The Journey Back Home

14th July

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Liverdun

Liverdun was our penultimate campsite. This was a lovely site on the banks of the river Moselle, the sun was shining and we had a very pleasant walk alongside the riverbank, it never ceases to amaze me that theses charming places are so quiet !

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Then after an exhausting stroll it was time to catch up on the reading.  We were here on the 14th of July which is Bastille day and the French celebrate this day in some style.  We went to a firework display, and for  small town they put on a terrific show !

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And it was free !

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Sunday 16th July

After a very pleasant stop at Liverdun it was time for the last long drive of the trip, 300 miles back to Calais. We chose the Sunday, as no lorries are allowed on the roads on the sabbath and this makes for a nicer, quieter drive, more time to chill whilst listening to more Desert Island Discs.

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A trouble-free drive through France, Luxembourg, Belgium and back into France again saw us arrive at Grand-Fort-Philippe, the last campsite of this leg of our trip.

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After setting up camp, Jane and I took a little stroll to the beach……

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A gentle breeze helped wake me up after the long drive.

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This site is close to Dunkirk, and when you see how far the sea goes out, you can only imagine the horrors that the British Expeditonery Force went through during the evacuation.

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On the ferry back to Dover, after her full english breakfast, Val tried a taste of a new blend of whisky.  After many returns to the sampling table, Kevin and Val were asked to pose for a photo to be used in a national advertising campaign ( I might be stretching the truth there!)

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The last photo of us all together on this trip before Kevin and Val head back to Dorset and we set off on our way back to Romsey…

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Back at Dads, the caravan has been cleaned inside and out, ready for the next trip…………..Wales look out, we are on our way on the 5th of July, time to explore more of the U.K.

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This is the map of our trip,

7 Countries,

66 Days,

19 Campsites,

4000 miles ( Kevin only did 3678miles as he is a better map reader!)

4 Great friends having one terrific holiday!

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A Slow Drive Back Through France

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Sunday 9th July

After a lovely two weeks around the lake, it’s time to start the return journey up through France.  No lorries are allowed on French roads on a Sunday (with a few exceptions) and this makes it ideal for us to travel.

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So far this trip we have stayed at 18 campsites, so we are getting to be quite expert in setting up camp and packing away. Each campsite has its own little quirks that you have to get used to, and that adds to the fun………..although finding out that a particular site doesn’t supply the toilet paper can’t necessarily be included in that category!

 

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Our first stop on way back home, was at a little site in the hamlet of Cromary on the banks of the Ognon river, just north of Besançon.  The weather was a little overcast, however that didn’t spoil our enjoyment of this place.  We walked from the site for 5 miles and only came across 3 cars!  The tranquility of rural France is amazing, and we both love it!  Next year we plan to spend even longer in France. We intend to take our bikes and spend longer in one place and thoroughly  explore it.

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Whilst out exploring the local area you often find the locals causing a traffic jam !

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Even on a dull day a drive out can bring you to stunning little villages such as Lods

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Dodging the showers……

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…….is worth it, as no-one else is about………

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…….and then you get rewarded when the sun does come out, as you have all this to yourself !

Thursday 13th July

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Getting a bit cocky now, doing some shopping en route, and taking the caravan in to the supermarket.  As you can see I did take up quite a few spaces!

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We are now in Liverdun,  a small walled town on the banks of the Moselle. The campsite is lovely and is managed by a very friendly chap who praised Jane her on her wonderful french accent and this made her day!  He was not so complementary about Kevin however and had misunderstood him and booked him in for 3 weeks instead of 3 days !

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We were told of a small firework display put on by the local town, and it was only 10 minutes walk away.  Well what a fantastic display! It was 20 minute long and it was FREE!

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This is a very helpful campsite, it even gives you helpful hints on the best way to have a pee!  (Note from the editor, this was only in the men’s loo!!)

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Mind you with the exception of the kid with the tin whistle its a great place!

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Mooching About Around the Lake

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A View of Lac d’Aiguebelette from the Col de l’Epine

 

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The bad weather that we had earlier in the week subsided and Charlotte was able to enjoy the lake at its best.

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When the weather is like this its great to just sit around and chill, reading a book, sun bathing, writing a blog or chatting to your mum!

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And after a hard days mooching, there is nothing better than a lovely meal and nice wine with great friends .

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We took Charlotte for a quick trip around the lake to check out a few different views, but as it was so hot we returned to the campsite for a bit more mooching!  We were up early the next morning to get to Lyon airport for Charlotte’s return trip to reality, but lucky old us, we have still got 2 more weeks before we have to return!

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Steve and Josie only had one more day left before they had the long drive back home. They decided on an action packed day, starting with a canoe ride around the lake……….

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…….after which they gave up on that idea, and settled for a bit more gentle lazing about!

