After several months of Covid Lockdown it is great to have a couple of days on the road. Camp sites are open but without facilities until tomorrow which is fine as we are self sufficient. We have a site for tonight and staying on Clare’s, my cousins, plot tomorrow.
Just for a couple of days before everyone is released in Scotland on 15 July we have got away for a couple of nights. The first of our hopefully many wee journeys around Scotland.
We have travelled up through the Cairngorm National Part to Moray, about 90 miles north of us, for a night in Grantown-on-Spey. A pleasant day, nice for travelling and quiet roads. Spectacular scenery, winding rivers, wonderful roads and still snow on the top of Cairngorm. We had time to go a little further to the seaside for Fred to have a run on the beach and a dip in the sea at Nairn.
Curious event of the day occurred on a single track road across the moors near Tomintoul. I pulled into a passing place for an oncoming car – it was our neighbours!!
Grantown-on-Spey is a very well to do place and the camp site is very smart. Plenty of gift shops to nosy round. We can’t really speak for the food shops, bars and cafes in the current climate.
Next morning we went back to the coast and a drive to Elgin and Kieth. We were in awe of the agriculture and the extent of the cereal crops. For lunch in Kieth we stopped in the car park of the China’s visitor centre. The visitor centre is just a front for a huge whisky brand.
That afternoon a trip to Cullen, yup the place of Cullen Skink, and another fab beach. My cousin lives a few miles from the beach so we all had a great evening and for us a night in the van.
And the drive come the next morning along the north Moray and Aberdeenshire coast before a quick bash to nome for dinner.
We are full of trepidation about what the future brings and, not knowing where Brexit takes us, haven’t been able to make any travel plans. As it is, in the period to the end of 2020, it seems that we will still be able to travel in Europe but after that – well who knows? At the worst, which seems all too likely, to travel in Europe we will need visas to stay longer than 90 days at a time, private health insurance, green cards for our motor insurance, additional recovery cover and the worst of it Freds passport won’t be valid and it could take 4 months of planning and blood cultures. If this comes to pass my calculations so far are that this will cost us an extra £700 a year never mind any further collapse in the value of the pound. So our plans of travel in retirement have been royally screwed.
Originally we thought we would stay at home this year and explore Scotland and we will in the spring and early summer. We are thinking west coast, the islands and probably the NC500, none of which are far away, as well as days out to the coast and into the mountains.
We had thought about Norway again but so soon after our last trip and with a great many similarities to home in Scotland we decided against. In addition there are some logistical issues such as the ferries and cost of them with Newcastle – Amsterdam working our at £950, Hull – Rotterdam/Zebrugge £670 as opposed to the tunnel at £275. On to which there is the additional cost of Hirtshals – Kristiansand at £400. So I don’t mind driving to the tunnel but there is a complication as Fred would need a worming tablet for Norway and if we used our local vet it would be a slog to get on to the Hirtshals ferry within 120 hours.
So with all that in mind we have decided to take the plunge and head south this summer. Good old Newhaven – Dieppe is inexpensive, with the van only being charged the same as a car, and still the most convenient route with Fred in the van. We have booked 2 months away and are thinking west coast France and northern Spain and Portugal again. We loved it so much last time and the weather should be fab in late summer. Granted it could be a wee bit busy in August but we are well equipped to wing it and it will be quieter as get into September.
With the ferry booked we have 6 months to plan our trip, as far as we intend to plan that is. There are a few places we visited before that we want to again, the Pyrenees, Haro, the beaches in Galicia, Laredo, St-Jean-de-Luz/Bairitz and the fish shop near the camp site in Gujan-Mestras to name but a few. They all set the imagination off and something to look forward to while we wait for winter to end.
Oh and a small footnote:- our stocks of necessities from French supermarkets are almost at an end ;=)
How time has flown since I last added to this blog. We have sold up and moved 500 miles north into Scotland. The van has been earning its keep during this time ferrying us up and down the country on more than one occasion including once with our Polo on the trailer and another with our new project VW Beetle on the trailer. We have done a couple of other short trips in the meantime including a long planned camp out at Sandringham with friends.
