One more week!

All day today I have been saying, this time next week we’ll be on the ferry; this time next week we’ll be in Cherbourg; this time next week we’ll be driving down towards Mont St Michel…

We’re into the last few days before the big trip begins. Preparations are complete or in hand.

Last week wKath & Mire took our adored tabby cat to my brother’s house – he has very kindly agreed to look after her while we are away. Here she is, settling into her new home. We spent a couple of nights at my brother’s house to help her settle and it seemed to work.

Poor old Nigel is having to get used to doing everything with a cat on his lap.

Last weekend we went to Leicester to see our student sons. One’s studying drama at De Montfort university, Leicester, and the other’s doing chemical engineering at Sheffield – he got the train down to Leicester for the day. Both are spending the summer in their university towns, hopefully with summer jobs! One graduates this summer so we will need to come back in July for a few days to attend his graduation. Boys in Leicester

Here we are outside the cathedral in Leicester. Yes I have had pangs of guilt at leaving them for six months but they are grown-up and it’ll be character-building for them. That’s what I tell them anyway.

Yesterday I did a load of packing – mostly clothes and personal stuff. Ignatius did his today. We still need to put in the food and things like laptops that are still in use in the house at the moment. I suspect I’ll spend all next weekend running in and out with things to put in the van and things to take out again. Just how many pairs of knickers should I take? 😀

It’s so close now. I have my last day in the office in London on Wednesday, and my last working day is Friday.  The count down is well and truly underway!


Gertie’s utilities

So how does water, gas, electric, broadband, tv, sewerage (don’t worry I’ll give you a ‘look away now’ notice for those not wanting to know!) work when your home is not tied down. For those who have never Motorhomed, Caravaned or Boated here’s a bit of an overview.


We have a 100 litre fresh water tank and a similar sized ‘grey’ water tank to hold this water as it’s used via kitchen sink, shower room sink and shower.
We carry a hose and selection of fittings so we can fill up from most sources of drinking water. The ‘grey’ water is emptied by parking over a suitable drain and opening the outlet pipe.
This arrangement has a number of compromises. If you’re wild camping you need to find a source of drinking water before you use up your 100 litres. Also, like home, you can’t put all your waste down the sink. No animal fat to clog up the system but also need to be a bit careful about things like starchy water (e.g. spuds/pasta) that could provide food for bacteria to grow in the tank. After emptying the ‘grey’ tank we normally add a little proprietary product/bio detergent to help prevent this.


We use gas for cooking (three ring hob), boiler for heating water/room heating and one of the options for running the fridge/freezer. We fitted an under-floor LPG tank to replace the cylinders the van came with (see Links page for supplier details). A full tank normally lasts us 3/4 weeks so we just need to ensure, within that time-frame, that when we’re filling up with diesel we find a forecourt that has LPG as well.


We have two different battery systems. A  battery that runs the base vehicle electric requirements, starting, headlights etc just like a regular car and a leisure battery which runs the ‘home’ side, internal lights, tv, water pump, etc. We have fitted a solar panel on the roof which recharges both batteries (see Links page for supplier details). Driving also recharges both batteries.
We can also hook up to mains electric supply at campsites, aires or someone’s house. As well as giving more power, mains supply also recharges both battery systems.
We have both ‘regular’ electric sockets and 12amp to allow us to run appliances off both mains and battery supply. However, some things like the electric kettle will only run off mains. Special mention for the fridge/freezer, as it’s important it’s got a supply at all times it can run off mains electric, vehicle battery, gas or leisure battery.


We have a number of devices that link up with the internet and it is important to us that we have a reasonable broadband supply. Cost prohibited us from getting the most reliable supply, satellite but we went with a combination of the other two options (see Links page for supplier details).
WiFi booster which is an antenna and router which basically picks up any WiFi signals in the area and boosts them. You can then connect a number of devices to this router.
MiFi which does a similar thing using mobile networks. Again you have an antenna and a MiFi box with a data sim card and can connect a number of devices.
Hopefully between the two we will have reasonable broadband access.
I suspect you may well be hearing more about this when we’re travelling!!


We have a TV with a digital decoder, a Satellite dish and standard definition decoder box. This gives us access to the regular UK stations via Astra 2 which covers most of Western Europe, except far south. When we get to southern Italy and Spain we will have to revert to the Satellite box which will gives us a different set of options. Not quite sure what these are but look forward to finding out!
The TV set also has DVD player so if things get dull we may catch up on series 5 & 6 of Game of Thrones.


Look away now warning.Motorhome dump symbol
This is where the magic happens, or so Kath thinks, because she has nothing to do with this once the deposit has been made!
On the inside the loo looks like a regular loo with a flush and SOG system (which keeps everything smelling nice). On the outside there is a cassette, a box, that collects the waste.
When it’s full you remove the cassette, take it to special dump facility (at campsites, aires or site with this Motorhome dump symbol!), empty and wash. Given the contents the process needs careful attention. Like the ‘grey’ water tank they are products you can add to the empty cassette to keep everything fresh and clean.
Using the loo is a bit of a compromise, the more you use it the more you have to empty it (and find somewhere to do it). So it’s that versus convenience.
Our strategy tends to be morning coffee somewhere with a loo!

