Heading to Italy

It’s good to be back on the road again, though I’ll miss the UK friends and company. I had to be UK based for a bit whilst doing work trips abroad and attending conferences and client meetings.

As per usual I’ll be spending the summer in Hungary, at Lake Balaton. I was going to make it a slow drive with plenty of exploring to get there, but as I’m now quite late… Best just to get there. I’ll make a stop in Pieve di Soligo, near Treviso in Italy where I’ll see my friend Andrea, have the motorhome serviced and stock up on some prosecco, obviously.

It’s been a good day to travel albeit hot! Olli and I stopped in Gouda in the Netherlands to explore, and wow! Fantastic place. There is a superb motorhome parking dead centre of town with water and electricity, called Klein Amerika parking. Deffo worth a stop (can even overnight) and explore this super town.

Ciao!

A super week in Santa Susanna

With a view like this, and really good weather considering the time of year, I had a really good stay in Santa Susanna. The McArdles also visited and the boys loved it.

Now I’m heading in the wrong direction – North! I will have Rayquaza and Olli UK based whilst I do a work trip to Africa later in January, and hence I’m heading to the UK. As Britanny Ferries calmly quoted me a price similar to what a weekend on the Death Star might cost, I decided to drive up to Calais and take the train across. Not the most pleasant of drives but it is nice to be back in the road again.

Olli and I wish you a happy New Year!

I have with me all I own

The storage space has been cleared! This is a huge step, trust me. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a storage place, but it is way easier to just keep it, and pay the monthly fee, than to try and clear it. (Must be a good business to be in!)

But now my storage place is empty and I could give notice, and I’m taking a few extra items I just could not throw away, to England. So we’re looking a bit like a proper “trek”, but so be it. I had to get a roofbox for the trailer to hold some of the extra items. It’s quite an innovative version as it’s soft, with a collapsible metal frame inside, and therefore should pack away nicely.

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I’ve come to spend Christmas and New Year at one my favourite (out of season) spots, Bon Repos camping in Santa Susanna, about an hour north of Barcelona. One can get a spot on the beach, and whilst it’s cold at night, we’re experiencing brilliantly sunny, mild winter days which are super. There’s also plenty of good running track here, and all in, it’s a great spot.

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As you can see, my view is straight onto the ocean.

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Even better, the McArdles will join me from Friday, are staying at the apartments of the campsite, and we’ll see the New Year in from here.

A bit of a strange feeling, to think that, bar a few bags in the loft of friends in England, what I have on me now is all I own. It’s liberating, for sure, and scary at the same time. But there you go. Live of a Nomad!

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Olli is already dreaming of all the places we’ll be seeing next year 🙂

Merry Christmas and best wishes for a super 2019.

Istanbul to Barcelona

I’ve been back in Barcelona now for a few days after a surprisingly easy journey from Istanbul. I suppose since I stopped in Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary (a week) and Italy (4 or so days) it is easier than one might imagine. Still, it’s a massive journey of 3 000 km and I’m impressed with my motorhome’s reliability and comfort she provided for the journey.

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Here in Barcelona I have one task, to sort out my storage. When I left here two years ago and packed “everything” in the motorhome, I kept “a few things” in a storage container near Barcelona airport. It’s been two years and despite giving MANY things away to friends, I was a bit shocked when I opened it earlier this week and had a look. I wildly underestimated the effort. I’ve been at it now for 4 solid days and there’s still a day’s work left there.

Wow, one can gather rubbish, or what?! Things I would never use (and clearly did not need as I’ve not touched it now for two years.)

Whilst being in the area it’s been nice to get back to my old stomping ground of Castelldefels. I’m a bit more cautious with the motorhome here now since the incident, and staying either in campsites or in Barcelona itself at the very secure CityStop. Being able to get back onto our old running track along the beach here is a treat for both me and Olli, especially with this (perfect) winter weather, it’s just right.

