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Photo of me at Land's End, Cornwall

Here, there, everywhere and some other places too …

Site review

and finally the trip is over...

Lincoln Farm Park is one of our favourite sites and is reasonably convenient as a stop over point when travelling down to the south coast for travelling abroad.
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I have said it often throughout this blog that pleasant helpful staff very often define the quality of the site and here it is no exception.

It is truly self contained with a well stocked shop, an excellent pub within 2 minutes walk serving very good food and facilities you just couldn't fault.

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We have been coming here for several years and always look forward to it.

On this occasion it was very much a stopover as the following day it was a long drive to Ellesmere Port to prepare to store the van and have it looked at by Barry Jones, a mechanic who makes sure all the bits do as they are supposed to.

While we have been away our car has been in storage and Barry, kindly, had it charged up and ready for action. We collected it and drove both vehicles to another favourite location, The Caravan Club location at Chester Fairoaks (53.257230 -2.886266).

This is always a popular site and we make sure to book well in advance. The Caravan Club has, over the years, managed to achieve a level of consistency throughout their sites and that is one of their great strengths; you always know what you are going to get and they are to be commended for that. Sandy was on duty when we arrived and could not have been more helpful. The pitches are very generous in size so there is plenty of room for the van and a car which was great for us as we had to swap over lots of cloths and equipment which was coming back home with us.
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Chester Fairoaks also happens to be just beside one of the best outlet Malls in the UK so everything is on hand just a few minutes walk away from the site.

A one night stay over, lots of packing and unpacking, tidying and then its time to return the van to Barry who will service it and return it to storage ready for the next trip.

Then its off to the Docks and the boat back to the Isle of Man.

A departing shot from the Ferry to the Isle of Man. The iconic Liver building with its Liver Birds atop and a special guest appearance of a seagull!


The End of the World is nigh….

I always wanted to write a piece with a heading like that but in this case there is a modicum of truth about it. This is a story that needs a bit of background.
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For most of the past two months we have been travelling with our good friends Loretta and Gianni Carbone. We parted company in Alsace as they have a special date in Paris and we are headed homewards. Originally we intended our group to be three couples the third being Pam and Geoff Masden from Doncaster. However earlier this year they made a decision to buy a new motorhome and, as fate would have it, they have to wait until October to collect it. Still they have been tracking us all the way and we chat regularly on Skype when the WiFi is strong enough.

When we settled on our return date Geoff suggested that we meet up for a meal en route to our destination, Liverpool. Our first stopover was to be Lincoln Farm Park in Oxfordshire and we thought that should be the meeting place. Then Geoff discovered that the dealership where he is getting his new van has a branch near Lincoln Farm and suggested we might like to stop off and have a look at what their new acquisition looks like. He sent me the coordinates and it was just 20 miles from our base.

It was great to meet up with them again and we truly enjoyed the conducted tour around their new vehicle. They are so excited and geared up for a lot of fun in the months and years to come.
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When the inspection concluded we asked if there was a decent restaurant in the area and we were directed to The Langley Hall Inn just a quarter of a mile up the road. Turned out to be quite a find.

Mark Jenkins is the owner and nothing was too much trouble for him. The food was top notch and the welcome was ambiance was just excellent. To add to all of this he has a little campsite in the back garden. It's a CL for the Camping and Caravan Club so for those of you who like to discover interesting new places this one is thoroughly recommended. To be precise the coordinates are 51.482219, -1.303682.

So what has all this got to do with the end of the world? Well, The Langley Hall Inn is situated in a little village called….Worlds End!

A fabulous stop over and then it was time to make our way to Lincoln Farm Park.


Crossing Germany...

