Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199505 Italy Slovenia Austria Germany Luxemburg Belgium France England

Friday 1 May 1998    Another bank holiday in Italy and the "site" fills up with Italian and Austrian motorhomes.  Over 20 are here at one point but some only for a few hours.  Nice hot weather but a bit of a breeze.  We join our German neighbours for a drink to celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary and chat for awhile with them and another German couple. 
Saturday 2 May  Rain again in the night but another nice warm day with a breeze.  Cycle back into Grado and manage to take in the sights before Steve gets yet another puncture on the way back.. He seems to have a knack for finding things to puncture his tires and patches of tar on beaches to ruin the towels and his clothes!  It is quite entertaining seeing the motorhomes come and go and find a level to park.  Most Italians seem to travel in groups of three for some reason and they communicate with CB radios.
Sunday 3 May  Nice hot start to the day and the Italian Motorhomes pour onto the site and manage to squeeze themselves into every available space. We count over 30 at one stage.  They think nothing of parking within 1 metre of another van and spend ages getting settled only to move on a couple of hours later after enjoying a meal!  Claire tells us that David has "moved" down to the Midlands and so we spend a lot of time on the telephone trying to sort things out.  It is a Bank holiday here and we manage to buy the last two £5,000 phonecards from a bar and then end up scratting round for coins to make the calls.  I arrange a get together BBQ with the two German couples – Jurgen and Liss with their dog Scotty and Arno and Gisselle with dog Racko.  (We are the only people here without either children or dogs.)  We sit out until about 10.00pm enjoying a strange assortment of food that we have put together and good conversation.
Monday 4 May  Wild windy morning which suits us as we have decided to move on. Pass through Palmanova an unusual fortified town based on a type of spiders web grid.  Call in at Lidl in Udine to buy a folding sun bed in the hope of sunnier days to come.  Keep popping into phones to get an update on the David situation which varies from him coming to us and us going back.  The migraine powders I bought in Greece come in very handy!  At Tarvisio near the Austrian border we read about some mountain lakes at Fusine so take a drive out to enjoy the spectacular snow covered mountain scenery and deep green lakes before parking in Fusine for the night to discuss plans.
Tuesday 5 May  An early morning detour into SLOVENIA to stock up on diesel before returning to Italy to cross the border into AUSTRIA.  The exchange rate is around ATS20 = £1 and we spend ATS150 on a two month pass to use the motorways and ATS200 on phonecards to sort out the David  saga.  David is coming to Salzburg so we will probably be in Austria for some time.  A nice drive takes us around Lakes Keutschach and Worther where we pause to sunbathe.  Next Millstattersee en route to Gmund where we stop in the car park overlooking the Castle on one side and the River on the other.
Wednesday 6 May  A  cold night reveals two problems in the van when neither the heater nor generator will work.  Gmund turns out to be a very nice village and the home of the Porche motor car.  Maltal valley a little further along the road reveals more snow covered  mountains and nice waterfalls.  We find out that the famous Grossglockner pass has just been opened and so head West to take it in.  The scenery is exactly as expected with lots of wooden houses with balconies and castles popping up everywhere.  We have to pay ATS350 to use the pass and find  it well worth it.  The longest glazier in Europe is spectacular and it starts snowing at this point.  Strange to think that is was on this exact date last year that we spent our first day abroad in this van and it snowed that night in Belgium.  By the way we have a name for the van at last – Charlie because we treat it like royalty, we often feel like proper Charlies when negotiating certain places and Steve says that after a shopping trip it looks like Charlie and the chocolate factory!  So Charlie takes us up to over 2,500 metres of spectacular scenery and down the other side to Bruck where we park for the night.  The latest news on David reveals that he may be going in the Army and isn’t coming out to Austria so we are now heading back to England.  Don’t thing the 2 month motorway pass was such a good idea after all!
