Saturday, 13 August 2022

Vantage Habitation Check. Return from Leeds via Cheshire, Shell Island & Hereford.

 We could hardly believe that 3 years has flown by and Krystal was due for a first MOT. Happily she passed with flying colours. A slight blip, with the oil warning alarm light but hopefully that will resolve itself! Colin Edwards in Street, highly recommended by a neighbour and easily sorted out service and MOT, Krystal was legal again, fit and healthy!!

The next hurdle was the habitation check and a trip to Leeds back to her birth place at the Vantage factory. Quite a hike for us but we decided to take a week off from "decorating" and head for some R&R. We always book the habitation check a year in advance. I had booked a Sunday night at a Premier Inn at Knottingly (about 8 miles from Leeds) for the princely sum of £29, Easy parking and a relatively easy drive into Leeds on a Monday morning arriving at the factory by 8.30 am.

Krystal was soon settled in by Jamie. We only had a few minor things to be fixed. A droopy over head cab carpet and a dodgy TV ariel. Not bad really. We did the usual canal stroll into Leeds and had breakfast and a wander. By mid afternoon we were done and back at the factor. Jamie had been very thorough as usual, completed our jobs  and had changed the shower head, which had been leaking and tightening up the oven handle which had been loose. While we had been strolling around Leeds we decided to change the plan for next years habitation. Arrive Leeds, Monday late PM and leave Krystal at the Vantage factory. Stroll down to the Holiday Inn Express around the corner and pick Krystal up on Tuesday after her checks. This would avoid the heavy traffic we had encountered coming into Leeds Central on a Monday morning. Worth a try.

Habition done we headed for Moor Lodge and our normal stop over at Bardsley a few miles away. A lovely spot very rural round the corner from The Bingley Arms ( no meals on a Monday)

We enjoyed the sunshine and wandered down The Gunnell ( rather overgrown) for a cold beer.

An easy stroll down, a bit of a hike on the way back...... it could have been the beer.

The next morning we were off to Cheshire, Shays Farm, and a visit to Den's brother Paul and his wife Ann-Maria at Tarporley. We always enjoy seeing them and catching up with family gossip over a couple of good meals. Shays Farm is another lovely site, very up together and quiet.

A good fishing site and great for kids with a big ball field.

Whilst we were there we went out with Paul across to North Wales to a place called Holywell. Sadly, Holywell is not thriving  as it used to be. Still we took a nostalgic tour of some of the sites that were so familiar 50 years ago.

Here is the site of the old bakery, café and bread shop. Now an Indian restaurant. This was where Matthew Schwarz Den's Dad was born.

Next door was the Opticians also belonging to the family. In the window was some of the family history.

While we were taking photos the door to the opticians opened and we met old cousins and spent some time talking family history which was lovely.

We then went up to the monastery at Pantasaph where many of the family are peacefully lying. We paid our respects in this very peaceful place, which has changed very little over the years. A beautiful final resting place.

Our last destination in this part of Wales was to meet up with Den's cousins Christina and Kieran. We looked around Christina's cottage at Brynford where we hadn't been for many years. Finally, we had a lovely meal in a local hostelry and chatted about old times and memories past.. Altogether a great couple of days we will have to do it again soon. North Wales is a lovely part of the world and even better when the sun shines. Big thank you to Paul and Ann-Maria and the cousins we met on the way, We enjoyed your company.

From Cheshire we ambled back to Wales and soon we were on our way to Shell Island. A unique HUGE campsite just north of Barmouth on the coast. The campsite is only assessible at low tide. We had booked a spot and checked the tide times so all was well. "Camp anywhere", we were told. Sand dunes or mountain views. We opted for the middle ground and pitched up on a hill, sea behind us mountains in front.

Clean showers and loos, bar and food available. All was well until the weekend when it did get rather full. Still we enjoyed the views and the sea air and we would go back off season.

The beach was beautiful and pretty empty. There was soft sand and loads of rock pools. I think if we went again the "dog free" field would be our first choice. Most of the campsite was grass so not sure what it would be like in bad weather, I guess you would have to be careful where you camped.

Strange how some campers didn't seem to understand the 15m rule in operation here. A mid week visit would be best as the site gets pretty crowded at weekends.

Finally we were on our way home but decided at the last moment that one more stop would make an easier journey. A quick look at camper contact and search for sites and we located Lucksall Caravan and Camping at Fiddlers Green not far from Hereford by the River Wye. I rang the site and they had spaces, I also booked a table at the restaurant, on site but run separately.

Lucksall site is absolutely beautifully kept with grass manicured within an inch of it's life. Pitches are a good size and facilities spotless. We had a beautiful meal in the restaurant and a drink in the bar overlooking the River Wye.

People we paddle boarding from the site and swimming further up the river. This is certainly a site we will go back to.

Altogether a very successful week!!!

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Portugal to Calais EuroTunnel.

