Salt Flats Solitude and Moonlight
In 2016 we closed our office doors for the last time, setting out on an epic journey, across Australia.
The trip, in a tiny campervan, changed our lives. Covering over 23,000km, crossing the most incredible landscapes.
With scenery and wildlife that was beyond our wildest imagination. This journey was a turning point, in our previously work-mad lives.
It it also opened our eyes, to the forgotten simplicity of life itself. Meeting the most wonderful people, from all walks of life.
All on their own journey and for so many different reasons. With often only a campfire and moonlight to light up the night sky. We would sit under the stars and share our stories, with the most incredible people.
This picture, was taken on the salt flats of the outback. It’s a reminder of how, despite the solitude and rawness of your surroundings, there can be no greater, or more powerful presence than just being you.
Feeling the softness of the earth under your feet, breathing the air from the vastness that surrounds you and above all, sharing it with those, that mean the most in the world to you.
The most ironic message in this story, is the one of chance, of accidental circumstance and of having no real plan at all.
This incredible journey, was the result of a quick decision to enter a writing competition for Heathrow airports 70th birthday.
Putting fingers to keypad, I quickly wrote about my most vivid memory. As child, as I travelled for the first time through one of the worlds busiest airports.
It was an impulse decision that changed our lives. A few months later an e-mail popped in my mail box. I’d won a star prize, flights to Sydney, Australia!
A big thank you to https://www.travellers-autobarn.com.au for their Kuga Campervan hire used on our campervan road trip.
We’ve since embarked on more epic travels and have no desire to return to the life we had before. It’s a such a big world and we’ve only just begun to explore it. So let the adventures continue, wherever that may be
It shows that we never really know how our lives will evolve, so many good things do happen. We just have to look forward, embrace the positive things that come our way and leave those negative options firmly behind.
We unbelievably, did have some people sharing views that we shouldn’t go, it would be awful in Australia, what were we doing?!!
Of course, thankfully, we took no notice and rather preferred the optimistic option, that this was an opportunity not to be missed.
It’s those negative people who usually have alternative motives for themselves, or lack of desire for change, or a different lifestyle to the otherwise regimented routines.
Thankfully when you surround yourselves with optimism and optimistic people, those vibes grow and before you know it so do you!
So here’s to a “can do” outlook, an adventurous spirit and a life beyond the comfort zones, that are so easy to fall into.
Here’s to life, let’s enjoy it, after all, we only have one to live so let’s do just that!
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When you visit a country as beautiful and dramatic as New Zealand, it’s difficult to know where to start. Especially, if discovering this incredible destination for the first time.
We’ve recently returned from our 4th trip to the “Land of the long white cloud”.
With our children currently living in the North Island, it’s a region that we’ve had plenty of time to explore. In a campervan, of course!
New Zealand is extremely campervan friendly. It top’s those countries where exploration by foot and motorhome, go together like tea and biscuits. Or if you’re reading this on a Friday night, Gin and Tonic!
We’ve spoken to people, who’ve taken the long journey from the UK to the opposite side of the globe. However, they seem to miss some of the most spectacular locations in the North Island.
Instead, many concentrate on the incredibly beautiful, but equally, bigger tourist sights of the South Island.
So, for those planning a trip here’s our insight to get you in the mood.
If you’re flying in from the UK, the usual route is to arrive in Auckland. This leaves you positioned around 3/4 of the way up the North Island.
Some international airlines fly to Wellington, the capital, which is located in the very South of the North Island.
Internal flights between the two and to numerous other airports scattered around the North Island are plentiful.
If you’ve toured the South Island first, the popular route North is the Picton to Wellington ferry.
In fine weather, this route is simply stunning, however, done in reverse from North to South, it’s even more spectacular.
This is because of the approach into the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds. Which are ahead of you, rather than behind.
Sailing through the scenic inlets and surrounded by towering peaks as you head into Picton from the Cook Straits.
Here’s the deal…..there are no motorways like we have in the UK. Although there are highways, which sometimes have an overtaking lane. Generally, think an A road with occasional passing places.
There are also far less roads in general. So, driving around takes longer in the first place. Roads can be remote and narrow too, so taking your time is the order of the day!
There are still a few gravel roads. These can be dirty, dusty, rugged and often narrow.
Most motorhome and campervan hire companies, will state in their terms and conditions that you can’t drive on gravel roads.
So, if you’re hiring, just read the small print and ask before you drive off into the sunset.
We’ve driven on gravel roads in our own self-build van conversion. They leave plumes of dust behind and inside the van, coated in a layer of dust debris! A mammoth task to clean!
New Zealand is an easy country to navigate and roads are good along main routes and around towns.
Take your time, don’t try and do too much and enjoy the drive, it’s a dreamy place to be.
New Zealand is the same size as the UK, but has a population of just 4.8 million. Compared to 66 million in the UK. Quite a difference!
The North Island is more populated than the South, with 77% of the New Zealand population living here.
So, that’s an idea of just how much space there is. However, don’t be fooled by a glimpse at the map, which can be deceptive.
Distances may look small, but don’t think you can do the whole lot in the space of a few days!
It does seem to take a long time between places. It’s not a country you can rush and who’d want to miss out on all that glorious scenery anyway?!
On our visit’s to New Zealand, we’ve toured on one island, rather than rushing to do both on one trip!
We had two, 3 week trips. Once to just the South Island, then on a separate year we did the North Island.
On a couple of longer trips, we’ve only done the North Island!
On our last trip, we spent 3 months in the North Island. We still didn’t get to everywhere that we thought we wanted!
If you have a time limit though, it’s really difficult to get round it all.
The North is warmer, the far North being sub-tropical.
It’s also more populated and more commercial in some ways. Being the hub for business, parliament, sports and big name events.
The North Island is also big on beaches, with miles of accessible coastline, ranging from surfing beaches to balmy coves.
There’s some incredibly beautiful areas. Think The Bay of Islands, The Bay of Plenty, The Coromandel and Hawkes Bay, just stunning.
There’s endless fishing in the ocean as well as lakes and rivers. Just about everyone here seems to own a boat, even if they don’t use it!
The centre of the North Island has one huge volcanic mass, around Rotorua and Lake Taupo, which itself was created by gigantic volcanic eruptions.
It’s a bubbling conundrum of mud and steam, a fascinating insight into the live earth beneath our feet!
There’s thick bush, forests and fabulous rivers and waterfalls throughout the North Island landscapes. With mountains and true volcanic peaks, such as Mount Taranaki on the West coast and Tongaririo National Park.
With some big towns and cities, there’s a good mix of exclusive restaurants, quirky bars. There’s an abundance of coffee shops, artisan food stores, breweries and cocktails.
Then there’s the vineyards, wow! These incredible wine growing regions bring some of the worlds best wines to the table.
Some are exclusive and upmarket to accompany a glass of the finest tipples.
Not forgetting the fruit growing regions, Kiwi fruits, orchards of apples, passionfruit, avocado, sweetcorn to name a few.
The Fish and shellfish are just awesome, the choice is crazily good, the Kiwi’s won’t ever go hungry!
If you fancy a bit of ski time, Mt Ruapheu has winter ski season to dust off those ski’s. So, all is not lost in the North is you fancy gliding down a mountain side in your ski gear.
Last but not least, the North Island has lots of grazing land! Rolling humps resemble Telytubby land, it’s no wonder it’s home to Middle Earth and all that Lord of The Rings stuff!
So what about the South Island?
Think raw, dramatic landscapes, incredible scenery, isolation coupled with the best adventure tourism in the world and some of the biggest and largest choice of “Great Walks” anywhere on earth.
This is outdoor heaven, a place to ditch the posh frocks. Tie the laces on those hiking boots and get out the rucksack, for some serious back to nature hiking. Biking too and just about anything else where you get wet, muddy, sweaty and exhausted!
There’s the Alps, the glorious and majestic mountains that dominate the South Island. There’s also brilliant skiing in Winter and a bustling all year season at Queenstown, the adventure capital of NZ.
Tourists flock by boat, rail, road, plane and just about any other form of transport, to the busy hot spots of the South Island.
It may be less on population, but visiting numbers are great and places get busy.
The phenomenal sights of the fjords of the Milford Sound, are one of the major highlights. One of those not to be missed natural attractions. Infact, the South Island is full of natural beauty, if the rain stays away, there is no better place.
Glaciers, whale watching and miles of unspoilt countryside between locations, bring the natural beauty to the forefront. The distances here seem huge at times due to a limited road network and few towns between. It’s almost as if you’re going back in time in a good way.
Christchurch is the main hub for the South. Devastated though by the major earthquake in 2011, it’s still recovering and re-building. With the latest horrific terror attack, it’s been a tough time for this lovely city.
The North Island has plenty of hostels, campsites, lodges, b&b’s and motels. The big pull, if you’re in a motorhome, is the Freedom Camping. A system similar to the Aires in France. It is, as the name suggests, Free!
Download an app, such as Campermate. The locations of all the campgrounds and freedom camping spots will be at your fingertips.
Campsites are well equipped and most have the brilliant, down under system of a “camp kitchen”. It’s a room to cook, socialise and wash up, they’ll usually have bbq’s too.
Freedom Camping is for motorhomes that are fully self-contained with an on board toilet and water tanks with running water.
Rangers monitor the parking, so park within the marked areas (they’ll be signs to show you) to avoid a warning or a fine.
Parking places can be in beautiful locations. Beside the ocean, lakes and rivers, or they may be in the centre of towns, there could be just a couple of spaces or dozens, each place is different.
As with Europe, motorhome dump/filling areas are provided by the local council. So there is no problem in emptying and filling those tanks and toilets!
Supermarkets are excellent, as good as, or better than the UK. With lots of fresh produce and plenty of choice.
There’s Pack n’Save (similar to our old Kwik Save), Countdown and New World and they are in all main towns, so you won’t go short!
There’s small individual grocers, bakers and butchers, but usually a bakery will sell more take away fast food than fancy cakes and breads.
Overall, things are perhaps slightly more expensive than the UK, but quality is good where food and drink is concerned.
In summer, many smaller towns have community swimming pools that are free to use, or just a couple of dollars. They open for the public when schools aren’t using them.
There are some great outdoor pools, so if you enjoy swimming, it’s a great way to get some free exercise and a shower combined.
Other fee-paying pools are great. Pay just a few dollars for a hot shower, if you don’t want the swim.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that New Zealand is a similar Summer to the UK!
It’s far hotter and much more settled, with sunburn times being super quick, due to the lack of pollution in the atmosphere, less ozone in the Southern Hemisphere and the closeness to the sun.
Don’t forget that Factor 50 and a sun parasol, oh and that sun hat, you’ll need it!
The Kiwi’s are laid back, welcoming and super friendly people. They love their lifestyle, the land that they call home and they are quite happy to share it with us. As long as we don’t spoil the surroundings and treat it with respect.
The North Island has plenty of hot stuff!
Hot water beaches, thermal waters in lakes, rivers, streams and inevitably, some awesome man-made thermal pools, where relaxation is the order of the day or night, for that matter.
Soak yourself in hot minerals, pools of various temperatures and steamy outdoor tubs, where it’s just you and the stars for company!
Wellington, The Capital of New Zealand is located in the very South of the North Island.
It’s one chirpy, arty, cool city that gets under your skin and has you wanting for more!
Auckland, is more well known in many respects. This hub of business, shopping and boating bears title to “City of Sails” for a reason.
It’s two harbours, the iconic harbour bridge and boats galore, are an impressive addition to the tourist hub of the North Island.
It’s also the gateway to the whole of New Zealand from it’s busy international airport.
It’s compact, arty and full of micro breweries, with coffee shops, colourful people and what seems like a different event every week, to keep you entertained!
This is New Zealand’s well loved, windy capital, where there’s no denying the local’s phrase, “you can’t beat Welly on a good day”!
Don’t worry about transport here, because, this capital city is just so easy to navigate on foot.
Overnight parking for motorhomes is provided, both in and around the city, making for a stress-free visit, that leaves you wanting more.
There are no campsites in the centre. If that’s more your thing, you’ll need to head to Lower Hutt, about a 20 minute drive away, along the main road out of the city.
Wellington isn’t just windy, it’s also shaky! This is New Zealand after all and Wellington sits right on the fault line, of the Pacific’s “ring of fire”.
The Te Papa museum on the waterfront has a good demonstration of earthquake activity. Display’s show how this modern building, was built to withstand the likelihood of a future big quake.
Wellington is a rather unique mix, mainly surrounded by mountains, which fall towards the ocean towards golden beaches.
Hot summer days see locals flock to the water. Signs make passers by aware of nesting penguins!
Whales and dolphins are known to swim by, so keep an eye out. You never know what may be passing next, on the crest of a wave.
Guys in business suits whiz past on skateboards, briefcase under their arms. Funky electric scooters glide by and cycling is the norm.
This place is an outdoor persons dream and work doesn’t get in the way of that daily dose of outdoor exercise.
If you spend a few days here, you won’t be disappointed, although, many visitors only use Wellington as a transit route to the South. Rarely spending time here, to get to know this brilliant city.
If you get out and about onto the many walking tracks, the views down on the city are fab, pick up one of the free walking maps from the iSite.
A good walk to start with, is Mt Victoria and it’s lookout. Expect a bit of puff from those lungs, but the views from the top are superb. You can drive up too, you’ll be in the company of the tourist buses, so won’t be alone.
For a lively shopping experience head for Cuba Street, in the heart of Welly. It’s here that the individual side of the city springs to life. It’s a hub of eccentric lifestyles, quirky shops, cafes and bars, put it simply, it’s where it all goes on!
The weekly night market held on a Friday, sees gastronomic delights from around the world, offering, a great atmosphere, above all, the food is scrumptious!
Towards the waterfront, you’ll find pop up craft stalls and bars with eating areas, spilling out onto the quay. Relaxing grassy sections, allow you to pull up a bean bag and plonk yourself down, with a glass of your favourite tipple, overlooking the water. It’s a great place to people watch too!
Every city has it’s tourist attraction and Wellington is no exception. Especially delightful is the bright red Cable Car, taking you to the top of the Botanic gardens from Lambton Quay, in the busy business and shopping district.
Walking though a narrow passage, you’d never know it was there! It’s worth taking the ride to the top, where you get great views across the city. There’s also a really nice cafe and outdoor terrace to relax at whilst you choose where to go next.
From here, there’s a bus service to Zealandia, a wildlife conservation area and the world’s first fully fenced urban eco sanctuary. You can even do a night tour to see and hear the native forest come to life, including a hopeful glimpse of a real life Kiwi. It’s an oasis of birdsong and plant life that will have you emerged in nature.
Back down in Welly, the big name department stores and snazzy business district can be found at Lambton Quay. It still has an individual theme here, despite some of the usual high street chains.
We love food and over at Moore Wilson’s, there is an abundance of unusual artisan type products in a warehouse type building. The bakery with its artisan breads are just amazing.
A walk along the waterfront, leads to the Te Papa museum, reaching further on to Oriental Bay. Passing brightly painted beach chalet’s, seen on many Wellington tourist pics, is a picture opportunity.
Some lovely beaches and a brilliant indoor swimming pool, where you can take a dip or shower await. The path then continues all along the coast to the airport and beyond.
After about an hour on foot, you reach a very popular freedom camp for motorhomes and campervans, at Evans Bay.
If you want to stop the night, you’ll need to get there before midday to get a place. It’s always full and with a maximum 3 night stay. A bus stop and cycling route to the city, leave plenty of options for getting into the centre.
It’s right by the airport and next to a marina, where toilets and a dump point are available to use. There’s also a really good swimming pool across the road, where you can swim or take a shower for a few dollars.
Parking in the centre of Wellington is also an option, next to Te Papa museum is a large car park where you can stop overnight. It’s also alongside the waterfront, so it’s super convenient.
Motorhome Parking in the centre off Cuba Street
Right in the centre is another tight, but brilliantly located campervan parking spot, in a car park off Cuba Street. It’s always full during the day, but arrive after the workers’ have left and you’ll get a spot. There’s electric too, but it’s a more costly place to park at $30 per night.
If Lord of the Rings or Avatar is your thing, then Weta studios close to the airport at Miramar is a must do!
Head for the Wellington’s very own ‘Wellywood” sign, that sits on the hillside at the end of the runway. A giveaway to the high profile blockbuster industry.
Tours of this film production facility takes you through from prosthetics to stunts and it’s world class, of course!
The coastal inlets from Weta Studios, around Wellington are really worth a drive. Just a few minutes from the centre and you’re passing rocky coastline, clear waters and a mix of surfing beaches, calm bays and department of conservation areas. There’s plenty of marked walks across the hills here and along the coast, snorkelling too!
Scorching Bay is a great beach on a hot day. A lovely setting with a really good cafe close by, it’s a pretty little place to relax.
