Saturday, 31 July 2010

Day 15: Calais to York

Last night, our final night in continental Europe, we has an authentic french meal. No frogs legs or snails mind, but french onion soup, chicken and shallot sauce and crepes. Rounded off the trip nicely I thought. I opted for a shower last night, so I could get an extra 10 minutes in bed this morning, obvs, but there was no frigging hot water! I blowdried my entire body dry just for a bit of warmth. We were really looking forward to, finally, a night in a comfy bed. But low and behold, neither us could sleep; we're both really stiff this morning too. Typical.

The return leg of the trip, and we're both horrendously depressed, but horrendously brown (well, I'd like to think I am. Not at all red either. Win!)

We've had an amazing time on our travels, and have learnt so much. For example, we now know that being in a moving car is tiring, whether you're driving or not. And that when you think you're going to get a solid 9 hours sleep, in reality this is closer to 3 due to snoring, itching bites, uncomfortable ground, heat/cold, rain, drips of water on your head or sarah rolling on your face. We now know that in warm weather you must make a choice between being eaten alive by ants in the shade or boiling in your own skin and in cold weather you must not camp in the following areas;
a) on a mountain
b) in a valley
c) in Switzerland

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If we were to do this again we would ...
1. Bring a blow up mattress
2. Bring cooking equipment/BBQ
3. Bring extra towels
4. Prepare for weather better. I.e blankets, fans etc
5. Buy a satnav
6. Buy mosquito repellent
7. Buy an adult sleeping bag and 2nd roll mat
8. Make sure bags/phones etc are under pillows when sleeping
9. Bring tire pumpy uppy thing
10. Plan to go somewhere big on the way back, like Paris or Venice. We ended up kinda aimlessly travelling around random countries and campsites.
11. Bring toilet roll. Some campsites (not in a specific country or area) don't provide toilet roll. We've been hoarding napkins at every restaurant we've been in. Sarah resorted to baby wipes!
12. Sarah would have brought chairs to sit on, but I veto this idea in favour of a blanket to sit on. We wouldn't want to look like massive camping geeks.
13. Bring a full set of playing cards. Don't rely on the Swiss to provide these.
14. Buy a better camping light/torch, or bring better replacement batteries. Sarah resorted to reading by iPhone, and I used the torch that was so bright it only lit up one word at once.
15. Go in a campervan!

Although we moaned a bucketful about the tent, the campsites and the sleepingbags, neither of us would have done it any other way really. The freedom of camping/living out of a car for 2 weeks can't be beaten by the train/hostel alternative. Not for us anyway. We did have to establish a few rules for camping though.

Rules of camping club
101: when its raining, don't touch the side of the tent
102: no farting in the tent
103: sleep with bags under pillows.
104: no wine in the tent, unless it has been decanted into a empty screw top, plastic beer bottle
105: 'set up tent before going camping' ....that was advice on the actual tent. See photo. Good job it told us, I was just going to camp with it still in its bag. Duh

Miles: 3000 (give or take a mile or two)
Countries: 10

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Friday, 30 July 2010

Day 14: Belgium to France

This morning something extraordinary happened. We awoke only to the sound of people, laughter and the packing away of tents. For the first time in almost a week, it wasn't raining!! Mind you, within an hour of getting up there was an half an hour lambing shower, but that's nothing to write home about....oops.

Despite having no rush to get away, we were in the car before 10 having filled up on coffee and croissants. We headed to the Belgian coast and took the minor roads to Dunkirk through lots of little seaside towns. This was far more stressful than it sounds. I had to contend with constantly changing speed limits, pedestrian crossings every 10 yards (or 9 metres since we're in Europe), cyclists and, most importantly, trams! There are tons of crossroads here, and nobody seems to have a clue who has right of way. I've taken to heading towards them at speed and crossing them with gusto. Seems to work, cos everyone else stops.

We had a lucky win heading into Dunkirk. By chance we turned onto a road filled with tobacco shops in the middle of nowhere! Same tobacco road that sarah went to on her booze cruise with dad. What are the chances! She's now beaming at her massive savings. We're going to pop to lidl cos they seem to sell well cheap liqueurs and spirits over here. This road trip around Europe has kinda turned into a tour of lidl. How depressing.

We stopped off at Dunkirk for a walk on the beach, and a garlic chicken baguette for bargain prices. Tried to top up our tans for the last time before heading to Calais.

We arrived in Calais and decided to head for a carrefour warehouse thing that Dan suggested, so that we could get some cheap booze. I cursed him as his directions lead me to drive through central Calais, and we couldn't even bloody find it! Convinced he'd given the wrong directions on purpose (although we found out later that they were right, we were just being blind. Whoops) we googled it for ourselves, and headed for one near the euro tunnel. Carrefour is now Sarah's favourite place. As big as a macro, but everything is individually stocked, and so cheap! We only did the alcohol section, cos I banned sarah from looking at food. We would have been there all day. It was so big the shop assistants scooted round on rollerscates, and they used a road sweeper to clean the floor. We got some cheapo liqueurs, 97cent wine, sangria and some beers, for a grant total of €20!

