We’re still in the Motorhome, outside our home, plugged in to the electric, thanks to our lovely tenant and able to use the garden for Reg. We had hoped that he would have his second set of vaccinations, but they are not emergency treatment so we are just playing in the motorhome and garden with him. He’s also learning to walk on the lead and a few basic commands. At least we have something to concentrate on!
We have decided to look back over our last year travelling and pick up some highlights (and lows). We’ve tried to do it as an A to Z, hopefully due to lockdown you’ve got enough time to read it all!
- Albi – our original Border Terrier and a character in his own right. He was 10 years old and had visited more than 28 countries with us over his lifetime. He had walked the Coast to Coast with us and travelled in our campervan, the motorhome, our car (when we camped). He had stayed in tents, on boats, hotels and apartments and travelled on trains, boats and ferries, cable cars, buses and furniculars. We miss him but know he had a great life and the gauntlet has been passed on to Reg.
- Arctic Circle- we’d been here before but no further north. Once over the circle we encountered reindeer, visited Nordkapp, and Santa’s Village. We were close to the Russian Border. we actually crossed over heading north in Norway and south in Finland.
- Autogas (LPG/GPL) – having refillable gas cylinders, we needed to find places to refill. In Norway you can borrow the connections. We bought an adapter kit when we returned to the UK. We use the app myLPG.eu for both UK and Europe. We did have a moment in Sweden, when we tried to fill up on a Saturday but had to wait until Monday as we didn’t have the appropriate connection. Don’t forget that you can’t get Autogas in Finland!
- Auschwitz, Poland – we stayed in the motorhome parking overnight and were eerily awoken by the sound of the trains on the tracks. We visited the memorial, having completing security and ID checks. The memorial is definitely worth a visit, check the website for how to visit. Our blog for Auschwitz is Week 12 – What a week Estonia to Slovakia.
- ATS – Tyres – On our return to the UK in March, we had completed over 23000 miles and our front tyres were not looking too pretty. We made a quick trip to our local ATS and they put on a nice pair of new front tyres, despite not having an appointment and we are so grateful.
- Baltic Chain – The Baltic Chain or Baltic Way was a peaceful demonstration by the people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 23rd August 1988. Approximately two million people joined hands and formed a chain spanning 675.5 Kilometres across the three Baltic States and was part of the States becoming independent from the Soviet Union. We were fortunate to be able to find the three tiles commemorating the Baltic Chain, one in each of Tallinn, Estonia, Riga, Latvia and Vilnius, Lithuania.
- Border Crossings: We’ve crossed a lot of borders and most have been without incident but… Our crossing into Norway involved us declaring the dog so we dutifully followed the red zone and parked up with the lorries before one of us (Sarah) entered the Immigration Building. Pet passport (and our own passports) in hand and pressed the button to give us a number to be called forward. Once called the Pet passport was checked and we were waved through to the next crossing control. (You don’t need to take the dog with you either!) BUT the next checkpoint involves a weighbridge and a breath test – just so you are aware! Subsequent border crossings were event free until the Latvia/ Lithuania Border, where the Border Police wanted to see the Vehicle Passport – the V5 document, which we didn’t have a copy of (but do now!) and he was extremely pleased with himself once we’d told him he was the only person to have wanted to see it after travelling through all the countries we had at that point! We also had to wait in line at the Croatian border and show our documents and at the Italy/ France Border we were boarded and were checked for immigrants.
- Curry – we had a comment on one of our posts about the fact we love a curry! We can’t lie we do and when we’ve not been able to have one for a while we will hunt one down. We have sourced a takeaway or delivery in several of the countries we visited. Denmark – Aalborg, Norway – Tromso (the most expensive but so worth it), Latvia – Riga, Spain – El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain – Peniscola, England – Crawley and York, Scotland – Moffat. We also have sourced curry pastes in a lot of countries and we have a go to make from scratch recipe!
- Cycling – we have electric bikes which we use to get around and sight-see. We also have a trailer for the dog.
