19th May 2013 DAY 28 THE SPANISH COSTAS
We were woken up quite early by all the comings and goings of campers. This seems to be quite a transit camp for those just visiting Seville. We packed up, serviced the van, paid and were of by 11am with “Torre del Mar” plumbed into TomTom.
A bit of a dilemma as soon as we got to the camp site exit, the old windscreen TomTom said go right but my newer ipad TomTom said to go left, we turned left and did eventually get on the right road but think it would have been quicker if we had turned right! Of course this set Tony off on his old rant of swearing at ******* useless TomTom, heap of ****, throw it out the window etc…..
We chose the motorways but it turned out that none of it was toll road. We passed Malaga and had a thought about calling in there but decided not to, it looked very big and very busy.
When we got to the coast we turned off the main road onto the small coast road which went through the coastal towns in the hope that we would find somewhere to wild camp for the night. Torre del Mar was the first small town we came to and right at the entrance, along with the town name was a big sign with a picture of a motorhome on it with a big red cross through it – I guess that means that they do not want campers to park anywhere in this town.
There was a huge dirt car park that would probably hold around 200 cars that actually had about 3 parked in it so Tony pulled in and parked. He wandered up the promenade to see what the town was like and if there was any parking. It was quite a nice seaside town with lots of restaurants and a nice promenade but the only place to park would be where we were and whilst we could take a chance as I don’t expect this time of year they would move us on, the wind was whipping up the dust so it was not pleasant so didn’t stop.
We drove for miles; many of the small towns had signs up saying no vehicles over 3500kg so we couldn’t even go in them. After some time we stopped in a big layby on the coast road overlooking a beach with steep cliffs to make a cup of tea. We were parked behind a huge pile of rockery so weren’t noticeable from the road and it was quite pleasant there so decided to stay the night. Tony went off to explore. There was a cliff path to the beach and we could see people lugging cool boxes and beach umbrellas up to their cars so he went down it. He came back saying it was really steep and quite difficult in places but eventually got to the beach and found it was a naturist beach!
When all the day trippers had gone home a single VW campervan remained that also stayed the night. In this small van were mum, dad, baby & two children around 5 & 9. They put up a small tent next to the van so the kids slept in the van, mum & dad slept in the tent.
During the evening we had two visits from the local police but they just drove round looking and then drove off.
Shortly after we had gone to bed there was a lot of growling and rustling going on outside our van, we assumed it was a dog but was still a bit scary, even more if you were in a tent!
20/5/2013 DAY 29 “AHOY THERE”
We woke up to brilliant sunshine and, more importantly, no wind!
The VW family were already up, dad was feeding the baby & the kids were running around.
All of a sudden, from the really steep cliff path to the beach, appeared a scruffy chap with no shoes on wheeling a bicycle which had a backpack balancing on the front basket. He had obviously been sleeping rough on the beach but how he managed to get his bicycle up the cliff face I’ll never know. He just said “hello” as he rode past the van like it was an everyday occurrence – well I suppose it might have been for him!
A big black dog came sniffing round and as there was no one in sight I suppose it was the one that was wandering around last night – glad I didn’t see it then as in the dark it would have looked like a puma or similar.
Having looked in the Stella Platz book we found there was a motorhome Aires at Almerimar on the harbour so we headed there. Tony wanted to take the scenic route through the Sierra Nevada which added about an hour and a half to our trip but should provide some good scenery. Unfortunately it didn’t. The only thing of interest was another dam and a smallish bridge, but apart from that it was just mountain roads.
On approaching Almerimar all of a sudden the horizon was white and as far as the eye could see it was covered in white plastic sheeting under which were growing vegetables, tomatoes, peppers etc.. I remember flying into Almeria a few years ago and looking out of the aircraft window to see that the whole country side was covered in these poly tunnels.
We found the harbour and pulled into the Aires – how great to see a sign that said “parking only for motorhome”. We were trying to decide which way round to face and had only been stationery when a man came up and demanded that we turned off the engine as it was blowing smoke over his wife who was sunbathing. German, of course.
A quick rev and then Tony turned off the engine as we were facing the right way.
Tony got out his bike and had a quick cycle round. It was a small town with a few bars & restaurants around the harbour that were open also a few shops. There was a beach with more bars & shops but they were all closed – a bit too early in the season I suppose.
We walked around the harbour and chose to eat at an English bar called “The Struggle Inn” – very classy! I chose liver & bacon with mashed potatoes, peas & gravy whilst Tony had gammon steak. I was almost drooling with delight at the thought of this dinner after not having anything this English for quite a while and I was not disappointed, it was lovely. To top that I decided, much to Tony’s amazement, to have treacle pudding & custard for desert………
The meals were very reasonably priced but the beer was not – a bottle of Mahou was 2.60E , in La marina it would cost 1E at the most 1.50E and a glass of wine that would normally cost 1E was 2.60E. The landlord came & chatted to us, think he thought we might be new regulars. The whole bar was quite full but everyone was English so I presume this is the bar where all the ex-pats come for a drink. He was telling us he’d been there for 7 years and was doing quite well thank you – I should think so at the prices he was charging!
We took advantage of the free internet and checked the weather for the next few days and then wished we hadn’t as it said it would be raining tomorrow but then slightly better the next day. Oh well, we got an English newspaper then went back to the van to read it from cover to cover.
On the way back I was looking at all the boats to see if I could find a Bavaria 41 sailing boat
as we’ve booked a week’s flotilla sailing in Turkey in September to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and as there will be 6 of us on this boat I just wanted to see how big it actually was. We found a Bavaria 47 which is actually 6ft longer and all I can say is we are going to be very snug.
Sitting in the van later that night a large boat came in and moored and I thought that this was more like the one I should have booked!!!!!
21/5/2013 DAY 30 RAIN RAIN GO AWAY
There is not much I can say about today – it rained…………from about 2.30am until 6pm that night it poured down all day.
We made a feeble attempt to have a walk but got very wet and most of the shops & bars were shut – even the Chinese toot shop!
We could have moved on but Tony really wants to cycle up the Sierra Nevada so we are staying put and hopefully he will be able to so tomorrow if the weather is better.
The most exciting thing that happened all day was around 7pm when a huge boat came in to moor flying a large USA flag. Tony said it was probably president Obhama and just as he said this a police car pulled up alongside it but only for a look then it moved off. Whoever it was only moored for the night as at 6.30am the next morning it moved off.
22/4/2013 DAY 31 MAZERON & BEYOND
Woke up to good weather so Tony went off for his cycle ride in the Sierra Nevada. He was gone for a long while and came back with some good photographs although he did say it was very cold up there!
I needed to get some milk & bread and as the local small supermarket was shut I walked quite a way to the big supermarket which turned out to be a Mercadona. There were lots of items that I wanted to buy but as I had to carry it all back to the van I had to be very selective!
I got a newspaper on my way back and sat outside the van reading this with a bowl of fresh prawns….well I deserved them!
The small power boat from “The Struggle Inn” went out of the harbour on one of its trips. There was loud music blaring from it and about 4 people sitting in what was a small rib boat. They were quite happy whilst in the shelter of the harbour but as it turned out of the harbour walls into the open sea where it was decidedly choppy there were a lot of screams coming from the boat. They returned about ½ hr later very subdued and not a note of music to be heard. They were charged 25E per head for this trip so another nice little money earner for the struggle Inn.
Whilst I was sitting reading and English couple came up and asked some questions about the camper. They said that they owned an apartment in Almerimar but were thinking of selling it to buy a motorhome. They said it was getting very expensive out here and the flights were no longer cheap. The main airlines had given up flying into Almeria and now flew to Malaga which was a 2 ½ hr drive from here. They had a look inside the van and were quite impressed.
Tony came back at 1.30 and we moved on heading towards Cartagena. We decided to take the motorway as the other option meant going on around about route inland. We joined the motorway and found that it was deserted; I think we only met two other vehicles whilst we were on it the whole way. Thinking the reason must be because it was really expensive I was dreading the toll booth at the end but the toll was 6E and we had been on it for miles before we turned off for the coastal road.
We drove through several villages with “No Camping” signs and ended up at Mazeron where I had found an ACSI camp site. The village wasn’t that nice, we found a huge car park and parked up despite the usual no parking signs, walked along the seafront and then went into a café for a beer. It was just like Jaywick, a little Britain with Brits everywhere, pool tables & karaoke in the high season. We had a good look round the camp site before we decided to stay or not.
In the campsite there were lots of bays separated by iron railings and covered by green shading cloth. It was quite packed and not a nice atmosphere. Tony saw a couple arguing over the feeding of the wild cats. We decided not to stay and would travel on even though it was 7pm by now.
We came across Isla Plana and they had an ACSI campsite so we headed there. It didn’t look very good from the main road, a bit gypsyish but I persuaded Tony to at least go in and have a look.
What a find!!
It was lovely & spacious, very well set out on gravel with ample sized bays surrounded by trees & low hedges so that you were still able to see & talk to those around you. They had two swimming pools, one huge outdoor one and a rectangular one that was covered. We booked in, parked and then went for a swim before they closed the pool for the night. This would be my first swim of the holiday and I was expecting it to be quite cold but the water was very warm, bath temperature almost, it was crystal clear and tasted salty. We were told by our neighbours that the pool is drained and refilled every night via a supply of spa water. Not quite sure if I believe this as there’s a tremendous amount of water there.
The bar/restaurant closed at 6pm so we couldn’t get a drink there so just had a salad in the van for tea and the last of our own beers. Watched a bit of TV then retired for the night.
23/5/2013 DAY 32 STAYING PUT
As the weather is good and this is such a lovely site we have decided to stay a few days.
Tony went out cycling again into the nearby town and up the nearby mountain. He came back to say that there were several motorhomes parked by a small quayside in the nearby town of La Azohia. He had talked to one Brit in an old Hymer van who had been there for 2 weeks and said he had had no problems with wild camping there although the locals didn’t like it that there were motorhomes parked in the car park that they used and so they tried to park as awkwardly as they could.
I decided to wash out some things in the washing machines which were located in small cupboards around the site. I had a key with a number on it but couldn’t seem to find the corresponding cupboard with the machine in until a fellow Brit came to my rescue. He showed me where it was and then said “ you might as well go & sit round the pool for a few hours ‘cos it takes that long & you won’t want to be anywhere near it when its spinning ‘cos it sounds like a jet taking off!” There was a sign on the door that said “No washing on Sundays” – presumably because of the noise
Tony came back and we went for a swim, sat round the pool & got some ice creams by which time the washing was done. We decided to have a BBQ for tea and I wanted some fresh salad. They didn’t have any vegetables in the camp shop – in fact they didn’t have much at all except for beer & tinned stuff – so we set off on a walk to the village to the small butchers shop that sold vegetables, about 1km according to our neighbours. It was a lot further than that & Tony moaned all the way. Anyway bought my lettuce & 3 bananas, had a beer & walked back to the van Tony still moaning.
About 9pm we walked to have a look at the swimming pool to see if they were really drained every night and lo & behold they were. They were half empty and still going.
We watched TV and then went to bed. It was hot so we had the windows open and the doves were making a real racket keeping us awake.
They eventually went to sleep and then we could hear the sound of machinery, sounded like pumps and assumed it was the pool refilling. Anyway, all was finished by midnight and we slept soundly until the bloody doves started cooing again at dawn right outside our window!!
24/5/2013 DAY 33 “ON YER BIKE”
Today was going to be the first day I went out on my bike since it was packed in the UK.
We cycled along a coastal path and seafront into La Azohia.
We cycled up the hill to the castle on top to look at the views. This was not as hard for me as it was for Tony due the fact that my bike is electric so I made it there first! (Pedal assist only, not full electric I would add!)
We talked to a British couple who had walked to the top. They were on a walking holiday in the area but had got fed up with the cold & rainy weather in the mountains which meant they had to walk in waterproof trousers & coats every day so they had come to the coast for the last couple of days to take advantage of the sun before they went home tonight.
Back down in the village we had a drink at a restaurant that had been recommended to us by someone on the campsite. They said they did a good menu del dia for 10E and as it was
Lunchtime we decided to eat there. We had 4 courses, all good.
There was a choice of deserts and the waiter came to ask what we wanted. I couldn’t remember the menu so asked him what there was, he replied “Orange tart, chocolate cake and …er…er…er…Fridge Cake”
I said I would have the ‘fridge cake’ assuming it would be some sort of cold desert but when it came it was hot!! But still very nice.
We talked to a couple at the next table and they told us that they visited this area lots. Their friend had a house up in the mountains, very remote and it didn’t have electricity but they loved it. We talked about various airlines and the price of flights all of which have gone up making it less likely they would visit so much in the future. This was the same story we heard from lots of others.
Cycling back through the village there was a police car parked opposite the campervans that were parked up in the car park. The police officer was talking to a shop owner and totally ignoring the vans so think this time of year they tend to turn a blind eye as long as you are not intrusive & stupid as to where you park – unlike the three vans further along the road who had blatantly parked on the local football pitch, albeit a sandy pitch next to the sea but, come on, it had two sets of goal posts on it for goodness sake. Apparently Tony said a local chap came along and asked then to move off yesterday but they were still there today.
After lunch we cycled back to the campsite for a swim and an ice cream. The swim was no problem but we couldn’t get an ice cream as the bar/restaurant was shut. It closes 2pm to 3pm and shuts at 6pm in the evening. Not only that – it doesn’t open Saturday or Sunday!!
Luckily I just caught the shop before it closed to re-stock our beer box…………….
We just lazed around for the rest of the day having the occasional swim before tea, tv & bed.
Day 34 Sunday 25th May 2013
We decided to head for our house in La Marina today.
After packing up we went to the office to pay and said we may come back for a few days in July and the receptionist said if we did return he would let us have the ACSI price of 14E even though it was main season.
We set off using motorways but not the paid sections. This took us on a roundabout route through Cartagena which was not a pleasant journey but it wasn’t long before we were on the familiar N332 and heading for La Marina.
We made for the beach area thinking that we might free camp there overnight with the other vans that are normally there but to our amazement there were no vans parked up and there were two very big signs stating “No overnight Camping allowed”. They had obviously had a clamp down and cleared out the vans as there were usually about 20 parked in a car park that is not used by anyone else!
We had a beer and lunch at the Hostel overlooking the beach before heading up to our house where we parked up.
We are now here until the beginning of August when we will be making our way back to Harwich, via Germany, for our ferry home on the 19th August.
Thursday 14th June 2013
This morning we were woken up at 5.15am by a horrific rumbling sound and the whole house was shaking. It was an earthquake, 2.7 on the Richter scale, not common in this area but not unknown. It was very scary particularly as our living quarters are mostly underground (sounds weird I know but it’s really nice!). We rushed out to the patio area to see what was happening but by that time it was all over. After a short time we went back to bed only for a second minor quake to follow ½ hr later.
Of course all talk on the Urb. This morning was about the quake whose epicentre we discovered was only about 10 miles away.
That afternoon we were standing on the patio talking when a second quake happened. This time it was much stronger, 3.2, and the whole house & patio shook intently so much so that plates & ornaments on the walls crashed to the floor. The rumbling noise was probably worse than the shaking, difficult to describe but I was terrified. I imagined the ground was going to crack open like you see on the TV but of course it didn’t. The epicentre of this one was about 5 miles away.
I had to have a few stiff drinks before we went to bed to ensure I got to sleep!!!!
All is quiet today but every time I hear a truck rumble by or someone moves furniture in the house above I it makes me jump, thinking it’s the next earthquake.
Next doors swimming pool pump has developed an underground water leak that has pumped water up into their patio – looks like a dislodged pipe, a bit of a coincidence????
We (or should I say ‘I’ as TG has been out on his bike most days!) have spent the last couple of weeks preparing our house for the summer months and the numerous visitors that we have coming. The first are due to arrive Sunday and I can’t wait as we’ll be on holiday with them and those that follow all the time they are here.
I also can’t wait for one really special visitor on the 2nd July, my granddaughter Elsie, it will be her first visit to Spain……Of course I am also looking forwards to seeing her mum & dad, Jason & Jenny and my daughter Louise who has been trekking round India on her own for the past 3 months – apparently she is a changed person, meditating, yoga, vegetarian, non smoker, non drinker & non chocoholic……..think seeing is going to be believing:Rofl1::Rofl1::Rofl1:
Hope you have enjoyed my blog of our travels.
13/5/2013 DAY 22 A DAY AT THE SEASIDE
Woke up to lovely sunshine, only a touch of wind and a lovely view from the door of the motorhome.
After breakfast Tony went for a walk along the shore to have a look at the estuary with a view to taking his kayak out on it.
Several vans with surfers drew up and a lot of equipment was carted down the dunes to the beach and sun canopies were erected .This was obviously a very popular surfing beach and I suspect that these were pupils of surf schools. They all got to the beach, did lots of setting up and exercises and then headed off into the surf for their tuition.
Tony came back and got his kayak down from the roof and then headed off over the dunes to the estuary. – not easy going in the soft sand.
I sat outside reading in the sun.
The beach gradually filled up with people which being a Monday was a bit surprising for this time of year.
We spent the day rather lazily – walks along the beach, beers at the van.
A VW campervan parked next to us and out got two people and a huge Newfoundland dog.
They stayed the night in the car park and apparently, so they said, the dog took up most of the room inside the van sleeping under the table!
It was really quite warm tonight so we had tea outside – a first for this trip I think.
Tony had another go at getting a TV signal to no avail. Don’t know why as everything seems to be connected & working OK just not receiving a signal. Thought the first few times were because we were out of range but it has now been a couple of weeks, in fact all the time we have been in Portugal, since we have got any sort of TV. It’s either a coincidence or something is wrong with our system. Anyway it has made Tony resolve to definitely get some sort of satellite system fitted in the van – best he sends a nice pleading letter to Father Xmas
We watched 2 episodes of Boardwalk Empire (getting through them quite quickly and am now half way through the second series, only got 1 more series after this) and then bed. I had trouble getting to sleep due to the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. Tony said it was supposed to be a romantic sound – I think it just sounds like the M25.
I eventually dropped off only to be awoken about 3am to what sounded like thunder, there were no lightning flashes or any rain so I thought I was imagining it and it was just the sea but around 5am the rain came along with just a few drops. I remember the couple in Praia de Monte Clerigo saying that they had spectacular storms at night but they were mostly far out at sea so perhaps this was one of them. Anyway made for a disturbed night’s sleep for me but Tony hadn’t heard a thing and said I must have imagined it.
14/5/2013 DAY 23 WE FIND THE BRITISH ALGARVE
It was very dull and windy when we woke up so we packed up & headed off. We decided to call in at Carrapateira, supposedly a nice beach area.
We noticed a large increase in the amount of motorhome traffic on the roads, mostly heading north. I expect a lot of it is the long stayers from winter making their way back home to the UK. They should have checked the weather forecast, if they had I doubt very much they would be heading in that direction.
Carrapateira was indeed a nice beach but very much identical to the one we had just come from and also windy so we did not stay. We were however able to be a good Samaritan to a young lad who was stranded at the desolate cliff tops with his car not starting – one set of jump leads later and he was off, must have been his lucky day when we turned up.
Amongst this lovely scenery at the headland there were numerous windmills – I wonder who thought it would be a good idea to fill this lovely area with a wind farm.
Back on the road we headed to Salema a beach town on the coast. We had intended to go to the furthest southern point in Portugal, Ponta de Sagres, but having seen so many desolate cliff tops thought it possible wasn’t worth the visit. Several local people had said there was nothing there only scenery and we’d had enough of that in the high winds!
Salema was indeed a nice town with a lovely beach but it was very small with very narrow roads. We just made it into the first car park which, despite saying ‘No Campers’ we decided to park and walk down to the beach front. This is obviously a seaside resort town as most of the buildings are holiday apartments, the roads are pedestrian only and the beach area has lots of sunbeds & umbrellas on it. There were also quite a few beach shops and restaurants around the front area. We had a walk around and then walked back to the van. On the way we passed a restaurant and saw our first “British Breakfast” sign, E6.50, we knew that we had reached the British part of the Algarve that everyone had told us about. Tony couldn’t resist so we sat down to eat. The waiter was so slow that at one point Tony got up and went inside in case it was counter service, he came back with the menu and said the waiter would be out shortly. After another long wait he appeared and by this time Tony had changed his mind, said it was too late now for breakfast and had a burger & chips, I had an omelette. Both of these, you would think, were fast food – not in this establishment, It took an age for our food to come!
The bird life here was very forward, they were sitting on the fence waiting for tit bits.
As soon as we had finished they were there at the table after left overs…..
We asked for the bill and again had to wait ages, in the end I went into the restaurant to the counter to pay – needless to say we left no tip!
We walked back to the van buying todays newspaper on the way, no shortage of them here. We saw a bus turning round at the top of the hill, obviously the roads into town were too small for big vehicles and perhaps we shouldn’t have come down so far but there were no signs to say that. Anyway got some funny looks as we drove out of town.
The next place on our route (we have a route?) was Alvos. People said that this was worth a stop, quite a reasonably sized town with a large free Aires.
We had to go through Lagos which was a large town and on one of the roundabouts saw a Camper Service sign so took a bit of a detour to empty the waste & refill with water. We found the Aires but it was a Flot Bleu system where you need a token to operate the waste cover and water tap and we didn’t have one. Someone had kindly wedged the waste trap open so we were able to empty the loo but we couldn’t fill up with water but weren’t too desperate for that at the moment. We continued towards Alvas and came across a BP petrol station that sold LPG. We had been out of LPG gas for about a week and had been using the normal cylinders until we were able to refill as LPG stations seemed to be very far & few between in Portugal. The petrol station was on the wrong side of the dual carriageway so we had to go quite a way to the next roundabout to come back on the right side of the road and then, after filling up, go quite a way to a roundabout to come back on ourselves and travel in our original direction. It felt like we were going round and round Lagos as we kept seeing the same places as we passed. The roads were very busy with lots of heavy traffic but on one main road we came across a very old cart being pulled by a donkey, driving the cart was an old man who must have been all of 90 and sitting in the back of the cart, wearing her traditional Portuguese costume, was his wife, they were trotting along without a care in the world being overtaken by heavy lorries…….
We found our way to Alvor ok and as I had the co-ordinates for the Aires we went directly to it. It was a huge field with lots of vans on it ranging from battered old transits to huge American RV’s. Before parking we went to the water tap and Tony started filling up the van. A Portuguese woman came over to us with her receipt book and demanded 4E which was the cost of staying one night & using the facilities. There had been no signs to this effect but we could see, on looking back, that she did have an office by the entrance which we had missed. As Tony had already filled the van with water we had no option other than to pay and then we drove round the field trying to find a suitable place to park. The Aires was like a dust bowl with the wind blowing. We tried parking in several different directions but just couldn’t get out of the wind. Every time someone moved there was a huge cloud of sand, it felt like the van was filling up with it. The whole site felt like a Gypsy site, although there were several Brit vans here no-one came to talk to us and it didn’t feel very nice.
Tony went off on his bike to see if there was any other area that we could park and came back to say he had found somewhere better so we moved there.
At the other side of the town there was a couple of lovely coves with some restaurants on the beach. There was a very large long & narrow car park and although there were the usual ‘no camping’ signs we managed to tuck ourselves up one end and although not out of sight, we were out of the way. Luckily this time of year I think we can get away with it but it would be a different situation in the summer.
We walked along the beach and found several lovely coves which could only be accessed by walking through the sea; it would be lovely to come here if the weather was good tomorrow.
We walked back along the beach, stopping at one of the bars for a beer and ended up staying for a few hours and eating there. We talked to Jason via the Wi-Fi on face time and saw Elsie, our 5 mth old granddaughter; we were missing her lots and are really looking forwards to seeing her in July when Jason & Jenny are bringing her out to our house in Spain for a holiday. Back to the van and slept once again with the sound of crashing waves sending us to sleep.
15/5/2013 Day 24 INLAND TO SILVES
I was woken at 5am this morning by a seagull padding about on the motorhome roof and making the weird culling sound they make. He started pecking along the roof and I was worried that he would peck at and damage the solar panels so I got up and thought if I pulled back the blackout blind on the roof vent a few times the noise would scare him off. I pulled it back and there he was standing on the vent looking down at me through the glass……he was huge and could have fed about 20 people at a Xmas dinner! My flapping the blind didn’t scare him off in fact it seemed to make him more inquisitive so I just shut it and went to back to bed. After padding about for a few more minutes he flew off.
It was still quite windy today but very dull as well and now and again a few rain showers started. We gave the inside of the van a good wipe down to get rid of as much sand as possible from the surfaces then we had a walk along the road and went into a café for coffee & to use the internet. In the bar we got talking to a couple at the next table who were staying at one of the hotels in Alvos. They said it was a popular seaside resort made up mostly of hotels and up until yesterday they had had 30° heat and had got quite burnt some days.
It didn’t look like the weather was going to get any better so we opted to move inland to Silves, a town with a bit of history & some monuments to look around.
It was only 15 miles away so didn’t take long to get there. If the weather improved over the next few days we might head back to Alvor & the lovely coves.
In Silves we found the parking place that I had read about, a car park next to the swimming pool just on the edge of town. We parked and Tony chatted to a chap behind us as he came over to our van – I don’t know his name but am going to call him Kevin. He told us a bit about the place, where to empty waste & get water etc. he also said the Wi-Fi at swimming pool was free and you could access it by sitting on the benches outside – a bonus! It seems that this is a popular spot for long timers and in the winter as many as 100 vans are parked here, happily today there are only 20-30 motorhomes & 1 caravan already parked up.
Tony got his bike out and had a look round the area, we were parked close to a river and he was keen to see if he could take out his kayak on it. He found the tourist information office and came back with a few maps and some road cycling routes.
We walked into town. It had turned quite cold when the sun went in so we got out the long jeans to wear – thought I had put these away until we returned to the UK but obviously not!
