Europe 2017

Lauren and Gareth's Wedding

Owen and Julie in the UK

France 2013.



The original maps have been superceded because of our change of plan.

7 April. Up at 3AM to get to the airport by 4. Ged gave us a lift in which saved us a lot of hassle. We got our suitcases checked through to London and also got our boarding passes for the Dubai to London flight which meant that we needed much less time before the flight to arrive at the airport. We took a small overnight bag with changes of clothes plus our normal carry on bags so on arrival at Dubai, we went through the Smart Gate then straight out to the taxi rank. Ten minutes later we were at the hotel. So good to do it without the cases. First time we have tried it this way and wont be the last. The flight itself was OK. You can never say it's a great flight when it is 11 hours long. Had dinner with Jamie Roberts and his wife and son at the hotel which was a good catch up. Jamie works in the Control Tower at Dubai.

8 April. Had plenty of time for breakfast at the hotel before checking out. The flight was delayed about 45 minutes because of an air conditioning part needing replacement. A reasonable flight and passed over the middle of London with it bathed in sunlight, not a normal sight. We were waiting in line at passport control at Heathrow and I noticed one of the women ushers that I recognised from our last arrival. I told her I recognised her from June last year and did she remember me! She was stoked and we got bumped to the front of the queue. Bonus. Took the tube to Green Park Station which required no change of train and lift facilities. Julie suggested we get off there and get a cab to the Club. This worked out very well and we will do it from now on. Saves my back a lot of trouble carting 40 odd kilos up and down stairs. Got to the Victory Services Club and the guy on the door welcomed us back. Always nice to leave a mark. Casual dinner tonight with hopefully a normal bedtime. No real sign of jet lag.

9 April. Despite our best efforts, we got up around 7AM, which is not too bad seeing we crashed at 9:30PM. Had an excellent breakfast at the club which is normal. Walked through Hyde Park and down Park Lane to see the Easter decorations at the Dorchester Hotel but were disappointed to find none there. There was the normal display of super cars like Bugatti Veyron, Lamborgini and Ferraris outside. I asked the attendant there if these were cars for rent to guests, but he said they were the cars belonging to guests. It seems there are a lot of people who bring their cars from all over to park them there, mostly from the middle east. Total display of their status, quite disgusting really. They probably don't even drive them here. Back to the club via more of Hyde Park.
Organised to meet Brendon and Lorna Cannon at St Christopher's Place for lunch. Brendon and I were on the same ATC course in 1975. He is going to give us a lift out to Cranhams on Wednesday to pick up our van which will save us a lot of time and effort. After lunch, Julie went window shopping on the way home and I organised a 4G MiFi unit with 12Gb, usable in all the countries we are visiting. We also have total roaming on the phones so we are covered for the lot.
Later, went for a walk down to Hyde Park, all of about 200m away, to see how many people were soaking up the sun, being about 24C and sunny, and a Sunday. We weren't disappointed, it was quite crowded. Another quiet night tonight.

10 April. We are still waking up too early, but being tired and crashing at 9:30PM doesn't help. Walked to Bond St Station but the theatre ticket office was no longer there. Trained to Leicester Square where there are dozens of cut price ticket offices and bought 2 tickets for "Book of Mormon" for tomorrow night. Previously, these would have been around £100 each but this time we got 2 tickets for that price. Stopped off at one of the big department stores to change some Pounds into Euros, specifically, €4000. Wow, did we have to jump through hoops or what. Took about 15 minutes just to get approval after filling in all sorts of forms. Why would we need all this money? Heck, €4000 is not THAT much money. Anyway, we passed the test and got what we wanted. I was going to put my occupation down as "retired suicide bomber" but I didn't think they would see the irony.
We made plans to meet Brendon and Lorna again for lunch tomorrow. I also chased up Cranham Motorhomes to make sure the van servicing was on track for a Wednesday midday pickup. They said they would check and call me back around lunchtime. I called them at 1430 and it seems all is in train. Here's hoping. Their communications with us in the last 2 years has been almost non existant and after the debacle of last year when they forgot to service it, I thought I had better be proactive. I'll still not be convinced until we pick it up. Brendon had offered to take us out there on Wednesday but when I checked Google to see how difficult it might be, I saw it was a nightmare drive so suggested he didn't have to. Would be much quicker on the train anyway. He was pleased with our offer and justifably so. Back to the club for a short break and a cup of tea then trained to the Globe Theatre, the original London Shakespearian theatre. We had actually been there before and it was crowded, so we skipped to stage 2, a drink at the Anchor pub nearby, which was built in 1615. Plenty of character to say the least. I got talking to the barman who I discovered was Polish and he gave us some tips on places to go there. Looks like a few more days in Poland than we expected. A funeral service was being held for PC Keith Palmer, the policeman who was killed in the car attack on Westminster Bridge, at the Southwark Cathedral nearby and we couldn't go any further on the bankside walk.We will probably go to the Duke of Kendal pub for dinner. Tomorrow is another big day.

11 April. Had a few hours in the morning spare and Julie wanted to visit Westminster bridge where the terror attack happened. It is a wonderful walk from the club, 200m, if that, and we are in Hyde Park, then through Green Park and St James Park and come out 200m from Westminster Bridge. There are still floral tributes to the victims on the bridge but otherwise, life is back to normal. We trained back to Marble Arch. Brendon, sans Lorna who was crook, came to the club for lunch. He was quite impressed with the place and the rates we pay. Had a light lunch and a few drinks in the Lounge and caught up on a few more of the past many years.
Killed a couple of hours and went in to Leicester Square for a light dinner (we eat huge breakfasts) then off to Book of Mormon. The Prince of Wales is a very nice mid-sized theatre and we had a good view. The show itself was rather irreverent and cleverly done. Very funny and the  crowd really got into it. Trained back from Piccadilly Circus.

12 April. Brendon picked us up about 10 and took us to Earl Court Station. It is only a couple of miles away but after the traffic and having to do a couple of orbits from overshoots, we got there about 1025. We saw a lot of the area anyway. The lift was very much appreciated as this station has lifts so no struggling with suitcases up and down stairs. It is also on the District Line which we take to Upminster, so that avoided any train changes, making for a much more pleasant trip than usual.
Taxied to Cranham and the van was just being brought out. A couple of the guys even wheeled the trailer out for us which was nice. The van was not cleaned as requested which was disappointing. It has moss on it and we don’t have the facilities to clean it as well as we would like. We were also disappointed with the habitation service which made sure everything was working but didn’t do anything to make it habitable. The fridge had been left closed (they were the last to put away, I shouldn’t have to tell them their job) and was mouldy on the inside. Sure, they checked the fridge worked, but didn’t bother cleaning it. Would have taken all of 3 minutes. I don’t need to pay £170 for someone to tell me what I know anyway. If something doesn’t work, we know it. Even paying for the vehicle service is made difficult for us. They outsource the mechanical and MOT servicing and I then have to pay them by direct deposit. In the past, we were presented with one bill which we paid on the spot. The service department at Cranhams wouldn't know what service was if it bit them on the arse. Gone to the dogs since Colin left as manager. The upshot of this is we will organise other work arounds. Probably get them to organise the vehicle and MOT servicing, but they can’t be relied upon to perform anything themselves. Just when things were going so well too.
Fortunately, as a payback I guess, we had a great run to Folkestone. A small delay on the M25 approaching Dartford Crossing but much less than usual, then a smooth delay free run from there. Did a £110 shop at Tesco’s to get most of what we needed and then to the Black Horse Farm site. It took quite a while setting up camp but that is normal on the first day. Unpacking suitcases and putting them away, unpacking all the bedding from its cryogenic storage and making the bed, and all the other tasks to get everything back to normal. I connected the battery in the scooter and after about 9 months, it started first go. Amazing. Dinner at the Black Horse pub where we met a few lovely people including the owners and 2 girls from Sydney, one of whom we found out lives near where we did there and was born in the same hospital as Hayley! A good fun evening.
The only downside here is lack of mobile coverage. We have plenty of access to data but that doesn’t help when there is no service!

13 April. Last preparation day before crossing the channel. We packed the van up sufficient to drive around and went to a local caravan shop for gas. A 6Kg swap cost £24 ($40) which is a tad more than than the $21 we would pay for a 9Kg bottle swap at home, but when in Rome! We need to take 2 full bottles with us to avoid problems with incompatability with bottles in Europe. We then went in to Folkestone to a hand wash car wash place run by a group of Romanians. We got charged £25 to wash the outside of the van but not the roof as that was too high for them to get to, which I thought was a bargain. They did a good job getting rid of all the moss and rubbish that was growing on the van. I feel a lot better now that it is clean. It was embarrassingly filthy before. Then back to Tesco's for a few last minute items like filter cartridges for our Britta water jug. Back to the Black Horse Farm, reset up camp (gets easy after a while) and got the scooter off and took it for a ride to get the battery recharged. It's going well, but it should, hasn't clocked up 100 miles yet. Julie is doing a bit of clothes washing to take advantage of the day off. Dinner inside tonight.

14 April. Good Friday, and as it turned out, not a bad Friday. We had an SMS yesterday from DFDS, the ferry company, to allow 90 minutes to check in during busy periods. As is our want not to be late for any trip we have paid for, we left the campsite at 0930, for a 1200 departure. It only took about 20 minutes to get to the ferry terminal at Dover, though the trucks were going to take a lot longer. The left lane was for trucks only, and the queue backed up 10km out of the port. Fortunately, we drove straight through in the right lane. Passport formalities done, we were parked in our lane waiting for boarding at 1005. We took advantage of the data coverage to catch up with our online world to fill in the time. The people in front of us had their 2 kids watching DVDs in the car which to their surprise, flattened their battery on the car. I have jumper leads but they are low rated ones I bought mainly for the scooter and would have burned out starting a car. It was a manual Audi so we decided to push start it. That was successful and they ran it for a while to get some charge into it. Luckily it provided enough to start to get them off the ferry because they were in front of us in that queue too! They offered to buy us a drink onboard but we declined, it is what you do without needing a reward. They were very thankful and that was enough. On the ferry, we departed more or less on time but were held about 1km north of the port for nearly an hour. I can only assume they were waiting for a gap to get through all the mainline traffic using the Channel. As it was, we arrived in Dunkirk only 10 minutes later than scheduled but we did lose an hour with the time zone change. On the ship, we bought some Baileys Irish cream, a couple of champagnes and a bottle of 12yo single malt scotch for very good duty free prices. They may come in handy in Scandinavia where alcohol is very expensive. We started off towards Berlin in the knowledge that we would stop at a reasonable time at an appropriate place. That turned out to be a campsite in the town of Zele in Belgium, between Ghent and Antwerp. Most suitable for an overnight stop. I messaged Mark de Jong, a friend of Mark and Kate's that I know quite well, who now lives in Berlin. Hopefully we will catch up with him. Looking good so far. Tomorrow, we will head for Hannover and see where we end up.

15 April. I have come down with a cold which has given me a bad cough. That's been worst at night and meant we have both had very little sleep the last couple of nights. Hopefully it will abate soon. We left Zele about 1000 in misty cold weather and started towards Hannover. The first thig that happened was I was reminded why I should always check our route out of a small village. Tomtom took us down some interesting farm tracks that got us to where we wanted to go, but not the way we would have preferred. No real drama, though the potential for significant drama did exist. We eventually made it to the motorway and it was a breeze from then on. We could have made it to Hannover as far as time went but we were both so tired we stopped at Bielefeld nearing 1600, 100km short of Hannover. The weather is cold cloudy and occasional showers. I would have liked to have visited Bielefeld Viaduct if it still exists as this was a target for 617 Squadron on a number of occasions. Dad flew three of those missions in March 1945. As it is, we are just staying the night and heading for Potsdam, just outside Berlin, tomorrow. It is a pleasant campsite. We were thinking of having dinner at the biergarten but it was too cold. The only seating was alfresco and at 8C less the wind chill, it was not appropriate given my condition to stay there. We did have a wine each and entertained the locals with our lack of German. They were nice folk really. Julie is cooking in the van where we can stay warm. Hopefully we will both get a better nights sleep tonight. Sadly our roaming data so far in Europe has been very flaky.

16 April. We got away about 1000, not wanting to get to Potsdam too early as most parks are closed from 1300 to 1500. The one we decided on is on a large lake which at the other end, is Potsdam. It is cold here, has been since we crossed the channel. Actually, really cold or other expletives would describe it better. Didn't get to 10C today and the wind cuts through you like a knife. We bypassed Hannover and went straight thgough to Potsdam. The description of the campsite made us suspect it would be full, but it wasn't. I guess the description of "private beach on the lake" didn't quite cut the mustard. It was a muddy little path into the water! Nice enough site though. Our mobile internet is still slow, when we can get it. Very frustrating. The drive here was very good, mainly because big trucks aren't allowed on the road on Sundays until mid afternoon. That meant I could cruise along in the slow lane without catching up to semi's all the time.
We are having dinner in tonight with the heater on. My cough is still annoying but hopefully it will continue to improve. I seem to be over the worst of it. Tomorrow, we tour Potsdam.

17 April. Our first day of staying more than one night in one place and doing the tourist bit. We headed off to Potsdam about 1000 after discovering that I had not packed my thermals. It was 3C and we had about a 15km ride. To say we were a bit chilly when we got there would be an understatement. We rode through the town, but being Easter Monday, it was all closed. A real ghost town. We found our way to Sans Souci Park which is where the Prussians had their equivalent of Versailles. Pretty stunning palaces. There are 2 main ones there in the park, though 2km apart, the New Palace and Sans Souci Palace. The New one is being significantly renovated but there was still plenty to see. The other was a lot smaller but still as ostentatious. Like many palaces, they are designed so that shallow people can impress other shallow people. I'm glad they did, because it provides a great spectacle but you have to question the motives. One of the highlights of today was the toilets at the visitor centre. It cost $1 to use them which I think is a tad rich, but after flushing, an arm came out from behind the seat with a brush and dryer. The seat swivelled around on this brush until it had done a full circle then stopped. The cleaning mechanism then retracted. I thought I should video it but I didn't. If I see another one, I will. Another interesting thing with the weather here is that when it is so cold and it rains, we get small hail. I think it is so cold that the raindrops freeze on the way down.
We had passing showers all day but were lucky not to get any while traveling to or from Potsdam. We took a circle route, down the western side of the lake to get there and the eastern side on the way home. Tomorrow, we are off to Berlin.

18 April. We had a casual start to the day because it was only about 45 minutes to get to the next site. If we had known better, which would have been easier if we had better internet, we would have come straight here and done Potsdam and Berlin from the one place. Not to worry though, you live and learn. We drove to Gatlow via the same route that we rode from Potsdam yesterday, despite Tomtom wanting to take us the same way we rode in. It only took a couple of hundred metres and Tomtom rerouted us the way we wanted to go. As are the best laid plans, we got to an intersection in Potsdam expecting to go straight on but that road was closed for works. Quickly worked out an alternative which proved correct. The campsite in Gatlow, outskirts of Berlin, is very nice. At €28 a night it is not cheap, but within the acceptable range. We settled in and I got the scooter off to realise that the handlebars were loose. I stripped down the covers to expose the problem but I didn't have the tools to tighten it. Took a ride into the centre of the town and found a service station with a workshop. The guy said they didn't do motorcycle repairs, but when I showed him what needed to be done, he was more than happy to do it. €2 and a few minutes later it was all fixed. I then went to a local chemist and got some medication for my nasty cough which has kept us both awake the last couple of nights. Even though both of the people helping me at the servo and the pharmacy had limited English, I managed to get by quite well. Then to Lidl supermarket across the road to check out their wines. Bought 6 bottles of 2015 Californian Ruby Cabernet for €1.99 each (less than $3). Only just in time too, we were on out last bottle of red that we had left in the van last year. Came back to the campsite and picked Julie up and we went back to do a normal (ie, food) shop at Lidl's. Got hailed on again. It seems all the rain here is frozen. Quiet afternoon after that, we will hit Berlin tomorrow which will be a long day. We are meeting Mark de Jong at 1800 at an Italian restaurant in the middle of Berlin tomorrow. Hopefully the medication will work well enough for a good nights sleep tonight.