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Time for Steve to pack up, and he was exhausted, poor thing, what with that, and all the mooching!

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All good things must come to an end, time for Steve and Josie to head north. Steve was a little upset as he had planned to leave at 8am, but after a slight problem with the jockey wheel they didn’t get on the road until 8.02am! I was particularly sad to see them go, as Josie always laughed at my jokes!

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Time for Jane and I to have a trip in the canoe, so after a few helpful tips from Jane we got on our way.

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After all that exertion I needed a nice low calorie lunch to keep me going….. the pie was lovely !

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There is a young girl here, who after about a week has got the swans eating out of here hands, she is far braver than me !

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Friday 7th July

We had a drive over the mountains to Aix-les-Bains, not a particularly inspiring town, however the drive was lovely and the picnic spot was lovely and cool !

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On the way home Kev surprised us with a trip to a vineyard for a wine tasting…….

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……Val was delighted, she wished she had the glass behind her on the barrel, as she said it was just like the one she uses at home !

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As we were leaving the tasting we noticed a T-shirt that Steve had left behind, but with all the wine that Val had bought there wasn’t enough room in the car to bring it back !  (Actually the t-shirt is there because the Tour de France will be travelling through here on Sunday.)

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Saturday 8th July

One more day of mooching left before we have to start our journey home.  A couple of the birds that Kev had been chatting up came over to say farewell !

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A Week at the Lake

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Wednesday 28th June

Not a bad start to the day, the morning mist just floating across the lake, another half an hour and I think I’ll swim to the other side and that will set me up for the day!

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Its so peaceful swimming across the lake first thing in the morning, the only sound you hear is the church clock as it strikes the quarter hour.

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Not sure if Jane has set her chair up so she can admire my athletic swimming style, or watching in case she needs to call the emergency services.

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Thursday 29th June

Charlotte has arrived for a week with us, Jane is so excited and has been talking of nothing else for a couple of weeks! The flight arrived on time, without any problems, so all was well.

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Charlotte was over the moon with the suggestion that we stop off at the hypermarket to get some provisions, as whilst we were there she got enough wine to see her through the weekend!

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Just as well we had got some wine in as Fridays weather was terrible……..

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……..so there wasn’t much else to do other than play cards and have a little drink (the girls declined this photo opportunity as they said they weren’t looking their best!)

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However, at the end of the day the sun did make a brief appearance.

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Saturdays weather wasn’t looking too good either, so we decided on a drive out for lunch followed by a visit to a couple of vineyards. Both Jane and Charlotte thought this was an excellent idea!

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Whilst visiting the charming riverside village of Chanaz, Kevin tried to ingratiate himself with the locals by performing his own tribute to the anglo-french building of Concorde!

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Chanaz was a lovely place for lunch, the service was unhurried and this gave Kev time to fine-tune his route for the afternoon trip to buy some wine ………

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……. although I wasn’t so sure that this short cut was going to pan out exactly as expected!

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I can only imagine how the conversation was going with Steve and Josie in the car behind.  If it was anything like what Val was saying to Kev, I dread to think!

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After 20 minutes and at an inconvenient fork in the track, I spoke to Steve and we decided that the best thing to do was turn back. At least we had 4x4s and it wasn’t too bad, in fact I actually enjoyed it (but don’t tell Kev!)

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We finally made it to the vineyard unscathed, and celebrated that we were still alive by buying a couple of crates of wine!

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I think Kev felt a little guilty about the state of our cars after the trip!!!!

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Sunday 2nd July

Jane and Charlotte were both excited about a trip to the market even though it was raining.

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Charlotte got a new pair of trousers, and I was excited because we got a roasted chicken (I’m easily pleased)

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In the afternoon we visited the site of a Second World War Jewish orphanage, where on the 6th April 1944 three vehicles pulled up and forcibly removed forty four children and their seven adult supervisors. They were all murdered at Auschwitz with the exception of one. It was heart breaking to read the letters that the children had written and it would be fair to say that I had a tear in my eye at the end of the visit.  It is so important that places like this survive so that other generations are aware of the terrible things that have happened in the not too distant past.

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Monday 3rd July

The sun has returned and a chilled day by the lake is in order…….

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…….and everybody else agreed !

 

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The Lake

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Tuesday 27th June

This was our first full day at the lake, and after a couple of days of longish drives, I was looking forward to a restful day.

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We met up with Steve and Josie, they had arrived on Saturday and were already looking pretty chilled.

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We all gathered to chat and put the world to rights……..

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…….and they all agreed with Jane that my hair was getting too long…….

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……..and Val was elected to resolve the issue, much to Steve’s amusement!……

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…….the new streamlined look!  Ideal for swimming – I managed to shave 30 seconds off the cross-lake swim!!!