We walked along the riverside into town. There were a couple of derelict buildings on top of which some storks had nested. They were standing tall and clicking their beaks loudly – it sounded like someone banging two cricket bats together.
The town was empty but we found out that there was a big football match on TV so everyone was watching it. We went to a restaurant that Kevin had recommended..
We found the restaurant and had a lovely meal – Bread & olives, fish soup, Spare ribs for Tony (actually the menu said “spear ribs ”), piri chicken for me, desert, coffee, two beers and a bottle of water – all for 7.50E each, a bargain!
On the way back to the van we passed a bar on the corner of the street from which music was coming. We went in and found a music bar where tonight they were having a jamming session for musicians, or anyone else for that matter, who wanted to play along. There were a couple of girl singers who got up and sang songs and a guitarist & drummer who played. The main chap was a keyboard player who, according to the American bar owner, was an accomplished musician and was showing others what to do. We had a drink and listened to them play for a while and then got up to leave. Tony stopped to look at the electric guitar and the keyboard player asked him if he played. “A little” Tony replied so he got Tony to sit down and play around a bit with them. Hopefully this will appease Tony’s annoyance at having left his guitar at home for this trip (Fortunately it’s not one of the items on my motorhome check list!). After ½ hr of playing we left & wandered home.
Kevin was standing outside his van drinking coffee and stopped us to chat; it feels like he lurks around waiting for people to come by. It was very cold so I made an excuse and went inside but Tony had to stay out & talk to him for some time before managing to get away. We know he has a teenaged disabled daughter with him as we have seen him put her in her wheelchair and take her for a walk but haven’t seen anyone else with him. He seems to spend most of the day getting things out of his garage and putting them away again. He enjoys talking to people and approaches every new van that arrives.
16/5/2013 DAY 16 A DAY IN SILVES
Tony went out for a long cycle ride this morning, armed with his map and Garmin.
I had a leisurely shower & hair wash, washed out some smalls and then set off to find the fresh water with my containers in two bags. Our local guide, Kevin, said that there was a water fountain in the children’s park the other side of the swimming pool so I walked to that area & found it. It was one of those fountains that you push a button and the water squirts out in an upwards arc – he hadn’t told me this nor had he told me the arc was about 6ft high and landed 3ft in front of the fountain. I spent the next ½ hour feeling like I was on “The generation Game” by trying to catch the water in my containers. After gathering as much water as I could I staggered back to the van.
Kevin was emptying out his garage, again, dragging out a small generator which then attracted a small crowd of men who looked and pointed at it until he fired it up. They all stood around looking at it running for a while and then wandered back to their own vans.
I sat writing up my blog until Tony came back. He said he had had a good run out – 45 miles and had gone up some high mountains, the highest 3000ft. We noticed that Kevin was showing someone how to wash the windows on his van – turns out he had a ‘Thai girl’ hidden away in his van, the only time we saw her was when she came out to wash the windows!!
In the afternoon we had a walk into the town to see the castle & museum. After walking up the steep & narrow cobbled streets we came to the castle, 7E to get in but this does include the museum. The castle, ruins only really, was good to walk round and from the battlements we could see the countryside for miles from every side, the museum however was really just a collection of old pots!
We had lunch at a café on the street. Tony had fried squid which was really tasty, I had octopus salad which was also good but the salad consisted of lettuce, tomatoes and cold BROCCOLI…..
Bought today’s newspaper and wandered back to the van. We watched a film, Tony chose “Time travellers Wife” which I told him he wouldn’t like as it was a romantic film but he insisted on watching it (I think he thought it was more sci-fi) and sure enough half way through he’d had enough but did manage to watch it all the way to the end which I was glad of as I had tried to read the book but couldn’t keep up with all the toing & froing through time and had given up so it was nice to know the ending.
Whilst we were watching the film I was trying to think of what to have for tea that was quick and not too much trouble. For some reason ‘eggy bread’ came to mind (for the uninitiated this is bread dipped in beaten egg and fried) something I used to cook for the children but hadn’t done so for years. Anyway when the film had finished I tidied up a bit and then asked Tony what he wanted for tea, when he replied “Actually I really fancy eggy bread” I nearly fell over – spooky, physic or what!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway, eggy bread cooked & eaten, another episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ watched and then bed, hoping tomorrow would bring better weather.
17/5/2013 DAY 26 PORTUGAL – THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE!
Dull, overcast & black clouds looming – no change there then.
We are heading for the coast and if it’s no better there then we are definitely giving up and heading for Spain.
We set off for Praia del Rei near Tavira thinking as it is the east side of the peninsular it might be sheltered.
There were people along the route picking snails from the plants to eat.
Traveling on the country roads every now & then we would come across a set of traffic lights that would always turn red as we were approaching them. There was no side road or pedestrian crossing to be seen so we could only assume they were there to keep making cars stop so as to limit their speed. Tony was sure that they were on sensors so if he was going too fast they would change to red to stop him but I don’t think they are that advanced out here.
At one road junction we were waved down by a group of about six men wearing official looking jackets, Tony was going slowly anyway as he was turning left so pulled up in the middle of the junction, wound down his window to see what they wanted as not sure if they were police or something official.
The chap he spoke to was waving a wad of papers with a few Euro notes clipped to the top and in broken English said that they were the local Fire brigade collecting for a new Fire Engine……….. having been caught by these scams before, even though he looked genuine Tony said ‘sorry, No’ and drove on. We thought afterwards that there was no official vehicles such as a fire engine or fire car at the scene and it was not exactly a safe spot to stop so the chances were that they had just acquired the jackets and were scamming drivers – anyway are fire engines provided by donations???
Pedro del Rei was a small town that I had ringed (in red!) on my map for some reason - we parked on the seafront at the end of the town. It was quite deserted and as we sat there it started raining. We got out and walked to a café for toasted sandwiches & coffee. From there we headed up the coast to Ayamonte – Portugal’s last chance to impress. Although it looked quite nice there was nowhere to park so we decided to give up and head for Spain
We headed over the border via the motorway (non toll) to Seville.
I had co-ordinates for an Aires on the outskirts of Seville but when we got there the co-ordinates were a housing estate. We drove round some very narrow streets before heading back to the motorway to try again. Going back we saw another motorhome doing the same route so thought they might be going the Aire so followed them but they took the same route as we had just done. Driving along I suddenly saw the Aires – it was on a jetty in a small marina but how to get to it was another question. Tony pulled up; I got out to look where the road was in but all I could see was a big set of black gates with the marina behind in the distance and no way to reach it. I got back in the van, we drove up a bit then parked and Tony got out his bike and rode back to try to work out how to drive to the Aires. When he got there the other campervan was just parking, apparently you had to undo the big gates and drive through them, not at all obvious and no signs. He said the Aires did not look that nice considering you had to pay 12E for them so we headed to the other side of Seville to a campsite for the night that was the same price. I had read that you could get the bus into Seville centre from a bus stop right outside the camp; it would also be a chance to catch up on the washing.
After a few wrong turns we eventually found the site and parked up. The bays were quite small and had overhanging trees so we had to park at an awkward angle to fit in but managed it. I put the washing in the machine then we had a cup of tea in the van and I managed to speak to Louise in India which was a bit of a relief as I had been worried about her because she had a touch of delli belly and I hadn’t spoken to her for a few days but she assured me she was feeling a bit better
Tony went to the toilet block and came back saying our washing was done and someone had taken it out of the machine, if I gave him a basket he’d bring it back to the van. I said that there was a bag next to the machine to use that but said I would go – good job I did as it wasn’t our washing but some other chaps, ours was in a different machine.
Tony thought he would have another try at tuning in the TV as we were now in Spain, amazingly, straight away, he got 11 channels without fiddling about so there was nothing wrong with the aerial after all we just couldn’t get TV ion Portugal. Anyway, all the channels were in Spanish so turned it off and had a walk into the local town to see if there was a restaurant or bar we could eat at. None to be found but we did find a cycle shop which Tony spent ages looking round – it was three storeys high.
Back at the van I cooked sausage & chips, using my double skillet for the chips. They took ages but were passable but not enough to convince me so will be selling it when I get home!
18/5/2013 DAY 18 SEVILLE
The first bus into Seville was at 9.30 so thinking it would be packed we decided to catch the 11am one, also reasoning that we wouldn’t have to get up so early and rush to the bus stop.
We had reckoned without the people on the pitch next to us who were up at the crack of dawn making loads of noise.
The bus stop was a bit of a walk from the camp site but we found it ok and sat down on the shelter seats with another couple who were also waiting. We had 20 mins to wait but during those 20 mins about 30 people arrived to catch the bus. If I say they were German you will all know what happened when the bus arrived – they all made a beeline for the door, no matter who was at the front of the queue! Anyway we all just about got on. I asked for two return tickets and the fare was E1.60 each, very reasonable I thought. The journey was about half an hour and we were dropped off right in the centre of Seville.
As soon as we got off the bus we were surrounded by touts selling tickets for the tourist buses and walks but we pushed through them and went to the first monument, the Plaza de Espana. This was a huge semi-circular building with a big tiled centre section with a small canal on which rowing boats could be hired. There were a lot of people milling around, it was very popular. We also noticed that there were quite a few wedding couples having their photographs taken in this area. There were also lots of children walking round Seville in different areas in confirmation dresses so I would assume that Saturdays are wedding & confirmation days.
Walking round the Plaza de Espana building we saw a Military Museum that had free entry so we went in. It was excellent, lots of interesting exhibits and explanations in English as well as Spanish. We spent some time people watching, there were lots of touts and gypsy’s selling lucky heather accosting all the tourists.
From there we walked around the big park and on to the Alcazar, the Royal Palace. Entry was 8E or 2E for pensioners. I tried to get Tony in as a pensioner but he didn’t have any identification on him so he had to pay full price. It was only later I realised that 60 is not a ‘pensioner’ it’s 65!
This building had been used by royalty throughout the ages but I have to say it had not been looked after very well. They had numerous fountains that were crumbling away and not working, various ponds around the site were very green and unkempt and the tiled walls didn’t look like they had been preserved very well either. There was not a lot to see, just lots of separated court yards and gardens. It didn’t take too long to look round and before we knew it we were back out on the streets and 16E poorer.
As it was lunchtime we looked for somewhere to eat. Tony fancied a McDonalds, compromising I said I would go to Burger King as there was one close by so we went in. Well, it was packed to the hilt with screaming kids so we made a quick exit and, as I was desperate for the loo we had a coke at a nearby bar. We walked along the river for a while and then decided to get a Burger and eat it outside on one of the park benches but when we went back into Burger King it was relatively empty so ‘ate in’. This was the first ‘fast food’ burger that we had had since leaving the UK and although not usually a fan I have to say it was really good! (please note we do not frequent or search out McDonalds or Burger Kings but there are times when nothing else will do!!)
We thought we would get the tourist bus to go round Seville, this way we would see all the places that we wouldn’t be able to get to in one day. It was 17E each and the ticket was valid for 2 days. We paid and waited for the bus. When it came we got on but the only available seats were downstairs at the back behind the stairwell. My headset didn’t work so I was unable to listen to the commentary until Tony kindle offered me one of his ear plugs – so there we sat, head to head with one ear plug each, people must have thought we were being very romantic!! We couldn’t see very well but half way round we were able to locate to the top deck which was open so was quite windy and you had to duck to avoid the overhanging branches of the trees. A group of Spanish girls on a Hen outing got onto the bus and started singing & making lots of noise but got off a few stops later. We noticed lots Stag & hen groups all around the city wearing various outfits.
The historic buildings around Seville are numerous and they all look quite Islamic. I had read in the museum that this area was the centre of Muslim activity in the past for hundreds of years and it really showed in the types of buildings.
We had intended to get off at the Plaza Espana and get the bus back to the campsite but by the time the bus arrived at the stop we had missed it so we stayed on the tourist bus for a few more stops then got off and walked back through the streets and along the riverside. We intended to get the 7.30 bus but as we stopped for an ice cream (at Haagen Dazs no less) we missed it so had to make sure that we got there in time for the 8.30pm bus as it was the last one back!!
They have a tram system running through the centre of town, and together with these, the pony & traps for hire, cycle carts and cyclists so we seemed to spend a lot of time dodging traffic.
We arrived at the bus stop in plenty of time and sat watching the parakeets flying around in the trees. When we got onto the bus I gave the driver our tickets to which he laughed and said that was for one way and I had to pay E1.60 each to get back – thought it was cheap.
There is always the worry that you won’t know which stop to get off on the way home as they may go a different way and this was indeed the case but there was another couple heading for the campsite and they came to the front to ask the driver to tell him when to get off so we were ok.
Back at the campsite we went to the bar with the computer to use the free WIFI to decide where to go tomorrow. The choices are Cordoba – more historic sites; Granada – yet more historic sites or head for the coast. The coast won, so we will head there tomorrow.
Back to the van to bed, we were both shattered and had the best night’s sleep for ages despite hearing the music from the nearby nightclub (aka brothel).
1/5/2013 Day 10 THE SECRET SURF SCHOOL
After listening to the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach we awoke to bright sunshine thank goodness. I went & bought some fresh bread and we set off.
As we were going out of town we saw a sign for a motorhome service area so we turned around and headed along the coast to find it. What we found was a little oasis! There was a small car park with motorhome facilities, including electricity, if required, all for the sum of 7.50E a night. It was a small surfing school with a few chalets and more interestingly a bar on the sand dunes overlooking the beach.
The surf school was called “The Secret Surf School” – it certainly was.
We sat at the café and had coffee and then decided to stay the night here as it was so nice.
It was quite windy but we were able to park the van giving us shelter and catching the sun.
Tony went off on his bike for a run out and I read & pottered around.
Around 5pm we went back up to the beach bar and had a few beers, it was packed with people and very busy, the most busy we had seen any bar so far.
We retired to the van for tea & after watching a video (Peter Kay live – hilarious!) we went to bed around 10.30pm once again the sound of the waves crashing in our ears.
2/5/2013 Day 11 THE PALACE HOTEL & STUDENTS OF COIMBRA
There was a van parked next to us and Tony started chatting to the woman who he thought was German but turned out to be Dutch. They had a German registered van as in Holland there is a tax of 37% on new vehicles so they just nipped over the border to Germany to buy one.
We set of heading for the inland area of Bucaca. The guide book said it was a national park with a beautiful ornate hotel set in the middle of it.
We negotiated some very narrow winding roads until we came across the entrance. There was a tunnel at the entrance which we could have probably got through but we decided to park outside as there was a suitable space and it would be free as opposed to the 30E the sign said it cost to park inside. The guy in the booth at the barrier was very helpful and told us where to go and said he would keep an eye on the van for us. Tony gave him a couple of bottles of beer for which he was very grateful.
We came across the hotel right in the middle of the park and it was truly very ornate with manicured grounds. Unfortunately they did not allow visitors into the hotel so we had to make do with looking round the outside. in the car park outside the entrance to the hotel we talked to an English chap who was just loading up his Landrover with luggage, he and his family had stayed the night before at the hotel on their way home from Morocco and he said it was very special and only cost 125E a night for the room.
After looking round the hotel we wandered into the park. There were lots of trees that had been blown over or just rotted & fell, some of them had fallen onto buildings which had been abandoned. There were several areas that were sectioned off with “Danger” signs which of course Tony wanted to explore……
We moved on from here to the town of Coimbra. On the way we passed about 5 roadside prostitutes all within a mile of each other, the first we had seen this trip!
Arriving at Coimbra we found the Aires car park next to the river and only a short distance from the town. It was a very narrow area and Tony had to reverse the van in. There was a chap telling him what to do sounding as if he was the car parking attendant but we later found out he was nothing to do with it!!
We got talking to an American lady who had just parked a van next to where we were and she said it was a lovely town; she gave us directions on how to get to the centre and to the tourist information office.
After a quick cup of tea we walked along the riverside, over a bridge and into town. We got a map from the tourist office and the woman told us that the best place to go was the University right at the top. Coimbra we found out had very narrow winding streets with steep inclines to the top. It was a University town and everywhere there were students walking around in their uniforms.
The boys wore black suits with waistcoats and the girls worn black suits with black tights and low heeled shoes – very sensibly on these cobbled streets! They also carried or wore these enormous floor length cloaks, some of them were adorned with badges from the courses they had done or the clubs they belonged to. They also carried different coloured ribbons depending on what they were studying – Red was for Law, yellow was for science etc…
We tried to get to the top of the city but got a bit lost and then Tony’s ankles started giving him jip so we gave up and walked back down. On the way we had to make way for the local bus that was going round the very narrow streets – no room even for a bus stop!
We turned round one corner and came across a large group of students sitting on the steps of the cathedral. We found out that we had arrived on the eve of the end of term celebrations. The students would all gather on the cathedral steps on the Thursday where at midnight on the top step a ‘Fado’ would take place and they would ceremoniously cut up their ribbons. A ‘Fado’ is a piece of music played by classical guitarists and this would be the start of a weekend of celebrations for the students with pop concerts & sporting activities culminating in a parade through the town on Sunday. Although the Fado did not take place until midnight the students started congregating from mid-day to get a good space. They had coolboxes & boxes of beers with them and the bars in the vicinity were selling beers at a very reasonable 2E a pint, which of course Tony could not resist.
We stayed for a while and then wandered back to the van intending to find somewhere to eat on the way. There were really only snack bars and we wanted something a bit more than that and were standing in the square deliberating what to do when we were approached by one of the students asking if he could help us in any way. We told him we were looking for something to eat and Tony started talking to him about the other students we had seen on the steps. He told us all about it and the activities that would ensue. He told us that there were floats in the parade and the students had to buy their way onto a float, to this aim – and at this point he pulled something out from under his cloak – he was selling some cartoon postcards to raise the money so he could get onto a float! He didn’t demand any amount of money but said if we could find our way to donate to him he would be grateful. He was very polite about this (and very handsome I have to say!) and when Tony said “OK I’ll give you 2E” he said “really” from which we couldn’t decide it if was a grateful or sarcastic comment, so Tony said “OK I’ll give you 1E then” to which he politely said “Whatever you give me I’ll be grateful for sir” so we gave him 2E and got a cartoon postcard in return. He also directed us to a really nice Italian restaurant on the riverside where we ate. As we parted from him Tony asked him “How did you know we were tourists?” to which he stood back and looked at Tony in his shorts, sandals & T-shirt, wearing sun glasses and carrying a backpack and just smiled – very diplomatic.
Whether he really did have to buy a place on a float or just needed the money for beer we’ll never know but he was very polite (and did I say handsome!) and was one of the better times we’d been scammed and we did end up in a really nice restaurant!
Back at the van we noticed in the next field there were several Marquees set up and during the evening they started doing sound check for music. It was Really loud and we had visions of being kept awake all night. This was obviously what some of the other motorhomes thought and one by one they started to move off but we decided to stay. The sound checks went on until 10.30pm and then stopped. We thought about walking back into town to watch the Fado at midnight but decided against it and retired to bed around 11pm. At midnight we heard the tremendous roar from the students in town and then their singing went on for a while after but it was just far enough away not to bother us.
3/5/2013 Day 12 WE MEET UP WITH A FRIEND
We awoke to another sunny day – getting used to this!
Before moving off we talked to the American lady next door. She is married to a Spaniard, they have 2 children and they all live in Madrid. They had been visiting various places along the coast and she told us of some good places to go.
She had walked back up into the town last night to watch the Fado but said we didn’t miss much. By the time it got to midnight the square was absolutely packed and the students that had been drinking all day were being sick in every corner. She also said the big cloaks came in handy as the girls held two of them together to form a curtain round a friend whilst she had a wee on the floor!!!!! Bet they had to hose the square down the next morning.
We set off to visit JJ – someone we had met through MotorhomeFun. He lived 6 months of the year in Portugal and had a large bit of land with olive trees, fruit trees and vines on it. He was gradually clearing it and invited us to park our van with him on his land over the weekend. We met him at his workplace and he took us to his land – it really was in the middle of nowhere and very beautiful.
After negotiating the track to his place we parked up and then sat outside the vans in the sun talking until 8.30 that night. We had tea and then sat inside the van talking until 11pm!
JJ is a very very interesting man and has led a very very interesting life and we really enjoyed his stories and also enjoyed telling him some of our own.
After JJ had gone to his van to bed we sat watching the TV. I was sitting in the passenger seat when there was an almighty bang on the outside of the door followed swiftly by another bang. It felt like something had run across the field not knowing we were there and had run smack bang into the door. Tony had a quick look outside but there was nothing around.
It was a bit scary and I was pleased to get safely tucked up in bed with the doors locked!
Day 13 4/5/2013 THE BEAST OF QUINTA MAJAY
Tony was up quite early and went out on his bike for a ride.
I got up, had breakfast and then thought I’d have a look at the outside of the door to see if there was any sign of what had happened the night before. Lo and behold there were 3 prints in the dirt of the door, they looked like paw prints but not from a cat with pads more like long fingered claws although they hadn’t scratched the door.
I called JJ over and showed him and he said he had had a visitor once who said she had seen a large black cat like animal running through the next field --- perhaps we had found “The Beast of Quinta Majay” I took some pictures of the claw marks but they didn’t show up very well on photo.
JJ allowed me to use his internet to catch up on emails etc… and he set about clearing some of his land with the strimmer. When Tony came back he said that he had been attacked by dogs at every turn on his bike ride, they chased him down the street. He sat outside drinking & chatting with JJ whilst I did some writing.
JJ then went to watch the football on his TV and Tony said he would help clear some of the area so JJ gave him some shears and told him where to clear.
Now JJ has no experience of Tony’s “pruning” so I only hope he does no damage and doesn’t destroy one of JJ’s favourite bushes – he already nearly run the van through his patch of wild garden whilst parking it up, only stopping when JJ run over shouting he was destroying his special patch!!
The day was alternating between full sun and some welcome clouds (didn’t think I’d be saying that so soon) and was turning into a very lazy day………
Tony worked hard all afternoon and managed to clear almost all the brambles from the top of the pond. With the help of a ladder and JJ they got the last stubborn bits and now what we called “the swimming pool” was exposed and the area around it cleared – a good afternoons work for Tony even though he was covered in scratches & cuts!
5/5/2013 Day 14 “SEA FESTIVAL”
After spending the morning chatting & getting ready to move we leave. Big thanks to JJ for letting us stay in his corner of Paradise in Portugal.
We managed to get off the land with no problems and set off for Nazare on the coast.
We arrive around 3.30pm and it was very busy with traffic. It turns out it was their annual Sea festival day. The main road was closed and we were diverted through the narrow streets of the town by the police, only just managing to negotiate some tight corners & parked traffic. We decided to go back to a campsite just outside of town to dump the waste and refill with water before attempting to go back into town, this cost us 3.50E which was well worth it. Going back into town we found that the parking place that we had intended to park on (an open area of waste grounds) was now full of cars and we could not find anywhere else without going right into town which of course, as the roads were closed, we couldn’t do. We just had to double park with another campervan & car and sit it out. I stayed in the van & Tony had a wander coming back with some ice creams. He said it was pretty much the same as the Harwich sea festival with trawlers all decorated & racing each other. There was also some sort of procession going on at the other end of town which was why the roads were shut off. There was a stage on the beach so we thought there might be a concert or show that evening.
Around 6pm the place had started to clear, many cars had left and the roads were re-opened. On his walk Tony had found a large car park in the centre of town on which a lot of motorhomes were parked so we made our way there, parked up and had a walk round.
The boats had all returned to the harbour and the ‘concert’ that we thought was going on was in fact a religious church service where they were blessing the fishermen etc…
This was a busy touristy town and there were lots of restaurants around, most of them selling only fish. We had decided that we’d had enough of fish and wanted some meat so chose one that looked quite good. We had a couple of beers, Tony asked for large ones and that is exactly what we got…….
We ordered hamburger, sausage, egg & chips, although we did have calamari as a starter but unfortunately it was frozen and not very nice! Although the meal was OK it wasn’t worth the 37E the bill came to.
On the way back to the van I found an English newspaper on a stand outside a shop – ok so it was “the Daily Mail” but being Saturdays edition I knew it would be full of quite interesting articles so bought it. Back at the van we had coffee, read the newspaper, and watched a film then retired for the night. There was a lot of traffic going by on a busy road so we expected it to be a really noisy night but it wasn’t and we weren’t woken up until about 6am the following morning by the bin lorries.
6/5/2013 Day 15 UP THE HILL
Woke up expecting the sun to be shinning and it wasn’t so that was quite a disappointment. Although it was quite warm it was very cloudy. We decided to walk around the town and take the Funicular railway to the top of the cliffs to the adjoining town of Stillo.
We walked through the backstreets and there were lots of small local shops, not tourist ones but ones that were being used by the locals. This was the first town that we had seen the older women dressing all in black with covered heads, there were also younger ladies wearing brightly coloured clothes but wearing these enormous aprons. The first couple I saw I thought must be taking part in some tourist thing but then we realised that all the women were wearing almost identical costumes and going about their daily rituals and we also saw several shops selling these clothes. We bought some nuts from a stall and the women were only too pleased to show off their costumes for a photo with Tony!
We went up on the funicular railway. You could walk up but I’d rather pay the 2.20E return than clamber up the steep path! At the top there was a big church, a few houses, hotel, school and a big hospital.
We wandered around for an hour or so looking at the spectacular views before returning to the town at the bottom.
NAZARE FROM THE VILLAGE OF STILLO ON TOP OF THE CLIFFS
We wandered back along the seafront to the van, stopping for coffee on the way. There were several really old run down building just ripe for development on the promenade, most of them being presently used as pigeon lofts!
