Thursday, 18 September 2014

18.09.2014......TIME FLIES

Well I started this 13 days ago but got bogged down with explaining our delayed departure due to the untimely and completely unexpected passing away of Valerie and the subsequent events. Nothing I wrote seemed right so I am starting again without further explanation.
Of course, this trip was eagerly awaited as it was the first real run in the new van which I bought without consulting the GF after the last one pissed me off once too often. Being the longest and heaviest yet didn't over please her but I think she appreciates the change .....more anon...
So leaving Uk on 5/9, overnight at Gravelines  aire which was packed when we arrived at 21.15......seems that weekend was a big 1945 liberation memorial celebration so lots of people there for the parades. Had to do a three point turn on the quayside in the dark to slot in and my first real attempt at close manoeuvres with an automatic for a long time. ...fortunately I managed to avoid falling into the sea.
To Aachen for no good reason other than not having been there before. D&M are a week ahead of us in northern Germany and we plan to meet up on the 11th in Fussen.
Find private aire for 15€ a night, walking distance of city centre. Spend Sunday in city, commemorating 600 years of something to do with Charlemagne/cathedral/potato soup/sausages/ and huge craft  market in old town where we get mistaken for pilgrims and given free potato soup/sausages/beer. Cathedral is ace and top spot contender. Excellent day.
Receive text from D&M who are not in northern Germany  having damaged waste water tank on bloody Belgium potholes ( Belgian roads are an absolute disgrace and I'm not going there again. Ever.) and are on the Moselle . Agree to meet up at Bacharach on the Rhine in pleasant aire on riverbank. Meet at midday, and with new bike rack system am able to unmount bikes in 5 mins and off for ride along riverbank . Brilliant.
Original plan of going to Slovenia and lake Bled has altered as we are 2 weeks behind, but still intending to head slowly south to Fussen, through Austria into Italy and now head to Sanremo and then round to St.Tropez/Cavalaire sur mer.
Tonight we go to Bad Turkheim just to early for what is described as the biggest wine festival in the world which starts in 4 days time. Personally I'd hang around as it looks like being fun but we settle for cycling in and looking around at the festivities being assembled. Town is home of a Saltine - a huge wooden structure housing an enormous wall of blackthorn twigs 333 metres long through which saltwater from a spring is pumped, the resulting fine mist recreating  an ozone atmosphere through which you can walk for 1.50€
to benefit the respiratory system......seriously. I had 1.50€ worth and felt much improved.😇
Let's go to Alsace. Pleasant run from Germany to France and pitch up at a winery in Eguiseheim  which is an extraordinarily pretty little village with the prettiest church we've ever seen anywhere. Worth a detour if you pass that way. My bike playing up.
Let's go to Germany ( didn't we just come from there ?)
Head to Uberlingen on lake Constance (Bodensee) and aire but weather unpleasant. Mean to stay a couple of days but move on to.....
Reutte in Austria, south of Fussen. Nondescript  campsite rather waterlogged. Move on to.......
Glorenza, just into Italy. Very scenic route as given to us by Big Malc, avoiding motorways and thus the necessity for hiring  toll boxes for the cab, being over 3.5tonne. A slow route, made worse by being a Saturday and route of a long distance enduro bike race that was hell to negotiate on narrow mountain passes and for which we kept being held up by polizia where they rejoined the main road after off roading. Began to hate them.
First attempt to find aire is thwarted by 3.5m archway through town walls which I chicken out of attempting as it looks too narrow and cannot decide where the 3.5m height is measured as shoulders of arch look low.
Subsequently watch bus go through so would have been OK but track down to aire is down v.narrow rock sided alley and disaster waiting to happen. Park illegally ( as we realise later) in car park bus spaces and walk round town. Decide to push on somewhere else. On way out, M rings us from behind just as my handbrake jams on at traffic lights as the extender has worked forward and cannot depress the button. Not receiving an answer, M jumps out, and runs up to tell us she has spotted a campsite as I wrestle with handbrake on steep incline, petrified that if it releases suddenly I'll probably roll straight back into Derek. I may not have been very diplomatic but I did apologise later. Free handbrake by punching extender hard enough to shift it back a few  cms which brings it close enough to depress button. Later repositioned and bolts tightened. Am not happy bunny and drive off uphill and out of town. Spot a campsite below us in valley so take next right and work our way back to very smart campsite who want 42.50€  but have an aire in front with all amenities for 15€ which we take. Cracking views of mountains and glaciers across the valley. Walk back to town through orchards which us very old and pleasant.
Bloody Italian roads and difficulty finding Aires so management decision to go Monzambano from where we cycle to lake Garda in the sunshine along the river mincio which was exceedingly pleasant.
To Genoa, or Arenzano to be precise and extremely scrubby but typical Italian campsite. We pay ACSI price of 15€ which is still too much but how much worse for Brits we talk to who had not heard of ACSI and had to pay 33€ and be woken at 2am as dozens of  Polish rally cars arrive and commence noisily  putting up tents. Site has own beach which is black stone and still not worth 15€.
D&M discover that campsite we have sold them at Sanremo doesn't take dogs so try to figure out Aires.. Locate one at Santo Stefano but when we get there, suddenly find ourselves committed to narrow, steep,twisty lane into the hills above town. Arrive at (totally empty) site, park outside knowing we will not be staying, awaiting D&M , when owner rushes out , insists on showing me around empty bomb site and tries to book us in at 25€ a night as big favour. D&M arrive equally shattered by approach road and when we say we're not staying, the price drops to 20€ . Almost tempted to haggle to see how low he'll go. Now have to turn round to retrace route and suddenly empty hillside becomes Piccadilly circus farm machinery and the corporation dustcart.. I lose my cool and management decision to sod Italy , I'm off to the French Riviera. So off to civilisation and aire at Ste. Maxime where we watch Czech motorhome drive off in a huff and reverse into German motorhome. Find Carrefour and excellent soupe  de poisson and tarts aux fraise to go with our trout salad..
Arrive Port Grimaud and Prairie de la Mer.  Site heaving and at 9.15 there are 6 vans ahead of us waiting to get in. Ring Cavalaire to find they are full too so join queue and wait about an hour and a half but we do get 2 good pitches together so here we are for at least a week and maybe longer.


  1. Seems to be an awful lot of huffing, puffing and management decisions, thought you were meant to be on a relaxing holiday...

  2. The word 'holiday' has nothing to do with our lifestyle choice to travel. After retirement, life is one big holiday, this is what we chose to do with it and huffing and puffing is what makes it go round.