Food, drink, travel and everything in-between

Author: deljones (Page 1 of 2)

And that was that…

Week 6 – 2nd – 5th July 2022

Soissons, France to Home in East Cowes, Isle of Wight UK – 388 miles

We are in our last week, a week that we have had to cut slightly short by a few days. Our other life is catching up with us and we need to get back and sort some personal matters out as well as get back to work. It’s going to be a tough long summer this year, one we will miss, and living on the Isle of Wight, that’s a shame. We are so grateful however that we have had the time and ability to get away on this trip, a trip that we will remember fondly.

Saturday 2nd July 2022

As soon as he wakes up Del is checking his phone for any reply or news from the local restaurant about the missing, or stolen money. Sure enough, there is a reply…

However, it’s not the reply he was expecting. The feeling was that the manager would ignore the message and pretend nothing had happened or return a volley of abuse for making such a terrible accusation and to defend his staff and his own honour. That’s how cynical life has become…

But no. The manager came up with a possible, and probable explanation that another customer, seeing the bag being collected from the window sill by the staff, which was put in a room behind the bar, used the staff toilets, as the customer ones were full, and took the opportunity to open the bag and take out the money. Maybe…

No matter, the manager was mortified that such a terrible thing could have happened in his establishment and requested that we come to the restaurant and collect 100 euros…!!!! How about that?

Dressed and ready we make our way to the restaurant and meet the owner/chef who was absolutely charming and apologised for the whole affair, reiterating once again his theory, then stuffing 100 euros in our hands and with a ‘bonne journee’ the whole matter was over.

With a smile on our faces and our faith in humankind restored, we set off in search of a patisserie and to buy some pastries to take back to Jess for breakfast before setting off.

Now that’s a salad…

Today we are not really sure where we are going, we would like to be in Belgium on Monday night for the short drive to Calais for the ferry home on Tuesday. Hayley sticks pins on a map and chooses various options before changing her mind. Finally, we choose a place called Cappy which is in the Somme. We have stayed there before and it was very pleasant. There is a steam railway there that was used to deliver ammunition to the front line back in the first world war, the area is quite hilly so there is a complicated collection of points that has to be switched and the train moved forward and backwards to make its way to the top of the hill. Like all things today now, money is tight and the train is now running only once a week, which is a shame. It’s not running today, but no matter.

We arrive at the site in Cappy and choose a nice spot and do nothing for the rest of the day. It’s hot and we have that “going home” feeling.

Dinner tonight is Hayley’s mega salad of mixed leaves, parma ham, peaches and blue cheese. Amazing. We have this with some small homemade pizzas. Very nice. Very nice indeed.

Sunday 3rd July 2022

It’s a beautiful morning this morning in Cappy, the birds are loud.

We have to be home on Tuesday, the ferries are booked and our days have already been mapped out for when we return. Today we are going to the Belgian town of Ypres. It was recommended to us at the beginning of this trip by the lady that ran the campsite in De Panne. It’s supposed to be very beautiful and they play the last post at 8 pm every night. Neither of us has ever been to Ypres so we decide that it is worth a look, not knowing what to expect we pack up our stuff and leave Cappy for a pleasant drive. Hayley has already a campsite in mind but when we get there it’s full. With her head down buried in an iPhone camper app she finds an alternative – a nice little aire (free or very cheap parking spot) not too far away. If the campsite is busy then there is no way there will be free space at the small aire.

As quick and as safe as we can we turn around and make for the aire, behind us there is a dutch motorhome following us, we know where he is going, spaces might be tight, we have to get there before him and hope that he doesn’t know a short cut. The race is on. He’s not going to beat us, he follows our every turn, the parking spot is in sight, quick, quick. We have to pay at the barrier, get the barrier up and get a space… When we get there we have a choice of half a dozen spaces!

It’s very nice here. The spaces are a little narrow but for your 9 euros electricity is included and it’s just behind a lake and a simple quick bike ride into the town of Ypres. Very good.

