2020 Covid-19 - The "new normal?"
Kevin is awaiting his spinal work, delayed for a period unknown due to Covid-19, certainly into 2021 we are told? We both had jobs in the hospitality sector to keep our minds active and provide cash of coarse. In this sector, upfront all is "covid secure" in reality there is always some risk as "social distancing"disappears in reality when alcohol is present. We, after reviewing all of our options, book a ferry to France, we fast track across France south, to Toulon, an overnight ferry to Sardinia and drive south to Carloforte and Sailaway. Our car heavily loaded, as usual, this time with a new spray hood, sail catcher and dinghy to name the main items, plenty to keep us busy, then of coarse there is the sailing? We have no return plans to the UK, perhaps after New Year who knows we only focus on getting there and of coarse no one knows what lies ahead?
Please read on:-
To view our previous log entries please use the following link:
Sailaway Logbook 2019 - We eventually begin sailing!
Log Entry Sunday 25th October - The aft cabin complete, comfortable again.
We have finished the varnish, all brass fittings lacquerer and replaced, our old Turkish "Welcome" mat washed and re-sited. The new varnish helps reflect the light giving the room a much brighter, lighter appearance?
As on all boats you start one job and at least two or three "pop up." The work always takes longer than planned but the way we approach it is to rectify all issues found. Even the rectification of a stiff hinge can resolve a future breakage, the thought process works for us! Nice, bright and very "cosy" looking, could almost crawl into that bed now for an hour or so?
Log Entry Saturday 24th October - The weather turns brightens so we have a night out in town.
Well, we have kept ourselves busy on board, we have almost given up on creating a job list, with our "Residency Application" still determining that we remain here we are starting to literally search for something to do? We have even began stocking the bilges with food and supply's to save us having to shop too much in Cagliari? Still, we head into town, a pizza on the cards but we leave a little early to see what's going on first.
This is the typically time of day where families meet in the evening, the shops are still open until about 9pm. It's good to walk around in this relaxed atmosphere, kids playing and a group of elders, one playing a guitar and all singing?
We take a seat in the cafe in the square that we frequent and listen to the guys that I called "elders" some are likely the same age as myself? We settle down to drinks and nibbles, we deliberately only sample the nibbles as the pizzas are monsters and take some eating even when starving?
In time for opening at 8pm, we make our way around to "Lo Scuggnizzo" and settle down to our dinner, and a glass or two of coarse! Its getting much colder in an evening here now, you have to dress accordingly as very few establishments have heating?
Log Entry Thursday 22nd October - We tackle the woodwork in the aft cabin, the end is in sight!
With the saloon, galley, heads complete, as are both corridors down the sides of the engine compartment, with varnish dry and all the lacquered fasteners etc all refitted we move into the aft cabin where we sleep.
With all the fittings stripped off for polishing I set up cleaning them up while Ann sands down the brightwork for varnishing. Believe it or not I am quite happy, thats my "job to do!" face, I have already worked out the best method of cleaning the various profiles and what aides to use!
Log Entry Tuesday 20th October - The weather turns so we keep ourselves busy below decks.
We decide to attack the internal varnish below decks, we find it hard to remember when it was last done, we settle on about 5 years ago? The internal wood work is claimed to be Irish Oak and has lasted us well over 24 years and 25,000 sea miles. We remove all brass latches and fittings, they are polished and lacquered before refitting. Then, a coat of clear varnish to protect the wood. It is an interesting task as we have still to live on board around the work, the wood work is consistent throughout all the rooms on board so quite a task.
After about 3 days we have completed the saloon area, toilet ("heads" in nautical terms) and both companion ways either side of the engine compartment - about half way through?
Log Entry Wednesday 14th October - Enjoying the good weather, with a very quiet town.
