Author Archives: Ruby Motorhome Travels

About Ruby Motorhome Travels

We are Glenn & Michelle who are currently free to roam with a love of the outdoors and travel. We have recently purchased a Bailey motorhome which has been named Ruby and we are intent on getting around as much as possible. Initially in the UK but Europe and beyond in the near future.

Dubrovnik – Destination Complete

17th Sept 2022

So I am writing this sitting under the awning in Dubrovnik during heavy rain and a thunderstorm..! At least it is warm and YES.. we have achieved our target City of Dubrovnik. This is the first serious rainfall for any weeks which gives us some admin and blog time rather than lounging lazily on the beach..! 

When last we spoke we were leaving Ljubljana in Slovenia and heading over into Croatia. Well this was an interesting start… 30th August and our plan was to visit the Plitvice Lakes which are renowned for the crystal clear water and wonderful waterfalls. The campsite chosen was the relatively new Big Bear site which was in fact a little further away than we thought but it looked ideal, with great reviews and cheap at only 175 Kuna per night (£21). Trouble is… after a three hour drive and only 15km to go… a Road Closure sign appeared. The route to this side of the national park was simply closed. Barrier across and a Croatian ‘Diversion’ sign. Bugger. Well our amazing navigator managed to get the shortest route right around the park. Just another hour and a half and 50km…! And not the best quality of roads neither. Well this was about 3pm so as we eventually arrived at the Big Bear (along freshly laid tarmac). It appears that this whole stretch past the campsite was shut for 6 weeks from 8am-4pm to resurface the whole thing. If we had arrived at the ‘Diversion’ sign an hour later it would all have been open.. Damnit. This wasn’t the end of the story either. After watching other vehicles pass along this road the next day we decided that they must all be going through the roadworks as none turned back and there were very limited side roads.. so we decided to give it a go and try to drive through the roadworks. Wrong… after 5 km we came across the road builders who were decidedly excitable ‘There are huge signs’ he gesticulated ‘Road is closed’ as he rolled his eyes. However they gave us details of a small road half way back to the Big Bear. ‘It is big enough for the lorries’ he assures us. Well… we really did give it a go. It was like driving up a gravel track with Ruby grazing the greenery along both sides when we were met by a couple of Austrians in a car coming in the opposite direction. They stopped after we squeezed past and returned saying ‘Don’t do it’- ‘We have had to turn around’ ‘You will not do it in that’– Well hell. Thanks. That was the end of that then. Managed to conduct a twelve-point turn and returned back to the Big Bear for a day off and a nice meal in the restaurant. 

The next day we decided to leave at 7am and beat the road closure in order to get to the Plitvice Lakes. – Perhaps we should have done that in the first place..!

As mentioned the site was new, immaculately clean and just lacking in character (and customers) as it was so new.  Managed to get tons of washing done on the rest day too.. There were however dozens of chalets behind us containing Ukrainian Refugees. They were all families that were provided good quality temporary chalets and fed three times a day in the site restaurant. Very generous of the Croatians. 

We did manage to meet up with another rare British couple in a camper van. From Leeds. Wahey. We then watched as they stole a couple of white towels from the laundry room destined for the Ukrainians. Boooo. Typical. !

So eventually getting to Plitvice Lakes was worth the effort. There is lots to see and even though it is basically lakes and waterfalls it is a most interesting and beautiful several hours spent. Not cheap at 300Kn (£35) each and very, very, busy despite the weather being overcast. There are several ‘watering holes’ for basic food and drink though surprisingly many were closed. There was train (truck) transport around the outside and boat trips across the lake to add to the enjoyment, included in the price. A very worthwhile day out. 

Interestingly in all our travels we have not come across any exciting creatures/birds other than occasional newts (chitchats). Everywhere has pigeons, rooks, sparrows, seagulls and the odd buzzard or heron. The most exotic bird on our trip was the parakeets in Kent..!

This was quite a funny moment prior to going into the Plitvice Lakes park. We had to pop into a nearby shop for milk and eggs on the way and whilst I was waiting in the road outside some local Croatian bloke approached and asked in immaculate English if we could exchange 40 Croation Kuna for the £5 in British Coins he held out in his hand. ….Ok…. Strange….. Anyway after a short chat it turns out that every day people throw coins into one area of the lakes and Make a Wish. Yes…you got it…. the next morning at 7am he goes in and fishes all the coins out.! Cheeky Bugger. As we were one of only a few Brits around he took the opportunity to exchange his long-held grubby British coins. Brilliant. We even gave him a tip…!

