It’s 05:00 in the morning and I’ve just had a ‘phone call.

I need to move on from here as something has been arranged for me that I’ve been trying to do for 50 years.

I’ll be out of internet contact for at least three weeks so don’t think that this blog has died a death. It will be back in due course, updated daily page by page, and then you can find out where I’ve been.

Play nicely while I’m away, happy birthday to everyone whose birthdays I shall miss, and don’t so anything that I wouldn’t do.


Thursday 30th August 2018 – I WISH …

… that banks would stop employing cashiers who wear low-cut tee-shirts. When this one today leant over the counter to give me my US dollars in a fashion so that we could count them together, I was totally distracted and I have no idea how much she gave me.

It’s definitely bad for my health, all of this.

Last night was slightly better. I slept all the way through until the racket from the fridge and the air-conditioning awoke me at about 04:00. But I soon went back to sleep until the alarms went off.

Breakfast for some reason didn’t start to be served until 08:00 so I had plenty of time to attack the notes from yesterday, and I’d even finished by the time that they opened the dining room, which is always encouraging.

Afterwards, I had a shower and washed my clothes from yesterday. I’ll be washing myself away at this rate if it keeps on like this.

A little later, I went out into town, stopping off for a bottle of water and to explore the shopping mall just down the road.

And why is shopping in North America so boring? Well, when you’ve seen one bunch of shops, you’ve seen a mall.

I’ll get my coat.

bibliotheque archives national de quebec montreal canada august aout 2018Down the road at the foot of the hill by the Parc Viger is this beautiful building.

Dating from the early years of the 20th Century, it was formerly the Montreal Technical School but today it’s the BANQ – the Bibiliothèque and Archives National de Québec.

I’ve taken shelter there from the rain once a few years ago, but I’ve never actually visited it. However, it is my destination for this morning.

bibliotheque archives national quebec montreal canada august aout 2018While you admire one of the most beautiful interiors that I have ever seen, let me tell you my story.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few years ago I wrote a pile of stuff about the Chemin du Roy, the road that was built by Pierre Robineau de Bécancour and Jean Eustache Lanouiller in he early 18th Century to link Montréal and Québec

I wrote at the time that I would one day have to visit the National Archives to find the original maps of the route, because much has been lost in the subsequent 300 years.

So here I am.

bibliotheque archives national quebec montreal canada august aout 2018But I’m in for a massive disappointment.

There are indeed record of the route, that’s for sure. But they are held at the archives site in Québec, not Montreal. So I need to go there instead.

And where are the BANQ archives in Québec? Why, on the campus at the University of Laval of course.

Ring any bells?

track layout gare viger montreal canada august aout 2018But all is not lost. It wasn’t a total waste of time.

I’ve been wondering for years about the track arrangements at the Gare Viger – how the platforms were actually laid out in relation to the buildings, and here I struck gold.

On the wall was an exhibition of the area, and one of the exhibits was a map of the area 100 years or so ago which showed everything that I wanted to know.

train sheds gare viger montreal canada august aout 2018The station was subsequently modernised and extended, and this meant that the track layout needed to be changed.

And while I wasn’t able to see a plan of how the station layout was configured afterwards, there was a handy aerial photograph hanging on the wall that showed at least some of the train sheds.

So I might not be any the wiser, but I’m certainly better-informed.

gare dalhousie montreal canada august aout 2018The Gare Viger dates from the turn of the 20th Century. But before this, there was an earlier Canadian Pacific railway station in the eastern side of the city – the Gare Dalhousie.

It was from here that the first trans-continental train set out in 1886 (and we’ve all noticed that, once again, the Maritime Provinces have been totally ignored by the official Canadian History. According to them, there’s nothing except eskimoes and indians east of Montreal and they don’t count for anything)

After the opening of the Gare Viger it became a freight depot and then an industrial warehouse. However it’s recently undergone a programme of renovation and they have done a good job here.

It’s now a circus school, and seeing as it was formerly a Canadian Pacific building, that is quite appropriate. Clowns should feel right at home here.

gullwing port de montreal harbour canada august aout 2018Down on the docks Oakglen is still there, as we might expect, but we have another bulk carrier down at the far end.

She’s the Gullwing, a Maltese bulk-carrier of 39000 tonnes and was built in 2011, although you might not think it.

She’s come in from Quebec after an exhausting tour around the Pacific, and were I going to visit my friend Rhys I would hop aboard because according to the port authorities her next stop is Charleston in South Carolina.

msc alyssa port de montreal harbour canada august aout 2018Also in the far end of the harbour was a huge MSC container ship.

No chance of reading its name from here unfortunately but according to the port records, there’s an MSC Alyssa in port and she seems to fit the bill.

She’s of 61500 tonnes and has arrived from Liverpool. And were I to want to go back to Leuven for my next hospital appointment I would immediately leap aboard, because her next port of call is Antwerp.

kids pirate ships port de montreal harbour canada august aout 2018The brats still aren’t back at school yet in Montreal, and so the children’s entertainment is in full swing.

I was impressed by the pirate ships, and even more impressed by the fact that the kids were being allowed to swing on ropes and slide down zip wires and all of that.

Can you imagine that in the stupid nanny-state UK where the ridiculous Health and Safety rules are such that you even need a fire safety certificate to wave a flag at a football match.

But I haven’t come here to waste my time.

seabourn quest port de montreal harbour canada august aout 2018I had it on good authority that there was a cruise ship in town ready to do a voyage down the St Lawrence and the Eastern seaboard of the USA, and so I went for a look.

And here we have the Seabourn Quest, all 32,500 tonnes of her and built as recently as 2011, which is quite modern for a cruise ship. We’ve seen some thoroughly ancient and disreputable ones in our time.

Unfortunately the quay was heavily guarded so if Strawberry Moose and I want to nip aboard, we’d have to buy some tickets.

juno marie port de montreal harbour canada august aout 2018The little tender alongside her is the Juno Marie.

She’s officially described as a tanker, and being small like this, her task is very likely to be to fuel up the larger ships in the docks as they arrive so that they are ready to set sail as quickly as possible.

There are a few of these little tankers in port and we’ve seen at least one of them before.

ursulines place d'youville montreal canada august aout 2018When I was here last October I’d finally managed to make it to the real centre of the city where it all was happening back in the 17th Century but I didn’t have time to go far.

One of the places that I hadn’t seen was the old Ursuline convent, or what remains of it.

This organisation of the “Grey Nuns” was founded here in Montreal in 1737 by Marguerite d’Youville and they ended up over time with quite an impressive range of buildings here.

ursulines pace d'youville montreal canada august aout 2018Their claim to fame is that they were the first female religious organisation to undertake the full range of social and charitable aims.

There had been many people engaged in these tasks before, and we’ve talked in the past about people like Marguerite Bourgeoys.

But they just had their little niche of interest, not the whole range.

ursulines place d'youville montreal canada august aout 2018There was a large hospital on the site too, as well as a very large and impressive church, if the old drawings are anything to go by.

But as the city expanded northwards and eastwards away from the river, and as the port of Montreal expanded along the banks, it was deemed necessary to make a new road network connecting the two.

And so the Ursulines had to go, and so did some of their buildings.

ursulines place d'youville montreal canada august aout 2018Luckily, not all was demolished. There are still some remains of the impressive buildings that are now classed as Historical Monuments.

And if you look very carefully in the roadway, you’ll see lines of granite setts – there are a couple in the photo here.

When they were doing some roadworks a while ago they came across the foundations of the old walls that had been demolished. They have marked them out on the road with the granite setts so that you can see the extent of the former buildings

grand trunk building rue mgcill montreal canada august aout 2018As I was making my way round to the Place d’Youville I noticed this building in the distance.

Whilst the building itself is impressive, the exciting thing about it is that over the door is carved the legend “Grand Trunk”.

This was one of the earliest of the main-line railway companies that was involved in the “railway wars” in Canada at the end of the 19th Century.

This was their magnificent Head Office in the Rue McGill, built 1899-1902.

Unfortunately it didn’t last long. The Grand Trunk was one of the biggest losers in the Railway War and it was coming back from a very unsuccessful fund-raising trip in Europe in 1912 that its president, Charles Hays, was drowned on the Titanic.

