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Yorkshire to Slovenia (Maggie Bevis) PDF Printable Version E-mail



From Penistone to Portoroz (Yorkshire to Slovenia)

Our first European Motorhome Journey

Summer 2005

Maggie Bevis (with Pete)

October 2006

Uniquely for a MagBazTravels 'Fellow Traveller', we have never met Maggie Bevis. We have exchanged many emails on motorhoming subjects, centring on Maggie's love for Greece and her appreciation of our MMM article: 'Camping Karpouzi'.

This detailed daily diary takes us from Maggie's home in Penistone, on the edge of the Pennines in what is now called 'South Yorkshire', all the way to Slovenia and back again. As well as being essential reading for any motorhomer planning to visit Slovenia, it gives its readers a fascinating insight into the life of the new breed of trans-European traveller in their covered wagons!

Sunday 31st July: Deal (England)

Well, we got packed and ready to go quicker than we thought so, instead of waiting till tomorrow to go to Dover for the P & O Ferry, we set off today. Driving 263 miles in sunshine got us to a Caravan Club Certified Location at the back of the Crown Inn at Finglesham near Deal. And a good choice it was! The pub is super with lovely food and good beer. We felt like the holiday had started, even though we had already slept 5 nights in the van. Our American cousin and his family came to stay and our house isn't big enough for all of us, so it was very convenient to have the van outside as an extra bedroom and bathroom.

Monday 1st August: Zutkerque Aire de Services (France)

Woke to the comforting (huh?) sound of rain on the roof. British summertime? We drove into Deal, which is a pretty place and parked free along the seafront about half a mile from the centre. We walked into the town centre to get essentials and got sidetracked into the Ship pub. We sat in the garden in the sun drinking English Wheat Beer and 'Summer Lightning' - wonderful. We drove to Folkestone to a caravan place to get some loo fluid but it was shut. As the ferry wasn't till 9.50 pm we drove to Capel le Ferne and parked on the cliff top looking at the lovely views and had something to eat.

We got to the ferry early and the guy there just told us to drive on the earlier ferry, which would have cost us quite a bit more than the £99 we paid. We had a smooth ferry crossing to Calais and a good cup of coffee before driving to Zutkerque Aire de Services down the A26/E15. I was slightly nervous, as we had read all sorts of stories about break-ins etc, but we'd just had a new alarm fitted (the old one decided to 'talk' to us by emitting strange little noises at inappropriate times eg 1.30 am on a campsite near Hornsea) and Pete fitted a ratchet strap across the front doors for extra security. He also brought an old rounders bat and I didn't enquire what it was for - suffice to say we don't play rounders these days.

Pete's brother rang to try to organise a meeting place somewhere near Orleans, as he and his wife are cycling across France from Nantes, having cycled from the north of France to Santander last summer. By some coincidence, Pete had just been reading MMM magazine and had read about a site at St Benoit sur Loire which was an ideal spot to meet up. The night passed without incident although I did look out of the window every time I heard a car or caravan pull in. It seems that this is a popular stopping place, yet all was quiet and peaceful after about 11 pm.

Tuesday 2nd August: St Benoit sur Loire (France)

We stopped at Aire du Rely for diesel and filled a spare can. On the exit slip road, there was a British car stopped at the side of the road with a man standing next to it waving us down. We stopped cautiously and the man told us he was trying to get home, needed fuel and his credit card wasn't working. The man said that the staff in the aire weren't helpful, but he was a scoundrel and asked us if he could borrow 20 euros and he'd send it to us when we got home! Pete quickly said that we hadn't changed any money yet so, sorry no, before heading off. What a scam! I hope no-one fell for his tall tale with lots of holes in!

We stopped at another Aire for coffee and at 11.25 Pete said I had to write down that he'd put his shorts on, as he was warm. It was hot and sunny but we do need a site tonight, as the loo doesn't smell wonderful. (I won't buy Fenwick's loo stuff again because, although their van cleaner is great, the loo stuff isn't. It smells awful and I even had to move the container from the cupboard under the bed, as I could smell it when I went to bed.)

Rain again - and big rain at that…a kind lady directed me to a camping shop on the road to Auxerre and we got some nicer smelling loo blue.

It was a long drive to St Benoit sur Loire via Montigny but it was worth it. The campsite is on the river amongst trees with a little river beach.

The owner was delighted when I showed him the page in MMM and promptly copied it and put it on his wall. He has two little whippets that he calls his secretaries and they sat on chairs in his office. He told us to park anywhere and there were no numbered plots. A German family moved their bikes and equipment so we could have a good spot with a river view. They said they were leaving in an hour (7 pm! What's the chance of that on a British site?) and helped us squeeze in. We had a quick bike ride along the river and into the village before settling down to spaghetti carbonara and the magical sunset. We saw a motor home parked 'wild' across the river and thought how good that looked but the showers, access to water and chemical disposal were good and put to good use.

