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Winterreise* and more.

Back on the road again. From early January to mid March. From Kent to Cornwall, Somerset to Scotland. Whose bright idea was this? Oh!

To explain. After our Autumn trip through France we spotted a few places where we could make improvements to the van. Not faults exactly, but, in a flashback to my Civil Service report writing days, “developmental opportunities”.

All of the improvements focus on the need for wifi connection and a better use of the electricity we are generating.

Firstly our electrical needs. We have a solar panel as well as two leisure batteries. This creates far more 12v power than we can think of using so how best to harness it? We have decided to buy a sine wave converter. This is a brilliant piece of kit that converts the solar and alternator created 12 volt direct current to 230 volt alternate current, thus freeing up a need to connect to mains supply when we want to recharge laptops, speakers, etc, etc. It also means that we will be able to use a fan-heater and an electric hob at any time and obviously cut down on our gas usage.

All of the above could be done easily here in Germany through either online buying or getting out to the shops. However, our second area of improvement, our wifi connection, was not so straightforward. We tried countless phone shops, internet providers and van dealers in an attempt to find out how to get van wifi installed. As one, all of the people we spoke to looked at us as if this was some sort of witchcraft. They could install a satellite dish that could get nearly every available TV station, but a mobile wifi connection? Pass the smelling salts!

Our problem was solved by going back to the oracle on all things campervanny, aka the Ourtour blog and website run by Jay and Ju Buckley. This was one of the first blogs we read on touring and we knew that they had installed a mobile wifi set-up. And lo and behold, there’s the advert on their front page! So, a couple of phone-calls later, first to motorhomewifi.com and then to as-suspension.co.uk and I had a solution and a date for installation, 21st January.

This was the perfect excuse to take the van across to the UK and catch up with friends and family so the next challenge was to fit in all the visits as well as doing a bit of campervan travelling. We had set dates for the channel crossing, the first trip to Liverpool, then Cornwall, followed by Exmoor and Edinburgh. Finally we had confirmed dates for Oxford as well as the Brexit-fleeing escape back under the channel.

As to how all the above pans out I’ll be blogging over the next eight weeks or so. I’ll be particularly looking at how campervans are considered in the UK as opposed to how they are regarded on the European mainland.

And so for the rest of the year ahead.

  • April. A couple of weeks down-time in March before we jet off to Crete for a long-planned 18th birthday present for the middle one. We’re on Crete, without the van, until the end of April.
  • May. In the van to Basel for the second half of the month to help the oldest one set up for a six-month, final-year university placement.
  • June. Take our time coming back from Basel, probably the first two weeks.
  • July. And breathe.
  • August. Catch up with friends in Denmark in the first half of the month and then off to Spain and Portugal via Germany and France.
  • September. Spain and Portugal.
  • October. Still in Spain and Portugal.
  • November. Slowly dragging ourselves away from the Iberian peninsula and possible back to Basel to help the oldest one in relocating back to Edinburgh for her final five months of university.
  • December. Back to Brandenburg, Christmas and writing a blog on the plans for the year ahead.

So, all that’s left is to wish everyone a Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

*Ourvanhelsing translation service –  Winterreise is German for “winter trip”.

D

Venice

Venice, La Serenissima, the most serene. Really? Well, in parts yes, but the title refers back to an honorary title giving an impression of grandeur, stateliness and prestige. So does it still deserve the title from a 21st century view?

Depending on the time of year that you visit, and the district (sestriere) that you stay in, yes it can be the most serene. Or, it can be the circle of hell that Dante forgot to write about. Continue reading “Venice”

N2R W2D2&3, W3D1

Three in one again, and lessons are still being learned. W2D2 was not great as I was trying for speed, so I went back and listened to Mark Kennedy’s tips (nonetorun.com) and one of them is to keep it slow if necessary. So I stopped telling myself to speed up, to take the running at a comfortable pace, and without that pressure the last two runs have been great.  Continue reading “N2R W2D2&3, W3D1”

France for Beginners

Well we’re back – both geographically and blog-wise. Sorry for the delay but it was a fairly short-notice decision to return and then the unloading and tidying the van took us longer than we thought. Anyway, so what did we think of France? What did we learn? What did we dislike? What did we like?

