Category Archives: Europe

Useful motorhome information for Fuerteventura

Before embarking on this trip we both tried to find motorhome specific information about Fuerteventura and quickly realised there isn’t a great deal. This is possibly because it costs so much to get from Europe to the canaries that nobody really bothers.

Having spent 10 days motorhoming around the island I hope the following is useful to anyone considering it, I’d also recommend it, I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.

CHEMICAL TOILET DISPOSAL

Lets start with the thing everyone wants to know, how do I get rid of the chemical waste. Unfortunately this Island isn’t really geared up for this aspect of motorhoming. I should imagine the caravan club would be horrified at the few official facilities, we found 3 locations which I will list and describe below.

Corralejo – GPS Co-Ordinates N 28 degrees 42.728′ W013 degrees 52.465′

You can empty both chemical waste and grey water here, there is no water to fill up your tanks, the entrance had a barrier that always appears to be open, look for a painted blue concrete square, drive onto it, empty your grey water and pour your chemical down the obvious sewer inlet, there is room to empty 2 motorhomes at once, there was never a queue.

Improve the experience by bringing food to feed the squirrels.

Near the airport – N 28 degrees25.289′ W013 degrees51.917′

This is a Disa petrol station heading away from Peurto del Rosario, pull up opposite the car wash lanes in front of the small motorhome disposal sign, head into the garage and inform the attendant you want to empty your chemical toilet, this is the phrase in Spanish.

Me gustaria vaciar mi inodoro quimico (courtesy of google)

You will either be given the pole to lift the manhole cover yourself or the attendant will do it, it’s a direct link to the sewer, pretty grim and loads of opportunity to get splashed by your own waste, there is a toilet and hand washing facilities inside the garage, you’ll probably need them. If you decide to wash your van for 1 euro you can also empty your grey water (unofficially).

You can fill up with water here too, 1 euro a go…

Tarajalejo –

These co-ordinates will take you to some rough ground that looks to be being used as a car park right by the beach, park up, take out your cassette and walk back up the street you came down until you come to a number of bins on your left, look carefully just before where the first bin starts and you’ll see a square wooden cover, lift that and you have access to the sewer and this is the official disposal site, there are no hand washing facilities but less opportunity for splash backs, I’d still wear disposable gloves.

GREY WATER

The only official place we found is mentioned above in Corralejo. The owners of the motorhome we rented advised pulling onto waste ground and emptying the tank as it’s only dirty water, we did this a couple of times, didn’t feel great about it but there were no other options, the car wash is a good way to get rid if you’d rather the water went into a proper drain, there are lots of car washes and I didn’t figure this out till the last day.

FRESH WATER

Most garages you visit have fresh water for motorhomes, some charge, some don’t, the most we ever paid was 2 euros. If it’s not immediately obvious where the water hose is, ask. Sometimes the water hose is hidden away and attached to a meter so they can measure how much you have used and charge accordingly, others you need to buy a token, usually 1 euro. We found it useful to have a couple of extra water containers to fill up so you don’t use the onboard water supply for washing up or sterilising bottle, more water for showers 🙂

CAMPING

There are no campsites on the island so you are wild camping for your stay. There are various places you can stop, we stuck to either car parks on the beach or firm rough ground near the beach, we had no-one banging on our doors and made sure we left no trace of our visit. We also headed out before midday (most of the time) so we didn’t get blocked in or cursed for taking up loads of space. The worst place we parked was in a town called Gran Tarajal, it was the spar car park and at around 22.00 about 20 vehicles turned up revving engines and blaring out tunes, we moved to a quieter location on a dirt road just away from the car park, problem solved. As there are no campsites there is nowhere to plug in for electricity so you are relying on the leisure battery in your vehicle. If you hire a vehicle for your stay it will most likely have solar which works very well, there is also usually a 240v inverter installed. In stationary use this will drain the leisure battery but if you use it while driving the alternator keeps a charge going into the battery as well as the solar. You can charge phones, tablets and go pros off the 12v leisure battery without an issue, I used the inverter to charge my drone batteries.

HIRING A MOTORHOME

Lolly took care of this bit but it’s no different to hiring a villa or hotel room, there are a number of companies on the island that will rent you a classic v dub camper, a T4 or a full blown whale like we did rented through trip advisor. Check how much they charge you if you don’t return the vehicle cleaned, it varies, some charge you 40 euros, some charge you 100 euros. We paid a 300 euro deposit on arrival and spent the last morning of our trip frantically cleaning the van, we got all our deposit back but if we hadn’t of cleaned the motorhome it would have cost 100 euro. They usually insist all the grey a black water is emptied, you can do all of this at the DISA near the airport, if you don’t it’s another 50 euro charge, check the small print.

