Week 36: France to England (Appointments and a Road Trip)

England Bound

On Monday, we left Montreuil-sur-Mer, and set off to the tunnel. It was a little strange, as we normally have to go to the pet check-in first and then sort ourselves out at the check-in booth. The last time the procedure had changed, but this time it stumped us. Last time we were able to self check-in, but after three goes of checking in this time, we remembered that last time we bought our tickets direct from Eurotunnel, this time we bought them through the Camping and Caravanning Club (you get a great discount, this way!). Much to the annoyance of the car behind, we had to ask him to back up so we could reverse up and go to a manned booth. After check-in it was an eventless trip and we arrived back in England.

We headed to our overnight stop at Brighton, going along the coast road from Folkestone. The sun decided to come out for a while and the coast road was a lot more inviting than the last time we drove it (after a New Year stop in Canterbury).

Arriving at Brighton, we settled in and started our chores – the laundry, the last week’s campsites hadn’t had a laundry at all, so it was beginning to pile up. Next to sort out the Dentist and Doctors (both had been due and one of the reasons we were coming back) – appointments made next I (Sarah) needed a haircut and that was quickly sorted too – this was too good!

Tuesday, more washing – we stayed at Brighton for another day and once the washing was complete, we walked down the road to the cafe for a lovely English Breakfast for lunch. I headed off for my hair appointment, leaving Ric to have an afternoon of peace, alone! The last time we’d had time apart for any length of time was in November!

Wednesday, we set off up to the Gatwick Caravan site and were able to go to our respective doctor and dentist appointments, along with a quick shop – the rumours we’d heard about were true, the shelves were basically empty of essentials, thank goodness we’d bought toilet paper in France!

Thursday, still at Gatwick, we had one more appointment and in the meantime we decided to see if a different shop had groceries – this time it was even more soul destroying there was hardly anything in the shop. Next we thought we’d get our tyres checked at ATS and they confirmed Ric’s suspicions and our front tyres were barely legal. Luckily for us they had a set which would fit and an hour later we were back on the road with a lovely set of new black boots!

Friday, we decided to head off on a little road trip and head up to Yorkshire. We’ve got an appointment in Harrogate next week! We got onto the M25 eventually – Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav, had her moment again and sent us off the wrong way on the M25, so a quick turnaround at the next Junction and we were off in the right direction. We headed up the M40 toward the lovely Cotswolds and stopped for the night at Morton in Marsh. This is is definitely somewhere we will come back to on another tour.

Saturday, and we set off again this time to the Peak District. Our first stop was a Morrisons for groceries, we have decided to make sure we have enough provisions to make sure we are sorted if the Coronavirus (Covid 19) shuts down England for a while (or we need to self-isolate)! Next stop gas, and a great find in Leamington an actual Auto-Fuel Station and 50p a litre. We returned to the M6 and passed three (closed) football stadia to add to our list for the week, Monday at Brighton we’d passed the Amex, now today we saw Villa Park, The Hawthorns and the BET365 Stadium at Stoke. Our stop for the night was Blackshaw Moor just outside Leek.

Sunday, and we’re off again heading into Yorkshire. We left the Peak District and headed into the Yorkshire Dales. The scenery was amazing and each time we drive through the English countryside, we see it in a different light in different weathers. We headed up through Buxton, on towards Manchester and Burnley before reaching Skipton. Turning off the main road, towards our stop for the night in Bolton Abbey, we were confronted by a large stone arch. A bit of jiggery with the mirrors and we were through. The Caravan Site at Bolton Abbey is a lovely small campsite in the dales and we will definitely add to our list to return to.

For now, we’re hoping to be able to continue our trip to Harrogate, there is talk of isolation and non-essential transport being stopped but no actual news at this time. Thank you again for reading and we hope that you and your families are safe and well. We’ll be back next week, with more news (hopefully)!

