Category Archives: France

Onward We Go!

Keeping posts coming with the regularity that you, our valued readers, deserve can be quite difficult at times. In my defense (Rebecca), we’ve been on the road consistently for the last few weeks and have been drinking and relaxing on the Med with friends, which is quite taxing! As such, the rigors of travel haven’t provided me with the space and time needed to dictate my thoughts and hence this post will be a long one to get things up to date! But I have included an intermission!!

Boo Hoo I hear you say!! Swanning around Europe and can’t find the time to keep your extended family of followers in the loop! Fair comment – but Jen takes an awful lot of looking after! So here goes….

We were keen on spending some time travelling west through the Alps but first on the list was a stop at Berchtesgaden – the home of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” and it afforded us a lovely drive into these incredible mountains.

Hitler’s 50th Birthday present was built in 3 years atop a mountain precipice with jaw dropping views across the Alps and, on a clear day, as far as Salzburg.

Eagles Nest

Eagles Nest

Left untouched by the Allied bombing campaign, the only real damage was inflicted by the troops liberating the country after the fall of the Nazi Regime. Chunks of a red marble fireplace installed in the building as a gift from megalomaniac Mussolini to his megalomaniac associate were popular souvenirs.

Mussolini"s Marble Fireplace

Mussolini”s Marble Fireplace

It’s a rather simple almost unimpressive structure not exuding the level of grandeur you might expect. Certainly an incredible feat of engineering, the building now finds itself purposed as a restaurant and although I’d expected more of a museum experience with the usual dissection of Nazi ideals, the structure has been given a new life beyond it’s dark reasons for existing which in many ways have saved it from being another example of tyranny.

The 80mtr tunnel to the Brass Elevator

The 80mtr tunnel to the Brass Elevator

Hitler"s Brass Elevator

Hitler”s Brass Elevator

Eagles Nest Restaurant

Eagles Nest Restaurant

Making west, it’s easy to find your jaw hurting a little as every road and km really provides splendid jaw dropping scenery.

Lovely Alpine Architecture

Lovely Alpine Architecture

Crossing into Italy, the Dolomites made an appearance on the GPS screen and I expected to see a continuation of the same type of mountain topography as that throughout Austria. Singularly unique, the Dolomites certainly have their very own character – colours, formations and appeal, placing themselves well apart from the Alps in character almost as if they want to be different.

Dolomites Scenery

Dolomites Scenery

Dolomites Driving

Dolomites Driving

Dolomites Pass

Dolomites Pass

This whole region is as visually stunning as anywhere else that I’ve had the fortune to visit. An autumn visit also has it’s positives – great hiking trails and a lack of closed roads along with the missing tourists that would no doubt patronise this area during ski season.

The Stelvio Pass is a mandatory drive with its 48 hairpin turns up and 40 hairpin turns down depending on your direction of travel. You can share the drive with Ferrari’s and Porsche’s and every kind of motorbike sporting want-to-be Casey Stoners perched on them. Some of them may have actually been stoners given their lack of adherence to any form of road rules. They seem to feel a sense of entitlement when on these powerful machines and get angry at the fact they have to share the road! Following a heavy Nissan Patrol wasn’t what they had in mind when they plastered on their saddle cream and strapped on their leathers in anticipation of a record fast ascent to boast about over a pizza and beer later that day.

48 Switchbacks up...

48 Switchbacks up…

And 40 Switchbacks down

And 40 Switchbacks down

Beer and Pizza

Pizza and Beer!

Let’s also not forget the supercars that hammer up the straights only to find they need to take the hairpin corners slower than we do! When the hairpins are close together as with Stelvio, it would seem that “made in Japan” and a top speed of 140km an hour down hill with a tail wind is just as fast on hill climbs as all of those stallions!!

That Patrol is still behind me!!!!

That Patrol is still behind me!!!!

I found it all rather amusing really!

Out of Italy and through Saint Moritz in Switzerland, it was the first time we’d encountered a re-activated border checkpoint within the Eurozone. Later we discovered that most Schengen borders were now, once again, manned in an attempt to stem the Syrian Refugee flow, along with the sudden exodus of people from Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and so on, in search of a slice of Germany’s economic generosity whilst Mrs. Merkel remains at the helm and in charge of the cheque book.

Back into Italy and a look at the famous Lake Como but unfortunately it rained incessantly all day. Views of the lake were still lovely but gloomy and with a distinct lack of visibility and complete loss of vibrancy.

Lake Como

Lake Como

The wet theme continued as we travelled via Lake Lugano, venturing back into Switzerland before once again entering Italy on our way to France. You’ll need a map to follow that lot!

Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano, Switzerland

Trippy Tunnel!!

Trippy Tunnel!!

 

Bormio, Italy

Bormio, Italy

Beautiful Bormio by night

Beautiful Bormio by night

Montiglio Monferrato

Montiglio Monferrato, Italy

San Lorenzo Church dating from the 12 century

San Lorenzo Church dating from the 12 century

Village Scenery enroute

Village Scenery enroute

A night spent in the French town of Sospel deserves a mention – a classic example of a French village, as the pictures will display. Nestled amongst large mountains and sporting beautiful scenery along with character loaded buildings hundreds of years old, it’s affordable and a real taste of village life in France, yet your only 20km from Monaco!

Sospel

Sospel

 

Historic Bridge in Sospel

Historic Bridge in Sospel

More Sospel

More Sospel

We’d had a date booked in for some time to meet up with friends from Perth who were staying near Saint Tropez as guests for a wedding.

So onward through Nice, as we thought it would be good to have a look at the area and see if any memories were jogged as we’d stayed there in 2005. In the end, it was worth the detour but the traffic was diabolical and slowed us down to a snails pace. We managed our rendezvous  though, after submitting to the use of French toll roads in order to pick up the pace.

Friends Mick and Sue met us as we entered the village of Cogolin and Sue’s brother Chris led us out of the town via small roads and tracks to the place he calls home with wife Julie.

One minute you’re in the hustle and bustle that is life on the Med and a mere 10 minutes later, it’s peace and quite amongst vineyards and cork trees interspersed with sporadic dwellings – such a contrast.

St Tropez - Home of the Beautiful People!!

St Tropez – Home of the Plastic People!!

St Tropez

St Tropez

St Tropez Boats v Buildings

St Tropez Boats v Buildings

With such a relaxing, peaceful location away from the hustle and bustle but with such convenient access to the sparkle and glitter of Saint Tropez and the beautiful haven of Port Grimaud, it was easy to see the appeal.

Market Day, Port Grimaud

Market Day, Port Grimaud

Ample supplies of beer and wine left over from Chris and Julie’s daughter’s wedding just days earlier, made our stay even more enjoyable! The stun juice flowed endlessly and it seemed a shame to let it go to waste!

Drinks with old and new friends!

Drinks with old and new friends!

With Chris displaying exemplary skills in both fire making and BBQ techniques combined with Julie’s continuous supply of tasty treats we left indebted to these great people and hope to see them again should our paths cross.

Chris's Swedish Candle?

