607-612: Alfama Revisited and a Trip “Home”

607 – Tuesday 24th January 2017:  Chores and a Night Out!

I drove Alison to Lisboa Aeroporto at about 8:00 am – turned neatly to avoid a traffic queue on the Ring Road – and oops – it was the Airport turning.  Never mind (I thought) – we will re-route….. we did get to the Terminal Building right on time. Hired car returned – we would drive a Ford Fiesta any time again…

K swung the Jez twin tub into action and the laundry flowed nicely.  We decided to walk to Ikea to buy a clothes rack – why?  Because it’s the Ikea experience?  Now I escaped from Ikea twice in my life – it wasn’t easy – they have this arrow system to guide you to every single department – try defeating it – you need GPS – and balls!!!  We followed the arrows and made our purchase meekly.

A date with Delia and the O’Riain family at a rooftop bar in downtown Lisbon – spectacular night-time views over the City and the 25th April Bridge.  Later for a snifter – a kooky bar where 1960s pop music videos played.

On our return, Oscar was patiently sitting on the dashboard – he doesn’t miss much, our K9.  And the coats were once more on the ground.

608 – Wednesday 25th:  Alfama Revisited

Courtesy of K’s Iphone App, we had a walking tour of the Alfama district – wonderful narrow cobbled streets and the real Lisbon life – not totally unlike the back streets of Napoli…

Lunch outside on the street terrace of a small restaurant. I got chatting to an American lady from Denver with an English white Labrador – we talked about the logistics of taking dogs to the USA – she mentioned her dog sitter – whom she called her “dogger”!!!   I just about refrained from enquiring about tasteful ‘exhibitionist’ sites in Denver…  a language problem, doubtless.

Another lovely day in Lisboa…


Igreja da conceicao Velha:  one of the oldest churches in Portugal.


At the lunch restaurant.  9 years in the dripping.


looking across to the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Flora.



A wider Alfama street, with washing and tiled houses.


And a little narrower … a lot of steep slopes and steps.

K here … The Church Sao Vincente de Fora was large and not to our taste.  It’s most striking feature was a massive, heavy, dark Baroque canopy over the alter – quite hideous and in the same style as the one in St Peter’s Basilica Rome.  I left the ever faithful hound and James (both ever faithful and patient!) whilst I went into the monastery, which really was worth visiting.  Unfortunately it was too near to closing time, so J did not get to go in.


The ancient cistern.


It is known for its blue C18 azulejos in every room and all around both floors of both cloisters.


A Reliquary chest contain the remains of 7 Portuguese and Spanish missionaries killed in Morocco in 1585.


The two tiers of one of the cloisters with the blue tiles.


The monastery is the last resting place of the Monarchs of the House of Braganza.  A stone woman praying by the tombs of King Carlos I and his son Luis Felipe assassinated in 1908.


 It really gives a WOW factor as you walk into the Pantheon (so I’ve learned that the definition is a group of famous or important people … here all dead!)


On top of the Church’s roof looking across to the Castello Sao Jorge.


And across to the 25th April bridge and the Cristo Rei – modelled on the Rio de Janeiro one and commissioned 1949-59 by the dictator Salazar.

Barbecue on site in the evening – accompanied by the traditional firedog…

(A little gem of kindness – K was talking to the site security manager about locations for pet shops – Oscar will need a fresh supply of food soon. He immediately offered to order some online from his home and have it delivered to the campsite!  Portuguese people are the soul of generosity.)

609 – Thursday 26th:  Is this Rain I see Before Me?

Somehow the dewfall migrated from the grass on to the roof and windows of the van – unbelievable!  Or is it rain? The second time in 2 months in Portugal… This led to a slow start and some jobs around our home – to prepare K for her UK Winter experience for the next 2 days – arctic thermals at the ready!

610-612 – Friday 27th to Sunday 29th:   K With Munchkin and the Aged P’s

K here.  An early flight at 7.15: flight and train easy.  A quick chat with the Aged P’s as they are resident at Clare and Chris’ house minding the dogs and children (when they are not out socialising – the teenagers that is!) whilst the C’s are off gallivanting under the guise of doing jobs in their French house … yes, I heard about the wine tasting :).  Our car sits on the drive and Dad drives it and services it for us.  He’d even pumped up the tyres yesterday for me.  I know, I am spoilt!   Maddy Munchkin was at work and not expected till 6.30, so I did shopping for e cigarette juice for J, wool for me and food for supper for M and I.  I wallowed in the bath whilst listening to Little Women – an unabridged version and over 17 hours of listening.  I haven’t even got to the part where Beth dies but I managed to add to the bath water level with a few weepy bits.  M and I gorged chicken, chocolate and cheese and watched Maggie Smith in “Lady in a Van” … she really is the most amazing actor.  Went to bed with a sore over full tummy.


My Munchkin!

On Saturday we went to the Swindon Outlet shopping centre as I needed a coat that is warm and waterproof and a pair of ankle boots.  I’d worn the old, not warm nor waterproof jacket and old running shoes home so I could leave them behind … forward planning eh?  Between us we managed to come away with a coat and jumper each, a top and boots for me 🙂  And we managed to stay and shop despite the crowds as it was the last day of the sales … we neither of us like crowds.  I stepped away from the £325 Musto bright orange coat … Maddy objected to the colour, which I loved, but I passed on the grounds of it being more suited to arctic weather, which we mostly tend to avoid.


Was it an early start Maddy? 


