Bath Christmas Market

When we bought our campervan we said that we would try to never visit the same place twice, so that we would always find new horizons.

Here we are travelling to Bath Christmas market again and using the same campsite for the third time. So much for our earlier statement.

We last visited Bath Christmas market in 2014. We didn’t go last year as we were cabin bound because the extreme knitter had a procedure on her foot.

We’ve been determined to make use of puffin all year round, so decided to book a pitch at Bath Marina Campsite to coincide with the Christmas market. By pure luck I phoned the site on the 29th September 2016 and managed to book the last pitch available. The site is so popular because of its close location opposite the Newbridge Park & Ride.

The lady I spoke to said she was taking booking for December 2017.

We set off on Friday lunchtime arriving at the campsite mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day on the campsite. In the evening we read, knitted and of course the meatballs in a homemade tomato sauce with pasta made an appearance for supper and as I wasn’t driving for the next few days and purely to get into the Christmas spirit the Bacardi made an appearance.

The site has installed free Wifi since our last visit and it gave a strong signal right across the site.

With the dark December nights upon us we settled down to a relaxing evening in Puffin with the television. Each pitch on the site has a TV aerial socket and the dark night makes you want to close the curtains and snuggle down. The battery operated Christmas lights were switched on to create the scene.

This was another dog less trip as it was going to be all shopping, so yet again Ruby was handed over to our feral daughter for a couple of days.

We woke up late on the Saturday morning and after a full English breakfast we walked over the road to the Newbridge Park & Ride to catch the bus into Bath city centre

The Park & Ride has been totally refurbished since our last visit, with toilets and a rental bicycle scheme, but it still had height restriction barriers, so parking a camper or motor home there wasn’t allowed.

It cost me £3 for the return 2 mile trip into the city, but the Extreme knitter travelled free using her bus pass for the first time. We arrived at Westgate Buildings at lunchtime.

As on previous visits to Bath we needed to pace our selves or we wouldn’t be able to last the day. The Christmas market opens at 10.00am, but it is best experienced in the dark to see it fully lit up in the nightime.

We wandered around, taking in the sights and architecture. We needed a late lunch, so headed for the a little Deli/coffee shop we had visited on our last trip.

As the darkness set in we headed for the market situated around the Abbey. It seemed larger than previous visits taking up more side streets. It is mainly local crafts and businesses selling a wide variety of Christmas goodies and speciality foods.

We carried on shopping and sightseeing until we could take no more. The day was only slightly marred by the rain showers

Totally exhausted we caught the 5.30pm bus back to the Park and Ride and then walked to the campsite (I’m glad I took a torch) I’m getting to old for these mammoth retail experiences. We settled in for a relaxing evening in Puffin, but

that was short lived as I noticed a drip of water from the roof light.

Closer inspection showed that the there was a slight leak through the seal. No problem I thought, I’ll just clean it up and put gaffer tape around the edge as a temporary solution.

Every campervan over 20 years old carries a toolbox (I think it’s the law). Open the toolbox and no gaffer tape, so I bodged up a ropey seal with insulating tape.

It looks like I’ll have to remove the roof light and reseal the whole frame. After twenty years the original sealing lasted quite well all things considered.

Sunday morning and we were due to leave the campsite. We had bacon baps for breakfast and we leisurely packed everything away.

After a tiring, but totally enjoyable three days we made our way home.

 

Well I’ll be a bananas uncle

I’m sharing this recipe from a blog that I follow, so all credit to them.

https://familyoffthemap.com/2016/10/31/plantains-and-sausage/

When I read their post I had never heard of Plantains, so my curiosity got the better of me. I started searching the UK for them in shops and supermarkets, but the only ones I could find were sold on line with a hefty price tag.

I had all but given up of ever tasting this elusive vegetable/fruit when by chance we visited the local Morrison’s store in Redditch and there they were a great big pile of the banana look a likes, green as green could be. Now, you know I like to push the boat out sometimes, so without any thought of cost I purchased two Plantains for the princely sum of 84 pence. I do like living on the edge.

It now appears that everyone I speak to has heard of Plantains, so it seems it was just me that was off sick from school when that little nugget of information was given out

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/plantain

The plantains were green and my research told me that they are better left until they ripen; in fact they would be just right when turning yellow / black.

