836-848: The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

836-848  – Friday 15th – Wednesday 27th September 2017:  The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

I crossed back to Blighty on the 15th.  Although I’ve done it before, I was still slightly nervous about Oscar’s pet passport being in order.  I checked and rechecked the vet’s entries comparing to the previous vet’s.  No issues at all and we sailed through the process quickly.

On returning and leaving England, it is normal tradition for us to stop over to see Ian, young Jimmy and Nicky’s parents in Rustington.  However, Ruth and Brian were in Brittany visiting their other daughter, Tracy, and Ian was up in town, so not this trip.  The up side was that I booked an extra night in the Brighton campsite and spent an extra evening with Maddy, who has just moved here.  I got to see her great 2 bed flat (she’s sharing with a good friend who is at Uni there) and to wander around and SPEND in Brighton.  The flat is walking distance from the centre, so we did not have far to carry a chalk board and mirror (which I promptly smashed), as well as M’s new pre-loved clothes and my new frock and costume jewellery.  If you’ve not been to Brighton, it is buzzing place.  Drug addicts, students and Barbour jackets all rub shoulders together … it is very real.  The break a mirror and bad luck happens adage happened … all electronic.  Th sat nav lost all its maps.  The sat pad (iPad with Co-Pilot) died altogether and wanted re-initialising and the radio died.  The first two have been resolved and the radio binned.

Before J joined me I moved between Farnham (close to parents and sister), Bristol for dentist, John Lewis and e bike shop and Shropshire to drop off Christmas presents at my brother’s.

  • Teeth:  X ray and all fine – good to know as will be away, if all goes to plan, for a year.
  • John Lewis:  Purchased a few last Christmas gifts … all my Christmas shopping is done and wrapped!!!!  A chap on the escalator was moaning that it is too soon for Xmas cards and wrapping paper …I gleefully told him that some of us are all wrapped, cards written and stamped as we are off travelling.  And I pre-bought and am using my birthday / Christmas gift from the Aged P’s and a little bit from James – a GPS sports watch.  One of the really good things about it is that the time digits are really large … I no longer have to squint or reach for glasses to read the time!
  • E-Bikes:  this was phase 2 of the get Oscar about with us.  We bought the Os-car doggy trailer in Holland, but I could not get up hills towing the combined 35kgs+ of Oscar and Os-car.  Also, we want to travel a bit further when parked up.  We do not want to tow a car; a scooter is no good unless we had a side car for Oscar … and we’d both want to drive anyway … so e-bikes it is.  I’d done some research and looked at lots of forums, ordering the bikes from a shop in Bristol, who had stock and gave a decent discount.  We’ve gone for Kalkhoff Agattu …. both in matt black as no stock of the white, and I have a bigger battery to compensate for the towing.  We found time to test them for all of about 15 mins before we left for France and they really do make a difference, especially up hill when you switch to high power mode.  Setting off is assisted too.  I was a bit reluctant about cheating and loss of exercise, but everyone we’ve spoken to loves their e-bike and I think we will too.
  • I’d not seen brother Tim and Sarah for about 2.5 years, so it was good to catch him between his house parties … think modern day Downton Abbey and you have their lifestyle!  They were off to a shooting party in Yorkshire and I was given a bag of veggies from the walled kitchen garden.  They are planning a trip to the Balkans somewhere in Spring, so I hope we can meet up then.

James left Antibes on the 20th; his flight left 30 mins after his ex-wife landed … so Sarah really was not alone long should the baby have decided to make an appearance.  This is the longest by far we’ve ever been apart – 9 nights.  Boy, was it good to be back together.  However, little time to enjoy being together as more jobs to be done!  Including:

  • J’s eco cardiagram for the DVLA.  Yes, his birthday was in April, but the doctor’s two errors on the form were picked up separately and because he was identified with a heart murmur, they then wanted his heart checked out.  Anyway, the consultant said she could hardly identify the murmur and they he would have no problems with his license …. I should think not, when he is a runner!  But good to know, all the same.  Now that we are back in France, we just need to work out where to get his license posted to …. Kerstin, are you reading this???
  • Jez had his engine and habitation service – all good.
  • Fiat in Guidlford …. thrice! They’d not ordered the replacement part for the dashboard (under warranty) when it was booked in over 2 months ago, so we had to go back the morning we caught the tunnel to France … I put the crossing back a few hours and it was just as well I had, as the mechanic had out the radio back in up side down, so we had to go back again.
  • Vet for kennel cough and to stock up with a year’s supply of drugs!
  • Washing, more washing and cleaning
  • Sorting ‘stuff’ in the Aged P’s attic as a) we’ve had notice not to add to the expanding pile in case the roof comes down! and b) we wanted some of the stuff, such as Balkans guide books and winter clothes. We’re spreading our love (as one of my pilates videos says) … no, I mean, our stuff.  Our normal bikes are in Clare & Chris’ garage.
  • Weigh bridge … we need to drink the glass bottled beer and wine, eat the two massive sacks of dog food and stop stock piling tins and toothpaste!

We managed to catch up with a few people, but really only a few people.  Stephen and Kay, our old next door neighbours cooked and always delicious.  Frances and Edward to belatedly celebrate E’s special birthday, which we missed as we were on baby watch in Antibes.  And I had a great Sunday afternoon with the girls – my old muckers, and Ian and Jimmy in Twickenham.  Just not enough time.

We crossed back at 1416hrs on 27th – the next adventure begins 🙂

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Maddy tucking into a Full English (she justified it by going to the gym before) …

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… whilst I froze and wo-manfully smiled whilst she ate!  I did nick a piece of bacon.

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Moreton Corbet Castle, an extended castle and Elizabethan House which was owned by the same family who own Tim’s house … his is in slightly better nick!


And announcing the safe arrival of Cian Ash Weston on Sunday 24th September.

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724-729: Final Antrim Days

724 – Friday 19th May 2017: Dark Hedges & Six Mile Water

A busy morning to make the most of being on a campsite with electricity and services … knowing we had to be off by 12.00, and they drove around to check who was still there!  So J got a much needed hair cut and Jez a sweep out … K a shower and Jez all services done.  A stop at the Dark Hedges included a coffee at the hotel  / golf complex.  And then onto our overnight parking just S of Antrim on Six Mile Water … Jez’ parking fro the next two nights nearby was Seven Mile Straight … a bit of theme going on there.  The reason for this parking was to be near the overnight parking for me to get a flight home.  It was a super quiet spot with information boards about how the river had steamed and clanged to the manufacture and treatment of flax to be used in linen. The walk is called the Mill Trail.   I missed them, but a local dog walker told me there were otter playing.


The Dark Hedges were 150 beach trees planted by a house owner to impress his neighbours, but only 90 remain.  It is now a public road; fortunately not busy as visitors dart into the middle (us included) to take pix.   The lower branches have been pruned which adds to the intertwining feel.


725 – Saturday 20th May: K Flies home and J to the Pub

Another walk for O along the river and then we set off, early for us, to our parking for James, Oscar and Jez, whilst I was away.  Now we all do silly things sometimes, and this was one of mine.  J cannot drive Jez at the moment (uninsured as issues with his 70 year old and 3.5+ ton driving license).  I booked my overnight flight home with no thought of how I was to get to the airport with J unable to drop me.  So a very generous local came to my rescue.  I’m a member of the Irish motorhome wild camping forum, Motorhome Craic (they helped us out big time recently with the fridge not running on gas) and I posted asking for any suggestions of where we could park up with public transport links to Belfast airport.  The chap, Ally, who runs Motorhome Craic, instantly said we could park over at his … only a few mins from the airport.  He runs a caravan storage and has lots of space.  An absolute result.  We arrived at 9.30, my taxi arrive late, but it did arrive and I headed off to Gatwick.  James was told about the local pub and he headed off there … it was dog friendly and Oscar was the star of the show AND there was live music playing all afternoon … J only left as he had to give Oscar his dog’s dinner.  

