Monthly Archives: July 2011

Paris 2011

July 26-29

To Paris, once again, for our mid-summer break. Three nights at Hotel d’Albe where we had a nice room on the fifth floor (538). Nice to be greeted by the girl on reception as “regulars”.

We traveled by rail, as last year: 06.29 from Crewe, 09.22 Eurostar from St Pancras, arriving Gare du Nord 12.47 local time. Transit from Euston to St P not an enjoyable experience, being rush-hour, but thankfully brief. Had time for a coffee before boarding Eurostar.

Weather-wise, Tuesday was the best day; actually got my shorts on for a few hours after we unpacked — they never saw the light of day again. Remainder of the time was mostly cloudy, with some sunny intervals, and a couple of showers.

Tuesday afternoon, just strolled around a bit and had the inevitable late-afternoon snooze.

Evening meal at Chez Clement, quite near the hotel; a new place for us. Shared smoked salmon for starter, then duck breast with charlotte potatoes for me and chicken fricassee on penne pasta for JL, and creme brulee to finish. Creme brulee superb, charlotte potatoes dire, the rest OK, but unremarkable.

Wednesday morning, looking for something new to do, we walked down to Montparnasse district. Had a coffee on the Bd. Montparnasse, near the tower. Thought about going up the tower, but decided £10-a-head was probably over-priced. Found our way on to the top of Gare Montparnasse, where we located Mémorial Leclerc et de la Libération de Paris – Musée Jean Moulin — interesting exhibits relating to occupation/liberations of Paris and the work of the Resistance. Afterwards, idled a while in the Jardin Atlantique

Lunched on a shared baguette in the Jardins du Luxembourg, then retreated to a nearby cafe on the Bd Saint-Michel for a couple of beers when the rain started. Short siesta at the hotel, then afternoon tea (no milk!) nearby, and a stroll by the river.

In the evening we took ourselves off across to the Ile St Louis, expecting to eat in one of our regular spots; but the Brasserie de l’Ile St-Louis was closed until the end of August and le Relais de l’Isle was fully booked! Taking pot luck, we chose the nearby C’est Mon Plaisir and enjoyed a pleasant, if slightly over-priced two courses. Duck leg starters, then a steak dish for me (prepared — I can’t remember how!) and baked cod for JL. For dessert, we partook of Nutella-and-banana crepes, at a stall in the Rue de la Huchette.

Thursday was once again Batobus Day. First stop, Hotel de Ville, where we walked back to see what goes on with the Paris Plage. Had a quite sensibly-priced cup of coffee sitting by the Seine before rejoining the bus and contiuing up to the Louvre stop. Strolled through the Jardin des Tuileries and rejoined the boat at Champs Elysees to continue to the Eiffel Tower. Made sure the tower was still there and got back on the next boat! Finally left the boat at St Germain des Prés but abandoned planned stroll up to Bd St Germain when it started to rain.

Evening meal at St Regis brasserie, just over the bridge on the Ile St Louis (across the road from the closed Brasserie de l’Ile). Generous portion of smoked salmon to share, then a good steak for me, with frites, and black tiger prawn risotto for JL. Ice cream near the hotel for afters.

Friday morning, crossed to the Right Bank for coffee at a cafe in Place du Chatelet, then a walk up the river on that side, again checking out the Plages

Back to Le Depart for a nice lunch of ham omelette and chips.

Collected luggage from the hotel just after 1.00pm and set off to Gare du Nord. Checked in in good time and in due course boarded the 14.43 Eurostart. Arrived St Pancras on time at 15.59 and had slightly confused excursion around the station before finding the underground; and so back to Euston in good time for the 17.07 to Crewe (remarkably few people on board, I thought, for a Friday evening). Arrived Crewe 18.42.  To Tesco for a £10-meal-for-two-with-wine.

British F1 GP 2011

To Silverstone for my first experience of marshalling a Grand Prix (or, as the scoreboard near us announced it at one point, the “British Garnd Prix”) …

Travelled down on the Thursday afternoon, being required to sign-on between 3.00 and 7.00pm that day. The journey began badly, with M6 Junction 16 partially closed, due to some kind of incident — duly diverted myself via Keele to the Stoke South junction; thereafter, a pretty straightforward run down the M6, taking the A46 round the east of Coventry, and so to the Rugby Dunchurch Travelodge. After booking in and dumping luggage, headed for Silverstone, using the satnav-recommended route via the M45+M1 — big mistake! — the motorway itself was quite busy and the junction at the exit for the A43 was snarled up, just due to traffic, I think. Eventually got myself to Silverstone and to the marshals camp site, where I signed on and collected program, tabard and badge. Short look round to get my bearings, then set off back to the Travelodge: this time, took the scenic route — A5+A45 round Daventry. Stopped at a quite decent Marsden’s pub, the Boat House, at Braunston; enjoyed a nice curry and a pint of Pedigree.

Left the hotel about 6.30am (5.30 alarm) after breakfasting on yoghurt and cereals; arrived circuit 7.05 and was on post by 7.50.