WIND

It really is windy, when finding a place to spend the night take into account what the wind is up to and if possible find somewhere sheltered, while it’s nice to open your door to the beach, for a good nights sleep it’s sometimes better to park with your windscreen facing the beach, trust me, the wind keeps you up. Also if you have a drone keep an eye on it, I have a DJI Spark and only took it out when it wasn’t “that” windy, I didn’t lose it, bonus….

SATNAV

If you have a satnav that covers the island make sure it is up to date, there are new major roads and these didn’t show up on my satnav which I last updated about 3 years ago.

All of the above is correct at the time of writing and based on our personal experience, we hope you find it useful.

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El Cotillo

We set off on our way to El Cotillo but thought we’d have a drive through the valley to see what it was like.

There are a lot of these goats about the place, I haven’t investigated what they are about but we come across them a lot…

Shortly after passing the goat and no more than a quarter of a mile from where we spent the night it appeared we had left earth and landed on mars…

It’s quite incredible how the landscape can change so dramatically in such a short distance…

I took the opportunity to take an arty picture of the road ahead.

We followed the road to El Cotillo, parked up and put Stella in her stroller and walked over toward the sea, Stella started to drift off to sleep and at the same time the wind died down and the sun came out, time for a cocktail. We’d spotted a place that looks out to sea called La Ballena, it had a large sign that said cocktail which is what grabbed out attention most, in no time at all I had a beer and Lolly had a mojito.

As Stella decided to have a proper snooze we ordered lunch, Lolly had the John Dory special which was basically John Dory in a white parsley sauce with mussels, prawns and boiled potatoes and I had battered John Dory and chips, both meals were awesome, just as we were about to start Stella woke up…

We asked for a high chair and one arrived on no time at all, Lolly had brought some food for Stella so we all had lunch together. It was the first time we’d had lunch at a restaurant since we’d been away and it was bloody lovely, good food, no wind and sunshine, perfect. Once we’d finished up we moved on to the little bit of beach by the harbour.

It’s literally a splodge of sand amongst the rocks but it was a nice place to sit, soak up some late afternoon sun and there was a nice rock pool for Stella to play in…

We stayed down here till the tide came in and swallowed up most of the sand, we headed off for a walk around the village and was pleasantly surprised to find a little bay with some cute little dwellings, restaurants, bars and a dude playing solo guitar which you could hear right across the bay.

We explored some other stop over options and then went back to where we parked the van and moved to an overnight spot looking out to sea, it was right by where we had lunch. There were a few other vans parked up in the area so we thought it would be OK and as it turned out it was…

The wind was still pretty minimal and I tried to film a sunset time lapse but was foiled by a massive wall of cloud on the horizon that completely blocked the sun sinking in to the sea, I consoled myself with a beer, Lolly had some wine and we went to bed.

The next morning we planned to go and find the lagoons which weren’t far from where we were parked up. I took my drone out for a fly as I wanted to get some footage for a little holiday video, the weather was overcast, not ideal when you are trying to make a sunny holiday movie!

It was also pretty windy, the drone held up and didn’t get blown away. By the time we had put Stella down for a snooze and she had woken up again the sun had come out.

Annoyingly we had to do another round of emptying and filling which meant a 45 minute drive to Corralejo as that’s the only service point on this end of the island, we also needed to pick up supplies for the next few days and right next to the service point is a good sized supermarket so we dived in there and did a good shop.

If you like fish they have an excellent fresh fish counter.

You can buy a whole frozen Octopus too!

After grabbing everything we needed It didn’t take us too long to get back to El Cotillo and not only find the lagoons and but also a spot to park up for the nigh. It’s in a square with some apartments and a bar at one end and then a completely derelict patch of land in the middle of the square..

The view from the van however is quite different.

We went for a stroll on the beach and came across a number of rock made shelters you can sit in to keep you out of the wind, we decided to have a beach bbq so went back to the van, grabbed a bbq and some food and cracked on.

We had a lovely time and so did Stella too..

I filmed another time lapse sunset and was again foiled by cloud, more beer then and an early night, the sky did look very pretty…

WE started the next morning with some breakfast and a stroll along the beach to part of where we hadn’t been and also other vans were parked up, we took Stella for a dip in the sea.

We’d also noticed before we went for a stroll that we’d managed to run out of water again so made a plan to make our next destination near one of the other points the people we rented the van from said where service points. This was to mark the start of the crappiest day we’ve had, long story short we spent three hours looking of these service places to find that one didn’t exist at all and the other was massively un-obvious and I dismissed it as not existing. So if you are over here there is a DISA service station just past the airport heading toward Caleta de Fuste and next door to IKEA.

To the far right near the car wash area is this sign which is difficult to see when other vehicles are parked in front of it which is how I managed to miss it first time around.

