Food, drink, travel and everything in-between

That was quick. Time to head back. Sadly!

Week 4. 8th to 15th July 2023 – Port Lesney to Home. 780 miles.

Saturday 8th July 2023 – Port Lesney to Savigny-lès-Beaune. 65 miles.

We are truly making our way back now that we are into the last week. It has gone very quick.

We didn’t sleep very well last night. We ate too much, and drank too much and it was very hot overnight. 28 in the van, the lower 20s outside, and the frogs in the river kept Del awake! It’s a cloudy morning this morning but expected to clear up. It’s already warm. We packed up last night, no breakfast just coffee and off we go. They want more money from you here to do a service so we decide that we can make do.

We have seen lots of these. They look great in the sunshine.

By 11:00 am It’s already 31 degrees. Today we are setting off for a free overnight place right by the canal where we can get the bikes off and go for a good long bike ride. We like the river and canal stops, there is always somewhere to cycle. Hold on though. Today the temperature is expected to get to 33 or 34 degrees and the stopover has no shade. We do a quick re-think and Hayley finds us a nice shady campsite next to a stream. Off we go.

A new route is plotted! Despite the heat, we have a lovely drive through the French countryside. It is quite beautiful in parts. Our route takes us through some very charming towns and villages, one of which is having a parade to celebrate their local fire station?!

Jess is not looking her best right now. She badly needs a wash. We find a newly opened place that allows camper vans to not only wash your van but there is a platform for washing the roof! 20 euros later, yes 20 euros,

Jess is looking like new. It was dear but well worth it. You brush on a hot mousse then a proper powerful jet rinse followed by an anti-streak rinse. She rolled out looking like the day we bought her!

Proud of our shiny clean van we trundle off down an empty motorway to Savigny-lès-Beaune which is just south of Dijon. The site we are going to will allow advanced bookings so while Del drives, Hayley is making a reservation, which she just finishes as we park up outside the site.

We are let in and given a very nice shady spot. No electricity today so we are on the solar panel which will see us through especially today with the wall-to-wall sunshine. It’s hot all over Europe today. Tomorrow we are going to Chablis which has a temperature today of 36 degrees!! Murcia in Spain, 40 degrees. It’s far too hot to do anything today so we sit by the van. Hayley plots our route for the next few days, Del does the blog and spot cleans the van. (He’s proud of his van).

This is the campsite with the running stream behind us. Guess what? It’s not running anymore. It dried up just over a month ago.

It’s bad to see, it really is bone dry and it’s only recently happened.

Dinner tonight was a simple salad, Hayley’s van salad followed by some blue cheese and honey with a slug of port.

The best salad, EVER!

It’s hot tonight!

Sunday 9th July 2023 – Savigny-lès-Beaune to Chablis. 84 miles.

It was so hot in the van last night, we don’t think it dropped below 30 until about 5:30 am. we slept well though, when we woke up it was certainly cooler. Today we are going to the town of Chablis. We have been there before, once when we hired a van to see if we would like it, and again with Jess on her first European outing 5 years ago. It has a great campsite there and town is lovely to walk around.

After some boiled eggs, toast and coffee, we pack up, do a full service and off we go, via a supermarket for some supplies. At 11:30 in the morning, it’s already 35 degrees! Hayley is at the wheel, but because she gets bored on motorways, we swap over. We run into a few heavy showers of rain but nothing major. We are on a toll road for the most part, and when we exit, it costs us 14 euros! The toll motorways here in France are expensive but they are excellent. They are clean, spacious, and well maintained with hardly, if any, roadworks. They just work.

We are returning to the same campsite which has now been taken over by ‘pass etapes‘. We like these sites, they are online so you can see, live, how many spaces are remaining. Pay for the premium service and you can reserve a space. We arrive with 12 spaces remaining. We choose a nice shady spot and set up for the day. It’s a lovely place, very calm and peaceful. Once set up we lock up and walk into town. Being a Sunday most of it is closed, but we do find a ‘Cave’ sampling and selling… Chablis of course.

Chablis swag!

It’s a lovely cool and dark place with a young chap behind the counter who is more than accommodating as we sample 4 Chablis and walk out with the same, one of which is 2018, the last time we were here with Jess!

Very nice. Poor fellow undercharged us, but we did fess up, he was so pleased that we owned up to the error that he gave us a very nice corkscrew. Which was nice.

The rest of that afternoon is spent at the van, reading and chatting away while we enjoy half of one of the Chablis. Very nice. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon! It’s late now but we get stuck into another EXIT game.

We like these. They are a great way to kill a couple of hours. The game takes nicely up to dinner of steak and chips with a pepper sauce and a nice Bordeaux. There is not a breath of wind and it’s a warm balmy evening. A perfect way to end a busy week!

Monday 10th July 2023 – Chablis to Sergines 66 miles.

The van was like a hot box again last night, but we managed to sleep with the help of our small 8-inch fan. Today we are going to another place that we visited not only on our trial trip but also on Jess, to Saint Julien du Sault. It’s a small town almost in the middle of France near Auxerre.

A smashing breakfast

Before we set off we take a short walk into the town and to a typical French bakery for pastries, namely 2 croissants and two pain aux raisins.

Leaving Chablis

We take them back and have them back at the campsite with Jess with fresh coffee. It’s a very fresh morning but we can feel the heat building. Off we go, it will take an hour to get to Saint Julien and the roads are quiet, eerily quiet. It’s 11:00 am and already it’s 27 degrees.

We arrive at the free overnight spot which has not changed in five years. We lock up and walk into the town. It is just your typical, classical French town but there is no one about. It’s very strange, everything is closed and we are the only people walking about. It’s a nice town and you are done walking around it in about 20 minutes so we head back. We have made the decision not to stay and instead set off and find a campsite.

Hayley gets to work finding us a place and comes up with a campsite called Camping Beauséjour or Camping Beautiful Stay. It’s another 30-minute drive which is fine. An easy drive through some beautiful countryside, as usual, to the campsite. We arrive and Hayley calls the lady running the site, a very friendly lady who once she has taken 20 euros for the night opens the barrier and allows you in to park wherever you like.

It’s a wonderful place. There are small park homes around the perimeter and the middle is free for motorhomes. The pitches are huge and very private. We choose one and get settled in. What a place. We have the whole site to ourselves but can’t believe or understand why. Granted there is nothing in the surrounding area, no walks or bike rides, the town is small, but it is so peaceful and so tranquil. On the camping apps, it gets fantastic reviews and is highly rated. It’s located just 70 miles south-east of Paris. What a find. We love it.

We have a cold beer under the shade provided by the trees.

The Jones’s are in town!

There is a washing machine here so we get a pile of laundry done for just over 3 euros, and get it out to dry. It’s van clean day again, so the van is aired, stripped and cleaned out. Once all the work is done we spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in the shade and just relaxing in this wonderful place. We are wondering though if we will get more visitors for the night. We shall see.

Dinner is outside and what a lovely evening it is too with just the sound of birds and distant combine harvesters.

Dinner… Oooo. Sausage!

It really was a lovely evening, staying out until gone 10pm reading and chatting. A lovely day followed by a lovely evening.

Tuesday 11th July 2023 – Sergines to Epernay. 74 hard miles.

Not a cloud in the sky this morning, fresh air, birds singing. Lovely. We should have a nice relaxed breakfast outside again and have a leisurely morning. Not likely! Hayley has found a campsite in Epernay, “champagne central“. There is a municipal campsite on the banks of a river with cycling into the town, so like grease lighting, we are packed and off as campsites in France have a habit of closing early for lunch and not opening until late afternoon, so no breakfast, we didn’t even brush our teeth, we are packed, Jess serviced and off…

It is a long hard drive today. We only have to go 70-odd miles to Eperney, but there are no motorways just “A” and “B” roads and some of those are questionable. Hayley is at the wheel today. She has it all under control, but having no breakfast she is desperate for the loo! Too bad. We want to try and get there before midday if we can. We have been diverted en route because of roadworks but we do arrive at the campsite at 11:55 am only to find out that they are open from 8 in the morning until 10 at night! Typical. We are also the last van in. While Hayley is in the office paying, a chap comes out with a board saying “COMPLET“. We made it. Just in the nick of…

We get a nice spot in a corner, get the bikes off the back and set off for a nice cycle by the river into the centre of Epernay, the champagne capital of the world. Well, it is not to be. There is no cycle track along the river to the town, so we have to take to the busy roads in the 32-degree heat, navigating the heavy traffic and the roadworks.

Roadworks everywhere in Epernay!

5 years ago we came here in Jess and we left because of roadworks, they are still at it. It’s a mess…! We finally reach the Avenue de Champagne.

This road is the most valuable road in France, more so than the Champs Elysee in Paris, because all of the big-name champagne producers are on this road with a complex tunnel network underground storing their champagne. Mercier champagne has 18km of wine cellars and that’s just one producer. Some of the houses offer tasting in nice ornate gardens, but the price for a small glass is just outrageous!!!!

The man who started it all!

They make it here!!! Sure they don’t want to give it away, people will just take advantage, but having a system of cheap first glass and subsequent glasses may be more expensive.

Del especially loves champagne and has sampled many types from cheap as chips to the most expensive, but he’s not impressed with Epernay. It’s “poncey” in his words. Champagne is a drink to be enjoyed by anybody and everybody, but here in roadworks filled Epernay they are just taking advantage and ripping people off. Oh, and it starts to rain as well, Nice.

Probably the best bit of Epernay! Sorry.

We did have a very nice cycle through the park that lasted all of 1 minute, it was very nice but very short-lived. We’ve had enough and cycle back through the roadworks and the traffic back to the site just in time for dinner.

Epernay…? Drive on… (Get your champers from a good local vineyard or just go to Waitrose!)

There is a nice pop up restaurant here on the site, Hayley reserved us a table in advance so we are the first in and on time. The service is ok, the setting is wonderful, right on the banks of the river.

The food is excellent, but as the place starts to fill up the service just goes downhill, with many people waiting a long time to be served, get a drink or pay. Bad… no matter, we were in first, got seen to, ate, enjoyed and left…

Wednesday 12th July 2023 – Epernay, France to Reutenbeek, Belgium. 171 miles

Last night was the hottest night so far, for Del anyway. The last couple of weeks have been very hot in parts of France. Today we are heading north to a paid overnight stop called Vireux Molhain, and this will probably be our last French stop. After we get packed up we set off after a quick van service.

Hayley has thrown a spanner into the works. There is a theme park going north, Walibi Belgium.

Just when Del thought his bag-carrying days were finally over, it would appear that we are going to another European theme park. Great. After a quick re-routing, we are now heading towards a campsite near the town of Reutenbeek in Belgium just southeast of Brussels. It should be interesting as it’s a part of Belgium we have never been to.

Del’s at the wheel today, it’s a pleasant drive as we see the last of the lovely French countryside pass us by, the weather is pleasant and the temperature is much cooler today. Very nice. We see the blue square with the ring of yellow stars ahead denoting the border between France and Belgium and instantly the roads change. For the very worse…!

Without any doubt, and with no offence intended, Belgian roads are just the worst roads in Europe. A combination of slabs of unsealed concrete, potholes that have been filled in multiple times, and deep cracks in the surface just make the whole experience shocking. Bad though, so, so bad. The van is getting rattled, bumped and shaken for about an hour and a half. A terrible trip. We have bad roads in the UK, but these roads here beat the UK hands down. We have mostly driven around the west part of Belgium where the roads are again a bit ‘iffy‘, but here, south of Brussels, they are much worse,

Finally, finally, we arrive at the campsite, Camping Druivenland which is basically just a large field where you just pitch where you want, after you have paid a rather heavy fee and then they would like you to pay extra for wifi and showers. Fortunately, we don’t really need any of that, we have a shower on board and we just use our mobile for wifi access. To be fair it’s actually not a bad place.

Yes maybe a bit pricey on what we have been paying over the past few weeks, but it’s peaceful and not too bad at all. The only reason we are here is because it’s a ten-minute drive to Walibi Belgium.

Tonight Hayley did a very special pasta dish made from scratch, her lovely Spaghetti Puttanesca. Very nice, served outside in the cool summer evening. The rest of the evening is spent with Hayley scouring the internet for reviews about the theme park and Del trying on the bag for size. Again.

Thursday 13th July 2023 – Reutenbeek to Poperinge. 131 miles.

Del the bag carrier

A cool fresh cloudy morning this morning. A marked change from the hot steaming weather of the past few days, but a good day to be traipsing round a theme park. Great, thinks Del to himself. Can’t wait. Hayley has us ready to go at the gates for opening at 10am. She is straight onto the 164ft tall main coaster called Kondaa, and has soon done 3 goes on it.

Jess parked up with the buses at Walabi

As usual Del is carrying the bag, but now has a new addition of Hayley’s coat. She does like a theme park and is soon quickly walking between all the different rides, getting in the queue and being hurtled around at high speed. She loves them. Her interest in rollercoasters was rekindled in Todtnau, Germany 4 or 5 years ago. Got to have a hobby! It is a nice park Walibi Belgium, they have another in Holland called, surprisingly, Walibi Holland. The European parks are done very well, spacious, clean and with a good selection of food and drink, even for Del, they are quite good.

By 1:30 her brain has been rattled around long enough, and exhausted she decides that she has had enough and we can get going.

We leave Europe on Saturday morning for the UK so we like to get ourselves as close as possible to the ferry port, just in case.

Today we are heading for what we consider now our ‘second home‘, Poperinge at the campsite/ farm Stal t’ Bardehof. We thought that we might go back to France for one more night then Belgium for our last night but in the end, we decide to just go straight to Belgium and spend two nights there. The ferry will be just 40 minutes away.

It’s a long drive today though, 2 and a half hours made up of dodgy Belgian roads and motorway. We want to stock up with some French wines first to take back home so Hayley is trying to find us a route that will take us briefly into France to a supermarket then back into Belgium. It’s proving to be difficult without burning too much fuel and time so in the end we just stop at a big supermarket in Belgium.

Hayley’s favourite beer.

Hayley leaves Del with Jess while she makes her way into the shop arriving a good 40 minutes later with half a dozen boxes of mixed wines which we have to try and store and survive the journey home. All shopped out we finally get going again and just before 6 we arrive at the farm in Poperinge.

Hayley’s favourite goat!

We get a nice welcome from the lady there, who shows us to our spot for our two-night stop.

Once parked up we waste no time in going to the bar for two cold Belgian beers and a rather hearty dinner. A quiet night back at the van. It’s cold.

Friday 14th July 2023 – Poperinge – Day 2 (last day).

Today we will do a de-prep of Jess which involves packing most of our stuff into bags, clearing and cleaning out cupboards, bagging up clothes etc. It just makes the arrival home quick and easy, we can get the van back into storage, do the laundry and have a quiet night back home.

The rest of the afternoon is spent bashing emails backwards and forwards to the UK. We are trying to buy a property and just as we think we are getting close, we come across another ‘issue’ that needs our attention, and of course, when solicitors are involved you can always rely on them to be slow, late or get it wrong, most of the time it’s all three!

We are now semi-packed so we get on our bikes for the last time and go for a 6-mile cycle. It’s a lovely evening, a bit windy, but after all the sitting about this afternoon we are glad to be out and it makes us feel much better.

Tonight we will eat at the farm again, and again another hearty feed with a generous helping of Belgian beer. They do know how to do it here. Delicious.

The alarm is set and we are in bed relatively early. Tonight though it’s hot again. There is a heatwave in Europe that is spreading north. Guess it has reached us.

Saturday 15th July 2023 – Poperinge, Belgium to Home, East Cowes, UK. 230 miles.

We are woken up rather sharply at 05:45 this morning. We have a ferry at 08:00 from Dunkirk, so no breakfast, no coffee, just get up, shuffle a few bags around and we are off. It’s a 40-minute drive from here in Poperinge to Dunkirk. It’s a lovely morning for our trip back home. Thankfully an uneventful drive to the port and onto the boat having had our passport checked twice and customs climbing aboard twice as well. The only thing they will find on our van is half a dozen boxes of wine and a box of champagne! 

Going home. Sadly!

Caravan on a truck. Interesting.

Once we are in the belly of the ship and secured we eyeball a different camper van which is basically a caravan, spun around and mounted on a van chassis. We make our way upstairs and get a full English breakfast and coffee. A very pleasant crossing, not too busy, lots of Germans. An hour into the crossing it does start to get a bit ‘bouncy’. High winds are forecast which are forecast to be even higher on our Isle of Wight crossing. We shall see. Hayley staggers (because of the bouncy sea and not through drink) to see what’s in the duty-free shop and returns with a bottle of gin and Cointreau for only £25. Bargain.

In Summary

Some stats for this trip:

Diesel: 396 euros

Road Tolls: 95 euros

LPG: 5 euros

Total miles covered: 1700 miles (approx. We got lost a couple of times!)

