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BG to GB – September/October 2008

The Travel Log of a 1500-mile Motorhome Journey from Bulgaria to the UK via Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium

Margaret and Barry Williamson

November 2008

This illustrated Flair_at_Biser_7.JPGtravel log describes our motorhome journey from Bulgaria to the UK in October 2008. We started from the village of Biser in south-eastern Bulgaria, where we had spent a fascinating three months. For full details of this period of cycling, walking, exploring, writing and spending time in the company of good friends, click: A Summer Aestivation in Bulgaria.

Our journey back to the UK took us first Germany_(11).JPGof all across northern Greece to the port of Igoumenitsa for a ferry to Ancona, on Italy's northern Adriatic coast. Crossing northern Italy, we drove north through Switzerland and into southern Germany. Several days were spent on an excellent campsite in the town of Riegel-am-Kaiserstuhl, cycling a fine network of dedicated paths, between the Black Forest and the Rhine border with France.

Moving north, we crossed the Rhine into France at Strasbourg and then drove north and west, through Luxembourg and into Belgium. After 1500 miles and 16 days from Bulgaria, we arrived in Ostend for a Transeuropa ferry to Ramsgate in the south-east of England.

To read the logs of spring motorhoming in Turkey, click: In Turkey Spring 2008

To read an account of our 3-month stay in Bulgaria, click: In Bulgaria: Summer 2008

For more details and images of our Motorhome, click: A Flair for Travel

29 September 2008   121 miles   Biser, Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis, Greece   Camping Municipal €17.50

Fond Farewells

We were sad to Flair_at_Biser_1.JPGleave the Sakar Hills campsite in Biser after a 3-month stay, but the weather would soon be closing in. Autumn had certainly arrived, with mushrooms appearing in the once parched grass, and our motorhome was laden with the fruits of the season: plums, apples and grapes. The campsite was empty; the owners, Martin and Shirley, planning a winter in the warmth of Australia. Their son Matt would stay behind to work in Haskovo and supervise improvements to the campsite.

For more images of our time in Bulgaria, click: Summer in Southeast Bulgaria

After a last visit from John & Carol, the only British people living in Biser, and Carol,_John,_Margaret.JPGa final goodbye to Mervyn, we were back on the road at noon, heading for the Greek border some 20 miles to the east. With Bulgarian petrol costing 2.19 leva (just over €1) per litre, we filled our tank in Lyubimets on the way. We also tried to replace our expired vignette for driving on Bulgaria's roads (€5 for one week being the minimum) but they had 'sold out'. We had also failed to find a vignette in Harmanli last week, trying both the post office and the fuel stations. Luckily, the border guard just waved us through into No Man's Land before we entered Greece (still not a joint checkpoint here, despite both being EU member countries).

Greece immediately felt calmer, more prosperous, more westernised – as indeed it should. A line of trucks delivered sugar beet to the factory on the outskirts of Orestiada, the first town, about 30 miles from the border. We shopped at Lidl and lunched in their car park before continuing south on the quiet highway, past the old Ottoman town of Didymoteichon, tucked below the walls of its fortress.

Our road ran parallel with the Evros River (which here formed the Greek-Turkish border) until we met the new motorway: left for Turkey or right for Alexandroupolis and the Aegean coast. We turned west along the excellent motorway, taking the exit before Alexandroupolis signed 'AT35_Edirne_(84).JPGirport/Port'. (The exit for the town centre is not yet open, so the next junction is way beyond the town and its campsite.)

We made our way along the coast and through the town centre, turning into the huge beach-front municipal campsite on the left, which even has its own traffic light! It was much quieter than at the end of June, with just a handful of vans in residence.

We had regained the Aegean, where it already felt warmer than our long-held corner of Bulgarian Thrace.

30 September 2008   153 miles   Alexandroupolis to Asprovolta, Greece   Camping International €15.10

Along the Aegean Coast

Before leaving Alexandroupolis we walked into town to buy a phone RTT_(56).JPGcard and enquire about ferries to Italy. Our preferred Minoan Line boat from Igoumenitsa to Venice was fully booked until mid-October, but all the ferry companies had plenty of availability for sailings to Ancona.

