With our eldest starting school in September, we are following our hearts for one more big adventure before term times begin. We hope to explore as much of Europe as we can taking in mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches & islands across 8 countries...
  • Day96

    Zaurautz

    July 5, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    As we hit the north coast, we choose a camp spot the most reasonably priced (although still very expensive considering the long 1km walk down the cliff side to reach the beach) just west of San Sebastian. It’s a huge site with lots of surf camps and teenagers there for the surf and some partying.

    We get a great pitch very close to the cliff side with amazing views out over the big bay, but we are quite a way up and the walk down is long and winding, with lots of steps and steep slopes.

    This is one of the most well known surf spots in Spain and even with the small swell and next to no waves there are still a lot of surfers in. We decide it definitely is not worth the trek down with a surfboard...

    We put Coen in the carrier and head down to the beach, Amelia’s little legs power on down the steps yet again, round corners with views over rock stacks and an old docking point where they used to haul goods up from the boats, and down the long path to the beach...and just as we arrive, and the children start playing in the sea, the rain starts and we can see a big storm over the mountains that seems to settle right above Zarautz - so we have a play, find a crab and then decide to start the ascent back up the 1km hill we’ve just come down. We make it back without getting too wet and Amelia makes it the whole way without a moan about how far it is.

    The other brilliant thing about this site was it’s sunsets...we were so lucky that our pitch looked straight out to the sea and as the weather had been stormy and cloudy, by sunset we were treated to some amazing colours in the sky...so much so that when Amelia got out of bed to see where we were, Nic took her to get a closer look as it was so pretty. We were also treated to some pretty loud disco music throughout the night too...surfcamps for the youngsters, which means time for us to move on!!
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  • Day95

    Spanish stopover Borja

    July 4, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    This is one of those random stops where we literally put our finger on the point on the map which we think is half way to our next destination. We’re travelling blind in this leg without any recommendations or real stand out points, as we just need to get north. We had envisioned that we’d be travelling along the foothills of the Pyrenees, but we hadn’t actually looked at the map to verify this and the heat had meant we’d moved further along the coast to be near the sea.

    As we near where the map tells us there is a campsite, it’s eerily remote and we’re not sure if we’ll find one, but luckily after a few tight u-turns, we pull in. It’s a tiny and quiet little stopover, and as I go to check in, I realise the lady speaks zero English, and with my dismal lack of Spanish, we weave through an awkward conversation of pointing and writing things down and she shows us to our pitch.

    We are perched on a hillside with amazing views across the Spanish valley. Although it’s quiet, there is a lovely park for the children, free WiFi and a small swimming pool. Granted we had to fish the millions of bees out of the pool to have a swim but it was lovely to cool down after the drive.

    We were going to try the local restaurant as the tapas was ‘locals’ prices, but some local campers didn’t recommend it...luckily we had enough food to make a meal out of.

    We head off early to reach the northern coast and as we head into the mountains and out the other side it’s like a different climate. All of a sudden the sky is white and grey and the air is cool. We get great views again of the north Spanish coast.

    We manage only one wrong turn (albeit that led us up a very winding dirt track which quickly narrows, luckily we find a field to turn in before we got stuck and we make it onto the very large campsite on the hillside.
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  • Day93

    L'Amettla de Mar

    July 2, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    Our journey to the northern coast of Spain starts with a swim in the pool, and then the stop at Decathlon (a regular stop now, to buy rash vests/flip flops/other beach ‘stuff’ - and also great entertainment for the children scooting around the aisles), and a trip to Lidl, but not long into the journey we hit some pretty bad Barcelona traffic, and realise we haven’t made much progress towards a campsite or the coast and are still quite near the southern beaches, so make a quick diversion for one more stop on the south coast, before heading up. The children are literally melting in the early afternoon sun in the back of the Moho (where the AC does not quite reach them) so they are pleased to get out of their seats sooner. By the time we pull into our pitch they are both a bit besides themselves with the general ickiness of being stuck in a car seat in this temperature.

    Luckily the site we pick is another if those hidden gems. Set on top of a little sandy bay, with a large pool and beautiful views of the coastline.

    We get to the beach for a quick swim to cool off, and find the sea is like a luke-warm bath, with lots of rocky areas to try some more snorkelling.

    We spend a couple of nights here so that we can enjoy the beach some more and relax in this hot weather. We find more amazing fish when we snorkel around the rocks and reefs,

    The recent hot weather means no more wetsuits in pools for the children which is a relief. The pool overlooking the bay is literally a hot tub when we go for a dip. There’s a small children’s pool and for quite a while we have it to ourselves which is quite a luxury.

    We are parked next door to a lovely dutch couple who are heading to live in Spain to have a baby, so have a drink with them one night, and then try to keep the children from being too loud to avoid them thinking ‘what how we let ourselves in for’ the rest of the time.

    The hot weather continues but it’s time to head inland to make our way north, so we brave the drive to find a half way spot between north and southern Spain.
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  • Day91

    Barcelona

    June 30, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    We have done a lot of research for this stop to find a campsite which has a shuttle bus into the city. Our site also has a lovely pool which is lucky as the heatwave continues and we know the children are going to melt as we visit the city.

    We fit in as many swims as we can and then get an early bus into Barcelona. We have to make a quick but urgent pit stop to McDonald’s for some free WiFi, as I’ve accidentally left some work uploading as we got on the shuttle bus and drive away meaning we’ve used our whole months data in one morning! The children are pretty happy with this as they get an extra meal, we in manage to back up some photos and then start out on our tour.

