Isle of Wight
After a very cold and wet day on Monday we were pleased to wake up to sunshine for the start of our journey. We did the final packing, Paul nipped over to the bungalow to quickly spray the weeds in the drive and by 9.30 we locked the door and drove away from the house, trying not to think too much about the fact that there is no bathroom, the drive looks like a builder’s yard, and there will only be 4 weeks til the wedding by the time we get back! Having checked Google Maps several times we had decided to go anti-clockwise around the M25, but a last check a few miles before the junction made us change our minds and so a quick DartTag purchase was made. We stopped for lunch at Clackett Lane Services and had our photo taken several times as we brewed up and ate our sandwiches! We arrived in Portsmouth around 3.30 and got onto the 16.00 ferry, an hour earlier than we had booked, which meant we drove onto the Isle of Wight around 17.00. we encountered the worst traffic jam of the whole journey as we drove from the ferry to the campsite, which meant a short 5-mile journey took well over half an hour. Check-in and pitch-up was all straight forward and we soon had the kettle on for a well needed cuppa and cake. The sun was still shining but there was quite a nip in the air, so we abandoned the idea of eating outside and enjoyed our traditional first night chilli in the warmth of the van. By 9.30 the excitement of the day had caught up with us so and early night was had.
As forecast, the rain was back today so we had a lazy morning in the ‘van, which was no bad thing given how tired we had been after our journey. The rain stopped just after midday and the sun came out soon after, so we put on our walking boots and set of along the old railway track to Shanklin. It seemed that Shanklin was just waking up from the winter, and getting ready for the coming season, as there was a lot of maintenance going on along the seafront. After an hour or so wandering along the esplanade and around the shops, we headed home after a short detour to Lidl to get provisions for the evening meal. By the time we got back we had both realised how unused to walking we have become! As soon as the sun went down it became quite chilly again and so dinner was cooked outside with coats on and eaten inside with the heater on.
The weather was forecast to be sunny but breezy all day today, so we decided to spend the day driving around the island, partly to check out the best towing routes back to Fishguard. Almost immediately we had ruled out going down to Ventnor as the road went steeply down to the town and then steeply back out again. We drove almost a complete circuit of the island, stopping off at The Needles for a picnic lunch. Although the sun was shining, there was still a cold wind and so coats were needed with the top down. After a shop-stop to get food for dinner we got back to the campsite for cake and a cuppa before Paul had a snooze and Christina got her nose stuck into a book. It was another chilly evening so by 9.00 we had battened down the hatches and got ready for bed.
Arrival day for most of the Triumph owners so we spent a while tidying and polishing our combo before setting out to do the circular walk to Godshill. Today was sunny and warm and we had a lovely walk across the fields, past flocks of sheep with their new born lambs. Godshill is a pretty village, very much geared towards the tourist, with tea shops and gift shops a-plenty. We visited the Model Village which proved to be extremely well set out and maintained. The models were really well made but we both also spent time admiring the clever planting as many ‘regular’ trees and shrubs are kept trimmed to be in scale with the model houses. One of the gift shops provided us with the perfect napkins for the wedding so we bought 4 packs before treating ourselves to an ice-cream and then heading back. As expected the campsite car park was filling up with Triumphs and a few more tents were being pitched. We had lunch whilst watching more people arrive, then went to officially check in and collect our weekend entertainment pack. The bar was open in the evening so we went along for a drink and a bit of socialising.
The first of the weekend’s activities was a run out to the Steam Railway. All the cars congregated on the top field for an 11am departure. The route was short and easy – no tulip directions, just photographs of the signs we had to follow. We arrived at the railway at about midday and found a table to eat our picnic. After spending some time looking around the various exhibits, which included an interesting video about how a group of teenagers in the 1960’s decided to save the railway and still volunteer on it today, we decided not to spend £23 on the train ride and returned to the campsite via a supermarket for provisions. Back at the caravan, Paul had a sleep while Christina read a book, then Paul made his speciality chicken curry which went down very nicely. We spent a couple of hours in the bar chatting to the 3J’s before returning, tired, to our bed.