Today is Saturday, May 11, 2013 and we promised ourselves a reasonably early start as we head beyond Munich towards Alsace. In keeping with the previous 24 hours it poured and so packing up, never an experience to savour, became downright arduous. In fairness to Camping Harass our memories will be clouded by the awful weather but, it has to be said, the location is pretty special. Like so many sites these days, Harass has a "run down" feel to it but maybe I should be a bit more circumspect as torrential rain seldom makes anywhere look good. I would go back if I was in the area and that has to be the real test.
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Because Alsace is over 300 miles away we are stopping off en route at a site called Camping Waldpark Hohenstadt. It is located just off the autobahn west of Munich and I had a good feeling about it following a telephone call to ensure availability. The owners are a delightful couple, Axel and Heike Rohm. In my phone call I found Heike to be so helpful and clearly willing to go that extra bit to ensure you are satisfied with her service. Interestingly she confirmed something we have noticed throughout this trip, namely, helpful and attentive staff are invariably a good indicator of the quality of the campsite.
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When we arrived we were not disappointed. This is a rural site with no real views but the pitches were well looked after and the toilet facilities are exceptional. There is an onsite Italian restaurant and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours unwinding after a long drive. Speaking of which, we fully expected that it would be a reasonably comfortable journey, all motorway except for about 4 miles. What we got was a pain. The longest and largest road works I have ever seen. I am sure the construction, of what will be a superb new autobahn, lasted for about 40 miles and although my German is pretty non existent even I could read that it is scheduled to be completed late in 2015! So, there is a road to avoid for a while.

And so into Germany...

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Our time spent in Seecamping Berghof in Austria was spectacular and varied. From the last blog entry you can see the link to the site webcam displaying the incredible views across the lake. We spent two nights there and on the first day we piled into Gianni's van and headed off down the road to Italy! Yes, we were that close and we had received a glowing report about a restaurant in Tarvisio which, it must be said, lived up to its reputation.

But while on the subject of food we came across something quite unexpected while at the campsite in Austria. On our first night we decided to try out the onsite restaurant and, as we have come to expect recently, the staff were just the best, welcoming us and being helpful in every way.
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The food was quite good too and the experience was one we would have been keen to recommend but for one little thing. It appears the laws in Austria on smoking in public places such as restaurants are not just as strict in other countries. As we dined some other customers sitting relatively close by were smoking and we found it quite uncomfortable. Somebody once said that tolerance levels reduced in direct proportion to your age. They certainly knew what they were talking about! We chatted to one of the staff about it and discovered that there are, in fact, laws in Austria probably similar to what we are now used to but they just are not enforced. Seems restaurants do provide facilities for smokers but the area is not clearly defined. Pity because it was the only thing I could fault the site with.
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They had a fabulous feature in their sanitary block. There are individual bathrooms which contain a toilet and shower and you can secure one of these for the duration of your stay and for that time it is all yours. They were as good as any 5 star hotel. An excellent feature.

Like so many sites on this trip we were sad to leave but that feeling gave way very quickly to one of sheer awe as we drove northwards through the alps. I could use words like "stunning" and "incredible" and they still would not do justice to the views. I can honestly say in my motorhoming experience I have never seen anything like it and that goes for the rest of us on this trip. I hope some of the pictures here can give you just a little idea of what it is like.
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Our destination was to be another lakeside site some miles into Germany. Panorama Camping Harras, the coordinates are 47.839930, 12.373960, if you want to have a peek in Google Earth. Today was Thursday, May 09, 2013 which is Ms Nancy's birthday. However, it also happened to be Father's day in Germany so lots of families had clearly decided that Camping Harras would be a good place give the old man a night out! The result was something similar to putting a quart into a pint pot. Still the weather was good, the food was good and, as we say in Ireland, "the craic was good". That was yesterday.
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Today it is Friday, May 10, 2013 and the heavens have opened. I have never seen so many fathers high tailing it out of one place so quickly. We are staying put until tomorrow when we will move on en route to Alsace. We expect to be there by Sunday.

By the way, a special thank you to Nancy for all of today’s pictures. What a way to spend your birthday!

One final thought about yesterday's trip through Austria into Germany. As you know by now we are four people (and Dougal) travelling in two motorhomes. Gianni and Loretta Carbone are experiencing the same views and sensations so it was interesting to compare notes last night when we got settled into Camping Harras. So in her own words:
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Gianni and myself had a most memorable, first experience of Austria, when driving with our travelling buddies, Frank, Nancy and Dougal, as we headed northwards towards Munich yesterday.

The views on route were truly spectacular.  Mile after mile of dramatic mountain peaks, capped with snow and smothered in evergreen pine forests of various description.  All dotted with wooden, colourful Austrian style houses.
Then to eclipse even that, we stopped for lunch at we believe, the most incredible MOTORWAY service station stop-off.  Honestly, the quality of food, drink and goodies to buy, could not be bettered, even in a 5 star hotel in Hawaii or Monte Carlo.  The traditional costumed staff, only added to the fairy tale effect.