The company quickly went bankrupt and was taken over by the Government, forming part of the Canadian National rail network.

place d'youville montreal canada august aout 2018Montreal these days is basically a very large island, but back in the 16th Century it was several small ones.

The original settlement was on a small island bounded by the St Lawrence River and the Riviere St Pierre.

That latter river was eventually built over, and today, it’s the Place d’Youville, named for our friend Marguerite.

place d'youville montreal canada august aout 2018When we were here in October last year, you will remember seeing the excavations that were taking place just here.

This was the site of the city’s first indoor covered market which later became the Parliament Building for the country.

However the building was destroyed in 1849 in the riots that followed the passing of an Act emancipating the rebels of the 1830s and was never rebuilt. The Government of Canada moved elsewhere, much to the chagrin of the Québecois.

fire station place d'youville montreal canada august aout 2018A fire station was erected here in 1903 – 54 years too late to save the Parliament building unfortunately.

Today the fire brigade has moved elsewhere and the building is now a museum. I would have liked to have gone for a look around but I was rather pushed for time.

I still have quite a lot to do today and it’s late.

So much so, in fact, that I’m going to have to leave these notes where they are and catch up when I have a little more time.

I can’t believe how quickly the time is passing.

Wednesday 29th August 2018 – I’VE NO IDEA …

… why it is that some people can make the easiest job turn out to be the most complicated and consume hours of my time when I have much better things to do.

Take my Canadian car insurance as an example.

It needs to be paid, and had the company sent me their account details, I could have walked into any Scotia Bank anywhere in Canada and done it in a machine in 30 seconds and everyone would have been happy.

Instead, they tell me to “do it by e-mail transfer”

I’ve no idea how to do that but never mind. Just down the road from here and round the corner in the rue St Catherine Est is a Scotia Bank. So I duly take myself down there to enquire.

“We can’t go that here for you” they wailed
“Probably not” I replied. “All I asked you to do is to tell me how to do it”.
So the cashier sent for a supervisor, and I explained again.
“That’s not something we can do” she said. “We don’t have access to your information”
“I know” I replied. “I just want you to tell me how I do it”
“That’s something that you have to do yourself”
“Is there something wrong with my French? Or don’t you understand my accent or something? I’m not asking you to do it – I’m asking you to tell me how I do it”.
“We can’t do it for you”.

After another half an hour like that, I walked out. I really don’t understand why I’m having such a problem with such a load of bankers these days. Every single one seems to be causing me problems.

But all is not lost. There’s another branch up the road towards the town so I set off there to see if they are any better.

black men working rue st catherine est montreal canada august aout 2018And the walk up town is not without excitement.

Here we have a typical Western-World scene of a young thin black guy working a pneumatic chisel breaking up the pavement, with another young thin black guy holding a board to stop the concrete chips flying all over the passers-by.

And a big fat much-older white guy standing around watching the immigrants work. Too lazy to even go to fetch a shovel to lean on.

No wonder the Western world is in such a crisis when it’s only the immigrants who want to work. And these are the people whom the Fascist want to kick out

And not only that – I was almost squidged by a passing car as I stepped carelessly into the roadway.

At the second Scotia Bank, much farther away that I thought, I explained my problem.
“We’re only an express bank here. You need to go to one with full facilities. There’s one two blocks away”
And that was two of the largest blocks in the whole of Montreal, I reckoned.

There were two cashiers on duty there. One, an older lady, clearly knew what she was doing. The second was evidently a new-starter who was stopping her colleague every ten seconds to ask questions that even I could answer;

And the queue in front of me was becoming quite impatient.

Eventually, after a very long wait, I was seen. Luckily it was the efficient one. And she told me “you need to see another colleague about this”.

Another colleague was eventually found and she asked me to switch on my mobile banking application.
“I don’t have one” I replied.
“We can download the app” she said.
And if you have any idea about how long the on-line mobile banking app takes to download on my ‘phone.
“Never mind. I’ll show you on my computer”.
So she switched on her machine and took me step by step through the procedure.
“What we need is an example of a payment”.
“So why don’t we use this real example here?”
“Ohh, what a good idea!”.
Couldn’t make it up, could you?

And so we did. She set me up with a mobile banking account and we eventually managed to make the payment. And that was only by luck because she didn’t really know how to do it and was having to search for loads of answers to questions.

I had started out from here at 10:20 to do a 2-minute job. It was now 12:02 and I had an appointment at 12:00 across town.

Later on, in the Koodo mobile phone office.

I’d found a mobile ‘phone repairer who checked my new phone. As you know, it’s a dual-sim phone and so I wanted to know if it works in North America. He put a couple of different North American sim cards in it and sure enough, it worked fine.

So round to the Koodo network suppliers.
Our Hero – “I live in Europe and I come to North America for a couple of months every year. I need a pay-as-you-go card that will do …….(and I explained what I needed)”
Girl in Shop – “okay, we need to fill out a form”
Our Hero fills out a form
GIS – “where’s this address again?”
OH – “In France”
GIS – “but that’s no good. You need a Canadian address”
OH – “I told you that I come from Europe”
GIS – “you need an address in Canada”
OH fills it out with an address in Canada
GIS – “now which plan would you like?”
OH – “one that does what I told you just now”
GIS – “yes, but which one is that?”
OH – “how do I know? It’s your shop not mine!”
GIS – “so tell me again what you need”
OH repeats his initial enquiry
GIS – “I don’t think we have a plan like that. Is it one of these?”

In the Montreal Public Transport Enquiry Office.
My plans to leave Montreal have changed due to weather issues at my destination so we’re leaving on Saturday at 08:10, which means that I have to be at the airport at 05:10.

So I queued to ask if the 747 bus ran throughout the night.

Some agent was walking down the queue asking people if they had simple questions. So I asked him mine.
“I don’t know” he replied. “You need to ask at a window”.
And so I asked at a window, when it was eventually my turn. And they didn’t know either. After a lengthy chat amongst themselves, they came to the conclusion that it might. But they weren’t sure.

I really don’t know why these days that they employ people like this. They clearly have no pride or interest in their work and couldn’t care less about the effect that their “je m’en foutiste” attitude has on their customers.

But a lot of it is due to the lack of training. That’s because the employers pay such pitiful wages that people don’t stay around long enough, so the companies won’t invest the money in training them.

The long-term vision about recruiting good people and training them to do their jobs efficiently so that the customers want to come and spend their money there to make the place profitable in the long-term has been replaced by this short-term “grab it and run” philosophy that will bring about their own downfall in the long term, as we are seeing with so many formerly blue-chip companies that have gone to the wall just recently.

It was a strange night last night. I was wide -awake at 03:00 (jet-lag again) and working on the laptop. But not for long. I drifted off to sleep again, was awakened by all of the alarms and then finally by the fridge and the air-conditioning working in concert to make sure that I was up and about.

Breakfast here is “basic” to say the least, the kind of thing that is advertised as a “continental breakfast” – and you find that you are expected to eat your quilt. The kind of thing that makes you feel down in the mouth.

But at least it’s here and not half a mile away. And afterwards, yet another shower to look my best.

I finished off the work that I had started and then hit the streets for my appointment with destiny – or, rather the Scotia Bank.

At 12:00 I was supposed to be having lunch with Josée so I had to leg it across town and eventually arrived 20 minutes late. She was ever so pleased to see me (I’m not sure why) and we had a good meal and a chat.

At 13:30 she had to go back to work, so I went with her and she showed me her workshops and introduced me to her pupils. And printed out the directions for where I needed to go next.

I need some special equipment for the next part of my journey so it was to the Montreal Equipment Co-operative.

This involved two buses, the 80 and the 179, and a long walk at the end, almost being squidged a second time by another car.

They weren’t particularly helpful as much as I would like, and they didn’t have some of the stuff that I needed, but we worked around it and I’ve ended up hopefully with stuff that might do.

It better had because I’ve put a lot of effort into the next stage of my voyage and I don’t want to be confounded at the final hurdle.

