Food, drink, travel and everything in-between

Time to go home… Sadly.

Week 9 – 2nd February 2024 – 5th February 2024 – Peniscola, Spain to Home, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK (1140 miles)

Friday 2nd February 2024 – Peniscola, Spain – Montech, France (415 miles)

We are setting off today, back to the UK. The news about Hayley’s mum, and all the uncertainty surrounding it, means that we need to get back as quickly and as safely as we can. It will be quite a slog back, more than a thousand miles. We haven’t changed the ferry yet as we are unsure when we will get to Calais with all the farmer’s protests in France.

It’s a bright fresh morning here in Peniscola and we are setting off hoping to get to France later today. We are aiming for a place called Montech, which has some interesting water transportation we would like to get a quick look at on the way.

9 hours later we arrive at an aire. It’s dark and it’s cold, but we are safe and parked up for the night.

Saturday 3rd February 2024 – Montech – Vatan (270 miles)

Welcome to France… It’s cold!!

After yesterday and the 9-hour slog, we feel we need some exercise before pressing on.

Today we are going to look at a water lift. The Montech Water Slope is an unusual piece of French engineering. Opened in 1974, it is in essence two diesel train engines that are strapped together. Between them and at the front, there is a large rubber wall that forms a leaky seal between two walls and bottom of a canal. the device then pushes a boat and a wedge of water uphill to get the boat up a 13-meter incline, thus cutting out several locks and probably several hours of a journey. It’s crazy really.

Starts here…

It worked, but not really well and quickly fell into decline and ultimately retired. It hasn’t been broken up, in fact, it has been made into a well-deserved tourist attraction. There is a visitors centre, a multimedia presentation and they have painted the trains up in bright colours. It looks fabulous and well worth a visit.

Finishes here…

The size alone is quite a sight, so to hear the two trains revving up to push many tonnes of water and a boat up a hill must have been amazing to watch.

Back at Jess, we set off for another long day behind the wheel. We are hoping to do at least 300 miles and get ourselves well up into France. It’s bigger than you think… On the way we stop at a service station that has a fabulous restaurant where we have an amazing burger and fries. Tasty. The motorway service stations in France are very good. They are clean and serve good quality regional food. They have the usual stuff in them, but the restaurants can offer some excellent cuisine. Not like smelly Scratchwood services with its Burger King and W.H. Smiths…

France has recently been under siege. The farmers have been protesting against EU red tape and rising costs and have been demonstrating. The aim is to seal off Paris so the main roads have all been closed by them. Some of the roads have been damaged by their equipment and at one place a whole roundabout had been set alight with trees and bales of hay. A right mess.

Timing is everything. An agreement has just been completed between the farmers and government so we are getting the tail end of the protests. Most of the roads are now open, and there are a few diversions that we have to navigate, but after 270 odd miles and 6 hours, we arrive at Vatan which is bang in the middle of France. Again it’s dark and it’s cold.

Sunday 4th February 2024 – Vatan – Calais (350 miles)

It’s the last push today in Europe as we are due to be in Calais tomorrow, well placed for the ferry tomorrow morning which Hayley has had to buy new tickets for, as the Caravan Club phone line is not open on the weekend to change the original booking. Because of the continuing road closures, we have decided to get to Calais today via Paris, not through the middle of course but on their version of the M25.

It’s a good drive until we get closer to Paris. The traffic is getting heavier and the driving less patient.

Like most cities, the outskirts are not the prettiest. It’s overcrowded, too many cars and the traffic has almost stopped.

After a while of stop/start, we are on the northeast side of Paris and back on the motorway heading toward Calais and we finally arrive at a huge aire just outside of Calais. It can accommodate her 100 vans but when we get there we are 1 of 6! It’s windy. Very windy.

Monday 5th February 2024 – Calais – Home. East Cowes (185 miles)

We are up early. Our ferry to Dover is at 8:30, so at half 6 we are up, having a quick coffee and we are off in the dark towards the port. We are going back to Dover with Irish ferries, who leave on time and get us to Dover safely and on time. We have the last long drive left from Dover to Portsmouth and the last ferry to Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight.

The journey from Dover to Portsmouth is always a bit dull. It just seems to go on and on and has the usual roadworks and slow traffic. However, we do arrive at Portsmouth on time for a quick crossing to Fishbourne.

We get back home and unload Jess right outside the door of the flat, something which makes life so easy as we no longer have to ferry stuff back and forth across the road from the van to the house. Soon she is cleaned up, parked and wrapped up, stored away ready for her next trip which will probably be May. We shall see.

Summary of our trip.

Miles on this trip: 4257

Diesel: 1066 euros

Tolls: 287 euros

LPG: 68 euros

Belgium1 day
France5 days
Germany7 days
Switzerland11 days
Spain29 days
DAYS AWAY53 days

For this trip, we had new tyres! They are excellent. You would think that it wouldn’t make any difference but it does. She drives better and goes around corners better, less “floppy” It’s like driving a different van. We were also equipped for all weather. We bought snow chains, and new winter coats, and we took shorts with us – everything to go from sub-zero to mid-20s temperatures. In the end, it was all a bit disappointing in that respect. However the whole van trip was excellent and we went to a lot of new places, saw and did plenty. A good trip.

We went to Switzerland expecting heavy snow and cold temperatures, in the end, it was cold on occasion but we didn’t see any falling snow, never tried out the snow chains and never got the chance to build a snowman or have a snowball fight. There was a distinct lack of snow for the places and the time of year.

Spain, which is where we expected high teens to mid-20s weather was similarly disappointing. Yes, it was sunny and yes it was warmer than Switzerland, but we had some cool, windy days. The best weather was in the Mar Menor when Del went off to Berlin to work, the weather then was mid-20s.

Fuel was expensive and the French motorway tolls are very expensive. Food and drink were more or less the same as at home. Switzerland was very, very expensive. Switzerland is recognised as the most expensive place to visit, while Monaco is the most expensive to live. Prices to eat out in Luzern for example were off the scale and would have broken our daily budget. It was a wonderful trip, most enjoyable and one that we will probably do again but in reverse so that we get the start of the winter sun in the south and by the time we get to Switzerland there should be more snow. Maybe…

Once again thanks to all our family and friends for following us and reading our ramblings of the day. Thank you for your comments, they are always great to get and read. We do this blog for our family and friends, but more importantly, we do it for ourselves. It’s great to sit down and read and re-live the trip again, and again.

Until the next time, we would like to wish you all good health and happiness and to remind you to get out and about while you can…!

Lots of love

Del, H & Jess

That’s Spain done, for now.

Week 8 – 27th January 2024 – 1st February 2024 –  Mar Menor to Peniscola (250 miles)

Saturday 27th January 2024 – Mar Menor / Berlin Day 4

It’s still good weather in Spain but a bit breezier. The runway resurfacing trucks were still going at midnight last night with their endless beeping, so there’s still no chance of any fighter jet activity. It’s a quiet day with a cycle along the Mar Menor and a quick tapa in a beachside cafe.

In Berlin it’s show day today. Del is up at 6 am for a 7 am call, rehearsals and run-through. The event starts at 1 pm so plenty of time still.

A busy morning but we’re ready on time. By 6 pm it’s all over for the daytime crew, who hand over to the night-time crew for the evening bit which ends at 1 am.

All in all a good day, a good couple of days. Again it’s nice to see so many familiar faces. Good people. Very pleasant. The only downside is the terrible hotel bed! It is shocking!

Home” tomorrow. Hayley and Jess will pick up Del at Alicante airport at 1:30 pm.

Sunday 28th January 2024 – Mar Menor / Berlin Day 5

In Spain the weather has turned it’s like it knows that Del is coming back, it has been raining and it’s still grey and a bit cool. H tracks Del’s flight and sets off with Jess to Alicante to pick him up.

In Berlin Del is up at 6 am again today for a 9:30 flight. The airport is about half an hour away, but the airlines do like you to be there bright and early.

Airport breakfast

A fast drive to the airport by the mad Uber driver, but we get there in one piece with plenty of time to spare only to find there is a delay to the flight. Great. It was going so well. A pretzel and coffee breakfast. Love pretzels!

We finally take off at 11:00 am, an hour and a half late. A pleasant, uneventful flight back to Alicante, a short walk to our agreed meeting point and within 3 minutes Hayley is coming around the corner grinning with a grinning Jess. A very nice welcome back.

One of the mains!

The drive to the campsite in Mar Menor is about an hour. Hayley has done a great job of keeping everything in order and doing the two-hour round trip to pick up Del. Great. She has booked us in for a late lunch, early dinner at the local restaurant, Kinita, located right on the beachfront. We are going to have their tasting menu.

The other main dish! (the bowl on the table)

We arrive back at the campsite with less than an hour before our booking thanks to the delays Del has had. The weather has cooled off a bit so we are shown to a table for two inside.

It’s quite a feed – 2 small taster plates, 2 starters, 2 mains & 2 desserts… Each!!! The servings are small, but by the time we get to the dessert we have had enough food. It doesn’t stop Del from finishing off Hayley’s dessert though.

Back at Jess a quite peaceful evening. Tomorrow we move on.

Monday 29th January 2024 – Mar Menor to Benidorm (92 miles)

Today we are going to Benidorm! Yes that’s right, Benidorm. Well, why not? Hayley has found a campsite, which has a good walk into the “main bit”. We are looking at doing two nights there.

The drive is nice and easy, sea on our right, as we make our way north.

One of those bull things!

The site is huge, having 750 pitches, busy and in parts a little close-quartered. Hayley’s at the wheel and she gets us nicely tucked into a good space. Once settled in we take the walk into town, which is a good 30 minutes. It’s a warm sunny day, so it’s quite pleasant.

We have good look around Benidorm. It’s busy, but not mad busy as it’s winter and most of the people are of a certain age, of which we are one of we suppose.

The peak of summer will probably be a different story entirely, as you can probably imagine! We walk down the main pub, bar and club bit called Calle Gerona and the down to the esplanade where we have a very tasty and cheap chicken and chips, salad and a drink for 10 euros each. Excellent.

A bit more walking in the sunshine to a small hotel with a terrace, sitting in the afternoon sun with a cocktail.

Well, it is January. We have concluded that Benidorm is not all that bad. You do hear some stories, and you’ve probably seen the TV program by the same name, but we find it to be ok with a lovely sandy beach and some nice-looking restaurants on the front (also some dubious-looking ones with rowdy, drunk, holidaymakers in!) It has something for everyone. It’s clean and cheap, with a fantastic long sandy beach. What more do you want…?

We do the long slog back to the site and spend some time with Jess. We can’t help our selves, we have to go to the local bar that has a chap on singing, (well we say singing) and have some tapas and a glass of red. A nice way to end the day.

Tuesday 30th January 2024 – Benidorm Day 2

Marco Polo at work!

Our second and last day in Benidorm has been quite relaxed starting with a bacon and avocado sandwich and coffee. After breakfast is cleared up Hayley gets her maps out and burns the internet out charting and planning our route back home. We think that this will be our last week in Spain.

Del is on the other side of the table doing some homework for work he has once he’s home. A productive morning.

Hayley plotting all the “bulls” we spot

We are keeping our eye on the situation in France. French farmers are blocking all the roads into Paris in protest of EU environmental red tape and the withdrawal of fuel subsidies. It’s getting tetchy up there. Looking at Google Maps there are really bad delays on the main roads going in and out of Paris. We are not going near Paris, however, we will be on some of the roads, some of the ways that are blocked and will get worse if there is no settlement. We do need to keep an eye on it over the next few days. Next week we will be in France so we have to be ready with an alternative route, if available.

Jess cleaning day today, so all the windows get opened up, surfaces cleaned down and everything freshened up. A weekly routine. Tonight we are having a night out in Benidorm, dinner and a “show”. Hmmm. We shall see…

There is a bountiful supply of Indian restaurants here in Benidorm so we will hunt one down then go out into the town and catch a “Show“. Hayley has done some local research and found us a well-rated Nepalese/Indian restaurant. A 20-minute walk towards the town and we are having an excellent Indian dinner, fabulous though.