Look up and write down the Spanish translation for “I need to empty my chemical toilet” and show it to whoever is behind the jump, they will then come and open a manhole you pour your cassette down, it stinks and beware of splash backs, you can’t empty grey water here but you can fill up with fresh water, again, 1 euro for decent amount.

At this point we’d been in the van for about three hours and all of us needed a break so we headed into a town called Calete de Fuste which is basically Croydon by the sea. It’s nearly as awful as Corralejo. There is an English doctors, mobility scooter hire, karaoke drifting through the air, an Aberdeen steakhouse, curry house and Chinese, if I’d have looked hard enough I’m sure there would have been a kebab shop too and there were a good amount of English bars, the dog and duck was one of them. The whole resort is designed for sun seeking brits who want the Spanglish experience without having to venture too far from their package doorstep, not my cup of tea at all, anyway…..

The beach front is pretty much owned by the Barcelo group and to be fair, a lot of the complex looked quite nice. Little self catering bungalows a stones throw form the beach, we walked past all that lot and onto the beach, there was a bar at the beach, we ordered a beer, Stella need some time out of the van too so we took her down to the sea..


At this point we turned our attention to some food, as I mentioned earlier there were some poor options available and we hadn’t set our expectations high. We did notice from the beach there was a marina amend what looked like possibly a restaurant so we took a wander in that direction. The marina is part of the Barcelo complex but you can eat there if you’re not a guest, if you do end up in this neck of the woods, visit the restaurant closest to the pirate shop, we had a lovely meal and they have high chairs for kids, we both had a starter ( I had fried octopus and a Lolly had fried goats cheese) and I had the biggest fillet steak I’ve ever had , Lolly had some really nice fresh fish, they brought a high chair for Stella and gave us hot water to warm her milk, the service and staff was excellent as was the view looking out to the marina, the meal came in at 60 euros which I thought was a bargain.

We had agreed we were going to stay the night but our options once investigated were poor, we decided to head up into the mountains to Betancuria for the night, I’ll let you know how that went next time…

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A windy night and learning how to motor home….

We woke reasonably early in Playa Blanca after a very windy night, as we’ve come to find they aren’t joking about the wind, if you’re by the coast it’s windy, it doesn’t let up either…

On the plus side however we did wake up to the sound of the ocean (twinned with the sound of howling wind) and the sun was making a concerted effort to break through the cloud…

It was shortly after taking this picture we discovered there were no mugs in the van and no kettle either (first world problems) so we made some tea in a massive saucepan and shared it, we also discovered the van water tastes rank so it’s boiled bottled water for tea from now on…

The previous nights visit to the supermarket was a grab and dash affair so we concluded we should visit another supermarket and stock up on supplies to last us at least a couple of days, buy some mugs and tea towels then head on to Corralejo.

Stella had a much better time at the supermarket

Corralejo is up near the Dunes of Corralejo national park and we had this notion that we’d be able to park up by the sea, have a bbq, watch the sun go down but that wasn’t to be, there is only roadside parking to access the dunes which probably isn’t a bad thing as this motor home would have got stuck in the sand anyway, we carried on to Corralejo which is my idea of hell, it’s like your typical Spanish tourist sea side town except it’s set back from the sea because of the wind, loads of sunburnt people sitting in English bars with their beer guts on display, sky tv everywhere and loads of shops similar to home, I spend every day in a busy city and the last place I want to be is in a busy town, there were also zero parking up options, on the way into town we saw a couple of big hotels with roads down to what we thought was the beach so we headed there looking for somewhere to stop.

The first road we turned down wasn’t a bad place to stop but we thought we’d check the road by the other hotel, tuned out to be a much better option, in no time at all we were parked up..

If you are here motorhoming and looking for an overnight stop over, this isn’t a bad option, there are 2 small supermarkets within a couple of minutes, one sells mugs and the other tea towels and BBQ’s amongst other things, the road is quiet the beach is only a few minutes walk away, it’s also inland enough not to be so windy…

As you can see it’s quite a big beach, it’s also a very windy beach not that it bothered Stella.

We tried sheltering behind some sunloungers but were pretty much sand blasted so we headed over to a beach bar to grab some shelter and a beer, they let us buy a beer as they were closing up so after about ten minutes we had to leave, we took a walk along the beach getting blown about all the way till we found a little crater, we sat down in there for a bit and it was much less sand blastery….

We mooched back to the van to feed and bath Stella, put her to bed, then make some food and test the shower out, we also had some booze and for a short period of time I convinced Lolly to wear a colander while cooking…

Right by where the van parked is a massive mobile phone mast that in the day looks quite ugly, however, with a lovely sunset and the mountains in the background it looks a bit like Tatooine…

Next morning we faffed about getting ready to leave and I made breakfast, it’s been the same thing for the last couple of days but it’s really nice, spicy meat crisped in the frying pan, then eggs scrambled in the oil from the meat served on some bread and butter as we don’t have a toaster with a slice of tomato on top..

