Europe 2022

Lauren and Gareth's Wedding

Owen and Julie in the UK

France 2013.


10 May, which really started the day before when Hayley and Craig drove us to the Airport at 10 for a 0100 departure to Singapore. We breezed through check in and security but my new passport failed the facial recognition test, not that it held us up for more than a minute anyway. We still had over 2 hours before boarding so we spent that time in the Singapore Airlines Business lounge, seeing as we had lashed out on business class fares. A small affair but perfectly adequate for the number of visitors with very personable service. Boarded the plane which was a Boeing 787-10. Nice and modern with all the bells and whistles. The bed setting on the seats was OK but nothing special. The B777 we then had from Singapore to Heathrow was much better with a lot more room and a larger seat. It had an odd way of setting the bed up, but once done it was a lot more comfortable than the 787. The lounge in Singapore was very large, but overcrowded. We couldn't get a shower, they were all in use and we were told to come back in 30 minutes. Logisically an odd thing, because not everyone is going to stay in the shower for 30 minutes. There seemed no system in place to get a position in a queue. Not well managed and we ended up not getting a freshen up shower. The flight to London was a tad over 13 hours but felt longer, even in the nicer seats. However, we did arrive in London feeling weary but not exhausted, so that part of the plan certainly worked. Express train to Paddington and a cab to the Victory Services Club. The cab was a new electric large size London cab and it was very good. The cabbie said that the electric was good, but charging was problematic in London, so he has a petrol powered generator in the boot that can be run to recharge the cab. Seems to be counter-productive! Tomorrow we'll be ready to take on the world.

11 May. A little bit of jetlag to get over, but not too bad. Great breakfast at the VSC, we both held back a little on what we would normally do, which is totally pig out. Wise decision. We hit the town a little after 9am even though we know that London doesn't open until 10. We knew from others that the 20 pound paper note is now redundant but can be changed at any bank for the new polymer one. We had been caught out by this in 2018 when out 16 10 pound notes had to be changed for the same reason. So that was one task for the day, easily accomplished. The other was to get a new data SIM for our mini hotspot. That was also done with only a long wait. We now have 24Gb to use over 24 months, valid in Europe as well. We visited Leicester Square to see what shows were showing in the West End but they weren't open. Did a search later online and opted for "Hamilton" which we bought tickets to for tomorrow night. Did the usual wander around the West End and back to the VSC. Both feeling pretty tired by this time. Veged out for a while. I called Cranhams to see how the motorhome was coming along and got the best possible response. All is good with the motorhome, a few replacement parts, like both the batteries, new tyres for the van, new tyres fitted to the trailer (which is a godsend, it took us weeks to get someone to fit the previous set, even when we had the tyres!) and it looks like we are almost ready to rock and roll. The only things left to do is the MOT (roadworthy) on the scooter, along with a service. Should have insurance on the van and the road tax of both sorted tomorrow. Everything is starting to look good (fingers crossed).
Had burgers for dinner tonight, not Macca's, but more an upmarket joint. Still getting over the flight, though the effect is not great. Needed fuel tonight, not a gourmet meal.

12 May. My mission for today is to get insurance for the motorhome. I called Downunder Insurance who we have used for the last few years and kept getting disconnected after selecting from the option menu. Their website gave an office address in Camden Town, a few miles from here. I trained it there while Julie went to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Got to the address and there was no office for Downunder. Trained back to the VSC and after a few phone calls discovered that they are out of business. A serious feeling of Deja Vu. This happened when we first bought the motorhome 10 years ago. Without insurance, we are seriously stuffed. I called Paul, who owns Cranham Motorhomes where we bought the van and also store it. He suggested we try a couple of others. The first one was a winner in more ways than one. Firstly, the guy who answered the phone had done a few policies for people in our situation, no one else in the brokers office would touch it. The second was that he managed to break a couple of personal records. The first being the quickest result, at about 2 hours, normally weeks, and the second, that he got the lowest quote by a long way from all the others he had done. This was all achieved by virtue of the fact that we had 10 years of experience with the van in UK and Europe, with the proof that we had actually owned it that long. I was in the middle of a large glass of Shiraz when he called back with the good news. The upshot for us is that without the insurance, we couldn't drive the van, ever. The stress relieving red turned into a celebratory one. Everything before had gone like clockwork, which has never once been the case, so we weren't really surprised that the insurance could go wrong. All's well that ends well though.
Tonight, we are of to see the musical "Hamilton" and in a better frame of mind than may have otherwise been the case.
Found out this afternoon that Boris Johnson was next door in Connaught Place, which accounted for the heaps of police around. I was very disappointed that we didn't get invited to his party.
Well, not impressed with "Hamilton". The sets were very good, as was the choreography, but music was rap. I can tolerate one song, but not 3 hours of it. Had a bit of a headache by the end of it. I think I would have preferred "My Fair Lady"!

13 May. Booked the scooter in for a service and MOT in Southend on Sea for Tuesday. I can't pay the road tax until it has a valid MOT, so can't legally ride it unitl both those things are done.
We need to change rooms today, as the one we spent the first nights in was peviously booked. The new one is bigger anyway. We packed our cases and left them in the first room so when we came back in the afternoon we just went to new room and all our gear was there waiting for us. Good service.
In thee interim we decided to go to the London Zoo, only because we hadn't been there before. Some very interesting displays, the butterfly house being particularly impressive. We arrived back at the club weary from the walking so are taking it easy for the rest of the day.
Had dinner at the new Hard Rock Cafe off Oxford St, about a 5 minute walk away. It is part of the new Hard Rock Hotel, and it's very new and quite upmarket. Decent meal, but at London prices, which are good if you think of it in dollars, expensive if you do the currency conversion.

14 May. Went to Fortnum and Mason to get some Platinum Jubilee memorabilia. We didn't go overboard.
Caught up with our nephew Andrew who has been living and working in London for 2 years. We invited him to lunch at the club. It was a wonderful catch up. What a fine young man he is. We plan to get together again on our way back in August. Later in the afternoon, we trained to Nottinghill Gate and walked to the Churchill Arms pub in Kensington, an iconic pub and a huge tourist attraction. It was very busy, standing room only, but after getting our dinks I asked a young couple if we could join them at their little table and promised not to interrupt them. They were happy with that, so we had sitting room. Amazing pub.
Back to the VSC for a light platter for dinner.

15 May. We had a very deserved relaxing few hours before heading to Buckhurst Hill to Peter and Margarets for lunch. Peter picked us up from the station which was most appreciated. We had a wonderful lunch, much vino and much good conversation. It made us happy that we didn't have to go through the Covid issue that they did. Before we knew it, it was well after 6pm. Back at the VSC we had a light snack in the bar, not wnting anything more. Tomorrow is D Day, picking up the motorhome

16 May. We checked out of the VSC and just after 9, we took a cab to Bond St Station, where they have step free access, important when you are lugging big heavy suitcases. Unfortunately, the entrance we took still had a set of steps. That was no big issue in itself, but it meant I had to take one case down and go back for the other. While I was setting out with the second case, a young woman bumped into the one sitting alone and was almost horror struck until I called out that it was ours and I was just doing my second run. The relief was palpable. Made our track change at Mile End and had an easy run through to Cranhams. The van was looking great considering what it had been through. In fact, with the new tyres and a good service, it is driving smoother than I can remember. The scooter is a bit the worst for wear with a mouldy seat and hand grips but hopefully when it gets serviced and the MOT done tomorrow, it will be OK. The battery was dead and that came as no surprise. This year, we took a different tack for getting ourselves and the van set up. We opted for a more regional destination to restock the van. Some milk, bread, butter, eggs and a lot of wine. We went to the Sainsburys in Rayleigh, on the way east out of London, and then to Southend on Sea where the scooter is now at the local dealer. The shopping was easy, we had no height barrier to go through and it was easy the get a drive through double length parking spot. Worth the trip! Staying 3 nights at Shopland Hall campsite. This place is really a big equestrian centre, you can smell the horses from a mile away! Very comfortable though, and we will chill out for a while as we get the van all sorted out. There are a few things that need to be replaced due to mould damage and others because they have been squashed in a vacuum sealed bag for 3 years and refuse to resume their normal shape. All good so far. We need to look a little farther ahead as to what we do next.

17 May. Happy Anniversary to us. An amazing time we have had together. We shared it with all our friends at Shopland Hall campsite near Southend on Sea!
First thing for the day was to have a shower. Julie had one which started OK then got a bit too cold. I had one that was damn freezing, not a hint of warmth in it. I decided to forgo washing my hair.
We had a casual day, sorting a few more things out in the motorhome. We were waiting on a call from the Honda dealer workshop to let us know that the scooter was ready, which we got about 1530. I intended doing a cross country walk to pick it up and ride it home. That walk took me through the local Golf Club which, to my trained eye, looked pretty good. I had to walk out of the club via their exit road and thought "what the heck" and when the first car came along, I put out my thumb. Two lovely ladies stopped and told me to get in. They thought I was playing golf there, but I came clean and told them why I was there, but also mentioned that I just happened to be a member of Royal Perth Golf Club. We had a really good conversation and they dropped me right at my destination. Sometimes, I almost feel guilty! Picked up the scooter and everything was good, once a new battery was installed. They didn't have time to clean the scooter (well, they could have, but I'm sure that when they saw it, they thought it wasn't worth the effort!), so I washed it when I got it back to the campsite. It cleaned up pretty well, so now we are all set to take on the world with everything checked and legal.

18 May. A nice hot shower today. We went into Southend today to visit the pier. It is 1.3 miles long and billed as the longest "pleasure" pier in the world, which is a bit of a misnomer because there was actually no pleasure parlors on the pier, unlike others like Brighton, all the "entertainment" was on the ground around the pier. We opted for the walk and ride option, which meant we walked the full length and then got the train back. We got the seniors discount which made it pretty cheap. It was an interesting visit but nothing spectacular. We then had lunch back on solid ground at Cafe Rebecca which we felt obliged to patronise as our only daughter in law is Rebecca. Decent meal for a good price. Scootered into the town to do some shopping then back to the van. We tried to get 2 nights at a Camping and Caravaning club site in Folkestone but could only get one night, so that then forced our hand to booking a channel crossing on Friday. We bought a one way ticket to give us flexibility on the return journey. We leave Dover at 1155 on Friday morning. The scooter performed beautifully today, so I am happy with th condition of our outfit.

19 May. We had an interesting night when thunderstorms struck. Lots of lightening and what sounded like torrential rain for a few hours. At least we didn't have any leaks. We headed to Folkestone at around 10am and stopped for more shopping at Sainsburys in Rayleigh where we shopped a few days before. Bought some new bedding as the old stuff was showing its age. The rain eased on the way. Refueled the van in Folkestone at the equivilent of $3.80 a litre. I'm going to have to drive conservatively I think. Went to the campsite which is sea front just east of Folkestone. The road in was a little diabolical and we hope like hell that no one comes the other way in the morning when we leave. A pleasant campsite and Julie got all the urgent washing done, we'll wash the new sheets another time. We were entertained at various times by a Spitfire doing aerobatics nearly overhead the campsite. Dinner in tonight and tomorrow it is off to Dover for the cross Channel crossing.

20 May. Woke to constant rain that didn't seem to want to let up. Did all our morning chores and decided to head to Dover. We were a bit early, but thought it better to sit in the van at the ferry terminal than sit in the van at Folkestone. At least we weren't going to miss the ferry. Interesting process this time at the check in. First was French immigration. They wanted to see our passports which was fine, and I handed over my phone with our international vaccination certificate and he wasn't interested. Just waved us through to British passport control. The guy there asked if we were driving a hired van and I said, no, we bought this 10 years ago and come over for a few months every year. We spent the next 5 minutes talking about how good it is and where we have been and he raved about how good it was too and he was very envious of us. We thought it was a bit funny that someone working at the Dover ferry terminal could find us so unique. Next stop was Security check. We pulled in there and I was told to step out of the van, Julie could stay where she was. Another guy came and swabbed the steering wheel and gear stick, went off and did some checks and sent us off again. After that was the check in with DFDS (our ferry service of choice) and that was smooth as silk. Waited about 2 hours before we drove on board. It was pouring rain the whole time but no problem. Finally departed about 40 minutes late. The upside was that there were hardly any others on board compared to previous crossings, so we could sit anywhere we wanted, which for us was at a table at the front of the ship right on the windows.
Good crossing with the channel very calm. Arrived at Calais and drove off in good time, straight on to the exit road. We had programmed the TomTom to our chosen campsite near Amiens, about 170Km away. We avoided the toll roads, which in France can be very expensive and you don't see much anyway. Our route took us through many villages and some large towns. Picturesque and interesting, so the extra 30 minutes driving was not an ordeal. In fact, it got me back into the swing of driving on the right quicker than a motorway would have done. The campsite is pleasant and one of the many covered by the camping card we have. This makes them much cheaper than the going rate. Another home cooked meal in the van. Tomorrow we are off to another campsite that is close to Disneyland Paris where Julie and I intend to visit on Sunday and maybe Monday as well, but the forecast for Monday is for thunderstorms, so it may not be great. Time will tell.

