overnight here and catching a P&O Ferry to Calais, France. Dover is a very picturesque seaside town overlooked by a large Castle. We spent the afternoon exploring the castle. There has been a castle, or fortifications, on the site for 2,000 years. Henry II built the present castle 800 years ago. It was used to defend the coast from invaders. In World War II tunnels were built for a command centre and an underground hospital. They found it too hard to keep the hospital clean and dry so it became a dessing station instead. Wounded soldiers were assessed and then sent onto hospitals. Trev checked out the medieval tunnels which dated back to 1216. Meanwhile I stayed above ground and watched a very informative talk by an actor playing Richard the Lion Heart who ended up in a sword fight with his 'brother' Geoffrey. The inside of the castle has been brought back to life and takes you through life in the court of King Henry II and his troubled family.

Day 8 Travel Day - Today we crossed from Dover to Calais as foot traffic. There were 10 of us who meet at the P&O boarding area. We got talking to a man from Spain who's english was not bad. We also meet a man from South Africa. We ended up sitting together on the Ferry across to France. We had an interesting conversation so our trip didn't seem to take that long. As we disembarked from the boat a group of Asian from a coach tour were getting off with us and the steward was heard to say "it was like herding cats" I have never come across that expression but suited the situation. Finding transport into town was not the easiest as there was not a taxi or bus in sight. Finally we had a bus arrive and take us into city centre. Trev went for a wander around.

Day 9 Travel Day - Today we travelled from Calais to Decize where we picked up our Canal Boat. This involved 3 trains at different train stations. Calais to Paris all good. Had to change stations at Paris, we decided to get a taxi which was not the best idea as it was Sunday and the Paris City Councll has decided to funnel all the traffic in the city down the main routes. This stops you using the narrower streets, which makes walking easier for the citizens. Our taxi driver explained and apologised for it. We only had 45 minutes between trains which was a shame as we didn't arrive in time to catch it. So now to find someone who speaks English (one railway worker told us before we got to him "no english" and pointed to another man). We were sent to the ticket office and given a number to wait to be called. Half hour later we were called. Finally another ticket on a later train and off we go. Change of train went smoothly this time and away to Decize we go. But wait.. it is a small town and very dark at 9.00pm when we arrive. The stationmaster gives a big smile when we ask for a taxi, "only seasonal" he says, shrugs and walks away. So we have to now walk to our Hotel, check with Mrs Goggle and it is a 35 min walk (great). So off we head, in 20 degrees down the road, over three bridges and past a couple of churches, through the town square then up and down some street. Wo-ho lights ahead, down the drive and we are at the hotel. My arms must have grown a couple of inches dragging my suitcase. I was hoping wheels on it were up to the cross country walk. Room was so good to get to. Trev disappeared away to take pictures and have a well deserved beer. 

Day 10 - Decize and Canal- Today we pick up our boats. It is with great excitement we head to the 'le Boat' depot. As we are the first couple there, the nice people let us wait at the depot for the rest to arrive. They appeared at different times and in different group numbers. While we were talking to the le Boat lady we had a call from one of the groups asking how to get to the marina. We explained that as taxis were not easy to get it might be necessary to walk. The nice manager of le Boats came to rescue and offered to pick up the  groups from the rail station. Only one other group had to do the walk like us. Once we all arrived it was onto our boats and after a quick lesson off we go. Trev is our captain and even has a new cap that says so. Our boat is the biggest and there are six of us on it. As I have the tallest husband we get the kingsize bed and largest cabin (yes, sometimes it pays to travel with him). Not far into our trip we came our first lock. With much yelling, laughing and reasonable instruction from the captain and a very experienced lock keeper we popped out the other end. We tied up at a local supermarket to fill the pantry. We spent our first night there and even collected a few more items the next morning before were left.

Day 11 - We are all up and ready to experience our first full day on the water. This involved going through some locks and under stone bridges. Getting the hang of what is required at locks. Trev has the narrow bridges under control and gets us through without hitting the sides. We stopped for a long lunch close to one lock as the lockkeepers have a lunch break from 12.00 to 1.00pm. Our final stop of the day is Cercy-La-Tour. The main attraction is the statue of 'Our Lady' who stands on hillside overlooking the town and canal.

Canal De Nivernais - From here I will take you on our trip down the canal. I will just write as we go so from here on I am going to drop the day count until we leave the boats.

Its a lovely morning the sun is rising and we have a mist that floats just of the water. Breakfast dishes are scattered around the table. It is a mix of cereal bowls, coffee cups and plates. We had a fresh baguette given to us from the group that went to the bakery so our honey (yes, it made it to France) was opened and tested with lashings of french butter.  It passed with flying colours. We are setting off at 8.00am as the first lock opens at 9.00am.  All locks on the canal de Nivernais open at 9.00am and close at 7.00pm as the lockman goes home then, and we are not allowed to go through without him or her there. They also stop for lunch between 12.00pm & 1.00pm. The boat moves at a slow pace and you find it so easy to just sit and watch the world go by. Looking out the window from my seat we are passing  what seem to be small farms with white cattle in the yards eating mounds of hay. Our first lock for the day went ok. We are starting to get the hang of what we need to do, and doing it as a team effort. The warmth of the day is making us more active and the deck is the place to be.

