Thursday 7th July – Aschaffenburg to Bristol, England

Well, where do we start with this latest saga of travelling. First let’s go back over yesterday. We spent a very pleasant day relaxing with Horst and Elfi around the house enjoying the much slower pace. We went out for dinner at the Biergarten followed by a stroll in the gorgeous city gardens. It had recently rained which made for a beautiful light on the trees. Aschaffenburg is so lucky to have such a large green area in their city.

Up for a leisurely breakfast this morning and chewing the fat until Horst and Elfi so very kindly drove us to the Hofbahnhof to catch the ICE to the flughafen (Train station to the airport). All went extremely well until we hit the airport.

First annoyance was the flight had been delayed by one hour. Originally we had booked on the 10.00am flight to Bristol with BMI (British Midlands) in January 2017 and it wasn’t that cheap!!!! We then got an email in March 2017 to say that flight had been cancelled and if we didn’t accept the 3.00pm flight they were going to cancel our booking altogether. There were only two flights per day. So we did not have a lot of choice as they were the only carrier going from Frankfurt to Bristol so they had us by the short and curlies.

So having had to accept their terms we then discover that the 10.00am flight was not cancelled. They just wanted us on the later flight – b$@&+#%^ds!!! Time has past so we have forgiven them a little and accepted our fate.

So, we arrive to find the delayed flight and then cannot book in electronically. Of course the smart arse assistant reckons we are dumkoffs and tries himself and earns the title of chief dumkoff!!! So off to the counter we go after telling the story to the officious airport personnel at the head of the queue only to find that our ticket has been cancelled and we are not on the flight at all!!!! Many swear words……

It appears that when they changed our booking they did not re-programme it correctly. Our options for getting to Bristol were very limited and missing the flight was going to incur serious flow on effects for Marlene and Wolfgang who were meeting us at Bristol Airport. We also have our narrowboat to pick up this evening in southern Wales that we have booked and paid for.

We need to take our hats off to the booking agent. Initially she said she could not help us and gave us a phone number to call up BMI in England. She saw our anguish and said she would try one last thing and thank god it worked. She was not sure if it was correct but issued us with boarding passes. You can imagine the huge sigh of relief over that….but…dramas were not over yet.

Remember that huge guffawful we had on the cruise coming across the Atlantic when we couldn’t get onto the Azores and other ports cancelled etc, well, that came back to haunt us today. When we got to EU border security he wanted to know if we had our Australian passports with us as there was no entry stamp of us arriving into the EU. He thought we might have had the stamp in the Ozzie one. Getting the picture now. NCL cruise line screwed up by not arranging for EU customs to come aboard and stamp everyone’s passport. In other words, we had effectively snuck into the EU with no entry stamp.

This did not make the customs official a very happy chappy and we were trying to work out if we had anything on us to prove we had come over by ship.

We think he took pity on a couple of ruffled looking old farts who had already had their first heart attack of the morning and let us leave Germany. Let’s hope we can get back in, but that is a week away and let’s just deal with the dramas that we have now.

We have always had a bit of a problem with the length of time we could spend in the EU or more correctly the Schengen zone – will not go into all the detail except to say that we could only stay in the EU for a total of 90 days. Due to the fact that we now had no entry stamp we could stay longer!!! So all that counting of days has amounted to nothing, but we will still stick to our initial plans and not make any changes as we have made lots of arrangements with other friends and have air line bookings etc.

Oh, how wonderful, we are sitting at the gate to discover that our plane has been delayed yet another 40 minutes!!! Will spend the time fruitfully outlining our Phase 7 below.

So a little on this part of the Odyssey. Firstly, we are now at the start of Phase 7. This phase consists of us travelling to the UK to meet up with our good friends Wolfgang and Marlene for seven days on a narrowboat on the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal and the Monmouthshire Canal in Southern Wales – bit of a mouthful!!!

This particular canal is interesting as it is isolated from the rest of the canal system in the UK. It was built around 1792 to carry coal, limestone and iron. It is very remote and well known for its beauty. The majority of the narrowboats on the canal are hire boats and thus, not a lot of traffic.

Some of you may know that we first met Wolfgang and Marlene last year when we were on the nb Lucy and spent 50 days together doing the Trent and Mersey, Huddersfield, Caldon and Leeds and Liverpool canals. We had such a great time together and we even got invited to Wolfgangs 60th birthday in Bremen in November which of course we could not say no to. So this year we decided to do the canal in Southern Wales together. By sharing the cost it has made it much more economical for all of us as hires can be expensive. Anyway, it is always more fun to do it within some one.

Wolfgang and Marlene have been on their narrowboat since April this year doing the southern canals in England and have got their boat to Bristol where it is being looked after by good friends Walter and Suzanne who have come over from Germany. In September Wolfgang and Marlene will return to Germany for two weeks and during this time we will look after their boat – how lucky are we!!! They are returning for Marlene’s 60th birthday. When they get back we will have a celebration in England.

So, having finally made it to Bristol where there are lots of joyous reunion hugs and laughs we went and got our hire car. The narrowboat hire company is about an hours drive away. It took a bit of mucking around but we worked out in the end that it was cheaper to hire a car for a week than to get a taxi both ways or use public transport. The canal is only 57k’s in length and we have five full days so we will manage that easily which might leave us a day free to use the car and do a bit of a touring around.

After a bit of time with Pedro at Europcar we finally got on the road. By now we are two hours late and the boat yard is closed for the night. We rang them to let them know we would be late so they have l ft someone behind to let us in. We are all starting to feel rather tired.
The satnav took us through all the back lanes which was lovely but stressful as they are extremely narrow with limited vision. We crossed over the Avon River and then over the Bristol Channel. Very impressive motorway system. We were very lucky in that even though it was a Friday night we did not strike too much traffic.

Arrived about 8.00pm to find Pencelli Castle moored ready to go. She is a lovely boat. Very clean and well prepared.

As it was late we popped out to the pub for a dinner of fish and chips being a Friday night. Met a few of the locals who were very excited about the Lions v All Blacks game tomorrow morning. They invited us to the pub tomorrow morning in the pub to join them to watch the game. Di has decided not to mention she is a Kiwi considering that the Welsh have about four players in the team and they are a very proud rugby union country!!!

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