Tuesday, 10 August 2010

"See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! 
O that I were a glove upon that hand, 
that I might touch that cheek!"
- William Shakespeare, Romeo and

Venice, but verona first. 3-6th August

(I will post photos soon)

…Twas in Verona we arrived before Venice (forgot to mention that!). Its worth noting that it rained all day, very hard. First things first, parking up. Id like to make a long rant about the driving in Italy but I don’t have enough time. Instead, I have far more beef with the signposting. I have a personal vendetta with the sat nav; it has no acknowledgment of one way systems.. at all. Picture this, a forced left turn (narrow street), sat nav says,‘recalculating’ …20 meters a forced right turn (narrower street) ‘recalculating’, further left and right turns...more annoying,‘recalculating(s)’ and a result in a street so narrow that we fear for the survival of our van. The buildings are so high around us it was feeling claustrophobic. Car beeping behind us, how on earth are we going to get out of this? Obviously my first impulses are to put my foot up on the dashboard and repeatedly karate kick the thicko of a woman on the sat nav. Pete appears calm in this situation but the reverse sensors are going off as a constant beep, result in him slamming down on the off button in a abrupt manner. Im curled up and the best thing I can do is bury my head in ‘grill pan eddie’ (the van pillow). Ah suddenly all is well…Freedom. Glad to be free from the maze we vowed this would never happen again.

We parked the van at the city edge and mounted up on our bikes to venture into the city. The cobbled roads and narrowing streets are perfect for bikes but I am not sure the one way systems enjoy us going the opposite direction. Who cared? We just conquered the inner city centre with our voltswagon van! It was still pouring and a particularly heavy downpour meant we had to seek cover. Pete insisted on blatant ignoring signs of prohibiting picnicking and with all due respect to the ridiculous law he proceeding to launch the biggest picnic of his life under one of the arches of Verona’s most prominent landmark, the Arena. Was today a good day? I felt my skin on my face, a particular indictor that stress levels were high (Yup). Happily, we ended up in yet another restaurant were pizza and lasagne was ordered but Pete took a sudden turn and ordered, Tartare de Cavallo (raw horse). He makes apologies to the animal lovers but he had to try it. It looked like a homemade hamburger mix but I never gave Pete the attention, as I am sure he would try to make me eat some. ‘How was it Pete?’, ‘mmm, its tasty…its kind of like eating mince out of a packet’. Yes, real tasty Pete.

So Venice… as I said the pitch was glorious. Another day of chilling, followed by a day excursion into Venice by boat…where yet again it poured with rain all day. It was miserable, not at all like my birthday bike ride. With so many tourists and 2 inch flooding all is bearable if its just two adults but Wilson was soaking and shivering and Jackson was screaming in the backpack. I was feeling for them. I’ve been to Venice three times and don’t think another trip is needed, first with the girls 18 years old (where we walked around in a palace with high heels, taking pictures of our hands on the naked statues bums etc), second on a romantic break with Pete (lovely) and now this. I recognised I had become painfully adverse to buying into a tourist economy but obviously couldn’t help paying about 12 euros on service charges. I suppose this time I saw beyond the bright lights and glossy tourist onslaught; instead a gondola punter smoking under a bridge, glitter on the floor from a restoration project, moody ice-cream servers and stressed waitresses. Here we are just another number. Sure you can appreciate the architecture, beautiful buildings, soak up the Venetian atmosphere but I struggle to feel the authenticity. Still a magnificent city on my return on the boat, I looked at everyone, soaking wet and miserable, thanking the day that ponchos exist.

Good memories but Ciao Bella Venizia.

The next day we were due to leave but wait… Wilson had picked up yet another lady; Melina, Fench, seven years old had invited us to dine with them over at their camp after they had a delightful meeting at the park, again. The family were lovely, crazy-hair dad and a very pretty wife, both with two daughters. The two girls were dishing up and role-playing ‘restaurante’. Neither spoke English but we got by singing rhymes. Every now and then Melina would go over to Wilson and give him affection. Wilson would look at me for reassurance, don’t worry Willy this is just the start me thinks! By the way, I love watching Pete speak French… it suits him. Together we went into the night, talking, playing and eventually exchanging addresses. Making European friends is a delight, I could get used to this.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

“40 Euros to get into Switzerland? The roads had better be nice” (Petes response to Swiss Road-Tax officer at custom gate)

30th- 2nd August

Locarno- Switzerland, Lake Garda, Venice

Its been a while…its taken so long to update the blog as we dabbled in a bit of ‘free camping’ in Switzerland, obviously there is no wi-fi and internet cafes are a family trip out so not ideal.