Wednesday 3rd August: St Benoit sur Loire (France)

We woke up to a glorious view and sunshine. This campsite is so peaceful and friendly. We cycled along a path across the fields to the village for fresh bread and supplies, did some washing and swept out the van, listening to the trees rustling in the gentle breeze before stretching out in the sun on the river bank reading. Wonderful! Pete spotted Robin and Jill from a distance, cycling along the riverbank, and we made sure there was a nice cold beer for them when they arrived. They loved the site too and set up their tent next to us. They showered while I put together a really nice lunch and we sipped wine and caught up with news.

Jill said it was a luxury sitting in a chair at a table. I don't envy them carrying everything on their bikes, setting up camp at the end of each day, though I really admire their strength and determination to do the huge cycle rides they do each summer. After lunch we cycled back to the village for more veggies so we could barbecue some veg kebabs for them while we ate the local sausage. We sat out till late eating and drinking – a lovely day.

Thursday 4th August: St Benoit sur Loire (France)

Jill and Pete went to the village for bread and cakes while Robin moved the tent across to have a better river view. Jill made bruschetta for breakfast and it was gorgeous. I'm really glad I brought the coffee pot so we can have proper filter coffee…. though it was a last minute thought.

Jill and Robin met the owner and Jill decided that the whippets were too small to be called whippets so christened them the 'snippets'. Robin and Jill were cold in the night as they only had a small blanket so we lent them a feather quilt.

We cycled into the village to the Abbaye la Fleury and heard the monks' plainsong before cycling along the river to Givigne to see the oldest church in France. Greeks get everywhere - the oldest part of the church was Greek Orthodox. We had a salad lunch next to the church then cycled back past, very new foals and fields of beetroot.

One of Pete's requests when we were planning this trip was to be near water so he could swim but his hopes of a good swim were dashed when we went in the Loire, which was warmish, greenish and smellyish. We had to have a good shower to get rid of the smell when we got out of the shallow water.

Later on, a pizza van came to the site so we had a treat. The pizza was freshly cooked in the van and it was scrumptious. We watched the antics of a group of Swiss men, sporting hats with duck feathers in, who arrived by canoe and set up camp under a camouflage sheet tied to trees. They were a jolly group but we were a bit concerned that they would be rowdy later. We needn't have worried as they were all laid out in a row snoring under their awning quite early.

Friday 5th August: Annecy (France)

Another peaceful night. It was a bit strange to get out of the van and see the canoeists snoring in a line in broad daylight. It was a pity that it was time to move on too. Robin and Jill packed up and managed to get the quilt small enough to carry, so they won't be cold at night. We passed them along the road later and seeing them on bikes made me really glad of my comfy seat.

We drove along the Loire stopping in Gien for shopping and fuel, where there is a lovely campsite next to river - another time perhaps. Decize also has a campsite next to the river, which is also pretty. We drove through Nantua where there is a lake with beautiful blue/green water and on to Annecy. I'd heard lots of good things about Annecy but no-one mentioned traffic. We sat for an hour and a half trying to get to the lakeside and campsites. We hadn't booked anywhere and, because it was late when we got there, sites were full. A very nice lady said we could park on the car park at camping La Fleuris and use the facilities, so we were grateful.

After something to eat we went for a cycle ride down to the lake. The scenery is beautiful here but it was busy and just a bit too late to swim in the clear waters of the lake. The site was packed like a sardine tin, with tents and vans close together, so we were glad to be on the car park out of the way. Busy places like this aren't our cup of tea and we both had a strong yearning for Greece and warm seas. What made it worse was ringing our friend Asia on Halki ( Dodecanese), where our boys are on holiday for two weeks: we were jealous. One good thing about Annecy is the tap water, which tastes really good, cold and fresh.

Saturday 6th August: Interlaken (Switzerland)

We woke surrounded by vans and caravans that had arrived in the night. We set off early and saw the signs we hadn't seen the night before. Today is the festival of the Lake and the police were getting ready to close the roads off. We saw loads of places to park for free for 48 hours, so that was useful if we go that way again. There was only light traffic on the peage to Geneva. There was beautiful scenery all the way to Interlaken, where we found the Jungfraublick site easily and my pathetic German wasn't needed as the lady owner spoke perfect English. (Note: German lessons needed in the winter!) The site is small with lovely views of the Jungfrau topped with snow. We cycled into town and watched piggy-back hang-gliders coming down from the mountain. I wished I could have a go. We went to Migros to get shopping and got there just before they closed at 4 pm. We had a barbecue and sat out till it started to rain. (Just after we'd put washing out, of course)

Sunday 7th August: Auchenmuh Aire (Austria)

It rained heavily all night and we couldn't see the fabulous views for low cloud. We packed up after breakfast instead of staying as we'd planned, as the forecast was poor. We headed along the Luzern to Zurich road, over a wonderful pass that would have had astounding views if it hadn't been for the cloud. We saw a sign for a flower shop 'Blumen Burglar' which made us smile. The sun came out in Strengen. We went on to Innsbruck but the dreadful weather made us decide to push on towards Vienna. We stayed in an Aire before the turn to Auchenmuh. I cooked some trout for Pete, conscious of the smell of fish cooking in a van full of wet washing with rain on the roof again.

