Homeward bound

We left Kompass Camping just after six, it was pitch black and freezing. The good news was that we arrived in Calais before 8 and were able to get on an earlier ferry. The van was searched twice. We weren’t allowed near border control until armed French soldiers had given it a once over followed by Border Control themselves. Everyone was polite and cheerful but they did all have muddy boots. The was a sigh of relief when the Olive tree and Jacky’s Lemon weren’t confiscated.

We queued for the ferry with time to spare for last minute cleaning.

The last challenge when we hit Dover is refilling the gas bottle. We’ve mastered fresh water, grey water and the toilet cassette!

Would we do this again? Absolutely!

Westende, Belgium

Last night Kim decided we won’t be buying a motorhome because John doesn’t think heating is necessary. She also hates communal showers (you couldn’t wash a mouse in the one in the van) and that Belgium is very windy. In other words, she was a tired, stroppy madam!

However, she woke up this morning, put the heating on (!) and the world was a different place! We had a leisurely start and took the Tram to Oostende. The sun was shining and we were at the seaside, yesterday’s tiring trip long forgotten.

Yesterday Matt accused us of being wimps because we couldn’t keep up with the Porsches and Mercedes racing along the German autobahn, today we found his next car….

A running race had just finished on the seafront and were greeted by a band playing JJ Cales’ ‘Cocaine’. I know you’re unlikely to believe us, but John won a prize for singing along! As you can see from the photo, there wasn’t huge competition.

We had a windy walk along the front followed by tea and Belgian waffles in a local cafe which had the most unusual decor.

Ken and Jacky decided to head north on the tram while we headed back towards Westende via the art gallery…

For anyone who’s read our original Llafranc blog, as a special treat for Kim, John took her to the site of Ken’s pop up toilet…

We returned to Westende just in time to catch the carnival which was fantastic. There were many floats winding their slow way through town, the aim of which seemed to be to have the loudest sound system, throw the most sweets out and make the most mess. The photo really can’t bring this to life but we arrived back at the campsite covered in confetti

Our final afternoon was spent chilling at the van and packing ahead of our early start back to Blighty early tomorrow.

Finally, happy Mother’s Day to Dot and Diane x

Ediger to Westende, Belgium

We survived the night in the high roof bed but won’t be doing that again! It’s far more comfortable than the fixed rear bed but the rest of the van was completely unusable once it was lowered.

We woke to the sound of something with a very large engine going past on the river but were too cold to get up and see what it was. There’s frost on the ground so the heating went on for a while. We’re not being weedy – we like to think we’re giving the van’s heating system a good test on behalf of the owners JustGo!

It was a beautiful morning and the Mosel obliged with the sight of an incredibly long, coal carrying, freight barge cruising past just as we were getting ready to leave.

A brief stop in the town to pick up last nights purchases from the vineyard…..Did we really buy that much wine?

It took over 8 hours to do the 260 mile journey to Middlekerke and Westende which was far longer than anticipated. Luckily Ken and Jacky arrived at the campsite just as reception was closing and booked us all in before it closed. We were lost in Westende! Colin’s satnav has been brilliant but, today, it just couldn’t cope.  First, we ignored an instruction because ‘Ken probably knows where the supermarket is’. Next, the satnav really wasn’t convinced that the main road through Westende was impassable, even though there was a big hole in the middle of it, so we drove round in circles. Finally, a lovely Belgian man, who’d seen us go past several times as well as reversing back from dead ends,  flagged us down and gave us directions!

We parked up with a huge sigh of relief and treated ourselves to a beer on the campsite before heading out for dinner. We’re about 150m from the beach and its very windy and sandy. It was too much for us to head into town so we ended up at the nearest restaurant. The highlight was when the bill was presented in a stylish box, almost like being given a gift.

We’ve earned a leisurely start tomorrow and plan to take a tram ride

Ediger Eller

It was a long journey through Germany to the Mosel. Motorway most of the way with some very fast driving  by German drivers on the unrestricted sections but a lack of beautiful scenery, unlike Switzerland.

After about five hours driving, and losing Jacky and Ken along the way, we finally arrived at the Mosel.

We took full advantage of being campers – set out our picnic chairs, made a cuppa and ate lunch overlooking the river in the sunshine.