Thursday 7 May  Now another problem emerges in that the leisure battery is not charging at all.  Drive to Salzburg and begin the task of finding a Motorhome dealer to help us.  End up at Mondsee and by 1.30pm and ATS950 lighter we have battery power.  Apparently the going rate for mechanics is £45 and hour here and we are in the embarrassing position of having to pop to the ATM to get enough dosh to pay the man.  Mondsee is lovely and the local church is where Maria got married in the Sound of Music.  After a couple of hours sun bathing we drive round the Northern shore and then to Attersee and via Bad Ischl to Hallstattersee where we park for the night.
Friday 8 May  Hallstatt is just wonderful and has been called the prettiest lakeside town in the world.  We agree.  Backed by the snow capped Dackstein Mountains with brightly painted wooden chalets with window boxes full of flowers.  Fountains are fed by the mountain springs and there is a waterfall cascading down from high above the village.  Behind the catholic church we visit the ossuary (look it up we had to) with rows of polished and decorated skulls on shelves with bones stacked underneath like firewood.  St Wolfgangsee and Fuschlsee lead us to
Wallersee where we stop at a Naturist site on the side of the lake for more sunbathing.
Saturday 9 May  Hot day, just the job for sunbathing in the all together.  I go with our "neighbour" Edith into the local village.  She explains that there will be a wedding on as the shooting that we had heard early morning is part of the festivities.  Pop into the local church to see the service in progress.  In Austria the brides father meets up for breakfast with the people who have been shooting, next the ceremony followed by a big meal.  The party continues all afternoon with another feast at night.  Edith and her husband Martin come to us for a drink in the evening and give us tips for our sightseeing tour of Salzburg.
Sunday 10 May  Make an early start and find free parking near the centre.  The 24 hour Salzburg card represents good value at A.T.S.200 for admission to museums and use of public transport.  Stroll through the Mirabell gardens catching sight of more Sound of Music locations.  Up to the fortress, the abbey Nonnberg, St Peter’s, the horse fountain, toy and nature museums, Dom and museum, Mozart’s birth house and the Residenz palace and gallery.  Hop on a bus to the Stiegl brewery where Steve storms around to get to the beer tasting.  Meet up with a Scottish couple Ian and Sally and we decide to go together in the van to the Casino.  Our first approach is hampered by the shorts and trainers but after a quick change and very smartly dressed we are approved admittance.  Our Salzburg card offers 300 chips for 230 so we are persuaded to gambol.  The Casino is inside a beautiful castle and it is interesting to watch the other guests.  Steve manages to loose all his chips,  I stop when after an hour I still have the same value I started with and to cash them in.  Ian and Sally decide on a mad impulse to put all their remaining chips together on black and come up trumps.  Drive out to Hellbrun castle where we park outside ready for tomorrow’s visit.
Monday 11 May  First port of call at Hellbrun is the summer house featured in the Sound of Music.  The water gardens are great fun.  Lots of tricks and water shooting our from unexpected places.  After a quick tour of the palace we exit Salzburg after chalking up over A.T.S. 900 worth of use on the  A.T.S.200 cards and probably wearing out nearly as much in shoe leather.  On to GERMANY (2.80DM = £1, the lowest level for ages!) on the motorway with a detour around Lake Chiemsee for the obligatory sunbathing stop.  The water is very warm and there are a lot of people sunbathing on the grassy banks.  The air temperature is over 30 degrees and seems set to hold for a few more days.  Our overnight stop is at the service area on the motorway around Munchen.
Tuesday 12 May  Dachau the concentration camp is a very sobering experience and despite having visited 30 years ago it is still a shock.  It was used to house political and religious prisoners and they were tortured and used as human Guinea pigs.  Further along the motorway at Dinkelsbuhl we decide to detour to a Naturist site but spend over an hour exploring the local woodland.  Just about to give up when by sheer chance we ask directions in the local village from one of the members.  The site is in the forest at the side of a lake and we are left to spend the evening there alone.
Wednesday 13 May  Having planned to leave early the hot sun prompts us to linger.  Charlie gets a good clean and I can conclude that I wouldn’t mind setting up a nude car cleaning business!  Leave at lunch time and stop at Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber.  A medieval town with ramparts, quaint buildings and nice shops.  Well worth a detour and we spend a good couple of hours browsing around.  A fast motorway drive takes us to another service area near Heidelburg.  We are now trying to get back to England as quickly as possible but the boring motorway travelling is rather alien to us.  Our ideal day is an attraction in the morning, short drive, sunbathing, short drive to next site to park up ready for next day food and drink.