I’d been assigned to the “Luffield In” marshal post, which proved to be a pretty good place to be. There were two Post Chiefs (one Andy Holly, who I know from Oulton) and two IO’s, and eight track marshals. The number one IO gave a not very impressive briefing and then paired us off and assigned positions — well, actually he didn’t really: it was one of those “does anyone want to go with anyone in particular? — the rest of you get yourselves into pairs” affairs (I really hate it when an IO is not decisive in what he wants and firm in direction!)

Found myself at the midpoint of the Luffield loop with a guy from Kent named Neil. We got on well all weekend.

The day was pretty much wet throughout, leading to some “almost…” moments, but no direct action required by Neil and me. The cars really weren’t able to achieve much apart from establishing wet-weather handling; F1’s didn’t even bother to come out until halfway through in their second practice session.

Back to the Travelodge around 7.00pm Dined at the Little Chef on “The Works Burger” — pretty stuffed by the time I finished!

Alarm at 5:15, leaving hotel 6.00, arrived circuit 6.35; sat in the car for 15 minutes or so and on post by 7.20

Forecast was for a better day, and so it proved, though still more rain than we would have liked: there were some quite good dry and even sunny spells, but it seemed every time the cars were due on track the rain would start.

We were visited by Alonso shortly after the start of F1 final practice session, but he somehow managed to keep going through the gravel and back on track.

Two races at the end of the day began to get us properly in the mood.

Little Chef again for evening meal — gammon steak and griddled egg: pretty good.

Alarm set for 4.40am but I was awake at 4.30; on the road 5.20, not knowing if there’d be traffic problems getting in on raceday,  but it proved to be “no problem” and I was at the circuit by 5.55; sat in the car again for a while and was on post by about 7 o’clock.

Weather much more promising than previous two days, with only a little cloud at first and then hot and sunny from mid-morning.

The morning program was GP3 and GP2 races and the Porshce Cup: all quite good, but GP2 undoubtedly the most entertaining (as you’d expect, I guess). The track-side inspection was then followed by the F1 driver’s parade.

With the race scheduled to start at 1 o’clock, we could hardly belief it when 15 minutes before, the rain returned once more! Some debate about whether they would start on intermediates or take a chance on slicks; (apparently the rain was quite localized, with a heavy shower in our area, but only light rain on the southern end of the circuit) — well, all I can say is, it’s a good job they chose intermediates, because not many would’ve got round Luffield on lap 1 if using slicks!

The race itself was a good one, with Ferrari ensuring the Red Bulls didn’t have things all their own way, and the Brits giving us something to get excited about for while, even though in the end they didn’t quite make it. The experience of watching live, rather than on TV, was quite different — made more so, of course by having to keep focused on the task of marshalling.

Getting away after the event inevitably proved to be a pain. Even with special traffic arrangements, getting 100,000 people away all at the same time is bound to be slow. Took me over an hour to get clear of the area (i.e. to the A43/A5 roundabout west of Towcester); but once clear I had a pretty good run home. (Stuck to the A5 until joining M1 at J18.)

All-in-all … a good experience, generally very enjoyable; I thought beforehand, it was something I’d do once for the experience, but now: will I do it again? — almost certainly, probably next year, if possible!

North Yorks Outing

To North Yorkshire for a short break, staying near Guisborough, at the Gisborough Hall Hotel.


Somewhat fractured drive up on Thursday, beginning with warning of a big jam on the M6 as soon as we joined the motorway! Fortunately, were able to peel off at the M56 junction, just missing the tail of the jam, and headed for Manchester, planning to go via M60; unfortunately, I got confused by the junctions as we approached Manchester, and ended up going round the east side, thus navigating three-quarters of the M60 instead of about a quarter!! After that things went pretty well until we found the A59 closed between Skipton and Harrogate and had to divert via Ilkley and Otley — both of which were inevitably heavily congested. Finally got ourselves to Knaresborough, where we ate lunchtime butties in a churchyard, and at last felt the holiday had begun.

Good run to Thirsk, where we took the A170 briefly, before cutting cross-country to Rievaulx and so up the B1257 on the western edge of the North York Moors, through Great Ayton and finally to Guisborough.

Gisborough Hall very pleasant: good sized room, friendly staff and super location. The only drawback proved to be the slow service in the restaurant (and I mean s-l-o-o-o-w!) at every meal. Still the food was good, apart from breakfast on Saturday, which was not really 4-start standard.

Friday we took ourselves of to Whitby. Enjoyable day, with good weather — sunny but not too hot. Climbed the 199 steps up to the Abbey; enjoyed a pot of cockles, but resisted the fish-and-chips; nice stroll out along the pier.

I had read somewhere that Sandsend was nice, but when we got there we were distinctly underwhelmed, so pressed on up the coast a bit to Runswick Bay, where we had an icecream and a walk on the sand, just so we felt we’d been to the seaside properly.

Home on Saturday via Hawes, where we enjoyed a nice pint and a bowl of chips in the sunshine. Lots of bikers in evidence. Then across the dales to Ingleton, on the B6255 — excellent driving road, though we took our time: a really nice run, that.

On the way to Hawes, we stopped in Northallerton for a coffee, where we saw this interesting juxtaposition of transport for a wedding:


A most enjoyable mini-break.