Portofino Peninsula by Campervan

Portofino Peninsula by Campervan

Our Italian Tour Continues from Genoa towards the glorious inlets of the Portofino Peninsula. Beginning the tour of the Portofino Peninsula by campervan!

Portofino Peninsula by Campervan – Camolgi

To the East of Genoa begins a glorious stretch of coastline.
This area, starting from Camogli is simply beautiful. However, it’s not for the nervous driver or probably not too suitable for anything much bigger than our 5.9m long van!

The roads are narrow, hilly and winding. Traffic is chaotic and you soon find yourself in the smallest of streets, reminiscent of a driveway back home!

However, we really wanted to visit Camolgi. Tempted by those pastel coloured buildings and quaint harbour of the picture postcards, we had high hopes!

As we approached along the narrow coast road, we had our first glimpse of the village. As expected parking was not even worth attempting! Instead, we chose the sensible option of a dedicated Sosta.

Before we knew it, we’d reached a little gem of a place, high above the sea and Camogli. This is where we begin our tour of the Portofino Peninsula by campervan.

San Rocco and our Village Sosta Parking

It turned out to be a perfect little find to begin this stretch of coast. Brilliantly located for Portofino National Park, at the hilltop village of San Rocco.

It may sound bizarre to be deliberately attempting to park up in such a place. However, the motorhome Sosta parking was actually quite a large parking area. Plenty of room for manoeuvring and before long, we were joined by a delightful Italian couple in their coachbuilt motorhome along with their pet owl!

San Rocco is perfectly placed too, with direct access to Portofino National Park and numerous walking routes. It’s a gorgeous village, where access to some properties is by scooter only! Streets are the size of pavements and these lead to beautiful view points.

Finding a fabulous bar located in a cave, we settled in for a cocktail and nibbles. Feeling at home amongst the forest, where wild boar roam…we saw 3!!

Counting the 700 Steps to Camolgi

From San Rocco, we took advantage of the many paths. Taking one route which involved walking 700 steps down to the beautiful fishing village of Camogli itself. Loosing count after a few hundred, we’ll presume the amount is correct!


Pastel coloured homes line the harbour, as ferry boats take passengers to various locations around the park, including Portofino.

Walking the 700 steps back was part of our fitness regime for the day, but there is a bus if you need it for just €3.
The Sosta parking is €15 per day, but it’s free between 8pm and 8am.

Thankfully, we had shade from the trees, as the heat here is intense. Temperatures are well in the 30’s but humidity also feels high.

The sea is superb, clear blue and so warm, there’s no need to brace yourself for any chill!

Portofino, a favourite haunt of the rich and famous

A favourite of the international jet set on their super yachts. The Walmart family were in town on our visit, with their beautiful floating masterpiece moored out just beyond the harbour.


Portofino is delightful, yet in our opinion, probably not outstanding. We think it was mainly due to feeling a little too touristy for our liking. Although, it’s beautiful all the same. Lots of English speaking voices were evident for the first time on our tour. This region, obviously, being more of a hot spot destination for the general tourist.


The best part of the experience for us, was the walk to reach Portofino itself. Cars are not permitted, so campervans are a definite “no go”!

Portofino National Park


Instead, we took the hiking trail to Portofino Mare, through Portofino National Park. Starting from the Sosta for motorhomes, in the hilltop village of San Rocco.

A steep stone staircase, which seemed to go on forever, lead us to the best part of the route. Following a tree-lined stone track with information boards displaying historic and natural facts proved delightful. Luckily, plenty of water fountains and picnic benches were en-route. After a little over 2 hours, we’d reached the upmarket resort itself.

There are numerous hiking trails through the National Park, many of them stating at San Rocco. Therefore, this is a perfect base to explore on foot, with the advantage of the motorhome Sosta parking right beside the access to the trails.

Back in Portofino, we found a selection of designer shops, added to the high end feel. However, we preferred to stroll the waterfront and find a shady spot to watch the world go by.


After a few hours, including the necessary swim to try and cool off from this intense heat. We took a ferry boat back towards our base to Camogli.
First though, we just had a stop at a very unusual little beach!

Beautiful San Fruttuoso

San Fruttuoso Abbey sits on a secluded bay in Portofino National Park. This perfectly white stone structure, reflected beautifully in the turquoise waters as we approached by boat from Portofino.


The only route to the Abbey is either by foot, through the picturesque hillside or by boat from one of several harbours around the peninsula.

Having already walked to Portofino from San Rocco, we chose a leisurely ferry boat, followed by a well deserved swim in the clear blue sea.


Although, a little too crowded for our liking. It still was a pleasure to visit and see this little gem of an 11th Century Abbey for ourselves.


The approach by boat is just beautiful and when the sun is hot, the sea is blue, there is just no better way to enjoy the view!

A Boat Back to Camogli

To be honest, it was so busy here, that we couldn’t wait to board the boat back to Camogli. Unfortunately, August brings the mass tourists, high temperatures and crowded beaches as a result.

Probably Spring is a better time to visit. For us though, it was time to catch a bus from the lovely town of Camogli back up the hillside to San Rocco.

With our legs and feet feeling the burn and the intense heat beating down upon us, despite it being early evening. We were ready to put our feet up and relax back at the van.

Finally if you enjoyed reading about the Portofino Peninsula by campervan, here’s another blog:

The Castaway’s enjoying Portofino Village

Cost for Sosta and Boats

The motorhome Sosta parking at San Rocco village is ideal to explore this Portofino Peninsula. No facilities, nearest dump/fresh is at the village of Santa Margherita.

Parking is payable at the meter from 8am-8pm – 15 Euro

Boat between Portofino and San Fruttuoso – 9 Euro each

Boat between San Fruttuoso and Camogli – 9 Euro each

The Most Annoying Motorhome Neighbours

The Most Annoying Motorhome Neighbours

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!

Making Small Talk

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.


Vanlife
Parked up at a private Italian Sosta parking spot

1. The TV Addict, Come rain or shine, some people are just glued to it!

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!

2. The Space Invader, there’s acres to park, but pull up right next door!

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!

3. The Generator, the worst offending object ever, have they no shame!

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.

The Sound Echo’s Around

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!

4. The Nosey Parker, don’t they know the etiquette of Parking?

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.

5. The Engine Runner, Choking on Exhaust Fumes!

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!

Choked By Exhaust Fumes

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.

6. The Talker, non-stop chatter!

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!

7. The Faffer, spends useless time doing useless stuff!

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.

3rd Attempt At Those Levelling Blocks

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!

8. The Snoring Sleeper, the daytime nap, is it an age thing?

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.

9. The Double Parker’s, they want not 1 but 2 parking spaces!

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!

Friends and Family

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.

10. The Aires, Awning Alter Ego’s, there’s no room at the Inn!

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!

11. The Ones With the Yapping Dogs

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!

Motorhome neighbours
A bit of wild camping to get a way from those annoying neighbours!

12. The Exhibitionists, loving to show off all they’ve got!

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!

13. The Miserables, looking like they just don’t want to be there!

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.

14. The Damn Right Rude, nothing gets in the way!

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?

A Fine Example

We arrived at a Freedom Camping spot in New Zealand 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!).

No Excuse for Zero Manners

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!

New Zealand North v South Island


Van life
Our NZ panel van at a freedom camping spot in New Zealand

Van life
A popular Freedom Camping area in NZ, early morning when lots had just left!

Thanks for reading The most annoying thing about Motorhome neighbours.


16 Must Know Facts of #vanlife

Vanlife…The Reality behind the Image!