After our spree, the sun was still out so we thought we'd use our minging towels for the last time and have a bit of a sunbathe on the beach before going back to our hotel. Sarah thought it would be funny to bury my legs and make me look like a mermaid, unsuccessfully. Then we built a castle, complete with fag end/sea weed flag and stick drawbridge. For a moment we could've been in Brid.

Today has been a good day. We were lucky the sun was out all day, otherwise it would have been so depressing. Nice way to end our travels.

It turns out the Calais we were bitching and moaning about on the first day cos everything was closed wasn't actually Calais at all. It was a suburb, so no wonder everything was closed! Calais is actually lovely, and has a very pretty beach. Apologies.

We have a massive €50 to spend on tea tonight! This is exciting, and might mean sarah gets her long awaited steak for tea.

Tomorrow: get the ferry at the crack of dawn and head back home!

Miles: 2602
Savings made: frigging loads! Sarah even contemplated setting up and import/export business to make a bit of cash.
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Pork steak number 3

Katie the mermaid

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Day 13 Luxembourg to Belgium, via the Netherlands

One again, we woke up to the all too familiar patter of rain on our tent. Great start to the day.

It got even better, when we had to queue for 20 minutes to share a shower cubicle, which was essentially a trickle of water along the tiled shower. You can't afford to be bashful in these difficult times. Although, admittedly, the whole sanitary block was amazing. Looked like a temple or something.

As soon as we started taking the tent down the patter of rain turned into a lashing. We quickly bundled everything in the car, said cheerio to the fellas in reception and headed for sunny Belgium. This bundling may have been a bad idea, as my CD changer is now on the blink.

With sarah driving, we headed to Belgium to our camp site on the north coast. Belgium has turned out to be a massive web of motorways, its actually pretty difficult trying to find minor roads. The entire trip I've been after a McDonald's, and today was my lucky day. Belgium came through and gave me a royal with cheese (quarter pounder). The menu was in English and everything, which meant I could give babelfish a rest for 1 meal time.

When in McDonald's, the following conversation occurred...

Katie: they tend to have Mayo and chips over here rather than ketchup

Sarah: that's cos they've got so many cows

Katie: so?

Sarah: they've got milk coming out of their eyeballs...

Katie: ......Mayo is made from eggs....

Sarah: oh yeah

Summery: sarah is a dick.

After McDonald's we were only a couple of Kms from the border with the Netherlands, so we decided to pop in. We can now say we've driven through 10 countries in 13 days! Compared to the well kept roads of Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Belgium's roads are a fucking state. At the Luxembourg/Belgian border there is a very distinct line when the luxembourgian road layers have gone "fuck it, we're reached Belgium, we aren't laying anymore", which is where a smooth well painted road turns into little more than a dirt track.

The sun poked his little head out of the clouds at lunch, and its been going great guns ever since. We even had a chance to top up our tans once we'd pitched up. This campsite is massive, and really commercial. Its like Haven holidays for Belgians! And at €20 its a frigging steal!

Tomorrow: we're only about 100km from Calais, so we're going to have an easy day hunting down duty free, before finding the hotel in Calais we first stayed in all those weeks ago.

Since I'm writing this blog, I've been neglecting all of Sarah's main concerns, stories and anecdotes. How selfish of me. So here's a corker for you.... Sarah fell down the stairs at the Luxembourg services yesterday. By "fell" she means she actually had a small tumble in what was the slowest falling down of stairs I've ever seen in my life! But they were steep, it was busy, and she's now bruised and has a broken toe, apparently. After she fell, she turned to me and looked how a little girl who has just fallen down and scrubbed her knee would look at her mum, expecting hugs, sympathy and a shoulder to cry on. I laughed in her face.

Miles: 2503
Countries: 10!!!!!
Times we (sarah) has pumped up el burros tyre: too many. Maybe 5 or 6
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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Day 12: Germany to Luxembourg

I forgot to mention another reason why we love Germany. It was warm! For the first time in 2 days last night we donned skirts for tea. It was a mild day, with a few showers, but by 2/3ish there were blue skies and our good old friend vitamin D was once again nourishing our skin.

Since it looked like it was going to be a mild night, I demanded sarah let me sleep in her luxury sleeping bag. It was luxury as well! Its at least a foot and a half longer than I am, and super toasty. Like being in a massive duvet. Sarah wasn't too happy mind.