Cheeky Chap

The 2nd September and we were wild camping at a lake near Lovinac. Place called Sveti Rock. We were joined by a young French couple in this large picnic area next to the lake. Free. Despite the fact we were told many times that this is not possible. It was a quiet night and next morning we awoke to a most wonderful of view of the mist hanging over the lake causing terrific silhouettes and shadows. This cleared quickly giving us a peaceful breakfast cuppa on the wooden jetty looking across to the mountains. Wonderful. 

However it was then back to the campsites and the excitement of (at last) getting to the sea. The first time during our four weeks on the road that we could exchange lakes for salt water. We pitched up at Camp Sibuljina at Tribanj  for 2 nights on 3rd Sept costing us 306 Kn (£17pn) per night. Already we were straight into the sea. Swimming in the Adriatic. Bit salty to be fair- after the lake swimming.!  The water was warm and soooooo green and clear. The mask and snorkel was brought quickly into action. Fish were numerous in type and size though somewhat bland in colouring. We did however watch a truly magical squid drifting from rock to rock changing colour as it went. – Only about 30cm long I might add- The campsite was fine with a good restaurant and what with only a 50 metre walk into the sea it was just what we needed. The Croatian coast was the area we intended to spend many days/weeks. 

Moving off again on 5th, we were headed off along the coast towards the Split area. We again needed provisions so planned on stopping in Sibenik for a Lidl shopping trip. Well the car park in the first one was too small for Ruby so we foolishly just followed the standard Google map (rather than the motorhome specific Aguri satnav) to find the second Lidl nearby. Well…… remember in previous blogs we mentioned how we always managed to drive anywhere without getting stuck… this time we slightly overdid it…! We headed down one rather narrow two way road when suddenly confronted by a tiny ‘no motorhome’ sign ! Well we had many cars behind and nowhere to turn so felt we had no choice to go on. Well suffice it to say that at one stage I was trying to do a twelve point turn at a junction with cars tooting from two directions, scooters squeezing past and Michelle standing behind trying to watch me back at the same time as gesticulating ‘f*** off’ to the  irritated local residents of Sibenik Old Town. Ooops. !  Comments like ‘You can’t come this way’ really didn’t help. Eventually after several minutes of anguish one English speaking guy says. ‘Don’t worry, you can get through there’- Pointing straight ahead. Good. Thank God. Tell you what though… we only just got through there. Wing mirrors pushed in, skimming past heavy stone walls and staring back at the bemused locals….was… entertaining. How we laughed. Later….!

The whole of Sibenik were a miserable, frantic, unhelpful bunch to be fair. Scary place. Even the security guard at the shopping mall carried a firearm….!

So we moved off from there and pitched up at our new home for what turned out to be 9 nights. We stayed at Camp Riviera in Makarska. This is a busy tourist town and our site was again right on the sea front, though with a massive 300metres to the sea. We really enjoyed the site as it was very clean and modern and despite costing 250Kn (£29) per night it was just what we needed and hoped for. In short we spent the vast majority of the time on the pebble beaches, in 28º + of mainly bright sunny days. Evenings were very warm and sufficient to sit outside in shorts right up to midnight. Black squirrels ran around the trees fighting and playing – though one particular rebel seemed to object to our presence and after a bit of aggressive posturing he jumped onto our canopy and (I believe) deliberately wheel spun up the length of it. Putting deep scratches along the top with his claws. Little bugga.! 

Black Squirrel

Snorkelling was again a thing along the rocks but a lot of our time was spent on two inflatable lilos purchased locally.  We would just paddle out to the row of bouys around the bay and just hang on whilst rocking up and down in the waves. And messing about doing the ‘stand-up’ challenge and trying an impossible ‘Eskimo roll’. The lilos are so so much fun and we remember fondly doing the same during our previous trip to Croatia nine years or so ago.The weather, the sea temperature and the beach were almost perfect. Maybe a bit too busy. You know we mentioned previously about fellow holiday makers getting too close unnecessarily.? Well its just crazy. ‘Move over a bit you clown’! There was one occasion we went onto a different bay that we later called Geriatric Beach. An old (90yrs) couple arrived and put their towels within inches of Michelle- literally. There was probably 80% of open beach available but they just plonked down and soaked up the sun. This did cause the child-in-me to get them back by standing in the way of the sun, plunging her into shadow..Ha..!

