Friday 11 April: Home to Calais
We checked and then double checked everything before climbing in to our new mobile home…Homer the Hymer. We waved good bye to our family and friends and headed towards the M6 motorway. We were like two giddy kippers and could not take the silly grin off our faces. After months of planning and preparing we were finally on our way to our new life…exploring Europe in our motorhome with our little pooch, Peanut.
By night fall we were in Dover and all excited for tomorrows crossing to Calais.
We found a nice spot just on the waters edge and to celebrate our last night in England we tucked in to a wonderful tasty bag of fish & chips. There are somethings we are going to miss and fish & chips will probably be one of them. After an emotional and hectic day followed by a long drive it did not take us long and snuggling down for the night.
Saturday 12 April: Calais to Nancy
Up bright & early, first in the queue for the 6:40 ferry to Calais. This ferry lark is all new to us, so it felt rather strange queuing up in the arctic lorries lanes but thankfully the ferry guides were very helpful. Also, Peanut sailed through on his new pet passport, which was a big weight off our shoulders. I guess if you are used to this then it is easy but being newbies, every step feels like an achievement and another ‘thank god that went OK’. We rolled on to the ferry and tucked in between all the lorries before checking everything is secure and safe. Homer looked after Peanut whilst we went on deck to admire the White Cliffs of Dover and say ‘cheerio’ to England.
As we set sail, a huge wave of emotions came over us…smiles and tears all at the same time. Happy to be finally on our way and excited for the journey ahead but sad to be leaving family & friends who we will miss dearly.
Just over an hour later and we rolled off the ferry and popped on the sunglasses. The sun certainly has his hat on today and it feels great to be heading in to the unknown with the sun shining. The roads are so smooth compared to the UK, so no squeaks or rattles from Homer which pleases Craig no end.
For lunch we pull in to our first Aire and rustled up Croquet Monsieur! Well it had to be done! We quickly passed through Belgium and Luxembourg before cruising back in to France and stopping off for the night in Nancy. We found a great little Aire called Chatenois, right by the river and it was free (no charge 6pm – 8am). After a walk around the town l(world heritage centre) looking at all the elaborate buildings we headed back to Homer grabbing a apricot pastry on the way. Peanut had a few biscuits and then crashed out for the night, paws in the air to help them cool down.
Our 1st night in France and just as we’re cooking dinner the gas light starts to flicker. We’d run out of gas. Oh No. 8pm in a foreign country looking for LPG = impossible. We found a few fuel stations but no LPG. Craig was beating himself up because he couldn’t believe he’d made such a stupid mistake.
Anyway next morning we headed to fuel station. First station – we tried to fill up but the LPG pump was running very slow. Maybe better luck at a larger station? We pulled in and hooked up and again, it was tricking in. It took 20 minutes for €1. Surely this can’t be right? The security guard tested the pump and everything OK. Clearly we had a problem with our cylinders…Craig was not happy. We pulled over and started the process of elimination, digging out the manuals etc. You can imagine the drama. 2 hours later it turns out we hadn’t run out of gas…it was an airlock. To top it all off we left the gas cap at the fuel station so Craig had to bodge something together.
Sunday 13 April: Nancy to Seelisberg
Up bright and early to find an LPG station, which took a little longer than planned. Once on our way we headed to Switzerland passing through loads of tunnels and until now, I didn’t realise I had a fear of tunnels. The first tunnel was about 9km and after about 5 minutes I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. Oh shit this tunnel is longer than the one in Wales. These guys can sure dig. I started to wish Stallone was with us. I couldn’t get that film ‘Daylight’ out of my head. I was convinced we were going to get trapped as the Swiss Alps collapsed all around us. An eternity later we popped out the other side. Phew.
The snow capped alps were breath taking, I could sit all day with my feet on the dash just humming along to ‘Ibiza Chill out’ tunes. After passing through Swiss boarder control and filling in the bits of paperwork, we wound our way to Seelisberg and pulled up right next to the lake. Beautiful evening and perfect place to share a moment with our Russell.
We planned on spending the night on the lake but the local police turned up, so we and several other motorhomers had to find somewhere else. We shuffled around a few placed but difficult to find somewhere when its dark, so we opted for Lidl car park.
