Summer at home, then off again……….

This Summer’s/Autumn’s plans involve spending time with family and friends, then heading off to Portugal for Sept/October, back through Spain and home again for Christmas. The kids are planning to meet us mid October in Alvor, so probably a good idea that we get there in time.

We had a few days out this year, including a family day at our son’s airbase, including a flight in a Chinook which was a massive privilege and great experience. The family day included an airshow including our own Falcons and Red Arrows display.

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We also managed to find enough good weather (just about) to have a friends BBQ, I have to confess at this point to “oversampling” my home-brew to some extent.

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150 years of “Firefighting experience” here – mostly sober

We had the pleasure of “Larry sitting” for a few weeks.

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What do you mean I’m not getting in the car with these feet?

We had a cpl of weekends with Clive and Malc at Darley Moor race circuit, (when Clive could tear himself away from girls rugby)

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And Debs fell off her bike again!! (to be fair this was partly my fault)

Off to Dethick next and a rendezvous with Pete/Nina and Keith/Chris, (and another barrel of “festbrau”)

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We managed a few walks

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A few beers

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And one of us went the wrong way

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We have tried to get out on the bikes 2-3 times a week and have just clocked up 2500km in the first year cycling in 7 countries.

We have had plenty of local rides as well, including the “5 pits trail”, Sherwood Pines with Adam, and Clumber. (to see Cav)

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We had a good day out at the National Mining Museum, which includes a trip underground – thoroughly recommend this place if you’ve never been.

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Well, it was a busy summer, but the weathers cooling off, so time to load the van and head South to sunny Portugal.

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First stop was the West Coast of France, and a ride along the Landes coast

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Next Stopover was the Northern Spanish village of Torque Mada.

At the Spanish/Portugese border we discovered the town of La Alberca, a free camperstop on the edge of an “Olde Worlde” town surrounded by hills and trails. We broke out the bikes and headed to the hills.

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The mountain refuges are already stocked with firewood and kindling, winter is coming, but its still high 20’s here.

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Our starting point is right down there somewhere

Malcata was our first stop in Portugal and we stayed at a free camperstop on the edge of a barragem (reservoir) some good bike rides around here and the temperatures are rising to the high 20’s

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Our next stop was at the side of a river in the village of Benquerenca, a really nice quiet spot, the river had steps for swimming and the locals delivered grapes by the bucket load (take as many as you want free of charge).

Today’s ride was a bit of a disaster, (for Deb) but really funny for me. Portugal has more than its fair share of stray dogs, and we tend to carry a box of biscuits with us to ease our guilt when we come across any on our rides.

Today’s strays weren’t in any sort of mood for biscuits they wanted the real deal. They were initially running alongside us in an adjacent field (half a doz or so of them). this is nothing new with regards to Portuguese property as most have a guard dog or two, so we kept riding.

Unfortunately we were riding towards a large gap in the hedge.

The good thing from my perspective was that they were now quite a way behind us and Deb was at the back. but this relief was short lived when they carried on at full speed (Deb clocked them at 27.5km/hr) I could hear a squeal from Deb and turned round to see her surrounded, legs going like bats wings “don’t stop” I shouted (increasing my speed to approx 29)

Quite a dilemma really, do I stop and help? a decision that would guarantee me being ravaged by half a doz non English speaking hounds, or do I offer more advice from a distance to keep pedalling?

“Keep pedalling”, I shouted.

Our next stop saw the tables turned to some extent, we found another delightful spot near the town of Nisa and to be honest it was perfect, a barrage with a beach, a small bar a short walk away, plenty of bike rides and walking trails.

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The barragem at Nisa

It was on one of these walks that Deb got her revenge by insisting I took a short cut through a bramble hedge, I told her it wasn’t safe, but she pushed me through anyway.

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I sent the kids this expecting sympathy, only to be called Harry Potter

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Odeciexe next, and more bike rides – temps now mid 30’s though

After Odeciexe we decided to visit Camperstop Messines again, Andre the owner has had some bad news with regards to certain areas of his camperstop licence, but is working to keep the ethos of the place. It would seem Portuguese bureaucracy is sometimes a bit “make it up as you go along”.

We decided to have a ride out to the waterfall at Alte, some of you will recall we had a swim here in the Spring. We were in for a bit of a shock though…………

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Springtime at Alte

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Not so refreshing today

It really is hot now, we’re trying to get out on the bikes or walk as much as possible, but for 2-3 hours around midday it’s really not possible.

How is it at home? 😉

Well the kids are on there way in a few days time, so we had better get ourselves over to Alvor – I know they’re looking forward to seeing what Mum’s become………….

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Crocks n socks!! (im hiding somewhere North of the Algarve)

Take care everyone

M&D

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Clockwise (the route home)

With this Winter’s tour coming to an end we had to decide on a route home. We were intending to travel along the Algarve for a rendezvous with the Hudsons, then visit a few villages on the West coast, so it made perfect sense to carry on in a clockwise direction, up the West coast of Portugal and along the Northern coast of Spain.

This blog starts out in the town of Silves, where we had a few nights “Stork watching”.

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No such thing as a small Stork’s nest

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Stick hunting

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You get a special tankard near Silves castle, and the beer is a special price!!

We left Silves and returned to the coast to visit Albufeira, where we saw a dog on an escalator.

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Dog on escalator

Unable to take any more excitement from the “Benidorm of the Algarve” we decided to move along the coast to the town of Galé, where we had chance to break out the bikes again.

The coastline here is pretty impressive, and the coastal path a bit scary, particularly if you’re inclined to fall off your bike every time you stop to look at the scenery.

