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Photo of me at Land's End, Cornwall

Here, there, everywhere and some other places too …


And so to Alsace...

2013-05-16 at 21.01.08
On Sunday, May 12, 2013 we had a reasonably early start as we left Camping Waldpark Hohenstadt en route to Alsace. This was our second time in the little town of Equishiem and we were really quite excited to be going back. I suppose returning to the scene of a prior enjoyable experience can be a bit risky as very often it doesn't measure up but, truthfully, I will never tire of Alsace. It is an incredibly beautiful part of the world and hopefully the pictures here will give you a bit of an idea of what it is like.

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First of all, a few words about the campsite. It is called Camping des Trois Chateaux and it is a municipal site. It is not the best campsite you will ever stay at but it is certainly adequate and the facilities are impeccable. It seems to be a favourite stopping off point for German and Dutch people but the occasional GB can be spotted.

One of the features of this part of the world is the presence of storks. Just a few hundred meters from the campsite there is a stork farm and, apart from that, they seem to travel quite freely in the area as their nests can be seen on roof tops in the town and equishiem. Don't be surprised if one or two turn up on your doorstep in the campsite as they tend to visit regularly in search of the odd hand out from kindly travellers!
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The town of Equishiem is known as “The cradle of the Alsatian vineyard” and for good reason. Local vineyards stretch for miles and many independent wine producers have their cellars in the little streets of the town. The blue building in the picture entitled “The Equishiem style” is one such example.


Thoughts about Rapido...

There are many forums online where motorhomers gather and exchange tips, tricks and stories of their trials and tribulations. Unquestionably they are a source of good advice and get you out of little scrapes here and there. I can certainly point to a number of things about this trip which were helped by going on line and posing a question.

Again, driving in convoy with another couple is comforting as there is always someone there if anything goes wrong. So it is with us on this trip. Inevitably we have had things go wrong where the principle of two heads being better than one saved the day.

There was the time at the beginning of the trip when, mysteriously, the heat stopped working and simply wouldn't start. We tried every trick we could think of but to no avail so we went to bed early and decided we would seek out an engineer in the morning. That was the night it snowed!

The next morning the system mysteriously reset it self and hasn't been a problem since.
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Arriving in Alsace from Germany we discovered that the water had stopped running through the system. Nothing when you turned on any tap, no flushing in the toilet and no shower.

Gianni, who knows a bit about these things joined me and the manual and we tried to logically get to the bottom of it. The fuse was ok, we tried the "turning it off and turning it on again" routine over and over again but it stubbornly refused to perform. We concluded it must be the pump so that took the problem beyond our reach. I went down to reception to enquire if there was any local engineer who might help but I got a blank expression and a card indicating a garage about 40 miles away. We tried to phone this place and all we got was music and nothing else. Their Web site wasn't any better.

Then we noticed on the back of the Rapido Manual a telephone number so we took pot luck and tried it. Straight away we got through to Rapido and a helpful lady responded favourably to my initial, "Parlez vous Anglais?". I told her my dilemma and wondered if there were any Rapido dealers in the area, after all it is a French company. She then asked me if I was driving a UK model and I said that I was. At that she transferred me to another department where I was greeted to a english sounding gentleman called Anthony. Straightaway he asked me for details of the problem and then asked me for my telephone number so he could call me back.

He had located a suitable dealership some 30 miles away but for some reason they were closed all day Monday and despite several phone calls there was no response. I was very pleasantly surprised at his attentiveness and, in truth, it sounded very comforting to know that help was on hand. He gave me the address and the directions to the dealership and suggested I go up there first thing Tuesday morning and he would pursue them till he got a reply. Well, that is exactly what we did. We left at about 8:30 and drove slowly to a small down near Strasbourg called Benfeld. Along the way the phone rang and it was Anthony telling me that he had spoken to the dealership, they were expecting me and he wished me luck.

When we arrived the receptionist spoke perfect English and informed the service manager that we had arrived. He accompanied me to the van where I explained as best I could what the problem was. He drove the van into the workshop and I joined Nancy and Dougal in the little lounge area. We assumed it would be hours and so we started to think about exploring the local town and having some lunch.

Within 15 minutes the service manager returned with a big smile on his face and gave me a thumbs up. They had found the problem. An electrical connection somewhere under the sink area had become corroded and had finally broken off. A few minutes and it was repaired and the Vinny Van was as good as new. The garage was CLC Alsace Route National 83 Direction Colmar 67230 Benfeld. The whole repair cost me €17!

When I go back to the site I called Anthony to thank him for his efforts and was interested to find out a bit more. He is Anthony Pfaff and works in technical support especially for the export market. He is based in France and I have to say he reminded me of the long gone days when customer service really meant something and when nothing was too much trouble. I counted 7 calls he made to me during a period of just under 48 hours. So a very big thank you to Anthony and also to Rapido for providing such a service.

Venice and onwards...

In our last offering we were singing the praises of Camping Miramare close to Venice. A super site where nothing is too much trouble. However I have , a word of warning. Mosquitoes. It would appear that we are a tasty bunch as several families of the bugs celebrated May day by dining out on us! Loretta suffered more than the rest of us but we all have our memories.
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There will be more about that from Nancy.

There is a magic about Venice and we tried to capture as much as we could in pictures which I hope you enjoy. We had all been there before but not as motorhomers and, in my case, Nancy and I had been here with Ji Hye Lee for Christmas in 2010. At that time there was rain, there were high tides and as a result St. Mark’s Square was under 2 feet of water. Still we all ended up with new wellies and lovely memories. This time it was so different and the heat was the main hurdle, heat that seems to attract even more mosquitoes.

A word here about Dougal. He was a star. Totally out of his comfort zone he seemed to enjoy the ferry to St. Mark’s and ambled around the place accepting the admiration of countless passers by.

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The pictures below are of a typical “street scene” as a Gondolier negotiates a sharp turn into another “street”. The other is of the famous Bridge of Sighs which, historically, ran between the Court House and the Prison where it is said condemned prisoners got their final view of Venice before meeting their fate. Hence the name of the bridge.