Excellent service and price, but the food was outstanding. Time for a walk into the town and to see how it’s looking. Well… not so exciting. Out of season, it’s largely quiet, with a few places doing the odd karaoke, and we mean odd. There’s a Billy Joel tribute on at 9 pm in Neptune’s bar – this is the bar featured in the TV series Benidorm – we will have to come back to that. Meanwhile,

Del manages to squeeze in a bit of shopping in a hardware store which is bizarrely positioned right in the middle of the nightlight strip, bet that’s chaos in summer.

Superglue. Finally!

To kill time we take a walk along the front. The beach has recently been swept and raked, it does look rather neat and tidy.

Our estimation of Benidorm has gone up these couple of days. If you want the drink, noise and dancing, then you can as it’s mostly set back from the front which is very tidy with a great collection of restaurants and neat hotels. Not bad really. Not bad at all.

It’s 9 pm and time to go and see Billy Joel, Live in Calle Gerona! He wasn’t too bad as it goes. Looked and sounded nothing like him, but he could sing and did and good 45 minutes.

After the break, it was a Liam Gallagher lookie-soundie-likey. We watched the first song and left!!!

Not the rip-it-up atmosphere that we hoped to witness but being January we suppose that it’s as good as we are going to get. We take the 30-minute walk back to the campsite and get settled in for the night.

Wednesday 31st January 2024 – Benidorm to Benicarlo (185 miles)

It’s a grey morning this morning in Benidorm. Today we are moving on, continuing our way north. It’s a 3-hour drive today to Benicarlo. We stopped here on the way down on this trip. We won the bingo twice that night. During the last hour of the drive, the clouds clear and we have a lovely blue sky and 16 degrees.

We are given a nice spacious plot and quickly get settled in. Benicarlo Marina is just south of us so we set off on the half-hour walk towards it.

It’s a lovely day. We sit at a bar in the marina admiring the boats and reminiscing about the time we had ours. We never stopped here when we had our boat, but we did pass Benicarlo several times.

On the way back to the van we find that someone has converted a bottle bank into a “cat home“. It’s a local scheme to control feral cats.

They find them, doctor them and then let them free again and this converted bottle bank is a place that the cats hang out in. A good idea we thought.

Dinner tonight is on Jess, and a fine dinner it is.

Movie night tonight. Shirley Valentine. A great film about a lady who goes to Greece and finds herself.

Thursday 1st February 2024 – Benicarlo to Peniscola (8 miles!)

A bright cool sunny morning this morning. A long leisurely breakfast this morning. We are only going 8 miles along the road to the town of Benicarlo itself to check out the castle there that sits on the coast. No rush this morning.

Breakfast is done, van service is done and we are on our way for the 15-minute drive to a very nice campsite in the town of Peniscola. We are given a very nice pitch. It’s a lovely warm morning so the chairs are out already and we are enjoying some sunshine. Del sets off for a walk to see what the town is like. It’s a very pleasant, clean and well-maintained place.

The summers here must be packed, the shoreline, which goes for miles is lined with hotels. The beach is beautiful with the castle at the south of the town on a tiny headland. All very pleasant. Should be a nice day.

Del arrives back at the van just as Hayley is taking a call from the UK informing her that her mum has been taken ill.

We will now be cutting the trip short and arranging for a speedy return to the UK so we will sign off on the blog for this time.

Some time apart… :(

Week 7 – 20th January 2024 – 26th January 2024 –  San Jose to Mar Menor (129 miles)

Saturday 20th January 2024 – San Jose Day 3

Last night we had an horrendous storm, well it felt horrendous in our little space. The wind was moving the van about and the rain was just lashing down. Storm Juan is passing through the south of Spain, and it’s bad. It’s so bad that we lost the electricity a few times, not for any great length of time, however.

Our well equipped gym
Rain has stopped play

We have woken up again to a pretty miserable day. The wind has changed direction to a north eastish direction so it’s cold as well. Oh, and it’s raining again while we have breakfast. Lovely. A day locked in the van. Probably.

There is a gym here at the camp, so Hayley takes advantage of it and does an hour. Not much else happens today as the weather is not cooperating.

Tonight “H Paella

Sunday 21st January 2024 – San Jose to Palomares (52 miles)

Today we are moving on. Our journey continues north to Palomares where we are hoping to go off-grid for a night or two. However, the place we are going has become very popular since we were last there so it may be packed. We shall see.

After breakfast we pack up, do a service and set off, after buying the smallest pack of butter from the camp shop for nearly 4 euros!

The weather is cool and grey, with no wind, or rain for a change. Our drive will be about and hour and 20. We have turned the corner and arenow heading north. After a bit of rough motorway we arrive at Palomares, which contrary to what we were led to believe, is actually ok. It’s busy but there is space. We find a place but a stones throw from the beach. Tonight we will be off grid. With a full tank of fresh water, an empty grey tank and fresh toilet we can do a maximum of three days.

The weather has cleared up. Clear blue sky and, a slight breeze, so we get the bikes down and set off for a nice cycle to the nearest town called Vilaricos.

We have been there before, very cute. We arrived just as a Sunday market was wrapping up, which is a shame.

We feel better for having done some exercise and head back to the van, we get our chairs out on the beach for a chilled beer, and read, sitting right by the sea edge in the sun. Fabulous. This is what we wanted…

Late afternoon we pack up and get properly settled in. It’s a fabulous dinner tonight and an early to bed.

We have no plans for tomorrow, we shall just see how it goes.

Monday 22nd January 2024 – Palomares Day 2

Del is up at 8 am and catches a beautiful sunrise. It’s going to be a lovely day.

The sea is flat and calm and the sky is clear blue. We hear a car horn blaring out quite loud. We think that someone might be in distress, but soon realise that it’s an enterprising baker in a small van selling bread and breakfast pastries. Hayley dashes out for a stick of bread and a croissant for breakfast.

There is a great supermarket nearby so we set off and do a massive shop. 112 euros worth. It should last a day or two. We can stay off-grid for two days sometimes 3. It’s so nice here on the beach that we have decided to stay for another day. No rush at all so we do some walking, read and just relax.

A smashing non-eventful day. The wind has built in the afternoon making it a bit chilly but pleasant all the same.

We do have a good walk in the afternoon as the wind is dying out. The beach stop is getting busy for a Monday.

It seems that everyone in the world is out on a camper van.

Tuesday 23rd January 2024 – Palomares to Crevillent (108 miles)

Today we are setting off. We are heading further north towards Alicante. We need a stop near the airport as Del is flying off to Berlin for 4 days to do some work. Hayley finds a new campsite called Camping Severin. It is owned and run by a Dutch couple. There are only 5 spots and we have been lucky to get one for one night

On route, we fill up with LPG and diesel and we give Jess a bath. She needs it! Hayley likes to keep an eye on her new tyres so we stop to check the pressure. (5.2 bar at the front and 5.3 at the back. She says).

All freshened and pumped up we set of for the two hour drive. It’s a lovely warm day, 22 degrees with some fabulous scenery on route. We arrive at the campsite and are welcomed by the owners Micheal and Naomi. We find out that they have only been open since September.

They can only offer 5 places but are working up to 15 after they have applied to the local council to expand. It’s a long-term plan and already it really is a fabulous place. It gets great reviews.

We are given a great spot and get settled in quite quickly. We have an early dinner, a fabulous fiduea made by Hayley.

Del does the cleanup while Hayley sets off for a shower. We looked at the facilities earlier and the shower is better than home! However, there’s a problem when Hayley takes her shower – ice cold water. Jess saves the day – she has a nice hot shower on board.

Del reports the cold shower. Michael is very apologetic, resets the boiler and Del is able to take advantage of the luxurious facilities.

We are packed up and ready for a 07:30am departure tomorrow. Del’s flight is at 10:10am, Hayley will drop him off and set up camp at Mar Menor.

Wednesday 24th January 2024 – Crevillent to Mar Menor via Alicante Airport (99 miles)

We are up the earliest since this trip started., 6:45am. It’s dark so getting out of the site is a bit tricky. Can’t see a thing! Today Del is off to Berlin to do a job, coming back on Sunday. Hayley will drop him off at Alicante airport and do the 1-hour drive to Mar Menor. On time Del is dropped off at the airport at 8:30am, he checks in and sits with a coffee for his 10:10 flight.

Hayley is setting off for a campsite in the Mar Menor after a couple of circuits of the airport trying to find the exit. The journey goes well but the tolls are a pain having to get up and lean out of the opposite side of Jess to pay them. There is quite a lot of laundry stacking up so once in and settled into a nice large space, she gets on with it. It’s a beautiful day here on the Mar Menor. Once the domestics are done, it’s time to settle down with a drink in the sunshine.

It’s clear blue skies and high temperatures, unseasonably high for the time of year by all accounts so Hayley gets a bit of exercise done with a 4 mile walk through the tall grass and along the shores of the Mar Menor.

Del has an uneventful flight, thankfully, up until the last 30 minutes. Berlin is experiencing the most appalling wind, so the approach and second attempt of landing is a bit on the rough side. The wind is so bad that Del has to help a lady up who gets blown over in the wind with her cases. Poor love. It is awful. He gets an Uber to the hotel, which is 30 minutes away, and is in his room by 2:45.

Some work has already started

Not much to do today. Dinner with all the crew.

It’s a large event with a vast crew. It’s so good though to see so many people from over the years gathered in one place. Such lovely people. It will help ease the time away and make it a very pleasant few days.

Thursday 25th January 2024 – Mar Menor / Berlin Day 2

It’s another beautiful day in Spain, this whole area is getting hotter than usual weather. There’s a fabulous beachside restaurant here that we visited last time we stayed, so Hayley makes a beeline for it for lunch. They do a set menu for 25 euros, more expensive than your usual Spanish set menu, but this place is something special.

The lunch is delicious, by the beach and served with a glass of cold white wine. Poor Del, wish he was here. After lunch, she walks up to the nearby military runway where some very noisy F5 jets are taking off.

Hayley does love a noisy jet (seeing the film Top Gun at the cinema as a teenager probably has a lot to do with this).

She’s hoping to see the Spanish version of the Red Arrows (Patrulla Aguila) rehearsing as this is their base. Unfortunately, after the last jet leaves a team of resurfacing trucks move in and start re-laying the runway. That’s the end of that then!

In Berlin meanwhile, it’s all pretty full on. The venue is large and is split in half. During the day it’s a conference for over 2000 people, and in the evening the room opens up to provide a full dinner and entertainment for the delegates.

It is a large room and difficult to explain the size, but if you have ever been to see a concert in an arena then you are quite close to imagining how large it is. It’s huge. Lots of lights, sound, set and large screens, and it all has to be done in a day and a half!

Friday 26th January 2024 – Mar Menor / Berlin Day 3

It’s blue skies again in Spain and Hayley is off cycling to the mud baths in San Pedro del Pinatar at the end of the Mar Menor. There are great cycling lanes much of the way and she ends up cycling to the strip that separates the Mar Menor and the Mediterranean Sea. 

No one is partaking of the mud baths as it’s a bit too early in the season but the views are fabulous. The nearby towns are proud of their aviation connections – there are statues of planes everywhere and the benches are made in the style of aircraft wings.

Back at the van she puts her feet up after a total of 17 miles of cycling and sits in the sun reading.

It’s the penultimate day today before the Berlin event. Del is programming the plenary conference for the daytime and another programmer is taking care of the evening show. Between them, they have to take turns programming their own areas. The pressure is on to meet the deadline for the rehearsals and there is a lot to do, but it’s all coming together.

Early start tomorrow. 6 am…! Show day!

This is as far as we go…

Week 6 – 13th January 2024 – 19th January 2024 –  Balerma to San Jose (186 miles)

Saturday 13th January 2024 – Balerma Day 3

Del, proud of his now clean, shiny van.

Our last day here today. It’s a warmish start so after a bowl of bran flakes and fruit we sit outside, chatting and reading before finally setting off for a local walk, nothing too strenuous. It’s a lovely day.

We don’t plan to have dinner tonight. Instead, Hayley puts together a very typical Spanish spread of tortilla, tomato bread, Jamon Serrano, chorizo, salad and the biggest prawns ever dipped in alioli for a very late lunch while the sun is still out.

Fabulous. Needless to say, it didn’t stay on the table for very long.

It’s a quiet afternoon. As usual, it gets quite cool from about 4:30 onwards so we wrap up and just relax.

