Tuesday 27th August 2019 These things are sent to try us! 148 miles
How many of our trips have begun with 'not the start we wanted'. This one was no exception. We had a reasonable journey to Dover, just a bit slow at times, but it was much worse in the other direction. We'd left at 1.20 on a beautifully hot, sunny day, having got the garden in as good a state as we could, and looking lovely. Difficult to imagine that it would be autumnal when we returned.
Three hours later we reached Folkestone, and stopped to fill with diesel at Sainsbury's. Adrian was pleased to get money off with our coupons, and we continued to Dover. The white cliffs looked stunning in the sunshine, and the castle stood out on top of the hill on this beautiful day.
When we arrived at the almost deserted terminal, we were aware of a strong smell of diesel. We'd had a problem a while back, and then just before we'd left home, Adrian had had it checked at Chieveley motors. The chap had put a new gasket on and tightened it, and had said that it should be OK. This was just as we returned from a week away at 3 different camps/rallies, so it was all a busy time. Adrian had had to cycle back from the garage, and then down to it again to collect the van.
As we lined up to board, Adrian realised we were leaving a trail of our 'cheap' diesel all over the road and tried to fix the leak, but then it was time to board. We pulled in amongst all the large lorries, then, with none of the helpers around, we had great trouble in finding the way to the stairs. I was most surprised when a voice high above me from a cab called down that the entrance was on the other side of the deck.
We found our way to a seat for the 5.25 sailing, but soon made our way on deck and spent the rest of the crossing there. The temperature was still warm, but annoyingly it had become very misty.
Adrian took a photo on his new camera, but then it wouldn't take any more! Changing the expensive card later seemed to solve the problem.
We arrived at Calais at about 7.00 (8.00 in France) and found our way to the motorhome camping area. We knew about the silly entrance booth from last time, but we were soon sitting outside with our well deserved aperitif!
We came in for our meal, but were both feeling pretty tired, so were soon in bed - 10.00, now 11.00.
Wednesday 28th August Bad Day 2 172 miles
We were up early, but I'd had a nasty fright in the night. I'd woken to hear what sounded like someone scuffling around outside our van. I'd managed to put an extra lock on the door, and was glad when Adrian woke up. He got up and put down the roof lights, which he'd left open, as it was so warm. Apparently these moving in the wind had caused the noises which I'd heard. Not a nice experience!
It was a pleasant day when we left at 8.40 (9.40) to find the garage which Adrian had looked up to help with our diesel leak. Having exited the ridiculous site gate barrier, we drove through Calais, enjoying the different aspects of this interesting town - the walls of the old fort, the splendid Hotel de Ville, surrounded by flower displays, the atmospheric canal and the attractive houses. The first garage hadn't the part we needed, and the second - out of town at a place called Marck, was too busy to even look at the van.
The leak didn't seem quite so bad, so we set off at 10.30 on the A26 to Reims, soon stopping at a pleasantly quiet rest area, where we sat at a stone table in the pleasant temperature, which soon became hot. Adrian had another look at the engine before we continued past St Omer and Bethune through nice rolling countryside, marvelling as we always do at how different it is from the non-stop industrial towns on the ordinary roads.
We pulled in for lunch and sat at an identical stone table. It was now hot, and the engine was still leaking diesel. We continued south, listening to our recording of our trip to the Marquesas islands in 1998, which made the journey go quickly. Sara had emailed to say that they had just listened to it. It certainly brought back many memories.
At Reims we turned off the motorway, but Adrian couldn't locate the Fiat dealer on the computer. In desperation he asked at another dealers, to be told that they had moved to the other side of town. This entailed a 6 mile journey through the middle of Reims at a busy time - 5.00pm, with lots of traffic and continual traffic lights. All the time we were leaking a trail of diesel.
It was gone 5.30 when we reached the Fiat dealer. He assured us that he could deal with it at 8.00 am tomorrow.
We made our way to the roadside nearby, sorry not to be sitting outside on this lovely evening.
A hollyhock brightens our night stop at Reims
Thursday 29th August Van fixed, we continue to Cessy 293 miles
We were up early so that we could get to the Fiat dealers for 8.00am, leaving a large patch of diesel on the ground. We were told to go to the ‘salon’ - a few chairs and tables in the giant showroom. By 8.45 we were on our way towards Troyes and Dijon, with a new fuel filter and the diesel leak finally fixed! The neat, dapper young chap had dealt with us quickly and efficiently. After the anxiety of the past couple of days, it was hard to take in.