We have now been on the road for46 days. We've had rain, snow, sleet, mud and hail - but despite the dramatic weather, it has been wonderful. Most recently we've traveled a larger portion of Italy than we've done previously - it was captivating. We will return. Our last site in Italy was a campsite Frank found called Miramare near Venice - which I have to say was beautiful. Although we all suffered a bit due to Mosquitoes, (mostly poor Loretta, who is highly allergic) but we were able to take a water bus into Venice for a lovely, but exhausting day. Learn more about this site on Frank's prior post.

Slovenia. I am not sure I can explain what, if any, preconceived notions I had about this country. Geographically, I knew it was one of many small European countries, but if you had asked me to locate it on a blank map I doubt if I'd have come anywhere near its actual location. All that said, I was happily surprised to discover a beautiful country with rolling hills, well maintained roadways and friendly people. Now onto the campsite.
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Firstly, let me say we have only seen one camp in Slovenia so it would hardly be fair to discount the whole of the country based upon a single experience. From that disclaimer you can probably tell I wasn't very impressed with Camping Adria, located in Ankaran, Slovenia. As we pulled into the camp we were struck by the number of seemingly, permanent residents. These "campers" had odd higgily-piggily set-ups that were quite unattractive, and seemed thrown together using any sort of disparate building supplies.

It is conceivable that these dwellings were not the owners full-time homes, and may have actually been their holiday homes - if that is the case, it would be just...sad. The second impression was of an inordinate number of dogs, most quite large and a few seemed identifiable as Pit-bull or Rottweilers. Bearing in mind we share our lives with a very cuddly and soft Shih Tzu, this was alarming.

I immediately told Frank we needed to keep Dougal on a lead to avoid his potential dismemberment. Seriously, there were large groups of these types of dogs EVERYWHERE. Our friends, Loretta and Gianni were just as dismayed, Loretta was once attacked on a campsite by a large dog so understandably was very uncomfortable.

So, I recall talking with Loretta and I mentioned unless there is a dog show nearby, there was no excuse for a campsite allowing so many large, and potentially dangerous dogs on a public site. Guess what? Yeah, there was a dog show, and apparently, a world championship. Okay...now onto the better news. The restaurant and views of the Adriatic. Both impressive, and they served very refreshing Mojitos too! All in all, we would not return to the campsite, but it was somewhat redeemed by the outstanding views and nice meal.

The next day we were off bright and early to Croatia. This was our second trip to the country, but first to this part of this oddly shaped, but beautiful country. Frank had found a website that showed a lovely looking campsite on an island called, Krk. We have learned the websites that tout their own campsites are usually discovered to be not just as nice as their photos and descriptions would have you believe. Camping Pila, in Punat falls into that category.
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Yes, it has its beauties; on the shore of a sheltered harbour and with a nice paved seaside path that goes quite a distance and to the large marina. Sadly the campsite is in dire need of upkeep and repair; weeds are high in spots, and shrubs could do with a trim. The market was described as being a full, and well stocked sort of place - but it too was found to be lacking when Frank and Gianni tried to buy supplies for a cookout. And again we saw disturbingly permanent looking camp-dwellings near us which could only be described as eyesores. However, with the disappointments we had a few nice surprises in the form of several walkable or cycle-able, cafes, pubs and restaurants. The harbour, although the view from our "premium" pitches is somewhat obscured by a high sea wall, is pretty, with ships and small sailing yachts gliding past constantly. All said, we are happy as the weather is warm (albeit a bit rainy at the moment) and we have the company of our good friends nearby. We plan on staying a week and happily are expecting Loretta and Gianni's son, David and his wife to join us for a couple of days! Should be very enjoyable!

Keeping the best till last. The view from our pitch at Camping Pila.


The gift that keeps on giving...

2013-04-26 at 11.19.20

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the motorhoming lifestyle are the little eccentricities that we all indulge in. When Ji Hye was travelling with us she just loved the camaraderie displayed as motorhomers waved to each other as we sped along the various continental roads. And within that the apparent "superiority complex" of pointedly NOT waving to caravan owners etc. We are a strange lot.

Add to that the fact that you immediately bond with anyone and everyone when you eventually settle on a site and you realise you are part of a very special club. Take, for example our travelling companions on this trip, Gianni and Loretta Carbone. Our relationship is just a year old having met on the banks of the Loire in April 2012 and have been firm friends ever since. We have lots in common including an inherent curiosity to explore and try things new.
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So it is that curiosity that left us open to the excitement of finding not just a new campsite but one of such unique proportions that it has crept to the very top of our all time favourites list. as described in our previous blog, We have been here now a few days and regard it as a gift that keeps on giving.

Take last night, for example. Yesterday was a feast day in Italy, a national holiday and not surprisingly the site filled up with every imaginable shape and size of vehicle. Smeraldo is obviously a gem in this Ligurian coastline and the Italians have been very successful in keeping the secret. We are the only two GB vehicles on the site although there is a sprinkling of Spanish and German rigs.
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So last night we returned to the little site restaurant located with its own terrace with views that defy description. It is called "Dos Olas" and is a Ristorante, Pizzeria. The facility is run by a charming Italian/Spanish couple, Yuri and Suzanne Leandri and they bring a delightful charm and a personal touch. Assisted ably by Chef Cataldo who manages the wood fired Pizza oven they produce quality food the Italian way.

Last night we felt celebratory for a whole variety of reasons and I opted for a salami Pizza while Nancy and Loretta thought they would start with a Calzone. Now my experience of Calzones is limited to the time I lived in Arizona where a Calzone was something you had as a starter to get you in the "mood" for the real stuff to come later. This was a game changer as the picture shows Nancy and Loretta quickly decided that sharing one would pass as the main course!! Fantastic.

Needless to say Gianni is in his element, proud to be an Italian and guiding us beautifully through menus with little tips along the way.
As the evening drew to a close, Yuri came and joined us rounding up the evening with a bottle of Limoncello for a nightcap on the house.

On reflection, this restaurant deserves all the luck it gets. True, it is in a beautiful location but the inaccessibility of the campsite means that his customer base is likely to be confined to the camping fraternity. A worthy venture and one that deserves a lot of support.

Is the Pope a Catholic?