Our destination for the day was Playa de Majanicho solely because the lady we hired the van from said it was nice. Before we got there however, we headed into my least favourite place to fill the van up with water which you do from petrol stations, some charge a euro for a timed amount of water, some don’t, some also have limited water which the Disa in Corralejo does so we had to abandon that and head out, not before Lolly saw a shoe shop and successfully purchased the pair of trainers I promised her for Christmas, I also had to pick up a lead for the satnav as I’d broke it, incidentally, if you are looking for a good satnav I can highly recommend the Garmin Nuvi 1390, you can pick one up from eBay for about 40 quid and it covers the whole of Europe inlcuding where we are now, do update it though as there are a few new roads over here which will through you off course as it did us trying to find the petrol station to fill up with water.

Before filling up we also had to empty, something we don’t have to do with Bumblebee, there are various locations across the island you can empty your grey water and toilet cassette, the owners of our chariot gave us map locations for each one which I will post up at the end of the blog. We found the service stop fairly easily and proceeded to empty the tanks.

It’s not an exciting business emptying dirty water and essentially a bucket of turds into a cesspit but it was made slightly more enjoyable by the squirrel army who are incredibly tame, every one of them came over to me, nibbled my hand to see if they could eat me and then retreated, the nibbling didn’t hurt and we gave them some dry weetabix and a breadstick Stella had chucked on the floor.

Happy squirrels.

From here we made our way to the garage to fill up on water and this is when we discovered I should have updated the satnav, we missed the new turning to our destination and ended up on a 30 minute detour, It was approaching 15.00 and we’d spent the whole day in the motorhome, this isn’t what we’d come away for. We found the garage and spent about an hour there filling up, letting Stella play outside and stocking up on beer, this is the garage, it’s in La Oliva and charges 1 euro for a good amount of fresh water.

Finally we were off and on our way to our last stop, it’s was a long and empty road…

We arrived in Majanicho to discover it’s a tiny collection of shacks frequented mainly we suspect by surfers and kite surfers, to date this is the windiest place we have been, it’s very pretty but also very very windy to the point that is’t bloody freezing outside.

This was not to be our final stop, we concluded it was not the best place for an overnight so decided to head inland up into the mountains where there is much less wind, we did take Stella to the beach before we left and I took a pano of the beach.

As you can see the beach was very quiet, everyone had been blown away.

Our stop for the night was to be a car park at the foot of a track that leads to a lookout, it’s a quiet road and car park with a stunning view of the island, particularly a sacred mountain called Tindaya.

We also constructed our first camp washing line, always travel with para chord 🙂

I tired to film a time lapse sunset but the go pro blew over half way through, I was also intending to take some Astro photos but ended up drinking loads of beer and eating a lovely fish pasta Lolly made us, we settled down for the night in a not to wind blasted van..

Next morning we woke up to sunshine and a herd of wild goats, I didn’t sleep that well as it was cold and I didn’t put the heating on, it wasn’t that cold when we went to bed.

We took Stella up to the view point, the view is much like the one we have from the van only slightly higher.

You can just see the van in the distance…

We’re now back in the van ready to eat some breakfast and head off somewhere else, most likely El Costillo….

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A mobile home adventure in Fuerteventura

As our regular readers know, nearly all the holidays we take are in our van, Bumblebee. We wanted to get away before Lolly’s maternity leave expired and ideally, somewhere hot, that ruled out anywhere in England and a good part of France. We had thought about getting a ferry with Bumblebee to southern Spain with a stop in the Pyrenees to do some mountain biking, problem is, at this time of year they are still covered in snow, not ideal and definitely not hot..

Also, with Stella at the age she is we are limited to 2 hours travelling time as that’s about the max she can spend in a car seat so the “experts” say so we wouldn’t really get very far and certainly nowhere that warm before we had to turn back and come home…

Thankfully, Lolly had a plan, how about we fly to the Canary Islands, rent a motor home and spend 10 days exploring the island, then be back home for my birthday so I could go out somewhere on my downhill bike, I’d made a big deal about that last bit so bless Lolly for coming up with a solution that meant we could all go on holiday somewhere hot in a van / motorhome and I could still go out on my bike, she’s the best.

Lolly did all the research and it came down to 3 motor home providers, 2 established companies and one who to us seemed like the small business who we would much rather give our money to, the company we chose is called Ventura van, the cost for a proper motorhome with shower, wc, baby seat and pickup / drop off at the airport was about £990.00 GBP, flights with easy jet from Gatwick for all 3 of us was £440 GBP return.