Home, Champagne, French Alps, fun fair and home again

This has been one of our shortest Jess trips, three weeks and some days. Whilst it has been short it has been very enjoyable. We have visited some lovely places and tried lots of interesting food which is what our trips are all about. We are not adventure seekers, but we do like to see and feel as much of the local areas as we can. We loved the French Alps region, so much that we are already planning our winter trip which will be across Belgium, down through Germany to the Swiss Alps, back out through the south of France then from there pop into Spain and make our way down some of the east coast until we run out of time and have to turn around. That’s the plan, but you know what they say about best laid plans!

We do really enjoy going to Europe. It’s a great place, with so much variety and interest. Like the UK they have the same problems, not so high inflation, but shopping for food was expensive, and fuel is more or less the same as in the UK. The biggest difference we noticed was mobile phones. Hi-speed internet reception almost anywhere, even on deserted mountainsides and in long road tunnels. In the UK it seems that if you just walk down your own street you will get cut off. There is something wrong with mobiles in the UK, that we definitely noticed.

Jess does need some new tyres now. Hayley has been putting in the research and the decision has been made. We will get them fitted a week or two before we go away again in December.

There are also a few odd jobs that need doing on the van. Del has a list and will start on those in a few months. Nothing pressing, just general maintenance and up keep. We like to keep her in tip top condition, mechanically, inside and out!

In the meantime we now need to get back to work. It’s going to be a busy time for both of us now until the end of the year so we need to get our heads down again.

Thank you so much for following our journey, we do appreciate it and we do like to get your comments, and with that we would like to say cheerio for now, thank you and very good health and happiness to you all.

What diet has he been on?

We have done over 22,000 miles over 5 years, and too many Belgian roads, so it’s definitely time for the tyres to be changed. We have opted for the Michelin CrossClimate Tyre. We did think about the Goodrich BF All Terrain to give her a more aggressive look than she has already, but after looking at the pros and cons. We don’t do a lot of off-roading and the Michelins give better fuel efficiency, are quiet on the road and are designed for the correct load rating, so there you go. They are also 3PMSF rated, so good for snow, and ice and legal for the European mountains in the winter.

Is it us, or has the Michelin man lost a lot of weight over the years?

See more about the Michelin man and how he has changed over the years.

Destination – The French Alps!

Week 3. 1st to 7th July 2023 – Thones to Port Lesney 240 (hard) miles.

Saturday 1st July 2023 – Thones to Le Grand-Bornand. 8 miles.

It was a lovely evening last night, a great dinner with a belting atmosphere. We sat and realised how lucky we are to be able to do what we are doing. If you have good health, and the most valuable commodity you have, time, then see and do as much as you can while you can.

This morning we wake up to a lovely blue sky so after a breakfast of scrambled eggs with salmon, toast and fresh coffee, we get our walking boots on and set off for a walk.

A clean fresh morning in Thones.

We have been here before, it’s a lovely place so we know more or less where we are going.

We are not sure why but Hayley gets eaten alive by mosquitos, but nasty ones. We press on and do a circle that brings us back into the town of Thones which is having a Saturday market.

Saturday market in Thones

It’s a vibrant market that winds its way around the streets of this charming little town. As you walk through you can smell the rich cheese, roasting chickens and stalls full of spices. The fruit and veg are bursting with colour and freshness. There are stalls selling homemade bread and cakes. Del can’t help being drawn in by a charming lady selling homemade muffins so buys a few to take back to the van to have with a tea.

It’s a lovely morning walking through the market but we have to get back.

A bit of homework via Zoom from Jess

Del has a work Zoom meeting to attend at midday, it should only take an hour or so, in the event 45 minutes, just as well as we start to hear the rain pattering on the roof. Again.

Today we are on a long drive, all 8 miles of it to Le Grand-Bornand, a place we have been to before, but this time we are going to a campsite there rather than the free overnight parking. We stop to do a service and fill up with 75 euros of diesel. The weather has changed. The sun has gone and the skies are grey, but it’s still beautiful as we drive through a valley surrounded by mountains shrouded with clouds. Wonderful.

The campsite is fabulous, we have mountains all around us, it’s gently raining, you get wet very quickly, but it’s like a fine mist. We are given a spot and get settled in. We have been out just over a week so it’s the big weekly van clean. After a good hour or so of ripping the van apart, emptying cupboards, pulling all the cushions out, cleaning and sweeping Jess is as new inside. It has to be done. We have power so we get everything charged up, all our tech and toothbrushes!

All done with the van we take a stroll into the town of Le Grand-Bornand. We have been here before, so we kind of know our way around now. It’s very charming and also very quiet which took us by surprise.

Back at Jess and dinner tonight is Hayley’s homemade tartiflette. (See her recipe here.) She did her own take on it last night, but tonight she is making the real thing from scratch along with a pair of diots. Basically a local sausage but they are very dense and very tasty, proper mountain food of the Savoie region which is where we are.

Served with a salad it was, once again, an absolute winner. Brilliant.

Sunday 2nd July 2023 – Le Grand-Bornand to Chamonix. 49 miles.

A grey morning this morning, but the surrounding views are still quite spectacular of course. We were woken up at 2 am last night by bangers going off, we thought that the current riots in France had spread here! Highly unlikely though it may be…

Another job for Del!

Before setting off we have to do a quick grey water empty and fill up with fresh. The French are good at this kind of thing, providing free services to camper vans.

A short drive in miles but because the roads are very twisty in these parts, it takes us a good hour and a half to get to Chamonix. We visited here in August 2020, covid restrictions had just been lifted, and we took the cable car to the top of Mont Blanc and another small one across over to Italy. Today we are staying at a small but lovely campsite called Camping Les 2 Glaciers. Once we are shown our spot and get settled in, we can see why. We have a spectacular view of two of the 4000 glaciers on Mont Blanc. They look amazing.

We have a great spot and get settled in quickly. Hayley loves the glaciers and decides that today she will take lunch on the table with a full view of them while Del cleans the bikes.

Lunch with a view!

There is a little bit of planning to discuss regarding the next few days of our trip. We think that this will be the turning back point.

Hayley glacier spotting.

We will stay a few days here in the French Alps before heading back west into France and then northwest towards home. Maybe. Time to get the walking boots on and set off for a good walk. There are plenty of them here, all different lengths. We choose one that says it’s 1 hour and 15 minutes, it has a great view and coffee shop, so off we go.

We may have bitten off more than we can chew. It’s a very steep walk, but really steep as it twists and turns up the side of the hill towards one of the glaciers, not only that each time there is a junction with an arrow counting down the time to the end of the walk, we find that in actual fact the times are getting longer.

We saw one that said “… 35 minutes”, ten minutes later another sign saying “45 minutes” ?!?! We plod on but decide that we have had enough, we are beaten so we about-face and start to make our way back to Jess.

Hard work but enjoyable all the same, good exercise which we could well do with. We get back to base camp and it has clouded over again and it’s a bit chilly. No matter we sit outside, Del does the blog and Hayley plans our route for the next few days.

Dinner tonight? Taking it easy tonight. A simple pasta dish, spaghetti alla puttanesca. Another Hayley speciality that she does well along with a salad.

Hayley’s ‘fancy’ pasta

Monday 3rd July 2023 – Chamonix to Passy. 40 miles.

Breakfast outside this morning, a proper continental breakfast, ham, “European cheese”, salmon and boiled eggs with fresh coffee. Ace. Sat at the table with a view of a slightly cloudy Mont Blanc. Today we are off to Passy or rather slightly higher to Plaine Joux Passy which is quite high up meaning a very twisty, bendy and probably dangerous road. We have been there before and we remember that it was a “challenging” drive, but well worth it once you get there. A popular place for paragliders to jump from. Not for us!

Click ‘play’ to watch crazy people jump off the edge…

After a full service, we stop at the local Carrefour to stock up with a few provisions as we intend to be offline for two nights up at Plaine Joux, Passy.

Busy route

Del is at the wheel today, and as we get higher, it gets more challenging, with hairpin turns, and narrow and rough roads in parts. It is well worth it, the view is stunning. Hayley does the business at the office when we arrive and we are able to choose a space wherever we like on a large grassy space which has the most spectacular view of the Mont Blanc Massif. Absolutely amazing, truly wonderful.

After a bit of messing about trying to get level (this is a beginner’s ski slope in the winter after all), we settle in and make ourselves comfortable with a brilliant view both when we are in the van and out of the van.

We plan to stay here for two nights, from here we are starting to turn back towards home and we have 12 days to do it. Easy. Still lots to do and see and eat and we intend to do as much of that as possible of the next 12 days.

Second one this trip

We take a walk around the location which is very popular with paragliders, in fact, we can almost see them launching from our van. There are a couple of restaurants here and good walks which we will save for tomorrow, today is a sit by the van day, with a glass of red wine. Del is doing the blog and some homework while Hayley is looking around on the internet to buy Jess some new all-terrain tyres! What has she got planned for our next trip? All this while sitting staring at the wonder of the Mont Blanc Massif. We hate Mondays!

Spanish night tonight. For the second time on this trip Hayley is doing her ever-popular paella, with jamon Serrano ham and tomato bread to start, along with the remainder of the red wine we started this afternoon.

Tuesday 4th July 2023 – Plaine Joux, Passy – day 2.

We woke up this morning at about 8am, and opened the blinds to reveal a full view of Mont Blanc. Wow! What a thing to wake up to. We don’t hang about, the coffee machine is on and within 5 minutes we are sitting in the bright sunshine just staring at the view.

Enough of that, time for some breakfast which we really enjoy. We just sit about in the sun wittering away about anything and everything. We do a quick van cleanup, some admin to catch up on then we are off for a good long walk.

Before we set off we have a look at the paragliders launching off the edge, which is just in front of the van. They are quite mad.

The paragliding launch zone.

We do just a short 2 and a bit hours of walking. It’s a good foresty walk, dense trees with dappled sunlight, really, really nice and peaceful. There are many walks in this area, so we choose just a short one which takes us to a lake called ‘Lac Vert’, The Green Lake.

We try and do a full walk around the lake which involves some climbing, something we are not really used to, walking and bikes yes, climbing, not so sure. We try but can’t find a way to get fully around the lake so we about turn and retrace our steps back. It’s a lovely place and very popular with walkers all eating picnics and just enjoying the peace and tranquillity of this lovely location. We carry on walking past the lake to a waterfall before turning back towards ‘base camp’.

We spend a lovely afternoon with Jess, reading, doing laundry and chatting away and before we know what time it is…, it’s dinner time.

An afternoon in the sun, doing? Nothing!

What shall we have tonight? We have many options to choose from. Hmmm. Fondue!!

Lots of cheese in there…

Last view of Mont Blanc as the sun sets.

Wednesday 5th July 2023 – Plaine Joux, Passy to Neydens. 50 miles.

We had a small shower of rain last night, not forecasted, in fact the weather has not been correctly forecasted for the past week! We wake up to a cooler, cloudier day today. Still feeling a bit heavy after the fondue last night, we elect to have a healthier breakfast of coffee and a bowl of porridge. Hayley is still studying tyres. GoodrichTA All Terrain or Michelin Cross Climate Campers. Decisions, decisions. Del does a little bit of homework as the darker clouds are gathering around us. That’s for real, not metaphorically, by the way.

We have been here for two nights, totally self-sufficient apart from the electricity and we still have capacity for another night. Jess could probably do three, or four at a push, days ‘off grid’ as long as there is some sunshine for the solar panel to keep batteries fully charged.

Tricky driving at times

Before taking the steep twisty roads back down, we drop the grey water and set off – less weight to travel is always better. Yep, it’s very twisty, midweek so it’s also busy. In parts, the roads are narrow so negotiating with oncoming traffic has to be carried out. We also come across some nasty roadworks on a tiny junction with cars and vans trying to get past each other with millimetres to spare. Hayley’s at the wheel today who, of course, manages all of it.

We are heading to a campsite that is supposed to be very nice, according to the reviews, it’s by a motorway but we are told that it’s not too bad. Getting there is a mess, driving through industrial estates, slip roads and goodness knows whatever kind of obstacle that could be thrown at us (including roadworks preparing for the Tour de France which is coming through here on the 18th) before we finally arrive at the gate of the campsite. Well not quite. The office is a bit of a walk. Hayley sets off to pay but comes back empty-handed. This place is just not doing it for us so we decide to head off and find somewhere else.

Our next stop is at an aire in a town called Bonneville but after winding through the tiny streets for 10 minutes we decide we don’t much fancy that one either, so it’s on to a very nice campsite near the town of Neydens, just south of Geneva, Switzerland. We only have 10 minutes to wait before the office reopens from lunch. Again the drive to get here felt rather challenging, but we have made it and we are given a very nice pitch for the night. After we get settled in we have a walk around the site and we have quickly come to the conclusion that this is a very nice, very spacious campsite but that it is also meant for families. We all know what that means… KIDS!!!

So far it’s very peaceful here, we shall see. We head back to Jess. Del’s not feeling too great today, says he feels like he has a hangover?! No… To be fair not much has been drunk recently so we will just take it easy today, especially after the excitement of Plaine Joux, Passy and Mont Blanc. Hayley knocks up some cheese and salad sandwiches and Del cheers up, he just needed to eat. We have a nice shady corner for Hayley to do some route planning and to finish off the rose champagne!

Our pitch is very pleasant as is the weather. We just sit in the shade of Jess and read. Del asks a passing member of staff from the campsite if BBQs are allowed, and they are. We dive into action and finally, we can get the one item out that has just been stored in the back of the van, freeloading for the last few outings.

Betsy the freeloader.

Betsy‘ is the three-legged BBQ that we bought for a tenner two years ago. She has appeared a couple of times on short trips on the Isle of Wight but never in Europe, finally, she makes her debut here in Neydens.

The weather is perfect and we set a table up in the early evening sun full of goodies, Betsy is warming up and we have some BBQ chicken and local sausages. Hayley makes some excellent last-minute potato salad and puts together a green salad.

All very, very nice. For dessert, Hayley grabs a banana that is almost past it, splits it open, fills it with peanut butter and some broken-up chocolate squares, wraps it in foil and throws it back on the dying embers of the BBQ for ten minutes. Well, it is just amazing. The presentation needs a bit of work, but it really is quite delicious, so much so another one is made up, this time though a little bit of salt is added which really gives the dish an extra boost.

All in all a really good day. Full of chicken and banana we settle down inside Jess and go to bed. Oh, and we have decided on the Michelin Cross Climate Camper tyre.

Thursday 6th July 2023 – Neydens to Saint Point. 80 miles.

A light shower of rain fell during the night, but not enough to wake us up. We have coffee and breakfast outside before packing up, and prepping Jess, and we are off again. We are on the turn-back route back towards home but with 10 days left to go. We have a choice. One choice is to pay 28 euros to go on the motorway, west through France. It’s an expensive toll because it goes through many mountains and hills so there are many tunnels and many miles of the motorway are built on very high concrete pillars in order to get across valleys. The other choice is to go briefly through Switzerland and pay 40 euros for a ‘vignette’ (a sticker that goes on your windscreen and allows use of the motorways). We go for the second option as the vignette is valid for a year and we are planning to come this way on a long winter trip in 2023/24 so there is a saving made.

Our 40 euro Swiss road pass

After arriving at the France/Swiss border, and with very little help from anybody, we pay for our 40 euro vignette and set off through Switzerland for the 1-hour drive that will pop us back out into France a little way north, then west to go across France and up to the UK. It’s a lovely drive. Everywhere is so clean and tidy, with lovely countryside. We are hugging Lake Lucerne which provides us with a great view of the mountains to the south.

We are heading to a municipal campsite in Saint-Point du Lac, which is located right by a lake. Once we arrive the office is closed but they leave good clear instructions about what to do and where to go.

Once settled in we set off for a short walk and a small glass of cold beer. When the sun is out it is hot, very hot. There is a lot of clouds about today which we prefer as the heat can be quite fierce.

What a feast…!

Dinner tonight is a simple modest affair. Hayley has a tray of big prawns that we had with ‘Alioli’ sauce (garlic mayo) with her ace van salad which consists of green leaves, Serrano ham, peaches, walnuts and blue cheese. It’s the best salad EVER. Once we clear up we play one of our EXIT games until dark and the temperature drops. It’s half ten and freezing by the time we finish. Well, we are over 800m up from sea level. Great day, great night.

Friday 7th July 2023 – Saint Point to Port Lesney. 37 miles.

A bright sunny day today. We have a simple, quick breakfast this morning because tonight we are dining in a Michelin Bib-Gourmand restaurant in the town of Port Lesney which is in the Jura mountains just south east of Dijon. We found the restaurant the last time we went there in August 2020 when the weather was absolutely miserable, foggy, raining, just foul. Not today. Today is a beautiful day, a complete contrast from our last visit.

The restaurant is right across the road from the campsite. Port Lesney is a typical, quiet, charming French village, but has the Bistro du Port Lesney which is a bib-gourmand. The village also has a rather expensive 2-star Michelin restaurant but we don’t have the budget for that. Last time we were here we had a fantastic 3 course dinner at the bistrot with wine at a fantastically reasonable price, which is what you should expect from a Michelin Bib-Gourmand restaurant.