21 May. We had our first breakfast in France, so why not have a French breakfast. Baguette, croissant and a pain de raisin. Life doesn't get much better. A casual morning before a 175Km drive to Jablines and the campsite there. It was another interesting drive through small villages, mid sized towns and a few farms. Following TomTom can bring such joy. Giving way to tractors in a single lane track is one of lifes great delights. The highlight was driving through a small town that was hosting a lunchtime wedding. So many people standing in the middle of the road, including the groomsmen. We could have taken half of them out if they didn't eventually step on to the footpath. Shame our dashcam decided not to work, if would have been great footage. Finally arrived in Jablines. We are 12Km from Disneyland Paris. We did some research in to tickets and found it was a minefield. Also, the shuttle bus from here runs only twice tomorrow, because apparently no one wants to go to Disneyland on a Sunday, which beggars the question "why is Sunday more expensive?". Anyway, we decided we would scooter in to the park, even though it will cost us 25 Euros. That's about 20 times what any previous parking fee for the scooter has been. Anyway, we are looking forward to the day without any particular expectations. The campsite we are in is good, though we haven't had a shower yet which is always the ultimate test of quality.

22 May. Big day. Scootered in to Disneyland, leaving about 0930. Managed to not make a wrong turn on the way in (no satnav on the scooter, have to study Google Maps beforehand and try to remember the route) but once we got there, finding the carpark was not easy. Signposting around the site is pretty poor. Got the scooter all parked up by 1000 so we were pleased. We broke a record with the parking costs though, only about the third or fourth time we have paid for parking for it in 10 years, and today, it was an eye watering 25 Euros, or A$37.50. I knew it was going to be that, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. Walked into Disneyland and finally got through the gates at about 1030. We had bought a one day pass for both parks (Disneyland and Disney Studios) for 109 Euro each, not a big deal. We started with Disneyland first, and without going into serious detail of everything, there were some very good displays and rides, and there were some very average ones. The better ones were Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (it was!) and Phantom Manor which was very well done though in no way scary, and the two worst ones were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Pinocchio. If you go, those two are aimed at very young children who don't know the story anyway, otherwise avoid them.
Overall, we think about half of the parks were devoted to merchandising and food and drinks. Worst of all, I couldn't even buy a wine! There are no bars in Disneyland. Can you imagine how many parents there with their kids who would have killed for a drink?? So the upshot is that being in our mid 60s, it wasn't as gripping as it would have been if we were 30 years younger. We did enjoy the day and felt we had value for money. The crowds were large but could have been worse. I would hate to have to contend with crowds in July or August (Europe's summer holidays), it would be too much for me.
The ride home I had to stop twice to check our position (it was a different route home) but we made it home in good time. We had thought we would stay for the fireworks at 2250 but decided to head home after the parade at 1730, which meant we left about 1830. Good thing too, I would have hated having to ride the scooter through some of the villages and on some of the roads in the dark. The cup of tea and glass of red went down so well. Day off tomorrow.

23 May. A down day, or day off. We had 2 full days here and only used one to see Disneyland, that and it's raining all day. We did go for a walk around the area that the campsite is in. About 300m away is an adventure playground the likes I have never seen before. I'll put photos up of the oustanding climbing complex. It would never pass Aus OH&S rules. I imagine kids would be in a seventh heaven at this place. That was all we did today!

24 May. Headedoff to Epernay in the heart of the Champagne region. We have been there before but it is still a good stopover on the way to Dijon next. Again, we took the toll free route and went through a couple of very large towns and many small villages. The villages were sometimes interesting with their narrow roads and very tight turns but we were lucky enough to execute the toughest manoeuvres without meeting anyone coming the other way. Settlrd in to the campsite in Epernay and Julie did the washing while I took the scooter out to stock up with wine from Lidl. For dinner, we thought we would try out the Burger King a 10 minute walk away. The burgers were not as good as at home but they did cost more! Tomorrow, we will hit the town.

25 May. We tried to book a bus tour of the Champagne vineyards but the first one we could get was for tomorrow, which is a bit late. The people at the campsite recommended that we visit the villages of Cumieres and Hautvillers which are only a couple of Kms away from the campsite. We rode around Cumieres and found the area where small wineries operate. We found Philippe Martin Champagnes and just had to go there. For those who don't know, Phillip is my middle name (as is Russell's) and my father's first name. The service was personal, we had our own attendant to look after us. It was normally 30 Euro for the 2 of us to do a tasting unless you buy 6 bottles. In the end, we bought 1 bottle and 4 half bottles, so they gave us the taste free. Nice gesture, and equally nice champagnes. Rode up through Hautvillers but nothing there to catch our eye except the view. Rode back to the campsite and decided we would do a tasting in Avenue de Champagne later in the day. When we went there, it was almost deserted. Last time we were here was late July, peak season, and you couldn't move for people. We ended up at a bar/brasserie and had a drink each and a tasting board which was pretty good.
Thought we would try to confirm if we could book a campsite in Dijon tomorrow. We can't, it's full, so we looked at other options and one was Besancon, a bit east of Dijon, where Julie billeted about 44 years ago when she took a school group on a French tour. We did manage to book in there and it is an ACSI card member so the price is right.

26 May. The drive to Besancon was pretty good, though it did take us through a lot of small towns and there were many changes of speed limits. Probably took an hour longer than taking the toll roads, but the price is not worth it and we see so much more the back way. Interesting that we first passed through a village called Dizy, then an hour later we went through St Dizier. So, wondering why we were dizy then dizier, I realised it was the number of roundabouts we had to go through! There was obviously a Citroen 2CV rally going on, because we must have seen close to 200 of them in all variants. We don'y know where they were meeting but I suspect that there would have been at least 8 converging roads that they could have been arriving from. It was fun playing "spot the 2CV". We found the campsite OK and set up for the night.

27 May. Our target today was to do the old city centre of Besancon and the Citadelle. We eventually caught the tram into town after having a lot of trouble finding it. At one point, I stopped at a car wash and asked the guy there if he spoke English. He said, just a little, and between us we managed to communicate that I wanted to find the tram station and he managed to show me where. I was wearing my Albania cap and he made mention of it. I said we had visited there, and the people were so nice, which they are, and he then told me he is Albanian. We did a good fist bump, and on our way. In the town we wandered the markets in the main square then walked up to the Citadelle. What a climb. Not only did we have to walk uphill for much of the way but then had to climb many hundreds of steps as well. Our legs were burning by the time we got there. The Citadelle is an amazing piece of construction, done in the 17th century. A lot of history there. Much to see and do. Our only regret was that the French Resistance museum is under renovation.
We walked back into town and after some more sightseeing, we caught the tram back to station, did some shopping for dinner and walked home from there. We did over 20,000 steps each and each one hurt. Hopefully, we will sleep well tonight. Tomorrow's destination is a campsite south of Lyon and the next stop will be in Avignon, all booked.

28 May. I checked the footy score Freo Vs Melbourne and saw the half time score. Crap I thought, we've blown another one. Checked again before we left Besancon and the Dockers were in front. Can't last can it? Ended up checking again on the drive out to find they had won well! Made our day. Other than that, we had a good drive from Besancon to St Claire du Rhone. Very picturesque, rolling large hills and fertile valleys. Incredibly lush forests. It made for an easy drive and I felt much better after the 4 hour drive than I have after all the other drives we have done. We got to the campsite at St Claire and it is a very nice little place for an overnighter. We are having pizzas from the restaurant at the campsite for dinner. Tomorrow, we are off to Avignon (again) for another overnight stay before heading to Marseilles. We loved Avignon the first time and it was perfectly positioned for a stopover, plus the campsite is a 10 minute walk into the centre of town.

29 May. The drive from St Claire to Avignon was around 200Km. It became a very interesting one when we saw the toll road (the A7) totally at a stand still on the northbound side. We were on the N7, the non toll road, but could see what was happening. The A7 is the main route between Lyon and Marseille, the second and third largest cities in France. We expected that something serious had happened to cause such a stoppage. That was fine for us, the N7 was free as a bird. After about an hour, we started seeing more and more traffic northbound on the N7, such that it was also becoming a carpark. When we finally turned off the N7 about 20 Km from Avignon, the northbound crush was still on. We figure that there was a 150Km road block. We have not been able to find out what happened but it was obvious that the flow on effect was as extreme as anything I could imagine. We actually got into Avignon earlier than expected, so good news for us.
We had booked in to the same campsite we stayed at in 2015, as it is very close to the city, 10 minutes walk over the bridge. We took it easy for a few hours then walked in to town for a look around and then stayed for dinner inside the walls. Good meal and wine, then the walk back. Tomorrow, Marseille, or at least a campsite that is not too far away.

30 May. A relatively uneventful drive today. We were following a truck that had a tie down strap come loose and flapping on the ground. I tried to get his attention but to no avail. We held back in case the load started to fall. Very stressful for Julie. Eventually he took a different turn off one of the 60 roundabouts and we breathed a sigh of relief. Traffic going through Marseille was busy in places but it was a big ring road so it wasn't a drama, as long as we got into the correct lane which was often last minute. Tight winding road up to the campsite which is actually in Aubagne, about 15Km from the centre of Marseille. We held up a lot of cars but I was often back in first gear to negotiate ridiculous hairpin bends but we arrived OK. Veged out for the rest of the afternoon. Tomorrow, we take on Marseille via free shuttle bus to the train station then train. Looking forward to it. After here, our intention is for 3 nights at the Riviera hotspot of Saint Tropez.
With regard to the traffic issues yesterday, Julie googled it and found it was a long weekend (Fri to Sun) and everyone had gone away. The road system had a meltdown purely because of the volume of traffic. The A7 was one of the worst affected, but by no means the only one. Every road in to Paris was gridlocked and they expected the delays to continue until at least midnight (yesterday).

31 May. Marseille is France's second largest city. We set off there by taking the free shuttle bus to the train station at Aubagne. We had over 40 miutes waiting for the next train because the previous three had been cancelled. That was actually a good thing because it almost took us that long to get tickets from the automatic machine. Little did we know that there was a service counter inside where we could have asked for 2 adult returns to Marseille St Charles and got them in 30 seconds. Oh well, live and learn (maybe, sometimes just live). Good ride into Marseille, very smooth train. We took what looked like a bee line to the old city, only to find out we were going off at a tangent. We worked out where we were from the map and finding the cross roads we were at. Two minutes later I checked on google maps where we were and we were over a kilometer away from where we thought we were. Anyway, we saw parts of the city that we wouldn't have seen otherwise, including a big protest over who know's what and who cares anyway. Finally found our way to the old port and we were already stuffed from the walking, much of it uphill. Stopped for lunch and a wine. Toured the old port which now sports many hundreds of yachts in moorings that there is hardly any room for a boat to actually enter the harbour. A lot more walking around the old area trying to find something interesting, which we failed at except for a cathedral on the waterfront that Julie really liked and I wandered off after five minutes. By the time we finished there, we agreed to head home. Got to the station to find we had 3 minutes to get the train and we didn't know where platform 5 was. Managed to get a porter who spoke English, though I thought my "platform 5" with 5 fingers up should have worked anyway. He showed us where it was and seemed like 300m away. I ran and signalled to Julie she should follow suit. She wasn't up to it, but tried valiantly. I showed the ticket at the gate and they wanted to scan it but knew the train was leaving so they just said GO. How good is it that common sense may not be common, but it's not dead. The conductor was yelling for us to just get on, which we did. The train immediately moved out. The timing was impeccable because we arrived at Aubagne 7 minutes before the shuttle bus departed. If we had missed that, it was another hours wait, in which case we would have got a cab.
When we got back, I had a soak in the pool and Julie had a lie down. We have nearly had enough of walking all day with copious hills.
The upshot is, Marseille is a big busy city. My ears are still ringing from the car horns (a French culure issue). The old part of town was not up to expectations. This is one place we will not return to. Don't hate it, it just failed on the expectations scale.
Tomorrow, Saint Tropez.

1 June. We chose the non toll route as usual and Tomtom told us it was 120Km and would take 2 hours 20 minutes to get there. Hmm, average of 50KPH. We soon found out why. 75% of the journey was winding, often narrow, mountain roads. It was not a big issue, a few breathtaking moments but all OK. At least there were stunning views when we actually had time to see them. It took us a long time to get through reception, find our preferred pitch, set up, then let them know where we are parked. Using our ACSI camping card saved us 10 Euro a night but it also meant that we had to camp on the other side of the main road, so further from the beach. The 6amp power is OK unless you want to boil the kettle which trips the circuit breaker. At least we are close to ablutions so we can plug the kettle in there. It is also far less crowded than in the beachside section. The beach here is OK, not up to Aussie standards though. We will have to try to find the renowned St Tropez beach tomorrow but we are not holding our breath on that one.It should be a relaxing couple of days though and that's what we really need right now. We have been pushing hard and need a break.
Tomorrow, we need to do some shopping, we are getting desperately low on wine!

2 June. Wine problem solved. Julie was doing a couple of loads of washing in the morning so I rode to Lidl's. Julie wanted me to also get some toilet paper and ham, I know, an odd combination. The ride to Lidl's was a dogs breakfast but inside Lidl's was worse. I managed to fill the basket with as much wine as I could carry on the scooter and the smallest toilet paper was an 8 pack. Sorry, no room. Trying to get to the ham was like trying to overtake another driver in the Monaco Grand Prix. Those trolleys are a nightmare. It's OK though, we now have enough wine to last us a while. The ride there was a bit of a recce to see what the go was with route and traffic. The result? The route is a dogs breakfast and the traffic is insane. In the afternoon, we rode into Saint Tropez proper. I think we averaged about 25Kph for the 12 Km ride. Parked the scooter up, which was a breeze because like anywhere in France (except Disneyland), they are motorcycle friendly. We wandered around the town which was interesting in the sense that it is here for the super rich. Obscene would be another description. The whole town revolves around the marina full of super yachts. Not really our sort of thing to see. We tried to find the Citadelle but with all the one way streets and total lack of signage, we gave up. Back to camp, which was slower than the ride in, and we waited patiently for it to be wine o'clock. We are planning on visiting Monaco, but we now suspect that it will be an obscene version of St Tropez's obscene. We will still go anyway. Nothing like a bit of self flagellation. Another full day here tomorrow and we will visit the more ordinary sights.