Chris’s Swedish Candle?

Catching up With Mick and Sue was a great distraction from life on the road. So nice to meet up with friends from home and speak some Australian for a few days.

Intermission – Time to grab a coffee or go back to work!!

Pernes les Fontaines was the town in our sights now after an invitation arrived in our inbox from Philip and Bianca (whom we’d been so fortunate to spend time with in Germany) to join them for dinner. On offer was a restaurant with a highly regarded menu of quality produce, a waiting list for reservations and overnight camper van parking! “Would we be able to join them as a space could be made available for us?”

Well, we like our food and it can be a real challenge finding a venue that will live up to your expectations and budget when you have very limited language skills. Wow! It was worth the effort! Outstanding food along with emotive and full-bodied conversation, we’d had yet another sensational interlude with 2 of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. It was over all too quickly for my liking. The following morning with hopeful plans of future interludes in place, we departed in opposite directions.

Pont du Gard, Avignon, France

Pont du Gard, Avignon, France

Sommieres

Sommieres

Sommieres Architecture

Sommieres Architecture

Sommieres River

Sommieres River

A poignant reminder...

A poignant reminder…

Roman ruins and ancient villages rolling by, we found our way a few days later to Narbonne in the South of France. Back in Turkey, we’d met some avid travellers who had invited us to visit en-route to Morocco along with offering the use of their factory should we need to perform any maintenance. Not just a factory, but a 4×4 specialist camper building facility! Being on the same page as these guys made life very easy for me.

Globe Camper

Globe Camper

Mecca Engineering and Globe Camper combine to build custom camper units along with all of the upgrades to the 4×4 that you could ever require. Skander and Dave have one of those unique working relationships that just works, not to mention Skander’s wife Veronique TIG welding in the background whilst Dave’s wife Monica fits a Webasto heater and plumbs it up. 2 great couples combining to build high quality campers ready for Morocco’s High Atlas or anywhere else you’d like to venture sums these dynamos up.

Skander and Veronique at work

Skander and Veronique at work

From the moment we entered the factory it was like being with family! Nothing was too much trouble and work was instantly put on hold to provide us with what ever we needed.

First on the agenda were replacement tyres! At the end of this post there is a little more about the tyre situation for those who are interested.

With tyres ordered, I now had time to service the Patrol whilst Jen tinted the passenger’s side window! The replacement window that I’d fitted after it was shot with an air rifle in the UK wasn’t tinted and she was complaining of getting burnt – the little petal!

Over the next couple of days we ticked off numerous other little jobs that we hadn’t had the time or a suitable venue to sort out. It was incredibly nice having a fully functioning factory to perform such tasks as opposed to what had become the standard – a paddock or car park! I cannot over-emphasise how grateful we were to have unlimited use of their factory, equipment and knowledge.  Big THANKS guys!!!

Being treated to a lovely Tapas lunch in Narbonne was totally unexpected especially since we knew these guys were under pressure to get a camper delivered in a couple of days but still they made time to ensure our stay was outstanding.

We did eventually leave them to get back on with their lives but not before they’d made sure we had track files for the Pyrenees and Morocco and anything else we required had been taken care of. Cant’ thank them enough! Hopefully we can convince them to join us for a tour of WA sometime in the future.

Our friends at Globe Campers and Mecca Engineering

Our friends at Globe Campers and Mecca Engineering

With days slipping by it was into the Pyrenees via the unusual little country of Andorra with its tax-free cigarettes and alcohol along with much cheaper fuel. It is an odd little place full of fancy ski resorts and not overly appealing other than the standard mountain views that are always welcome. It does however have some great off road trails meandering thorough its countryside.

IMG_4156

Carcassone, France, enroute to Andorra

Andorra

Andorra

We managed to depart Andorra via a well-known trail aptly called the Smuggler’s Route due to the trafficking of tax-free goods over the mountains and into Spain. It must be fact, as after a long low range descent and now finding ourselves within Spain’s’ borders, we were stopped for a cursory check and questioning as to whether we were carrying any of those cheap Andorran products via the local Police! Another visit to the Pyrenees without the time pressure of a dwindling Schengen Visa would be welcome as without doubt these lovely mountains offer some great camping and off road driving.

Smuggler's Route Terrain

Smuggler’s Route Terrain

Great Pyrenees Scenery

Great Pyrenees Scenery

We pretty much hit the highway at this point and put in 1100km over the next 2 days. We did manage a few side detours and interesting visits along the way however, probably one of the most notable being Toledo.

Toledo, Spain

Toledo, Spain

Jen had visited previously and remembered it to be worth the effort! It all went a bit pear shaped as we decided that we would break our own rule and drive near to the centre rather than a long walk, as time was an issue.

Passing the maximum width 2m sign, I already knew I’d made a mistake. I’ve been caught before but it would seem I’m a slow learner. (PS. We are exactly 2 mtrs wide!)

Well about 20 minutes of extremely stressful navigation amongst throngs of goggle eyed tourists along cobbled very narrow lane ways ensued! Wing mirrors grazing buildings as you idle by and tourists gasping as you just miss historic brickwork in order to make ridiculously tight corners is a give away that you shouldn’t be there! I even had to park up for a while after it was all over to settle the nerves! But the town was pretty nice!!!

Anyway it’s all on the car camera so I’ll see how it looks and put it up for all to see and as a warning to others! PARK OUTSIDE the CENTRE and walk in rather than thinking it’ll be OK!

The Spanish countryside along the South East is rather dull and uninteresting with km after km of flat and uninteresting terrain reminiscent of central Queensland I thought. The odd visit to a village made the journey seem less rushed and broke the monotony of the highway.

Castles and windmills in Spain

Castles and windmills in Spain

Gibraltar appeared and we arranged our ferry tickets from an agent in Algeciras recommended by Dave from Globe Camper. Good thing too as it was much cheaper than the internet and others!! A quick stock up with shopping including a reasonable selection of alcoholic beverages and it was onto the ferry. We hit the North African coast at the port of Tanger Med.

Ferry to Morocco

Ferry to Morocco

Stay tuned for the next instalment!

Cheers – Justin.

Tyre Update for those interested.

We’ve had a few problems with the Cooper ST MAXX tyres as some of you may know but were hopeful of continuing on the current set through to the USA as Cooper Australia had indicated to me some time ago that they may be able to sort something out with Cooper Head Office in the USA for our onward journey – an offer of which I am very appreciative.

As such, with intermittent visits to tire shops for rebalancing as best they could and one tyre losing air via splitting around the bead I was left with only 1 reliable spare but I’d still persisted with the vision of stretching their lifespan a little longer.

IMG_4151

It had come to the point however that I felt the possibility of a blowout or other high-speed incident was likely with really bad splits developing around the beads and a lot of delamination between the white lettering and black rubber.

Delamination

Delamination

The prospect of thousands of kms of harsh terrain in Morocco made the decision for me – they had to come off.