Tomorrow we are going a little more west towards Nerja. Still in Andalucia, this will be as far as we go west before turning round and heading back towards home. We still have just under 4 weeks to go to do it.

We played our last EXIT game tonight…

Sunday 14th January 2024 – Balerma to Nerja (70 miles)

Lemon tree behind Jess
The camp parrot!

We are moving on today and heading west to a nice little place that we visited two years ago, Camping Cortijo San Miguel which is just outside the town of Nerja, famous for its caves.

A nice drive today, short, just over an hour.

It’s a busy place but luckily we booked ahead for our two-night stay.

We are given a nice patch surrounded by lemon trees, avocado trees and bird of paradise plants. Very nice, very peaceful – perfect.

Once set up we are off to find lunch. There used to be a very nice beach restaurant here. It was a bit on the rough and ‘rustic’ side but the food was very good and very cheap with good simple service. We found that the old place has now closed down and the owner has built a rather flashy ‘block’ on the beach.

It’s an excellent location and looks trendy. Of course this means that it’s full. We are asked for our name and asked to just have a drink and wait for our table.

We get one of the best tables in the place, outside, in front of the building with a full open, unobstructed view of the sea and beach. Smashing.

There’s a small accident as we are getting settled when Del manages to knock his beer over all over Hayley. She stinks like a brewery for the rest of the afternoon.

We eat half the seabed. Calamaris, sardines, fried bouqueroes and paella. Quite a feed. The place is rather hectic, probably slightly understaffed, but all good.

Pair of van visitors

The bill finally arrives with bits missing, so after letting him know what he’s missed we settle the bill and leave with an ice cream to finish off.

We have a peaceful afternoon back at the camp in the sun with a coffee. We do have a couple of visitors – a black cat and a tabby cat, who think it might be a good idea to inspect the van. There are a few cats here wandering about who are very friendly.

They all look well fed, which is thanks to the campers feeding them. They aren’t daft. They are very nice, just wandering around letting people fuss them and feed them.

It’s movie night tonight. We watch the first two episodes about the postmasters/Post Office caper. Bad that, very bad.

Monday 15th January 2024 – Nerja, Day 2

The weather this morning is not what was advertised. We were supposed to get warm sunny skies, low 20s. Instead, it’s cloudy, with a slight breeze and mid-teens. Oh well, no matter. We have a morning on Jess before going for a walk to the town of Nerja.

The wind has built up, the sea is totally different from yesterday, it’s really chopping up. Not what was expected.

Del’s ‘expensive’ new shades

The sky is dark and threatening, but soon we are in the town square of Nerja and the sun comes out. Del buys a new pair of sunglasses for 12 euros! Bargain.

We find a bar with outside seating and enjoy two small beers while discussing next year’s adventure. Where shall we go? What shall we do?

A very pleasant afternoon in the town of Nerja. The walk back feels long as we battle the strong wind, face-on, back to Jess. A nice evening at the van and a lovely dinner.

Movie night again tonight. Ricky Gervais – Armageddon. Very entertaining. We also watched the last two episodes about the Post Office scandal. Mr what’s his name etc.

Tuesday 16th January 2024 – Nerja to Cabo de Gata (112 miles)

Well, today is the day that we now start to turn back, keeping the sea on our right. We have just under 3 and a half weeks remaining before our ferry on the 9th of February towards home.

It’s a very pleasant uneventful drive, which you always want… We are retracing our steps for the first part and staying at the Cabo de Gata campsite. There’s not much to do around there but the campsite is excellent, lots of facilities with an excellent restaurant. Once we get checked in, it is indeed time for lunch, so we take advantage of the menu of the day, 13 euros each for a full three-courses, drink and a coffee.

It’s that time of the week when Jess gets a full clean inside. Doors and windows are all opened up and the whole van gets a full wipe-down and the floors are washed. We also get a pile of laundry done. The weather is a bit unpredictable today; wind and rain with bits of sunshine. It’s still warm though so it’s not all bad.

No dinner tonight after the big lunch. Early night!

Wednesday 17th January 2024 – Cabo de Gata Day 2

Another day of unpredictable weather today. Indeed just after breakfast, we get an hour of heavy rain.

Rain streaming down the windows

The Spanish won’t be complaining, they have been short on rain down here for a while. In the summer they saw temperatures of high 40s to low 50s celcius, so a few heavy showers will be welcome. We don’t mind, we stay in Jess, pottering, reading and planning trips for the future. Do it while you can!

The wind is blowing hard but the rain has finally stopped with some sunshine trying to get through. We take our chances with the lull in the weather, and get a jacket on and take a walk to the sea which is a good 2km round trip.

We get to the sea edge and it’s blowing hard, straight from the southwest, force 8 and building! It’s good though, quite invigorating. After a while we get fed up with the wind and the noise and make our way back for a cup of tea. We have another cat visitor.

This time a small black kitten, who is just terrified of any movement or sound. We managed to calm the poor thing down for a while with cat treats and some milk. Poor thing,

We get a nice sunny break later in the afternoon, but we still have the howling wind. You can get fed up with it… Del is currently reading books from the British Library Crime Classics series, so escapes to the bar to read a couple of chapters while sampling a ‘Cafe Cabo‘, which is a local version of the Canary Islands Cafe Barraquito.

A very quiet day today.

Thursday 18th January 2024 – Cabo de Gata to San Jose (12 miles)

We only have a short drive today, probably 30 minutes. We are going across the Cabo de Gata, the small sticky-out bit at the bottom right-hand side of Spain, to a place near San Jose called Camping Escullos. A short service for Jess today – grey water empty and a fresh toilet and we are off.

The countryside changes quite quickly. Soon we are away from the acres and acres of plastic sheeted greenhouses, and soon we are at the heart of a national park which is quite spectacular, with its high hills and roads carved into them going for miles. Very nice. A short but rather nice drive.

We arrive at the camp, which we have pre-paid, but although they can find our reservation, they can’t find the deposit paid. Of course, Hayley has all this info at her fingertips. No problem, we are not to worry and just pop in on our departure day and hopefully, the banking system will have sorted itself out.

We are given a small but nice pitch, really tucked in with just enough space. It’s nice and private.

The wind is still blowing hard but it’s a lovely warm sunny day. Without too much of a do, we shut the van up and set off for a walk to the beach. It’s a good mile or so of a walk but worth it when we get there. It has a lovely sandy beach, which because of its distance from anything and the coolish weather, we are the only ones there. It’s a small bay or cove so the wind is not too bad.

We have a good look around and get a good walk in, discovering a fort built right on the edge of the rocks. It’s all rather pleasant and we have to remind ourselves that it’s the middle of January as we stand under the sunny blue skies, looking out to a dark blue sea.

By the time we get back to Jess, we have done a good 3.5 mile walk and feel rather good for it. We have a small snack and a beer in the afternoon sun behind Jess.

Tonight there is a band on at the camp restaurant with fish and chips for a staggering 7 euros! We’ll give that a miss but probably go and see the band.

A relaxing afternoon takes us up to 7:30 pm when we go to check out the band. They have already started. It’s a little odd.

It’s an Irish band, a 5 piece band which without a doubt, might be the worst we have every seen (and heard). None of them can crack a smile, their singing is mumbled and it’s hard to hear who is playing and what they’re playing. The funny thing is that the audience, who are now full of cheap fish and chips and cheap wine, seem to like it.

We sit at the bar and it turns out to be not too bad a night after all. We have some locally made Pacharan, a nice drink over ice – homemade by the campsite though. Tomorrow might be interesting,

Friday 19th January 2024 – San Jose Day 2

Poor quality sleep last night. Hayley complains of a bit of a headache and our mouths feel a bit ‘furry’ from the moonshine last night. A short simple breakfast today. It’s a bit miserable here today. It’s cold, cloudy and rainy. It’s far better than our home country which is experiencing a real cold snap, but it is winter…

We stay indoors until lunchtime and have a rather splendid lunch at the local restaurant. Very pleasant. It’s not rained for a while and seems to be holding steady, so we decided to set off for a walk, similar to yesterday, just to get some exercise. Because of the threatening rain, we take caution and put a good waterproof coat on, just in case.

It’s good to be out in the fresh air. We set off and the surrounding hills are quite spectacular. But what’s this? As we progress through our walk, which isn’t very far, the skies grow dark and dramatic.

But very dark. At the first feel of the first drop of rain, we decide to turn back. Just as well…

Within minutes the heavens open up and dump a heavy shower of heavy rain on us. The wind has also built up and we are walking right into it.

The wind is so strong and the rain so heavy it stings your face. Hayley has to put her glasses on to give her self some “eyeball protection”.

We laugh and curse all the way back to Jess, get the wet clothes off and have a cup of tea. Guess what…? It’s stopped raining… Typical. Suddenly it feels like Filey on a Tuesday afternoon…!

We will be staying in for the rest of the day and night. Tomorrow is another day.

Finally, finally, we have found the sunshine!

Week 5 – 6th January 2024 – 12th January 2024 –  Benicarlo, Spain -Balerma, Spain (424 miles)

Saturday 6th January 2024 – Benicarlo to Mar Menor (253 miles)

We keep saying the previous day that this is our last long drive. Well, we say the same thing again, but this time it’s an even longer drive.

The famous Osborne roadside bulls

Today we do a 6 and something hours of driving. The upside is that we are now in the warm part of Spain where the daily average temperature is 17 degrees. That’s cooler than it’s been recently – the week before we arrived it was in the low 20s but Europe is having a bit of a cold snap.

The motorways are free in Spain, apart from some shorter newer routes and even then it’s cheap. We follow the coast until we pass Alicante and Hayley finds us, what on paper, looks like an excellent campsite called “La Fabrica” or The Factory. The reviews talk of vegan cooking classes and oboe concerts, Del is a bit dubious but these quirky stops make for an interesting trip. It’s off our route by a couple of kms but we think that we will give it a go. We drive through a town called Dolores which is dead, not just quiet, but dead, nothing there. It feels very odd. We find the campsite which is equally dead and closed but looks, on the outside, how it is described on its website. It’s worth just clicking on their website to see what we mean.

We park up while Del investigates. It is definitely closed apart from one run-down camper van with an old Spanish guy sitting outside it spitting. Nice. We give up and set off. Del finds a Whatsapp number for the owner who replies to Del’s text saying that it is the right place but that they are full. 

We drive off to rejoin the motorway, it’s all starting to feel like a bit of a slog now after 6 hours. We head to the Mar Menor where there are two cheap camper parks. One of them doesn’t open until 6pm and looks full, the other is full so we end up spending 40 euros for a place in the nearby campsite for the night.

We are put into a tight space which is basically the campsite carpark with some wire running to it for electricity. We decide to change and move into the campsite for the same price but without electricity. It’s more spacious and quieter. The other pitch had a group of revellers playing music extremely loud and having a BBQ and we were downwind of it. We like the new space. Nice, but very expensive. It’s high season here. We are amazed that the two cheap camping parks are full, between them there are 215 spaces and they are all full! Most of the spaces in these parks and campsites are filled by huge German motorhomes in a completely different league to Jess, they are the size of coaches and some store a car inside them. We do some research and find a Morelo Empire Liner for £686,000! We’ll stick with Jess.

We settle in for the night. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday 7th January 2024 Mar Menor to Cabo de Gata (136 miles)

The wind in the Mar Menor is strong. We are getting quite fed up with it, it’s cold as well, so we finally decide that after breakfast we will move on further south to find some winter sunshine. We set off, Del is driving while Hayley does her best to find us a place. We, text and email sites as we go along, all of which have “no room at the inn“. It’s a busy time of year, this is where the warm weather is and this is where everyone wants to be. Just like us!

The white bits are plastic greenhouses…

Finally Hayley does find us a place. She is really good at scouring the camping apps and maps and finding us places. We have finally broken free of the windy weather and the skies are blue. We are heading south towards the Cabo de Gata. It starts to feel like a bit of a slog but it is well worth it. We have booked and paid in advance and we are welcomed by a very nice chap who gives us a space. Finally, finally, we have found the sunshine.

There is not much around here at the Cabo de Gata. We remember it from our sailing days when we sailed from Almerimar to Barcelona and back on a couple of occasions. This area of Andalusia is considered the poor part of Spain, but it is also where most of Europe’s fruit and veg are grown.