Passing further along through Breaker Bay, Lyall Bay, Houghton Bay and on to Owhiro Bay, you arrive at the end of the road. It’s here that the car park joins a Freedom Camp area.
A visitor information centre and toilets are in the car park, you can stay overnight in the marked bays only.
We failed to get a parking spot for the night here, despite going back several times on different nights. You need to arrive there early in the day, but if you do go in the dark, watch out for where the parking places are. We parked, one bay out of the correct zone and got a caution the following morning from the Ranger!
Walk along the beach from here to the headland and you reach a seal colony, it’s a fair way to walk, but worth it to see the seals, it’s also a 4×4 track. This place can be as windy as hell, so hold on to your hats!!
Sunsets from this section of coast from Lyall Bay to Owhiro are just fab, as the sun goes down below the shadows of the South Island’s mountainous coastline on the horizon, you’ll be reaching for that camera at the orange glow across the ocean.
So Wellington isn’t just the gateway to the South Island, it’s a fantastic, fun filled, vibrant city, a young person’s place, full of the goodness of life in every nook and cranny. It’s one of those places that feels cosy and creative, it makes you want to join in, get arty and let your hair down.
Above all, Wellington will have you wanting to go back for more, we love it and we hope you will too!
You’re almost certainly going to love it, when you come across a route named The Romantic Road, or “Romantische Strasse”.
The Romantic Road, Germany, conjures up thoughts of hearts and flowers and chocolate box houses. Traditions here are still strong. Surely, locals, drink jugs of home brew, dressed in lederhosen and dirndl!
We were ready to get our wheels turned, in the direction of Würzburg and the start of this 460KM route South, through Bavaria to Füssen.
Germany is one of those countries that seems to skip past the average British traveller in their Motorhome or campervan. However, don’t be fooled by those, that miss this superb part of Europe.
Boasting much better Summer’s than the UK. Germany notably, is also blessed with beautiful scenery, incredible rivers and lush vineyards.
Thermes (more of those later!) provide relaxation. More importantly, a really brilliant Stellplatz system, makes motorhome parking so easy.
Here’s our blog about stopover’s in Europe. Top 9 Essential Guide Motorhome Aires France And Europe
Germany really is a hidden little gem. Of course, if you prefer English Breakfasts and beer on the beach in Benidorm, maybe, it won’t be the place for you!
Let’s begin as we take to the Romantic Road, Germany.
Firstly, were the historic towns of Tauberbishofsheim and Lauda Konigshofen, in the Tauber Valley. Most interesting, vineyards surrounded these pretty towns. Proving, a good start for the first section from Würzburg.
Taking time to have a wonder and find our feet, we parked up for the night at a brilliant Stellplatz, at Merzig and Das Bad Therme.
If you haven’t been to a German Therme, ask yourself, “why not”?! They are just fabulous darlings…..take me there right now, the memories are just flooding right back!!
So, what is a Therme exactly? Think a swimming complex, with more emphasis on relaxation, than actual swimming and you won’t be far off. Maybe, a spa is the best description.
Most have several natural hot mineral pools, ranging in temperatures from super cold to extra hot. A larger, main soaking pool, in the great outdoors, allows relaxation until late at night. What’s better than a soak under the stars?
Mix this with treatment rooms (usually bookable and extra), a Sauna, steam rooms and a variety of other physically, beneficial pampering opportunities. You’re certain to feel like you have a new body, by the time you head for the exit.
Now, the super added bonus of a Therme, is that many have a Stellplatz attached, that’s dedicated parking for your motorhome.
The Romantic Road, Germany, has a really excellent system of Motorhome parking, very similar to Aires, so finding a place the stop the night is pretty easy.
Sleeping like a baby after our relaxing mineral soak, we headed off the next morning to the amazingly beautiful Weikershiem Palace and gardens.
First mentioned back in 837 and taking over 100 years to complete, it’s a wonder of architecture from Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic designs. A colossus of palatial splendour.
Onwards to Rothingen and Creglingen, the latter being the first main town on this Romantic Road route. There’s a Jewish museum here, housing details of it’s strong Jewish links. The grim realisation too, that in the 1930’s, this was the first town to begin the murder of it’s local Jewish inhabitants. Including members of the local council.
The highlight so far for us on the route, came at Rothenburg ob der Tauber. One of the oldest on the Romantic Road, this medieval, fortified town was just fantastic.
With all great things, come rather large numbers of people! Coach trips flock tourists here in peak season. Our July trip was no exception. Glorious weather, a lovely atmosphere from the Summer sightseeing folk brought all the trimmings, of a welcoming German tourist hotspot.
Another Therme beckoned for the night at Bad Mergentheim. In this part of Germany, the name “Bad”, meaning bath, almost certainly means a Spa complex will be present.
Spa waters were first found in the 1800’s, it’s now the largest Spa resort in the region. It’s a great way to have a good soak rather than a quick campervan shower!
After stopping the night beside a fishing lake at Feuchtwangon, we moved through Dinkelsbühl and on to Nördlingen. Impressively built in a crater, caused by a meteor impact. Never expecting, The Romantic Road, Germany to have a crater but even more unusual, they had built a tower out of the rock!
Onwards to Harburg and its hilltop fortress, making a good place for a break, before stopping at Donauwörth. Most importantly, known as the junction to the Rivers Danube and Wörnitz.
A Stellplatz next to a small fishing lake at Freidburg, provided our parking spot for the night. A heartbreaking diversion from the Romantic Road, took us to Dachau. The most moving visit lay ahead, to the memorial of the Dacau Concentration Camp.
Situated within the town, it’s hard to believe what went on behind the walls in this otherwise, seemingly normal neighbourhood. Opened in March 1933, Dachau became the model for all future concentration camps and was the “school of violence” for SS officers.
Walking the now deserted, but relatively intact camp huts and cold brick buildings, we could not envisage the despair, that those inmates must have felt.
It’s one of those unbelievable situations, where trees are in full leaf among birdsong and blue skies. Those grey images of horror, are somehow never seen in the reality of colour.
200,000 people were imprisoned here in total. 41,500 were killed at Dachau before its liberation, by American troops in April 1945.
We could only walk through in silence, imagining what others must have gone through, on the same ground we were now walking on.
Grateful for the freedom we often now take for granted, we felt thankful for all we have.
Re-joining the Romantic Road at Landsberg am Lech, this pretty town, boasts a cascading river, flowing over gently sloping weirs of the River Lech. It’s an important crossroads to Munich and the glorious other regions of Bavaria, along with the route to Lake Constance.
Our night stop at Schongau, beside the swimming pool was our last stop, before hitting the final stretch South to Füssen. This fortified town is in a region known as “priests corner”, due to the flurry of little churches that scatter the countryside.
Driving on in the morning, the scenery became more Alpine in appearance. Fields of green, grazing cattle, rolling hills, majestic mountains and cycle paths that went on for miles.
By the way, you can cycle this route of the Romantic Road, seeing the superb German cycle networks, even we found it an appealing gesture!
Next, was the most awesome sight! One we’d been waiting for, the whole trip! If you’ve seen the Sleeping Beauty castle of Disney (that’s the one at the start of the films), then you’ll know what to expect, from this incredible fairytale castle, of the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria.
It was when Walt and his wife visited Bavaria, Walt had the idea for his own castle. Once you cast your eyes on Neuschwanstein Castle for the first time, you know why.
It’s situated in Schwangau and is one of two castles, the other being Hohenschwangau, where King Ludwig grew up. As the day was passing us by, we decided to drive on to the end of the road and Füssen. A charming, character town and final destination South on the Romantic Road.
There’s a choice of Stellplatz here. So we parked up at one, that just happened to have a washing machine and showers. A perfect place to do the chores and take a powerful shower, out of the van.
We walked into Füssen in the evening, when the rain clouds opened and the mist settled in, we got soaked! The weather had been pretty scorching hot, so we couldn’t complain. But, we’d been hoping for clear blue skies for our visit to the Castle the next morning.
Up with the larks, we drove the short distance back to Neuschwanstein. This is big tourist territory, bus loads of tourists flock here from miles around. Including day trippers from Austria and some of the big cities of Germany.
An early start meant the car park was relatively quiet and short queues at the ticket booths. This place is huge, the walk from the ticket booth is around 40 minutes, although there are buses to take you if needed.
The castle interior is just as incredible, as you’d imagine it to be, a guided tour takes you on a journey through its history and the connection between the King and composer Wagner.
The exterior was featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and more recently, The Monuments Men. Detailing the true story of the recovery of stolen prestigious art pieces. Taken from museums across occupied Europe and hidden here by the Nazi’s during WW2.
It’s a fascinating place, in the most beautiful location. When the tour was over, we headed out to explore the grounds. Photograph’s, from a cute little suspension bridge, named the Marienbrucke, gave views back across the castle.
With clouds still lingering, but rain thankfully cleared away, we managed to get a good view back, to the king’s masterpiece.
It was a perfect end to this Romantic Road, Germany. As we’d headed South, it was quite fitting to finish our trip, at the most romantic of settings. A fairytale dream and if ever there was a castle to epitomise the magic of Disney, this was it.
No wonder Walt took his inspiration from Neuschwanstein, we all need a sprinkling of magic and we’d certainly found it on the Romantisch Strasse!
Salt Flats Solitude and Moonlight
From Vines to Volcano’s this is one diverse country
You can’t beat Welly on a Good Day!
A Fairytale 460km Drive Along Germany’s Romantic Road
Hat’s off to women who go it alone!
Follow the path to Charlene!
When it comes to vanlife women v men emptying the portaloo, there is a definite role pattern! The way in which we participate in the glorious world of vanlife chores is rater strange. There seems to be a bit of a gender chore gap between us and our male partners!
Ok, so the lid on the can of worms has just been lifted!! Before we all get a little flustered, about this, not so equality based observation, spiralling off into the stratosphere. In words more at home to an episode of “Through the Keyhole”……let’s just look at the evidence!
So, what exactly are we looking at here? Come on Vanlife women!
It’s not just those dirty jobs, yes you know which ones those are! From those toilet emptying duties, to the awful task, of practically crawling underneath to open the waste outlet. Yes, you’ve done it, quickly darting out of the way, to avoid getting a soaking in dirty washing water! Have these Motorhome manufacturers ever had to empty their own waste tanks?!
Leaving waste products aside. It’s also the more leisurely side of vanlife, typically, the driving and those other little incidentals, that all need attending to.
Such as getting out the awning, for some desperate shade or putting it away, for that matter. Levelling up on those rather clumsy looking ramps, or in our, case the more economical, but equally effective product….wood!!
Not to mention, if your Motorhome or van has a garage……well, how often do you see a woman messing around with all the bits and bobs in there?! I take one look in our garage and immediately turn the other way for a sharp exit!
While I’m at it, what about changing those gas bottles? Blimey, now we are getting a bit close to home, surely?!
There just seems to be certain jobs on the road, that the men in our lives automatically take charge over.
Quite frankly, I’m definitely happy for Nige to carry on and do the dirty work for me. But am I the exception to the rule? Or do other women out there take charge in this equally liberal world?
Are any female Motorhome and vanlife hobbyists taking over and doing the typical, male only jobs of the past, now themselves?
Now, you may think I’m being harsh here on us women and the female exploits. But, when it comes to mucking-in on the mucky stuff, the facts are there for all to see.
We’ve covered a staggering distance of around 150,000 miles on our travels in a Motorhome or Campervan over many years. We’ve used countless Aires, Stellplatz’s, Sosta’s and campsites and travelled too many routes to mention in one blog piece.
In all those years, the amount of times we’ve seen women driving the Motorhome, or emptying the cassette toilet, whilst their male partner occupies the passenger seat, is really rare!
I say hat’s off to those women who go it alone. We’ve seen a few of those and they are fab! But in a male/female couple relationship, it does usually see the male at the helm for those big Motorhome chores. Including, the more leisurely scene of driving, isn’t that what vanlife and campervan’s are all about?
I love driving, don’t you? Isn’t this why’s we do this in the first place? Do other vanlife women feel the same?
I’m really hoping the answer is yes here, or else, I’m not quite sure why you’re reading this blog!
Here’s the crunch, the reason I don’t drive as much as Nige, yes it’s that I’m quite happy to leave it to him,! Especially in years gone by, when we had some pretty big Motorhome’s, I remember, not being able to get the handbrake off, on one van, with my tiny hands!
For us though, in the days before google maps and using our phones as navigation devices, (yes all that’s fairly recent, since the onset of no roaming charges on our mobile contracts), I was always better in the role of navigator than Nige, (don’t tell him that!!). I would sort out directions, paper maps, sat nav co-ordinates and route-finding, giving instructions as we went.
The difference is that Nige loves driving, whilst I like driving! Having said that, in certain places and now that navigation is such a breeze through technology, I certainly love to take to the wheel.
Confession time though!! One thing I’ve never done and have no intention of doing at any time soon, unless I have to, is emptying the cassette toilet!!!
While Nige is still keen to carry on the role of loo content disposer, he’s welcome to it! But in reverse role, it’s me who cleans the loo inside the van. So, we both have our fair share of crap jobs to do, (pardon the pun!).
On the plus side, I most definitely do help with any uneven ground, I’ll happily position the pieces of sawn off wood under our chunky Sprinter tyres!
We do, also share the water filling up chores. Although, it does tend to turn into a joint exercise at some point! One stands near the tap to do a quick turn off, whilst the other makes sure the end of our hose, keeps from falling to the ground!
Then there’s the waste emptying, our Carthago had the luxury of internal valves to release the contents from the tanks. This was just great for both of us.
We do still muck in on our Sprinter waste, with the valve under the van, it’s a sort of whoever gets to it first type of approach!
Gas bottles have always been a job for Nige. Although, nowadays, we rarely use gas with our diesel system. In times past, we’ve had some pretty big bottles, too heavy for me to shift and so it was over to Nige and his bigger muscles!
When it comes to the awning, hubby is taller, so he does the harder to reach bits, whilst the rest we share together. Usually, to avoid the whole thing flopping onto the side of the van.
One big male dominance, does seem to be the satellite dish! A man does love fiddling with his signal! It’s one of the first things to make an appearance and it never seems to be the women, who make the first move, to get that TV picture perfect!
We don’t have a TV, so it’s not something that’s on our list of chores. However, it’s quite comical watching those that do and how it takes up so much of their time. It’s almost enjoyable, a bit like a new toy!
When it comes to inside the van, call us stereotypical, but I love to make it homely. Am I typical of vanlife women the world over? The bedding, cushions, most of the supplies are all down to me. This is my domain on behalf of both of us and it has to be, just so!
I guess, so long as we’re happy in our Motorhome and vanlife roles, then it doesn’t really matter who does what. It’s all about the sharing, enjoying and getting the jobs done.
That leaves us all with the best possible outcome…..the purpose of life on the road. Exploring and learning as we go and having more time to see the most amazing new places and experience the surroundings, of the next destination.
Here’s to campervan men and vanlife women everywhere, cheers to chores, whatever they may be!!
If you enjoyed this read, then here’s a few more!
There is no mistaking, that very often on our travels, the best possible experiences and memories, come from those unplanned, most unexpected and unlikely of situations.
Above all, it’s the people we meet, that can be the most inspiring, generous and overwhelmingly humble to us strangers. Coming from all walks of life, rich, poor and anything in between, they share their incredible stories.
Often it’s a lifetime of tales and experiences that we talk about with these people, it also, makes us realise how immensely grateful we are. Furthermore, to be in their company and hear about their remarkable lives is humbling.
Notably, probably this remind’s us, in contrast, of all the bad in the world, there is so much more to the human spirit.
People can have the most incredible lives, but this isn’t necessarily related to grandeur or wealth. It’s actually a more deep-rooted richness. Coming from deep within, their hard work, strong ambition and dedication to family and friends. Combined with their surroundings.
There is no mistaking, that those people who live, in the most incredibly beautiful places, where life is so much more about living and where the skies are blue rather than grey. Seem to have the brightest of attitudes. Therefore, they seem most blessed, with gratitude for the land they call home.
We were just lucky enough to come across two of the most kind-hearted people on our road trip through New Zealand.
It was a chance meeting, an out of the blue moment, that resulted in one of the most memorable day’s of our travelling lives!
It all started in the most normal kind of way, as these things do! Having spent the night on a Freedom Camp area in Tairua, on the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula, we’d woken early to a chill in the air. As the sun rose, the surrounding bush shaded our campervan from the heat of the Summer sun.
Not one’s to sit and wait for warmth through the windows, we started the engine. Driving just a short distance, following the beautiful estuary route to a sunny spot alongside a harbour.
As we parked up beside a picnic bench, overlooking the water, Nigel began the process of preparing the breakfast. Whilst I admired the views from the bench (crafty I know!).
Suddenly, an old 4×4 drove up, parked next to us. Out popped a petit looking guy, with weathered appearance. His terrific white long beard caught my eye. Followed by his country looking, wide brimmed hat, chequered shirt and jeans,. All that was missing, was a pair of cowboy boots and we’d have mistaken him for a Texan!
