1300-1308: Greece and East – Heading Off

1300-1308:  And We’re Off!

Thursday 26th  September – Friday 4th October 2019

We finished loading Jez on Wednesday and struck off for the Tunnel for our 0123 hrs crossing.  We parked up planning to eat nearby.  However … the mackerel I’d bought had not been gutted.  Not feeling like tackling the fish, I lobbed it in the bin.  Now. I am usually the one that snaffles any left overs for soup.  But in my defence, my Lud, I was tired.  It was late.  I would had to gut them outside – in the rain.  And I’d already had to give Corrie a washing up bowl bath as she’d rolled in poop. Lots of it.  We ended up in a very nice country pub chatting to locals.  Ho hum.

Tunnel all fine with no delays.  Perhaps something to do with being the small hours, but straight through.  And onto Bergues aire, which we’ve used number of times before.  Good for walking CO2.  

We followed a route down to Ancona suggested by our friends Lin and Bo, who’ve been coming this way for decades.  It was pretty much all free motorway, and straight A roads, other than the Heavy Goods Pass for Switzerland EUR32.50 and then we paid on the Italian motorways … £31.  We tried to bring the crossing forward from October the 8th, but the earliest we could be accommodated for camping on board was the 3rd.  We had plenty of time to ooze our way down with not very long driving days.

I’ve started plotting our sleep spots with coordinates on PolarSteps/Katherine Clune … download the app and search for it…. 

 

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By a fishing lake in France, all the locals were very friendly and one in excellent English told me where to walk CO2.
 

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Italy or Switzerland?  Actually a small Italian enclave in Switzerland.  Only 0.6msq.  A mix of administration:  vehicles and currency Swiss, but Police Italian.  A fantastic spot right on Lake Lugano.  The car park was free and had been for a now bankrupt casino … apparently it had been the largest in Europe, but looked more like a power station.

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Apperatif in the little town of Camplione.

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We stayed one night at a campertstop with full services in Parma EUR20.  A EUR2 per person and per dog all day bus ticket into town.  Fortunately I’d been warned that CO2 may have to wear muzzles, and we were allowed on with 2 dogs, although the official line is 1 per bus.  A great wander around the town and we even spotted the restaurant we’d eaten in with Maddy about 9 years ago.  Unfortunately it was shut on a Monday, or we’d have revisited.  Instead we visited a couple of bars … had a good chat with an Aussie couple, who refuse to drive in Europe so travel by train :(.  Then bumped into another Aussie couple from the Camper Stop … more wine and supper together.  A good evening.

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A rather bemused member of staff looking at me re-enacting my falling asleep on the steps of the Basilica from 9 years ago.  Pix duly sent to Maddy.

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Not allowed to sleep long… face licking time!

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Overnight stop just S of Ravenna.  Lovely sandy beach for walking CO2 … and actually very warm so the shorts came out.  We are just starting the Go Sober for October wagon – see below!

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Not a glass of wine in sight … aperitif is now coffee!

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We spent the last night in Italy in the aire and Auchan just outside Ancona.  We’d received an email that our crossing was put back from 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm, but on arrival at the port, were advised that there was further delay … the ship didn’t actual sail until just before 8.00 pm.  A regular told me that the ship had been swapped for a faster one and we are due at Patras at about 5.00 pm  All very chilled.  Once parked dockside, I walked CO2 up into Ancona … an old city with Roman remains, tall buildings and small alleys.  Pleasant.  This above is the cathedral.

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Lions guarding the cathedral steps.

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One of the prettier squares.

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Made us chuckle, especially as it was on a Fix It Again Tomorrow! 

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Empty dock as we’re all on the ship.  We are Camping on Board, so we can live in Jez for the 21hr crossing.  I wandered around helplessly with our electric cable wondering where to plug it in.  Not needed!  A loooong pole pulls an electric cable down from the roof.  And it ain’t no 3 amp rubbish … we’ve had the Remoska and electric hob going, whilst charging anything that vaguely needed it.  Excellent showers and toilets.    We’ve been on deck just to walk CO2, but Corrie ‘saved’ herself for this morning … she really only does like going in discreet places and on grass.  Oscar, however, wants to mark anything he can cock his leg at and has no inhibitions.  