We get packed up and set off for the 35 to 40 mile drive to Port Lesney. We have had a few challenging drives and today is no exception. 15 minutes from our destination we come to a downward 14% hill for 1km! It also has 90 degree bends, oh, and some hills for good measure. We could actually smell the brakes. Even though we were using the engine braking in 2nd gear, brakes still had to be applied for the tight corners. We decided to pull over for 5 minutes just to let them cool off a for a while. We had no brake warning lights, but even so…

We arrive at the Port Lesney Campsite. Hayley pre-booked us in yesterday, a spot right by the river. It’s just beautiful here. We are just a couple of meters from the riverbank, all you can hear is the river running and birds twittering on. Perfect. We sit for a while and just appreciate our surroundings. Finally, after 5 years, Del has got around to putting up a photo of Stargazer, our lovely boat, that we had from 2003 to 2017. We miss her and still speak fondly of her. She was a great thing to have.

Stargazer – Our 34 foot sailboat.

In the afternoon we decide it’s time we had a walk. Bad mistake. It is so hot. 37 degrees inside Jess and probably 35 outside in the shade, but humid with it. We walk to the restaurant we are going to later, and to a river beach that’s located under the bridge going out of Port Lesney. It’s busy.

People are wading in the cool running water of the river but trying to shade under the bridge.

We carry on with our walk of the town, but we have to give up, the heat is too much for us so it’s back to the shade of the van with the view of the river. We spend the afternoon plotting our route, reading and chatting away.

We get a visit from a local duck who is friendly enough to feed out of Hayley’s hand.

Dinner at 7 across the road which turns out to be just ok the end. The service is very iffy, took three attempts and almost 30 minutes to get the bill, the food was good but not as we remember it.

Paris Brest

The dessert, however, a large Paris Brest to share is very good, but Hayley can’t eat all of hers so Del helps out… The evening is accompanied by live music which helps bump up the price of the menu!

Back home at Jess, it’s hot. Very hot. 34 in the van upper 20s outside, at that’s at 10 pm! It’s going to be a difficult night, full of food and drink and hot…

Tomorrow we start to move west into the middle of France. The weather forecast is saying very hot weather for the next few days.

Always something new to see, and to eat!

Week 2. 24th – 30th June 2023 – Poperinge, Belgium to Thones, France. 620 miles

Saturday 24th June 2023 – Poperinge, Belgium to Peronne, France. 91 miles

A cloudy but warm day today. It’s going to be hot, 31 degrees. We had a place in mind but given the heat, Hayley finds a better place that offers the potential of good shade. Today we are going to France and to a campsite called Camping Port de Plaisance in the town of Peronne, located on a canal that has good walking and cycling possibilities.

Breakfast is cleared up, the van has been serviced and we have said goodbye to the goats and we are off.

A very pleasant drive to Peronne, there are already a few campervans and caravans waiting to get in. Hayley sets off to the office and is soon back with a paper in her hand, (peace in our time), meaning that we have a space. It’s filling up at the site, very popular with British and Dutch travellers. We are in the Somme area which is always a popular place to visit. We like it.

We have been given an excellent spot, right in the corner of the site where we are shaded by trees on the door side of the van and the canal at the back. Excellent. We get set up and settled in quite quickly.

Our spot for the day.

It’s hot today so we decide not to go out walking yet but wait until later when, hopefully, it’ll be a bit cooler. We stay with Jess, reading and wittering, a very nice afternoon which consists of a late lunch/early dinner of a wonderful paella and a cold glass of rose wine. It’s 37 degrees in the van, where Hayley has been cooking.

After we clear up we decide to take a good long walk along the canal, the Canal de la Somme. It is still a working canal and every now and then massive barges pass us, from short 40m boats to over 120m, double-length barges!

Our walk takes us to a lock just over a mile from the campsite. We are fascinated watching the barges slowly edge their way into the lock and watch as they rise (or fall) to the next level of the canal to continue their journey.

It’s a lovely temperature now, early evening as we set off back to the campsite. Not a massive walk, but we feel better for the couple of miles that we do.

A family of swans out late afternoon

It’s a warm night. We are in bed by 9:30pm but we have to have our little electric fan on. Whew!

Sunday 25th June 2023 – Peronne. Day 2

Today we are supposed to be heading for the champagne region but we like it here, so much so that we decide to stay another day. Champagne can wait. By 9:15 and after a bowl of porridge and some coffee, we are off on a good long bike ride along the canal.

We cycle to the first lock that we walked to yesterday just in time to see it in action again. We cycle on, and on and on to the next lock. This time there is a bridge going over the lock so we can watch the in greater detail. Simple idea but clever stuff. It’s like watching a 140m bath tub drain and fill up, and fast too. Now we have to cycle back, it’s 10:30 and getting hot, we don’t want to be in the full heat and no shade so we set off.

In total, we have cycled 15 and a half miles, but we feel good when we get back, and just in time too as the early afternoon sun is getting fierce.

We decide to spend some time looking through the paperwork for a place we are buying and find a massive error in it. We spend the next couple of hours trawling through the fine print and yes we do confirm that it is wrong and it looks like the sale could fall through. Despondent and after penning a couple of emails, we decide that there is nothing more that we can do, it being Sunday, and settle into a couple of cold beers and some French junk food.

The campsite has a visiting trailer, a hamburger and fries type of thing, so we order two Americains and settle in for the night. They are wonderful, extremely unhealthy but what the hell. We are fed up after all…

We have a couple of games of Pétanque on the court nearby to try and help our digestion then it’s off to bed.

We feel a little bit unsettled tonight after the afternoon’s developments.

Monday 26th June 2023 – Peronne to Mutigny. 98 miles

A full bottle bank outside the campsite!

We have had a lovely stay here in Peronne, very nice. Today we are off to the Champagne region, a place we have visited before and always enjoyed. Hic!

Where’s Costa?

Before we set off we go for a walk into the town of Peronne. On the way in on Saturday there was some kind of fair or event going on so we had to divert around the town to get to the site. It looked nice so we thought we would take a look. Like all French towns, it is charming. Clean and tidy with lots of independent shops, cafes and bars. Not any of your W.H. Smiths, Costas and Greggs here. Thank god!

We set off nice and early waiting for trouble from the UK as we are waiting for responses to our emails from yesterday. The drive is great but turns to wonderful as we enter the Champagne region. The scenery here is breathtaking.

Moet & Chandon vines

Rolling hills of vineyards as far as the eye can see. It’s just amazing. Our drive is to a free overnight parking spot, high up with a spectacular view. We arrive worried that we might not get a space, we needn’t, of the 8 spaces only one was occupied so we have a good choice of places to choose from. We quickly get parked up and settled in. The view here is something else, it’s just amazing.

We set off for a walk into the small town on the hunt to find some champagne houses to taste and to buy some Champagne from. That’s why we are here. Sadly there are only three houses here and only one that appears to be open. We go in and ask for a tasting of champagne. We are offered a small glass of very tasty champagne. However, it is a little too expensive for our taste per bottle but on top of that, they charge us a staggering 8 euros per tiny glass for the tasting! Lesson learnt. Not all tasting is free of charge, most are, but this one was happy to take our money, we pay and leave, escaping just as the owner tries to upsell us a 30 euros vineyard tour.

Wiser and light on euros, we shuffle back to Jess. No matter, we have a chilled bottle of champagne that we brought with us from the UK, coals to Newcastle.

Hayley doing one of her favourite things!

We have a glass and stand by the vineyards to appreciate the view. Smashing.

Suddenly we get an email from the UK with the correct information regarding our property purchase and with some relief all round we celebrate with another glass of fizz!!

Dinner is a pot of moules and frites (mussels and chips) on board Jess, helped down with the rest of the fizz. Yes, it’s all gone now, just in time for us to play an EXIT escape game and watch the first episode of the new series of Black Mirror.

It’s starting to fill up here now with vans from many parts of Europe. Germany, France, Belgium, Holland and the UK. People are now starting to park in the car spaces.

All in all a good day, apart from the 16 euros. Won’t do that again.

Tuesday 27th June 2023 – Mutigny to Troyes. 85 miles

We are now used to this getting up early thing. 07:30 seems to be the norm these days. Del gets the coffee machine going for the first cup of the day, while that’s going down he makes breakfast just in time for the second cup.

Morning by the vines.

It’s a nice warm morning today with a cool breeze. Nice. After breakfast and the clear away Hayley plots our route to Troyes, while Del potters about putting stuff away and preparing for the off.

We have a quick chat with our British neighbours from the Midlands, do a very quick van service and we are off. Hayley’s at the wheel today for what seems like a forever 2-hour drive. We are trying to avoid the toll motorways as they are very expensive, so we are using the ‘national roads’ which can vary in condition, lots of towns and villages to slow down for, and lots of roundabouts.

We make a quick divert and stop, to a champagne house that we have been to before.

An old fav!

Champagne Champion is a small champagne producer where you can stay overnight with a view of the vineyards, we did it on our first-ever European trip in Jess. We are only collecting today. A case of 6 bottles of their bog standard, excellent champagne and a single bottle of their rose. Nice. How long will it last?

Finally, we arrive at the town of Troyes and to the campsite. Well it’s not really a campsite any more. It was, but it has been converted into an ‘aire’, France are big on these things. Basically it’s just a place to park overnight. Some have facilities and charge a small fee, some are quite fancy. This is the latter, it’s very nice. Big spaces with water, and electricity for an extra fee. With everything included it’s 18 euros. Not bad. There are no showers or toilets, we are ok as Jess has all of that onboard.

Once we settle into our space we set off for a short 8 minute walk to a Bib Gourmand restaurant called “Bistro DuPont“. We plan on eating at a Bib Gourmand restaurants at least once a week while we are out, and this will be our first one on the trip. We book a place, or rather Hayley, with her best French, does then it’s back to the van and on the bikes into the town of Troyes itself, which we are told is a place to see. Indeed it is. Once we navigate our way around the roadworks and the diversions, we arrive in the town and lock the bikes outside the cathedral.

We like to go into cathedrals, they are all much of a muchness but they are quite fascinating. This one is amazing. How they build them and keep them up is impressive.

After half an hour we continue our walk around the town. It’s very nice with its old, wooden, multicoloured buildings all close quartered to each other.

All are very well maintained and occupied as houses or shops. A surveyor’s nightmare. We have a good walk around the town before heading back to the bikes and back to Jess.

We have to move pitch though. Next to us, fenced off, is a collection of allotments, and right next to us is what sounds like a water pump. What a racket, constantly on. Hayley can’t bear it any longer so we up sticks and find another pitch. Ah. Peace at last. We sit in the sun, Hayley researching our next restaurant stops, Del doing a little bit of work. But only a little.

7:30pm and time for dinner. In the spirit of ‘eat like a local’ Hayley is being ambitious with a pig’s feet and salad starter, followed by Coq au vin. Del starts with scrambled eggs with snails followed by an excellent fillet of beef, very rare in a Cognac sauce.

Hayley doesn’t do too well with the pig’s feet and halfway we swap our starters. She is relieved to be eating snails instead of the horror that is pig’s feet. A lot of food is eaten especially after the sponge cake soaked in Grand Marnier, cream and a very tasty orange sorbet. Blimey!

We like to be in bed by 10pm these days so we walk back to Jess, slowly, and make it in time. A long but interesting day. Hayley has a nightmare tonight brought on by the pig’s feet!

Wednesday 28th June 2023 – Troyes to Auberive. 86 miles

A cool but bright morning. We are not in the mood for breakfast this morning, hardly surprising after last night. A good dinner but not quite as we thought it would be. Del decides on one of his 24-hour fasts today, so it’s just coffee and water. Today we are doing a 2-hour drive to a national park. Troyes we like very much, but it’s time to move on.

To avoid the expensive motorways, and they are expensive, we take the national roads, so it takes a little longer and is quite tiring. Today we are going into a national park and to a small village that has, what looks on paper, a fantastic small campsite.

After 2 and a half hours of hard, twisting, hilly slog, we finally arrive at Camping de Mon Village d’ Auberive. It is wonderful. Situated on a slight hill above the town overlooking the forest we settle on a pitch and get settled in.

It’s warm and sunny and a great way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. We are now southeast of Paris, a day or two from the French Alps. We have a lovely spot here, very, very nice.

Jess is due some new tyres, we inspected them before we left but on closer inspection, Hayley has decided that maybe we do need to change them sooner rather than later. So while Del cleans out the van, and sorts out the location and workings of the laundry, Hayley is on the internet looking for a place where we can get them changed.

Don’t talk to us about gender equality and diversity, we are been years ahead of everyone else, and without all the noise. The laundry is on, Hayley sorts out a few work issues, dates moving and so on, Del cleans the inside of Jess, and washes the floors.

Our plan of going for a walk into town we have postponed until tomorrow, it’s too nice here and the late afternoon temperature is very pleasant. We have a steak dinner at the van, outside in the shade and end with a small glass of red wine in the setting sun.

A glass of red after dinner

A great day.

Thursday 29th June 2023 – Auberive to Louhans. 112 miles

A good night’s sleep last night. It’s very quiet and still here. We can hear some roadworks happening somewhere, but it doesn’t matter. We get dressed and take a short walk into the village to find a bakery. It’s about 7:45 and already there is a quaint antique shop open with all their stuff outside. Across the road is the general store that sells almost anything you need including croissants, pain aux raisin and pan au chocolate. We get some of each.

Back at Jess we get the coffee machine fired up and sit outside scoffing our pastries and downing fresh coffee. It’s a beautiful Thursday morning.

By 9:30 we are serviced, packed up and ready to go. Hayley driving today. It’s a good 2 and half hours. Today we are going to the town of Louhans, slight change of plan. The town is in the region of Bresse and here the Bresse chicken is world-famous. Type “world’s best chicken” into Google (other search engines are available) to learn more. In Louhans there is a restaurant that does this chicken very well.

When we arrive the campsite is closed. The French are very strict with their lunch hours, and we miss it by just 10 minutes. No matter, we turn around and find a place to park, lunch is booked at 1:30. It’s getting hot, very hot, 28 or 29 degrees. We park up and try and keep Jess cool by finding the best shade, closing all the curtains and hoping she will be ok.

The town of Louhans is very pretty and we are but a short 8-minute walk to the restaurant. Very well appointed with the entrance garnished with lovely flowers and a warm welcome from the staff. Hayley has been going on about this chicken for ages, we have tried to get some on past trips but never quite made it, finally at last she is pleased that we have stopped and found a restaurant in ‘chicken central‘.

Lunch is superb. We both have oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in a burgundy wine sauce), followed by a Bresse chicken breast and mashed potatoes. Superb. Hayley has a small pichet of rose wine. It doesn’t come like a big roast chicken dinner, you just get a good-sized portion of the chicken and a small bowl of mash, no strong sauces, the taste of this queen of chickens is enough on its own.

That’s all you need! It’s delicious. Dessert is ile flottante – soft meringue floating on a bed of custard. One of the best French desserts in our opinion. We are very satisfied.

An hour and a half later we have a walk through the town back to Jess and make our way back to the now-open campsite where we are given a spot in the shade. It’s still hot, but slightly overcast. We just stay with Jess on the campsite next to the river, reading and sleeping. Another good day. It’ll be a warm night in Jess though.

Friday 30th June 2023 – Louhans to Thones. 112 miles

At 11:00 pm we were woken up by gentle patter, then a torrent, of heavy, heavy rain, fat rain! It was so loud on the roof that we couldn’t sleep. It was forecast but we kind of ignored it. We had left everything outside, chairs table, mats and table covers. Doh! So this morning Del is dispatched out to clean it all up. It’s a miserable morning, it’s not raining heavily now but it’s a constant drizzle. Horrible. On the upside, it has certainly cooled down a bit.

We have a quick coffee and decide to just get going. Del does his best to control mud and leaves from getting stepped through the van. We head to a supermarket for some provisions. Del stays with the van while Hayley does some shopping. While she is away Del gets some order in the van, all the doors and windows are opened, and the floors are swept and washed, again. All the stuff left outside is wiped down and put away. Hayley has a bad time in the supermarket. It is packed and rammed, no idea why but today this supermarket is like a Christmas Eve panic buy. Fortunately, she brings back some croissants which we hoover up!

Once the shopping is loaded up we are off, further southwest towards the town of Thones at the foot of the French Alps.

The drive is foul, the rain terrible, it just rains all the way to Thones.

Lovely view!

Finally we arrive and we get what looks like the last spot on the free parking area. We have a great view of the cloud-shrouded hills to the front and a fast-moving stream to the back. It’s stopped raining but the weather is a bit like Grimsby on a November Tuesday.

Builder’s brew!

It’s cold and windy. We get settled in and Hayley does us a good hot mug of tea which we have with some French “Jaffa Cakes”. Raspberry instead of orange. Very nice.

We stay in for the most part of today, the weather is not great at all.

