Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Third Week

Sunday 20-3-16

Last night we feasted on tortellini in the remains of the sauce we had with the crepinettes, waste not want not.  We watched England beat the French in the Six Nations via the free Wi-Fi and a naughty VPN connection. And we didn’t hear a peep out of our loser French neighbours?
In the morning we did the water/waste service thing then headed off in search of a boulangerie and a supermarket, we’d drank Van Brian dry over the weekend.  This we accomplished even though it was Sunday, then headed inland in search of an overnight stop, the coast around St Tropez is a bit scarce of aires.  We ended up driving up the Gorge de Loup.  Wonderful scenery but hard on the MPG, third gear for 20 km.  We could see snow on the mountains above us, which felt odd after being at the seaside an hour or so ago.  It then got even odder, we ended up driving with snow at the side of the road.  We eventually ended up in a fully-fledged ski resort, Greolieres Des Neiges.  Not at all what we expected. 

But they had a large parking area solely for Camping Cars and tour buses.  So we were happy.  We walked around and I got to wear my posh Italian snow boots, so it wasn’t a damn silly idea to bring them was it?  By six o’clock the resort was empty and we were the only ones parked up.  

I did a fine chicken and asparagus stir fry with noodles for dinner. Tonight’s entertainment was Get Him to the Greek, lot funnier than I thought it would be, 3 out of 5.

Free car park at Greolieres Des Neiges, N43.83134 E006.96853

Monday 21-3-16

Van Brian’s made it to Italy! Back down the mountain this morning after taking more photos of the snowy scenes around us, had a diversion due to a closed road but it didn’t delay us.  We hit the coast then turned left for Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo and then the Italian border.  All three places were a pain to drive through, I refused to take Van Brian around the Monaco GP course much to my GP mad co-pilots disgust.  Immediately over the border into Italy we were attacked by swarms of Vespa’s.  Everyone’s got one and they all want to be in front of me.  I found the best policy was to ignore them and let them get on with their madness.  In San Remo we found a large Sosta (the Italian name for Aires) facing the sea. 

Liz sat and read her book in the sun then we wandered about.  Not a lot to see apart from the sea itself, not that I’m complaining.  I prepped a beef bourguignon to cook while we drive tomorrow. I then did a pork sausage meat ragout with pasta for tonight’s meal, seeing as we were in the land of pasta.  Also as a tribute to Italy our nightly viewing was the Sopranos.  The only thing on my hard drive that was remotely Italian.  So Episode 1 & 2 of Series 1 watched.  Third time of viewing for me but first for Liz.  I love it so no hardship, just hope Liz gets into it.

Paid Sosta in San Remo, N43.80233 E007.74752

Tuesday 22-3-16

Sunshine on the sea when we woke up.  On the road for 9am after paying 15 euro for our nights parking, it can be expensive in Italy, the campsites are even worse.  We hit rush hour traffic in San Remo and further along the coast.  Scooter mayhem.  We turned up into the hills and found a Lidl.  I like consistency and always feel at home in a Lidl.  Food and water bought, onwards and upwards we went.  By lunch we’d found another Sosta in a rather industrial area of a city. But it had been enhanced with graffiti, a tired old sofa and a broken washing machine.  Satnav consulted there was another 20 km East of where we were.  What a contrast, a small rural town, a free of charge grassed area just for campers with waste and water points and free Wi-Fi from the town hall just across the road.  Van Brian heaven.

While walking around the town we spotted one small general store and one bar restaurant.  That was the total retail offering, or so we thought.  Outside the town hall we found a machine.  It sold local milk, cheese and jam and what looked like cheese pies? 

Back at base camp we attacked the beef bourguignon that had been simmering away all day.  Outside the only sounds were two owls hooting at each other under the full moon.  I was a bit low on the beer front, two little bottles of Leffe and my last two bottles of Lidl IPA.  So tonight’s two episodes of the Sopranos were accompanied with a rather large brandy.  Always good to have an emergency backup plan.

Free Sosta in Giusvalla, Italy N44.44892 E008.39304

Wednesday 23-3-16

Today we broke a golden rule.  We used a toll motorway.  It had to be done, the coast road is one continual stop start traffic queue.  As it happened it worked out cheaper than expected, we did 20 km to Genoa, dropped off it to dive in a Lidl for restocking of beer and the toll cost was 2.40 euro.  Back on it, around Genoa and then off it again 30 km later we got a pleasant surprise.  Liz put the ticket in the machine and before she could put the card in to pay the barrier came up.  Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth I made a dash for it.  At the top of a hill looking down on a bay we found a parking area with four other motorhomes in it.  We joined them. 

A Welsh couple were parked up in their motorhome, we’d already bumped into them a couple of nights earlier.  They’d stayed here last night and it was free, although cars had to pay.  Result.  A quick snooze then a walk into the very pretty town clinging to the steep hillside with stunning views out to sea filled the rest of the afternoon. 

There were electric bikes to hire for the day that could be dropped off at other charging points in the area. 

We actually passed an open bar and I didn’t go in, I’m a changed man. Back at the van the parking emptied of cars but ended up with 16 other motorhomes in it.  A fair few Germans along with the Italians.  We sorted out our route for the next day and had a fry up for dinner, sausage, fried potatoes, fried eggs and beans.  The eggs and beans made for a pungent atmosphere that night and the next morning. Tony Soprano entertained us till bedtime. 