The slightly isolating part of this location was the lack of Brits. We usually enjoy that bit. However following on from the sad news of The Queen’s death on 8th September there was no one around that had any concept, understanding or feelings about this major national historic announcement. We put up our English Flag at half mast but it was not significant. There were NO Brits (or even Commonwealth countrymen) on the whole 100+ pitch site at the time of her death. It was three days before we had any condolences about the loss of Our Queen. This was from a Serbian Canadian family that we sat with during our next great adventure. Sad sad days. And a great loss. 

This next adventure was a trip to the islands of Hvar and Brac for the day from Makarska. An organised trip aboard the Makarski Jadran costing just 300Kn (£35 ) each for the day. This was an 8.30am to 6pm trip which included lunch (with wine !). it was really good value and a blast. We had wanted to visit the island of Brac and particularly the famous Bol beach and we had the added bonus of a visit to scenic Jelsa on the island of Hvar. 

So we were allocated seats which is where we met the fellow Commonwealth folk. Turns out that mum and dad were originally from Serbia but moved to Toronto before the Yugoslav Wars for independence. Their adult sons were born in Canada so the four of them were Canadian citizens. Nice chatty folk with a lot of useful info about the conflict and divisions in former Yugoslavia. After two hours on calm seas (including a brief dolphin encounter) we spent an hour in Jelsa then shipped out for an hour towards Brac. We were fed at this time with a choice of either fish or chicken. Well we had watched the chef barbecue loads of fish and chicken on the huge bbq grills at the stern. We were then presented with one whole but beautifully cooked mackerel, a lump of bread and a dollop of pickled cabbage. Bit basic.. but fit for purpose and ideal for the trip. Add a couple of mouthfuls of wine and things brightened up… The seagulls alongside seemed to love the fish-heads being flung overboard in what was clearly a daily occurrence. Incidentally the weather was brilliant. Blue sky, Emerald Sea, Rugged mountains and a gentle breeze.

On arrival at Brac we had 3.5 hrs to spend as we wished.  This involved a 20 min walk to the Golden Horn beach. It has the distinct advantage of having two stretches of beach facing east and west. You can pick the side that is not windy. Perfect. Well it was in fact perfect. We picked the east beach which was calm and watched the flags on the other side blowing full breeze. The sea temperature was ideal and the pebble beach cracking. Another period of swimming, lounging, swimming, lounging… There were three young lasses on the beach alongside us were dressed in red, white and blue bikinis. They just laid out for the whole three hours. So of course, for a jolly jape Michelle joined them, her red bikini exactly matching theirs. I was pretty impressed.! 

Our trip back to mainland Makarska turned into a singing and dancing frenzy enhanced by the occasional drink. The fun of the hundred or so of us singing and dancing to YMCA at full blast as we docked in the harbour certainly attracted a lot of attention. Bloody good day all in all. 

Now one of the downsides of this area is the critters. Not the flying mosquitos or the swarms of midges but the invisible silent stealth nibbly things that just chew away. You can feel them but see nothing so it leaves you believing all is well….but no… the little buggers just eat you night and day. So much so that one morning my ankle was running with infected secretions. ! I will spare you the photos.! (How come I always suffer with feet issues on our travels?). Anyway Mich for once managed to escape the worst of it despite being much tastier than me. A visit to the pharmacist had it sorted quickly, followed by an upgrade in our insect sprays, body sprays, room plug-ins and the lot. Its amazing that on our previous backpacking tour of Asia we didn’t use any insect repellent or sprays during two months. But we had to dig out all our resources here. Not a problem at all now…ONCE WE ARE SPRAYED..! 

We loved this location in Makarska so much that we stayed for 9 days. Mainly lounging in the sun and in the sea. Lunch or Dinner out most days with a healthy beer at some stage through the day. This was the exact World of Glenn and Michelle. Right up our street. At 250Kn per night (£29) we thought that was pretty fair.

