Sarah Scudamore

Joined March 2019
  • Day97

    Camargue Wildlife to Marseillian Plage

    July 6 in France ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We aim to make it at least to the Camargue region today, although we hear the mossies are pretty bad and we’ve already been bitten quite a bit, so we are not looking forward to more around the marshy lands.

    We are not quite sure where we’re heading when we get here but the area is known for its beautiful white horses, black bulls and the main attraction for us, pink flamingos.

    As we drive down through the nature reserve we immediately see the black bulls and white horses (the oldest breed in the world, and a brilliant white - used by cowboys to herd the black bulls) in the fields besides the wetlands, and then as we tell the children to keep their eyes open, we see two flamingos in the water beside the road - so now we know we’re on the right track. There is a large bird park with miles of trails around the marshy fields of the nature reserve so after a quick drive around the seaside town of Sainte Marie De La Mer, we head into the park.

    Amelia is excited as she has her very own flamingo to show to the real ones! As soon as we get into the park, we are greeted by huge flocks of beautiful pink flamingos, along with huge herons, ducks and many other bird species (of which I couldn’t name!). As we walk around the lakes and marsh land with boardwalks in every direction, the views get better, and we get closer views of the birds, we are amazed as they stretch out their wings at how colourful they are - apparently more pink in the winter - and not because they eat pink shrimp, this is a flamingo myth!

    We decide to take the shorter route round as the children are both melting and satisfied that we’ve seen hundreds of flamingos already. As we turn around to make our way out, we cross a little bridge where a couple are stopped looking at something. A really friendly, tame otter looking species - we are not convinced it’s an otter, though it’s definitely not a beaver. He gives us a wonderful show ducking and diving, Coen shouting ‘doggie’ at it (we can tell it definitely isn’t one of those!), and then swims under the bridge that we are stood on and stops the other side and finds the greenery from the bottom of the river bed to eat (which is vey cute with his little hands holding the clumps of algae) before swimming off to take cover amongst some branches. On the way out we see some info boards and find it was a Koypu, which we’ve never seen before, let alone so close up.

    As we’ve made good time getting down here and seeing the flamingos, we decide to crack on and get to the beach where we will stop for a few days, so stock up on more snacks and head to Marseillian plage - where the campsites all line up along the beach. Time to relax (again!)...

    We drive through this tourist hot spot past a long row of campsites lining both sides of the road.

    We are lucky to find a non sandy space at the campsite, almost all the free spots we see would be sinking territory for us - weekends are getting busier as the high season is almost in full swing and each week is now holiday time for a different region in Germany - will we have to leave our ‘where the wind blows’ ways and start booking or can we wing it for a little longer?!

    Our pitch is opposite the big, tall play park/outdoor wooden soft play-type structure, Nic describes this one as a bit like caving after he goes in to help Coen get up to the top to go down the slides, we both have a go but it tests our flexibility (and claustrophobia), so we leave it to Amelia to help him from there on.

    We check out the beach with beautiful, calm sea and the big pool area with slides and splash parks, and spend the next couple of days enjoying this: mornings at the beach, afternoons at the pool. The sea is nice and shallow and calm so the children can wander in safely. The pool has some great slides for us to play on and a sloping pool which is great for Coen’s confidence! There is a pool that is not heated which is fun to dip in like a plunge pool and then back into the warmth of the other pool!

    There is lots going on at this site, a full entertainment programme, which although we avoid as nights are already late enough - we still hear from our spot late into the night as the DJ sets boom through the campsite. Amelia does enjoy watching rehearsals and dance lessons on the big stage in the daytime and joins in when it gets to Greatest Showman, but it does make it all a little noisy for us.

    As there is a little town, we have a walk to the shops and cafes, but either it’s siesta time or limited Sunday hours as the shops seem to all be closed. Apart from one that has the feet eating fish...Sarah gives it a go and after the initial shock that it might actually be a form of torture as the nibbling tickles her so much, they seem pleased with their new food but only really go for the easy morsels rather than the really tough bits that she wants them to eat...so she comes out with feet looking pretty much the same.