We stopped early for our tea/coffee. It was sunny but a bit breezy. Soon afterwards, near Troyes, we filled with enough diesel to last us until we turned off the motorway, replacing some that we had lost! There was a ‘flot blot’ for emptying, but Adrian couldn’t get it to work.
Lunch was at another pleasant French motorway aire,. We sat under trees, while sparrows and bluetits flew about. We emailed Simon to say that we would be arriving today, and at 1.20 left for Cessy.
At Dole we turned off the motorway, and filled up the tank with less expensive fuel. Now we wound up into the Jura, through ‘real’ France, with pretty little villages which we had missed on the pleasant but efficient motorways. We had to contend with several lots of traffic lights past stretches of road rebuilding.
At La Faucille, we stopped to look down at the wonderful view towards Lake Geneva, which we have seen many times before.
We arrived at Cessy at 5.15, greeted by Manolo and Leon the cat. An hour later, Simon & Millie arrived. Laure was with her mother who has been having a difficult time. There was lots of catching up chat – they had all recently returned from a holiday in Quebec. We sat outside in the warmth until bedtime.
Friday 30th August - Sunday 1st September At Cessy
We spent a few pleasant days with Simon & Laure, Manolo (13) and Millie (11). Most of our meals were eaten outside, with the Jura Mountains one side of us, and the Alps on the other. One day we took Manolo & Millie to Divonne to swim and have fun in the superb pool complex. On Saturday we all enjoyed a lovely sushi picnic beside Lake Geneva before a swim in the lake. Millie was starting secondary school on the Monday (where Manolo already goes), so a big step.
Manolo & Millie enjoying the pool at Divonne
Picnic and a swim at Lake Geneva
Monday 2nd September Off through Switzerland to Italy. 193 miles
Millie was off to Secondary school for the first time before we came in. Laure had left for work, but we saw Simon to say goodbye. Manolo didn’t have school until the afternoon. He came and had breakfast with us.
It was a nice day as we said goodbye to Manolo and finally left just before 10.00. We drove through Divonne, and were soon into Switzerland. As we have seen before, we became aware of the acre upon acre of vines, although we never see Swiss wine in England. We stopped just after Montreux, and were able to look down the lake as we sat out with our tea/coffee, but it had become cloudy.
We then left the lake, driving south following the Rhone valley. Maize was being grown in the flat valley bottom, with vines on the steep slopes. We also realised that there is not the plethora of rest areas as in France. We turned down one, then found that the new motorway was being built and it was a while before we could stop for lunch When we did, we saw that the rest areas are not a patch on the French ones. We ate smoked trout for lunch. The fridge had got left off last night- later we sadly had to throw out the fresh fish for supper.
It was hot when we set off for the Simplon Pass, amazed at the tunnels and bridges for both the road and the railway.
The crowded little town of Visp was bright with red geraniums as we ascended through the glorious mountain scenery towards the Simplon Pass. When we stopped at the summit, the air was cool, and snow lay in the crevasses in the barren mountain sides.
Just a few of the vines
Looking back down Lake Geneva after Montreux
We then made the 19km descent, with the impressive steep valley sides beside us. We drove through the village of Condo, and then came into Italy. I was surprised that I don’t remember being overwhelmed by this glorious scenery when travelling in this area in the past.
We drove through Domodossolla, a name well remembered from years ago, stopping for the night at Ornavasso, in the middle of town, at 5.30. It was sunny, so we sat out with our aperitifs before the sun went behind the mountain.
Had to put this one in!
Bridge on the Simplon Pass
At the top of the Simplon Pass
Night stop at Ornavasso
Tuesday 3rd September Italian motorway day 291 miles
The day started sunny but cool, before the sun came above the mountains. We left at 8.40, driving through the narrow streets of the atmospheric Italian mountain town. We were soon on the motorway, and straight into a series of tunnels and bridges. We glimpsed Lake Maggiore, but then came down onto the North Italian Plain. After that it was around vast Milan - not much fun with so much traffic, especially lorries.
We pulled in soon afterwards at 10.30. Not a fun stop, as we were surrounded by lorries, with the motorway traffic zipping past us, and nowhere to sit out. Adrian's 'Focus on the journey, not the destination' T-shirt wasn't appropriate! The only nice thing was the blue sky!