Finally now it was time to hit the road again for our final push to our Dubrovnik destination. The high quality coast road is the D8 and called the Jadranska Majistrala or the Adriatic Highway. It pretty much runs the length of Croatia and beyond and bends and curves it way along the coast for mile after beautiful mile. Average speed of a relaxed 30mph or so but not many roundabouts or junctions to impede you. The eastern side of the Adriatic has a long line of mountainous islands running the length of Croatia north to south. So as you drive you are not only looking out so sea but also to ranges of mountains ten miles or so away. Breathtaking view after breathtaking view. On more than one occasion Ruby swerved across the lanes whilst the driver was checking the view. 

Another challenge along the route, which we were unaware of until Michelle put Dubrovnik into the satnav was that unfortunately someone had put Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) in the way..! You cannot drive straight into Dubrovnik as Croatia is split by B&H occupying some of the coast. The only way through is on the Neum Corridor through B&H for which we have no vehicle insurance for B&H and no EHIC insurance as it is not part of Europe. Bugger. How can no-one have told us this. ! What does everyone else do. ?? Well as it turns out… and by pure chance… the Croatians have just built the Plejesac Bridge which runs out to sea and across to a Croatian peninsula which then runs down to Dubrovnik. This was only opened six weeks prior to our trip and was a real bonus. The other option, it seems would have been to take a ferry round the tip of Bosnia and Herzegovina to stay legal. 

So anyhow… we made it… 14th September and we are now at the Camping Solitude site in Dubrovnik and the weather is grim, raining and thunderstorms, overcast and windy though hot through the day and with night time temperatures of 28º!  But hey. Watch this space. It is due to improve. 

Did you know… 

The Yugoslav Wars of independence, took place in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001.The conflict led to the breakup of Yugoslavia into six independent countries matching the six republics which previously composed Yugoslavia: 

  • Slovenia, 
  • Croatia, 
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, 
  • Montenegro, 
  • Serbia, 
  • and North Macedonia (previously named Macedonia).

Dubrovnik or Bust – Austria and Slovenia

1 Sept 2022

On 22nd August we were headed south (our favoured direction) once again. This time headed from Titisee (chortle.!) and towards Austria. We were drawn towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen because we knew this was ski country and we like to visit hills… This was close to the Austrian border and within the Bavarian Alps. As expected the views were fantastic throughout the whole trip and we managed to park up on a site recommended – as usual – on one of our Apps. SearchforSites, Park4night or Campercontact. The site at Garmisch was excellent, partly because it was free (!) but it was welcoming and apparently safe in the car park of a Skischule at the bottom of a ski lift. (Getting to be a habit). So much so that we stayed over a second night. This was ideally placed, close to a railway station, the town centre and with incredible views 360º around us. You really cannot get this kind of view from many paid campsites and it was an absolute dream. We were joined overnight by another dozen other vans which added to the comfort feeling. Mind you.. they have the irritating habit of parking right next to you when there is a huge empty car park.  ‘Just bugger off will you!’ 

What with the dark sky, warm evenings and hot days this was pretty special. We walked into the busy Garmisch-Partenkirchen town centre on the first evening for a look round and a little beer and a Heidi Spritzer (?). Very nice too. Next day we took a long hike through the forests into the Alps for a 20km walk. This was well overdue exercise as we have spent a lot of time on the road. There was the added bonus of a ‘cafe’ after just 3 km giving us amazing views across the mountain ranges whilst we had morning coffee. And…. on our return we had a rather forgettable lunch salad thing with the same glorious views and we were brave enough to take on a beer as we had only a downward trek back to Ruby. Excellent.

The surprising thing we have found once we are getting further south is that most countries do not take card payment, contactless or otherwise. ‘Cash only’ is on lots of the signs and comments by staff. It appears that the banks still charge them loads down here for bank transactions so cash is King. Surprising. 

Also surprisingly there are very few Brits in motorhomes or camper vans in any of our sites or on the road… Where are they all ?

In addition to using technology we also speak to people……(yup) to find ideas and guidance. Often using sign language.  Regularly our plans change to fit the recommendation of fellow travellers. Valuable and current information is very useful and having the chat is part of the enjoyment really. A couple in this Skischule car park were Italian and provided top info. Part of which was ‘Do Not Go into Sviterland’ – ‘They will weigh you, and won’t let you go until you deposit any weight over the 3.5 tonnes’ – Michelle thought the answer was obvious- ‘Well…we can firstly empty out our water tanks and if that’s not enough hand Glenn two suitcases and invite him to walk to the railway station….!’  ‘What’..!

