Had a mooch through Alsace ..thought it very Bavarian for France but V nice..into Belgium thought that country DULL and very boring with no VODAFONE signal WOT !!!! So off to Oostende for a ferry …nope …no ferries..must have closed ..another 90km to Calais and France and Vodafone connection pheeew ..though my phone was playing up …parked up and got a ticket ..J says get going we are on the next one out of here in an hour … And next thing you know we are looking at the White Cliffs of Dover ..
Hetty has had a squeak since we left Sicily ..nothing serious just annoying ..mostly when she cornered to the left ..I was aware of this but didn’t think much about it …the knocking in the engine was a concern but that disappeared ..so off we trot M20 ..M26 and M25 …at Cobham services J pulled in and slowly parked up …NO BRAKES he say …EEEEEK I say …RAC he says …John will fill you in on that situation . . Driving on motorways in a camper van you do not use your brakes very often (unlike on mountain roads where you use them lots) So when I saw a rapid slowing of traffic in front and a lane dodger cut me up I put on the brakes only to find it was like pressing a sponge and little stopping effect so I pumped the pedal and normal braking returned. A little later at a similar situation (bloody southerners nearly as bad as Italians drivers in Rome ) the same again. So as we where only 500m from the services I pulled of the motorway to investigate. I found lots of oil on the inside of a back wheel( not good) I then checked the brake fluid reservoir ..over 1/2 empty. At 17:00 I phoned RAC and told them we needed recovery as this type of failure cannot be repaired at the road side. It looks like a seal failure on the brakes has occurred.
The RAC said they would phone back shortly with recovery options. A little later a recovery firm phoned me and said he could not get us home as he had no long haul drivers available. BUT he could offer us a loan car and return Hetty to us in a few days. I was not happy with this as we had lots of expensive stuff and bulky items we would not like to leave. He said he would phone the RAC and get back to me. After 20 mins I phoned RAC again to find what was happening they said they would ring back. 20mins later I chased them again and was told a recovery vehicle was on its way but they could not give an eta as by this time the M25 was chocker. After 45 mins the RAC phoned to ask if we had been recovered yet and surprised when I said no they will ring back they said 😦
Shortly after a recovery truck arrived we where promptly loaded ..jumped into his cab and he told me he could only take us to Beckensfield services on the M40. Where we would be transferred onto an RAC truck. Well it was pretty small and Hetty looked a bit big when loaded …We jumped up front with the driver and he told us he could only take us to Knutsford services 😦 😦
At Knutsford we where unloaded and abandoned to wait 30 min for another recovery truck(apparently he was going to Birmingham with a breakdown and the RAC had decided to swap loads to save diesel). He said he would take us home 🙂 and apparently the RAC always do this relay type of recovery for long journeys to save costs. By 04:30 the next day we were home only about 24hrs since we last slept KNACKERED but relieved to be home….apparently non RAC recovery would be between £300 and £350 for the 250mile journey
Alsace region of France
White cliffs of Dover
Hetty’s first journey from Cobham to Beckensfield
Hetty’s second journey from Beckenfield to Knutsford
We undertook 3 Ferraris …OK OK you say …grins … It was in the road works north of Lucerne as we made a bid for the French border ….and they were stopped … We were making the most of our Vignette (Swiss Toll road payment card €33 worth …this allows the use of all the toll roads in Switzerland for a year and for the Gotthard tunnel !!! I thought the Gotthard would be extra as it’s 18km long but NO!!! I don’t like tunnels ……
Back to the story …We left Rapallo and hit the toll road which was a pre pay …I like prepay as I don’t get a shock when confronted by a machine demanding my Euro’s …Four hours to Como and a campsite just off the toll road …I know you say why not stay in Como I say to tight streets and we have to have places to explore on our next trip which will be Switzerland and Alsace
At the Swiss / Italian border Hetty was shunted into a parking spot by an officious lady border guard ..off HE went to buy the Vignette ..and it must be displayed on the left hand side of the windscreen …stuck on with its own adhesive ..do not take it off or it’s invalid …it’s a years pass ..so we have to come back before June 2015…A Yorkshire man gets his moneys worth you know ….
From Como the road took us to a little village on Lake Lucerne called Beckenreid which was the start of my wander lust in 1961if I remember correctly when my mother was left some dosh by her Aunt Bell and took us all on holiday …my first sur le continent …still looked the same ..the boats we took up and down the lake are still plying their trade as if time had stood still ..
As J is much improved we decided to romp on to the border with France ..one reason for this was our lack of Swiss Francs …and now we in Alsace on a civilised camp site at half the cost of the Italian sites after doing 273 miles today …
For a guy on his last legs yesterday J seems to have pulled himself up by his bracers and driven us 350km to Lake Como ..
We decided toll road prices would out weigh the price of the diesel and the cost of camping another night if we did the journey on the Autostrada rather than the free up and up and up windy with village streets scraping poor Hettys wing mirrors so here we are near Como at a toll cost €16-70 … Never mind the wear and tear on the driver unfortunately the passenger hates tunnels .. Most of the journey was through 2km tunnels with lorries on all sides IN torrential rain AND Italian lorries at that.. their drivers growing horns and a tail as they cut us up …. I don’t like tunnels or lorries … But the Po plain was as flat as a witches tit with all your risotto rice being grown there .. Skirted round Milan missing it completely …we have thought on another short trip to the Italian lakes in the future but at the moment it’s full steam home
J is ill
I think it’s to much sun doing the Cinque Terre on Monday ..
He woke with a headache yesterday but we moved on to our next port of call which was Rapallo .. It was mooted originally to go in by train then a boat to Portofino but J thought it better to drive in .. Found a carpark @ €1-50 per hour but hey ho we are only here once .. Just managed to get through the barriers with a bit of scraping of a building .. Whoops..
He didn’t seem bad but quiet .. Off we walked to the bay about 1k .. Lovely town .. Very riviera..perfect day again for a boat ride … He still has a headache .. Got off in Portofino and sat like the tourists we are with our sandwiches in tinfoil watching the super rich getting off and on there motor yachts with Gucci bags …. How the other half live is incomprehensible to me ..
Well we sat in the shade for a while watching the world go by .. This in it self is unusual as he is alway off to look at something .. Taking photos and such … But not today .. He wanted to go back on the earlier boat ??? Sighs … I wanted to stay longer and do more wandering. .. But he says his head is banging so back to the boat and Hetty … Now he starts throwing up … If that’s not heat stroke I don’t know what is … Cold compress and lots of water … Eventually he is able to drive .. I found a camp site 2k away … We got lost and a very kind young man offered to get in his car and show us where it was and we accepted gratefully .. It’s a costa plenty campsite but no other alternative as J hasn’t got out of bed from 8pm last night … No food just water and headache pills ..it’s now 9am….So we will wait till he feels more himself ..
And the moral to this story is wear a hat in the sun ….
Our base is a motor home storage park in an ambulance depot @ €5 per night in La Spezia
Our thought had been to take the train down The Cinque Terre coastal villages as I have wanted to have a look at this picturesque area for a long time It’s a hop on hop off the train until we found a boat trip was available just one short bus ride away ..
Off at early doors 8-15 after finding the fridge had stopped working on gas .. Warm beers for our return …bus caught just 100m away off to the ferry terminal .. Handed over our €50 for all day ticket sort of hop on hop off as well… and went the whole way down the coast to the last village Monterosso but didn’t get off here then back to the next to last which is called Vernazza
What a cracking good village .. Crammed to the gunnels with tourist .. And here we lunched on the harbour wall and again were relieved of €44
The sea built up to a bit of a chop on the return journey wetting all on the bow seating area with waves breaking over the poor tourists with much squealing … J was very wet but he DIDNT squeal .. we hopped off again in Riomagiorie again lovely .. Hopped back on the next boat back to La Spezia at 5pm and the bus back to Hetty and two warm beers .. The walk on the coast route is one that good walkers do to say we did the Cinque Terre .. I think it’s a 6 hour walk from one end to the other on the edge of the cliffs .. Not for me … Tomorrow may be a drive to Rappolo and perhaps another boat to Portofino for a look ..
After leaving the still damp camp site in Rome I plumbed in on St SatNav a camp site a lot further north and on the coast ..intending some quiet and rest time beach and pool . After a pleasant journey on the toll road (our favourite now for long journeys to reduce stress on passenger and therefore driver) . We arrived at my chosen camp site with promised beach and pool. We found a pleasant reception booked in ( I was given 2 pool wrist bands to allow access to the pool area )then drove through what can only be described as a refugee camp
Arriving at a field with caravans ..tents and motor homes. We decided this was not really for us but would be ok for 1 night as only €16. I set up power and awning and we relaxed with a beer. Shortly after a dick of a German rolled up with a loud allo allo and then totally blanked us as he sat next door. He was very loud sang to himself and obviously irritated his very quiet wife. This irritation continued for hours as they ate outside!.
We decided to walk to the beach but had to cross a road a car park (for the Beirut occupants) then started through a pine forest after 10 mins it’s going dark by now ..we turned back as no sign of the sea . On our return to Hetty Susan resorted to putting Gotan Project music on the Bluetooth speaker to try to cover our neighbours noise. Later the children came out to play and it was amusing if Italian noisy.
By 21:00 we where in bed but the adjacent camp site started a disco shortly after.
I woke at 6am and had slept like a log ..it was quiet 🙂
Without any discussion we packed up and left but found that a €2 local tax was also applied to our stay.
I can only say that the camping guide description was written by a cross between an estate agent and advertising executive!!!
If a UK fireman was to see how the Beirut refugee camp area (Susan said it looks like that as she saw the camps in the Lebonon in the 70’s) was set up he would have a fit I could see that a small fire would spread easily and kill hundreds if this is how they holiday I would not like to be where they live…..Here endeth today’s blog …
I would rather stay on LIDL car park than EVER spend another night on an Italian holiday village at€18 for the night …see Johns blog …
Had a very sedate toll road €4-70 but as the LED screen wasn’t working I had to keep throwing coins in…at 4-50 I asked assistance luckily I got an English speaker who said “€4-70 madam ” and goodbye … Most just yell louder …
Next toll was €7-30 and an attending person .. Much easier as I just pushed a note at her … One toll yesterday wanted €9 something and I didn’t have change and could I find the hole for a note Nooo !! HE shouted The voice of the attendant shouted and eventually I got it .. Now to see me do this is a laugh in its self as I have get out of my seat climb over a box of Peroni .. Lean out my window .. Most time I then have to open my door as the lorry pay area is to high and the car area is to low . So there’s me hanging on for grim death … We usually make it eventually . J has been for a walk to photograph the Leaning Tower of Pisa this morning as I have lost my enthusiasm for sight seeing at the mo and I stood guard at the van as we have heard horror stories from people who have stayed in the sosta … Burglaries ..one couple were in bed and they had there laptop stolen .. East Europeans so the police said .. He enjoyed a little time out as did I .. I had a txting session with Dan who sent me new photos of Ruby .. We are now in La Spezia on an ambulance base car park so much happier here €10 for two nights for tomorrow we get the train along The Cinque Terre coast …
We left damp and humid Rome and headed north. .. Toll road only €3-60 taking us around Citiviveccio the main port for Rome and the Cruise ships and up the coast passing Elba which once tried to imprison Napolian .. HE said he had got a camping site all ready on the satnav .. On the Beach … I checked and it not on the beach .. We can’t even find the beach though a dark pine forest which I think is home to mass axe murderers .. This is your typical Italian camp village .. More like the old fashioned Butlins than any thing we have been to before .. Gaming machines .. Kids on bike .. Staff on golf buggies .. ITS awful … Annoying campers around us .. One chap who likes the sound of his own voice and a wife who doesn’t need to reply to his inane prattle ..still haven’t found the beach … A quick exit early morning is on the cards ..
Rome day 2 ..
Again off for the 8-30am courtesy bus and then the train and then the Metro then another bus to St Peters Basilica … The queues were massive but J managed to push in front of a tour group with an excusa excusa .. Seems to work .. They think we are important .. Laughs … Any way the queue being 400m long was quick to move today and we were in by 9-30am lot of security and bag checks … And what a treat …
So impressive and free as nothing is free in Roma .. There is a Prayer Vigil being set in in the St. Peter’s square for this evening to pray for Pope Francis and his ministry ..see photo Hundreds of chairs , barriers and scaffolding for TV cameras .. We won’t be there as we haven’t received our invitation as yet !!!