We drove on, past Lake Garda and Verona, but seeing nothing of either. Our lunch stop was no better! The service station was jam packed with lorries, so we continued to a 'cafe' parking area, where again we were sandwiched between huge lorries, but at least we could view some vines. As so many times before in this area, the heat now hit us. We left at 2 o'clock, driving around Venice. We'd got very low on fuel, but did manage to get some, although they were rebuilding the petrol station, and only two pumps were open.
We left the motorway at Palmanova. Just beforehand where the motorway was being rebuilt, there was a big hold up on the other carriageway.
We found our way to the motorhome stopping area, in the sunshine. It had recently been finished, and was surrounded by a grassy area. Once more it was beside a sports complex - this time with a covered tennis court. We enjoyed a much needed cup of tea, sitting outside. The clouds had come up a bit, so it wasn't too hot. Before supper we looked at what we might see in Slovenia, then we ate outside in the quiet, coming in just before 9.30.
Wednesday 4th September Into Slovenia 83 miles
It had been cool in the night, but a sunny morning, however we were still in the shade. A camper had come in late. He had a drone and she set up an extreme exercise regime on her foam mat. They were English - in a Spanish registered van, but didn’t appear to want to make contact with us.
We were able to fill and empty before leaving at 9.00. We’d even had electricity – all for free! There were only three pitches here, but it suited us fine.
We had been just outside the city walls of this superb town, but now we drove in through the arch and parked just inside the walls. We walked to the enormous square, which was surrounded by characterful houses and with exhibits of winding gear from when the walls had been built.
We shopped in a Lidl type supermarket and stocked up, leaving at 10.30. We took small roads to the border with Slovenia. As usual there was nowhere to pull off. We eventually stopped at Civitale, pulling in beside a football court, where we sat on the one seat, while a couple of young lads energetically played football.
Now we ascended into the Julian Alps with its gorgeous scenery and mountain villages, entering Slovenia at 11.45. We drove through the very pretty village of Staro Stella and soon after Kobarid, which was dripping with red hanging geraniums. We walked around, but sadly the Tourist Info closed at 12.00, and it was just after. Adrian wanted a local map. There was a fine church. I took a photo with trepidation, remembering my trip to Yugoslavia in 1962, when Val & I were put in a police cell for photographing a church. (I only found out years later that this was why).
Main square in Palmanova, Italy
We crossed the turquoise Soca River, and then it hit us – the enormous number of tourists – far too many for us!
We drove up the mountain road and stopped for lunch, then came down again to Kobarid for fuel and for Adrian to visit the T.I. (now open) to get a map.
We continued to Borec, where motorhome overnight parking was very expensive. We pulled into a waste bit of ground for a cup of tea. Adrian spoke to a nice Australian couple, who were over from Sydney for 8 weeks with their two children in a motorhome which they hired in Berlin. They weren't actually overnighting there, and didn't know if you could, so we drove on through Triglav National Park. The scenery was stunningly beautiful. We stopped to look at the boulder strewn glacial Soca River before ascending the Visic Pass 1611m. This was 54 hairpin bends (numbered), plus many more wiggles. The wonderful scenery was topped with vertical white cliffs above the steep mountains. The road was packed out at the summit. As well as all the cars, there were cyclists and bikers.
The church in Kobarid
Crossing the Soca River
It was nearly 6.00 when we reached Kransja Gora, where we thought that there was a place we could stay. The actual aire was expensive and you needed to phone-up for a parking ticket! We saw a few motorhomes parked just before it and pulled in. Adrian saw that the next van was GB, so went to ask if they were staying. He came back saying that they were really nice, and we should get together. Just afterwards, the man, George, came to ask if we wanted to go in for a drink. During the conversation, Julia (the lady) asked where we were from, and then said that she knew Newbury well, as her boys went to Priors Court School. And so it turned out that I had taught 2 of her 4 boys! I remembered them (and her) well! Many memories and much chat! We came back in to get supper!
Going over the Visic Pass
Thursday 5th September Slovenia – beautiful but busy 90 miles
We left early (7.30) on a chill morning, with the sun just coming over the hill. Julia and George had already gone on a walk. We drove through the beautifully quiet authentic alpine town, stopping afterwards to have breakfast at a picnic site beside a glacial river which rushed over white stones. We debated whether to sit at a nearby picnic table, but were glad that we didn’t, as it soon went into shade, and it was still quite cool.