19 April. I slept better, but Julie didn't. Can't win. We had booked in for a walking tour of Berlin for today at 1300 but neither of us felt up to it. It was freezing cold, hovering around the zero mark with a light snow falling. Without my thermals, I was not up to a 2.5 hour walk in the open. We decided to go to Spandau to do some shopping and besides going way past the shopping area in the bus and having to take the return part for another 10 minutes to get back to where we should have got off, we managed OK. We found some long underwear which were not quite thermals, but the next best thing, so we bought them. We had lunch in the market area of Spandau, 2 bratwurst rolls for a total of €3. Bused back to the campsite, got changed into our best warm clothing and headed for Berlin. The bus took us to the Zoo which was still a few kilometres from the centre of town, so we took a train to Alexanderplatz. Oddly, the train we caught on what, in most cities, would be called a city loop, was an intercity train. Julie was terrified our next stop was Frankfurt but we managed to get off at the one we wanted. It was a bit like catching the Indian Pacific from Perth to Maylands. I bought a beanie at a market stall which more or less completed my clothing requirements. We had a drink at a beer hall in the Platz and we both unknowingly got wine with fruit juice and soda water. We now know what not to order! Then took the train to the restaurant where we were meeting Mark for dinner. A classic Italian restaurant you would find anywhere in the world with the red and white checked table cloths. A good meal, and good to catch up with Mark who after 7 years there is still not fluent in German. I'm with him there! Two trains and a bus later we are back in the van. Tommorow we plan to hit Berlin a bit harder.

20 April. We took a different route to the city centre. I downloaded a Berlin Public Transport app for the phone and it gave us other options. This way was a little easier than yesterday. We went straight to the TV Tower to buy our tickets with the intention of getting that out of the way by 1300. A reasonable expectation we thought, seeing we joined the queue to buy the tickets at 1145. An hour and a half later we got our tickets to come back in three and a hour hours to actually go in. This sort of ruined our plans for the day. Incredibly, they only had one person manning the ticket booth. How they would cope in the peak season, and this is definitely off peak, I have no idea. We decided to walk the 2.5 Km to the Brandenburg Gate but get some lunch on the way. We ordered 2 coffees among other things, and one was full, one was only half full. They both had froth reaching the top, but you could see in the glass mug that one was only liquid half way. I questioned it and was told it was exactly the same. Very hard to argue in a foreign language. We are starting to get a bit annoyed with the incompetence here in Berlin. They never cease to surprise me with making things difficult. Berlin is a strange city. It is mostly new, a lot from the 50's and 60's, and though it is a first world city, much is third world. The transport system, while it works OK, is not even close to any other city in Europe were we have used it. The signage is poor and misleading, the service random. Anyway, it works, but when you compare Berlin with Munich, they are in a class of their own. Munich is slick in it's operations, Berlin, you wonder how it works at all.
OK, enough of the criticism. After lunch, Julie went to the Berlin Cathedral. I reneged, objecting to paying €7 to see a Cathedral. I walked around the area and when Julie came out, we both did the DDR Museum, documenting life in East Berlin prior to reunification. It was a moderately interesting display but not really what we were hoping for. Wouldn't put it on the recommended list. Then walked more around the area, getting nowhere near the Gate, before we headed back to the Tower. We still had another 30 minutes to wait so we found a bar, though it was really an Italian Restaurant but they were happy for us to just have a drink. Finished that and finally got in the queue to actually go to the top. It was now 1645, 5 hours after we joined the ticket line. Fortunately, it was worth the hassle, though if we knew the drawbacks earlier, we probably would have skipped it altogether. Berlin is very flat, a lot like Paris in that regard. The view from there is stunning. 284m is very high when the rest of the buildings around you are mostly less than 8 storeys. It was well set out so you could locate places and read about them. 45 minutes was still long enough to see everything so we left the tower and got a train to Market Nine. This market is on every night, but Thursday nights are international food market night. We fought through the throng and managed to buy dinner and drinks, then needed to find a chair. Patience worked and Julie got a seat quite quickly and I stood for most of the time until another couple opposite left. Good experience but you can only wonder what chaos would prevail in peak season. You could hardly move as it was. Made it home around 2100. At this stage, I should point out that Berlin has made an amazing comeback from the devastation of WW2 and then the division of the cold war. It has certainly had the hardest task by a mile of any German city post war. It still amazes us how different it is to other parts of Germany we have visited. I am sure that this creates a unique appeal to many people, but not so much to us. One interesting aspect is the proximity of exotic and plain. They are often next to each other here.

21 April. Took the same route into the city as yesterday but as is the want of the train people, they tried something different to get us. We have encountered a few late cancellations and today we stopped at a station and everyone got off, except the non German speakers. Fortunately, one woman was telling a Japanese family they needed to go to the train on the opposite side of the platform. We followed, and reading the signs on the screen, we saw that the one we were on was stopping there and the other was the continuation train. We made it, but only because we were good sheep. Bought our hop on hop off bus tickets and started our 2 hour or so tour. It was a good tour, taking in all the main sights and giving us a concept of what was where. No good for taking photos though, all the windows were tinted and being cold and potentially wet, the upstairs was covered in. We did the full circuit plus a bit to get off at the Brandenberg Gate. Stopped off for lunch there then spent a bit of time at the gate then the Reichstag, now the federal parliament for Germany and the new parliament buildings nearby. Walked to the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof Station, Berlin's newest and best station, now the central station for the city. We could not find where to go to get the train we wanted. The signage referred to platforms, not lines, so somehow, I never did find out how, we should have known that the S7 line went from platform 14. We found it only because I knew it operated from the top level of the station so we went up and looked until we found S7 on a platform. Back to AlexanderPlatz where we did some window shopping at Decathlon for more thermals and a new jacket for me, but left empty handed. Then trained and bussed back home to arrive in time for a drink before tea.

22 April. Last full day in Berlin. We have a list of things to do that shouldn't take all day. It is very cold again today with a bit of wind making it worse. We rode to Lidl's to stock up on a few essentials, milk, bread and wine. Caught the bus late morning to the Zoo stop and had a closer look at Kaiser Wilhelm's memorial church. This was bombed in 1945 and while everything around it was totally destroyed, the church was badly damaged but still standing. It was ultimately decided to keep it as it stood as a memorial. There is a lot of retaining that has been done for obvious reasons but it is an interesting memorial. Next to the church was the site of the terrorist attack on the Christmas Market last December, when a truck was driven through the crowd. There are still many flowers and candles there. As if the poor Berliners have not had to put up with enough horror over the last 85 years, they didn't deserve that. We then took the underground to Potsdamer Platz to start our walk around the area where the wall was, and part still is, plus the museums. The "Topography of Terror" was the last significant remaining section of the wall that has been left original. On this site was the headquarters of the Nazi party including a private prison and the SS headquarters. There is a very thorough history of how Hitler came to power and the cronies who helped along the way, together with a list of the terrible things they did. While I knew most of it, seeing it all in one place magnified the evil. Very well done. The Germans certainly have no intention of either forgetting the past or hiding from it. Not far from there is Checkpoint Charlie, the border check between the American sector and the Russian or East German sector. That was not so well done as it has been made a tourist site, with guys dressed as US Army manning the checkpoint and charging for photos to be taken. Almost a comedy if it wasn't so inappropriate. We had Curry Wurst for lunch which warmed us up from the inside. It was really good even though the idea was more offputting.
Then it was off to the East Side Gallery where a part of the wall has either been restored or rebuilt. Either way it is far too pristine to be original. The "gallery" is the street art on the wall but after putting up a wire fence in front of it, it loses its impact. A little disappointing. Headed for home for dinner in. We were going to stay in the city to see some of the sights lit at night but it was just too cold.
To sum up, Berlin is an interesting city with an amazing history, especially in the last 100 years. It is hard to believe that the Wall came down less than a month before Hayley was born. The reunification of Berlin and Germany has seen staggering rebuilding such that there is almost nothing left that suggests the trauma the city went through. As a city is seems a little confused about its identity but that enhances the attraction. We have not been to a city like it. It has a soul that is very unique.

23 April. OK, enough of the philosophy. Today we packed up Berlin, serviced the van (water in and out) and drove to Prague, or Praha in the local Czech language. Not sure how they pronounce it, but I will find out, probably Prague. The drive to leave Berlin was fine, we followed much of the bus route that we have travelled over the last few days and then took an autobahn which went right in to Prague. The van has a low air temperature warning. An amber light at 4C and a red light at 0C. This is to warn for the possibility of icing on the road, particularly black ice, which can be very hazardous. This alarm was going off all the time on the drive down. Even the red one. At the peak of the hills on the border between Germany and Czech Republic, we were driving through a snow shower, much heavier than we had in Berlin. The temperature got down to -1C and that was at 2PM. We stopped near there to buy our Vignette to use the motorways in Czech Republic, and had to fight the snow to get to the booth. All good fun. At least it was not heavy enough to cause snow drift on the road, just a bit of build up on the verges. It was an interesting change of terrain on this drive. Up until Dresden, it was flat and featureless but south, it became almost alpine. A far better visual spectacle. We found the campsite OK, having to avoid another road closure within 2 Km of the park. We did stop for fuel on the outskirts of Prague and not having any local Czech Crowns, I asked if they took Euros before I filled up. They did. I filled up and did a conversion of what it should be in Euros, it was just over €72 and when I went to pay, they wanted €97. I paid with my Amex card. I was a bit concerned that this was going to be the norm in Prague but when we got to the campsite, it was far from it. Their conversion rate was so close to the official that it didn't matter. Made us feel better. The ablutions at the campsite are the best we have seen for a long time which is always a bonus. We had dinner at the camp restaurant tonight and it was outstanding value for money. We will train in to the city tomorrow. The weather forecast is OK for the next 2 days but getting cold and wet again after that. We'll see how we go.

24 April. We woke to a beautiful sunny day. Caught the minibus from the camp to the station, a kilometre away, at 1040, and caught the 1055 train to Prague. We have 3 options to get to the city and the train is less than half the time of the bus or metro options. It is also an intercity train meaning it is far more comfortable and quiet. We followed my nose and got to the old town centre at Wenceslas Square. We then found where the "free" walking tour started and got on to the 1200 tour which goes for 2.5 hours. Our guide was a guy from Colorado USA but has a degree in European History and has lived in Prague for 3 years. He was very knowledgable and we learned a lot about the history of Prague which, like many European cities, is very interesting. The beauty of these walking tours is you get a perspective on where things are and what they are which we wouldn't get walking on our own. The architecture of Prague is amazingly diverse and quite beautiful. Arguably one of the prettiest cities we have seen. After the walk we went to a roof top bar that the guide suggested and had a drink and enjoyed the view from the 5th floor roof. More walking, we have done over 20,000 steps today, and a couple of tram rides that got us further away from where we wanted to go, but put us in a position to walk across the Charles Bridge. Trained it home leaving Prague just after 1800 and walked the kilometre back to the camp. Too late and too tired to cook so it will be another dinner at the camp restaurant.

25 April. We planned a late start to the day to stay in town for dinner. The last shuttle bus from the camp left at 1110 so we thought we would go then. I'd studied the public transport map and worked out that if we caught the 15 tram from the train station, then changed to the 22 tram, we could get up to the castle without having to climb hundreds of feet to get there. The public transport here is very good and with day tickets, we could easily get on and off. The Prague Castle is supposedly the largest castle compound in the world though I am not sure it is bigger than the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain. Maybe they don't consider that a castle. It has been added to many times over the centuries with some parts over a thousand years old and the massive St Vitas cathedral taking pride of place. We bought admission tickets to 5 of the sites within the compound and managed to get through it all in a few hours. The castle is not your classic style castle, more like a small walled city but interesting none the less. I had 3 shots of a crossbow in a shooting range and managed 3x80 point hits, the next circle around the bullseye, and from about 10m. A little surprising seeing it was firing just bolts, no flights. We then walked downhill to Charles Bridge and crossed over to the old town. We had planned a dinner cruise on the river but 3 hours on a boat seemed a little too long so we opted for a one hour cruise to see the lights at 2000. Found a pub restaurant that had some traditional Czech dishes but they were rather disappointing. Killed more time walking around the town before going to the pier to get the boat. It was now starting to rain lightly but constantly and cooling down a bit too. Before this, it had been quite mild with temperatures in the mid teens, a lot better than the normal single figures we have put up with a lot lately. The cruise was OK but nothing special. Afterwards, we caught the tram back to the train station and got on the train with still 20 minutes before departure. I thought this train seemed a little more luxurious than normal and when the ticket inspector came along after we left Prague, we found we were in first class. I volunteered to go down to the second class and she was happy with that. The umbrellas got a good work out on the walk back to the camp.

26 April. A day off. It is cold and wet today, as forecast, so we are doing a catch up day with washing and shopping. Nothing special to report.

27 April. We had planned on going to Wroclaw today, but could not find an open campsite. We then chose to go to Krakow as there is a close in campsite there that is open. Then, this morning, seeing as most places campsites don't open until 1st May, we are staying another day in Prague. There are still a couple of things we want to do. The weather is overcast and cold but no rain. We also heard from Lorna and Brendon that there is some friction in the Baltic States over the USA sending F35 fighters there for exercises. Have to give our plans more thought.
Trained in to Prague, watched the astronomical clock strike noon (not overwhelming but pretty cool for the 1400s) then walked to the "Dancing House". See photos for an explanation. They were not as good as some photos we had seen would suggest, but OK. Back across the Charles Bridge (I think Julie has something going with Charles!) and lunch of Goulash soup in a bread loaf. Very nice and great value for around $5. Back across the Charles Bridge for a walk around the old town again, then trained home. Dinner tonight at the camp restaurant. There is a big local turnout and the place is crowded but the atmosphere is great. Having been there for 3 nights out of 5, we said our farewells which were gratefully received. This has been an excellent campsite.
We have checked online at Smart Traveller from the Australian Government and there is no change to the status of "take normal care" so we have decided to carry on with our plans. Tomorrow, we leave for Krakow.

28 April. It was cold this morning. We had our last magnificent showers here, they really are good, packed up and headed to Krakow. The normal way would have been via Brno but Google said there would be 1 hour and 20 minutes delay with roadworks, so we planned via Kralove and Ostrava. 500Km and Tomtom said it would take 5 hours. Yeah, right. 8 hours later, we pulled in to the campsite. Roadworks, detours, fresh snow, and then the most horrific traffic in Poland, we almost thought we were lucky with 8 hours. Even the last 6Km took over 30 minutes. We have never seen traffic like it. Not sure how long we will spend in Poland, if this is normal, we might go straight to Lithuania in the hope it improves. The weather has been horrible. The last 4 hours of driving was in constant rain and we have now been parked for 90 minutes and still no stop to the rain. We are parked on a hard area that is 2 strips for the wheels so at least we wont be bogged, but we step out of the van into a small lake. OK, a large puddle, but not very pleasant. Getting around Krakow may be difficult, we will find out tomorrow. Hopefully the forecast of only 10% chance of rain will be accurate. We need to get some Polish Zloty. We paid for 2 toll roads with credit cards. Dinner in the van tonight because we really don't want to step outside. Big review of our plans might be in order. Weather in Norway is much better than here. Go figure.