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So, one more day of clearing out my storage space and then we will probably head to the super campsite at Santa Susanna to prepare for the arrivals of the McArdles after Christmas.

 

RV travel in Turkey : Istanbul

After my Turkey border crossing I headed to Istanbul. I could not find any campsites per say but most websites a parking apps recommended the LIGHTHOUSE ON SEA parking lot on Kennedy Street.

Traffic was, well, apocalyptic. It made a bad day on London’s M25 look like a walk in the park. I eventually got to the parking. There is a boomgate where you get a ticket, and you pay Lira 30 per day (around €4.60 at current exchange rate) to the man in the booth upon exit.

It’s just an open space with a park on the one side and plenty of people fishing off the pier on the other, but it felt safe and friendly. I had no issues during my 3 day stay here and there were other motorhomes as well.

(still, I locked up very tightly and left visible signs the alarm was on and doors chained etc)

There is a decent running / walking track along the ocean here which was good to discover.

I had to get to a few places in the city and simply took an Uber. Apart from really cheap, they are super luxurious and most are Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans converted to luxury VIP space.

It immediately gave me a idea re the interior of Rayquaza, and I discovered most of the taxi interior conversions are done in either Bursa, or Antalya, both places I was going to visit!

More about this in another post.

Istanbul is an insanely large and busy city, but strikingly beautiful at times.

After three days however I was ready to leave and wow, the road towards Bursa was incredible. The scale at which they do things here is hard to describe. Huuuuuuge as someone would say.

The highway was fantastic and a pleasure to use, but I must say driving a motorhome through the heart of Istanbul is not something I’d want to do every day..

Overall, a great visit and yes, I can recommend the parking on Kennedy Cadassi.

RV travel in Turkey: Crossing the border

When I looked into taking my UK registered motorhome / RV into Turkey I found the information available online not as clear as I would have liked. So here, with a series of ongoing posts, I’d like to share my experience hopefully in a way it might help you, should you be considering going to Turkey in your RV.

I entered on the main route between Bulgaria and Turkey.

Yes, there are major major queues for the trucks. You’ll start seeing them on the sides (sometimes both) of the road and eventually taking up a lane.

Just keep going past them and take the same lane as is indicated for cars.

On the Bulgarian side, they asked for my passport and car registration, but did not want to see my dog’s passport.

Then there was a bit of (expected) confusion on the Turkish side. Before you get there, there is a “duty free” shop and atm.

The first booth on the Turkish side is for your passport and visa (if required). Again they are not interested in your dog’s paperwork.

Regarding my visa, I got mine online but a) for a later date and b) I forgot to print it! (whilst they were happy to look at the visa on my phone, the dates were incorrect..)

They were however incredibly friendly and sent me running across many lanes to a guy in some obscure booth where I managed to get a special sticker for about €15, despite the guy speaking zero English. With this sticker, the original border agent was happy to give me a 6 month visa, all stamped into my passport.

Then you proceed to what they call baggage control, effectively customs, where they check the inside of your vehicle and also your vehicle insurance. My default UK insurance does not cover Turkey and I had to buy insurance there, but this is only available after this step. So you effectively exit this stage, head to a building marked D3 with a huge sign saying auto insurance and present yourself. They will need your passport and vehicle registration doc (V5 for the UK) and it is vital the name in the V5 matches your passport name.

I paid € 155 for 3 months insurance, for a motorhome. After he gives you the papers you have to go to the booth next door where the guy stamps it, and also in your passport. (you have to leave Turkey with the vehicle you arrived in.)

Then I tried to exit but the guy at the final check said “computers says no” (I kid you not) and said I have to go back to the baggage check as I skipped that for the insurance.

I subsequently reversed about 400m across about 10 lanes, much to the amusement of most of the police and other officers. At baggage control a very friendly guy showed me to a booth (on foot) and then, after a few more stamps and entries in a computer, they waived me off without checking any of my motorhome contents!