Thursday 14 May  Quick look at Heidelburg then motorway to Homburg.  Jagersburger has a nice lake for sunbathing and a supermarket for us to buy German specialities.  On to LUXEMBOURG where the sign to show us we have arrived is in the middle of a bridge.  It is strange now that within EEC countries there are no border controls at all and it is just like passing from one county to another within England.  Tank up on Diesel at 33p litre.  Stop for – yes you can guess, sunbathing before entering BELGIUM.  At the motorway road works we see a man waving a flag to slow us down but discover it is a dummy.  It is still sunny at 9.30pm and we carry on driving until 10.00pm and pull up near Tournai.
Friday 15 May   Up at 6.00am and away before 7.00am.  Into FRANCE with arrival at Calais around 9.00am.  Overload the van with Diesel, LPG and booze.  On to the docks where the vehicle that pulls up beside us is an American E350 truck like ours but with a mini bus instead of camper behind.  It is towing the Ferrari used by Schumaker for the wind tests and causes at lot of interest. Catch the 11.15 Sea France ferry to Dover.  Back on ENGLISH soil around 12.00 UK time.   Drive straight back to the Midlands with only a 15 minute stop.  Call at Newport and finally Market Drayton for the night.   It’s good to see everyone again but a little strange to be in England.
Saturday 16 May    Thankfully we have come back to hot weather.  Road tax has to be purchased before we head to Newport.  Evening BBQ at Scotts with the Evos joining us.
Sunday 17 May  Back to Drayton and to the Talbot for Sunday lunch with the Spooners and Mum.  Sunbathing in the afternoon.  Quite a shock to see the total mileage for the week is 1096 miles (a record for Charlie) and even more of a shock to see our expenditure at over £500!  
Monday 18 May   Back into the swing of things when we start the day with a shopping trip to Safeways.  What a delight to be able to buy HP sauce, Bisto gravy granules, Pork Pies, normal sausages and so on.  Think someone forgot to tell us about the exchange rate as we now believe £1 = 50p the way our money is going!  Find a wonderful spot to park by Market Drayton swimming paths with the grassy picnic area just in front of us.  Had we been abroad we would have thought this a good place to stay for a week or so.  Decide to have a BBQ in the evening and we are joined by Mavis & Trevor, Lisa, Mick & Sian and Mum.  It’s just like being on tour having spontaneous days and BBQ’s in the warm evening sunshine – can’t understand why we left in the first place!
Tuesday 19 May  Early morning drive to Hanley for David’s Army interview.  We are all very pleased to report that he is through and on to the next stage and by luck he has been fitted  in with a cancellation at Lichfield this Thursday for a 24 hour test.  Back in Drayton we find out about a CL (Certified Location for up to 5 motorhomes or caravans and usually just a cheap parking spot in a farmers field) at Adderley.  We join a touring caravan in a field about 2 miles from town and Netty and Nic come to visit us.  Nic is impressed with our football pitch sized garden.
Wednesday 20 May  9.30 and we are just packing up to move on when the farmers wife comes to tell me we have an urgent phone call from my Netty.  It seems that tomorrow is the testing day for female recruits and we can either get David to Lichfield for 1200 today or leave it for a few weeks!  Action stations as we hit the town to buy shorts, white shirt and smart black trousers.  On to Tern Hill to collect the paperwork from Netty and fling David in the bath whilst I make use of the travel iron in Netty’s office to iron his new shirt.  Arrive at Whittington Barracks Lichfield with 10 minutes to spare.  I  think we passed the rapid response test with flying colours.  The nearby village of Whittington has 3 pubs and we select the one with a nice beer garden and flat car park.  Just enjoying a beer when a man strolls out and says "don’t I know you?".  It is the man from the Army recruitment office who interviewed David yesterday and has come to Whittington where he lives to personally drop Davids papers at the Barracks.  He assures us if David gets through the medical he will be OK.  Phone Netty at 5.00 for an update.  David will either have failed the medical by now or be on to the next stage.  Finally get news at 9.00 that he is through to the next stage tomorrow morning of a fitness test.  Begin to feel that this is an extended endurance test for us as well!
