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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

High, higher than the sun

From the campsite in Switzerland, near Locarno, to our current site at Passo della Futa in Tuscany, about 30 kms north of Firenze, is just over 350 kms in distance, but it feels we have travelled much further.  It’s not just the language, everything about Italy is different; warm coloured stone farmhouses, roads littered with signage, very crusty bread and gregarious people;  it is good to be back.

After paying a small ransom to use the AutoStrada so that we could cross the Po and arrive south of Bologna in a day, we emerged from the van hot and tired at this lovely terraced campsite at 900m with distracting views across numerous tree clad hills.

On our first evening we sat absorbed and happy; watching the sun fall down behind the hills from our pitch with a view.  The next morning we were surprised to wake and find we were in the clouds and it took a few hours for the sun to once more find its way through.

To check anyone’s sunny mood, 500m from the campsite is a German Military Cemetery, an imposing monument built in the 1960s and immaculately maintained by the German State.  We always feel an obligation to stop for a moment at such place and reflect on the lives of all the young men who died for a war.  We had directions from the campsite and continued on a marked path through beech and pine woods, with brightly flowering hawthorn bushes and thyme underfoot, reaching a cross on a hill with a stone altar underneath.  We had lunch in this elevated spot and watched the insect life busy on the flowers around us.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Campsites in France and Switzerland

Campeole Le Brabois, Nancy
This site is very handy for the motorway and so as a one night stop off and has regular buses to the city centre.  We managed to pop in to Nancy for a quick look around on our one night stop.  A green and peaceful site with good facilities.

Camping Municipal, Masevaux
This is a little gem of a site, flat and green with some trees, a river along one side and still only five minutes walk from the shops in the town.  The facilities are good, kept clean and there is plenty of hot water.  Wifi is available.

Camping du Brec, Entrevaux
This site is by the very picturesque river that runs through the gorge and is therefore very popular with people with boats.  The facilities are shabby, but clean and functioning and there is plenty of hot water.  The marked pitches are a good size, although your hook up can be quite a distance, we needed both our cables.  The owners are friendly and helpful and even bring your ordered bread to your van in a morning.  The site has a bar and there is a supermarket very near.

Camping de Savel, Mayres-Savel, near La Mure
The site is by the lake and in June it was easy to have a lake view, as it was fairly quiet.  The pitches are mostly marked out and a reasonable size.  The facilities are acceptable and the view from the washing up area is good.  There is free wifi at the very pleasant bar, which also serves food.  The site is excellent for some marked good walking routes.

Les Ripettes, Pont de Vaux, north of Macon
The site has large marked pitches with trees and grass.  The facilities are clean and unisex and the owners are friendly and helpful.  There is free wifi around reception.  Cycling and walking routes from the site.

De Vivier aux Carpes, Seraucourt le Grant, south of St Quentin
A very shady site with marked pitches and fishing available.  Very feeble showers, otherwise although the facilities are dated they are OK.

Camping Isola, Guao, between Bellinzona and Locarno
This site has only a few touring pitches and these are small and quite cramped, but OK for one night.  It is a flat site with a pool, bar and shop.  The facilities are clean and modern and there is plenty of hot water.

Holiday spending May and June 2012

Our holiday was 27 days long and we traveled about 2,000 miles.
Spending was as follows:

Diesel       538
Food / supermarkets   662
Campsites  404
Cafes and restaurants 215
Tolls & transport  125
Other  131
TOTAL    2075 (approx £1680)

In addition the ferry cost £436 return Hull to Zeebrugge.

The tolling of the iron bell, calls the faithful to their knees

Anthony came up with this lyric for a blog title as we sat having Sunday breakfast in the sunshine, listening to the church bells of Masevaux; a small town in the Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park, between Mulhouse and Belfort.  We heard first one church, then another while we enjoyed fresh bread and honey on the excellent municipal campsite here.

Having left Zeebrugge at around 08.30 on Friday morning, we followed the Belgium motorways south to France, stopping at Nancy, in time to catch a cheap, frequent and modern bus into the city to visit the Neo-Classical Place Stanislas, enjoy an expensive beer in a cafĂ© and admire the new trams.  The receptionist at the Nancy campsite spotted our address on our ACSI card and owned up to being  a Salfordian and was keen to chat about his old home.

The N59 is a good free French motorway and our pace was soon much slower on the Route de Vin near Colmar; through pretty Germanic villages and hillsides of vineyards, with Germany in sight now firmly held back by the Rhine.  We stayed on the French side and after finding one campsite full due to a local festival, a second wanting in the clean toilets area, Masevaux proved to be a good find.

We are fans of the French system of Voie Verte; these off road cycle routes have tarmac surfaces and are well signed and we were pleased to find one heading out of Masevaux and up the Doller valley.  This kept us off the road and away from the many groups of Sunday German motorcyclist, who come here to swing their bikes at great speed along this twisty mountain road.  Having already had to administer first aid to a motorcyclist, who fell off his bike in front of us as we arrived at the port in Hull, we felt more than happy to be cycling traffic-free for the day.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Two of us riding nowhere spending someone's hard earned pay

The van is packed and we're ready to set off for mainland Europe again, after some lovely camping trips this Spring.  The photo is a recently opened campsite near Hartington in the Peak District that we are sure we will be returning to.

We're not exactly riding nowhere; the plan is to aim for Tuscany and meet up with Karin, an Italian friend we met in Spain a couple of years ago.  From there we hope to do some walking in the Maritime Alps - we've spent money on the guidebook so this might happen.  The hard earned money is all ours.

We will update the blog whenever we get the chance.  Our Italian friend tells us that internet access in Tuscany is a bit hit and miss and we're somehow not surprised.