Journey to the Top of the World : 5

We pitched up for a couple of days at a campsite overlooking the fjord at Trondheim and got the washing done. A nice site with an elevated pitch looking out over the mountains with more fabulous sunsets. The morning we moved on we went into the city for a wander around the city centre shops, a mixture of old buildings, rough wooden build with smart wooden fronts, modern concrete and glass and traditional houses and of course coffee and a cinnamon bun at a pavement cafe. One interesting sight was the collection of traditional wooden fishing boats of the type that would have been the mainstay of the Shetland Bus all moored up by the central station.

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Leaving Trondheim we decided to head inland to Roros, a small town in the east close to the Swedish border that was the heart of the old copper mining industry and is now a World Heritage site. The town centre is made up of very traditional timber buildings including two main streets of shops similar to those we saw earlier in the day in Trondheim. There are many buildings, houses and shops, built with rough wood structures some with and some without smart wood fronts. At the mine workings themselves you can see the conditions people worked in and how they extracted the ore and alongside are ranges of old buildings of rough timber construction with grass roofs that housed workers and tradesmen. The camp site we found here was ridiculously expensive with poor facilities, a dreadful example of ripping off visitors.

We decided to follow a lesser road through through wooded hills that were either wild or mainly sheep farming. Along the way we found our first of several traditional wooden churches. The road eventually took us alongside Storsjoen lake and on to Hammer on Mjosa lake where we stopped for the night. The only thing of interest here was the construction of a new tower block hotel that will be the world tallest timber building.

The next morning came with the promise of some fine weather and we decided to go a short way further up the lake and back to the lakeside campsite at Lillehammer that we liked so much a couple of weeks earlier. We booked in for the 3 nights and eventually staying 4. We were rewarded with warm sunny days and beautiful vistas and sunsets across the lake. The centre of the town is an attractive shopping street with traditional shops and cafes so of course more coffee and cinnamon buns. There is a large park area by the lake great for Fred who made the most of the opportunity to swim and chase the ducks.

Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and hope for decent weather further west. We decided to chance it and head towards Bergen. Our route took us over the spectacular Hardanger Plateau. A spectacular wilderness of lakes and today people and a main road with 4 meter snow poles at 4200 feet above sea level. The height being significant as the van trip counter passed 4000 miles at the same time. We descend from the plateau through steep gorges with massive water falls at Voringfosen and down a spiral road tunnel. That night we found a camp site surrounded by huge cliffs at the end of the Eidfjord.

Next morning was bright and sunny as we headed along Hardangerfjord toward Bergen. To cross the fjord the road loops through a tunnel onto a long suspension bridge the other end of which disappears straight into a tunnel and a blue disco lit roundabout. As we neared Bergen we decided to avoid the city and head south for the ferry on to Stord Island where we found a neat little camp site on the waters edge at Lervik. It was a damp evening but we had views across the sea to the mountains beyond that were lit by the setting sun. In the morning we were woken by the fast catamaran passenger ferries   full of commuters of kids coming to school.

The following day we decided a route back inland. We headed south across the islands and the east along the side of fjords and lakes. The weather turned filthy wet as we headed into the mountains again. A car stopped in front of us and the the driver jumped out in the pouring rain – turned out he is a number plate spotter and wanted to photo my personal plate. As we pulled away around the next corner was massive cascade of water falling off the mountain, a sign of things to come. The road started to climb and narrow as it wound its way through steep gorges, along the side of cliffs and over high passes. All the time there was a torrent of water falling off the mountains all around us, the weather may not have been nice but it was spectacular. High up in the mountains the road ran along the top of a dam and can’t have been wider than 3 metres, it was single track for miles and just wound in and out of rocky outcrops and lakes, it was a wonder how they built it. Finally it descended down an amazing zig zag but not before we passed through a cascade off the mountain onto the road. That night we pitched up on a camp site in Roldal a huge green space with just a few camper vans dotted around on the only bits of hardstanding we could find.