Finally after 8 weeks of sunshine in Portugal we were on our way home. We allowed 6 nights for the journey from Ria Formosa in the Algarve, to the tunnel. 

For those who like figures, 

The total journey was 3380 miles, door to door.

Fuel cost £502

Tolls in France, Spain and Portugal, 190 Euros.

Tunnel only £150 , as we used our Tesco coupons!

Campsite fees 1106.70 Euros. 

Bargain of the holiday was Ria Formosa Camping. As we arrived before 1st June and stayed for a month, we got the special rate of 365 Euros all in. Camping Turiscampo was a Yelloh Village site which we booked and paid for in advance. All the campsites en route we just turned up for and booked in at will, they varied in price from 15 Euros ( Alentejo Portugal) to 29 Euros ( Only Camp Tours)

The only site we could have made a saving with using ACSI, was Larouletta in France, we would have saved the princely sum of 1 euro if I had bought the ACSI card and book. Travelling home was very easy as all the sites were open. Going down at the beginning of April we used Camping & Caravanning Winter Sun sites as we knew they were open. Most of the other sites we used were already known to us or we picked them up on Camper Contact ( well worth 5.99 Euros a year) We could probably have saved a bit of money if we had used Aires, but we prefer sites and we don't wild camp.

All in all, including spending money and food, the holiday cost £61.14 a day, that included fuel and travelling costs. Not bad overall we thought for 64 nights away.

Leaving Ria Formosa we travelled back up through Portugal to Alentejo near Evoramonte. Again we passed a quiet night and bought a pizza from the site shop for dinner. Delivered hot to the van by the site owner, not bad for 7.50 Euros. Washed down with a bottle of local wine. The camp site was slightly busier than on the way down and the pool was open. This site is beautifully kept the owner lives on the premises. Nice hot clean sanitary facilities and an outdoor pool. Our last night in Portugal very warm.

The next morning we headed over into Spain and after a long drive made it to Salamanca. Our first choice stop over was closed, so we made a slight detour to Hotel Regio where we had stayed before.

Hotel Regio has a campsite attached, large toilet block and campers get a discount in the restaurant. It was a great stop this time as the weather was beautiful and all the facilities were open. A nice outside bar and a swimming pool which we didn't use. The meal in the restaurant was good too. Next time we go we will stop for two nights and take a trip into Salamanca the bus stop is at the hotel.

Slightly long grass and dodgy electrics, but clean and well worth a stop and reasonable at 23.10 Euros a night.


We had a very nice meal in the restaurant here.

The following morning found us doing another long drive to France. Just over the border and back to Larouletta. This time the weird trees had leaves on them so seemed lass spooky.

Two months makes a world of difference to a tree!!!

Our second French site was at Tours. Another mammoth drive but easy on the motorway with little traffic. Lucky for us it was a Sunday so no lorries.

Only Camp in Tours is just off the main road and avoiding the "No Entry" signs over the bridge we managed to find it. Clean, friendly and convenient. Tours is walking distance but the site is by the River Loire so lots to see. We wandered into the village but all the restaurants were closed as it was a Sunday. We finally manged to find a pizza place and had a very entertaining meal surrounded by all the locals all for 10 Euros.

The camp site is on Pilgrims route to Compostela. Lots of cyclists so looks like it could get busy in season. Opens from February so a handy stop.

We were on the final route to the tunnel one more sleep at our usual stopping place Les Erables at Escalles. The sun was shining in the distance over the white cliffs of Dover. England only 22 miles away.

 Another great meal at the restaurant  Les Falaise in the village and then finally home!

What would we do differently? We will definitely go back to Portugal next year at the same time. April to the  beginning of June. I think we would buy a flexi ticket for the tunnel next time and not worry about booking sites as most places are quiet in April/May. The weather is certainly better at this time and most of the attractions are open but less crowded. We may make a couple of two night stops on the way home so Den gets a break from driving. Can't wait till next year. Just a van to clean now. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Review Camping Ria Formosa. Portugal.

 Our second site of this season takes us to Camping Ria Formosa near Tavira almost at the Spanish border. We had been before in January/February and thought we would like to try it more in season.

Ria Formosa is situated almost in Tavira in the village of  Conceicao and Cabanas de Tavira. The site is right by the train station and an easy one stop into Tavira main town. Infact, the train very conveniently, goes all the way along the Algarve and in the opposite direction to Spain, so it is perfect for motor homers who want to use public transport.

 Loads of bike paths nearby and you can even cycle into Tavira across the salt flats which we did. 

We think this site has the best of two worlds, traditionally Portuguese in Conceicao and a bit more touristy in Cabanas. Cabanas in actually an old fishing village and has lots of bars, cafes and a beautiful beach accessed by water taxi at 1.50 Euros return. Cabanas is a bustling resort but not yet ruined by too much tourism!