Week 36: France – from the Edge of the World to Montreuil-sur-Mer

On Monday, we awoke to more rain and rain at La Ferme du Bout de Monde, The Farm at the Edge of the World, Kerguidy-Izella, Brittany. We set off to the most westerly point of France, the Pointe de Corsen, where the sun did come out but the wind was bitter. The views were amazing.

We chose a campsite to stop at in Locquirec, right on the bay overlooking the English Channel (or La Manche in France). The view was amazing and when the sun was out.

The following morning we set off on a road trip, recommended by the free guide we picked up in Reception. We headed up to Plougasnou, Saint-Samson, the port du Diben, up the coast to Primel-Tregastel and on to Saint-Jean du Doigt, through Prajou and back to Locquirec. The leaflet called the route the Grand Panoramas along the Tregor protected coastline and it was truly stunning.

Wednesday, we left Locquirec and headed up the coast to Dinard. The views along the coast were lovely and we were only 40 miles from the Channel Islands – we had thought about going there, but campsites don’t open until later in the year and the weather didn’t look favourable for a ferry crossing. Our campsite has fantastic views of the sea and we are almost on the beach! Today, also marked the one year anniversary of our house move, downsizing to fund our adventure.

Thursday, we had chosen to go on a walk around the town of Dinan and down to the yacht harbour, but the weather had other ideas! We walked into the town, stopping for lunch in a little brasserie for the plat du jour! Next, we headed along to see the Alfred Hitchcock Statue, apparently it was put in place for a film festival. As we headed towards the beach, we were sandblasted as the wind whipped the sand off the beach, not wanting to be lightweights, it was impossible to continue our trip, though comfortably.

The change of plans was incredibly fortunate as when we returned to Nortia, she was also being battered, the sand had started to drift over the roadway and was beginning to accumulate in the vents on her side (these are the ventilation points for the fridge). We chose to runaway! We packed up as quickly as we could and sought shelter in a lower and secluded part of the campsite. We have sand everywhere, outside, inside and ourselves – we were still finding sand in our hair and eyes, the following morning.

Overnight the wind did calm and the rain began to ease. We set off up towards the Tunnel and Calais. We have booked our crossing back to England for Monday! We decided to have a longish journey, so we could get to the port with some ease. As we headed up the coast, we found a car wash where we could try to get rid of some of the remaining sand. We drove up to Le Mont-Saint-Michel and although the weather wasn’t good enough to stop for long (and it was high tide), we admired the view.

Our stop for the night was a hidden gem. We pulled into the campsite – Camping Sous les Etoiles, in Saint-Martin des Besaces, Normandy and on first impressions thought it shut up fo the winter, there didn’t appear to be anyone around. We drove back up the drive and pulled over to find somewhere else for the night, when Steve the campsite owner, drove up and told us they were open and if we still wanted to we were more than welcome.

Steve and his wife have only recently bought the campsite, but it is a gem, old buildings some over 400 years old and farmland with grass pitches and the best grass we have seen for ages. There is a bar and a restaurant – used by the locals, and one of the best toilet blocks we’ve been to!

Saturday, we headed off again, this time to Le Treport. The campsite we had found was just outside the town, but when we arrived the Reception was closed (in the winter it opens from 09:00 to 12:00, helpful! We did however stay at the Camping Car Aire just behind it!

Sunday, we wanted to get close-ish to the Tunnel, just in case, but not too close! We had made the mistake a few years before of checking how long it would take us to get to the Tunnel from our site the morning we were supposed to leave and finding the Sat Nav told us it would take 30 minutes longer than we had left! (We did make it, but it was a push)! We’d chosen to stop at Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Montreuil-sur-Mer, is an old walled citadel town and also the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Each year there is an open air performance of the play there too. The campsite is located under the citadel walls and Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav did try and make us do some rather precarious turns, which we didn’t (we’ll try a lot of drives, but a switchback left, downhill with a wall and parked cars, was really out of our comfort zone), we did find an alternative route. From the campsite you can also walk up to and through the wall to the old town.

As we mentioned earlier, we’re off to the Tunnel tomorrow, so find out what we get up to back in England! As always, thank you for reading…

Week 30: Storm Gloria met us with a bang!