Monday 8th August: Camp site at Au an der Donau (near a village called Windpassing!)(Austria)

Will we see the sun again? Woke to rain – 70 km from Salzburg. I think we'll have to re-wash the clothes as they are now damp and smelly. We got a 20 day vignette for Austria and drove around Linz looking for a campsite we'd read about. We somehow missed the river bank we needed to be on and were on the other side but we went to a supermarket, got fuel and found a lovely little site on the banks of the Danube at Au - a municipal site with a lovely camping barn, great facilities for those in tents and spotless showers and loos. It's adjacent to the cycle path on the Danube too. We had a short cycle along to a Spar shop to augment our beer supplies but it started raining again at 3 pm. After tea it was dry, so we walked along the Danube watching the boats go up and down in the twilight then saw a new moon rise - how romantic.

Tuesday 8th August: Vienna (Austria)

We set off for Vienna and the sun came out. We found a camp site in South Vienna (Camping Vienna Sud) and did a deal for 8 euros a night to leave the van there while we stayed at our friends' (Katie and Stewart's) flat. We got the bus to Philadelphiabrucke and met Stew. We then got the U-bahn over to their flat. What amazing public transport. We had a meal, then went out to the Danube riverside and had a drink - loads of Greek restaurants! There were loads of people strolling about, roller skating and doing folk dancing. It was lovely to see Katie and Stew settled in so well so fast, after having only been there a week and Katie just starting her job teaching at the International School there. Their flat is lovely, central with a small park nearby. We noticed there were lots of big dogs about – with their owners, but also we couldn't help but notice their big by-products. I wonder if the dogs could read the notices?

Wednesday 10th August: Vienna (Austria)

A strange bleeping noise woke me. Stewart told me it was the till from the open door of the supermarket round the corner. Katie went to school and we caught the U-Bahn to Schonbrunn and walked up the hill to the Gloriette. It was very hot and sunny in the gardens and it's quite a magnificent place. We spent ages, not looking at the scenery and gardens but at a little nuthatch! There were lots of tourists about and we had a drink overlooking what seemed to be the whole of Vienna. We then went to the Prater- a fun fair/park where we had enormous hot dogs - nothing like English ones, just a baguette which was put on a spike to make a hole then stuffed with an enormous sausage! Gorgeous! We went out in the evening to eat in Vienna, where we had lovely food and wine and a walk round the centre. We had no problems sleeping after walking miles.

Thursday 11th August: Vienna (Austria)

We went with Stew to Stefansplatz then to the Naschmarkt where we saw a million sorts of olives! Okay I exaggerate, but loads of fresh fruit and veg and so many Greek products. Pete bought olives and feta (couldn't resist) and grapes. We both had black feet from walking in the city in Teva sandals but they are so comfortable! We made black rings in Katie's bath trying to get our feet clean again. We had some lovely salmon for dinner, then we went out to the Museum quarter to sit and take in the atmosphere of loads of people sitting in a lovely square while having a super glass of wine. It's so nice to stroll around Vienna in the evening. It felt very safe for a city. We also had some fabulous ice cream after asking total strangers where they'd got theirs from - still it was worth being a bit cheeky.

Katie was really good coming out with us in the evenings after such busy days at her new school and we really appreciated it.

Friday 12th August: Ljubljana (Slovenia)

We went back to the campsite after saying goodbye to Kate and Stewart and we were pleased to find the van still there. We set off for Maribor in Slovenia and, once again, it started raining. We changed money and filled up at the border but disaster struck when I sat on my distance glasses and broke an arm off. We mended them with copper wire from the inside of some electric cable and they didn't look too bad - better than being fixed with elastoplast. (I had also found that using a magnifying glass and keeping my distance glasses on saved changing glasses to map read, so I'll keep one in the van for future) We drove through, round and up and down in Maribor trying to find a campsite but of course if I'd read www.magbaztravels.com more carefully, I would have known that there isn't one there anymore. There were few signs, nowhere to park and it was still raining, so Maribor got the Graz treatment (looked through and left). We went on to Ljubljana after one wrong turn and found the site, even though it had changed its name to Ljubljana Resort.