    After a few days, we decide to head a bit further down this coast to find a quieter site, it’s set to be pretty warm so we need to be as close to the sea as possible!
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  • Day79

    Ardeche

    June 18 in France ⋅ ☁️ 28 °C

    We decide to blast the whole way to the Ardeche region rather than making another overnight stop, so after a long drive with just a stop off for a food shop (fast becoming the best entertainment for the children as they blast round and round the aisles, and the most stressful part of our week!) we pull into the car park of a lovely site on the river - obviously the children head straight to the park, then we get a quick dip in the pools. After kids bedtime, we both get chance to see the sunset over the river - a beautiful treat!

    As Nic and I had both seen the beautiful river at our campsite, we head straight off in the morning to Pont D’Arc and find a parking spot (where we actually could’ve camped for free...darn!).

    We head straight down towards the river rather than taking the high path over the road, and wade through the small but strong rapids to reach the arc. We find frogs, lizards and more beautiful moths and butterflies, and watch as the kayakers paddle by. The Arc is amazing to see...to think how it has been eroded over the years to make the archway, but is still strong enough to hold up.

    Next up, some art. It’s getting hot but we’re making good time to reach the amazing caves at Chauvet. These are actually a replica of those at Pont D’Arc, which were only discovered in 1994 and are closed to the public to preserve what lies within.

    We get our tickets and make our way to the ‘cavern’ - they are very clear that is a replica, they are not trying to pull the wool over your eyes with this.

    Inside we get an audio tour in a very quiet cave system (cue begging the children not to make loud noises and finally giving in and illegally feeding them crisps to keep them quiet as the tour comes towards the end of its hour!), and at each point of the tour we are shown what is so spectacular. The oldest paintings by man on earth. When these caves were chanced upon by 3 explorers in 1994, they came across a huge cave full of magnificent artwork that changed the understanding of how modern man lived 36000 years ago. The cave drawings are so fine and detailed, so well drawn, with such skill and so few tools that this discovery was collosal in terms of how ‘modern art’ was thought of.

    The drawings are so well preserved, along with bear bones and other prehistoric animals and tools used to create the artwork, and the discovery of this site was so significant that the cave quickly became a protected UNESCO world heritage site and it was decided that other than scientists, no one would ever visit them. The replica took almost 3 years, 35 companies and many people to create, it is half the size of the actual cave system, a condensed version of what actually exists.

    Each piece of artwork was created from photos and scans of the originals in a studio and then fixed to the ‘cavern’ as the build was complete, and it opened its doors in 2015.

    We wondered through trying to make sure our audio was in time with what we were seeing while keeping Coen from climbing/jumping/shouting at the cave, and it was fascinating to hear and see a tiny insight into the lives of the people that roamed our earth so many years before us. The drawings of woolly mammoths, reindeers, horses and lions were so lifelike, but these were drawn 36000 years ago, it’s hard to imagine these animals back then. The caves were visited again 6000 years after the drawings were made and footprints of prehistoric children holding torches still remained when the caves were discovered. No one found the caves again until 30000 years later, this made us wander how much more on earth we (as humans in our modern day) have not yet found.

    We also visit the little museum with the huge life size animals that feature on the artwork and lots of interactive info which is great, Amelia enjoys pressing ALL the buttons and asking why they aren’t speaking English, but by the time this is done we are starving and it’s pretty baking outside, so we hotfoot back to the van, get some snacks and head up the road to our next stop.

    We are literally in the middle of nowhere here in beautiful, hilly green countryside deep in the heart of France, and would not have found this stop except it is a sister site to where we stayed in Verdon, and our main and only reason to visit it is that is has a huge waterpark within it (actually France’s only residential aquapark) and, as it was so close to the Ardeche stopover, we couldn’t resist.

    After a brief panic thinking we’re going to have to pay 100e to get into the waterpark (no, it’s all included in the 20e camping price) we get set up and in no time we find the waterpark.

