European Tour 2012

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MONDAY 30TH JULY 2012 TOURNAI - FRANCE
We left Harwich at 8.30am after filling with fuel; we needed to get to Dover by 11am to catch the midday ferry – made it by 5mins.
On arriving at Dunkirk we drove for a couple of hours into Belgium to a free municipal aire in the town of Tournai. It was at the edge of a large car park and very central to the town, there were some workmen taking down a very large stage & tent so it looked like we had just missed some fiesta or celebration that had happened over the weekend.
That evening we walked into the town square, the buildings were very Flemish in design, the usual very large church in the centre. There were some pavement fountains so we sat and had a beer at a café and watched some children running around in the fountains getting very wet but having a great time!
We went back to the van, had rolls & pate for tea and watched the first episode of “Game of Thrones” on DVD. We were very tired so were in bed by 10pm and slept soundly.

TUESDAY 31ST JULY 2012 METZ - FRANCE
Didn’t wake up very early so it was 10am before we were away.
Having looked at the map the night before we thought we’d head for Rastatt in Germany for no other reason than it was on the Rhine and thought it might be like the Loire Valley in France and we could travel down alongside it.
We were going to stop for fuel in Luxembourg as everyone says it’s cheap there but unfortunately the route we were on took us just outside the border and as we were getting perilously low we had to fill up in Germany. It wasn’t too expensive at 1.53E per ltr and we also filled up with LPG as well after managing to sort out how with the help of a local person who had just used the pump! (LPG gas 53p per ltr as opposed to 76p in the UK!)
I had been reading some notes I found on the Motorhome fun website and several people had said how good the city of Metz was so we decided to deviate off our route and head for there as it was nearer. Found the municipal Aires just outside the campsite and again very central to town. It was in a big car park with 8 spaces along one side for campers, luckily there was a space for us although as the day wore on other campers came and just parked in the normal car parking area. We were parked up almost next to the river and Tony went off for a recci on his bike to see if the town was walking or cycling distance. I got out my chair and took it to the grass next to the river where I sat reading my book. A car drew up at the van next door and two men got out, one young and one old. They opened up their motorhome and then got out a pistol and started to fire it into the river right next to where I was sitting. It looked like the young chap was trying to show the older chap how to fire the gun but the old one was waving it around all over the place so I decided to vacate the vicinity and go back to our van.
A short time after the police arrived and were walking around and talking to some lads nearby so I wonder if anyone had called them?
Tony came back with a map of the town and said it was an easy walk so we ventured in after tea for a quick look round, it was packed with people so we went back to the van with the intention of spending the next day looking round. We had tea and watched TV - 2 episodes of “Game of Thrones” - before bed; at this rate we will have watched the whole series in a week!
There were lots of comings and goings of campervans & caravans parking in the car park overnight, also there were two church clocks nearby that chimed every 15 mins, one was slightly out of sync and didn’t seem to start until the other one had finished so we got double chimes.
It looks like the old boy in the motorhome next to us lives there all the time and there is another one that looks abandoned but has a cat living in it – the cat comes and goes through the fridge vent which has been removed and a plastic step put against the van so he can get up into it. Have seen the cat come & go loads of times but as yet no people!

WEDNESDAY 1ST AUGUST 2012 METZ - FRANCE
Once again we were not up early! Had breakfast and then headed off into the town for some sightseeing. We caught the little tourist train (6E) for the 45min trip around the town which was quite good as we would never have got round to see everything on foot as it was spread over a large area. Although there were lots of interesting buildings there were not actually a lot that you could go inside and walk round unless you are into art exhibitions and museums, which we are not. We looked around the cathedral which was splendid, lots of stained glass which, with the sun shining through it looked spectacular.
We found our way back to a little square we had seen whilst on the tourist train and had lunch at a small café. There was a very large old church towering over the houses around it.
We had to wait a long time to get served and then were bought the wrong meals, ended up getting the right ones and the bill came to 35E for a pizza, chicken salad, water & beer!
We walked along the riverside up to the nautical basin where there were boats and pedalos that you could hire out. It was very hot so we got an ice cream and went back to the van to sit in the shade; Tony decided to take his kayak out onto the river. Whilst I was helping him to launch it, some 20 yards from our van, he shouted “look at that rat!” and then tried to back pedal and tell me it was only a mouse……
The chap in the van next to us started doing some DIY. As I said, it looks like he is parked here all the time. He was banging and hammering and chopping up wood most of the evening.
Sat by the riverside reading when another English couple arrived, they came & joined us and we chatted until quite late until the mozzies started to get vicious and then retired to the van to settle down for another night, luckily there was a bit of a breeze through the van so it was bearable.