Amazing to have caught the Aged P’s in the country … apparently 2016 saw them away from home 188 nights … they are currently on about 10 days home between S.A. and Las Palmas!

Supper at at Clare and Chris’ house with the dogs … and on Sunday the Aged P’s dropped me at Guildford to avoid the BR replacement bus.  I was back home with “My Boys” by 1.30.  Great to see Munchkin and the Aged P’s, and good to be home again.

A pottering afternoon.  Full justification in bringing a twin tub with us … forced to use the campsite laundry as rain threatened and air damp .. two loads and each was a staggering EUR7.40 and drier 4.10!

239 – 250: Maddy, a Birthday and Christmas

239 – Tuesday 15th December 2015:  Maddy’s Quick Culinary Experience and Etna

Tim arrived armed with 40 litres of Diesel and workmen’ gloves.  A bargain at EUR1 / litre.  The source: a local fisherman fills his boat at the naval docks in Augusta and brings back jerry cans to sell to the village.  What it is to know people – the right people!

We collected Maddy Munchkin at lunchtime and drove up to Etna.  We know the way pretty well now as we visited with the Aged Ps and Kerstin, but no visit to Sicily is complete without Etna.



Etna dirt


Honest … it has stopped erupting!


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And honest it won’t erupt… this crater goes back to 1988!


Maddy is the master Christmas decorations designer … I’m just the cellotape supplier.


awesome job!

Supper was in the campsite restaurant and Maddy had pizza and a lemon granita (sorbet) … tick and tick off her Sicilian culinary check list.


240 – Wednesday 16th December:  Birthday and Acireale

Maddy had arrived on about 8 hours sleep over the last three nights, so we just had to let her sleep in … which meant we had to too :).  Breakfast and gift opening on a deck, in the sun overlooking the cliffs … just lovely.  I’d bought some supermarket cornetto for Maddy … Nutella filled croissant …. very popular here and delicious, but nothing like as good as the fresh ones.  

James and I even gave the badminton rackets (bought in Slovenia and as yet unused) an airing … whilst Maddy slept … again!

Lunch in Chardonnay and then we walked to Acireale, via a detour to the local town Santa Maria La Scala.  La Scala means steps or stairs …. it was quite a steep walk up to Acireale and a certain young person had leg ache!  Coffee in town and I got to try a boob cake … I’d seen them before …. Saint Agatha had her breast removed by pincers, but the cake was yummy … filled with ricotta cheese.

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For more info:  http://www.goodfoodstories.com/minni-di-virgini/

We wandered around the town, poked our noses into a couple of Churches … Maddy left in a hurry when I pointed out the glass coffin with the embalmed priest!  Unusually, the Duomo has a long meridian line running through the nave.  After a drink and lots of nibbles, we walked back to the campsite for another drink, as restaurants don’t generally open till 8.00.   We then went down to Santa Maria to a trattoria recommended by the campsite.  An interesting experience … we were the only diners.  An elderly lady of about 80 served and cooked.  The menu was antipasto, spaghetti with clams or fish off the chiller counter.  Given how many nibbles we’d eaten earlier we opted for the best caponata yet (J and I)), spaghetti with tomato sauce i.e. no clams for the non seafood lovers, but I had a lovely pan cooked fish … don’t know what.  Some of the family arrived and were eating fresh baked donuts, so we were given some too.  So Maddy’s culinary experience now included a pasta dish.


Drink in town and both on their phones!


Our pitch … a sheer drop the other side of the railings.

241 – Thursday 17th December:  Back to Brucoli

Services sorted and a drive back to the airport to see my Munchkin off.  She was only with us for two nights and it was absolutely bloody wonderful having her here.  By Catania airport is a massive shopping centre.  We bought our Christmas presents to each other … tennis rackets.  We occasionally see courts that we could use and we both used to really enjoy a game.  Then into the massive Auchan … our biggest Euro shopping bill yet …. EUR279, but that included booze and most food to see us through to Christmas.  I also bought sunglasses and a shopping trolley with some birthday money (thank you Bron, Gill and Al).  I had wanted one for a trolley while, as when I use markets, the veggies seem to weigh a ton and it is a very looong walk always back to Chardonnay.  

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We have returned for three nights to the free parking in Broccoli.  

Today is the anniversary of my best and oldest friend, Nicky, death.  Jimmy was off school and had a Mummy Fun day with Ian, Tracy and the Mums.  Much love xxx


242 – Friday 18th December 2015:  BBQing in Brucoli

We must be relaxing …. a slow start.  A wander around the town.  An ice cream and a coffee …. and that was it for the day.  Tim and Karen shared a BBQ with us early evening.  Tim had combed the beach for wood and built an incinerator fire.  He tells people that when they get cold, he just burns a few boats!  

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TKMax (Tim, Karen and Max the cat, who gets his own chair!

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Nicky had given me sachets of fire magic, which turn the fire blue.

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Tim’s Christmas tree


243 – Saturday 19th December 2015:  Basking in Brucoli

Today followed a very similar pattern: slow start, walk into town, ice creams.  James was, however, moved to run.  Sitting on the beach, and watching the sky change colour with the sun set.    We had a game of backgammon on a lovely inlaid wooden board that Tim and Karen gave us.  James had beginners luck and won!  Kerstin had beginner’s luck and beat me at Cribb!  Am I loosing my knack?