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Next stop was our rendezvous with the Hudsons in Alvor, Nina’s family were flying out for a few weeks so it was nice to meet up for a curry night (and the odd drinkie poo in the Irish bar).

We managed a bike ride into the next town of Lagos, which didn’t seem so far on Google maps, but the round trip was 40k much of it on unmade tracks through the salt marshes.

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Deb has a chequered history on this type of terrain!

Villa de Bispo was our next stop and a really peaceful camperstop overlooking the Algarve countryside, the weather had decided to turn back up to gas mark 8 so we loaded up with water and had a ride along the coast to Praia De Luz. Via the world’s scariest goat path.

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The bay at Praia De Luz

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Hiding from the sun

Odeceixe was our next stop on the West coast, where there is a really  scenic coastal walk, bikes away, boots out!

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A gauntlet thrown?

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When in Rome!

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Oops, wrong beach, someone’s called the Rozzers!!

We were now moving up the West coast (which is really dramatic) and our first camperstop was at Porto Covo. Not the prettiest camperstop, but the wind had increased and the sea was really rough, camera time!

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We were North of Lisbon now and found a “wild camping” spot right on the beach at Sào Lourenco.

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Breakfast prep view

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Another West Coast sunset

We spent the next few days travelling a cpl of hours then parking up, visiting Costa De Lovus, Ovar, and our last stop in Portugal was at Darque on the border with Spain.

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Another one!!

 

We have just travelled along the Northern coast of Spain, which is really scenic. However the weather has been a bit on the dull side, we will definitely come back here and discover more some other time. In addition someone decided to free up some phone memory, so I have the grand sum of zero piccies!

We’re booked onto a ferry this week so are spending the last few days at a favourite spot of ours on the West coast of France, at the town of Port Albret. The weather is good again and we have managed a few decent bike rides to nearby towns.

Deb’s riding has really improved, but her stopping leaves a lot to be desired, particularly the putting your foot down bit.

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Riding technique

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Stopping technique

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And of course, my puncture repair technique

Have a good summer everyone (think I’ll be gardening)

M&D

PS I’m not going into too much detail around my latest back pain, however you can use you’re imagination, and the words “wheelie” “warning” and “kerb”.

 

 

 

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Spring in Messines

We have crossed into Portugal and have decided to spend a couple of weeks at Camperstop Messiness, a favourite spot of ours in the hills above the Algarve.

If you’re into mountain biking, walking, or just chilling out, its difficult to beat this area and the weather in April is just about perfect around the mid to high 20’s.

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Camperstop Messines

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A nice evening walk, until we spotted the wild boar damage, then every noise meant a quicker pace!

We have had a few decent bike rides, including visits to the local barragem, which has incredible views.

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Obviously all that hard work has to come with some reward, and at a €1 a glass, a nice cold Super Bock is always welcome.

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The owner of the camperstop told us about a bike ride to a nearby village which had a waterfall, complete with swimming platform.

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The water was blooming freezing, but “refreshing”

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She had several goes at this!

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Orange groves, complete with the gorgeous aroma of blossom.

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100’s of kilometers of off road tracks (actually these are the roads)

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This time of year, every corner seems to have a photo worthy view

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We’ve had a great 2 weeks and are now moving onto the town of Silves, looking forwards to spotting the storks and biking in the surrounding hills.

Oh, and the wild pig?????

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Sorry Clive! 🙂

 

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Winter 2017 (Part 2)

I’ve decided to include a few more pics from Ricote as the areas was such a nice place and I dont think I did it justice in the last blog (I blame the lack of WIFI and Deb using up all our mobile data on Faceache)

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Before the Hudsons left we went on a walk to the nearby castle ruins, obviously they dont tend to build castles anywhere but at the top of a hill, so it was walking boots, water bottles filled and off on a “Hudson stroll”.

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The walk up was well worth the views, this really is a much undiscovered part of Spain as far as tourism goes.

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Hudsons in this Pic somewhere….

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Ah there he is

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It was time for the Hudsons to leave for a family rendezvous on the coast, so we decided to break out the bikes and have a few more rides in the hills before heading South.

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The rotorvator X356 (Ghia) , a popular beast in these parts

Our next port of call was Aguillas, back on the coast. keen blog followers (yes you!!) will probably remember that we stayed here last year on our way back from Portugal and parked on the beach. It would appear that this practice has been stopped by the local council, with several signs appearing prohibiting camping. A local garage has taken advantage and opened a camperstop with secure parking and electric/wifi for €10 per night. Several doz campervanners had decided to ignore the signs and carry on as normal, but we went for the camperstop (a mere 200yds from the beach).

We broke out the bikes again and went sightseeing along the coast to the nearby town of San Juan De Los Terreros.

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Next up was a camperstop on the edge of the Cabo de Gata national park, where we decided to answer a long asked question, the ear worm lasted at least a week, hope you all get it for at least a cpl of days!!

“Do you know the way to……”

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The Cabo De Gata area is pretty spectacular, we managed a few bike rides to the local beaches.

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We called at Gibraltar on our way past, taking advantage of the discounted fuel and to purchase a replacement Invertor “tax free” – the Chinese jobbo had given up the ghost, but the supplier has promised a full refund when I get back to Blighty (after asking me to take it to bits and see if it was burnt inside!!) I’ve gone for a Victron, which although a bit pricey, is built like a tank. (and is performing like a trooper to date).