Time to move on to our next stop. On Sunday we head off into Northern Italy to meet up with our friends, Loretta and Gianni who are currently installed near Alassio in the coastal region of Liguria.

We have had a lovely time at Port Grimaud and managed to explore the area as never before. There were some special moments too. For example, during the week I was rummaging through spreadsheets from previous trips and found my records from our first trip to this area. That was back in 2010 and we stayed then on the very same pitch we have this time. I was looking at this on last Tuesday, 16th of April and discovered that we first arrived on this pitch exactly 3 years ago to the day.
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We have nice neighbours here including, to our left, a lovely Dutch couple who have a caravan. Marten says "Hello" every morning and he enjoys Dougal's expertise in sniffology. Last week while chatting to him he told me that they come every year at the same time and park on the same pitch. I told him our history and we assumed that our paths must have crossed before.

Yesterday as I was wandering up to the store to get the day's supply of croissants Marten was waving at me animatedly. He told me that he had looked through his diaries and there on the 16th April 2010 was the entry, "We got Irsih neighbours today." Isn't it a small world?
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But far and away my favourite moment happened yesterday at lunch in the "happy go lucky" little restaurant that serves the campsite. As I have said before it is simple, serves good food and is reasonable. It also has a charming young waitress called Miriam (pictured) who is absolutely delightful and whose English is as good (or should that be bad?) as my French. We have fun getting our messages across and so far our collective franglais has managed to get us by.

Yesterday as we took our seats for a quick bite of lunch she ambled up and with her usual professionalism asked, "Can I get something for you to drink?"

My response will be well known to those who know me well!

"Is the Pope a Catholic?"

A bewildered look spread across her face, there was a pause and then she said;

"I don't know!"

Can't wait for dinner!

Monaco Madness

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It might just be a bit of a stretch to equate a trip to Monte Carlo with an examination of the virtues and inadequacies of the English language but here goes!

So first things first. It was Wednesday, April 17, 2013 and the decision was made. We would have a day trip to Monaco and sample the excesses of Monte Carlo. The satnav said 72 miles, mostly motorway so no big problem there. One of the silly attractions for us is, because Monaco is "a Sovereign State", it gets to qualify as a new country we have visited while motorhoming. The drive there was easy and our descent into Monte Carlo, for indeed a descent it was, was made more complicated by narrowing streets, hairpin bends and the latest French craze…Road Works. Men in yellow tops directing other men in yellow tops driving big diggers while two other men holding lollipop stop/go signs make unilateral decisions on who to piss off next. Happy days.

Descent completed we arrive at the port area of the city and suddenly realise we aren't the only tourists to decide to visit today. Maybe it was something to do with the Toyota Masters Tennis tournament with Andy Murray trying to get another title under his belt or the fact that in a few weeks time the Formula One world will descend on this place for the Monaco Grand Prix but, to put it mildly, the place was full to the gills with more men in yellow tops erecting giant stands for the hundreds of thousands of followers who will be turning up for the event.

Now, my reference to the inadequacy of the English language. Expletives are useful for venting frustration on the spur of the moment and we are all guilty of that…Helps to let of steam. But what if you spend one complete hour driving round narrow streets past parking garages all displaying the "Complet" sign looking for the merest semblance of a parking space and don't have any joy? What do you do then? After a while the expletives didn't seem to work any more as I fished around for new methods of soothing the ire.

I suppose everyone has watched the Monaco Grand Prix at some stage. You know that bit where they swirl around the harbour and go through that tunnel at something approaching 180 miles per hour? Well, I must have done that circuit at least 5 times yesterday and don't honestly believe I got much above 18 miles per hour on any of the laps.

Then up round by the Casino where dozens of Paparazzi were gathered as clearly something was going on.

They seemed particularly interested in one guy in a car so Miss Nancy leaned out the window and took his snap. Problem is we haven't a clue who he is! If anyone can tell us you will win an all expenses paid Happy Meal at your nearest MacDonald’s! That is him in the red car.


As we rounded the harbour for the nth time Nancy sighed and said aloud, "So this is how the other half live!" staring at a yacht which had its own helipad. "Other half?" I yelped "more like the other .0001%" I said, mustering with as much indignation as I was able.

Then a break through. A Restaurant with a small area in front of it which looked like it had been designed just for our vehicle. So we stopped, rushed in and got a table and had a lunch while we watched more men in yellow tops adding more levels to the already enormous stands.

So would I go back?


Market day in St Tropez...

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Anyone following this blog will know by now that we are quite into markets in France. I love the way in which, literally, dozens of market traders move in, set up stall, sell their wares, dismantle and disappear all within the space of a few hours. They clearly move on to other locations and the range of products available is remarkable.

Fresh food, clothes, gadgets and prepared dishes all form part of the items on offer and one can't help but notice the fact that apart from catering to local tastes they are also very effective tourist attractions.

Today's event was at St Tropez. Thats the place which is the "go to" location for the sort of people who have more money than sense.

Eventually, as you can see, the boys just needed to take a break!!
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For example, strolling by a few restaurants it is no exaggeration to say that the prices were, in some cases, three times the cost of our local campsite restaurant. Silly really.

Anyway, it was a busy day and there are a few more pictures
on our photo gallery page.

A picture paints a thousand words...

Need I say more…?


Camping de la Plage, Port Grimaud

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Every so often you strike it lucky and end up in a location where everything is just perfect. Sometimes its by accident on others its by dint of copious research.

A few years ago when we started Motorhoming we met a couple in the Burgundy region who have remained good friends ever since. As is our style we always ask people we meet about their experiences as it forms the basis of our research and you learn a lot of good stuff. Well, when we met Pam and Geoff we were en route to the Riviera and we sought their advice on any good spots to settle for a few days. They mentioned one site in Port Grimaud where they had stayed and it sounded really good especially as they had pitches which had individual bathrooms. That was something we hadn’t experienced before and were excited to try it out.
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Eventually we made our way to Port Grimaud and sought out the site in question. It was owned by an English man and the first thing I noticed was that it was on the opposite side of the road from the beach. We had booked and we pulled into a very narrow reception point and parked as comfortably as the restricted area allowed. I went into the reception to check in and mid way through the task the door burst open and an English man came storming in demanding to know “what **** had parked his ****ing **** outside.” It appears that I was the ****!

