Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

1998 Xmas letter

Steve & Glen Swatman
20 Hillcrest Road
Denholme, Bradford
West Yorkshire
BD13 4JF
Tel 01274 830627
December 1998
Hope this finds you fit and well and in need of a cure for insomnia.  Another year has flown by and we are still "on the road".  Having set out to travel for a couple of years we are now becoming vague about the term as more ideas spring to mind.   Thanks to family and friends who have been a great help in keeping our dream alive with their assistance in various shapes and forms.  Europe has proved inexpensive on the whole and our property rental income is going much further than we anticipated so why stop?  We are both keeping very well and "Charlie" (yes we finally gave the motorhome a name – we treat it like royalty, we look proper Charlies when manoeuvring and it looks like Charlie and the chocolate factory in the fridge after I have been shopping) is bearing up well under the strain of constant use and has now covered over 33,000 miles.  We have travelled over 18,000 of those this year alone.  So on with the condensed blow by blow diary account of our year:-
DECEMBER 1997 – Crete proved to be a good choice for the Winter and we managed to swim in the sea on many days.  Unsure of what to do at Christmas we started checking out Hotels, Steve accidentally tried to book us into a Brothel in one resort!  Fortunately we were saved by meeting Chris and Barry from Elounda and we had a great time with them and lots of other British and European people in that community.
JANUARY 1998 – Completed our tour of the Island and now feel quite knowledgeable about the Minoan culture having visited all the sites and museums.  Claire, Daz and Daniel flew out to join us at the end of the month.  Great to see them all again.  Daniel had changed a lot since we saw him in October and we enjoyed doing the Grandparent thing.
FEBRUARY –  We all returned to mainland Greece/Athens together on the ferry before they flew back to England.  With 3 weeks to spare before our next visitors we made a coastal tour of the Peloponnese.  John and Karen arrived in Athens on the 22nd and enjoyed a week of hot sunshine.  Athens and Delphi were especially interesting and we loved having company again. 
MARCH  – 1st Dispatched Karen and John back to England complete with "Motorhome trained" certificates.  They soon learnt to be thrifty with water and move in rotation etc.  Over to Italy mid month using the overnight ferry from Patras to Brindisi where you stay on deck in you van.   On to Sicily despite the warning about the Mafia.  If we had listened to all the dire warnings we have been given we would still be in England.  Great tour of the island and we were lucky enough to see from close quarters both Etna and Stromboli erupting.  The monastery  in Palermo surprised us with 8000 mummified corpses dressed in their Sunday best.   Quite a refreshing change having been over exposed to ancient sites in Greece.
APRIL – Back to mainland Italy and up to Rome via Pompeii which was brilliant.  Could have lingered but we needed to be in Rome for Easter to meet Pete, Carol, Paul & Elaine.  Had a great weekend with them but the time passed far too quickly.   Up through the centre of Italy with mixed weather but interesting cities although we began to feel overdosed on churches. 
MAY – A detour to Slovenia for fuel then into Austria.  The Grossglockner pass had been opened early and we enjoyed taking that route up to Salzburg.  Lots of fond memories as we re-visited the places I had seen as a child.  Back to England via Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and France.  David was preparing to go into the Army and we wanted to see people and make further plans.  We enquired about a price for selling "Charlie" prior to going to America in September and buying a van there.  The price offered was very low and so we sent adverts to the Motorhome magazines in the States hoping to exchange our van with one of theirs instead and also to New Zealand and Australia to check out the situation there.
JUNE – Auntie Joan was over from Canada and we enjoyed a big family get together as an early 80th Birthday party for her.  Left on the 8th, our regular Sea France crossing Dover to Calais.  We wanted to be at Nordkapp for midsummer so it was a race through Belgium, Holland and Germany.  Ferry crossing into Sweden and a weekend in Stockholm then North crossing the Arctic Circle and  travelling through Finland into Norway.  Nordkapp was a brilliant experience with 24 hour sunshine and made even more enjoyable when we met up with fellow motorhomers Claire and Malcolm whom we previously met last Winter in Greece.   Strange  that we should have spent Winter in the sun and then June in Norwegian snow.   Unfortunately David only stayed in the Army for 2 weeks then went back to his girlfriend in Keighley.   
JULY –  Down the West coast of Norway having viewed the spectacular Svartisen Glacier and the Fjords before taking the ferry from Bergen to Hanstholm in Denmark.  Onwards through Germany with a long weekend in Berlin before entering Poland at the end of the month.
AUGUST – 10 days in Poland taking in Warsaw and Krakow before moving into Czech Republic.  Prague was especially nice helped by the hot weather which we love.  Steve was especially fond of Czech beer at 20p pint as opposed to Norway at over £4 pint.  Back once again through Germany, Holland, Belgium and France to England  in time for Daniel’s first birthday on the 30th.  Claire arranged a big party with lots of our friends as well as relatives so it was a great welcome home as well as a birthday party.  Steve’s sister Netty and family who had recently returned from living in Mexico were also there.  Daniel was gorgeous with curly slightly reddish blonde hair and just finding his feet.  It took him some time to get used to us again as he had been in hospital with pneumonia earlier in the month and had become shy with everyone. 
SEPTEMBER – An exchange in the States is impossible as they cannot insure for British drivers.   Shipping "Charlie" to America also revealed insurance problems.   Winter in Spain and Morocco was looking favourite and  then hopefully a swap with someone in Australia or New Zealand later on next year.   An exchange offer came back from Australia with someone offering a van in Perth for 11 months from January 1999 and wanting ours for 7 months next Summer. 
OCTOBER – Whilst trying to sort out the Australia swap we saw a £59 flight to Crete and left that night to visit our friends in Elounda for 1 week.  Returned and 5 days later on the 21st left England with "Charlie"  heading for Spain but with the Australia swap looking very promising.  Drove down through France calling in to Andorra for cheap diesel and reaching Spain in 3 days.
NOVEMBER – It felt lovely to be back on the road and in the sunshine again.  Whilst it is great to see everyone in England we really feel this is the life for us at the moment.  Meandered down the East coast of Spain stopping as and when the weather and nice beaches took our fancy.  THE NEAR FUTURE – Hope to meet up with some English motorhoming friends for Christmas and then Steve’s Mum & Dad in Fuengirola early January before returning to England mid January to prepare things for Australia. 
Having visited 18 different countries this year it will be rather strange for us if we only mange to fit in England and Australia next year although we will have our work cut our exploring all the places out there.  Although our plans have a habit of changing pretty quickly our ideal scenario would be to go on to New Zealand from Australia for 6 – 8 months and then go back to Sydney for the Olympic games and our Silver Wedding anniversary in September 2000.  What a long way off that sounds.  As always we welcome visitors so please contact us via Claire to make arrangements although you will end up with a shopping list of goodies that we can’t get abroad.   We don’t seem to have had so many drunken nights this year – are we drinking less or just getting immune?  Most surprisingly when we got weighed recently we were within a couple of pounds of the weight when we left – our only exercise now is walking and we eat and drink whatever we enjoy (why did we bother with sport and low fat diets before I wander).  Perhaps our muscles have turned into fat which weighs less?  We have been lucky enough to meet lovely people in all the countries we have visited and have not been robbed or had an accident yet.  We have been surprised and inspired by the many motorhomers we have met and enjoyed sharing tales with.  Our favourite countries to date are Turkey and Czech Republic and Norway has been the most expensive.  We can certainly recommend this life style.   Would love to hear all your news via Claire.
Lots of love
Steve & Glen.

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