Continuing our journey, we rejoined the new motorway (variously known as the E90, A2 or Egnatia Odos) at Makri, 7 miles west of Alexandroupolis. With 2 empty lanes in each direction, it carried us past Komotini and Xanthi, through fields of cotton (ripe for picking), tobacco and corn. The sunflower harvest was already over. These crops and the village minarets betrayed the familiar Ottoman legacy, but even the humblest settlements looked better cared for than those in Bulgaria: a country impoverished by over 45 years of Russian rule and only now emerging from the ravages of the Second World War.

West of XanthiRTT_(46).JPG the motorway gave way to a 3-mile stretch of narrow road, bridging the River Nestos, the border between the Greek regions of Thrace and Macedonia. Then we climbed to 1,086 ft, high above Kavala - the Old Town huddled on its rocky promontory with the island of Thassos looming offshore. Dropping back to sea level, the motorway was incomplete, alternating with sections of the old coast road. Stalls selling grapes were dotted along the verges as we passed through vineyards, but we had plenty of sweet Bulgarian grapes on board, through the generosity of Biser's kind villagers.

After 146 miles we left the motorway at Asprovalta, where we remembered a Jetoil filling station just beyond Lidl and Aldi – the last chance to refuel both body and engine until beyond Thessalonika! Petrol cost about the same price as Bulgaria, at €1.09 a litre (though diesel is somewhat cheaper in Bulgaria). Be warned: the entire motorway extension from Alexandroupolis to Thessalonika is free of tolls – but also devoid of any kind of service station, or even a parking area! Perhaps they are to be added later? Or not.

We turned along the Asprovalta seafront in search of a stopping placeGreece_2008_A_(1).JPG and came across a huge EOT (Greek Tourist Authority) campsite, bordering the beach a mile or so north of the resort. It was completely deserted, apart from a bored Receptionist, busy running up the EOT phone bill. She explained that the site would close tomorrow for the winter but generously agreed we could stay for one night, with electricity but no hot water, provided we left by 10 am. No question of a discount!

We camped by the shore and had a leg-stretching walk, the weather still bright and warm.

1 October 2008   200 miles   Asprovolta to Kalambaka, Greece   Camping Rizos International €19.00

Via Larisa and Trikala to the Meteora Monasteries

Returning to the new E90 motorway, we continued westwards, bypassing the maelstrom of Greece's second city, Thessalonika, after 50 miles.

Following signs for Athens, we turned south down the coastal motorway, paying our first toll at 63 miles just after crossing the Axios River (€4.30 for us - or €2 for cars). The next toll was 45 miles later (€5.60), just before the exit for Skotina Beach, where we had parked for the night on our way out last March. Past Platamonas Castle, the motorway is still incomplete (despite the tolls), with two stretches of narrow road.

The second and most dangerous stretch leads through the Vale of Tempe, the verdant gorge of the River Peneios. This 3-mile ravine has long been an important route but there is still virtually nowhere to park and explore its beauty, the few lay-bys being crammed with souvenir stalls! The Vale (known in antiquity as the Wolf's Mouth) is also notorious for motor accidents. We passed the memorial to a bus crash in which many students were killed, and a more recent scene of carnage, now decorated with black and white football scarves and jerseys. The next toll point (€2.30) came at 126 miles, in the middle of this twisting old road! We shivered - a tunnel is long overdue.

Leaving the AthenGR_Kalamb_(14).JPGs motorway for good at 145 miles, south of Larissa, we turned west on E92 across the cotton fields of the Thessaly Plain to Trikala. By 3 pm we were approaching Kalambaka, where the mighty grey rock towers of Meteora rise up, reaching almost 1,000 ft above the plain – a fantastic sight. This unusual natural phenomenon occurred at the lower end of the gorges carved in the limestone of the Pindos massif by the Peneios river system.

Some of these precipitous columns are crowned by the justly famous MeteGR_Kalamb_(30).JPGora Monasteries. By the 15th century there were 2 dozen monasteries perched on these pillars, of which 6 have been restored and developed into a tourist attraction. A modern road loop gives breathtaking views over the village and the valley below, and the many visitors now climb stone steps to enter the monasteries, rather than scaling ladders or being winched up in a basket! ThGR_Kalamb_(26).JPGere are still some monks and nuns in residence, though most have retreated to the more isolated sanctuary of Mount Athos.

On arrival we turned into the Rizos International campsite on the left of the main road, about 2 miles before Kalambaka: open year round, with good hot showers. All was quiet – just a French caravan and a German biker with a tiny tent. The signs by the drained swimming pool were in Greek, German, French and English (so no excuses). The English version read 'It is forbidden to play with your balls – or anything else – in the pool'. We liked the 'anything else'! (Sorry about the adolescent humour!)

