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The Rudds on the Road to Turkey 2012 PDF Printable Version E-mail

The Rudds on the Road 2012

In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great

A Motorhome Tour of Greece and Turkey in March-June 2012

Brian and Patricia Rudd


It's almost enough to say that Brian and Patricia stayed on only three campsites (Troy and Pamukkale in Turkey and Alexandroupolis in NE Greece) during their 12-week motorhome tour to, around and back from Turkey. This is a measure of their skill, adventurousness and a desire to make intimate contact with the countries they explored.




Patricia (right) with her sister Pauline


The Rudd's Rapido 7066dF

Week OneThis is the diary for a 6,789 road miles trip to Turkey. To follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great. There are many routes to get there; we travelled through France and Italy, sailed from Italy to Greece, then drove across Greece into Turkey. The original planned journey was modified due to the political situation on the border of Turkey and Syria. It was intended to go all the way to the Syrian border to visit the site of the battle of Issus but, I think sensibly, we terminated at Phaselis and travelled to Cappadocia instead.

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. John Lennon (also used before John's time )

One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings, without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one's own, and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism. Freya Stark

No medium has yet been devised for the translation of life into language, nor can any words recall the dazzling fluidity of days. Single yet fixed in sequence, they fall like the shaft of a cataract into time and through it. Freya Stark

Wednesday 28th March 2012 - travelled down to Dover

Good run down, no problems, weather lovely.

We travelled down via M6, M1; stopped at Newport Pagnell for dinner. Straight through, a good run on a pretty warm day. Picked Charlie up in Deal, had a McD then dropped her off.

While driving around we noticed a van parked down near the sea, so we had a look at the situation for parking and here we are. Had a word with a couple already parked, who were catching the 3.00 am ferry. They were parking overnight and said there didn't seem to be any problem with the police. A little bit noisy with the diesel engines of the ships, but not too bad. Tried out internet radio on my telephone and got Sat Nav location for our present spot. I do this for every night of the trip, for future reference and also security and emergency purposes.

Thursday 29th March 2012 - Dover (on front near sea)

N 49 57.079 E 003 14.131

We stayed on front at Dover last night, a good spot for the future, right near the docks.

A P&O ship is facing us. Sun peeping through the clouds and it's a nice morning. People walking their dogs along the front. Just need to roll down to the ferry terminal when we are ready, excellent really.

Ferry sailed 10.00 am. I found a power point to charge Patricia's telephone. Looked for WiFi but could not connect. Tricia knitting my pullover for winter. We have a window seat for the two-hour crossing.


12.30 pm, parked up just outside the port (Calais) to check map and get organised before setting off. Lovely and sunny. Stopped at a small Aire on the A25 for some dinner at 6.00 pm, Aire De Riqueville , the Aire we had planned for the night. An English-reg van already parked here. Tokens are only on sale from the 1st April for electric and water but the toilet facilities are working, so we are OK.

Friday 30th March 2012 - Aire de Riqueville (Bellicourt)

N 49 57.079 E 003 14.131

Our Anniversary today. Good peaceful night apart from the truck close by starting up and shaking all and sundry. Sun breaking through and it looks like another beautiful day. My SIM did not seem to be functioning as it should, so swapped Patricia's SIM into my phone.

8.25 am; all the office workers at the tourist building here are now turning up for work. One has parked across the front of the van, very helpful for driving out. Lots more people working here now than last time we came through. Nice and warm on the sunny side of the van, really chilly on the shady side.

Just chilling now and playing with my new Galaxy Note telephone, it's a wonderful tool. Just had pasta and salad. Been speaking to Eddie and Jo, a couple from Wales, who are on their way to Spain in their Rapido. Eddie and Jo decided to follow us. Stopped at Intermarche at Chauny, for diesel and food. Had dinner also while parked up.

Passed Gauchy, Soissons, Chateau Thierry, Montmirail, to Le Gault Soigny. Stopped at the Aire for the night. Quiet little village. Sorted a few bits and pieces out, then went for a walk. Visited the church but it was closed. Walked around the graveyard at the back. Walked across the road and down past one or two dilapidated houses. A lovely night, blue skies, a lovely little laid back village in France.

Fitted new SIM into the tracker attached to the van. I now need confirmation they can track me. Had evening meal of lamb chops, potatoes, carrots, green beans. Tricia has a meringue and coffee fondant. A piece of fruit cake for me. Had my first taste of wine for months. I bought six beers yesterday, let's see how long they last! Another Rapido pulled in front of Eddie's, so now there are three Rapidos on the Aire.

Saturday 31st March 2012 - Le Gault Soigny

N 48 49.063 E 003 35.462

Up at 7.00 am, peaceful night. A little chilly at first but the days have got quite warm when the sun comes up. Very grey at the moment. Just a couple of cars passing on the road going by the Aire; that is the only noise except for the cooing of the local doves. This bird seems to be breeding in numbers. It seems to be everywhere.

Eddie suggested an Aire on the lake near Troyes, at a place called Geraudot, so we decided to give it a go.

So here we are at Geraudot. Missed a turn setting off, but once corrected we sailed through. Lovely Aire, just across from the lake shore. Sadly it's still overcast and chilly so we went for a walk after dinner, instead of biking, and met Eddie and Jo on the way. We will wait for it to warm up a little.

Repaired Patricia's glasses with Super Glue we bought yesterday. Invited Eddie and Jo over for a cuppa and a chat. The time flew by, 8 o'clock before we noticed. Got a text from my sons; we beat Stoke City 2-0, brilliant. Time for eats. Tricia did sweet chilli chicken stir fry with rice and spring rolls, very tasty. Just got washed up. Cuppa and a piece of cake. Then off to bed with a good book. Plan is for early start tomorrow.

Sunday 1st April 2012 - Geraudot (near Troyes)

N 48 18.146 E 004 20.202

Up at 6.00 am. Rather chilly on first rising. Cuppa on, also on with my multicoloured cardigan. Still dark at moment. Put the heating on, Patricia was rather cold. Don't know if Eddie and Jo are following today. We will see what they have decided later.

Well, they decided to come along with us. Off to St Gengoux De Scisse.

We lost the route in Dijon (cities a pain). Sun blazing all the way, but a real chilly wind that cut through. Free electric on this Aire, I like that, very civilised. Lovely Aire facing the fields. Had a cuppa in Eddie's van and a natter for a while. It seems Eddie and Jo do a few things differently. Their tea was nearly cooked when we arrived at the Aire. They had the oven on while travelling. So they had chicken and chips nearly ready when we parked up. They also use a twelve-volt kettle and toasted sandwich maker while on the move. Had steak, chips and salad for tea. Put DVD on for a while: 'Heat and Dust'. Tricia dozed off, so went to bed half way through.

Monday 2nd April 2012 - St Gengoux De Scisse

N 46 27.650 E 004 46.505

Alarm on for 7.00 am. Quiet night. Put water in tank, but pump not working. Ah well. Good wash. Free electric too. Eddie's drain pipe came off also, so fun and games. I'll leave the pump until Ancona.

I got some photos before leaving. Jan and Caroline from Belgium on this Aire also. Caroline was reading an English book. It turned out she was an English teacher.

We parted with Eddie and Jo at Macon. Filled with diesel at Pont d'Ain. Snow was on the tops of the mountains at Saint Jean de Maurienne. We were parked up there for no more than two minutes, at a decent space from a van that came in with us, when along comes another van to slide in between us, about two feet off the kitchen window. The whole parking place was empty nearly. The wonders of why people want to play at sardines?

I moved further down. The van was English! Maybe they feel more secure or something. Had chips, egg and beans for tea. It's been quite warm in the van, the sun has been out all day, so a little tired on arrival. Tricia also is a little concerned about going through the Frejus Tunnel. She doesn't like tunnels and this one is 12.5 km long.

Saint Jean seems more run down than it appeared in summer last year.

Tuesday 3rd April 2012 - Saint Jean de Maurienne

N 45 16.774 E 006 20.786

Quiet night, awoke a couple of times, Tricia too. She is a little worried about today.

We were supposedly having a sleep in, but the alarm went off at 7.00 am. I forgot to knock it off. Frejus Tunnel today. Patricia not looking forward to it. 12.5 km long, 51.5 Euros toll.


Had fun getting to grips with toll booths in Italy. Had dinner on small service station, set up mainly for lorries. We decided on an Aire at Strevi near Alessandria. Sat Nav location was way off. I realised later that I was reading these wrong, they were not in the format that suited my Garmin Sat Nav. Fun again with locals trying to find the Aire. Did eventually find the designated place: a small square near station. Small bar on our left, which seems quite busy. No water around, found a drain hidden across the road. Oh, the fun of travelling. Quite a lot of Muslim ladies chattering on the benches just across the square from where we are.

Just had steak and pepper sauce, potatoes and veg. Got WiFi earlier but not so good later. Tried Skype to Pauline; got through but not clear signal. Still, it was free. 10.00 pm now, all gone quiet but for the church clock.

Wednesday 4th April 2012 - Strevi (near Alessandria, Italy)

N 44 41.869 E 008 31.482

Awoke to church bells, 7.00 am. Tried topping phone while we had free WiFi - no go.

Had to call 555 and then 444, now done. Stopped at petrol station in Cassine about 8 miles from Strevi. Topped up with diesel, 71 Euros about 1.82 per litre, a bit dearer than UK. Had a chat with a local, who said he had a motorhome and had been to Turkey. He advised we would enjoy it and there would be no trouble.

Cruised the motorway A1 to Bologna, our destination for the night. Rained on the way. Stopped at a service station, Paricia's first footing in Italy, we realised. (She hadn't actually stepped outside the van until now.)

We have the Italian camper stop book, Dove Sostare In Camper, with sites for stops and facilities. So far it's been as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Not impressed at all on where it has led us to. This one near Bologna is, to put it mildly, a S*** Hole. Calderada De Reno it is called. There is a block of flats opposite the area, which seems to be the one in the book. The flats have a large mural painted on the side of them announcing Calderado De Reno. What an eyesore. If it was in Wigan, it would have been knocked down I'm sure. We moved on, as it was really abysmal, piles of rubbish all around. It looked like a local fly tipping site.

We are now parked up in a small new industrial estate down the road from the location. It's been grey and rainy today, although quite warm. Did email update for everyone this morning. Oh, the joys of free WiFi. Well all we can say about this stop is "We slept here". Not much more to say really.

Week Two

Thursday 5th April 2012 - Calderado De Reno (near Bologna)

N 44 33.392 E 11 16.777

Slept well, it was quiet later on. There is a pharmaceutical distribution factory opposite to us. Quite a few truckers also use the area, so I seem to have chosen a reasonable place to sleep.

The location from the Italian Aires book, was to say the least, abysmal. If Italian motor homers use it, then they are easily pleased. It says water, grey water and toilet disposal, in the book, but there are none of these. Anyway, rant over.

Misty and grey this morning, trucks have come and gone in the night. Workers are drifting in for the day. Sorted out, had brekky. Called in little shop across from ugly flats, then off to motorway. The flats are the ugliest I have ever seen. Difficult to believe that people live in them. Maybe they don't!

Road works around Rimini went on forever. Someone is spending big. Turned off at Marotta onto the Via Adriatica coast road. Stopped for some dinner at Senigallia, on a space just at the side of the road.

Then on to Ancona. Found the Aire OK but when we tried to boil a kettle for a cuppa the MCB was tripping out. Line said 25 Amps, which was a joke really. So decided to look for an alternative. Had a drive around Ancona to other sites from the book but then decided to make do without electric and use the free part of the Aire. Raining all the time in Ancona. Pork chops, salad and chips. Then spent time changing Sat Nav co-ordinates to suit Garmin.

Friday 6th April 2012 - Ancona (Good Friday)

N 43 36.025. E 013 29.108

Slept well. Sun shining and blue skies on rising. Had brekky, then time to look at water pump problem. Fixed pump (loose connection) but then cold weather water safety valve would not close and just kept pumping water to ground. Need to bypass this, but need a connector from hardware place. So had a good wash up instead of shower. Had a short walk after dinner. Quite hot. We could see over Ancona marshalling yards for the railway. Not very pleasing on the eye. A German van now at the side of us, from Dresden. They are off tomorrow, to Greece, Bulgaria etc.

There are lots of vans parked on this free part of the Aire, but no one around. I solved this mystery by asking a young lady why. She spoke good English. Apparently all the local van owners park their vans here and come to pick them up when they need them. It is a public space, so no charge. I can see they would have problems parking them local to where they live, since most of the living is in flats. Most of the vans are quite old but they must still be of considerable value. I couldn't see this happening in England; they wouldn't last two minutes before the thieves came along.

We were thinking of popping down to Lidl but a few vans have now rolled in so we are staying put, so we won't lose our space.

Tricia compiled a list of what to take on board for sailing, so we don't forget anything.

Just had lovely pasta, tuna and salad, followed with peaches. Cooling down now and cloudy. Went for stroll in park across the road, it was all lit up. Got some photos.

Saturday 7th April 2012 - Ancona

N 43 36.025. E 013 29.108

Up around 7.00 am. Still hazy and cloudy. Had brekky then checked with German couple that they had correct ferry times (ours had been changed).They were OK. Went to McD for WiFi. Spent an hour trying to register but failed. Why so complicated? Spoke to Marc and Lily on phone. Decided to try Lidl, then back to base for dinner. Van bottomed on ramp at Lidl, just scraped in. I must say that from outside, it was the dirtiest Lidl store I have ever seen. But at the moment unfortunately lots of buildings in Ancona centre also seem filthy. A good window cleaner would help. Some windows can't have been cleaned for years.

Ancona has been a little mistake in a way, we arrived too soon. We have been around on the roads and seen very much what there is to see. Someone prove me wrong!

A little rest and recuperation is all we have done really. If we come through again it will be straight through. Patricia not very impressed with what she has seen of Italy.

The area Sosta we are on has two sections it seems, one free and one 12 Euros. What is unusual is that all the vans parked here are deserted, with no one in them. It is just a storage place for the local owners, with an occasional traveller coming in. So the overall atmosphere of the place is quite low key, if not depressing.

Did a few text communications in afternoon, but just killing time watching passing locals until the ferry tomorrow. Quite a lot of wannabe runners; all seem to be heavy legged, not many spritely natural runners.

We have a guy who seems to live in a van in the corner, which looks like a permanent situation. He keeps walking up and down looking at vans while smoking, no one else with him. He looks very lonely. Several fishing rods outside the van, which has seen better days.

Sunday 8th April 2012 - Ancona

N 43 36.025. E 013 29.108

Wakened 6.30 am, with burger van coming off its Saturday night shift. It is parked just across from us. Quiet night. Grey this morning.

Did water and toilet, then off to port. SatNav didn't want to go to the port but to somewhere else instead. Got into port, check-in was pretty chaotic with truckers. One had the loudest voice I think I have ever heard. Sorted with boarding cards, then down to dock 15. Long wait while they loaded the trucks.

Seemed like total chaos when we were driving on to the ferry. Lots of walky talkies and loud shouting. Chaos eventually subsided and everyone sorted, I think. Found hook up point and plugged in for the voyage.

Reception allocated cabin 9027. Weather abysmal at moment: windy, rain, grey and misty. Not what I had pictured for the Adriatic. Now sat in lounge after our snack we had brought in with us. Quite a nice looking ship when walking around. Main disappointment was no free WiFi. Internet point 6 Euros per hour - no thanks, mail will have to wait. Food OK in self-service. Fricadella, egg, chips, salad. Tricia had chicken and rice with a salad. Sweet wasn't included in the price, so 4.5 Euros. Had a shower, no shower curtain. Then got down for the night.

Monday 9th April 2012 - Somewhere on the Adriatic

Slept for a while but the ship was vibrating a lot. It was like trying to sleep on a vibrating bed, so not very good. Just been up to look at the day. Dark, grey, misty, sea looks black. We are not bothering with breakfast, just had some of our own crackers and cheese. Weather cleared a little on landing at Igoumenitsa. Got off without any drama but watching big trucks reversing off gives food for thought. Fortunately we could turn around in the available space.


No customs check, straight onto the motorway A2. No traffic on it at all, quite amazing the cost of building it for so little traffic. Passed a few trucks while climbing into the mountains. Lots of Patricia's favourites (tunnels). Left motorway at Ioannina turn-off. Dinner and 107 Euros of diesel. Back on to head for Meteora.

The rain turned to heavy snow the higher we climbed. Ah well, where is the Greek sun? We arrived at a toll booth, right at possibly the highest point of the climb, manned by a young lady. Deep snow all around, clouds low and obscuring vision. She seemed to be in a very remote and ethereal place, quite weird.

After coming off the motorway the road was quite good but still heavy snow. It built up on the screen wipers and I had to clear it a couple of times. Snow ploughs were out on this road. Arrived at Kastraki, misty, raining and cold. Tricia was merrily snapping as we were driving along. Some of them should come out, despite the weather.

Monasteries not doing much business, it really was atrocious weather. Parked up in Kastraki for a brew. I went for a walk to find the Tourist Information but there was nothing there. Bought some bread, which turned out to be really heavy when we had bacon butties later.

Had a drive up to the highest monastery. There was a stall all alone in the cloud, wet and cold. A couple of cars. We didn't stay. We decided to shack up at the Lidl car park. Did a small shop, then hunkered down for the night. Well, we didn't visualise this weather when coming here. Freezing cold, rain, sleet. The road near us seemed to get noisier as the night went on, which was surprising.

Tuesday 10th April 2012 - Kastraki (Meteora area)

N 39 42.024. E 021 38.140

Well a real sleep in this morning, 9.20 am on waking. Didn't really sleep well on the ferry, so catching up I suppose. We were just dozing off last night, when the driver of a parked truck decided to do some start up and revving exercises. Great. It was a refrigerated truck, so he must need to do it every so often. He's just been down again this morning. Slept well when we eventually got off. Still cold and rainy this morning. Hot porridge for breakfast. Lidl getting busy now.

We gave up on the weather at Meteora, we will come some other time. Deciding to head for the coast, picked Pidna to head for. I thought from memory that it had some historical connection but on arriving we can't find anything. Just a sleepy little fishing village. Really quiet. Another van came in just after us, but soon left. We travelled by way of Trikala, Larissa, Katerini on the A2 (E75). Some tolls, which seemed the dearest we had met. Pidna has a coast guard station near where we are parked. Lots of dilapidated boats that seem be going out to a sea of blue barrels bobbing about off shore. To bring in mussels, I presume.

The lights have come on now along the quay where the boats dock, sun just gone down. Really quiet now. Hope no revving trucks tonight. Had chicken stir fry, noodles and spring rolls for tea, very nice too. Just had walk to beach, it must get quite busy in season. Beach shower with water on, may use for water tomorrow.

Wednesday 11th April 2012 - Pidna (near Katerini)

N 40 22.641. E 002 37.698

Alarm at 7.00 am. Sun just rising for the day. Quite cool, 8 deg C. Clear sky and half moon. All harbour lights still on. There is a coastguard station just across from where we parked. A small Cantina (or shed) opposite it. I think there is someone living there, it was lit up late last night. There seems to be a gravel-loading place further along the coast, as trucks come in and head along a road with a No Entry sign on it.

We had breakfast and then left for Vergina. Arriving there, we dropped exactly into the small site that I had listed for a possible stay. It was about 150 yards from the museum entrance. All hard surfaced, with electric and water, but no toilet emptying facility. Chickens pecking their way around the back garden of the house. About eight cars parked when we arrived, so it is obviously not just for motorhomes. I advise getting there early if you go.

The owner's son is Tomas who speaks very good English. He came out to help his father translate. His father is German and does not speak much English. Tomas was quite knowledgeable about Alexander the Great - which I would expect, living around here.