    We immediately realise with all the super straight streets and the adult scooters whizzing around, that we should have bought amelias scooter for her to get around. Nic is keen to go back and see the Gaudis La Sagrada Familia, to see how it had changed since we came pre children. This did mean quite a big circuit of the city though, as we also wanted to go to the port to get some Tapas.

    We managed to 2 hour circuit in the heat, through the beautiful Ciutadella Park and out to the bustling port. Needless to say Amelia was well rewarded for her walking with a huge plate of calamari at the tapas, we manage to order enough tapas to take up the whole table, and of course, Sangria.

    We also watched the amazing and huge yachts in the marina, and headed back for a hot walk towards the bus pick up. We managed to stop at the largest food hall for some fruit and smoothies, another ice cream (so hot in the city!) and Nic attempted to get a beer on the Ramblas but was put off by the 12euro price tag!

    We could easily stay longer here, visit more parks, the beach, the aquarium, but it’s hot to be in a city, we get back to the campsite and straight into the pool to cool off and decide to move on tomorrow.

    We manage to fool off in the pool befoe departure and even get a quick aqua Zumba class in before we leave.

    We think we’re heaving north now to the northern coast (not before our bi weekly stop off at Decathlon!), but the traffic and heat have other ideas.
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  • Day90

    Coulliere - our hidden gem

    June 29, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    We find out that our friend is on holiday very close by, so we hop down the coast to a small campsite set on top of some cliffs above beautiful little coves on the French Spanish southern border. Another one of those unplanned stops, that makes us grateful not to have an agenda.

    The sea is crystal clear, the bays are rocky, shingly and some sandy. It’s still pretty hot so we get out into the sea with our goggles to see the beautiful marine life. Tons of colourful fish, crabs, anenemy, tiny sea urchin - but much to Nic and Amelia’s disappointment - no mussels! I name a new creature, sea tomato (must find the real name but they are so red they look like tomatoes sat on the underwater rocks).

    The campsite is set on top of a high cliff side, so although to get to the beach we have to walk up and down quite a few cobbly steps, it’s worth it for the beautiful views we get from the pitches and the perimeter of the site. We get a crazy, hazy sunset over the mountains and the sunrises directly over the sea in front of us.

    After some snorkelling and crab hunting, we check out the pool, Amelia does her first solo swim of a width of the pool, her confidence is building after all these daily swims, she also gets told off for going down the flumes head first (!) and we cool off from the southern heat.

    The next morning, our friend Jon and his lovely American girlfriend, Ashleigh, who have stayed just a short drive away come to visit at the campsite and we have another swim/snorkel on the other side of the bay and through some rocky patches, the children braving it for the deep water swimming armbands on.

    before heading down to our Barcalona stop.
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  • Day86

    Sainte Marie Sur Mer Plage

    June 25, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    We head west along the med coast, but make a change of plan to make the drive a little shorter, and when we arrive, we are so glad we did. We find a beautiful, natural and peaceful campsite with our pitch a few metres from the big, sandy beach, where the sea is perfect temperature. The site feels really off the beaten track, with lovely little extras, like the little farm with donkeys, peacocks, sheep, alpacas and goats - although one of the goats did try to butt Amelia as they roamed freely around. No harm done luckily!

    We are getting reports that the temperatue is rising this week, and we extend our stay a few days so that we are by the sea and pool for the hottest days. And we’re also feeling pretty smug about the air con in the moho now!

    We spend our mornings at the beach, and then head to the pool late afternoon. As the days go on, we spend longer at the beach, the sea is perfect to cool off and there’s sea breeze. We see lots of fish swimming about in the shallows, and although the sea gets deep straight away, the children love it with their new body boards, or arm bands or woggles. There’s also a big pool area with toddler pool and some great flumes, and a very heated pool too - a favourite pool so far. There’s even a spa! Obviously we don’t really spend much time in there, but it’s lovely to be able to cool off before the evening heat. It’s still high in the 30s when we are going to bed most evenings.

    Amelia loves being able to cycle all around the site, and we all love being seconds from the beach, although even the walk down towards the sea to set up is getting pretty hot. We take the SUP down and it’s great to get out on it on the warmer sea. Nic spots some big jelly fish way out, so I take the children (including Amelias new friend) our to see if we can see it. Nic is adamant he wants to get some sea life photos, so heads out again, just as he gets out one of the jelly fish gets washed in to our feet so we get some really good photos from dry land. We have fun trying out some headstands on the board - easier to be a bit braver when the sea is so much warmer and calmer!

    We chat to some other English travellers on te site who have had to leave their holiday home inland and move to the coast for the heatwave - we’re in the midst of a big Saharan bubble and the rainy days are forgotten!
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  • Day82

    Camargue Wildlife to Marseillian Plage

    June 21, 2019 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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  • Day80

    Ardeche waterpark fun!

    June 19, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    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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    Alan Bond

    Sounds super and so close to us

    3/22/20Reply
    Sarah Scudamore

    yes was really good, this was when you came to England to see Em x

    4/10/20Reply
     
  • Day79

    Ardeche and the amazing Chauvet cave

    June 18, 2019 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.
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    Such amazing memories and experiences xxx Di clems x

    7/17/19Reply
     
  • Day76

    Boating up the Verdon Gorge

    June 15, 2019 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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