It hardly seems like a few weeks ago but it is in fact 13 weeks ago that we set out from Guisborough to Rhodes. Amazingly it has been 13 busy weeks after a fantastic, incident free 2-week trip to get here.
We left almost on schedule on May 12th (6 hours later than planned at 6pm) and spent the first evening alongside the M11 just down the road from Stansted Airport at Bishops Stortford. Both Jane and I have our own businesses and life in business means that even the best laid plans have to be changed from time to time and more of this later.
The downside was that where it had been nice and dry throughout the day, for most of the evening and most of the night it rained with the heaviest rain coming in the mid to late even before we stopped. Consequently, our first night sleeping in #Ambience was cool (almost cold) and damp. As we drove having checked three separate weather information sites, AJ predicted that the rain would stop or slow considerably as we reached the services of the M11 near Stansted. AJ was about 40 minutes out on his timing. After a short meal and hot drinks break we went to sleep.
In the morning it was lovely and dry. The damp was a bit of an issue, so we had to make a few layout changes in #Ambience before setting off for Dover and missing our booked time but took the next ferry.
Catching up with work on the ferry, the inclusive WiFi and slight “luxury” of club class seating and peace and quiet was very welcome. We still had lots of work to do every day so good WiFi was essential.
Leaving Calais, we took the A16 and Jane decided a stop was in order. We took the opportunity to rearrange all the damp but drying items in the cabin of #Ambience. Leaving 15 minutes later Jane declared we should have filled with fuel as we were showing next to no reserve of fuel, but it would be ok as there would be other fuel stops soon enough. On a Sunday afternoon in France - No chance. Finally, as we were trying to decide to stay on or leave the road there was an “Emergency Fuel” option which we took at the last minute. However, in the 1-way refuelling system the hose would not reach so AJ had to turn #Ambience around and go round the wrong way while Jane stopped traffic. Unfortunately, while turning the kerb came off worse losing about 4 kilos of concrete when the strong frame of #Ambience nudged it.
So now slightly off track “Mrs Google” came into her own as we switched her to French taking us a very roundabout way to Maresquel-Ecquemicourt to Maison Nichols. On arrival was a lovely “cuppa” T and some local fruit juice – red or white? We brought the remaining bottle of wine bought at Lidl in France last year with us and proceeded to drain it with ease with our good friends Brian & Plum.
A lovely meal later, we collapsed into bed but not before #MiniTheCat had explored every centimetre of Maison Nichols.
At this point, we had #MiniTheCat in collar and lead so we could get her fresh air and Monday morning was welcomed in with a little lie in. After we dealt with the flurry of Janes B&B Emails the guests at #No27 departed with the swapping of the customary Reviews. The new 2-day old keysafe was working having replaced the one damaged at New Year when keys dropped and stopped the keysafe working.
Then onto a nice lunch at nearby Montreuil sur Mere and a tour of nearby villages and historical war graves followed by a traditional evening dinner a la Francais. Now into a new more relaxed rhythm we prepared to leave next morning for the next 14 days of #RoadTrip18 to Rhodes.
AJ also had a minor and very unusual panic not being able to find our 10 European plug adaptors. Just to put this into perspective, in addition to the ceiling mounted storage cupboards, in the cabin of #Ambience we also had:
All in a space 9 foot by 6 foot. Planning and putting things away is vital – then there is a Jane who operates by NOT putting anything away. God bless her. It’s the little things like where to put a laptop, 3 pads, 3 phones, glasses and keys. Security being a consideration when staying in the French Aires (Roadside parking areas with facilities of varying types, secluded by trees, but relatively unlit).
Having done our first day into France and passing Reims and by now well on the way to Lyon (we found out later) the morning was like waking to the buzzing of bees with all the trucks and refrigerator engines running. The nearby picnic table became an outside kitchen, washing station and breakfast table. The first cuppa … magical, the second even better. 2 hours of peace for AJ while her ladyship slumbered before waking to her constitutional coffee and computer pad (tablet) for mail and her secret pleasure – computer games! Secret till now that is.
In the morning we could see the thunder and lightning in the distance towards Switzerland and fortunately we had avoided most of that and the rain.
Our plans were however immediately changed with severe weather in Southern Switzerland meaning we had to detour south. So, we headed for the Frejus Tunnel via Lyons. We cancelled our stops at Metz, Basel and Zurich.
The first 2 days were quite literally bashing down the motorway before AJ made a fatal mistake and decided to take Jane through the centre of Lyons (again). Fatal because it was the day of the EUFA Europa Cup between Marseille and Athletico Madrid with some 50,000 fans thronging the streets, hundreds of police riot vans and thousands of armed gendarmes. Jane was not amused but we went right past something like 10,000 singing Athletico fans an hour before the kick off, so passions were high.
