Europe Summer 2009, Our first big adventure 
 
Ok so we had now owned a motorhome for nearly a year.  We had been to the Lake District, Flamborough and the Isle of Arran several times but it was time to set sail for waters unknown, time to explore other countries, time for our first big adventure!
 
A rough plan was put together.  We would visit France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.  When I was 15 I did a 3 week tour with my parents and I wanted to retrace some of those places and share them with Michelle as well as see much, much more.  Our trip was to be nearly 3 months.
 
Below is a rough map of the route we took give or take a few hundred miles.
 

Leaving Blighty

We left Dover in Early June and watching grey old England disappear behind us I felt a warm feeling inside.  A sense of it was all actually happening at last.  After months of not very much planning we were off! 

We sped off in the general direction of Normandy in search of war, 

 

 

 

 

War!

 

Our first few days were spent visiting the landing sites in Normandy.  Pegasus Bridge, Arromanches and Bayeux to name but a few.  Its a Trip I would recommend everyone takes when visiting Northern France.

 

  

 

 

Mont St Michel and Brittany

A stunning place and one of Mrs D's favourite places in France.  Brittany was lovely.  Great weather and lovely people but flipping heck!  Its motorhome city down there.  The French seem to love motorhomes and it seems its their right to park them wherever they fancy spending the night or having a 3 hour lunch.  We soon followed their example.

We have been back 3 times now as its just a nice place to be in a Motorhome.  Great beaches and  scenery and some lovely old towns such as Dinan.

Great dentists as well.  I end up having deep root canal work over two days in Dinard.  Doctor Lionel Firtal's surgery and methods make ours look dickensian.

Some great wild camping spots and having the scooter allow us to find all sorts of places away from the crowds (although nowhere is really crowded). 

We spend a couple of weeks here touring around the coast with occasional ventures inland. 

Its very similar to Devon and Cornwall but then it is also different in many ways. 

 

 

 
 
 
Loire Valley and Burgundy

We were reluctant to leave Brittany but decide on a plan to head inland up the Loire Valley and then perhaps end up in Germany and the Black Forest.

Its late June now and its getting hot.  The Loire Valley isnt how I imagined it.  I thought it would be a deep valley with castles and hill top towns.  I discover next year that I was thinking of the Dordogne but never mind

There are some lovely wild camping spots along the river and we spend a couple of pleasent evenings quaffing the local booze and eating lots of nice stuff from the local river side shops.

We break with tradition in the Loire and actually visit a campsite for a couple of days.  We only do this because I bought a discount ACSI card for a tenner before we went and before we realised we really dont like campsites. Of course in France you dont need to use them anyway.

You cant do a visit to the Loire without a trip to a French Chateau and there are plenty to choose from.  We end up at Villandry which is famed for its Gardens. 

We head ever further East and in Burgundy meet up with Loddy of Motorhome facts and have a drunken evening by Lake Setton.  Its really hot and after several beers I take off swimming in the dark across the lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Germany and the Black Forest 

On the trip with my parents when I was 15 we went to the Black Forest and a place calle Titasee.  it was just as I remembered it.  A small lake and a very chocolate box touristy town but very pretty.  Mum, Dad and I spent 6 nights here and loved it so it was a bit of a pilgrimage coming here and quite emotional.
 

We stayed at a Pension called Pension Lorrette run by a lady called Lorreta.  I found it straight away and guess what.  Lorreta is still there, sat in her porch.  I debated going in to see if she remembered me but it was 28 Years ago!

 

Swizerland, Germany, Switzerland again then Germany again

 

We retrace another place I visited with mum and dad, the Rhine Falls in Switzerland.

 

The swiss are a funny lot.  They check our van over on the border and take it to a weigh bridge as they are not conviced we are under 3500KG.  Despite the van being brim full of cases of cheap german beer we are still under 3500KG so are allowed on our way.  I think if your over that magical figure you have to sell your house and children in order to use Swiss roads.

 

The Rhine falls are fantastic and no photo can do them justice.  We end up however going back into Germany to check out Lake Constance and Bavaria (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle at Fussen) and then back into Switzerland and then back into Germany.  Its all very confusing but just to make it more complicated when the weather lets us down we drive to Italy!

 

 

 

  

Italy 

The drive through the Alps is stunning although some of the Swiss towns such as Zurich are forgetable.

Every turn delivers a breath taking vista.  We are truly having the times of our lives.  We are delivered to Italy Via the Gotthard tunnel which goes on for miles.

Lake Maggiore is stunning.  Its July, its hot, the Italians are on holiday and the whole place buzzes with fun.  Everyone is there to enjoy themselves. 

Its superb fun on the bike and we fly about the lake all over the place, back into Switzerland, back into Italy, Switzerland, Italy etc etc.

Cannobio where we are based is a lovely town.  Michelle finds us a nice spot on the local motorhome Aire (Sostas I think they are called in Italy).

