Monday 31 December 2012

You've got to have a Dream....

As we approach the end of 2012 and look forward to the New Year, our thoughts turn to what next year will bring.  This is our 3rd turn of the year since we left the south coast and moved (on a whim!) to the Cheshire countryside - no regrets but there are some things that Paul, in particular misses:
  • Living within walking distance of the beach
  • Weekly bike rides with Ray
  • The Bluebird Cafe (after the weekly bike rides with Ray!)
  • Curry Nights with "the boys"
  • Walks on the Isle of Wight
  • Whizzing around the Solent in Mr J-P's Rib
  • Fishing in the Solent with Mr J-P (in between the whizzing around!)
But living where we do now also has some great advantages:
  • Day walks in the Peaks, Lakes, North Wales, Cheshire & Lancashire
  • The delights of the Isle of Anglesey (our replacement for the Isle of Wight)
  • Some great local produce
  • Never having to water the garden - it falls naturally from the sky…..constantly!
We've both had a busy working year and next year looks to be the same, which is good because it's this that pays for the important things in our life.  And if anyone says that work is the most important thing in their life then we think they should take a very hard look at themselves in the mirror.  Over this year we've completed the work on the inside of the house and the garden is really starting to come together; with some warm sunshine over the coming months we look forward to seeing it spring to life once more.  Next year we'll redo the drive to tidy up the front of the house and improve kerb appeal; you never know when we might decide to sell up and move on again!

We've enjoyed some great trips away this year.  Our favourite was our week touring Northumberland in a motorhome in May.  This was our first ever motorhome trip and very much a 'try before we buy' to see if it's for us……and we're totally hooked.  It helped that the weather was unusually hot and sunny but we now know that this type of life is for us in the future.  Thanks to Stephanie and Ian at Live the Dream Motorhome Hire - we look forward to our next trip.  In July we headed off to Dubrovnik - a great city and we loved Croatia, certainly we'll be back to visit other parts in the future.  And in September we spent a week beach-bumming in Portugal, another relaxing week.
So our thoughts are now turning to 2013.  This is a bit of a landmark year; Paul will hit the big "50" in July and we'll also celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary in November, so we're planning a bit of a holiday splurge.  In about 5 weeks we're off to Lanzarote to grab a week's winter sunshine to recharge our batteries - hopefully the Vitamin D supplements won't be needed that week.  June will see us heading off to France for 2 weeks in Stephanie & Ian's new 2-berth CI motorhome.  Whilst this needs some advance planning (booking channel crossings mainly), the idea of this trip is to see if we can get used to not having a fixed itinerary or booking stops in advance; this might be challenging for Paul who's still in the habit of 'military-style' logistical planning, but he's trying hard not to panic!  We're hoping for some wild swimming in the lakes and rivers further South but apart from that we'll just follow our noses and use the many Aires.  Finally, to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary, we'll be spending a week in Marrakech.  This will no doubt be another foodie trip, with some time relaxing in the courtyard garden of whichever Riad we stay in.

2013 should be an exciting travel year and we look forward to new experiences; January will see us cram some Spanish into our old brains ready for Lanzarote, then back to a few months brushing up our French language skills - who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks! But after this the holidays will take a back seat as we start to save hard to realise the ultimate dream of buying our own motorhome in a few years and starting the next phase of our travels with regular (and hopefully longer) trips to explore mainland Europe.  It really is important to us to achieve our dreams now and not wait until retirement age - that may never come…….