But here’s another example of total “je m’en foutisme”. I want a hat with a mosquito net for part of my project.
“We don’t have any of those in stock”.
“But you have hats, and here’s a mosquito hat-net. Couldn’t I buy them both and fasten the net to the hat?”
“Yes, that would work”
“So how come you didn’t suggest it?”
It’s frightening, the lack of imagination that some people have these days

We had a moment of panic in there too when I couldn’t find my camera bag, and I had all of the staff searching for it. In the end I found it, in my rucksack where I had put it earlier.

And paying for the stuff was fun. Josée told me to use her name as my spouse so that I would get the member discount. And have you any idea how embarrassing it is when you tell someone about your “spouse” and they ask for her address and you don’t know it?

I went and had a cold drink to recover.

storm damage rue st catherine est montreal canada august aout 2018Outside, there was another one of these five-minute storms raging;

Apart from the torrential downpour there were some devastating winds that looked incredible.

Apparently they caused some considerable damage all over southern Quebec and when I was walking through the city during the evening I could see considerable evidence of that, with the advertising hoardings all blown over.

A long walk back to the bus, and a long wait too. And much to my surprise, everyone else waiting seemed to be an Indian – one of those Indians, not “those” Indians. Except when the bus turned up, and a tiny little elderly white man barged his way to the front of the queue to push in, clearly exercising his role as a white oppressor of the brown-skinned immigrants.

I leapt out of the bus near the Parc metro station, and my walk round the corner took me past the mobile phone places that I described earlier.

On the metro, I had to change at Jean-Talon, and in the confusion found myself going back the way that I had come.

I just don’t know what is the matter with me these days.

wheelchair only sign metro montreal canada august aout 2018But at least the round trip gave me an opportunity to notice this sign on the metro train.

My friend Doug Paulley would be delighted to see this, having single-handedly waged war against selfish transport companies and passengers who deny wheelchair users the benefits of public transport. And the Montreal transport authorities might feel so smug about advertising this kind of thing.

But the facts are totally different.

Anyone who gets onto a Montreal metro train in a wheelchair deserves a Victoria Cross, never mind a place to himself, because the metro network here rivals the Paris metro as being the most wheelchair-inaccessible metro system in the whole world.

Getting a wheelchair onto a platform in a Montreal metro station is impossible in at least 90% of them.

Finally, at Berri-UQAM I went for my fruitless chat with the public transport people and then back here for a rest for a while.

Later on, I went to that new falafel place to try out their offerings. And witnessed the most amazing spectacle at the hotel across the road.

coach confusion rue st hubert montreal canada august aout 2018That coach over there wants to unload his passengers at the hotel but the jeep thing is parked in the bus unloading bay so he can’t pull in.

He’s blocking the road, to the annoyance of the other motorists going up the hill.

While the driver is arguing with the jeep driver and trying t make him move, another car pulls up behind the jeep and blocks him in so that he now can’t move even if he wanted to.

Eventually, the police tell the coach driver to go around the block while they move the cars, but as soon as the coach pulls away, another one pulls up and we start all over again.

And the falafel? I’ve had much better than that.

allergy free foods iga supermarket rue st catherine est montreal canada august aout 2018In the IGA supermarket for some pudding, and my attention is drawn to the allergy-free shelves.

These products should bring relief to almost anyone – free from gluten, milk, eggs, soya, peanuts, sesame, mustard, sulphites, fish and shellfish.

Imagine trying to look for this kind of thing in France. Things in North America are definitely looking up for the allergy-affected consumer.

Back at the hotel I ate my sorbet and had all kinds of things to do, but instead I’m crashing out. I can’t see how far I’ve walked today as it’s 03:00 according to my fitbit and I didn’t notice the mileage before it restarted at 0:00.

But it feels like 100 miles that I’ve walked and I can’t last the pace these days.

Tuesday 29th August 2018 – NO PRIZES …

gare viger montreal canada august aout 2018… for guessing where I am when you see this beautiful building, are there?

A place on this morning’s flight from Brussels to Montreal miraculously freed when a passenger was declined boarding due to incorrect paperwork (this new visa system is causing chaos) and so I was bundled aboard.

and you won’t have much more luck than that, will you?

But whose silly idea was it to set the alarm for 05:20 this morning? And for the repeater to go off at 05:30?

And what was even more surprising was that I actually made it out of bed at 05:30 too. I must be improving!

First off was the medication. That’s important. And then to start the packing. It didn’t take long to do that and so a shower and good scrub was next.

Breakfast was the rest of the orange juice from last night, a mug of coffee (having those little tubes of coffee in my travel pouch is really a good idea) and one of those cheese baps that I made last night too.

Taking my leave of the hotel staff I hit the streets to the station and bought my ticket for the airport. There was an announcement that there was a train ready to leave so I made it up onto the platform where there was a Nederlands Spoorwegen train for Den Haag. I’ve never been on a Dutch train before so this was another new experience.

The airport was the usual chaos. I’m booked on a Brussels Airlines flight – SN Brussels Airlines, the successor to the legendary SABENA, or “Such A Bad Experience – Never Again!” and that’s enough to give anyone the collywobbles when flying the Atlantic.

But when I presented myself at the check-in, they denied that there was such a flight. After much binding in the marsh I discovered that it was a code share and the flight was organised by Air Canada.

A big sigh of relief.

At the Air Canada desk there was a long queue. It seems that they weren’t ready for us. So we waited. And waited. And waited.

score in your local store brussels airport Zaventam belgium august aout 2018At least it gave me plenty of time to admire the adverts on the television screen broadcasting to the waiting masses.

I have to admit that I quite liked this advert. The last time that I tried anything similar though, I was asked to leave the shop. It might be the in thing to do in Flanders, but not anywhere else.

It did remind me of the story that I heard about the alcoholic who saw the advert “Drink Canada Dry” – so he’s on his way.

Eventually they opened the gate and we filed in, and then we had to wait again while the staff at check-in discussed last night’s television programmes, applied their make-up, and squirted perfume under their armpits (and I bet that you think that I am joking too).

But we were soon checked in. No aisle seat for me again, which is a shame, no matter how had I pleaded. Some times, I really am a miserable pleader.

After all that I have said in the past, going through security today was surprisingly painless. Just the odd glitch here and there, with the queues controlled by a woman who had clearly been bullied quite severely as a child and was thus determined to wreak her revenge on everyone else.

The automatic passport reader was fun too. With all of the messing about, it would have been far quicker to have checked them by hand. With all of this totally senseless automation, no wonder that there is rampant unemployment in the Western World.

duty free shop brussels airport zaventam belgium august aout 2018A few years ago I made the point about how at Zurich Airport all of the passengers are directed, once they have gone through all of the formalities, to their gates via the Duty-Free shop.

And with the airport here at Brussels having been substantially modified following the events of 22nd March 2016, this is exactly what happens here these days too.

They never miss an opportunity.

air canada airbus 330-300 c-GFAF pierre l trudeau airport montreal canada august aout 2018Our aeroplane for the flight is, would you believe – an Airbus A330-300.

One of the earliest twin-engined long-haul jets, this one is one of the earliest examples – c-GFAF, serial number 277, built in 1999 and delivered to Air Canada in 2000.

And never mind Air Transat – we were all crammed in here like sardines too and it was really uncomfortable. Not the seats – they were fine – but the lack of room that we had to stretch out.

They even managed a vegan meal for me, which was most impressive and easily the best that I’ve had on a flight. A chick-pea starter followed by a black bean casserole with rice, and an Alpro soya dessert for pudding.

They weren’t very good with the in-flight drinks though and I have a raging thirst these days. But luckily they had one of these charity things in the airport and were selling bottles of water for €1:00. I had bought two just for this kind of emergency.

Another disappointment was the brat. A child of about 3 just a couple of rows away from me who decided to scream for a couple of hours during the flight. King Herod had the right idea, that’s all that I can say.

It stopped me sleeping, but not so the woman sitting next to me (the wife of the man who had been thrown off, hence I know all about the story). She had a good sleep for a couple of hours during the flight, most of it spent reclining against my arm.

She was lucky though. The non-stop turbulence that we had would have been enough to stop me sleeping, had the brat not obliged.

All of the paperwork requirements for entry have been abolished at the airport. Now you fill it all in on an electronic screen, of which there are about 500 in the arrivals lounge.

I imagined that this would take hours, but our fright was the first transatlantic fight to arrive and we were done in minutes. Even the border police were friendly and helpful.

