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It’s hot and getting hotter..?

Week 4 – 18th – 24th June 2022

Freistadt, Austria to Bregenz, Austria – 360 miles

This week the whole of Europe is experiencing a heat wave. London, Paris and Rome are all in the low to mid 30s and Austria is no exception. We have gone south and now are moving west through Austria to Liechtenstein, then north back through Germany and finally home through France.

Austria is probably one of the cleanest and tidiest countries we’ve been through on Jess, everything is just immaculate. Even the roadworks are orderly and tidy.

The highlight this week is a trip to Salzburg where we will do some Mozart stuff. More of that later.

Saturday 18th June 2022

Freistadt was nice, very nice. Del has decided that the local beer there is the best he has had. There is no rush to leave this morning, it’s a 1 hour drive to our next stop and the site we are in has said that there is no rush or time to get out so we have a long breakfast then pack up. It seems to takes ages to pack up in the mornings and have breakfast, which in itself takes a while. We clean up breakfast, put all the outside stuff away such as chairs and tables and the awning, then we have to secure the van for travelling, lock the windows, put the shades down, secure the cupboards and close the skylights. Feels like an age!

Finally we are off and on our way. The roads are very smooth and the tunnels the cleanest ever. Each vehicle has to pay for a “vignette”, it’s a fee that is mainly for using the motorways, so with the amount of cars on the road they are making a fortune hence the immaculate roads, tunnels and infrastructure.

Soon we start to see mountains, they fill the horizon and look spectacular especially amongst all the green fields. Beautiful.

Today we are going to Camping Almtal. We don’t know much about this place except that it has a pool, good walks and cycling and they have some Alpacas, so why not.

Out in a hot open field.

It’s a lovely drive to Pettenbach and the entrance to the site has an imposing grand hotel, the campsite is to the left of the hotel. The staff are friendly but the site is packed, but really packed with kids running around on cycles, skateboards and electric scooters, and it’s hot, it’s so very very hot here. We are shown to our pitch which is the worst possible place you cound be. It’s basically an overspill field, granted it’s well cut and looked after but there is no shade, non whatsoever.

Tractor rides for kids.

We find a spot and settle in, the heat is unbelievable the temperature inside the van is 39 degrees. We go for a walk around the site towards the pool, which is crammed. This place is a ‘family’ site and we have hit the worst time as it’s the weekend and HOT! We are also the only Brits so we are courting some stares, lots of them, especially when Hayley is driving, not because she is bad, far from it… she’s a woman… driving a van… how can that be? That kind of stare. They do have some tractor rides for kids though.

Hot alpacas

We soon get used to our new surroundings and have a walk to see the hot Alpacas, it’s a nice place and all that, but we have come at the wrong time for sure, thankfully it’s just for the night.

There is a band on poolside and a massive BBQ, the heat is wild. Why do we think standing over a hot fire playing with hot food in the hot outdoors is a good thing?

Sunday 19th June 2022

Big day today, well for us it is anyway. Today we are driving to Salzburg for two nights and doing the whole Mozart thing as he is our favourite composer. Salzburg was where he was born and lived to the age of 25 and also where his father, Leopold, died.

Today is also the day when Jess needs a bath. We have been out nearly three weeks in hot dusty weather and rain, so she is looking a bit ‘scruffy’. We get her into a good car wash were she gets ‘the works’. After almost half an hour she looks amazing, gleaming, ready to present herself to Salzburg.

It’s hot today, hotter than yesterday. We see 33 degrees on the dashboard on the way to Salzburg to our new home for the next two days, Camping Nord Sam. We arrive and the office is closed but they instruct you to go in and find a spot and get settled in. We are determined to find a shady spot and this place does not disappoint. The spot we choose is so shady that it’s dark inside the van and already you can feel a couple of degrees falling off the high temperatures that we have just had.

We get properly settled in, the weather is to change later to some light rain then heavy, so they say, so everthing is put out to make it a proper home. It’s a great site, very campy and homely with everything that we need. Excellent.

So near so…! (Spar)

Not wanting to waste too much time we buy a Salzburg Card online which gives you use of the buses and entrance to all the attractions and museums in Salzburg. With the help of the internet we are soon onboard the lovely air-conditioned bus for the 5 minute journey to Salzburg.

It’s a really beautiful place, compact and quite charming, as you would expect.

The real thing!

We head for Mozart’s birth house, which is oddly above a Spar Supermarket! Once in though it is interesting, lots to see and read, the highlight of which is the actual Clavichord that Mozart wrote The Magic Flute, amongst others, on. When you stand there and look at something like that, right in front of you, for real, it is quite something. It was also quite small.

Look at all that chocolate

Time for kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake). We happen to fall into the Paul Furst konditorei (cafe to you) and have the most amazing chocolate cake and coffee. The interesting thing about this cafe and Paul Furst is that they have the ‘Original Mozartkugel‘, a small ball of marzipan or pistachio filling surrounded in plain chocolate and famous in Salzburg.

This piece of confectionary was invented after Mozart’s death but as we see in this city they will put his name on anything. We try one and they are quite special. Salzburg was also the home of Christian Doppler known for his Doppler effect principle – he too has his name on some chocolates!

Late night with fireflies

We spend the next hour wandering around taking it all in before heading back for dinner. Hayley is a bit worn out. She didn’t sleep well in the heat of the previous night and we have been walking about quite a bit by now. Del makes dinner tonight and we just sit out side wittering away and drinking way past eleven. Just as dusk was falling we were both presented with a light show…

Dozens of fireflies, very pretty, we’ve never that seen before. It’s the female that glows luminescant green to attract a mate, but the time is critical as it’s only for a short time just as dusk starts.

A great day and a lovely way to end it. More tomorrow.

Monday 20th June 2022

That’s a lot of pretzel Del…

We are woken up this morning by rain, it was forecast, but it’s still hot. As soon as the rain stops we are back on the bus and making our way into Salzburg town once again. Today we want to see the house where Mozart lived and where his father died. It’s a rather unassuming building but inside it’s very informative and well worth a look. More walking around town, which is crammed with churches and catherdal type buildings, loads of them.

En route Del decides on a pretzel, just a small one though as there is a special dinner tonight. We go into the cathedral which has seven organs and over 100 paintining on the walls and ceilings.

Great views of Salzburg

It’s a very large and impressive building and we are lucky today as there is a 30 minute concert on. Mendelssohn – too many notes.

There is a castle here and a small funicular cable car gets you up to it where the view of Salzburg is spectacular, just amazing. There are lots to do and see up here, but time is marching on. We need to get back to the camp and change for tonight’s rather special dinner.

Tonight we are going to a Mozart dinner concert. The location is rather special too. It’s Europe’s oldest restaurant, this place goes back to AD803.

Tonight we are dining here in candlelight with a 5 piece chamber orchestra and two opera singers all in period dress who will perform various pieces by Mozart inbetween courses.

The room where we dine was also frequented by the man himself. Again, like his home, it’s a little understated, grand yes but not too grand.

What an unforgettable night we had. It goes down as one of the best dinner/entertainment nights that we have had.

The music, of course, was great and singers amazing and the food superb. Two and a bit hours later we leave humming the tunes through the streets to a late night bar where we finish off with a cocktail each before getting an Uber back to the campsite. Brilliant.

Goodnight Salzburg

Tuesday 21st June 2022

Salzburg has gone in our top 5 cities. A wonderful place. Today we are continuing our journey west to Scheffau am Wilden Kaiser and to a new campsite. The scenery here in Austria just gets better and better with each mile as the Tyrol Mountains just go on forever.

We get a warm friendly welcome at Kaiser Camp and get a pitch for the night. The views just from the van are amazing. Vast tall grey mountains on one side and huge tree covered hills on the other.

Grey skies today but again it’s still warm. There is a small swimming lake here, just next to the van, so Hayley thinks that it might be nice to have a dip. The lake is fresh water and cool. How will she get on?

It’s not that cold

As expected the water is cold but after a bit of grimacing and splashing about she is in and once she has adjusted to the temperature she loves it and spends some time in there swimming past the water lillies and dragon flies.

It is a lovely and relaxing setting, quite stunning and so far the most expensive at 44 euros a night but worth every cent.

As dusk rolls in we hear thunder and the sky is looking heavy and dark but as the sun sets in the east, it skims the tops of the clouds and produces some beautiful colours, the light is difficult to describe and it only lasts for 10 to 15 minutes but it’s quite magical. Quite a show for the longest day.

Dusk… Wow!

Tonight, finally Del finishes his book. The Counterfeit Candidate by his telly friend Brian Klein. Buy it. It’s brilliant…

It rains tonight, but not too heavy and soon we are asleep. Another great day in Austria.

Wednesday 22nd June 2022

Hayley’s portable pump

Today is our last day in Austria. We think. Not sure. More stunning scenery as we make our way to the town of Imst. We try to do regular checks on the tyre pressure as we do cover a number of miles in various weather conditions and it has been extremely hot this week. We find a small garage on the way and we find the air point. There is a box on the wall, its free to use but the airline is only about 18 inches long, how on earth do you get air into bike tyres let alone a 6m van? We discover, quickly that it is in fact portable, it’s sitting on an air pipe that keeps the unit constanty charged.

Simply unhook the unit and carry it around to all the wheels, connect the 18 inch line and off you go. Magic. When you are done just drop the unit back onto the air pipe to recharge it for the next user. Hayley loved this…

We are quite impressed by this but can’t help thinking that if this was in the UK we would be charged to use it, it wouldn’t work or someone would have nicked it!

We arrive at FINK CAMPING. Once again this campsite is surrounded by mountains, it’s a beautiful place indeed. Nice pitch.

A double rainbow…

We are expecting more rain today so we just set up house and stay local, reading and writing blogs and planning where we will go next.

How much…?

There are breaks in the rain and we do get some wonderful rainbows in the valley, and we also manage to go for a walk into the town.

Sanitary facilities are very important to us motorhomers and campers. We have a shower and toilet and wash basins on Jess but we have to watch the water so a good clean shower is important. This place has, without a doubt, the best facilities ever… Unbelievable. Better than a five star hotel. It looks like someone is watching and dives in and does a quick buff up each time someone leaves. We have noticed that it’s a ‘thing’ here in Austria, clean sanitary facilities and quite right as Austrian campsites have also been the most expensive so far.

Thursday 23rd June 2022

We liked Imst and FINK CAMPING – lovely toilets.

Today we are going to Liechtenstein, so after our usual long breakfast and a visit from a local cat, which of course we have to fuss and photograph.

We pack up, do a full service on Jess and set off. As usual the Austrian countryside delivers eye catching scenery which is just stunning.

Just over an hour later we are approaching the Austrian/Liechtenstein border after we have gone through an 11 euro toll, 15km tunnel. In a blink of an eye we are through and in Leichtenstein. Easy, lots of roadworks in the area so no one seems that bothered. It’s quite compact for a border crossing and is quite busy as we are on the only main road into the principality.

Today we are determined to do a bike ride. We haven’t really done much, it’s either been far too hot or rained, but today we think will be the day. It’s cooler with broken cloud.

We drive along the main road towards the ‘capital‘ Vaduz which is… well.. not quite as we imagined it. Not sure what we were expecting but it seems a bit ordinary and the public areas seem a bit unkempt. The drive through Vaduz itself is ok, quite charming, but considering that there are more registered companies here than the 38,000 inhabitants, it’s a little disappointing.

We arrive at the only campsite in Liechtenstein, Camping Mittagspitze, which does have impressive views of Swiss mountains to the front of us and the Lichtenstein mountains behind us. Quite nice. We had to wait as the campsite had some strange rule that said the there was to be no driving around the site between the hours of midday and 2pm. How odd. We couldn’t figure out why, but that was the rule.

