So where's the snow?

Muddling through life from Austria to Wales; God, life and a small black dog

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The Journey#2

It was strange sitting so high in the van, but Mark is a professional driver, so I let go and really tried not to drive with him. He cut in and out in a way I’d never have the courage to do. At the border with Germany, we unexpectedly caught a jam. Two accidents, then we sailed through. We stopped after four hours as we reckoned that Swingle would sleep. After that, we made it every couple of hours. It was a warm day, and we made sure we kept her hydrated. She would be so pleased to see us, then leap out to all the great smells in the stops. I just loved all the changing scenery as we went through Germany and France. We reached Calais, after one major jam for a car accident. Swingle was scared by the sirens, but we couldn’t get her out and it took half an hour to find a place to stop, but she had calmed by then. Mark has been moving animals for years and he was completely right about how she would handle it. The dark place became safe for her.

We got to our hotel in Calais in good time as Mark knew a shortcut that by bypassed a load of traffic. We parked in a compound that housed all the vehicles for the Calais police force. They kept a van permanently parked there. During the night, they set off some alarms and there was shouting; I guess they had arrested someone. We saw a group of non uniformed officers going off on plain clothes duty. And in our room, Swingle’s water got spilled all over the floor! We went for a walk, but there were no parks. We couldn’t find an evening meal so ended up getting snacks from Lidl! The air was warm and it was a hot, close night. Despite having drinking lots on the journey, Swingle downed two bowls of water in the room. That resulted in two trips out in the night and a poop. We went to our rooms in the lift first of all, she scared herself by seeing a black dog in the lift mirror and looked for it behind the mirror. Then her tail stopped the door shutting. In the night, we took her to the huge roundabout opposite the hotel, so much traffic in the day she loved it. She had major sensory overload on each stop, from so many other dogs!

We were zombie like in the morning. We left for the P&O ferry at Calais; the tunnel having gone up hugely in price at the beginning of the summer. Mark was nervous as there had been so many problems with the border control over the Covid months, and he’d just heard that from the weekend, France would be only accepting essential UK travellers.

We went to the first booth, manned by two grumpy looking officers who wouldn’t speak but ordered us to the UK border control. There were various groups from Romania etc, who seemed to be having problems getting through. When or turn came, we had a smile and waved through. Mark had told us we had our location forms linked to our passports, so I guessed all was Ok. We felt a huge relief.

When we got to the P&O kiosk, the proverbial hit the fan. Inside was sat a poker faced guy, with long hair and glasses, and wouldn’t react to Mark’s politeness. We had to do all the forms, and he refused our location forms because I hadn’t put we had come through France, so our form was green for Austria, not Amber for France. I was getting my files and laptop to change it, but Mark did a whole new form. It got us through, but I’m having kittens that on Monday morning I’ll get a call from Gov UK demanding an explanation. Then the chip reader couldn’t find Swingles chip, and grumpy pants had to get another. We queued for the ferry, glad to have left grumpy pants behind. We guessed he was part of the French not liking the UK, and he didn’t want to do all these checks. Then as we were about to board, one of the Marshalls said we were missing a yellow sticker, Grumpy’s bloodymindedness or stress?

Once on, we left Swingle in the van and had breakfast in the lorry drivers’ café, the staff were so helpful and I even got some gluten free toast, eggs and bacon! She was fine, maybe the ferry’s engine’s made her think the van was moving, we certainly didn’t need to dope her. Once off the ferry, we sailed through customs  much to Mark’s relief. I felt a bit emotional at finally returning home, but was so tired, I remained calm. The journey to Wales was uneventful, with few traffic jams. We took all our furniture to the store, and they opened up for us. It seemed so little. Swingle was reaching the end of her tether with the box. She started scratching to get out of it each time we shut the door, only to quieten when the engine started. At the store, I tied her to a trolley and gave her a big chew that cheered her up. At the hotel she was out like a bullet, having been in the rattly, empty bus.