With the weather improving and after a quick look at the local timber church we set off to see Eidsborg stave church. It was a cool but bright morning as the road climbed through the mountains and past lakes and reservoirs and eventually through wooded gorges and valleys. The stave church at Eidsborg is part of the Telemark museum of old buildings and industries including a canal. The church is in a beautiful setting as is a well preserved example. After lunch we carried on south alongside the same lake for most of the afternoon until we found a campsite for the night at Treungen. Nice though it was the ducks couldn’t keep away, obviously used to scrounging crumbs. It was too much for Fred and in the end we just let him off his lead and he was after them up to is neck in the lake but at least they stayed away after that.

By now we were a long way south and with just a few days left in Norway we had to chose between driving around aimlessly or finding somewhere to put our feet up for a few nights. We went to Lillesand on the south east coast and were getting a little frustrated before we took a side turning on the off chance. After several kilometres and a long dirt track we came to an un-inspiring camp site we turned back and saw signs fo another and thought that we might as well have a look as we were there and what a gem it turned out to be. The small camp site at Bufjord is mostly static vans with a few touring pitches by the water. The facilities block has been newly constructed with large shower rooms and very disabled friendly and there was a decent mini market a short walk back up the lane. The weather was fine if a bit chilly at night but with fabulous start nights. Being the end of the season we were the only campers so we Fred had space to run, chase Oystercatchers and have a dip in the sea. Altogether a lovely lite to remember and only a short drive from the ferry.

Finally the day came to head for the ferry. A really dreary wet day with little to do other than work out where to stop for the night in order to be at the ferry at the crack of dawn. We ate out for the first time, at McDonalds in Kristiansand, two chicken sandwich meal deals for £16!! We had thought about wild camping at the ferry terminal but decided against it an found a small campsite nearby where several others had pitched up waiting for the morning ferry.

xZWVhIgWQEG2iTttr7ueEAOur ferry crossing to Hirtshals was comfortable and uneventful and by midday we were on the road south towards Zwolle in Holland for an evening with friends and for Fred to visit the vet to get his passport stamped. On the way we needed to find a couple of camp sites, the first one in Flensburg came easily but we struggled the following night eventually finding somewhere just into Netherlands. After a pleasant afternoon and evening with friends we headed for the Tunnel and after a night at a large site in the Belgian seaside town of Nieuwpoort we were on our way home.

IMG_2389And here we are, happy campers after 5 weeks and 5442 miles away.

Would we do it again? In the blink of an eye yes.

But we have come home with a new plan – Van Blanc is sold and a VW Crafter LWB conversion is on its way.

 

 

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Journey to the Top of the World : 3

We got to bed extra late on Sunday, we were too busy writing blogs and listening to the wildlife at Skibont. Not to mention that dusk wasn’t until nearly midnight and I don’t know if it ever got fully dark all night. So we managed a wee lay in until gone 07:00 and subsequently didn’t hit the road until 09:00. Today would be a short journey, when I looked the next site in Alta up the site finder said 66 miles which of course was as the crow flies. In reality it was 135 along the shores of the fjords some “follow me” roadworks through tunnels and rock falls and over a couple of passes and a short ferry crossing.

As it turned out today’s views the most spectacular yet. As we drove along across the other side of the fjord we could see snow on the mountains and numerous small glaciers between them but the best was to come. We stopped for lunch in a lay-by next to a large UK registered motorhome with a covered trailer containing a car and a boat. We watched an attractive lady drive an articulated tarmac truck in to clean the back out and get told off by the highways people – all very interesting. After lunch as the road climbed up a pass we noted that the pine trees had given way to stunted silver birch. As we crested the pass the view that unfolded before us took our breath away. The fjord was turqoise with snow capped mountains and glaciers beyond. The stunning scene was further enhanced by reindeer grazing at the road side. Difficult to believe that in WWII the battleship Tirpitz was holed up here until the RAF managed to sink it.