What a great spot

We were shown to our pitch which was very nice and so it should be for 46 euros, the most expensive on the trip… Mad…

Once installed we get the bikes off the back and we are finally off on a bike ride, at last. We cycle a total of 14 miles into Switzerland for a kaffee and kuchen then back to Jess. It was a great ride along the Rhine and over an old wooden bridge into Switzerland.

That’s Switzerland over there

It was hot again so the ride back was a struggle. Hayley fell off her bike, again, while stationary, again…, grazing her leg and arm while Del cycled off oblivious to what had befallen his beloved. (Time to lower her seat from what the bike shop set it at.) Oh well…

A lovely night at camp. Are we going to Switzerland or back into Austria to get Germany. No idea.

Friday 24th June 2022

We have no idea where we are going. We have had so many conversations about what our route should be, do we go through Switzerland and up into Germany or go back into Austria.

The decision has been made. We shall go back through a bit of Austria and make our way north into Germany from there, saves us buying a Swiss vignette after all. After breakfast we set off to retrace our steps back to Austria, after a small diversion through a small housing estate (thanks Google!). Today we are making for a site called Camping Weiss in Bregenz where they have a collection of hens, goats and donkeys, very important, but what it does have is a massive lake next to it, lake known as lake Bodensee at the German/Austrian end and Lake Constance at the Swiss end. More bike riding. This lake is the largest in Germany and is fed by the Rhine.

And we got free eggs!

We get a warm friendly welcome and are presented with the locally brewed schnapps, and shown to our pitch.

Suddenly the heavens just open up and it rains and rains and rains… Non stop it rains. That’s it for bike riding. We need eggs for tomorrow. Del sets off to find some and is given 6 local eggs for free. What a nice place!

Get some work done…

We make use of the time. Del has some work to do when he gets back so out comes the laptop and he gets his head stuck into it for a few hours while Hayley sorts out her work obligations.

The weather is miserable but it’s a bonus really as we can catch up on quite a lot of stuff that we have missed out on, so not too bad really.

There is a slight lull in the weather so we take a good long walk along the lake which is massive, it’s so big and goes on for miles, it’s like looking out to sea.

Dinner in tonight, the site is starting to fill up. We are promised a hot weekend this weekend. We shall see.

Another one of those sunsets.

Germany tomorrow, or is it..?

How much…?

WEEK 3 – 11th June – 17th June 2022

Braubach Germany to Freistadt Austria via Czech Republic – 533 miles

Everywhere, everyone is now feeling the rising cost of fuel at the pumps, not just in the UK but all over Europe and the rest of the world, (Boris can’t help us). We are staggered how much it costs to fill our diesel tank up, it’s crazy and the rise in price is quick and continuing.

We didn’t really have a full plan about where we were going to go, we knew we maybe wanted to go deep into eastern Europe and to get more country flags on the back of the van, but given the cost of diesel we have decide that we needed a plan, a cheaper plan, so we have decided to carry on out of Germany and into the Czech Republic for a few days then down south towards Austria for a week, then pop out to the west of Austria, then either do southern Germany into France or go through Switzerland and into France then north home. A big change from our loose original plan.

Hayley has worked out that it costs 2 euros every 6.5 miles, which is a crazy sum of money.

No matter we are here now driving about in Europe, and enjoying it.


Saturday 11th June 2022

We enjoyed our rustic stay in Green Camping right on the river Rhine, very peaceful and quiet, a nice change from the madness of Cologne airport, Blackpool and theme parks. We gently ease our precious van out of the space, do a quick van service and off we go.

Today we are heading east to a Weingut (vineyard). We have stayed at French vineyards, which are always nice of course, but we haven’t stayed at many German ones. We did it once a few years ago and whilst the pitch in the Weingut was very nice, the wine was a bit… well… not great. We thought that we might give it another go.

Our German vineyard stay at Wiengut Hemberger

We fill up with fuel at 1.95 euros a litre and after a 3 hour drive we arrive at Weingut Hemberger. We find a space which offers a good mix of shade and sun and we get settled in. Payment for the pitch is by an honesty box, a small black box screwed to the wall where you drop your 8 euros a night into a small slot. There is everything here, fresh water fill up, grey water disposal and for 2 euros extra you can empty your chemical toilet.

Pay as you go wine fridge

Similar to our last Germany weingut, they operate here an honesty wine fridge. In the corner of the court yard is a large upright cupboard fridge full of their wine with a price list. Simply choose a wine, take it out of the fridge and put your money in the honesty box on the wall. Brilliant.

We choose a local white brut fizz for 13 euros. It’s already chilled so with trepidation we thought that we should try a glass. Well, it is excellent. Very very nice indeed for a German wine. So we spend the rest of the afternoon discussing travel tactics in the sun sipping the local fizz right next to the vineyards. What a great way to spend the rest of the day.

Sunset walk

As we continue our walk we look up and see a hot air balloon making a gentle descent. Lovely…

It’s a lovely evening, no wind, clear blue skies and a setting sun. We decide to take a walk, it’s a fantastic setting.


Sunday 12th June 2022

It’s lovely bright warm morning, so we take breakfast outside. After breakfast we just sit chatting and reading and taking in the wonderful views of this region. Today we will cycle in to the nearest town which is called Iphofen. It’s a Sunday and in Germany, which is mainly christian, most of the shops and cafes will be closed, no matter the excerise will be good for us.

The vineyards have a small road network of their own for the workers and they all lead into a town somewhere. It’s not long before we are cycling through the lovely stone archways of Iphofen town and into the main square. It’s stunning, amazing, old but so well maintained, clean and tidy.

The town square at Iphofen
Gotta have that cake!

All the houses have beautiful window boxes of flowers just bursting with colour. Most of the bars and coffee shops are open so we indulge in coffee and some wonderful apple pie. Three inches thick and full of apple. Yum.

We have a good walk around the town, it doesn’t take long but every street is just delightful to look at. Very nice.

A quick cycle back to Jess and today it’s Hayley’s paella, always a winner, even better with the local fizz!


Monday 13th June 2022

Bit cloudier this morning, oh well, it has been nice here and a place that we look forward to revisiting. We already packed everything away last night as we hoped to get away early today. No chance, it’s 10:00am before we really get going. First stop a supermarket as we have acquired a collection of plastic bottles. Germany has this pfand system here where they charge extra on bottles so you have to take them back. It all sounds very good but you can burn a lot of fuel trying to get to the supermarket to get rid of them. We have 7 bottles so that’s 1.75 euros.

Crossing the border

Off we go, today we are heading for the Czech Republic. It’s only a couple of hours and it’s a very pleasent day for driving as we trundle through the whole width of Germany and eventually arrive at the border.

Hayley has applied and paid for a ‘vignette‘, a requirement in most European countries that help pay for the motorways. Saves stopping to pay a toll, you pay a fee in advance and you are ready, if you don’t pay then the fines are quite heavy.

Here we go, that’s it, we are in the Czech Republic! There is supposed to be a shop as soon as you cross the border which we turn off to visit but can’t find it so we just continue on our way entering the lane for the roadworks by mistake, the road was confusing coming out of the services, honestly! We are stuck.

We should be where the white car is!

The workmen are looking at us wondering why a UK registered, 6m motorhome is in the ‘works only lane’. Funnily enough we are wondering the same thing,

Hayley is out with her hi-viz vest on, a legal requirement, and starts to direct Del back into the service area to make the turn for the correct lane, which works well until he hits a temporary roadworks sign. Fortunately it was not fixed and Jess just ignores it. 200m into a new country and trouble!

Tonight we are staying at Camping Briza which is a lovely terraced campsite with a spectacular view of a lake which we have a walk to. It’s very nice here. Lots of Dutch and Germans. We are the only Brits. Hmmm…

We are in the Czech Republic for 5 days. So far so good.


Tuesday 14th June 2022

Today it’s another lovely day. We had a good sleep, late to bed however after Del thrashed Hayley at chess, twice! Bacon and eggs for breakfast and then we say farewell to our hosts at Camping Briza. We need some shopping so we drop into a supermarket called Albert. A large chain of supermarkets here in the Czech Republic. It’s immaculate and the staff are milling aroud cleaning and smilling. This European travel is interesting. We see lots of things and get to know the culture and the way of life, but it’s always interesting to visit another country’s supermarkets. We love it! After spending 40 quid on stuff we are ready for the off.

It’s a 3 hour drive to the next stop which is just slightly north and 10 minutes by tram to the centre of Prague. The drive was excellent, nice smooth roads, splendid scenery. We hit some heavy traffic on the outskirts of Prague before entering a very long 3km tunnel after which we pop out on the other side and into our campsite for the next two days, River Camping Prague. The host here is a very friendly local. The site is a little tight but has a nice homely, campy feel to it. We get set up and settled in. Today is wash day and it’s already 3 in the afternoon. We get two lots of washing done and sip beer while it’s underway and drying.

The Planner!

Hayley is planning our day in Prague tomorrow.


Wednesday 15th June 2022

Busy day today. We are going into Prague. There is a tram stop 5 minutes from the campsite. We are planning to eat and drink everything local, do a bus tour around the city and a river trip. We only have today so we need to make the most of it.

Think we’ll leave that…

We have a simple breakfast and we are off on part 1 of the day. The walk to the tram stop. This takes us past some white water rapid canoe training which is fascinating to watch. Requires a lot of fitness so we’ll leave that then.

The number 17 tram takes us right into the centre of town. The buildings are splendid and the place, despite the amount of tourists, is so tidy with hardly no litter. It’s a bright sunny day and it all looks rather wonderful. We have a couple of hours to kill before the bus tour so we have a good walk around exploring the streets.

She ate the lot! Kidding

We try a local street dessert called a Czech Chimney which is basically a spiral of sponge dipped in a tonne of sugar and topped off with ice cream.

This is surely not meant for one person to eat, it’s massive, messy, full of calories but yummy!

The best way to see a city is by bus. However the traffic like all cities is just gridlocked in parts. It’s a lovely interesting place. It’s not London or Paris but it has some fine buildings and a very interesting if difficult history. After the bus tour we dropped off at the river for the boat tour. The river has a great view of some of the more interesting parts of Prague but is restricted in how far we can go as the river has locks and weirs. We spend most of the trip below deck, getting a bit fed up of being in the sun all day.

It’s getting late in the day and we are getting hungry. We want to eat all local stuff so we find a restaurant that does just that. Czech goulash with various types of bread dumplings for Del, while Hayley has a Czech platter – a massive plate of meats various and dumplings and sauerkraut.

A proper Czech dinner

Both help each other out as there is so much. It’s washed down with a small local beer and finally a local digestive liquor called Becherovka. A wonderful dinner. We are full but content.

Not such a Pinball Wizard

While watching YouTube videos about what to do in Prague, Hayley finds a place called the Joystick bar. It’s a retro video arcade games bar. After dinner we thought we would try it out. It’s a dark, graffiti ridden grungy bar but is full of old working 1980s video gaming machines and pinball machines.

Brilliant! For 40p each you can play Space Invaders, PacMan, Street Fighter as well as the old Sega car and bike racing games. We have one drink each and spend the next hour on the games.

Pacman. Always a favourite

A great way to end the day before walking back to get the tram and back to Jess. We are truly exhausted but we can say that we have seen Prague and we liked it… Highly recommended.


Thursday 16th June 2022

Early up this morning, we need to check out at 10am, the guy that runs the camp is very laid back and tells us to take our time. We do a quick service on the van, water fill up and toilet clean. Soon we are off and on our way driving through busy suburban traffic onto a quieter motorway. Today we are only driving 1 hour south to Pliskovice to a small campsite run by a nice Dutch couple. It’s only small and very popular so hopefully there will be a small space for us!

We are half full on the diesel but we like to stay topped up. 75 euros later we have a full tank and on our way again. The cost of fuel is eye watering…

Settled in. Finally,

At around midday we arrive at the site in Pliskovice and indeed we are greeted by a very friendly Dutch lady who shows us to our pitch in an empty campsite followed by the offer of a coffee or tea. How nice is that? She tells us to take our time and sign in when we are settled in. An over excited dog welcomes us when we eventually go to sign in.

