Brittany Part 1

Monday 15th to Monday 22nd May 2017

Cherbourg

After a long sail the day before we had a leisurely start to the day. Later we went for a walk and Bob and Gillian took us to a local micro brewery.   The weather  forecast was good for Tuesday 16th May so we set off for Guernsey. We arrived too early to get into the marina as it has a sill so has to wait on a holding pontoon for nearly two hours. By the time we could get in it has started to rain, typical. This is one time we can’t sit inside and watch from the saloon we have to be outside to moor up. It was getting on for 9.30pm by the time we were moored so too late to start cooking so we found a fish and chip shop close by and had that for dinner.

3. St Peter Port Harbour, Guernsey 19.5.17.

St Peter Port Harbour, Guernsey – NOT on a rainy day

Since we arrived and for all of the next day all it did was rain, rain and yet more rain. It’s so much more noticeable on a boat. So everything feels damp. The Harbour Master suggested the best thing to do on a day like this is to go on a bus trip around the Island which was a £1 each. It was a great way to see the whole Island. Only issue was that it was raining so much that the Windows kept steaming up and in places the visability was not good. Added to that we sat on the back seat and water kept dripping from the air vent.

We spent four nights in Guernsey because it was buy 3 get 1 free. In St Peter’s Port there is a large castle called Castle Cornet. At 12.00 noon the gun is fired and although we knew it would be loud it was still a shock when it went off.

After this there was a play carried out by three guys about the SS Stella that hit the rocks and sunk in 8 minutes. It was quite amusing (not that the ship had sunk) and three people in the audience were asked to ring the bell, blow the whistle and blow the foghorn. The guys thought Bob would be good for the foghorn. The views and visability from castle cornet were amazing. We could see Sark, Herm, Jersey. Guernsey is a very pretty island as is the surrounding areas.

As it was Friday night it must be time to visit a yacht club. There are two in Guernsey the Guernsey YC and the Royal Channel Islands YC, the latter of which we visited. Up flights of stairs which gave us a good view. It was a very quaint cosy club and were made very welcome, even though “we weren’t local”. Every Friday night they hold a raffle and the prizes are a various assortment of fresh meat. Bob “I never win anything” not only won but was the first ticket out.

We left Guernsey for St Malo on Saturday 21st May. A lovely sail although the wind died off the nearer we got there. It started to rain as we came into the harbour (becoming a bit of a pattern!). We had to go into a lock to get into the inner marina which is situated alongside the old city walls by the Quay. The lock walls are so high that the port guys have to help tie off your ropes as we were so low. While waiting the sun came out, so we thought all is improving. This is where it went downhill, for me at least. We came through the lock into the marina. I tied off the stern line, then stepped and it was a step I don’t jump anymore (not with twin engines, Ian can get close to the jetty) and slipped over bending my knee back. So I’m now hobbling and before anyone thinks no there wasn’t any alcohol involved. There’s no drinking and sailing at the same time, only tea.

Once we had moored up the sun came out and we had a barbecue with Bob’s “I don’t win anything” winning meat assortment. Which was lovely.

The old town of St Malo is beautiful so the next day we had a very very slow walk as I couldn’t walk properly around the town and along the city walls. Up and down stairs wasn’t easy.

 

The weather has improved and is now sunbathing weather so managed a couple of hours after doing my chores of course, washing and housework. I do have a little washing machine but it’s not like throwing all your stuff in and coming back when it’s finished. It only takes about 3kg, you have to fill it up with water let it wash for 10 mins, take that lot out put the next lot in, using the same water but topping it up a bit, same thing a third time. Then it has to be emptied and do the same thing three times for rinsing. Then spin it, which takes even less weight plus you have to hold onto it or it will end up the other side of the cockpit. Takes a while but definitely quicker than washing by hand which will have to for bedding and towels. I’ve got two lovely purple buckets for that! How lucky am I!!!

We left St Malo on Monday evening (22nd May 2017) and picked up a mooring outside for the night so we didn’t have to get up so early in the morning to get through the lock. You can only go through the lock +-2.30 either side of high tide.

A8. St Malo anchorage 22.5.17.

