Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Driving to Greece

This is a letter we did for some friends joining us in Greece.
 It might help you if you're thinking about going- it's worth it! If you want any help with routes- as there are lots of choices, send me a message or a facebook pm and I will try to assist- we have been doing this Greek trip for ten years.

Corfu from the ferry

Maggie and Pete’s detailed instructions and route to Greece.

We drive down for an early boat in Dover and stay overnight on Marine Parade, near the fish restaurant , right hand end as you look at the sea. It’s free and we go either into the restaurant for great fish and chips or walk up, under the underpass, into the town centre to Wetherspoons or the chip shop.

Follow signs for DFDS ferry at Dover. Follow the car lane through passport control etc. Have your documents ready.They ask you daft questions like ‘do you have any knives, guns or weapons? Turn your gas off before going on board.

Dunkirk to Stenay  
It's best to set your sat nav to avoid toll roads while in France.
 232 miles 4 hrs 23 – Aire at  Port de Plaisance
Leave Dunkirk, following signs for Lille A25/ E42. We go off  at junction 16 going up slip road and turning left, carrying on to Le Clerc  for fuel and the first French bread and cheese- there is a height barrier so go into the shop via the McDonald’s entrance. Back on the road-
head to Armentieres/ Lille. We usually do E17 Douai/ E643 Cambrai – a tree lined lovely road.
On that road towards Hirson there’s a Lidl at Caudry and an E.Leclerc.
We stop for a drink and something to eat between Le Nouvion and La Capelle at a signposted pull in , in the woods. If you’re lucky, there’s a friterie ( chippy) open on the other side of the road where you can point to different size boxes for which size portion you require- the lady doesn’t speak English but the chips speak for themselves!
Carrying on towards Charlesvilles Mezieres you turn right to Sedan N43 towards Liege andMetz.
When you get to Douzy, there’s a right turn signposted Stenay. You will be following the Meuse through rolling countryside. When you get to Stenay follow motorhome signs and Port du Plaisance. Pull in at the Capitainerie onto the emptying grids. The office for the aire is in that little building at the opposite end. You go in and get a ticket for parking over the canal in the aire or there are a few spots on the same side. Last year it was 7 euros. The lady gives you the key code for the gate and shower and maybe one free ticket for the Beer museum. You can empty here and fill up. The toilet empty is under a cover. There is also a filling and emptying point on the other side of the canal.  Drive off to your left then turn right over the canal . Pull in first right. Enter key code and park where you like. The electric points are on the left and bottom side of the aire. The showers are next to the canal, bottom right of aire. It’s a nice little place to walk round along by the river. There is also a Lidl at the top of the town roundabout turn left ( we walked up) .  We didn’t get fuel in Stenay last year preferring to wait till Luxemburg. Have a good sleep and enjoy the achievement of getting there.

Stenay to  Kaysersburg Aire

 Maybe loo empty before leaving to go across towards Montmedy and turn right to  Longuyon.Diesel and fresh bread  at the supermarket just on the left, after your right turn to Longuyon over the flowery bridge. Look up left to the castle/towers on the hill at Montmedy. There’s a proper campsite up there and an old walled village to look round perhaps on your return?
Pete says you’re not doing Luxemburg so I’m not sure which way you’d choose to go but you’re heading for Metz. . Set sat nav to avoid toll roads. Bear in mind you’ll need some change for the machine in Kaysersberg. 7 euros overnight last year. We stop halfway around Nancy  just after Nancy Centre towards Nancy south  A33 for lunch at the parking area at Jete de Saint Pierre.After Nancy bear right to St Die. At St Die bear right to Colmar PAR COL – this avoids a toll tunnel and is lovely. 415 goes through Fraize up the mountain and down the other side. Keep following Kaysersburg but DO  NOT go straight on to  town centre- keep going along main road. Turn left into town roundabout signpost Vieux Ville and motorhome sign. Turn first left and go along past a building and left into the motorhome parking. Park anywhere but at the bottom on the right there is   a little grassy bit where we sit out for a cuppa. People will park closely as it’s popular. Put money in meter. Loos and service point are at the entrance but there’s no electric or showers. Beautiful town to walk around- watch for storks. There’s a supermarket- closed lunchtimes and diesel Intermarche down the first right off the road you came in on. ( main road , turn left over the flowery bridge and first right- it’s signposted. There’s a tourist office and  free wifi on the aire. ( wee fee in the French accent)
The castle is worth the climb up for the views. There’s an Albert Schweizer museum ( never been in) and lovely shops- fab ice cream  and tons of Alsace tourist tat.
If you want a proper camp site- there’s one on the Freiburg/Breisach  road  A415 on the right  ( Camping D’Isle)  through Colmar or just as you come into Kaysersberg on the left.

Kaysersberg aire- storks on the roof in the background

Kayserberg to somewhere in Italy around Parma

There’s a choice here- whether to go down the right or left bank of the Rhine to Basel.
If you want to do a big shop, it’s worth going to the huge E Leclerc in Colmar. You need the Neuf Breisach road to Freiburg  A415 signposted Breisach.  E Leclerc is on the left . There is fuel here and a temptation to spend a lot of time and money! If you’re going down the German side,turn left out of the shop and head for Breisach, over the Rhine  and then turn right onto A35 towards Basel.  ( There's also a nice aire on the riverside in Breisach which is a lovely town to walk round) We usually stop at Bad Bellingen services to buy a vignette but if  you don’t need one, there’s a nicer place to stop for coffee or whatever past the services, by a river further  on  the A35. Then you come to the Border stop where you’ll probably be waved through.