There were big queues headed north to Maribor from Ljubljana as there is a motorway under construction, which was not complete. They had had big rain there and there were huge puddles on the site. We had our first reversed polarity problem, which meant we couldn't use hook-up but this isn't too much of a problem. We went for a walk round the site area and saw a heron and heard birds singing - we hadn't heard any in Vienna. The river next to the site was flowing fast and was chocolate brown. We had some baked potatoes and salad and a lovely bottle of Sevres et Maine we'd bought in St Benoit. We had a call from some friends in Athens - it's George's birthday tomorrow and it was lovely to hear from them.

Saturday 13th August: Ljubljana (Slovenia)

The sun came out but we needed a blanket last night, as it was cool. We cleaned and tidied a bit before catching the bus from the entrance of the site into the city. Doesn't a bit of sun make you feel better? We got off at the wrong stop but a short walk took us into the centre where there are fabulous buildings and a wonderful market complete with little old ladies selling handfuls of flowers from their gardens - sunflowers everywhere.

Pete followed his nose and found a stall selling fresh fried little fish with either beer or wine and bread. He had a long wait and some interesting exchanges, pointing at what he wanted till he got a plate full of whitebait type fish, a huge hunk of bread and a beer and some Fanta for me. They were delicious, eaten standing at a table watching the world go by. We bought a little glass candle holder which is very pretty and so expensive at 2 euros. We realised later that we should have bought lots for presents but the stall was closed when we went back. We climbed up to the castle (gasp) after watching a young couple come out of the Town Hall after their wedding. When we got to the top, it seemed like it was the day everyone got married - there were wedding parties everywhere - some in the car park, posher ones in the castle itself and every group was accompanied by accordion.

We sat up on the castle walls watching the comings, goings, wedding frocks and stunning scenery, listening to the strains of various accordions. We took our tired feet back to the bus stop, then sat in the sunshine with books and wine - bliss! We couldn't see anyone using a barbecue so we grilled fish inside. The wind got up after I'd talked to my mam so we took the awning and washing in, just before the heavens opened. Now we know why Slovenia is so green.

Sunday 14th August: Vinica (Slovenia)

Why do gas bottles always run out at daft times? Ours ran out at 6 am after running the heating on very low through the night - yes, it was cold. We changed the bottle and set off in sunshine. We went via Novo Mesto and Metlika to an area by the river Kolpa that Jill had recommended. The scenery on the way was beautiful, lush and green. We came across a DC3 aeroplane in the middle of a field. It had a signpost 'to DC3' and it looked as if it had been there a very long time but we couldn't find any information about it. The campsite at Vinica was a bit 'hill billy', lots of different groups, families etc there for the weekend with some little shacks that had been there for a while, with all sorts of additions like brick built barbecues etc. Someone kindly moved their washing line so we could camp near the dirt road and not in a puddle and the site was next to the Kolpa River which normally would have been inviting but was grey/brown with the rain.

We sat on the grassy banks for a while and people did come and swim in it but I'd have needed a lot of persuasion to do that. I read up on the next leg of the journey while Pete had a sleep. We discussed what to do next and changed the plan because of the weather. We thought we ought to head for the coast and hope for some better weather there. We went for a walk up to the village and saw that we were 500 metres from the bridge which was the Croatian border. Jill had said that Bela Krajina wine was really good so we got some from the local garage. We set the barbecue up and sat out till dark. The wine was plummy but quite tart. There were lots of Slovenians in the beer tent but it wasn't noisy. We were woken up by a big storm.

Monday 15th August: Portoroz (Slovenia)

It's a Bank Holiday so of course there was a huge thunderstorm in the night and heavy rain. The poor people who were in tents packed up at 8 am and left, very wet. Once again, the barbecue was awash and muddy shoes the order of the day. We packed up and explained to the lady in charge of the site that we would have stayed longer. It's a pity my Slovene isn't any better, as her English was about the same – I wish I could be multilingual.

We headed for the Croatian coast (with no Croatian money, on a bank holiday, with a map that doesn't seem to match the motorway we ended up on). Okay, it was one of those days. We stopped at a service station to get some Croatian Kunas, Pete went in the wrong door and stubbed his toe badly. He put the wrong PIN number in the machine twice so I used my bank account, not really knowing how much I had left in it. I got £30 worth of Kunas. The new motorway and unfathomable signs got me confused so we headed for Trieste (wrong), got off the motorway then back on heading for Pula (right but thought it was wrong), and back up towards Trieste but missed the road so we were headed for Ljubljana (very wrong), so we cut across country. That was fine until a sign for Kupar led us in the wrong direction again - and I forgot to mention that travelling in the wrong direction cost us toll money, twice. We turned around again and then took ages trying to find the Jezero campsite in Piran.

