Category Archives: 2018 Euro Trip

Lake Maggiore (Solcio)

Lake Garda > Lake Maggiore

Website: http://www.campingsolcio.com/en/index.php

We set off from our campsite at Lake Garda at 9.30am with a midday eta for our next destination at Lake Maggorie. On arrival we checked in and we’re given a plan of the campsite with number 88 circled as our pitch. We had requested a pitch that was one row back from the beachfront as this didn’t incurre any extra charges and still had a good view of the lake. We could use our acsi card which meant it should be no more that €19 which we thought was reasonable. So we left reception and drove to pitch 88, but were a little confused as there was already a motorhome in that spot. We scratched our heads and consulted the site plan again. The occupants didn’t look like they were going any time soon as they were just about to have a meal, and wine was being poured.

So I parked the van in front of the lake wandered back to reception to find out what was going on. Both of the people on reception didn’t speak much English, but we quickly established that the people were Italian, and they seem to operate to their own time table. Oblivious to the rules of the camp site, if they wanted to stay longer than they should they were quite entitled to. They told us that they should be gone by 5pm. Great! We were given a free reign of the campsite as far as alternative pitches were concerned, but any other pitch just wouldn’t give us the views we hoped for. Knowing we had to wait I didn’t sit idle as the temptation to go out on the paddle board was too much as conditions were near perfect.

So we waited until 6pm when they finally vacated and we moved in.

Van in position and set up for the next few days at the lake.

Our stay was a relaxing one. After the hustle and bustle of the last week or so at Garda with the VW meeting, and Venice with the sight seeing, we found that this location was fairly isolated in a good way. The lake was there for paddle boarding and swimming, we had books to read, and took a couple of long walks to the town of Lesa a few miles up the road. We were only a mile away from a very reasonably priced supermarket, so we didn’t have to go without, or pay extortionate prices for food from the campsite.

The evenings were especially relaxing. The video below captures that time of day when the swifts take to the air to catch insects. The church bells chimed on a regular basis which also contributed to the atmosphere.

All in all our stay at Camping Solcio was very relaxing one. We were a little sad to leave, but we had lots more places to visit which made it a little easier. Next stop Interlaken!

Verona & Lake Garda

Venice > Verona > Lake Garda

Campsite: http://it.campingtiglio.it

Everybody has heard about the beauty of Venice, and after our stay it certainly lived up to our expectations so no disappointments there as can be seen by our last Campsite. However, our next stay caught us off the hoof as we hadn’t booked ahead and there seemed to be a local holiday in the Lake Garda region.

Our intention was always to stop at Verona on the way to Garda as this is a historic town renowned as the place Romeo and Juliet met at the balcony. I’ll be honest, it was a magical town, and really glad we took the opportunity to stay.

We were getting a little desperate as far as securing a campsite was concerned, but fortunately our camp at Bugaloo meant we had a contact that could help out due to an annual Italian VW meeting on the lake. So booking secured we turned up early and campsite looked a little unloved. On top of that the weather took a turn for the worst with a thunderstorm as we arrived at the pitch. But as the next few days unravelled it turned out to be a brilliant couple of days.

A view from the bank of our campsite at Lake Garda

We met the local VW T3,T4, T5 and LT owners from Italy, and hooked up with Willam from the Bugaloo. Win Win 🙂

We also took a walk into Sirmione. Literally. We waited at the bus stop for over an hour and thought that because it was a holiday in Italy that no busses were running. Just as we left the bus stop a bus came by 🙁 . Long story short we did 25,000 steps each this day. Our flip flops were worn out 😉

Short boat trip from the bottom of the peninsula to the top Sermione

Venice

Torino > Venice

Website: http://www.campingfusina.it

The van is running really well, in temperatures that are stupidly hot! We arrived at the campsite in Fusina just before 5pm, and got a nice spot on the seafront with views of Venice itself. We spent the rest of the day familiarising ourselves with the campsite facilities, which were pretty good with a nice combination of trees for shade, and the view over to Venice from the the water’s edge.