The Italian Riviera in a Campervan

The Italian Riviera in a Campervan, San Remo To Genoa

The Italian Riviera begins just beyond Menton, where the French Riviera and France ends. Our tour was part of a larger trip. This section covers, The Italian Riviera in a campervan from San Remo to Genoa.

To be honest, we weren’t too sure what to expect from this part of Italy. However, after a brief peak at the first couple of resorts around Ventimiglia, a few years ago. These left us slightly less than impressed.

The Coastal Route – The Italian Riviera in a Campervan

This trip began by driving along the coastal road through Ventimiglia. The alternative route, is the rather boring A10 motorway that runs inland. Something we wanted to avoid.

As many of you will know. Driving in a Motorhome has been a big part of our lives for a number of years. Nigel is an excellent driver and loves a challenge, although, these Italian roads are another level!

Crazy Driving

The driving here is chaotic and crazy. Roads are narrow and traffic is manic, coming at you from all directions. Scooters are the Italians best friend and these are everywhere, cutting across to overtake or undertake constantly. There seems to be no adhering to high way code, certainly, it’s every person for themselves!

Thankfully, we survived the first few hour. Having broken out into a very deep sweat by the time we reached San Remo. We knew this was going to be an interesting trip, maybe for all the wrong reasons!

So, let’s begin on our tour of The Italian Riviera in a Campervan

San Remo, Once the Monte Carlo of Italy

San Remo Cathedral
The Casino At San Remo

San Remo is a reminder of how seaside resorts need to keep up with the competition, in order to stay in the game. Once, a the Monte Carlo of Italy and the jet set, it’s now the poorer relation.

It feels tired and is slightly rough around the edges, but it was worth a stop.

There’s a large, free motorhome Sosta situated on the approach from Ventimiglia. We took advantage and parked up with the numerous other motorhomes.

Motorhome Aires Sosta San Remo
The Motorhome Sosta at San Remo

The first thing we noticed was the litter everywhere! Not a great first impression, although council worker’s did keep appearing to empty the bins. In addition to normal litter there was a lot of toilet paper and excrement of some kind. It was all rather horrible and it wasn’t confined to the motorhome area.

On the positive side, there’s an excellent cycle path, that follows the old railway line to Imperia, further along the coast. Exploring on bike seemed the best option for us. Off we peddled, soon reaching the centre of San Remo along with a pretty harbour front and promenade.

Having enjoyed the sea front views and bustling Summer atmosphere. We parked up the bikes on the sea front, and walked into the old town.

We were actually rather surprised at the old town. It was rather quite nice, with a really busy atmosphere and plenty of ornate architecture.

The Casino stands above the waterfront and is a reminder of the Monte Carlo connections. There’s a decorative 19th Century Russian Orthodox Church, built by rich Russian exiles, who also built some fine villas around the town.

For us it was time to journey onwards!

Imperia – The Italian Riviera in a Campervan

As we travelled along the coast, we realised the beaches here display a colourful array of sunloungers. Seemingly, taking up every inch of sand in the process!

Imperia is a fascinating looking town, divided into two by a River of the same name. Towering above the sea on a raised headland, we failed to park.

Instead, we joined the weekend and market day traffic jams which lead into the second half of Imperia town, named Oneglia.

Parking is Difficult

It was chaos here, as we headed for a large, but jam packed harbour parking area. We held our ground and just about managed to find a space along a breakwater, overlooking the working harbour.

Italian Riviera
The harbour at Oneglia

The litter problem was still evident, as was the madness of the driving!

Thankfully, the locals began retuning to their vehicles, allowing a little breathing space. A short lunch followed, before we took off on foot to explore.

With the sun blistering down upon us, the heat was intense. After a walk of a couple of miles we reached Imperia, however, the sea was all that we wanted by that stage!

Finding a tiny stretch of public beach, nestled between the hoards of private sections. We quickly took a dip in the water before finishing off in the historic old town.

It was worth the effort, as the views across the sea, were rather lovely from the town. We were ready to move on though. After a hairy turn across a railway line into a tiny street, following google maps to a Sosta, it all became rather stressful!

Albenga – The Italian Riviera in a Campervan

The coast really started to improve for us around Albenga. With no sign of the litter and excrement that had been evident beforehand, we began to enjoy the trip a bit more.

Albenga is an ancient walled town, with Roman origins. Originally, the town was next to the sea, but it’s now somewhat inland in comparison.

Parking was easy, at a free Sosta with a few other motorhomes. Fortunately, a small underpass lead to a beautiful promenade and the lovely beaches. We chose to have a beach afternoon, firstly though, it was time to buy some freshly baked Foccata at the local bakery. The food in Italy is amazing!

Finale Ligure

Another wonderful historic town is Finale Ligure. A really practical sea front Sosta provided ideal parking for us. Situated alongside a breakwater, we swam from the rocks in the fabulous clear blue sea.

The downside here, was the huge derelict building next to the Sosta. We just had to ignore this, as the location, was otherwise ideal.

Once the sun set, the air cooled enough for us to walk the 10 minutes into town. A tree-lined promenade stretches for a mile or so, whilst the old town beyond, remains a hub of activity.

The coast here begins to get really pretty. The litter problems were long gone, as we’d progressed further East. We began to feel that we could stay a little longer in some of the resorts, a good sign of things to come.

Motorhome Sosta
Sosta Parking at Finale Ligure

Noli

This intimate coastal town is another historic walled gem. We just about managed to park on the road here, giving us time to take a look before the beach called!

Noli is a delight, with a lovely waterfront leading to the old town, through a series of covered arches. It’s smaller than some of the other towns, so has an intimate feel, although equally as beautiful.

However, with the Summer heat being so intense, we had to get to the water.

Noli Italy
The waterfront at Noli

Spotorno

Our next stop was just outside of Spotorno. Thankfully, a private Sosta for 14 Euro per night provided a place for the night.

Direct access to the lovely beach was really beneficial. A small walkway below the road, lead to a public section where we stayed for the afternoon.

Unfortunately, the weather being so hot, meant that doing anything is rather difficult!

However, as darkness fell, we strolled along the well lit promenade towards the town. Another, lovely atmospheric resort, which provided a pleasant environment on this hot Summer evening. Some rather upmarket beach restaurants looked rather tempting.

Savona

Having failed miserably to park in Savona, unfortunately, we had to give it a miss.

Although, our driving around for almost an hour, provided a little bit of an insight into the town. The approach is a mass of industrial buildings, so it doesn’t have a glamours feel.

We had wanted to visit the covered food market. All we managed to see from driving was a castle area, which did look rather nice.

Genoa

We’re not sure what to think of Genoa. We’d read several reports of robberies from vans overnight. So we opted for a quick daytime tour. Fortunately finding a parking space close to the waterfront, in a relatively safe looking location.


Walking straight into a maize of tiny streets, these alleyways meandered into a mass of medieval architecture.


Feeling as if we’d been transported back in time, it all felt rather seedy somehow and we were rather uneasy in its presence.
Prostitutes seemed to be waiting for business, in numerous doorways. Had we unwittingly entered the wrong side of town?


As we scurried through the lengthy alleys of souvenir shops, coupled with foods stores and merchants from across the globe.
We finally emerged in a square full of tourists, who’d been transported off a cruise ship, which was docked in the Port.


The more classy side of the city was now upon us. Leading to a UNESCO street of ancient palaces. The city had shone a new light in our eyes and we began to relax a little.
Taking in the immense frescoes, elaborate architecture and ornate displays of the facades, it was all rather pleasant.


We felt it worthy of a visit but after a couple of hours, we’d had enough!
Relieved to be back at the van and ready to escape to a more low-key environment, it had been an interesting and eye-opening city to explore!