This morning upon waking, sarah was in a foul mood. She didn't sleep well, and now has a bit of a cold. Plus, it had started raining again. She was not happy. We has showers, then jumped in the car to go to Luxembourg. I drove, cos sarah wasn't feeling good. We had a difference of opinion (argument) as to which roads to take. I wanted to take the back roads, cos that was the whole point in the trip - to see the country. Sarah wanted to take the toll roads cos she wanted to go to sleep and couldn't be bothered to navigate. We flipped a coin - toll roads it was. At least it kept her quiet while she was throwing a strop (which lasted alllll day).

The heavens opened again, which made driving the loooonng motorways even more annoying. We drove into Luxembourg city centre cos we wanted to see the aviva building (cos we're cool like that). After 2 loops round the city, and GPS navigation of the building we were supposed to be looking for, we still couldn't find it. So we gave up and headed north to find a campsite.

It keeps raining every morning, but once we've driven about 100 miles its lovely again. We must keep escaping the rain clouds.

Sarah took a wrong turn off a main road, which turned out to be one of the best things she could have done cos it lead us to the minor roads through lots of little towns and villages. Turns out, Luxembourg has some really nice towns. They have a mixture of old architecture, castles, churches and stately houses, and really modern houses (which are all painted various different colours), cool looking buildings and modern pubs.

We aimed for this campsite cos sarah liked the idea of it being family run by 2 brothers. The old guy in reception (brother 1) was lovely! He spoke really good English, and had a good bit of banter about him. Plus, the restaurant looks like good hearty German food (cooked by brother 2) which we're all over right now!

Tonight I'm claiming the good sleeping bag again. I had like, 8 frigging nights of the shit one! Its well overdue.

Tomorrow we're heading into Belgium for our final night camping. To be honest, I've got used to the hard ground, broken sleep and either arctic or saharan temperatures. I might get withdrawal symptoms when I come back, and have to sleep on my roll mat at the bottom of the bed.

Miles: 2288
Countries: 8
Arguments: many many small bickering sessions. You'd have thought we'd been in each others company for nearly 2 weeks or something.
German meals: 3!!! (Not today, overall....)
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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Day 11: austria to germany

So lots of bad things happened today/yesterday.

Firstly, the mileage counter appears to have reset itself after 2000 miles, so we're not going to be able to have that final image of how many miles we've driven at the end of our travels. *sad face*

Secondly, last night noah decided to have his second coming without telling anyone. The heavens opened and it fucking poured down all bloody night! The wind was up too, meaning tent rule 101 (when raining, DON'T touch the side of the tent) was unavoidable because the sides became convex-ed (not to mention the fact sarah takes up a good 2/3s of the tent anyway. At one point she rolled onto my face!)

Thirdly, the fucker next door decided to do an impression of a hog all evening. Seriously, I don't think I've ever heard snoring as loud, and I was wearing earplugs!

Lastly, but probably most importantly, at some point in the previous 24 hours my left buttock was subjected to either a swarm of mosquitoes, a heard of skin eating ants or a horrendous flesh eating bacteria. My left buttock is now half falling off. The other half is so swollen, bitten and blotchy that its painful to sit on the toilet. Not to mention the itching. I'd post a photo but it would be vomit inducing.

However, we're very positive people, and a number of good thing happened too.

Firstly, the campsite turned out to be lovely! The people were really friendly. The waitress explained everything on the menu to us cos it was in German and the guy from reception walked the mile to the toilet block, in torrential rain, without an umbrella, just cos sarah couldn't work out how to work the key card system. Mong.

Secondly, we did the unthinkable. We didn't think it would happen. Nobody could see it coming. You could say it came out of nowhere.....we didn't have Italian food for tea! We had authentic Austrian/German fare of pork steak, chips, green beans, some sexy butter and a spicy curry sauce thing. Delicious! After of salad for lunch, we feel positively healthy.

Thirdly, our new campsite is also a dream! The people her are uber (one of the few German words I know) friendly, and its cheap.

Finally, and again probably most importantly, we love Germany! The countryside it lovely, and the towns we drove through were quaint and really sweet. (We did spend about an hour looking for a cash mash again, but shh). We based our route on driving through a place called 'titisee' (absolute mega lols to be had there). When I said it was like Lake Titicaca, sarah mistook me for Lake "Titi-Car Park"! She'd never heard of the real lake, apparently. Ha! Phil will be glad to know we made it here, and we love it despite our earlier reservations. He was right, we were wrong, what of it?!

We made a mega mistake though. Throughout our travels we've noticed an abundance of sweetcorn farms. If only we'd have brought a stove, we would have been set for food the whole time! Although I don't fancy thinking about the aftermath of all that corn....

We had a fully fledged German tea tonight too. Pork escalope with chips and salad (with a distinctly gherkiny dressing). Absolutely delicious! 2 bits of pork and about a million chips (with seasoned salt!!!!) All for 9 euros! Frigging steal! And the bartender loved the fact we ordered large beers. I think we're more at home here than anywhere else. We stopped at a Lidl on the way and got some more wine in a carton and lemonade (tastes like sangria...kinda), and some screw top plastic beers! For 1 euro 50! God, we love Germany (and lidl...)

