1168-1173: Corsica Initial Impressions and FIAT

1168 – Bastia

Saturday 18th May 2019

Having showered on board, it was a relief to get off the boat, and an hour early at 7.00 a.m..  Corrie had refused to poop on the poop deck, so must’ve been desperate.  Nice boat though, relatively new.

A 5 min drive to a back street where we parked up for most of the day.  A poop opportunity for CO2 (finally) and then we all retired for a few hours sleep.  Downhill into Bastia, a citadel, old town and old port.  All slightly decaying concrete but pleasant.

IMG 3244

J’s first Frenc Pain au Chocolat, with Corrie ever hopeful.

IMG 3246

Bastia Old Port

IMG 3248

Whilst at a cafe, I had a online chat with Fiat … there is a Fiat Professional garage near Calvi … so we drove over to the other side of the island … a tenderly nursed engine, with cars piling up behind especially on hills.  The first campsite we went to was shut, a reverse down a sandy track and up a steep slope.  The second was full with a rally of Dutch … they are everywhere in Corsica from what we’ve seen.  The third had spaces, but EUR29 per night!!!! One dog was free, but the second incurred a fee of EUR5 per night.  Which dog shall we dispose of?!?

Being tired, we ate in the campsite restaurant.  Reasonably priced, pizza for J and chicken skewer for me washed down with a pichet of red.  Actually we asked for a litre pichet and she brought two half litres … old soaks!  Funny how you can instantly dislike some folk.  There was an English couple where the wife asked the staff if the burger had been goat … no beef, they answered with a puzzled expression.  had she thought it was really rat / cat??  She was having a loud one sided conversation with a German gent … apparently she has published a book about her life on Amazon so her children can read all about her life!  175 pages of it … no mention of how large the print.

 

1169 – Calvi

Sunday 19th May

A slow start day, especially for me!  J feels guilty about CO2 poop opportunity and dogs’ breakfast about 9.00, so nobly sorts them out.  A little bit of a wiggle on, when we realised that the TIC shut at 12.30.  But a lovely walk along the beach to get to the town.   The prices here are staggering compared to what we’re used to, but J read that it is a rich yachty destination.  Two coffees £5.30 and ice creams £7.95 (we have been paying £3-5).  So we weren’t tempted to have lunch out … although the menus did look good.  Hopefully it is just this touristy town which is over priced.  

We bumped into the same English couple, from last night’s restaurant, in the Citadel … she didn’t improve with conversation for me either.  J is far more tolerant than I.  Not seen them since :).

IMG 3258

View of Calvi and Citadel from our beach walk into town.

IMG 3254

Christopher Columbus was born here.  Apparently Lord Nelson blew up the house and lost an eye in the process.  There is a plaque but we didnt’ bother looking for it.  

IMG 3255

Views from the Citadel – craggy mountain hinterland.

IMG 3257


 

1170 – 1173:  Fiat Fun and Frolics!

 

Monday 20th – Thursday May

Fiat … Fix It Again Tomorrow!  Thanks Dan for reminding us, we should have got a Merc or Iveco engine! We coaxed Jez the 5 km to Fiat Calvi… and waited for the expert mechanic. Monsieur after having a look opined that he didn’t know what the problem was – and anyway they couldn’t look in detail for 2 weeks!  Sitting on the Fiat forecourt and on the ‘dog and bone’ to Fiat/RAC Euro rescue…..this started a chain of events…we quickly realised that there was not one person to deal with – UK had to talk to folks in France who didn’t answer phones or emails – and one lady was on hols with no replacement for a day!  We were promised a low loader – decamped to a parking near Calvi airport…..waiting and waiting….cleaned the van – and waited….  finally a low loader arrived, after 6 hours – rather a short loader – far too short.  Mechanic said it was safe to drive and we should take it Bastia tomorrow.  Limped back to cheaper campsite (and nicer).  Morning, we started the engine – into gear – and no movement whatsoever! More Euro phrolic calls – no suitable low loader available – they hope to rent one tomorrow!  Euro 1500 required for the job! We should start our own low loader business…..Not so much a “Comedy of Errors” as “Love’s labour Found – at Euro 1500”   Insurance provided a hire car and chalet accommodation on site – bijou…. K transferee our essentials by car to the chalet.  The Fiat Assistance would have arranged a hotel – B&B per night at EUR100 pp …sounds like 5* to us.  But with the dogs and eating out prices, we’ve opted to pay and claim back on a chalet on the campsite so we can cook ourselves and have a little more room (and deck) for CO2.