For more images, click: Meteora: 'Rocks in the Sky'

2 October 2008   75 miles   Kalambaka to Ioannina, Greece   Camping Limnopoula €20.00

Over Greece's highest road pass in a rainstorm

Next morning rain fell from a leaden sky, so we easily decided against staying for another cycle tour of the 6 Meteora monasteries which are open to the public. (Click for Details of our previous visits to Kalambaka, including cycle routes - or type 'Meteora' into the website's search engine.)

Driving through Kalambaka, past the shiny new Lidl (pausing for only a shoGreece_2007_(17).JPGrt visit, its car park more than adequate for our motorhome) and the atmospheric old railway station, we were soon climbing north-west on our way to the Katara Pass. After 18 miles, in the village of Trigona, we'd reached 2,590 ft and were enveloped in mist and cloud. Over the next 8 miles there was a drop and then another climb to Panagia village at 2,650 ft – a section we remembered well from cycling this route. Here we had rested before the final slow, narrow and winding ascent to the top of Greece's highest road at 5,594 ft or 1,705 m.

Today we reached tGreece_2007_(20).JPGhe Katara Pass (the border between Thessaly and Epiros to the west) in driving rain after 35 miles. Now running down hill, we soon passed the small winter sports station, with its welcome car park and restaurant for the trucks which have to labour over this pass. The long-awaited motorway and tunnel is still very far from finished.

The road bypasses the little mountain town of Metsovo, where an elderly shepherd's wife was recently killed by a bear. At 44 miles a motorway link to Ioanina was signed (albeit with a 3.5 ton limit!) but it was temporarily closed by a landslide! We parked at the roadside for lunch as a thGR_North_(12).JPGunderstorm raged, then thankfully descended to Ioannina, the capital of Epiros and a busy university and tourist town. (For more detail, type 'Ioannina' into the website's search engine.)

The heavy rain continued as we made our way into the campsite at the Rowing Club on the lake, on the left about a mile before the town centre. This site is officially open from May to the end of October, though it is possible to park here overnight in winter. There were a few campers, mostly Dutch or German, with one English couple bound for Alexandroupolis and Turkey. They invited us into their Hymer for drinks over the maps (and were rewarded with a bunch of our Bulgarian grapes).

3 October 2008   50 miles   Ioannina to Igoumenitsa, Greece   On board Minoan Lines 'Europa Palace'

To the port of Igoumenitsa for an overnight ferry to Italy

And still it rained! With little point in lingering (to witness the flooding of the campsite?) we rang and booked a Minoan Lines ferry, departing Igoumenitsa at 11.30 pm for Ancona. All sailings for Venice were still full for several days ahead.

Having been (unreliably) informed that the motorway was now open from Ioannina to Igoumenitsa, we set off through the chaos of the town centre to drive 7 miles down the Arta road and join this western end of the new Egnatia Odos motorway (which might one day actually cross the country to the Turkish border – they've been working on it for 15 years to our certain knowledge). Reaching the junction, we should have been warned by the sign - 'Igoumenitsa, 3.5 ton limit' – but there was no going back.

Wondering why the motorway was so quiet, we sped through a new 2-mile tunnel in the mountains near Ancient Dodoni. Then we were diverted onto an old road, above an unfinished tunnel! Another section of motorway lasted just 11 miles, until Paramythia and the next diversion. Negotiating a steep narrow road, snaking its way up and down the mountains for the next 8 miles (hence the 3.5 ton limit), we finally rejoined a smooth motorway for the last 15 miles to Igoumenitsa. Like many things in Greece, it will be nice when it's finished. Meantime, the old E90 would have been a better route.

We had a last fill of p101_In_Igoumenitsa.JPGetrol (Greece still being cheaper than Italy), parked at the port in Igoumenitsa and collected our Minoan Lines tickets. The price had mysteriously risen since this morning's phone call but we stood our ground and paid the original fare: €296 one-way. That is enough. Browsing in the large ferry terminal building, we bought Greek calendars and made some phone calls. These included an appointment at Motorhome Medics in Cheltenham for service/MOT and an enquiry to TransEuropa Ferries, who still offer a very good deal for their Ostend-Ramsgate boat.