We were away for 27 nights, spending 5 in Germany and the remaining 22 in France. It wasn’t what we planned but as I explained in a previous blog the weather was just too good to spend meandering through the dark wooded river-valleys of the Black Forest so we chased the sun down through France, getting as far south as the Carmargue.

The trip was one of contrasts. This was one the things that we should possibly have been ready for but as it was our first prolonged trip I’ll not be too hard on ourselves. The biggest contrast was France itself.

dav
La Morte

Almost immediately we went from the flood plain of the Rhine to the 1080m altitude hotel at the Gazon Rouge ski-station. After one day and highwinds and low clouds we dropped down to the banks of Saone and mid-twenty degrees sunshine. Later that week we stopped for 4 nights at La Morte ski station before dropping down to Avignon and almost sea-level in the Camargue.

We also stayed at very contrasting sites and aires. From the characterless Therme carpark at Bad Bellingen and the officiously managed camp site at Oraizon to the peace and quiet of Savoyeux on the Saone and the beauty of Bruniquel in the Aveyron valley. From the night-time silence of La Morte to the bustle of Avignon.

The driving varied from the hazy sunny mornings along country lanes to Arc-les-Senans, to the 90 minute 10kpm crawl around the Besançon caused by protesting lorry drivers! From empty but ludicously expensive motorways to greasy single track drops through chestnut woods – thanks satnav, you’re on borrowed time.

dav
Bruniquel

So what did we like about the trip and France in particular? As mentioned above, the contrasts. But also the feeling of space too. France has a population of just over 67 million with a density of 122 people per square kilometre. The UK density is 272 with England at 427 people per square kilometre.

Let’s not forget the cheap and plentiful wine and cheese. Weaning ourselves off the 5 litre boxes of “veh, veh drinkable” red was an achievement in itself and, while we’re not forgetting things, lets have a big shout out for the cream cakes, especially from Carrefour. These were cakes that predominantly cream with a suggestion of pastry and/or sponge with a bit more cream, caramelised sugar, and, in case you were missing it, more cream! The culinary experience of the trip though has to go to the pizzeria-cum -antique-shop with the help-yourself wine trolley with a view across the river valley to the floodlit chateau at Bruniquel – a complete one-off.

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Pizza ‘niquel – where can you buy an antique saddle, a 1950’s radio, a pizza and a half litre of house red?

What we didn’t like so much – motorway tolls (too expensive), token-required water and electricity points with no instructions on where to buy the tokens, and, French traditional squatting toilets (‘nough said, moving on) – oh, and no we didn’t.

As to what we learnt boils down to one thing – don’t drive too far between stops. Generally we wanted to be at our next stop by 3pm at the latest. Sometimes this meant a four-hour drive, sometimes we were set up by midday after about 60 minutes. This always gave us plenty of time in the afternoon to have a slow lunch, find the tourist office and have a look around the new town or village.

So what’s next in the van? Travel plans include a January to March trip to the UK, a possible May/June quick tour of the Ostee (Baltic) and Denmark, and then a probable 3 month trip to Spain and Portugal.

Dave

Downsizing, decluttering, simplifying

We are regulars at our local tip, or recycling centre as it’s called here in Germany. This morning we took another load of assorted items from our flat and the cellar to keep on track with our aim to downsize, declutter and simplify life. Continue reading “Downsizing, decluttering, simplifying”

N2R W1D2, W1D3, W2D1

So here we go, three posts in one on the graduation day to week 2. Right now we are running at home. The advantage is getting the feel of the same track which hopefully makes it easier to register some progress. We are lucky enough to live out in the countryside and we can run from the front door. And with the lovely late autumn weather here in Brandenburg, the colours are an added bonus. Continue reading “N2R W1D2, W1D3, W2D1”

N2R W1D1

So today is week 1 day 1 of the none-to-run, courtesy of a nice American chap called Mark Kennedy who even emails once you sign up (it’s free). Just when I thought the internet was all anonymous. And I am drinking my reward cup of tea which is my new running drug of choice, because did the magnesium help?

Continue reading “N2R W1D1”