Week 15: Italy to France, in search of some sun.

Pole Position – Monaco

Having woken up to a spectacular view of the mountain in the Dolomites, it quickly disappeared into the cloud, reminding us how high we are – we have been aware of altitude changes as our water bottles and ears pop! Then, just as we’d given up all hope of seeing it again, there it loomed out of the cloud.

We had checked the map and realised exactly where we were, but didn’t really know where to head when http://www.theofficeisclosed.com/ Marcella and Julian, offered us some advice and suggested the Strada delle Dolomiti (https://www.guidedolomiti.com/en/great-dolomites-road/). We had another look at the map and we were a sneeze away so off we went. We missed it heading north, as we set off towards Cortina d’Ampezzo and then upwards to Dobbiacho, where we picked up the route. Before we reached the final part before the summit, we saw a road sign warning of helicopters, strange, we thought, but then we passed the helicopter landing pad at the side of the road!

The top of the Strada delle Dolomiti is 2233m above sea level and there was fresh snow at the top. The road up is a series of switchback turns as is the road back down. We had passed a number of cyclists on their way to the top! We had found somewhere to stay, but it was closed, as was the next one, but a third was open and it was a lovely stop over, in the village of Mazzin. There is also a cable car which goes up the mountain.

One thing we hadn’t realised was how high we still were – it as about 1400m above sea level and that night the temperature dropped to about freezing – there was a lot of frost when I walked the dog in the morning! Even at 08:00 the temperature outside was 4°C! The lovely Brazilian Cleaner couldn’t believe we were still wearing shorts but the sun was shining so it had to be done! We have to see the heating in the lovely Nortia had kept us toasty all night too, so it wasn’t too much of a shock until we opened the door!

We set off in search of a little sun and thought we’d tour the Italian Lakes. We’d found an Agricampeggio campsite in an olive grove with a distorted view of Lake Garda. It was a lovely place. On the route Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav had taken us over more mountains and then down into the towns of Trento and Affi, which are full of marble and granite distributors and warehouses. After this we were into wine country and the roads lined with vineyards.

Our plans to visit the rest of the lakes was put to one side when the weather decided to not play ball and cloud and rain threatened our views. The beauty of the motorhome is that we can just change our minds and we set off south, towards the Mediterranean Sea, where the weather forecast was looking a lot warmer.

Day 100 of our trip to Europe and we headed to Busana. Busana is in the Apennines and in the Apennine Tosco-Emilliano National Park. Our campsite was at the top of one of the peaks there. The campsite also plays host over a few weekends in October to a festival for the chestnut and it wasn’t hard to see why. The paths were lined with trees and the floor was full of ripened fruits. There were people collecting them, so I took a handful back for Ric, (I don’t actually like chestnuts)! We googled how to roast them and are still to do so, but the grocers in Italy sell them so they should still be good!

From the Apennines we headed to the Cinque Terre. This is a selection of villages along the coast and they are all beautiful. The plan was to go to one of the towns, which had a campsite near the beach and explore, only we think everyone had the same idea as the campsite was full, so we had to find another. We did and this time it was lovely, with a free shuttle bus to and from the village three kilometres away – you just call them and they’ll come and get you. Ideal for catching the train to visit the other villages. We have added it to our list for when we tour Italy properly.

After a lovely evening and a proper Italian pizza, we headed off for a little town we loved on one of our previous trips, in Finale Ligura. Just down from the campsite was a little bistro we’d found by chance and really wanted to return to. We booked a pitch and paid in advance, just to make sure.

On arrival the village was as we remembered, the sun was shining and the water blue and calm. The campsite looked exactly the same too! We were offered a pitch – it was the same one we’d struggled to get the VW onto, that can’t be right! It was (it wasn’t helped by our neighbours taking too much of another pitch making it difficult to manoeuvre. We returned to Reception and paid for an upgraded pitch – apparently when you check their measurements an 8m x 5m pitch is not the same as a 5m x 8m pitch! This was where things began to go wrong.

We went to the Bistro, but it was full, so headed back to the campsite and thought we’d give their restaurant a try. We were seated, and shown the menu, ordered food and drinks, all seemed great. We got our drinks and bread, then Ric’s main course arrived and both of our sides, but no main course for me. Despite asking it still took until Ric was almost halfway through the biggest steak, we’d seen for my meal to arrive (no it wasn’t worth the wait) and then the other half or Ric’s steak was raw – how can you manage that? We complained, got a little discount but were queried as to why he’d eaten it all – we showed them the bag for the dog! the next morning when we tried to check out, they also tried to charge us again for the pitch. Thankfully it hasn’t happened before and hopefully won’t again – we just need to add it to our list of experiences.

We left Italy and headed towards St Tropez. We drove along the coast road, through lots of pretty villages such as Loano, Andora and Sanremo. We stopped for lunch in a supermarket car park and then headed off towards Monaco and Monte Carlo. At the border to France, we were stopped by the Border Police, who came on board and checked for illegal passengers. All ok, we were clear to enter France. We drove through Menton and on to Monaco – another border crossing!

We had been to Monaco and Monte Carlo before in the VW, so knew roughly what to expect but were aware that we needed to pay a bit more attention to road signs due to the size of Nortia. We negotiated the roads down to Monte Carlo and drove around the Formula One circuit, through the chicane and the tunnel, up to Casino Square and onto the Pole Position – yes we did manage to stop the traffic and take a photo, but not for too long as there were a lot of Police moving cars, due to the big Yacht Festival in the Marina.

We headed off to our campsite in Villeneuve-Loubet. This is a lovely little town and the campsite is definitely on our list to return to. Villeneuve-Loubet is also the birthplace of Auguste Escoffier. We set off, again, for St Tropez – this time with me annoying Ric, singing “Do you know the way to St Tropez?” instead of St Jose! I don’t know whether it was the words or the fact I can’t sign that was annoying him more!

On the way there was an air show taking place over the beach, but there was no where to park, so we watched it while driving! We got to the campsite just outside St Tropez and settled in. While relaxing outside, we were surprised by a fighter jet overhead at full power, everything moved and we jumped! We started to plan our next day and saw there was bad weather heading our way and thought maybe we should move on, however we normally wait and see what happens the following day – being English you know that the weather can completely change overnight!

What did we do? We’ll let you know next week! As always, thank you for reading…..

Week 14: Croatia to…. And a surprise for someone!

Nortia at Lake Bled, Slovenia

We awoke at our campsite in Ičići  and got ready to meet up with my (Sarah’s) mum in Opatija. It has been exactly three months since we said our goodbyes over breakfast in Chichester Marina. We walked along the promenade (as much as we could) up to the hotel and there she was, sitting on the terrace waiting for us.