3 June. It was drizzling this morning, not very pleasant at all. We took it easy in the morning and in the afternoon we took the scooter out for some shopping. That part was easy. Then we went in to Grimaud Marina to have a look around. Much the same as St Tropez, excesses wherever you look. Rode home in more insane traffic and decided it was wine o'clock, regardless of what the watch says. We had sent a request to a campsite in Cagnes-sur-mer for 3 nights, but just got the notification that there are no pitches available. Our plan was to stay there and do a train trip to Monaco on one of the free days and see locally the other one. The upshot is that we are seriously unimpressed with the French Riviera. We thought it was about beautiful beaches on the Med, but the reality is it is all about big yachts in marinas and all the ordinary people walk around gawking at the obscene wealth. And this is without any Russian Oligarchs yachts being there. Getting to see Monaco in a motorhome is just not done. There are very few places to stay with access. We have opted to stay another night in Grimaud where the campsite and beach is very peaceful and relaxing, as long as we don't go on the road.
Our decision now is that the Riviera is not for us and on Sunday we will go as deep into Italy as we can. We are going to take the toll road for the first time because it is a 2:20 drive Vs a 6:30 drive to the same place. We will aim for somewhere between Monaco and Genoa. Tomorrow will be another relaxing day and I'll see if I can get into the water above my waist!

4 June. A wonderful day of doing very little. A casual morning, followed by a bit of time at the beach in the afternoon where we managed to get a bit of sun. I got to my neckline, not wanting to go any further because I had my sunnies on. Dinner at the restaurant within the campsite which was very good in both quality and value. Our stay here has been very theraputic. We needed a break from the hectic 2 weeks we have been in France.Tomorrow, we head towards Genoa with final destination decision to be made on the way but we will definitely be in Italy tomorrow.

5 June. We decided on a destination the other side of Genoa, and also decided to take the toll roads. The difference was getting to somewhere short of Monaco and the toll roads were 2 hours and the non toll roads were 6 hours. It might seem that the expense of the toll roads was worth it. We got to the Italian border for about 20 Euros then took the Italian toll road. The chaos and gridlock was extreme. We spent well over 40 Km in first gear. They still charged us 25 Euros for the privilege. It got so bad that Tomtom was telling us there was over an hour of delays on our route, even though we had had well over an hours delay already. We couldn't face that after nearly 5 hours of non stop driving in hectic traffic so we stopped well short of our planned destination by about 180Km. We were treated to some exceptional views from the road as we crossed in the mountains past Monaco and other towns. It was looking straight down on them from somewhere above 2,000ft in elevation. That was when we were not in the clouds, which was quite a bit of the time. We checked out a campsite in Albenga but it was so tight we couldn't even turn around in it. Add that we had to wait 30 minutes for the reception to open after lunch, and we drove out again. Another site only 5Km away proved to be much more amenable. We are staying the night here then off to a halfway point in Cecina, then to Rome. We rang the Rome site and they said just come in, they have plenty of places, so all is looking good. Dinner at the campsite restaurant tonight was very good. All we ask for now is a good nights sleep. The last couple have been hot and humid, and the only aircon we have is the trucks AC, which is socially unacceptable to run the motor all night.

6 June. We did manage a good sleep thanks in part to changing the position of the fan. I checked the traffic on Tomtom and there was virtually no delay, whereas yesterday was well over an hour between Albenga and Genoa, which is normally about an hour without traffic.. This proved correct when we zipped past Genoa (we have spent time there before) and finding that we were making good time, we adjusted our destination to about 40Km further on. The 47 Euros was well worthwhile, having saved us not only a lot of time (many hours) but a lot of stress with winding mountain roads too. We arrived at the campsite in Marina di Castagneto at 2pm to be told they don't open reception until 4pm. We'd been driving a long while and decided to put up with it. We parked the van and went wandering around the campsite, the beach (not our sort of beach, this was one where you have to hire a chair and umbrella, though you can go to the lepers part of the beach with your own gear and have a better time!) and through the town, not much to see there. We finally got a site at 4:30, their logistics being a nightmare, and were set up in a few minutes, ready for a wine. I have trouble with businesses that do not look after their customers. They close the office from 1230 to 1600, but still have someone there to tell you to piss off and come back at 4. When 4 comes around, there is a big queue of people wanting to get in and the chaos continues. Blows my mind. We will never stay here again. Fortunately, we are only here for one night. The sandflies are a disaster too, just to add insult to injury. Tomorrow, we hit the campsite in Rome. We hope to be pleasantly surprised this time. I checked their website and they have a 24 hour reception. How good is that!

7 June. We left the canpsite after paying a ludicrous 35 Euros for a night in a wierd place. I could go on about the faults in this campsite, but I don't have the time or the energy. Suffice to say we can't understand why anyone would want to stay here, let alone pay the stupid fees for the privilege. We took the route SS1 southbound and decided that SS1 stands for Shite Surface #1. It was very third world. Shook the hell out of everything in the van. We were delighted to get to the toll road to get something decent. Found the campsite in outer Rome OK and got assigned pitch 271. Julie looked at the map and said, Wow, a big pitch. OK, it did look like that on the map, but not in reality. It was so narrow that I had to tie back some hedge so we could open the van's side door and we had one tree 20cm from the left had side and another the same on the right. To say getting into the pitch was interesting is an understatement. There was no room to put up the awning, and when we set up the tiny table and two chairs outside, we had to do it behind the van because there was no room on either side. In 10 years of doing this, it was the tightest fit we have come across by a big margin. Anyway, we did fit in, and walked to a supermarket and did some shopping. Oddly enough, it was a fair sized place but there were no cereals. Go figure. Tomorrow, we will do a hop on hop off bus around Rome to get our bearings, then we will organise what we want to do from there. We intend to buy the "skip the queue" tickets for the Vatican. The weather is warming up here, around the 30C mark which may not sound too hot, but it is. If anyone is wondering why there have not been too many photos posted lately, it is because there hasn't been anything worthy to shoot. Hopefully, that will change tomorrow.

8 June. We set off to the train station, having worked out the Metro map. We took the local train which I think was WW2 vintage to Flaminio station which was the end of the line for the local train, and caught the Metro to Rome Terminii. Getting out of the station there was a bit of a culture shock. With the hawkers trying to flog you anything they had, to street market stalls, to pushy conmen, it felt like we could have been in Kuta in the bad old days. Very dirty and looked uncared for. We checked on some facts at the tourist information at the station but they were not much help. We bought a 2 day ticket on a hop on hop off bus for the price of a 1 day, again to a pushy salesman. It was good though because it gave us a good idea of where everything is and how far apart they are, which was, not very. We got off the bus near the Spanish Steps and had lunch at a local Bar-Cafe. We walked to the steps and while it was impressive, it was not quite awe inspiring. Interesting that they had a couple of policewomen there who would blow their whistles at any poor unforunate who had the temerity to sit on the steps. From there it was only a short walk to the Trevi Fountain. I had heard stories about how it is in the middle of a built up area which detracts from the appeal, but despite that, we found it stunning. If you are in Rome, this is a must see, and there was no charge! After that, we headed to the nearest Metro station, which was on the same line as Flaminio, and we had had enough of the walking and the heat, so home looked appealing. Interesting ride to our station, Due Ponti, because the train didn't stop there. The next stop was 2 beyond. A quick turn around and we got a train going back that did stop at Due Ponti. The afternoon spent online trying to get tickets to the Colosseum and the Vatican. What a nightmare. We eventually got them both, with the Colosseum tomorrow and the Vatican on Friday. Someone must have got their dates wrong because the the thunder and lightning is due tomorrow, not Friday! Forward plan is we leave here on Saturday to Pompei (or Pompeii, depending on where you see it spelt, we will confirm when we get there). We would like to have had another day off but this campsite is not the place one would choose to do that.

9 June. Our booking for the Colosseum was for 1130, so we aimed to be there before 1100. We got there at 1030 because we managed to catch all the right trains in good time. Three different lines to get to the Colosseum. We stopped for an orange juice each and then went and stood in the line. It was smooth enough process and not too slow. We managed to be inside ready to go by 1130 so we can't complain. The Colosseum is an amazing structure, given when it was built in the first century AD (or CE for the PC crowd). It is very large and the plans must have been very complex for that era. We enjoyed our time there. There were thunderstorms forecast and that held true. Lots of thunder and occasional heavy rain though we managed to be undercover for the worst of it. Continued all day from about 1130 to 1600 anyway. After the Colosseum we stopped for lunch at a nice little cafe in a side street, before continuing or tour of the complex which included the Roman Forum and Palatine. It was raining more steadily by then and most of it was open air so we did it quicker than we may otherwise have done. The good side with the rain is that it kept the temperature considerably since yesterday when it was very draining. Trained home and now have our feet up, lots of walking and climbing steps involved today. Tomorrow is the Vatican's turn.

10 June. We set off in good time and basically walked straight on to the next train without a wait. Walked the last Km to the entrance to the Vatican Museum. It took about 20 minutes or so to go through security but we ended up inside by the time on our ticket. We opted for the self guide tour with an audio guide. The "tour" started off with the Vatican Museum which meandered through the different eras in a line like Ikea, ultimately ending up in the Sistine Chapel. The Museum was stunning. The historical objects they had would come close to being the best in the world. It first started with the Egyptian era and went through many epochs until the present day. To say it was outstanding would be an understatement. As we were nearing the end after nearly 3 hours, I was starting to suffer claustrophobia with crowds and just needed to get out, they were driving me nuts. I picked up my pace through the last few exhibits, which it turned out were not of real interest or intensity anyway. Last call was the Chapel. It was not at all like I expected, which was a huge dome ceiling all painted in one huge mural. It turned out being a rectangular ceiling, slightly arched and the paintings were like a comic strip, telling a story as it goes. It was good but not quite the spectacle that we expected. Moved on to the vehicles that have been used by popes, including a couple of the first Popemobiles. Not in the same league as the coaches from the horse drawn days though. After that, we had to leave the Vatican, then walk around the outside to the main entrance so we could get to St Peter's Square, and his Basilica. Pretty awe inspiring. There was a queue about 800m long to get in to the Basilica so we gave that a miss. Not going to wait in a line for an hour in the heat. Overall though, the crowds were much less than we expected. Here in Italy, there is still a real fear of Covid which has worked to our advantage, but I expect that in July and August, the peak season in Europe, that those crowds will swell significantly. Finished up there and trained back home. Tomorrow, we will drive to Pompeii where we have been assured we can get in to our preferred campsite that is only a few hundred metres from the entrance to the archeological site entrance.

11 June. Drove down to Pompeii today with no problems and it only cost us 24 euros in tolls. Sadly in Italy, there are no really suitable options, unlike France where there is usually an option that runs almost parallel to the toll road, albeit through every little village. We arrived at the campsite in Pompeii which has pitches almost as tight as the one in Rome. At least we could swing a clothes line up and get some washing done. The big bonus here is that the entrance to the Pompeii site is only about 100m away. There is also a supermarket about 400m away, so that's convenient. A few restaurants and cafes within 100m too. The downside, as I just found out, is the showers. Of the 5, one had no door handle so you couldn't open it, one didn't have a lock on the door, and 2 had shower roses that sprayed everywhere except where you want it. The fifth one was good!!
It's quite hot here too which doesn't help. We have decided to do Pompeii tomorrow then move down to Sorrento. From there we hope to either take a bus to Amalfi, or take the scooter. It is over 30km of winding road so the scooter is not the preferred option, but will do if it is the only one. We have been trying to have a day off for a while but since our last day off in St Tropez, we have not stayed on a site where we actually want to do nothing for a day. We will see what the next week brings.

12 June. We walked the very short walk to the entrance to Pompeii ruins. We got two audio guides from a stall prior to getting our entrance tickets. We learned this yesterday when we did a recce. No hold up in the process and we were good to go. Like many things this trip, it was not what we expected. We expected a few individual excavations spread out over a large area, but what we got was a city of 20,000 people entirely unearthed. The scope of it was mind boggling. The things that survived the volcano is surprising. We have seen many similar things to Pompeii but nothing at all so complete and widespread. It was well worth the visit. About 80% of the way through, I was flagging more than I have before on this trip. I hung in there to complete everything we needed to see and then we walked home. That distance is so short that it is the only real bonus to this campsite. When we got home, I had a luke warm shower and crashed. Napped for about an hour. I had seriouly hit the wall. We have been hitting everything too hard for too long without a break. Fortunately I recovered pretty quickly. We decided to stay at a campsite near Sorrento tomorrow but it was full, so we changed our plans. Much as we wanted to see the Amalfi Coast, it was just too hard to do. There are no campsites within a reasonable distance and we didn't want to spend a fortune on a cruise there that only gave us two hours to do our own thing. The upshot of that is we are getting out of this place. Tomorrow, we are going to Assisi, about 400Km away but heading north. We are not going there on a religious pilgrimage (though many do) but it is a campsite the right distance away in the right direction. Hopefully we will spend a few nights there to see Assisi and have some unwind time. The need for this was highlighted when we went to a restaurant next door for dinner, which was not too bad. When it came time to pay the 45 Euro bill, I was told they only take cash. I normally carry enough anyway so I gave the guy a 50 note, then after waiting a while, I had to ask for the change. He had taken it upon himself to keep the change. That's the sort of attitude that puts us off this part of the country. However, Pompeii has been an amazing highlight and not a wasted visit at all, but now we have seen it, it is time to go.

