Sunday, 6 January 2019

Summer in Greece 2018   work in progress.....

I have been incredibly lazy and not blogged for ages. I just keep going on trips and forgetting to post about them. Lots of people have been in contact about driving to Greece so I thought I would write up this year's trip a little so the route and possible routes can help people who want to go to this amazing country. There is a 'Driving to Greece' section on here and you can look at Summer 2017 and other summers for ideas for routes and places to stay.

Helpful things to know:
Camping on board where you drive on, plug in and sleep in your vehicle is only done on Anek ferries and gets booked up quickly.
Minoan do 'camping on board ' but you have a cabin or a reclining seat. 
The crossing from Ancona to Patras takes about 23 hours and costs the same as Ancona to Igoumenitsa.
You need to buy a vignette to cross through Switzerland. You can get it at service stations on the way up to the border or at the border itself. If you pay cash in euros , you will get Swiss francs in change. You can use a card at the border if you go in the office  or  at service stations.
There are tolls through Italy at entry and various places along the route.
It gets hot- you need fans.

Driving to Greece 2018- the route and * overnight stops

- *Canterbury park and ride at New Dover Road.
- *Marine Parade Dover ( not sure if this is possible now but it's not far from Canterbury park and ride to ferry)
- Head for Lille. Stop at Junction 16 A25/E42 signposted Bergues to E LeClerc for a fuel fill.  Our route is then Lille/ Valenciennes/ Charlesville Mezieres / Douzy.

 Carry on to* Stenay ( - about five hours driving with stops) where there is an aire. You drive to the office at the Port de Plaisance and get the code for the barrier and showers. It was 9.40 euros with electric.
There's a Lidl at the top of the town and lots of little shops in the town. The aire is lovely on the edge of the canal and river. 


- *Breisach am Rhein   Germany
on the way there, we go into Luxemburg to get fuel, gin and other stuff because it's cheap. We went via Virton/ Musson to Bascharage where there are garages and a huge Cactus supermarket as well as an Aldi.
 We head along to St Die and there is an aire- picnic only- called Jete de Pierre where we usually stop for lunch. There is an eco loo there which I almost managed to get locked in this time but a panicked thump on the door got me out! We take the Colmar par Col route avoiding the tunnel and payment and have fabulous views as we drive up and over....usually stopping in Fraize for bread. We drive past Kaysersberg ( possible stop over- nice aire, nice town) past Colmar ( also has an aire, also lovely town) and go over the Rhine to the stelplatz in Breisach by the river. We also get fuel here. There's a nice walk along the river or round the walls. Free wifi at the tourist office.

Breisach am Rhein

*Salsomaggiore Terme Italy  new this year. We used to stay  here on a campsite the first years we travelled this way but the campsite is very expensive and you're only there overnight so can't really take advantage of swimming pools etc. So we take a straightforward drive to Basel. We stop at Sursee for coffee with a lovely view. We stop again at Coldrerio after the Gotthard tunnel for lunch but there are stopping places before then. It took us 40 minutes to get around Milan with no stops even though there was heavy traffic. We turned off at Fidenza where new roads made it look difficult to get to Salsomaggiore Terme but it was fine. There is a free sosta by the railway station which was good. The address is Via Antonio Gramsci N44.82025 E9.98994 
We parked up and went into the town which was lovely....faded grandeur but beautiful. 

Salsomaggiore Terme 

-* Brisighella Italy
Back to the autostrada, down to Faenza  and off into the foothills at Brisighella. This is a beautiful town with towers and worth a stay and a walk around. The sosta is eight euros and is quiet. 

Brisighella sosta

Brisighella centre

-*San Marino also new this year. We have driven past so many times and wanted to stay overnight so we did. Good idea! We parked on level two of the car park. Level one has more shade and toilets, level two has more room, level three has emptying and filling and loos. We had a fantastic view.  We walked up to the cable car- there's one every 15 minutes and it's four euros 50 per person and so worth it. You can see the sea. it's a wonderful place- very touristy but good. 

cable car San Marino

San Marino

-*Fano Italy
We filled up here with fuel and gas as it is cheap. We took the Fano turn off the autostrada and went into the town following the signs for Ancona non motorway . We turn off to the left where the sign for Spiaggia ( beach) and Sassonia is. It's only a field next to the sea but nice for a swim across the road and an evening walk into town. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes near. 