But anyway we now had to look to getting easy passage into Austria. Turns out that we not only needed a ‘Vignette’ (Basically a way of paying tolls for the whole country- but putting another damn sticker on the screen! ) at €9.60 (£8.27) but we also looked like we needed a Green Zone tag to drive along some of the main roads. After considerable time in research it appeared that this was only needed for large trucks. Though we were not at all sure. So the best thing to do….. just ignore it and crack on..! It seems to have been alright as we haven’t been stopped… We often wondered how the previous generations managed to travel through Europe without technology to help with maps and campsites. However we now need to think and plan for Vignettes and Green Zones for every town and country.

 The views into Austria across the Alps were once again bloody amazing. The temptation to stop at the inviting Lake Constance was huge but there are so many wonderful places to see, visit, stop at that we do sometimes just need to keep moving and slip quietly by. 

One such place that we couldn’t ignore however was Kitzbuhel. We had no real plans to stop here but I always had an image in mind about the kind of Austrian Tyrol I wanted to visit and as we arrived at Kitzbuhel we just had to throw out the anchor and pull over into the Schwarzsee Camp site. It was just on the outskirts and in the valley surrounded by cracking mountains in all directions. It was a hive of activity and we worried it would be fully booked. But as always seems to be the case, there are pitches to be had. Mostly no-one can book online which increases the chances of finding space. Trouble is this place cost a blood-curdling €54 per night (£47)..! Ouch. However on the good side there was a big pitch, with grass, a lake nearby, Kitzbuhel nearby, bus stop outside, a gym and sauna, an indoor swimming pool, excellent showers and toilet AND a very friendly, funny, site manager called Christian. Takes away a little of the pain. £££

Kitzbuhel itself is rather posh. Lots of Porsches with personalised plates, upmarket hotels and bars and many large areas of the Schwarzsee Lake hidden behind fences and gates. As you would expect at a ski resort of fame. 

This is now the 14th August, the weather is a very nice 25º and with blue skies. There have been many weeks when the forecast was for thunderstorms and heavy rain. Well each day arrives with some cloud but nice and hot. Occasionally there are distant thunderstorms rumbling but lovely weather throughout. 

So we had to do a trip to the top of the highest mountain, The Kitzbuheler Horn at 2000m high (6560ft). And no, we did not walk up this one. We cycled the 30 mins to the ski lift and took two rides up to the top which was breathtaking both physically and visibly. This was followed by dinner at the wonderful Gipfelhaus restaurant with views across the biggest mountains in the Alps. Surprisingly some with snow still on top in late August. This was a real highlight on our journey. Sitting atop the world in amazing conditions and amazing views. Wow.. We then slowly ambled down some 40 minutes to another ski lift for two more gentle rides back into Kitzbuhel. And.. a swim in the pool at the campsite.

Cow Trouble

We spent a couple of nights at this campsite despite the cost before then heading back south with Slovenia in mind. However we needed yet another Vignette for Slovenia at €15 from an MOT centre. We also took the opportunity of visiting another classy posh restaurant… McD’s…. Always love the occasional treat..!

So the 26th Aug and we needed another overnight stop before Slovenia so with the help of the CamperContact App found the terrific Schlaferhof Farm near Villach and the Slovenian border. Now we all know what to expect from a farm. Grass – yes, cows – yes, farmers – yes.. but this farm was on the hillside overlooking a big grassy valley with mountains across the other side and a river below. AND it only cost €14 for the night AND they added electric AND the lady farmer was friendly with information about the local cultures and relationships between neighbouring Hungary/Slovenia/Italy. It was a really relaxing evening as we sat outside in 18º stargazing and looking across the valley. Sooooo nice. And fresh milk with breakfast. 

Next morning we set off for Slovenia. A place we knew nothing about, other than they use €’s.. The language was a complete mystery as were the people and the cultures but all seemed OK and safe on arrival over the uncontrolled border. The road was quite exciting… the original motorway was extremely busy as this was basically the last weekend before all the kids go back to school. We were stuck (for once) in heavy stationary traffic with another option calling us.. ‘Go this way’ the signs said. Satnav agreed, but other signs said ‘no caravans’ – ‘no towing vehicles’ – ‘Wurzenpass 1000m climb’ – and then ominously ‘3.5 tonne weight limit’ ( in some foreign language.!). So obviously we took this route.!  No other vehicles did, they all sat in traffic on the motorway.. but we thought ‘We have just done the tightest, windiest, narrowest parts of the NC500 in Scotland- We Ruby can do this’..! Well, actually it turns out we can. Dead easy. Well apart from some very, very steep second-gear climbs, it was not bad at all. And far more exciting. 