Genoa
The UNESCO quarter of Genoa

Beaches

These are nearly all private, cover miles of beach. Restaurants provide individual areas, covered in sun loungers and parasols of co-ordinating colours. Small beach huts are provided for changing, life guards are often on duty too. Some beach bars provide permanent style sea inflatables as well as volleyball courts.

We haven’t used any, but believe they can be fairly expensive, at around 20-30 Euro per day.

Italy Beaches
Packed beaches, This is San Remo

Toilets

There are hardly any toilets! Basically, without our own toilet in the van, we’d be very stuck!

If there is a public toilet, there’s often a charge, but may have toilet paper!

Toilets are rare, free toilets even more rare! When we have seen one, there is never toilet paper!

Public Beaches

These are crammed between the masses of private beach bars and restaurants.

They can be tiny, often just a narrow strip of sand, which is all rather uncomfortable.

We’ve found them to be a necessity rather than a luxury, due to the heat here in August. Expect to have someone’s head at your feet and vice-versa!

Sosta – Italian Motorhome Parking

A Sosta is the same principal as a French Aire or German Stellplatz. It’s an Italian term for parking and is where a motorhome can park overnight.

It is NOT small campervans or similar vehicles. To use any form of Aire system in Europe, the motorhome or campervan should ALWAYS be fully self-contained.

What is Self-Contained

  • The campervan/motorhome must have both an on board water tank and fitted waste tank and enough for a few days, for the size of the van.
  • There must be a fitted cassette toilet.
  • A fitted shower area.
  • Hot and cold water and heating system.
  • Fitted kitchen with built in hob.
  • You should be able to stand up inside without adapting the roof.

Basically, if the vehicle is more car than motorhome or has an elevated roof with none of the above fixed sections, then a campsite should be used.

Sosta parking is found by means of a sign showing a motorhome symbol. The rules will be stated in the parking section. Some are free, others are payable. There are a number of both public and privately operated Sosta parking throughout Italy.

As with Aires etc, there may be a dump/fresh filling area or there may not! Each is different.

For further reading, here’s our blog piece that tells you everything about Aires and Sosta’s.

Italy beaches
This Swimming pool at a private beach

Calais To Italy In A Campervan

Barrage de Roseland

Calais To Italy In A Campervan

It’s 1st August and We’re off from Calais to Italy In A Campervan

It’s the 1st August and our Eurotunnel train has taken us on the 35 minute trip from Folkestone to Calais. This is the start of our trip from Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Yes, we’re off!! It’s been a hectic week, but we’re here! En-route through France to somewhere, but still no definite idea of where!

As is usually the case with us two, we are a rather indecisive pair. Having a quick discussion on where we fancied heading to, we left the Aire at Gravelines, about 30 minutes East of Calais and hit the road.

However, this resulted in us planning on re-visiting the Alsace region. Thinking, well hey ho, it’s a few year’s since the last visit, so why not?!

Calais to Italy in a campervan! Let’s begin the journey.

Changing Our Minds Already

Lo and behold. We’d only gone a few kilometers down the road, when we had a change of heat! “How about doing the Burgandy wine route again”, one of us said, although, I’m not sure who made the suggestion.

The next thing we know, we’ve got Dijon in the Sat Nav, where the wine routes begin. Just to the South of Dijon itself.

We’re all ready for a bit of the Red stuff and some sleepy village Aires (that’s French camper parking if you don’t know already). When suddenly, a lack of concentration and heck!! We miss a turning on the Toll Road, resulting in us heading to Paris…..argghhhhhh!!!

Driving us Mad Round Paris – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

If you’ve driven round the Paris circular roads, you’ll know to avoid them at all cost, unless you really have to. The only good thing about this, and yes, there has to be a good out of each situation! Is that, as we we’re about to slip under the runway at Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport, that is normal, by the way! There happened to be a very large aircraft passing in front of us, which made for a great photo opportunity, to pass to our pilot training Son.

Ok, that’s about the only advantage! Until that is, we see Fontainebleau on the road atlas. We admit it, right now, hands up, we still use an Atlas as a back up to the technology.

For some reason, we’ve never been to Fontainebleau. Goodness know’s how we’ve missed it, but now was our chance.

With amazing weather and no idea where we were now heading. Fontainbleau quickly became the ideal place to visit.

Fabulous Fontainebleau – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Fontainebleau
Horse drawn carriage rides at Fontainebleau

As we approached Fontainbleau town, we had the WOW factor come over us! The incredible Chateau of the same name and it’s famous grounds, came into view, this place looked awesome!

Following the Camper Contact App for the motorhome parking. Google Maps soon lead us to a cobbled, tree-lined Avenue. Thankfully, this was also the overnight parking for campervans and motorhomes.

It gave the most impressive view, through the tall, iron railings and gates, into the grounds and towards the Chateau.

Here we parked up, alongside the palatial gates. Feeling like Cossette from Les Miserables, this place had a magical feel that oozed character.

Thankfully, the grounds, including the beautiful boating lake and floral gardens, are open until 7pm in Summer. Incredibly, entry and parking is Free! How can something this beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage and so famous to the world be Free?!!

Exploring Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau
The palatial frontage to Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau
Parking for the night at Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau
Exploring Fontainebleau

We spent our first couple of days here exploring the magnificent grounds, which also, lead to the town. The Chateau state rooms are open to the public, but there is a charge.

The Chateau itself, is the only one in France that has been residence to all French monarchs. Dating from the 12th Century, it certainly has enough historic interest to keep the most ardent history buffs occupied.

For the more romantic, rowing boats can be hired for a few euro’s. Taking you across the pretty lake, which is also home to the biggest Koi Carp, we’ve ever seen!

There’s also a horse-drawn carriage to ride around in (not by yourself!) and a petit-train. However, we chose good old leg work, despite Nige, still nursing a broken foot bone, ouch!

So, as you can guess, it was a pretty good start to the trip. Blessed with fabulous weather, we’re reminded, that, in our opinion, you can’t beat France in Summertime!

Charming Chablis – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Chablis
Charming Chablis

Chablis
Lovely restaurants in Chablis

There’s no where as special as France, when the heat is on. Yes, those sunflower fields are blooming and the vines are ripening. Which can mean only one thing, hmmm, gosh, whatever can that be?

Ok, the suspense is over, Chablis and the wine routes surrounding the famous town, looked rather tempting. So it would be rude not to stop, wouldn’t it?

Now, don’t faint, but, we’ve never been to Chablis! Ask why and we just have no idea, as it’s a completely idyllic little French town. As expected, it has a rather upmarket feel and more importantly, is surrounded by vineyards, of course!

We arrived just as the Sunday market was coming to an end. However, the saucisson stall was just about open for business, so we quickly bought a selection of our favourite flavours. Ready for a picnic lunch, we found a shady area alongside the river.

Chablis has a really typical French feel about it, boasting beautiful floral displays. Pretty streams flow thorough, where restaurants serve the most delicious looking food and wine, under the shade of leafy trees.

There’s a really good walking wine tour to do from the tourist office, taking you on a route through the vines. Where, you can stop and sample the produce at various wine cellars.

Unfortunately for us, it was just too hot! Those that know us, will realise that for us two, to turn down a walk, it must be hot!

The Fosse Dionne at Tonnerre – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Instead, we drove on to Tonnerre, to see the Fosse Dionne. This is a rather weird amount of water that oozes up from the ground. The strange thing about it, is, that it’s never been explored. Apparently, it’s too deep and dangerous, therefore, there’s no real record of how far down these clear blue waters reach.

It’s no surprise, that the Fosse, used to be the local wash house, it’s a rather odd little place, somewhat a forgotten town.