A Lull in the Storm

Having been into Valencia on a gloriously sunny day (we do have to remind ourselves its January), we were hit full on by Storm Gloria. We asked each day if we could stay as the weather was so bad. Each time we asked we were met with a little smile (as if we were going anywhere!)

The storm continued into Monday and whilst it started to look a little better, it came back with avengence. We settled down in the Motorhome downloading programmes to watch and waiting out the storm. On Tuesday, there were more weather warnings, high waves (8 metres), wind and snow above 300m. A thunderstorm raged for over two hours complete with hail and heavy rain. Spain was on alert – the port of Valencia and the airport at Alicante were closed, three people were known to have died. We and others we knew were safe and sound, but just staying put in various places. Mid-afternoon, there was a lull and we took advantage to have a wander, walking down to the beach for some fresh air and the scene that met us was unbelievable. The roads were flooded, as were the vegetable fields and the cycle path we had used on Saturday. The sea was a murky grey and the horizon was hard to distinguish. There was even a shipping lane buoy washed up on the beach. We were nearly caught out by a wave but managed to stay dry.

Wednesday, the storm had relented, despite being woken by giant hailstones and more thunder, followed by some sunshine. We headed off up the coast, through Valencia to Benicassim. The full effect of the storm was evident all around. We had made the right decision to stay put. We arrived at a campsite, pitched for the night and had a walk to the sea.

On Thursday, we continued our trip along the coast to Peniscola. We saw even more damage caused by Storm Gloria, and the seafront road to the campsite was closed to general traffic, as it was being cleared of sand by JCBs, Bulldozers and Bobcats. There is an underground car park on the beach, which is being pumped out of water (it was still being pumped out when we left on Monday).

We went out on the bikes, up to the castle and the port, before trying to get to the Ermita de Sant Antoni, a mere 5 kilometres away, but with about a kilometre left the path turned too steep and we turned back. As we returned, the fishing boats were coming back into port and the fish sales began.

We decided we would stay in Peniscola until Monday, it’s a lively town with a lot to see and do. Despite being the low season, Restaurants and Bars are open and the weather was fantastic. We set off on our bikes to Benicarlo, just up the coast. The road here has not yet been fully opened and in places the sand was about two feet deep, if not more. It was like giant snow drifts. Shop owners were sweeping out their shops and apartment building and hotels were sweeping and jet washing their frontages. The Fire Service was also pumping out basements. The bikes needed cleaning before we could put them away as there was sand everywhere!

Saturday, we knew the weather was a little doubtful today so we planned to go to the castle. It has been used in several films, including El Cid and in the TV series Game of Thrones. The castle has an interesting history too. It was part of the Arab reign of the region, then Spanish and a Templar Castle before being the pontifical seat of Papa Luna – Pope Benedict XIII. It stands high on the rocks and partially built into them, overlooking the bay and the port and it is easy to see why it was built here. It is cheap to enter and you can wander around at your leisure.

Sunday, after a night of rain, we went off to explore more of the town and the surroundings on our bikes, the sand is still being cleared. We think this will be a long term operation. We took a trip back to the lake where we’d seen jumping fish to see if we could capture it in a picture – we did!

Tomorrow, we’re off up the coast in the hunt for Flamingos! Will we be lucky? As always, thank you for reading this. We really appreciate it. We also apologise for the intermittent postings, due to the storm, WiFi has been very hit and miss!

Week 28: Spain – not a good week.

Goodbye little dog, what a wonderful life we have been able to share with you.

Monday morning, a fiesta day in Spain and there was evidence of last night’s celebrations in every town and village we drove through – confetti and foil streamers in the roads, it must have been a great night. We left our little overnight stop in the mountains and drove towards Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Granada looks like a lovely place to visit properly and has been added to our list! Our goal for today, was to drive the road we’d seen featured in Top Gear several years ago, up to the Pico de Valeta – a ski resort where the road stops! The peak (Pico) is at 3,300m above sea level and there is snow at the top. We checked the weather and ski reports and felt it was safe to do so. The road, was fantastic although we did hear a lot of popping in the MoHo – we stopped and checked all the bottles, as they’d started to pressurise at altitude, but couldn’t find a reason, so on we continued.