I managed to pay for annual motorhome insurance and paid some other bills.  Amazing how different policies for motorhomes vary; amount of time you can travel, time in Europe, mileage and price …. you have to spend a good long time getting quotes … my excuse for a pretty lazy day.

News flash:  We have been mobbed.  Yesterday morning our pitch comprised Tim and Karen and Andrea and his two dogs.  The motorhome parking at the end of the town had a German small VW and an Italian van.  This afternoon and evening, they have been moving in – in convoys.  The far parking had 12 vans at last count.  A convoy of 4 drove past our pitch to one further around the bay.  But our lovely little community now has 3 other vans – all Italian.  One parked broadside along us, only a foot away.  We don’t like him as he barked at James when our engine was running so James could do the hoovering … this can wait till tomorrow, but he irony of it is, that he had his generator running earlier!  He also came to ask if we could move so he could get in to obtain a sea view …. we didn’t really understand, but told him that tomorrow we will be leaving.  Getano, one of the local chaps, told us it is like this every weekend, but the summer is even worse.  Given that Brucoli is not even in guidebooks, how do they all know about it?  Anyway, we will be off tomorrow.


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244 – Sunday 20th December 2015:  Onto Punta Bracetto

We are winding down for Christmas … so all we did today was fill up with diesel and GPL and drive to our new home for the next week.   We’d booked into a site where there is nest of Brits so we have some company over Christmas.  This site is amazing.  Each pitch has its own private washroom which means you can leave your wash gear in it.  Electricity is included in the rate of all of EUR 12 (5 nights plus).  The bay is super sandy.  It is very quiet.  Rave enough!  

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Consolation for you people under the grey damp skies of Britain, it absolutely poured today as we left Catania.  However, when we arrived in Bracetto, they had only had a light shower.  A German lady said since October it had rained only 3 times.  Apparently it is a little microclimate here and the weather takes it’s lead from Tunisia … should be in for some lovely weather.

We popped into say hello to Dan who had responded to my Wild Camping forum post about ‘anyone in Sicily’, hence our presence here.  He kindly invited us over for supper tomorrow.


245 – Monday 21st December 2015:  Cleaning or Putzen 

We have cleaned Chardonnay on our travels since April, of course we have!  But not a spring clean.  Not a proper one since we left 8 months ago.  After a run along the coast (J did a fast and long one 🙂  ), we hoovered and lifted the carpet … they got a clean and the van got a spring clean.  There is a small tennis court and our mutual Christmas gifts of rackets got their first outing.  We used to play quite regularly, but have not played for about 6 years … it felt really good, but I struggled to hit softly and accurately to get a rally going.  I blamed it on muscle memory!

Over to Dan’s for supper.  His van is sited overlooking the bay …. we watched the sun go down and create amber and pink glows … reckon he has the best pitch, but he is here for a few months and is a regular.  Not only was his ‘signature’ dish of shephard’s pie truly tasty, he brought out cheese followed by a tub of Roses.  Anyone that knows me, knows my weakness for cheese … it goes into a separate stomach.  We wobbled home, full of booze and good food.  Blame the booze, cheese and chocolate combination, but they had a detrimental effect on my sinuses … although I didn’t hear the snores … funny that!

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246 – Tuesday 22nd December 2015:  Cycle to Santa Croce

Another run and my new Pilates mat got its first airing …. can tell it is some months since i did these exercises … ouch!  The nearest main town is only about 5 miles so we cycled past the polytunnels (tomatoes, carnations and aubergine mostly).  Found the medical centre who can do a blood test (routine) for James but not until the 28th – so we will have to stay here until then …. dammit!  Not!  A wander around the town and couple of glasses of vino and an arancini for lunch.  For those not familiar with anranci, they sound gross but are actually very delicious.  A ball of rice will a meat ragu centre, covered in orange crumb and deep fat fried … honest, they are yummy.  Could become addicted.

We BBQ’d for supper, which is something we don’t like to do when wild camping.  Dessert was Pocket Coffee.  Created in Italy, but available in the UK from Amazon.  Dark chocolate with an espresso liquid coffee inside … Dan had introduced us to them and I’d bought some today.  Not sure how long the box will last as they are truly addictive (perhaps I have an addictive personality?!).  And I tried the orange fortified wine which I had bought yesterday from the fruit and veg van that came on site.  Nothing special, but very quaffable …. have I been rambling?  And will my sinuses play up again tonight … ask James tomorrow!


247 – Wednesday 23rd December 2015:  Pottering

We took the new shopping trolley for a little walk to the local small supermarket and came back with 2 x 6 packs of water.  The water on the site tastes foul so we have resorted to bottled.  Had a coffee and a yummy potato and cheese pastry from the cafe opposite.  The small supermarket is so small it did not have anything I needed, so we had another bike ride into Santa Croce to buy some a few final bits of food.

We took supper over to Dan’s and I certainly drank too much.  James told me that my mannerisms became very animated!


248 – Thursday 24th December 2015:  Cycle to Marina di Ragusa and Campsite Party

We cycled to Marina di Ragusa, only about 9km and pretty flat.  Beautifully sunny and we sat and watched a few families on the beach and a group of men wading in for a swim .. James thought they must be English as not other nationality would be that mad!  We couldn’t find anywhere in the town where we could sit out for lunch and watch the bikes, so we started back.  On the outskirts of the town there was a small cafe bar.  We ordered:  a burger and chips for J and an arancini for me.  The chips arrived, so I helped him out with these …. yummy and can’t remember when we last had chips!  J’s burger arrived so we came to the conclusion my arancini had been forgotten, so I helped out with that too.  Whoops … the arancini arrived …. piping hot and I cycled back with a stitch in my side from over eating!