The bikes are released from the back of Jess and with our crash hats on and money in our pocket we are cycling to Ypres. It takes us just 10 minutes to get to the town.

The Menin Gate. Ypres

The first thing we see is the Menin Gate. It’s quite a stunning monument to the Commonwealth soldiers who died during World War 1. It’s quite something. What struck us most was that the monument had been under attack during the second world war later, as we see from the patched-up bullet holes. So nothing much was learnt then?

We cycle through the archway of the monument to the view of the main street of the town. Wow! This is not what we expected. It’s so beautiful.

The buildings are of the flemish style with stepped gable fronts. It’s so clean and so tidy. We take a slow walk into the main square which has an incredible church, just stunning to see.

Biggest ham hock ever!

We walk around this wonderful town for about an hour before deciding that it is time for some lunch, but where to go, there are so many places.

We decide on ‘The small townhouse‘ in the corner of the square where we order a beer, a local Flemish stew for Del and Ham hock for Hayley with a mushroom sauce, fried potatoes and cabbage. What a massive feast, with excellent service. The food was tremendous, very good.

We need to find out more about the monument and the Last Post. Back at the arch there is lots of information and sure enough at 8 pm precisely the Last Post is played under the arch and everyone is invited. We take our time and look at the many thousands of names carved into the stone of the walls and arch. The surrounding area is a lovely walk and gives us plenty of time to appreciate the whole thing before making our way back to Jess to chill out for a while and then come back for the playing of the Last Post.

Back at Jess we sit in the sun at the side of the van. The spaces are tight so it is a bit of a squeeze but nice all the same.

At 7:30 we are on the bikes again and on our way to the Menin Gate. A crowd has gathered under the spectacular arch and we all stand, waiting. Just before 8 three men dressed in military uniform and carrying bugles march their way to the centre of the east arch and after a few words they play the Last Post…!

The Last Post

Quite emotive, and very powerful. It’s very sad and it’s even sadder that today we still haven’t learnt much. All those lives… Lost…

After the Last Post… A minute’s silence…

The Menin Gate was quite an experience and powerful memory and one that we shall not forget.

We walk into town looking to lighten the mood, just a little. We find a bar that serves 25 different local beers.

Cheers!

Why not we think and we order a flight of 4 small beers each and some abbey cheese. It’s quite a lot, 8 small glasses of beer between us and a lot of cheese! We take our first sample and click our glasses and say a toast to all those men who died so that we could sit where we are now enjoying this wonderful town. We can’t and won’t forget.

Back at Jess, we are planning the next and final day in Europe. Oh, but before we leave the town, we just must have a traditional Belgian waffle with ice cream…

Yum!!!

Monday 4th July 2022 (Independence Day)

It’s our last full day today in mainland Europe. We were originally going to stay at our usual Belgian site, where we start and finish our trips but Hayley has found a new one called Lyssenhoek Farm Camping. It has a collection of horses and goats and reads very nice on the internet so we thought we’d give it a go. Belgium not being a very big country it didn’t take us long to get there.

The host is very nice to us, very polite and friendly and gives a nice pitch right next to the horses. Lovely and only 23 euros. Austria it’s not.

The weather today is a little cooler so we take a walk to the local war cemetery which is only 10 minutes away.

There are many commonwealth cemeteries in Belgium, and a lot of men died in this area, defending small pieces of land. There is a museum attached to this cemetery so we have to take a look. All very interesting, thought-provoking and sad. We walk back to Jess talking about the whole thing, not able to grasp the enormity and sadness of the whole thing.

Tomorrow we are up early for our 10:30 ferry from Calais, so we potter around the van doing a little bit of pre-packing and cleaning up before getting an early night.

