3 Dec 05 (Bob)
Inspiring Anniversary -
Over the weekend we
had the very good fortune to be invited to the 60th Wedding
Anniversary of our friends John and Peggy who have helped us so
much while we have been in the UK. They are truly an
inspiration to us and the other 20+ guests who shared a great meal
and a little bubbly with them. They met during World War II
while John was on leave nursing an injury, and at the end of the war
they married. For 60 years they have raised 3 charming
daughters, lived in several homes in Southern England, ran their own
business and led a married life that we all admire. In their
80's, they are both mentally sharp and physically active and family
members visit all times of the year. We wish them many more
Similar Countries, Different Cultures - As
we spend more time in England, we have been struck by the
similarities with life in the US (fast food, good roads, similar
products, etc.) and yet surprised at many of the differences.
England's culture stretches back a couple of thousand years and many
of their traditions are still around, whereas the US, with a short
history and 'melting pot' tradition feels somewhat different.
Some things we have noticed:
- More Socialist - Many of the important
institutions (hospitals, pensions, schools, transportation) are
Government owned and operated.
- Thatched Roofs - Many older homes
still have grass-thatched roofs, they look quaint and apparently
are safe and dry. Finding a practicing master thatcher is
expensive but still possible.
- Wigs - Not on the streets, but lawyers
and judges on the bench still wear white wigs as they argue
- More Thoughts, less Fast Action - The
TV shows frequently involve thoughtful and involved dialog and
long scenes rather than chase and shooting scenes so common in
- Stones - When was the last time you
knew how many stones you weighed? ALL scales here weigh in
stones and kilos, not a pound in sight.
Ferry Booking - We have finally made a
commitment to leave England for a while - we have booked a ferry
from Portsmouth to Bilbao (northern Spain) on 19-21 December.
It won't exactly be a luxury cruise but it will save 1600 km and 25
hours of driving.
10 Dec 05 (Bob)
Fighting Cocks - This is just one of many
quaintly-named pubs in the area. We dragged our friends Rory
and Sandra from NZ out on a pretty autumn day to drink the local
brew, watch the ponies wander in the road, and talk about old times
in New Zealand. They are both authors and are circling the
globe selling books in England, the USA, South Africa, and
Australia-New Zealand. This is a business they run out of
their sailboat in NZ - check a recent issue of INC magazine
to read more or their website at
Upholstery Saga Completed -
cushions and seats covered was pretty painless once we selected the
material and found a contractor. Three days
after dropping off the old cushions the new ones were ready - the
driver/passenger seats took 2 more days. They are much
brighter and we are very happy with
them and hope they will help the next owners of our mobile home
offer us a good price when they decide to buy her.
More Planning - We are in the process of
fleshing out our plans for the next couple of months. We may
divert from Spain to Morocco for an exotic view of another Arabic
country. Plus, our friend Sandra will be going to Paris in
February for a fashion event, and Judi signed up to join her in a
flash - so by mid-December our dance card for the first 3
months of 2006 is rapidly filling up.
ending 20 Dec 05 (Bob)
Cheating on Dates - Usually we update on
the weekend, but this time we did not have the chance, so we'll
update our journal mid-week, from the comfort of the Pride of
Bilbao, a ferry taking hundreds of pale-faced Britons to
the sunny climes of Spain.
Ferried to Bilbao - To get from England to Spain by vehicle one
can either cross the English Channel and drive through France and
over the Pyrenees, or take a ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth to
the north coast of Spain. We chose the latter; more expensive
but it saves 2-3 days of driving and finding caravan parks in the
winter, plus we would not have to cross the Pyrenees in the middle
of December. The Pride of Bilbao is a 37,000 ton
car/truck/passenger ferry operated by
making round trips between England and Spain year round. For
about $500 we transport ourselves and the motor-home to Spain in a
small but comfortable cabin. The ship has 5-6 restaurants,
exercise and sauna facilities and a solid mobile phone connection.
Kids have video arcades and gamblers can stick their change into
machines that are happy to keep most of it. All in all, it
looks to be a good way to catch up with or friends in southern Spain
for Christmas. We lucked out with the crossing as the weather
is beautiful with blue skies and calm seas - not a Force 9 gale as
one might expect for this time of year. When we left
Portsmouth the temps were about 35 degrees, but upon waking in the
morning, they have come up significantly and are about 50 degrees
now. We are really looking forward to warm, sunny Spain.
Quiet Week - Again - Otherwise the week was
fairly quiet with last minute Christmas shopping, penning (or
emailing) our yearly newsletter plus a break to see Harry
Potter and the Goblet of Fire; perhaps the best Potter flick
25 Dec 05 (Bob)
Crossing Spain - Unfortunately we did not
tarry in Bilbao, despite its beautiful Guggenheim Museum, but rather
we stumbled our way through the road maze outside of the port and
found ourselves on the highway to Madrid and beyond. Along the
- Aranda de Duero - We stopped for the
night at Camping Costajan, a nice, wooded site with one
other camper also headed for the warm, southern coast.