ABANDONED BUILDING ON SEA FRONT (PIGEON LOFT)
I went into a book shop and bought a small English/Portuguese dictionary as we were having a problem with working out the language. I had just assumed it would be almost identical to Spanish but it wasn’t! We were working mostly on the hand signals and Tony’s version of any foreign language – putting an ‘O’ on the end of every word – which actually sometimes works as we found out when trying to buy a roll of sticky back plastic in a small Chinese shop in Nazare
Back at the van we decided, as the sun had not come out, we would move further down the coast and set off towards Peniche. We would stop on the way if we found anywhere nice or the sun came out.
We had only gone about 5 miles when we came across a car park at the side of the road facing a lovely beach & lagoon area so we decided to stop & look around.
There was a group of Nuns on an outing and they were having a picnic at the side of the road, lots of giggling going on and then they set off towards the beach area.
Tony went off on his bike for a ride around and when he came back we were getting ready to go for a walk along the beach when it started to rain lightly so got back into the van and headed on.
We ended up at Foz do Arelho, a very small town on the end of the peninsular. Driving into the beach area of town we came on a car park with three vans parked up so decided we would also park & stay the night.
There were lots of fishermen fishing off the beach during the afternoon and well into the evening but we never saw any of them catch anything. There was a bar open adjacent to the car park so we went there for a beer and decided to go back that evening for something to eat. The menu, as usual, was mostly fish and we had not yet mastered the Portuguese language so I got out my phrase book (it was one I bought from the hospice shop for 90p and about 15 years old!!) and saw that on the menu was a dish called “Bacalhau” which is basically the strips of hard, dried cod that you see hanging in the shops, rehydrated into a dish, Tony decided to have this and I had “Carne de porco a Alentejana” which was pork & clams in a tomato and onion sauce. Both were actually very nice as it turned out but the portions were huge. When we had been served the couple running the bar bought their own food out into the restaurant to eat. They had a huge plate of this weird looking food which they were going to tuck into. The woman put some onto a smaller plate and bought it over to us to try.
I had seen this in a fish shop in Nazare and assumed it was some sort of crab claws as that’s what it looked like but it turns out is like a sea anemone. She showed us how to pull the edible bit from inside the plant and eat it. It was OK but I won’t be ordering it in a restaurant in the near future!
We got talking to a Dutch couple that also came in for a meal. They were traveling in a campervan but as it was their 14th wedding anniversary they had treated themselves to a night in a B&B.
Other than us the restaurant & bar was empty, as was the rest of the town.
It was as if it was still winter, all the beach side cafes & small shops were shut up and in need of a good paint, there were no people around at all only the few in the vans.
We saw that there was a camper park next to us that was 4.50E for the night. A couple of vans had parked in there overnight. It was deserted, non one came to collect any money, it also had waste disposal & a water point. We thought we might move into there tomorrow if the weather was good as Tony wanted to go out on his kayak and we could also BBQ in that area as it was on the beach.
Day 16 7/5/2013 “NATTER, NATTER, NATTER”
We decided to stay in the same place today even though the weather wasn’t that brilliant.
We moved the van onto the camper park and sited it right next to the beach & promenade; we noticed another British van pulling in next to us.
Tony got his kayak down from the roof and as he was doing so an elderly gentleman with his two dogs walked by and Tony said “Hello” to him as he usually does to everyone and to his surprise the old gent said “Hello” back to him in a British accent. A bit startled Tony told the man he was the first Brit he had seen for a long while. The gentleman’s wife came along and stopped to chat. She told us that they had been living in Portugal for 15 years and went on to tell us all about their house & family etc… she talked for about 20 mins in which time her husband had walked all the way along the prom and back again. She explained that to the Portuguese this was still very early on in the season which was why nothing was open. Also last autumn the husband of one of the woman who owned one of the small shops set fire to her shop in a fit of jealousy which burnt down the whole row of 7 shops, they had not been rebuilt yet due to the economic climate and she doubted that they would.
Just as she was about to go a younger man & woman walked by and said “Hello” again in a British accent. They also stopped and chatted. They were about the same age as Tony & I and had bought a holiday home out here 4 years ago but had recently sold up in the UK and moved to live in Portugal permanently. For quite a while they talked to the elderly lady about the health service and where to shop for English foods – it was quite interesting.
Both couples enjoyed living in Portugal although the elderly couple agreed that the food in restaurants was not that good, you were very lucky if you got a good steak and fish in restaurants was usually very expensive!
After they had all gone Tony got his kayak ready and went off into the sea. Now he could have gone two ways, one would take him up river for a gentle kayak along the river side or the other way would take him to the mouth of the lagoon where the surf was really rough and high – I expect you can guess which one he chose.
He was gone for ages and I was just beginning to get a bit worried when he returned. He said he had a good time playing in the surf!!!!!
I made a cup of tea and we sat on the promenade drinking it. Tony & Helen, the couple from the British van came and sat with us and we chatted with them for ages. They were on their way back to the UK having travelled down in the Algarve. They were hanging around Nazare for a bit as 3 years ago they had put a deposit on a new build house there. The usual story ensued and the house never got built however the builder had promised to return their deposit and they were on the way to see him today. I hope they don’t hold their breath!
They said they were glad that they hadn’t gone through with the deal and paid the balance & got the house as they had now changed their minds what with the economic situation.
After lounging around for a bit we walked along the promenade and found that two of the very small kiosk shops had opened. We bought an ice cream at one and next door I bought a pair of plastic flip flops. I had resigned myself to throwing away my favourite Nike flip flops that I had had for years, the soles had become worn almost flat and twice in the last few days I have slipped badly on them so really I don’t have any other option. I needed a pair that I could get wet when servicing the van etc.. So I bought a cheap (£3) pair. I almost cried as I threw my Nikes in the bin. The weather was not really good enough for a BBQ so I cooked the kebabs on the hob in the van and we settled down for the evening. There was a small dog tied up to a kennel outside one of the fishing boat sheds nearby that barked constantly so Tony went over to see if he could quieten it. He couldn’t – there was a cat nearby teasing the poor thing which is why it was barking. Its leash was not very long and it was tied up there all night until the fisherman came to feed it in the morning, even then he did not untie it. The Portuguese really treat their dogs badly.
Tony had finished his book – quite a record for him as he usually takes months to read a single book. I had only bought him one book so goodness knows what will keep him occupied from now on I would have to find something else for him to read.
Day 17 8/5/2013 ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Woke up to the sound of the surf – it was really loud like a high wind. I expected it to be really windy outside but it wasn’t. It wasn’t sunny just cloudy with a few spots of rain now & again, not really a shower.
We watched the local fishermen going out and those that fished from the beach set up. A lot of men waded out into the river with nets which we assumed were for dredging up the clams from the sand as there were thousands of them everywhere.
There was a couple of people on windsurf boards paddling with oars, on the end of one of them was a black Labrador dog.
We headed off for Alcacer, not knowing what was there or what it was like but several people had mentioned it as a good place to go. The drive was a couple of hours along the main roads which seemed to be inundated with big lorries. We could see the toll road running adjacent but there was hardly any traffic on it.
We arrived in Alcacer and they were doing major road works which diverted us all over the place up and down narrow streets. We stopped by the riverside to decide where we could go to park but couldn’t see anywhere obvious. I had previously made a note that there was a municipal campsite somewhere in Alcacer so when we saw signs for it we headed there; it was just on the outskirts of town. We had a quick look at the site and it was OK. Not at all commercialised but quite small & rural and importantly (for me anyway) it had washing machine facilities so I would be able to do 17 days’ worth of washing. It was only 8E a night and that included free WIFI and satellite TV if we wanted to watch it – Tony was hoping to catch the Italian Cycling. The chap at reception was keen to tell us that it had just been announced that Alex Ferguson was going to retire – the way he was going on about it you would have thought that the Queen had died or something!!
We parked up and had lunch outside. It had turned out quite pleasant, not sunny but still very hot and quite hazy. I sorted the washing whilst Tony had a “Power Nap” of which he has always said there was no such thing but he was willing to give it a go.
They had internet here so was able to catch up with everything and hopefully will be able to send off this part of the blog tomorrow morning before we leave – unfortunately the internet was not working the next day so I couldn’t!
Tony went out on his bike for a quick reccy around the town but came back with the view to it not even being worth a walk to. It had looked quite nice on the way in with a river side etc. but apparently all the roads were being dug up to replace the sewer system and it was hard to get around. There were a few churches etc.. but no different to those that we had already seen so after having tea we just went for a walk around the local area , had a beer in a bar & then back to the van. Talking to the young chap that runs the site we said about the lack of people around everywhere and the fact that so many things were shut still. He said the, apart from Sundays, Portuguese people only went out in July & August for holidays etc.. to them this weather we were having now, sunny & 22° was what they would think of as still being winter. He said in summer it can reach 40°+ on the site. There is a big outdoor swimming pool next to the camp site but it was closed – he said it only opened 15th June & closed end of August!
During the night I was woken up by a cockerel crowing at 3.30am which set off a number of dogs in the area barking like mad. After ½ an hour it all stopped so I drifted back to sleep only to be woken up at 5.30 with it crowing again once more accompanied by the sound of about 50 dogs in the area all barking….. Tony says he will always think of Portugal as the country of Dogs.
9/5/2013 Day 18 A LITTLE BIT OF PARADISE
After a leisurely breakfast & pack up we headed for Sines traveling via Comporta which should take us along the coast road south. When we got to Comporta we decided, as it wasn’t far, to have a look at Troia, a town at the furthest tip of a peninsular going north. We headed up a very boring road, on the left side of us was the Atlantic Ocean and on the right a muddy lagoon area with no signs of habitation anywhere. Along the way we passed a gated hotel complex and a golf course. When we reached Troia it was like a ghost town. Apart from the odd tourist the only people around were gardeners & street cleaners. The roads were very small and cobbled, the whole area was newly built and very modern. We realised that it wasn’t a town but a holiday complex of apartments and hotels. All the car parks were underground so there wasn’t anywhere we could park. I suspect that it is an expensive area to stay or have an apartment and we were getting funny looks from those people that were there so we headed out back in a southerly direction.
We headed to a beach area, Praia de Santo Andre, one that JJ had told us about. It was truly beautiful made up mostly of sand dunes and an inland lagoon where the sea came in.
There was a small car park and a couple of café bars. Although it said no motor caravans in the actual car parks there were several vans parked amongst the sand dunes so we parked amongst them, the ground was more gravel than sand so it would be ok.
We had a lovely lunch sitting outside the van in the glorious sunshine and then went for a walk along the beach. The surf was really high and the sea was a beautiful shade of turquoise. As far as the eye could see was just natural beach and deserted, the sand was very soft. Tony went for a swim but only got up to his knees as he said it was freezing!!
Tony found an abandoned fish trap washed up on the shore and after inspecting it decided he may come back later to take it if it was still there.
We walked right along the beach into the lagoon where there were some people swimming – brave people, the water was a bit too cold for me…….
We stopped at the café and asked for an ice cream only to be told they didn’t have ice creams until July, only coffee & beers. They had an ice cream fridge there so how difficult would it have been to have a few ice creams to sell! Anyway we walked to the other bar and got one there and then, as it was so nice sitting there we stayed for a beer.
We had a look at the restaurant menu and it was the same old thing – mostly fish with about 3 meat dishes, nothing exciting.
Back to the van we just chilled out for the rest of the day. I sat outside on the lounger reading and fell asleep. When I woke up my shoulders had got a bit burnt as I didn’t put any sun cream on.
We were going to have our first BBQ of the holiday outside the van but being wary of the rule of no fires etc. due to the dry conditions we decided just to cook it on the outside cooker. Nice though, not having to cook inside the van for a change.
Tony thought he would put up the big TV aerial on the flag pole that we had to see if he could get any TV channels. Whilst doing this he discovered that the Aerial unit was not working – this would explain why we hadn’t been able to pick up any TV channels since France. We had just assumed that it was something to do with the Portuguese TV not our equipment. He spent some time testing bits & pieces and then, after lots of swearing, gave up, we had done without TV so far and it would have to wait till another time to be sorted. Doesn’t bother me, I actually like not having TV but I know he would have liked to watch the Italian cycling.
Tony went to the beach & got some lovely pictures of the sunset, luckily he did not come back with the old fish trap! After chilling out for a few hours we retired at 10.30pm.
10/5/2013 DAY 19 TYPICAL PORTUGUESE TOWN
It another windy day. Tony decided he would go out on his road bike and duly got dressed up and set off at 10am. He came back after 3 hours and said he had one of the most boring rides of his life – along a straight road which was in the process of being duelled so lots of roadworks. He rode to Sines and found that was pretty much not worth visiting and then rode back again.
We had intended to stop at Sines but now decided to give it a miss. After lunch and a walk along the beach we headed off in the direction of Porto Covo about 20 miles along the coast.
We took the coast road which, for a change, went right along the cliff tops. On the way there were several car parks and being a Saturday there were quite a few people around for a change. There were lots of small coves with steep steps to them from the car parks.
We came across a car park just on the outskirts of Porto Covo which had quite a few motorhomes parked in it so decided to stop there for the night. We parked up and, as usual Tony got talking to a van next to us. They were a British couple, Judy & Peter who had been in Portugal for a few months; they were now heading north and back home to Hampshire.
I gave my double skillet (cooking pan) another go tonight and done a pizza in it. I had to cut the pizza to make it fit into the pan as it was too big but I wasn’t too happy with the results, it was a bit soggy. This is the third attempt to cook items in this double skillet with no success. Lots of people had recommended it to me as we don’t have an oven and supposedly you can cook things in the DS that you would normally cook in an oven – it was expensive so I feel obliged to give it another couple of goes before I get rid of it!
After tea Judy & Peter came and sat in our van and we had a few drinks and chatted for the rest of the evening. Before we knew it it was 12.30 and we’d almost polished of a bottle of gin as well as quite a few beers!!!!!!!
11/5/2013 DAY 20 EXPLORING PORTO COVO
I surfaced gradually and woke up with quite a hangover which was only to be expected!
Had a cuppa and then sat outside talking to Judy & Peter when another couple joined us. The chap was French and his wife was British, Yorkshire in fact and they lived in France. They had been following more or less the same route that we had on the way south and like us were not that impressed with Portugal so far.
It was very weird to hear the Frenchman talk as his wife had obviously taught him English and he was speaking it with a Yorkshire accent.
Peter was a bit of an inventor and showed us his latest invention – a folding toilet seat…..
The campsite and public toilets out here do not have any seats so he made one that hinged & folded in 7 places and fitted into a very small bag so you could take it into the toilet discretely to use it. Not something I would bother with but it looked quite good. He said he would like to see if someone would manufacture it but didn’t know how to go about it so we said he should apply to go on Dragons Den so keep a look out for him on future programmes!!
TONY,PETER,JUDY & FRENCH COUPLE
Tony & I had a long walk along the cliffs and then into the town.
For a small town there was actually quite a lot of shops and restaurants – mostly fish ones – and we decided to come back tonight for dinner at one of them.
We had a coffee in a place just off the square and were trying to order a large white milky coffee but as usual ended up with this large cup of really strong coffee. An elderly chap sitting at a table told us we needed to ask for a Galao – pronounced Gerlang – which is a white milky coffee in a glass. He was English so we sat at the table with him and his wife and chatted. They had lived out her for 16 years; he had two apartments in a large town nearby but actually lived full time in his motorhome which was parked overlooking the beach.
We walked back to the van, had lunch outside then a read & snooze. We had both caught the sun on our faces despite using a high factor sun cream & looked quite red.
In the evening we walked back into the town to eat. There were now a lot of people walking around the main square and street, I think this is somewhat of a holiday town as most of the houses look like they are holiday homes. The houses were all the typical white and blue colours that you see in all the photos and nearly all looked newly painted.
We chose a restaurant and sat down at the table to study the menu. Unfortunately the waiter could speak not a word of English so once more we were really struggling when a young girl at the next table asked if she could be of assistance. She explained a few things and Tony chose Dressed Crab with toasted bread, which was cooked from fresh after he had ordered it, I chose a steak cooked on the grill, in all honesty not expecting it to be that good but I was desperate for some meat. Tony’s crab was duly served, dressed with the legs etc. on the side; he was also bought a small tile, pick & hammer to crack the legs to eat the meat inside.
My steak was actually quite good and there was lots of it, three large pieces.
Back at the van Judy asked us in to their van for drinks so off we trotted. I have to say that I was abstaining from alcohol today after last night but the others drank beers and yet more gin until we retired at 11.45pm. Two late nights in a row…..
12/5/2013 DAY 21 PRAIA de CARREAGEM
We didn’t wake up until 9.30am, must be all these late nights.
Gave the van a good clean out, changed bedding and then after saying our goodbyes we headed off to the “Barragem de Santo Clara” for no other reason than several people had mentioned it was a good place to visit. ‘Barrage’ in Portuguese means ‘Dam’ so we assumed that there would be a river & places to park, swim & kayak.
We had to go across country to get there and through a small town called Odemira. When we reached this town they were digging up the roads and we were unable to go in the direction we wanted so had to take a very round about route to get to the dam and it took us hours.
Arriving at the dam we saw that that is exactly what it was – a dam and nothing else! No river, nowhere to park up, swimming & fishing forbidden and no boating allowed, although we did see a speed boat roaring around. Tony went out on his bike to see if perhaps we had come in the wrong way and were missing something but came back & reported that there was absolutely nothing there. What a waste of a few hours driving………
We headed for the coast, back across deserted country roads which corkscrewed around the mountains. We made for Praia de Monte Clergio, a beach that more than one person had told us was good. We ended up on some cliff tops, overlooking the beach. There was ample parking overnight but it was very bleak. The sea came inland turning into a river and looking across the estuary we could see some vans parked on the other side with access to the beach. Studying the map it was a 10mile trip inland, across the river and back to the coast to get to that area.
We could see another small town on our side of the estuary so drove there to see what that was like. This was a small town fronting directly onto the beach with a couple of restaurants. Tony was fed up with driving and it was 6pm by now so we went to have a beer & perhaps something to eat.
Tony managed to order us two glasses of white coffee by asking for a galao (pronounce gerlahng- now you can see why we can’t understand the lingo!), the first nice coffees we had had so far and he also bought back the menu. The waiter spoke quite good English and told him the special of the day was octopus so Tony decided to try a dish of that, I chose prawn curry. Well this meal was one of the best we had had so far…. My curry was absolutely gorgeous & Tony’s octopus (although it didn’t look it!) was really lovely too.
We talked to an English couple at the next table that lived in the town in a house ½ hr walk along the cliff tops. They had come out here a few years ago when their son married a local girl and just hadn’t gone back. The husband worked on the oil rigs in the North Sea and did 2 weeks on three weeks off and just flew out from Faro airport each time. They absolutely loved it. We have met lots of people who have just come for a visit and fallen in love with Portugal and moved here but I have to admit I hadn’t quite got why! Anyway they told us of a lovely place a bit further south, Carraeteira, which I have duly marked on my map and we might visit that in the next few days – If anyone tells me of a good place to go I make a note of it on our map which is now full of notes and pen marks! For tonight Tony wanted to go to the other side of the estuary as he fancied taking his kayak out up the river tomorrow. We found the place fairly easily and, despite the sign saying no camper van parking, we parked up for the night along with two other small vans, surfers I believe, and settled in for the night.
Studying the map I think that we are actually parked on Praia da Carreagem beach and the beach we ate at earlier was Praia de Monte Clergio beach.
My car charger for the ipad & iphone had broken during the day and by the time we had parked my ipad was down to 4% charge – quite critical as I used TomTom on it to navigate.
I could charge it up overnight through the invertor but that wouldn’t last long as it consumed quite a lot of battery when using TomTom all the time. I was a bit worried about trying to navigate by map alone as many of the small roads were not on the map but thankfully Tony managed to make another adapter out of two cobbled together thus saving the day.
SUNDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER 2012 LUG INS LAND CAMPING PARK – GERMANY
We decided to make a move and head home. We would like to do the journey in three days and get a ferry on Wednesday and then book a flight out to Spain for Sunday. I was going to book the flight for Friday but Tony would like to go to rugby on Saturday and as he would have a hard drive home he deserves to have a day of R&R!
We had packed up most things the night before as it was expected to rain in the night, which it did meaning the ground sheet was very muddy. Tony cleaned off everything and we left around 10 am.
Before we left we had a group photo of the four of us wearing our swimming hats that were compulsory for swimming pools in Italy. I have to say Graham’s & Jean’s were the real McCoy, ours were only cloth but theirs were rubber!
I had to queue at reception to check out as they were so busy, which took another ½ hr. They only had two girls on check out duty but four girls on check in duty and they were sitting on their backsides!! I asked for a discount to our fee as we had had to put up with the muddy pitch and had not had the gravel that was promised to be delivered every day that we were there. I said (small fib!) that we had intended to stay until Friday but had had enough of the mud and were leaving early. The girl went off to see the manager but he said No! She said they had our request on record but we were already getting a discount by using our ACSI card and anyway what did we expect this time of year? I told her we had stayed on many sites and had never had a pitch as muddy as this (not mentioning Peterborough!) and I would ensure that my internet review would make their attitude to this very clear to future customers! I have to be honest, I didn’t really expect to get any discount but it was worth a try. We had a call from Graham saying Tony had left his glasses behind – how unusual for him! – very kindly Graham drove them up to us by the reception and we eventually left at 10.30am.
We got to the Swiss border at 1pm and stopped at an Aires to have lunch. We drove through the St Gotthard tunnel which is 17km long. This tunnel drove TomTom wild, it kept swinging from one direction to the other, telling us to turn left then turn around when possible, when we came out the other side it took a couple of minutes to recover and looked like it was trying to sort itself out after a fight! Strangely my ipad TomTom did not react in any way.
We got just over the German border and having done 287 miles decided to stop for the night so pulled off the motorway and found a campsite.
We pulled in at Lug Ins Land Camping Park, a huge site with lots of statics as well as touring caravans and motorhomes. We couldn’t figure out why there should be so many as on the map there didn’t seem to be anything in this area. In reception they had lots of leaflets about the surrounding area but every one of them was in German – unusual as most sites we had stayed at they had alternatives in French, Dutch or English as well, obviously they only consider their own countrymen here. The receptionist slung me a form to fill in and said bring it back tomorrow morning when you pay and gave me an invoice. When I got back to the van the form was all in German so I did my best and the invoice was for 26E when the ACSI book said it was only 16E so I would have to sort that out tomorrow.
The weather was dull & drizzly so we didn’t go out for a walk – not that there was anywhere to go – but I cooked tea, we watched a film then went to bed.
MONDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2012 BRUGGE AIRES – BELGIUM
I went to reception first thing to settle the bill explaining to a different girl that I had been charged full price and not the ACSI price, she begrudgingly changed it. I then went to the camp shop to get a loaf of bread, they only had two very small ones left, no bigger than a large roll really and these were 2E each so I said ‘no thanks!’
We set off at 10am. Tony had the intention of driving all 407 miles all the way to Brugge, Belgium in one day. We would park in the Aires there central to town and spend Tuesday there before catching the ferry on Wednesday.
I had to phone the Caravan & Camping Club to book the Harwich ferry crossing so did this whilst we were travelling. She gave me the price £62 but said for some reason she had to phone Stenna Line before she could finalise the booking so rather than me hold on she said she would ring me back. Ten minutes later she rang back to say that the ship was in dry dock for repairs and was off the route until 9th October so there were no sailings until then – typical, the one time we wanted to use it!!! I went online, using my iphone, to book the Dunkirk to Dover crossing with DFDS and tried several times but every time it went to process my card payment I got a message saying they did not support the currency I was trying to pay in! The website gave me an option of currency and I chose £’s, it displayed the price in £’s so I didn’t know what was going on. I tried E’s but still the same, so after spending almost an hour trying to book I gave up and phoned the Caravan & Camping Club back and got them to book a crossing with P&O for Wednesday.
We remembered to fill up with fuel in Luxembourg as it was cheap – only £1 a ltr which was good as driving fast up and down hills on the motorway was taking its toll and we were only getting 17mpg as opposed to 21mpg. We headed on for Brugge.
We arrived in Brugge around 6pm. I had put the GPS points into TomTom but it took us up a dead end street. We could see the aires on the other side of the river so had to travel back, find a place to cross then try again. Eventually we got there and parked up at 6.45pm.
It cost 15E for 24hrs so not cheap, but it included electricity (which we didn’t need) and it’s only 10 mins from the town. We were to find out that everything in Brugge was expensive!
We had intended to walk into the town in the evening but Tony was feeling really tired after having driven for most of the day so we stayed in & watched a film. I made him his favourite macaroni cheese for tea J
Whilst we were watching TV we had an email come through on my phone. It was from Graham & Jean just letting us know that the gravel arrived today!!!!! They delivered a whole trailer full, enough for three pitches. He sent us a picture, we really had a giggle at this – perhaps my complaining had helped after all……………………..
Went to bed and we could both hear a mossy flying around so had to go mossy hunting before we could get to sleep. We would just drop off and one of us would hear zzzzzzzzz as it flew past our ear. Gave the area a good spray and assumed we had killed it – no, after feasting on us both it had just relocated to the lounge area where it was waiting for me in the morning!
TUESDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2012 BRUGGE AIRES – BELGIUM
It was very noisy all night with traffic on the nearby busy road. In the morning there was a lot of activity in the coach park and when I looked out the window I could see lots of coaches queuing to get out of the car park – they all had the ‘school bus’ sign on them. I hadn’t noticed them parked there the night before?
We walked into the centre of Brugge, about 10 minutes away. It was very pretty with lovely old buildings and squares. There were a lot of chocolate shops as obviously Belgium is famous for its chocolate and this was a tourist town. Chocolate in every shape and size but all of it very expensive. In one window just a normal nutty chocolate was 40E a KG!