With almost "zero" tourists the town is a much quieter place, gift shops and some of the cafes and restaurants are beginning to close until next year. Still there are still 14 ferries per day for the locals, all subsidised by the Government, during the busier times there are over 20 sailings per day. Obviously the availability of almost every on the island relies on the ferries from general supplies, fresh/frozen produce and occasionally, health care as ambulances transport individuals to the mainland hospitals.
We are going through a drier, milder period at the moment, and still awaiting the processing of our residency application from the authorities before we move Sailaway to Cagliari? I chased them today only to be asked to complete forms again that we had previously submitted. The only logic I can apply to the request is that the first set were actually "English Versions" perhaps they are struggling with that as the second request was to complete the "Italian Version?" I wonder how much longer we would have waited if I had not chased?
After a couple of hours in one of the cafes, practicing our Italian we head back to Sailaway, we always return via the back streets for some reason, usually to pick up something needed?
Log Entry Saturday 10th October - Always sad to see the arrival of the emergency services to Carloforte.
Even more so this time as with our camera you are able to see the Doctor being suited up before he attends the patient? This is now the second time we have witnessed in the 6 weeks since we arrived?
Log Entry Wednesday 7th October - A great deal of unrest in Carloforte, the people are not happy!
I had reported on the new town car-park development previously used by literally dozens of local people as well as visitors including ourselves! We had all been served with notices placed on our cars telling us that there was no further parking as of yesterday in the south section which had remained open during the first phase of the work. Everyone expected, but were not convinced that they would complete the northern section to synchronise with the closure of the remaining southern section - Nop, the whole car-park is closed it is cautious! Today there are cars parked everywhere, on the main road, on double yellows, not that many took any notice of the double yellows we had noticed in the past? There are even cars parked on one of the outer roundabouts heading out of town - no one seems troubled, even the authorities?
We are fortunate we had noticed a space on an adjacent piece of private land to the car-park and moved our car their last night, posting our whereabouts, telephone etc. Lets see what happens and when, if anything at all?
Log Entry Monday 5th October - The last of our new toys, fully tested and eventually launched!
We had brought a new dinghy with us back from the UK, it is a small much lighter unit than our previous unit which lasted about 8/9 years then as usual through UV erosion from the sun, fell apart. Many people just tow their dinghy's behind which is a problem in weather, we prefer to carry ours behind us , suspended on davits.
Once play time is over there is a set of lifting/securing straps to measure cut and sew, also a separate lifting harness to allow us to lift the unit upon our deck for maintenance, deflation etc. That should pass a few hours?
It certainly took a few hours with a new method of hanging and securing devised, along with modification to the starboard side davit to ensure good drainage of rainwater etc. Now ready to go to sea in all weathers!
Log Entry Sunday 4th October - Every morning, so annoying?
Every morning, usually around 0700 we are on top in the cockpit having our coffee and watching the world go by. Every morning as the breeze is coming from the north towards us we are smothered with the smell of fresh croissants being baked in the cafes, they always smell lovely. We have weaken twice till now, got dressed and had breakfast out - not today, apparently?
Log Entry Friday 2nd October - Pizza for dinner, or so I thought?
We head into town for a pizza, our intension this time is to visit a small restaurant situated in the tiny, original back streets just off the main front street We walked in last week a little early, 7:30pm to find the family having their dinner before starting work so we know they do not open until 8pm. With August now behind us, the main Italian holiday period the town is now extremely quiet, mainly the local people now, and us of coarse?
The lack of people is evident, we had not visited the town center during the busy period for one simple reason - Covid! It is nice to be here and experience how the local people enjoy their evenings, predominately in family company of multiple generations usually, a concept "long lost" in the UK? Perhaps it's just us but, ---- never mind?
After our walk around the town which takes little more than 10 minutes, we still had 30 minutes to kill? We avoided many cases of certain death being "mowed down" by some small child on a cycle or scooter, or heaven forbid, hit on the head by a child's football?
We decided to have a drink just off the square, that was our mistake - we had forgot about the "nibbles" you receive with alcohol here, very similar to northern Spain. Well one drink led to another, the nibbles were irresistible and substantial - no need for a pizza tonight - perhaps tomorrow? A nice evening never the less!
