Winter 2018 / 19

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Week 3 - A awful beginning but a (very) slightly better end.

This the third week of our Adventure No 10, it (the adventure) was conceived in enthusiasm and optimism but so far has been disappointment and pain, lots and lots of pain.

Fortunately the antibiotics started to work and the jibbering jelly started to turn back into not a rufty tufty bloke - I think he must be hiding somewhere - but a bloke.

We had our first tourist outing of the entire trip today (Wednesday) we were in Valkenburg to get a bit of shopping when we noticed a chair lift up the side of a steep hill, yes I know that sounds strange - a steep hill, or any hill come to that in The Netherlands - but there it was with a chair lift to the top and a strange looking tower on the summit. A return ticket was just €4.00 pp for the pleasant 5 minute ride to the top where there was the strange looking tower with a restaurant on the ground floor but with no apparent way to access the tower itself. Mind you, the number of steps that would obviously need to be climbed . . . 

Still the views were stunning and for the young at heart there was also a toboggan run and an “adventure golf” game.

Back to the doctor today with my little pot of fresh piddle and have been declared infection free - Hurraahhhhhh!!

The plan was to move straight on after the appointment but, what a surprise, the weather has changed, it’s blowing a “hoooley” and no-one who doesn’t have to is likely to tow a caravan today and certainly not a light(ish) single axle job.

Oh dear, the folks next door are just leaving. They are booked in till tomorrow but he says the forecast wind is a lot lighter today than either Saturday, Sunday or Monday. We will keep a close eye but it looks as if we will be leaving here Tuesday nearly a month later than planned and we are still to visit Maastricht.

That visit to Maastricht actually happened today (Saturday), despite the appalling weather forecast the day started warm and still so, directly after breakfast we toddled of to the “park and ride north” from where we caught the €2.00 pp return fare bus to the town centre.

What a huge disappointment. We had visited the town in 2011 and were very impressed but today it was like any other market town, although to be fair by the time we had walked to the town centre and found our first tourist visit, a church, closed for the day and then walked almost back to the bus stop to find the tourist information office which appeared expensive and interested only in those that speak German as a first language - we had had enough.

We did not visit the caves which were high on our list but perhaps one day when I’m feeling less of a grouch . . . .

Week 4 - It’s all gone Pete Tong!!

We were so excited at the start of week 3, I was clear of the lurgie, the sun was back, and we had planned a three day route through Germany into Austria all was well - except for the cough that I was certain had started half way through my course of antibiotics but that Sue says has been driving her nuts for a long time.

After a few very bad days (and nights) of constant coughing we very reluctantly decided to return to UK and see a doctor.

Adventure No 10 has ended almost before it started.

Sadly even if the doc says there is no problem Italy and Greece is out for this winter so once released by the doc we will be going back - again - to Spain and Portugal, but we will return earlier than normal get a couple of big fans and head off to Italy and Greece for the late spring and summer so watch this space.

Week 2 - Not ruffty tuffty but jibbering jelly.

We finished our visit to Dicky last night with a trip to the local Chinese restaurant where we had a good meal with pleasant company, a good end to a good visit.

Our way south was to be via Maastricht a town we visited briefly a few years ago, promising ourselves we would return for a proper stay and our destination for today was Campsite Oriental half way between Maastricht and the tourist town of Valkenburg.

I felt a bit rough when we got up and couldn’t face breakfast, perhaps I had eaten more than I thought at the Chinese last night, or perhaps something disagreed with me (please note no alcohol was involved 😳) but set off looking forward to the day  as it heralded the start of our journey proper.

It was a nightmare.

At various times I felt sick, hot, cold and concentrating on the driving was almost, but fortunately not quite, impossible and we arrived safe but not so sound around 1:30 in the afternoon.

Immediately after setting up I went to my pit and stayed there for two days getting up only to pee which as time went on got smaller in quantity, so more frequent, and increasingly painful. Feeling worse as time passed the camp site receptionist phoned a local doctor surgery for me and explained the problem, then handed the phone to me, the doctors receptionist asked when we would like the appointment. “As soon as possible I said” “Ok come straight down and bring a sample with you.”

Fifteen minutes later we had arrived and booked in at the doctor's surgery, Before we had even sat down and got our books out the receptionist was back with a young woman in tow whom she introduced as the doctor, in her surgery she explained that I had a UTI and would need a course of antibiotics to clear it.

