Author: 2017onceinalifetime

Lagos Algarve Portugal

13th October 2018 – 11th November 2018

We finally made it into Lagos in the Algarve and had decided to stay at the same site as last year. When we went to check in, we never book, they asked how many days would you like to stay and we said 7 weeks ! This is a couple of weeks longer than last year and we have arrived nearly a month earlier than last year. The reason for staying in one place for so long is that friends are visiting at the end of November and here at the site it has little static homes that you can rent and this is where our friends are staying. We haven’t told them yet but we could be de camping with them as it sleeps 5 and some have a jacuzzi !. The best pitches have of course been taken by the long termers, who book 5 years in advance for the same pitch (if only we were this organised !) but we chose a nice large area with sun and settled in like pros. Now, the weather, don’t get me wrong it is certainly warm averaging 20 degrees but compared to last year the sun has decided not to show it self as often and the rain clouds have been emptying themselves more often over us. In normal circumstances we would have probably have chased the sun but we are here until the end of the month until our friends arrive. We have hired a little car whilst we are here, not a trendy white Fiat 500 but a VW Polo which in Chloe’s world is still the perfect transport for the beach. Whenever we are getting ready to go out, she sits patiently by the back door of the car waiting for it to be opened and then chauffeured to the numerous lovely sandy beaches which we decide to visit for the daily walk. Portugal does have the most beautiful of sandy beaches in our opinion. Some stretch for miles and with the changeable weather there have been some stunning waves for the surfers to ride. What we have noticed this year arriving a full 4 weeks earlier is that there are still lots of holidaymakers about. The towns are bustling, all the shops and restaurants are open and they have a great vibe about them. It has been school half term week or two in some cases and we or should I say ‘I’ was so excited to find my cousin’s son coming for a weeks holiday to Lagos with Sarah his girlfriend, who is a teacher. I am sure they didn’t want two ‘old ones’ cramping their style, but I did ask and they said they would love to and so we picked them up from their hotel and took them to Alvor for lunch. We had such a lovely time together and we had something very special to celebrate after Nathan’s Mum, my cousin, had just heard the news the previous day that she was cancer free. I wish sometimes that I could time travel just to hug people, as I so wanted to hug Elaine. I sent a hug home with Nathan though. We have met up with some old friends and have made some lovely new ones as well. Margaret & Steve who we met last year have bought a lovely villa in Praia da Luz and we visited for lunch. A lovely traditional villa with views of the sea. Now Margaret and Steve put us to shame as they are avid walkers and cyclists and have 10 years on us. Steve says, would you like to walk from Lagos to Praia da Luz with us only 8 miles ! Of course how could we refuse, I did say to David if I got too tired I would call a cab ! God, I am weak. Anyway, we had the most amazing walk along the cliff tops, the weather was perfect and we saw parts of Portugal that we have never seen before. It was a glorious walk and we were so pleased we went and I didn’t need to call a cab ! We have met up with Keith & Jane and their beautiful dog named Beurre. We first met them last year on the West Coast of Portugal. We were sitting outside and suddenly this dog appeared and David & I did a double take as Beurre is really distinctive with two different coloured eyes and we thought, we’ve seen him somewhere before and then Keith appears round the corner. It is lovely to catch up on their travels and spend time with them. We have also met some new special friends Paul and Stephen from Jersey and their dog Archie who is the most gorgeous Black Spaniel. We formed the ‘Saturday Dinner’ club and our first outing was to a great Pizza restaurant in Espiche that they recommended and wow the pizzas. David ordered a 51cm pizza as did Paul & Stephen and when they arrived at our table everyone was looking at us ! They were delicious and one is to share between two and it was the day that David & I did our 8 mile walk, so I didn’t feel too bad and we were starving. We ate the whole lot between us but were rolling out the restaurant by the end of it ! A South African restaurant followed and next on the ‘Saturday Dinner’ club is an Indian Restaurant. Poor Chloe has had a visit to the vets with a sore bum. €45 later and some cream which obviously I have to administer we left. After a week she is much better more to the relief of me not having to use the cream I think ! We are now concentrating on perfecting our sun dance to make sure the weather is good for when our friends arrive in a couple of weeks.

