After a doubtful weather forecast we set out for Minster to catch up with Gareth (Dawn was called into work) and daughter Emily and headed off on our bikes to explore. We enjoyed a day of balmy sunshine, a little ferocious wind, beautiful scenery and a combination of blue and threatening grey skies somehow missing the rain which finally arrived 10 minutes after we got back to Marshside.

Much of the countryside we rode through today was once marsh land and over the centuries has silted up providing rich soil for agriculture which is abundant in the area in many forms.

Broadstairs was a delightful seaside village, actually probably more a large town than village and among other things is famous for the fact that Charles Dickens was once a resident and penned several books as he looked out to sea from his home on the bluff overlooking the beach and harbour. It used to be open to the public but has been a private home for a few years now.

Broadstairs with the Dickens house on the bluff in the distance

Dover Castle was an impressive sight perched solidly on top of the cliff and we nearly got blown off the cliff top as we overlooked the huge ferry terminal where the ferries and other boats and ships were struggling to negotiate the breakers and so getting in and out from behind the sea wall. Apparently it is not uncommon that in rough weather the ferries moor outside the seawall for several hours to wait for the seas to calm. Hate to think what that must do to the schedules of the transport companies, drivers of the semis lined up and the delivery of the thousands of containers which move through there every week.

The Dover Ferry terminal

Sandwich was just an absolute delight and we wound our way through tiny streets, many of which were one-way due to the minimal distance between ancient old buildings. So very quaint, we just loved it. Found an ancient old hotel ‘The Bell Hotel’ so had to take a pic for all the family connections. Beautifully looked after. Check it out on the web at www.bellhotelsandwich.co.uk

The Bell Hotel

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Our trip for Father’s Day was to Leeds Castle known as “the loveliest castle in the world” which was just beautiful. As luck would have it there was a ‘Bentleys and Balloons’ event happening as well as a display of heaps of other Vintage cars, many of which we had progressively passed on the Motorway and also some awesome Steam Tractors plus operating scale model replicas so a bonus for Norm. There were no balloon rides happening as the wind was a bit unfriendly but there were some awesome kites flying instead.

Leeds Castle

The Castle was just beautiful and maintained well. Easy to see why so many of these Castles have been left to the state…their upkeep bill would be massive! Leeds castle however is owned and managed by a charitable trust whose aim is to preserve the castle and grounds for the benefit of the public forever. There was a real carnival atmosphere today with huge numbers of up-market type stalls and families picnicking on the lawns. The lists of events in the coming months was impressive to say the least.

The Culpeper Garden

We particularly enjoyed the Culpeper Gardens which used to be the kitchen garden but was changed to an English Country garden as a memorial to the Culpeper family who owned the castle in the 17th century. The flowers herbs and vegetables throughout were reminiscent of the gardens we were familiar with as we grew

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God bless the local pub (The Gate Inn) they have free WIFI so I will use that for updating the blog while in the UK. The pub nestled on the edge of a little stream is a combination of a pub and the original village bakery complete with massive oven built in the 1700’s. It is about to be repainted complete with hand painted sign writing as it was 60 or so years ago.

The Gate Inn - Marshside Kent

But to today. After a solid 12.5 hours sleep we managed to convince ourselves we should probably get out of bed, had some breakfast and ‘in theory’ got ourselves organised (a big and somewhat misleading statement that one!) Eventually we set out again through the rolling golden fields of post- harvest grain stubble, fields of vegetables and tidy apple orchards to explore more of this south eastern tip of England. The day has been quite warm and it’s taking a bit of time to get the combination of protection and comfortable travelling temperature to come together. Some more experimenting needed.

We lunched in Ramsgate where we wandered through their market enjoying the comings and goings of the locals and wound our way around the coast for a bit looking at ferry marshalling yards, yachts in marinas, even a 65 year old steam driven tug boat (The Cervis) children swimming and also some beautifully colourful bathing boxes on the beach at Minnis Bay then back to Marshside for some chill time, dinner and sleep!

Ramsgate from the marina.

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Well our travel time was just short of 24hours from Australia to the UK with a couple of hours break in Kuala Lumper and then a strong tail wind landing us 25minutes early at 5.25am this morning at Heathrow. From there we took the Underground to Kings Cross St Pancras station passing through a number of Monopoly board stations along the way then on to Faversham where we met up with Gareth at the Bike Shop and after a lot of reorganising luggage and bike bits and changing into our bike gear we headed off to Marshside near Canterbury. It was a tonic to see my little bike looking a lot better than I left it after the accident in France last year except for some significant scrape marks on the exhaust where it slid down the motorway.

