We stayed near the village of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc at the head of the Ardèche Gorge, created by the River Ardèche cutting a dramatic canyon through the limestone. Vallon was the centre for camping, kayaking and cycling and the surrounding area was mainly vineyards and lavender fields.
We found a popular bar restaurant in the village, called Le Chelsea where we had supper. It was 1.5 km from the camp site and a welcome walk after two courses and a pichet of local red wine.
The weather forecast was poor so and we decided to leave the Ardèche after a couple of days and head towards home. The drive up out of the valley was spectacular with hairpin bends climbing through the craggy limestone cliffs. Unfortunately it was raining so no photographs.
We spent one night north of Dijon at a fuel station and another night in Calais at Cité d’Europe before catching Eurotunnel to Folkestone.
We were revisiting San Remo, a busy seaside resort on the Italian Riviera. Our camp site was 4 km from the town centre and we cycled into town on a cycle track that had been converted from the disused coastal railway line. The cycle track was 35 km long and provided lovely views of the ocean along its way.
The town had a busy fishing port and marina and we spent an hour or so looking at the boats before disappearing into a fish restaurant on the quay for lunch.
We travelled through Umbria and Perugia and on into Tuscany, stopping for a couple of days at Pisa, on the banks of the River Arno which flowed on into the Ligurian Sea a few miles to the west. Our camp site was a twenty minute walk from the old town centre, rich with its ancient palaces, churches and squares. In the Piazza del Duomo stood the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral and Baptistry with its freestanding bell tower, famous for its unintended tilt. The buildings were constructed of marble and stone and were completed over 600 years ago. They were a breathtaking sight in the spring sunshine.
Our campsite was called Torre Pendente Camping. Our Italian is not good and I wondered aloud what it meant. Torre? Tower? Pendente? Several seconds of deep thinking before the light dawned and I realised it meant “Leaning”. Perhaps the brain isn’t as agile as it once was!
As we drove out of Pisa heading north, the Apuan Alps provided a stunning background in the morning sunshine as we continued along the Ligurian coast towards San Remo.
Our visit to Alba Adriatica would not have been complete without making the twenty minute drive from the Abruzzo region and into the neighbouring region of Marche, where three generations of the D’Angelo family ran a business producing wine on 50 hectares of rolling hills, supplying their wines to the restaurants and hotels in and around Rome. We bought red and rosé wine in 3 litre boxes for less than £1.80 per litre. Then Tony spotted a huge bottle of their 2013 vintage red wine on display in their office and persuaded them to sell that too.
Alba was a seaside resort on the east coast of Italy, lying between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea where you could be walking on the beach one morning and an hour later you could be on the ski slopes.
Jacqui and Sergio had a garden flat in a quiet road not far from the sea front. Their little apartment, in a block of four, had a patio and garden, surrounded by a thick hedge. On the far side of the hedge were parking bays, one for each resident and that was where we parked our camper. Sergio rigged up an electric cable that wormed its way out of their window, across the garden path and through the hedge to provide us with a power supply.
On Easter Sunday we drove west into the snowy Apennines and on into the green Sabine Hills – once famous for its beautiful women and the story of the Roman army under Emperor Romulus attacking the local villages and abducting the young women to become wives for the Roman soldiers. There were several old masters depicting “The Rape Of The Sabine Women” although history questions whether the women were raped or just invited to become solders’ wives. I wonder what you think?
Last year disaster struck the area with a series of violent earthquakes, reducing building to rubble and destroying roads and bridges. We passed by on a recently repaired main road from where we could see villages with semi collapsed buildings next to piles of rubble as well as whole hillsides that had slid down and had blocked the main road. We saw the prefabricated homes now housing the surviving population who remained in the area tending their animals and growing produce as best they could.
The restaurant where we had lunch was packed with large family groups – pre booking was essential. Each place was set with a generous plate of cold meats and cheese, served with red cabbage in local olive oil, plus a steaming dish of savoury chopped offal. There were jugs of red and white wine and bread. Then followed two dishes of home made pasta followed by the meat course, a choice of various roasted meats and sausages – we chose a dish of baby goat but I also bravely tried tripe cooked Roman style. After dessert of crepes and ice cream we had coffee and tasters of their home made liqueurs. It was quite late when we finally left the restaurant although we weren’t the last to leave by a mile.
Our truck moving chores were completed for the time being and we felt we were ready to move on, maybe find some warmer weather. Our friends, Jacqui and Sergio assured that the weather was much better where they lived in Italy, so we decided to drive 1,000 miles south hoping to reach the Tarisciottis at Alba Adriatica on the east coast in time for Easter.
We stopped one night in Leipzig, Germany and another in Austria before we crossed the Brenner Pass into Italy. The weather was poor which made driving tiring.
Along our route lay the town of Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda, where, in 2016, the whole family had spent many happy days when Issey and Ame got married in the Bardolino Town Hall. The busy little campsite was on the shore of Lake Garda and within strolling distance of the town centre. We were able to wash the van and do our laundry in the couple of hours before it was time to walk into town for supper.
The next day we went for lunch at Tre Camini where Issey and Ame had held their wedding reception. We had a wonderful meal, rustic cooking but with excellent local ingredients including venison and wild boar. We were flattered when the manager, Michaela, recognised us – until we realised that Ame had telephoned them to say we were coming! Anyway, the local taxi driver certainly remembered us.
Ignore this blog if you like – it’s just me having a grumble at Johnny Foreigner.
It was mid March and the campsite at Poznań was virtually empty, so we were able to choose where we parked our camper. We spread ourselves out a bit and put up our washing line between two trees on the adjacent pitch, where we also parked our hire car.
The following day a couple from Norway arrived in a large camper and they set up home well away from us – a good thing as they were both heavy smokers and bravely sat out under their awning puffing away. The following afternoon we arrived back to the almost empty campsite to find an *elderly Danish couple had parked their caravan on the pitch right bang next to ours, despite our washing hanging out at the back of their pitch. Camp site etiquette says that you protect the privacy of others as much as possible so we just could not understand why this couple chose to park themselves so close to us when there were plenty of alternative spaces.
Malta Camp At Poznań with caravan parked in the adjacent pitch in an otherwise empty site.
They were nice enough people and when I offered to move my washing line away from their pitch, they said it was fine left where it was. They were there for the rest of our stay in Poznań; they packed up and left the morning we moved on. As we drove out of Poznań I felt the urge to check our rear view mirror in case they were stalking us!
Camp sites were very secure places to stay but we wondered whether the Danish caravanners felt the need for the security of another van close by, just as it was for us when we spent the night in an open lorry park. We would never choose to park in a dark, distant corner but always placed ourselves in a well lit area close to other parked HGVs – although many times, when we woke in the morning, the lorries had all driven off and we would find ourselves quite alone!
Despite the importance of privacy on the camp site, social intercourse was always welcome – often conducted without the benefit of a common language. It was usually the menfolk who broke the ice whilst carrying out their outside chores – the chap would wander casually over to a newcomer and exchange pleasantries whilst taking stock of the fellow traveller’s vehicle and equipment – a full report was then given to “her indoors”.
* NB The term “elderly” meant anyone 65 and over. Most of the folk we described as “elderly” in this blog were probably younger than we were!