I’ve had numerous sets of Cooper STT’s prior to this version and found them to be a thoroughly reliable tyre, albeit with a low km lifespan as expected from a mud profile tyre. The ST MAXX’s have now travelled an admirable 56000km with plenty of tread remaining and if it weren’t for the presence of these faults, would have met the task required of them and fulfilled their life expectancy.

Still plenty of tread

Still plenty of tread

Uneven wear

Uneven wear

Vertical splits on the sidewall and lateral splitting around the bead however, of which there are many reports on the Internet, would seem to be an issue with this version. Maybe they’ve sorted it out with newer models but I can only go on my own experience. With 2 complete failures and all the others indicating similar areas of concern, it was an easy decision.

Vertical Sidewall split replaced in Russia

Vertical Sidewall split replaced in Russia

 

IMG_4137 IMG_4135 IMG_4134

Reluctant to find myself in the same situation again, I replaced them with BFG Ko2’s, which are BFGoodrich’s latest offering and competitor to the Cooper ST MAXX. I’ll see how these go over the next months and hopefully report back with all positives.

New Boots!

New Boots!

Au Revoir!

This post is a little longer, just for you Bec!

Cap Blanc Nez provided us with majestic views across the Channel, a lovely reward after a long drive! We’d been awfully lucky with the weather lately and although very windy along the coast it was pleasant.

Views Across the Channel

Views Across the Channel

Our first over sea sunset in a long while!

Our first over-sea sunset in a long while!

France is well equipped for motorhomes with short term stopping areas called “aires” and while these are cheaper than an RV Park they generally have no facilities other than a toilet drop and water supply. Generally the aires are within walking distance of the town centres in which they are located and as such the lack of facilities is made up for by location!  These areas provide affordable stops for campers and as such motorhomes (or camping cars as they are known in France) are restricted from many other parking areas.

Parking Forbidden for Camping Cars

Parking Forbidden for Camping Cars

No Motorhomes!

No Motorhomes! Go away..

Slowly we headed south finding an aire at Boulogne sur Mer with a lovely view across the channel from our site. Not far into France at this stage, we were still amazed at the differences between European countries given there are no borders! You just cross a line on the map and find not only a different language, but also quite often a completely different way of doing things! It’s a little bazaar really.

View from the camper

View from the camper

We spent 2 nights camped here relaxing and enjoying long walks along the beach.  In the morning we realised just how lucky we had been seeing the cliffs of Dover with such clarity the previous day.  Now there was nothing but a swelling ocean of white caps and haze making visibility less than poor.  That afternoon, the winds really started to pick up and darkness brought with it gale force winds which were unrelenting for the next few days.

Sea wall at Boulogne sur Mer

Sea wall at Boulogne sur Mer, the winds were picking up!

We’ve all heard of the quirks that the French are well known for, particularly their dislike of the English! Well, whilst at this camp, we wandered off for a stroll and as we passed an RV we were greeted by a jovial French man looking to converse. When he realised that we spoke English he turned the other way and walked off which we found quite amusing! Upon returning to our camper we heard a knock at the door and our jovial Frenchman was standing there with maps in hand and said “Australie?” It would seem that he had realised we were Aussies whilst we were off walking and that had made all the difference! So the stories are true!  I wondered how he’d have felt if I’d pointed out that fact he’d have been German without those folk on the other side of the channel but I let that one go!!

Friendly local (once he realised we weren't English!)

Friendly local (once he realised we weren’t English!)

With new locations marked on the map we’d just been given, we were again the recipients of friendly assistance! The drive south provided fantastic scenery but with very heavy buffeting from the wind.  Sticking to the back roads, we ambled along at slow speeds and found our way through a myriad of very skinny roads that crisscross the French countryside.  The reward was not only a more relaxing journey but a consistent parade of unbelievable scenery.

Aire at St Aubin sur Mer

Aire at St Aubin sur Mer

Continuing south we managed a reasonably protected aire behind a seawall in the town of St Aubin sur Mer.  Duck shooting is a very popular pass time and it’s not at all unusual to here shot gun shells being released in the evenings and early mornings. I was a little surprised however to be camped within 50m of a pair of duck shooting hopefuls and within 100m of the local town site, the rules are certainly a little more relaxed than what I’m used to. The coast is subject to quite extreme tidal movements, like being in Western Australia’s Kimberley Region. The beaches, which are more mud than sand, have a very gentle gradient and as such the tide recedes a great distance before returning quite quickly.

Boats left high and dry with tidal movements

Boats left high and dry with tidal movements

A day's sailing needs to be planned carefully!

A day’s sailing needs to be planned carefully!

The attractiveness of the coast is very different depending on whether it is high or low tide. I think if you were selling a property along the Western coast of France you’d certainly pick your moment for a home open! As we made our way along the coast, we were continually seeing the remains of German coastal fortifications from WWII.  It’s hard to believe that the Nazi’s managed to put such regular and well constructed bunkers, known as the Atlantic Wall, along the coast from Norway to the Spanish Border.

 

German Fortifications

German Fortifications

Coastal Bunker

Part of the Atlantic Wall

More Bunkers

More Bunkers

This German gun received a direct hit from allied ships in the lead up to the D-day landings.

This German gun received a direct hit from allied ships in the lead up to the D-day landings.

Pock marked earth from bombing

Pock marked earth from bombing

The town of Fécamp proved to be a lovely place and we wandered around looking at some of the architecture, particularly the Benedictine Palace! This is the home of Dom Benedictine Liqueur for those of you whom partake! (That’s you Graham) but we didn’t realise this fact until later and may have spent a little more time there had we known. It’s quite hard being on top of the many attractions as you travel. The tourist bureaus are very good but only ever carry information for their immediate area so this means you end up having to visit them consistently and that can become a little tedious! So we do tend to just wing it a little!

Cliffs at Etretat

Cliffs at Etretat

Windswept Coastline at Etretat

Windswept Coastline at Etretat

D&G

D&G

Benedictine Le Palais -Home of Dom Benedictine

Benedictine Le Palais -Home of Dom Benedictine

We headed inland for a camp in the hope of avoiding some of the blustery winds, as it was becoming a little tedious being buffeted all night. My birthday looming, we were in search of a nice restaurant and with the aid of our Passion France guide we found just what we were looking for! (Passion France is a guide that has locations of overnight stops for self-contained motorhomes at no cost!) We camped at L’Assiette des Mondes, which is home to a family run restaurant! We were more than fortunate for it was a Tuesday and the restaurant is not normally open, however they had a private function in one section and hence were operating.

Les Assiettes du Mondes

L’Assiette des Mondes

L'Assiete des Mondes

L’Assiette des Mondes

A fantastic 4 course meal followed and at the end of the evening, feeling absolutely gluttonous we made the 20m dash back to our camper! I say dash, as the weather was deteriorating further. Fatima and her husband Yves, whom own the restaurant, told us that they were expecting a large storm to pass later that evening. After what was a very blustery night, I’d have to say that no further testing of our camper design with regard to wind resistance is required. It turned out we’d just caught the tail end of a hurricane! It was a seriously nasty night, but more for Jen than I. With earplugs in, I counted sheep and was thankful for the extra couple of glasses of red with dinner.