Tucked up in bed and snoring our little heads off when all of a sudden we heard sheep. Lots of sheep. Lots of very loud sheep. What the hell is going on, its 3am and we’re on a Lidl car park? Had we rolled in to a field? We jumped out of bed. We were surrounded with lorries and cars full of sheep and strange men shouting things to each other. There’s us two in jim jams gawking out the windows. For about an hour they swapped lambs and money and then buggered off. No idea if legal but certainly felt dodgy. An eventful night.
Monday 14 April: Seelisberg to Germignaga, Lake Maggiore
Happy Birthday Craig and as a special treat we went to Lidl for our first international shop. Craig loves shopping and oh boy was he in his element. A supermarket with an amazing view of snow capped mountains. We got a few bits, had breakfast, opened his cards and then set off to the dreaded Gotthard Tunnel. I wasn’t too bad until Craig told me the 17km tunnel had the worst fatality rate in the world…cheers mate. I was surprised we made it through to the other end given our luck and the ‘odds’ of surviving but we did and cruised along passed St Bernard’s pass, whilst Peanut yodelled a tune or two.
We pulled in for a brew and a bacon butty, had a chat to a convey of campers on their way to Greece before passing the Italian boarder at Lake Maggiore
We found a great spot at Germignaga Aire, right on the lake. Little bar with tables and chairs and children playing in fountain. At only €5 for the night for the aire we decided to stretch the budget and spoil ourselves with an Italian ice-cream. Very refreshing and tasty. We chomped on the ice-cream as we strolled around the plaza. To celebrate Craig birthday we cracked open a bottle of pink champagne.
Tuesday 15 April: Germignaga to Monvalle
Filled up the water with our new hosepipes from Wilco. We have two small and compact hosepipes that are much more stackable and easy to unwind than the standard hosepipes. Once full with fresh water we set off and hugged the lakeside road all the way. Passed through a little village called San Michele then pulled in a campsite called Camping Di Monvalle. We used our camping card, which brought the cost per night right down to €16. As we are planning on staying for a few nights, the camping card has saved us more than the camping card actually cost, so definitely worth buying one.
We cycled to supermarket on the new Brompton’s with peanut in his basket (he absolutely loves the bike). 5km later and my legs were like jelly and my bum bones ached. Good job we found a huge bottle of red wine for €2.
Wednesday 16 April: Monvalle
We chilled most of the day. New neighbours who we nicked named Mr Bean (Heinz) lovely chap from Germany and yes he did wear braces.
Thursday 17 April: Monvalle to Frigicola, Lake Como
Very windy road to Lake Como but very pretty. On the way, we pulled in for a brew and noticed a private cemetery. I didn’t realise that most Italians coffins were kept above ground, up to six coffins high. We met a lovely lady and her grandchild, she was placing flowers on her husbands grave. Franco was only 58 when he died and he never got to see his granddaughter…we showed her our Russ’s ashes (brother who just passed away) and explained we were going to sprinkle a little bit of him in all the fabulous places we visited, one of his last wishes. We didn’t exchange much conversation but we fully understood the sorrow of losing someone so precious.
We pulled up for the night in a lay-by and after a walk in to a nearby town for a toot as the beautiful view over the lake, we tucked in to steak and chips.
Friday 18 April: Frigicola to Genova
Set off nice and early so we could make the most of the day. First stop Bellagio. We pulled in to a car park about 1km from the village, had a cuppa and some breakfast. Craig took Peanut for a pickle and came back with 4 French male students! They’d travelled from Lyon and camped overnight with the hope of doing a bit of kayaking over the Easter period. They looked cold and tired. Anyway next minute feet were up and they were sharing coffee with us. They were very grateful for a warm drink and a bit of respite from the cold.
We cycled in to Bellagio (btw love our little Brampton’s) and meandered up and down, in and out of all the little cobbled streets. This place is just adorable. Everywhere is covered in flowers from the lakeside walkway to hanging baskets outside the shops and cafes. The shops were very exclusive and for some strange reason we couldn’t find a pound shop anywhere.