St Peters done ..next The Coliseum … Again scaffolded .. J went for a wander to photograph it but didn’t go in .. Too many tourists off cruise ships mostly Americans doing back to back cruises. .. I listen in to their very loud conversation and if it’s Friday they must be in Rome .. They are a true caricature of how we think of them .. Loud ,boasty with bad taste in clothes but bloody wealthy ..
Coliseum done ..
Off to The Trevi Fountain bit of a walk this time through the popular back streets with lovely cafes , shops selling the top Italian fashions .. But as we are not on holiday the cafés are to expensive for us to lunch .. Instead we have ham cheese tomato and cucumber sandwiches .. Made by my own fair hand post breakfast ..
Back to The Trevi Fountain .. More scaffolding .. No water .. Feel very disappointed ..
Next The Spanish Steps .. Would you believe it the fountain in front is scaffolded… Sighs … Why the hell don’t they do all the repairs in winter .. Sighs again ..
I am again walked off my feet and have released J from any more tourism for life .. We are knackered I need a holiday after this lot … And I can feel an Egyptian one being booked for October …
Unable to work our how to prebook Vatican tickets online (no printer for ticket ) we set off on the first free bus run by the campsite to the station at Prima Porta at 8-30am ..breakfasted sandwiches made and on it…15mins drive and a wait for the ticket chap who has gone for coffee. !@” WHAT. ! We missed one train and the ticket machine is broken …ticket man cometh and we hand over €16 each for three day pass for all transport in Roma so that’s not a bad deal… Arrived at Flaminio main station and try to look cool .. To look as if we are locals knowing what’s what … Don’t want pickpockets sussing us out . I haven’t a bag as I use an under clothes pouch made from a mans hanky with elastic to keep it up sort of like old fashioned knicker elastic .. I have used this for ever especially my Indian Adventures I keep my passport ,cash,cards ,driving licence and now my IPhone and with it being cotton your stuff doest get as sticky with heat .. I was taught to wear at all times .. Even in bed in India so if you had to move fast you had everything on you …so pouch is under clothes with a couple of safety pins for extra security .. Don’t laugh it works ..HE has his rucksack on his front with water ,sandwiches and his camera so we are sort of pickpocket proof as we have heard horror stories Re: Rome’s gangs .
Today we thought to book tickets in advance for The Vatican but arriving at the queue @ 9-45am The queue seemed to be for pre booking and to buy to go today dicision made we go for it today ..we had a 1hour 24 minute wait .. Lots of amusement on the shaded side of the street .. Especially the walking beggars who suddenly can’t walk at all .. They have all the tricks ,one in in particular had a turned foot and he hobbled so badly with his begging cup untill he had to shift to get across the road .. Guess what NO limp..Gotta laugh ..
We eventually arrive at the ticket desk to be relieved of our €16 each .. No concession for OAP here as there was in Pompeii and Florence where I was allowed in to every thing free of charge …
The museum is massive with the Sistine Chapel at the end of a three hour trek through all sorts of wonderful art Raphael and Michelangelo being the top lads here ..the chapel was so dimly lit and the crowds were pack like sardines inside one couldn’t give the Chapel one total attention apart from being hot I was seriously knackered ..I think if anyone is going to do it try winter ..
Even after we decided to head for the exit we had to negotiate the retail departments to get out and enough is enough as my sence of well being was getting very low .. On exiting e found the Vatican Gardens to have a bite of lunch and a well deserved sit down as I have a blister by now .. Ouchy ..up and at it St Peters is just around the corner .. Well about a km walk ..so off we go to find massive queues once more .. We’ll do it tomorrow was the consensus of opinion . A beer before catching the metro and train back . Ok says I . Mistake .. €16 for two beers .. and they were so welcome .. But that’s Monte Carlo prices so my stepdaughter says .. Live and learn ..back to Hetty for a slow cooked curry .. Can’t wait ..
1 Does it look ok ,nice to have it to yourself but reassuring if other camper vans are near( not too near)always leave time to move on to your fall back location.
2 Is it free
3 Is it by the sea or mountains with a view
4 Do we need to empty the loo or fill with water ( this usually necessitates some cost) at a camp site or Sosta(sometimes we find this can be free at a sosta or some car parks)we do not need a mains hook up but if it’s included it saves on gas for fridge and hot water.
5 HOW MUCH !!!
6 Does it have wifi and occasionally we need a washing machine (it’s surprising how infrequent this is required , but when it is it can be a big job)
7 If it has a pool it’s a bonus
8 If it has a bar and restaurant this can be a negative point as it attracts holiday makers!
9 When you have permutated all of the above you then park ,level up the camper sort the fridge and get out a beer (if it has power rig the cables if it’s hot and sunny extend the awning)(this can also apply if rain is expected) get out a beer
10 Decide how long you want or need to stay and start planning for the next few days if you have not already done so.
11 If you are on your own by 19:00/dusk re-assess security or the feel of the place
12 Have a fall back location in case you don’t feel happy at your chosen location( this has only happened to us once )when our lovely beach location seemed to become a gay pickup spot.
A lie-in and a late breakfast after yesterday’s long drive from Pompeii. Susan has prepared a Chinese for tonight with a chicken curry in the slow cooker for tomorrow. Whilst I did the washing ,which was done in bright sunshine this morning (part of our preparation for Rome need to be clean for the pickpockets and Pope) and by 14:00 thunder lightning and it’s bucketing it down. Most of washing dry but Susan is now under the table because of the extremely loud bangs. I thought that the roof light might break it was being pounded so much. Our pitch has become a lake/river and my crocks (£3 from Asda) may float away. All put together a lovely day with a late lunch and the last 1/2 of a bottle of Pinot. The French couple opposite put up there brolly went to the loo and back ..then drove away in there transit camper! We can see the trees now:-)
The pitches here are quite small with just enough room for Hetty with the awning up and a small hedge to the next pitch. But how else can you stay in Rome for €9 a night each we have power included.
It’s a free bus to the metro station and about 20 mins to Rome. We now have to decide how long it will take us to visit the sites we want…then buy the appropriate metro ticket. It can be a hard life travelling with sun ..beach ..culture and architecture to experience but rest days like today put a bit of vigour back in our step. Another glass of Pinot Dear ?
7am up and ready to DO Pompeii which opens at 8-30am ..I DID it in 1972 and wasn’t impressed may have been my age but I was bored .. Yawns…42 years later the difference inn the site is amazing On my earlier visit the area was mostly the base out line of the structures now whole Villa’s and shops have been raised giving the site an urban town feel .. So we just wandered for 4 or so hours J being fascinated by the buildings click click his camera went … He even came out of the Christian entrance to the massive colosseum ( think I may be the lioness ) grrrrrr !!!!
The crowds of tourist arrive around 11am and as usual we get the hell outta there !!! By the way our campsite is directly opposite the main entrance to the ruins .. I bet there are unfound bodies under us Ekkkk!! Our check out time is 2pm so chairs awning in and down ready for off ..
TOLL ROADS COSTA PLENTI €20 !!! But the coast road would take 2 to 3 days and who the hell wants to drive through Naples NOT ME .. I have been once and that was enough thanks ..very scary place in its poverty .. Either very rich or poor ..
Needing a LIDL shop I looked on line at store finder ( great app) Cassino it said ..just off the main A1 toll road .. What we didn’t bargain for was its situation in the valley below the monastery of Montecassino famed for the battle in WW11 where many soldiers from USA perished .. The monastery looms over the town with an eerie presence as a reminder of much sacrifice ..
J plays Tetris with the fridge after a big shop. .. Big as in beer .. Pironi his favourite .. We have given up on the cheap German crap as we have with 75c bricks of wine .. We are splashing out with €1-29 for good wine now .. He is trying to see how many he can get in the fridge and the food ..
Full of Ham Gorgazola and beer off we go to Rome
BBSN (Bl***y stupid sat nav) has been elevated to Sainthood … In fact Beatified .. She got us off the motorway onto the Rome ring rd and to our chosen camp site !!there wasn’t a cat in Hells chance that we could have negotiated the Rome rush hour with out her so from now on she is to be St Satnav ….
Found this spot on a beach after a very very long drive ..503km ..through nigh on every mountain in Italy ..tunnel mania ..some over 2 miles long …I don’t like tunnels …
Back to the beach ..it’s where the allied troops landed in 1943
..now a playground for city dwellers ..well it was Sunday …Sailing ..Kite surfers and after dark men lurking ..I didn’t twig they were male hookers of a North African appearance .. And cruising cars ..we had settled down ..had our supper of gnocchi , green pesto and a glass of Pinot …but J became more uncomfortable as I whittered on about various men taking an over active interest in us ..I am always on guard whilst wild camping and this place didn’t feel right ..I was about to get out my secret weapon ..a can of strong hair spray as I didn’t have any Mace with me ..but J quietly got Hetty ready to roll ..we don’t like driving in the dark in this country as the roads and drivers are lethal so HE was concerned …we headed off down the road to a camping area ..just off the road and hidden from prying eyes ….THEN came the lighting …we had seen a storm building over the Amalfi coast
well here it was …no thunder just fork lightening ..not so near I said …I don’t like thunder storms …ten minutes later and in my bed the storm dropped on us …OMG I haven’t been in one as bad …even J says it’s the worst ever in his history ..we survived and eventually slept ….and set off for our drive along the Amalfi coast …people have said this road is very scary…naaaaaa !!! We have been on much worse ..this road is two cars wide ..laughs …off we trot …up hills round tight bends behind a wagon with a trailer …peace of cake we said …still a bit over cast and drizzly but we are living The Dolce Vita …chuckles …just before we get to Amalfi pulled in by the cops ….show documents …driving licence …all ok …”Sir”he said ” Didn’t you read the signs …NO Camping cars on this road ..break our law it’s a fine of €80 ” OMG …noooooo ….not only didn’t we read this sign …we haven’t read any others as we don’t speak Italian ..we have driven hundreds of miles without understanding road signs …I did look one up after we had a no go day and Via Chuisa means road closed ..
Anyway back to the rather cute officer of the law …he lectured us like naughty senile old gimmers and told us to turn back and go over the mountain ..and he wouldn’t fine us …so doing a bit of cap doffing and yes Sir ing we went over the mountain as he said and are now in Pompeii on a camp site next to the ruins ..and guess what ..another thunder storm ..going to hide in the loo ….more stories soon as later tomorrow off to Roma ..
These photos are out of Hettys window
Vesuvius in all her glory !!!
One of the best we have found on our travels ..
leaving this loveliness for our journey to The Amalfi coast …
After our no go to Toarmina we hit the toll road going North .. On the journey south on the coast road (coast road is a contradiction )through one town after another with streets so narrow I got a sore bum with so much clenching and not a view of the beaches so toll road was favoured ..it would have taken 90 minutes at a cost of €1-20 but for a MAFIA plot to con poor tourists out of their Euros .. The sign said take number 5 exit for ferry ..(HE hadn’t plumbed in GPS coordinates) here comes the dastardly plot…NO No 5 on the signs ..missed the turning..pulled into a viewpoint to plumb in GPS .. 27km satnav said .. “WHAT!” he said .. “There must be a turn”I said ” if satnav says so it must be so”with tongue firmly in cheek !! Guess what .. It was 27km to get to the ferry at a cost of €2-40 …plus another €2-40 to get back (I’m sure the toll booth chap grinned ) Mafia money ..but we had a lovely excursion up and up an more up .. Through tunnels 2000m long .. And fuel gauge is flashing on and off .. I said lets put a bit in .. A few litres at any price.. HE has a habit of trying to find the cheapest and my phobia or fear of running out has been an on going factor in our relationship since running out in Morocco 25 years ago in a country I knew didn’t have gas stations at every junction .. “It’s a third world country” .. I said ..He said ” There’s bound to be fuel” NOOOO !!! So we ran out…. On this occasion some kindly French tourist in a car took pity on us and drove J back to Essouria 12km and back again with petrol and we continued out 50km journey back to Agadir …. Back to this story ..We crossed to main land Italy with out any more problem but being Friday 13th there is bound to be difficulties ..Yes ..you guessed ..Fuel … Off the ferry and there must be gas stations on a main toll road … NO it’s 50km of tunnels with one junction off to €1-75 per litre diesel and no credit card facilities .. Guess what .. We are running out of cash .. You gotta laugh .. So into Hetty went €20 worth just enough to get us back to the port to use our Euro Card to fill up € 97 worth .. The last tank fill up did 504 miles not bad for an old girl .. So off we go again camp site plumbed in .. Back through the tunnels with Stromboli (This volcano is on an island just off the coast ) smoke hovering in the valleys and we think we have hit on a great campsite .. Private beach,deck chairs heated swimming pool and a restaurant all for €14 a night that includes leccy … More about this place later …
We stayed in very quiet campsite NEAR the ruins !!!! QUIET AND NEAR were in someone’s wildest dream…(trade descriptions come to mind). It’s 5km to Toarmina and a 10 minute walk to the bus that takes you to Toarmina (the advert in camping book stated in Toarmina )… If the bus is on time a total of an hours journey ..” Not to worry Sir “owner of said campsite smiled “I will take you for € 30 ” again in his dreams .. One night on an ant infested carpark is € 15
Now we come to QUIET !!!