Fosse Dionne Tonnerre
The Fosse itself

The Quaint Abbaye de Fontenay – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

One place not to forget, was our stop for the night, at the Abbaye de Fontenay.

With free parking for motorhome’s outside on the approach. We conveniently parked up in a peaceful setting, along with several other vans.

The abbey is one beautiful building and it’s huge. Dating from the 12th century, it’s the oldest surviving Cistercian building in France.

It’s surrounded by forests, cycle paths and walking trails, so we chose a 2 hour walking route through the forest. Mainly, so we could keep in the shade.

This area, Bourgogne, has a network of canals too, so it’s a really pretty drive and not so much of a tourist trail.

We actually made a decision to head to our old stomping ground of Annecy from here. A firm favorite and one of our old time motorhome haunts. First though, it’s a stop to the Cascades du Herisson, in the Jura region.

Abbaye de Fontenay
The beautiful ancient Abbey

Cascades du Herisson, Jura

Cascades du Herisson
One of the Cascades

Cascades du Herisson
Wondering the paths to various waterfalls

How have we not heard about this waterfall trail until now?

Dodging thunder storms, we followed the scenic path, through the forest. The well marked, popular trail, takes you past the most beautiful display of cascading falls. Each waterfall is individually named, to make the experience a little more intimate.

Starting from a visitor centre, the route climbs a series of stairs, over a 7.5km trail. The walk took us 2.5 hours to complete, on a scenic return route.

The first of the 7 stunning waterfalls is just beautiful, as it falls gently along a tall, flat rock face to the stream below. It was actually quite a “wow” moment.

The easy, but elevated path climbs past lovely streams, lush vegetation, rock formations and, of course, the various waterfalls. Passing each, as they cascade through the hillside at different stages. Culminating in a rather large display of awesomeness at the highest point.

We arrived late in the afternoon and it was busy. Luckily, the crowds had dispersed for our return back to the visitor centre, otherwise, it could have been a bit annoying on the slippy sections of path.

This is a site of special interest, so there’s no overnight camper parking allowed. There’s a €6 charge for day parking and plenty of seating and places for a picnic on the route!

On our visit there was lots of shallow water and beach areas, where people were taking a dip. It’s so nice to just relax by the water for a few minutes and take in the scenery.

A walk to definitely add to our favourite list and despite stormy skies, it still looked amazing!

On a sunny day, it would be even more beautiful!

Oh, if you like campgrounds, there is one right at the start, perfect for an early morning walk!

Gorges du Fier, near Annecy

Gorges du Fier
Gorges du Fier walkway

Gorges du Fier
The path built on the rock

Well the power of social media had led us to these Gorges. It’s somewhere Nigel had spotted on Instagram a while back, so we had it on our “to go to” list!

10KM from Annecy, the gorges are a result of the Fier River, which runs from Mont Carvin, 2019m above sea level, high up in the French Alps. The river has created these incredible narrow gorges, carving out the rock into a display of intricate formations.

We arrived late in the afternoon, and it was packed! This is August travels for you, busy, hot and queues for everything.

We hadn’t quite realised that the Gorges here, were quite so touristy! We thought it was more of a hike, combining elevated walkways. Needless to say, these are built into the rockface above the river, providing an interesting sight.

A little disappointed, that we weren’t going on a long trek, in some remote part of the countryside. We gritted our teeth and carried on amongst the hordes of visitors!

This walkway is high and it’s also narrow, so it was no wonder that some weary spectators turned back! We loved it though, except for so many people!! Our pics were taken quickly, before too many people got in the shots!

Despite us preferring to be in a less busy location, the gorges are spectacular and well worth the effort. The rock formations and the way the river flows beneath your feet, from the high wooden pathway, is quite something.

The parking on our arrival was full to bursting, in a small van it wasn’t a problem, as we could park in a car space. Although, in a larger van, it would be best to arrive very early or very late!

Oh, it’s possible to stay overnight in the car park too, yes don’t we all just love France for their camper friendly approach.

Annecy

The first time I visited Annecy, I was just 17 (that’s a long time ago!). I always said I’d have to go back, even as a teenager, I thought it was just beautiful!

So, fast forward to 2005, when we bought our first motorhome. Finally I got to return, with Nigel and the boys, to this magical lakeside town, which borders the French Alps.

We decided, it was one of our favourite places in Europe. So much so, that we returned several times, but usually in the thick of Winter!

Now, with it being just the two of us and with having not visited for quite a few years. It was time to re-live the magic and have a couple of days exploring.

So, if you’re not sure where or what Annecy is, here’s the small talk!

Located approx 25 miles from Geneva, it sits in the most beautiful of settings. With the cleanest Lake in Europe as it’s main attraction. Annecy, not only has the beauty of it’s ancient old town, with intricate canals and narrow streets, but it’s natural surroundings are just dreamy.

Annecy Lake
Cycling round Lake Annecy

Annecy

Annecy Old Town

Annecy
The Lake at Annecy

Annecy
Beautiful Lake Annecy

Annecy is all about The Alps and Lake

The Alps dominate the skyline, as the mountains appear to drop towards the water’s edge. The clear blue water of the lake is a haven for water sports, swimming, boating or just lazing around on one of it’s grassy banks or sheltered beaches.

The tourists do flock here, therefore, an abundance of campsites are available and on our visit the whole area was packed!

We of course, stayed for free on the Aire. Situated just a couple of minutes walk from the lake and about 10 minute walk to the centre of the old town, it’s ideal.

On our arrival, the Aire was complete chaos! It’s small, with no turning area and it was crazy with vans coming and going. We were really lucky to get a parking place, just as a motorhome was leaving. So we grabbed the spot and stayed put for a couple of days!

The heat was certainly on during our visit. Temperatures were well into the 30’s, so much so, that even Nigel went in the Lake (he hates water!).

It’s a great place to be in Summer, the atmosphere is alive. Restaurants are bustling at all times of the day and night in the old town. It’s such a lovely place to meander, through the old narrow streets and canal side alleyways.

Cycling the “Tour du Lac”

We took to our bikes, and rather unexpectedly ended up cycling the whole “Tour du Lac”! This cycle path route, which is predominantly off road, takes you round the 50km circuit of the lake and it’s just superb!

Even our Brompton Bicycle ‘s coped with the hilly sections, that took us inland towards the base of the mountains. Before a steep downhill took us back to the lakeside at the Southern end of the lake.

We’d stopped several times for food, water, more water, swims, shade, so spent the whole day on the route. It’s simply breathtaking.

After walking the lakeside promenades and soaking up more of the atmosphere, we said goodbye to Annecy once again.

I’m sure it won’t take us long to be back, this place is still one of our most favorite destinations in Europe!!

The French Alps

From goodbye Annecy, it was hello French Alps!. Well, what’s not to love about the Alps?

We’ve spent many a memorable trip, meandering through these stunning villages and incredible mountain ranges, that dominate the landscape.

This year it’s been memory lane time.

It’s a few years, since our last visit, so we were more than ready to explore again.

Such happy memories of family trips, many skiing, staying in our earlier motorhomes. Lots of learning curves were had too in the early days. Travels in a Motorhome in the Alps In Winter, is very different to Summer and we soon found out!

Thones

So, first up this weekend was Thones, the gateway to the Alps and the Massif Aravis ranges. It’s a great little village to park up for a couple of nights.

Enough walking trails to keep us entertained too, and the Aire, located next to the river is perfect for town and free .

If you’re into the Via Ferrata, there’s a very challenging looking route right in the town.

That’s not for us, but we quite enjoyed watching those that did brave it. Clinging to the metal ladders and ropes, seemingly with ease!