We meet the husband and after while you feel more like a guest at someone’s house rather than a customer. The husband likes to cook and prepares a menu especially for guests. We can’t refuse and have settled on dinner tonight at 6:30

It rained, it poured.

It s lovely peaceful place here there are only two campers here and we are one of them. There are some cabins which have some German bikers as guests. We relax and just witter all afternoon, the day has gone quick and dinner is soon upon us when suddenly the heavens open with a heavy, but real heavy down pour.

It had been threatening to do so for most of the afternoon but didn’t really come to much apart from a spit of rain and the odd rumble of thunder. Ten minutes before dinner our host turns up with an umbrella and leaves it with us. How kind and thoughtful is that? Where else would that happen?

Dinner is butterflied pork fried in pine nuts, rosemary and garlic. Wow!

Dinner time…
Our Dutch host

Served with green beans mixed with small pieces of local sausage, salad and fries, it really was a wonderful dinner joined by our hosts and the three German bikers who were all great company while the rain just hammered down. Not seen rain like this in a long time. After dinner our Dutch host presented us with a local drink of elderflower and something else that we can’t remember a great end to a fine day.

Three European countries all together enjoying each others company.


Friday 17th June 2022

We are up at half 8 and get ready for breakfast outside. It’s hot already, everything has already dried out after the heavy rain. Today we are going to a lakeside campsite in Czech just before the Austrian border. We set off and say our good byes to a smashing bunch of people and set off. We need some shopping so after 40 minutes or so we stop at a supermarket, get some groceries and Hayley buy some new trainers.

Stocked up we are off again, after what seems a long time we arrive at the lakeside site. It’s busy, very busy and after a long time in reception we are given a place and pay our fee. The pitch was on too much of a slope for us. We have levelling ramps but the incline was too much. There was a dispute with neighbours about where the pitches started and ended so we thought that this was not the place for us. It was a bit of a shocker after our stay last night. We get a refund and set off deciding to continue straight to Austria. The countryside in this part of Cezch is quite stunning, with rolling hills and tall trees.

We like the Cezch Republic. It’s a nice place and although we were not there for long we found the people very pleasant and we would definitely like to go there again. We liked it very much but it does require more time.

After another longish drive and a bridge that we thought we wouldn’t get under, but did, we get over the border. The only thing that changes is the roads in Austria become wider and smoother.

Finally at about 4pm we arrive at Camping Freistadt. There are only half a dozen vans here on the beautifully manicured grass.

Our first Austrian stop

What a lovely place, set just outside the old town. We get talking to another couple of campers who advise us that the old town is a must so after we get fully settled in we pay our bill for the night and set off for the old town and for a traditional Austrian dinner. The couple we spoke to told us that the town has a commune brewery and the brewery is in the middle of town. The walk around the old town is quite delightful. It’s clean tidy and old and we dine at the chic beer garden belonging to the brewery and have a wiener schnitzel, potatoes and a salad washed down with the local beer.

Fantastic. We walk back to Jess full but content. We will be in Austria for about a week and so far so good.

Congratulations ma’am!

WEEK 2 4th to 10th June 2022

Ahrbruck to Braubach (via Hennef) – 96 miles

Saturday 4th June 2022

The celebrations of the Queen’s platinum jubilee are talked about all over world, even with our limited German we can pick out the odd word on the radio as we trundle through Germany. 70 years! Whether you are a royalist or not you have to agree that it’s quite an acheivement and one that is highly unlikey to be acheived again, well at least for a good few years yet.

Our second week away starts with us still in Camping Denntal. The weather is due to change with the threat of some rain, heavy rain. It’s still warm though, quite close in fact. No matter, we are in a good safe place on our quiet little pitch next to the stream.

A ‘deadly’ grass snake

After yesterday we decide to just stay local. While it’s still dry we set up with our table and chairs and just lounge around near the van. It’s actually quite warm and sunny so we keep the beer and the water flowing. A very relaxing day.

Whilst having an afternoon tea by the tiny stream, Hayley happens to look into the water only to cast her gaze on a grass snake! There he is just sitting in the water making his way down stream. Something you wouldn’t normally see on a Satuarday afternoon.

Sunday 5th June 2022

Well it has finally arrived, the rain. We wake up to it pattering on the roof, it’s quite gentle though but constant. After the rain we get all the winows open for some fresh air, it’s still quite warm. We have a simple breakfast followed by Del prepping for his departure to the UK. While there is a break in the rain it’s off for a walk, just a short one though as the sky looks heavy with more rain to come.

Del is packed and ready to go on his 5 day trip to the UK for a bit of work, the van is stowed and Hayley is providing an excellent taxi service to a hotel near Cologne/Bonn airport. The flight is early in the morning.

It’s a short drive, 50 minutes. Hayley has booked a hotel through her regular hotel supplier, Hotels.com, however upon arrival the hotel is closed, shutdown, empty, no one there. No one has been there for a while. Frantic phone calls take place, it’s getting late and Hayley needs to do the drive back to Camping Denntal. With no result forthcoming to solve the problem by hotels.com, Del does a search and eventually finds a hotel 400m from the airport terminal and arranges an Uber to get him there.

We are both are angry and frustrated at the situation but after a while Del bids Hayley farewell and off she goes, her and Jess for the drive back to Ahrbruck.

More woes for Del as it takes almost an hour for an Uber to arrive.

By 7:30 both Del and Hayley are finally at their respective destinations. Del is right next to Cologne airport to be up at 04:00am for his early flight while Hayley has Jess back by the stream, up on leveling ramps and settled in until Friday the 10th June when she will pick Del up near Cologne.

Airport themed hotel, The Moxy Cologne

Monday 6th June 2022

Del is flying into Manchester today and then taking a train to Blackpool for the Red Rose Awards 2022. Hayley is staying here in Camping Denntal as it’s a lovely place with good laundry facilities which should keep her occupied.


*** Hayley’s week ***

It just rained all day!

Doing things on the van take a lot longer than they do at home so quite a few hours of the days are taken up by doing all the washing that we’ve accumulated so far and other exciting jobs like emptying the toilet! It has to be done. Luckily the van is stocked up with food and drink so my spare time can be spent reading and catching up on paperwork. On Wednesday it rains, but it rains all day, it never stops.

I have acquired cabin fever by the end of Wednesday having watched 3 films and listened to a backing soundtrack of the constant drumming of the rain on the roof.

Its a better day today, it’s Thursday and seen as I’m so close to Phantasialand with nothing esle to do, I have decided that I will go there again. It is such a famous theme park and I’m lucky to be near it, so I pack up Jess and off we trundle. I have a great day again even though it’s much busier than last week. Shame Del is not here to carry my bag.

I did have a great day, enjoyed my drive there and back. It’s nice to be back by my little stream. Picking Del up tomorrow.

*** Del’s Week ***

Ryan Air flights now require a 3 hour check-in, so for an 08:00 I need to be at the airport for 5am, so up at 4am. Great can’t wait. The hotel Moxy is nice. It’s themed like an airport which is interesting.

I get to the airport as requested, a bit early, 4:45am, by 05:15 I’m at the gate! SO much time now to kill. What was that all about. To kill time I watch a the movie A time to Kill, very good. I start a Woody Allen film, Manhatten Murder Mystery. Very funny.

Manchester Airport is, not to put to finer point on it, a dump. It’s filthy, travelators don’t work, carpet held together with gaffer tape. There are now homeless people sleeping in the terminal building. International airport my eye! Blackpool is no better by the way.

I like these chaps though
Before…!
…and after

A good few days work with some good friends in the Winter Gardens Ballroom for a show that I have done every year now for six years. Not much sleep, early starts, long days, late finishes. You can see last years event on my lighting blog.

I can’t wait to get back “Home” to Jess and H, back to the countryside and figuring out the interesting nuances of other countries. Pfand anyone?

Friday 10th June 2022

It’s Friday the 10th and my flight to Cologne is on time and quick. Hayley has asked that I make my way to a town called Hennef, 20 minutes east of Cologne where she will pick me up in an Aldi car park!

There are many things I can say about our Hayley and one of them is that nothing seems to phase her. She has been in Germany on her own, driving the van around, dropping me off in the middle of nowhere and picking me up. Hayley and I have met up with each other in so many countries around the world. She just does it, gets on with it, a natural. I’m very lucky. She is a real star! Thanks H xxx.

We keep in touch by text and sure enough, and on time, Jess is in the Aldi car park in Hennef and we are off on our trip again. We are driving east.

Germany is sometimes a tricky place to find spaces, the most difficult are the sites near rivers, poeple love them so you have to be quick to get a spot. We find a site called Green camping which is made up of numbered pitches and a wild camping area. We opt for the wild camping with a slight view of the fast moving Rhine.

It’s great here but a little tight to move the van around. Everyone is friendly, they smile and say ‘hallo’ when they see you. We have a good night here.

Its great to be back…! Everything is right in the world…

Life is just one long roller coaster!

Much has happened since our last van outing. Covid was up, then down, then the rules were relaxed. We managed some trips abroad namely to expensive Iceland and cheap Poland. War broke out in Europe, who’d have thought. We have had personal events happen to us both including the loss of family. During all of this we managed to continue working, in fact we have both been kept very busy, back to pre-covid and some! It has been one long roller coaster so after a heavy stint of work and personal pressures it was decided that we would lock everything up, get the cover off Jess, stock her up and set off for Europe for a good long six weeks.

We have had Jess now for 4 years and we have seen lots of Europe. It’s a big land mass and there is still lots to see. This time we have decided that we will venture further east and have a look at places like Slovakia, The Czech Republic, Hungary and so on, whilst still taking in the usual places like Germany and France which we enjoy very much. Without much of a plan, except the purchase of a ferry ticket, we are due to set off on the 28th May 2022

Before we set off we just have to get a bunch of work done. Hayley is going backwards and forwards between home and London working for both ITV and the new Talk TV channel. Del has the usual corporate events and a short tour for Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. Amen!

WEEK 1Saturday 28th May to 3rd June

Home to Ahrbruck Germany – 481 miles

We have done it many times, there is a camp site, Waverley Park, just around the corner from us. Very handy for prepping our stuff before going, if we forget something then it’s a short walk home for any late pickups. It’s nice as well, there is a great view of the Solent looking north to the mainland especially in good weather.

Dinner at Waverley Park on the Isle of Wight

Not much of a food prep for this trip as the rules for taking certain foods into Europe has changed since Brexit, so eggs, milk and dairy is off, meat can’t be taken in either. We do wonder though what would happen if we did take stuff with us. Is it just confiscated, do you get a fine or are the chances of being stopped so remote that it’s not worth worrying about? Anyway it’s a risk we don’t want to take so the fridge is bare at the start of this trip. Beer and wine is ok though. Whew!

Sat 28th May

We set off bright and early for the first leg of the trip. Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight to Portsmouth. A simple 45 minute crossing. There is some slack time in the trip but we have to account for getting along the south coast from Portsmouth to Dover and the check in time for the Channel ferry crossing.

Upon arriving at the Fishbourne ferry we find that there is an hour delay for our crossing to Portsmouth. Great! You can always depend on Wightlink ferries to scupper your best laid plans, in fact any UK mode of travel will do all it can to mess you up. Not a great start.

Finally we are waved aboard. We have lost an hour, so no more slip ups.

Not quite… We arrive into what looks like a free flowing quiet Dover Port but once we get deeper in the queue to get your passport checked stretches for a long way and is slow, so slow we didn’t move an inch for over an hour. Once through we are late for our Calais crossing but offered Dunkerque instead. Why are we in a rush? It’s a Saturday and we have no food as we are not allowed to take it, apparently, and the shops on mainland Europe close early on a Saturday and don’t open on Sunday, we don’t even have stuff to make a cup of tea!

The DFDS ferry to Dunkerque is full, rammed. The two hour crossing was passed with fish and chips on board. Nice.

