26/02/2018 – 04/03/2018
For those that live in the UK, I know will not give us a lot of sympathy, but the weather has turned foul for us as well. All of Europe has been affected by the biting winds that have come from Russia and the nice sounding Storm Emma that has blasted its way across from America. On top of all that we know we started our journey northward from Spain too early. We should have waited until Spring had properly settled in before attempting to cross Italy on our way down to Greece. On top of that, we had left our crystal ball behind that would have warned us about the “Beast from the East”.
26/02/2018 Mandelieu la Napule, France
We left Montpellier and had a quite normal journey to the coastal town of Mandelieu la Napule until we got to the last part which took us down a windy, narrow road, from high up in the mountains down to sea level and our intended nights stop. Even though the road was fairly clear of snow, it was quite a perilous journey, with the white stuff everywhere and the wind blowing a gale.
All the roads in the town were covered in snow so we had a few anxious moments as we drove to a campsite for a two-night stay to give the weather a chance to clear a little. We ventured into town but were soon sent scurrying back to shelter in the warmth of our van.
28/02/2018 Albenga, Italy
We were up early as we were well rested and were delighted to see the snow around us had disappeared and the wind had calmed down. We checked on the weather forecasts and Elaine gave us the thumbs up that we could move on. After 111 miles we turned up at our intended campsite only to find it was closed. We found a farm site which luckily was open, so we pulled in for the one night and there was only one other motor home on this small site. Presumably, everyone else were too sensible to be travelling about in the terrible weather.
Next morning the snow was still thick on the ground, so we decided to stay for another night. Later that day it started raining and the gales abated so Elaine and I had a quick look around the town but mainly spent the time planning our journey, playing Scrabble and Rummikub and just relaxing.
02/03/2018 Savona, Italy
Thursday the weather looked better and the forecasts didn’t look to bad Elaine and I had decided that to speed up our journey across Italy we would take the toll roads. The viamichelin website was telling us that our journey to Venice would take us about 11 hours if we stayed off the toll roads and under 6 hours if we went on the paid motorways. The cost was going to be €90 so we changed the settings on the satnav to get the quicker route.
In no time we were at the start of the motorway and Elaine pressed the button at the toll booth to get our ticket. Away we went. In France and Italy, I can drive the motorhome at 130km per hour, so we started to eat up the miles. Strangely, there were almost no other cars or commercial vehicles on the road. The road started to climb, and we went through quite a few tunnels, some long and some short. The scary thing was that at the end of lots of these tunnels would find us on a viaduct where fierce cross winds felt like they could blow us into the valleys below. On top of that, now we were higher, we came across accumulations of snow on the road.
Next, we came across a stationary lorry on the inside lane. That articulated vehicle was the last in a continuous line of parked commercial vehicles that went on for miles. We found at the start of the queue the police had stopped the HGVs because of the perilous road conditions.
I was very grateful indeed to come across an exit that wasn’t blocked, and I carefully exited and with great care drove back down to sea level. Elaine managed to find a camper stop just on the outskirts of Savona. We had travelled, precisely, 29 miles and was very relieved that that long drive was over with the van still intact.
The snow on the beach and the patient fisherman
For two days, we barely left the van as the weather was so bad. I braved the snow to walk into Savona to find a bank and found it easier to walk back along the beach than on the slushy pavements. Mainly we stayed in Harriet, our motor home. It is good that times like this do not upset us; it is just part of travelling. You must take the rough with the smooth.
I am not sure that we have much faith we have in weather forecasters after the last week but this morning we could see for ourselves that the wind had died down and the big thaw had done its work and the rain had washed away most traces of the snow. At the toll booth, I told Elaine to reach down as far as she could to reach the lowest button to get our toll ticket. I thought she was going to fall out of the window and I would have to grab hold of her legs to save her. She came up triumphantly with the ticket in hand, but she was confused by my request.
The first part of our journey took us up the windy, two lane motorways, through tunnel after tunnel as we climbed way above seal level, meandering round and through the mountains. The weather conditions were great. Then the motorway turned into a three-lane highway and we really flew across Italy. At last we came to the turn off for Venice and the toll booths. Elaine got two fifty euro notes ready to pay the bill for the 270 miles of toll road use. She fed the ticket into the machine. On the screen it told us we owed €33.80. Result!!!! WWW.viamichelin had told us it would be 90 euros. Is it my fault the machine thought we had driven across in a car and not our 7m motorhome? There was no-one to explain that there was an error and we owed more. Now Elaine understood her dive for the lowest button.