Tuesday 5th July 2022

The alarm gets us up. We hate alarms, they remind us of real life! No matter we are up and ready to go, we will have breakfast in Calais. We set off and stop to fill up with diesel at a bargain-basement price of 2 euros a litre. The drive is busy but easy as we take in the last views of Belgium and France.

Not much of a queue at Calais, which is good. We are flagged through with our van full of Belgian beer and French champagne and head for the waiting area which has this impressive new building with a huge duty-free shop, showers, toilets and a restaurant. Great, we have plenty of time before boarding to get some breakfast. However, when we get to this monument to food and retail, we find that it’s closed and all that’s there are two vending machines at the entrance, once dispensing coffee the other crisps and chocolate.

No worries, back at the van Del fires up the cooker and it’s not long before we are stuffing our faces with potato rosti, fried eggs and toast, all in the Calais Port car park… We get the washing up done just in time to be waved aboard our ship to take us to Dover.

The boat is very comfortable. Being a Tuesday morning it’s so quiet, no screaming kids and shouting parents. Perfect. We pay 6 pounds for two teas… Yes, 6 pounds for two tea bags and some hot water… What’s going on?

We disembark at Dover, which not to put too finer a point on it is just grim. It’s small, dirty, old and grey. (Bit like Del). Soon we are on the main road out and making our way to Portsmouth for our second and last ferry of the day. Within 5 minutes of being in the UK, we are stuck in stationary traffic for 15 minutes… Welcome home…

We arrive at Portsmouth with 40 minutes to spare. Wightlink loads us up and within 40 mins we are driving off the ferry and onto the Island. Home at last. It’s another 15-minute drive home where we unload Jess before putting her to bed at the local campsite, clean, empty and probably just as much relieved as we are at being home…

SOME STATS FROM THE TRIP:

Countries visited: 7 (3 are new for us)

Miles covered: 2,321 miles (plus a few for getting lost!)

Toll charges: 30 euros

Fuel: 705 euros!!!

Most expensive overnight: Lichtenstein 46 euros

Cheapest overnight: Germany 8 euros

We would like to thank our family and friends who have followed us over the last 6 weeks, we appreciate hearing from you. For now, we would like to give you our very best wishes and we hope to see you soon. On a final final note, Happy 50th Birthday to Sarah & Liz, Hayley’s school buddies. Bless…

France, here we come!

Week 5 – 25th June – 1st July 2022

Bregenz Austria to Soissons France 463 miles

So far on this trip, we have done Belgium, Germany, The Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany, again, with a bit of Lichtenstein in between. We are on our last 10 days so now we are going west into France then up towards Belgium again, then home.

We loved the Czech Republic and Austria, which by the way have the best toilets and showers.

Saturday 25th June 2022

Time we left Austria and moved into Germany properly now, we only have a week and a bit left before we get home and get stuck back into work. It’s busy for both of us, not sure that we are prepared for it.

Camping Weiss was ok, it rained a lot but allowed us to catch up on some homework. Lake Constance/Bodensee is 65km long and we have to follow it part of the way to get to our next destination.

Lake Bodensee or is it Constanz?

The views of the lake are excellent but we can’t really enjoy them as it is so busy here. It’s quite a tourist attraction so the roads are busy with everything from bikes to large trucks. We soon get fed up.

Finally, the route clears and we are on some very fine German roads.

Hayley has found a nice stop in the town of Geisingen which is close to the Danube. It’s 10 euros a night with extra for electricity and water. It’s a nice day and the drive is very pleasant.

By early afternoon we are in a place in an immaculate ‘camperplatz’, after we have done a 70 euro shop at the local Penny Supermarket.

A cosy and warm afternoon

We are getting short on stuff, so time to spend some pennies.

It’s hot again but cloudy. Not much happening today, we go for a walk to find the Danube, but give up as it appears that you have to cross a railway line and we don’t fancy that.

Back at our home on wheels we get set up and read, chat and have a splendid dinner before an early night.