29 April. It stopped raining sometime during the night. The lake outside our van had drained much to our surprise, and things are looking better. We decided to Uber in to the old city but our connected card was rejected. I then added my ANZ Visa card but that got rejected too. HSBC UK Visa added and that was fine. Did the ride in to old town Krakow for less than $5 and started checking it out. I changed €100 to zloty at 4.1, giving us 410 zloty. There were 2 things Julie really wanted to do here, one was the Salt Mine (which Russell recommended and we dare not ignore seeing his previous hit!) and the other was the Rynek Underground which is an historical display under the main town square. We booked both for tomorrow so that is going to be a full on day. That also meant we were not under any stress to do much at all. We went to a cafe for a tea and hot chocolate and after waiting for about 40 minutes (time well spent with both of us using the bathroom) and they hadn't even taken our order, we walked out. The poor girl in front of the counter was worked off her feet while everyone else did nothing. We weren't the only ones, another group walked out before us. At least we know where not to go tomorrow. We wandered around the town and went to a very hidden little restaurant for lunch. One Julie had found in her research. It would have been an excellent meal if Julie's goulash in the loaf had been hot, but it was lukewarm at best. My pierogi were excellent. I did let Julie have 2 of them to make her feel better! That, with 2 glasses of wine, cost €12. What a bargain.
Back through the town and we bought some presents each. I got another knit shirt and Julie bought 2 christmas tree ornaments. Checked out the Krakow Castle which was OK but we didn't bother paying to go in to the cathedral. Caught a taxi back to the campsite. Uber 13Z, taxi 22Z hmmmm, I think Uber wins. Checked my email and ANZ have put a block on my Visa card due to suspicious activity. I can only think that the suspicious activity was trying to add the card to Uber. Anyway, I rang the number in Aus and waited on hold for 25 minutes until I hung up. £31 later, I hadn't even got through to anyone. Not happy. Now I have worked out how to use Australia Direct to call them reverse charge. That would work really well if they answered the phone. Until they do, the best technology will not help them. Hopefully I can get through sometime and actually get the card back.
On the holiday front, we have decided to change our entire plans. This is not unusual for us, but we were hoping to stick to this plan. The cold, rain, snow and mud have beaten us. The number of times we have had temps in double digits you could count on one hand. So, Greece, here we come. It is over 2000Km from Krakow to Athens, so we will try to transit quickly without missing too much. Then we intend to go up the coast through Croatia. After that, we will assess the time remaining and respond accordingly.

30 April. This morning, it is cold, misty and a constant light drizzle. We set the alarm for 0700 but woke before it. We need to be in the old town by 0935 at the latest, and there is the Krakow Marathon being run, starting in main square of the old town at 0900 with up to 7000 runners. We wanted to make sure we could get there and still have time to walk the 4km if we couldn't get a ride. As it was, we got an Uber in good time so we got there early enough to watch the start of the marathon. The poor runners were freezing cold and wet. The start is on cobblestones and I can tell you that rain and cobblestones are a lethal mix. Didn't see any come a cropper though. Met the bus for the Salt Mine in time and we eventually got going at about 1000 when we were supposed to leave at 0940. Poles are funny about time, it doesn't really matter much to them. We were supposed to start our tour at 1000 but didn't start until 1115. The 2.5 tour was really under 2 hours and we got back to Krakow earlier than we expected in the first place. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is quite spectacular. There are about 250Km of passages and tunnels with only 1% being open to the public. Amazingly, this mine has been running for 700 years and at one stage accounted for one third of the income of Poland. The rock salt of the mine is almost like marble. There are many statues that have been carved by miners that you would swear is marble. It even feels like marble. Parts of the mine have been turned into a museum, and there is also a chapel that's almost as big as a cathedral underground. Really worth seeing if you are in this area.
After returning to Old Town, we needed to kill a bit less than 4 hours so we wandered more and then went back to the restaurant we had lunch at yesterday. We weren't going to, but all the other places we looked at were expensive, and it was only a lunch we wanted, not a pricy dinner. We had different, though similar, dishes and again the 2 wines. Total today, 35 zloty, or about $11. So good. We then went and had a tea and Polish Cheesecake, followed by a wine each at a small bar. By this time, it was late enough for us to do the Rynek Underground museum. We were expecting this to be a history of Krakow but it was really the story of archeological digs they did there in 2005. It was OK, some was interesting, but not what we were thought it was going to be. We then went to get an Uber home but they had a 1.5x surcharge for peak time and the app was having trouble finding a free car anyway, so I cancelled the request and we got a taxi. Yesterdays cab was 22 Z and we were surprised to see the meter spinning so fast. Must be a different rate for Sundays I think. The bill was 45Z (still only about $15) and I had 47z left in local currency. Just made it.
The other news from today was that I finally got on to ANZ on the fourth try and got the card re-enabled plus added my UK phone number with them and advised them that we were travelling Europe until 20 July. All good now. It is nice to know they are looking out for us but it would have been nice if they answered the phone!

1 May. We had no real idea of what to expect going from Krakow to Budapest via the E77. This is by far the shortest route, but at 400Km, it was supposed to take longer than going via Brno in Czech Republic and Bratislava in Slovakia which was 650Km. We didn't know if the road was terrible or winding or snow covered or in fact a goat track. As it turned out, the road was not a problem, nor was the snow or the goat track. It was a little winding in places but not bad. The road was wide enough that there was never a problem with other traffic. The real time issue was the fact that it was an alpine road with villages every couple of kilometres and the speed limit through these is 50Kph. This made our average speed about 50Kph. Therefore, 400Km would take 8 hours, and we did it in 7.5 hours. The scenery was stunning. The Alps go from France, through Switzerland, Austria and Slovakia. The ones we saw would rival the Swiss Alps. Fortunately, we didn't have to go over the top, we went through the valleys, though we did get rather high. The weather was excellent, over 16C and sunny all day. Best weather since we crossed the channel. A splendid vista for most of it. We made our way to Budapest and the campsite we had chosen. The one we stayed at last time is not open for a few more days and this one is in forest about 6Km from the city centre. The hostess, Marta, could not be more helpful, even giving us a bottle of Hungarian red wine, which must have been good because it has gone by 9PM. She has booked us on a dinner boat tour at 1900 tomorrow night. We wanted to do this last time we were in Budapest but didn't actually get to do. Not sure whether we stay 2 nights or 3.

2 May. We had a casual start to the day. We didn't want to start too early because we had to fit the dinner in. We took the bus a bit after 1100 and got off at the terminus which was also the main train station. I withdrew 60,000 Forents (less than €200) and we then walked to Parliament House. This building is among the best in the world. We haven't been to the Kremlin, but from what we have seen, it is the most spectacular. Worked our way to the town centre and found where we had to meet for the dinner cruise and had our voucher converted to real tickets. This was also to be the meeting place, so we now had that all worked out. Took in lunch at Jack's Burgers and then did a walk through the Jewish Quarter which is also the night time entertainment area. Early afternoon, it is pretty ordinary, but we could imagine it would rock once the sun goes down. Through to the Market Quarter and I managed to find a collared shirt with Budapest on it, bonus. Various other touristy bits and we made our way to the meeting point for the cruise. This turned out to be really good. Good wines (sparkling on arrival, then a red, all part of the deal) and good food. Also good company on our table of 8. A young couple next to us were from Birmingham and we swapped quite a few stories. The cruise itself was good and we took quite a few photos that probably wont work out. By the time we docked, we knew we wouldn't make the last 291 bus which would take us close to the camp, 200m. Instead we took a long walk to the centre square of Buda (Western side) to catch the 155. On the walk, about 2Km, as if we hadn't walked enough today, we got a chance to get some photos of Parliament House from the opposite side of the river. Got a couple of rippers so the walk was worth it. Bussed home but the 800m walk from the stop almost killed Julie. On top of indigestion, she really didn't need it. After a decent nights sleep though, she is OK. We both smashed our step counts for the day (according to S Health on our phones) with both doing close to 29,000 steps. No wonder we are knackered. Tomorrow, Serbia.

3 May. We got a reasonably early start and got away about 0905. Tomtom wanted us to turn right out of the campsite, but we knew better. The only problem was, we couldn't turn left because the turn was too tight and with the trailer, I couldn't do a 3 point turn. So, knowing Tomtom was wrong, we had to follow her anyway. We have a female voice, so Tomtom is a she. The first 10Km took about 45 minutes. We had to go into the city then get on to the motorway. Without the GPS, we would have been totally stuffed. Budapest streets are like a rabbit warren. Lane position is critical. There was one set of lights where I realised I was in the wrong lane but at the front of the queue. I managed to attract the attention of the woman driving on my right, whose lane I wanted. Through sign language, I indicated I wanted her lane and got a nod. Took off at the lights, took my lane and all good, but incredibly complex if you didn't know your way around. Finally got on the motorway we wanted and all was good. The drive from there on was pretty good. Not a lot of traffic, and except for the first 20Km inside Serbia where the road was horrible, all was good. We had to through passport control entering Serbia which we found a bit odd. Had a couple of stops on the way, but it was 750Km to our planned caravan park stop so we didn't want to waste time. I thought we were planned to go via the ring road around Belgrade, but a last minute hitch meant we were going to go right through the centre of Belgrade. Normally, this would fill our hearts with terror but because Tomtom (Tomasina?) didn't bother to change our route, we decided to suck it and see. The motorway went right through the middle and besides a few traffic lights, was not an issue. It turned out to be a big bonus because we got to see Belgrade. Fuel consumption was not good. Driving between 110 and 115Kph tends to burn a lot more with the wind resistance. Serbia is an interesting country. The first half is quite flat, a lot like most of Hungary, but the southern half, we were driving through a valley surrounded by hills, then mountains. We drove through a tropical storm, complete with hail. A little worrying, but it did clean the bugs off the windscreen. We finally got to the campsite we had selected a bit before 1800, after having to refuel for the second time today. The campsite is a beauty (if you ignore the ablutions, which for one night we can). The guy who runs it is all fun. We were sent a welcome drink, a Schnapps which I couldn't quite finish. We were asked if we wanted to eat at the restaurant, which we did because we really need to do a good shop, running low on most things. We joined a big (very big) group of Dutch travellers and dined in. What a blast. Good Serbian wine (we didnt know they had a wine industry, but the red was very good) and very nice food. Also, live piano accordian and guitar music from local guys. Not sure how much it will cost, it is going on our bill in the morning. We need to crash now, we have a 430 Km drive tomorrow to start our Greek adventure.

4 May. Another 414Km to go to the campsite we selected in Greece. It is 100Km beyond Thessaloniki and is a beachside campsite. Getting there proved to be one hurdle after another. We went through Serbian passport control on the way out and then 200m later, Macedonian passport control. Here they wanted to see our insurance papers which didn't include a "green card" for Macedonia. €50 later, we had bought a green card valid for 10 days. It covers us for third party insurance. I am sure our policy covers that but you can't argue the point. I think it is just a tourist tax. Shortly after this we paid another toll fee and 5 minutes later the whole motorway is stopped. One policeman stopped the traffic and no one knew what was going on. After about 20 minutes, we got waved through and at no stage did we see any evidence of why. A little farther on, the motorway was closed again, this time with a detour, but you had to work out your own way. We took the secondary road that led to Gevgelija on the Greek border and just followed the signs. We eventually got to the border and had to go through the passport rigmarole both leaving Macedonia and entering Greece. Finally got underway again but we had lost well over an hour with all the stops. The drive through Macedonia was very pretty with snow capped mountains and steep valleys. That was the only good part of the drive. The roads in Greece range from quite good to awful. The infrastructure here is dying. Even on major 6 lane highways, the line markings are almost invisible. Made for some interesting moments. It must be many years since they were last painted. We drove through and around Thessaloniki, fortunately getting a good run. This city is huge. So huge, there is no way we would even contemplate going in to it. It makes Genoa look like a small village. I use that example because they are similar port cities.
Finally got to the campsite and set up camp. It looked good, has its own beach, beachside bar, cafe/restaurant and small shop. It has 4 ablution blocks of which 2 had hot showers, except block 1 didn't. All pretty rough on that front, but we really need a rest, so we'll put up with it. It was certainly good to sit outside for a change but as the sun went lower, the insects set upon us. We did at least get a site with full shade which is a bonus. Hopefully, things will get better.

5 May. We decided to move on from Lacara campsite. It was a shame, the site was idyllic but let down by the lack of good facilities. We drove 61Km to another site. This one is so much better. On the way we stopped at a Lidl store and restocked. It is always easier if we can do a big shop from the motorhome as we can wheel the trolley to the van and put it all inside. Much better than doing it on the scooter. It was a pleasant drive as we were not going far and didn't care if we got stuck behind a slow truck. The new campsite near Moudania is excellent. We got a pitch right on the edge of the beach which made us leave the windscreen curtain open for the view and the sunset. They have very good ablutions with washing machines and a big dryer which is what we want. We were looking for a chance to not only refresh ourselves but also to do all the mundane tasks like washing, including the bedding, and this looks like a great opportunity to do it. We walked along the beach for a short way and the water here seems warmer than the previous place. I got the scooter off the trailer for the first time since Berlin and the steering column had become loose again. I put it down to the strapping system. A British couple we met here loaned me the tools to fix it so now I need to buy a socket set and a couple of 14mm spanners. Tomorrow.

6 May. After a sleep in and a casual breakfast, we scootered in to Moudania, the closest town 3Km north. We had been told there was a hardware store there. After a little searching, we managed to find it and they spoke no English, no surprise. I found what I was looking for, 2x14mm open ended and ring spanners, and bought them. They were €1each. What a bargain. We checked out the local church which was very different to the normal, very spectacular compared to the rest of the town. Unlike most of Greece that we have seen, it was being renovated which is good to see. We have seen so many unfinished buildings here that look like they were half built and then just left. Rather sad. They look like they were abandoned about the time of the GFC. We had a coffee at the seafront promenade and after a quick visit to the local supermarket, scootered home. A lazy afternoon which has turned windy, a little cool and chop on the water. Late afternoon we had drinks with Alan and Carol, the English couple, and after that, it was getting to be a late dinner. It is turning out to be the break we needed.

7 May. Washing day. This is only the second real opportunity to do washing so far. Julie did everything, bedding and clothing. She used the dryer for the sheets and everything else was hung on the clothes line that I strung up on the trees and the trailer. Residual washing powder helped to mark the dark clothing which required additional rinsing which we could have done without. In the afternoon we took a ride to the channel that has been cut across the peninsular, similar to the Dawesville Cut. I bought a pair of upmarket thongs as my $1.50 ones are starting to fall apart. There are some very pretty spots here with no crowds and no pressure. We are enjoying every moment of it. Spent another hour or more with Alan and Carol. Their son works in insurance, often with Lloyds of London, and they are going to get him to chase up some legitimate scooter insurance for us, and if he can't, at least provide a reason. It will be interesting to see what he can do. Latest searches online still come up negative. Another nice meal in tonight. This is the first place we have found in Europe in 6 years where we just want to relax. We are both enjoying the time out. A wonderful outlook from the van and no rush to do anything. We could stay longer, but we expect to move on come Tuesday.

8 May. Another day off. We rode to Lidls (they are everywhere in Greece and best shop for good cheap wines) and did a small shop though I did look in their specials bin and they had a 15 piece open and ring spanner set, so I bought it. The wind came up so we didn't go for a swim and lazed the afternoon. More drinks with Alan and Carol before dinner.

9 May. Set off to Poseidon Beach below Mount Olympus. 178Km but an easy drive though the tolls were higher than expected. We went through 3 toll gates in about 60Km and the first was €3 so we were lulled into a false sense of value. The second was €5.40 and the third was €7.80. Not cheap, but probably still better than France. Managed to find the campsite despite Thomasina losing the plot when we got to the exit which was about 500m from where she thought it should have been. Interesting area around the park. We are 2 pitches away from the beach and there is a castle overlooking the beach. There is a strip of shops, bars and restaurants on the road outside the park that would not be out of place in Bali or other Asian tourist spots. We had a quiet afternoon and watched the parade of people arriving after us. One Brit came by and they had seen us in Ouzouni and thought they might have seen us in Sardinia 2 years ago, but being as we have never been there, there must be someone else with an outfit like ours. We went to the strip outside for dinner at a local Greek restaurant. The food was great, cheese croquettes for starters, mixed grill for me, stuffed peppers for Julie and an ouzo for me and a grape based ouzo for Julie. While there, we got talking to a German couple who have a daughter who got married in Port Douglas and the owner has a son in Adelaide. Almost turned into big Aussie party. The meal was very good and we got a complimentary fruit platter and it came to €24 including the drinks. Outstanding.
Tomorrow we are planning to scooter to Litochoro at the base of Mount Olympus and either organise a bus tour or take the scooter as high as we can up the mountain. I have just checked and Mount Olympus is nearly 700m higher than Mount Kosciuszko and seeing we will start from sea level, literally, we are on the beach, I am not sure how close we will get to the top, snow and cloud excluded.