We were due to stop at Basel and the weather was still awful…we were getting desperate for some hot weather. We had wet clothes in a big bag in the roof topbox and it was starting to feel a bit naff. We heard that Switzerland was expensive and apart from the classic ‘milka’ and ‘tag heure’ that was about all we knew. I’d been on holiday with the girls to Italy when we were about 17, by bus, and remember the mountains looking incredible then. They are still breath-taking and as we drove between two huge, steep mountains we looked at each other and smiled. Petes spirit seemed raised, as he kept pointing out all the irregular-shaped peaks. Later he announced that ‘he feels a real affinity with the mountains and lakes’. I imagined him running & climbing over the mountains naked, like he told me he did on the Yorkshire Dales as a teenager, listening to Ash on his walkman. The lakes yet again adhere to his naturist side, but the stillness of a vast pure lake and the grand surroundings make for a great escape for him a while (and if a pedalo is thrown into the equation, you’ve got yourself in real troubleJ). He’s a good swimmer, mind you, I would be if I had wings like him.

We drove through a tunnel which took 15 mins to get through, our dashboard temperature read 33…How did they build these things?

We decided to head down to South Switzerland, Locarno…which was another 2-3 hours from Basel. A rest-stop was in need. Without the internet it’s a struggle to see where the best panoramic, picnic spots are en-route. The classic map saved the day after 30 mins studying the Michelin map symbols.

Pesto Gnocci high on the mountain top

Nice flowers high on the mountain top.

You might be thinking how hard could it be to find a picnic table but we wanted the BEST picnic table in Switzerland! Im recognising a pattern here…I have come to realise that in this trip I have tried to get the BEST pitch, in the BEST campsite and with the BEST prices and I have been unconsciously stressed about the fact that we may be in a campsite that is notoriously crap and the one 100m down the road has 40 waterslides, cheaper restaurant with better food and all the pitches face the water. This would be an ultimate disappointment one I thought I couldn’t face…what fun are we missing out on? Nutshell? I have spent a lot of wasted energy avoiding it. Fast forward to us in Locarno at about 10.30pm, no campsite at all but a campervan-dedicated roadside heaven. I felt totally comfortable with the fellow campers from all over Europe, together we are getting quids in on what would have been 30 Euros a night camping. As we all bundled in the pop up, Jackson and Wilson continued their evening routine of rolling over our heads and legs until they were knackered enough to sleep. Here, every 5 mins a lads car drove past with music blasting out and all I could see were two sets of very awake, big & bright, beautiful eyes. This was the downside, I started to feel the pangs of disappointment…what have I done, the fun was never going to be here?

Locarno, what did it bring? In the morning the temperature read 25 degrees at 9.30, hitting 29 degrees midday…yes this is better weather, took 1 week into our travels to get it. We walked into the Delta campsite…100 m down the road and 5 stars, with a private beach onto the lake. It was horrible, like a concentration camp; the speaker systems around the campsite sounded strict and unfriendly. Electrical wires crossed the pathways. Also, (and this is not an exaggeration for once) there was not a single space of green grass to be seen under the ghetto-star campsite. Thanks for the use of the toilet and the private beach for a quick morning dip, but were off to our road-side dream. We came to learn that we were parked right next to a brand new lido with 3 children’s pool, thermal pool, Olympic pool, Olympic diving pool and water slides that looped round like a roller coaster. The entire park had a private beach onto the lake with more diving boards and distant rafts to jump of into the lake. It was amazing, we spend all day there and we loved it. Never before have I been to a place where my body shape and size was in the minority. No-one was as big as me (well maybe a few Italian, mama restaurant owners) and I know I am not big but this place was packed with men with washboard stomachs and the women were toned, brown, slim hotties with modest breasts (as opposed to those Hollywood beauties). I didn’t notice at first but when I did I asked Pete if I had a body like that woman over there (I considered her to me like me) he answered ‘sweatheart, youre bigger than her’. Mortified. Enough said on that. I felt for the bigger women of our nation. I’ve never cared greatly about my weight and I refuse to starve so I consoled myself with the fact I just had a baby. Mmmm

On the second day we went on an excursion up to one of the peaks on a cable car, which were scarier than I thought. On the top were beautiful panoramic scenes with insects I have never seen before flying into our faces. There was a trail for the children that ‘triggered the sensors’ (querky). Imagine Wilson and Jackson being totally engaged on a reflexology path and Pete joining in, repeating incessantly ‘woo, I rediscovered the sense of touch’. The food was delicious but here Switzerland gets me…50 euros for a meal! Everywhere you go it’s about 50 euros for 2 main meals a bottle of San Pellegrino.