Despite the poor weather we decide to take a walk into the small town of Thones. We have been here before on one of our first trips with Jess. It’s a beautiful place, the views are stunning and the town is pretty.

We have not been here in the winter but we imagine it to be a charming ‘Christmas card’ look of a town, with tall spire churches surrounded by hills, and twisty streets with old leaning buildings. One thing the French do very well, better than anyone else is cake shops. No Wenzels or Greggs here. They are all independent shops and they produce works of art in the world of cakes and pastries.

The French are good at this

After a good walk around the town we buy two cakes for after dinner tonight and pop into a small supermarket for a few extras before heading back.

Hayley does a fantastic dinner tonight of pan-fried turkey accompanied by with her take on Tartiflette, a speciality in these parts and a side salad, helped along with a crisp cold rose French wine. Delicious.

The dinner was an absolute hit, one of the best yet. We finished it off with our French tarts. (Ooo matron, yessss!)

Del has done the washing up, so we end with a cold Jagermister with our view of the hills.

We have arrived in the French Alps. We hope to be here for a week before turning back and heading home.

It’s been a while!

Home to Poperinge, Belgium 225 miles

Hello. We are off again… Only just.

It has been 8 months since we were last out on Jess, a very long time, and we have missed our European adventures. We have done a couple of local outings on the Isle of Wight but so many things have happened this year that we have not been able to get a decent long trip away. 

We have both been subject to work both being cancelled or moved, another loss in the family and trying to buy a property. All very stressful, some of that stress is sometimes evident, and other times it can be very subtle, that’s the dangerous kind, so we are well overdue for a change of scenery and pace. The UK news is depressing us each time we get up. We need to escape. Where to this time?

We did have a Scandinavian trip planned for 5 to 6 weeks which was reduced to 4 and a bit weeks taking in Eastern Europe, however, that was reduced again to three weeks so we are doing a steady run down to the French Alps for a week then the third week coming back, all very short but at least we are getting away before a very busy couple of months when we return mid-July.

Week 1. 21st – 23rd June 2023 Home to Poperinge, Belgium. 224 miles.

Wednesday 21st June 2023East Cowes (home) to East Cowes, half a mile!

Today is a heavy travel day. Up at 6:30 in the morning in Scotland and using a car, a bus, a plane, two trains, a ferry, a taxi then on foot, we finally arrive home at 3pm. We have already part-prepared Jess the van before we left for Scotland, so it’s a simple matter of collecting Jess from storage and finishing the stock up, then it’s off for the staggering 1-minute drive to the campsite at the back of our house, Waverley Park.

Waverley Park Campsite – Home

We are given a spot with a lovely view of the Solent, which for some unknown reason, is teaming with very expensive old classic yachts, at dusk three of them are anchored. A lovely evening. We dine at the campsite where a better than expected burger is had, helped along with a large glass of red.

Not sure…

It’s such a lovely night that we gather a couple of plastic glasses together and a chilled bottle of white wine, and take the short walk to our local beach where we sit for an hour or so watching the boats and the ferry coming and going before heading back. 

Jess is now fully prepared and we are both beat and can’t wait to get to bed. All set and ready for a good night’s sleep, Del suddenly discovers a leak in the bathroom sink. Water is filling the cupboard under the sink. The waste pipe appears to have come away from the sink drain. Oh, dear. 20 minutes, and half a kitchen roll later, the water is mopped up, cleaned, and a large bowl is placed under the drain. We’ll deal with that in the morning. Time for bed.

Thursday 22nd June 2023East Cowes to Poperinge, 224 miles

This morning we are up and about just after 8 am after a good night’s sleep. The coffee machine is on and it’s porridge for breakfast. We get cleaned up and pack away our fresh water pipe, and grey water pipework and put away the electric cable. Del gets the tool bag out and fixes the leaking sink drain. Let’s hope it lasts for the trip. It should do. At 9:30 am we are pulling out from the campsite. A quick stop at home to pick up a duvet, and drop off a multitude of bottles, potions, shampoo and shower gel that had been rammed into the cupboard under the bathroom sink. It was these extra bottles of stuff that had probably pushed the pipe free. There were more bottles of toiletries than Boots the chemist.

At 10:00 am we are off again and heading to Fishbourne for the ferry to Portsmouth. We arrive early just in time to see the previous ferry leave.

Fishbourne to Portsmouth

We kind of hoped that we would have made that early one, but it was not to be. We board our 11:00 am ferry, which leaves on time, arriving in Portsmouth on time (that’s a first!) and we are soon away, up the A3, the M25 and the M20 into Dover.

We arrive at the Port of Dover with an hour to spare, just in time for check-in. The port is empty. We did a trip in Covid times that was very quiet but this is even quieter.

We are loaded onto the “Dover Seaways” DFDS ferry for Dunkirk.

On board, it’s so peaceful and quiet. Hardly any kids, but of course there will always be one or two running around the boat like it’s a playground. Oh well.

We have a chicken dinner and have a seat on the starboard side of the ship. The sun is out, the sea flat and calm. A lovely trip. One of the best so far by our reckoning.

Our first stop will be our usual stop, a farm in Belgium. We do like it there, it’s peaceful out deep in the Westvleteren area of Belgium, (southwest-ish, kind of) but before we get there we need to do a spot of shopping. 

Welcome to France!

Hayley dives into a local French supermarket before they close and grabs some provisions to see us through for the next few days. What we don’t have is cash. We’ve never left the UK without some cash but for some reason, this time we didn’t bring any, so we are now on the hunt for a cash machine. Unlike home, cash machines here in this part of France and Belgium are rare. A nice chap in a local bar in the Belgian town of Watou tells us that there is one just a few km down the road. He’s right, soon Del is in front of a shiny, well-kept ATM and grabbing 100 euros cash.

It’s a short 8-minute drive to the farm along narrow windy roads, soon we are in a pitch and in the bar at the farm ordering two Belgian beers.

It’s nice here and we drink our beers in the company of three goats that were here the last time.

Del cleans the inside of the van after the long trip from the home. The floors are washed, the walls wiped down and the cockpit dusted and the carpet brushed. We will now settle in for a two-night stay at the Stal ‘t Bardhof Farm in Proven in the area of Westvleteren.

Tonight’s dinner is a wonderful Hayley paella…

Friday 23rd June 2023Poperinge day 2

We wake up to a very pleasant morning. Del pops off to the farmhouse to pick up a loaf of local bread that we ordered the night before a lovely multi-seeded loaf. Lovely.

Today is bike riding day around the very nice flat countryside of Westvleteren

A very quiet day and night. Tomorrow, Peronne in France

Well, that’s that… For now anyway…

Montreuil to Home 221 miles

Saturday 15th October 2022 Montreuil sur Mer to Wimereux 28 miles

It was a lovely stay in Montreuil sur Mer, very peaceful and quiet and the town was very pleasant. Today we are not planning on going far, in fact, for the rest of this week, our journeys will be short. We are up in this area earlier than we expected and with the French fuel crisis on we will be making short hops now until we get into Belgium and then home.

It’s a miserable morning this morning. It’s raining. It’s that rain that sounds like it’s on forever, a constant drizzle. There is a service point here so we dump our grey water and move on. Today we are going to the seaside town of Wimereux which is south of Calais by about 30 odd kilometers, so not far to go. As we make our way the wind builds up, very much so. By the time we arrive at the municipal campsite in Wimereux the wind is blowing very hard. On the upside, the rain has eased off so we take the opportunity to walk into the town.

The tide is out and it’s very windy, it doesn’t stop the surfer, kite borders, and windsurfers though, they are out in force. It’s a nice little town, very clean and tidy and we can imagine that it’s popular with the locals in the summer. The visibility is excellent and we can make out the white cliffs of Dover 20 odd miles off in the distance.

We walk around the town and finally fall into a little place for lunch. It’s the restaurant of a small boutique hotel and is quite charming, warm, and cozy. We try some local stuff. Hayley goes for fish and chips which is very popular here. Contrary to popular belief, fish and chips came from Portugal, this part of France loves it so Hayley gives it a go. Del tries a “Welsh”, bread soaked in beer with cheese and ham sprinkled over it then roasted to a very high temperature with an egg dolloped on the top. French Welsh Rarebit. A very tasty lunch which is finished with two scoops of ice cream floating in champagne. Excellent.

Back at the van, the wind has really picked up. We are getting rocked about, and soon after we are hit with sharp, heavy rain falls, very ugly and separated with glorious sunshine, so much so we get a double rainbow… Nice

Sunday 16th October 2022 Wimereux to St Omer 34 miles

We are into our last week now, and home on Friday. Today we are doing another short drive east inland to St Omer. On the way there we will stop at a museum, this one is called the Blockhouse d’Eperlecques. Well, this is something else. In the early 40s, while it was all still kicking off, Hitler was encouraging his scientists to build a rocket system that could be aimed at the UK. So they came up with a launch system capable of launching 36 V2 rockets a day. They would all be prepared and launched from the Blockhouse d’Eperlecques in France. Fortunately, it never fired a single rocket, as the allies got wind of its construction and heavily bombed it. When you enter the museum most of it is forest and woodland which is lined with old trucks and weapons. Once you turn around a corner and into a clearing you are presented with one of the biggest concrete structures ever, this thing is just enormous, your mouth just drops open at the size of this sinister construction, a construction that was built to launch deadly rockets at the UK. The whole project is like something out of a James Bond movie.

We spend nearly 2 hours at the place, very interesting and quite spectacular and impressive. The lengths the Germans went to are just unbelievable. If you are ever in this area of France, visiting or passing through, then go here, you won’t regret it. Have a look at the website to get the full flavor of what this place is all about.

Soon we are on our way to St. Omer. The weather is quite pleasant, a change from yesterday. We are going to a free ‘aire’ for the night. A very nice drive, but we have to turn back soon after leaving the museum. There is no mention on the road that there is a tunnel, and that it’s only 2m high. The only sign we see is NO BUSES. A quick bit of jiggling and reversing and multipoint turns and we are finally off in the right direction.

We arrive at St. Omer. A nice place and a nice overnight stop. There are a few vans here so we won’t be alone. Parked up and secure, we walk into town which is quite vibrant, even on a Sunday. Again we fall into a nice little place for lunch, a heavy lunch. This falling into places for lunch has become a habit this past week or two. Not complaining.

A slow walk back to the van with two cakes bought from the local cake shop. They know how to do cake shops in France.


It’s getting cooler and just as we get settled in, the rain starts. Well, that was excellent timing. It’s the kind of rain though that sounds like it’s on for the night. Oh well, we’ve had a good day at a worthwhile museum, a walkabout, and a good lunch. Vive la France!

Monday 17th October 2022 St Omer, France to Poperinge, Belgium 30 miles

Our pitch in St. Omer last night was free, the pay-point at the entrance didn’t work so we saved a staggering 5 euros, not that we didn’t want to pay, far from it. The downside to the place was that it was located was right next to the railway line, being a Sunday yesterday it wasn’t too busy except that during the night, at least twice there were some very long and very noisy freight trains that came through and really did shake the earth. You could feel the van vibrate as the trains went over each join in the track.

No matter, it wasn’t too bad, but again we have woken up to a bit of a soggy morning. Today we are going back to Belgium to an old favorite of ours, a working farm that accommodates motorhomes and caravans called Stal t’ Bardhof. Located in Westvleteren, Belgium, it’s a nice place to stay, a bit rustic in parts but it is a working farm, the welcome is friendly and there is everything we need there, oh and they have a fabulous collection of Belgian beers.

Jess is filthy, however, but really filthy. She looks like she has been in the Paris-Dakar races, mud all up the side of her, the worst she has been.

We find a fuel station, which is busy and only has diesel, so we are lucky and at the same place is an excellent car/van wash. I think it’s been mentioned before, but the French do know how to do a good car wash. After 20 minutes she looks new again Sparkling.

We set off for the farm but once we cross Belgium the roads are wet and muddy, there has been some heavy rain here and there is still a lot of local flooding. After about 20 to 30 minutes we arrive at the farm and are welcomed by our host Inge, who recognises Del. (Well she’s only human…). Jess is again filthy and muddier than she was before her wash. We pitch up next to a fenced-off pond that has a small area next to it with about 5 pygmy goats.

They are cute and come to see us. They are very tame and we spend some time with them before having lunch at the farm which is tremendous. We have some good strong Belgian beer with local homemade ‘Stoovelees’ which is basically a Belgian beef stew. It’s wonderful, served with fries and a salad. The plates are left clean.

A fine Belgian lunch…

The rest of the afternoon we spend on Jess, it’s a bit cold and damp but eventually, we get some coats on and go for a walk. The walks around here a great, especially after a big lunch!

Back at Jess, we find that one of the goats has died, which was quite upsetting as we were only just fussing them all on our arrival. No idea why, the poor thing was found lying on its side and was unceremoniously scooped up and put in a wheelbarrow. A sobering afternoon.

No dinner tonight. Tomorrow we may go back to France.

Tuesday 18th October 2022 Poperinge, Belgium to Bray Dunes, France 21 miles

First taste of autumn

We are all over the place this week. In and out of France and Belgium. Today we are going back to France to a small town called Bray Dunes. It’s right on the coast so we can get some sea air and a good walk in. It’s only a short drive so as usual, we have a long breakfast with bread brought in by the farm. It’s a lovely autumn morning, cool and foggy with the sun trying to break through.

We like it here, it’s probably our 5th visit. This time however there was a dog problem. Barking dogs, late at night and again first thing in the morning. We don’t understand this dog thing, leaving them outside overnight in all weathers, letting them bark, and doing nothing about it. Odd. It’s hardly a guard dog if no one finds out why it’s barking!

We say goodbye to Inge our lovely farm host, after telling her about the dogs, for which she apologises. The fog has lifted a little, the sun is bright and the blue sky is appearing. It’s a lovely day.

We arrive at Bray Dunes, in France, on the coast, get settled, and take a nice walk in the sun to the beach.

It’s very nice here, the beach is very long, goes on for miles. People are out in the sun walking and walking their dogs (hopefully to wear them out so they don’t bark tonight). We are in search of a lunch and it’s not too long before we find one. Del has a vat of mussels and fries, and Hayley a Steak.

The dessert was a wonderful collection of small desserts and a coffee, known in these parts as a ‘Cafe Gourmand’.

Cafe Gourmand. Lovely.

After such a handsome lunch we take to the beach for a longish stroll. The tide is out and it just looks so vast.

It’s Hayley’s birthday tomorrow, so we are going to De Panne which is back in Belgium. De Panne is also on the coast, we visited there on our last trip 6 months ago. The reason we are going there again is that there is a fun fair there called “Plopsaland” which has one of the world’s best rides there called “The Ride to Happiness”. Del of course will be holding the bag. Again… To celebrate her birthday tomorrow a bottle of Champagne is opened and we have a glass or two in the afternoon sun next to Jess.

Again no dinner tonight, full of steak and mussels, and now champagne. Well, what else is there to do on a Tuesday?

Wednesday 19th October 2022 Bray Dunes to Ypres miles (via De Panne)


Today is Hayley’s birthday and today we are going to…? An amusement park. Yes, Hayley’s love of theme parks and fast rollercoasters has not diminished since rediscovering them back in America 3 years ago. So today we are going to Plopsaland De Panne Belgium. It’s quite a popular place but it’s famous for having one of the world’s most exciting and highly rated rides called The Ride to Happiness, which is an extreme spinning coaster. We are up earlier than normal as she wants to be first in the line. It’s a short 15-minute drive, we get parked up and you can’t see her for dust! Del is doing his usual thing of carrying the bag, which he does very well.

The weather is good today, it’s been raining for the past few days so it’s good that today we have some sunshine for Hayley’s day. Very happy about that. We are in the park by 10 am.

One of the main rides is down today but the important one is working. Hayley gets 8 rides on it, with some rests in between – well she is getting on a bit now, though not the oldest in the queue as a guy in his late 60s, who sits next to her, has ridden it 875 times.

At 4:00 pm Hayley has decided that she has had enough having done about 12 rides on everything in total, so we head for Jess and set off for the lovely town of Ypres. We have stayed here before on our last trip and would recommend it highly. The campsite is charming with a warm welcome and we get a nice pitch for our short stay here. Tonight is a birthday dinner in the town of Ypres itself. We know a lovely restaurant there tucked away in the corner of the town square which is a short walk from the campsite.

Del buys Hayley a small box of assorted Belgian chocolates and then it’s off to eat. Eat we do, it is a smashing dinner. Pork on the bone with Bearnaise sauce, Del has an excellent rare steak.

Dinner, right there in the corner.

Excellent food and drink and a lovely evening which ended with the daily gathering under the Menin Gate and the playing of the Last Post for the fallen of WW1.

The Menin Gate.

A great day and lovely evening for Hayley’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Hayley…

Thursday 20th October 2022 Ypres Bray-Dunes 27 miles

We loved our night in Ypres. It’s a new discovery for us this year, recommended to us by a campsite owner in De Panne on our last trip. It’s a lovely place and we really do like being there. Time to move on though as we have work to do. First, we need to stock up with a good hearty collection of Belgian beers, then we need to cross back into France and stock up with an equally hearty collection of French wines as we are going home tomorrow.