Stunning town of Honfleur

Stunning town of Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

Honfleur

The following day was calm and that was quite a relief.  After wandering the lovely streets of  nearby Honfleur, we began moving along the Normandy Coast and were quickly made aware of just how strong the winds had been! Large piles of beach sand piled up against houses, earth moving equipment working furiously in an attempt to clear beach access and roads. We were pretty happy that we’d moved away from the coast the previous day!

Sand everywhere after the storms.  The building in this photo is one seen in many famous D-Day photographs

Sand everywhere after the storms. The building in this photo is one seen in many famous D-Day photographs

We planned the next week around the D-day landings and made the pilgrimage along the beautiful coast while being in complete awe of what had taken place all those years ago. Visiting the landing beaches was quite moving, with so many memorials. In places the land has been left as it was after the landings – bomb crater upon bomb crater is a horrible reminder of what took place.

Bomb Craters

Bomb Craters

The town of Arromanches is the location of a circular cinema in which they screen a short film giving an overview of WW2.  It was very moving and Jen was close to tears! There is a museum and other displays also, all perched above the British landing site of Gold Beach, and is also the location of Winston Churchill Harbour. This was a floating harbor constructed by the Allies and towed across the channel for the landings and ongoing resupply. Some of the harbour remains to this day. It’s worth reading about if you’re interested….

Churchill Harbour

Churchill Harbour

IMG_5535 IMG_5559

First house liberated by the Allies

First house liberated by the Allies at Pegasus Bridge

Dakota Aircraft used during the D-Day Landings

Actual Dakota Aircraft used during the D-Day Landings

Old Bunkers

Old German Bunkers

D-Day Landings Map

D-Day Landings Map

Landing boat used in the filming of "Saving Private Ryan"

Original D-Day Landing boat that was also used in the filming of “Saving Private Ryan”

German Grand Bunker in Ouistreham

German “Grand Bunker” in the coastal town of Ouistreham, it commands ocean views and was built behind a string of houses for added camoflage.

German carving in concrete bunker

German carving in the concrete foundations of a gun emplacement, of unmistakeable origin!

We spent a lot of time along the Normandy coast and departed feeling truly fortunate to be able to enjoy the lifestyle we have today and very grateful to those whom lost their lives to ensure it. The outcome of those dark days was very much on a knife-edge and much more tenuous than I was previously aware.

The gave their tomorrow so we could have our today...

..for their tomorrow, we gave our today…

Omaha Beach Cemetery.

A tiny section of the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.

Our only real dislike along the Normandy Coast was the total commercialisation of the war, taking place at many of the historic sites and all of the towns.  Gift shops sell anything from WWII soldier fridge magnets, coasters, aprons, stickers and coffee mugs to replica weapons coupled with any other WWII gimmick they think they can sell! It became quite disheartening to think that so many people lost their lives to now have people profit from their incredible sacrifice with such meaningless junk.  Seemed a little disrespectful…

I must point out, however, that practically every house has a mixture of allied nation flags displayed. There is no doubt that a strong feeling of gratitude and respect along this part of France still exists to this day. The monuments and cemeteries are maintained beautifully and receive many thousands of visitors annually.

Acknowledgement of the past

Gratitude still being shown…

Ready to move on to Bretagne (Brittany) and lighten the mood, we made for another Passion France destination.  The chosen venue was a small volume organic cider distillery. A few tastings inside the 200 year old villa and with a case tucked away in the Patrol we had enjoyed some more lovely French hospitality.

French Organic Cidery

French Organic Cidery

How's this for a French cat!!!

How’s this for a French cat!!!

Onward and Mont St Michel came into view. What an amazing site! However the local council knows how to make money with €20 to park your camper van in the official car park, and you’re still 1 km from the site, but there is a free shuttle bus.  Alternatively it’s €16 to camp in the RV park with all facilities but it’s 2km away! That was an easy decision! There is also an aire that’s even cheaper!

Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel Fortifictions

Mont St Michel Fortifications at low tide.

IMG_5697We opted to walk the 2 km out to the Abbey from the RV Park as the walk is lovely and the bus is €3 each way per person for a1 km journey, which then links you with the free shuttle bus if you wish to join the queue for the last km! So it’s not surprising to find that most people opt for the RV Park or aire coupled with the on-foot option!

An amazing feat of engineering, built on a small island not far off the mainland. Completely surrounded by water at high tide, it really is a remarkable spectacle. I wasn’t sure what to expect once inside the walls of the Abbey, and was a little surprised to find a complete village filling the lower levels. Beautiful stonework adorns the buildings, lovely views provided by walkways all around the site. From any angle the Abbey is magnificent.

Within the walls

Within the walls

I have never seen so many restaurants in my life, wall to wall in every nook and cranny along with the obligatory souvenir shops selling anything that China can produce in order to remind you of your visit! I know I’m cynical but it’s a little overdone.

Restaurants

Restaurants

IMG_5689 Travelling west along the Bretagne coast with remarkable scenery and lovely little villages possessing that old world charm, it can be difficult to make any distance as we keep getting side tracked with sites that we just can’t drive past.

Paimpol

Paimpol

It’s all but impossible to bush camp around this area.  Towns are so close together and aires so frequent and inexpensive (or free) that it’s not even worth trying.  Really makes you appreciate the freedom we are able to experience in Australia. I’d kill for a campfire in a bush setting! At one of our overnight camping sites, there was about 300mm between us and the next camper on one side and 500mm on the other, just enough room for the door to open!! 15 places available and they were all taken. We watched a consistent stream of hopeful occupants entering and departing whilst we were there.

Tight Squeeze

Tight Squeeze

We often end up in conversation with other travellers but it’s almost impossible to describe our journey to them when asked. First they are amazed that we are still alive, (we can probably thank media mistruths regarding the world in general for those questions), then they are amazed at the distance we’ve travelled! One thing that really sticks out for me as markedly different is what we might expect from a camping or touring trip in Australia, compared to Europe. The discussion here is always about which towns to visit and where the best aires with toilet drop facilities are! The thought of heading down a remote track and camping by yourself with no facilities, not to mention no access to a patisserie is a completely alien concept to the European motor-homer! Let alone what 4×4 is used for! How can you camp alone – aren’t you frightened of being attacked?

I could go on but you get the idea!!

Continuing our tour of Bretagne, we entered a section known as the Cote de Granit Rose, really magnificent! A rough coastline covered with granite boulders, many larger than a suburban house!

Huge granite boulders dot the coastline

Easy to see why it is called the Granite Coast.

St Jacut de la Mer was the target for the days travel.  We found a good aire with plenty of space between sites whilst being located near the beach.  It was a nice respite from the close proximity camps that make up most of the locations where you can stop. Wandering through the small village, I’m once again mystified at how the French actually make any money? Most small villages are basically ghost towns for the better part of the day.  They open for a couple of hours in the morning followed by a long siesta before coming alive for a few hours in the late afternoon. It obviously works for them but I’m getting the impression they are rather lazy! (I make that comment as I get out of bed at 10am and am unable to find a patisserie that’s still open so that I can start the day with a croissant – very distressing!)