Our biggest regret here is that we screw up on the plan and go the wrong way.  We wanted to see more of Switzerland but end up going over the Simplon pass (6500ft) and down into the wrong bit of Switzerland.  I was trying to find some of the places we visited when I was 15 but somehow we end up near Geneva and its a bit crap.  No bother, France and the Rhone Alps are just down the road.  Yippee!

  

France (again)

There is something about France that we clearly love.  I cant quite put my finger on it as the other places we have seen are equally as stunning but here we are again.

We turf up at Lake Annecy on the 14th July.  Nobody told us the 14th July was Bastile day and a national holiday and celebration in France and that Annecy was as popular as Lake Windermere just hotter.

Its packed here but not in an awful way.  Like Italy its a holiday atmosphere.  There are motorhomes everywhere.  Every bit of land that hasnt got moving traffic on it has a motorhome parked on it.  Spots in the actual official Aires (motorhome parking places) are just not available, they are packed in like sardines.

We however drive down the lake and find a college that is shut for the summer with just one van parked on the Grass outside.  That will do us.  Its only a short walk or ride on the bike to the Lake and the town is just a few miles up the road.

Its so hot here.  We spend the day flying around the lake on the bike in our shorts and T shirts, jumping off every few miles to dive in the water to cool off.  This is what I dreamed of.  I could spend the rest of my life just touring, enjoying the weather and flying around on the bike.

After a couple of days we move up into the hills to get some peace and quiet and find our own lovely wild spot to stay near Lac du Bourget which is just as pretty but much quieter than Annecy.

We enjoy our stay in the Area.  Its stunning.  We spend a few days here before slowly working our way through the Rhone Alps, Provence and finally St Tropez and the Med!

 
St Tropez and the Med

Well we made it to the Mediterranean and St Tropez.  We expect to be dissapointed as these places are often over rated but its quite nice.

We almost feel cool buzzing around the harbour on the bike.

We dont bump into Victoria Beckham or George Clooney but never mind.

Again when we leave we go the wrong way but are glad we did in the end.

 
Bit of a cock up and then Avignon region

We really should have turned left at St Tropez and headed off along the coast via Nice and Monaco but for some unexplained reason we head 200 miles or so in the other direction which turns out to be a bit naff.  Disappointed with the Rhone delta area we head inland up to the Avignon area and Roquefort.

It is here we have a bit of a disaster which actually teaches us to slow down a bit.   On the way up to the Cheese caves the drive belt snaps on the bike.  It’s a Peugeot scooter so you would think it would be easy to fix in France.  No chance! After visiting no less than 7 motorbike shops none of them can get a belt in less than two weeks.  In the end I have one couriered from the local bike shop back in the UK and the local Honda dealer in Albi fits it.

It still takes a week but we have landed on our feet here.  It’s a lovely area.  We spend many days relaxing around Lake Pareloup and the river Tarn.  It’s hot but not too hot and the rivers and lakes are so inviting.  We find one or two superb wild camping spots and its heaven.

We eventually get the bike back and it’s a happy day.  It was like losing your right arm.  For us it’s as much a biking adventure as it is a motorhome adventure.  I really would never want to be without it.

 

Another great region missed then back to Brittany!

We end up in the Bordeaux area on the coast which is lovely but drive through the Dordogne without stopping!  We learn later that this is one of the best places to visit.  No matter we make a note to do it next year.

Eventually we arrive back in Brittany and retrace some of our favourite places.  It’s August now and much busier but it’s still lovely.  Conscious that we are running out of time we head up through Normandy and end up in Belgium which isn’t on the list but there you go.

We stay and Ypres and visit some more war of the first world variety.  Again like the Second World War sites it’s a very moving experience.  We visit the Tyne Cot Cemetery, Yorkshire trenches and attend the evening ceremony at the Menin Gate which is truly moving.

 

Home again (Sadly)

The last few days are spent in the Cap Griz Blanc area near Calais.  It’s nice and the weather is great but we know we are leaving and it’s hard not to get sad.  Gone are the care free days of the early summer where it seemed we had a life time of the adventure ahead of us.

It’s been life changing really for us.  It was badly planned but we still had a great time.  This blog is really just a summary.  My real daily journal is epic.  We have memories that will last a life time and my only thoughts are of the next trip and perhaps one day a full time adventure.

 

 

 

Farewell England

British Cemetery Bayeux
 
 
Mont St Michel
 
Dinan Brittany
 
 

Chateau Villandry

Michelle at Saumur, Loire Valley

A superb spot in Burgundy

Titasee, Black Forest Germany

The Rhine Falls

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was filmed here

The Motorhome Sosta in Cannobio, Lake Maggiore

Lake Annecy on Bastile day 14th July

Another Lake

And another,  Lac du Bourget

St Tropez Harbour

Wild spot on the river Tarn

And the view the other way

River Tarn (again)

Our favourite wild spot in Brittany

The Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium

A very sad day