“we’re all off to sunny Spain…”

… we sang as we hurtled (trundled) across the border into Spain. Our last new country! Joining the retired masses for some winter sun.
First stop the Dali museum. Top tip from Matt’s work mate, and it really is worth a visit. There are giant eggs on the roof, enough said!

Eggs, Oscar statues and giant croissants… and that’s just on the outside!

We were in need of a good campsite for showers and to get our bearings – hello Aquarius! Not the type of site we would normally go for but a) lots of campsites were now closed and b) it was in the right place, on the huge sandy beach at the Bay of Roses. We surprised ourselves by how excited we all felt when we turned up and there was some life – kids, entertainment, people everywhere. It was in full swing and a nice change from the end of season blues we had been experiencing. We got our monies worth but quickly realised it wasn’t somewhere we wanted to stay so the next day we left to see some more of the Costa Brava and get back to a bit of free camping. A bit of zooming in on Google maps (yup, that involved!) we realised that only a short drive away we could find coves, roman ruins, woods and some parking etc  (not that we are looking for car parks as a tourist attraction you understand… but it is kind of necessary with a 7m bus!).

That’s one huge beach! – Bay of Roses.

We parked in a car park where campers are allowed overnight and this turned out to be one of our favourite stops so far. In the pine trees right by the beach, no roads, a bike path and lots of Spanish people enjoying their weekend. We were still soaking up those warm (but short) days and bright blue skies! Anna enjoyed cycling her 1st bike path – 2km to the playground and restaurant at the end! Oh, another thing that made it easy was having a Lidl a 5 min bike ride away so I went out on a solo mission for essentials. I’ve missed a Lidl since Germany… haha… this trip may have even cured my supermarket snobbery! I did what is known in our family as “A Matt Shop” because when Matt pops to the shops with his backpack for food he comes back hobbling in pain due to the amount of things stuffed in the bag, under each arm, up his jumper – you get the idea! Anyway I had a very wobbly bike ride back with a stuffed bag and food strapped to my bike rack. But I did get sewing machine thread that was on special buy, which was obviously necessary! 🙂

Drive on the right!!
Skid!
Busy busy! Still enjoying the beach life 🙂

Sad to leave our little spot but after two nights we spent the day at Tamariu, another gem of a beach. Lots of Spanish and French people enjoying tapas out on the pavements and enjoying the sea. Bright blue skies, bliss! I wish there was somewhere we could have stayed overnight here but there didn’t seem to be anything so we pressed on to a campsite further south near Palamos.

Love this sculpture over looking the bay at Tamariu
Beautiful! Oh Spain… we love you!

We were a bit worried that we might be leaving behind this rugged and peaceful part of the coast for bigger resorts, and as we got to our new stop it was certainly getting more built up. But when we ventured down to the beach we discovered another stunning bay that joined up with other small coves via the coast path up and over the rocks.  All OK there then! There was now a definite chill in the air, especially in the shade and evenings but it was still so warm in that sunshine and we could eat our dinner outside – even if it was dark! The kids loved the campsite here. It was pretty empty and we had loads of space where they just occupied themselves for hours with some ropes and bits they had collected from the beach.

A very empty campsite with terraced pitches.
Looking for a Geo Cache. This was part of the coast path to the other bay!

We had about three weeks to spend in Spain (it could have been four if I wasn’t such a chicken about sailing from Bilbao across the Bay of Biscay!) and it was tricky to know how best to spend our time. Matt has work friends in Valencia so we definitely wanted to make it that far, and then leave a week to drive across the country to Atlantic coast.  We wanted to savour the last of these warm beach days! The Costa Brava was a lovely treat and I guess I’d just put it in the category of a cheap Brits holiday destination.  Very happy to be corrected! It is beautiful. Also the driving and getting around feels really easy. The roads are smooth and spacious and not too busy, and the Spanish people are so friendly!

We pressed on further South and did a good bit of driving in order to get past Barcelona. This was just after the Catalonia independence referendum and since we’d been to Barcelona before we decided to skip it and come back again when the kids are older. Instead we explored the historic Spanish town of Tarragona and picked a campsite just south of it at Cambrils. This campsite was awful and I wished we had found a decent free stop but we needed some electricity for our dodgy fridge. We definitely made the best of it though thanks to Matt being in “positive action mode” and quickly getting our bikes off and going out on the awesome cycle path along the prom into town. We stopped for a yummy veggie paella and stayed out late – oooooh!

Mermaids? Anyway, we liked them!
2nd bike path for this little one! Cambrils.

