What are we doing? we are having a last fling adventure around Europe before we go back home to NZ, we have promised the kids we will be home for Christmas so 8 - 9 months of travel and exploration.
How are we doing it? we have bought an old transit van that was previously used by a builder and have converted it to a camper, we have done this over the last couple of years and have already traveled across Portugal, Scandinavia and Ireland .. we have however up until now not spend more than 2 weeks at a stretch in the van..
My last day of work was the 31st of March, Michelle’s last day was the 1st of April, so April 1st or April fools day was my first day of the Big Sabbatical. so today is the 10th of May what have we been doing for the last 39 days ??!!
Leaving the Jobs..Friday the 1st was all about having a bit of a hangover from the leaving drinks .. then that night Michelle’s leaving drinks .. so another hangover .. I can see pattern on the horizon here… anyway work is done and dusted .. well almost i still have my part-time job in NZ so will be working from time to time, I have been doing this for the last 5 years a few hours a day but now we are on the road I hope to do this more in some lumps of time ..
2nd - 8th April : Escape from Windermere way..Our first week was all about getting out of our rented flat, we moved into 5 Windermere Way 5 years ago to the day of departure, a 1 year, 2 year then 2 x 1 year leases, man you can accumulate a lot of crap in 5 years.
So the mission was to get rid of everything we didn’t want to ship back to NZ or to put in the Transit van. We ended up with a dozen boxes of stuff, kindly stored by the Halpin’s, thank you Geoff and Sally .. and a frequent flyer card for donations at the local Dr Bernardo’s charity shop .. then a flat inspection and we are free .. not that there is much of the bond left by the time the rental agency has taxed us for leaving .. but hey its done .. we are now of no fixed abode and on the road.
9th - 15th April : Say good bye to a few UK good friends..Friday the 8th .. now homeless we invade the Halpin’s who offer the cheapest plastic box storage in London, thanks again Geoff and Sally, and Geoff’s Mum now also has a 1000cc motorcycle in her garage .. awesome people ..
Saturday night, we all go out for a have a curry and some drinks in the old stomping ground of Essex, some awesome friends old and new come to see us off .. and of course I get yet another hangover ..
We leave Geoff and Sally on Sunday and we invade Steve and Millie .. who are being awesome and handing our legacy UK mail for us, spent a great night with them and then on Monday we head down to Worthing ..
Down to the Coast ..Worthing ?? well Richard and Trudy are in Worthing, and we couldn’t leave the country without one last look at Richard's great collection of motorcycles .. and Trudy made us a fab diner and we had a lovely evening .. good people, no great people :)
We have made some fantastic friends in the UK while we have been there, really do hope see some of them back in NZ.
.. so then we cut across to Margate .. Before we leave England we have to visit my Auntie Eileen, love the old girl and Dad would tear me a new one if we didn’t go in and say hello before we left the UK, so just a quick visit, unannounced so she doesn’t go and bake a cake or anything silly like that, a lovely afternoon. Love my Auntie Eileen so many great childhood memories of Margate .. first rollercoaster ride was there .. that’s when my father discovered my full vocabulary of expletives..
..anyway nice couple of hours with auntie Eileen [89 years young] and we head off to Broadstairs, Michelle wants to do a proper visit as last time we was on the bike and the stairs to the beach seemed unsurmountable in motorcycle gear .. we do a Britstop, which is where you park in a pub carpark for the night for free.
Then across to Brighton .. Kevin and Lawrence .. our most fun friends in the gay centre of the universe Brighton.. we always have fun there with them and they didn’t disappoint .. Kevin and Lawrence shouted us a hotel room for the night as their house is mid loft conversion, such generous lads :) We had a great evening! going to miss Brighton, then breakfast the next morning and off to the ferry ..
16th April - Proper start ..Okay this is where we really think it all starts.. crossing the channel .. so we had across from dover to Dunkirk .. Michelle hates Calais so we never go there .. so into Dunkirk and then across to Paris, yeah I know it's out the way but the girl want’s to see the Palace of Versailles and Notre Dame before we turn our back on Paris forever ..
17,18,19th April.. Versailles and Notre Dame..
|[ Yes its the Eiffel tower not Notre Dame, But this is the view from the Notre Dame tower walk]|
There was 2 motivators for this campsite 1 as it was close to Versailles and 2 an easy train ride to Paris, I also did a days work on the first day.
So on the 18th we went to Paris, we had been to Paris once, a weekend with Frankie, but we wanted to go inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame and up the towers. We did this, amongst other things in Paris. I have to say the tower walk is well worth the money but is quite hard work, that's one heck of a lot of steps.
|[ Gargoyle Just enjoying the view]|
|[I would love to see this with water comming out of it !]|
|[ Metz ]|
We head away from Luxembourg again in a general Greece like direction, however I have some work in NZ that's pressing for me to get onto so we decided to grab a stop in Bavaria at a nice campsite with good wifi, 22nd - 25th April, Michelle read a lot, got some washing done and did some more work on some van furnishings. I just spent the time sitting at a keyboard working and got quite a lot done. However the weather was awful, it SNOWED !