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Cycle sock and J wobbling over

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The sea was an amazing blue

The campsite put on a little get together:  a drink and a table laden with sweet cakes and pies. As J walked into the room, he just saw a room of old people!  A German gent was playing and electronic keyboard and a couple were determined to skip around the room to it!  We extracated ourselves, but not before having a good chat with our Swedish neighbours.


249 – Friday 25th December 2015:  Christmas Day

I ran and did some Pilates ….J did a mile to test his calf muscle injury.   We had a knock about on the small tennis court using our joint Christmas racket gifts.  Late lunch was a roll of turkey cooked in wine and stock in the slow cooker so it did not dry out.  I even made mushroom and sausage balls, emptying out the meat from proper sausages.  

Great FaceTimes with Maddy as she opened her stocking and with the rest of my family who were having a Baker Christmas … they know how to do it really well.  We even had a conversation about possible being at home to join them next year!


250 – Saturday 26th December 2015:  Boxing Day and Drinks

Another run for K – 6 in a row!!!  A game of tennis … just one set and J won 6-3 … I never win!  Managed to format a hard drive so I could ‘acquire’ some of Dan’s films … including the Peter Wimsey series 🙂

Our Swedish neighbours joined us for drinks and cheese …. it all went really well until I started pouring Sambuca for Yvonne and myself … apparently I passed out when I went to bed and James had to sit on me in order to be able to actually get into bed … I don’t remember any of it, so he must be making it up.

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View over the sand dunes at the end of my run





120- 126 : Wonders of the World

In the last week, we have seen so many magnificent sights, they are the New Wonders of the World – according to us!

120 – Monday: Wonder 1 – Leaning Tower of Pisa

Having arrived at a campsite the night before we continued with housekeeping … cleaning and washing.  After lunch we wandered into Pisa and found some repair equipment, such as glue and screws.  We had plenty of time before collecting Maddy from the airport to have a wander.  I had been to Pisa a couple of times before and believed there was not much there other than the Square of Miracles with the Duomo, Basilica and Leaning Tower (Campanille).  However, we discovered some lovely piazzas and arcades of shops.

J had the brainwave to get the bus to the airport rather than disturb / pack up Chardonnay.  So EUR2 each and a short ride to the airport … having watched a man go apoplectic as he missed his airport transfer and had to catch the public bus … the air was blue … shame as he was with his young son.  Plenty of time at the airport and not driving, so we had a couple of glasses to pass the time!

My Munchkin arrived :).  Bus back into the centre and we bought timed tickets to go up the Leaning Tower.  We wandered around the cloisters that had been badly damaged and saw statues and some of the restored frescos and had supper.

I scaled the Tower about 28 years ago with my father.  It had then been shut to tourists and only reopened in 2001 after inserting a concrete plinth underneath to correct the lean slightly and prevent further lean.  As you look at it, it really is amazing that it does not collapse.  Incredibly, it started leaning after they constructed the third story and they kept building!  The circular stairs hug the wall and you can sense the angle of lean as you climb.  They also get narrower and have more wear to the tread.  Climbing is not for the faint hearted or unfit.  At the top, the narrow walkway is all of about 90 cm wide.  Now there is a very high fence, but there was not when I climbed up all those years ago.  I can still remember moving around the walkway with my back pressed to the tower thinking that this really is not safe!  Some super views.

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Other people taking Instagram pix









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Maddy doing an Instagram pic!
















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Katherine doing an Instagram pic!









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James doing an Instagram pic; James style! … if only he had an account!









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Amazing views

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James declined the climb up and rested, until Maddy poured water on him …


121 – Tuesday: Pick up in Padua 

We drove to Padua to pick up Kerstin who had arrived by train from Germany a couple of days before.  Having set Sally Sat Nav for her hotel near the station, we were guided into the tram lines and one way systems …. a slight concern, but Kerstin was on the look out for us.  So a quick traffic halt as we bundled her, and her back pack on board.

We drove to a campsite on the Branta Riviera and had a BBQ.


122 – Wednesday:  Villa Pisani and onto Venice

The main reason for staying on the Branta Riviera was to be near Venice, our destination for the next evening.  However, the guide book had bigged it up.  Accessible from the Venice Lido, the wealthy merchants has sailed up the river and built numerous villas along its banks.  Some were small holding and some designed to be ostentatious to impress.  Boat rides along the river were available, but at EUR65 PP, this was a NO.  

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Villa Pisani is billed as the most impressive and open to the public for all of EUR10pp.  As it happened, no discount for J’s great age, but Kerstin had a 25% discount for being a Professor – much delight.  Pisani had been partly redecorated under Napoleon and Hitler and Mussolini had their first meeting here.  However, it lacked a cohesive charm and was very soul-less – guess we have been much spoilt by the National Trust.  It was, however, perfect for such a morning of heavy rain.  Kerstin and I had a coffee and met an English couple, who had hired a boat from which to do Venice; they had even been able to sail part way up the Grand Canal.