    This is an outdoor version of one we went to in Austria with many identical slides and pools, so the children enjoy the huge pirate ship, the normal size flumes and jets and Nic and I try out the ‘big’ ones, to see which ones Amelia (and Coen) can handle.

    The only downside (well literally the upside) is that our pitch is at the top of a huge hill and the waterpark is at the bottom so after expelling a lot of energy in the pool, it is a real struggle to get Amelia up the hill back to our van in the 6pm 30 degree heat.

    We take Coen and Amelia on two of the big slides as you ride them on rubber rings and they are not too crazy, they both love them and want to go again, again, again...’luckily’ the lifeguards at this pool are very laissez-faire as neither of them reaches the 1m20 height restriction!
    We get a little thunderstorm over lunch, and when we head back to the pool, we wonder if it will be open with the lightning going on, but no problem - until the storm is literally above our head and they close by which time we’ve done all the slides and pools quite a few times!

    We stop over for two nights so that we get a full day at the waterpark and can leave refreshed ready for the trip south to be beach (and hopefully some beautiful pink wildlife!), and we’re definitely fitter than when we arrived after a few times walking up and down the hillside to the pool!
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  • Day76

    Boating up the Verdon Gorge

    June 15 in France ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    The family we’d met in Olbetrello had raved about this campsite around the Verdon Gorges, and although we didn’t know we would visit here, from their description we knew we had to go.

    We arrive, after a wiggly journey into the hills, at a peaceful campsite in the trees, set beside a lovely lake.

    The children immediately find the park (anyone noticing a trend?!) and we manage to get camped up right next to it so that they can go back and forth to their hearts content.

    There’s also a bouncy castle and a lovely pool with a toddler pool for Coen...so that’s the kids sorted for a few days! We manage to drag them away briefly to see the lake (the bit that nature created, though they love the man made stuff more), and Amelia and I (Sarah) get a real life game of stuck in the mud as we realise too late that the low lake bed has left some very sinky mud behind, and we don’t quite hear Nic shouting across the lake that ‘that mud is really squelchy!’, but we manage to find a rocky spot to wash off (although Amelia does take another fall caking herself from top to toe in the thick squelchy stuff)! We even manage a post-dinner swim on our first night after coaxing the children off the bouncy castle to eat.

    As it’s Father’s Day and Nics birthday coming up we decide to stay and relax.

    As we’ve been in France for a few days now we have found more and more English travellers. We also meet another young family who are doing an 18 month trip which makes us very envious!

    We decide to hire one of the electric boats to see the gorge, one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe apparently, so not to be missed and a nice treat for Father’s Day.

    The first day we try, the water is too low to get the boats out, as they rely on the dam up the river opening to rise the waters, but they don’t have control or know when this will happen. Luckily the campsite let’s you borrow equipment for every fun activity under the sun, so our day is filled with mini golf (impossible golf as we renamed it!), pétanque (note if you ask for a platonk set as I did, the french will not know what you’re talking about and likely give you a pencil!), bouncy castle, and then ‘we’ (ahem, Nic) decide that when Coen was asleep in his pushchair we should go and jump off the rocks of the gorge into the river. The problem was that this involved taking the pushchair around the lake (through that sinking mud), into a tiny, rocky horse track and down into the rocks. At which point another child started screaming and Coen woke up and got out of the pushchair. But never-the-less, jumping into the river was fun, a little chillier than expected, and more juggling with two children awake when on the edge of a ‘mini-cliff’, we both managed a swim across to the other side, and Amelia was happy paddling up to her waist in the chilly water, while Nic convinced Coen to have a piggy-back ride swim, which lasted half a second before Coen realised the temperature and was desperately trying to get back to mummy on the nice, dry, warm land!

    Another swim and we pack ready for our boat ride (as it’s Nics birthday on boat day, packing means making sure beers are cold and there’s room in the dry bag for them).