Sassonia, Fano

* Anek /Superfast X1 Ferry to Greece
We drove about an hour down to Ancona watching for the port turning. It is signposted but we missed it once. You have to go to the ticket office- signposted ,to check in before you go to the loading area. You need passports, tickets and sometimes your van log book. It seems to take forever to load- follow the instructions of the guys loading you- they really know what they are doing even though you think you couldn't possibly fit in a space. ...they will get you in. The electricity is from cables above your head- someone will get a pole and give it to you to pull the cable down and plug in. There are showers and loos and of course you can go anywhere on the ship. There's an a la carte restaurant, self service restaurant and snacks by the pool ( don't get excited- it isn't big and only kids go in it)  We usually get a plate of gyros ( Greek kebab meat) from the deck and take it down to the van and eat it with extra salad.
on board- outside this time 

Arrival in Patras
It takes a while to get off and you follow the cars in front of you out of the port. If you need shopping- take the first exit off the ramp up out of the port and Lidl is just along on the left where there are also garages.  Follow signs to New National Road ( not new any more) 

You're there!

There are so many places to go and see , you will have to choose yourself from maps/ blogs/ recommendations. There are places we know and love and have been to many times and most are on here somewhere, Camping Aginara in Glyfa about an hour from Patras, Camping Methoni in Methoni right down south, and our second home, camping Thines in Finikounda where we stay longest. There are many many more.......

Return Home
This year, because of being unable to get a ferry when we wanted  to return, we had more time to wander back up to Dunkirk. Here's where we stayed and it is very different to our usual route because we went to some places in Greece we hadn't stayed before and then to Lake Iseo and the Moselle.

After leaving Finikounda:
*Karavostasi. A tiny fishing port just before Limeni - drive past Kalamata and Stoupa. Free stop over, no facilities next to a wonderful fish restaurant.

overlooking Kardamili


*Camping Semili, Leonidio via Areopoli,Gythio 
We drove via Kosmas where we parked up behind the church and had a coffee in this village high up in the hills. The drive here is lovely. (You drive past Gythio, which is also a lovely place to stay. We usually stay at Gythion Bay site.)  It's worth stopping for a look around Areopoli- there's a big car park. 

passing Limeni - Karavostasi is at the other side of the bay



after Gythio on Scala road 

goatherd en route to Kosmas 

Camping Semeli is outside of Leonidio, near Plaka and there are a few restaurants and a nice place to spend some seaside time. 

* Palea Epidavros
We drove via Napflio - another wonderful place to visit but we didn't stay this time. You can visit Epidavros ancient theatre on the way to Palea Epidavros  but we have done that before so headed down to the little town where we went to the campsite but there wasn't a waterfront pitch so we went back into town and parked along the end of the spit of land overnight. There was a triathlon on so the town was bustling.

* Afroditi's Waters camperstop  Ancient Corinth
We have stayed here before and it's always the same- lovely little camperstop down an improbable route but easily doable for big vans. You get a pitch and a great Greek welcome. Ancient Corinth is a few minutes walk up the street and worth looking at by night too. It is worth driving up to Acro Corinth for the amazing views.
There are lots of tourist places but decent restaurants and cafes. You can buy fruit, wine  and veg and eggs from the kitchen in the camperstop. 

*Itea via Delphi
I had never been to Delphi so we went. It was about three hours drive from Corinth  stopping near Mount Parnassos for coffee.We did the museum first to get things into perspective  then walked all around the magnificent site with breathtaking views.  We went late afternoon which was a good time as the marauding hordes had left. We drove downhill through what looked like a silver sea of olives to Itea and park on the harbour front. We went to a little souvlaki place there. 

*Ayios Vasilis ( Saint Billy) 
We almost drove past above this lovely little bay but turned round and went down for a beach to ourselves for most of the day and a very quiet night. No facilities, just a beautiful place.

* Camping Aginara via Nafpaktos and Patras.
We drove to Nafpaktos and had a brief look around but decided to save the castle and most of it for another time. I think we were a bit tired and wanted a bit of staying put. It also didn't feel right to go to the Peloponnese and not call to see Kiki at camping Aginara at Glyfa. We went to camping Ionian Beach nearby as some friends highly recommended it but we didn't like it when we looked around. It was pretty full and noisy so we went to where we love at Aginara and it was worth it to see Kiki smiling and telling us everything about everything. It's a beautiful little bay and it feels like home to us. We like to cycle to Arkoudi to shop and eat and watch sunsets.

