Food, drink, travel and everything in-between

We love Normandy…!

Week 3 (last week) from Sainte-Mère-Église to Calais 480 miles

Sainte-Mère-Église to Arromanches 40 miles

Saturday 18th May 2024

It’s 10 am and we are off.

Nice mural for the van service area

A quick grey water drop and fill up with fresh water and we are on the road towards Arromanches and Gold Beach, the British beach during the D-Day landings. We have only one more beach to visit after today, Sword which we shall do in the next few days. On the way, we stop for a shop, as it’s another bank holiday weekend here in France. Anyone would think they were English…!

Before going to Arromanches, we stop at the biggest German cemetery in Normandy, Le Cambe. There are over 21,000 German soldiers buried here. Compared to the American cemetery, which is full of white crosses all in a perfect line and all at the same height, and the British cemetery which is full of colour and well-manicured gardens, the German cemetery is very ‘dark‘.

It’s clean and tidy, but the buried are marked with just a square flat stone with two to a grave, and each sector is denoted with 5 black, rough stone crosses. This German cemetery is only one of many, there are over 80,000 German soldiers buried in total in various cemeteries around Normandy. Just like the Americans and the British, the losses were heavy and also the age of most of the men were very young starting at 18 years old.

There is an interesting exhibition here which we end the visit with.

After over an hour, we move on towards Arromanches. We are heading for a spot that we have been to before which is on a cliff looking out to sea where there is a good view of the remaining Mulberry Harbour. It’s 11 euros for the night, and you pick your own place, of which there are plenty.

Once settled in we set off for a walk towards the town of Arromanches and Gold Beach. We have been here before as well, but this time the tide is out and we can get very close to one of the sections of the harbour. This whole project is just staggering, the planning and execution of the D-Day landings, the cost, not just in lives of course, but money.

The town is very charming so we stop for lunch which for us is unusual, but it’s a nice afternoon, the town is lovely so why not… Hayley has Steak and chips, Del Beef Bourguignon. For dessert, we both have…yes, another ile flottante, the 5th one of the trip!

A delicious lunch was had and we have seen almost all of this small but important town. Just as we are making our way back we see a small collection of classic cars, jeeps, and an ambulance from the war period.

There are also several people dressed similarly, it all looks rather good. We follow them all to the front where this group photograph is being taken.

We guess that they are preparing for the Normandy Festival which is in June, an important date in the Normandy calendar. Everything is being cleaned and painted and the bunting is going up!

Back at Jess, we spend a fantastic late afternoon in the sun reading and chatting. Before we know where we are, it’s 7 pm. No need for dinner but we do have some toast and crumpets followed by some oranges sprinkled with cinnamon. Nice. By 9 pm the sun is still quite high and will set on the sea.

Sunday 19th May 2024

Arromanches to Caen 23 miles

Del is up first this morning, and looks out of the window to a dense blanket of fog! real fog. It still feels warm though.

Bacon and eggs and bacon sandwiches for breakfast before packing up and setting off for Ouistreham where there is Le Grand Bunker, which is a well-preserved and renovated German bunker that was part of the Atlantic Wall, a German defens line that stretches from Norway down to the Spanish / French border. Mad! We will also be going to Sword Beach, one of the two beaches of the British landings on D-Day. This means that we will have visited and set foot on all 5 beaches of the D-Day landings of 80 years ago,

Del is at the wheel while Hayley does the research on where we will be staying and the best way to get there. She has already put together a couple of options. It’s another bank holiday weekend here in France so places are pretty full. Sure enough, we strike out at the first two places. The idea is to get a place close to the Grand Bunker and walk or cycle to it, but so far everywhere is full.

Change of plan. Instead, we will head to Caen. Caen was devastated in the last war and was a major strategic point, so there is a lot of interest here. Hayley plots us in and off we go. To Caen. The journey is very tricky. Lots of little villages and towns with blind corners, the famous ‘priority to the right’, which is always a pest. We pass a town that has an oyster vending machine! You can get almost anything on a vending machine here in France, pizzas, bread as well as fruit and veg, and now oysters, prawns and mussels.

We arrive at our stop in Caen and right next to us, we have what is considered the best memorial/museum about WW2. Every review raves about it. It’s THE MUSEUM. We will, of course, check that out once we have had a cup of tea and walked around the Parc de la Colline aux Oiseaux. It’s a big park with birds! The flying kind!

The walk around the park is fabulous. There is a huge rose garden, unfortunately, it is not all out yet, but by the summer it will be amazing. There is a maze here that Hayley has a go at. It’s not long before she reaches the middle, but getting out proves to be a challenge. Poor love.

At 2:30 pm we go into the Caen Memorial Museum. What a place! It’s huge.

Admission is 19 euros. Once in we start with a bite to eat and then we are off. There is an original 70m long Nazi bunker that the museum is built on. The section about World War 2 is immense and tells the whole story from the signing of the Versailles Treaty to Hitler getting mardy about it, doing a bit of agitating before letting off a big stink in Europe… Well, the rest we all know about. There is a section about the D-Day landings, a section on Normandy, and the whole area devoted to the Cold War with a 360-degree cinema recalling European history from 1914 – 1991 in 30 minutes. As humans, we are not good. There is, and always will be someone, somewhere having a moan and starting a scrap.

At 6:45 we exit the building… Worn out. It is a brilliant museum and an absolute must-see. Sadly we didn’t take any pictures as it just kept our attention throughout, but do check out the website and see for yourself.

Back at Jess for a lovely dinner outside. We finish just in time as it clouds over and chills the air a bit, so we head inside.

Hayley serenades us with her mini guitar, while Del sorts out photos and brings the blog up to date. It’s been a good day. We were a bit worn out physically and mentally after 4 and a bit hours in the museum, but it was well worth the time and the 19 euros.

Tomorrow we are going to have another attempt to go to Ouistreham and to have a look at the Pegasus bridge. Not long until our return home now.

Monday 20th May 2024

Caen to Ouistreham 12 miles

A short twelve-mile drive today to the town of Ouistreham. This is a port town, and it is where the Portsmouth Caen ferry comes. There is our last “war attraction” there called Le Grande Bunker. It was part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, a wall of defence from the top of Norway right down to the French / Spanish border. But first, we need to do a van service which is the usual, grey water drop, fill up with fresh and change the toilet. Nice. We have a good hearty breakfast first before the service.

Soon we are off. We do a quick and uneventful diversion via the Pegasus Bridge.

The biggest space ever…

The original is in a museum, but oddly enough the replacement is almost identical. Not much to see here really although we gather it was important at the time! We drive on and arrive at Camping Les Salines.

Hayley goes into the office and gets a nice friendly reception from the lady there, who gives us a pitch number. As soon as the engine is off we are walking towards Sword Beach.

We have now been to all 5 beaches from the Normandy D-Day landings in the following order. The links below are to Wikipedia details about each beach.






Of course, there is a whole load of stuff to see at all of the beaches and the surrounding areas and it is all good, historical and interesting stuff.

We walk along Sword Beach towards the Bunker. It’s a good half-hour walk and we finally find the bunker in the middle of a housing estate.

Right in a housing estate!