The final cherry on the cake, was where it was situated, in a valley, surrounded by stunning, dramatic, snow peaked mountains.  The name of the place was LANDZEIT autobahn-restaurant and if you are ever passing that way in the future, do not miss this Hansel and Gretel experience. The coordinates of the place are 47.247710, 13.425140.

And finally, that fairy tale castle again:


The town of Krk and Camping Jezevac...

So, as I write this it is Tuesday, May 7, 2013 and it is time to move on. The homeward route is about to commence.
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So some reflections on Camping Jezevac and the overall impression is indeed entirely favourable. The site is fabulous, the location wonderful and the facilities all you could hope for. The only downside was the weather which went from beautiful sunshine on days one and two to intermittent downpours on days three and four. This is May, this is Croatia and the rain is bouncing off the Vinny Van as I write this. Maybe there is something to this global warming stuff.

The stay here has been enhanced by the arrival of Gianni and Loretta's son, David and his charming wife, Jasmine. They are the proud possessors of a VW camper which is supposed to be the smallest camper van on the market. They live, currently, in Germany and travelled down to spend a bit of time with us and they certainly added to the experience.
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So let me do my best to show you what this place is like and to say at the outset that we thoroughly recommend it should you ever happen to be in this area at any time. We have made prior reference to our experience at Lake Garda and, by comparison, Jezevac is the model on which sites should be based. From the moment we arrived we were greeted by helpful staff who genuinely appeared to like their jobs and wanted to help.

The pitches were beautifully maintained and the view out to sea and the headlands beyond is simply stunning.

We managed several trips into the town of Krk and it is beautiful, thriving place clearly scoring well above Punat at Camping Pali nearby. The same signs of decline were nowhere evident either on the site itself or in the town which appears to be thriving coming into the tourist season.

The bicycles were in constant use and we managed a fair bit of walking too.
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Dave and Jasmine came up with an idea that proved to be a real winner. Towards the north of the Island which is marginally smaller than our own Isle of Man, is located the Biserujka Cave, which was discovered over 100 years ago and can be accurately dated to the Ice Age. That fact was authenticated by the discovery of bone remnants of the cave bear, Ursula spelaeus. The caves go inward for 100 meters and downward for 13 meters making it an easy yet fascinating visit. Strangely they have come across quite a number of insects never before seen in any part of the world and to date they have so far discovered 28 different types of organisms, and counting.

The name of the cave Biserujka Cave, conjures part of the local legend…The word is Croatian for pearl and stories abound of smugglers and buried contraband which is par for the course for any decent cave these days and this is certainly a decent cave.
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We didn't get to explore any of the boat trips as the weather just made them too unattractive but we made up for it by sampling the fare at both the camp restaurants and they were worth the trip. Some interesting Croatian specialities which were quite delicious and on top of that we managed to Bar B Que successfully for dinner at home for one of the nights.

So you will have gathered the trip was a big success with the only regret centred on the 3 days we spent in Punat, if only we had realised. So the message is clear, if you are travelling this way you could not help but be impressed by Camping Jezevac..

The sadness of leaving such a beautiful location is compensated for by the fact that the four of us are heading off the Island today and northwards into Slovenia and on into Austria.
None of us have ever been in Austria and the route we are taking is the exact one that Dave and Jasmine took on the way down here and they have been singing the praises of the terrain since they got her so lots to look forward to on what is approximately a 160 mile trip.

More to follow soon.

How do you choose? The motorhomer's dilemma...

It has often been said that there really are two types of motorhomers. The type who identify a site and simply drive there and stay for the duration of their break or the ones who flit about the place cramming in more mileage and more campsites along the way. We are unmistakably in the second category.

Our feeling is that we want to maximise the experience so there is little point in remaining at a site that doesn't measure up.
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Problem is, how do you identify the good ones and the bad ones? The answer is, I haven't found out yet and herein lies a very interesting experience these past few days.

Nancy has covered the experience in Slovenia at Camping Adria but how we arrived at Camping Pali in Punat, Croatia is really strange.

On the Island of KrK, where we are now based there are a number of sites. Half of them are Naturist sites so unless you want your wobbly bits to be exposed to the world you avoid them. We do! Too many bits, too much wobble.

