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We left Holland and drove towards home in the rain, past Arnhem, Eindhoven, Antwerp, Gent, Ostende, arriving at Calais mid afternoon.

That morning, online, we had booked Eurotunnel for our return journey the following day. We were offered a choice of crossings at different prices depending on how popular each service was. They usually run three services an hour, we chose a €120 slot for 2 pm the following day. We have found in the past that, if you happened to arrive a little earlier than your check in time, as you go through the barrier at the entrance, the check in computer offers you earlier times of travel if they have capacity. If they are fully booked they put you in a holding section until it is your time to travel – with shopping opportunity. They always strike us as such an efficient company.

We parked up at Cité Europe, a huge retail outlet at Coquelles, one exit away from Eurotunnel. The site had a dedicated car park for camper vans although, according to our motorhome guide books, this was not considered safe to stay overnight; consensus was that it was perfectly secure, being adjacent to the main police station and close to a huge retail facility. We parked up and wandered about the shops before having a meal in one of the many restaurants. It was a bit like eating at Heathrow or Gatwick airports, each restaurant had a theme but you felt all the catering was done by one supplier. We had a Chinese meal, two courses with wine €58, it was very good.

The shops and restaurants all closed by 10 pm, by which time we had settled down for the night. Our car park was now deserted but for three camper vans all parked fairly close together, looking strange in the eerie yellow light of the car park. We could hear sounds of drunken shouting in the distance, the wind was blowing a gale but we felt pretty secure in our brightly lit haven, probably watched by security cameras. All was quiet and our blackout blinds meant the inside of the camper was pitch dark.

Just after midnight we heard the sound of a vehicle pulling up close to us and we heard car doors banging. I peeped out wondering whether it was anyone wanting to harm us but it was just another camper van stopping for the night. Soon all was quiet again.

Any sign of trouble the man of the house would have been sent out to restore order – in his underpants armed with a wooden policeman’s truncheon ready to defend his trembling wife!

Blog ends – Do I hear a sigh of relief from Kate’s work colleagues!

France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Holland

The following day we had a long day’s drive to get us within striking distance of Peter Bouwens at Transport Techniek Ulft BV, Holland. The weather was fine, sunny and cold; we tackled Paris during the morning rush hour and TomTom didn’t let us down.

Underpass on Peripherique

Underpass on Peripherique

Morning Rush Hour In Paris

Morning Rush Hour In Paris

Within an hour we were clear of the city and heading toward Lille, then on to Brussels and Eindhoven. We had breakfast in France, lunch in Belgium an evening snack in Holland. Our campsite was in Beek, very close to the German border and, in order to get to the site, we had to leave Holland, enter Germany, turn right and drive down the road and re-enter Holland. Fortunately we no longer had passport control and Customs to deal with.

It was getting dark when we arrived, a staff member showed us an area of grass where we could park, we drove onto the grass and promptly got stuck in the mud. Eventually help arrived with the Dutch equivalent of Frank Brown who towed us out with his tractor. We felt such fools!

Stuck In The Mud

Stuck In The Mud

A Helping Hand

A Helping Hand

Next morning we dropped the camper van off at Peter Bouwens and he kindly lent us a car. We drove into the nearby town of Doetinchem where we had a coffee and a walk around before stopping at our favourite restaurant for some lunch. We collected the camper after lunch and returned to our Beek campsite that afternoon.


We spent the night in the car park outside the Ibis hotel. It was hardly “wild” camping but we had no electric hook up so were relying solely on battery power and we occasionally had to run the engine to top up the domestic battery – probably because we were watching TV all evening.

Charles had advised us to avoid Paris but at that time of year there was a dearth of open camp sites and the only one we could find on our route was at Champigny-sur-Marne on the east side of Paris, so we decided to risk the peripherique.

The last time we tried crossing Paris in the camper we ended up heading at speed towards an underpass with a height restriction that was too low for our van. Tony saved the day at the last moment by taking an emergency slip road. The next hour or so was spent trying to find our way back to our route – tempers got a little frayed; we were fervently hoping that this time we wouldn’t repeat the “Lost in Paris” experience. Not good for marital harmony.