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Meanwhile, Val, exhausted from her haircutting, called for Kevin to bring her the inflatable pillow!

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So, after an extremely taxing day, we settled down to a bit of tea and a little light refreshment.

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Venice to Lake Garda to Turin to France !

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Tuesday 20th June……on the way back from Venice

When you look at this picture of K&V, and then look at the picture of me below, its hard to believe that we have both been on the same sightseeing trip to Venice.

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I put this down to the fact that K&V are more used to hotter climates.  Kevin has led an expedition to the Amazon, whilst Val has led many trips to Carrefour!

Wednesday 21st June

Time to head to Lake Garda.

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The drive from beautiful Venice to beautiful Lake Garda, was far from scenic.   We avoided the motorways as they were expensive, and ended up driving through one industrial estate after another.  Mind you we did see some interesting shops along the way!  Not sure what they sold here, and Jane wouldn’t let me go in to find out !

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We arrived at Camping Zocco on Lake Garda at mid-afternoon and managed to find a couple of pitches amongst the olive trees.

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The site had a great swimming pool and also access to the lake.  I had a swim every morning in the lake and spent most of the afternoon around the pool.

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The extreme temperatures that we were experiencing even surprised the Italians, I think it got to 37 degrees one day!  It was too hot to do much sightseeing; this would have to be left until the relative cool of the evening. Still, on the upside we got to see Jane wear a bikini for the first time in many years and I got to read an awful lot of my book.

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One of our evening trips out was to Sirmione, which was a lovely little walled town with more ice-cream shops than I have ever seen before.

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Jane took her time deliberating over which of the many flavours to choose.  It was hard work trying to eat an ice-cream in the 30 degree heat, as it was melting so quickly, but we managed admirably, with as Jane pointed out only a little mess on my shirt !

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We have seen some great sunsets this trip, but I think eating real Italian gelato by the lake will count as among the best.

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It’s interesting to see how some people commute to work.

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Saturday 24th June

We couldn’t leave the lake without having a little look around, so on the Saturday morning we took a little trip to Salo, and as it was only 29 degrees it was bearable.

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By the time we had walked along the promenade, and met this family who were out for the day, the temperature had risen to 34 degrees. So back to the pool was the best idea.

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The only thing that Jane didn’t like about this site was you had to take your own paper to the loo, and in this heat it was difficult to be discreet !

Sunday 25th June

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Packing up in a thunderstorm the next morning was surprisingly pleasant, although at times the volume of water was slightly too much, and we had to take shelter in the van until it slowed a bit.

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We started the long drive to Lépin-le-Lac, so with  300 miles to do we decided to split the journey in two and stop just over half way, past Turin.  We found a lovely pitch in the shade,  at a nice quiet site,  ideal for a nights stop over.

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The next day we set off on the last leg of this part of the trip. We were heading towards Camping Le Curtelet at Lac d’Aiguebelette where we intend to have a two week break from all the exertions that we have been putting ourselves through, before the drive home!!!!

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But first we have to cross the Alps……

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… which is both exciting and expensive.  58 euros(!) to drive through the Fréjus road tunnel, which connect Italy to France and is 8 miles long.

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A Day in Venice

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Tuesday 20th June

After our late night the previous day, we finally got motivated to go out  at 2.30pm, and bought our tickets for our day in Venice. 20 euros for an all day transport ticket, which we thought was great value,  as that included the bus journey into the city.

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After the road bus trip, we caught the water bus to the Rialto bridge, which saved a lot of effort in the 36 degree heat.

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The whole area was so busy with boats and gondolas on the water, and hundreds of people on the narrow walkways.

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The atmosphere was bubbling with excitement as tourists and locals alike were drinking in this gorgeous day!

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We decided to walk the quieter route to St. Marks square, to avoid the crowds, although actually this was more luck than judgement as it’s very difficult to follow a map in Venice!

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The Doges Palace in St. Marks square was a fantastic sight, and surprisingly at this time of year there weren’t  too many people around to spoil the view.

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St. Marks square lived up to all my expectations, although Jane was slightly disappointed that she didn’t find the Spencer area of St. Marks !

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We sat and ate our sandwiches whilst watching all the traffic on the water coming and going.

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Whilst we were having our “sarnies” K&V texted us to see if we would like to join them for afternoon tea at the Cafe Florian.  Kevin had mentioned in the morning that this was the oldest cafe in the world, and it opened on the 29th December 1720.  He said let’s throw caution to the wind whatever it costs.  When we found out it was 15 euros for a coffee and an extra 6 euros a head for the orchestra,  we soon  changed our minds!

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We found a little cafe near the bridge of sighs where we got 3 coffees and a glass of wine for 18 euros, a sigh of relief you might say!