We popped along the road to a lovely cafe/bistro/taverna (I don’t know what they would be called in Croatia) and were shown to a table. The food was amazing and cooked so well. If you’re in Opatija I can’t recommend it enough http://www.roko-opatija.com/

After a long lunch, and a lot of catching up and story telling, we walked back to the Campsite still talking and reminiscing. We said our goodbyes and planned our journey onwards.

The next morning we set off to Pula, along the coast road and up over the hills. The campsite was fairly big but not overcrowded – We chose an ACSI camping pitch for 20 euros – you don’t get to be on the water’s edge or the beach but with so few people you can see them without paying double. The site also has a restaurant and you can sit down and eat or take away – we chose the latter. As you can probably tell, we’ve made up for the lack of going out this week! We then needed to choose whether to stay another night or move on. Looking at the weather that night (and again in the morning) we chose to move on; the forecast was for heavy rain and thunderstorms.

We set off for Slovenia and crossed the border near on the coast before heading through Koper to Ancarano. Koper is a massive freight port where (I read) that a lot of the cargo is taken to the southern Mediterranean ports. There were so many cars all waiting to be shipped. The campsite at Ancarano, is part of a hotel complex and on the beach – again you pay more if you want a sea view. However, as it was raining and we’d already had one mishap in the rain on a grass pitch we chose a hard-standing.

We left Ancarano and headed north to Bled. We followed the lovely Ditsy Daisy sat nav, until I found a road which bypassed Ljubljana and went up over the hills / mountains. All the signage indicated that it was suitable for vehicles under 7.5 tonnes, and we were following an artic – who we are sure was over 7.5 tonnes. Still there were no mishaps and the scenery was lovely.

Before we reached Bled, we stopped at the vets in Lesce, Albi needed some more medicine for an ailment he has, they were so helpful (we had been there before when we first came to Bled, for his worming treatment back to the UK – those were the days were planning was key and we knew exactly where we would be and how far we needed to travel each day)!

On arrival at Bled, everything was familiar. This was the first overseas place we had come with our Bilbo’s VW. That time we planned to the letter – two stops on the way 12 nights in Bled and 2 nights to get home. This didn’t work though, as we got bored sitting in the same place and left after 11 nights and headed to Venice! This time Bled was calling us back.

We arrived at the campsite and checked in for two nights – again using the ACSI card. We dusted off the bikes and took a little tour around the town. To our surprise the short spurt around we’d clocked 6 miles – not a massive amount but we hadn’t been on a bike for a while! We headed to the onsite Restaurant for a meal.

The next morning we wanted to do a longer cycle – we borrowed the cycle folder from Reception and found a circuit – the Reception staff copied the route for us and with the aid of Gloria Google Maps we were able to continue our little trip – taking in the villages of Bled – Breg – Zironica – Smokuc – Rodine – Hrase and Lesce before returning to Bled. This time we’d clocked up 19 miles, and it felt like it! The villages were great to see and the roads weren’t bad to cycle on – we even came across a bridge we’d driven over in the VW and were astonished how small it looked with the two bikes let alone a Transporter – we are not going to attempt to get a photo with the lovely Nortia though. The trail does have some steep hills and switchbacks. On our return to the campsite we had a well earned sit down before a lovely warm shower. Then we remembered there was a chinese in town, so back on the bikes and we picked up a takeaway. A quick cycle home – another 5 miles clocked (24 in total for the day!).

We decided to stay another day! We went off on a trail, we’d done the last time we were here and then we met possibly one or two other people, this time it was packed at the top. We’d gone to Ojstrica at only 611 metres it wasn’t the biggest we’d ever done but we haven’t climbed anything for a while. The start of the climb is incredibly steep and on loose rock. When we got to the top the view is great but the number of people, just annoying! We ate our lunch and headed back down to the campsite.

After a lovely takeaway meal from the restaurant – there was a 60th Birthday Party in full swing in the restaurant, we decided to move on the following day. We were heading to Italy.

We set Ditsy Daisy to non-motorways or tolls and set off on our travels towards Lake Garda (we knew we weren’t going there straight away, but needed to head in a direction!). We passed through Kranjska Gora and over the border to the mountains of Italy, where we travelled over the Mauria Pass – with a maximum elevation of 1300 metres above sea level and four switchbacks up and five down.

We chose a Stellplatz at a restaurant in a little town of Belluno, in the Dolomites. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed as it was Sunday. We had a quick wonder around as there were a number of fishing lakes – full of fish in various sizes. The view wasn’t great when we arrived but was worth it the following morning….

As always, thank you for reading and apologies this week for the lateness of the post – we have been in the mountains and the mobile data and WiFi connections have been slow at best and non-existent at worst. There’ll be next week’s post soon (a bit like a London Bus!)

Week 13: Slovakia to Croatia

This week we started at our lovely river (reservoir) side campsite – in the rain. It was a disappointment after the promising weather, yesterday. We set off to get a vignette for Nortia, to travel on the motorways – we weren’t hoping to use them but just in case. We stopped at the first petrol station and were told that we needed to go to Slovnaft. Well, thank heavens for Google – what or who is Slovnaft?

Slovnaft is it turns out to be a Petrol Station. We duly asked Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav for directions and off we went. The staff in the petrol station did not speak English ( and we can’t do Slovakian), I was in the process of checking Google Translate when a very nice man helped me out and all was sorted. I did feel slightly guilty as he was stopped by the Police on his way out for leaving his engine running!

We set off towards Bratislava going via a town called Martin, and the original geographical centre of Europe at a church in Kremnické Bane. We arrived just as a school group were entering the church so the actual stone was relatively quiet.

A short drive on to a campsite outside Bratislava turned into a mission as both the ones on Campercontact – which said they were open, were both padlocked shut. Another quick delve into the app and we found a Stellplatz at Čilistov . We were the only people there, alongside to stored caravans, until another couple arrived in the dark (and left at daybreak). A short walk around with the dog revealed a river and a park. The river is the border with Hungary, and the park had a monument to the local Olympians – not golden post boxes!

We spent a lovely quiet night at the Stellplatz and the following morning set off to Bratislava. Before leaving Čilistov, I had read that just up the road was the largest horse statue in the world, so we set off in search. It is called Colossus and is at the entrance to the X-bionic Sphere in Samorin.

Bratislava, is a wonderful capital city. We parked up in the free car park – you can also camp here free, and walked over the bridge right into the centre of the city. We had found on Google maps – attractions the statue of Man at Work – a brass statue of a man exiting a sewer, so headed off in the direction.

Bratislava is a river boat cruise destination, being on the Danube River and when we arrived at the statue so had a tour! We then set off for something to eat and stamps for postcards (we send the grandchildren a postcard from each country). The stamps, we could only get from the Post Office – a very ornate building, where when you enter you take a ticket – which is issued depending on the service you want and you wait to be called.