One last note, we’d had some pretty strong thunder storms, enough to not need the van washing for a while. It’s rather nice to be have been back in better temperatures though, which means, yes more walking!

The Aravis Ranges

Beaufort
The Famous Beaufort Cheese is Made here in Beaufort

The storm clouds have passed and the sun shines once again.

Temperatures were back to a more bearable level, from the previous week’s upper 30C. So, it meant a pleasant couple of days for us, meandering through the Alpine villages of the Aravis ranges, in the Haute Savoie.

This area is just a delight! Le Grand Bornand is a firm favourite of ours, it’s a low key, classy little ski resort.

We’ve spent many a happy time in Winter, skiing the slopes from Le Grand Bornand and have loved re-visiting. There’s a really good campsite here, where we’ve stayed in the past, for Winter ski trips.

As usual, nearly all of these mountain villages have an Aires de Camping Car, so overnight parking is just easy and free.

Our drive over the mountain passes took us through the resorts of La Clusaz, Les Saisies, Flumet and Beaufort.

All within stunning Alpine scenery, with incredible views across the Alps as you traverse the mountain passes, along numerous hairpin bends.

Of course, this region is not just famous for the outdoor activities!

It’s also renowned for the amazing cheeses, honey, cured meats and local delicacies. These are all produced in the Alpine meadows in one way or another.

Luckily for us, it was market day in Beaufort, which could mean only one thing, plenty of tasty treats to see us through the week!

French Alps
Pretty Mountain Village Walks

Barrage de Roseland

This has to be another wow-moment for us. We’re so happy to share with you the information on the incredible scenery in this part of France.

Crossing the Alps is always spectacular. The mountain passes are just incredibly beautiful, but somehow, this route over the Barrage de Roselend just seemed more special than ever.

Maybe it’s the time of year, or possibly the sun reflecting the light in all the right places.

Whatever the reason, our drive took a few hours!! With too many glorious view points, clear skies and all those mountains surrounding us. We took our time and made the most of the spectacular route.

Crossing the Dam wall is just breathtaking, with the bright blue waters on one side and the drop into the mountainous valley below on the other, but it’s best for a small van as turning round on the other side could be tricky.

This was simply a special route. One that made us appreciate our surroundings that little bit more than ever.

Barrage de Roseland
The fabulous dam or Barrage de Roseland

Bourg-St-Maurice

From mountain passes where the only traffic jam is the herd of mountain goats! To the adventure hub of alpine activities, down in the valley at Bourg-St-Maurice.

This area of the French Alps is a complete outdoor lover’s paradise. Extreme sports are the norm, there is everything for the outdoor enthusiastic. It comes in bucket loads and when the sun is shining and the heat is on, this region just looks incredible!

To be honest, we could have spent week’s here in the Alps, it’s just beautiful and the facilities provided for tourism is superb. Completely equal to New Zealand in many aspects, but without the ultra extremes!!

Ok, so New Zealand is just is the no.1 adventure country in the world, isn’t it?

Back to Europe! The only reason, we were hesitant to stay longer in this region, is purely that we’ve done it before. For us, the whole emphasis of the tour was to explore somewhere that we didn’t know quite so well. That meant Italy was waiting!

In the meantime, we were quite happy to watch the mountain cattle and listen to those soothing sounds of cattle bells, as they wondered the pastures at altitude.

We love a bit of daily exercise and a brilliant cycle path took us through the valley, on a steady 20km route. This was more than enough in the heat, to keep us occupied.

There are brilliant mountain biking trails here, in case it’s your thing? It’s not for us, but we’re told that it’s fabulous biking down through the mountains.

From goats to cows, biking to hiking and all the glorious local food produce, there’s nothing to not like about the French Alps.

French Alps
The mountain goats for traffic jams

Le Monal

The walk up to Le moral was a truly magical hiking day, in the prettiest of places and all rather unexpected.

Noticing a sign for a walk to an ancient mountain village, we packed up the rucksack and headed off to explore.

An uphill walk followed, through the most beautiful pine forests, with the aroma of the pines accompanying us, as we meandered through the trees.

With glaciers gleaming on the mountains opposite us, the views were just outstandingly beautiful.

Emerging into the heat of the sun, on the mountain plateau, we followed a gravel track to “Le Monal”.

The ancient historic village is a preserved monument and it’s completely beautiful in every way.

Surrounded by the mountain peaks, green meadows, clear blue mountain streams and the sound of bells, ringing out from the herds of mountain goats.

What a find!! A truly surreal day up in the mountains and one we’ll remember for a long time to come.

Le Monal
The lovely setting of Le Monal

Calais to Italy in a campervan! Col De L’Ilseran

The best thing about a mountain pass, is of course the view and the drive. In Summer, when these Alpine roads are open to the masses, there is no better feeling of the vast space around you and the sheer beauty of the dramatic peaks of the Alps.

However, this is no ordinary mountain pass! The Col de L’iIseran is the highest mountain pass in the Alps at 2770m and it’s stunning!

We started the route from the well known ski hub of Val’d’Isere, a fabulous outdoor adventure town in its own right. Where anything and everything seems available to those wanting that next big adventure thrill.

As the climb begins, the first amazing views come into sight. The glistening blue water of Lac du Chevril, sparkle in the distance, beyond the now tiny looking resort of Val d’Isere.

It seems that anything and everything on wheels is on this mountain road. It’s the glory of cyclists and they are out in the masses on this fabulous Summer afternoon.

The road bends are steady but obvious, ski runs surround us, even as we approach the summit.

This place is vast and the tourism sector of this region has embraced it for what it can offer. Some of the best mountain biking in Summer and thrill seeking ski runs in Winter, it’s just awesome.

The very Chilly Summit – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Parking up at the Summit view point and “must do” sign, we brave the biting winds that seem to have come from nowhere.

A very quick photo opportunity and we head back to the van, ready for the glorious descent into the valley on the other side.

This is just stunning, a drive taking us, down the mountain into the green pastures of the Alpine meadows.

Farmers are busy collecting the freshly mown pasture grasses, in preparation for a harsh Winter. Wild flowers are in abundance, as we pass pretty mountain streams.

We stop to watch some playful furry mountain Marmots on the hillside, before continuing to the valley for a well deserved cuppa (anyone would think we’d cycled it!).

French Alps

The Tour de France beat us to it
Driving the mountain pass with fabulous views

Bonneval-Sur-Arc – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

We end our drive in the incredibly picturesque Bonneval-Sur-Arc, a true surprise in its beauty.

We had no intention of stopping here the night, but needs must when you get an opportunity in such incredible surroundings!

There’s something so mystical about being in the mountains.

Feeling as if we’re miles from anywhere. The enormity of those dramatic peaks and ridges seem so close. Almost as if they can be reached out and touched.

The glistening snow and ice of Summer on the glaciers is beautiful, melting glacial water, cascading through gorges, carved out over millions of years.

It makes us realise just how small we all are on our ever changing planet. Bonneval-Sur-Arc is one of those magical places that bring the mountains to life. The old village is full of ancient wooden mountain dwellings, it’s quite something to see.

Luckily, there is motorhome parking at the village, where we joined around 30 other motorhomes for the night.

Some days, our walking routes take our breath away! This was certainly one of those moments…..just simply incredible!

Hiking to L’Ecot From Bonneval-Sur-Arc – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Bonneval-Sur-Arc is beautiful in itself, home of the most simply, rustic dwellings, many with the thick slab stone roofs to protect them from the harsh winters.

When you’re in the mountains in the heat of summer, it’s really difficult to imagine it in any other way! To think that those green meadows and wild flowers are hidden beneath the thickness of the heavy snow falls.