We looked at several restaurants for lunch, most of them were expensive but a few had a special price lunch menu. We chose one that had a board out the front saying £16 for 3 courses which looked good. We sat at a nice sunny table for 4 and a surly waiter came along and asked us to move to a smaller table for 2 which was in the shade. Why he wanted us to move I don’t know as there was only one other couple sitting there and about twenty spare tables. He gave us the menu and then went off. The menu he gave us was really expensive, around 25E a course and he hadn’t mentioned that they did a lunch menu for 16E which annoyed me even more so we got up and left.
We decided to walk back to the van for lunch and come into town in the evening for a meal but on the way back we came across a busy café in a small square so we ate there. We had a portion of mussels in cream and chicken curry baguette which we shared.
Back at the van Tony went out on his bike whilst I settled down to read. We were parked next to the entrance barrier and several vans were arriving. The entry instructions to the Aires were not clear – in fact there were no instructions. You had to press a button to get a ticket and open the barrier and then pay at the kiosk on the way out. For some reason people that arrived kept trying to put their credit card into the slot that the ticket came out. I had to keep going to show them what to do. One French man was getting very irate and was pressing the help button and shouting into it
I had collected some conkers from the chestnut trees nearby and threaded them onto strings. When Tony returned from his bike trip we had a conker completion outside the van, much to the amusement of the other campers. After several injuries and no signs of damage to either conkers we agreed it was a draw .
We walked into town again in the evening to look at the building all lit up – they looked pretty but much the same as they had during the day! On the way home we stopped at a restaurant and had a meal of Flemish Beef Stew which was extremely filling. Talking to the waiter he said that Brugge was a very busy town and all the shops and restaurants were thriving and very busy.
Back at the van we watched a film, getting low on DVD’s now so we were reduced to watching one about a dog – Old Yellow – familiar story – boy finds abandoned dog, both get lost in mountains, dog fights wolves & mountain cat, boy gets found, dog gets lost again but after a couple of weeks dog makes it to boys home, limping, & they are reunited………………
That bloody mozzie is still with us, I think he wants a ride back to England!
WEDNESDAY 3RD October 2012 BRUGGE AIRES – BELGIUM
Woke up at 7.30am to the sound of the coaches again. This time we could see that they were arriving, parking up for 1/2hr and then driving off again. There were large coaches and small minibuses and Tony reckons that they operate a hub system, picking up schoolchildren from outlying areas and transferring them to the bigger coaches in town before shipping them off to different schools. Anyway by 8.30 they had all gone.
We were pretty much packed up so we paid and left at 8.45am heading for Calais.
We arrived at the port at 10.30, our crossing was for 12.45 but we were able to get on the 11am one which was good. The weather was wet and windy so the crossing was a bit choppy.
After a non-eventful drive back to Harwich we arrived home mid-afternoon.
Thanks to our Jim, Dianne & Andrew (our next door neighbours) the house is still standing and the garden was in great order. We had a cup of tea with them before we started the task of unpacking the van.
We have been away for 9 weeks and 2 days, driven 3,800 miles without any major arguments and it’s lovely to be home!
TUESDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SOLARIS Nr SIBENIK
Woke up to a lovely sunny day. Jimmy was doing his 30mins exercise next door on his punch bag which he has hanging from the tree. He joked that he should have a swastika on it then he would hit it harder.
Tony went off to cycle round the camp, he was gone ages and came back saying the hotels and amenities were really good. The camp staff were busy raking up all the pine needles from the trees, leaving them in small piles for the lorry to come round later to collect.
I looked at the boat trip round the Island National park but it was a 9hr day, cost 57E which included lunch, drinks, transfers & boat trip. When I asked how much time was spent in the boat going around the islands she said 1 ½ hrs! It sounded like a real touristy trip so think we may make our own way there & try to get a boat.
We went for a walk along the promenade past the three hotels. There are some spectacular swimming pools, one has chutes and a big pirate ship to play on. My favourite was one that was only about 12” deep, it had sunbeds and tables and chairs in it. The waiter was serving with his trousers rolled up to his knees.
We had lunch in the Italian restaurant on the front. It was really lovely and far too much we both left some. Back at the van we relaxed and had a swim in the pool just in front of us.
We spent the evening round the van, watched a DVD and then bed. Totally relaxing day!
WEDNESDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SOLARIS - SIBENIK
Tony cycled to the KRKA national park, it wasn’t exactly where he had planned to go but he hasn’t quite got the hang of programming his cycle Garmin satnav, he had wanted to cycle to Sibenik, entirely the opposite way! Anyway, he thought as he was out that way he’d have a look to see what the access was like for when we go there in the van. It was OK and he said the waterfalls looked good.
I was going to treat myself to one of the sunbeds in the pool or on the beach but it was very cloudy so I just took my own chair down to the beach and sat & read until it got very windy so I went back to the van.
In the afternoon Jimmy, from next door, bought round another bottle of his champagne and we sat drinking that & beers and chatting. He said his ‘girlfriend’ was coming over from the UK on Saturday to stay with him for a week so he was busy sprucing everything up. He said he has ‘girlfriends’ in several different countries… he talks a lot but we have noticed doesn’t tell you anything about himself.
Anyway, we got spruced up and went to the camp’s posh restaurant. We knew it would cost but hopefully the food would be good. I decided to try once again to have a steak but once again they didn’t ask me how I wanted it cooked so had fingers crossed…. It wasn’t bad but not one of the better ones I’ve had and it was a good job I didn’t mind it rare as that is how it came! Tony had as described in the menu - “meat cooked under a lid (veal, octopus)”. He said it tasted good but couldn’t find one piece of octopus in it so when the waiter came to collect the plates and asked if everything was OK he queried the lack of octopus. The waiter then explained that you could have either veal or octopus not both, something not made clear in the menu or asked when taking the order! Once again no condiments other that salt, vinegar or oil, no sauces or mustard.
Having paid the bill - £32 for one course and one beer each – we ambled back to the van. There was a German van parked right on the beach (as usual) and they had very loud music blaring out and were sitting, drinking & laughing, wouldn’t like to be next to them.
Back at our van we had a few drinks outside before going to bed, luckily we couldn’t hear the German’s loud music!
I was woken in the night by a big clap of thunder. The chairs & tables were still out so I got up and put the fabric chairs in the garage so they wouldn’t get wet if it rained and took in the towels that had been drying on the line. There was very loud music playing and it wasn’t coming from the German’s van but from one of the hotels in the complex. It went on until 1am which is unusual for a campsite, everything is usually quiet by 11pm. I found it difficult to get back to sleep but when I did I slept soundly until early morning when the rain & wind started.
Looked outside and everything had been blown around, the mat was all in a pile and the chairs were covered in pine needles from the trees, glad I got the chairs & washing in!
We heard from our friends still at Camping Stobrec that they had very fierce winds in the night and one of the vans near them had its skylight and side window blown out (which is why they should really be closed at night!) As they were parked on the shore the side window was blown out to sea. The winds continued into the next day and after continuously replacing tent pegs that had been ripped out of the ground time after time and having poles coming apart they dismantled the awning of their caravan.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 20TH 2012 AUTOCAMP TURIST – GRABOVAC
In the high wind we packed up the van and stocked up water etc…
We said goodbye to Jimmy who was busy doing his washing in his electric camping twin tub washing machine. We paid the bill which was exactly 16E a night as we were told when we arrived – that’s a first! It was a bargain given how nice the site was and all the facilities.
Having given a lot of thought as to whether we wanted to stop at KRKA national park & waterfalls we decided to give it a miss and set off for Plitvice National Park. We reasoned there are only so many waterfalls you can look at and we would save KRKA for another time.
We took the main road to Plitvice not the motorway, but these roads were more like UK minor roads. They twisted and turned through the mountains and villages. Sometimes the views were good but mostly it was very desolate and deserted. We passed many empty small towns where the few buildings remaining were shot up and partly demolished, this was an area of Croatia that had seen a lot of fighting in the war. There were also lots of huge bomb craters. One thing we started to notice was that where new building had been built many of them stopped at the breeze block stage, it was like they built the blocks, put on a roof and moved in then decided that that was good enough and never put on an outside render – must be very cold in the winter.
There were lots of railway tracks criss crossing the countryside and we would come across a railway crossing without much warning, just turn a corner and there it was, no gates or lights or anything – I would like to think that on approaching these crossings the train would sound it’s horn to alert everyone.
On approaching the first ‘big’ town Ornis we saw a lot of excavation, roadway and pipe laying, we then saw a huge sign stating “EU FUNDED PROJECT” , it would seem that Croatia is not even officially in the EU (will be 2013) and they are getting funded!
We stopped at a supermarket in KNIN to get some bread & milk. Tony waited in the carpark whilst I went in. He saw an old steam train parked in the corner of the carpark and as we travelled further up the road it was obvious that Knin was the Clapham Junction of Croatia as there were lots of railway tracks converging from every direction.
We had to do a detour around the town as the roads were all being dug up and replaced, once again another sign “EU FUNDED PROJECT”, no wonder there’s no money left!
Funnily enough we also saw a sign for Lidl but never saw the supermarket – we have decided that this is just a marketing ploy to remind us that Lidl exists – somewhere……
We stopped in a mountain layby to have lunch, it was too windy to sit outside without risk of being swept down the mountainside so we sat in the van with the sun streaming through the windows. When we set off again cars coming the other way were flashing their lights at us but nothing was wrong they were just warning us of a police speed trap – I suspect that the police didn’t catch too many speeding drivers.
Whilst driving across the bleak countryside we came across a field with fences alongside the road, there was a huge double gate with a soldier on guard in a guardhouse. There were two big tanks, one either side of the gate. That was it…..nothing else, no other buildings, no road or anything…..very weird… perhaps it’s their equivalent of the secret bunker?
We could tell we were approaching the national park by the number of hotels and apartmanis, they all seemed to be numbered for some reason. We drove through Plitvice and pulled in at Camping Koran where we read the price list and pulled straight out again – 35E a night! We travelled on another 10KM to Kamp Turist - £17, more our price. It was a small camp but we only wanted an overnight stop so had everything we needed. It had a restaurant so we went there for tea as it had got quite cold so a BBQ was out of the question & I didn’t fancy cooking. As it was so cold we decided to have soup as a starter – I had minestrone and Tony had beef. Well Minestrone turned out to be a bowl of clear liquid with bits of cauliflower, broccoli & carrot in it – sorry but I thought that was vegetable soup! And Tony’s was a bowl of the same clear liquid with a load of spaghetti noodles in it and didn’t even taste like beef!
Luckily the other two courses, veal & apple struddle & ice cream made up for it. Still no sauces, I have decided that in future I am going to take my own sauce to the restaurants.
We talked to an English couple who had just arrived like us, they were on their way down to Dubrovnik and this was only their first stop in Croatia. They remarked how cold it was (it was REALLY cold tonight) and hoped it would be warmer on the coast.
We went back to the van and it was in darkness. The alarm was flashing on the battery panel which shouldn’t have been happening as we were hooked up to the electricity supply. Turned out we had no electricity supply according to the panel. Tony checked the trip switch in the van, all OK so he changed the lead that was plugged into the campsite supply unit but it made no difference. I suggested that perhaps the camp supply bollard had tripped but we couldn’t find a reset switch anywhere and couldn’t change to another socket without unplugging someone else’s van. To test if there was a supply coming from the bollard we used an adapter lead to connect my hairdryer to the campsite unit – no power coming through so the fault was with that and not our van (relief!). We found a locked door panel on the side of the bollard which if forced open on one corner we could just see the trip switch inside and it was off – so poked around in it with a stick and managed to re-set it – bingo, we had power restored. Actually we deduced that we may not have actually had power in the first place and was probably the reason for the batteries running down, neither of us checked the panel to see if the 24V light was illuminated when we hooked up, a lesson to be learnt there. The adaptor that we used to check the hook up with was one Tony had found someone had left in the electric hook up bollard on the first campsite we stayed at – one man’s loss was our saviour!
All this was done in the pitch black and freezing cold, when we got sorted we put on the van heating to warm up – memories of English holidays were returning and our plan of visiting Hungary & Czechoslovakia were diminishing fast.
We had spoken at length to several people and they all informed us that in Hungary & Czechoslovakia most campsites close near the end of September and the weather was getting colder every day. Having gone from warm sun & swimming in the sea to being really cold I asked if we could perhaps make our way home via the Italian Venetian Riviera to get what could be the last of some warm weather, luckily Tony agreed. He said we could visit Prague or Budapest by plane for a weekend some other time. Hurrah!!!!!!!!!!!
FRIDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP SLAPIC MREZNICKI BRIG – Nr KARLOVAK
Today we were visiting Plitvice National Park.
Having set the alarm for 7.30am we were up early, freezing cold, and packed away read for an early start. I bought some rolls and made a packed lunch, I had also bought some Snickers bars for extra energy J
We arrived at the park at 8.30am to find that they were already queuing to get in. There were some tour groups behind us and they pushed their way through to get in first (Germans again and Japanese). It was £12 each entry so hoped it would be good, we were not to be disappointed. The National Park has sixteen lakes, inter-connected by a series of waterfalls, and set in deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species. It covers a total area of 300 square kilometres, whilst the lakes join together over a distance of eight kilometres. There are various walks around the park ranging from 2hrs to 8hrs.
We decided on the 6hr one which would take us up to the halfway point, across the lake on the boat and then another walk to highest point with a trip back to the carpark on the park train. The walkways were either very rocky paths or wooden boardwalks across the lakes, very slippery when they got wet.
We had been warned in the literature to ensure we wore appropriate footwear. Now appropriate footwear would be walking boots, trainers or Keens.
Inappropriate footwear would be high heeled espadrilles tied with ribbon at the ankle or flip flops!
For some reason, up high where the air was probably cleaner than 99% of the air anywhere else in the world, we also saw a Japanese girl wearing a paper face mask!!!! Tony reckoned it was because she had bad teeth and didn’t want anyone to see them.
We set off to walk our chosen route only to get caught up in one of the tour groups who were ambling along at about 2mph. We managed to push our way through them and continued our walk around the lower lakes and waterfalls. It really was truly amazing. At each turn we would see another lake and another waterfall more spectacular than the last. Even though we knew it was entirely natural it was as if someone like Disney had built a ‘Waterfall Park’ with everything just as you would expect it to be.
My Snickers was calling “eat me” from my back pack and I was finding it hard to ignore it but I did and all that sound of rushing water had been playing havoc with my bladder albeit only in my mind. After a couple of hours we came to the large lake where the boat crossed the river to the next level. By this time I really was desperate for the loo and was pleased to see one and it was free – they could have charge anything as there was no other option – for women that is – than to use it.
We queued up for the boat. When it arrived there was the usual rush from the back by German’s who don’t do queuing but just push their way to the front, however there was one lady amongst them that pushed them all back and made them wait. “But we are with a tour” one of them shouted, “Well you still have to wait your turn” she replied….and they did…..like naughty school children.
I have to admit that whilst waiting in the queue I gave in and ate my Snickers J
The only downside of this is that I would have to watch Tony eat his laterL
It took 15 minutes to cross the lake where got off the boat and continued on with our walk, more spectacular scenery and lots more waterfall.
We saw some caves which Tony investigated, very brave of him considering there was an information board outside telling of how some long legged spider makes its home in these caves. Given that he is an arachnophobic I don’t think he’d read the sign! He must like caves as here he is trying another one out for size.
At one point Tony stated “I’m getting a bit fed up with all these waterfalls” which, for anyone who knows Tony, is a mega statement as he will travel miles to look at a waterfall! We stopped and had lunch sitting on a bench overlooking one of the lakes and yet another waterfall. Tony also remarked on the complete lack of bears which we had been warned could be lurking in the park, he was really disappointed not to see one, although he said he would keep looking in hope. I said wouldn’t it be funny if in the winter -the park is open all year round- someone came to visit wearing a big fur coat, everyone would think it was a bear!
We got to a fork in the path which we later named ‘confusion point’. There were two signs for two opposite areas of the park but they were both pointing the same way. Everyone was standing around looking at the signs and then looking at their maps to see which way to go. It was really a chance as to which one you took but luckily we took the right one and continued to the top of the park where we caught the road train which took us all the way down and back to the entrance. As we passed ‘confusion point’ there were still people standing around looking at their maps and scratching their heads!
Having completed our walk Tony decided he’d earned a treat…..
As we walked back to the car park I happened to glance at the entrance sign and saw the reason why we hadn’t seen any bears – they are only around between 11pm and 7am!
After paying the car park fee of £7 we set off for Camping Slapic in Mreznicki Brig near Karlovak (how they manage to pronounce all these words without covering you in spit is amazing!) I had read someone’s blog of their Croatian travels and they mentioned staying at this campsite. It is in the countryside next to a river and apparently only a short cycle ride to Karlovak.
We passed loads of people in laybys selling what looked like giant bread rolls or cakes. There were so many of them we deduced they must be more than just ordinary rolls so at the next layby we pulled in and went to investigate. It turned out that they were selling mushrooms – not ordinary mushrooms but huge great things, some were the size of dinner plates. The seller had one box of bright red ones and assured us that they were a big delicacy of the area. Well I don’t know about you but we didn’t fancy trying his ‘red mushrooms’ so declined his offer to purchase some and drove off.
We arrived at 4.30 having travelled on some very narrow country roads. TomTom had told us to turn down a very narrow road which luckily, at the last minute, we had declined to do. On talking to a Swedish chap on the campsite he said he had taken this road with his caravan and had ended up going over a Bailey Bridge, which is a temporary floating bridge that is put over the river. He said he got stuck on it and it was only with the help of some local lads he managed to get off!
We were told to park anywhere we liked so headed for the grass next to the river but saw it was water logged, there was a German van parked on it that was up to its axles in mud (I couldn’t help but hear the slight snigger from Tony when he saw this) so we parked on a hard standing area nearby.
Once again we went to the camp restaurant for tea – this is getting to be a habit, don’t know how I’m going to go back to cooking every night at home! Sitting at the table a couple spoke to us, fellow Brits from Yorkshire. They said they had stopped at this campsite on their way down to Dubrovnik back in May/June and liked it so much they had come back again for 5 days; they didn’t go out, just sat round the van each day. Now the camp site is OK but not that special - it’s in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do so wouldn’t think it was worth a trip all the way from Yorkshire, I could think of better places to go!
We had a nice meal, I had remembered to take the sachets of sauces with me so had mustard & ketchup for our mixed grill plate! We were saying how cold it was in the van when the young couple next to us laughed and said “you want to try staying in a tent then”. Chatting to them it turns out they were from Amsterdam and were spending a couple of days visiting the National Park but were finding it freezing at night sleeping in their tent.
Back to the van we put the heating on. For some reason I was so very tired so watched TV in bed at 8.30pm and soon dropped off to sleep. The only programmes we have been able to get are Malcolm in the Middle and The Big Bang Theory, both with Croatian sub titles. Now Big Bang Theory I can watch but Malcolm in the Middle……………………………………perhaps that’s why I fell asleep so quick!
SATURDAY 22ND SPETEMBER 2012 CAMPING SLAPIC – DUGA RESA (Nr Karlovak)
Today is our 39th wedding anniversary . This time 39 years ago I was eating a smoked salmon & champagne breakfast – today I had toast!
No real plans for today other than hanging out around the van. Tony done a repair to the dashboard (lots of swearing & cursing!) then he washed the outside of the van for the first time since we had been away.
The German van that was up to its axles in mud in the field area was trying to get off with the aid of a tractor but not having much luck. Tony watched for a while but then succumbed and went over with our wheel mats to lend a hand and eventually they managed to move it to another spot on the camp site.
Tony went out on his bike to look at an open air war museum that we had seen on the way in. There were aircraft and tanks used in the 1990’s war and some information about how the area had suffered. He then went into the outskirts of Karlovak but didn’t think much of it so came back. He had a shower and was changing in the van, wearing only his underpants, when the Dutch chap we had been talking to the night before turned up to take Tony’s offer of boiling a kettle of water for him (its quicker than them boiling it on their one ring gas stove!).
Tony invited him to come in and wait whilst the kettle boiled but the chap said he would come back in a few minutes but Tony insisted he come in now and wait whilst the kettle boiled – I think he was a bit worried as to whether Tony was a bit of a pervert and as we sat talking he didn’t know where to look but looked anywhere other than at Tony in his underpants!
That evening we went to the camp restaurant and Tony had squid stuffed with ham & cheese, a peculiar combination but he had seen someone have it the night before and it looked good so thought he’d give it a try and yes it was really good. Not feeling adventurous I had a veal schnitzel. When it came it was the size of a small rug!!!!!! Tony had to eat half of it.
Back at the van we watched TV - Croatia’s Got Talent with their very own Ant & Dec. The acts so bad they were hilarious. About 11pm (10pm UK time) we got the expected phone call from our friends back in the UK who had been to a VP lunch at the rugby club and were now ringing us to say hello – let’s just say they were not sober!
It’s not so cold tonight so we don’t need the heating on thank goodness.
SUNDAY SPETEMBER 23RD 2012 BI-VILLAGECAMPSITE–FANZANA-CROATIA
We paid the Slapic campsite bill – only £25 for 2 nights (thanks to ACSI) and were on our way by 9am. We were heading for Venice to meet up with Jean and Graham for a couple of days but on the way had a change of plan and decided to head for the Croatian Istarska Coast. We had briefly touched this when we first arrived in Croatia but in August it was far too busy for us to contemplate staying there, now however it would be different. We were also hoping for a few more days of sun before we headed north to the colder weather.
On leaving Karlovak we passed through the national park and tony shouted “Bear”. I saw the outline of a brown bear at the side of the road – unfortunately it was a metal one not a real one!! We passed several more of these along the way and from a distance they looked quite real.
We went to Fanzana on the south west coast of the Istarska and booked in at Bi-Village Campsite. It was windy all the way there but when we arrived the sun came out. The campsite was very big with lots of camping areas, chalets and apartments. There were three swimming pools, two of which were shut, and various bars and restaurants around the camp, all of which were shut except one near the beach. There was a supermarket and some shops but hardly anything on their shelves, they were obviously looking to close permanently in a week’s time. They had internet on the site but it was mega expensive - £5.50 for one hour and you could not even log in and out you had to use the whole hour in one block. I remarked to the receptionist how expensive it was and she replied in a very worn voice “yes, but it will change next year”, obviously lots of people had remarked on this and she was fed up with it! Needless to say I did not buy any airtime!
Tony went out on his bike to have a look round the area and see if we could walk into the next town. He came back with a big red mark around his neck – he had cycled back through the campsite and had almost been garrotted by some woman’s washing line which was strung across a tree next to the entrance. He said he gave her a few choice British expletives
As we sat reading outside the van in the afternoon a chap arrived with his caravan, parked in front of us and started to put up his awning – the Tent Tapper is exposed!!
A huge RV arrived and proceeded to park in a space in the middle of a row. I think he wanted this particular pitch to be next to some friends but he had to drive back and forth to fit into it using the vacant site opposite and I wondered how he would get out if anyone parked in the vacant pitch there whilst he was still there?
In the evening we walked along the seafront from the campsite into Fanzana which was a lovely small town with a quayside – fishing boats and excursion boats, it took about ½ hr. We thought about going over to the island we could see in the distance, it was a National Park island. On the quayside we asked about the boats to the island and were told that as it was a National Park we could only go on a tour and had to stay with the guide who would walk us round the things to see – including a safari park! – on the island. We couldn’t get our own ferry and walk round on our own so decided definitely not for us as don’t like to be herded around like sheep!
We ate at a restaurant in one of the back streets of Fanzana and Tony persuaded me to join him in having the fish platter for 2 people. It came and I have to say looked really nice, two whole fish, some sardines, small squids and 2 huge prawns, all for £12. The thing is with these is that they look lovely but by the time you have peeled everything and removed skin & bones there is hardly anything left, especially on the prawns, so it was quite a disappointment and to be honest when we had finished we both still felt hungry!
Walked back to the campsite had a couple of beers and then bed.
MONDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER 2012 BI-VILLAGECAMPSITE–FANZANA-CROATIA
We woke up to find lots of people had either packed up and left or were in the process of doing so. We walked down the seafront, the weather was very cloudy. We decided to cycle into Pula (Pola) using the cycle routes Tony had mapped on his cycle Garmin, we took a map just in case!
We eventually arrived in Pula having done a bit of a detour (thank goodness for the map!) and saw a big Amphitheatre so secured the bikes to a nearby railing and went to have a look at it. We paid the £4 entrance fee and had one audio unit (£2) between us. We walked around mostly ruins and listened to the audio tracks, not very informative really and there were no written things around the site or plans to show how it might have looked when it was first built – there was however an exhibition of Neanderthal man and olive growing which had diddly squat to do with a Roman Amphitheatre! Now days it is used to house concerts and operas and they were in the process of dismantling the stage & seating when we were walking round.
We walked into the old town to find somewhere to have lunch. As we passed a narrow road we looked down it towards the sea and saw a huge ship, one of the biggest I’d ever seen. We walked to have a closer look and saw that what we thought was a harbour was in fact a ship building/refitting area and this ship was in the process of being built; there was another one by its side.
We had lunch and then walked back to the bikes. A loud siren sounded and about five minutes later we were nearly knocked off our feet by lots of men on bikes cycling past, we reasoned that given they work 7am – 3pm the siren was for the end of the days shift and now they were all going home, we were right. We got our bikes and cycled back to the camp site. We had to travel a short way on the main roads before we could turn off, over several roundabouts and a left turn at one busy junction (remember we are driving on the right over here so had to cross several lanes of traffic!) The traffic by now was very hectic with everyone going home from work and whilst Tony had no problems and set off at a great speed I was terrified and at one point refused to go round a busy roundabout instead I walked my cycle across the pedestrian crossings until I got round it to find a very cross Tony waiting for me shouting at me not to be so stupid and to take control of the traffic!! We got lost on the back roads on our way back to the camp and ended up down a dead end road – literally as there was a cemetery with a huge funeral taking place, loud trumpets playing and everything, it was embarrassing when we cycled by and even more so when we had to turn around and cycle back past it all again.