Porto & Nazaré Portugal

7th October 2018 – 12th October 2018

Well what can we say. We absolutely loved Porto, it is second only to Paris in our opinion. It is a place we could have stayed much longer as there is so much to explore and just to immerse yourself into. Some cities we visit have a great vibe, it is just a feeling but Porto certainly had it. Porto is one of the oldest European cities and it’s historical core proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Our first trip in, a bus ride away from where we were staying. We left Chloe sleeping in the van and luckily the van sheltered by trees and the weather not too hot so we knew we could leave her for afew hours. Now the buses in Portugal are a law unto themselves, standing literally in the middle of the road and waving my arms like a mad woman for the bus to stop, the bugger just drives on past. Swearing and shouting and saying, what are we going to do do now and not wanting to wait another hour until the next one, we were contemplating our options when another bus comes thundering along the road and with my mad woman actions again, it stops. 30 minutes later we are in Porto. It is Sunday and the sun is out and we stop firstly for coffee and a gorgeous Pastel de Nata oh how we love these custard tarts. You can just wander the streets for hours, just enjoying the City. Some of the shops were open and I wandered into one and to my complete and utter excitement I see a cushion that had an illustration of ‘Mona’. ‘Mona’ you ask, yes the famous ‘Mona’ created by my talented friend Sonia Holleyman. Sonia is a illustrator of childrens books and created ‘Mona’ into a series of books followed by a TV series and film. I ran out of the shop shouting to David and showed him the cushion, told the shop owner hoping he would give me the cushion, but alas no. We found the main railway station to see the amazing tiles inside the main hall, Clerigos Church and Tower with it’s stunning blue and white tiles and the Livraria Lello. The famous bookshop and inspiration for JK Rowling. We did not get to go inside on this trip. The queue to get in was way too long. After a lovely lunch over looking the Douro river we headed back to the van for a siesta. The next day we were due to leave but we decided to stay another day to visit Porto again. This time we crossed over the famous Ponte de Dom Luis bridge and then got a cable car to the quayside. We meandered up to the famous Taylor’s Port House, had my photo taken but unfortunately David felt unwell and we cut the rest of the day short, headed back to the van where David spent the rest of the afternoon in bed and I visit the zoo. (He’s fine now). We could spend a whole week in Porto and will be back, we loved it. The next day David was well enough and we set off South. We stopped at Nazaré famous for the tallest wave ever recorded being surfed and a mecca for surfers due to the the presence of the underwater Nazaré Canyon which creates the height of the waves making them much larger on this stretch of the coast. It is also famous as a fishing village and the old tradition of drying the day’s catch on the beach is still visible with the older ladies in their traditional clothes, selling the dried fish. The next day after afew hours drive we stayed in Tornada e Samir do Porto, Chloe enjoying a long evening walk on the beach into the little town where we enjoyed a beer and a cider and watched the sun go down. Our final destination before we hit the Algarve was Alcacer do Sal, we stayed here last year and it is a lovely traditional Portuguese town. What I had missed on our last visit though was the most wonderful shop, yes another shop ! But this shop sold everything you could possible require for a horse and it’s rider. Beautiful leather saddles, leather clothing, reins, boots. Oh if only I could buy something, but no room in the van ! Not sure what I would have bought though, I don’t own a horse !

Al Coruna & Santiago de Compostela Spain

04th October 2018 – 6th October 2018

The next destination west and the most westly point we are going on this trip is to Al Coruna. We parked in the marina, walking distance into the city and the perfect weather, sunny but not too hot for Chloe. It’s all about Chloe in our world ! Al Coruna is a busy port and a destination for cruise ships, with one docked whilst we were there. How huge are they, never fancied a cruise myself but never say never. A Coruna was the site of the battle of Corunna in which British troops fought against the French to cover the embarkation of the British troops after their retreat. In this battle Sir John Moore was killed, also known as Moore of Corunna. His body lies in a beautiful park overlooking the harbour. When we found the park, there were hundreds of screaming children running round, not the most peaceful of settings. The city hall is an amazing building, the roof dazzling in the sunshine situated in the Maria Pita Square. We meandered around the streets, got up early in the morning to visit the fresh food market, but a huge disappointment. We were hoping to find an amazing market like Cadiz but alias no. The Plaza del Humour is a great little hidden gem, a small square in the old part of of A Coruna. Cartoons are depicted on the pavement, with sculptures sitting on benches, there is Groucho chasing the unobtainable. May West flouting her feminine wiles and Laurel & Hardy doing goofy things. Well worth finding if you are ever in A Coruna. After a couple of days we started to head South and to the Pilgrim’s destination of Santiago de Compostela. The city has it’s origin in the shrine of Saint James the Great, now the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the city’s old town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 100,000 pilgrims travel to the city each year from points all over Europe and other parts of the world. The city was heaving with people of all nationalities, a large group of children cheering as they had reached their destination and cyclists having their photos taken outside the Cathedral. Many follow the route as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It had a real buzz and to get into the spirit of it all I bought a scallop shell to go round my neck. I didn’t have a clue what this shell symbolised but everyone had one and as I love a shop, even a tacky tourist shop, of which there are many, I bought one. Later to read that the shell is an emblem of St James. The Cathedral is amazing but with so, so many people we retreated. One hi-light was Barberia Milenio, now David has been growing his beard since we left and now it is quite long and needs shaping. Not having a clue on how to shape beards, although I did try. But the look David was giving me as I trimmed away with a pair of dog scissors told me that I should maybe leave it to a professional. So, we made an appointment and braved the Spanish barbers. It was pot luck but the barber, young, dark haired and with a great shaped beard himself told us that this guy knew what he was doing. In the chair David goes, collar round his neck and cape over his body. The next minute he is horizontal in the chair with a hot towel over his face. I see his head go redder and redder, as another Spanish customer tells me he once lived in Milton Keynes ! I was hoping David wasn’t going to pass out. Luckily he didn’t and 30 minutes later with a very well trimmed beard costing all of €10 we left. David was very happy and so will his Mum be, as she’s not been too keen on the growing beard.