The drive into Vergina is lovely, rolling hills. You can see the plain where Pella is, all pan flat. We stopped on the way at a small place called Verginio (spelling?) to get bread and see if I could pick up a water connector to fix the pump. I asked a bunch of local older guys, who were all stood around a truck, where could I get a connector. They all pointed to the supermarket. I think they thought I wanted water. Anyway, we were going into it for bread. Inside we asked a young lady who was working there 'Where can we find a connector?' She brought us out and across the road, into two shops. Yes we got sorted, she was very helpful. Hope the connector will do the job.

Chatted later with an Australian guy, who parked at the side of the van. We later walked up to the theatre area, which was closed for excavation. We could see quite easily into the area. This is, according to the experts, the theatre where Alexander's father, Philip II, was assassinated. There is also a Macedonian tomb on the pathway as you walk back to the village but it was also closed. We got photographs.

There is a small cafe on the corner as you walk down to the museum. We passed it on the way to have a look at where the museum is. It was quite busy with young people.

I later spent some time getting a running text commentary on the football on my telephone, using Tomas's WiFi - Wigan Athletic beat Manchester United. What a giant killing. Our Marc and Nicky both called later to let me know the score. They both sounded quite happy, to understate it. Good day all around.

Week Three

Thursday 12th April 2012 - Vergina

N 40 29.069. E 022 19.187

I set the alarm for getting up to visit the museum but I must have set it wrong, Up late, 7.00 am. We have a barking dog near us, oh what joy they bring!

A really quiet night, sun now out. Breakfast and then down to the museum. Only myself and Patricia in at the opening.

The story of this museum and excavations is a fascinating one. All available on the internet. Suffice to say, it is pretty remarkable that these tombs stood here for 2,300 years without being discovered or looted. The finds, which are all displayed in the museum, are pretty astounding. For anyone who has studied the history of Alexander the Great, ie what we believe to be correct about him, it certainly brings a lot of it to life. Here is the tomb of Alexander's father Philip, also the tomb of Alexander's son by Roxanne. You can stand at the tomb door, no entry, but you can study and see the detail of the interment building. I can only say it is remarkable. See it at all costs. I can't eulogise any more.

Back to have dinner before leaving. Chat with Tomas and get his email address. I paid 8 Euros (only six really, but WiFi was worth 2 so no problem).

Headed for Aristotle's school at Mieza, which Alexander attended. Again no one there, it was totally deserted. Just a lady and her son arrived as we were leaving. A very serene place for a school. More serene 2,300 years ago, I presume. Imagining that Alexander ran around here and explored these caves as a boy, stunning. Again, visit and use your imagination; he'll be there with you.

Decided to park up for a brew and clean up on the car park, just down the road across from the school. From there we headed for Pella.

Just arrived. While preparing tea, I was pumping a spray for olive oil when the bottle burst, covering me in olive oil. I just needed popping into the pan.

We are parked just outside the archeological site 20 yds away, so it's a short walk for us in the morning. Well, the night started well when we got down early to sleep, until a local dog took a liking to the van and woke us up with incessant barking. I had to get up and give it a dose of the Dog Dazer, which certainly works, it scooted off quick time. It was still barking in the distance but we could handle that.

Friday 13th April 2010 - Pella

N 40 29.798. E 022 49.05

Not really the best night's sleep we've had. A bus load of people arrived at 8.00 am and were on their way at 8.30 am, which must be some kind of record for the speed of a historical visit. The parking place is great for overnight for visiting the site.

Had breakfast then went into the site: 6 Euros each, which covered museum entry also. It's quite a large site. Quite a lot of questionable reconstruction has been done and is progressing, but worth a visit. Had dinner and then went up to the museum.

We met the lady and her son whom we had previously met in Mieza. They thought the museum was on last entry time 2.30 pm. I hurried in with tickets but we were OK until 5.00 pm. The guy on the door also said it was free today (Orthodox Good Friday). Why were we charged 6 Euros each?

The museum is still being constructed but it may have problems with the Greek financial situation, a pity. Worth a visit but I felt it was a little repetitive with quite a lot of similar items displayed.

The palace, which is nearby and being excavated, was closed. We decided to head down near the Airport ready to pick up Pauline tomorrow. Good run about 45 miles around Thessaloniki, which looked from the ring road like a place to avoid if you don't like built up areas.

We found a lovely quiet harbour on the coast near Angelahori. Had bacon, egg and beans when we arrived. Washed up and had a walk around. There is lighting on the harbour, which adds a nice touch in the dark. There is a bar about 150 yards down the road, which was really quiet when we walked past, just a couple of people in it. One or two late fishermen on the jetty. Decided to have an early night to catch up for last night. Just got in bed when two cars pulled up, one man and three ladies got out and had a loud discussion in the road near us. All quite heated. They eventually went and all was quiet.

Saturday 14th April 2012 Near Angelahori

N 40 29.798 E 022 49.053

Lovely peaceful night, awake 7.00 am. Cuppa and diary. Some people coming down to their boats but otherwise lovely and peaceful.

Had a lazy morning while waiting for Pauline. Had dinner parked behind Lidl.

Then we went to the Airport, where we had fun and games. The aeroplane arrived on time but the luggage was left in London, so we now have to wait for it to arrive. So back to last night's spot. A little bit manic around the Airport. Lots of horn honkers.

Got back on the harbour, good catch up chat, then tea. Pork, salad and couscous. Pauline had brought out Guardian and Times, so had a good read. Decided to get an early night, Pauline was tired from early flight. Just getting down when some fireworks cracked off (Orthodox Easter).

Sunday 15th April 2012 - Near Angelahori

N 40 29.798. E 022 49.053

Awake 7.30 am. Beautiful sunny morning. The harbour is like the proverbial millpond. The mountains across the sea glisten white in the sun. Mt Olympos, I'm sure. Brew on and chat. Not much traffic this morning coming down to the harbour, just a couple of cars. Not done a lot today except wash a few things while it's sunny. Put small table out and a couple of chairs. A few cars riding past for a look at us. We haven't seen another camper van since landing in Greece, so maybe we're a novelty.

Had a couple of walks around the harbour and up on the hill. A lovely place but an awful lot of rubbish lying around. The luggage has not come so we need to wait here until tomorrow afternoon to see if it arrives. Sun just gone down on a beautiful day. Spent the evening playing music while Patricia and Pauline were knitting. Lovely quiet evening. Just one or two couples walking around the harbour. All serene in an otherwise troubled Greece.

Monday 16th April 2012 - Near Angelahori

N 40. 29.798. E 22 49.053

Awake 7.00 am, got up 8.00 am. Lay listening to the small fishing boats starting up. There is activity this morning, the Easter holiday must be over. Just spent the morning sorting, and watching the comings and goings. Set off for the Airport to see if Pauline's luggage had come in. Luckily, it had. So case picked up, we were off finally. A guy called Bill came out with Tricia and Pauline with the case.

Set off through Panorama, Agios Vasilios where we picked up diesel. I used the 40 Euro compensation card off Pauline's mis-handled luggage. No problem, it worked just like a credit card. Topped up with another 54 Euros. En route we skirted the two lakes, Limni Koronia and Limni Volvi, heading towards Kavala.

Picked up the motorway at junction 27 near Stavros. All the way through to Komotini, where we dropped off to find an overnight stop. 5 Euros in tolls.

Lidl suited the stopover need, so in we went. Quick tea of stewed steak, chips and peas.

The motorway was excellent, hardly any traffic at all. All set for bed at 10.00 pm, when I got a text from our Nicky: Arsenal 0 - Wigan Athletic 2. So I stayed up reading, getting text updates, until the final score came through. we won, 2 - 1, great result from our little team.

Tuesday 17th April 2012 - Komotini

N 41 06.627 E 025 24.742

Awake 5.40 am, a large truck coming into Lidl. Alarm was on for 6.00 am. Breakfast and sorted. Picking up a few things at Lidl and then we are off. Left Komotini and easily picked up the E90.


Soon at the border, where I had some information to help find visa office etc, but this was no good. Seems it has changed. Cost of visa now 15 Euros.

We tried to attract a policeman's attention to ask where we get the visas. He didn't hear our 'excuse me, excuse me'. So I did a little whistle, which he did hear but he wasn't very pleased about it. So we didn't get any help from him. Finally got sorted with a man, in what seemed like a smoke box, when I put my head down to attract his attention. Choking with cigarette smoke, we got visas sorted. Then on to another guy with vehicle docs, then another, then another, then an inspection of van garage. Then we were off.

I picked up 200 cigarettes for 8 Euros, to use as presents for our Turkish smoking friends, and a bottle of Bushmills for 16 Euros, while Pauline was extravagant at 36 Euros for a malt whiskey for Bob, her husband.

Welcome to Turkey. The roads were the immediate first impression. Abysmal is the word. They were really bad. I'm amazed at this, I would have expected first impressions to come into play, but they are obviously not bothered. We stopped just inside Turkey to have some dinner at what seemed to be a lay-by, watching a shepherd bringing his sheep along the road at the side of us, a little donkey leading the way. I asked him could we take photographs of him and he said yes. We had just finished dinner when a policeman came and moved us on, saying we had been there too long!

We headed on down through Galibolu towards Canakkale, then turned off over to Kabatepe for the harbour, where I had a co-ordinate for a possible free camp.

Not bad too. I washed the van mirrors and screen, totally covered in dust. Van also covered. There were toilets, water and electric points in the toilet - squat toilets. Didn't try the electric, but two sockets there. There is a cafe across the square from where we are parked. Quite a lot of dogs roaming around on the dock. All hell broke loose when the ferry from the Island of Gokceada came in, cars bombing up the road behind us like bats out of hell. Gokceada is apparently one of only two Turkish Islands. It seems also to have a military presence, army coming in on the ferry. I filmed the ferry as it came in.

Earlier in the day, I had been across the harbour for a walk and got into a simple conversation with a little Turkish girl, about the fish in the harbour. As I was filming the ferry, the little girl saw me again and her face lit up with a wonderful smile of recognition. A lovely moment.

Well, a lovely relaxing night, Pauline and Patricia knitting. Three fishermen on the dock at the side of us. One of the boats that came in earlier has its motor running across the other side of the dock. Green and red navigation lights on the harbour entrance. All was well with the world.

Wednesday 18th April 2012 - Kabatepe harbour

N 40 12.027 E 026 16.235

Awake 6.45 am. Not a bad night. One of the ships in the harbour had its engine running all night, but not too bad. Occasional dog barks also. Grey and overcast but warm.

Gokceada ferry leaves around 8.00 am, quite a lot of traffic for it.

We visited Anzac Cove where a stadium was being erected for 25th April service, Green Hill Cemetery and up to Salt Lake and Suvla Bay. Also visited the Field Ambulance Cemetery for Pauline, as Bob was in the field ambulance while in the army. Had dinner back at Anzac Cove under 'The Sphinx '. A wall with display plaques on it has been erected, leaving just a narrow strip of beach now.

Headed over to Eceabat where I sussed out the ferry and costs for tomorrow. Then we headed down the coast road via Kilitbahir, Havuzlar, Behramli and Alcitepe, to the southern area of the peninsula. Unfortunately it was hammering down with rain all the time. Where has the sun gone, we don't seem to be having much on this trip? All roadside stalls were closed up and covered, they had given up for the day wise, I would say.

Sedulbahir and Abide were washed out. We visited the large Turkish monument 'Canakkale Sehitleri Aniti', which is large and impressive, even in sweeping rain. We decided to abandon for the day and head back to Kabatepe harbour for some food and to spend the night. The weather has been quite changeable with some tremendous thunder claps, which we thought were explosions initially, they were ground shaking.

Week Four

Thursday 19th April 2012 - Kabatepe harbour

N 40 12.027 E 026 16.235

Peaceful night, awake 7.20 am. What's that through the window? Why it's the Sun.

Had breakfast and sorted things. The little man at the toilet near us was absent, so we had a free use of the facilities to empty the on-board toilet.

We went down to look for the Lancashire Landing Cemetery. There is an immaculate road now laid from Kabatepe to the south of the peninsula. Spent the morning in the south of the peninsula. The weather is a lot better today. We missed the turn for the area yesterday in the sweeping rain. The Cemetery is in a really beautiful spot near the sea, well looked after. So poignant. We went to the Helles Point memorial: the names of over 20,000 soldiers who were never accounted for are inscribed there. Quite a few small stalls selling tourist trivia for those wanting to buy something as a reminder. A memorial to a Turkish soldier who held a strong resistance to the invasion. A stunningly beautiful area.

Had dinner while there, then set off to the ferry at Eceabat. Ferry price 41 Lira for van and three people. There is a model of the Gallipoli campaign set up near the Eceabat ferry terminal, worth a pop in to have a look. All free when we were there. Had some fun on the ferry with a group of Turkish children, all wanting to practise their English. One of them George, was the double of Pauline's grandson. One boy, Memet, was quite verbal, the leader of the show. Got some photos and video of them all.

Filled up with diesel in Canakkale, which was quite manic with wheeled traffic of all shapes and sizes, then off down the E550. Called in at Kipa (Tesco in Turkey), bought a barbecued chicken with bread, also five small red plastic bowls which we thought would be useful in the van. Then on to Troy.

Camped at Troia Pension campsite, small but excellent. 30 TL per night with electric, water and toilet, and the site has WiFi. We passed the camp and drove to the gates of the Troy site, but the campsite owner chased after us on his scooter. Yes, really on the ball, not letting possible custom pass by. We were heading back anyway, I had his info in my notes. A German guy was having a fish meal when we arrived, Pauline chatted in German with him. They were in the caravan at the side of us.

Friday 20th April 2012 Troy (Troia Pension campsite)

N 39 57.383 E 026 14.997

Had a decent sleep, although it was very windy. Clean up and shower this morning. Got postcards from the shop on site for sending to the children. Had a walk around the village of Tevfikiye. A quiet shambolic small Turkish village, where nothing seems to be finished off. The local school was also just up the road and they had a PA system set up with music blasting out, English nursery rhymes etc. This lasted a couple of hours, in competition at times with the Muezzin's call to prayer. The local dogs followed us back. I demonstrated to Jen, the site owner, the Dog Dazer for discouraging dogs. He was impressed and had a play with it, chasing the dogs up the road.

We had decided to go into Troy itself later in the day, hoping that most of the coaches would have gone. So we went around 4.00 pm. Still a few coaches around but not too bad.

Troy is quite a complex site to understand. Again we saw the rush around in 30-minute groups. Why bother? It really is worth a visit if you have done some pre-reading about Troy. The myths, the actual theories about Troy and the archeological history. Otherwise I can't see many visitors understanding much apart from a big wooden horse for getting a photo in front of. Quite a lot of Japanese tourists bashing around with their cameras. We were nearly the last visitors on site. One coach load came in around 6.45 pm and the site officially closes at 7.00 pm, so they left it late. I'm glad we came, it is a part of the jigsaw of history and myth around this part of the world. Even Alexander was impressed by the myth of Troy.

Had Skype on computer when we got back and chatted with Marc, Helena and Lily, which was lovely. Also Steven and Rebecca chatted with Pauline. It was getting late when we finished Skyping, so we had spaghetti and toast for a late tea.

We were just dozing off when one of the local dogs decided on a singing session. I had to get up and give it a dose of the Dog Dazer, which did the trick. It scarpered.

Saturday 21st April 2012 - Troy (Troia Pension campsite)

N 39 57.383 E 026 14.997

Up 7.00 am with alarm. Muezzin was up 5.00 am. No water this morning in the toilets for showering, with no notification at all. Apparently the local water pressure is too low. Bought stamps and postcards before leaving. Left them at reception and they promised to post them in town for us.

We attempted to find the proposed site for the tomb of Achilles. I had some researched positions for the mound, again linked to Alexander, but we gave up when the roads and paths seemed to be getting us nowhere, except lost.

Today we travelled the Duane Eddy road, as I have christened it. For the uninitiated 'Forty Miles of Bad Road' is a guitar track by Duane Eddy. Actually the 17-55 and 17-52 on our map, to Assos.

Passed through Pinarbasi, Kara-burun, Gokcebayir, Dalyan, then stopped at Alexander Troas, a lovely quiet site with ample parking. We had dinner while there. The site wasn't open when we arrived, then a guy came puttering up on a small motorbike around 1.00 pm and proceeded to open up. He probably had a lie-in this morning. One or two other people showed up to view soon after. The site has obviously not been totally excavated; there is a lot waiting underground I would think.

Pauline is a poppy fan and there were lots growing around the site. She picked one to take with her, shook it to ensure no insects and the poor flower fell to bits.

We stopped at a small village, Kosedere (I think), not on our map, where there was a market in full flow. Parked up and walked back to have a look around. As we pulled up, a little old lady with a headscarf on, probably in her eighties, came walking down the road, stopped and started looking at us. She then walked across the road to put her face to the van windows for a look inside. She was no taller than the van window. Winding the window down, we tried to have a chat with her. No common language, but she was lovely. We gave her a handful of chocolates wrapped up as she was leaving. Clutching them in her hands, her face was a picture.

The market had stalls selling vegetables and lemons. We were approached by a young Turkish guy, who obviously wanted to practise his English. He helped us to buy what we needed, also some lemons and oranges. Pauline wanted an enormous Melon, 18 TL and a bit over the top in size, so we didn't bother. He then started telling us about himself. He told us he worked for the Mosque, his name was Nurullah Donkar and if we were interested he would show us around the Mosque. I was a little sceptical (unusual for me!) but he was correct. He introduced us to some of his friends, who were on some steps in the corner near the Mosque. He then escorted us around the Mosque after removing our shoes. He advised that Patricia and Pauline were OK to enter with the clothes they had on.

It was my and Patricia's first time viewing a Mosque. Pauline had visited one previously. It was newly built and the carpets inside were all new and the gleaming white walls had beautiful painted patterns decorating them. Nurullah told us he had just been to Bulgaria to purchase all the rose bushes that were planted outside on the walkway. He also put the PA system on to demonstrate the sound inside. He did some chants, which I recorded. I also got some photographs of the inside of the Mosque. We went upstairs to the ladies' section, which was curtained off from the main hall where the men are below. The experience was absolutely brilliant.

Nurullah then asked if we would like to have a coffee or tea with him. Yes, so he escorted us to the cafe we had walked past, which was all men drinking and chatting. We walked in and got lots of looks but Nurullah was fine, he sat us down and ordered tea. Another of his friends, Mutlu Yasar, joined us and we had a good chat. Apparently Mutlu was a Dolmus driver. Nurullah then started to turn on the charm with Pauline, telling her how beautiful she was, how young she looked and that she had beautiful eyes. He also told Patricia she had beautiful eyes, when she removed her sunglasses. Quite a charmer was Nurullah. All in all a nice experience. The tea was excellent, Nurullah paid for them. All we can say is 'thank you' to him for being so sociable. The interlude was brilliant but we had to be moving on.

On the way we missed a turn and ended up at a dead end, where the ferry to Bozcada leaves, near Dalyan. No problem for us, just turn around and go back. But there is always someone who wants to get irate about nothing as we turned round. So we left him jumping around and headed back. We passed through Ulukoy, Tavakli, Babadere, Tusla, Gulpinari along this coast road and finally on to Assos.

Stunning views looking over to Lesvos. We parked at the side of the road leading down to the lower village right on the sea. There are a few fish restaurants there apparently but we decided not to ride down. Seem to be stone sarcophagi in the field at our side. Watched a local come up on his donkey escorting his goats as we had tea.

I had a walk up the hill opposite, through a gate which seemed to be closed earlier. We had seen some people go through, so we had a walk up to the ruins quite near to us. Pauline kindly did the washing up for us. It was going dark on the way down.

I walked into the village to survey possible parking for the night. It was all quiet by then. In fact I ended up walking up the hill in the dark, carrying a tub of milk with a man and lady, with their daughter (I presumed). It seemed they were on their way home, with the milking session finished. We parted ways just at the top of the hill.