Stunning views of venice

We made sure we got to bed early as we had some catching up to do after the hustle and bustle of the Boogaloo VW meeting. That said I woke up at approximately 5 am to the cooing of doves. I was sleeping on the top bunk as this has offered a nice breeze through the tent vents. I had views through the canvas windows front and side, and started to watch the sky change as the sun came up.

A view from my top bunk 🙂

The temptation became to great, and I couldn’t resist popping outside to get some photos from different perspectives, and
half an hour later I retired back to bed for a snooze. .

We knew that getting into Venice was going to be via a ferry stop just outside our campsite entrance. We just needed to have a think about the different ticket options, which were a single return journey to Venice at a cost of €13, or unlimited trips over a 72 hour period for €28. The latter also included Alberoni Beach. We weren’t quite sure how many nights we were going to stay at Fusina initially , but we were thinking that maybe buying the three day pass would encourage us to stay that extra night knowing we weren’t going to have to restrict our travel by boat. Our main objective was clearly to see Venice itself. After some very good advice about where to go, and where not to go from a Fusina staff member at the double decker information bus at the campsite reception, we realised that we could justify paying the €28 each, and stay for four nights instead of three.

So tickets sorted we headed for the ferry. The temperature even at 10am was hot, but the breeze from the open water offered a welcome reprieve. I noticed that the ferry was following a route designated by large wooden posts on either side. I’ve seen lots of photos of gondalas, and wooden poles, but it became obvious what they were there for now. A kind of venician M1 in the water.

The journey took 20 minuites and we docked along side a floating pontoon for a restaurant. We immediately started to consult the map provided by the Fusina tourist guide. I love art, architecture and have a great respect for the two combined. Clearly there was lots to take in right from the off. I didn’t know where to focus my attention.

We chose to move towards St Marco for the square which was really nice. However just before midday I started to get hungry, and we knew we were in the wrong place for eating out. That said, we did find a coffee shop that provided us with a perfectly acceptable takaway cappuccino for €2 each after suggestions of €20 for a coffee, we were pleasantly surprised.

We continued to meander around the narrow streets. Knowing how hot it was in direct sunlight, we were pleased that there was plenty shade offered by the narrow streets. I guess this must have been a deliberate architectural design brief years ago during construction. We in the UK appreciate the sun when it comes out, but to any country that has more than their fair share most likely appreciate the shade. The old saying ‘only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’ isn’t too far from the truth.

The shops are awash with venician masks, venician glass, venician leather, and clothes shops. There are those that sell the genuine high quality goods, and ones that sell similar items at substantially cheaper prices. We almost brought a few items from one of the first shops we entered thinking they were really good prices, but later
we saw the same goods at market stores and multiple other shops so started to question the authenticity of original items. Lets face it, these places are awash with questionable merchandise, but i guess if there are gullible people willing to part with their cash, there is always going to be somebody that is willing to make a living from it.

Our budget was becoming increasingly tight due to the unforeseen expense of some of the toll roads in france, so if we were going to think long and hard about the gifts we took back to our loved ones.

As my hunger grew, we moved into a location slightly off the beaten track to find food at a reasonable price. One restaurant ad a few tables outside with the menus open at a selection of pages. It was really nice not to have been jumped on by a waiter trying to entice us in before we had even had chance to consult the menu. The restaurant had a dark bar inside so we weren’t sure it wasn’t just for tapas, but we soon realised that they offered pizza at very reasonable prices. The drinks seemed to be expensive, but it was still surprisingly cheap in total at €24.

Fully fueled we continued to explore moving alongside the Grand Canal. I’d heard of the Grand Canal, but again not having done my research, our visit put context to the words. The grand canal is the main body of water that cuts Venice in two.

Lots of narrower bodies of water filter off this main water way as can be seen below, but the main artery was Venice’s equivalent to the M1.

Unbeknown to us, with intrigue and curiosity we began to lose our bearings. Our intention was to head back to our campsite for mid afternoon, with a second visit on Wednesday.