Then in Cardiff, the road was closed to the hotel, and Mark drove us around the block to find it He was so kind to do it, we were all geared up to catch the train into Cardiff. He made all the difference to the trip. I would have gone to pieces with the driving and the problems. But our troubles were over. When we checked in, our Covid tests hadn’t arrived. I rang the firm, who said they had been returned due to a wrong address. I had written in the name from the booking form and had been unable to find a number and had the right post code. The bloke was really helpful, although I was so angry. Why hadn’t I been contacted? I had been under such stress I’d forgotten that I should get a text when they were despatched, it seems royal mail didn’t even dispatch them and the man hinted it was my fault for not writing hotel on the address. He promised to get them dispatched asap Monday, but did hint it was my fault for not writing hotel! But I checked all the documents, and non had hotel on the name. It remains to see if they will turn up. And we won’t take the rest on Monday, He said it was okay to do it on the third, as it was due to courier failure. I just hope.

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While there have been weekly posts for the past few months, they were all written and posted in October on the timer!  So what have I been up to?

I taught my annual English course for nine weeks until December 2nd.

On December 4th we set off for the UK in our Panda, with Swingle riding shotgun on the back seat.

December 7th, we took Eurotunnel and arrived in a murky UK.

We spent six days with Dave’s family, two with our friends in New Milton, three with my brother in Somerset, and then ten days with our son and his wife in Wareham.  CHRISTMAS!

Then on December 27th we went through the tunnel again and on the 30th arrived home.

New Year with our eyes firmly closed until the village siren went off.

Days spent sorting out my new job in St Margarethen, paperwork, catching up with friends, eating chocolate…..I haven’t had time to get depressed or sad, much to Dave’s relief as he doesn’t want another dog!

Next week I’m off to St Wolfgang to begin my training as a librarian.

Then maybe when I get back, I will finally have enough time to write about all of our adventures!

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Cherbourg to Tamsweg- The journey home


The least scenic of our hotels!

After the most amazing Christmas, surrounded in the family and shopping, it was time to head home. Despite someone who will remain nameless setting the alarm wrong, we arrived in  plenty of time for the ferry, rolled on and spotted no more rival fiat pandas. The crossing was calm, we sat and did crosswords and spent the last Pounds. I drove off, and was a bit worried at customs as I had done so much food shopping which was behind the back seat. The Austrian number plate was looked at but the two old twits driving had them sending us through.

I was thrown a bit by returning to drive on the right, especially as ThomasT decided to direct me into the town rather than on the new ring road. I also flipped on the busy round about, but after a while I got my driving mojo back. We had planned to drive a northern route back around Paris and I had guessed at a couple of towns where there would be a Hotel. We by-passed Rouens, which was close to being as busy as Paris but ok. Then we drove into the centre of Amiens.

Here we learnt about French streets, with the major road flanked by smaller service roads, one of which I nearly drove up! We switched ThomasT off as we got to the centre and stopped in a side street, where I saw a sign for Ibis- a chain of hotels I’d seen. God had guided us straight to a Hotel! We booked in, ate some of our English goodies and crashed out.

The next day we drove down through Picardy and more battle areas, through thick fog which gradually eased. We ploughed on towards Stutggart and realised just how tired we were, so pulled into a reststation. The guy at the desk gave me a book with lists of hotels, but none were really near. So I asked another, who directed me to a place with a Motel. In the darkness we missed the first turning, but took the next and found our goal. A quiet motel in a town in the middle of nowhere. We asked how it came about – there is a big prison in the area, hence the Macs and a Casino. Thank you Lord for Heimsheim for a good night’s sleep.

Third day in we were sick of driving, the windscreen wash ran out and we got stuck up a closed road, but we bickered amiably through. Nearing Salzburg, we hit falling snow and an inescapable jam, which turned out to be nothing more than slowing down for a tunnel.

Home at last. Really, we should have stopped overnight in Cherbourg and then drove for two days- the ferry not getting in till 2pm. The short daylight hours mean we won’t do it again in winter either.  I would want to stay for longer too. But it was OK, so many places we’d like to stop and look at. However, Dave owes me one flight at least!!!!!

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Forgetting my country


It was as we sat on the bus, going through the Purbecks that I found I’d forgotten what it looked like.  The fields and wind swept trees.  In the towns, I’d forgotten the style of houses, the long lines of Victorian villas.  The lack of snow.  I am starting to lose my homeland.