Back in the day, the area was just brown land with a hideous concrete monolith bang in the middle of it, but they have preserved the bunker and over the years built a housing estate around it. It does look and feels strange.

7 euros each gets you into this solid concrete block with its 4 floors. It’s quite cramped and busy so there is a lot of manoeuvring going on. The rooms in the bunker have been rebuilt with the real stuff inside as it was used, with accompanying descriptions and photos.

It is a bit creepy looking at a photo of the room that you are standing in and looking at the German military “doing their thing“. For Del, it is quite unsettling.

A scene from the film with Tom Hanks (copyright acknowledged)

We are all ‘museumed‘ out now. We have been in so many and learnt such a lot, stuff we just didn’t know… Time for something to eat. We find a restaurant set back from the front and dig into mussels, veal, fries, and… yes… another ile flottante. Can’t get enough of them now.

The wind has built and it’s chilly as we walk along the front back to the van. It was well worth it, a good day out! Back at base we just relax and chill out, Hayley is wiped out, poor thing.

Tuesday 21st May 2024

Ouistreham to Blagny-sur-Bresle 137 miles

It rained a lot last night. Heavy rain at times, loud on the roof. It’s ok when it’s a light shower, but heavy rain can make quite a racket. Hayley didn’t sleep well as a result. Today we are heading north, closer to Calais and home. We are not sure yet where we will stop tonight. Hayley did find a very nice place but there was one report of van break-ins, but only one person mentioned it so we were a little suspicious that the review was false. We set off and spoke about it a lot along the way and elected not to go there, and to find another place instead.

French motorway today for most of the way which means tolls, lots of them. By the time we finish this part of the trip, we have spent 28 euros!! These French motorways are expensive. We are going to a campsite just off the motorway in a town called “Blangy-sur-Bresle” which is about 1 and a half hours south of Calais.

Last night’s rain has left everywhere damp and boggy even at the campsite. We are welcomed by a nice lady who says we can pitch wherever we like. We decide on a spot with a view of a lake, even though it’s a bit grey today, it still looks very nice. There is a bit of maneuvering in the pitch as it is boggy and there are large trenches made by the wheels of previous vans. We try moving around in the pitch to get level and decide to give up.

There are plenty of pitches to choose from. Del jumps out and goes in search of a better spot while Hayley is reversing Jess out of the pitch when suddenly…

Crunch” she has hit a power bollard on the passenger side of the van. The result is an 8-inch crack on the lower cowling.


It sounds worse than it looks but Hayley is devastated. She has been driving for over 35 years, and driving the van for 6, and has NEVER had an incident so of course her pride, as well as Jess, has been damaged.

It really is no big deal, stuff happens. A bit of Araldite and some webbing on the back, and a new UK sticker will cover up and make good the damage. No problem. Let’s have a big “Awwww…” for Hayley… Poor love, she is upset.

The sky keeps threatening rain but we get some boots on and set off for a walk around the lake. The path is not very clear and some parts are muddy so there is a bit of backwards and forwards going on.

After a while, we give up. Hayley’s enthusiasm is also cracked so we head back to Jess for a tea while she watches a bunch of YouTube rollercoaster videos to cheer herself up.

Jess tucked in away from Hayley…

Tonight we are having Pizza from the campsite with a glass of rose wine and an early night. Tomorrow we are heading for Calais where we intend to have a good look around the town as we have heard it’s very nice despite the bad press back in the UK. We shall see.

Wednesday 22nd May 2024

Blagny-sur-Bresle to Calais 92 miles

Today we are on our last French drive before home. We are heading for Calais and a campsite right on the beach. Hayley is at the wheel taking us north. Again toll roads and today it cost 13 euros. The campsite is called Camping Calais Plage or Camping Calais Beach. The drive is easy and reasonably quick although the weather is a little brutal with sharp showers of rain when we set off and strong winds that buffet the van on the exposed parts of the motorway.

Before we get to the campsite we want to fill up with LPG for cooking and heating. We like to leave Jess full of gas and diesel while stored, it means that she is ready to go for the next trip. We find a service station close to the campsite that does both. Before all of that though there are a few things that we need from the shops first. Of course, there are a few essentials like milk, bread, and a few foodie things to take home, but more importantly we need to take back some wine and fizz. There is a huge supermarket where we spend a good hour walking around browsing and filling the trolley.

A standard supermarket cake counter in France

This is Carrefour, which is the equivalent of Tesco in the UK, but France being France it just goes that little bit further. Cakes are a big thing here of course and in this supermarket, they have a fabulous display of cakes. Stunning.

Pushing against the wind!

By the time we leave, we have purchased 5 boxes of wine. A red, white, rose and of course some Cremant, a champagne substitute. Oh well…, sometimes. you just have to cut your cloth accordingly.

Del is charged with pushing the heavily laden trolley to the van in a force 9 wind. He makes it. The drink is safely in the van!

The campsite is warm and friendly and we are checked in quickly with a nice private space. As soon as we are in we get to work on some of the de-prep of the van. Everything is on the site so the van shower is cleaned down and closed off, cupboards are emptied and cleared out and some bits are packed away. The rest we will do when we get home. Our unpacking is now much simpler as we can park Jess right outside the flat, open the large terrace doors, and just dump everything in the flat for sorting later. We also now have a new storage space for Jess which is just a three-minute walk.

The sun is out now, but the wind is vicious. No matter we get some big coats on and set off for a walk around Calais.

On the way into the town, we spot this large mechanical dragon, yes a dragon, with people on its back! As we get closer we see it throwing out fire and slowly moving around a flat concreted piece of land.

It’s quite something and is a permanent attraction in the town, and well-liked by the locals and tourists alike. It’s called the La Compagnie du Dragon. It’s a massive 72-ton human-controlled dragon that offers 1-hour rides for just under 10 euros. It interacts with the public watching and is quite scary when he turns around and looks at you then spits water at you! It’s great fun and quite a piece of kit.

As for Calais itself, we find it to be very nice. There are some rather brutal 60s built blocks of flats and buildings, but Calais was flattened towards the end of the war in 1944 with the interim period seeing all kinds of temporary buildings going up. Saying that there are some very nice buildings, the town hall for example is stunning.

The streets are very clean and tidy, and the beachfront is wonderful, having just recently been built. The main street has lovely shops, restaurants, and bars. Not what we were expecting given the news that we hear about Calais, most of it is nonsense.

On the subject of restaurants, Hayley has found us a nice place. Calais, it would appear, has quite a collection of excellent and highly-rated restaurants. She can secure us a table for two at Histoire Ancienne. We walk around to kill a bit of time before our dining time. There are some lovely parks here too to walk around.

Dinner is a fabulous event. The restaurant is superb, beautiful inside, with excellent service, and the food is very tasty. A lovely place.

The walk back is via the hanger that the Calais Dragon is stored in (sleeps in). He looks great with his eyes closed with just a light on at the end of his tail.

Full of food, and drink we make it back to Jess, for bed. Up early tomorrow.