So we started to follow the Grand Canal, thinking we were going to end up on the outskirts of Venice, with a short walk back to the ferry pickup point. However, we consulted Google maps and we were at the opposite end of the canal. Both of our phones were struggling for battery life after a day of photos and videos. We continued to wander through the maze of streets and canals, and upon the final consultation of Google maps realised that we were totally disorientated, and we lost the ability to navigate with our electronic devices. We had a map, but the print for each road was so small, that even with my reading glasses on it was confusing.

We had to conceded and approach an elderly restaurant owner, I pointed to the map hoping she would understand some english. Fortunately she understood, and started pointing saying Farari. Basically we needed to head south, and we knew that looking at the map. A good old fashioned compass would have got us to where we needed to be, and I have heard this said by die hard orienteering walkers, but I only really realised just how important this was.

Long story short, we started moving in the right direction after finding a couple of the local landmark churches. When we could see the ferry jetty in the distance we knew we could relax. We were both tired, and no doubt had become slightly dehydrated.  The next ferry was going to arrive in 15 minutes, so we entered the closest restaurant, and asked for a beer and a coke. €12. Gulp. Still, it went down well. We got back to the campsite, and we both knew we had seen a lot more of the city than we intending in one day. Clearly not planned, but we looked back and laughed about it. Suffice to say that after 20,000+ steps recorded on our smart watches,  we both slept very well that evening.

The following day we caught the 10am ferry to Alberoni. This took around 40 minutes and like the route to Venice, it followed a shipping lane made of wooden posts (im sure there is a more fitting name for these markers). I noticed a fair few cormorants perched on top of some, obviously looking for breakfast.

There wasn’t a great deal to see at the ferry stop at Alberoni other than a few tavernas and bistros. We were given directions to walk straight threw the town to get to the opposite side of the peninsula where we would find the beach. We were a little apprehensive as it was already getting warm and after our extended, exhausting tour of Venice the day before,we really just needed a chill out day on the beach. Also, both Mandy and myself had been nibbled by mosquitos, and one particular bite on my eyebrow had started to swell up and affect my vision

mozzy bite

We stopped at a local shop for a coffee in the shade before carrying on. It only took us about 10 minutes along a shaded road before we came to a slightly overgrown carpark and a very unassuming entrance to the private beach. This particular strip of beach wasn’t very big, but it was kitted with sun beds, parasols, football and volleyball nets, beach huts and bars. That said it did have a slightly unloved feel to it.

We didn’t feel we could sit on the combed beach area as (being British) we felt we wouldn’t be right as we were not going to be paying for sun lounger. So we sat on an area just outside. Very natural and not really very appealing and a well established broad tide line consisting of all manner drift wood and debris. But the sun was out, and there was sea and sand so and we had our rose coloured specs on. We chilled for about two hours but that was all we could bear in the heat. We went for a paddle, and headed back to the coffee shop for another cappuccino so we were local to catch the 2pm ferry back to Fusina.

The clouds thickened over land on one side of the boat as we meandered back to the campsite via the ferry. There was the rumbling of thunder that seemed to be almost continual.  No lightning which I found slightly strange. I was surprised that we made it back to the campervan before we had any rain, and what surprised me more was just how little rain we finally had in relation to the thunder. All very strange.

Day three was always going to be a chill out before heading into Venice to see it come to life in the evening. We arrived after 3pm, and took a leisurely stroll around the streets  of the Dorsodouro, San Polo, and San Marco areas. It was really nice and relaxing. Totally different feel to the last time. Much more romantic, and amazing to see the Grand Canal come to life in the shade the low sun offered. The restaurants move more into the streets, and the atmosphere was far more engaging. The best way for us to end our final day in this wonderful part of the world.