10 May. We rode to Litochoro right at the base of Mount Olympus and found the road that goes some way up the mountain. There is a Tourist Centre just out of the village which has only been open 9 months and we were the only ones there. This allowed us to get a guided tour through the display including a 5 minute 3D video show. The whole complex is very well done and we left having a very good idea of what the national park had to offer. The road only went as far as Prionia, 17Km away by road but probably about 6Km as the crow flies. Prionia is at just over 1000m elevation, a bit over a third of the summit. Anything beyond that, you have to hike. The road was very good, a bike riders dream, and if the scooter had a turbo, we would have loved it too. The poor bike had a bit of trouble on the steeper parts but coped quite well. The last 2Km of road was unsealed and rough but we got through slowly. Had lunch in Prionia then Julie walked the track to the old monastery, a bit over 2Km, while I rode the scooter and walked back from the monastery to meet her. That got the rough bit out of the way. Checked out the old monastery which was built in the 1500s and detroyed by the Turks and Nazis about 4 times. It is being restored which is coming along well, thanks to EU assistance. Rode back down stopping at the same spots we stopped at on the way up to enjoy the view again in different lighting. Mount Olympus is spectacular. The sheer scale can't be captured on camera. We were gone for 6 hours and loved it. The forests, the sheer cliffs, the mountain peaks, everything was breathtaking. We are very glad we did it. Quiet night in tonight.

11 May. About 1000 we set off to Dion to visit an archeological excavation that has been going on there for some years. The site is a second century AD city and covers a few hundred acres. It includes a cathedral, public baths, housing and at least 2 theatres, one Greek, one Roman. The existing excavation is mostly foundations and some walls but they have recovered many objects that now reside in the Museum in the town which we also visited. They have commenced some restoration but I think it will be a few centuries before they age enough to look authentic. A very interesting find. Public access was very good to the site and you get to feel a part of it. Like many projects in Greece, it is part funded by the EU.
We headed home about 10 minutes too late and got rained on for the last 10Kms or so, not too badly though.
I had a call from Alan and Carol's son Brian, who is high up in the insurance industry in London and he is taking up our case to get legitimate insurance for our scooter. Besides doing us a huge favour if it works out, and he is quietly confident it will, he may well be opening up a product to a large market which won't do him any harm either. We have our fingers crossed.
Another quiet night in tonight. Tomorrow we will visit the castle here then set off to Meteora.

12 May. Did the castle in the morning. It is mainly ruins inside except for the tower which we couldn't go in to. At €2 admission, it was good value. Packed the scooter and the van and headed towards Meteora. We got stung as usual by the tolls but got there in good time. The campsite is good with views to the rock outcrops that are massive. Did a ride through the town and topped up with essentials at Lidl. It is hot here but the pool is dry, darn it, would have been nice to have a dip. We ate at the campsite restaurant which was cheap in both senses of the word. We booked a bus tour of the monasteries tomorrow and have to be up and ready in time for an 0900 departure.

13 May. We were ready in time for the tour and it started with just us. We picked up another couple at their hotel but they were doing a hiking tour, so it ended up being just us. This was a bonus because the 3 monasteries that we visited they just waited for us, so when we had enough we could move on. This place is amazing. The geology is massive verticle pillars of rock, and on 6 of these, there are monasteries and a nunnery built. How they built them defies belief. They would have had to move one rock at a time. They are also built sheer with the rock so when you look over the edges, it is many hundreds of feet to the bottom. I bet they lost a lot of workers in the effort. The 3 we went in to were all a bit different and quite interesting. Julie had to wear a sarong type skirt the women can borrow to comply with their dress standards. We could go on and on about this place, but better to let the photos do the talking. Our guide, who didn't come in to the monasteries, but talked the whole time in the bus and at viewing points, was very good. He is a local, born in the town, but his English was very good. The whole tour took 4 hours and far better than us trying to do it on our own. At €50 for the 2 of us, it was a decent price too. I don't think they made too much today (there was a driver as well), but from what he said about the high season, they must make a killing then. We got back to the park and showered and changed into cooler gear. Getting the shoes off was a treat. All the sites required a lot of slopes and steps, the last being almost the last straw, but we managed.
Meteora is a must do for anyone visiting Greece. Dinner was at a Taverna about 80m from the campsite entrance. We bypassed the Sydney Hotel, complete with map of Australia, including Tassie, and went to the Greek one next door. We can never see the sense of going somewhere "Aussie" in a foreign land. Good meal too and like most, well priced also.

14 May. We rode in to the town of Kalabaka, all of about 1Km away. Wandered around the streets and went to the Old Byzantine church which was closed and so renovated anyway, it didn't look old. On the ride, I had noticed how clear the view was, the visibility was far better than yesterday when we couldn't see the distant hills. Back to the camp for lunch and we rode back up to the peaks of Meteora. We didn't need long, just to get more photos that took in far more of the distant mountains than we managed yesterday. The roads up there are very good and easily wide enough to fit a tourist coach and a scooter at the same time, if the scooter is stopped on the side! Seriously though, plenty of room, but I wouldn't want to take the motorhome up there. Dinner in tonight, even though it is Mother's Day. I guess the two previous nights out have been too much. We have eaten out a lot more this trip with the food being good and very nicely priced. Dinner with drinks is usually less than €20, €25 if you have a side salad which is huge.

15 May. We left Kastrati this morning bound for a beachside area just south of Volos. We have decided that Meteora is one of the most spectacular places we have seen in Europe. The drive to Volos was very easy, for a change. The tight bits south of Volos were made easier because we followed a truck that was bigger than us. We could have had sights with beautiful views over the sea but decided on one that was much easier to access and had more shade. The last few days have hammered home the need for shade. The van gets quite unpleasant when it's in the sun. We went for a swim in the Med this afternoon, Julie up to her neck and me wimping out at the waist. It is still colder than we would like and a wind doesn't help. Having dinner at the campsites restaurant tonight. We will do a bit of exploring of the Pelion region tomorrow on the scooter. There are mountain villages and coastal villages to check out.

16 May. Cool, overcast and the odd light shower today. We took a ride to the next village, where Julie spotted a bakery so we vowed to call in on our way back. We had planned to take a side road up the mountains though I was a bit wary of what I hade seen on Google Earth that they may not be too good. That turned out to be correct, it was an unsealed goat track, so we passed on that. Back to the bakery and 8 pieces of local pastries, including baklava, later, we went home. Our top box on the scooter has been a bit of a problem lately and broke again today. I checked with reception if there was a motorcycle place where we could get one, and there was, in Volos, 18Km away. Julie let me go on my own, not wanting to ride that far and then hang around while I sorted it out. The map and instructions I got from reception were spot on, so I rode right in and found it. Picked the one I wanted which is stronger and bigger than the old one and they fitted it for me on the spot. Great service. I left them my old one for the trash. All this cost €45 which was a bargain. We had a quiet afternoon and dinner in tonight. Tomorrow we take on Athens and probably another €30 in tolls.

17 May. Our 37th wedding anniversary. The weather was not looking good, so that's always better for a travelling day. Seems less of a waste if we travel in the rain rather than sit inside for the day. The van was covered in bird droppings so I set the van up to hose down the front before we left. As luck would have it, the tap had almost no pressure but we managed to clean the windscreen to at least see out of it. Once we got on the road, it started pouring down about 50km in to the trip and didn't stop until we were on the outskirts of Athens. That at least did clean the bird and tree droppings off the van so it's looking better now. The tolls were more than the €30 I anticipated and came in at €44. A total rip off for less than 300km of toll road, much of which had roadworks on it. Even harder to justify is that we are charged as a Class 3 vehicle because we are over 2.2m high. So what difference to the road does that make? None. Being Class 3, we pay triple the car toll, most unreasonable. We got in to the campsite in Athens without a problem which was the bonus of the toll road. The biggest problem now at the campsite is we are very close (15m) from an eight lane highway. Gets a bit loud. The weather is still unpleasant though not heavy. We had dinner at the campsite restaurant which was quite good. Would have been nice to have gone upmarket a bit but we couldn't find anything else around.

18 May. After a reasonable sleep considering the road, we woke to continuous light rain. A really miserable day on the weather front. When we checked in yesterday, we got one of the worst pitches because they were full. Mostly from the Dutch group that we met in Serbia. They almost made us miss out on a spot there too. They left this morning, so I asked if we could move. They offered us one site only, even though the park was nearly empty, but they have another couple of convoy groups arriving today. We took the one on offer and it is very much nicer than the first. The road noise is significantly less. Well worth the effort. We went for a walk around the environs within a km of the campsite and it was almost depressing. Partly industrial, partly residential but all of it ugly. The rain was starting to ease so about 1400 we decided to head in to the city. The bus trip was interesting as I could spend all my time looking out the window rather than watching the road like a hawk. Nothing really changed on the trip in to the main train station, everything was still ugly. Derelict buildings, others obviously inhabited but showing no signs of care. The buildings are almost all the same, with so many things hanging off them. Power lines, TV antennas, satellite dishes, balconies seemingly ready to fall down, they looked very messy. Some of it you could be excused thinking you were in Denpassar, Bali, it had that third world look about it. We walked from the train station to the Archeological Museum, trying not to lose our footing on the wet footpath. Not a visually stimulating walk, though when we got to the museum, that building at least showed some grandeur. The museum itself was very good, even better that it was free on this day only, saving us €30 on admission.
After some time there, we walked to the "old city" of Athens. Probably the worst old city we have seen in Europe. They had a Flea Market area in the old town, but after seeing most of the rest it, we decided it was really just one big flea market. We stopped at one bar for a drink and later, took dinner at another. Like most of Greece, it was good value but nothing special. We got to the train station to catch the bus back to the camp only to find the last one left a few minutes before. We met up with a German couple from the camp who were wanting the same bus and shared a taxi. It wasn't bad at a pre-agreed €10 for the trip. Tomorrow is forecast to be fine so we plan to do the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.

19 May. We slept a lot better with the vastly reduced road noise. After breakfast, we bussed back to the station and caught the Metro to Acropoli Station. Knowing the queues can be long for tickets to the Acropolis, we decided to get that out of the way first. It was a reasonable wait, but less than 30 minutes. Paid our €20 each and headed up the hill. One thing we discovered is that the Acropolis is the whole complex, basically the entire mount, that all the monuments occupy. The pillared structure is the Parthenon. There are other structures on the mount as well, all in various states of renovation. Air pollution has been one of the biggest hazards for the complex, that and repairs done in the 1800's that made things worse. It is good to see that they are taking it all very seriously. They don't have a choice, without the Acropolis, Athens really has nothing to offer. After visiting the Acropolis, we trained in to the old town for lunch. We have 24 hour tickets and wanted to get our moneys worth. Lunch, then back to the Acropolis Museum which rates number one of attractions to see in Athens, according to Trip Adviser, which we found a bit surprising, given that the Acropolis itself fell in at number 2. At only €5 each, we weren't going to miss it anyway. Again, a very good museum, but I still disagree with the rating. After the museum we were exhausted and trained and bussed home. We enjoy taking public transport in cities because we get a local feel. As you may have guessed, we are uninspired by Athens, and will move on tomorrow to Delphi. We have been impressed with Greece prior to Athens so it was quite a disappointment.
I just met a guy who is a tour guide for a group in an amazing tourist coach that is converted to a half coach and half motorhome and he offered us some leftovers from their dinner. We took him up on it and gave some to the French couple next to us. One lot in the frezzer and one in the fridge, we'll be right for a couple of meals now. We love the cameraderie that comes with camping.

20 May. We worked out that we were up for a bit over €110 for the 3 nights in Athens, seeing as they charge €4 a night for a baggage trailer, we thought they would do the same for the scooter trailer. They didn't, and the bill was €99, so we left on a good note. Both Tomasina and Google Maps wanted us to go back to the E75 toll road but we knew better. We opted to avoid toll roads and went on a more direct route, saving 28km and probably €20 in tolls. Not only that, the drive was spectacular. We think of Greece as being a bit on the desolate side but lush green valleys abound. Greece is also very mountainous with alpine aspects. We went through one such place today that was a ski resort.
Driving in to Delphi was amazing. Climbing up steep alpine roads and going through villages built for horse and cart made for an interesting drive. Driving through Arachove, the last village before Delphi was a treat. Two way traffic on a road that was scarcely wide enough for one way. Luck was on our side and we only encountered opposite direction vehicles at places where there was room. There were lots of places where there wasn't room. 5 years ago, that would have been a huge stress factor, but not now. More exciting than terrifying. Delphi at least had a two way system so it was much easier to negotiate. From Delphi to the campsite, 4km away was one breathtaking view after another. From our camping pitch, we can see the sea, snow capped mountains (even in May in Greece!) a cute village and hills all around. Stunning. We rode back to Delphi to try to find out a bit about what we should do but didn't get much information. It turns out there is the museum and the archeological park, similar to Dion, and we will do that tomorrow, weather permitting. We expected more, but not to be. Dinner in tonight, with the donated food from yesterday on the menu. Julie spiced it up with some fried vegies but it still fell a bit short. The rest went in the bin, including the second pack we had in the freezer. The scooter really comes in to its own in a place like this. Park anywhere and no worries about being too big! We will give it another workout tomorrow.

21 May. Chatted to the guy at reception about the best time to go to the ruins and we settled on sometime after 1500, when most of the tourist coaches would have left. The bulk of these coaches do day trips from Athens, a good two hour or more journey from here. In the meantime, we rode to the village of Arachove that we drove the motorhome through yesterday. It is a 14km ride on a winding and often steep road but it is in good condition. Going through the town on the scooter made me wonder how we got through so easily yesterday. We saw a tourist coach doing it and it was definitely not an easy task. A snap on the scooter, and we could park it too. We went to a vantage point beyond the town that we overshot in the van yesterday and got a few photos. It is a beautiful village, its mainstay being winter tourism as it is a ski resort. We had a coffee in the middle of town with the usual reaction when people find we are Australian, which is one of welcoming. We have found this all through Greece. Walked more of the town and the clouds were starting to build up as forecast. Rode back home as it was getting quite dark overhead. We had lunch and as 1500 approached, decided the forecast for tomorrow was going to be much better for doing the ruins. The wind was up with some rolling thunder. Julie decided to do some washing instead and we will do the ruins tomorrow.

22 May. An easy morning as we plan to do the ruins mid afternoon. Julie had a headache so I rode in to Delphi to try to get some Panamax but all I could get was Panadol Extra. Something worked because she was a lot better by the time we went in to the ruins. Arrived at about 1445 and the place was almost deserted. An hour earlier there would have been 500 people or more, this time there was about a dozen. We did the museum first where most of the valuable items found on the site are on display. Most pieces are from around 600BC and many in quite good condition. The problem of having all those in the museum means that on the site, there is very little. There are a few more or less complete parts, like the theatre and the stadium, but other than a few pillars, everything else is foundations and a few walls. Interesting anyway, and when in Delphi, that's what you do. The reality is that the natural beauty around Delphi dwarfs the ancient ruins and this place could be a huge success without the ruins. Having said that, people come for the ruins and I hope they find the rest a bonus. We certainly have. Dinner tonight at the campsite restaurant. We sat on the open decking with million dollar views. This place really is a treat. A standard fare Greek meal and a nice bottle of Greek wine for €24 and all is good with the world. We do like Delphi, and this campsite, besides the random lack of hot water, is a sight to behold.

23 May. Time to move on. We set our goal as Ioannina in the north west of Greece. This will be our staging post to take on Albania. It is about 330km but on winding coastal roads. The scenery was spectacular, though the driving was full on concentration. We got to Ioannina about 1530 and set up camp. We are both knackered from the drive. A very pretty campsite on the edge of the lake but the campsite doesn't quite come up to the same standard. Regardless, we are only here for one night before taking on Albania. Our research tells us that it is much better there now than 10 years ago, so our hopes are high.