THURSDAY 2ND AUGUST THANN - FRANCE
Up early for a change so I had a shower & hairwash in the van.
We were away by 9.15 heading for a natural park area between France and Germany. I had found an Aires in the town of Gerardmer.
We saw some cheap fuel 1.40E per ltr so stopped to fill up. When we come to start the van it wouldn’t start, - first thought was we’d put petrol in instead of diesel but a frantic look at the receipt showed that wasn’t the case thank goodness. The engine just kept turning over and over with a little padlock light on the dash which presumably was something to do with the immobiliser. After a few panicked moments it suddenly sprang into life and off we went – hopefully it was a one off.
We arrived at the Aires in Gerardmer which turned out to be a large car park next to a few industrial units right on the main road. There were people walking their dogs around and on looking closely the ground seemed to be covered in dogs mess & rubbish so we drove straight off – not our sort of stop. There was another one ½ hour down the road in Thann and after negotiating some very winding mountain roads we arrived there at 2.30pm. This Aires, next to a river, had parking for about 20 vans but each space was the width of a car and only had about 10 feet between the fronts of the vans parked opposite so it was virtually impossible to swing round to park your van if you were longer than a VW camper!! There were also trees every 5ft so we would have touched them with our roof and would have been unable to back up between the trees to park with the van hanging over the grassy area. We ended up just parking in the normal car park that was next to this area and during the afternoon were joined by about 25 other vans!
Tony done a repair to the rear bedroom blind of which the concertina blind had become detached, refitted it all and then when we came to go to bed found out he had put it on back to front – luckily a quick fix to correct it.
Having spent the morning travelling round the winding mountainous roads of the natural park Tony said it was not as enjoyable a he would like so we are amending our plans of continuing on this sort of road through Austria and on to Lake Bled in Slovenia. We have decided to go through Switzerland and pay the vignette to travel on the motorways and main roads to the two lakes of Thunersee and Brienzersee and stay at Interlaken, which had been recommended to us. As there is no wild camping allowed in Switzerland and no Aires that I can find, I got the internet on my phone (£5 for the day) and looked up sites in Switzerland and Lake Bled, also checked emails etc… which after 3 days were loads.
We walked along the river into the small town in the evening but didn’t see many bars – they must be hidden, ‘local bars for local people’, there were however an abundance of Kebab shops!!
I wasn’t feeling too good so was in bed by 9.30pm – a culmination of rushing around in the last few days getting the van ready and eating too much rubbish food over the past couple of days – note to self “eat less rubbish & more heathy food”. Tony watched TV till late.


FRIDAY 3RD AUGUST INTERKALEN - SWITZERLAND
Up and away by 9.30 – getting into the swing of things now.
We stopped at the Swiss border to get the vignette, an easier process than I had anticipated. As we were over 3500kg we paid 32SF for a 10 day pass which should be enough for our visit and a route back if we come this way. If this is all we have to pay to use the roads then I think it’s good value considering what we have paid in the past to use French motorways.
We arrive at Interlaken at 1pm and settle on the campsite at Manor Farm 1. The chap at reception told us to walk round and choose our pitch. The campsite borders on the lake and we chose one right on the shores, we didn’t realise that pitches are different prices and we had chosen the most expensive at £42 per night excluding electric which we didn’t need. The other pitches were £35 but not as nice so we decided to pay the extra and stay where we had chosen.
I decided to make a proper meal and not a snack so we had a healthy salad lunch and sat eating it overlooking the lake with the mountains on the opposite shore, lovely. The weather so far has been just right, warm and not too hot.
Tony then went out on his bike whilst I sat & read and I must confess had a snooze….
When he came back Tony said he had called in on other campsites and they were all around the £35-£40 a night mark and not quite as nice as ours so think we made the right choice.
There are lots of boats on the lake and several people in swimming.
We sat outside the van until around 9.30pm, it was lovely with lots of the vans having candles on the tables and around their vans, it was also quite peaceful as the kids had all gone to bed!
Whilst eating tea Tony found a piece of his tooth had broken off, he had been complaining that his tooth felt sharp for the last couple of days so this was probably why. It was a large chunk of filling with a piece of tooth attached but he said it didn’t hurt – at the moment.
Oh and he reckons he’s also broken one of his toes as it’s all black and bruised and hurts like hell. Better look out the insurance policy!
I saw someone walk by today with Trevor’s towel – lots of bar towels sewn together to make one big towel – wonder if he knows it’s missing!!
Watched TV and then went to bed, only there for 5 mins and Tony found that another piece of tooth had broken off – at this rate he won’t have anything left to repair by the time we find a dentist!