We arrived at Camping Venezia and will stay here for two days. This site is just a short bus ride from the fabulous city and has the best bathrooms of any campsite we have ever been on. Neither of us have ever enjoyed a shower so much with the luxurious warmth of these modern rooms. They play fantastic English music that makes you want to stay in there all day!
Monday still at Venice
We were getting ourselves ready to go out when we got a knock on our door. It was the owner of the only other English van on the campsite. It was Gareth, from Gateshead so we invited him in for coffee. He had just driven down from the ski slopes in the Dolomites where it was -15 degrees at night. His van was a self-build and didn’t have double glazed windows. He was driving from ski slope to ski slope as this was his passion. What a boost to our egos when we told him of our passed trips and our plans and he said we were an inspiration to him. In comparison, I just think he must have the best wife in the world, who is happy to stay at home while he enjoys himself on the ski slopes of Italy. What peace he must have! LOL.
We knew it would rain later today but we caught the bus into Venice. We have been before, but we had to see it now. Now we would see it without a beautiful sunlit background. Despite the weather there were lots of tourists but nothing like we had seen before.
We crossed the Rialto bridge quite easily and were surprised just how high the water level was in the canals. In places the water was lapping onto the streets. I think our biggest shock was to see the new feature in St Marks Square.
Much to the delight of the gulls, there is now a huge lake straight down the centre and there is a make-shift bridge to allow folk to cross the magnificent square without getting their feet wet. Note to self….next visit bring wellington boots.
By lunchtime it had started to rain.and because of the flooding in the square, we couldn’t get to one of the magnificent restaurants that borders the square. We had checked the bank account and had decided that we were going to push the boat out and go “a la carte” and to hell with the expense. Every restaurant we passed were filled with diners. We needed to get indoors. So, we got down with the kids! For the first time, for as long as I can remember, we entered a McDonald’s. Please don’t tell anybody!! We had to go on a machine and use the various buttons to order our food. I couldn’t bring myself to order a Big Mac, so I pressed the buttons to get a chicken wrap and Elaine opted for a chicken burger and fries. I was wearing my sunglasses, despite the weather, just in case we were recognised.When I bought the tray to our table Elaine told me I had forgotten the cutlery. She then spotted that everyone was shoving their food in using their fingers. So, we didn’t stand out from the crowd, what could we do but join them?
We have had a great day and will leave it here with a few pictures that I have taken to remember our day.
06/02/2018 Koper, Slovenia
The rain has been constant. All night it has been as though 50 pigeons, wearing clogs, have been dancing energetically on our roof. To add to the noise, the big drops from the tree above us have fallen, intermittently, onto our satellite dish. No symbol player in an orchestra could make such a loud noise as each large drop descended to add to the crescendo. Considering all of this, neither Elaine or I, had too bad a night’s sleep. With all this rain, no wonder we had seen parts of Venice under water.
When we were ready, we left this fabulous campsite and after a food shopping expedition, we set off to Slovenia. The only key feature of the journey was the constant, depressing grey skies and the endless rain. The price of fuel in Italy is high! I had looked at the Slovenian price of diesel which was much lower. Could I manage to cross the border with what I had left in the tank? I knew it was going to be close. Here I must, publicly, apologise to Elaine. I caused her great anguish, every time she looked over to see the needle on the fuel gauge hovering around the empty mark whilst we had still some miles to cover. Elaine insists here that I tell you all that at the end, once the van had, finally got us to a fuel station that I only saved 25 euro cents a litre.
We had headed for Koper as it is a coastal town, and this is an area of Slovenia we haven’t visited before. There is a huge port and approaching the town we passed field after field of closely parked new cars and car transporters were everywhere to be seen.
The excitement wasn’t over. We pulled up outside a council ran camper stop. We read the information on the machine. Simple really, we just had to put 10 euros onto a “Koper???” card to gain entrance to a very modern looking, fenced off area with all the facilities we could hope for. Except, the machine didn’t say where you got the card from. Finally, I found the local bus station, put 10 euros onto a card and that was that. We have the whole site to ourselves. To cap it all; it has finally stopped raining.