The weather was wonderful, clear blue skies and sun. There were cars approaching us laden with skis and people dressed in ski wear – we were still in shorts but… (we do have our whole wardrobe with us, so we are able to change on a whim)! We arrived as close to the top as we wanted to, the final part was full of parked cars and people, and we knew we would have to turn around to come back. At the top we repressurised the fuel tank, by undoing the cap, and with a loud hiss the cap opened – when we were in the Vosges mountains in France the fuel gauge took an age to give us the right reading when we came back down the mountain! We stopped for the night in a lovely little campsite in Otuta, a short distance from Granada and accessible by bus. There were only four vehicles parked there and it had a lovely view of the mountains.

The following morning we set off along the southern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and stopped for lunch in another little village, before heading to Roquetas de Mar. Our aim was to stop here for the night, before heading up to Tabernas and the desert, famed for spaghetti westerns.

We had a pleasant evening, although Albi started to be a little unwell. He occasionally suffers with sickness and has medication to help him, so although a little alarmed we thought we’d see how he was in the morning. We awoke and although he wasn’t much better, he seemed OK in himself and we thought maybe all the driving, might have upset him, we decided to stay another day and let him settle. As the day progressed he worsened and we went straight to a vet, we’d had recommended – without an appointment, but they said they’d see him. Unfortunately, Albi’s condition had worsened considerably during our wait and he was put onto a drip and had an ultrasound carried out on his stomach. He was diagnosed with an engorged gall bladder, and would need surgery to remove it once he had perked up a little. We were warned his condition was serious and there was a 50:50 chance of survival. We said our goodbyes, just in case and unfortunately, following the operation, his heart failed and he was unable to be resuscitated.

Goodbye, little dog. Albi has been part of the family for almost 11 years, he has been to over 28 countries in Europe, he’s walked the Coast to Coast with us, he climbed Haystacks and Hellvellyn, he’s been to the Inner Hebrides, the Outer Hebrides, the Isles of Scilly. He’s camped in tents, a campervan and the Motorhome. He’s been on boats, ferries, cable-cars and vernacular trains. We hope we gave him as good a life as he deserved and we know we did as much as we could to enable him to live a good life. He will remain, here in Spain. we know where we’ve left him and we can return to his resting place.

After a day of upset and heartbreak, we decided we would continue our adventure and Albi will always be a part of what we do and where we go – he was (is) part of the team – it’s Three go Travelling after all! We headed along the coast towards Mazarron and stopped at a campsite by the beach – we later saw there were a number of wild campsites nearby, which would have been nicer, and allowed us to wake up with a view of the sea. Here, we found out our friends, Karen and Colin a.k.a Rewind the Gap http://www.rewindthegap.co.uk/ were just along the coast at an incredibly cheap campsite, and they would be there for the next day, so we arranged to meet them there. It was a very busy campsite and they had been able to reserve us a space, much to the annoyance of those turned away. The campsite is in San Javier overlooking the Mer Menor, by an airport now used by the Air Force.

We spent an evening with Karen and Colin, and caught up with their news and shared ours. We found out a few places to visit nearby and despite only thinking of staying for one night we stayed for two. On Sunday, we set off on our bikes to Cabo de Palos. Gloria Google Maps told us it was an hour and a half by bike, so easily doable on our bikes! After an hour and ten miles, she told us it was another hour and 23 Kilometers (15 miles) away, we stopped and returned to the campsite. There is a boardwalk, through the nature reserve from the campsite to the promenade, with lots of restaurants and bars (many aren’t open in the low season) but it was very busy on a Sunday Afternoon! We even found a cafe serving Full English Breakfasts – if only it had been a bit closer!

As always, thank you for reading and sharing our adventure. We’re continuing around the coast next week, so we’ll share more of our trip with you when we can!

