Gra Nomad Wanderings

Saturday, October 27, 2012


 We had a few "last drinks" here in Amsterdam. Really enjoyed the city and the people. Hope other people see Sydney as hospitable.
Caught up with Rembrandt. He's still lookin' good after all these years. They have some pretty impressive people came from The Netherlands, but then we've got Sir Donald, Sam Stosur, the Coop and Dave Reid I guess!

 Above and below - Fay having a go onan e-bike. Pretty neat. Thanks Lu.
 Beautiful autumn leaves everywhere.
 Lu and Ulrike. Thanks for helping us have a ball in Mettingen (near Osnabruck.)
 Pretty place eh?

 Where did we find this "girl"? Here we are having our last arvo in downtown Amsterdam. Oh, and I meant to fix up that bit back there when I said "dyke" and I shoulda said "dam"! Damn!

Think this is a bridge.... in fact seven brisges if you've got good eyes.
Tomorrow, we could finish up in London, Miami or Cancun (Mexico). They are the most likely possibilities. You probably won't hear from me for a while.... maybe not till I'm in Earlwood (Sydney) on 5 November... that is if things go the way they are meant to. Seeya.... oh, Fay's still with me I should say!! Lawrences are now in Australia and Fitzpatricks are in Greece.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


 Fay - Aust
 Janice - Aust
 Alicia - North Carolina
 Richard - North Carolina
 Bernie - Aust
 Barry (Aust) and Curt (Oregon).  Annette - Aust (below)

Yep.... and me! Also from Aust.

Monday, October 22, 2012

ELODIE - end Week 7

[Written Friday 19 Oct]

Probably my favourite day of the whole week (even though there’s still the weekend to go.) Weather – fine! No rain! No hills! Minimal traffic – guess there were quite a few bikes now I think about it. Heaps and heaps of canals – some big, some small. Even a river that looked like a large canal. The traffic on the canals was quite busy. All sorts of traffic going this way and that. Huge tankers, small tugs, the odd sailboat struggling in amongst the big timers.
We did about 60 km today. It was very pleasant. Weatherwise – our best day. 

Our group stopped at Kinderdÿk to check out the wind mills. We called in to a pub at Molenaarsgkaaf for coffee or hot chocolate (and the usual biscuit as Mary Kay was quick to remind me). Janice has developed quite a connection with hot chocolates on this trip. Belgian chocolate of course. Then lunch was at Schoonhoven (quite a lovely little town) and finally reached Vianen at 5:10 pm where the barge, Elodie was waiting for us. 
Nina was very say the least
I asked the team if they’d like to contribute to this “post” but I was not very successful I’m sorry. So, you’ll have to hear from me again.
Trimmed hedges, manicured shrubs, beautiful gardens, extensive vegie gardens, lovely houses, cobblestones in the towns, cycling past people’s front and back yards. Every now and then our feared leader, Nina, would stop, all cyclists would assemble and she would gather us together; “I make you short story.” She would then tell us something educational about the land or its inhabitants. She was always saying things like, “You can not arrange the weather!” Or “I show you secret route now!”
Nina makes a short story
Each day our tour leader/guide Nina would appoint a “sweeper” who would ride at the back of the group and be responsible for rounding up the stragglers. The sweepers did a great job (see Curt below). She would also ask somebody to stay at a corner and be a “corner” till all had found it and got on the right track. 

 Go Curt!
Great to see Alicia and Mary Kay (below) show off their legs today. 

When Fay and I got in, we enjoyed a lovely shower in our cosy cabin and then sat on the deck of the Elodie and shared a white wine.  What a lovely feeling. It was a ride of about 60 km today.
While I have focussed on our riding, the actual boat trip is just excellent. Here we have to thank Michel (our great, reliable skipper) and Sander (our magnificent, creative chef.) The two blokes have helped make this trip such a great success. We are all so glad we came on this bike n barge trip.
Here are 3 dishes from Sander..... delicious!!
 Michel, Fay and Sander.

Michel - the great skipper!!!
Next blog will be about Amsterdam (with a bit of luck.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

ELODIE -during wk 7

The barge, Elodie, is something else. Life on this barge is “something else”. What do I mean by that? Well, I don’t have a lot to compare it with…. Haven’t been on any other barges that I can recall. But it’s pretty special. 

There are 3 Aussie couples (Barry & Annette Lawrence from Nowra – the couple we’ve been travelling round Europe with for 6 weeks; Bernie & Janice Fitzpatrick from Wollongong; Fay and I.) All Aussies are 60 plus and are ex teachers. There are 2 couples from USA (Dick and Alicia from North Carolina, late 70’s; Kurt and Mary Kay from Portland Oregon – nearly as old as us Aussies.) Then there’s our male cook Sander, tour guide Nina and our trainee tour guide Dini (both guides are ladies from the Netherlands), our skipper Michael (pronounced Michelle) and another skipper who came on board yesterday…. Wamme.

Tour guide Nina and Dini

Typical daily sched is something like this: barge fires up around 7 am and then departs moorings and goes to where the group are gonna bike from. Meanwhile,  scrumptious brekky at 8 am and then at about 9 am the 10 cyclists, with our 2 tour guides, all get off the barge with our bikes (provided for us by Elodie) and head off. We pack a lunch to go which we have somewhere enroute. Sounding pretty neat? Sure is.
We ride about 50 km (or whatever) and return to the barge at its new moorings at the end of our ride… early afternoon - or late! (It travels along during the day just as we travel along – different routes though.)  
In the evening we enjoy a deliciously prepared three course meal, explained by Sander. Tea/coffee always available and drinks in the fridge can be purchased on an honour system. Then we can do a walking excursion to the town/city where we are moored. Or just sit around and relax. 
 Richard and Alicia from North Carolina
 Crossing a bridge - or was it a dyke?