Has there been a revolution in Canada?

The usual 30-minute wait for the baggage (probably because we were through Immigration so quickly) and then out into the airport.

The price of a three-day transport ticket has increased (to $19:00) and you have to pay $6:00 for an oyster card thing. And there’s a new system for the 747 bus to the town, which now takes three times the personnel and three times the wait, with three times as much confusion.

There was a little group of us, two Septics and a young French guy, having a good chat. Mr Septic was telling some real whoppers (much to the chagrin of Mrs Septic who went to sit elsewhere) so I delighted in telling him some real whoppers in return.

I leapt off the bus at Berri-UQAM into the oppressive, clammy heat and headed round the corner to my hotel. My usual one is booked up but the one next door – the Hotel Elegant – had some rooms (I’d checked on the internet in Brussels and booked one) so I went there instead.

It’s a typical “rue St Herbert” hotel – cheap and basic and seen better days – but it’s central. That’s important. If I’m out at an airport hotel or somewhere and overwhelmed by sleep, I can’t get back to crash out.

A shower to cool me off (and to wash my clothes) and a brief crash out for an hour or so, and a chat to Josée, and I was back out again.

The streets were soaking wet too. I thought that it had looked a bit stormy when I arrived, but while I was deep in the arms of Morpheus just now, we must have got the lot.

building work rue st hubert montreal canada august aout 2018First stop was to buy some root beer of course, but on the way to the IGA supermarket, something that I saw (or rather, didn’t see) made me pull up.

I can’t remember what was here now, but whatever it was has now long-gone and they are digging some immense foundations for something else to rise out of the ashes.

Meantime, I’d hate to be living next-door.

poutine montreal canada august aout 2018Something else cheered me up too;

I think that Poutine is the most disgusting stuff on the planet. It’s chips with grated cheese on top and all smothered in gravy. And how anyone can eat it I really don’t know.

And so the world-famous place in Montreal that advertises “more than 30 types of poutine – and create your own too” has now closed down and is up for sale.

That’s what I call good news.

Even better news is that next door a Lebanese restaurant has opened. And it sells falafel too. So I won’t have to walk far for tea any more.

centre hospitalier jacques viger 1051 rue st hubert montreal canada august aout 2018During all the time that I’ve been wandering up and down Montreal, I’m surprised that I’ve never noticed this building before.

It’s on the corner of the Rue St Hubert and the Rue de la Gauchetière, and it’s formerly the Centre Hospitalier Jacques Viger

If you’re thinking, as I am, that it’s a beautiful building, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s on the Register of Historic Places – not that that counts for much.

gare viger montreal canada august aout 2018On the subject of historic places, just down the road is, in my opinion, the most beautiful building in Montreal.

This is the famous Gare Viger, built as the flagship railway station for Montreal by Canadian Pacific.

All of the passenger trains from further east used to come here, but overnight the Canadian Pacific hacked off its passenger services east of Montreal and abandoned it to the elements.

gare viger montreal canada august aout 2018Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we regularly visited it in its derelict state, and expressed concerns for its future.

However, no need to worry quite yet. It’s been renovated and is being let as offices.

Several tenants seem to have already moved in and there are signs that more are going to follow.

Where do ships go when they are feeling poorly?

That’s right. They go to the doc(K)s.

And here in Montreal we are lucky in that there are loads of docks to visit down on the St Lawrence.

Not as many as there used to be of course, and regular readers of this rubbish will recall having visited a great many abandoned docks with me in the past.

Not much going on in the ones close to hand unfortunately.

oakglen port de montreal st lawrence river canada august aout 2018But our old friend Manitoba, moored up in this spot for a couple of years, has gone.

She was moved to Sorel in November last year and he er place has been taken by a very sad and sorry-looking Oakglen – a ship that I am convinced that we’ve seen before but I can’t for the life of me remember when or where.

She’s been here since 1st July and doesn’t look as if she’s going anywhere any time soon.

A bulk carrier of 38,000 tonnes or so, she was built as long ago as 1980 so she probably needs a rest.

old docks vieux port montreal canada august aout 2018That’s all the excitement that there was in the docks, so I just wandered around and admired the view.

It was getting late by now and I wasn’t feeling hungry. I’d made some butties to eat on the aeroplane if I couldn’t get a meal, and so as not to waste them I’d eaten them in the hotel.

But it’s a long time until breakfast so I went into a fast-food place in the rue St Catherine Est. They didn’t have chips so I had a plate of sweet potatoes. And they were quite nice too.

Back here, it was still early, and still hot too. But that didn’t stop me.

I had another shower (the third of the day and isn’t that a record too?) and crashed out on the bed.

That was that.

Monday 27th August 2018 – THE GOOD NEWS …

… is that the blood count has gone up yet again.

The bad news is that it hasn’t gone up enough and the people in the hospital don’t want me to travel.

Despite the racket in the reception last night, I did manage to go off to sleep quite easily in the end and I was flat out until all of … errr … 04:38.

But even so, I was back asleep until the alarms went off at 06:20.

I had my medication and then a shower and a good clean up. But I was so bust sorting myself out that I forgot to have a coffee. And with no water or anything to drink, I had a thirst that you could photograph.

But I was out early and down to the station where, when I was buying my ticket, I heard them announce a train to Leuven. So I RAN – yes, RAN, dear reader (and you’ve no idea how pleased that made me) for the train and leapt aboard.

And it was then that I realised that I had forgotten to buy any breakfast either.

But there’s a supermarket at the back of the station at Leuven so I picked up some bread rolls and at them as I marched across the city.

I was early for my appointment so I settled down in a comfortable seat, and bang on time, the nurse came to see me and I was all plugged in and hooked up.

When the doctor came to see me, he told me that my blood count had only gone up to 9.3. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that this time last year it was at 13.0 and they were happy to let me go a-wandering off.

Not this time, though.

They want me back in 3 weeks time, so I spent the afternoon in between sleeping having a discussion with Rachel about a cunning plan.

Kaatje came to see me too. I’d had two more bills from the hospital so I handed them to her to pass on to my health insurance people.

When they threw me out, I wandered downtown and stopped at a couple of places- the Carrefour, the Loving Hut and the Kruidvat for some supplies, and then I caught the train back to Brussels and my hotel.

Later on, I went out again. Alison had discovered a vegan and gluten-free restaurant called Moon at the back of the cathedral so we met there. It’s a simple buffet where you pay for the food by weight.

Delicious it was too and this will go onto our list of places to revisit, although it’s a bit amateurish in the way that it’s run. The rice ran out and “there’s no more now until tomorrow” – that kind of thing.

We went for a coffee and a good chat afterwards. And I put Alison onto her bus home.

I walked back through the night, taking a few photos of the evening scenes. Tomorrow I’ll post them on line.

205% of my day’s activity – 16.2kms – I’ve walked today. And it feels like it too.

I’ve made my butties for my journey tomorrow and now I’m off to bed. I have an early start in the morning.

05:20 to be precise.

Sunday 26th August 2018 – HOMER SIMPSON …

homer simpson car volkswagen beetle belgium AUGUST AOUT 2018… is alive and well, and visiting Brussels at the moment.

I saw his car parked up by the Gare du Midi this evening.

Actually, it’s probably not his, but probably the one belonging to Miss Hodge, because it’s a little-known fact that Homer Simpson was not the first to use the catchphrase. It first came to prominence in the 1940s in ITMA – “It’s That Man Again” when Miss Hodge used it all the time to express her exasperation at Tommy Handley’s antics.

For the first time for quite a while, and changing the habits of a lifestyle, I set an alarm for this morning. I’m off on my travels and I have plenty to do.

First thing was to make my butties. That’s the most important thing. I can’t starve when I’m on the road. And when the butties had been made, I could then clean down the worktops and the table.

The sink and the draining board looked pretty insalubrious too so I put everything away that I could, and then spent a good 10 minutes cleaning that.

Next task was to put out the rubbish. That had accumulated for a while and its presence had become quite evident, so that went the Way of the West too. I shall have to put the rubbish out much more often, especially in the summer.

Final task was to scrub the waste bin and then put bleach everywhere that needed disinfecting. Grabbing a packet of crackers for breakfast, I hit the streets.