We had taken a coast road and needed to be further inland, we found out later. We gave up looking and went to Portoroz and found Camp Lucija next to the Marina and a helpful young woman on the desk told us about a sea-front spot with a lovely view of the Piran/Portoroz bay. Great. We got the bikes off the back and cycled round into the bay and while we were sheltering from the rain that started while we were out, we heard two accidents on the same piece of road within ten minutes of each other! One a car bump and the other a young girl knocked off her scooter. There was no-one hurt, only shaken, thank goodness. It brightened up a bit later and we saw a lovely sunset.

Tuesday 16th August: Portoroz (Slovenia)

Rain in the night sneaked in through the skylight and left a damp patch on the bedding but the sun was out as we walked round the bay and into Piran. We abandoned the bikes in Portoroz as I was scared of all the traffic and people- what a wuss- but walking felt good. If I had only held out for half a mile, it was relatively traffic-free too.

Piran is very pretty, and traffic-free. We had good fun getting an ice cream - we had no idea what the flavours were (I'd left the phrase book behind) so we went for colour. Mine had nuts in and Pete's was vanilla. We thought we'd eat out after Pete braved the Adriatic for a swim. I didn't fancy swimming much, it looked a bit grey. We had showers and didn't feel like walking much further so we went to the camp pizzeria - about 50 steps or so and sat next to the sea watching the sunset, then the lights on the water, with two huge pizzas and salad. It was less than £10 with wines, beers and coffees. The nice waiter didn't charge for one glass of wine as he'd brought white instead of red but I didn't mind either colour as it was lovely. We were absolutely stuffed full so went round the site for a 'nosey' walk. There was one English van with the rest being Italian, German, Austrian and Slovene. Pete rang Tom on Halki – he was walking down the mountain! He said they were having a good time. We could hear music from across the water until about 3 am.

Wednesday 17th August: Portoroz (Slovenia)

Happy birthday to me! I opened my card and text messages. Pete spoiled me by leaving me to sit with a book by the sea while he shopped, washed clothes etc. The lovely sunny morning gave way to clouds in the afternoon so we went for a walk around the peninsula. We saw disused salt pans and heard really old planes with propellers overhead. It was warm and we could have taken swimming stuff and swum off the rocks on the end of the peninsula. We had more lovely bread - brown with pumpkin seeds. I'd forgotten to note that the bread we've had since we've been in Germany has been super. In Germany it was brown and covered in seeds. In Slovenia, it looked greyish but had a wonderful flavour.

We went out to a Mexican restaurant that was recommended called Papa Chicos and despite the low lighting outside, which meant we struggled to read the menus, it was fabulous. We had really good margaritas (not quite Californian standard but good), nachos, chicken wings, chimichangas and fajitas - oooooooh it was lovely!

We walked back and packed up ready for an early start.

Thursday 18th August: Kobarid (Slovenia)

We went to the handy shop, Merker, then the post office to change back kunars into tolars. We decided against going to Bohinj and headed for the other side of the mountains towards Kobarid. It was mostly motorway then up the lovely river valley of the Soca River. We stayed at Kamp Koren just by the river. The site is very pretty with lots of old tree stumps filled with flowers growing out of joints where the tree limbs are. It's above the river which flows fast and impossibly blue/turquoise over rocks below. There are tiny cyclamen and ferns growing out of moss on the rocks on the wooded slopes. The people on the site seem to be very active - we've seen people go off canoeing, canyoning and climbing. The lady owner is really nice. She's been to the camping exhibition in Birmingham and wants to come back to England so we've given her our email address and details so she can come and stay.

We walked up to the War Museum in Kobarid and learned a lot about the Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops who fought here for years and lived in the mountains. After the harrowing but very interesting museum visit, we went to the supermarket and bought strudel. I thought it would be good to swim in the river so we took swimming stuff down to it but it was so cold, I couldn't feel my feet when paddling in it! What a beautiful colour it is though. The sun went off the river early as it's a deep gorge, so we ate early. It's very quiet here.

Friday 19th August: Kobarid (Slovenia)

We woke to sunshine and the sounds of people on the move. There are lots of people with kayaks etc, a climbing wall on site and you can get down to the river. There are loads of wild flowers everywhere and I could smell lily of the valley but couldn't see any. We walked up to Slap Kozjak, a waterfall, and saw remains of the Third Italian Defence line.

At the waterfall, some French people were jumping off a ledge into the rockpool! Mad! But they were wearing hard hats, wetsuits and wellies and were obviously well versed in this kind of thing. We watched, fascinated. We went again for shopping and had an interesting time trying to buy unsweetened cream when I had once again left the phrase book. I got bread and some local workmen outside the shop were very much amused by my habit of biting off a big corner of the bread as soon as I'm out of the shop. We had a smiley exchange where none of us knew what the other was saying but we laughed anyway. We haven't spoken to many local people and I feel like I'm missing out. We sat in the sun reading (though I am getting a bit short of reading material). I uploaded some photos and planned the next bit of the journey.