- Madrid - We did not stop this time,
but crawled through crowded roads and construction sites - we
must return when we have more time.
- Granada - We stopped for the night at
Las Lomas Camping, our favorite spot in the Sierra Nevada
and had night views of the city, a lake, snow-capped mountains
and a crystal, clear sky.
- 800+ km - That's how far it is north
to south across Spain, and the roads were good all the way.
Aguadulce - It has been great to catch up
with our friends Micael and Ligia who used to sail S/V Quest.
We sailed in loose company with them (usually behind) from Malaysia
to Thailand and then to Turkey from 2001 until 2005. Now have
had the good fortune to share Christmas dinner with them in their
apartment in Aguadulce, near Almeria on the south coast of Spain.
Judi and Ligia prepared turkey with all of the trimmings and we ate
until stuffed (us, not the turkey!)
We Take A Humble Bow - We receive a few
emails each month with questions and corrections (we just had to
correct our Turkey page due to an alert Turkish ex-pat). So we
were very gratified to receive the following note from cruisers on a
beautiful yacht in Australia - it speaks for itself:
Hello Judi and Bob,
After having looked so many times at your site in the
last 2 years, I decided today I would let you know how
much I admire it and its authors. It is a fantastic
site, clear, logical, concise, complete, pleasant to
view. It is perfect! Congratulation. I am an avid web
surfer and have looked at hundreds of sailors site,
yes hundreds. Yours is really THE BEST. How you do it,
it baffles me! It has been very useful to us. It is so
useful we downloaded it so that we can consult most of
it without having to connect to the web...
We thank them very much for their opinions, and
now we'll have to work even harder to live up to these kind words.
1 Jan 06 (Bob)
De Gata - On the weekend Micael and Ligia took us for a drive to
one of their favorite spots, Cabo De Gata (Cape of the Cat) a
wilderness 'reserve' east of Almeria. We put the reserve
in quotes because parts of it are covered in plastic - these are
illegal farms where the owners pay a small fine whenever the rangers
demand it, otherwise they continue operations as usual. The
salt flats have flamingos, ducks, and a myriad of other waterfowl
and the coastline is pretty. We had a great outing.
New Year's in Aguadulce - We had a quiet
evening with Micael and Ligia, sipping the local bubbly,cava - the
Spanish equivalent to champagne, and popping
party poppers or pseudo-fireworks, while the local kids set off real firecrackers and
rockets outside. Overall our welcome to 2006 was quite
low-key. One of the highlights of our visit has been the
nightly movie at Micael's Cinema as we select our
daily title from our host's 900+ collection of DVDs and VCDs and
settle back with a glass of wine to view the latest from the world
Ligia stirring pot for dinner
Ready to tuck in
Micael pouring Cava (champagne)
Preparing to go further South - We have
decided to give Morocco a try, so we are almost in cruising mode as
we plan our route, stock up on provisions, decide what spares to
take, and read other people's accounts. We plan to cross the
Mediterranean near Gibraltar, tour Morocco for about 3 weeks and
return in time to visit forlorn Long Passages in Italy
in February. Much of Bob's spare time was occupied getting our
iPaq to talk to its dedicated GPS and soliciting Micael's help in
downloading road and topographic maps of Morocco. These maps, now
that they are calibrated, will be used to track our position as we
explore small villages near the Sahara desert.
Whiling Away The Winter in Southern Spain -
After 2 weeks along the coast, we can see why so many Britons and
Germans escape the cold and snow to bask in the sun of southern
Spain. In the 10 days we have been here it has been sunny
every day and even though the temperatures have dipped into the 40's
at night it is normally near 60 during the day.
Mike in Galle, Sri Lanka back in Business -
When we sailed from Thailand to Sri Lanka in 2003, we landed in
Galle, Sri Lanka and met Mike who, with his brother, runs a small
business helping cruisers with provisions, internet, and tours.
He was very honest and we enjoyed meeting him very much. When
the tsunami hit Galle in 2004, he and his family survived, but his
business suffered severe losses and we were glad to have been able
to provide some assistance to help him get his business going again.
A few weeks ago we received the following email from him:
Hi Bob & Judi,
So how are you? I think you and your family are well.
first of all i would like to thank you to help me after tsunami
effect.now we are rebuild our bussines from your help. now
every thing is o.k.galle habour also now in good condition.so now
you can come to sri lanka again.please kindly pass this message to
your other friends also. marry X'mas & Happy New year to your
Best wishes from mike .
So those cruisers heading to the Red Sea, East Africa or even Chagos,
Galle and Mike are back in business.