I’ve made something of a miscalculation. It’s Sunday, and on Sunday there are no local buses. So I had to head off to the station on foot, dragging behing me my huge suitcase with Strawberry Moose in it.

de gallant port de granville harbour manche normandy franceBut at least it meant that I could see a beautiful yacht come sailing … "dieseling" – ed … into the harbour.

she’s called “De Gallant”, and with a name like that I reckoned that she is probably Flemish or Dutch.

And I was right too. Originally called Jannete Margaretha, she was launched in 1916 in the middle of World War I in the neutral Netherlands.

She was originally a herring boat and later as a cargo vessel, but since 1987 she’s been a sail training vessel. Mind you, she was dieseling her way into the harbour today.

brocante granville manche normandy franceIt seemed like a long, slow crawl up the hill with the suitcase and I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath.

But in fact it was only 08:25 when I arrived. I would almost have had time to have gone to visit the brocante that was setting up in the streets outside.

The train was in so I grabbed a coffee and leapt aboard, settling myself down and having my breakfast. And being interrupted by the girl in front who wanted to borrow my phone charger.

In between reading my book and listening to the radio programmes on my laptop I had a good sleep for half an hour. And that did me some good too.

Barclay James Harvest once famously wrote I have been to a place where chaos rules. I used to think that they had been to an Open University Students Association Executive Committee Meeting but today I realised that they had in fact been alighting from a train on a Sunday lunchtime at Paris Vaugirard, because chaos it certainly was. Whole areas were roped off with hordes of people waiting to reboard the train. We had to fight our way through the queues.

They had even installed a one-way dual carriageway system on the platform down to the main station.

The metro was heaving too but I took up a place right at the front and not only was there plenty of room down there, I even managed to find a seat. But the heat was stifling, especially as I was wearing a fleece.

There seems to have been a change at the Gare du Nord too. Usually there’s a gate at the end of the platform that leads out to the main-line station but today I couldn’t find it and ended up being routed all the way through the bowels of the station.

defense d'uriner gare du nord paris franceI went outside and ate my butties, spending more time though fighting off the pigeons.

But I did notice this sign though on one of the doors outside. Crudely translated (and if there’s anything crude involved anywhere, then in the words of the late, great Bob Doney “I’m your man”) into the vernacular by Yours Truly, it means “p155 off elsewhere”.

So now you know.

The TGV was crowded too. I was lucky enough to be one of the first on so the big suitcase had a place on the luggage rack. I don’t know what would have happened had I been any later because there was only room for about four on there.

And they must have been cleaning the carriage because there was an overwhelming smell of cleanliness in there. So I settled in and plugged in my laptop. It was then that my neighbour arrived so I warned him not to trip over the cable.


So he tripped over it


Just by way of a change, I spent most of the journey asleep. The seats were quite comfortable. And so I can’t tell you anything about the journey. But when we arrived in Brussels it was like winter here. All of the good weather had disappeared.

I’m staying in the Hotel Midi-Zuid. I’ve stayed here a few times in the past. It’s an easy 5-minute walk from the station and although the area around here is depressing, this is a modern, clean hotel where rooms represent really good value for money seeing as you are at a vital traffic hub in Europe’s capital city and I have no complaints.

Esyllt rang me up. It’s been a couple of years since we last saw each other. She’s in Brussels right now so we arranged to meet at the Gare du Midi.

We ended up having a good walk around the city in the rain, even finding an open-air techno music exposition. But even more excitingly we found an Indian Restaurant, the Feux de Bengale.

Esi isn’t a big fan of Indian food, but I am. And there were a few banal foods on offer on the menu. And so we had one of the nicest meals that I have had for quite a while. My potato and cauliflower curry was delicious.

Interestingly, when I was going to look for the conveniences, the manager sidled up to me and whispered “we have rooms for the night or for the hour”. This kind of thing used to be quite common in Brussels but I was under the impression that it had pretty much died out.

But what use would I be, even for an hour? As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed …I can still chase after the women – I just can’t remember why.

Last time any young lady asked me, when I was in bed, if I needed anything, I replied “a glass of wincarnis and a hot water bottle”.

We carried on with our walk afterwards and ended up in a bar. And one thing that we noticed was that despite there being quite a few people in there, and plenty of couples too, Esi was the only female in the place.

Eventually we arrived at Esi’s metro station so I put her on the train to the friend’s house where she was staying, and I walked back to my hotel.

Lots of changes in the city and the main road through the centre is now a pedestrian walkway. It’s much different from how it was when I first came to live here – 26 years ago now.

My hotel room is on the ground floor, and there’s quite a lot of noise coming from the reception area. I hope that I’ll be able to sleep tonight with all of this going on. But at least the room is well-appointed and I’m quite pleased with it.

I’m at the hospital tomorrow.

Saturday 25th August 2018 – HIS NIBS …

strawberry moose place d'armes granville manche normandy france… is complaining again.

I’ve been packing my suitcase and it’s almost all complete now except for the things that I have forgotten. And much to my surprise the weight of the suitcase is only 13kg and there seems to be nothing at like there usually is in there.

So I’m not quite sure why he’s getting all upset. At least I’ve remembered to take him and he’s not been forgotten at home, like when I went to Africa.

Just for a change I’d had a good night’s sleep, right the way through to when the alarms went off. And I must have gone back to sleep afterwards because it was 07:30 when I finally came round.

After the usual morning routine I started with the serious tidying up. This involved picking up all of the rubbish off the floor, the table and the worktop, cleaning the latter two objects and vacuuming the floor. No shopping today!

Of course, these days I can only work in short bursts and taking a rest in between, and while I was resting I’ve done a serious back-up of the laptop. Kt’e all stored up on one of the hard drives on the top shelf.

Furthermore, I’ve copied all of the files onto the little laptop that I take with me on my travels, so that’s up-to-date too.

Lunch was on the wall again in the cold. And two lizards came to join me while I was there.

Back here I carried on with the housework and so on, and on my way out to the football I washed the floor behind me so that it would be dry when I came back.

Granville were playing C-Chartres Football today, and we had a crowd of about 750 to watch the match in the lovely weather.

It was an exciting match today. The Chartres team was better-organised but the Granville team played some really good football – one 15-minute spell midway through the first half was particularly impressive.

But the problem is that despite the beautiful football, Granville don’t have the strikers to turn it all into goals. And with the Chartres team being much better-organised and far more … errr … streetwise, it was no surprise to anyone that they eventually went into the lead.

5 minutes of injury time provoked a frenetic finish. Granville finally did manage to score an equaliser, the Granville keeper was sent off for punching an opponent, and the entire Chartres technical team was sent to the stands.

But 1-1 was the correct result, although it could have been so much better for Granville if only they could find a striker from somewhere.

It was a pleasant walk back. And the road up to here was closed again to traffic with street entertainment and all that kind fo thing. It’s a shame that I don’t have time to enjoy it.

For tea I used the last pizza base, and while my pizza was cooking I had a shower and then put the washing machine on a cycle. The pizza didn’t work very well through. The pizza base had been in the bottom of the fridge and it had been waterlogged so it didn’t unroll as well as it should. And then it took much longer to cook.

So having done some more work here, I’m redy for bed. I’m hitting the road early tomorrow.

Friday 24th August 2018 – I’VE BEEN SEARCHING …

… through the fridge today looking for stuff that needs eating.

It’s something that I should have done a few days ago because there’s piles of stuff there that should have been cooked, but what with one thing and another I haven’t got round to it.

Two and a half peppers were probably the most important thing, and the garlic too. There were too many onions and potatoes. Some of them will be wasted unfortunately but I fetched some of them out.

There was also a roll of pastry and so I had an idea.

First thing was to put a load of lentils in the slow cooker for an hour. And when they were heated, to rinse them, add fresh water and a pile of potatoes – all that I could add to fill the pot.

After about an hour I fried a few of the onions with all of the garlic that was left. And while they were frying I added some cumin, turmeric, chili pepper and coriander.

Slicing up the peppers and a tomato, I added them to the wok and stirred them around. Finally I took the stuff out of the slow cooker, rinsed it all and added that to the pile.