We stopped at an aire for a cuppa and leg stretch, it was a pretty little place with a circular boardwalk amongst the trees. Unfortunately the place was marred by litter louts, there was orange peel scattered just where we parked and the French family parked next door were relieving themselves in the road in spite of their being a perfectly useable toilet block on the site. Madam merely crouched down behind her car door and did her business in full view of Tony who was walking around the boardwalk behind her. Unfortunately, there is no photograph of the act as the writer was too shocked to pick up the camera but all that she could see was the two feet poking out from under the door with a foot in each corner and a gush of pee in between – she can’t have been wearing knickers. The couple then got back into the car, leaving two puddles of pee in the road. As they drove away they chucked a load of sweetie papers out of the car.

Sylvan setting, perfect for a pee

Sylvan setting, perfect for a pee

By the time we approached Paris the rain had stopped and we had hazy sunshine and dry roads. Tony told me to look left for a fine view of the Eiffel Tower; but I could see more than one tower, I could see a whole row of them and they had wires connecting them, they were huge electricity pylons!

Tomtom did us proud and safely navigated us through the city traffic ensuring we were in the correct lane at the appropriate time. We hit Paris at twenty five to, drove anticlockwise for and half an hour, emerging at quarter past. The camp site didn’t look its best in the milky winter sunshine but it was fine for one night. Disneyland Paris was 35 minutes away by public transport. Were we tempted to visit? No!

Camping at Paris Est, Champigny-sur-Marne

Camping at Paris Est, Champigny-sur-Marne

Mr and Mrs Lamb

The air suspension in the camper was not working properly due to an air leak. We had the system fitted in the UK and, not long after, the front components failed. The UK were unable to get replacement parts before we were due to leave on our next trip so we drove the van to the manufacturer in Holland and they were able to fit the new components. A year on and the same thing had happened again so we were heading north to Holland to get the manufacturer to sort it out.

On our journey northward we happened to pass Chez Lamb. We had called in on Caroline and Charles on our way south; they were renovating the house they had recently purchased and we were interested to see the progress made in the three weeks since we last visited. The kitchen was being refurbished and on our previous visit they had no cooker but Caro still managed to produced a delicious meal. By our second visit there was a brand new cooker installed and we were able to sample her home made cake and biscuits. Charles was in the process of laying a wooden floor in the living area but, in spite of all the upheaval, we had a lovely evening together but being very careful not to spill anything on the brand new, untreated wooden floor where one drop of red wine would have stained the pristine surface permanently.
Charles, Caro and Tony
Chez Lamb
After coffee the following morning, following route advice from Charles who regularly drives to the UK, we left Marmande and headed towards Bordeaux then Sainte, Niort and Poitiers.

Thank goodness they have gone - Charles

Thank goodness they have gone – Charles

It had been raining heavily the previous night and we were expecting the weather to clear so we would get in a good drive on the quieter Sunday roads when no commercial vehicles are allowed to travel. The sun did come out occasionally but most of the journey was in pouring rain. By 3pm we had had enough and decided to stop at an aire on the motorway. We had the most expensive meal ever, steak, salad and chips, dessert coffee and wine, €80. This was in an Ibis Hotel restaurant on the motorway. We felt we had been robbed.
One of us is happy watching the rugby on TV!

One of us is happy watching the rugby on TV!

Travelling North, Santaella to Aranjuez

We drove north, past Cordoba and Toledo towards Madrid, stopping at Aranjuez for the night. We had lunch en route, €10 for a delicious freshly cooked meal. Tony had Mortilla De Burgos, a local delicacy, a sausage type thing that was sliced and fried. It was very tasty.

Aranjuez was a beautiful town 40k south of Madrid and would be an ideal base for visiting the capital. There was a direct train line, called the Strawberry Line, that ran right into the centre of Madrid and in the summer they run a special steam train into the city.

The following morning we set off for Haro, revisiting an area we had last seen in the spring on our way to Portugal. We stopped at a bodega in Aranda de Duero that specialises in the local wine, Rioja. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch which consisted mainly of a quarter of a lamb, served with salad.