With our planning well in place for what we want to achieve and enjoy next year, we're really excited about the time ahead.  New Year's Eve will be the usual quiet affair for us - in bed early as we prefer to wake up on the first day of the New Year, clear-headed and ready to move forward.  Whatever you have planned, we wish you a peaceful and healthy 2013 and beyond.  So, if you've managed to get to the end of this blog without falling asleep, the one message to take away is to "Live your Dreams"…..some final inspirational thoughts:

"Hold fast to dreams.  For if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly." (James Langston Hughes)

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you've imagined." (Henry David Thoreau)

"Don't wait until everything is just right.  It will never be perfect.  There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful." (Mark Victor Hansen)

"Security is not the meaning of life.  Great opportunities are worth the risk." (Shirley Hufstedler)
"Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature…Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." (Helen Keller)

"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." (Christopher Reeve)

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed about the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbour.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover." (Mark Twain)

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  Don't be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people's thinking.  Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know that you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary."  (Steve Jobs)



Sunday 15 July 2012

Hot Dubrovnik nights (and even hotter days)

Tuesday 10 July - Paul's Birthday

After a lazy morning at home we left for the airport at about 1130. The pre-booked car park was full and we only just squeezed the Micra in at the end of row between a Range Rover and the fence.  Thankfully Flight ZB1354 to Dubrovnik was on time.  We landed at Dubrovnik airport at 1930, passed through passport control, collected our case and were out and on way by 1950 - take note British airport operators! As always, we enjoyed stepping  off the cool plane into warm sunshine, perfumed by jasmine and wild herbs - they should bottle the scent and sell it in Duty Free. We'd arranged to be picked up by Livio, the apartment owner.  During the drive he gave us a brief but informative history of Dubrovnik. Whilst he didn't then talk about the 1991 Civil War, we later found out that he fought at the age of 18 1/2 to protect his family's home.  After arriving at the apartment, we unpacked, had a quick shower and headed into town, but not before sampling some of Livio's & his dad's homemade Grappa - lovely! On his recommendation we went to Konoba Pupo, a small restaurant down one of the narrow side streets, for dinner. Cathy had grilled calamari and Paul calamari in red wine stew; we shared a Greek salad & bottle of local white wine.  This was a very good introduction to the great food.  It was the opening night of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival so fireworks & live music - this made Paul's 49th Birthday all the more special. We listened to some live music in the main square opposite the cathedral then walked down to the old harbour for ice cream.  Then it was back to crash out after a long day.

View from our apartment window

Wednesday 11 July
 When we woke up it was - surprise, surprise - hot & sunny.  We had breakfast at Sesame, a small restaurant just a few steps below the apartment. We took a walk back along the cliff top and saw a beach (pebbles) and swimming area just below the apartment.  Packing our day sac, we walked into the old town and went to Banje beach for a swim & sunbathe.  This was enjoyable until a group of British Hooray Henry's arrived, drinking beer and shouting in the sea.  When 4 more arrived we left them to embarrass themselves.  We stopped for a cold drink sat in the shade overlooking the old port, then headed for the small pebbly beach below the apartment for a welcome swim.  Showered & changed, we decided to take a walk around the old city walls.  The Wall surrounds the old town and even though we left this until 6pm it was still very hot & sunny. There were great views over the city and sea.  We stopped 3/4 way around for a rest in the shade and a beer.  We left the walls soon after to walk down some quiet back streets - quiet but very warm - at this point we were flagging and ready for something to eat. We spent some time looking for Domino Steakhouse and finally found it further down the steps than we expected. We drank plenty of mineral water to rehydrate, then tried some local white wine.  We both had Calamari to start then Cathy had rump steak bearnaise and Paul had a very good t-bone steak. Paul finished with a local coffee (like Greek coffee) then we headed back to crash out - a long, tiring but relaxing day.