We are heading for the town of Poperinge which is not too far from Ypres but we do have to brave some of the atrocious Belgian roads. In the main they are ok, but there are some that are real boneshakers. Rough. Very rough. We arrive at the supermarket where we know they have a separate section of popular beers. After 20 minutes or so we leave with quite a generous booty of beers, they are all beers that we have tried and enjoyed and now we are well stocked up, for a fortnight at least!

We now want to cross the border again back into France, this time to get some wine. Instead of a supermarket, Hayley has found a wine superstore that’s very popular with European truck drivers, indeed when we arrive the car park is full of trucks. Inside the store, it is an Aladdin’s cave of French and New World wines. It’s a good shop, we even find glasses for our favorite Belgian beers. Beers in Belgium all have their own glasses, there is a good reason. The shape and size of the glass help in the taste of the beer. A bit like the different glasses for wines etc. The mixture of the liquid and the amount of air makes all the difference, so we are told anyway.

We buy 24 bottles of red wine and a small selection of glasses for our beer collection. All stocked up and weighed down, we need to find, again, another car wash. Jess is filthy. The part of Belgium that we have been in recently is very agricultural which means the tractors and other farm machinery are dragging mud everywhere and there has been some heavy rain so on some occasions there has been a soup of mud to drive through. We find a car wash and Jess gets a good clean down for going home, her second in two weeks! Costing a fortune to keep this thing clean! It’s a good car wash, like all French car washes. There is a machine where you can spray the inside of your car with perfume, 4 to choose from. We decline that one.

Air freshening for your car

Stocked up with beer and wine it’s time to find our penultimate night’s stay. First, we think we will stay in Dunkirk, so we head there. We decide that we are not really mad about Dunkirk, it’s a town, a busy town, an industrial town, from what we see, so we decide to move on. We would like a stop that is no more than 45 to 60 minutes drive to Calais, our ferry is at 09:05, and we don’t want to be up super early and have a long drive, so we decide to go back to Bray-Dunes, the place we stayed at just 2 days ago. It’s a nice town, the stop is new and clean, we know it and it’s only 45 minutes to Calais.

After a short drive, we arrive at the town of Bray-Dunes, with a van full of drinks but she’s also nice and clean. Once we get settled we do a little bit of de-preparation, not much but it just helps to make life easy when we get back home. Hayley looks for a place for dinner tonight so at 6 pm we are off for a walk. It’s a lovely late afternoon, not too cold, sunny, finally and it’s just nice.

The restaurant we are aiming for is closed, in fact, every restaurant is closed, a Thursday night in Bray-Dunes, and nowhere is open for eating… except one We finally stumble on the only one that is open. Looks OK, and the reviews are good so we go inside. We left having had a splendid dinner. Hayley had mussels and fries, a local and popular dish in this area, Del has a Flanders Stew. Both are delicious. A great dinner for our last night. Good food in a nice place. Back at the van, we have an early night. Up early tomorrow, 06:15 am…!

Friday 21st October 2022 Bray Dunes to home 215 miles

Our last morning, for this trip anyway, on Jess. Brutally woken up by our phone alarm clocks at 6:15 am, it’s still dark! We get up and have a coffee, clean up the last bits and pieces and set off. Once on the motorway, a free one this time, it’s getting busy already, very busy, mainly with trucks. France is alive with trucks.

It’s an uneventful 45-minute drive to the port of Calais. After a quick and easy check-in, a ticket, and two passport checks from the French and then the English, we are in the line for our boarding.

A 12 quid ‘quality’ breakfast…

It’s not very busy this morning on this crossing, very quiet which is nice.

We are quite hungry this morning so we make haste for the restaurant for a traditional English breakfast at the staggering sum of 12 pounds each!!!! Staggering. Del thought it was very uninspiring. It’s a pleasant morning, a nice flat sea, with light clouds. Not bad.

We have never seen a cross-channel ferry so empty, it’s great to be on, almost like we have the whole ship to ourselves. Our ferry ends with a few purchases from the duty-free before disembarkation.

20 minutes outside Dover and we hit a ten-minute traffic jam. Surely we are doing things wrong in the UK, 5 weeks in Europe over 4 countries, and not a single traffic jam, heavy traffic yes, but they keep it moving and keep the road works short. Here, back home, they close miles and miles of motorway, slap a 50mph speed limit, and leave it like that with nothing happening. It’s depressing.

We drive in and out of heavy showers and arrive at Portsmouth very early for our ferry, 2 and a half hours early. Sadly we can’t get on but they do get us on an earlier ferry than we are supposed to be on so we are quite pleased about that.

Crossing The Solent for home

Finally, we pull up to our house to start the unloading. As usual, it is big, with wine, beer, clothes, and all the other bits we have taken with us.

Once again another excellent outing with Jess which took us to northern Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium. We loved all of it. We will certainly be going back to northern Spain and Portugal, despite its cobbled roads. France and Belgium are always interesting. This time we saw a lot of stuff from WW2, interesting stuff though which made us think and talk about the whole thing, and the state of the current world like the UK and Europe “cost of living crisis” with strikes and demonstrations. Everything was more expensive than our last trip to Europe, everyone is affected by whatever is going on around the world. We are not alone. Despite all of that though we still had a great time. Europe is a wonderful place to tour, a place we will go to time and time again and will always find something new and interesting.

We are not sure what our next tip will be. We have been talking about Scandinavia. We did have a good long trip planned there a couple of years ago but Covid put those plans on the back boiler.

Again we would like to thank all our friends and family for following us. We do this just for fun and to share what we are up to and we love hearing from you. So until the next one, we would like to wish you all good health and happiness and encourage you “to get out there…”

Best wishes and much love Del, H & Jess.

Let battle commence…

Ile de Re to Montreuil 640 miles

Saturday 8th October 2022 Ile de Re to Savenay 125 miles

The mornings are starting to have a bit of a chill about them now. Saying that it’s still bright, the sun’s out and we have a clear blue sky. We enjoyed it here on the Ile de Re, it’s a very nice, if expensive, place but we will be back someday.

Today we are continuing our journey north to a free place on the river Loire where there is an old lock and a small museum of old steam engines. As usual, we set off late and we find ourselves on another French motorway with a toll.

After paying a 12 euro toll we arrive at our destination. France is a big country and when you look at a map it’s surprising how very little progress we have made. Two and something hours later we arrive at a lake with some campers already here, but we decide that it’s not really for us so we set off to a campsite in Savenay. Or do we? Hmm not sure. We leave and come back again. Then leave. No, it’s not for us. We have been driving for over three hours so we have had enough.

Hayley introduces herself at the campsite where a very friendly lady tells her where we can pitch up and make ourselves comfortable.

It’s a lovely day, it’s still a bit warm in the late afternoon sun, so we take advantage of it and get the chairs out and sit in the sun with a glass of very nice red wine.

Dinner tonight will be all French. Steak with dauphinoise potatoes, pepper sauce, and a salad, helped along with the remainder of a lovely Bordeaux.

It really doesn’t get much better than this. Hayley then reads a couple of stories from a French magazine called Nous Deux. It has photo-strip stories that are a good way to improve her French as she reads Del the stories in English. They are always a bit spicy or scandalous, good fun which makes us laugh either because of the ropey translation or the storyline. It doesn’t matter which, it’s better than TV.

The campsite is very quiet and peaceful, perfect for a good night’s sleep. We hope.

Tomorrow we may stay another night or, better still, make our way up to the coast of Brittany.

Sunday 9th October 2022 Saveney to Sables d’or les Pins 130 miles

We woke up a bit tired today. We were pestered by mosquitoes all of last night and we both got bitten. It was a restless night.

It’s another chilly morning this morning. We have a longish drive today, we are going to the Baie du Mont St Michel. A couple of hundred miles away from the bay, as the crow flies are the Channel Islands. For the first time on this trip, we have breakfast and are packed and gone by 10 am. We want to be at our next destination early so that we can take advantage of the day and do some cycling.

No motorways today for a change. Instead, it’s a collection of different roads from excellent duel carriageways to dodgy narrow, pot-holed roads. We finally arrive in Les pins at a very nice campsite just out of town which is cheap, has everything we need, and has good cycling. Once we get settled in the bikes are off the back, helmets on and we are away. The weather has warmed up some and it’s a lovely day.

We manage a mere 5 miles, which is not bad really considering that we haven’t been able to do much because of Del’s dodgy foot. It’s miles better now, but there is still a little pain and it’s still swollen, so something is going on there.

Once we get back to Jess, we are pleased and feel quite invigorated after our cycle. It’s a beautiful day so we spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in the sun, Hayley does some reading while Del…..cleans!

Enough of this bike stuff!

Today we get some laundry done and a bit of van cleaning and Hayley does the toilet!

Hayley’s toilet day!

A smashing dinner tonight of homemade Quesadillas, filled with tuna, cheese, and red peppers with a salad.

Movie night tonight. The first on this trip. Tonight’s film was called “Nothing to Hide” A french film about a bunch of friends at dinner who throw their mobile phones into the center of the table and they have to listen to the messages and calls that come in. The consequences of which are devastating. An excellent highly recommended film on Netflix…

Monday 10th October 2022 Sables d’or les Pins to Roz Sur Couesnon 48 Miles

Well, the weather has finally broken today. It’s very grey and rain is forecast, heavy rain. We shall see. We are going to a nice campsite today that has a very good restaurant doing local food and drink, so we will give it a go. Mixed road conditions today, some very good, some, well, not so great. A good journey all the same despite the sudden bursts of rain.

We arrive at the site which is quite charming, and well laid out with all the facilities needed for a comfortable stay. We try the restaurant out with a crepe, very popular here in the Brittany area, and this one is very tasty, flambeed at the table with Grand Marnier. We also have a small bottle of local beer which is excellent.

Not much happening today. The rain is off and on so we stay in Jess. Del does some work for a job in April!! Hayley does some research and loose planning for our final week.

Dinner is booked for 7:00 pm and it is soon upon us, so it’s a quick shower, fresh clothes, and a small aperitif of Ricard before doing the 30-second walk to the restaurant. It’s very nice, we get the same table that we had for our afternoon crepe.

So, Hayley has sardine rillettes, served in a quirky sardine tin with some thin bread, followed by the local burger where instead of a burger bun it comes served in a crepe. There is a pattern here! Desert was the local Far Breton, which is an egg and custard cake with fruit in the bottom. Fabulous.

Del has 6 oysters with a delicious onion and vinegar sauce, followed by a very rare steak with a small local cheese board which is delicious.

A fine dinner in a fine restaurant, a little on the expensive side, but we ate and drank well.

Tuesday 11th October 2022 Roz Sur Couesnon to Mont St Michel 6 miles

Today we are going to the famous tidal island of Mont St Michel. This is the one that looks like a Disney castle plonked in the middle of the sea. Built-in the 10th century it is one of France’s most visited places, so we are looking forward to that.

We get fresh pastries delivered to the van today that arrive in the largest bag!

A bag of pastries

Guess they ran out of normal bags? The weather is better today with clear blue skies and sunshine. It is certainly getting colder, 14 degrees today mid-morning which is the coldest morning yet. After our typical French breakfast, which, as usual, is leisurely, we set off for Mont St. Michel via a supermarket for a bit of a stock-up.

The drive is lovely, twisting through the French countryside surrounded by green fields. In the distance, we spot an old windmill, really old and it’s working.

We turn off and take the narrowest of roads to it to arrive just in time for them to switch it off and lock up for lunch. Brilliant.

Back on the road again and soon we see Mont St. Michel. It is the strangest thing. It does look like a rather large model. We are heading for a camping aire which is 12 euros for 24 hours. There are acres and acres of parking space, half of which is now closed as it’s the end of the season. Motorhomes have their own car park. We choose a space among the other vans, lock up and take the free bus to the place we have come to see.

On the short bus journey, you can get a better view of the abbey which is quite spectacular.

The tide is out but when we say out we mean out! The tide here goes out for what looks like miles and being a spring tide it’s even further out. The tide has a rise and fall of over 12 meters today and apparently comes in so fast you would not be able to outwalk it, so it’s very dangerous.

A bit windy!

Inside the walls of Mont St. Michel it’s busy and this is October, the car parks are almost empty so heaven knows how crowded this place gets in the peak of the summer.

We have a walk around and decide that it is better to see it from the outside rather than the inside.

We elect not to go into the abbey itself as it’s so busy and they want 11 euros each to go inside. Amen!

We find a place that does a set lunch menu, it’s very local and very tasty. Del tries the famous Mont St. Michel omelette which is the lightest omelette ever as the eggs are whisked into a fine mousse and then filled with crème fraiche. Very different, very nice.

We walk back to the van, which is quite a walk, but after the lunch, we have just had we need it. Back at Jess we sit in the afternoon soon and have a nap. Not done that in a while.

We want to see the tide coming in at the island so this time we use the bikes, it’s a lovely evening and we arrive just in time to see a sunset. Very nice.

It looks and feels very autumnal. We are watching for the change in the water as the tide is now coming in and sure enough, we can see what is called tidal bore a tide that is so fast that it creates a wave that people with kayaks and stand-up paddle boarders come to ride, and we are lucky to witness half a dozen people doing it. The tide is fast, it’s racing in as we watch the miles of sand quickly disappearing. It is considered one of nature’s wonderful phenomenons and we saw it. We would like to have stayed longer but it’s getting dark and cold just as quickly.

We cycle back and have a late dinner and an early night. A great day.

Wednesday 12th October 2022 Mont St Michel to Utah beach 89 Miles

It was a good night’s sleep last night. We’ve not slept very well for the past three nights so it was good to wake up feeling better. Today we are setting off for the Normandy coast, Utah Beach to be precise, one of the beaches that were part of the Normandy landings in 1944, a turning point in the war.

After breakfast we set off, we need diesel. Hayley has found out that there is a strike in France for oil refinery workers. It has been going on for a while now with no end in sight.

No fuel today!

There are no queues as such at the petrol stations, yet, but what we did find today is that diesel is now 2 euros and 5 cents, which is more expensive than in the UK, in fact by the time you factor in the exchange rate, etc. it’s a couple of pence short of 2 quid a litre. Mad. We have no choice. We fill up and hope that we can get enough diesel to get us over the Belgian border next week as the strike here in France is slowly starting to bite with the government starting to prioritise emergency services.

The drive is excellent, it’s a lovely day. More bad news though. Today could be the last day of good weather. It’s set to rain tomorrow for 10 days. We shall see. We arrive at a Pass etapes site. A cheap and cheerful site where you can get fresh water, empty your tanks and hook up to electricity for under 12 euros, and it’s close to Utah Beach. We waste no time and lock up Jess and do the 1km walk to the Utah Beach Museum.

We have been to this area before on a trip a few years ago and visited Omaha Beach. There are 5 beaches that were involved in the D-Day landings, SWORD, OMAHA, GOLD, JUNO, and UTAH.

Utah Beach is where the American troops landed and it has an excellent museum, for 8 euros you get into what we think, is one of the best museums on the subject. We spend a good two hours there. Lots to see and read and a cinema. Being out of season it isn’t crowded so it’s great to be there.

At just after 4 pm we decide to get back to Jess, so we go back via the beach itself. It is so hard to imagine what went on here on June 6th, 1944. Today the beaches are beautiful, long, and clean. The sea is calm and the sun is bright. Back then it was just a day of death and destruction, with so many young men losing their lives. It really is a time to reflect and remember what went on here. Today the beach is used by everyone, from people riding horses, walking dogs, or just enjoying a day out.

Back at the van, we sit outside with a nice cold beer. We can feel a change in the air. We can see the clouds slowly rolling in from the sea and the wind it picking up and getting stronger. Time to go inside. Maybe this rainy weather is going to be with us tonight.

Tomorrow we are going to a place we have been to before and really enjoyed, the town of Bayeux. We all know what that’s famous for now don’t we…?

Thursday 13th October 2022 Utah beach to Bayeux 36 miles

Well, it has finally happened. Heavy rain was forecast to arrive at 5 am and sure enough at 5:30 am we are woken by the rain hammering on the roof of the van. It’s loud. It eases for a while allowing us to get an extra couple of hours of sleep.

Once we get up and get the coffee on, we open the curtains to find a dark grey sky and light rain. Yuk! We have been lucky with the weather though, since we left we have had excellent weather so even though it’s miserable we don’t mind too much. We have breakfast, clean up and do a full van service before setting off to the city of Bayeux.

After a very nice short ride and we arrive at a fantastic campsite, with beautifully manicured grounds, and friendly staff who give us a space. Brilliant facilities here. Lovely.

We don’t hang about, so we lock up the van and take the short walk into Bayeux. A very pleasant and picturesque walk along the river brings us straight into the middle of town which is charming. The streets have a wonderful selection of shops and restaurants, great for just browsing.