Hidden Gems of Spain

24th September – 3rd October 2018

I am writing this sitting in the van looking out onto a beautiful estuary in the small town of Foz in Northern Spain. It is a truly amazing view and a pinch yourself moment of the beauty of it. Northern Spain has so far been a real eye opener and although we touched a small part of it when we set of last year we have ventured further west into new territory. It is stunning here and we ask ourselves why the majority of people head to Southern Spain when you have the most amazing beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see and pure white sand that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. This part of Spain is of course a surfer’s paradise. Our first stopover was the town of Ondarroa. Now here I thought my luck had changed, we stayed at a secluded campsite in the forest and as I went to the reception I was wolf whistled ! Happy days I thought, at my age I felt quite elated until I realised where the whistle was coming from, a parrot ! There he sat on the upstairs balcony and for the next couple of days as I walked passed and to be honest when anyone walked passed they were greeted with a wolf whistle. We walked into the small town with it’s amazing beach, relaxed over a coffee with the locals, but sadly for Chloe no beach, as most of the beaches in towns have a ‘No Dogs’ policy. The climb back up to the campsite took some work, which could only mean one thing to get over it, a siesta ! We meandered further west and stayed at a campsite near Loredo, that we visited last year with the best beach to date. It holds such special memories, just for the shear size of it, the perfect beach for surfers and we broke the rules and got Chloe on the beach, albeit in the evening. Now, heaven know why, and at my age, but seeing all the surfers last year I thought I need to have a go. I thought surfing might be a little too difficult but bodyboarding, I thought may be this is something we could both do. To be honest, I knew the waters were nothing like the warmth of Greece but our lovely friends Gaz & Debs had lent us their wetsuits and bodyboards and so there was no excuse. All fired up, squeezing into our suits we set off looking like we knew what we were doing. We get into the water and realise that we don’t have a clue, can’t stop laughing but had one of the best times ever. Such fun and if we did it often enough, our bodies in our dreams may look like the fit surfers sculptured, no fat on them bodies. The next day took us to Barrio Juncalada and the beach there was another surfer’s paradise. We cycled into the town, bought the largest peaches we have ever seen and a sun hat for me and cycled home. The trouble was, I didn’t get all the way home as I fell off my bike, because I wasn’t looking where I was going and ended up splattered on the road, two grazed hands and a bloody knee. Poor David, I am not the best patient in the world.

After afew days resting, we set off again to Oviedo with it’s beautiful Cathedral of San Salvador and it’s famous Cider. Now the pouring of Cider is also of great importance in Spain. The liquid is poured from a great height allowing lots of bubbles into the drink. Only one or two gulps are poured at once into the glass and then the pouring process begins again, This allows the drinker to enjoy the full flavour of the drink apparently. Gutted I never tried any. The next day and just through recommendation we went to Foz. We had such a great view from the van window, one night turned into two after we met a lovely older Spanish resident out on his daily walk. He stopped to chat, perfect English after living in Balham and still having a house there (rich Spaniard) and challenged David to a game of ping pong, but David wasn’t so keen. Told us all about his Skudo games and left one for David to complete. He also recommended a restaurant to eat lunch, which we did. Three courses, a bottle of wine, beer and coffee all for €12 each and that could only mean one thing after that another siesta. Feeling guilty about all these siestas, we have decided to do Couch to 5K to try and get a little bit fit. So the next morning in all our running gear, yes we have all the gear but never run. We set off on our day 1 of the challenge. Let me tell you I am not a runner, will never be a runner and I don’t like running but I am going to give it a go. Watch this space.