Sunday 26th June 2022

We had some rain last night. It’s quite loud on the roof of Jess. A shower is ok but proper rain can wake you up as indeed it did, for a bit.

A quick breakfast today as we are heading for the Black Forest and to a regular stop in the small town of Todtnau. This will be the fifth time we will have stayed there, it has a nice place to park for the night, which is cheap, good places to eat and it has a ‘rodelbahn’ which is always great fun to go on.

Our usual spot in Todtnau

We set off towards Todtnau, we need LPG for the cooking and off-grid hot water etc, so before pitching up we get some gas, 10 euros for 11 and a bit litres.

We are lucky to get the same pitch, right in the corner as we have done every time here, but what’s this?

Never disappoints

It’s still only 10 euros but now they have added a 5 euro “tax”. It seems that everyone is just upping the price and calling it a tax. The electricity had gone up, 3 euros now. 2 euros to empty the toilet and a euro for 90 litres of water. The last time we were here it was 12 euros, 10 for the pitch, 2 for the electricity.

We are here now and we want to have what can only be described as the best Black Forest gateaux ever! It really is though. We get the konditorei and it doesn’t disappoint, it is just brilliant.

A short walk and we are in the line for the rodelbahn. The view of the town going up on the chair lift is just amazing, but the ride back down on the rodelbahn just makes you laugh for the whole 3km run. Excellent.

It’s 3km down!

Back to Jess for a beer, or two, chatting and planning… because… well we shall see tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was supposed to be in a local restaurant that does excellent local food but instead, we opt to stay with Jess tucked up in our private space in our usual corner where Hayley does an excellent schnitzel, fries and salad, all served with a glass of good wine. It was one of those nights we won’t forget.

Great. During our nightly chinwag Del, stupidly, suggests that we could go to Europa Park, again. Why on earth…?

Theme parks (or rather roller coasters) are Hayley’s hobby, it’s on the way to the town of Rust so why not. More bag carrying.

Just a quick note here. Todtnau is the birthplace of the chap who invented the ‘perm’. One Karl Nessler was the man. Bet you didn’t know that?

The man behind the perm…

Monday 27th June 2022

The one thing that is a constant about this area is the rain. We did have a lovely sunny day yesterday, had dinner outside and sat out till late. It was really nice, however overnight we did have the worst thunderstorm and rain imaginable. The lightning was just constant, it never stopped flashing. The rain fell so hard on the roof that you couldn’t hear the thunder, on top of that we had a strong wind rustling the trees that we were under!

Today we are going again to Europa Park. We have been there before in September 2020, COVID year, and it was a good day out. Even for the bag carrier!

We are both tired after the storm last night but we get up early and Del does the drive to Rust. We are quite high up in the Black Forest, but to get down you have to go up to a peak of 1.2km. Our ears are popping going up and again coming down, the roads are very twisty with lots of hairpin bends but soon we come down and get onto the motorway towards Rust having just missed another huge rainstorm. The roads are soaked and are still raining.

We arrive early at Europa Park, which has its own campsite, but as we are so early they put us in a holding area, with the use of electricity while we go into the park.

Hayley is in there somewhere…

Hayley is like a kid, running between the rides while Del holds the bag.

However Del does try out a family coaster called Arthur which he enjoys, so much he goes on it twice. Today the place is packed, mad mad busy with kids and students from 15 to 18. There are no school holidays but there are many many buses in the car parks full of them, as well as parents with young children.

A good day at the park. Del gets back early to Jess to reposition her into the allotted pitch and cleans up the inside and gives the van a good airing before a tired Hayley returns.

Dinner tonight is in a local cowboy-themed restaurant, burger, ribs, chips and a glass of red wine each sees us off to bed for a good solid night’s sleep. A good day.