Miles and miles of land are covered in plastic greenhouses. It is said that after the Great Wall of China, it is the second largest man-made thing that can be seen from space.

We have a great pitch and get settled in quite quickly.

The have a restaurant here on the site serving local stuff at a good price so without too much delay, we are sitting down to a cold beer, a huge salad, fried baby squid and some fries on the side. We also have a cold glass of rose to help it along all enjoyed in the wind-free sunshine. Finally.

It is still winter here so it does get cold from around 5 pm. We are well fed and watered and content to be where we are. Fabulous. Could the days of long drives be finally over?

Monday 8th January 2024 – Cabo de Gata – Day 2

It’s a nice bright, but chilly, day this morning. We slept well – it’s so quiet here. Breakfast is outside today in the cool winter sun. We have some winter tops on as it’s a chilly morning . It’s so nice though. We enjoy our breakfast. Laundry day today. It has to be done.

The bikes are at last coming off the back of the van, after 4 weeks we get them down. Hayley gives them a good wipe down, oiling and tyre pump up and we are off, no idea where, but we are off. We find our way to the beach. It’s not really a beach for spending the day on but it’s the beach. It stretches for miles to the left and to the right of us.

The sea is calm and it’s warm in the sun. We are the only people for miles too. We sit on the beach looking out to sea reminiscing about our boat trips along these waters. We sit there for a while just chatting. It’s lovely.

We set off again. We can see a town a few miles off along the coast, and following a dusty road we arrive at the small town of Cabo de Gata. It’s dead. There is no one here. We cycle through the empty dusty streets. It feels strange.


We make our way to the sea front and find a small bar with a couple of people sitting out to enjoy the afternoon sun. Why not we think, and sit down to a small glass of Coke and two small tapas. Lovely.

Our 7 mile cycle

Not realising the time we head back to the campsite, again another dusty, pot holed, winding road to join the main road back to the campsite, we end the day sitting outside in the afternoon sun and just like yesterday it starts to cool off around 5 pm so we pack up and get into Jess for a nice hot cup of tea. We liked it today, lots done including a good 7 mile cycle.

We like it here so much that we ask if we can stay another two nights. No problem, so here we will stay for the next few days, in the Cabo de Gata, in the province of Andalucia, Spain.

Tuesday 9th January 2024 – Cabo de Gata – Day 3

We have woken up to a cloudy, cool morning. The sun is trying to break through but not quite making it. Breakfast indoors today. Crumpets and poached eggs! Nice. We stay around Jess today, planning our next few weeks, booking what we can ahead, if we can.

It’s mid-afternoon and the sun has pushed away some of the clouds, it’s quite warm. We get the walking boots on and set off for a walk. We walk past a lot of the greenhouses that cover many miles of the Andalucian area. Some are left to rot and decay sending massive sheets of plastic to blow around the countryside, eventually making it into the sea. There is also an issue with poor conditions for migrant workers, which we all tend to ignore, so long as the tomatoes are cheap! See the wiki here, and some photos.

An hour or so later we have done 4 miles. Back to Jess. The clouds have gathered a bit more heavily now, rain is threatening. We pack everything away and pop the bikes back on the back. We are moving on tomorrow.

The rest of the day is spent on Jess. It’s so still outside, grey and cool. Dinner on board.

Movie night tonight. Groundhog Day. A 90s film about a bloke who’s a bit of a git, wakes up everyday to the same thing and becomes an alright bloke. It was ok.

Wednesday 10th January 2024 – Cabo de Gata – Day 4

There was some rain overnight, just a shower. This morning the sunshine is back. Clear blue sky and it is warming up nicely. It’s bacon butties and coffee for breakfast today. We are leaving today to make an overnight stop along the coast. Just as we are having breakfast Del gets an email cancelling our reservation. Nice. We get into a bit of a flap as the day is already planned. It’s a short-lived flap though as we decide to stay put just for one more night. It’s nice here so we don’t really mind.

Camping Cabo de Gata has everything and it has a nice easy going feel about it, clean and well maintained.

It has really warmed up now to a balmy 17 degrees so we sit outside jess reading, writing and chatting. It’s that good we finally get our shorts on and just relax for the rest of the day.

The camp restaurant does a fabulous 13 euro menu of the day, so we take advantage of that. Fantastic value for money and enjoyed in the afternoon sun.

Back at Jess we rinse and repeat the mornings activities. It’s all go! We discuss and part book a trip away for the summer.

No dinner tonight but we do play one of our EXIT games.

Tomorrow we will definitely be moving on. Maybe…

Thursday 11th January 2024 – Cabo de Gata to Balerma (50 miles)

We have liked staying here in Camping Cabo de Gata. We have stayed longer than we thought. There is not much around here, you can go out on a bike and do some walking, which is nice, it’s just that the campsite has a such a nice feeling about it which is hard to describe, it’s relaxing, care free and has everything you need including an excellent restaurant and bar. We will probably call in here again for another night or two on the way back home in a couple of weeks.

We do finally leave today. After a massive breakfast. “A clear out breakfast“. Getting stuff used up that will be soon out of date. Del knocks up a poor man’s tortilla using up some eggs and potatoes. There’s ham, cheese, jam and bread. We go a bit mad really. We do a full service on Jess and set off west along the southern coast of Spain. It’s a lovely day, 18 degrees and all’s right with the world. We are heading for a campsite called Camping Mar Azul in the town of Balerma. It’s a short 50 mile drive and on route we stop at the Spanish version of Tescos – Mercadona. A fabulous supermarket. Never thought we would say that “It’s our favourite supermarket“, but they are rather good. The fridge and cupboards in the van are jammed with stuff that should last us a good week or more.

Finally. A cheap wash for Jess

At the campsite we find that they have a van wash! Jess has not had a decent wash since the start way back in Switzerland. For 3 euros, yes 3 euros she gets the best wash ever! So, so cheap.

We get checked in and get to our pitch and settle in very quickly. The site must be occupied by at the very least 98% Germans. It’s mad… No problem with that, they work hard, they buy all the toys, they move about and enjoy using them. It’s a nice place here, we have a walk around to find out where all the essentials are, toilets, showers, stuff like that.

Cute visitor.

We walk along the front to the town of Balerma. It’s quite sad really. This area of Spain is the poorest area. There are so many construction sites that have started and have been abandoned. Blocks that are occupied but are starting to fall apart. The town is almost deserted. Eventually though we do find some life. Two seafront restaurants that are busy. We stop at one of the places for a “Tinto Verano” (Red Summer). Red wine mixed with lemonade and lots of ice. Very refreshing.

Hayley’s Fidua

We make friends with the restaurant’s local black cat while studying the menu which is excellent. We decide that we will come here for a late lunch tomorrow. Back at Jess, we half heartedly plot the rest of the trip out before showering and having a fabulous dinner on board. Hayley does do a an amazing Fidua.

Early night tonight…

Friday 12th January 2024 – Balerma Day 2

It was a good night’s sleep, we were in bed by 9 pm! Bacon and avocado butties and coffee for breakfast this morning. It’s windy today, much more than yesterday. You can get fed up with wind. Today we plan on a bike ride and a late lunch. After breakfast we sit about chatting, get the bikes off the back and off we go. We plan to go to Almerimar which is east along the coast, a 10km cycle, 20 round trip. We set off but the strong wind is dead in our face, it slows us down and the roar past our ears is getting on our wick so we forget all about it and cycle back in the other direction and take lunch a little earlier.

It’s nice afternoon out and the time goes quick. We end up at a restaurant with the best sea view, its very quite and peaceful here and our cat friend from yesterday puts in an appearance.

For 13 euros we have a menu of the day, which is quite extensive. Salad, fried aubergine with honey, followed by paella and a local stew. More food comes; calamari with some fries, a local dessert and coffee. Del has a splash of brandy in his coffee (carajillo).

Back at Jess, Hayley does some planning for a summer trip while Del does nothing! In the end we did manage a staggering 7 mile cycle…

Another day here tomorrow, the last day before moving further along the coast to Nerja.

Happy 2024 everyone…!

Week 4 – 30th December 2023– 5th January 2024 Interlaken, Switzerland to Benicarlo, Spain. (889 miles)

NOTE: You can now see where we have been with Jess on our travels since we started. Click here for a Google map that will allow you to move around in the usual way.

Saturday 30th December 2023 – Interlaken to Lucerne. (45 miles)

That’s Christmas out of the way… We have been based in Interlaken for 6 nights, one of the longest stops. It has been very good here, we’ve seen and done quite a lot and enjoyed ourselves. The campsite was excellent, very cheap and very handy for facilities and with the help of the free bus pass from the campsite, we were able to get out and explore.

Time to move on now though. We intend to bring in the new year back at Lucerne. We stayed for one night there last week. It’s a city, so very busy, but they are having a huge fireworks display on the lake on the 1st of January and we would like to see that. The campsite works on a first come first served basis and as it’s the new year with this big firework thing, we think it will fill up, so we need to get there sharpish.

Jess is packed up, serviced, and ready for the off. We need some LPG for heating etc, we have gone through a whole bottle! We are also down to our last bits of food so on the way out of Interlaken we find a garage and top up with gas and later a budget supermarket (which is still more expensive than Waitrose). We are fully stocked. The drive is about an hour and a half to Lucerne.

Look at the road, please!

It’s a pleasant drive. Hayley is at the wheel today.

There’s lots of twisting and turning and steep climbs, she pulls over to let people pass, and about 30 cars go by – bet they were cursing us. The weather is fair with some sunshine as we make our way back through almost 20km of tunnels to get to Lucerne.

Pick a space

We arrive at the campsite which is closed for lunch, but they have left a sign with the available spaces, which aren’t many now, so you are encouraged to pick your spot from the remaining and cross the pitch number from the list. Whew!

We bag a space. We are going to be here for 3 nights, leaving on the 2nd January 2024! We get settled in and have a cup of tea in the cool afternoon sunshine. Nice.

Dinner in tonight after a lovely dusk walk by the lake. It’s cold. Snow is expected on New Year’s Day. We shall see.

Sunday 31st December 2023 – Lucerne – Day 2

Well, folks, it’s the last day of 2023.

We are up late but we have a good hearty breakfast and spend some time in the van chatting and reading, all very nice. Time for a walk though. We take the bus to the centre of Lucerne and have a good walk around town.

It’s a very nice town, lots of history here and lovely buildings. We do manage to get some chocolate here in Switzerland!

Chocolate swag!

We put together a small bag of Lindt chocolate balls from a high street chocolate shop, which on reflection are a bit sickly, but it doesn’t stop us from scoffing some of them down!

Rain is threatening so we decide to walk back to the van around the lake. By the time we get back, it has started to rain properly, not heavy but just enough to get you wet. In total, we walked a good 5 miles.

Very good. We feel better for doing it.

The rain is now gently pattering on the roof of the van.

It’s cosy in Jess though, with nice lighting and the heating on while we enjoy some crumpets and a tea, and later a glass of pre-New Year Champagne. We want to spread it out a bit you see rather than drink the whole thing in one go!

Crumpets and tea. Well, why not?

Hayley does a fantastic dinner tonight of turkey, red cabbage, and spatzle, all very local, washed down with a small glass of red. To kill time until midnight we play an EXIT game. These are games that are like escape rooms but on paper. They’re good fun, sometimes they can be tricky but they’re entertaining. We’ve done many of these games and enjoyed them very much.

Well, folks 2023 is fast coming to an end. We are off to bring 2024 in with the rest of the fizz and maybe nip across the road to the water’s edge of Lake Lucerne if the rain stays off.

We would like to wish you all, family, friends, and acquaintances a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Del, H and Jess…xxx

Monday 1st January 2024 – Lucerne – Day 3

Today, the first day of the new year, we get up very late.

It was a very nice night last night. We played and completed our EXIT game with an hour to spare before midnight.

EXIT games. We have done probably 10 of these.

On the stroke of midnight, we were outside Jess with a glass of fizz in hand counting the seconds. The locals had gone crazy with the fireworks. The sky was alive with them. We did the short walk to the nearest park where the public is just allowed to let off as many fireworks as they like, and they were. It was mad, but great to watch.

Back at the van we did some phone calls and texts, watched the London fireworks and were in bed by 2:00 am.

