Finding Our Deutschland Mojo

We left the supermarket in Wernigerode and went off into the woods to find somewhere to park up and have dinner. We found a walkers car park and stopped for a few hours and it was lovely, we had dinner, we had a little bike ride into the woods and then we were ready to head off for an evening drive to Wolfsburg.

Wolfsburg was the first piece of the plan for the next few days and it was mostly my choice. Most people won’t know of Wolfsburg but it is secondly a small town with a ruined castle, but firstly, the home of Volkwagen! I’m not exactly a car nut but having had a lot of VWs and having been the custodian of a very rusty old 79 bay window for the last 5 years, Volkswagen holds a bit of pull for me. I was thinking that we’d swing by there as a stopover on the way north and drop in at their museum for a few hours as a kind of pilgrimage and to see some old bugs and buses. How I underestimated how it would turn out.

We used Camperstop and found a stelleplatz right next to the factory, we didn’t realise it was actually in the factory carpark. It was all nice and secure, a little bit noisy as there was a boy racer roundabout nearby (presumably loads of “max powered” golfs ragging around) but that wasn’t anything a price of 6 euros a night couldn’t help us ignore. We had a decent nights sleep but had no idea what to expect the following day but we got the inkling there was more than a museum from the bigtop we could kinda see from the van, oh, and the presence of a Ritz Carlton.

The next day we paid our 30 euros to get into the “Autostadt”. It was awesome. Like a theme park cross with teletubbyland cross with the science museum with a seasoning of car showroom if you looked really hard. It had inflatable things all over for the kids to bounce on, it had loads of simulators for them to learn how to drive, it had the craziest three floor climbing thing that looked like it had been created by an architect, and for Aidan, “sprayers” and fountains everywhere. Oh, and a car museum, which in the end felt like the least important bit.

He’s up there….on the top of the biggun!
Both kids got to make this ball airlifting toy from scratch. No queues, nothing we just wandered up, they cracked out the pillar drills.
Anna showing Jayne her skillzzz
Awesome inflatables everywhere, top age limit 13, #sigh.
I thought I’d found a crack in the perfectness…i thought it was rat…no…Coypus roaming the grounds….really????

We ended up staying for two nights so we could spend a full day there and we still didn’t get to do the kids driving bits or the lake swimming right outside the factory power station. Maybe next time.

After all that excitement our next stop was well needed. We headed to Uhlenköper which is a lovely quiet campsite which is much closer to what we’re used to back home. It’s chilled, all a bit eco, and it had two things that kept the kids and I happy.

Firstly, a natural swimming pool. picture a normal pool but with reed beds down two sides, water like lake water, and loads of tadpoles and water snails swimming with you. Something really pretty special.

Chillin.
Me swimming with the fishes, well, the tadpoles and snails.

Secondly, an old fashioned pump and a sandpit, sometimes its the simple things, especially with my little engineer kids.

Aidan in his element.

We stayed three nights, and really felt like we relaxed. We wavered on staying another night but didn’t want to have to skimp on the Baltic or Berlin before we needed to head south so decided to move.

An uneventful drive (apart from a fun stop at Decathlon) has brought us to Lübeck. I’m typing this in a carpark five minutes from the centre with the the front of the van overlooking a lovely river. Can’t be bad :O)

Onwards, to Germany!

Felt quite sad to be leaving The Netherlands but the expanse of Germany awaited and we had been looking forward to exploring this country.  Even so, we were unable to decide on a plan for the next few days. We thought we’d have had more free time for planning, but it hadn’t felt like we’d had much free time at all.  Last minute decision we chose to drive across to Bremen as it sounded lovely and was only a couple of hours drive away. The sat-nav journey time didn’t seem to be decreasing very much and the kids were really unhappy passengers, so we stopped (Lidl shop stop!), regrouped and changed our minds back to the previous days plan of heading more into central Germany.

Lidl have kids trolleys… absolutely the best thing that happened to them today!

Matt found a free overnight parking place by lake Dümmer  which mean’t only a short drive. Luckily we got to enjoy this and the lovely playground for an hour or so before it started to rain, and it didn’t really stop raining for the next few days. The next morning matt took the kids on a rain walk around the lake while I packed up the van. We had now ironed out our plan to start driving further south to the Harz mountains and then slowly back up North to the Baltic Coast. We won’t be able to have another chance to go into central Germany if we don’t do it now.

Very rainy morning. Waterproofs at the ready!