Go Sober October by James

Does anyone have their best ideas whilst sitting on the toilet?  Leopold Bloom (Ulysses) did…..  Well readers, I was thus encamped on the loo at our wilding – Lago di Lugano – when I remembered that MacMillan nurses are encouraging people to shun alcohol for the entire month of October!  I climbed back into Jez as we were leaving and unleashed the bombshell on Katherine – she didn’t bat an eyeIlidl (or an Aldi)!  Talk about St Paul throwing himself off his horse on the way to Damascus!!!  It was bad enough giving up the drink for Lent years ago…  I really must avoid toilets!!!   We are now committed – as I write we’re on day 4 – and no problems so far – no shakes or twitchessssssssss.   It’s a hugely deserving cause (and close to our hearts….   Rally round troops – and think of the widow’s mite!  We’re a mite nonplussed!  “We’re all going on an alcoholiday……

If anyone would like to donate the price of a coffee …. here’s the link.

 

We don’t normally do politics on here, but this made me chuckle:

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919-921: The Start of Our Greek Odessy

919- Wednesday 6th December 2017: Off to Greece

We completed our services and took the short drive to Igoumentisa port. A long wait of 3 hours….  Some trucks reversing – all over the place (health and safety – but it all works in an Italian beautifully organised disorganised way – bellissimo!.  Where do they put them all?  Ah .. two levels.  Loaded last as first off, most vehicles going onto Patra … we turned around on top deck.  Lots of areas on board closed as not enough passengers … self service restaurant shut till 7.00 p.m. … K had bought a cold supper as we’d been told the food is expensive and not marvellous … so we sat in the cabin and ate that as a late lunch,  fortunately we did not need supper.  Would have been complicated anyway – we’d either have had to eat taking it in turns or leave Oscar alone in the cabin – as we know from the howls that another couple did!   Coffee EUR2.50 each – not paid that since Nice area!

Oscar pooped on the poop deck!  So proud!

Nanny nap, research on Greece, showers (hot and forceful, but didn’t drop the soap – just as well as no room to pick it up!) more wine — bed in stuffy room. 18 hour crossing……………. successfully completed.

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May not be a cruise ship despite the name … Cruise Olympia, but significantly better than the Helsinki-St Petersburgh ship. 

920- Thursday 7th December:  What an Amazing First Day

The same free-for-all disembarking.  Straight onto A2 motorway – brand new with EU money – that route or our destination would have been very wiggly … toll £5.30 for not very far … will need to check roads out – can we do non motorway?  Anyway, we are in Greece – my first time (and Oscar’s) but K was here 30 years ago…..

Dodani … holy oak tree – revered by frenzied priestess and priests, they slept on their floors and didn’t wash their feet!  The Romans chopped the tree down and built temples and an amphitheatre.  

Another nanny nap in the car park as sleep was not great on the Adriatic/Aegean Sea. Good ruins but we always think of Sicilia/Italia as the best – but we will see loads more in Greece.

Iaonnina was our first town destination – walls, lake, castle museums. Superb cheap lunch – yummy.

We drove in the afternoon up the hill to a viewpoint/official motorhome free parking overnight – spectacular views down over the lake…..

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Our first Roman amphitheatre in Greece.

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Originally a Greek site, rebuilt with lots of Roman Temples.

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The original Oak was cut down … the Oracle Priestess would receive slates with questions such as ‘Are my wife’s children mine?”  She would listen to the bottles suspended from the branches that magnified the rustle of leaves and pronounce her answer.  Not sure how she worked in winter when the leaves dropped. 

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… but people obviously still hope it will bring luck and chucked very low value coins in.

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Used to be another 10m on top and seat about 17,000 making it one of the largest in Greece.

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Another Oak waiting for the performance to start.

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J on role reversal … pulling every which way and cocking his leg.  We’re still working on J being the Boss!

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Our walk along the lake to the historic town of Iaonnina.

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Two mosques still in the old town castle, which was the base of Ali Pasha who essentially ruled a massive area as a fiefdom.  This one was the Aslan Pasha mosque 1611 and now municipal museum.  Next door was a Muslim seminary, where Ali Pasha attempted to rate his son’s mistress. For refusing the tyrant’s advances, she was bound, weighted and thrown into the lake with 17 of her companions.  He also executed a rebel in public by smashing his bones with a sledge hammer.  Nice chap!  A young Lord Byron visited Ali Pasha in 1809, Ali Pasha took rather a shine to Byron… sexual? … as he was taken with Byron’s small ears – a sign of high breeding!