Lolly booked it all and once that was done it was time to do some research about motorhoming on the island which brings me to why I’m writing about a trip not in Bumblebee. There is very little information about the motorhome experience on Fuerteventura other than a few blogs saying how expensive it is to get your van / motorhome there. There are no recommendations of places to stay or park up so I thought if I write about our experience it might give others not not an insight but inspiration to do the same.

In no time at all our departure day was upon us, we’d just returned from a weekend in Chichester where it had snowed for the entire weekend, England was very cold so a trip to somewhere warm was most welcome.

We’ve never taken Stella on a plane before and personally I was dreading it, I had visions of her screaming all the way and us upsetting every passenger on the plane, I was also worried we might not get on the flight as while we were in Chichester she broke out in what we thought was chickenpox but was actually hand foot and mouth, anyway, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the flight, Stella took the whole thing in her stride and raised lots of smiles every time I took her for a wander up and down the aisle, as you can see, Stella was having a lovely time..

The flight was about 4 hours and as I mentioned earlier was with EasyJet, I have to say, it was a great flight and the staff at EasyJet were fantastic, they helped us check in all our baggage and extra items correctly and I’d like to think made sure we had 3 seats to ourselves when we’d only paid for 2.

On arrival our home on wheels was still on it’s way so we grabbed a quick beer and remarked on how windy it was, the sun was out however so who cares about the wind!

Our ride turned up, introductions took place, the owners of the van talked to Stella a lot in Spanish and she just smiled like she usually does, we hopped in and made our way to a car park in Puerto Rosario where we were briefed in how to work the motorhome, given a list of places we could empty the grey water and toilet cassette, handed over the cash deposit and then told good luck, see you in 10 days…

This is our chariot….

Now what???

There are no campsites on the Island, not one so it’s ten days of wild camping, for those of you not familiar with what that means, basically find somewhere safe to stop for the night and hope you don’t get told to move on. One of the things I had read about the island is that wild camping is massively encouraged because there just aren’t any campsites and it’s the best way to see the island, sure you can rent an apartment and get a car but at the end of the day you will always have to drive home whereas this way you can get your driving done early doors, park up and stay for a day or two and head to the next place.

I had researched a few places to go but after the flight and being handed the keys to a behemoth vehicle I had never driven on the wrong side of the road in I did’t really fancy venturing far, we’d seen a few vans parked up by the sea so agreed to head to the supermarket, grab some food and then find a spot to stay. At this point poor Stella was shattered and we dragged her round the supermarket as we had to get food for us and her.

As soon as we got out of the supermarket we strapped Stella into her car seat and before Lauren had finished strapping her in she was soundo…

We headed back toward the airport as that is where we saw the vans parked up by the sea, before we saw them we saw a sign for Playa Blanca and swerved in there. As you come off the motorway there is a sizeable hotel, if you turn left at the roundabout before the hotel there is a dirt road with plenty of places to park up which is where we stopped, rear door facing the sea. We had planned on making something lovely for dinner but it had been a proper long day so we put Stella to bed and settled for bread, Aioli and beer, we shut up the van, set the bed up and crashed for the night…..

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Updates

While we were away it was really difficult to get a decent internet connection so I wasn’t able to update our trip as best as I could, i’ll be spending a bit of time this weekend putting up the rest of our exploits for those that are interested.

I’ve also written up an account of the solar panel install I completed on Bumblebee just before we left,  you can find it here.

 

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Day 3

Our 3rd day in France has turned out to be somewhat epic, I can honestly say this is the best view I’ve woken up to on a Tuesday in a long while. 

Our day started much like any other on this trip, tea with the added bonus of a nice lie in.  There was much faffing about and we didn’t get ourselves ready to do anything on the bikes till about two, we met a bloke in the car park called Sven who was from Norway but his accent was a mix of Scottish, Irish and Norwegian, he gave me his bike pass for five euros as he paid for the day but was too shattered to ride anymore, result, a ticket to the bike park costs 25 Euros and when I say bike park I mean a lift up 3200 meters to the glacier and a while mountain to play on. 

Being a glacier, there is snow at the top, we were wearing shorts and t shirts and there was at least one dude snowboarding, it was fairly cold. 


We decided to chip off sharpish and make our decent to warmer climes, before we set off I asked Lolly to get a picture of me on a mountain bike on an actual mountain.  


The way the tracks are marked out is a little confusing, the one we were following shared the same name ia a few runs that are sign posted for winter activities, we ended up on a few reds which I was alright with but lolly struggled, we stopped by a lake to take stock and find our way to a blue run down. 


The blue run we took was definitely not a blue, more a red in my book, I loved it but Lolly wasn’t so keen and walked a lot of the trail, when we got to the end of the blue we had the option of another blue or a green, we took the green which lolly found a lot more enjoyable. 

As if mentioned earlier, I always wanted to see what a ski resort looks like in summer, below gives you an idea, slightly like Mars! 