Next a.m., as no progress, we drove out for a tourist day….15 mins later – phone call – low loader en route!  U-turn and back to camp.  This was a regular loader…. we pushed Jez out and into position with help from happy campers… tow pin screwed in at the front and tow started as exit from site too low for the combined load. Then – snap, crackle and pop! (who remembers that breakfast cereal?) – tow bolt in Jez sheared off…..and damaged grill and fairing. Fortunately, we have photographic evidence. Now a veritable army of campers arrived and pushed Jez 500 metres (some uphill) out past the site entrance! amazing people, all – mercy beaucoup!  We followed M’sieu Le Tow 2.5 hours to Basti HGV garage – unloaded – and he asked K to sign his paper that all was well. Correctly, K refused unless the grill damage was noted! M’sieu Le Tug threw his toys out of the pram- and exited stage left in a Corsican huff!  Next – the garage cannot do anything until paperwork arrives from Fiat Italy – by pigeon post?  Meanwhile, we googled – and it’s likely the clutch is not covered by the warranty – verified by phone call – it seems the clutch is the problem – verified by ‘paperless’ garage.  Who remembers the concept of the ‘paperless office? In my office, we took multiple photocopies of emails and created more paper…ultimately recycled to provide – more paper…

Left the garage and found a riverside walk so C02 could uncross their legs – they’re so patient, our children pooches.  Back to Camping La Pinede – and site restaurant supper……zzzzzs. 

IMG 3036

Gotta love helpful campers, even if some of the summer shorts a tad tight!

IMG 3277

Damage.  The facia is one long piece, which will, no doubt, cost a fortune and take a year to arrive.

IMG 3282

Combined height.  I was convinced that we would loose the roof on a low bridge, or at least the awning on the other side.

IMG 3284

IMG 3286

Being released off the low loader at the commercial vehicle garage.



1163-67: French Scenery and Jez Troubles

1163-1164 – Into France

Monday 13th – Tuesday 14th 2019

Kerstin was off to work early, but we said farewell to our driveway hosts and set off in the direction of Nice … ferry to Corsica booked on 17th.

Easy drive to an aire near the motorway E of Besancon; Brognard with lakes to walk CO2 around.  Another driving day Tuesday to a France Passion in Vognes, Rhone Alpes,  and possibly the most beautiful France Passion we’ve stayed on.

IMG 3221

A slightly tight space, but so quiet at the top of the village.  We didn’t sample the wine, but bought a bottle and some pate.  

IMG 3223

IMG 3224

The scenery is just so attractive that EVERY time we drive through, we say that we must organise some serious time to explore.  But time is always so short, says I with no paid for work!


1165-1167 – Entrevaux and Van Issues.

Wednesday 15th – Friday 17th May 

We spent two nights on the free aire by Entrevaux station.  Super quiet as it is a single track line that goes form Nice up to Digne les Bains only every couple of hours.  In the summer, it is sometimes steam train.  We’ve stayed here before and fell in love with the village and region then … this was a serious contender for our property purchase.  On a walk we did see a 2 room shack with its own water supply, a veggie plot, solar panels and 3000 m2 of olive trees … yours for only EUR45,000 … just a single track path 1.5km out of Entrevaux.  On arrival, we ate in the village … I’ve not had trout with almonds for years but is was delicious and locally supplied.

IMG 3226

Entrevaux old town and citadel over.

IMG 3230

IMG 3231

IMG 3236

IMG 3238

IMG 3239

We took Jez into Nice caravans, which is a repair place and an Adria dealer to replace a wall door handle.  Fortunately they had just one in stock.  Good, as I had been putting all the cupboard contents into a washing up bowl whilst in transit … my string and double sided velcro had not worked!

