The excitement of planning this trip had got to me by Sunday when we got the van out to pack it ready for the ‘big annual outing’. I was determined to be as organised as possible so I spent hours reading other people’s blogs, hints and ideas on www.motorhomefacts.com - a treasure trove (with a few lumps of coal in) .
We’d heard from friends Katie and Stewart touring the Moselle region of France so slightly changed our normal route to meet up with them. So here we go again………
Day 1 The Black Horse Monk’s Horton. England
We set off around 10am and drove to Milton Keynes to see Pete’s 96 year old aunt who doesn’t recognise us anymore, doesn’t speak but we passed the time talking to her and getting smiles and nods. She hasn’t changed from the last time we saw her but it’s a bit sad to see a once active woman sitting in a chair like that. She is very well cared for though. We then headed for Dover via the Black Bull at Monk’s Horton ( off Junction 11, M20) where Harry the landlord offers free overnight parking if you eat there. It was no hardship to eat there either! The menu is extensive and very different from the usual pub grub. They have a website which says they have a caravan site with showers and hook up but we didn’t see anything resembling one except for a campervan parked in a field behind. We parked on the big car park and had some food and drinks but the migraine that had been threatening all day took over so it meant an early night for me and time for Pete to nurse his leg which the pub dog had bitten- not exactly a warm welcome! It rained.
Day 2 Aire at Stenay, France
We set off about half past seven and despite road works , were in Dover for just past eight so plenty of time to park up in the ferry queue and cook breakfast. This year, the staff were coming round checking that people had headlamp deflectors on , carried a warning triangle and had a reflective vest. The crossing was swift and smooth ( Seafrance) and soon we were merrily bowling along accompanied by The Mavericks on CD – our usual musical start to the holiday . We headed out of Calais, down the St.Omer/ Paris peage for a quick start. We turned off at Cambrai and took the N43 towards Charlesville Mezieres. It’s a lovely route through villages and long straight roads edged with trees.
We like to stop just after Le Nouvion where there’s a stretch of road through a forested area with a picnic spot and a friterie ( chip shop!) . We’ve never stopped here when the friterie has been open so my joy knew no bounds when I saw it was open ….so off I shot like a startled rabbit clutching my chip money…oooh and the utter heaven of a chip butty was mine…. We carried on to Charlesville Mezieres and when we had to wait a while for roadworks, Pete changed into his shorts- summer starts here…..I did ask what he would do if it rained but he said ‘I will brook no rain’ …whatever that means! ( He’s posh you know) We took the Verdun/ Metz road turning off at Douzy towards Verdun to stop at Stenay. The aire at the Port du Plaisance there is very convenient for loo emptying, filling with water, etc. and an overnight stay. There are showers and it’s a pretty place next the river and canal and town. It’s been organised this year into plots as it was always a bit haphazard before.
the aire at Port du Plaisance
It costs seven euros a night including hook up and free showers. Pete went off for a cycle while I ‘blogged’ with a cuppa. We counted eight British vans there.
Day 3 Camping D’Ill, Colmar.
We left Stenay travelling towards Montmedy and the 643 towards Longuyon and Longwy, making a slight detour into Petange in Luxembourg for cheaper diesel ( 1.14 euros). It was a very small detour taking us to the A13 then A25 to Thionville then on past Metz, Nancy, and St Die. We opted for our usual route ‘par col’ ( over the top) instead of the tunnel route to Colmar.
We usually stay at the aire in Kaysersberg , just outside of Colmar . It costs two euros to park for the day and four euros for overnight with loos, emptying and filling point, a short walk into town where there are shops, a supermarket for diesel, some good cycle tracks, a castle to explore and lots of places to eat and drink. It’s a beautiful little town with fabulous tall wood timbered buildings in narrow cobbled streets. It’s really picturesque with a river running through, storks on the roof tops and flowers everywhere, but we wanted to meet up with Katie and Stewart, our friends who were doing a tour of the Moselle area and thought it might be nicer to be on a site for two nights so we could pitch up on grass next to each other. So we carried on through Colmar, taking the Freiburg road to Camping D’Ill . The site is lovely, right next to the river with loads of room, about four blocks of showers/ loos spread through the long site and a restaurant. Lots of French people came to eat at the restaurant in the evening , probably because the terrace overlooks the river and the food’s good- though we didn’t try it as the barbecue chez Katie and Stewart was on. The rain came down heavily and we ate inside which wasn’t quite wasn’t quite how I’d imagined our evening but it was lovely just the same. We chatted and tried to catch up with each other’s travels but there was too much to talk about for one evening.
Day 4 Camping D’Ill Colmar
It rained all night and first thing, Stewart and Pete did their Good Samaritan bit and lent grip mats and brute force to a motorhome stuck in mud. I missed all the excitement as I was in the super clean shower. After breakfast, we all cycled into Colmar on marked cycle paths, past Lidl and LeClerc to the town centre. The old town is so like Kaysersberg on a bigger scale- there were even storks. The timbered buildings dated back hundreds of years and the sunshine lit up the buildings, the flowers and fountain, and glistened on the canal.
The pristine covered market was a veritable foodies’ heaven – we bought bretzel- sort of bread dough pretzels with onions and cheese. We walked round looking up at all the amazing buildings- so much to see. We came across Little Venice where we walked along the canal and were amazed to see a coypu gliding by with it’s head just above the murky water. It got out onto a step and groomed itself while we watched, fascinated. We’ve never seen one before.
Apparently the little monkeys waste 80% of the plants they eat- bad guys! I was trying to upload a video of this one but got fed up waiting for it to upload.........
We stopped at a café for beer and coffee then cycled back via Lidl and then LeClerc where Pete treated me to my favourite, raspberry tart. I had a bit of a problem walking but overcame it to go and see the heron in the river and the stork that was stalking (!) about the site…….we went so close to it and it seemed unperturbed by us.
We had a lovely meal- this time outdoors and attempted a catch –up but both couples still have travel tales to tell………….and I showed my Cuba pictures and no-one fell asleep so they can’t be too boring…………
Day 5 Fontenellato , Italy
So, saying goodbye to lovely friends, we headed for LeClerc, a fill of diesel ( 1.27 euros per litre) and some shopping. We headed off south and went a long easily till we came to the queue for the Gotthard tunnel . It took an hour from the queue at the northern end to get through. We saw snow on the peaks.We stopped at three o clock for a late sandwich lunch, fuelled up again at Somaglia services ( 1.41 ) and then headed for Fontanellato area da sosta. Last year , we followed directions posted on www.motorhomefacts.com but this year, I trusted myself to find it and got there much more easily by going off at Fidenza and following signs for Fontanellato. It was about 10 mins from the autostrada and easy to find. There were two other vans there and some new ‘sheds’ – big metal constructions that surely couldn’t just be for shade? On closer inspection, they housed solar panels- what a good idea. I checked out the facilites and , as last year, the loo emptying place was unusable, the loos were locked but there was fresh water available. It’s a free , convenient stop so I won’t complain but how does the loo thingy get full to the brim when there’s a lever to empty it? I tried the lever but other people’s waste didn’t disappear and I’m no plumber…….
Pete sat out in the sun, then we ate a load of fresh prawns ( Pete couldn’t resist getting them in the supermarket) . We moved down the site a bit as the restaurant was running air conditioning of a generator which was a bit noisy- we had plenty of spaces to choose from.
Day 6 Sassenio Spiaggi, Fano, Italy