SATURDAY 4TH AUGUST INTERLAKEN - SWITZERLAND
We cycled into Interlaken this morning, my first outing on my electric bike and it went quite well. The town was very busy, lots of tourists. There is a lot of paragliding going on and they were landing in the central park. We went to the tourist information office to enquire about the trip to Jungfrau which is the top of the highest mountain in Europe. You get there via a train which takes about 3hrs, the cost is £200each or you can go at 6.30am for about £120 each. We have talked to people who say it is well worth it but having looked at the photos of the viewing platform and what is there, we decided not to go – we have been to the top of lots of mountains in Val Thorens and don’t suppose this will be much different except we would have paid the cost of a cheap holiday to get there!
Instead we will go to Trummelbachfalle – ten glacier waterfalls inside a mountain made accessible via a tunnel lift. It’s half way up a mountain but the girl in the tourist office says we can drive the motorhome up there and park outside and although the roads are small they are accessible – we shall see……..
Realising that they don’t use Euros in Switzerland I had to get some Swiss francs from a cash machine, we get complacent about everywhere using Euros.
We looked for a place to have lunch but as everywhere was really expensive we decided to have a MacDonald’s and use the free wifi as that wouldn’t be expensive…wrong it was £20 for 2 meals!! We sat on the outside terrace and watched the Olympics on TV whilst we were there to get our money’s worth.
Looked in a few shops, I bought a key ring for myself and a fridge magnet for Kath’s mum and think that will be the sum of my purchases in Switzerland.
Back to the van via a cycle path that went right out into the countryside, very peaceful.
Went for a swim in the lake when we got back, the stony beach was quite crowded. Sat outside the van under the sunshade when all of a sudden there was a downpour and loud claps of thunder. The rainstorm lasted for about 10 mins which cleared the beach and then the sun came out again with a lovely rainbow over the mountains.
We had a BBQ tea – a proper charcoal one and sat outside for ages. When it started to get dark we cleared and packed away as we would be leaving the next day, luckily for us we did as about 10pm there was a horrendous thunder & lightning storm with a real gusty wind which had everyone clamouring to get their awnings wound in and chairs etc. put away.
It rained heavily in the night.


SUNDAY 5TH AUGUST GAVIRATE - ITALY

After the bad storms last night most of the campsite was mopping up.
We set off after having paid the bill - £83.50 for 2 nights camping without electric!
We went up the mountain to the Trummelbach falls, the road although quite narrow in places was ok for us. It cost 11SF each to get into the falls and they were spectacular in that they came from the top right into the heart of the mountain and then out, very fast flowing.
When we came out of the falls it had started raining again but not heavily and it wasn’t cold just very fresh. We stopped in a car park and had lunch in the van before heading off to Italy. I had found a Stellplatz (Aire) in Gavirate on Lake Maggiore near Milan so we headed there.
Although we were going to travel on the motorway we had to go across the Swiss mountains to get to it. They were so high we seemed to be climbing forever on very winding roads with hairpin bends. The scenery was spectacular and amazingly there were mountain goats and cows on the steep hillsides – there was even a cow giving birth. We went through some very long tunnels on the way and eventually stopped climbing and had to come all the way down again until we hit the motorway.
We had to stop for fuel on a motorway service station, it was E159 so still cheaper than the UK. The shop was swarming with Japanese tourists who had obviously just got off a coach and wanted to spend some money. As we neared the Italian border we suddenly started to see petrol stations every 50 yards, about 20 of them, so it was obvious that fuel in Italy was a lot dearer than Switzerland and this was the last chance to fill up.
We crossed into Italy through a border that actually had a customs booth with someone in it checking passports etc… that’s a first, normally we don’t know we’ve driven into another country until we see a sign in a different language!
We arrived at the stellplatz at 5.30pm; it was a bit of a manoeuvre to park but managed it ok and once settled had the usual cup of tea and then Tony had a wander. There is electricity here for E1 per 24hrs so decided as it was so cheap we would hook up to that & charge everything up. The site was next to the promenade of the lake and just up the road there was a food fiesta going on so we went there to eat in the evening. We bought our meals and ate them at long tables and benches, it was like a school dining room. An old gentleman came along trying to sell us some raffle tickets which we politely declined. After the food there was supposed to be a singer – an Elvis lookalike - but there was a sudden downpour & loud thunder and as it was mainly open air that put an end to that (thank goodness) so we went back to the van watched TV and went to bed.
I seem to have developed an ear infection as I can’t hear in my left ear, wonder if it’s anything to do with the heights we were in the Swiss mountains?
One thing we have noticed is that the compass we have fixed to the front dashboard of the van always points straight ahead as North no matter what direction we are heading so will be ditching that before long – another eBay rubbish buy J