Tuesday 28th June 2022

Off-grid in a vineyard tonight

Today it’s goodbye Germany and hello France as we begin our last week and a bit before home. Hayley has found us a lovely place for 10 euros, where the pitch is right on the vineyards of Domaine Bachert in the town of Barr, not very far into France. The view of the vines is just stunning as we look down the valley from our pitch. In the distance, we can see the hills of the Black Forest, where we recently left. It’s an idyllic spot. We love these kinds of places.

We get set up, tonight we are off-grid, with no electricity so we are relying on our batteries and solar panel for lights, and gas for our fridge and hot water. No problem.

Barr townhall. Bet yours doesn’t look like this?

It’s a ten-minute walk to the town of Barr which is beautiful, with its old well-kept buildings, winding streets and cafes and restaurants.

It’s a wine-producing area so of course there are a number of shops run by the producers themselves. It’s a fantastic walk, every street is just a picture book.

Time to head back, we pop in to pay our fee for the night but can’t help but take part in a wine tasting.

Let battle commence…

Our host is lovely and Hayley gets stuck in with her French and soon we have tried 8 different local wines and bought 4. The owners are so nice and friendly and attentive. A lovely experience in a lovely place.

The rest of the afternoon is spent sitting under the broken cloud chatting and planning out the rest of our few days before having dinner, with a few glasses of our new purchase of local fizz, before showers and an early night.

Great to be back in France… They know how to do it here!

Wednesday 29th June 2022

08:30 and it’s a beautiful morning, it’s a little cloudy but still warm. We have breakfast and make our way to see our lovely host. She has our bill ready and our box of local wine that we sampled yesterday. All paid-up we are off and weaving our way to a local supermarket for a stock-up. It’s big and has nearly everything we need, but no duck in a tin! (nicer than it sounds, it’s a French delicacy ). 70 euros later and another 60 euros in diesel and we are on our way.

Today we are going to a campsite in the Vosges area, called Camping Vosgina Vosges . The drive is simple and straightforward until the last bit. The road to the campsite is blocked by a log loader. This could take a while, so we back up the narrow entrance onto the main road and get Google to re-route us, indeed it does, through a very quiet housing estate. We pop out at the other end and soon arrive at the site.

This place is probably one of the best sites we have been to… It’s very charming, well maintained with beautifully manicured pitches. We are welcomed by a lovely French lady who is so nice and kind and for 21 euros, including electricity, we can choose our space.

The pitch is level and spacious with hedges separating us from other campers, of which there are not many!

Unusual but efficient tank emptying equipment!

We have had a small issue with our wastewater (sink and shower waste).

The golden rule is to never let food go down the drain, so you need to wipe all the plates before washing them in the sink. We have been a bit lazy lately and the stench from the tank is overwhelming. One of the first jobs of the day, before anything else, is to drain the waste water tank, fill it with fresh and drain it again with the help of some Milton tablets, not the best, but they do work. 30 minutes later we have a fresh-smelling tank and van, and a promise to be more careful in the future…

The rest of the day Del, feeling bad about the waste water tank, strips everything out of ‘the garage’ and has a good clear-out. Well worth it. By the end of the day, Jess is fresh and sparkling again. It is amazing how quick a small van can get grimy with just two people in it after a few weeks. We do keep on top of it but sometimes it can overtake you.

Best paella

Dinner tonight was a fabulous Hayley paella, which is always a winner. after that, we have a good game of boules which Hayley wins by just 1 point by the way. 1 point!

After that great dinner, we have a good game of boules which Hayley wins by just 1 point by the way. 1 point!

Thursday 30th June 2022

It’s a lovely morning, cool in the shade so we make for some benches that are in the sunlight with our morning coffee. Today we are going to Bar-le-Duc about an hour and a bit from here which has a nice campsite and an apparently superb restaurant.

When we get there the town doesn’t look great, it’s a little bit tatty in parts so decide to drive on.

The sun has gone and the sky is getting heavy, it starts to rain, heavy rain.