24 May. We woke to the whole area shrouded in a heavy mist. The showers were 50/50, I had a hot one and Julie didn't. For some reason, hot water in Greece seems to be a lost art. Everywhere we have stayed has been hit and miss. Headed off before 1000 for Berat in Albania. Tomtom seemed to have put us on a decent road system to get to the campsite, so all was looking good. The drive through the rest of Greece was very picturesque, We got to the border and did our departure procedure from Greece, then drove 100m to the Albanian border control. Passports went through fine and we were expecting to have to buy a €49 "green card" insurance, but we were just waved through. Not sure why, but we didn't complain. We were discussing the possibility of being stopped down the road and being fined for not having one, when we saw a road block ahead. I joined the queue about 7 vehicles down when one of the police waved me to the front on the left side. Quick miss of a heartbeat until we realised that it was not us they were after. Turned out there was a cycle road race on (Tour de Albania?) and we were being held up until they passed. The problem was that the race was going the same way as us. We must have seen well over 100 police along the route, some directing traffic, most just watching. We soon found out why Albanian drivers have the reputation they have. They would overtake anywhere, even worse than the Greeks. There were times when there were more cars in the opposite lane than in the proper lane. A real eye opener. Even the cops watching didn't care in the least. The normal Albanians have only been allowed to drive since the 1990s, all other times, it was only the ruling class that could drive. That probably explains a lot. We got held up a lot by the cyclists and their support vehicles, when Tomtom eventually said, turn right, we thought what a relief. HA! The road we took started out OK, then got a bit rough, then got very rough, then turned in to a goat track, then got worse. Tomtom, with her sick sense of humour, then told us to turn right. I am not sure if it was a sheep track or an eroded gully, but there was no chance we were taking that road. We couldn't turn around either, so we stayed on the really bad sealed road in the hope it would get us back to civilisation. Eventually, it did, but only after about 50km of torture. I have some photos of the road, but the worst bits are on video from the dash cam. Getting out of first gear was a pipe dream on most of it. Finally took us 5 1/2 hours to do 180km (was longer thanks to the deviation) but if we didn't have the race, didn't listen to Tomtom, and drove right to Fier then the E73, we would have only gone over 10km of disgusting road and probably done it 2 to 3 hours quicker. Everything was stacked against us today. We gained an hour going into Albania, so when we stopped it was around 1500, instead of the 1600 Greece time. We didn't care, we got the wine out and celebrated our arrival. It was hard work driving here, not just for me but Julie too who is my lookout. We treat driving as a team effort. There was no damage to anything and the scooter didn't move a bit, so we were very thankful. The campsite here is quite nice and only €15 a night makes it good value. We have decided to stay 2 nights here and see Berat. Besides wanting to see some of Albania, and we have seen a lot already, we aren't ready for another drive tomorrow.

Albania is a country of contrasts. The main road in is very good, but any other road is terrible. We saw people riding donkeys, one old man side saddle, then every second car is a Mercedes. There seems to be no environmental rules. On one of the back roads we thought there was something wrong with the van because there was a strong smell of diesel. We stopped and checked but the smell was outside. Then we saw the oil pit. A low part of the ground just flooded with oil. Similarly, driving past a fuel storage facility, the stench was so strong. The people we have met so far have been very nice and everything is cheap. You could be excused for thinking the place was stuck in the 1950s or earlier, but then you have the relatively new side as well. The next few days could prove to be very interesting.

25 May. We changed some Euros to Albanian Lekes with reception at the campsite so we would have enough to at least pay the bus fare to town. I changed €40 for 5360 Lekes. The bus fare to Berat town, 12 km away was 100L each, just over $1 Aus. That took us to the bus terminal and we took a local bus to the Castle for 30L each. There was a long steep walk on cobblestones to the castle entrance, and admission was 100L. So cheap compared to other countries. The castle was OK, it was really a walled medieval town that has very little of the content intact but most in ruins. There is still a working town inside the walls where people eke out a modest living selling drinks, fruit and souvenirs. Had some good views from the walls over the town and the countryside, with the area surrounded by mountains. We ran into a German couple as we were leaving, they recognised us from the camp where they are staying too but we didn't recognise them. He said he recognised me because in profile I look like Clint Eastwood. I said he was a top bloke! We talked about Albania and they are half way through 6 weeks here. Managed to find a bit out about the roads between here and Shkoder, our next stop, including the best place to camp. Most fruitful meeting, The walk back down the hill was equally difficult and we went in to the town for lunch. Amazing place, the main street is right out of the 50s, with butchers shops having whole carcasses, including heads, hanging in the shops. The next street was a mall and a modern looking strip of bars, cafes and restaurants. We lunched in the mall, a big meal each with drinks, came to about A$12. Made Greece look expensive. While having lunch, the heavens opened up with thunderstorms and the rain pelted down. I think we had about 50mm in less than an hour and the place was flooded. We were walking to the bus station under umbrellas but still getting soaked and there were rivers of water to cross everywhere. We hopped on a bus to the station but that stopped after one stop because the back door wouldn't close. We abandoned that one and walked the rest of the way. Got a minibus back to the campsite after much discussion over our fare when none of us spoke the same language. They thought we were going to the busses destination of Durres about 90km away, but we were trying to tell them we only wanted to go to camping Berat. Eventually a young guy on the bus who could speak English sorted it out for us. Still pouring rain when we got back to camp. Changed into dry clothes and have wet ones hanging all over the van. Drinks time! Tomorrow, Shkoder via Durres.

26 May. We had wonderful hot showers this morning. Got a relatively early start and headed off around 0930. We have worked out that the better roads in Albania are the main roads between cities. Anything else is suspect. Planned our route via Durres and all went well. We trimmed 45 minutes off Tomtoms initial ETA without trying. It was a good drive, generally, still being gobsmacked by the Albanian drivers. We had to drive through Shkoder to get to the campsite about 10km the other side of town. The drive through the city was entertaining to say the least. I have put a video up on the website. Go to Driving through Shkoder in Albania for some fun. The pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and motorcycles, cars, trucks and busses made for a 360 degree hazard. You have to see it to believe it. It was entertaining in the motorhome because we are bigger than most other vehicles so the others tended to get out of our way. After we set up at the campsite, I took a scooter ride back to assess whether it was suitable for the two of us to go back in tomorrow. The answer was a resounding NO. A scooter has no priority. In the motorhome, it was entertaining, on the scooter it was downright scary. The campsite here is very nice with lake and mountain views in one direction and mountain views in the other. We have had some absolutely stunning campsite views on this trip. We had some rain today but not too much, with similar forecast for tomorrow. We considered the option of riding to the edge of town tomorrow and walking around, but the reality is, there is not a lot to see anyway. We are having dinner in the campsite restaurant tonight, and tomorrow we will pass through Montenegro on our way to Dubrovnik in Croatia. Well, we just had a fantastic dinner. We met up with a Swiss couple that we had met in Delphi. I didn't think I would meet someone who is not a native English speaker that would understand my sense of humour, but now I have. When we went to dinner, we got talking, they had already eaten, but we sat together while we chatted. They ended up staying until we had eaten too and had a few wines. A great night. Now we have someone besides Craig and Anja to visit in Switzerland.

27 May. We headed off around 1000 and took the road towards Podgorica in Montenegro. The road was good but the border checkpoint was inefficient. Took quite a long time to get through. They didn't seem interested in the green card insurance either so another saving for us. We were asked if we had any tobacco or alcohol and I said we had 3 or 4 bottles of wine (I didn't mention the scotch or the Baileys or the other half dozen bottles of wine) and they waved us through. From Podgorica we went towards Petrovic on the coast. We had a choice of the tunnel through the mountains with a toll, or the mountain road. I chose the mountain road, much to Julie's chagrin. It was a challenging drive, though we were following a semi trailer truck, so we didn't expect any problems. We did get a bit tired of the hairpin bends but I thought the views we got made it worthwhile. Julie will beg to differ, she just wanted it to end. If we could have stopped to enjoy the views it may have been different, but we couldn't. Finally got to Rotor, a city in Montenegro that is on a beautiful protected bay. There was even a cruise ship in the port. Took the ferry across part of the bay for €9 which was worth it to save about 100km to drive around the inlet. It was a good chance to get out and stretch the legs and have a bite to eat. About 80km further on we went through border control again, leaving Montenegro and entering Croatia. No dramas there. Got to the campsite about 8km south of Dubrovnik about 1530. A long drive for 190km, hard work. It is a nice campsite and we will stay here for a few days to see the city and generally have a break. There are many campsites all along the Croatian coast so we plan to meander up. After Dinner, Hans and Erica, the Swiss couple we met a couple of times before and who put us on to this campsite, turned up at the door. They were only staying one night and just had dinner for their 40th Wedding Anniversary, so we downed a few more drinks to celebrate.

28 May. I had bought two return ferry tickets to Dubrovnik yesterday and we took the 1030 one to the city. It was a good ride and the views are amazing. On arrival, we had no idea where to start so we just wandered. Within a few minutes we found the ticket office for the "Wall Walk" along the entire perimeter of the old city. We paid $30 each, which I thought was extortionate but as it turned out, probably worth every bit of it. What an amazing walk it was. The views in every direction are wow moments, just magnificent. Took about an hour and a half to do the 2km (roughly) walk stopping at every vantage point, of which there were more than we cared to count. There are many steps on the walk, more when you climb up every lookout tower. After the walk, we just wanted lunch and a sit down. Most of the restaurants in the old city were very expensive with exotic menus so we shared a pizza and bruschetta. Took the next ferry home as we had had enough for the day. On the way in the ferry, we passed a few hotels that were destroyed by shelling in the Balkans war. They seem to have been left as memorials but very sad looking. Later in the afternoon I scootered to the local Lidl store and restocked with their Aussie shiraz and a couple of local Sauvignon Blancs for Julie. I hope they are OK. Quiet night tonight and ride in to the city again tomorrow. The bad thing about the ferry was the walk to the park afterwards. It is 400m, all up stone steps climbing a couple of hundred feet in elevation. Dubrovnik is an amazing city and we have literally just touched the edges.

29 May. Another beautiful sunny day. We had an early lunch and rode in to Dubrovnik. Good roads and good civilised drivers made for a pleasant ride. We parked right up against the old city walls where there is parking for hundreds of motorcycles and scooters. We went inside the city and within 15 minutes, we had bought a knit shirt for me and a Christmas tree ornament for Julie, so I took them back to the scooter rather than carry them around. We then walked pretty much the rest of the city. We had planned to go to the museum but it is closed for renovations. We had an icecream and walked more outside the town near the castle and headed home. We stopped at a couple of vantage points for some photos overlooking Dubrovnik. Stunning view. Back home for a cuppa then back to Lidl for the less serious shopping, food. We have both had enough of steps with our knees complaining bitterly. Tomorrow, we will move up the coast to a little place called Krvavica, 160km away. This will be a stepping stone to Split as we are trying to do much shorter drives on our travel days while we are here. Anything over 3 hours is becoming a bit of a drag, especially with the concentration levels required.

30 May. We did the coastal drive from Dubrovnik to Krvavica in about 3 hours. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the road was good, except for a few spots where they were doing roadworks, but that was not a problem. We went through the border checkpoint for the 20km we pass through Bosnia-Herzegovina. Normally you would get checked for a green card in BH but not on this route. Tourists (foreigners) get a free ride for this short bit of the country, so we accepted it with good grace. We have been expecting some costs in that regard since we left Greece but have not had to pay a cent. Nice to have a win. Back in to Croatia for another checkpoint that took all of about a minute and we were on our way again. We got to the point where the road split to tollway or highway, and we continued on the coastal non toll road. The traffic really thinned out then and it was a pleasant drive to the campsite. The site was not as we expected, ablutions average, the sandy beach wasn't, it was pebbles, and the place didn't enamour itself with us. However, we did go for a swim in the Adriatic Sea and for me, it was the first time I have gone fully in to the sea or ocean in all of our trips to UK/Europe, so there is a first. Tomorrow, we will head to a campsite 5km south of Split.

31 May. Left Krvavica 1000 and got to Split less than an hour later. Like all the coast of Croatia, stunning views the whole way, and Tomasina wanted us to go inland to the toll road to save 6 minutes. I don't think so. We checked in and were allocated site 108, as there are many bookings for this place, even with 330 pitches. We were told if there was a preferred site we wanted, we could ask and see if it was available. 108 looked like there was very little shade but 119 opposite looked pretty good. we were told that was booked, so we settled for 108. As the afternoon wore on, it was obvious we were better off where we are, so a little win there. We went for a dip at the beach which was like blue metal but at least it was sand in the water once you get about 2m in. A lot better than the previous place where it was all rock. We will probably be here for about 5 nights so we can check out Split and have a bit of R&R as well. We will check out the park restaurant tonight.

1 June. Summer in the northern hemisphere. 60% chance of rain today, but it didn't happen. Last nights meal was good, we will go there again before we leave. This is a very good campsite. Today, we rode in to the old centre of Split. It is a UNESCO heritage site and for good reason. A lovely city with parts going back to the Roman times. Inside it is markets, mostly tourist ones and cafes and restaurants, but that seems to be the norm for most European old cities. I went up to the bell tower of the cathedral while Julie did the cathedral, crypt and baptistry. Julie wasn't up to the climb, and I was not fussed about the others. The climb up the tower tested out my fear of heights but I managed despite it. A lot of walking, as usual, and then lunch. A walk around the waterfront and back home. A lazy afternoon which we need more of. We will go back in to Split again before we leave.

2 June. A day off. The only thing we really did today was I rode to Lidl's for more wine. Pizza dinner at the campsite restaurant. We both did a lot of reading and just took it easy. We needed a day's rest and this was it.

3 June. We rode in to Split again to do some gift shopping. It is always easier the second time, knowing exactly where to go. Like most cities, scooter parking is a breeze with so many places available in the best spots. This one is as close as anyone can get to the old city. We wandered the street markets of which there were more today being Saturday. The fresh produce here is excellently presented and very cheap, though we didn't buy any this time. Back home via some standard shopping and an afternoon paddle in the sea. The beaches here are very shallow for a long way out. Some spectacular thunderstorms later in the day provided a different atmosphere and we watched from under the awning. Some rain but not too heavy. It has been forecast for a few days now so it was timely at least. Pizzas at the camp restaurant tonight. We paid our fees for the camping tonight prior to our departure tomorrow. With 330 pitches, the reception can be very busy most times.

4 June. We slept in this morning, well after 0800 before we got up. We have the reflective shades on the windscreen and one side front window because of the sun and that keeps us darker than normal. Left the campsite about 1015 and headed to Skradin via the coast, which cost us an extra 20km than the more direct route, but the visual spectacle made it worthwhile. The coast of Croatia is just amazing. Every small town is a marina and there must be many billions of dollars worth of craft at anchor at any time. Arrived at the campsite and got the last place, and this was at midday. The pitch was almost inside the restaurant and that was where we plugged in to the power. After an hour though, we were offered another pitch that was available, so we took it. Very close to the ablutions, such that it is almost an ensuite for us, but less noisy than the restaurant area where we also felt like we were in a fishbowl. We rode the 5km into Skradin and went to the national park office to find out about the Krka national park and associated waterfalls. We had been offered all day bus trip for €50 each from the campsite, but through the parks office, we get admission for under €15 and do our own walking tour. We will miss out on some of the more far flung sights, but will get all the major ones in. It will be about an 8km walk but we can do it at our own pace. If we want to do the rest, we can get a park boat trip for an extra €18 each which we can organise within the park. Either way, we are better off and not dictated to by someone else's timetable. Looking forward to it but the anti-inflammatories may be required. On the way back from the town, we bought a kilo of cherries from a street vendor for $4. Very nice large cherries too. Tonight, we will try out the campsite restaurant which gets good reviews.