As we made our way down there were a few photo ops. 



Once we reached the bottom we swerved into a bar for a couple of beers to celebrate making it down in one piece. We really enjoyed the downhill trails and if you are ever in this neck of the woods it’s a great day out. 

We finished our beers and made our way back to the van to make some food, BBQ pork loins, rice and salad.

Our food was awesome, we watched the second episode of Stranger Things, loving it! 

Tomorrow we’re off to meet Lindi and Ian, 7am start, they have a shower in their motorhome, winner! 

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Day 1

Our trip to France started with a 21st birthday party in Hertfordshire and camping in a bloke called Bob’s back garden. He has a lovely house in a little village called Furneux Pelham and had offered to host Billies 21st. Billie is Lauren’s cousin. When we arrived there was a good sprinkling of family chatting away and some of Billies guests in the pool, they’re quite a sensible lot, if someone had let me borrow their house and pool for a 21st birthday it would have been proper carnage!

As the evening progressed the only people that seemed to get smashed was us oldies, either the 21 year old massive didn’t drink or they held it down well, I was probably too smashed to notice. 

Bob’s garden is massive as demonstrated by the small band of travellers that stayed the night in their wagons taking up no room at all. 

Our alarm went off at 05.00, nothing like getting up at stupid o’clock to go on holiday, we made a brew and then lolly went for a dip. 

We had a chat with Lollys mum and dad who are also travelling to France, made a fairly loose arrangement with them and then headed off for the ferry. 


The roads were deserted apart from the odd tool driving in the middle lane forever, rather that then traffic. 

In no time at all we could see the sea which meant Dover wasn’t too far away. 


The crossing was relatively uneventful tho I did buy a new Bluetooth speaker, haven’t tested it yet but am sure it will sound way better than the one I have at the moment which is average at best and a blatant rip off of something that should be way more expensive. 

We left Calais and made straight for a little village called Chemin du cal serin, it’s about 2 or so hours drive heading in the direction of Marseilles. We’re stopping in this village as a couple we met last year recommend the Aire, for 5 euros a night you get water, electricity, WC and a nice view of an old castle. 

When we arrived all the spots were taken so in true Mark Ashley / Croydonia style we made our own space. 


We hadn’t eaten since we arrived in Dover so we set about getting some food cooking, chicken on the trusty Cobb and Lolly knocked up a lovely salad, rice and coleslaw.


After cooking the chicken the Cobb was still roasting hot so we cooked up all our sausages before they went off and chucked a couple of corns on and left them to cook while we went for a wander up to Coucy-le-chateau-auffrique. 


What’s surprising about this place is there is a whole little village built around the ruin and there is a community of friendly goats roaming about the place too, they are really friendly if you have food. 

Much to Lollys dismay we’d arrived just as the local boot fair was packing up so no wandering about looking at people’s stuff they’re trying to get rid of, we did however have a good look about the town and unfortunately just missed the tour of the castle. After about 30 minutes we came across the track we’d come so decided to head back down to the van, do all the washing up from earlier, have a little wander and then crash for the night. 

We took a walk down a lane not far from the van which will be forever remembered as mosquito alley, bastard things everywhere, I’d already been bitten once and now have a temporarily inflated foot. I’ve been bitten a few more times since that walk, we retreated to van and watched the final two episodes of Wayward Pines, ate a considerable amount of chocolate and then went to bed. 

All in all a successful first day, no fuel issues either which is a bonus, the only downside to living like this is not much in the way of showers, we do have a camping shower but I’d set that up a bit late so it hadn’t heated up very much by the time we got back to use it. 

The combination of solar panels and split charge system is keeping the battery charged and fridge powered up which means our food keeps and if I ever get any beers they will be cold. 

We’re off to the mountains tomorrow, I’ve always wanted to see a ski resort in summer so that’s what we’re doing, with any luck we’ll have a shower too! 

 

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And we’re off !

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It’s that time of year when Lolly and I pack up the Bee and head off in search of sunshine and adventure..

We are heading to France again but all we’ve booked is our crossings, everything else will be made up along the way. I’ve added some solar panels to the van so we can go a bit more off piste and not rely on having to be hooked up to keep the fridge going.

Our crossing is tomorrow AM, we’re off to a 21st birthday and then the adventure begins which i’ll update here as it happens, can’t wait to get going!

Paris

Another trip courtesy of my company has brought me to Paris, who knew IT would work out so well for travelling !

I’ve been to our office in Paris before but if memory serves me right I was only here for one night, I took the customary picture of the Eiffel Tower and went home the following day, this time around I’m here for 3 nights..