We ate our lunch in a very nice cafe – Cafe Studio, which had been the home of Opus Records and had been the recording studio. We sat outside and did our normal people watching. Bratislava, seemed very laid back as a city. We had a slow wander back to Nortia via the river and were totally amazed at the length of the River Cruise Boats. It was sad to leave the city but Austria beckoned.

We set off in the direction of the border and not wanting to use the motorways, we entered the Czech Republic! We changed some more money up (they’re not Euros, either) and found a campsite – it was lovely, but it seemed to be left over from the 1950s. We had only planned to be there one night anyway, and it was fine for that.

The next morning, we bought a vignette, just in case and headed up through vineyards to the Austrian border. Where possible we have decided that our trip should’t be on motorways, as we were missing too much.

Entering Austria, we bought another Vignette – just in case and headed off towards Vienna. We found a campsite, again on the Danube and a train journey away from Vienna. The cost of the train was quite expensive, so we’ve added it to our list to do when we return to Austria.

We were shown to a pitch at the campsite, which was quite small and out of the way, but it appeared they had a Concorde Reisemobile (Motorhome) Rally, taking place the next day and they were holding the larger pitches for them – if you’ve seen a Concorde Motorhome, you’ll know why! https://www.concorde.eu/en/ if you haven’t and you’re now curious!

We left Tulln, and headed south – we’re still in search of the sun! We found a nice looking campsite in Burgau, in the mountains at the foot of the castle. We had a wander around the town and saw there was a Pizzeria next door, so duly enquired about food, to be told they only served toast! We went back to the lovely Nortia and sorted our dinner.

Next morning we headed to Slovenia. We passed more vineyards on the edge of the very steep mountain sides and crossed into Slovenia. Have you ever returned to somewhere and thought, “why haven’t I returned sooner?” That was how we felt when we’d driven a little way into the country. We headed to Ptuj. The sun was shining and it was beautiful. After a quick sit down in the sun, we headed off to see the old town. There is a long walk up to the castle and the sun and cobbles made it hard work. There was a festival / pageant taking place in the town square and it appeared that there was a dragon and a knight – sound familiar? The town flag is also a George Cross!

After a day in Ptuj, we decided to head towards Croatia. My (Sarah)’s mum was on holiday in Opatija, a shortish drive from where we were and we hadn’t told her just in case we couldn’t get there. We stopped at Camping Menina, in Recica ob Savinji. It looks a great location for kids – with treetop walks, river rafting and bear watching! True to form, it rained. We did wander to the river, where there were lots of trout like fish – too small to fish.

We set off for the Croatian border. The scenery was again stunning and the amount of vineyards very surprising – you don’t consider Slovenia as a wine producer but it is! The border was relatively uncomplicated – you have to show your passport and then you cross the border! We headed to the campsite outside Opatija, found ourselves a nice pitch and headed off to the sea in the sunshine. Here we also thought we’d better let mum know in case she had plans for the next day. All was fine and we will meet up at her hotel the following day.

That’s where this week ends, we’re afraid! Next week’s update will let you know more. As always thanks for reading. Have a great week…

Week 12: What a Week! Estonia to Slovakia.

You will see as you read this post, this week was one to try us! We set off from Estonia, having to change our plans as the weather had started to change in the Baltics. We headed south, going back through Estonia to a campsite in Sigulda, Latvia. On the way we had seen there was a bobsleigh run you could ride (the summer, slower track) and thought that sounded great. We turned up and it was closed. Obviously when we (I)’d checked the information it was Sunday and open but it closed Monday to Friday! Note to self….

The campsite at Sigulda, was so stunningly beautiful – its one you want to keep to yourself but that’s not fair on the owners. Its called Camping “Lakeside” Sigulda, the website is here if you’re interested, http://www.lakeside.lv/home/ and is on the edge of a lake as its name suggests. There are about four or five hard-standing pitches with electric and a lovely view of the lake. We arrived just as the sun had started to shine and it looked beautiful. The owner was so helpful, he gave us a map of the area and a quick guide to what attractions we should see and told us where to find him if needed. We had a quick tour of the facilities, there is a changing room for the lakeside activities and a shower block, with two male and two female toilets as well as a shower, but so well done it was lovely. It, then, started to rain again and it didn’t stop until morning.

We each had a shower and got ready for the journey to Lithuania, which included a fill up with water. Latvia had the equivalent of two and a half weeks rain in two days, so where best to decide to fill up our 70 litre water tank than on a slight incline on wet, wet grass. The lovely Nortia has a maximum payload of 3850 kilogrammes. I’m sure you know what is coming…. We got stuck. We have got tracks to put down to aid in such a situation but it was too much for them too, all we succeeded in doing was getting more stuck! It was a welcome sight to see the owner and his father coming down the track with a tractor. A few minutes later we were free and wet, but thankfully neither of us had managed to slip or fall in the mud, that would have been an even greater disaster. We headed off to Lithuania.

Just before we crossed the border we were stopped by the Immigration Police, who wanted to see our documents and the vehicle documents and also check for stowaways. We had everything except the V5, but luckily with a bit of blagging and the Policeman’s delight that he was the first to pull us over in 11 countries, we were able to pass through the border. We now have a copy of the V5 for future border crossings!

The first campsite in Lithuania was nice, it was again by a lake and in a lovely town with sculptures and a viewing point over the water, but there was a strange feel to Lithuania, neither of us quite knew what it was but we decided to give it a chance and carried on to Vilnius, via the Geographical Centre of Europe, as agreed by the Guinness Book of Records after the fall of the Eastern Bloc.

Vilnius was a different place altogether. There was a lovely feel to the campsite – The Downtown Forest Hostel and Camping https://downtownforest.lt/ It was quite a mission to get to as the road leading up to it was having major building works (as was the road out , which we only found by perseverance and gritted teeth, as well as a few choice words and U-Turns). The campsite is totally secure and right on the edge of the old town and the Independent Republic of Užupis, with its own Constitution on the walls. We found the magic tile, completing our trio of Baltic Chain commemorative plaques. Downtown Forest Hostel and Camping has a very different feel to a lot of campsites but its lovely and quirky with a slight bohemian hippy chic.

Leaving Vilnius, we headed back out through Lithuania. The drivers here are just as nuts as those in Latvia. They don’t like to sit behind you and don’t care about speed limits. We were quite happy to leave. After a quick visit to the Ninth Fort, http://www.9fortomuziejus.lt/?lang=en another spectacular monument to those who were killed by the Nazi Regime. The story is gruesome and it was the site of the largest mass execution in one day. We headed south to Poland.