The rest of the new year’s day we spend mainly indoors. It’s cold today. We have seen Lucerne now. We are here for the “official” fireworks later tonight.

We do manage a short walk to the Lido across the road where we just missed a group of people doing a swim in the cold lake. Mad.

We relax back in Jess waiting for the evening fireworks. It’s cold tonight as we make our way to the lake which is just a couple of hundred yards from the campsite and pick our spot for the display.

They didn’t disappoint. The display was at the town end of the lake but we still had a very good view along with the couple of hundred other people that turned up to see them. Excellent.

Tuesday 2nd January 2024 Lucerne – Leysin (142 miles)

Today we are heading south and slightly east to a place called Leysin. We are going there because there is a Tobogganing Park that Hayley wants to try out. It’s 1300m above sea level and the forecast for the area is predicting cold temperatures and snow.

In the line for a service

We get packed up and do a full service before we leave as we will be off grid today, so everything gets charged up, full tank of fresh water, fresh toilet and we are good to go.

Alpine Micky Dees

It’s a very nice drive today with some spectacular views as we climb higher. The temperature gets to 3 degrees and we start to see snow, not fresh falling snow but snow from previous falls. Del is driving today and in need of a coffee so we stop at a service area which has a McDonald’s.

20 quids worth of Micky Dees

Well, why not? 23 Swiss francs later we have a bag of food (not much for 20 quid) and are sitting in Jess having “a lunch”.

Back on the road and climbing higher. After some tight twisty narrow driving, we arrive at Leysin. It’s 4 degrees. We get a good spot and set off for a walk. There has been no fresh snow here for a while but the park is open and only 8 of the 13 runs are operating. We have a good walk and find some good snow to walk in.

On our way back to Jess it starts to rain, which is quite heavy by the time we get back. We get in the van and get the heating on, cup of tea and settle in for a quiet evening.

Tomorrow is our last day in Switzerland.

Wednesday 3rd January 2024 Leysin, Switzerland to Volte-sur-Rhone, France (245 miles)

It rained for most of the night last night. There were only small gaps in the rain, but for the most part it just rained! It was supposed to be freezing with snow. When we look out of the window this morning, it has finally stopped raining and is quite pleasant but a lot of the surrounding snow has dissolved. Fortunately, the Toboggan Run is made of lots of compacted snow and ice so it’s still there and still open but with only 6 of the 13 runs working.

We have a lazy breakfast as our session is from 12 midday. You get 1 hour 50 minutes on the slopes. After breakfast we get togged up in lots of layers and off we go. It’s just a short walk to the check-in, Hayley shows the ticket and we are both given a quick 3 minute safety lecture and handed a crash hat and our inner tube that we will sit in and then be pushed down an icy slope on!

Great fun!!! There is a ‘magic carpet’ that takes you to the top, which is just a fancy outdoor travelator. You sit yourself in the ring, cross your legs and get pushed!! It is pretty fast with a few twists and turns and banked corners cut into the snow. Sometimes you end up going backwards, spinning and so on. We got about 10 goes in our allocated time slot, which was plenty. Fabulous.

Back at Jess we pack up and set off just before 3 pm. We have a possible long drive ahead of us today. We are just east of Lake Geneva and we have to get to the south of France.

Goodbye Switzerland

The route is either over a high pass on very twisty roads and then dropping down into Chamonix which will take hours, or to go around the top of Lake Geneva and get on the French motorway system which is less time but a longer distance.

We take the second option. 5 and a half hours later, 42 euros on tolls and another 70 euros on diesel we finally arrive in the southern half of France, south of Lyon and north of Marseille. Hayley has a little app that allows us to book spaces in advance in France using “Camping Car Park”. You find the site, pay the small pitch fee and that’s it. What’s more, it worked. We arrived at the site where a French van was sitting outside, as we approached he signalled to us that it was full, but we just drove up to the barrier, swiped the card and the barrier opened. We are in. We did feel a bit sad for the French who couldn’t get in, but only a bit…

We are about a 2 hour drive from the French Mediterranean and we are aiming to be in Spain by late afternoon tomorrow.

An enjoyable but very long day, we are wiped out. Once we get settled, which is very quickly, we have a cup of tea and we are done. Night!

Thursday 4th January 2024 Volte-sur-Rhone, France to Capmany, Spain (240 miles)

Today we are up quite early, have breakfast, and are off and on our way by 10 am. It’s a bright cool morning. Another long day today of driving lies ahead. We want to get over the French/Spanish border and down to the south as quickly as we can. So we would like to get there quite early today. Looking at other campsites in Spain they are all full, mostly with Germans. They seem to be having an extended Christmas holiday, or doing what we are up to, and escaping their country for the winter.

We can either go by national, none toll roads, which will take forever and we will use up a lot, but a lot, of diesel. Or we can get there quicker use less diesel but pay a fortune on French toll motorways.

We go for the second option. We get a shop done as we are fast running out of supplies and soon we are off again and on the French motorways. They are very expensive but they are very good. Well maintained, clean and spacious.

Cork trees on the way to the campsite

After 58 euros on tolls and 5 and a half hours on the road we are in a charming Spanish campsite called Camping Albera just over the border in a small village called Capmany. We have been here before. It’s very pleasant. The sun is shining and it is 18 degrees!

As soon as we are parked up, the chairs are out, Hayley has a t-shirt on and a cold glass of white wine in hand sitting in the sun.

Within 24 hours we have gone from the Swiss Alps to the Spanish med.

A bit of a downer on the horizon – Spain is expecting some very rough weather soon, that could last 10 days. We shall see. Dinner tonight was all homemade, all very nice, especially Hayley’s Tartiflette.

After dinner we manage a good walk out into the village of Capmany. Sitting in the van all day for almost 6 hours, we feel we need to stretch our legs a bit and get some blood flowing. It was well worth it. A very nice place indeed.

Friday 5th January 2024 Capmany to Benicarlo (230 miles)

Another long drive is planned for today, but hopefully, this will be our last one for a while. We are trying to get as far south as possible to get some sunnier, warmer weather. We have had a very pleasant stay here in Capmany, a very quiet place, but when we wake up this morning the site is almost empty, completely different from our arrival when the site was almost full. Lots of German motorhomes in transit, but are they going north or south?

It’s a grey overcast day but a nice temperature. There has been some light rain overnight. We need diesel and gas so we set off for the chaotic La Jonquera. It lives up to our description – chaotic. It is on the main motorway between France and Spain on the border, all road freight goes through here as well as tourists. It’s badly signed where everything is, the roads are in a bad condition and you have trucks, in the main, and tourists milling around. How there is not an incident we have no idea. Maybe that’s it. Maybe too much regulation and direction causes more accidents? Anyway, we give up filling at one place as we can’t get in. All kinds of height restrictions and bollards.

Finally we get to a petrol station after going around a roundabout or two while dodging Lithuania trucks, French tankers and German camper vans. Great fun…

We are on our way. The weather brightens up, it’s a lovely day as we head south on a FREE Spanish motorway. It’s busy as we pass Barcelona. The weather over the next few days is not great. Very high winds are expected, very high, we can already feel the start of it as Jess gets pushed about a bit in the wind. Hayley books us into a campsite called Camping Alegría del Mar for the night which is located south of Tarragona near a town called Vinaros.

At 3:30 pm we finally arrive having left Capmany at 11:00 am. We get a nice welcome that includes a free drink from the bar and a very nice spacious pitch. The stony beach is a two-minute walk. We can’t resist walking there as soon as we arrive to look at the Med and a rather stormy sky. It’s good to be here, we like it. We look out to sea and remember fondly the amount of times that we passed this spot when we had our boat, Stargazer.

The campsite has a nice, warm friendly feel to it, so much so, we will dine in their restaurant tonight and maybe try for another two nights here and stay for the weekend to sit out the winds. It’s Kings’ Day here tomorrow so it might be tricky. We shall see.

We decided that, yes, we would have dinner tonight at the local campsite restaurant and it was well worth it. A very nice friendly atmosphere with a mix of English, French and some Spanish. We had a lovely dinner with a salad, chiperones (fried baby squid), fiduea (paella but with short noodles) and two glasses of red. All for under 50 euros. That would have only got us a main course for one in Switzerland.

They had a few games of bingo, which we joined in and Hayley won a bottle of red, and Del won a bar of chocolate. All in all great fun and a lovely evening.

Merry Christmas everyone…

Week 3 – 23rd – 29th December 2023 Muggenbrunn, Todtnau, Germany to Interlaken, Switzerland. (133 miles)

Saturday 23rd December 2023 – Muggenbrunn, Todtnau, Germany to Lake Lucerne, Switzerland. (85 miles)

We woke up this morning to silence. No more rain on the roof. We were starting to get a bit fed up with that. Peering out of the window it’s foggy and damp but at least it’s not raining.

Muddy, nasty slush everywhere

We are moving on today to Switzerland.

Outside the snow that was here when we arrived has turned to slush so everything is muddy, when you walk out it’s muddy, everything you touch is muddy, the electric cable, the ramps that we are on to keep us level are all wet and muddy and have to be stowed away in plastic bags.

Finally, we are packed, we pay the lady and set off down the hill where the snow is getting less and less but it’s also drier. We stop to do some shopping and fill up with LPG for the heating and cooking. Christmas here in Germany is a different thing. The shops are not packed and people aren’t panicking to get their turkey order in before a certain date, no it’s just like any other day, sure people are putting different things in their basket, but it just feels like any other day. Also, Christmas Eve is the “big day/night”, and there’s no such thing as Boxing Day.

We are stocked up and ready to go. The sat navs are programmed up. We have two, a Google map and a Tom Tom map, but we also have good old-fashioned paper maps and books. You have to really. The weather has improved, the sky is clearing, it’s dry and it’s turning out to be a lovely morning.

With all our maps of different types and our two brains, we can’t find Switzerland. For some reason, we keep on seeing the same junction and roundabout. Very frustrating, funny the first time, not so funny the second, and annoying by the third. Finally, finally, we find the right road and we are on our way.

All Swiss motorways require a toll and it’s usually paid for by buying a sticker to put on your windscreen. You pay 40 something euros and the sticker lasts just over a year. We bought one when we did a shortcut through Switzerland on our last trip out so it’s still in date meaning we just glide over the border and just carry on through Switzerland.

It’s fabulous. The roads are clear and smooth, well maintained. The weather has improved dramatically with blue skies and a baking temperature of 8 degrees. As we drive along the motorway we can see, in the distance, the snow-covered Swiss Alps shining in the sun. Quite stunning.

We are heading to Luzern or Lucerne or however many different ways there are spelling this place. We are staying in a campsite called Camping Lido Luzern which is right on the famous lake. We arrive just before dusk and get a pitch for a staggering 49 euros for the night. (That’s cheap. Some are as much as 70 for the night). It’s not often you go to Lake Lucerne in Switzerland so whilst we groan about the price, we feel it’s worth paying.

Before we go anywhere, we need to clean up the mud and gunge that we accumulated in the Black Forest.

We need a walk after being locked up in the Black Forest so we set off along the pathway by the lake that leads from the campsite to the town. What a fabulous walk. The temperature is just right, the sun is setting behind a snow-covered mountain and the sky is breathtaking.

We do a good 40-minute walk to the town which is beautiful. The Christmas trees and decorations are very classy and understated. Lovely.

Needing the toilet, we find one. That’s changed – it’s no longer ‘spend a penny‘ but £1.35, and you can pay by card now!

Need the toilet? Get your card out…

Of course there is a Christmas market here, yes our third one so far, so we head for that. It’s busy, very busy.

We have some wurst and rosti and later a pot of spatzle, all very tasty all very expensive. It’s getting too crowded now and people are still coming in so we elect to leave and walk back but not without having a gluhwein which is probably the best one yet.

Finally, we are back at Jess. A great day in a great place, so much so that we plan to come here for New Year.

There is a huge fireworks display on the 1st of January, hopefully we will get a place here for a three-night stay.

Sunday 24th December 2023 – Lake Lucerne to Interlaken (50 miles)

A great drive to Interlaken

It’s a beautiful sunny morning this morning, cool and crisp and dry! Today we are moving on to a place that we have stayed at before in Interlaken called Camping Alpenblick, between Lake Thun and the Bernese Alps where we will spend Christmas. The weather is truly messed up, at this time of year, it’s expected that there will be snow, but we have a temperature of 6 degrees, grey skies and expect rain later. It must be a little worrying if you run a business that relies on the seasons behaving as you expect them to.