We finally disembark at 7:00pm, 1 and a half hours late. Luckily we did find a Carrefour, a French supermarket, so H dives in and does a quick shop while Del guards the van! An hour later we are parked up in a lovely spot under some trees with a windmill in the town of De Panne, Belgium. Finally we are in Europe, late, but we have arrived.

Sun 29th May

De Panne is a lovely town which has a fantastic beach front and theme park which has one the world’s most renowned rides. We keep saying this, and our intentions are always good but we want to do more walking and cycling each time we go away on the van, so we do the right thing and get the bikes off the back and set off into the town of De Panne passing the theme park which goes by the name of Plopsaland. It’s a little unassuming but Hayley, who is a rollercoster enthusiast, knows all about this place and what rides are in here, the plan is to go in tomorrow. Del is not so mad on coasters so he has the job of carrying the bag!

Hayley’s bag carrier!

When we arrive at Ploppsaland it’s quiet and it is suggested that while we are here now, on the bikes, and it doesn’t look busy, that maybe we should go in right now. Without too much thinking on Hayley’s part we are in the short line and buying a pair of tickets. Faithful Del discharges his duties well by carrying the bags and cycle helmets while Hayley gets her head rattled on the rides, especially the world famous “Ride to Happiness” which is a rollercoster that does the usual rollercoastery things but the cars that you sit in spin as well!!! Why would you go on that?

Put yer hands up in the air…!

After all said and done it was a lovely couple of hours, Hayley had a good time and Del had to admit that it was nice park to walk around but that was about it.

Another short cycle ride and we are on the De Panne beach. No word of a lie but we are astonished. It would not be out of place in Miami. White sandy beaches that stretch for miles with high rise apartments and chic resturants and bars.

De Panne sandy beaches. Just like Miami

We decide to have a drink in one of the bars and watch a strong North sea in the afternoon sunlight whilst sipping Belgian beer and eating calamari. Splendid.

Full of beer and fish we cycle back to Jess and settle in for the night. Tomorrow we are going to a place that we first went to back in 2018, our first European stop ever in Jess.

Mon 30th May

Our first Belgian stop was very nice. A lovely campsite called Camping Kindervreugde. Very pleasant. Today it’s a short bumpy drive to Poperinge in Belgium. Bumpy because some of the Belgian roads are a bit, well, bumpy and unfinished in parts. We are going to what was our first European campsite when we first bought Jess called Camping Stal ‘t Bardehof.

Pygmy goat watching.

Great to watch when you have a local beer.

We do like it there. It’s a rustic farm with well defined pitches right in the middle of Westvleteren, Belgium. Nice walks and great bike riding. The site has a dark, musty, home-built bar that serves lots of local Belgian beers, the staff are friendly and… it’s cheap! Oh and they have the best pygmy goats.

Tues 31st May

We are woken up bright and early by a Cuckoo, a sound you don’t often hear but in this area they are about all the time. After breakfast we take a walk. This area has many cemeteries from both the first and second world wars where many British, Canadian and American troops died, most very young. Very sobering, but places well worth a visit. The gardens are well manicured and it’s a very peaceful place to walk through.

We make our way to the local abbey Sint-Sixtus where, some say, is where the world’s best beer is brewed. We sit in the lovely cafe and have some local abbey cheese with the best beer of course. Very nice. We decide that we like here so much that we will have dinner here tonight and cycle here and back. Looking forward to that.

Back at the van we just relax, read and chat. We are still trying to decide on our route. We normally have a good idea about where we are going, but for some reason we haven’t got a plan. We do know that we would like to see some of east Europe, but which countries and for how long? No idea.

Dinner tonight is by bike back to the Sint-Sixtus Abbey for a very nice dinner and cycle back just in time to hear the cuckoo before making our way to bed.

Wed 1st June

The future. The robot, not the bloke!

Time to get some shopping in with the help of this little chap!

Today we plan to stay at a free parking spot on the quay near Strepy-Thieu which has some of the most spectaularly engineered boat lifts. We have been there before and visted 3 of the 4 lifts so we though we might try it again. Our enthusiasm was damped when we arrived as the local council have banned camping on the quay now which is such a shame. The last time we came you could camp here, no facilities, but you could stay overnight and an ice-cream van used to pop by every day. Now that’s all stopped now in the name of someone’s idea of progress. Sadly we didnt stop and had to move on, but if you are in the area do check these lifts out.

We decide to move on from Belguim and go to Holland to a nice little farm there but on arrival we find that it’s full. It is a bit late in the day but we are still suprised that it’s busy. Not to be discouraged we try another campsite, again full! What’s going on? Next door there is a large commercial site called Euro Camping and for an astonishing 33 euros we are given a space with a stunning view of the valley of Gulpen, Holland. It’s now late, we are 33 euros lighter, but the view with a cup of tea is quite something.

Thurs 2nd June

We wake up to a lovely warm sunny day so it’s breakfast outside looking over the valley.

Breakfast in Holland

We get talking to our Dutch neighbours who have a small 4.5m caravan. It’s a real cute little thing with a retro style, modern build. We are fascinated by it and they offer us a look around. It was amazing, so cute inside as well as outside with lots of room.

Today we are heading to Germany. Hayley needs to be settled into a good, safe campsite for a week which is near an airport as Del is flying back to the UK on Monday morning to do a job that was booked and agreed sometime ago. It’s also a regular job for a regular client, plus it will be extra ‘van tokens‘. German roads and motorways are excellent and free! We are heading for Camping Denntal in Ahrbruck, just south of Cologne. Some of the area was devastated in severe floods last year but this site is away from the river in a valley surrounded by woodland.

Home for Hyaley for the next week

We arrive and the very helpful lady gives us the run down on the site’s facilites and allows us to choose a space. We plump for a nice private spot right by a small stream. It’s beautiful and peaceful here. All you can hear is the birds and the stream babbling by. Great. Everything is here that you need for a comfortable stay. Good walks are also to be had so Hayley should be nice and safe here.

Fri 3rd June

Here we go again! Less than an hour’s drive away there is another theme park! Phantasialand Looks like Del is carrying the bag again.

Today we are up early, packing up and by 8am we are driving down a German motorway to Phantasialand. Hayley has already bought the tickets online. We get a little lost but soon we are directed to a safe parking space for what will be a long day.

Theming for F-L-Y

These theme parks are all the same. Very well manicured and maintained with music blurting out everywhere you go, even in the toilets. You can’t escape it.

Today, for some reason it’s not very busy so Hayley gets to go on all the rides without too much waiting. She has a great time on all the hi-tech, fast, throw you about rides and comes off each one grinning while Del is still carrying the bag. Here in this park are another two world class rides, one of which – FLY – is a coaster where you are suspended face down. It is Hayley’s new favourite in the world and the area it is in is beautifully themed.

FLY in action

After a whole tiring day it’s back to the van and a drive home to the campsite. Del drives as Hayley would probably still think she is on a coaster and get a ticket for speeding.

The weekend starts tomorrow and it’s Whitsun here in Germany so it could get busy here.

It’s that time again

Spring into summer. Why don’t we go off in the van? Why not indeed. We are already off and about, currently in Germany in a small town called Rodelsee at a very nice vinyard. We have been out for two weeks now so a little bit behind with our blog.

The blog is for our friends and family (and anyone else who stumbles on it for that matter) we are so pleased to share it with them and to hear from them. There is nothing to sell or promote here, it’s just us in our van Jess enjoying life as best we can.

Del is catching up with the blog so there will be more to read soon, in the meantime we wish you all good health and happiness…

Del, H & Jess

Final week 25th to 30th January 2022

All good things have come to an end!

EMPURIABRAVA TO HOME 980 MILES

Miles travelled for this WHOLE trip: 3582 miles

Toll costs: 83.6 euros this week

Fuel Costs: 197 euros this week

25th January – Empuriabrava, Spain to Villasavary, France 131 Miles

The temperature last night was -3 degrees. This morning it’s about 0 to 1 degrees with heavy grey skies. It is supposed to clear up by midday to around 14 degrees. Today we are crossing the border into France. Today is Tuesday and our train to the UK is on Sunday morning so we need to think, at least about making our way back into the much colder weather. Sad but there it is. All good things come to an end. It’s not quite over yet though we still have six days to go and there are always things and places to see and visit so we will make the most of it while we can.

Just after 10 we have had breakfast and cleaned up, checked everything and we are off.

Over the border in a flash!

It’s only a short 20-minute drive to the AP7 north, over the border, and into France, which happens almost without us noticing. We got a very short and quick glimpse of the European sign saying FRANCE. From us leaving our pitch in Empuriabrava, Spain within 30 minutes we are in France and nobody said anything!

The weather is improving every minute and by the time we arrive at our spot in Villasavary we now have clear blue skies and a balmy 13 degrees. It’s nice and warm as we sit drinking tea at the side of the van basking in the mid-winter sun in France. Brilliant.

Best camper stops in France

Again Hayley has found us an excellent spot just outside the town of Villasavary. It is part of the Pass etapes.

You simply drive to a barrier, pay 10 euros by card and drive into a well-groomed, safe place that has everything you need, freshwater, greywater dump, and toilet dump. Free wifi and electricity are all included. The location of this one is superb. Peaceful, tranquil, surrounded by trees and fields. Amazing.

Around 3 pm we take a walk into the town which is just under a kilometre away. We go the long way taking in some of the beautiful countryside here. This is a lovely place for sure. The walk does us good and sharpens our appetite for dinner. Our first in France heading back home.

Smashing dinner on board but with an early appetiser of anchovies from L’Escala Spain and a difficult to open bottle of cava.

A wrench always comes in handy

26th January – Villasavary to Donzenac 171 miles

Cold this morning but what a fantastically blue sky. Today we are going to Donzenac which is in the southeast corner of France. Donzenac is a medieval town on a hill but it also has a 24-hour pizza vending machine in the car park of the local supermarket. We have to try it!

Best countryside…

We set off, a little later than we expected, but we are off. Fully serviced. The drive is wonderful.

France is a massive landmass and has some wonderful countryside and today’s drive is fantastic. It’s cold as we drive through some dense local fog, the temperature goes up and down like a bee’s wing.

France is expensive. Very expensive. The motorway tolls are pricey and at the moment, here in France, diesel is very expensive. We paid 34 euros in tolls to go 171 miles and 41 euros for 25 litres of diesel… Watch out!

We arrive at the site which is run by the same company as yesterday, we turn up, swipe a card and choose a spot.

Everything is here, freshwater, greywater dump etc. Perfect. Full of excitement we get parked up, locked up and make for the supermarket with the 24-hour pizza vending machine… What! What’s this…? It’s gone!! It’s gone and been replaced with a pizza stall, very flash with a flashy menu but no indication about opening hours. That’s progress. We’ve gone from a self-service 24-hour pizza making machine to a portacabin serving pizza with no clue when it opens. H is furious.

Just be sure you are qualified to use this machine.

They do have a 24-hour bread vending/baking machine here as well which we try but we soon discover that you need a qualification in computer coding and have a first in AI from Oxford… We give up and go into the supermarket and buy a stick of bread, the best camembert that we can find and some duck pate. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Use a shop!

Back at the van, we have a traditional French snack with the above and a glass of red in the afternoon sun. Excellent.

Del is off to explore the local medieval town of Donzenac which is quite something, with a church on a hill, twisty streets of houses that have so many bulges and leaning so much so that if you are a surveyor here, you’d make a fortune.

Back at the van, H has it all cleaned up and warm as the temperature is falling sharply. Tonight we are expecting -5 degrees!!! It’s so warm and comfortable in the van, with a freshly changed bed and a glass of wine we will be safe and warm tonight. No worries.

27th January – Donzenac to Dreux 285 miles

-5 overnight…

Yep, it was cold. We didn’t feel it in Jess but it was -5 degrees last night… In fact, by 9 am it hadn’t got much higher, a tropical -4 by the time we left at 10 pm.