* Anek/Superfast Hellenic Spirit.
We called at Lidl to stock up and drove along to Monodendri to meet friends for lunch. It was not the calmest of crossing but we felt safe and snug.

* Fano Italy
We got off the boat quite late so drove an hour up the coast and stayed in the sosta in Fano town where we have never stayed before and ate out in Fano. It was a nice experience and the sosta was free and very busy. 

* Camping Covelo, Lake Iseo, Italy
This is not our usual route but it was a lovely detour. We were given a welcome drink when we got to the pretty site and a really helpful guy showed us to our pitch- I might book this in future as it was so nice next to the lake.  We stayed two nights as we liked it a lot and we could cycle and there was a huge market.

* Breisach am Rhein via Gotthard Pass
We drove towards Gotthard tunnel and there was a sign saying the queue was an hour so we went over the top! It was glorious! It was being in an aeroplane. 
We got fuel in Breisach and went to the stelplatz but it was almost full so we went across the river to the other side and parked for the night. 

* Zell  Germany
The journey to the Moselle too much longer than the three and a half hours it was supposed to because of roadworks around Karlsruhe so we probably won't go that route again. We got a pitch at the stelplatz near the river and went into Zell for a walk and a meal  and to buy wine from a little vineyard. 

* Traben Trabach Germany
We got the last riverside pitch here- a lovely little spot with showers and toilets.  We went into town but most places were closed and as we had been here before, we didn't worry- just collected loads of walnuts from the riverside where the wind was blowing them down. It was cold and wet by now. 

* Mouzon France
We called via Bascharage in Luxemburg as usual then went to Mouzon instead of Stenay- a lovely little spot by the canal in a very quiet village with a cathedral and fortifications. 

* Camping Les Trois Cloches  Cambrais  France new this year
Stopped for lunch in  Le Catillon. We have driven past Cambrais many times but this time stayed at the really neat municipal site - 12 euros. It's very convenient for a walk into the town and there's an Aldi on the same street. 

Ferry then Dover Road Park and Ride Canterbury England

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Escape to the country April 2018

Escape to the country - Peak District

 This year, we thought the house needed a bit of renovation. We decided to have the kitchen and bathroom changed to something a bit less dated than the 27 year old kitchen and the goodness knows how old but retiled 25 years ago bathroom. It seemed a bit mad but also sensible as if you need an electrician, he might as well do both jobs at once instead of coming back and forth. Unfortunately old houses like ours don't like plans and fight back! So when stripping out the kitchen cabinets, the plaster decided that it didn't want to stay on the walls anymore ....ably assisted by it's friend, a spot of damp....
We had been using the van for cooking and showering  ,so with plans out of the window  and some time to wait, we headed off in it.
We revisited the Derwentwater Arms  in Calver again in the peak District. We had a fantastic meal and ended up talking to the couple who were staying in the their motorhome on the car park. Imagine our surprise when Gillian told us that she used to live in Thurlstone where we live, next door to friends of ours ! Coincidence! We had a lovely chat.

Callow Top Ashbourne
We had been this campsite years ago and as they had a special offer of £11 a night, we thought we'd revisit. It always gets mixed reviews because at weekends and holidays , there are lots of free range children but mid week, off season , it's quiet. There is a brewery there and it's easy access to the Tissington Trail and Ashbourne.
There was an Autotrail rally on so it was relatively busy. We walked into Ashbourne and checked out the pubs and shops. It is a lovely town. The walk back up the field didn't seem as steep as I had remembered . 

We had a nice pitch in a corner but the next morning we were woken early by pigeons pulling twigs off the trees and dropping bits on the roof.
The next day was dry and sunny so we got the bikes out and headed up the Tissington trail stopping for an ice cream at Tissington car park. 

We talked to a dad and his young daughter who were cycling but as Dad didn't have any cash and the kiosk didn't take cards, I got her an ice cream too.  We cycled into Tissington which was busy with coach trips and carried on along the trail till my hips said ' that's enough'. 