5 June. We didn't end up having dinner at the restaurant last night. There is a large contingent of French campers travelling as a group and they took over the place. Much frivolity and singing. We decided to leave it to tonight. I had thought long and hard overnight as to the best way to do Krka National Park and decided we had been given a bit of inaccurate information at the centre yesterday. We rode to the Lozovac entrance to the park and managed to get a nice spot under a tree for the scooter. Paid our 110Kuna each for admission ($22) and walked the 875m on the path to get to the park itself. The path was large loose sharp rocks and quite steep, challenging in places. Once at the river and lake system, we had a 2km round walk to cover it all which included a few sets of steps that tested out my poor left knee, but otherwise very easy. The park is a myriad of lakes within the river and many many waterfalls connecting everything. I have never seen so many in one place, None were very high but beautiful. Nature at its best. We spent about 2 hours doing the walk. We had contemplated a river cruise upstream to another waterfall but that was a 4 hour trip. 2 hours too long for us, and at the end of the walk, we didn't really need to spend 4 hours in a boat to see one more. Staggered up the steep path back to the scooter and rode home. Our next stop is a similar national park called Plitvice which apparently is much bigger than this one, so maybe it was best to do this one first. A quiet afternoon with a bit of handwashing and we will try again for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, Plitvice, 189km away. Dinner was a success even if it was not what we envisaged.

6 June. We could have taken the toll road and saved 1km but we took the old highway 1 and saved the toll instead. It was winding roads through mountainous country which was very pretty, even though some parts could easily have been in Australia. It probably took us an hour longer than the toll road but we were not in a hurry. At one stage we had to stop because 2 massive trucks were coming the other way and turning off just before where we were. Shut down for 5 or 10 minutes but again, no hurry. We got to the campsite about 1230 and managed to find a reasonable pitch. We had to move once when we found our 30m power cable wouldn't reach the supply point. We have never had to move because of this before. Not a great start. As it was, it worked out OK and we got nicely set up with a drive through pitch which I always try to get with the trailer. Saves a lot of messing around. We found out more about the Plitvice national park and hopefully, everything will work out well tomorrow, weather notwithstanding. It is forcast for 55% rain. If it looks bad in the morning, we will wait another day, otherwise we will take it on. We have a sociable friend here on our pitch, a black squirrel. We have seen a couple up to now, but this one is much more game. He (or she) would climb the tree trunk only a metre away, hide behind it and peek out the side to look me right in the eye, then again from the other side. I think he was checking me out! Very cute. The only problem with where we are parked is road noise but it can't be worse than the 8 lane highway in Athens. We think we will manage.

7 June. We did manage alright. Once the van was closed up, we didn't hear the road noise, so all was good. Set the alarm for 0645 which goes against the grain, but at Plitvice, you need to get there early to beat the tourist coaches. We arrived in time to catch the 0900 bus to the top of the lakes complex as that is the best way to do the walk. Bus to the top and walk down, with a ferry ride near the bottom to connect the two sections. Not too many on the bus so that was a bonus. We chose route "H" which was 8km of walking, but all downhill. At the start, we had to walk to the first bus station and we got to see the end of our walk from the top of the ridge. Looked pretty stunning. Once we bussed to the top and started the walk, we thought it was a bit average, but as we walked further down, it got better and better. It is an amazing place with a multitude of waterfalls, most of them with multiple falls from one level. It is basically one lake falling in to another all the way down, but very few at one point, most are a dozen or more points overflowing at the same time. Makes for a greater spectacle than if it was all from one point. We did the ferry ride (like the bus, it was all included in the entrance fee) stopped for an early lunch, and walked the last section. This was the highlight but hard to describe the difference. Probably the scale was better. Took heaps of photos that will be posted later. This park has been one of the real highlights of this trip, well worthwhile. Rode back home, totally exhausted from the whole experience. We had dinner tonight at a restaurant next door which was classic Croatian. If it can't be cooked on a barbecue, it isn't real. Still good food and good value, but nothing to rave about. Tomorrow, we leave for Ljubljana, Slovenia.

8 June. We got away from Plitvice around 0930, refueled the van, cleaned the windscreen and headed off. We decided to take the longer way via the Zagreb ringroad which meant taking toll roads but the other option, though shorter, was an unknown. We preferred to go on the open road and have a chance of using the cruise control. After about an hour we stopped for a break at a layby and got waylaid by an English couple from Bath who were in the same layby. 45 minutes later, we were on our way again. Our route took us very close to Zagreb, but we had no real desire to sightsee there. Another 20km and we hit the border with Slovenia. Last time entering Slovenia from Hungary, I can't recall going through any passport control, but here we did. Even though Croatia is part of the EU, we still had to pass it. That took another 30 minutes, killing our arrival time. Finally got to the campsite in Ljubljana at 1405 to find that reception closes for a break from 1400 to 1500. The lost time on the way now took its toll. Waited for 1500 to roll around and checked in. We went to our allotted site but it was a little muddy and very noisy with a beach volleyball court next to us. We set up there anyway, but only after dropping the trailer off and going to a Thetford dealer about 6km away. Our chemical toilet had broken a couple of parts when we were in Athens and this was the first time we had a chance to get to a dealer. Bought the necessary bits (the complete internals of the cassette) and it's as good as new. I went to reception and managed to get a swap to a different pitch away from the noise (which was only going to get worse the next few nights due to functions being held close to the original site) and they were most accommodating. The new pitch (our choice) is much nicer. Lovely German neighbours who speak excellent English. Dinner in tonight and tomorrow we will visit Ljubljana. We will spend 3 nights here at this stage.

9 June. Washing day today. I set up a clothes line and Julie did a big load of washing and hung them up. We still need to do another tomorrow with the light colours and sheets. Caught the bus in to the city for a look around. The old town of Ljubljana is very pretty and quaint with the castle at the top of the peak just behind it. Like most cities, it is built on a river and this one adds to the appeal. There were market stalls everywhere and the food market was outstanding. The aromas made the mouth water. We took the funicular car to the castle, we could have walked but we have had enough of climbing over the last few days. We got a seniors discount, €14 instead of €20 for the 2 of us. The ticket included various displays and museums inside, plus access to the tower. The view from the top was good but as usual, can't really be caught on film. Back in to the old city and we had a nice wine each, Rose for Julie and a Cab Sav for me, total €4.50, from one of the stalls. To demonstrate the sort of place this is, the guy who served the wines gave them to us in proper wine glasses and asked us to bring them back when we have finished. In Berlin, a similar situation, we had to pay €3 deposit for each glass. Of course, we returned them, but we loved the whole attitude, certainly makes an impression. It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, and we were both getting quite exhausted, so we caught the bus home. We tried the local campsite restaurant for dinner. We shared a mixed meat plate for 2 which was good value at €25, but the wines and salads took that to €51. We didn't see the wine prices before we ordered and were a little surprised at the cost. It was a huge feed though, so all OK.

10 June. The bus service was not quite so regular today, being a Saturday, but we got a copy of the timetable and preferred to take bus rather than the scooter, which was still attached to the trailer. Scooter parking in Ljubljana is not as easy in most other places so we thought we would save ourselves any problems. We went straight to the markets for lunch but the food stalls were not there. We had been told Saturday was an amazing market day, but it was nowhere near as good as Friday! We still got a good cheap meal at one of the few food vans. Walked to Tivoli Park on the other side of the city (with a population of 280,000, it's not a big city) and the place was almost deserted but a very nice feature so close to the centre of town. Back to the old town where I had tried unsucessfully to find a "Ljubljana" polo shirt, so got a cap as a last resort. Julie also managed to buy another Xmas bauble so we have something to remember this place by. Bussed home again late afternoon. We really like Ljubljana, it has a very nice feel to it and the people are wonderful. Tomorrow, Austria.

11 June. We took our time packing up because it was only an hour to Villach. It was an easy drive on very good roads. We were almost tempted to stop in at Lake Bled, but didn't. The border crossing took some time but we got through and bought our vignette to use the motorways in Austria, we didn't want a repeat of last time that cost us €120. We also paid a €7.20 toll to use the tunnel, but that was fair, it was almost 8km long! We checked in at the campsite, set up, and took the scooter in to the city. Being a Sunday, it was dead, almost no one around. A fairly pretty place, but no need to go back. Ossiacher See is a tourist lake where many come from other parts of Austria and Germany for an extended break. It is not touristy as such, more a holiday destination, which is not what we really look for. Having said that, a nice place to relax for a day or so. We have a few things planned for tomorrow, but it wont be a big day. We are a little burned out and need to take it easy.

12 June. We rode in to Aldi, Lidl and Billa supermarkets this morning to do some shopping. Aldi and Lidl didn't meet our demands this time, but the Billa shop filled a few gaps. Lidl didn't even have the Aussie shiraz! Took the stock home and then I went to the other Lidl in the city and a Spar supermarket on my own. Managed to stock up with the shiraz and also got some Kellogg's cereal, something we haven't seen for a while. I have been looking for some contact glue and a scraper to take the old vignette stickers off the windscreen for a while and Spar had both. I couldn't believe my luck. After lunch we went to Burg Landskron, a ruined castle that overlooks the lake. It cost €2 to take the scooter up but that was OK, there was no way we were going to climb another hill. The ruins were nothing special but it was a very good view from the top. A quiet afternoon followed and we are both feeling better for the recovery time. Tomorrow, we head for a campsite 150km north that is supposed to have thermal pools nearby. Let's hope the nearby is within 10km.

13 June. We left Villach and headed to Pongau, 150km north. We had picked our campsite and arrived about 1300. We chose our pitch and first order of the day was to empty our grey water and reload with fresh water, not knowing how important that was going to be. I had to reverse in to the pitch to do that, then turned the van around to drive in forwards to take the best advantage of it. Julie checked the levels and we needed to go up 1 or 2 levels on the ramps at the back. Set the ramps in position, started the engine and there was a bang followed by much loud rattling. I had a fair idea what it was and after checking, found it was the main belt pulley had separated itself from the crankshaft. Among other things, this meant no alternator, no power steering and no water pump. Not good. I rang the insurance company in the UK who provide a breakdown cover, but it ceases after 60 consecutive days in the EU. We had been gone for 62. No luck there. The guy at the campsite knew someone, but after he called him, it was a negative. I jumped on the scooter and rode down the hill and the first place I saw was a Kia dealer. I knew they wouldn't fix it but they might know who could. Lo and behold, despite google's lack of knowledge, there was a Ford dealer (the van is on a Ford Transit chassis) less than a km from there. I rode to them and explained our problem, complete with a photo of the disintegrated pulley, and they said they could fix it tomorrow but would need the van in the workshop. The quote for the work was €740, which is not cheap, but that's the price you pay. As it is, the Ford people here have been so good, bending over backwards to help us. I did make it known that we were Australian which always helps. We came to an arrangement where they organised a tow for the van to their yard and we could stay in it overnight, power supplied, even though that took 3 extension cords because we had left our own power cable in the tow truck! The tow truck guy also took the trailer on a second trip for no extra (that's when we left the cable in his truck). The tow cost €135 and I added a €5 tip for the trailer. We did get the cable back around 1930, so all good. We could not find anywhere close to go for dinner, so we had a home cooked one. Hopefully the trains and cars and trucks and all the other noise making vehicles will quieten down tonight so we can get a fair sleep.

14 June. I slept fine, but Julie didn't, mainly because we were in a small carpark, exposed, not to mention the noisy trains and traffic. We got up by 0700, not quite knowing when they would want the van for the repairs. It was a bit after 0800 that we left them the keys and headed off on the scooter to entertain ourselves. The advantage of secondary transport. They expected the work to be completed between 1100 and 1200. We went for a ride to St Johann where the other campsite was, in case we wanted to stay another night and had a walk around the small town. The bakery was open so we had a croissant each to supplement our cereal only breakfast. We then rode to Alpendorf about 2 km away which is an alpine resort that has a cable car that goes to the top of the mountain. We thought if the price was right we might take it. We rode through the town first and I followed the road up as far as we could which was probably 1000 feet above the town anyway. The views were stunning. Sadly, the vistas that we have had here simply can't be caught on a photo, they don't do it any justice. Austria on this trip has been a spectacle to rival Switzerland, and that's saying something. Everywhere you look, it is awesome. Mountains, valleys, forests, all of it just beautiful. We rode back to the terminal for the cable car and they wanted €23.50 each for a return ticket. That's about $70 for the 2 of us. Having already seen the view, we declined. Of course the cost of the van repairs did colour our decision but it probably would have been the same without it. Went back past the Ford dealers and the poor van was sitting high up on the hoist, looking like a beached whale. We kept going into the town centre and had morning tea at a cafe, followed by a walk through town to kill a bit of time. Around 1100, we went back to Ford to check on the status and they were all but finished, just needed a road test. We used that time to get the scooter up on the trailer and be ready to move. These people have been seriously generous to us and have made what could have been a small disaster seem like a walk in the park. It helped that the cost was €50 under the quote. The whole event has been relatively stress free. We set off at 1130 and had decided to go to Berchtesgaden in Germany, home of Hitler's Eagles Nest. We came here 3 years ago but the weather was terrible so we didn't see anything, or stay more than an hour! We checked in at the campsite and set up. After lunch, we rode into Berchtesgaden to the town centre which is a very delightful Bavarian style. Spent a couple of hours there, though we will go back later. At this stage, we were both rather tired from a long two days so we went home and put our feet up. Tomorrow, we will try to do the Eagles Nest, the forecast looks reasonable. Photos will come later, our data is somewhat patchy here so it may be a few days before I get to upload them.

15 June. We got a relatively early start to the day and took the scooter to find the carpark for going up to the Eagles Nest. Going through Berchtesgaden, there was a logjam in the traffic so I checked Google Maps and worked out a diversion. That was fine except we ended up going the wrong way down one way streets and riding (very slowly) through a couple of pedestrian malls. I knew where we wanted to go, just couldn't get there legally. There was a policeman at the end of the last mall but he didn't give us a second look. Finally made it back on the main road and found the B319 that goes to the carpark. The poor scooter, we were at high altitude (4000 ft or so) so it didn't have a lot of air to breathe, and the road was incredibly steep. Without traffic, we topped out at 30kph, with traffic, we overheated to the point we could smell it when we stopped. We bought the tickets, €29.50 for the two of us which included the bus ride to the top and the elevator entry to the restaurant level, good value really. There are still higher places once you get there though. The bus ride up was amazing, very steep and narrow, even if we could have ridden up ourselves, the scooter would not have made it. 6,200ft at the Nest level. The view on the way up was superb, only to be surpassed by the view when we got to the top. Fortunately, we could see the Nest from the approach road so we knew it was in the clear, not a common event here. We visited Berchtesgaden in 2014, but the weather was such that the valley was in cloud with rain, there was no way we would see anything from the top. Then, with no improvement forecast, we didn't even stay a night but moved on to Salzburg. We have revisited this place with the main aim to go to the top of the Nest. We were not disappointed. No wonder Hitler was happy to be there. The views are nothing short of spectacular but like these sorts of places, photos will never do it justice. Despite the number of people actually on the summit, it never felt crowded which surprised us. We very much enjoyed the visit, put it on your bucket list if you haven't been. Bussed back to the starting point and rode back to Berchtesgaden for lunch and the place was deserted. Today is Corpus Christi Day in Germany, a Catholic based public holiday, so most things were closed. If this had been home, the place would have been crowded and everything open, but not here. Back to camp for a quiet afternoon. We are still feeling the effects of the ups and downs of the last few days.

16 June. Thunderstorms overnight disturbed our sleep a bit. The valleys here echo the thunder and each roll seemed to last about 15 seconds, very loud. Lots of rain, quite heavy at times. When we got up, it was still raining constantly. The cloud was below the mountain tops where we are, so the Eagles Nest would have definitely been in cloud. We were thrilled to have done it yesterday. We thought the day would be a write off but the rain stopped, despite the heavy low overcast having settled in. At lunchtime we rode back in to Berchtesgaden, it's such a wonderful town. I had a haircut and Julie did some souvenir hunting. Rode home via Aldi to top up the stock in the van. It's been an easy day which is good. We have a few plans for tomorrow depending on the weather. This whole region, while quite small and most places easily accessible on the scooter, it offers so much. We may well be here a few more days yet.