Log Entry Tuesday 29th September - Our Residency Application moves a lot faster that anticipated.
We submitted our applications on Monday into "del Comune di Carloforte", which in this case was a number of copies of various documents, no application form, this must be completed by them? The process must have been started immediately as later in that day we received notification that we must apply for a "codice fiscale" - an identification number very similar to "National Insurance" number. We have to research as to how we do the application but it is quite easily defined by the government website in English! So this is our next job to do!
Things move much faster for "Plant" our cactus now living in Carloforte, after 8 years she became too large to travel on board. She is now an Italian Resident and is exempt from any Brexit complications. Her only issue would be healthcare as even residency here in Italy, unlike the UK does not entitle you to free healthcare?
Log Entry Friday 25th September - The forecast bad weather arrives first, torrential rain first, gales later
Some what of a lazy day/days for us, we have saved a few "bits and pieces" to complete down below decks for this bad weather period. Brexit has created some issues for us, as of 1st January 2021 we Brits can only stay here for 3 months out of every 6 - interesting? Our only option at the moment is to apply for residency, we have inquired in the local office and been given a list of items to present? We had at one time the attention of 4 people in the office trying to deal with the language issues including the lady in charge? We had a good laugh, they could not have been more helpful, one lady offering to phone her sister as she speaks more English - bless them, must learn better Italian. The required documentation is a job to do for me and our daughter Jane as most of the documents are in the UK. Jane will "break in" to our home, source, scan and email out the documents, Simona in the Marina Office will then print out. Our plan is to complete the application on Monday!
We have shopping to get, we dodge the downpours as everyone else does.
Log Entry Thursday 23rd September - Today we fit our head-sail.
It's strange for us, everyone else is removing their sails for the winter, to refit in the Spring? We are fitting now to take us around to Cagliari for Sailaway to be lifted out - people must be thinking "How strange are the Brits?" Anyone that knows us here already knows that for sure!
We again carry a very large head-sail too, giving Sailaway the power she needs in light winds, consequently she can take some getting up, and of coarse the wind is never in the correct position. Still the very light breeze comes and goes, we haul it up with little issue other than draining our strength - coffee will sort that!
It's up in time, rolled up too ready for the trip what a good wrap - I always just Ann's part in the rolling process by the state of the wrap. All that should be seen is the sacrificial, blue UV protecting strip, again looking around you see the white of the sail "peaking" through the blue exposing the sail to the UV? I applauded Ann in this instance, if not correct we always do it until the sail canvas is fully protected?
Log Entry Wednesday 23rd September - A new sail-catcher to fit.
Being a heavy boat we carry a very large, heavy mainsail which we have to reef a lot but it makes Sailaway extremely good in light winds. To drop the mainsail, especially when wet as she weighs more, I have physically wrestled with it for years, especially in bad weather. We have been talking about this investment for years and eventually got around to doing it. Again after a short teaching on how to fit it from the manufacturer with light winds forecast for the next couple of days, today is the day to fit it. Another driver is the fact that we have three to four days of storms coming our way over the weekend, 40-45 knots of wind and torrential rainfall. Our head and main sails sitting on our deck giving us space below, would get soaked through and take probably weeks to dry, then extremely difficult to put on wet.
The sail-catcher and mainsail slide on the boom together, sounds easy enough but extra care was taken as we were warned against tearing? Both items went on a lot easier than anticipated, we were pleased. I checked the catchers position so many times as looking around you see so many fitted too far forward with the foot of the sail sticking out beyond, defeating the objective of its purpose of protecting the sail?
The catcher was locked in place, and it's battens inserted giving it a rigid shape and opens the structures top for the sail to naturally fall into. The sail was raised, it's battens inserted along with the new reefing lines we had purchased as the old ones had become very stiff and swollen due to the UV damage. To risk a line breakage would cost a sail, this one cost us £2.8k, 14 years ago - where does the time go? We take very good care of all our canvas consequently these sails and other canvas have taken us just over 25,000 nautical miles.