We made our friendly exchanges of “Good morning”. Before he approached me, to enquire in a rather disapproving tone, as to whether we’d wild camped there for the night!
I explained that, we’d just arrived, in search of the warmth from the sun. Leaving the shade of the Freedom Camp up the road. He gladly told us, he was pleased to hear that, as he and the locals, don’t like the campervan’s parking up where they shouldn’t!
Feeling relieved that we hadn’t upset him and the locals, we got chatting. Mainly about the Stingray in the harbour.
Before we knew it, he invited us to join him on his mates boat, for a few hours of fishing! Just as the invitation was gratefully excepted, along came his mate. Approaching, in his own, ageing 4×4, parking up too alongside. Ready for a day on the boat.
As we were left contemplating, what had we done? What on earth was the boat like? Who were these guys?
All we could really think about, was finishing our Weetabix and tea which was still on the side. Hoping that a bit of food inside us, would be better than an empty stomach out at sea!
With an exchange of pleasantries and names, we were then formally introduced to 80 year old Ray, and Dave the owner and skipper!
We asked if we could possibly just eat our breakfast, to which they replied “sure, follow the path round the corner to Charlene, when you’re ready”!
Charlene, was the name of Dave’s trusty fishing boat, obscured from our view by a deluxe apartment complex. As we quickly munched our way through the breakfast cereal, we could only imagine the type of boat we were about to board! Worst of all, what if there was no toilet…..yikes, perish that thought!!
As Ray and Dave disappeared around a sharp corner, along the harbour path. We were left contemplating the sight of the boat!
Thinking back to my childhood years and my own experience on my Dad’s small fishing boat, brought a moment of dread!……We’d spent all our time leaning over the side as the sea sickness got hold!
Not only that, but it was always rough seas, back in Welsh water! Freezing cold off the shore and there was, a never ending engine problem. Meaning, that we usually had to get a tow back in, off a passing vessel!
Not to be easily deterred, we packed a small rucksack and got ready for the big reveal!
We headed off down the path. As we neared the corner, to where our view of Charlene first appeared, we needn’t have worried. We couldn’t believe our eyes! Wow!! Charlene was just incredible!!
This was no toy dinghy or small hobby boat, this was the real deal. Proudly taking centre stage, moored up on the harbour, with Ray giving us a wave, to greet us on board!
As we climbed on board, Ray gave us a quick tour of the boat. Dave welcomed us to join him from the driving seat on the top deck. I needn’t have worried about a toilet either!
Complete with spotless shower room, kitchen, large lounge and bedroom areas, as well as upper and lower open deck areas, Charlene was incredible.
With the engines in action, the weather now scorching and sea flat calm. Dave guided Charlene out from the Tairua harbour towards the open sea. The water was crystal clear and no sooner had we set off, than the fish came into sight. Shoals of fish leaped from the surface in abundance, making patterns on the flat, calm surface where they gathered.
The radar displayed large shoals on the sea bed too. The amount of fish out here in New Zealand is truly incredible. With a women’s fishing competition coming up that weekend, Dave was testing the water’s, for a good place for his wife to fish. She too loved fishing and regularly joined him on the boat, with the family. Areal big outdoor event out in NZ.
Ray began to organise the rods, having a selection of over 60 on board, he certainly wasn’t short of choice!
Placing the rods into holders, built into the boat, he set about slicing up the bait, huge fish caught the day before, which were waiting in the icy freezer.
True Kiwi’s, both were so generous, down to earth and had plenty of tales to tell.
Dave, a retired pig farmer had given up farming of his 40,000 pigs. He’d sold the farm and house and now lived in a small batch near the sea. Truly content on looking after his family and sharing the good things in life, with those around him. He took Ray out on the boat several times a week, a true friend and companion.
Keeping an eye on the radar for fish deep below us, we watched out for dancing fish on the surface of the water. Consequently, finding a spot to drop anchor!
As we lowered the fishing line from the reel of the rods, the first bites began in earnest! No sooner had we dropped a line, than we had a fish. We could actually see them, with the naked eye deep in the water too, it was incredible!
Reeling in fish after fish, I needed all my strength with the weight of the catch on the end of the line. Determined to do it myself, my arms had their work cut out, using muscles that I didn’t know I had!
As the fish came into sight through the deep blue colour of the sea, I used all my will to bring it to the surface. These were no little tiddlers!
As more fish took the bait on the other rods, our freshly caught fish appeared…..Snapper, Golden Snapper, Kahawai, were soon all on board!
We were almost ready for the next fish, so Ray helped in measure the previous catch. Alongside him, lay a chart on the side of the boat, detailed the legal measurements for the fish and how many could be kept, of each species. Consequently, anything under the size limit, was put back in the water. Whilst the larger fish were filleted, ready to take back to the campervan, for tea that night.
Seems like it was time for a coffee and sandwiches, between even more fishing, therefore, we had a moment to catch up on talk about our lives. Therapeutic in every way!
Finally, after trying out a few more fishing spots, further out to sea, the talk got on to Sharks. Seems like these were the real kind, not the rogue trader types!
Yes, they are in the water’s off New Zealand. Ray, mentioned a dog that had been snatched, as it splashed in the water. Off the very beach, where we’d walked the day before.
Both advised us, not to take a dip off the boat into the tempting water. Especially as sharks are attracted to the very fish that we are trying to tempt!
They’d also had sharks circling the boat and knew only too well, the dangers that they pose, out at sea like this.
The time was now nearing 2 o’clock, of course, the day had completely flown by. While we were ready for dry land, we reflected on the most wonderful, unplanned day, feeling grateful to the incredible New Zealand hospitality.
We felt blessed to have met old Ray on that sunny March morning, also, we hope to have brightened up his day a little too. More importantly, wherever we are in the world and whatever age, it’s just so good to meet new people.
Furthermore, age has no barrier, neither does anything else, hence, it’s just so good to be enriched with people’s genuine warmth and hospitality.
Probably, it’s rare in many aspects of life to meet people with no agenda. More often, most expect financial reward, or something in return. So, for that reason, to meet people with no other motive, than being themselves is rather unique.
The Ray and Dave’s of this world make it a better place for all of us. As we said our goodbye’s, we thanked them for the most memorable of days.
Later that night, whilst cooking another of our fillets on the outdoor stove, we reflected on the day and how it almost didn’t happen!
Certainly, New Zealand is a special place for many reasons. Firstly, the trust and generosity of its people. Secondly, the laid back attitude, oozing from this part of the world.
Finally, as a result of such an amazing day, it was even more reason, to say we can’t wait to return again soon!
Because of Ray, Dave and Charlene, it seems like we are now hooked on fishing!
Touring Croatia in a motorhome is just a delightful way to see this incredible country. Beautiful in every way, it will certainly have you returning for more!
Very often, we catch a snippet of information on our travels, that we can’t ignore, inspiring future trips.
This is exactly what happened, in the most unexpected conversation, outside the entrance to an Austrian campsite!
If you’ve travelled through Austria, maybe, you’ll know, that campsites close for a good couple of hours over lunchtime. Because we’re British, we forget, that everyone isn’t at our beckon call throughout the day!
However, although a little bit annoying, this soon turned out to be an act of fate! Our Austrian campsite had just closed for the owners lengthy lunch. We, therefore, had ample opportunity, to get chatting to a fellow camper owner.
This happened to be a Swedish lady, who was also waiting in the queue. Due to her returning from an annual Summer trip to Croatia, or rather touring Croatia in a motorhome.
Her vivid description of Croatia, caught our imagination, describing the coast as having turquoise blue waters, along with unrivalled tranquility. Moreover, she continued to say how unspoilt it was, with low key coastal towns, fabulous campsite facilities and friendly locals.
“You must go and see for yourselves” she proclaimed! So for us, that was it, our next country to visit, in the motorhome.
One year on and we were on our way! Having travelled through Germany, Austria and Slovenia, the blistering July heat now beat down on the van. Before long, the fabulous waters of the Adriatic came into view.
We were two and a half hours from our previous nights stop at Lake Bled, in Slovenia. Ready to enter Croatia, in a very long queue at the border control at Koper. This was one large industrial looking town bordering Slovenia and Italy.
We didn’t want to miss out on this amazing coastline. We, therefore, decided to gradually work our way along the coast.
Passports shown and back on the only motorway, we drove to the exit, a few miles further at Umag.
After a quick drive around the town, we followed the well signed campsite signs. Pulling in at our first campsite, Camping Finida, 4km from the town itself.
The heat was intense, we hoped there would be a pitch free for us at the campsite. Because of the Summer sun, we really needed a shady one!
In luck we were, there was only one space left in the July peak season. Thank goodness, it was large with shade and just a minute from the cooling waters of the Adriatic.
There is supposedly no wild camping allowed in Croatia, or any type of Aire system, therefore, campsites are really the only option.
We were told this is due to the war of the 1990’s. When Croatia was then part of the former Yugoslavia. The devastating conflicts during this period left the possibility of landmines being present in some areas. Because of this, we weren’t wanting to risk driving off the beaten track!!
Some campsites do offer motorhome parking outside their main campsite grounds. Usually located at the entrance, however, you do still have to register and pay with the campsite reception.
The Camping Card International or similar aren’t accepted, therefore, all campsites take your passport. They keep these for the duration of your stay. This is because the authorities want a record of you and where you have stayed the night!
As it happened, for us, it was just too hot to opt for a campsite car park! We needed the shade that campsites offered, with their rows of mature pines and immediate access to the water.
We soon discovered, just how big the campsites are. Covering miles of coast and feeling more like a village. It didn’t feel as if we were even on a campsite!
Not knowing what to expect from a typical campsite in Croatia, we were pleasantly surprised. Immaculate, modern facilities, large pitches, cleaning continuously in the toilet blocks, throughout the day and extremely friendly, English speaking staff.
Too hot to do anything but slouch by the sea, the rocky beach beckoned for the rest of the afternoon.
Several water cooling sessions and showers, followed. Afterwards, we cycled into Umag for a meal, arriving dripping wet from the humid evening air.
We had a choice of waterside restaurants, in the busy, but charming old town. Full of character, with old stone lined streets and squares. Umag, was a great introduction to what was to come on our trip, also, well worth the stop.
Cycling back in the dark, perhaps, wasn’t such a good idea. There were no dedicated cycle paths, meaning, cycling back on the unlit roads.
The following day, came the realisation that driving or sightseeing, would have be done early in the day! The heat was just so intense.
Driving on with the windows down. We headed further South along the coast to Porec.
Driving was easy. Simply because you just couldn’t really get lost, due to lack of main roads! Venturing off a main route, wasn’t an option for us, in the big A-Class. Realising quickly, that most roads disappeared into dirt tracks.
Arriving at Porec, we approached Camping Zelana Laguna with a bit of “pot luck” attitude. We hadn’t booked any sites at all, so had our fingers crossed, that a pitch would be free.
This was peak season, and luckily, we were having no issues getting a pitch. Soon, we were discovering a pattern at each site though. Reception staff were instructing us to walk around, so that we could choose a pitch. This was easier said than done!
Simple in many countries, but here the sites were huge, covering big distances. Walking in the searing heat, was exhausting stuff. We were then encountering a bit of a problem, because of the sheer size of the campsites! We were choosing our pitch, arriving back at reception with the pitch number, only to be told that someone else had just done the same!
After this, we lived and learned! The only way to do it, was for one of us to stand on the free pitch that we found. Whilst the other person went back to reception with the details. Bingo!
Here’s a useful link for campsites in Croatia. https://www.camping.hr/best-camps
Positioned beside the glorious, crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, the campsite offered everything you could need.
Firstly for us, was the campsite supermarket, to buy those essential beach shoes. The coastline was a mix of rocky and pebble beaches, so, sea shoes were the only way to protect those feet!
Open spaces and shady pine trees gave the campsite a laid back feel. With a choice of tourist train, bus or water taxi into Porec, it couldn’t have been better placed.
Once the sun disappeared for the day, we opted for the water taxi and sped off across the sea, with the wind in our hair.
Porec is beautiful, with an array of narrow stone laid streets. Restaurant filled squares and pavement cafes gave a true Mediterranean feel. enhancing the ambiance of the Venetian styled architecture. The basilica here is listed as UNESCO, so plenty of culture surrounds you too.
For us, a motorhome is perfect for driving on every couple of days. With all those home comforts attached, it’s such a good way to capture that next must see place.
Further down the coast, we were doing just that. Approaching Rovinj with some excitement, because, the last time either one of us had visited, it was pre-war Yugoslavia.
Here at Rovinj, Camping Polari, attracted our attention. Another huge site with beautiful beaches, where a nudist camping section, covered a large proportion of the site! This is common practice in Croatia, nudist areas are usually marked FKK. Make sure you choose a pitch that isn’t FKK, if you want to keep your clothes on!
We quickly learnt that a surcharge was added for short stays on campsite’s, although, the amount of days varied. With this in mind, and the fact that we had our son with us, who was charged as a 3rd adult. We were finding camp site fees fairly expensive, averaging between £40-£50 per night.
Eating out made up for campsite costs, sometimes a main course was just a few pounds each. Croatia doesn’t have the Euro, so currency is in the Croatian Kuna, therefore, making a novel change!
Campsites were immaculate and really well maintained. Also, all were modern with excellent amenities and fabulous private beaches. Those high season prices became worthwhile in many ways and were soon forgotten!
From Camping Polari, a bus was provided for the 3km ride to the centre of Rovinj, and a bargain at just £1.50. In lower temperatures, we would have walked.
Clinging to the shade of the medieval narrow streets, it became apparent that Rovinj hadn’t changed a bit in the 30 years since the last visit!
Perhaps this is the appeal of Croatia, due to the war years, over development just never occurred, therefore, it remains beautifully preserved, in its somewhat natural state.
Croatia doesn’t have high rise, densely packed hotel resorts. Instead, accommodation is low key, and in harmony with the surroundings.
Rovinj itself is simply perfect, with a quaint harbour, crystal clear waters and the old town rising up from behind. We found ourselves walking the maze of picturesque, narrow, cobbled streets.
Surrounded by tall, tightly packed Venetian style townhouses, and little tunnelled alleyways, leading to the water’s of the Adriatic. Here, with the sea, lapping up against the backdrop of these romantic looking walls, we were in another world!
Venice is within easy reach for a day trip, from one of the many boat excursion operators along the Istrian coast. Although, we chose to give this a miss, and save it for a separate trip.
A walk up to the church along the winding streets, brought a welcome view point across the town and the blue bay, bringing many of the small islands into view.
You could spend a lot of time around Rovinj, but after a couple of days, mostly spent having to cool off on the campsite beaches, we moved on to Banjole.
Located just outside of Pula, Camping Indije, provided our first vacant sea front pitch. Setting up camp on a superb large, grassy plot, just a stone’s throw away from yet another private beach.
Although facilities here, at the time of our visit were dated, we weren’t complaining! A rocky beach, overlooked a superb bay of small islands where boats adorned the water.
With no bus on offer, reception staff ordered a taxi for us, to take us the 5 minutes into Pula itself, costing £12.50 each way, it brought us right into the heart of this Roman town.
Pula seems to be a town of two contrasts. Firstly there’s an industrial outer area, consisting of a large busy port. Secondly, there’s the town itself, which has a beautifully intact Roman amphitheater, with remarkable outer walls.
Presiding majestically over the town centre, the Amphiteatre, certainly has the most incredible presence. Towering above, the hustle and bustle of peak season tourists.
The Roman square, boasts The Temple of Augustus, so whilst we, took a rest in one of the outdoor restaurants, we allowed ourselves to go back thousands of years. Imagining, the Romans walking through the Gate of Hercules alongside the imposting town walls.
At the tip of the Istrain Coast, just south of Pula, lies Medulin. A popular tourist town, due to its proximity to glorious beaches and islets, it’s accessible only by boat.
If you don’t have your own boat, they can be hired both at campsites and various towns along the coast. With its calm, clear, sheltered waters, it’s a boat lovers paradise, throughout the whole region.
Camping Kazela, just 10 minutes out of Medulin, was somewhat quieter than other sites on the trip so far. Although, completely superb in every way.
The usual immaculate toilet facilities, large grassy sunbathing areas, shady pitches and several small plunge pools were alongside extensive beaches. Providing us with an afternoon of relaxation. This was, until the heavens opened and the most horrendous storm force winds, got us diving for the awning and everything else!
Once the storm had passed, we took a stroll around the town. Small and with more of a modern feel and a selection of shops and restaurants, it was a nice place to spend the evening.
With Croatia consisting of over 1200 islands, it didn’t take us long before we were tempted to take a ferry crossing over to explore one!
Leaving Istria behind us, we were now entering the Kvarner region, on the only inland main road to Brestova from Medulin. Here, we joined the queue along the quiet approach road, to the small ferry port, just north of Labin.