13 June. We got away from Pompeii about 0930 and Tomtom suggested a better route to avoid traffic. I have learned from past experience that it is a good idea to go along with it. It was right, but it meant we paid 4 Euros to get on the toll road, only to exit within a kilometre, take a few turns, and re-enter the toll road in the opposite direction, paying another 4 Euros for the privilege. As it was, the traffic we avoided was at a standstill so it was worthwhile. We went south for about 6km then up a minor road to rejoin the A1, the original route about 15km north. It was a free run from there so we were grateful. The interesting thing from there was the truck leapfrog. Trucks here are speed limited to 90kph and when one wants to pass another, it can take 3 or 4km to actually get past them. The toll road is 6 lanes (3 each way) and that leaves only the high speed passing lane to get past them. I have not seen so much leapfrogging in all our time in Europe. I was amazed at how much time we spent in the fast lane getting past them. My eyes were everywhere, it was hard work. Having said that, the 420km as it turned out, went pretty quickly. The third toll we paid was 27 Euros but that was for about 340km. We arrived at the campsite near Assisi at 1515 and settled in.
We have a problem with the wheel alignment on the motorhome which makes travelling above 100kph pretty hairy and it has bothered me for a while. Now we are in one place for a few days, I hope to get it done. That will be my first job tomorrow.
From the campsite we have a wonderful view of Assisi which is on the side of the hill about 4km away. It looks spectacular from here and we are looking forward to visiting there when we can fit it around the van work. It is nice to have a large camping pitch where we have so much room. We can put the awning fully out and still have room to spare. The last two campsites have been so tight that it was hard to set up the fold up chairs next to the van. We will probably stay here for 4 nights with the chance to tour, unwind, and get the van fixed. Just what the doctor ordered.

14 June. It was a day off for Julie, but not for me. I rode the scooter into town to a tyre place. Organised to bring the van in for a wheel alignment in an hours time, being as I had to ride back, pack up the van and take it back. They were very good. Checked the wheel alignment and found it was correct so the problem was more likely the wheel balance. That sounded reasonable to me, so I got them to rebalance all four wheels. I figured if the balancing was not right on the front ones, it probably wasn't right on the rear ones either. The tyres had only been fitted before this trip. They did that, and fingers crossed it works, but we wont know until we get over 100kph and that wont be for a couple of days yet. My other task for today was to get a hair cut. Should be simple right? Checked on google maps and found three close by in the town. Rode in and got shafted by a ridiculous number of one way streets but finally got there. One didn't exist, one was appointment only, so they were not open, and the other would not open for another hour, though I suspect they didn't exist either. I did manage to get some shopping done though so it wasn't a complete waste of time. Other than that, we chilled out. Tomorrow, we will take on Assisi, which may be a tough ask as it is very steep. The upside is that maps tell me there are two barbers there, though I am sure we will be disappointed there too. Time will tell.

15 June. We rode into the town of Assisi which is built on a hillside, so the walking can be hard going. We first did the St Francis Basilica whuch was pretty spectacular. The artwork on the walls and ceilings put the Sistine Chapel to shame. It is a double level Basilica which basically means it is two Basilicas, one above the other, which is no mean feat when they enormously high ceilings. After that we wandered around the town which is amazing in its own right, very historic. I found two barbers but they both said they couldn't give me a haircut now but would book me in on another day. Failure again. I've been trying for two weeks to get a haircut and hit brick walls the whole way. How hard can it be? Overall, Assisi is a sight not to miss if you are in the area.
We had lunch in the town, did some more sightseeing and shopping. I got a knit shirt for golf and Julie bought a Xmas bauble. We then rode into the main town and did some shopping before returning home. 34C today with thunderstorms this evening which just missed us. A bit of rain and wind but nothing severe. The lightning display and thunder was entertaining. Tomorrow we will do a ride through local historic villages.

16 June. We did the ride through the villages as planned. We had been expecting to see ruins, but what we got was walled villages or castles that had kept their original structure but been converted into apartments. I know that sounds odd, but it means the buildings are well maintained but also house a lot of people who are obviously proud of what they have and treat it accordingly. What is also interesting is that they all have UNESCO Heritage listing. While it wasn't what we expected, it is a great way of maintaining the buildings and still leave public access, albeit, not into the homes. We filled up the scooter and it took 2.9 litres, not too bad for two weeks.
Chilled out for the rest of the day, but planned our next stop. We are heading to Riccione on the Adriatic coast near San Marino. Two nights there then Bologna followed by Milan. Where we go from there is undecided.

17 June. We did a full service on the van this morning. Cleaned the chemical toilet, flushed both the grey water and the old fresh water, then went to refill the fresh. Where is the screw on fitting for the hose? Probably on the tap where we last filled up. I have a push on fitting which is totally inappropriate for anything under pressure but we managed to get to half full in not too long a time. Another thing for the shopping list. Drove through to Riccione on the east coast of Italy, near San Marino. This place is very touristy, sort of an Italian Riviera, but on the Adriatic Sea. There were three parks we could have chosen and we chose the one 300m from the beach, rather than the other two at 30m. Turned out to be a good choice so far. Nice trees, good ablutions and a good Pizzaria. This afternoon I needed three things. Cash (I tried 3 cards at the ATM at the campsite, all declined), new hose connectors, and a bloody haircut that I have been trying to get for three weeks! With the help of Mr Google, I found a real bank ATM and got cash, found a barber who could fit me in at 1800, 3 hours hence (that was fine by me) and found a hardware to get the connectors. My Italian is very limited and google translate saved the day twice. By 1830 I had fulfilled all my requirements. I feel humbled. Had pizza from the Pizzaria at the campsite and it was a good feed for the two of us for 8 Euros. Sitting over dinner we discussed our next move. It may come as a surprise, but we are now going to Venice again, not Bologna as previously planned. We are only 3 hours from Venice, so why not! Lazy day tomorrow.

18 June. An easy day today. Mid morning we walked the 250m to the beach. This area is so commercialised on the beach front. Most of the sand is taken up by deck chairs and umbrellas which are privately owned and available for hire. I don't know how much they charge, but less than 5% of the chairs were occupied. In the gaps between these areas, it is open to the public to actually sit on the sand, and that was where the great number of people were. The sand was OK. not as white as home by a long way but at least fairly fine. The water was not as clear as we have seen with the turbidity making it look muddy. It wasn't a bad beach, but it would have been nice to have it all open and natural like we are used to. I didn't take a camera with me but I could not have captured the extent anyway. If you are keen, look up Riccione Italy on google maps and look at the beach in satellite view.
Beside that, we did go in the water which was a little cool but otherwise fine.
In the afternoon, I rode to Lidl's supermarket to restock the wine supplies, and a little bit of food too. Missed the first turn so it took me three times as long to get there, but the trip home was much faster. Tomorrow Venice.

19 June. We had two options of getting to Venice. One via the toll roads which would take 2:20 which went via Bologna, or the non toll road which went via the coast and take 3 hours but was 72km shorter. We opted for the non toll road because it would save us about 15 Euros in fuel and whatever the toll roads would cost. Certainly well over 40 all up. Add to that, we get to see the countryside which you tend not to see from the tolls. It was a bit of a hassle getting through Rimini, the main town near where stayed in Riccione, but after that it was pretty smooth sailing. We arrived at the campsite before 3pm and it is a "park wherever you want" arrangement. That suited us fine. We got a drive through spot so we didn't need to unhitch the trailer and we get shade all day. It has been getting quite hot lately and the shade is a huge bonus. From the campsite, we can see Venice across the water. Access to the city is via ferry that runs every hour and is about 25 minutes each way. At $20 return each, it's not bad value as we get dropped off at a very good spot on the island. We have stayed here before but thought it was time to do it again, something we rarely do. Tomorrow, we will hit the island city. Might try to get an updated photo of the two of us near the Bridge of Sighs.

20 June. We took the 11am ferry to Venice and walked to St Mark's Square. Like last time, there were a lot of people around but by no means crowded. Wandered over to the Bridge of Sighs and there was an English speaking couple taking individual shots of each other and I offered to take a shot of them both if they would do the same. They were happy to that, so we got a similar photo as 8 years ago, though we are standing on the opposite sides. At least that way I'll be able to tell the difference. Stopped for lunch at a restaurant along the waterfront before trying to find our way to the Rialto Bridge across the Grand Canal. Navigation around Venice is a nightmare, and I have a good sense of direction. There were occasional signs to Rialto but several turns between them. It is very easy to get lost. Anyway, we finally got there, did the tourist bit, along with some shopping on the way, and headed back to the ferry. We caught the 1530 boat home which means we only spent 3 hours there. It seems like a short time but it was enough to do what we wanted. We did the more complete visit back in 2014.
Tomorrow, we will stay another day but spend it in the campsite. We have a lot of catching up to do work, clothes washing, van washing, and taking it easy in between.

21 June. Well, we did as expected. Van washing and clothes washing done. We chilled out the rest of the time. It is very hot here, maybe not in pure temperature, but with over 70% humidity, it is very sticky. Even sitting in the shade with just shorts on was making me sweat. We were in for another warm and uncomfortable night.

22 June. Off to Verona. We opted for the toll road because it saved us both distance and time. Of the mere 114km we had to drive, about 90km was on a delightfully good road. It was fairly busy but because we didn't have far to go, I chose to just sit in the truck lane and follow. Sitting on between 80 and 90kph and slipstreaming the truck in front, it was quite economical on the fuel and saved a lot of hard work. Arrived at the campsite in Verona early afternoon, settled in, did some shopping and before we knew it, it was wine o'clock. Tomorrow, we will bus in to central Verona which we are expecting to be very good.

23 June. We bought local bus tickets from the campsite reception which would streamline our trip. Caught the bus to the old city. Almost all European cities have retained their old city centres and when we travel, that is where we go. Verona has done it in spades. The outer areas are like any other city, pretty ordinary, but the old city is both historic and vast. The amount they have retained is a tribute to the city. Our first port of call was the tourist bureau where we found out all we needed to know, got maps, and bought ourselves each a Verona Pass ticket. That gave us free entry to most all of the attractions the city has to offer, including skip the line at a few of them. At €20 each, we got well over double that in value. Our first touring stop was the Arena which is one of the larger Colosseum type arenas in Italy. It is smaller than the Colosseum, but in better condition. It is also 2,000 years old, being built by the Romans in their heyday. It is still used to host operatic productions and was being set up for a showing of "Aida" tonight. We were able to watch them setting up the stage and saw more props waiting outside to be used. It was going to be a world class production for sure. Unfortunately, the show didn't start until 2115, so we lost interest at that. The only seats left were on the marble tiers up in the gods anyway. They have to wait until it is dark to put the show on.
Visited many other sights, like Juliet's house, complete with the balcony, the main piazza, the tower (we paid €1 each to use the lift rather than doing 249 steps each way). Great view of the old city. Had to fit a church in so did St Anastasia's. Typically excessive as it was in that era. Last stop was the castle and its museum before getting the bus home, exhausted again. I should have massive leg muscles by now but it just seems I end up with sore hips and knees and tired leg muscles. Not fair.
Verona is a wonderful city, one of our highlights so far.
It is still hot here, and getting quite a bit hotter over the next week. No aircon in the van is no fun. Tomorrow, Lake Garda. At least they have a pool and a pebble beach on the lake to help us cool off.

24 June. A quick one hour drive to Lake Garda, and no toll roads! We are staying in a campsite on the western side of Lake Garda but it doesn't really suit us. We would be better off on the south side. That's OK though, thy have a good pool here and we will do some scootering up the western side tomorrow, then move to another site the next day. Hot weather i forecast for the next week, so nice to be by the water at least. This place is OK, but quite isolated. It was about 31C today with high humidity then came the thunderstorms at 1730. Not a lot of rain but a lot of thunder and wind. It dropped the temperature to a comfortble level. Within an hour so, it was clear blue skies like the storm never existed.
We have made new plans for the trip. We intend to finish Lake Garda at its northern point and then we are only about 2 hours from Innsbruck, Austria. From there we will go up the middle of Germany to Nuremburg and other places between, then work our way to Amsterdam. While we have been to Innsbruck before, we will be entering and leaving from different directions than the past. Like all plans, subject to change, though looking strong right now.

25 June. We rode the scooter in to Sirmione, the end of the peninsula on the south side of Lake Garda. This is where the history and the tourist industry co-exist. It was an interesting ride, taking about 50 minutes to do about 24km. The traffic was terrible and as has been the norm in Italy, bordering on insanity every minute or so. Once we got to Sirmione, it was OK, because the cars were grid locked and we could just ride around them. Italian drivers have no problem with overtaking in head on situations, they just assume the other will get out of the way. Seriously blows my mind. As if I don't have enough to worry about with unknown roads, crosswalks every 100m, roundabouts every 200m, I have to keep a sharp eye on the rear vision mirrors to see where the real danger will lie.
Sirmione was very pleasant. We walked around the shore for a while, visited the castle which gave a great view from the top of the tower, had a good lunch and rode home. The ride back was 40 minutes which was nicer and a little less threatening which I appreciated.
We decided we had given Lake Garda a reasonable once over and tomorrow we will go to Innsbruck in Austria. We have booked a night at the Netterers See campsite where we stayed last time in 2018. This campsite is seriously 5 star. Without a doubt the best we have stayed in both in Europe or UK. We have only booked one night, but if the weather is cooler, we may stay another to recuperate from the heat we have had in Italy. Not so bad during the day, but not good when you can't sleep because it is 24C at night and just a wimpy little desk fan for cooling. Tonight looks like being one of them, the van is still very warm at 2130 with no breeze to cool it down.