We have been here before but we missed this part of the town so it’s great to come back here and discover more of this fantastic place. We make our way to the cathedral of Notre Dame which is just stunning, with lots of bright stained glass windows.

Most of the cathedral has undergone renovation over the past couple of years and it looks great.

Del with an excellent steak tartar

We are now on the search for lunch, we finally settle on a place in a hotel called Le Garde Manger. A charming little restaurant where we get settled into a fine lunch. We only have two courses today. Hayley has a Chicken Supreme in a Norman sauce and dauphinoise potatoes. It’s just amazing. A fantastic rich sauce. Del goes for the Steak Tartar (raw) with fries and salad.

We both have the same dessert which is an Ile Flottante, which is a very fine whisked, light meringue that floats on a light base of cold custard, absolutely amazing. Really… This is all helped along with a carafe of Merlot.

The best dessert ever!

The bill comes and we are surprised at how reasonable it is for such a fine, generous lunch in the middle of Bayeux. It would cost you more in a Harvester!

Full of the best lunch out we have had in a while, and we have had many, we make our way to see the Bayeux Tapestry. With no queue, we walk straight in to look at the tapestry. We have seen it before, a couple of years ago, but you can’t come here without seeing it. It was better than we remembered, brilliant. The audio guide is fantastic and looking at this 900-year-old bit of sewing is just amazing. Hayley points out that today is the eve of the battle of Hastings 956 years ago! Wow!

We take a gentle walk back to Jess and settle in for the evening, no dinner. What a great day today. Really enjoyed it.

Staying on the war theme, tomorrow we are going to The D-Day Experience. Should be good.

Friday 14th October 2022 Bayeux to Montrueil 194 miles

It’s a miserable damp day today. It has rained gently all night. Everything is wet and muddy. No matter, Del trots off to the reception to collect some breakfast pastries which go down well with the coffee. A week today we will be in the UK and heading home. Also today, 956 years ago, the battle of Hastings took place.

We finish breakfast, clean up and do a full van service. It’s really wet, grey, and miserable but when you are filling your van up with fresh water in Bayeux who cares about the weather?

Someone has to do it

Today we have half a tank of diesel and we have a long way to go so we best do a fill-up. Hayley has been keeping an eye on the French news. There has been an oil refinery workers strike here for weeks now with no end in sight. 6 out of 7 refineries are closed so fuel is starting to get short. We were aware of it but today we will get a taste of it and what’s to come!

We head for a petrol station but they have just closed. No fuel. Oh. We consult the map and head for another one. Closed. We pass 4 stations all closed or out of diesel. Oh, dear… After much discussion we decide that it might be best to forget hanging around in France too long and try and get as far north as we can, the north is where the problem is worse, great. We also figure that we might stand a better chance getting fuel on the toll roads as people are less likely to pay tolls to get fuel, so we change or plan within an hour and we are now heading for a motorway north in the hope we can get fuel if we can’t then we could end up stranded in France. We could think of worse places, but we do need to get home.

Eating on the go!

Sure enough, as our fuel gauge passes below halfway, we pull into a motorway service station that has fuel. Whew! We fill up, so much that we do end up slightly overfilling. Oops! No matter, we are full of diesel as we set off again. We get a good hour or two under our belts and soon the fuel gauge is reading just above half again. We get off the motorway and try and fill up again, no chance. No diesel, so it’s back on the motorway and we find a petrol station selling diesel only, but, at an eye-popping 2 euros and 33 cents or £2.03p a litre!!! The most that we have ever paid for fuel ever!!! It’s mad. We need the fuel so we have no option but to pay.

Hayley has worked out that we now have enough fuel to go up to Belgium near the border as planned and then enough to get us on the ferry and into the UK next Friday. We have effectively cut out a few days further south because of the fuel shortages here and the need to get the miles under our belts and then fill up before there’s no fuel left at all. It’s bad and getting worse. We are on course now for a small town called Montreuil, to a free overnight stop. Good. We have spent 30 euros on tolls and a staggering 97 euros on diesel! Tired and a bit fed up we arrive at the free stop and find that there are two places left, we bag one just in time. Parked up we have an ice-cold Ricard, we feel we need it.

Once rested and settle in, we decide to take a walk into the town.

It’s well worth it. It’s a lovely place, a charming typical French town, full of lovely shops and restaurants. Beautiful. We look for somewhere for dinner but decide to go back to Jess and have dinner and an early night there instead. On the way home, we find a fromagerie or cheese shop.

Our 2 of over 2000 French cheeses.

It’s an Aladdin’s cave of cheese served by three lovely smiley ladies. What a place. A friendly local talks about cheese and how there are over 2000 different cheeses in France. We buy 2…

Back at the van, it’s a smashing simple dinner with our tasty, smelly cheese and wine. Brilliant. Early night, bed by 9:30…

Adios Espana, Vive la France…

Valladolid, Spain to Ile de Re, France 595 miles

Saturday 1st October 2022 Valladolid to La Poblacion 119 miles

We had a lovely day yesterday in Valladolid however the night was a bit noisy, a few noisy drunks had gathered nearby and just made a right old racket until dawn! No matter, it was a good stay and we think that last night was just a one-off. We do a quick van service and set off towards the north of the country.

The drive is wonderful, this part of Spain is almost flat, dry and arid with lots of ‘flattened mountains” in the distance, quite spectacular. We stop en route at a service station.

At this point, we have to say that the main European service stations are just the best. They are in the main, clean, not too busy, with a great selection of food on offer, all made on the premises. Compare that to a UK service station that’s dirty, over-crowded, and just full of high street chains offering sub-standard fare at inflation-busting prices. There is nothing great about a UK service station that has a Costa, M&S, and a Greggs!

Today we are going to where the river Ebro starts its journey. The Ebro flows through Spain to the east and pops out into the Med 100 miles south of Barcelona, that’s a long way. When we had the boat we used to sail around the Ebro delta so to be where it starts its journey is quite good for us.

Hayley finds an excellent free spot that has all the facilities except electricity, so we head for a small town called La Poblacion. It has limited spaces so there is a backup plan at hand. Fortunately, when we arrive there are plenty of spaces, already though there are three other Brit vans. We pick our spot and get settled in. Nice.

A British couple arrives and parks nearby. Liz and Simon are in a small van like us and soon we are talking and exchanging travel stories. A very nice couple from Devon. We get our bikes off the back of Jess and bid Liz and Simon farewell and head off for a good cycle ride.

We make our way to the reservoir of the Ebro and we are shocked at how low it is. It’s really bad, we estimate that it’s about 10 to 15 feet lower than it should be. You can see the dried-out land at the circumference of the lake. It’s so bad that some of it have turned to pasture and cattle are now grazing on it.

For the first time in a very long long time, we stop at a cafe on the way back and have a cold Coke. If you don’t drink that stuff very often then have one with ice in a glass it is like nectar. Delicious. Helmets back on and back to Jess.

We get settled back in and soon Liz and Simon are back from their bike ride. There is an empty space between us so we get our chairs out and sit chatting over a glass or two of wine. We enjoy their company, so much so we invite them to a little “light tea”. We get our table out and lay it with fresh prawns, Spanish ham, cheese, alioli, and salad. It’s quite a spread.

We provide the food and Liz and Simon provide ample amounts of wine. We have been outside a couple of hours now and it’s starting to chill over.

We invite them to our van for coffee and a nightcap. Liz provides some excellent homemade ginger biscuits and parkin. We are tucked up in Jess and have a lovely evening ending at just before 11. What a great day and what great company.

We clean up and set for bed…

Sunday 2nd October 2022 La Poblacion to El Puente 70 miles

What a night! We are in such a lovely place and had a great day and evening but overnight was without a doubt the worst ever for barking dogs!!!! It was unbelievable, all night about 6 dogs from the area just barked all night echoing off the hills. You might get a ten-minute break before they would all start again.

We are a bit tired today and we are making our way further north toward the Basque country. Today we are going to a small, new and cheap campsite in a town called El Puente (The Bridge). The drive is amazing.

Spectacular views of green mountains which do look stunning in the distance as the roads carve through them.

Spain is higher than you think!

We are quite high up, starting at over 1000m, and the road down is a bit scary with a 13% drop, so your brakes take a bit of a hammering no matter how low a gear you are in. Thankfully we are going down, going up would eat your fuel! The views on the other hand are spectacular.

An hour and a half later we arrive and are welcomed by a very friendly Spanish guy, who shows us where we can go and leaves us to it while he goes off for his lunch. The weather is warm and sunny so we get our chairs out and sit in the afternoon sun. Minding our own business a chap staying on the site, with other campers, approaches us with a plate of Jamon (Spanish cured ham) and offers us some. It is delicious. We thank him and watch where he goes.

Expertly cut Jamon Serrano

His mate has a full leg of pig in a traditional “Spanish leg of ham vice” and is expertly carving it.

It seems there are a few vans here that all know each other and are having lunch together. Again the same guy passes and offers us some more as well as a quick lesson in Basque. Which is nice.

The village is just a short walk, 4 minutes, so off we go. There is not much here really except for a group of people that are here having a drink with their parrot. Why not? We set back off to Jess for a light evening snack and to bed. Hopefully without the dogs this time…

Monday 3rd October 2022 El Puente to Zumaia 77 miles

Compared to Saturday night, last night was excellent. No dogs! Whew. A good night’s sleep. No breakfast today as we are going past Bilbao, deep into the Basque country to look for lunch. Another excellent drive which is again very hilly surprises us. Spain is the second highest (average height) country in Europe, surpassed only by Switzerland. Bet you didn’t know that. The roads are in good condition and despite the ups and downs, twists and turns it’s very enjoyable. It’s warm and getting humid.

The campsite is very nice, just outside a scruffy industrial estate and up a hill, however, all you see from your pitch are hills, it’s lovely.

We take a walk along the river to the town in search of lunch. We are in the Basque country, who are fierce about independence from Spain so much so they have a rather bloody past. ETA were considered the most deadly and feared terrorists in Europe. Those days are over but they are strong nationalists with their own language and culture. They can speak “Castellano” or the Spanish spoken in the rest of the country, but all the signs are “local”.

We have a good walk and stumble upon a restaurant in the small nearby town that does a menu of the day. We go totally native. Del has a local tuna and potato stew. Hayley has a salad. Then for the main course, meatballs for Del and a regional favorite of baby squid in its black ink for Hayley. Very brave, but very, very tasty. Dessert was a local cake followed by coffee.

It’s a truly wonderful lunch and all for 30 euros for the lot! Blimey.

Tiptop lunch!

Full of local food and wine, we make our way back along the river, back to the van for an afternoon in the setting sun, and later with a cup of tea as the sun finally sets. It’s a lovely place here, very quiet, hopefully.

Tomorrow we are moving to France and to Biarritz.

Tuesday 4th October 2022 Zumaia, Spain to Messanges, France 80 miles

Today we woke up to a very bright sunny but wet morning. Wet because it was so humid last night. We were hoping to have breakfast outside with the rising sun but have had to abandon it as everything is soaking wet. No matter what, we have a good breakfast, cleanup, and service. Today we are going to Biarritz on the southwest coast of France.

The roads are excellent and we have a good journey. Suddenly, just a few miles from the border, as we go through a ‘peage’ (toll booth) we are pulled over by the Spanish, or is it Basque police? Just a spot check. They want to see the van’s documents and our driving licenses. No big deal, and soon we are waved on.

A few miles on and we finally cross the border into France. Suddenly we are surrounded by trucks. France is famous for the number of trucks on the road. It’s mad. Diesel here, by the way, is 20 cents cheaper than in Spain as the French government is subsidising it (or rather the next generation will be paying for it, with interest). The French motorway network is excellent, very extensive, good roads but it’s expensive. We are hit for a toll almost every 20 miles. Today has cost 18 euros just in tolls for about 60 miles but they are in excellent condition and jams are very, very rare, so….

On the way, at last Jess the van gets a well-deserved wash. If the French know anything it’s car washes. They are the best.

At last… A wash!

Finally, we turn off for the town of Biarritz to a chargeable camping ‘aire’ not far from the beach, however, when we arrive we find that it’s closed for maintenance. Hayley is quick to find another paid-for parking so we head for that through the backstreets of Biarritz, which is a bit like an obstacle course, only to find that that one is also closed. Biarritz is closed. It’s foggy as well so we decide to forget all about Biarritz and move on. Del is now at the wheel while Hayley is buried in the maps and phone apps. We are going to a place on the coast called Messanges. As you look at the map, the bit where France and Spain connect, the long straight bit – somewhere along there.

1 hour later we arrive at the site that has plenty of space. We get set up and comfortable, it’s late in the afternoon. We potter about reading, Del cleans out the van storage, a regular occurrence. It’s an early dinner tonight, Spanish night, in France. It’s a mix – of Spanish Fiduea. (like paella with noodles instead of rice) and Ensaladia Rusa (Russian salad) with a glass of Spanish cava. Where are we again?

After dinner, we clean up and do the short walk to the beach with the remainder of the Cava and sit on the beach to watch the last of the surfers and the sunset. As we sit on the beach and look left and right, it stretches for miles in either direction. Uninterrupted white sandy beaches as far as you can see.

No buildings, nothing just a long straight line of the beach. As usual, at this time it’s getting chilly so we head back for a hot shower on board, tea and bed.

Tomorrow, Bordeaux. Maybe.

Wednesday 5th October 2022 Messanges to Yvrac 101 miles

A cloudy morning this morning but we are told that the weather will improve to be another warm sunny day. We set off and the journey is very pleasant as we trundle along narrow tree-lined French roads. The clouds are now clearing and it is a lovely day for a drive as we make our way through the dappled roads toward our next destination which is a vineyard in a small village called Yvrac, just north of Bordeaux city.

You can park free there overnight, there are no facilities and they do a wine tasting of their own wine.

After driving for over 100 miles we arrive at our destination after navigating the even more narrow roads near the village of Yvrac. It’s a rather unassuming place with a small narrow tree-lined entrance and a vineyard to your right and the parking spot on your left which basically looks like scrubland with another visitor already in place. No matter we are here now.

We get settled in and comfortable, the sun is out, and it’s warm so we get our chairs out and sit under the dappled sunlight under the trees with a brilliant view of the vineyard.

A couple of hours in our host arrives and asks us if we should like to try some wine, which of course, without any hesitation, we agree to and follow her into the building where we try 4 of the house’s wines. All but one was delicious. Very bad on our part but we didn’t get or remember our host’s name.

She was excellent, fantastic English and gave a very educational presentation about the house, the wines and the French wine industry in general…

We take 6 bottles of wine back to the van at a total of 50 euros, so much for the free overnight. It’s well worth it though as we have a fantastic dinner with a glass of the very local wine.

A great day.

Thursday 6th October 2022 Yvrac to Ile de Re 124 miles

We are continuing our move north along the west coast of France. So far we have loved it. France is our favorite of the European countries. It’s a wonderful place and is perfectly set up for camping of all kinds, vans, tents, and caravans. The people are warm and friendly and always pleased to see us Brits and of course, what can we say about the food and wine!

Today we are going to Ile de Re which is a small island just off La Rochelle. It’s a motorway today, an expensive motorway, 25 euros of motorway! That’s half our daily budget gone! A nice trip all the same. To get to the island you have today an 8 euro toll. That’s 33 euros just for using roads. It’s a long twisty drive to the campsite but well worth it. When we arrive you can pick your own pitch so Hayley finds us a really nice private one in the corner of the site just in the citadel wall that surrounds this very smart town. The space Hayley has chosen is large but getting into it is a bit on the tight side. As a team, we work on these situations well. Hayley is at the wheel and Del does the directing, it works well every time and soon we are in having only had a small branch or two touching the roof of the van.

We get everything out and set up, awning, chairs, and table, a proper “camp in” as we are going to stay for two nights, which is always a nice thing to do every now and then. Sometimes it can feel a bit hectic beginning the move to a different place every day, but we only have a certain amount of time so sadly we have to keep on the move. Today Del gives Jess a thorough cleanout. Two people in a small place can create a lot of dust and grime and Del does like to clean!

The town, harbour, and sea are just a short walk so off we go. Del is getting better at walking each day. It still aches a little bit but he’s on the move again and at a quicker pace each day. The harbour is beautiful, lined with fancy restaurants, it’s nice this time of year as places are still open but it’s not full of people, this island is favored by Parisians in the summer who swarm onto it in July and August.

The weather is still nice so it is perfect to just walk around looking at the boats and longing that we would still have one…

Time for refreshment so we stop at a place serving cocktails and sit in the shade and enjoy watching the world go by.

A lovely day today. Tomorrow we will go for a bike ride, it’s flat here and there is an extensive bike network to enjoy, so that’s day two sorted.

Friday 7th October 2022 Ile de Re (day 2)

It’s a nice bright morning this morning, and we are going nowhere, just locally. Yes, an extended breakfast this morning. On the van trips, our breakfasts take ages, don’t know why, they just do, but today it’s even longer. After we clean up we get our bikes down and set off for a good bike ride in search of a good lunch.