The Island of Cres was to be our first island destination from the mainland. Paying the £45 fee for our motorhome and 3 passengers, we had a short wait in the blistering sun. We were soon boarding the ferry, and a pleasant 30 minute sailing to Porozina, on the North Western tip of the island.
We were a little concerned to begin with though. Greeting us were steep, narrow and busy roads. Fortunately, the roads soon spread out, into more manageable stretches of mountainous and largely unpopulated terrain, provided a scenic journey.
Cres is famed for one of the world’s largest flying birds, The Eurasian Griffon Vulture, now a protected species. Unfortunately, we didn’t come across one during our trip.
The views across the coastline, as we approached Cres Town were stunning. We were arriving late in the afternoon, so we were lucky to find a spare pitch at Camp Kovacine. A beautiful location, hugging the clear blue waters, it was just too tempting to miss!
Straight into the sea we went, the waters here were like a warm bath, coupled with a beautiful sunset, it was a superb start to our sightseeing here. Luckily, a cycle path alongside the sea, connected the campsite to Cres Town, an easy 10 minute bike ride away.
Cres Town, is lovely, plenty of harbour front restaurants, quaint, narrow streets and interesting little shops provide a low key, but lively atmosphere. It also attracts the big super yachts, one of which was proudly docked alongside the quay for us to admire.
Heading further South, a small bridge connects the next island, Losinj to Cres. The main town, Mali Losinj is a lovely harbour town. Our campsite, Camping Cikat, was situated about a 15 minute walk away.
Pitched under the shady pine trees, with a view across the sea, the location here, was again just stunning. More clear waters, large rocky sunbathing areas and a paradise for snorkelers, fish took centre stage beneath us as we swam in the crystal clear sea.
The town of Mali Losinj is the largest on all these Croatian islands, but it’s still fairly small compared to many holiday resorts. It retains a charming, rustic, appeal and pastel painted character buildings surround the bustling harbour front. It’s a great place to stroll come the evening, when the numerous harbour side restaurants and shops come alive and the boating fraternity arrive, to enjoy the Summer nights under a balmy sky.
An extra few nights here, would have been the icing on the cake, but to see more of these beautiful islands, we needed to move on.
We were ready to drive back, on the one main road to catch our next ferry, from the very small port of Merag, just outside Cres Town. However, we were greeted with a fairly large queue and a wait of a couple of hours.
The roll on roll off ferry, took just half and hour and cost £47 for the 3 of us and the motorhome. Having not booked anything before hand, we were just pleased to be able to get on board!
Disembarking at Valbriska on Krk, was easy enough. It’s one of the most easily accessible of the Islands, boasting a 1430m long bridge to the mainland at Smrika, south of Rijeka, as well as an airport. It’s an island with a mix of flat, low lying land in the north and mountains to the south.
We were heading to Krk Town and another coastal campsite attracted us, the newly renovated Camping Krk was a delight. It had the advantage of a path along the coast, taking about 20 minutes to reach the centre of Krk Town itself.
As with many parts of the infrastructure here, the path wasn’t pristine. Taking a route along a dusty, rocky section and through pine woods, with just the odd section of paved path. It was also unlit, but this didn’t deter us, as we headed off with our torches to guide us.
Originally a Roman town and boosting the largest marina on the Adriatic, we entered through a large gateway into this unusual, charming walled town. Full of narrow streets, alleyways and squares, all bustling with the summer tourists. A cathedral blends in, with the stone walls and turrets, its bell giving away its presence above the tightly packed roof lines.
Further south to the tourist hub of Baska, another coastal campsite allured us in. Taking a quieter grassy pitch away from the beach, Camp Zablace, in the centre of the town, meant a couple of minutes easy walking to the main area.
The beach here was very crowded, 1.8km in length, it really drew in the tourists, but accessibility to the town, made up for the masses. The campsite lacked the finesse that our other sites had, but it was spacious, spotless and friendly.
Baska, is the oldest resort on the island, and probably the more rowdy of all the towns seen up to now. A fun fair blasted out music all day, and into the night. With crowds along the quay, and more noise than we could cope with, it wasn’t really a place for us!
The town itself though was unspoilt. With typical Croatian facades of simple stone, and narrow streets, where steps of stone took us down to the restaurant lined harbour and quaint fishing boats dominated the walls of the old quay.
Our final island hop came from Krk to Rab and was also the most expensive crossing, at £83 and taking one and a half hours.
Having driven back up to the port of Valbriska, the journey on the open top deck in the hot breeze, proved very relaxing. Docking outside the town of Loper, this island looked stunning from the calm waters on the boat. It has a reputation of being the most beautiful of the Kvarner Islands and it wasn’t to disappoint.
An easy drive led us south, to the famed Rab Town and Camping Padova 3 at Banjol. We couldn’t believe our luck, when we found a pitch just beside the beachfront and the mix of leisurely lunch, quick dip in the shallow, clear water was just perfect.
Also, a huge bonus, was the cycle path and walkway that led from our pitch along the coast, where 30 minutes later we arrived at the fabulous, medieval centre of Rab Town.
Rab Town is full of character, nooks and crannies everywhere, narrow streets and glorious little squares, with park areas rising out above the sea. View points look out across the town and the blue sea. Flowers draping over stone ballustrading and the ever beautiful Adriatic, lapping up against the walled construction of the town peninsula, meant, this was our favourite place on the trip.
Waterfront cafes, elegant architecture and boat trips to the gorgeous waters and unspoilt beaches around the island were available. We chose to just watch the world go by amongst the street artists and locals, selling their hand made crafts.
A water taxi took us back to the campsite, the perfect way to mark the end of our island hopping venture. Stopping at several places en-route, it was a magical way to return to base.
Leaving our last night behind us, the ferry from Rab to Stinica on the mainland beckoned. Another easy roll on roll off trip for £37 across the narrow channel of water, brought us back on to the one main coast road from where we’d be heading back north to Rijeka, Croatia’s largest port overlooking the Kvarner Gulf.
This stretch of coastal road, varying in height along the route, but boasting the most impressive views across the islands, made us realise that we’d only just skimmed the surface of this beautiful, unspoilt country. Passing superb small campsites along the way, each with outstanding little bays of blue, blue waters, we knew, that the was going to be the first of many future trips to this part of Europe.
Reaching the industrial town of Rijeka, we left this stunning coastal vista behind us, as we headed inland to the Sovenian border and the journey back home.
Mileage from Calais – 2500.
Fuel £650, Tolls £200 (we had to have a GoBox for Austria, as we were over 3.5 Tonne).
Number of Nights stopped from Calais to Croatia – 5 Nights: Gravelines, Nord Pas de Calais, France; Deidshiem, Germany; Salzburg, Austria (2 nights); Lake Bled, Slovenia.
Number of nights stopped on Return – 5 nights: Lake Bohinj, Slovenia; Faaker See, Austria; Ossiacher See, Austria; Bad Aibling, Germany; Sierck Les Bains, Moselle, Germany.
Campistes in Croatia: Umag, Camping Finida £44; Porec, Camping Zelana Laguna, Bijela, £44; Rovinj, Camping Polari, £51; Pula, Camping Indije, Banjole £43; Medulin, Camping Kazela £40; Cres, Camp Kovacine, Cres Town, £39; Cres, Camping Cikat, Losinj, £46; Krk, Camping Krk, Krk Town, £41; Krk, Camp Zablace, Baska, £40; Rab, Camping Padova 3, Banjol, £47.
We were travelling with our son, who we had to pay adult prices for, time of travel was July an August.
Peak season penalties applied at all campsites for staying less than their requirement, e.g 3 night or 5 nights.
Croatia is not in the Euro, the currency is the Kuna.
Note: this Croatia trip was taken a few years ago, in our previous A-Class Carthago motorhome.
We’ve just returned from our 4th trip to New Zealand, it truly is the most breathtakingly beautiful country. We’d love to share our Top Tips on how to plan a trip to New Zealand.
Here’s our top tips on how to plan a trip to New Zealand.
New Zealand just seems to have the whole package. There’s scenery that leaves you gasping in awe. The people, who are so amazingly honest, trustworthy and incredibly down to earth. Blue of skies, that reach forever onwards. Finally, there’s that thin Ozone layer, which will have you reaching for the Factor 50!
One other slightly big bonus, unlike Australia, New Zealand is free from those killer wildlife. No having to make weird noises in the Bush, when out on those long hike. That’s to let those snakes know you’re coming by the way! You can safely take a swim in the ocean, without having to worry about the nightmare killer jellyfish. Or even worse, those salties. That’s crocodiles, for those Brits, who are imagining a packet of salt & vinegar crisps right now!
So, now we’ve cleared that up, let’s start at the beginning. If you’re thinking of a trip to the “Land of the Long White Cloud” then congratulations! You’re mind is pointing you in the right direction! If you take the plunge and make those dreams a reality, then you are in for a massive treat!
But, where to start, what’s the best route? Should you have a stopover? Where should you fly to? How do you cope with such a long flying time? Where do you pick up a rental motorhome? Or, if you’re on longer trip, should you be thinking of buying a campervan? Possibly, even converting one, which is what we have done.
Well there’s one thing for sure, if you’re British and you’re flying out of the UK. New Zealand is going to be the longest flight time, that you’re going to have to make.
With a long-haul flight like this, I tend to think about it a little bit differently. When you know you’re in it for the long haul (pardon the pun!), you really do prepare yourself. Almost in a sub-conscious manner.
It’s a bit like going on a weekend break away. Packing a small bag with a few toiletries, you know it’s only a weekend and it will fly by. Oh gosh, there goes that pardoning of the pun again! Just try and make the most of the time you’ve got!
I always say, if I could afford to go Business Class, then these long-haul flights would be an absolute pleasure. But, I’m not in that calibre. Until I am, as a Mother of a Son who’s currently half-way through his Airline Pilot training. I live in hope of some freebies one day! In the meantime, it’s Economy or cattle class for us, which isn’t as bad as what people say. Well, that’s my humble opinion, anyway.
Going East or West, States side or Asia? Hmmm, until this last trip, I would have said that it probably doesn’t really matter. In all honesty, we (that’s hubby Nigel and I), did not enjoy our transit through the USA. More specifically, Houston, Texas, more of that later!
When searching for flights, I use a comparison site initially, such as Skyscanner. This gives an idea of prices and also has the facility to look at block weeks or months. Therefore, giving an indication of the cheapest dates, for your departure airport and destination. This is really useful, if you are flexible with dates.
We’re flexible when it comes to departure airport. Our closest is Manchester, but there is less choice departing from here. By the way, there are no direct flights to NZ from the UK, incase you are wondering.
We have flown from Heathrow. Finding this fairly simple and the choice of flights is huge, in comparison to Manchester.
Prices also tend to be cheaper. However, you do have to factor in transport costs and, maybe, an overnight hotel. Also, the drive down to Heathrow itself or the cost of an internal flight.
Whichever airport we choose for departure. Often we book a one-way car hire, to pick up locally and drive to the airport ourselves. It’s super easy dropping off and a shuttle bus takes you straight to departures. If you book in advance, there’s usually a good deal to be had too.
Usually, we choose a route dependent on Airline and price. We like a good Airline and we like a good price even more! Equally as important for us, is a flight with just one stop. Preferring a short transit between that stop and the second leg, but making sure it’s not too short!! We don’t want to be worrying about missing a connection!
This time when flying from Manchester, there was a choice of the excellent Qatar, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. All with just the one stop, but we chose Singapore Airlines, as it was the most reasonable for us. Although, this route was through Houston, USA rather than via Singapore. Qatar fly through Doha and Emirates through Dubai.
Last year, we chose to fly from Heathrow with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. Booking a connecting flight from Manchester to get us to Heathrow a few hours before. We had a few nights stopover in Hong Kong before the second flight to New Zealand.
Once we establish which route and airline is the best price. Booking direct on that airlines own website, rather than through an agent or comparison site. I prefer to know that I’ve booked it direct. I join the relevant club with the airline to get their flying miles too. Also, if you fly regularly, the points on a long haul flight soon add up.
The only time I tried to book through a comparison website, the deal was too good to be true! Choosing a Singapore Airlines flight through Skyscanner, took me to an agents website to book. I was super excited at my deal. Having finished the online booking form. I received an e-mail a few hours later, telling me the flights were unavailable! Lesson learned I feel!
Booking a stopover is a great way to see somewhere new. It also gives a break between flights, this is a Multi-City flight.
Sometimes though, we just have a transit stop, this is when you land and wait to board the next flight. It could be a couple of hours or several hours, we always check these times when we book. Personally, we like a transit stop of around 3 hours. This is enough time to stretch the legs, freshen up and get some food before boarding again.
If we choose a stopover. It’s time to collect the luggage, grab a taxi or transport and head to the hotel for a few nights. It’s great to relax and explore.
If we’re in transit only, then we may have to collect our baggage and re-check it in. We had to do this, on our last flight through Houston. We found this route to New Zealand a rather tedious one. Firstly, even though we were only in transit through the USA. We still needed an e-visa, which we applied for online, for a small fee.
However, we found the whole process through the airport at Houston a bit of an ordeal! We needed to go through immigration, then collect our bags. Queueing in a very British fashion, staying behind marked lines. Waiting patiently to be called to a booth, by whichever official was free first.
I was summoned to an official, followed by Nigel to a different official a little further along. As I got waved through after a short questioning on where I was going and why. Poor Nigel was questioned over why he was flying to New Zealand, through the unusual route of the USA. Why did he book that flight? Who was he flying with? At this point, he thought, does the official mean Singapore Airlines, or my wife?!!
When he declared “my wife”, the official continued to ask, where I was and why I wasn’t with him! Luckily, by this time I was waving to him, like an overly excited tourist. Willing him to hurry up. I just wanted to collect my suitcase and a strong Americano, with my favourite hot milk on the side!
Nige then had his passport stamped. He was, however, sternly told, to in future, bring his wife with him to the desk! Well, being the rather independent woman that I am, I do find this rather offensive! To think that I should be attached to my husband in this way…….Or as I told the official on the return journey. Following 30 years together it’s rather nice to have a few minutes, in line by myself, especially, after a 13 hour flight!!
New Zealand, is two islands, known as The North Island and The South Island.
The capital, Wellington is in the South of the North Island. Auckland, which is more centre of the North Island is the larger International airport of the two and the more popular destination.
The main international airport for the South Island is Christchurch.
So how to decide where to fly to? Well, in actual fact, that’s not so difficult as the choice is almost made for you.
Firstly, if you’re wanting to book a motorhome hire in New Zealand on arrival. The main depot’s for the majority of motorhome hire companies is Auckland and Christchurch. Although Jucy rentals have a depot next to Wellington airport, they are in the minority.
Auckland is a great central place to start a trip. It’s the main hub for international flights. So, the choice of Airlines, flight times and subsequently getting the best pricing is good. All the major motorhome hire companies have a base on the outskirts of the airport. If you are collecting a campervan, then it’s an easy location for this.
If you’re thinking of buying a campervan or converting a van. Which is what we have done, then Auckland is really well situated. With just about anything and everything available and it’s the largest urban area in New Zealand. It’s also within good driving distances of many of the major tourist areas and large cities. Hamilton, which is where we sourced and converted our van is vast.
A flight into Christchurch is great for touring the South Island, especially if you’re short on time. Once you’re outside of the city, the areas become more remote and distances long, although, scenery is just amazing. There are motorhome rental companies based at Christchurch too. Ideal if you want to tour the South Island independently of the North.
New Zealand has a maze of internal flights, small airports and connections between. It’s standard practice to take a flight between places, which makes it easy to link between airports if needed.
I find, the best way to deal with the thought of flying for near on 24 hours is to not think about it!!
If I really do start to dwell on how long I’ve got to be sat there for. I make a point of breaking the journey into segments in my mind. A little bit like watching a film. You have the beginning, where you’re getting into what it’s all about. A middle, which is the gripping full blown story and the end. Where it all comes to a mighty conclusion!
A neck pillow is essential for me, also, my Beats headphones, which block out noise from the cabin. An eye mask too (such a lovely sight!).
Also, I try and book an aisle and a window seat. Where there’s a free seat between, in the hope that we won’t get someone booking it. It’s always worth asking at the gate, if any upgrades are available. Or if they can assist with any better seating, on our last flight we got offered a row of seats with extra leg room at no extra cost, which was great.
If you haven’t taken a really long flight in a while. You’ll be surprised at how much better aircraft is now, than it used to be. The cabin is quieter, air flow better, mood lighting makes it more relaxing. Generally, I think leg room is really good. There’s also fantastic entertainment systems, all the latest movies, music, TV programmes, box-sets, games. You name it, there’s plenty to keep you amused.