There is a front section that encompasses the exposed sail front end and wraps the mast, most vessels around us have these sections missing as they are a little troublesome to fit - a task I would not attempt out at sea or in a swell. Ann asked me to look "professional" that's my best at that? This section will be returned for modifications as I want "wear sections" fitted to protect the cover from the catcher control lines.
I spent the rest of the day "tweaking" the fitting, I moved the control line anchors to provide a perfectly flat line to the catcher's base after the above left picture. We are very happy with the unit, looking forward to using it "in anger" out at sea. It will make my job a lot easier out on the deck, less wrestling to do with canvas and reef lines!
Log Entry Saturday 19th September - A shopping day, then a run out in the car to the east of the island.
Having used the M&D newly opened supermarket for the first time we decided to take the car out for a relatively short run to the local coast. Things are really slowing down with regards to visitors, the island being an area for Italian tourists who holiday primarily throughout August. A sailboat out at anchor catches our attention, brings about one of my favorite statements, "We should be out there!"
With shopping in the car we head back past the now disused salt processing fields a real source of bird life, although recent years has seen the demise in numbers of flamingos? We do get some good views of large herons, as best 6 - 10 flamingos at most in the far distance, too far for the telephone camera.
Log Entry Wednesday 16th September - More work on our 34 year old Ford, timing belt, tensioner and bits and pieces.
Our old marinised Ford diesel requires according to the manual a new timing belt that drives the camshaft from the geared, fuel injection pub every 3 years. I never miss as I did in the earlier years and it cost us a new cylinder head etc. Strangely enough that happened in Sardinia too, where ever we are Ann loves the mess I make?
The task is always a challenging one as incorrect fitting can cost a complete engine replacement not just the cylinder head. This time I decided to replace the belt tensioner too as it was probably the original part and uneven wear on the belt was visible.
The job did not go without issues, nothing ever seems too - if you think it may take an hour, allow 3 or even 4? The upper gaskets were also being replaced during this strip down along with the replacement of the fuel, low pressure return pipework.
When, eventually all went well with assistance from our friend Dave in the UK. I am also extremely luck to have Ann, a fully trained all round expert in every field, always there to explain to me what I am doing wrong or question as to why I am doing that way? Ha! Ha!
Log Entry Tuesday 15th September - We fit our new Spray Hood.
We were not keen on having a company drive in from Cagliari to measure, produce and fit a new hood for a number of reasons. We took our old 24 year old spray hood back to the UK and had the original manufacture use it as a template for the new one. I was given a short class on how to fit it - "how hard could it be?" I thought, I was so wrong!
In all honesty I congratulate the professional fitters, it took me half a day and multiple fittings to determine what was truly required to make it fit properly. There were errors too, it was too short which I will discuss when we return. Unfortunately I disposed of the original hood as it had been cut into sections to use as a template To my surprise, it appeared too short, the only way to make it fit was to cut the stainless steel framework bring the hood down to the area where the pins and fasteners were? The cutting was incremental and cautious, it must have taken two days to get it down correctly - drove Ann nuts! Then, the new hood could be cut and the fasteners fitted, with final tensioning improved with the relocation of the associated pins - I found it quite challenging to make a good job.
Log Entry Wednesday 9th September- My turn to prep dinner, so we go out, better for all!
We enjoy our breakfast coffee in the cockpit as normal, but it's not a good start to the day for someone? Carloforte has a small hospital for general assist, for greater issues it's an ambulance drive, ferry trip then a further 45 minutes or so to a main hospital. In extreme cases the ambulance drives the casualty to the sea wall where a Coast Guardia helicopter takes the casualty to "where ever?" This morning is the first time we hear/see the emergency routing used?