    The boat is a little electric one, so the top speed is abt 7 km/hr, there’s two rivers to explore - one in each direction and we’ve checked with the boatman on which ones best, so we head down towards the first dam (I am hoping there is a really clear sign of when to turn around as have visions of us casually floating over the dam down a huge drop). The first part of the gorge is wide, low and pleasant, but as it opens out onto and lake and then under a road bridge, it turns to amazing. Narrow, high walls of rocky cliffs shoot straight down into the water, there are tiny little caves under parts, the water is icy cold now and the sun is high, water drains from the sides of parts of the canyon walls making little waterfalls which Amelia and Coen want to touch, and we see little birds nested in holes in the sides. It’s beautiful scenery, and the quiet little electric boat makes the whole thing very peaceful, with just the odd kayak paddling around, or electric boat passing by. Amelia enjoys lounging about, Coen between snacks enjoys driving, throwing a rope over the edge and testing the kill cord. And luckily at the end there are huge, inflatable barriers meaning we don’t fall over the edge.

    We power back up the first gorge to the start and then make our way down the second river, this one still lovely, but wider and lower. We aim to stop for lunch, but realise when we get to the end of the 2nd river that the campsite have the timings bang on, we have a 4hr hire, and they said each river was 2hrs, we have reached the end of each exactly to the minute an hour after starting, so we ‘eat on the road’, Nic gets a quick jump from the higher gorge rocks and we make it back on time.

    More pool, park, bouncy castle, pétanque, making friends with German older girls, and lots of beer later, we’ve had a fab stay here, it’s a wonderful place for families, and considering it wasn’t in our to do list, as has always been the way, we’re glad to have found it.

    Now for a long journey across to the Ardeche...snacks are packed!
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  • Day74

    St Tropez in summertime

    June 13 in France ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    We hit some traffic as we come into the stretch of coast leading to St Tropez, and the first campsite we reach, which looks highly recommended, is full - with the exasperated campsite owner telling me off for not being here at 8.30am to get a pitch (err, does he actually think we can get off of a pitch by 8.30, let alone drive over an hour to our next stop?! It’s now 1pm. Maybe in the pre-children days). He tells us there’s another site a few hundred metres down the road, and we’re pleased they have space - although they still tell us to be quick to choose our pitch before they get booked up...people are pulling in one after one by now.

    We pull in to our space and check out the beach, just a few metres from most pitches on this beach-side site, and see the same huge yacht in the bay from yesterday; apparently owned by a Russian worth £10 billion!

    We were expecting the bay to be smaller and even possibly to SUP over to St Tropez (we are on the opposite side of the bay), but it was way bigger than expected. We have a play/swim on the beach, Amelia gets told off by the campsite people for being naked (she’s been naked for 4.5 yrs so this is a big shock for her) and the next day get a taxi boat over to Saint Tropez. It’s a windy day and as we baorf he taxi boat, the captain tells us he’s not sure if they will be coming back because of the winds, here’s quite a swell - I’m not sure if he’s joking at first, but we get on anyway. On the way over we decide which super yacht we would have (when we figure out how to afford one) and then check out the town. It’s funny, there is not a staggering harbour or buildings in comparison to what we have seen on our travels, but a lot of designer shops! Cute little streets. It’s a really hot day and the children are starting to melt, we decide it’s not our cup of tea but have a nice walk around and buy an amazing chorizo loaf - thank you France!

    Ice cream for the children and 2 hours is enough, back onto the boat, we get a lovely view of Grimaud (named mini-Venice) and head back to the van. Amelia gets to fly her kite as the wind is so strong, and we bbq at the van. We meet a lovely German family next door with a young girl and Amelia makes friends, and the children find they have an amazing toy collevtioonwth them which entertains them for hours. We also go over to see the park where there are deers which the children can feed (pretty tame!).

    This was one of the more expensive stops (a big shock when we check out!) so two nights was enough. Next inland (to water!)...
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  • Day72

    Cote D'Azur - Antibes

    June 11 in France ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    On to Nice, which seemed Nice but there wasn’t any campsites really close by so we kind of needed by nearer Antibes.

