The journey home was hampered by the heavy rain which turned the busy Autobahn into a river of spray. The volume of traffic, roadworks and accidents added almost an hour onto our journey each day. We were used to travelling in short daily hops so it was not really a problem and we were able to find somewhere to stay by mid afternoon – first near Berlin, then Hannover and our final stop before Calais was in Belgium. Therain eventually stopped and we were able to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening sunshine.
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.
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!
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.
There was an unexpected blanket of March snow covering the garden on the morning of our departure, not an auspicious start to our Sunny Italy Trip. We encountered several mini snowstorms on our drive to Folkestone but arrived safely before dark. Overnight the weather worsened and there was chaos on the roads the following morning. We were booked on to the 8.30 am train so we left the Collinsons soon after 7 am to travel the few miles to Eurotunnel. We found all the main roads blocked with cars and lorries abandoned overnight in the snow and the minor roads were impassable due to snow and ice. There was also heavy snow in northern France and the French were refusing to accept any freight lorries from the UK so the M20 was soon gridlocked with hundreds of parked lorries waiting to cross the Channel. It took us four hours to cover the three miles to Eurotunnel.
We eventually arrived in France several hours later, the weather was perfect, dry and sunny – but very cold. We drove through France and on into Belgium. We were getting tired and were thinking of looking for a campsite when we stopped for fuel. The cashier at the service station explained that we could stay overnight on their car park. We found a nice spot at the back, overlooking fields and joined a collection of overnighters, mostly lorry drivers. We had a meal in the restaurant, it was typical motorway food and had been kept hot for far too long – but we were hungry.
The following morning we were on the road early, heading for the Netherlands where VB Air Suspension at Varsseveld were due to carry out modifications to our air suspension system. This work was carried out whilst we spent a few hours having lunch in the local restaurant and then we were ready to set off for Germany. We spent that night at a campsite near Cologne and were on the road early the next morning. We drove all morning and then stopped for lunch and a rest. A few more hours’ driving brought us to Switzerland (our 6th country in three days) where we found a pleasant campsite at Solothurn, just south of Basel. The weather was still very cold, with snow blowing in the air, even though the winter sun was shining.