St Malo Anchorage

 

23rd May 2017

Our First Week – 8th to 14th May 2017

Dover to Cherbourg

Our first day the sun was shining so we had a leisurely morning before setting off for a walk.  Just the day before there had been news of a new Banksy which had appeared in Dover.  It was a first for us to see the real thing and wasn’t too far from the Marina (it could be seen from the Marina office) so went off to see it.  There were a few people gathered taking photos.  The guy in the Marina said that all that anyone had seen was some scaffolding and plastic sheeting go up on the previous Friday. It was a derelict building so no-one had taken much notice.

1. Banksy Dover 09.05.17.

We decide on a walk up to Dover Castle which was all uphill, not good for Ian’s knees.  The castle is worth a visit it covers a vast area and the views of the surrounding area are great.  Visibility was such that you could see France.  There are tunnels here which date back to the late 1700’s and were used for the organisation of “Operation Dynamo” the evacuation of Dunkirk by Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay.

Exit for Eastbourne

We left bright and early on Wednesday morning (10th May 2017) at 6.45am.  Having to get used to these early mornings again as since giving up work the only thing we did at this time of the morning was either sleep or roll over and go back to sleep!  We left at this time so we could carry some of the tide which gave us an extra two knots, as by 9.30am we would lose this. It was a lovely sunny day with slight easterly winds of 8 knots.

10, Dover from the sea - 10.5.17.

Dover for drinks on Morning Star 10.5.17.

 

We arrived in Eastbourne at around 12.45pm went through the lock to our allocated mooring and who was in the next berth only Bob and Gillian on Morning Star, who had left Dover the day before.  We spent a few hours aboard Morning Star with a few glasses of vino to toast the start of both our trips.

As we are not on holiday, “this is a way of life” one of Ian’s quotes, we spent Thursday doing chores, cleaning inside and out, washing and shopping.  We had a visit from Bill and Claire on Thursday evening who live in Hastings.  So we went off for an Indian meal in the restaurant in the harbour.   Friday our sails, sun cover and dingy cover arrived.  So we are now all ready to go.

13. Beachy Head 13.5.17.

Beachy Head 13th May 2017 – 13.20 Wind: SSW 14kts

12.00 noon on Saturday morning we left Eastbourne for Chichester harbour where we were planning on anchoring up for the night.  Having been told on a number of occasions “we are not sailing to windward” we sailed to windward.  Eight hours and ten minutes later we were sitting on a buoy just off Hayling Island.  It was quite a blustery night so did roll about quite a lot, not great for a good night’s sleep.  It certainly didn’t rock us off to sleep!

 

 

Cruising to Cherbourg

Another early morning.  We left Chichester at 6.45am.  Wind on the nose again (I must have dreamt we are not going to windward) but this was the best window for crossing the channel as the winds got lighter the nearer to the French coast we got.  The next opportunity would have been Wednesday so off we went.  It was a bit bumpy to start with but it did get better.  Morning Star had been in Portsmouth but we caught up with them in the Channel.

We arrived in Cherbourg after  11 long hours and a lovely sunny calm evening.  Bob and Gill arrived on Morning Star about 45 minutes later so we greeted them with a glass of vino which then became a few bottles more and dinner.  A lovely start to the French leg.

 

16th May 2017

Castaway 8th May 2017

It has been a long time in the planning but the day has finally arrived to cast off.  We were waved off by quite a crowd after a few bubbles and some tears from the Island Yacht Club.  Excited for the future but we will miss everyone at home but we hope to see some of you in warmer climates.

The day started off overcast and it had turned quite chilly.  Luckily for us as we have a catamaran we don’t have to sit in the cockpit we can sit inside and keep watch.  Thinking of Gill and Bob Hough on Morning star who are making some of the trip with us for the first few months who will be sitting in their cockpit.

For our first season we plan to take in France, northern Spain and Portugal ending up somewhere in southern Spain for the winter.

We left at 11.45am, a northerly wind to give us a glorious reach down the Thames Estuary followed by a run to our first port of call, Dover.  By 3 O’clock the clouds had gone and there was nothing but blue sky and sun.

Red Shivering Sands 8.5.17.

Shivering Sands Forts in the Thames Estuary

 

11th May 2017

Halong Bay, Vietnam

We arrived at Halong Bay which is a very busy tourist attraction.  There are a lot of tourist boats, so if you want to be alone, this is not the place to go.  However, Halong Bay is quite spectacular with approx 1600 limestone islands and is a place not to be missed.  My photos don’t really do it justice.