A miserable, miserable drive

Hayley has found us another possible stop at Beaunay in the Champagne region which has some spectacular views, indeed it does, the rain has stopped but the place is a little desolate in the damp surroundings, we are also the only ones there, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, we like that sometimes, but today it doesn’t feel quite right. We move on. Again.

We decide to head for a place that we have stopped at before near Montmirail, it’s a Champagne house called Champion. After a long drive, we arrive but unfortunately, there is no one at home. We carry on, the roads are getting very narrow, and the rain has started again, lots of rain. Very wet and muddy. Our next try is at a stop in Champvoisy in a vineyard where you can stay, do a wine tasting and buy the local Champagne. Oh, and it has great views. Apparently.

Means the road is closed. Which, left or right?

Finally, the rain has stopped as we arrive after driving down a closed road and lots of narrow, bumpy, dirty roads.

Another wonderful stop, once the rain ended.

The view is wonderful. There is another Brit van with a couple on, it’s their second visit here, and also a German couple.

A selection that we tried…

At around 6:30 we all gather for the Champagne tasting on some trestle tables next to the cellar, the owner is a charming and funny man and we have a great time, an hour later and six glasses down we buy some to take home. The Champagne region has hundreds of Champagne houses, it’s not just about the names that we all know about, but there are many small independent growers and producers making some wonderful Champagne and Felix des Lys is no exception.

Hayley spends the rest of the evening planning our last remaining stops based on finding good French restaurants! Good idea.

Tomorrow Soissons.

Friday 1st July 2022

We slept well last night, with no noise at all. We are on a small private vineyard called Champagne Felix des Lys run by a very friendly French man called, funnily enough, Felix.

After all the rain yesterday we have woken up to a lovely fresh cool day. The sky is blue with lots of white fluffy clouds, no wind and the landscape is wonderful. After a full van service we are off and on our way to Soissons to a municipal campsite just out of town. First, we need to fill up with diesel, which by the way just seems to go up and up. Here in France on the 1st of July 2022, it is 2.11 euros a litre, just under 2 quid a litre. During our 6 weeks out the price has rocketed. How far will it go?

Dirty Jess…

We also get a small shop in as the weekend is on us and shops in France tend to be closed.

Jess desperately needs a wash though, she looks like she has been rallying. with mud up her sides.

The drive to Soissons is along a ‘D’ road which can be quite interesting with surfaces various and all kinds of known junctions where who gives way to who can be a competition. The French countryside is wonderful with its patchwork of coloured fields with a windy road carved through it all against a lovely sky. Love it.

We have to drive through a rather bumpy Soissons town to the campsite. Hayley’s French has come on in leaps and bounds and she is soon in the campsite office securing us a place for a staggering 12 euros. We have gone from the low 40s in Austria and Germany to 12 euros in France. The French know how to do campsites but it is under threat as free and cheap spots are starting to become rare. The pitches are spacious with good facilities.

We get set up and settled in and spend the afternoon drinking Belgian beer (?) It’s a lovely afternoon just chatting away in the sun. We get through quite a lot of paperwork. We are coming to the end of the trip and we are about to hit a firestorm of work and personal challenges when we get back, so we make the most of it while we can.

The plan later is to walk around the town via the river and to a highly regarded typical French restaurant that Hayley has found. Looking forward to that…

Dinner is in Soissons tonight. We set off for dinner in town, the idea is to have a walk around and get a feel for the place. The town is ok but nothing spectacular. We are both hungry and looking forward to eating. We make our way to the restaurant and we are the first to arrive. We are shown a table in the corner which is very nice and the service is attentive and quick.

Desert anyone?

We get through three courses, the food is ok but not as good as expected having read the reviews. The place is rated number 1 out of 50 in the town and indeed it is very popular and filling up.

We pay the bill and walk back via the river that runs all the way to the campsite.

We get to Jess and Hayley happens to say ”have you got the other keys?” It should be explained here that we have a small bag that we take with us every time we go out, inside it we take our passports, driving licences and bank/credit cards. The thinking is that if the van gets broken into, or worse stolen, we have ID and money.