Exploring on foot following the marked path’s out of Bonneval-Sur-Arc, this 2 hour return route led us through the valley, gradually rising towards the ancient village of L’Ecot.

Once the highest village in the Alps, this incredibly beautiful hamlet, is now only occupied in the Summer months and when you reach it you can see why!

As in all areas of France, walking routes are excellent and very well marked. The hiking trails here are no exception, with routes signposted along with distance in time that it takes, perfectly positioned to help us on our way.

There are no words really to describe this area, the region itself is just a delight and the walk to this ancient village even more so.

With that, I think I’ll leave it to the pictures, which will definitely paint a thousand words!!

Bonneval sur Arc
Walking to L’Ecot the ancient village

Bonneval sur Arc
The mountain village of L’Ecot

Driving over the Col du Cenis to Italy – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Our mountain pass route into Italy, across the 2083m high Col du Cenis, wasn’t quite the scenic view we’d expected!

As we left the French alpine town of Lanslevillard at the base of the pass, the sun was shining and the heat was well and truly on!

However, a thick fog soon descended, as we climbed the winding bends of the mountains. Soon we were in what can only be described as “Pea Soup”!

Our views down to what should have been our stop for the night, at Lac du Mont Cenis, were non existent! The incredibly bright blue lake of the picture postcards was not even visible, although we did pass it somewhere!!

Such as shame to miss it, but at this point and with Madam in the driving seat, trust me to pick a mountain pass in fog to do the driving . We were just happy to get down into visible conditions.

So, now you’ll know why there aren’t any fab picutres to accompany the route! But this is real life and that’s exactly how we’re trying to keep things.

Italy Awaits – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Italy is a country that we only started exploring last year. We concentrated then on the Northern Region, touring the Italian Lakes, Northern cities of Verona, Milan, Padova, Venice and a few more in the mix, before exploring the Prosecco wine routes and the Dolomites.

We were ever so slighlty hooked! So this year, we wanted to continue the exploring, starting below where we left off and into new territory in the Piedmont region.

Briefly our first couple of days had been a mix of extremely hot weather, followed by the inevitable early evening storms.

Susa and Turin – Calais to Italy in a campervan!

Our first stop was the Roman town of Susa, just over the border from France. With a fairly good mix of Roman ruins to visit and an intricate centre, it was an easy place to start a new country.

From here, the route took us towards Turin, stopping first at the Abbey of Sacra Di San Michele. At 3156 ft, it’s an imposing structure, resembling Mont St.Michel in Normandy.

Arriving at a free Sosta in Turin, we had an overnight stop whilst a storm passed. A Sosta is the Italian version of a French motorhome Aire and as we found out from our previous trip, they are everywhere in Italy too!

Heading out on the bikes, we had a good 45 minute cycle ride before we reached the city centre. Turin, isn’t the most spendid city we’ve seen, it’s possibly a functional business city rather than a typical tourist destination.

However, there are though, some interesting and architecturally delightful buildings, along with fascinating arcades that surround the exteriors.

It’s worth a visit if you’re in the area and you have the time.

There are numerous museums here and of course, it’s home to the Fiat factory, which houses its own museum.

Lastly, if you’re a fan of the original film “The Italian Job”, yes the Michael Caine, “blow the bloody doors off” famous line….then you’ll love Turin for that alone! Many of the scenes were filmed here and even we remember some of those famous locations.

What’s not to love about strolling through one huge movie set of a city?

Italy
Italian Border

Turin

One of the Main Plaza’s in Turin

Next time our Italian tour takes us to the Italian Riviera!

Motorhome Aires in France and Europe

Essential Guide to Motorhome Aires in France and Europe

The Aire De Services De Camping Car or Aires For Short.

Here’s our essential guide to Motorhome Aires in France and Europe

We’ve stayed at hundred’s of Motorhome Aires in France and Europe at various locations. Countries, such as Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Lichtenstein and The Netherlands are all easy for touring in a motorhome and here’s why.

These countries, all have a sort of similar stopover system, although not necessarily using the same terminology.

France has the most familiar to us British, this is known as a Motorhome Aire or Aire de Service de Camping Car.

So, what exactly is an Aire? How do you find one and what can you expect when you stay on one?

We’ll try and answer all of those questions, hopefully, helping you on your way, to joining us in our love for the Aire system. Not just in France, but across Europe.

1. What is An Aire?

Aires in France and Europe, are basically, designated parking areas for use by fully self-contained campervans and motorhomes.

They are provided by the local authority, usually the Mayor in France, or a private land owner. Some Aires, are just daytime parking. However, most are for overnight use, and they can be located in any number of locations.

There is no set rule and no hard or fast way of knowing where an Aire will be situated. This also applies to how big it is, or what facilities it will have.

How Did The Aire System Begin? Motorhome Aires in France and Europe.

The original development of the Aire system, was a result of French Government recogintion, to the importance of providing facilities for Motorhomes. The Government realised, that by encouraging visitors to stop in or near a town, the economic benefits would profit the local community.

Significantly, the big difference between Motorhome’s and caravan’s was noted by the government.  They recognised that Motorhome’s are fully self- contained, with fitments such as on board water tanks, along with the tendency for Motorhome owners, to drive on regularly.

Not forgetting, the other big difference to caravan’s. This being, the fact that there’s no separate car to the accommodation!

Important points: Aires in France and Europe 

  • In France, the number of days or nights you can stop at an aire is usually determined by the Mayor of the town. This generally it is between 24-72 hours.
  • A sign at the Aire will define the amount of time you can stop.
  • It shouldn’t be confused with camping. When you park up, it should be just that. With all tyres in contact with the ground and no setting out your table and chairs, for outdoor dining into the night.
  • In other words, the levelling ramps should stay in the van. Also, you shouldn’t take up the parking space next to you whilst, sitting under the awning sipping a glass of Vin Rouge from your Lafuma recliner!
  • An Aire is for fully self-contained vans only. No caravans or campers without facilities are permitted.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome. If the rules are 48hours then abide by them!
  • You can’t book, it’s turn up on a first come first served basis.

The Reality of Staying On An Aires in France and Europe

In practice we have rarely come across an Aire where someone has not put out the levelling ramps! Certainly, if it’s good weather, in a great location the reclining sun chairs and awning will be out too!

Basically, it’s a common sense approach and being respectful.  Don’t misuse space if it’s jam packed full with others. More importantly, definitely put everything away, if you lock up and go out for the day.

Some aires can be so full, that there is only enough space to open the door between you and the next van!  Other’s in the middle of a town or city are obviously for the purpose of convenience. These may have perfectly marked out bays for you to stick to.

One private initiative is France Passion, This is where local landowners allow you to stop on their land. This is for either a small fee, or the expectation that you will buy a product from them in return.

It could be an orchard, vineyard or small holding, where they produce small items such as honey or grow fruit or vegetables.  To find these you need to sign up to the France Passion guide each year. Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll be sent a book and window sticker (fees applicable to join) an App would be great, but there isn’t one at time of writing.

2. Service Points –  How Do You Fill Up With Fresh Water And Empty The Waste?

Some Aires in France and Europe, but not all of them have a facility for emptying grey water, filling up with fresh and a place to empty the cassette toilet.  These are known as a service point or dump and can be either:

  • A drain in the ground, often surrounded by concrete, which you drive over. You line the waste pipe up with the drain hole and empty the waste water. There will be a separate sewerage drain for the cassette toilet, and fresh water tap to connect a hose and fill up.

OR

  • An all in one multi-function unit. These are specifically manufactured by companies, such as Euro-Relais and Font Bleu. These are a one-stop unit for emptying the toilet, filling with fresh and a drain in the ground, somewhere close by or next to it. This is where the grey water can be emptied, usually by driving over a drain in the ground.  These units, may also have a power outlet, where you can do a quick charge up for a short period of time (often up to a couple of hours).