We made the most of the rainy day by travelling and we headed to an ACSI campsite that had a pool (we’d been promising a pool for our next stop!). A quick stop at our first German bakerai for some lovely bread. I’m going to enjoy the bread here!

This campsite was run by a very grumpy man who was almost annoyed that I was bothering him. Also the pool was closed due to bad weather… oh dear (how can a pool be closed for a bit of rain?!). We paid for 1 night and got all our washing done. We had lots of fun exploring the toilets and other facilities (in the rain) – this seems to keep the kids occupied for hours!
The next morning matt found a tick on his leg! This was quite scary as he was reading up on all the things that could go wrong. We packed up the van quickly and went to the local doctor while the kids and I wandered around the little town park. There always sees to be an interesting playground around every corner.  Matt got some good advice and was looking a lot happier after seeing the very nice doctor. (and also a quick chat with Dr Dr Paul!) We continued with our plan and spent the afternoon at Externsteine. This is a collection of unusual vertical rock stacks in a national park. Had such a lovely walk in the woods, the kids loved it. But after just commenting on how much better Anna is at not falling over so much she had a really big fall and smacked her forehead on the stony ground. Poor girl… she hurt herself pretty badly. I carried her all the way back to the van where I could check she was OK. She was fine but had a big bump on her forehead and some other cuts. Matt took Aidan back to the stones and they paid to climb up to the top. It’s nice for Aidan to do some stuff without Anna sometimes.

Externsteine rocks
Climbing to the top of the rocks selfie!

I made dinner in the van in the beautiful car park and we stayed there all evening until closing time. These simple things seem to be the most enjoyable – and feels kinda strange still that we can just make food and do everything wherever we are! Pyjamas and teeth, then a night drive over to the Harz mountains. We stopped at another Stellplatz in the mountains and this one was also brilliant. Only 1 other camper in this huge carpark at the bottom of the pretty German town – Launtenthal.

Great overnighter… Burstie is looking pretty happy!

Woke up to the sounds the river and had our breakfast on the grass and the kids rode their bikes all around. Discovered this village had some old mines and we went into the museum  just opposite the carpark. Ended up here for a few hours as it had an underground boat experience and mine tour! The kids had a great time. Off we went to the next village where there was more going on, but the kids slept straightaway. We parked up unable to do anything so decided to take our chance with the sleeping children and just go straight to another campsite where we could hopefully stay a couple of days. Pool still needed to happen! It was a lovely campsite in Hohegeiß, but the pool was an extra cost. Luckily the next day was the summer party and free swimming all day! Bit dreading that, but turned out to be really nice. Had party music playing all day. The massive pool was on the edge of the woods and wasn’t busy at all. Matt and I both had lovely swims.

We had pretty much run out of food so went for a walk up to the town only to find the shop closed. There was no-one around and it didn’t seem like anything else to do. We were missing a town or some other life. We had a few hours of time that evening and it was nice to get a plan together for the next few days. We both felt like we were not settling into our first week in Germany. Not sure why, but a bit like we were missing out on things near by or not able to make the most of where we were (obviously can’t do long walks\biking in the mountains etc with kids and that can be frustrating at times). Anyway, we had a plan – onwards!

On the little mining train ready to go in the mountain!
Anna loved this train thingy!
Me (jayne) in the distance!
Pool Party Erdingers! We even got to keep the plastic cups 🙂

We left the campsite after 2 nights for the town of Wernigerode via Thale where there was a cable car to the top of the mountain and a toboggan ride up there. Brilliant fun!! We even bought the posed photos of us zooming around the track!  Another Stellplatz stop in the town with views of the castle, window shopping, pizza in the main square, playground, bakery breakfast and a big supermarket shop. We were on our last rations!  Choco Leibniz fully stocked up… happy 🙂

About to take on the HarzBob! Hold on peeps…
Cable Car
Don’t look down… arrrrghhhhh!
Wernigerode Schloss
Mini Leibniz!

The Netheregions

My post…my title! This is going to end up being a longer one from me for the end of our Netherlands epiphany.

In the end despite it’s loveliness we did end up leaving Delft on the Friday morning. We were a little torn but we wanted to take the kids to do something really Dutch on the Friday before the weekend so we decamped and went to see the windmills at Zaanse Schans.

They were awesome. There was a touristy village bit with clogs and cheese and trinkets but the windmills were great, especially since it was windy enough for them to be running. We took the kids round three of them, dye grinding, oil pressing, and a saw mill. Being able to wander round and see them all running was pretty impressive.