Friday 6th September Ljubliana then back to Italy for the night! 100miles
A noisy start to the day! The church bells started at 6.00, and then the men came to strim the grass around the car park! Also, it was grey and cloudy, and quite cool.
Nevertheless, after breakfast we walked into the delightful medieval town of Skofja Loca, with its cobbled streets, mighty churches and attractive houses with their geraniums. We bought a tasty loaf, and got back at 10.00.
By 9.00 we were on our way. It all looked very beautiful with the mountains standing out against the blue sky. Racks stood in the fields for drying hay. We came to Jesenice, which was not nice! It showed what towns must have looked like before, with tall ugly tower blocks.
We were heading for Bled, which we had been told not to bother with. At this hour we were able to drive through, but later in the day it gets chock-a-block. There is nowhere to stop, and to us it seemed rather nondescript. The lake did look lovely, especially the castle high above, and an atmospheric island. We continued to Lake Bohinj, which was quieter and very beautiful. We despised the fact that all pull-offs were barricaded off, and all parking was paying by phone. We had to suffer two lots of roadworks hold-ups, with queues in both directions. Having decided that it wasn’t for us, we turned round, having snapped a few photos.
Lovely view for breakfast
When we drove through Bled again, the queues in the other direction were enormous.
Beautiful Lake Bohinj, but 'don't stop here'!
On the way back, we managed to find a place to park at Blod, just off the main road. We crossed a wide river, which was shallow and clear, and sat on logs to have our tea/coffee. It was wonderfully warm and quiet, looking across to the tiny village.
Wonderfully peaceful coffee stop amongst all the 'busyness'
We continued to Radovlica, using my Blue badge to park in the shade in a car park to have lunch. We walked into the charming centre, walking in a loop, as we had no map to show us where to go! It appeared to be a college town, so following the students didn’t help!
By the centre of delightful old houses was a church which we walked into. Music was being played as we looked up to the prettily painted ceiling, making it really atmospheric.
'Snapping' as we pass Lake Bled
We drove on to Kranj, parking in a steep side street before walking along the pleasant central streets of the old town. Bikes, scooters and vehicles were being driven along what would appear to be pedestrian streets, so we had to be wary.
Radovlica was another quiet, atmospheric old town
We drove on the Skofja Loca, with a fine dominating castle, where at 4.30 with a bit of difficulty we found a camper parking place.
After supper we did a bit more of the website.
And so was Kranj
The statue is of national poet France Preseren outside the theatre
Now it was time to head for Ljubliana, the capital of Slovenia. Until we reached the city, it was really rural but it was slow driving in. Adrian had noted a carpark near the centre, but when we reached it, it was on the other side of a double white line on the road. We continued, in order to turn around. Imagine our consternation when, on turning left, we went immediately into a tunnel! Somehow we righted ourselves, and found our way back to the carpark. Then we saw that there was a long queue! We were about to give up, when we suddenly got nearer the front and decided to wait.
We discovered that we weren't far from the main square - Congress square. It was a massive square, with maple trees in the centre, and surrounded by fine buildings. there was a small piece of Roman wall remains, and a castle stood on top of a nearby hill. It seemed to be a university town, and there were lots of young people and bicycles around. We were pleased to have had a glimpse, as we walked back to the carpark and headed out of Ljubliana.
Skofja Loca would have looked even lovelier in the sunshine!
As so often, there was nowhere to pull off for lunch. We finally stopped on a large rough parking area. As we left at 2.30, it started to rain and we had a very wet afternoon. We followed small roads to Cerknika, where there is a 'sometimes' lake. We drove for miles on stony tracks, but found no lake. Tractors had been loading up the hay bales from the meadows which were dry now, but must sometimes be covered by water. Just as we stopped to have a cup of tea, there was a big flash of lightning and a crash of thunder. A nearby tractor vehicle must take visitors to the 'lake', where presumably unusual flowers grow because of the conditions.
Images of Ljubliana's Congress square
Adrian had note of a place we could overnight near Trieste, just over the border into Italy. On the way we drove through the village of Lipica, where the white horses come from which train at the Spanish riding school in Vienna. (yes, that is a bit Chinese!)