- Christmas and New Year – We decided to spend Christmas in Spain, in the sun! We had previously spent time with our families before heading out. We spent both Christmas and New Year in El Puerto de Santa Maria on the Atlantic Ocean. We made friends with a host of people and even had a New Year Dip in the sea.
- Carrefour (Spain) – just outside of Tarragona, we stopped at a Carrefour and found several English delicacies, which we were craving – crumpets, sausages, Pukka Pies etc. The Carrefour in El Puerto de Santa Maria has a free (if you shop in the mall) motorhome point and spaces
- Darlington – the home of Nortia. We collected the Motorhome from Cleveland Motorhomes in June 2019 and she had 41 miles on the clock. She now has over 24000 and is our home on wheels.
- Dicar Motorhomes – Geel, Belgium. A fantastic Etrusco Dealership, who had more motorhomes for sale and on show than we have ever seen before. We had our water leak sorted here at the beginning of our first trip.
- Ditsy Daisy – our Sat Nav. At times she has been a godsend and others she has been a nightmare. In Norway, we were convinced she worked for the Ferry Companies, especially when we found ourselves in the queue for the Geiranger Car Ferry – more of a cruise than a ferry, but a beautiful and scenic trip.
- Etrusco – the company we blog for and the brand of Motorhome we are in. Our model is a T7400 QBC, Semi-Integrated Motorhome with an end fixed bed and separate toilet and shower. She has a large lounge living area with kitchenette. We have a large rear garage and a bike rack on the rear, along with a pull-out awning. We called her Nortia, after a queen of the Etruscan People.
- Erwin Hymer Group – the company who allowed us the opportunity to blog and travel and who allocated us the Etrusco Motorhome.
- Extreme Points of Europe – whilst we have been on the road, we have visited some of the extreme points of Europe, some preplanned and some just because we were there! Nordkapp – 70°58’N, 25°58’E, the most northern point of mainland Europe was definitely on the list from Day One, and the reason we headed off to Scandinavia first. Next we visited the Central Point of Europe and discovered there were two, the new one recognised by the Guiness Book of Records, after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, in Lithuania, near the village of Purnuskes, 54°54’N, 25°19E and the old one in Slovakia, Kremnicke Bane. We travelled to the most southern point of Scotland at the Mull of Galloway, the northernmost town in England – Berwick-on-Tweed, the most southerly point of mainland England – Lizard Point and Lands End. In France, we went to the western point of the mainland, Pointe de Corsen, the northernmost point at Bray-Dune, and the Southernmost town in Spain – Tarifa. We still have more we want to visit…
- Fishing – we have a small collapsible fishing rod in our garage, which can be used to sea fish without a licence. Ric set off fishing off the beach in Norway and Sweden but without much luck, although he did catch Perch, but way too small to eat!
- Flamingos – we had heard about Flamingos in Spain and we had seen them before in France but we first saw them in Spain on the road to Cadiz and then when we were at the Parque Natural Delta del Ebro. They are amazing to see.
- Ferries – travelling in Norway, there was a ferry or tunnel almost everyday, but the best ferry had to be the Geiranger Ferry from Hellesylt. It was a cruise along the Fjord. We also had fantastic trip from Stockholm, Sweden to Turku, Finland and from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia.
- Friends – we have been fortunate to meet loads of new people while on the road, several of whom we are still in touch with and look forward to catching up with in the future.
- Filming – we met up with Luke and Frank, from Juke Media in Riga, Latvia to film our first Etrusco Blog Film. Although slightly out of our comfort zone, it was a good couple of days and we saw some sights we might not have otherwise – like the Changing of the Guard at the National Memorial and being filmed by Drone on the beach.
- Germanic Welcome – we were greeted on a campsite in Germany, by the owner who insisted on raising the George Cross Flag for our arrival.
- Gloria Google Maps – Our back-up to Ditsy Daisy, when she has a complete nightmare or when we’re out on the bikes or walking.