With time in hand, we walked along the waterfront into Igoumenitsa for a meal at Goody's, followed by coffee and apple cake back in the motorhome. At last we boarded, onto a deck crammed full of campervans and motorhomes - German, Austrian and Dutch, as ever, plus one each from Latvia and Poland – no British. October is usually busy (the last month allowing 'Camping on Board' before the winter ban) and it seems the sudden bad weather in Greece was causing an early exodus. The camping deck provided electric hook-ups, plus toilets and hot showers.

By midnight we slid past Corfu on a calm sea. We slept soundly after watching a DVD of 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', seen before but worth a second viewing.

4 October 2008   119 miles   Ancona to Castel San Pietro Terme, Italy   Motorway Services on A14

A morning at sea and an afternoon on the Autostradas of Italy

Between breakfast and lunch in the motorhome, we explored the ship, amuseAncona.jpgd to see a small tent pitched among the reclining chairs in the Pullman lounge – a new version of 'Camping on Board'! The Minoan Lines 'Europa Palace' arrived promptly in Ancona at 3 pm (or rather 2 pm local time), though it took 55 minutes to unload the packed vehicles, with some having to reverse down the upper ramp.

We made swift progress once we reached the A14 toll motorway, travelling north up the Adriatic coast through a short but spectacular thunderstorm. From Rimini, the motorway heads north-west inland, and we stopped at the last service station before Bologna: Castel S Pietro Terme.

It was surprisingly quiet and we settled down to make dinner. Suddenly we noticed clouds of smoke rising from behind a coach parked opposite to us, with all its passengers milling about making a lot of noise. Alarmed, we investigated and found not a fire, but a barbecue in full swing! Trestle tables were being spread with white cloths, food was being grilled, wine was being drunk – all in the motorway services car park! Imagine that in England, with a charge of some ₤20 to park for any length of time and cooking (even inside a caravan) forbidden!

We decided on our onward route – via the St Gottard Tunnel to Switzerland and Germany, rather than the Frejus Tunnel and across France. Arrangements had to be made: reluctantly, we phoned to book the Ostend-Ramsgate ferry in one week's time, and a place on Briarfields Camping at Cheltenham. The journey is almost over.

5 October 2008   244 miles   Castel San Pietro Terme, Italy to San Gottardo, Switzerland   Motorway Services on A2

Via Milan and Lake Como into Switzerland

Dry and bright at last. With no trucks on the road this Sunday morning, there was not even a traffic jam on the infamous Bologna Ring Road, where we joined the A1 for Milan. We pulled into Modena Services for fuel, where petrol cost a hefty €1.42 per litre – and that was at the Fai Da Te self-service pump, which saves a few cents!

But Italian motorway tolls are well worth the price for a smooth passage across the country, with free overnights on the services. We paid our first toll of €22.80 just before the exit for Milan South (covering 135 miles today, plus over 100 miles yesterday). After a lunch break on the Milan Tangential Westbound, we continued north on the A9 for Como, paying another 2 small tolls totalling €3.90.

A superbGreece_2008_A_(3).JPG view of snowy peaks preceded the Swiss border, where we had to buy a Road Pass. Vehicles up to 3.5 tons need a Vignette, valid for 14 months at a cost of 40 CHF - Swiss Francs - for all motorways and tunnels. Owners of heavier vehicles must queue with the lorry drivers to buy a Road Pass, the minimum being valid for 7 days at 25 CHF. (Exchange rate about 2 CHF = ₤1.) As this included the St Gottard Tunnel under the Alps, it seemed a bargain, costing much less than the single toll on the Frejus or Mont Blanc Tunnels.

Equipped with our Road Pass, we made good progress north up the A2 past Bellinzona. Previously we have turned off the motorway at Faido for a break at Camping Gottardo (see Balkan Return: Spring 2007 for details of an earlier visit), but this time we have a ferry to catch.

We came to a sudden halt on meeting the tail-end of a queue for the St Gottard Tunnel, which stretched for nearly 6 miles! Entry to the tunnel is regulated by traffic lights, to limit the numbers in Europe's longest road tunnel, which only has a single lane in each direction. We crawled along for a full 4 miles before escaping into the San Gottardo South service station, the last before the tunnel. There was even a queue to get into the service area and an even longer one to get out. The only alternative route is to drive over the St Gottard Pass, which we have cycled but never motorhomed. The road was signed as being open - but with a snow chain warning! There was no traffic information in the service station and the only staff we could find spoke nothing but Swiss-Italian.