Had fun parking for the night. We went up into the village when all the traffic had gone for the day. We had a young German guy offering a spot near his restaurant, but we decided to park further down near some piles of sand. We had just got a brew made when a big truck came, 9.00 pm at night, parked in front of us and tipped a few tons of sand, then drove off. We thought maybe more would come, so we went back to our original spot.

The night view over to Lesvos with all the stars shining bright and clear was really something to behold. We put the screen down on the large front roof light, turned the lights off in the van and had a beautiful view of all the stars, quite stunning. Finally settled down for a decent sleep until 5.00 am.

Up 7 am with the alarm. Muezzin was up at 5 am. Stunning view from the front window of the van looking over to Lesvos. We are parked on the road leading down to the harbour. Had breakfast and then walked up to the Temple of Athena on the top. Started off at 10 am.Lots of stalls along the cobbled street that winds up to the top, selling all kinds of tourist stuff, nearly all selling the same things. There are a few ladies in the traditional clothing who manufacture, carry around and sell from bags on their shoulders. They all look like they have had a hard life. I had a look at their products to see if I could find a small bag for my bits and pieces that I carry around, but could not find what I wanted. The determination of the ladies to sell you something is incredible. Again, note ladies, there didn't seem to be many men around doing any work. The men seem to be good at drinking tea and coffee in the cafes.

The views from the top are worth the entrance fee of 8 TL, quite beautiful. One or two coach parties of children around but they never stay long. The temple must have been stunning in its time and in this setting. The views over to Lesvos are quite incredible. No wonder Aristotle spent time here, he knew a good thing when he saw it.

Stopped at a Kipa supermarket in Dikili on our way, to do some shopping. Headed down the 35-81 road to Canderli, where we stayed overnight just up in the hills.

Monday 23rd April 2012 - Canderli

N 38 55.999. E 026 51.813

Awakened at 3.10 am by a herd of cows getting together for a sing song around the van.

Quite incredible, I've never heard anything like it. Not sure why they were making all the noise at that time of night. It was difficult to get back to sleep after, so slept only fitfully. Got up around 7 am.

This was one of those places where some digging needed to take place to bury the toilet contents. This has to be done occasionally if there are no facilities. Over a wall in the field nearby there was a big muddy pool and I noticed things moving on the surface. When I got closer, I could see they were frogs' eyes peering just above the water, lots of them too. A small truck called into the space where we were parked and picked up milk from containers stood near us.

I had brought a book by Freya Stark, who travelled the east in the 1950s. There are photographs in there that I was interested to compare with. We went down into Canderli to seek out the fortress she had photographed. When we had parked up we could hear music in the streets down the road. It seemed there had been a presentation to lots of children. Many of them seemed to be in traditional uniforms. We got some nice photographs with some of the children.

Arriving at the castle, we could actually calculate where Freya Stark had taken her photographs. Some building had changed, but we could make some out by the distinct hill profiles in the distance.

Parking up just on the way out of Canderli near the beach, we got into a long conversation with a German couple in a motorhome near to us, Pauline acting as interpreter. Walking back to the van from the castle, Pauline had asked me to take a photograph with some fish sellers behind her. It turned out that they had asked the German couple for 5 TL for a photograph. I actually considered staying for the night, but decided to head on to Bergama.

Up the 550, a good road. Went up to the entrance for the Pergamon archeological site. They have now constructed a cable car that takes you up to the top. We had a drive up to see how far we could go but the road up has now been blocked off, so we had to return back down. The car park attendant at the cable car entry had the cheek to stop me for a car parking fee. All we did was drive through and turn around further up the road. No, no, no, sorry, not paying anything. I suppose he has to try to top his wage up. He was OK when I demonstrated I wasn't going to pay.

We parked on an open field just off the main road through Bergama, opposite the turn that takes you up to the site cable car. There was a small market with vegetables etc, live chickens, chicks, ducks, rabbits, assorted animals. We parked just behind them for a brew and to chill out for a while. We had a few local children asking for money. We offered them some sweets, which they seemed to be happy with (they always ask for money!) This market place and field are at the site of the famous Red Basilica in Bergama, mentioned and photographed by Freya Stark on her travels. I had a walk around and got some photographs. It was 5 TL to enter but you can see most of it from outside, which was sufficient for me.

We decided to head out of town to see if we could find a good spot for the night. We spotted a picnic site at the side of a petrol station, about eight kilometres at the other side of Bergama from where we had entered, so turned around and went back to check it out for overnight. When we pulled in, one of the men there beckoned for us to pull into the car wash area and indicated that it was free. After checking that it really was free, the van had an excellent wash, the first and well needed one since leaving England. I asked if we could spend the night at the picnic area. Yes, no problem. So we tucked into a corner, alongside the grassy lawn. Pasta for tea. There were cages with goats, chickens, geese, ducks and a dog alongside the lawn. Quite an unusual set-up.

Tuesday 24th April 2012 - Petrol Station near Bergama

N 39 06.178. E 027 16.879

Awake 6.15 am after a good night's well needed sleep. Road noise behind us, but we slept well. Popped into the shop for a few bits and pieces, also topped up the water. The owner/manager was great helping us out. I really can't imagine this happening in the UK.

Went into Bergama and parked up at the new cable car. The roads up have now been blocked off to cars. 10 TL each to the top and back. Nice ride and saves a lot of walking.

The site is on the top of a major hill overlooking the whole area. The theatre is quite something, built into the side of the hill. I walked all the way down to the central seat at the bottom, called by some the Emperor's seat. I sat in it for a minute for some contemplation, no one there with me, as Patricia and Pauline had stayed up at the top of the rows of seats, which sweep down the hill. Incredible views all around.

We had packed some snacks, so we were in no hurry, spending around four hours strolling around. Again Freya Stark had visited here and photographed, so I was interested in seeing her point of view for the photographs.

We bought some shoulder bags on the way out and a small pair of miniature clogs, for a knitted animal that Pauline was making. Chatted with a couple from Minnesota on the way down on the cable car. Spoke to a couple from Poole in Dorset, Brian and Gillian, lovely people. They had hired a car and driver and had been driven down from Istanbul. They apparently were on a conference and had taken a few days out.

We parked up on the field we had used yesterday for a brew and something to eat, before setting off again.

We headed down the coast road 550 or E87 towards Aliaga, looking at the area around Yenifoca for an overnight stay. Turning off the E87 for Yenifoca I was horrified to see what was in front of us and pulled over to the side of the road to assess where we were heading. The road was like a dust storm, with trucks of all shapes and sizes running up and down into what seemed an industrial wasteland. It looked pretty horrific but the books say that Yenifoca is a holiday area so I decided to head on through this maelstrom of industry. What a change a few kilometres make; we came out the other side of it all into a very pleasant area. I'm not sure I would be happy if I was coming for a holiday to drive through all that 'welcome to hell' would be more like it.

We eventually got into Yenifoca, a lovely little seaside holiday area with fish restaurants lining the main sea front area. As we rolled into Yenifoca we were beckoned into a small cafe with lots of parking area. You can park here, the guy said, so we tried it out. Parked right on the sea, with the water about three metres from the door. The guy introduced himself as Denis. No charge for parking he said, stay as long as you want. He also had electric which I said we would use, for a small charge. So we spent a lovely night having tea and watching the night come down with the sounds of the Aegean Sea lapping outside and the stars shining above the light of the harbour. Beautiful.

Wednesday 25th April 2012 - Yeni Foca

N 38 44.615. E 026 50.530

Good night's sleep, after getting up to local dogs again. It seems to be something we can't get away from. A beautiful view through the window on waking. The Aegean was blue and totally flat and serene at the side of the van. Yeni Foca bay sweeping around in the sunshine. Patricia and Pauline were still asleep, so I had a read for a while.

Had a clean, tidy and pack away morning. Opened a tin of ham we had brought with us for dinner. I popped into the village on the bike to get some bread and tomatoes for dinner. Had a walk around the village after dinner. All the fish restaurants were similar menus and similar prices. There was a small market taking place in a square behind the sea front buildings. All the stall canvases were flapping around in the quite strong wind. We bought some bananas for 5 TL. There are a few old Greek building in town that are falling down, it seems a shame. Is there some problem with people using them now? Some buildings are lived in, so I can't understand why good stone buildings are neglected to fall down.

A nice little interlude in the village happened. While shopping this morning I was served at a small shop by a guy with tomatoes that I needed. When we were walking around in the afternoon, the same guy was in the street; he recognized me and his face lit up. He was pleased as punch to see me, incredible.

Denis came and offered to cook us fish for tea, Capari, apparently a Sea Bream. He said it would be ready around 7 pm. We had seen the prices in the village so had an idea that we'd find his charge acceptable, so no mention of money. All very friendly. He also brought us a tub of ice cream, which we thought was a present. Denis actually says he catches his own fish, but I'm a little sceptical about that. There is a small market fish about 50 metres from his door.

Anyway, around 7 pm Denis delivered the fish meal with salad , strawberries and oranges and a can of Coke each. I must admit it looked quite good. So we had our meal and enjoyed it, sat outside the van watching the evening come down, lovely.

Later Pauline and Patricia went to sort out the bill with Denis and came back rather upset. He had hit them with a bill of 100 Euros (yes Euros). I told them to let him come for his money, which he did soon after. I then proceeded to tell him what I was prepared to pay for. He had put parking on his bill, which he had told us was free. I mentioned that we knew the price of fish meals in the village, so I totted up everything and told him I would pay him 90 TL, which I thought was quite fair, and that was final. I let him know that I was bloody annoyed at his deceit and lies.

He accepted his money and went. Unfortunately, this incident left a little bad taste at the end of what had been a lovely day. I had a beer, my first in months, also a glass of Ouzo and Coke. Pauline had paddled in the sea near the van and it was a lovely stroll around the village. We were not letting a little deceitful cafe owner spoil it for us. We were off in the morning anyway.

Awakened around there in the early morning with some guy drinking, parked near us with music blasting. He eventually went after quite a while. There is nothing you can do in these situations except sit it out until the idiot gets tired and goes home. I initially thought it was Denis in his cafe, but it wasn't.

Week Five

Thursday 26th April 2012 - Yeni Foca

N 38 44.615 E 026 50.530

Well, a broken night's sleep again after some idiot parked near us at 3 am for a drinking and music at full blast session, which lasted for about an hour. Ages before I got back to sleep. Patricia and Pauline got off pretty quickly. No electric on when we got up. I expected it really, I should have checked it last night. Denis was being playful, I think! I checked whether the socket was still connected but I could see through the window that it had been moved. Ah well. When he came I let him know I was not pleased. I whipped out the lead and wrapped it up. We would manage without electric.

Denis came to the van just before we left, wanting to start talking about prices again, with his calculator and piece of paper. But I wasn't wearing him and gave him short shrift. Patricia was a little concerned that there were quite a lot of men in the cafe, though it had been quiet while we had been there. (The heavy Crew!) But some road works were being done just up the road, so no problem. If you visit Yeni Foca, beware of the cafe, Deniz Bufe, immediately on your right as you enter from the east side. Nice big parking area, but do not let him sell you anything, or take any present from him. You will be expected to pay!

We went back through the smoky and dusty hellhole of industry and got back onto the 550 down to Izmir. Now, if you haven't driven through Izmir, it is quite educational to say the least. Bloody manic might be a good description. Patricia won her five star navigating badge negotiating our way through the chaotic traffic. One or two irate Izmir drivers, but then I think they are all irate really. Lovely people until they get behind the wheel of a car and then they lose it.

At 2 pm on the 550 we stopped in Torbali for some dinner. We called into a little bakery for some bread and cakes, and also bought what looked like a pasty but it turned out to be only puff pastry, no filling. No bread in the bakery, but bread next door.

Headed on down to Ephesus and the Seven Sleepers to survey for overnight, but decided to head on to Kusadasi, which is only a few miles down the road.

On the road down into Kusadasi we could see a lake and what looked to be a good parking place for the night, so we headed into it. We found it quite easy, behind the Tusan Beach Resort Hotel. People picnicking and a pony club close by.

We decided to pop down to the Migros Supermarket, around 5 miles down the road, easy drive there and back. It seemed to be quite expensive there. A few English people around the supermarket, probably holidaying in Kusadasi. It doesn't seem my sort of place for a holiday, but then everyone is not the same. Good for overnight though where we parked. Gammon steaks, salad and rice for tea.

We had a visitor, a grey haired, quite distinctive looking guy, who introduced himself as 'Captain Denis'. He had come to let us know that young people often have loud parties on the lake. He offered a parking place near his Nomad tent. We took up his offer later, being wary because of Denis in Yeni Foca.

Friday 27th April 2012 - Kusadasi

N 37 54.434 E 027 16.331

Alarm on for 6 am. A lovely peaceful night. Captain Denis warned about potential all-night parties on the lake, so we had decided to take up his offer of a parking place away from the lakeside, near his Nomad tent where he lives.

Quick brew and a drive up to Ephesus (Efes). We were the first in to park up. Had breakfast and packed food for the day. The same annoying touts outside. When will they clear them away and make the experience totally professional? 25 TL entry fee now.

Ephesus seems to be on the tick list of lots of people, as a place to see. From what I can see, they want to do it as quickly as possible. We saw people going in when it opened, as we were having breakfast, then we saw them on the way out as we were going in. Quick visit.

We got tickets around 8.45 am and left the site around 4.30 pm. The site does get swamped with visitors, but with a little patience you can be alone in some areas.

The quiet area is in the Terraced Houses, where the entrance fee is another 15 TL - well worth it, I feel.

As we were leaving the terraced houses we met two guys from Woking, Gary and Pete. We struck up a conversation that went on as we walked from the site back to the van, then over a cuppa and biscuits. Gary has a place near Gumusluk and Pete has come over with him to do some work on it. I had a laugh with Pete, who is a user of older technology: he had film in his camera. He also repairs old valve radios, quite interesting I thought, although, I do think he should go digital with the camera. Good chat and good to meet up with them. They were driving back to Gumusluk, the same journey we had made 7 years ago.

We asked the Jandarmerie could we stay overnight. No, but my Uncle has a campsite nearby, I can take you there. Ah, no thanks, we will travel on. Back to Captain Denis at Kusadasi. All tired and ready to crash out, so cheese, tomatoes, crackers, cake for eats. Quick word with Captain Denis and then got down for a read and early night.

Another excellent day. Pauline loved it, she hadn't been to Ephesus before.

Saturday 28th April 2012 - Kusadasi

N 37 54.434 E 027 16.331

Good night's sleep again. Awake 7 am. Again we had no noise on the waterside that we could hear. Had breakfast and decided to have a chat with Captain Denis. He had offered to point out all the historical sites. He was a very interesting character, living in what he calls a Nomad Tent, advertised as the Pony Club. We did see some horses around the lake (sea inlet) but none with Denis. He says he provides teas and coffees etc.

Patricia and Pauline sat down with us later and we had apple tea, lovely. He also gave us apple tea mix, sage and fennel. The conversation covered many things and was very educational about Turkey. A very bright guy living an unusual lifestyle.

Topped up the water and emptied the toilet. Denis has a large water tank, which enables him to have water when the pressure is low, a good idea. We had to use buckets to get the water from his tank as his pump was broken, by a horse he said. I had a look to see if I could do a quick repair, but decided it was an electrician's job.

As we were leaving, we just got to the main road when the Polis had stopped all traffic. We were wondering what was going on, when some vans came flying through, followed by cars with cycle wheels on top. Whoa, it's a cycle race. Great, it turned out to be the Tour of Turkey. Being a cycling fan, it made my day, or should I say minute. They flew past and up the hill. The stage had started in Kusadasi but we didn't know it was going on.

Patricia had wanted to visit the House of Mary, so that was next on the agenda. Quite a little climb up the mountain. Parked up there, had some dinner and visited the house. 12.5 TL each. Apparently it's free to enter the house, but the fee is for maintenance and the infrastructure of getting to the house. As with all these sites, it was teeming with people but we had the luck of a lull in the crowd and the three of us spent a lovely five minutes in contemplation there. Lovely and peaceful. I got some photographs in front of an old olive tree in the corner near the house.

We lit some candles on the way out, but an over enthusiastic worker decided to clear them all out just as we were leaving. We had to tell her to replace them. A little lack of consideration we thought. We then left a message (oblation) on the wall as we left.

A nice little interlude on the way out, a conversation struck up with a Jandarma who spoke good English. He was quite relaxed and smiling, they usually look serious. I told him I would love to take a photograph of him but we had been advised it shouldn't be done. He said that was right. He jokingly said, with a big smile, he was working hard today. He said he had used his gun, it wasn't for decoration. He also reminded us that he was a soldier but at the moment he was on public security duties. Very nice young man.

We decided to give St John's tomb etc a miss. It was 5.15 pm and I wanted to get down to Priene for tomorrow, to find a place to overnight, relax and have a meal.

We headed on down to Soke and on to Gullubahce (Priene), where we found an excellent parking place in the village square just down the road from the Priene ancient site.

Sunday 29th April 2012 - Gullubahce (south of Soke)

N 37 44.472 E 027 24.584

Peaceful night until the dove' dawn chorus, for me the most boring bird song of all.

We are parked in the village square, just behind some shops and restaurants. Another German van parked also. Dolmus pulls in just across from us. Bought bread from the shop about 40 yards away.

5 TL to enter the site. The coaches seem to have been in early morning, so it was reasonably quiet when we walked around. Quite a large site, but laid back also. Again I followed Freya Stark's photos, duplicating her photo of the Council Chamber. There didn't seem too much change in 60 years.

Travelled on to Miletus down the 09-55 and parked on the square just outside the site.

On putting fridge on gas, it didn't ignite. First check fuses, nothing showing, they light up an LED when there is a problem. I suspected a loose connection, shaken loose by the bumpy roads, so I spent the next two hours hunting in every cavity for a loose connection. Nothing showing. Back to fuses again. Guess what, one was lit up - the ignition fuse, as suspected. Ah well, I learned a few things about nooks and crannies in the van. I had spare fuses, so popped one in and away we go. Ignition now OK.

Decided to spend the night on the car park. Dogs, dogs and more dogs. We just have to hope they quieten down as the night goes on. They kick off at the slightest thing. I got out of the van later and the moon was out, all the stars gleaming, mass frog chorus in the background, the site totally deserted. History was then blowing on the breeze. Absolutely magic.

Monday 30th April 2012 - Miletus

N 37 31.835 E 027 16.416

Slept well after the dogs had finally tired of barking. Who owns them?

Actually 8.40 am when we got up. Temperature was up again. We were suddenly descended on by the coaches, just as we were thinking it was quiet. We didn't rush getting sorted out and luckily by the time we walked around, we again were alone.

The coach drivers all get water and clean their coaches while waiting for the passengers to visit. One thing we have noticed is the amount of plastic bottles littered everywhere we go. Here was no different, just over the car park wall there was a pile of bottles.

Enjoyed trying to get the lizards on camera. They kept bobbing their head over the wall before sunning themselves on the top, scooting off if there was any movement.

An Australian guy and his French wife parked alongside us in their hire car. They struck up a conversation with us. They have a camper van also. They had flown to Bodrum and hired a car to tour for a week. Miletus is now a city left to the frogs. A beautiful theatre meets you as you enter. The site stretches out way beyond that. I think most visitors just go into the theatre and think that's it, over and done. They do get in and out quickly. Miletus was once on the sea. I tried to imagine Alexander's fleet anchored, where now there are only fields.

Travelled on to Didyma, 5 TL for parking. Two young boys were flying kites and one offered his kite to me. I've not handled a kite since our lads were small; good fun for a few minutes. Called into a shop and put aside a small bag for bits and pieces, picking it up on the way back, 5 TL. The shop owner spoke fluent English so we had a good chat with him. Pauline also bought a book for Bob.