When I’m not eating or drinking, yes the cabin crew, are always feeding you one or the other. I find myself watching a film or putting on the eye mask, some soothing music through the headphones and before I know it, I’ve drifted off for a few hours. Usually waking up just in time for the next meal serving!!
Some airlines provide eye masks, compression socks, toothpaste and toothbrushes. As well as plenty of snacks available either through the monitor in your seat or by stretching your legs and making your way to the galley.
If you’ve only ever taken a short haul flight, you will notice the difference in the long haul experience.
This is a difficult one. It all depends on how much time you’re going to spend in New Zealand and how big your budget is. If you’re thinking of converting a van. Of course, you also have to be organised, capable and allow the time to do the conversion.
Hiring a motorhome is expensive, but, it’s your transport and accommodation in one. It’s also your cafe and gateway to some amazing locations to stop the night or take a picnic! The worry of things going wrong is left to the hire company. There’s no unexpected repairs or parts to have to pay for and you can just hand it back when your finished without the hassle of trying to sell it on.
If you’re planning on spending a good chunk of time in NZ. It may be worth investing in buying a campervan or converting an empty van.
It’s something we’d wanted to do for a long time. Holland and the Bulb Fields in a motorhome! However, we never managed to get round to actually going there.!
Our first trip to Holland, back in our touring caravan days had been a bit of a revelation! Come on, let’s face it. You never really hear of that many British folk, heading to that neck of the woods for their Summer holidays. But we loved it and always said we’d return.
The bulb fields of the Netherlands, are of course, world famous! Sprouting out of the earth each year, somewhere between late March and May (weather and bulb type depending). These amazing blooms of multi-coloured hyacinths, daffodils, crocus and Tulips and many other blooming lovely flowers. Are the epitome of Springtime Europe.
So heading off for a few weeks to catch the best of the blooms. Had us arriving in Abbenes, 7km from the world famous Keukenhof, that’s the world’s largest flower garden. Just in time to catch the height of the displays, during the 2nd week of April. This was the start of our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome.
The Netherlands is pretty campervan friendly. Although, they don’t have as good an Aire system as France or Germany. However, they do have lots of private camper-stops and we plodded over to Het Groene Hart. A perfect little small-holding type place. Situated right next to the cycle paths (that’s not too unusual!) and complete with toilets, showers and electric, perfect!
Holland is definitely one of those countries, where you are really having to literally get on your bike! Luckily for us, although we don’t have a bike carrier on our La Strada (that’s our campervan!). We do, very conveniently have our two folding Brompton Bikes. It’s at times like this, that they come into their own. As, no sooner had we got the van parked, than we were off out exploring.
Cycle heaven, it is! Off we peddled, firstly to Kaag, a pretty village. Where we hopped on a boat to cross a canal to a peaceful little island. All for 1 Euro each….bargain! A quick cycle round, before getting back on the boat and onwards then to Sassenheim and Noordwijk. Which is actually on the coast!
Yes, before we knew it, our little Brompton wheels, had covered a staggering 26 miles, we just couldn’t get enough! It helped when those first bulb fields came into view. Hyacinths of lilac, pinks and whites. We could smell the scent, before were set eyes upon them. It was like being in a florist shop!
So, this is how it is, if you want to see the bulb fields. Yes, you can see the masses of flowers, over quite a large area, 5000 acres of it. They are just planted in fields, as crops would be. Each field will grow a different variety, colour or mix. Therefore, the smells and vibrancy of the displays are just beautiful. There’s a driving route for the Bulb Fields, it’s signposted and easy to follow.
The route takes you through Noordoostpolder. But to get the most out of the season, it’s best to take to the bikes and make use of the Dutch cycle path systems. These are everywhere, easy to navigate and flat. This way, you can take your time and get up close and personnel with your favourite blooms.
It’s also possible to walk, but it’s vast areas, so those feet soon get tired. Then, there’s the campervan, driving is an option too. Although, somehow, you don’t seem to get the same intimate feel. You do, however, when you’re out in the open air, for hours on end!
Now, for our visit to the big tourist draw….that’s The Kukenhof! It’s popular, there are coach loads of visitors here. Car parks are full to the brim and flowers like you’ve never seen before….it’s just blooming marvellous!
It’s basically gardens, greenhouses, lakes, cafe’s, shops, filled with bulbs, to give us visitors a jolly good day out! It costs to get in. It was 16 Euro per adult on our visit in 2017 but worth it for the experience. We parked up easily enough despite the crowds. Wrapped up in the chilly winds, we took our time meandering though the various pathways and displays.
Personally though, were aren’t really ones for the tourist routes. If I’m honest, we were just as happy milling around the rainbow coloured fields surrounding the area. Driving on to Lisse, we had planned on a walk through the bulbs. But Sunday traffic jams prevented us from getting close enough.
Instead we headed North, out to the coast and the National Park Zuid-Kennermerland. This vast sand dune park, had us back on the Brompton’s along more excellent cycle paths. A great place for our picnic and our daily excercise!
A quick drive over to the promenade to catch a look at Zandvoort. Had us tempted out the van for a bit of a walk. Before parking up for the night at a campsite just outside Haarlam. Always hyperactive, it was back on the bikes after first stopping for a picnic. Along the easy 3km cycle route, arriving in the centre of Haarlem. A pretty nice, bustling town on a canal with town squares full of coffee shops and pavement bars.
We had tried to park in the centre, with the campervan. Unfortunately, our British bank cards weren’t accepted at the parking meters and neither was good, old fashioned cash! Something that seemed to be a bit of a pattern here.
Leaving the Bulb fields behind, Amsterdam came calling! There is a camper stop here, but as we pulled up at the locked gate, so did several other people! As the attendant came over to ask each van how long they’d like to stay. Our own response of “not sure yet”, didn’t go down too well. So we, hot footed out of there, to Camping Vliegenbos up the road.
At €26 per night, without electric (they had no pitches available with power), it wasn’t too bad a price. From here it’s 10 minutes max on your bike to the FREE ferry crossing. Which leads you to Amsterdam Central Station in just a few minutes. There are ferries running all day right through to midnight if needed.
Camping Vliegenbos is one of those that attracts the young backpackers. Now, this is Amsterdam, anything goes and you soon know about it at 3am. This is when the young mob, are still chanting, singing and smoking their recently bought Amsterdam specials!
That aside, it’s a good base and Amsterdam is fab! We used our Brompton’s to navigate the city, saving time and feet ache. It’s a free for all on the cycling streets of Amsterdam, an experience in itself!
If you haven’t been, Amsterdam is quite a place. It’s got charm in bucket loads! It’s different, very liberal and full of gorgeous character houses which line the canals.
There is, of course, the seedy side of town, the Red Light district, which is what it is. Then there’s the coffee shops, the smoke filled clouds of non-conventional tabacco drifting in a haze through the streets! Arty types are everywhere, bringing a youthful mix and a brilliant choice of vintage clothes with fabulous quirky stores.
If you want Anne Frank Haus museum, then book first. The queues are huge, we’d been on a previous visit, so gave it a miss this time. It’s a unique experience in itself. There are other museums, Van Gogh is one. We chose to just wander around the food halls, markets and intricate alleyways. The kind of back street side of the city.
Zaanse Schans was next on our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome. This place is a popular stop for the day trippers and you can see why! It’s not only a lovely village but it’s also home to several beautiful windmills. Housing various trades from clog makers to cheese producers, spices, shops and museums. There’s a parking fee for motorhomes of €10. Possibly a bit steep but it’s convenient and the place is rather lovely.
We stopped the night at Volendam at the Marina. A rather common practice in The Netherlands and a really good use of space for the motorhome folk. Volendam is a busy seaside town. Lots of tourists were milling around the traditional style buildings in the centre of town. A nice atmosphere with plenty of little shops and cafe’s.
It’s also a great place to cycle from to reach Edam, around 3km away. There was a bit of a headwind, so we took a bit longer! Edam is a nice small town, famous for the Cheese, but also a pretty place with canals and ornate buildings. Perfect for a quick nibble on the famous stuff before moving on to our next stop, Alkmaar.
A Park & Ride at Alkmaar was our handy parking spot. As usual on this trip, out came the Brompton’s and off we cycled for around 2km to the busy town centre. Lot’s of small shops, giving an individual feel mingled with more canals and nice architecture.
Driving on after a bit of an exploration on foot, we decided to stop the night at Hoorn. Here we found another marina that welcomed the motorhome’s, Jachthaven Grashaven, Hoorn. They also provided us with use of their facilities….hot showers (1Euro), waste emptying, electric and toilets. All for 15 Euro per night, a very welcome addition.
The following morning we walked into Hoorn from the Marina, another typically Dutch character town. Getting around in Holland is rather easy, everything is well sign-posted, so walking, cycling and driving is rather simplified.
After leaving Hoorn, we took a drive out to Enkuizen and Medemblik. Then over to the coast to Callantsoog before parking up for the night at the Marina Willemsoord in Den Helder. This old naval base is now a mix of shops and restaurants and has motorhome parking for 13.50 Euro per night. Including use of a the really excellent facilities. A contemporay shower and toilet area along with motorhome dump and electric (1 Euro for 2 hours) and free wi-fi.
From Den Helder, it was time to cross over the 30km long straight road across the sea to Kornwerderzand. Through Bolsward and on to Sloten. This small pretty little village was where we had lunch, next to a marina, of course, where else in Holland!
Next up was the most stunning, if not a little tourist ridden of places, Giethoorn. An area of National Park, small narrow canals and our stop for the night. Alongside a larger canal at a private campers top, Camperpaats Haamstede.
This quirky little camperstop at 13 Euro per night, included use of very good showers and toilets. They also provided a very eccentric indoor information room! Here, you could sit in an old barn type building. Where the owners had provided log burners, sofa’s and a range of rather unique artefacts scattered around to add to the feeling of being in some sort of abandoned forest hut…just up our street!
Next morning, we braved the cold wind and cycled across the canal. Along the hub of mini canals, tiny arched bridges and beautiful cottage style buildings. Rather a lot of tourists mingled through the paths, although it’s quieter than peak season apparently. This is Giethoorn, we’d never heard of the place before. Since our trip, lots of people, mainly Dutch folk that we’ve met on our travels. Have certainly mentioned it to us!
It’s swarmed by coach loads of day-trippers, so be warned! Visit off-season or arrive early or late if you’re there during Summer. There’s not much passing space on those little bridges, so you’d soon get frustrated. Those idyllic instagram shots, would probably have a few unknown’s glaring down your lens!
Never ones to follow like sheep. We were keen to get out out of the coach drop off zones of Giethoorn. Ready to explore the wider countryside on our bikes. So, 30km later, through the pretty Spring landscapes surrounding Giethoorn itself. We’d well and truly immersed ourselves into the quieter areas.
Full of pretty fields of crops, stalls selling local jams, hedgerows where nesting Tits flew out around us. Farmers gathering crops by hand, stopped to give us a nod, as we cycled past. An added adventure, of a small river crossing at Jonen, had us boarding a barge for 3 Euro. Always good to have something a little different and unexpected, we felt like something out of an Enid Blyton book!
Well and truly shattered after our day of peddling. We headed on to Arnhem and a camperstop out of the centre at Latham. This yacht club camperstop for 15 Euro, had showers (50c), toilets and dump station. It was a pretty spot, overlooking a lake, better than staying in Arnhem itself. Which had a rather uninviting looking motorhome Aire, by the river.
Taking a walk through Veluwe National Park on a well marked forest trail was a nice detour. Mainly because we like a forest walk. But also we had the great pleasure of witnessing a wild Stag run right in front of us! We always say, we never know what we’ll see on a walk! Usually it’s the wildlife that is the best surprise!
Arnhem itself, is incredibly interesting. If you don’t already know, it’s famous, due to the battle of September 1944. Which was then brought to to cinema world in the epic Holywood film, A Bridge Too Far. We parked up after driving over the the bridge. Before following a marked trail of commemorative points of interest through the town.
We find war history incredibly interesting. Perhaps, due to it being the era that our parents were born in and our grandparents fought through it. Arnhem has an excellent museum, located at Oostereek, in a beautiful mansion type property. This was headquarters of the allies during the war and now displays the most interesting of information, all about the battle, known as Operation Market Garden. It is apparently closed at present for major renovation works and isn’t due to re-open until the end of 2021.
From here, we walked through the grounds, which was the actual battlefield. It’s now a beautiful area of woodland, where marked footpaths take you through to various landmarks. Passing deer parks and pretty ponds. It’s always amazing how something so lovely can be born from such devastation.
Arnhem also has a really good town centre, some good shopping and plenty of cafe culture. For us though, it was time to head back into Belgium. For our last few days before catching the Calais ferry back to Dover. Until next time Holland! This concluded our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome.
We’ve covered all regions of France in our various motorhome’s, over the past couple of decades. For us, it’s a little bit like playing a favourite song on repeat! It’s so comforting and familiar and somehow lifts your spirits. Most of all, no matter how often you visit, it still leaves you wanting more!
We certainly, love all of France and it’s motorhome friendly Aire system, For us, there’s no doubt that some places leave a lasting impression. It’s those unique “WOW” factor moments, when your eyes catch a first glance of the most awesome sight. That unique, special element that almost takes your breath away!
It’s our Top Must See places to visit on a motorhome trip to France!
1. The Postman’s Palace
The correct title, is actually “Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval“. It’s a palace like no other, you probably won’t have seen one like it before and you’re unlikely, to ever see anything like it again!
It’s the result of the eccentric imagination of Ferdinand Cheval. A local postman who went about his daily rounds a little differently to your average postie, collecting stones along the way.
With them, over 33 years, he built this ingenious, elaborate, almost stage set masterpiece. It would look more at home on a Hollywood film set, rather than in the middle of the French countryside!
2. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie –
If you picture the most prettiest of French villages. Perch it high into the side of a cliff face, add the the ancient footings of a Medieval past and surround it with the glories of a Provencial countryside.
This is Moustier, typically a part of France that is exquisite and magical. When you first catch a glimpse upon the tiered stone dwellings, clinging to the rock face. It has you almost instantly drawn in.
Explore it deeper and the tiny alleyways, dreamy views and all that heat from the Summer sun. It will certainly, leaves you happily hypnotised in a French fancy!
3. Annecy and its Lake –
Think snow capped mountains of the Alps, throw in one of the cleanest lakes in Europe, and finish with a delightful whipped cream topping, of one of the most charming Medieval, canal-lined towns.
It oozes character in every corner, floral covered bridges criss-cross canals. Narrow streets lead to quirky antique markets. Whilst the blue, blue Lake is level playing as one of the most scenic locations in Europe. It’s a dreamy spot alright!
4. Lac de Sainte Croix –
A little further along the road from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and you catch sight of the brilliant blue lake of Sainte Croix.
It’s WOW factor all the way, as you cross towards the Gorge du Verdon. Where the blue waters meander into the narrow chasms of the high gorge walls. In the heat of a hot Summer, the water is too tempting to miss. Swim, take a picnic or hire a pedalo, whichever you choose, it’s just divine!
5. Pont du Gard –
You’ve got to give it to the Romans, they really did build things well! If you’ve not seen this yet, ask yourself why not?! This place is just awesome, in the most fascinating kind of way.
How on earth did they build these impeccable structures 2000 years ago? Hauling colossal blocks of stone to build this 160ft mega structure of an aqueduct?
It was in use for around 500 years…..imagine that! Carrying water to Nimes along a stretch of over 30 miles….Amazing!!
6. Aigues-Mortes –
The first time we entered this walled town, surrounded by the salt marshes on the edge of The Camargue. We couldn’t quite believe our luck at what we’d found!
It was a hot, bustling July evening, with atmosphere pounding off the enclosed walls. Inside, streets filled with restaurants spilling out onto the cobbles, we were hooked!
This once busy port is now a few miles from the sea, but still holds all it’s charm in the salty Mediterranean air.
7. Arles –
With it’s Van Gogh connection, incredible Roman ruins and all the charms of a Provence town, Arles is just a treat!
It has one of our favourite Arena’s (that’s the Roman kind!). Incredibly intact, somehow it’s position is a little more intimate than some of the other Roman Arena’s that we’ve visited.
With the Rhone river passing through intricate streets and with so much history, this place is pretty neat!
8. Eze –
This is a little gem of a village, perched high above the Cote d’Azur. It oozes character, class and charm at every angle.
It’s tiny, with a maize of narrow alleyways. Stunning views flowing out across to the Med and some very upmarket accommodation, to tempt you out of the campervan!
It’s a great place to explore, on a hot Summer evening, as the sun begins to set. Be warned, you won’t want to leave!
9. Pont d’Arc –
The Ardèche river weaves its way through the Gorges de l’Ardéche. Where canoeing, rafting and all things water related can be done here. We love the natural limestone arch that spans the waters of the river. It’s a perfect viewpoint from the road above, enabling you to look down over the river and arch.
This whole area is a natural paradise and in Summer it’s just wonderful.