Aire at St Jacut Du la Mer

Aire at St Jacut Du la Mer

With blue skies and unseasonably high temperatures making T-shirts and shorts once again the clothing of choice, it was a lovely few days. If you persevere you’re generally able to drive right along the coast, avoiding the motorways, but it does necessitate a lot of slow negotiation of small villages along the way.  However these villages invariably become the highlight of the drive and more than compensate for the slower pace.

We were approached 3 times by locals during our passage of this section, as they were surprised to see foreign tourists in the area, let alone an Australian vehicle! Apparently it’s not as popular as the southern part of Bretagne and receives very little in the way of international tourism. I was really surprised by that as it turned out to be one of the prettiest areas geographically that we’ve encountered along the French coast.

Again following the coast and winding our way along tiny little sealed roads we were stunned by the amount of chateaus that are encountered! When I say chateaus, I mean massive majestic buildings that are usually hundreds of years old, hidden behind large groves of trees and manicured hedges! It’s autumn here and as such the foliage of the forests is morphing into a splendor of orange and brown, creating luminescent colours as the sun manages to pass through the canopy.  It’s really beautiful. The downside on many of the smaller roads is the amount of leaf litter that accumulates and then becomes a soggy trap for rain and mist due to not receiving any sunlight, resulting in some very, very slippery roads!!

Yep I’m speaking from experience.

The Tregastel area and the Plumonac’h Lighthouse are without doubt a must see in this area – the pictures will tell the story!

Plutonac'h Lighthouse

Plutonac’h Lighthouse

Whilst camped at the town of St Pol de Leon we were reminded of the fact that we all have different travelling styles.

Aire at St Pol de Leon

Aire at St Pol de Leon

2 people in each??

2 people in each??

The RV above, is the holiday home for not 12 people but 2!! Complete with a quad bike in the rear garage! No doubt you’d need an alternate form of transport if travelling in a large RV as the small roads and villages just can’t handle them whilst many of the campsites have entry locations inaccessible to such monolithic motor homes. Having said that however, the fit out in these vehicles is amazing – more rooms than the average house and very comfortable for the European winter. They are a choice that I understand works to a degree in these countries, as going off-road is generally not possible and is not even considered by most.

The Crozon Peninsula is one of the furthest points west that you can travel along the coast. Freezing cold winds and seas whipped into confused masses of waves made for a great reminder of mother nature and her power, after a quick walk amongst the elements we made for the Patrol and the heater before beginning our transit east.

Crozon Peninsula

Crozon Peninsula, a freezing wind made our stay rather short.

Iveco's copy of a Land Rover with leaf springs!

Iveco’s copy of a Land Rover with leaf springs spotted on the Crozon Peninsula! hmmmm….

We found a nicely protected aire after a short drive and nestled amongst a multitude of motor homes.  Many of the RV’s here seemed to be quite settled which isn’t something we’d previously seen. We soon worked out that they were all heading off with buckets at low tide in the pursuit of oysters.  Returning with buckets brimming, they would spend the rest of the day cooking and eating them whilst enjoying a couple of drinks – repeating the process day after day!

Oystering

Oystering

Unlike those camping trips at home where we might spend a week or so fishing and swimming on a beach somewhere, campfire burning and gazing over the ocean, these guys retire to a bitumen car park surrounded by houses and roads! Very different way of doing things! I guess it’s all about what your used too!!

Morgat

Morgat

Next on our agenda was the village of Rochfort en Terre.  Jen had heard that it was quite a historical old town and worth a detour. All that I can say about this little place is – Wow!

Rochefort en Terre

Rochefort en Terre

Rochefort en Terre

Rochefort en Terre

The beginnings of this town stretch back to somewhere around the tenth century. Cobbled streets and old stone stairways, displaying indents eroded into them from the millions of footsteps that have been laid upon them over the centuries. Loaded with character, I’d have to say this town has made it close to the top of our list of favourites so far.

Although not as stunning as the beautiful scenery that surrounded the Rhine and Mosel Rivers in Germany, Amboise proved itself to be a stopover worth the effort. After arriving late in the afternoon, we were met by a myriad of tiny one-way streets enroute to the local aire, which seems to be commonplace in France. The aire we chose was well located on an island in the middle of the Loire River and we were fortunate to meet John and Mary from the UK there.

John and Mary

John and Mary

Should probable check the spelling before you put a monument up...

I am sure that’s supposed to be Leonardo da Vinci – Must be a french thing?

Seasoned European travellers with their motorhome, we were once again able to top up with useful tips on things to see – one being the house in which Leonardo Da Vinci lived in during his last years and located close to the edge of the town. Now a dedicated museum to Da Vinci and his life’s work, it contained a collection of models and life size working displays of his myriad of ideas and concepts and was an historic site that I’m glad we didn’t miss.

Da Vinci's Last Residence

Da Vinci’s Last Residence

The region is loaded with chateaus and some of them, such as Chenonceau, are not only amazing architectural structures, but just flat out jaw droppingly stunning.  Apparently when in it’s hey day, you could enter on one side of this chateau and be in occupied France before exiting at the other end of the building across the river to find yourself in Free France.  It was this passage that enabled many to escape the Nazis during the War.

Chateau du Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau

Chateau du Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau

An overnight stop enroute to Paris and then we were met with the vista of an icon that we all know.  Our first view of the Eiffel Tower from the motorway was a fantastic moment. Although we’ve been in France a month or so, all of sudden hit with the majestic silhouette of such an alluring structure it began to sink in – Just how far we have travelled and what a fantastic adventure we’ve had to date.First View of Eiffel Tower

First View of Eiffel Tower
Paris Signage

Paris motorway.

White vans just off the motorway are prostitutes waiting for customers!!

White vans just off the motorway are prostitutes waiting for customers!! I’m not kidding..

We made the drive to the Indigo RV park which is sensationally located on the banks of the Seine and only about 4km from the Arc de Triomphe as the crow flies. The thought of Parisian traffic was making me a little nervous, as I’d read that the park was in a great location but required driving near the city centre. Which is known to be a nightmare. As it turned out, it was easily reached on good roads and as such we were more than happy with our choice.

Not often you see this on your SATNAV

Not often you see this on your SATNAV

The campsite provides a shuttle bus with a regular timetable into the city centre for a small fee, which made transiting into Paris really easy.  Its secondary benefit (or maybe the primary one as far as the RV park is concerned) is that it also ensures that you don’t inadvertently stray into the large park between you and the “Arc” that is home to many ladies of the night!

Paris is just one of those cities, with such amazing sights as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral that it really is a must visit. It has a character all of it’s own and strolling around the city is an easy way to make hours seem like minutes. We have visited Paris previously and this really worked in our favour as we only had a few must do things on our list unlike our last visit, which was fairly intense.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower, doesn’t really need a caption does it?