We are now at the end of week 2, the course of antibiotics is half way complete peeing is easier, though still not pain free and things are generally starting slowly to improve but we are stuck here until (hopefully) the all clear after my next appointment on Friday.

I had always thought I was a ruffty tuffty bloke until getting this infection, I now know I am really just a jibbering jelly.

Week 1 - Bl**dy Hell - I hope this doesn’t set the tone for the winter!!

I hadn’t left my chair for nearly a week as the arthritis in my ankles was playing up but on Thursday it was necessary for us to go out so, with Sue driving, we set off. The first time Sue put her foot on the brake the noise made it abundantly clear something was amiss. There was the very distinctive sound of metal on metal not the quietness of metal on brake pad. We tried to phone the garage but they were closed for the night.

It looked like our trip would be postponed before it had even begun. We were planning to travel to Dover Saturday how on earth could we get the car sorted before then??

We were at Witham Vehicle Solutions when they opened at 8.30 next morning but told they would be unable to do anything immediately as they already had ten cars in the workshop for completion today and one mechanic had phoned in sick however they would have a quick look to confirm my diagnosis and then arrange a day when the work could be carried out. The service manager came back a little while later and said it was definitely the rear brake pads but they had no stock and thought it would probably be a couple of days before they could get some. Another wait and back came the manager saying they had located some pads. Back she came a while later and informed us that the discs themselves were shot and would need replacing. I said I understood and ten minutes later a delivery driver walked into the office with two heavy boxes with pictures of brake discs on them.

Not long after the manager came back to say the work was complete and she would prepare the invoice. Blimey - not bad after being told less than three hours before that they couldn’t help for several days

Thanks to Witham Vehicle Solutions help we were able to leave as planned and after a night at “The Field” a C&CC Certified Site we took the 10.00am DFDS ferry to Dunkirk and by 13.00 (local time) were motoring towards our first site of the trip, intended to be “Buitengoed de Boomgaard” but realising that we would not be arriving until after 5.00pm on a Sunday we tried to phone. Neither of us speaks a word of Dutch but when we hear a recorded message telling us that “ . . . het kantoor is van maandag tot zaterdag geopend van negen tot vijf uur . . . “ we can work out that it probably means the office is open Monday to Saturday.

We phoned our next option RCN Vakantiepark Het Grote Bos and a gent who spoke excellent English explained that they had plenty of space and that although the reception would be closed when we arrived the staff in the restaurant would be pleased to help.

The following morning my ankle was still preventing me from walking so there seemed little point in staying so we moved on to Vakantiepark Witterzomer near Assen in the north of Holland.

The remainder of Week 1 has been spent very pleasantly, we haven’t done very much but we have spent some time with Dirkje.

Very pleasant.

A Not So Simple Plan.

We finished the last blog entry with a very blasé statement about checking in each country we pass through if we needed a vehicle Vignette / road Toll Sticker and off we go.

Remembering that for every retirement traveller we have spoken to, Italy has been a “Marmite" country they either loved or hated. The lovers have said the roads were a "little challenging" the haters that they were "bl**dy awful", the lovers said the caravan site pitches were “cosy” the haters said they were “minuscule”.

With the minuscule comment in mind we got out our trusty ACSI books and looked up sizes of some caravan site pitches  in various parts of Italy - 

SHOCK - HORROR!!!

40 sq m is, it seems, not uncommon and 80sq m, which we consider an absolute minimum, seems to be (generally) a maximum, of course there are bigger but . . . .

With this firmly in mind we have bought a smaller caravan especially for the trip, it’s a little long in the tooth but it is a proven design that should be reasonably easy to sell when we get back.

iu-4

Bailey Pegasus 462

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Bailey Pegasus 462 - layout

The new (to us) van is two metres shorter and a half tonne lighter than our twin axle Bailey Unicorn Cartagena, the Princess Fiona, who has been our companion for all but our first adventure will go into storage till we get back in the late spring.

Princess Fiona

Princess Fiona

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Princess Fiona - Layout

We thought, having been caravanners for 35 years, that we would need to buy nothing extra for the little van, how wrong can you be???

There is no fixed bed, but two sofas that we will turn into two single beds at night. To make them more comfortable to sleep on, by smoothing out the knee rolls upholstery buttons etc, mattress toppers are essential. Sadly the more reasonably priced units for use at home simply don’t fit caravan beds so we bought from Duvalay a company that specialises in toppers and other bedding for caravans.