Just up the street from the shop is the Temple of Apollo. Big, big, big, it's big. The remains of the columns are massive. It really is impressive and must have been stunning in its prime. It was never completed, due to changes in worship of the gods - Apollo going out and Christ coming in. Well worth a visit. Altinkum was of no interest, so we headed back the way we had come. Called at some small shops on the road back out for some groceries.

On down the 525 road to Lake Bafa. The roads are being rebuilt, so the going was terrible. Miles and miles of rough, ploughed up road, dust blowing everywhere. We pulled in at a small cafe that myself and Patricia had visited several years ago, right on the lake side. I asked the owner could we camp for the night: yes, no trouble. So again we had an excellent spot for overnight.

Tuesday 1st May 2012 - Lake Bafa (Gol Restaurant)

N 37 28.510 E 027 26.866

Awake with the cock crowing at 6.30 am. Alarm for 7 am, but not needed. Good old cock crow, under the van window. Lake Bafa absolutely smooth surface, not a ripple. Sun out. Only problem is, I've twisted my back somehow. Just sprayed it with Radian B.

Had breakfast, got organised, then went into the cafe on the lake for a coffee and apple tea. Watched children playing and fishermen landing their catch. The fish they were weighing were quite large, quite a few meals in one of them. One of the guys who worked in the cafe dived into the lake for a cool off. A vegetable lorry pulled in to sell produce, so we got some enormous tomatoes.

Then off to Euromos. Rough roads through road building. Bumpety, bumpety for miles.

Unfortunately the road building had blocked off the entry to Euromos. A pity because it was really somewhere we had wanted to spend the night, so atmospheric. We had visited it years ago and loved the place, always promising ourselves we would spend a night there when we returned. Not to be, sadly.

Looked for the signs for Iasos but no signs anywhere, so carried on past there. On through Milas, calling in at a petrol station for dinner. I was watching the guys there filling LPG into cars; some were earthed some were not. I wonder why ?

From here we decided to head down to Bodrum, Turgetreis and Gumusluk. Beautiful road all the way down. We stopped at a small shop for bread. The lady didn't have any change for our note, so she gave us the bread - amazing. We went back with a small knitted Angel as a present for her. Can't see it happening in England!

Decided to overnight in Turgetreis. Shopped at Carrefour on the main street. We parked on the sea for a while near a small park, about 100 yards from the marina. Guys fishing and lots of people walking around, lazing and enjoying the evening. We moved just up the road to a deserted car park for the night, just across from the beach, excellent for us. The islands of Kos and Kalimnos on the horizon. The hover ferry buzzing along from the harbour.

The roads around Turgetreis don't seem to have been repaired since we were here years ago. I remember holes in some areas from that time and there are still enormous holes there. Development still going on, it never seems to stop. The goose that lays the golden egg will eventually be killed. Unfortunately!

Wednesday 2nd May 2012 - Turgutreis (S of Bodrum)

N 37 03.714 E 027 27.832

Alarm on for 7 am, awake at 5 am with the Muezzin. Does he ever oversleep, I wonder? We're parked in a small car park just along the road, past the harbour. It looks like it isn't used much. Just the job for us, a view across to the islands. My back is still painful, not much better.

Had breakfast, then moved the van back to the park entrance where we had parked yesterday. Walked around the open marina area, which has been finished to a nice standard. Lots of rich people around the harbour now. Some of the boat costs must run into millions. A lot more boats than when we visited around 7 years ago. Restaurant touts still the same though, although the season for holidaymakers is only just kicking off. They are getting in some training.

We had a look at the hotel we stayed at on that trip. To our surprise, it was closed and looked like it had been that way for some time. The pool had a brown sludge in it instead of the clear cool water we remembered. Quite surprising really, because it is in a prime spot facing the sea, 15 yards' walk from the pool to the sea. The walkway along the beach front is now paved all along and lights had been installed, now vandalised unfortunately.

Picked up a loaf and some cakes for dinner, then strolled back to the van.

It seems the Turgutreis authorities are cleaning up ready for the season, as we've seen a few cleanup crews clearing old mattresses and rubbish piled in various places.

Went over to Gumusluk in the afternoon. This is a lovely laid back little place, but it has got busier since last time we were here. I believe there is a building control around the sea front. A few fish restaurants on the front, again touting for business.

Pauline hadn't been before and loved it. She checked out some accommodation costs: 100 TL per day for a four bed place on the front facing the sea. The owner had a lovely little girl, Elena, who was the boss he said.

Strolled back to the van for dinner, quiet read and some knitting for the ladies. Some local kittens decided they liked Patricia and started to follow her. Patricia is not too keen on cats, so you can imagine the Shoos and Go Away that were being vocalised.

The car park was to pay and the guy on the gate advised that we could stay overnight for 15 TL, so we had decided to stay. Omelette for tea and then a walk to the other end of the lagoon, a small beach area we had been on our last visit. It was just going dark and the restaurants had coloured gourd lights strung along the sea shore. Soft music playing, quite nice. Unfortunately the beach is now used for dry docking boats and is a smelly area. Progress? It really doesn't pay to look too closely at places. There are extremes of beauty and disdain for the environment. Rubble dumps on the beach, rubbish piles. The Eagles 'Last Resort' song comes to mind. Check out the lyrics.

We had a dog chorus for a while until I went out with the Dazer to move them on.

A late rub down with pain relief in my back, Co-Codamol, then off to bed.

Week Six

Thursday 3rd May 2012 - Gumusluk (S of Bodrum)

N 37 03.306 E 027 14.148

Awake 7 am. Found I now have a painful and stiff left ankle and foot. Add this to my bad back and I'm having fun. Also getting insect bites, which I've never picked up before. Apart from that, it seems to be another beautiful Turkish morning.

We decided to sit it out at Gumusluk until afternoon and then head back to Turgutreis. All I could do was sit out the day, applying a bag of frozen chips to my foot and massaging with Cuprofen on my back and foot.

Pauline went to buy two small crocheted figures for 20 TL. She is looking to study and duplicate them when she is back home. We also bought some bread and scone-like cakes, which were very nice. Pauline decided to find some water and headed off in pyjamas and hair rollers. She was told 'small village, no one cares'. At home already.

We had a lazy day, then off to Turgutreis. Popped into supermarket for a few items. Then we parked near the small park where we had been previously. I sat watching the fishermen, yachts, hydrofoil, the usual comings and goings of a parking place with a lovely view. A few cars with men drinking beer and smoking. An occasional head popping through the window. The seemingly endless fascination with the van. We are only newcomers to travel in Turkey, but it does seem that there are not many campervans around. We have seen four up to now, one of them English.

Apart from the pain, a lovely lazy day. We moved up to the small car park later.

Friday 4th May 2012 - Turgutreis

N 37 03.714 E 027 27.832

Quiet night, alarm 7 am. Slowly assessing the painful areas. My back seems a little easier, foot still stiff and painful. Cup of tea to start the day, lovely. Sunny again and sea like a mirror, no breeze at all. We decided to leave Turgutreis and head to Stratonikeia, a site I didn't have a lot of information about but it was on our way to Gocek, where we are meeting up with Marc, Helena and Lily. Pauline practised reflexology on my foot for half an hour.

Leaving Turgutreis we stopped for Patricia to pick up a small carpet for the door entry: a small red one she had spotted previously for 5 TL, not a bad price at all. The run was easy most of the time, it's a good road from Bodrum up to Milas.

Leaving Milas, we started climbing and the road building was in progress - or I should say, in partial progress. Miles and miles of road ripped up and bumpy. Clouds of dust from trucks. It was like an apocalypse scene in a film. The weird thing was, we counted three diggers and two trucks in miles and miles of what can only be called chaos. As so often happens, thoughts come to my mind. Where are all the workers and equipment to cause such devastation and chaos. Who the hell plans and project-manages it? From my engineering and project-managing background, it does seem to be shambolic. Maybe there is a plan, or do they just let them loose with dynamite and diggers with a loose plan to head somewhere?

We eventually got out of it and decided to pull over at the first opportunity for toilet and dinner. We stopped outside a small shop in Eskihisar, a few miles from Stratonikeia. The van had changed colour, now a yellowy brown dusty colour. We were ready for a brew.

Arriving at Stratonikeia it was quiet, no tourist rush. Still having a problem walking, I stopped in the van while Patricia and Pauline had a walk around and got some photos. They found it a lovely little site to visit but my foot definitely would not have made it.

Apparently there are only five families living in the village. There seems to be a team of archeologists working there also.

We decided to stay for the night, to save my foot from more punishment. We had eggs, rice and curry for tea. The place had no tourists that we could define, just a farmer on his tractor and a couple of guys in cars, who we think lived there. Quiet night, Pauline trying to show me basic crocheting. Final rub down with Cuprofen pain relief gel, then off to bed with a Co-Codamol.

Saturday 5th May 2012 - Stratonikeia (Between Milas and Mugla)

N 37 18.490 E 028 00.312

Awake 7.30 am. Lovely day again. Immediate assessment of back and foot. Back a lot more mobile and improving. Foot swelling gone down and a lot more mobile, so I think it's on the mend. A cup of tea and things always look better.

A lazy day all round with no walking, so reading for me and knitting for the ladies. Bread from little cafe/shop in the village. A few more visitors to the site, probably due to it being Saturday.

Pauline had a walk and got into discussion with the archeologists, from Izmir. The site is still being excavated and is part of the village also. There are toilets where we are parked and a water supply, so a good spot for a quiet overnight. We have been watching the delivery of a new tractor and the picking up of the old one. Lots of discussion amongst the men and testing of each. They are still discussing or arguing the deal, I think.

Pauline has just been hammering steak for our tea, utilising one of the Stratonikeia columns stood up at the side of the road. A historic steak tonight. Sun just gone over the hill, cooling down now, lovely day.

Sunday 6th May 2012 - Stratonikeia

N 37 18.490 E 028 00.312

Up 8 am, sun shining. Well, an interesting night. We were awakened at 1.45 am by the Jandarma. Diesel engine revving, bee baa, speaker announcement, then banging on the van side. I got the impression they wanted to wake us. I knew it was the Jandarma so I opened the door. Pauline was lying in bed facing them. They just asked for passports. While I was getting the passports, they seemed to be having quite a laugh. I explained that I had hurt my foot and had difficulty driving, but we were leaving today. One was interpreting for the others.

They checked the passports, handed them back, 'no problem, have a good night', then left. I didn't have a problem with them, they were doing their job. All very polite.

Problem now was getting off to sleep again, it took a while.

Foot improved again, also back a little better, so resting up has helped. Left Stratonikeia to head down to Koycegiz Golu, to see if we can get parked on the lake for a while. Headed down the D300 to Mugla, where we stopped at a Kipa supermarket. Got stocked up with food to last a while. Quite a few bargains off the 'Whoopie Stall', ie the discounted stuff for quick disposal. Lots of fruit and salads. All good stuff.

Quite a long run down off the high plateau to meet the D400 to Ortaca. Dropped off the D400 into Koycegiz. Lots of oranges and green cherries (we think) on sale by the road. Even children with bags stood at the side of the road.

Koycegiz busy when we arrived. Lots of men fishing along the lake, which was quite choppy with the strong breeze that was blowing. We saw three motorhomes parked up as we pulled in, quite unusual on this trip so far. One other van actually passed us on the road and pipped his horn to acknowledge us.

It seems a nice place to spend some time. People walking, running, fishing, picnicking, smoking, dancing, drumming, playing music, drinking, cooking, cycling, praying, getting married. Also tankers 'degging the dust' along the lakeside road. It was good to watch, friendly people enjoying themselves. The lake was rather misty with the heat, mountains across the lake in a haze.

Barbecued chicken from Kipa for tea, with chips and salad. A guy in a small white van parked at the side of our van and proceeded to set up his cooker and prepare his meal. He had a small fridge or freezer in the van with fish in it. After eating and washing, we sat with the lights off just watching the comings and goings. A full moon shining on the lake, Turkish music playing and some ladies near us dancing to the music. Patricia and Pauline sat outside. All in all an excellent night. I even walked along the lakeside a little, or should I say hobbled.

Monday 7th May 2012 Lake Koycegiz (Koycegiz Golu)

N 36 57.550 E 028 40.659

Alarm on for 7 am. The fishermen just leaving as we awoke; I hope they got a good catch. Beautiful day again. The contrast in today and yesterday is quite remarkable, the place is really quiet. In fact deserted down this end of town. It was really busy yesterday.

Had breakfast of bread, cheese and jam for me. We then walked along the lakeside into the village centre. The walkway is being tiled all along the lake. It hasn't reached where we are parked yet, but it looks a nice job. There was a small market on in the square of the village. Mostly clothes and shoes. One stall had English books for sale, quite a lot too, but not really the type I read. We did see more English around than we had seen all the time in Turkey. The package tours in Fethiye and Marmaris, it seems.

Popped into a hardware shop that had small telescopic fishing rods outside for 10 TL, which I thought was a bargain too good to miss. He also had hooks, so I could have done a little fishing with the locals. When I went to pay for it, it suddenly became 27 TL, so I declined.. Inflation works quickly it seems. It would have been interesting to see if I could catch anything. The locals do a lot of fishing, but I don't see a lot of fish come out.

Picked up some bread, walked back and had dinner. I got my bike out after dinner for a few spins along the lake. Lovely and hot, no effort at all. A lovely lazy day really. Peaceful also. We had the company of two local Turkish boys for a while, Barish and Merit, 12 and 13 years old. Merit spoke some English, so acted as interpreter for Barish. They were both intrigued with my bike, which I demonstrated for them. They were both on bikes, pulling wheelies, as all young boys seem to want to do.

We had seen toilets in the village so decided we would walk down later with the toilet cassette on the buggy. Finally found them again, but we hadn't brought any money. Fools! So we had to persuade the attendant to let us empty it. I have a job in the morning of going back with a pack of cigs and 1TL. Walked back to have a brew and watch the moon come up.

Tuesday 8th May 2012 - Koycegiz

N 36 57.550 E 028 40.659

No alarm this morning, up at 8.20 am. We had a car blasting music, just as we were getting down to sleep. Peaceful all day, then noise at midnight, oh well. Our Nicky also sent a text to say Wigan Athletic had beat Blackburn 1-0, to ensure Premiereship football for next season. Good news.

Weather beautiful again but Patricia has now got a bad back. Again we don't know why.

Lifted bikes out of the van garage, I popped into the village for some bread and a ramble around the back streets. Lonely Planet guide describes Koycegiz as "A scruffy little town". For me, it is quite a nice place. A lot less 'scruffy' than many places we have been.

We discovered today that there is a 'Campsite' about fifty yards away from where we are parked. We only realised it when three English vans turned up, parked a little further along the lake front and asked if we had any problems parking here. They had just been approached by two guys telling them they couldn't park here and had to go on the campsite.

Fortunately for us they did move: 20 TL per night, they told us later. They then complained about the toilets and facilities being dirty. It did look a total dump. But they had some problem last night where they had parked (someone had been shot, they said), so they were probably unnerved. A good crowd of people, if a little nervous. They told us they had stayed at Troia Pension in Troy for 40 TL per night per van and 20 TL for using the washing machine, for one wash. I'm not sure what happened for them, but we paid 30 TL with electric hook up.

Enjoyed being on the bike but my back is still pulling on the pulled muscle. Patricia had a few runs up the front, but needs to get confident again after her broken arm situation. It will take a while. Two ladies parked near us with their father, who had had a stroke. They brought tea around for us. A lovely gesture. They spent some time chatting with Patricia and Pauline while I was out on the bike. A lovely hot and lazy day. Lots of men fishing, but I haven't seen one fish being caught. Walked along the front into the village after tea before heading off to bed. A lovely evening stroll.

Wednesday 9th May 2012 - Koycegiz

N 36 57.550 E 028 40.659

Awake 8 am, sunny again. Last day in Koycegiz, as we are heading for Gocek later to meet up with Marc, Helena and Lily. Lake like a mirror again; it does get choppy later when the breeze picks up. Two people swimming in the lake in front of where we are, also canoes sliding along. They always look very graceful moving through the water.

Had breakfast, sorted out and then on our way to Gocek. Easy run, only about 25 miles. Approaching Gocek there is a tunnel through the mountain and you can see the toll booths on down the road. There is also a road leading off to the right which goes up and over the hill. We went over the top. Following the instructions for the villa that Marc and Helena had rented, we found it easy, had a quick look at the road leading to it and then popped down the road to do some shopping near the marina. Heading back to the villa, we were met by the owner, Hillary. It really is a beautiful place, set in the pine trees on a mature development. We have the upper floor, with balcony over the good sized pool. Marc and Helena and Lily have the ground floor. Large covered patio area with tables and chairs etc for eating. A very impressive set up, our home for one week.

Got the van parked in the lane at the side and hooked up. We have food in the freezer, so need to keep it running. Marc, Helena and Lily arrived around 10.45 pm, dropped off at the door by taxi arranged by Hillary. Lovely to see them again. They were still on English time, two hours behind us, so it was our latest night on the trip. Just catching up on things. A lovely evening in a lovely setting. The change in Lily in the time we have been away was quite noticeable.

Week Seven

Thursday 10th May 2012 - Gocek

Didn't sleep very well, I think the change of environment was the cause. Spent the day in the usual way that you do at a villa. Sun, pool, eating, drinking. Lily the centre of attention, as it should be. Got my bike out for Marc to pop around Gocek to do a little shopping also. Lots of chatting and catching up on news and issues. For myself and Marc, he updated me on football. Had a brief read of a book Marc is reading, 'Mild and bitter were the days', about a year, 1970, in the life of a Wigan Athletic fan. Lots of references to familiar Wigan things, particularly my old school, Gidlow Secondary, which doesn't exist any more.

Had a barbecue later. A beer and Bushmills to end the day. Not had much alcohol for a while. Patricia had a couple of Ouzos, which went straight to her head. She hadn't eaten a lot, which contributed to the effect I think. A nice lazy day.

Friday 11th May 2012 - Gocek

Awake around 8 am. Marc popped down to the shop on my bike for bread.

Walked into the village with Patricia, Marc and Lily. Bought a few bits in Kipa, also a ball for Lily from another small shop. Got photo of Lily choosing it.

A generaly lazy villa type of day. Pool, eating, reading, chatting, drinking, sun etc.

Marc and Helena went out for a meal in the evening. Bathed Lily in our big red tub from the van: a very useful tool. Lily's routine is a little out at the moment, she is running on English time, ie 2 hrs behind Turkey.

Saturday 12th May 2012 - Gocek

Thunder and rain to start the day. Decided to all pile in the van and have a day out. Fethiye was the plan but we went on to Oludeniz. It was 30 TL to park the van near the beach. Two young ladies tried to charge me for parking on the road, one wanting 15 TL, one 30 TL. I had a laugh with them for a minute, trading one against the other, then told them I was leaving.

Lily enjoyed the beach with the bucket and spade we had bought on the road for her.

We were having a bite to eat when an English couple, Tony and Heather, jokingly asked us if we were lost. It turned out Tony was interested in motorhomes, so we invited them in and had a chat for a while. Seemed a nice guy, although he did say he was a retired banker.

While walking back to the van, a lot of children were unloaded off a couple of minibuses. They then saw Lily in her buggy and we had a crowd around us, all wanting photographs. Their teacher organised them for some photos with us also. Quite incredible the reaction one little blue-eyed blond-haired two-year-old creates. It was lovely to see and made me very proud to be her granddad.

Oludeniz seemed a nice laid-back place, but Marc and Helena had a walk around the cafe/bar area and they got the impression it was a "Brits Abroad" place. Some rowdy ones were already making their presence known.