There are so many boats to choose from when booking this trip, it’s mind boggling but we eventually decided on Halong Fantasea Cruises.  We were taken by tender (small boat for you non yachties) to our boat for the next two days which had just eight cabins.  We gathered in the restaurant where we were given a welcome drink and allocated our cabin which was really quite nice.  We didn’t appreciate that everything was going to be to such a strict timetable.  We only had 20 mins then we had to be ready for lunch.  The food over the whole trip was varied and lots of it.  As we left the marina it was a long line of boats, mostly going in the same direction.   We had a sun deck and so we were able to take in the views as we sailed along.

IMG_2383 - Halong Bay, Cabin March 2017

We made our way to Sung Sot Cave and then transferred to the tender to take us ashore.  The Cave was enormous.  The cave was very busy as everywhere seemed to have been lately.  Our guide took us round the cave and gave a talk as we went round, which was quite amusing.

IMG_2393

Later in the day we were taken to the Luon Cave area where some of the guests did kayaking, we declined this.  We stayed anchored here for the night and there were only three other boats, the previous bay had about 30 or so anchored. After dinner Ian tried squid fishing.  It appears that in the last year only four people have actually caught one and yes you’ve guessed correctly Ian did not catch one!

 

 

 

So sailing around the bay is nice and relaxing, so let’s have breakfast at 7.00am, well there was no chance of Ian getting there for that, so off I went.  7.45 we are off to Ti Top Island, for a trek up the hillside.  This again even at this time of day was busy.

Back to the boat we had a final couple of hours before lunch at 11.30.  This was so we were ready to leave the boat when we arrived back at 12.30 to get the coach back to Hanoi.

From Hanoi we started our homeward journey.  We booked into a hotel near Hanoi airport as we had a flight to Kualar Lumpur the following morning.  Again we checked into a hotel near the airport, a bit of luxury this time, so we spent the last few hours enjoying the sun and the pool before our flight the following morning

Vietnam is a great place, very friendly people and we would definitely recommend seeing it if you get the chance.

 

March 2017

Hanoi, Vietnam

We arrived at our hotel in Hanoi smack bang in the middle of the old quarter at about 4.30pm.  Lovely welcome at the hotel showed us to our room which is where it went downhill it was just shy of a box with a window to a corridor. The room I booked should have had a balcony. The hotel tried to convince me I had the room I booked. In fact all the rooms they offered on the site had balconies. There was clearly a problem. So we checked out of there and went to a hotel around the corner. It appears the info was correct on one site but when it was transferred to a sister site it wasn’t. We gave them the benefit of the doubt as they were so apologetic and they walked our cases around to the other hotel.

So it doesn’t quite end there. The room at the new hotel was deluxe with balcony, their feature room. We arrive to be told it wasn’t available, even though it showed it available and we had booked it.   The next day it was still possible to book it.  They gave us a family suite, which just means it’s a room with four beds. So it was spacious but no balcony and noisy being on a lower floor.  So not a good start to Hanoi and it’s now getting on for 7 o’clock by the time we are finally in a room.  We had been spoilt by our hotel in Hue which was half the price.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum

Ho Chi Minh  led the Vietnamese nationalist movement for more than three decades, fighting first against the Japanese, then the French colonial power and then the US-backed South Vietnamese. He was President of North Vietnam from 1954 until his death. He was such an important part of the modern history of Vietnam that he is still revered throughout the country and our visit to his mausoleum reiterated this. He is known as “Uncle Ho”.  The Mausoleum is only open for three hours a day so we thought it would be busy.Well I’ve never seen anything like it. There were so many people queuing that we didn’t bother going into the Mausoleum itself. From the way the queue moved there was no stopping when you got there, it was a case of keep moving. So we viewed it from the outside. In the left hand picture the queue went further along the path but this can’t be seen here.

Also here was the Presidential Palace (this isn’t open to the public) which Ho Chi Minh refused to live in as he didn’t think it was suitable when there were poor and starving people in Vietnam.  He lived in House number 54, which was in the Palace grounds.  He lived here from 1954 until  1958.  In 1958 he moved to the house on stilts which was opposite House no.54.  The house has two floors. The ground floor was the meeting place, and upstairs there were a bed room, a study room and a bookshelf.  It was a simple house and one which suited Uncle Ho.  He lived here until his death in 1969.  Walking around this area again it was a long queue that kept moving.  There must have been a good few thousand people here including lots of school groups.