Follow motorway signs  in GREEN E25/ A35 for Gotthard and Luzern. We stopped for lunch at the second aire after you go through the long tunnel. E35 Milano Chiasso
Entry into Italy. Border Police don’t usually ask for passports. A little further on is an ALT station where you pay a toll of 2 euros 10 cents to get into Italy. Don’t use telepass lane.
Turn off right to A1 BOLOGNA. You will come to another ALT station . take a cash lane and Pay 2 euros 80 ( last years prices) It gives change. Follow signs for Bologna. 
Keeping in left lanes or best is middle lane following BOLOGNA  join A1 . There’s a stazione at MILANO SUD. Take BIGLIETTO lane . Press big red button to get a ticket and keep it safe to pay when you get off A1.
Where you go is your choice.  There is a campsite called Camping Arizona at Salsomaggiori Terme. It’s expensive for a night but it has swimming pools that close around 7pm. 2015 we carried on to Camping Club Mutina in Modena- lovely little place with electric, showers and wifi  - Str. Collegarola, 76, 41100 Modena MO, Italy) for about 15 euros or go off the Autostrada at Fidenza and follow signs for Soragna.   
Via G. Matteotti
Soragna (Parma)
N 44.94633, E 10.12561 (MAPPA)
  ( you can see this on )  You can stay in the town centre square for free, emptying and water available and little cafes and shops are near plus a Conad supermarket.
For the camp site you get off at FIDENZA .Pay toll at the stazione.
There is a garage  Esso  in Fidenza

 To Fano
Get back onto the A1 autostrada. Take a biglietta entrance on right and follow signs for BOLOGNA. Just before BOLOGNA go off right E45/ A14  ANCONA .( this starts to  look confusing as the ring road runs alongside the autostrada and you can see the signs over the barrier but stay on the autostrada)
Keep in the middle lane.
We stopped last year for coffee at Santerno services but there isn’t a lot of parking space there.
Follow autostrada to FANO signs. 
Get off autostrada at Fano and go to manned toll booth ( 17.20 euros last year. ) Take left fork to Fano- keep going round tight bends over bridge into Fano. At the island take 2nd exit CENTRO. Go right at lights – STAZIONE, PESARO MARE. Go straight on at mini roundabout. Go right at next mini roundabout , straight along past big white building turn left up and over a  flyover  /bridge over the railway line signposted SPIAGGIA ( beach) it’s a very small sign. Turn right off the bridge signposted SASSONIA  and Parking CAMPER – motorhome sign. Go alongside the railway slowly as it’s a little lane to the sea. The road bears left at the sea. Turn left into parking 200 yards approx. on left.  Depending on the time of day you arrive, either the guy comes out of the little hut or you just go and find somewhere to park if there’s no-one about mid afternoon.  We usually park at the far left end at the end of a row near the bamboo if possible. You pay 7 euros on departure. We put the awning out though it says you can’t- you will see everyone else does.  We go for a swim on the beach. It’s a walk along the front then turn up left into the town.
There is a proper sosta with services in Fano town itself but though we have heard it is nice, we like to be beside the seaside.

Ferry Day
Pay your parking fee- leave it in the box if there’s no-one about. Go back the way you came turning right at the end of the bridge. If you need bread or shopping, get it before you get to the autostrada as the shop on board doesn’t sell food. (There’s a little supermarket on the right if you turn left off the bridge.) Follow signs to autostrada and Ancona. It’s a round about route back  and seems to take ages to the autostrada. Green A14 signs. Take a ticket  and join the autostrada. Turn off at ANCONA NORD  with a ship sign follow road round. Pay at toll 2.70 euros last year.
Follow ship sign SS16 ANCONA PESARO. Join SS16 Ancona.  Go off at ANCONA PORTO 3 . Road forks right PORTO down hill ( always queues) past hospital. Straight on, second exit at roundabout. Keep in right lane. Straight on at lights down to sea Turn right. Bumpy road by the sea. Off right to PORT. Keep right. Bumpy road over railway, carry on along to PORTO left lane. Take second exit at roundabout Check In. Turn in right to CHECK IN . Park up and go into the building with tickets.  They will give you loads of tickets and a camping on board sign for your windscreen.
After check in leave check in area and go to third exit on roundabout IMBARCO TRAGHETTI. Road bends left. There are amber flashing lights over railway. First exit at roundabout – follow IMBARCHI car ferry. Someone will stop you at 2A controls and tell you where to go and scan your tickets. The port people wear orange tee shirts- just go slowly. It will be hot here. Just try to get comfy- there’s usually a breeze. You can get out of the port area with your ticket and passport- Pete usually goes for a walk but I don’t.
When the ferry comes in, don’t get too excited as it takes ages to clear and embark- two hours sometimes. Just follow directions – they wave you on up a ramp ( huge lorries go up it- don’t worry) and position you. Someone may come with a long pole with a hook to plug you in or watch what other people do  as it varies from  ship to ship. There are showers and loos and though they don’t always look great, the showers are powerful and good and I usually have one pretty quickly! You usually get  a pass at some point given so you can have access in and out of the main part of the ship.  We usually get a gyros plate to share and take it back to the van-we take some foil up to put over the plate and a plastic bag to carry it in. 8.5 euros.  Remember you can’t use your gas for cooking but electricity is ok. There’s a self service restaurant and a restaurant on board.  We play back gammon and read. Your kindle 3g will work till you are well out at sea. You  can get a phone signal near to Croatian coast.  Yu can pay to get Anek wifi. It might be a bit noisy in the  night and sometimes it gets windy and can things can rattle a bit. The electricity supply is good so you can boil kettles and run air con!  

