Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Who would have thought? 2020

When we were sitting in the Hallamshire Hospital in August 2019, , trying to get through the long days of Pete being unwell and us not being at home, we planned. We never stopped planning. We talked about how good it would be to be in Greece for Easter, the different stops would we make, the different routes we would go.....
 Once , I  had a  weird feeling and told Pete we shouldn't make lots of plans. I remembered  a Greek friend saying 'Men plan, the Gods laugh' .   Pete reminded me that I am a pessimist. I told him that I'm practical....we often have these conversations. We work well together....mostly.

The ferries got booked. We had almost everything ready in a spare room to put in the van for our Greek trip. So who would have thought that after all the waiting,  Coronavirus would delay  our plans?  This awful virus will change everything for almost everyone. We heard from Pete's son Tom in South Korea about what was likely to happen as  they had the virus there earlier than us and were testing people . There was no lock down but testing stations were everywhere. Phone tracking alerted Tom to local cases and temperature testing was common. We were concerned about what was to come. 

Around Pete's birthday time in February, we went to Honley, a village near us, as we'd seen an advert for Peter Roberts Caravans and that they were  now selling Adria motorhomes. Pete is always looking at vans in magazines and online. We do love the sturdy build of ours and it's comforts. When we got to the dealer's,  I pointed to a silver van..................

Well, that was that. Once we were sat in it with a cup of coffee, chatting to Andrew, we were close to being the owners of another van. I would be getting another new kitchen. All the people at Peter Roberts were so good and put up with us popping back to check measurements, asking millions of questions, fetching friends to look ( and buy a van too ) , keeping us supplied with coffee and knowledgeable company. We felt we'd made a new set of friends.

We were ready to pick it up but DVLA hadn't sent a registration document but nevertheless, we took our van over and swapped stuff from one  van to the other. The service manager, Nigel, and his team were great, fitting things exactly where we wanted them and being really helpful but we had to leave it there until we got the paperwork.

Then along came a text for Pete from the government classing him as very vulnerable and to stay home so we thought that was everything on hold again and we would have to keep waiting for the van. Not so! Our lovely new van was delivered to us ! How good was that? 
We have had good service from Brownhills over the years but this really does feel as if  Roberts aren't just dealers, they're friends. When we were feeling really down, they cheered us up. Thanks!

Thursday, 27 February 2020

2020 New plans

January. Hawes

What a good start to the year. We had a walk with the Vickers  families to the Green Dragon followed by dinner in Phil and Karen's van. Karen's Yorkshire pudding is great!
The next day I continued my early morning coffee and bird watching. What a lovely way to start the day....though I think this pheasant is getting cheeky.

February: Skipton, Silverdale and Coniston
A night in a car park...why not? Skipton council allow you to overnight and there are a lot of good things to look at in Skipton and a lot of good pubs which we didn't manage to visit. Another time...

After a stop in the car park of the Ship Inn at Sandside, which also allows overnight parking, we headed for Gibraltar Farm at Silverdale. It's a working farm with quite a steep drive down to the site but it's lovely. It's an easy short walk into Silverdale with great sea views. However, the wind was howling from the sea. Rain and wind lashed the van in the night and it felt like we were on a rough ferry crossing!
view from The Ship pub car park

 We had a walk to Jenny brown's Point....not far.

 I had to hold on to the van to stop it blowing away. ......


We had rain, hail, snow and a little bit of sunshine in Coniston. Everywhere around was flooded. There was so much rain, We got fed up of hearing it on the roof at night. But there were signs that spring is coming.

Catching up.....2019..not the best year.

2018  December trip York and Hawes.

A few days at each site was a lovely way to spend early December.

Van Stolen.
We came back home, plugged the baby monitor into the van and then messed about trying to find  a remedy as the heating in the house had broken down. We had mum with us so put her in the lounge with the fire on and tv on. The phones were charging  in the kitchen and we put the listening end of the monitor upstairs as it was about ten pm and we knew we wouldn't be long going to bed. I went out to the van at 9.30 to get some hot chocolate and all was well but just after 10pm, I heard noise from the baby monitor, shouted to Pete as I ran outside and the van was gone. Talking to the police on one phone and Phantom tracker staff on the other, we established that the van was heading for the M1 . We set off to meet the police at where it was found on an industrial estate near the motorway junction. The police had got there first but there was no sign of the thieves. Thank goodness for the tracker! They hadn't broken any locks but had driven off not realising that it was plugged in to our outside cable so that was broken.
We were so lucky to get it back but unlucky that a combination of circumstances meant that the thieves weren't caught in the act as we hadn't heard them because the listening end was upstairs and the text from the tracker wasnt heard.
We have put on additional security

2019  A difficult year

Here's the brief version of what happened :

January saw us at Castleton after a good New Year break there with friends,

February- we went to Prague to see friends but we flew there.

We also went to Athens and Patras and took part in the Patras annual Carnival - the third biggest in the world. We'd been before and loved it and this time was even better.
Costumes made by Dimitris Raptis


We had a visit from Austrian friends who we'd met years ago in Camping Thines in Finikounda in the Peloponnese, Greece. They enjoyed York and Holmfirth and around here.

Pete was diagnosed with Myeloma three years ago and had been monitored but in March, the consultant said that treatment had to start as it was active. We initially thought that the consultant meant the treatment would start in a few months so were shocked to hear that it would start in two days time.............Plans for a Springtime trip to Spain and a Greek summer were put on hold as we got to grips with the new hospital visit regime and the tiredness that Pete felt. Family and friends everywhere were so supportive and kind.