After about 10 minutes of frying, a stock cube, a carton of soya cream and some water was added and it was all left to simmer.

home made pasty granville manche normandy franceI unrolled the pie wrap and cut it into quarters.

I added a couple of spoons of the stuff out of the wok into the quarters of pastry and made myself some pasties.

They went into a warm oven at 220°C for 40 minutes until they were done and they look absolutely delicious. They are going into the freezer tonight when they have cooled, ready for when I come back from my voyage.

As for the rest of the mixture, I ladled it all into individual containers and they will be in the freezer too for when I come back.

It’s a shame about the food that’s left but there isn’t much that I can do about this.

This morning I was asleep again until the alarm went off, and I was up fairly early too. And after the usual morning procedure, I started to sort out my clothes and to pack my suitcase.

Like I said, I don’t know what I need to take with me, so it’s a case of a lot of things just in case. The suitcase isn’t all that full though, even though Strawberry Moose takes up a lot of room. He’s coming this time too for a holiday.

He missed out in Africa.

exposition des voiliers granville manche normandy franceLater this morning I had to go into town for the fruit and so on.

There’s a kind of fair or exhibition going on at the harbour. It’s to celebrate the working sailing ships that worked out of here.

But first I had to stock up with the fruit of course and then while I was here, to buy a baguette.

house prices solicitors granville manche normandy franceOn the way back to the harbour I went past the solicitor’s office where they put in the window the details of the houses that they sell.

And they are at it again. Just look at the price of this house. Never mind being calculated to the nearest round thousand Euros, it’s calculated down to the nearest centime.

Just how tight can you be? It’s the kind of thing that leads the legal profession into disrepute, advertising prices like these.

exposition des voiliers du travail granville manche normandy franceHaving done that, I went down to the harbour to have a good look around at the marquees.

There wasn’t much going on that interested me. Lots of shops selling stuff and exhibitions of photographs that didn’t take too long to see.

There were a few stalls selling paintings too, but most of them didn’t have prices exhibited. That’s the kind of thing that really gets my goat. If they are ashamed of their prices they shouldn’t be selling them.

exposition des voiliers du travail granville manche normandy franceON the other hand, of course, it could be that, as in most of these kind of places, the price depends upon the moment and the prospective purchaser. And that’s just as bad.

But there were some people promoting an association of sailing ships. Some of them are small ones, but some are quite big and occasionally go on voyages across the Atlantic.

I shall have to make further enquiries about this, because a trip across the Atlantic on board a three-master would certainly do me good.

seagulls goelands granville manche normandy franceAt lunchtime I made my butties and went out on the wall with my book.

No lizards today though. And that’s not surprising because I was joined by a seagull which was taking her baby for a walk. The poor little thing was quite nervous and crying for much of the time, and mummy was teaching it to jump up and down on the wall.

But talking of nervous and crying, you can just about see some other people on the left-hand edge of the photo. They were Dutch and pulled up to park there. The little girl opened her door and the window hit the mirror of a van parked next door and shattered into a thousand pieces.

The poor girl was so frightened and let out a yell. It took quite a while for her to calm down.

This afternoon was spent cooking and doing some tidying and the rest will be done tomorrow. After tea – a burger and vegetables – I watched the football. Llanelli v Barry Town in the Welsh Premier League.

Llanelli scored a goal after just two minutes, and after that, Barry laid siege to the Llanelli goal. There were four or five shots that were kicked off the line.

When Barry had a player sent off it looked as if it was curtains but with the last kick of the game, Barry scored a header from a free kick.

It was a good match, but from what I’ve seen so far there’s quite a gulf between the top and the bottom of the table and these two clubs are not going to find it easy.

So tomorrow I’ll finish packing and do some tidying up ready to leave on Sunday morning.

And who knows where I’m going to end up.

Thursday 23rd August 2018 – HAVING HAD …

… a much-more realistic early night last night, no-one was more surprised than I was to find that I slept right the way through until just before the alarm went off at 06:20.

Even more surprisingly, I was out of bed before 07:00 too. I must be changing my habits here.

We had the usual morning performance and then I had breakfast. Rather later than I might otherwise have had it because I was sidetracked by not very much at all, but sidetracked nevertheless.

It was shower time too and then I would ordinarily have gone to LIDL for shopping. But seeing as I’m off on my travels on Sunday and, apart from fruit, I have enough food here until then, I decided not to bother. I can go down into town to the little supermarket tomorrow for a bit of fruit to keep me going.

Instead, there was an important task to carry out on the internet to prepare me for my voyage. I’ve had issues with this before, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, and so I can’t put it off just in case I need it. And much to my surprise, despite it being a lengthy process, it all seemed to go quite straightforwardly.

What isn’t quite straightforward are the issues with the Fortis Bank. You may remember that they asked me to send them a letter from another bank (not the Fortis) with my name and address on it. And so I did, from the bank here.

And this morning I had a mail back telling me that it needs to be from the same country that issued my identity document (passport) – something that is not mentioned at all in their correspondence.

Their letter contained the phrase “I understand how you are feeling ….” to which I replied “no you don’t, because politeness prevents me from using the words that I would like to use”.

There were about a hundred photos from the last week that needed editing, and I sat down and attended to that too. They are all done and on-line now.

Lunch was on the wall with my book and two lizards, in the clouds and wind. It was something of a depressing day today.

This afternoon I did another pile of tidying up, and then sat down and started to pack what I need for going away. It would have been much easier had I had an idea of where I might be going. In the absence of any idea I need to take all kinds of stuff with me just in case

But I’m surprised because there is a pile of stuff that seems to be missing from my travel bag and I’ve no idea where it might be. The battery charger and the mobile phone are two items that are evidently missing, and I’ve no idea about the rest.

Tea was some of the stuffing that was left over the other day and put in the two wraps that were left, along with some spicy rice. And delicious it was too. And for my walk in the wind tonight I bumped into one of my neighbours running around the walls of the town.

So tonight I’ll try for another early night. If I can keep this up until Sunday morning I’ll feel so much better.

Wednesday 22th August 2018 – JUST FOR A CHANGE …

… last night, I had a decent sleep. Right the way through until the alarm went off. And even more surprisingly I managed to haul myself out of my stinking pit on the sofa at a reasonable time.

Having dealt with the usual morning rituals, I set out the table, and when Hans hauled himself out of his bed we had breakfast, together with a little more reminiscences of the past.

Hans is due to hit the road this morning so he packed up all of his things and loaded up his motorbike. And then I led him through the town, put him on the right road and wished him a pleasant journey back to Munich.

Back here, I unwound for a while and then decided to catch up on a few things that had been building up while I’d been occupied. This involved sorting out a pile of photos and dealing with a downloading project that I’ve had on the go for a while.

This took me up to a rather late lunchtime, but there was no point in going out onto the wall because it was windy, grey and miserable outside. My lizards will have to go for yet another day without their pear leavings.

After lunch, I did some tidying up. Things have been getting out of hand just now and I need to reset the bed. Everything needed a good airing too because I haven’t had the windows open for a few days either.

And then I ended up having a chat on the internet to someone in Canada, which took up a lot of my time.

For tea tonight, I started on the leftovers. And there was plenty of them too. Vegetables and a left-over burger. Tasty it was too.

After tea I finally managed to make it outside for a walk.

jersey granville manche normandy franceAnd although it was grey and overcast, you could see for miles.

Jersey stood out clearly on the horizon. It’s a long time since I’ve seen it so clearly. I haven’t actually done anything to enhance or enlarge this photograph – it’s just as it came out of the telephoto lens so you can see what I mean.

And you could even see the lights on the hotels away down at the base of the bay at the Mont St Michel.

brittany coast franceBut highlight of the evening was seeing, away on the horizon, the coast of Brittany all the way around maybe as far as Paimpol.

I’ve never seen that before from here. After all, it has to be about 80 kms away as far as I can tell, but cropping and enhancing the photograph manages to bring it out so that we can see it.

It was so impressive. And what was even more impressive was the fact that the telephoto lens ran out of light immediately after I had taken this photo and I couldn’t take another one.

So now I’ll have an early night and settle back down. Tomorrow I need to start packing ready for my voyage next week.

I wish that I knew where I was going.

Tuesday 21st August 2018 – I’VE BEEN OFF …

… on my travels yet again today.