Thursday 23rd May 2024

Calais to Home, East Cowes 190 miles

We are up at 7am this morning, the earliest that we have been up at on this trip so far! Sadly we are going home today, our ferry from Calais is at 9am, so we are up for a short breakfast and a quick coffee. We have already done some of the breakdown and packing, we will do the rest when we get back.

It’s a bright sunny morning when we leave the campsite, the drive to the ferry port is only about 10 minutes. We arrive in time for our check-in time, and everything goes well, very quickly, quickest yet. Soon Jess is parked up at the front of the boat and we are in the lounge having another coffee and a croissant.

1 hour and 40 minutes later we are disembarking after a, thankfully, uneventful crossing of the channel. Already we have discovered that the M20 has multiple accidents as Operation Brock was put in action overnight for some reason. As a result, because of all the contra-flows and chicanes used for Operation Brock, it seems there have been accidents.

Brilliant. If you read the opening sentence on their website above, it’s a joke. The delay is more than an hour.

Hayley has found another route for us but as usual, we have bumped into 30 mph speed restrictions, police speed checks, and the usual 50mph speed restriction on the A2. Why do things not work here…? Oh, and the mobile reception is rubbish as well. Not that we are moaning you understand.

We have a set ferry time to the Isle of Wight so the race is kind of on to make that time. We shall see.

After a lot of stopping, starting, and diverting, we finally arrived at Portsmouth Harbour with 15 minutes to spare! However… When we check in we are told that there is £19.80 outstanding, even though we paid the full amount in advance and we have a receipt to prove it. After some back and forth a call is put into the Caravan and Motorhoming Club who confirm that we have paid and instruct Wightlink to let us on the boat and that they would sort it out. We guess that Wightlink, who are not immune from making a mess of things, have messed this up as well. Useless.

The 40-minute crossing is very nice, with bright sunlight and lots of boats out enjoying the day. We get off the boat and head for home. Once parked up at the flat we empty the van into the living room, clean Jess down, and take her around the corner to her new storage place.

With her cover on she is now safe and sound, cleaned up, and ready for the next outing which will probably be a couple of island stays and then another French trip in September. We have had a very enjoyable trip to Normandy which is a lovely place and a place that we will revisit. We had great company in the first week of our trip from a good friend from the island.

Once again we would like to thank all of our friends and family that have followed us on this short trip. We love getting your comments. Our very best wishes to you all. If you can get out there then do it, travel, and see what you can while you can. Once again, many thanks to you all.

Some simple stats from this trip

  • French motorway tolls: 85 euros
  • Diesel: 217 euros
  • Miles covered on this trip: 909 miles

A week for us to remember…

Week 2 – Juno Beach to Sainte-Mère-Église – 95 miles

Saturday 11th of May 2024

Juno Beach to Bayeux – 32 miles

It’s a bright clear blue sky this morning, and we have learned that most of the UK had a light show in the sky courtesy of a solar storm, the biggest in decades, providing some spectacular colourful skies. For us, it’s a stunning morning, not a cloud in the sky and already it’s quite warm. Day two of wearing shorts. How long will it last? We are joined by Karen for a cup of tea and to put together a plan for the day. We are off to Bayeux and stopping there for three nights. Karen has a rather splendid hotel and we are staying at the municipal campsite near town. We have been there there before. It’s a very good site and has everything we need, so we are looking forward to it.

Our main stop of the day is the American Cemetery of Normandy.

There are nearly 10,000 men buried here in beautiful grounds that are maintained all year round, they are immaculate. It’s not too far away but the drive is a bit twisty, taking us through small villages and bendy roads, so the drive will be about 40 minutes.

Just as we are about to get fed up with the drive we finally arrive at the cemetery and get parked up. The first thing that we have noticed is that to park here it’s free of charge, however in the British one that we went to yesterday, we had to pay for parking. Typical.

We have a walk around the cemetery which looks spectacular with its rows and rows of white crosses all perfectly in line. Again a very sobering day. So many young men gave their lives, each one marked by a white marble cross.

We meet Karen inside and take our time strolling around the cemetery and making our way back to the exit. Once at Jess, we have an impromptu lunch, very simple of bread, cheese, and sardines, which are delicious. The cemetery is now packed. We need to see these places before 1 pm and there are so many to see. We decide, however, to get to Bayeux. On the way, we will go to a shop, which by chance is next to the campsite. Karen gets checked into the hotel and spends some time by the pool while we get Jess stripped and cleaned out for her weekly clean.

Soon we have her ship shape and spend the afternoon in our back garden.

We have a small space but enough room for us. The rest of the day is spent chatting and reading. It’s perfect. Tonight Karen will be joining us at Jess for dinner. What shall we have?

Saturday night in…

At 7 pm Karen appears and as usual is well turned out. We are always in our scruff, but Karen has turned up in a different outfit every night. Fabulous. Tonight we are having a tomato, mozzarella with basil salad, followed by ravioli roulette, two types mixed up. Fabulous.

This is all helped along with a Sancerre and a Pouilly Fume wine. Even more fabulous. After a short break, Hayley puts together some orange slices sprinkled with Cinnamon. Fantastic. A lovely evening in the setting sun next to Jess and good company, food, and wine. That’s what this is all about.

And washing up tonight…

We have a guest washer-upper tonight. Karen has volunteered to potter off and wash up the dinner stuff. Thanks, Karen.

The sun is setting and the air is starting to chill. Karen has left her car with us in the camp car park and like all good self-sufficient travellers has a fold-up bike in her boot. Within seconds it’s all folded out and ready to go. See you later…!

Sunday 12th of May 2024Bayeux day 2

We slept well last night and woke up to a warm sunny morning. We have a long lazy breakfast, just for a change. Karen is calling on us at 11 this morning and we are going to Omaha Beach – the American Beach during the D-Day landings. This morning Karen has had a good walk around the town and shared these fantastic pictures of the local shop fronts that have paintings on their windows in commemoration of the 80th anniversary.

It’s hot already in the car as we do the 30-minute drive to Pointe du Hoc. Once parked up we enter a small modern building that is showing a short video about what went on here, namely the scaling of the cliffs by the US Rangers to get to the heavily fortified German bunkers at the top. And they are fortified. So much concrete and steel!

It’s getting hotter as we walk around this large site, which is full of bomb craters. It’s a relief to walk into some of the bunkers which are nice and cool! We think we have spent enough time here and head back to the car. Next, we are going to Omaha Beach – the American beach during the D-Day landings.

A short drive later we get parked up and head for a small cafe with a view out to sea and have a light lunch before heading along the beach to the town which is a good 30-minute walk. We set off, but the town is not getting closer.

If we have to do 30 minutes walking there, then of course we have to do the same coming back. Del is quick to point this out, the girls agree and we turn around and get back in the car for the 3-minute drive to the town.

We stop at The Braves sculpture. An impressive piece of art right on the beach. People walk around it, photograph it, even Del gets up close only to be told that “to respect those that died please do not go within 3 meters of the sculpture“.

It appears that nobody read that, even Del. Still, we stop and admire the sculpture and think again about what went on here.

The next stop is the Overlord museum, which is back towards the American Cemetery. We are starting to flag a bit now. It’s so hot and humid, but we push through and go into the museum which is reasonably priced, and once in is very interesting. It tells the whole story of WW2 and the rise of Hitler and his massive war machine.