10. Hyères –
The old historic town, along with a coastal splendour full of peninsula inlets. It’s just beautiful.
A coastal walkway through shaded pines, lead to some incredible little rocky bays and crystal clear blue and green waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s such a great place to relax. Off peak, you’ll find an inlet just for you!
11. The Chateaux of The Loire –
It’s too difficult to choose just one! There are too many gorgeous castles in the Loire.
The Loire is certainly going to bring enough fairytale magic, to last a lifetime! It’s also a fascinating region, with lots of extra magic along the route. Who can forget the mighty Loire River, that follows you through the landscapes.
12. St.Tropez –
It’s one of the most famous of all French resorts. Is it really, full of hype and shallow, celebrity super yachts? Or is there really a little more to this international hot spot?
If you get beyond the day trippers, the flashy image and superstar appeal. There’s a very different side to this charming harbour town. It’s full of character at it’s core. With the added advantage of some superb beaches and a really nice coastal walkway through it’s more natural surroundings.
We have to say, we really like it here and there’s always the people watching to keep you entertained too!
13. The D-Day Landing Beaches –
The Normandy beaches are heart-wrenching. It’s the most compelling of sights, incredibly fascinating, being such a recent part of our history.
Not forgetting, the emotional rollercoaster, that this part of France takes you through. The enormity of the sacrifices made is forever etched on our memory.
14. The Battlefields of The Somme –
The battlefields and the blood bath of the Somme is engrained in the history of so many nations.
Men who lost their lives to the horrors of the war, carried out in the mud bath of the trenches. Those men, could never have envisaged such horror.
Driving through this region brings home to you the savage losses. War graves are commonplace where, the earth beneath holds the resting place of so many.
15. Le Grand Bornand –
This is our most favourite place in the French Alps. Come Winter or Summer, it’s full of Alpine charm, excellent skiing, hiking and traditional quaint wooden chalets, to add to the ambiance.
It’s a sleepy sort of place, with not too much going on, except the occasional sound of cattle bells from the grazing cows. Who, by the way, must be thanked for the fabulous cheeses produced here!
Church bells ringing at dawn, and the sweet smell cooking on the open log burning fire are delightful. Hopefully, you’d just love this place too!
16. Carcassonne –
It’s the citadel that everyone’s heard about, it’s big, touristy and can get very hot inside those walls. It’s one of those tick box towns that you just have to do!
Not least, it’s character at every angle. A maze of busy streets where you can’t help get cosy with the crowd, in the hot summer months!
Not forgetting, it’s a UNESCO status, and totally medieval, therefore, it’s certain to be totally intriguing and utterly irresistible!
It’s the one thing you can’t avoid, when a campervan pulls in alongside that peaceful parking spot. Out come the owners, bearing a striking resemblance to Clark Griswold’s cousin Eddie, in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation! Yes, remember that scene with the RV and the contents of the toilet?. It’s the most annoying Motorhome neighbours ever!
The shenanigans begin to unwind and all you can do in a very British fashion, is sit back with gritted teeth. Whilst you contemplate your next move!
It’s enough to have you grimacing over your tea and biscuits. You peer up from your book, hoping to avoid eye contact. Then dash indoors for any excuse to escape ,or hide behind the dark sunglasses. Even though the sun has just disappeared behind a thick black cloud!
Well it’s great to have a bit of a chat every now and then. A few pleasantries, neighbourly greetings and quick small talk on the weather (ok we’re British!!). More often than not, it’s about the van, or even the smell of the sausages grilling on the barbecue.
Sometimes, though, we can’t wait to get away from the small talk! Or even have to move the van completely, to find solace from the most annoying Motorhome neighbours or their habits.
Yes, I think you get our drift. You’ve been there, you know all too well what we’re talking about. So without further ado, here’s our pick of the most annoying motorhome neighbours.
We don’t even have a TV!
Heck I know, it’s extreme, we must be odd, slightly weird. Maybe we just like to meditate all day, whilst humming to ourselves in an eccentric sort of head clearing way! We’ll leave that one open to the imagination!
So, why do other people think that the sound of their TV should be heard loud and clear across the parking spot? Through their doors, windows and over into our space?
That’s after they’ve spent hours fiddling with the satellite receiver, resembling something from NASA HQ. In the van, out, round the van, move the lead, get the spanner out. The whirl of the dish spinning out of control on the roof (or even worse, on the ground!).
Daytime, night, morning. There’s no escape, the most boring, dull TV shows, sport, soaps and films. It seems people will just watch any old garbage, and they have no regards to sharing it with everyone around them!
Then there’s night fall. The blinds stay open and they resume position, sat rigid in front of the screen. But now the bright flickering lights shine straight at us, so we’re not only hearing it, but seeing it too!! Time to shut our blinds, hide away and get the head phones out to dull the pain!
Here we go, how many times have you had this one happen?! Yes, you’ve got a great little spot and a nice view. Just settling down to a good read or sip of your favourite Red, when along comes a “Space Invader”!
They may look like they’ve landed from another planet. With the way they look around at the empty campground, Aire or camperstop. Whilst you’re hoping that they choose the further most spot away, from your cosy corner. Then what do they go and do? It’s the most annoying Motorhome neighbours.
Yep, they only drive as close to you as they can possibly get! Coming in at an angle more suited to a F1 track. As you’re left holding on to your sun chair for dear life, waiting for an impact!
Is it some sort of game? Do they do this on purpose? Are they secretly having a bit of a laugh, seeing how many of us they can take out in one sweep of the steering wheel?
As the handbrake goes on, the clattering begins inside, as the cupboards open. The kettle goes on, and we’re left looking at the side wall of a van. Or if we’re really unlucky, right through the side window into their van world!
Oh goodness, there is nothing worse. The roaring, moaning, thumping, droning, seemingly endless noise of this dreaded machine!
You can hear them before you see them. Follow the sound, ears pierced to the point of no return. That sound is in your head and you can’t get rid of it. Nothing quells the vibration, whirling through the air.
You think it’s the van next door, you’re just about to give the look of despair to your worried looking neighbour. When you notice the chunky box rattling outside of a van, a few doors down.
Yep, they could be a million miles away, but the echo reverberates round like a bad smell. It’s the faux-pas of motorhome travel. Exclusive to those who haven’t enough battery power to be off-grid, haven’t they heard of clean energy? Shouldn’t they really be hooked into power at a campsite? Especially if they need so much power, to warrant carrying the National Grid in a box with them?
Whatever, your thoughts on that one, you have to agree, they sound awful and look pretty bad outside the van. When the rest of us are trying to be discreet, it spoils the peace and quiet for us previously happy campers! So it’s a thumbs down all round!
You’re all parked in a row. Door left, door right, nose in, nose out, habitation door etiquette, is just so important, isn’t it?
You’ve seen it, everyone’s following the flow. Parking nice and sensibly, so as to not park door to door with the neighbour. Then along comes the spoiler, who only goes and parks the wrong way! Sooooo annoying!!! Or are we just too perfectionist, having to have the Feng Shui just so?
We think not! Who wants to be that friendly with the stranger neighbour? Doors flung open, deckchairs out, BBQ sizzling, right next to each other! No thank you!!
We value our privacy and other people’s. After all, you just can’t help having a nosy into their van and vice-versa. What are they doing in there? What layout have they got? What’s that big fluffy thing dangling off the bathroom door?!! Goodness knows what their saying about us, it’s the most annoying Motorhome neighbours.
We’ve had the Generator, now the next best worst camper faux pas! Yep, it’s the dreaded time the engine kicks in. Rumbling on and on and on, to charge their leisure battery!
Please, get a solar panel, get two or find a campsite!! Anything to stop disturbing the sweet sound of birdsong, whilst we gasp for air. As the exhaust fumes from their aptly located exhaust pipe, gushes out tonnes of smokey black omissions, into the the side of our van!
Do they not know we are choking on their carbon monoxide riddled plumes? Are they too oblivious to realise where that exhaust pipe is located? Yes, ignorance is bliss it seems. Either that, or they just don’t give a stuff!
So if you haven’t experienced this yet, we’ll fill you in on a fine example, from a time several years ago on an Aire in Reims. It was a dark, wet, Winter and the Aire in Reims isn’t the most scenic. It’s basically a car park, marked bays so you’re close to your neighbour.
On went the rattling engine of our neighbours Motorhome. Whirling out the most grubby looking fumes into the atmosphere beside us. Unfortunately, these fumes were finding there way into our Motorhome, then a Carthago A-Class. Leaving us breathing in, the dirty fuel remnants and a very nasty taste in our mouths!
To escape the unpleasantries, we hot-footed into the city. But it did make us think what would have happened if we’d been asleep? Could we have succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning? Who know’s, but the offenders kept that engine rumbling on for over an hour. With no shame, just who’s brash enough to do that sort of thing?! It must be the most annoying Motorhome neighbours.
So, we all like a bit of a natter, but some people just don’t stop!
Just the other morning, we we’re woken up by a group of noisy foreign language talk. Giggling and high voices at midnight, followed by a 5am encore by the same neighbours! No respect for other people and total disregard for waking up the whole row of campers. Just because they don’t want to sleep!
Then there’s those that just don’t stop to draw breath….talk talk talk all day. Well into the night and the early in the morning. We end up hearing every bit of dialect, not usually that interesting to keep the ears tuned in for – we wish!
Not forgetting, the ones that just love the sound of their own voice! Yes, they have to get those vocal tones shouting out above the rest. Coming over to start conversation, which is usually all about them!
We don’t think we fall into their category, but perhaps some would disagree! We’ve all seen them, pull into a parking spot, reverse, drive forward, turn around, forward again, back, slightly over to the left then to the right….phew, this is hard work! Then, just when you think it’s all over, low and behold, they change parking spot altogether and start the whole process again.
But that’s not it. They then decide to get out the levelling ramps….crikey, out pops the director (that’s usually the woman, not sexist, just fact). Up go the rev’s and Whoa…..straight over the front ramps onto the grass!!
If that’s not enough, they try for a 2nd time. Half way up, the handbrake’s yanked up, the van comes to an almighty stop, and the camper now resembles The Leaning Tower of Pisa. There they go again, the most annoying Motorhome neighbours.
Rather than attempt a 3rd go at the blocks, they save face and stay poised in situe. Hoping the ramps hold, whilst they get the stepladder out to climb into the van, and everyone else looks on in amusement!
We do have to have a bit of a giggle at these sorts. Why do so many people in Motorhome’s think levelling ramps are an essential part of the parking process? Do they not know that the clue is in the name? Yes, they are intended for use on uneven ground! On slopes, where there’s big dips in the terrain, but not for parking up on the level!!
In fact, we find them a pain and don’t actually carry any of the purposely made manufactured ones. Choosing instead to go, au-naturel with a couple of pieces of wood or even a rock (don’t try this at home!!). Never on level ground though, I hasten to add!
We can never understand these types, but then again, we are rather hyperactive! We do tend to think we’re a long time dead, so would rather be out and about at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Rather than getting cosy indoors, for a couple of hours shut eye!
Strange thing is, they don’t mind slouching it out for all to see. Usually on the cab swivel seat, reclined as far back as possible. Or feet up on the front lounge couch, propped up by cushions, mouth open, tissue to catch the dribbles!
Then, it begins! That loud, grunting, almost earthquake like, (yes we’ve had the shakes in New Zealand, so we know the sound!), the rhythm is rather good actually. It’s a constant tune, never sways off pitch, and is enough to capture everyone’s attention. Not to mention, the most annoying Motorhome neighbours!
So, whilst they are in the oblivious land of nod, we make for a sharp exit to get the ageing legs exercised, and escape the thunderous groans from next doors vibrating van. Funny thing is, they wake up looking rather worse for wear, with a jaded lack of fresh air look to the complexion. Totally unaware of the annoyance caused, from their grunting noise levels.
They want to use the fine old Aire system, or similar Motorhome parking facility so widely used across Europe. But hold on! They think they can bring not only the Motorhome, but, a trailer, car, boat or whatever other towable item, that can be hitched on the back of the already very long Motorhome.
Just when space is tight enough, for all those sticking to the one parking spot rules. They decide to take over 2 spaces, to fit the oversized outfit. Just how inconsiderate can people be! Unhitching the trailer, rolling off the tow car and parking them alongside too!
Then there’s the friends and family. Insistent on getting parking spaces together, leaving a gap in between and setting out the party atmosphere on the middle parking space. It’s where tables, chairs and awnings are now taking centre stage.
Do they not know that a camp site is more suitable for the spread yourselves out culture? Probably not, and they certainly don’t seem to care. Leaving other campervan owners out on the road, when the Aire is full with the Double Parker’s of this world.
It’s a hot day, the blistering sun is out, the Aire (or similar European Motorhome facility) is full to bursting. There you are trying to find a space and there they are, sitting happily under the fully extended awning. Almost laughing at you, as you circle the parking area in desperation.
Don’t you just love your neighbours! They can be so inconsiderate, not one inch of movement from them, no calling over to direct you to the free space dominated by their massive Awning. No they just sit it out, they’ve marked their territory and they are staying put!
Thankfully, a rather kind (usually French) camping-car gentleman or lady takes pity on us. Waves us over, hops in the driver seat and makes enough space, for us to squeeze in beside them. As we all make hand gestures, directed at the rather smug Awning lover across the way.
Far-fetched? Hardly, it’s an every day occurrence in peak season Europe. If you haven’t been yet, but are venturing that way this Summer, you’ll soon know what we mean!
They think nothing of popping out for a few hours and leaving the little fluffy cuties sat in wait, in the Motorhome window.
As soon as they’ve disappeared off to the shops or wherever it is they’ve gone to, it starts! The little cuties are no more, and instead, they turn into the Hounds of the Baskervilles on heat! Yap yap yap yap, it does not stop! From adorable puppy dog eyes, to monster guard dogs within a couple of barks.
Gone is the yearning for a dog moment, that we’d had a few moments ago. Instead, in comes the “thank goodness they’re not ours” thoughts, as everyone starts glaring at the van.
We all start willing the quick return of the owners. Obsessed with every passer by, hoping this is them returning with doggie treats, and with it a return to peace and quiet.
The odd thing is, when they do make an appearance, they have no clue that the 4-legged friends, who’ve suddenly become adorable again, have been such an attraction, for all the wrong reasons! When they go off for walkies, we can all breathe a final sigh of relief!
It’s hot hot hot, and that means the sight of pale flesh browning, under the bright blue skies. Out it comes, all shapes and sizes, the fit ones, the tanned and toned, the ones that haven’t seen the gym for a while, and those that have never tried to increase that heart rate!
They love to bare all to anyone who’ll take a peak. Happy to come for a chat over the cornflakes, as it all hangs out, good and bad, casting a great shadow over the al-fresco breakfast table.
We’ve seen it all, shiny swimwear thongs, that’s men and women, underwear, dressing gowns flapping open in the breeze, skimpy shorts, where there’s more hanging out than they realise. Strapless, backless, topless….when the sun comes out, so does everything else!
You try and be polite as you catch their eyes, Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Hi, Guten Morgen, whatever the nationality, there’s always the grumpy ones. That look like they want to be anywhere, but away in their van.
So you smile a little, and pretend you just haven’t been snubbed. As the awkwardness sets in, they just blank you!
You can’t believe it, how rude, did that just happen? So to make sure you haven’t just dreamt it or mistaken the moment, you try again, only to get a bit of a half, under the breath reaction back. Which confirms that, hey, they just don’t wanna be friendly today!
So that’s fine, turn away and carry on with the day, but it sort of makes it all a bit uneasy. Like you’ve upset them or they just don’t like the look of you, so before we get too much of a complex. We retreat to neutral territory, turn the other cheek and pretend we’re not bothered.
It’s strangely apt that we’ve just experienced one of these arrogant types this very day! We’ve come across this sort before, watched from a far as they march forth, ensuring nothing gets in their way!
Whether that be the need for that parking spot, you’re just leisurely eyeing up or jumping the queue at the dump area. Yes, we’ve seen them, and I’m sure you have too. But what’s their problem? Why is there so much urgency to get ahead in-front of us patient folks? Are we all just waiting in an orderly fashion for the fun of it?
We arrived at a Freedom Camping spot in New Zealand a couple of weeks ago, to a chaotic scene. Motorhome’s reversing out, others coming in, nose to nose, no room to move. As we approached the scene, wondering who was doing what and assessing the situation. One elderly Kiwi couple, rammed on the accelerator to pass us, shouting out as they went “don’t think you’re getting in there bitch”!!
I don’t think I’ve ever really been called “a bitch” before, well certainly not to my face. But more than that, we had no intention of parking up where they so desperately wanted for themselves. Let alone our desire, to park amongst motorhome folk of that nature!