 We are waiting in a lock for our lockkeeper to arrive back from his lunch. The boat is secured to the sides of the lock and moves slightly from side to side. It is an overcast day and the sun keeps popping in and out of the clouds. There is a gentle breeze just lifting and dropping our flags. We are an international boat with four Australians and us two Kiwis. We fly one small and one fullsize NZ flag, they fly a medium sized Aussie one. We have travelled most days doing approx 10 locks a day. It is lovely country we are travelling through. We pass by small villages which have locks on the outskirts, or our locks are in the middle of farmland. The locks have houses beside them which were built for the lockkeeper and families to live in. Most have the year they were built on the front, the earliest so far is 1829. They are now mostly just a base. The ones that are lived in are a mix of private people or lockkeepers. They have lovely gardens and some sell produce, or baking, in their boxes facing the lock. Some of the private homes are more like mini farms with a few chickens, geese and cattle. Some have horses. We have tried the baking from one which was a lovely ginger cake with lime, went well with our morning cuppa.

So far we have travelled through larger villages from Decize, Cercy-De-Tour, Moulins-Engilbert, Chatillon-En-Bazois and Corbigny. We have also spent a few nights in smaller villages when we tie up for the night. Groceries and wine seem to be the shopping stops.

The longest and hardest day started in Baye, which is a lovely lake with a concrete wall between the lake and boat harbour where we tied up for the night. We wandered through the village which consisted of a couple of shop come restaurants and some homes. There was a lovely  older building that looked like a farmhouse converted into accommodation. After Baye we travelled thought three tunnels and a flight of sixteen locks which stepped us down to Epiry. We the travelled on through another twelve before tying up for the night in Chaumot which made a big day of twenty eight locks. I seem to have ended up looking after the back ropes on the boat which could be quite hard at times. My job was to anchor the boat and stop it drifting back. Going up was harder as you had the flow of the water coming onto the back of the boat, now it comes onto the front but the back of the lock has a shelf made of either stone or a type of coloured concrete. It can be either straight across or curved. It can be up to two metres wide and the gate closes onto it. We are now travelling with three boats in the lock together which fills it fully. I have to make sure that Trev who is driving the boat keeps the stern off it. At the moment we seem to be the back boat which means we are always being pushed back closer to the shelf. The lock-keepers like to try and fit us all in together as it saves them a lot of work.

As the sunsets through the trees growing by the canal changing the colours around us to a golden colour we sit and talk about the day we have just completed. With glasses of wine or a beer in hand we relive the locks travelled and sights seen. Tonight we are parked about 600 metres from a village. Across from us we have a paddock which has a couple of horses who wonder around, they raise their heads at the sound of our voices as we try and talk over each other and bursts of laughter that ring out. As the sun goes down the landscape is silhouetted by a pale yellow sky making the dark water become part of it. Today has been a slower one we left a little later in sthe morning. Our boat was moored in Clamecy last night a lovely town. I feel it was the nicest so far. The town was the capital of floating timber for the canal. In the centre of the bridge is a timber worker waiting for the passage of timber to pass on the way to Paris. The town is centred around the most amazing church in its town square. We came upon it through a group of narrow cobbled streets with Tudor style homes on both sides. It came into view as we rounded a corner from the side, which made us all stop and go "wow that's incredible" and as we rounded the corner to the front, stop in our steps with mouths open. The outside was very ornate with gargoyles at the top with fine filigree sculptures and bridges to connecting towers. Inside was just as "wow" with alcoves off he main chapel, One held some very impressive  artwork. The stained glass windows depicted different impressions of seens from the bible. It also held a pipe organ which took nearly a whole back wall. Check Trev's photos they do more justice then me.

We travelled to Mailly-la-Ville today it started out overcast but turned into a lovely day. As we travelled along the canal we passed an area with Saussois rocks these are limestone rock cliffs which go for 50 metres. These are well used by rock climbers. We stopped for lunch at Mailly-le-Chateau which is a walled, fortified village of the 16th century.

Today we were picked up from our mooring on the canal and taken on a wine tour through the Chablis region. Our guide Nick was originally from England and has been living in France for 30 years. He took us to 2 wineries before lunch in a township called Noyers. The restaurant was attached to a butcher come delicatessen. The father owned the deli which you walked through to a courtyard and the son owned the restaurant called 'Restaurant Les Millesimes' which also opened onto the courtyard from the other side. We had a lovely 3 course meal. The wineries we visited were all white wine though a couple had reds to try. Our first stop was to Domaine Bersan which is owned by a father & son. This had  a large wine cellar and tunnels under the villa which was full of small and large barrels with wine in them. They are kept here to finish the ageing process. They gave us 4 whites and 2 reds to try. I came away with a chardonnay which was very nice. The next was on the outskirts of a village (lost pamphlet and can't remember name) they had a type of choux pastry puff to accompany our wines. Lunch was the next stop were we compared our choices of wine. The afternoon had two stops in the afternoon the first was La Meuliere and lastly Louis Moreau. It was a lovely day spent off the boats.