In the evening we took the opportunity to test out our Solar Shower in the wood and weed in our porta potty..all proved to be a lot of fun.

All is well, a valuable lesson re-learnt…5 star is nice but sometimes the scabbiest, least popular and unorthodox choices are the best, cheapest fun. I say re-learnt as I remember as a child I seemed to pick the ice bun over the éclairs; never cared they were the cheapest runt of the patisserie family, I just liked them:)

It was time to move on but this time to Lake Garda, it was nothing like Locarno in my opinion and we missed our last stop. Lake Garda is still a beautiful place. It took me ages to feel like I could enjoy the Butlins workout in the pool and children’s evening disco. Initially, I couldn’t bear all the loud noise and ‘brits abroad’ atmosphere but it didn’t take me long to get into the swing of it and I was break-dancing with Wilson on the dance floor. Not only that but I felt better about my body in this swimming pool and found it completely necessary to do a bomb into the pool over the guests. However, I was mortified when I got whistled at for thowing Wilson into the pool, by his own request.

We are in Venice now, pitched up in the most amazing spot on the other side of the estuary from St Marco Sq. We arrived last night and there was a thunder storm, lightening going off every second. The wind was up and it really was powerful. I stood on the rock and put my hands up to the sky but I never got electrocuted this time so I put my clothes back on and retired to my pop upJ

cheeky Jackson x

Friday, 30 July 2010

Milk bottle tops and paper bags...

28th-30th Sanchey, France

...is this what we
...really want to see?

What miserable weather? What is it like there?

Its taken two days to dry our clothes! We have done a bit of shopping and had lunch in the equivalent of Macdonalds. Not good. On the up I had the best day on 29th...we did 10 mile bike ride along a really long bike path (no roads this time) and I loved it. Pouring with rain, next to a canal ..pete wearing a pink poncho (sorry too wet for camera), amazing calves by the way. We happened to stop at a Boulangerie where Pete immersed with an array of cakage. When the rain was too heavy we stopped under a tree, kids asleep in trailer and together we ate the BEST cake I have ever had - apple pie, with a custard filling, topped with almonds and pistachios. Wowsa. Get cooking ladies, I would like to see you beat that one.

Oh and a very funny story...
Pete wanted to wash his van, so we stopped at a garage.
Six Euros would be enough money...but six euros didnt quite make it. As I saw him put more money in...I heard numerous loud bangs spontaneously hitting the van...after which I saw Pete sprinting and diving around the van and suffice to say we have our second dint, slightly larger. The jet hose went off automatically and was flying all over the carwash. Very impressive dive though...as he got back into the car, I could see Pete was really disappointed in himself. He coughed and we carried on driving.

We are now in the car to Switzerland. Hoping the weather will be better.
Au revoir!
Love to all x

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A kiss in a cave

25th-28th Luxembourg, Luxembourg -26c sunny!

Wow what a day! Where do I start? Yesterday we spent most of the day travelling, it should have taken us 3 hours but with all the stops it took all day. I generally never travel during the day with the kids and yesterday was a healthy reminder why... Jackson cried most of the
way, wilson was always starving. we ended up
splitting the car seats; one front, one back so now I have to shout to talk to pete but anything is better than that crying...

We arrived at the campsite about six... Got the kids showered and changed, shoved them in the bike trailer and went to explore. First observations; Nice hot showers, clean bog, male receptionist that can't speak English (handy), lots of tall tree forests interspersed with high grown corn fields which caught me attention above all. I stopped skidded my bike right next to them (skill) they reminded me of so many films "Perhaps I'll run through it..." I thought, "...pretend there's something chasing me' (signs with mel Gibson). I'd love that, the
corn stalks are taller than me, but who would find me if I got lost,? could I get lost? The mice crushed the dream this time but one day.