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A road crossing, Gibraltar style

Cadiz was our next stop, and we were parked right in the centre (campervans €3 per 24hrs, cars €7 per 8 hrs!!!) we had 2 nights the first being really peaceful the second not so, as a container ship was unloading till the early hours right next to the van. A really interesting town though and well worth a visit. We were now back on the Atlantic which we’ll follow right round Portugal, Northern Spain and the West Coast of France.

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What a brilliant idea (next to the car wash) The girl was happy to have her photo taken, the dog less so!

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Our next stop was a camperstop (free) on the edge of a town called Rota (always liked that word). The camperstop was a sandune away from a really nice beach and a steady bike ride into town (or 30 mins walk along the sand). We had a week here and included a couple of bike rides to the nearby town of Sanlucar. The old town of Rota is really nice with narrow streets and small squares, with the obligatory cafe’s.

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We’re facing West again, time for sea sunsets

We have now crossed the border into Portugal and the weather is scorcheo, so its bikes out and into those hills, take care peeps

M&D

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Winter 2017 (part 1)


We decided to try something a bit different this winter, instead of moving around in Jan/Feb we thought would try long terming on a Spanish site for a cpl of months, then moving on through Spain to Portugal once early spring arrived and the temps picked up a bit.

Well that was the plan, so how did stage 1 go?

Don’t just sit there wondering, read on …………… 🙂

We decided to get the ferry this time as we were in no rush, and set off on Sunday morning for a steady run down to Dover. Nothing exciting happened and by 5pm we were parked up on the outskirts of Rouen with a glass of Vin Rouge and a DVD on. (7 psychopaths, which Deb says was good, but I can’t remember as I fell asleep)

We trundled on through France the next day, our winter travel routine is to drive 4-5 hrs then park up with a glass of wine and watch a dvd  fall asleep.

Central France is quite remote and Tuesday morning’s view from the bed looked pretty cold, the van’s heater was doing its best impression of a jet engine (once I’d convinced Deb that it was her turn to get out of bed and switch it on).

It’s cold out there

Time to get the van serviced and get on our way towards Sunny Spain. I failed miserably to convince Deb it was her turn to service the van.

By Tuesday Evening we had reached the French/Spanish border and decided to park up at the side of the Atlantic, which we won’t see again until we reach Portugal, sometime in April/May. It was brilliant sunshine but still very cold, our beach walk lasted all of 20 mins but I did try out my new stick on solar panel, which works well with the 2 on the roof.

We spent the next night (Wed) in central Spain, then arrived in the Mediterranean resort of Daimus on Thursday evening. The weather was absolutely appalling with hailstones the size of watermelons battering the van for several hours (ok Im exaggerating, it lasted about an hour). The rest of the night was torrential rain/hail there was snow on the beach just down the coast in Benidorm, last seen 34 years ago (when Mum and Royce were here on honeymoon!!) we had used a full tank of gas in 3 days, and tragically the wine was all gone.

Next day “Sunny Benidorm”

Well we arrived at the site, Camping Villasol, our new home for a cpl of months and it was full to the gunnels. Luckily we’d booked (we never book anywhere usually) so at least we had a reserved pitch, in reality we had the last chosen pitch and as you can imagine it was the pick of the bunch!!

The guy on reception looked a bit sheepish when he told us “we’re full, you’re on number 101, you may be able to change in midweek as people move on”. Obviously this news filled us with joy, 101 has to be impressive if the check in instructions include a change as soon as possible clause. We wheel-spinned away from reception in eager anticipation of the delights of 101.

Orwell would have been proud, 101 had everything you need for a spot of mid winter camping (constant shade, the back of a damp car wash wall, inches from a main road, and the entire sites rainfall lifting the adjacent manhole covers) it was a gem.

Deb was getting a bit worried about the amount of water cascading down the site onto our pitch, and with good reason. Her last emergency water training involved her rescuing a rubber brick from the deep end of Bolsover baths, in her pyjamas. 

We spent the first couple of days touring the site, looking for free pitches. It became a bit of a sport really, we were near reception so could spot “leavers” and then tour the site looking for the empty spot. This sounds easy but in reality it wasn’t, the site is massive and it was absolutely tipping it down. To add to our problems Deb didn’t have a rubber brick to hand and it was far too cold to be out in pyjamas.

Then it happened, we spotted a leaver and found the vacant pitch, right at the top of the hill, in the sun (when it eventually appeared) and away from the road. Deb sprinted towards reception in Leanne’s her new rain mac, clutching our new number 703, whilst I stood in 2ft (602mm) of water unplugging the mains lead.

We were finally settled on a decent pitch and to celebrate the sun came out.

Now, a 2 month stay in Benidorm can be a dangerous thing, and we were determined not to fall into the tapas lunch/Rock bar trap. A well researched trap, first experienced during the visit of Deb’s sister Paula last winter. It basically consists of visiting the old town of Benidorm and downing cheap wine and tapas for lunch, then failing to resist the temptations of live rock music in the bars along the sea front on your return journey. Poor judgement can result in lunchtime finishing at 3am and a “three dayer” of a hangover.

€5’s worth of “tapas trap” stage 1

This holiday was going to be different, loads of exercise, walking, cycling, but absolutely no drinking.

We’ve always been surprised how quickly the landscape around Benidorm changes, 20 mins on the bike and you’re soon away from the hustle and bustle of the town and its high rise buildings. The coastline is actually pretty impressive.

On one of our rides into Altea, I noticed a sign indicating a path through the national park to the “ariels viewpoint”. I convinced Debs that this would be a decent ride so off we went. Now I’ve suggested some dumb things in my time, but this is close to the top (literally). Let’s just say it was steep, very steep, in fact so steep that if you leant back in the seat of the bike it weelied. “Lean forward and keep pedalling” I screamed, “no shit Sherlock” I think she replied.