26 June. What a day we were in for. We were expecting a hassle free day, but not to be. We opted for the toll road as the options were too hard to swallow. We had to drive about 15km to get to the toll road and it was the typical Italian lunacy. Odd that once they get on the motorways, they drive quite well, but in urban traffic, they are diabolical. First issue was when we got back towards Verona (before we could head north) I missed a turn from Tomtom and we ended up going south for 15km on another toll road before we could change direction back to the north. Nothing like wasting 30km of time and expense. We stopped for lunch and were going to refuel for €2.11 but it was an issue of actually getting to the pumps, so we went to the next fuel stop. Despite advertising their fuel at 2.11, their price was actually 2.55 a litre. Stuff that, we will get some farther on. We managed to get a full tank at €2.40. We didn't have a choice. Cost €160.00 to fill the tank. That's $240 !!! for 66.7l. It appears that the price went up 20% at 1pm. It has been higher than that at every servo since. So, we move on. The last hour in to Innsbruck, took 2 hours with totally man made congestion. The last toll check in Italy had huge queues and each toll booth was manned, something we have not seen before, which leads me to believe they had a computer issue and that held the whole system up. Then we get into Austria and they have a checkpoint where they charge everyone €10.50 to enter the country, that's on top of the €10 we paid for the vignette to use their roads. That has not happened in the previous two times we have entered Austria. That cost another 20 minutes!
Ok, the good side. The drive was spectacular. The scenery was sensational with the highlight being the Dolomites in northern Italy. Sadly, it is nigh on impossible to stop for a photo shoot on a toll road, so we have no proof of quality, but it really was good. One of the best drives we have done in Europe and definitely the best of this trip.
We finally got to the campsite outside Innsbruck and got settled in. We opted for a restaurant meal as it had been a long day. The meal was good, but the flies were horrendous. We were constantly shooing them away. Way worse than we have at home. The good part is that the campsite facilities are as good as we remember, which is to say, they are the best we have ever seen.
I know it sounds like constant drama but it's not really. We just seem to hit so many roadblocks on this trip that it overwhelms the good stuff sometimes. We have worked out a plan for the next week or two which takes in smaller cities and towns in Germany. I won't say anymore, because it may change.

27 June. We left Innsbruck at about 1000, and took the freeways all the way to Passau, which is on the German-Austrian border, and very close to the Czech border too. It was over 300km but a very easy drive. The quality of the roads made it a delight. There was a lot of traffic, most of it trucks, but everything worked well. The only problem I had was when it was only 2 lanes each way, I had to study the rearview before pullimg out to pass. You can see nothing for as far as you can see and next thing you know you have a Porsche up your backside within 15 seconds. Fortunately, the system works. If you pull out with sufficient notice, the faster traffic will happily sit on your bumper until you pull back in. I watch the mirrors a lot but still get surprised by someone passing at speeds in excess of 180kph. We got to our campsite in Passau mid afternoon, it being a farm style setup. What we didn't realise is that we get a bit of land to park on, and power if you pay an extra €5 a night, making it €25 a night, which is over the top when they don't provide toilets, showers, rubbish disposal or any way of disgorging our waste water or emptying the chemical toilet. We are committed now but will be careful in the future. Still hot here, with a top of 33C though as I write this, we are getting some light rain with a stronger breeze and a threat of thunderstorms. At least it is dropping the temperature a lot.
Passau is on the confluence of 3 rivers. The Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. The old city is in that area and that is where we will be tomorrow. At least this place is only 5 minutes from the centre of the old town by scooter.

28 June. After another spongewash, we went into the old city of Passau. It is not medieval at all, but very good at what it is. The Germans have a real pride which shows itself in how well everything is kept and maintained. Passau is a city at the confluence of 3 rivers, The Inn which starts in Switzerland and passes through Innsbruck, the Ilz which starts near the Bavaria/Bohemia border and the Danube which starts somewhere in the Black Forest. The three meet within 200m of the convergence point and then become the one river, the Danube. We walked along the banks of the Inn until we got to the meeting point and back along the Danube. Had morning tea in the centre of the old town and visited the cathedral which is in the middle of major renovations, the cathedral museum which was quite interesting, then lunch in the main pedestrian mall. The town is overlooked by a castle over the Danube and we were committed to going there. We could have walked up to it but it would then require an ambulance to get us back, so we took the scooter up. The castle itself was pretty good, but its main attraction was the views of Passau. Stunning.We were both knackered by this time, so we rode home with a stop for shopping. Thunderstorms again tonight, a bit earlier and more violent than last night but that's all good.
Tomorrow, we are going to try to get in to a campsite about 180km away. I tried calling ahead but couldn't get past the menu on their phone. We had tried one in Regenburg but they are booked out. The school holidays are on in Germany, so getting in to places may be difficult. Here's hoping we get in tomorrow.

29 June. Julie decided to call the campsite again near Regenburg, as she could at least understand some basic German, and found we could get in for 2 nights. This was good because it meant we had a relatively short drive, but it also put us within distance of Bamberg, our next intended port of call. It was raining constantly in the morning and just outside the van was mud. Include the fact that I had to reload the scooter on the trailer, we were both a bit wet and muddy by the time we left. A good drive to Regenburg but raining most of the way. When we arrived at the campsite at 1030 it had cleared up nicely. The guy asked us if we wanted a large pitch, we thought "why not". Little did we know it was a huge pitch. Room for 2 motorhomes with awnings fully extended. Luxury. We chatted with the guy who owns the place when we checked in (being Aussie, and he having visited there made us special) and he converted part of his farming land to a campsite a couple of years ago and still runs his organic farm as well. It is right up there as one of the better campsites, a far cry from the one we just left in Passau. In the afternoon, Julie and I had our first real shower for 2 1/2 days and what a luxury that felt like. Julie washed out the van which was a mess with the mud from Passau and it looks new again. Clothes washing done at less than half the price of other campsites and we are learning to love this place. Tomorrow, we will visit Kelheim, a town about 10km away. We could have done Regenburg but after driving through it on the way here, we decided to go for the smaller town. Quite a cool day today for a change but forecasting 31C tomorrow.

30 June. We woke this morning in a fog. Literally, we were fog bound. It had burned off by 0930 and the resulting sun was hot. Scootered in to Kelheim via the main road. The scooter performed well, holding 80 kph so we could keep up with the traffic. Found our way into the middle of the old town and I parked the scooter in what I thought was an appropriate spot. I went into the shop that we were right outside of and enquired if it was OK to park there. She said, no, police, they will fine you. We donned our helmets again, jumped on the bike, rode 25m and saw a motorcycle parking area. I could have wheeled it there. A quick wander around the old town and it was nothing special, so we made our way to the Danube where we knew there were ferry trips through the gorge part of the river, stopping at Weltenburg, then a return on any ferry you chose to come back on. This part of the river is not one that is travelled by any commercial craft other than the local sightseeing ferries. The Rhine-Danube cruise boats go along a canal the other side of the town that joins the Danube at the eastern side of town. Nice that we have seen a part of the Danube that the river cruise people don't get to see. It was a good ride too, a lot to see, and at the destination, there was the Wiltenberg Abbey. The interior was stunning. Over the top as usual, but so ornate that one can't help but admire it. Lunch there, and before you know it, it was time to get on the ferry again, unless we wanted to wait another hour or so, which we didn't because we had other things to see. The main other thing was the Liberation Memorial on the hill overlooking Kelheim which can be seen from almost every direction. A wonderful rotunda style building. It was built to commemorate the victory over Napoleon in the 1820's. We rode the scooter up there, way too far to walk and uphill too. We went inside, then found the steps to the upper levels. Lots of steps too. The view from the top balcony was excellent.
Rode back to the campsite via the back road for some more R&R. We had tried to get another couple more days here, not because there is more we want to do, but that it is a nice campsite to chill out and it means we don't have to try to get in somewhere else on the weekend, which is getting to be a hard call. We couldn't stay, this place is fully booked for the weekend, so we called the campsite in Bamberg and got in for three nights from tomorrow. It gets very good reviews, so here's hoping. Our aim from here is to visit small interesting towns in Germany. Today was a good start.

1 July. We had a casual departure from the campsite near Kelheim as we couldn't check in at Bamberg until after 1300. It was a short trip, only 164km, or about 2.5 hours. We refueled on the way, stopped for a quick lunch in the motorhome and managed to arrive at about 1308. It was constant light rain all the way here, and at 1600 it is just starting to clear. Always good to get the rain over with on a travel day. We are on the bank of Regnitz River, and a few hundred metres beyond that is the canal that links the Mainz River with the Danube at Kelheim. We have 3 nights here.

2 July. Had a good nights sleep and actually had the heater on a low setting. First cool to cold night we have had for a while and most appreciated. We rode into Bamberg in the morning without having to stop and consult google maps along the way, so that's always a win. Found a scooter parking spot and started our assault on Bamberg. Most of the old city is UNESCO heritage listed and when you look around, it is easy to see why. The town has done a wonderful job of preservation but also brings it alive. With pedestrian only streets, alfresco dining and cafes, it was really buzzing. The old Town Hall (Rathaus) is amazing. Built on a small island in the river and beautifully muraled, it was in a class of its own. Other highlights were the "Old Residence" which used to be a royal residence (as distinct from a palace) was good. Over the top but good. After lunch, I went to get a Thai massage. My lower back has been painful for a while but got worse today. I obviously couldn't communicate my problems well, even though I thought my gesturing was good. My back is still sore but not as bad, the rest of me feels great. In the interim, Julie went to the Dom, the main cathedral in Bamberg. She came out underwhelmed, particularly with the ornate ones we have seen lately. Come 1600, we were worn out and headed home.
We have decided to do a train trip into Nuremburg (actually camping there was problematic) for the day on Monday, so we have extended our stay here another night.

3 July. We went back into Bamberg around midday and it was deserted. Everything except food outlets, and not all of them by any stretch, and a few specialty shops, was shut. We had wanted to see a few things today but none were open and one we couldn't even find. We had planned to do some food shopping but all the supermarkets in town were closed too. We did go to the train station to find out about tickets to Nuremburg, having found out about a €9 ticket offer. It turns out that the German Government have introduced a €9 ticket that is valid for a month and includes trains (except inter city express ones), buses and trams, throughout Germany. It is designed to get people out of their cars and onto public transport to save fuel, which is an issue with the Russian problem. So we bought one each. We also checked out the scooter parking at the station and there are 3 places very near the front door. So far so good, at least we achieved something today. We visited the Market Garden area which is part of the UNESCO heritage area but were also underwhelmed. Overall a bit of a washout of the day, but we weren't up to too much anyway. Took it easy for the rest of the day.

4 July. We rode into the station for the 1010 train to Nuremburg with plenty of time to spare, parked in the empty scooter parking area and headed to the city. A 45 minute ride on a smooth and relatively comfortable (we were in second class due to the ticket restrictions) train brought us into Nuremburg. It was easy to work out which way to go. Modern buildings on both sides and medieval buildings in front. A pretty part of the town but is a bit let down by spasmodic modern buildings amongst the old. The cathedrals were also a bit passe but having seen hundreds of them, that's no surprise. Walked up the hill which seemed to go on forever to the castle. We saved €2 by being seniors and went to see the museum, the palace rooms and the tower. All very interesting. We then walked back through the old town and caught a tram (included in our ticket) to the Documents Museum which was way too far to walk. It is under some reconstruction and had a temporary display open instead of the full thing. It was good, but not as good as we expected. The arena there is where the Nazis held their annual conventions and is the sight often seen on newsreels. Sadly, that was also almost a shell of its former self. You could still feel how it would have been with over 70,000 people listening to the raving Hitler and being drawn in to his act.
We then caught the tram back to the station. Unfortunately, we were held up when a cyclist was hit by a tram coming the other way. Everything stopped and we had no idea how long it would be. We opted to get off and walk the rest of the way. That took a lot longer with roadworks and blocked sections and misreading maps. Otherwise, no problem. Finally got there and had a half hour wait for our train but that was OK.
We had been thinking of taking the train to Worzberg tomorrow, but it is a longer trip each way with a line change, and after today, that's a bit too much. We will call a couple of campsites in the morning to see if we can get in to Rothenberg (where we have been before and loved it) for a couple of nights.