The motorway 50m away on one side and the railway 50m away on the other side ..
AND ANTS !!!!
Up my legs .. On HIS back .. Biting as they climbed ..
Quick .. Pack Hetty up before we have an infestation in the van … And off to Toarmina in Miss Hymer…. B *@” sat nav said she knew of a parking place … Huhhhh ! I am a sceptic …. Up and Up and Up yet again this time with squealing tyres and more up and up .. Yes a carpark .. Will I have to take back my scepticism I am just about to eat my words but …NO!!! €30 for 3 hours parking …so down and down and down again hitting the toll road for a quick exit of Sicily via the ferry …
And as it’s Friday 13th there is more but you will have wait for next story …
Its only 15 minutes walk from the old Valetta to the ferry terminus What Emma Morgan … More like an hour in that heat at our pace … The terminus isn’t in the most salubrious of areas but a good cheap caf with tables on the street did a mean kebab and a can of Cisk ( local lager) … Hopped on the ferry to a mill pond crossing .. Hetty safe and sound her burglar alarm greeting us on our arrival .. Dark by now .. We just drove up to our water side secret parking place .. I wondered out loud WHY the lights were so bad on the vehicle .. I couldn’t see the road marking and was getting worried even though we hadn’t far to go … Take your sunglasses off HE said !!!
Parked up … So hot ..dripping .. So we made up the lower bed for me so I wouldn’t moan about being to hot .. Could spread my self out a bit better .. Lol … Slept like a top with only a thin sheet .. HE said it was about 30c … And we are do glad we have done Sicily early .. It’s to hot now ..
Heading home .. Well we are .. Turned north .. Up to Taormina to look at Greek ruins tomorrow .. HIS choice .. Emma says they are wonderful .. We are now in a pretty sosta / camping place …a paid one
!!!! Hecky peck … What next !!
It’s just off the main road and convenient for the bus to take us to Taormina ..
Made it to the first bus from Kercem to Victoria after putting the ferry to Sicily tickets some where safe !!!! Turned Emma’s house upside down .. Ok HE said .. HE hadn’t had them or seen em …. Woops . … Not another one of my safe places .. Lost my mothers silver tea pot once for about three years …. That was some where safe !!!
Anyway why would I have put the tickets in my makeup bag ?? Haven’t put any slap on for weeks
So off to first bus Victoria .. To catch next one to the ferry to cross to Malta …20 mins later we landed and got the next bus to Valetta .. Talk about white knuckle ride … Two hour and five minutes later we are now on the Battery terrace over looking the harbour ..
Arrived to fire works
Walked to Xlendi for ice cream …
And a swim
Back by bus to The Mill Room .. Emma’s work place .. Dropped boys off
Beer at the Citadal .. Picked up boys
Very poor service in II Tuk cafe .. very tough pizza which is reported for Trip-advisor … Walked back to Kercem the LONG way … Sadistic boys …
Day 3 …
Pyjama day …
Shopping and missed school finishing time so Mummy had the boys 😦 we cooked
Shopping .. Picked up boys from school… 2 hours waiting for and travelling on bus to Malsalforn to swim.. JELLY FISH
Had lunch at Pebbles .. Best lasagne ever … Met up with other Granny who has an appartment there .. Bus back to Victoria and Bus to Xlendi to swim … Phewwwww !!!
Walked back up the hill and two very tired boys
Off to Malta and the Sicily ferry for a rest … But we have enjoy visiting the family and can’t wait for their visit to us for Ruby’s christening in September
The Mill Room Gallery was an art gallery and restaurant ..in one of the lovely narrow lanes in Victoria Gozo owned by Billy Connollys Tikerty-boo group and loaned out to the crafty ladies on a monthly basis ..Emma my stepdaughter is one of the management team along with Abi Clark …the ladies make stuff …paint ..lace make …jewellery …dolls of amazing girth …does my bum look big in this type dolls ..the ladies have craft classes going all weekend with all sorts of arty farty things being made …and they make money ..here is a selection of the goodies on display last weekend
And not to forget Odette who makes all the cakes to sell,with your lovely cuppa
Hetty Hymer having R&R in a secure carpark overlooking the ferry terminal in Sicily
Arriving on time in Valletta
A taxi to the next ferry and arriving in Gozo
The people of Victoria put on a firework display for our arrival in Kercem ( some saint day)
And sunsets over Gozo
After booking the ferry to Malta and watched it go out for today’s sailing
We swanned off down to the most southerly tip of Sicily ..so far far south it getting a little warm 27c at 9am at place called Portopalo .. With it’s modern history of not doing the right thing after bodies were found in the fishing nets in 1996
Here the link to the story and a photo of the fishing fleet involved
On the quayside at Ognina N36.97953 E15.25810
A good over nighter quiet with roaring seas … That’s a contradiction you say … NO … Quiet as in only natures orchestration to be heard .. Love it …
Next day an early off to Pozzallo to try to get information re: our excursion to Gozo in the Maltese Islands to visit my stepdaughter Emma and her two boys Sam and Tom
The original plan was to take Hetty over for the summer .. Fly home as we have the Christening of Ruby Scout Hurran my lovely granddaughter in September and fly back out to Malta in October for the return road trip
We found that our Hetty is to long .. She is classed as commercial … Cost to take her is €586.. us two €224 …flights home and back €400 and that’s before the taxi to and from airports ….big change of plan …now booked the ferry
at €224 …car parking €35 Emma organising taxi to pick us up in Valetta at €40 + return … So for about €350 instead of at least €1200 we get to visit Emma for six days .. And sail back to Italy on 11/06/14 ..
Emma doing creative stuff at school !!
I had a look on line to find a lets get out of here and found a comment on Trip-adviser regarding a narrow gauge railway running around Mount Etna at 2200ft … Ok he said .. We like railways so off we toddled after downloading the timetable .. Up and up and up yet again to a village called Radazzo to find the train didn’t run on a Sunday .. Never mind .. Strolled into town lot of ancientness and back for a supper of Chinese chicken fried rice .. All made from scratch .. And very yummy .. A goods nights sleep outside the station to await tomorrow and our train ride
Up early but all is still quiet .. Mmmm .. Train due at 8-15am .. 8-15 came and went … Holiday Sir ..no trains today ..grrrr wasn’t the words used .. Never mind .. We will drive around Etna .. Cloudy ..a spot of rain .. But she did us proud as shortly after leaving out of the mist and cloud she came with a few puffs of smoke and ash all over Hettys windscreen …
Walzed off down to a village called Bronte once owned my our very own Lord Nelson given to him for some heroic deed or other .. Bet you didn’t know that!!!
Where next … Siracusa said I .. Sounds nice but didn’t know anything about its history .. Sea port ..
Its wonderful .. After a good drive on modern roads under very long tunnels .. One was 2800 m ..now that’s long for a person who hates enclosed spaces …me…we arrived in good spirits parked without to much screaming and shouting on the quay side and walked around on the sea wall before heading into the allies to find Duomo Sq and The Duomo itself ..
So breath taking we paid to go inside . And weren’t disappointed .. Enchanting .. Ancient .. Haven’t enough superlative to tell you how lovely it is .. I could have spent days in Siracusa but as our parking was for two hours out of the old city we came to this quiet little harbour 10 miles away .
The time always comes in an adventure when enough is enough
We try to be a little avente-guarde by not using camp sites unless it’s necessary for washing machines or some other chore … We wild camp that means sleeping in car parks.. Beachsides …harbours and suchlike …yesterday’s pre dawn market traders were a nuisance but last nights revellers took the gold medal for noise …midnight scooter racing .. 1am car racing with boom box .. A 4am football match and sobbing women .. J said she was hit in the face with the football ..I slept through all this commotion but J didn’t and is knackered ..looking bleary eyed and disheveled as his hair and beard have taken on a tramp like appearance as I havnt nagged at him to have either cut since we left home 🙂 it’s his adventure as well and being a retired person he can look hippified if he chooses .
My enthusiasm for any more Roman Greek or Neolithic finds ..for narrow village lanes to tight for Hetty and hill towns with hairpin bends and for up and up and up and … for Parma ham and Gorgazola is at zero …I had a longing for corn beef hash and roasted dumplings ….but we don’t have the time for a weeks rest on a quiet beach as we still have The Amalfi coast .. Vesuvius and Pompeii .. Rome ..Portofino and the Terre Cinze to do and MALTA …it’s an impossibility either in time or € .. Something will have to be put on hold ..!!’
HE said the builders were in !!!!
House being built across from our overnighter on a beach ..lots of banging pre dawn .. Yawned and turned over untill banging on Hettys door
It’s the bl***y Saturday market setting up and we were in a rather big vans place …up we got in flurry .. I growled at the veggy man but its their village so we move across the road for our very early coffee and off to the ferry to Sicily
Driving around the Toe of Italy gave a great view of Mount Etna steaming quietly away and found a fabulous stop for an over nighter .. Perhaps next time …
We had heard the ferry boarding was chaos .. Missed the turn ending up in town only to find the ticket office in front of us .. Off HE went € 96 for a 20 min crossing … Hells bells … We then went into the ferry queue at the front … How we did it I don’t know but within 5 mins we were on board ..and part of the queue behind us was turned away as the ferry was running late . Sneaky or lucky I don’t know. .
Manage to clip a lorry with the wing mirror or did the lorry clip us .. Don’t know .. I say to J if it’s to tight a space let the other guy try to get through then it’s his fault if he gets scratched because there is a lot of place to tight to call …
Then we are accosted by Tunisian wind screen washers .. NO we said .. But he cleaned them anyway .. And didn’t get a cent from us. ..
We then worked our way out of Messina J is now doing the bullying as our English good manners don’t work driving here its dog eat dog . Travelled through some very narrow villages hardly wide enough for Hetty as we refused the toll road on the satnav ..now parked up on beach side at Giardini Naxos with super yachts and small cruise ship in the harbour after a good pizza in La Lanturna … View of bay very pretty
Today we left Lido Metaponto early after a quiet nights sleep. Heading for Matera to look at the village (now a large town) famous for its cave dwellings.
We struggled to find the sign posted camper parking but did find a parking spot almost within the cave area. It was a disabled space surrounded by steps!! So we decided to park here as there where 3 spaces. I cheekily put our blue Pendle parking sign on the dashboard and then off we strolled.
After 1/2 an hour feeling guilty we returned and I then went to take a few more photos. On my return Susan was accosted by a lady putting up a sign inviting a visit to here church to see the wall painting in the 12th c cript (a cave)for 1€ so off she toddled to look as I stood guard. After 1/2 an hour she returned just as the other spaces where being filled.