Bugaloo (International VW Meeting)

Annecey > Tornaco (VW Bugaloo)

After an amazing few days at Annecy the schedule dictated we had to move on. It was always going to be difficult to leave knowing there were still lots more to see and do, but the parting was made easier by the fact we were heading to a VW event at Vignarello in Italy. Our friends Debs and Mark were leaving for the same destination, and knowing they had sprung an oil leak after leaving the UK, it made sense to travel together. There was hardly a cloud in the sky as we departed the camp site, but a gentle breese with the windows down, and amazing views as we followed our friends into the amazing mountains vista. We needed to stop for supplies before the next camp as we were almost sure we wouldn’t have access to groceries locally whilst at the event. If we did it would most likely cost a premium so we wanted to be prepared. Approximately 20km en route was a supermarket in Alberville where we stocked up for the weekend.

Our friends were going back to Annecy a week or so later, and wanted to take to the lake with their dog Oscar on their return. An inflatable Kayak looked like it was going to offer a solution, and packed away relatively compactly, so they wanted to have a stop at Decathlon. This only took an hour or so, but they decided to have a think about the options, and possibly collect one on the way back to Annecy if they were confident it would tick the box.

 We set off for the final destination just before midday. The temperature had already started to climb, and even with the windows fully down doing 100kmh, it was a becoming slightly uncomfortable.  The mountains on either side of the roads offered some distraction to the heat, but it was temporary. The route was riddled with tolls, and we saw our holiday saving depleted substantially by one after the next. The most expensive was €58, but the 11km tunnel needed paying for some way. It was an amazing feat of engineering by any stretch of the imagination, but both Mandy and I felt slightly quuzy after entering daylight on the other side. Maybe it was due to us having the windows down and breathing in the fumes of the other vehicles in the tunnel, or the lighting. Either way it’s odd we both felt slightly under the weather.

Anyways, we entered Italy and the plan was to stop just after the boarder for a mid point refreshment break combined with an opportunity to attach the dog guard to separate Oscar from the driver / passenger seat. Something that is apparently regulation in Italy. We had a toilet break and Mark checked the rear of his van to see how much oil the van had deposited. Things didn’t look good. It seemed to be leaking by the buckets.

After close inspection it appeared to be water, but the adoption of coolant meant It could have been something terminal. We removed the contents of the rear of the van to have a look in the engine compartment, but nothing obvious from the top. We could identify the general area the coolant was leaking from, but photos with our mobile phone showed it was close to a jubilee clip. We got a wok pan underneath to catch as much coolant as possible, and a bread bag clamp to cut off as much water from the hose when it was removed for surgery. The hope was that the minimum amount of hose would be needed to be amputated to provide a fix. This proved to be the case, and a pair of scissors from our cutlery draw made a neat cut, and the remaining good hose was attached to the inlet, and clamped in place. This proved to be an acceptable fix, and as it turned out the oil leak had reduced substantially since Debs and Mark left the UK. Win win 🙂

As we approached our destination I became more in need of a rest as the ETA slipped. Even though we knew the distance to Tornaco from Annecy, the temperature had been silly hot. Numorous toll roads had made a big dent in our budget, but we’re here now in Italy, and arrived at the Bugaloo VW festival by the lake just before 7pm. Great

The Bugaloo meeting weekend was a fantastic mix of music, festivities and socializing, all in a very relaxed surrounding by the lake

The last day at the Bugaloo started with a couple of strong coffees by the lake in Tornaco. After breakfast and a wave goodbye to our friends Debs and Mark, we headed to the entrance for the ‘Cultural Drive’, which was a procession of classic VWs though a 15km route of the surrounding Italian landscape. I attached a camera to my roof to record some footage, dropping back from time to time to capture as many vehicles as possible.

We stopped in Tornaco to snap a few photos when they parked up for a guided tour of the museum. But we had to peel off just after midday for our next destination Venice.