Our second night was taken at a fabulous Aire adjacent to a lake, surrounded by mountains on all 4 sides and a short distance to Frejus Tunnel and Italy. The images are all on the #Roadtrip18 Images Pages.
A fabulous experience of travelling through the Frejus Tunnel and finally dropping down towards Turin and Milan, passing through other tunnels, clouds, forests, snow and sun started with #MiniTheCat in boisterous mood so a cat collar and lead was used for a walk with the buzzing of the “bees” as background. Unusually AJ was wrapped in about 4 layers to keep warm but it was still glorious.
The Fréjus Road Tunnel is a tunnel that connects France and Italy. It runs under Col du Fréjus in the Cottian Alps between Modane in France and Bardonecchia in Italy. It is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes between France and Italy being used for 80% of the commercial road traffic.
Construction of the 13 km (8.1 mi) long tunnel started in 1974, and it came into service on 12 July 1980, leading to the closure of the motorail shuttle service in the Fréjus rail tunnel. It cost 2 billion francs (equivalent to €700 million at 2005 prices). It is the tenth longest road tunnel in the world.
The French section is managed by the French company SFTRF, and the Italian section by the Italian firm SITAF. (The French politician Pierre Dumas was chairman of SFTRF from 1962 to 1989). The tunnel can be reached from the Italian side by the A32 Torino-Bardonecchia motorway, or by SS335 from Oulx, which joins SS24 (“del Monginevro”), and reaches Bardonecchia after 20 km. From the French side, it can be reached by the A43 (‘’l’Autoroute de la Maurienne’’) from Lyon and Chambéry. A toll is charged to all traffic. Over 20 million vehicles passed through the tunnel during the first 20 years.
With a stroke of genius, AJ guided Jane off the Italian Motorway after a long day of driving and into a Lakeside town called Sarnico, Lago Iseo, Lombardy. On arrival, we travelled through the narrow streets to the lake front where we met the Italian Caribinieri. AJ waltzed over to ask direction to an overnight Motorhome location. The 2 Caribinieri were superb and in fact you will see us on the photos quite literally being escorted to the Motorhome Park. However, it was closed and despite a few more attempts to find us some options, they finally gave in pointing us to a car park instead. They then stopped the main road traffic to enable us to turn around and go back to it. With a stroke of luck, we stopped on a rarely used car park alongside some sort of factory.
It was ONLY the Riva factory (part of Ferretti) where some of the world’s most prestigious boats are made. They make the luxury lake cruisers used in Venice and most of the European lakes. A little walk followed for AJ who came across a whole series of photo signs now recorded in the #RoadTrip18 images folder of famous clients of Riva.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VJRVE_rjx0 – this little professional video shows the car park where we stopped, adjacent to the trees and close to the first white shed at the start of the You Tube Video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7KaC7uATbM - review of the Celebrity Buyers.
We made a simple meal, resorted to a little wine and cider before a good sleep. Next day we departed to our new target of Venice where because of changed travel plans we planned a couple of days break. A long drive around the north side of the lagoon led us to Camping Klaus and our first beach visit. Sadly however, AJ received around 100 “mozzy” bites and had a tough few days. We did however sleep very well and start to get rested.
A lazy Sunday was followed by a lake taxi trip to Venice and a few hours taking in the sights and ice cream. Venice is clearly a place you really need a several days, a city centre hotel and a good map. On the way back from the taxi service we stopped at a “local ristorante” and had a great meal and managed 30 minutes charge into the “office systems”.
Next day we had about the only navigation issue as “Mrs Google” couldn’t keep up with direction changes and we missed one turn, so after a 3 minute round the houses we did the directions manually as we skirted around the edge of Venice en-route to Senigallia (South of Rimini). It seemed as if we were making direction changes every few hundred metres which we had also done days prior near Bologna, but we had put that down to preferences chosen to keep us off motorways. Perhaps that was a bad decision which we will not make again.
As we drove, we were passed in the opposite direction by the annual “Mille Miglia” of sports cars en-route to Monaco for the F1 Grand Prix week. We got some images but it all happened so quick the images are not our best work as it included wing mirrors etc …
By now, our lack of “Electrical Input” from mains power was taking effect and we had to ensure maximum efficiency of battery charge into our “Portable Office Systems”. In Camping Klaus (Venice) we went 3 days with zero charging apart from our trip out to Venice. This is what we had to keep charged whilst also running fridge, air conditioning and the vehicle electrics.
Portable Office Systems
With Janes businesses in the UK – Physio Practice and 2 x B&B’s and my business of broking deals internationally 24/7, we operate around the clock for time zones and also for early and late arrivals and departures of B&B guests. Although it had been the weekend, they can often be our busiest days.