Today we planned to go to a place called Vatan. Only about two hours but the weather there is a miserable -1 all day and -4 at night, plus there is not much to do so when we set off we just decide to keep going… and going… and going. We have decided that we will stop at Dreux.

So breakfast is done, we fill up with fuel, fresh water and empty the grey water tank and off we go. The start of our journey is wonderful. Yes, it’s cold but the sky is a deep blue and the countryside just looks amazing. The first couple of hours is just fantastic as we pass fields and trees just covered in thick ice, against the blue sky it is quite something to see.

Pizza 24 hours a day!

On the way, by the roadside, in a supermarket car park is another pizza vending machine. These things are becoming quite popular in France and have always fascinated us. There are two types. One will mix the ingredients from scratch and bake it and the other takes a pre-made raw pizza from storage and bakes it in 3 minutes. Pizza restaurants usually make up the pizzas and stock the machines. We have found one of the latter. You can get a hot pizza in three minutes (or a bake at home version in 30 seconds). We select our ‘montagne’ pizza and wait the 3 minutes……

Surprisingly it’s very very good. Hot, tasty, quick and in a box ready to go! All for 11 euros. Bargain.

We have achieved a ‘dream’ and now our pulses have calmed down it’s time to move on. We have a good couple of hours in front of us to do.

et voila!!!

Dreux is an industrial town just east of Paris. we call it dreary Dreux as we have gone past it several times and it looks… well, dreary. However, if you look it up on the internet it actually has a very nice town centre, it’s just that the by-pass is full of industrial estates which is where our stop for the night is! Yes, we are in a camping aire at the back of an industrial estate in dreary Dreux. No matter, it’s time to stop, it’s been six hours. This will make our last two drives very much shorter. We plan to drive across to the Atlantic coast then north to Calais for the Sunday Eurotunnel and home.

28th January – Dreux to Le Treport 121 miles

It’s cold and damp here this morning in Dreux. 4 degrees. We set off. It’s busy on the roads. The area we are in is full of industrial parks, warehouses and factories. It’s chaos but we finally get through it all only to end up in a dense fog. Bring back the Costa Brava. We are heading for the Atlantic coast today. Two stops, One in Le Treport and the last day in Merlimont. We will have done two seas.

We are approaching the town to get to the pitch which is high up on the cliffs at the back of the town with a view of the Atlantic. We have to follow a diversion, but it’s a diversion to nowhere! We end up in a part of town with a width restriction but helped by the police where we have to turn around and go back the way we came. We make several attempts to get to the chosen pitch but in the end, we just give up and H finds us another one, next to the port. A pleasant stop as it happens, and once in we take a good walk along the prom to where all the restaurants are located. There are many to choose from but as is the French way there is no clue as to when they are open. Oh well, we will take potluck tonight when we come back for dinner.

It’s a cold but nice day, the sun is out and we take a walk around the old lighthouse and the beach. A walk back to the van for an hour or two before dinner means that we have more or less done our exercise quota for the day. Just.

Time for dinner. It’s colder now and we are not really dressed for this change in weather. We do a quick walk back along the prom, most of the restaurants are now open and we take our time to choose one. They all seem similar to each other in what they have on their menus. It’s a tourist town for the French in the summer so it’s all a bit of a muchness. Finally, we choose one. After some mussels and chips and the local dish of Ficelle Picarde (or “Picardy String”) along with some Sancerre, we head back to our house on wheels. It’s so cold!

29th January – Le Treport to Merlimont 52 miles

We have a nice but chilly stay in Le Treport, dinner was average! Now for our last full night’s stop of the trip before home with a stay in the town of Merlimont. We wake up to rain and a bit of wind. On google maps satellite view the town of Merlimont looks great, right by the sea, lots of local eateries and so on. A typical French seaside town. On route we give Jess a wash, she is so dirty after the long drives in fog, rain and frost. It’s a half baked affair as we are short of change for the machine. We make do and she looks better for it.

Merlimont! Mmmm. Well, not quite what we expected. The town is built in an American style grid fashion. All of the restaurants are closed, none of the shops are open and we are the only two people on the streets! We can’t quite understand what’s going on here.

The site where we are staying is almost full so where are they? The only shops open are estate agents, lots of them, we counted six. We are thoroughly dispirited, our last day in a dead ghost town. It’s probably packed and mad in the summer but today we are it! We continue to walk around resigned to the fact that we will not be dining out celebrating the end of our latest European tour with a fine French dinner and a bottle of wine, oh no it’s sausage and chips on the van… What’s this? In the distance, we see a sign with the word “restaurante” on it. We approach carefully and are staggered to find a modern cosy restaurant, with people falling out of it smiling. This can’t be right. We approach and look in the window and there they are, people, eating, drinking and laughing. There is life in Merlimont after all!

Inside is lovely. It’s warm, nice music, beautifully styled and our hosts are so nice and polite, showing us to a table for two where we had what we agreed was the best dinner out in a while. It was excellent.

Happy, we make it back to Jess. Film night tonight. Not done it in a while. Tonight is a doubleheader. First off was Julie and Julia. A film about two women who are into French cooking. Based on a true story it was in fact miles better than described here and well worth a watch. The second film was The Big Short. A film about the 2008 financial crash, who started it, how it started and how it hasn’t really ended. An excellent movie, keep your hand on your wallet while you watch it.

Tomorrow. Home!

30th January – Merlimont to HOME 222 miles

That’s it! Well not quite. We have a 1-hour drive from Merlimont to Calais. It’s an early rise. It’s dark when we set off. Confidence that we will get away from Merlimont and be in Calais with time to spare was dreadfully ill-conceived as we get lost within 3 minutes of leaving the site. “You can come to Merlimont, but you can’t leave!” There are no signs for Calais. There was one sign for the motorway but going in the wrong direction. After a few frustrating stops and consulting with Google maps, we swap over, Del in the driving seat and H resorting to paper maps.

Soon we are on the motorway, going in the right direction and arriving in Calais with 10 minutes to spare for our check-in. Whew!

There was some faff at the station having to show Covid paperwork and so on but once that was done we were in line and on the train and on our way to the UK.

Shutters down, ready to go.

After a McDonald’s breakfast and a two and a half-hour drive, we arrive in Portsmouth for the final jump home to Fishbourne.

Final clean up…

Tonight we plan to stay at the same campsite that our journey started from, just a short 3-minute walk from our house.

It’s very handy as we can de-prep and clean our van before putting her into storage safe and sound, ready for the next trip in…?

Well, we are not sure yet. Probably May. We shall see.

…and to bed.

Despite covid and despite European countries having different rules from each other and the UK, it is possible to travel. It required, for us, a test and some paperwork to get into Europe then back into the UK. We could move freely between France and Spain with no problems at all. Everyone was very nice to us, we did fear a little anti-UK sentiment but far from it.

We had to show our Covid travel pass more in France than in Spain, wear masks when required but so what. Of course, we can really do without the faff that Covid has brought upon us but we found the whole trip simple and most enjoyable. We had the small scare at the start where we thought we wouldn’t get away, but that was down to an incompetent chemist here in the UK more than anything else. Would we do it again? Of course, we would and we very much look forward to it.

OUR FINAL THOUGHTS

Back home now and Jess is covered up safe. We would like to thank all of our friends and family who have read about our trip. It means a lot to us. As we have said, we are not selling anything or trying to prove any point, it was just nice to share our days with you and we thank you all.

Finally, when we got back we had a stack of Christmas cards from people that sent us cards but because we left on the 13th of December we missed them. Thank you so very much for your cards, we loved them and are sorry that we didn’t get a chance to thank you before we left.

Our very best wishes to you all and safe travels…

Del, H and Jess!

Week 6 – 18th to 24th January 2022

Last full week to go…!

NERJA TO EMPURIABRAVA 719 MILES

Miles traveled so far: 2602 miles

Toll costs: 6.70 euros this week

Fuel Costs: 178 euros this week

18th January – Nerja to Roquetas de Mar 83 miles

Today we are on the second day of our journey back to the UK and home. We are not too keen but needs must. After a nice one-night stay in Nerja, we are planning to do one night at Almerimar Marina east of here. They have three parking areas for motorhomes one of which has a great view looking over the marina. The drive east along the coast is wonderful. No wind, at last, clear blue skies and a temperature of 15 degrees. The motorway here is quite high in the hills so the views out to sea are amazing.

Off grid in Roquetas de Mar

An hour or so later we are in Almerimar, however, after speaking with the reception they are full and the only space that they can offer is next to a high concrete wall covered in graffiti. We move on. Hayley finds us a free stop right on the beach in the town of Roquetas de Mar. After a 30 minute drive, we arrive at our destination.

It is so full of motorhomes, there must be over 100 vans here all parked up along the beach.

The number of vans is less dense as you drive further away from the town which we do and eventually, find a spot between two French vans with a perfect side-on view of the sea. Beautiful and FREE!!

We polish off a pile of fruit and soon the bikes are off the back and we are away for a good cycle ride along the promenade. What a lovely day, perfect in fact.

After a good hour or so we return to Jess, put the bikes back on to the back of Jess, grab our beach chairs, some beers and make our way to the water’s edge to take advantage of the late afternoon sun.

19th January – Roquetas de Mar to Palamares 76 miles

Last night was a quiet peaceful night. Just before bed, we saw coming up over the sea, the biggest, fattest moon rise ever. It was stunning.

This morning we are up early and we see an amazing sunrise over the sea. Just in time for breakfast!

Most of our stops have been in campsites where, for a fee of between 15 and 35 euros, you get a pitch to yourself that has an electricity point, facilities to fill up your fresh water tank with water, empty your grey water tank and of course, clean out the chemical toilet. 

Our freshwater tank can hold 100 litres plus 20 for the hot water tank.

The grey water tank, which for those of you who don’t know is the water from your kitchen, bathroom sink, and shower, holds 100 litres.

The chemical toilet is a 20-litre portable cassette tank.

Full van service with Del dealing with the chemical toilet in the background!

If we use all of the above carefully we can manage without a campsite for 2 possibly three days before something needs to be dealt with and in our case, it’s usually the chemical toilet. The chemical toilet is an interesting device. Inside the van’s bathroom, it looks like a normal toilet but under the seat is a box that collects everything. There is a meter on the toilet that tells you when it’s full! Nice. Then it’s Del’s job to take the box out, from the outside, at the back of the van through a lockable flap and take it to the facility in the campsite and empty it, wash it out, and stick a little blue bag inside that disinfects and deodorises the box.

As for the shower, kitchen and bathroom, well it’s just like home, except there is a large 100-litre used water tank under the van which has a lever that is pulled to open a valve on the tank and the grey water just floods out. Most campsites have a grid or drain that you drive over to empty this tank.

Like yesterday we are going ‘off grid’ which means we find a spot, stop and stay overnight. As long as the right tanks are full and empty and the toilet fresh we can do this for possibly up to three days. The van has a solar panel, on the roof to keep the batteries charged so the lights stay on. We have two LPG gas bottles for cooking, heating, keeping warm, and running the fridge freezer.

Tonight’s stop

We find a nice spot right on the beach at Palomares. We stopped here on the way down but at the campsite. It was magic today. The spot was ideal. The weather is just fine, sunny but cool at around 5 pm. We have Jess facing the sea which is calm and just so beautiful to look at. We get our chairs out and just sit in the afternoon sun with a beer, chatting the time away until the chill forces us inside. We get the heating on, close all the blinds, music on, lights down and it’s just perfect. A truly calming and peaceful place to be by the sea.

20th January – Palomares to Mar Menor 81 miles

Our two days ‘off grid’ have been great, our freshwater tank is still just under half full and that’s after washing up dinner and breakfast and two showers last night. Batteries are still full and we always have plenty of gas. Breakfast this morning is bacon and avocado sandwiches. The avocados were from the campsite in Nerja and are without a doubt the best we have ever had. They are large and very hard, but if you leave them for about two or three days they ripen to be the best avos ever!!