 Greece! And Aginara Camping
There is an early morning call for those getting off at Igoumenitsa. I usually get up to watch then go back to bed.  We sometimes go on deck and watch the islands floating past- you can see Corfu, Ithaca , Kefalonia- and sometimes dolphins but not as close as Rosemarkie.
When you get to Patras, the crew tell you when to get off. Just follow the traffic out and turn right at the main road.  You will go up a ramp and head for the New National Road. If you need shopping, turn first left off the ramp. You will see a Lidl which is worth stocking up at.  Be aware that this is a port area and keep everything well locked. When you come out of Lidl, turn left and follow  signs to New National  Road which will take you up left. You need to go right on to the New National Road south to Pyrgos. There are lots of garages to fill up just along this road. It seems to get cheaper as you go further out.  Have you got directions to Aginara? Turn off at Vartholomeio/ Gastouni . Keep going strigh (ish) till you see a left turn for Glyfa .The camp site is a right turn at the bottom of the hill in Glyfa then a left turn down to the site- it’s signposted from a distance away. Stop at reception and Angeliki might ask for your passport. Pete says ‘Say hello from us’  You might like to park just up by the little roundabout and have a walk down to the front to see where you would like to park. We drive down the track furthest left and turn right and wait there till we’ve had a look around on foot.  Just watch as some pitches have low branches and are unsuitable and avoid the dreaded sap drip from pine trees as this is very sticky stuff! I usually do washing in the sinks down by reception. The toilets and showers are unisex and are ‘wet rooms’ .  You’ll need to take loo paper with you.
The electric here is good and the bar at the front is a nice place to watch the sunset and the Zakynthos ferries. We leave our stuff on the beach, it’s safe to. Round about the middle of the beach is good as there are rocks underwater to the left and right- this is the clearest place to get in and enjoy the swims I dream about.
 The restaurant is lovely but they will speak German at you till you say you are English. It’s maybe worth  taking your little Greek phrase book but the food is plain greek cooking and you can’t go wrong with ‘brizola hirini’ pork chops. There are no menus   but they have all the staples- salad, tzatziki, but never hummus. The grilled fish is good .There is a little shop there and the bread is fine.
You can cycle out of the site and turn left. About two miles away is Arkoudi where we park the bikes in the square or by some railings and have coffee in the little place opposite the newsagent/kiosk. There is a bakery and a good shop.

Pete says remember to drive on the right- not joking! Hope this helps .

New note: Depending on how we feel, we vary the route each year. Last year, we didn't stop at Stenay, choosing to go to Luxemburg and get diesel and shopping in Remich. We also emptied and filled at Kaysersberg then carried on to Breisach am Rhein where there is a stelplatz by the river. We went along the  ridge road above the Mosel and stopped in Baccarach at the stelplatz on the campsite there for a change. On the way back we stopped at Luneville in France which was lovely.

1 comment:

  1. That is one brilliant instruction. Just add a map and you could sell it. We too have just arrived in Greece, hopefully we will bump in to you x

Monday, 10 April 2017

Post op 'pootling'

March and April : Carsington Water, Meltham,Newark, Filey and York.

Feeling 'van sick' and needing to be away from home , I rang around a few sites trying to book a night away. Five phone calls later, Paul the farmer at Uppertown Farm Caravan Park at Carsington Water said he had space. He sensibly warned me that there was a tap, and an emptying point and that was it. It was perfect for us. He also said that the field was wet but if we wanted to park on the stony track, we were welcome. So off we went to the beautiful little site, five minutes walk downhill to the reservoir and visitor centre with good views and six pounds to overnight. As it costs £4.70 to park in the daytime at the reservoir, we thought that was fine.

We had a walk down to the reservoir which was busy but it was about as far as I could manage.

We had another walk, this time uphill, to the Knockerdown Inn where we had a lovely meal and a nice starry walk back. Although there is a little bit of road noise, we found it was just what we needed for a first trip out of the year.

Will O' Natts pub Meltham
 We had a night out with friends at this little pub we had found online. We had some good food, great beer and a quiet night. There are no facilities, just toilets when the pub is open but we were made welcome. It's a short walk to Blackmoorfoot reservoir and not far from Meltham.

Newark Brownhills and Milestone Caravan and Motorhome site.

We'd needed a new fridge catch and Brownhills were fitting a new aerial so the sat nav will work consistently instead of forgetting where it is,so we took the opportunity to have a couple of nights on Brownhills motorhome parking. It was good for me as they have a swimming pool so I tried doing my exercises and swimming in the pool twice. We also had a lift into Newark and had a look around the market. We managed to look at some motorhomes too......

We then moved five miles up the road to Milestone. It is a very pretty site around a landscaped lake and gardens with very pristine showers. We went to the brewery next door which was a bit of a let down as there were no tastings, just sales. But Pete was happy to buy some beers. Sitting in the sun watching birds was nice but sadly the site is next to the A1- which we knew about- and the noise is grim. On review sites, people say they don't notice it. We have slept next to Italian motorways and slept better than here...we couldn't get used to it at all. It's a shame because it really is a pretty site.

  The A1 is just behind that bank at the back!
  Happy to try new beers

Centenary Way campsite Filey

 We've been here before, a good few years ago, and it is a neat little site about fifteen minutes walk into Filey...a bit longer for me this time.  I needed to see the sea and it's just right for that.

We stayed two nights, had the customary fish and chips, bought a crab and wandered around the town. We talked to our neighbours who were checking out their new Benimar motorhome.It is always nice to look round someone's else's van for ideas. 

Rowntree Park York.
 We had a message from friends we'd met in Greece and arranged to meet up with them in York. We were lucky to get a spot and even better to see our lovely friends and have a super evening. York is such a wonderful place- we always find somewhere new or something different to look at. This time we went to the station to the York Brewery Tap where we spent some happy time watching people and trains, drinking good coffee and beer.

 beautiful dafffodils around the the walls.
 The station and York Brewery Tap.
  Inside the pub- wonderful glass.
 Geese and goslings everywhere!
York evening

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Not much of a blog........

Not Much of a Blog.

More than half way through February, and I haven't posted for ages! That's because we haven't  been away in the van much. Since coming back from Greece in October, we have only done two trips, one to a wedding in Southsea and our usual December trip to York.

Hampered by hip pain, walking has been an issue and getting in and out of the van bed had become a little bit problematic.....perfectly possible to do but it just hurt. So here I am, sitting at home , reading everyone else's blogs  and planning for trips as soon as my six week post operative time runs out. The wonderful National Health Service looked after me well during my time in hospital getting a new hip and I am looking forward to getting out and about again.

November and December : Brownhills , Southsea, Stratford and Castleton.