After lunch in the carpark we set off for Venice.  Whilst Sally had been programmed to avoid toll roads, i had omitted to include ferry crossings.  With her destination set for a campsite on the spit of land the other side of Venice, she guided us along a long bridge and INTO Venice to the port.  The crossing would have cost EUR56, but Sally advised us that re-routing along terra firma was only an hour and Maddy advised us that she does not like boats.  So we turned back along the long bridge and headed to the spit.  It actually took about 2 hours as the traffic was horrendous.  I was later informed that it was a major change over day for all the holiday villages that inhabit the area.  Slightly concerned that the campsite I had ear marked would prove to be similar to the ones we were passing, we were delighted that we had a large pitch and it was quiet.  The receptionist was extremely helpful and sold us the ferry tickets and we were able to BBQ 🙂

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Our Pitch for two nights.  









123 – Thursday: Wonder 2 – Venice

A short walk to the ferry port (the main reason for picking this campsite) and a 40 min ride to near St Mark’s Square.  Despite being early, there were already massive queues to get into the Duomo.  Venice is much larger than most people realise … 122 islands, canals and waterways everywhere with small arched bridges.  We twisted and turned the narrow lanes to reach the Rialto Bridge, which was partly under scaffolding and busy.  A rip off coffee and dry bun (what do you expect!) and we wandered N to some of the quieter streets.  Our ferry ticket was valid for 24 hours on all the public ferries, so we hopped onto the Number 41, which took us around the main island complex.  At the end of this line, we caught the Number 1, which took us all the way up the Grand Canal.  A real treat and the guide book earned its weight as it explained all the buildings as we passed them.   We selected a restaurant for lunch with aircon and it was reasonable value.  Maddy got her pizza in Venice!

We wandered some more, but by now it was getting extremely busy and uncomfortable.  We caught the ferry to Murano, which is where the glass making was moved to in the 15th Century.  A very different feel to it; more residential.  Had a coffee and gasped at the prices of the glasswares.  Managed to catch a boat directly to where we wanted via two other major Venice islands.

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As we had an early start the next day, K went to pay … but the cash desk (and card reader) had officially closed :(.  Oops – we really needed to be on our way as soon as the gates opened at 7.00 a.m. in the morning.  Fortunately, the lovely girl on reception said she could process the payment with cash and would leave her boss, who opens up, a note that we had paid.  Service and with a smile.  🙂

124 – Friday:  An early start and into Wonder 3: Postojna Caves

We packed up efficiently, of course and drove to Venice airport.  The traffic at 7.00 was, needless to say, very quiet.  James and Kerstin dropped Maddy and I at the airport and went off to have a coffee.  I received a text from Kerstin that James was also having TWO croissant!  They are full of air, aren’t they?!?  Maddy was already checked in, but as we have no printer, we thought we would have to queue, but as she had no luggage to check in, it was the fast line and all really quick.  Full marks to Monarch airlines …. the flight and a pre-assigned seat was all of £42.  Maddy and I also decided to have a drink and oozed around the airport for a bit.  A hug and K watched M disappear again until October half term …  A text to James, and he and Kerstin came and picked up K within 5 mins.  

Kerstin only had till Tuesday afternoon before she returned to Germany and she had a shopping list of destinations.  So we set Sally Sat Nav for the 1st destination on her bucket list – Postojna Caves.  We realised the guide book had not over egged it when we saw the size of the FULL car parks and the size of the complex.  They tried to sell tickets for extra museums and exhibitions, but we settled for the caves and Predjama Castle.  We even had a timed ticket, so we had an obligatory ice cream and then Kerstin and I investigated the mill, which was actually pretty basic.  But what was of more interest to most visitors were the dog kennels housed inside!

We presented ourselves at the cave entrance at the allotted time, along with half the population of natives and visitors to Slovenia.  It was EFFICIENT.  You scanned your ticket and stood by the sign with your language.  Then as a body, you moved forward to the train with the language guide.  We boarded the train.  It rattled though the caves for about 4 km – you had to mind your limbs and head as in parts, the rock had been carved out just to accommodate the minimum that was needed!  We all experienced a slight concern …. the train was so fast, we barely had a retina impression of the stalactites and stalagmites … a blur.  However, the train stopped, we alighted and we had a further 1.7 km of walking through the caves.  Over the years, we had all done a lot of caves in lots of countries, but these, we agreed, were the seriously the MOST AMAZING CAVES WE HAVE EVER SEEN.  There was cavern after cavern of varying formations: the colour depending sometimes on the soil and mineral deposits above.  We saw golden, reddish and pure white drip stones.  Before the electric train, diesel was used and the formations are stained black.  There is a Russian Bridge, built by POW in 1916.  The final cavern is used as a concert hall and can seat 10,000 people – must be amazing.  Here, there are also tanks that housed two Proteus anguinus –  a form of salamander only about 8” long.  These are known as ‘human fish’ and found only in some of this region’s (Karst area) caves.  For the animal lovers … the Human Fish is blind, only lives in water in caves, can go 12 years without food, but still manage to reproduce!  Where do they find the energy???

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I think Kerstin would have been up for doing the castle in the same afternoon, but J and I vetoed this and headed for Pivka Jama campsite.  Very wooded, over the top of another cave … the area is riddled!  A BBQ, which included a strange dessert!  A local had wandered around selling his honey (beekeeping is a really big thing), which we bought.  On the embers of the BBQ, we made a foil plate and toasted pine nuts.  To this we added slithers of local cheese and just as it was melting, added honey.  Delicious – TY James for not consuming … more for Kerstin and I.