It’s been a nice balmy day here today and after we stowed our cases we headed off for a short ride to get a few groceries and do a little exploring. Back home now and are looking forward to a good tramp along the lanes before we head to the local pub for dinner then bed.

Not sure how often I will update the blog. It will depend on where I get WIFI service and how committed I am but even if it is loaded sporadically I will keep track of the days so if you want to check out particular legs of the trip it should be easy enough to do so. Can’t believe the adventure has begun!

At home at St Kilda

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Our accommodation and many side trips have again been capably arranged by the lovey Sue Ritter from Travel Plus Australia Pty Ltd in Mount Waverly who you can email at travel@travelplus.com.au with the exception of most of the UK when we will use our friends home (Phil and Jean) as our base except when we catch up with fellow members of the Women in Logistics UK Group (WIL UK) in London when we will also do a little more London exploring.

The rest of the trip we have made our decisions in consultation with our travelling companions Sharen and Ken who will travel with us once we get to France. We’ll give you our opinion of the accommodations the night following our stay.

Thursday 1st September 2011

Plane - Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Plane - Leave Kuala Lumpur Heading for London

Friday 2nd September 2011
Arrive in London UK
Collect motorbikes from Faversham
Canterbury Kent

Thursday 8th September 2011

Friday 9th September 2011
Canterbury Kent

Monday 12th September 2011
EuroTunnel Folkestone to Calais
Paris France

Thursday 15th September 2011

Saturday 17th September 2011

Sunday 18th September 2011

Monday 19th September 2011

Wednesday 21st September 2011

Friday 23rd September 2011

Saturday 24th September 2011

Sunday 25th September 2011
Santander Spain

Tuesday 27th September 2011
San Sebastian

Thursday 29th September 2011
Arcachon France

Friday 30th September 2011

Sunday 2nd October 2011

Tuesday 4th October 2011
Mont St Michel

Wednesday 5th October 2011

Thursday 6th October 2011
Eurotunnel From Calais to Folkestone
Return bikes for storage
Faversham UK

Friday 7th October 2011
Train - Faversham to Ebbsfleet International
Train - Ebbsfleet International, to Brussels
Train - Brussels to Bruges
Brugge Belgium
From here by car with Sharen and Ken

Saturday 8th October 2011
Delft Holland

Monday 10th October 2011

Tuesday 11th October 2011
Cruise ship - APT – Amsterdam to Budapest Hungary

Tuesday 25th October 2011
Plane - Budapest to Rome Italy
Plane - Rome to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Wednesday 26th October 2011
Plane - Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne

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We have been progressively ticking off our lists in preparation for departure while trying not to go over the edge as each task completed seemed to lead to even more. BUT..we are finally getting ahead of all that and can see an end to it and a beginning to our break. Bring it on is all I can say.

The fact that we will be traveling on motorbikes and have limited luggage space means I've made my lists for what I will pack then culled them, and culled them and culled them again and will hopefully end up with enough clothes to give me enough choices / changes / combinations when I am off the bike to feel somewhat feminine as well as toiletries, traveling documents, notebook, camera, mobile phones, electrical leads and plugs (requiring a larger container than my toiletry bag would you believe) not to mention the replacements we need for our bike riding.

For me that is a helmet, waterproofs and gloves to replace what was damaged in my accident last year, and some more gloves and boots for Norm as the old ones he took barely lasted for the ride. Our UK contact (Gareth) has sorted some pannier bags for Norm's bike so we have some more options for what we can carry and access which will make for more comfortable travel when we are on the bikes and we will leave the bike gear in the UK for another year so will give us some more space when we move on.

Thankfully Norm is a much more succinct packer than me, you would almost think his life's work has been about maximizing what fits where and minimizing the space needed so there are some advantages in a background in logistics. An example of that was his comment when I suggested we should pack a change of clothes in our carry on bags in case our luggage disappears. His response? I'll pack a pair of jocks. A universal male response I suspect.

The cases have been on our billiard table for around a week now and been progressively packed, unpacked, reorganized and repacked. We will eventually say enough is enough and say we are done.