There are 3 camp sites in Alta all next to each other on the banks of the river. We chose the last in the row and were not disappointed. We booked in for 2 nights with the intention of doing a day trip to the Nordkapp and back the following day. A day ahead of our contingency plan which was useful. We were up early on Tuesday for the final push. It would be about 150 miles and 4 hours and we planned to have lunch there, admire the view and send some postcards.

Did I say earlier on this page that the views that day had been the most spectacular yet? Well forget that, yes they were good but the awesomeness of the land and seascape on the final part of our Journey to the Top of the World was simply gobsmacking. It was a cold, grey, damp and sometimes wet day but that was immaterial.

We headed North out of Alta climbing on to a treeless wilderness plain. The road was  long and mostly straight for the best part of 50 miles. There were Sami (the local indigenous peoples) camps and settelements at the side of the road and stalls selling their goods. On the hillside and beside the river there were occasional holiday cabins, skidoo’s for sale. A real wilderness, that must be inhospitable in the extreme in the winter but so much life going on. An then there were the reindeer herds, hundreds of them in large tracts of crudely fenced land and to think Sue had been worried about seeing just one.

Eventually we got to the small town (if it could be called that) of Olderfjord with fuel, shops, campsites and a hotel that we thought might be the last civilisation after which the road followed the coast line for 60 miles. Sometimes shiny new 2 lane and others barely 5 metres wide with uncomfortable drops off the edge. The views out across the Porsangen Fjord and the mountains beyond were stunning as were the clouds with sheets of rain where they met the sea. Still people lived and worked along the way mostly fishing but also still bailing hay obviously for winter feed and one guy who was the local helicopter service. Along the shore there were family groups and rafts of Mergazer and Goosander  ducks with the occasional Wigeon and Long Tail ducks.

At the top of the Fjord the road crosses to Mageroya island through a 6.8km tunnel. As you drive in it starts to drop until it is eventually 212m below see level. Shortly after we stopped at a road works waiting for a “follow me” through a tunnel and watched an Eider family with still very small chicks. The roadworks inside this tunnel turned out to be cleaning with big spray trucks washing the roof and walls (these tunnels are all rough hewn from the rock) and here I have a bone to pick – we had to go through is in both directions and it cost me 80NKR (£8) to get the van anywhere near clean again.

Immediately after this tunnel we came upon Honningsvag which seems to be a bustling small town with tourism (there was a small cruise ship came into the harbour), fishing and other shipping or perhaps oil related services. Continuing up the road with just 21 miles to go we passed a large and recently built Scandic hotel before climbing high across the very wet and windswept moor until we came upon the Nordkapp visitor centre at 71.10.21N. They charged us 55NKR (£55) for the pleasure but after 2390 miles we were hardly going to turn around. The temperature was as low as 7C but we just had to do the photos before seeking shelter in the visitor centre. So we had made it, an itch well and truly scratched.

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After a hot dog and a bun in the visitor centre and sending the obligatory post cards we set off back to Alta. Of course the same journey was just a retrace, and that tunnel, but we knew where to look for things. We stopped and got a great view of a Black Throated diver on a pond on the moor and got fabulous views of 2 pairs of Golden Eagles soaring above the road. By now we were suffering from reindeer overload so it might be time to start looking for some for the BBQ when we get further south to warmer weather. As we got closer to Alta the weather did improve and we returned to a not unpleasant but still chilly evening.

A couple of things that have struck us are the number of different countries cars and campers have come from apart from the obvious Scandinavian and Northern European. We have seen Russian and Ukrainian, hardly what we expected, Italian and Spanish, hell of a long way, and even one Australian BMW bike but we have seen precious few British certainly in Norway. Sue saw a car a few days ago and we passed a VW camper and then there was that Burstiner motorhome wit the trailer. On the way back from the Norkapp to Alta we sa a UK plated Unimog type camper and big 4×4 van camper with UK plates but that is it. Another surprising thing especially to and from the Nordkapp was the number of cyclists laden with tents and luggage battling the elements, the hills and tunnels and the traffic to reach the Top of the World – to be frank they must be bonkers.