Back at the campsite we stopped at the bar for a well needed beer and an ice cream. As we sat outside the wind got up and it looked like rain was coming so we went back to the van where we stayed for the rest of the evening.
We decided to head for Lake Garda tomorrow so Tony put everything away ready for an early getaway.
TUESDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SIRENA – NOVIGRAD – CROATIA
We awoke to bright sunshine. Tony was reluctant to drive whilst the weather was so good so we decided to head up the coast for 35miles to Novigrad and stay on another campsite there. We needed to get some food so turned off when we saw a sign for Lidl but whilst looking for it we came across a big supermarket called ‘Kaufland’ so decided to go there instead (just in case the Lidl was another invisible Lidl!). It was a very busy supermarket, probably because it was very cheap, so we stocked up on food and I have to admit lots of drink! Tony said he had found some huge mosquito candles and they were only £1 each but I had to explain to him that they were not mozzies candles but candles people lit and left at shrines of dead ones………
We parked on a cliff top at the campsite, the ground was quite muddy and soft as apparently they had had heavy rain the night before yet 35 miles down the road we had not had a drop!
We pulled into a spot right in front of a German van totally blocking their sea view – unfortunately the ground was too soft for our heavy van and we had to move along one pitch, but an hour later someone else arrive and parked there much to the annoyance of the German chap who got out of his chair and started to stomp around.
We had lunch outside, eating lots of the things we bought in the supermarket, then Tony went off to explore on his bike.
It was very windy here on the cliff top but every now & again when the wind died down it got really hot. There was a quarry next to the site and every 30mins or so there was a loud crash as a huge lorry or bulldozer dropped a load of rocks – hope they only work 7-3!
We got talking to a British couple parked nearby who had been here for some time and were heading off tomorrow for home – Yorkshire. They told me of a good route, non-toll roads, through Austria so we could go back that way to Germany without having to buy an Austrian vignette. She assured me it was a good road, not high mountains or winding – this remains to be seen!
In the evening we walked into the small nearby town of Novigrad. The receptionist said it was about 400m along the seafront -- she lied it was about a mile but at least it was a pleasant walk. As we passed a hotel there were a lot of women on the promenade doing a Zumba class with lots of people watching.
Novigrad was another lovely town. We walked around the narrow streets down to the Marina. Lots of choice for where we ate that night but we chose a small restaurant up a side street. Tony fancied Calamari and I fancied spaghetti – I suppose we should have read the menu before sitting down and ordering drinks as neither of these items were on it!
The menu consisted of fish or steaks, nothing else. Tony stated that he was fed up of fish – anyone that knows him will know what an outstanding statement that was! – and was going to have the stuffed steak whatever that was. I plumped for rump steak with pepper sauce, once again having low expectations as neither of us were asked how we would like it cooked. My expectations rose for a moment when our plates were bought and we were given steak knives – this was a first. They rose even higher when the meals arrived and I saw that we had a portion of French mustard on the side of the plate. Well…………my steak was really good, almost as good as Ramons in Spain and Tony’s was excellent and huge, in fact he struggled to eat it all which is another first for him. We decided that this was one of the better meals we had in Croatia, one of the most expensive at £40 but worth the money – pity it turned out to be a German restaurant
We walked back to the van, sat outside for a while with a gin & tonic and then bed.
WEDNESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SIRENA – NOVIGRAD – CROATIA
The work at the quarry starts at 6am!!!!!! Woken up with a sudden noise of trucks dumping rocks. It is also very windy and cloudy this morning and I assumed that we would be moving on but Tony said he wanted to stay another day here, he was sure it would brighten up.
We had breakfast, I had mine in the van whilst Tony had his outside, sitting behind the windbreak he had erected – I think he is trying to prove something!
I looked at the weather forecast and it was turning bad over the next few days in Croatia. Lake Garda was slightly better but still not many sunny days, however at our house in
La Marina in Spain for the next three weeks --
I looked on TomTom to see how far & how long it would take us to get there - 19 hours and 1250 miles! Tempting……
I reasoned with Tony that if we went there now we would save ourselves having to fly out in November when it would be cold & wet to winterise the house but he wasn’t having any of it. He said it was too far to drive. “How about if we went home now and got a flight out?” – NO!
So I am resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to suffer cold & rainy weather for the next few weeks as we make our way home………. If he complains once *!*!*!...........
Talked to another English lady as she was passing our van. Her & her husband were full timing and had just arrived in Croatia and heading down the coast. We told her best of luck with the Bora winds which were almost constant now. I saw the same lady later that afternoon whilst rinsing out some washing and she said she had spoken to another British couple who lived in Slovenia but were here on site with their caravan, they had arranged to meet at the bar at 7pm for sundowner drinks. I said I didn’t think the bar was open? “it’s not”,she said”but we’re going to take our own drinks down and sit at their tables”, so I said we’d join them.
We had steak & kidney pudding for tea with mashed potaotes,peas and Bisto gravy – very wintery & homely, lovely……
At 7pm we duly went to the bar with our bag of drinks and after rearranging the furniture to get away from the ferocious wind we sat there until 1am drinking . Near the end of the night one of the other chaps actually fell asleep in the chair – reminded me of Barry when he’s had a few! Before we went we decided to line up all the empty beer bottles, wine bottles, gin bottles & cans on the bar…………there were quite a few!
THURSDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP BELLA ITALIA – LAKE GARDA
Woke up not feeling too bright – not surprising having consumed 2 bottles of cider, 1 bottle of beer and the majority of a bottle of red wine the night before! Tony wasn’t much better.
We packed away and then headed for Lake Garda some 211 miles away where our friends Jean & Graham were staying. Last time we were there it was in August and it was heaving with people so hopefully it will be a lot quieter this time. We left Croatia and crossed into Slovenia for around 20 miles before crossing into Italy. I remembered that fuel was a lot cheaper in Slovenia so we stopped to fill up. We used the toll roads all the way. Non toll roads were only 50 miles longer but about 4 ½ hours longer so considered it would be worth it. Tony said it was the most boring stretch of road he has ever driven on, there was nothing of any interest on either side of the road the whole way there. We were on it for about 180 miles and was contemplating a toll fee of around 50E but it was only 24E which was a nice surprise.
We arrived at 3pm at Camping Bella Italia. It was a huge site with static caravan and chalets as well as touring camping. It had several restaurants, shops and pools. It was still quite busy with people going & arriving. We parked up in a pitch opposite our friends.
It had rained the night before and where their groundsheet was became very muddy & wet so Graham had asked at reception for them to come and put down some gravel to soak it all up, they had said it would be along later. It was a bit muddy around our van so we didn’t put out the mats etc.. but would wait and put some gravel down first.
We parked up and connected everything up. The pitch was near the lakeside and it was sunny with no wind thank goodness, summer clothes back out of the cupboard and jeans put away!
I had some Kuna left and Graham had told me he changed them at the change desk in reception and bought some internet time so I headed up there to do the same. I gave the receptionist the Kuna and she held one of the notes up to the light, looked at the front and then the back and then said “what is this? Where does it come from?”. I told her it was Croation currency, surley she had seen some before, they must have people from Croatia visit the campsite? She went off to speak to someone else and came back and said they couldn’t change it for me. I got a bit cross and told them that they had changed my friends currency the previous day so why couldn’t they change this now. Once again she went off and spoke to someone who came back out to see me and said they definetly couldn’t change it. I went back to the van and told Graham what had happened. “Hmmm…. “ he said, “Come to think of it it I might have changed it in Venice”…………………………..
Tony had gone out for a look around on his bike and on his way back had called in at reception to ask when the gravel would be coming….this afternoon apparently.
We heard a bugle sounding and a few minutes later a horse & stagecoach cart came by the van. There was this bloke dressed up as a cowboy and he was singing cowboy songs at the top of his voice as he rode by. There were people sitting in the cart. You can go around the campsite in this manner for 3E each, he started about 5pm and he came past our van every ½ hour, always with people in the cart, mostly kids in the front with their parents sitting embarrased in the back! This continued well into the evening, even after it got dark.
Tony cooked tea outside – a concoction of mince rissotto with all sorts thrown in but turned out to be very nice. This would be the first meal he has cooked for me in years – beans on toast for him and BBQ’s do not count as cooking a meal!
After tea we watched the sunset over the lake and then sat in Jean & Grahams caravan for a while with a beer – or in my case a can of coke.
The gravel never arrived and on enquiring Graham was told definetly tomorrow…………
We went back to our van at 9pm, I was very tired so went to bed with a book, Jean had given me some paperbacks that she had read so I had a new supply to read. Tony started watching TV then a singer and guitarist started playing at the restaurant very near to us. They sounded very good so he went to have a look and stayed for quite a while watching them. We could hear them in our van, it was as if they were playing next to us so it was a good job they could sing and play well. At midnight there was a big fireworks display at another campsite just along the lakeside. At 2.30am we were woken by a group of lads going back to their van singing at the tops of their voices.
FRIDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING BELLAITTALIA – PESCHIERA DEL GARDA
Bin men came at 7am so woken early but went back to sleep until 8.30am. When I did get up I went of to get some bread and found a shop selling English newspapers so I bought two – The Sun and The Daily Mail (as I’ve said before – beggars can’t be choosers!).
Tony set off for a long cycle at 9.30am and Graham borrowed Tony’s second bike and went out for a couple of hours. I spent the morning reading the papers & my book, writing my blog & chatting to Jean. The weather was overcast but when the clouds cleared it was really quite hot. Graham came back having called in at reception to see where the elusive gravel was, he was told maintenance was at lunch and he was to come back at 1pm. When he went back he spoke to the manager who assured him that he would ensure that the gravel came this afternoon – it’s got to be a big joke now with the vans around us as well………both Tony & Graham keep calling in at reception knowing full well that they have no intention of bringing any gravel to put over the mud but are just humouring us until we leave the site! Graham gave up waiting and as we were expecting rain tonight he went and bought a plastic taupaulin which he put down first and then put his groundsheet on top of that.
I was checking on ferries home and found if I booked through the caravan & camping club site I could get a ferry from Holland to Harwich for £2 less than the Calais to Dover one so we may go that way home.
It got to 3.30pm and Tony had not appeared, I was getting a bit worried so I phoned him – he was sitting in a café having a coffee about 10 miles up the road having cycled all 105 miles around Lake Garda.
We had a BBQ outside the van early evening with Jean & Graham and I was just remarking that we hadn’t seen Cowboy Joe today when his bugle rang out signifying that he was open for business. I was determined to get a photo of him as he went past, which I did. Later in the evening he came down the avenue that we were parked in and I took another one, he stopped the horses at our table, they were really big and eyeing up the BBQ on the table, Cowboy Joe was eyeing up a bottle of beer! He went round the site until 9pm and all the time he was blowing his bugle and his passengers were singing “Country Roads” by John Denver.
We sat outside drinking until very late.
SATURDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING BELLAITTALIA – PESCHIERA DEL GARDA
Woke up this morning to rain. It stopped for a while , Jean & Graham went off on the bus to Verona for the day. Whilst they were gone Tony gathered up a small bucket full of the gravel from the surrounding pitches and put it outside Grahams awning door. We decided to walk into the town so hauled out the rain coats and walked along the promenade, we hadn’t gone far when the drizzle started again. We found a fishing museum in the town and as it was free to go in we spent some time looking round it, it was quite interesting actually. We then walked around a few shops but they were mega expensive. The rain became torential so we sat in a restaurant and had a bowl of ministrone soup that cost 6E and I’m sure was a tin of Heinz vegetable soup! We walked back to the van to watch TV and read and listen to the rain on the camper roof!!!!!!!!
When Graham came back from Verona Tony told him the maintenance chap had come and delivered the gravel he had asked for and it was the small pile outside his door. He laughed when he saw it and as one of the other campers walked by he remarked that this was all they had left. He said he was going to have a word with the office so Tony had to own own up to the joke!
We sat in the van and had cakes and tea and chatting for a while and then decided that this evening we would go to the camp site restaurant for a meal, a chance to glam up a bit for a change!
It continued raining most of the day and looking at the forcast for the area we will be traveling in it’s going to be pretty much bad weather for the next three weeks journey home.
The weather in Spain is still looking good so we are seriously considering going straight home and getting a flight out to Spain. We will make up our mind tonight.
SATURDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP BANJA – SLANO – CROATIA
Today was always going to be a hard day emotionally. One of our good friends daughter is getting married today and all us friends would have been together for the whole day except we would now be missing. Kept thinking during the day what would be happening at that time..
I had forgotten to say that whilst we were walking round Dubrivnik we saw some street performers, one of them was covered in gold paint like a statue and he was the spitting image of Peter Dalby – to a T! I took a photo to upload when we next get internet it was so funny.
Anyway we left Dubrovnik having paid our campsite bill of £68 for 2 nights (the most expensive yet!) and headed back to the island of Peljsec to catch the ferry back to northern Croatia. On the way Tony was remarking that the Croatian drivers, denoted by the HR sign on the back of their vehicles, were the worst drivers he had ever come across. Just as he said it we were overtaken on a blind bend on the mountainous road with a sheer drop at the side by a bloody great coach – you’ve guessed it HR on the back!
Further up the road I was looking down at the coastline and the small bays and saw a lot of campervans parked up so we turned around and went back to the town, Slano. There was a sign to the Autokamp but up a narrow road along the seafront so Tony got out the bike and cycled up it to see what was there and if we would be able to get to it. He came back and said it was a lovely campsite set amongst the olive groves and although the road was very narrow he thought we could make it so off we went. The road, in parts, was almost a one car track and had we not known that there was indeed a campsite ,with campervans parked on it, at the end then we may well have tried to turn around and go back!
There were actually two campsites – the first one you came across was like someone’s back yard and vans were crammed in with hardly any space between them but Tony had found one 50 mtrs up the road, Autokamp Banja, which is the one we went to. This site was lovely and spacious, olive, apple & fig trees covered the site with the vans parked in between them. It was 120kn a night including electricity (£13). We found our way up the path to the old house to book in, there was a lovely lady there and a very old gentleman who I think was her father, he came and got us settled in and connected us up to the electric. Neither of them could speak English.
We immediately got attacked by mozzies and this was to be a bit of a problem but we got used to it and think they got fed up with us as every new van came in…fresh meat!
Just in front of the campsite was the sea with a stony beach. There was a small fisherman’s hut, some jetty’s and a boat launching slope which you could also use to get into the sea. The water was crystal clear, as it was everywhere we had been in Croatia. We went for a swim and then Tony went out in his Kayak. He decided to set up his fish trap and placed it, with some bread in it, near some traps that the locals had put down, hopeful that it would be full of fish by the morning.
Back at the van we heard the tent tapper although could not actually see anyone…..
We relaxed around the van for the rest of the afternoon and were just getting ready to go into the town for a meal when our friends rang from the UK. They were at the wedding reception, obviously having partaken of some champagne and sang us a song over the phone. We then had a few words with each of them in turn, all said they were missing us which was nice, Kath then remarked on how much this was costing her on her phone bill and I told her that it wasn’t only costing her it was also costing me 75p a minute to receive, it was worth it however just to speak to everyone, made me feel a bit homesick though but I knew I would get over it.
We cycled along the seafront into the town in the evening for a meal. The town is very small, only a couple of restaurants and two bars. There is a lovely hotel, The Atlantic, and we had a walk around it. It was nothing like the last hotel we walked around, this one was all smoked glass, infinity pools and posh furniture. There is a small port area with 2 large fishing boats (trawlers) a small cruise ship (Katarina-line.com) and two smaller power boats all moored up. We watched as a group of English travellers arrived to board the cruise ship, judging by their clothes they had obviously just been picked up from Dubrovnik airport.
We had dinner at one of the restaurants – I had veal steak which was lovely, thank goodness. I asked for a glass of red wine but we got a carafe so a bit more than anticipated. After we had finished Tony put all the left over bread from the meal into my handbag so he could use it for his fish trap tomorrow – it’s probably on CCTV somewhere!
We then went and sat at the bar on the quayside for a drink. There was a couple sitting at the next table to us and the waiter came and asked them what they wanted to drink – he said “a beer” and she said, in a broad Scottish accent, “a Cherry Brandy”. Well the waiter had obviously never heard of Cherry Brandy let alone understood her accent and just looked at her and made a sound like “Que?” – just like Manuel in Fawlty Towers J After several attempts she gave up and had an orange juice.
Hearing them speak English, albeit in a Scottish accent, we got talking to them and they told us they were staying at the Atlantic Hotel and had come out to get away from the awful cabaret singers. They said it was a very nice place, usually really quiet and peaceful. Tony was telling them all about his fish trap and I was laughing about bring the bread away from the restaurant when the woman suddenly reached into her handbag and bought out some bread that she had taken from their evening meal to feed the ducks with – she gave it to Tony like she was giving him the crown jewels. My handbag was now bulging with bread!
After a few more (really strong) drinks we cycled back to the campsite…. Can you get done for being drunk on a bike?
SUNDAY 9TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP BANJA – SLANO – CROATIA
Lovely and sunny today, we haven’t had any rain or high winds for ages thank goodness. We are getting a bit relaxed about leaving things out overnight and I have a feeling this is going to catch us out!
Tony was up early to check his fish traps but came back disappointed – there were only two tiddlers in it and when he tried to get them out one of them bit his finger. He reset it and would check it again later.
The other residents of the campsite are a mixed bunch but there are a few Germans and they have been very nice. They have made the effort to chat to us, especially Tony when he goes off fishing. There is one dog (Lilly) and two cats staying in campers. The cats are on long leads and keep glaring at each other across the pitches whilst the dog thinks it hilarious to stand just out of reach and bark at the cats.
After breakfast outside Tony went off on his bike to explore and I took my chair and book to the beach. Spent most of the day down there it was so nice. I could hear this loud disco music that sounded like it was really close but it turned out to be coming from a large hotel across the other side of the bay. Tony happened to be cycling nearby to it when it started and said they were having Aqua Aerobics in the sea, the music was so loud it was distorted and no one could hear the instructor. Throughout the day we could hear various announcements from a woman calling people to events that were going on – just like Ruth Maddox in Hi-de-Hi.
Tony had said he wanted to get some small crabs, like hermit crabs, to use as bait for fishing and I told him I had seen loads all in one spot so he went to get them only to be chastised by a German woman nearby as she had been collecting them from all over and putting them in that spot for her own fishing bait! He managed to pinch a few though and then gathered some of his own.
I was back at the van snoozing in the reclining chair when I heard what I thought was the tent tapper but it turned out to be Tony, having returned he was smashing the crab shells he had collected between two rocks to get the small crabs out ready to use for fishing bait in the morning.
Surprisingly, after a day of doing nothing, we were quite tired by the time the evening came so I made macaroni cheese for tea we then wandered down to the shore and watched two small fishing boats go out with huge lights on the front of them presumably to attract fish & squid, they didn’t go very far out, quite near Tony’s fish traps actually so he was quite hopeful for the morning. Back at the van we watched the film ‘Madagascar’ (Tony’s review = what a load of rubbish!) before we went to bed. It was a lot cooler tonight so had a thin blanket on the bed as well as the sheet. Lying in bed we could hear a woman cabaret singer from the Atlantic hotel and some loud disco music from the hotel across the bay, both competing to see who was the loudest.
MONDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP BANJA – SLANO – CROATIA
Tony up early again to check fish trap – still no fish so he was really disappointed and bought it in. Don’t know what he is doing wrong so decide we need to look up some information on the internet.
We had breakfast outside and then Tony said he was going fishing with his rod. I said I would quite like to have a go so he fixed up the second rod and I went with him. He was using the small crabs as bait but they kept falling off my hook so I went back to the van and got some salami. It stayed on and I could feel and see the fish nibbling at the end, sometimes quite fiercely, but none of them actually took the hook. I had a great time, got quite good at casting – I can cast up to around 25mtr on my own now. I could easily get hooked on this – excuse the pun!
We fished until around 12.30pm then Tony got fed up so he went off in his canoe whilst I stayed & fished alone for another hour. We cycled into the town for lunch and to look at the internet to see how to set up the fish traps. Apparently you need a net to put the bait into before you put it in the trap and need to use fish or fish guts not bread!
We had an ice-cream and a few beers at the quayside bar – no sign of the ‘cherry brandy’ couple – although there was another cruise ship in dock from the same company. As we sat at the bar several couples came and went from the ship, they were all quite old so Tony deduced it must be a ‘Saga Ship’. (Perhaps I should remind him that he is now 61 and could quite easily be a Saga customer!)
Back at the van we had a swim and then Tony got taking to a Croatian chap on the shore. It turned out that he was the nephew of the campsite owner and had grown up in the town before moving to Germany later in life. He now spends 6months in Slano, in his apartment and then goes back to Germany for the winter. He said his father used to be the mayor of the town but today it was mainly a holiday resort with apartments and the two hotels although it was never really busy just ticking along. He told Tony all about the town, how all the buildings were mostly destroyed in the war and had to be re-built, how the Serbs had occupied the high mountain at the back of the town and from there bombarded Dubrovnik. He said the large hotel on the far side of the bay used to be a hotel that the communist workers were sent to for holidays in General Tito’s rule but had changed hands several times since then. He explained that the fishermen, whose hut was on the shore in front of the campsite, were the last in the line of local fishermen. They had other jobs, one was a policeman the other a teacher, and only fished a few hours every night. They used to sell their fish locally but there was no call for it anymore and he didn’t expect them to continue fishing for much longer.
We both had a snooze – the effects of drinking beer in the afternoon – and then on waking at 7pm made a cup of tea which we took down to the shore to watch the sunset. Looking in the water Tony saw an octopus, quite large, hiding under a rock by the jetty. He went back to get a torch, gloves and a big stick to poke him out thinking he could use it as bait but he just couldn’t get hold of it. It wasn’t that it was particularly quick to swim away just very agile at avoiding Tony’s grip. When it was just sitting by the rock I was shining the torch over him , it was just looking up at me with these two big eyes on top of its head, it looked almost cartoon like.
We sat outside the van playing scrabble on the ipad until quite late, listening to the music from the hotel across the bay – they were actually playing The Hokey Cokey at one point and finished up with Nessun Dorma.
We had planned to move on tomorrow but it is so nice here we have decided to stay another day. Tony has more info on fish traps now and wants to give it another go and I’d quite like to have another go at fishing!
TUESDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP BANJA – SLANO – CROATIA
We were woken up at 3.30am by what I thought was a campervan leaving the site but later realised must have been the fishermen going home.
Some vans had gone by the time we were up and some others were arriving. There was an argument going on between the site owner and one of the German vans that had been here for a few days because he had parked his trailer next to his van thus using 2 pitches and one of the vans that had just arrived wanted to park there. After a lot of raised voices and shaking of hands he moved the trailer. This chap uses the trailer for his big yellow quad bike, he must be 80 years old at least and there are two helmets so presumable his wife goes on it with him although I have to say since we have been here I’ve never seen him on it.
Tony cycled into town to see if the local supermarket had any fish he could use as bait. I knew they didn’t have fresh fish but presumably they would have some frozen. He returned with a carrier bag of stinking fish and fish guts that he got from the fishing trawlers, he had arrived just as they were having a clear out and they gave him loads that they would have been chucking away. Happy as Larry he set up his trap and then took it out to lay it.
One of the vans that just arrived and parked next to us has a big white cat with them, it’s tied to a tree on a long lead – hope he doesn’t get a whiff of Tony’s fish bait that he’s got in a bucket at the back of the van!
After laying his fish trap Tony went off in his kayak with his rod to fish further out in the bay. I took my chair & book down to the beach and also took my binoculars so I could see how he was getting on. Whenever I looked he just seemed to be sitting there holding the rod. The current was bringing him towards the shore so every now & again he had to paddle back out to sea. Surprisingly he was out there for about three hours before he gave in and came back, picking up his fish trap on the way. No fish what so ever, either from fishing or in his trap. It’s becoming quite a camp joke as Tony has to walk past everyone when he comes back from fishing, empty handed and they all make a big thing of asking him, tongue in cheek, how many he has caught.
We packed away most of our things leaving the bikes out to cycle into town in the evening but after having a few beers and watching the sunset we couldn’t be bothered so had tea in the van, played scrabble by candlelight outside before going to bed around 10pm.
WEDNESDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING STOBREC - CROATIA
Awoken very early by the bin men again – it’s only a very small place but they seem to come every day. So, up at 7.30 we had breakfast and packed away the last remaining things and went to the house to pay.
We saw the old man, who didn’t speak any English, and he calculated how much we had to pay for the four nights we had been there. He asked us – in Croatian – if we had a dog? We couldn’t understand what he was saying and so he drew a picture of a dog on a piece of paper, we all laughed about his picture. He wanted to know where in the UK we lived and drew an map of the UK with London on it and gave me the pen to put where we lived. We gave him a pack of Shortbread biscuits we had and he said “souvenir, souvenir, thank you, thank you” – I hope that they eat them and don’t put them on show somewhere.
Back to the van we were saying goodbye to the other residents when the old man came running out from the house waving our passports in his hand – with all the talking I had forgotten to pick them up from him. Every campsite that we go to keep our passports until we leave and I have always had this worry that one time we would drive off without them!
After much deliberation as to whether we should risk driving through Bosnia without insurance we decided not to take the risk and go back the way we came by ferry. Not knowing what the consequences would be if we got stopped we decided the £35 ferry trip, which was quite pleasant around the islands, was worth it. We stopped in Ston to get some fresh bread and on the way back to the van we passed a barbers shop with a female hairdresser so I popped in and asked her to cut my fringe (it had grown so long it was really annoying me!) she was very meticulous and charged me 50p. We arrived in Trpanj just as the ferry was loading so went straight on and one and a quarter hours later alighted at Ploce on the mainland.
