Monday, 7 September 2020

Greece 2020. Ferry from Ancona.

 We were slightly apprehensive about getting the ferry to Greece. We had booked it in November As it turned out we didn't need to worry. Organisation at the port was relatively stress free, infact probably easier than last year as there were fewer travellers. We drove from San Marino , an easy drive that took just over an hour. We had filled out the Greek entry forms online before we left home and as we had the e-mail confirmation it made things relatively simple. The entry forms asked for a place we would stay, so we just used our first camp site address. 

Loading this time was straightforward and the ferry actually left on time. No Brits on board, mainly German campers and lorries. There was loads of space on the car deck.




The ferry was very clean, with sanitisers well in evidence. Masks had to be warn on board and there were regular messages reminding people! We had a meal in the canteen and later breakfast the next morning in the restaurant. We didn't think the food onboard was over priced and with our Anek Smart Card ( obtained last year ) we also got a discount! 


Goodbye Italy! We will be back in a month.


All in all, it was a pleasant trip if somewhat hot. We were so pleased with our fan, having an electric hook up meant we could leave it on all night. Camping on board, highly recommended! You are given an electronic pass to access the car deck and there is all night security.


After a good nights sleep in our own bed, we were ready for Greece. First stop for the boat was Igoumenitsa. We watched the unloading from the top deck in the sun. We were going on to Patras another 4 hours.


Hello Greece!

Unloading at Patras was quite easy this time. We had to turn on the deck but there was plenty of room. We had received our Q Code on our phone ( from our entry form) during the night. This was checked as you got off the boat. Well done the Greek Government your system works. As we left the port we were told to queue for a quick Covid test. No messing about here! The staff were all gowned up, a chair and table at the customs point and a quick throat swab taken. Painless and super quick.We should have asked what happened next, but we never received a phone call or e-mail so we guessed we were Covid free. Interestingly, most of the people being swabbed were non- Greeks and very few Germans. I suppose with a UK number plate we were bound to be picked!

Soon on our way to  our first Greek campsite. A long journey but worth it for the sun, now in the 30's.Sun, sand, sea and Greek wine. Can't wait.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Greece 2020 Italy

 A drive through the mountains and  a trip through the Frejus Tunnel and before long we were in Italy. Heading for Asti and a camp site on a terrace over looking the vineyards. Camping Asti International. A beautiful day in a lovely spot.



We decided to take advantage of the sun and stay for a couple of days. We had a great pizza in the restaurant and the next morning wandered up the hill to the village. A typical Italian local place we had a look around and bought bread in the local shop. We also stopped at the wine bar and tried the local Asti wine. On the way back I sneakily tasted the grapes in the fields, they were incredibly sweet. 


A wander around the vineyards.



I only tasted two, the carrier bag was for the bread.



Settled in at Asti for a couple of days.

Feeling rested and tuned into Italy, the next morning we were on our way to Bologna for a one night stop on the way to San Marino.


Bologna is a convenient half way stop to the coast, easy to find just off the ring road. Usually we would have taken the bus into town but thought we should avoid towns and too much bus travel this trip. An uneventful night stop just a few too many biting creatures here! ( They do a mossie spray from time to time)

The Republic of San Marino, strictly not Italy. We found the campsite with ease, Madam Satnag was on good form this morning. A good restaurant, very reasonably priced and we were set for the next two days. Of course we did the trip up the mountain to San Marino Town, by bus. It was extremely busy and crowded. As we had seen most of the sites we did a quick tour, some window shopping and had a lovely cool drink in a shady bar. Not as many tourists as last time but still busy so we opted out of lunch and went back to the campsite for a rest!!


Nice pitch at San Marino relatively quiet.


A view from the top.


Wear comfortable shoes it says on the tourist info site. Do the locals know? Lots of beautiful people around in expensive clothes and shoes!


Social distancing! This concert looks like it may be fun.



Sign of the times. Says it all really!

Next stop Ancona and the ferry to Greece.





Saturday, 29 August 2020

Greece 2020 France

 We had booked our crossing to Greece way back pre Covid, in December last year. With Foreign Office restrictions lifted for travel to Europe we decided to go. We left on the 11th, by the 14th quarantine from France had been introduced. Never mind, we were already in France and apart from the masks and gel, life seemed much as normal. Very few Brits about, they were all racing back to avoid quarantine.

A short dash cam of the journey through the tunnel.



A quiet ride through the tunnel and we were soon safely settled in at Les Erables. Beautifully hot weather and lovely surroundings we decided to stay for a few days.


As it was our wedding anniversary we treated ourselves to a fabulous meal in the village.

We even went for a paddle in the sea. It was beautifully warm.


The white cliffs of France looked as good as Dover. The beach was busy but not packed with plenty of social distancing going on.


Our next stop happened by accident. We were heading south so in the right direction. A few complicated finger tapping and OK I got it wrong! We ended up in the champagne vineyards at a nice little Municipal site at a place called Dormans, West of Rhiems, Camping Sous Le Clocher.

A dash cam of the journey. 