We have a lovely campsite, right on the banks of the river. The only problem is the cold wind and long walk to the shower block. We may never work out how Ken and Jacky arrived before us when they were several miles behind for the last part of the journey. The afternoon was spent wandering around Ediger, which is beautiful. We had forgotten just how lovely the Mosel is. John was particularly taken with the quality of copper guttering and lightning conductor on the church


We stumbled upon an opportunity for a wine tasting which was too good to pass up. Jenny (from London!) and her German husband run a small vineyard and guesthouse. We were treated to a tasting of seven of their wines and tomorrow morning we will be driving back to pick up several cases of wine!

Dinner was in a traditional German restaurant with wiener schnitzel all round.

We’re trying our drop down bed for the first time tonight. John has already bumped his head and it’ll be interesting to see if either of us fall out in the night

Lugano to Freiburg

We missed one of yesterday’s highlights – Kim driving the van! We stopped at services, just north of Genoa, and she announced ‘it’s now or never, and the next services are only 20k away!’ It turned out that she drove the final 100 miles with the only row being about which pitch to use for the night. John would like to point out that he was able to assist with navigation directions without the need to write left and right on his hands.

Lugano is meant to be a favoured area for the rich and famous, the Monte Carlo of Switzerland. All we saw were a couple of ducks and a few coots! Switzerland, however, was determined to throw every type of weather at us. From last night’s downpours and thunderstorms to today’s rain, sleet and snow, we saw it all. Driving through the Lugano Pre-alps, we saw beautifully manicured forsythia hedges in the central reservation. The splash of colour on such a grim day was welcome.

The weather was hideous until the 17km San Gottardo Tunnel (thank goodness the pass was closed otherwise John was tempted to give it a go). As we came out the other side, into snow, the weather changed and the sun came out.

The weather just got better and better and Switzerland put on a real show for us as we drove past Bern and towards Zurich before heading into Germany.

It took two, overpriced, stops at motorway services for us to remember we’re in motorhomes. We have toilets, food and tea so lunch was homemade at a motorway rest area with a lovely view across the hills

We arrived in Freiburg about 4, having left Lugano at 9:30. Long gone are the days when 200 miles takes 2 1/2 hours, these journeys are done at a far slower pace which takes a bit of getting used to. The good news is we are now averaging 24mpg.

The site is lovely, the sun is shining and the temperature’s back up at 18. We had a pleasant walk into town along the river although we had to dodge lots of mad cyclists and the tram. We wandered around the historic centre, and treated ourselves to a beer, before heading back to the restaurant next to the campsite for dinner.

We’re running low on water so brushing our teeth in bottled fizzy water is a new experience. We’re saving the last of the proper water for a cuppa in the morning – we really must work out how to top up our fresh water at the next site! In case you’re wondering, the Olive tree has enjoyed its journey today and relished the warmth of the German sunshine.

Final thoughts from Italy…and into Switzerland 

We left Levanto this morning with a lemon tree for Jacky and and Olive tree for Kim. Interestingly they were 25% cheaper than yesterday. It might have something to do with the smart, elderly lady leaving the lovely elderly man in charge.

Here’s a list of the things we will miss:

Gelato (apart from licorice)

Little three-wheeled trucks, in fact there’s a strong chance that Kim and Jacky have squirrelled a couple away in the vans!

Fiat Panda police cars, great for catching the mafiosa. We set Stan the challenge to repurpose his.

We’re heading north out of Italy, skirting Milan and Monza. We believe we’ve been past Como but it was hiding shyly in the fog. We came across the Swiss border rather suddenly, with Kim worried she could be illegally importing an Olive but, after paying €40 for the privilege of driving in Switzerland, we sailed through.

Lake Lugano looks fantastic, if only the fog would lift. John was last here in the late 1960s so he’s the expert!

This is what it could look like….

This is what the view does look like….. We realise that we’d been very lucky with the weather so far on our trip.

And this is the van with the new olive tree, see if you can spot the tree

It’s pizza in the site restaurant tonight before heading off to Freiburg in the morning. We now have a day in hand and it’s unlikely to be spent here!

Happy birthday Matt!

On Sunday, Matt sent us the view from his room. As a birthday present to him, we decided to work out how to save the photo, we’re sure he’ll be impressed! Apparently the snow is 600m higher than the chalet which is at 1200m. It puts yesterday’s 180m into context!

We’re off to Lake Lugano today with the challenge of the Swiss border.

Cinque Terre, Lemon and Olive trees

Off to Cinque Terre National Park for the day but not before Kim and Jacky explored the garden centre for Lemon and Olive trees. The plan is to bring them back in the vans’ showers.