This time, the guy in the end booth was happy but he had one question. He asked me “why did I reverse back to baggage control?” He said I could have simply turned around (and drive into the traffic flow) but anyway, they were all very impressed with my reverse driving skills. I could only accept the compliment, thank the man and drive off…

Right after you exit there is a major service station with restaurant, and a guy in there selling Turk telecom sim cards. You can grab a 5gb one from him for about €15, which is a bit more than you’ll pay in Istanbul but still not bad.

From there the next hassle was to buy a toll pass (HGS) but three of the first petrol stations I tried said their system was down, try the next one. By then I’ve gone through two toll gates with alarms blaring and cameras flashing, so I’m expecting a fine in the UK post, but it’s not much (and I could do nothing about it).

I eventually found a guy that sold me a “nationwide” pass for about €60 but I suspect I was conned, as at a few subsequent tolls I still had to pay… So who knows!

All in, not a terrible experience. My advice would be to try and get insurance beforehand, maybe even in Bulgaria, and do more research about what to expect to pay for the toll pass, and how to check the credit has been applied to your account (they have an app to can install for that).

That’s it for now. In my next post I’ll talk about the drive to Istanbul and parking options there.

Campsite review: Alexandrovo Camping, Haskovo, Bulgaria

Where: In the South East corner of Bulgaria, 1 1/2 hours outside of Plovdiv, on the way to Turkey.

The website of Alexandrovo Camping suggests they are Bulgaria’s friendliest campsite – and they are not kidding. Wow. But I could also have thought of “best”, “most amazing”, “unbelievably great” for that description, without any hesitation. The 5 star only reviews on Tripadvisor echo this.

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Alexsandrovo Camping is a haven and absolute delight. After a few nights free camping in Serbia and Bulgaria, the sight that greets you when Matt, the owner, opens his gates for you is a most welcome one. Together with his wife, Keiko, and daugther Sky, and a couple of dogs and chickens, they welcome you into their magnificent, walled-in garden which they very skillfully transformed into easily the most friendly and welcome space for any camper.

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Tastefully furnished with a BBQ area, strong and superbly maintained furniture and an absolutely spectacular deck, this is not just any campsite. It’s a place where you will re-charge more than just you motorhome’s batteries!

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Whilst there is only one shower, it’s superb, with strong hot water, a toilet and a sink to wash the dishes.

They offer a laundry service and also sell smaller items like beers or water and so forth.

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Officially, the campsite closes for the winter, but Matt still accepts guests though he will appreciate you calling ahead. Don’t let the narrow and bumpy road to this place put you off, trust me, you want to stay here. I came for one night, and ended up staying for 5.

It’s also a haven for dogs and kids alike, and there’s plenty of space to play on the vast lawn or even outside the site. The overall athmosphere is so tranquil you will completely forget where you are!

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Plenty of campers use this, like I am, as a stop before entering, or coming from Turkey (it’s close to the border) and I can absolutely see why. As a result plenty of note swopping took place and in my short stay I’ve met some super other nomads!

Well done Matt and Keiko, on easily one of the best sites I’ve ever stayed at. I will be back!

Back in Belgrade

I’m currently in Belgrade, Serbia. Google tells me I was here about a year ago. After parking in front of a friend’s home for a few days I moved to Camp Dunav campsite a little bit out of the city.

When Olli and I was here last we met a young dog who ‘belonged’ to the campsite… Its quite a typical arrangment here. Businesses would put food and water out for one or two dogs who then claim that space and protect it. But they tend to have to fend for themselves, sleep outside etc so it can be quite hard on them.

I was delighted to see this dog doing well, as he is a gentle soul that loves to chase shadows and play with your feet! He was so happy to see us again and play a bit. He gets on well with Olli. I call him Fred and today I taught him to shake my hand with his paw, it took no time at all.

He learned by watching what Olli does. I doubt however if I can teach him to roll over as he was very amused when Olli did this and thought it was a game! Lovely dog, Fred. See you next year!