 Barry shields Janice from the prevailing winds. 

Day 1 was in Brugge with a short 15 km trial ride. Day 2 was Brugge to Gent. Day 3 is Gent to Hansweert – going from Belgium to the Netherlands. More info as it comes to hand. So far, so good! 

 Fay doing battle with cobblestones - in the country!

That’s probably enough for a start.   

Sunday, October 14, 2012


This has been quite a week. 

Mon 8 Oct:
Drove to Peronne (enroute to Amiens) and checked out war museums and war cemeteries around there. At one I asked a lovely young lady if there was a way I could find where OSCAR KEAST’s grave was located. I knew it was near Ypres in Belgium. She was very helpful and wrote down for me:
Oscar Keast
Service No.: 5768
Messines Ridge British Cemetery
Near Ypres, Belgium
We drove on, after a cuppa or drink at La Melbourne bar, arriving at our Amiens destination (proudly) at about 5 pm.  What we didn’t know was that our hosts, who were waiting for us elsewhere, had moved several km a couple of years earlier. Too long a story for here – ask me later. An hour later we were greeted by Jason and later Anne and Annick.

What’d we do in Amiens? Visit the cathedral, a couple of coffee shops, cake shops and found a lovely walk beside a canal. [Same procedure as last year?]

Our day on 10 Oct was a very special one. Drove from Amiens to Lille via Calais. Here we visited with Michele. We immediately found common ground: she’s a retired teacher, she’s our age (nearly) and she has been to Wagga! What a lovely lunch! What a great cook! She was to come to our rescue later in the week when she picked us up from Lille airport (we’d just dropped off our car) and drove us back to Brugge!  It was great to be able to repay her a bit by taking her to lunch in Brugge and having Flemish stew (beautiful.)

Some of Michele's artwork
In Lille, Fay and I stayed with a delightful family of …  about 7; mum, dad, Jean, François, grandma, Claire and Maeliss. Oh, there’s also Ophelie too. And Billy the begging dog. Their farmhouse (in Bachy) dates back to around 1670! Yep, pre 1700. Unreal. They’ve got room for you if you wanna visit. About 25 km from Lille.
 Xavier and Catherine's farmhouse - pre 1700

Catherine, Grandma and Maeliss at Bachy
On Thurs Fay went shopping in Lille! [End of story.] For lunch I had falluche with chicken (volaille) and Fay had Northern Tartiflette (potato, smoked bacon, braised onions and melted maroilles.)

The highlight on Friday was that I went looking for the grave of Oscar Keast, my grandfather’s brother, killed in WW I. Like looking for a needle in a haystack. Yes, I was looking for W.J.Keast’s younger brother’s grave. The grave of my great uncle. He put his age up to go to war and died at age 20 according to the records, but most probably about 18.
The short story; we found his grave (a very stirring moment.)
On his gravestone it reads:

11TH AUGUST 1917, AGE 20


 The grave of my great uncle, Oscar Keast
 The graves of 1,003 British soldiers and airmen were there, plus 1 Canadian, 342 Australians, 128 New Zealanders, 57 South African and 1 unidentified soldier.

So, finally to Brugge in Belgium – the home of Belgium pastries, chocolate, beer, waffles and Flemish stew. (There are no doubt other things too.)
Sunday we set off on ELODIE, our barge, which will carry us to Amsterdam over the next week. Seeya next weekend!  

Saturday, October 06, 2012


Into the swing of things in Rudesheim

For our accommodation, we've used:
Elvira and Rudi - airbnb hosts near Obsteig

Everything has been just great. Tonight we're having our second sleep at Hotel Ruthmann (with at Oestrich-Winkel. It's not far from Rudesheim and in fact it's all not that far south of Koblenz. We have good friends Kai and Gabi and Johannes that live at Schlangenbad (means snakes I think.) When we leave here, we head to Saint Quentin in France, then on to Amiens and finally Lille before we get rid of the car and start on the bike and barge trip - Brugges to Amsterdam.
 Fay and Gra at Augsburg, Romantic Route
Fussen, Augsburg and the Romantic route were excellent choices as we headed to Aufheim-Senden (Near ULM). The coffee and tiramisu that Volker and Lieselotte served up was a great welcome by "old Servas friends."
Thanks Lieselotte & Volker & of course Matthias
You name it we saw it around ULM on this visit. The welcome was extended by Kerstin (Andy baltaks lovely wife), Matthias and even the neighbour who gave me a bunch of German plates. Great to get a good look at the school where Lieselotte teaches 4 days a week.
Esslingen was enroute to Weingarten (near Karlsruhe). When we arrived and were greeted by our hosts Wolfgang and Hildegard, we were saddled up with a walk round the area, through vineyards and amongst forest etc. A beaut way to get an impression of the area, especially when the next day was scheduled to be a full-on guided walking tour, extra hike and then celebration dinner party. That sure gave us a work out - both days.
Wolfgang's a pretty good guide we reckon
You'd have thought they were giving out free fuel to truckies when we headed off to the pretty town Oestrich-Winkel, on the busy Rhine River. If you drive a truck and you weren't there, you were one of the few I'd reckon. Hotel Ruthmann was fairly easy to locate and so we settled in.

Our time in Oestrich-Winkel (Rudesheim, Schlangenbad, Kloster Eberbach Monastery and of course the Rhine River) was really superb. Thanks Kai, Gabi and Johannes for helping to make it a special time. They have a bit of Aussie in them those Germans. In fact quite a bit.

Saturday - off to Saint Quentin in France.