Our first view of Poland, ticked all our boxes. We headed to a small campsite in Ryn, It’s called Camping Mazury and despite the Campercontact saying it was closed we had a lovely welcome. We were given a field to ourselves and the dog was allowed to roam free.

On our way to Ryn, we passed a massive (in our eyes) military exercise with tanks and vehicles and lots of personnel. It was just taking place by the side of the road! Later, that evening they all trundled past the campsite – the sound was eerie but better to be on the friendly side than the enemy! The next morning as we were getting ready to leave, there was the sounds of more military exercises, the distant sound of shells and explosives. Our host had hoped that the noise hadn’t awoken us, we thought he meant the night before but…

As we left and headed towards Warsaw, we passed the military exercise in another location and then the biggest garrison, we’ve seen. We also passed a Tesco – so we had to stop, hoping it might have English treats. I was able to buy Tetley Tea Bags and good old sliced bread but not much else (and Polish Tetley Tea is horrible – its kept for emergency use only!)

We reached the outskirts of Warsaw and had news that our friends and neighbours form last week Rewind the Gap had a very poorly dog and wouldn’t be posting for a while, until their dog was sorted – check their posts and blogs for up to date information! We’d looked at Campercontact and found a campsite on our route and settled in for the evening, when Rewind the Gap (Karen and Colin), pulled up alongside us! They filled us in with their news and us with ours,

On Saturday, we left after saying goodbye and wishing Colin and Karen well, we headed to Auschwitz. The roads in Poland seem to all be having a major upheaval and the main A1 autoroute was completely closed – it was the longest stretch of roadworks we have seen! By the side of the busy dual carriage way diversion were people just sitting and selling what appeared to be mushrooms! People did stop – literally pulling off on to the hard shoulder!

Auschwitz, is located in the town of Oswiecim, which looks a lovely place with lots of flowers and statues, but it is slightly overshadowed by Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. We pulled up alongside some other motorhomes and prepared to stay the night. The night passed better than we had thought, but there was a few eerie moments, especially when the trains ran by – reminding you what people incarcerated must have heard and how those new arrivals would have been transported.

The following morning, while taking Albi for a stroll, I noticed a queue for tickets at the Museum, so thought I would go and ask about details. I left with tickets for entry at 09:50 – a quick dash back to the MoHo and get ready! We were sorted and arrived at the Museum at about 09:10! There are security checks before entering – you’ll need ID, passport of photo driving license, then you go through security – like at the airport! All metal, phones and bags go into a tray and you walk through a scanner – as normal I set it off – I had removed my belt, earrings, sunglasses but not my bracelets (the other items I had had to remove one by one in Turkey years ago!) – once removed I was able to pass through! There is also a maximum size for bags – so please check this before you go or you’ll have to leave them in luggage check.

After 10:00 you can not enter the Museum, without a guide. We had bought the guide book and self escorted ourselves around. There were so many tours already in the Museum and it was very busy. It didn’t look too bad when I had got the tickets, so if you are planning a visit and you’re not part of a big group, we would recommend trying as early as possible. Tickets and information are on their website.

The Museum is laid out just as it was – the buildings still stand and the exhibitions are within several of them. There is a shuttle bus to Auschwitz II – Birkenau, but we chose to drive up and look but didn’t go in, the experience at Auschwitz I was poignant enough.

We headed away and drove towards Slovakia. We finally saw hills or mountains – it has been a while (Sweden) since we’d seen anything but flat roads and fields ( a few rises in Lithuania but nothing special!) these were proper hills! We found a campsite by a lake – it’s actually a reservoir but was very beautiful and the sun was shining, so we got out our chairs and chilled.

As always, thank you for reading. We’ll be back next week, with more journey details and tales of our adventure to tell you….

Week 11: Estonia to Latvia and Back.

This week we knew we had an appointment in Riga, Latvia so our arrangements were slightly obscure.

Having left our little harbour-side stellplatz at Pirita, Tallinn, we headed towards the east of Estonia towards the Russian border, First though we wanted to stop and see the Memorial to Communism, the Maarjamäe Memorial. It was up the road from the campsite and almost next t the concrete structure built for the 1980 Olympics. It was quite thought provoking.

We headed along Highway 1 towards Narva, but realising that this would mean us travelling for hours, we set off along the coast road and saw some beautiful coastal villages, instead. We, then headed south and along the shores of Lake Peipsi, whose opposite shoreline was in Russia so we hadn’t really missed the border! Our campsite was directly on the shore line so technically we stared at Russia all night!

Next we set off for Riga, Latvia, where we were due to meet the filming guys for Etrusco UK and Erwin Hymer to have our first film made for their websites. We arrived on Tuesday night having prebooked our pitch for 3 nights. We set about cleaning and tidying Nortia, putting things in boxes and hiding them away. Once complete and not wanting to make a mess we found a curry house on the Wolt app and proceeded to order – a lot cheaper than in Norway. The curry was so nice it was amazing.

Wednesday morning we met Luke and Frank from Juke Media and did some filming in Nortia, explaining who were were and why we were travelling and what having a motorhome like Nortia meant to us. It was a little strange to us and being cooped up inside due to the noise outside and the lighting made it very hot inside. Once complete we headed in to Riga Old Town for some more photos and filming opportunities. It was a long day and eventually we did start to enjoy it a little – its still not comfortable but…

Thursday morning, we had the filming to complete and we headed to the Museum of Latvian History. Having a large well-insulated motorhome meant we could leave Albi behind safely and not worry. We stumbled across the changing of the guard at the Freedom Monument and the Baltic Chain Tile.

We were back in a couple of hours and headed to the beach for more filming opportunities! Of course true to form, it started to rain and we had to wait a while before we walked up and down the lovely white sandy beach at Jurmala. Once that was completed, there was just some driving shots to take. We found a lovely deserted road and filming was completed. We said our goodbyes and thanks to Luke and Frank and headed back to the campsite.

On arrival, there was a familiar vehicle parked directly opposite our empty pitch. It was the Erwin Hymer Burstner Blogging Vehicle of Rewind the Gap http://www.rewindthegap.co.uk/ A.K.A. Karen and Colin, who had been loaned a vehicle the previous year by Burstner (Erwin Hymer) and they had come to see us! We spent a lovely evening discussing the motorhomes, the way of life and freedom you have in a motorhome etc. It was soon very late and we said our goodbyes and would meet up in the morning.

The following morning, we had our own photo shoot, we knew better than to let the opportunity of two Erwin Hymer Motorhomes and blogging teams leave without doing so! This time we said goodbye and headed off back towards Tallinn, first driving to the Concentration Camp Memorial at Salaspils.