Saturday 20th August: Bovec (Slovenia)

Said farewells to the camp site lady (who wants me to send her a nice English man) and headed up the river Soca to Bovec. We went to Kamp Klin which had been recommended by Robin and Jill as being the best campsite they've stayed at. It is a beautiful place next to sparkling clear water with trees for shade and a small restaurant on site. We got settled in to a lovely spot next to the river with wonderful views, then we decided to walk up the Lepena valley to a farm about 3 miles up where we'd heard they made good goat's cheese. Tee shirts and shorts were the order of the day as it was hot and sunny as we headed up the road. It started to rain a bit after a mile but we sheltered under some hazel trees trying not to stand on cyclamen till it passed over. We then spent a while under a rickety rackety bridge sheltering from another shower, watching the trout in the river. Onwards and upwards, we were greeted with a smiling 'Dober dan' from a local lady walking quickly down the mountain. We should have realised why she was walking fast, as another really heavy shower descended around two miles up the hill.

We took shelter again but really, there was no sheltering from this downpour. We got wetter and wetter standing under the trees till we decided that if your pants are wet through, you can't get any wetter so we headed back down.

We were laughing and smiling thinking about being in shorts in the rain and a car stopped to give us a lift. We said 'thanks, but no thanks' to the kind man as his car would have got soaked by us sitting in it. It wasn't cold and we could smell the herbs growing by the road so we just walked quickly back. We saw the 'smoke on the water' phenomenon again – it looked like the river was steaming. The awning was tipped over one side with a weight of water in it, which reminded us to put it up at a tilt even if it's fine weather. We recovered after wringing out the soaking shorts and tops by having a hot chocolate with squirty cream on top and brandy in it. Yum!

We thought we'd earned a restaurant meal, so Pete had home-made salami then trout while I had fried cheese and some sort of meat burger with tomato rice. The big jug of wine was really good. But boy, did it rain! Prettiest site= heaviest rain.

Sunday 21st August: Bled (Slovenia)

We woke to heavy rain on the roof. Pete went across to a bread van for new bread (on Sunday!) then we decided to move on, reluctantly but the forecast was grim. It rained all the way to Bled over the Vrisci Pass, which would have been spectacular (1611 metres high) with loads of numbered hairpin bends. I was glad Pete was driving. Coming down the other side, the bends were cobbled - I don't think that would have been very nice on the motorbike! Of course we met sheep on the top bend and had to wait ages while they ambled off. Lots of places round Kranjska Gora have 'bikers welcome' signs which makes a change from home. We did our usual trick in Jesenice of going to what looks like an open supermarket just as it's shutting but managed to refuel. We saw loads of trains there and took pictures for train-spotter friend Paul.

We got to Camping Bled easily, well signposted and well organised though not really our sort of site - too busy and too close to other vans. The showers were really good and clean. The rain stopped so we walked round Lake Bled, which is as picturesque as everyone said. We didn't linger in the touristy town but headed round and back to camp where it was raining again. I'd only got one full book left and had nearly finished one, so an air of desperation was setting in on the reading front. I'd read all the guide books and was reading old motorhome magazines for the nth time. We were a bit fed up as the clothes weren't dry from Saturday's soaking and soaked boots meant walking in Tevas, which are comfy but not meant for heavy duty walking. We took the brollies for an evening walk to the lake and came back to a winter's meal - sausage and mash. We had to remind ourselves sitting with the fire on that this was August!

Monday 22nd August: Bohinj Bistrica (Slovenia)

The rain raineth on, so off we went to Bohinj. We stayed at Kamp Zlatarog at the far end of this beautiful lake, right on the waterside. It took some getting level, even using blocks, and then we realised that even our long cable was 3 metres too short. They didn't have anything at reception but they told us we might get a cable in Bohinj Bistrica but we didn't want to drive back there as we'd got settled. But we were running a bit low on the battery as we didn't have hook-up yesterday and it was a short drive today. We had a wander round the site and found a space in between two trees that we could squeeze into (no 69), so Pete carefully manoeuvred in, got hooked up and the rain stopped. The world was suddenly a better place. We'd got a lakeside pitch with a 'terrace' and a garden and a beach and a hot bathroom to dry things in. We walked to the village (no shop), the start of the waterfall walk and the cable car just to get our bearings, had a coffee and a beer in the camp café, a paddle in the lake (warm), then cooked some meat things (no idea what they were) with baked potatoes and sat outside to watch the colours on the lake.

Tuesday 23rd August: Bohinj Bistrica (Slovenia)

We couldn't believe it - we slept till almost 10 am! It was so quiet and maybe we were tired but even the rain drops dripping from the pine trees didn't wake us up. Toast and sunshine: magic. We walked around the north side of the lake into Ribcev Laz. It was a bit boggy at first but we saw loads of wildflowers, mushrooms, fish etc.