 Only 15 Euros a night and another 16 Euros for a beautiful bottle of local champagne. A great one night stop, even though the Gendarmes were called to expel a noisy group of Belgians Entente Cordial gone out of the window. Still it did provide some entertainment. Still on the way South our next stop would be Beaune.

Arrived at Beaune after a fairly uneventful journey. A good 2 night stop. The site restaurant was good value for money and we went for a short walk into town.





Beaune is certainly somewhere we will come back to. Unfortunately everywhere was crammed with little covid awareness. People were wearing masks but tables were very close together and people were queuing. We decided not to push our covid luck!

A dash cam of the journey to Beaune. 


Our final stop in France was back to Lake Annecy where we really enjoyed it last year. Much quieter on the site we met up with a friend and had a very enjoyable dinner by the lake. The bike trail from the campsite was a good one but very busy we managed a few good rides in beautiful surroundings.



Love this site at the south of the lake. Not too busy off season and the air here is wonderfully clean. Our last stop before moving onto Italy.



Hard to beat beautiful scenery like this especially on a hot sunny day.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Winter Sun 2020. The Journey Home. Running from Covid 19.

Our holiday was finally over! We were so aware of the growing threat of corona virus. Not yet in Spain but certainly on it's way with each day. We had given ourselves 5 days to make the run to the tunnel. We would take 2 days to get to the French border giving ourselves three days to get up through France. We usually used the toll roads on the way home for an easy drive.

We were not so unhappy to say goodbye to Los Olivos and it was not a long drive to our first stop at Zaragoza. Originally we had planned to stay at the Winter Sun site in Zaragoza. However, the reviews were not great. We decided instead to make for the camper stop near the city centre. A good decision. 




The camper stop was really easy to find. Just on the out skirts of the city by the football club and university. We arrived in the early afternoon and there were loads of spaces. We were soon settled in. Tucked in between the French and Germans. The tram to the city centre was just by the auto stop but we decided to investigate the local area on foot. There were loads of bars and restaurants and a big Carrefore within walking distance. We had soon found a friendly local restaurant and had a very pleasant inexpensive meal. 20 euros for three courses including a bottle of very nice red wine. The camper stop was free, so no facilities, but you could empty waste water and your toilet. We had a very quiet night and in the morning wandered to a local cafe for coffee.

A short dash cam arriving at the auto stop.




From Zarragoza we decided to make for France and settled on another Winter Sun Site just south of Bordeaux Camping Beaux Soleil. Easily found off the Bordeaux rocade at Gradignan. A small site which was quite full, probably because it was in the Winter Sun book. We arrived early enough to get one of the last free pitches.


A short dash cam. From Zarragoza.







A strange site. The grounds were beautifully maintained. Showers were hot and the block was heated. Toilets were unisex and not pleasant unfortunately. A 10 minute walk took us to a very nice bar where we had a few drinks, watched the French kissing each other and then into the Brasserie next door, where we had a lovely expensive meal. Obviously social distancing was not on the horizon at this point. We had been following concerns about the corona virus on motor home forums during the journey. 24 hours later the world had changed.  It appeared we had made it into France just at the right time, with talk of Spain and France going into lock down, bars and restaurants were already closed. We were amazed that everything up to this point in France, had seemed much as normal.



Our next stop would be Les Acacias at Tours. We found the campsite with no trouble but it was early afternoon and the gates were locked. We could see people moving around inside and thought it was open as we had met a couple with a caravan on the last site who were also heading there. Obviously " no room at the inn". There was a notice on the gate telling us that due to the virus we could only book in online, then we would be given a code to enter. Try as we might we could not get the online system to work. A "helpful" camper told us we could try ringing but the office was locked up and they wouldn't answer the phone. A French camper more helpfully, gave us a gate code but that would not work either. We decided to move on as it was getting late. Camper Contact came up with an open site 7 k away and we were soon arriving at Camping Only Tours. Loire Valley. 

A very warm and friendly welcome here. By the river. Great facilities, loads of room and a pleasant spot on a hard standing.

A short dash cam. The journey to Tours.





We were soon fed, watered and snuggled in for the night with a bottle of wine. This is a site we would certainly return to for another visit and good value too. 

We were beginning to feel the stress of the virus around us. In a dramatic change from the day before, now the roads were really empty, all the bars and restaurants in the service stations were shut. We decided to make one last stop before the tunnel. We were lucky and able to bring our booking forward by 24 hours ( with no extra payment!) Well done Euro Tunnel for a prompt efficient service. One more stop to find in France. 

The next morning back on the road towards Calais. Empty roads sped us on our way,we were now anxious to get home. Calais for a night stop was out, so Camper Contact came up with a good alternative, an aire a few miles from the tunnel. Driving down a few windy and narrow country roads, we soon found Camping La Ferme de L'Horloge near Tardinghen.

Basically and literally a farmers field. Behind the barn was an electric hook up, water tap and a place to empty the loo. We spent a silent night only woken up by the noise of the tractor and all for 12 euros. We were the only ones there.



A short dash cam. Tours to a stop near Calais.




The last dash cam. Calais Tunnel and home.