Our office is in a kind of apartment block, semi business and semi residential which might seem a bit odd but is quite the norm round these parts. Some of the staff in the office say they dread bringing clients here for meetings as it’s all a bit unprofessional, personally I quite like it, especially as the first thing you come across is this awesome lift, my father in law is a lift engineer and I’m sure he’d agree !

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The office is located a stones throw from the Arc Du Triomphe and a decent metro station, I thought I had booked into the Sofitel which is a short walk from the office but somehow i’d managed to book myself into a completely different hotel nowhere near the office a metro ride away, I was more annoyed that I would have to deal with rush hour to get to the office in the morning  so I cracked on and set about changing my reservation. The hotel I had booked into was the intercontinental right by the opera house, it’s a stunning building but a bit stuffy for my liking, I felt like i’d been booked into the Grand Budapest Hotel, very opulent, heaving and opera themed, not for me..

Due to the late cancellation policy I spent one night there so as not to incur any charges and the next day I checked into the Sofitel. After work I chipped back to the hotel, grabbed my camera and made my way by metro to the catacombs, they’re not close to where I am staying, 14 stops away, I arrived there at 19.02, it shut at 19.00 and they wouldn’t let me in, gutted…

I sat on the metro slightly narked about not getting in but thought i’d head out for a wander in my local hood and see what there was to photograph, I came out of the station and it started to rain.

I’m not too fussed about rain and from a photography perspective you can get some lovely reflections from ambient lighting, I decided to take a walk down the Champs Elysees starting at the Arc du Triomphe end, this is the view.

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That’s about halfway down to be honest and I nearly got killed taking that shot, standing in the middle of the road with a camera and tripod while French drivers who are mental at the best of times fly past you within a cats whisker is not something I recommend. As you can see there is a great big ferris wheel which I’d seen on my last visit and meant to photograph, this was my destination for the evening.

If I hadn’t been risking my life trying to get a photo in the middle of the road then the walk from one end to the other would have taken about 20 mins, after about 40 minutes I reached my destination and set about getting a picture, I decided on a slow shutter release that gives the impression the wheel is going round at a thousand miles an hour when in reality it’s not moving very fast at all..

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Happy with the shot I took I wandered back toward my hotel, somewhere along the line I thought I would take a shortcut and immediately got lost.

Sometimes getting lost works out quite well, it did on this occasion as I came across this awesome veedub parked up outside the Pakistan consulate.

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The paint job was amazing, I particularly like the Pakistan and French flags in the shield at the front, handily I wasn’t that lost at all, my hotel was just round the corner, result..

The next day I was determined to go and see the catacombs, I was also determined to have a Croque Monsieur so I popped out to a café local to the office and had this bad boy for a late breakfast.

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I did everything I needed to do in the office and left for the catacombs in good time.

The entrance to the catacombs is pretty unassuming, there are no neon lights or flashing signs advertising the place, just a guy standing outside a door way and some ropes for queue control, it gets quite busy during the day apparently. The catacombs are the remains of a limestone quarry and this is just a very small part of it, whats interesting about this particular part of it are the bones. In the 16th century the cemeteries in Paris were overflowing and the tunnels in the quarry were collapsing, bone remains were transported from the cemeteries to the quarry to free up space in the cemeteries and fille the cavities in the quarry. The bones were quite literally thrown down a well leading to the quarry with no way of telling whose remains were who and thats how they remained until a chap called Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury decided to arrange them in a more ornate way.

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There are over 6 million Parisians remains down here, you can’t begin to imagine how many bones that is..

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From floor to ceiling the walls are lined with skulls and bones.

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I visited at around 18.00 on  Wednesday night which I think is an ideal time to visit, it’s a sombre place and deserves a bit of quiet and respect which you might not get around midday on a Saturday when 200 people are making there way through. I’m really glad I got to see the catacombs and i’m going to look up some of the “unofficial” tours I’ve read about urban explorers undertaking, maybe next time I’m here i’ll go on one of those!

I have one day of work left and then I’m heading home, Paris has been fun but i’m really looking forward to seeing Lolly! 

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Istanbul

Although this isn’t an adventure in the van I like to write about all the places I visit…

In my 9 – 5 IT nerd role, our team support a number of external offices in the EMEA region, we do this remotley but at least once a year we travel to an office and help with any outstanding issues they might have. Over the years I’ve been to some amazing places, Moscow, Dubai, Madrid, Paris, I think the only office in region I have left to visit is Jo’Burg.

We try to rotate where we go so at some point all of the team will have visited all of the offices, this time I chose Istanbul. I’ve never been to Turkey and so many people in the office rave about Istanbul so I jumped at the chance to go, especially at works expense!

The office have put me up in a very nice hotel, the Four Seasons at the Bosphorus, it sits right on the river in the european half of of Turkey. If you head outside to the terrace you can see the Asia side of Turkey across the river.