The drive is very pleasant driving through the town of Lucerne and out onto the very scenic motorways. We stop to fill up will diesel and keep the LPG topped up, just in case.

35 Swiss francs of chocolate. Well done Del!

Del gets ripped off for chocolate, in Switzerland no less. A box of Lindt chocolates (made in Switzerland) 16 Swiss francs (14 quid) that cost 6 in a UK supermarket! Nice one Del. At the garage is a car wash big enough for Jess. It’s reasonably priced so should balance out the cost of the chocolate. Jess gets a well-deserved wash, she’s filthy but comes out 8 Swiss francs later looking showroom clean.

Jess getting her first wash for this trip

It’s only a short 50-mile drive but very up hill and down dale so it will take us an hour and a half. The passing scenery is wonderful despite the lack of snow or sunshine. There is a 3 pm check-in at the campsite and we are over an hour early so we get parked up and have a cup of tea while we wait to be let in.

Once checked in our very nice hosts invite us to some mulled wine heated over an open fire. It’s delicious.

A welcome from our host

We are given a very nice pitch right next to all of the amenities including the bar and restaurant.

We plan on spending Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day here to get properly settled in.

As we are staying we get some lights out on the van along with some Christmas cards that we received before we left. Jess is looking festive.

We start Christmas Eve off with a Christmas special of the Royle Family and a Catherine Tate Christmas Special. ‘We are not bovver’ed‘. Dinner onboard tonight.

Monday 25th December 2023 – Interlaken – Day 2

Merry Christmas everyone, with our very best wishes“.

Merry Christmas all…

It’s a beautiful day here in Interlaken. Lovely blue skies and 12 degrees. Breakfast is a simple affair as we would like to go into the town of Interlaken for a walk. Everything is on a Sunday service, so the bus into town is busy, as is the town. Lots of tourists milling around enjoying the Christmas Day sunshine. There is a small wildlife park nearby that has a collection of Ibex. Of course, we can’t not go and see them. The park is just on the edge of the town, a short walk. Worth going to see them, they’re odd creatures with rather large, difficult-to-manoeuvre, horns…

We spend a good couple of hours in the town ending it with a glass of wine for Hayley and a coffee for Del in the sun watching the paragliders landing in the park opposite a hotel.

After the bus back we open a bottle of Cava and take a couple of glasses and a plate of Schwarzwald smoky ham to the closed campsite restaurant terrace where we sit in the low sun. A lovely afternoon. Very relaxed and very simple.

Our Christmas dinner will probably be no different from any other dinner on board Jess. Hayley is knocking up one of her Paellas, something she did comment is that she has probably made more Paellas at Christmas than turkey dinners. We usually seem to be in Spain at Christmas or out and about on Jess.

Jess set up for Christmas stay

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family, we hope that you all had a great day whether you are with family and friends or alone. Our very best wishes.

Tuesday 26th December 2023 – Interlaken – Day 3

A bright morning with more sunshine forecast today. We have spent a bit of time this morning discussing what to do for the next few days. There is plenty to see and do in the Interlaken area, but we want to be in Lucerne for the 31st, or thereabouts, for the New Year fireworks on the 1st. We make a rough plan of what to do over the next few days and write it down. Probably no point as we will change it as we usually do.

We decide to visit Grindelwald which is a bus ride and then a train. We rush through breakfast and the clean up and get to the bus stop with a few minutes to spare when suddenly Hayley asks if the heating on the van is off. Neither of us knows how we left it so we sulk off back to the van. The buses are every hour so it’s a bit of a wait for the next one. With that in mind, we decide to just do a local walk around the lake, it doesn’t go well with us unable to find a decent path and by this time the next bus is due so we get on and decide to go to Lauterbrunnen, just like that. So glad we wrote out a plan.

Train climb from Interlaken

In about 10 minutes we are in the train station of Interlaken East with a good 20 minutes to spare for the train to Lauterbrunnen. The train leaves dead on time and it has to do a rather steep climb. The scenery is amazing. The mountains are so high and imposing and all of them have a good covering of snow on top. No snow where we are of course, the snow is proving to be a bit elusive.

As the train climes, it changes to a cog system to help get it up the hill. Soon we are arriving into the town of Lauterbrunnen bang on time.

The town of Lauterbrunnen

The town is very quaint and Swiss. There are 72 waterfalls here to be seen on a long walk down into a valley. It’s not long before we come to the first one. It’s quite something to see. The water looks like it’s falling in slow motion as it’s so high. We walk for quite a while and see a few waterfalls, although not as many as we thought – because of the lack of snow there are fewer than there should be. It’s such a nice walk with rolling green fields and chalets in the hills. We see the train climbing the hill in the distance – the whole scene looks like a model.

Along the walk some enterprising houses are selling local produce, using an honesty system but using contactless payment. Another one has a proper vending machine. It’s all very new to us and different.

Check out the contactless honesty box

After a good few kilometres, we decided to turn back and head home. The trains are every 30 minutes and the bus back to the campsite every hour. While waiting for the train back to Interlaken we decide that we will return to Lauterbrunnen to catch the cable car and mountain top train to Murren which is a good kilometre higher. Apparently, there are no cars in Murren, but there is snow.

The journey back is timely, of course, and we are back in Interlaken with some time to spare enough for a small local beer in the street before catching the bus to the campsite.

We have decided to stay until Friday 29th December so pop in and pay in advance. The campsite is excellent at giving good value for money at 23 Swiss francs a night (£21), a lovely spot, all the facilities we need, laundry and excellent internet. Compared to the usual 45 to 50 francs a night, where we are is excellent and good value. Oh, and they even give you a free bus pass which allows for a discount on the trains.

Proper ‘Internet of things’ in action.

We get back to Jess for a tea and get some laundry done before dark. The laundry system here is all high-tech and controlled via an app – you reserve your machine and then you can track it online as it happens with a notification when done. It will even message you when a machine is free if it’s busy.

A few weeks later you get an invoice and your card is debited. The price per wash/dry is very reasonable. We liked that. We liked that a lot.

Hayley is knocking up a ‘German feast‘ for us tonight. We shall see.

Wednesday 27th December 2023 – Interlaken – Day 4

Hunting for snow!

Today we are in search of snow. There is no snow where we are, which is very unusual for the time of year, so we have to go to it. Hayley has done some internet research and found out that Murren has snow – it’s not snowing currently and hasn’t done for a while, but the last fall was quite large so there’s a lot of snow lying about.

To get there we must take a bus to Interlaken train station, a train to Lauterbrunnen, a cable car up to Grutschalp, and then a small hilltop train to Murren.

We set off late morning just in time for the bus and we are off. As usual, the trains are on time, but it’s busy, very busy. It’s the peak season, but despite the lack of snow falling there are lots of people heading for the higher slopes to find it and Murren is one of those destinations. The trains and the cable car are packed with people tottering about in snow boots and carrying skis along with a large contingent of non-skiers of which we are a part.

The cable car to Grutschalp has to make a steep climb. The scenery is spectacular and for just that it is worth the trip. An amazing view of the surrounding mountains and deep valleys makes us feel really small. It really is one of the best views we have seen. We have done a lot of busy cable cars in the past on various trips, but this one is full, capable of taking 100 people and freight as there are no cars in Murren. A large industrial fridge is loaded onboard as we watch concerned about all this weight.

Once at the top, we all fall out of the cable car and onto the small train on a narrow snowy track heading to Murren which is very picturesque, very beautiful, and ‘traditionally Swiss‘.

It’s not a huge town but it’s big enough to spend a couple of hours of walking, or rather slipping about on the frozen old snow. There are some lovely hotels perched right on the edge with spectacular views of the mountains. One hotel is called Hotel Drei Burge or Three Peaks Hotel in reference to the stunning view of the Eiger, Jungfrau, and Monch mountains (we won’t be staying here as it’s £400 a night, we are quite happy with our £21 a night campsite and lovely Jess). We walk to the other end of the town to watch the skiers finishing their journey from higher up only to get back on the cable car and go back up to do it all again. Exhausting.

During our walk we find a place that is hiring sledges and at the rear of the shop is a fantastic slope with plenty of people sledging and skiers coming off the slopes. (Del says he’s not interested but as soon as the lady offers us a double sledge he changes his mind and is soon dashing down the slope giggling to himself – see video). It’s brilliant. Well, why not – for 12 Swiss francs you can hire a two-seater sledge for the day. We are off…

We are a bit apprehensive at first, as we haven’t done this kind of thing since we were kids, but after the first descent, we can’t wait to get back up and do it again. It is hard work and soon we are in need of a drink. We walk around the town looking for a place with a view and a drink. Shops and hotels are equipped and ready for customers who turn up with skies and sledges, all very civilised and easy going. After searching for a particular place that we saw when we started our walk, which we couldn’t find again, we decide to go to the Hotel Drei Burge which has a fantastic panoramic view of the mountains.

What a place, what a view. We order two mulled wines with a dash of vanilla. Very tasty.

Suitably refreshed we pay, pick up our sledge, and off we go back to the slopes for another couple of runs. Very enjoyable, great fun.

Time to get back as the last bus back to the campsite is quite early and we can’t afford to miss it. On the way to the cable car, we stumble upon the cafe/restaurant that we were looking for earlier and we are lucky to get a great table right on the edge with a phenomenal view of the mountains and the valley.

In order left to right: Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau

An absolutely amazing place for a coffee and apple strudel.

We found snow! and we joined in…!

Hayley has a check of her email only to receive some very sad news regarding the passing away of her uncle. Very sad news and our thoughts are with family tonight. After taking in the sad news we do raise our glasses to remember him.

Thursday 28th December 2023 – Interlaken – Day 5

Today we are off on another train trip, this time to the town of Grindelwald. This is another town that has some snow, not as much as Murren yesterday as it is at a lower altitude but there is snow all the same. But first Jess needs some water and her grey water tank draining. We manoeuvre to the service point 10m away, the cold is stinging our hands while we fill up and after some time and discomfort, Hayley reverses back into our space. All good, until we try and get back onto our leveling ramps. Getting up them is okay but once Jess’s handbrake goes on the ramp slips, rather alarmingly, from under us on the icy surface. We try a few times but eventually give up to catch the bus, we will sort this out later on.

After a 30-minute train journey that has a steep climb, we arrive at Grindelwald. Again, it’s very busy with skiers as there is a rather expensive cable car that takes them much higher where there is plenty of snow. There has been no fresh snowfall here for probably two weeks and this is peak season.

We take a walk up a rather steep path to a place where there is some snow.

Because of the lack of snow, there are a lot of people crammed into this small place. Great to see though, especially kids as young as 4 years old on skis and doing a good job of it too.

Back down in the town, we have a local traditional donut called a Berliner, which is just a fresh jam donut with icing sugar sprinkled on it. Nice though and very light. We have done another good walk today and again our eyes ‘hurt’ at the spectacular views of the mountains, the same as yesterday but of course from a different view.

This time we get an amazing view of a glacier frozen on the mountain. The blue ice just looks so precarious.

Huge glacier dripping down the middle.

We get the train and the bus back to camp and manage to get Jess back on her ramps as the ground has defrosted a little. Tonight we are eating at the campsite. We are going to have a Swiss fondue. They have a small, cute, wooden hut here with a wood burner in the middle, we are not sure how that goes together but it does, a wooden hut with a fire in the middle.

It’s very cute and cosy inside with the log fire on and just us and another two couples. We are given our table and the service is very good, as is the cheese and mushroom fondue that we have with two glasses of red wine.

We settle the rather large bill (well this is Switzerland) and walk the 10 metres back to the van. It’s getting colder and cloudier.

Tomorrow is our last full day here, On Saturday we are driving back to Lucerne for the new year.

Friday 29th December 2023 – Interlaken – Day 6

It’s our last day here today. We will have done 6 nights – the longest time we have spent in one place. Jess needs her weekly clean-out which doesn’t take long but has to be done. She gets a full airing, bedding changed, dusted down, wiped down everywhere inside, and a complete freshen up. There is also laundry to do today so we’ll be kept busy on-site.