In the remaining three there is one that is away from the sea so we didn't really consider that so it was a straight choice between Camping Pali and Camping Jezevac. After looking at the locations on Google Earth, checking the reviews I came down in favour of Pali, so did Loretta and so did an English gentleman in Slovenia who actually recommended Pali. So far so good.
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Camping Pali is in a beautiful location with direct access to the walkway along the sea front leading into the quaint little town of Punat. So what is the problem?

It seems like just about every country in the world is going through the depths of recession and austerity and, in terms of campsites it is becoming more and more apparent that it is badly affecting them. Whether it is because fewer people are turning up or they are just not making ends meet the overall impression is that many sites are going down hill. It was really apparent in the little restaurant on site where the displayed menu bore no resemblance to what was available. The charming waitress explained that this was their first night and that not everything was ready. She was right and although the meal was ok it certainly did not merit the cost which was based on the full menu prices. We didn't complain because she was clearly stressed with all she had to do at once but we felt it was symptomatic of an overall feeling that the entire place was on the decline.

So it was after 3 nights that we got together and decided to talk about it. All our impressions surfaced, the appearance due to the abundance of the uncut grass and the multitude of weeds, the shanty town appearance of some parts of the site and worst of all, the chemical toilet kept getting blocked leaving the surrounding area with an awful smell.

So two minutes into the chat one of us suggested we might try the other site we had considered and within 15 seconds everyone was agreeing and there and then the decision to leave was taken.

Our pitches, which by this time had been laid out with all the gear, tables, chairs, awnings and knick knacks, were cleared and we were ready for departure. All within 45 minutes.
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The other site was 2.8 miles as the crow flies but if the crow was driving a motorhome he would have to follow a windy coastal road for 6 and ½ miles to Camping Jezavac. It is located in the small town of Krk and the difference between the two sites was night and day.

Jezevac is truly beautiful and we got sea front pitches with all the mod cons, well water and electricity. The toilets and showers are excellent and immaculately clean. We will be staying here for a while.

There are not one but two restaurants on the site, a little supermarket and the staff are utterly charming. The site is well laid out and I trust the pictures through out this blog reflect that.

We are about 10 minutes walk from the beautiful town of Krk with boat tours a plenty offering trips from an hour or two up to full day cruises. Perhaps most intriguing is a submarine tour. Watch this space. We have to try that.

This is one of the two restaurants on site serving wood fired pizzas. Looks very inviting.


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.


From Heaven to Hell...

This is a “Good news…Bad news” item. Its about choosing a site so read on.

In this blog I have previously referred to the process of selecting sites. There are many considerations and many differing tastes. By and large we tend to end up on the type of sites we like. The location is checked out as carefully as possible on Google Earth and whatever reviews are available are fully digested. As the saying goes, it works for us, usually.

It is careful research that found us gems like La Bastide in Sainte-Foy la Grande, Camping Jungfrau in Switzerland, Lincoln Farm Park in Oxfordshire and our present stopover,
Camping Miramare, on the tip of the peninsula overlooking Venice. A beautiful site and facilities which are second to none, add to that a restaurant just 50 paces from the front gate where we had possibly our best meal to date and you get a very high scoring site to which we will always return if we are anywhere near. Needless to say it has its downsides but I can think of only one. It is beside the sea but has no sea views and that is it. Weigh that against, lovely staff, superb toilet facilities, the best dog facility I have ever come across, beautiful spacious pitches and a brilliant little supermarket and suddenly sea views aren't that important. By the way I didn't mention Wi Fi which is superb and costs only €5 for however long you stay, and my satellite TV works! A fabulous site if ever there was one. Click here to visit its website.

That is the good news and I want to take some time to talk about the bad news which comes in the form of a disastrous site selection at Lake Garda the day before yesterday. There is a background which I want to explain in some detail.

You will have gathered from our blog entries that we found a delightful site on the Ligurian Coast line called Camping Smeraldo. Its entry, through a tunnel was almost magical and you felt, with the majestic views, that you were in a special place. Well, all good things must come to an end and we decided that Saturday was the best day to travel as the weather changed rather dramatically and sunshine gave way to heavy rain.
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Our trail was heading north west so after careful consideration we decided to head for the Lake Garda area, a drive of 181 miles but mostly on motorways.