We cycle a short 4km to the town of La Flotte which is just charming, it’s like a postcard, just beautiful.

AIt has a small harbour surrounded by restaurants. We secure our bikes and have a look around. It’s a wonderful place but we have more pressing business to hand – lunch. Finally, we settle on a small place with a great view of the harbour.

Half the seabed for lunch

Our lunch today consists of a large salad made up of Roquefort cheese, lardons, nuts, and salad leaves followed by the biggest pot of mussels each you have ever seen – half the seabed. This comes with fries. Helped along with a local cold white wine and to finish the two-hour lunch we share a Crepe flambee with Grand Marnier. Just amazing. So was the price!!!! No matter, we will probably never come here again, so why not.

Before the cycle back to the van, we have a look around the town. The French are famous for their cake shops and this town is no exception. They have the most wonderful and mouthwatering display of cakes, bread, and pastries, it’s just fantastic. We can’t help ourselves and for 7 euros we buy two small cakes to take back to Jess with a cup of tea later.

French cakes are just works of art

Back at the van, it’s now late in the afternoon, so we settle down and read. Del does some van servicing and cleaning up getting part ready for our departure tomorrow. No dinner tonight, whew. We enjoy our lovely, fancy cakes with a good cup of tea.

We have been visited on a regular basis by a local friend – a cat who comes and sees us gets a fuss and then leaves. Very sweet.

Tomorrow we are staying somewhere next to the Loire river, near Nantes.

Portugal. A new experience. In many ways…

Villa Praia de Ancor, Portugal to Valladolid, Spain – 505 miles

Saturday 24th September 2002 Praia de Ancora to Vila Cha 46 miles

Our first night in Portugal was very pleasant, the campsite was woody, green, and rustic but we had a good sleep with an equally good breakfast outside in the fresh morning air. Today we are going further south along the coast to Vila Cha to a campsite there. To get there we have to go on the motorway as it’s the quickest and most efficient.

Once on the motorway we get comfortable and settled in, Hayley is still doing the driving, and Del’s foot is slowly getting better but not quite ready for driving yet. So we are trundling along quite nicely when suddenly we see a sign with a wifi symbol a car and a euro sign. Hmmm. We carry on and see another sign about a lane for “foreigners”. Now we are confused and a little concerned that this must be a paid motorway that requires a toll. So far we have not stopped at the usual barrier and collected a ticket, as one would do in Spain or France.

We stop in a carpark and look up what is required for driving on Portuguese motorways. Yes we should have looked it up first, we know, but we didn’t, so now we have no idea what we are doing.

It turns out that in Portugal if you are a foreign registered vehicle then you must pay a toll and or a tax, one or the other or both. Eh? And you must pay for it in advance either by buying a pass of 4 different euro values or a three-day pass or….. it just goes on and on and it’s all in Portuguese, it’s for foreigners but it’s all in Portuguese. Grrr! Thank heavens for Google translate. We finally find a way to buy a pass online, however, once you start using the motorways you can’t find out how much credit you’ve got left.

Del finally finds a website where you can put your registration in, name, and telephone number, and it will tell you how many ‘infractions’ you have and if you do have some you can pay there and then.

A nice spot for the night

Without a doubt the most complicated, convoluted, patience-trying method of toll-paying ever contrived. We are not the only ones. We later find out that foreign traffic has fallen in Portugal as visitors just find the whole system difficult to navigate. It is a bit mad…

We finally arrive at our campsite, it’s lovely. We are shown a pitch and settled in.

There is a recommended restaurant across the road so off we go for a fabulous feast of BBQ’ed gigantic prawns and calamari on skewers with red peppers, served with fries and a salad. Brilliant. This is helped along with a bottle of the house white. We can’t help ourselves and so we have dessert. The whole bill was just over 40 euros. Bargain.

Back at the van Hayley is unloading chairs from the back and the double barrel heavy-duty foot pump falls hard on her bare foot, producing a cut and a bruise, and just to add insult to her injury, some considerable pain.

The offending pump. Ouch!

We are doing well here. Del with his smashed big right toe and now Hayley with a nasty bruise and pain on her left foot. Doing very well.

Once Hayley has settled, Del is off for a shave not before dropping his razor blade on the floor, and instinctively catching it and cutting the pad of his right index finger. My god the pain. It stings all night and bleeds for ages!!!!

So between the two of us, we now only have two good feet and three good hands! Great for basketball.

Fried egg and bacon crisps

Hayley is a bit of a crisp fiend on these trips and likes to find the most obscure tasting crisps in the shops. Today she excelled herself with a bag of fried and egg and bacon flavored crisps. They truly do stink.

We both know when the other has had a sneaky try as the stench of the open packet being opened in the van is telling. A most unusual purchase.

No dinner tonight as we had such a wonderful lunch, so we opt to walk, or rather hobble, to a bar on the seafront that will give us a brilliant sunset. Sure enough, the sky is clear and the sun is about 40 minutes from setting.

Portugal’s sandy beaches

We order two small beers and get settled in when suddenly a local by the name of Dave, approaches us, rather worse for wear on white wine, and starts to talk to us. It was a funny 30 or so minutes as we spoke about food, the weather, in fact almost anything but in three languages, English, Spanish and a bit of French. He was very drunk and very funny and a kind good-natured drunk!

We are saved as we focus on the sun slowly setting into the Atlantic. Wonderful.

A nice end to a Saturday

It’s getting cold. Time to go back to our home on wheels.

Sunday 25th September 2022 Vila Cha to Costa Nova 64 miles

We are packed up and ready to go. A quick service, grey water empty, toilet clean, and freshwater fill up, and we are off once again at the mercy of the Portuguese motorway system. Great.

We need to stop off first at the restaurant where we watched the sunset from and pay for the beers. It was cash only and we had no cash. It’s more tricky now than ever, do people accept cash only, card only? Another covid hangover. He trusted us and just told us to “come back later or tomorrow and pay” Blimey imagine that happening in the UK?

Portuguese “pastel de nata

True to our word we stopped by to pay for yesterday’s sunset beers and while we were there we had a fabulous coffee and some traditional Portuguese “pastel de nata” A custard tart to you, in puff pastry. It was very good, with an unobstructed view of the Atlantic.

Most of the local roads here are cobbled and in a motorhome, it’s slow and noisy. There are many miles of cobbled streets in this part of Portugal, you can get sick of it. In fact, so far the roads in Portugal are not the best, the motorways are ok and some of the main roads are not bad but even some of them can be a bit ropey as we found out as we drove through the outskirts of Porto, the back of the van lands sharply into a pothole, that was so loud and sharp we thought the back axel was going to get pulled away leaving us with just our home on two front wheels.

That being said the journey was pleasant enough with lovely blue skies and 24 degrees which felt hotter than it said. It’s windy though.

We approach Costa Nova which is a long spit of land down the west side of the country. It is also famous for its brightly coloured striped houses along the front. It’s very busy, with lots of traffic.

There is a 5-day festival in the town and the streets are packed. There is a procession going on and Hayley is doing a great job of navigating the traffic, people, and dogs as we weave our way to the campsite.

We get a warm welcome, pay 19 euros, and were told where we can go. It’s rustic but the spaces are good and the facilities, whilst dated, all work and do what they are supposed to do.

Bikes out at last!

Finally, after a week of being away, we get the bikes off the back of Jess. Hayley’s foot is still a bit sore but better than yesterday. Del’s foot is still a bit tender but cycling a bike should be ok. We shall see.

It’s a lovely bike ride along the front. The houses in all their multitude of colours look wonderful in the sun. We cycle around the back streets and find a restaurant right on the beach. We give it a try but there is a queue and Del is not a fan of queuing to eat at a restaurant so we buy ice cream and cycle back to Jess.

Hayley puts together a smashing afternoon spread of Jamon serrano, boquerones, and tomato bread.

The rest of the day is spent sitting in the sun, planning the next few days out in Portugal, reading, and just enjoying the afternoon sun. Del tidies up the van locker hiding the foot pump well away so it can’t jump out again when Hayley looks at it. Still windy though.

Tomorrow we are going further south.

Monday 26th September 2022 Costa Nova to Costa de Lavos 59 miles

It was a noisy night last night. The five-day festival ends today so last night there were live bands on until 3:00 am and the noise was wafting our way, which ended with a fireworks display.

It’s a bright sunny morning and today we are heading to our last Portuguese coastal stop in Cost de Lavos. In Figueira de Foz. As usual, the roads are atrocious until we reach the motorway which turns out to be one of the best roads ever. Very smooth and empty. After paying the 6 euro toll we are back onto dodgy local roads towards our free night stop in a large parking aire right by the beach.

Lunch today in a typical real local place comprising of spicy chicken, rice, fries, and a salad, served with a glass of cold white wine. This place is miles ahead of Nando’s, the food here is far far better, and far cheaper.

Back at the van, the rest of the day is sat in the sun just in time to grab the remnants of a bottle of red wine from a night or two ago and to go to the beach to watch our last Portuguese coastal sunset for this trip. One of the best sunsets yet, with no clouds just the sun dissappearing gently below the horizon.

Just another Monday night!

It gets cold quickly so it’s back to Jess, heating on and bed.

Tuesday 27th September 2022 Costa de Lavos to Sao Joao de Areias 60 miles

It’s a bright, sunny but cool morning. Our free stopover last night was excellent, very quiet and peaceful. Short simple breakfast, a quick diesel fill-up, and some shopping. Today we are moving east, inland, and slightly north. We have seen the last of the Portuguese coast for this trip and now we are on a motorway to a small town in the hills called Sao Joao de Areias where there is a super cheap campsite run by a couple of Belgians, or are they Dutch?

It takes just over an hour to get there when we arrive we are greeted by Amanda, an English lady who makes us very welcome into this small but practical campsite. She is looking after the place as the owners have had to go away. We have a nice little pitch. There is everything we need here for 10 euros, including a free bread delivery in the morning.

We have been away for 11 days now so today is laundry and cleaning day. Everything is stripped out and we do three machine loads of laundry, change the bed, full van service, internal clean throughout…Hayley does a lovely job of the bathroom and shower!

A day in…

It’s a lovely day so we just stay with Jess, doing the washing, reading, chatting, and just enjoying the sunshine in this lovely place.

There are a few chickens here that have attracted Hayley’s attention. She used to look after some back home at Quarr Abbey, so she is very fond of them.

We are visited by Amanda, the host, so we invite her in for a coffee and a chat. She proceeds to tell us some great stories of all the different campers that have visited and tell us that we are the only Brits to have visited this year which is odd given how lovely the place is.

Hayley is in planning mode again. Tomorrow will be our penultimate night in Portugal before crossing the border back into Spain.

Wednesday 28th September 2022 Sao Joao de Areias to Meda 78 miles

This morning it’s a bit grey, looks like rain. There is a bag of 4 fresh rolls on the table outside, part of a ‘welcome’ when you visit here. Nice. We have a nice breakfast of cold ham, cheese, and boiled eggs with our fresh bread.

By the time we leave the clouds have broken a little. A longish drive today to a town called Meda, more inland as we go east towards the border with Spain. It’s mainly motorways that are in good condition but we still have to, on occasion, battle the potholes, and poorly made country and town roads. As usual, Google takes us down a few dodgy back streets before finally delivering us onto the right road. The weather has cleared up and the scenery here is wonderful. We are approaching the Douro Valley, which is between Portugal and Spain. In fact, the Douro Valley is where the grapes are grown to make Port, or Porto as it’s called here.

The fortified wine is called Port after the town of Porto, which is on the coast. The river Douro flows to the Atlantic through the town of Porto. Why they don’t just call the drink Douro we don’t know. Guess Port is easier to say when you have a few too many of them.

We arrive at the Municipal campsite in Meda where we are welcomed by a very cheerful, friendly chap who shows us to our spot after paying a staggering 12 euros. It is very nice here. Well maintained and just out of town. Once settled in we make our way into town to hunt down a good lunch.

It’s not long before we are settled in by a very friendly lady at the local restaurant who brings us chicken, ribs with fries, and rice. This is served with a half liter of white wine. It was all so very nice. After she brings us the house dessert which was equally splendid. We thought that as we are in the Douro where the port grapes are grown, then we should have a small glass of port to finish. She brings us a red and white port, very tasty. Just to make sure that we agree that it is tasty, we ask for another two. Yes, they are indeed very tasty.

We say farewell to our host and head across the road to a pastelaria and purchase four Pastel de Natas, a custard tart in puff pasty, but they are very famous here in Portugal and they take it very seriously.

These things are a big deal here!

We take them back to Jess and have one each with a cup of tea. Later we sit outside in the afternoon sun but the clouds are rolling back in and it’s quite chilly so it’s time to go back indoors.

Tomorrow we are going deeper into the Douro Valley to a dam that crosses the Portuguese and Spanish border. There is also a rather splendid cathedral to see there.

No dinner tonight. We watch something on Netflix about some murderers with a bit of cheese and some crackers.

Thursday 29th September 2022 Meda, Portugal to Zamora, Spain 123 mile

A soggy start to the day

We are woken up this morning by the pattering of rain on the roof. It’s only gentle but soon builds to be quite heavy by the time we have breakfast. Today will be our last day and night in Portugal. We get packed up and service the van and make for the off. As usual, we are led up the garden path by Google maps that takes us once again through the cobbled streets of a local town.

Its raining, raining heavy now but soon we are on a clear open road that is in good condition. There is hardly any traffic.

Proper rain!

We have noticed that once you get out of town the roads are almost empty so it does make it quite pleasurable especially if the road is in good condition like this one. The scenery is fantastic and the weather has cheered up for a while. The lakes here are immense, they go on for miles twisting around the hills and mountains, quite a sight.

We are heading for Miranda Do Douro. There is a dam here that sits between Spain and Portugal. We intend on staying there for the night but when we arrive we find that the parking is a little bit on the slope which can be tricky. We have a walk around the town and get a good view of the dam, we can even make out the border sign, the blue ESPANA sign surrounded by gold stars.

It’s decided that we move on. There is another place we can stay, right by a lake. On the way, we stop and have a good look at the dam, it’s quite something, massive. The sub-station is gently humming away as the water gushes underneath the dam producing electricity. We cross the border into Spain, without a doubt the quietest border crossing ever. A gentle twisty road, a sign to say you are in Spain and that’s that.

We arrive at lake Ricobayo which, is sadly looking a bit sorry for itself. It’s a massive lake but the summer drought has hit Spain quite badly, so the levels are quite low. How long can this go on?

We are the only ones here and decide that, even though the view is brilliant and we can have the whole place to ourselves we should move on, in fact.

Soon we are on our way. In the distance, we can see the sky getting darker and darker than black! There is about to be an almighty storm.

Dark skies ahead

Sure enough, the heavens open 10 minutes before we arrive in the Spanish town of Zamora, north of Salamanca but south of Santander, in the middle, there. Somewhere.

We are going to a free overnight parking place. Hayley does the navigating and soon we are just outside the town of Zamora and settled into a nice space with a few other vans from France, Spain, and another Brit. We get settled in and take walk into town.

Del’s foot has been making some improvement, driving is ok and walking is getting better although there is still a bit of an ache. Hayley’s foot has recovered but with a slight bump on the top of the foot.

It’s a lovely place, Zamora. Our first real town since we started. It’s very clean and tidy and very… “Spanish”. We like it. We pop our heads into a few churches, there are lots here. There is a church-guided tour happening, so Zamora is the place if you want to look at churches. After a small beer in the sun, it’s back to Jess for a smashing dinner.

We liked Portugal but we feel, like the north of Spain, we didn’t spend enough time there. This trip was a taster and we do have plans to come back to Portugal. It’s very cheap for food and drinks, diesel is slightly cheaper than in the rest of Europe. The people that we met were very nice to us and very welcoming so it’s definitely a place to come back to in the future. There is some lovely countryside and they have the longest sandy beaches we have ever seen. So yes Portugal gets a big tick and we will be back again, hopefully soon.

Tomorrow we are heading north to Valladolid, which used to be the capital of Spain back in 1600 and something and only for about 5 years. It also has the accolade of the capital of tapas, so we are looking forward to that.

Friday 30th September 2022 Zamora to Valladolid 63 miles

Quite a change from yesterday. We have clear blue skies this morning and it’s a pleasant temperature. Zamora was a hit. A nice town and a free overnight stop. You can also do a full van service free of charge.

We set off and the views are wonderful, flat, very flat and brown. The hills look like someone has taken a knife to them and flattened them all off.

Valladolid is where almost everything in Spain is made. All the major European car companies have a factory there, if you pick anything up in Spain it will say it’s made in Valladolid, so we don’t know quite what to expect except that it is the capital of tapas, the famous Spanish side plate that was placed on top of your cold beer for free in the old days, but now tapas has been turned into a trendy and sometimes expensive night out. How times have changed.