Thursday 12 July 

After breakfast we headed to the Old Port to catch the ferry to Lokrum Island - at only 100 Kn return for both of us it's much cheaper than the Gosport ferry. On the way out we passed a large super-yacht with a helicopter on the focsle - it's a hard life for some! Lokrum is only 1 mile long & much less across. We went to the Dead Sea first; an inland salt water pool surrounded by rocky cliffs. It was very warm and relaxing despite all the other visitors. We had bought water, calzone & fruit in Dubrovnik for an al fresco lunch under the pines. We then walked around the monastery ruins (they were bombed and badly damaged during the 1991 Civil War) and a shabby botanical garden,(where Cathy appropriated some rosemary for Paul's sore throat!). before planning for a snooze in the olive grove; unfortunately little red ants cut that short! No ants in the pants for us! So we walked back to the jetty for a swim and sunbathe.It's a rocky shoreline with places to sit or sunbathe, and ladders very thoughtfully provided every few metres to get in and out of the sea.  By this time it had clouded over a little which gave some welcome respite from the hot sun. We caught the ferry back to Dubrovnik for a welcome shower and cool down before heading out for dinner a bit later than normal...when in Dubrovnik....  Our first stop that evening was D'Vino wine bar.  This is a small but chic bar where you can taste a variety of local wines; the staff give a good brief on each when they bring them to the table.  We tasted 3 local reds for only 50 Kn before heading off for a stroll.  At the old port we smelled gorgeous seafood & garlic coming from the fish restaurant right on the waterfront - Lokanda Peskarija.  They serve a limited menu of seafood but all of it is top quality and very reasonably priced. We ordered a sharing dish of swordfish, mackerel, mussels, whole king prawns, baby squid & sardines, all cooked in garlic and served in a large metal black pot - like a witches cauldron Cathy said! This was washed down with a light, local Rose.  We then wandered back through the old town, enjoying the slight breeze and listening to live music in the various squares, before heading up the hill to bed.

Friday 13 July

We were up a bit earlier this morning and had breakfast in the old town (not as good as our usual breakfast haunt of Sesame). Then we walked up to the cable car station to take a trip up the mountain overlooking the old town. Paul's scared of heights but he coped well and the view from the top overlooking Dubrovnik, Lokrum island and the sea was amazing.  There was also a lovely cool breeze so high up.  We enjoyed a Sprite and also visited the Dubrovnik at War 1991 exhibition - hard to think the people suffered so much hardship just over 20 years ago.  Returning to the town we stopped for a light lunch of lamb kebab and tomato salad at Konoba Jezuite.  The young waiter got an ear bashing from the hot & thirsty old biddy when he asked us to move tables because we were sat at one where they only served drinks - suffice to stay he was firmly put back in his box! (We had been told to sit there!) After lunch we walked along the city walls for a beer at Buza Bar.  This is built into the cliffs, under the city wall and overlooking the sea.  I think we doubled the average age (and some) when we sat down; the place was full of young, hip Aussies & Americans. Cathy enjoyed watching the young men climb up the cliffs then leap 60 ft into the sea below; Paul showed concern for the young ladies who are clearly too poor to buy a properly fitting bikini.  We walked back through the tiny streets, looking at little, shaded courtyard gardens as the locals sheltered from the sun.  After a siesta in the cool of an air-conditioned room we wandered down for a swim at our favourite spot just below our apartment building. After a snooze and shower we returned to d'Vino Wine Bar to taste the whites but preferred the previous night's red wines. Dinner tonight was pasta; spaghetti carbonara for Cathy and spaghetti picante for Paul. The pasta was good but the service poor; the people at the next table received our meal so ours took ages. To add insult in injury, we had to listen to one of them complaining that Paul's pasta was too spicy for her! Then the waiter, after us telling him what had gone wrong, brought my carbonara, but not Paul's, so was swiftly told we wanted our meal together. (Grumpy old man this time!) After dinner we walked around the squares and listened to some jazz before buying an ice cream and sitting on the steps to soak up the atmosphere.