Tomorrow: Luxembourg! Hopefully via a non restricted autobahn...hehehehe

Miles: 2048
Authentic meals (I.e not Italian): 2!!!!
Screwtop, plastic beers for €1.50: 6!!!!!!
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Mahoosive german tea. Delicious

Kate with her first Austrian beer

Stelvio pass yes we were part of top gear for a day

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day 10: Switzerland to Austria

Word to the wise: don't pitch a tent in a valley. Last night was the worst night sleep we've had so far.

We didn't get off to a great start when I spilt my wine on sarah, and her sleeping bag, which led her to being a right old grouch. Accidents happen! And in fairness, I had just found out jenson button was back with his girlfriend. He obviously got tired of waiting for me to return.

We wrapped up well in preparation for a cold night, and found out what the hoods on the sleeping bag were for (although cos mine only comes to my armpits, I had to contort myself to pull the drawstrings around my head). Little did we know it would drop to about 3 degrees. I'm sure it didn't rain (cos I was up most of the night trying not to slip into a cold-induced coma) but the inside of the tent was sodden when we woke up. Sarah doesn't have a roll mat either, so she had cold coming from below too. We tossed and turned all night (although in fairness it was more like writhing and flailing around like a dying slug) anticipating the warm Swiss sunrise. It didn't come. Well, night technically did turn into day as the world continues to spin, but it was so bloody overcast there wasn't a chance of even a drop of vitamin D today.

Today was a bit of a none starter for me. I was so tired, and I think I had SAD (that disorder where rainy weather makes you depressed). Sarah took the wheel as we headed for Austria. We were planning on staying at the campsite we'd intended on staying at yesterday but didn't make it in time. We stopped off at a spa on the way (as in the supermarket, not a luxury retreat. We don't have enough money for that. We were robbed, remember) for supplies - crisps, fags, water and caeser salad for lunch. Once again, we went for Italian.

El burros front hoof is still giving her jip. It seems to have a slow puncture so we've had to pump it up again today. If it gets much worse we might have to call the lovely men at Britannia rescue to come find us a new tyre or something.

Sarah drove allll the way to Austria, passing through lichtenstein as I had a wee nap. I was so sleeepy! We arrived at our campsite in good time, which is situated in the middle of nowhere by a lake. It only cost 18 euros, and it looks lovely. I think I like austria. It seems honest and friendly and there are loads of cute farmyard animals scattered around.

The weather all day has been shit. For the first time we've both worn trousers. At one point we even had our car heating on! It been drizzley and overcast and cold. Rubbish! I know all we did was bitch and moan when we were in the middle of the heatwave, but I'd much prefer to be melting than this bag of shit weather.

We're having a chilled out night, with an Italian thrown in there somewhere I'm sure (the food not a gentleman. Sigh) and hopefully might get a bit more sleep now we're no longer in the mountains. If its freezing again, I'm off to sleep in the car.

Its papa levitt's birthday today - the big 50 - but we're horrible daughters that have fucked off to Austria. When we get back we're taking him to see Leeds play, so hopefully that'll redeem us a little bit. Happy birthday papa

Tomorrow - we're off to Germany's black forest. Fingers crossed the weather improves a bit before then!

Miles: 1836
Countries: 6 (sarah would like to point out that she drove through 3 today and 3 yesterday. Clever girl)
In car naps: 1 (score!)
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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Day 9: Italy via Austria to sent, Switzerland

I don't understand. Last night we were still in Italy. Definitely. I checked with GPS. But everyone spoke German. The menu at the campsite was only in German, not Italian. I don't get it. And more importantly, I didn't understand it. We were so desperate to get to Italy cos we partially understand most of the words, but that dream was long gone I'm afraid.

Another issue with our campsite was that, although clean and new, the toilet block was about 2 miles away from our threadbare pitch. Sarah almost had a little accident this morning before getting there.

The cool temperatures dropped to bloody freezing in the middle of the night. I wore a strappy top, tshirt, hoodie and PJ bottoms and was still shivering (although the cheapo sleeping bag barely comes to my armpits. Sarah refused to use it. It didn't reach her waist). When sarah woke up she said I looked like Kenny from southpark with my hood up.

Today's task was to drive the stelvio pass. Sarah wanted to take the quickest route, cos apparently we'd seen enough mountains, and I wanted to take the scenic route on winding mountain roads. A small argument ensued. I won (obviously) as long as I drove. At 10am we set off, but didn't end up getting to the stelvio pass until 2. To get there we drove on some amazing roads, some single track without barriers. We thought they couldn't be topped. However. The stelvio pass was fantastic. The roads seemed to wind around forever. Sarah counted 43 360 degree corners on the way down. It was so cold up there. We could touch the snow in places, and the Alps looked like they weren't even real. On the way down, it was so steep and windy that the brakes started to smell and go all spongy (I think that's a bad thing)

This left us, at 4.30 without a hope in hells chance of reaching our Austrian campsite, as planned. We decided on a Swiss campsite that was only an hour away. The road we took meant we dipped our toes in Austria anyway. Win!