Driving along Tony said that the clutch was slipping badly. Unbeknown to me he had been nursing it the last couple of weeks but didn’t think it was going to last much longer as it was getting worse rapidly. We stopped in Omis in a car park – Yes THAT car park – and phoned the AA breakdown recovery policy that we had for help. I was on the phone to them for ages and they told me that all they could do was assist us in finding a garage that could do the repair and if necessary recover us there. As we were over 3500kg we were not entitled to accommodation costs whilst the repair was being carried out, if we had been less than 3500kg then they would have paid for a hotel! What difference the weight of the vehicle makes to why they can’t provide accommodation costs I don’t know. I explained that we could just about still drive the vehicle so would head for Split and she should phone back with the garage details. About ½ hr. later I got a phone call from some Croatian chap asking me where we were as he would come and recover the van to a garage. I explained all over again that we did not need recovery, just the details of a garage; he said he would speak to the AA in the UK and they would ring me. God knows what my phone bill is going to be!
We arrived at Camping Stobrec about 2km outside Split and booked in for the night. We told the receptionist about our clutch and he said there was a small garage just round the corner so we parked up and then walked to see if they could help. Turns out it’s a small 2 man garage, well 1 man and his daughter actually but she does repair the vehicles as well as do the office. She says they can do the job but couldn’t give us a price or say when as all her suppliers were now shut so we should come back in the morning.
Walking back to the van I got a text from 3 saying I was near the credit limit on my phone so I need to call and sort it out before using it again. I called and they told me my bill was up to £120!!!!! They raised the limit to £160. I have not been using the internet so it’s all calls and texts apparently £1.40 a min for calls and 90p a min to receive them – I worked out that the calls to the AA cost me about £40!
Back to the van and had BBQ tea quickly realising, as we were sitting outside, that we were on the main drag for people walking to leave the campsite to go out for the night and we were hoping that they wouldn’t be too late or too noisy when they returned later.
Tony says he heard a German chap calling his dog to heel and its name was “Auschwitz” – I said he must have heard wrong as no one would call their dog that but he’s adamant that’s what he called it!
Tony got talking to the elderly German couple in the next van that had just come in from a swim and were trying to wash themselves down with cups of water from the tap. He asked them why they didn’t shower on the beach and they said you have to pay for them. Tony got out his ‘bubble wash’ – a hand pump spray – and sprayed them down which they thought was hilarious.
They said they do a lot of swimming and this was the worst place they had been to in that the water was very cloudy and very weedy. That’s me not going in then – can’t stand weed around my feet.
We had a walk along the promenade into the small town, stopped at a bar and had a couple of beers before going back to the campsite and bed. Luckily no noise from the people retuning home and walking past our van.
THURSDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING STOBREC - CROATIA
Woken by heavy thunder, lightning and rain this morning. Glad we had put everything away last night.
Tony went to the garage with the van details and came back saying that they could do the job tomorrow and the cost was £500 cash. Got to be done, we have no other option. They wanted him to take the van to the garage to check it would fit in the workshop and the old boy wanted to diagnose for himself that the clutch needed doing. We secured everything and drove there as asked and he agreed with Tony’s diagnosis. We were to take the van in at 8am tomorrow morning and hopefully they would be able to do it in one day, if not they said we can sleep in the van at their garage – don’t think I fancy that so let’s keep fingers crossed it’s done in one day.
Took the van back to the campsite and we booked in for a further night.
A British chap stopped by the van to chat with Tony. He was staying at a campsite a bit further north and was looking at other campsites in the area.
Tony went out on his bike for a look around the local town, a few minutes after he left it started raining!
I done some washing & tidied the van. We went to the camp restaurant in the evening. Tony had a pizza – they do two sizes normal & large, thank goodness he had the normal one as we were told later that the large one is so big they have to bring another table to put it on!
I had lasagne but the sauce was so runny it was more like a pasta soup – I had to ask for a spoon to eat it with.
Back at the van we packed everything away ready for an early move to be at the garage for 8am.
FRIDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER 2012 OMIS CAR PARK
We checked out of the campsite and arrived at the garage with the van for 8am to be met by the old chap who would be doing the job. He insisted on Tony having a glass of schnapps and said that he always had one before starting work Tony managed to manoeuvre the van into his workshop with inches to spare each side and on top.
We caught the bus into Split. The bus was a really old one, worse than any we had been on in Vietnam and, presumably as it was 8.30, it went all around the local industrial estate dropping people off at work before heading into Split some 30 minutes away.
We got off the bus and it started to rain and continued to do so for most of the day.
We looked around the vegetable market, there were people who had just a few vegetables for sale on a table, as if they had just dug them up from their garden and bought them along to sell. There was also a lot of homemade cheese and I bought a big round of creamy goat’s cheese – it was lovely. We then walked through the rest of the market, bought Tony some socks as his feet were soaking wet already. We found ourselves on the main seafront area so we had coffee and bacon & eggs which was surprisingly good – at least we were in the dry.
After looking round the Marina & large ferry terminal we ventured into Split old town which consisted of a lot of narrow streets and old buildings in a very small area. It was now 12.15, we had seen most of the things to see in the centre of town and we still had loads of time to kill so we got the tourist bus which went around the outer areas of the town for a period of 1 ½ hours.
3.15pm and we were back in the old town, seen & done everything so we decided to go back to the campsite and sit in the bar until 5.30pm when we were due to go back to collect the van. It had rained all day, everywhere was flooded and everybody was soaking wet. We had a coffee and made it last for an hour and a half whilst reading & waiting.
5.30pm thank goodness and we made our way back to the garage, hopeful as we hadn’t had any phone call to tell of any problems, that the van would be finished. It wasn’t….. The part only arrived late afternoon and they hadn’t finished putting it back together. Anticipating having to get a hotel room for the night Tony asked when we would be able to collect it and they said they would work until it was finished and that should be around 8pm tonight!
We walked along the seafront of Stobrec in a half hour dry spell and then sat & had a drink in a bar. The bar had free internet so I logged on & checked emails etc... I had contact from our friends in MotorHomeFun, Jean & Graham, who were asking where we were on our travels as they were at Camping Stobrec with another club member who had been asking about us. We couldn’t believe it as this was the same campsite we were on and they had been there for a couple of days without us seeing them! We drunk up and walked to their caravan to meet them. We stayed chatting until 8pm when we went back to pick up the, hopefully, finished motorhome.
Yep, it was all done although hadn’t been road tested as the old boy didn’t want to drive it as it was so big. We paid the bill and after another compulsorily glass of schnapps Tony manoeuvred the van out of the garage, very gingerly due to also having consumed a couple of beers at Jean & Grahams and we set off up the road to make sure all was ok. It seemed to be Ok but he wanted to test it on some hilly roads so went south past Omis where we knew it would be hilly. Unfortunately the road was very narrow & winding, we couldn’t find anywhere to turn around to come back and ended up travelling 20 miles before we found a place. It was 9.50 when we got back to Omis, some 15 miles until Stobrec and we knew the latest time we could re-book in at the campsite was 10pm so reluctantly, on my part, we made the decision to park for the night in the Omis Car Park (this car park is going to haunt me forever!!).
SATURDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER 2012 STOBREC CAMPING – STOBREC
Woke up to a nice sunny morning. Just having a cup of tea when Jean & graham turned up in the car park, they were out for the day.
We drove to Camping Stobrec and booked in for two nights feeling that we needed a relaxing few days to get over the stress of the last few days.
We had a clean out and put everything that was wet or damp out to dry. Mike (Gozomike) dropped by to say hello.
There was an elderly gentleman behind us who came over to talk to Tony, his first words were “excuse me, I don’t want to interrupt but……” and then he went on to chat about our van & where we had been. He was there for ages before he went back to his van. Tony went out on his canoe up the river next to the campsite, he saw loads of trout and was tempted to put out his fish net but managed to resist. Graham took us to the local supermarket in the afternoon in his car, one benefit of being in a caravan! We got a lot of supplies including some fresh fish to BBQ, some pickled octopus and some more beer, bottles instead of cans as they were so much cheaper. What we didn’t realise until we got to the checkout is that there was a 15p deposit on each bottle (we had bought 24 of them) so would have to keep them to return. Not too bad we thought as we could take them back to the camp supermarket.
We had tea then jean & graham came round in the evening & we sat outside. Whilst we were sitting talking the old boy from the van behind came over with “excuse me, I don’t want to interrupt but……” He stayed for absolutely ages talking about vans, houses, where they had been etc… we thought he’d never go. Sat outside until 11.30pm – the latest we had been up yet.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 16TH 2012 STOBREC CAMPING – STOBREC
Tony went out on his bike first thing whilst I sorted van. When I got up I looked out of the window and there was a group of 5 bikers camped next to us. They were all sitting on tree stumps around small stove boiling water; they looked like a group of pixies.
I had taken off the memory foam mattress topper from the bed as Tony reckoned he was not sleeping well with it. It made no difference to him but my back was bad sleeping on the hard van mattresses so I put it back on – no mean feat humping that thing around in the van I can tell you and I felt like I had done 10 rounds with Ali by the time I’d finished.
An English chap, looked late 60’s early 70’s, came to the van to ask about crossing Bosnia to go to Dubrovnik, he had heard that we had gone and wanted to know how we got on. I got out the maps and told him all about the islands and our trip. He was in a car with a tent so it may have been easier for him to get away with crossing the Bosnian stretch than us in our van but he said he liked the idea of the ferry crossing and seeing the island so would probably go that way. He and his wife spent most of the year travelling around and staying in their tent. He had been to Hungary and Czechoslovakia and said although it was very nice it was also very basic, especially Hungary, the sanitation was not good, also the campsites closed on 30th September and it would be quite hard for us to find somewhere to stay. Having just had a couple of cold, wet days, I was already going off the thought of Budapest & Prague thinking we would save this for another trip during the summer months and he had just confirmed my thoughts.
After he had gone I was just setting off to put the bedding in the camp washing machines when I heard a voice “excuse me, I don’t want to interrupt but……” yes it was him. We had been talking the previous night about downsizing our van and he said come and look in his van to get some idea of what it was like. I went & looked, got talking to his wife (who seemed very normal-poor woman) and then he said to her “come and have a look in their van” so they both came back to our van & went inside. After about 15 mins I managed to break away and set off for the laundry. He came and walked with me to the WC block, chatting all the way. I told him about the Tent chap asking about Bosnia on the way and he said he had seen a Brit with a tent and it was probably the same chap. Anyway, nearing the toilet block he suddenly veered off into the tented area, sought out the British chap and I could hear “excuse me, I don’t want to interrupt but……” so I left them to it & escaped.
We went swimming in the afternoon, met Jean & Graham (who had borrowed Tony’s LiLo) on the beach so sat & chatted. We decided to go to the camp restaurant for dinner that evening. We arrived at 8pm, Jean & Graham were already there but greeted us with the news that the camp cook had gone sick & the restaurant was closed! However, Graham drove us in his car to the town and we had a really lovely meal in a restaurant there before going back to their caravan for a nightcap.
I found out that if I wanted to take back the empty beer bottles for a deposit refund I had to produce the receipt so that put paid to my plans – would just have to put them next to the bottle bank and I’m sure some local person will pick them up & return them. There are loads of people walking round all the time collecting plastic & glass so there must be money in it!
MONDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SOLARIS Nr SIBENIK
This morning saw us packing up and moving off to Sibenik. I was quite sorry to go and had felt that the last few days we had really had a good time thanks to the company of Jean & Graham. Hadn’t seen a lot of Mike though we did have a group photo on the beach before we went.
As we were packing up the bikers were boiling a billycan of water for 5 cups of tea, we boiled our electric kettle and took it round to them and also let one of the girls used my computer to check her emails & facebook.
We drove to Trogir with the aim to find a campsite and then look around the old town. On driving through we found a parking area – just a fenced off compund really – 5 mins walk from the town which had a camper sign saying parking 24hr 80KN (£8.50). There was no one in the booth to pay but there were three other campers there so we parked up and walked into the old town. It was very pretty & historic with the usual churches & forts. We paid £3.50 to look around the central church and Tony climbed the tower for the view over the city. I couldn’t face it as the stairs looked very narrow, steep & enclosed and I am not good with heights anyway. He said the stairs got narrower as he went up and at one point he almost had to climb through some spiral metalwork but it was worth it for the view.
We had finished in Trogir at 3pm so decided rather than stay there we would move on to Sibenik to Camping Solaris which had been recommended to us. When we got back to the parking lot the chap was there and we had to pay £3 for parking which was very reasonable considering the town car parks charged £4.50 per hour. He also said that campervans can park overnight in the compound for £8.50 – a bargain! We arrived at Camping Solaris about 3.45 and looked around. It was a lovely campsite belonging to a group of hotels in a complex with a swimming pool on the beach, restaurants and bars all between. We picked a site amongst the pine trees which happened to be next to a British van. We parked up and went for a swim.
When we got back to the van the chap next door drew up and said “hello – remember me?”, it was the chap who had stopped & talked to Tony in the Stobrec campsite asking what it was like as he was thinking of moving there. Small world!
He came and sat with us outside the van for a drink bringing with him a bottle of the local champagne which was very nice!
He has been full timing in his van for the last 5 years having retired from the army at 47 years old. He has been on this campsite for 3 weeks as it is so nice. He has a motorbike so he can go out from the camp shopping or sightseeing whenever he wants. He left at 8pm as he was going to have dinner with a couple further up the site.
We had tea, some local stew that I had bought from the supermarket delicatessen and whilst it was cooking Tony got talking to a Dutch couple in the van behind us and they invited us over for a drink after we had eaten and we sat outside talking to them until it got dark.
They were complaining about a German van that had pulled up in front of them blocking their view, it seems not many other nationalities like the Germans!!
There is a small train that travels around the resort from the big hotels at one end of the resort down to the campsite & back. When it comes past tooting its horn with the passengers inside I feel like the campsite area is akin to the slum area of the resort and any minute the people on board will throw out some stale bread from the train and everyone will scrabble to get it…. Maybe we’ll have a go on it and visit the posh end of town.
TUESDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMPING SOLARIS Nr SIBENIK
Woke up to a lovely sunny day. Jimmy was doing his 30mins exercise next door on his punch bag which he has hanging from the tree. He joked that he should have a swastika on it then he would hit it harder.
Tony went off to cycle round the camp, he was gone ages and came back saying the hotels and amenities were really good. The camp staff were busy raking up all the pine needles from the trees, leaving them in small piles for the lorry to come round later to collect.
I looked at the boat trip round the Island National park but it was a 9hr day, cost 57E which included lunch, drinks, transfers & boat trip. When I asked how much time was spent in the boat going around the islands she said 1 ½ hrs! It sounded like a real touristy trip so think we may make our own way there & try to get a boat.
SUNDAY 25TH AUGUST 2012 KAMP PUSCA – KRK ISLAND
Tony went out cycling first thing. I sat writing my blog with the fan blowing onto me and then done a bit of hand washing. There is internet in the campsite but you have to pay for it. My computer said I was connected to it even though I hadn’t paid so checked my emails but when I went to navigate to another site it kept asking me for a password. So I can read and send emails but nothing else but that’s ok then suddenly around 12 midday it goes altogether.
An American chap stopped when passing and was asking about out travels. He retired from the army when he was stationed in Germany and married a German girl and lived there ever since – some 25 years, his accent was still really strong. He had been on the campsite for a while and said it was definitely less busy this week.
I started to feel a bit better in the afternoon so went for a swim with Tony and his lilo then he went off in his kayak taking his fishing gear with him to catch some fish for tea. Everybody here is fishing and catching lots so he’s very hopeful. As we are on electric hook-up (included) I get out the Remoska cooker and do some baked potatoes which actually turn out very well. Tony returns a couple of hours later – no fish so it’s a good job I defrosted some meat just in case!
After tea we sat outside the van with the candles admiring the view when 3 German vans pulled up onto the shore line and parked right in front of us and the Slovenian family camped next door so all we could see was the back of their vans. One of the German chaps got out and looked at both of us and put both thumbs up and said “OK?” – I won’t tell you what Tony said but it wasn’t pleasant and the German chap just shrugged his shoulders and walked away continuing to set up his van. I had to almost physically restrain Tony from going and having a go at him. They then all sat outside their vans talking and laughing until around 12.30 that night.
SUNDAY 26TH AUGUST 2012 CAMP PUSCA – KRK ISLAND
We were woken up early by lots of people moving off including the Slovakian family in the tent next door – they obviously got fed up of looking at the back of the Germans caravan but little did they know , he done them a favour!
Tony went off in his kayak at 8am, I tidied the van and then read for a while until he came back. We could hear thunder in the distance and it looked like storm clouds were approaching so Tony decided to be on the safe side and put the awning away and when it got really quite dark he put everything else in the garage just to be on the safe side. Suddenly at mid-day the storm hit, huge gusts of winds appeared from no-where and whipped through the campsite. People were trying to wind in their awnings, chairs, towels & cushions were being blown across the campsite. Those in tents were desperately trying to keep everything together and keep it dry. The Germans in the vans in front of us had gone out in their cars and hurriedly returned only to find their awning had been ripped out and was flapping around over the top of their van……..
The sea became really rough and all the little boats were bobbing around like crazy, they had to come and take some of the bigger boats out to sea to stop them hitting the jetty.
The thunder, lightning & heavy rains continued until around 3.30pm. We sat inside the van thinking that it was just like when we go away in England!
When the storm had passed and the rain stopped then the mopping up started – especially for those people in tents. The red dust of the campsite had now turned to red mud.
After clearing up and having showers we decided to go to the campsite restaurant for tea. It specialised in sea food so Tony had a Tuna steak and was asked how he wanted it cooked – raw, med or well done – never been asked that before, anyway he said it was the best tuna he’d ever had. I had prawn risotto which was very fresh. The owner of the campsite was eating in the restaurant with his family. Tony had spoken to him earlier in the day and he had told him that he was a passenger on The Concordia ship when it sunk. There were newspaper cuttings and photos all around the walls of the restaurant showing him & his family wearing their lifejackets – it was a bit weird, like some photographer was waiting on the shore to take the survivor’s pictures and then sell to them like you would at a theme park! There were also what looked like citation certificates and Tony thought the chap had been trying to tell him that he had carried out some sort of rescue but as he couldn’t talk couldn’t be sure. There were also loads of pictures of fishermen with big fish that they had caught.
Back to bed, just as it started raining again. Another storm hit, just as fierce if not worse than the one this afternoon. I lay in bed with the van rocking so fiercely I thought it was going to flip over – very frightening and also making my stomach feel wobbly, like I was sea sick. I just wanted to get to sleep but it was impossible. We looked out of the windows at those people in their tents and were only grateful that it wasn’t us!
MONDAY 27TH AUGUST 2012 SENJ – CROATIA MAINLAND
Up early to leave and travel to the mainland.
People were clearing up after the storms of last night.
We paid the bill, more than we thought as apparently the 25% discount we agreed is not on the taxes or booking in fee. It came to 878kn (£23 per night) which considering the few facilities on the site was quite a lot.
We stopped at Lidl en route to stock up. I bought some bathroom scales which were on offer as I was convinced I must have put on loads of weight and wanted to check – and they were cheap anyway.
We drove down the coast to Senj where we found an AutoKamp – a small camping site that takes around 20 vans max, some only take 5. It was right on a small promenade and we managed to squeeze into a plot at the end overlooking the sea. There was a German van parked next to us that was taking up 1 ½ places as they were lounging on their sunbeds partly into the space we needed to be. They wouldn’t move even though they could see we were trying to get in so Tony just kept going backwards & forwards until he managed to manoeuvre the van in, the exhaust fumes were blowing right where they were sitting so it couldn’t have been pleasant for them but they didn’t move an inch!
I made a cup of tea and as I had just bought some cakes asked Tony if he wanted a chocolate muffin – “oh no he said, that’s far too fattening, I’ll just have a jam donut and some Jaffa cakes”…………..
Spent the afternoon swimming, reading and relaxing in the chairs. I fell asleep and woke to find that I was quite sunburnt down my right side, I had been so careful up to now with making sure I had sun cream on but just one lapse is all it takes L.
Around 6pm the German couple cooked their tea and were eating it outside in the space between our vans. They had music on very loudly, German Beer Keller songs and then the old boy started to sing along. It was more than we could take so we decided to walk into the town along the seafront. It wasn’t far and there wasn’t much there really but it was a pleasant walk.
We ate at the campsite bar/restaurant, fish once again and very nice. 2 starters,2 main courses, ice-cream and 4 beers £23!
Back at the van we sat outside and watched the sunset, Tony took lots of photos.
The site was full now and tents were crammed into every crevice. It was quite noisy until late as the road ran along quite nearby.
The electricity in the van was quite low by the time we went to bed, not sure if batteries are OK or not, will have to check in the morning.
Oh and I’ve only put on 2lbs so pleased about that but will have to cut down on the amount of beer I’m drinking or will end up with a beer gut after 3 months!
There was one hell of a cat fight during the night, seemed to go on forever and sounded like it was under our van!
TUESDAY 28TH AUGUST 2012 SENJ – CROATIA MAINLAND
Decided to stay for another night at this site. A lot of people had moved off early and the camp was quite empty again, it must be used a lot just for stopovers.
There is free internet here so check emails etc. sitting at the bar with a coffee, Tony gone pout on his cycle.
We had dinner at the camp restaurant – choppitos (fried baby squid) and Tony asks the waitress if he could have one of the 10ltr empty oil bottles he could see by the kitchen door. He has an idea that he can make a fish trap out of it and catch loads of fish. He had seen some traps near the van and they were really full. He set up the trap, baited with bread, and left it for the afternoon.
Back at the van some more Germans arrived and parked on the other side of us, They’re coming at us in a pincer movement!! Actually, as it turned out, they were Austrians, they said hello to us which is something Germans don’t normally do so we knew they must be a different nationality. Their van looked like it had seen better days and was really battered & worn.
Tony kept checking his fish trap all afternoon but no joy. He says he wants to buy a proper one, along with a big drawstring net he has seen being used.
The German on our left opened his beer Keller at 7pm tonight and was in full voice by 7.30pm.
I cooked a Vesta Chow Mein meal tonight as a) it was easy! And b) really beginning to miss having a Chinese meal every now & again, not seen one Chinese restaurant since we’ve been away which is really unusual.
After tea we sat outside next to the promenade with our candles watching the sunset, which would have been really romantic had we not had some German loudly singing “Audvisenhai my pet” in the background. Tony took some more sunset photos – he’s becoming obsessed with how many different effects of sunsets he can get on the camera and I will have to make sure I download and label them all so we know where they were taken as they do all look the same.
No cat fight tonight but just a lonesome cat howling for hours – sounded like just outside our door – serves him right for probably killing the other one last night!
WEDNESDAY 29th AUGUST 2012 CAMP SIBULJINA - CROATIA
We left the campsite at 10am and headed south along the coast road – at least that was out intention but within ½ mile TomTom took us down a very narrow street which when we got to the end of it we realised it was one way and we had just come down it the wrong way – that accounts for all the funny looks and gesticulations we were getting!
Anyway once back on the main road we were on our way. It was a very winding road with a few parking spaces along the way but no access to the sea from them.
There were lots of apartments (or Apartmini’s as they are called) with their own private jetty’s into the sea, lovely holiday accommodation.
We stopped at a small town Karlbag, and got an ice cream and had a bit of a walk round.
Further along we came across Camping Sibuljina, a campsite right next to the sea and we found a spot right on the front row. We set up and went swimming then had a walk round. There was a bar, restaurant & small supermarket and nothing else but it was very peaceful.
I did 3 loads of washing , bedding & towels etc., which only cost me 5E (actually it didn’t cost me anything as she forgot to add the 5E to the bill!) and soon we had washing hanging on 3 sides around the van!!
After tea we sat outside in the dark with candles and a light that Tony had set up and played scrabble – a closely run game which I won, but only just!
THURSDAY 30th AUGUST 2012 CAMP SIBULJINA - CROATIA
Up at 8.30 and the camp was really very quiet.
I updated my blog and downloaded photos. There is free wifi but it is very sporadic and not often connectable.
There is a campsite employee whose job it is every morning to rake all the large stones that have washed up onto the stony beach back into the sea and he’s well into his job this morning.
A boat came along, not far off the shore, and dropped some fishing traps. Tony had a look in them later and said they were really full thus making him even more determined to get a fish trap – and just for good measure he says he may need a spear gun!!
Spent the day, as usual, swimming, reading & dozing, and then at tea time we walked (all 100m!) to the camp restaurant for tea. Tony had grilled fish – which he said was great – and I had mixed meats as I was missing meat not having eaten any for the past few weeks, mine was tough and chewy though so best stick to the seafood I think. Pity I don’t like fish as it always looks wonderful – I can’t cope with the bones.
FRIDAY 31ST AUGUST 2012 CAMP BORIK – ZADIR – CROATIA
The van next to us left at 7.30am and almost immediately another van took its place. It was a German family and they pulled right up to the back of our van not leaving Tony much room to manoeuvre out when we left, especially as we were up on blocks and needed to roll back off them first. Anyway, despite Tony explaining all this, the German chap just shrugged his shoulders & walked away…… what is it with these people? They really are very arrogant!
Once again it seem like everyone is moving off today, Friday.
After paying the 310 Kuna (£32) for the 2 nights on this site we left, heading for Zadar town, a big town with a few historical sights to see. It’s been ages since we have been in a big town so feel it’s about time we made the effort.
We drove into the town but there was no campervan parking anywhere so headed straight for the (only) campsite on the outskirts. Our ACSI discount camping card has no kicked in and we are able to stay for £17 on what is quite a biggish site, although I have to say it is quite empty! We parked the van, didn’t bother to get much out but went off for a swim and a walk along the seafront. There were lots of hotels, up to now we hadn’t seen any big hotels, and they were quite busy.