The next job was to do a Lidl ..plugging in the co-ordinates off ..we went for about 30 klm back towards the main road to Sicily …we found the road sign saying road closed so we followed the diversion for 4 klm before giving up and turning around on returning to the road block sign …we found locals going past the signs. So as in Italy … do as the Italians do, we followed then up an old road towards Montescaglioso. only to find this road partially collapsed and the new road totally missing below us. Onwards and upwards our road turned to loose stone but lo and behold just ahead the Lidl sign … at the turning into the car park we found Lidl had disappeared too. Oh well a little shop done in town and off to the road to Sicily only to find the other road had gone as well so ignoring sat nav (called Bl***y sat nav) we just headed south with turn around when possible ringing in our ears. (BSN)
As we had plenty of time we decided to do quite a big journey and plumbed in a sosta but on arrival a big camp site .. so no thank you. The next sosta location took us to Rosano and by chance there we found an intact LIDL and finished our shopping. As this sosta was in town we headed for another near the coast trying a port( no not allowed) plus this area looks very grotty (imagine the grottiest town in your own area and put a dirty beach there that’s it) and not safe we then headed for one further on (it’s now raining as well) only to find it’s not open yet ,so we drove past it to the beach road and parked there where I’m writing this with a beer in hand ( and the sun comes out) pizza for tea with coleslaw and salad lovely.
Horse meat pate anyone ????
Had a good day on the beach at lido di Metaponto ( free camping) 40.355112 16.832947 It’s a road to nowhere again .. Dirt track .. and found a beach bar …loungers Rimini style lay out but it’s not open yetas the season doesnt start till July .. Lots of painting and cleaning going on I am cheeky and asked to park for the night .. Permission granted ..€4 each for a day on the loungers on the waters edge watching a dedger barge doing erosion protection work 100m off shore … Dropping massive boulders to alter the current flow by making an artificial reef … J knows these things ..
Another bit of interest keeping me from my book were people raking the beach at the water line with a net collecting sea shells to have with their pasta for tea .. Yum yum ..but we had egg sausage baked beans and oven baked potatoes ….
From our last nights stop by the harbour in the middle of no where on the Adriatic (J points to Albania) we are now on a beach again in the middle of no where looking out to Corfu on the Aegean ..
( J points to Corfu)
We have been slowed down again by appalling road surfaces .. But who cares we will get to where ever when ever .. Or not ..
The great thing about going down back ally’s is perhaps an Italian campervan will be seen on a rocky out crop Yessss!! The cry goes up from us .. If the Italians can park up so can we .. And that my friends is how we found this perfect little spot (see pointy blue arrow on photo)
We leasurely left the port of Trani which is a nice stopover ..lovely port and town with a very tall cathedral well worth a visit with interesting bells!!!
Our intended destinations where the Trulli at Alborobello after an interesting diversion to a town without car parking space caused by satnav programming error( me) we arrived at Alborobello at about 18:30 ..
The carpark which is a partly cleared slopeing vine grove was nearly empty . Prices were posted on the gate from 08:00 till 20:00 but no sign of where to pay so we parked and had a beer to calm our nerves ( especially Susan’s as the last 15 min was quite stressful.
Then as dusk started to fall we wandered into the Trulli village and what an amazing place. Lots of joined together small stone dwellings with stone conical roofs , a bit like a mad hobbit extravaganza.
As the crowds where virtually cleared away we had a good opportunity to peruse and photograph fairly unimpeded. It is a lovely place well off the normal Brit tourist area and well worth a visit. We strolled back to Hetty for a leisurely supper very happy.
The heel of Italy can be described as a tarts shoe with laddered tights(broken roads
We left Trulli at 8:30 no sign of anyone to pay so a free night 🙂
Traveling towards Torre Del’Orso. We encountered some excellent bits of road interspersed with some very broken bits . The major roads are ok in places and you feel safe at 80kph then if you don’t slow down quickly your fillings drop out.
In Torre we eventually found the camp site ..it’s adventurous description lead me to think it was near the beach but no…It was within an area of pine and Eucalyptus trees very shady . We set up very early due to the getaway and I then went to reception to sign in and locate the washing machines (as this was one of the reasons to come here( plus empty the loo)) I was told that they did not have washing machines (they did according to the CC guide)but a service wash was available ..but not today as it was Sunday …so Susan and I had a leisurely reading day with an evening thunderstorm but not much rain . Monday arrived with the sound of leaves and pine cones falling on Hetty’s roof and I chased up the promised 8:30 service wash by 9:30 our clothes etc where on there way with our 12:00 departure guaranteed. By 10:30 our bedding etc was back but sopping wet !! So out with the clothes line and other bits of rope. Luckily it was a bright windy sunny day (they did not charge us for the wash) and by 13:00 and after lunch it was all nearly dry .
So I paid for the 1 night €14 with electric( big charging of leccy gadgets done) we packed up and headed for the coast road…I had to force the satnav to shortest route to keep on the coast road ….We only went down one farm track but I had to reset the wing mirrors as the trees where so close on both sides they where folded back.
When we found the sea …it was very interesting as this holiday area is still closed with lots of hotels ,bars and beach areas coming out of hibernation and some looking dead.
We are now parked close to a small harbour watching fishermen launching refurbished boats (getting ready for the summer rush for restaurants etc we assume) with a beer in hand reading on the rocky shore the car park is payable but they have taken the machine away….
Trani was quite a place ..Sea front lime stone cathedral crazy bells calling the faithful to Mass.. Political rally .. Fireworks…fishing boats… Fish quay.. A meal in a seafront restaurant
and a chat with a really really rich boasty chap from Essex ( he actually said he was really really rich) who had just sailed in from Greece where he stores his 56ft yacht with its own washing machine on board built for him in Taiwan What a plonker as his opening gambit was to laugh at our accents this being from someone who sounded like an eastender barrow boy
When he realised we knew a thing or two about sailing he stopped bragging about his millions and his rather plain ageing wife stopped looking embarrassed .. They were off in their FIFTYSIX FOOTER to Slovina for the summer
Friday night parked on the quay was a tad noisy as well ..
Today a LIDL shop ..Fuel fill up and even though we have managed eight nights free parking .. A saving of about €160 now back in the red by € 64
BTW J got 35 to the gallon Whoo Hooo
Off to see the bee hive houses later after a lovely lunch and read on an unnamed rocky shore watching boats fish and yachts head off to Greece whilst we head off to the toe of Italy
Today after leaving our stay at an abandoned sosta we went to the remains of a small Roman town with a nice theatre and lots of structures which were fairly recently excavated. Though it had been known about previously as the local farmers had incorporated some of the structures and stone into their houses and Barns.
It was a lovely morning for a stroll and the stones bedded at 45 degrees on the main walls was unusual and it looked great. Where it had recently been excavated/recovered the features where in excellent condition the roads and town square where as good as towns we have recently visited.
Several of the features have been simulated with new items which I feel did not fully reflect what the original had been.
After a couple of hours we went back to Hetty to continue our journey to the Adriatic coast. Some of the main roads where pretty poor and there where some very long viaducts and long tunnels and steep long climbs where lorries struggled up in front of us only to find long descents with no over tacking opportunities . When leaving on tunnel the gps did not recover quickly enough and we missed our turn Susan was not amused!!
After a diversion we where back on our way.
The sosta we where aiming for was about 5km away when we where diverted down a poor narrow road with Susan twitching a lot. After 10 km of diversion we gave up and reprogrammed for Trani.
The roads did not improve and actually got so bad in places that the Tarmac had disappeared completely.
When we arrived at Trani the satnav took us down some town streets only just wide enough for us and when they widened the parked cars where lucky to keep wing mirrors and paintwork intact . After weaving about and refusing some directions offered by the satnav we eventually found our parking spot at the quay side. Only to find I had left the shower dripping and an empty water tank but a walk around the fish key soon produced a water point which we shared with an Italian motor homer who said it was good water as we both filled our campervans and he filled his water bottle so we did as well.
Trani is a lovely town with a smashing harbour and marina with lots of quay side resturaunts as well . we had another pleasant stroll after a beer and snack ( Susan had been asking for a lunch break for at least 2 hours ( she says at least 3) before this , but nothing appropriate was found) !!
The Sun is now setting and our evening meal is being planned By Susan some grumbling about the quality of our white wine till she remembered we had topped it up with a brick last night to chill in the fridge 🙂 it’s pretty bad but cold and alcoholic.
Tomorrow we plan to visit the cathedral just behind our parking place. It has some interesting chiming bells !!
Woke this morning to snow falling !!! Blue skies and snow .. Get a grip .. It’s the seeds from anonymous trees .. Like cotton wool falling from the sky ..
It’s every where .. On your clothes and even down my throat .. Whilst chatting to my wingman in the market .. Must have drawn breath .. And in went a dollop of the stuff … Cough splutter and had to be taken to a cafe for water .. Thought my end was here …Lunch bought on the market .. Home grown everything.. Tomatoes to die for and nearly did !!!!
Next place to look at is up and up and up yet again.. It’s a slow scenic ride through Golo di Sagittarius a rocky gorge that squeezes the road like a natural vice and up again to Lago di Scanno for lunch with Bears,Wolves and Lynx .. Again didn’t see any..
Up and up to the snow line and ski resort of one hotel at 5000ft …on we trekked until a sign “via chiusa” ..Road closed?? On the road we wanted to use ??? Now who would come to Italy without a Italian/English dictionary or paper road map of said country ..The Sharmans would .. iPad map ! No signal .. Where are we .. So after a lovely ride and tempers frayed we headed back the way we had come … 25k back found a main road and now we are somewhere!!!! Enough said !!!
Off to Roman ruins tomorrow and the heel of Italy … But Hetty has a knocking sound eeeekkk !!! CV joint was muttered by the driver
From Spoleto to Sulmona it was a white knuckled ride .. Up and up again .. Let’s see the mountains we said …through national parks with 6000ft snow covered mountains all around us .. Across to Monte di Spoleto where the mountains open onto a high alp like plain with every spring flower you can name
Down again to the earthquake hit L’Aguila where the old town is still a no go area .. Still very broken after five years .. Seemingly this plateau is called Italy’s Little Tibet .. Wolves inhabit Parco della Majella with its high altitudes .. We didn’t see any !!!
Down again to Sulmona which nestles in a valley with the Morrone Massif as a back drop .. This pre Roman village is famous for its “confetti” the sugared almonds given to guests at Italian weddings .. It’s market day tomorrow so off we will trot to buy some more edible goodies for our house/ cat sitters.. Grins
Assisi is very difficult as the village is perched on a cliff / mountain without parking for campervans and as we only intended a flying visit we did it blue bottle style .. Landed .. Had lunch .. And took off again. .. There wasn’t any way to do it without staying on the plain .. Organising a tour which meant 2/3 days stop over and time is getting short .. So much to see .. I wish we hadn’t put a time scale on this trip as it now seem impossible to do what we wanted ..
Hill villages every where .. Just lovely ..but the roads are appalling .. Rough pot holed afares some falling off the cliff into the valleys
Stopped over night in Spoleto .. Not much to look at but had a big shop and J is now playing Tetris with the fridge to get all the goodies in which include very cheap beer ..yuck..
It’s the weekend and we are at Lake Trasimeno No sight seeing .. Just R&R after a lot of pavement pounding .. Two day of sunshine and an evening shower … We are on a Camping car spot (N43.18408 E12.02396) with FREE leccy as well as water by the side of the lake .. What a find thanks to ourtour.co.uk .. We have been stalking their journey through Italy .. if we can’t find a spot the cry goes up ” internet on and have ourtour been here “so this weekend has been Susan’s learn to sail radio control yachts .. You didn’t think we had come away without a boat or two in the wardrobe did you? … We have two with us and all the equipment to sail ..So I put together Susan’s yacht and she took the transmitter and started to control her yacht upwind and downwind a little confusing for her as she is used to feel the real yacht through the tiller. By the second day she started to get the hang of it. So after a total of about an hour of practice she could sail it by herself. We will get them out again soon but will have a boat each next time. … Tomorrow we are off again to LIDL first then just off as our next location hasn’t been verified yet …
€8 car park … And up and up and up 300 steps to the start of this town on top of another Tuscan hill .. Much bigger than San Gimignano and less busy with tourist but it was 6 pm when we started our ascent … It’s ancient …said to have been continually inhabited since the end of the 8th century …home to the fictional Volturi a coven of powerful regal vampires ..I thought wrongly that Twilight New Moon was film here No just set here and filmed in Montpulciano (on the todo list)
And on to Siena after a disturbed night in the carpark
Yes it’s the correct spelling.. Sienna is the colour
Another carpark and a bus into town .. And a wander through the streets with a few oooohs and aaaaghs ..