The campsite is a grassy bit in the middle of a valley next to a wood, and runs a free for all basis. If you can find a bit of grass to pitch up, its yours. Unfortunately we didn't have any Swiss francs ( since our robbery.....*sad face*) so we drove to the nearest town for some before getting tea (of pasta...we didn't understand the German menu). This meal was long anticipated by sarah, who hasn't taken favourably to the rations I've been imposing. We can't afford much (again, since the robbery...), so we had cream cheese on a slice of bread again, and some biscuits. We would have had crisps but those were her mid morning snack (after a 11am breakfast of artificial croissants).

Its good to be back in Switzerland. I didn't like the unauthentic northern Italy (which was essentially Germany). It cheated me out of the traditional Italy I was hoping for.

Good news on the car front. We found a garage that had facilities to mend the poor donkeys front hoof, and gave the other 3 a quick buff as well. She's now handling like a stallion again!

Bad news on the laundry front. Our trusty towels have been good to us. Daily showers, frequent sunbathing (or lake swimming), occasional extra bedding for me, mop for exploded suncream. They've paid their dues. And now they fucking stink! We thought the car smelt of rotting food...turned out to be our towels! And it doesn't look like we'll get to wash them before we come back. There's a chance we too may smell of rotting food by the time we return. That's if they don't disintegrate before then.

Tomorrow: who the hell knows. We're going to see which campsites we fancy and head there. Although we are popping into Lichtenstein, for sure.

Unfortunately we have no photos to upload today, cos we have no wifi.

Countries: 5
Empty bottles of water currently in the car: 7
Full bottles of water currently in the car: 2
Nights of Italian food: 6
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Saturday, 24 July 2010

Katies 3rd calzone!

Sarahs failed attempt to capture the winding road

Italian mountains

Day 8: Venice to Laives-Leifers

Last night I counted Sarah's mosquito bites and covered them in after bite (which wasn't at all fun). She has 59. Aww aww....there there. I wish they had purged her of all her blood, so she'd stop bloody going on about them. Even after she got some 9 euro after bite she's still not happy.

Day 8 and El Burro has got her first injury. The wheel is trembling more than usual, which we think is cos the front passenger wheel is looking a little bit flat. Simple problem, easily fixed. Except when every petrol station we've been to doesn't have an air pump. Shit loads of vacuums, but no air pumps. Otherwise, she's doing good.

After the thunderstorm last night, the temperature has dropped significantly to a cool 27 degrees (and even cooler when you're driving through mountains). Sarah is mourning the sun bathing weather but I'm just glad my body can now function.

We aimed to drive through the countryside, across the dolomites (a mountain range sarah had never even heard of), to north west Italy. We drove along the rolle pass, which was bloomin' amazing! I felt a little bit like a rally driver, with sarah as navigator (although I'm not sure she was too confident with my driving. She kept holding on). The winding roads that doubled back on themselves with 300 degree corners as they crept up the mountainside made me feel giddy. Tomorrow we're going to drive along the stelvio pass back into Switzerland. Exciiiiited! I loved Paris, I loved Venice but driving along these roads is definitely the best thing so far. I'm so glad we decided to drive instead of take the train.

We've come up with an agreement as far as driving is concerned. Since sarah has a shocking sense of direction (she had to use a compass to retrace our steps through Venice yesterday) and can't seem to read a map, she drives whenever we enter or leave a destination, and I navigate. Then when we get to a point where navigation isn't as imperative, I drive.

Where we are now, very close to both the boarder with Austria and Switzerland, doesn't feel like we're in Italy, which is sad. Its windy and cloudy and everywhere looks and sounds German. *sad face* Although mark my words, sarah will probably still hunt down a Diavlo pizza.
The first spot they gave us wasn't really up to scratch. I know we've had bald patches in the past, but this one looked more like a gravelled patio with a few weeds than a camping pitch! We got a new one, which was a little better. Luckily there was a 1m by 1m square of grass on which we could position our tiny tent.

Then ensued the hunt for cigarettes. No major shops sell them, so every time we go somewhere we have to hunt them out to feed Sarah's addiction. She gets cranky otherwise. Soon she'll be hustling kids for 'em. Maniac. Just to add to this sore point, she's left me in the very warm car with no windows down. We all know what happens when dogs are left in a warm car too long. This may well be my last post.

Tomorrow (if I'm still alive..) : stelvio pass, lichtenstein, another Switzerland lake

Miles: 1523
Mosquito bites: 70
Cigarettes purchased: 40

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Friday, 23 July 2010

Sarah the mosquito queen

Sarah the mosquito queen

When if rained... *Sad face*

Sarah chillin' in a venetian street


Day 7: Venice!