    The campsite is cool with a giraffe bouncy castle, park and pool so the children are immediately happy!

    We head to the beach the next day, which was close but you had to cross a train track, Nic has a run in the morning and check it out but it is a bit pebbly too so we hop on the bikes and Croozer and head to a sandy beach. Good idea but bikes weren’t allowed on the duel carriageway (should have gone through the town), so a few wrong turns, steep hills and finally make it to the beach, pretty sweaty. Very nice beach too, beautiful white sand and bright turqouise sea, with more amazing yachts off the coast, one huge, and I mean the biggest I’ve ever seen too.

    We have a great time on the beach and sea, the children love testing out their new ‘bodyboards’ and the sea is perfect for them (although Coen does find the little ledge where it goes a bit deeper and needs a quick rescue!). We spend the day on the sun and sea, a lovely unwind. The cycle home this time through beautiful Antibes, a mixture of posh casinos, high end designer boutiques and the old city - churches, city walls, harbour walls and many tiny, sandy coves dotting the little peninsula, before it opens to a big harbour full of more expensive yachts, the coast is a lot more scenic than the journey in, and soon the long stretch of pebbly beach leads us back to our campsite. We are definitely glad we made the effort to get to the beautiful beach!

    A quick swim in the lovely covered pool the morning, Amelia is really building confidence now to swim further on her own, and they are both loving their new inflatable boards (Decathlon, of course!) then onwards we go...
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  • Day71

    Hitting the Med - Pietra to Monaco

    June 10 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We make a little stop before reaching Monaco as the journey is long (and very winding along the beautiful coast, it’s also a windy drive in and out of tunnels that cut through the cliffs; every time we come out of a tunnel we get blown a little towards the edge of bridge that takes us to the next tunnel.

    We pull up to a tiny campsite, the weather is warm so luckily there’s a pool and the beach is just down the road.

    Quick dip in the sea, dinner, bed and a swim in the morning and we’re off to find Monaco. We also get bitten to pieces by the mosquitoes on this overnight stop!

    We head to Monaco and wow the roads are crazy, tunnels under and over other tunnels, sharp corners, confusing roundabouts make this an interesting drive! After a few wrong turns (even the sat nav couldn’t work out the road system) taking us up some steep single tracks with little option to turn, we eventually (and after some strong language from Nic which the children ‘can never hear’!) figure out which road to get on. We find a place to park right by the harbour thanks to our “Park4night” app (motorhomes are pretty limited here!!) and go to check out the amazing yachts! The path takes us around the cliff edge which has beautiful views of the sea and tiny coves below and a lovely viewing area for sailing races at the hard our entrance where teenagers are playing and jumping into the huge waves.

    As we round the corner we are met by a view of millions of pounds of amazing yachts!! We find it amazing how every harbour you go to is always pretty full and have to think “there is a lot of money about” - just to figure out how to create it to buy one of these beauties (nic writing - Sarahs not sure about owning one!). The Grand Prix has just finished so there are still barriers up from the course, amazing to think the speed to cars would have been driving around this town, we get a pic on the starting line up, wave to some Ferrari’s, Bentley’s, and Lambos and get out of this tax haven playground.

    Onto be next one, Nice...
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  • Day67

    Lake Garda

    June 6 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    There are so many campsites around the lake to choose so we have to just pick the one with nice pictures, this one looks pretty cool with a nice pool for the children. We get one of the last pitches (uh-oh, that means our days of not having to think about whte were going ahead of time are ninbered!) and all the pitches are a little squashed but it’s perfect, right but the lake. We realise that it is a bank holiday for Italians and Germans so are lucky to have come without a reservation!

    We were going to do two nights here but stay three in the end as it was so good.

    We take a walk along the shore, and find in the shallows of the lake a little cray fish struggling against the little waves of the windy lake, it’s pretty cool for us all to see, we had literally just eaten some crayfish from the supermarket earlier in the week, which feels a bit weird but we pick it up and help it on it’s way back out deep!