Fast forward a couple of weeks and we are minding our own business, emptying our waste, filling the fresh, yes the chores! Now in New Zealand, there are no drive over waste drains for the grey water, like our European friends. Instead there is a floppy plastic pipe, which you attach to the waste outlet and dangle it into the same drain as the loo (it’s not a good idea!).
There is no way to quicken the process. You just have to wait for it to drain, rinse out the pipe, fold it all away and the next in line can then do the same. Well, astounded were we, when low and behold, along pulls up a motorhome hire van. Out jumps a British guy who grabs his cassette toilet, darts over to us, almost elbowing us out the way, takes off his cassette cap ready to empty the contents all over our waste pipe!!
Thank goodness we were alert to his presence. Keeping a close eye on his movements, we had enough sharpness in our step, to quickly grab our waste pipe, haul it out the way and watch aghast.
He continues to arrogantly tip his slops out over the drain! Whilst us two mere mortals, stood trying not to catch a whiff of the slop, plop, spilling out in front of us!
Without a moment to catch breath, he’d disappeared back to his wife, who was by now hanging out the habitation door, hurrying him along!
Yes, you can feel our annoyance, but writing about it gets it quickly off the chest! Seriously though, this is something we’ve seen happen to other people and had similar back in Europe ourselves. Do people have no shame, it’s all so territorial, so last century!! After all, it’s the most annoying thing about Motorhome neighbours!
Our Sprinter at an Italian Sosta, overpowered by the neighbours!
Thanks for reading The most annoying thing about Motorhome neighbours.
I recently wrote a little blog piece about the reality of vanlife. With the focus, being on how those glossy instagram pics and blogs, are often not quite what they seem! Following our years of travels, here’s our 16 must know facts of vanlife. For all those thinking of buying that motorhome or campervan.
If you’ve read it, you’ll know about the day, when we met some, almost celebrity like, Instagram Vanlifer’s. However, all wasn’t quite so glossy in real life!!
We’ve seen and heard it all, in the now bombarded world of social media. But who really knows their vanlife facts? And which bloggers, are just writing about any old stuff? Just to get an extra advert on their web page, or a “like” on Facebook or Instagram?
Now it’s time to lift the lid, on what we know to be, the most fabulous way of travel. The nomadic lifestyle, that comes with this marvellous, but often glossed over illusion of #vanlife!
Wild camping is certainly illegal in most of Britain. It’s also frowned upon, by locals in nearly all the countries we go to. There are a large number of people, however, claiming to park up night after night in the wild. Maybe, failing to admit that they arrive late and leave at sunrise! This, is because they don’t want to get caught in the act!
Goodness, I know what you’re thinking and yes, that’s not our idea of fun either! We hate the thought of parking on a road or grotty car park….But that’s what some actually do, so forget the nightly beachside location, white sands or mountain backdrop…they are rare!!
Even when a country is extremely campervan friendly, there are still big rules to follow. We’ve all seen signs to warn us off, “no Motorhome”, “no camping” or “no overnight stays in vehicles”. Sometimes, all three will tell you where to sling your hook!
To ignore them is to risk official warnings or even big fines. To put it simply, you can’t just park up where you like as many would have you believe.
If we’re in a country, that provides specific overnight camper parking, as part of their furniture (yes there are many!). These certainly, still have rules. Often, there are signs at specific areas, detailing the sections to park. Many have notices telling you where not to park too!
They’ll always have a restriction on the number of nights you can stop. Probably a few days at the most, and very often it’ll be a marked parking space. Where you can just about open your door to get out, without banging into the side of next door!
In countries where you think it’s just ok to park up. I’m thinking back to our own trip to Spain, where there were dozens at at time. When we read the local news, however. More often than not, both authorities and locals alike, just want the whole lot of wild campers banned. Incidentally parts of Portugal (The Algarve) have just recently started introducing.
One last word of warning. Those areas, providing dedicated parking for motorhome and campervan’s, aren’t always free!
Even if you take your chances with a spot of wild camping, it doesn’t solve the problem of the dump! If you’re a “newbie”, excuse the term but it seems to be the trend! This is getting rid of waste products in the van. That’s dirty water from dishes and showering, also, washing and anything else that end’s up down the sink!
In Britain, the only way to do this is to book into a caravan site….Blimey….that’s extreme I hear you say, but this is real life now and authorities in Britain don’t provide Motorhome dumps.
Europe, of course, is completely different. Where, drive over dumps, are pretty much part of the furniture, in towns across the Channel. Just look on your Campercontact App or follow the standard dump signs. Usually these are a universal bright blue with a white camper outline. Release the values and let the dirty water flow!
What’s NOT the right choice and you know it! Is to keep those drain valves open, leaving those grey tanks to empty in the countryside! This is the biggest camper faux pas! Best don’t go there! Definitely, if you decide to chance it, don’t get caught!
We have, of course, seen plenty of vans doing just that. Angry passers by, running after the culprits. Who, afterwards, innocently deny any knowledge of the said deed!! Yeh, we know what they’re up to!!
To poo or not to poo!!…..Oh goodness, yes we really are talking dirty now!
I recently read a blog about how good it was to wild camp in Britain in a van. Hmmm, not sure about that claim!. A tip on making sure you buried your poo away from water, so many inches deep was mentioned too! Are people serious??!!! Those rules may apply to people camping out in a tent, when hiking up a mountain. Is it really what’s expected of us vanlife community?!
If it is, forget it, count me out! I don’t like the idea of having to poo in the bushes. I’m not sure why, us professional vanlife folk would feel the need! We, surely, have a portable loo or a built in cassette toilet? Can’t people at least wait to use the public loos!
If people are serious about living in a van. The loo will soon become very well used! A vital part of the routine on the road, will be emptying it’s contents, lovely!
We think water would be easy to find. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case at all. Sometimes, we’ve driven miles out of our way, because we’re trying to find a tap. All due to the need to fill up the fresh water. Even then, we’ll find somewhere, only for it to display a sign, stating “not for drinking”.
I say to anyone looking for a campervan or motorhome, to get really good sized fresh water tanks. Add a couple of portable containers too. If you have an opportunity to fill up, do it! Even if the tanks aren’t completely empty!
It’s finding a dump station in Europe, or a caravan site in Britain. For goodness sake, make sure you don’t use the toilet cassette tap and hose to fill the fresh! We see people do this all the time and it’s horrible. Do they not realise, what people do with that dirty bit of hose pipe?!
It’s just drab, short days, dark nights, cold, freezing, windy, wet, dull, some sun, depending where you go!
If you’re not able to sit outside for months on end, living in a van can be just miserable! It might not be what you want to hear, but hey, this is warts and all.
If you can head South to chance a bit of sun, there’s a downside, everyone else is doing the same! As most of the population, are in work for the Winter. This generally means, sharing the warm spots of Europe, i.e Spain and Portugal, with lots of older retired folk. Or as they say in Australia, “The Grey Nomads”. Who are, before I get corrected, heading North not South down under!!
As I’m no longer grey-free, or full of youth myself, this isn’t too much of a hardship. As long as they have a few tales to tell, I’m quite happy to listen!
Summer in Europe has the windows open with us, sweating buckets on top of the sheets at 3am! But, then we get worried about security, so the windows are closed and we get hotter! Those sleepless nights then get longer!
You should have had air-con I hear you say! Well, if we wanted to be hooked up to power on a campsite every night fine. That, however, is not our thing. With no amount of off-grid solar and batteries, being powerful enough to run an air conditioning unit. More important things need the power and who wants that bulky looking system, fitted on the roof anyway?!
At the other end of the spectrum. When it’s cold out, the heating is on. Therefore, it’s often too hot when it’s fired up and too chilly inbetween. Getting the right temperature is a work of art, especially during the night. There’s often a cold spot somewhere, usually, it’s in the cab. Whereas, the shower is ultra hot, therefore, it’s the next best thing to a Sauna!
Winter without heating, no chance!! A van gets icy cold, it’s heating on, before turning back the duvet in the morning for us two!
You’ve seen the pics and the blog claims. All this “wild camping” in exotic locations, not a power lead in sight!
Reality check time!! Unless you’ve really got loaded up with solar panels, a big invertor and very big battery power. You’re going to have to plug into power every couple of days.
Power is like water, it’s precious and needs conserving. It’s no use, having more than a couple of light on, watching those favourite soaps on satellite TV. Keeping the absorber fridge well chilled and blasting off the air con unit!
If you want all that and more, a powered campsite is the only way to go.
If you’ve built your own van. Or bought a van based on Skiing in the Alps. Rather than sitting on a campsite in Britain. Then this hopefully won’t effect you!
I’m not talking the condensation on the windscreen here. That’s something that is hard not to have at some point. No, think inside the van, we’ve experienced it first hand on a past Motorhome and it’s a menace! Wet bedding, damp cupboards, wet mattress. Yes, it can be soaking wet too. Then comes mould and before you know it, warped wood, things peeling away and damp smells.
The trick is to have well insulated walls, floors, double floors, a mattresses with air circulation below etc etc etc!
When it’s cooking/showering time it’s ventilate time, windows open!
Build or buy wisely and condensation shouldn’t be on your annoyance list.
No matter how much insulation is lining those walls, floors, ceilings, these vans will still leave you cold. Heating can get costly, so what system is used to keep you comfy is super important.
If you’re living the vanlife, you need the easy life. When it comes to keeping toasty on the road, we love Diesel heating. Yes, it’s from the engine, not a separate tank incase you’re too afraid to ask! It’s also a handy bonus to use while you drive….what’s not to love about that!
We’ve had lots of gas heating and if you’ve got it, you’ll know it’s a bit of a pain! Gas bottles or tanks, both need re-filling or swapping and regularly. It’s every few days in winter….so yes it gets costly too! Not to mention, different gas systems and fittings in different countries.
Electric, forget it, that means power supply and that has to mean a campsite. At best, finding a camperstop in the country you’re in with a high enough amp to power it. That’s not easy!
OK, so you don’t mind plugging in at a campsite. But most European sites, if they are actually open at all, that’s another story! Usually, these only have low amps. So, that means just enough for a low setting on the heating. Only if you haven’t got several other electrical favourites on at the same time!
Isn’t it all just so trial and error!
Campervans wild camping, leaving litter, using the bushes as a toilet and having campfires at night. That’s everything that’s been thrown at the wild camping, van community world wide!
Councils ban campervans. Locals often hate the sight of them. Between the two, it results in a bad name for all those who are responsible. Those civilised amongst us, become paranoid about getting tarnished with the same brush. There are too many bad ass vannies who overstep the mark.
Who knows what misgivings people get up to. We’ve seen first hand, local’s making just as much mess, as those reported vanlife folk. So, how can the leftover rubbish, excrement and litter, possibly be identified to a definite individual? Unless there is proof of the offender, often it’s too easy to presume blame.
At the end of the day a Campervan, van or Motorhome, is an easy target for blame. So we should all stick to the rules. Leave no trace and give none of the locals ammunition to hate us!
So the heat is on, picture the scene. It’s Summer in a hot Europe or any other part of the world. The windows are down, the roof vents open and doors flung back. Then, a plume of dust fills the air from a gust of wind or a passing car. Quickly, it rises from the unsealed road, gravel parking spot or even parched campsite!
Suddenly the inside of the van resembles a fog filled Victorian London! If you weren’t quick enough to close those doors & windows. The inside of the van, from bedding to sofa and cab to kitchen become coated. In a powder of red, yellow or just plain old grey! When the dust has settled, a thin layer sits proudly across the furniture.
It’s now you wish you hadn’t just spent money at the laundry, washing the fresh cotton linen bedding that morning. Worse still, not covering up the light cream upholstery. That looked so good on display in the show room or glossy pic when you chose the colour scheme.
Your living in a tin box, not much bigger than an average sized spare bedroom. Sharing the smallest of spaces together 24/7.
You HAVE to get along in every circumstance before you set foot in a van. If you don’t, be prepared for cabin fever! Bickering, arguments, differences of opinion and even more annoying, not having the same goal in mind. Not to mention, not enjoying the same interests or hobbies on the road and then, wishing you were somewhere else!
Then there’s the inhibitions! There’s not much you can hide in a small space. You hear every little noise, ranging from toilet duties and snoring to farting. In fact, every bodily function, from getting dressed and undressed to showering and washing.
You so have to want to be with that person. Know them inside and out, to get the best out of sharing the same dream.
If you need a little space and it’s been raining cats and dogs for days on end. There’s not much way of escape from each other.
In a nutshell, there’s no quick getaway to friends or family for a couple of hours a day. It may be several weeks or many months with just you and your chosen on road partner. Unless, you’re a solo vanlifer, when the only person you have to get on with is you!
Back to the dirty business! Something we witnessed in Spain a few years ago, really sunk to new levels of crap things to do, pardon the pun. We couldn’t believe our eyes, but our nose felt the after effects for some weeks afterwards!
As we tucked into our egg sandwiches, alongside a lovely sandy beach. Surrounded by Motorhomes & vans I may add. Out came a guy from a nearby motorhome. He was carrying his cassette toilet to the sand dunes, in front of us. You know what’s coming, but here it is anyway….he actually did it, he emptied the contents straight into the sand, no shame, no checking to see who was looking, no digging holes….yuk, yuk, yuk!!
No wonder, the locals in many places are so keen to get rid of us all!. Not for the squeamish, but thankfully our European friends provide the Motorhome dump for doing the said deed.
So there we are at the dump. Waiting patiently for the person in front to get on with the it, why do people take so long? We know to expect to see half the contents of the previous person’s waste matter splattered across the toilet drain. Or, certainly get a down wind whiff, as they pour the contents hastily down the pipe, and they hope that no one else is getting to look at what’s coming out!
I know, you just can’t help but catch a sneaky peek! As hard as you try not to look, when you think it’s all over, you suddenly notice you’ve caught sight of the contents of last nights vindaloo…..this is such a dirty business!
Back in Britain, the loo emptying is a rather more hidden affair. Often out of sight behind closed doors, on a caravan site of course, is where you’ll find the rather private toilet emptying facility. Doesn’t it sound so much more sophisticated!
Now there’s one big downside to this enclosed situation. Unless you’re any good at holding your breath for several minutes, which we are not. Then this can become all a bit overwhelming. As the aroma of freshly poured sewage, quickly fills the air. You soon realise why the Europeans prefer the outdoor variety!
If you’ve ever slept in a tent, you’ll know that sounds in the night are hard to silence! Well, sleeping in a van is loads better. But, if you’re a light sleeper, those noises in the dead of night, will soon have you twitching the curtains. To check what’s going on in the wilderness.
From road noise to birds, dare I mention the cockerel! Then there’s wind, rain, hail, waves, rivers, waterfalls, trains, lorries, aircraft, farm machinery, people, animals, church bells, cattle bells. If you’ve toured Austria, you’ll be with me on this one! Sirens, the unexplained, the unidentified and the plain old unimaginable! Thinking back to the time when we we’re woken up by the town’s automated grass sprinkler system firing up in the middle of the night. Unbeknown to us, we’d parked right over it!!
We’ve always been fortunate to own our vans from new. Now you’d think that would make a huge difference, in dealing with things going wrong and yes, you are right!
But, as with all things new or old. It doesn’t always mean that it will be a fault-free experience from the start. The chances are, they’ll be something big or small that’s not working, as it should. And when you’ve set off from the dealer or driven off in your pride and joy self-build. It’s an absolute pain to have to sort out problems.
With the habitation side, it really, really helps if you’re handy. Having past experience or at least having spent some time away in a campervan, motorhome or even a touring caravan. When a fault occurs, we always say to people to go back to basics. 9 times out of 10, it’s something really simple that’s wrong. Nothing that needs no more than a bit of thinking out, elimination and common sense.
But, sometimes, it’s more than that and it’s then, that we have to be prepared to sort a problem ourselves. Thankfully Nige is handy and knowledgeable. If it’s really something that we can’t tackle, it’s a case of grabbing the bull by the horns and making off to a dealer or repairer to get looked at properly.
Even if it is something we can sort ourselves, sometimes we’ll need parts. These may be far in comparison to where we are, so it’s usually easier to just drive there and get the problem sorted. Rather than sit it out for weeks waiting.
Before you ask, yes we’ve had to call out roadside assistance a few times. One time, we’d just arrived at an orchard in rural France. When our Fiat suddenly started wallowing out bucket loads of steam. Within an hour, our Fiat Assist in the UK had arranged a local garage to come to us. The part was repaired first thing the next morning without having to move the camper.
The key is preparation and not to panic. Have a spares kit on board for the basics and always have European breakdown cover. Regardless of age of the van, this is crucial for peace of mind and avoiding expensive recovery bills.
One thing’s for sure, at some point something will go wrong. It’s how you manage it when things do go tits up that counts!
Yes, a shower in a van is great to have and pretty essential in Europe. Where public showers are few and far between.
Well, forget the good old shower that you’d have in a hotel or back in your bathroom back in Britain! A van shower is functional. It’s governed by a limited supply of hot water, from small boilers which need heating up. That’s about a 30 minute wait. It’s an on/off process of lathering up, hosing down and hoping there’s enough hot water left to condition my hair as well.