Week 27: New Year in Spain and onto Gibraltar

Another week, and we’re still in El Puerto de Santa Maria, we will leave soon, but its still lovely to be settled and we’re looking forward to New Year here, before continuing our adventure.

Monday, we headed out in the lovely Nortia. We felt it was her turn to go out and about (and we needed LPG (GLP in Spain), not desperately, but we would need to fill up at some point). We headed out to Cadiz and had a drive over the bridge we’d cycled over last week. In the Parque, today, there were flamingos! Cadiz, was very busy, there were two cruise liners in port, including the Mein Schieff 4 which we think we’d seen before in Honningsvåg, on our way to Nordkapp, Norway!

From Cadiz, we headed inland to the town of Arcos de la Frontera, on the recommendations of our lovely neighbours. Time was a little short by now and although we drove there, we didn’t have a chance to look properly, so its added to a list for our next trip (along with Seville)! We returned to the campsite via the Supermarket, but forgot the LPG!

Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, we’d been told you can see the fireworks in Cadiz from the beach so we were hoping to make the midnight hour and be on the beach! We didn’t really do a lot, got bread, sat in the sun, tidied and joined our neighbours for New Year’s Eve drinks. Thank you Sheila and John. Before midnight, we put the dog back to bed and headed to the beach with a bottle of fizz in hand, eagerly waiting for the fireworks… there wasn’t an organised show this year! We had a laugh, made more new friends and sang Auld Lang Syne, before heading back to our MoHo.

New Year’s Day. We awoke a little later than normal and had another relaxing day. I (Sarah) went for a swim in the sea – it was freezing. The sun more than thawed me out though, so worth doing (my sister had done the same in England, so the challenge was set)! We’re setting off in the morning to continue the adventure, so a few last chores were completed, too.

Thursday, we said our goodbyes and were genuinely sorry to be leaving our lovely neighbours, but the adventure needs to continue. We set off to get the LPG we’d missed out on before and filled up our Gaslow system, headed to the Supermarket, stopping in the Motorhome stopover. In the car park of the Centro Comercial El Paseo, there are about four stopover pitches and a service point, which is free if you present your receipt from any shop to the Management Office, who give you a token for water and electricity (about 2 hours). Once sorted we headed off along the coast to Tarifa, where we stayed on a campsite close to the beach, which was full of kite-surfers.

Friday, off again, this time we went into Tarifa and had a drive around before heading off along the coast to La Linea de la Concepcion and the camperstop at the Marina. It’s a great stop for Gibraltar and we set off through the Border on our bikes, over the runway and into the country. First stop, as you do, was to Morrison’s the grocers! Just a quick check to see if what we’d heard was true, and yes, it was, it sells English food, exactly as you get at home, sausages, bacon, Hovis bread, pork pies etc., after our little trip around the rock, we’d buy some bits! We headed off up the rock on the bikes, stopping at the edge of the National Park, partly as you had to pay for the privilege of going further up, but mainly because it was so steep I (Sarah) could no longer breathe and pedal, and Ric had stopped on a fairly steep incline and couldn’t get enough momentum to get up the hill!

We looked over the Pillars of Hercules, also the Strait of Gibraltar, to the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Disappointed we wouldn’t see the monkeys at the top, we headed back down the hill, carefully as it was so steep, and there was a big male monkey. Another couple were trying to take selfies with it, but we went for a quick photo and as it decided to move towards us we took off – they are quite large and threatening! We cycled down to the 100 pound gun and then back to Morrison’s, where we did enough shopping to keep us going. We do like Spanish food, but sometimes, you just need a bit of home!

The next morning on the dog walk, we discovered some Haus-Boats, which you can rent out. They are little floating wooden huts, with a kitchen, bedroom and living area. We headed off towards Marbella.