Piazza del Campo
WE had a lovely time and off to find the bus stop back .. After walking the wrong way for a mile or so about turn to the area we thought the bus ran from only we couldn’t find it .. Asked a few people who sent us back to the bus station but NO it doesn’t go from there .. Eventually an off duty bus driver gave us better instructions … And we bought a ticket at the tabac shop unlike on the way in NO ticket but no inspector either so got away with that .. Phew .. We have driven through more rolling Tuscan country side with castles and ancient hill hamlets than you can shake a stick at and now we are having some R&R by a lake by the name of Lake Trasimeno free camping + free leccy an added bonus
We are here at GPS coordinate 43.5555 -11.034700
After a lovely drive through rolling Tuscan countryside and not a hill to be climbed and trying in vain to find LIDL in Poggibonsi (love the name of this town) we found a farmers cooperative selling local produce as well as international .. Stocking up again on Chianti.. Parmagano ..beer..nochi .. Ravioli Oh and salads no seriously we are eating very well even though meat is off the menu .. Lovely pastas and home made sauces ( John is turning his hand to these culinary delights )
Back to San Gimignano
We could see the towers from the roundabout and had a GPS coordinate for a free off road spot when a little scooter pulled out in front of us waving us to follow !!! And slowly ..hypnotically led us down the road away from our preferred and may I add FREE parking and like the Pied Piper he led us to the Area Sosta camping @ €22 per 24hrs now we sit and watch other unsuspecting prey being bought in …
San Gimignano is Etrusian by origin pre Roman and rises up with its 15 towers like a medieval Manhattan .. Seemingly it had 72 towers and a sign of a man wealth was to build taller than the neighbours (things don’t change much) the film “”Tea with Mussolini” was about this village and the fight to keep the towers from being blown up in the war .. Another of Dame Maggie Smiths epics
Off to Volterra later where the setting for the Twilight films principle Vampire coven was filmed
Venice wins hands down …. My vision of Florence pre adventure was of a romantic cultured city and yes it would be without the traffic .. Where as with Venice a week wasn’t enough …24 hours slogging the streets of Florence is enough
As with Monday we bused in and went straight to The Uffizi Gallery with the tickets bought in Monday
It said in the guide books even with pre booked ticket to avoid the 4 hour queues one would have to wait in line but not for us 9-30am and in we went
It’s recommended in “the books” to climb the wide stone staircase to get the full feeling of the size of the palace I did but in good company with a few ladies of a similar age had to make a pit stop after four floors to regain our breath
It said take a turn to the left and old masters hit you in the face .. Your gold Christmas cards with Madonnas and Child are there to be studied at close quarters ..
The books say give yourselves 4 hours to see all ..it took us 3 as I don’t have any interest in the lumps of carved marble or ancient rocks ..I know a bit of a Philistine but it’s the paintings I went to see .. My favourite amongst Canaletto’s .. De Vinci .. Titian…Then i found an artist I hadn’t come across before Gheraldo delle Notti ( real name Gerald van Honthorst ) he acquired the of the Notti..Night.. name because of his use of candle light to add light and shade to the painting..I was very impressed
After 3-4 hours I had enough culture and needed a sit down .. Back on the bus .. Our bus number yes ..but the circular … So in stead of a quick 15 mins ride 1.5 hours later and seeing most of Florence’s suburbs we arrive back .. Packed up for our drive to San Gimignano ..
Just about found the Sosta (motorhome camping) .. €20 per night and free wifi … Just another carpark for campervans .. With locked gates at night … Very cosy … Packed solid with few spaces left at €20 a day 35 vans in now .. Sounds like a very profitable outfit ….Arrived early to get a space .. Bought our bus tickets and off we went … I walked and walked .. Lovely Palazzos and churches …and the Ponte Vecchio… all places seen in photos .. What we didn’t know was how hard pavement walking is .. The chaotic traffic and more so Japanese tourists … Scooters and buses in streets never made for motorised transport … No wider than one bus width but with bikes scooters and walkers all trying for a slot in the system …
A rubbish Pizza lunch in Piazza della Signoria with staff just not interested in the clientel as they won’t have to see em again ..
Bus back to rest very tired feet
Road side hookers on the Rimini road …all female …no male ..is this sexual prejudice
Blue and white zebra crossing in San Marino .. Why ..so you know when you have left the Principality?
Johns obsession with diesel prices via satnav which tells him of a garage coming up every 500 m lowest €1.26 in Spain Highest €1.84 in Italy ..sighs and clenches teeth
Sat navs new name is BSSN (bloody stupid sat nav). Wrong roads up dead ends at 4000 feet eeeeek ….
Smart cars like mine rule in Italy ..even more so than their little Fiat 500 …cheaper I suppose ..
Chiantishire is so named because so many Brits have moved there !
A little photo of Greve in Chianti ..
Said the man at the ticket office for The Uffizi in Florence …Sir you have to be 65 to get a free entry …te he ……but madam you can have free entry …see it’s paying to be old …I get to sit on special seats on buses and ferries and discount on Galleries ,Museums and such like …
BUT John may be looking for a new wife as he is trying to kill this one with some walk or other usually up and up and up….today’s was up to Piazza Michelangelo to see the view of Florence ..
..it was ok when I got my breath back ..but lots of clouds and not much sun ..the colour weren’t at their best sadly …Grabbed a bus back to town for more sights
..and lunch in Piazza Della Signoria…pizza and a Spritz ..€33 ..over priced but what can you expect ..with the lovely view of the Statue of David in your face …yummy …that’s the pizza ..chuckles
Mountain climbing again ..Hetty Hymer had to wear her boots today and use her first gear !!!
We decided to travel towards Firenze (Florence) but slowly to avoid the weekend crowds plus we need to find some free stopovers as we sort of bankrupted ourselves in Venice. Initially our thoughts where to head cross country towards the national park thinking the roads would not be too bad how wrong can one be… ending up in a nice village but the through road said no entry(we were about 3500 feet above sea level..on one track roads ..satnav has had a new name for a while ..Bl***y stupid is one prefix … so a 2km double back required then found a water main burst???at 3000 feet .. interesting ! Eventually a proper road was found …a bit of relief …a dual carriageway towards lunch at a possible sosta but wrong again BSSN (bl****y stupid nat nav )as it was not at the given co-ordinates so lunch was taken under the elevated dual carriageway … HE found a light fitting on Hetty falling off the wall (obviously the roads rougher than previously encountered so out with the screw driver)
Then followed the national park route …again steep AND windy but at least had a lane for each direction (where the road hadn’t collapsed that is). We passed compulsory snow chain signs plus a fine for not having them sign ..mmmm ..lucky we are out of snow season 😉 With lots of cyclists going up very impressive as it’s summit was 3500ft …lots of ear popping for us …heart popping for them ..Plus plenty of maniac motor bike wankers rushing to a hospital (we saw many bunches of flowers where presumably they kill themselves ).It was extremely interesting with lovely views but hard work with lots of low gear and steering wheel action both up and down the other side. We noted a few likely stops but too early to pull over :-((
Decided to shorten our destination to Bibbiena …did not locate the Sosta HE was knackered by now so pulled into a car park with a view over the valley towards tomorrow’s mountains 🙂 ?! Instead.photo
San Marino .. 5th smallest county in the world and yes it’s an independent country NOT Italy .. Had lovely colourful stamps in my collection as a child .. So we went there .. Past Rimini on the left , turned inland and up and up and up … After a few miss starts at parking Hetty was installed in the carpark by the Funicular( cable car) and up and up we went .. About 3k above sea level …and very pretty ..Disney style Castle … Not much character.. But still very sweet city … With Christmas shop and carols .. Yuck .. And gun shops … and then who the hell is this … Police cars and armed out riders in the tiny square and a guy having a coffee at the tiny restaurant .. More Jack Baur type men in suits with machine guns .. Still no idea who they were protecting … Looked American …
Not that I am doing WW but start with a light break ..cereal ..then to the ferry and a walk to All’Arco,s who invent Venices best Cicheti from the daily finds in the Rialto market ..ours consisted of Sicilian tuna tartar with mint ..Sardines with sliced pickled onions ..baby squid ..and finely sliced truffles with artichokes and a Spritz each ..€11 all in …small but delicate mortals of food …
After what seemed like hours of trudging willingly I may add through every ally and ginnell ..need to restore the soul with a slice of the best but very pricy pizza we have had as yet ..pricy because we were at the Rialto bridge when hunger struck ..Costa double Sir …yes it did ..and then we hit Groms …www.grom.it ….as it says in The Lonely Planet ..to lick the landscape of Italy and more ..Galati (more than ice cream) made from strawberry lemon but mostly chocolate ..J bought me a double I think just to get me back to the ferry as my legs definitely are worn to the knees
We are seriously in the red now ..readers of this blog will know we are trying to run this trip off €40 per day …Venice has put payed to that ..but I will claw back as the days follow with NO campsites …wild camping again …
The only people who seem to be doing Venice without a care for the cost are the Chinese …here in droves…only ones to afford the cafés in St Marks Sq and the Gondolas ..even saw a couple (Chinese again) in their wedding attire on a canal in a gondola ..
We have been frugal as far as the ferries are concerned ..buying a weeks pass for €50 each we are already €186 up if we had taken the boats paying for each trip …
That’s about it for Venice ..we were going in again tomorrow but we need some serious R & R so off down the east coast ..wonder what Rimini is like at this time of the year …if we get there I will tell you ….
MURANO AND BURANO
You can keep Murano and it’s glass ..most you will find on car boots in UK ..throw outs from the sixties ..there wasn’t a thing we would have bought even if we were rolling in it ..and one has to be around here ..but….
BURANO is a different kettle of fish …colour every where …
Spent most of the day island hopping ..off back to St Marks to find the famous Harry’s Bar with its Bolini,s at €15 a pop …what a disappointment ..no balcony over looking the water ..just up an ally …as you can gather we didn’t go in …
Tomorrow we will a couple of churches to see the Titian paintings and perhaps the Peggy Guggenheim Art Collection..out for lunch at All’Arco a well recommended Osterie ( cafe) for their Cicheti (tapas) then off to find the Aqua Alta book shop …see link ..
3rd May.. Our first Vaporetta excursion photo of water ambulance ..
Today we bought ourselves a 7 day ferry / vaporetta pass for all of the Venetian lagoon . A bit expensive at €50each but as we plan to stay in Venice for longer it’s ideal. We took the ferry (using the camp sites free bus service to the quay). Then into Venice to St Marks square and a stroll around visiting the Rialto fish market which has been in business since time in memorial .. When Susan stared lagging we jumped onto ferry No1 ..This particular ferry does the whole length of the Grand Canal so we took it to the terminus ..you can’t stay on for the return journey so off we popped and re queued catching the next one back to the park to eat our sandwiches then a ferry back to St Marks for the big ferry back to hopping off point near our camp site on the Lido Jesolo side near Punta Sabbioni
I had sussed that the No1 ferry started at the Lido which is our second stage on the way into Venice . So we planned to get off there tomorrow as some of the service No1 ferries have seats at the front to get a great view going up the Grand Canal. This would be ideal for Susan’s birthday tomorrow
4th May.. Star Wars Day( Susan’s 70 th Birthday.. and our Wedding anniversary 20 years )
Opened the presents given to us before we left UK (thanks everyone) then took Camp site coach to ferry jumped off at Lido and worked our way to the front of the queue ..not too difficult as mainly locals in front of us. Bagged two front seats and off up the Grand Canal for a sight seeing photofest . Bagged front seats for the return ferry too to catch some sights from the opposite direction it’s not quite as good this way. We had looked up a lunch spot and I programmed our satnav to walking directions so jumped off the No1 just before St Marks and walked for a bit ..some confusion due to narrow lanes disrupting satnav and a couple of back tracks later.. lunch spot found. Excellent meal ..We had a selection of the local tapas called chicheti in Italy …Susan had squid and polenta ..I had a seafood pasta and a bottle of local fizz (Prosecco)
Then a stroll through the back streets with a lovely gelato (more than ice cream)each to the hospital( no not that we needed it ..it was just there) then a ferry to Lido ( this was a commuter ferry and no good for sight seeing).Then big ferry back to the camp site. After a bit of a read( perhaps a snooze too) we went to the local restaurant for a spritz ( the local cocktail ..lovely) and probably the best pizza’s we’ve ever had.