The motorway remained extremely busy and the queue looked no shorter by the time we had made and eaten dinner. We stayed on the services for a frosty night at a height of 3,600 ft in the foothills of the Alps, their peaks dusted with fresh snow powder.

6 October 2008   160 miles   San Gottardo, Switzerland to Riegel-am-Kaiserstuhl, Germany   Camping Muller-See €14.40

Under the Alps and across Switzerland, via Basel into Germany

It was a good decision to leave the San Gottardo Tunnel until this morning, as the queue was very much shorter, so we quickly covered the 1.75 miles to the tunnel entrance up at 3,763 ft. Over 10 claustrophobic miles later we emerged into German-speaking Switzerland and continued through many shorter tunnels past Luzern to Basel, where yet another tunnel took us under the infant River Rhine.

Crossing the border into Germany, we immediately stopped for lunch on the huge lorry park on Autobahn A5. Looking through our guidebooks for a campsite on the route, between the Black Forest and the Rhine, we came across Riegel (open Easter-October) and rang to check if open. Jawohl - till the end of the month.

We had an easy drive north along A5/E35, down the Rhine ValleyGermany_(11).JPG past Freiburg. Germany's motorways are still toll-free (unless you happen to weigh over 12 tons), though that may change. Taking exit 59, Riegel-am-Kaiserstuhl lies just to the west, with an enormous family-run campsite well signposted, a mile NW of the village.

Warmly greeted by Grandfather Muller, we were told to settle wherever we liked, that the electricity was included (and not metered) and that fresh bread, rolls or buttery croissants could be ordered for morning delivery. The site bordered a large lake, artificially created in an old gravel pit, with a swimming area at one end and a nature reserve at the other. There were a few campers, all German and very friendly.

Our choice of evening film was 'Capote', about the author Truman Capote's research for his final book 'In Cold Blood', a true murder story. He's better known to us as the author of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

7-11 October 2008    At Riegel-am-Kaiserstuhl, Germany    Camping Muller-See

An Autumn break among Baden Wurttemberg's vineyards

With crisp sunny autumn weather, a network of dedicated cycle paths (within and between every town and village), free WiFi internet at the campsite and good digital reception of many excellent German TV channels (intelligent programmes on history, geography and wild life, as well as good news coverage) and superb croissants delivered for breakfast, we were easily tempted to linger a few days! A couple of phone calls soon postponed our appointments and bookings, apart from one with the Camping & Caravanning Club, who insisted we forfeit the money paid (despite re-booking for a later date). We had to write to their Head Office with extenuating circumstances – and even then were refused a refund! So much for the 'Friendly Club'. The Caravan Club, in contrast, don't even take a deposit from members, let alone demand payment in advance.

Walking round the Muller SeGermany_(12).JPGe (lake) one afternoon, crunching our way through the fallen leaves, we startled several pheasants and spotted a woodpecker. The delightfully restored village of Riegel, a short cycle ride away, offered a good supermarket, the bakery which supplied the campsite, a post office/stationer's, and a museum near some Roman remains. We visited the small Friday market, with its delicious spit-roast chicken stall. Hard to believe we were just a couple of miles from a very busy motorway (A5).

We enjoyed riding the traffic-free cycle paths and very quiet lanes, wellGermany_(14).JPG covered by maps of local cycle routes. During a 15-mile circular ride from Riegel, with a break for coffee and cakes in Teningen, we saw more cyclists (of all shapes and ages) than we had seen in the past 12 months on the roads of Greece, Turkey or Bulgaria!

On a longer rideGermany_(17).JPG (37 miles), we visited the town of Endingen, which was celebrating its wine harvest with a weekend 'Weinfest', then continued west via Sasbach to reach the River Rhine and stand on the bridge which crosses the German-French border. The riverside café there was popular with local cyclists (and us), serving coffee and plum flan, as well as Rhine wine by the glass.

We'll certainly return to this campsite, though were warned it was very popular in the summer months, especially as this is the sunniest area of Germany (hence the good wine). We did like the fact that both dogs and nudists are forbidden.

12 October 2008    355 miles    Riegel-am-Kaiserstuhl, Germany to Wetteren, Belgium    Motorway Services on A10

Along the motorways of four countries (Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium)

This was a very long day of easy driving on good motorways in perfect autumn weather, dry and calm.