Engine Trouble

On the way back up to Entrevaux, I wasn’t able to put Jez into gear.  Rolled over to the side of the road and switched the engine on and off a few times, before I could do a gear change.  All seemed fine.  But then on Friday evening when we were driving down to Nice for the ferry, we realised something was seriously wrong … pulling away, or when attempting higher revs, the engine sort of kangaroos.  Are we mad catching the night ferry to Corsica in a poorly van, I asked?  Oh well, they must have Fiat garages in there!  So once, we’d worked out how to actually get onto the quayside (which we really should have known as Sarah has a flat two streets away, which we’ve stayed in), we limped onto the ferry!  Must be the season for engine trouble as Meg has issues in Italy and now France, and Lin and Bo have just had a new gear box in Crete!


1157-1162: Festive Frolics

1157 – Being Social Again

Tuesday 7th May 2019

We drove to Riedlingen on the Danube, as Margaret and Angus who host the Brin motorhome gatherings near Inverness were following the Danube on their way to meet friends N of Munich.  After a wander around the small village and the regulation ice cream, I cooked supper.  M&A brought wine and cheese.  Lovely to catch up with them … and no alcohol was consumed at all … yeah right!  

 

1158-1160 – Shopping and Kerstin’s

Wednesday 8th – Friday 10th May 

Margaret provided breakfast and I walked the dogs in peeing rain, then we set off on our way.  In fact it pretty much peed down all day … we headed to Metzingen, which is a whole town converted into an outlet centre.  A lot of top name brands for which we have no use, but J came away with some shorts and trousers, and I invaded the biggest Gerry Weber store I’ve ever seen.  Last time I purchased 3 pairs of trousers and numerous tops.  No sale on this time, so just one outfit purchased.  

Not far from here onto Kerstin’s in Reutlingen.  Where we parked up last time has now been built over for asylum seeker’s flats, so we went into a neighbour’s driveway.  Not only were Petra and Stephan giving us driveway space, they had lopped some trees so we could get in, and offered us hookup!  We even came away with home grown radishes and Petra’s Pesto (so yummy and garlicky, that I am even eating it on Ryvita as I type!).  Such kind and generous people.

Several lovely dog walks around here with views of the  funny little pointed hills that are the Schabische Alpes.  J visited the doctor to have his hormone injection implanted and a blood test to check his PSA levels – it only cost £18 … He paid over EUR100 in France. We got the result on Monday and it was brilliant news … down to 0.03.  Everything going as it should. 

IMG 2982

James or Mum normal dye my hair – reluctantly.  As a special treat, I let Kerstin have a go! A new experience for K as she has never dyed her own, let alone anyone else! Erika, Kerstin’s Mama, on being shown this pic, asked if Kerstin was looking for nits!!!!  As if?

IMG 2984

IMG 3170

Our little Greek puss feeling the cold … hoping the fire would be lit!

Most (pronounced Mosht) is fermented apple, pear or quince juice.  Often a mixture of fruit, but usually with apple juice.  The alcohol content is normal around 4-5%.  It is made by small local growers.  Kerstin’s village had their first ever Most tasting competition; in previous years they had entered their Most at another village’s competition.  The top two were going onto the local heats and then the regional final.  So it was serious stuff.  They were sadly short of tasters, so Kerstin arranged for us to nobly assist!  We went along with our Irish, British and a borrowed German flag to respresent the international delegation.  Most of the Most was pretty foul, but a couple were palatable.  So was the copious nibbles of cheeses and sausages.  Good fun and a bit different.

IMG 3179

IMG 3181

Two of the tasting criteria were colour and clarity … quite a variation.

IMG 3189

Not one I liked, obviously!

IMG 3262

J didn’t chuck many, and his tummy suffered a bit the next day!

IMG 3188

We must’ve liked this one!

IMG 3187

From left, 3rd (son and first time he’d entered), 2nd and 1st (father) and Organiser, who kindly spoke excellent English to explain about Most and the competition.