MONDAY 6th AUGUST GAVIRATE - ITALY
Woke up this morning with a balance problem so definitely something up with my ear, not aching though but Tony is having a problem with his shoulder and is in some pain, at first he’d no idea why but then remembered pulling it a bit whilst getting his kayak back onto the roof. Some of my joint pain pills sorted him out for a while but it came back when they started to wear off. Can’t let him have too many as I’ve only got 12 and need them so we will have to try to get something similar from a chemist when we find one. What with his teeth, shoulder and my ear we are turning into a mobile casualty unit!
Tony says he can hear this high pitched whine all the time, I’m glad someone else can hear it I was beginning to think I was developing Tinnitus! The Frenchman in the next van tried to tell me in broken English that it’s a device that’s fixed to the security camera pole in front of us and it’s to keep the mozzies away – well if it is it’s not working as I’ve been bitten loads of times since we’ve been here! Tony says he’s talking B******s and it’s some sort of transmitter.
We set off for a bike ride at 11.30 am along the cycle path at the side of the lake. We had only intended on going a short distance but ended up going round the lake, all 25km of it. My bike is performing well, I am only using it on pedal assist and the motor only kicks in when there is some resistance i.e. going up hills so I am actually getting some exercise out of all this.
We stopped on the way at a café which on first impressions looked really bad but actually turned out to be quite nice, ordered two cold cokes and we got plates of meat and bread and some nuts with them, just enough to keep us going till we got home at 3.30pm.
We went to the bar next to the van site for a drink when we got back. The chap spoke no English whatsoever and on ordering a large coffee and a bottle of fizzy water we got a small espresso coffee and a bottle of water and a glass with crème de menthe in it! Tony says he knows where he is going wrong – he should be putting an ‘I’ on the end of every word, not the usual ‘O’ that he does!
Got back to the van just in time as 15mins after the heavens opened and it thundered once again. Most of the vans that were here this morning have gone and others have started to arrive. The chap next to us had gone but his electricity station was still showing as full so as ours had run out I swapped over the cable and we used what was left of his electricity for the rest of the night.
Not sure how much it is to stay here – I think its E1 every 3hrs but we’ll see in the morning. Whatever it will be cheaper than the Swiss Campsite!
I watched a film, a Spanish copy of the third vampire film, it was really rubbish and had been filmed in a cinema as you could hear people talking and eating sweets and at one point someone got out of their seat and walked in front of the screen. It was so bad that I threw it in the bin when I’d finished watching it.
Tony had a chat with some lads from the Australian rowing team who had parked up on the site. They had been to the Olympics in London although they were not taking part as they were all under 19 but they had bought the boats used by the Olympic team with them as they were on their way to Bulgaria to take part in a competition and then they would ship the boats back to Australia from there.
We studied the maps and decided to head for Lake Garda tomorrow perhaps staying on a campsite as we need to do some washing…..




