Day 1300 – La Bella Italia - Garda – 22 Sep 13

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Day 1300 – La Bella Italia - Garda – 22 Sep 13
Primarily this blog is aimed at keeping our daughter in the UK, Chloe, abreast of our adventures in Europe. Additionally, we hope that other readers will find snippets of info regarding campsites, prices and foreign travel interesting or perhaps just informative.
For piccies see

Hi Clo,

Got away from Lake Konstanz, which is well worth a re-visit another year. The weather quickly deteriorated to dogsh*t and torrential rain followed us down the Autobahn to Landsberg am Lech. This is the town on the Romantische Strasse from which your dear mother was repatriated in 1966 for being thoroughly undesirable and destitute. Nothing changes! (Joking!!)

We got settled PDQ and walked the 4kms into town in search of a schnitzel and we found a great, typically Bavarian restaurant which served up HUGE portions and giant Oktoberfest beers. Job done.

We then walked to the station and bought train tickets to Munich for tomorrow (€14 rtn). Then it was a taxi back and festering, whilst watching the rain run off the front of the 'van. We are going to decide tomorrow whether to make a break for Italy. It gets sunny there by Friday…so we may storm through Austria on Thursday.

Got up and caught the taxi to the Bahnhof through horrendous roadworks – which seem to be a feature of this region. We trained it to Munich in 50 mins and found the Hop-On/Hop-Off just outside the station. €20 bought us all the tours so we spent 3 hours+ riding around Munchen. The weather was average so it's was reasonably pleasant. We saw the Olympic Park, Nymphenburg Palace and loads of old Nazi buildings – now converted to museums – but not knocked down! The main city square was crowded with tourists and had an impressive Rathaus…but roadworks were everywhere and this will be my enduring memory of Munich.

The train back brought the rain which has endured to this morning (12th), so we will do the short hop to Oberammergau and attempt the Alps crossing on Friday in more clement weather. Our Dutch neighbours here had a leak in their 23 year old Hobby, so we gave them some silicon filler and hopefully it's now fixed.

It rained all the way here, cleared for 15 minutes whilst we set up and hasn’t stopped since. The pitch at Oberammergau is excellent with fantastic views of the Bayerische Alpen. Not many people on the site, so we trudged into the ‘Dorf’ (10 mins) and set about sightseeing at the venue for the 10-yearly Passion Plays. Again, it's a town given over ENTIRELY to tourism – and frankly – why not? If you’ve got a way of making money then go for it! There were hundreds of American tourists wandering about the town buying souvenirs and drinking coffee. We did much the same after a warming lunch at the Gasthof Rosa.To be fair, although it felt like December because of the weather, it must be beautiful in sunshine.

We are now sitting in the 'van, doing admin and thanking Donington Caravans once again for fixing the roof properly – pse note CamperUK!

We’ve heard from several fellow travellers located across Europe as they all start to weave their way to Cabo for October. Looking forward to seeing them all again. We set off to Italy tomorrow (13th) and hope for the sun!

Watched ‘Lewis’ on DVD and retired early with rain drops falling on our roof! Got away early – still raining and hit the road to Innsbruck. Because of the Austrian rules on prepaid tolls for vehicles over 3.5T - €80 for a radar box! - we decided to go the scenic route (B182) from Innsbruck along the Brenner Pass to the Italian (S Tyrol) border and then take the autostrada to Bolzano and Camping Steiner. However, on the hill down into Innsbruck we endured a long, slow, 2nd gear descent and by the bottom, hot brakes gave us a brake pad warning in the cockpit! So, I had a little think whilst Shirl shopped in a local store, and decided to take the motorway all the way. So, we stopped at a garage and bought a 10 day vignette for €8.30 and set off. Got 5 kms down the A12 and there’s a bl**dy toll! (€8.50).The vignette does not cover the Brenner Pass! What a rip off! There is no warning of this on any Austrian websites which all threaten dire consequences for not having a vignette!

Anyhoo, on we went and got to Camping Steiner in the S Tyrol via the most horrendous motorway exit you will EVER encounter. It went round and round and round for miles, via a toll pay area and various turn offs. I needed a psychiatrist at the end of it and only Shirl with the map book saved us.

Camping Steiner was full and we got just about the last pitch…phew! It's ‘cosy’ but there’s a swimming pool, restaurant and nice facilities. Also, free Wi-Fi! And after 72 hours of persistent rain, it's SUNNY and WARM…hurrah! Again, thanks to Donington Caravans for keeping us dry.

And the best thing of all is that the pound is up to €1.96 (13th). Great news.
Had a nice meal at the camp restaurant followed by a walk into town where we had 3 wines and a coffee for €4.50! Bargain. This area of S Tyrol is basically still part of Austria. It was ceded to Italy by the French and British in 1915 to persuade Italy to join the war against the Kaiser. However, it has remained basically Austrian ever since, even though the Italians have poured people in to support their position. I sense a lot of bad feeling: they speak German, the signage is in German and you would think it was Austria. Weird!

Anyway, we set off around 0830 for Lake Garda and reached the mountain road on the western edge of the lake in good time. There was very heavy traffic climbing out of Riva Del Garda and we were glad that we didn’t have to use our brakes much at all. However, they will need fixing soon as the warning light came on again.