Selfie at the Eiffel Tower

Selfie at the Eiffel Tower

First was the Eiffel Tower and another excursion to the top of this amazing structure. Requiring some patience, as you won’t be alone in this aspiration, large queues of eager visitors are part and parcel of travel to such destinations. But what visit to Paris would be complete without such an ascent, the majestic views across the Parisian landscape from the 300m+ structure are just breathtaking.

Can't take credit for this one (Photo of a Photo)

Can’t take credit for this one (Photo of a Photo)

Glass platform on the first level of the Eiffel Tower

Glass platform on the first level of the Eiffel Tower

Top Floor!

Top Floor!

Amazing Architecture!

Amazing Architecture!

View of the Arc de Triomphe

View of the Arc de Triomphe

More Views

More Views

Engineering Mastery!

Engineering Mastery!

IMG_6016 A few hours later and we made our way back to ground level, finding we’d spent most of the day doing nothing but enjoying our surrounds.

Paris Sculptures adorn the City!!

Paris Sculptures adorn the City!! He is a big boy..

We just wandered along the River Seine and around the grounds of the Louvre, slowly making our way back toward the campground via the Arc de Triomphe. As we approached this amazing monument, we found our timing was impeccable. The following day would be the 11th of the 11th and Armistice Day would require the transformation of this majestic monument for the purpose of remembrance. A huge French flag was suspended from the arch and with a light breeze keeping it partially unfurled; it was a truly grand sight. With military bands rehearsing, we were once again reminded of wartime history and the cost of freedom.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe from the Champs Elysee

Arc de Triomphe from the Champs Elysee

IMG_6044 We departed Paris on the 11th and made north toward the Somme River. We attempted a detour through Paris with the aim of driving to the Basilica de Sacre Coeur, but ended up bailing on that idea.  Nissan Patrols and central Paris don’t really mix all that well, and I was beginning to find the drive, well, a little stressful! You can only dodge so many little Renaults and Fiats before you’ve had enough, and I’d had enough!

Heading north we stuck to our usual game plan of remaining off the motorways where convenient and adopted the principles of “pin the tale on the donkey” to choose a destination. The town of Conty was our target, once within a few kms of this little precinct we began noticing cars parked all along the road verge! The quantity of cars increased as we closed in on the town until it was literally, wall to wall with not a space to be found anywhere. It turned out that the Conty Community Fair day was in full swing (the 11th of the 11th is a public holiday)

We continued following our GPS, which was navigating us to an aire in the centre of town and right amongst the festivities. Feeling rather doubtful that we’d be able to make it all the way to the waypoint, let alone have parking present itself. Undeterred and with a steady stream of French eyeballs upon us we continued to our destination, upon seeing the motorhome parking sign we pulled in and were surprised to find an acre on which we could park.  It would seem that the locals had left the parking area relatively free for its intended use. A 50m walk and we spent a couple of hours digging amongst the numerous French stalls, selling anything from escargot to antiques.  Jen was in heaven!

Conty Community Fair

Conty Community Fair

After a relaxing day and having the good fortune of stumbling upon this quaint little town brimming with atmosphere, we found ourselves nestled back inside our camper in the darkness of the campsite preparing dinner.

Spicy eyes!

Spicy eyes!

That’s when we heard the familiar rumble of an arriving motorhome. Now to put you in the picture, there is one other RV parked up and it’s some 30m away (it was parked up when we arrived!), there is a grass area to park on easily 100m long. With predictability as solid as that which tells us the sun will rise tomorrow, our new arrival camped no more than 10feet from us! They are so conditioned to camping on top of each other that even when they have an acre to choose from they will gravitate to any other camper like a fly in your coffee floats to the edge!

Aire at Conty

Aire at Conty, not much room so we will stick close together!!

Next we headed for Villers-Bretonneux – rather central to the area in which the Battle of the Somme was fought. It’s one the areas in which Australian troops fought and died in large numbers during WW1. I won’t go on about the battles; the pictures below show many of the sights if you wish to take a look.

Australian memorial at Villers Brettoneaux

Australian memorial at Villers Bretonneux, a very moving site.

IMG_6087 IMG_6093  

Red Baron Crash Site

The site where the Red Baron met his end as a result of Australian ground fire.

Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial with the names of 72,000 servicemen whose resting places are unknown

IMG_6161

Windmill Memorial Site at Pozieres

Windmill Memorial Site at Pozieres, the site of heavy engagement for the Australian forces.

Trenches at Beaumont-Hamel

Trenches at Beaumont-Hamel, Newfoundland troops (later they became part of Canada) fought furiously here in conditions that we can’t even fathom.

IMG_6178 With only a few days left before my 3 months in the EU was due to expire; we made for Calais and the Channel crossing. A rainy afternoon was spent in transit, culminating in our arrival at the port of Calais where we set up camp adjacent to the ferry departure point. With tickets booked we spent the next day cleaning and preparing before wandering around Calais and enjoying our last afternoon on European soil.

Aire at Calais Harbour

Aire at Calais Harbour

Calais Town Hall

Calais Town Hall

Calais Beach

Calais Beach

Decorated WWII Bunker

Decorated WWII Bunker, these things are everywhere.

Arriving at the port the following day, we made our way through French customs and proceeded to UK customs where a little bit of extra time was spent. I had to convince customs that I was not going to overstay my maximum 6 months in the UK. I’m glad that I had observed the Schengen zone rules for I was now under a little scrutiny! Because we were entering with our own vehicle and no onward tickets of any kind I wasn’t surprised at having to explain the situation! A short time later and we were back in the vehicle queue and on our way.

Boarding the ferry

Boarding the ferry

View of the Aire from the ferry port

View of the Aire from the ferry port

31000km since landing in Vladivostok and just over 7 months later, the Patrol once again found itself at sea. The old cliché applies here – time really has flown!

Back soon with tales from the motherland..

Cya – Justin.

PS: We are now happily camped in Ramsgate just north of Dover, clocks again adjusted and it’s completely dark by 4:30pm! What the..?..?

White Cliffs of Dover..

I’ve enjoyed being the epitome of the lazy tourist for a few weeks, the consequence being that I’m behind with our blog!

Now I know a lot of you out there are keen on reading about the more difficult to visit destinations such as the “Stans”- after all Europe isn’t quite as confronting and it’s mostly black top and RV parks, but some of the scenery really is jaw dropping!

I’ll try and keep you smiling until we manage to get ourselves back into some of the less travelled regions of Earth. We are enjoying our sabbatical, but the desire for more remote destinations is building and it will need to be quenched at some stage…

Stunning Bavarian Vista

Stunning Bavarian Vista

West through stunning Bavarian scenery sporting a skyline of continuous mountain peaks made for an easy transit toward Garmisch. Approaching the outskirts of this village you’re met by the spectacle of a ski ramp rising skyward from an Olympic stadium of the 1930’s. The ramp is of modern standard after numerous reconstructions over the decades but really is quite imposing.