I couldn’t actually hear properly as my lungs were coming out of my ears. Anyway this was the view at the top.

Deb’s birthday arrived and we had visitors, The Hudson’s had travelled across Spain for a weeks rendezvous, and for us to show them the results of our tapas research expedition. Time to spring the tapas trap. We started Deb’s birthday with a breakfast invite from Pete & Nina, this did involve a small intake of alcohol of the bucks fizz variety, but Deb soon learnt that the “no such thing as a free lunch” saying had an element of truth.

We had a good day though touring the tapas bars in the old town, then somehow falling into a karaoke bar till the early hours.

As we had gone out early (when the sun was out) we weren’t really dressed for the cool evening temperatures, so Pete made the decision to purchase additional layers, I wasn’t sure that wine wasn’t clouding his judgement so decided to give it a miss, shuddering wasn’t so bad after all.

The next few days involved a walk up to the cross, an evening in a restaurant in the old town and cycle rides to Altea and Villajoyjosa. We had a day out to Alicante on the tram, sampled the delights of a selection of tapas bars and had evenings of merriment and Dobble, all of which was enjoyed entirely without the consumption of alcohol. 😉

Pete and Ninas visit was over, we bid them a fond farewell and decided to have a few days free of alcohol. Unfortunately the Spanish like to party and this was one of their fiesta weeks, our neighbours Bob and Mary had spotted the posters and asked us if we fancied accompanying them to watch the parade in the old town. We agreed that it would be a pleasant evening unaware that Bob’s nightcap brandy pouring arm was shall we politely say “less than steady” in fact it was on level 5 of the “Royce liquor 43 scale”. Day one of our detox was ruined, as were days 2-3 😩

“Steady hand” Bob and Mary

There’s not much to add about “Benni” we had some cracking days, some decent walking/bike rides and once again met some great people. Here’s some pics to save me typing anymore………

Pancake day breakfast, Benidorm style

We left Benidorm last week for Ricote, a village inland from Murcia for a few days with the Hudsons, before we were due to head South towards Portugal (via, Gibraltar and Seville). Pete and Nina were then heading back to Benni to meet family.

Deb carried out a heroic rescue of a chicken that had escaped its compound, the look on its face demonstrated it knew full well that an “arse through the fence” cramming was imminent.

The chicken should think itself lucky, look what they do to the pigeons.

Pete was eager to demonstrate his new recipe of “Gambas” which were bloody lovely, he let himself down slightly though by overcooking the tea towel. (I prefer mine rare)

The village is as big a contrast to the coastal resort towns as is possible, with a multitude of signposted walks and cycle ways through the lemon groves and surrounding hills.

Here’s some pics of the area. (Note heroic cycling pic)

We’re having a few more days here, then heading back to the coast, for a steady (2hrs/day) trek south.

take care peeps

M&D

PS is honesty always the best policy ?????????

 

 

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France, the final frontier (for this trip anyway)

Well this is the last blog of this trip, as we are making our way through France to be home for Christmas.

All is not lost though as there is some good stuff still to read, including my birthday bash, rendezvous with friends and mountain biking action pictures.

Read on, you’ll love it……………..maybe.

We spent our last few days in Italy, right on the French Border and close to a train station, so a quick “train W!@£$%S” text to the kids and we were off to Monaco.

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Having treated Deb to a birthday treat in sunny Benidorm, we thought it would be a good idea to celebrate mine in Monaco. Surely there would be bargains to be had right???

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I promised Deb a trip to the Casino in Monte Carlo – she naively thought I meant this place.

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imageBless her though, she didn’t seem too disappointed when we arrived here……

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We decided to walk the Grand Prix circuit, which is much smaller than it appears on the telly, race fans will probably recognise some of the following locations.

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Some poor soul had missed the temporary “no parking” sign and when the roadwork crew started to dig their hole, there was only one way to keep the road open. Wonder what the “reclaim your car” price is here?

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It was Sunday, so the shopping centre was mostly closed, leaving room for these guys to dismantle one of the chandeliers – wonder if they’ve seen “Only Fools and Horses”?

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No prices in any of the shops, I suppose if you have to ask the price…………..

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Bargains to be had?

Of course there are, I mean look at this 9th floor 2 bedroom flat. A snip at €7,500,000. it does have a guest lavatory though.

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Or if sailings your thing, how about renting “Kinta” a snip at €265,000 (a WEEK)

2016-11-06_14-17-59_900The real bargain was our lunch – burger and chips + coke (diet of course) all for €50.

The equivalent price of 10 bottles of cava and 50 tapas in good old Beni!

After a few days we moved into France, staying in a camperstop in the hills of Provence, time to break out the Ebikes again……..

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We had a really good ride in the hills, and I got plenty of practice honing my puncture repair technique.

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Puncture 1

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Puncture 2

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Puncture ……. hang on a minute this is the same photo!!

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What goes up…….

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Must come down!

We left the hills of Provence and returned to the Med coast at Marseillan Plage, the resort was closed but we managed a walk on the beach and a bike ride along the Canal Du Midi to the town of Beziers.

Whilst touring the Med coast, we had been in touch with Pete/Nina and Keith/Chris with regards to a rendezvous at St Cyprien a resort on the French/Spanish border, (they were all heading into Spain, we were heading home soon).

We had briefly met Keith/Chris at St Marie-plage, where we managed to “acquire” the last hook up point, much to Keith’s disappointment (who arrived minutes too late, due to a temperamental barrier incident).

