Another day, another little hiccup…

We were happily playing cards and drinking wine two nights ago when there was a sudden pffft sound, coming from somewhere near the fridge or boiler. It sounded a bit ominous but there were no symptoms, fridge was working ok. Then we noticed a small amount of water on the floor and each blamed the other for spilling a drink. Then I went to do the washing up, and as I turned the tap on water began squirting out from under the bench seat – beneath which is the boiler. I think swear words may have been spoken.

So, we emptied out the storage contents under the bench, used a screw-driver to remove two panels which house the boiler, mopped up all the water with a beach towel, and then turned on a hot tap again to see where the leakage was. It turned out to be coming from the back of the boiler where a hose is connected, feeding the two taps with hot water. There’s about two inches gap between the back of the boiler and the wall of the van, and you have to lean inside the bench seat storage to reach this, and definitely need torch light to see what you are doing.

Anyway, Ignatius managed to disconnect the hose, cut off the last half-inch which had split (that was the pffft sound we’d heard), and reattached it. Hurray! We’d managed to fix a problem ourselves. We left rebuilding the boiler housing and repacking the bench seat till the following morning – just in case!

From henceforward Ignatius is to be known as Giorgio.

French Riviera

One thing we have learned is that the French Riviera is not particularly motorhome-friendly. In the towns there is nowhere to park. Plenty of car parks but all with height restrictions so no good for Gertie. We’ve tried asking at tourist infomation centres and they send you to marinas or small parking places where there’s space for about 3 vans and all spaces are occupied by bloody cars. Speed bumps everywhere – and every speed bump even when taken very slowly means the entire contents of the van jump. God help you next time you open the fridge. Very narrow roads, even when following the ‘main’ routes through the town. Darned satnav doesn’t understand Gertie is fat, and once we had to reverse back up a narrow street. Not very relaxing driving. Ignatius is a hero – I could never do it!

But anyway, we have managed to see quite a bit of this part of the coast, although we have not been able to stop and explore all the towns we might have liked to.

Thursday 13th April

We gave up on trying to look round St Raphael owing to lack of parking, and instead drove the coast road from our last campsite near St Raphael. Some impressive scenery. We spotted a good layby just off this road which was suitable for wild-camping, and made a note of it. Headed on to near Cannes then looped back and drove an inland mountain road which was very beautiful. We parked near the top of a col and walked up through forest to the top of a small mountain. And then looped back round to the camping spot we’d already checked out, for a very peaceful night almost alone – which is difficult to manage on this very built-up coastline! This is the only section not built on, and that, I think, is only because they can’t build here.red cliffs.jpg

While in the overnight spot, a Ferrari parked beside us for a while. That’s the type of vehicle you should drive in this terrain, said Ignatius, not a 3.5 ton campervan!

Friday 14th April

Wonderful coffee stop at a beachside restaurant we’d spotted yesterday (but had been unable to find parking then). A sleek black MacClaren passed us (pipping the Ferrari). We’d intended stopping in Cannes but could not find anywhere to park, again, so pushed on to a campsite just outside Antibes, and were set up there in time for lunch. coffee.jpg

Spent the afternoon cycling around the Cap d’Antibes, and the evening relaxing at the campsite.

Saturday 15th April

We’d decided to spend 2 nights at the campsite so we could explore Antibes properly. It seems to be one of the few towns with a campsite in easy reach of the town centre. So we cycled into town, explored a fort, then the Picasso museum and cathedral, then a covered market, and then the twisty lanes of the old town. A very enjoyable day.  An E-type Jaguar passed us while we sat outside our lunchtime restaurant, pipping both Ferrari and MacClaren in my mind. OK that’s enough about the swanky cars around here. I realise I am in danger of losing our readers.

Our German neighbours in the campsite cycled into Nice today (bit far for me) but came back by train with only one bike, the other one having been stolen and the lock cut through. Bit off-putting.

A few technical issues back at the campsite – the Mifi box would only pick up 3G and was very slow, the satellite dish was struggling to pick up Astra 2 so we decided to watch a DVD then discovered the DVD player in the TV wouldn’t work. Thankfully my laptop has a DVD player so we used that and watched an episode of Game of Thrones (series 5, episode 1, so please no spoilers from episodes beyond that!)

Sunday 16th April

Happy Easter! Lovely Ignatius gave me a Green & Black’s easter egg, which somehow he’d hidden in the van for the last 2 weeks. I gave him nothing. Well, maybe a thank you kiss!

Bit of a frustrating day today. We left the lovely Antibes campsite and headed east on the coast road to Nice. Nowhere to park, so we drove the Promenade des Anglais (scene of the horrific terror attack last year) and headed on towards Monaco, hoping to find a layby to pull into for a lunch stop. Not a single layby. Drove through Monaco (mostly tunnels) and popped out the other side. Still nowhere to stop. And then there was the Italian border, and still no parking places. We began searching on Google maps for campsites, found one but it was full, then parked illegally by the beach to have a much-needed and very late lunch stop. lunch.jpg

We have ended up in a campervan aire (well they are called sosta di camper here) in Santo Stefano al Mare, which is east of San Remo. It’s right by the sea which is nice. Actually we found parking in San Remo, and stopped for a while, but too dear to stay overnight there. I guess because it is Easter there is a lot of traffic and the aire is full (we got the last space!)

So now I’m sitting looking out over the sea and watching a stream of cruise liners heading across to the French resorts. The Med looks almost as busy as the roads. In happy news, the Mifi seems to work a lot quicker here than in France, and the satellite dish for the moment has picked up Astra 2 so we should be able to see the finale of Homeland tonight…

The plan is to spend about a week or so driving down the west coast of Italy, get to Sicily, and then slow the pace right down… Looking forward to that after all the time spent driving today. The distance wasn’t great but progress was slow all day and frustrating with the lack of parking. Hoping too that once the Easter weekend is over the traffic will calm down a bit.

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.

Water

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.

Gas

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.

Electric

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.

Broadband

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!!

TV

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.

Toilet

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.

carousel_motorhomes_1120_346_2

Ignatius