It takes most, if not all, of the day to get the laundry done, but we are fully laundered as if we have started again. It’s always a good idea to do laundry if the facilities are there as you never know from one day to the next if you will get the chance.

Finally, we do get all of the jobs done on Jess, she’s all freshened up for another week. We get out for a reasonable walk of about 40 minutes by the lake. It’s a lovely late afternoon. The sun is just setting behind the mountains and the air is cool and clear. Lovely.

Once back at the campsite we go to the lounge and have a very tasty mulled wine, this could be the last in this trip who knows. We have only just discovered the lounge at the campsite. Its fabulous.

Del caught enjoying the moment

The lounge is all wood with fur-covered rocking chairs, with fantastic views over the lake and the mountains on the other side. A great place to enjoy our mulled wine and to toast our last night here at Camping Alpenblick.

A friendly robin during our walk

It has been a good stay here. The campsite is only 23 Swiss francs a day. We had a good spot right next to all of the facilities, a free bus pass to get into town and the best internet of any campsite we have been at.

It’s starting to feel a bit like Christmas.

Week 2 – 16th – 22nd December 2023 (Solre-le-Chateau, France to Muggenbrunn, Todtnau, Germany. 400 miles.)

Saturday 16th December 2023 – Solre-le-Chateau, France to Zweibrucken, Germany (204 miles)

We woke up this morning to a grey still day, sounds miserable but it’s not really. We are in our little home on wheels, it’s warm and cosy and there is no better place to be. Breakfast is coffee and Spanish tortilla.

Today we are heading to stay in Luxembourg in either a campsite or another free aire. It’s a couple of hours as we have to go through a bit of Belgium and head south east to Luxembourg. Once we are cleaned up and ready we set off. We are already quite close to the Belgian border and it’s not long before we are on their shocking roads. We complain a lot about UK roads, but Belgian roads are quite something. Badly maintained, full of holes and fissures. Even the newish built motorways are rippled and bumpy. The van is rattling like mad as we make our way through Belgium.

Finally we are in Luxembourg where the roads are much better. Whilst on route we decide to give our stay in Luxembourg a miss and press onto Germany.

It’s not long before we are on the German autobahn. Wow! These roads are something else. Smooth, clean and very well maintained, the M6 it is not. Hayley has found us a ‘parkplatz’ in the town of Zweibrucken (Two Bridges). 16 euros a night next to a river and a fantastic restaurant with only a short walk to the town. The parkplatz is run by the local hotel, the Rosengarten. Smashing.

Arrival requires a check-in at the local hotel who take your 16 euros a night. They have here, without a doubt, the best showers for motorhomes ever! They are amazing. It’s like walking into a 5-star hotel bathroom. Wonderful. There is a lovely Christmas-ready restaurant right next door to us which we will take advantage of at some point in the stay.


It’s a short walk into the small town of Zwiebrucken where the Christmas market is in full swing. We go to the local church where there is an Advent celebration on, as it’s all in German we don’t understand anything, but the church is nice, the choir is excellent and it’s all very nice so why not?

A dodgy Green Day style band.

Once the service is over we have a good walk around and have a bowl of currywurst and some gluhwein (mulled wine), all very tasty and just in time for a band to strike up on the small stage.

We didn’t stay for long, we were tired and it was getting cold. If you like the band Green Day then the band were for you, but not for us. The third song sounded just like the first so we make our way back to the van. It’s cold, very cold.

Cheers all…

Sunday 17th December 2023 – Zweibrucken 2nd day

It’s boiled eggs and the remainder of the Belgian bread from the farm for breakfast. It’s cold this morning, it was the coldest night yet outside, minus something or other and it’s only going to get colder, but in Jess it’s just right.

We are staying another night so we can go to the Christmas market again in the day and have dinner at the local restaurant next to us. The day is spent doing some van jobs like replacing the dash cam and getting the blog up to date. We get wrapped up and set off for the town. The sun is out and it’s a beautiful day.

We have a good walk around the town and finally arrive at the square where the Christmas market is. It’s in full swing. Kids are dancing on the stage, there is a best dressed Santa Claus competition and it’s all very nice. One thing we can’t but notice is that there is nobody in a high vis vest, no security, no police, nothing. It just feels safe and everyone is there, singles, couples, families and they are all there for the same thing, very refreshing.

We have a cup of gluhwein each, one with rum and another with Amaretto. It’s very, very tasty, a very nice afternoon. We walk back to Jess in the setting sun as the temperature is falling. Tonight we will dine locally.

Dinner tonight is at the local restaurant, Valantins Beer House. We have quite a feed there, plenty to eat in a lovely atmosphere followed by the last gluhwein of the day in the little cabins that have been put up for the festive season. It’s all starting to feel a bit like Christmas.

We are leaving tomorrow for either Baden-Baden or… we don’t know.

Monday 18th December 2023 – Zweibrucken to Baden Baden (88 miles)

We have woken up this morning to another very sharp, thick frost, oh and some fog too which is slowly clearing. We have decided that we will go to the German spa town of Baden Baden. It’s a 90 mile drive so not too bad, and it is now that we turn south to go through the Black Forest.

We say goodbye to Zweibrucken which was a lovely stay and gave us our first German Christmas market which was really nice. On the way out of town we stop at an LPG station to top up with gas as the cold nights are chewing up the gas. Whenever we get a chance we will top up with gas, diesel and of course, water as some of the facilities get turned off in the cold, winter travelling certainly requires a bit more forward planning. What we need is a watering can so we can fill up our tank whenever and wherever we can get it.

The weather has improved, the fog has lifted and the drive to Baden Baden turns out to be beautiful. A chilly, but sunny day. We get clear blue skies for the most part of our smooth German motorway drive. Once off the motorway the drive through the start of the Black Forest is lovely. We find a small garden centre and buy ourselves a nice big 10 litre watering can.

Our new emergency fill up can!

The Baden Baden stopover is a very tidy motorhome “parkplatz” that has a nice easy connection by bus to the centre of town where there is an enormous and spectacular Christmas market, the second of the trip. Hayley makes us an early lunch of steak and her homemade Dauphinoise potatoes.

H’s Dauphinoise potatoes

These are the business, really good, tasty and perfect with a rare steak and broccoli.

We do some research regarding bus times etc and set off for the town just as it’s getting dark. We are just in the rush hour so it’s a bit slow. We can’t help noticing how immaculate the buses are. They are fantastically clean and with no adverts inside them. Sounds like an odd thing to put in a blog but when you think how grubby your home buses are, that’s when you notice it!

The town of Baden Baden is wonderful. It looks very classy and festive, with trees and lights everywhere with all the lights in the same colour which makes it look special. The Christmas market is huge, so big that guided tours are offered to go around it.

Filled with small cabins selling everything from sweets, food and clothing the place is full and vibrant. There are small dining igloos beautifully set out for dinner and a large stage with a band playing to a healthy crowd which we join while having a gluhwein and bratwurst, finishing with a cherry crepe.

We take a short walk around the town just in time to get the bus back home and to a rather chilly Jess.

All in all a rather enjoyable day. That’s two Christmas markets in less than a week. Where to tomorrow?

Tuesday 19th December 2023 – Baden Baden to Triberg (66 miles)

We wake up this morning not really sure where we are going to next. We have a few options, still in Germany, but nothing really that makes us say “yes, let’s go there” until Hayley finds an interesting place to stay for a night or two in the Black Forest town of Triberg.

Having given Jess a full-service at the Baden Baden stop, we set off further south heading towards Triberg. It’s a lovely drive climbing steeply into the Black Forest where the temperature falls in parts to -1 in the day and we get our first glimpse of snow, old snow at the side of the road, but snow all the same. Jess is filthy, but too bad. There is no point in a wash as the weather is predicted to be rain for the next week or so.

We start to drop in altitude towards the town of Triberg. It’s a lovely little place set in a valley and has a rather unusual place to stay.

The location is an old steel factory that has been converted into an indoor camping site. They provide a selection of caravans and campervans to hire, inside a warehouse, that are beautifully decorated. For visitors with motorhomes, the spaces are outside either next to the river or on a top deck parking area which is the roof of the once-old steel factory. This we have to see.

We arrive at camping daHeim after a very lovely drive into the valley of Triberg and we are welcomed by a very nice lady who books us in for two night at about 25 euros a night which includes a place, electricity and water. With your stay you get a ticket that allows you on the local trains and buses as well as entrance to 4 attractions in the town. There are only another two vans here so we can park where we like. We chose the top parking deck rather than downstairs in the yard as the river running by is very noisy as a result of the famous Triberg waterfall, which we shall be visiting.

Our spot for the next two nights

We get parked up, plugged in and settled before setting off for our first look at Triberg. We are going to take a look at the waterfall here which is supposed to be the biggest waterfall in Germany. We shall see. It doesn’t disappoint.

It is quite spectacular, high and moves fast as it cascades amongst the rocks, and through the town. They are preparing for a fireshow on the 25th December so there is lighting and lots of dangerous gas canisters around. It’s a good steep walk and continues up for quite a while but we stop just before halfway and take the nature walk back, the long way into town.

We find a rather formal and dark hotel for a beer. We are the only ones in there it seems. It look like the set of a 1940’s movie, very clean, very tidy, but we can’t help but think that Marlena Dietrich will come down the staircase asking what we want to drink. We have a beer and move on, this time to look for some dinner which we find quite easily and settle into local dishes of venison stew with spatzle (German egg noodles) and a traditional schnitzel. All very tasty in a very pleasant traditional dark wood, warm, cosy restaurant. They do the whole Christmas decoration thing here very well.

Back to Jess and Hayley is to call an old school friend from Germany that she has not spoken to in 35 years! Fantastic. They spend a good hour and a quarter on the phone and agree to meet somewhere, sometime in the new year.

All in all a good day.

Wednesday 20th December 2023 – 2nd Day

The rain has started. It kept Hayley awake at times in the night, Del slept right through it. After breakfast we are off into the town to use our free passes to some of the attractions.

The first is a model railway exhibition. Sounds dull? Not at all, it’s excellent. Situated on the main street and very modern, it consists of 12 large tables with an excellent model of a town, city or countryside scene all perfectly crafted with moving trucks, cars and trains.

The English-speaking lady is very pleasant and helpful and tells us all about the fireshow. The town will be crowded from the 25th of December for about a week. They have already set up park and ride spots in advance.

Probably a good thing that we are moving on, although from the model here representing last year’s show it looks spectacular.

Next is a rather strange attraction. A large, open, glass-windowed space which is divided up into areas that you can step into and take your picture for your instagram……!!!! why!!!! We give it a go and take a bunch of pictures all the same. We are probably 30 years too old to understand this one, but it makes us grin all the same.

Around the corner from the hi tech “photo booths” is the Schwarzwald Museum. The area is famous for… wood, cherries, ham and clocks, of the cuckoo variety. An interesting place which tells us a lot about the area. Very interesting and well worth the visit. It has the world’s smallest cuckoo clocks! So they say.

As it says..!

After seeing the world’s smallest cuckoo clocks we take the bus to see the world’s largest!


A 5 minute bus ride drops us off at a massive clock shop that sells every kind of clock from old cuckoo clocks to modern digital clocks. We arrive just in time to see the clock strike 3!!! Very funny and yes it’s very big. We pay an extra 2 euros each to go in and look at the clock in action.

It’s mostly made of wood. Very impressive. The cuckoo alone is 2.6m long and weighs 150kg.

We get the bus back and do some shopping for local fayre. Local Schwarzwald ham, cherry chocolate and a traditional Christmas bread – Stollen.

Men only parking ladies…

The car park here at the Edeka supermarket once made the world news with ABC and NBC, among others, reporting a strange story: when the car park was built the corner was cut off to accommodate the shape of the river next to it. This resulted in a strangely shaped car parking space which they kept and labelled, for a joke, ‘Manner parkplatz’ or ‘men only parking space’ due to its difficulty of access. It is now graffitied (presumably by women) with various slogans. For the full detailed story, you can also read the wikipedia page.

Once back at Jess we get warmed up, we are expecting snow tonight by all accounts. After our showers we try some of the local Schwarzwald ham with a cold German beer. Very nice, the ham is very, but very, smokey.

