We finally hit the road, after months in Italy under one of the most strict Coronavirus lockdowns in the world. Below, you will find posts about our grand tour through Italy, France, Germany, the Czech Republic & Poland in chronological order!
– Italy –
If we get there, it will be third time lucky. Twice before, Mark and I have planned to go to Spain. The first time, temperatures soared above 50°C. People were dying from the heat, so we turned left and went to Romania.Continue reading “Leaving Lockdown – A Bit of a Scrape”
Founded in 1,000AD, Saluzzo is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the Italian region of Piedmont. It occupies a striking hill top position, with the imposing, pyramidal peak of Monviso, ‘The Stone King’ as a backdrop.Continue reading “Hill Towns & Cloud Forests – Saluzzo & Pian Munè, Italy”
– France –
– A Week in Provence –
“The Transfăgărășan was nothing compared to this!” Mark was referring to the day we joined the Mile High Club. With Caravan Kismet in tow, you understand. We crossed the Carpathian mountains in Romania on one of the world’s most dangerous roads. Kismet has conqueredContinue reading “Towing the Gorges du Verdon – Our Most Challenging Drive… Ever!”
The Gorges du Verdon is the most wonderful part of France that you’ve never heard of. At least Mark and I hadn’t. I can’t understand why; what, with it being the world’s second largest canyon next to the Grand Canyon. Mark has seen theContinue reading “A Week in Provence – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie & SUP in the Gorges du Verdon”
Storms were forecast, so we had battened down and given up on our plans. Although we had distant thunder and light rain the previous evening, I awoke at 7am to a perfect, blue Provençale sky. “Shall we get up and do the Route desContinue reading “A Week in Provence – Driving the Route des Crêtes”
The weather forecast was on a red alert for storms, which made it difficult to plan. It was far too hot to walk – most of the footpaths in the Gorges du Verdon have no shade whatsoever and the white limestone reflects the sunlightContinue reading “A Week In Provence – The Lavender Fields of Valensole”
Big Blue and Caravan Kismet were all packed up and ready to go by 9am, right on schedule. We had appointments in Avignon the following day. After our hair-raising drive in, the plan was to leave early and get the precipitous hairpins of theContinue reading “A Week in Provence – Verdon to Avignon: We Plan, The Gods Laugh…”
– The Ponts of Provence –
Nous Sommes Citoyens de France – We Are Citizens of France! The Fab Four are now officially Le Quatre Fabuleux. Following our trip to the vet, they got their DHPP vaccinations, French passports andContinue reading “A Week in Provence – The Penny Pincher’s Guide to Pont du Gard”
What have the Romans ever done for us? Well, they haven’t passed on their gene for the unembarrassed use of public toilets. Not to me at least.
– Burgundy –
Since the caravan brakes didn’t fail and we’ve already used up the stress-making options of a Kamikaze Lorry and towing a caravan through the Mistral, Mark tried to add a different layer of excitement to our departure.Continue reading ““I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Cluny” – The City of the Horse, Bourgogne, France”
– Alsace –
“For breakfast, they have a massive bowl of coffee, like a cereal bowl, and they dip in pieces of a huge, bell-shaped cake, called Kugelhopf!” These were the awed observations of cultural differences, relayed to my parents, following my first ever trip abroad. Aged 14,Continue reading “Of Mice & Men – Éguisheim, Alsace, France”
Alternative Alsace: A Walk Through History on ‘The Mountain of Death’ – Hartmannswillerkopf, Alsace, France
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana Alsace is best known for it’s wine route, castles and fairy tale villages. However,Continue reading “Alternative Alsace: A Walk Through History on ‘The Mountain of Death’ – Hartmannswillerkopf, Alsace, France”
In a thoroughly modern way, one of the tourist brochures for Alsace featured a list of ‘Spots Instagrammables’. The Château de Haut Koenigsberg was Number 1.
– Germany –
I’m on my third language in three weeks! Just as I’d got to grips with speaking French without peppering it with Italiano, we crossed the Rhine in Strasbourg and entered Germany. On ourContinue reading “A Wet Wednesday in Würzburg – Bavaria, Germany”
The monotonous, flat panorama buckled into a few low, forested hills as we drove across the Franconian wine country towards Bamberg. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bamberg came highly recommended.Continue reading “Bitch Slapped by Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany”
– Czech Republic –
I laughed out loud as we got caught behind the slowest tractor ever, which crawled up the hill out of Sommerach at a speed so leisurely that it failed to register on our speedometer. Besides every plan going horribly awry,Continue reading “Sommerach to Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic”
Founded in 1370 by Charles IV, King of Bohemia, Karlovy Vary is renowned for its thermal springs and is the largest spa town in the Czech Republic. ‘Karl’ is Czech for Charles and ‘Vary’ derives from the Czech word vařitContinue reading “Czech Pont Charlie – Karlovy Vary & Loket, Czech Republic”
“Prague, of course!” is most people’s answer to, “Where did you go in the Czech Republic.” But not ours…
We’re often asked “What’s the absolute best place to go?” Our answer: “It depends what you like…” Today was a classic illustration of that.
Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak… “Can’t you see the funny side?” I asked a rather grumpy Mark. Children playing nicely can add to the ambience of a campsite. As we tucked into Frankie’s breakfast special on the terrace that morning, theContinue reading “Kokořín to Český ráj – ‘Bohemian Paradise’, Czech Republic”
– Poland –
A Polish man went for an eye test. “Can you read the chart?” the optician asked “Read it?” he replied, “I know him!” My home town of Blackburn, Lancashire has a large Polish community, so unlike Czech, I can claim some form withContinue reading “Journey to the Centre of Europe, Bolków, Poland”
“They will be fine!” The man’s claim was the embodiment of my worst fears. Vans and caravans have specialist tyres. My primary worry about getting them changed abroad was that we would end up with the wrong ones – and this chap’s offeringContinue reading “Bolków & Złotoryja, Medieval Castles & The Oldest Town in Poland”
In our sights was a cosmopolitan municipality whose university produced nine Nobel laureates and a quirky anti-communist resistance movement. A centre for locomotive manufacture, it’s a place where you can get footplate experiences on the last scheduled steam passenger service in the world.Continue reading “Gravestones, Gnomes & Złoty Pies, Wrocław, Poland”
“Watch that lorry.” I put my hands over my face. “He’s all over the road!” “He’s just avoiding the bumps!” Mark replied. We were grateful for the grip of our hard-won new tyres – this two-lane motorway had a few surprises up itsContinue reading “The Unpronounceables – Bolków to Ojców, Poland”
“There’s nothing to see here!” I told Mark as I scanned the tourist brochure. “Only castles, more than four hundred caves, seventeen of Poland’s twenty-one species of bat and The Hercules Club.”
We made a mistake with Kraków.
Our early start to miss the crowds paid off in every way, other than making us fugitives from the law. ‘Buildings in Ojców’ featured on the campsite’s list of ‘must sees’. This rather underwhelming description prompted us to take a drive out oneContinue reading “Ojców Castle & National Park, Poland”
A few miles from Podzamcze, population 1,011, a magical castle appeared, afloat in the sky. As we drew closer, we saw how it seemed to meld organically with the landscape. Some of its shapely white towers were man made, others were natural pillarsContinue reading “Ogrodzieniec Castle, Poland: On The Trail of the Eagles’ Nests”
Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight. albert schweitzer I stepped blinking into bright afternoon sunlight on Ealing Broadway. The buzz of a busy Saturday filled the space; the rumble of West London traffic; chattering shoppers; pigeons flappingContinue reading “Auschwitz-Birkenau – The Industrialisation of Genocide”
It was Łańcut where we finally solved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Light Grime.
Caravan Kismet on our pitch before the arrival of the tent and French motorhome! “That will make getting out tomorrow interesting!” The campsite had plenty of space, but Mark’s comment referred to the French motorhome positioned directly in front of Caravan Kismet andContinue reading “Łańcut to Sandomierz – A De-Camp by Committee, Poland”
From our campsite, Camping Browarny, set in the grounds of Karpiński Manor, it was a swift yet energetic walk into Sandomierz old town, up a steep flight of more than one-hundred stone stairs. The city is a medieval delight. Built on seven hills,Continue reading “The Devil Children of Sandomierz, Poland”
“It’s not a matter of if, but when this driver will have an accident. I can pinpoint exactly the timing of this accident. It will happen just after his luck runs out.” This was one of Mark’s early driving assessments as a youngContinue reading “The Great Escape: Lublin to Poznań, Poland”
– Germany –
One city. Sixteen palaces. Each with its own unique landscaped park surrounding it. It’s no wonder they call Potsdam ‘Germany’s Versailles’. It is a veritable fairy-tale kingdom, which embodies the Age of Enlightenment’s ethos of ‘A picturesque, pastoral dream to remind residents of their relationship with nature…Keep reading
Travel throws up all kinds of odd and unexpected scenarios. Finding replacement tyres in Poland; improvising a caravan stand from a jack and a large tin of peaches; rushing back to the UK when your mother and brother are taken into hospital on the same day for…Keep reading
Peter Ustinov said, “Love is an endless act of forgiveness.” For Mark and me, living the dream had become an endless act of problem solving. We had done our best. At the first hint that France was ‘bubbling with coronavirus’ and might lock down, we’d made a…Keep reading
‘Germany hits highest coronavirus cases since April, with 1,707 new infections,’ With quarantine already imposed on travellers returning to the UK from France and the Netherlands, the newspaper headline caused us considerable disquiet.Keep reading