As we were going to Loughborough to have the bikes serviced ( free ) , we thought we would overnight at Brownhills on the way down to Southsea. We left the bikes and the van and had a wander round Loughborough centre.  After collecting the bikes, off we trundled to Newark, pitched up and Pete went for a look around the vans while I holed up with a book. There is a new Elsan point and disabled toilets in Brownhills for customers staying overnight and we find it's a convenient stop.
We went over to the Roman Way pub across the road for a  nice meal. We heard some odd sounds in the night then realised it was the horses in the next field.

The next day , we had a lift into Newark and a wander around there before coming back to a serviced van, though they hadn't got a fridge catch to replace the broken one.

In the morning,  we had showers and I did my hair ready for tomorrow's wedding as we wouldn't have hook up and though it's possible, it's easier with electric. We parked up near where the wedding was, having asked permission months earlier from the management, then headed off for a lovely meal with a whole lot of friends at the Eastney Arms. We had an early night.

baby, it's cold outside...
Wonderful dry sunny weather for a winter wedding! As it was in the afternoon, Karen and me had a look round the Southsea shops, before going back to get ready. It was a wonderful wedding with a Scottish flavour- kilts and bagpipes. We had a great time meeting up with friends and their families in the wonderful Royal  Marines Museum.

Richard and Amy's lovely wedding

After lots of people had been round for coffee in the morning, we headed north - we'd been warned of slow traffic on the A34 so we went cross country...never again! It took forever! We stayed overnight in the Leisure Centre at Stratford, another good stopping off point when travelling north/south. We found a good pub showing football, had a nice meal then had a really early night.....tired from yesterday's festivities.

A bright cold start to the day at minus 5.6 degrees! We had a decent drive up to Castleton, stopping for shopping on the edge of Chesterfield. After setting up we went for a walk along the 'back lanes' into Castleton where I did my usual stunt of stepping into deep mud and getting messy while Pete  managed to stay clean. Of course we had to have a pint in the Nag's Head then back for showers and  a tasty pasta.

It wasn't a very nice day when we woke up but we managed a walk into Hope and back again in the damp foggy weather.

Another day, another walk and even though we walked along 'Dirty Lane'- that's what it is called on the map- I didn't get dirty! I managed to walk back into Castleton for an evening meal too. Christmas lights in Castleton are very pretty.

December - Annual Trip to York

We usually come for Christmas shopping, buy little, eat and drink much! The caravan club site is always busy and they had a helpful system of meeting the van at the gate, telling you to choose a pitch then return to the office. This save a queue of vans at the gate.  We went out of the back gate to watch football in a favourite pub.

After a long lie in, we went shopping- not my preferred activity but somehow it seems okay here. I think that's entirely to do with the amount of breaks we, beer and a trip into Barnitt's where there is always something to look at.

Another long lie in , then we bought boots for Pete before heading into the Chocolate House for coffee and hot chocolate. This little place is amazing- they make their own chocolate on site and you can watch it being made or just sit and relax in the warmth of the chocolate aromas.  We went into The Hop pub on Fossgate, another favourite and had pizza while listening to the singers and watching acts as the first ever Busker's Christmas Party took place. Buskers from all over York had got together to raise money for a cancer charity and they all played for free. We really enjoyed the music and atmosphere.

Phil and Karen arrived with Molly, their dog. Off we went shopping again to buy something to send to Austria as we had just heard that our friends, Gerd and Gabi have a new granddaughter.

We spent the evening in the Windmill, another Greene King pub and they had good food.

We all went into town, yet again, but I came back to the van early, tired out. I had a good rest so we could go out again at night to the Slip Inn and the Swan before having a nice meal in the Punchbowl.
Another lovely trip!

We cancelled the New Year trip to Hawes as my hip problem got worse and walking became too difficult- the first New Year at home since 1999!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

2016  Another Greek Summer

            I have to admit it- I am an addict and so is Pete.
We are addicted to travel and's this year's Greek trip:

Week One: Brownhills, Dover, Remich, Breisach, Modena, Fano and Ferry

We picked up our new electric bikes  ( an out of character extravagance!) and headed to Brownhills for an overnight before heading down to Dover. I sneaked in a little visit to Boundary Mill as I had never been and managed to come away with a linen dress. It was too big and too busy a place to hold my attention for more than an hour and I was anxious about some of the very senior generation's parking .....especially after one pulled out in front of us as if he couldn't see a blooming great white van.  We had plenty of time to get to Dover so did the 'scenic tour'  of Romney Marsh and Hythe, thinking about an ice cream on a beach, but we saw only hedges and a seagull. Dover  and a pint called. We had an early ferry after a quiet night. 
                                             huge barge on the Mosel at Remich

The crossing was also quiet and we headed for Remich after missing our usual stop at Junction 16 for diesel and shopping because I was fiddling with the MP3 player. We stopped instead at junction 10 though height barriers were an issue so we parked by the garage.  We had lunch in Aire de Amoudries .  We stayed in the layby at Remich and we used the new Endless Breeze 12 volt fan which is really efficient. It was expensive but we can save the cost of a night on hook up and still keep cool.  By the end of the trip, it had paid for itself.

Remich time is shopping time- up the hill for diesel , cheap gin and bread. Then on the motorway, we saw a terrible sight....a motorcyclist had been knocked off his bike, minutes ago and was lying in the road. We were waved past and people were there helping but neither of us think he had survived. We were very shaken up. 

We had a nice drive over the Col du Bonhomme towards Kaysersberg and Colmar and after shopping and refuelling in Colmar, we carried onto Breisach. When we got there, the road was barred- there was an enormous flea market behind the stelplatz
and there were guys directing us where to park. We parked a bit awkwardly but the parking guys told us we could move when some of the stall holders finished. The next issue was the meter didn't work- I got the parking guy to ring the number  displayed on the board as I had put  money in. I also google translated a note for the windscreen instead of a ticket, just in case. It came in useful to show the parking guy when he came round. We had a walk round town and Pete uploaded his newspaper outside the closed tourist office.   

flea market

It's easy to see why Viking river cruises stop here- it's a lovely place.