The charging and the water seeping into the van were the 2 things we need to sort while in Rhodes as by now this also meant that we were throwing away lots of food bought for the trip. We immediately also agreed a change of plan for catering on all future trips with or without fully functional fridge charging.
Senigallia was chosen for its proximity to Ancona, Italy so we could be sure to be ready for an evening ferry departure with no last-minute issues about arrival times etc. The Motorhome site at Senigallia is just 100 metres from the quiet beach but sadly only 30 feet from the high speed rail-line of East Coast Italy.
#MiniTheCat had issues with this at first literally going crazy and rushing back inside on the lead with every passing “full speed” passenger or freight train that ran day and night. However, strange noises at 2am in the morning were attributed to #MiniTheCat almost strangling herself in the collar/harness which from then on was only put on when she was going on the lead. We suffered a good few slashes from her claws as we rectified the problem but that was a small price to pay to take away the distress for the poor cat. In future we resorted to the harness only when we were taking her outside of #Ambience.
So ready for leaving Italy, we took a drive of about an hour down to Ancona where we had an interesting experience of a very rude German gentleman who took objection to our engine running in the queue while we charged our fridge and technology. Since we were alongside numerous trucks with refrigerators and there were no signs instructing engines to be off we persisted with the engine. Other Germans nearby came over to apologise for him, and that was nice. The real issue was he had set up deck chairs outside his vehicle after we had arrived and he was close to our exhaust. In the open air, we saw no issue but clearly he was having his own bad day and was possibly conscious of #Brexit.
After a very pleasant 26-hour Ferry Trip from Ancona with fantastic A la carte dinner in the restaurant, we docked in Patras and soon found our way out of the second biggest city in Greece on our way to meet up with Manolis & Soula at their wonderful friendly Akrata Beach Camping
Jane was greeted by a group of giggling Greeks hugging the trees to protect them from her previously observed “crashing into trees skills”. (The Spring 2017 Trip to Rhodes single-handed).
We watched the Champions League Cup Final in the “clubhouse” with about 40 other folks from Greece, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands. Not one of them wanted Real Madrid to win – they were all rooting for Liverpool - but that’s life.
The following day, after breakfast we made our way down to Piraeus (Athens) using the Greek Motorway for the majority of the trip. Traffic was quiet and this followed a fantastic jaunt along the coast of the Gulf of Corinth. Literally 20 feet or so from the “Ocean” for the first 30 miles or so, it was a very leisurely start to our time in Greece this year. One downside was vast piles of waste disposal and rubbish bags by the roadside that clearly hadn’t been collected in months. Sadly, local disputes and cash shortages frequently lead to this sort of thing.
Arriving at the port of Pireas we waited in the tiny ferry queue only to find our ticket had AJ missing from it. We quickly got that fixed.
A fantastic trip out of Piraeus and through the islands was followed by an amazing meal in the Ferry A la Carte Restaurant. 24-hours later arrival in Rhodes followed the ferries quick turnaround stops in Kos and Symi where we also saw disembarking around 40 vehicles en-route from Paris to Peking via all sorts of central European and Asian destinations.
Now in Rhodes we joked we had our second “escort” into town. This followed our Italian experience where we were escorted to a Lakeside Motor Home Campsite by the Caribinieri when AJ approached them for directions. In Rhodes, Ayhan from To Spitaki Restaurant suddenly appeared in front of us to almost look like an official escort. This made the decision for us and so on arrival, we headed straight into Haraki to Bottoms Up Kitchen and Café Bar for breakfast.
So that was it 16 relaxing days door to door with 2 days near Venice and 2 days near Rimini/Senigallia and 1 day in France where we had also taken the opportunity to recall family memories and visit war graves. On our return in October, we will repeat that exercise.
Since we arrived on May the 28th, we have painted the whole external surface of the villa in Malona, the “garden” metal fence and gate, replaced the fencing and on the nearby unused property cut the 5-foot high grasses down to the ground, painted the patio floor and steps. On the business front we have implemented the GDPR processes for the businesses and developed a Patient database for Jane’s Physio practice and revamped all of the business financial recording systems. We have managed to maintain Jane’s B&B at close to 100% for the year and also completed Case Studies on Health products. AJ has also revamped some of his business websites and is working hard on launching new online business platforms during the later part of 2018.
Now September is approaching, we will start the planning and preparations for the return trip. Sadly, we seem to have lost #MiniTheCat who has just disappeared. This was shortly after #ManolisTheCat came along. You can never replace a pet but you can integrate new pets into the family.
Jane & Anthony
We will be recording the highs, lows, problems and funny bits with words and images #RoadTrip18. Something like 4,000 kms including 2 overnight Ferry Crossings with #MiniTheCat. Two weeks on the road. Then on our time in #Rhodes2018 and finally on the #RhodesReturnUK18 starting on 21st October 2018 with a 10 day drive to the UK with #ManolisTheCat