There are mock-up scenes using real equipment that have been gathered by a Frenchman who came up with the idea of the museum but sadly died before it opened. It’s a very interesting museum, one of many in the area, but this one should go on your list if you are ever in these parts.

At 4 pm we decide that we have had enough and set off back for home. Karen to her hotel, Del and Hayley back to Jess, where we sit in the sun, guzzling water. We will all meet at 6:15 tonight for dinner in the town of Bayeux.

Dinner tonight is in a small hotel restaurant which is packed! The last time we were here was September 2 years ago when it was almost empty, so it was a surprise to see not only the inside but the outside just packed. Fortunately, Karen was able to get a table for us and guarded it until we arrived.

All very nice and pleasant. Hayley was dissappointed that it was not the same as her last visit. Karen enjoyed it, Del loved it. He had everything raw! Six oysters and steak tartar. Delicious.


We end the day at Karen’s hotel with a glass or two of Sancerre with some good conversation.

Monday 13th of May 2024Bayeux day 3

A lovely walk in to town

The weather has changed, and quite a lot. It’s grey this morning and today we are expecting rain later. We shall see.

Today we are meeting Karen in town and we will set off to see the Bayeux Tapersty.

We pushed a lot. It was closed!

On the way we pop into a ‘Salon de the’ for…, tea. Karen has a coffee and a pastry. The shop is lovely with a beautiful terrace on the top floor. It sells the most spectacular looking cakes, again a French speciality. Their cakes are the best.

Tea drinking done, we head for the Bayeux Tapestry Museum. 12 euros later we have the English translation headphones on and we are off. For Karen it’s the first time, for Del and Hayley it’s the third! We love it here. We are all feeling a little tired and a bit worse for wear after last night.

Feeling a bit slow today

Next, we are setting off in Karen’s BMW for the D-Day Experience.

The D-Day Experience is considered to be one of the best museums on the subject. There is a cinema, a museum and an aircraft simulator. It is also the location of Dead Man’s Corner, which is a road junction where an American soldier was left sitting dead in his tank by the Germans.

The cinema is in 3D and is brilliant. It tells the story of the D-Day landings in excellent detail and is easy to follow, an excellent job.

The house at Dead Man’s Corner is a museum and is also a very interesting location. It was used as a German paratrooper command post, so the rooms in the house have all been recreated. At the back of the building is a shop that sells original artefacts from spent bullet cases, medals, flags and clothes. A fascinating shop.

The main museum is just as good with excellent recreations and displays.

For the aircraft simulation, you attend a briefing by an American commander using 3D projection explaining what the mission will be, after which you are led into an original Douglas C47 Skytrain troop carrier called Stoy Hora, it’s an aircraft that has been mounted on hydraulic jacks and a lift. Inside the plane, the windows have been replaced by monitors showing what’s going on outside.

It’s very effective as we simulate a lift off from Exeter, flying through storm clouds whilst being shot at and eventually making an emergency landing in France. Very effective.

By now we have had enough and do the 30 minute drive back home. We separate and just relax for an hour or two. The rain is now heavy and constant, but it breaks just enough for us to walk into town to meet up with Karen before 7 for dinner. We have found a smashing resturant and have the best meal out of the trip so far. Fabulous.

It’s our last night wth Karen. Tomorow she has to drive back to Le Havre, a good couple of hours away for an 9pm ferry back home. She will be joining us for a last breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday 14th of May 2024 – Bayeux day 4

At 10am sharp there is a tap at the van door. It’s Karen who is joining us for her breakfast, our last one together. Del is up and running with tea, toast and scrambled eggs, oh, and he’s running back and forward doing the laundry!

A mixed bag of weather today. With the sun out it’s nice and warm, but we do keep getting sharp little showers now and then. Well, we are in Normandy and Normandy is famous for being wet. There is also a breeze which is building.

After breakfast, we all pile into Karen’s car and head for the Bayeux War Cemetery, which is mainly a burial ground for British soldiers. Like all the other cemeteries here there is a headstone for each of the fallen but this one has more colour.

The base of each gravestone has small shrubs and colourful flowers. It’s all quite nice and of course very neat. Here there are not only British service men, but there are also other nationalities, Polish, Czech, Russian and some Germans.

After our pleasant walk, we head back to the car. The next stop is a wine warehouse, that is located right outside our campsite. Karen is on a mission to stock up and there’s no better, more convenient place than this. Del & Hayley also buy a bottle of two and some very colourful tins of sardines… Nice.

We help Karen load her boxes of wines into the car and we all set off for the supermarket to do a small stock up then back to Jess for a small lunch before Karen sets off for home.

Just before 3 pm, Karen is loaded up, fed and watered and we are waving her off. Her ferry is from Le Havre at 9 pm local time, but she intends to stop along the way to visit Caen and anywhere else that she might find along the way.

It has been very nice having Karen share our first week and a bit. Great company, lively conversation, some deep, some not so, but always entertaining. Very good company indeed. We have eaten and sometimes drank a lot, but we are in France and they do do a good feed and drink here, and we are not here for very long!

Safe travels Karen, and see you back home on the island… xx

Hayley and Del spend the rest of the afternoon, dodging the showers of rain and doing more of the laundry. The decision has been made to stay another day and cycle to the Normandy museum. There is still lots to do here and with 9 days left before home another day won’t do us any harm, and it’s very nice here.

The evening is a nice dinner in.

Tonight Hayley signs up to the Open University OpenLearn and starts a 12 hour course on the ‘Science of Nuclear Energy’. Well you have to have a hobby!

Wednesday 15th of May 2024 – Bayeux Day 5

Having done 5 days now here in Bayeux, we have finally run out of fresh water, and because we are now staying another day, we also have been asked to go to another pitch. We will fill up with fresh water and dump the grey when our space becomes available. It’s a sunny morning, and dry. Breakfast is bacon sandwiches and coffee. There is an empty place at the table this morning…

An empty space at the table today

We have to wait for our space to become vacant before we can do anything today, it’s already 10am, and the spot that we are going into is still occupied and they are still asleep in there…

After a while, Hayley can’t wait any longer, as there is no indication of the people in the pitch getting up, and we don’t want to see our last day in Bayeux being eaten away. She sets off for the camp office and returns quite quickly with a new pitch number. We pack up and empty the grey water, fill up with fresh and install ourselves in our new spot. It’s bigger than the last one, with the sun at the back of the van for most of the day.

We unhook the bikes from the back of Jess and set off towards the Battle of Normandy Museum.

Located not too far from the Bayeux War Cemetery, the museum can be identified by a couple of tanks outside. For the price of the ticket, 14 euros you get entrance to the museum and to the Bayeux Tapestry, which we have already seen this week.

The museum is excellent. If D-Day wasn’t bad enough, and we have seen lots of stuff about that, what happened afterwards in Normandy was also pretty dreadful, and went on for some time after D-Day. This museum is all about what happened in Normandy after D-Day. Lots to look at, lots to read all very interesting stuff.

Back on the bikes, we make our way across town to the cathedral. A massive imposing building, but beautiful. Inside it’s very grand and on a large scale. The ceilings seem to go on forever.