Saturday 14 July
Home day today.  After breakfast we returned to pack as unfortunately we needed to vacate to make way for the next guests.  Livio came at 1030 to collect our bags, leaving us to explore some of the other sites inside the old town walls. We walked down to Pile Gate and our first stop was to cool our hands in the fountain, a ritual that must be done when passing it. Opposite is the Franciscan Monastery and what is claimed to be the world's first pharmacy. St Blaise is the local saint and he was supposed to be a curer of sore throats (and we were both suffering with those with a summer cold) and the patron Saint of ENT doctors (did they have those when he was beatified?). Inside it was lovely and cool with a cloistered garden.  After this it was back into the hot sunshine to find a shaded cafe for a Sprite, which Cathy washed down with a caramel crepe. Fortified, we had a quick look in the cathedral - nice and cool and being set up for some weddings later in the day.  Then it was on to our final cultural visit - the Rector's House. In Dubrovnik the Rector is the Head of the Judiciary, rather than a religious figure.  Cathy in particular liked the dungeon with a dragon engraved on the door frame!  We headed for the old port to sit in the shade and catch a little breeze and decide where to eat lunch.  By chance (!) we were sat next to the seafood restaurant where we eat on Wednesday night.  So lunch was whitebait, fried calamari and a salad, with a cold pint of local lager, again sat in the shade to catch any breeze and in a ripe position to people watch.  After stringing lunch out for as long as we could we walked up to the ramparts overlooking the old port.  A cruise ship was in - the sister-ship of the Costa Concordia which sank earlier this year.  This swelled the visitor numbers by over 4,000, making everywhere even busier.  Seeing the water taxis from the ship queuing to enter the harbour, then the 'cruisers'‚ queuing to go back to the ship, it reminded us how much we would not enjoy that type of holiday. After chatting to an American ex-matelot (the common language of the Navy makes it easy to strike up a conversation), we sat at the bar next door for another Sprite.Also outside with us was a wedding party - we weren't sure of the nationality of the bride and groom but most of the guests appeared to be British, from the very well turned-out (rich) to the hippy types with long hair and flip-flops, one of whom was strumming a ukelele. Drinks done we meandered back through the very hot main street in the old town, hunting out the shade as we walked and picking up an ice cream to share on the way through; Dubrovnikian (is there such a word?) ice cream is very good - maybe an Italian influence. Again the obligatory hand dip in the fountain and a quick stop at the Tourist Information to pick up some leaflets, then a slow walk back up the hill to wait for Livio to pick us up. He was as usual on time and we had another useful history lesson as he drove us to the airport.  Interestingly, on the road to the airport we spotted several Auto-Camp sites for motorhomes.  Our flight was delayed by an hour but after a very swift check-in we headed off to the toilets for a quick freshen up and change of clothes. Passing through security we grabbed a cup of tea and a seat to await the flight back to Manchester.

Back to an English 'Summer'
Having checked the forecast, we were expecting the cool, rainy weather but it was still a shock after the low 30's of Dubrovnik.  We enjoyed our stay; it's a beautiful, safe city with great cafe culture and good food.  Like any popular city it's not cheap to eat out but there are good deals to be found away from the main tourist streets.  If we were to come again, we'd probably visit in late September when it would be cooler and quieter.  It would also provide an opportunity to explore Croatia more - a beautiful country.

Sunday 1 July 2012

Shrewsbury Summer Motorhome Show, Motorhome WiFi and Britstops

We visited the UK Motorhome Summer Show on Saturday 30 June.  Held at the Agricultural Showground, a large number of motorhomes had camped out over the weekend.  We arrived at about 0930 and after a cup of tea and a bacon roll (doughnuts for Cathy!), we had a wander around. There were a few stalls selling the usual gadgets and accessories, many of which we're sure we can live without, but more about the useful gadgets and ideas later.

The majority of motorhomes on show were secondhand from a number of dealers around the UK. It was interesting to compare layouts and sizes and, having learnt lots during our week's hire in Northumberland, we felt much better equipped to judge what we liked.  Many of the older motorhomes were quite tired (or "well-loved" depending on your view!).  However some of the newer ones were quite interesting.  Having read lots about Burstner vans, we were quite disappointed with their layouts - given their high price we're unlikely to pick one of these.  We visited a Chausson which still impressed with the quality of the finish.  Having talked about buying a motorhome with fixed single beds, we're now turning back towards a fixed double french bed, especially as we found a few with more space around the bed.  In particular we were impressed by the Rapido 7099F.  This has a very similar layout to the Chausson Welcome 85, with an L-shaped galley, large fridge and freezer, comfortable seating and lots of storage space. What really stood out was the large bathroom, which was at the rear and across the whole width of the van.  This meant that the french bed could be accessed from one side also, which made the sleeping area seem very open, light and airy.  However this motorohome, at 7.40m long, might be too long for us as a first purchase.  On the other hand, we're planning to eventually tour Europe for several months, so the additional space might be welcome.