The colours reflected on the water are wonderful, the bluest area being where the white shingle meets the deep water (45 metres deep - deeper than the Slovenian bit of the Adriatic.) We had coffee and sandwiches in Ribcev Laz then went to the post office, bank and supermarket as there are no shops where we are staying. It's the tourist bit of the lake there and we heard many languages but it's very pretty. We got a tourist boat back, which runs on electric motors, and heard an interesting commentary about the lake and environs. The washing wasn't dry when we got back but it is a shady spot. We walked along to the 'end of the world' – the closed canyon at Ukanc - and ate mushroom soup with tiny dumplings, trout and a big salad. Walking back in the dark we heard a rustling in the trees. We couldn't see what it was but it might have been a squirrel.

Wednesday 24th August: Camping Zlatarog, Lake Bohinj (Slovenia)

Well it's sunny but the van is heavily shaded. We went up the cable car which has a new cab that holds 80 people. In four and a half minutes we were up at Ski Hotel Vogel, part way up Mount Vogel with amazing views. We walked onwards and upwards to the end of the chair lift and had coffee and beer in the sunshine with nosey sheep for company - Pete sat in a deck chair! The sheep ' meeeeerrrrreeedd' loudly at people and made them jump. I think they've been practising this trick for a while. It seems a pity that there are ski runs bulldozed into the mountain here but I suppose they have to try to make it a winter resort too.

We got the chairlift down to save my knacketty knees and I took pictures from the chairlift of the scenery and my soon-to-be-binned walking boots. The soles have not recovered from the soaking and drying out and being soaking wet for three days didn't help. The sole is coming away from the toe - poor things and what long service I've had from good old 'Thinsulates.

We had burek (a bit like Greek cheese pie) up at the cable car station before coming back down. It felt really good to be up in the clouds with such wonderful views.

Later on we went for a walk to the valley end again to sit in the sunshine at the end of the lake. People were swimming and it was warm and lovely. I was watching a green beetle crawling about in the grass when - would you believe it - the rain started coming down like stair rods. We put towels over our heads and the books and camera into plastic bags, as the wall of water descended on us again. We took shelter in the little restaurant we'd eaten in the night before. When it stopped raining, we went back to the van and where had I left my boots? Outside! We're moving on again tomorrow as more rain is forecast. I can feel my feet growing webbed toes. Theme tune for the holiday? Travis: 'Why does it always rain on me?'

Thursday 25th August: Lech (Germany)

The helpful family next door moved their car so we could get out from between the trees. We had text messages from friends and family about flooding in Germany and they were concerned for us. They needn't have worried, but next time I'm taking wellies. We saw more 'smoke on the water' as we drove along the lake back to Jerenice where we filled up and got groceries (200 SLT short for the bill - how embarrassing).

We went into Austria via the Karawanken tunnel which was busy. We stopped at Chiemsee to stretch legs before carrying on to Camping Lech, 3 km off the autobahn north of Stuttgart. We were filling up with water when Mary and Dennis in a fabulous Laika Ecovip 610 with all the toys showed us their van - wow, that's luxury. They asked us about Slovenia as they had heard about flooding and weren't sure where to head but we told them about the weather at the coast being lovely so they thought they'd head towards the Croatian coast. Camping Lech is a super little site with everything you could possibly want. There's a little lake to swim in with free surfboards and toys for the kids, a camping shop, restaurant, barn with microwave and wireless internet access and the cleanest loos you've ever seen - and heated too. The fact that it's across the road from Netto and on a bus route just adds.

We had a lovely meal in the restaurant with good wine and we got to talking about the whole trip. It really hasn't been what we thought and we were a bit disappointed – not with the van but I suppose with the weather. We haven't done as much walking or cycling or sitting about in the sun as we'd thought and we were maybe just at a low point …

Friday 26th August: Annweiler (Germany)

We left late-ish after buying some neck cushions for the chairs in the camping shop and going to Netto for bread etc. We drove up the motorway via Stuttgart and Karlsruhe to Landau and Annweiler, where we camped at Naturfreunde camp site on the hill above the town. It has a nice view of forested hillsides, a castle on the hill and a short walk into town which is pretty and old with timbered buildings and cobbled streets. The loos etc have been newly redone but it's a quaint sort of site, little, with a few statics in a line – really like a little housing estate and we were parked on the road. We had chicken and pasta sitting in the evening sun after a walk into town. We planned an early start to head for Boulogne for a few days.