At this point I assumed this was just a rude guy but as I was completing my registration I noticed that the young lady signing me in was clearly embarrassed Why? Simply because this was indeed the owner. I also discovered that prior to coming into the reception he had verbally abused Nancy who was sitting in the van. It only took a matter of seconds for me to decide that this idiot was unworthy of any custom, not least ours. So I cancelled and withdrew from the site.
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Back out on the busy seafront we drove along trying to calm down when, relatively quickly, we came upon Camping de la Plage. We pulled in and “Yes” they had availability. We were invited to walk about, select a pitch and then sign in. We then had the most beautiful stay in a blissful setting right on the beach gazing across at St Tropez.

Today we are on exactly the same pitch and life is good. The pictures were taken this morning.

The first picture is taken from the water’s edge and shows a segment of the site. The Vinny Van is the one with the satellite dish on display.

Within approximately 50 paces of our pitch is a pretty beach restaurant where the food is not only very good but also very reasonable. Picture two is of us having breakfast this morning, consisting of Omelette bread, croissants and cafe au lait! All for €8.
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Picture 3 is of the little supermarket on the site which has just about everything you would need. In fact it is the best on site shop we have come across anywhere.

Finally picture 4 is taken from the restaurant looking back at our pitch. The building you see is the toilet block which is always in pristine condition and the showers are powerful, hot and are not the infernal push button type.

A great site and, certainly, on of our favourites.

After thought:

I have just been talking to Ji Hye Lee on Skype to hear how she is enjoying her studies in Bordeaux. She asked me if I had mentioned her in today’s blog…I said, not yet!!

High points and low points...

We spent a total of 9 days in Sainte-Foy-La-Grande and enjoyed every one of them. The only drawback was the weather, something to do with the Gulf Stream and Morocco I am assured.
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The trip south was long, 192 miles the Satnav said and the first 40 or so were across the Dordogne countryside until we connected up with the main Bordeaux-Toulouse Motorway, heading south.

I think we were all tired…It gets that way when we have to travel, up early, disturbed sleep, anyway we got on the road at about 10:30, loaded up with Petrol and headed off.
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Despite the narrower country roads through Duras (pictured) and Marmande not to mention countless other villages we finally got to the motorway which made the long drive south so much easier.

We had read quite a bit about the site Camping de la Cite and were looking forward to it but sadly two things left me cold. At this point I am back onto my old rant about Wi Fi.

Because it is incredibly important to us I always ask in advance if Wi Fi is available. Thats a simple question that provokes many obtuse responses. "In the reception area", "Close to the restaurant" and "yes throughout the site". Invariably the accuracy of these answers leaves a lot to be desired. Never has it been worse than here. When will sites ever learn that inaccuracy that borders on sheer dishonesty does not pay? Here is what happened.

Two days before travelling I rang to check that they were open and had availability I checked to see if they had wi fi, not just in reception but on the pitches. "Bien sur" was the affirmation so I was happy with that. I did explain that it was essential to us as we were writers on the move with families scattered all over the place. So we were happy to depart.

What in effect I found was the worst set up I have yet to come across. The system is geared to removing your money and in return providing a very poor quality service which just shuts down without warning when your time is up. It doesn't stop there it appears you must use the tickets you buy within 12 hours or they become invalid. It was dreadful. We will NOT be returning. It was not strong enough to upload a blog.

Its a shame, really, as otherwise the site was quite attractive.

Lets hear from herself.


After leaving our favourite Dordogne campsite, we promised ourselves we'd finally visit Carcassonne as we'd passed it so many times previously on the motorway. So Frank found this seemingly perfect, four-star camp, and initially all seemed destined to be a nice location. But, first the Internet became not only difficult to receive, but astonishingly expensive as well. Add to that, the television, and in particular, Sky, decided to not receive a signal, which in the normal course of events wouldn't have been that important, but the Masters was about to begin. Those of you who know Frank well will understand what a calamity this presented. So...we determined to only stay one night at the campsite near Carcassonne, opting instead to find a largish car park for the motorhome near the entrance the following day so we could see the famous walled city on our way out.

The next day dawned with heavy skies and light rain; first setback. But we soldiered on, packed up, and made our way to the car park Frank found by virtue of Google maps. First problem we discovered is medieval cities were not designed to accommodate 21 century motorhomes. The obstacles included; low bridges, narrow streets, and blissfully unaware French pedestrians of the potential death risk they faced by casually strolling in front of a 3.5 ton motorhome with an annoyed Irishman at the wheel. Needless to say the car park was either gone, or relocated since Googles oh-so-enticing photo prompted us to seek it. We did get a fleeting glimpse of Carcassonne as we crossed a bridge, Frank risked life and limb by stopping momentarily, emergency flashers on, to snap a couple of shots (French motorists horns blaring angrily.) So, we left without having actually set foot on the inside of the city...again. Oh well...maybe another time!

As we left, Frank talked about the next stop, which was a bit over an hours drive away from one of our favourite destinations; Port Grimaud. I thought about it for a few minutes, watching Frank from the corner of my eye, and decided to ask, "What do you think about pressing on, and not stopping over for the night, and just on on to Grimaud?" He was delighted, and although it was a longish drive; two-hundred-sixty miles, and over five hours - we ended up in Heaven, and were even able to revisit the same pitch we had on our first visit to the campsite. Today we're ensconced on a perfect pitch that overlooks the Med, and we have clear skies, warm weather and a forecast of a weeks worth of sunshine. The only drawback is a high percentage of oldsters here seem to prefer to wear "budgie-smugglers" a.k.a. Speedos...not a pretty sight. All that said, Frank has declared the start of his Summer by breaking out his shorts and glowingly white legs - he looks wonderful! Frank's telly is working now, and the Internet is perfect. Seriously...this is why people have motorhomes!

Finally our view from the pitch in Port Grimaud. That is St Tropez in the background.


Lifes a gas!!

Ah, the joys of motorhoming! Seems, without knowing it, I've made a bit of a discovery when it comes to gas bottles.