We were pleased to meet up and chat with the Britstops team.  Having experienced the France Passion idea, they thought this would work well in the UK, where motorhomes are not made welcome pretty much anywhere but campsites.  This service offers free stopovers at all sorts of venues around the UK, including pubs, farms, vineyards and breweries.  Although the stopover is free, the hosts hope you will try their produce and services.  You have to pay for the Britstops Guide (and window sticker) but then have access to over 140 sites and we were told the list continues to grow.  With the relatively high price of campsites in the UK, wild camping prohibited and with very few overnight camping car parks or Aires, we think Britstops will take off.

It was also great to meet Adam who, with his his girlfriend Sophie, spent a year travelling through Europe, recording their travels in their Blog - Europe by Camper.  Adam was very enthusiastic about both their trip and their new business venture to provide internet connectivity when on the road - Motorhome WiFi.   We were particularly impressed with their iBoost WiFi System.  For people like us, who want to connect to the internet over wireless using a number different devices, this booster system to connect to wireless hotspots is ideal.  Lots of sites and local cafes, bars and resturants offer WiFi, however you have to find and visit them, so having internet connectivity via a secure private network in your motorhome is just what we're looking for. I like to update our blog daily where possible, including uploading photos, so having the option of doing this sat comfortably in our motorhome (or outside with a cold beer!) is just what I'm looking for. Although there's the capital cost of buying the iBoost WiFi system, I think the convenience will soon pay for itself.  When we have our own motorhome we'll certainly be looking at buying one of these systems.  We wish Adam and Sophie all the very best with their business venture - we think it's a winner!

We're off to Dubrovnik for a short break in a couple of weeks to celebrate Paul's 49th birthday but will be back in time to visit the Nothern Motorhome Show in Tabley near Knutsford, just a short 10 minutes drive from our home.  We also received our NEC Motorhome tickets in the post last week - more opportunities to visit motorhomes and dream!

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Lessons Learned from our first Motorhome Trip

As this was our first motorhome hire, we didn't know what to expect. So I thought it would be worth documenting our concerns and the reality, plus share some of the things we learned along the way.
The first point is find yourself a good hire company. On this point we did really well; Live the Dream Motorhome Hire are based in the next village of Anderton, so it made sense to try them. From the first contact (when they were in fact on holiday in Germany) both Steph & Ian were very helpful. The booking process was quick, clear and transparent. They took plenty of time to explain all the ins and outs of managing the motorhome and gave lots of useful and helpful advice; they clearly love motorhoming themselves. We knew that even after we had left, they were only a text or a phone call away if we had any problems or questions.  We highly recommend them.

During our trip we made notes as we went along and I've listed these below, in no particular order:

- Take your time driving - if you’re unsure slow down or stop. This was particularly relevant on the smaller, windy roads with dry stone walls, such as in the Lake District.
- If you’ve built up some traffic behind you consider pulling in to let them pass - they'll appreciate it and you’ll feel less stressed.
- Practice manoeuvring, particularly reversing. We had good wing mirrors, a rear view mirror and a rear camera, but we still had the passenger get out to guide the driver in. This is useful if you’re on a pitch with overhanging trees,
- Always top up & empty out at every opportunity; although we had full facilities each night, if we hadn’t booked up we might have wanted to stay at a Brit Stop site somewhere and doing this every day gives the flexibility and endurance to do this.
- Take clothes for every eventuality - we didn't take enough hot weather clothing (we didn't expect to need them in Northumberland in May!).
- Get rid of rubbish, particularly food waste, at every opportunity.
- Before setting off make sure everything is put away & secured, with doors & cupboards locked (or as Paul said, secure for Sea State 7!). We put together and used a checklist and then we checked each other. It sounds overkill but we had no incidents and in time I’m sure it would become second nature.
- If you see a nice pull-in off the road, then stop, put the kettle on and enjoy the view - what's stopping you!
- Top up with food, drink and fuel whenever you can - you might end up somewhere where these are scarce.
- Slow down, take your time, enjoy the views.
- If you're unsure of anything, ask - most site staff (and other motorhomers) are very helpful and happy to help.
- Take an aromatic candle in a tin - not only does it add a lovely ambience when eating or relaxing at night, it's also a great air freshener.
- Know where the fuse box is sited - you can guarantee a fuse will blow in the dark when you least expect it (so also take a torch).
- Take plenty of small plastic containers - great for keeping food in the fridge or small items in one place; they're easier to stow away and less likely to move around.
- Kitchen/bathroom wet wipes make it easy to clean quickly. They can also be used for wiping down the toilet cassette before refitting after emptying.
- Antiseptic hand wipes or gel can be useful when emptying the toilet as a few of the sites had no hand washing facilities at the chemical toilet disposal point.
- Booking in advance is fine (and this reduced the stress on our first trip) but if out of high season try leaving a few days free to stay on at a site, or perhaps try one of the stopovers available through Brit Stopovers. We would have happily stayed at a couple of the sites for longer than the one night we actually booked, and having booked all nights in advance, we had no option to change our travel plans.
- Take a micro-fibre towel to use as a floor mat for the onboard bathroom. Steph also suggested using it in the onsite facilities as sometimes you have nowhere dry to stand and dress after showering (we can vouch for that!).
- Clothes hangers can be bulky but also noisy when driving if made of metal or plastic. Wilkinson sell some flat hangers that are also felt-covered so silent.
- We took a small gas stove for cooking outside which worked well for things like breakfast sausages and also warming up the Craster kipper! It reduces cooking smells in the van as well as cleaning and is also fun.
- If you plan to use a public car park, get there early. It means you can chose your spot in your own time without the stress of other users waiting for you to manoeuvre. It also means you can pick a spot that will be easy to get out of when you leave.
- Consider taking paper plates and disposable cutlery. We stopped for a quick lunch a couple of times but didn’t want to leave dirty plates so washed up the few items we used, whereas throwing away disposable plates and cutlery would have been much easier and also saved both water and gas.

That covers the notes we made along the way. If I can think of anything else in the meantime I’ll add it later, but hopefully this gives you some idea of what we learned on our very first motorhome trip. We loved the experience and look forward to many more adventurers. We've already booked and are starting to plan a two week trip to France next year as part of our 30th wedding anniversary celebrations. No doubt we’ll learn lots more on our first foreign motorhome trip.

Saturday 26 May 2012

The last day of Campie Tour 2012

Saturday 26 May

Our final morning and we awoke to clear blue skies and very hot sunshine, even at 0730 as we sat outside having breakfast. We could easily be in France on a summer’s day; we’ve been very fortunate with the weather this week. This has been our favourite site so far, just 5 pitches hidden away through a wild grass meadow and amongst the trees, but still with the motorhome servicing facilities, and half the price of the others. Now packing and cleaning, we'll soon be heading south and home. We've already talked about next year’s trip, visiting some of the wild swimming sites in inland France. It's also spurred us on to visit the Motorhome show at the NEC again this year, as we now have a much better idea of the sort of layout we want. And we'll be saving hard to increase the ”Campie Fund”, ready for when we can buy our own. In a few days I’ll add some photos to each of our daily blogs and will also think about a separate piece on what we’ve learnt from our first motorhome trip. It’s been a very relaxing week and this life is definitely for us.