Thursday 21 May  We have arranged to pick David up from a Lane near the Barracks at 11.00 and we can tell by his proud walk that he is through.  Private Swatman marches towards us and directs the mobile Army recruitment office back to Hanley.  Further information is supplied and an appointment made for 0900 tomorrow for David to sign in.  Back to Drayton to share the good news with everyone.
Friday 22 May  0730 start to get us to Hanley in plenty of time.  Steve accompanies David and is very proud to hear him swear his allegiance to the Queen.  He is now officially in the Army and  importantly to him on the payroll.  The Mobile Army office is now decommissioned until June 8 when we take David to Lichfield to begin his 11 weeks training. As we start the engine the stereo blasts out Status Quo "In the Army Now"!   Up the motorway to Yorkshire and our first sighting of a very grown up Daniel.  He is much longer and more animated than when we last saw him at the beginning of February.  Charlie becomes a removal van and Steve helps Claire collect a fridge/freezer from Skipton before we head to Sandra’s drive in Keighley.  We all enjoy a BBQ in Sandra’s garden and Claire and Daz leave us with Daniel for the night.  (Complete with written instructions to take us through to tomorrow tea time).  Daniel is very strong and pulls himself up to stand by the sofa then balances with his tummy whilst meddling with everything within reach.
Saturday 23 May  Daniel’s cot is the area under the dining table and he keeps crawling forwards and wedging his head in the corner.  He lets us know by crying out in his sleep (how thoughtful).  At 4.00am he wakes up properly and despite cuddling him, changing his nappy, giving him a drop of juice and singing to him he won’t settle back in his "cot".  He joins Grandad in the overcab bed wedged between Steve and the window and I settle down on the sofa bed.  The day starts properly at 7.00am with the early morning bottle and by the time I have fed him, washed and dressed him and tidied the van it is time for his weetabix.  For once Steve decides it  is not worth trying to get a lie in and just after 9.00am the proud Grandparents are pushing Daniel down town in the hope of seeing lots of people to show him off to.  The only people we see are the ones we go and visit at home and we trudge back up the hills in a rather weary state.  Claire & Daz call late afternoon and leave after tea.  We return to Richard and Sharon who invited us round for the evening when we called this morning.
Sunday 24 May  Claire & Daz arrive at 9.30am and after much chopping and changing of plans we head out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  It is on the M1 in Bretton Park just south of Wakefield but seems much further judging by the amount of Diesel we have to put in.  The gardens have Sculptures from various artists (including Henry Moore) scattered around. One area is for people to come and try out natural sculpture and to us it looks as though they have gathered up bits of garden rubbish and assembled them in piles!  We stroll around but conclude that we are not arty types as they don’t impress any of us at all.  The weather is nice so we just enjoy the park and lunch.  Return via Esholt as Daz has never been there.  It is the location for Emmerdale and we plan a drink in the Woolpack but it is closed until 7.00pm.  Return to Sandra’s for a meal in the van.
Monday 25 May  Bank Holiday Monday so we plan to stay at home and leave the roads to those who need to get out today.  Typical holiday rainy, dull weather and Steve festers in bed until after 11.00am whilst I catch up on paperwork.  Give Rod and Nancy a ring and end up being invited for tea.  Claire & Daz appear and I join them for a shopping trip.  Morrisons are taking photos of babies and we all make total fools of ourselves trying and failing to make Daniel laugh.  As soon as we get back to the van he starts chuckling at Grandad Steve.  Just finishing lunch when  Ray & Margaret call round and stay to chat. As soon as they leave we head to Rod & Nancy’s in Wilsden.  Enjoy a roast Beef "Sunday" dinner and catch up on their news.  We are in two minds (or at least 3 minds) what to do about our trip to the States.  Do we take Charlie,  sell Charlie and buy another RV there or try to arrange an exchange.  At the moment an exchange seems the best option but we have done nothing about it.  Rod is on the Internet so we spend time searching the ads, placing ads and E-mailing American RV Clubs with our offer to exchange.  Fingers crossed we will get a response.