That’s a great idea until the person carrying the bag (Del) leaves it in the restaurant on the window sill behind them (Del). Realising that the bag has been left in the restaurant, Hayley gets on the phone to them and in her best French asks if the bag is there. It is – what a relief. The bag was spotted and held. We get the bikes off the back of the van, the fastest we have ever done and cycle to the restaurant. Whew! Hayley now has the bag in her possession. Happy we cycle back to Jess. Hayley checks the contents, it’s all there, except… 100 euros in cash that we withdrew in Todnau, Germany. The bag is frantically turned inside out but no money is found. Clearly, someone, we don’t know who has picked up the bag, opened it, seen the cash and swiped it. Was it one of the waiters? Was it the manager himself or was it another customer? We will never know, nor are we able to prove to anyone that we had the money in the first place.

Del can’t settle and writes an email explaining the whole thing. Either there will be no reply or they will come back spluttering, “how dare you make such accusations…” blah blah blah… Del is not deterred and writes a firm but polite email. Thank god for Google translate.

Within two hours, a reply arrives…

It’s the manager explaining that he will look at all the cameras in the establishment and talk to all members of staff and will come back to us in the morning…

We shall see.

It’s hot and getting hotter..?

Week 4 – 18th – 24th June 2022

Freistadt, Austria to Bregenz, Austria – 360 miles

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

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

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

Saturday 18th June 2022

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

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

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

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

Out in a hot open field.

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

Tractor rides for kids.

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

Hot alpacas

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

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

Sunday 19th June 2022

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

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

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

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

So near so…! (Spar)

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

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

The real thing!

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

Look at all that chocolate

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

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

Late night with fireflies

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

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

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

Monday 20th June 2022

That’s a lot of pretzel Del…

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

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

Great views of Salzburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodnight Salzburg

Tuesday 21st June 2022

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

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

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

It’s not that cold

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

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

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

Dusk… Wow!

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

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

Wednesday 22nd June 2022

Hayley’s portable pump

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

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

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

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

A double rainbow…

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

How much…?

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

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

Thursday 23rd June 2022

We liked Imst and FINK CAMPING – lovely toilets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great spot

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

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

That’s Switzerland over there

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

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

Friday 24th June 2022

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

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

And we got free eggs!

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

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

Get some work done…

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

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

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

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

Another one of those sunsets.

Germany tomorrow, or is it..?

How much…?

WEEK 3 – 11th June – 17th June 2022

Braubach Germany to Freistadt Austria via Czech Republic – 533 miles

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

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

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

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


Saturday 11th June 2022

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

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

Our German vineyard stay at Wiengut Hemberger

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

Pay as you go wine fridge

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

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

Sunset walk

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

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


Sunday 12th June 2022

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

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

The town square at Iphofen
Gotta have that cake!

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

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

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


Monday 13th June 2022

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

Crossing the border

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

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

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

We should be where the white car is!

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

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

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

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


Tuesday 14th June 2022

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

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

The Planner!

Hayley is planning our day in Prague tomorrow.


Wednesday 15th June 2022

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

Think we’ll leave that…

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

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

She ate the lot! Kidding

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

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

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

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

A proper Czech dinner

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

Not such a Pinball Wizard

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

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

Pacman. Always a favourite

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


Thursday 16th June 2022

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

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

Settled in. Finally,

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

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

It rained, it poured.

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

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

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

Dinner time…
Our Dutch host

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

Three European countries all together enjoying each others company.


Friday 17th June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Our first Austrian stop

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

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

Congratulations ma’am!

WEEK 2 4th to 10th June 2022

Ahrbruck to Braubach (via Hennef) – 96 miles

Saturday 4th June 2022

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

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

A ‘deadly’ grass snake

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

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

Sunday 5th June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airport themed hotel, The Moxy Cologne

Monday 6th June 2022

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


*** Hayley’s week ***

It just rained all day!