Olympic Ski Ramp

Olympic Ski Ramp

Tourist information in English, in these less “foreign” touristed areas, has proved as difficult to obtain as genuine photos of the Yeti! We knew that Partnach Gorge was a highlight of any visit to this town but do you think there were any signs or information to point us in the right direction??? Finally after a considerable amount of time had passed and numerous discussions in the cab had been had! a stop at a local sports store yielded a result and we discovered that the entrance was via the Olympic Stadium.  Anyway that’s another story.

An amazingly beautiful, fast flowing river has obviously been toiling away over a millennia to create this stunning spectacle. A passage along one of the sheer cliffs containing the river was originally carved out by hunters for the purpose of obtaining access to the valley beyond before later providing loggers an easy yet treacherous mode of delivering freshly felled timber from distant forests.

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Partnach Gorge

Open to tourists since the early 1900’s it’s a marvelous addition to an already spoilt for natural beauty region of Germany.

Onward to Füssen and the location of Neuschwanstein Castle.  Looking like something straight from a fairy tale, this is a fairly young castle by European Standards, constructed in the 1800’s. It’s design and creation by King Ludwig III reveal stories of treachery and monarchy gone mad. Who’d have thought!!

As with many must see natural and man-made marvels the world over, you will certainly not be alone whilst enjoying the view! Even at the time of our visit in off season, we had to visit 2 RV parks before we could find a site, the park we ended up in had just shy of 800 bays….

Our first night in the park saw me rather irritated as the space next to us was filled quite late in the evening by a couple with a small child travelling in a VW van.  The child hardly made a noise whilst it’s most ignorant parents quickly reminded me why I vary rarely camp in built up areas at home in Aus! The sliding door on the side of the van was definitely in need of servicing by morning as it had been opened and slammed every ten minutes for the previous 8 hours with no regard for those neighbouring their site. Watching them depart in the morning was almost spiritual for me, but was replaced by dread at the thought of what may park next to us the following evening.  So we moved the Patrol to a location without a spare space alongside! It was a good plan but unfortunately our new neighbours soon packed up and departed leaving us again vulnerable.

(maybe it’s me, the beer drinking Aussie!)

Now a little savvier to the German way, we obtained our campsite guest cards, which provided us with free public transport to Neuschwanstein Castle. You can only enter the castle itself by joining a tour, however it was well organised and worth the entry fee. I will let the photo’s speak for themselves..

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Castle visit over and feeling a little forlorn about what may await us back at the campground, we headed for our little house and found our adjoining space filled by Uwe and Roswitha, another lovely German couple travelling in their RV for a couple of weeks relaxation. I was greatly relieved and shortly found myself enjoying a cold beer with Uwe as the clouds once again crowded out the sun and the rain started.

Uwe and Roswitha

Uwe and Roswitha

An invitation to dinner was quickly forthcoming and so it was that the 4 of us enjoyed a lovely meal in a restaurant located in the campground. Campground restaurant I hear you snort, well there were 2 restaurants and a Pizzeria along with a beer garden and supermarket and all was well above the standard you’d expect in your local area back in Aus!

Numerous tasty dishes were ordered along with a consistent stream of fantastic beer, each one generally followed by a shooter of Schnapps! The Germans certainly have a few habits that I’d readily take on board. The evening came to a close and it became apparent that the bill had been taken care of! How’s that for generosity.

A little under the weather we retired for the evening before saying goodbye the following morning to our latest friends whom we’ve added to our now very long list.

It’s become complicated to plan a route through Europe as we are finding that we change our minds all of the time as there are so many sites warranting a visit. Choosing a direction and destination in a location as varied as Europe is quite difficult. “Tough life” I hear you say!! Whilst Jen has previously visited Berlin, I haven’t and I’m rather keen to explore the capital of Germany. But with travelling through such majestic scenery as that of Bavaria we now found ourselves a stones throw from The Rhine and Mosel rivers! Decision taken and Berlin will wait a little longer as it’s just too nice where we are to dash northeast, well for now anyway!

Misty Bush Camp

Misty Bush Camp

Continuing northwest and staying off the motorway for most of the drive toward Heidelberg, we even managed a bush camp up a muddy track on the side of a hill! Rain has been sporadic with nice stretches of blue sky, and lovely misty mornings but it’s obvious that Autumn is showing it’s face. With beautiful burnt colours appearing amongst the leaves as the sun slowly shifts southward, we can almost see winter approaching!

On the autobahn for a spell and you really have to be careful when you overtake (which admittedly is not very often for us!!!) as cars in the fast lane appear as a speck in the rear view mirror and the next second they pass in a blur so pulling out really has to be taken seriously.

IMG_5257

The town of Sinsheim came into view, home to an amazing museum brimming with exhibits. From an actual Air France Concorde and it’s Russian counterpart through to amazing mechanised displays, vintage cars, fashion, trains and F1 racing there were displays to meet every taste and age.  Hours were expunged as we wandered around the massive complex until you just reach overload and enough is enough.

Concorde!

Concorde!

Sinsheim Display

Sinsheim Display

Sinsheim Technical Museum

Sinsheim Technical Museum

Amazing Displays

Amazing Displays

Scooters!!!

Scooters!!!

Sinsheim Display

Sinsheim Display

 

Proof we were there!

Proof we were there!

Heidelberg is another majestic little enclave, with it’s own partly ruined castle as the centerpiece, the Neckar River on one side and large hills the other make it an obvious location for a townsite.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Onward toward the Rhine River and camp was had in a campground adjacent to the town of Bacharach. We were given a spot right on the banks of the Rhine under the shade of a fully laden walnut tree and watched the passing parade of Rhine boats and APT river cruises! I’ll not bore you with hours of descriptions of old towns with cobbled streets, ancient forts surrounded by motes and high buttress walls of stunning beauty, because just about every village encountered has the same stunning appeal.

View From Our Campsite

View From Our Campsite

Random Castle

Random Castle

Visiting Swans

Visiting Swans

Townsite opposite

Townsite opposite

Another view from our campsite

Another view from our campsite

Our slightly eccentric neighbour Andy swimming in the Rhine

Our slightly eccentric neighbour Andy swimming in the Rhine

Andy's Camper!

Andy’s Camper!

 

Another neighbour with genuine Clogs!

Another neighbour with genuine Clogs!

Watching the cruise boats slip along the river then dock at the various towns whilst their guests disembark for a spell of shopping, you quickly work out that avoiding those periods or spending more time in the villages where these floating hotels don’t visit will be a lot easier on your wallet!

There is always a campsite adjacent to the villages and specifically for those fitting the description of a motorhome you’re able to use sites known in Germany as stellplatz.  These are designed more for short-term stops and don’t make provision for spreading out and settling in as a campsite/RV park does.

Generally not much in the way of bathroom facilities but a whole lot cheaper and usually located within walking distance of the village center, hence we generally head for one of these.

Continuing along the Rhine to the junction of the Mosel River and a quick visit to the town of Koblenz, a graceful central area loaded with sculptures and ornate architecture. Koblenz is one of only a few German towns that wasn’t bombed by the allied forces during WWII. Apparently Churchill felt it was such a beautiful city that it wasn’t to feel the brunt of bombardment.