We are not religious, but we do like these cathedrals, the building of them so many hundreds of years ago is quite something.

After a good look and walk around the cathedral we decide that if we have a ticket to the Bayeux Tapestry then why not use it…? We love the tapestry, it’s one of our favourite artefacts which is made all the more amusing as we both hated it at school… After a short walk, we are in a very short queue to see it. Since our last visit with Karen a few days ago, Hayley has done a bit more swotting up on the details of what “the rag” is all about and shares the details with Del before going in. It never fails to amuse us and hold our attention. A 70m strip of linen embroidered by women nearly 950 years ago that tells a story about a couple of blokes that have a fight, one of which gets it in the eye! Amazing.

If you would like a quick, easy-to-follow run-through of the story, have a look here. It’s very good.

Home of the Bayeux Tapestry

We are hungry now and after a walk around the lovely streets of Bayeux, we find a smart little restaurant to have a simple early dinner. It’s fantastic, very simple, but so tasty and very enjoyable. The heavens have opened and it pours down for a short period. Satisfied with our day we make our way back to the bikes.

We get but a few meters out of the restaurant and we are suddenly showered, heavily, with what feels like a bucket of water being poured on us, only to find out that it’s bird poo…!!!! Hayley takes the direct hit. She is covered in the stuff from her head to her shoes. She looks like someone has thrown a bucket of paint at her. We couldn’t see the offending bird as it made its escape unaware of the damage below, but whatever it was it was huge…

A direct hit…!

We get back to the bikes smelling like an old birdcage, it stinks as we cycle back to camp to strip off and shower. Hayley hand-washes the coats and bike bag. Del also has got a light coating. It’s everywhere…is there something about it being lucky…? The amount that has hit poor Hayley, she should go and buy a dozen lottery tickets… sharpish.

Back at the van, cleaned up, we sit in the early evening sunshine. It’s lovely and quiet, the silence only broken by bird song. Fabulous. We are leaving Bayeux tomorrow and heading for our third D-Day beach, Utah.

Thursday 16th of May 2024 – Bayeux to Utah Beach 37 miles

Finally, after 5 nights here in Bayeux, we are on the move again. A week today it will be over and we will be back home. It’s a bright sunny morning as we settle into a nice breakfast of soft boiled eggs, toast and coffee before preparing Jess for departure. Del does the washing up while Hayley prepares the inside of the van. It’s amazing how you spread yourself out if you stay for anymore than a couple of days in place. We have enjoyed this past 5 days in Bayeux. We like it here very much, the campsite is beautiful the town is lovely. We have had a good friend with us for most of it… It has just been one of those very nice weeks!

We have filled up with fresh water, dumped the grey water and Del has emptied the toilet. A quick stop at the local supermarket for some basics and we are on our way. Today we are going the furthest west on this trip to Utah Beach, one of the American beaches in the D-Day landings before turning around tomorrow to head slowly for home.

It’s a lovely drive today. No motorways, just French country roads with green fields and trees. Nice.

We soon arrive at the ‘Camping Carpark’ at Utah Beach, and without too much fuss, and an efficiency that frightens us, we are parked up, plugged in, and bikes off the back and away for the gentle flat cycle to Utah beach itself.

We have been here before, but it’s always worth another visit to see the expansive beach and to stand there trying, and failing to imagine how it might have been 80 years ago.

Hayley looking over Utah Beach. It all happened here 80 years ago

There is a lot to see here and there is a fabulous museum right on the beach. We have been to the museum on our last trip but this time we give it a miss in favour of ice cream and a walk.

Back on the bikes, this time we are looking for a German bunker a few kilometres from where we are. Again we have a look at the beach here before mounting the bikes and heading back to Jess. It’s a lovely afternoon, warm in the sun, so we head back for tea and a read.

A lovely afternoon in the sun, but it does start to cloud over and get cool. It doesn’t stop us though. We have the awning out and put warmer clothes on and stay outside in the fresh air.

We are in a nice place. Out in the country, lots of bird song with horses across the not very busy road. Not bad for a Thursday.

Dinner tonight… Italian, on Jess our Italian van…! It’s a gorgeous night. After a short sharp shower, the sky turns blue and it’s a beautiful fresh evening. While enjoying our dinner a French van turns up next door and has trouble stretching his electricity cable so we offer him to trail it through our ‘terrace’. He is so grateful that he comes over with a gift of a bottle of wine. How sweet!

Friday 17th of May 2024 – Utah Beach to Sainte-Mère-Église 8 miles

Sadly our journey in the direction of home starts today. We are now heading back slowly towards Calais for the ferry home next Thursday. We still have a few places to go to and check out, so it’s not over yet.

Unusually, we are packed, serviced and on our way by 9:45am! It’s less than 10 miles to today’s destination. We are going to Sainte-Mère-Église (Holy Mother church). A tiny town but very significant. It is where the American Airborne Division first landed on D-Day and was the first French town to be liberated.

Stained glass paratroopers

The church is very old and charming, some of the windows have been replaced, because of war damage, with new colourful windows commemorating The American Airborne Division. Have a look here for the story of that time. It is also famous for the paratrooper, John Steele who while descending, got his chute caught on the church in the town and had to pretend to be dead for up to two hours before being cut free by the Germans and taken prisoner.

Because of the significance of the American action in the town, there is a museum here, The Airborne Museum.

This museum is excellent, one of the best we have seen. Packed with stuff to read, listen and interact with. The town has a great affection for the Americans, and understandably so, and this amazing museum tells the whole story. A great place to visit.

We spend a good three hours in the museum, you could quite easily spend a lot more time there, but we have seen enough and take a walk around the town. It’s so small it doesn’t take long at all, so we head back to Jess for a lazy afternoon.

The evening is beautiful. Clear blue sky, no wind, just the birds. We have a very light dinner, have showers, and sit out for the rest of the evening, just soaking up the early evening air. It has been a good day. Very enjoyable.

Please note: It may appear to the observant reader, that Hayley is wearing the same top all the time. For the record, she has several stripy tops, and one she has two off. All part of her trying to be “French”. No chance.

Peace in our time…?

Week 1. Dieppe to Juno Beach – 268 miles

Saturday the 4th of May 2024 (Star Wars Day!)

Dieppe to Veules Les Roses – 16 miles

We had a nice peaceful night in the Port of Dieppe motorhome park despite some of the negative reviews regarding boat movement noise and noisy seagulls. It is a port so what do you expect?

We slept well. We need water, so we maneuver ourselves first thing this morning to the water tap and fill up Jess with fresh water, then re-position ourselves back in our space for coffee and a light breakfast while Hayley does her usual route planning.

The sun has popped up over the surrounding cliffs and the motorhome park is bathed in warm sunshine. Nice. Today we are not going far, we are going to our first campsite.

As we drive out of Dieppe we see that it is quite a nice town, clean and tidy with an active marina, and nice streets with lots of shops. There is stuff to see here and maybe we should have stayed for the day, but we would like to get into a campsite and try out the electricity, and make sure that works. There are also just a few maintenance issues that have come to light since we left home. Nothing urgent, things like squeaky doors and cupboards that need a bit of reorganising, so a campsite is ideal. You can make a mess without getting told off.