The rendezvous unsurprisingly featured the odd alcoholic beverage (including the disappointing news that the Italian Grappa was no more) and several  multi pump incidents.

I think the girls were fairly impressed.

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We managed to beat the Hudsons to the vin rouge

Anyway it was time for us all to get some exercise, so we decided on a ride to the nearby town of Collioure, the majority of the course was at sea level following the coast, but the last bit slightly more challenging.

 

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The next days expedition was another ride, this time along the coast in the opposite direction to Canet Plage, where my puncture repair skills were once again tested to their max.

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copywrite P Hudson

It was time to bid a farewell to the Spanish explorers, until the spring when Portugal once again calls us all.

Just as we had waved off the Hudson/Elliots, we had a text from our friends Steve and liz (of Pompeii wine drinking fame), they were also heading into Spain and were passing through St Cyprien.

We decided to stay on and have a catch up.  Steve has a bike trailer for their Springer Spaniel (Chloe) who’s well into her teens, but loving the adventures. So we decided the run into Canet Plage was perhaps more sensible than the Collioure. The locals loved the trailer,  many of them doing a double take and a “ooh la la”.

It was good to see them again and learn all about Steve’s Alpine snow driving skills, scary stuff indeed!!

Well the grim news is that were back in Blighty and I’ve just had to MOT the car. The shock of UK weather combined with laying on a cold concrete drive to change these things isn’t exactly filling me with Christmas cheer.

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I guess that standing the car for several months isn’t the best way to prep it for its MOT

Mind you, the home-brew has matured well!!

Take care everyone

M&D

 

 

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Did the Earth move?

We left Rome heading for the hills, our plans being to visit Tuscany, Florence and Pisa, before heading out of Italy for a trip to Monaco to price up a new boat. We have been exchanging “WhatsApp” torments with our friends Pete and Nina and had arranged to meet for a wine/pizza/pasta/gossip frenzy.

We were aware that central Italy had had a sizeable earthquake earlier this year, so this obviously gave me ample opportunity to torment Deb about the fact we might just wake up somewhat further down the hill than when we went to sleep.

We found some excellent parking spots in the mountain villages (many totally free, including electrical hook up). Some of the views from the van were incredible.

 

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Montopoli Di Sabina

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Our breakfast view, Rome is over there under the cloudy bit.

FullSizeRender 6.jpgWe carried on Northwards towards Tuscany, driving 1-2 hrs per day, our next stop was Vitorchiano, a small walled town perched precariously on a hillside.

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Vitorchiano

Next up was Panicale, about 20k from Perugia, we loved it here and stayed for 3 days, including a bike ride to a nearby lake (not as nearby as it looked on the map, but we were ready for a bit of exercise)

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The view from our van at Panicale

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Deb surveys the distance to the lake

We woke up on the day of our planned bike ride to a thick fog, which I convinced Deb was just a bit of low cloud on the mountain, she believed me and we were off.

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Panicale is in that cloud somewhere.

Miraculously I was right, we left the town (down a near vertical path) into bright sunshine and had a decent ride to the lake.

I’m quite concerned that I’ve been right about something twice this year, (and its only November) a new record.

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We made it!!

On the way back we decided to take the “offroad” path.

I managed to convince Deb that the new bikes would go up a near vertical shale path, she was somewhat sceptical, and somewhat right.

A decision that cost me €6 for 2 microscopic beers.

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Next stop Torritadi Sienna another small walled city, laundrette (clean bedding tonight woohoo) and coffeeshop in the piazza.

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Cafe Latte, thats CAFE latte Pete 😉

Next up, San Gusme nice little village this, and more fantastic views from the van

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We read on the news that the area had experienced another earthquake, and even though there was substantial damage, the villages involved were prepared meaning there were minimal casualties. We exchanged a few messages with everyone at home assuring them all that we were fine. Bizarrely the news reported that tremors were felt as far away as Rome and Venice, we never felt a thing. Vino Rosso maybe?

Time to rendezvous with the Hudsons, at the chosen destination of Greve in Chianti.

Pete and Nina had been before and were keen to take us on one of Pete’s “strolls in the country”, they had done the same route last year (under the influence of earthquake numbing Chianti) so with us all relatively sober nothing could go wrong.

Even the local sports car club had assembled in the Piazza to see us off.

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Now I know at this point you’re all expecting me to describe some humorous event involving one of us falling in a river, being chased by a bull, or maybe even getting lost for a few days in deepest Tuscany. Alas, I’m sorry to disappoint you all, it was a great day………

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From beautiful scenery

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To Debs expertly prepared “pack up”

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And a coffee stop with this view, where the owner took several minutes to explain to us all the difference in Italy between “latte” and “cafe latte”

Pete and Nina had promised the local restauranteur that we would visit him for a meal, and every time we walked past him his face lit up. Before long we were ducking behind cars etc to avoid eye contact, but he spotted us every time.

Later on he got his wish, and we got pizzas the size of dustbin lids!!

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After a cpl of days we decided to move to a small village called Castellini in Chianti, a nice village, and a place to service the vans in preparation for our next stop, Panzano in Chianti, there were no services here but it was free and the views incredible.

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29th October, shorts and suncream time

The next morning, we decided to have a day out exploring, we were going for a gentle ride out on the bikes, and Pete & Nina were off on their new 530cc mega scooter (Max). I have to admit we got a bit lost, but managed in excess of 40k of hilly terrain (there would have been no chance of covering anything like that distance without the Ebikes).

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Our route took us over that hill (the big one on the right)

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We found the combo of wine and mountain biking unsafe, so we wore helmets.