… and just a reminder why you would choose these facilities.



Sleeping with Gertie

When I posted some photos of Gertie a few weeks ago some people asked what the sleeping arrange20170311_150543ments were. I’ve just made the bed up today, ready for a short trip in Gertie tomorrow, so I took the opportunity to take a few photos.

So here we are starting with the driving arrangement. Seats fully upright, bed clipped up at the ceiling (see the black strap centre top?)





Tilt the front seats forward. Be careful not to force the driver’s seat down onto the steering wheel as it could lean on the horn! (We’ve done this. You only do it once.)




Unclip the bed (seatbelt-style clip) and it easily cantilevers down, already made up. And that’s it!

There are blinds at all windows including the windscreen which you would probably have pulled across first but I haven’t shown that.



Here’s another view of the bed. Looks cosy doesn’t it?  There is enough headroom to sit up in it without hitting your head on the ceiling, though you have to slouch a bit.

The blanket by the way, is one I knitted from wool inherited from my knitaholic mother.




And this is the view from lying in bed, looking down the van. It always looks surprisingly spacious from here. I fully expect to lie here every morning, watching Ignatius make breakfast.

Ferry is Booked!

Just a really quick, over-excited, squealy little post from Kath to say that today we booked a ferry crossing, Poole to Cherbourg on 3rd April.

We were skiing last week, and were too superstitious to book the ferry before we went, in case one of us got injured and we had to postpone the start of the trip. But thankfully we both came back in one piece (just the usual knee-ache for me).

It’s all real! It’s all happening! I can’t wait!


Planning: Week One

Day One:

Home, Poole, ferry to Cherbourg, drive along coast to Mont Saint-Michél.


Ferry: 8:30 – 13:45
Drive: 154km, 2h13m
Stopover: Camping Saint-Michel  (ACSI card – 1363)


Day Two:

Mont Saint-Michél to Saumur.


Drive: 222km, 3h3m
:  Camping L’ile D’Offard (ACSI card – 1583)


Day Three-Six:

Saumur to Arles.


Places to visit/stay include …


Loches is a medieval town in the Loire Valley which we previously visited, pre-children, on a cycling holiday with friends.


Free Camping
Number of sites in Loches.  MH GCE p405


Auvergne des volcans natural regional park, Auvergne

A dramatic landscape of craters and conical peaks covered in what looks like green baize, the Auvergne des volcans natural regional park is a photographer’s paradise. A train chugs up to the top of the Puy-de-Dîme, the highest of 80 extinct volcanoes in the park but it’s a great hike too, if you are reasonably fit. Europe’s largest regional park is based around a 30km-long chain of volcanoes. It has four separate nature reserves, streams, pools, glaciers, the steep-sided Massif du Sancy and Cantal Massif. Apollo butterflies and rare damselflies join over 1,000 different animal species in the park.

Free camping
Parking du Panoramique des DĂŽmes
Route du Puy de DĂŽme
63870 Orcines
MH GCE p429 – 45.76958 2.98624


CĂ©vennes national park, Languedoc-Roussillon

A hundred years before it was declared a national park, Robert Louis Stevenson passed through this often-forbidding landscape on his donkey, Modestine. His route is now known as the Stevenson Trail (officially the Grande RandonnĂ©e 70), though mountain bikes have replaced donkeys as the most popular form of transport. With chestnut forests, fields of boulders and rugged paths, the park has an unpredictable, almost chaotic feel, a sense heightened by large numbers of sheep and cattle. The CĂ©vennes was the centre of the Camisard revolts at the start of the 18th century where a lot of blood was spilled – Stevenson felt the emotion in the landscape as he tried to make sense of the Protestant uprising. Head to Florac for the park information centre.

Pay Aire
Aire Camping-Car Park de Langogne
MH GCE p478  – 44.73700 3.83448




City on the RhĂŽne River in Provence. It’s famed for inspiring the paintings of Van Gogh. He painted 200-odd works around the town. Once a provincial capital of ancient Rome, Arles is also known for many remains from that era, including Arles Amphitheatre, now hosting plays, concerts and bullfights.
Arles’ Saturday market is is one of Provence’s best.


MH GCE p492  – 43.67796 4.61802

ASCI – 2559
Camping L’arlesienne   – 43°39’34” 4°39’15”


Day Seven:

Either the coast or Gorges du Verdon!



Park descriptions taken from a Guardian article
“10 of the best national and regional parks in France”.

MH GCE p – is the page number of the stopover in our
Motorhome Guide Camperstop Europe book

… and the other number is the grid reference!