En route to Marbella, we stopped off at Puerto Banus and have a drive around, we headed off to the campsite we’d found, thinking we could cycle on into the town. The campsite wasn’t the greatest and there were so many cats! One thing we know is Albi loves to chase a cat, and he promptly took off, on the lead, causing me to drop a bottle of wine – he was not in the good books! We set off on the bikes following Gloria Google Maps, over the road (the busy A7, via footbridge – thankfully) and down to the beach, where we were told to turn right – no road, path or prom, just sand and beach, so we turned back and tried again, same thing! After about an hour we gave up and headed back to the campsite.

Sunday, we headed along the coast to Fuengirola, Torremolinos and Málaga. Tomorrow is a Fiesta day, known here as the Day of the Kings and a lot of places have special events happening tonight. We headed through Málaga. and up through the Montes de Málaga towards the Sierra Nevada, spending the night in Viñuela, behind an incredibly busy Restaurant, we had to wait for a car to be moved, before we could access the site.

Tomorrow, we’re planning to go up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains – we can see snow up there, so we’ll see how far we get. As always thank you for reading and again apologies for the late post – WiFi in Spain is not as widespread as we had been led to believe!

Week 26: Christmas in Spain

Having decided to stay at El Puerto del Santa Maria until after Christmas, we settled in to the campsite quite nicely and made friends with our neighbours. The campsite is made up of about three separate areas for motorhomes and caravans and another stepped area for tents. Within the area we are based there is also a road which splits the area and each little cul-de-sac off it has eight pitches, plus another four which back onto you, giving you a little community feel!

On Monday, we had a little drive around the local area and went up to Jerez, to see the MotoGP circuit and the Monumento Michelin ( a giant Michelin Man on a roundabout!). On our trip we passed a fire station tower, with Santa waving at the top and then popped into the Hypermarket to stock up for Christmas. Food shopping in Spain at Christmas is no different than at home – it is chaotic and manic and the shops here only shut for Christmas Day! Once back at our little home from home, we checked the weather forecast and saw we were due more sun for the week!

Christmas Eve, we set off in search of a bread shop (Panaderia) and ended up on the bridge to Cadiz. We had planned this and not just found ourselves several miles away. You can see the bridge from the beach and as you may have discovered by now, we have a thing for bridges! It was too good an opportunity to miss. Cadiz is a peninsula into the Atlantic Sea, connected to the mainland by a number of bridges. We set off through the town of El Puerto del Santa Maria and then passed over the river – there is also a ferry from the harbour to Cadiz, here. We headed down to the village of Valdelagrana and into the Parque Natural Los Toruños, a lovely oasis of riverbed and grassland, and a natural habitat for a number of birds.

On the other side we exited the park by the University of Cadiz, and headed towards the bridge – Puente de la Constitución de 1812 and found you can cycle up the service road and across to Cadiz, we only ventured halfway across, as we’d already cycled 13 miles and it was 20° C. On the way back, we found a Chinese takeaway and stopped to pick up our dinner.

Christmas Day and the sun is shining. We started the day opening the cards and presents we’d brought with us from home, before setting off in search of bread. We’d read that bread is a staple in Spain and that a meal is not a meal without it, so surely there must be one open, We checked Gloria Google maps and headed off to one that looked like it might be open, no, then off to another, again no, right one more… YES and the bread was still hot. We bought one for us and each of our neighbours (it is Christmas after all!) After a light lunch, we sat in the sun for a while more and ten strolled on the beach, before heading back to Nortia and sitting some more outside, but with our nearest neighbours – our pitch and theirs adjoined! We prepped our dinner and rang the family, before heading over for a couple of drinks with them in their awning. Needless to say one turned into two and our Christmas dinner was postponed until Boxing Day!

On Boxing Day, we decided to stay at the campsite until the New Year, it feels so homely and comfortable, moving around over the Christmas break felt a little too stressful! We headed out again for bread and found another bread shop, this one had little cakes too – well it is Christmas! After completing a few chores, having lunch and sorting the laundry, we set off on the bikes to the nearby town of Rota. We knew there is a large Military Base there, as we’d been listening to the US Military civilian radio station, and after a few miles, Gloria Google maps decided we should turn right into the Naval Base, faced with a large Marine with a larger gun, we returned to the campsite, relaxed some more in the sun and had our lovely Christmas Dinner.