A good day was had in Tarragona seeing the remains of the Roman amphitheatre and taking the land train ride around town – the highlight being the driver going round and round a small roundabout with some crazy pop music playing 🙂 We also met Nick and Julie who came over to our van to say hello to some fellow Brits. They were en route to Alicante but were asking if we knew a good free stop in the area. They headed off to find something and later we took their advice and parked up next to them that evening in a free car park by the beach. They even invited us in for drinks when the kids had gone to sleep – Cheers!

We left here not wanting to drive much and we found a free stop in the car park of an old castle, right on the edge of the sea. It was a bumpy, windy road up but was worth it. Kinda felt like being in on a secret as there were a good few other campers in all types of van here from all over the place . We had a beach afternoon and all went swimming laughing at the fact it was November! But that afternoon the clouds gathered and we could see a lot of lightening over the mountains in the distance. Oh my goodness… the mother of all storms was about to hit. I was making a cheese sauce at the time and trying to concentrate as the lightning was flashing in every direction. The wind blew and the rain lashed and then massive hailstones hammered down on us. It was deafening. The kids were a bit shocked at this point and I put them up on their bed to hide in the duvet. There was a banging on our door and 3 Spanish girls rushed in soaking wet and a bit shell shocked after being caught outside. They had to  use my phone to call their dad! We all survived the storm and the girls got rescued by their dad! I continued with my cheese sauce and dished up a pretty decent potato and leek bake! Winner!

Our castle stop over
errrrmmm, that’s going past us right?!?!
We honestly thought the skylights would smash!

It was blowing a gale all night so we didn’t really get much sleep as the van was being blown about. The drive the next morning was pretty hairy too with the wind blowing us all over the place on the autopista. Luckily we didn’t have to go far to where we’d spotted a little campsite in a coastal national park near Alcossebre. This turned out to be a great choice and we loved spending a good few days here. We’d made sure that we were fully stocked up with food before hand, and it’s always fun to explore a new supermarket. I think this one was a Mercadona! They had good hummus so that was awesome!

We were really noticing the change in the landscape. Even the rocks at the beaches were different to what we’d seen before, and the plants were all spiky and the ground very dry and almost red in places.  It was great to still be feeling that sense of adventure, seeing new things and driving into the unknown (OK it’s Spain… but still!)

Washing clothes, arts and crafts with the kids, reading and visiting the deserted little coves that were a short walk away. There wasn’t anything else to do here without going on big adult sized walks so the enforced sitting still was really nice! Oh and for the first time on our trip we had arrived at a campsite with a large proportion of British people.  Very weird!  I’m glad we found space on our own though – well, near some Austrians and a lone biker from Finland! Bizarrely he chose to camp by us when it was clear we had children – I bet he regretted that!

We left the Ribamar camping relaxed and ready for some big city action. Valencia here we come!

The view of the sea through the forest
We didn’t see another person! Bliss 🙂
A sneaky read!
Our painting class!
A classic bit of rock balancing there by Matt

All change

We stayed at Peter’s a day or so longer than intended even though there wasn’t much we could do locally without a car and were being harassed by mosquitoes. Also Aidan had a bad cold and spent a whole day lying on the sofa watching Octonauts. So, after six days of being in one place and just taking it easy absorbing some Italian life we were definitely ready to move on. We headed for Verona (via the wine co-op to stock up on a little bit more Soave!). There is a lovely city camperstop which we punted for – fairly quiet and tree lined by a canal. We put Aidan in the pushchair as he still wasn’t tiptop and had a moochy couple of hours looking around. What a beautiful city! Not too crowded or hectic, just a nice place to spend some time. We returned to the van for dinner and a rest then headed back out in the evening to see the castle and the medieval bridge as it got dark. Good fun! Although a few late night bevvies would have topped it off nicely – ahhh alas.

Low river = being able to throw stones and get a great view!

The next morning we set off early to see the main square and wander the shops and small streets – standard old city stuff! We should have made the effort to climb the tower, but carrying a 3 year old (which is inevitable) and Aidan not feeling his best we thought better of it and just enjoyed our massive fruit salads from the market whilst watching a guy DJing chilled funky music. We finished up with an hour in the park and were able to get out of our carpark before the time ticked over 24hours!

Look at that.. perfectly Italian!

Our onward plans were a bit fuzzy. We hadn’t decided on a route for the next stage of our trip (and this was really feeling like a new stage) and so we drove out of Verona with only a vague idea to continue South into the hills. From there we’d make a better plan! So we drove about 2 hours into the Emilia-Romagna region and stopped at a free stop on the edge of a small non descript town. We waved at the Ferrari factory as we went through Maranello! As seemed to be the norm now in Italy a lot of concentration is required while driving the bumpy, slightly too narrow roads with very twisty exits and slip roads – poor Matt, he was ready to stop!