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Journey to the Top of the World : 2

Our crossing to Kristiansand was smooth and took just over 3 hours. The Colorline fast ferries are large vessels and a cut above your average cross channel fries. The terminal in Kristiansand spilled us into the into town in the middle of the afternoon and we were soon on our way north. The next week was going to be all about travel as we wanted to get to the Nordkapp first and then meander back south taking in sights and detours on the way.

It was another cooking hot afternoon when we dropped off the main road to find a small camp site by the lake at place called Hisoy. The sun was so hot that Sue and Fred had to sit in the van with the blinds down to avoid it and it hardly cooled down all night. Like most Norwegian campsites it was a mixture of caravans, campervans, motorhome and cabins but on this site someone was staying in a full on Kenworth long nose semi tractor.

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Fred woke us about 06:00 on Thursday so we were soon up, dressed, breakfasted and on the road. Some of the road from Kristiansand to Oslo is now motorway but there was one section under construction and boy do the Norwegian road builders know how to deal with rocks. Sadly Norway has fallen in love with road pricing and every so often there is a gantry across the road that collects your registration number. We found just a few of these before so at least we have an account but there is no escape for foreign tourists as their agency will collect the tolls.

We came off the motorway before Oslo to take a scenic route to Lillehamer. It was picturesque but not a very good road and busy so for the second half of the journey we opted for the main E6 road (that would take us to a 100km short of the Nordkapp) that was equally busy and still pleasant enough. On the way into Lillehamer we looked up local campsites and found one by the lake. Fred managed to get a swim in the lake and bark at the ducks so he was happy. That evening we started to notice the lengthening days as sunset was getting later and the light it left over the lake was stunning.

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For Friday our plan was to make it past Trondheim to a camp site we stayed at last time but first a trip to the supermarket for fresh provisions. By the time we were on the road it was already busy and for much of the way it was a frustratingly slow Norwegian cautions speed limit dawdle. We crossed over the vast wilderness at Oppdal where the road summit is over 2000 feet eventually reaching Trondheim in the Friday rush hour. Finally we got to the campsite at Steinkjer and the same pitch we had last time overlooking the lake where we could watch the Merganzer ducks among others dividing for food.

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We made an early start on Saturday and this time the road was quiet. We were aiming for Mo i Rana but in the end made it way past there. The road passes through a mixture of geography and terrain but whatever there are a lot of pine trees. Like the rest of the journey there were several tunnels and todays longest of 8.6km is going to take some beating. Sue was on the look out for Elk and was rewarded with one this morning a bit off the side of the road. Long before Mo i Rana and beyond there were significant roadworks where the road is being widened and realigned. We saw the beginnings o this last time so it is going to be a long term project. That afternoon we crossed the Arctic Circle and continued to Nordnes campsite for the night. The van is taking the journey well in its stride and passed the 2000 mile mark just a few short of the Arctic Circle. By now the weather was much cooler, about 16C during the day and 10C at night.

We were away sharp on Sunday morning and again the roads were very quiet. This afternoon, 7 days after leaving home, we passed 2000 miles. Our aim was to get a little way past Narvik before stopping. We had an easy journey through some very big scenery stopping on one occasion to admire it and finding we were close by the WWII concentration camp. Just before that we had both seen an Elk on the road margin before it scuttled off into the woods. We ate lunch on small ferry just before Narvik and were looking forward to stopping for the night. Well this had to be the longest stretch of road with no campsites and we were contemplating a wild stop. Fortunately though we found a pleasant site next to a wildlife reserve that apparently has abundant bird life – except of course when we visit although we did see a red squirrel on the drive which fortunately Fred did not.

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Driving through Norway is often slow and always torturous. Distances as the crow flies are great but by road they are twice as far. I am sure Fred, being a Spaniel, understands this. They can be tedious at times but rarely boring. It is easy to become blasé about the stupendous scenery that is seemingly endless. One could take a million photos but never capture the essence of bowling along through this fabulous place.

