The idea of travelling for an extended period has been a dream of ours for many years and and we feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to make that dream a reality. The trip far exceeded our expectations and it has been incredibly worthwhile. There have been so many memories it is hard to appreciate them all just yet and it will take some time for it all to sink in.
The experience has been beneficial to us all on so many levels, not least a broader education for Lewis. He kept up with his Maths and English whilst we drove from one place to the next but he experienced so much more. He didn’t just learn about cultures, languages, history, and geography but he actually experienced them, tried speaking the different languages, saw the physical geography, and visited the places he learnt about in history.
We have listed a few of our highlights below but the one that we enjoyed the most was just being able to spend so much time together as a family creating such wonderful memories:
Sailing into Dubrovnik and instantly falling in love with the country
Swimming in the aqua coloured sea along the Croatian coast; we have never seen water so clear
Feeling like we were standing on top of the world in the mountains around Zermatt and looking over the highest peaks of Western Europe
Relaxing in the beautiful city of Krakow
Watching the thrilling Red Bull Air Race in Rovinj against a beautiful backdrop
Rome for all its history, especially the Colosseum and the Roman Forum
Parking up in Slovenia in the shadow of Predjama Castle with no one else around
Skocjan Caves in Slovenia for the sheer scale of the caverns underground
Our 3 walks in the Slovakian mountains; our favourite was Vratna Valley
Exploring the Kamenjak National Park on mountain bikes and discovering the Safari Bar
Stumbling across the Cave Bar in Dubrovnik
Relaxing in Lake Lugano (Italian Lakes) after a long drive
Catching up with various friends along the way; it was great to see you all
The Best of Awards go to…..
Friendliest people – the Dutch (followed by the Germans)
Craziest Drivers – the Italians (by far)
Favourite Country – joint winners here Croatia and Slovenia
Favourite City – Krakow in Poland
Favourite Cafe – Camelot in Krakow
Best Ice cream – B052 in Rovinj
Driving The Long Way Home – Vital Statistics
Number of days away – 135
Number of countries visited – 15
Number of miles driven – 7,500 miles
Number of ferries – 10
Number of currencies used – 6
Number of photos taken – 4,723 (we can bore you with them for hours!)
Part of us would be more than happy to keep travelling given half the chance but the new school term beckons and it is time to head home. Part of us is also ready for home but we couldn’t help feeling a little sad as the White Cliffs came into view.
We parked overnight overlooking the pebble beach at Dover and finally opened the bottle of red wine that we had bought from the old man in Croatia (see post from 26th May). As it turned out the anticipation of what it might taste like for the past 3 months was worth the £12 but we were indeed ‘done’ as it tasted awful!
We had parked in a quiet spot but late in the evening we were surrounded by a mix of around 80 sports and classic cars that were participating in a Milan-London-Milan rally. Armed with a glass of Croatia’s ‘finest red’ we strolled along the seafront admiring some beautiful machines.
Due to the fact that Jane’s bike was carefully strapped down inside the van the sleeping arrangements for the night needed a few adjustments. There was just enough room down the side of the bike for Lewis to sleep. We attempted to sleep on the single bed in the front of the van which is only just long enough for Lewis. Stu managed about an hours sleep with Jane not much better. Perhaps we should have had more wine or even entertain the idea of locking the bike up outside!
First there was a bike Jane almost bought, then came the one she did buy! The only snag is we don’t have our bike rack with us and there is no space on the roof. So the bike is inside the van where our bed usually is.
After over four months on the road we finally came full circle when we arrived back in Belgium. Having started our adventure with a visit to Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery we returned to the same area in West Flanders and spent a couple of nights in Ypres (Leper in Dutch).
Ypres is a relatively small, scenic city which was largely rebuilt after it was destroyed during the First World War. On our first night we went to a short ceremony at the Menin Gate which is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in World War I and whose graves are unknown. Every evening at 20:00 buglers from the local fire brigade close the road which passes under the memorial and sound the “Last Post”. The evening we visited there was a visiting choir from the UK and their incredible voices combined with the acoustics under the memorial made for an tremendously moving experience.
The following day we visited a museum dedicated to World War I and particularly the battle of Passchendaele. In one hundred days over half a million casualties fell for only 8km gain of ground. It was a useful history lesson for all of us and it was interesting visiting a replica of the trenches and seeing all the artefacts from the war.
After two long travel days and an overnight stop in a lovely little German village (Sittensen) we crossed the border into Holland.
Our destination was Oisterwijkse which was recommended to us by a very friendly Dutch couple we got talking to in Lidl in Germany! It turned out to be a great recommendation. Our campsite was very peaceful in the woods, where everyone was ever so friendly. The local village of Oisterwijkse was very picturesque with lots of lovely street cafes.
We also ventured further afield to the town of ’s-Hertogenbosch, with its atmospheric cobbled streets, canals that go under buildings and streets and some very classy shops.
This is definitely an area we will come back to on holiday.
After nearly 4 months on the road sightseeing we all voted for some relax time. Our first stop in Germany was at a small campsite in a tiny village, called Freest. This was a peaceful spot where we relaxed for a couple of nights.
However, we decided to go in search of a nice beach and headed to Rügen Island. We found a campsite on the north western tip overlooking the beach and conveniently with windsurf hire next door!
The first couple of days were a total wash out with a never ending deluge of heavy rain. Bizarrely it was nice to be stuck in the camper van as it gave us a chance to watch films, play cards and read our books.
When the sun eventually made an appearance we relaxed on the chairs outside our van and couldn’t help noticing the man inside the adjacent van was sat reading his book, naked. As we ventured onto the beach we realised that several more people were naked. At least we had already eaten our BBQ by this time as it put us right off the Bratwurst!
Dress code aside, the campsite and local village were just what we were after and at the time of writing we have been here for 5 nights and are tempted to stay longer as the forecast looks so good.