But here we are, in our lovely wooded carpark and we made dinner and had a little walk. That evening Matt and I made a plan and decided not to head any further South, but start to go across to the West coast (the Cinque Terre national park) and follow it round in to Southern France. This will give us a chunk of time to explore Spain as well – and not be too far to get home. Home?! Wow… yes…. this was another thing that was dawning on us and started to feel weird. We were over half way on our trip. Even though there are 2 months in front of us the downward slope is all too real. We don’t have any planned dates for anything like meeting people – it’s all just open and we need to choose how we end this!

Enjoy the moment! Of course its so simple – sort of. The next morning we tried to do out first Geocache in the parkland by the van, but there wasn’t a cache to actually find, just an ancient tree. We wandered into the town which was all go with the massive Saturday morning market! Then we met a lovely Italian man who parked up that morning with his family. He came over for a chat and after hearing our plans confirmed our ideas were on the right track, and gave us some suggestions etc! Grazie! Raring to go we packed up and started the one and a half hour drive West to one of the only campsites en route that we could find. Post lunch drive = sleeping kids. Perfect!

This was our first real feel of Italian countryside – rolling hills, rivers etc. In the distance we could see more dramatic rocky hills. For some reason even though we were pretty close to our destination I started looking at campercontact for any cheap/free stops around the place we were approaching. Maybe the drive was feeling long again. I spotted that you are able to stay overnight in the carpark at the top of the massive rocky outcrop Bismantova we’d just driven past – see pics! We U-turned and drove the 5 mins up the hill. Being a Saturday the carpark was full so we did what everyone else was doing and parked on the grass verge further down and went for a wander. It all felt very exciting. This was a mecca for climbers and there were lots of groups of people everywhere. There was a bar/cafe a the top and loads of picnic tables and national walking trails. We made dinner in the van and waited until the evening, when people were leaving, to grab a spot in the carpark! There were about 5 other campers too – so felt safe – a great find! Matt felt quite ill the next morning after getting Aidan’s cold so wasn’t up to much and we decided to just stay all day and a second night. Our biggest##### weakness with “freecamping” is not having enough fresh water, and as we hadn’t been to a campsite or seen a tap for a couple of days we were low. But the cafe sold bottled water so we bought that (along with coffee and croissants for brekkie!)

Bismantova peaking out above our ugly mugs
Shame it wasn’t a teeny bit clearer! It’s amazing up here!
Matt eyeing up the bouldering opportunities 🙂
The second morning, thick fog and we had camped alone at the top!

Levanto was our next stop (as recommended to us by carpark man) and we set off in the morning for the 2 hour drive – hoping the buy some lunch on the way. The drive was amazing/hard work! It was a good road but was winding round, up and down and all through the dramatic hills of the national parc Tosca-Emiliano to the coast. It just went on and on! Also, this was the first time we noticed Autumn as all the trees were changing colours, so there were beautiful multicoloured hillsides. We had a pitstop in Fivizzano and hoped to get a pizza. But as seems to be the case in most of rural Europe , no-one is ever around and everything is a bit closed! We went to the bakery and each got a slice of Foccacia instead… and this was the first of many Foccacias over the next week or so! We were now entering Foccacia region… who knew?!

The first 2 campsites we tried in Levanto were full. FULL!! It’s the beginning of October?! Anyhoo, Matt called the third one and there was space. We loved Pian De Piche – we were housed in the extra bit of green at the front of the campsite which mean’t we had more space than the standard pitches (the Italians love to pack everyone in) It was nice to camp with a mixture of campers again and a younger crowd, not just rows of motorhomes (I will have to expand on this another time in my Love/Hate motorhomers blog – this post is going to be long enough as it is!!) We made a good camp and didn’t really feel like leaving too soon – we did 4 nights. We are definitely enjoying our longer stays in places. Levanto is lovely and felt very Italian with people zipping about in Ape’s and scooters, and we made the most of our days there on the beach and eating Foccacia. It was the first time we’d seen the sea since Rugen. That feels a while ago now! Our big day was seeing the Cinque Terra which is a collection of 5 very old coastal villages built into the cliffs along the coastal coves. You can’t drive there but there is a train connecting them all and also the coastal path and boats. This was a brilliant day. Beautiful weather and and great atmosphere. We chose a boat back from the last village to Monterosso where we had a swim before getting the train back for dinner at the campsite. (oh and more Foccacia. Seriously you need to try it!)