The past few nights we've been camping its started to cool down about 11 and then got pretty chilly at 2/3. Not in Venice. I swear it stayed well into the 30s all night! I opened the fly net and slept with my head half out of the tent, but didn't want to leave it open too long in case I woke up to find sarah purged of all her blood by mosquitoes.

After the little sleep I got, and the extreme sun stroke I was suffering with (although sarah says I was just being grouchy), we spent most of the morning lounging by the tent, napping and reading, before having another warm soft cheese slice of bread, and one covered in jam.

Sarah is the clumsiest oaf I've ever met. She has no idea where she's putting her feet whether it be on me, or on my bloody sunglasses! Now I have to wear a baby pink pair which I look a right knob in.

We decided to drive to Venice instead of dicking about getting different buses. The parking was pretty expensive and the water bus thing wasn't cheap either, but it meant we got a mini tour straight through Venice on the grand canal. Venice was exactly what I expected. Tiny little streets sided by a mixture of crappy tourist shops selling masks (?!), delicious smelling restaurants, little boutiques and major fashion shops. We got lost within 2 minutes of getting off the boat/bus as every street seemed to look the same. You could spend hours walking through the streets. We stopped off for a limone gellati, mainly cos it was so warm I felt like my insides were going to boil.

Mum: don't even go to Venice. You'll love the little streets which are like miles and miles of The Shambles, but if you want to get anywhere it has to be by water (water bus, water taxi, gondola). And even if you're walking, you have to cross bridges over the canals which means walking up and down a million steps. This is not a mum friendly city.

We discovered today that this is the furthest west we've ever been, and we bloody well drove here! (Unless you count Malta...which I think is near turkey...but for the sake of our own sense of triumph, let's pretend we never went there)

We got back to camp in good time, so we had chance to have another swim and a jacuzzi before we head back west tomorrow. We were only at the pool about half an hour before the unthinkable happened. The clouds covered the sun. And it started to rain. Then it started to thunder. Then in rained lots more.

Sitting in a muggy tent doesn't quite match up to sunbathing by a pool. However. We always look on the bright side of life - the tent is long as you don't touch the sides!

Sarah had her 3rd Diavlo pizza in a row tonight. I think she might get withdrawal symptoms as we head out of Italy. Although we're both pretty gutted to be heading back on the homeward journey.

Tomorrow: go west! Dunno where, somewhere near a lake!

Miles: 1376
Thunderstorms: 1
Mosquito bites: too many to count (on sarah, I have 6. WIN)
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Thursday, 22 July 2010

Lake Maggiore to Venice!

Sine our robbery in Switzerland, we were left with no cash. This is why we spent 90 minutes last night driving around northern Italy looking for a cash mash in order to pay for our tea at the campsite. Apparently Italians don't agree with payment via Visa, or have banks.

The camp site yesterday was lovely, apart from the fact you were only allowed a 4 minute shower, there was no toilet roll and the toilet seat consisted of a hole in the floor.

At night time I once again hated Switzerland. No amount of beautiful scenery, or fun roads can make up for the fact we were sold half a frigging pack of cards. Apparently the Swiss don't play with numbers 1 to 5. Robbing bastards.

We popped to the supermarket before we set off this morning. Turns out the only things you can buy that don't need cooking or refrigerating are bread, crisps and jam. Guess what we're having for tea?!

Sarah tricked me into believing we had ages to drive, so we spent 4 hours on the worst motorway in Europe. We had no idea what the speed limit was. Somewhere between 60km/h (which seemed far too slow) or 200km/h...ish (which El Burro can't reach anyway). But we got to the camp site in good time with minimal fuss.

None of you sceptics thought we could do it, but we have driven over 1000 miles to our most eastern destination - Venice. Screw you all.

At the camp site we could choose our own spot amongst the trees. Past experience taught us to look for maximum grass and minimum ants. Sleeping on the hard ground night after night is doing my back in. I'm not as hardcore as sarah who sleeps with just a (plush) sleeping bag. Last night I slept on top of a roll mat, towel and sleeping bag, wearing many many layers. I can't justify getting into my sleeping bag when I require it for bedding), and I'm still going to need a spine readjustment when I get back.

After sorting our tent and having half a slice of crusty bread topped with melted butter and warm soft cheese we spent the afternoon reading by the pool. Felt very much like we were on a package holiday, but at least there quite a few British people here and more travellers.

Sarah got lucky this afternoon. These Italian creatures seem to have taken a shine to her. She has, with no exaggeration, 50 mosquito bites. Lucky sod.

Tomorrow: heading into Venice city centre!

Miles: 1350
Games of cards payed: 0
Collective mosquito bites: 55
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Toilets in Morges! Nice

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Day 5: Lake Geneva to Lake Maggorie, Italy

We had a lovely night last night after we set up our tent. We donned our matching polka dot swimwear and went for a swim in Lake Geneva. The water was so blue, and the mountain lined shores looked artificial. Last night I loved Switzerland.

