Dubrovnik or Bust – Getting Started

12 Aug 2022

When we last spoke we had given up early on Scotland. And as expected the weather improved up there after we left…. slightly. However we loved the travelling and the experience of Scottish Highlands. Maybe again one day.

In short June and July went like this:- We dropped down to Yorkshire and visited my Dad for a few days before leaving Ruby and jetting off with Jet2 from Leeds to Crete. We spent a lazy ten days by the pool in a resort in Hersonissos in 30º + of heat and blue skies. Have to admit to being cretins in Crete by which I mean we barely left the resort or the (7) pools. With being All Inclusive we wanted for nothing in this ideal resort and despite popping down to the coast, walking round a bit and looking at the local shops/bars, we ignored the beauty and culture of this wonderful Greek island. Still…we got our pale skins tanned nicely..!

Late June into July we had an appointment with our American family over in the UK for a holiday and met up for a few wonderful days in York wandering round in The Shambles and the City Walls and having a right laugh. We later met up with the bigger family at a gathering nearby on 2nd July. There were 35 or so of us who spent a great afternoon hosted by my Dad at a the Hollicarrs Cafe catching up.

The rest of July basically we were working… ouch.. It was graduation time for the nations colleges and we took the opportunity to earn some funds for our next big trip. A very busy 15 long days taking photos in Bristol and Bath was a great way to pass a heatwave but we do enjoy the work and the chance to catch up with fellow photography staff.

And we managed to see all the UK grandkids over the weekends when they joined us on the campsite. Win win. This is the bit of travelling that we have missed. We have not seen enough of the grandkids (or their parents I have to add!) over the 18 months of our travels and have missed important parts of their development that we will not get back. This has caused us to rethink our future planning a bit.

So ‘what about Dubrovnik’ I hear you say… Well, we had been discussing our great European adventure and sorting out the places we wanted to drive to. We had to look at the places we could drive through without visas and without paying stupid amounts on our insurance, both personal and motoring insurance. So we opted for a target destination of Dubrovnik in the south of Croatia. We may make it there but we may change our plans on the way through. (Or our plans may get changed for us..! Who knows). But we booked our Eurotunnel tickets to travel over to Calais on 9th August and return on 5th November. The excitement starts here…

So in preparation we had to organise a few bits including lounging round on a beach in order to enjoy the good weather rather than working. With our local knowledge we knew that access to decent beaches from the Bristol area was limited to the Swansea area of South Wales or down to the south coast. So on 29th July we jumped into Ruby and headed down to Devon for five days in the sun. Our area of choice was Branscombe and we opted for the Combe View campsite for a couple of days. The weather as great, hot and sunny and the site had dry short grass with terrific views. There was a 2km steep walk down to the beach but as we were desperately in need of some decent exercise we took this on with relish. Down to the perfect pebble beach and several swims in the sea each day. The big downfall however was the condition of the toilets and showers on site. We were paying £21 per night, which is still quite a lot for a grass pitch with no electric but the toilets were pretty horrific. Just basically wooden huts from the 1980’s. But still, we are hardened campers and had adjustable expectations AND we have our own shower and toilet. However the toilets on the site were so dirty and ‘stained’ that I asked the owner ‘What time do the toilets get cleaned?‘. Anyway this led to a gentle difference of opinion of the cleanliness and he explained ‘ I would describe the facilities as rustic‘- To which in my rather agitated state now responded with ‘ Well I would describe them as tragic!‘ – Surprisingly he did not like this and told me so. We did manage to not get thrown off site early but we were keen to look elsewhere for the next three nights.

Thankfully we came across a brilliant site just a couple of miles away. The Branscombe Airfield and Camping site. Wow. £23 per night with very nice, clean, non-rustic facilities, a shop, friendly staff AND an airfield.! Right alongside us just 30 metres from our pitch was a narrow, short, grass runway. A few light aircraft were kept in a hangar alongside and we had the joy of a brightly coloured bi-plane taking off and landing several times during our stay which kept us entertained. We again took a walk down to the same beach and yet more steep hills to walk along. More swimming in the sea, more bathing in the sun and more evenings sitting outside Ruby watching other campers and stargazing. We had the added enjoyment of watching the English women winning the European cup. Bliss..

So the date of our European tour was approaching. We spent two nights visiting Michelle’s parents and then headed off for a few days exploring bits of Kent prior to our Eurotunnel booking. Excitement building. It seemed strange to note that we had only to make sure we had a passport and our Check-In details. No Covid stuff. No PCR checks, no confirmation codes about vaccinations, no stuffing cotton buds up our noses. It was worryingly easy to book and plan. ‘What are we missing?’- ‘What else do we need to do?’- Well nothing, it turns out. How easy is this…

First though we had to check out parts of Kent. Just for the hell of it. We identified a perfect free camping spot in the coach park of the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum at Minster. Just alongside the former RAF Manston airfield and a few miles from both Ramsgate and Margate. Both of which we visited on our bikes despite rather dodgy busy roads. The museum kindly allows the occasional motorhome/camper to stay overnight for free. With the expectation that you visit the museum… – which is also free..! But, of course, there is a cafe on site which we used daily for coffee or breakfast and we helped out by watering the plants. So yes, we stayed overnight and then another night, and as it was not busy and they were friendly and welcoming, we stayed a third night. Bloody lovely. The road noise was a little intrusive but it felt wrong to complain…! So as I say, we cycled to both Margate and Ramsgate and as there was another heatwave we had to sample both beaches. Ramsgate was the winner here.