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Inside the Alslan Pasha Mosque.

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Two dishes of the day … lamb stewed with potatoes (falling off the bone) and lamb with fresh tomatoes in a filo parcel served with a rocket, sun dried tom and balsamic salad … with 500cl of local regional wine … £22 with tip.  We’re so going to love these prices … means we can eat out more.

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Spot the snow!

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The wrought iron to the left of the mosque is Ali Pasha and his wife’s grave.  I’d hoped to see the Silverware Museum in one of the Castle’s building, but it shut earlier than advertised.  

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So still – an almost perfect reflection.

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Our night time view point … wonderful.

 

921- Friday 8th December:  Cycling Lake Pamvotidha

 We moved Jez down to the lake side and we cycled 26 km around the lake. Two packs of dogs chased us but they couldn’t work out where Oscar was (concealed in his Os-car).  He went very quiet at all the barking.

Monastery of Dhourahani – very smart and cared for … run as a vocational school for disadvantaged children.  The Churches have lots of paintings of saints, but are very dark.

The obligatory coffee en route…trays of meat and pots ready for the standard late Greek lunchtime (2-3:00 pm).  We’d have stopped as it looked good, but it was only 12.00 and not sure how long we’f be salivating.  We lunched in Ianonnina, more excellent value – and our first Moussaka.

Drove to Metsovo for night stay … very cold … checked weather – one app said snow overnight… risk averse …then drove an hour back down the mountainside … lake side pitch, not far from the monastery – our first ‘wild camping’ in Greece. After only 2 days, we have a good feeling for Greece – like we experienced in Italy. Roll on the next few months. Oscar likes it too – although he doesn’t know which country he’s in – he’s in HappyK9ville, always! 

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Our morning view of the lake … it’s been filled in by mist. 

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Such stillness.

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912-918: Now Which Country Are We In?

912 – Wednesday 29th November 2017: And into Montenegro

Heavy rain (drizzle from Brizzle, or Spain?) – K did laundry – or laundwet?  Rigged up clothesline in the closed but covered restaurant patio. Some van cleaning – and I went to have shower….. well, the water temperature hovered between tepid and coooold!  A real ‘boarding school’ shower….. (K: I elected to use the one on board, having had J heroically test them!)  But lovely campsite owners, known by all the locals, including the bar where we took wine – to ward off the cold and damp…. and use the wifi.

 

913 – Thursday 30th November: And Further Down Montenegro

Some laundry had blown off in the overnight high winds … J collected it’s sodden mass.  Some had dried overnight in the van.  We had planed to stop at Kotor on our way south towards Albania … but lashing rain and road flooding conditions prevented this.  ‘Interesting’ wet and slow drive on empty roads.  Nothing for it but to head into Albania sooner, but needed to do some planning as we thought we’d be longer in Montenegro.  So to a campsite our Finnish friend told us of South of Budva.  Still peeing down, put a damp load of laundry on … no driers so all hanging in Jez – 3 days of Chinese Laundry in the van :(.  Walk along beach front … rat .. googled rat infections on dogs … and forum replies on rabies blood test … yes Oscar should have had it … vet knew our destinations and we (K:  that would be me, but J is too kind to point the finger!) hadn’t properly checked !!!  All to do with three tiers of rabies … rabies free, controlled and high … Montenegro and Albania are high.   We don’t fancy being stopped at Albania / Greece border …. so we will head back North into Croatia and investigate boats to Italy then Greece.  “The best laid plans of mice and men clang aft a-clay” – or something similar….

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Are we on a boat?  Little did we realise … not yet!

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Islands in Kotor Bay almost submerged.  Water level definitely high as we spotted a beach volley ball pitch of very short people (are we allowed to call them midgets?) … poles only a couple of feet high.

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Windscreen wipers could hardly cope with the torrent. 