This morning I hated Switzerland. We've been to Paris city centre, on a busy ferry, and to several packed tourist attractions but the time we get robbed is in our sleepy family friendly campsite in Switzerland. Some bastard came into our tent (the inner sanctum bit aswell) and stole our remaining 100 euros out of my purse while we were sleeping. Luckily, they left all my cards and didn't touch the car.

So we sacked off Switzerland as a bad job and drove over the Alps into Italy. Every night since we've been away we've ended up having pasta or pizza for tea anyway (cos they're cheap), so we were uber excited for our campsite by Lake Maggorie. It was Sarah's turn to drive today to make up for my uber stint yesterday. Driving in temperatures of 40 degrees+ wasn't so much fun mind, but the roads here are amazing and the views are unreal.

By the afternoon I was back in love with Switzerland. We drove along the Simplonpass (if that's a real thing), along mountain roads into northern Italy. Photos will come later.

Despite what the name of this blog suggests, we didn't get lost once on the way, and checked into our campsite before 3. Unfortunately our spot is a little bald, so that'll make for an even more uncomfortable nights sleep.

Just been for a swim/sunbathe next to the lake, and are popping to the cheap Italian on site to get tea.

Next stop: Venice!

Miles: 1113
Monies pinched: 100 euros
Countries: 4

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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Day 4: Paris to Morges, Switzerland

With over 500Km to drive today we got an early start (after getting a couple of croissants). Today was spent driving driving driving through eastern France, through Geneva (unintentionally)to our campsite in Morges.

Sarah drove the first leg out of Paris for approx 144 miles, until we needed to stop for fuel, then I tool the wheel. Cos we had to keep on truckin' we just ate our 3 day old Ginsters on the way. We'll see if this was a good idea in 6-8 hours

We drove on some amazing roads towards Switzerland, over and through the Alps. But the best bit, a highlight of the entire trip, was driving through the tunnel under Mt Blanc (I think, there were bloody loads of hills). I frigging love driving through a tunnel! We also passed the 800.8 miles mark (lol). Photos to follow.

Unfortunately my massive high was soon shat on as soon as we got into Switzerland. Buying the vinaigrette (or whatever its called) was stressful and lead sarah to directing me the wrong way into Geneva city centre! With no idea where we were going, sarah's frankly shocking sense of direction and navigational skills, and heat rising past 40 degrees I thought I was going to have a stroke (not to mention the fact I'd already driven over 250 miles!!)

The art of following the car in front paid off as we found ourselves back on track for the campsite. First campsite we came to had a spot, so we set up camp for 30 quid. It also had a restaurant, swimming pool and a can of beer for a quid! (The beer actually came from the town where we stopped for the first time in France, where we had espressos)

Lessons learnt so far...
1. Sarah is shit at giving directions
2. Katie can't tell where traffic lights are
3. French people appear to have never seen a ginger person before. Lots of staring. Either that or they're not used to my beauty.
4. Driving, walking, moving, sleeping etc in heats exceeding 30 degrees makes me want to die.
5. Lots of high speed (but not too high speed mum, don't worry) driving means we now have a bug morgue on our wind screen. Gross.

Miles: 931
Countries: 3
Arguments: 1 (massive one when sarah sent me through fucking Geneva!)
Swims: 1
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After that drive we really needed a beer


Paris to Morges

We had to start the day with a croissant!

Day 3: paris!

"Someday we're going to Paris"

Love love love love Paris! Despite the tropical temperatures, extortionate prices and massive queues, Paris is my favourite.

We got the metro into town early (10am) this morning and headed towards the Louvre. The weather was swealteringly warm. Of course we walked the wrong direction up the Rue De Louvre, so the 5 minute walk took 20.

The lourve was free for under 25s, which was a cheeky win, and the queues weren't too bad. Art connoisseurs that we are, we got bored of looking at sculptures (although we did take time out to take photos of the dirty or special looking ones) and headed straight for the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa. Both of which were swarmed with ignorant sweaty tourists, which unfortunately had arm pits Katie's nostril height.

Couple of snaps later, we broke free of the Lourve, which was essentially a fucking green house, and searched for lunch. Even the Irish bar was charging 10 euros for a beer, so we had a (massive) panini, and a bargain 3 euro beer in one of the gardens.

At 1.30 we decided we should be real tourists and jump on one of the tour buses. That, and our next destination, the Eiffel Tower was like, 4kms away.
It turned out to be one of Sarah's better ideas, cos no way would we have been to able to see so much in a day. Paris is bloody beautiful, and the architecture is amazing. We took a million photos of loads of impressive buildings (none of which we can remember what they are) and got to do a loop around the Arc de Triumph, which is good cos I've well chickened out of the idea of doing it myself!