Friday, another day chilling in the sun, we had a cycle around the town and went to the supermarket, but not much else! Relaxing in the sunshine can be such hard work!

Saturday, another lovely sunny day – we emptied out and cleaned the garage, before heading out again on our bikes and mooching around the town, before more sun and another walk on the beach.

Sunday, we set off again on our bikes to the town of Valdelagrana, with its fabulously long sandy beach. We cycled along the prom and back into the Parque Natural Los Toruños, cycling a different route and seeing various types of wading birds, herons, storks, curlews and guillemots. After 13 miles we arrived back at the Motorhome and sheltered from the very strong winds, before setting out to the beach, to walk the dog and feeling like we were being sand blasted with the sand whipped up off the beach!

Not the only Etrusco – our Spanish Etrusco Neighbours!

Again, and as always, thank you for reading our post. We hope you had a very Merry Christmas and will update you with our New Year’s adventure soon….

Week 17: France to England (via Belgium)!

A campsite with a sense of humour and a lifeguard to watch over you!

We left the Wild West themed campsite in France and carried on our trip to Compiègne. When we arrived we went to the site of the Armistice Treaty signing on the 11th November 1918, signalling the end of World War I.

From here, we went on a bit of a trip to the Thiepval Memorial, in Authuille, France. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (who also designed the Cenotaph in London) and is a memorial to the missing 72,337 British and South African servicemen of the Somme. We chose to spend the next two nights in the town of Péronne.

We had started to feel, like we’d been on the move for too long again! Things needed to be sorted out and chores (washing) completed! We also needed to find a vet for our return to England – yes, we’ve decided to return, and just before we ran out of tea bags!

Chores completed, vet accomplished we set off again for Ieper (Ypres) heading north through Lille. In Ieper, we headed off to the Menin Gate and the historic town. We didn’t stay for the Last Post, but maybe we’ll return when the weather is a little warmer.

From Ieper, we set off north to Bruges and we stopped at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, outside the village of Passendaele. It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth Soldiers in the world, for any war. It is one of the best cemeteries we have been to. We were going to stop in Bruges, but Albi has strained a tendon in his foot, so he’s on short walks. We headed to the Belgium coast instead.

We chose Bredene, after a trip to the Dutch Border and slowly heading back towards France. The campsite is one we have added to our list to come back to. (There will be a list of our campsites and stopovers (good and bad) soon!). Here, it would appear our past has caught up with us, with an email entitled “Speeding Etrusco Bloggers”. We have received a speeding ticket from Latvia, we’re not proud of breaking the speed limit, but it did make me smile, imagining the lovely Nortia, flying through the Latvian countryside!

After Bredene, where there was an amazing Chinese Restaurant, almost next door, we set off again and after completing a trip down the coast, we found a campsite on the beach in Dunkirk. Who knew how lovely the beach was here?

We chose to stay two nights, here, and get ready to return to England. We set off on our bikes on Saturday – into a head on wind which wiped the sand off the beach into our faces. We followed the trail and found the beaches where the Dunkirk Evacuation took place – Operation Dynamo – in May and June of 1940.

On Sunday, we made a slow journey to the Tunnel, to return to England. The journey was pretty non-eventful. We made our way to the Pet Check-in and as always Albi sailed through and was able to return to England, now it was our turn! The queue was massive. We were directed to Self-Check-in, something we have always shied away from, but it was easy, you either enter your booking reference or card you bought the ticket on and your boarding pass! Next, Border Control – France easy now Britain, again all OK, we were on our way! We boarded early and arrived in England.

We’d booked a night at the Bearstead Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, outside Maidstone, Kent. We’ve got ideas of where we plan on going from here, but there is nothing set in stone. We’ve got one eye on the weather and our route is in our heads!

Next week, you can find out where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We’re hoping the weather is kind, but it’s England and it’s October! As always thank you for reading, we’ll be in touch soon…

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 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.