Today we woke up early, it's was going to be lovely day:) we wanted to see the 26km medieval caves under the city and do general sightseeing for the day. The city was 6km from us we wanted to bike but was told it wasn't suitable for that and the bus was better at 6euros. We thought; How bad could it really be to bike?! So we biked in looking smug past the queue of bus lovers. Fast forward to pete shouting at me to 'just keep biking!" . We hit city traffic and a slip road onto a motorway, luxembourgs equivalent to m25. Crossing past this meant cutting up loads of fast traffic and I was already separated from pete and bottling it. 6 euros for bus? Ok I'll take it...considering that pete needed to buy a bike lock for 20euros (apparently I'm lucky he got one that cheap) and a must-needed saddle bag (17 euros..glup) for that one weatherproof lock and for our puncture repair kit (that we left in the van). No. seriously, we need these. ;)

I have to admit that the exchange rate of the euro is so bad on the pound that I've become slightly worried about our budget... My morals have changed and didn't feel at all bad the other day entering through the exit doors of the atomium in Brussels. It cost 25p to go for a wee... I'll find a bush thanks. I bet those little plump women sporting a furry beard pulling a face like a bulldog chewing on a wasp are raking it in. Why look so sad? It's not like u can smell shi'ne your buckles with brasso..." all day!
So we made it alive to Luxembourg and had a lovely lunch in the centre. Pete had his favourite dessert, 'ille flotant'. We have attempted to make this dish at home before and it just tasted of egg, this one tasted delicious .Wilson was trying to kill the infestation of wasps with petes steak flag and Jacko was chucking all his food offered off his new travel highchair, thankfully we were outside.Caves were mad, how did they do it? Petes comments were along the lines of "I wonder how many people died making these tunnels" and mine, "imagine if all the lights went out" wilson is a liability on the never-ending , concrete spiral stairs. He goes too fast and looses his foot regularly....insisting we "follow the leader" At one point the stairs had no lights and on approach smelt of wee. Cheap skates! "stink bum stairs" Wilson says. Jackie the little man never made a peep and is so mesmerised looking at everything from his little backpack.

.... And finally.... Yes we may have had a little kiss in a cave. The first kiss I felt nada but the second was rather nice!!!

Homeward bound and a few ice-creams later, we are exhausted and completely ready for crashing out in the pop up back at the van. Really didn't want to bike home. As pete belted up the kids, the stand on his bike gives way and smashes on the floor. A regular occurrence as it did it outside our van and landed on it (first dint) This time though it punctures his wheel! Stranded, the fun is only just beginning. We look to other parked bikes for a puncture repair kit. Tourist info give us directions to a shut down bike shop. It's 6pm and everywhere shutting. I'm thriving off this kind of adventure, although not enjoying crying children again. Last call of desperation I shout 'excuse me' to professional-looking cyclist... Who happens to be called eddie, who owns a car with a bike rack... Who took us home. Nice one Eddie. Whatta guy;)

I've got a migraine. Off to bed;)

PS Wilson hit it off in the park and made a girl friend today, her name is Rosanna, shes is five. They kept waiting for each other in the park morning and night. He asked me to get her email address. Love him xxx

PPS If ur trying to call me, call Petes phone...hes the one with package deal not me as I thought originally:)

Monday, 26 July 2010

Linds: “Pete, there are people looking over from their caravan…get your clothes on”. Pete: “Linds, it’s ok! Remember where are we...we’re in Belgium”

25th July - Gent, Belgium 25 c. Cloudy

We arrived VERY tired into Calais at about 10am our time this morning (after a night of partying at Alices, thank you Alice, was lovely to see everyone too!) and we started off driving for the sake of driving for a while, JUST to see if we could still drive on the other side of the road. Shambles initially but we did it. Enough was enough, time for breakfast. The center of Calais was as I remembered from school Geography field trips; clean & orderly with the odd scattering of macdonalds (which lets fce it when youre embarking on fairly new travels, why does seeing a macdonalds sign make you feel that everything is going to be ok, ironic when it’s the thing that will kill my kids if I fall prey to yet another happy meal). Petes first observation however wasn’t about the croissants we were about to purchase it was of a man wearing “a beautiful Sunday morning outfit”…I could tell Pete was jealous as this distinguished man strutted confidently past our car window wearing those really really tight cycling shorts which aren’t cycling shorts at all (suggesting they shouldn’t be worn at all). I love watching pete checking someone out, his does this side smile, hes glad to see the bravery; “look at him…hes got a bum bag and hes tucked his t-shirt in”

Croissant delicious. Baguette perfect.