It’s a regroup day tomorrow ..think we over did either the Spritz or the walking
…a bit of a supermarket shop ..running out of cheap booze ..Had a lovely meet up with some fun chaps from Australia..a drink or three and a laugh … So this finished the Birthday off beautifully …
REGROUPING DAY !!
It’s absolutely pouring down .. Not just raining but hurling down ..
Today was supposed to be our first foray into Venice to look see .. A bit of a ride on the vaporetto(small passenger ferry) up the Grand canal we thought but not in this rain .. Then a thought occurred to me why do we need to rush .. We have all the time in the world ..this isn’t a two week holiday where you have to do stuff how ever inclement the weather … So we regrouped .. Did the laundry .. Cleaned the bathroom .. Tidied cupboards .. And the thunder nearly sent me to hide under the stairs until I realised we don’t have stairs .. I am so glad we didn’t buy the weekly boat ticket .. That’s a job for tomorrow ..
See photos of torrential rain ..
We left Verona ,John diving deep into those Yorkshire pockets and paying (I might add without tears) for the Toll road to Venice saving us 100klm of torturous narrow hilly roads … And after two hours of uneventful scenic driving with the Dolomites on our left we had smiles as the toll only came to €8.60 … Magic
Our chooses route was around Venice on the Treiste road and down the backside of the Lagoon to the Venetian lido .. Woops That stupid sat nav .. Sent us across the causeway into Venice itself until a lady copper shook her finger saying NO … John then did an Italian U turn .. Only one lot of honking from the locals .. Then back to the road we were supposed to be on … Another hour with solid traffic ( we think it was May Day holiday and some motor cyclists trying to get to hospital quickly .. What dreadful drivers .. Only to find the campsite of choice didn’t have a laundry and was over priced so went another 100 yard down the road and found another which had every thing we wanted including curtesy bus to the ferry and we got OAP discount which made it cheaper than the other one .. Super.. Set up now ready for our Venetian Adventure
Sosta(Italian) or Aire (French) are for campervans / camping car / motorhome ..all different titles for our Hetty and her van pals .. An Aire is a parking spot within a city or near a site of historical interest .. Usually parking is allowed for no more than 48 hours ..sometimes free as in the Spanish ones we found and sometimes charged as is this one in Verona €10 and it’s within walking distance of the Arena and The Juliette house with compulsory balcony ( Romeo & Juliette.. William Shakespeare )
These camping grounds are usually a carpark with facilities for campervans .. Water fill up .. Loo emptying point .. Washing up water tank emty point and some times leccy … There are a few rules .. No camping chairs out .. That made use laugh as in Spain lots of Germans were sat out with beers in the sunshine so we followed suit .. I suppose rules are there to be broken ..
It’s now 5-30pm and this one is full .. With about 30 vans here .. We arrived at 10am to get a spot after a cold damp journey past Lake Garda .. There was a thunderstorm over night and the rain poured ..
We managed to walk into Verona when it was drying up so enjoyed all the sites including PAYING to enter the Arena .. Bus pass worked again .. Half price ..a lovely city and as yet uncrowded I can’t think what it would be like in mid summer .. Overpowering Now the heavens have opened again .. It’s cold and the heating won’t work .. Brrrrrr
We have bought a Vodafone mifi to keep us in touch with the world .. So let’s hope we can get it to work…
Bum clenching mountain road!
Need I say more about our drive from Genoa to Cremona .. Yes ok .. It’s expected of me to have more to say …
Genoa’s traffic had been described as horrendous but HE says our timing was right getting there from the ferry with its impatient honking Italian drivers ..sleeping in a secure carpark near the harbour and getting away this morning without much fuss … One expects to be cut up by motor cyclists in Italy but we nearly had one mounted on the front bumper as our figure head .. As we left Genoa following the river on a gradually narrowing and climbing switch back tree clad road with occasional tunnels which turned out to be the only straight bits ..some so long one couldn’t see day light at the other end .
Once Hetty crested the highest point with over an hour of non stop climbing to a height of over three thousand feet the vista opened up only to see the sheer drops into the valley bottoms at every turn of the switchback down to the lovely spring flowered pastures with its Tyrollean style villages below ..The top third of the ascent would have been compulsory snow chains less than two weeks ago … No snow for us
Cremona … Whose heard of this town .. You will probably say no .. But wait a moment … I bet you have heard of Stradivarius … He made his now priceless violins here..
The town piazza is considered to be the best preserved medieval squares in Italy and having just returned we can concurs with that .. Superb
Off to Verona tomorrow …
Barcelona is full !!!!
Bl***y parking nightmare …. We had 2 overnight over priced parking spots in Barcelona in our itinerary … Sorry sir NO space … So we headed for the docks .. No hookers this time but a parking space … Lorrys and us but beggers can’t be choosers if you wanna see the Gaudi church … Sighs .. had to get a cab who took us to the Gaudi museum .. Which have us 30 minutes walk to where we wanted to be. …sighs again … On arrival totally awe struck
Left Barcelona After the “NO spaces left in my carpark Madam” and headed for the beach south of the airport used only by local families who set up picnic tables at breakfast ,ate,laughed a lot , played cards as we left at 7 pm were just packing up after what looked like the perfect day out Spanish style … Free and quiet stayed overnight . Back to the ferry now for a 11pm sailing to find itinerant workers were off home to Tunisia …same ferry but next stop J guesses there must be 100 Vans,cars pack to the gunnels and then some … So top heavy with chairs .fridges . Bikes . You name it. . It’s on top of these vehicle ..and we have just see one with a kitchen sink on top I have seen vans piled like this in the Sub Continent but never in Europe .
We are now through one part of the security only to fall about with laughter as the piled high vans are being gone through with a fine tooth comb by the Civil Guard … Fridges are being removed from the middle of the heap and opened very entertaining …
Embarked and departed on time much to J surprise due to the seen chaos The people parked next to us in their lovingly self built horse box style wagon/campervan (later to find out it was an old TV outside broadcast van)had last week been left behind because they had been put in the wrong queue for Tangiers in stead of Genoa and watched their ferry sail off with out them …The boat is not so much of a ferry more a very aged cruise line ..very empty swimming pools but facilities such as cafe bar .. Dog deck .. All ok but one wouldn’t want to cruise on her .. Cabins is good after the room boy was called to clean bog .. As with all things J is an organised person bringing with him supplies … Water , instant cuppa mushroom soup and the kettle .. And a two day supply of ham mustard and tomato sandwiches.. So soup and one round of sarnies.. book and bed …with the force 5 westerly wind pushing up the Med we spent a very comfy night at sea arriving an hour early into Italy
We would like to thank Vee Eastham who emailed us with all the info to get us past France in a day instead of the long thrash on toll roads expensive and let’s not speak of the diesel we would have had to feed Hetty .. All in all it’s a win win situation .. Rested .. Read books .. Met interesting people .. And slept like logs ..
Goodbye Spain it been fabulous
And hello Italy
Off to sunny Spain … Not …
It’s cloudy and 21.2c … Quite chilly and he says it won’t rain on us but a bit murky … It rained..
J thought the very lovely ladies were orange sellers because an orange stall was in the vicinity…. As we drove further down the road selling stopped but the ladies were still there … Hookers … Well I never ….
There was one every kl each side of the road and kept J amused ..Ok so he have driven 340kl and needed jollying along … We are now just outside Tarragona on a free beach but with 20 other campervans … Bit crowded but we bullied our way to the beach front unlike lace curtained Brit with massive motorhome who snubbed us at Carrfours supermarket .. Park right next to is and totally ignored us … bloody cheek . Any way they were to big to get in .. Lol .. It’s burgers tonight and J’s garlic tomatoes and €1.10 per lt red wine .
It’s not campervan envy … I wouldn’t want one any bigger than ours but take a look at this . It’s even got a garage for a small car in the rear … FFS ..
ST GEORGE’S DAY
We are here
After a very trying day on the road what with having to pay tolls ( makes my Yorkshireman break out in a cold sweat) and trying to find free parking spots ..all disappeared ..but lots of town driving which means speed bumps ,roundabouts and pedestrian with priority and stepping out on to the many zebra crossings in front of us ..our nerves are shattered .. Well mine are .. I do think J is a very patient driver under the circumstances and that’s aimed at me .. I squeal and jump .. A very nervous passenger …
We are on our way to Barcelona as The Sagrada Familia is our next must see.. This is the church designed by Anton Gaudi http://architecture.about.com/od/architectsaz/p/gaudi.htm
We have found a parking spot (if it still exists ) off the blog I follow http://www.ourtour.com all about two people from Nottingham and their dog Charlie and motorhome Dave (same make and style as Hetty but a few years older)who did their gap year but it was two years duration and they are not just post grad .. Late thirties perhaps ..The info on their site has come In very useful .. Or as I say if in doubt “let’s have a look at ourtour”
So here we are in Xerico at an expensive camping spot called Camping San Vincente ..on the beach with a so called resturant but as no one seems to be eating there we will give it a miss .. The beach is glorious .. No one here .. Just a very few Spanish people … Just perfect ..
Sadly we will move on tomorrow. But I could stay here for a week it’s so relaxing … Continental cuisine al a Hettys galley for us …
Breakfast of French baguette choc spread curtesy of Lidl coffee and very sour apricot jam
Very late lunch after a few hours on the beach .. Again baguette .. Some odd Slimey looking pate but very tasty .. Philli cheese salami and garlic tomatoes with white wine at 75c per box … Chilled it’s quite acceptable ..
Another of our gastronomic creations is old baguette (waste not want not) turned into lunch time pizza ..
That’s all for now but we don’t think we will make it to Venice by my birthday .. To far in 10 days … Sighs
Granada ….not to be …
After having a lovely evening with Christine and David Sunderland …and try as we might to get tickets on line for the Alhambra palace in Granada ….we failed …I suppose Easter Sunday was just a little adventurous …so what does one do ..queue ? …I believe it can be a long wait …and guess what ..the heavens opened ..it rained so hard there wasn’t any way I was queueing .John made an executive decision …and we drove past ….well it’s the kind of place one can fly in and out in a weekend if one chooses …actually I was pleased really ..my poor hooves were very badly blistered from the previous couple of route marches he takes me on…blisters the size of saucers …
What to do next …a drive through tomato sheds ..miles and miles of em …ending up in a German woman’s parking lot for € 7 out in the middle of nowhere ..John excelled himself with a made up pasta dish ..very yummy ..
In the morning after a good quiet night off we went down the road no more than a mile to find free parking on a lovely backwoods beach …sighs …note to self …go a little further and look see …..
We then had a day away from our chosen route ..veering off to have a look at The Mar Menors …well I have heard its high rise and very Benidorm ….NO …it’s wonderful ..300 m across so the water is at each side ..lovely beaches ..37.775578,-0.742294 I like it …so we stayed ..parked Hetty on the beach at the north end ..watched the sun set with a couple of beers and a Spanish omelette and salad made by yours truly …
Johns bit ….
The next day ..Tuesday ..we had a couple of mozy bites (scratch itch etc) so we where up early ..Lovely sun rise over sea and off by 07:00 to beat the traffic ….,Raced a few school buses down the road ,then headed north onto the toll motorway …Bit expensive but gave us nice steady drive no real issues until we arrived at our chosen free Aire (over night carpark with facilities such as water fill UK and loo emptying) …only to find 2 houses built on it. So choose to go shopping for lunch and parked near beach… but couldn’t actually see it to eat but no overnight opportunity unfortunately sighs …another possible stop found but chose shortest route on satnav only to find road cut off by part finished new road so double back along narrow track lorries (oh shit) to find 2nd choice a full car park in town surrounded by multy story offices grrrrr. 3rd choice programmed in only to find a grubby looking camp site entered through a building site . So carried on to find a parking spot and a look at possibilities (Susan not happy as we had run on same roads a couple of times confused by directions and she had bollocked satnav a couple of times by now as well). I searched satnav downloads for a nearby camp site nearly going back to dump recently rejected then chose a location further north at Xeraco Playa.. it promised beach and delivered . Seems fairly quiet but nice I’m doing this post on bar veranda overlooking clean beach ..lovely sea with a cold beer. We are both knackered but now relaxed and chilling …Awning up …solar screens on Hetty to keep her cool with a nice breeze blowing. Nice start to the day ….shitty middle bit….but now ok what’s for tea /supper etc.