I panicked a little because one was ripening faster than the other.

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One plantain was ready, ripening after two weeks sitting on the window ledge

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I cuts some chicken breasts  into thin strips.

I fried the plantains in a little vegetable oil, the pineapple chunks were added to the mix a little later. The strips of chicken were put in the pan and everything browned off nicely.

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The plantains gained a caramelised coating and the results were delicious.

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The combination of the individual ingredients complimented each other and the plantains didn’t taste like banana, more of a sweet potato type of thing.

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One plantain left ripening. I might try this again, but with some smokey bacon bits added.

The pressures on

We use a large 8 litre capacity pressure cooker at home that is great for large quanities of stew or soup to freeze. Large meat joints are so succulent when cooked this way. 8 litres is big and also a bit of a hassle when you only want to cook a small amount.

We started looking at small pressure cookers that would serve as a useful everyday size for the kitchen at home and double up as a utensil for the campervan.

The advantages of using a pressure cooker are low running cost with a vast reduction in the gas used and the food retains its flavour in the enclosed pot as it is steamed rather that boiled.

Research highlighted the Indian manufactured Hawkins range and I started to look for a 2 litre capacity Hawkins original cooker as made by the company since 1959.

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Luckily, the guys from the Betty Bus Blog told me about their Hawkins Futura model and that’s what I purchased.

https://bettybus.wordpress.com/

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http://www.hawkinscookers.com/1.1.8.hawkinsSS.asp

Although a 3 litre would have been a good size for home use unfortunately it wouldn’t fit in the campervan.

The quality is exceptional, with its hard anodised finish and clever mounting of the pressure weight. It’s flowing modern design has earned it the accolade of being the only pressure cooker in the world to have been displayed by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

We use it on a daily basis at home as it’s ideal for two people, so it will be ideal for our campervan trips.

Monnow Bridge

Sunday lunchtime saw us headed off down the M50, destination Monmouth.

We were trying out a small site beside the River Monnow in the town.

The entrance to Monnow Bridge caravan site is odd because it’s between two houses and would be quite tight for caravans and larger motor homes.

The appeal of this site is its location, being very close to the town centre. After parking up on the camp site we walked the short distance to Monmouth town centre via the Monnow Bridge with its Gate house dating back to the 14th century.

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As we wandered around the town in the late afternoon with most of the shops shut the extreme knitter was making mental notes of the shops she wanted to visit the following day. The days are short and darkness started to fall, so we walked the short distance back to the campsite. The campervan was wrapped up for the evening with its insulating blinds on the windows and because we had an electric hook-up we were able fire up the fan heater and save on our gas supply.

Of course we ate our traditional first night meal of meatballs in a tomato sauce and pasta with a chunk of crusty bread. A small Bacardi and coke helped keep the chilly evening at bay

The outside temperature dropped, but we had a cosy night in the camper.

Our morning started with a full English breakfast. Even though we were in Wales the ingredients had been purchased in England.

Then we hit Monmouth’s main street.

Ruby and I stood outside various shops waiting patiently for the E knitter to appear with her spoils.

Eventually as the day progressed we needed to warm up and have some food. We found the White Swan Café in a small courtyard that welcomed dogs, so in we went. We had Tuna sandwiches with a pot of tea while ruby sat quietly under the table. It always seems odd being able to take our dog into a cafe when most places ban them

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I found some ordnance survey maps in a charity shop for a pound each, so I bought some Scottish ones to add to my collection.

Amazingly the Extreme knitter didn’t any wool.

After another toasty night in the campervan and a bacon sandwich for breakfast the next day, we drove home discussing where to go for our next trip away.

 

Our world is collapsing around us

 

As any campervan owner will tell you, size matters. The storeage space is so limited that it takes some creative thinking just to pack the essentials let alone any luxuries.

We’ve taken the Silicone collapsible route that up to date includes

Outwell collapsible bucket with lid

Outwell collapsible colander

Outwell collapsible kettle

An assortment of collapsible storage containers with clip on lids

A collapsible dog bowl.

 

The bucket is used to transport the washing up to the campsite pot wash. It collapses in sections so it is low enough to be placed under the waste water tank outlet to collect the grey water and used for any bucket duties.