TUESDAY 7TH AUGUST LAKE GARDA - ITALY
We were up quite early as vans were moving and leaving the site thus it was quite noisy. It seems that this place is used by most purely as a stopover, arriving late at night and leaving early morning.
After breakfast we packed up and left about 8.45. It cost 14E to stay for the two nights so it wasn’t too bad. Luckily I had been saving euro coins as the machine did not take cards or notes!
We headed for Lake Garda. TomTom was playing up, wouldn’t show the roads but was still giving instructions, luckily I have TomTom on my ipad so could direct Tony to motorway and then sort it out – he moaned a lot as usual about chucking the Sat Nav out the window and reverting to maps!
We headed for Camp Butterfly as it had been recommended by several members of MHF but when we got there it was in a busy commercial area and not our cup of tea so we headed up the road which runs around the lake. Unfortunately it would seem that most of the camp sites are similar, it is a very busy tourist area populated mostly by camp sites. We called in at a couple but they were either really expensive or full. Eventually we called in at Camping Serenella in Bardolino and had the last pitch available. It was not ideal as it is a busy campsite with lots going on i.e. kids club etc. but it will do for a couple of days. We are about 50 yards from a promenade which runs alongside the lake and beyond that is a pebble beach into the lake. Tony went for a swim in the lake, I didn’t fancy it as it didn’t look that clean so we went to the campsite swimming pool. The pool was lovely & cold which as the sun was so hot was really nice. Having dived in we were hauled up by the lifeguard as we were not wearing swimming caps! We had to buy two from the kiosk for 1.50E each and wear them when we went into the pool. Tony was most aggravated as he said he has hardly any hair so shouldn’t have to wear one. I would say we both looked rather silly in the hats, like two 1950’s channel swimmers, but then so did everyone else J
We called in at the camp supermarket on the way back and got some bread for lunch. After a short snooze in the chairs outside the van in the tiny patch of shade we could find we went back to the lake for a swim. This time I did go in as I was so hot and needed to cool down. It wasn’t as dirty as it looked however it was very pebbly so had to keep my shoes on, it’s the first time I’ve gone swimming in flip flops. Tony wants to buy a LiLo.
Tony’s neck/shoulder is still bad and I won’t let him have my painkillers so he’s getting by on paracetamol. I try to give him a massage now and again but can’t get stuck in as my hands won’t take it but do my best which he says does help.
We done the washing and had it drying over the washing lines around the van when the couple in a ten pitched next to us came back from the beach and explained that they were not washing lines but lines which they draped sheets over to make a room that they could sleep in outside at night as it was too hot in their tent, so we had to remove the washing and put up our own line, anyway it dried really quickly.
After a nice shower & hair wash we wandered down to the promenade and had a snack at one of the bars. I had Lasagne which was a ready meal heated in a microwave (I know as I saw him doing it!) but wasn’t too bad, Tony had a burger. We ordered a ½ carafe of red wine but got ½ carafe of white sparkling wine so really must do something about this language, it’s really bad when you can’t even order the correct drink!
We walked along the promenade to the next bar where a trio were playing music. They were very good so we sat & watched them before going back to the van.
Really hot tonight so had the fan going until the early hours - hope it didn’t keep the neighbours awake.


WEDNESDAY 8TH AUGUST INTERLAKEN - SWITZERLAND
Tony up very early and left at 8am for a cycle ride.
I had a leisurely breakfast, wandered to the office to enquire about wifi 4E for an hour – think I’ll give that a miss as can get a whole day on my phone for £5 if I get desperate.
I then looked at the maps to get an idea of where to go next. We are heading for Lake Bled in Slovenia and on reading the Road Atlas I see that as we are over 3500kg we are going to need some sort of electronic tag to use the Austrian roads, no surprise there then.
Tony back at 12.30 having ridden round to the top of the lake. He said he would have gone father but there were several long tunnels and as he did not have a reflective jacket it was a bit scary with the passing traffic so decided to head for home. He said it was pretty much the same sort of environment all around the lake except that the top end was a lot windier.
We spent the rest of the day lazing around, reading & swimming.
Whilst swimming we got talking to an English lady and her Dutch husband – she actually talked to us first as she heard us speaking English and she said it was quite rare to find English people in this area at this time of year – first two weeks in August are main school holidays in France, Italy & Germany and most English people avoid it like the plague!
In the evening we treated ourselves to a meal at the camp restaurant – very nice pastas (33E). We then walked along the prom, stopped at a bar and had a coke and small (almost minute!) beer which cost us 5E – extortionate – and listened to some musicians playing but they were not very good so we wandered home.
There are some young lads arrived and pitched next to us, they drove up about 1pm, slung their tent on the ground and went off for a swim. They didn’t come back till about 7pm when they put up their tent and shortly after went out again. They came back around 4am along with loads of other people who were all quite noisy. We later found out that there is a bus that picks them all up, takes them to a nightclub and brings them back at 4am.