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Journey to the Top of the World : 1

Well at least to the Nordkapp which is the most northerly point in Europe.

Two years ago we drove up the west coast of Norway as far as the Arctic Circle before turning for home through Sweden. Ever since then we have regretted not going further north in Norway even though we would not have had time to get to the Nordkapp. So now here we are on that journey for 5 weeks. Our plan is to get to the there reasonably swiftly although without busting a gut especially driving through Norway.

We set out on Sunday 29 July to catch the shuttle to Calais. For several days before Eurotunnel had been having tremendous problems caused by the heat wave and high traffic levels at the start of the school holidays. It seems that the air conditioning in their ageing rolling stock could not cope with the heat and the hot vehicles so that carriages were being taken out of service causing delays of many hours. However by Sunday things looked better so when we arrived everything was apparently running normally – that is only 30 minutes late. Waiting in the camper van park for our slot to be called we were one of many VW campers – at a guess about 1/3 of the vans there were VW of all ages. Oh and we had the first rain for weeks – but of course we were off on our travels.

Hitting the road north from Calais the Sunday traffic was busy and it was still raining. After about half an hour we crossed the Belgian border and it started to warm up. The autoroute through Belgium was extremely busy slowing to a crawl on several occasions. Our intention was always to get through Antwerp and into Netherlands before stopping for the night. Antwerp didn’t disappoint and we queued all the way up to and beyond the Kennedy tunnel even on a Sunday.

img_0934Once in the Netherlands we came off the motorway at Ousterhout to find a campsite. The surrounding area seemed to be a leisure park with a lot to choose from but in reality most were holiday camps or static vans. We stopped at one that was ASCI listed but as the lady totted up the extras it came to €40 for nothing special so we made our excuses and left. With a bit of snooping we soon found a site. A few miles away, it was bit old and tired but it was fine for the night and substantially cheaper at €13.50 and no formalities.

It was a hot night and we all had difficulty sleeping. We struggled to get Fred to stay in his bed but a bit of forceful persuasion eventually did the trick and we all got some sleep until about 06:00 when he decided it was time to jump on the bed and wake us.

On Monday 30th our plan was to reach the Danish border, about 400 miles away but the autobahn gods had other ideas. It was 30C and more for most of the day so we were running fast with the air condition blasting. Our first big problem came approaching roadworks joining the A1 near Osnabruk. We both saw the sat nav direct us off to the right but as we moved over I noticed the road signage was different and by the time we looked back at the sat nav we were committed. Annoyed and frustrated we drove about 7 miles to the next junction with queuing traffic on the opposite side that we were going to have to come back through. We had lost about half an hour.

 

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Back on the move we stopped briefly for lunch with an eye on making the border by 17:00. Our plan ran it to trouble when we hit the back of a queue caused by a recent accident in the roadworks ahead. In all we sat there for about 2 hours with an outside temperature that maxed at 36C – it wasn’t fun. Once they cleared the accident and the traffic was on the move again we dove through many miles of 2 lane restrictions with more queues around Bremen and on to Hamburg. Hamburg was another nightmare, it was rush hour and we crawled through the Elbe Tunnels and into 30 or 40 kilometres of roadworks where the A7 going north is being widened.

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By now we had given up on making Denmark and so dropped off the motorway to find a nearby camp site. What we found was a holiday camp site around a small lake. They even had a beach with loads of activities for kids. The touring pitches were a free for all which despite our having driven around the lanes off the autobahn was right next to it. Whatever the facilities were superb so we ended up clean and refreshed. It was another very hot and stuffy night.

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We were up early the next morning, 31 July, courtesy of Fred and on the road where even at 09:00 it was 28C. After the previous day our drive was spectacularly uneventful and we made Hirtshals by 14:45. At the camp site by the beach our details came up on their system and we pitched just a few places away from where we had before. After a walk around town we had planned to sit out for the evening but the inevitable happened, the wind got up, the sky clouded, there were claps of thunder and the heavens opened so that was that until later when the sun set with a gorgeous orange turning to red glow.

