Week 80 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 20th September 2009

Every morning brings a new IQ Test. I find, however, that by carefully studying the shower controls for several minutes I can virtually guarantee a blast of ice cold water to the back of my neck. Just what is needed in the morning. Ugh.

We want to drive past Prague Castle which we can easily see towering over the town. The problem is that there are so many palaces that the Tom Tom overwhelms us with information and we give up and point in the general direction. This time I want to see if I can damage some of the front of the car to even things up a bit and we achieve this within a few minutes by getting stuck in a narrow road. Grr.

We never actually see the castle but the sheer number of breathtaking buildings as we head up the hill is, well, breathtaking. Clearly, at some point, Prague must have won the world lottery - quiet what their scam was I don't know but it must have been pretty damn good. Ah! a quick search on the web shows that for a long time they had charge of the Catholic Church - scams don't come bigger than that.

We drive on for Innsbruck, stopping for some very nice looking soup that you don't just enjoy once but countless times for the next hundred miles. Ugh.

Innsbruck seems very quiet for the rush hour - they can't all be locked in cellars. "Maybe" my girlfriend suggests "it's because it is Sunday?" Good point. Why didn't I think of that?

We drive round in circles and eventually track down the tourist fleecing area and find a nice hotel (a Best Western) with free parking. As we park the car we meet some Americans coming out who apologise for not speaking German. Es macht nichts. It seems they have been there for three days but whether they mean Prague or the Garage I am not sure.

In the hotel room we can hear some serious oompah, oompah. Clearly, the Austrians are celebrating Kristallnacht or something. At about 9.00pm we set out for something to eat. Again, like Bilbao, there are dozens of bars but limited places to get a proper meal. We eventually eat at another Best Western. Good, though.

Monday 21st September 2009

In the morning I walk a few yards up the hill to collect the car from the hotel garage. When I start driving I realise that the garage is on a one way road but how hard can it be to find a left turn and go round the block? "Extremely" is the answer. The road continues to climb but there are no turnings off. I climb and climb and already I can see the snow line approaching and the birds are having difficulty keeping up due to lack of oxygen. Eventually, I can turn left and I now head down on the basis that the river must be at the lowest point. Just as I abandon hope I spot the hotel.

I'm afraid my girlfriend won't recognise me after so long away but all is well and we drive off looking for a "souvenir from Austria" but with no luck. This is strange as at this very moment plastic gnomes, cow bells and silly hats labelled "a present from Austria" are pouring like a torrent off a vast machine in China. She eventually settles for some throat pastels labelled "made by hand in Switzerland"



On the way we pass a sculpture that shows that some Austrians do have a sense of humour.

Eventually, we decide to stop for the night in a small town called Dole - mainly because we can spell it and find it in the Tom-Tom. Initially, the town seems very grim but eventuallly we get to the fun centre where we find an adequate hotel and a restaurant that restores my faith in French cooking. Awesome.

Tuesday 22nd September 2009

In the morning we are awoken by a chorus of car horns. Presumably, word has got round of our presence and the grateful peasants are gathered to hear from us. Accordingly, I walk out onto our balcony to address the multitude but find that in fact it is a visiting circus with some of the longest waggon trains I have ever seen on a road. Amazing.

After about 200 miles my co-pilot announces that an oncoming car has flashed us. A few seconds later we see a lot of yellow lights on our side emanating from a broken down lorry. But I am still suspicious and after another twenty seconds we see the Gendarmarie sneekily hiding behind a hedge. Yah boo sucks!

Not that we were exceeding the speed limit of course - Heaven Forbid.

In the late afternoon we arrive at Rocamadour as planned - it still looks the same.

Wednesday 23rd September 2009

One thing that has become apparent is that both of our sat-navs change their minds as we drive along. I suspect that this is because on planning very long journeys they make some approximations and then refine the route as time passes. Certainly, somewhere south of Toulouse, they both decide that it would be much quicker to go right over the Pyrenees via the D929. Well, why not?

So off we go, up and up. At one point we find that the route lies through the pedestrianised centre of a small village. We see no traffic apart from three suicidal Swiss motor cyclists whom we follow for a few miles but the car is not really built for doing endless very tight hairpins and I always seem to be in the wrong gear. Eventually we let them go and we stop for a while to take photos. Finally, we drive through a very narrow tunnel and we are in Spain.

Suddenly, the three musketeers overtake us as we wait for road works but then the Guardia Civil way-lay us and we go through the whole dreary process yet again of producing papers that they do not understand yet do not want to admit the fact.

After that delay we find that the navigators are sulking and a road has been closed. We do some old fashioned map reading (you must have a map as backup even with two navigators on board) and eventually get out of the maze of small roads but we have taken several hours to cover about 70 miles.

Near Madrid we stop at what looks like a reasonable hotel but the air conditioning does not work and there is no hot water.

Thursday 24th September 2009

We get off to an early start after cold showers - we only have 450 miles to cover so the journey is fairly stress free.

One of the problems with Spain is that every few miles there are signs to petrol, food, lavatories etc. After months of trial and error we finally realise that these should always be ignored unless you can actually see a big modern petrol station. Otherwise you will end up in a bar full of Spanish lorry drivers who stare at you through thick clouds of smoke like you come from Mars.

At about 6.15pm we asrrive in the micro-climate of Gibralar. Apart from huge piles of dead ants in the flat and a very wilted pot plant, all is well. It is nice to be back.

Friday 25th September 2009

I had assumed that our Poinsetta would recover quickly once we gave it some water but it still seems to be in a state of shock. This is the second time we have almost killed it so it is only matter of time before Social Servicers turn up and take it away.

Saturday 26th September 2009

At 6.00am there is very heavy fog but the harbour fog horn does not start up until about 1.30pm at which point the fog clears rapidly and gives way to rain.

The most exciting thing we do all day is a trip to Morrisons - to buy petrol at 81.9p per litre. This is still measurably cheaper than Spain where the rate is nearer to 1.10e per litre (approx 100p per litre). France is well ahead at about 1.30e per litre.


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