Any cursory glance at a map of Lake Garda will tell you that there are hundreds of sites to choose from so here a research system was important. Our first point of interest was to find something towards the South end of the lake so that our onward route to Venice would be easiest. Some weeks ago I posed a question on the
Motorhomefun forum (one of my favourite sources of chit chat and tips). The question asked if anyone had recommendations for sites for the area. I got a number of replies but one campsite name came up twice. Camp Butterfly. I followed this up with a phone call to check for availability and to ensure that there was wi fi available throughout the site. The answer was an emphatic "yes" to both. Let me make it clear at this point that I can well understand that people come to this site and enjoy it but for us it was our single worst experience in years.

Trying to be as balanced as I possibly can be I must say that the site is mis managed, fronted by staff who clearly cannot cope and worse, who are oblivious to the needs of the many visitors the location of their site attracts. The notion that the customers needs are important is absolutely irrelevant here. Allow me to explain.

1 When we arrived we drew up into a narrow entrance where there was a queue of people waiting to register, no problem with that. They were being attended by one staff member yet I counted 4 inside the office. The registration process was painful and I watched almost every single customer getting angry. The lady dealing with all of this was Rebecca, who within my hearing said to at least 3 different customers, "There are plenty of sites, you don't have to stay here". In time she was to say exactly the same thing to me.
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2 I was standing with Gianni, who is native Italian so we could make the registration as smooth as possible. It took 10 minutes to register both of us, a process at any other camp would take less than half that. Still the extra heads in the reception area contributed nothing that we could see. At Last, we are allocated our pitches and off we go. Our first big problem. They are occupied. We selected two empty pitches close by and tried to squeeze our vehicles into them. Add to all this it had been raining heavily (not their fault) and the site was muddy and wet. Very unpleasant conditions.

3 On the plus side we were near to the toilet block which, I must say, was well maintained and very clean.

4 Close by was a restaurant which seemed to be owned by an external organisation. It was truly excellent and we drowned our sorrows in style in the only pleasantly memorable part of our stay.

5 I have saved the worst to last. Wi Fi. I have commented before on different attitudes to the Internet from site to site, some are superb and some just don't have it. What I have never come across is the abject stupidity that Camp Butterfly demonstrate. They have a sign which says that you can only buy a subscription on a Saturday between 7:00pm and 9:00pm.
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I returned at 6:30pm to see if I could buy a login as I had a commitment to pursue on Skype. “No”, was the answer, “Not until 7:00pm.” I showed my Press Card and asked if they could make an exception to facilitate me. No, said the same Rebecca. I asked why they were so unbending with their rules and what she said really surprised me. "Our boss says we cannot take money for the Internet until 7:00pm because we are so busy" I asked if I could talk to the boss? "No, the rules are there. It has to be 7:00pm" I should point out that it is now 6:45pm and there is no one else in the queue and, I would have thought, it was obvious that they were headed towards a public relations disaster. Totally unmoved I got my marching orders until 7:00pm.

I asked again about the Boss and was met with blank stares. Now if you think that was an end to it, read on.

I returned at 7:00pm to find a long queue of people waiting to get login subscriptions. When it came to my turn I explained I wanted separate subscriptions, one for me, one for Nancy and one for Gianni and Loretta. "Can I see your passport please?" For the internet?? They had previously seen and copied my passport during the registration process (and all the others as well). My passport was back in the van so I showed them my Press Card, full picture ID. I pointed out that they had already everyones passport details but alas this wasn't acceptable. By this stage this was unbearably stupid. This was an INTERNET connection we were trying to buy. Nancy arrived, showed her driving licence and that was it completed. Never have I ever come across a location where you have to produce a passport to sign onto an Internet connection.

Any idiot who knows anything about the Internet will know that the more people who use it the slower it will get. If you have a local network and you "herd" the users to all buy their connection at the same time the system becomes overloaded and, as in this case, becomes unusable. Guess what? It was unusable. I was unable to work and so we all moved to the site restaurant where we had a lovely meal. The only positive I have for this site.

To the Boss, if I had a chance to meet him I would say. You are blessed in the location of your site. Sadly you take advantage of your visitors in the organisation of your reception and the skimpiness of your pitches. Your staff hide behind your "rules" which, in the case of the wi fi, causes your system to become overloaded. That sir or madam is simple stupidity. This is not just one disgruntled customer. I saw many who complained about having to stand in the rain to buy an Internet connection. Charging people €2 an hour to use the Internet which is now the vehicle for people to work and keep contact with their families is unconscionable; to organise it in such a way as to put a strain on the resource to the point that it doesn't work is, in my humble opinion, “virtually” dishonest.