Quarter of Roast Lamb

Quarter of Roast Lamb

Bargain Basement at the Bodega

Bargain Basement at the Bodega

We heard from daughter, Kate, telling us that she was following this blog and making herself very unpopular with her work colleagues by sharing our travelling news with anyone who got into work early enough. Love you, Kate and apologies if we are boring you and your work mates! 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Matilde and Rik

We originally met Matilde and Rik in Morocco. They told us they ran a small, independent camp site, La Campina, at Santaella, south west of Cordoba. We decided to pay them a surprise visit and, as luck would have it, we arrived on the dot of beer o’clock. After a few drinks, accompanied by Matilde’s home made olives, they showed us to our pitch amongst the ancient olive trees.  That evening Rik lit the log burner and Matilde produced an impromptu supper of soup followed by chorizo, tortilla, chicken wings and salad with fresh pineapple and cream for desert and plenty of their lovely local wine.

Matilde and Rik's, La Campina

The following day Matilde gave us a tour of the local area followed by tapas in a local restaurant with Rik and her mother and father.  The main crop in the area was olives – to produce olive oil but some olives were processed to be eaten whole.  The area was famous for its dulce de membrillo, a type of quince paste.  They also grew wheat, garlic, vegetables, grape vines and, surprisingly, cotton.  We visited Laguna de Tiscar, a secluded lake along a long dirt track where we watched a flock of about seventy beautiful pink flamingos feeding in the shallows of the lake.  We stopped at a local bodega and tasted a special local wine, made from grapes that had been left in the sun to dry, like raisins, before being made into wine.  The result was sweet and delicious, wonderful as a digestif after a meal.  We bought a couple of bottles, as well the local olive oil and some black garlic which, we were told, was a great delicacy, created by heating the garlic in a humid oven.



 We learnt how to tell the difference between sweet and bitter oranges.  Matilde said that the fruit on the orange trees lining the streets were mainly bitter oranges and the council came and picked the oranges and threw them away before they had a chance to fall on the ground and make a squashy mess.  I had just missed the Seville orange season in the UK so decided to pick some of their bitter oranges to take home to make marmalade.  Not sure whether they are quite the same thing, but worth a try.


Thank goodness they have gone - Rik

Thank goodness they have gone – Rik

Elche to Motril

We finally managed to wrench ourselves away from the luxury of La Marina and our first stop was at the local garage to fill up with LPG (liquid petroleum gas).  Our heating system runs on gas, and we also use gas for heating water and for cooking, including the barbecue.  We had been away almost three weeks and one of our two LPG bottles was showing empty.  We hadn’t used the heating a great deal but when the outside temperature could be as little as two degrees – a bit of heating encouraged us out of bed in the morning.  We did not want to run out of gas.

We continued driving south following the coast, leaving the Costa Blanca and heading for the Costa Del Sol.  We travelled past Cartagena and Almeria, arriving later in the day near the town of Motril in Granada.  The whole area is sandwiched between the Sierra Nevada and the coast and was sheltered from the cold north winds by the mountains and warmed by the Mediterranean sea, giving the area a climate of warm summers and mild winters.  The drive along the coast with the mountains to the north and the rocky coast to the south would have been spectacular had it not been for acres and acres of horticultural polytunnels.  We drove past hundreds and hundreds of miles of polythene, huge plastic tents stretching away as far as the eye could see.  Where the ground was steeper, the plastic was arranged in terraces on the hillside.  Until 2006 sugar cane had been the principle crop of the area but today they grow avocados, tomatoes, guava, mango, banana and all kinds of exotic fruit to be shipped out in huge lorries to Northern Europe and beyond.


Later that afternoon we arrived at Camping Don Cactus in Carchuna, a campsite alongside the beach, surrounded by more polytunnels. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy and windy, the pitches on the site were tiny and they were refurbishing the toilet block.  We decided to stay only one night before moving on, heading north towards Cordoba.  


The drive was much prettier once the polytunnels finally gave way to olive trees punctuated with a few vines.