Nearly packed and ready to go!

We plan to leave here the night before we fly out so we can relax for a few hours and spend some time with Sharen and Ken who we will meet up with in Paris September 12th. We will compare notes and toast the start of the adventure before heading for the airport September 1st.

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Since 1972 we have travelled all over our great country in trucks carrying freight and helping keep the wheels of industry turning but since 2007 we have started using every chance we can get to explore our great country on motorbikes.

The exercise started out as a bit of a stress buster and was very effective but by accident we found it was a great way to catch up with customers, find lots of routes which are not truck friendly allowing us to cross them off the work list and also to keep track of the development we contribute to and to learn and anticipate of more to come. So there you go we have found another way to make work time fun time.

2009 saw our great Darwin bike ride when we retraced the route of our 1971 working holiday up the east coast of Australia across to Darwin through Mt Isa, then down through the centre and home travelling some 11,300kms in all. An interesting reflection on the passage of time and how road transport (freight) has changed so much of what Australians take for granted, also to note the numbers of regional and national projects our company has been part of. Needless to say it was also a thrill to catch up with some of our trucks in our travels. (I will eventually transfer the travelogue onto the website so it is here for viewing).

Continuing on from there we have decided to undertake a series of study tours of the UK and some of Europe (the first in 2010 travelling 5,560kms - and I will eventually transfer the travelogue onto the website for viewing also) and possibly the USA over the next several years and will do so on motorbikes again. Some of the stress busting may well be a little lost and there will no doubt be inherent stress's involved with different road rules and languages but we are up for the challenge and are looking forward to exploring transport routes and developments throughout and discovering where the industrial revolution began and compare things with what we have here in Australia.

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Hello and welcome to the Official Travel Blog of Norm & Nola Bransgrove, check back often to see what these two Aussie travelers get up to as they travel across the UK and into France and the North of Spain.

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Worked out the cost of our big ride today. Without the bike repairs it averaged just over $150 a day. If we take out the 10 days we stayed with family and friends and average it out again it still comes in at only $200 a day so pretty stoked about that......perhaps you should get yourselves a bike or a couple of bikes or one Spyder..... check them out on the web, a 3 wheel bike. Couldn't' tip it over if you tried! Come on have a go!

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Home again, home again, jiggedy jig (no idea where that memory comes from!) We slept in yesterday then started making lists both hard copy and in the head of things to do when we get home. It was good to catch up briefly with my cousin and her husband. We dabbled in a bit of holiday planning for next year which was good. She and I are 'clayton sisters' as in the sister you have when you don't have a sister and we plan to grow disgracefully old together and try to practice when we can. While they worked yesterday we languished over breakfast, wandered around Maling Road and had a yummy lunch and returned to the warmth to kick back before we headed off for dinner. A nice way to draw a close to our holiday.

Maling Road streetscape near my cousins home. A streetscape she had a hand in preserving in a previous town planning position.

We headed off on our final leg home this morning from Canterbury and the Victorian reality of an icy fog set in. We stopped on the Pakenham bypass to add the waterproof jacket for an extra layer against the cold. After fuelling up and a hot coffee at Longwarry we headed out through Jindivick to Neerim South to catch up with Norm Snr. It was good to see so much green evident through the previously blackened area through Jindivick though areas where the greatest heat was generated remain starkly black. In other areas the grass and ferns are recovering and the trees are taking on fluffy green wrap as the leaves sprout from burnt trunks. While the fog was cold, it had lifted somewhat by the Jindivick area and gave the appearance of a protective veil (cold but attractive).
We caught up with Charlie and Peggy also. Lovely to have people so pleased to see us!

Return of green to the Jindivick area.

Finally home to our own patch and hugs from Rosey before she left work. Nice to be in our own patch again.....but also somewhat unreal. Does this really mean we won't be riding hundreds of kilometres tomorrow...and the next day, and the next? A bit sad about that.

When we holidayed in Spain, Portugal and Morocco last year we got ourselves sorted with texting family and sending pics but with the continued development of technology the 'travelogue' has now arrived and through it and your feedback we have been conscious of 'bringing a lot of you along for the ride' which we really enjoyed, in fact it felt quite a privilege to do so. Thanks for your feedback. When we head off again we'll copy you in and as always, just a reply to come off the list will put an end to it.

Talk to you all next time.

Home to my own little bed!

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