Saturday 27 August: Luxembourg (Luxembourg)

Well, sometimes plans don't work out. Pete found two splits in the tyre walls – we did 296 miles on Thursday and a good few yesterday and it looks like the tyres have had it. We rang the breakdown company and their German equivalent was with us in an hour. I went down to Lidl to get shopping while Pete was waiting and when the guy came he did that sharp intake of breath thing, when you just know it's going to cost a lot. He rang a local tyre company and they just happened to have five of the right size tyres in, so we followed him very slowly for a mile and they fitted them while we had brunch. It cost about £85 a tyre, which we thought was good and would certainly have been more at home. I felt tons happier as I'd never been completely happy with the tyres that were on. We then decided not to go too far so we headed for Luxembourg. We went to camp Kockelscheuer near Luxembourg and it was nice but not very friendly. We had a corner out of the way (179) which had late evening sun and no-one in front of us. Pete was delighted to find Leffe Brun beer in the shop for about 68p. We got chips from the friterie and had them with burgers I made from Slovenian meat.

Sunday 28th August: Equihan Plage, near Calais (France)

We had a sunny and early start. After a bit of a problem (garages closed Sunday) Pete put in the spare diesel and we found an open garage in Enz and refilled the spare can. We had a slight detour due to roadworks and a map that wasn't detailed enough or new enough but we ended up on a good road NW to Arras, Charleville etc. It was a long drive for Pete but a quiet one till a diversion near Boulogne made us miss the road we wanted to Equihan Plage and Camping La Falaise.

It was very busy at the camp entrance and we thought it was full but it was only people having chats etc. The very helpful Madame told us to choose any spot so we chose one with a lovely view of the sea. We went down a steep hill for a paddle in the Channel, which was surprisingly warm. There was a long stretch of white sand and lots of people spread out along it, even at 6 pm. It was lovely to feel the warm sun, sit out and even better to listen to Manchester United beating Newcastle 2-0 at St James' Park. We've missed having the radio on and we were delighted to listen to the last bit of the Ashes and hear England winning, even though we did hold our breath and bite our nails! We ate a salad Nicoise with lovely white Slovene wine and watched the sun go down. We feel suddenly more relaxed.

Monday 29th August: Equihan Plage, near Calais (France)

What a luxury listening to the radio, eating an English breakfast. We couldn't find the supermarket on foot, though we found a bakery, so we came back to the site and took the van. There's something strange here about disappearing supermarkets: you see a sign to one, then it disappears. We followed signs to an Intermarche but that disappeared too. When we eventually found one, we went to fill with diesel only to find the filler cap missing. Pete thinks it's in Luxembourg at the garage. The machine wouldn't accept my credit card either - what joy ...

We went back to the van and had a lunch of pate and bread and a snooze in the sun under blue skies. I went to pick some blackberries while Pete slept but there weren't many so I decided to walk down to the beach for a swim (re-reading books now, I'd got so desperate). I left a note and went onto the beach where I was informed that the water was 19 degrees. It was okay but not fabulous. There were lots of shells about. Pete came down when he woke up then, after trudging back up the hill, Pete barbecued while I watched the sunset change the colour of the wine in my glass.

Tuesday 29th August: Equihan Plage, near Calais (France)

We went for bread and treated ourselves to a rum baba and a religiuese (choux stuffed with coffee cream). We had a walk around the site area and the cliff tops but there were no obvious footpaths. We looked at the little houses made of boats, then came back to the van and sat in the sun. I got bored re-reading a book. Pete barbecued again but I wasn't hungry. I had a bit of a sore throat so I went to bed early to sleep it off with Paracetamol. The little boy in the caravan next door kept bobbing his head round the van to say 'hello' and I wondered what his English teacher had to put up with, as his other phrase was 'can you be quiet?'

Wednesday 31st August: Thurlstone (Home)

We left Equihan to go shopping in Calais but the card wouldn't work in the Le Clerc garage either. I think I must be doing something wrong. We got a small amount of diesel on the motorway towards Calais. We went to Majestic wine store with my shopping list for wine, then Auchan for cheese, mustard etc and some food for Elaine and Paul who looked after our house. It was very hot in Calais. Pete said 'how about going for the ferry now instead of tomorrow?' I wasn't sure but we drove down to the port and the kind lady said we could go on the next one! She asked me if I was happy with that. Who wouldn't be - it was much more expensive to cross at that time. Is it ever worth buying an expensive ferry ticket?

We had a lovely flat crossing with a little bit of excitement when Pete saw a dinghy upside down in the water and a fast boat circling it. We weren't close enough to see what was happening.

It was a long drive for Pete when we got off the ferry - his choice. He pulled into Maidstone services to let out clean water but there was no drain. He didn't fasten the tap up and we got stopped by a motorway support unit who had to check in case it was a fuel leak. We carried on in a big thunderstorm and got home at 11.30 pm after three and a half thousand miles. We unloaded some stuff then went to bed but we couldn't settle and contemplated going back out to the van to sleep.


A wonderful holiday seeing new places; meeting family and friends was a plus; the weather wasn't great; and next year we're going to Greece!

And they did!