So a short while later we had a failed visit to Jasna Lake in Slovenia. This lake had the misfortune of having no water in it..! This heatwave has been slightly problematic for some tourist areas..clearly. We therefore headed off to Bled. A lake that is mentioned as a ‘must-see’ location on any tourist routes. Our expectations were pretty low as a result of visualising loads  of tourists and tat. Add to this a car park campsite demanding €40 per night (though there was electric and water etc) and we were not too excited but hopeful. Well.. what a wonderful surprise. It was bloody marvellous. A real winner and yet another highlight already. Probably with the nicest, cleanest, turquoisest (not a word is it?), warm lake we have ever swum in. And there was free access in one area where wooden jetty’s made entry/exit easy into this crystal clear lake. 

So over the two days there we walked round the lake (7km), ate and drinked at the Devils Bar, ate the famous Bled cream cake, visited the castle on the hill and looked in awe at the church on the island in the centre of the lake. What a wonderful place. We were surprised that there were lots of Brits and English speakers in this area. Surprised because we still were not seeing ANY Brit motorhomes or camper vans. Anywhere on our travels beyond the Black Forest. It seems that most folk are staying in hotels and AirBnB’s etc plus many youths at hostels. We had a very pleasant chat with groups of backpackers whilst basking by the lake. 

We decided, whilst laying on the warm jetty between swims, that we would never leave this place. Ever. Twas perfick. But clearly we did. 

In addition…the cost of fuel in Slovenia was €1.64 (£1.39) rather than €2.04 (£1.74) in Germany and probably £1.80 in the UK at the moment. 

29th August and we headed over to the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. We were aware of a car park which was very close to the city centre and an easy walk in to the centre. However the car park was not as good as we have encountered previously and was scruffy and smelly. However it was only €12 inc elec for 24 hours so it was worth a go. We were not entirely comfortable but it was safe and quiet despite there being another ten or so motorhomes overnight. There was a very handy Mercator supermarket next door. We decided on arrival to pop into Ljubljana after dinner to do a recce prior to a full visit next day. Well it was good, nice enough with some fine buildings, a castle (as ever) and a river. It was quite a lively fun place despite this being a Monday evening so we had a pint alongside the river at an outdoor restaurant. We did decide however at this stage that there was probably not enough to excite us in Ljubljana the next day so we would head off to the next country instead. Croatia. 

Did you know….

The Alps are the highest at 4809m – 15800ft and the most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately 750 mi (1,210 km) across seven Alpine countries (from west to east): France, Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia.

The Alpine arch generally extends from Nice on the western Mediterranean to Trieste on the Adriatic and Vienna to the east.

Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,809 m (15,778 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains 128 peaks higher than 4,000 m (13,000 ft).

Dubrovnik or Bust- Titisee 

21st Aug 2022

The title will make sense later…

Petite France

Unusually for us we are doing yet another blog in short order. We are doing so much that it would be a huge undertaking to cover everything in one. We know you guys already get tired and burnt out reading these blogs (!)so smaller chunks would be wise for a while.

When last we spoke we were in Luxembourg and headed…. somewhere south with no particular plan in mind as ever. Note – the fuel in Luxembourg was £1.44p per litre… compared with current UK cost of £1.88 or so.  

13th August and we arrived at a car park immediately alongside the Rhein at Drusenheim. Still in France but only just. We could look across the river directly into Germany. This is kinda just west of the Black Forest. Now this car park was free and we were made welcome by the signage alongside. ‘Motorhomes can stay overnight’ or the equivalent French version. ‘Except for Sundays when you have to be gone by 6am’ – Bugger. This was a Saturday night so perhaps a bit of planning would have been handy..! Never mind, we have been known to ignore signs before so all should be good. 6am is far too early. Especially when you read on….