    We decide this is a good place to hire a peddelo (especially as they have flamingo ones which Amelia is determined that we get - the children are really excited thinking they are ‘parks’ on the water as they have slides) but see you can hire speed boats too, proper ones! Fast ones! Nic vs Amelia on the pedalo vs speed boat argument - who wins?! Both, we get the bright pink flamingo first and then hire a speed boat and check out the lake a bit further afield. Coen barely come up for air from stuffing his face with biscuits and Amelia is living a life of luxury sunbathing on the bow of the boat. That was good fun!

    In Italy most swimming pools have an odd rule about everyone wearing swim hats, and this is one of those pools that really enforce it - so much so that the lifeguard even sells swim hats to those that don’t have them. Although when we ask he doesn’t really know why the rule is in force - is it hygiene, safety, fashion??! It’s a very odd rule. We pop a normal cap on which does the trick. The pool is great with a splash park with water cannons and very shallow water for Coen to run wild in too. Even a water see-saw! We spend the days between the parks, lake and pool and enjoy the sun. There is a jetty that we can swim off the end of, where he water is beautiful and clear, with lots of patches warmer by the sun - the children are never convinced with getting straight into deep water though and Amelia is adamant she wants to swim in the shallows (merky Algae water), so she’s on her own for that one!

    On the last night, Amelia finds another girl that speaks English and immediately they hit if off and she begs us to stay longer at the site - but alas, adventure beckons, there’s more to see ahead. So many friends, so little time!

    On a morning walk down to the lake, I (Sarah) see some fish much bigger than the ones we’ve seen before in the lake, so go out onto a rock jetty to have a look, excited to tell the others....and suddenly a fish at least the size of a whale swims up to me...I don’t know whether to run back and get my camera or just stand and stare and try to figure out what it is. I decide to stand and stare, then quickly head back to get the family, but by the time we get back, this fish is long gone. In hindsight it may have been more the size of a big fish than than a whale but it was definitely a few feet long and wide! And needless to say no one believed that it existed! Luckily, I ask another couple if they’ve seen it, they’ve been coming for years and show me a picture they took a few years back of it, so I can show the others!

    The lake has been beautiful, and has a real holiday feel, which means we’ve had time to unwind and relax, of course there’s a huge park for the children to play in at every opportunity, and we’ve enjoyed our time here. Definitely one to recommend. We decide as it’s been good and we’ve already done so many beautiful lakes that rather than driving out of our way to more lakes, we’ll head for the med and see what awaits...
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  • Day65

    Cinque Terra National Marine Park

    June 4 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Cinque Terra

    We’ve had lots of recommendations to come to this world heritage site, but have been wanted the camping is going to be expensive - so we were not too surprised to find that it’s more than double what we have been paying so far, even with our discount card, but it’s a cute little campsite set amongst a vineyard just a short walk from the beach. Amelia and coen obviously find the lake within minutes of us being here, and we get the bbq on and prepare for a day out on the train.

    The weather is really heating up now, after a pretty cold and wet May in most of Europe, so we know it’s going to be a hot one, and we are told to take the back pack rather than pushchair - Coen’s going to have a nice relaxing day while Nic sweats it out!!

    The only way to access the Cinque Terra NP is on foot (hiking - although they are very strict that you wear walking shoes or boots - you will actually get fined and asked to leave the trail if not in appropriate footwear!), or by train, which is what we do. Again the children are excited by another form of transport, and this train is even a double decker to add to this. There are 5 stops within the Cinque Terra - each only a 5 minute train journey from the next. Each is accessed through a little tunnel in the cliffs and really, it is the most amazing thing that these towns even exist, surrounded - and blocked off - by mountains, perched on top of or at the bottom of cliffs, with such limited access, and they are each tiny (and bustling with tourists!).