Lucky we had electricity and the van was warm enough with our little heater but still pretty yuk. We are looking forward to seeing some better weather in Bavaria later this year. so onwards to Greece !
|[Predjama Castle ]|
Then as the day came to end we decided that rather than ducking back across to Italy we would jump into Croatia.
Croatia .. 29th April - 6th MayGroznrjan, which is a medieval hilltop village that lets campers park at the top of the village for free. Had a walk around the village the next morning then headed off.
Now we love Croatia, this country is absolutely beautiful, if you haven’t been you need to put this on your to go to list, we loved it, worked our way across from Grozjan to the island of Cres, Through to Rijeka then across to Plitvice Falls ending up at Dubrovnik, via the little peninsula, avoiding Bosnia completely.
|[ Plitvice Falls ]|
Next we moved into some less known quantities our the first non EU countries, first off Montenegro..
So first impressions weren’t great, at the border they ask for our green card, now okay so my bad when I did all the trip stuff i packed all the documents, the registration papers for the van, the full insurance policy but I didn’t think about a green card, we actually need up driving across Croatia uninsured realised as we reviewed our documents before tossing into Montenegro and rang the insurance company in the Uk to organise some cover. cover sorted they emailed me a green card, no they don’t take a soft copy at the border, must be a piece of green paper .. a green card.. okay so we pay them €18 for a cover policy, no mention of what it covers its just a piece of paper to make them happy.. so to me it was just a tax really ..
Then we stop at the village on the way to Kotor, think we will have a some lunch and a look around, but it’s €5 an hour to park! WTF are you shitting me this is not central London, turns out this a government carpark and my van, a camper is €5 an hour, a car is 50c and hour! a 52 seater coach is €10 so my small camper that fits in a car space is getting a pretty raw deal. Montenegro also has a no wild parking rule and as far as i can see almost no campsites, however in Kotor we find a guy at a carpark that is listed in the book who for €15 for the night will let us park over night as long as we are out before the shift change at 07:00 ..
So things are not cheap in Montenegro,
the next big expense is part language barrier part stupidity on our part, so we decide to have diner in Kotor, find a nice restaurant and have a lot at the menu, we have picked out a couple of meals about €23 each, so we reckon a €50 euros for dinner, then the waiter brings over the fresh fish of the day, what looks like a lovely flat fish Michelle is keen, we will share the fish .. i ask how much and i am sure he says €18, i even repeat it back to him a couple of times .. then he indicates to me that what i think is per kg, 2 KG fish .. okay i am still in the sub €50 euros bracket. he presents this fish, which is i must add cooked to perfection, tastes divine and is more than enough for the two of us.. lovely meal .. then we get the the bill €84 .. WTF! long story short he is adamant he was saying 80 .. FFS .. we argue a bit he’s not backing down so i say okay .. then no we don’t take plastic sir .. he got all the cash in my wallet just shy of his €84 .. spoiled the taste of a fantastic meal. moral of the story .. write down any numbers if you are going to stray from the set menu.
|[Kotor - from the fort]|
The nearer you get to Albania it seems that Montenegro gets all a bit grotty and dirty .. the nearer to Croatia the better it is .. my advice is Montenegro may be best seen from a cruise ship ..
Albania 8th May ..okay we get across the border, which does take a while and get going .. the first thing you notice is that they are all drive like utter lunatic’s ! there are large late model Audi’s , Merc’s and BMW’s being driven by guys who must have a deep desire to die, they overtake anywhere and drive at breakneck speed, then you see a guy in a horse and cart, and cobbled together cars. There are people in fields working tuning huge fields over by hand! plowing huge fields with a horse ! this is a country of the ULTRA RICH and the SUPER POOR, its just seems disgusting to me.
The roads are in many places in the most shocking state of repair .. this country is in a mess .. the towns are alike shanty town ghettos with the odd super mansion thrown in .. it seems to have no middle ground, you're super rich or super poor .. we started just trying to find a campsite to stop at, but like Montenegro it doesn’t seem to have any, wild camping is a scary thought and illegal, then it occurred to me that anyone in Albania that can afford a holiday would leave the country so perhaps thats it and they don’t expect to see any tourists ??
We only had one interaction with an Albanian, a policeman who pulled us over at a routine stop, this is what it seems the police do all day is set up road blocks and randomly stop people, anyway he checked out papers didn’t like our digital green card and was very keen to take £100 off me for a suitable cover .. or to ignore my unsuitable cover.. he didn’t get £100 i didn’t have it and woudl never bribe a cop as much as he asks .. he did tell me that he was saving up the £10,000 he needs to get to the UK illegally .. a cop wants to go to another country illegally ?? WTF ?? and they are trying to get this place into the EU ? OMG !
..anyway after leaving him we just basically kept on driving .. our Garmin showed a campsite on the way across the country so we went there .. to find a mud trail and nothing .. first time the Garmin campsites has ever let me down .. so we headed of the next nearest .. but by then we were so close to crossing the country we just said stuff it and went for the first one in Greece .. in and out of Albania in a day .. so long and no we won’t be going back any time soon !
Greece !!! 9th May .. so 1 calendar month after leaving our home we are here in Greece..
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