Next day we drove without incident to Bad Bellingen services and bought a vignette for Switzerland.  There was a thirty minute queue for the Gotthard tunnel but good music passed the time and the scenery is wonderful. The problem came looking for Camper Club Mutina in Modena. We had been before but both sat navs decided to give up the I headed for signs to the autostrada south and found it without their help. It's a good stopping spot with showers, wifi etc for 14.50 euros. It was very hot but quiet.

Swiss scenic roads

a well earned drink Camper Club Mutina Modena
We seemed to go through Italy quite  quickly with music and got to  the sosta at Sassonia, Fano in good time. The little hut where you pay has gone and there was no-one about to pay, but a guy came around later.. Pete went for a swim after we parked up at the back in the shade of some bamboo. There are no services here but there are services in the Fano town sosta if needed. We had a walk into the lovely old town and ate out. The local sparkling wine was delightful , the food good, but the service was poor. It cost 7 euros to stay on the sosta.

keeping the fridge shaded


an evening stroll in Fano

The next day was ferry day and we were in Ancona in less than an hour after driving past fields of sunflowers. I love this bit of the journey, it feels like we are getting close to Greece! 

The ticket man at the toll was very smiley when I gave him some sweets- it's a boring job and my Mam gives sweets to bus drivers, shop assistants etc so I carry on the tradition.We checked in at the ticket office then went down to the ferry where we waited the usual forever. There is no rhyme or reason, it would seem to us, as to how you get put on but this time we were unlucky and not near a 'window' so not much daylight.

 Pete got chatting to a Greek lorry driver who gave us a bottle of oil from his village and we gave him a bottle of English beer.  We shared a plate of gyros,  ( brought down to the camping deck from the upper deck by Pete who goes up with a piece of foil to cover the plate) with some salad . Pete convinced me that there was a deal on and if you bought gyros, you got a beer cheap  so he enjoyed the beer and had a calm but hot crossing.


Week Two: Aginara

The ferry called in unexpectedly to Corfu which was a nice surprise.

I read books and Pete watched the islands go by. It didn't take too long to get off the boat and after a quick stock up in a very quiet Lidl, we were off along the New (!) National Road to Glyfa. I am always happy to go down the hill to Glyfa and Aginara camp site looking at the sparkling sea across to Zakynthos.

 Kiki at the reception was so pleased to see us and after the usual, 'how are you?' type questions, the next question was ' what about Brexit?' This was a question we would hear many times and it would be discussed with all nationalities. It made me realise that Greeks discuss politics very often and most people are politically aware. I feel that it would be good if people in England were more concerned about how the country works than  about who wins celebrity shows. 

We got set up and went for the swim that I dream of in the winter.....and it didn't disappoint, The warm clear water seems to rid you of all the miles travelled and any anxieties except what to order for dinner and  how many shooting stars we will see......

the first Greek beer

it's tomato season
Kiki told us that there had been heavy rain so everything was green and flowery. We had a wander along to the next beach and Pete carried on exploring and looking for tortoises while  I checked the sunbeds and brolly for shade...horizontally! 
We got back to find the van in full sun- we usually park in a different place but decided on a change,  but we  hadn't worked out the sun position very well so we moved- better to be comfortable and tall eucalyptus trees gave greater shade. 

The next day , the bikes had their first outing to Arkoudi, a nearby village. My bike took me a little while to get used to as there is no throttle but it drives off smoothly as soon as you push the pedals.  The seat isn't a comfy as my old Powacycle Windsor but it certainly is a more powerful bike.  We had a lovely coffee in the square and we were welcomed back...we have been coming here a long time! ( ten years)

Our love affair with Greece motorhoming started with camp Aginara and continues. The shower block has been revamped. We went up to the restaurant again for lovely  home cooked food. 

Another day we went for a cycle to Glyfa beach and had to stop to watch the sheep eating up the water melons in the field- some of them had completely pink faces.

Pete did a lone cycle for coffee up to Liggia then onto Kastro  for shopping. It's a long uphill but worth it. I was busy making sure the sea was still there. A minor disaster struck when Pete didn't put the top back on the flask of tea I had taken down to the beach ( how very British!) and the cold tea leaked into the Greek phone and ended it's short life. ......

Well, then there was a resurrection! I put the phone overnight in Greek pasta that looks like rice ( kritheraki) and the moisture disappeared, the phone worked!  We cycled to Arkoudi for a lovely meal and the first horta ( greens).  We found out how good the bike lights are on the way back.....compared to our old bikes, these are like  car headlights. 

I cycled up to Liggia with Pete , but I got hot. I sat watching swallows in the cafe, cooling down ,then decided I would go back while Pete went on to Kastro. 

Week Three: Aginara and Methoni

Aginara beach
Well the days went by and we were too comfortable to move. The days were full (or not) of swimming, reading, doing jobs around the van. Pete asked me one day what I was going to do today. I said      ' Nothing'......he said  'You did that yesterday' and I replied....'I know, I didn't finish it'.............

We had a fridge issue where there was an error code 13 so Pete contacted Thetford and it seems we needed another thermostat ( had one last year) but they wouldn't send it out to Greece even if we paid postage. They sent one home. The fridge works but the lights flash ( we covered them up)  and you can't be sure of the temperature. One evening we took gin and tonics down to beach then went to the restaurant for rabbit stifado  then came back to the beach bar to play backgammon and watch an enormous moon rising.

I had a brainwave- I found a Thetford dealer in Athens then rang Mary, our wonderful friend, and she is going to collect the thermostat for us. 
 I braved a trip to Kastro even though I thought it might hurt my knees but it was okay once I got going. We went to the butcher's and the baker's and at the greengrocer's, the lovely lady there gave me a big pot of her home made nectarine and peach jam. I think it was a thank you for Pete's custom but it was nice and I had a little conversation in Greek without me being too embarrassed .