 

1161 – Kerstin’s 50th

Saturday 11th May 

Kerstin had hijacked the barn belonging to some of her neighbour’s allotment / country gardens for her party.  

IMG 2990

The morning was spent decorating the barn.

IMG 2992

IMG 3010

From 4:00 people were arriving loaded with food and a lot of cakes.  I forced myself to try 4 varieties of cake … a BBQ followed later and then more cake!

IMG 3196

Kerstin’s Goddaughter, Yasmin … she was really good with CO2 and wanted them to go home with her.  On realising that we would miss them, she offered J and I living accommodation too.  When I said, we would be bored as we like our scenery to change, her Mother Judith quickly said we could change bedroom every week!

IMG 3198

Anton, another neighbour, attempting to record sparkling wine.

IMG 3199

Not Most, but locally made Schnapps from different fruits. I did try a few 🙂 only to be polite!

IMG 3200

IMG 3260

My jumper was much admired by the ladies.  Thanks Mum.

IMG 3264

Kerstin speechifying.


1162 – Left overs

Sunday 12th May 

After the final tidying up and clean at the barn, it was left overs, a BBQ and more cake at Kerstin’s.  And an early night!!!

IMG 3266

Guess who has charge of Corrie.  We had to threaten to check the car when they left in case of stow aways.

IMG 3265

IMG 3267


 






1151-1156: Bounding Through Bavaria

1151 – Into Bavaria

Wednesday 1st May 2019

Services and off to Bavaria.  Nice quiet overnighter in the Veldsteiner Forest … I took CO2 for a signed circular walk with some interesting rock formations.  Pitch black at night with great star gazing.

IMG 3116

The motorbike belonged to a chap who sat in the picnic hut and drank 2 litres of coke.

IMG 3120

IMG 3123

 

1152-1153 – Going Large in Augsberg

Thursday 2nd & Friday 3rd May

Being the third largest city in Bavaria, Augsberg is, and feels like, a large city.  After the timber buildings and cute villages of the Harz, the buildings here are large and imposing.  Again a riverside walk with CO2 on arrival.  On Friday morning we finally ran between shower and then had a quiet morning in the van whilst the rain continued to descend.  Eventually, it eased and we wandered into town.  A chilly and indifferent Kaffee and Kuchen sitting on a pavement and we made it back to Jez just as the rain came down again.  Services and off to Landsberg am Lech.

P1160952

Augsberg.

P1160948

The Fuggeri – Europes earliest social housing development from 1516.  Now it is mostly retired people. but they only pay EUR1 per annum in rent, but they have to attend prayers 3 times daily.  And a fine if they are late home after the gate shuts!

P1160947

Grafitti in the underpass  Matala a hippy comnunity where we spent about 6 nights in Crete abut a year ago.  And where we left off of our Greek Odyssey to return to the UK for J’s medical treatment, so where we will re-start our exploration of Crete this Autumn.

1154 – Legging it Around Landsberg am Lech & Monastery Beer

Saturday 4th May

Kerstin arrived about 9.00 … we had just managed to get up in time!!!  Kaffee and Kuchen (what again?!) and a wander around the town. Then out through countryside and back passing some lakes, captive (wild) boar and piglets, deer and lakes.  Again more countryside infrastructure to encourage people into the Big Outdoors.   Before setting off, Kerstin and I had a damp wander around the new car festival in the car park and someone (not me) had a second cake of the day!  Pretty much all brands were represented and we had a go at choosing Kerstin’s new car.  Her 17 yr old Vector is due its MOT this month (hardly run in at 200,000+ km) and her normal mechanic is refusing to ‘get’ it through another MOT.

IMG 3144

Landsberg am Lech

Our overnight was not far away but very different.  A monastery Stellplatz.  A massive complex, with an independent brewery.  Kerstin investigated and came back with good news … the Bier Stube is open, and we can take our own food up there, so long as we buy drinks.  Time was little pressed, as the bar shut at 8.00 when the monks go off for prayers, but we had till 9.00 to drink up.  A beef one pot went into the pressure cooker and whilst it pressurised, I beat Kerstin at Cribb.  One for his Knob!