5 July. Happy birthday to me. Time for some reflection. I am now over 10 years older than when we started our European dream. On the plus side, I now manage driving on the wrong side of the road probably the best I ever have. On the minus side, I can't drive long distance as well as I could. I tire a lot quicker. Also, the body doesn't cope so well, getting a sore back and general weariness with the long days of walking, much of it uphill. Can't complain really though, it is still working well enough.
OK, that out of the way, we called a couple of campsites in Rothenburg this morning (they are right next to each other) and managed to get in to the one we stayed at 5 years ago. New owners and the place has seen some changes, all for the better. The drive here was surprisingly good. Tomtom was telling us about all the delays with multiple sections of roadworks but we kept moving along well so it was pretty relaxing. We have 2 nights here but will probably stay another. We have decided to take 3 nights at most places where possible because we otherwise do 1 day of travel, 1 of sightseeing, 1 of travel, etc, That gets a bit wearing, so we are changing our policy as of now. Tomorrow, we will go to Rothenburg and have a good lunch (not a German pretzel, or breze as they are locally known, with a cake!) to celebrate my birthday. We would do dinner, but riding the scooter home half cut is not a good idea.

6 July. We rode into Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Julie could not remember anything other than the main square and Kathe Wohlfahrt's christmas shop. You couldn't forget the latter, it is probably the best christmas shop in the world. After going to the gardens and the wall walk, Julie was finally remembering a lot more about this place. We think it is the most stunning town in Germany, though we haven't seen them all. We picked a random restaurant for lunch and had a traditional German meal each. Julie's was lovely and tender, mine was a bit dry. You win some you lose some. We then did a bit of shopping and a wall walk then went home. We managed to get another night here so we will go back again tomorrow. It is a nice way to go not being rushed.

7 July. Woke to steady light rain and quite cool too, bordering on cold. We took it easy in the morning and sometime after 1100, we went into Rothenburg. Compared to yesterday when the weather was sunny, it was deserted. We did some more of the town, walked more of the walls, had lunch and went home. We were getting short of supplies in the food stakes (wine is always well stocked!). Found a large supermarket in the new town and went there about 1600 when there was a break in the rain. Huge store. We managed to get everything we wanted including new filters for the Britta filter jug. We had more than we thought so I had to resort to the "bag between the knees" trick on the scooter. It actually has a hook for that very purpose.
Tonight we are working out where to go next and decided on a town called Braunfels just north of Frankfurt, famous for its castle and being a nice little town too. We'll make some calls to see if we can get in, with 2 sites suitable, we should be OK.

8 July. Changed our plans as the place we had picked was booked out. Ended up going to a place called Bad Durkheim (the Bad indicating lake) just west af Mannheim. This was intended to be a stepping stone to the Moselle region south of Koblenz. We called and found they had plenty of room and when I enquired about reception hours (we have been caught too many times with closed receptions) we were told they were closed between 1300 and 1500. Not wanting to be messed around, we timed our arrival at 1245. We checked in and got a bill of €112 for 2 nights. That is far and away the most expensive 2 nights we have had in 10 years. Turned out that the cost included €10 for an early check in (I wonder if they charged the same for a late check in after 1500) and €8 tourist tax. The campsite is OK, big pitches, good, but nothing special, ablutions, though it does have a lake for swimming and general water sports. Doesn't warrant the price though. Anyway, we were considering our options for the next stop and decided that Strasbourg is only 127km away and we have not been there. So, next stop, Strasbourg.

9 July. We rode into Bad Durkheim late morning and as usual, got a great parking spot for the scooter. This town has a history as a spa town. As part of that, they have a massive water filtration system that actually increases the salinity of the water, which is then used in the spa treatments. This is a massive structure, 333m long that has huge filter pads designed to evaporate the water, thus increasing the salinity. We have never seen anything even close to like it. The old town is nice in its own way. Not stunning like Rothenburg or Bamberg, but had its own character. We liked it. Lunch, then the town museum, which was all in German (there are very few English speakers come here, and even less Australians) so we couldn't enjoy it as much. The town gardens are excellent, making one half of the area of the old town. We then went to the old castle ruins at Hardenburg, about 5km out of town. For ruins, they were in pretty good condition and it was an interesting visit, other than having to walk about 300m uphill (seriously uphill) then climbing more steps than we could count inside the castle. To say we were knackered when we got home would be an understatement.
As for our plans for Strasbourg, we could not get into any campsites there, so plan B, we are off to Bacharach, on the Rhine, about 100Km away. This year has been one where we have to book ahead all the time which is not what we are used to. In the past, we would rock up and say we want to stay for 2 nights and it was never a problem. Now, with Covid, everyone is travelling only in their own country and the result is full campsites. OK, we can play the game, but it means always having at least 1 or 2 options.

10 July. We drove to Bacharach, all of 97km away and mostly on a motorway. In Gemany and France (and maybe other countries) large trucks are not allowed on the roads on Sundays. Today being a Sunday, I could sit in the right hand lane (the slow lane here) with the cruise control set on 90kph and enjoy the ride. A lot of others had to overtake me, but here that is simple. The lane discipline here is wonderful, and the traffic just moves so well. At the end, we had a totally stress free drive. We arrived here about noon and because of the length of our rig, we got put in to a riverfront pitch. We would have paid more for it if required anyway. This part of the Rhine, from Koblenz to Mainz is, in our opinion, the cream of the Rhine. We said when we arrived that we wanted 3 nights, but after checking around for possibilities, decided that we are better off with 5 nights. That was not an issue with the owners of the site, so we are settled in for a while. Sitting outside watching the world go by on the river is so relaxing. Also the town of Bacharach is so pretty that a short stroll is very rewarding. Tomorrow, we plan to get more use out of our €9 German travel pass to take a train to Mainz where we haven't been before, then Tuesday a ferry ride to Rudesheim (which we have to pay for damn it) and back with a 4 hour stopover there. Wednesday is a scooter ride around the hills of Bacharach and after that, either more, or a day off. Whatever happens, we are looking forward to a long stay in one place and the view couldn't be better.

11 July. We took the train to Mainz and because of the €9 tickets, it was packed, even though it was a 1000 departure from Bacharach. We managed to get a seat about half way there when a few people got off. It is a 50 minute trip, so standing the whole way would not have been pleasant. Mainz is a large city which is not really to our liking but it was OK. Some beautiful buildings, but often spoiled by new ones in between, a total opposite of Rothenburg. We wanted to go to the Gutenberg Museum, which is for the first printing press in the world but being a Monday it was closed. This happens to us more often than we would like. The trip home was equally packed but because we got on at the start of the journey, we managed to get seats, although they were not together. After we got home, Julie did some hand washing while I went to the next town up to get fuel for the scooter and do some shopping. There is no fuel in Bacharach, but it was only 6km away. Tomorrow we are planning a ferry ride to Rudesheim which is upstream from here and on the other side. Supposed to be a beautiful little town which was confirmed by our Belgian neigbours here who went there today. Hopefully it will be a nice relaxing day.

12 July. Walked to the ferry pier and bought our seniors return tickets to Rudesheim for €23, saving €10 off the full fare. We had quite a nice ferry for the trip which took 1:45 hours upstream with 3 stops on the way which were executed so efficiently that they were less than 2 minutes stops. Rudesheim is a classic example of the small towns on this part of the Rhine, great architecture and character. We visited the Tourist Information office and got the speil of what to do in 3 1/2 hours. First on the list was lunch, followed by a trip up the cable car to the Germania Monument on the hill. It looked good from a distance but very stunning close up. It is huge and the detail exquisite. The view from there is almost as good as the monument. Back into the town and I managed to get another knit shirt souvenir followed by a wine in the Drosselgasse, a small laneway with 144m of taverns and bars. You could have a pub crawl and not clock over a couple of hundred steps. It was a nice relaxed visit to Rudesheim. The ferry on the way back made the earlier one look old and tired. This one was new with all the comfort, smoothness and quietness that one would expect on an expensive cruise boat. It also helped that it was only a 1 hour trip downstream. Tomorrow is tipped for 33C, so not sure how much we will get done.

13 July. Took the scooter up in to the mountains behind us. It was a good ride, lots of hairpin bends and very little traffic. We did a big loop into the backwoods behind Bacharach. Stopped back in town and bought stuff from the bakery for lunch. We were going to walk up to a lookout on the edge of town in the afternoon but it got too hot, so maybe tomorrow.

14 July. Our neighbours from Belgium left to go home this morning and their 7 year old son had made a card for us, from him and his 2yo sister. It was really touching. I gave them both a gold kangaroo lapel pin as a payback. They invited us to camp at their place if we need something in Limburg. You never know.
After that we walked up to the Sentry Tower above Bacharach and it was a spectacular view. Bacharach is a gorgeous town, not touristy by any stretch, just a lovely town that the locals are very proud of. We took the afternoon off, loving the holiday atmosphere, and tried to book in to Cologne campsite from tomorrow. We got a reply that it was booked out so we sent a request for 3 nights from either Saturday or Sunday and they said we could do that from Sunday. That is good, it means another transit day without trucks! It also means we will stay here another 2 nights which suits us just fine. It also means that we will have had a complete week here, something we almost never do, but this time, it has been delightful. There is so much to do and see within a short distance, and down time sitting on the banks of the Rhine watching the world go past is super relaxing. We have already made plans for the next 2 days without any great effort.
We had dinner in the town tonight at a very pleasant pub that could have almost passed as an English pub. Good meal, good wine and all for A$40. The advantage of being in a "non tourist" area. None of the river cruise boats stop here and the passengers have no idea what they are missing.

15 July. We rode a bit downstream to get a short ferry across the Rhine to the other side so we could visit the towns on that bank. The crossing took about a minute and the logistics were typically German, precise. We called in to the first two and they were a bit average then on the the third, Assmannshausen. Here they have a chair lift up the mountain that links to a walk to the Germania statue. Before we took that, we had lunch at a cafe restaurant in the town. We opted to eat outside which turned out to be a bad move. The inside is done up like Alladin's cave. It is packed with bric-a-brac but is done in such a way as to be WOW, rather than overdone. We discovered this when we did a nature break. Mind blowing, never seen anything like it. Anyway, we then went on the chair lift which was slow and vibrated so much it felt we were on a massage chair. It was fine though, better than walking. At the top, we had no need to do the 6km round trip to Germania because we did that a couple of days ago. The only real treat when we got to the top was a fenced field with deer running in it. We have seen very few deer in our travels, even though we have seen hundreds of "deer warning" signs. It was pretty cool. You could put a Euro in a slot and get a cup of feed and hand feed the deer. We didn't but were happy to watch the kids do it.
We took the lift back to town and decided to have a drink at the same cafe inside this time. This place, Restaurant Anker, should be on anyones list if you are near Assmannshausen. Rode home using another ferry crossing we discovered that gave us a shorter ride there. We had to wait about 15 minutes but that was no hardship. Tomorrow is our last full day in Bacharach and we are planning on visiting a couple of castles upstream from us on the same side.

16 July. We rode up to Burg Rheinstein, the furthest of the two castles we intended to visit today, about 9km away. We got a suitable scooter park and walked up the incline to the castle. We find inclines are a lot more gentle on the legs than steps so we took it as a bonus, knowing that when we got inside it would be full of steps and we were not proven wrong. A very good castle, first built in the 1200's and as is usual, added to with each owner. It was allowed to fall into disrepair until the 1800's when steps were taken to gradually restore it. The current owners live there, but in a closed off section that is modern but doesn't actually detract from the original, It is so well done and we enjoyed the visit there. The second one we were going to is now an hotel and very modernised so we thought we would stick with the traditional and leave the second one be. We rode home for lunch and walked into the town mid afternoon. I wanted to go to the hardware store we found a few days ago to get some bits and pieces but they closed at 1pm, as did the bakery we hoped to get some afternoon tea from. At least the supermarket was open so we got the essentials we really needed. We are still blown away by how beautiful this town is, it is a delight just to walk around it.
We still have not been able to book into Cologne campsite and phone calls have been fruitless, but the last email we got from them was that it should be OK, so we will take our chances and just roll up. It will not be a weekend, so there should be at least one of the 140 pitches available.

17 July. We finally got a confirmation of our booking, so we are off to Cologne. It has been a week since the motorhome has been started. It has been a wonderful break here in Bacharach. We have done a lot in the time here, but it has been at our leisure, so the relaxation level has been pretty high. It has been what we really needed. The drive to Cologne was easy. It is a Sunday, again meaning no trucks, and we took the fast route via the autobahn. Like many campsites in Europe, this one also closed reception from 1200 to 1500. We didn't want to arrive after 1500, so we planned to arrive before 1200. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. Fortunately we were not financially penalised for doing so. It gave Julie a chance to get some washing done and me to get a clothesline up. With servicing the motorhome, waste water dump and fresh water fill, we are back to the start.
The weather here is for 33C tomorrow and 36C on Tuesday which is not very pleasant when one doesn't have aircon in the van. We intend to train to Bonn for a visit but will leave that until Wednesday when it should be 27C. We will be getting good value out of our €9 tickets. Tomorrow we will do more of Cologne, having been here before but there is a lot we didn't do.