The old RAF Manston site immediately next to the museum has now been taken over as a processing facility by UK Immigration. There are coach-loads of immigrants being brought in every day,-presumably from the Kent coast-where they are processed and identified for up to five days. They are then shipped off somewhere else in the country for whatever is the next stage. Incredible amount of staff and equipment moving in and out all day and into the evening here. Interestingly RAF Manston is where Michelle’s Grampy (Spitfire Engineer) was stationed during WW2. Also where Trina attended her RAF Fire Vehicle servicing course back in the day. Who knew…!

So… now to the really exciting part. 9th August and our start into Europe. Eurotunnel booking confirmation in-hand. Passport in the other. And one of the easiest of transfers over to Calais. We have done this trip several times now and always impressed with the speed and simplicity of it. (Not like the last week in July according to the news). It really is a breeze. We were offered, and took, an earlier train after stocking up on Duty Free stuff first. Passports checked by GB Passport control then by French Passport control 100 metres later.! Gas bottles checked to ensure they were switched off for safety reasons then off we jolly well go. Total cost of £350 return in peak time in a 7.4 metre motorhome. 35 minutes later we were driving on the right. Simples.

We have not got big plans as ever but – as the title suggests- we would like to get to Dubrovnik in Croatia. Meanwhile we just headed south towards Luxembourg and beyond. On SearchforSites we discovered a free location near a town called Bernissart in Belgium. It was a grass car park alongside a wide, clean canal with the occasional speedboat and water skier passing by. Very quiet later in the evening. Rather dark and a delight to be Wild Camping again. Sleep was a little laboured as we always take a little while to get back into the chilled zone and switch off the ‘caveman/woman’ state of alert, but we really enjoyed it. Peaceful and interesting, we just sat watching the sun go down and the moon come up. Great start.

Next morning up and back on the road with the hope of getting into Luxembourg. We really struggled to get a site near the city of Luxembourg but eventually located a campsite at Remich in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Wow, what a find. It is right alongside the Moselle River looking over to Germany on the opposite bank. The site was basic for €15 per night. By basic I mean, no toilets, no showers, just a pitch with full electric and a supply of water etc. Clean enough and safe. I guess the idea is for it to be maintenance free hence no toilet cleaning etc. We did struggle to get in as the pay machine was messing around. Meanwhile a queue of motorhomes behind us started blocking the main road. – The only two British ones in the area. ! Well unlucky. ‘That was bad planning’ says I to the stressed out Brit lady blocking the road, while Mich coaxed the payment machine into action.

Now the joy of Remich and.. the whole of Luxembourg is that ALL PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS FREE…! Yes. Can’t believe it. Not only is it free, it is clean, modern, efficient and friendly. Just jumped on the bus near the camp site and 30 mins later moved across onto a free tram and 20 minutes later we were in the centre of Luxembourg City. And what a great place. I have never considered this to be a place to visit, nor even really to drive through. But it is a little gem of a place. Top quality. Immaculately clean and efficient and with tons of history round the City walls. A most impressive day was spent before the joy of a free trip home. Gotta go and visit this place. Bloody marvellous. Luxembourg is quite pricey including the town of Remich. But well worth a few days visiting.

And today we went for a short cruise up the Moselle (not free but just €10 each (£8.46)).

After three nights it is time to move on tomorrow. Just heading south to the Black Forest. Maybe Baden-Baden. Maybe Not-Not…!

Did you know….

Manston RAF base in Kent started life in World War One as a Royal Naval Air Station. in September 1939, No 3 Squadron flew in equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. Blenheims were also stationed at Manston in December 1939. Manston, being one of the nearest airfields, played a major part in supporting troops during the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940.

During the Battle of Britain, many squadrons used Manston as a forward air base only as it was too vulnerable to be used to permanently base active squadrons.

The Luftwaffe first attacked Manston on August 12th.  Spitfires and Hurricanes did start to reuse Manston but only as a forward base before returning to their home base after completing patrols.

After the Battle of Britain, planes based at Manston took part in raids on German shipping in the English Channel. The runways at Manston were also extended to allow for damaged bombers returning from raids in Europe to make emergency landings.

Many fighters based at Manston gave air cover for ground troops during the ill-fated Dieppe landings. While the landings at Dieppe led to many casualties, the success in the air meant that Manston fighters accounted for forty Luftwaffe aeroplanes at a loss of nine Spitfires.

In February 1944, Manston became part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF). 

As with other fighter bases, Manston played its part in the D-Day landings of June 6th 1944. Typhoons from Manston proved a formidable enemy to the German army when it tried to move tanks and other vehicles to the front. Aeroplanes from Manston also took part in ‘divers’ patrols – attacking and destroying V1 rockets being fired at London.

By the time war in Europe ended, Manston was credited with 234 German planes destroyed, 123 German ships sunk and 161 V1’s shot down.

And, of course, they trained RAF Technicians to service fire vehicles later..!