Tuesday 26 May  It looks like the sunny weather we brought back has fizzled out and it is now damp, cold and miserable.  Steve is already full of cold and non too happy about having to walk down town to sort a few things out.  Claire calls round in the afternoon and I go back into town with her.  Take Sandra out for a meal in the evening to a new Balti restaurant.  They are very helpful in suggesting different dishes and we all enjoy the food but feel too full to finish everything.
Wednesday 27 May  A busy day with appointments at the Hairdressers, Doctors and Dentists before we drive over to Preston to Peters ready for him to start work on the van tomorrow.
Thursday 28 May  We have a list prepared with jobs to be done in order of importance.  The first job to tackle the possible subsidence problem has to be passed on as Peter is not sure about it.  the next two big jobs turn out to be small quick ones but the small job of a damp patch on the bathroom ceiling reveals a big damp problem necessitating most of the roof being removed and replaced with good wood.  Work progresses through the day and we end up "camped" in the garage overnight for Peter to finish some jobs in the morning.
Friday 29 May   The last few jobs are finished by noon when we hit the ATM to pay the bill and then head back to Keighley.  We console ourselves that even with houses there are always bills for ongoing maintenance but know that the biggest job has yet to be investigated.  I decide to clean the van when we get back but Steve is not keen on the new system and prefers the nude car wash.  I  point out that if he whisks me away to an appropriate hot spot I will gladly oblige but Sandra’s drive in cold Keighley does not fit the bill.  Sandra comes to tea and is relieved to hear that it was too cold for the nude car wash as she is not sure how it would have gone down with the neighbours and passers by – and I thought she was an enterprising young lass and we could have set up a business.
Saturday 30 May   Claire is working today and I have volunteered to have Daniel for a few hours but when Daz  drops him off I extend the offer to the full day.  He has a bottle of juice but no lunch so I offer to make him some potatoes and veg.  Daniel is so good around town that when he first gets grisly at 12.00 I am surprised to see it is dinner time.  As a special treat (guess who for) I take him for his first McDonalds Happy Meal.  3 Fish fingers, fries and orange juice seem OK until I find a bone in the fish as I am pulling it apart for him.  It is changed for chicken nuggets and he also has some of my Big Mac and bread roll. An hour passes very quickly , I am surprised to see how clean he is but how dirty the high chair and floor are!  It is a long slow hill walk back to Sandra’s and Daniel nods off.  Shortly after arriving back Steve takes him out again to see Keighley Gala procession and meet David and Natalie.  He arrives back later dripping with sweat from the hill climb reporting that Daniel has been an angel but now needs a nappy change. He plays happily in the van and pulls himself up and almost stands on his own.  Don’t think it will be long before he is walking properly.  We have bought him a replica England football kit and he looks really cute in it.  Claire & Daz collect Daniel and shortly after Rod and Nancy arrive for a meal.  Sandra is partaking in a Safari supper and 42 people arrive in small groups to eat desert at her house.  We become the talking point as we toast them as they peer in the van as they walk up the drive.  Nancy knows some of them and it is really funny to see their faces when they recognise her in a strange place.
Sunday 31 May  For a change Steve gets up first as he has arranged to go down to bowling with Richard for 9.00.  I  actually stay in bed and fester as I have a feeling I am catching Steves cold.  Steve, Donna and Luke (from Beverley) arrive early afternoon to go to the rugby with Steve to watch Keighley Cougars.  They return just after Claire, Daz & Daniel have arrived and we all enjoy a BBQ in Sandra’s garden.  Catch up on all the news from Steve & Donna and feel very proud showing Daniel off. Another record spending week – over £700 which would normally last a month abroad and give us a lot more pleasure.  A definite incentive for us to stay "on the road" as long as possible.  Why didn’t anyone tell us they were de-valuing the pound on a weekly basis  ?

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