    We head to the furthest one first, Riomaggiore. Each town also has a long foot tunnel to walk through to get to the town from the train station. Amelia loves the pretty mosaics in the first one, Coen loves testing the ‘echo’ again! We meander through the little path and find a little port, tiny shops, and lovely views of the colourful buildings set aside the cliff, the ocean stretching out in front of us, and the cliffside walks that hikers are bravely taking in the heat. We then check the train time table and realise we have 7 minutes until the next train - cue a sprint back through the tunnel and under the track to reach the platform with a minute to spare.

    The next town, Manarola, has a similar tunnel and has another bustling street lined with seafood restaurants, gelataria and cute beach shops leading down to a big harbour wall. We have to wait for a photo here as there is a few Chinese tourists perfecting their poses and apparently we are in their shot. Another quick sprint back to the train platform - this time at least 5 minutes to spare, and we head to the third stop - we must be getting quicker!

    As we get off the train at Corniglia, and ponder which way we have to go, we watch people walking up a little path that takes them to the top of the cliff in the baking heat - before realising that isn’t the hiking trail, that’s the path to the town. Wondering how Amelia is going to make it up without melting, we get started; the first part is mainly in the shade, but gradually the path gets steeper and the shade disappears. Amelia’s little legs do a fantastic job, as we overtake adults that have had to stop and rest and she dodges from bits of shade at each end of the winding path. At the top we find a tour guide buying rehydration sachets for his tour group who are struggling below us!

    We find a lovely part of the town with tiny, narrow streets dotted with more restaurants, Italian take aways (where we sample some more lovely local cuisine), and geletarias, and we get to some beautiful panaoramic view points looking out to the wide ocean lining the park - before heading back to sample the ice cream. And it is amazing ice-cream. Now full of energy, Amelia makes the walk back down the cliff side look easy whilst Coen takes a nap.

    We head to the 4th (and our final) stop, Vernazza. We wander down through a lively street towards the little port and there is a sandy bay where Amelia can cool off on the sea, while Nic walks a bit further around with Coen still sleeping, and on our way back up we find another rocky bay where we watch as the waves crash in and Amelia enjoys building rock stacks.

    We board the train for the final time and head back to Levanto, where he children convince us to stop for a play in the park before we make t to the beach. A lovely sandy bay with a beautiful backdrop of the town set in front of the mountains. The sea is lovely and calm and the children enjoy swimming and splashing to cool off from the hot day of walking.

    Next stop, north to the lakes...a windy drive back up where we get overtaken by another bus...
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  • Day64

    More Tuscan culture - Florence/Pisa

    June 3 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We find Florence pretty easily, but have a bit more trouble finding the parking space we are looking for. First one has no water or electricity, so we programme the next one into sat nav, but it cuts us through some crazy, tiny, private roads...we reach a point (on single track with cars coming the other way) where an Italian lady in a car asks where we’re trying to get to and tells us there’s no way we’ll fit our van down there, so we have to try and wiggle out a different way...I even measure the road width to see if we’ll fit, we can just about make it and we finally ignore the sat nav and find the camp spot, basically a big field full on vans, but a really nice man shows us how to get to the city and they have electricity so we’re all good. We hop on the bus just outside the site and get off at what we think is the centre (limited maps again!), and have a wander through the beautiful city.

    We come out in a big pasta with the most beautiful church - palace like in its beauty. We head to more of the attractions, and at his post we decide we’ve probably seen enough of the beauty of Italian cities - there are only so many churches, statues and artwork, however wonderful the architecture and construction, that we can take in such a short space of time. We see the beautiful statues in the outdoor museum and then chance across the highlight of this trip. A big queue and crowd has formed outside two little take away sandwich shops. We ask what’s going on and some Americans tell us that these are he best sandwiches in Florence. Well, you don’t have to tell Nic twice, we are straight in the queue, no idea what we’re ordering (due to my hideous Italian!) and come away with two of the most amazing ‘sandwiches’ we have ever eaten! I say sandwich, but this is definitely an Italian take on the classic, amazing focaccia, meats, cheese, truffle, and who knows what else, totally delicious, and worth the extra walk. We grab some take-away pasta (again, amazing) for the children and head back to the camp spot. We need to make an early start the next day to make it to Pisa, and we’re already late back...