We’re Back.

13th September 2018 – 24th September 2018

We are back on the road. Having left the UK after afew weeks home. I say home, but now I feel that the van is my home and it is. It is strange how your life can change in a year, never would I think I would call a Motorhome home. We have all the home comforts that David will allow me to bring always saying ‘there’s no room’ but I secretly get to sneak them in. The fairy lights, the room fresheners, the pots of face creams filling the bathroom cupboard, leaving no room for David’s small toiletries and the medicine cabinet that would put Boots to shame. I no longer need the psoriasis cream, which tells me that I must be a lot more relaxed and less stressed. I still stress, just about different things, like the van not fitting down the road and processionary caterpillars attacking Chloe. What really brings it home though, is when you see friends when we were back and my friend Sonia saying to me ‘when you smile your eyes smile with you’. Such a lovely thing to say and other friends that we hadn’t seen for a year saying David looked so much younger (nothing about me!). So, the life changing decision is obviously working. How long we will continue, who knows, where we end up putting our roots, who knows. What we do know is that we have set off again heading to Portugal, via France and then Spain.

This is quite a well trodden route for us, as we headed to Portugal last year. This time we are going through France, into Northern Spain along the rest of the Northern coast that we never reached last year and down a different route into Portugal. We travel on non toll roads through France, as we don’t have to get anywhere fast. We stopped off at a couple of aires, the free parking areas for Motorhomes in France and then at the weekend stayed with friends near Limoges. We had a lovely weekend with them, David watch Gaz play in his band, something I would loved to have done but my migraine had other ideas. We laid out in the middle of the night covered in blankets, watching the stars. It is pitch black where Debs and Gaz live and with the clear night sky we saw the Milky Way, I felt like Patrick Moore. The next day we visited La Rochefoucauld Chateaux, entrance was all of €2 and we came face to face with the Marquess la Rochefoucauld who still resides at the chateau. She came bowling over to us looking at Chloe and in French (luckily our friends were with us) told us to make sure Chloe did not S**t in her courtyard ! That said, it is well worth a visit and there is the most amazing chocolate shop at the foot of the Chateau which of course we visited and bought some to feed our expanding waistlines.

We left our friends and headed South stopping at Aubeterre Sur Dronne. It is officially listed as ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’ with the underground Monolithic Church of Saint Jean of Aubeterre. I went in, David stayed outside with Chloe (obviously all Churched out !) As I came out David was saying that a group of 6 English people went to go in and was told that they are shutting for lunch for 3 hours and to come back later. Not impressed they walked off saying, that this is the biggest attraction in this small village and they shut for lunch ! Not sure they have been to France before, heaven help them if they ever go to Spain ! We stayed a couple of days and then made our way to our other friends near Duras. Chloe loved it with her friend Tilly, a gorgeous golden labrador especially with the trip to the lake where Chloe went swimming. As always we had the most wonderful time, ate lots of beautiful food, laughed and David & Dennis talked Arsenal.

Our last stop before hitting Spain was the beautiful little town of Saint Paul les Dax. It’s beautiful lake and Thermo Spa. I kept seeing all these older people walking around with a blue shoulder bag and wet hair and wondered where they had come from. If we had more time I would have joined them. But alias no, we want to head to the coast and learn to bodyboard ! Yes, I did say bodyboard !

Homeward Bound

02 August 2018 – 5th August 2018

We had booked our crossing on the Euro Tunnel and needed to get Chloe to the vet for her pet passport check, stamping and worming tablet and to be ripped off by a vet. We stayed overnight in a small village right by a beautiful river but we were baked again by the sun as there was no shade. The next day we set off the find the vet, David being his brilliant self had booked the appointment and googled the area to make sure we could get there with the van. We went strolling in the vets and strolled out again in less than 10 minutes at a cost of €48, the dearest to date. We should ask the cost when we book but we never do !. It was no surprise at these prices that the vets was closing for a 2 week holiday after we left.