What a way to start a blog, I suppose I better explain. First and foremost for the idiots, of which I am a leading member, motorhomes are powered by battery, electricity and gas. Quite simple really we have two (at least) batteries, one which powers the engine, just like a car, and a leisure battery, which powers everything else. Unless, of course, you happen to be on a campsite where you plug into the electricity source whereupon everything is electric.

The gas powers the cooker, and when needed, the fridge. It also is used to heat up the van which it does very quickly and efficiently. So when you drive around the place chances are you will be using all of these features. So far so simple.

Problem with gas is that it comes in bottles and they run out from time to time.

Now I don't know what your views on the EEC happen to be, but there is a gaping hole when it comes to compatibility with connectors for gas bottles.
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My supply? Well I have always had the typical Calor type and within the van I always carry two, a big 'un and a little 'un. Running out of gas has never been a problem for me because I've always managed to do it in the UK, and so switching to a new bottle was easy. But, once on the Continent if you happen to run out of gas, you're sort of on your own. As a believer in the 'better safe than sorry concept', I decided to research just in case. The more I researched the more complicated it became to my innocent mind. I did, however, come across a product that seemed to offer a solution. It was a simple adaptor one end of which screws into your gas unit, and the other end offers connectivity to other bottles. I bought it. It cost all of £4.00 and when it arrived I discovered that I got two for the price.

I put it into the van not knowing if I would ever need it. Everything became more newsworthy a few days ago when I realised that my smaller canister was about to run out. As I mentioned in a previous blog I met up with two new friends, Alan and Lynda, who drive a Rapido quite similar to mine. I went looking for Alan and he was in the throes of changing bottles as well. Our chat turned to our respective ideas. At this stage let me say Alan has forgotten more about motorhomes than I will ever know so when he showed me his set up I gulped as he was using terminology I'd never heard of. Trying my best to look like I knew what I was talking about I ventured to suggest, "do you not have an adaptor?" He didn't exactly call me an idiot but his response was, shall we say, kindly. The gist was that there was no such thing!

I nipped back to my van and rummaged in the "where to leave gas adaptors" department and produced my little gem. Back to Alan with an air of triumph and produced the brass fitting. Silence, followed by a head scratch then a protestation that he didn't feel it would help. Strolling close by at the time was Bob, the site owner, and we sought his advice. "Where did you get that?" he asked, and so I came to learn that neither of these two knowledgable gents had ever heard of my toy!

In the picture I am pointing at the brass adaptor and the cylinder on the right is the French bottle.
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So all this is academic because the question is does it work? The answer is a resounding "Yes" and I am now writing this to you being heated by my french gas courtesy of the adaptor.

For those who might just be interested in the adaptor I bought mine from Bullfinch who you will find at
http://bullfinch-gas.co.uk The part number is 1301 and now costs £4:18. In France you will find a compatible gas bottle in most supermarkets, garages and anywhere else that sells gas. Bring the device with you and make sure it fits before you buy.

As an epilogue to this I should say that I will blog about anything. You know that by now. It was Alan who said to me that I should write about this as that would be really useful to so many motor-homers. Only to happy to help.

At last, something older than me...

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Issigeac is a medieval village just south of Bergerac and I was recommended to go and investigate it! It is about 40 minutes drive from our base in Ste Foy la Grande and today seemed like a good one for the trip especially when I heard that Sunday is its market day.
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It is truly impressive as the town has carefully maintained its buildings, many dating from between the 13th and 18th centuries. In fact, its origins go back to the sixth century. In the seventh century a Benedictine Abbey was established and subsequently it received Papal protection, whatever that entailed! Seems it meant it was pretty important!
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As markets go it is very typical with the mix of foods, clothes and all sorts of goodies. Anyway, these few pictures will, hopefully, will give you a flavour of how it was.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

So far we have stayed 3 nights at Sainte-Foy La Grande at the Camping de la Bastide site and are enjoying the relaxation and the superb facilities.

We have had our moments and one story highlights the special qualities we have come across. For a few days we noticed a damp patch on the carpet just below the sink in the kitchen area. We theorised that maybe we had spilled a glass of water but then I felt that something had juggled the tap inadvertently causing a drip. We were happy with our theories until I had occasion to go to one of the outside lockers to get something. It was saturated revealing a much bigger problem than I first thought.

I put my hands up at this stage and confess that my technical skills with the motorhome are on a par with Mickey Mouse but, nonetheless, I did discover the problem. A drainage pipe from the sink to the waste tank had become separated at a middle joint. Simple. Or was it? Plastic piping with joints that just slid into each other seemed not too much of a challenge. As I was fumbling away Bob, the owner, passed by and immediately volunteered to help. He sussed out the problem in no time but realised the solution was just not so simple. Then along came Peter, Bob's son who has forgotten more about things mechanical than I will ever know. Out came the drawers, off came the door and pipes got reunited, sealed and put back to bed secured in a way they had never been before. A lot of good banter as everything got put back together again. Job done and I am now the proud possessor of a happily reunited drainage pipe.

Just across the way another Rapido pulled in and suddenly we have new neighbours. Alan and Lynda are enjoying their granddaughter's company and celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary As always with motor homers we exchanged all sorts of tid bits and they mentioned one of their favourite websites which is http://www.motorhomefun.co.uk/. I checked it out and it truly is a mine of information and a very friendly mix of people. I am now signed up and within a matter of 3 hours over 150 members had been to visit my profile. This is a real find and has a great facility to pose problems you might encounter and provide first hand answers within minutes.

There is no doubt the motorhoming community are a great bunch so a big thanks to Peter and Bob and to Alan and Lynda.

Reflections on the trip so far...