A straight road out of Dieppe

We find a supermarket and do a stock-up. Next, we hunt down a van wash and find an excellent one. Jess hasn’t been washed for quite a few months so she is looking a bit sad. After 20 minutes she rolls out of the wash looking like new! Shiny, fresh, and clean.

Hayley has found us a lovely campsite called Les Mouettes or The Seagulls. As is the way here in France they close from midday until 2 pm. Lunch is lunch and nothing gets in the way. While we wait Del gives Jess a last wipe-over with a cleaning product that removes all the streaks and stubborn marks that the wash didn’t quite get out.

Our first campsite of the trip

She looks amazing. The campsite is very close to the town of Veules Les Roses which has the smallest river in France at just over half a mile. It starts in the main town and runs through it straight to the sea. We follow the river through the beautiful town. It is absolutely stunning, thatched cottages and water mills line the tiny river and the center of town has classicly French buildings and squares. It was voted to be the sixth favourite town in France. We love it here.

Back at Jess, we sit in the sun with a drink after our long day out. Tonight we will have a very simple dinner of various salads and prawns with a fresh baguette. Lovely. We have had some fantastic weather here today. After dinner we look outside and the sky is clear blue, but there is a chill in the air on its way!

Sunset is at around 9:15 so we make our way to the Memorial du Cerons which is a large gun recovered from a battleship that sank just off this very coast while rescuing some of the British army.

We watch the day end as we get one of the best sunsets we have seen in a long time. No clouds, no obstructions. Now the air has really chilled as we make our way back to Jess after a rather good day.

Sunday the 5th of May 2024

Veules Les Roses to Etretat – 36 miles

We are up bright and early this morning. The sky is full of grey clouds, but the temperature is pleasant enough. Today we are on the way to Etretat, a short 1-hour drive along the coast. We’re staying in a paid-for aire tonight, 13 euros for a space. We have a light breakfast and prepare Jess for an overnight stay where we have to be self-sufficient, ie no electricity or water, so we make sure we have a tank full of fresh water and that we have charged up all of our gadgets.

It’s a very picturesque drive, rain is forecast for later on in the day, but for now, it’s very pleasant. Hayley navigates us to the town of Etretat with Del at the wheel. It’s busy when we arrive at the parking spot but not yet full. We choose a space and set off for the town and the beach before the rain comes.

It’s another beautiful French seaside town. Very clean and tidy with spectacular views of the cliffs.

Again this was another heavily fortified place during the war by the Germans. There is still evidence of the Atlantic Wall, a collection of concrete blocks and pillboxes. We have an ice cream and start to take the walk up the hill to a viewpoint that looks back down onto the town. It’s great up here and worth the walk-up.

Hayley checks her rain app. Rain is due in 25 minutes, it will probably take that long to get back, so we start the descent back towards Jess.

A colourful fish shop!

While walking back through the town we stumble on a shop that specialises in canned fish called Conserverie La Belle-Iloise. It’s a beautiful shop, very colourful, clean and bright. We have a look in and leave with some white tuna mousse. Hayley has fancied having a try of some pear cider and by chance, we find a small indoor market that has just what she has been looking for.

Armed with our purchases we make our way back to the van just in time for a light shower of rain to start. We open up some windows in Jess and listen to the loud blackbird chirping away with all his might while we try some tuna mousse and a glass, or two, of pear cider. Despite the light rain, it’s a lovely Sunday afternoon. The place is starting to fill up with vans now from many different European countries. We know why. We have only been in this area of France for three days and we have seen some spectacular views in this part of France. There is yet more to come.

Monday the 6th of May 2024

Etretat to Honfleur- 36 miles

Did we have rain last night or what…? We went to bed and it was so peaceful but at around 1 am the rain hammered down and it rained heavily for over an hour. We did get sleep before and after however and we are feeling quite good this morning. After breakfast, we set off and the sun comes out for a lovely morning 40-minute drive to Honfleur. Here we are meeting up with a good friend from home. She is driving to meet us in Honfleur where we will spend a good week together exploring the local area.

It’s a very picturesque drive, spring is in the air for sure. All the fields and trees are in full bloom and it’s very green and colourful. Lovely. Today we will drive over the Normandy Bridge. This bridge crosses the river Seine, which meanders through Paris and ends in the sea at this point. There is a toll charge, but it is worth it as the bridge has a very steep summit before descending again. When this bridge opened in 1995 it was the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. From here it’s just three minutes to the town of Honfleur.

We make our way to the campsite, but because of the recent heavy rain, they are not allowing vans in as the ground has become too boggy and muddy. There is a warning in all the forums about this and today it comes true although they do keep us waiting almost 2 hours to tell us. No matter, there is a 240 motorhome parking spot nearby so we do a quick three-point turn and make for that. It’s certainly a busy place but there are still plenty of places, so we choose one with electricity, get plugged in, and set off for a walk around the town.

Before we spend too much time in the town, Hayley does some research and finds that there is a “garden zoo & butterfly house” here called the Naturospace. 11 euros each later we are surrounded by some beautiful butterflies. It’s not very big but they have a lot of different butterflies flapping about, some are quite big, about the size of a saucer, it’s a lovely place.

Enough of butterflies. It’s a short walk to the town which is beautiful. Lots of restaurants and bars surround the outer perimeter of the port. It’s lovely.

The back streets are even more interesting with some fabulous shops, selling everything from a pair of shoes to original fine art. What a find. We stop at a small bar in the port and have a drink before hunting down a restaurant for dinner tomorrow.

We walk back to Jess and wait to hear from our friend, who has driven from the Isle of Wight. We will all be spending just over a week together. A very nice lady who lives on the west of the Isle of Wight who also likes good food and wine, so it should be a good few days. We spend an hour or two on Jess catching up on paperwork, the weather has become a little unpredictable as we are getting intermittent showers of rain.

Welcome, Karen…!

At 7 we set off to meet Karen. There is something rather different and strange about meeting friends from home in foreign countries. Not sure what it is. It’s good but feels odd, that you’re not bumping into each other in Waitrose, or arranging to meet at each other houses. Instead, we are meeting next to a big red boat in a small French town. It’s great to meet and catch up as we stroll through the town after settling into a bar in the port. To celebrate our meeting we have a bottle of Champagne, thank you Karen, and chat until late, so much so they are stacking the chairs up around us. We walk her back to her rather unusual and lovely hotel before setting off back to Jess. It’s late.

Tuesday the 7th of May 2024

Honfleur – Day 2

Today we are staying in Honfleur. Karen joins us on Jess for breakfast. She has brought croissants and very nice they are too with scrambled eggs, tea, and coffee. A very nice relaxed morning. Karen will take us all in her car and drive us to the town of Deauville, south of Le Harve which, quite by coincidence, is twinned with our hometown of East Cowes. However, they couldn’t be any further apart in appearance. The drive there is around 30 minutes. It’s a beautiful place, helped by the glorious sunny weather.