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The colander

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The kettle reduces in size to allow it to be stored under the grill thereby saving valuable cupboard space. The Outwell kettle has an ergonomic handle making pouring easy.

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The storage containers come in various sizes being ideal for packing food into the fridge particulary our first night special (meat balls in tomato sauce) and take up little space when not in use.

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Anything that reduces to a third of its size for storage has to be a benefit.

The Camper Van Bible

Fame at last. Today, whilst browsing around Waterstones book shop I came across Martin Doreys new book “The Campervan Bible” published by Bloomsbury.

Low and behold on page 422 I found a short quote that I submitted for the section called “what does a camper mean to you”.

http://martindorey.com/product/camper-van-bible/

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A night by the stones

The last few weeks have been challenging and we needed to escape again even if it was for one night.

The school holidays were over and weekday travel was less of a hassle. A fairly late start for us saw Puffin hurtling down the M5 motorway towards Bristol. We turned off at junction 19 for the Gordano services and drove towards the Clifton suspension bridge that crosses the River Avon Gorge. The extreme knitter likes to be surprised and I always try to include a fear factor if I can as it keeps the blood pumping. I excelled myself this time as I’m not good with heights and as we had never driven over the suspension bridge before I felt it had to be done. Crikey it’s high, Bum cheek clenchingly high and to pick up the road to our next destination we had to turn around and go back over it.

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Safely back on a lower ground level we drove towards Cheddar Gorge where we stopped in one of the lay-bys in the gorge for lunch.

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Next destination was Wells for a little sightseeing and retail therapy for the extreme knitter.

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Wells is a small city with an amazing Cathedral and lots of nooks and crannies to explore.

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Back on the road again and we joined the east bound A303. The signs for the Stonehenge visitor centre appeared at a roundabout, but I wasn’t going there. A little further along the A303 we turned left into a bye way called the Drove. It is just a dirt track that runs up beside the famous Stonehenge. The drove is used by campers from all walks of life to wild camp with a view of the stones across the field. New age travellers, Hippies, Over Landers and Motor home owners and now us.

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The look on the extreme knitters face was priceless when I announced that this was our campsite for the night, but as always she’s a game girl and embraced the madness.

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Stonehenge has become a major tourist attraction that can only be visited by paying substantial amount to the English Heritage. They had the roads around closed and blocked off to stop the common people sneaking a crafty look, but the Drove has survived for now. It’s a Bye way running close by with a public right of way. I’ve been wanting to stopover here for sometime and I thought that if we didn’t do it soon the powers that be will eventually close it and our chance would pass.

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The Autumn Solstice occurred on Friday 23rd September, so it could have been a mistake visiting so soon after the mass visit by hundreds of Druids on Friday. I expected it to be messy and littered after so many people had visited, but it was a pleasant surprise to find it litter free. There weren’t many campers and it was easy to find a fairly level place to park with a good view of the stones.

The paying visitors arrive by bus from the visitor centre having paid to park, then coughing up £18 a head to wander around the circumference of the stones, never getting close enough to touch them.

The meatballs in tomato sauce made another appearance, but sadly no Bacardi just in case we needed to drive off in the middle of the night.

It was suggested that I should dance naked in the middle of the stones at sunrise, but sadly I cancelled the dance as the sun didn’t rise in the morning. Well I suppose it must have risen, but I couldn’t see it for the rain and mist.

We had a peaceful, quiet and safe night. The extreme knitter was at ease there, which is a good sign because if she’s not comfortable with an overnight stay she will say so.

Bacon sandwiches for a late breakfast. We then wandered down the drove to the point where the visitor buses stop. This entrance was guarded and gated off. After walking on a little further we found a public footpath that appeared to lead to the stones.

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Not only did it lead to the stones, we were only about 15 metres further away than the paying punters and only separated by a wooden fence.

We had briefly passed through Marlborough when we had previously visited our Grandson at his Larkhill barracks and said we must visit when we had time to explore. We did try to park there on the way back, but failed.

On the trip back, just north of Tidworth we saw a tank coming down the road towards us with a squaddie under driving instruction. The extreme knitter suddenly waved to them out of the blue. I dread to think what the instructor said to the Squaddie.