Our camp in Levanto
Vernazza. Our first and favourite village.
View from the fort!
Mmmmm, what to chose at the Focacceria!
Riomaggiore
Fun boat trip back! Hot hot day!
They didn’t spare the horses leaving one of the villages!
Another day, another swim! Monterosso. Bliss

Italy was fast becoming a cliche of wine, coffee and food. (Which is cheap!) We were really getting into the swing of it and it felt like we were on a proper holiday 🙂 Looking back on it, we think it was a bit of a jolt coming into Italy after so many weeks travelling Northern Europe. We couldn’t put our finger on it at the time, but Matt put it really well when he said that Germany/Austria were all about doing things – so much to see, especially for children, that was easy to find and access. We left on a real high (literally on the cable car!) and it now felt quite different and we hadn’t done much research into good things to see and do. It feels more about soaking up the culture and just travelling around!

From Levanto we went to Finale Ligure on the Italian Riviera using the toll motorway E80 which was an amazing journey. Running parallel to the sea you are either on a bridge or going through a tunnel in order to get through the hills quickly. Our beach crawl continued with a stop off at Varazze for some great swimming in big waves – we just picked a place en route that was about the right time to make the sandwiches and it worked out perfectly. Our camperstop that night was right at the end of Finale Ligure beach where we parked up right up against the rocks looking out to sea. This was amazing until night time came and the wind started up and the waves crashed onto the rocks! I did not sleep well at all!

She’s in!
Dinner, right on the edge!

 

A climb up some rocks. Burstie is parked somewhere down there on the left ! Great stop

So the next morning was a big day for me… the last day of being in my 30’s! Woah… how do you get your head around that? I thought about it all day – it was actually quite a relief being 40 the following day as I didn’t have to worry about it anymore! Anyway, we all had a perfect type of day – enjoying the promenade, coffee, wandering around the shops (still not buying anything! – Oh apart from a volleyball… but it’s for the kids – that doesn’t count!) Pizza and swimming in the sea! Then a free stop at a marina further up the coast with another sea view. Goodnight 39.. it’s been a pleasure x

You just can’t beat palm trees against a blue sky! Finale Ligure prom.
Carpark camp! Free… can’t complain!

So 40 – here we are. Not much going on although I did get a free hot shower in the marina showers that were only for boat people – ha! (free is becoming my favourite word) Also good phone calls home\inlaws (hello mum!!) But this marina stop was all about the awesome bike path that runs along a disused railway all the way to San Remo. The following day we set off to hopefully make it to San Remo. We planned that Matt would cycle all the way back alone and then bring the van to meet us. But my little winner of a boy decided (after a pizza lunch) that he wanted to cycle all the way back! 23km altogether. What a stunning ride with sweeping views along the coast, through railway tunnels and past little cafes for tired cyclists. Very tired and happy Seppos and another free nights sleep by the sea 🙂 They say life begins at 40 right?!

Woop… look at us go!
He just kept going… this was a very exciting ride 🙂
Classic holiday snap!
Goodnight x

Borderline

Arrrrrghhhh, getting a bit behind on this blog malarky! In this easy going life, we’re feeling the pressure! We are now in Italy, so this update was soooooo 2 countries ago! Anyway, where are we? Ahhh yes, STILL in Germany. I say “still” as we’ve spent more time here than previously planned (not that there is a big plan) but this is the final leg of what has been an amazing tour of this lovely country. They have made it too easy and fun for us to want to leave! But Austria awaits and we have a rough date of meeting up with Grandma and Grandad Seppings somewhere near Salzburg in about 2 weeks. We need to move along the German/Austrian border to Salzburg quite quickly. We’ve been relatively still for two weeks in the Black Forest so should be ok for some bigger driving days. Life is now focusing on Lakes, and wow, what a collection of lakes we have seen!

Lake 1 – Lake Titisee
I had a good recovery overnight here in our quiet corner of a large carpark in Titisee and was up for a little meander into the very touristy town. The lake is really very pretty and would have been much nicer to have walked/cycled around it, but we embraced our situation and wandered around the tat shops, watched the huge steam train manoeuvring at the station, hired a pedalo and ate our packed lunch on the lake. I even invested in some Nordic style slipper socks as the cold mountain air that morning had made realise things could be getting chillier in the hills. Fab short day trip, and now a drive to; Lake 2 –Lake Constance
Oh my, what a stunning view of this lake as we drove over the last hill. It’s huge and has the snow caped mountains of Switzerland on the south side. We stayed 2 nights at a small campsite on the side of the lake. We didn’t really do much, just pottered around and enjoyed the warmish weather and the amazing view of the lake. See pics!