A street being blocked by the police on the way back put us on the wrong road and we ended up having a look at Kayakoy. A lovely valley where a deserted Greek village covers the hillside. I stopped to check with some ladies if we were on the road to Fethiye from the valley. One lady spotted Lily in the back of the van and they both came to look at her. Centre of attraction again. On arrival back at the villa, Marc popped out for a Turkish takeaway for us all. Nice end to the day. A beer also and a laid-back chat.

Sunday 13th May 2012 - Gocek

Walked into the market. Nice to stroll and buy one or two bits and pieces. Popped into a cafe later for apple tea and ice cream. Got bracelets for Charlie and a belly dancing dress for Lily's dressing up box. Barbecued chicken for dinner. It's thundering again at the moment, seems like rain coming on.

Walked into town to pick out a bar or cafe to watch football. Premiereship decider day today. Found a cafe with Man U and City games on TV. City ended up snatching it in injury time. Football, crazy game, that's why we love it. My team, Wigan, won to finish the season safe and have another season in the Premiereship. It's called punching above your weight.

All the ladies came down to join us for a meal around 7 pm. A good night, good food and good company. Walked around town and did a little shopping later. Shops were open until midnight. Left Marc and Helena to have a late drink, while we walked home with Lily. She was tired but good as gold, as we sang songs with her. She crashed out when we got back. Marc and Helena had caught us up by the time we had walked back.

A late drink and all off to bed.

Monday 14th May 2012 - Gocek

Pauline is going home today. All packed. Last dip in the pool with Lily. Photographs and then taxi to take her to the airport. Partings are always sad, this one no different. We will miss her a lot. Lots of lovely memories have been made in the last few weeks and we hope she will help create many more on our future trips, which she will be invited on. That is after getting Bob's permission.

Patricia did some washing to catch up and I downloaded some camera files to the laptop. Just waiting for Marc and Lily returning from shops with bread for dinner.

Short walks in afternoon, just in the woods behind the villa. Some beehives on the side of the road; only one hive seemed occupied. Sat and played with Lily, who was counting pebbles with me - we got to 98. She really is a very bright little girl.

Thunder rumbling again, as it seems to be most days at the moment. There is probably a local microclimate around the area, enclosed by mountains and the sea. A lot more humid than other places we have been so far. Hillary, the villa owner, was doing some painting of the gates when she popped in to tell Lily there was a tortoise outside. We all popped out for a look and fed it some lettuce, which it gladly devoured. It eventually disappeared into a storm water drain under the road. We have seen several on our travels.

Had a barbecue later and a long chat to wind the night down. Lily asleep and all quiet, the pool lights on, just the sound of the pool pump and water bubbling. Lovely night. Pauline had sent a text to say she was safely back with Bob.

Tuesday 15th May 2012 - Gocek

Up 7 am. Breakfast and a leisurely read. Lily is at the moment doing peeping with Patricia. Walked into town with Patricia and Lily. Went down dirt track behind the villa, which leads down to the street we usually walk down. Met Marc and Helena and had dinner with them in West Bar. I had English breakfast, just to try it; not had one for around six weeks.

Walked back later. Weather heavy and overcast, threatening rain again. Helena and Marc went in pool with Lily, got some photos. Walked back into town later. Had a meal in West Bar. Nice way to spend the evening. Lily was good as gold, sat at my side.

Walked back with Patricia and Lily later. Marc and Helena stayed for a drink. Walked back singing again. Patricia got Lily to sleep when we got back.

Marc and Helena soon returned. Ended the night with Marc, just having a chat and playing music and having a beer. Mainly Elvis on his iPad. I fancied listening to 'Memories' by Elvis. It wasn't on the iPad or my Galaxy, so Marc pulled it up off the internet on his telephone. I then played a couple of songs from my Galaxy: 'Rio Bravo' by Dean Martin, 'Sandy' by Bruce Springsteen. Marc and myself have an eclectic choice in music. Very diverse. A lovely way to end our last night in Gocek. Had a brief read in bed. Patricia was asleep.

Wednesday 16th May 2012 - Gocek

Raining again and grey; what happened to the sun we have had for weeks?

Day for sorting and getting ready for the road again. Marc, Helena and Lily fly home tonight. We have another five weeks before England. We will now have to adjust to being on our own again. We will probably be a little low key for a while, missing everyone. Low key day all around really. Helena tried some last minute tan topping up, but again it has been overcast most of the day.

Marc popped into town for a takeaway for tea. I spent some time sorting van and putting the bikes back in the garage. Slowly trying to get back into two-of-us mode.

The taxi came at 7.30 pm, to pick up Marc, Helena and Lily and take them to Dalaman airport. Sad to see them go, it's been lovely to spend a week with them. The longest time we have spent with Marc since he left home and bought his own house.

A very low key night when they had gone. Spent a little more time on the van to keep ourselves busy. Hillary came for a chat, she wouldn't be here in the morning. Had a couple of beers, played some music, Tricia reading a paper that Marc had picked up. All very quiet, then off to bed. Our family week ended.

Week Eight

Thursday 17th May 2012 - Gocek

Alarm 7 am, breakfast and then final finish in villa. The cleaner came just before we left. She had brought her little boy with her and I got him some toys from the cellar. A last look around, a quick quiet video of a place where some nice memories were made. I had written a little piece for Hillary's guest book, so we left and headed away.

Popped into Kipa and then out of town. Headed down D400 towards Xanthos. Stopped for diesel and parked a few miles down the road near a small Mosque for dinner. My co-ordinates for Xanthos were way out. We tried the road for Letoon, but I abandoned it after running into one of Turkey's road building projects.

Got to Xanthos: 5 TL entry. Spent some time wandering around. No tourists at all. One of the locals wanted to act as a guide; he had just taken an American couple around. Sorry, we were not interested. I had already researched all my places to visit. I asked him some questions about Alexander's visit here, though he didn't seem to know much about that. To be fair, Xanthos has a long history; Alexander was a brief part of it.

Looked out over the river around the site and tried to imagine Alexander's army camped there at the bottom of the cliff and just across the river. Difficult when all you can see is polytunnels everywhere. Still, it was another Alexander site ticked off. Most of the site is now Roman.

Called into Patara. The road was barred with a security gate so we came back out, as it was getting late. Not enough time and we couldn't overnight, the security said.

Headed on the beautiful coast road to Kas and got onto the harbour. It was a little tight at first, quite a few cars coming and going. One part of the harbour was cordoned off with a steel barrier; there was lots of space behind it. I noticed that this barrier was not locked at all, it just lifted up. Luckily one of the locals lifted it up and left it, so we chanced it and drove in; lots of space and didn't have any problems at all. We parked just parallel with the sea wall under one of the lights. We also had the company of a large DIY motorhome, quite enormous. It looked like it had been a delivery lorry. They parked in front of the harbourmaster's office. There are many diving schools working off ships parked in the harbour.

We ate chicken, chips and curry for tea. Had a little walk around the small touristy area later. Quite nice little narrow streets in one area, selling all the usual nick-nacks for tourists. Got back to the van and off to bed. Patricia had an upset stomach. The town was still throbbing to English disco music.

Friday 18th May 2012 - Kas

N 36 11.862 E 029 38.412

5 am, Mr Muezzin was doing his thing. Alarm on for 7 am but the rain was hammering down, so it was not needed. Had breakfast, popped a pack of cigs into the harbour master's office, then off to Myra. Charlie's birthday today, sent a text to her.

Headed out on the D400. There is some beautiful scenery on the coast road to Demre. Turqoise sea rippling and dashing against the headlands of this quite historic coast. Mountains of green soaring up, we got to 600 metres on one road.

Pulled into the Myra and parked at a little cafe right opposite the site entrance, 5 TL for parking. The site had a 15 TL entry fee. Lycean rock tombs, quite interesting and still being excavated.

Coach loads of tourists being shipped in. The site was filled with tourists and, for some reason, lots of them wanted to drape themselves over stones and pose for pictures. There seemed to be a lot of Russians doing it. Maybe it's a Russian thing. I was more interested in the strata of the soil that had buried the site. It is obviously good for tomatoes, polytunnel jungle all around. The site is worth visiting, just ignore the flip-flops and short skirts all around coming off the coaches.

On through Finike and Kumluca. There are so many sites to visit. We decided on Olympos next but the usual Turkish road building did us again. We missed the sign on the road we were looking for.

Phaselis next. Called in, no overnight camping. It being 5 pm, we went on to a beach site a couple of km down the road, Camyuva. What Patricia calls a 'ship them in, booze them up and ship them out' sort of place. We found some hard standing right on the beach, perfect for us. Very windy but we are in for the night, another van here with us.

Had tea and got to bed early. The plan was early bed, early rise. What could be simpler?

Saturday 19th May 2012 - Camyuva near Phaselis

N 36 33.616 E 30 34.342

Well, the plan didn't work. First we had loud music from a party near the beach. Then the rain started, which finished the music. But no respite, the thunder and lightning banged away until after 4 am. Not to miss out on the party, Mr Muezzin cracked off at 5 am. Alarm went off at 6 am, which I knocked off thinking we'd have another hour. Oh no, the rain started again. Give up and make a brew. We are just saying, we seem to have had lots of broken nights on this trip. Mr Muezzin doesn't help at all. Can't quite understand why, in this modern age, it still takes place.

Headed off for Phaselis. Parked in north bay. There are three bays at Phaselis, all near each other, with a lake that has been there thousands of years, just behind the beach. There were problems with malaria from this lake, back in history. The southeast bay gets all the boats bringing the tourists in for picnics and drinking expeditions. The place is packed around that side, while we have just a few people strolling round on this side.

We met a guy from Sweden, Matt Ericson. He is a tree grower and expert on trees and forests. He was speaking at a conference up in Izmir and had taken some time to travel down this way. We had a nice long discussion with him while in the theatre area. On the way out we met a young lady called Angela from Rawtenstall in Lancashire, who was on holiday and was flying back tonight.

Phaselis is a beautiful place to visit, so atmospheric and historic. As part of my Alexander route, it was a place he stayed for a winter and was crowned with a golden crown by the locals.

We also experienced its changeable weather. We had just had dinner and filmed the bay, absolutely tranquil. Five minutes later a storm rolled in, thunder, lightning, rain, hailstone the size of peas. Filmed that also. What a transformation.

Off up the D400 past Kemer, heading towards Antalya, which was quite busy with cars everywhere. Also kamikaze drivers in abundance. Unfortunately, they extracted two expletives that I hadn't used in many years. Not since my days in Industry. Apologies to Patricia!

Past Serik, Aspendos, Manavgat. Turned onto the D695 heading to Seydisehir. Climbing and climbing ever upwards, topping off at 1830 metres, all the while driving through lashing rain and mist in the mountains. Still snow at the side of the roads on parts of the route. After Seydisehir we headed onto the D696 towards Konya. Quite a good road.

We pulled into a small village called Erenkaya, looking for somewhere for the night. It became obvious immediately we pulled into the village that we would not be staying the night. All the children gathered around the van and were enthralled by our presence. I got out to talk and ask where we could park, but it was chaos. I walked up into the little square in the centre and was the centre of attention, all the locals coming out of their doors and windows to take a look. So, sensibly, I headed back to the van and we slowly extracted ourselves from the crowd of children. It was a pity that we were really tired. If it had been earlier in the day, we could have enjoyed it with the children, but we were shattered, hungry and only ready for food and sleep.

We had seen a petrol station a few miles back, so we decided to try that for the night. It turned out to be a winner. The owner had a restaurant at the side of the station. He directed us in to park and then told us we could get a meal. So, being tired, we decided to try his hospitality and save cooking ourselves. The food was good and the restaurant service all clean and excellent. Grilled chicken and chips with salad. Three cups of tea. Patricia had fruit tea and bottled water. The Champions League football was on the TV later, but I was ready for some sleep after the meal. It was 9.15 pm when we left the restaurant. The weather was quite cool, being up on the plain in the mountains at 5,068 feet.

We'd driven 200 miles, topped off at 6,039 feet before arriving here. Some bad weather, but not a bad run really.

Sunday 20th May 2012 - Erenkaya near Konya

N 37 45.048 E 32 06.102 altitude 5,068 feet

Clear sky but really cold on waking. Had breakfast and picked up some water. Interestingly, the height that we were at caused a little thing. As I was screwing the top off the water bottle, it blew off, due to the difference in pressure from sea level to 5,068 feet. No damage done, but a lesson learned for the future. We slackened all the bottles and pop bottles, to let off pressure.

The restaurant was open and they had customers at 8.30 am. Not a lot to see around the van, the place is quite remote, so we got on our way. Headed for Konya, arriving there early so not very busy, and we got on the D300 road to Aksaray with no problem. We called in for some diesel on the way out of Aksaray and the young guy asked us to sit down and have some tea with him, so we did. He runs the station and shop alone, so was probably glad of the company. We noticed there were not many filling stations around the area. The local flies were very friendly, lots of them; he didn't seem to notice them at all.

After we filled up we set off across to Aksaray. This area is totally flat and quite monotonous and is quite unusual geographically. It looks like a lake-bed or a silted up river course. This is typical Anatolian upland plain, I believe. There is quite a lot of farming but also a lot of scrubland. I think the flat land was created by Tuz Golu, a local lake, off to our north.

To break the monotony we called in at Sultanhani to see the Han or Caravanserai there. Apparently the biggest in Anatolia. Worth a stop on the way. Quite a large square in front of it for parking. Our first Silk Route Caravanserai. We had a few children begging here, which is disturbing, but we don't encourage it by giving money. We carry sweets for these times, which isn't the answer really.

We had a little comical interlude while stopped here. Three Turkish guys came walking across the square towards us and one stopped and asked where we came from. 'Wigan, England', I replied. 'Do you know Ashton in Makerfield?' he asked. Apparently, he had worked there in a kebab house for some time and spoke quite good English. His name was Jelal. Quite amazing that he had worked there and we met him miles from anywhere.

The view on the road into Aksaray is dominated on the right by Mount Hasan, which you can see on the skyline for miles. Heading on through Aksaray we decided to head straight for Goreme, popping into Uchisar on the way.

Goreme was quite busy but lots of coaches had probably left by the time we arrived. Looked at Camp Aquapark (25 TL for the night), which looked deserted and run down so we gave it a miss. On the way into Goreme we looked at the view from above the village, so we decided to go back up there. A young man allowed us to park near his shop but warned about alcohol parties, which he was right about.

While having tea, a Turkish family pulled up to look at the view and their little boy was intrigued by the van. We had the door open, so we invited him in. His dad insisted that he took his shoes off and he climbed in for a look. His dad also popped in for a quick look. Lovely people, just out for a Sunday evening drive.

We moved later to another spot just down the road. Goreme is really worth seeing, even if it is touristy, but we can't hold back the world. We have to accept what we see.

Monday 21st May 2012 Goreme, Cappadocia

N 38 38.525 E 34 49.153

A decent night's sleep at last. Awake around 6 am with quite a lot of passing traffic. We camped on the viewpoint on the road into Goreme. Superb view over the village. Had breakfast and moved the van down into the village.

We had a good walk around for a while. Walked along the path that leads to Uchisar and Pigeon Valley; quiet walk, not many people around. Picked up some bread and water then had dinner, parked near a balloon take-off and landing place. Visited a small church on the road to Urgup, just past the Open Air Museum. Some really low passages in it, so Patricia gave them a miss. I should have done, I think, it didn't do my back any good at all. Had tea with the owner and bought a book off him. Church entry 4 TL each, book 15 TL. We chatted with him for a while. He has taken over the business from his father.

Both feeling a little low key in the afternoon, when weather was cloudy, thundering and heavy. It finally started to rain around 5.30 pm. We decided to miss the Open Air Museum, as it had just started to rain, so back to the van for a brew. We walked around some cave houses on the way back, some being used for horse food and straw storage.

There are lots of villages with troglodyte houses and caves around, all very similar. We decided after visiting the small church that we would call in to see Uchisar and call this our turning point in the journey. I had known that this was the turnaround point when planning the trip and decided not to change it. You can spend days and days around Cappadocia but we had the flavour, and also had green card deadlines to meet. So tomorrow we start heading west.

Had chicken, rice and curry sauce for tea, followed by ice cream. Again we were parked overlooking the village, and again we had the alcohol drinkers turning up, so we moved along the road to a quieter spot we had moved to last night. Had a game of cards, Patricia won. What's new?

Tuesday 22nd May 2012 Goreme, Cappadocia

N 38 38.525 E 34 49.153

Awakened by the sound of hot air balloons being inflated, across the road from where we are parked. Lots of them on early morning flights. Not for us, we have done it in the UK where we felt safety standards were good. I'm sorry but here I feel that if their hot air balloon driving is like their car driving, then I don't want any of it. Enough said!

Just trimmed Patricia's hair at the front.

Had a ride to Uchisar, not far from Goreme. There was a small market on when we arrived, so we bought a load of fruit and vegetables - mushrooms, potatoes, onions, strawberries, apples, nectarines, bananas, red peppers and green peppers - all for 20 TL. We loaded them in the van, then had a walk up to the castle, which is again a large rock riddled with tunnels and caves. Had a look outside but didn't bother going in. Had a walk around the back, where we got some lovely photographs. We also bought one or two little souvenirs: three small traditional dolls for the grandchildren and a small blue bowl for Nicky, to suit his kitchen colour. On our way back through the market I bought a Samovar for making tea and a small necklace for Charlie. Also some bread from a shop.

Leaving Uchisar we had a drive to Ortahisar, a small village, again not far. We parked up to have some dinner near a small horse-watering trough. The locals pop in to water their horses and donkeys. A coach park up the hill looked like the main tourist visiting place. We looked but left to go back down and park up for dinner.

There was a donkey tied up on a small patch of grass, so I cut up an apple and fed him. A small stream running close by was full of tadpoles. Again the day was hot and dusty. This was now our last stopping place before going home. I climbed into the driving seat after dinner and said 'OK, let's go home'. A long way to go, but it was a significant point and rather poignant. We'd had a fabulous trip and obviously still a lot to see, but it was the turning point for heading back west.

Headed back through Aksaray going towards Konya. We called into Sultanhani, where we had stopped on the way out. Patricia had remembered a small camping place that she'd seen on a poster, so we thought we would try it for the night.

Arrived Sultanhani at 6.30 pm. There were three Dutch four-wheeled overland vehicles and one German van. All turned to look at us when we arrived, but not one looked, nodded a head or spoke when I got out of the van. It looks like we have met the Eurozone antisocial club. Not one acknowledgement at all.

We got hooked up and had chicken, chips and salad. Beer for me and a glass of wine for Patricia. Arriving on site the owner wanted 20 TL, saying it was normally 25 TL. I got it for 15 TL; he said 'don't tell the others, please'. I hope he did charge them 25 TL. I've never understood humans who don't want to communicate.

Wednesday 23rd May 2012 - Sultanhani

N 38 14.957 E 33 33.441

Alarm on for 7 am. Mr Muezzin beat it at 5 am, and he was very close. Still no communication at all from our overland people. We had a chat with the owner and paid him. He has a few little businesses, one doing carpets.

In the road there were lots of carpets laid covering the road. Apparently they are covering jeans to be weathered that way, which saves them being stone washed in a factory. Lots of nomads camping on the side of the road as we passed.

Off on the D300 to Konya and beyond. Picked up the D330 to Beysehir and then followed the D695 along the lake (Beysehir Golu) towards Sarki Karaagac, Bagkonak, Mahmutlar, Egirdir, passing Egirdir Golu, making our way towards Isparta, then Aglasun where Sagalassos is to be seen. Some absolutely stunning scenery along the lakes as we passed.

We stopped at a petrol station on the way to fill with diesel; the guy working there was admiring the van and said that he would like one. Some Turkish truck drivers also came around to have a look and a laugh with me. I was extra careful pulling off because we had seen a small kitten rambling around and I didn't see where it went. I didn't want to flatten it, that would have upset someone, no doubt.