The following day we left and headed for Venice. Before departure I brought my complaint to the reception. The Internet didn't work. Rebecca threw €20 on the desk, "Here is your money back" in the most ungracious gesture imaginable.

So Boss, why not write to me and tell me anything that could explain away such a dire experience.

And to bring us right up to date…faith restored!


And then it is Italy...

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A drive of 134 miles took us from Port Grimaud on the French Riviera into the NW coastal region of Liguria in Italy. A spectacular drive with countless tunnels and viaducts and no shortage of stunning views.

But before we start contemplating the joys of Italy some thoughts on the past few days in Port Grimaud. Last night was another visit to the camp restaurant where we enjoyed a very pleasant meal. None more so than Mr Dougal who charmed our favourite waitress, Miriam, to such a degree that he got his own special desert of vanilla ice cream.
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We all like surprises but I think you can work out that he was very pleasantly moved when it arrived in front of him!

So a very pleasant stay near St Tropez but time to move on and our next stop is a rendezvous with our friends Loretta and Gianni Carbone. They were staying at Camping Delfino just 3 kilometres from the Liguria town of Alassio in a quite unusual site. The picture shows the layout with structures in place to enable you to control how much shade you would like to have. I have never come across this before and I am not too sure as to the effect as we are currently off season so its hard to get a perspective with so few customers. They do, however, seem to cater for large numbers of people who keep their vehicles here permanently.
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The site is very typical of Italian sites, family run and so friendly and helpful. The restaurant was a big hit with us and a big benefit to us was having Gianni who just loves to keep us right on the intricacies of the Italian kitchen. A proud Italian if ever there was one!

There were, however, some downsides. Firstly, the weather took a turn for the worse and it rained all night long. Not nice. Secondly there is no internet. Or should I say there is no Internet that works!


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.


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?

Haliotis, a breath of fresh air.

One of the most infuriating things about my Mac computer is its insistence on correcting my spelling whether I want it to or not. Auto correct is the bane of many a life, and it is very easy to miss every now and then.
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Just recently I was exchanging some chit chat with a friend in Arizona. We were talking about, inter alia, Guernsey. I was about to send him an e-mail when I noticed that instead of a Channel Island I was now referring to Gurney an English poet and composer who fought on the Western Front during the First World War or an American term for a type of stretcher used in modern hospitals and ambulances. I am not alone in my frustration as you will find if you Google "auto correct". Some outcomes are hilarious but others can be a mite embarrassing. Thats the background and my reality earlier was a bit of both.
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Over the past few days we have enjoyed the features of Camping Haliotis here in Pontorson. It is a fabulous campsite, and very nearly fell foul of the dreaded "auto correct". I noticed that it had decided to rename it…Camping Halitosis!There is a difference!
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Mont-Saint-Michele being the incredible tourist attraction that it is attracts tourists in their millions. So, it's not surprising that there is no shortage of campsites, and I have spent a fair amount of time over the past few years researching them. We came across Camping Haliotis about 3 years ago and have been back a few times. It has quickly become one of our favourites because of a relatively unique feature mentioned a few days ago in the blog…Pitches with their own bathroom. But it doesn't stop there.

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The site is on the edge of Pontorson, a small town just a few miles away from Mont-Saint-Michel, well endowed with restaurants and a substantial supermarket. It is flat and has a concentration on animals with a small petting farm and lots of horses in surrounding fields. The staff are delightful and have been fantastically helpful.

Bearing in mind that the season is just beginning and the weather has been less than inviting I have to say this site is the one to visit if you happen to be in this area. So a special thank you to Gerald, Sabine and Alicia for their kindness.

Tomorrow it is time to continue our travels in the direction of Bordeaux.

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?

Mud glorious mud! Sunday, March 23, 2013

Didn’t the old song say, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood…? Maybe that was “Food glorious food” but who cares? Well if its not too late let me amend that to “boiling the blood”! We have spent the last two days in two great sites but affected by the same malaise we talked about a couple of days ago at Sorel. I suppose its hardly surprising bearing in mind the sort of weather that has been inflicted on us. Still we are grateful for small mercies as the news from the UK and Ireland is pretty horrendous with snow, gales, power cuts and misery galore. Add to that the Isle of Man was inaccessible for a while with all shipping and flights suspended…So whats a bit of mud to complain about?