Friday 25 May 2012

A visit to Vindolanda Roman Fort, Hadrian's Wall and last night in the Lakes

Friday 25 May
Having left Haltwhistle we drove to Vindolanda. We passed the turn off as it said it was a single track road with no parking for caravans, so we continued 1/2 mile to the Visitor Centre and parked up. Having walked for about 40 minutes we found that Vindolanda had three or four parking spaces for motorhomes! This was an exceptional Roman Fort with lots of finds - certainly worth a visit. We spent at least 2 hours there and then returned to Campie and drove up to Hadrian's Wall proper. Paul liked it as it marked the demarcation point to keep the Scottish on their side of the border ”they don't like it up 'em Mr Mainwaring!". We then had a 2 hour drive along the A69 and M6 before turning off for our next stop in the South Lake District. The local Council, in their wisdom, had decided to cone off over 8 miles of the very busy A590 with no sign of works on a hot & busy weekend - one hour's delay later we turned off, ignored the idiots behind us in cars trying to overtake on a windy, narrow road, and arrived at our last camp site of our first tour. This was a small, adult only site with only 5 pitches. It had full motorhome servicing and electric hook-up in a very quiet & peaceful site at the very southern tip of Lake Windermere. (Cathy thought it much better than any of the Camping and Caravanning sites.)

Having quickly set up, Cathy found a place to snooze in the sun as I prepared our last supper. Looking in the fridge & cupboards I cobbled together a bacon, sausage, onion & garlic pasta sauce with linguine, enjoyed with some wine. Our final meal was enjoyed sat outside, listening to the bird song.

As I type this blog from our last full day, and as Cathy washes up, we both look back and realise how easily we dropped into this nomadic life of motorhoming and how we look forward to further adventures. It will be hard tomorrow to hand Campie back to its rightful owners but, for us, this is very much the end of the beginning. It's been a fun and life-changing week.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Meditating on Holy Island, Bamburgh Bangers and Cathy's first Campie Drive

Thursday 24 May
Having left Waren Mill we headed up the A1 to Holy Island. There was quite a lot of sea mist and this continued to roll in on and off throughout the day. Crossing the causeway from the mainland was surreal, a bit like stepping back in time. Again motorhome parking was well catered for with plenty of room to park and manoeuvre. Another good point to note is that the parking tickets are valid in all the main tourist stops along the coast, so a day's parking for one site (£4.40) can be used if you move to somewhere else that day. On Holy Island we visited the Priory Museum and the Priory and then walked up the road towards the castle. Again, it looked quite spooky as the island appeared and disappeared as the mist rolled in and out. We didn't visit the castle but did walk up to the Gertrude Jekyll walled garden, which was a disappointment - perhaps we were too early in the season. But Paul did manage to 'obtain'a couple of sprigs of rosemary for our lamb tonight! Cathy also gathered 5 different sized flat stones to build a Holy Island cairn in our garden - it's a white witch thing! Leaving the island we headed for Bamburgh and parked easily in the large car park opposite the very impressive castle. We walked into the village and visited the RNLI Grace Darling museum - well worth a visit and it’s free although they welcome donations (I support the RNLI). Walking back we bought some famous Bamburgh Bangers from the butchers, plus some fruit & peppers from the green grocer. Bamburgh also has a number of lovely cafes, pubs and gift shops - well worth a visit. Returning to Campie it was time for Cathy to drive for the first time; it was a 2 hour journey along a busy A1 & A69, then a narrow and steep approach to the site at Haltwhistle. She did REALLY well and it's good to have a co-driver to share the load. The site is very peaceful, nestled in a valley amongst trees on National Trust land, and alongside the river Tyne. I’m sat in a very warm sun as I type; the brew has gone down well and Cathy is now giving me the "is it G&T time?" look, so I’ll sort that out then prepare dinner. Smoked salmon starter for me, smoked kipper pâté for Cathy, then BBQ’d lamb chops & Bamburgh Bangers, with a salad, no doubt followed by some birthday cake. Tomorrow we're visiting Hadrian’s Wall, starting at Vindolanda Roman fort (or, as I call it, Vindaloo), before our final night at a small site at the very southern tip of Lake Windermere.

Holy Island

Bamburgh Castle