We've been busy! We picked Ji Hye up in Paris on March 22rd, and proceeded seventy miles to a quirky, quintessentially French campsite; no toilet seats, but it was on the banks of the Seine, so no one really cared. That evening we'd decided we would eat out, as there is no experience like just wandering though a village and finding a cuisine treasure. We found such a place, and initially, it looked like we'd be turned away as they were booked for a private party, but the nice woman who met us at the door seemed to change her mind, and let us in.
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Fascinating, surreal experience; tapas only, so no menu, and we were asked if we'd like to salsa between courses. Huh? We declined on dancing, but took away yet another quirky, French dining story. Frank took a lovely photo of Dougal as he laid on his special dining blanket at our feet - he loves French restaurants nearly as much as we do

Our next stop with Ji Hye was a place we'd visited last year near Mont Saint-Michel, which is, arguably, the most luxurious of the campsites we visit in France, as it provides a private five-star toilet/shower facility for each pitch. Sadly the camp was just as muddy as it was last year - Spring showers bringing May flowers sort of thing - but we enjoyed our five days with Ji at the camp, and although Mont Saint-Michel was off limits to Frank and I due to their new, and I think discriminatory, rule about dogs, Ji visited it and took lovely photos.

The next camp was in the Vendee, which in itself was nothing memorable, but the village was lovely, and two relatively disturbing things happened; the heater in our motorhome inexplicably stopped working, and we woke up to snow on the ground! So...we bundled up and hurried onward, ever closer to Bordeaux, and another favourite spot of ours; Ile de Re.

Again the weather didn't give us a break, and sadly the views of this normally stunning place, were somewhat misty, and didn't represent the beauty of the island as fully as we remembered.

We did have an experience, and it started off as another lovely dining story, but this one ended badly; I fed Dougal 'moules' which is mussels - they were lovely, and a speciality of the island. Dougal ate about half of my portion - he really loved them, and all three of us commented on what a varied palate Dougal has developed. So...about 3:00am Dougal, who sleeps with us, woke me with a furious case of itching - he could not stop scratching. By morning it was seriously bad; his skin was bright pink, and was so itchy he couldn't walk two feet. Frank and Ji walked into the village looking for Benadryl, as I held Dougal trying to keep him from hurting himself by his constant scratching. Turns out Benadryl is not something you can find in France, and as the next day was Easter, we needed to find an emergency vet. Frank found one, who thankfully gave Dougal a steroid shot that cured him almost immediately. So...moral of the story is I don't feed Dougal anymore shell fish, or anything that he hasn't eaten before. Scary few hours, and I gotta say, Ji Hye was wonderful, as always, in helping with Dougal during his crisis.

The next day was Easter, and a sad time for Frank and I, as Ji Hye needed to be at her new Bordeaux French home by 2:00pm.
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I'd like to say something about Ji Hye; our motorhome is not large, really only sleeps two people comfortably, a third bed can be made by folding down the dining table, and combining cushions, but it isn't exactly luxurious. Ji was, as always, sweet, helpful, kind and never complaining for a moment about anything. Truly, as we've always known, she is an exceptional person in all ways, and as pleasant company as you'd ever hope or want to have.

We're now happily ensconced at one of our favourite sites in Sainte-Foy la Grande, which is owned and operated by a wonderful British family; Bob, Brenda, Peter and his young son, Daniel. The camp is on the bank of the Dordogne (see the picture taken right outside our door) and is idyllic in all possible ways; we're staying at least a week - Frank needs the rest and this is as good as it gets for calm, peaceful moments. But, the really good news is we're within a comfortable distance from where Ji Hye is staying in Bordeaux, so we're hoping she'll come to see us at the weekend for two more days! Hopefully the weather will give her a better experience of our motorhome touring / camping lifestyle that we've come to love so much; more later!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Settled at Camping*** de la Bastide at Sainte-Foy-la Grande on the bank of the River Dordogne. The pictures over the next week will speak for themselves but this is, indeed, one of our very favourite sites. It is small, neat and is owned by a delightful UK couple Bob and Brenda together with their son Peter and his son, Daniel who we have watched grow into a a fun young man over the past few years.

I love the area and we will stay here for about a week.

Time now to talk about the travel over the past few days. When we left the Ile de Re our route took us due south and was planned by the satnav so apart rom the odd 20 mile needed to get off the Island it was pretty much all motorway all the way to Bordeaux. Many people travelling like us seek to avoid the motorways and I entirely accept the fact that it is altogether more interesting to take the lesser roads getting the full value of the French experience. That is my own preference unless of course I have a deadline as was the case heading to Bordeaux. That, however, is not to say that the motorways are boring and unattractive, far from it. The drive was interesting as we spent a considerable time in vineyard country and passed through many different regions that tell their own story, Cognac to mention only one.
Then the approach to Bordeaux is interesting as you pass over the Dordogne and the Gironde as they finally make their journey to the sea. All in all an interesting drive.

Then onto yesterdays trip from Bordeaux to Sainte -Foy La Grande.
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Once again we crossed the rivers and were able to make a speedy retreat from Bordeaux and were on the motorways in no time. The trip was a beautiful variation of villages and vineyards by the hundreds and in just over an hour we were entering Sainte-Foy La Grande and our first stop was the major supermarket on the edge of the town where we stocked up and got ready for a nice long resting process.

Setting up at the site was very straightforward…Everything is on hand, water, electricity and drainage all within about 20 feet of the river Dordogne.

For the first time this trip we took out the awning, table and chairs and of course the blue lounger that a certain person has long since claimed as “His Chair”. Well, who am I to argue?

Easter Sunday and back on the road

Easter Sunday finds us in Bordeaux following a pretty drive from the Ile de Re. This was the final leg of our journey with Ji Hye who starts her French course tomorrow. She will be resident here for the next six months. We checked into a new (2009) campsite on the outskirts of Bordeaux and an impressive one it is too. It is called Camping de Bordeaux Lac and is situated close to the exhibition centre and seems to be extremely busy.
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Needless to say we had our moments of drama with the mud but the less said about that the better…We are now happily installed on a hard standing pitch, the satellite is working and there is a very attractive on site restaurant.