We stopped to look at the advertising for trips to the local national parks – mostly by boat. The chap selling them said that we shouldn’t consider going in the next couple of days as there were bad storms expected.
Back to the van we changed and then caught the bus (No 8 or 5) into the town as directed by the receptionist. We walked around the old town, pedestrianized and walled with usual churches & museums. Most of the restaurants had tables out on the pavements but we found one that had a lovely courtyard so we had lunch there in the cool. It started to thunder and a few spots of rain but nothing developed so we continued looking round. We saw the “Sea Organ” which was quite amazing, steps that lead down into the sea from which everyone was jumping off swimming or sunbathing on, but underneath they were carved out so that as the water rushed in and out of them a musical note was made and so it was just like someone was playing an organ.
There was also a big solar sundial thing on the pavement. Apparently during the day it stored the energy from the sun in its solar panels and then in the evening, at dusk, it all lit up reflecting the sunset. Would have liked to have seen it but it was about 5 hours away and didn’t want to hang around all that time.
Got the bus back to the campsite after figuring out which bus stop to catch it from. It went a different way back to the way we had come and it was only at the last minute that Tony spotted the campsite that we managed to get off at the right spot.
There was an ice-cream stall outside the camp. Tony got one and had intended to have 2 scoops, chocolate & lemon, but after he said “chocolate” the chap put the biggest scoop you’ve ever seen onto this cone, there was no way you would have got another one on there, so he had to make do with one scoop ….. 50p!
We walked to the camp bar on the seafront in the evening and it was deserted, there were another couple of bars around the corner which were also deserted. We sat and had a beer, all on our own in this huge building and asked the waitress where everybody was. She said she didn’t know as it had been packed with people last night but tonight – only us! There were three chefs resting on their elbows on the counter of the kitchen waiting for customers that were nowhere to be seen – strange!
We decided that as we had seen the town today that we would move on down the coast tomorrow and packed everything away ready to move off first thing.
There was a woman that was going through the large bin opposite our van. She was tearing open rubbish sacks and taking out any plastic bottles and tins – must obviously be worth something out here.
1ST SEPTEMBER 2012 OMNIS – CAR PARK (£0!)
We were woken at 6am by the loudest clap of thunder I’ve ever heard, the storm had begun. It was raining heavily and blowing at hurricane speeds once again making the van move although not quite so much as we were under lots of trees – not the best place to be when there is lightning I know but we had no option!
Tried to get back to sleep for ages but in the end gave up and got up.
There was a huge lightning strike and clap of thunder quite near us. We lost the electric sometime don’t know if this is connected to the storm?
When the rain ceased people started to clear up, we were already packed & ready to leave so nothing to do except drive off.
People in tents near us had spent the night sleeping in the toilet block and were now washing out their bedding. When I went to pay the bill there was a couple in reception with all their wet gear packed up ready to move on. I felt so sorry for them, but not sorry enough to offer them a lift as they were covered in mud!!!!
We headed off for Sibenik. The traffic was at a standstill as the roads were pretty much flooded and there were several broken down vehicles that were stranded as well as raised manhole covers. Where cars couldn’t get through the roads they were driving up onto the pavements which to be honest were not much better. The traffic lights had stopped working at a very busy junction and it was mayhem, everyman for himself with no one giving way. Tony tucked himself behind a coach which was barging its way through!
It took us around an hour to do about 15 miles.
Once clear we stopped at Lidl and I went in and got bread & milk – nothing on special this week! Tony sat in the van and watched lots of people who appeared to be queuing at the back of lidl’s with bags full of plastic bottles etc… so perhaps Lidl bought them or exchanged them? They sell a lot of beer in glass bottles so they might have deposits on them I suppose?
We passed lots of Autokamps along the coast road but they were all too small for us to stop on so we kept plodding on. We stopped at some sites we could get on but they were around £20 a night and Tony wouldn’t pay this. We eventually ended up in a car park at the back of the town of Omis. We had been on the road for around 7 hours and I was totally fed up, had a headache and was tired. Tony said we were staying in the car park overnight, it was 7pm by now so we didn’t have much choice. I said I wasn’t cooking so we were going to go into the town to get something to eat when the heavens opened and it began to thundered & lightning once again and looked like it was set in for the night. The car park became quite flooded so we decided not to venture out. I went to finish the book I was reading on my kindle and found it wouldn’t work – won’t come off screen saver…..I gave up and went to bed, not a good day!
SUNDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP MALE CISTE - ZIVOGOSCE
Tony up early and had a look round the town then said he was off cycling up the mountain tracks to look at the river as he wanted to Kayak.
I had a walk round the town then sat at the van whilst he cycled and kayaked – wouldn’t have minded if it was a nice car park with a view but it was a dump and every now & again a funny smell wafted over!!!!
Anyway when he came back, having finished all his activities, we moved on and had to go a lot further down the coast before we found an Autocamp that we could get in to. There are lots of “Apartmanis” vacant at this end of the country and people (and I mean LOTS of people) were sitting at the roadside laybys in their cars with “APARTMANIS FREE” written on big bits of cardboard – like someone’s going to stop and say “oh yes, just what I’m looking for”.
Some of them were old women, looking like old prostitutes sitting on chairs outside vacant apartments with their pieces of cardboard stating “Apartmanis Free” on it – maybe it was a code? Obviously some people stop or there wouldn’t be so many of them doing it.
There were also vehicles parked in laybys with their boot lids up and what looked like bottles of drink for sale , or it could have been olive oil I suppose but it seemed a bit too yellow for that – had a feeling it was homebrew!
Anyway, eventually after looking at several sites we came across a campsite that we could get in to and Tony checked and came back with a price of £15 for 2 nights – a good price & it was a decent site as well. Should have known better but after we had parked up and I was checking the leaflet we had been given it was actually £15 each night so not quite the bargain Tony had thought. I’m just glad to be on a campsite and not in some awful car park for another night!!
We parked the van, we were next to a German couple and the woman was doing exercises on an exercise mat but they both said hello. She seemed to be doing these exercises for ages.
Had a swim and then a cup of tea and as have internet (at a cost!) I checked to see if there was a fix for my kindle fault. Lots of people had the same problem as I had (couldn’t get it to come off sleep mode) and there were a few suggestions which I noted but the majority had returned them to Amazon who replaced them under warranty or if out of warranty, as in my case, replaced them at a discount, so I am not hopeful of fixing it whilst we are away.
Fajitas for tea, a few beers and then bed. Hopefully no storms tonight.
MONDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP MALE CISTE - ZIVOGOSE
Good night’s sleep despite being next to a main road with lots of traffic noise. No storms anyway.
Tony was up early and went out on his bike for a look round; I had a lay in until 9am.
The woman in the next van is still doing exercises on an exercise mat with some different sized bands, she does this for about ½ hour and then they go out!
Over a cup of tea we studied the maps to see where we should head for next. Dubrovnik is the obvious place but, although it is in Croatia, to get there we have to go through a narrow strip of coastline belonging to Bosnia, which is a problem as our van motor insurance, recovery & medical insurance is not valid for Bosnia. Some people just wing it but I’m not sure I want to do that – sods law it will be us that get stopped by the police or border staff to get checked or if we broke down or had an accident it would be even worse. I had read that it was possible to obtain 3rd party road insurance at the border so that may be an option, at least we would be legal and would have to keep fingers crossed for all else.
I have read a lot of blogs and people who have gone to Dubrovnik have said it wasn’t worth the hassle, just another old walled town with ancient churches, museums etc… They suggest if we really wanted to visit then get a cheap flight with Ryanair and go for the weekend!
The other frightening thing is Tony keeps talking about going on from Dubrovnik into Montenegro and Albania so if we did go we might never come home……………….
We went out on our bikes in the afternoon to a very small bay just up from the campsite that has a lot of apartmanis and consequently a few restaurants and bars around them, we decided we would go back there tonight to eat. We are beginning to notice there are a lot of vehicles with Bosnian number plates so must be popular tourist destination for them.
We had ice-creams and then returned to the van for a swim. When we went to the small stony beach we found two towels spread out, in about the only spot there was, with no one on them and no one swimming in the sea nearby, obviously Germans had got there first!! We plonked ourselves down right next to and almost touching these towels, which had been secured with rocks to hold them in place. We went for a swim and then lay on our towels but it was too uncomfortable on the stones so after about 10 minutes we got up to go just as the two Germans came down the path to the beach to return to their towels, they gave us a real funny look like we had done something wrong….. should have done an Oggy and chucked them in the sea!!
Back at the van I tried all the suggested fixes for my kindle to no avail so have put it away until we get home.
Tony informs me that his Garmin bike sat system is not working. I noted that he had put it on charge but instead of using the Garmin charger had used the TomTom charger (This was tucked away in its own bag under the seat and had a big white sticker on it saying TomTom so why he used this I’ll never know!) It seemed to have frozen. He put it on charge with the correct charger (which was in his cycling gear box!) for a few hours then started pressing all the buttons – it suddenly sprung into life but all the information he had on it from previous rides had been lost so he must have done a factory reset somehow, anyway at least it’s working.
A German couple had arrived and started putting up their tent near us so we had the “tent peg tapper” for ages until they got sorted. I have forgotten to mention this before but this phenomenon has followed us from almost the first campsite we stayed at. Every time we sit down to relax this noise of someone knocking in metal tent pegs somewhere on the campsite starts – I’m sure they do it on purpose!!
I went to the bar area to send some emails & messages and thought as I was sitting there I should buy a drink so I had a beer. Tony was snoozing back at the van but I had left a note to tell him where I was so he came down to join me. He had a beer, commenting on how strong it was, then had another and when we asked to pay she bought out some liquor drinks – Tony’s was like a schnapps mine was very fruity (and nice!).
In the evening we cycled back up the road to the restaurant. I was looking forwards to having a steak as had not had one since leaving the UK. Tony had the small fish platter which turned out to be huge! He had a metal tray with sardines, tuna steak, whole marcel and shark together with vegetables, he said it was fabulous. My rump steak was quite big and came with mountains of chips. I was a bit dubious as the waitress had not asked me how I would like my steak cooked and I was right to be so – it was like chewing a bit of shoe leather and not at all nice, I only ate a small bit of it and had some chips, left the rest as had lost my appetite by then. I think I may have to venture down the fish route next time we eat out or stick to pasta! The only saving thing was that the whole meal was really cheap.
Whilst we were sitting at the table fruit kept dropping from the fig tree above us, one dropped right into Tony’s dinner.
We cycled back to the van along the main winding road. Tony had no back light so I had to keep up close behind him and had to keep shouting at him to slow down. We made it back safely though just as it started to rain.
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 4TH 2012 AUTOCAMP PERNA – OREBIC – PELJESAC ISLAND
Woke up, opened our door and the woman in the next van was already up and exercising on her mat with her bands – she smiled and said good morning. I have deduced she is either an exercise freak or perhaps has something wrong with her back or posture that she needs to keep doing this.
We set off for the border hoping to buy insurance for Bosnia. On the way we start passing fruit stalls at the side of the road. What starts out as 1 or 2 a mile turns into 1 every 100 yards. Everything is much greener here and as the road goes slightly inland we can see that there are rows and rows of green fields growing fruit so it must be a very fertile area.
We got to the border, 4 booths all manned by police. The guard spoke very good English but informed me that it was not possible to buy insurance at this border, she didn’t know if it would be possible at any other border either? We saw campervans going through, admittedly none of them English registered, and each one was having passports checked but it didn’t look like they were checking van documents so perhaps we could have just gone straight through but now, having informed them that we had no road insurance we couldn’t and they made us turn around and go back the way we had come.
We pulled into a layby and I telephoned the insurance company in the UK to see if we could pay extra for cover in Bosnia but they said they would not provide any cover for Bosnia on any account and didn’t know of any other insurance company that did. I wonder how people get on when they travel to India etc… there must be specialist insurance companies somewhere.
Anyway, on studying the maps we found that if we got a ferry from Ploce across to the island of Pelje we could then drive to the south of the island where it re-joined the Croatian Southern mainland at one point.
We went to the ferry terminal and enquired how much it would cost – 328KN/£35 one way.
So we bought tickets and waited for the ferry not knowing what to expect. It was a ro-ro ferry holding around 50 vehicles, mostly cars, and the crossing was 1 ¼ hours. We alighted at Trpanj and drove to the north of the island to Orebic to find a campsite for a couple of days thinking we might as well explore this island, although quite small, as we were here.
We pulled in to a couple of campsites but they were mostly terraced or had low trees and we couldn’t fit on them. I was beginning to think we would have to find another car park when we came across Autokamp Perna which was level and had lots of spaces, it was also on the sea.
We found a good pitch, parked up and then went for a walk along the promenade and then for a swim. The narrow stony beach was, as usual, full of towels with no one on them. We went for a swim and noticed that the water was much colder here, don’t know why that should be, and even when you went out quite far it was still shallow.
This camp as it turns out is in a windsurfing area and so there are hundreds, yes hundreds, of windsurfers around. The stony beach at the headland is full of windsurfing gear with a couple of windsurfing schools and a surf shop. There doesn’t seem to be much of a wind about at the moment but Tony says that as it’s fairly shallow its ideal for beginners with enough wind for them to get up and going.
We had a BBQ tea with meat I had bought at the local supermarket. The sausages we inedible – threw them away! – and the pork steaks were tough. I’m getting fed up with this (excuse the pun) and thinking of turning veggie as there is only so much chicken you can eat!
Pasta for tea tomorrow I think.
After tea as it was getting dark we had a wander along the promenade in the other direction. There were lots of apartmanis, mostly empty, and one restaurant.
We walked back to the van where I read and Tony watched TV. The power didn’t last long though so he soon came to bed. It was a real hot & sticky night and around 2am Tony got up and plugged the van into the electric so we had power to put the fan on, which was heaven.
Just dropped back to sleep when I was woken by music – a heavy disco beat – coming from somewhere. I’m sure nobody would have music on that loud in their tent this time of night so it must be coming from a disc somewhere in the vicinity. I managed eventually to get back to sleep.
WEDNESDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER 2012 AUTOCAMP PERNA – OREBIC – PELJESAC ISLAND
Awoke about 8am to a rumble of thunder, about ½ hr later the heavens opened.
I had been reading in a paper that we picked up in the camp reception that this year was the worst drought that Croatia has had in 50 years – well they seem to have been making up for it in the last couple of weeks. Luckily most of the rain has been at night so it hasn’t been a problem – just the mopping up.
The rain didn’t last long and when it stopped Tony went out on his cycle to explore the far north of the island. He came back and said it was really hilly and pretty monotonous. He had gone into the small town to the south of us and found that there were a few restaurants & bars. He also found an Aires right on the seafront – it was basically a small parcel of land that the owner was charging people to park on - £5 a day for cars but you can park a motorhome on it overnight for £10 including electricity & water, you could fit around 10 motorhomes on it so not very big but a good spot. Wish we had found it before we went onto the campsite!
Around 6pm we both cycled into the town, had a walk along the seafront and then had a drink and something to eat in a bar overlooking the sea. They had two specials of the day – grilled cod & chips, which Tony had and Scampi & chips, which I had. After all the disappointing meat meals I was looking forwards to a nice fish meal for a change and was very hungry.
When my meal came it was two langoustines with a pile of chips – looked very nice but by the time I had taken the meat out of the shells there must have been the equivalent of around 4 bits of scampi!
Looking round the shops along the front I found an English newspaper, the first one we had seen for around 4 weeks – OK it was the Daily Mail, but beggars can’t be choosers so I paid the equivalent of £3.50 for it! We stopped at another bar to have a beer and a quite read – same old rubbish in it but a few good articles to read later. I was still feeling peckish so had a pancake – I fancied a honey one but the choices were marmalade or chocolate so I chose chocolate and got one filled and covered in chocolate sauce, very sweet & sickly.
We rode back to the camp site in the dark – Tony still not got batteries for his back light so I had to keep up with him, especially as the roads were very bendy and there were no streetlights whatsoever.
When we got back to the campsite we could hear loud music again so put the bikes away and set off to find out where it was coming from. It seemed that on the campsite there was a ‘hotel’ a small block of rooms like something out of the 60’s – all Formica and flat pack, floral nylon furniture. There were a couple of chaps playing the keyboard & singing and a few old ladies dancing together. We stopped & watched for a while, mainly because we weren’t sure it was actually real…..but it was so we decided not to stay and moved on to the surf bar at the beach which was still open for a nightcap drink. Tony had a double gin & tonic & I had a glass of local red wine (just about drinkable!) and whilst we were there we caught up on the internet with the free wifi. We could still hear the music from the hotel in the background – they were now playing ‘La Bamba’.
Back at the van we had another drink sitting outside with the candles…… I made Tony a gin & tonic which was so strong he had to have 2 cans of tonic to make it drinkable, I had a nice mug of Olvaltine!
THURSDAY 6TH SEPTEMBER 2012 KAMP SOLITUDE - DUBROVNIK
Once again it rained in the night, unfortunately we had left the chairs out so they were soaking, never mind, they will dry out when we can put them in the sun. At the moment it is very overcast but very warm. We paid the bill – 288Kuna and left around 10am heading for Dubrovnik.
Along the way we saw several road signs saying beware of wild boars! Also we noticed lots of shops at the side of the road selling local wines and spirits.
We came across the town of STON right at the southern tip of Peljesac where it joins the mainland, it had a lot of old buildings and a castle so we decided to stop and look around. It appeared to be quite a tourist town as there were a lot of people milling around with stickers on them saying “coach 5” or “coach 3”. We wandered the narrow streets and found a set of steps which led to a wall which went right around the town and hillside, you could do the walk but it was quite a long way and there were literally hundreds of steps so we decided against it.
This area is famous for oysters and sea salt, both of which are farmed just outside the town. We decided to have lunch at one of the many restaurants and had oysters as a starter, they were good but not as good as the ones we get at home from Mersea. They were 60p each so quite reasonable so we had 10, followed by spaghetti Bolognese which was also good.
On the way back to the van we bought 2 bottles of local wine from a small wineshop. The seller gave us the spiel about how they grow their own grapes and make the wine. The price of each bottle depended on how long the wine had matured starting at £3.50 for this year’s crop to £20 for a 20 year old bottle. We sampled four of them – small tots I should add as Tony was driving – and chose a five year old one for £5. It’s not spectacular but will make an interesting bottle to take to a dinner party.
We carried on to Dubrovnik. When we came to the bridge we stopped and had a look over the city to see if we could see the campsite and ascertain if it was within our scope. Couldn’t see it at all! We drove on down the coast to within a few miles of the Montenegro border and wasn’t very impressed with anything we found so drove back to Dubrovnik with a view to finding the one and only campsite there was there.
We had to drive through the centre and whilst driving past a line of parked cars there was a tremendous bang. Tony stopped, thinking he had hit something and it turned out that a child had opened a door of one of the parked cars as we went by. It had knocked our wing mirror back (the loud bang) and had caught the awning stay clip and one of the locks from the rear garage door and broken both. The door of the car was also damaged, bent and dented.
Tony parked up inspected the damage to our van whilst I got out our insurance paperwork to see what we should do. There was not too much damage to the van that Tony couldn’t fix when we got home and the lock and awning stay would probably cost around £75 to replace. We decided that as we had a £250 excess this would probably be more than the repairs and the likelihood of getting our excess paid by some Croatian chap was almost nil so we would probably end up losing our no claims bonus as well so after having a chat with him (he was 3rd party only) we settled on not contacting the insurance company but just covering the repairs ourselves. He actually had the cheek to say it was partly Tony’s fault as he was too close!
Hope we have done the right thing and don’t get home to an insurance problem if he changes his mind!
We found the site OK but on turning into it there was an almighty crash from inside the van as I had forgotten to secure the cupboard that I got the insurance documents from and we also kept 4 bottles of spirits in there and they had all crashed to the floor…….only one broke, a litre bottle of Pimms and there was glass and liquid all over the carpets & rugs.
We booked into the site – the dearest yet at £31 per night. It was far too much money but just wanted to get settled for the night after all that had gone on. We set about cleaning up and washing the carpets & rugs out as best as possible then went for a quick walk down the beach area, about 500mtrs away. We sat and watched a big cruise ship that had docked earlier leave the harbour, reversing out and then turning around in the channel. It was so close you felt you could almost touch it, the captain must have been very confident and the channel must have been deep as there were no tugs to help it.
Back to the van, tuned in the TV and found we could get the English film channel (with Croatian sub titles) and watched a good film. I cooked some of the patties that we had bought from Lidl last week not really knowing what they were. They turned out to be some sort of meat and were very nice, mind you the potatoes, peas and Bisto gravy probably helped make them better than they were.
One downside to this camp is there are a lot of mozzies which up to now haven’t been anything of a problem. I got bitten several times in the first five minutes…..
Went to bed, making sure we put everything away in case it rained in the night. Drifted off to sleep and then suddenly at 12.30 we were woken up by ferocious winds. Tony had to get up to secure a few things and then we went back to sleep with the sound of the ‘tent peg tapper’ in the background as someone tried to secure their tent.
FRIDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER 2012 CAMP SOLITUDE – DUBROVNIK
Woken at 6am by torrential rain hammering on the roof but it didn’t last long. The campsite floor is a red dust which was now a red mud so we have to be careful not to tread it into the van. We caught the bus from outside the campsite which goes to the Old City. It costs 15Kuna each to buy the tickets on the bus, we found out later that if we had bought the tickets from a kiosk they were only 12kuna or we could have got an all-day pass for 30Kuna each, still £1.50 is not much to pay for the ride. Tony wanted to cycle there, I didn’t want to cycle on the main roads with all the traffic and no cycle path so managed to persuade Tony that £1.50 was a good price!
Arrived at the entrance to the Old City and it was packed full of people. Usual tourist coaches dropping people off and also there were two cruise ships moored in the harbour which had also deposited people. There were lots of companies offering guided tours for about £9 which seemed reasonable but we had just missed the departure times and it was a couple of hours to the next ones so we settled for the hire of an audio tour £7 in which we were basically given an iPod with information about the city on it and an A4 map showing us which way to go. There were 2 tours, one round the city and one round the city walls. We decided to do the one round the city first as there were massive queues to get tickets for the city walls – yes you had to pay extra to get up there, we would then have some lunch before doing the wall tour.
We set off with the map and turned into the back alleys of the city and continued round churches, monuments and markets, it was a good tour and we saw things we may have missed if we had just wandered and it also gave us lots of information about buildings & monuments. There were lots of fountains around with lovely cold drinking water. We looked around the craft & local produce market which mostly consisted of lavender bags and essence and lace tablecloths with a few nut & fruit stalls thrown in for good measure.
We had lunch in a small restaurant sitting at tables in the street, it was a three course set menu of the day and was really good. As we had free wifi at the restaurant I took the opportunity to send 18th birthday wishes to my lovely nephew Ryan – can’t believe he is really 18!
Talking to the waiter Tony remarked on how busy the city was and asked if it was always like this. He replied that it was only because there were two cruise ships in that day and most of the people on board were walking round the city. It was not good for him as they all had to be back on board by 2pm and would have lunch there. Apparently on one day there had been 10 cruise ships, I dread to think what that must have been like.
Judging by the number of American accents we heard, at least one of the ships must have been an American cruise liner. Whilst we were looking around one of the buildings a tour group came in and the guide explained the history telling them that in the 13th century the building burnt down. One American woman piped up “Gee did stone burn in those days?”
After lunch we walked the 2km around the city walls, it was very hot and saw lots of Japanese tourists who were covered from head to feet with clothes, wearing hats and using umbrellas. Many of them were wearing these detachable elasticated sleeves on top of their shirts and dresses as they don’t like the sun on their skin, don’t know how they could stand it!
The iPod was very informative and told us about the Homelands war – the recent war between Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia in the 1990’s. Bit of history coming now …………In October 1991 the Serbian Yugoslav National Army (JNA), supported by irregulars from Montenegro and Serb-dominated eastern Herzegovina (only there for the plunder), occupied the high ground of Mount Syđ overlooking the city. The siege of Dubrovnik lasted until May 1992 with artillery shells raining down onto the old city and snipers killing civilians in the streets. Serb military illogic considered Dubrovnik an easy target, damaging Croatian morale and breaking resistance elsewhere in the country. But Dubrovnik's defences stubbornly held and a Croatian offensive from the north finally broke the siege driving out the Serbs and re-uniting the region with the rest of the Croatian homeland. The senseless and wantonly barbaric damage inflicted by the Serbs on the historic heart of the old city was enormous. International financial support enabled reconstruction to begin almost at once, but repairs left Dubrovnik to shoulder a monumental burden of debt, and tourism, its major source of income, took several years to recover. There are now few visible signs of war damage, other than the aesthetic one: the varied and time-worn subtle tones of those old roof pan-tiles not ruined in the shelling now contrast starkly with the even garish orange-red of the new replacement tiles used to repair the damage caused by Serb aggression.
Anyway, after completing the tours we caught the bus back to the campsite, traffic was horrendous and I was so glad we hadn’t cycled although Tony said we would have been home3 quicker! We went for a swim, as the road to the beach was steep we cycled it but on the way back I couldn’t get my electric bike to work and by the time I got back up the hill to the van I was huffing and puffing like a good’un and collapsed in the chair. Apparently a wire had become loose on my bike so all I had was my own pedal power… just reminded me how good my electric bike is.
We are making the most of having electricity and have everything on charge, wondered if the receptionist noticed the surge in electricityJ I managed to get another Daily Mail today so looked forwards to reading it tonight.
TUESDAY 14TH AUGUST 2012 KOBARID - SLOVINEA
It rained heavily in the night and was quite chilly, I suspect it’s because we are high up in the mountains. We only have a quilt cover on at night so may try a blanket on top tonight.