After an hour or two on top of the bus with no shade, I come out looking like a lobster. A hot lobster. This right put me in the mood for the several snaking queues we had to join to get to the top of the blackpool ....sorry, Eiffel tower. 2nd cheeky win of the day, under 24s could go to the top for 11 euros. Photos from the top to follow.

After all that excitement, we got a 4 euro Mr whippy and are currently lounging/ napping in the park at the bottom of the tower. At some point we will go home.

...We did go home eventually, and got a 2 euro bottle of wine for the hotel. Between us, we have experienced the metro, rush hour tube, and tram but nothing compares to the Paris metro. 50 bodies is 40 degree heat, compacted in a 3m by 3m box. Horrendous. And then someone brought a bloody bike on!

Plan for tomorrow: head east and hopefully hit Geneva

Miles: 0 by car, 1,000,000 (approx) by foot/bus/metro
Countries: 2
Bottles of water consumed: 7
Wees had: 1 (the excess liquid deposited through sweating)

Disclaimer: this blog was created to keep mum and dad up to date without constant phone calls. Apologies if its a bit precise and dull!
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Sunday, 18 July 2010

Day 2 Calais to Paris

This morning it was my (Katie) turn to drive. as it turns out, driving on the right isn't as tough as I thought it would be. I did accidentally turn down the wrong lane, and ran a red light at a pretty busy crossroad, but nobody died. 

The aim was to head west along the coast and then down into Paris but, once again, within 2 minutes of setting off we got lost and ended up driving east towards Lille. We drove through some beautiful little towns and villages,  stopping at a Sunday Market, and grabbing a couple of espressos, cos we're sophisticated like that. 

By 1 I was tired of driving and hungry for my day old prawn pasta salad, which shockingly turned out to be rancid after 24 hours in the cool bag, so we stopped at a public garden in a little village for a picnic. I selected a sunny spot to sit in, which incidentally turned out to be on top of a bastard bee, which stung my fucking arse! I now have a swollen and numb right cheek. 

Due to extreme injury, Sarah took the wheel for the drive into Paris. Although this did mean that we had to do 3 U-turns cos she kept missing the same bloody junction! We were about a million miles away at 1:30 so we took the tolled motorways which was dull, warm and expensive but fast.  We're so hardcore we didn't even stop for a toilet break and instead had a cheeky squat in a wood. Chain smoking Sarah almost had a hernia driving into Paris city centre, although my calm and relaxing navigational skills got us through the tough times! 

Our hotel is well swish, and only a second away from the metro. I know this because the windows rattle every 10 minutes as as train goes by! We're having a quick glass of FRENCH wine in the room before finding somewhere for tea. 

Plan for tomorrow - hit paris and rape every tourist attraction in sight

Miles: 541
Countries: 2
Arguments: 1 small tiff
Laughing fits: 7 although most can be contributed to the bee incident

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Mini beverages

Ain't france pretty

Sarah and her wee espresso

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Day one: York to Calais

After 3 attempts at setting off (after forgetting jumpers, and the bloody road map), armed with far too many pastry goods than is healthy, we left sunny york.

Altogether it took us about 6 hours to drive to Dover, despite the 90 minute queues on the M25. A cheeky thrill of a naked man in a van got us through it mind! Sarah tricked me into driving with promise of being able to drive through the Dartford Tunnel. Bitch lied. I had to drive over the bridge at 1mph.

Turns out Dover is a bit of a dump! The cliffs were disappointingly grey too.

Calais, on the other hand, is like a scene from 28 days later. We decided to drive around a bit and look for wine, cos we got lost within a minute of leaving the port. We saw, like, 2 cars and a man walking his dog in the 30 minutes we were driving. We saw a Lidl - it was closed. We saw an aldi - it was closed. We saw BP - it was closed. We saw Shell - it was closed. Turns out Calais isn't bangin' on a Saturday night. And it smells of egg.

Next stop - Paris!

Miles: 314
Countries: 2
Arguments: 0
Laughing fits till a little bit of wee came out: 3
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Sunday, 11 July 2010

One week today...

We'll be in France!

With one week still to go, the current plan is mapped out by this very poor quality photo.

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On saturday, we're driving down to Dover to get the ferry to Calais where we're staying overnight. Sunday morning, we're heading into Paris for 2 nights before the hardcore camping begins!

The plan after paris...

* visit Annecy
* head towards Geneva
* chill out around Lake Geneva for ? days
* drive east into Italy
* head towards venice in a few nights as possible
* stay in Venice for 1-2 nights in a hostel
* drive back North West through Lichtenstein and Switzerland (Zurich)
* cut through Germany's Black Forest to Strasbourg
* drive through Luxemberg and Belgium
* drive back to Calais for the last night, possibly though Lille

14 Days. 8 Countries. £1200. Seat Ibiza.