    We hit the road early and decide to park in the big supermarket in Pisa (this is closer than anywhere else we’re allowed to park in the motorhome. It’s a hot walk into the centre, and as we’re ‘cultured out’, we’ve decided we are just going to see the leaning tower and get back on the road. Sometimes there is just too much to try and see everything.

    As we round the corner, Amelia’s reaction is brilliant, ‘oh my word, that really IS leaning, it might fall over!!’ It really is a beautiful piazza, with the tower, beautiful statue and large church too. Obviously the crowds here are pretty crazy, but we get the obligatory ‘holding the tower up’ pics, and then grab a (very bad and very slow) pizza on the way out and try not to melt as we get back to the car park. Luckily we are at a supermarket so can restock on the essentials - ice-cream and cold drinks! We hit the road to reach the Cinque Terra region before dinner...a long, tiring day!!
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  • Day63

    Beautiful Tuscany - Siena/San Gimignano

    June 2 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We wind north through the beautiful Tuscan countryside - lovely rolling, green hills as far as the eye can see. The sat nav does its usual trick of taking us up some roads too narrow for our van, down some dead ends and off the main road for a few miles of country lanes for no apparent reason.

    We arrive in Sienna and after a few trips around the roundabouts on the outskirts, we find a stopover where we can walk into town from. Summer is in full swing now, so it’s a hot walk up a short road to reach the city walls. This place is unique in that there are escalators in the edge of the walls that you can hop on to ge up to the top of the city - we go up 4 elevators which is a great treat for the children (although we almost take the stairs for one set as we think it’s broken, and then realise it’s just stopped while no one is on it). We enter the top of the city and walk down through some small streets to a beautiful church in a piazza.

    We grab a map and find a little snack shop, where the children choose a sweet treat, and carry on down the narrow streets. We have promised them ice cream so we find a little place on the corner, queue order and then get a big surprise when the lady asks for 13euros for the 2 single scoop comes we’ve just ordered! Ok children - DO NOT DROP THAT ICE-CREAM! We even have to take it back when we find they’ve left the paper cone wrapper inside Coen’s ice cream - for 6.50, we feel within our rights to get a new one! It is amazing ice-cream, second only to our first gelato in Rovinj, Croatia.

    We turn the corner and find the big Piazza Del Campo and realise this is why the ice-cream was so expensive. This is the set of a Bond scene. A beautiful sloping open Piazza, set in a circle with shops, restaurants and cafes around the edge and a big church as it’s centre piece. People watching people, tourists and locals side by side, every nationality can be found in these tiny tourist draws, which always amazes us! We hear some music and see a marching band from one of the churches are marching through the narrow streets dressed in their church gowns. Amelia loves this and watches until the very last one has gone past. We then wander through to find some other beautiful buildings and then look for restaurants that have been recommended to us. We order pizza and pasta from a very nice waiter who the children are quite taken with (especially Coen who keeps asking for ‘man’ to all the others), and enjoy food (and Prosecco) with a lovely panoramic view of the city.

    The next morning we head over to San Gimignano, another beautiful city contained within its old city walls. We find a place to park which has a bus that takes us to town, and head into the old city. The city is perched on top of a Tuscan hillside so that you get amazing panoramic views the whole way around. Inside there is a central piazza with a large well, we find out this was a very important place, during war time when the city walls would have been closed, there was no other way of inhabitants getting water (we learn this as we are sat next to a group of American students who have a tour guide with them...Nic decided to follow them for a while to learn a bit!!). Amelia has her scooter so enjoys the open space, Coen chases pigeons and then argues with Amelia to have a go on her scooter. We get to a beautiful viewpoint to see beautiful Tuscany, and decide it’s too hot to be here, get back down to the bus and head out to Florence...
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