The National Park runs along the coast for 25 miles and only accessible by train or walking. We opted to take the train which was covered in graffiti and interesting decor. The backs of all seats were peppered with bullet holes. We wondered if this is where Sicilian trains retire.

We took the train to the first Cinque Terre  village, Monterosso, and decided to walk to the next one, Vernazza. How difficult could it be? We were warned of ‘many steps’.

The walk was about 3.5 miles and one of the hardest we’ve ever done. We went up about 180 metres, along  very narrow paths through vineyards and citrus trees. Then we went up some more before descending back to sea level. There were many, many steps!
Along the way we were entertained by Ken singing songs from his youth, much to the amusement of the Americans and Portuguese that we kept meeting along the way.

We discovered a hillside sanctuary for feral cats. There are shelters and bins of food with a request for walkers to put some food out for them, mornings only.

Lunch was overlooking the harbour at Vernazzo where we relaxed with the local aperitif, Aperol Spritz, a mixture of Aperol and Prosecco

After lunch, we hopped back on the train to the last of the Cinque Terre towns, Romaggiore, where we stopped for a welcome cuppa.

John and I headed back to Levanto for a wander round the town and a final Gelato. John chose licorice which was not a good flavour! We were all so weary from the walk that our final Italian meal was in the newly opened pizzeria on the campsite.

An early night for us all, hoping that the clock chiming every 15 minutes wouldn’t keep us awake again!

Latest update from Matt is that he’s snowboarding in the Alps listening to ‘Days like these’  from The Italian Job by Matt Monroe


Finally, we’re by the seaside. Levanto is very pretty and this is the first place we’ve stopped that Kim has wanted to live

Debate of the day has been which is best – Ice cream or Italian Gelato. They both taste great but apparently Gelato wins – technically its creamier, smoother, lower in both fat and calories. We’ll have to try a few more samples just to make sure we agree.

There are toads the size of dinner plates mating in the river just outside the campsite. Kim is fascinated by them. Jacky can’t stop shuddering at the thought of them and the noise they’re making which is competing with the chiming of the church bell every 15 minutes all through the night.

However, the most unusual wildlife award goes to the seafaring mallards. We didn’t know you could could get salt water ducks!

The latest addition to our motorhome knowledge relates to red and green stickers on the wing mirrors. Apparently Ken was fed some line that you use them to help position the van on the road. Our friend Colin says it’s just so the factory know which way to put the glass in…….we tend to believe Colin

Latest from Matt: snow is harder than it looks!

Day 4 – Levanto and Cinque Terre

We had a surprisingly good night in the car park but we’re disappointed to learn that we’d completely missed the annual antiques fair in Lucca. A fellow JustGo motorhomer had picked this trip, and specified the biggest van, just so he could fill it up with Italian antique bargains.

It’s bye bye Tuscany, hello Liguria.

We were heading to Deiva Marina but a recommendation on Facebook for the site at Levanto caused a change of plan. It was just over an hours drive from Lucca, using the motorway, before the hairpin bends down into town. The campsite is busy, the facilities are lovely and we’re parked between olive trees. Alarmingly, we’re starting to spec our own motorhome!

We plan to head into Levanto this afternoon and take the train into Cinque Terre tomorrow.

Day 3 part 2 – Lucca

Proper motorhoming starts here. We are parked in a Sosta in Lucca. Not the nice one with hedges and electricity but the one that’s a car park by a busy road!

We had a lovely drive from Pisa over the Tuscan Appennines (sadly no pictures until O2 unlock Jacky’s phone and allows her to use it abroad). Extensive research had identified a nice Sosta, with shower facilities, open all year. Of course it was closed when we arrived. After hauling the RCV’s around the tight streets of Lucca we eventually arrived at our current stop.

The van gave us a fright when we parked…..no electricity from the leisure battery (hark at us with our terminology!). Luckily, Ken and Jacky had picked up a couple of seasoned motorhomers who removed a few bits and knew where to find our master switch. We now have lights and water, woohoo!

We wandered into the walled town of Lucca, just as it started to get dark, and collapsed in a cafe for beer and a sandwich for tea-too tired for photos tonight.

We’ve decided we’ll head to Deiva Marina tomorrow, a day early, because we can’t bear the thought of having to rely on the van’s facilities. There is a row brewing over who will empty the toilet!!

Finally, Matt has safely arrived in France for snowboarding. He’s sent some photos which we’ll try and share when we have wifi. In the meantime, this is the best photo of  our van …..