Aidan taking control of our speedy Pedalo
Evening colours on Lake Constance. Look at little matty… he loves a lake swim – you’ll see!
Lake Constance in the evening.
Catching up with the last blog! Lovely desk 🙂

We packed up and set off early for our drive to Fussen where we chose a small car park stop on the edge of town. It wasn’t great but served a purpose and we had a brilliant afternoon/evening exploring this beautiful town right on the edge of the Bavarian Alps. We worked out a long walk along the river back to the van (luckily I had the sling for Anna) and there was a really interesting dam where you could get up close to the water pounding through the open sections – pretty amazing. Then we stumbled on a lovely playground at the edge of Lake Forggensee (Lake 3!!), Matt and I had a take away drink and sat in the sun while the kids played and it was nice to be among local families who were doing the same thing.

Beautiful Fussen
Water pounding through the dam. So loud! Also funny coloured water.

The next day we drove the short distance to the famous Neuschwanstein castle – it’s the one that the Disney castle is based on. We did have a really fun day here, with a castle tour, horse and cart ride back down the hill and some drinks and chips at a traditional beer hall. Oh and another lake. Lake 4 – Lake Alpsee. Such beautiful scenery,  just a few too many people!

Long walk up to the schloss. Bit wet!
looking up!
Ooooh, beer! King Ludwig beer.

We didn’t have a plan for the next few nights but thought it was best not to drive too far so we could make an early dinner and get the kids asleep in good time. We opted for the nearby Garmisch – Partenkiche which is a town at the foot of Germany’s highest peak. But underestimating the slower roads it took longer than we’d hoped and even included a hop into Austria for the quickest route. Tired and hungry we found our next car park and made dinner. Turns out this was the car park for a cable car. So that’s what we did the following morning, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. But I have to now inform you of the slightly funny name of this, which Matt obviously thought was hilarious – Mount Wank. The cable car is called the Wank Bahn, and the beautiful chalet restaurant at the top is the Wank Haus! smirk! Anyway, it was a lovely clear morning, but quite cold up at the top. We had delicious hot chocolates and managed to run inside the clouds as the weather changed which the kids thought was amazing. Well actually it is amazing for all of us. Matt and I were now really looking forward to our summer in the mountains that we had planned for this trip – even though we need more layers on!

See, I told you!
Looking down at the cable car – above the clouds!
The weather came in! Good fun!
Also, a big group of very well cared for but wandering horses on the top of the mountain!

That afternoon we wanted to do a long drive and see if we could get close to the to Austrian border. Another cheap camperstop would be perfect. We made good time (with the kids asleep) and got to the supermarket at Lake 5 – Lake Cheimsee. We stocked up (spending a bit too much at the bio markt shop as usual) I found a 4 euro stop another 20 mins away so we headed there. It was a car park for another cable car. There was only one other camper and we had a great meal outside our van in a nice bit of evening sun. Then we did a night walk with head torches for a little bit along the walking path. Lovely! We got to see the old style cable car start up the next morning, but we had to be out by 10am. A shame to move on so quickly with such great walking paths by us! Half and hour later we were at the border and buying our Vignette pass to use the roads in Austria. That was it… Goodbye Germany, hello Austria!

Car park dinner!
Explorer Anna!
At the border!! Woop! This is the only decent photo I’ve managed to get of the border signs!

The weather was looking good for the next few days so we decided to explore the Austrian lakes first. We drove along Lake Mondsee (Lake 6) and stopped in a lakeside lay-by. Matt couldn’t resist a swim in the crystal clear water – it was very inviting. That’s the great thing about a camper – you can just get changed and have all your stuff with you!

WOW!
Lake Mondee – not bad!

We then drove on to Lake 7; Lake Wolfgangsee where we wanted to spend 3 nights in a campsite. Another stunning view as we descended into St Gilgen situated at the top end of the lake. Just amazing. We got a decent pitch and were very happy when we saw the lake edge – see pictures! We all had a swim and it was surprisingly warm. Another lazy couple of days here, but Matt did manage a nice trip out on his road bike.  Only 50km…. so lame!

Lake Wolfgangsee. This was the lake side of the campsite! Yep, stunning!
Can’t have enough stones to play with! Bliss
Can just see the lake in the distance… kinda!
The weather coming in! Wind surfers and kite boarders were out in force!