There is a fantastically long sandy beach with trendy little bars. The front is lined with beautiful apartments with precisely cut lawns and clean streets. There is a regular American film festival here, the beach huts are all named after Hollywood stars.

We spend a good hour walking around the beach area before turning our attention to the town itself. Again the streets are so clean and lined with designer clothes shops, art shops, and lots of little independent shops selling all kinds of goodies.

Compared to our own East Cowes, which has a Co-op and a couple of cafes, they are miles apart. We can’t be too hard on our town. It has everything we need and serves its purpose well. If only it was a bit cleaner and a bit more looked after sometimes.

After a short walk, we stop at a creperie in the marina and have something to eat and a chat. It’s a lovely day here but our time is up, we need to get back to the parked car before the meter runs out, which by the way is cheaper to park than on the Isle of Wight. What are we doing wrong…?

Karen takes us back to her hotel and we take a pleasant walk back through the town of Honfleur and back to Jess for a couple of hours. It’s a very warm afternoon as we sit in the van with the windows and door open. Hayley is researching a place for dinner tonight while Del sorts out the photos from the day.

At 7 pm we meet our friend by the red boat again in the port, and head for Hayley’s chosen restaurant. It’s closed… Yes, after all that research it was shut! By good fortune, the restaurant next door has a couple of tables that are not reserved so they squeeze us in. We have a rather splendid dinner there of oysters, fish, chicken, and mussels all helped along with a bottle of Sancerre. Smashing. After dinner, we have a walk around the port. It’s starting to get chilly, so we sit in a small bar for a nightcap (or is it two?) and have a healthy, sometimes animated, debate about men and women until just before midnight. Del lost…!

A very nice day has been had. Tomorrow we are off to stay nearby some painter’s back garden.

Wednesday the 8th of May 2024 (Victory in Europe Day)

Honfluer to Les Andelys – 67 miles

A slow start to today. A very late breakfast and just general pottering about. Del gets the bikes down off the back of the van and gives them a clean-up and service. We intend to use them today… We are later joined by Karen, who is out and about and comes to tea burgle. Nice to see her for a tea before we all get into our respective vehicles and head off towards Les Andelys which is near Monet’s back garden. Well, 25 minutes near.

Karen speeds off leaving us behind to faff about getting diesel and LPG. Soon we are on our way though and we have a lovely drive to the campsite in Les Andelys which is set in a wide bend of the Seine. Karen is staying in a chalet on the site and we are put near to her. We get settled into our pitch and get properly set up with a groundsheet, awning, table, and chairs, the works just in time for Karen to appear on her folding bike.

We get our bikes off the back and set off for a good cycle along the banks of the Seine.

The weather is pleasant enough, with broken sunshine, it’s dry with no wind. We cycle past a river cruise holiday boat that is loading up with American tourists. Onwards we continue, passing some rather large and expensive-looking houses with private gardens that overlook the river.

Not a long cycle, a couple of kilometers, but we enjoy it and it’s good to be getting some exercise at last. Back at base, Karen retires to her place while Del gives the van a good clean inside and Hayley starts to prepare dinner for the three of us tonight. On the menu… Duck, dauphinoise potatoes and asparagus.

Karen appears at 7 pm prompt and we sit outside with a glass of fizz waiting for dinner which arrives at the table smelling fabulous and tasting amazing.

It’s a wonderful dinner, a good chat, and a few glasses of fizz. The sun is out and it’s warm and calm. It couldn’t have been any better. However, there’s more to come. Karen has bought a selection of cakes in Honfleur.

In France, you don’t just buy cakes… You buy CAKES…! which are just works of art. With a cup of tea, the cakes go down a storm with Hayley proclaiming that the macaroons were the best she has ever had. We have to agree…

By 9:30 the sun has set and the dinner is over. We are all a bit tired after our late night last night and we are full of food, drink, and cakes. By 10 we are all in place, Karen in her chalet, Del, and Hayley in Jess.

Tonight will be an early night. We feel we need it…

Thursday the 9th of May 2024Les Andelys. Day2

We were expecting some good warm weather today but sadly we wake up to a cloudy cool day, maybe we will get some sun later. Karen joins us for breakfast onboard Jess. Once cleaned up we get ready and set off in Karen’s car. Today we are off to Giverny and the the home and gardens of Monet, the painter.

Despite the cloudy weather, it’s a lovely drive through the French countryside, colourful and bright. It’s lovely. We arrive at the car park for “Monetville”, it’s 10 am and already it is packed with cars. We have to drive around the car park a couple of times, but there are no spaces free. Karen decides that we are parking on a piece of grass not knowing if we can or can’t, she doesn’t care and is quite right too. As soon as other arriving cars see her do it then that patch of grass fills up immediately. Well done Karen!

It’s a short walk to Monet’s house and very quickly we are in a queue. It’s packed. It’s a bank holiday in France today, Ascension Day, so it’s not only tourists but the ‘locals‘ are out as well. Del decides to have a look at how long this queue is and sets off to check it out and soon returns with some bad news. It’s long… very long. It’s estimated that we could be here for 2 hours or more, at least. After a while, we decide that we are not keen on standing in line for more than two hours to look at a dead painter’s house and back yard so we decide to give up. Pity.

All is not lost. There are lots of things to see in the area so we spend a good hour or two walking and talking. very pleasant.

Once we think we have seen enough, we have a look at the queue again. We were right. The line has hardly moved and our estimation of 2 hours wasn’t far out, more like three. There is only one small door for the entrance, bags are checked then you have to buy a ticket. Online ticket purchases have been suspended due to how busy it is. It’s all a bit mad really.

Back at the car park cars are still trying to come in and people are just parking anywhere. It’s chaos. We are asked by a disappointed French man if we had a tow rope as he was stuck in a rather large pool of mud. Poor lad. Very soon Karen has us out of there and away, no messing about. The weather has improved and it’s a beautiful sunny day. Hot. After a drive through the countryside, we make our way to the town of Veron.

A very pleasant town where we stop for a salad and a drink before investigating the various patisseries and buy cake. It has to be done.

Two very beautifully presented cakes are purchased and loaded into the boot of the car for the journey back to Jess.

Afternoon tea and cake back at Jess in the now hot sunshine. Summer is here? Maybe. We spend a very nice afternoon just chatting away and putting the world to right over a few white wine spritzers. Well someone has to…

Dinner tonight is a Salad with pan-fried chicken and a glass of fizz. It’s still warm. A lovely evening after a lovely day. No Monet, but who cares, we have had a good day driving around in the French countryside, and spent some time in a typical French town, with the late afternoon and evening outside Jess.

Tomorrow we are all moving on, back toward the coast. We came inland especially to see Monet’s house and gardens so we are making the two-hour drive back towards the coast to see some war stuff. Finally.

Friday the 10th of May 2024

Les Andelys to Juno Beach113 miles

Today is a beautiful, bright, warm sunny day. We have been away for a full week now. We are heading back towards the coast and staying at a campsite at Juno Beach. This is one of the 5 beaches used for the D-Day landings and was managed by the Canadians.

Karen appears for her morning tea and we chat until quite late. We all set off and head back west. It’s a great driving day, the weather is the best we have had in many months, How long will it last?