Not quite knowing what to expect we were surprised and by the good design and poignancy of the memorial. It also has a slightly eerie feel with the sound of a heartbeat playing to symbolise the lives of those who died here.

We took the coast road up to Pärnu, which was known for its traditional wooden houses and spent the night at a campsite on the river. We were heading up to Tallinn to see the Freedom Square Monument and find the Baltic Chain Tile, having previously found the one in Riga, there are three to collect! The last one being in Vilnius, Lithuania – now there’s a challenge!

After Tallinn, we wanted to visit the Islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. We headed for the ferry to Hiiumaa, to find it had just left and the next one was too late for us to see the Island properly and find a campsite or somewhere to stop, so we headed to a campsite close by. We had previously seen a railway yard full of old engines and rolling stock so headed back to see that too. The trains did look a little sad, but they are in a Museum to show their history.

That night the weather changed, the wind picked up speed and the rain fell hard. We weren’t going to be put off and took our seasickness tablets before heading for the ferry. To our surprise it was still running, so off we went. To be honest, the water out of the harbour was a lot calmer! We went around the Island seeing the bits we wanted to before arriving at the ferry port for Saaremaa. No ferry – the weather at this point was too bad! So we went back to catch the ferry we’d come over on.

This weekend had told us a couple of things, the weather was changing up in the Baltics and we needed to head south. We have decided to head back down to Lithuania and then see where our journey takes us.

As always, thank you for reading. We’ll let you know what happens and where we get to next week. Stay safe and have a great week….

Week 10: Back to Finland and on to Estonia

We continued our journey to Stockholm and stayed in a campsite just outside the city. We had a mooch around the city before we joined the queue for the ferry to Finland. We were booked onto the night crossing with a dog-friendly cabin (he also had the use of a deck, complete with fake tree and a box!). The ferry set off just as dusk was setting in and the views of the archipelago were hampered by the dark.

We settled Albi into the cabin and sorted our bunks, before heading on our mini pub crawl – the Pub and the Piano Bar, before heading to the Italian restaurant for some food – the starter was amazing. We set back to the cabin and set our alarm for 05:00 – Swedish time (06:00 Finnish time) in order to depart the ferry by 07:00 EEST (Eastern European Summer Time – BST+1). It was a struggle as since finishing work we haven’t had to be up at that time for a long time – the closest was 07:00 before going to Dicar Motorhomes back on day 2!

Leaving the ferry and entering Finland again we had high hopes – we wanted to complete the southern part of the country and found a route which would take in the sights. We found a picnic spot outside Turku and had a well deserved cup of tea or two!

We drove up the coast to a campsite in Merikarvia – we needed to find somewhere to recover from the late night / early morning! It was again on the Bothnian Sea and had its own little harbour. Looking at the apps a lot of the campsites had closed at the end of August along with several of the attractions. It appears the weather changes on September 1st! We had definitely entered Finland in Autumn.

It was here we had an email from Erwin Hymer trying to arrange our video shoot (part of the arrangement for having the Motorhome and not unexpected). They wanted us to tell them where and when it could be arranged. We gave them a few options and it was decided that we would meet Luke, from Juke Media GB, in Riga, Latvia next week!

To be honest Finland was not quite the country for us. We’re not sure, if the weather and the fact that it was beginning to get into winter mode played any part in this but we continued our tour of Finland heading up the coast to Larsmo and a lovely campsite on the Lake. The campsite is part of a little complex with a cafe/restaurant, grocery store, fish smokery and a Sauna Boat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX6e9mIQVkQ have a look. After a day of rain it was lovely to arrive at Larsmo in the sunshine, although the ground was very wet. A lot of the places we wanted to go and see were just too wet or encased in murk being on the coast in wind and rain, so we tried to do the best we could.

We looked at our map and planned our route for the next few days and booked our ferry to Estonia. We headed south and to another lovely campsite in Juva on a lake, under the trees. In true Finland weather style the rain fell torrentially just as we arrived complete with more thunder and lightning, the dog would have to wait for his walk a little longer. The following morning when we set off on the morning walk we found a little path through the trees, the mist was just lifting off the lake and the sun was just beginning to break through, it was beautiful. There was an eagle flying overhead – too far away to get photo but… The ground was full of mushrooms and toadstools – I’m not knowledgeable enough to know what is edible but the bright red ones screamed NO!

We set off on a direct drive to Helsinki, we’d booked the campsite, so we could jump on the Metro into the city. Check in was after 15:00 so no real rush. On arrival, we were allocated our pitch and got ready to head into the city when – no prizes for guessing here – it rained – torrentially for about an hour – then we thought about heading out to the city and it rained again. That was it we weren’t heading into the city – we’d go on our way to the ferry instead, which we did. Helsinki was beautiful and if we’d had more time we would have stayed longer but it can be added to a list for the future!

We checked in for the ferry – well we tried to. Apparently, Direct Ferries had booked us as a Bus (we’re big-ish but not that big) we’d have to go back to the terminal and check in there. Dutifully, we went back and there they told us to check in where we’d just been! I had a feeling that we would never leave Finland. We explained what had happened and were able to check in, before being sent to the Lorry waiting area. Once on board the dog stayed in the Motorhome (he had been booked a cage but…) and we set off in search of something to eat. What did we find on board??? A Burger King! Contrary to belief we do not live on fast food and take-away but this was too good to turn down!

After a two hour crossing we disembarked in Tallinn and set Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav to the City Camping I’d found. Road closures meant a complete detour around the city and on arrival the campsite was no more than a car park. Oops! So we asked Ditsy Daisy if there was anything nearby and she showed us Pirita Harbour Camping. This sounded more like us – a harbour! We set off and immediately it felt more relaxed with a view of the yachts and water activity.

On closer inspection, it was actually the home to the Sailing and Rowing events in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when Estonia was part of the USSR and the whole country hosted the Olympics (this one was made famous by the fact the US boycotted it – in return the USSR boycotted the 1984 LA Olympics, life in the 80’s!).

We saw the Olympic Cauldron and the commemorative plaques and a couple of statues. This wasn’t what we had expected from a campsite. Tomorrow, we’re going to do a bit of exploring of Tallinn before heading towards Riga. We’ll be back to Estonia later next week or the following but you’ll get the updates

As always thank you for reading, and following. We’re loving our trip and hope you’re enjoying reading our little updates. More soon from Estonia and Latvia…

Week 9 – Sweden

After a lovely night’s stay at Tosteberga Hamn, we made a slow trip to Karlskrona. Karlskrona is a lovely town on the edge of the Baltic Sea and where the ferry leaves for Poland. We had a quick drive around and went up to see the Amiralitetklocksteplin. Originally built as the bell tower for the dock workers, it began life in the Admiralty Church as the bell tower in 1909.