Another, even shorter, run today, which took in some quite exciting hairpin bends down to Ventnor, for a BBQ lunch at the Cricket Club. Somehow around 60 Triumphs were squeezed into a very small car park and everyone found a space to sit in the sun, or shade. The sun was really out in force today making it a lovely relaxing day. We didn’t stay long at the cricket club, once we had eaten our burger and sausage, returning to chill out at the caravan, catching some sunshine (Paul even put shorts on, it was so warm!) After we had both had a snooze, we showered and changed ready for the evening entertainment. Arriving at the bar we tried to keep our heads down to avoid being roped into the games but we were found and joined in the frivolities. The ‘feely-bag’ game was a good one, and something we will keep up our sleeves for a caravan rally. However, the ‘eat a dry Weetabix’ and ‘who can eat 15 marshmallows quickest’ will probably not be repeated! The word search was easy but the ‘quiz’ was only possible for those with an encyclopaedic knowledge of spitfires. However, a good evening was spent making new friends and catching up with those met at earlier events, which meant we were still in the bar when ‘time’ was called.
Last day of the ‘event’ so during the morning we watched tents being packed away and provided coffee for those who had packed theirs. A short run to the Hare and Hounds pub was planned, with a lovely beer garden which we actually avoided because it was too hot! We shared a table with a mum and daughter from the Devon group, then had a brief look around the Arreton craft village before returning to the caravan. A lazy afternoon, with the only activity being a walk up to Appeldurcombe House to wander around the gardens what is left of the house. A good hour was spent working out the route for Wednesday and getting a load of washing done then Paul spent the evening chatting to some of the younger members of the TSSC, telling them about his youth with the club, while Christina got her nose stuck in a book.
Our last day on the IoW, so after packing away most of the ‘stuff’ (leaving out the bed for the journey this time, to see how that works) we went down to have a wander around Ventnor. The weather wasn’t so hot today and there was a sea mist making Ventor even cooler. We checked out all the charity shops then walked down a steep set of steps to have a coffee at the Spyglass Inn. Refreshed, and with the mist blown over, we walked the coastal path to Bonchurch then back up to pick up some fish and chips to eat on the seafront. After a quick stop-off at Tesco’s to get provisions for the next leg of our journey we returned to finish packing, shower and hook up to leave. Having changed our ferry crossing to 7pm so that we didn’t have too much time in Portsmouth, we still managed to arrive at Fishbourne before the 6pm ferry had gone so were ‘persuaded’ to go on it by the man at the check in who told us there was a lorry stuck on the 7pm boat so it might not be running. It must have been fate pushing us to go though, as we bumped into Christina’s old neighbour from about 7 years ago and had a very brief catch-up with her before docking. We also spent a lovely couple of hours walking along Portsmouth seafront and gardens before heading to the Cross-Channel ferry port to await our next crossing. Once on board we settled into our cabin to get as much sleep as possible before our journey to ECCR.
We shouldn’t have worried about oversleeping – the ding-dong at 6.30 to inform us that breakfast was being served got us up and ready to go. There was quite a queue to get through customs, but we were out and on the road just after 9am French time. Once again, we were grateful for the TomTom to get us out of the town centre and onto the right road, although later in the day we did have to switch it off and use the old fashioned paper map as Christina began to disagree with some of its decisions. Trying to avoid tolls in France can be difficult as nearly all the motorways have them. We decided it wasn’t worth paying to go on a fast road, when we can’t go above 45 mph, so stuck to the N roads, which are pretty good, long straight roads with very little traffic. Despite the anxious build up, the journey was pretty hassle-free, and the car coped really well considering the heat, distance and gradients the day threw at her. We stopped every 2-3 hours to let her cool down and to stretch our legs. Lunch was a picnic in a shady lay-by where we opened up the bonnet to cool the engine – this was prevention, not cure! We finally reached the campsite just after 9pm, so a full 12 hours on the road. Thankfully we had the bed already down, and our traditional first-night chilli ready to heat and eat. After sharing a drink and chat with other RCC members we could hold off the fatigue no longer and crawled into bed for some much-needed sleep.
Any hope of a lie-in was thwarted by the church bells sounding out at 7am so we put the kettle on and got ourselves up. The atmosphere of the campsite makes the journey worthwhile, with so many beautiful and unusual ‘vans to look at, and everyone friendly and happy to stop and chat about their caravans and the journey they had to get here. The campsite is on the banks of a river which forms the border between Germany and Luxembourg. The day was cooler than we have been used to, with light rain throughout the day. Neither of us was feeling particularly energetic so it was good to have a relaxed day. We went for a stroll into Echternach, the village on the Luxembourg side of the river, and bought a few provisions for our evening meal. Paul tried to have a snooze but kept getting disturbed by people wanting to read the info notice on the window. At 5pm everyone on camp gathered for the welcoming party, which involved unlimited free beer, then we all drifted back to the UK corner where we took our own meals to join together for a street-party style gathering. It was interesting to see the range of caravan meals, from risotto with wine through to our own mix of salad and cold meats. The evening went on until well after midnight, which was when we made our excuses and retired to bed.