The local RV park here is situated in a great part of the city and they obviously know it as they were charging as if they were a Hotel and not a campsite, enough old forts for now so we made for the Mosel River and kept our Euro’s.

Our cat Rajah enjoying a wine also

Our cat Rajah enjoying a wine also

The Mosel proved to be equally if not more stunning than the Rhine, a smaller river once again loaded with ruined forts, castles and buildings reinforces just how long this area has been inhabited. We found a few locations along here where we could have bush camped quite easily but as we want to spend time wandering the old villages we stuck to camping in the stellplatz sites instead.

Who's the odd one out?

Who’s the odd one out?

So many RV's!!!!

So many RV’s!!!!

Camping Companions - Laurent and Els

Camping Companions – Laurent and Els

Graham and Sue

Graham and Sue

Graham and Sue's RV

Graham and Sue’s RV

Our last stop along the Mosel was the city of Trier, one of the oldest cities in Germany. Peppered throughout the town are various types of Roman ruins, from baths to castle walls, again an area so rich in diverse history it’s just fantastic.

Trier

Trier

Bernkastel

Bernkastel

Dog parking

Dog parking

Typical Stellplatz

Typical Stellplatz

David and Rosie

David and Rosie

Suddenly it’s early October and we are parking in the driveway of Jen’s relatives in Veghel, Holland.  I can’t quite believe we’ve been on the road for 6 months and have about 30,000km behind us! A lovely reunion awaited us, as we were last were here in 2005 – it seemed like yesterday!

The Family!

The Family!

Jan and Rosemary spent the next 10 days making sure that we were not to want for anything, and a relaxing spell from the rigours of touring (it’s tough!) was enjoyed!

s'Hertogenbosch

s’Hertogenbosch

IMG_5286 IMG_5289 IMG_5308

Whilst here we met up with Eric from Adventure Trucks, (www.adventuretrucks.com) who manufactures 4×4 truck based expedition campers of fantastic quality! You never quite know how a visit to a company overseas will go, as a few emails were the only background to go on and it was really a snap decision to visit. The result was that we managed to put Eric back a day on his schedule as we drank coffee and swapped travel stories like old friends. Along with his wife they had shipped an 80 series Landcruiser to Australia and spent 7 months doing the lap a few years ago.

Erik from Adventure Trucks

Erik from Adventure Trucks

Safe to say that the overland community is an eclectic mix of travellers, sharing a definite passion for something different.

It’s probably a good time to mention our onward journey and our change in plans!  Our original rough concept was to travel across to the UK before returning to Europe and then down to Morocco prior to heading around the Mediterranean to Turkey and south through Africa. It was never fixed in stone and was always likely to suffer review.

I’d hoped to obtain an extended visa for the EU in Holland and avoid the ridiculous rule of only being able to stay in any of the combined schenghen zone countries for 3 months in any 6, but it was not to be, so a change of plan is in order!

Anyway I won’t bother going into the visa nitty gritty. There is a lot of talk around on how you can avoid the 3 month rule via different entry and exit points and all sorts of other suggestions.  I know many people have managed to stay longer without any problems. But if you’re caught it doesn’t bode well for any future visits to the EU and can have other consequences so abide by the rules I shall!

There is discussion of the restrictions being lifted in the next couple of years but of course the wheels of progress turn ever so slowly…

So instead of Portugal for Christmas, we will cross the Channel by the middle of November and hopefully spend 6 months (the maximum time allowed for an Aussie of my vintage) in the UK during which time we hope to explore England’s corners, including heading north to Aberdeen and visiting John and family! Yep that’s right John we are coming your way!!

From there, the plan is to re-enter Europe with a fresh 3 months and make for Norway. When we work out the next bit I will let you know!

The more we see of Europe the more we want to see and although the camping is regulated and getting off the road is difficult we hope to see as much as we can before our journey ends!

Whether it will include North Africa is up for debate at the moment! We have some irons in the fire though and should our budget hold out, we intend to hold out along with it!

Departing Hotel Jan and Rose-Marie, we made for Bergen Op Zoom and another long spell without smelling the ocean was broken, continuing south saw us depart the Netherlands and we made for Bruges in Belgium. Met with a night of constant rain in the campground we were fortunate to have perfect conditions the following day as we wandered around the eye-catching old town site.

Saying Goodbye is never easy!

Saying Goodbye is never easy!

Street View Veghel

Street View Veghel

On almost every corner you’ll find a chocolate confectionary shop producing famous Belgium chocolates in forms that can only be described as pure art!

Chocolate Tools!

Chocolate Tools!

A couple of days later and we headed for the coast of Belgium – very different to what I’d expected. The old villages inland gave way to a section of coast that is obviously a summer resort; Blankenberge is Belgium’s “Gold Coast” but on a much smaller scale. Wall to wall apartments blocks are just behind the sand dunes with a beachfront promenade of café’s and shops making up the tourist strip.

Blankenberge

Blankenberge

Belgium Pier

Belgium Pier

Inland and southeast to Ypres, we wanted to revisit some of the sites of the battles of WWI. In 2005 we had spent a day on a tour of Flanders Fields and surrounds but now with our own transport we were able to spend a little more time at the sites of particular interest to us as Australians. Our visit to the area coincides with ongoing commemorations for the 100-year anniversaries of the Great War (1914 – 1918). Memorable to visit during this time, but also difficult as many sites are loaded with tourists, this fact along with many specific events planned at locations such as Tyne-Cot Cemetery made visiting quite a challenge.

Tyn-Cot is the final resting place for many Australian Diggers and really makes for a sobering visit. Belgium is peppered with War Cemeteries and memorial sites, throughout villages and towns, they are just everywhere.

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

IMG_5385 IMG_5390 IMG_5389 IMG_5396 IMG_5401

Since 1928 in Ypres, the Last Post is played every evening at 8pm come rain, hail or shine at the Menin Gate. It is an enormous sign of respect by the City of Ypres to all the servicemen whose names appear on the walls of the gate and who gave their lives to ensure the freedom of Belgium. We found it very moving.

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Last Post

Last Post

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Ypres has one RV Park and we managed to jag the last bay for our first night but found ourselves parked along the street with a multitude of different motorhomes the following night as the RV Park was booked out.  Talking to the staff at the RV Park, they said it’s only been since April this year with all the 100yr commemorations that they are fully booked most nights – a situation unheard of at this time of the year normally.  It would seem that with no official alternatives, local Police are turning a blind eye to overnight street camping.

Street Camping

Street Camping

A few days later and we skirted Dunkerque and hit the French coast just south of Calais; Crystal clear conditions provided us with majestic views of the white cliffs of Dover. It was so clear the English cliffs appeared almost luminous as they were bathed in sunshine and capped with blue sky.

The UK In Sight

The UK In Sight

White Cliffs Of Dover

White Cliffs Of Dover

 

It was truly sensational seeing England appear across the channel, shortly we will be over there for a very cold Christmas!!

Au revoire!!   Justin.