We went up to the Sagalassos site to assess for staying overnight. It was after 7 pm. It is right up the mountain above the village of Aglasun, at around 5,000 ft. Beautiful views down the valley, but we decided it was a little too remote and went back down to the village. Eventually we parked near the school, in a little road off the main road from the village to Burdur. Stewed steak, potatoes and peas for tea. Strawberries and cream for Patricia. A read for a while, wash up and then to bed. 250 miles today.

Week Nine

Thursday 24th May 2012 - Aglasun near Sagalassos

N 37 38.784 E 30 31.674

Awake with alarm at 7 am. Quiet night, once the village had finished work. Decided to have a cup of tea, then drive up to the site of Sagalassos for breakfast: 7 km up the mountain.

One man on the ticket office when we arrived. Had breakfast, then got tickets, 5 TL each. Well worth the money. The site is not overrun with visitors; it may survive that exploitation by being so remote. Difficult to explain an archeological site without pictures and information. It is impressive to say the least. The views down the valley impressive also. One or two people arriving as we were leaving. We actually had the site all to ourselves.

Of all the sites we had visited, it was probably the most impressive in its situation. Trying to imagine Alexander attacking the city up the mountain, it must have been an incredible campaign. One of the mounds at the city is still called Alexander's Hill.

We had some dinner near the site gates and then on to Pamukkale. The route was Aglasun to Taskapi to pick up the D650 around Burdur, D625 to Dinar, D330 to Yesilova (past Saida Golu), Serinhisar, then the D585 (E87) to Denizli. Straight through Denizli to Pamukkale, which was quite well signed all the way. Rain had arrived again, what's new?

We stopped for a brew in Karahoyuk and a man came across from the cafe, inviting us in for Cay. We didn't really have time so unfortunately we had to refuse. A lovely gesture, we were parked just across from them and were obviously the centre of attention. A few small engineering shops just near us.

Touts were our first contact with Pamukkale: no thanks. We went to the Southern Gate, 6.30 pm by then, and a little late for visiting, although the man says it is open 24 hrs. No camping in the car park, so down to the village.

Baydil Restaurant and Camping straight across the road from the travertines: 30 TL, but don't tell the Germans, they have paid 40 TL. Who do you believe at times? We agreed to 30 TL because it was so convenient.

Omelette for tea, had a beer and a game of cards. Patricia won! Also prepared an update for emailing tomorrow.

Friday 25th May 2012 - Pamukkale

N 37 55.074 E 29 07.282

Awake 6.30 am. Has Mr Muezzin had a lie in, I didn't hear him this morning? Had breakfast and a lazy morning. Showers etc. Utilised the camp WiFi for email. Problems logging in but the camp owner called a young guy, who sorted the problem. Popped an update out to our mailing list. Also a text to Marc and Nicky for Skype at 5.30 pm English time. Patricia did a little knitting for a while. Had dinner and then set off to explore.

Walked down the road to look for a taxi, but none around. A guy offered to run us up to the top gate, so we took up his offer. He dropped us off at the coach park at the top. I think it is the southern gate. Paid him 20 TL. A few shops etc as you make your way in. 20 TL each to enter. We bought a book for 5 TL. Hierapolis is the ancient city at the top of the travertines. The most impressive area is the necropolis, or cemetery. It really is a superb example of an ancient cemetery, very moving. Some of the tombs have survived thousands of years. Again, preservation needs to be done, maybe a cover to keep off the weather, or it will be lost eventually. Hierapolis itself does not impress me much.

The place itself has been turned into a tourist trap. The pool at the top, dating from Roman times, is very touristy with flip-flops, bathing suits, music playing etc. Not our scene. We walked up to the theatre, some reconstruction going on. Two women from England were stood near us, moaning about the weather.

Eventually had a walk back to the travertines, which are now a water management system. Take off your shoes to walk down. Patricia found the deposition quite rough in some places, so she put some socks on. Quite intriguing to see the deposition of calcium. The water at the top is warm, but cools off as you get lower down the pools. Again we were practically alone on the travertines. It was around 6.30 pm when we got off at the small path at the bottom.

We wanted to make it back for 7.30 pm to set up Skype and contact home. We had sent texts for family to be on line - Nicky, Marc, Helena and Lily. Had a chat with them all. Chilli chicken and rice for tea later.

A good day in all. We were left with the same conclusion we had read from Don Madge on his travels: it didn't grab him and, no, it didn't grab us. Worth a visit, I suppose, but I can't see us making an effort to call back any time.

Saturday 26th May 2012 - Pamukkale

N 37 55.074 E 20 07.282

Alarm on for 6.30 am. Mr Muezzin at 5 am. Breakfast and then sort van for leaving. Heading to Sardis, we will decide on looking at the site when we arrive. Had a chat with an American guy called Todd, who was driving an old Hymer registered in Holland. I love chatting with people we meet, it's all part of the flavour of the journey. I can usually spend ages doing that but, with Todd, I wanted to get away quickly. He was quite loud and brash. He didn't talk with me, he talked above me. His face pointed to the sky and at a volume I can only describe as shouting. Rather boastful too. Enough of that.

Sorted water and toilet, paid the bill. Had a quick look at the big pool under construction, which they were just tiling. The site owner says it will utilise the thermal spring water from across the road. Tried to get some cash at the 'hole in the wall' but it rejected Patricia's card, so we thought we would try my card later in the day.

Left Pamukkale through Akkoy, Saraykoy on D320, D585 through Sarigol, Alasehir, D300 through Salihli, where we called at Kipa for a few supplies. We tried my card for cash, no go, but Patricia's OK this time.

We then pulled off the main road at Sart (Sardis) to see if we wanted to look at the site. We were surrounded by children, all asking questions, and also a couple of adults who wanted to poke their heads in the van and have a look. The children are fun, all with smiling faces and full of questions in their basic English.

The site was 8 TL to visit, which also covered the Temple of Artemis. We decided not to bother this time, so headed onwards. Bought some cherries and apricots from a roadside seller.

Turgutlu, D250 Manisa, Menemen, where we amazingly saw Denis at the side of the road with his wife, both waving at us. Denis is the guy from Yeni Foca who tried to overcharge us for our stay at his cafe. He looked pleased to see us! I couldn't reciprocate, but I was surprised to see him again.

At the turn-off D550 to Foca we decided to stop for the night and pulled into a petrol station, where the owner came out to meet us and guided us to our parking place. We had a snack to save cooking, as it was around 8 pm. Off to bed soon after, another few miles under the wheels in the journey home.

Sunday 27 May 2012 - Near Helvaci, turn-off for Foca

N 38 40.980 E 27 00.654

Marc's birthday today. Good night's sleep despite road traffic noise. Had breakfast, then washed and sterilised all the fruit and vegetables we had bought yesterday.

D550 all the way to Canakkale. Called in at Dikili and parked near the beach for some dinner. It seemed very much oriented to beach holidays although the beach, which had dark sand, wasn't very appealing, with the usual plastic bottles, cigarette packets etc.

We had a little walk around looking at the properties near our parking spot. All looked to be holiday apartments, built at low level, which look a lot better than those with 5 or 6 storeys. Some nice small ones too.

Just pulling out of Dikili when our Marc called on the telephone. We had sent a text earlier. He was sorting out a barbecue that he was organising for his birthday. Lily chatted too. Good to hear them.

Heading on, we stopped around 4 pm for some cherries and a coffee, this time on the coast just before Kucukkuyu. Watching some children playing in the sea below us, also one rather large man snorkelling in the shallows. All very hot and sultry.

We hit the ubiquitous Turkish road building with redirecting of traffic. This can be quite hairy at times, to find big trucks coming head on at you because they want the tarmac and not the sand and chippings surface.

Arriving at Canakkale we followed the first sign for ferries, carrying us straight past Canakkale, which wasn't very helpful. Luckily we found a gap in the dual carriageway centre and a policeman indicated we could turn around using it. Head for the centre if you want the ferry, we soon found that out. No problem when we headed for the centre, with signs helping you, that's good. We caught the 7 pm ferry, 41 TL. The ferry was really quiet this time, not many vehicles on it. A little different from our crossing when coming in April, inundated with children.

Patricia walked off the ferry to get some photos of me driving off the ferry. I picked her up just outside the terminal gate. We headed straight for Kabatepe harbour where we had stayed previously. The usual few fishermen and the usual barking dogs. I counted 7 dogs. Who owns them?

Patricia cooked steak, chips, peas and pepper sauce, lovely. Had a small beer and watched the night come down, the fishermen eventually calling it a day. The red and green harbour beacons winking on and off to guide the boats safely back in. One or two boats coming in under cover of darkness and lit up looked quite picturesque.

Monday 28th May 2012 - Kabatepe harbour

N 40 12.027 E 26 16.235

Well, we thought we had come back to the sun after having quite a lot of rain. Wrong: thunder and lightning and hammering rain during the night. Up at 8 am, ferry for Gokceada pulling in as we had the first brew of the day. Rain has stopped but still grey and overcast.

We decided to have a rest day today. The green card insurance runs out tomorrow, so we want to be in Greece by then. It is about 90 miles to the border so we will do it tomorrow. Lazy morning, reading and watching the comings and goings in the harbour. There are a couple of boats which seem to be deserted and totally neglected. One of them sank last night, its masts sticking out of the water with tattered sails flapping in the wind.

We decided to check out the Information Centre and Museum, which is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. It now seems to be closed and is only a small shop, so we went to the big new building just up the road to see if it had been moved to there. All the entries were taped up and a couple of young people parading around with security cards around their necks. Not sure what their job is, but one of them told us it was closed. A simple sign would have done the job.

Went down to Anzac Cove to check what it was like without all the temporary seating for Anzac Day, which was there when we came weeks ago. It had all been removed. We parked up for a while to watch the antics of Australian tourists, or visitors (can't really find the right word to describe them). There doesn't seem to be much respect for the place where a lot of their young men went through hell. It's just another photo opportunity for them, get the photo with 'Anzac' on it. We waited for a while and luckily we ended up on our own. It was nice to sit in quiet solitude and contemplation. Only humans could turn such a beautiful and peaceful place into a hellhole of suffering.

We also called in at the Beach Cemetery, a beautiful resting place just out of site of the through road. While parked near there for a brew, an English motor ome pulled in. Derek and Joy from Bristol, out of England since October last year. We had a chat for a while and let them know about the harbour where we had stayed. They parked near us later. I did warn about the dogs.

Tuesday 29th May 2012 - Kabatepe harbour

N 40 12.027 E 26 16.235

Alarm on for 7 am but the dog pack was making all their noise again. We need to leave today as our green card date runs out. Had a chat with Derek and Joy, who mentioned they were heading for Alexandroupolis. We might see them if we call there.

We then sorted the toilet and water. The little old guy was still taking the 1 TL at the toilet entrance. We set off to Eceabat and then the road up to Gelibolu. Stopped at a Kipa supermarket at Gelibolu for bread and a few bits and pieces. Also stopped for some dinner beyond Kesan, where we filled with diesel at 3.62 TL/litre, the best price we had seen today.

It was after this that the fun afternoon started. Fun when you look back in retrospect. We could see the dark clouds and lightning in the distance as we were driving towards them. Then the rain hit us. An absolute downpour, which caused me to pull off the road for a while for safety. As usual, the Turkish drivers displayed their total disregard for any sensible driving and carried on speeding through the rivers which were now flowing across the road. They just disappeared under the water they threw up. Madness, I would say. I waited until the rain seemed to slacken off a little, then carried on. It was still sensible to drive slowly because of all the water on the road.

Approaching Ipsala we could see all the traffic held up. What chaos. The flash floods had created a river across the road. Police had stopped the traffic, or tried to. There were still some lunatics who wanted to weave through all the trucks and cars to get to I don't know where. I had one idiotic Dolmus driver knock the wing mirror forward. He came crawling along a strip of road on my left hand side. Traffic was in two narrow lanes. What happens to those lovely Turkish people you meet when they get behind the steering wheel of a vehicle? A philosophical question for someone to study. Generalisations are not good, but you can't escape the fact that there are a lot of drivers in Turkey who don't seem to have any road sense at all.

We eventually got on the move through all the chaos on the road, washed down rubble and mud. The police did quite a good job, despite the Turkish drivers' intentions of not helping them at all. They wanted a free-for-all.

We finally reached the border, where we again met up with the 'friendly' Turkish border people. We also met a 'friendly' Greek border official, who asked us if we had any passports for beds. That confused us a little, until we ascertained he was asking for Pet Passports. We also met a 'friendly' post office worker, who was just closing the P O door when we arrived looking for some stamps. No way did he want to help us. What do they say about first impressions and last impressions.


Onward to Greece. We got on the motorway to Alexandroupolis, where we booked into the Municipal campsite: a place on the beach for 18 Euros per night, including electric and 1 MB per second WiFi. Derek and Joy arrived later with similar chaos stories. Got Skype up later and chatted with Pauline and Nicky. Good end to a pretty chaotic afternoon.

Wednesday 30th May 2012 - Alexandroupolis

N 40 50.734 E 25 52.292

Alarm 7 am. All I could hear after I knocked it off was the sound of the waves on the shore. We are about 10 metres from the sea. Had toast, eggs and marmalade this morning.

Derek and Joy popped round and we ended up chatting again. They invited us over for a drink later. We had a walk along the beach towards Alexandroupolis. A section of beach was roped off, sun beds and brollies out for the 'grease up and fry' gang. One couple looked like they had just been dipped in oil and laid out to cook.

Unfortunately, the beach deteriorates as you walk along so we walked to the road and headed back for dinner. Coming in at the gates, we got in conversation with Fortis, the Greek guy working in the reception. He spoke quite good English. 38 years he has worked on site, the camp being opened in 1968, he said. He was a wise man, discussing problems of Greece and Turkey. I am no expert on this at all but it seems that the Greeks seem to be more open to reconciliation than the Turks are. A simple example: driving to the border crossing in Turkey there doesn't seem to be any mention at all on road signs of Greece, or the border. It doesn't exist!

I got the table and chairs out and we had a nice relaxing dinner with our toes in the sand. The camp and beach are really quiet at the moment. We are the only van alongside the beach. Maybe 6 other vans on site. We had a lovely lazy dinner and afternoon. Later we got Skype up with Helena and Lily, also Pauline. A couple of pizzas for tea.

We then went to Derek and Joy's van and put the world to rights, covering all sorts of topics. It's lovely to drift along and swap stories, experiences etc. We had music from a local bar drifting in on the evening air. It was after midnight when we left and walked the few yards back to the van. A chill in the air but a lovely moon shining on the sea over Samothrace (Samothraki), the sea flat calm. A lovely night spent with a lovely couple, who are living their dream after their own trials and tribulations.

Week Ten

Thursday 31st May 2012 - Alexandroupolis

N 40 50.734 E 25 51.292

Alarm on for 7 am. Sea again flat calm, someone out swimming already. Samothrace just peeping through the mist, sun in the sky, a lovely start to the morning. Had breakfast and sorted out the usual: toilet, grey water and drinking water. Said our goodbye to Derek and Joy, whose company we had really enjoyed. Also had a quick look at Derek's gas tanks, similar to Gaslow but at a better cost. I will check on these at home. They are staying for a few more days before leaving.

We decided to drive down the coast along the old roads, through Nea Hili. Called at Makri for cheese and bread and also bought a cheese roll, similar pastry to a croissant, very nice too. We then carried along a road which hugged the coast but didn't seem to show on the map. A lovely little road along the seashore, with what seemed like holiday houses on our right. We eventually hit a dirt road, where I decided to turn back.

We parked up for some dinner, just down the road from an archeological dig (Ancient Zoni). One feature I could see was amphorae all in line, which seemed to be in a potter's shop that had been excavated. We had to squeeze past an army transporter on this road; not sure why they were down there. Watching skylarks hovering and doing their thing, they seemed to be slightly different from English ones, but I'm no bird expert! This area was really beautiful, poppies growing, flowers of all colours, reds, blues, yellows, green fields, olive trees, warm breeze blowing in. 'Halcyon days' comes to mind.

This was a lovely valley, but it seemed the only way out was going up to the motorway.

We dropped off the motorway for Lake Vistonida and Fanari. I thought we could have a look at the flamingos and herons. What a disappointment, all we saw was 6 swans. I joked that they may have flown out from Wigan Park to see us. We also didn't see the information centre, which we looked for. This pulled us past the Fanari turn-off and we decided not to turn back as it had started to rain. Luckily the rain didn't last, but we had passed the lake and Fanari by then. We stopped for a coffee near Koutso, then onto the motorway.

We dropped off the motorway at J 28A to look for an overnight spot. I had a co-ordinate for a possibility to check out. It was right on the sea but I thought it a bit remote, so we carried on the same road until we came to some beach bars and sun beds etc. A nice little spot near them alongside the beach; that will do us for tonight. We had a brew and watched a beach bar being spray painted to tart it up a little. It still looked ramshackle, as we say in Wigan. This beach bar had, I estimated, 90 sun beds all laid out in a 10 x 9 square. Not my idea of a holiday, in fact my worst nightmare. Each to their own, I suppose.

We had bacon, potatoes and peas, followed by ice cream, for tea. We then had a walk along the road, past the bars we could see in the immediate vicinity. We were surprised to find that we had parked at the start of a major holiday apartment area. Apartment after apartment, running down streets off this coast road, which further along was lined with restaurants, bars and minimarkets. All waiting for the season to start because, although they were lit up and open, they were deserted except for a few drinkers and diners here and there. Popped into a paper shop but they only had Greek and German papers. It must get pretty chaotic in season, which I think starts soon. Thankfully, nice and quiet now. Strolled back and got off to bed early.

Friday 1st June 2012 - Orfani Beach

N 40 45.326 E 23 55.035

A really quiet and peaceful night. As I said yesterday, lots of apartments and bars all waiting for the summer rush. But last night all were sleeping. A beautiful morning with the occasional car passing on the road near us. We had breakfast, then I had a walk around the nearby beach bar set-up. The sun beds were laid out in twos, with a small table and chair between them. Actually in a 10 x 8 rectangle formation. Oh what joy, for a holiday stay on the beach. We had no rush this morning, so had a leisurely start to the day. We set off driving along past the bars etc, after calling at a small market for bread.

On the way out, heading towards J 28 on the motorway, we saw a camping site which looked to be shambolic, an absolute mess: Anatiko Camping. That is why we free-camp when we can.

While driving out we saw signs for Amphipolis, which I had overlooked on the map. Let's pop in and also have some dinner while there. Driving to it, there was a diversion, but a good road soon had us there. We actually ended up at the museum, which is in the village also. It was 2 Euros to go in, but the man I spoke to said the site was open and just up the hill. We had missed a small sign at a right hand turn. So giving the museum a miss, we went up to the site. One man on the gate and no entry fee. A couple did arrive in a hire car and went off with the site man. They seemed to be working in some capacity. We had some dinner first (cheese, tomatoes, crisps) and then explored the site.

We had the site all to ourselves and had a lovely time wandering around the ruins. A warm breeze waving the grass and flowers around. Occasional birdsong. What a lovely way to spend some time. Amphipolis was passed through by Alexander on his march into Asia. The site officially closed at 3 pm but the man was hovering and looking like he wanted to close early, so we finalised a lovely little interlude.

Deciding to take the coast road that heads to Thessaloniki, we then found the Lion of Amphipolis. This was a monument to one of Alexander's admirals, I believe. There is a story that the lion was found by soldiers who were digging trenches in the first world war. It was later excavated and mounted at the junction, which led onto the main bridge across the river in those days. The bridge is now just up the road.

This road runs parallel with the motorway on the map. It passes all the usual beach hotels and camps, but we found it a pleasant drive. It eventually leaves the coast and passes the two lakes, Volvi and Koronia. We had passed this way going out to Turkey.