And it started at about 04:00 when I had to leave my stinking pit for a ride on the porcelain horse, and fell AoT over something in the way, rattling the entire building. All in all it was another bad night.

mont st michel manche normandy franceAfter breakfast, I had a shower and then we headed off through the town and through all of the grockles admiring the seagulls.

The destination for today was, as you might expect, the Mont St Michel. Despite its reputation, it’s one of those places that everyone has to visit whenever they come to Brittany or Normandy just to say that they were there.

And it was another day when the visibility wasn’t up to much, unfortunately.

restaurant prices la mere poulard mont st michel manche normandy franceI mentioned the prices of the food in the restaurants on the island. And seeing as many people expressed their surprise I decided to take a photograph of a typical menu.

Vegetable soup is on offer at €16:00, and a basic omelette starts at €34:00. If you want a three-course meal you can have one here at €58:00.

A sandwich from the sandwich bar across the street will cost you at least €8:50. And so it’s no surprise that most of the tourists who visit the island bring their own picnic lunch

walking parties genets mont st michel manche normandy franceWe’d come here in Caliburn of course, prepared to pay the extortionate car-parking prices, but had I been in better health I would have come another way.

Today is another day when the tidal coefficient is so small that it’s possible to walk over the sands from Genets. And there were quite a few parties coming over the sands.

That is something that you can’t do on your own without a guide. Apart from the treacherous watercourses, there’s quite a lot of soft sand out there which yu can sink into if you aren’t careful.

helicopter carrying building materials mont st michel manche normandy franceWe went for a good walk around the walls again, our conversation being continually interrupted by a helicopter flying overhead.

There were building works going on somewhere on the island and they were conveying the material to the site by helicopter, in a basket slung underneath the machine.

We were having all kinds of flights of imagination, picturing the helicopter coming to a dead halt and the momentum of the basket underneath swinging into the walls of the Abbey and demolishing them.

granville manche normandy franceWhen I was here the other week with Alison I had seen an exciting tracked machine away in the distance. It had excited my curiosity and so today we went down to look at it.

It’s a fire engine apparently, and it’s tracked so that it can climb up and down the steps in the city.

It has a trailer too. That is also tracked, and is also driven, with a prop shaft off the power take-off on the rear of the tractor. All in all, an impressive piece of kit.

mont st michel manche normandy franceMost of the tourists when they arrive enter by the main gate, go in over the drawbridge and past all of the tourist traps.

But there is another way in which misses the queues and congestion and goes up to the pathway that leads up to the walls on the western side of the site.

The way in is underneath that beautiful gated building down there and then up the hill towards where I’m standing. But I do have to say that I wouldn’t object at all to a little apartment in the building down there, despite all of the tourists.

brittany gate mont st michel manche normandy franceAlthough the access to the site today is from the southern, or Normandy side, there’s also a gateway on the western side facing what was Brittany in medieval times prior to the rerouting of the river that passes around here.

I was told an exciting story about how, in 1424 during the Hundred Years War, the English besieged the island from the Normandy side but they were unable to starve the garrison out.

This was because the people on the Breton side would send food and weapons over to the Brittany gate and by the time that the tide had gone out sufficiently to enable the English to attack the gate here, the island had been supplied and the Bretons safely back on their shore.

We left the island early in the afternoon and set off on our way home.

cancale pointe de grouin ile des landes brittany franceWe went again to the Cabane Vauban to see the view now that the weather had cleared slightly, and I took a couple of photos.

One of the ones that I took was right across the Baie de Mont St Michel over to the town of Cancale, the Pointe de Grouin and the Ile des Landes right across the bay and into Brittany.

It’s hard to believe that it’s all about 12 miles away.

cancale pierre de herpin st malo brittany franceThis is the second half of the above photograph, that I had cropped in two.

This one shows another one of the islands off Cancale, which I thought at first might have been a ship, and the lighthouse on the Pierre de Herpin over on the extreme right of the photograph.

Right away in the background is the Brittany coast all the way down almost to St Malo and that’s probably about 25 miles away.

three masted sailing ship manche normandy franceYou might have noticed in the previous photograph that there was something on the horizon between the coast and the lighthouse.

I’d been having a good play with the telephoto lens and doing some photo manipulation, what with having plans for going on a holiday in the near future. And so I cropped, enlarged and enhanced that part of the image.

And I’ve managed to bring out what, in my opinion, is a three-masted sailing ship, something like the Marité. That’s actually quite impressive, seeing as it’s at least 20 miles away in my opinion.

mont st michel manche normandy franceThe view southwards however is much more banal.

Mont St Michel is about 10 miles away as the crow flies, and in contrast to the other day when I was here with Alison and you could hardly see 100 yards, a little bit of “crop and paste” and image enhancement can bring out the abbey at Mont St Michel quite nicely.

To the right of the island are the white buildings of the hotel complex on the mainland. And I’m sure that this is what we have seen on a couple of occasions from Granville.

granville manche normandy franceTalking of Granville, we can actually see that today from here.

There’s the Eglise Notre Dame de Cap Lihou on the far right, and to the left of it are the public rooms and the Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs. To the left of that is the other block of apartments that they are renovating right now.

My building is out of sight behind there.

autogyro baie de mont st michel manche normandy franceBut that’s not all.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that the other day I mentioned an autogyro, but I wasn’t able to take a photograph of it. Today however, while we were here, the aforementioned went a-flying by overhead.

Luckily I had the camera ready and I was able to shoot off a photograph of it. It’s a modern machine, not one of the early ones from the 1920s and 30s.

On the way back here we went to LeClerc. I needed some new bootlaces and Hans wanted to look at the recycled bags that they use here instead of plastic bags, and he took a few to analyse with him later.

Tea tonight was some taco wraps with a stuffing made of this couscous powder that I bought, some tomatoes, olives, onions, garlic and kidney beans, all in tomato sauce. With some spice rice it was delicious.

Having seen Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday last night, we watched a few Bulldog Drummond films on the DVD tonight. That took us nicely up to about 23:30 and then we turned in.

Hans is leaving to head off back to Germany tomorrow. I have a pile of tidying up to do and then I can start packing for my voyage, wherever it might be.

Monday 20th August 2018 – SLEEPING ON THE SOFA …

… is quite comfortable, which is why I chose this sofa anyway, but for some reason last night I couldn’t drop off to sleep. And when I eventually did, I was awake quite early and couldn’t go back to sleep.

So I had my medication and then set out everything for breakfast. The muesli that I make myself went down very well, as did the bread from LIDL. Good stuff that, I have to say.

When we were ready and organised, I made some sandwiches and then we set off on our travels.

utah beach normandy franceOur destination for today was Utah Beach.

On the north-eastern shore of Normandy, it was the most westerly of the landing beaches on D-Dau. Despite many problems and issues regarding the arrival of troops, many of whom were offloaded at the wrong place, the beach was quickly captured.

Of the 21,000 soldiers who landed here, just 197 of them were lost. It was one of the more successful landings.

utah beach normandy franceThe aim of the landing here was to seal off the Cotentin Peninsula from German reinforcements and to move on quickly to capture Cherbourg and all of its port installations.

Unfortunately, the American soldiers were so over-trained that they were very devoid of individual initiative. So when they were held up, they just waited for someone else to come up with a new plan instead of finding another way around.

As a result, it took three weeks rather than three days to capture the port, and the Germans had used the time profitably to destroy the port installations.

utah beach normandy franceAt a certain prominent point on the shore there were a few heavy concrete defensive strongpoints. A combination of air strikes, assault troops and naval gunfire saw them off.

This point here is one of the most prominent points on the coastline, and the shattered reinforced concrete scattered around here makes me wonder whether or not this was the site of one of these strongpoints.

Whatever it is, it’s been well-and-truly seen off.

granville manche normandy franceA good way offshore were a couple of objects that looked quite interesting. I couldn’t make out what they were so I took a photo with the telephoto lens and enlarged it.

It’s still not very clear as to what it might be, but it looks suspiciously like the wreckage of some kind of ship. And the boat around it might indicate the presence of divers.