Wednesday 1st of August and we were off to Norway. We killed time with a walk around the extensive German fortifications for the big guns that were there to protect the straight. And then before checking in top the tank up with cheap Danish diesel and a trip to the supermarket for a few essentials. Finally after 865 miles arriving at the ferry terminal for our 12:15 sailing to Kristiansand.

Journey to the Top of the World : 2 >>>

The Rest of June

Since our trip to Edinburgh the rest of June has been spent doing things we have done before. This was our 23rd trip to Le Mans and the 15th year we have been to Treboul including the 7 when we had a house there.

We got home from Scotland on the Sunday night after the Rolling Stone concert – 450 miles and 10 hours of hot boring motorway. It took a couple of days to clean the van inside and out, do all of our washing and the prep and pack for heading to France.

quvIcG2aTX2keyuJGo6aDAThe 08:30 ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe was packed with petrol heads in all manner of cars and campers en route to Le Mans. The 200 mile drive down through Rouen was pleasant and uneventful save for the fact we could see the effects of the previous few days deluges – burst rivers, flooded fields and washed away soils. We were slightly nervous that the camping fields would be more than a little wet. Once we got to the outskirts of Le Mans city the public roads that become the race track were closed for the evenings qualifying sessions and the signage for our camping area had us driving all over the place. We found it eventually and made a bee line for a piece of ground that was higher than the rest around it – just as well when we saw others, including the location organisers, have need of a tractor to get pulled out of boggy ground.

Looking after Fred in a less than doggy friendly environment was a priority but in reality he was fine and his usual over enthusiastic self. We walked him into the pit village on Thursday and Friday and to watch a few minutes of night qualifying at the nearby Porsche curves on Thursday evening. All of which he coped with well apart from objecting to having his Halti around his face to keep him in check. The noise of the racing cars did not bother him one bit, the loud music and and loud voices into the small hours didn’t bother him either but he did not like the fireworks that some campers need to make their weekend complete.

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There must be crisp left

We found a convenient quieter spot to watch the start of the race from on the roof of the go kart pits just before the main start area. From there we could see all the cars come past together behind the pace car just before they are let loose and then watch a few laps as the race got under way. Perhaps I should explain here that there is no need to watch the whole race, we get pleasure from watching small snippets but we listen to Radio Le Mans for much of the 24 hours for race reports and news. Indeed it would be impossible to work out what was happening without RLM. So for the next 24 hours we had a constant din of racing engines with only let up being when the safety cars came which has the effect of slowing the cars and grouping them together which creates gaps in the extremes of noise. None of which bothers us, or Fred, and we all got a good night’s sleep. There were threats of rain on the Sunday which didn’t materialise – sad to say if it had then it might have livened up a slightly predicable race at the head of the field. We watched the end of the race again from the go kart pits and as often happens the the race is a forgone conclusion on the last lap and the cars form up in parade. The outright win predictably went to Toyota and the car with Fernando Alonso in its driver line up. It was theirs to loose and something they have spent some 40 years trying to achieve so well done them. In the lower classes it was a battle to the finish with at least one win or position being decided on the last lap – quite something after 24 hours.

We let the masses leave on Sunday evening before our morning drive west to our regular haunt at Treboul. In the couple of times we have been back there since we sold our house we have taken a shine to Camping Trezulien. It is a pleasant and spacious site on a hillside on the edge of the town and just a short walk to the port de plaisance, shops, supermarket, bars and restaurants or over the barrage into the main town of Douarnenz.

In view of our impending trip to Norway we had decided that this week was going to be a lot of R&R and to be honest it was too hot for us to do much else. We celebrated Sue’s birthday a couple of times at our favourite restaurant, La Griella overlooking the port and Isle Tristan. On the Friday evening we had an interesting chat with a couple of Dutch guys who were taking part in the Mini Fastnet the next week. This is an annual race for Mini 6.50 class sailing boats, 70+ of them predominantly French with a few other nationalities, that set out on Sunday evening to sail around the Scillies to the Fastnet Rock and back. This year it took the winners 3 days and 14 hours.