We also visited the Ho Chi Minh museum which covers his life.

Museum of History of Vietnamese Military

Vietnam spent a long period of time at war fighting for independence. The museum took us through this. Outside there is a selection of planes, field guns, bombs, trucks and tanks.

 

There is a tall structure that was put together out of the wreckage of a B-52, an F-111 and a French transport plane, all of which were shot down.

Beer Corner

In Hanoi there is a place called Beer Corner and yes you have guessed it, its full of bars, restaurants and clubs selling beer.  Now I mentioned earlier here about the numbers of people in one place well Beer Corner was no exception.  It was rammed and it was difficult to walk through.  This appears to be the place for the youngsters to party well into the night (OMG I sound old).

When we were in Bangkok we were amazed at the electric cables well the picture below shows the Vietnamese can give the Thais a run for their money.

We fitted a lot into our day in Hanoi, unfortunately we couldn’t spare any more time here as we are off to Halong Bay in the morning for a two day cruise.

20 – 21 March 2017

Hue, Vietnam

Letting the train take the strain

We left Tuy Hoa on the 6.56 train (although didn’t actually leave until 7.25 but this is Vietnam) for Hue which a 9.5 hour journey. We weren’t so organised with food this time but the previous train had food so we thought we would hope for the best. Ian tried the chicken soup for breakfast, which was rice and chicken in soup. He thought it was OK, but like porridge consistency which I don’t like so glad I didn’t have any. A little while later they came round selling more food which looked OK.  So I had pork skewers and chicken with bean sprouts, which was quite tasty.

So we’ve been carrying our PAC a Macs around and I’ve finally found a need to wear it, on the train because the air conditioning is too cold. Ironically it is raining outside! Spoke to soon as it rained in Hue as we going off out for dinner too, but not too much and not for too long.  Some of the views from the train around Danang was amazing. We zig zagged right along the coast so much so we could see the front of the train from our seats.

A Little Gem of a Hotel

The hotel we were staying at, the Hue Garden Village Hotel, offered a free transfer. We met the guy who promptly put us in a taxi and waved us off. It was only on arriving at our destination that the guy reappeared. Cars couldn’t go down the road the hotel was on so he carried our bags down and paid for the taxi!

Ian had chosen this hotel and I think amongst other things he liked the price which was $20 (£16.40) per night including breakfast. Now I was a bit sceptical imagining it’s not going to be much up from a hostel and hostels and me, never the twain shall meet. The photos looked OK and the old saying”the camera never lies” may have been the case in days gone by but not now we have Photoshop. Well what can I say I was truly amazed. We received a warm welcome with a drink and fruit. Our room was on the very top floor to the left which had the biggest balcony and caught the sun plus it had a pool which is a bonus in a city. All this for the price was amazing.

Imperial City

One of the main attractions in Hue is the Imperial City which is a fortress with a palace. Inside the City is the Forbidden City which was home to the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. The Forbidden City was only for the use of the Emperor and the royal family. The areas outside here were for various dignitaries and senior political people. The site is enormous being 10km in circumference and surrounded by a moat. It must have really been something in its day however a lot of it was bombed during the Vietnam War although there is a restoration project underway for a small part of the site.

On our second day here we decided to take advantage of the pool and the glorious weather and sit by the pool, although once Ian appeared just after 1 o’clock (he can’t do too much sun being a Ginger) it clouded over. We got chatting to an Aussie guy who asked me if I spoke English. He didn’t think I looked like a “Pommie”, those were his words not mine!

Ian’s Vietnamese hair cut

As some of you will know Ian’s hair grows at a very fast rate and once it gets to an inch or so he can start to look like a mad professor. So off we went in search of a barbers. Ian tried to communicate that he wanted a number 4 guard used on the clippers, it looked like it was a number 3, it could have been worse!  He got the full works, haircut, face, ears and eyebrow trim and then taken off to a room at the back to have his hair washed. He was gone for about 15 mins or so and every so often I could here what sounded like continuous slapping. It transpires she was massaging his head. This was 250VND about £9.25.