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I’d naively expected the weather to be scorchio but it turns out Istanbul isn’t blazing hot all the time, it’s wasn’t proper cold tho, you could head out in a hoodie and be warm enough.

I arrived early evening after an early start, I wasn’t up for too much so I headed to the terrace with my camera to grab some nights shots, thats when I saw the massive bridge or as the rest of the world knows it, the Bosphorous bridge which connects Europe to Asia by road.

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You can kind of see it in the distance, it looks further than it is, I wanted to take a look and maybe grab a photo so I took a wander.

It took about 20 minutes walking before I reached more or less where the bridge is, there are a bunch of restaurants by the water and a square, in the surrounding streets are small stalls that sell clothing, jewellery and tourist stuff like fridge magnets. There is also a nice little Mosque that sits in the shadow of the bridge, I took a few photo’s but wasn’t really happy with them so they got tinned. I stuck around for about an hour and then headed back to the hotel.

Tuesday morning I headed to our office, it was nice to meet the people I speak to on the phone and as I have found with all the offices I have visited, I was made to feel very welcome. The plan was to spend a day at the office and then meet up with a colleague from the London office who is over here for a conference and do a bit of sight seeing in the evening. We had planned to head to Sultanahmet square to see the Blue Mosque, grab some food and soak up the Turkish atmosphere, maybe even entertain a carpet seller.

Unfortunately we never got there, first, when I met up with my colleague it was properly chucking it down monsoon style and wasn’t showing any signs of letting up, everything I wanted to visit was also closed. Added to this, earlier in the day a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in a park right by the mosque killing a number of tourists, we had both agreed we’d still go despite the bombing  but with the awful  weather and learning the square was on lockdown making it difficult to get to we decided to give it a swerve and had a couple of beers in the bar instead, dry January got put on hold for the evening.

Before I left for Istanbul a few of my colleagues had suggested I visit a place called the Basilica Cistern as they know I like things underground, architecture and history. It’s located not far from where the bomb went off, I figured it was unlikely there would be a second bombing the following day as security in the area would be tight so I worked through my lunch, left work an hour early and made my way to the square on a tram.

For anyone wishing to visit the Cistern ( or Yerebatan Cistern as it’s also known) with a camera and tripod they won’t let you take the tripod with you which makes long exposures a bit tricky, in the end I improvised and propped my camera on the floor so I could get a shot of the many columns which turned out alright, there are 336 columns in total!

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The cistern is an incredible place, there are huge carp that swim in the water and as you walk round water is constantly dripping giving you the impression you are wandering about a sewer system without the smell! It’s an incredible feeling to be walking around a construction that was built in the Roman era, very much like walking around Bath. At the base of 2 columns there are 2 medusa heads.

One upside down…

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And one on it’s side…

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The general accepted thinking is that these Medusas were recycled from older buildings built before the cistern and were placed this way so the column on top is the same height as all the others!

I’m so glad my colleagues told me about the cistern, well worth a visit. I wandered around there for about an hour and then headed up to the square to take some shots of the blue mosque.

This is the Blue Mosque, it looks a lot more Blue during the day.

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If you turn 180 degrees behind you is the Hagia Sophia

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Annoyingly by the time I reached the square I missed the last entrance to the Hagia Sophia, from what I have heard it’s spectacular inside. The whole area was very quiet which I suspect was due to the previous days events, there were a few people that looked like tourists scuffing about but I am sure that before the bombing it would have been much busier.

My last stop of the night would be a restaurant called Banyan. One of the staff at the hotel had seen me taking pictures and asked if i’d seen the bridge and the mosque, I explained i’d been down there and taken a few shots but been disappointed with the results, Banyan is where you need to go she said, head to the terrace bar and you’ll get a great shot of the mosque and bridge, she was right..

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I had a couple of drinks while I was taking photo’s and then headed back to the hotel, it was kebab night and I really wanted to try an authentic Turkish doner kebab and see if it was anything like the ones we have back in the UK after a nights boozing. It was more or less the same except there was no chilli sauce or mound of salad and it came in a wrap instead of a pitta.

All that remains of the trip is a half day of work and a plane ride home.

It’s been a great place to wander about and i’ve not felt uneasy or wary of any of the places I visited, not like Cairo where i feared for my life daily. It’s also been really nice that the cab drivers don’t try and rip you off though with the traffic i’d recommend public transport where possible, the trams reminded me of the ones back home in Croydonia.

Another thing that I found cool is the call to prayer, if you close your eyes and just listen you could be fooled into thinking you’re in a scorching sand pit middle east country with buildings made out of clay and people riding about on horses with massive swords, then you open your eyes and your somewhere really quite modern.

Hopefully i’ll get to come back one day, maybe for a long weekend with Lolly as there is so much more to see, failing that i’ll do my best to engineer an office visit in the summer !!!

 

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