We found a pretty place to stop for a couple of days by a lake to recover from the vet’s fee and we were in complete shade so as the temperature was hitting 37 degrees we were able to cope. As we left to continued our travels North David suddenly said a ‘I fancy a McDonalds’. I said, if you could have one what would you have and he reeled off his Big Mac, Fries and a Milkshake. I said, that to be honest I was all baguette out and I quite fancy a cheeseburger myself ! Then out of the blue as if our prayers had been answered on the side of an old building I saw an advertisement for a McDonald’s, 7km away. We trundled on trying to remember the last time we had eaten a McDonald’s. Suddenly on the roundabout and being able to park close by we had our first burger in over 8 months, so we didn’t feel too bad !

As we continued North the weather was cooling and it was lovely to be honest. We stayed close by the Euro Tunnel on our last night as we had an early crossing in the morning. We have learnt to time our crossing now all about when we hit the M25 in the U.K. as we can travel thousands of miles across Europe and never have a hold up and then you suddenly hit the M25 and you are in the longest queue know to man.

Time now to see as many family and friends as we can fit in. To get dressed up for my cousin’s Wedding, to hug another cousin tightly who is fighting a big health battle and to complete the dreaded tax return.

To say we have had an amazing time on this part of our adventure is an understatement. Greece took our hearts and we met some special people who have become life long friends. The Motorhome has become our home and we are so, very, very lucky to have the chance to experience this amazing life. We will be back in afew weeks, this time chasing the sun and looking for pitches with no shade !

Pont De Vaux & Beaune – France

18th July 2018 – 01st August 2018

We left the French celebrating winning the World Cup and the hordes of people in Anncey for the Tour de France and headed North. This is new territory for us as we have never covered this part of France. We are the lucky ones where we have all the time to meander and are not on a time scale. Our destination is never really planned we just decide to drive for afew hours and look for somewhere to stay. It is getting a lot busier with the start of the school holidays and we have never travelled before during this time. It is something we have always avoided. The price of the campsites nearly double and the popular ones with children’s activities, swimming pools etc are ones we try to avoid. We arrived at Pont De Vaux in the Bourgogne region, having found that there was a municipal swimming pool right next door to the campsite and lots of children. Just what I said we try to avoid. Access was free for swimming pool if you were staying at the campsite which we thought was great, did we use it ? No. We are so lazy, or our excuse is that the pool was full of children ! A short walk brought you into the town and with most French towns, you try not to expect a great deal, just a bolangarie and another couple of shops if you are lucky. Well, Pont de Vaux was a pleasant surprise with afew more shops, bars and restaurants and wait for it a Beautician. Well the excitement and only if you are female will you understand how I felt. It had been over 4 months since I had last had my legs waxed and I was always on the look out for somewhere that would make them smooth again. The lady tried to book me in and in my limited french an appointment was made for the following day Wednesday. Did I want her to write it down, ‘Oh No’ I said. After waiting this long I wasn’t going to forget the day and time. Now Wednesday in Pont De Vaux is the hi-light of the week with the market and it was huge. The French must come from miles to visit as it was packed. It is such a shame that in the UK the markets have died. In France there are no Primark or discount stores and we think this has helped to keep the markets a focal point of towns. There was everything for sale, food, clothes, shoes, haberdashery and furniture. We saw a massive queue for a cheese stall and I said to David, look at that it must be special cheese and made him join the queue. The man in front bought 2 massive chunks of this cheese costing him €25.00 but he didn’t bat an eyelid. We bought a small piece for £8.00 and still choked. The cheese is called Comte made from unpasteurised cows milk and around 64,000 tonnes are produced annually. The cheese is made in discs, each between 40cm and 70cm in diameter, weighing up to 50kg. It is made from milk of Montbeliarde or French Simmental cows and no more than 1.3 cows per hectare of pasture. Each cheese is scored out of 20 by inspectors and if it scores below 12 it is prohibited from being named Comte and is sold for other purposes. You can see why there was a massive queue for this cheese now. Anyway, time to get my legs waxed, I went bowling into the Beautians only to find out I had the right day but the wrong week. Will I ever get my legs waxed ! They were so lovely once again and obviously saw how desperate I was and squeezed me in the next day.