A lot of the rural areas around here have traffic calming ’speed humps’ which are usually well signposted and well marked on the road, however not all of them. With what looked like chewed up concrete Del drives slowly but not slow enough and with a yell from Hayley to slow down or stop it was too late as Jess is bumped violently over the speed hump, so violently that the contents of the van shifted and some items in the kitchen area were thrown up so much that they crashed down onto the glass that covers the hob. The whole van felt like it had been dropped from a great height, a terrifying experience. It was so bad the fridge had panicked and an alarm started beeping that we had never heard. Del continued to drive slowly and carefully until we could get to a service area or anywhere to park up to check that the van was ok.

“What’s under here then?”

A good long inspection was made under the van and inside to look for any damage. It truly was a very violent and terrifying sensation to feel our home being battered by what looked like just battered concrete but was in fact the highest speed ramp EVER! Also, motorhomes amplify any kind of lump and bump on the road, so if you are not used to hearing or feeling it then it can feel frightening.

Today we are doing a 1 and half hour drive to the Mar Menor to a campsite right next to a Spanish airforce base. Not as bad as it sounds. This is where the Spanish equivalent of the Red Arrows (Eagle Patrol) train.

All-day flight training next to the camp!

Our pitch is excellent at the Camping Mar Menor campsite In fact this is probably the best site we have been on this trip.

Everything we need is here as well as an excellent restaurant, so after some laundry and a van clean up we get changed and make for the restaurant where we have an exceptional two-hour late lunch, pricey but well worth it, so much so we have decided to do dinner here tomorrow turning a one day, overnight stop into two night!

Tomorrow is bike day. The Mar Menor is quite an impressive area so we will spend tomorrow getting out and about and exploring while watching the jets training as we go.

21st January – Day 2 Mar Menor

Exercise day today. We get the bikes down from the back of the van and set off along first along a wooden constructed pathway that weaves through the nature reserve.

The pathway is built on stilts with useful viewpoints and stops to check out the local wildlife. Soon we are on the main promenade that provides us with a smooth, flat cycle ride for quite a few miles. Turning back we stop for a quick drink before continuing back then past the campsite for another few miles in the opposite direction. The weather is splendid although rain is expected later. In all we cycled about 14 miles in tota, it was great to get out and burn some calories.

Tomorrow we are expecting to be in the province of Valencia in a newish campsite in Alcalà de Xivert in Valencia called Los Olivos.

22nd January – Mar Menor to Alcalà de Xivert 234 miles

It rained last night, as forecast, and we have woken up to quite an angry sky. Thick black clouds are moving in around us. Time to get a move on and move north where the weather is supposed to be a little better. Today’s stop will be in the Valencia area, a good 2 and a half hours north. We leave the campsite after a full service and snake our way around the airport permitter to get to the motorway north.

We like to keep the van well topped up with fuel. You never know when your plans will change so we have rule that once the van is half full, which, is about 45 liters of fuel, we stop and fill up. This normally costs between 45 and 50 odd euros depending on how much the pump price is.

We are half full so time to pull in and get some diesel, and while we are at it we should top up with LPG as the nights are getting colder and we should keep our gas supply full. We pull into a garage outside Valencia, all seems fine. The forecourt attendant does his thing, but what’s this? 70 liters has been dispensed, 100 euros worth. Our tank only holds 90 liters and we are only half full. What’s going on here? We fear that there must be a calibration issue with the pump it’s just impossible that we have the space for so much fuel. There is no fuel on the forecourt so if 70 liters was dispensed, where has it all gone? We filled up yesterday and have driven half a tank’s worth of miles since. It’s a mystery.

We feel that we have been ripped off to the tune of 30 euros, so an hour later after complaining and filling in forms at the filling station we leave feeling well and truly stung and in a foul mood.

Now, what…? After about 5 minutes into our journey, we notice the fuel gauge is saying no fuel, and the reserve light is flashing. We only just filled up, filled up with more than we needed!!! What’s going on? We cautiously drive on and find a spot to park. Del takes a look under the van to find the fuel tank covered in diesel and some drips coming from the tank. A quick clean up and we set off again. After another few miles we pull in, reset the ignition and now the gauge is saying full. That’s more like it. Del gets under the van to check the tank. It’s dry. something very odd has happened here. Did the garage cause some damage? Did the hard knock on the speed hump yesterday do something? We just don’t know.

We always take turns driving and it was Hayley’s turn to do the last hour to Los Olivos. Her driving experience is much much more than Del’s. She’s an excellent driver, however, it’s quite disturbing the amount of middle-aged to elderly men that stare at her when she is behind the wheel. It’s quite intimidating. She is a competent driver…, oh right it’s because she is female…, oh and she’s driving a 3 and a bit tonne motorhome. “she shouldn’t be doing that.” It’s strange to see. We have gone through many old French & Spanish towns with Hayley at the wheel only to be follow-stared at as we pass. It’s an age/generation thing maybe? Odd all the same.

We finally arrive at Los Olivos tired and in a foul mood to be greeted by a nice girl who gives us a comfortable pitch at this lovely campsite that has the best bar and dining room ever seen on a campsite.

Today has been long. Very long. Stressful and not one of the best. Oh well. We cheer ourselves up with a hot shower and a few games of pool and beer or two. Del gets thrashed by Hayley 4 – 1. It’s Saturday night and we are the only people in here.

Del has placed a bunch of paper towels under the tank on the pitch. Let’s see if there is a leak overnight. Smells of diesel inside the van though.

23rd January – Alcalà de Xivert to Torroella de Montgrí 225 miles

We have both had a really bad night’s sleep. Probably the worst yet, and today we have another long trip ahead of us. No fuel drips on the paper towel this morning. The fuel gauge is still showing full, so off we go.

More issues… After driving for two hours the fuel gauge is still showing full. It’s not right, we have used probably a quarter of a tank since yesterday’s disastrous fill-up. Hayley does some maths and we can guess within 10 liters or so how much fuel we have, when we need to stop and how much we should put in.

Today we are heading for the Costa Brava. We like it here. It’s a lovely part of Spain and we are staying at a farm. Apart from the dodgy fuel gauge, there is no evidence of a fuel leak and we have discovered that the range computer is showing what we consider to be the right amount of miles before running to empty. We have also noticed that the fuel gauge has moved from full and has started to go down. It’s showing 25% more than what the range is, so clearly, there is an issue, one that will have to wait to deal with when we get home. We will still manually calculate the usage.

The farm in Torroella de Montgrí is perfect. We are greeted by donkeys and chickens, the pitch is lovely and we settle in quite quick.

We take a walk around the town. For years we have been coming to this area for the summer holidays. We have cheered up a lot since yesterday, why wouldn’t you? None of it really matters. We got here safe and the van is in good shape apart from maybe a poorly fuel gauge. We shall see when we are home.

After a short walk around this lovely town, we end the day with dinner in Jess with low lights and music.

It’s cold here. We are expecting zero degrees overnight!

24th January – Torroella de Montgrí to Empuriabrava 25 miles

It was so cold last night, but we didn’t feel it in the van. It was warm and toasty.

Breakfast was a short and simple affair followed by a full van service as tonight we may go “off-grid” again so we need to make sure that everything is topped up and emptied! It’s a cold morning but we have blue skies and sun which is warm and bright. Usual story here though, by 5 pm it will be freezing cold…

The drive north through the Costa Brava is very pleasant. Lovely countryside.

This area, known as Empuries, has preserved a lot of Roman history, we are not visiting any today but we have in the past and if you are ever in the area, it’s a big thumbs up. The museum at Empuries is a must-see.

We know this area very well from past holidays and we have been here before in Jess. The last time we were here was with Jess on her second outing. We are going to the same place which allows vans to stop overnight and sure enough, when we arrive it is already populated with a good 8 vans.

Empuriabrava is a network of canals.
Fine supermarket dining

We pick a spot and get settled in. Time for lunch so we get the bikes off the back and cycle down to the seafront of Empuriabrava in the Bay of Roses which is spectacular. Sadly today we couldn’t find anything suitable, however, we did remember that a supermarket near our camp spot has a fantastic restaurant outside, which sounds odd.

Imagine Asda or Tescos having a fantastic restaurant? Unlikely but here it’s true.

The Montserrat Supermarket has a sunny terrace and does serve excellent cheap food.

An hour later we are sitting in the afternoon sun enjoying some tapas followed by half a chicken and chips with a cold beer and wine.

Tomorrow we are crossing the border back into France. It’s getting very cold at night now, the days are still sunny, but how long will it stay that way?

Week 5 – 11th January to 17th January

A poor weather week but with a great ending!

MANILVA TO LA LINEA DE LA CONCEPCION THEN BACK TO NERJA 134 miles

Miles travelled so far: 1883 miles

Toll costs: 10.2 euros this week

Fuel costs: 47.00 euros this week

11th January – Day 4 Manilva

There is a change in the weather, it’s windy, very windy. The sea is starting to look and sound rough but the sun is still out even though the clouds are starting to gather.

After breakfast today we are off for a bike ride, not far just a short one to find a good seafood restaurant for lunch. We find one and it’s brilliant, a lovely place with nice friendly staff.

After a good feed and a bottle of cold rose right next to the sea, we cycle back, it’s late afternoon and the air is getting cooler as it usually does at around 4:30. Hot tea and the heating on in Jess soon sort that out.

Movie night tonight is an excellent film about two scientists that find that an asteroid is going to hit earth in six months but have difficulties convincing everyone. Far far better than it sounds, great fun and quite thought-provoking. Don’t Look Up. Well worth the time.

The wind is really blowing hard now. The van is being pushed about and it is noisy. A bad night’s sleep. Oh well.

12th January – Day 5 Manilva

Not a good night last night, very little sleep thanks to a vicious Levante wind. The Levante wind was one of the winds that used to plague us as sailors. It blows hard for several days from the east and can be very unpleasant. We always did our best to make sure that we were tucked up in a marina before it blew in.

It’s windy all day with the odd shower of rain. The weather has changed dramatically and we are expecting it to be this way now for a few days with more rain forecast from tomorrow. 

It’s a day in today, which is unusual as we like to either go for a walk or get the bikes out, but with the unsettled weather, it doesn’t happen. But what’s this, the clouds have cleared away and despite the wind it turns out to be a beautiful afternoon, warm in the sun. We hurry out on the bikes to a local tapas bar for two or three tapas and a small cold beer, then we are off for a good cycle. It was smashing, a warm, sunny afternoon and well worth it.

Movie night tonight is Revolutionary Road. A definite watch. About a couple and their endeavour for “life” blimey!

13th January – Day 6 Manilva

Despite the howling wind and odd rain shower last night, we slept really well, best in a while. The weather today is brutal. The wind is even stronger than yesterday, we estimate a force 7 which is about 38 mph. Breezy. We are getting regular rain showers and the sea is very rough and noisy but quite spectacular to watch.

Big move today. Massive. We have to move three pitches down. We extended our stay here but had to move to another pitch. The new pitch has a good sea view and a little bit of wind shade. You can get fed up with the noise of the wind, and we are at that stage now. It’s been unrelenting all day every day for the past three days, which might not sound much, but when you are in it…!

The freshwater tank needs a fill-up, so Del sticks the hose in the side of the van to fill the tank and wanders off to do something else only to be called in 5 mins later by H with news that there is water in the living quarters of the van… Yikes! The tank has filled but because the pressure was too high and an effective seal was created on the intake hole, the cap of the tank had leaked and started to run into the van.

We had to effectively rip the living area apart and do a full mop out, no damage just water to mop up. It was a good opportunity however to clean out areas that we can’t normally get to of a few years of dust. Nice. Within 30 minutes everything was cleared up and dried and there was no evidence of any mishap. Lesson learnt: don’t have the water pressure too high when filling up and more importantly don’t leave it filling up unattended. Simple.