17 June. It was very windy last night and I had to get up sometime in the wee small hours to retighten the awning, it was flapping precariously in the wind. The morning was not wet but looked bleak. The forecast was 47% rain which doesn't mean a lot. We set off about 1000 to Wimbachklamm Gorge about 15km away. It was a good ride with no rain, smooth roads and almost no traffic. The gorge is not overly long but is very well served with wooden walkways along the entire length. The water was roaring through the gorge, made a hell of a racket but it was somehow peaceful watching it. We had to climb a steep hill on a paved road which was no hardship and it was not too far to walk to the gorge. A very pleasant site to visit. Rode to Lidl's at Berchtesgaden for a bit of shopping then home for lunch. Didn't feel up for much afterwards but we did go to the local shopping centre (something that you don't see much here) and found a hardware store like a small Bunnings. Roamed the aisles wondering where this place was when we needed them. Bought a couple of plastic storage trays for my odds and ends cupboard where I can never find anything, then went next door and got some Kellogs Cornflakes (try buying them at Lidl or Aldi!) and some sugar. Went home and I sorted out one half of my cupboard before I went back and bought a couple more trays. Now I can find things. Dinner in again tonight, there are no restaurants, or any eating places within walking distance. We are contemplating tomorrow. We may go to Konigssee if the weather is good, otherwise we may pack up and go to Innsbruck. We will make a decision in the morning.

18 June. Decision made, we are off to Innsbruck. We could not check out before 1000, being a Sunday, reception is not open until then. That doesn't make a lot of difference to us as we are rarely ready to go before then anyway. As it was, we checked out at 1000 on the knocker. We took the autobahn towards Munich then turned off towards Innsbruck. The drive on the Munich bound road was terrible. It was constantly changing from 100kph to a first gear crawl and back again, with no apparent reason to be seen. We lost about an hour of the expected time to be taken stuck in traffic. Once we got on the Innsbruck road, we got a much better run. We got to the campsite and checked in, chose a suitable pitch and set up. We both got an "Innsbruck Welcome Card" for no charge which gives us free bus travel between the campsite and Innsbruck as well as much more, including free return cable car rides at 4 different locations, pretty impressive when you consider that in Pongau, they wanted €27.50 each for one return cable car ride. We are paying €20.50 a night to stay here. Great value. One of the things with this campsite that gets rave reviews is the ablutions. We now know why, though we haven't actually had a shower yet, they are amazing. As close to perfect for a campsite as you could expect. Even washing the dishes was a delight! The views from here are pretty spectacular too, so nothing to complain about. Looking at what Innsbruck has to offer, we may well be here for up to 4 or 5 days.

19 June. Well, the showers did not disappoint. They are excellent. Not only well planned but very well executed too. We took the bus in to Innsbruck centre, getting the 1020 departure. They only run every hour so it requires a bit of planning at both ends. Now we know the way though, the scooter will be fine. We can avoid the motorways and it is still an easy trip. It took a while to find the old town but once we did, it was worth the effort. As most would know, we always hunt out the old towns which almost every city has. Sure, they are generally touristy, but they are also the heart and soul of the history of the city. Innsbruck is no exception. Very pretty with a great feel about it. We grabbed a cheap lunch and Julie wanted to see the Hofkirche Museum, but I wasn't too fussed, I just wanted to sit down! She went herself and enjoyed it so it wasn't a wasted effort. Texted me when she got out, the advantage of the roaming we have on the phones. Stopped at a bar for a glass of wine and headed back to the bus station to get the ride home. It was around 30C at 3pm and quite steamy so it was nice to stop about then. Some hand washing and otherwise taking it easy was the order of the afternoon.

20 June. We set out late morning for Mutters and the cable car to part way up the mountain. This was included in our free "Innsbruck Welcome Card" and seeing it was only 3km away, we had no excuse not to do it. We had a slight deviation to take as there was a Red Bull motocross event being set up at the base of the cable car run. That meant we had to park at the swimming pool and walk, rather than ride right to the cable car station. Quite an amazing setup for the event. I am not sure, but would not be surprised if it is an international event. The cable car ride was OK, but I was pleasantly surprised that we went through the turnstyle and just walked ourselves on to the next available car with no one to guide us. Not that we needed it, but most other places, there would be someone to hold our hands as we got on. The view from the top station would have been good if there was not so much haze but was not too bad either. Stayed about 10 minutes at the top and rode the cable back down. We went back home for lunch then decided to go to the Panoramarunde. If you believe the publicity on the pamphlet, it is an elevated walk of 2.2km around the mountain that houses the Winter Olympic Ski Jump Tower. As it turned out, we didn't find the elevated walk, though we did walk quite a bit of the Panoramarunde. We decided that seeing as there was no entry fee for this walk, that the elevated part shown in the pamphlet would be a very small part of it. Rode back home and went to the camp restaurant for dinner. Julie had grilled turkey and I had a seafood pizza, both of which were very good, as were the local wines. On the walk back to the van, we crossed the causeway across the lake and there were hundreds of small frogs in the water and on the paths. So many, you could not walk on the path without squashing one, no matter how hard you try not to. They are very small, not much bigger than a fly, quite an interesting natural occurrence. We did meet a British couple here today that we had shared a table with for dinner in Krka, Croatia. Small world, and this trip has been much smaller than usual. We have met up with the same people more than once on about 5 occasions.

21 June. In the morning I took the scooter to Vols, an outer suburb of Innsbruck but quite close to where we are camped. They have a Lidl there. I did the shopping and filled the remaining space on the scooter with wine. At least they had the Aussie Shiraz in stock, which the last one didn't. The biggest problem we have here is finding a good white wine for Julie. Even when I lash out and buy her a NZ Sauvignon Blanc, it may turn out to be pretty ordinary. Because of this, Julie has tried almost every white wine made in whatever host country we happen to be in. So far the Austrian whites have been quite good. We had lunch, lazed around a bit, then went to the Ski Jump. We took the funicular railway then the elevator to the top. Fantastic view from the top. We could see the elevated walkway from the top and it was about 50m long and not in a panoramic place, being at the back of the mountain. Glad we didn't bother breaking our knees trying to find it. We then did the Museum, thinking it was to do with the Olympics, but it was Tirolian history. Tirol being the region where Innsbruck lies. It was very good, with an amazing 360 degree painting of the battle of 1810 (or thereabouts). Back home for dinner in. Tomorrow, we head to Zugspitze in Germany. This campsite has been an absolute delight. Hopefully, Julie will forget how good it was so I don't have to renovate the ensuite again!

22 June. We left Natters a little after 1000 and drove to Grainau. A very pretty drive, partially spoilt by being stuck behind a concrete truck going up the mountain just out of Innsbruck. The speed he was doing was too slow for me to stay in second gear, but a little too fast to be comfortable in first. Made the journey up a little painful, not to mention slow. Fortunately, we were in no particular hurry because todays drive was only 70km. We got to the campsite, where we stayed 3 years ago, around noon and set up. The weather was good so after lunch, we rode in to Eibsee where the base of the Zugspitze is. The cable car was not in operation which we already knew as they are building a new one. They do have an alternative though with a cog train that goes very close to the top, 4800m which is through a tunnel. Quite an engineering marvel really. From the cog train station, there was a cable car to the summit. We spent a bit of time at the lower level where there is a glacier of sorts but not what we hope to find in Norway when we get there. A lot of old snow around, I don't think it has snowed on the top for at least a week. Took the cable car to the top, only climbing about 500ft, so the cog train did an outstanding job. To give some relativity, the campsite, from where we can see the summit, is 2300ft elevation. The summit is 9700ft. That's a big climb. With the adiabatic lapse rate (go on, google it), the camp temperature of 30C was only 14C at the top. Quite cool but didn't really feel cold. We did go armed with jackets anyway. There is a lot of construction going on at the top, mainly associated with the new cable car, but there were plenty of good vantage points for the view. We knew the weather when we left the campsite was clear which was why we went. As the afternoon wore on, the cloud began to form and it wasn't going to be long before the summit was in cloud. There was already a lot below summit level. We managed to do all we wanted and worked our way back to Eibsee station. It was much warmer there. Rode back to camp and inside the van was very much warmer. Sitting outside in the shade is the order of the afternoon. Julie walked over the road to the Aldi store and did some shopping, one of which was dinner for tonight. I hope the fish turns out OK. We could leave tomorrow, as the Zugspitze was the main reason for returning here but decided we would stay another day and check out a couple of the villages here. Besides that, we don't like only staying one night unless we are in transit, it makes everything feel too rushed.
We are thrilled to be here. The main reason for coming this way was to do the things we missed out on in 2014, they being Berchtesgaden/Eagles Nest and Zugspitze. Both of these we could not do due to the inclement weather. This time we had total success. Very satisfying.

23 June. Cloudy today, so we are very pleased to have done Zugspitze yesterday. We actually slept in until 0830 this morning, most unusual lately. Julie is coming down with a cold so time to go easy. We rode in to Eibsee to visit the village, only to find there isn't one. It is only a few hotels and restaurants, there doesn't appear to be any residential. We did walk around part of the lake though, but the wind was up and it was a bit choppy. Looked much better from higher up the mountain. While we were walking around the lake, I noticed some movement in the rocks on the shore. It was a yellow headed snake (not its real name, just its appearance) and we tracked it as it slithered from rock to rock. Got a photo using Julie's camera with the big zoom. It went in to the water and started swimming. There was a group of 3 young English girls all ready to climb down the 2 metres to get to the water. I called them over and showed them the snake swimming. That ruined their day! We walked back to the boat rental place and I thought I would ask someone there what this snake was. As I walked in, an American woman walked up to me and said she wanted a boat and had €20 in her hand. I took the 20, told her to take any one she wanted and started to run. I then gave it back and told her I didn't work there, which their group found very funny. Just as well I do these things with a smile on my face. While we were waiting for someone who really does work there, I showed them the photo of the snake. Almost ruined their day too. Apparently, it is what they call a Mountain Snake and is quite harmless and grows to about 3m. Ours was only about 1m, so he said it was a baby. All good fun. Rode through Grainau, a village closer to our campsite which was very pretty, but decided to buy stuff for lunch from Aldi. A quiet afternoon and a home cooked pork dinner. Thunderstorms and a bit of rain now. Moving on tomorrow.

24 June. Last night, we saw all the fires on the mountains which we found was part of some sort of summer solstice ritual. Well done, with a few crucifixes done in fires. Looked good. We planned to follow the "Romantic Road" even if we intended to do it in the opposite direction to the recommended way. The normal way terminates at Neuschwanstein Castle, but having already been there, we decided to pick it up a little further on. As it turned out, we were following more major roads than the route takes, but I think the route is aimed at people on bicycles or in open sports cars, and staying in hotels. It was a nice scenic drive anyway. We aimed for Augsburg about 150km away. We had read that the reception closes between 1300 and 1500, which is a nuisance time, so we tried to get there earlier. We did that, arriving at 1204 to find they closed from 1200 to 1400. Luckily, the guy was just getting in to his car so I put on my best "pleeeaaase" face and he checked us in. Nice campsite next to a lake used by many locals as a swimming spot. We got a map of the town from reception earlier and decided to check it out. A nice old town, nothing special, but very pleasant all the same. Tomorrow, we will move on to Rothenburg.

25 June. Had everything prepared for a quick getaway, scooter up, trailer on, awning never put out. One section of the road was closed, but with our limited knowledge of German, we found out about by arriving at the dead end. Tomtom kept telling us to turn around when we backtracked until I managed to work out how to tell it the road was blocked. We then got to see lots more small villages which was better than the main road would have given us. Stopped for lunch on the way and arrived at the campsite at 1300, hoping they didn't close like the previous one. Turns out, they close 1200 to 1300, so our timing was impeccable. Rothenburg is a walled city that we will check out tomorrow.

26 June. We went in to Rothenburg expecting it to be quite nice. We were pleasantly surprised to find it is wonderful. We spent quite a few hours walking around the old town which is big enough that the only time we saw the walls was when we entered. The feel of the place is so good. We would have to say it is one of the most attractive old cities we have been to, and that's a big call. I can't understand why this place is not so famous that it should be on everyones bucket list. They have some incredible shops, the most outstanding being the Christmas shop. Julie was like a kid in a lolly shop! We had lunch in town with traditional German food of pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce. Pretty darn good, made more entertaining by the Scottish waitress. An added bonus was that there is an American group, well, many groups really, that are performing here, under the banner of American Ambassadors of Music. They range from bands to choirs. We met a couple that were in the choir, last European performance before leaving for home tomorrow. We stayed for the performance of the Kansas band in the main square and what a venue. A good show but we were in the sun and didn't stay until the end. Julie is not feeling great at the moment, coming down with a cold, so we called it quits then. We will stay another night here and spend some more time in the city tomorrow. It is only 4 minutes away on the scooter. If we still have more to do, we will stay another day again. This place is worth spending time on, we are both so impressed. After the lunch, we are only having a light dinner at home.

27 June. It rained overnight quite steadily. In the morning I realised that the skylight in the ensuite was as wide open as it goes. Fortunately, it is right over the top of the shower area, so a bit of water was no big deal, and I cleaned it up in no time. Still raining during breakfast but abating fast and by the time we were ready to go back in to the town, it was fine. The forecast was for rain all day so we went prepared anyway. We walked most of the walls in Rothenburg which was quite a way. I would estimate there is probably between 6 and 8 km of walls, they seem to go forever. Unlike many walled cities, there was no charge to walk them, the only charge being €1.50 each to go up the only accessible tower on the wall of the 42 that exist. We did the climb and didn't feel ripped off. Rothenburg is still a fully working town with people living and working inside the walls. It has such a great feeling about and so much character. We had lunch in the town and walked what seemed forever around the town and the gardens. Rode home about 1500 for afternoon tea. I rode back in to the newer town to fill the scooter with fuel and do a small shop. Dinner in again and tomorrow we will go to Wurzburg. That will finish the Romantic Road. I have changed our crossing date for the channel, bringing it forward by 2 days to the 9th July, which is now only 12 days away.

28 June. I've done some damage to my left knee, hopefully not too bad, but I'll need to take it easy on it, especially on stairs. It is OK for walking, so let's hope it doesn't get so bad I can't use the clutch! We had lots of rain last night and it kept up during shower and breakfast. By the time it came to leave, it was clearing up. Having done the basic tasks like putting the scooter up and the trailer attached, it didn't hinder our departure too much. We only had about 70km to do today so it was not a big task. Refuelled the van in Rothenburg as we left and arrived at the campsite outside Wurzburg about 1110. Interesting park, the showers are €1 each on top of the €19 a night and the showers themselves are a little strange. Only a door on the centre of the 3 in each block, the others having partitions that don't really give any privacy at all. We haven't seen any quite like this before. Tomorrow morning will see how it works. The campsite is on the banks of the Main River which has water traffic similar, though not as busy, as the Rhine. About 1300, the heavens opened and it poured like we have not seen so far on this trip. Lasted about 30 minutes and everything was flooded, but despite the ground being a muddy texture, it dried out within a couple of hours of the rain stopping. We will visit the town of Wurzburg tomorrow and probably move on Friday to Koblenz, on the Rhine.

29 June. It started raining in the middle of the night and didn't stop. Showers and breakfast, and it still hadn't stopped. There was no way we were going to get a break in the weather to go in to Wurzburg. We packed up, including putting the scooter on the trailer, even though we didn't use it. We got away well before 1000 and even though it was 235km to Koblenz, we got there by 1245. The first half of the drive was hard work, constant rain and the spray of a million vehicles made it necessary to be 100% alert. With the frequent interruptions of roadworks, it became quite a chore, lessened by watching the traffic in the opposite direction in gridlock for many kms. We definitely had the better of the two directions to be travelling in. We got to Koblenz, which we have been to before, but wanted to see again. The campsite is among the more expensive we have stayed in, but despite that, we still paid the extra €4.30 per night to get a riverside pitch. Watching the world go by on the Rhine is something quite special. After setting up and taking an hour off, we caught the little boat across the Moselle River to the main town of Koblenz and had a good walk around. It is a lovely place, very untouristy, despite the throng of tourists that pass through on river cruises. It has a good feel about it and we find it very relaxing. We took in a drink while it rained for about 10 minutes then wended our way back to the river bank where we caught the little ferry back to the campsite. Dinner at the camp restaurant was very satisfactory (I am in love with curry wursts) and back home. We have a full day here tomorrow before we move on.