After we collected Ji Hye in Paris and moved to the Les Trios Rois site on the banks of the Seine we settled for what turned out to be an interesting fun night. All the pitches on the site were grassy and although they looked pretty secure it transpired that several among us needed the assistance of the site tractor to move off the following day. Once installed on the pitch the satellite returned to its former glory and we were able to access all channels. I am still baffled as to why we had a problem in Sorel. So, dinner time and a severe attack of laziness took over and we decided to amble off to the little restaurant at the roundabout just outside the gate. Then we had a very funny “good news, bad news” moment. The good news? Well, the restaurant is open! The bad news? Not to the public tonight! A special party has booked it and its a private “do” so a no go for us.

Now, I am not too sure what happened next. Was it the look of starvation on my face? Perhaps it was Nancy’s smiling acceptance but more than likely it was Ji Hye and Dougal casting their special charm. Anyway what happened was pretty special. The hostess looked at us quizzically and out of the blue said, “Do you like dancing? Salsa dancing?”

Transpires there is a salsa dancing class tonight and if we don’t mind classes in between courses then we are welcome to come! The night’s highlight was the look on Dougal’s face as some less than dignified “Strictly” wannabes meandered between the tables voicing, “1,2,3,4…1,2,3,4”. Verdict? We will talk about this night for some time to come.

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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Today we leave the UK and head into France. Following our two day stop over in Surrey we are well placed to make it down to Folkestone to get onto the Eurotunnel service to Calais. Interestingly most people who travel into Europe seem to favour the cross channel ferry route but, for me, the tunnel is simplicity itself. Drive up, check in and drive on without having to leave your driver's seat. Then 35 minutes later you drive off and straight onto a motorway. A great service and my preferred route.
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Anytime we travel through Calais we have always stayed at a campsite in the small town of Guines. It is called La Bien-Assise and is well maintained, friendly and has a fabulous restaurant attached. The facilities are meticulously maintained and we have never had a bad experience. Our problem this time was that they are not officially open until next week. They will, however, let you stay and keep 4 or 5 hard standing pitches available. There are none of the usual facilities operating such as the site shop and Wi Fi. So we decided to try somewhere new. A modicum of research in the Alan Rogers I-Pad app showed me that just a half an hour south of Calais near Boulogne is a site called, Camping L’ Eté Indien. I called ahead, they were open and yes, they had availability and certainly had Wi Fi throughout the site.

Well, it was an easy enough drive down there although the last half mile was on a narrow pot holed road where two vehicles could barely pass. Still I got there and went into the reception to "sign in". It was a shambles. The assurance of Wi Fi given by telephone was simply wrong. They had "a problem" and the machine that issued the passwords had broken and after hanging around for about 20 minutes it was clear that they were not going to be able to provide. Added to that if their system had been working then it was device specific as described in yesterday's blog and would have cost "an arm and a leg". It took little thought on my part to decide to double back to Guines and La Bien-Assise.

On arrival we had the entire site to ourselves. We selected a nice pitch beside the toilet block and ambled off down to the restaurant for a fabulous meal and were able to avail of their Wi Fi in the restaurant to catch up with e-mails.

A huge plus point for us for this site is that they are very dog friendly and Dougal was given pride of place on his rug on the floor beside the table. Then it was back to the Vinny Van and a catch up on the budget chitter chatter.

Tomorrow we head off towards Paris this time stopping at a pretty town called Orvillers-Sorel which has the almost compulsory Chateau, about an hour north of Paris. We have stayed there a couple of times before and from what I read it is now even better. No doubt you will be hearing more about this in the next few days.

Monday, March 18, 2013

There are so many advantages to touring by motorhome that sometimes you can be blinded to the downside. Yesterday was something of an ordeal, an early start, a four hour boat trip followed by a drive of over 200 miles to get to Lincoln Farm Park in Oxfordshire. The end result was that I ended up feeling a little wobbly which led me to feel that perhaps I was working my way through one of those viruses that are on the go and that everybody else seems to have had, of late. I suspected something was not quite right when I didn't feel inclined to eat bearing in mind that right next to the campsite is the Black Horse pub, one of my favourite restaurants!