Smashing lunch at the same Indian restaurant the other night, this time we went over the correct bridge! Brilliant.

Movie night tonight is Annihilation. About a force field thing that takes over the earth. Some army women are sent in to find out what’s going on. Some die. Not brilliant we know but you can’t knock a coconut down every time.

14th January – Day 7 Manilva

Tasty Bellota Iberico ham

More wind which just goes on and on. Oh and more rain. We manage a walkout and buy some expensive Bellota ham: regarded as the best ham in Spain. The pigs are acorn-fed to produce high quality, good tasting ham. It can be pricey, but we buy a small amount just to try it and can definitely taste the difference.

Despite the wind, we manage to find a restaurant and have a paella (again) outside in a little windbreak in the brief sunshine. It was smashing.

All in all a very wet, cold and windy day. It’s so windy!

15th January – Day 8 Manilva

We are not sure if we have mentioned it but it has been very windy and wet here. Today it is still the same.

We have a small shower leak now, it’s only a little one and it always depends on how much slope there is on the van when we are parked up. A local hardware shop has all we need. A strip of plastic and some silicone and a silicone gun. Back at the van, we get the repair done and leave it 24 hours to cure.

Manilva was supposed to be the place where we were supposed to get the best weather, right down in the south of Spain, in a lovely site, right by the beach, however, the reality has been far from that. Out of the 8 nights, we stayed only three days were good weather, the rest were dreadful with strong winds and sometimes heavy rain and cold! No matter it’s all part of it. For our last night, we go to the Indian restaurant across the dangerous road. What a great dinner we had there. Best Indian EVER!

16th January – Manilva to Linea De Concepcion 21 miles

Tomorrow is the day when we need to turn around and give ourselves a good two weeks to get back to the UK, sure you can do it in less but we want to take our time and see more.

Planning our home route

We have had long conversations about what route back we should take. We have a Euro Tunnel ticket from Calais to Folkstone as well as a ferry from Santander to Portsmouth.

Do we go back the way we came, or do we go up the middle of Spain? We looked at going back through Portugal but they have strict Covid testing requirements so that’s probably not going to happen. Things have calmed down a little in France, some restrictions have been lifted so we decide to go back the way we came.

Today however we are going to La Linea de Concepcion which is on the land border between Spain and Gibraltar. We have been trying to find out what, if any, the requirements are for testing for covid etc, but it’s hopeless. Unless you are flying in from the UK then any information is hard to find, for a UK citizen on foot going from Spain into Gibraltar for a lunch then going back again on foot into Spain the information is non-existent.

The rock of Gibraltar

The weather has improved greatly so off we go, leaving windswept and rainy Manilva, in fact, it’s a lovely day and after about an hour and a bit, we are settled into a great campervan parking place with a view of “The Rock”. Separating it from us is the Gibraltar airport runway. An odd arrangement.

Del gets talking to a British couple and asks if they know anything about what the requirements are to get into Gibraltar. It appears you need nothing but your passport, so armed with said documents we do the short walk to the border and sure enough, all that happens is customs say ‘hola’ stamp your passport and you are done!

The high street in Gibraltar is a bit disappointing really, so after a splendid typical Sunday turkey roast lunch, we get a taxi tour.

For 25 euros each they will take you on a tour for about 45 to 60 minutes. Our driver, called Chris who was Spanish but spoke the most perfect English, drove us around the main tourist spots of Gibraltar. It was brilliant and well worth the money. Chris was fantastic and provided us with a history lesson as we drove around, stopping at some wonderful views of the Straits of Gibraltar with a clear view of North Africa and southern Spain.

Going higher he took us to see the famous monkeys of Gibraltar, the Skywalk and to see the first-ever cannon that the British placed when they took Gibraltar from the Spanish in 1704. (See we paid attention to our guide).

A wonderful afternoon, finished off with a cold beer in the marina, we head back across the border, after watching a plane land at the airport and back to the van for a peaceful night sitting in the front seats with the blinds open and watching as the north side of the Gibraltar rock face is lit up. Beautiful. All in all a great day.

17th January – Linea De Concepcion to Nerja 116 miles

Today is the turnaround day. A day we don’t like to see but it has to come at some point. Today we are leaving our place on the Spanish, Gibraltar border, and more or less retracing our steps back to Calais to make our crossing on the 30th of January.

It was a great day yesterday and back at the van the night started peaceful enough, however by early morning the wind had built up once again and was giving Jess a bit of a battering. Breakfast, clear up and we are off by 10 am. H is doing all the driving today.

A chatty parrot always welcomes you at the campsite.

We are going back to Nerja and to the campsite with the avocado trees. We liked it there, but we are only doing one day. We have to pass Manilva, the place where we were basically windbound for 5 days! It’s a lovely day today once we get away from the wind in Gib. Blue sky no wind and a very pleasant morning drive along the coast.

The chap at the Nerja campsite recognises us and we are checked in quite quick however our pitch is somewhat in the shade this time. No matter, we are not here for long and as soon as we are settled and a little sit in the shade, we are off to a place where we enjoyed a rather splendid lunch by the sea a couple of weeks ago.

Lunch was fantastic, just sitting in the sun talking about our immediate travel plans and our long term future plans.

Full of food and wine we do the 20-minute walk to the van for showers and a very comfortable and peaceful night in. On the move again tomorrow to Almerimar marina, again for a one-night stopover.

Week 4 – 4th to 10th January 2022

Time to settle down, for a while…

NERJA TO MANILVA100 miles

Miles travelled so far: 1749 miles

Toll costs: 3.30 euros this week

Fuel costs: 57 euros this week

4th January. Day 3 Nerja

Not much happening today. It’s a lovely day, so we try and do some laundry but it’s too busy so we just give up. Better things to do.

H sits and does her written Jess diary while Del spends a good hour or two brushing up on his Spanish. It’s nice here, we don’t really need to go anywhere. We have our little cosy set up by the van and while the sun shines it’s perfect.

We are surrounded by avocado trees and one of them fell off so we have brought her into the van to see how she does. They grow them here so we bought one huge one on our arrival day. We stuck her in the fruit bowl next to the bananas, which helps the fruit to ripen. We shall see.

High wind is due tonight however so we will probably have to pack up later.

5th January. Day 5 Nerja

Today is the Epiphany, apparently. Time to get all those decs and trees down and put away for another year. In Spain, it’s King’s Day eve, the day when the three kings come. This is the real Christmas day for kids in Spain, the day when they get their new Xbox or PS5. Many towns do a procession depicting the three king’s arrival on a float. When we stayed in Barcelona on the boat, we used to watch the King’s Day parade which seemed to get bigger and more spectacular each year.

What a view!

We take a leisurely stroll to Nerja along the beach, have a drink in an Irish bar that has spectacular views of the southern coastline. we make our way back, the walks have made us a little peckish.

Pre-lunch cocktail

There is a cracking little rough looking restaurant right on the beach near the campsite.

We can’t resist it. Soon we are feeding on seafood and spare ribs, helped along with a bottle of chilled rose. We know that back home the weather is not great, people are working and the news with all the talk about the virus and other stuff is pumped out just to make sure we stay miserable, but there is something quite liberating and calming about a cool drink and some good food in the sun right by the sea. Just for a moment, you forget about everything else that is happening, which can only be a good thing.

6th January Nerja to Almayate (King’s Day!)

We say goodbye to Nerja. It was a very pleasant stay but time to move on. We are doing a long trip today, all 24 miles of it! Jess is long overdue for a good wash. On the way into here, we spotted a car wash that had a platform that once your van was parked you could go onto the platform to wash the roof! Mega! Small things.

With a kind of clean van (no brushes so you can’t get stuck into all the muck, it’s just one of those high-pressure lances) we are on our way. It’s a beautiful day today. There was a heavy shower of rain last night and with the wind, the air is clean and fresh. With the sea on our left and the sun shining from a deep blue sky, we are heading west now along the Spanish coast.

One of Spain’s unofficial symbols is the “toro” or bull and there is one just outside our campsite.

Many of you may have seen it at some point on holiday or on TV, some people have a sticker of him on the back of their cars It’s the silhouette of a bull and they can be found on hills around Spain. These 14m tall and 4-tonne bulls were placed there by the drinks company Osborne many years ago and the government later decided that they should all come down. But after a public outcry to keep them there are about 90 left in Spain. You can see the full history here during your next tea break!

We arrive at the Almayate Costa Campsite. It’s a bit like a car park, everyone is rammed in, it’s not full but the vans that are here are really close-quartered. We choose a spot which is nice and close to everything we need, including a very short skip and a jump to the beach which is amazing. It’s long, clean and empty!

Jess is given some extra TLC with a clean cloth, basically what was not done properly at the car wash.

Jess all polished up!

Time to check out this long beach that’s on our doorstep.

7th January – Day 2 Almayate

We are on our last day here. It seems to be getting warmer so after a short late morning walk into Almayate town, which doesn’t offer much (the whole area around here is agriculture) we pack a few things and head for the beach.

It’s very pleasant, not too hot, very slight cool edge but very nice. We spend a good hour on the beach, head back to the van and sit in the afternoon sun. H reads, Del updates the blog.

Tomorrow we are moving on to Manilva which is an hour and a half drive along the south coast where will set up and stay for 8 days. Lots to see and do around there hence the longer stay. We shall see.

We have acquired a friend here.

A duck. Yes, a duck. It seems he walks around the campsite clearly making friends that will feed him. He’s quite a large duck as a result. Del can’t help it and feeds him bread. Soon the friendly duck is following him back to the van for more. Later in the day when Del pops out, he’s there waiting just outside the van. He’s very tame, friendly and fat!

Oo la la!

Dinners are sometimes themed on Jess, we don’t know why, but we pick a country and eat and theme the van with music etc.

Tonight is French night so it’s entrecote, potatoes, green beans and a tasty pepper sauce, oh and a Spanish red wine! (what?). French traditional music is provided by Spotify! A great night. (We didn’t want to eat our confit duck, that we bought in France, tonight with our friend waddling about outside!)

8th January – Almayate to Manilva 85 miles

Another clear blue sky to wake up to today, it’s expected to reach 18 degrees today which is perfect, it just doesn’t last. By 4 pm each afternoon, the chill is just starting to come in which leads us into quite a cool night.

We are packed up and ready to go on a journey heading west along the Spanish coast, but first we have to do our usual shop, supplies are starting to get low, so we head for an Aldi which has become our supermarket of choice in Spain. Very good, very cheap!

Self service bread cutting in Aldi!

A very pleasant and thankfully uneventful drive. The coastline and towns start to have an American feel to them. The main A7 road runs along here so it’s quite busy, with lots of apartment blocks and shopping areas. If you have ever driven out of Los Angeles to go north up the coast, then it’s a bit like that. In the sun it looks great and with the windows down it was a lovely drive.

The campsite at Manilva is called the Camping La Bella Vista. A nice place. It’s a ‘corporate’ campsite, meaning that everything is immaculate, not a blade of grass out of place, with a gleaming reception area. Everything has to be paid in full in advance and you are given reams of paper telling you what the rules are, it’s a big contrast to the other campsites that we have been to. It’s nice though and our pitch is perfect. We are here now for 8 days. The sun is on us for most of the day, and we can see the sea, everything is on the pitch: power, clean water and you can empty your grey water tank as well. All good.

Once settled in we take the very short walk to the beach to check it out. It’s quite spectacular. Looking out to sea we can make out Gibraltar and north Africa on our right and the Spanish coastline weaving away to our left. The recent wind and rain have meant the visibility is clear and the air fresh. Lovely.

H with a makeshift rolling pin

Another themed dinner night. Italian night. The works though. 4 courses: antipasti, pasta, homemade pizza, salad and dessert. Blimey!

Finally…!

