All through July I took a few pics of where we parked/camped/slept each night: Nature reserves, marinas, a bison farm, town and city centre car parks, fjords, lakes and being spoilt rotten at our Swedish friend’s houses. Our Benimar Mileo van ‘Stargazer’ is the star of this one 🙂 The ditty is a sketch of a new song, with words by Bev.
Such an amazing city, I was really keen to find a way to visit again. Obviously, you can’t really drive there. There is a ‘area sosta camper’ on the island of Tronchetto, across the lagoon on the edge of the city – but we’d seen mixed reviews and opted for a site just on the mainland Camping Rialto, near a bus route that could get us there in 20 mins. The site was quite waterlogged so we tried to find a pitch where we were least likely to get stuck. Ever the optimists, we were confident the weather would brighten up – and it did! Up early-ish, and on to the bus which was really busy. The dogs did well to stay calm, and fellow passengers were mostly cheerful, accepting Marra leaning himself up against their legs and ignoring Boo’s uninvited sniffing. We’d decided not to take Marra’s wheels – the right choice. We took it easy over countless little bridges, and eventually I carried him when he got tired, but we wouldn’t have seen half the sights with the rover. It’s a city made for getting lost in – every corner is a picture postcard shot and there is no sense trying to follow paper or Google maps too closely. There was nothing particularly we wanted to do – other than bimble around and enjoy the sights, ignore other tourists and soak up the magical atmosphere.
We called at another bar I’d contacted about getting gigs – Osteria all’Alba. Close to the Rialto but tucked away down an alley, we had a few beers and nibbles. The lady loved the dogs and we had a chat about music. She books the gigs maybe 3 months in advance. I’ll plan ahead next time – it’s a tiny bar/venue, would be really cool to play there.
Another movie-geek moment: Bev spotted another James Bond location, Ponte de le Collone, which Vesper crosses on her way to meet the bad guys in Casino Royale.
One of the joys we remembered about Venice was Osteria hopping – their version of aperitivo hour, where workers wander home stopping at the small bars for an ombra of wine and nibbles like polpette (meatballs) and arancini (stuffed rice balls). We were there a bit early in the day for the full experience, but got a taste at a few bars around the city.
I don’t think I’d get tired of taking photos there – in different seasons, different light, etc. Here’s just a sample…
Next morning, about 100 Polish scouts started setting up on site, all around our pitch. We thought we’d move on, around the Venetian gulf towards Slovenia.
Park4Night is an excellent user-input based app, which allows you to locate (and share information on) free camping spots all over the world. In addition, paying campsites, car parks, picnic areas and even farms are listed, making this an invaluable tool for travellers who, like us, don’t like to stick to a definite plan of where they want to be the next night.
There are literally thousands of spots and whilst some aren’t ideal for a larger vehicle like our 6m home, advice and reviews are given about this sort of thing, so it’s rare that you end up somewhere you can’t actually stay. Some of our favourites so far have been:
Staying on a snail farm! Guess what we had for dinner that night??!! Just €10 for the night, including electricity.
Relaxing by the Saône river. For free! Our neighbours for the night were on a boat, called, er, ‘Le Boat’…
A peaceful fishing lake. Again, no cost! Beautiful weather, very pleasant.
On the ‘Route Napoleon’ just after Castellane. Great dog walk, great scenery, no cost. Parfait.
Admittedly some countries don’t have as many free sites, for example, we struggled in Italy, but we still found farms and vineyards where you can stay for free, but you are expected to buy some wine, honey or other produce… which is no great hardship really!
So far, we’ve only used it in Western Europe – will update after we get to Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Scandinavia.
We got to Ghent on a Friday afternoon, and found the campsite close to the city centre. Big site, well organised and very helpful staff at check-in gave us a map and relevant details. The dogs were sleepy and happy to laze around so we thought we’d have a night out and check out some of the music bars. I took the guitar, just in case I got a chance to play a tune for whoever does the gig bookings – slim chance I know, but it was early evening and ‘shy bairns’ and all that. There was a bus into town, but we walked anyway, 30-40 mins through a big sports park. First stop Missy Sippy – really cool blues and americana bar near the centre. Had a few strong Belgian beers and a chat with the owners – really friendly but nothing doing gig wise. Maybe on our way back through Belgium in August. There is a big festival in July in Ghent, and the bar does its own ‘festival in a festival’ – looks great.
Some nice sights around the city. We liked it!
Next stop the Hot Club of Gent, a jazz haunt – liked the ‘no talking during the performances’ sign. Asked the lad behind the bar about rootsy blues gigs but he’s more into the ‘nightlife’ he says. On to Trefpunt. Again a nice bar, very strong beers, some local characters in. It has a venue attached and its own mini festival in July.
Stopped in at another bar on the wander back, for an 8.5% Charles Quint ale. Slept well!
On, down to Luxembourg, through snow and the dashboard showing -2° outside. Cheap diesel in Luxembourg – always worth filling up! Nice scenery, reminded us of the English Lakes. Stayed 2 nights in Enscherange but didn’t wander far. Toasty in the van though, got some jobs done, Bev sorting the bedroom curtains.
Back into France, started to head South, working out best way to get into Italy. Probably not over the mountain passes, given the amount of snow. A couple of nice stops on the way, including Arbois (home of Louis Pasteur) and Lac de Madine. Stayed at a nice site at Cerveyrieu and set up the dog stroller for a hike up to the cascade. Pretty tough going at times, uphill on cobbles and down a track blocked by a fallen tree, but we made it! Great views. I learned about ‘lavoirs’ which are a common sight in rural France – public areas for washing clothes, fed by streams or piped water. Apparently, there are over 17,000 of them, most in disrepair, some restored to their former glory, before launderettes and washing machines.