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

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

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

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

*** Del’s Week ***

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

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

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

I like these chaps though
Before…!
…and after

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

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

Friday 10th June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is just one long roller coaster!

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

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

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

WEEK 1Saturday 28th May to 3rd June

Home to Ahrbruck Germany – 481 miles

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

Dinner at Waverley Park on the Isle of Wight

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

Sat 28th May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun 29th May

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

Hayley’s bag carrier!

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

Put yer hands up in the air…!

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

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

De Panne sandy beaches. Just like Miami

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

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

Mon 30th May

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

Pygmy goat watching.

Great to watch when you have a local beer.

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

Tues 31st May

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

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

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

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

Wed 1st June

The future. The robot, not the bloke!

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

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

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

Thurs 2nd June

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

Breakfast in Holland

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

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

Home for Hyaley for the next week

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

Fri 3rd June

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

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

Theming for F-L-Y

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

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

FLY in action

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

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

It’s that time again

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

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

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

Del, H & Jess

Final week 25th to 30th January 2022

All good things have come to an end!

EMPURIABRAVA TO HOME 980 MILES

Miles travelled for this WHOLE trip: 3582 miles

Toll costs: 83.6 euros this week

Fuel Costs: 197 euros this week

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

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

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

Over the border in a flash!

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

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

Best camper stops in France

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

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

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

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

A wrench always comes in handy

26th January – Villasavary to Donzenac 171 miles

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

Best countryside…

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

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

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

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

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

Just be sure you are qualified to use this machine.

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

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

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

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

27th January – Donzenac to Dreux 285 miles

-5 overnight…

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

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

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

Pizza 24 hours a day!

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

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

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

et voila!!!

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

28th January – Dreux to Le Treport 121 miles

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

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

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

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

29th January – Le Treport to Merlimont 52 miles

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow. Home!

30th January – Merlimont to HOME 222 miles

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

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

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

Shutters down, ready to go.

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

Final clean up…

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

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

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

…and to bed.

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

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

OUR FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

Our very best wishes to you all and safe travels…

Del, H and Jess!

Week 6 – 18th to 24th January 2022

Last full week to go…!

NERJA TO EMPURIABRAVA 719 MILES

Miles traveled so far: 2602 miles

Toll costs: 6.70 euros this week

Fuel Costs: 178 euros this week

18th January – Nerja to Roquetas de Mar 83 miles

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

Off grid in Roquetas de Mar

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

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

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

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

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

19th January – Roquetas de Mar to Palamares 76 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tonight’s stop

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

20th January – Palomares to Mar Menor 81 miles

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

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

“What’s under here then?”

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

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

All-day flight training next to the camp!

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

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

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

21st January – Day 2 Mar Menor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24th January – Torroella de Montgrí to Empuriabrava 25 miles

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

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

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

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

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

Empuriabrava is a network of canals.
Fine supermarket dining

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

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

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

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

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

Week 5 – 11th January to 17th January

A poor weather week but with a great ending!

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

Miles travelled so far: 1883 miles

Toll costs: 10.2 euros this week

Fuel costs: 47.00 euros this week

11th January – Day 4 Manilva

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

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

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

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

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

12th January – Day 5 Manilva

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

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

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

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

13th January – Day 6 Manilva

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

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

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

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

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

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

14th January – Day 7 Manilva

Tasty Bellota Iberico ham

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

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

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

15th January – Day 8 Manilva

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

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

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

16th January – Manilva to Linea De Concepcion 21 miles

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

Planning our home route

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

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

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

The rock of Gibraltar

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

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

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

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

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

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

17th January – Linea De Concepcion to Nerja 116 miles

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

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

A chatty parrot always welcomes you at the campsite.

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

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

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

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

« Older posts

© 2022 vantours.co.uk

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