Within a few days it was all familiar but in some way still alien.  The Lungau seemed another world away, no longer my reality.  It was lovely to understand all around me and talk fluently – although at times I had trouble remembering an English word where a German word is often used – e.g., Gemeinde for council.

George said it was sad that we were even interested in the adverts on the English TV.  Yet Austrian TV is rubbish, there are only so many cute animals bouncing around on mountains programmes I can watch, the Heimat (or homely) drama are so sickly sweet I could vomit, even Rosemont Pilcher- urg, and crime dramas are often difficult to follow even if they appeal. I’m so glad that we were given so many DVDs to watch!  I know if we went back, I would soon be bored and moan about the TV, but with so many satellite channels now……I do like my TV  in the evenings!

Yet, I didn’t feel I wanted to stay, well only the first few days.  I knew it was a holiday idyll and not real life, and here is home for now.  I would soon get fed up with Primark too!  I would only go back for the kids!

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Travel Nightmares

Swanage on Christmas day

Snow in England, closed airports, and an airline that only opened a helpline 9-5 and told people not to ring – not a good combination. On the morning of December 22nd we were due to travel to Southampton with Flybe. Early in the morning I was on all the websites, finding a little comfort that our flight was actually scheduled. And we made it, the flight came late from Birmingham. 

Then when we arrived and went to collect our hire car, I found I had left my Visa card at home. They wouldn’t accept my Austrian Bank card or cash. I felt such a twat, all the suspense over travelling had stopped me doing my usual checks. Fortunately the train station is just by Southampton airport and we got a train to Brockenhurst where our friends met us (thanks so much Liz and John)– later rather than sooner because we were waiting on the wrong side of the station. Then all was ok and we had a blissful Christmas in Swanage. We then travelled by train to Aldershot to the rellys, where we had Captain Mainwaring as the guard who announced he wasn’t selling tickets or giving information as the entire computer database had crashed over Christmas! He also said we had to get to the buffet ourselves as the train was too full for it to get up and down. The whole carriage laughed, one moment of light relief. Travelling back to New Milton the next day, I left a suitcase in the hall. Thank heavens there is till some common sense in the UK – the Guard just let me pick it up. Then the train stopped in Brockenhurst with no announcement for three quarters of an hour. I’m sick of doing these stupid things all the time, forgetting things, not understanding, is it menopause, age or something more sinister? Maybe I’ve always done things like this, but is it getting worse or am I more aware?

The next morning we set off for Southampton in the fog,the snow having melted. I should have guessed. At first our flight was ok, so we checked in and went airside. Then came the ‘more news in a hour’ on the boards and then flights around us were cancelled with no other explanation apart from the foggy weather. We got vouchers for £3.50 which just about covered a sandwich. I was working out how we could pay for another flight if it was cancelled, our bankcard has a 400 euro limit on it – I’ll never travel again without a Credit card! Then they started redirecting flights, people were being taken to Exeter and Bournemouth. We couldn’t understand why ours was being held back – hopeful but very frustrating. Then we got our announcement we were going to take off from BIRMINGHAM – where our flight started. Unbelieveable. We had to recollect our bags and sit on a coach that seemed to be driven all over the place (including the rumble strips on the motorway) for three hours until we arrived in an equally foggy Brum. No one met us, all we could do was check in and wait. We heard tales of woe all around, one man’s son couldn’t collect a needed car from Southampton because it was now closed. Someone’s Grandson had had an accident.  Why couldnt Flybe do something sooner? Why keep us waiting for six hours? Was it all really due to there not being a fog landing beacon at Southampton, if so,get your finger out BAA!

Eventually we took off after another delay because there was one too many passengers on the flight. We arrived in falling snow in Salzburg and no way were we going to drive – if it was this thick here, how much in Lungau? So we went to a Tourist Information in the Airport to find a Hotel at that time of the night and spent half an hour driving bad temperedly around till we found it. At least we were able to help a fellow Brit with the lift – sorry about the arguing! We eventually found the hotel which was lovely, slept like logs, had a wonderful breakfast –with smoked salmon my new health craze and drove uneventfully home. Exhausted but with DVDs and books enough to last us for a long time!