We stopped at a cafe on the corner on the way down to Killini's baths and the views are stunning...I can't think why we haven't stopped there before, but stupidly, I didn't take the camera.

Pete decided to have a roof clean- very adventurous! 

That cleaning signaled a need to move. We had been very settled but it was time to go. A  restaurant meal of fantastic Imam ( stuffed aubergine) and bifteki was our last one after packing up ready to leave for Methoni.

Kiki also gave us a pot of the most delicious jam (vournela). We drove down to Zacharo and called at the bakery for spinach pie. We stocked up in Kalo Nero and had coffee in Agia Kyriaki where there is a little harbour and it was full of people swimming and having a good time. The cafe had amazing pieces of wood washed up by the sea as decorations. 


We got to Methoni in the afternoon. We really like it here. Nandia on reception took us to get hooked up but we didn't fully pitch up as we had to go back to the water pump later because the water was off  when we arrived. We met up with David, an English guy who we had first met in 2006 in the same place...where did the years go?  We had a drink with him and his lovely French friend Jean Marie and they joined us later at o Nikos for great food and much laughing and silliness. 

The next day, we met with Saint Mary of the Thermostat and Caterina . Mary and Nondas got the thermostat for us and brought it with them to Finikounda. We had two coffees- there was a lot of catching up to do, and then an exciting time in the 'everything' shop where this time, the shopkeeper didn't have everything, but we got some long screws in another shop to fix the wonky sunbed. 

It was very hot so we had an afternoon in the shade of the tree. The camp site has a lovely beach cafe where we ate some lovely pork in the oven and a huge salad.  

Week Four:  Finikounda
The next day we drove the huge distance ...about ten kilometres  Camping Thines in Finikounda  We had our usual lovely warm welcome  from friends and 'family' at our summer 'home' .  It takes a bit of wriggling to get into our space but it is so worth it. While we were on the beach, more friends's so nice to be part of such a great group of people.
We went to one of our favourite restaurant, Palamides, for papoutsakia ( stuffed aubergines) and another welcome.

Pete usually goes to the baker's on his bike most mornings and  he did some bread deliveries for people here. We tried Kiki's jam- we couldn't find a translation except 'cherry plum' jam- it was great. More friends from Athens arrived. The site is getting full. We had a mega beach day, talking with friends on the beach till almost nine o clock. The best time on the beach is after four o clock and it gets really lovely nearer sunset. We had a good night in the bar playing a new card game with a big group.

A bike ride into town means a coffee stop- this time in Gardenia. Sitting watching the bay having a coffee is such a pleasure. We had an evening music session round at Maghi and Panos' caravan.

I love doing a big wash here- everything dries so fast and smells good. As a reward- we went out for pitta gyros after having aperol with Maria and Stefan.

 It is tricky to go for a shower here- you set off but stop for a chat here and there and it takes a long time to have a quick shower, but time doesn't matter, people do.

chart of my shower trips 

Pete got up early to go fishing with Nondas, Panos and Babis so I had a leisurely morning. Pete caught two little fish- one inedible and one tiny one so it was lovely of Nondas to give Pete his fish for our dinner. Pete took gin and tonics to friends and Christina and Anna came for some pink fizzy,,,then Stefan and Maria came for some Mosel wine before they went out...we got round to cooking the fish about 11pm!  Corinne and Geoff left and the cat who had kittens under their van carried the kittens and put them under our van. It is the same cat who put her kittens in our engine two years do they know who will tolerate them? 

Week Five : Visitors!

We rented a car and drove up to Corinth to meet Tom and Dana, his girlfriend. They had been travelling from where they live in South Korea to England then Italy and  Greece. We got to the station just as their train came in! We stopped in Petalidi for a nice lunch and a chance to get to know Dana who we hadn't met before. While they got settled in their room in the village we went back and the cat brought out the kittens to play. I put a box round the back for them as them kept falling off the water tank where the cat had put them. 

Next day we took Tom and Dana to Koroni for a look around the castle and a drink sitting watching the sea. We had a nightmare drive getting out of Koroni as Pete took the little road but most of the traffic decided to come the other way and we squeaked through. I think I stopped breathing at one point.

Playing frisbee on the beach proved interesting as it flew into the river and disappeared and even though Tom went in, he couldn't find it. We went to Methoni castle  for the sunset- it's a good place to watch it  go into the sea. We went back to the campsite cafe for a meat pikilia- it's a nice place to sit and watch the lights of Methoni.

Polylimnio Waterfalls- somewhere we have never been, so on recommendation,we went together early . A walk down and a scramble up a rocky path brought us to an amazing place. It is so unexpected in a hot dry country to find these falls, cool and green. The shady trees give way to an open pool with lots of waterfalls. 

There was only one family there and the guy had lost his prescription sunglasses in the pool but however hard Tom and Pete tried, they couldn't find them. Tom did his usual 'jump off a high place' after diving in to the cool water. We saw a freshwater crab . 

Tom doing his usual jump off anything high

We left as lots of people starting arriving and ate a spanakopita then went into Gialova for a drink before heading to Voidokilia to go for another swim on one of the world's best beaches . The almost circular white sandy beach was very busy but we had a good swim . 
Gialova- Navarino Bay


We couldn't resist calling into Pylos for ice cream at Kronos- a great cake shop.
We had a bit of a confused start to the evening as we had plans to take them to a panagyri ( festival) up in Xarokopio but as a group of us gathered to go, we got the news that it had been cancelled due to the death of one of the musicians who was to have played there. Instead, we went to Methoni to Sapienza- a restaurant where you go into the kitchen to choose food the family have made. It is always nice there.We ate with Marie and Felicie, as it was their last night before returning to France. When we got back we went to drink raki with more friends.

Tom had hurt his neck diving into the pool yesterday so only came along to the beach for a short while. Pete went out with Nondas on the boat trying to rescue a shipwrecked boat but it was too rough to do it. It didn't stop him and Nondas making a story up about finding 'packages' on the boat and rumours circulated the camp till Pete had to tell them the story wasn't true. 