Perfume River

We took a tour on the Perfume River stopping off at the Thien Mu Pagoda which we organised through the hotel and for just under a tenner for the two of us. We arrived at the Dragon boat and it was only then we realised we had exclusive use of it.  It is called the Perfume River because in the autumn, flowers from orchards upriver from Hue fall into the water, giving the river a perfume-like aroma.

At the Pagoda there was a young monk who periodically rang a large bell over the day.  As with a lot of places there are always tour groups which can make it difficult to see things.  This was one of those occasions.

Our time in Hue has flown by. We are off to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam on Monday 20th March, but flying this time as it’s a long train journey and time is getting short.

16-20 March 2017

Huy Toa, Vietnam

We took the train from Ho Chi Minh to Tuy Hoa which was a nine hour journey. We decided we fancied a few days by the beach . Nah Trang is the usual destination but we knew this was quite busy and touristy so picked somewhere that the train stopped. There’s not much here apart from sun, sea and sand. Well that’s me sorted!

Vietnamese Trains

What looked like a grandmother and grandaughter boarded the train a stop after us. The grandmother initially was very loud, this is going to be fun we thought and oh they were. They both chatted to everyone around them, including us even though we couldn’t understand each other and shared their food. We discovered they were going to Hue, our next stop after this. By the time we got off they and the people around us were all waving and shouting bye to us. It was lovely.

We didn’t know what to expect with the trains so were pleasantly surprised when we got into exactly what was advertised soft seat and air conditioned. Food being sold was brought round by train staff. A very different experience to Myanmar.

Tuy Hao is the capital city of the Phu Yen area with a population of just over 200,000. It is much quieter and so doesn’t have so much hustle and bustle which was a welcome change. Driving from the train station to the Kaya Hotel everywhere was lit up. There is a lot of work going on to make nice pavements, park areas and there are tended areas by the side of the road along the river front. This could well be a tourist destination of the future.

The beach was a five minute walk and we had it all to ourselves. The sea was lovely and warm too.

IMAG0436 Tuy Hoa on beach 14th Marh 17

Celebrities again

We had to get our train tickets for our journey to Hue on Thursday 16th March so we took a taxi there and thought we would walk back via the river front. The locals are not used to seeing “Foreigners” and in fact we only saw one other during our stay here, so we got lots of stares and shouts of “hello” and frantic waving.

We walked along a main high street where shops with big TV’s were being sold, and then on the next road they are welding, (you can see this just on the left of the picture) of which they gladly posed for a photo.  Such extremes.

IMAG0444 Welding in Tuy Hoa

Workshop on the Pavement

We walked along the river front and stopped for a drink. There were various eating places with tables across the road by the river which is where we sat. The owner gave us our drinks and stated “foreign tourist”, which we are, as we are so unusual in this part of Vietnam.

We eventually decided on a place to eat, one that didn’t have small low plastic chairs (ones like the kids sit on). One guy remembered us from the night before where we had eaten at Bob’s American Cafe, where we had an enormous burger. His English was very good so had a bit of a chat with him about this restaurant but it was his first time there too. So we get the menu. Ah bit of an issue here. All menus we’ve looked at have had a picture of the food so we had some idea of what we might be getting. Not this time. We managed to ask for Chicken and Rice and Seafood and Rice. It was very nice. What was odd here was they didn’t give you a glass to drink out of but a bowl and ice is always offered as drinks are not always cold, which they need to be in this climate.  Now in Raffles they throw the shells from the monkey nuts on the floor here they did it with beer cans. They buy a box of beer and as they finish with the can they throw it on the floor.

IMG_2195 - Ian soaking his feet Tuy Hoa 15 March 2017

In this part of the world people carry all sorts of things on their motorbikes, walking back to the hotel,  the strangest one was large blocks of ice which looked about a half a meter wide and a meter tall, about half a ton.

We walked miles this evening so Ian soothed his feet in the hotel pool.

 

 

Chasing Pavements

This is something else you have to get used to in Asia there are pavements everywhere, very wide pavements, but half the time you can’t walk on them and have to walk in the road. The pavements are filled with motorbikes, people sitting on chairs, wares from shops so as in the song by Adele “Should I give up? Or should i just keep Chasing Pavements”.

If you want to chill and want somewhere a bit quieter then Tuy Hoa is worth a visit.

10th to 13th March 2017