We looked at the Stellplatz by the harbour but it was a very hot afternoon and the tarmac would have been unbearable for us and the dog! so we drove to a campsite just up the road a little way, where there were grass pitches, Dalskärs Camping. It was also close to the beach. The weather was so hot there though and in the morning the humidity was unbearable. After completing two laundry washes (which dried in the heat before we left!), two showers – human and dog wash we left!

We had decided to go to the Island of Öland. We took a leisurely drive towards Kalmar and went over the Ölandbrun (Bridge). We had a lovely lunch by the sea and then drove to a Stellplatz in Grönhögens Hamn (Hamn is Swedish for Harbour). We parked up facing out to sea and the Swedish Mainland looking for seals, whales or dolphins but we were unlucky – we did see the Coastguard vessel, which patrolled the sea all night!

While at Grönhögens Hamn, we decided to cycle to Öland’s Southernmost Point (Öland Södra Udde) or Långe Jon. Home to the tallest lighthouse in Scandinavia. It was only about 12 miles in total but the humidity had increased and towing a trailer with an excitable dog, who could see sheep all around was an added adventure! We arrived back in time to have something to eat and watch the sunset. Whoever said the sun sets slowly has never been here as it was so quick!

The following morning, we continued our tour of the Island heading up to Trollskogen and the twisted trees in the nature reserve and then on to Långe Erik at Öland Norra Udde. From here, we found another Stellplatz at Böda Hamn. While we were here the weather decided to change completely – it was sunny and warm with alot of humidity again, then the clouds started to form in strange patterns and then went dark. Over towards the East and Gotland and Finland a storm was picking up force and before long we had thunder and lightning. We were lovely and cosy inside Nortia the Motorhome with a chicken roasting in the oven. After about four hours the storm ceased and the weather improved.

From Böda, we headed back towards the mainland. We stopped to see Sandviks Kvarn (windmill). It is the largest Dutch style windmill outside of the Netherlands. We saw a little road which led to the beach and was bearly on our map but we love an adventure and decided to follow it. It took us to Knissa Mosse – a nature reserve which had been left until the 1900s, when the locals decided to reintroduce grazing. It is a different landscape to the rest of the Island and the road runs alongside the coastline. We stopped again to have a quick look at Borholm’s Schlott (Castle) and then headed back over the bridge to Kalmar and to see the Monument.

Our overnight stop was in another Harbour Stellplatz at Påskallaviks. The Gästhamn has some places for motorhomes with electricity or without. We chose a nice little place without electric and better views (in our opinion).

We had to find a vet to see Albi and found a very nice and accommodating one at Smådjurskliniken at Oskarshamn – the next town. I had read conflicting information about whether he needed to be treated again for tapeworm before entering Finland as it had been over 28 days since he was last seen by the vet to enter Norway. In the end I contacted the Finnish Authority and they replied stating he did ://www.ruokavirasto.fi/en/companies/import-and-export/eu-countries-norway-and-switzerland/animals/dogs-cats-and-ferrets/trade-of-dogs-cats-and-ferrets-from-eu-countries-to-finland-non-commercial-movement/

The vet clinic made us an appointment for later in the day and we had to go to the Chemist (Apotek) to buy the appropriate treatment – we were advised that Milbemax was suitable so purchased some – you then return to the Vets who check his Chip ID and monitor him taking the tablet and sign his passport. All sorted – he can travel!

While in Oskarshamn, we found a jet wash and were able to give Nortia a bit of a clean and tidy. We were trying to think where to go next but loved last night’s stop so much we went back to Påskallaviks Gästhamn. Just along the road was also a Pizza Restaurant and take-away so dinner was sorted too! It was Friday night after all!

We are still heading to Stockholm as we have a ferry booked to Finland next week, so heading eastwards we headed to Grännäs, just outside Valdemarksvik. We’d picked our spot and paid for it before we saw a nicer Stellplatz in Valdemarksvik. A lesson learnt that we will remember. The campsite is one one of the only Fjords on the Eastern side of Sweden. It has a lovely looking restaurant and beach (no dogs!)

Next we headed further east to Oxelösund and stayed at the Fiskarhamnen. We decided not to follow Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav – we’re sure she’s going to tell us off one day! We found a lovely country drive through crop fields and farmland, through trees and boulders and pine forests, alongside fjords and waterways and on a ferry or two. In Sweden the ferries are free as they are part of the road network. We had a little walk around the port – its a lively place with a yacht harbour and a commercial port – they were loading ships, it seems all day and night. Again here the weather changed and the rain fell, along with another thunderstorm. We were fine again and had roast chicken breast and roast potatoes all cooked in Nortia’s kitchen! We do actually eat more than just roast chicken!

Tomorrow we continue to Stockholm and the ferry to Finland. We’ll keep you posted of our exploits and what happens. We’ve got to find some LPG (CNG) as there isn’t any in Finland!

Thank you, as ever, for reading this – we’ll have more for you in a week or so – WiFi dependant. Have a great week, too.

Week 8: Sweden

Nortia meets the a Dala Horse at Nusnås, Sweden

After the trouble trying to get LPG, we succeeded on Monday – the LPG station was open and had the adaptor we needed, so happy days all sorted. We actually only needed to fill one cylinder and it cost the vast sum of £8.00! We know we’ll need to make sure we’re topped up before Finland as there are no filling stations there!

This week has been a week of rain and mishaps. Perhaps the two are linked or perhaps its just not as bad as it has seemed! On Monday we moved to a campsite, partially because we were craving a roast dinner – its easier on electric and with washing up facilities – our preference! When we arrived the sun was shining and the weather was perfect, then the heavens opened! Thankfully again the awning saved us and the day – it was too hot to have cooked roast potatoes and stuffing in the oven with the door closed, but the awning protected the interior of the MoHo from the rain. Also it meant we could still cook our chicken on the BBQ.

The campsite was also home to a lot of free range chickens who loved to torment Albi, walking just out of reach of him! We did feel a little guilty having a roast chicken dinner but….

In the morning when I walked the dog, I saw a notice which informed us that there had been a large forest fire last year just to the boundary of the campsite – when we left we saw the fire had been almost all around the campsite.

We then went to Nusnås, the home of the Dala Horse. These are the Swedish painted horses, which are traditionally hand carved and painted wooden statues of horses. Traditionally they we made as toys. They are beautiful and come in all sizes, as well as roosters! It had been on my list to go to, so I managed to navigate us there!

We then moved to another beautiful wild camping spot on the edge of a lake. The water felt warm enough to swim in and the people next door did have a bath there before leaving but we still couldn’t be convinced.

