Posts tagged advice

Amalfi Coast

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One of my long standing ambitions has been to explore the Amalfi coast.  This goal inspired us to persevere in our struggle with the Italian traffic, and we made our way to Sorrento.  A little preparation made the journey to the area much more bearable. We were able to find a campsite open in the ‘off’ season and avoid all those challengingly low bridges.  Our campsite was tagged onto the end of Sorrento with amazing views of the coastline.

We decided to spend our first day in this area exploring it on foot.  The Italians don’t seem to be overly keen on footpaths, or even pavements, and you have to take your chances on the narrow roads leaping sideways to avoid scooters undertaking three-wheeled Piaggios.  We diverted off the main road onto a walkway, straddled on either side by lime and lemon plantations.  We scrumped some limes for our larder, though our pickings were meagre compared to a retired Italian couple we encountered, dragging bulging plastic packets filled with olives, lemons, limes and pomegranates in their wake.

The coastal road to Amalfi is closed to motorhomes during the day due to the huge volume of traffic and the jaw droopingly narrow squeezes between cliffs and houses.  The coast is easily visited by bus and boat, both run by the municipality and very reasonably priced.  Feeling more adventurous we opted to rent a scooter from Sorrento for the day. Finding a good scooter-spot for Odie proved to be an interesting challenge but soon, like an unwilling sandwich filling, he was wedged firmly between us, sniffing and staring at the passing scenery.

We bumped and weaved our way along the peninsula, through isolated villages to Santa Agata which has stunning views all round.  The road hugs the cliffs and continues on to the beautiful towns of Positano, Praiano and Amalfi.  The towns are mid-way down the cliffs, between the sea and the towering limestone monoliths that stretch into the clouds.

We stopped for a delicious seafood lunch in a restaurant, with tables looking out across one of the bays. It turned out to be a rather expensive treat of seafood pasta and freshly prepared veggies from the proprietor’s garden for only €10 extra (or yous sleeps widda fishes).  After lunch, the clouds descended and rain quickly fell upon our cheap plastic helmets. We weaved our way homewards through mist and fog, our TomTom bleating out alternatively a direction to turn, or a warning about a low battery. With the TomTom off to save the battery we powered on, thinking we had our bearings right, but discovered after a long descent to a small fishing village that we had made a monstrous diversion to a dead end.  I’d usually have been annoyed but strangely the last hour of scooting back through the Italian rain was as much fun as you could possibly hope for. My spirit of adventure was feeling much alive.

Accidental Austrian Strudel

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Rain, rain, rain! We had hoped to make the most of Lake Constanz but the only constant has been a steady downpour. Luckily, while drifting through Friedrichshafen, we spotted signs for the Zepplin Museum and decided to check it out on a whim. As it was early, we were fortunate enough to find a parking space easily but they were few and far between when we returned to the van. Get there early if you don’t want parking headaches. The museum itself was fascinating. I can’t believe how huge the Zepplins were, especially considering how few passengers they could carry. What we did find rather odd was that the top floor was home to an art exhibition. The rather tenuous reason (or should that be excuse?) for its existence was a little sign with the words “Science is art and art is science”.

We found a Stellplatz adjoining a campsite near Lindau. At last a chance to do some washing! A brief break in the steady downpour allowed us to go for a cycle to explore the area. We stopped at a cafe for a warming cup of tea and a very delicious apple strudel. On the cycle home we noticed a sign showing the way to Deutscheland and realised that we had accidentally strayed across the border into Austria for our strudel!

Lindau bay lit up at night

When evening fell we cycled, away from Austria this time, into Lindau town. The bay is lit up at night and is very pretty, apart from a rather odd neon sign at the top of a statue which changes every few minutes from a smiley face to a sad face. The restaurants on the water front are very expensive but a short walk to the end of the row will take you to a funky little cafe which serves cake and beer, a combination I have come to love 😀 We suspect that although it has a lovely riviera feel at night it would be very different in the day, heaving with tourists.

Washing woes

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We usually try to avoid industrial towns as they don’t tend to have a lot of interesting sights to visit. Singen is no exception, but we stopped there as it was on our way to Lake Constanz. There is a fortified castle which looks over the town and it is worth trekking uphill for some good views over the surrounding countryside. Apple trees are abundant on the path up to the castle and we made the most of it by doing some serious scrumping. I had to be careful not to stab one of my eyes out as I teetered on David’s shoulders, desperately reaching for wormless specimens.

Previously we have done all of our washing at campsites, however in Germany we have only stayed in Stellplatz which are far cheaper but have limited services. We have struggled to find self-service laundromats in towns and consequently our washing is starting to take over the van. Soon we won’t be able to move for dirty t-shirts!

Le Tour

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We drove into Rodes to check out the terrain the day before the Tour de France came through town.  A fantastic park along the river and walkway provided a stunning backdrop for our picnic.  We explored the area and eventually found a great freecamping spot lakeside along with 35 other motorhomes.

We got up at the crack of dawn for the Tour de France, and spent 6 hours waiting at the roadside for the cyclists, who, when they finally arrived, flew past us in less than a minute. However the floats that preceded the riders were worth the wait and we left loaded with various goodies including some sexy spotty Carrefour caps : )

The rest of day was spent driving eastwards and we free-camped at a wild spot with stunning viewpoint.  A windy night meant we closed all the windows for the first time and only left one of our vents open. We were rudely awoken at 2am when our carbon monoxide alarm went off. Although it was loud enough to wake anyone within a ten mile radius I still took it upon myself to shout in David’s ear and shake him vigorously. 🙂

We have deduced that the van doesn’t have enough of an air flow to clear the gas from our fridge and therefore need to leave both vents open.  If you are travelling in a motorhome with gas then get an alarm, it is well worth the small cost.

Buying a Campervan/Motorhome

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We are looking for a campervan in the £15 – 20k range.  Man they are hard to come by.  The market tends to focus on the 25K+ or under 10k.

Before starting our search I found a couple of very useful books that I would recommend if you are a first time buyer:

Motorhomes the Complete Guide:

Go Motorhoming Europe:

We are looking at the state of the vehicle and the home layout.  A lot of first time buyers change their motorhome within 12 months because the layout bugs them with everyday use.  As we will be living out of ours it is vital to get this right.  The most important elements for us are:

  1. Work space, making sure it is easy to use laptops
  2. A fixed sleeping area
  3. Space for our dog
  4. Lots of storage
  5. Bike rack
  6. Oven and grill

We have decided to drive to dealers to see a large selection of vehicles.  However after visiting 3 dealers within the South East and only seeing 5 vehicles in our price range we have trekked up to Cambridgeshire to look at a bigger dealer.

We found our new home!  It is a Ford Transit Karmann conversion.  It has 39k miles on the clock.  There is U shape lounge at rear and a sleeping area over the cab.

The only issue is that we have a 2 week wait for it to be ready. So we are out of our tent and into a cottage rental in Blakeney whilst we wait.

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