We did venture out to Camaret sur Mar for the day, somewhere we haven’t been for 20 years. Camaret is a place for artists so the streets and alleyways by the quayside are full of galleries selling their work. We found a space on the quayside and managed a pleasant bread and cheese picnic lunch with a view. Followed by a trip up to Menez Hom for a spectacular view of the bay right out to the Point du Raz.

On the way back to Treboul we spotted something we haven’t seen before – a baguette vending machine!

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The weekend was spent either soaking up or hiding from the sun before we had to head home. A swift pack up on Monday morning and round to the vet with Fred to get his passport worm and while he is a favourite there he still doesn’t like vets! It seemed to take a long time to go not very far stopping at the Aire north of Avranche for lunch before we got to our destination for the night – Arromanch. We have been to the “beaches” before but there is always something about them. What struck me this time was the way that the events of June 1944 have created a tourist resort of the area. On one hand it seems a little incongruous but on the other you realise that people want to visit and the locals have to make a living.

After a very pleasant Moules et Frits for dinner the following morning we drove along the coast to Pegasus Bridge and from there along the coast to Honfleur. Having not tried an Aire before we were determined use the one by the town centre in Honfleur. The major drawback we discovered was that the toilets listed in our guide did not exists – something that is a bit restricting in a camper van, but what heck we managed. The town was heaving by day but when we went in for dinner it had died and to our surprised quite a number of restaurants had shut for the evening. Never mind we found one to sit out on the quayside for a Crepe dinner and very nice it was too. Back at the van that was parked next to a stretch of water we watched a fabulous sunset, a family off otters playing on the opposite bank, an owl hunting over the reads and bats in and out of trees by the van.

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A nice way to end our holiday before a trip to the Supermarket in Dieppe and stock up for Norway and then the ferry home.

Edinburgh and the Rolling Stones

My favourite city, possibly because it’s where I come from, and the greatest rock and roll band in the world. An irresistible combination!

The decision was taken some weeks ago to forego the NC500 this year, after all we are going to the Nordkap in August and one cool holiday a year is more than enough. Oh and Jensen Button is finally racing at Le Mans against Fernando Alonso and we are not going to miss that. Still we had planned to visit relatives and we had tickets for Rolling Stones at Murrayfield and we weren’t going to miss that either.

img_1916So we set off on a grey and misty Monday morning heading round London and towards the the A1 – the Great North Road. We made an overnight stop at the convenient CCC site in Boroughbridge home to many bunnies much to Fred’s excitement. The following morning the weather cleared to give great views of all landmarks we passed, the Angel of the North, Bamburgh Castle, Lindisfarne and the Firth of Forth as the road rides along the cliff tops north of Berwick upon Tweed.

Fred at LinwaterWe had found Linwater Caravan Park just a few miles west of Edinburgh. It got great reviews and looked like it would suit us well and certainly better that the overpriced Caravan Club site at Silverknowes and we were not disappointed. A family owned and run site, well tended with spacious pitches, decent facilities and excellent service and support.

The site backs on to the Almond River valley and Almondell Country Park. There are several walks in and around the area and alongside a fast flowing channel that feeds the Forth Clyde Canal at Lins Viaduct. It was here that Fred decided the stream was perfect for drinking and cooling off in and once he had we couldn’t stop him diving in for a swim each time.

We whiled away one pleasant lunch time and afternoon at the site with cousin Ellen and Ian and another visiting the Kelpies with cousin Margaret. The Kelpies are a pair of enormous horses head statues standing beside the Union canal at Falkirk. They are amazing facsimiles of the horses that used pull the narrow boats and are the centre piece of the Helix Park regeneration project.

Just before we came away our solar panel packed up. The guy who supplied it sent me a new one to fit while we were on site and true to form the carrier, Parcel Force, mucked us about. Anyway it got there eventually and with the loan one evening of some steps from the site we got solar again and with a vengeance.