Me and my Anna…that’s her new “cheese” face.
If you know my boy…you’d know this was heaven.

After the windmills we headed off to Hoge Veluwe National Park. We stayed in their campsite which was lovely and much closer to the kind of camping fields we’re used to staying in with our other van (should do a page for that!). Open meadow, lovely facilities, pitches roughly marked and not really adhered to. We wanted to give ourselves a break as we felt like we’d been moving a lot so we decided to stay two nights, which in the end turned into three because the park was so great.

The park was the same as the rest of the Netherlands, based around bikes. It’s mostly forest with some open land that is supposed to resemble the African veldt. Its all criss-crossed with bike lanes full of people on “white bikes” which are free to use anywhere in the park. It has an art gallery and sculpture garden but predictably all we did was ride around the woods exploring for two full days. Aidan is getting EVEN faster on his bike and we’ve finally relented and let Anna have her pedal bike albeit without the actual pedals on, despite it being too big for her she’s doing really well.

The other really nice thing about this stop was having company. The Hamilton family we met in Bruges had the same place on their list of Netherlands “places to see” and we had a two night overlap with them. The kids loved playing with Edie and Flynn and for us it really nice to have a couple of evenings sitting out late watching bats and drinking beer with Sinead and Steve. The only negative is that I’m now lusting after a fancy torch!! Here’s their blog check it out.

The Seppings peloton taking a break (note the cheese face!)
Anna on her pedal bike (sans pedals)
A “white bike” and my steed, note Anna’s bike AND my rucksack on the back, the width caught me out a few time when I was mucking about

We left the park on Monday morning and felt ready to move on. We went north and dropped in on a touristy spot called Giethoorn which is a sort of quaint village with canals for roads. We rented a whisper boat and buzzed slowey about with Aidan on the tiller.

Helmsman’s eye view.
Aidan takes control….arrrrrgggghhhh!!!

After that we started to head roughly east towards Germany and picked somewhere random to stop from Camperstop…and boy what a choice…it was awesome. Five euros got us a stop in a lovely couples piece of land that they had made as natural as possible with ponds and trees. They also had some things that I liked a lot and something the kids liked a lot. PIGS (Hungarian Woolbacks!) for me, and a trampoline (springy!) for the kids. We got oursleves a lovely pitch hidden away in the wild bit, and settled in, then…..it rained…well…it poured….40mm in about an hour. I started to get nervous and we had to do an emergency reverse through the boggy ground to make sure we would be able to get the van out. We ended up closer to the house which was much nicer as we got to chat to Anika a lot (and be closer to the pigs!!!).

Daddy takeover!!
My friends…I miss them already.

The following day it was time to head to Germany….off we went…we’re leaving the Netherlands having liked it far more than any of us expected to.

Dam…

We should have stayed in Bruges for that extra night we’d paid for (by accident)… but hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Our sense of adventure kicked in and we wanted to try a free parking experience using Park4Night app to offset the cost of this extra night we didn’t want.  There were loads of stops listed up on the coast near the delta in The Netherlands where we wanted to explore next.  The kids went to sleep as planned and we had a lovely drive into Holland… here comes the but… Anna woke up really upset with achy feet and upset about not seeing the horses, which in turn woke Aidan up who was cross at Anna making a load of noise.  Oh dear! We had to pull over for a while and get snacks.  A quick check of the app and we decided to stop somewhere nearer, right on the edge of Lake Veere in a region called Kamperland!  It was about 11pm and deserted. we pulled up by some bushes in the carpark and thought we were sorted.  But then we got nervous and googled about The Netherlands free camping rules. Turns out its illegal.  So we moved to a nearby motorhome stopover 5 mins away, which had amazing automated check in with credit card…phew!

The next morning we enjoyed this fancy carpark with super shiny facilities and then drove back round to the lakeside where we’d been the night before.   Beautiful!  Cafe for a power up and the kids had a lovely few hours playing with stones at the lakeside.  We then headed off to see the Delta works dam and drive across the bridges.  This was the main reason we’d taken this route North and it was really impressive. We were able to stop and see one part of the dam close up and also stand right underneath one of the many huge wind turbines!