Service points can Be without parking and vice-versa

It is not unusual to have a Service Point and no parking area. However, you can have both, it just varies! Usually at Aires in France and Europe, they’ll be have Service Point. Also, they could be at a motorway services, supermarket, towns, villages and some fuel stations.

Typical Motorhome Aire Service Unit
A Euro Relais Motorhome Service Point Unit

Is It Free To Use A Service Point?

There is an increasing tendency to charge for service points of all types.  This can be a credit card option on the service unit ,or at an entrance to an Aire. An additional charge for parking may be required, by means of a parking machine. Sometimes, coin payments on the unit itself or buying a token (Jeton) at the local tourist office are used.

All payment methods give a limited usage, usually a few minutes.  The use of barrier operated entrances has become more noticeable too recently.  In these circumstances, you may have to pay to enter to use the service point. Even if you’re not stopping the night.

It will probably cost a few Euro’s to use a Service Point, so it won’t break the bank.

Last but not least some service points are free!

3.  How Do You Find An Aire? Motorhome Aires in France and Europe 

There is no set way of knowing where an Aire or a Service point will be and whether there will be both when you do find one.  They will, however, be signposted and it’s usually very distinctive. Here’s a standard Aire sign for you to get an idea:

Aire de Services de camping camping car sign
The classic blue Aire sign displays a motorhome with dump drain below

Also, one lesson well learnt is to head for water, no matter what kind! Often a canal, river or beach for instance, will usually have an Aire. Sometimes just a few motorhomes will be parked up, or it can be dozens, especially in peak season in a popular place.

If you want to be a bit more prepared here’s the best options:

  • Tourist Information – Most French tourist offices have local maps that actually show where the Aires are located. They’ll also indicate if you can stay the night and if there’s a service point or both.  These are free, easy to read and up to date. It’s a total fuss free way of getting the most out of an area or region.
  • Apps -there are a few out there, some in French such as Aires Camping Car but our favourite and a must have for us now, is Campercontact .  It has loads of Aires listed on its database throughout Europe and includes ratings, facilities and best of all, there are fully linked directions through Google Maps or similar.
  • It saves a lot of time and stress on the road, but you do have to pay a fee for the full version.  There’s also Park4night but we find this better for wild camping spots, although it does cover Aires too.
  • Books – it just seems a bit old hat now to store books in the van. Although we’ve had lots of them, before technology advanced to today’s standards.
  • There’s a drawback too with a book, due to Aires closing or even a change of location.  So, a book can lead you to a closed Aire! Also, you have to pay and sometimes you’ll need several books, especially if you’re on a tour of a few countries. So it’s costly and they take up a lot of space in the cab.
  • If you can only cope with a book, then you can buy French Aire books from service stations and sometimes supermarkets and book shops in France.  There is also an English printed book ‘All The Aires’ available through Vicarious Books in the UK.
  • You can buy Maps at service stations in France that list the Aires, we’ve bought these and they don’t actually list very many, but if you want a quick fix or just an idea then they can be an option.

4.  Where do you Park?

Parking varies, it can be on grass, gravel, dust, sand, tarmac, concrete, it’s basically completely random. One thing’s certain, you won’t really know for sure until you arrive.

There can be marked bays, or just park up where you can.  Location’ s could be next to a pretty canal, alongside a river or close to a beach. It could be at a tourist attraction or in the centre of a town, maybe overlooking a beautiful vineyard or even at the bottom of a ski slope.

The locations of aires in France and Europe can be incredible or just functional, as well as peaceful or noisy! In addition, they could be messy or extremely clean and tidy, however, convenience though is key.

5.  Are Aires Free or Do you Pay?

This varies and generally it depends on where it’s located.  If it’s a sleepy village then it will usually be free, elsewhere there may be a charge and this could be anything from a few Euro’s to between 10 and 20 Euro’s a night.

The Gendarmerie (local Police) used to collect fees by knocking on your door of an evening or morning. This is now unusual, following the introduction of automated pay machines as well as barriers, installed to prevent vans entering and leaving without paying.

There is one issue we find when trying to pay at an automated machine, they are usually card only and some don’t recognise a UK credit/debit card. As much you want to pay and stay, you simply can’t!  We’ve been lucky with friendly locals paying for us with their French cards, we’ve paid them back in cash, of course!

Overall, pay or not, an Aire represents excellent value for money and convenience, they are so close to all amenities  and saves the hassle of trying to park elsewhere or catch transport.

6.  What Facilities Are Provided?

Don’t get too excited on this one, facilities are pretty basic, certainly don’t expect a campsite or caravan park! An Aire is really just a parking space where you can stay overnight. Further more, expect to use the facilities in your own van.

Occasionally, there may be a public toilet, but this is unusual. It’s also worth remembering that in France and Italy, the old style hole in the ground type toilets may be used. Therefore, they may not be to your liking!

There definitely won’t be showers. Although, sometimes, if your in the height of season by the Mediterranean, for example. A cold shower could be available to use outdoor’s or behind a very basic door!

Electric is Rare

Electric can sometimes be found on a service unit, but this is limited usage and it can be inconvenient.  For example, it may mean that you need to park next to it for a couple of hours to get charged.

It is very unusual to get electric bollards on a French Aire.  If you do see any, they are usually full of power lead extensions dangling off in all sorts of directions, to other vans. Once again, electric would be limited to certain usage and definitely a low amp of around 6amp.

It will be no good to power all your appliances full blast, but will do a nice trickle charge on the leisure battery.

Using An Aire Service Point Unit
Our Van At An Aire Service Point

7.  Motorway Aires

These are very different to the Aire de Camping Car, that you’re encouraged to stay at throughout France. In fact, they are basically the same as our motorway service stations. We only use them for that purpose, as a quick rest stop, exactly as we would in the UK.

Motorway Aires, are for taking a break, buying food, having a drink or a toilet stop. They are no more than that and should never be used as a stop overnight, even if it’s the kind without the fuel station.

When we do stop, we have one person to stay in the van at all times. So, yes we take it in turns to use the facilities, if there are any. This way, we know that no one has tampered with the van, especially the tyres.

If you’ve heard of robberies, alleged gassings or letting tyres down, before robbing the occupants. These have often been at motorway Aires, where people have stopped the night in the van.

There is no real need to stop at a motorway Aire,simply because there are far nicer places to stop just off the carriageway. It’s just not worth risking you and the van on the motorway.

The only time we’ve stayed on a motorway Aire, was due To the main A26 motorway being closed one December. Heavy snow had fallen and everyone had to pull off the road and just sit it out. Whilst the snow ploughs’s made a clear enough path, to open one lane of the motorway!

8. Aires In Winter

Many Aires resemble ghost towns out of season. Few service points stay in working order with most being drained down for Winter and sealed off from use.

This can leave you struggling and many a time, we have driven miles to try and get fresh water and empty the cassette toilet. Even resorting to using the kettle to fit under an awkward size sink in a public toilets, or actually buying large bottled water to fill up  the tank.

Don’t be fooled into thinking, that just because it’s across the channel that everything stays open all year round!

Ski resorts are an exception and will be geared up to the Winter season. Usually, you’ll will find some service points open and Aires that are generally busy, even full, with Skiers enjoying the snow.

French Alps Motorhome Aire

9. Motorhome Aires in France and Europe

GERMANY

Aires or stopovers in Germany are known as Stellplatz. They are excellent, and there are lots of them, above all, these are mostly very neat and tidy. Although, nearly all have parking fees, payable at a meter.