- Harbours – Some of our favourite Stellplatz have been on Harbours. There is something that draws us to the water. We stayed in the parking lot at Chichester Marina, when we met up with family before heading off in July, we met some great people in Bua, Sweden, we stayed (twice) at Henan, Sweden, great facilities and free laundry, Tosteberga Hamn, Sweden, Gronhogens Hamn and Tosteberga Hamn on the Island of Oland, Sweden, to name a few.
- Hospital – we spent an evening / night in the hospital at San Sebastian de Campostela, when Ric was poorly. After a few tests and a CT scan, he was cleared to leave and has been fine since.
- Islands – We spent time on the Island of Oland, Sweden and had a short trip to the Island of Hiiumaa (the weather prevented us from also visiting the sister Island of Saaremaa). We went to the Ile de Re and the Ile d’Oleron in France, too.
- Jets – We stayed at a fantastic campsite in San Javier, Spain, right next to the edge of the local airport, which was never opened, and is now used by the Spanish Air Force Display Team. Unfortunately, and not long after we were there, a pilot was killed when his plane crashed into the sea.
- Losses – Both of the losses we have had, we have been fortunate to recover. I left our phone in a shop in Norway and had to do a quick detour to retrieve it and I lost my bank card in Sweden, when I forgot I’d put it in my jacket pocket.
- Lockdown – like many of you, we are currently in lockdown and will remain so for another three weeks. Keeping us sane is our little puppy, Reg. We also have our health and as we’ve previously said, the garden of our flat. We’re trying to catch up with our Admin and Blogs and trying to plan our next trip!
- Monuments and Museums – We’ve been to a few, including the Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial, Latvia, the Ninth Fort, Lithuania, the Wind Turbine Museum, Denmark, the Museum of National History, Riga, Latvia, Auschwitz, the Baltic Chain, Nordkapp etc.
- Moose – we wanted to see Moose above the Arctic Circle, but they were elusive, so we went on a Moose Safari in Sweden, instead!
- Morrison’s (Gibraltar) – what an oasis – if you don’t believe the information you’ve seen in blogs and posts (we were sceptic) – do! It is a proper British supermarket in the sun, with all the things you can get at home!
- Mud – What you don’t do when Latvia has had two weeks rain in two days, is fill up with water (70 litres) on grass. The time spent filling, plus the additional weight equals stuck in the mud. The Campsite Owner was on hand to tow us out though, we are so grateful.
- Off Licences – Not all countries sell alcohol in the supermarket, you have to go to a special shop. Some countries will sell it in supermarkets – to a percentage volume (in Sweden I think it was 4%) so you have to go to a Vinmonopolet in Norway or a Systembolaget, in Sweden or an Alko in Finland.
- Quirky Sites – We have found some amazing sites to stay at and as the header states not all were as you would think. We were able to stay at Nordkapp in the car park (there are facilities) but the sight of all the motorhomes reminded us of the scene in Independence Day, where all the RVs pull up at Area 51. Vilnius – Downtown Forest Camping (on the edge of the city), a little eccentric and hippy but lovely. Camping Lakeside in Sigulda, Latvia, Camping 222, Kaputy, Poland, where we met up with Rewind the Gap. Camping Mazury, Ryn, Poland, Agricampeggio Paradiso, Lake Garda, Italy, Camping les Peupliers, Lepin-le-Lac, France, Camping le Moulin, Andelot, France, Camping Jeugdstadion, Ypres, Belgium, Low Glengyre Farm, Stranraer, Scotland, Le Domaine de Marcilly, Marcilly-sur-Eure, France, Guest House Chaves, Portugal and Parque Natural Delta del Ebro, Amposta, Spain to name a few!
- Reindeer – when you first see a Reindeer as you travel down the main road in Tromso, they look a little out of place, but north of the Arctic Circle they are everywhere! You stop to look, you catch a glimpse of them as you drive and they stop in the middle of the road and stare you down! But they are beautiful, if a little intimidating up close! We found a herd on the beach in Finland after visiting Santa’s Village.