After finally having smooth legs once again, oh the joy. We head to Beaune the wine capital of Burgundy. The town is surrounded by some of the world’s most famous wine villages. We had visited Beaune with my Mum and Dad over 15 years ago and driving through the hectares of vines as far as the eye could see I wish he was with us to share it with him, Dad loved his wine. We stayed just outside Beaune in a beautiful village Savigny-lès-Beaune, a 30 minute cycle ride took us into Beaune centre. Whilst we were here we thought we would try out a wine tasting session, with a little research David booked La Cave de l’Ange Gardien. We cycled into Beaune after having a big lunch to soak up all the wine we would be having. Pierre the owner greeted us and with a table of 6 other English our tasting begun. It was a blind tasting which was excellent. Pierre’s passion for the industry, the wines and his knowledge made it such a wonderful experience. Having tried 5 white wines, 5 red wines, 2 sparkling wines and finally a cassis. I was pissed ! And we had to cycle home. There is certainly no obligation to purchase any but we filled David’s Panniers and he was under strict instruction not to break any bottles. You cannot come to Beaune without visiting the Hospices de Beaune or Hotel Dieu de Beaune. It was founded in 1443 as a hospital for the poor and is one of the finest examples of French 15th Century Architecture. It is an amazing place to visit and it’s polychrome roof is absolutely stunning. We also spent a day cycling through the vineyards and into the famous wine villages of Pommard, Volnay and Meursault. In the village where we were staying is the Musees du Chateau de Savigny-lès-Beaune, it houses a fascinating private display of planes, cars, motorcycles and all things transportation. David visited and even saw a Gloster Meteor a plane that his Dad had worked on as an engineer in the Air Force. After 11 days we decided we needed to start heading North, with temperatures in the mid 30 degrees and set to rise even further, we were hot in the van. I wish they made human cooling mats like they do for dogs !

Mont Blanc & Annecy – France

15th July 2018 – 18th July 2018

We have been so lucky to have experienced some wonderful countries, people and cultures since we first begun our ‘Once in a Lifetime’ adventure. But the greatest moment to date was experienced just as we came into France. As we left Italy, David was itching to drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel and although it cost an eye watering €59.80, we drove through. Not as long as we thought, all of 11.611km and the actual road was shocking, worse than some of the Italian roads and that’s saying something ! With all the toll fees we would have expected the smoothest road ever !.

Our destination was a campsite just outside Chamonix, but as we were following our ‘Snooper’ Sat Nav which knows our size and weight of the van, it brought us to a bridge under a railway line that was too tight to get through. Not all that good after all ! The roads in this part of France are very small and very windy and we decided to park for the evening in Chamonix itself, as there are dedicated areas for Motorhomes. Now Chamonix is in it’s self an eye opener. It contains the most fit people we have ever seen in our lives, not an ounce of fat on them, all kitted out in their hiking gear. God, did we feel out of place. Obviously because of where it is, it is busy all year round and the Main Street is filled with hiking shops selling all the gear you would need to climb Mont Blanc. Unfortunately they didn’t sell new bodies which David & I would need and so we just window shopped. It is very beautiful and with the back drop of Mont Blanc you can see why people flock here. It is a sight to behold. After reading up about getting the cable car to the top of Mont Blanc as we were obviously not climbing it, we decided to get the cable car early the next morning to beat the crowds. We set the alarm and arrived at the cable car station for 07.00am. No queues, still all fit climbers with their ropes and clips, snow picks and snow shoes dangling off their rucksacks and David and I wrapped up in our winter clothes as the temperature can be a lot lower at the top of Mont Blanc. We packed into the cable car and we were off. It takes over 10 minutes to reach the first stage, Aiguille Du Midi, we were climbing and climbing and I can’t tell you the excitement, until the cable car suddenly seemed to drop and then climb again. Not sure why but it’s a long way down ! My heart jumped but I tried to remain cool, trying not to embarrass myself in front of the fit crowd. We made it to the first stage and we left the cable car to get the next to the top, another 10 minutes The view from Aiguille Du Midi at 3842M was amazing but when we finally reached the summit at 12,392ft, above the seracs, the Pelerins glacier and the hanging glaciers on the north face of the Aiguille du Midi, the view took our breathe away. It is such the most wonderful sight to see, how lucky were we to be standing there looking out at our most beautiful world. Words cannot describe the beauty. If you are not afraid of heights, try and get here in your lifetime because you will remember it as long as you live. We stayed for 2 hours in all and we did notice due to the altitude that we were slightly light headed and breathless, I bet the fit people weren’t. We had our photos taken in the glass box that overhangs the edge and then descended down the two cable cars to the bottom, just as the queues were beginning to build. For the rest of the day I had the biggest smile on my face, wow what a day to remember.