Cycling back was easy as it is a bit downhill though the last hill off the trail and up into the campsite was tricky for me. We went to the bar for a reasonable dinner and a cup semifinal  on tv. The rallyers were having dinner too. 
Showers at the site cost 20 pence and all the facilities are good. There is an open air pool and a pub which opens in May. The next day was also sunny so we moved pitches into a sunny spot and had what might be the British summer ...sitting and reading in the sun.
We had a really nice little break away from the plaster dust.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

25th wedding trip

2018 February  25th Wedding Anniversary Trip

We couldn't decide what to do for Pete's 65th birthday and our silver wedding long haul to somewhere exotic? Do a city break? Go to Iceland/Venice/Paris? 
We puzzled over it so long. Then we asked ourselves 'where are we happiest?' and the answer was easy...'in the van'!...... Preferably in Greece but this wasn't the right time to go as we had also decided that this would be the year that we got a new kitchen and bathroom....and not ones that were new  in a van as has happened before. So we did last minute ringing around and here's the little trip:

Wintersett Lakes , Wakefield

We drove, not very far, to Wintersett Lakes, the other side of Barnsley. It's about half an hour ...and another world away. We rarely travel in that direction. The site is small but pretty and the owner is really helpful. There are portaloos and electric hook up but no showers and 6 amp electric- though we were on a 16 amp.  We had a really nice flat walk around Angler's Lake and watched lots of birds from the hides there. There is a country park information and visitor centre and a cafe though it wasn't open. We watched a stunning sunset over the lake before going back to the van to eat. 

We then went to the Angler's Retreat, a perfect pub, about 100 yards from the site. We were made so welcome in the small pub with locals and landlord chatting away to us. We were given snacks from people who had brought things in to share- marvelous. We had a short starry walk back to a very quiet site.
There was heavy rain the next day but we had a long lie in then set to having a bit of a clean. When it stopped raining, we walked to Haw Park Wood , down through the wood towards Cold Hiendley. It's a perfect place for walkers and dogs. 

There are lots of marked paths and cycle trails with parking at the visitor centre. After tea we had to go back to the pub to make sure it was as good as yesterday and it was! The landlord even remembered our names and we were given more snacks by the kind people who go there....we'll be back!

York Rowntree Park.
I had found one night vacant at the Rowntree Park site and as York has always been a special place for us, I was ridiculously pleased when Pete told me he had rung the site and got three more nights! It was like getting a present.

We were woken up by a woodpecker who seemed to be just outside the van. We saw him in the tree opposite. We drove little back roads to York arriving at the very busy site but happy to get a spot in a corner. We went to walk the walls but they were closed so we went to the Station pub- always a good place to drink and watch people.  We went in the White Swan for shared mixed fish plate as we had decided that we wouldn't cook much on this trip and treat ourselves. We walked a very long way round back to the site having to stop in Wetherspoons to revive ourselves.

We spent some time researching where to eat on Pete's birthday and walked round looking at places. We ate in Piccolinos on the bridge as Pete wanted a pizza after all the walking. 

On the actual day, we had a lovely time wandering around. Pete got a pasty- pasty hunting is a favourite pastime. We had a really lovely meal in the Olive Tree , opposite Clifford's tower. 
Unfortunately, I used hand soap on my face after the night out and had a very sore face the next day. 

Cavendish Arms Embsay near Skipton

We had a nice drive to Knaresborough where we have never stayed. We parked down by the river in one of the few places we would fit the van and walked up into town. We had a good look around though it was cold. 

We drove to  Embsay and had a lovely welcome from the landlord of the pub. We parked in the bottom of the car park .  We walked around the village and to the station at Embsay where there is a restored railway to Bolton Abbey. 

We had a good meal here, free overnight stay and a nice chat with locals. It was a quiet cold night.

Liverpool Marina

It was a long slow drive on the route we'd taken over to Liverpool. We met Karen and Phil there at the Yacht Marina where the fiddly ticket machine confused us for a while. We had a walk along to Albert Dock along the river. It's a good place to park overnight as you are very central and it cost £15.  I called in to a chemist for some antihistamine and cream for my sore face then we went into some pubs. The town centre was very vibrant with lots of people out on the town.

Southport Pleasureland via Crosby beach 

We drove to Crosby beach to see the Gormley statues 'Another Place'. We parked in the country park and walked along the beach where the tide was out and it was easy walking. The statues are amazing and there were many people out walking in the sun and wind. 

We had something to eat then drove up to Southport. We parked in Pleasureland for £8 overnight. There are only facilities to empty the toilet and fill with water but it was fine. The lady who looks after it, Barbara , was really nice. 
We walked along the front into town and met friends Richard and Jayne who were staying there for a few days too. We had a nice meal out together and it didn't seem far to walk back. We will come here again as we didn't really look around. My face was still sore and I had made it worse by being out in the sun and wind. 

 Jayne and Richard came round with some beautiful buns she had made for our anniversary so we had coffee with them before heading home.