125 – Saturday:  Wonder 4:  Predjama Castle

In the morning Kerstin went down the Pikva Cave and complained about the number of stairs she had to encounter.  K and J unimpressed as we had gone for a run / slog.  She did come back with the information that a lot of the caves are pretty much connected.  We stuck camp and headed for Predjama Castle.  

Perched up a rock face / half cave and half castle.  It is a seriously dramatic location.  Various owners, but the most notable by far was Erazem Lueger.  He was a C15 Robin Hood type who robbed the rich to feed the poor.  He was under siege in the castle by the Austrians, using the secret passages out the back of the caves to carry on his daring exploits.  He was so brazen that he sent fresh cherries, which had not yet ripened in this valley, and roasted OX etc, down to his attackers.  He developed a mystical status.  However, he had an ignoble downfall – literally!   The weakest point in the castle was the toilet and the Austrian’s bribed a servant to alert them to when Erazum ‘went’ and the blasted him.  What an earth shattering experience!

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Models of the Human Fish that you could buy … no prizes for guesses what we decided they looked like!!!






We lunched in the car park and people watched … car park manoevres and a group of ageing scouts (average age 60) who persisted in peeing in one particular spot in the car park!

Slovenia is NOT big; it is the size of Wales, so it was a shortish hop onto Ljubljana.  We had identified a CamperStop just the the east of the city, which cost EUR10 compared to 30+ on the city campsite.  We were not sure what to expect, but it was a real find.  It is restaurant with a motorhome parking; unusually with toilet, shower and full services AND free if you eat in the restaurant.  Mein Host, yes his German is better than his English, is obviously an industrious sort.  The place is immaculate and he keeps chicken, pigmy pigs and goats, offers a bakery service for the morning and loaned me a map of campsites to photograph.  A cheeky chappy waiter helped us perfect and judge our versions of HVALA – thank you.


126 – Sunday:  Ljubljana – Not a Capital City

Mein Host sells bus tickets and dispenses city maps … the CamperStop is at the end of the bus line.  We caught an early bus in – 8.30!!!!  Must be the Kerstin influence, as this is far too early for J and I!

Ljubljana is not like other capitals.  Slovenia only became independent in1991.  It has a young feel as it is home to the main University, and since it is free to students, most young people have degrees and doctorates.  Unfortunately, since the Slovenia recession, many are unemployed.  It does have an intimate feel – I suppose due to its small size; certainly Bristol is very large and sprawling by comparison.  James was tour guide with a slight detour to see the Sunday Antiques market and several attempts to see the saint’s corpse in the church (yes, really, this was how it was described in the guidebook, but it was actually very disappointing – wax face and hands, nothing like the real C15 saint’s corpse in Lucca) … until … he relinquished all responsibility as we were handed a leaflet for a free walking tour … due to start in 10 minutes.  No brainer.  As we have found before, these walking tours really hep to give a sense of place and time and tell you so many snippets that the guide books omit.  Well worth the tip one gives.


The Tourist Information for Slovenia proved a real gem … with a little pressing, the young girl found loads of leaflets and marked interesting places, not on the main tourist trail on a map for us.


We lunched and Kerstin wandered up to the library to see the reading room, but like the whole of Ljubljana, it was small …. nice story, that during WW2, it had just been built and the local populace did not want the Germans to use the building, so they hand carted several thousand books from the old libraries.  Sadly, many of these were later lost when the building was bombed.


We walked up to the castle, via a wine booth.  Kerstin is SUCH A BAD influence, she enticed us to buy a bottle of red to drink whilst we imbibed the views from the castle.  Bless, the vendor even de-corked it for us!  We did not make it into the castle, but enjoyed the views.

We caught the cable car back down and back on the bus.  Supper in the restaurant … Kerstin and I shared a pork rib dish and then helped J out with his Wiener Schnitzel … we still had a doggy bag!

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Slovenia is still 80% Catholic, despite Communist rule (Tito) and a nun was dispensing food and checking he was alive …

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  We first saw a bridge of love locks in Helsinki.  Wonder what happens when the relationship breaks up … how many still have keys with which to remove them?

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The triple bridge at the heart of the centre.

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 Both with wooden bikes!

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 K dispensing coffee …

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K dispensing wine into the coffee cups…

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  From the return bus … a fairly typical hay drying rack







Days 98 – 103: Paddling, Tattoos, Tyres and Maddy Munchkin

98 – Sunday:  Mega exercise

K and J did a sluggish run.  Zozo and Louis, who had shown us the route two days ago, both declined to accompany us.  Funny that!

Niecey then showed K and Louis the way with the new Pilates DVD.  Most excellent backwards roll Niecey!


Exhausted!  And canoeing to come!

The Aged P’s departed with a few unwanted Nordic layers … less then they brought out to us … so we can argue that our piles in their attic are less …. not sure they would agree we have made much of a dent though!

After lunch down to the river near Aubeterre for canoeing.  Louis was solo, but after assuring James that Niecey would NOT capsize him … K with Zoe and J with Niecey.  Just at the point of departure Clare and co started bigging up the ‘OBSTACLE’.  Something to do with a disruption of the river flow!  We were taken up river with the canoes and left to wend our way gently down stream, enjoying the peaceful sounds and sights of nature … NOT.  We had attempted boardings, attempted oar stealing, zig zags from one bank to the other (K and Z), ramming and turning each other around.  Louis’ new rubber sandal went overboard in the attempt to draw him off.  The obstacle was a weir … with a chute and then a drop for canoes.  None of us managed to topple out, despite being told to hang on … quite what to we are not sure!  Zozo decided to ride the canoe like Boudica until she toppled in.  K then joined her for a river walk but could not re-enter the canoe until it was fairly shallow.  The picnicking family only offered her water (bah!) when she asked for ‘un petite verre”!  Zozo, fed up by now with standing in the canoe became the masthead, but at the back and sabotaged any directional work K was doing.  Exhausting! And memorable!