Our next destination was Anncey, the largest city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It lies on the northern tip of Lake Annecy. It is nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the French Alps’ with it’s location between lakes and mountains and sometimes also known as ‘Venice of the Alps’ a tourist representation which comes from the three canals and the river Thiou lying through the old city. It is a tourism paradise with the turquoise lake providing boating, swimming and anything water with the wonderful city to meander in. We stayed at the South end of the lake and spent a couple of nights. However, we timed it completely wrong as the “Tour de France’ was having a rest day in Anncey and it was absolutely heaving. We cycled the hour’s ride into the city along the cycle route and I quite like to meander along at my own pace, but I felt like I was in the Tour de France with cyclists whizzing past and it felt like I was on the M25 in rush hour. Not very pleasant at all. Anncey is stunning and I can fully understand why people descend on this beautiful city and lake for their summer vacations. We have been told that it is busy all year round but it is somewhere on our list to return out of season, so that we can really appreciate the beauty and also to paraglide off the cliff ! Whilst we were staying at the Campsite we met Antoine, his wife Ruth and their daughter who were from Malta. They are such a lovely family and they holiday in the mountains each year in their motorhome, Antoine was saying that there are no mountains in Malta and so that’s why they love them. As they left we were given a packet of traditional biscuits from Malta by Antoine. I wish I had some M&S biscuits to give them in return.

Lucca – Italy

13th July 2018 – 14th July 2018

We continued North on the west side of Italy with a destination of Lucca. Our friends Nicola & her husband Phil recommended us to visit after they had been there in May and as Nicola knows me so well, I knew it was a place that we could not miss. We stayed once again just outside, a 30 minute walk in to the centre. We decided to walk in later in the day, leaving Chloe snoozing in the van. In 1805 Lucca was conquered by Napoleon, who then installed his sister Elisa Bonaparte as ‘Princess of Lucca’. The walls encircling the old town remain intact and once they lost their military importance they became a pedestrian promenade. Lucca is also the birthplace of Puccini born in 1858 and composing the great ‘La Boheme’, ‘Tosha’ and ‘Madame Butterfly’. Now we loved Lucca, it had a great feel about it and we both said that it was the best of all the towns in Tuscany that we had visited. It wasn’t so overcrowded, it had the most wonderful of shops (me of course loving this part the most !) and I had to refrain myself, as I could left laden with bags of things that I don’t really need. We enjoyed a lovely meal and David was a little gutted because the next evening Roger Waters was playing in the town. We tried to get tickets but they were an extortionate price and therefore the next day we departed. Before we departed the campsite I owed the owners €5. The cost for staying the night was €25 but when we arrived I did not have the correct money and for some strange reason they said they did not have change. Which I thought was rather odd as you could only pay cash (Italians love cash) and I am sure some people gave then the correct money. Anyway, I said I would pay the next day. As we go to leave I forgot to get the €5 and went up to the office and a different Italian this time and grumpy, said he had no change. So I said, what should I do, he shrugged his shoulders said you will have to walk to the village to get change and turned his back on me. I was hot enough with the heat, menopause onset, and this was the tipping point for me boiling over. I went back to the van, explained to David, I thought I was going to have a seizure I was so angry. We tried to find coins to make up the €5 and I have a purse with all very small coins, we counted them out but we were still short. Time ticking and we wanted to leave I stormed off walking into the village. Faith was resorted for the Italian race in the bakers with two lovely ladies and I did find an amazing butchers. On my way back I see David sitting in the Motorhome outside the campsite. He said that he had found the last coins we needed, drove up to the exit and said to stroppy Italian ‘we owe you €5, here it is’ and dropped a huge handful of the smallest coin denominations on the counter. At least a small amount of satisfaction and a bad review given to the site, made me feel a little better.

Goodbye Italy, some Italians need to work on their manners but the country stole our hearts with the foods, the Tuscan towns and villages and the stunning countryside. Now off to France to find a baguette!