Before checking into the campsite we all meet at the British Normandy Memorial, which has only been open for 5 years.

Karen is there before us and has already been shopping and is having a picnic in the car park. We leave her to finish off her lunch and we set off to look at the memorial. It’s quite imporessive and very thought provoking, more so as they have what is called “Standing with Giants“, which is 1475 cut outs of soldiers, sailors and airforce men all stamped out of recycled metal road signs which are randomly scattered in the foot hills of the memorial. It’s an amazing sight.

The whole of the memorial is an amazing site, very impressive and well deserved for all those men who died, some as young as 18, on that terrible day.

After a good long walk aroud the memorial we set off towards Juno beach and have a long walk towards the town of Courselles sur Mer. Along the way there are many kinds of memorials and the odd tank scattered around.

Karen sets off to her hotel to check in and we head back to Jess. We are all tired but agree to meet for dinner in the town later on.

Back at Jess we just potter around, it’s only and hour and half before we have to set off again for the walk along the beach. At 7 pm we leave and on our way to meet Karen the restaurant. We have a very simple dinner and complain to each other about feeling tired. By 9pm we are done and dusted. Karen sets off to the hotel and we plod back to Jess.

We are in bed by 10pm having done over16,000 steps thats 7 miles of walking…

Spring is in the air…?

Our last trip out ended rather suddenly in February this year as we had to come back due to a family illness. Sadly Hayley’s mum is no longer with us.

Spring is in the air now, or so we are told. It’s the start of May and we are still seeing lots of rain and cool temperatures, but that’s not stopping us. Since we got back home in February it has been rather busy what with a family loss and trying to work as much as we can at the same time and we now feel that the time is right to have a quick three-week trip away in Jess.

For the next three weeks we will be exploring Normandy in France, and in particular making a special trip to the Normandy coast where the D-Day landings took place on the 6th June 1944, 80 years ago. We have been in that area a couple of times on past trips, but we did miss a few things, so to make sure that we see everything this time, we are making a special visit to the area hoping that three weeks will be enough to see everything. During the trip, we are meeting up with a good friend from the Isle of Wight, who will be joining us for about 9 days in her car.

3rd May 20204.
Home, UK to Dieppe, France – 155 miles

Our journey, as usual, starts from our home base on the Isle of Wight with a ferry from Fishborne to Portsmouth. Then a 2-hour drive to Newhaven for the 4-hour crossing to Dieppe, France. This is the first time that we have used this ferry. The thought of driving to Dover for the ferry to Calais, and then the drive south to Normandy filled us with dread. We are looking forward to this new ferry. It’s only 4 hours but we have booked a cabin so we have somewhere to relax out of the way of everyone.

We now have Jess, our beloved motorhome, stored near the flat where we live. It now only takes 5 minutes to walk to her rather than the almost hour and a half round trip to Ryde and a muddy field where she used to be kept. She has had a full service, and a habitation check, has been cleaned throughout, and is ready to go. This morning we stop briefly at the flat to pick up some remaining bits and pieces before setting off.

The ferry, unusually, leaves on time. There are a few ferries on this route, but today we are on the smaller vessel, the St Faith. It’s an old but reliable boat. A real throaty sounding, dirty, oily, reliable boat. The ferry company bought a huge new ‘hybrid’ boat, the Victoria of Wight which is always out of service for repairs. We don’t think that her namesake would be amused…

It has turned out to be a nice warm sunny day, the crossing is pleasant and uneventful. Next, the short drive from Portsmouth to Newhaven. An hour and a half later and at a steady cruise between 50 to 60 miles per hour, we arrive at the little port of Newhaven between Brighton and Eastbourne. It’s a rather small port, not at all busy, very quiet, but we like it. Compared to the hell hole that is Dover, this is very pleasant.

We arrive a little early but at 4 pm we are shown the way into the belly of the boat, a big blue and yellow shiny vessel.

We make our way to the reception and collect our keys to our cabin, room 649. It’s basic but comfortable. Bunk beds, plenty of room with a shower and toilet. All very clean and tidy with a window on the port side going out to Dieppe (that’s on the left for non-boaties!).

We have a good look around the ship and watch the English coastline fade away into the sea mist and the late afternoon sunshine. Very nice.

Dinner is in the restaurant, we have salad, fish and chips and some cake – a tart Tropezienne, a speciality of St. Tropez.

Back to our cabin for a lie down where Hayley watches Race Around the World while we listen to the low hum of the engine and the gentle movement of the ship as we cross the channel in the setting sun.

Finally, we arrive in Dieppe at 10:15pm and we head for a motorhome spot within the port for our first night. We have no water in our tanks so we have showered on the boat. We have a few bottles of water for tea and breakfast and flushing the loo, we will fill up Jess tomorrow morning.

Shopping day tomorrow.

Time to go home… Sadly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to France… It’s cold!!

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

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

Starts here…

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

Finishes here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of our trip.

Miles on this trip: 4257

Diesel: 1066 euros

Tolls: 287 euros

LPG: 68 euros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love

Del, H & Jess

That’s Spain done, for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airport breakfast

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

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

One of the mains!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of those bull things!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 30th January 2024 – Benidorm Day 2

Marco Polo at work!

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

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

Hayley plotting all the “bulls” we spot

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

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

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

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

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

Superglue. Finally!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some time apart… :(

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

Saturday 20th January 2024 – San Jose Day 3

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

Our well equipped gym
Rain has stopped play

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

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

Tonight “H Paella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 22nd January 2024 – Palomares Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some work has already started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early start tomorrow. 6 am…! Show day!

This is as far as we go…

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

Saturday 13th January 2024 – Balerma Day 3

Del, proud of his now clean, shiny van.

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

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

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

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

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

We played our last EXIT game tonight…

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

Lemon tree behind Jess
The camp parrot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pair of van visitors

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

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

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

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

Monday 15th January 2024 – Nerja, Day 2

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

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

Del’s ‘expensive’ new shades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No dinner tonight after the big lunch. Early night!

Wednesday 17th January 2024 – Cabo de Gata Day 2

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

Rain streaming down the windows

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

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

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

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

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

A very quiet day today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 19th January 2024 – San Jose Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, finally, we have found the sunshine!

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

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

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

The famous Osborne roadside bulls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The white bits are plastic greenhouses…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Our 7 mile cycle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow we will definitely be moving on. Maybe…

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

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

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

Finally. A cheap wash for Jess

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

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

Cute visitor.

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

Hayley’s Fidua

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

Early night tonight…

Friday 12th January 2024 – Balerma Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 2024 everyone…!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at the road, please!

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

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

Pick a space

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

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

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

Sunday 31st December 2023 – Lucerne – Day 2

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

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

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

Chocolate swag!

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

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

Very good. We feel better for doing it.

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

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

Crumpets and tea. Well, why not?

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

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

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

Del, H and Jess…xxx

Monday 1st January 2024 – Lucerne – Day 3

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

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

EXIT games. We have done probably 10 of these.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the line for a service

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

Alpine Micky Dees

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

20 quids worth of Micky Dees

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

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

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

Tomorrow is our last day in Switzerland.

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye Switzerland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cork trees on the way to the campsite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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