May  We decided to try to go away in the van between treatments so we went to The Navigation Inn  in Buxworth for a night or two.

We parked up then went for a walk around Bugsworth Basin and along the canal before friends Phil and Karen joined us for a meal in the pub. It was free to stay overnight and the food was good. Unfortunately we ran out of battery during the night. We realised that the van had been in storage since January and we hadn't checked the battery level. In our defence, we'd had other things to think about.
We moved the next day to Grin Low Caravan and Motorhome club site outside of Buxton so we could charge batteries. It was so much nicer than I expected. The warden was lovely and we walked to Solomon's Temple and down into Buxton.. We had a drink in the Old Station pub then walked back up the hill. We took the blue steep route up the hill and through the woods and maybe missed a marker as we ended up walking a lot further than we needed to. We stopped off at Hayfield for a walk.
The next night was spent on Phil and Karen's drive so Phil could fix the electric connector which had arrived from Adria.

June  Stayed at the Arkwright Arms, Duckmanton near Chesterfield as I needed to go to Chesterfield Hospital.

Wysdom Touring Park Burford. A nice small site £18 a night. We had a small hedged pitch . We walked down the hill  into Burford after Pete had an hour's sleep. The shops were closing so we bought cake and came back,....quite slowly, up the hill. We stayed here another night.

Cirencester. The fully hedged pitch at Wysdom park was a bit gloomy so we moved to Cirencester  onto the very floral site. We had planned to go to Centenary site in the New Forest with friends Andy and Carol but Andy's mum was very ill so they couldn't go. We changed the booking to go to Black Knowle because we knew we could get to villages on bikes  from there.
We stayed a night at friends' Ian and Karen's house in Swindon to break the journey down and to catch up with them. We went to Purton working men's club for a skittles evening which was fun and we laughed a  lot.

Black Knowle, Brockenhurst. New Forest

The site was very busy but we got a quiet corner. pitch 40. We watched a fawn in the next field.

Mel arrived the next day and we went out for a cycle. We sat out in the sunshine then cycled to Brockenhrst for a meal in the Foresters Arms.
Andy and Carol arrived the next day having had good news on his mum's rapid recovery. We went out in Andy and Carol's car to the Huntsman  for a meal.
Heavy rain the next day but we went to Mudeford in the car. It's a beautiful place and lunch in the Noisy Lobster was fantastic!  We also managed a pizza in Enzee in Brockenhurst.
Over the next three days we went to Lymington, saw the Rufus Stone, went to Burley and moved pitch onto a hard standing as the rain made the ground quite soggy.

St. David's Caravan and Motorhome site

We got up early and set off on the big drive to St David's in the rain. You could hardly see the bridge as we crossed into Wales. We stopped for shopping and fuel in Haverfordwest . Met friends Richard and Jayne on the site in sunshine. They'd been there for a week and not seen any! We walked down to Whitesands Bay as the sun was setting and it was beautiful. Jayne made a super risotto.

Rooks! We had an early morning rook wake up. We got the Celtic Coaster little bus into St David's for £1,50. We went to the visitor centre which was very interesting. We went to the Farmer's Arms for dinner. The garden centre there is small but lovely . we had a look around the amazing cathedral and walked back to the site.
Jayne made scones in her Remoska- brilliant. We walked the lanes into St Davids and ate hot pasties.
We walked back in weak sunshine and Richard barbecued. It was a lovely evening watching the sunset.
We stayed another couple of days and enjoyed it.

 June Poolsbrook Caravan and Motorhome club site

More hospital stuff at Chesterfield so stayed here for a few days to save travelling back and forwards. It's a nice site but not really of much interest to us. We prefer to stay at the Arkwright Arms

.July Castleton

Some gorgeous days not too far from home as we were missing being in the van.We were lucky with th weather- it was perfect.

From July onwards Pete's treatment took priority . He had to spend some time in Sheffield Hallamshire hospital where he had a stem cell transplant but even then, we managed to get out for a few hours to walk and the hospital had good views. we planned our next trip to Greece in the van. It certainly helped to keep us optimistic.  Messages from Greek friends, plus being able to look at the web cam at Camping Thines   brought us sunshine when we had some darker days.

We didn't do much else until November when we went away with our lovely friends for a celebration of 50 years of friendship for the men, who met at school. We had a wonderful time in Falmouth staying in a beautiful house.

 November Castleton again. Not far to drive so Pete didn't get too tired.
We met up with friends from Swindon and Richard and Jayne came in their camper too.

Late November.  Moreton in Marsh , Winchester and Cirencester




We had a foggy drive down to Moreton where there was a Christmas market.  We stayed two nights before going to Three Trees site at Winchester, meeting friends for the Christmas market there. It's a convenient site to get the bus into Winchester but the facilities are poor though they are building a toilet block . Using loos in a container on stilts wasn't great in cold weather.
We stayed a couple of days in Cirencester and saw their Christmas market too.

After Christmas at home, we went to Hawes for our usual New Year with more friends and we had a lovely time. From our pitch, we saw so many birds visiting out temporary bird table. Every morning I fed nuthatches, pheasants, blue tits , coal tits, chaffinches......saw a woodpecker and a tree creeper and a heron.

I won the raffle at the Caravan club site! I never win anything....maybe this signals the end of a trying year and the beginning of a new brighter one.
Pete's cancer certainly made us rethink our lives. We are living life in a slightly different way but are thankful for all the support and love we have had from friends, family ,acquaintances and the amazing staff of the NHS.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Summer in Greece 2018   

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