Tomorrow it is just a short hop to Sainte-Foy-La-Grande where we will chill out for a while.
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During this trip I have had cause to think about things we now take for granted. I am covering much ground here that I had been to before. Mont-Saint-Michel and the Dordogne have been favourite locations of mine since my childhood. I have been back time and time again but in recent years it has been with the extraordinary help of that pushy woman who sits on my screen and who for the sake of clarity we will call "Satnav". I know, I know we used maps back then and some among us still do but just how did we manage? Today was a very good example of what I mean.
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We left Ile de Re this morning with a drive of 136 miles to contend with. Ji Hye had to get to her new home-base for 2:00pm. I knew the address so last night I fired up Google Earth, keyed in the address, zoomed in and got a street view of where I was going. At the time I was chatting on Skype to my friend David in Phoenix, who is following our exploits and who knows Ji Hye from our Arizona days;

I happened to mention to him what I was doing. He then did the same and we had an interesting exchange as to whether or not we could get a motorhome parked in that street. While looking at the street view I got the latitude and longitude co-ordinates, keyed them into the satnav and duly turned up at spot on 2:00pm outside the apartment block where Ji Hye is now installed. Turns out David was correct and I had to park in the next street.
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Always something to need attention and the local ducks at Bordeaux are no exception..

Not forgetting that we were also moving between her address and a new campsite, I am left wondering how on earth did we do things like that before?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pitch number 9C at Camping du Soleil is on the extremity of the site and is peaceful and adjacent to all amenities. The sad part for us is the weather. It poured during the night and although today is dry it is far from the sunny location we knew when we were here last time.
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Last night we went to the little cafe/restaurant on the site where the food was very enjoyable, typically french. But we still managed to create some more drama. As always Dougal accompanied us to the restaurant and sampled what was on offer. To our surprise he seemed very partial to Nancy's Moules (Clams). We didn't realise that was a mistake. Today he has had an allergic reaction necessitating a telephone chat with his vet in Port Erin. He is now on some medication and we hope it will pass soon.
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This site is right on the edge of Ars-en-Re, a pretty village at the Atlantic end of the Island. Today is market day although we didn't get explore it.

Enjoy the pictures.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Joys of Motorhoming!

So we finally made our departure from Camping Haliotis but not without our little piece of drama…You guessed it, more mud. Our wheels sunk into the grassy pitch and a tractor was on hand to haul us out. Once again the staff were fabulous and in no time at all we were back on terra firma and ready to roll.

The day was always going to be one where we simply did a lot of driving to get further down towards Bordeaux where we have to deliver Ji Hye for Sunday.

As things turned out it was a lovely drive, a mixture of motorways and National Routes with very little traffic and some special scenery. We crossed over the Loire and that brought back a memory or two.

Our target was a site which gets good reviews and is in the Vendee. It is called Camping le Rouge Gorge In Pays de la Loire and is another friendly and helpful site which is very quiet at this time because the season hasn't quite started.
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True to form we managed our own little drama. As we settled down to dinner I decided that the Van needed a bit of heat but for some reason the heating controls were unresponsive and, to put it mildly, were as dead as a doornail! We looked at all the logical explanations and found no answer. Calls were made to my mate, Geoff Masden, my "go-to" man in these matters but we all drew blanks. So an early night was called for, a good sleep followed and when we woke up there was good news and bad news.

The good news? Well, the heating controls were now working perfectly. The bad news? The place was covered in snow!

Now the van is heated to a nice toasty warm and the snow seems to be dispersing and we are preparing for a drive down to La Rochelle and the Ile de Re.

An uneventful drive totalling 89 miles gets us to Ars-en-Re. The weather was downcast and misty which was such a pity as the drive from the mainland onto the Ile de Re, across the bridge was just shrouded in mist. Hopefully it will be a bit better when we head to Bordeaux on Sunday. The route today is shown in the picture.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 and a big decision.

A great attraction of the motor-homing way of life is that you can decide to change your mind at the last minute if the mood takes you. A few years ago we were heading down the East side of France intending to cut across to the Dordogne. As we sped down the motor way I saw an intersection approach which told me that Geneva in Switzerland was jut some 60 kilometres away. On the spot I turned left instead of right and as a result had an entirely different holiday. Well, I feel a bit like that today. We love this site, Camp Haliotis near Mont-Saint-Michel. It has its own
Image bathroom on the pitch as I described
a few days ago and everything is very convenient.

As we transport Ji Hye to Bordeaux we have been interested to show her a lot of rural France and sample local specialities as we go,

While we are being spared the rigours of the weather in the UK and Ireland nonetheless it is quite cold in the evening and the Vinny Van is very snug and there are no shortage of good TV and movies to watch.

One feature of French life we are looking out for is the French Market. We love wandering through streets looking at all the stalls and sampling the goodies on display. Dougal loves it too as, invariably, he becomes the centre of attention and he knows how to perform for the masses!

So, today is Tuesday and it was our intention to move south but as there is a market in Pontorson tomorrow we decided to wait over in case we don't get to see another before we drop Ji Hye off in Bordeaux on Sunday. Then on Thursday we will have 3 full days to get to Bordeaux and possibly even stop off at La Rochelle on the way.

Yesterday was dry and very very cold. We made our way over to Mont-Saint-Michele which has altered considerably from prior visits. The whole approach is closed and road works are all over the place…Parking is about a mile away and overall it detracts from the experience. Still Ji Hye got these photos. One outside and one inside Mont-Saint-Michele

Mont-Saint-Michel, Sunday, March 24, 2013

Once extracted from our muddy pitch the route was westwards to the town of Pontorson, just about 4 miles from Mont-Saint-Michel. If you have never been to this part of the world then take a note and don't miss it. I am drawn to this place over and over again. It is absolutely laden with memories. My first visit was about 60 years ago when my late parents took us as part of one of our many summertime trips to this part of France. Quite simply, I just keep coming back. It has beautiful memories and it is a truly, bewitching place. Its funny the way some things stand out in the memory bank but I recalled a story dating back to 1980 when, like my parents before me, I felt the need to take my own children here to get the same sort of experience that I cherished. My son, Martin was about 8 years old and we had sailed into Saint Malo on the ferry to start our holiday. Rightly or wrongly I decided that this was to be the time that I would start to teach Martin about fiscal wisdom and allocated him some pocket money which I told him was to last for 1 week. He nodded his acceptance as we drove towards Mont-Saint-Michel.