Tom and Dana came round for a beach day then Pete went with friends to the dance festival in the village- always good to watch. The kittens are getting under our feet a little bit but the plan is for them to go to Vaso's little farm when they get a bit older.

We had a wonderful afternoon session with Panos, Dimitris and Titina singing and playing music on the beach. There were lots of people all sat around drinking and talking and having a wonderful time as the sun went down. Maghi translated some of the old Greek songs so we understood a bit more. We had a wonderful mezze with Anna and Dimitris, Christina and Nikos and Jan and Lucy. We had some lovely food but best of all was the chat and the laughter.  

The day of the volleyball competition! In the evening around six o clock, people gather on the beach to play volleyball.  Everyone is welcome and lots of people sit and watch but today was the competition and it is very serious. 

We went to To Stekis fo a last evening out with Tom and Dana  in the seating area under the grape vines. We met up with friends for ice cream afterwards too.

 Week Six: departures and arrivals

When you are on a campsite for a while, you see people coming and going. It's sad to say goodbye but lovely to say hello. Takis took us in his new truck up to Corinth to say goodbye to Dana and Tom who went back to England. We managed a sneaky Lidl shop too. While we were away, the kittens were taken up to the farm but they didn't take mother cat so we caught her and took her there to be with them. She wasn't very happy. The finals of the volley ball competition took place and it was very exciting. We all sat and watched and I loved that so many people were sitting on a lovely beach in the cool of the evening all having a good time.

Edith and Peter arrived from Germany. Angelos left .  We went to have showers and it happened again! ...drinks at Stefan and Maria's with  Dimitris  and Anna.....great.
We had a wonderful evening out at Takis' farm when Dia and Dimitris took us there with almost forty others for a meal made by the family. It was fantastic. We felt really honoured to be invited. Panos, Titina and Dimitris played and sang and we sat talking and laughing feeling so happy to be part of it all.  We also saw four shooting stars.
at the farm- fab food  and music
above Finikounda

The band- Panos ,Titina and Dimitris played in the bar the next night and we had marvellous mojitos made by Mario. The cat carried all the kittens one by one back to our van!  They made themselves at home in Pete's shoes.

 Gabi and Gerd , our great Austrian friends arrived - so good to see them again. There were many arrivals all at once. 

It's always interesting to talk to, and watch, the windsurfers- there's an air  of expectancy when the forecast is for wind, then a scramble for kit and to get out on the waves. New this year to Thines is a place to hang  sails which is such a good idea.

The annual boules 'competition' took place in our 'street' ...actually lots of people tried to play and it's good fun- especially when the kittens decide to try to play with the balls too. Bernhard and Uschi arrived after a three day drive from Munich.

We went with Dia and Dimitris  up to Akritihori for the panagyri. We ate hot roast pork and bread and drank very cold beer. These festivals are a great occasion and this was no exception. There were hundreds of people sitting eating, drinking and talking on the football field while musicians played and singers sang on the stage. The organisation is astonishing- we even got little packets with salt and pepper . There were no tables left for us to sit at so we climbed onto the stands where people watch football and all sat there. We were joined by lots of people from the camp and we had a super night. Who says Greeks can't organise? This was brilliant!

Party time! Camping  Thines goes
 to Akritohori.

 Week Seven
Sadly, more friends left. Mary and Nondas went back to Athens and Jan, Honza and Lucy went back to Czech Republic, We went cycling with Gerd and Gabi in the hills above Finikounda.

I had another birthday. We celebrated it at Palamidi's where Theo arrived with cake! There was a bit of moving around the site as people left and their spaces were taken. We moved! Johann and Hilde left and we moved into the space at the front with help from lots of people. The cat and kittens moved too .
There was much discussion about a group of refugees who had been rescued from the other side of Sapienza- the island opposite Methoni. It was good to hear that many people are very supportive of the refugees . It makes me so angry that Britain just isn't helping very much, but also I feel humbled by the kindness shown by other people and other countries.
This pitch is cooler as there is more breeze and we sat about a bit enjoying the pitch and watching the kittens learning to climb. 
We cycled along to camping Loutsa to see Corrinne and Geoff . It's nice there too. 
We had some more fridge issues eventually finding out that if next door has air conditioning on, we lose power but we sorted it by changing where we plug in. 
We had a fantastic evening with Greek friends up in Evangelismos where 25 adults and children all went to eat. We ordered everything from the 'starters' menu and we had loads of different things- some we had not tried before like baked feta with chili. Fotis the owner was great - when Panos, Titina and Dimitris played and sang, he kept food and drinks coming and we had a very modest bill. At almost 2 am we went back down to the camp.....fantastic night.
Sabine and Manfred arrived by plane - more people to talk to in our 'street'. 
Aris and Dimitris

Week eight
Disaster! Thunder was rumbling and the skies went grey. The kittens disappeared turned out that they had hidden in Herman's car engine. Martina found kitten Two who had dropped out near the camp entrance.  Pete went looking for the kittens along the road to the restaurant and in the car engine without any luck. 
We went to eat with Gabi and Gerd as it was daughter Stephanie and grandaughter Emilie's last night. I couldn't sleep worrying about the missing kittens though.
The next day I walked all over looking for the kittens. we had a lovely evening with Nikos, Christina, Aleko and Vivi.
Kitten One turned up! I was so happy but little kitten Three had been my favourite and never returned. The weather was a bit unsettled. Angelika and Axel came to visit and Corrinne and Geoff brought the boats back prior to their return.
 Our wonderful friends Aris and Dimitris came! It is always so good to see them.  We went to To Steki with them and had a good meal and lots of laughs. 
Dia and Dimitris and Vicky left, Rikki and Gerd arrived from Austria and parked next to Norbert and Heide. We cycled to Methoni for lunch wth Aris and Dimitris- he is such a good cook. 
Gerd, Gabi, Nikos and Christina all left. The international boules was played often with lots of different people trying to play for the first time. 
The kittens can now get up the van step- we have to be careful not to step on them. 