We stopped for a coffee along the way, where I sampled an apple from a tree at the side of the road: rather dry and spongy.

We decided to drive in to Kavallari at the western end of Lake Koronia to stop for the night. We found a nice little spot near a shop, just around the corner from the lovely looking church (locked) and by a small children's playground, which didn't look overused. The shop owner indicated no problem parking.

It had been warm all day, 100 deg F, so we skipped an evening meal and just snacked. Watched delivery of what looked like four sides of pork, from the boot of a car to the shop I had visited earlier. On looking closer at the name, it was a butcher's shop.

Walking around afterwards, we were pleasantly surprised to find storks nesting on all the telegraph poles. Young ones in the nests were being fed. The stork nests seemed to be a good nesting place for other birds also. The telegraph poles have a platform on the top to help the storks nest. Locals didn't seem to notice them but we were quite intrigued by them, not seeing this in the UK.

As I said earlier, the church was closed, so I just got a photo of the outside. Arriving back at the van we had a read and then off to bed. I read an intriguing article on fellow travellers.

Saturday 2nd June 2012 - Kavallari (near Thessaloniki)

N 40 42.918 E 23 02.700

A peaceful night in a very nice little town. It did look quite nice and well finished, with good properties also, as we walked around last night. Sun shining and a lovely warm day in prospect. Had breakfast watching the locals visiting the shop, which was quite busy. We then visited the pharmacy just up the road to buy some prescription tablets for Patricia, as they were running low. The chemist spoke good English. We couldn't get exactly what she needed but a close substitute, not as strong.

Next off to Lidl for a stock-up, then on our way. The plan was to head for Metsovo. We stopped at a service station for diesel at what seemed a decent price, but they only did cash. We always use a card for diesel, so on we went. Onto the motorway around Thessaloniki. Looking for a place for dinner and also for diesel, we pulled off at J 12 near Kozani. Across the valley were two power stations and an enormous excavation going on.

It wasn't exactly picturesque where we stopped, but there aren't a lot of pull-ins or service stations on the motorway. Big trucks all around us were working on the excavation. There was a road across the flat plain where these trucks were travelling back to back to one of the power stations. I could only conclude it was coal they were running, but the trucks were covered in brown sandy dust and not black as you would expect.

Because of bad road signage we had a few minutes getting back onto the motorway, at one point feeling we were going back to Thessaloniki, but master-navigator Patricia sussed it out. It still felt like a paranormal experience to me and I still felt disoriented even when we were back on the motorway. I still felt like we were going back.

When we got to the Metsovo exit, an instant decision was made to carry on to Igoumenitsa. I had only chosen Metsovo after reading an old article about it and it was a reasonable day's drive. So no big problem, we were sailing along with a good breeze and a full tank and well watered. So Igoumenitsa it was.

We admired the beautiful mountain scenery, which we had missed on our outward run because of the rain and snow we had met. Arriving at Igoumenitsa we headed out to a beach area on the right hand side as you hit town. Finding a few vans already parked along this beach, we thought 'well, why not' and in we went.

Tea of chicken and couscous. Washed up and then had a beer; Patricia had an Ouzo and Coke. Turned the van lights off and watched the quiet night scene by moonlight, looking out towards Corfu. Nearly a full moon, which was bright and clear. Both of us chatting and philosophising on the journey, places, people, thoughts etc. A lovely quiet hour, one or two late swimmers in the sea.

So many memories are created when travelling, you need to log them before they drift away - hence this diary.

Sunday 3rd June 2012 - Igoumenitsa (Nea Selevkia)

N 39 30.836 E 20 12.966

No alarm this morning; actually 8.40 am when Patricia decided to make a move. We had been listening the sounds of occasional passing cars, a whizz-bang announcing its presence close by, voices on the beach from the early sun worshippers. Not really a bad start to the day. Sun shining, blue sea, Minoan Line ferry just sailed in with its morning arrivals. Breakfast of cornflakes, nectarine and apricot. Well, quite an idyllic day. Nothing hectic, just sitting, watching, reading, eating, drinking.

We're not beach people really, but the van is on the beach, it is sunny and we have nothing planned. So the day went. I found that the beach shower was hot, so I had a shower on the beach. Patricia washed her hair. One of our folding chairs demonstrated basic design faults and broke. No harm done to us, but I wonder how many people must get hurt when that happens.

Lots of people doing the same, excellent day. 7.25 pm now and the sun is still strong, but sinking low. People slowly drifting from the beach. Patricia did pork with pasta and salad for tea, followed by fruit cocktail and ice cream. Got washed up and then sat with a beer, Patricia an Ouzo and Coke, and watched the full moon rising and the night descending. Ferries coming and going, all lit up like moving castles of light. The lights of Corfu winking in the distance.

What a lovely day, nothing done really, nothing achieved, a total relax day. Sat later, it became one of those days you don't want to end.

Note: A text came in from our Marc at 1.25 am our time, 11.25 pm in England 'God save the Queen. Happy Jubilee. All well here.'

Monday 4th June 2012 - Igoumenitsa

N 39 30.836 E 20 12.966

Awake 7.20 am. A quiet and peaceful night. Had breakfast and watched a large red truck unit park near us. They had come to the beach in it. It turned out to be a German one.

After breakfast I had a walk around to look for a garbage bin and a toilet. I found one squat toilet, totally blocked with excrement and paper. So walking the other way, I tried some toilets which were locked. On my way back I noticed a young lady unlocking the ladies WC, so I asked if she could open the gents also. The toilets were for the beach bar across the road and were not suitable for emptying our chemical toilet. They had large paper bins for toilet paper disposal. I did find garbage bins.

So on this beach, which has had thousands of people over the last couple of days, I found four garbage bins for a beach bar and two toilets. A simple explanation of why the beach is now strewn with bags of rubbish, left for someone to dispose of.

I needed to find somewhere I could do a waste burial. Luckily I found a suitable area on a road away from the beach and did the necessary. I carry a small tool that converts to a pick or shovel. A useful tool!

We went into Igoumenitsa to look for some bread and check the entry for the port. It seems the shops were shut, also the post office. I concluded that it must be a holiday. There were lots more people on the beach also, which seemed to indicate that it was a holiday. So we headed back to our little spot on the beach and had some dinner. We had a Greek family on the beach in front of us. Gazebo assembled, the main occupation of one of the ladies seemed to be shouting 'Alexandria' at the little girl with her, presumably her daughter. Why so loud?

Patricia was having a read, while I went into the van and ran through some songs on my guitar. I had to close the side windows because there were three Greek ladies having a very loud conversation, sat in chairs in the shade of the van. They do talk rather loud. I was just on my third song when I heard a loud 'Hello, that van looks familiar'. It was Derek and Joy, who we had left in Alexandroupolis. I never expected to see them again, so it was a pleasant surprise. They had been to book a ferry to Venice and had a night to spend, so had been directed to this beach by the ferry office.

We had a short chat and I checked out Lidl on the Sat Nav for them. Again they found it closed and came back to join us on the beach. After tea we sat out and chatted for a while before we decided to get into our van to escape a few mozzies flying around. They are particularly partial to Patricia and Joy, it seems. We didn't stay up late, as Derek and Joy were on the early ferry. They had been lucky and had booked a ferry for Tuesday morning, so we again said our farewells and know that we probably will not see them again.

Tuesday 5th June 2012 - Igoumenitsa

N 39 30.836 E 20 12.966

Well, we arrived in Greece in the rain and it looks like we may be leaving Greece in the rain. Awake early with the rain, but didn't hear Derek and Joy leave. It looks an absolutely miserable day, grey skies and pouring with rain, thunder and lightning.

We decided to drive out to Lidl for some bread and snacks etc. Just then the heavens really opened. Absolutely lashing down and strong wind. We came across a tree blown down across the road; fortunately we could get around it. I decided to sit it out until it quietened down. Thinking it had, we set off for Lidl. Mistake - we ran into floods and lunatic drivers on the road out to Lidl. We pulled over, turned around and called at another small market we had seen on the way out. Got bread, had dinner and let things quieten down.

We decided to head down to the port and check in. On the way we checked out the post office (closed). Popped into Carrefour, then carried on down to check in. Simple and quick at the port offices, where we parked up in the port terminal car park. We got the card keys for the cabin.

On the way back to the van we walked past a GB-registered van. I jokingly asked them the way back to England. We then ended up spending the afternoon with Roy and Alyson from Blackpool. Alyson supplied us with a brew and we killed a couple of hours, Roy telling us one story of his purchase, removal and installation of an 18 ft diameter satellite dish.

Immediately on meeting Alyson, I was sure I had met her previously, but it seems that I haven't. A nice few hours spent with a lovely relaxed couple. We eventually left them around 6 pm to sort out some food. They were scheduled to sail at 11.30 pm, we were out at 11.59 pm. Why 11.59 pm, I ask, and not 12 midnight?

Well, Patricia over the years has been bitten by bugs wherever we go. I, on the other hand, can't remember ever being bitten much but today all that changed. On returning to the van I discovered that some bug and all its family had been clog dancing around my legs and rear area. Amazingly I never felt anything and luckily I'm not itching. But what a wakeup call! I now must be attractive to bugs. I actually think I picked them up near the beach after the early morning rain. They were obviously looking for somewhere warm and dry. They certainly found it.

After a snack we went into the port itself. No checks, just waved us straight through. We were first at gate 12, from where we whiled away the time until we finally boarded the ferry about 2 am. So much for 11.59 pm!

We spent some time with a couple who lived near Antioch. They were in a German-registered car but I think they were Turkish, though he spoke mostly in German. No common language but we communicated, good fun.

The ferry was obviously running late. Anyway, when it did arrive we were shuttled on pretty quickly, no problem at all. Hooked up the electric and up to the cabin. Cracked a bottle of beer and relaxed before getting down to sleep.

Wednesday 6th June 2012 - On board Minoan Lines Ferry

Slept well, the ship not being buffeted as it was on the way out. Had cheese rolls for breakfast with a glass of Coke. We will go for a coffee later.

The crew had an abandon-ship drill. We were not quite sure if we should have been in it. The announcements are done in English (well, what may pass for English) but when they are announced on a Colin Crowther microphone it doesn't make for a good level of comprehension. For anyone who does not know, Colin Crowther was a ccomedian in the seventies, who used to do an excellent impression of announcements being made on a broken, intermittent functioning microphone.

Anyway, I had a shower. Went to have our meal (included in the price we paid). The self-service restaurant has two serving counters, the one with prepaid meal tickets having a smaller limited selection of food, I noticed. We then settled in the main lounge for a coffee. At the moment we have been here two hours and one guy behind us has not stopped talking for one minute. I think he must be practising for a filibustering speech. He's very demonstrative, it must be very exciting what he talks about. Can't make out his language. Patricia is spending some time knitting; I should have a nice warm winter pullover soon.


We docked around 7 pm Greek time, 6 pm Italian time, in Ancona, where for some reason they seemed to delay us going down to the vehicles. On arriving and driving out we ran straight into our first traffic jam. Finally we arrived at the Aire we had used on the way out; in fact straight into the space we had parked in previously. It was waiting for us. A snack, a beer and an early night. It had been a tiring day and we had done nothing really.

Week 11

Thursday 7th June 2012 - Ancona

N 43 36.025 E 013 29.108

Alarm on for 6 am. Sun shining. Breakfast and then up to the top of the Aire to do toilet and water etc. The gate to the top was closed at 7.30 am but I heard some voices and had another look, finding it had just been opened about 7.40 am. This time we were asked for 2 Euros to enter. Previously on our outbound stay there had been no one around at all. We had even tried the electric, which tripped their MCB when we put the kettle on, so we went back down to the bottom.

Anyway, jobs done, we then needed a hole in the wall. Tried one and it rejected the bank card, so we headed on. We stopped around Senigallia to try another, this time OK. The mysteries of ATM's! Also tried a chemist for Patricia's medication, but again a prescription was needed. Popped into a shop for a loaf but we didn't have time to stand and wait, watching an exhibition of ham carving. The bread was behind the counter and the guy never even acknowledged us, so we left.

Good old Lidl, just down the road. All sorted, we were on our way. Got onto the motorway near Mondolfo. Stopping for dinner at 1 pm we had done 100 miles.

It was really warm, sun shining, which made for heavy-eyed driving. We mixed up a good strong coffee brew, topped it up with water and put it in the freezer. Iced coffee for later.

We usually have a brew around 4 pm when travelling, but this time we got out the iced coffee and carried on driving. The result of this was that the French border was coming ever closer, which gave me the impetus to carry on. We hadn't been impressed with Italy on the way out, although to be fair we had taken 3 days with minimal touring around and not really explored a lot. What we had seen didn't impress us, unfortunately.

When we were going around Turin around 6 pm we decided to bite the bullet, go through the Frejus Tunnel again and we would be in St Jean de Maurienne for the night. The longest we have travelled in one journey in the van has been Wigan to Dover. Today we beat that. After 414 miles we arrived at St Jean d M.

Travelling on this motorway was a lot less stressful than the UK, although stressful for Patricia who has a phobia about tunnels. Pizza and a beer when we arrived and an early night. Job done, we were in France.


Friday 8th June 2012 - St Jean de Maurienne

N 45 16.774 E 006 20.786

Good night's sleep. Rained during the night and this morning. Checked out the map and decided to drive up to Annecy, to see if we could get on the Aire there. D 1006, D 1090, D 1212, then D 1508. A lovely ride through green valleys following the rivers and then alongside the Lake at Annecy. We found the Aire and, amazingly, as we rolled in a German couple were just leaving and they beckoned us over to wait until they pulled out. So we did an imitation of a sardine and squeezed in.

The Aire was full, with one other GB-reg just across from us. This turned out to be Mike and Heather from Cheltenham, as we found out later. We had some dinner then went for a walk into Annecy. On the way out, I introduced ourselves to Mike and Heather, just to ask about a footpath. A brief chat and then we were off. The weather wasn't very warm and it was also raining.

Annecy is set in a beautiful location on the lake. The older part is nice to have a stroll around. I got a few nice pictures of the waterways and streets but if you are not into shopping or sitting in a bar or cafe with an empty cup or glass in front of you, then there is not a lot of appeal.

We called into two churches, each with a totally different interior and feel about them. We actually had someone begging from us in one church, a new experience. Also a few people begging on the street. Is this a career choice, or is France's social system so bad that they can't feed themselves? But I suppose we have them in the UK also. Career choice, I conclude.

Walking back along the lake we were both very cold and glad to get back to the van. We hadn't been so cold since we were down in Kalambaka in Greece. Patricia was distinctly under the weather when we returned, so much so that she spent the rest of the evening in bed.

Some van owners do what I feel are stupid things, like blocking in other vans by parking across the front of them so that it is impossible to drive out. They were French so I ignored the situation; it wasn't us being blocked in.

Mike from the van opposite knocked on the door for a chat, so I went across and had a chat for a while, Patricia deciding to get into bed. Mike and Heather turned out to be a lovely couple. Mike an avid metal detector user and ex-brickie, Heather an ex-carer. Mike had discovered an excellent selection of ancient coins and had photographs of them in an album. It was lovely to chat with them but I had to cut it short and get back to see how Patricia was. Not sure what it was, but she spent the rest of the night in bed.

I also got off to bed early. Not a very good ending to the day, unfortunately.

Saturday 9th June 2012 - Annecy

N 45 53.446 E 006 08.329

On waking, very sluggish this morning. I haven't felt that way for a long time. Patricia up but not feeling great. Not sure what it is.

Mike and Heather left early. Just heard their van start up, so only able to wave them off.

Assessing the situation, with both of us feeling distinctly under the weather (reason not known), we decided the best thing was to make a move to see if it would liven us up a little. I had looked at the Aire at Nantua around 40 miles away, so off we went. As we were driving along traffic was streaming towards Annecy. It was Saturday and I think we had made the right decision.

Following the D1508 through Frangy and Bellegarde sur Valserine, we followed the line of the A40 motorway for some time. Some lovely country to pass through. The motorway has some quite spectacular elevated sections built around the mountains and across valleys. Patricia spoke very little while travelling, she seemed absorbed in thought, spaced out as the saying is.

Arriving at Nantua Aire, Mike and Heather were just leaving. They made us aware of some signs saying the Aire needed to be vacated by 5 am in the morning. A real pity because it was in a great location on the lake with great views. Mike was moving to Poncin, so we decided to follow, only about 15 miles. No one there when we arrived, just one van. Quite a change from when we passed through last year on our way to see the Tour de France. Mike had followed his Sat Nav and what an interesting route it conjured up.

Parked up and really spent all afternoon chatting with Mike and Heather, which really suited the situation. I could see Patricia perking up a little while chatting. Mike was telling us his metal detecting adventures. He has discovered some interesting finds, quite a lot of which he has now sold unfortunately.

Heather also does knitting and handicrafts, so an interesting afternoon that was just the ticket. Heather thought I was an ageing hippy, very arty. I took it as a compliment.

We had pasta for tea and Patricia felt up for a walk, so we went for a stroll around. We had been here previously but on a very hot day last year and only looked around the little square and church. This time we explored some back streets and quite interesting too. Got some photographs.

A lovely end to what started as a bad day. Had a beer on returning and felt really sleepy, so decided on early bed. On shutting up, Mike knocked to say they would be off in the morning, so wanted to say goodbye just in case we were not up. No problem, we will be up. I got their email address while chatting.

At this moment a text came in from our Marc. It read: 'I was just putting Lily to bed and I asked her "How much do you love me?" She answered "up to the sky and all the way back and Nanny as well".' A lovely pick-me-up for Patricia and end to a quite unusual day.

Sunday 10th June 2012 - Poncin

N 46 05.249 E 005 24.215

Awake 7.30 am. Slept well. Patricia had broken sleep, but seems to be a lot better at the moment. Sun shining. Mike and Heather left just as we were having breakfast. We said our goodbyes and I got a photograph of them. I also knew we might see them again tonight, since I had been looking at Autun as the next Aire for us to travel to. They were heading there.

Had a leisurely breakfast, the sun was shining and it was warm. We headed down the D1084, then turned onto the D1075 heading for Bourg en Bresse where we stopped at a busy Boulangerie for bread. It was a really popular shop.

From there we travelled along the D1079, passed around Macon onto the N79, then D980 to Cluny, where we stopped in the rain at what we had as an Aire, at the Intermarche supermarket there. I wanted to use the services there but it had been closed, with no services at all. There had been none at Poncin, the Aire being open but the services fenced off. So after dinner we headed for Autun. It was raining and grey all the way. A pity really because we passed through some lovely countryside on the way. Through Monceau les Mines, Blanzy, D974, then N80 to Autun, the Aire being on our left as we rolled into Autun. Driving into the Aire, we saw Heather jump out of a van and lean back with her arms outstretched and thumbs up. I think she was pleased to see us. First things first, services, and then get parked. I bobbed my head in to say a quick hello. They were chatting with another couple from the UK.

We got a brew on and settled in. Heather popped in to invite us around after tea, so we got tea on early: chicken in black bean and garlic sauce with rice, peaches and ice cream after. While having tea, two cars with around 8 teenagers pulled onto the car park at the Aire and proceeded to drop as much rubbish and litter as they could, eventually driving off to leave a total mess. A litter bin was 5 yards away from them. I assume these were not representative of French teenagers in general, otherwise god help France. Again, I know we have teenagers of a similar disposition in the UK. What kind of a family do they have? The sparrows, magpies and crows ended up picking up some scraps.

We popped around to Mike and Heather and spent the night nattering and storytelling. Oh, lovely conversation - who needs satellite TV? Well, maybe all the French vans! Also had a brandy and water with Mike. We left around 11.30 pm, keeping hushed as all the Aire seemed battened down. It had stopped raining. Had a read in bed before getting down to sleep.