We didn’t get up until 9.30am by which time the campsite was pretty much deserted. There are lots of walkers, cyclists and rafters staying here so they are off doing their activities.
Tony decided to go for a long cycle ride. He asked me to write down the details of the campsite so he could find his way back. I did as he asked and then found after he had gone he had left the piece of paper on the table – how he ever finds his way back I’ll never know!
I went into town on my bike, all by myself. The town is not very big, just a few shops, bars and a couple of restaurants, one of which is advertising a mixed grill for 5.90E so might come here tonight. On the way back I passed the “Cheese Museum” – they are big on cheese out here apparently and almost everything you buy is covered with cheese.
When Tony came back we walked out of the campsite down the road a bit to another small “beach area”. This one was slightly bigger but had double the number of people crammed onto it. It was easier to swim here as the water was not so fast flowing but it was icy (and I mean icy!) cold so only had a quick dip to cool off and then out.
Back at the campsite I had a shower, the water was hot and the pressure was very high which was nice and it’s all solar powered so didn’t feel guilty for lingering.
The campsite had internet access and as we were only staying a couple of days the girl on the desk let me have it free of charge but the price you paid would seem to alter depending on what member of staff you asked as Tony said he heard another chap ask and was told 2E per day. Anyway as this was the first proper internet access we had had since coming away – phone access does not count – I spent about 1 ½ hours on it checking banks, emails & posting blogs etc..
In the evening we cycled into town and had the 5.90E mixed grill – it was OK but served on plastic plates with plastic cutlery which was a bit odd!
Whilst we were sitting at the bar, outside in the square, a cat ran out in front of a car and missed getting run over by about an inch, everyone that was watching inhaled a breath at the same time which sounded funny.
As Tony fancied doing some kayaking or rafting he enquired about prices at one of the many booths in town. They said Kayaking was only possible if you were very experienced as the water level was low exposing boulders & rocks which made it was quite dangerous but rafting and canyoning (sliding down waterfalls) were both available at about 45E. The rafting didn’t look too rough and he said the canyoning looked boring so didn’t do either in the end.
When we got back to the campsite there was a stall that had been set up selling crafts – mostly all knitted items – I’ve never seen a knitted iphone cover! The lady and man running the stall were both sitting there knitting. I almost expected to see a knitted doll toilet roll cover and if they had have had one I think I might possible have bought it J
We sat outside the van until late with our candles on the table. Lots of noise from the tents & vans around us as others were also sitting out late and despite notices saying they were not allowed several people had built bonfires outside their tents which were roaring away.
WEDNESDAY 15TH AUGUST 2012 MOST NA SOCI - SLOVENIA
Packed up and headed for Trbusa Valley where we hoped we could park and visit waterfalls and rivers. Tony also wanted to ‘freecamp’ despite it supposedly being illegal in Slovenia.
We stopped at Delenja Trebusa, had a cup of coffee in a bar there whilst we figured out where to go. The roads into the valley looked too narrow for our van so headed back to a river bed area at Baca that we had seen people parked and swimming at. Although it was only lunchtime it was packed and there were no parking spaces for our van so we headed a couple of miles up the road to Most au soci and parked on a nice green area next to the lake. There was one other van here, it was not a proper parking area but there were lots of cars and people were sitting around & swimming in the lake. I wasn’t feeling too good as my hands were so painful I had to take some painkillers which then upset my stomach so I tried to get a few hours sleep whilst Tony went off for a recci on his bike.
I was sitting in the passenger seat reclined right back and was just dropping off when an English chap came up and asked if I was English (considering I was sitting in a van with English number plates I would have thought it fairly obvious!). When I said yes he stood and chatted to me for ages. He told me how his daughter had bought a house out here in 2007 and he & his wife had done the same in 2010 and then moved out here full time in June 2012. He said we should be ok if we wanted to stay here overnight as the police seemed to turn a blind eye providing there weren’t too many vans and they didn’t stay for more than one night. (Tony would be pleased to hear that). He just kept on talking but after about an hour he said goodbye and left – thank goodness, perhaps now I could have a doze.
Tony came back and went out on the lake in his kayak, just after he had left the English chap returned with his wife whom he had just met in town and they were walking home. They stood and chatted for what seemed like ages and then Tony returned and started talking to them, offered them chairs and asked if they wanted a cup of tea or a beer? They accepted a beer each so we used our last 4 beers up. They then started to talk about their life here and in the UK for about an hour and a half. Just as we were wondering if they were settling in for the evening and perhaps we should invite them to share our meal they upped and left saying they had to get home to their dogs.
As nice as they were I suspect they had not seen many English people recently as they didn’t stop talking, most of it quite mundane. We had learnt some interesting facts though – Slovakians work from 6am to 3pm which is why it gets so busy in the afternoons. Today was a bank holiday which is why there were so many people out doing things. There was a diving competition on the lake on Saturday, they had built a huge tower for the divers to dive from and there would be fireworks at midnight. Supermarkets do not sell fresh milk or fresh cheese only the farmers are allowed to do this although the farmers put vending machines in some towns that you can get these from if you are not near a farm shop. The best sausages are the ones that you buy in a bag and boil. And finally Rocket will not grow in tubs, the lady had tried but it will only grow in open soil (which is no good to her as her dogs wee on it!)
A chap in the next van went fishing on the edge of the lake and caught a trout. Lots of people crowded round him as he landed it and after much picture taking and measuring of the fish he put it back in. Apparently you are not allowed to keep any fish caught although I suspect if there had not been so many people crowded around he may have kept it!
We had pasta for tea which we ate outside with candles on the table as darkness fell.
A couple more vans pulled up to park so there were about 5 of us staying overnight.
THURSDAY 16TH AUGUST 2012 MOST NA SOCI - SLOVENIA
I had left the top blind partially open so we would wake up earlier and we did – 6.45am, but this was also as we heard a couple of the vans that had been camped move off.
Eventually got up at 7.30. Tony went off for a long cycle, taking maps, Garmin & phone so hopefully he won’t get lost. I’m still amazed he finds his way back!
It’s not sunny here first thing in the mornings as the sun is not yet high enough to come over the mountains so it’s a very nice temperature.
I tidied the van, changed bedding etc. and then sat writing up my journal.
A couple of commercial kayaking vans drew up with some teenagers who were having some lessons. They were absolute beginners and it was interesting listening to the instructors telling them how to flip and do all different things, all in English. Pity Tony’s not here as they were showing them how to do all different manoeuvres; he could have picked up some good tips. They then set off across the lake returning in the afternoon to play a game of kayaking football which was good to watch but churned up the mud in the river so it was not nice to swim in.
Tony returned in a bad mood – he had taken the wrong turn going away from the van and headed in the completely opposite direction to where he wanted to go. After spending hours cycling up & down mundane mountains he gave up and headed back to the van.
We walked into town to have an ice cream – lovely apple flavour – and decided that although it was getting late we would head on up to Lake Bled. We looked at the maps – one long way round and one quick road that cut across country. The English chap we spoke to yesterday said it would be fine for our van and much quicker so we took him at his word and decided to cut across country.
Total disaster – the roads were very very narrow and hilly and after taking about an hour to cover 15 miles we came across the road we needed to take with a big sign saying no vehicles over 7ton(OK) or longer than 7mtr(not OK!) so we had to take a completely different route which still led us across the mountains to the main roads. It took us about another hour to get to a half decent road, by this time it had started raining heavily (the English chap said they had not had rain for 5months!) and it was quite hard to concentrate on the roads – especially important as there were sheer drops on my side!!! We had to go through very small villages with equally small roads and several times met huge vehicles coming the other way.
Eventually we came to the main road and decided to go on the toll road to get to BLED even though we would have to pay – vehicles over 3500kg do not have to buy a vignette at 35E to use all the roads in Slovenia but have to Pay As You Go on the Toll roads, minor roads free. We couldn’t understand this logic when we first arrived but now we can – it is really difficult and slow for vehicles over 3500kg to use the minor roads!!!!
We joined the toll road but didn’t see toll booths anywhere so assumed they must charge us when we come off but when we turned off at Bled there were no toll booths so not sure what’s going on here.
Anyway, arrived in Bled just as it stopped raining some 3 ¾ hrs after leaving Most na Soci and traveling only 65 miles. It would seem that Lake Bled is a very heavy tourist area, judging by the number of coaches and cars leaving the town & lake area due to the rain. We drove along the lake to the one and only campsite in the area – Camping Bled _ and saw what looked like Butlins! There was a public car park next door so we pulled in there (spaces available due to the rain) and found that we could camp in there overnight for 10E so decided to do that and consider what our plans would be. We parked next door to 3 British vans all travelling together – more than we had seen in total whilst we had been in Slovenia, they were on their way home to UK having been in Croatia for 2 weeks and this was their overnight stop. They said it was extremely hot in Croatia and very busy but it was very cheap!
We walked around the campsite next door – no-one stopped us at the barrier but there were so many people milling around I don’t suppose they’d notice us two walking in. The camp site was huge and filled with families so lots & lots of kids & teenagers running around shrieking & screaming, lots of amusements & games – not our cup of tea at all so we decided to give the campsite a miss, just look round Lake Bled tomorrow & move on. Whilst walking round I found that there was free camp Wi-Fi so took advantage to check emails etc. on my phone!
Back to van, had tea inside as weather not too good then went and had a walk around the lake. To be honest it is so touristy and everything is overpriced as you would expect. You can go to visit the castle on the lake or the house on the high mountainside but all at a cost and along with hundreds of other people. We decided that we had seen enough and would head out early in the morning to Lake Bohinjsko about 20 miles away and hope it was a bit more civilised.
We tried to watch the Spiderman DVD but knew from the outset when the film started to move as the person recording it took their place in the cinema that this was not going to be a good experience. After 5 mins viewing we binned the dvd – the last of the ones I bought from the Chinese girl in Spain – never again will I buy a DVD from her!!
Retired to bed with our books – old fashioned entertainment!
FRIDAY 17TH AUGUST 2012 BOH.JEZERO - SLOVENIA
Up at 7am this morning as we have to leave car park at 8am when the car park attendant comes for the daytime parking money if we intend to stay.
We head for Camp Zlatong on Lake Bohinjsko and arrive there at 9.30am. It’s 38E, quite expensive as they charge per person and for a pitch which is unusual for what we have found in Slovenia so far. We decide to stay for one night and the receptionist chap says just pick a place, park up and come back to see him after 12 when we can check in. We found a nice pitch overlooking the lake. The sun came over the mountains about 10.30 so it started to heat up.
We were surprised to see that a lot of people around us were packing up to go home, it’s Friday and I would have thought that tomorrow would have been the day they’d leave?
At the moment it’s quite peaceful here. I sat by the lake in the sun reading my book whilst Tony went swimming.
I tried to book in at 12.30 but there was a huge queue at reception , as there had been all morning so I left it. I eventually went back at 2.30pm and there was still a huge queue but decided that I had better join it and book in as it was starting to get really busy. When I eventually got to the front of the queue I said to the chap (same one as earlier) that he had been very busy to which he replied that he hadn’t stopped since 7am that morning only dashing to the WC when he had to, he hadn’t eaten or had a drink all day! I felt very sorry for him so when I got back to the van I made him a ham sandwich and took it to him with a can of coke & a couple of cakes – he was overwhelmed and kept saying “thank you, thank you”. My good deed for the day!
We booked for 2 nights as didn’t want to be leaving on a Saturday after our last experience in Italy!
We cycled to visit a nearby waterfall in the afternoon – 6km uphill from the campsite – I have to admit ashamedly to using my bike on full electric for some of the wayL
When we arrived we had to pay 4.50E to get in – Tony argued that he was a pensioner so should get in cheaper and got 50c knocked off. We then had to climb a huge number of steps to get to the top of the mountain to see the waterfall which was really disappointing! On the way down I counted the steps – all 585 of them!
Back at the van Tony went out on the kayak and I attempted to go swimming but about 5 yards out the bottom of the lake was covered in a moving weed which got tangled round my feet and I didn’t like it at all so came back in.
Tony put up his hammock between a couple of trees next to our van and had a snooze.
We had a BBQ for tea and whilst Tony was getting the cooker out of the locker the door fell down onto his nose and cut it resulting in a red bruise, he sat for a while with a piece of frozen chicken on his nose to bring down the swelling – another injury to add to his list!
Whilst we were eating our tea I noticed several of what looked like Romanian Gypsies walking slowly around all the vans looking carefully at what people had outside them. When I mentioned this to Tony he said he had seen the mother going round in the afternoon and she had come back with a folding chair – of course it could have been hers……..
There are several notices pinned to the board with people looking for missing items, not that I’m accusing anyone of taking them. As the day goes on more and more tents and vans join the gypsy group until they occupy quite an area in the next field to us. It’s quite unsettling and we decide to make sure we put everything away tonight & lock up.
At 8.45pm there is still a queue at the reception of people still trying to get onto the site. It would seem that every small space will be occupied one way or the other and it’s quite funny watching people trying to fit their tent or van in somewhere. Glad we got here early.
There is a Dutch couple in a small VW camper parked next to us. They ask to borrow a whisk to make some pancakes for their 2 year old daughter as they had forgotten to pack one. After tea we sit outside with the candles and get talking to them.
She is a dentist and has just moved jobs and has a gap of 2 months before starting her new one so her husband took a 2 month sabbatical from his job and he drove to Germany last week, bought the van and drove back on Sunday. They packed it and left on Monday, heading for Croatia and then on to Italy.
They have not had a camper before and he was still reading the instruction books. Although they were connected to the electricity they did not have it on as they thought it would drain the battery. They are running the fridge off battery as they don’t think it can run off gas. Tony offered to help but they said it was ok thanks.
Tony did give a passing thought to mentioning his broken tooth to the dentist but then had second thoughts!
SATURDAY 18TH AUGUST BOH.JEZERO - SLOVENIA
Although tempting to move on as this site was so busy now as it was Saturday we resisted the temptation.
I bought some fresh coisants & rolls from the breadvan on site which we had for breakfast. Tony went off for a long cycle ride and after the wind up of him getting all his gear together and getting off I relaxed. I wrote up my journal and then did some cleaning (it’s a hard life!).
When Tony returned he said he had gone to Lake Bled and it looked completey different in the daytime and sun, very beautiful and said perhaps we should consider stopping there on the way past? We decided to see how busy it was.
On his travels he called in at a campsite about 10 mins down the road that we had seen on the way in. he said it was very nice and far less busy than the one we were on and only 2/3 the price so we decided to move there tomorrow.
Relaxing with a cup of coffee and chatting to the Dutch couple a caravan came onto the site and went to go into the adjoining field. To get to this he had to go across a steep gulley and unfortunately the rear end of his caravan hit the gulley as he went through and got well and truly stuck. The men had to go help with jacks and tow ropes to get him out, luckily he only damaged his stabilisers not his van.
Went down to the lake, had to laugh as although the ‘beach’ was only a few feet wide the Germans had spread their towels over it reserving spaces! I had a go in Tony’s kayak and went out into the lake – I’m getting quite sporty now what with cycling and kayaking J
Back at the van we sat and had tea, I thought I saw a snake by Tony’s foot and shouted “snake!”, he jumped about 5 ft. and when we looked it was a bootlace…. Very realistic though.
We watched the squirrels in the trees jumping from space to space to see what they could forage from different vans & tents; funny to see when people were unaware they were there.
The Dutch chap had seen Tony fill his water tank with our watering can and asked if he could borrow it to fill his, he then asked if he had a spanner to fix his cooker lid – don’t think he’s come very prepared for his 2 month trip!
SUNDAY 19TH AUGUST BOH.BISTRICA - SLOVENIA
Today we moved on to Camp Dacia in Bohinj Bistrica, still in Slovenia.
The Dutch couple were also moving on leaving before us so we bid them farewell, good job we did as just as they were about to drive off I noticed their pushchair was under their van and he was just about to run over it! Will they survive 2 months – I’m not sure.
We stopped on the way at Ribcev Laz a busy tourist town on the river, not much out of the ordinary to see but had an ice cream. Here we noticed the first of many sign outside a restaurant saying “we cook baby pigs”, obviously meaning suckling pig on a spit but the way they put it and the cartoon picture of a smiling baby pig on a spit was funny. We would see this a lot from now on so it’s obviously a national dish.
On to Camp Dancia (you’d get on this one ok Brian & Chris!). This site is so different to the one we’d just been on. Really quiet and plenty of space, we parked close to the river and went for a swim – again Icy Cold but quite welcoming in the heat. Done 2 machine loads of washing and then in the evening we walked into the town for a meal, having real difficulty understanding the menu, even when it has an English translation, and ended up having Veal Snichzel(!).
The town is quite small but has all you need, supermarket, bank etc.. The river runs right through the town and at some points through people’s gardens so it’s very picturesque.
MONDAY 20TH AUGUST BOH.BISTRICA - SLOVENIA
Tony went off cycling early. As we have got free wifi I checked emails etc.. and then did some research on Croatia and Prague (which is where we may go on the way home).
I walked into town to get some shopping and carried 12 cans of beer home in a backpack as well as carrying 2 bags of shopping. When I told Tony that must mean that I love him loads he said “where’s the chocolate!”…….. I also bought some Croatian wine 2.25E for a 1ltr bottle – wonder what it will be like?
He has got this shopping trolley that he’s taken the bag off and uses the wheels to fetch & carry the tanks and he did offer to put the bag back on so I could use it to go shopping but I just couldn’t bring myself to use it (yet!).
Swan in the river, huge trout swimming around, then read & dozed for a couple of hours outside the van, not in the sun.
Tony decided we had to have a proper BBQ for tea so set it all up & lit it using some twigs & grass he collected and almost smoked the whole site out. Had tea with the Croatian wine – c**p but working on the surmise that any red wine is good when it is chilled I had put it in the fridge so it was drinkable…just…and it’s also 12.5% so after a glass or two you don’t really care!
We sat outside until quite late. We had parked next to one of the camp street lights and it was like having our own personal light outside our van.
The weather in Croatia is just perfect – hot sunny days with cool evenings & nights.
TUESDAY 21ST AUGUST LJUBLJANA - SLOVENIA
Today we moved onto Ljubljana, the Croatian capital. Don’t think there is much there but we have to go past it so feel we should make the effort to visit it on the way.
Left the campsite at 10.30am after a bit of arguing, as I had paid for the first night in cash & didn’t get a receipt and it was a different chap on reception and he tried to charge me for 2 nights, got sorted in the end. A lesson for the future – always get a cash receipt!
We drove into Lake Bled and the traffic was already very heavy so decided not to stop, it’s only another lake but it just has tourist attractions around it! As we drove out of Bled the traffic coming in was horrendous, almost at a standstill for about 5 miles.
There is only one campsite in Ljubljana and it looks a bit of a Butlins but we have no choice so head there. As it turns out it is nothing like its brochure, the big swimming & sports complex in the brochure is actually next door and you have to pay to get in, the campsite is very basic & quiet.
We parked up and as it was only just 12 we decided to go into Ljubljana on our bikes, along a 5km cycle track all the way.
There is not much to see here, a few old buildings and a church but they seemed to have cleaned everything up and it all looks quite new – unless of course it is new?
There is a castle at the top of a hill in the centre and we decide to take the Tourist train for 3.50E to get there as didn’t fancy the climb in the heat. It took about 15 mins, we had a quick look round, once again nothing much to see – the castle windows had double glazing – did they have double glazing in the 13th century? – so we came back down on the train had a brief wander along the river & bridges in the centre and then cycled back to the van.
There were loads of Chinese tourists in town all walking around in their guided groups clicking everything with their cameras.
We had a couple of beers in the camp bar, which were very strong I might add, then back to the van for tea. We did think about having the “cooked baby pig” they were advertising in the restaurant but decided against it.
Whilst sitting outside the van in the evening 2 families arrived on cycles. Each cycle had a child sitting on the front and the men were towing a trailer with more kids inside. It was amazing how many of them were.
WEDNESDAY 22ND AUGUST KRK - CROATIA
We were woken up at 5am but a train going past the campsite and blowing it’s horn. Around 6am the local church bells started to ring and continued to ring solidly for around 10 mins and just after they stopped a group of workmen started cutting wood with a chainsaw next door so we gave up trying to sleep and got up!
Today we head for Croatia. We are going to look at the bit of Slovakian coast before we go into Croatia and if it looks nice we will stop.
We took the motorway all the way to Izola, Piran & Portanok. They were all very busy and the campsites were very small so didn’t hang around and headed to the Island of KRK in Croatia as our first stop. On the way we passed a shopping centre so stooped and stocked up at Lidl and in another shop bought a lilo & pump for Tony.
Had to stop at the border to change up some money as Croatia not in the E, didn’t get a good rate but needed some local currency for the tolls so no option!
Headed over the toll bridge to KRK 81kn (£8.50) and on to a campsite on TomTom in Njivice. It was down a very narrow road, through a very small town with difficult turnings (definitely not for you Brian & Chris!) and the last 2km was on a one track road – when we got there they were full – they might not have been but don’t think they wanted our big van on their small site! So back up the difficult roads to get back to the main road and then headed for the town of KRK. Very busy here, couldn’t find first campsite and ended up at Camp Bor just on the outskirts of town. We had passed a car park which we could have stayed in for 15E but we just missed turning and Tony didn’t want to have to turn round – he was just about at his limit for driving these small and narrow roads for today. Anyway, parked up and went for a swim. Very peculiar pool or should I say poolS – in a small area there were 3 pools each one 7m x 5m (about the same as our one in Spain) and only 1.5m deep, still very welcoming & refreshing after a stressful days driving.
After recuperating we decided to cycle down the steep hill into town to get something to eat.
Well – the town was absolutely heaving, I’ve not seen so many people in one space for a long time! There were markets & stalls all along the seafront together with bars & restaurants, which were all full, and loud music blaring out all over the place. It was hard to even walk as you had to keep moving out of the way. After walking up a short way & seeing that we were not going to be able to eat or if we could find a place it was going to take ages to get served and suspect it wouldn’t be that good (all Pizzas & chips!) we headed back to the relatively peacefully tranquillity of the campsite and ate at the restaurant there which was very good and cheap.
I would like to add at this point that I beat Tony going up the hill, although I do admit to having some help from the electric side of by bike!
Back in the van high up on the hill we could hear all the noise coming from the town below and were so grateful that we didn’t stop in the carpark for the night as this was right in the middle of it all!
THURSDAY 23RD AUGUST KRK ISLAND (NR BRIDGE)
Left the campsite at 10.30am after servicing the van. Very peculiar set up – no separate chemical toilet facility it just went into the open drain with the rest of the waste and no separate water tap just one hose for all.
We were going to go straight to the mainland but decided to go to the small town of Baske at the bottom of the island as it wasn’t that far. On the way my electric window stopped working – unfortunately it was stuck down!
Baske had a no vehicle policy in its town so we had to park in a car park just outside. Tony had to dismantle my window to repair some shorted wires and blown fuses which took him an hour, at least it wasn’t the motor which was our first thought.
The cost for parking here was 50p per hour for a car or £4.50 per hour for a motorhome – obviously not welcome here then! Having got a bit stressed so far we paid up the £13.50 for 3 hrs. parking and walked to the beach area hoping for a swim.
Once again this was an extremely busy town. The beach area was packed, I don’t think there was a space that wasn’t covered with towels or sunbeds and umbrellas, we had to pick our way across the stones between the people to get into the water, which, when we eventually got there was quite cloudy – I expect through so many people swimming & churning it up.
We walked along the front to see how accessible the campsite was at the other end of town. We could have got there easily but wouldn’t have wanted to stay! It was choc a block with “campers” if you know what I mean – large families, screaming kids, noisy teenagers etc…. vans crammed in small spaces and just not our cup of tea – and on top of that it was 35E a night.
We walked back along the seafront to the van, stopping to buy Tony water shoes and myself a beach mattress on the way; Tony haggles and got 500kn off the price (50p!) The town is divided in two, where we had parked the van was in the old part of town and compared to the other end this was relatively quiet, not so many people here. Lots of apartment, in fact they look like nearly the whole area is apartments so obviously a holiday town.
We stopped at a shaded restaurant and I had Calamari, Tony had mussels, & a ltr bottle of water for £10 – very reasonable and enjoyable.
I think in late September or October this would be a lovely place to stay, without the crowds it could be idyllic. Reminds me of Callela de Parafugel in Spain the late 1960’s.
It was 4pm now and we had seen as much of the island that we wanted so decided to head off. We had seen a campsite at the very top of the island just as we came of the bridge so though we would call in there and if not too expensive would stay the night before heading down the mainland tomorrow.
Called in at the campsite – 30E and whilst we were discussing it the receptionist said she would give us 20% discount, Tony said 30% and we settled on 25%. Would never have thought to haggle over campsite fees!
We parked up, close to the beach, not realising kid’s playground and bar were just behind us!
Went swimming in the sea – although very pebbly it was lovely & clear, you just need water shoes all the time.
We had tea but I didn’t feel that good – I felt quite sick, so went to bed early. That night the area we had parked was very noisy until about midnight.
I was quite ill all night!
FRIDAY 24TH AUGUST KRK ISLAND (NR BRIDGE)
Not a lot to write for today as I spent the whole day in bed with the fan blowing on me to cool me down. Feeling quite poorly – have a suspicion it’s something to do with filling the water bottles at the camp where there was no separate drinking water pipe!
We moved the van to the quieter end of the camp and Tony occupied himself all day swimming, snorkelling & kayaking.
We will stay here until Monday when hopefully it will be less crowded as we move on to the mainland.
It’s a nice site, nothing here except for lots of open space, 1 toilet/shower block, a kids playground and a restaurant/bar and open ocean all around – oh and as I’ve just been reminded it’s on the flight path for the local airport so twice a day huge jet planes fly over very close! (that’s not so bad though – the location makes up for it!)
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