We didn’t have bedding for single beds, so after lots of research we went shopping for single duvets and bought a pure silk filled duvet for Sue and a silk/hollowfibre fill duvet for me, both of which are very light and purport to be "all season duvets", warm in the winter and cool in the summer so in theory we will not need to carry a summer weight and a winter weight duvet as we normally do.

We have also gone back to our “old” method of making up single caravan beds. The duvets we bought were King Size duvets and we will make up the bed by folding it in half, laying on one half being covered by the other half. Quick and easy to make and srtip and only one item (duvet cover) per bed to wash.

The crockery storage system was awful we ripped it out and replaced with a setup the same as that in Princess Fiona.

The tyres on the Peggy were both less than a year old but one was a summer tyre the other a winter tyre, OK I agree I should have noticed that when we looked at it and got the dealer to match them but I didn’t so it cost me two matched tyres - much to the disgust of the tyre fitter who could not understand why we were changing a new and a one year old tyre. It is illegal to use different tyres on the same axle in many European countries, in fact we are told that, in some European countries, tyres can only be purchased in pairs.

We have moved into the new van and started to empty and clean the old ready to put it into storage till we get back and the first thing I have discovered is that a folded duvet is a most uncomfortable thing to sleep on - how on earth did I manage before - the downy soft silk fibres seem to turn into rock hard ridges after an hour or so of laying on them, so I have jetisoned my new king sized super doooooper silk duvet and bought a single duvet.

Oh well. Live and learn.

When we travel we tend not to “over research", we have, as previously said, a quick look at the "AA Driving in Europe” web page, check if we need a Vignette / Toll Sticker and off we go.

For our next adventure I was aware that both Germany and Austria have winter tyre laws that require all cars etc to have winter tyres identified by the Alpine mark.

 However in Austria the winter tyres are required between 1 November and 15 April, while in Germany there are no specific dates but “. . . vehicles must be equipped in accordance with weather conditions . . . “ having fitted a new set of Continental tyres just eight weeks ago we decided to leave UK mid august to avoid the winter tyre blues.

On reading "AA Driving in Europe” for each of the ten countries we planned to transit we discovered that virtually all require winter tyres - Oh bugger!!!

To stay legal we would need to be in Greece by October 2018 and could not leave until April 2019, and that simply 'aint gonna happen.

Winter tyres apparently wear rapidly if used in summer and (according to several reviews on t’interweb) have what can best be described as “interesting” handling characteristics in hot and wet summer conditions so - what about all weather tyres? There are only two makes of all weather tyres that carry the Alpine mark and just one that that makes them in the 255/60/18 size that I require.

Mitchelin CrossClimate tyres, complete with the Alpine mark, have been fitted, and the Continentals put into store.


A Sinple Plan

. . . Italy, Sicily and Greece

We have spent six of the past seven winters in Spain and / or Portugal and while we love both countries it does get more and more difficult to find new places to visit so this coming winter we thought we would go somewhere completely different.

Italy, Sicily and Greece should be completely different.

We have long wanted to go to Italy, indeed our 1st adventure had originally been designed to visit Italy but a caravan problem caused an unexpected and swift return to UK.

The plan at this time (and is of course subject to change by the month, week, day, or even minute) is first to visit our Dutch friend Dickie in Netherlands then travel south through Germany into Austria, over the Alps, although where and by which pass or tunnel is not yet decided, into Italy. After travelling the lenght of Italy and crossing the Straights of Messina to Sicily, perhaps for Christmas, then to Italy’s east coast town of Brindisi where there is a regualar and frequent ferry service to Patras in Greece.

The journey home is a little more complicated. From Greece the road runs through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium and France. The round trip being over 8000 kilometres.

When we travel we tend not to “over research", we have a quick look at the "AA Driving in Europe” web page, check if we need a Vignette / Toll Sticker and off we go!

The “off” is planned for around the middle of August, or the end, or the beginning .  . . . . . . .

This map shows a possible route, red outward and blue home, but, please note, dear reader, that as one of you was unable to accept that haveing no points of interest in Italy did not mean that we were going from Venice to Thessaloniki in Greece in one hit but rather meant that we had done no research between those two points. To hopefully satisfy this person I have added the green route, however it means absolutely nothing other than they are genuinely places in Italy but we have no idea if we will or will not visit them.



© S W Ghost 2018