The next day we went to Karlstad – there was a big reason for taking this route – KFC. We had been asked what was so special about having a KFC that we needed to make this trip? In truth nothing except when you haven’t been able to have something that you enjoy for a length of time, it becomes an obsession and you have to give in to it! It was magnificent and well worth the two month wait!

From Karlstad we drove to another campsite on the edge of Lake Vånern – the third largest lake in Europe and the largest in Sweden. The campsite at Åmål, was right on the waters edge and although a lake – you can fish it – Ric tried but there was too much weed to get a proper cast, so still no breakfast!

From Åmål, we decided to drive to the Islands of Orust and Tjörn – mainly to the Sculpture Park. As we drove towards the islands the weather changed and it started raining. We headed onto the Island of Orust and had a feeling of déjà vu. It looked very familiar. As we drove to the village of Henån, it looked like somewhere we knew – it was! We had stayed here on our way up to Norway! I had managed to navigate us back to one of our original night stops – that said by this time the weather was terrible – the rain didn’t stop and the puddles were so deep my shoes were drenched! It is nice though sometimes to feel the familiarity of a place when the weather is bad – you don’t feel the need to explore and can stay dry!

We drove to the Sculpture Park, the weather when we set off wasn’t great but it was ok. The Sculpture Park is an open air walk and as we arrived the rain got worse so we stopped in the car park, took a couple of photos and moved on. It was disappointing but two wet humans and a wet dog in a Motorhome driving was not our idea of happy. We’ve added it to our list for things to do when back in Sweden!

Driving back towards Gothenburg we turned left and headed east. We found a lovely overnight spot – a Rastplats by the side of another lake, outside the village of Holsljunga. We’d arrived fairly early (for us) so took the time to settle in and cook a nice English classic – Cottage Pie. The sun did shine for a while in the evening which made everything just a little more lovely! When we’d arrived we had parked behind an older Swedish coupe who had been out foraging – a very Swedish custom and they returned with two small trugs of mushrooms!

When we awoke on Saturday, there were now eight motorhomes parked up for the night, It’s lovely to see these areas being used. We packed up and headed off again – this time towards Karlshamn. We’d found a campsite up in the hills and on paper it looked lovely. As the roads looked managable, after lunch in another (not so pleasant) Rastplats – the space was nice but the toilets….! I decided to have a little drive, all fine until we approached the campsite and had to pass over a narrow bridge, where of course I met two cars – not a car all day until here! We got safely though – thank heavens for decent wing mirrors and an excellent co-pilot. On arrival at the campsite – it was too busy and way too hot – the pitches left were just not us! We left and headed to the sea. There we found a lovely campsite, right by the edge of the Baltic sea. The sun was shining and it gave us the opportunity to dry out the awning after all that rain!

While here, we decided that if the moose won’t come to us – we would go to them and after a short back drive, we arrived at Smålandet Markaryds Älgsafari. Here we were able to see moose up close and they are magnificent looking beasts – we also saw Bison – not native to Sweden and looking a little hot! After two drives around the enclosure, we set off to our next overnight stop.

Again, we were a bit like Goldilocks looking for somewhere to stop – the first was too car park like, the second just too busy and the third just right – Tosteberga Hamn – a small harbour on the Baltic Sea between Karlshamn and Karlskrona. It was fairly busy with a few spaces remaining and we picked one right behind a wooden beach building (a bit bigger than a beach hut in England). We had no power, but Nortia is fully fitted for such a stay and she copes wonderfully. Luckily for us, you can pay in Euros as we didn’t have enough Swedish Krona and they don’t take a card! I had tried to convince them to take Norwegian Krone but that was a complete NO! In Sweden they use an app to pay for things called SWISH, but having downloaded it you then need to download a banking app – which needs to have all your banking details added and it doesn’t include English banks!

It was a perfect stop – the sun was still shining when we got up in the morning and what we get up to this week we’ll let you know soon! Thank you again for reading or as they say here, Tack! Sx

Week 7: Finland to Sweden

We did choose to leave Finland, but we will be back. The plan is to tour the southern part of Sweden and then get a Ferry to Finland and explore the Lakes. However, as you know, our plans do change!

We left Finland in search of a spot to spend a couple of days, we needed a rest and chores need to be caught up with. We drove a little further than we would have liked but the weather was appalling and the views were none existent, back over the border to Sweden and over the Arctic Circle (again) to Gällivare.

Gällivare is just below a ski resort used by lots of national teams due to its season length. We caught up with the laundry – the campsite gives you free access with a pre-booked time slot. Not quite enough to get it all dry but we hung it out in the shower and under the awning! We took a little walk into the town and discovered a Chinese restaurant- dinner sorted!

After a two day stop we headed south (crossing the Arctic Circle for a final time) and had a stopover at a Rastplats (an official overnight stop supplied by the Swedish Transport Administration). It was right next to the river, on the main highway- but so peaceful.

From here we continued south and stopped at a Stellplatz in Taftea. It was right outside a fish restaurant on the Bay of Bothnia – this is the area of sea between Sweden and Finland. It was so nice, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see if we could have a lovely meal.

The Kvarkenfisk Restaurant was having its inaugural Surstromming event and we were told we were welcome to join them for the buffet experience! So later, we returned and were shown how to eat the delicacy, by the chef and by one of the local ladies.

Surstromming is fermented herring. It has an odour that is unmistakable and a taste which is actually alright, at the time! If you ever have a tin, do not open it indoors and if you have thought about taking some home from Sweden – we were warned the tin could explode. Trust us, when we say having the smell of off milk in the Motorhome would be preferable! It also has a lingering odour the following day, which combined with a late night of hospitality with our new Swedish friends Anna and Tommy was not a good mix!

On Friday, we headed south, but not to the Motor Museum as planned, but to a campsite for a bit of rest. On the way, we went through the town of Örnsköldsvik, where the ski jump is in the middle of the town. Although it looks like you jump straight into the petrol station it is behind and over the top of it! The fish had taken its toll on us! After a good meal and rest we were ready to continue.

Saturday we got to the Motor Museum at Harnosands and it was a lovely surprise. There were cars of all ages and from Europe, England the US and Russia, including Mr Bean’s and Harry Potter’s.

We also went in search of LPG (CNG in Sweden) after finding an unexpected filling station but no adaptor. After a hunt around the town we knew we’d have to return on Monday to a manned station with the adaptor available.

We took a little trip down to the beach and found another free camping spot. This one was just so good, we stayed two nights – chatted to some English people we met, we’ve not met many on this trip so far!

We need to head on on Monday though in search of the elusive LPG – there are more stations in the southern part of Sweden so finding it from now on should be easier. We already know you can’t get it in Finland!