The site was quite busy but mostly with older folk watching the ships go past and the ferry shuttling back and forth from Germany into France. It would surely get quieter as the evening drew on. Our research did suggest this would be the case and we would sleep soundly. However……this was a Saturday night as mentioned. In the middle of the summer holidays so there was a loud karaoke event over on the German side. Crap singing of course, but very very loud. Bearing in mind the Rhine is a rather wide river it was still painful. However again…. there was a clown on our French side of the Rhine who wanted to drown out the rubbish karaoke with his own woofers and tweeters in his white van. Just ten metres away from us. We happened to have picked the busiest, noisiest time of year to stay here. The competition was not only intense but it was also prolonged. ‘White Van man’ gave up by midnight, but Karaoke Deutschland kept on until 2am…! So, there was absolutely no chance of us leaving by 6am.  The funny part was that ‘White Van Man had parked up directly behind three old folks on a bench looking across the river. I mean like 2 metres away. Well, bless them, they just sat there and ignored him, for about 3 hours, determined not to move. ‘I have been through the war and I am not going to be moved by a knob like him’, I could sense them saying.  (They probably just turned their hearing aids off).

Anyway at 4.50am the local cockerel decided that we had suffered enough sleep and wanted to confirm our poor choice of campsite. ! Thankfully we managed to survive until well after 9am before moving off into Germany. 

Now this bit was fun. The ferry is a foot/cycle/car/motorhome ferry which is absolutely free and runs all day and every day. The tricky bit is that the max weight is 3.5 tonnes. Well we are 3.5 tonnes… and a bit. (Quite a big bit probably). And added to that the ramp down to it was steep and the ramp off the other side was also steep. There was a serious risk of grounding. I had watched other motorhomes on both sides and was a bit nervous. The short 2 minute journey was exciting and we were slightly anxious however we were right to be so. We did in fact hit the ground with the rear end of Ruby as we leapt across onto German soil. Just a little bang. No damage but enough to scare us. Sorry Ruby..

France > Germany

We were also surprised to learn from a local chap that the Rhine level was so low due to the current serious drought that the number of barges going up and down was massively reduced. Many of the larger, more interesting ones, had to be parked up awaiting the autumn rains. 

Well after speaking to the same local chap we decided to stop over in Mummelsee in the Black Forest for a break after a long and strenuous 50 minutes driving (!) we stopped for brunch. Cup of coffee and a Bratwurst. Something we have always remembered fondly from the days we lived in Germany. Not quite as good as our memory recalls but a nice snack anyway. Mummelsee is a beautiful tourist lake with classic Black Forest tourist stuff. A good start.

14th August and we arrived at Camping Alisehof in Schapback, deep in the Black Forest. It was about time we had some elec hookup and a washing machine available. Down to my last pair of pants..! We stayed just the two nights but really loved the place. The toilets/shower facilities are immaculate quality and cleanliness and they even supply passes for the local buses and discounts at the nearby Bear and Wolf. There is a neat little shop and bar, a kitchen providing pizza and Flammkuchen (google it..) and there are proper play areas for the kids. Cost of €34 per night inc elec (£30 ish) was well worth while. Especially when you pop into the local village and see the beautiful classic Bavarian houses and shops all of which is also immaculately tidy. 

The pitches on site were a little scruffy and dusty- again likely due to the prolonged heatwave. Twas indeed very hot but this was the turning point before we were met by some very cloudy days and some stormy weather. We took the opportunity to walk the 8km forest trail to the Bear and Wolf Park. It was good to get some exercise in after a while of travelling on the road. We accidentally got into the Bear Park for free as the back gate from the forest walk was left wide open so we just snook in…! Thankfully this was into the public area, not the bear enclosure. ! Mainly this is a retirement park for bears that have been collected from around the world that have suffered in circuses, ‘dancing bear’ shows and ‘selfie photo bear cubs’ from tourist spots. We did therefore contribute despite free entry. 

 Really enjoyed the Alisehof campsite and were glad to re-charge our batteries (literally).

On 16th we reverted to type and parked overnight in a terrific tarmac lay-by near Schliffkopf. This was still in the Black Forest alongside what is sweetly called the Black Forest High Street that seems to pretty much run right through the middle. A wide road of good quality. It did get nice quiet overnight with the added bonus of a view away into the distant mountains. We managed a 8km walk through another forest track to the ski centre at Ruhestein. Unsurprisingly no snow but a cafe alongside the slopes for a coffee stop. This was also our first view of those classic Bavarian cows with bells round their necks. 