Apparently this is the loveliest town in Europe and I can see why. As we approached noon the village got busier, so time to head back to Homer. After lunch we set off to Milano stopping off at a little fishing spot to share a moment with our Russell. As we wound around the cliffs the roads started to get very narrow. We soon learned this is a problem in Italy because their driving skills are limited. They put their foot on the accelerator and don’t take it off until they reach their destination. They will swerve and even dent their car before stopping, so you can just imagine the amount of tuts and hand gestures we received on a narrow road. We just carried on Bumbling along and taking everything in our stride. Then we got stuck on a narrow road – jagged rock on one side and sheer cliff on the other, bonnet to bonnet with an old biddy. Oh heck. Craig shuffled in close to the rock and after several moves he managed to squeeze passed. By this time we had a queue of cars behind and in front. Horns honking and heads bobbin we slowly pulled away and then we heard…crunch. Homer was hurt. A rock stabbed him in the right hand side just in his mid section near the habitation door. As you can image lots of F words from Craig and thankfully a considerate bus driver got everyone to reverse to help make way for us until the road widened again. We pulled in a few miles down the road and fixed Homer with a couple of bandages (glue and tape). He was lucky the rock only pierced and cracked the plastic door casing, so no need for major surgery. Fortunately the tape is silver and Craig is a perfectionist, so cosmetic fix doesn’t look too bad. In fact, it looks bloody good.
With Homer not feeling too good we decided to head for the beach and give Milan a miss. Genova seemed the quickest option, so we punched in the new destination and set off. Marg our Tom Tom voice lady decided to change her accent today..she went Chinese. Every time she said Genova we wet ourself laughing…why the Chinese accent? Anyway this boosted our spirits and we sang bond themes all the way to Genova. We were like Sandy and Danny in the film Greece, singing our little hearts out and laughing all the way.
The sun was just setting when we arrived in Genova, so we pulled up right next to the ocean and called it a day.
Saturday 19 April: Genova to Portofino
What a horrible nights sleep. Last night it poured down all night and non stop thunder and lightening. Homer sounded more like a tin box and boy it was blinking loud. Hope it does not rain too hard as it may take some getting used to. Craig didn’t hear a thing!
We opened the bathroom door and Huston…we have a problem. The skylight is leaking. We both starred at the ceiling until our eyes woke up. I gawked at the water and Craig poked around the seal. We couldn’t do a right lot until the rain backed off, so no other option than to put a towel on the floor and pray it is not too bad.
We set off for Portofino and after taking a bum turn ended up several thousand km high in the Italian mountains. We have no idea where we ended up but as you can imagine, its difficult to turn a 7m motorhome around on a 5m wide road. At the top of the mountain we found a church car park and managed to spin Homer back round. Several hours later we parked up at Portofino.
The rain had backed off a little, so we put on our coats and cycled in town. Half way in to town and the heavens opened but we carried on in our eagerness to see our first Italian marina. Sure enough once at the waters edge we spotted a few fancy boats. A drop in the ocean at £5m each (eek) but I’d rather have my little Homer motorhome any day.
Today we also managed to find an internet connection…hello world.
Sunday 20 April: Portofino to Lavagna
The sun is shining again hip hip hooray. We cruised along the Italian Rivera stopping off at little villages tucked in to the sloping hillside and charming fishing ports before finally parking up at Lavagna.
For lunch we had crumpets (from the freezer) and then Craig prepared Lasagna & garlic bread for dinner. We went cycling for a couple of hours before heading back to Homer for the night. Peanut is pooped with all this cycling and fresh air but he is loving every minute.
So far the Riviera di Levante (Rising Sun) is pretty stunning and very beautiful.
Notes for this week include
- We forgot the Salt & Pepper grinder but managed to crush the pepper corns with pliers but Joanne got blisters.
Odd Jobs around the motorhome
- Leaky sky light in the bathroom – repaired with Sikaflex & cling film
- Homer right hand side body puncture – glue gun & tape
- Snapped sunglasses – superglue
- Left LPG cap @ fuel station – bodge job by shaving a generic fuel cap down with a Stanley knife.
- Elastic across the front door so we can hang the towel in the morning to dry out.
Upon arrival in Dover we headed for the port to check out where we needed to go in the morning. We missed the exit turning and ended up at police check point.
Took a little while to get used to the traffic lights. They go straight from Red to Green – no amber. At first it felt like OMG its on green, shit get going.
We had a competition from Calais to Nancy to see who could catch the most flies on their side of the windscreen. Craig 56 v Joanne 72
The Swiss word for motorway exit is Aushfart. Add in Craig’s Lancashire accent and it’s bloody funny.
Big Lindor Bunny
Passed two huge Lindor Easter bunnies – about 15ft tall. I bet Freya & Ruby (our neighbours children) would love them.
Did you know they have started to use orange road markings in Switzerland. It looks so bright but very…. weird.
Our first week in our motorhome and already we’ve had our fair share of challenges. All good fun through and part of the learning curve. Wonder what weird and wonderful things will happen next week…bring it on!