Of course, it could equally well be a bizarre rock formation. I shall have to wait until I can find a kayak so that I can go out there for a proper look.

museum utah beach normandy franceThere’s a museum here too. This contains all kinds of relics uncovered from the battlefield, discovered by local residents or donated by former soldiers who served here.

But this is more like the kind of thing that I would find interesting. If ever I buy my own island I would need something like this.

Caliburn would fit quite nicely on it and I could quite easily go across to the mainland and the shops in it. It would make life easy.

mitchell marauder b-26 engine undercarriage museum utah beach normandy franceMitchell Marauder B-26 bombers were used by the United Nations to bomb the German defences.

One of these planes and its captain was quite famous due to his exploits but was shot down a short while later. Parts of his aeroplane were recovered subsequently and are displayed here

I could have an enormous amount of fun with this 18-cylinder twin-row radial engine.

While we were wandering around I ate my butties, and then we set off again.

st mere eglise normandy franceThe key to the assualt on Cherbourg was the town of St Mere-Eglise.

With the land behind the beach being low-lying, the Germans had flooded everywhere to inhibit any invasion. The roads however are raised up on causeways and these all radiate out from the town, so the capture of the town was quite important.

A squadron of paratroopers were parachuted into the area early in the morning to seize the town.

parachutist church st mere eglise normandy franceOf course, the parachute drop went wrong and the soldiers ended up being scattered all over the countryside.

One unfortunate soldier landed on the roof of the church and as he slid down, his parachute was caught on one of the gargoyles.

And here he dangled while a battle was ranging right below him. Eventually the Germans spotted him and rescued him, but he subsequently escaped when the town was captured.

We had a coffee and then we set off back home for tea.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that Liz and I had made some vegan burgers a while ago. And so for tea we had burgers in baps with potatoes and vegetables. And they were delicious too.

Hans is as much a film buff as I am, and so we sat down and watched one of the Inspector Hornleigh films. I still think that these films are really well ahead of their time considering that they date from the late 1930s.

And so, being thoroughly exhausted, I settled down on the sofa. I hope that I have a better night tonight.

Sunday 19th August 2018 – WE ARE NOT ALONE – AGAIN!

There I was, this afternoon at about 14:30, just about to stuff a pie with pie filling, when the ‘phone rang.
“I’m here”.
“Okay – see you in about 15 minutes”.

With it being a Sunday I’d tried my best to have a decent lie-in but it didn’t quite work out like that. I was awake at about 07:00 but I wasn’t going to get out of bed at that time. Even though 08:30 still wasn’t what I wanted, I couldn’t stay in bed any longer.

After the usual morning procedures, I started work. You’ll remember that I had my day off yesterday so that I could work here instead. I stripped the bed and put the guest bedding on, and then did a washing machine with the bedding that I’d taken off, and a few other bits and pieces that were lying around.

Another thing that I did was to make some pie filling. I’d had some lentils cooking in the slow cooker since breakfast, but now I fried an onion with some garlic, and then added some leets. A tin of green flageolet beans and the aforementioned cooked lentils, with tarragon, black pepper and a cube of soya cream.

That took half an hour or so to cook, and then I left it to cool. It needs to cool before it goes into the pastry, and this is where I’ve been going wrong.

It was now lunchtime so I took my butties out onto the wall with my books and lizards, and then came back to make the pie. Put the oven on to warm at 210°C, grease a pie dish, put the rolled pastry in the bottom, added the pie filling, folded the excess pastry over the top and bung it into the oven for 40 minutes. And then into town to rescue the perishing.

And that wasn’t easy either. There was the Sunday market today so the streets were heaving with people and there were diversions everywhere. That made it all complicated.

Hans and I have been friends since our first day at Grammar School in 1965. I’ve stayed at Hans’s in Munich on several occasions, and it was my turn to repay the compliment. Hans has recently bought a new motor bike – a Royal Enfield 500cc that although modern, is a design from the 1950s. He has hit the road on a two-weeks expedition and is spending a few days here.

We had a coffee and a good chat to catch up on our news. Following that, we went for a really long walk around the headland and down to the harbour and into town. It was a nice evening.

The pie was delicious. With mixed vegetables and gravy I really was proud of it. I wasn’t so proud of slicing open my finger with the vegetable knife though. And don’t I bleed so easily these days?

So tomorrow we’re off for an exploration. Hans is here for a few days so I’ll take him to see some of the sights.

Saturday 18th August 2018 – THEY SELL …

SWEAT LIDL granville manche normandy france … almost everything in LIDL these days, don’t they?

I’m not quite sure what the point is of it, but it’s here all the same.

I was far more interested in the grapes, at €1:99 per kilo. And yet another load of those disappeared into my shopping bag this morning. I need to stock up while the stocking is good.

I slept right through again until the alarm went off, but seeing as I had something of a late night it wasn’t really as good as it sounds.

An early start to the day followed by an early shower, and then an early trip to the shops before the grockles could get there. And quite right too. I was actually there before 09:00 and the place was fairly empty, quite a surprise for a Saturday.

My bill in there wasn’t all that excessive because I’m not buying too much just now, with plans to travel in a week’s time.

NOZ was more exciting. I turned up just as it was opening at 09:30 and had a good look round. The star of the shop was a pair of curtains. The right width but the length was a little too long. I should have brought my sewing machine back from the Auvergne I suppose but instead I’ll pin them up.

The crowds were starting to build up in Leclerc. Despite buying a pile of frozen food, the bill came to about €11:00. Again, I’m not buying much before I go away.

ON the way back home the traffic had built up and there were grockles everywhere. It took ages to return home.

Three lizards again for lunch, and this new batch of hummus that I made yesterday is just as good as the last lot.

I should have been having visitors today but there’s a delay on the road so I’m free until tomorrow evening. So in a change to the usual routine I took this afternoon off and mooched around on the internet.

Much of the time was spent chatting to someone in Montreal and someone else in Alaska. I’m starting to become all nostalgic, especially as my social media page keeps on reminding me that I’m usually in Canada at this time of the year. I must stop being so broody.

Tea was the last of the vegan sausages with vegetables and cheese sauce. And later I went for a walk.

Regular readers of this rubbish will know that I’ve been having issues with the Nikon D5000 camera. I’ve brought the other lens back from the Auvergne and took a few photos with it this evening.

I’ll be reviewing them in the morning to see how they have turned out. I’ve long-suspected that it’s the lens that is at fault and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

We shall see.

Friday 17th August 2018 – IT’S BEEN …

… a quiet day today, after all of the exertions of the last week or so.

Much to my own surprise, I was out of bed after the first alarm. And that’s not happened for a while, has it?

And then after breakfast there was more work to be done, and then I started to have a good think about my plans after my next hospital visit. And that reminded me that I hadn’t booked my train to Brussels. That was something that needed my attention, and now it’s completed.

That also reminded me that I needed to go for my blood test. A brisk walk took me to the laboratory and they attended to matters. And much to everyone’s surprise that was all done and dusted and paid for within a matter of a couple of minutes. Not like the UK where you have to wait for a week or so.

And over the road I picked up my railway tickets from the station.

On the way back I picked up a baguette – but no hummus. I’d run out. And so I made another large batch. Chick peas, tahini, olive oil, chick pea water, olives, tomato, garlic and herbs. All whizzed up in the whizzer.

Some of it went into the freezer and some of it into the fridge. That’ll keep me out of mischief for a good while.

Outside on the wall with my butties, I was treated to the interesting sight of three lizards side-by-side eating from the same piece of pear. It makes a change from fighting over it.

This afternoon, apart from talking to another pile of neighbours, I attacked another piece of correspondence that had been hanging around here for a while. I’m going to have to keep myself up-to-date.

And I was on the phone to Rosemary for quite a while – so much so that I missed my tea and ended up with a packet of crisps.

No walk either this evening as I was watching football on the internet. Aberystwyth Town v Cardiff Metropolitan in the Welsh Premier League. Aber were really poor in the first half and were lucky to be only 3-0 down. They were much improved in the second half – although still some way off the pace – and the 4-1 final score was really rather flattering to them. Cardiff Met could have had half a dozen without too much effort.

So now it’s bed time. Shops tomorrow and I need to stock up as I’m having visitors. I hope that they’ve stocked up in NOZ – and that they have some staff to person the tills too.