Monday 11th June 2012 - Autun

N 46 57.329 E 004 19.007

Awake 7.20 am. Lots of rain during the night, so intermittent sleep. Actually the rain had stopped as we were brewing. Had breakfast and not in a rush to go anywhere. I spoke to Peggy and Stan in the van alongside us. Stan around 80 years of age, I believe. Mike and Heather had met them previously.

We went for a walk, initially to the Roman theatre but ended around the Cathedral and Town Hall. We bumped into Mike and Heather at the theatre and walked along with them for a while. They were heading for town, us for the Cathedral, so we parted ways. The Cathedral quarter was worth a walk around. We ended at the Town Hall to find toilets that turned out to be abysmal, which was surprising really given the obvious affluence of the town. Called at a small Boulangerie on the way back for bread, a small pizza and a custard tart for dinner. We were ready for a drink and some food on returning, 3 hours later.

Had some dinner and then I popped across to McD to get some WiFi and news on the Galaxy phone. Not a very strong signal, so I gave up. We will try the laptop later. The rain came for a heavy session, then it cleared up.

A relaxed afternoon all round. Patricia was reading. I played guitar, then went for a stroll by the lake. The lake area has a tarmac walkway around it and has lovely views across the lake. Patricia recovering slowly but still not in top form. We really don't have a clue what the reason is.

Had tea and invited Mike and Heather across for the evening. Again we spent the evening nattering about all sorts. The rain battered down again. Mike and Heather left around 10.30 pm. I had an Ouzo and water and read for a while. Then down to bed, the rain announcing its presence again.

Tuesday 12th June 2012 - Autun

N 46 57.329 E 004 19.007

Awake 7.20 am. It isn't raining and looks a nice day. Breakfast and prepare for getting off. We decided to head for an Aire at Les Riceys. Saw Mike and Heather for goodbyes again. Is this the last time? Then off to Leclerc supermarket for diesel and a few things. No diesel when we got there, so headed for Intermarche who sorted us.

While driving down to Intermarche we saw Mike's van in front of us. We know where they're going! Sure enough they were at Intermarche. We met Mike inside but Heather was in the van. Mike explained that they never leave the van alone! Anyway, finally sorted, I thought we would set the Sat Nav to get us on the road to Barnay, which sets us on the D4 and on our way. Bad mistake: it played around down all sorts of narrow roads getting us nowhere. Finally I knocked it off and headed back into Autun to pick up the road. 13 miles done and not even out of Autun. Good start!

Anyway, this time Patricia handled it and we were on our way on N81 and D4/D15. Had some dinner in Saulieu in a little space at the exit of the village. Then D980, calling in at Intermarche in Semur en Auxois for a few things we had forgotten to buy previously. We had stayed here at the Aire last year with Pauline, on our way to the Alps. On through Montbard, D980, then Chattilon sur Seine, D971 then D70 to Les Riceys. The Aire description says it is in Champagne-producing country, but we never saw a vine until around 2 miles from the village.

A quiet place with lots of parking and no one else here. It was like the deserted village later: no people, no cars. I went for a walk to explore the surroundings and on the way back there was a weird noise of all the local dogs howling at the same time. Very unusual. Maybe some local kennel. Maybe the hounds of hell. Quite weird. The last thing we needed in a seemingly deserted village!

I had a session with my WiFi booster but again no-go. There is something I'm doing wrong but I'm not sure what. Patricia had a doze, still not totally right. We got off to bed for a really quiet night.

Wednesday 13th June 2012 - Les Riceys

N 47 59.513 E 004 21.858

Quiet night, awake 7.30 am. Guess what, it is raining and grey. France, oh France, where have your lovely golden days gone? My left foot was sore again this morning on waking; it is the one I had problems with in Turkey.

Had breakfast and then hunted for water. We didn't have a token for the Aire water. Found some just across the small bridge over the river at the side of the parking area. Had a ride around the village before leaving, it was quite nice around the old part.

D671, D610 then D677 to get around Troyes. Picked up bread and pastries at a Boulangerie in St Parres les Vaudes. Stopped in Arcis sur Aube for dinner. The drive along this road gets quite monotonous. Fields of cultivation everywhere. Around Chalons en Champagne onto the D3 for Mareuil sur Ay and an Aire.

On the way we saw a couple at the side of the road thumbing a lift. They both had cycling helmets in their hands. My immediate thought was that they were cyclists who had had their bikes stolen, so I stopped. I was wrong. They had roller skis with them. Not sure what they were up to; they wanted a lift to Epernay, 22 km. I made my excuses and left. If they had been cyclists with a problem, I would have helped but I left rather perplexed. They were both in their forties I would have said. So unusual.

Arrived at the Aire to meet David and Sandra. I thought he had a problem with his van, a 1984 A-reg, but he had it all under control. The Aire is on the canal here and looks to be quite popular. It is a lovely pleasant spot for walking or cycling. We have the canal boats moored directly in front of us. Had a little stroll around, not too far as my foot was still tender. Nicky called us on the mobile because he hadn't had the texts we thought Pauline was forwarding to them. He was fine. Patricia did fried garlic chicken and couscous for tea. Amazingly the sun made an appearance, lovely blue skies for 30 minutes or so. We made the best of it and went for a walk. Or in my case a limp.

David and Sandra were also on the way out. They walked down the canal, crossed to the other bank and did a circle, crossing back again further down. We invited them back for a chat and drink and sure enough they popped around when they returned. They have been boat owners and sailed around the world, so we had a long evening chatting. Ex-professional photographers, we had a good interesting conversation until around 11.15 pm. One of the pleasures of travelling is meeting new people, all with their own stories to tell. Characters, backgrounds, jobs, problems, family- all have their own differing story. So ended another week. What a nice interesting couple they were.

Week Twelve

Thursday 14th June 2012 - Mareuil Sur Ay (South of Reims)

N 49 02.704 E 004 02.093

Awake with alarm 8 am. Really quiet night and slept well. The sun is shining! Cup of tea, do the diary, then breakfast. We decided to visit Reims Cathedral. We don't usually bother with cities but as it was so near, and it looked like the Aire was in the centre, we decided to give it a try.

D1 for Conde sur Marne, Intermarche just on the way out, D37 for Ambernay, then D19 to take us to the main road D944 into Reims. Just as we reached the roundabout onto the road, the police held up the traffic. The longest truck I have ever seen on a road was moving along. It was carrying one arm of a wind generator. It was a fair old size too. Onto D944, then into Reims where the Sat Nav did wonderfully until, turning the corner near the Aire, it fell off the window. This distracted me and we passed the Aire entrance and had to go all around again, fun and games. Eventually got in and found a space empty waiting for us.

Had dinner, then walked in to see the cathedral, I would say around 1 kilometre away. A nice view of the front as you walk down the road to it. A very ornate frontage, a demonstration of the art of the stone mason and sculptor. The general area around the cathedral is all modern, due to wars and shelling etc, so there is no old quarter surrounding it. To me, this leaves the overall ambience of the area a little empty. Difficult to explain really. Internally, I was also a little underwhelmed, although it's an enormous building.

Decided to head back to the van, with nothing more on the agenda. Unfortunately, we had no in-depth information for France with us, so it was difficult to plan where to go. Back at the van Patricia got down to some reading while I hunted out some WiFi. There is a club by the side of the van with WiFi, so got mail and checked on news etc.

Pasta for tea while watching the usual Aire pantomime of late arrivals. There is space at the side of the van, but it is hatched off for access to a building. Never mind, we got an 11 pm arrival parking there. I give up! Some young English lads had looked earlier and not parked because of the hatching. Had a beer, Patricia an Ouzo, then off to bed.

All in all, an Aire that is useful, but not recommended. Noise from the road.

Friday 15th June 2012 - Reims

N 49 14.998 E 004 02.264

Where did the peaceful night's sleep go? I got to sleep but then the loud locals spent ages in the park by the side of the van. Shouting aloud. Wonderful! Then the rain came and we are unfortunately under trees. A lesson we learned many years ago: if possible, do not park under trees. The drops from the trees are like mini hammers on the van roof. So it was, all night long. Unfortunately, the options on this Aire are limited for keeping away from trees. Headache this morning.

Unfortunately my Mr Grumpy came to the surface this morning. The van that pulled in last night at 11 pm, and parked where he shouldn't, had just spoken to me. 'Are we moving this morning?' It is a Belgian van but he spoke good English. Patricia reckons I gave him short shrift. I did let him know that he woke me up. Ah well, I suppose I should apologise before I go.

Mr Grumpy had a chat with the Belgian driver as we were leaving. He was a very likeable young fellow. They had driven down straight after work in Belgium, explaining the late arrival, which he apologised for. So Mr Grumpy appeased his conscience before leaving.

I set the Sat Nav to take us onto the D966 heading north out of Reims. As usual, you get some unusual requests to turn down obviously wrong turns. Anyway, we were out in no time. The area is very agricultural, with lots of large tracts of land growing products. It doesn't make for very interesting driving, to be truthful, so we popped the music on to while away the time. Driving again under heavy grey skies which, according to my Belgian friend, is the best weather in a 300 km circumference. That was why they came down here.

On to the N2 near Verins. We had seen a few Frites vans along the road and I joked maybe we could get some chips for dinner. Well we did, at Avesnes sur Helpe, from a small stall at the main junction there. 2 Euros for a large bag, enough easily for us both. We parked just around the back of the stall near a small park.

When ready for leaving Patricia discovered that we should have turned off the N2 way back. Never mind, we can use the D962. Eventually, with some Sat Nav country touring, we found the Aire we were looking for at Catillon sur Sombre on the canal. Unfortunately it was full. One British van; they spoke to us briefly. Yachties, or ex-yachties I should say. Do all yachties end up in campervans?

We looked at the alternative campervan parking. It was great if you like parking in a construction yard. Trucks and piles of rubble and clapped out buildings at the side. So a quick look in the book sent us to Le Cateau Cambresis, about 6 miles down the road. A place was waiting, but all the free hook-ups as usual were taken. I got out my double adaptor and linked in with a Belgian guy. We were in business. Had showers before tea.

A Brit in the next van, who said I had just ignored him when I introduced myself (he obviously wasn't used to a northern accent and thought I was speaking a foreign language with my 'alright lad'), told me football was on TV later with English and also French matches. So I decided to try the TV out for the first time on this trip.

After playing around and checking channels for football, I concluded he was delusional. Maybe with satellite - but he didn't have satellite and his TV was the reversing camera screen. So I gave up and listened to some music while having a beer. Patricia was reading her book, accompanied by the hammering of rain on the roof. Off to bed to get some much needed catch-up sleep after last night's non-sleep in Reims.

Saturday 16th June 2012 - Le Cateau Cambresis

N 50 06.122 E 003 33.316

Awake 7.45 am. A good night's sleep. Only a little road noise on the Aire, which isn't as intrusive on sleep as barking dogs and shouting humans. Our (ignored) neighbour has just left. Can't say I'm too bothered. He did come over as rather arrogant, although his wife seemed very pleasant and chatty. Motorhoming is like life, you meet some lovely people but also you meet some you don't really want to meet again. It's all first impressions really; you don't spend a long time with the people you meet. I do try to be friendly and helpful with people we meet. The majority of times it works. On this trip we had two incidents of what I would call arrogance: the three Dutch overlanders in Anatolia and this guy last night. It all adds to the experience.

Called into the village for a chemist and also to pick up a baguette, then away again.

D643 to Cambrai and on to Douai, D621 and then motorway A1 to Lille and onto A25 up to Dunkirk. Weather dry for a change, but very windy.

Called at the Super U at Gravelines to pick up some wine for presents. Then on to Grand Fort Phillipe to park for the night. The square is now marked off for campervans but as usual the French don't seem to want to play ball, parking away from the designated area, even when there are spaces available. As Patricia keeps saying 'It is their country'. And I reply 'yes, thanks to all those Yank and Brit lads now laid out in the fields'.

Parking at Grand Fort Phillipe, there were a few British vans there. All those I spoke to seem to be heading home. We had picked up some cook-in-the-oven Indian food, so we did some curry and rice with them for tea. I picked up Patricia's book 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', just to have a look at it, just browsing. I put it down after 176 pages to get down for bed. I don't usually read fiction, but it was an easy read. Patricia started another book to let me carry on reading this. I had bought a couple of small strong beers from the Super U that I thought I would try, so I cracked one while reading. It was OK, but nothing to make me buy again.

So the night went at Grand Fort Phillipe, where we had spent a lovely few days last year with Eric and Sue from Aberdovey in Wales at the end of our 2011 tour of France. Good memories.

Sunday 17th June 2012 - Grand Fort Phillipe

N 51 00.090 E 002 06.522

Awake 7.45 am. A quiet and peaceful night. Sunny at the moment but still the strong wind blowing. We had some pitter-patter of rain overnight, but not much really. Had breakfast watching the comings and goings.

Quite a lazy day. Had a walk around to check out the Boulangerie for morning.

There are new signs around the parking area for motorhomes. Last year when we stayed here there was no signage. It seems that at Gravelines Aire they have now started to charge 5 Euros per night, which caused a lot of vans to move down here. Hence the marking off of bays and the signs to limit van parking.

Petit Fort Phillipe, across the river, seems to have more people visiting with the beach more in use, for kite flying, sand yachting etc. There are quite a number of small boats anchored at the floating jetties on the opposite bank at Petit Fort Phillipe but none ever seem to be in use. We haven't seen any move. Also last time we were here none moved. Maybe they are just for decoration! We spent some time chatting to Chris and Val, originally from Keighley but now living in Nottinghamshire. They're travelling back to the UK tomorrow from Calais in their Hobby van. Chris was the double of an old friend of mine in looks, mannerisms and speech. Quite spooky to me. Nice couple. They left while we were out walking, so no goodbyes.

Two English vans came in later to bed down for the night. First, a couple from South Wales in an old G-reg Elddis van. He seemed a character but we didn't get to chat much; they parked and were off. Later a couple from Aberdeen had just come in from the ferry, having driven down to Dover. They were ready for some rest and bed; long day for them.

We had another walk early evening down to the beach, quite windy but warm. The end of a wonderful trip and for us quite an adventure, so a little poignancy in the air. We are looking forward to seeing family, but we also would like to turn around and head off again. Had a beer and read, then off to bed. England tomorrow.

Monday 18th June 2012 - Grand Fort Phillipe

N 51 00.090 E 002 06.522

Alarm on for 6.30 am. It's been raining during the night, grey skies on rising with fine drizzle. France seeing us out in the manner it welcomed us. I think 10 days here and on 8 of them we have had rain. We have always been pretty lucky with the weather in France previously, which probably influences our expectations. We now have some adjustment and reality added to them.

Had breakfast and then off to the Super U for diesel at 1.34 Euros per litre, which is around 1.07. Tesco in UK price is 1.38. Filled up and then to cash point for our last lot of Euros. On reflection, we should have got Pounds for the ferry.

I set the Sat Nav for Dunkirk ferry port and we then had a merry ride around Gravelines and its area. I had used the same setting last year and sailed straight into the port, so we ignored it and went straight in. No problem getting through until they allocated us Lane P. Driving from passport control, the signs indicate Lanes A to N. Ah interesting, no Lane P. Not able to go anywhere else, I went against the traffic and drove back. We were then told to go exactly where we had been. So we tried again. Sure enough, there is a Lane P. Why only indicate A to N? You can now see how the Victor Meldrew character sketches are inspired .


Ferry arrived on time. We could soon see the White Cliffs appearing. No stops at customs in Dover. Lots of officials around, but no one seemed to be doing much. A lady had taken a quick look at Dunkirk. The smugglers must have a field day!

Off to Deal to pick up Charlie, who was at her nan's (Anne). Julia, Charlie's mum, was there also. Had a natter, dropped Julia off at school to pick up Ella, then we went to Tesco for some food. We parked up for a while, chatting and reading, waiting for 6 pm when we can park on the front at Dover, where we stayed the night.

I bought 'Cycling Weekly' for a read and played cards after tea: guess who won? Patricia again. This is getting beyond a joke. We were off to bed early, to have an early start in the morning.

Tuesday 19th June 2012 - Dover

N 51 07.425 E 001 19.044

Alarm on for 6.30 am but I didn't change the time on the phone, so we were up 5.30 am. A nice early start. Back on English roads, traffic manic as usual. Ah well, Wigan here we come.

Reflections on Tour of Turkey 2012

For anyone who is motorhoming, all I can say is you must take the opportunity to visit Turkey. It was an incredible experience and journey. The people, places and incidents are etched in my memory for ever.

Driving is easier than in the UK, with no traffic most of the time, although there can be some tense moments. However, putting this in perspective, just drive down Oxford Street in Manchester; that is also manic at times.

I have a feeling we will be back again to look at parts we didn't get to. It is a large country after all.

Not to forget Greece, which is also brilliant.

These are our views as non-expert travellers, only just retired and still learning:

Turkey - A country of many contrasts. We saw some of the most stunning views we have ever seen, incredible historical sites and lovely people.

People - We were shown wonderful hospitality and kindness. We felt like we were the centre of attention in many places we visited. People showed great interest in who we were, where we came from and also the Motorhome we travelled in. Sometimes unexpected attention, like a head suddenly poking through the window, but the people were always smiling and friendly.

Roads - We travelled some of the finest roads we have ever travelled on, whisper quiet, you could only hear the wind passing the van. Others were absolutely tragic, bumpety-bumpety for miles.

Camping - We chose to free-camp most of the time, only using a few paid campsites the whole of the trip. We always leave as we find. We also always operate our own safety routine, eg always have the van ready to drive out without manoeuvring and the driver's seat facing forwards at bedtime. If possible, have civilisation not too far away. We never had any cause for concern anywhere we stayed.

Diesel - Always easy to find, a country of many petrol stations until you get up in the mountains. We always tried to keep a good full tank.

Water - We bought as we travelled, for drinking. We never had a problem finding water for washing, cooking etc. Petrol stations were brilliant.

Toilet facilities - We found facilities for toilet-emptying the majority of times. I had to do a couple of burials. Our small portable spade/pick is a handy tool.

Fresh food - Fresh vegetables, fruit and salad etc we bought when we could. Markets and supermarkets (Kipa are Tesco in Turkey) are good. We always washed everything in a solution of Milton before it entered the refrigerator, or before eating it. I have had a few run-ins with foreign tummy upsets in France, Portugal and Greece, so we take no chances.

Electric - We have one 95-Ah leisure battery. We used hook-ups a couple of times in France (free) at Aires on the outward and return journeys. Also had paid hooks-ups at Troy and Pamukkale in Turkey and Alexandroupolis in NE Greece. We also hooked up for the week in Gocek with family at Hillary's villa, to keep the refrigerator running. We had no problems not using hook-ups. We don't use television much. Reading and imagination are better.

Gas - We tend to be energy conscious. We carried 2 x 13 kg and 1 x 6 kg Propane, and we still had gas on our return to Wigan.

Ferries - We sailed DFDS Dover to Dunkirk, and Minoan Lines Ancona to Igoumenitsa. Prices will always change, so no need to mention what we paid.

Best places to visit - This will always depend on your interests and your experience of the places visited. We were mainly following the Alexander the Great trail from Greece to Southern Lycia in Turkey, following his invasion route as documented (and as historically correct as 2,300 years of myth and legend will allow). People, incidents and experiences were fantastic, but a brief mention of some favourite places:

Greece Vergina and Mieza (we were passing through Greece, but Alexander lived around here at Pella )

Turkey - Gallipoli peninsula, Priene, Miletus, Didyma, Ephesus, Assos, Pergamon, Stratonikeia, Koycegiz Golu, Phaselis and Cappadocia. Also Sagalassos was a special place to us.

Final Conclusion

We were strangers passing through, but we were welcomed everywhere. A dream place for motorhoming.

Brian and Patricia Rudd