Clearly for dinner it has to be pizza, this time one of the side street restaurants. We keep ourselves busy in a nearby cafe as they cannot open until 19:30 hours when the streets become closed to traffic and they set their tables out. Good, food, refreshments, good evening!
Log Entry Tuesday 8th September- A couple of days of rain, still plenty to keep us busy in the dry!
Well, when it rains here it truly does rain, barely consistent but very heavy showers accompanied with thunder and lightening. It still warm so people move around the showers very few even bothering with coats or umbrellas.
Log Entry Monday 7th September - After a busy weekend a lazy day due!
We continue to set a reasonable balance between our jobs list and Ann's lattes? One may think we have returned after 13 months to a wreck of a boat, there are issues, but we also brought a car packed with "new goodies" too, so our time is spent getting Sailaway ready to move to Cagliari, fitting our new stuff, some projects literally days long allowing for the heat etc. We decide to wander into town after sorting ourselves out, which just happened to co-inside with lunch time so Ann managed her lunch being her favorite "croissant ala creme" which speaks for itself, with her latte! For a dainty lady in size she can sure eat a lot?
To round off the afternoon we call in at the Yacht Club having a couple of drinks with nibbles. We had forgotten about the pricing here, coffee etc is reasonably priced, but the alcohol not so much, I renumbered as I asked for the bill? For two glasses of wine and two spritzers we were charged €34! I could not help myself calling out to the proprietor "Are you sure, let me see?" Well, sure enough there the drinks were itemised, then I remembered the extreme pricing then? However I did learn my lesson - I had Ann pay the bill!
As we returned to Sailaway a super yacht "Ocean Blue 2" was leaving, we watched it arrive yesterday in fair cross winds it's departure was in similar conditions? It dwarfed us as it past to our stern (that's nautical for behind us?) they used 3 marinara's and their dinghies to assist he out - the crew never even waved?
Interesting facts on Ocean Blue 2 (Charter vessel, for hire)
41 meters long, accommodation for 11 guests, with a crew of 6 providing 24 hour service if required - every modern convenience one could imagine. Available at a cost starting from just €89,000.00 per week, what a "snip!"
Log Entry Thursday 3rd September - With our engine running for the first time for 13 months, time to celebrate?
Our 34 year old Ford diesel engine starts with very little effort other than getting the fuel through, we run it for about an hour to check for issues, over heating etc - nothing found wrong with it. The fuel system needs servicing, checking for contamination, water and new fuel filters. The engine oil and oil filter is also changed then she is ran again, all good. I do notice that the coolant is rather dirty and aged, it too could do with renewal? We also know that the camshaft timing belt is due to be changed, both go hand in hand due to the logistics of the task. Too hot now, especially combining the heat omitted from the engine also so time to call it a day, the timing belt and coolant can be done another day.
We decide to head into town, it's now lunch time, everywhere is deserted as they all disappear to eat, they will all reappear about 4:30 to 5pm so we almost have the town to our selves. After quenching our thirsts we walk the harbor front up to the small, original fishing harbor to the north.
At lunch times even the water is free from traffic, it amazing how disciplined the lunch breaks are, typically spent with their family it leaves only the odd tourists or visitors wandering around in the heat? During the winter the ferry services reduce to about 10 per day, again no ferry service during the lunch period with no visitors I guess the ferries are not needed around lunch time?
Log Entry Wednesday 2nd September - It's Wednesday, so it's Market Day!
We shop twice a week for Fruit, Salad and vegetables, Sunday/Monday in the supermarket, on a Wednesday we always pick up our fresh produce from the market and have a look around. The interesting thing is that on a Wednesday both supermarkets drop their price of fruit and salad to compete, it goes back up on a Thursday? Fact, I have checked, consequentially if the market produce appears to be of poor quality usually due to the time of year you can purchase the imported goods at a lower price on a Wednesday?
Due to our management of Covid we decide to go early when it is quieter, it also helps us as it gives us more time to complete our jobs and we still have plenty to keep us busy before Sailaway is ready to move to Cagliari.