When we arrived, there were few free tables, but soon after 8.00, it pretty much emptied out … a surprise as there was plenty of drinking time left!  K and I were rather keen on the Dunkel.

P1160955

The chaps at the next table could work Kerstin’s phone camera, but struggled with a pukka camera!  Spot the pressure cooker!  These were the SMALL beers!

P1160961

As a regular, you can rent a place to keep your beer stein. 

1155 – Monastery to Starnberg Lakeside

Sunday 5th May

K and I walked CO2 around part of the extensive monastery farm land and past some of the Stages of the Cross.  We got a good view back at the huge Monastery complex and the sizeable brewery.  After some persistent questioning, Kerstin discovered that there are only 5 monks left here. All this commercialism (the restaurant and bars, including the outside terrace seat over 3,500 people and there are function rooms, the shops, farm) for just 5 monks!!  It keeps the premises in good order though.

IMG 3148

Weather  no change!

IMG 3146

Just part of the monastery complex.  A massive car park for all the visitors.  The Stellplatz was EUR14 per night without electricity, but the car park was free.

IMG 3150

The church was, as you would expect, immaculate and ornate.  The money generated has to be spent somewhere!

Another short drive to Starnberg Lake and our stop for two nights.  Kerstin had been concerned that her car would start after the flurries of snow and hail, but it got here.  She and I then drove it to Starnberg town for a wander and an ice cream.  A place that will definitely not be on our “must go back to’ list … in the cold weather it holds no lure.  Perhaps in the summer with all the water sports it may have a different feel.  

We ate what was left of a sausage casserole after we had to wash the sausages and re-cook it.  It had been nicely stewing in the slow cooker all day. Our hab door is knackered and needs banging shut … when doing so, the slow cooker slid off the shelf and …  we managed to get most of it up with Kerstin contorting her body to get all the finely chopped onion and celery pieces up from inside the handbrake casing and from under the driver’s chair!  Kerstin then left us to go to the comfort of her Munchen hotel room to get a good night’s sleep and shower for her lecture on Monday afternoon.  Perhaps she just didn’t want to wake up to the smell of onion and white wine sauce!

 

1156 – Cruising around Starnberg Lake

 Monday 6th May

On damp dismal days, we tend to have admin sessions or go for a long lunch.  Today, we walked the 1 km to pick up the Grosse Rundfahrt around the Starnberg Lake.  Coffee and cake on arrival, two glasses of wine and then a local dish … meat loaf (think frankfurter sausage texture) and potato salad to soak up the wine!  So although the lunch wasn’t a great culinary experience, the scenery varied a bit.  And it was very relaxing 4 hours.

IMG 3160

A comfortable modern boat.

P1160964

P1160965

Typical village along the shore.

P1160966

P1160971

You can just make out the snow atop them there hills in the South.


IMG 3154

Any guesses what this is?  

Kerstin explained that poor people were going through the rubbish bins to find bottles and cans that have a deposit on them.  People can now put their bottles in here for ease.  Sometimes they are on waste bins.


IMG 3147

1148-1148: Hitching and Witching

1148 – Wet in Weringerode

Sunday 18th April 2019

We had the option of two parkings in Weringerode, the first looked OK, but we drove onto look at the second … glad we did.  It was gated with services.  Only EUR5 and when I paid the tourist tax and asked how long we could stay, was told as long as we liked … just the one entry fee.  He did look a little concerned when my eyes lit up, that we may move in permanently.  Having paid our Tourist Tax, we were now entitled to free bus travel and discounts off some attractions.  We had been wondering about being able to park in a few days time at Shierke as the village is small and the parking limited.  The TIC chappie also gave me a sheet with the FREE shuttle bus times to the Shierke Walpurgis Nacht festival.  Result … we’d stay put for 3 nights.  Just as well we got there when we did as, 2 days later, we counted over 20 vans in the overflow (and pay at the metre every day) car park outside our barrier.