The SS45a is a narrowish road and limited to 3.5m height-wise. It would be a doddle if every German tourist kept on their side of the bl**dy road! I lost count of the times they had to swerve violently just to miss us – generally cos they were sightseeing instead of driving! It was an extremely picturesque drive and well worth the risk. Only one Italian did a U-turn in the road, so we shouldn’t complain!

Finding the right campsite was another issue. They have all changed names and split up and changed function. The one in ACSI – C Maderno has NO facility for motorhomes and has converted its lakeside pitches to holiday huts – as has C Promontario – where we are now. So we cannot park on the lake. We eventually settled on Promontario as it took ACSI. The first place we went to – C Toscolano – wanted €35 per night! No way, Jose! I will be writing an ACSI report to correct their details! Basically, there are 5 campsites all within spitting distance of each other.

It's nice here, 2 mins from the beach and we share C Riviera’s pool, free wi-fi, bar and shop, right next door. Potential is good and although it is forecasted to shower tomorrow (15th) we anticipate a good 10 days. Maderno is a nice town, with local shops, beaches, restaurants and a ferry. We checked out the ferry prices to Bardolino across the lake - €27 return pp. Outrageous, so we are going to stay this side and do the markets locally. We might take the local ferry to Torri, but that’s €13 return! So it looks like buses for us and this side of the lake. We found a motor mechanic and after a tricky conversation, he appears to be able to fit new brake pads to the front wheels. However, I want a price first!

Took the 'van down on Monday morning (16th) and left it with the mechanic with Italian instructions. He gave a decent quote, so I left him to it. About 2 hours later, he drives up to the campsite and says, via an interpreter, that he has checked all 4 wheels and could find no problem. He topped up the oil and says all should be well. He drove me back to the 'van and I was hard pressed to give him €20 for his time. My faith in human nature has been restored – pse note Camper UK! He’s also going to fix the awning winder as well! But we’ll have to see if the warning light reappears.

The sun is out, so we’ve done some admin and a few jobs on the 'van. The toilet cassette needs a spare part, so I’ll order it for you to post to Bonterra Park next month. I also dried out the left indicator bulb housing and put a desiccating pack inside. That might solve the power problem, as there was a lot of condensation around the electrical connection. Your mother is ironing now and we will do a bit of shopping later before a nice bit of Italian calves liver tonite!

We’ve also decided to cut short our travels on the way home next year. We’ll forego Sweden and Poland and just do France, Germany and Denmark, getting the ferry from Esbjerg. It will get mum home earlier for the wedding!

A lovely evening sitting out, but it was surprising to be on the lakeside in 20 knots of wind and then walk 5 paces into the campsite and it was completely calm. But, naturally, this morning (17th) after the last of the overnight showers, it started gusting and the awning started to flap – as did your mother – and we couldn’t roll it in because the handle was being repaired! So we had to wait until we saw a neighbour to borrow one. Typical!

Off to catch the bus to Desenzano market this morning. However, there was no bus! The first bus was at 8am and the next one at 1pm! The ticket seller neglected to mention this even though we checked with him. So we toddled back to the 'van and went for a Pizza in Maderno in the evening. We’ll try the bus again tomorrow to Gargnano market.

Well, that was another ‘Fred Carno’s’! First bus didn’t even stop! Second bus driver did let us travel on one ticket and we got to Gargnano in 5 mins. Tiny market, so we had an Aperol and watched 5 ferries dock in 40 minutes. It's certainly well connected, as is the whole lake, but pricey!

Well, as we sat taking in the afternoon sun, suddenly, three x 1990’s soft top Lancia’s drove onto the pitch opposite and six Brits jumped out and set up camp. It was a bit surreal and like something out of ‘The Italian Job’. Apparently, these six old pals bought the cars off eBay and set off to Venice and back in 10 days. It's not the first time, nor the last, that they plan to do this sort of thing. Luckily, two of the group are mechanics so they can sort out any vehicle troubles. They also revealed why we got a brake pad warning whilst going down a steep hill – it was low brake fluid as the float in the reservoir was exposed! Doh! In return we passed on the ACSI info.

Next year they might get a big motorhome and do it again. Nice to have met you, lads! And ‘Small World’, they came from the Cambs area and one of the chaps had his wedding reception at the Pike and Eel – just like us! Spooky! Bon voyage…Mark, Kev, Neil, Ted, Alan and Skipper. Think I got that right.

Shirl finally got to a decent sized market in Maderno and got herself a few summery dresses, whilst I lazed by the 'van. Then it was a swim in the lake, a bit of shopping on the bikes and then a nice BBQ. Perfect day, really. This campsite is fine as a base and bearing in mind we've just about seen every town on Garda now, it's not worth moving on.

We are going to try and fit the awning skirt today and tomorrow Sue Mac arrives as part of her Italian tour. Hopefully, we can squeeze in a get together.

Then on Monday 23rd, we set off for Albenga on the Italian Riviera for a couple of days before travelling on to Port Grimaud where we might hook up with Penny and Gordon again. Then, maybe, we can go down to La Lavandou and see Pat and Maria. The weather is forecasted to be hot and sunny, so we can be pretty flexible. Bonterra Park by 4th October.

We’ve heard from the Silvonnies again – they are now in Sardinia, about to cross to Corsica.

Well, that's all for now,
Take care
M and D

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