Didn’t take long to get to Belgium but we had to stop for a rest. Service stations as they should be, it was mad…A picnic bench full of really reall

y orthodox Jews, a huge man asleep on a massive blow-up bed, OUTSIDE his tent which was pitched in front of his converted ambulance and it seemed like everyone knew everyone, particularly helping the many with car bonnets up. It was time to put up the pop up top and go for a kip. This van still feels such a novelty and I cant help peek out the window at peoples reactions when the roof starts going up; secretly thinking I cant go to the toilet looking like this they’ll know Im trailer trash…so I popped some makeup on first, put my celeb shades on and thought what was the point of doing my makeup!? I will always be Jenny from the block even when I have a lot, I couldn’t disguise it. Whilst we regularly get beeped by our fellow VW Californians, I cringe inside as I wave back like a desperate housewife thinking ‘its not what it looks like, were humble folk with pram in the boot taken out of the skip’.

Gent, Belgium is lovely; like a mini Venice...

We pitched up after finding space at a very busy campsite and immediately took the bikes off, kids trailer attached and bobs your uncle…FREEDOM! This is it, we are starting our holiday. Yes!

Riding through quaint streets, along tram lines and it was amazing. I prefer cycling than walking, its quicker and you see loads without feeling compelled to read the small print. I wondered how long it ha

d been since I last rode, noting how confident I was… it was probably a year or so. I remembered falling of my bike, always from clipping my wheel on a kerb, drain or stone…the tram lines looked primed for

me this time and my judgement waivered for a minute but we survived. Here is some piccis of the town, a little boat ride with a free ice-cream and a very irritating guide reminiscent of a horse racing commentator in three European languages!

Ok, hour ahead. Off to the pop up…to pop off, hoping nothing unexpected pops upJ

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Is France a shop?

Good Morning! Here is the plan, can you believe we have a plan?...Hopefully we will get to post on here daily, so here goes... the van is packed, the bikes are serviced... money, passports, blah blah blah. Packing is the worst part of going on holiday for me, making sure we have something for every eventuality. Im just thinking was is the most unnecessary item in that van? Its got to be the wart remover. Mucho lovas! x

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Practice Run

For all those that care to know what we are doing whilst prancing around Europa...welcome:)

We thought it would nice to keep a blog, so not to repeat ourselves when we come back (cause we forget) and also because we'll miss you (a bit) and hope you'll be in touch too. It will be free (local rate) to call us anytimeso feel free...

We catch the euro tunnel this Sunday at 6am and come back Mon 23rd August, thats a few weeks. We have our plan of where and when we will be 'frolicking and finding' and I hope to post that on here soon should anyone have a burst of spontaneity and want to join us our here!!!

So we had our first practice run last weekend in the peak district. We arrived fairly late (10pm) and I was getting a sweat on about where
we will stay for the night, kids were both awake. We immediately hit our first problem...the internet campsite lead us down some narrow lane with a querky bridge with what felt like a 40% gradient, there we were in the rain wit
h no turning circle co-ordinates says 'here is the campsite', nada. I laugh at the rhetoric between Pete and I as we keep suggesting to go further
into the deep dark unknown (to what seemed like now a bridle path) and he keeps asking me to just 'find a campsite'.

In attempting to be moral and honest we ended up doing our usual ad-lib antics and found a very busy campsite with the gates open, and no-one in reception ...we thought that was nice of them:)

Pitching up was tent free and frankly brilliant but with all of us stuck in it and raining outside the van seemed like alice in wonderlands room after she ate the cake(or is that the drink?).
As you can see the kids just laugh at us constantly especially as the
alarm goes off. It was a little stressful, its not like I thought it would be; running a little house is easy but frustrating when you had loads of space before, but this van space takes my
fathers 5'p's (Prior, planning, prevents, poor/or another 4 letter word, performance) to the extreme. Everything you move is in the way or making something else malfunction. You're always touching someone or something you shouldn't, total personal space invasion. There are some banging of heads proceeded by more laughing from the children BUT you cant beat being in that pop up roof, hearing the river, sucking that nature in, leaving all the world behind. I love it when you can put life in perspective. Family is all that matters and at that end of the night I lay there forced-spooning with all my sleeping family and I am happy...

...Ritually, my mind turns to someone else who I insanely miss and wish to be here. As I drift off to sleep I hear someone fart and I smile, everything seems to be in order, for now.