30 June. A cooler day today. We had breakfast and sat outside the van watching the river traffic go by. We are both under the weather in one way or another. Julie with her cold and me with my knee playing up. Around noon we took the boat to the town. I have wanted to get some spare keys cut for a while and found a Mister Minit in Koblenz. We went there, but they didn't have the right blanks. They put us on to another one just across the road who could do it though. They wanted 30 minutes to do it so we went back in to the old town where there is a bratwurst place that do the curry ones, and very cheap too. A local guy saw us checking it out and said they have the best in Koblenz, so were got the curried wurst with a bread roll for €1.80 each. What a bargain. Chatted with the local guy while he was having his lunch on the next table which was interesting for both parties. I went back to get the keys while Julie did some window shopping, all good on that front. Wandered around the town a bit longer and had afternoon tea, then a bit of shopping and the boat back. We considered our options for where to go tomorrow and after comparing distances with attractions and facilities (specifically campsites), we are going to go to Maastricht. It is only 180km and motorway for most of it so it should be an easy drive. That will put us within striking distance of Brussels and then Brugge before we need to go to Dunkirk.

1 July. It was a light constant rain this morning. Not enough to warrant an umbrella to go to the showers, but constant none the less. We got away before 1000 which is always a good thing. The drive was pretty good, motorways vitually the whole way. The rain persisted, at one stage, so heavy we had to slow down to under 80kph. The campsite at Berg, just out of Maastricht, is very nice, complete with heated indoor swimming pool. The rain was still set in, though at times it became a drizzle and mist. We decided to write off the rest of the day. Vegged out for the afternoon and for dinner, we tried the snack bar at the campsite. It is basically deep fried food but with an interesting array of foods, including horse sausages. I suggested Julie might try some but she said "Neigh"! It was a decent feed. We are entertaining neighbours tonight who are interested in finding out about Australia. Hopefully, we can be helpful. Tomorrow, we want to do some sightseeing, let's just hope the weather is on our side. It is forecast to be better than today. We met a Dutch couple who are next to us, Hans and Marina, who we spent the evening with after dinner. It was a great night, lots of stories and drinks.

2 July. It was still looking suspect with the weather. Overcast and cool, but we took the plunge and rode in to Maastricht. Interesting ride, we followed the signs to Centrum (town centre) that took us around the city and in from the opposite side. Turned a 7km ride into something quite a bit longer. It is a pretty town, picturesque without being photogenic. The main square was closed off in preparation of Andre Rieu playing 10 concerts there over the next 3 weeks. That made it hard to get any decent photos of a lot of the old town. Being Sunday, it wasn't busy and most shops only opened at midday. We stayed for a late morning tea in one of the squares, followed by an apple and a banana doughnut from the markets. Walked across one of the bridges to the opposite side of the river where there was a clothing market on. Looked like an outdoor Good Sammy's shop! Back over another bridge and checked out the remaining parts of the old town wall, then asked Google Maps the best way home. That was much quicker and easier than the ride in. We intended staying home for lunch then going to Valkenburg but the weather closed in, so we are staying another night and will do that tomorrow. Took it easy in the aftenoon and then another session with Hans and Marina after dinner. All good fun. Showed Hans how to put Lat and Long coordinates into his Tomtom, so that made his night!

3 July. Woke to a beautiful blue sky this morning, hopefully a portent for a good day. About 1130 we rode to Valkenburg, a mere 5km away and impossible to get lost. Parked the scooter and walked up to the Gemeentegrot Caves. These caves are really limestone mines but have grown over the millennia to have about 250km of tunnels. We arrived there at 1155 and the next tour was at 1200, so Julie bought tickets while I went back to get our jackets from the scooter. We did the train ride through them and listened to the Dutch commentary, not understanding a word. It was interesting anyway and wasn't expensive. It would have been nice to have an English commentary but we survived. After the train ride, we went to the light and sound show in another section of the mine. The rest of the people in our group stayed about 5 minutes, but as soon as they left, the show got a lot better. We stayed for about 40 minutes and very much enjoyed it, especially being all on our own. From there to lunch, alfresco on the main street. I have not seen so many restaurants and cafes in such a small area as this place except maybe Montmartre in Paris. Good lunch then Julie did the castle ruins while I sat it out. My knee is ready to pack it in and I don't want to stress it on climbing. After that, we did some shopping and headed home, just as the clouds were gathering in a threatening manner. We got home dry so that was a bonus. Tomorrow, Brussels.

4 July. We set out from Maastricht to Brussels and had a pretty good run. We arived at the campsite out of Brussels and they were closed for the next two hours. Having seen Brussels in the distance on the drive in, we decided that was enough reason to add to waiting another two hours, that we gave it the flick and headed to Brugge. We arrived and checked in to Brugge earlier than we could have at Brussels. We still can't understand why someone would run a business that closes at crirical times. They didn't get our business, but I wonder if they care? Anyway, we have been to Brugge before in 2014 and had very fond memories of it, so we were happy to go back again. We set up camp and rode in to the old city. It is so good, beautiful but also with a wonderful atmosphere. No wonder we wanted to come back again. We spent a couple of hours there and headed home, there is all day tomorrow. We have now booked in to Ribs and Beer, a restaurant that Hayley recommended last trip, and one we enjoyed, for tomorrow night. Should be good.

5 July. We went in to Brugge late morning and wandered around the town. It is good to be able to just renew our acquaintance with Brugge, without feeling the need to rush around and do the tourist stuff, having done that last time. We did some shopping, well, Julie did, and then had a Belgian Waffle for a light lunch. We went back to the camp for a few hours, having a 6pm booking for Ribs and Beer. Rode in to town and got to the restaurant 8 minutes early. The food was as good as we remembered it from 3 years ago. Some of the best ribs you can get anywhere. I snuck in one glass of red figuring that wouldn't impede me on the scooter. We were out in an hour, fully fed, so the ride home was still in sunshine. Doesn't get dark here until well after 10pm. It has been a good day. We have just considered our options from now. We need to be in Dunkirk on Saturday 8th, so we have 2 days to kill. We looked at a coastal site but it didn't read well. In the end, we are now going to stay here in Brugge until we need to leave for Dunkirk, which is only 70km away. That means 2 extra nights here. Couldn't think of a better place to kill a couple of days.

6 July. We slept in, what a bonus. Late morning we went to Carrefours supermarket a 5 minute walk away. A bit of shopping and back home. I offered Julie the option to go in to Brugge (on the scooter of course) and I would come back and pick her up when she has finished every shop in Brugge. It took a while, but she decided to do what I was doing, and that is to take it easy. Have a day off. So that's what we did. Having said that, Julie went back to Carrefours in the afternoon to buy one more thing and came back with four. We met a Swedish couple opposite us and swapped a few stories. Like all things with meeting other people, we learned a bit more of what to do and what to expect. Now it is raining, thunderstorms, lots of lightening too. Tomorrow is forecast to be fine. Fingers crossed. Today has been a wonderful relaxation, definitely needed by both of us. Spent a bit more time with Michael and Christina (the Swedes) after dinner and we have someone to call in on in Gothenburg next year!

7 July. We are very much on the wind down now. We went into the town about 1100 and Julie went shopping while I wandered the streets. Brugge is just so beautiful. Where ever you look, it is spectacular. Even having been here twice, it is still a place we could come back to. It helps that the campsite is only 5 minutes from the middle of the old town on the scooter. We had a light lunch at one of the food stalls in the main square, did more walking around and saying lots of "wow". It really is a great place. Rode back to camp and took it easy for the rest of the afternoon. Julie walked to Carrefours to get something for dinner. Pleasant night in, tomorrow, we head to Dunkirk. We can't arrive before 1400 but have to leave here by 1200. It is less than a one hour drive, so we will head to Ostend and wander down the coast. We are both looking forward to getting home now. This has been a wonderful trip but longer than we would have preferred.

8 July. We got a late check out at 1300 today. The trip to Dunkirk is about an hour and we can't check in until 1400. It seemed the best option. We did a small amount of shopping and generally took it easy then finally departed at 1255. We arrived at the campsite in Dunkirk at 1404, couldn't have timed it better. We have stayed at this campsite before, 2 years ago, but in early November when it was deserted. Now it is packed, and it is huge, over 400 pitches at a guess. Our allotted pitch is as far from the ablution block as you can get, and for the first time this trip we have the classic French ablutions of no seat and no paper. Fortunately it only cost €14.66, the cheapest site this year, and we are only staying one night. We need to leave at 0800 tomorrow to allow ourselves enough time to get through passport control and the other rigmarole for our 1000 departure. With summer time here, it wont get dark until nearly 2300 and that's usually when the noise of kids in the playground starts to wind down. Hopefully it wont be that late tonight.

9 July. We did get a good nights sleep and woke before the alarm at 0630. Quick shower and breakfast and we were on our way before 0800. Only 28km to the port but it still took over 30 minutes. We have decided that if we come from the same direction again, we will get a later ferry and go straight from Brugge to Calais or Dunkirk. We had a first going through security today. We had a border control guy (or police, hard to tell) inspect out motorhome armed with a sub machine gun. Inside, he asked Julie to open the ensuite door while he had the weapon raised. I thought of asking for a photo but thought that may not have gone down well. Our van was checked by 2 different security checkpoints, unlike the none that usually happens and they were all very pleasant about it. The ferry ride was smooth as silk and immaculately organised as usual. We gained an hour crossing the channel, winding the clock back to UK summer time. We had some time to kill before we could arrive at the campsite just out of Folkstone and we had planned to get our van washed in the middle of town anyway, so we drove there and they were open for business. This time, I asked for the roof to be done and waxed as well. They quoted the same £25 as last time without the roof and wax, so I thought that was pretty good. The guy came inside, climbed up through one of the sun roof hatches on to the roof. I didn't know it could take the weight, but apparently it can, he didn't fall through. He took before and after photos on his phone but I didn't need the photos to see it. The filth that came off the roof, unwashed for 2 years, was amazing. The photos simply confirmed it. The team did a fantastic job and I gave them £30. They deserved it. They should also remember us next time! From there we went to Sainsburys supermarket and bought some more Ibuprofin to bring home. Arrived at the campsite, set up, and then did a bit more cleaning around the hatches and a couple of small maintenance jobs. Sat back later, both of us feeling decidedly relaxed. Getting the van clean and having more time to do the rest of the shut down on the van has taken a lot of worry off our shoulders. We will dine out at the Black Horse pub tonight and use their Wifi because the camp here has limited or no coverage of mobile data.

10 July. We took our time leaving the campsite as it is less than 2 hours to Theobalds Park, our next destination. This is where we go to do the final clean of the van and washing. We went to a caravan parts shop not far from the campsite near Folkestone to get some bits and pieces but they were closed on Mondays. Kept going and got to Theobalds at 1300, just as they were opening to accept arrivals. We got our preferred pitch, close to the ablutions and laundry. The drive on the M20 and M25 was among the best we have had, plenty of traffic but no holdups. I collected the parcel I had sent to me of a heavy duty scooter cover which will save us a lot of time rather than trying to cover it with flat tarps. Now comes the tedious part of cleaning up and sorting everything that stays or goes. At least we have plenty of time to play with so no panic. We went online today and bought tickets for "Bat out of Hell" musical on Saturday night.

11 July. Scootered in to Sainsburys in Enfield and bought a few more little things, like a couple of new mugs, some sponges and detergent. The rest of the day spent cleaning the van. Nothing exciting to report but that's a good thing at this stage.

12 July. Full day of cleaning and washing, though no great effort as there was plenty of time. We had everything completed that could be done and went to the Pied Bull for dinner. This pub is as local as we can get here, about a 12 minute walk away.

13 July. Julie did the final wash of the bedding and towels. Once that was done, we used the vaccuum bags to seal the bedding and pillows. I had put the scooter up yesterday and removed the battery. We also fitted the new cover to it before the final trip. Drove to Peter and Margaret's and dropped off our luggage then went to Cranhams. We had been assigned another new pitch which was done especially for us so we had enough length to fit the trailer. Neil, the guy who repositioned us, knows our circumstance, and didn't want the scooter where it was before anyway. We saw that as a win win. Storing the van took very little time and we got to do all the final bits ourselves so we know exactly what has been done. Paul, the guy we originally bought the van through, gave us a lift to Upminster station. We trained to Buckhurst Hill and couldn't tag off with our Oyster cards because of a power failure. Peter picked us up and we had a pleasant afternoon in the garden, followed by a great dinner.

14 July. We all walked to the Owl pub in Epping Forest for lunch. It is over 8km for the round trip so we worked up an appetite and a thirst. Good lunch too. For dinner we went to the local Indian restaurant that we tend to frequent each year and were not disappointed.

15 July. Another great lunch and then Peter and Margaret gave us a lift to Woodford station, because there are no stairs there, unlike Buckhurst Hill. With 2 heavy suitcases, stairs are not fun. Took the central line to Marble Arch, where there ARE stairs, 3 sets in fact. I managed to cope getting them up without stressing the knee so all was good. Checked in to the Victory Services Club and got a room at the end of the 6th floor. A bit different to normal, feels a lot bigger, which it is, but not as much furniture in it. All good anyway. The bathroom is much bigger than normal. I went back to Marble Arch station and managed to get our unresolved trip (the one we couldn't tag out on) all sorted, so one less thing to worry about. We went to Leicester Square and had a light dinner prior to going to the London Coliseum for "Bat Out of Hell". Really enjoyed the show, the story was a little shallow but the performances were amazing. They even slipped in a Celine Dion song (It's all coming back to me) which the lead female sang live (obviously) and sounded as good if not better than Celine. The whole show was so charged with energy, it was excellent.

16 July. Classic VSC breakfast. Love it. We did a bit of unsucessful shopping late morning and retired to the room. Watching the men's final of Wimbledon. I did our check in for our flight home and the Dubai to Perth leg we have been moved from our selected seats down the back where there are only two together to one where we are two of three. We paid $110 for the two of us to have the selected seats, so Emirates had better come up with a good recompense.

17 July. We walked down to the Victoria and Albert Museum in the morning. We took the scenic way, through Hyde Park and down Exhibition Road. As we were walking there, we saw an amazing monument off to the right. We went that way and it was the Prince Albert Memorial. It was very ornate with so much detail and very picturesque. We got some good shots with the phones but we will come back next year with the real cameras. It is not much more than a kilometre or two from Marble Arch. We also saw the Royal Albert Hall, which we had not seen before. Went through the new entrance (opened this month) to the V&A Museum and just wandered through. This is an exceptional museum but my only criticism would be that there is too much on display. By the time you have seen 10% of the museum, you are so overwhelmed, that the ability to take in any more is exhausted. Walked back through the other side of Hyde Park. Later in the afternoon, Julie went shopping (again coming home empty handed) and I did another tour of Edgeware Road. Dinner tonight at the VSC. Great meal at a good price and the wines are very good at the same price as anywhere else. Tomorrow, we are up at 0500 for an 0600 pickup to go to Heathrow.

18 July. Got to Heathrow OK but the Passat we rode in had an exhaust leak and I had the window down most of the way. No tipping on this journey. We checked in and were given our boarding passes for both legs, except the seats we were given for Dubai to Perth were not the ones we paid for. We managed to get it sorted at the Emirates ticketing desk but they were still not the ones we paid for but close enough. Not impressed seeing as this is the first time we have had to pay to reserve our seats. The flight to Dubai was OK and we got to our hotel in good time, thanks to our suitcases being all the way.

19 July. Had breakfast at the hotel and headed to the airport on a normal taxi. That cost 20 dirhams compared to the "private" taxi that wanted 50. Uneventful boarding and flight, except for the one hour forty minutes delay on departure, just what you need with an 11 hour flight ahead of you. All the legs we did this trip were delayed at least 30 minutes. We have lost our loyalty to Emirates, next time we will go with another airline like Singapore or Cathay. We'll do the research closer to the time. Ged picked us up at the airport which was much appreciated.

Home again for another year!