James and Niecey ... she kept her promise not to capsize him.

James and Niecey … she kept her promise not to capsize him.

Louis with the technique!

Louis with the technique!

Zoe as masthead

Zoe as masthead

K now really exhausted and abandonning Zozo!

K now really exhausted and abandonning Zozo!


99 – Monday:  Chalais market, Tattoo and Tyres

A wander around Chalais market and the obligatory cafe – grand creme.  It’s all Niecey’s fault … she suggested it!  K ended up with a tattoo on her arm …. similar to henna so it will fade.  Unlike Maddy’s new tattoo, a Taurus branding on her thigh done in Lanzarote last week.

Am I really doing this?  Bright idea Bakers!

Am I really doing this? Bright idea Bakers!


Answers on a postcard as to what it says!

Also managed to fill up the 2 x 5l emptied water bottles with Merlot at EUR2.40/litre.

A huge lunch ‘formula’ in Bonne and then K and J were dropped off at Chalais Tyres, where we had left Chardonnay in the morning, to await delivery and fitting of two new front tyres.  We had just got the damp laundry out to hand off the bike rack and J was just about to sleep off his boozy lunch, when the tyres arrived and were fitted.

Zero fuel so we headed to the Intermarche, sorry but our delivery did not arrive …. nearest was almost back at C2’s house, which we made on vapour.  Finally we set off in the vague direction of Bordeaux.  Stayed the night on a Bordeaux Grand Cru vineyard … the only motorhome there so very peaceful.

C2:  we forgot to write in your visitor’s book.  Our official entry …

Amazing free pitch with great company, free electric, pool and washing machine to be abused.  Extra services include hair dying and motorhome washing.


Day 100!!!  Tuesday:  Maddy Arrived

We collected Maddy from Bordeaux airport via the biggest Carrefour we have ever seen.  The whole retail area was infinitely bigger than Cribbs Causeway in Bristol!  There was even a store devoted just to Table Football.

Poor Munchkin had come back from burning the candle both ends with what she described as ‘Fresher’s Flu’.  Dosed up, she pretty much slept, so we put some miles arriving at a campsite in Crayssac (Cahors area).  Yes we could BBQ and with coals and they had a pool.

K revealed her ‘tattoo’ and Munch was not taken in for a moment that it was real …. mostly amused that K would be stuck with it for about 2 weeks!

A quick dip and then supper.  The band started warming up and were pretty good … a tribute to a French singer that we’d not heard of and nothing like typical Eurovision French music.  We wandered down to listen with our chairs and a plastic jug of decanted Merlot … classy!

Cannot believe that we have been travelling 100 days.  It has been the most amazing experience.  Loving it.

101 – Wednesday:  Cahors and Saint Enemite, Gorges du Tarn

Hilly and humid runs for K and J.  It started to rain as we stuck camp, but we just got M’s tent down in time.  We had planned to stop in Cahors for a coffee but the rain was still teeming down.  And cars were all teaming into Cahors; probably everyone heading in as a wet day destination.  So we kept going.  Given the weather and Maddy’s cold we turned it into a driving day.

Stopped in the Gorges du Tarn.  Scenery remincient of some of the Scandinavian drives … steep sides and J did not look down much as he was driving.

A tight turn into our campsite …. alongside the river.  BBQ on the Cadac Safari gas grill.thumb_P1050847_1024

102 – Thursday: River Walk to Saint Enimite and Saint-Gilles

Again, Maddy slept whilst K and J ran.  After striking camp, we left Chardonnay on the pitch and crossed the bridge to the pretty path that led to the village of Saint Enimie for a coffee.

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Typical chimney

Typical chimney

Maddy and I used to make such twig houses when she was little

Maddy and I used to make such twig houses when she was little


We had planned to stop for two nights within 1 hour of Marseille airport, but the traffic around Arles had other plans.  Gendarmes in force, bouchons as far as you could see in all directions and cars abandonned in favour of walking home.  We headed off a round about down the only road that was clear – and onto a Peage.  Our first since the start of our trip, but we got off the motorway quick incurring a classe 2 toll of only EUR1.70 and headed south.

J googled a campsite in Saint-Gilles on his phone, but actually we could NOT have missed the huge banner across the road.  To get a pitch that would take the >8m of Chardonnay and allow us to open the door, we ended up on a pitch with electricity … such expense!  But we have a super large pitch and put the awing out!

Gas BBQ again and K got stuck into Apperol with sparking wine … thanks to Steph at Cotham for telling me about it …. absolutely spot on for a hot evening.


Breakfast … actually wearing some of it!


Is this what I ordered?


That Englishman abroad again!

Pilgrims old church

Pilgrims old church

How Maddy occupied herself whilst we wandered the cemetry ... Ugh, it's full of dead people!

How Maddy occupied herself whilst we wandered the cemetry … Ugh, it’s disrespectful!

103 – Friday:  Lazy Lunch and swim

No exercise today … both feeling indolent.  A leisurely getting started … but then a hive of industry.  K scrubbed and pounded, whilst James wrung and squeezed!  Whilst all this laundry was being washed and hung out … Maddy slept!