Free Car Park in San Rocco, Italy N44.33248 E009.16540

Thursday 24-3-16

We waved goodbye to the Mediterranean today, the next time we see the sea it’ll be the Adriatic.  After breakfast I prepped the slow cooker with chicken in a mushroom cream sauce for tonight’s dinner. After yesterday’s success with the toll roads we dropped onto one again today to get us around Pisa.  Neither of us had any desire to see the leaning tower or to take photos of us holding it up.  After Pisa we went back to normal roads and did a quick bread shop in a very busy local supermarket, filled up with diesel, the first time in Italy and we’re paying a bit more for it here.  The destination we’d chosen today was a city on our route south, we’d chosen it for no other reason than its name, Poggibonsi.  As it turned out we’d made a good choice, a free Sosta just outside the town with water, we were running low.  And a ten minute walk found us in an old pedestrianised city centre. 

Lots of little streets and fancy shops. We looked about and sat in a square with loads of old Italian men waving their arms around and debating god knows what, the price of olive oil for all we know. 

Back at Van Brian we did some maintenance and tidying, plotted tomorrow’s route then dined on the creamy mushroomy chicken with rice.  A couple of Sopranos added few more words to our sparse grasp of the language.  Not sure watching American mafia shows is the best way to learn Italian but it’s all we’ve got. 

Free Sosta in Poggibonsi, Italy N43.46174 E011.14596

Friday 25-3-16

Our plan today was to get close to a town called Saturna which has hot springs you can lounge around in, then visit it the next day.  Our plans don’t normally work out the way we’d expect, and today's was no different.  We drove through beautiful countryside, on appallingly surfaced roads.  Found a small supermarket for beer and food then found a lovely free Sosta in a small town.  We got set up, needing the ramps under the wheels to get level.  At that point I looked at how far the town with the springs was, it was only 20km away and we’d read it also had a free parking area.  So ramps back in and off we went.  We followed Darth Garmin, who took us up and down some impressive gravel tracks with hairpins for 10 km.  After 20 km we found the free parking at the springs, it had a height barrier, not good.  The Sosta in the town for motorhomes was full.  But, we found yet another, a ten minute walk to the springs. 

This was more like a campsite.  It had, I’d guess, about two hundred motorhomes on it. It had toilets, showers, a small café and laundry facilities.  For this we had to pay 14 euro.  We lunched, snoozed then had a walk down to the springs to check them out for tomorrow. 

They were packed, it was at this point we realised it was Easter weekend and everyone was on holiday.  The water was warm, smelly and had the colour of bath water just before you pull the plug.  Neither of us felt inclined to wallow around in this the next day. 

So we walked back to the van and had a beer/wine while we sat outside watching the sun go down over the other motorhomes roofs.   I did a chicken satay stir fry for dinner to the sound of yet more motorhomes arriving.  We finished the day off watching the last episode of season one of our Italian lessons.  Only six more seasons to go, we’ll be fluent in a month.  But we’ll be in Greece in a month, perhaps we ought to be watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding?

Paid Sosta at Saturna, Italy. N42.65451 E011.50352

Saturday 26-3-16

I got up in the night to dispose of some unwanted beer and heard another camper arriving, it was half three in the morning.  The next day we were packed and away for eight, minus 14 Euro for our nights camping.  Back to freebies today.  By nine we’d done a beer/wine/food shop and by ten had found a petrol station selling LPG for our tanks, yesterday we’d been refused as it was for cooking and heating not for the motor, different tax rates it seems.  The guy in this station, which overlooked a beautiful lake called Lago Di Bolsena, didn’t care and pumped us full of gas.  We looked at two sostas in big towns, Rieti and L’Aquila, but they looked grotty, we had loads of time so drove on East. Got to a third one in a nice small town only to find they were building apartments on the parking area.  Onwards then, and it worked out well.  At a village called Stiffe, cue childish giggling from the Van Brian crew, we found a free car park that allowed campers overnight. 

It was next to the tourist office for the Grotte Di Stiffe.  Some caves with waterfalls.  We made do with a walk up a hill out of the village to see some waterfalls not in a cave, also not 10 Euro to look at.  

Spag Bol for dinner, a homage to our hosts.  Tomorrow would be the Adriatic.  We were thinking of having a holiday when we get there, a couple of days on a campsite.  Let’s see what turns up eh?

Free Carpark at Stiffe, Italy. N42.25561 E013.54886

Below are the updated facts and figures, I’ve added a few more calculations to the spreadsheet, hope they’re of interest.


  1. I am looking forward to your blog every week now Kev. We are hoping to do the same trip as you in the near future. Thank you for all the interesting info and the calculations are a bonus. One thing for sure, I think we will both put a bit of weight on, trying all the different food and in France, we will have to indulge in their bread, yummy, are you and Liz managing to keep weight off? Keep on enjoying yourselves and keep on writing, it's great.

    1. Thanks Julie, we are eating less, smaller portions and having a good walk everyday so I'd hope we might loose some weight. Although the beer and wine every night might counteract this. Lets see in seven months time!

  2. Question Kev, how many leisure batteries do you have and what make/size, also solar panels, we are looking for them too, there are so many different panels and batteries, the mind boggles! We are wanting to do alot of wild camping like you and LIz and want to make sure we are covered. Thanks in advance.

    1. 2 X Exide Marine 80 AH batteries and a 120 W solarpanel from sun Never flattened them yet and haven't had electric hookup since we left home.

    2. Thanks Kev, keep on trucking!

  3. Loving the blog Kev, you and Liz sound as if you are embracing the retirement tour!! slow cooking definitely the way to go,we chucked a piece of lamb in at 11 and ate at 5 enough left for tomorrow 😉 take care and enjoy the trip ttxx

  4. Loving the blog Kev, you and Liz sound as if you are embracing the retirement tour!! slow cooking definitely the way to go,we chucked a piece of lamb in at 11 and ate at 5 enough left for tomorrow 😉 take care and enjoy the trip ttxx

  5. Another good read. Love following your adventures. Give my love to liz xx

    1. Thanks Amanda, will do. Another update tomorrow for week four :)


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