It’s impossible to believe that 3 months have passed since the last blog entry. 1) That’s an appalling dereliction of duty and 2) where has the Summer gone?
In point of fact, the Summer (as in holiday) has only just started for us, hence the resurrection of your favourite blog, as we fill our tanks and charge our batteries for another swashbuckling Knumpty tour across Europe.
A little under a year in the planning (for which read: glancing occasionally at a road-map and booking ourselves fixed-date crossings on Eurotunnel) and the day of departure was upon us. Frenetic packing and then a late-afternoon thrash down to Kent, where a nameless Green King pub at Aylesford found itself in conflict with its own website with regards to the time they ACTUALLY stopped serving food.
Ha! No matter, stout yeowoman, we shall prevail here, despite it being past 9pm – for we shall visit the neighbouring kebab house and STILL stay overnight in your manky car-park. And hey, while the pub doesn’t deserve a mention, the Alim-Et kebab shop gets a ‘best ever’ rating and as such will enjoy a brief moment of glory in these hallowed pages by being promoted unashamedly. Visit you must at 751 London Road, Larkfield, Aylesford, Kent. With takeaway, café, meze & grill plus an impeccably kept car-park and integrated hand-car wash, what’s not to like?
Onward. Channel tunnel, yadda yadda yadda. Like a friendly frankfurter sausage, it was quick, tube-like and efficient – without any debilitating side-effects (like sea-sickness.) Out into glorious French sunshine in less time than it took us to realise we’d actually set off and then foot down for another thrash along expensive but time-saving autoroutes to see just how far we could get in one day.
Chalon-en-Champagne Technical College Car Park is the correct answer. A quiet and pleasant backwater alongside a soup-green canal, we parked up for the night, roamed the small town, dined out, drank too much beer and went ‘home’ to our trendy loft-bed.
Apart from an early-the-following-morning visit to our favourite retail cathedral, Ernie Le Clerc, to replenish stores and purchase a swimsuit (neglectfully left at home by the Navigational Quartermaster, as if she didn’t have enough to think about), we just thrashed steadily onwards towards Austria – ending that day’s rattling toil in the car-park of a combined museum theatre complex in what seemed to be an old prison by a river in the German city of Ulm. Amazing painted architecture from the previous century graced the city centre, standing proud between post-modernist, some-would-say brutalist glazed offices – while a towering Gothic cathedral glowed like honeycomb in the evening sunshine.
Dinner (and too much beer) was taken en plein aire outside the RatKeller before we riverside- walked back to our car-park where – thankfully – the post-modernist and most definitely brutalist live outdoor punk-rap-band concluded their performance with Germanic efficiency on the dot of 10:00 pm and we were asleep before most of their fan-base had left the car-park.
With the first fixed rendezvous of our trip now imminent in neighbouring Austria, an early start and continued thrashing along the autoroutes of Germany did, however, almost end in tears before we reached it. Just before Augsberg, a sudden noisy, alarming thudding advertised a blown rear tyre and we rolled to an ignominious halt on the hard shoulder of an autoroute junction, thankfully in the lee of the off-slip-road. No matter. With British fortitude well to the fore, we phoned our European Breakdown service and were gratified by the apparent efficiency of the response. Almost simultaneously, we were joined (from behind, of course) by an autoroute patrol car (a bit like watered-down policemen) who replaced our pathetically tiny red warning triangle with their own patrol car, hazards and blue-lights flashing frenetically, while we waited for rescue.
And waited. And waited. And waited.
I was looking forward to a Grand Rant Of Humungous Proportions here but with due respect to both readership and blood-pressure, think it best to skip that for the time being. Our short-order frustration was simply that it took 4 hours for a breakdown truck to reach us. 4 hours. What made that time-lapse worse was the fact that our version of Scott Tracy had come from a depot not 20 kilometres away, but hadn’t been provided with any of the detailed location information we (and our guardian Watered-Down-Policemen) had provided over the phone to the Breakdown Service. Perversely, he’d also been advised that we were French and was anxious about his lack of that particular language, despite his fluent English!
However. Because the detailed dimensions of the Knumptywagen also hadn’t been passed on, his breakdown truck was too small to winch our enormous wallowing bulk on board. So, like a real-life episode of Thunderbirds, he rolls out a natty, tiny, articulated, wheeled dolly – a glorified skateboard, if you like – which also doesn’t fit under the blown-tyred wheel, so he can’t even hitch us to his tow-bar and drag us off the autoroute. In his impeccable Germanic English, he politely explains he’s now run out of options.
‘What about putting the spare wheel on?’ we gently enquire – which seems at first to be a revelatory concept to him, but then he remembers that German Health & Safety legislation prevents him crawling under the Knumptywagen on an autoroute, citing ‘danger of death’ (even though Diluted Flashing Plod are still standing guard over our rear end.)
‘OK’ I gallantly suggest –‘what if I crawl under there and get the spare, then?’ Well. That seemed to do the trick and my subconscious Brexit-based challenge was accepted. Under he went, while – Good Lord – another passing breakdown truck pulls up – seemingly out of curiosity, and now both Scott and Virgil Tracy are engaged in retrieving the thankfully-still-inflated spare wheel from the Knumptywagen undercarriage.
Spare wheel fitted. Exploded tyre on road-wheel deposited into the van; notes of caution about onward speed acknowledged; peremptory ‘dankes’ are exchanged all round and we all set off into what is now rapidly becoming a sunset, now only 5 hours behind schedule for our rendezvous at Landhaus Lily.