The beach is beautiful fine sand, with loads of umbrella for shade.

Not too busy in May!

There is also another local beach called appropriately "Poor Man's Beach", because at low tide you can actually wade across to the beach avoiding the charge of a water taxi. We road our bikes across the salt flats to reach it. Good going for me!!

Cabanas itself is a great place to relax and is full of old fisherman's cottages that still retain their charm and have actual fishermen living in them.

There are a few tourist shops but also local shops for meat and fish. This is a local community garden filled with mannequins, fun but a bit spooky I thought.

We couldn't really make out what it was about but the dummies were really well done!

The campsite is very well laid out. We opted for a double pitch for not much extra. We actually got a bargain winter rate for a month which cost 365 Euros all in, so we had a double bonus. Pitches are all on gravel and the site staff are very fussy about keeping within the pitch markings, which was fine for us. The shower blocks and loos are beautifully clean and well kept with loads of hot water. There is a site supermarket, but also two more good local supermarkets in walking distance. A huge Lidl is at Tavira next door to the train station. We did the journey a few times and with a "wrinkly discount" ( you have to ask!) the fare was 1.50 Euros return.

Tavira is well worth a day or more to look around. There is an old town and you can take boat trips along the river or to Tavira Island, the beach resort. We had a fabulous meal of grilled sardines in a typical Portuguese back street restaurant.

There is also a well priced restaurant which does a daily menu but there are loads of places to eat. We managed a main meal and wine for around 20 euros. At the local Expat bar "The Barrel", a main meal, dessert, coffee and wine is 10 Euros. Wine came in at 1 Euro a glass. All in all, a cheap place to eat out.

The weather this year was really hot temperatures in the high 20's most days, certainly we will return next year at the same time.

We spent our days in the sun and with walking, biking, eating and drinking, 4 weeks has flown by really fast. There is a lovely swimming pool on site with lots of loungers great for cooling off in.

We did a trip up the train track to Monte Gordo ( two stops) If you like Blackpool you will love Monte Gordo a tourist hot spot. Massive hotels backing onto the beach. Not our cup of tea but worth a day out!

The best bit of beach at Monte Gorda was the fisherman's end, but not as authentic as Cabanas.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our holiday this year. Staying put has its advantages and we have certainly found out loads more about this area of Portugal. We will be back.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Review Turistcampo Lagos Portugal.

 This year we have decided that we want to stay put in two camp sites for our Spring trip to Portugal.  Turistcampo, between Lagos and Luz in Portugal. A Yelloh Village resort. Booked online for 22 nights.

Turiscampo is a  large holiday resort well placed for touring the Algave. Probably one of the best kept sites we have been on. Scrupulously clean with staff constantly on duty throughout the campsite. Even the pitches get pruned and swept between customers. Toilet blocks rival a good hotel with plenty of hot water and a whole host of loos, complete bathrooms and showers. The resort is open all year round so caters for all weathers. There is a large heated indoor and outdoor swimming complex. An indoor and outdoor gym, kiddies play area and club and a great restaurant and supermarket on site. There are also a whole variation of huts on site some with their own hot tubs. Handy I guess for visitors. Our neighbours had their family visiting and collected them from Faro airport about an hours drive.

The restaurant on site has a snack bar as well as a proper restaurant and does well priced meals. We ate out quite a few times. It does get quite busy but we always managed to find a table. During the weekends there was usually some kind of entertainment. All the staff were really friendly and helpful and mostly spoke English.

The site is tiered with pitches of various sizes. We went for the "deluxe" so we had our own water and drainage. Pitches are well marked with plenty of shade.

A bus stop outside the site takes you along the coast in both directions. Pria de Luz is the nearest beach, it took us about 35 minutes, an easy walk going down to the beach, harder on the way back as it's uphill, good exercise though. Luz is a great small village, quite touristy with a lovely sandy beach at one end and loads of restaurants and bars. A large expat community!

One of the attractions of the area is walking the coastal path. Known as the "Fishermans Walk" it extends for most of the Algarve coast. Very popular with German and Dutch walkers it can be very challenging in sections, though relatively easy to follow and well marked.

The section nearest to us was Lagos to Burgau. We kind of managed to walk the majority of this section over a couple of days. Beautiful views across the sea. We almost made Burgau but gave up on a very steep final decent to the beach. At the other end a very stiff climb ruled out the top of the Roche Niga! All my fault!!

We watched as a few "bright young things" made the top. We know our limitations and descended back to the bar instead. Worth the effort though to nearly make the top!

Amazing how quickly three weeks flew by. We were just getting into the holiday spirit when it was time to leave. Certainly worth the long journey. We had a couple of damp windy days but lots of sunshine as well. A good time of the year to come in May/June the promise of summer sun and hardly any biting insects YET!

Our next stay, up the coast for an hour and a half for a month at Camping Ria Formosa ,Cabanas de Taveria and more sun we hope.