914 – Friday 1st December: Then Back Up To Croatia

We traversed back through the mountains to Bosnia and Herzegovina – some stressed and successful border crossings – ’nothing to declare,Sir…’ (not even the 10 bottles of vino and 6 months supply of e-juice) – a big shop in BiH at mega low prices – and into Croatia (again) – back to the sanctuary of Camping Stobrec – one of the best sites ever! Only 9 hours travel….. What a day – phew… Oscar had to be ‘invisible’ at the border crossings, just in case!

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Better weather coming North and better views around the Kotor Bay.

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In BiH, ancient Necropolis … we used their carpark for a driver change.

915 – Saturday 2nd December: Sitting Still in Croatia

Well – how to start a quiet day? – ‘embracing the moment’ in bed….then one of the site managers knocked on the door – and the moment was suddenly ‘disembraced’…..not quite ‘in flagrante disrobio’ but close….  We compared costs about routes to Greece and decided to drive to Ancona in Italia and ferry to Greece.  Booked Minoan Ferries, with a members discount as advised by Viamare booking agent saved us £62 (excellent service, if anyone is planning to book – lovely people on the phone) + pet friendly cabin….. 18 hour sailing. Our new friend Outi from Finland, who has a house in Estonia and overwinters often in Monetnegro, has never had a border issue with her dogs….but we prefer to be risk averse.  

More handy laundry and a good breeze on our clothes line… for once not inside!

As often happens – a line of poetry comes to mind – very apposite in our circumstances!

“And a good south wind sprung up behind

the albatross did follow

and every day for food or play

came to the Mariner’s hollow”

‘Ryme of the Ancient Mariner’ – we are the not so ancient mariners and we need a good south wind…..

 

916 – Sunday 1st December: North to Italy

A big driving day – 8-ish hours with spectacular scenery – and heigh ho – we’re back in our bellissimo Italia, again!!!  Is there a nicer place to be?  Circumnavigated Trieste (James Joyce residence during the war, I recall) – avoiding the infamous road ramp that nearly nobbled us a month ago…. we paid up for the Slovenian vignette (ERU15 for 20 mins) and stuck to motorways.

Lovely free aire to overnight – we jump started a French van – twice! The 2 lads and 1 lady looked about 12 years old….maybe we are the ancient mariners?  Oscar says – ‘feck off, youze – I’m not a mariner!’  I think he missed something there…  sunshine beams on us – the righteous? But -4C overnight!

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Heading North to Italy – the cloud filling in between the mountain peaks.

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Views looking out to the Dalmatian islands.

917- Monday 4th December: And a Little Further South 

Drove most of day to Fano …passing some places we’d stayed at on our Italy just over 2 years ago.  The aire had tatty permanent caravans ….we wonder at the stories behind these single men.  K walked into town and along beaches with Oscar – I made sure the bed was still horizontal – it’s on my checklist…..Still sunny, yummy.

918- Tuesday 5th December: Fano and Onto Ancona

Walk and breakfast in Fano – lively old town. Had to have a pukka Italian coffee … no where else comes close.  Combed the beach front looking for a chandlery to sell us a replacement electric cable to Euro 2 pin (having left ours Dubrovnik and we’ll need one for the ferry for Electric Hookup)… three places on drive south … everything but in one and two no longer existed despite web presence … we’ll use the UK socket adaptor and a three to two pin … a bit Heath Robinson, but all under cover on the ferry so no wet risk .. If the cable does get wet, we’re in serious trouble!  Onto Auchan supermarket outside Ancona (15 mins from the ferry port) with free dedicated spaces for motorhomes … K did a big shop including Oscarfodder.  And we had another Italian coffee … needs must.  

Another lonely man and dog in a decrepit caravan on the parking.  We settled for the evening, we thought…. About 8-ish, a ‘domestic’ stared outside – 4 men from the decrepit caravan – a bit of ‘handbags’ but too loud. So, discretion being the better part of valour, we moved all of 200 metres – to avoid the unseemly racket.  

Looking forward to the mariners’ trip to the cradle of civilisation…..

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Fano had a lovely busting shopping area … but buildings had kept their original facia.  Christmas Panetone anyone?  All the decorations are up in the shops … wondering when we should put our up?  Just before my birthday?

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Walk along the harbour wall to the ‘David’ … funny how the statue’s bits had been rubbed shiny … but no effect on their size!

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The river had two areas controlled water flow with warnings about sudden surges.