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Ronda and the Inquisition
Leaving Sevilla our next destination was Ronda where there is a magnificent bridge and lower key processions than Sevilla.
We are now ready for a big wash so the campsite at Ronda seemed ideal . So off we go but on arriving in town we where cought up in the procession …road closures and a satnav not helping. We managed to get out of town and found the camp site BUT at check in we found it was €23 a night plus wifi electric and washing machines so no electric was the decision.
Washing done and pegged out for overnight drying on our line . We then headed for the bar for a 5 tapas combo and beer each ..very nice it was too . Then bed and slept like logs.
Friday dawned bright and sunny ,washing nearly dry and a relaxing morning I thought so out with the awning which then broke. So out with the tools and a couple of hours later it was fixed but I don’t know what did the trick but gears reassembled …all was ok.
At 18:00 we walked down into town to look at the bridge bloody fantastic..This town of Ronda is where the Spanish Inquisition was founded .. The bridge being use as a bit of a torture point .. Conform or we chuck you off .. Lots were throw down the 100m to their deaths .. Same in the Spanish Civil war if you were on the wrong side over you went ..
We waited near the bridge for the procession (the best of all we have seen)
Me now …still Friday ..messing around with a very bad wifi connection and who popped in but my long time school friend Christine Sunderland nee Quantrill to say she and her husband David (my cousin once or twice removed and I was the guilty party who introduced them 54 years ago .. Three sons 7 grandchildren later they are still going strong )
I know they have a hill side retreat in Spain and had been invited to go to stay in the past but time and tide . I never got there ..
As we were driving the same day I said to J those villages are what I think C&D will be like perched high in the hills and with in a couple of hours her massages came in .. Now how weird is that as we Havnt spoken for about 3 years
We arranged to meet on saturday on our way to Granada and go for supper
The village road is far to steep to get an over weight Hetty up and they kindly came down and off we went up and up and up
And this is a google earth of the farm house ….can you see the track in the hills … Eeeeek!!! As I said up and up…..
We bused it into Sevilla at pensioner rate with our Lancs CC bus ID .. And chuckled ..then queued with all the holiday crowds for The Real Alcazar .. Not a chore ..lots going on and a classical guitarist played as we waited to show bus pass again to get pensioners rate.. €2 each instead of €9.50 each . It pays to be a pensioner here in Spain .. And we chuckled again..
Hot hot hot and so many people… All here for the Easter processions .. Lovely ladies in their Mantia and lace veil looked amazing .. Ladies of Spain the song kept buzzing around my head when I saw one all dressed in her finery..
Outside in the square there must have been thousands of chairs for the guests to view the procession ..
A bit worring with all those people ..but off we went to look around the Alcazar .. Interestingly reminiscent of Mogul India .. I think the gardens were the top of the to see list .. Cool .. Water … Fountains .. And the smell .. As in all of Sevilla at this time of year the Orange and Jasmin blossoms are in abundance. .
Having “done” The Alcazar we headed into the Jewish quarter of narrow alleys for lunch of our first but not our last (hopefully) Paella .. see photo
Another little walk and a taxi back to Hetty and off we went again on another adventure which was Ronda
Hetty’s maintenance schedule etc
Today Hetty was washed which was part of the storage/camping package. Now this is a big job and takes me at least 3 hours at home and I only do it a couple of times a year, but as the package could include a wash we took advantage as the wash bay was undercover leaving no streaks pretty essential in this heat and sun.
After the wash I did a few routine checks tyre pressures ..a bit low at the back and as we are always traveling heavy now as packed for the duration of our trip I boosted the pressures a bit with our power pack ,which then went on mains for a big charge we also mains charged all our other kit, I also checked for stones tyre condition etc.
Engine oil checked.. water and window wash checked. These are checked more frequently now as we are travelling greater distances plus recovery though covered by our insurance would probably be slow.
I then did all the windows including the roof lights Hetty is now better than when we left over 1,000 miles ago!
We averaged 29 mpg on the way to the ferry on UK motorways, the check for our Spanish drive so far is 31mpg pretty ..good for a 3.5ton Motorhome fully laden ..plus the diesel is much cheaper but we have not yet filled up at our target cost of €1.31 due to seeing these prices after we had already filled up at €1.35
The main reason for the full maintenance schedule today was to allow Susan to recover from our trip yesterday evening to see the religious parades . Over 4 hours of walking and strolling to and around Seville and back. We walked miles and Susan was absolutely knackered on our return after midnight and needs a days maintenance herself( oil the joints ,sand callouses off her feet etc) S here …cheeky bugger…
Our Hetty has reached her 70,000 miles today …a couple of week before Susan reaches her own 70 miles on the clock ….
It was said in the blurb for motorhome parking lot that the walk into the centre of Seville was 15 mins They lied … It’s half an hour at a yomping speed .. But lots of stuff going on … People rushing to the first square .. So off we go .. The first parade was lining up .
Confadías (brotherhoods )these religious groups are called …Very sinister in the conical hats and faces covered with slits for eyeholes reminiscent of Klu klux klan outfits in USA ..
The group carried lit four foot long candles walking in twos with the altar bearers ..incense wafters and silver and gold crosses held high .. Then came the float The Virgin Mary .. Flowers ..Silver and more candles .. Carried as I thought by four chaps .. John says they couldn’t have carried it and it was an illusion and it was on wheels … Now that was the parade … Off the crowds of Sevillanos (Residents of Sevilla) went and we followed .. Up to Parque Marie Louis and again we had front row viewing … Police controlling but gently .. Ours was a bit of all right ( see photo)..
The show went on for an hour .. And finished at the Cathedral ..crowds dispersing as we made our way to a street side cafe for beer and food .. Ordering was very difficult as we had no idea what was what … So one dish looked bacony one cheesy … Yup bacon and Langustine and the other Camembert on crustini topped with walnuts and marmalade … A couple of beers and a walk through the Barrio de Santa Cruz ( judería ) the medieval Jewish quarter .. And we walked and walked .. Because of the excitement of the evening and being carried on the the crowds we had gone beyond our walking back limits .. Thank goodness for the map on IPhone I downloaded prior to leaving home ,,it took us a good hour at a good pace to get back to find the main gate locked … Telephone number to ring security .. He came in a large 4×4 .. Opened up and offered us a ride as it’s about another half mile … Well if you had seen me … Laugh … I had seized up and couldn’t climb into the back of this truck .. J pulled and pushed to no avail then offered the front seat which with a little more grace I managed to crawl into ..phew .. So glad to be back in Hetty .. We had underestimated the walk and in my view this camper park is too far out of town
I have been berated for not replying to comments …I would if I could and will when I can …if I don’t then it’s because I haven’t seen them or I haven’t any WiFi to my IPad ….Now I feel as I cannot reply at the drop of a hat annoyed at your criticism …. so I have turned comments off for the time being..
My phone sim which is now a Spanish orange won’t let me do dicky shit not even txt UK until I go on line to upgrade….Trouble is we speak/ read zilch Spanish …OR ..go to the Orange shop …yup OK …Find me one in the outback of Spain …so now we are just arrived in a city look out Orange here we come …and I have a translating app on the phone which speaks in Spanish the sentence you have written in English …This could take some time ..
Another long drive to Seville ..In the clouds at one time the road was so high ..
Hetty is parked up for a few days whilst we do our Tour of Two around Seville
We are here for the Easter celebration of Semana Santa to join Seville’s masses for this dramatic event culminating in the Madrugada on Friday ..very early morning ..
The parking ground seems to be a car transfer depot and Motorhome storage area on the banks of the river …it’s €15 with Leccy ,Car wash, Showers and a Wyfy room …Not the most lovely of places to be honest but parking for camper vans is very limited ..This place seems to be full now ..it’s a 15 minute walk to the centre of the city and a bus outside will take you in as well
A bit of a moan
I have packed all the wrong clothes …What’s the hell do I need Docs ,Jegging ..jeans.. wooly hat ,gloves and fleeces for …it’s HOT
It’s probably because of our visit to Gozo in the Maltese Islands late last March and I took the wrong clothes again and was frozen …arriving back home at Leeds international airport soon to be closed due to snow drifts …
So I have three soft pants ,5 white shirts and two pairs of flip flops and my boots for city walking …note to self “empty wardrobe into bin bag and store else where ”
We are running on a € 40 per day budget …that’s for everything including fuel …a bit tight but I calculated we could do the trip on this amount …now that excluded the ferry which came in at £319 …
I have financed my travels with a limited budget when India called ..See how much is in the pot, Divide by days away ..Some days we run on a lot less ..don’t spend for the sake of it as the residue will come in later for a splash out ..Like the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay on one of the South India trips ..On that one we spent more money in 5 days in the hotel than the 5.5 weeks wandering India …but it was in budget so what the ….!
Zafra…. An overnight stop on the way to Seville
After an uneventful journey from Cereras on dual carriageway Susan happy . We arrived in a strange car park , around a very unusual building pear shaped in plan ,which allowed parking and a Motorhome service point . We parked up had lunch and went for a stroll using the satnav for directions. Not very welcoming as many fairly run down apartment blocks everywhere . However we persisted and found the Town square which was lovely with some palm trees and a fountain . This was surrounded by streets of old white painted houses with large doors and hanging geraniums from balconies . We could see through some entrance lobbies to internal flower filled courtyards.
We returned to the town square sat and had a beer with tapas salad and watched the town come to life at 5o’clock.
Susan was determined to find the Parador ,which was in a converted palace ..very nice ,we went in for tea and coffee in its courtyard, then strolled back to Hetty through a much more salubrious part of town. See photos
The courtyard in the Parador for tea …
OMG ……Cereras Aire ..more a car park but full of motor homes travelling back to where ever ..one couple from Staffs were on their way back from Morocco after a 10week tour in a van around 7.5 m long ..6 berth ..with swimming pool ..no just kidding ..but big .
Post from John
I am writing this as Susan is a little stressed.
The journey from La Alberca was via some very narrow and steep roads to about 4000 feet with precipitous drop offs occasionally at Susan’s side!. I knew she was not happy due to the squeals and gasps …however we had to do 17 km due to the fact there was nowhere to turn around, then we reprogrammed the satnav for the fastest route, when we arrived at the next village and it took us on another 10km of mountain roads.
This said the views where magnificent and the fact that the road was not much wider than Hetty meant we where only travelling at about 20kph to allow chance to stop at each blind hairpin bend if required .
We did meet one artic with very large trailer coming the other way but I saw him a little in advance and managed to duck into a field entrance to let him past. We dropped to a river at one point and thought that the road would be down the valley from here but no back up the other mountain.
The last section off the mountain was via very steep hairpin bends with words painted on them presumably from a Tour du Espagne mountain section , Poor bastards.
Then onto normal roads for the rest of the journey.
The Spanish are very courteous drivers and considering that pedestrians have right of way on Zebra crossings, stepping out without even looking you have to keep your wits about you, especially as crossings are always on the exit from roundabouts. In town the lights controlling crossings and junctions have countdown for how much time left at green and then at red for drivers and pedestrians as these are the only crossings pedestrians do not have automatic right of way. …and we haven’t hit one yet ..
It’s payed off doing trial runs at Nelson Lidl …Now we have done our first big shop here in Lidl Zafra.. Would you believe all the produce are in the same spot as in the UK branches … Yippee .. No messing around … So now we have all the goodies LIDL Spain has to offer including bricks of wine at 75cents each… a Lt. .. Holy moly my prayers are answered … Cheap reasonably tasting … But who would dare to complain at that price so now we have coffee , cooked chicken of some variety ..Palma ham … Olive oil bread and so on …tomatoes to die for .. Cucumber which taste like heaven …I am a lucky girl shopping at Lidl …..lol now who will cook ..?HE will..
Miranda del Castañar was our next port of call ..dominated by the castle in front of which the town square doubles as the bull fighting ring …pleasant village ..