The next morning we had a strange conversation with an Austrian cpl,

Austrian guy – Did you feel the earth move last night? (we later heard news of a further earthquake nearby)

Me – No

Deb – No

Me – did you?

Austrian guy – yes we felt it

Me – did you have any red wine last night?

Austrian guy – No

Me – Thats your problem mate, get some Chianti down your neck.

We had 2 great days at Panzano, but it was time to move on. We decided to return to Greve in Chianti for a night, service that vans, then bid a fond farewell to the Hudsons. We had a cracking week and we’ll see them in Portugal next spring, which we’re really looking forward to.

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Panzano sunset

Next up for us is the City of Florence, we’d heard a lot about the city and decided to have a look for ourselves. Parked up in a camperstop which was “functional” but only 20 mins or so walk from the city centre.

Without upsetting all you “fans of Florence” out there we have to be honest and say it was a nice enough city, but (in our opinion) not a patch on Amsterdam, Venice, Rome, or the simply gorgeous villages of Tuscany, maybe we’ve been spoilt. We’re definitely glad we came, but it wouldn’t be in the top 10 of places to rush back to. Anyway some piccies………..

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Our last “sightseeing” trip was to Pisa, we stopped en route in a small village called Vinci, of Leonardo fame –  a rare rainy day kept us in the van, but we managed a walk around the village which was nice enough.

We’d been told not to expect much from the town of Pisa (apart from the obvious) and the advice was pretty accurate!!

The “Square of Miracles” is pretty impressive, with the leaning tower and adjacent buildings (cathedral and baptistry). But thats pretty much it, if your planning to visit the tower (well worth it btw) my advice is don’t book a long break here, there are plenty of gorgeous places surrounding Pisa (see pics above) stay in a Tuscan village, and visit Pisa for the day (or part day).

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Go on then – everyone else does!!

We have travelled North and are sat in a rather rainy Menton, right on the French border. The forecast is good for the next few days, so were going to jump on the train to Monaco.

Arrivederci Italia

Take care everyone

Mick & Debs

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Remember – its CAFE latte, unless of course you want 2 of these……………………. 😉

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Pompei & Rome

Come on cast your minds back, we’ve all sat in Geography and History lessons learning about significant places and events. Most of us can recall the story of Pompei from the ladybird books and we’re all familiar with the Roman Empire, gladiators and the Colloseum. (Mainly from Monty Python, but bear with me)

Unfortunately our History lessons generally consisted of the teacher instructing fellow pupils to read a page out loud (1 lesson = 30 pages of “input”) so it’s no surprise neither of us studied the subject to any standard, but I’ve always been fascinated with visiting historical places, from the Normandy battlefields, Western Front, to the Cathare Castles, I love that “this happened here” feeling.

Pompei and Rome were the 2 cities I was most looking forward to visiting in Italy, there is always the chance of dissapointment (the never meet your heroes theory) but I can honestly say that both places fully met my expectations. Debs not really a city girl and much prefers to be in the countryside, but she was really impressed with Rome, definitely one of her favourite cities.

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We had travelled across Italy from the Adriatic coast and the temperature change was surprising. We had reached the Med coast (technically the Tyrrhenian Sea) and the temperature was back in the mid/high 20’s.

We use an app from the website http://www.campercontact.com to locate camperstops, each one has recent reviews from users and a link to google maps which we now use as our satnav. Our chosen camperstop was billed as “right across from the entrance to the ruins” perfect.

Unfortunately the sat co-ordinates posted on the app were to the actual ruins. The cop guarding the entrance was really pleased to see us turn into a throng of several hundred Chinese tourists. The main road was rammed (Italian rammed is different to UK rammed by a significant amount) and we were at risk of blocking both roads. He had a sucking the teeth shoulder shrugging moment and left us to it.

I’m writing a bit of a lighthearted piece on driving in Italy, but for now lets just say that what you do is basically indicate and go, don’t hesitate, don’t stop. That’s how they drive and they aren’t particularly bothered, as long as you don’t hold them up for more than 1.7 seconds. After a swift reverse onto the main road with Deb behind doing the YMCA, we had managed to turn the van round but were surrounded with scooters overtaking both sides, I saw the camperstop entrance and aimed straight ahead. We missed every one, and didn’t attract a single pip. (A miracle in itself)

We checked in and decided to have a walk round the town, grab some shopping and visit the ruins the next day.

Back at the van, it was chairs and wine out time. We were parked next to a British cpl Steve & Liz who were just returning from a day in the ruins as we opened the wine. The next few hours probably won’t be classed as the ideal preparation for a day of walking around in the sun looking at ruins, but it was a good night and Steve and Liz were great company. Not sure the French guy in the adjacent van having an early night thought the same but we saw him the next day and blamed our fellow Brits.

(We didn’t really but they’re following the blog and I just made them tut!)

The ruins visit – the first thing that surprised us is the size of the excavations, we were expecting a cpl of hours walking around the whole site, no chance. To visit every building would take 2-3 days it’s a massive area. Information boards stated that to date only 3/5th’s of the town have been excavated I wonder what treasures still lie under the ash.

Anyway some pics

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These roads are actually in better shape than the ones outside.

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This wall art is 2000 years old, unearthing the town must have been amazing. Much of the art appears to be of a similar theme though.

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They obviously had twister in ancient times

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The Ampitheatre, the ash was above these walls

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People’s front, or Popular front?

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2000 years ago this tunnel held the cure for constipation

Top tips for visiting Pompei, wear walking shoes/boots, take water (drinking fountains inside for refilling bottles) don’t get ratted the night before (I was fine mum!)