Beautiful Tuscany

06th July 2018 – 12th July 2018

We left Pompeii and headed North into what people say is the most beautiful part of Italy, Tuscany. We have covered many parts of France but very little of Italy and friends have always said to us that we would love it and how right they were. Tuscany is like looking at a Masters painting, the scenery takes your breathe away and the villages are truly stunning. We stayed in a great location near Sienna, right in the forest surrounded by trees and plenty of shade and although the temperature was in the mid 30 degrees, we were coping quite well. As there was so much to explore in the area and the small winding roads were not Motorhome friendly we did get to hire a car for a week and it was just over the price of a day’s hire, that the tight fitting jean Italian in Pompeii quoted us.! To collect the car we needed to get two buses, one into Sienna and then change to another to take us out into the suburbs to collect the car. The great thing was the bus came right into the campsite to collect us and dropped us into the centre of Siena, easy ! The next bus we needed, a number 05 wasn’t so easy to locate. At last, after a kind Italian lady told us where it stopped, we waited and duly got on the bus only to find that it was going in completely the wrong direction ! We thought we may as well do the whole route and knew we would eventually get to where we needed to go. It was great people watching, a bus full of older ladies, laden down with their shopping, I did wonder where all the men were. We saw the suburbs of Siena, returned to the centre of Sienna where we had got on the bus and then at last we were heading in the right direction and with the wonder of google maps we got off at the right place and collected our little Lancia sewing machine. I must say I love these little cars, perfect size for 2 humans and a dog and a real treat after driving the Motorhome. What the car also allowed us to do was get my ear sorted out which had been giving me problems since Spain, all of 4 months ago. We first visited the pharmacy in the village and after telling them I needed to see a Doctor they drew me a map of the house that the Doctor lived in. When we eventually found it, I said to David, I am not going in there ! The shutters were falling off, it looked as if the property was derelict. I had visions of coming out with my ear worse than when I went in. We then popped into the small Tourist Office in the village of Sovicille and the young woman said, no, no, no, you do not go to the village Doctor he is for the grandfathers of the village and everything takes soooo long ! Go to the emergency department of the hospital in Sienna. We thought that was a bit drastic but after leaving it for another day, we decided that we had no option. We found the hospital and where we needed to go and gingerly we went into what we know as A&E. We had visions of a 4-5 hour wait with 50 other people but as we walked in there were 3 people waiting. We explained the problem and were told to wait, we were then taken into the emergency area and then finally escorted to what must have been the non emergency area to see a Doctor. I cannot express how wonderful the service was, the young Italian who was escorting everyone into the rooms, making us laugh with his English and keeping everyone in the room entertained. The young Doctor who I saw finally syringed my ear and I could have kissed him. (So could David I think will all my moaning I had given him over my ear !) 90 minutes after arriving, we were back in the car.

With my new found ear freedom, we explored the area. Beautiful Siena with it’s stunning Cathedral and the Piazza del Campo, the shell shaped square. This is part of the site for the famous Palio horse race, which is held twice a year and was being held whilst we were there. Ten horses and riders barebacked and dressed in their appropriate colours, represent 10 of the seventeen city wards, or councils to you and me. They circle the Piazza de Campo three times and it lasts for no more than 90 seconds and it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys. Thousands of spectators descend on the square and you have to get there very early to have a chance of seeing it. We had no chance, so just looked in the windows the next day to see all the photos of it ! Siena is one of the most visited Italian tourist attractions and it was very, very busy even when we visited in the early evening. Not very Italian but excitement ensued when we stumbled on a Chinese Restaurant and after 6 months without a Chinese, dinner was sorted.

We visited the famous town of San Gimignano, stunning but heaving with tourists (yes I know we are tourists !) and Volterra which with less tourists we loved more. To add to the visit of Volterra, there in the main square were the most beautiful vintage cars that were obviously on a rally. Original Fiat 500, Mercedes and MGs. These beautiful towns are best enjoyed just wandering the small streets that wind their way around and just enjoy turning the corners and seeing the most beautiful of vistas.

There are times in your life that you will always remember and for us, driving along to San Gimignano and stopping at a small restaurant that had a view to die for, looking over the rolling Tuscan countryside, filled with vines as far as the eye could see. I ate the best Ravioli I have ever tasted in my life with a delicious apricot tart to finish, washed done with some nice vino and an espresso. Pure Bliss !

We were told by the young lady in the Tourist office to visit Torre as there was a Monastery there which she said was beautiful. It only opens for 6 hours a week, so we had to get our timings right.

It was a beautifully preserved sanctuary and so well worth the visit. In Tuscany, you can just drive around the beautiful countryside and stop at the smallest of villages but they all reveal a hidden jewel.

We stayed 9 nights in total at the campsite and whilst we were there we met a lovely family from Bruges, Joost & Veronique with their son, who were on their 3 weeks holiday in their vintage caravan. It was amazing, still in perfect condition since new and very much loved. We spent a couple of evenings in their company and the greatest joy of our journey is meeting people like them. They were fascinating, we found our lives had taken a similar journey on one occasion and to spend time with them and talk was lovely.

After being on the road for 10 months now, I have found David to be the most relaxed he has ever been. We were sitting at dinner one night and out of the blue he says ‘ I am really worried that the jar of mustard in the fridge should be thrown away, it has been open for too long’ I thought to myself, if that’s his main worry right now, life is very good. The jar of mustard went in the bin !