Poor Nige is always left with the remnants of the hot water tank. Rather than wait another 3o minutes for the boiler to heat up!
If it’s hot outside, it gets too hot inside. So it’s time for another shower at the end, so that’s when we go al fresco!! Yep, the outdoor shower gets whipped into action for a quick hose down in the open air!
Given the good with the bad side of #vanlife, for us, it’s still the best way to see the world. We just love everything there is about it. Over the years, we’ve learnt that it’s how you deal with things that matter. Seeing the best out of everything and everyone and learning from those mistakes, experiences and issues. The most important thing, is having a great sense of humour. Whilst laughing about the weird stuff, taking it in our stride and not taking life too seriously. It all just adds to the adventure!
That concludes our 16 must know facts of vanlife. Read more blogs here:
A beautiful Freedom Camping Spot in New Zealand
It seems the vanlife way of living, travelling and working has become the ideological dream. An aspiration for a new way of life!
Thousands of filtered images, portray life from a van as an idyllic world. Filled with beautiful people, often posing with their perfectly decorated vans. Whilst surrounded by the most incredible scenery, in exotic parking locations!
It’s enough to tempt even the most unlikely candidates of vanlife, to start searching for that dream van!
Well, the real vanlife although often idyllic, isn’t always without its problems. I’m beginning to wonder, if some of the posts and blogs. Along with those fabulous pictures and declarations of expert guidance. Are actually, all a bit of an exaggeration of the reality!
The simplicity of parking up and happily sleeping soundly under the stars is made to sound blissful. But for both those old time experts or new folk. It does still come with moments, that are slightly annoying, awkward or just irritating!
Sometimes, it can involve actually hooking up to electric occasionally, or taking a good powerful long shower at a campsite. Most definitely stopping to empty the contents of the waste tanks, on a regular basis! Then there’s the toilet emptying! The occasional long search for fresh water, or problems with control panels and heating. Or just glitches, that no one can prepare you for.
It’s easy to read about the ease of living from a van. Lapping up those good vibes, the thought of just parking up where you like. Without a care in the world, whilst freshly ground coffee brews in the coffee mug!
What isn’t always mentioned, are the driving for hours and failing to find a place where you can park for the night. Or simply getting cold feet about a place you’ve thought was fine, when suddenly in the depths of night, it doesn’t seem so inviting!
No wonder there’s such a growing world of “wannabes”, to add to the “newbies” and us “oldies”. After all, why wouldn’t you want to see the world, from behind the wheel of a van?
Well, this got me thinking back to a time on one of our own road trips. The location shall remain anonymous to avoid trying to guess who!
By chance, we met a high profile Instagram vanlife couple. Whose beautiful van, complete with photograph’s of its even more perfect owners were just stunningly enticing to the admiring followers. They always parked in isolated and fascinatingly idyllic settings, in the most perfect vanlife arrangements.
However, on our encounter, the owners and the van weren’t parked up where you’d expect. No, there was no exotic location, or romantic setting! They were certainly not watching the sun rise, from the rear doors of their van either.
Far from it, in fact. This Instagram sensation with enough followers to fill a small town back where we come from. Were actually parked up on a campsite!…..Yes, shock horror! I can see you now, spitting out your cornflakes!
Whilst Nigel jumped at the chance to engage in conversation, or really, hoped to get a bit of insight into how they had amassed such a colossal following. Along came a tow truck, to whisk the star of the show (that’s the van!) off to the nearest garage!
All was not well, with the not so shiny looking star van. Which, we hadn’t even really given a second glance to, in the non-filtered real world!
With not one useful tip, from the unwilling to divulge, tight-lipped owners. On how we too, could become an Instagram sensation, the conversation was instead, one of declaration of all the things that had gone wrong with the van. Interestingly, how much the wretched thing had cost to repair!!
So, as Nigel retreated back to our van, tail between his legs. The only good piece of advice taken from the encounter, was to never buy anything older than us!
Dare I say it, but even the owners of the van looked a little more worse for wear in real life! Sharing the campsite washroom over the course of a few days, I couldn’t help but notice wrinkles and grey hair!! Crikey, I know, can you imagine, if you didn’t spit out the cornflakes earlier, you certainly will be now!
Of course, we know all too well. That the behind the scenes reality of those amazing pics, lies an often endless line of snaps that are not good enough to use. In addition to well rehearsed settings, that come with a line of props to rival an A-list movie set!
That’s not to mention the equipment. Those drones, cameras, editing and catching the right lighting. Also, that fab sunset and dressing the van, the people and the contents! Wow!! It seems a little bit too much like hard work!
It’s no surprise that #vanlife, can become a bit of a shock to those unprepared for life on the road, and living out of a van.
Ok, so yes, of course, there are some incredible places to park up. However, it’s not all fabulous scenery with birds serenading you in the mornings and waves lashing against the crisp white sands.
In this world of mobile Apps. The chances are, that those secret spots of a few years ago, are now out there on a minute by minute basis, for everyone to know about and share. With the crazy vanlife trend growing bigger every year. Those glossy pics and glowing blog posts, will just have to keep getting more and more appealing. To keep the image alive and the reality a little further afield.
In the meantime, I guess we all need a bit of theatre. Therefore, if that’s what it takes to get us interested, in another world outside of the 9 to 5. Then, maybe it’s not a bad thing.
For all those incredibly successful promoters of #vanlife, we salute you! You’ve done incredible, and illusion or not, it’s our own imagination that decides how we see things. It’s a work of art and the gallery will be open for a long time yet!
When we made the decision to sell our big A-Class Carthago motorhome in favour of a small panel van conversion. The choice of vans on the market in the UK, was few and far between. So much so, that we headed out to Germany on our search for a new panel van.
Well that was 5 years ago. The difference between then and now, seems to tell a very different story! From what we’re seeing out and about. It appears that us consumers, are buying very differently. Past market’s dominated by the giants of the Coachbuilt and A-Class motorhomes are changing.
This was never more apparent than our visit in the Autumn to the NEC show. Having been heavily involved in the world of motorhomes for over 15 years. Both, as a hobby and being one of the early UK Motorhome Hire business’s. We lived and breathed motorhomes! We even started an accessory side, set up a storage facility and a motorhome stopover!
We’ve been to the NEC Caravan and Motorhome Show, since as far back as we can remember! Buying all our vans and previous caravans at a show! Having finished our business back in 2016, to pursue a life of travel, by campervan. The visits to the NEC show, are now purely recreational.
However, The 2018 October motorhome show, was very different to all those past shows put together. I’m sure we’re not the only ones to have realised, that it was dominated by panel van conversions! But why this big change?
We think this change actually started around the end of 2015. It seemed that everyone was buying a motorhome or campervan. We were no longer in the minority, on trips to Europe, where we were starting to see more and more motorhomes. To the extent, that on one trip to Spain, it seemed to be overrun with them.
So, what’s happened in those 4 years since then, to bring such a huge shift from motorhome ownership to panel van longing and buying?
Are those 1st time buyers from a few years ago now downsizing? Or is it the social media vanlife following? Bringing an ideology of perfection to the life of travel in a panel van?
Our own reasons for abandoning the Coachbuilt and A-Class models, was based on our own travels over the decades. We were just beginning to get a little bored, after so many years.
We felt we’d exhausted many routes on our travels though the UK and Europe, wanting to get to more remote places. It was a desire for more adventure type travel, but still with a van. We also wanted to park more easily and freely. Certainly, be able to drive up those tiny mountain lanes or narrow, winding tracks.
There was also, the hope that one day, we’d be able to ship our van overseas or overland or both. It had to be practical in so many ways, something that our previous type of motorhome’s just couldn’t provide for us.
The other big appeal for us, is that a panel van is just that! It’s made in a factory for one purpose, as a van. Therefore, as it’s not assembled separately on a chassis, like coachbuilt’s and the A-Class. A Panel van, doesn’t have those water ingress issues.
Coachbuilt’s and A-Class motorhomes have purpose built body parts. As a result, spare’s such as bumpers, rear lights and side skirt are expensive! Unfortunately, they take months to receive too, yes we speak from experience! Consequently, parts would come with a rather large price tag!
At least with a panel van, if we need any parts, they are usually off the shelf. It’s just a matter of picking one up from the nearest dealer, at a reasonable cost. After all, vans are built for trades and business, so parts have to be readily available and cost effective.
Another factor in the mass swap to the panel van, could be due to pricing. When we first started looking to buy our first motorhome, we could get a basic Coachbuilt at the NEC for £21,000. An entry level now, would be double that. More luxurious models and manufacturers run well into the £100,000+ bracket.
We found an entry level panel van at the NEC for around £40,000. So pricing may not be too dissimilar to a basic Coachbuilt Motorhome. This must mean then, that the surge towards panel van ownership, is not based on price alone. So is it more to do with size and practicalities and also maybe, appearance?
Dare I say it, but the van conversion is somehow, the one with the most sex appeal. It’s the epitome of romantic, idealist van travel. The followers of those vanlife instagram pics around the globe, long to be a part of the dream.
Those glossy shots of van conversions of all ages, shapes and sizes. Fabulously overhauled aging models, oozing more charm and charisma, than any Coachbuilt or A Class motorhome could ever dream of!
The vanlife following gives a whole new appeal to campervan travels. It’s also the flexibility, with both the exterior and interior look of the van. They can be so individual and homely, in a cosy cottage sort of way! No more plain old white or silver paintwork, the various colours of the spectrum adorn the metalwork, bringing such a welcoming glance to the eye.
Self-build interiors are often the work of skilled individuals. A whole new era of craftsmanship has opened up, in full view of the internet world. Intricate wood panels, wood-burning stoves, corrugated sheeting, colourful tiling displays and an array of interior design techniques. That would leave the most experienced designers open mouthed with amazement.
Our own La Strada Sprinter has an exterior shade of Pebble Grey. A mellow tone of warm beige, with the chunky 4×4 BG Goodrich tyres, adding that extra bit of spice to the already unique look. We chose a rather dramatic interior scheme of reds and silvers. A bold contemporary look, which La Strada, have such a wide choice of. This we felt, would match our new adventure based travel of vanlife!
Our van conversion in New Zealand, is very different, our own self-build on a plain white LDV. Yet the interior, has a lake blue theme with earthy tones, which we wanted, to reflect the outdoor lifestyle that is all around. It’s a basic but practical and functional conversion and so cosy. In many ways, we prefer it to our La Strada Sprinter!
So, here I am talking about panel vans, as if they were a delicious plate of food! Well, there you go, that just about sums it up. It’s the whole concept, you can be whoever you want to be, express yourself so differently and have that unique element, through personnel self-build designs. Which has brought the panel van conversion to a whole new group of admirers.
From the wild colour schemes of the manufacturers, if you’re buying a factory build or of course, more traditional interiors. They will never have the individual attraction of the self-build instagram conversions. But with all the other benefits of easier flexibility in parking, accessibility to more difficult places, less problems on the habitation side and more cost effective maintenance. The appeal is huge.
But, there’s one thing for sure, it’s only with a panel van that you can wake up in the morning and swing open those back doors, to some of the best parking spot views across the globe! Yes, it’s the epitome of vanlife travel, the famed shots of instagram, the creation of millions of vanlife followers, the result of millions of vanlife instagramers. One of the reasons for the biggest surge in panel van wannabe ownership ever! Moreover, the one reason why we just love panel van vanlife so much!!
We hope you join us soon on the vanlife panel van circuit of travel wherever you may!
A beautiful country and a perfect destination for campervan travel, also, currently the home of both our Sons! A journey that had us converting a campervan in New Zealand!
This could mean only one thing……a trip down under. The search for a van and the chance meeting of the most incredible people. Bringing our self-build van dream to life and converting a campervan in New Zealand!
Sitting under the shade of a large pine tree, to protect me from the searing sun of a New Zealand Summer. My thoughts are drawn to all those European Summer’s. Where we’ve been touring through fabulous regions of France. Which are just so brilliant for camper travels.
So, out came the notepad and pen. Ready to include my top picks from French travels. One of the most versatile and diverse of countries. When I suddenly realise that I have way too many favourites, to include in just one generalised blog piece!
Perhaps, I’m just too enthusiastic about sharing my love of campervan destinations. But with so many incredibly beautiful places in one country. I begin to get stuck with where to start!
As with all the best laid plans, before I know it, my mind has wondered and with that I start writing. Not about France, but about where I am right now. After a year of big decisions, that include some very big changes.
With one Son moving to New Zealand, after receiving a job offer here. And our other Son moving here to embark on an 18 month training programme. We suddenly found ourselves separated for the first time ever.
We decided to look on this, not as a negative but a truly positive twist of fate. An opportunity for us to make some further big changes for ourselves. So, on our return from accompanying our first Son to NZ, back in March last year. We set the wheels in motion.
First things first, was to put the family house for sale and start the hunt for a tiny base back home in Wales. We no longer had need for several empty rooms that still needed cleaning. Along with those bigger bills that still had to be paid. Besides all that, we didn’t want to be there much ourselves either! Who needs a big house, when there’s such a big world out there to explore?
So, the house sold and the week before Christmas, saw us exchange contracts and complete, on the same day! With a very busy self-move into our new tiny house.
Fast forward to Christmas Day, with the best Christmas present ever, our flight to New Zealand. A reunion with our boys and an adventure, in this incredible part of the world was waiting.
That’s where we are right now, about to begin on a lazy tour around New Zealand. But first, Nigel has been busy converting a campervan here in New Zealand, our newly bought van. Creating a very basic, but practical and functional camper. So whilst he’s off sourcing parts and fitments and busy fixing things together. I’m back at base indulging in a bit of blog writing!
Base, by the way, was our 2-man tent, that we brought from back home. Incidentally, in preparation for some overnight hikes, however, also finding another good use! As we pitched up, at a campground in the middle of the North Island. That was until a few days ago. When we caught up with the most incredibly talented guy, that we’d had a chance meeting with last year (more of that later).
In the meantime, I’m sure you’re asking yourself why we’d be buying a van? When, in fact, New Zealand is home to one of the biggest camper rental markets. There are so many rental companies here, offering ever possible type of camper. As well as the fact, that New Zealand really is paradise for camper travels. Being so picturesque and so camper friendly.
For us, it’s a dual purpose and so it’s a more economical way to buy a van. Our Son will have it most of the year, where he lives and we’ll use it when we visit. So, it’s a great way for us both to get the best use out of it. Renting every year for any length of time, would cost a small fortune. Our Son would also have been buying a vehicle anyway, so this just makes sense for us all.
With Nigel in his element, transforming our once empty LDV high roof van. I feel he may have found his post-work vocation in life and I’m sure it won’t be his first and last project. As you may have guessed by now, converting a van into a campervan, wasn’t just an overnight idea! Far from it, it’s something Nigel has wanted to do back home in Wales, for several years now. To the extent, where it’s become a bit of a standing joke amongst us family members.
He’s followed the vanlife movement for years. Since the early days and it’s always been me who’s held him back from selling our own campervan back home. In favour of a self-build project. A little harsh maybe. In reality, we both knew that we couldn’t commit to selling our own campervan and starting a build. Whilst working full time in our business, it was difficult to find the time.
What we didn’t want, was a half-finished van and a job that dragged on for months. That’s one thing that would have driven us crazy. If a job’s going to be done, it’s got to be done with momentum, from start to finish. In our eyes, a good project is well managed if finished promptly. Something that stems from 20 years of house-building!
So, as soon as we knew we’d like a camper down in New Zealand. I relented to the proposition and encouraged him to go for it! All we had to do now, was find the right van at the right price. The search began with “Trade Me”, New Zealand’s answer to E-Bay. We checked out the lists of second hand and new vans, but realised the differences were not worth arguing over. So opted for new.
One thing was for certain, after driving round in a car we realised how beneficial a van is in comparison! Obviously, we do have cars back in Wales for our daily use, but we don’t use them for travel. So we hadn’t thought about how strange it is being so low down!
We couldn’t help but miss the elevated driving position of a van. Also, being able to have such a good view, of the scenery out the window! It also got so hot in the car! Air-con on and off constantly, despite it being a large 4-door saloon. A van has such good air-flow, we couldn’t wait to get back to our comfort zone!
After this reminder of why we love van travel so much, we decided to go for a high roof. So that we could stand up and have the space that we’re used to. We found the LDV V80, the perfect option. A reasonable price, the right size and with a few essentials, such as 3 seats in the front and windows in the rear doors. It also came with a boarded and covered floor, a great help for converting a campervan in New Zealand.
With one available at an LDV main dealer in Hamilton. All we had to wait for was the end of the Christmas Holidays, so they could transport it from the storage compound at the Port in Auckland. With the deal done, payment made and the holidays over. We were ready to collect the van and begin the conversion.