18 July. We walked over the massive bridge over the Rhine to the tram station opposite the campsite. It is about 500m in a straight line but close to 2km via the bridge. We were told to get the 16 tram which goes to the centre of the city, ie, the cathedral. Well, the graphics on the transport map indicated that it got no closer than the 17 tram. The 17 was the next tram to arrive so we took it. We then had a 2km walk into the city and there, right on the corner near the cathedral, was the underground stop for the 16 tram. We learn something new every day. A little more on that shortly. Julie went in to the cathedral while I checked at the HBF (Hauptbahnhof, or, main train station) for details on the train to Bonn. It leaves once an hour and takes 30 minutes. Sounded OK to me. Julie was just coming out of the cathedral when I got back and said it was worth a look, so we both went in. I am not sure if we went inside here last time, but it is impressively huge. It made it worthwhile for Julie to come back in with me because the organ was playing and it was very good. After that we tried to go to the Lugwig Museum, but being a Monday it was closed, as was the Documentation Centre. One of the other places on Julie's list was St Gereon's Basilica. Now, I'm not a great fan of churches but turned out to be special. From the outside, it looked as if it was relatively newly built. Inside was a different story, and a story is what we got. We were the only people in there and the guy at the desk said "If there is anything you want to know, just ask". I did have a question, which was "When was this built?". Then the private tour began. It was first created in 500AD and then added to, destroyed, rebuilt, added to, destroyed. You get the idea. The guy was a German speaker with a reasonable amount of English and it was very entertaining and educational. He pointed out almost every character in the stained glass windows and fresco. We got to visit the crypt and another area off to the side. If we had just walked in, had a look around and left we would have missed them all. The upshot is, it was a very good visit and interaction. Very different to the cathedral, but I must say, more personal and spiritual. We then had lunch and a drink and headed home. Now that we knew where to get the 16, it was much more efficient. The next lightbulb to go on was to see the destination of the 16 tram (I prefer it as light rail, because it doesn't go with any road traffic, part of the system is underground, and some go to regional destinations) was Bonn HBF. So, when we go to Bonn, we don't need to go north 6 or 7km only to get an hourly train and start off 6 or 7km behind already. Also, the 16 tram goes every 10 minutes. Even if it takes 50 minutes to do the run, we are still ahead.
Finally got home with Julie tiring from the heat. It was about 33C but the draining effect is significant. We were going to be in for a bad night. Fortunately, a light breeze came up to take the worst of the edge off the heat in the van, but not a godsend either. It was still over 30 when we went to bed. Even the cold showers before had limited effect. As it was, it cooled down enough for us to crawl under the light doona in the wee small hours.

19 July. Forecast top of 39C. We are not going anywhere. Well, not entirely, because I scootered in to Aldi's and bought some grog, then went to a couple of hardware stores to try get some simple stuff that wasn't simple to find. Managed to get the main thing, some nuts for the trailer to use as locknuts on the scooter support system. Having found my way around this part of urban Cologne, it was safe for me to take Julie to a big supermarket that I knew I could get to and back from. We did a good shop and headed home. It is really hot. We were asked by the guy at the campsite to turn our van around so it faced the road. I couldn't see any rationale to that request but you can't argue. We turned the van around, taking up exactly the same space. The only problem was that our shade was not as good due to the angle of the afternoon sun. Oh well, some things you just have to take in your stride. Tomorrow should be cooler so we are off to Bonn on the 16 tram. We have booked 3 nights in Amsterdam as of Thursday. Now we know where will be the next 4 nights.

20 July. We took our long walk over the bridge and caught the 16 train to Bonn. We are getting amazing value out of our €9 tickets. The trip took about 45 minutes, so the numbers came up in favour of the 16. Bonn was not at all what we expected. I thought of Bonn as Germany's Canberra, a city built from scratch for a purpose. How wrong was I? Bonn is many centuries older than that. Proof of that is we went to Beethoven's home, and he was born in 1771. There is a bit of very old Bonn and more of old Bonn. The old town is, like many of these cities, nicely preserved. Some beautiful buildings. After Ludwig's place, we had a light lunch then went in search of the "Museum Mile" as it is locally known. It is about a 40 minute walk and we came across the University underground station. We checked where the trains went from there, and to our delight, went straight to the Museum Mile. Even more surprising is that the train we caught was the number 16, the same one we arrived on. We went to the Haus der Geschichte, which is a museum of Germany since the end of WW2. It was very well put together, with some in English, but it would have been better if all the German script was also in English. It was definitely pro West and anti Soviet, but that's only fair. The detail was amazing and showd the rise of Germany from the Nazi ashes. What the country has achieved since 1945 is extraordinary. Having seen a lot of Germany, that doesn't surprise us. They are survivors and innovators. We would expect nothing less.
After that museum, we were burned out a bit, and decided to head home. It is not as hot today as the last couple, but still draining. We walked the 50m to the museum station, had to wait less than a minute, and got on the 16 to home. The trip home seemed a lot shorter than the trip in, and it included another 4 stops.
Tomorrow, Amsterdam.

21 July. It rained steadily all night and then all day on the way to Amsterdam which dropped the temperature massively. The top was 21C, a nice change from high 30's for 3 days. It was a good drive despite the rain and the only issue we had was Tomtom giving us confusing instructions once we arrived in Amsterdam that cost us about another 5km than we needed. It didn't help that Tomtom won't update in tunnels. Finally got to the campsite OK. We have stayed here before in 2014 but it didn't look at all familiar. They must have done some serious improvements because the ablution block looks very new and good. Late afternoon now and it is still a light steady rain. The forecast is for fine the next few days so that is promising. Always good to get the wet weather out of the way on a travel day. Tomorrow, we will hit the town.

22 July. Amsterdam round 2. Took the train about 1030. We have done a fair bit of Amsterdam in the past, so there were quite a few things we didn't need to do. We did the old town walk around, stopped for an early lunch, then took the tram down to the museum quarter. This area is actually (in our opinion) the cream of Amsterdam. It is about 4 or 5km out of the centre and it has a lovely clean treelined look about it. The park that the museum precinct is set in makes for a great green retreat. We wandered around there for a while then took the tram back one stop to an area we noticed on the way in. One of the things there was a Rembrandt 5D presentation. We had no idea what it was and there were no reviews on google. We got tickets anyway, at €12.50 each which we are starting to think of as a bargain. It was an interesting display, in 2 different rooms. There was really no 3D effect, though the projected scenes were pretty good. Not sure where they get 5D, there was 2D video, sound and vibration, so that makes 4. It could have been the perfume smell, but may have been one of the women in the 6 of us. All in all, it was OK and we found that it had only been open a month, accounting for the lack of reviews.
We took the tram back to Central Station and got messed around when they changed trains on us. No big deal, but a bit messy in the way it was done. At least we got the correct train at the first opportunity. Tomorrow, a late start so we can spend the evening in the city.

23 July. We had our late start, and got the train to the city around 3pm. We then took a tram to the Museum Quarter so Julie could buy another present for the exulted ones (grandchildren) then back to the city for more shopping for the aforementioned. We did some more walking around the city, stopping for a drink at a bar, while we killed time before dinner. We found a nice restaurant and had a decent meal for a decent price. Then it was off to the red light district. In Amsterdam, it is prominently marked on the city map. We thought we would cross off another bucket list item and go to an adult entertainment show. It was quite underwhelming but we can tick it off the list now. Uneventful trip home on the train, unlike the last afterdark train trip we did in Amsterdam.

24 July. We are headed for Utrecht this morning. The campsite we had chosen, Budget Camping Utrecht, doesn't take bookings, it is first in best dressed. We arrived about 1040 and got a spot with no problem. It is pretty basic, but only a 10 minute or less ride into the city and at €16 a night (17 if you count the showers) it is less than half of what we've been paying lately. Because we arrived so early, we went in to the city in the afternoon. A very pretty town it is too, very much a miniature Amsterdam, lots of canals and a lot of vibrancy. We really only did one thing besides sightseeing (if you don't count shopping) and that was the Utrecht Archives Museum. At €2.50 each it was a steal. Very good introduction presentation, with holograms, gave a run down of the history of Utrecht. At this stage I should point out that one of the reasons we came here is that Martin van Asselt, my best man at our wedding, was born here and spent his childhood here until he was about 10 or 11, when his family immigrated to Australia. Back home once we found our scooter again. Tomorrow we will come back with our cameras, which we forgot to bring today. As an aside, the cyclists in The Netherlands are about as crazy as Italian drivers and motorcyclists. It is seriously dangerous as a pedestrian.

25 July. First issue for us was to book a few days in Belgium, and we will be there on Tuesday, just like in the movie. We could not get in to the campsite in Brugge so we needed an alternative. We managed to get 3 nights in Jabbeke, between Brugge and the coast which suits us fine. Now we have also booked our ferry crossing on the 29th. A productive morning. Julie is feeling sore in the back and feet today so she is taking it easy in the van for the day. It is cold and windy anyway so not much fun out. I rode in to Utrecht to get the promised photos and am now getting the website up to date. Tomorrow, Jabbeke.

26 July. It was raining heavily this morning but we managed to get a break to do the outside pack up. The 250km drive was OK, but hard work with the rain continuing most of the way, including after our arrival. We were in moderate to heavy traffic the whole way but it flowed pretty well. The campsite in Jabbeke is OK but everything is extra. A swipe card for showers which has 30 minutes credit for hot water is €5, and that includes hot water for the dishes. Even worse, we only get one card which must be in the slot for the whole shower, meaning we can't shower at the same time. When one is already paying €37 a night for the pitch, that's a bit rich. Also, with only 4 showers each for men and women and hundreds on the site, getting one is problematic. On the good side, they have 2 large washing machines and we have a large pitch. The other disappointment was that despite only being around 20km from Brugge, the town of Jabbeke is dead and uninteresting. We would probably scooter to Brugge but Julie's back is giving her trouble so a longish scooter ride is not a good idea. We'll just take it easy though it is a bit boring.

27 July. Now we have some firm times for what we have left, we have managed to book a couple of campsite stays for the night after our channel crossing and for 2 nights for our normal clean up of the van prior to storage. Organised our stay with Peter and Margaret and we already have Victory Services booked. Only a week in the interim to fill in and waiting on Brendon and Lorna to work out what they will be doing. Now all that is done, it is time for more washing now we have the big machines. The Kindle will be worth its weight in gold the next day or two. Dinner tonight at the local Chinese Restaurant which is part of the tourist complex. A very good meal and decent inexpensive wines. Our highlight of the day.

28 July. We did some more laundry and finally caught up. Went in to the town and stocked up with a few essentials. Went home and prepped the van for tomorrows departure. We had a few drinks with our Dutch neighbours which was very pleasant. Went to bed. Not what you'd call a full day.

29 July. We were booked in for the 1200 departure from Dunkirk to Dover and arrived there at 0930, allowing ourselves plenty of time. We even took our time getting there, slipstreaming a big truck most of the way sitting on 83kph and using almost no fuel. When we arrived for check in, the guy asked if we wanted the 1000 departure and that was a "is the pope a catholic" question. It meant that we didn't have to wait to board for 2 hours and we would arrive in Dover 2 hours earlier. We thought the second part would be an advantage as we would avoid the worst of the peak hour traffic on the M25 (London Orbital ring road). Well, we were right on all except the last one. We had an hours delay on the M25, sitting either stationary or in first gear on idle for a long long time. We knew what to expect from Tomtom live traffic, Google maps and the sign boards on the M20 prior to getting to the M25. The biggest problem is that there is no alternative route. The only crossing of the Thames between London and the coast is on the M25 at Dartford Crossing. So we sucked it up and crawled with the flow. When we got to the A10 exit, we knew we had to take a different route to Theobald Park where we were booked for the night but that didn't help except get us lost with no help from Google or Tomtom. We ended up going via a private road (with tacit permission) and squeezing around road works with mere centremetres to spare. That ordeal took another 25 minutes to do for about 4kms. When we arrived (remembering that we use Theobalds for our annual clean up prior to van storage but not for 3 years) we were greeted with a "great to see you again!". After all the hassles prior, it quite made our day. They remembered that we were from Australia and always did our clean up there. Seeing as we are booked here again on the 9th and 10th August for exactly that, they pre assigned us a pitch close to the facilities. Nice folk. We will stay here tonight then off to Cambridge around noon tomorrow.
There have been no new photos for the last few days because we haven't taken any, due to there not being anything worthwhile to take. Hopefully that will change soon.

30 July. The M25 lived up to its reputation again today. We didn't have to go too far on the M25 to get to the M11 to Cambridge, but boy, did it punish us. It was a two fold cause, the rail system went on strike, so many more vehicles on the road, and there was a rear ender on the M25 as well Another 40 minutes of our lives that we will never get back. The rest of the trip was event free and we got to the campsite 1330, when we would normally have arrived at 1250. We set up on our pitch, a drive through YAY. It's a pain having to unhitch the trailer just to park the van. When we set up, I discovered that I had not put on the disc lock on the scooter which I normally do. The sad part was, I couldn't find the lock. We have a few theories, but no proof. We have come to rely on it for security so I planned to get a new one. In the afternoon I rode in to Cambridge (Julie had a headache and didn't want to come) to familiarise myself with route, saves annoyance when I get lost. I also went to Halfords (UK's answer to Supercheap Auto with a bit of Bunnings tossed in) and bought a new lock. I am happy now. Back at the campsite, I set up the spare laptop as a media centre and we watched the first TV for nearly 3 months. BBC2 were showing the Commonwealth Games and what a biased broadcast it was. That would never happen in Australia.... oh, yes it would. Anyway, I looked up the medal list and we definitely have bragging rights here at the moment. Pizza from a visiting van at the campsite tonight that was very nice, but small and expensive. I guess one out of three ain't bad. We have extended another night here so we leave on Tuesday. Hopefully Brendon will know what's going on with them so we can organise a get together.