Rome

I was really looking forward to visiting Rome, less looking forward to the drive into the city, but it can’t be as bad as Pompei can it?

Debs to some extent was dreading the whole thing!

Rome certainly didn’t disappoint me, and Debs is (nearly) a big city convert, we loved the place

We’d picked a camperstop right in the city (20 mins walk to the Colloseum) the review said “don’t miss the turn as you cannot turn round and go back” unfortunately we were on this strange dual carriageway with 2 lanes/median/2 more/median then the same in the other direction. With the satnav stating “turn right” and with us in the middle bit (4 lanes of solid traffic away from the possibility of turning anywhere) the “not being able to go back” was looking like our best option. Then it happened, a small gap in the Armco, right indicator, cross 4 lanes of inner city traffic whilst both screaming, then sharp right. Don’t know what it looked like from the back but there was not a single beep from anyone – when in Rome and all that. Debs was really warming to city life (not).

Piccie time

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Well I’ve seen loads of pics, but the real thing is incredible – for scale see the peeps on the pavement.

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The Trevi Fountain has just had a refurb, it’s gorgeous – a real wow moment when you first see it.

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The horses are more or less life size – really impressive

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Pantheon

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Inside the Pantheon, 2000 year old concrete domed roof

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That’s a ceiling

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If you want to make a statement, get some horse drawn chariots on your roof, loads of columns, centurions battling on your forecourt and cover the whole thing in marble

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The Pope’s gaff

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The Pope leaving his gaff

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Joe Pasquali explaining that the Pope has just left his gaff.

We had a 4 course lunch overlooking the Pantheon for €15 each, cracking value (sweet photo didn’t happen as we were talking to a Spanish couple on the next table who told us they loved the English sense of humour, not sure what they overheard us saying!)

Walking around Rome is incredible, almost every turn holds a surprise with ancient churches and monuments tucked away amongst the city streets. If you’ve been you’ll know where I’m coming from, if not been, and you get the chance, go you won’t regret it.

Anyway, we’ve just reached the hills above Rome and are going to have a chilled few days to let our feet recover, then it’s a steady trek North to Florence, Pisa, and Tuscany.

Take care

M&D

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Into Italia

With the weather forecast on the North side of the Alps looking a bit grim for the next week or so, it was time to bid a sad farewell to the gorgeous Bavaria and head South to our next destination – Italy.

Our plans were to visit Venice, then travel down the Adriatic coast until level with Naples then traverse the country, to visit Pompei, Rome, Florence, Pisa and Tuscany, on the northbound leg.

Our route was through Austria via Innsbruck, and along the Brenner pass to the Dolomite region of Northern Italy.

Our first stop in Italy can only be described as fantastic, possibly the best view we had ever had from our van window, if this was a taste of things to come we were in for a real treat.

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A rare (but impressive) photo of our intrepid author undertaking physical activity.

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Chillin’ out

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Fallin’ out

Obviously there were downsides, hairpin bends, suicidal bus drivers, unguarded sheer drops of several hundred feet and no wifi, but these were all forgotten by the 3rd bottle of vino tinto. We were well and truly in the middle of nowhere and I think Deb was really impressed when I woke her in the middle of the night to look at the gazillions of stars.

Me – “wake up, look at the stars, aren’t they amazing”?

Debs – “yes”

After an extended stay in the hills, it was time to make our way to Venice, obviously you don’t get back out of the hills without the hairpinbend/suicidaldriver/sheer drop/nowifi issues, but I don’t scare that easily, and Deb informed me that she had plenty of clean underwear.

The Dolomites are incredible, but when driving, you have to refrain from whistling “self preservation society” apparently it’s not funny, or clever.

So after another recommendation from the Husdon crew, we arrived at our camperstop over the lagoon from Venice, eagerly anticipating a few days of clean underwear, romance, cornettos, and wifi. We arrived at lunchtime, so we decided to visit Venice the next day, leaving us time to break out the bikes and discover the shoreline of the lagoon.

Deb completed another successful cycle mission, without incident, she even managed a few hundred yards along a sandy beach (squealing as I shouted “keep pedalling”.)

We decided on a meal out and I picked the yummy carbonara (note healthy salad “side”)

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The next day, we took the vaporetto into Venice, arriving “Bond stylee”. Despite the inevitable and amusing arguments over which boat was to dock first, mucho horn honking and arm waving etc this is surely the best way to arrive.

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You can’t really fail to be impressed with Venice. Yes it’s a bit smelly in places, yes there is a real risk losing an eyeball to a Chinese selfie stick, or your children’s inheritance to a coffee shop owner in St Mark’s square, but we loved the place.

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St Mark’s square, waiters dressed in pristine White suits, Orchestra bangin out some classic tunes, so why no customers????

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Deb’s starter and main

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We did tell her, after the photo obviously.

Our next destination was San Marino, a self governing principality high in the mountains, overlooking the Adriatic coast. We’d timed our visit (by sheer chance) with the weekends classic rally event and were surrounded with the noise and organised chaos of a multi stage rally in full swing. The weather though was pretty rough, with rain and high winds and we decided to sit tight in the van until the following day (better forecast).

I’m a big fan of Motorsport, and taking piccies, so with big names from my youth taking part in the event (most with unspellable Swedish names) maybe I’d manage to grab a frame or two during the visit.

The poor weather the next morning was just starting to clear and we were heading out, when we noticed the cars had stopped, there were loads of sirens, but no cars. We visited the town as planned (via the cable car) and later discovered that earlier on, a rally car had crashed into the crowd, killing a spectator and hospitalising several others. I’m not really a believer in the old “fate” thing, but the rain just may have done us a favour that day.