THURSDAY 9TH AUGUST VERONA - ITALY
We decided to move on so packed up, serviced the van and paid the campsite bill of 83E.
We had decided to head for the Venetian coast but on the way saw the sign for Verona and TG thought he had read somewhere that it was a nice town to sightsee so we headed there. There was a campsite on TomTom near the centre so we made for that. It turned out to be on top of a very steep hill with winding narrow roads and was only suitable for tents as no access for anything else. We had to keep going to the top of the hill to turn round and had to go through an arch which was only about a foot higher than our van however we managed it and found ourselves in a car park really high up with beautiful views of the city. We were tempted to stay there but even though we couldn’t see any signs were sure it wouldn’t be allowed and on the way into town we had seen a sign for what we thought was a camper Aires so made for that. It was an Aires and quite central to the centre of town so we stopped there overnight.
We walked into Verona centre which was about 10 mins away and found all the historic attractions. We took the tourist train for 5E and a 25min tour round all the sights. Lots of churches, museums and as Shakespeare was supposed to have written the play “ Romeo & Juliet” here, the house where Romeo & Juliet had their balcony scene.
We think it might have been the young train drivers first day on the job as he was very happy and amenable and kept ringing the train bell at every opportunity, waving to all the young girls along the route, who were not impressed, and looked the other way in embarrassment.
Back in the centre we watched some good street performers outside the amphitheatre. We were tempted to go in to have a look at the Amphitheatre but it was quite expensive and there were long queues waiting in the hot sun, no shade, so thinking it probably wouldn’t have been as good at the Coliseum in Rome, which we had seen, we gave it a miss, instead we had an ice cream and drink. We actually found an English newspaper so bought it and wandered back to the camper buying some fresh fruit on the way so I can make a fruit salad as feel we’ve not have enough fruit over the past few days.
We had noticed on the street map we got from the Tourist information office that there was a swimming pool just up the road from where we were parked so got our gear and wandered up there. It was brilliant – 3E each and there was a bar, a grassy area with sunbeds and 4 swimming pools, one of which had chutes but only for young kids much to Tony’s dismay. Luckily we had thought to bring our lovely swimming caps as we had to wear these to go in the pool.
We lazed around, reading & snoozing for the rest of the day at the pool and then after having a nice shower & hair wash we walked back to the van where I made TG macaroni cheese as promised – just as good as any restaurant I think! We have decided we are spending too much on eating out as we have another eleven weeks to go so will have to do more in the van.
After trying to watch a crappy copy of an American film about navy seals we gave up and went to bed – another one for the bin.
The whole day has been really hot with tonight the hottest yet I think. We had the fan on but not doing much good, I wonder what it’s going to be like in Croatia?
There was a heavy thunderstorm in the night which helped clear the air a bit.

FRIDAY 10TH AUGUST LIGNANO SABBIADORO - ITALY
Up and away by 8.30 that’s the beauty of staying on an Aires, we don’t get everything out so not much to pack away.
We got some fuel 1.63E, have seen it most places for 1.79E so that’s good.
We are heading for the Venetian coastline and have decided to go to the Lignano Sabbiadono lagoon area as looks like there are plenty of camp sites there. When we arrived we found it to be heaving and just like Clacton, we drove along the coast road to the end of the land strip and came across a place just like Jaywick!
We parked up in a parking place at the side of the road right at the end of the strip looking over the estuary., assuming it was ok to park there as others had, although from how we interpreted the sign there was no parking.
We made a cup of tea and sat on the river bank, it was so peaceful. We decided to stay parked there for the night figuring they would only move us on if it was not allowed.
We got a very poor phone signal but a very good TV signal so sat watching the Olympics for a while – have missed not seeing the GB win all the medals but hopefully we will be able to buy a DVD of all the best bits when we get home.
It was Tony’s birthday and I hadn’t got him a card or present – very naughty of me – so I treated him to a day’s internet on his phone so he could check for birthday messages and there were a lot so thanks for that. Had messages & calls from Jason, Louise & Jon which was nice.
We sat reading for a while and then Tony went out on his bike to see what was around us.
There were a couple of campsites but not very nice and they were 30E a night. There were also a couple of restaurants nearby and despite our resolve for not eating out for a while we decided to go out that evening – well it was Tony’s birthday!
The lure of the river was too much for Tony so he got his kayak (I’m told I must stop calling it a canoe!) down from the roof and went out in the estuary in it taking the camera ,in a waterproof bag, to get some photos. I sat reading in the van and almost read a whole book today, lovely…
In the evening we walked round the corner to a restaurant for Tony’s birthday meal which was very good but although we didn’t have much to drink the drinks were very strong so we were both quite tipsy when we got back to the van – hope the Police don’t come to move us on as neither of us would be capable of driving the van anywhere!