Ann however talks me into "one quick latte" - I foolishly agree but warn her I expect a much harder work rate when we do eventually get back to Sailaway!
Me being a true "task master" had Ann work extra hard this afternoon - well until it got too hot to work out in the open anyway. I am far to soft with Ann, I need to take a firmer hand, our jobs would be completed much faster?
Log Entry Tuesday 1st September - Another day on "Slave ship" Sailaway.
When we wake up we always sit in the cockpit, weather permitting and see whats going on around us - not a great deal to be honest, the marina has never been so quiet this time of year apparently? The ferries begin about 0530am and continue late into the night, lying in bed we can here their propellers churning through the water but it does not disturb our sleep?
Sailaway is looking good down below, Ann has worked hard. We have arrived just in time as many of the seals in our windows have deteriorated through weather and age. They all need taking off, painting up and resealing to be sure? The consequences being several patches of damp down below, lots of elbow grease and repairs to do! The windows went on in Turkey about five years and over 6000 sea miles have passed under her hull. That combined with recent long periods of absence from her it's pointing towards the need for a yard to bring her back up to "good condition" as we used to do.
We have to go back into town, this time for essentials to continue repairs and the return to a good sea going condition as the yard is not on the island. To reach a suitable yard a journey of 100 miles plus will be required, first task to find an appropriate yard that will let us carry out our own work in it? Most yards now will only allow their engineers to work on your boat, such an cost would not be feasible for the amount of work needed.
We make our way into town, there is extensive development ongoing, half of the large, once car-park is being reworked into what appears to be a pedestrian area - great to see this type of local development, especially in these times?
Well we have been back here two nights now - a pizza must be due! We walk to the small place we used to visit on the water front, still only 7:30pm here so the family/staff are still eating their meal before they begin work, but we are invited into the outside area to join them, we have a drink until they finish. Food is as good as we remember, great to come back to a place time after time where very little changes, no one locks their cars, or sometimes even close their windows - valuables in sight? We sit for a while watching the world go by, it's strange the things you sometimes see on cars? The restaurant slowly fills in time, time for us to leave we do not like crowded areas.
As Ann says "There is always time/room for a gelato!" we call into a gelato shop on the way back to Sailaway, needless to say they were great. Well we have now to declare that we have settled into life here, now back to reality and the work ahead of us, some repairs and preparation for us to move to Cagliari where we have found a yard and some nice new things to fit that we had brought back with us.
Log Entry Monday 30th August - Our first day in Carloforte, must catch up with the town and the "island way of life".
Our first point of call must be to wish "Plant" a good day. We received pictures back in May from Andrea showing her in full flour once again - she has flowered every year since she became a "land lubber!" She has grown in height in the past year and the two broken stems have sprouted. She has been moved into the corner out of the direct winds that broke the two stems, and I have brought with us more wire to improve the strength and therefore improve the protection from the frame I made during our last visit..
We walk the short distance towards the town square, little has changed except for the time of year many establishments clearly did not open for the season at all, and of coarse there are far fewer visitors - all Covid related no doubt.
The square is the busiest place on the island as one would expect, today an art and craft, stroke second hand market. We find enough to wander through, although we do not favor public gatherings as such, so little time is spent viewing the many individual stalls.
We head back down towards the harbor front and sit down at what was one of the most used cafe by us. Overall very little has changed in the 12 months, a lot quieter for the time of year, but the same "locals" running the cafe, shops etc. Still we have an hour or so watching the world go by as we do, pointing out the local people we recognise as we see them.
We have much work to do on Sailaway but with more than half the day over there is no point starting now so we stop off at the marina Club House for more coffee, Ann catches up with her friends while I watch the boats go by and chat with the Marinaras who look after the marina.
Log Entry Saturday 29th August - We wake up in our cabin after a great nights sleep, Sardinia in sight!