It’s a very pleasant journey to Valladolid and trouble-free getting to our night stopover which tonight will be 5 euros. The parking spot is secure and well kept. Good. Once in and settled we take a walk into the city of Valladolid, which is twinned with Orlando in the states.

A very understated Spanish city

It’s very nice here, but very nice. It’s so clean and spacious. We make our way to the Plaza Major, the centre of the town. It’s spectacular, what a lovely place.

We have a good walk around this lovely city before settling into a tapas bar called Los Zagales. This one has taken the old-fashioned tapa and turned it into something quite special by theming them all into strange and wonderful concoctions, and has won top prizes for doing so.

We get through 7 of their special award-winning tapas, starting with one that looks like a cigar in an ashtray but is really sardines with filo pastry. All of them are quite unusual and tasty and a couple of glasses of cold white just helps lunch along. The bill was cheap, cheaper than we expected, and well worth it. A great way to spend a couple of hours.

With the need to walk off lunch we find the city park, famous for its bird life and tame squirrels. It is without a doubt one of the best European parks we have been in, and we have been in many.

It’s a lovely place with peacocks and peahens just strutting around freely and yes the squirrels are tame, one ran up Hayley’s leg!

Back at the van we relax and contemplate the evening. Hmmm. Where shall we eat tonight?

Because the lunch was quite heavy we decide to take a walk into the town, it’s busy, there is a lovley buzz in the town. We find a place next to the cathedral where we have three tapas of meatballs, fish and salad, washed down with a small glass of beer. Very traditional. The walk back to Jess takes us back through the main square which is beautifully lit up.

We sit at a bar and have a Pacharan, a sloe-flavored drink from Navarro. We enjoy watching the people go by, in fact, we really love Valladolid. A truly wonderful gem of a place, a place that we will definitely be returning to.

First time in northern Spain, and so far…

Port of Santander Spain to Ancora Portugal – 473 miles

Saturday 17th September Portsmouth to Santander (470 nautical Miles or 540 miles)

We went to bed early last night, 9:30 ish. The next thing we know it’s 9 in the morning. Del slept the best in months, H not so good.

This is our route so far

The room was dark and quiet, just the slight hum of the engines down below. We get up, shower, and have breakfast which is a simple continental affair but very nice all the same.

It’s a bright sunny day.

It’s a clear blue sky and very warm in the sun. It’s beautiful as we have a walk around the decks in the sunshine with France on our left. We find a seat and sit in the sun while some of our travel companions join in on a health and fitness class. We give that a miss.

Just as we are getting comfortable we are asked to evacuate the deck as a helicopter is about to land on the ship’s helipad. By all accounts, someone has taken ill and has to be taken off the ship. Just as soon as we get up we can see and hear the fast-approaching helicopter coming from the French coast like a giant angry fly!

We get inside and have a view of the helipad through the glass roof of the bar. We see the helicopter, blades spinning for quite a long while, then with a quick rev of the engines, it was off and gone. Bit of drama there, sad for the person(s) being carried off, however. Hopefully nothing too serious.

We spend the rest of the afternoon in the lounge watching the French coast go slowly by nice. The sea is flat, the sky is blue, and it’s a lovely sunny day as we make the slow turn left to go south and into the Bay of Biscay -a sea that has quite a reputation for being rough. There are some dolphins racing us through the surf.

We have dinner in the restaurant, it’s busy but the food is good, Hayley ate too much. We have one last walk around the decks outside, it’s black out there, dead dead black and the wind is building. Time for bed.

Sunday 18th September 2022 Santander to Cobreses 26 miles

We are woken at 5:45 by gentle harp music over the bedroom speaker. It’s a nice way to wake up. Last night there was a bit more of a swell, it was roughing up in the Bay of Biscay. We have a quick shower, pack our things and head off to breakfast. Rooms have to be vacated at 6:30 am for a 7:00 am disembarkation.

Jess waiting to go!

The queue for the breakfast is long and we are surprised at how much this breakfast was, 19 euros for a continental breakfast!! Del takes a doggie bag with him to the van. Jess is waiting in the belly of the boat which is already filling up with people getting ready for the off.

15 minutes later we are slowly exiting the front of the ship and into the Port of Santander. By chance, we are flagged into an empty exit lane. It usually takes a while to get out as we now have to have our passports checked and stamped so to be led off into an empty lane is a bonus.

The Galicia. What a great trip.

No questions, no comments, the passports are stamped and we are waved on.

We are off! 34 hours later we are on the Spanish mainland and making our way to a garage where we can fill up with fresh water and maybe finish our breakfast.

The garage is something quite amazing. Yes, an amazing garage. It’s brand new, huge, and built for motorhomes to empty, refill and wash their vehicles. Amazing. Inside there is a bar/cafe and a full shop. Del can’t help himself and has a coffee with a slice of Spanish tortilla despite already finishing the doggie bag recovered from the boat breakfast.

We fill up with water and do a shop and soon we are on our way to our first stop by a lake and back onto a safari park called Largo del Acebo.

It’s very nice. Peaceful and picturesque. We get settled in and take a walk around the lake and check out the safari park. It’s massive but again very expensive so we settle for a peek of the elephants through the fence. The village is quite charming and we have a good walk before making our way back to the van and a sit outside with a view of the lake to plan the rest of the trip. At this point, we still have no idea where we are going or what the time frame is.

Del has a thought, always a bad thing, that maybe we should move on, seen as the next stop is only 40 minutes away. So we pack up and an hour later we in our new stop called “Las Hazas” in Cobreces, Cantabria which is just an hour and a bit west of Santander.

It is beautiful here. It has everything that we need including a good 2 and a bit-kilometer round-trip walk to the beach where we have a small cold beer in the sun before walking back up the hill to have a light dinner.

Hayley is completely wiped out and glad to be in bed. We have been up since about 5:30 this morning, she didn’t sleep well on the boat for two nights so she is happy to have had a shower and be tucked up ready to get a well-deserved sleep.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Monday 19th September 2022 Cobreses to Castropol 161 miles

We always intend on getting up and leaving early, say 9 to 9:30 which means an early breakfast and today was to be no exception but as usual, we didn’t make it. After a good night’s sleep, we have a light breakfast. Today we are heading to the region of Asturias. Currently, we are in Cantabria, the bit that runs along the middle bit in the north of Spain. Asturias is further west and is very green and beautiful.

The place we stayed at yesterday and last night was superb, a good night’s sleep was had. Del has quick chat with the lady who runs the place to thank her and in exchange, she tells us how wonderful Asturias is and bids us farewell.

We set off and after a large food shop, we are off and on our 2 and bit hour drive along the north coast of Spain.

Indeed the scenery here is amazing. Very green and very hilly. It’s very clean, tidy, and bright in the afternoon Spanish sunlight. A lovely drive that we both share.

We arrive at a campsite on the coast called Camping Penarronda. It’s amazing. The owners are very nice and welcoming. We get our pitch and settle in. It’s a bit windy today but that’s okay. We lock up Jess and go in search of the nearby beach. It doesn’t take long for us to stumble upon the beach, and what a beach.

It’s a massive open bay of pure white sand, and amazing views, we just stand there looking at the Playa Penarronda before setting off for a walk.

Dinner tonight is in the local Restaurant “Las Parejas” (The pair) before that it’s back to the van for a glass of local Asturian Cider and a sit in the remaining afternoon sun.

Tuesday 20th September 2022 Castropol to Ribadeo 11 miles

We had a lovely stay last night, and this morning it’s a lovely clear blue sky day. A very short jump today to a campsite that is almost on the beach at Ribadeo just 11 miles from where we are today.

The drive was easy and scenic. The campsite is compact, the big campers can’t get in here that’s for sure, but for our 6m van, it’s easy.

We can get into most small campsites

The staff are friendly here at Camping Gaviota and they show us to our space which is just a 2-minute walk from the beach. Of course, we have to take advantage of that, so once we are set up in our pitch we gather some bits and pieces together, chairs, a towel, and a book, and off we go.

An afternoon on the beach

Two hours later we make it back to Jess for a simple dinner by the van before retiring to bed. Tomorrow is a long 2 and a-half-hour drive as we make our way further west along the northern coast of Spain.

Wednesday 21st September 2022 Ribadeo to Valdovino 89 miles

Our plan today is to go to a place called Valdovino and to a campsite near a nice sandy beach. We are taking the scenic but the longer route which turns out to be scenic but not spectacular. The scenery was lovely, maybe we just bigged it up a bit in our minds too much as northern Spain is quite stunning in general. We arrive at the site which didn’t look as we expected either, a bit sad. We did see a free parking area with a view of the beach on the way in so we thought we’d give it a go instead.

You simply turn up find a spot in an ‘authorised’ parking place and that’s it. There are no facilities like water or electricity, fortunately, we made sure that we had a full tank of fresh water, an empty grey water tank, and a fresh toilet, and leave the solar panels to do the rest.

We pick our spot and get settled in for a free night. Excellent. We take a walk along the stunning sandy beach in the bay. Brilliant white sand for miles. the weather is perfect.

A fabulous early dinner on the beach

H comes up with the brilliant idea of dinner on the beach, a picnic. Nice. She puts together a fabulous spread of fresh prawns, Ali oli (garlic mayonnaise dip, very popular here). A salad, tortilla, and half a bottle of rose wine. It’s a bit windy and still quite hot and sunny so we take a beach brolly which we hope will give us some protection from one or the other or both.

We get set up and have a wonderful picnic. Until……

There he goes…

So imagine the scene if you will. It’s a bright warm early evening, the wind is a bit gusty. There we are just finishing our picnic on the beach and a gust of wind uproots the beach brolly.

Super Del springs to life and chases the ever-tumbling brolly along the sand dunes. He just about gets a hold of the brolly and goes down! Badly…

He hobbles back to H complete with the recovered brolly but also a nasty gash on the top and the side of his right big toe. The nail is also turning a nice shade of dark blue. There is not a lot of blood but the skin has lifted from the toe. Nasty.

H rushes back to Jess for a first aid kit and returns to patch up Del’s busted and painful foot. Is the toe broken? Is it fractured or just bashed?

It appears that as Del was trying to recover the brolly, facing into the sun, he didn’t see the flat rocks buried beneath the sand, slips, and catches his toe in a ridge. He thinks.

Temporarily bandaged up H helps Del back to the van for a shower, a full clean of the toe, Savlon application, and bandage. This is helped along with a large Ricard and a strong cup of tea.

We shall just have to see how this one goes over the next few days, but for now, that’s the walking and cycling out of the itinerary for Del.

To bed with a couple of paracetamols and ibuprofen. H does a great job of helping and caring for the poor brolly rescuer. Well done H and thanks!

Thursday 22nd September 2022 Valdovino to Sant Vincente do Grove 115 miles

Despite the incident of yesterday, we both slept well. It’s nice here, very peaceful with the sea crashing in the distance. Del’s foot is ok, not any worse, not any better. It’s all freshly cleaned a dressed for the day.

Today we are moving slowly south on the west coast of Spain towards Portugal. Motorway today to Sant Vicente do Grove which is a small spit of land on the west side of Spain. H will be doing all of the driving for the next few days until we see how Del’s foot goes. Feeling sorry for himself he settles down into the passenger seat for a very scenic trip. It’s a lovely place here and already we are talking about spending 5 weeks just in the north of Spain sometime in the future. We are really rushing through it right now as we have only 4 weeks left to do Portugal, cut across Spain to the northeast, then up through France, Belgium then home. We think.

Today is not really a campsite, there are no facilities except electricity. You can do a full van service and it only costs 10 euros a night.


We get pitched up and settled in. Del keeps his foot up and rested. It’s swollen, so ice packs are applied and then cleaned a re-dressed.

We like a walk and this place is perfect for that, you can walk on either side of the site for miles.

Sadly H goes for a walk alone. It’s a wonderful place with a boardwalk that stretches around the scenic coastline.

The sea is flat and calm it’s warm and sunny. Beautiful. Del just potters around the van resting his foot as much as he can before H finally makes it back.

Dinner tonight is a Fideua. A Catalan dish. Like Paella but with small thin noodles. A first for H and an absolute success.

A winner…

Tomorrow we are crossing the border into Portugal…

Friday 23rd September 2022 Sant Vincente do Grove to Praia de Ancora 84 miles

Another great night’s sleep last night, this is getting to become a habit now! Today we are going over the border from Spain to Portugal and our first stop will be a free one parked up just off the beach.

We set off knowing that today is just mostly motorway which is ok as the passing countryside can still be quite wonderful. Hayley wasn’t aware that Portugal was back an hour, the same time zone as the UK which threw her a bit for a while.

Del’s toe is getting better by the day. Not quite up to doing ballet yet and walking has to be done carefully and for a short time, but it does seem to be getting better.

We set off straight after breakfast and the journey is quite hilly but spectacular in parts. We do like this part of Spain and do intend to visit it again in the future but for a longer time. It’s totally different from other parts of Spain on the Med side and miles away culturally and visually from way down south which can be flat and very very dry. It’s great up t’north and we would recommend it on your next trip out!

Almost at the border.
Which way? left or right?

We trundle over the border, the only indication is the usual blue sign with the gold stars with “Portugal” in the middle, there is also a gantry bridge with a clock on it over the motorway to remind Hayley of the time! The roads are not good so far… Full of holes, humps, and bumps! We arrive at the chosen spot, after a quick shop, but decide that it’s not quite right so we move on to another. Again not for us. There is some confusion about free parking overnight in Portugal. Some people have reported having been fined for parking in these “free” car parks.

Nice here though

H is looking at the maps and the phone and finds a nice cheap campsite not too far away. We arrive at a rather rustic but pleasant site.

Tall trees, green grass, and rough pathways. It’s smashing. Lots of space to park where ever you like and the chap who sees us in is very friendly. Good. We shall stay here.

We get set up and spend the afternoon just chatting away, reading and picking at Spanish tapas and fruit, all very relaxing, all very nice indeed.

French dinner tonight – duck, sauteed potatoes, and salad. We will start in French style with a large glass of cold Ricard. Well, why not. When in Rome… Er…

Time to get away. Again.

16th September 2022 Isle of Wight to Santander, Spain.

This is a long journey. All 34 hours of it

Since our last trip out life has been quite stressful and packed with work. It’s time to get away. So what has happened since our last trip?

Covid is still about although not as virulent and dangerous as it once was, in fact, the WHO are about to tell us all that the pandemic is over. War is still on in Europe and we have no idea where that will go or for how long. Inflation is the highest it has been for 40 years, apparently. It seems harder to get things done and to get them done properly and on top of that our personal life has undergone a few changes. Whew! The past six months have certainly been a roller coaster.

So yes, it is time to get away again. Most definitely, but where to this time? Well, we shall just stick a wet finger in the air and see which way the wind blows…

Our journey starts from home, of course, and we are heading first for Santander, northern Spain. We are taking the Brittany Ferries ship the Galicia out of Portsmouth at 21:30.

We left home on our local, late, as usual, Wightlink ferry to Portsmouth. Because our local ferry can’t be trusted with timekeeping, we elect to leave the Isle of Wight at 4:20.

Fish and chips in Southsea

To kill time we make our way to Southsea beach for a very large and very expensive fish and chips.

Despite the expense, it was very nice to be scoffing freshly made fish and chips and mushy peas and watching the sun setting over the Isle of Wight.

Sunset over the Isle of Wight

Our expensive tea kills plenty of time. We make the short drive to the ferry terminal in Portsmouth, check-in, and wait to board.

Did we mention that the fish and chips were expensive?

Our arrival at the Portsmouth ferry port was stress-free and not too busy compared to the Dover/Calais crossing where recently we have seen some chaotic scenes.

We are waved into the belly of the beast, and it is a beast. The 1-year-old Brittany Ferries Galicia.

Boarding The Galicia

Once we are on we make our way to deck 9 where our cabin is. The boat is superb, well-fitted, clean, and tidy. We like it. How about the cabin?

Home for the next 34 hours

We love the cabin, no window as we are on the inside of the ship, but it is well appointed. The beds are super comfortable, a nice big toilet and shower, and just enough space for a few clothes. Brilliant.

Time to go back outside and watch our departure.

It’s a cool night tonight but worth being out as we watch another gigantic Brittany Ferry dock just in time for us to leave. We pass the huge broken down new Navy aircraft carrier. You know the ones. Cost 3 billion quid each, no airplanes, and now they don’t work. Yeah, those ones.

Leaving Portsmouth

We slowly slide past our old harbour where we used to keep Stargazer, our boat, before passing the Spinnaker tower at Portsmouth harbour and then out into the Solent, passing the Isle of Wight on our right.

We left the Island at 5 pm. It’s now 10 pm and we are just passing Bembridge. We haven’t come very far in 5 hours!

Something blue!

Once we are well underway we go back inside. It is cold. We manage a nice blue cocktail before going to bed. Tomorrow we should be just coming into the Bay of Biscay


If you are following us again on our trip then a warm and hearty “hello“, if you are new then “welcome“. You are all very very welcome. Our blog is not selling or endorsing anything, it is just a journal of our trip.