Inside the Mont is a maze of little streets with shops, restaurants and something to catch the eye at every turn. Gift shops abound and within minutes we were in one looking at all the goodies which, unsurprisingly, were about 50% more expensive than in nearby towns and villages. I cannot say for certain if it was the first thing that Martin set eyes on in the shop but in no time at all he had decided that a small packet of soldiers was something that he could not live without. I reminded him again about how his pocket money had to last a week and pointed out that this particular treat would eat up the entirety of the money. No! He HAD to have it. It was the one thing he had wanted his entire life. So he got his soldiers.
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Now you may well ask how that all fits in with this trip. Whenever we got settled onto our pitch at Camping Haliotis in Pontorson I turned on the television to catch up with the news back home. It was startling to see the images of snow drifts and hear the experiences of everyone throughout the UK and Ireland. One of the worst spots was Belfast with not just snow but power cuts galore as well. So being the sort of worrier that I am I called my daughter Susie to make sure all was ok. Transpires they have had their problems but all is now well. I then thought I would tell her that I had returned to Mont-Saint-Michel with all the memories it held. Without pausing for thought she said, "I know, Dad, Martin's soldiers."

Memories. They are hard to beat.
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We will have more thoughts about Mont-Saint-Michel tomorrow with some pictures as we go inside once again but times have changed things just a little. You can no longer drive up close to the Mont as, it would appear, the tide has created some problems for the roadworks and now you have to park about a mile away and travel by shuttle bus to get onto the site.

Finally, just a few thoughts about this campsite, Camping Haliotis. It is in a simple rural setting on the outskirts of a small town and is memorable because it is one of the very few campsites which has pitches with their own private bathrooms. See the pictures to get an idea. It really takes camping to a new sort of level. Add to that the fact that the staff, Alicia and Gerald, are delightful. A lovely experience. Who cares about a bit of mud?

Friday, March 22, 2013 …Its off to Paris

A couple of times in the past we stayed off at a campsite just about an hour north of Paris called, Camping de Sorel. It is in the Oise region. It is a full grassy layout set in a pretty French Village which boasts the compulsory Chateau!!
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Times have changed since we were here last as they have added a restaurant which, sadly, doesn't open on a Thursday night!

The owners are a happy bubbly couple for whom nothing is too much trouble and were a little unhappy because poor weather in recent weeks had made the pitches muddy and none too attractive. Still they located us on one of the pathways and all was well except for the fact that Dougal and mud go together like peaches and cream and carpet cleaning is now added to our list of ever growing skills!

On the down side we bought 24 hours worth of Wi Fi as I like to do my writing catch up at night time so imagine my chagrin when it simply turned off and didn't return until 8:00am. Not so good.

Also we had trouble with the Sky satellite and it seems that the Sky organisation have now made it tough for people like us to access the their service from abroad. I don't pretend to understand this but no doubt I will be adding bits and pieces as I go along.
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Today is a special day as Ji Hye joins us in Paris for a few days on her way to Bordeaux to study. There will be lots more about her later as her parents in Seoul will be following our travels on this blog.

Hope to see much less mud and much more sunshine. The forecast I looked at this morning is optimistic!

What an interesting thing the satnav happens to be. How did we ever find our way around before they came along? A great example was today's exploits. We were camped overnight about 60 miles North of Paris. Ji Hye Lee flew into Charles De Gaulle airport last night and stayed over night in a hostel just east of central Paris. So the problem for us was how to connect.

Last night she e-mailed us the address of her overnight accommodation, I put it into the search bar of Google Earth and dropped a pin onto the map. From the info tab I got the precise coordinates and promptly keyed them into the satnav. As they say over here, Le Voila! I started the trip shown on the map here and got directed to the very spot where she was standing, suitcase in hand! Minutes later we were on our way westwards out of Paris and are now settled in a beautiful site right on the banks of the River Seine. The site is called Camping de L'ile des Trios Rois, Les Andelys in the Normandy region of France. The site is dominated by an ancient castle on one side and the imposing River Seine on the other.

It was a special moment meeting up with Ji Hye again. For those who do not know her, she came into our lives in 2003 as a 14 year old who came to Arizona to be an exchange student. She lived with us and has remained part of our life ever since. She recently graduated in architecture in Seoul and has come to France to learn the language so that she can pursue even more qualifications. She is joining us and we will meander our way to Bordeaux where she starts her new course on April first.

Day 1, Sunday, March 17, 2013

What a day! St. Patrick’s day was never like this. The alarm went off at 5:00am and after the usual last minute bits and bobs we got underway with the first leg of our trip. Port Erin to Douglas and the ferry to Birkenhead (Liverpool).

It was a four hour crossing but a cabin made it a whole lot more comfortable and I even managed a couple hours sleep. The second leg of the journey was a long haul taking us down to Oxfordshire and, more precisely, the Lincoln Farm Park site in the beautiful village of Standlake. We have been here several times before and have nothing but the highest praise, friendly, helpful and a pretty location.

One of the interesting things about the trip was that as we got further south the colder and whiter it got. The temperature dropped to minus 3 degrees overnight (29° F, -3° C) but the van was very cosy so no complaints.

Its always quite challenging for the first few days as you remember the little things you forgot to pack but this time we feel fairly complete; so far so good.

Dougal is adjusting to the van life and, as before, loves it to pieces. His toys are where he wants them so he's happy!

We got of to an early start on St Patricks day and even had a dog friendly cabin on the ferry - so Dougal was happy too! The crossing was smooth and we arrived at Birkenhead around noon. After dropping the car off at our storage facility, we hit the road, arriving at Lincoln Farm Park, in Oxfordshire around 4:00. We'd planned on visiting the local pub, The Black Horse, which is a fairly easy walk from the campground, but decided against it as an early night was a good idea.

Up early Monday morning, March 18th, to find FREEZING temps and rain, so the van's gas heater was turned on full, and breakfast is just finished. We'll hit the road again in a couple of hours, our destination; Alderstead Heath motorhome park, Redhill, in Surrey. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The preparation continues with a big battery check requiring a run into Douglas. Acquired a new leisure battery and some good advice about how to ensure the battery won’t run down when in storage for a few months. Feel a lot happier about things. This was todays driving time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The preparations have begun in ernest. I went to Liverpool this morning to bring the Vinny Van back to the IOM to prepare it for the trip. A very cold day, but an uneventful drive to Heysham to get the boat across. This is today’s travel map.

Thursday, March 7, 2013



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