- Reg – what can we say. Reg is our new Border Terrier. He is adorable and a character. So far, he hasn’t been on any of our travels as since we’ve picked him up, we’ve been in lockdown, bar four days! We can’t wait to get him out and about and off on his travels.
- Saltstraumen, Norway – We arrived in Saltstraumen by accident. We had been heading north and the lack of places to stay took us slightly eastwards. On arrival we discovered the area has one of the strongest tidal currents in the world. The tide would be at its strongest the following morning so an early-ish dog walk was in order and the tide did not disappoint. A couple of hours later though and it was again millpond like.
- Sorstormering- Stinky Fish! We had headed to a Stellplatz located by a fish restaurant as we had thought it would be lovely to try some local food in Sweden. The restaurant was having its inaugural Sorstormering Night, but although mainly locals, we were invited to try it. On first taste it’s not too bad, but the following day we were both a little green around the gills! Alarm bells should have rung, when we were told that the tins have to be opened outside and that they should be kept cold or they could explode – we did not bring any home!
- Stellplatz / Rastplatz – We have stayed at a number of free areas, and some were a small fee is charged. In Sweden, the Rastplatz were superb, we stayed by a couple of rivers and in laybys off the road, where there were facilities available and views to enjoy.
- Santa – we visited Santa Claus’ Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland (Finland), in August and it is quite surreal to hear Christmas Songs in the heat, without any snow. The village has a countdown clock, Santa’s Workshop and a Post Office as well as other attractions.
- Sand – One of our last sites we stayed at in France, we opted to have a pitch with a view of the sea, In the sun is was beautiful, but the following day the wind picked up and whipped up the sand – the Motorhome was coated inside and out and including all vents. We moved to a more secluded spot and cleared up the best we could, including a jet wash the next day, but we’re still finding sand!
- Tanks – we entered Poland and as we travelled along the roads towards a site we’d found we saw a tank on the side of the road, then another and another, before we saw a whole army exercise in progress, not something we could say we’d seen before! As we settled ourselves into the campsite, a low rumbling sound started which got louder and louder. Not recognising the sound a bit like thunder with vibration, we looked out of the window and there were all the military vehicles from the exercise trundling by to the nearby Barracks.
- Tunnels – A bit like ferries in Norway, Tunnels are a frequent feature of the road system. They are an attraction in their own right, with different lights and even roundabouts. Many of the major cities we have travelled through have underground ring roads. Also, be prepared to have an exit inside a tunnel, if not just before or immediately after!
- Television Shows – We have stumbled on the locations of few shows played in the UK – The Bridge (a Police Detective Show based on a Murder on the Olasund Bridge, between Denmark and Sweden; Ice Road Rescue (a show based on recovery vehicles in Norway – we actually saw the Thord Paulsen in Odda and Benidorm (no explanation available!) – we went to the Hotel where it was filmed.
- Vets – We have been to a number of vets on our travels, normally to get a tapeworm treatment to return through the Tunnel, back to England. This trip has been slightly different, we needed the dog to have a tapeworm tablet in Sweden to enter Norway (minimum 24 hours before or 120 hours after), Sweden to enter Finland – checked with the Finnish Government before visiting another in France to return home for our early Christmas. We visited a vet in Croatia, for more medicine for Albi but they didn’t sell it, so ordered it from a vet in Slovenia instead! Returning back to Europe, we took an extremely poorly Albi to a vet for treatment, but he sadly passed away there. We’re now in the process of restarting the procedures with Reg. Once lockdown is over we can get him a Passport!
- Wildlife – on ou trips so far we have seen a variety of animals and birds. These include the obvious ones, as well as Hares (Sweden), Reindeer, Eagles, Sea Eagles, Lemmings (Norway), Otters, Beavers, Wolves – heard but not seen (thankfully) in Spain.
- Weather – we were forced to head north from Saint Tropez, after a weather warning was issued for the south of France, we holed up in Valencia as Storm Gloria hit the Mediterranean, we headed south from Scotland one step ahead of the floods and rain in November. We have had a good run of good weather, though and the Motorhome is a good size to be holed up in!