Anyway the following morning (today) we left headed towards Surrey and the
Alderstead Heath Caravan Club site which I had long wanted to explore. The trip was uneventful, just over 80 miles leading onto the M25 which is often referred to as the world's largest car park. It doesn't take you long to figure out that's not a bad description!
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The site is just a few miles off the motorway making it an ideal stopping off point if you are heading north or south. A beautiful rural setting; hard to believe you are so close to the bustle of London. One thing about the Caravan Club is its level of consistency. You always know what you are going to get and are seldom disappointed. Of course the staffing invariably adds to the quality of the site and I have to say the wardens here are top-notch. We were greeted by Linda, very jovial and extremely helpful. She shares the warden duties with her husband Ron, also attentive and thoughtful. Later in the day when Linda learned that I wasn't feeling 100% she was attentive in the extreme. This is a site I will come back to.
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Weather-wise it still on the cold side but, at least, the sun is shining and we seem to have avoided the miserable snow and frost that so many parts of the UK seem to be complaining about right now.

Our trip from Oxfordshire to Redhill (near London), was uneventful and quick. The day continued to be rainy and cold, but the bigger issue became Frank's health. He simply wasn't the jovial, happy camper, he ordinarily is on these trips. As our plans were to take the Eurotunnel into France tomorrow, this became a critical problem, so Frank spoke with a doctor. After some probing questions, it was concluded he probably has a virus of some kind.

Tuesday: This morning he feels considerably better, and was able, in typical Frank fashion, to eat a hearty breakfast.

We've put our plans back one day, and will stay over in this campsite another night to give him time to feel better still, and if he is back to his annoyingly chipper self tomorrow; we'll be in France sometime Wednesday! So today is a relaxing day, and I'll get back to editing my book!  Cheers!

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!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

So far an interesting day…Read on.

We are still on the Isle of Man, exercising the option to wait until tomorrow. I think there was just too much exertion yesterday coupled with too little sleep. As a result I felt quite unwell at departure time and common sense dictated that we rest up for a day and do it tomorrow.

Unwittingly we learned a very interesting lesson which people should take note of.

Firstly, what would the cost be for putting everything back by 24 hours? Well, we were unable to get in touch with the Steam Packet company to cancel till 9:00am, one hour after the boar had already sailed, and to my immense surprise there was not a single problem…They switched everything over to tomorrow’s sailing and the cost? Nothing at all. So well done the Steam Packet Company.

Next phone call was to the Plassey leisure Park neat Wrexham. We were booked to stay there for tonight. Not so lucky this time They read me the rules and I forfeit my £19:00 fee. There was no compromise. What they don’t need to do is lecture you on the need to have adequate insurance cover to manage the cost of cancellations. Do they really think someone would make an insurance claim for £19:00? So a bad taste from a site which I have visited many times and recommended many times. My view? Bad public relations even though they were well within their rights. Can’t see us going back.

“Day 1 of our 2013 motorhome adventure got off to an alarming start. We were up early, and began preparations to leave our home  at 6:45a.m. to catch the ferry which was departing at 8:00. Frank had a few last minute details to deal with on the motorhome, and I was upstairs finishing the few things I had remaining as well before leaving. Frank came upstairs and laid back down on the bed...which for those of you who know Frank, is very unusual. He was excited about beginning our journey and so the fact that he needed to lay down was worrying. Good sense dictated we wait and soon made a decision to put everything back for a day.

Frank has mentioned the Steam Packet Company, kudos to them, no extra charges for tomorrow’s crossing. As a side-note, we had to cancel one of our long-time favourite campsites; Plassey near Wrexham, Wales and were shocked to learn,  even in the event of a health scare, they would not refund our £19. Frank was very polite, and explained, in detail the circumstance of our cancelation, the receptionist’s response was very businesslike, and even though we've stayed with them many times, did not offer even the most cursory comment regarding his health, instead commenting that everyone should have good insurance cover for cancellations! Obviously no one would make an insurance claim for £19, and if they did their increased premiums would more than make up for any advantage such a claim might have given them. Needless to say, we are both surprised at the cold attitude of the receptionist, as well as the companies’ policy - we will not be returning”
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Everything is prepared, the Van is as ready as it has ever been. We have checked all the systems and they seem to be functioning properly.

So today is a bit of a bonus in that all the work is done and some good rest is now available and we will capitalise on that!

So this is the view of Port Erin that we are leaving behind tomorrow morning. No matter where we travel, home is hard to beat.


September 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
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