So now the dust has settled we have managed to use the van for the odd trip out such as an evening in the hills not quite seeing the Aurora and just this weekend another bash to the far south to visit family and Slough Swapmeet, an auto jumble for air cooled VWs that contrary to its title was at Newbury race course. The significance here of these two trips, and particularly the later, was testing cold weather use. several nights around freezing and we had the Wallas fired up in heater mode and the hot water from the Planar. All I can tell you is that they both worked excellently and we were toasty warm. We turned the heating off at bed time and climbed into our 4 season bags and stayed come all night.
So now we are looking for the opportunity to take it to mountains in the near future.
Van Blanc had its first dealer service this week at 15,000 miles and we are preparing for a summer full of adventures.
First a short trip to the Cotswolds to get Bug Blanc’s crank balanced and fetch the exhaust system. Then we are off to Edinburgh to see my relatives and the Rolling Stones (no I am not related to them).
After Edinburgh we had planned to do the NC500 but we had a late change of plan when we found out that, as well as Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button will be racing at Le Mans and as committed endurance sports car fans we could not resist. So we are heading home straight after the Stones concert for a quick turn around and heading to le Circuit de la Sarthe for the 23rd time. As we will already be in France we decided to head out to Brittany for a week at the sea side.
We do actually get a few weeks at home to enjoy summer at home and perhaps in our garden as well as going up country to a wedding but then we are off again. This time it will be the long haul to the Nordkapp and back, a round trip of 7500km. You might have read our previous Norway adventure when we got as far as the Arctic Circle since when we have regretted that we didn’t go further. Norway is a spectacular country and we are looking forward to enjoying it for several weeks.
So watch this space for updates and images from our summer 2018 adventures.
We came up a neat idea for reliving memories in years to come – turn one of the year’s best photos into a Jigsaw. That way you can make it again in the future and relive the adventure. This one we had done by myphotopuzzle.co.uk was of Fred at the Col de Tormalet.
Back in 2016 when we first looked at the internal layout for our new van installing a diesel hob was not high on my list. I understood the benefits of not carrying gas on board, giving me more cupboard space and not having to worry about running out while travelling, but I couldn’t really find any information on how to use one. A couple of visits to the Wallas stand at BusFest and seeing the hob work gave us the confidence to go ahead and buy a Wallas hob/heater combination.
I’m pleased to say it was a good decision and I hope the following points will be helpful to anyone considering installing one:-
It does take about 10-15 minutes to reach full heat but you don’t have to wait just put the kettle or a pan on the left side as soon as you fire it up and they will start to heat up too.
The hob has no temperature control, it’s hotter on the left side so use this for bringing pans up to boil then move to the right side to keep contents cooking slowly, however it’s important not to leave the left side without a pan on it for too long (15 minutes maximum).
It’s a very different way of cooking. Took me a few goes to get used to it but I learnt very quickly to switch pans from side to side to balance the heat in the pans so nothing overcooks or burns. It seems to cook quicker than gas rings but you can’t simmer easily so you have to keep stirring which means you can’t leave it unattended. I also have a toast grid for it but haven’t yet mastered making toast.
When you’ve finished cooking and switch off the hob it will cool down reasonably quickly but you must wait for all the lights to go off before you can turn it back on so think ahead, if you want coffee after dinner boil the kettle before switching off.
Occasionally you may get the odd whiff of diesel when you first fire it up especially if you have a window open. I confess to being very concerned the first time it happened but once we worked out why I stopped worrying about it. Although the unit uses very little diesel Depending on how high in your diesel tank the pick up is you need to be sure that there is enough in the tank for the burner to work. Likewise the unit uses very little electricity except for an initial surge on start up so you will also need sufficient battery power. If there isn’t then it simply won’t switch on.