We packed up quickly after just 2 nights as the weather completely changed and we were a bit stuck for anything to do. It was windy, grey and drizzling so we drove on to Lake 8; Lake Attersee and ate lunch in another lakeside lay-by. Another stunner of a lake, and quite eerie as the clouds were coming and going. The air was chilly but Matt braved a swim and again the water was fairly warm! The weather cleared up nicely and we spent the afternoon in Mondsee doing not much in particular except visiting the church that was used in the sound of music. I’m not one for wandering around churches, but it was really lovely and decorative inside, and I got to tick it off my “sound of music locations” list… haha. Oh, and then a disappointing pizza… yuk. That night we found a fab camperstop that was in someones back garden over looking the hills of Mondsee! Perfect.

After using their lovely shower room and the kids enjoying their garden (before we wrecked their lawn a little bit getting the van off – ooops!) we headed to Salzburg via the supermarket and a packed lunch stop in the Mondsee layby again! We were killing time as the Bouldering centre we were heading to didn’t open until 2pm. I’ve never been climbing before and Matt is really into it, so this was a family introduction at the BoulderBar. Forget the pretty salzburg image… we were hanging out with the cool kids on an industrial estate! Good times!

Layby stop. Lake Attersee. Yes, another Matt swim!
Not a bad back garden eh?!!
Family climbing at the Boulder Bar

Camping Nord-Sam is the Salzburg city campsite we chose and it’s the most expensive site we’ve been to so far – Even more than Crystal Palace! Unfortunately we had to do 2 nights here to get a whole day in the city. It rained that night and all the next day but we wandered around the city nontheless and just endured being really wet. Fair to say we didn’t see it at its best, but it is very beautiful and I enjoyed seeing some of the sound of music locations! Yep… I know, but it’s one of my favs!!! Oh also, we found a great veggie restaurant – always nice! The site of snowcapped mountains had made the kids want to do another cable car but this time find the snow. Matt did some research and found the Kitzsteinhorn glacier which is open all year. This would be our next move and lead us in the right direction south to Italy. We spent the morning in Salzburg again but parked the other side of the city where I could see the VonTrapp house and let the kids spend the rest of the morning in a fab playground. An hours drive later we arrived at the edge of Lake 9: Lake Zell am See. Another wow, and another packed lunch stop! After an afternoon in the town of ZellamSee (a bit upmarket and odd – but picture postcard beautiful) we got to a campsite. I loved it here, and we had a great pitch overlooking the fields with the mountains in the distance. We could even see the glacier we would be heading up. Dinner, Clothes Washing, decent shower (not on a timer!) trampoline, evening sunshine, what more could you want?! Am loving Austria, although it seems much more expensive than Germany. No more cheap bread and the kids have cost a lot in the campsites.
We wanted to stay another day here but were feeling like we needed to be moving on, oh also, I forgot to update you earlier that we now had firm plans with the Grandparents – we were meeting in Italy, hopefully Lake Garda, in a couple of days so we needed to crack on.

Sorry, this is turning into an epic blog post. Right, oh yes, our hunt for some snow!! You know what…. i’ll save that for next time 🙂 Peace out x

Camping at Zell Am See. Loved this pitch… happy Seppos! 🙂
Get that crazy mum off the trampoline!
Wet wet wet. But massive fountain!
Do Re Me steps and fountains! Laaaaaaaaaaa!
Gotta love a cucumber right?!
Oh, this was actually hilarious… 1 minute after this photo was taken the fountains danced into giant jets completely soaking and scaring the kids! MUST… NOT… LAUGH!
Baroque church in Mondsee. Zig zag paving is brilliant!
Cycling selfie!

Black Forest Gateau-way

Ahhhh, they did arrive! Hooray! We were all excited to be seeing friends for two weeks. Kind of a holiday in a holiday for us!

After a good few days of doing some miles we knew we didn’t have to move for six days and that was a nice thought – especially for Matt who is doing all the driving so far. (this may change… maybe!)

I made a big pasta meal for us all while Simon & Sally setup camp and this is how we stayed for the next six nights, on our lovely big shared pitch in Bad Leibenzell. Big swimming pool, playground, a gate onto the path along the river to an immaculate town. A Lidl and a Netto at either end of the site, for those all important special buys, oh and also food 🙂

We did manage a couple of excursions and it was a novelty to have a car. The first was a cute little barefoot walk in the woods nearby with various things to walk over – mostly different squidginesses of mud. We were the only people there and the kids loved it… although it did take a turn for the worst with broken beer bottle glass pieces to cross! The second was for Matt and Si who did a couple of trips to a great climbing wall in Stuttgart. Matt was glad to have a climbing friend for a while!

Action Shot!


Yes, glass!!