SATURDAY 11TH AUGUST 2012 BELVEDERE (Nr GRADO) - ITALY
We were up early at 7.30. We had thought last night that we would head back east up the coast to Lido de Jeslo and go into Venice but on reflection, we have been there before, it’s more old buildings, churches and museums and it is going to be heaving at this time of year so we decide to give it a miss and head instead further west up the coast to Grado, the other side of the lagoon which hopefully wouldn’t be too busy as it looks like there are not so many campsites there. We left at 9am, putting the destination in TomTom which tried to take us across country down a secondary road. Unfortunately a couple of miles along we came to a bridge with a width warning of 2.2 metre max and as we are 2.5 we had to turn around and go back to the main road and go the long way round ….. what a nightmare!
We had not given it a thought that it was Saturday mid-morning (actually we probably didn’t know what day it was!) and obviously changeover day for holiday makers on what must have been the busiest weekend of the year. We were commenting on the amount of traffic coming into the resort when we suddenly came to a standstill on our way out of the resort and spent the next 3 hours inching our way along the road for about 10 miles. There was only one road in and out of the resort to get to the motorway, which was most peoples destination. Tony was getting more & more wound up and kept saying he was going to turn around but I had to explain to him that that was just as bad as people were trying to get into the resort. He says from now on he’s only going to travel at night!
We eventually drove into Grado across a causeway and found that despite our hopes it was just like the resort we had left only a bit more stretched out. We called in one campsite to have a look, it was only 20E but the pitches were so small and crammed together that a) we couldn’t get the van in any of them and b) it was teeming with screaming kids who would be right next door, so we gave it a miss. We had seen a campsite on the way in across the causeway and also an Aires near the town. We checked out the Aires – 12E a night but miles from anywhere and next to a main road – so decided to head for the campsite at the entrance to the causeway. They had room and at 21E per night including electricity was very reasonable. They had a pool and a beach on the estuary so we found a nice place and unpacked quickly to go for a swim. The floor of the estuary beach was thick oozy mud and it was almost impossible to walk on as you had to wear water shoes and once in the mud it was really hard to get your feet out and it was also very slimy so I went to the ‘pool’ - it was a big plastic one and didn’t look exactly clear but by this time I was really hot and desperate to have a swim so decided to risk it, donned my regulation bathing cap and went in. It was OK actually, until a load of kids came so I vacated it and went back to the van.
We sat outside for a bit, decided that tonight we would have a BBQ tea.
All of a sudden the wind picked up and within about 5 mins it was blowing a hooly!! Everyone was rushing round winding in awnings and stopping items from blowing away. Tony wound our awning in and then helped the couple next door as theirs was on the point of disappearing over their van. We thought it would pass but it actually set in for the rest of the night so I cooked tea in the van, quite nice really as had sausage, potatoes & peas, almost like home!
Good TV reception again so watched a few Olympic finals, athletics and diving, which was good. It’s quite strange being in another country and getting their slant on things.
Went to bed quite late and was woken up a lot of times in the night by a bleeping noise, sounds like someone has an alarm problem!