As always, thank you for reading – internet and WiFi have been a bit hit and miss this week – hence the late posting. We’ll try to do better next week…

Week 6: Norway to Finland

Finland – Country 8 – straight into Lapland – home of Reindeer and Santa

This week saw us go to places we had read about but never had the opportunity before to visit.

We’re still above the Arctic Circle and while the majority of the UK is in a heatwave we are struggling to reach temperatures above 8°C – with a feels like of 4°C! The days are longer with the sun setting after 10:00pm and rising again between 01:45am and 03:00am.

Monday saw us on our way to Nordkapp. We drove to Alta and then over the wilds of Sennalandet, where we almost collided with a Reindeer (don’t tell the grandkids) while watching some others – its not a normal thing for us to see reindeer especially not in the numbers up here! We stayed at the Russenes Camping Butikk, in Russenes, with a wonderful view of the fjord and Russian neighbours!

On Tuesday, we headed even further north, its felt like we’ve been heading north for ever, but today would be the furthest we could go – Nordkapp. We followed the road up and into Honningsvag, and saw another cruise liner – the TUI Mein Schieff 3.

On the way to Nordkapp, we saw yet more reindeer and the views were amazing. We reached the car park and were told our entry fee included an overnight stop in the motorhome if we wanted to (luckily we hadn’t stopped at a campsite on the way up to check-in) and we could order breakfast. We didn’t have to make up our minds at that point as they were open until midnight!

We set off to look at the monuments and it was packed the Cruise Liner passengers had been bussed up and they were everywhere. We returned to Nortia and decided to stay. We had a perfect spot overlooking the bay with the horizon going on eternally around us. A wild camp night – it was cold but we have heating and there was use of the main building until 01:00 and after 06:00 so not a problem. Even better, once the tourists (we were now residents for the day) had left we had the place to ourselves – and the other motorhomers, caravanners and campers as well as a few hardy day guests. What had been a challenge to get to was now empty and photos could be taken. That said, when I took photos the following morning looking back at the car park the number of motorhomes reminded me of the scene from Independence Day, where they all flock to Area 51!

Nordkapp is the northernmost point of Europe and as such, is higher than the whole of the UK including Shetland and the Orkneys, Iceland, the USA – except Alaska and most of Canada. It sits 71°10’21” North.

The next day, we had to retrace our steps south in order to travel east to the Russian border. We had to be careful here – the main road followed the Finnish border and any diversions would send us over the border. We are not opposed to the Finns but as we’ve probably already mentioned, it would involve another vet visit and a 24 hour wait before continuing on in Norway. So we stuck to the lesser used Fv98 – its very scenic but very bumpy and potholed – it makes English roads look positively good! There were still more reindeer up here.

We stopped over at Ifjord, at a little campsite which was being done up – they don’t see a lot of English tourist in this part of the world I was informed!

Next step, Kirkenes and the Russian border. A few more reindeer and then a Military Zone – what? No photos or camping in the lay-bys – it is because of the threat of illegal immigration from Russia, who is not part of the Schengen Arrangement of European Free Travel.

Kirkenes, itself is a rather ordinary town, it was the second most bombed place in the Second World War- due to its iron ore production and proximity to Russia – the next closet town is Murmansk. In case you need it for a quiz, the most bombed place in WWII was Malta.

The Russian Border is at a place called Storskog – Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav didn’t recognise it as a town but Gloria Google Maps did, so with phone in hand we set off. Turn left at the roundabout then we read the next step…. cross the Russian Border and continue – WHAT? Quick turnaround! This might seem a bit extreme but there is a minimum of 5000 NOK (Norwegian Kroner) fine per person (£500) and the dog can get quarantined. Originally, we only wanted to get to Kirkenes so we’d done that.

With all our Norwegian places visited, we were set to travel to Finland, but first we found an ideal wild camping spot just off the 893 about 7 Kilometres from the Finnish Border. This was our first EVER proper wild camp. We’d researched what you do and how best and listened to stories and tales and put everything in place, park so you can get away if you have to, keep all belongings secure and we put everything away in case we needed to run. All this fuss for nothing – no-one else was around, no-one tried to break in and kill us in our sleep – it was fine. That said, always check your location before just parking up and never break laws to do it – know what you can and can’t do – lecture over!

We went over the border to Finland the next day. First you pass a Border Control building – this is for Russian Nationals we believe and we passed on a bit underwhelmed abut the lack of signage. Further down the road is the actual border crossing point and a few metres further on, the scenery changed. Finland is known as the land of lakes – there are loads, the area we entered – Lapland, has woods and lakes in abundance. There are so many areas to wild camp and its expected here!

We had entered Finland in Lapland – according to the Finland website, it is home to 190 000 reindeer, 749 fells and 1 Santa Claus. We’re off to see Santa later in the week. There were still more reindeer – reindeer are lovely and unusual for us but they are daft. They play chicken with cars, like to cross just as you approach and then run down the road in front of you!

There are a few things we need to share with you if you are planning a trip to Finland – we had always planned to come but we knew nothing before arriving! In Finland, they use the Euro – we haven’t used this since Germany! Their time is a different zone to Sweden and Norway, and the rest of Europe we had so far visited – they are another 1 hour ahead so when the phone automatically changed it was a bit of a shock! I’m sure they’ll be more things we find out and we’ll keep you posted!

Our first night in Finland was at a lovely campsite in Inari, still inside the Arctic Circle and on a lovely lake. The facilities were a bit rustic but warm and functional. We took a slow drive south towards Rovaniemi passing more reindeer – especially pleasing when they walked down the road in front of us outside the Santa’s Aurora Hotel and the Flying Reindeer Cabins – we really are in Santa Land.

Our stop for the night was a lovely free spot by a lake, with 3 other motorhomes. It was so peaceful and we were warm – the weather had improved and the temperature increased. After a relaxing nights sleep, we went to visit Santa at Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle in Lapland, Finland. It was a little surreal listening to Jingle Bells in the sun in August! Santa was in and there was a big queue to meet him so I didn’t get to meet him – just don’t tell the grandkids, as we’ve told them we told Santa how good they’ve been. We crossed back over the Arctic Circle and headed south, doing a bit of sightseeing, meeting some more reindeer on the beach and looking for somewhere to stop overnight – we had been spoilt the night before, and nothing quite matched our requirements, so we went to a campsite in Ii. It was a lovely find, right on the river close to the sea.

After a long drive and a lovely meal it was time for bed. The weather forecast for next week isn’t great so some planning will be done in the morning – another week’s adventures to plan…

We’re not sure at this point whether we’ll stay longer in Finland or head north to Sweden and explore – we’ve only ever driven through Sweden to get to Norway – even earlier in the trip the aim was Norway, despite a few lovely nights on the west coast.

As always, thank you for reading. We hope you have a great week and will catch up again next week, Sx