Week nine
The lady selling oranges came and we bought our usual bag. They are very good for juice. Norbert and Heide  brought us some marmalade they had just made. We cycled to Methoni and had coffee and talked to an older Greek man about his family and how he had found some of his family in England. He was very interesting. Later, I was swimming and it started to rain- it's a strange sensation , swimming in the rain. Mother cat went in the box I'd put underneath the van for the kittens as the rain got heavier. Despina started cooking on Tuesdays and Fridays- something we look forward to as she cooks really lovely food at the campsite so we don't have far to go for a lovely evening.
Edit, Petros, Bernhard and Uschi left. I can't believe how fast the time goes.....
Theo borrowed my bike and went to Methoni with Pete. we had a treat at Palamidis as there were only four people left eating late so Nikos played some Pink Floyd for us.
Pete got inventive and made a cork on a string toy to keep the kittens amused- we have had lots of fun watching them growing . 
Football season has started and Pete watches it with Theo. 
We put the awning in as there was a storm forecast and it was a really bad one - the van rocked , the lightning was really bright and close and the rain was very heavy.

Week ten
The storm has changed the beach. The river is raging into the sea and the tree that has been under the sand for years with just a little bit sticking up was washed of sand and you can see all of it. For a time, you couldn't get along the beach as the river was too dangerous to cross. There was very bad flooding in Kalamata with some fatalities. Mary rang from Athens and we had lots of messages to check we were okay. Pete Yiannis and Theo went to 'rescue' the umbrella poles that , despite being set in concrete, had been uprooted. The awning stayed in for another day. 
Bad weather doesn't last and the sun was back out and most things back to normal fairly quickly but the town beach has also changed shape. You can tell that it  is September as the children are back at school and there is an influx of older British and German people in the village on package holidays. 
Martina and Joshie left taking Ludwig their dog home. Some German children staying in a house along the road came to play with the kittens and they made a cat house for them with sticks. Theo and Pete ordered a set of boules for the campsite as Laurent had left and they still wanted to play. Axel , Angelika and their two friends came to eat with us and loved Despina's cooking.
We had a lovely surprise as Anna and Dimitris returned to collect a sail for their boat and they stayed overnight. We had such  a good evening- we had missed them a lot. We all had breakfast together with Corrie and Geoff and Dimitris repaired the electric post near us. Pete had a sailing lesson with Geoff.

 The parents of the German children came round to thank us for letting the children play - how nice. They are from Munich. The children's english was very good and the parents were pleased that the children had been speaking to us. 
I am having some difficulties with my hips- usually here everything is fine.  
Jane and Kerrigan arrived from England. we knew they were coming but it was still lovely to see them. They love it here too. 
They told us about their adventures in India. 

Week Eleven

We cycled to Methoni for coffee but were sad to see that the beach cafe outside the camp had completely gone- washed away in the storm. That is so sad as they were doing really well. You can still eat just inside the campsite but the beachside tables were very special because of the fabulous view. 
Pete went to collect walnuts. We met Dimitra , Theo's girlfriend and had pizza with them- watching football of course.
We met Corrie and Geoff in Finikounda for coffee, we cycled, they sailed. 
We went out for a meal on a showery evening and took refuge in the old phone box half way up the hill until the rain passed over.  We wore waterproof coats for the first time ever here. 
 We visited Jane and Kerrigan in their lovely hotel before going out
 with them. 
Herman and Helga left and then there was great excitement because the new boules arrived! 

Week twelve
I got a message from my sister to tell me that my mother had fallen and broken her little finger and her wrist and was in hospital. we spent a long time trying to arrange flights or ferries back home.  I managed to talk to the nurse in the hospital and my sister went to Newcastle to be with Mam. There is a ferry strike so we can't get a boat yet. 
We stocked up with more oranges from the lady who comes every week in her van...delicious juice.

The Run for home
Now it was our turn to say 'goodbye'. I don't like it and there were tears, but not mine, as I know we will be back. I think this is why we love the place- it's like having another home and another family in Greece. 
We stopped in Kyparissia for coffee on the way to the ferry and in Lidl in Kalo Nero to stock up. We got the ferry and sat at the back watching the Rion Bridge fade.....not too sad this time. The boat was quiet and we watched an amazing sunset over Kefalonia. 

just a bit windswept!

Goodbye Greece

We don't usually stay in motorway services but Coldrerio in Switzerland feels safe and we do a big drive through Italy off the ferry to get a good start to the journey home.

The lovely drive through Switzerland always amazes me.

We called into Colmar for diesel but decided not to stay in Kaysersburg but to push onwards. We stopped for lunch at the top of the Col du Bonhomme where it is possible to overnight. We stopped at Luneville - eight euros.It's a new stop for us but one we might use again. There's a neat little aire next to a chateau and park where we had a nice evening walk. The light through the windows of the chateau was amazing and worth going back to explore another time.

We had showers in the fairly dated block but everything was clean and the showers were good. I had looked at several possible destinations for the night but then Pete realised there was a football match on so the plans changed to going somewhere with good internet so Stenay it was.  We parked on the Capitainerie  side of the river for a change. The we discovered that the game was last night! We went for a walk around town but there was nothing much happening and most places were closed...the most advertised event was a blood donation session!

We tootled along in the misty morning via Charlesville Mezieres, Cambrai, Maubauge and Valenciennes stopping for breakfast in a layby. We carried on to Lille , stocked with diesel at LeClerc at junction 16 and went to Dunkirk for the boat. We stayed overnight in Dover then got off early and had the usual busy road run for home.

oh no! The last Greek tomato

poor wet cyclists-I gave them some sweets but surely there's a better method of boarding for cyclists?

Another lovely summer even if it had an abrupt end. Mam is now fine and her arm and finger are mended. We brought her down to stay with us so we could help her.