The view from our cabin window is welcomed, just over 12 months since we left Sardinia. Our drive ahead to "Porto Vesme" where we catch the ferry to "Carloforte (Isola San Pietro)" was just less than 170 miles, but in contrast to our trip across France will take us 4 hours plus due to the style and condition of road etc - millions of pot holes to avoid on this section of our trip! The drive passed in time with as many of the pot holes avoided as possible? The ferry over to the island is a "walk on/walk off" type and takes less than an hour to make the trip to "Sailaway".
It's a beautiful day and mid channel we pass the returning ferry from Carloforte, the view of Carloforte, San Pietro to the north and "Isola Piana" in the north, clear out of the mist.
Once in the harbor of Carloforte the view becomes extremely familiar and warming - "great to be back!" In the distance, bottom right picture above we can make out Sailaway. It's a final trip to "Conad Supermarche" to pick up a few essential bits and pieces before we board Sailaway and begin to unpack!
Log Entry Friday 28th August - After a pleasant break we continue down to Toulon for the ferry to Sardinia.
We had in the region of a further 480 miles to cover today, the first 6-8 miles on local roads where we filled up with fuel to avoid the toll road extortionate prices, then onto the toll road system. You obviously pay for the privileged but no road works, hold ups and a good road surface - no "pot holes" unlike the UK! The drive was to be a mix of heavy rain and sun shine, we experienced it all. The rain at one stage became so torrential that even at 40mph visibility was extremely poor and the surface water so deep the car kept "hydro-foiling" and loosing traction on the road - we pulled into the service area and sat that rain out for an hour or so before we continued?
Other that the heavy rain the only excitement was the toll road payment, or ticket collection areas - the 800 mile trip across France, north to south cost us about €70, well worth cost in my opinion. I would look at the equivalent drive in the UK to being a complete and absolute nightmare!
We in time, made the Toulon exit, early evening not a bad time of the day to make the to the ferry Terminal in the center of town, we were unable to enter the check in area until after 8:30pm so we planned it perfectly, refueling locally before we checked in. We passed all of the required temperature checks and had per-registered on line as required, one section, declaring our acceptance to any and all applicable fines encountered if failing to comply with Covid Regulations. Our ferry to Porto Torres (Sardinia) was due to sail at 1030pm, it left on time, due to arrive in Sardinia at 1000am tomorrow morning.
Log Entry Thursday 27th August - We explore Chaumarandes, the local area around our hotel in the town of Chaumont.
We slept remarkably well and had a quick look around outside before breakfast, it appeared even more picturesque in the daylight? What a great position too, with the town only a mile or so away, we even passed a Lidl - so Ann was excited! The breakfast was good and plentiful, and of coarse the option to sit inside or out, after breakfast the plan was to have a walk around the local area, then later in the day have a look into town and Ann's first "European Lidl" was a must!
We set off on our walk, the hotel sat alongside a small river, the small stone bridge clearly kept in good order. We followed the lane down past an enormous stone mansion, set back in it's grounds, hidden behind thick trees.
Within 200/300 meters we came to a small car park/pick-nick area alongside "Marne Canal" again well kept in perfect order. The toll path was quite busy with people exercising, all greeting us with "Bonjour!" as they passed at whatever speed - we felt quite "French!" We were even met and greeted by a local Police patrol in a small Renault van, what a job those guys must have in this area? We had a couple of telephone calls to make so we sat on the toll path and made those too.
It was a lovely way to begin our day after a full day in the car yesterday, and what a beautiful setting - reminded us of the "Black Forest" region as we walked along the canal, before we new it lunch time was upon us?
Log Entry Thursday 27th August - We have lunch then pop into the town of Chaumont by car.
Our first stop on the way to town was to be at the "Chaumont Viaduct" deemed to be the "number 1" place to visit while here? It was originally build in 1856 to carry trains on the main link between Paris and Basel (Switzerland). The Viaduct was impressive at over 600 meters long and over 52 meters high at the highest point - what an achievement of that period. It is quite an attraction, we missed the opportunity to walk it's length on it's secondary level as it was closed for cleaning and restoration. I walk it's length from below crossing the valley, fascinated by the achievement of the time and wonder how many lives were lost as was typical of these early projects?
