Food, drink, travel and everything in-between

Month: June 2022

It’s hot and getting hotter..?

Week 4 – 18th – 24th June 2022

Freistadt, Austria to Bregenz, Austria – 360 miles

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

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

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

Saturday 18th June 2022

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

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

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

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

Out in a hot open field.

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

Tractor rides for kids.

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

Hot alpacas

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

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

Sunday 19th June 2022

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

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

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

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

So near so…! (Spar)

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

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

The real thing!

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

Look at all that chocolate

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

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

Late night with fireflies

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

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

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

Monday 20th June 2022

That’s a lot of pretzel Del…

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

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

Great views of Salzburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodnight Salzburg

Tuesday 21st June 2022

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

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

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

It’s not that cold

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

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

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

Dusk… Wow!

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

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

Wednesday 22nd June 2022

Hayley’s portable pump

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

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

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

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

A double rainbow…

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

How much…?

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

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

Thursday 23rd June 2022

We liked Imst and FINK CAMPING – lovely toilets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great spot

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

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

That’s Switzerland over there

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

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

Friday 24th June 2022

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

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

And we got free eggs!

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

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

Get some work done…

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

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

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

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

Another one of those sunsets.

Germany tomorrow, or is it..?

How much…?

WEEK 3 – 11th June – 17th June 2022

Braubach Germany to Freistadt Austria via Czech Republic – 533 miles

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

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

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

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

Saturday 11th June 2022

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

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

Our German vineyard stay at Wiengut Hemberger

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

Pay as you go wine fridge

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

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

Sunset walk

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

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

Sunday 12th June 2022

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

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

The town square at Iphofen
Gotta have that cake!

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

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

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

Monday 13th June 2022

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

Crossing the border

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

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

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

We should be where the white car is!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 14th June 2022

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

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

The Planner!

Hayley is planning our day in Prague tomorrow.

Wednesday 15th June 2022

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

Think we’ll leave that…

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

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

She ate the lot! Kidding

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

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

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

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

A proper Czech dinner

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

Not such a Pinball Wizard

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

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

Pacman. Always a favourite

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

Thursday 16th June 2022

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

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

Settled in. Finally,

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

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

It rained, it poured.

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

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

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

Dinner time…
Our Dutch host

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

Three European countries all together enjoying each others company.

Friday 17th June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Our first Austrian stop

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

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

Congratulations ma’am!

WEEK 2 4th to 10th June 2022

Ahrbruck to Braubach (via Hennef) – 96 miles

Saturday 4th June 2022

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

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

A ‘deadly’ grass snake

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

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

Sunday 5th June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airport themed hotel, The Moxy Cologne

Monday 6th June 2022

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

*** Hayley’s week ***

It just rained all day!

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

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

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

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

*** Del’s Week ***

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

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

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

I like these chaps though
…and after

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

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

Friday 10th June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is just one long roller coaster!

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

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

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

WEEK 1Saturday 28th May to 3rd June

Home to Ahrbruck Germany – 481 miles

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

Dinner at Waverley Park on the Isle of Wight

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

Sat 28th May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun 29th May

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

Hayley’s bag carrier!

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

Put yer hands up in the air…!

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

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

De Panne sandy beaches. Just like Miami

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

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

Mon 30th May

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

Pygmy goat watching.

Great to watch when you have a local beer.

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

Tues 31st May

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

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

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

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

Wed 1st June

The future. The robot, not the bloke!

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

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

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

Thurs 2nd June

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

Breakfast in Holland

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

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

Home for Hyaley for the next week

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

Fri 3rd June

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

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

Theming for F-L-Y

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

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

FLY in action

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

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

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