With the wet stuff coming starting to come down, we poured wet stuff down our necks.  When the waiter offered us a selection of wines, we raised our arms in defeat … we knew some names but not the flavours.  A chatty chap next to us told the waiter to bring a Dornfelder and promised to drink it for us if we didn’t like it!  Liked it so much, we had two!  And we’ve been experimenting with the same grape at different prices from the supermarket since.

IMG 3066

Weringerode is a really pretty town.  It has over 1000 half timbered houses, a steam train and castle.  Oh and this rather special town hall.

IMG 3081

This is as close as we got to the train and up the Brocken mountain.  We would have gone up  until we discovered that, not only EUR45 per person, but 60% of that for each dog.  In the words of my daughter  Not happening, Mummy.

1149 – Hitching

Monday 29th April

Wet, wet wet.  And cold.  And having said I needed an admin day, this should have been my opportunity!  However, the rot had set in with the wine in Weringerode square … it turned into a late night.  Don’t think I was up until abut 11.00!  And not a lot got done.

We left the dogs about 6.00 p.m. (fortuitous) and caught the free bus to Schierke.  It was the first night of the festival and there were Celtic music bands playing.  Had a glass, something to eat and enjoyed the music.  Got back to the bus stop …

OOPS No.1: The busses stopped at 19.30.  Shuttle bus then … 

OOPS No.2: The shuttle only ran on the main festival night – tomorrow!  Taxi then … I counted our cash …

OOPS No.3: Asked in a restaurant … no, taxis from here!

All my fault and J uttered not one word of blame … her really is one tolerant man.  So here we are stranded in a small village, 19km from the motorhome and our two dogs!!!   If it hadn’t been for the dogs, we’d have just checked into one of the small hotels, assuming they had space.  Toothbrush-less.  Nothing for it, but to walk.  I was seriously concerned about J, as the treatment has really affected his fitness levels, but he is a game one!  The quickest route was several KM through the dark woods but witches are about, so we elected the road and tried hitching.  The first 5 cars passed, obviously deciding we looked very dodgy!  But the 6th, a solo lady, took pity on us.  And despite her near vapour fuel tank, drove us well past her turning and to near our motorhome.  So lucky.  And such a lovely lady.  Sure we’d not have got a lift if we’d had the dogs … it would have had to be a hotel costing us more than our daily budget!  This is the first time either of us has hitched in over 30 years … Maddy is so concerned that we are regressing to our teens and totally irresponsible!

IMG 3084

All the stalls were done in Medieval style.  Addition of a warm coat over her costume to keep warm.  Warm wine seemed in order  you chose your fruit and she warmed it in the kettle!  Neither of us liked mine … too fruity!

IMG 3086

IMG 2933

Brilliant German Irish folk rock band.  We recognised most of the songs.  Shame more people hadn’t turned out, but it was soooo cold.

IMG 2934

Pea soup  warming.   As well as 2 thermal vests and leggings.

1150 – Witching

Tuesday 30th April

We followed the walking trail around the town in the morning and dined out in a fast food style cafe for well under EUR20 for two full main meals and soft drinks.  

IMG 1532

Weringeroode locals!  Getting into the mood for Walpurgis Nacht.

IMG 1550

IMG 1537

We caught the shuttle train to the castle at the top of the hill, where our walk started.

IMG 1547

Along the old town wall  they were smaller then.

IMG 1548

Half a tower … exposed at the back.


A nanny nap for both us us and off we set again for Schierke and the festival … with CO2 this time.  J had double checked the shuttle bus timetable!!!  As we arrived people were lining the road … not for us, but the parade.  Bonus, hadn’t known about that.  All the local clubs from local distillery to Ice Hockey (a lot of beer on their float!) paraded past.  Then a cracking band and some wine.  We all got home safely on the shuttle bus :).

Screenshot 2019 05 03 at 12 17 12

The costumes were generally amazing … a film set.

IMG 3096

IMG 3102

IMG 3106

IMG 3108

IMG 2943

A coven of witches dancing next to us  they must have been some of the Line Dancers Group!


IMG 3078

Almost worth getting a cat to be able to carry / wear one of these!