Once into Italy, Adrian took a wrong turn and we ended up going in totally the wrong direction, heading for the motorway! The road off was blocked with traffic. The viewpoint marked on his sat-nav, where we might have turned round, didn't exist so he did a 'uee' and we found our way back. Then the sat-nav showed us down a road which had a 6ft limit! We managed to find an alternative down a very steep and narrow cobbled Italian street, on & on down to sea level. Everywhere had been really busy with roads and cars. In the end we found our way to the rough parking area at Muggia, right beside the water, where we could look across to the docks and blocks of flats of outer Trieste. It was now sunny, but did rain later.
The 'sometimes' lake at Cerknika
Our waterside overnighter near Trieste
Saturday 7th September Through Slovenia to Croatia 102 miles
The sun looked lovely on the water when we looked out. We left at 8.45 driving through the town of Muggia, which was much nicer than the name suggests! The old town looked attractive, and small and larger boats were anchored by the shore. We were right on the border with Slovenia. We managed to stop by a recycling bin and get rid of the bottles, but rubbish bins proved hard to find. Vineyards lined the road - people were harvesting grapes.
We were heading for Koper, the outskirts of which we knew were unattractive, being a port, with literally hundreds of cars lined up presumably for dispatch around the country. We very much needed to empty the loo, but the 'flot blot we tried was inside a campervan parking area, so impossible to access without paying the full fee.
Although we had read that the old centre was nice, it was a no-go for us, as motorhomes weren't welcome, so there was nowhere to park. We were also finding everywhere incredibly busy - not for us! (later we found on reading our diary that we had come through Koper and Portoroz in 1975, with the children, and hadn't liked it much then!)
We headed for Piran, supposedly a really pretty little coastal town, but we didn't make that either! We had to drive past Portoroz, supposedly very touristy, and weren't going into it, but when we spied a 'flot blot' sign, we followed it. However, this was inside a campsite, so we didn't make that either. Having expected Portoroz to be really grotty, we didn't think it too bad. However, we decided not to push our luck with Piran, with its difficulty of parking, and narrow streets, so headed for Secovje, a huge area of salt pans. We pulled in beside some other campers and had a pleasant coffee stop. The cyclists on the opposite bank of the canal made fine reflections in the water. This place was much more us!
The saltpans at Secovje
We heard great rumblings of thunder, and these continued into the afternoon, sometimes with heavy rain. We realised that we were right on the border with Croatia, where we had to show our passports, but there was no hold-up. However, there were enormous queues for cars wanting to enter Slovenia. We got caught up at a roundabout with cars queueing for a different border crossing, but were soon on a cross country route to Rijeka. At Buje, we went into a supermarket where we bought a large bottle of water plus some other goods - but not loo rolls, as they only came in tens! Soon afterwards we had lunch near Krasica, sitting inside as the picnic tables were rather 'run down'!
We left here at 2.00, when it was sunny after a heavy shower. We had to take the motorway for the last stretch before Rijeka – motorhomes were banned on the small road. We turned off just before Rijeka and drove through the sprawling town, with no memories of our visits years ago. In fact it was no problem driving through on a Saturday afternoon. On the other side of the town, we were into tunnels and viaducts, of which the Italians would have been proud!
We were heading for Camping Ostra at Kraljevica, on the coast opposite the island of Krk. This was a big site, with different prices, depending on where you camped. We went for the cheapest, which had no views, but was spacious, amongst trees. In fact it reminded us of Marino de Castagneto in Italy, when we first camped there in 1968. After having a look around, we went to book in with the pleasant young receptionist, who spoke good English. The reception room was very bland, with no pictures or maps and smelled of smoke. I had been delighted to see little cyclamen growing from the rubble beside the road.
Looking down to the coast from the church at Krasica
The first thing we did was to dump! Then we went to put the washing in before walking down to the pleasant beach area.
We had aperitifs and supper sitting outside, hanging out the washing in between. Several other campers had come in (late). One couple, German from Strasbourg, chatted (the woman). She seemed displeased with everything! She didn’t speak English, so it was a chance to try out my long forgotten German! Later she brought over a German newspaper from last week! At bedtime huge rain drops fell, so we dashed out to bring in the washing.
Our quiet haven at Camping Ostra
Hermitage to Kraljevica, Croatia