We wandered into Saint-Gilles:  it is on the pilgrim route from Italy to Compostella, so an old church and we wandered the ancient cemetery.  Some of the old gravestones had signs stating that they were to be reclaimed … lack of use or rent?!  One wonders what happens to the bones of the outgoing incumbent as the new arrives!

Ate far too much at a restaurant along the canal, where we fortunately had a breeze.  Staggered back to the campsite … this is where a wheel barrow would have come in handy for our distended stomachs.  K and M to bronze and cool off by the pool and J to nanny nap in the van, until he also came for a cooling dip.

Our PA in England had emailed all sorts of admin jobs, so we dealt with these and relaxed … hoping the heat will abate later.  We have an early start … will leave at 7.00 tomorrow to drop Munchkin at Marseille airport.

Our pitch

Our pitch

Days 88- : Blimey – its hot!

88 – Wednesday:  Driving and France Passion

Made contact with a friend who has a house just west of Besancon… ‘yes come on over’.  But by the time we exercised, tidied up and put the Sat Nav on and set the settings against Peages, we decided we did not have enough time to get there in one day.  We basically drove.  Stayed overnight in a France Passion … nothing to do with our sex life!  France Passion are farms and small businesses with a bit of space around them who allow 3-5 motothomes to ‘park’ overnight.  We used them last year on several trips and nearly all were pretty fabulous.  This one was in a tiny village called Midreveaux on a small cow farm.  We had the parking to ourselves so got the table and chairs out.  Quick walk around the village and back for a glass …. gin straight from the freezer :).  It is warm.


89 – Thursday:  Blimey it’s hot!

With the heat starting, we staggered around our exercise … J made of more resilient stuff as K kept getting overheated and having to drop to a walk 😦

Sally Sat Nav took us down LOTS of VERY SMALL roads; fortunately little traffic.  Arrived at our friend’s house: offered and gratefully received a cold drink followed by a dip in the pool.  The pool has only been open two weeks and the surroundings are still work in progress.  But the pool …. 32C and the water like silk.  Just brilliant.  According to the thermometer, the afternoon reached 41C.  Blimey it’s hot!

We dined out in style at a restaurant called the Cactus … French chef whose Mexican wife is front of house.  Don’t know where we put it given our reduced stomachs from our meagre and healthy rations from travelling Scandinavia, but we all managed three courses and a coffee.


90 – Friday:  Thunderstorm and Hotter!

Having had a bellyful of food and wine last night, the exercise went awol this morning.  Started to feel humid and then a thunderstorm making it more humid.  We left about 11.00 just as the sun started with some heat …

Stopped at Beaune as James had not seem the Hotel de Dieu, a charitable hospital, still in use since C15. It has a very recognisable roof and is still part funded from its own vineyard sales.  Not sure how that works on the PC front … wine and health!  Absolutely boiling, airless and humid walking around the Hospital.  Our ice creams were melting faster than we could eat them.  Spot the Englishman abroad!  Note, no socks though!

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Drove onto a place called Digoin on the Loire.  We are in a large aire de camping car.  It has facilities and were able to empty the chemical toilet.  Attempted to pay for water using a variety of credit and debit cards, but the machine was not having any of it.  The weather app says it was 38C – think real feel must be higher as it is soon debilitating.  All windows and roof lights are wide open.

Maddy sent me a pic of her and her best friend on a camel; apparently it was very sassy … the camel that is!

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90 – Saturday: Vichy, funnily enough known for water!

Decided the aire was a rubbish place to overnight.  Not just the insect sort, but gnats (mopeds) and little boy racers used the large car park as a circuit until about 4.30.  And this on top of the noise and tannoy from the boules tournament going on below and, of course the heat.  We both slept in the nud, with all the windows open … serve anyone right, had they looked in.  But we were in good company as the other 13 ‘vans all did much the same, although i can’t vouch for their sleeping attire!

Not much at Digoin, but a rather pretty viaduct canal over the Loire river.  Both J and I used it for our exercise … as we were late up and it was starting to get hot, I Norked, but J ran.

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We lunched and a neighbour helped us with buying the jeton for 100l of drinking water …. he had rung the supplier of the point de service earlier and sorted out the problem I had the day before.  Both us and Chardonnay fully replenished, we set off for Vichy.



Vichy was the home of the collaborative government during WW2, but next to nothing is made of this.  It is all about the spa drinking waters.  And the waters came and got heavier as we started to explore  …. I am sure the droplets were twice normal size.  We sheltered in a coffee and cake shop :).

Then had a quick look at the park and the source of one of the springs.  We did not go for a prescription of waters … apparently you have to book the Dr 3 months in advance!

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We did not linger in Vichy as we would have been washed down a gully.  We found a France Passion about 40 mins from Vichy at a chateau in Vicq.  As we arrived, we were shown onto a proper hedged camping spot.  Offered water and electricity, which we did not need.  Asked if we would like to attend the theatre production this evening; which we declined a J has little French and I would also have found it hard work to follow.  By now the weather was on / off sun and rain, so we actually managed to get the awning out and sit out for our drinks and meal.  Bear in mind that France Passion are supposed to be a arrive with what you need, leave nothing and few facilities, if any … these camping pitches over looking the Charolais white cattle were quite special.

K even made a mossie / wasp trap, which sadly did not catch even an ant, but has brought it with us and is determined to show it works.

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