So, the van 7m long x 3.2m high x 2.5 wide. The height has already caused us problems in car parks. It has a 2.2l Fiat Diesel engine giving us a magnificent 22 miles to the gallon. We didn’t know it was possible for a Diesel engine to be so inefficient. It also has the most appalling automatic gearbox. It has a reversing camera, supplemented by Kim standing behind the van shouting. It comes complete with bike racks which are great for drying towels.

Internally, we have a fixed rear bed, designed for short, thin people, a bed that lowers from the ceiling which we are too scared to use. It also took us 24 hours to find it! There is a bathroom with a twisty toilet and shower. The kitchen has a three ring gas burner, great for boiling a kettle, and an oven that is designed to drive us bonkers with its rattling. The sink is smaller than a dinner plate and the fridge gets hysterical every time the power source changes. On the plus side, we have more led lights than B&Q and beautiful blue mood lighting across the floor. The dining area converts to a bed and we cannot comprehend how 6 people could happily live in this space.

Day 3, part 1: Pisa

We left the luxury of the site in Siena this morning, heading into the unknown and Pisa. We don’t have a campsite booked for tonight so we shall be trying an Italian Sosta. These sites don’t have toilets or showers and could be described as car parks, other than there should be electricity.

It took just under 2 hours, trouble free to get to Pisa, through beautiful Tuscan countryside. We think it had something to do with Kim labelling her hands

There was a slight language problem when we parked the van and Kim had to gesture her way out of paying for the night rather than short term parking. We’re aiming to get to Lucca before dark!

We had a brisk walk into Pisa with the sole purpose of seeing the Tower…

Now we’ve ticked that box, we’re shamelessly taking advantage of our first free wi-fi to post this before heading back to the van, Carrefour for provisions and Lucca.

Day 2 – Siena 

Well, we survived the night! The van was very cold this morning so Kim was up at 7 working out how to turn the gas on for hot water and heating. 10 minutes later she turned it off, worried that the gas bottle wouldn’t last until it could be filled!

Breakfast was in last night’s bar, €8 for four breakfasts – we might have to move here.

The day was spent exploring Siena. We walked from the campsite, leaving the monster van behind.

The weather was fantastic and we had a lovely day wandering around the city. We found it via the longest escalator which saved us a long walk up a hill.

Siena is a fantastic mediaval city with pedestrianised, narrow roads. It has the feel of Nice or Girona. Once you’ve seen one Mediterranean mediaval city you’ve seen them all other than there is pizza on every corner. Lunch was overlooking Piazza del Campo before hunting down the best gelateria in Siena ( Thanks to Gillian for the newspaper supplement recommending it!

Next stop was the Duomo and we toured the cathedral and the panorama across the city

Day 1

We had a fantastic start to the day, Clophill to Heathrow, via Holwell, in just over 1.5 hours, woohoo!

The sun was shining when we arrived at Pisa and we had a 2 hour coach ride to the Rollerteam factory in Poggibonsi.

Then the ‘fun’ started! John and Ken disappeared for driver briefing while Jacky and I found our homes for the next 10 nights and they are blooming big! We have the smaller van but Ken And Jacky have an upstairs….. Kim has motorhome envy!

We finally left the factory about 5 and headed to the nearest supermarket, apparently we couldn’t miss it. We did, THREE times!! Tempers were frayed, hunger had kicked in and darkness had fallen before we were on our way to Siena.

We found our campsite, after many wrong turns, have hooked up the electrics, and headed to the local pizzeria for beer and pizza.

Next stop, local bar with live jazz……

JustGo Italy 2017

Six months ago Kim thought it would be a fantastic adventure to drive a brand new motorhome from the factory in Tuscany back to the hire company in Toddington. Friday is fast approaching and, perhaps, our first motorhome experience should have been a little less ambitious! Our flights are booked and the route is planned.

We have 10 nights to bring back a vehicle that is 7m long, 3.2m high and 2.5m wide without getting stuck down a narrow lane or under a bridge.

There have been numerous discussions about the route. We discounted a drive along the Med, across the Pyrenees and up the Bay Of Biscay. It sounded fantastic until we worked out the mileage. Our ‘shorter’ route is still about 1100 miles.

17th and 18th are to be spent in Siena, 19th and 20th are set aside for Luca and Pisa. We then head to the Cinque Terre National Park for a couple of nights at Deiva Marina.

Our long trek back through Europe then begins. One night at Lugano, the next at Freiburg followed by Ediger on the Mosel. Our final night is at Bray-Dunes before heading to Calais for the ferry home on 27th.