31 July. We have decided to go to the Fitzwilliam Museum today, amongst other things, and it doesn't open until 1200. It is free to visit but you need to book a start time online. We chose not to do that, instead to get there as close to the opening time as possible. That turned out to be easier than we thought because there was motorcycle parking right out the front. We joined the relatively short queue for those who didn't have bookings and went straight in. It is an interesting museum with everything from medieval armour and weapons to Roman history, Egyptian history and European art. There was a special display of "Hockney's Eye" which is of an artist who liked to draw in a different perspective. It was interesting, but neither of us are so into art that we saw the impact. The museum itself has an amazing entry that is worth the visit in itself. We were also treated to a life size painting of Will and Kate which was of a very high quality. From there we went to lunch at Fitzbillie, a 100 year old tradition in Cambridge, most noted for their Chelsea buns. We had a breakfat menu at 1430 but that was OK, we don't normally have Eggs Benedict or spicy tomato, chick pea and coriander with eggs for breakfast anyway. We are here for another day now, so we will try the Chelsea buns tomorrow. Then into the centre of the city and around to the Cam river. We have been here before but it was raining the whole time and about the only thing we saw was King's College. This time we saw a whole lot more. Cambridge is a very special place with beautiful architecture and even has rural on its doorstep. We didn't see any cows, but there were many signs of their existence here. So pleased to have had a fresh look at Cambridge, we didn't have a chance last time to give it the coverage it deserved. Rode back home via a Waitrose supermarket 2 minutes from home. Watched a bit of TV seeing it was all set to go. Tomorrow, we need to book our next stop at Matlock, north of Derby. Another UNESCO area. Fingers crossed we get our preferred campsite.

1 Aug. Well, we managed to get 3 nights in Matlock, near the Peaks District from tomorrow. We rode into Grantchester, a little village not far from our campsite. There has been a TV series made here, based on murders, and oddly enough, called Grantchester. We have never seen them but we should try to get to see a few now that we have been there. We went to the parish church which was originally built in the 1300s, though it was built on foundations from the 1100s. One of the things that these sorts of churches have over the massive cathedrals is personal character. The cemetery was quite fascinating, so many of the old family names that cropped up all the time. The building itself was also interesting in that it has timber vaults for the ceiling rather than the stone more commonly used in those days. Off to the Orchard Cafe and went for a shared scone with jam and clotted cream. The scones were huge so one between us was more than enough. We then rode into Cambridge again which was via a different route. We managed to end up where we hadn't intended and had to reroute to get where we meant to be. Our goals were the Mathematical Bridge which is a timber bridge across the river Cam. Its claim to fame is that it is an arched bridge (quite small really) that is made from straight timbers. The effect is definitely of curved lines so it was well planned. To actually walk across that bridge would have cost us £5 each. Suffice to say, we didn't feel the need to personally cross it when we could see it from about 30m away. The second was the Cambridge "bridge of sighs". After much searching and walking, we discovered that you couldn't actually get there without going through university grounds which are all closed to the public. About that time, we decided to call it quits. It seems that today, Cambridge was intent on putting roadblocks on all our plans. That didn't stop us buying 2 Chelsea Buns from Fitzbillies, which as an institution here, is their signature product. We got take away and had them for afternoon tea. Nice but so so sweet. Afternoon doing some prep work for our departure. We have enjoyed Cambridge a lot this time, the first time it was raining the whole time, this time was very pleasant. Tomorrow, Matlock.

2 Aug. We left Cambridge to drive to Matlock. 95% was on motorways, or A roads that were as good. When we got to Matlock, we had been advised by the owners of the pub/campsite that we needed to arrive on the downhill slope to avoid damage to the motorhome. Knowing that, we approached the site from the uphill, which was unavoidable really. We went on to turn around and got caught up in roadworks which was exciting in itself with narrow passing areas. I thought I would do an "around the block" turn, only to find that the last part was closed because of the roadworks. A bit of delicate reversing of the trailer and we were able to complete a 3 point turn. We then drove back to the site on the downhill run and besides bottoming out on the driveway, had no problems. We have a good site with hard standing which is a bonus for levelling as well as not walking wet grass into the van. The owners told us that our friends would be here tomorrow mid morning which was good news. It will be good to catch up with Brendon and Lorna tomorrow. We walked into the town to do some shopping and killed our hammys on the walk back. Lots of hills around here. Quiet afternoon in, we are planning on eating at the pub the next 2 nights.

3 Aug. Quiet morning while we wait for Brendon and Lorna to turn up. In the meantime we needed to organise our last few nights on the road. The first thing was to get an extra night at Theobalds Park where we will be doing our clean up. That was done and we needed to get another 3 nights before that somewhere else. We chose a campsite in Chipping Norton. After calling the number we got from Google, we found the guy had no access to the bookings because he was in Romania. He did give us his brother's number though. Called him and found they had a vacancy for us which is surprising seeing as it is a weekend during school holidays and it is in the Cotswolds. So now we are safely booked in for every night until we hit Peter and Margaret's. That is a load off our minds. This trip has been the only time where we have had to book ahead at almost every site. Normally, we would just rock up but not anymore.
Brendon and Lorna arrived about 1130 and set up opposite us. Then the motorcycles turned up. Every month or two, there is a group of bikers that gather here for lunch. This time, about 80 of them. Lots of classic and vintage bikes as well as many current ones. I offered to put the Vision 110 on display to give them some class to their display but for some reason, they laughed.
The four of us mounted our steeds (they have a Vision 110 also) and rode to Lumsdale falls about 2km away. The falls themselves were a little underwhelming but they were OK. We met a local on the walk and she gave us the full rundown which was cool. Next, back into town for a coffee and the traffic was a crawl. Not sure why, it was only 1500, hardly peak time. Afternoon drinks together then dinner at the pub, a very short walk because we are camping at the pub. Good time had by all. Tomorrow we will do some more local exploring. Matlock is a pretty town in a lovely area and we are enjoying the place.

4 Aug. The four of us rode a circuit through Cromford canal and mills, Matlock Bath and back to Matlock. Cromford Canal was pleasant except for the fact that we had to pay to park the scooters which is something I have serious problems with we battled on. Saw an interesting art display with an invitation to visitors to vote for their favourite paintings. Julie and I chose the same one (does that say something?). The Derwent valley is just gorgeous. The next stop was Matlock Bath which is an enigma. Set on the river in spectacular surroundings, the town is like Blackpool. There are more fish and chip shops per metre than anywhere else in England. There are amusement centres everywhere (read: penny arcades) and it is so incongruous to the natural beauty that surrounds this place. We had lunch at a biker friendly bar that was closed to children (allegedly due to dangers from the fish pond which was unfenced) and had too much to eat again. Rode back to Matlock and discovered why the traffic was so bad. The A6 highway was closed due to public works and everyone was diverted through Matlock. After arriving back home, Julie and I walked up to Pic Tor War Memorial, all of about 300m from our campsite. The walk up took us through the the local parish church and cemetery to the memorial. It had a good view of Matlock but sadly we still couldn't see down into the valley, just the town on the other side. We inspected the cemetery on the way back which was a good window into the local history. Dinner at the pub again tonight.

5 Aug. A bit more time with Brendon and Lorna before our farewells. we had to wait for them to go so we could do a U turn through where they were parked. More dancing with the motorhome to depart the area (turning left when we needed to go right, a round the block turn around and we are finally on our way to Chipping Norton. The first part of the drive was hard work with narrow roads but we finally got on the M1 south. Another motorway, the M69 then an A road, then the crappy little roads. We missed the turn into the campsite and needed to turn around. 4km and a very tight roundabout got us back there. An interesting site which is really a farm paddock, park where you like, we will catch up later. At only £19 a night it is pretty good value, but only one toilet and one shower, tomorrow may be interesting. Mind you, there are only 2 other couples here so shouldn't be too much problem. Tomorrow, our primary goal is to buy Julie some more gin then we can explore more of the Cotswolds.

6 Aug. The shower here was not as good as we hoped but we managed. About 1000 we set off for the Cotswolds. It was quite cool when we left and we thought we could get by with just jumpers on. Before we even got to Stow-on-the-Wold, I was shivering so much that the scooter was weaving all over the road. It was only about a 12 minute ride but enough time to freeze. We stopped at Stow for a look around and a hot cups of tea with a hot sausage roll. We spent as much time in the sun as we could and finally thawed out. Stow is a very pretty town and big enough to be vibrant and small enough to maintain the character. There was a lot of traffic in the town being a weekend in the Cotswolds and only about an hour or two out of London. We then set off for the Slaughters, Upper and Lower. We felt like lambs going to the Slaughters. Upper was pretty but too small to be vibrant. Lower was similar but more to see. From there it was only 1.5 miles to Bourton-on-the-Water. We had been there before but it is the most famous of the Cotswolds towns that we thought we should revisit it. We spent about 10 minutes in the town which really only has the area along the little river as its main attraction. The place was seriously crowded so we headed out and on to Naunton, another village nearby. That was a bit disappointing considering the reviews it gets. Stow was on the way home again, having done a big loop ride, and we decided to stop there for a late lunch/afternoon tea. Did some shopping at the local Co-op supermarket and rode home. We feel we have seen enough of the Cotswold towns and villages so tomorrow we will visit Chipping Norton, which is only a mile away and one of the bigger towns here, then visit a National Trust house about 5km away. We are in for a 9C night tonight, it is summer afterall.

7 Aug. We went into Chipping Norton and parked in a motorcycle bay which is always preferable to parking on the footpath. Had morning tea at a cool little cafe, did some shopping at Sainsburys and filled the scooter up at nearest servo. Home for some lunch then went to Chastleton House, a National Trust place. We have WA National trust membership that has reciprocal rights in UK. It would normally have cost £13.50 each but we got in free with the membership. It was one of the best National Trust sites we have been to. It was built in 1602 (finished in 1607) and down the line, each family owner had a hard time trying to maintain it, let alone improving on it. When it was bought by the National Trust in 1991, it was decided to preserve it as it was found, rather than restore it to as it was. The effect is brilliant. We really enjoyed it.
Getting around 4pm then so it was time to ride home for drinks and dinner.

8 Aug. Slow start to the day as we were already 80% packed for departure. We had met up with Bob from Coventry yesterday at the campsite, and today they wanted me to take a group photo. All good, and we now have an offer to be shown the best of Coventry if we are ever that way again. We were only 2 hours away from Theobalds where we will begin our clean up. Bit stressful with some narrow B roads and large trucks trying to take out the side of the van and taking 30 minutes to do the last 3km with roadworks and deviations. We arrived OK though. Nothing like a near death event to get the adrenalin pumping. We got chatting with a local family and found out that their daughter had just had her 13th birthday. We chatted for a while and I snuck off and got one of our gold kangaroo pins and gave it to her for her birthday. Another hit for Aussie Brit relations. We then saw we had Aussie neighbours who have their own car and caravan. We got talking about the problems of Aussies owning vehicles in UK and they have more problems than us because they don't have a UK bank account. Glad we are not the only ones. It is something that the UK government needs to have a good look at.
Tomorrow, the clean up begins.

9 Aug. Serge and Bronwyn, our Aussie neighbours from Sydney had a partial power failure in their van last night that shut the fridge off. To cut a long story short, I found a blown fuse and replaced and all good. Another item then didn't work and we found out why, repaired it, and now the initial cause is solved too. As pay back, I borrowed their 2 step stool that they use to enter their van so I could have better access to washing our van. It made a hard job a whole lot easier. It took a couple of hours just to do the outside but it came up a treat. Julie did a few loads of washing and drying, along with lots of sorting and cleaning inside. The extra day here is taking the pressure off us.

10 Aug. Last full day at Theobalds. Final washing of sheets and towels, cleaning and washing the driving cab, and later the floors and walls in the van. Also need to wash the scooter and get it back on the trailer and remove battery. We are treating ourselves to a pub meal tonight at the Pied Bull, about a 15 minute walk away.

11 Aug. An uneventful drive to Peter and Margaret's where we dropped off our cases and everything we will be taking home with us. Headed to Cranham's to drop off the van and made my first mistake (and last fortunately) by turning left at the first roundabout instead of the second. It didn't help that Tomtom said to turn left either. The width limitation on that road is a foot narrower than our van. Nothing we couldn't cope with but it was very rough. It did get us where we wanted to go though, albeit taking more time than it would have otherwise. We had a good run down the M25 which is becoming a rarity lately. Took the van to its storage spot and did all the little things we need to do when we put it away. Dropped off the keys to the Service Dept and asked if they could order us a cab to Upminster. He went to check with Neil, who is a co owner of Cranham's, and Neil gave us a lift in his own car which was much appreciated. We got the tube to Buckhurst Hill and Peter picked us up at the station which was great because it is hot today. We have 2 nights here and spent the rest of the afternoon in the back yard in the shade of their massive oak tree, which, when the light breeze came through, was very comfortable.

12 Aug. Normally when we stay here, the four of us would go for a walk, often to The Owl pub a couple of Kms through Epping Forest. Today though was another hot one so we stayed in the shade again. In the afternoon we had two games of croquet, with Peter and I both getting a first and second each. The lawn is brown with hollows appearing due to the heat and the lack of water so it was a challenge for everyone. Toby's Carvery for dinner and back for a bit more to drink in the backyard.

13 Aug, Same deal with the shade including lunch. Another hot day. Peter drove us to Woodford Station where we got the Central line to Bond St station. This is one stop short of our preferred Marble Arch, but has lifts all the way to street level. Marble Arch has lots of stairs which, when dragging a 27Kg suitcase (Julie's is only 15.5) is not fun. We dragged the cases to VSC and managed well considering the heat. Checked in and all good. Light meal tonight, probably Macca's, seeing we have eaten lots the last two days and done very little. Those days have been very relaxing though and a good wind down.