We are here in a fully serviced car park or Aire N40.48841 W6.11670 at 3600 feet above sea level and staying over night
A very well preserved 18th C village typical regional style ..best maintained in the area but all the villages have some dereliction …see photos
Beer o’clock a few olives sundries toms and supper of tinned ham layonnaise potatoes salad de jour with a lump of cheddar and a glass of France red to finish the day …
Campervan hair …a knot on top works …beer o’clock in the main square of La Alberca
Saturday …We thought San Martin del Castañar was magical but nothing compared to little Mogarraz …another windy narrow nail biting road in the mountains …I am not good as a passenger never mind dare devil roads with a gorge on one side and no passing areas on the other …
Tiny winding higgledy pigglety streets ..over hanging eves ..cool in the sun …stairs leading to covered doorways …but ..what the guide books don’t tell you is the paintings above each house of the people who lived there in 1967 ..The whole population ,370 people are recorded ..The artist was Swiss and from what we could gather from one of the residents who was painted This man took photos of all the people …went off and returned with all the paintings which are mounted on the front of the each persons residence ….absolutely fascinating as one could pick out the people still alive and going about their business
In our estimation this is the best of the villages in this area ..see photos
This is the same chap 46 years later …his mother and sister are the other two paintings above his house
The chap with the hat is the artist who took on this mammoth task
n.b. photos are just snaps ..not edited so accept as they are ..
The drive from Avila wasn’t anything to write home about ..good duel carriageway but very flat and we now understand why Don Quijote lost his marble and tilted at windmills ..
On first appearances Salamanca looked like a large urban sprawl on the drive to the site but on arrival at the Don Quijote campsite ..N40.5830 W5.3611 by GPS ..sunny ..by the river …under trees…about 6km walk or by bus from the centre of Salamanca..looks like this will suit us for our first site stop off since leaving home ..and ..they have Wyfy ..
Cooking supper and the rumble started my our tummies but thunder …then lightning …and the down pour came with the most ferocious of storms …drink more wine and sing ..my remedy ..
After toast as we were on mains hook up ..to the uninitiated that means we have Leccy and a toaster …we miss toast when wild camping …..we set off for the walk to the bus stop 10 mins at the most ….and got off with everyone else ..we had no idea where we were until an American pointed us in the right direction to the main shopping area with all the usual suspects Zara , McDonald’s and the others past this lot there was a gate leading to the old part …it was bathed in sunlight ..golden Salamanca ..Plaza Mayor hit us head on with the noise of very lively kids on school outing , a pipe and drum band leading what looked like a protest march …a porticoed square with outdoor seating for the cafe scene ..
A massive student population study at the University which is a visual feast, founded in 1218 and is said to be equal to Oxford or Cambridge …traffic free streets await to take you on to the Cathedral begun in 1120.. See photos…
Lots of Convents , Monasteries and church as we wandered around …lovely looking eating places ,we tend not to eat out …BUT we will ….
Managed to find the bus back after a small shop for the most expensive wine so far € 1-19 less than £1 …
Sierra de Franca all above 2500 feet
Until the 20th C this region was one of Spain’s poorest malaria ridden areas ..when King Alfonso 13th visited in June 1922 only human milk was available for his coffee ..he is reputed to have donated the first cows into this area
Friday ….Leaving the camp site fully fuelled ,watered and an empty loo and after more toast ….our daily bread baguette bought and Asparagus for our risotto tonight and off we buzz into the hinterland …Lovely snow covered peaks in the distance …our aim today is just one of the five villages recommended by Lonely Planet ..Tomorrow we will tick the rest so here we are in San Martin del Castañar 40.52310 6.06241 the GPS A small but intimate car park over looking the half timbered stone houses ,flowers cascade from balconies and a small village bull ring which is being used as storage for a renovation project on one of the falling down houses ..we walked to the castle on the top of the hill and back ..30 minutes at the most so a very small village .we think it’s used mostly for summer tourists holiday homes as all is locked up …one restaurant open but that’s it … It’s just rained so J is cleaning Hetty’s windows and there’s thunder in them there hills ..
We had by Tuesday nearly used up our UK roaming abroad kindly provided for £3 per day by Vodafone from our normal UK package. We decided to buy a local sim for Susan’s phone , upon investigation the hypermarket where we bought the water had a phone shop, BUT it only re-opened after lunch , in Spain this meant 17.00.
So off to McDonalds for a coke and free wifi and an update with family.
Then back to the shop to buy a sim, this took 2 1/2 hrs due to Spanish identity rules including passport and 4 signatures. They then had to port the number to a micro sim for Susan’s iPhone .15€ later we where back online but no out of country texts allowed unless we paid for a further package which we decided not to take.
During this period the alarm and anti theft device on Hetty Hymer decided to pack up and had to be overridden before we could move. On the following morning as we where about to leave the alarm system came back on line but the sat nav would not take us to a sensible location using co-ordinates and we had to look up addresses . Then the indicators acted up with a bulb failure so we pulled into a garage to change the bulb but on removal it was ok so reinserted and all was fine . As we needed fuel sometime in the next 100 km Susan decided now was the time to fill up even if the price was expensive . So 50€ later nearly full and I checked the tyre pressures and off to Salamanca and a camp site.
TOAST the joy of mains electric :-))
A name I had heard of as a place en route to the Costa’s ..sounded exotic ..so off we went ..seemingly Walt Disney thought so too as he made his Sleeping Beauty castle a carbon copy of Segovia’s Alcazar ..A castle which perches on a rocky out crop ..magic views as we came down the hill off the high plains it hits one with a whiff of legend ….
Next was the Aquaduct ….a stunning monument to Roman engineering ..894 m long it was raised in the 1st century AD
Here we had our usual whistle stop tour as parking was just two hours and even though the sun was scorchio I made it round the very hilly city without to many moans …
Off to Salamanca next where we have a camping site …yaaaa ….
We have been wild camping now since Friday ( wild camping for the uninitiated is setting up camp any where other than a campsite ..with no facilities such as water ,showers ,Loo emptying )
We can usually do about 4 days …and this is the 5th…so off to a GPS location with serviced parking ..we hadn’t any intensions of staying just get water on board and empty Loo ….how ever the location had been upgraded to a building site ..ok what to do now …go to a supermarket for big bottles of water and use cafe toilets ….or pee in the shower …HE found a few trees …and on to Aviila …
Avila’s old city with walls and eight monumental gates eighty eight watch towers ..two thousand five hundred turrets is one of the best preserved medieval bastion in all Spain but only has a coach park for us without facilities …but what we did get was the local marching band practice from 19-00 hrs till 23-30 ….as it’s coming up to Easter a Durge /slow march was practiced again and again by the youth side of the band …no one seemed to be able to hold a tune ..it got better later when the Dads took over ..but very amusing and I thought enchanting with our pasta supper and samples of white wine at 75 cents per Lt. carton now to named a brick of wine ..needs to be very cold or with soda to be palatable but whose complaining at that price …We open a decent red from home and the band played on…and on and on ….
Parked Hetty just off the square in Lerma where we bedded down for the night …42° 1’31.82″N 3°45’15.77″W Quiet on road parking but for a rogue Mozi …John woke with 10 bites and I managed one ….on mi forehead ….ouchy and itchy …J managed to get his revenge slapping the trapped bastard Mozi between the palms of his hands with a vengeance seldom seen so early and before coffee …
Leaving Lerma had a little shop for veg and such and then off to Penaranda de Deuro …one of my off route villages
Originally a Celtic fortress village of the 15th c .. On arrival we did as the guide books say and had a view from the castle …the car park there would make a great wild camping site…here are the co-ords 41°41′24″N 3°28′53″W / 41.69000°N 3.48139°W but we had other fish to fry and onwards to Segovia
Perched on top of a cliff ..standing out in the brilliant blue of the sky Lerma is full of cobbles and plazas …tiny in size but not in beauty …churches and and a Parador ..The Paradors are state funded chain of hotels in many stunning locations ,Castles ,Convents and old city mansions …filled with the states antiques and art work …but not 5* prices in all ??? We’ve been for hot chocolate in the one in Santiago one Christmas Day many years ago …
The roads are so much better than UK J says ..The Spaniards seem to be spending their way out of recession as we head for Burgos . It’s a Sunday and the roads are clear of traffic …Wonderful mountain vistas every where
The north of Spain is hilly to say the least ,green with off road villages temping one off the planned route ..just a lovey drive
Satnav took us into Burgos …The staging post for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage …and a trading centre between the Interior and the ports of the north and as it was Sunday not much traffic to worry me …we found the central car parks but underground and Hetty is a tall girl ..not to worry J had seen a parking spot about 2 k out near the castle park..Walked into Burgos ..another wonderful centre as the town planners left it alone to its medieval history ..no pulling stuff down and building monstrosities..it’s still the medieval ancient city with the cathedral soaring above the square ..see photo …4 mile walk there and back and off to the hidden Spain as it’s called …Personally I think the whole of Northern Spain is better by far than the Costa of choice …off to Lerma
6th April 2014 written by John
Slept like a log till morning when another or shall we call it the Last Breakfast of the English variety was consumed
Docked at 12noon in Santander
We sneaked past the large stink boat to get off the ferry and were routed around the docks by several yellow jacketed guys to the passport control. This was a very brief perusal then we where on our way .The dock area was much bigger than expected and it took ages to get to the road. Susan slightly discomforted when I overtook a lorry slightly more so when the lorry soon re-passed us on the dual carriageway.
This dual carriageway was exited after a short while and we where on a decent N Road climbing and weaving through lovely villages. We passed several good opportunities to wild camp at points where road improvements had left decent lay-bys we stopped at one only to discover we where now at 2500ft and still climbing. We drove for quite a while at this level then dropped to 2000ft and stopped at a hamlet at a gorge/bridge. We strolled around what was a lovely place(photos). We continued on our way still climbing achieving over 3000 ft the road then dropped sharply and we saw our potential first night stop at a camp site on the opposite side of a large lake (would eat 4 Windermere’s but progress was so good over the high Sierra that we decided to carry on to look at Burgos.
5th April 2014
Slept soundly in ferry terminal car park to be wakened at 5am and crawl out of bed for the loading at 7am …with the thought of a lovely breakfast on board that was easily done ??? Interesting loading ..Drive on and turn in a circle to reverse park …watched in amazement as behind us a 50ft power boat on a lorry was loaded …and a 29 ft yacht …What !
Cabin very acceptable as we are on an economy sailing ..and down for breakfast ..yum yum ..full English …magnificent …
Seasick pill consumed and a snooze was called for ..The swell was soporific …
Supper time ..Scooby snacks had been bought …pork pies ,caul slaw ,dips ,breadsticks and tomatoes were layed out as a floor picnic in the cabin by J …
Travels with Hetty
68880 on the mileage odometer on leaving
Set off at 1pm as planned
Every thing but the kitchen sink on board and yes we have that as well as Hetty is fitted with two …kitchen and bathroom
Just had first drama … The phones and satnav have stopped charging .. Now with our reliance on tec stuff we would be lost with out these gadgets …so we have pulled off at Knutsford services to find a fuse as blown .. J has gone for supplies ..
Second stop in Warwickshire
We haven’t had a Burger King whopper for about ten years and it was very good being so hungry my stomach thought my throut had been cut
Bowling along again to find fuel or should I say find a Morrisons because J has a 2p off voucher … Say no more …yes I will say more probably…but not on a public blog…
After journey to Portsmouth ..filled up at Tesco after satnav hiccup ..69186 mileage getting on ferry
Me,Him and Hetty Hymer are mentally ready for the road but things beyond our control are in the way ..like filling in driving license renewal form incorrectly and our son becoming a father ..we are now 3 months late ..ahhhhhhgh !!!!!!
And …..the price of the ferry to Spain is rising daily..
So ..I will tell you of the journey planned..
After ignoring Europe except for a quick trip to Paris… one to Amsterdam, a few to Gozo in the Maltese Islands and a plenty of cross channel yachting forays to Brittany back in the days of southern living…choosing to take long haul flight amd roughing it around the world with a backpack and a lot of courage …I suddenly realised age was creeping up very fast..and I hadnt been to Venice . This realisation set the thought process going… Fly out for my birthday in May or retire and take the long way round in our aging Hymer motor home…..
Driving licence arrived by post so now do we take the no frills ferry or cruise style …After looking at the timetables at least ten time we have plucked up courage to plumb for the No Frills .. .