Our last night in France and my birthday. The next morning we easily made it to the tunnel and home. No checks, no warnings about Covid 19 and we were so pleased to pull onto our drive. The only big hold up had been an accident on the M4 so all in all, we had got away lightly. A great "last supper" birthday meal at our local Indian and the holiday was over.

Once home we followed the news, we have come back to a different world. Two weeks later. a reality check. We had met quite a few people who intended to sit out the corona drama on the Costas. I pray fate has been good to them, we feel a lot safer at home. We hope!! Krystal is safely on the drive waiting for the next adventure,who knows when that will be? We will be ready!

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Winter Sun 2020. Los Olivos Spain

Finally we were on our way to our last site. a new Camping & Caravanning Club rally. We had met the stewards Gill and Chris at Castille de Banos last year so we were looking forward to a new experience. Sadly the weather had not been as good as last year, cooler overall but still worth the journey for the beautiful warm days we had, on and off. This site was further north in Valencia at a place called Alcala de Xivert. ( pronounce the "X" as a "ch") Just 17k from Peniscola and  7k from the beach at Alcossebre. In the foothills of the mountains amongst the orange groves. We were excited!

We left Kiko Park with a longish drive in front of us around 4.5 hours we thought ! Madam Satnag was dutifully programmed in with the co-ordinates, we thought it rather strange that we couldn't find the campsite name in our trusty Garmin. Several hours later in the mountains we went up and down the same pass at least three times. Something was wrong as Madam Satnag was not performing! In desperation I enlisted the help of Google, hurray he found the way! We had managed to mix up our Wests and Easts and consequentially were travelling in the wrong direction. A quick spurt down the motorway and we had arrived....finally! Just in time the main Reception was about to close. We were allocated a pitch but VERY STRONG winds and a German builder put us off. The Rally stewards helped us out and we were soon settled in.A large gravel pitch between two statics. We were out of the wind so we were happy. A meal in the campsite restaurant, a large wine and all was well in the world.




Los Olivos proved to be rather a strange campsite. Fairly described in the Winter Sun book. The pitches were huge and the roads really wide. The club house was an enormous villa type building. The story goes it was built to be a golf course but planning permission was refused, hence the facilities. Toilets and showers were housed behind the restaurant, more of that later!



The campsite roads built for trucks.

At the entrance to the site was a kind of aire. Smaller pitches for campers. A very long walk to the facilities. We were pleased not to be in this outside spot.





Reception. Everything here on a grand scale.



The White House home to the restaurant, bar, gym with loos and showers around the back. Shame the bar and restaurant closed at 8 pm. I thought the Spanish liked to party 'till late. Not here.



The swimming pool looked nice. It was closed.

The Rally was well organised with a pleasant programme of events much as expected. We decided to explore the town. Alcala de Xivert. A really typical small Spanish town. Miles from anywhere and slightly run down. It's claim to fame is the castle outside on the hill and it's large elaborate church. Sadly we never found the church open, or the tourist information. There was a market on a Friday morning packed with market mainly clothes and not much else. The town was pleasant enough to wander around but slightly depressing.







The church very grand with a tower that can be climbed when it's open. Everything was closed.

Xivert is not a tourist top spot destination. Perhaps this is where it's charm lies. We were looking for a pleasant bar or nice restaurant, sadly there are none. We did find a bit of entertainment one morning on our way back from the supermarket though. A large lorry had a slight disagreement with a narrow street.





With a bit of help from a passing English truck driver, a host of locals and the police he eventually escaped. It kept us entertained for a while.

Surrounding the town are orange and lemon groves. A good place for dog walking I would think. There was some kind of dog sanctuary just outside the campsite, I was always a bit wary walking past as they were very noisy. 

 

The rally stewards organised a walk to the castle, up the mountain and definitely not for the fainthearted. A little jaunt of only 9.5 miles. We set off feeling very fit and healthy! We were led by one of the ralliers who had done the climb before , a motley crew. It all started of so gently, along the track through the orange groves.



A little discussion as to if we were on the right track. We weren't, so back we went.


Up.....


And up.... clambering over the stony path.


Each time we got to the top of one path there was another.

Eventually we made it!



Finally at the top and a tremendous view. All we had to do now was descend.



Our little wander took 5.5 hours. The walk home was calmer and down a road for most of the way. We really deserved the cold beer. Oh dear all the water holes were closed! We made our way back to the camp bar. Certainly covered our 10 000 steps that day. Would I do it again. NO!! Although it was enjoyable.

Our last day had finally come to an end. Tomorrow we would run in front of the corona virus to get home.

Homeward bound.

Would we use this site again? I don't think so. The site is a long way from anywhere. Good for walkers but it needs a lot of work. The toilets were very superficially cleaned and would be totally inadequate if the site was full. If we had been on the small pitches by reception we would have left. It was a very long walk to the facilities. After a couple of days we had seen all we wanted to in the town and after 9 nights were beginning to be a bit bored. Nice for a short stay maybe. Perhaps we would have looked at it differently if we had a car and caravan or if we were into golf. There was public transport but the trains stopped miles from the beach so not really useful for a seaside visit. It was really too far for a day trip to Valencia by train. Sadly not a part of Spain we really want to return to.