Taking It Easy

Missing Post – must have deleted it by mistake. Anyway we went to Javea but did not like the campsite, so drove south past Benidorm, Alicante and arrived at Elche where we found a commercial campsite. Beach was ten minutes walk away along a boardwalk.
Boardwalk to the BeachBeach La Marina, Elche, AlicanteDSC03343

We seemed to be getting a bit too comfortable at La Marina site, deciding for reasons of indolence to remain where we were until after the weekend, total of four nights. Our chairs and table soon came out and the washing line was strung between two trees. Any time soon there wold be a tub of petunias along our pitch perimeter.

Tony disgraced himself one morning by mistaking the Ladies’ shower block for the Men’s. There were signs at the entrance but these just showed a blue porpoise cartoon character – only if you carefully compared each sign could you see that one creature had a little pink skirt on and the other a shirt and bow tie. New rule for the future – watch the doors to see who enters which door! Hopefully nobody noticed or he could have been arrested!

Everyone is very friendly and each morning the Germans greet us with a cheerful “Morgan” as they pass by – how do they know our name? Should I shout back Schmidt?

They even have a special dog washing block with steps and ramp leading up to the dog bath. Kay would have DSC03346a field day here, everyone has a dog or two. Where are Muffy and the chihuahuas when you need them!

Over The Border To Spain


The weather remained dry and warm, about 16°, as we travelled south, leaving France and passing into Spain. We followed the coast road, bypassing Barcelona and a smaller town called Peniscola. I checked the pronunciation as to get it wrong could be embarrassing and, sure enough, it sounds a bit like “penyee scolla” (the “n” has a wiggle above making it sound like mañana) – too easy to get that one wrong, huh? We found a campsite called Camping Ribamar, situated in the hills at the end of a 1K dirt track road. The site was near to Alcossebre and was very clean and neat and was set in terraces on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean.

Many camp sites are closed at this time of year, so when a good one is open all the year round it can get quite busy. There were five or six other British campers, as well as a few Germans and Belgiums; and wherever we travel we always come across one or two representatives from the Netherlands; folk from cold, northern climes flocking south for the warmer weather. This site had a restaurant that opened for just an hour each evening. We ate there one night, the menu was very limited, and the lady who served us was also the cook and the bartender. She was very efficient although she spoke absolutely no English. We had a lovely evening sitting around a wood burning stove with two other couples, one German and the other Dutch.

During day it was warm enough to sit outside and we explored the footpath along the shore that took us into town, a walk of about an hour.
Camping RibamarSunset at Ribamar

Path to the Town

January 2014 France and Spain

We left UK on the 17th January by Eurotunnel from Dover to Calais, cost £120 one way, the date of our return remained open. Our journey had not started well; the previous day when we had a puncture on the M23. It was quickly sorted out by the AA and we were then able to travel on to Folkestone on our spare wheel and a new wheel was fitted at ATS, just in time for us to get to Kate and Neil’s to celebrate Violet’s first birthday.

The next morning we arrived at Eurotunnel in good time for our train and, in their usual efficient manner, we were quickly ushered onto an earlier train that was about to depart. So we arrived en France earlier than planned which made up for the fact that European clocks are an hour ahead of the UK.

Our first stop was planned for a revisit to Les Moulins de la Vergne near Pons. We had been there before and had had a wonderful meal in the adjacent restaurant and we were eager to repeat the experience. However, someone (not the writer) had plumbed the wrong site into TomTom and we arrived at a dark, un illuminated site called Camping Le Moulin at Chef Boutonne. It was pitch black and pouring with rain and it took us a while to realise we were not where we thought we were – by which time we had driven down a narrow, dead end lane where we had to do a hundred point about turn to get out, narrowly avoiding a deep stream running along one side. We finally found somewhere to park managed to roused the owners, who happened to be English. We didn’t ask why their scruffy site had no lights, we received a grudging welcome and they asked us not to disturb them early the following morning as they were off out to a restaurant that night. No such luxury for us but we dined well enough on a frozen meal from Cook.