We head into the town of Chaumont (Population circa. 23K) it is relatively quiet, which, due to current conditions is perfect for us, we find free parking very easy at the railway station. What sort of a place is this with free parking? We park up and walk into what we believe to be the town center, it is clean to us from the "looks" we receive in our car they are not used to seeing British registered vehicles?
We grab a coffee in the square, sitting out in the open, then, head for a defined "view point" and what a view it was over the town and the river "Marne." From our position you can make out the "number 2" to do here, visit numerous churches - not our type of "stuff" so will give that a miss! Still, a beautiful, friendly, picturesque town, visually with a great deal of history!
Log Entry Wednesday 26th August - We leave Northampton for Dover to catch the ferry to Dunkirk.
We leave Lisa's just after 0700, we have a little over 160 miles to cover but we have to continue down the M1, join the M25 then over the Dartford Crossing - OUCH! A lot of it around the morning "rush hour" traffic? To our amazement the traffic was light in comparison to what we recall throughout the whole journey? Chatting about it, we wonder whether, as in the north east, there are still many people working from home? That was our conclusion as we discussed the progress of the journey, or, perhaps just "lucky?"
With our progress so good we arrived at Dover Ferry Terminal about an hour ahead of schedule, we "zoom" through security even when pulled over into the covered area and the car and us checked over, temperature checks etc. As we reach the "Check in gate" we are told that the 10:30 Ferry was still open should we choose to be re-allocated from the 12:00 sailing - we opt for the sooner sailing obviously! To take things a step further, for doing so we are awarded two passes for "free full English breakfasts" - perfect, in many ways?
Once on board we head upstairs and search out our free breakfasts! The vessel and the restaurant are very "Covid safe!" masks mandatory, no mask and you do not get on! They do also sell them too should you have forgotten your own mask. As you are handed your breakfast you are advised as to how to clear your crockery/cutlery/remains in the cleaning stations setup - minimal contact between individuals, staff and travelers applied at all times. We had hardly started our breakfasts when we started to move out of the vessels moorings, making our way to the harbor exit.
As we leave the port the nostalgic, "White Cliffs of Dover" are in clear view - no matter how many times we view them it gives you "goose bumps". Its clear evidence that we are at last after 12 months, finally leaving the UK again!
Once approaching Dunkirk, France, we are called back to our vehicles, the satnav set up and are ready to go! Having approximately 800 miles to cover to Toulon where we catch the ferry to Sardinia, we plan to break up the journey into two stages. our first destination was Chaumont in central France. A choice simply made from examining the rate of Covid-19 case reports within France. As one would expect the cases are higher in all large towns and cities, Chaumont seemed to appear in a central "almost all clear/minimal risk" area, thats how we made Chaumont our choice of place to stop over.
The 427 mile drive to Chaumont was uninterrupted, with the exclusion of the toll and service stations we had no reason to slow down let alone stop? The roads were fairly quiet, predominantly French registered private vehicles on the road, but never the less, to our surprise we did see a number of British registrations!
We arrive at our accommodation "Au Rendez-Vous des Amis" in Chaumarandes, Chaumont as darkness began to fall, what a beautifully quaint little village we find ourselves in. A perfect stop over venue for a couple of nights was our first impression, and that was in the dark! Our room was clean and comfortable, the whole premises appeared very "Covid safe!"
Log Entry Monday 24th August - Finally en-route to Sailaway in Sardinia!
Eventually we hit the road yesterday, 6 hours to cover 235 miles south - not the easiest trip with bad weather and three cars full of youngsters running straight into a set of obviously sign posted road works, loosing us an hour while they cleared up their mess just in front of us? We are here at our daughter's Lisa's until Wednesday then a ferry to France.