The weather was back to being hot and sunny today, so we spent a relaxed morning looking round the caravans and chatting with other RCC members. We took a walk across to “Norma’s” supermarket for lunch then Paul withdrew to the caravan for a snooze (remembering to close the curtains today), then we went off in the car for a drive around the German mountainside. We got back in time for the “party evening” to learn that there was an hour delay, so we had time to shower and change at our leisure. The party consisted of more free beer, and wine, to accompany a meal of salad, bread and half a roast chicken. This was followed by a band playing some good dance music so Christina and a few other RCC members had a good boogie, joined now and again by Paul. The band stopped at 10.30 so we returned to the RCC area to find more music and dancing going on there. We stayed for a little while but then made our excuses and left for bed – another late night for us!
Open caravan and “flea market” today. We had brought our bag of pennants that we had bought from the auction and these proved to be very popular at one euro each. We sold about 50, mostly to RCC members, so it was worth bringing them! We had a look around the other stalls but managed to resist buying anything so ended the day better off than we had started. At about 4pm we went off to get petrol and to buy some of the bargain Cava for the wedding. Unfortunately, the garage where Chris had originally seen it had sold out of the one we wanted so we bought a box of the sweeter one from them before trying the supermarket next door. They had 8 bottles, and we bought 6 of them, leaving Cam to clear the shelf. We got back to the site just in time for the presentation of the prize for ‘most beautiful caravan” which went to a Belgian ‘van as had been predicted. A final gathering at 6.30 saw the closing speeches and presentation of gifts to the host country. Another ‘street party’ gathering was held but finished earlier than previous nights as everyone was preparing for their drives to home or next destination the following day.
We were up early and packed ready for our departure time of 9am, which was almost met! We convoyed out of the ECCR in grand style, with first stop 5 minutes away at the petrol station. Our actual departure time was 9.30 once all tyre pressures had been checked and tanks filled. Our estimated journey time of 5 hours actually became 6½ with only brief stops en route so we arrived at La Croix du Vieux Pont just after 4pm, feeling hungry and thirsty! Much of the journey had been through rain, which continued after our arrival. We managed to buy milk and bread at the shop on site and soon had the kettle on for a much-needed cuppa. After a wander around the site we had our evening meal and settled down for a quiet night in.
We awoke to more rain today so had a lie-in and a relaxed start to the day. Once the rain had stopped we took a wander around the site, which is another on the banks of a river. It’s a really big place with lots of cabins and fixed tents, as well as the touring pitches. After a coffee in the bar we returned to the caravan to read for a while before lunch. We enjoyed baguette from the camp bakery with ham, cheese and salad then spent the afternoon reading, snoozing and chatting with other RCC members. At about 6.00 we saw 5 of the others heading off to the swimming pool so decided to join them. We had the pool pretty much to ourselves and enjoyed about an hour in there before heading back to the caravan for dinner. We spent the evening in the bar, where Paul showed the younger ones how to play pool.
The sun was back today so we went for a walk to the local town. If you were to imagine a ‘typically French’ town, then this would pretty much fit the picture. There were café’s with tables outside, patisseries and boulangeries, a small chateau and hotel de ville. After a stroll there and back we spent the rest of the day doing very little, then went for another swim. We had planned to go for a meal in the restaurant with the rest of the RCC gang but the restaurant was closed when we got there so we bought pizza’s from the take-away and had another ‘street-party’. As we were planning on an early start the next day we bid our farewells before heading for bed by 10.00.
Time to go home! We were all packed up and ready to leave by 8.30. Pam was the only one up to wave us off, so it was a quiet departure. The journey went well, but took a lot longer than we had expected, with a mix of sat-nav and map reading. Unfortunately, we decided to follow the sat-nav at the end and realised too late that it was taking us to the motorway, which was not the best experience as there were lots of lorries passing us. We eventually made it to Calais and checked in to the Tunnel terminal. We had about half an hour topass before we could board so after a drink and loo stop we were called and drove onto the train. Half an hour later we arrived in Dover and set off on the final part of the journey, making it home just before 7.00. We went straight round to the Bell for something to eat and a drink to celebrate the fact that, once again, we had done it!