The weather was slightly better the following morning when we set off for Marmande where our friends, Charles and Caroline Lamb had recently bought a pretty little house a few miles outside St Vivienne de Monsegur. Driving towards Marmande, Tony noticed an engine warning light which indicated a fuel injection fault; the camper went into “limp” mode which is designed to get you home on reduced power – so we limped to the Lamb’s. We contacted our insurance company’s helpline and, within the hour, a low loader had arrived to take the camper away. It was 7pm on a Saturday night and we did not want to be separated from our home and all our possessions so we dismissed the low loader and enjoyed a lovely evening with the Lambs. The following day (Sunday) we limped to Bordeaux and spent the night at a campsite close to the Fiat camper service agent and first thing on Monday we presented ourselves at the Fiat service desk. They soon diagnosed the problem, saying we needed a particulate filter and the turbo required replacement. So we had to leave the camper with them and took a taxi into the centre of Bordeaux where we found an acceptable hotel for €120 per night plus €14 for breakfast. We phoned the assistance on a regular basis to try and expedite the repair but it took two days for the part to arrive and we were told it was a bigger job because the van was right hand drive and they had to remove the steering to gain access. So we had to sit and wait.

We enjoyed our stay in Bordeaux. They have an amazing modern (10 years’ old) electric tram system running on rails set into the road with no overhead wires. They run silently but they do have a loud bell that the driver can sound should a pedestrian stray into the path of the tram. In spite of this we were told that there were many accidents, the pedestrian always coming off worse.

We visited two vineyards outside Bordeaux and enjoyed being shown their ancient cellars filled with oak barrels of maturing wine.



At the end of the tours we were offered tastings which we thoroughly enjoyed.

One evening we went to see the Cape Town Opera Company performing “Porgy and Bess”, sung in English with French subtitles. The tickets were €8 each for restricted viewing seats right up in the gods – the only tickets available. Many of the actors were – quite frankly – fat, which didn’t help with the aesthetics of the dance routines but there were some beautiful voices. Gershwin wrote the opera in the mid 1930s and political correctness was not as it is today and made us feel a little uncomfortable …. or maybe opera was not quite to our taste. However, the theatre building was stunning and some of the audience even wore evening dress so we enjoyed the whole spectacle and I am still humming “Summertime” in my off key way.

By the Friday morning Tony had run out of patience with the time it was taking to repair the camper. If they didn’t finish the job by the end of business that day we would have to remain in Bordeaux until the following Monday. The mechanics finished work at 5pm on the dot and there was certainly no weekend working. On Friday morning we checked out of our hotel and sat in the reception of the Fiat garage and waited, and waited. Our persistence finally paid off and just after 5pm they brought the camper round to the forecourt. There was no charge for the repair but we had spent hundreds of Euros on the hotel. We hope we can claim this from the insurance company.

The weather in Bordeaux had been fine earlier in the week but it started to rain on the Thursday night and, by the time we got the camper back it had been raining solidly for two days. The following morning we decided to head south east towards the Mediterranean coast. Driving conditions were dreadful on the motorway but we plodded on past Toulouse and Carcassonne and, about 3pm we suddenly saw a glimmer of light in the sky on the horizon. Within fifteen minutes the surrounding countryside had changed from dismal greys to bright colours and a blue sky.

We arrived at our campsite at St Cyprien in glorious late afternoon sunshine. The campsite was called Le Florida, we stayed two nights using the time to catch up on some chores. On Saturday evening we walked up the road and found a tapas bar alongside a retail park. The place was heaving with rugby fans watching Toulouse v Perpignan on a big screen, the home team won. There were fifty or so places laid up for dinner but they found us a table and served us a delicious meal of prawns, squid, razor clams, mussels and scallops, grilled and served with chips, salad and garlic mayo. A live band was playing rock and roll, the lead singer had lived in England for ten years. He said years ago he had played with Lonnie Donnigan, I was a groupie for the evening!

Our fridge freezer had stopped working whilst the camper was in the garage; it should have automatically switched over to gas when no electric power was available but it had defrosted and we had to throw away the freezer contents and a couple of lovely steaks that had over-ripened. Tony was able to locate the fault and put it right. He gave the van a good wash too. The campsite toilets were quite bizarre, brand new and built to resemble a fort. Toilet and shower cubicles were arranged along the four side walls. In the centre was an installation of two life sized armour clad fighting men in a cage, we assumed it was supposed to be fun for the children but it was a scarey sight as you came out of the toilet.
Camping Le Florida, St CyprienToilet Block at Le FloridaToilet Block Le Florida