The sun has gone down and the marina is quiet except for a group of noisey boaters eating pizza. Yes that is us. We have decided to buy pizza for our last meal together and get this because we brought 3 or more pizza's we got to choose either a soft drink or a bottle of wine.. yeah wine. They have wine in just about every shop you go into. Cant buy milk at a service station but wine is no problem!

Our last day on the canal was interesting. We travelled  through some lovely countryside and a few locks. All went well until the last, when we got to Migennes where we were to disembark from the boats. The other 2 boats got through the lock but we were left to wait. This is the deepest lock we have encountered and it holds 1000 cubic metres of water. Because they didn't want to refill the lock for us we had to wait for another set of boats going the other way. We had quite a wait in a lovely entrance to the lock unfortunately it was rather hot and tempers got the better of some of our crew.  After a while we were allowed to wait inside the lock which gave us some shade. Finally we were allowed to go up to the marina and tie up beside our fellow travellers. Migennes is a village which has the marina for 'Le Boats' this is our final destination for our trip. It is a very pretty place with a lot of flower beds and planters in and around the  marina and square. The houses and buildings have flora baskets and planters boxes at their windows. As you walk around the place it has a lovely feel about it.

Well the day has finally come where we must say goodbye to our fellow travellers. Everyone is heading for either home or to another destination.  As Migennes has a train station we are all heading to the train at different times. Our group is the first to leave at 11.00 am. We will stay on the train to its final destination of Lyon. Our friends depart at Dijon to head to Switzerland and them on to Octoberfest in Munich.

Day 28 - Lyon. Our last stop in France is Lyon, we have a couple of days here. This is the third largest city in France and the older part of the city is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is where the production and weaving of silk was first done in France. On our open bus tour we did two different types of tours one by coach and the other by tram. The tram took us to the older part of the city when you realised how narrow the streets were, this was a good way to get around. We listened to a very informative commentary of the area and its silk trade and how they built tunnels in the hillside to carry the silk from the weavers to the merchants. This saved the silk from the climate as it was carried, and the eyes of the other weavers. The views of the city were breathtaking as we travelled up  the hillside. Our coach trip took us around the newer part of the city showing us the Opera House which was re-resigned in 1985 and finished in 1993, the Palace de Justice which took 10 years to build from 1835 to 1845, and up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere. We also passed the Roman theatres of Fourviere. In the city we were taken past a series of frescos and murals painted on buildings, these were amazing, depicting life in the areas they were painted.

As we have limited time today we have chosen to head back to the Roman Theatre and Basilica which to Trev's delight can be reached by a funicular railway (cable car) which has 2 lines that scale the hill. The oldest is 'Saint-Just which was established in 1878, the other was the 'Fourviere line' going since 1900. The Basilica is a minor one in Lyon but it was built by private funds starting in 1872 and finished in 1884, the site it occupies was once the Roman forum of Trajan. This dominates the skyline from all parts of the city and has a amazing view from the courtyard alongside it. Unfortunately they were having a mass in the church when we arrived so were only allowed to stand at the back of the chapel. But this gave us a good view of the inside for a few minutes. Also by the church is the Tour metallique de Fourviere tower which was built in 1892. It took 2 years to build. With a height of 85.9 metres and weight of 210 ton, it looks like the Eiffel Tower which it predates by three years. it is now being used as a mobile phone and television tower. We walked down to the ruins of the Roman Theatre after going to the Basilica. The theatre was built on the hill of Fourviere, at the time this was the centre of the Roman City. It was built around 15 BC and would have seated about 10,000 people. They are still in reasonable shape and used once a year to host a festival called "Les Nuits de Fourviere".

As we say goodbye to France we now head to Dubai and from there onto NZ.

Day 29 - Dubai. Today we travelled to Dubai and arrived at our hotel just after 7.00 am. As Trev and I don't sleep easily on planes it was off to breakfast in the hotel, then a good couple of hours sleep. We decided there was still enough day left to do an open top bus trip so we headed into town to catch one. We both found it interesting that on the streets we passed heading into the city centre there were no woman to be seen, but once we reached the centre they were in the malls and some in the market place. It is amazing the amount of construction going on, we were told by our bus guide that 25% of the world's cranes are currently in Dubai. Dubai is hosting the World Expo 2020 so the need for building accommodation and centres to hold exhibitions, and upgrading buildings to house museums, is top priority. Our bus took us around the older part of town where one stop was the marketplace. An amazing array of colour meet us made up of fabric, clothes, rugs and food. We passed quite a few shops with great displays of dates of all kinds and beautiful fabric shops. As we drive around the Burj Khalifa can be seen from everywhere, at 830 metres high it is the tallest tower in the world at 163 stories. We were taken past the site of a new building which will be taller again. It has not been named yet as it is in dispute as to what to call it. Our guide gave us a bit of background information on how Dubai had started, its changes with oil revenue in 1969, and how today less than 7% of income is from oil. Early tomorrow we leave Dubai and head for home in NZ.

It has been a wonderful trip and we have enjoyed every place we visited. Our trip on the canal in France was something we would like to do again.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip as much as I have enjoyed writing about it.

Till next time

Vicki