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San Marino, in the clouds

Time to move down the Adriatic coast. With the seaside resorts of Rimini, Riccione and Pesaro waiting for us and a favourable forecast for the following week we were understandably looking forward to a few days on the beach. Blimey what a disappointment, Rimini was closed for the winter and the others looked like they were closed for good!!

Should we press on down the coast, or cut across the country earlier than planned?

We decided to press on, and we’re glad we did – yes the resorts were all closed, but we discovered a camperstop right on the beach (and it was open!!)

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Proof that sometimes patience pays dividends

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Another successful cycling mission

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And pretty impressive scenery

Once we had discovered the more scenic parts of the Adriatic coast, we were sad to leave, however with no shops open and rumbly tummies we didn’t have too much choice. Time to switch coasts and see Pompei, Rome, Florence, Pisa and Tuscany.

Next up, why Italian drivers – aren’t 😉

Take care everyone

Mick & Debs

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Germany

Well, we crossed over the border into Germany and I’ve got myself a new hat.

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Our plans included following the “Romantic Road” southwards, meeting up with the kids for the Oktoberfest in Munich, then continuing a tour of Bavaria before crossing over into Italy for the next leg of our tour.

Our First stopover was a small town called Coesfeld where we had a steady walk into town for an evening beer in the marketplace, pretty nice town tbh.

We then moved on to “Potts Brauhouse” which was a microbrewery/restaurant (with free stopover in a dedicated camperstop) a recommendation of Pete and Nina’s the food/beer was excellent.

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Next up was the town of Fritzler where we spent a cpl of days. The camperstop was on the edge of a walled city and alongside the river Eder. Perfect for exploring and to follow the well signed route alongside the river to the Edersee dam (one of the “dam busters” targets).

The sign said 23km, which seemed like a pretty decent ride for a day out, so off we went. (on our trusty old steeds, which we calculated were about 26 years old, but still going strong)

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We reached the dam, which was worth the ride, but my bike was starting to give up the ghost somewhat, with the pedals loosening in the crank and no tools we had no option but to head back. The pedal threads were well and truly “tatered” and with one pedal falling off ever 100m or so this was going to be a long journey back to the van!!

Debs shoelace bodge idea (initially scoffed at by yours truly) came good in the end though and we made it back. I discovered that one legged cycling for 20k isn’t fun and I was walking round in circles for the rest of the evening. The old bikes had to go.

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Our next stop was the “resort town” of Bad Bruckenau Now we didn’t quite know what to make of this place, it was spotless, with pristine gardens, posh hotels – but entirely empty, not a soul to be seen. I can only explain it as a “stepford wives” atmosphere we were constantly questioning, should we be here?

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To be honest they’re selling themselves short here.

I’m sure its lovely in season, but eerie this time of year.

And so onto the “Romantic Road” a tourist route created in the good old days to show off a collection of old market towns, the road starts at Wurzburg and finishes in the Bavarian town of Fussen. We were planning to travel the first 2/3rds then divert to Munich.

Wurzburg were having a festival To celebrate our arrival and we walked around the town looking at the various stages, there was a Wurzburg’s got talent stage (lots of body popping), an Eagles tribute band stage and a “oom pa pa” stage with outside bar – oom pa pa it is then!!

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Next up was Rothenburg, in the 1940’s German citizens were bussed here in their thousands to see for themselves the perfect German town, in the latter stages of the war, deals were struck to avoid its destruction and to date it’s largely untouched. Its a lovely place, but certainly a victim of its own success.

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I dread to think how many Japanese families are showing their holiday snaps off to their families, with our ugly mugs splashed all over them.

Dinkelsbuhl was our next stop another walled town, lots of timber framed buildings, a really nice place.

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News of my guitar recital travelled fast

Next was Nordlingen we really liked it here. The camperstop was on the edge of town (a massive €3 per night!!) and the town excellent. You could walk the entire city wall, which had a strategic bar/cafe halfway and it was the town where we witnessed true German “hospitality”.

It was on our second night in Nordlingen and we were looking around the town for the traditional “German Brauhouse” experience. I’d heard a “band” playing in one of the pubs, “this is it, were in”.

Well it wasn’t what we expected, in fact were still not quite sure what it was but this was the band………….he’s in the corner hogging one of the 4 tables.

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Closely followed by these chaps (who took a Euro off me for clapping)

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All in all an incredible night.

We carried on Southwards and camped at the side of the Danube river in the town of Neusburg. A chill out before the Oktoberfest madness.

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Oktoberfest time!!

The rendezvous went to plan and the family arrived, it was time to don the traditional gear and drink far too much beer.

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My kind of woman!

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Also my kind of woman!

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Prost!!

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To be fair, you did order White sausages Paul!

Oktoberfest is a fantastic experience, surely one for everyone’s bucket list and Munich is a great city, it’s spotlessly clean, with efficient public transport, it feels safe and very welcoming.

After we said farewell to the family, it was time to head to the Bavarian hills to chill out and try out the new Ebikes.

Deb had already christened hers by falling off it in the actual shop, so she was brimming with confidence. But a few miles later and barring a minor incident with a high kerb and a large dog she was soon “on it”.

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We were camping at about 1500m and it was a bit of a shock to wake up to snow (after sitting round in shorts and t shirts the day before) and with the forecast poor for the next week it was time to bid a reluctant farewell to Bavaria.

Next stop Italia….. Take care everyone M&D

Oh and I didn’t buy the hat, I mean who’d wear one of those? 😉

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