Sunny and relaxing

The Bad in Bad Leibenzell means bath, and this area is famous for its thermal baths. So Sal and I had a fun afternoon at the spa which had a fantastic outdoor pool with all manner of jets. We tried very hard to work out the system without giggling too much. This is Germany, there is always a correct way! Matt and Si also did the same thing a few days later and even paid extra for the fancy (naked!) saunas. Brilliant.

That was about it really. Beautiful town, surrounded by tree covered hills and just hanging out on the campsite. The kids had so much fun playing with Adam and Rachel, it was so nice to see them off and playing all the time – and actually means that we get a break too!

Off to dig some holes while the mums head to the spa!
Very cute eating together

Poor Aidan stated to feel unwell on the last day and when he woke up on the Saturday I was pretty sure it was tonsillitis. We packed up quickly and went to the weekend doctor in Calw and then picked up the antibiotics at a local Apotheke. Quick and free… amazing. I don’t want to talk about Brexit but this kind of thing makes it impossible to ignore when I think in a couple of years we probably won’t have access to this system anymore.  Anyway…

From here we drove the hour and half trip South to the house that Matt had booked in Bad Rippold-Shapbach. It was here we were meeting Paul and Rebecca and their baby Sam. Simon and Sally weren’t far behind us and we all made it safe and sound.

This turned out to be a strange week really. Firstly we were leaving the van for the first time in two months, and we weren’t sure we were ready for such a move! When we were planning our trip I imagined we’d want to have a couple of van breaks, but honestly we had no desire to sleep elsewhere and that’s awesome! The only draw (apart from being with everyone) was a proper kitchen with running water and a sofa. Well, it turns out this place only had a giant table and chairs across the length of a dining room. Great.

Secondly Aidan wasn’t that well so we had to take things slowly. It was a very hot week, and he had a temperature and the house was pretty stuffy. Also antibiotics always make him a bit hyper and he can never get to sleep before nine or ten.

Thirdly, baby Sam was up all of Sunday night being sick. After thinking it was just an upset tummy the following night Adam was sick. Oh great, we have a sick bug on our hands!

Paul felt strange the next day but managed to sleep it off and then nothing for a day. After a lovely alfresco meal in the pretty garden we thought things were looking up – but Rebecca was sick that night. The suspense was terrible. Sal and I cleaned like crazies and no one was sure if they felt unwell or if it was just in their minds! Two days later we were feeling pretty confident we were in the clear. It had been five days since Sam was ill. But then Friday night, the night of the kids party we’d promised, Sally went down with it – Nooooooo! I was right behind her the next morning on departure day. I wasn’t even able to stay in bed as we had to clear up and out. My worst fear for being in the van was a sick bug and it was happening….. arrrrghhhhh

So, this week does sound slightly disastrous, and I agree it could have been a little more fun, but actually we still had a good time! The bug didn’t make us THAT ill. We had some great trips out. Everyone had a vehicle and it was nice to use the van for a little drive here and there. We went to Triberg to see Germays biggest waterfall, and later see the worlds biggest cuckoo clock! Yep, it’s all happening in Triberg.

The bear park sanctuary. Lovely river walks from the house. The fountains and playground in Freudenstadt and a fabulous walk up the Glaswaldsee lake high up in the hills.

Yes it works… although somewhat of an anticlimax with a wheezy cuckoo
Check out those cogs!
Posers!

Evening bike ride from the house – my boy is feeling better 🙂 Also a headtorch… that would make him smile whatever was happening!
Just off the main walking path into town
Lazy lunch by Glaswaldsee
Amazingly we managed to eat together out here most nights!

Oh and the summer toboggan ride was a winner as everyone started taking it far too seriously when the speeds were displayed on the photo screen at the end! A great afternoon of fun.

Paul about to crash into the back of Matt!

It was lovely to be with friends and hang out in a big group. Thanks guys for choosing to spend your summer hols with us!! Big love!

We said our goodbyes early Saturday morning and we were back on our own. I limped into the van and felt OK to travel for a bit. Matt and the kids did a supermarket shop (I vommed in the van) Then we drove to Lake Titisee at the Southern end of the Black Forest. We were going to Austria and damn it we were going to carry on with the plan!! Please kids don’t get it.

P.S. it’s OK… no one else was ill. AMAZEBALLS!! (yep i’m still saying it… whatevs)

Berlin

Matt and I had wanted to visit Berlin for quite a while now so this was a perfect opportunity… ya know, while we were swinging round that way!!

