The Ravenous Rambler goes en randonnée.

France Day 1.
All went well with a lovely drive down to Dover and a traditional P & O boat crossing on an azure sea and the white cliffs retreated into the distance over an awful tasting coffee from the on board costa coffee bar. Do they get everywhere?
The motorways opened up for a trouble free journey down towards Paris. We were aiming for Orleans to stay overnight ready for the next day’s trip down to the South. Then I realised that there was a major malfunction in the planning. Whilst the 14th July has no relevance to us Brits, here in France it was a big holiday weekend and we ran into it at Paris. The peasants were revolting with a mass walk out from their businesses and to our horror were all on the road. The motorway was down to a snail’s pace and got worst all the way through. It took us about 2-3 hours just to get out of Paris and as it was now approaching the evening we decided enough was enough and pulled off the motorway to stay in a Campanile on the outskirts of Paris. They are jolly hotels where you can park outside like a motel. The food is excellent and we had a selection of salads followed by a seafood pasta. The Ravenous Rambler was full of joie de vivre.


Missionary munchies in Swakopmund, Namibia


Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

This old German colonial town in Namibia has one of the best cafes in Africa. I shall come to that cafe in a moment, but first I wanted to dwell on that beautiful mix of Europe and Africa. Here amidst the wildest most remote deserts in the world sits a slice of Saltzberg. Yes the Namib is wonderful and much as you might expect a desert to be – mostly sand and yet it has some of the most beautiful sand dunes. If you look closely though you will discover a whole range of flora and fauna that is unique to this fragile fragment of Africa. The lichens are engineered by nature to live in the desert gaining moisture from the morning fog that sweeps in from the Atlantic.
Up at the northern end of the namib where the yearly flow of the Kuiseb river stops the marching dunes in their tracks is a place called Homeb. It is possible to camp here (you need a permit). it is home to a people called the topenairs. They eke out a simple existence in this remote place and harvest the ground melons. They live in makeshift huts and look after the goats.
Then come into town and sit in a cafe surrounded by German speaking people eating coffee and apple strudel and you can see the extremes of cultures.
But enjoy it whilst you are here. Revel in the ornate architecture. a few years ago you could walk down Kaiser Wilmhelm strasse but now it is Nelson Mandela street or similar- which is the price of progress but I hate the passing of the old and quaint.
The first time I drove to Swakopmund from Botswana with Dave. He came out from England and in the three weeks that he was with me we drove to the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe and then to the west coast of Namibia. i wanted to show him everything in his time here . He must have been exhausted. Anyway, we drove across the Caprivi strip and then down across the namib. It was hot and dusty and we vowed to run straight into sea when we arrived. However, we hadn’t taken into account the Benguela current that runs up the west coast and makes the sea cold and causes a fog to rise which means that at that time of year Swakopmund was as cold as a wet weekend in Brighton and the sea had lost its charm. To make matters worse there was no room at the inn! Swakop was full. We had to set up camp at what was prosaically known as mile 14. A cold and windswept place only made bearable by a jolly nature warden with a pipe who gave an amusing talk about the natural history. We embarrassed ourselves by falling into a giggling fit on the rocky benches at the back.
So it was years later that I had time to explore the cafes properly.
Since then we have tried out all sorts of accommodation and eateries. Although staying at the Pension prinzessin-rupprecht-heim was very peaceful it doubles as an old peoples home so be prepared. Cafe Anton was very plush and their cafe is as glitzy as anything you would find in Vienna. No – my favourite is Pension Rapmund. Its simple but friendly. Lovely little courtyards with rooms adjacent. Breakfast is served in a pleasant room where everyone congregates in the morning. Be prepared for the German speaking. Although everyone speaks English as well I was greeting people with ‘Morgen’ and asking for an eye for my breakfast.
For coffee I like to go to Putensoen cafe treffpunkt on kaiser willhelm strasse. Its an old fashioned place and handy for the bookshop, opposite. The cakes are excellent.
For a more substantial meal try the Missionary Munchies at The African Cafe this is the best cafe. Sitting out on the pavement watching the world go by. Palm trees waft overhead and plenty of opportunity to sit and sketch all the cool guys in from the desert, sitting and relaxing like me. The coffee is served in large colourful cups that call out to be painted and the missionary munchies really fit a spot before hitting the road to drive back, sadly, to Windhoek.

Rye accommodation

Places to stay in Rye.

I always prefer to stay in town because its great to pop out in the early morning or evening to soak in the atmosphere. There is a wide variety of places from bed and breakfast to smart hotels. Jeakes’ House in Mermaid street is in a lovely situation on the old cobbled street running up through the centre of town. Parking is a little difficult but we stayed in a delightful room at the top of the house with a four post bed. Breakfast was good with home made marmalade. Its a b&b so they don’t do dinner but that’s no problem as there are lots of places to eat.


I have always wanted to stay at the windmill which looks very attractive but can’t say much about it until I have.

Rye lodge

Rye lodge is a sumptious hotel. Its right in the town and has good parking just round the back. There is a swimming pool and variuous other luxuries. I didn’t really like breakfast. The room was too small and we sat with all the other people in an embarrasing silence waiting for a slow waitress to administer the food. I prefer a more home made feel to a place but its worth a look.

Top O’ the Hill is an inn at the top of the hill (surprisingly), just on the outskirts of the town. Its just a little bit too far from town for me although you could probably walk it in ten to fifteen minutes. The accommodation is in a seperate cottage style annexe and I must say that the rooms were delightful. You could park right outside your room. Modernish rooms with four poster bed, TV, tea and coffee facilities, bed side tables and lights. The only problem was the shower was broken and I couldn’t even fill the bath properly so that was a little sad. Breakfast was good although white sliced bread and no fruit or yoghurt. However, it was cheap which makes this place excellent value just let down by a few details. Ymzala gives it 3 stars.

Flackley Ash

The Flackley Ash is actually out at Peasmarch which is perhaps ten minutes drive from Rye. Its a little on the pricey side for Ymzala but very comfortable with spa, pool, gym and all that jazz. The rooms were kitted out with all the usual tea making and TV watching equipement and was large and comfy. The best thing about this place were the grounds. Plenty of them and some nature walks to walk off that large dinner or to get yourself going in the morning.

Breakfast of course is the most important meal of the day and this one ticked all the right boxes. Yoghurt and fruit were all there for you to help yourself, plenty of tea and coffee and I seem to remember that the cooked bit came up to Ymzala standards.

If it was in town you would have the lovely grounds and although expensive it was good value for money and you do feel a little bit special driving in across the gravel and walking in the grand front door. So I give this an Ymzala four star rating.