Lake Annecey

Troyes > Annecey

Website: https://www.camping-lac-bleu.com/en/annecy/lake-annecy-campsite.htm

We woke early on Monday morning, had a shower and packed the van. We planned to leave at 8am, but this slipped a little so we didn’t really get underway until nearly 9am. Our next destination was Lake Annecy which we had seen our friends visit previously. This was all the inspiration we needed as it looked stunning if their social media photos were anything to go by . The journey from Troyes to Annecey was going to be one of the longer ones of the holiday, covering a distance of approximately 430km and taking the best part of 5 hours so we knew we were in for a bit of a slog. As we set of from the municipal site we could tell that we were in for another stunning day. The sun was out and it was already getting warm. A few miles onto the motorway toll a fog encompassed us, but we were soon above it as we climbed a gentle incline leaving the soft clouds settling in the fields.

Our journey continued unhindered by traffic, with brilliant sunshine and the camper seemed to gliding effortlessly on the smooth French roads. We stopped around the mid way point at an aire to have a bite to eat and snack consisting of roast beef and mustard salad cobs (remnants of Saturday evenings cob cooked meat).

Aire for lunch

We chose to travel via toll roads so that we could reduce time between locations, but even so the travel from that point on became increasingly steep in parts as we entered the Alps. The vista was breathtaking in parts, with long elevated sections of road, and longer tunnels. We finally dropped towards the lake and skirted it for a few kilometers until we found our campsite. Although the drive was nice, I felt I had probably reach the limits of  acceptable time at the wheel an hour or so before we reached the campsite, so I was just wanting to park the van and cracked open a beer.

We had requested a lake side view when booking  Annecy so after checking in we left reception and started to navigated to our pitch. I’ll be honest there was an element of tension as I was directed past the road we should have turned down, and leveling the van became a bigger issue than it should have been. I guess I’ll have to take the responsibility for my short temper, but an hour later the van was set up and we were enjoying an amazing view across the lake. My paddle board was stored on the roof of my van, but it was soon off, inflated and out I went.

Day two at Annecey started sunny but became increasingly overcast and unsettled and eventually rain and thunder arrived. We were happy to chill in the van and watch some of the downloaded Netflix content we had on our tablet. We were monitoring our friends,  Debs and Marks travels as they departed for Calais from their home town in Leicester as we had agree to meet up for one night at Annecey just before moving into Italy. An oil leak on their campervan a couple of weeks previously had been fixed by a garage, so they had been on tender hooks as to weather or not they would actually have it back in time. However, oil had started to leak again so the whole trip for them was hanging in the balance. They took the decision to carry on, but monitored the oil at regular intervals. With this worry they decided to simplify their schedule with one stop in Troyes, and an earlier visit to Annecey. After the rain cleared we took a walk along the lake to stretch our legs

Day three was very warm from the start, and this would prove to be the case for some time to come. I couldn’t resist more time on the paddle board, and the lake was a pleasant temperature to swim in. The elevated terrain around the lake meant it was perfect for parascending and a steady stream of daredevils ascended across the lake, landing close to our campsite. Booking for this activity, along with mountain bike hire, and boat hire could all be done close to the entrance / reception. I thought about booking, but in the four days we were staying, I felt there was more than enough to do without paying for activities. Later on Debs and Mark arrived, but couldn’t be allocated a pitch next to use due to a booking error. Their initial disappointment soon subsided when they realized their allocated pitch was every bit as good, as it was also right on the lakes edge. As the sun began to disappear behind the mountains and day became dusk, bats began to dart around catching insects. We wandered over to Mark and Debs to share opinions on Troyes, find out more about their mechanical woes on the way (This was certainly something that I could sympathize with, due to my gearbox issues in 2017), and what their plans were for the rest of her holiday once we go our separate ways after the VW Bugaloo. After a few beers and an open water swim it was time to retire.

Our fourth and final day at Annecey was a combination of swimming, paddle boarding, drinking 😉 and socializing with Mark and Debs. Tomorrow we would depart for Torino, Italy, so we made sure most of the packing was done ready for the morning. Paddle board and associated equipment was secured back on the roof, chairs tables etc were in the boot box, and the mat and awning were rolled up and retracted . We loved Annecy and we would be sad so leave, but the holiday was in its infancy, and we still had lots to look forward to.