We stayed on Germany's A5 north to junction 54, then crossed the Rhine into France at Strasbourg. For a major EU city, we found it congested and badly signposted with no bypass in our direction, but at last we were on the A4 climbing through the misty Vosges Mountains. French motorway tolls totalled €25.30 as far as Metz, from where a free motorway led to the Luxembourg border at 169 miles.

Passing only 2 service stations in the Grand Duchy, both looked too busy and crowded with lorries to enable overnight parking. We did squeeze in for a break and a fill of petrol, as this tiny country has probably the lowest prices in Western Europe (including drink and cigarettes).

Soon entering Belgium (in the Province confusingly called Luxembourg), we took A4 and A15 to Charleroi, then turned north on A54 to skirt the western side of Brussels on its busy Ring Road. Finally heading west on A10, we stopped at the last service station before Gent. It was late and we were glad to find the café had fish & chips (albeit served with mayonnaise and salad). Our meal ended with some plum cheesecake, made with the last of our Bulgarian plums.

13 October 2008    53 miles    Wetteren to Bredene, nr Ostend, Belgium    Camping T-Minnepark €15.00

Ostend at last

After a leisurely breakfast on Wetteren services, it was an easy drive to the end of the A10 motorway at the port of Ostend, whence we have a ferry booked for tomorrow. All our campsite guide entries under 'Ostend' are actually at Bredene, a holiday resort 2 or 3 miles to the east, along N34.

There are 25 campsites at Bredene, though several are only, or mainly, for static vans. They are cut off from the coast by sand dunes, trams and a dual carriageway; heading east on this, past Bredene, we managed to miss them all! Turning back we spotted a sign: left for 'Bredene-Dorp' and Campings, nearly a mile inland.

Camping T-Minnepark proved worth the search – a splendid campsite, with not a soul in residence except the friendly warden. We emptied and filled our tanks (though didn't use the WiFi internet, offered at €4 per half-hour!)

After lunch we walked to the nearby shops: an Aldi and an amazing warehouse-type superstore, with an unpronounceable name, at even lower prices.

We celebrated the end of our journey across the mainland of Europe with a bit of culture: a DVD of Macbeth with a young Judi Dench as the eponymous Lady.

14 October 2008    21 miles    Bredene, nr Ostend, Belgium to Canterbury, England    Camping & Caravanning Club Site ₤10.10

Across the English Channel on the Transeuropa 'Larkspur' Ferry

The weather remainedOstende_(10).JPG warm and calm, if a bit misty and overcast. We packed for the voyage (a flask of coffee and something to read), got a fill of petrol and made our way back to the Transeuropa Ferry terminal on the east side of Ostend for the 1.30 pm boat to Ramsgate. Our tickets were waiting (₤80 one way, with free return within 48 hours – if only we could!) We find this a very friendly line – the price is the same whether booked on- line or by phone, nothing is paid (by cash or credit card) until the tickets are collected, and free coffee is supplied in the waiting rooms at either end.

The good ship 'Larkspur' (probably a remnaOstende_(22).JPGnt of the sadly missed Sally Lines) left by 2 pm, arriving 5 hours later after a smooth crossing. Only one other couple dined in the self-service café and the lounges were very quiet, most passengers being truck drivers with their own quarters.

Disembarking in England is always a shock. Put the clocks back an hour, remember to drive on the left … and look at the traffic and the weather (suddenly wet and blustery). We headed west in the dark on a narrow and crowded road to Canterbury for its convenient C&CC site – just 17 miles, enough for today!

15 October 2008   186 miles   Canterbury to Cheltenham, England   Briarfields Camping   ₤13.50

Return to Cheltenham

A rainy drive across the motorways of southern England: M2-M26-M25-M4 to Swindon, then north on A417 through the Cotswold hills past Cirencester to Cheltenham. Though the roads were very busy, we managed to park on service stations for lunch and tea breaks (with a 2-hour limit before heavy parking fees are due: unique in Europe!)

Arriving aFlair_(27).JPGt Briarfields Campsite in the late afternoon, we were welcomed by Alan. We've stayed here many times, as it's just half a mile from the Motorhome Medics garage, where we entrust all our servicing, MOT and repairs to the incomparable Darren and Martin. Tomorrow we shall hand our Fleetwood Flair over into their tender care for a week or two whilst we travel north to visit friends and family, in a small car to be collected from the very helpful and economical 1-Car-1 car hire company a mile up the road. We find this arrangement much easier than driving in England in a large motorhome and we are very grateful to all the kind people who make this possible.