We got to our next campsite early evening up in Rennese just behind the sand dunes.  We decided to stay 2 nights here to slow things a little and enjoy the location.  Didn’t have a great feeling about this campsite but it was fine and the kids got to enjoy the beach, swimming pool and easy cycling into the buzzy seaside town.  The bike lanes are fantastic, it is so lovely to see everyone meandering around on their bikes.  Aidan is loving his bike and we felt confident enough for him to go on the road into town!  Matt and I sat and made a good plan of what to do next.  We definitely want to enjoy more of The Netherlands. Guide books and maps out (my favourite thing to do!).

Early start on Thursday up to Delft via Rotterdam for a quick hello.  We hoped to have an easy stop in this city for a few hours but turns out this was a foolish idea in a motorhome!  Need to get used to having this vehicle and its limitations. Matt did brilliantly and we ended up stopping on a small island just south of the city centre.  Had lunch in the van and explored the immediate area.  Boats, bridges and a playground.  The kids were pretty happy! We didn’t’ attempt anything else and made the quick drive to Delft. We stopped at a great campsite just outside this beautiful Dutch town, and then enjoyed the rest of the afternoon in the playground and the kids on their bikes going up and down our section of campsite.  Anna is desperate to ride the pedal bike so Matt took off the pedals and she can now use it as a balance bike.  She is so determined!

After an early dinner we set off on our bikes the 10 minute cycle into the city centre to have a wander and find ice cream.  Brilliant!  What a lovely place, Canals, cobbled streets, bikes everywhere.  This is how we need to be doing it… easy does it!  The kids in bed at a reasonable hour and I’m sitting in the van typing this during a dramatic thunderstorm :0) … we may stay here longer…

Great location but not brave enough to risk the fine.
Our “official” stop in Zeeland.
Hours of fun with a bowl and some stones.
Driving over the first section of the DeltaWorks dam.
A closer look…
Great parking spot!
Miles of sandy beaches and dunes. Shame about the jellyfish, we didn’t want to swim!

In Bruges

This will be the first of our actual travel posts…i’m fully expecting these to get less a) frequent and b) verbose as we go so I’ll apologise now.

On Sunday we left France and headed north into Belgium, we hadn’t booked anything as we’d seen there was a town style camperstop in Bruges and figured we’d give it a go. A swift hour or so on the road and we were there and into the camperstop. It was basically a carpark with big spaces, a few taps, and a drain for the loos..BUT…10 mins walk and you’re in the middle of Bruges for 25 EUR a night. Perfect.

I won’t wax lyrical about Bruges but it is rather nice. Highlights were:
– Anna getting excited EVERY time she saw a horse and trap (“I LOVE horses”)
– Waffles and or chocolates…say no more.
– Bike lanes…why are we so crap at this in the UK?
– All four of us riding round the river path and finding all manner of bridges and windmills.

We screwed up our departure time on the Monday (enjoying our ride too much) and ended up staying the whole afternoon. Rather than staying over night, which we maybe should have done, we thought we’d forge ahead to Holland. It turned out to be a bit fun, which is one for the next post.

One last thing, a shout out to the Hamiltons who we met just before we left Bruges who are just embarking on a year of adventures that makes our trip look like a week in Bognor!…go go go! :O)

Can you see Colin Farrell at the top?
We MAY have had some of these…MAY!
Feels like we’re cheating having windmills before Holland!
The Swedes next to us were very happy to be next to a fellow Burstner. Here you can see the size of the spaces. Just before we left we had people both sides and it was tight.
And he’s off…Aidan loved the cycle lanes….a lot.
Anna has developed a massive love of horses after watching all the traps running around the town. I quote “When there are horses, I am happy…when there aren’t horses…I AM SAD!”
Lounging on one of the banks near Minnewater park….Bruges seemed to be full of people just chilling out…I want to be one of them.

Leaving and Leaving Again

Yet another crazy couple of days.

Thursday was leaving London with packing the van up (and emptying that toilet) and finally finishing the last of the house sprucing. I also had to pilot the van onto our street which wasn’t anywhere as bad as I thought.

New house meets old house.

After that we finally did the final run across the the south circular to the M20 and headed off to Keith and Linda’s for our last night in a proper bed for a few months. Which was lovely 🙂

Friday was actually leaving the UK, the big day we’d been building up to for months. We got up and packed the final washing and stuff into the van. Including a lovely new fold up table…thanks K&L! Then we were off Dover bound.

The one with all our faces…but us all looking a bit confused!.

Predictably the kids loved the ferry and all the driving on and off and in and out. There were some sights but all was good. We got off the other side and I remembered to “DRIVE ON THE RIGHT”…so all good!