So continuing to move on we arrived the next day at a car park by the lake in Kork. Just on the German side of the Rhine close to Strasbourg. On arrival in heavy rain the place looked tatty, soul-less and rather exposed but as ever we parked up, had lunch, the sun came out, cars arrived, everyone jumped into the lake, so we did too. Ended up really enjoying the place. Had several warm swims in the quarry formed lake and were joined by 3-4 other camper vans for another cosy (free) night. Win win. 

The next morning however and we had plans. We had been told about the glories of Strasbourg so had to arrange a site within easy reach. We therefore pitched up on the 18th at the Kehl ‘Am Wasserturm’ overnight site. It was never meant to be anything other than a secure place to stay with the location being key. It was in actual fact pretty rubbish as a site. €12 with no services other than a toilet and grey waste disposal. Fresh water was an extra €1. Parking was pretty cramped and very busy. However it was just a 15 minute walk to the Kehl Rathaus (townhall) where we caught the tram straight into the centre of Strasbourg. €3.60 each return for the half hour journey in a modern clean efficient tram. Over the Rhein (again) and back into France where Strasbourg lives…..

The old town of Strasbourg (Petite France) is basically an area including three small islands with buildings that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. Beautiful classic houses and shops with the rivers passing through the middle. Reminded us a bit of Amsterdam. Lots of great photos opportunities despite the fact there was a lot of cloud around. I always had in mind that Strasbourg was just a modern city with strong links with European Union Organisations. Well, thanks to a conversation with a fellow traveller this was a good option to visit. 

We then popped into the slightly more modern Primark (!) in the shopping centre to make some cheap clothing purchases. 

And .. to buy a replacement camping chair for my pretty rubbish recent failure of Hi-Gear kit..

The next day we had a productive morning. By 10am we had found a TUV (MOT) station to obtain a sticker for the German Green Zone. Michelle discovered at the 11th hour that if we drove through Frieburg we would need a sticker for Ruby otherwise big fines will follow. There were limited other routes plus the Green Zone sticker lasts for ever (apparently) and covers increasing numbers of towns and cities (including Switzerland as it turns out). The Zone sticker cost €17.50 and simply requires the TUV office to check our V5 UK registration document for Ruby. This fitted neatly below the French equivalent on the windscreen. I hate stickers on my windows..!

Secondly Michelle had discovered a self-wash car wash big enough for Ruby, plus it had a gantry alongside to enable us to give Ruby’s roof a damn good scrub with a power brush. Totally necessary. Cost of €10 enabled us to do a great job on the roof and a pretty average job of Ruby’s sides..! 

So at the time of writing – 21st August- we have pulled up onto a paid site at Titisee (chortle..). A small town and lake, still in the Black Forest. We had to pay a massive €41 Euros per night but the site is directly alongside the large lake with terraced pitches, all with views across the lake. You cannot book in advance but with 220 spaces there was plenty of options. Damnit. We always struggle with options. We consider everything…where does the sun rise? Set? Which way is the prevailing wind? Where are the noisy Germans? (Everywhere!). Are there midges or mosies? Anyway we managed to fail once again. But hey, we had great views across the lake. The site does, once again, have brilliant, modern, clean toilet and shower blocks AND you can use a SUP – Stand Up Paddleboard for free every day… AND a courtesy car for free every day for an hour to pop to the shops…. ! Well I never…!    We made use of the SUP two days and managed to not drown as there is no training and no previous experience. Bloody hard work but pretty satisfying on this large calm lake. 

The couple of days we planned however had dodgy weather with some sun, lots of cloud and some heavy heavy rain. So we opted to stay for a third night in order to capture the much better weather today. 

So tomorrow we are headed off slightly east towards deeper cuckoo clock land so will speak later. 

Did you know..

The Black Forest is a large scenic area in Southwestern Germany, in the state of Baden – Wurttemberg. It is full of trees, mountains, valleys and lakes just waiting to be explored. The vast and alluring nature park stretches from the town of Baden-Baden to the Swiss border, and from the Rhine almost as far as Lake Constance

Roughly oblong in shape, with a length of 160 kilometres (100 miles) and breadth of up to 50 km (30 mi),it has an area of about 6,009 km2 (2,320 sq mi).

Historically, the area was known for forestry and the mining of ore deposits, but tourism has now become the primary industry, accounting for around 300,000 jobs. 

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..!