My dinner was with the ‘Girls’ and families in Chiswick to celebrate Gill’s birthday.  Only Bron knew I was attending and as I’d had a motorway closure en route, I arrived late and made the big surprise entrance.  Really lovely to be able to chat to the girls, as I’d been too busy at J’s 70th birthday party for more than a passing word.

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726 – Sunday 21st May:  Maddy Munchkin Day

Knowing Maddy is NOT an early riser, I had time to rung amongst some of our ‘stuff’ stored in the Aged P’s attic.  They are in France at the moment, and again, I was able to use and abuse the house! Don’t tell them, but I actually put the heating and water on so I could have a shower!  I’ve made an inventory of our guide books, so I know what to order for the coming summer and the big Balkans trip starting in October, and I found some of the maps I wanted.  I returned the house keys to Clare and grabbed a coffee … Louis is now driving!

Maddy and I had an indifferent pub lunch and then went bra shopping … how is it daughter’s always manage to come away with something???  A late flight back and taxi to join James and Oscar … James had lunched at the pub too today … but no live music.

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Sporting a new fringe, but she really does look more like David than I.

727 -Monday 22nd May:  The 9 Glens of Antrim

A slow and wet start to the day.  And we headed off to Whitehead to do some motorhome services … the water should have cost £1, but the receptionist told us to use the other free hose, nice of her.

We plan to potter around the 9 Glens of Antrim for the next couple of days until our ferry on Thursday 25th.  We stopped at the Glenarm TIC and avery helpful chap issued leaflets and gave advice on where to park Jez, even showing us exactly on the pix on his phone.  We did the red squirrel Walk in Glenarm Forest.  The TIC chap told us that the fish sculpture had been stolen and has been spotted sporting new white paint in someone’s garden.  He’d reported it to the Police who said they could not do anything as it had not been notified missing.  So he’d had to go to the council and get them to report is stolen!  An easy 3.5 km walk through trees and along a river.  The bluebells and wild garlic are just coming to an end.


We didn’t see any squirrels other than the one J is leaning on.




Glenarm Harbour where we overnighted.


Spotted in our car park.  A wedding ceremony ritual?  Chap and bride to be arrived in the back of the flatbed with horn honking …. only to be covered in flour, eggs and ketchup!


728 – Tuesday 23rd:  Laragh Lodge & Glenarrif Waterfall Walk

We stopped at a lay-by on the way up to Glenariff to walk up to the Hidden Village – another recommendation by the chap at the Glenarm TIC.  The Village has long been deserted, bar one house that obviously collects its water in a water butt.  What a fabulous location.




We parked at Laragh Lodge, a cafe / restaurant … another top recommendation, to save paying the £5 per car at the main car park … not sure what Jez would’ve been.  Over lunch we got chatting to the owner … we could stay as long as we liked … he even offered us a hook up.  We ended up having both lunch and supper there … fabulous sea bass with asparagus and a couple of very strong Irish coffees.  During the afternoon we did the waterfall walk.  We reckon this is possibly the best non coastal walk we’ve ever done in Ireland.  Just stunning, especially this time of year.  Progress was slow as I kept stopping to take pix!  And at the end we got a view of the sea.  This area of Antrim is just stunning, but is overshadowed by the well known Rope Bridge and Giants Causeway.  Incidentally, one muppet (being polite) has tried to cut the cable of the rope bridge and the National Trust has had to close it losing a lot of revenue!











729 – Wednesday 24th:  The Scenic Trail

A longer walk this morning from our Laragh Lodge parking.  This took us steeply up the opposite hill, around the head of the valley and down the waterfall Walk.

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Spot the Belle amongst the bells!

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Coffee and Cake? … possibly.

We reluctantly returned southwards towards Belfast as we would happily have stayed on a Laragh Lodge and walked for the next few days.  A stupid o’clock ferry the next morning at 0330hrs … i must’ve been on an economy drive when I booked that one!  We returned again to a council run aire by a golf course and showered and refilled water etc.  Antrim is most definitely on our ‘must return to’ list.


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