We would have liked to have done a good railway journey around the Black Forest while we are here but time is not on our side. We have to move on tomorrow.

A good day today, despite the cold weather. Dinner on board.

Thursday 21st December 2023 – Triberg to Muggenbrunn (41 miles)

Last night the dinner was an all-German affair. Local Schwarzwald smokey ham with a cold beer to start, followed by schnitzel, spatzle and green beans. This was finished off with an Underberg – a small herbal digestif. A very pleasant dinner, when in Rome and all that…

Today we are planning to go to another Black Forest town that we have been to many times. The town of Todtnau is a place that we have enjoyed as it has a good place to park overnight, the town is pretty and it does the very best Black Forest gateaux. Hayley pops into town for some shopping before we leave while Del prepares the van for departure.

The drive is challenging in parts, as we go up and down in altitude in the Black Forest we encounter plenty of snow, clear roads, but the snow has been heavy here and has settled.

There is also dense fog in parts, but Hayley is at the wheel today and does and excellent job of getting us to the “parkplatz” in Todtnau. Just in time as well as we need to empty our grey tank, load up with fresh water and change the toilet!

We are a bit lower down now so most of the snow is all but gone, but there is rain and a very strong wind. To add to the misery we find that the place where we are going to stay has ramped the price up. 5 years ago it used to be 10 euros which you just dropped in an honesty box, now it’s 10 euros for a place, 3 euros for electricity, which you cannot use for heating, and 3 euros for 100 litres of water which, because of the winter months, has now been turned off. Finally, it’s 5 euros to empty your grey tank, or toilet or to get rid of a bag of rubbish! To top it all your every move is watched on CCTV. We decide to ditch the idea of staying and instead make our way into the town, park up, and have the excellent cake before moving on to somewhere else.

We get into town only to discover that parking is almost impossible. You either have to have a permit, be a resident or pay a fortune, and the town is empty! This is not going well. Del scoots off to buy the best cake ever as a takeaway item. We orbit the town and fill up with diesel.

Hayley has booked to stay at a campsite nearby for Del’s birthday tomorrow as she has booked a dinner at a nearby hotel high up in the Schwarzwald, so we might as well go there a day early. We set off and start to climb up through the Black Forest to the area of Muggenbrunn situated 1050 meters above sea level. As we get higher the snow is starting to get deeper by the side of the road, lots of it. There is also a dense fog now, it all looks rather wintery as the wind is also building up.

This is the first time we have done snow in Jess. So far, so good, as we arrive at the campsite for what will now be a two-night stay. There has been heavy snow here. There are a lot of permanent caravans in place that only get used in the summer months and have snow piled up against them.

We get settled in with a coffee and we get stuck into our Black Forest gateaux, which is still delicious and doesn’t disappoint.

There is a washer and dryer here so we get some laundry done as you never know when the next chance will be. It’s nice in the van as we read, play games, update the blog and watch a couple appear with a caravan, struggling to get set up in the driving rain, wind and cold. The tea in Jess is nice as the heating gently whirs away. Never mind eh!

The lady at the site is very helpful and gives us a good space. We do a full van service and get settled in. It’s heavy rain for the rest of the day with a threat of snow overnight.

Staying put tonight. The weather is nasty out there!

Friday 22nd December 2023 – Muggenbrunn, Todtnau, Germany – 2nd Day


It rained all night last night, but really rained, heavy, but heavy. It always rains here in this area. There has been a lot of snow, it’s piled up everywhere. Heavy snow is expected later, we shall see.

Del’s birthday is today so it has been a lovely morning. A full continental breakfast with salmon and champagne, tucked up in Jess with a view of the snowy hills and trees. Lots of cards to open.

Many thanks to all of you who sent a card and text. The cards were intercepted and saved for today, squirrelled away by Hayley.

Hayley’s Blue Peter card. Mega!

She even went to he trouble of making a hand made card which is wonderful. Very, very nice. Traditional fuzzy felt and glitter on card. Fantastic.

Jobs still need doing

Hayley has a birthday special for Del, more on that later. However the usual van jobs have to be done, so Hayley volunteers (well it is Del’s birthday) to do some chores. The bins need emptying and the grey water has to be dealt with. It’s raining again so the full gear is put on and off she goes, returning 20 minutes later.

The rest of the morning is spent on Jess staying warm and dry, reading and wittering.

Hayley has brought us up here for a reason. She has arranged a surprise for Del’s birthday. She has us booked into the Waldhotel Notschreipass for a spa afternoon, massage, and dinner afterwards. Wonderful. There is a bus stop right outside the campsite, it’s still raining very hard so we have to get togged up with all the gear and take bags with us for the spa and the dinner. Being Germany the bus arrives on time and drops us right outside the hotel. It’s a lovely place. The spa area has fantastic views over the Black Forest. Even though it is shrouded in fog and rain it looks spectacular, most of it is still covered in snow despite the persistent rain. It’s a fabulous afternoon nipping in and out of the sauna to the steam room and dipping in the pool until the time comes for the massage.

Hayley has a half an hour massage while Del has a full hour with mountain oils and the works. Excellent, just what we needed.

The dinner is absolutely fabulous. Set in a cosy dark wood restaurant with excellent service, Hayley has the venison while Del has the goose. 1 glass of red is enough, especially after the champagne earlier and ‘Kir Royal’ we had for an apéritif.

Our ‘amuse bouche’ before the meal.

We get finished just in time for the last bus back to the campsite at 8:30 and by chance the rain has actually slowed to a drizzle for us to stand about in the freezing fog. Within 10 minutes we are back at Jess and settled in just as the rain starts drumming on the roof again. We have absolutely had it now with the rain. Even the locals are complaining that it should really be snowing but instead we have had persistent, non stop rain since we got here and it’s very noisy on the roof of Jess.

All in all, it has been a rather splendid day for Del’s 60th birthday, with thanks to Hayley who did all the research and got us here. Despite the rain, it’s a lovely place, we have enjoyed the “Schwartzwald“, we have seen a lot in a week and enjoyed every minute of it.

Tomorrow we leave Germany behind and head for Switzerland, where the weather is a little brighter and drier. The plan, at the moment, is tomorrow in Lucerne, Switzerland, Christmas in Interlaken, Switzerland, and then back to Lucerne for a couple of days where we will celebrate the new year. After that…? No idea.

What Jess wants, Jess gets!

Week 1 – 13th – 15th December 2023 (Home, UK to Solre-le-Chateau, France. 345 miles)

It has been a while since we did a good long van trip. A lot has happened since our last one back in July 23. Since then we have moved from a house to a flat and renovated it, which was stressful, and we have kept on working throughout all of it. It’s behind us now, time to move on, and our attention is now to look forward and get out on Jess for a long winter getaway.

Snow chain fitting… in the dry and the relative warmth. What will it be like in the cold and the snow?

We have had our little van for over 5 years, so she has had to have some upgrades. A new cam belt has been fitted, a full service, new tyres, a thermal windscreen cover and a new hi-tech dash cam. Because of where we are going and travelling through, we have also bought some snow chains, which we need to practice putting on.

We even bought her some silver slippers for the tyres for when we hit the hot temperatures (and the cold) to protect them. Yes, what Jess wants, Jess gets. She is now ready for our next outing.

The plan, the loose plan, is to get to Switzerland for Christmas day and spend a few days in Interlaken. We will probably spend 10 days in Switzerland altogether, it’s probably all we will be able to afford! We will then make our way west towards Spain, and go as far south as we can before turning around and heading north and home for mid-February. Well, that’s the plan. For now…

Wednesday 13th December 2023 (Home to Waverley Park. 1 mile!)

An easy load up!!

As usual, we are staying at a local campsite in East Cowes, it makes life nice and easy and we are ideally placed for our early ferry tomorrow morning at 08:00 to start the journey to Europe. Now we are in a flat the load up is so, so easy. We can drive the habitation door right up to our patio doors of the flat and just move everything in one go. Easy.

Once loaded we do the half-mile drive to Waverley Park and get settled in for an easy night having tested everything: water supply works, gas works, heating, cooking, etc. All good.

Thursday 14th December 2023 (Waverley Park, UK to Poperinge, Belgium. 229 miles )

It’s a cool morning, and dark when the alarm rings out at 6:45 am. No breakfast, just a quick coffee. We pack everything up and set off.

The first ferry out

For once the Wightlink ferry leaves on time for Portsmouth. It’s nice and quiet and empty, mainly truck drivers. 40 minutes later we disembark and we are off heading for Dover. Breakfast is a rather splendid McDonald’s breakfast. We can get quite scathing about fast food and “Micky Dee’s“, but sometimes they are rather good. Especially this morning.

Goodbye UK. For a bit anyway

We arrive early at Dover and we are ushered rather quickly onto the next ferry with thirty minutes to spare, but we are leaving an hour and a half before our booked ferry. Excellent.

Again another quiet ferry. No kids running around like it’s a playground and no parents screaming at them, ignoring everyone else around them!

We pay 14 quid each for the premium lounge upgrade. We are the only ones in there. It is lovely.

Drinks and food are all included with a lovely view of the white cliffs of Dover fading away into the distance. So far it has been one of the best travel and crossing days we have probably ever experienced since having a van, and we have done this trip a few times now.

We disembark at Dover after a lovely crossing and we set off for a place we stop at regularly because it’s open all year, has everything you need, it’s easy to get to and has a nice collection of Belgian beers and traditional home-cooked food. Stal ‘t bardehof is a small farm in Poperinge, in the West Vleteren area of Belgium. Belgium is not really a place that you hear of people going for their holidays but there are some very nice places and this area is one of them along with the town of Ypres which is a short drive away.

We get settled in just as it’s getting dark and the temperature is falling fast. We get the new thermal window cover on, get the gas on and plug in to the power and in no time we are toasty in Jess.

We get ready for dinner, which consists of putting on a warmer heavier coat and set off for a local dish of Grootmoeders Stoofvlees, a small salad and fries, served with a good Belgian beer. Wonderful. The Stoofvlees stick to your ribs so you leave full and warm. Perfect.

Friday 15th December 2023 (Poperinge, Belgium to Solre-le-Chateau, France 90 miles)

It was a peaceful night last night. We pack up and set off for France. This could be our only stop in France as we are heading for the Black Forest in Germany. It’s a grey cold still day. A bit of a sad sky but we are quite happy trundling along the dreadful Belgian roads to our destination. We decide to stop off at the town of Ypres for a walk. It is where the Menin Gate is and it’s a lovely town and looks very festive. The next and final stop is Solre-le-Chateau to a free aire. Aires in France are a big thing for campers. Most of them are free and some have facilities like electricity and water, where you may have to pay a small fee. Camping aires are very popular and in the summer can get quite full quite quickly, but this aire is almost empty. 23 spaces with only 5 campers of which we are one. Once settled, we take the short walk to the town which is quite delightful, and decorated for Christmas.

A rather bent steeple.

It has a church, Eglise St. Pierre, built in the 15th century, with a rather dangerous-looking steeple.

All very pleasant and free!

Tomorrow we will either do another night in France or maybe Luxembourg or maybe even Germany….

Merry Christmas. Merry Travels!

How quickly has 2023 passed us by, and how much has happened this year? While we have both been working we have moved house, we’re still on the Isle of Wight but in a smaller, more manageable place with a home that we can just ‘lock up and leave‘.

We are going to try just that with our next trip, a long one…

We are planning to leave in mid-December, going through Belgium, a bit of France, and down through Germany, taking in the Black Forest, on to Switzerland then back west through the south of France and into Spain for some warmth, eventually heading back home sometime in February 2024. So it will be a winter tour in the snow and the cold ending with, hopefully, our shorts on with some winter sun somewhere in the south of Spain. We shall see.

Jess has been fitted with some brand-new tyres. We promised her new tyres after the last trip so considering where we intend to go we thought it wise to fit her with some Continental VanContact all-season tyres. There you go. Have a look at them they are the best! Hayley did days and days of research to find these, comparing them to others with these coming out on top. A good all-round tyre.

Enough of tyres…

This is our personal travel blog for our family and friends, we are not selling or endorsing anything, it’s just our way of saying “hello” from where we are.

Our first post will be next Saturday when we will be out on the roads somewhere in Europe……

Lots of love,

Del, H and Jess

« Older posts

© 2024

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