9th January – Day 2 Manilva

Time to get some exercise done after the big Italian night. We get the bikes down, for the first time this year, and we cycle along the promenade for a couple of kilometres. It’s another one of those Spanish holiday weekends so everyone is out making the cycle ride more of an obstacle course than proper exercise. It’s very good though to see everyone out and about. The restaurants are full and the sun is shining. It’s another lovely day.

We get a bit fed up with weaving about, trying not to run children down and finally decide to settle into a little bar right on the front for a small cold beer and take the opportunity to call home and speak to some friends and family.

Tonight is Indian night. Not on the van. There is a very highly regarded Indian restaurant across the road from the campsite. We’ll pay that a visit, as it’s so close.

Dinner, here we come!

The campsite is on the main N-340 road, a very busy 4 carriageway road and the restaurant is just across that road, you can smell it sometimes from the campsite, you can see it all bright and welcoming, but you can’t just cross the N-340 with traffic flowing at 70 mph.

H finds a bridge so off we go, up, over and down to… nothing! It goes nowhere. Google shows a dirt track going back towards the restaurant so off we trot. Bad idea. Soon we are covered by large vegetation taller than us and after 5 minutes of trekking through this, we are brought to an abrupt stop by a small river. Great!

Not what we expected

We retrace our steps and find another bridge, further down the fast N-340. By now our appetite has truly been sharpened. Once again we go up, across and down, this time with success! Ten minutes later we are in the very nice Indian restaurant which was well worth the 45-minute trip ‘just across the road’.

The food was excellent, great service and not too expensive. They do a very nice cheap lunch here, so we will be back during our stay. The walk back to the van felt long but soon we are settled in. It’s very windy tonight, the van gets rocked about a bit but it’s nice in Jess.

10th January – Day 3 Manilva

At last, the wind has died off to leave us with a stunning day. 19 degrees, clear blue sky. The morning is spent updating blogs: this one and H is doing a written one.

Beach day today. It has to be.

Jess is filled up with fresh water, grey tank emptied. However, Del has to do the chemical toilet, Nice. Then off we go on the short walk to the beach…

We spend a good two hours there, today is to be the best day as windy and cloudier weather is coming in, so we take advantage of it while we can.

Movie night tonight is Jimmy Carr – His Dark Material, not really a film. Good fun though, refreshing non PC humour which we could do with a bit more of today certainly not less.

Week 3 – 28th December to 3rd January 2022

A very happy new year to you all. We hope!

PALOMARES – NERJA: 157 MILES

Palomares to Nerja

Miles travelled so far: 1649 miles

Toll costs: NONE this week

Fuel costs: NONE this week

28th December. Day 3 Palomares

It’s another bright, sunny day and warm. Today we shall have our breakfast outside. Yes outside, at the end of December!

We thought that we might take a walk into the town of Palomares, which is only 10 to 15 minutes away. As expected we arrive in the main square which is dominated by a large terrace belonging to a tapas bar.

While we are here we need to find a ‘ferreteria’ or hardware shop. Spanish hardware shops are brilliant, they are an Aladdin’s cave of everything you can think of. We buy a pair of hosepipe adapters, always useful. Some PTFE tape to bind up our leaking sink, amalgamating tape because it’s useful and finally a set of small Tupperware containers because Hayley likes them.

Fiduea for lunch

Satisfied with our purchases we make for the terrace in the square and have an excellent coffee before the walk back to the van. We drop off the hardware goodies and take a walk to the beach that has a beach bar where we thought we would enjoy a small cold beer in the sun.

After spending two hours and 50 euros on lunch we take a nice long stroll along the beach and discuss our future life plan. Yes very deep.

The walk along the beach and back to the van was very pleasant, once back we drank lots of water and just relaxed in the late afternoon sun.

No dinner tonight after the long heavy lunch, but we ended the day with a movie night and watched “The Boy in the striped pyjamas“. A great movie if a little depressing.

29th December. Day 4 Palomares

What a beautiful morning, slightly cooler than yesterday but that doesn’t stop us from having breakfast outside. It’s a lovely morning, perfect for a piece of tortilla and tomato bread. Delicious.

Today we intend to get some more exercise. We made a pledge to try and either get a good long walk in or a good few miles of cycling every day, weather permitting of course. Today we will get on our bikes and cycle to the next town of Villaricos. It’s a great cycle, the sun is shining and the sea on our right looks amazing. A perfect day.

Villaricos is a tiny fishing town of over 600 people with some spectacular views from the front. The town itself is quite charming so we stop in the town square and have a lovely Spanish coffee.

We love Spanish coffee. It’s the right amount, tasty and cheap unlike the overpriced soup bowl size cup of hot water with burnt grit that most coffee shop chains serve up. In most Spanish cities you can find a famous coffee chain, they never look full and we can understand why with so many cafes selling good local coffee – why you would go in?

The cycle ride back was just as pleasant as it was going to Villaricos. Except we take a few detours to see more of the local area. Back at the van, we take it easy before taking a good walk to the beach bar for a refreshing drink, maybe a cocktail in the afternoon sun.

After 3 large plates consisting of patatas bravas, calamari and ‘puntillas’ (baby squids), helped along with a glass of wine and a cold beer, we decided that the afternoon cocktail went well!

A perfect day today. Breakfast in the sun, plenty of exercise followed by a big feed instead of a cocktail and back to the van for another movie night. Tonight the film “Life” which is all about an intelligent life form from Mars that looks like a squid and kills everyone. It was actually better than it sounds.

Tomorrow we are moving on after a very nice four day stay here at Palomares.

30th December. Palomares to Castell de Ferro – 124 miles

Another bright but cool morning. No breakfast on the van today. We packed up outside last night and we are off by 9.30 am. First stop, a supermarket to stock up, it’s the penultimate day of 2021. Let’s get this year out of the way!

There is quite a fog here today and it’s chilling the air. Once the shop is done we get a move on.

We are heading for a small town called Garrucha where we will park in the marina car park for breakfast. This marina was a welcome sight years ago when we sailed up and down the Spanish coast. It’s the first big marina for miles after the Cabo de Gata (the bottom right corner of Spain) and they always squeezed us in after a punishing sail so we are very fond of the place. Nothing much had changed over the 12 years since we were last here except maybe a little fresh paint here and there. The fog is following us south as it soon thickens up here too, and it’s getting chilly. We get going and soon we are at higher altitudes and bright sunlight. The temperature peaks at 23 degrees which is perfect. The passing scenery is quite spectacular.

Our next stop is Almerimar. A town on the south coast of Spain, 90 or so miles east of Malaga.

There is a marina here where we used to keep our boat when we lived down here some years ago. The place has come on with new buildings going up and it’s quite a bustling place. We park up on the outer harbour which gives us a spectacular view east and west, and looking north a breathtaking view of the snow-covered tops of the Sierra Nevada mountains north of Granada.

Snow on the Sierra Nevada

On the move again to our final destination of Camping Huerta Romero. The site is located in the middle of a small town called Castell de Ferro. It’s a bit… well… a bit like a commune. There are campers who look like they have been here for years, a lot of unshaven men with buns in their hair and tie-dyed trousers. The site itself is charming though with lots of trees and shade, not that we need it right now. Each plot is like a private garden.

Jess tucked in for a few days

Lovely. We set off for a walk to the stony beach. Guess what? The fog is rolling in again. What’s going on?

A short walk back to the van through the town, which, not to be unkind, doesn’t really offer much. Tomorrow we will give it another go. It might look and feel different in sunlight. If we ever get it that is.

31st December – Day 2 Castell de Ferro

Last day of 2021…

No sun this morning. It’s 100% grey and still with a slight chill. Guess the town won’t look any different from yesterday after all.

A foggy day in Castell de Ferro

Two people living, eating and sleeping on a van that is just shy of 6m means that you have to clean more often, so, despite the poor weather and the lack of town, (you can’t even cycle here) we get on with some cleaning jobs and do some more laundry.

Del sets off for a walk along the local beach for an hour, H stays with Jess and attempts a repair to the leaky sink which has eluded us for some days. Numerous attempts have not stopped the leak. Despite her efforts, it is still leaking. Del has a go next, once back from his walk. This time lashings of PTFE tape and amalgamating tape. That’ll fix it…?

The rest of the afternoon is taken up discussing the future, where shall we go, how do we do it and for how long.

Can’t get enough of these paellas!

Hayley does one of her excellent paellas for dinner which was later than usual. Tonight we have a rose cava on standby to bring in the new year.

After dinner, we take a stroll into town which is… dead! We are the only ones in town apart from a group of five youth on mobile phones. We head back to the van, a little disappointed and take in a quick movie. Tonight it’s a French film called “Oxygen” about a woman who is woken up from a cryogenic state to find (spoiler alert) she’s a clone in outer space. It was better than it sounds. Very good in fact.

With midnight approaching we grab a couple of glasses and bring in 2022 with a cold glass of fizz and a packet of crisps. Excellent. We dab a bit of fizz on Jess and thank her for getting us here. We love her very much.

Happy 2022 to you all. Here’s to a successful and healthy new year.

Happy New Year

1st January Day 3 – Castell de Ferro

The leak under the sink is fixed. Bound up in many yards of PTFE tape and amalgamating tape. Nothing will get through now. The morning starts off more or less the same as yesterday, cloudy and foggy. Del does a bit more deep cleaning of the van and by the afternoon the sun is shining and the fog has finally gone. At last. We head for the beach and sit by the water’s edge watching and listening to the gentle waves breaking. We sit for a while in silence. It’s the start of a new year.

H gets caught out paddling. Whoops!

Dinner tonight is a fridge clear out. We waste nothing, so on occasion we go through the fridge and check dates on things, if it’s getting close then we eat it. These dinners can be a thrown together hotch pitch of almost anything. It’s always good though, even if it’s all a bit of a miss-match.

Tonight’s movie, called “The Silence“. It’s about some blind birds that get released from a deep cave. They can’t see and attack humans by noise. Yeah, not the best we know. It was as bad as it sounds.

2nd January. Castell de Ferro to Nerja – 41 miles

We move on today. Hayley is not mad on it here and she is probably right when she says we won’t come back here again. Sad to say it but there’s not much here and the weather hasn’t really helped. Shame really but there you go. It was our home for 3 nights but we are glad to be moving on.

After a short van service, we are off. It’s good to be moving again. Today we are off to Nerja to a popular campsite called Camping Cortijo San Miguel. First, though we need to do a shop. You can always depend on a Spanish Aldi on a Sunday.

A short drive today and soon we are in our pitch which is quite charming, surrounded by avocado trees on either side of us, a much more open feeling compared to our last stop. The usual morning fog has lifted and it’s a lovely day.

We decide to just stay put for the rest of the day. We are here for 3 days and may extend, it’s nice, warm and peaceful here.

3rd January. Day 2 Nerja

Same old story weather-wise. It’s cold with low clouds or fog, can’t really tell anymore. No matter, today we are walking along the beach to the town of Nerja and we are going to check out the Cuevas de Nerja (the Caves of Nerja).

Wow! This is quite a place, not what we expected at all. The caves are huge with amazing rock formations all around. They hold the Guinness world record for the biggest stalactite column in the world, the hall was created by an earthquake that hit the region more than 800,000 years ago. It’s quite a sight to see.

To get there we took one of those little sightseeing trains that do a return trip to the caves and entry to the museum for just 16 euros each, well worth it.

After the caves, we get back to the town of Nerja to look for a place for a “light” lunch. As is the usual form at the moment, the fog has cleared and it’s a beautiful day.

So a little lunch by the sea would be fitting justice for a lovely day. We don’t find much in the town, there is plenty there for sure, but it’s quite busy and a little touristy. We walk back in the direction of home and find a perfect place right on the beach. It’s not long before we have an excellent Wagyu beef burger with some homemade fries which went well worth a bottle of rose wine and finished with a dessert to share. Yes very light!

The walk back home is perfect, just in time for the sun setting and the air turning chilly again.

What a lovely day. Laundry day tomorrow. Again.

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