The drive back home

Scruffy appreciating a comfortable hotel bed!

24th December

We had a nice lunch. The weather was sunny and not too windy so we sat outside but di d not bother with the gazebo. We ate roast chicken from the local supermarket. It was very tasty. 

In the evening, Gordon and Louisa, the other British couple in the campsite invited us for shepherd pie dinner. We ate in their caravan. It was huge! 

Wednesday 25th December, camping Luminoso, Sicily

We had Christmas lunch with Gordon and Louisa as planned few days earlier. We sat next to their caravan, in front of the sea. The wind had finally calmed down, no storm in the horizon, for a change, and it was even warm enough to be outside in a long sleeve t-shirt! 

Gordon and Louisa had bought their large caravan for 1,500 pounds only and they pulled it with a van, carrying their two  motorbikes in the van! Maybe the way to go? The caravan had so much space inside.

So we stick with the other Brits in the campsite. 

The italians seemed to have  a massive table all together, next to one of they motorhome, with a huge amount of food, wearing silly hats, and beautifully decorated tables, having a great party; the 3 Swiss ate together   (they had two massive campers, one was the size of a giant bus for a lone guy!) as for the Germans it is a mystery what they did, despite the fact the campsite was 80% germans. The German couple in the camping spot behind us kept, as usual, scowling at us from their extravagant 300k + giant bus.  The retired Finnish couple had a cup of tea, one outside, one inside.

After our late lunch I walked up to the fins and invited them to join us for a drink. They spoke little English.

There seems to be  a lot of snobbery among motorhome (MoHo) owners. The ones on the most expensive MoHo (only  germans or Swiss can afford those) don’t seem willing to mix or chat with the riffraff in smaller cheaper vehicles! They still end up in the same places and sharing the same toilets and showers though! There is just not the same camaraderie that exist among motorcyclists.

Late in the day we went to the campsite next door to make our goodbyes to another lovely couple, Kevin and Fiona. 

Thursday 26th December, truck park near Cosenza

We eventually packed everything, made our farewell to Gordon and lovely Louisa, their two dachshunds and finally drove out just before 10am. 

We decided to stick to motorways, as we aimed to be in Angers, at my brother’s house, by the 30th. We had 5 days to make over 2500kms. It would take forever in the bad roads of Italy. We drove to Messina, with roads as usal littered with piles of depressing garbage,  crossed the rundowns areas of Messina that would not look out of place in Mozambique or in Brazilian favellas, and found our ferry. Then, back mainland, we took the motorway and drove most of the day.

We decided to avoid campings, most are closed and the very few open in this season are in such a dreadful filthy state that they are best avoided. The motorway took us away from the coast. There was very little choice for parking. We passed Cosenza and as it was getting dark we checked if we could park near a Mac Donald’s. The place was not the kind of place to spend the night safely. Checking my phone, I found in Park4Night a guarded private parking for truckers. We drove there, the owners let us in for 10 euros. It even had a clean toilet and shower. It was safe, it would do for the night. 

Friday 27th December – motorway service area north of Rome.

The night had been bitterly cold, probably sub zero. Alistair put the heating for a bit and we had breakfast. Then we got back on the motorway. 

We managed about 600 kms that day. We decided to spend the night in the motorway, rather than faff around in  and out of the motorway, drive for miles and not necessarily find a good spot.

Italian motorways are expensive but the service areas can be very good, with all facilities and free WiFi. We stopped in one at the end of the day and after a walk around, moved the van in the truck parking side, near the building for good WiFi connection. 

The facilities were clean, all was free to use as the motorway in itself is so expensive. In the morning we found few more Italians motorhomes dotted around. 

Saturday 28th December, on the road past Turin

We had thought of using a campsite open all year round near Turin, the same we used on the way down, but the service areas of motorways are so convenient ( and free to use) that we decided to continue driving until dark. After Turin we got very close to the border but we did not want to get too close to the tunnel and too high up the mountains. 

We eventually found a trucker place near the motorway. The place was closed out of season, but few trucks were parked there for the night. There was also a traffic police station and I saw a small police van in and out. It would be safe for the night. As extra bonus, we managed to pick up some free WiFi from the big office block next to us. It was a bad WiFi but worked a bit! 

Once again the night was incredibly cold. I put my thermal layers and slept with a jumper over my pyjama! 

Sunday 29th December

After a quick breakfast of coffee and toasts, we got back on the motorway and soon passed the tunnel de Frejus (62 euros one way!). We were back in France. The weather was cold and we were up the mountains with snow everywhere. We were a bit nervous as we did not have winter tyres. We could risk a very big fine! A sign on the motorway was saying that they were putting salt on the motorway. Eventually we went below the snow line. 

Checking on line the night before I found few Ibis Budget. We decided to spend a night in a hotel. Ibis budget hôtels are very convenient as they take dogs and they are very cheap. They are also often conveniently located out of towns, with big car parks and near business areas with restaurants nearby. 

We had another long day of driving and arrived near Montlucon and to the local Ibis budget. It was wonderful to have a warm bedroom and a very comfortable bed! And a very hot shower! 

We walked to the nearby La Boucherie restaurant for dinner. The meat was great. 

Monday 30th December to Saturday 4th January, Angers

We finally made it to Angers and we spent few days relaxing and eating my brother excellent food and drinking his superb wines!

Then we drove up to Calais and went home.

My conclusion on Life in a Van to come next, along with our travel plans for this year!

In the meantime: Happy new Year!