Saturday started with a shock for poor Fred. We couldn’t take him into the Rolling Stones concert and we wanted to have lunch in town beforehand. So he was booked into a local kennels and he wasn’t happy about being left there however nice the people were. A cab ride to the stadium and a tram ride into town and we mooched around the shops before lunch and after walked up the Royal Mile and sat in the sun and people watched in Princes Street Gardens. Lunch was our usual Edinburgh treat at Henderson’s in Hanover Street. It is a great self service vegetarian restaurant with an extensive and constantly varying menu.

And then there was the Rolling Stones. It turned out that our not too expensive tickets were actually quite good up in the stands with a good view down on to the stage. We have seen them before but this was probably the best yet. The play list was very similar to Hyde Park in 2015 and full of classic Rolling Stones numbers. It is said time and again but for a bunch of “old boys” the energy was incredible – but also vocal quality and fret / keyboard dexterity! Perhaps we can look forward to? Mick had a few Scottish jokes with the crowd and about the guys with mops and towels drying the runway. He introduced Ron as “we stole him from the Bay City Rollers” and Charlie as Bonnie Prince Smilie. Charlie then did cheesy grin through Sympathy For The Devil. The graphic visuals were brilliant and the fresh arrangements gave everything a very upbeat feel. The crowd were amazing too and the band looked like they were enjoying the show just as much.

We went to bed and woke again on Sunday with our ears literally numb from the sheer power of the sound. We were packed quickly and off to rescue Fred who was so pleased to see us that he could hardly stand for wagging his tail and bum. I am not sure that he was so impressed with the 470 mile 10 hour journey on a scorching hot day. But there you go – can’t have it all ways.

2018 Here We Come

What to do on a wet New Year? Book next years hols of course!

We have been looking forward to going back to Norway and this time we are going all the way to the top in August.Norway Map It is 2500km from Kristiansand to Nordkapp which is 5000km round trip, or 3000 miles. Add to that the 1300km from Calais to Hirtshals (the Tunnel to the ferry from Denmark) is a total of 7600km, or 4500 miles, without any detours and there will be plenty of those. We are allowing 5 weeks so a few days to get to Kristiansand and a few days back, hopefully via Holland where we can visit friends and and take Fred to the vet for his passport worming pill.

The Tunnel and Ferry together cost about £500. There are no great deals to be had on the Tunnel as our C&CC membership only works on silly o’clock trips and you we can’t use Tesco vouchers and include Fred who by the way Eurotunnel charge another £18 each way for! However the tunnel is better than the ferry simply because of the frequency that fits in better with our timing. It would have been good to have a flexible return but they want virtually double so we will just pay the penalty if we need to change. Another gripe with Eurotunnel is that they charge another £20 each way for our van. because it is a Motorcaravan – I tried to select van but when I put the registration in it objected.  Conversely Highways England refuse to let us cross Dartford as a Motorcaravan and charge us extra as a van!

Conversely Colorline Ferries from Hirtshals to Kristiansand is easy and user friendly. They are also quite a bit cheaper than Eurotunnel. There we can book on as a Small Car under 2m high and 5m long. Unladen we actually go 2020mm over the solar panel so with us, our travel kit, clothes and 4 weeks of food that we can’t afford to buy or can’t get in Norway I am sure we will find that 20mm.

This time we will allow and extra day to get from Calais to Hirtshals where we will top over the night before the ferry. We plan to go inland from Kristiansand to Trondheim but major route planning is easy especially north of Trondheim – there is only the E6! On the way back south we will do the coast again from Trondheim.

NC500 MapSo what else? Well continuing the Go North theme we are planning to do the North Coast 500. It is a few years since we visited my relatives in Edinburgh and 25 years since we last went further north. As it will be outside school holiday time I don’t think we will book anything so we can be free to go with the flow. Time and weather permitting we would like to do some of the islands and at least Skye and perhaps Orkney. There are a couple of sites close enough to Edinburgh where we can get into town easily and, if the weather is kind, host a picnic for my cousins.