SUNDAY 12TH AUGUST 2012 BELVEDERE (Nr GRADO) - ITALY
Woke up to it being still slightly windy although nothing like last night. I think it may have something to do with the estuary tide as when it started to go out the wind started to drop.
This is a really peculiar site. There are lots of permanent van/mobile homes here which look like every time the occupants come to visit they build another bit on. It resembles some of the townships we have seen in Hong Kong! There is a huge group of people two rows behind us and their “vans” talk up almost a whole row, they have even built their own toilet & shower block onto the back on one of the vans which they all seem to use instead of the campsite one opposite. They are obviously permanent but I presume they come to spend weekends and holidays in them. Some of them have a communal cooking/eating area which seats about 20 and looks like a works canteen.
At the moment it is Sunday morning 11.30am and they are all on the boules pitch having a game, men, women & children all joining in. They are talking it very seriously and have tape measures to measure whose ball is nearest the target ball. Obviously they are making an absolute racket, cheering & laughing but it’s really good.
Tony suggested we go out on a cycle ride but then my face must have portrayed that I wasn’t that keen so he suggested that he could go on his own? I don’t mind going but feel that I hold him back and he would see a lot more on his own (who am I kidding!) At the moment I look at my bike as a means to get somewhere, not so much for pleasure!
I’m just as happy staying at the van sorting photos & writing up my journal and just generally pottering around, things I don’t get to do at home.
It’s not particularly sunny but the temperature is just about right.
One thing we have noticed is that we have not met any Brits recently, haven’t seen any British vans for about a week.
Tony came back from cycle ride and then took out his kayak. He had seen the chap in a van next to us trying to mend his blow up canoe for his young son without any success so he said they could use his kayak when he returned. The young lad, eight year old Shaun, waited on the shoreline watching for Tony’s return and when arrived he came running back to the van to get his dad so they could have a go in it. Later that night the father invited us to join him and his wife for a coffee sitting outside their van. When he gave me the coffee cup there was about an inch of coffee so strong you could have stood your spoon up in it , he then handed me a bottle of Grappa, which he said his father had made, to pour into it. I’m afraid that both of us declined and just drank the strong coffee. The couple were Italian but he spoke some Spanish and a little English so we managed to get by. He gave us a map of Italian Aires.
Whilst we were sitting there in the dusk we started to hear the bleeping noise again and they said they had heard it last night as well. After some investigation we found out that it was not an alarm but some sort of toad that was croaking, so it looks like it’s going to go on all tonight as well!
Went back to our van to watch the closing ceremony of the Olympics at 10pm.

MONDAY 13TH AUGUST 2012

Before we left this morning, Tony got talking to a German chap opposite who said that he found this place eight years ago and has been coming back every year for the whole of august with his wife & two children. When Tony asked what he did for a month here as it was quite deserted he said “absolutely nothing, just relax”.
Tony had seen some people fishing in the lagoon and said that he quite fancied staying for a few more days and perhaps giving that a go but we are all packed up so decide to stick to original plan and head for Slovenia.
On going to pay the bill before leaving the site we find out it’s actually 31E a night and not 21E. We pick up a map of the campsite and it shows 2 swimming pools so goodness knows where the other one was – it was probably a luxury pool!
We needed some fuel but as it was only about 20 miles to Slovenia we decided to wait & get some there. Glad that we did as it was only 1.38E a ltr so cheapest yet! As we were over 3500kg we do not have to buy a vignette but have to pay every time we use a toll road which seems fair enough. If you are less than 3500kg then you have to buy a vignette at 35E to use any roads.
We took the main road (not toll) alongside the Soca River up to the mountains which eventually leads to Bled. The scenery is very beautiful so we stopped a couple of times along the way in small towns to admire the views. The roads are very narrow and we are not able to go off the main road. Free camping at places other than campsites is illegal in Slovenia and penalties are heavy so we have to find campsites whilst we are here. We call in at Camping Koren in the town of Kobraid. It’s very small but I think that they are all going to be like this. They charge by the person on Slovenian campsites and not by the pitch and it was 11E per person plus 1E tourist tax. We had been paying this at other campsites but also had to pay about 19E for the pitch as well, so it’s very reasonable.
We stopped at a supermarket on the way to get milk and bread and found that their fresh bread is like a home baked bloomer loaf we would get in the UK not one of these stupid French sticks that last about 3 hours before going hard and again very cheap – looks like Slovenia is going to be good for the bank balance.
The campsite was not very busy; most people staying here seem to be walkers, cyclists or kayakers and were all off site during the afternoon. We had a look at the camp “beach” which was down a steep rocky path to the canon below and must have measured all of 12’ x 12’. You couldn’t swim in the river as it was flowing so fast but I did manage a paddle and it was icy cold! Looks like we would have to cool down in the open air shower next to our van.
About 5.30pm everyone came back from their days activities and the site became very busy.
We went to the very small bar and got a take away pizza for tea – 6E and really nice. We had two ½ ltr of beer and it came to 4E – very reasonable, liking this country more & more.
Had an early night as we were both tired. It really cooled down in the night, perhaps as we are up high in the mountains has something to do with it.
Tony decided to do some serious cycling tomorrow.

View our photos at https://picasaweb.google.com/gould99?authkey=Gv1sRgCKOBoYvi17DHWA
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