Waiting for immigration, having a kitchen for sarnies right there is awesome.
Majestic
To hell with the slow lane….i’m in the camper lane.
Our van in the belly of the ferry.
Maybe the best P&O advert in the world.
Kids….chips….happy!

Now we’re about to turn in on a lovely campsite and our first continental stop at Château du Gandspette. Everything you’d want in a french campsite, swimming pools, playground, table tennis, and a cafe serving frites!

We got the awning/sunshade thing up….it’s quite good :O)

So on our rather long winded “Grand Depart” we’ve finally departed….eep!

Cheers!

Keeping the kids in bed

Lets be frank. Most of these motorhome things are built, not for families, but for people who’s kids have flown the nest and finally have freedom to use them. This means things like, falling out of bed aren’t usually considered as the target customer has a good bit of experience NOT falling out of bed.

My kids on the other hand…could well fall out of bed!

Aidan and Anna use the bed at the back of the van and there’s a gap of about a metre and a bit without anything to stop them falling out. We’ve been propping the ladder from our bed up there so far but it’s a bit annoying and we were hoping to leave it behind as it’s big an heavy.

Cue, Matt and his amateur woodwork!

Iron bars might have been better but my metalworking tools are in storage so maybe we’ll just live with something to stop them falling out of bed ;O)

The Loss of Innocence

Yesterday was a big day.

Yesterday I emptied our cassette toilet for the first time.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same again.

EOM

(It wasn’t really that bad :0))

Back to the scene of the crime

Back in the smoke for a few days to tidy up loose ends. Unsurprisingly not as gangster as it would sound. We have to do a few things:
– Sort out the last bits on the house…painting, cleaning, and the get rid/pack up the last of the frankly scary amount of stuff we seem to own.
– Catch up with a few peeps.
– Get our teeth checked, Aidan and me (and in my case get them sorted…ouch!)
– Mini appt for Anna at Kings…nothing serious…no need for alarm.

This means we’re staying at the caravan club site in Crystal Palace and it’s been quite fun. Mostly running around and sorting stuff but also:
– Visiting Penge for Homebase…Long Live Penge (Looking at you Jon)
– Exploring Crystal Palace Park, which I’ve always thought as a bit scrappy but is actually quite nice!
– Having Sam and Sarah over…woop…thanks for coming! Our first van visitors…oh and thank you for Dobble!!
– Living in the van during a deluge…it’s tipped for a day and half…just drying out now thank goodness.

Tomorrow we move on to visit Jayne’s Mum and Dad which will be really nice, but it’s been pretty pleasant being here finishing off the last jobs before we cut loose. :O)

In our city spot, first time on the wedges as the kids would’ve fallen out of bed if I hadn’t.
Dulwich Woods….oh Dulwich Woods. You’ve been our little bit of woodland in South London for so long…we’re only gone for a few months…try not to have flats built on your while we’re away!
Out of the bedroom sky light hatch thing in the rain…Blade runner reboot eat your heart out.

Aaaaaaaaand…..we’re off…

Finally after months of planning and panicking we’re off!

We’ve spent the last few weeks frantically packing up the house, and then the last few days frantically packing up the van. It going to be a while before we can do anything without it being at least a little bit frantic!

We’re really lucky to have been able to spend the weekend staying at my Mum an Dad’s to load up and pick their brains on what to actually do with a motorhome (having to be taught how to open the water filler cap is my biggest embarassment yet…but better now than after I’ve run out of water). It was also good to patch up the the bits I’ve been silently stressing about for the last month, the bike rack and the refillable lpg system (separate posts will be needed).

But this morning were finally ready to go…

Ready for the off, grins are more nerves than anything else.

About to get in and go...
About to get in and go…
Man With Van

The plan for today was nice and simple, head out from Brancaster, stop in Kings Lynn for a supermarket stop and to fill up the new gas tank (nervy nervy experience!). Then onward to Essex for a place to camp before we venture back into south London tomorrow.

Morrisons carpark selfie….never has anyone ben so pleased to be at Morrisons…except maybe Sal ;O)

Aaaaand, I’m pleased to say, all has gone well, we’ve made it, we’re knackered, and the kids are asleep…happy days. Also…the van didn’t blow up when I did the gas, which is good!

We’re currently tucked up on a campsite in Kelvedon Hatch, me with a beer and Jayne with chocolate biscuits.

First Day Navigated!!

Anna the Navigator (I think it’s actually a phrase book she’s looking at)