In a tiny period of decent internet access (grrr, this is getting annoying!) we discovered another WomoOase stellplatz in the North part of the city so that’s where we headed! For 30 a night it’s the cheapest way to see a big city – we went straight in for 4 nights, no messin’ and we ended up staying for 5 🙂 We were pretty excited about being back in a big city even though we were pretty pleased to be leaving our own. Hoping to experience some of the culture, buzz and edginess that’s supposed to everywhere (even with kids in tow). It also turns out that we were missing wandering around shops and MAYBE buying stuff! Its been about 4 months since we bought anything (apart from a huge motorhome obvs) and its so nice that this whole process made us sort out everything and give away or sell what we didn’t need. So not buying new things is part of that too, but the lure of “cool” shops was getting a bit much 🙂 Also we had discovered that our friends were in the city at the same time as us and could meet up, Woop!

Our urban camp – love the graffiti everywhere

Our first day was an unplanned wander from the main square Alexanderplatz. We pretty much wandered all day but felt that we never really found anything great. We ticked off a couple of big sights – Berliner Dom, the river, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, etc, but we never quite found the “nice” centre you often find in big cities and sometimes it felt a bit rough. It’s not a pretty place but I think the charm is in the people, vibe and history and that takes a while to come through. Anyway, we managed to hook up with the Marchevski’s at Potsdammer platz and hoped to get a drink/dinner but the kids were over tired and we decided to just get the train back after only a half hour catch up.

Another monument… another selfie. Sorry!
This boy loves a water feature. In fact, we should have done a separate page for town fountains!
Hello Friends!

Day 2 was absolutely lovely. We went a couple of stops on the U-bahn to a local kinder museum recommended by our friends. It was a very simple space with an area for some crafts and a big wooden climbing maze. We just hung out there until lunchtime then headed to the other end of the city to Tempelhofer Feld where we had arranged to meet Marko, Elena, Angelina, and Marina. We walked right across the huge airfield which is now an amazing public park – people rollerskating and cycling and even kite boarding up the disused runway! Deck Chairs, bar, kids playing in the shade… perfect! Then they (and their other friends who were also there) took us to a fab Turkish restaurant in Kruezburg. This was awesome as we’d been a bit lacking in other world foods and veggie options! This felt like the buzzy city vibe in a lovely part of town. Saw some fab shops but couldn’t stop – Nooooooo! Then we went to a gorgeous playground just behind the street we ate in and sat in the evening sunshine while the kids played in water and sand. Excellent. Another late night train ride home and very tired.

Top of the maze
They made American Indian head wear!
Cycling around Berlin!
The view up the runway. Glad we had the pushchair!
En Route to Kreuzberg
Another amazing play park – Germany is so good at this!

Day 3 we took it easier and walked from the van to Bernauer Straße where the Berlin Wall memorial park is. We had a lovely wander until we were rained off. After a hot chocolate stop we went back to the van to have a lazy afternoon. Matt was then able to go out for a city cycle to a shop he’d earmarked (turns out he’s the biggest shopper in the family!) and grab a beer at the beer festival that was happening! He came back very happy and with the Ortlieb pannier that I really wanted! Yay – a souvenir!

The cobbles mark out the location of the Berlin Wall around the city
Berlin Wall for real
One of the many Watchtowers that were in place
maaaaaan, this thing is hard work! Arm workout!

On our last full day we decided to split as Matt really wanted to explore some of the more serious museums and sights. I’d like to think I sacrificed myself as I took the kids to the zoo! It was pretty fun, for a zoo, and we got to see the hippos swimming, and a panda. Yep a panda! I met Matt early evening back where we started our first day, in Alexander Platz, for some food and a trip up the Berlin tower. There was a great street food market on and we sat soaking up the atmosphere with our quesadillas, gnocchi and chips. Then off up the tower – which was a struggle as we were all feeling weary, especially Anna who was getting rather difficult to manage. Those of you who know, know! The tower was great and kinda finished off the trip nicely as you could see everywhere we’d been, and also how different the East and West Berlin sides looked. Fascinating. We cant really go out for late night drinks etc with the kids so we completely miss that part of what makes a city great, but Berlin is definitely geared up for kids. Germany generally has brilliant spaces for children even when you don’t expect there to be any.

I know Matt has a lot to say on this subject so watch this space! We packed in a lot into those 4 days and the kids really loved it. They loved the trains and got a huge amount from seeing new things. They’ve talked about it on and off for a while after, which is great. For me it was a slow burn and I said a sad goodbye to our WomoOase feeling like I was only just getting it. I still never managed to do any shopping, but thats just aswell! Right… lets go South!

Food Market!
I love the little chats these too monkeys have!
Tall tower thingy. It was high and the lift was super fast!

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!

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!