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We took a little stroll along from St. Marks square, and the further we got away the quieter it got.  It was interesting to see that normal life does go on not far away from the centre, even in a tourist trap like Venice.

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We found a park that was showing an exhibition of sculptures

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We both found it very interesting, I’m not sure if I found it great because the subjects were nubile young ladies in swim suits, or it was the quality of the work…….. probably the latter!

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After a lovely day with several boat trips, drinking in the ambience,  and loads of photo opportunities, we caught the boat back to the bus station for the journey back to the campsite and a well earned bowl of pasta!

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An Evening in Venice

19th June

After a lovely drive along some of the rural roads in Italy and avoiding the motorways we arrived at our campsite near Venice.  We arrived an hour before K&V so we were all set up when they turned up.

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As I walked down to reception I saw a pained expression on Kev’s face, he had heard rather a lot of horns blaring at him and saw a few suspect hand gestures directed at him, but he put this down to typical Italian driving. It was only when he turned in the campsite he realised he had a puncture!!!!!

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An hour or so later after a lot of hard graft, and a clean shirt, Jane had the great idea of seeing Venice at night, so after a quick cup of tea,  we set of to catch the 7.30pm bus into town.

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The light towards the end of the day seems to capture the mood of Venice perfectly.

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Kevin managed to negotiate a deal with one of the gondoliers, and so we set of on a trip along the canals, something I never thought I would ever do !

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After such an unexpected expense I was pleased I had packed a picnic.  I chose a nice secluded step for Jane and Val to sit on as they ate their sandwiches, and as you can see they were delighted !!

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What a delightful experience it was, to walk around Venice with the sun slowly going down and the canal starting to be lit by the “street lamps”

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I had never been to Venice before, and as such I had no idea of its scale or its beauty.  I now can’t understand why it wasn’t higher on my list of priorities of places to see.  I would highly recommend this as a destination for a weekend break, however I’m not so sure I would want to visit here during July or August.

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Everyone was very patient with me taking nearly a million pictures, even that was very restrained as there was a photo opportunity at every turn !

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One thing to remember when you are catching a bus late in the evening is that you will have to return in the dark.  Therefore it is essential to ensure you know when your stop is coming up!  Still we will have to chalk that one up to experience, and it was only a kilometer to walk back! !

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KRK and then to Italy

Saturday 17th June

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Our last day on KRK so a trip to the other side of the island was the order of the day ! This area had a lot of narrow steep roads, with stunning views, or so Jane said.  I was looking at the road !

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These little towns that you come across on a drive like this always have something special to offer, in this case it was the Croatian version of a Cornish pastie, and I’m always up to trying another cultural experience !

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You can always tell an Englishman abroad by the stylish hats they wear, Jane says I look like Freddy “parrot face” Davies  (the youngsters will have to google him) but Kevin has heard people saying, “was that George Clooney?” and that seems more likely !

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Back to the main town of KRK to continue Jane’s quest for a caramel ice cream.  After an hours walk around all the kiosks in town we struck lucky and from then after every other shop sold this particular flavour…….if only we had walked clockwise !!!!

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I can’t understand why Jane gets embarrassed when I indulge in the local custom of squeezing the washerwoman’s breasts, but at least this time it was a statue !

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Sunday 18th June

Time to drive over that bridge again !

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Out of Croatia……

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through Slovenia……

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to a lovely……

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shady campsite in Italy.

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KRK

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Friday 16th June

After a busy morning catching up with the blog, doing the washing and catching up on a few household chores we set off to explore the island of Krk.

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From what we saw of the island, we found it delightful.  Full of narrow lanes leading to small coves and bays.

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And when you found these little bays there was hardly anyone there.

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The hill top towns were equally charming, with streets too narrow for cars.  The peace and quiet was lovely.

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The little shaded alleyways were great to keep out the midday sun.

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And sitting in the shade of a tree in a crowded square was a perfect place to catch your breath and take in a little refreshment.

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Sometimes taking the coast road can lead to a few surprises, this track gave me a little cause for concern as the car only just fitted, I could tell Jane was worried as she went quiet (a blessing in disguise!)

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As some of you know I have a slight worry about driving over big bridges, so I thought I would come down for another look at this huge double span effort, and torture myself a little more.  I have got to drive back over that on Sunday morning.

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Mind you the drive down to take the photos wasn’t great as I was on the outside and there weren’t any crash barriers.

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After a good old drive around it was time to stock up on groceries.  I thought this supermarket had a great idea with having a bar in the corner, its like having a crèche for husbands !

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In the evening I barbecued what I can assure you was a pork fillet and stir fry vegetables.

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And Val prepared the dessert, BBQ peaches with snickers ice cream, and as you can see   Jane really enjoyed  it !

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