The parking is usually cleaner than in France and often they’ll be a good public toilet at the parking area or close by.  They normally have electric available too.

A book can be bought, listing all the Stellplatz in Germany, called ‘The Bord Atlas’ or Reismobil Stellplatz.

This can be ordered online or bought at some motorhome dealers or service stations in Germany.

The locations of a Stellplatz can be superb, often next to vineyards, or lakes, mountains and rivers. However, we love those located at Thermes, these are hot mineral water spa baths, dotted around various thermal areas in Germany. It’s a great way to spend a relaxing evening, dipping in and out of the various pools before heading back to the van.

BELGIUM

Belgium has a mix of stopovers, which are very similar to French Aires. These are found throughout the country, generally in great locations. Usually a fee applies of between 10-20 Euro per night.

NETHERLANDS – Motorhome Aires in France and Europe

Stopover’s in Holland are often found on a privately owned land. There are, however, lots of them in some really great locations.  Also, there’s a really good system, of being able to stop at many boating marina’s.

The added advantage of using the facilities, such as hot showers, toilets and possibly a laundry and power supply, to plug the van in to is an added bonus.

All are subject to fees averaging around 15-20 Euro per night. Some private stopovers will take bookings.

Belgium Aire

SPAIN – Motorhome Aires in France and Europe

There is a mix in Spain, of a limited number of local authority stopovers. Most are private, being found in a variety of locations and lots of new ones are cropping up.

The facilities can be basic, but many do have a toilet and hot shower with the possibility of electric.

They can be extremely over subscribed, through the Winter months, when many people head south to the sun.

When we visited,  we didn’t actually manage to get into very many of them, being turned away time after time, with most full for month’s.

Private Stopovers will charge and it may be possible to pre-book these. Local Authority area’s tend to be free with no pre-booking.

Spanish Stopover Aire
A Spanish Orange Grove Aire

ITALY – Motorhome Aires in France and Europe

The Italian system for motorhome parking is known as an Aree di Sosta. These are located throughout Italy and are very similar to French Aires, with lots of them, in really good locations.

A mix of private and Local Authority provided areas are available. Which are either free or payable, prices ranging from around 8 – 20 Euro per night.

AUSTRIA 

Austria has no real Aire system, therefore, a campsite stay is really the only option.  A rise in wild-camping due to the Apps available, is noticeable, as is the police presence in moving people on!

CROATIA 

Croatia is Campsites only, although some have a facility to stay in the car park belonging to the campsite, which is an Aire type parking.

We were told that tourists should be logged in on a nightly basis, for authority requirements, therefore, only campsites are offered.

Also, due to the war here, there are possibly unexploded land mines in some areas.  No doubt, there are still those people wild camping, but we choose not to!

SLOVENIA

Slovenia is generally Campsites only.

LIECHTENSTEIN 

This is a small country, however, Camper parking is allowed on the coach park, with use of the facilities for coaches. A small fees apply.

UK

Unfortunately there is no Aire system at all. We wish the authorities would change their mind on the outdated response to us Motorhome community.

If you enjoyed Motorhome Aires in France and Europe here’s a Further blog:

Touring Croatia in a Motorhome

Australia Office To Outback

Australia in a Campervan
Australia in a Campervan
Outback Salt Flats

Australia is Amazing

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.

Incredible People

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.

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

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

https://campervancastaways.com/2018/08/18/ive-won-qantas-flights-to-sydney/

Saying No To Negativity

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!

Follow our travels on Facebook too

https://www.facebook.com/campervancastaways/?ref=bookmarks

New Zealand North v South Island

New Zealand Introduction

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.


Arriving In the North Island

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.

Driving

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.

Distances

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?!

How much time do you need?

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.

What’s the difference between the North and South Island?

North Island

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.

It’s Not All Outdoors

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!

South Island

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.

Where to stay

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!

Shopping

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.

Pricing

Overall, things are perhaps slightly more expensive than the UK, but quality is good where food and drink is concerned.

Top Tip

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.

Temperatures

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!

Super Friendly

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.

Hot Pools

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!

The beautiful Coromandel

From Capital City to City of Sails

Wellington, New Zealand’s Super Cool Capital!

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.



Advertisements

Wellington New Zealand, One Cool Capital!

Wellington
The beach huts on the Wellington waterfront

Wellington, One of the Coolest Capital’s in the World

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.

Earthquakes

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.

Catch of The Day NZ Style!

Wellington
Te Papa Museum and the Terracotta Army Exhibition from our visit

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.

Wellington
Heading up Mt Victoria on foot for a super view over Oriental Bay

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.

Wellington
Off the Cable Car to the Botanic Gardens

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.

Wellington
Our son passing the Wellywood sign in our self-build van

Wellington
Some of the lovely bays along the coastal path from the city to 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.

Wellington Freedom camping

Motorhome Parking in the centre off Cuba Street

Wellington
Freedom Camping at Evans Bay near Wellington Airport

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.

Wellington
Freedom Camping at the end of Owhiro Bay

Wellington
Seal Colony at Kopahou Reserve, Owhiro Bay

Wellington
Walking tracks are everywhere

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!

New Zealand Planning That Trip

Top Tips Hiring a Camper In New Zealand

Catch of The Day NZ Style!

The Romantic Road Germany

Romantic Road Germany

The Romantic Road, Germany

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.

The Romantic Road Begins

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.

Hot Pools 

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.

Pretty Towns 

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.

Romantic Road, Germany
Lovely character towns and villages dominate the Romantic Road

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 Reminder of the Holocaust

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.

Dachau Concentration Camp
Entering the the gates to the Dachau 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.

Rivers and Rolling Hills 

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!

The Ultimate Fairytale Castle

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.

Romantic Road Germany
Hohenschwangau the other Castle at Schwangau

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’s The End of The Road

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!

Romantic Road



View all posts

Vanlife Women v Men Emptying The Portaloo

How many Women do the chores?

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!

From Toilet To Tanks

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 you a Woman Doing the Dirty jobs?

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?

Driving

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!).

Aire dump
Nigel doing the dirty work at the toilet dump!

It’s Not all Left To Nige

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.

The Satellite Dish

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!

Inside The Van

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!!

Finally

If you enjoyed this read, then here’s a few more!

14 Facts The Most Annoying Thing About Neighbours!

16 Must Know Facts of #vanlife  

Our Top 9 Off Grid Essentials To Consider When Buying or Building A Van

Vanlife
Sharing the driving seat in our New Zealand self-build

14 Facts The Most Annoying Thing About Neighbours!

Vanlife…The Reality behind the Image!

New Zealand Catch of The Day

Fishing trip New Zealand
New Zealand road trip
Leaving the harbour at Tairua on board Charleen!

Catch of The Day New Zealand Style

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!

Breakfast Beside the Ocean

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!

An Invitation Not To Miss

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!

New Zealand Fishing Trip
Our fishing boat Charleen and new pal Ray

All Aboard Charlene

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.

Fishing trip New Zealand
Nigel and our Skipper, Dave at the helm

Life Stories

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.

New Zealand road trip
Boarding the fishing boat at Tairua

Big Fish

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!

Reeling In The Catch And Shark Talk

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.

A Day To Remember

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!

Top Tips Hiring a Camper In New Zealand

New Zealand Planning That Trip

Touring Croatia in a Motorhome

Campsites Croatia

Touring Croatia In A Motorhome

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!


Austria – The Previous Year

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.


Croatia Bound

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.

Croatia
Croatia’s beautiful Harbour towns

Istrian Coast

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!!

Motorhome Stopover or Campsites

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.

https://www.istra.hr/en/experience-istria