Ready for the road

FRIDAY  19-5-23

Yesterday evening we had a lot of new arrivals, which meant that at 05:40 it sounded like a dogs home outside added to that we had giggly shed dwellers waking early. These are mainly young backpackers who rent a glorified shed with windows for the night. All they have in them are two single beds and that's it, nothing else. So these people aren't campers and therefore have no consideration for those who are. To these kids it's a glorified Wendy House adventure, or a night in a wooden hotel room depending how they look at it.

Add to this the fact that we had been surrounded by those silly little campervan conversions with the pop up roof allowing you to spend fifty thousand pounds and more to buy a converted van and then sleep on the roof. So after the giggly shed dwellers and barking dogs had woken up these campers they all needed to get up for a pee. So it was the usual whoosh...boom! time after time as each occupant of each vehicle slid the side door open to take their turn at going to the toilet block.

We didn't rush to get up as we had nowhere to go for it was chores day with a bit of relaxation if we had time.

After scrubbing up, my first job was to wash the bath and hand towels and get them out to dry. Unfortunately we'd chosen a pitch without two suitable trees to tie a washing line to, and so I had to rely on our very useful folding clothes airer.

Whist engrossed in the task I thought I heard a familiar voice, and there he was, walking past the washing area - 'Fritzy no Mates', our local loon. He was asking a complete stranger if he would look after his dog, presumably while he had a shave and shower. His request fell on deaf ears, and so the dog was tied up outside whilst he went inside. I have no idea what the man does in there but he's always gone absolutely ages. When he finally finished he walked past our pitch towards the bottom end of the campsite. I can only assume he had left yesterday with every intension of moving on, but then  for some reason decided to return, parking elsewhere. We were pleased that the pitches either side of us had been  occupied quite early on in the evening, even if they were campervan conversion owners.

After the hand washing it was the housework and a long list of other jobs. Things had slipped a bit of late mainly due to the weather. Our task today was to clean and prepare the vehicle for leaving tomorrow to spend a few days on the road heading home.

After lunch we had a bit of a sit in the sunshine (it was such a treat, and something we'd not had much opportunity to do on this trip), then after a few more chores I thought we should revisit the options for which route we took tomorrow heading home. Unfortunately, although the internet worked fine last night it won't function today. I've no idea why, there's obviously some kind of connectivity problem but not one I am able to resolve despite trying. Of all the days to lose the internet it had to be today.

New arrivals have continued to appear, because of course, what we had forgotten was the Italian weekenders, bringing their brat kids along with them. Given that they were arriving when they should have been at school I'm wondering if a child's education over here is a flexible arrangement

So here we are. All chores done, with just the unhooking and dumping to be done in the morning. We are both very much looking forward to getting home. I'm guessing it will take us three days to get to Calais, but then again it might take four, who cares. I shall start a new chapter tomorrow as this has been a long one, and given the next one will only cover the journey back to Calais, will be a short one.

THURSDAY 18-5-23

'Fritzy no Mates' was a bit of a problem to us yesterday evening when he suddenly put very loud music on, played presumably through his cab speakers. I opened the habitation door and challenged him about it as well as putting my fingers in my ears and saying firmly "No". He came charging on to the pitch gesturing and saying that it was only 'a very little'. I didn't know whether he meant it was for a short time or the volume was, to him, very low. But I persisted with my fingers in my ears and saying no. So off he went, I closed the door, and with thirty seconds the music was turned off.

We slept better last night, although our local loon was up at about 06:00 sliding and banging various doors on his campervan conversion. He does seem to have a thing about doors and can't leave them alone.

We didn't hurry getting out as we didn't have too much to do. Interestingly our loony turned his music on again, just about ten seconds before we opened the door to leave for the bus stop. He was as nice as pie and in poor English was telling us he was leaving today, so I suppose in his disturbed mind it was his last chance to annoy us, only it didn't work as we left him to it, and I'm pretty sure as we walked away he turned the music either right down or off.

When we arrived at the bus station on Venice 'island' we made straight for the ticket office of the nearest Vaporetto (water bus) jetty.

We were off to the island of Murano where the glass blowing is carried out for the entertainment of, and purchase by, tourists. We wanted the number three service, but inadvertently got on the wrong jetty and before realising it had already validated our ticket which meant it couldn't be used on another trip. Luckily this was solved by our ducking under the turnstile to get off the wrong jetty and nipping smartly through behind other people when the turnstiles opened to let them through on the correct one.

The boat ride took us along a couple of canals before we reached the lagoon for the passage to the island. The journey was pretty unremarkable, and all for a return fare of nineteen euros each.

On landing we were soon being given directions to the glass factories for demonstrations. I think we pretty much went in to the first one we came across. We had an interesting demonstration by a glass blower, who was not 'the master' (it takes 25 years to become a master glassblower) who was not there today, but by presumably, an understudy.

He made two items, the first was a glass jug, and then a prancing horse. After each was made and shown to the audience of about thirty, the item was thrown back in the furnace to be melted and used again. They can't be sold to any member of the audience because the glass has to be cooled slowly over twenty-four hours.

We then had a very interesting look around the displays of finished articles and then on to the shop. There was one item which an American took an interest in. It was like a twisted mosaic dish 1.2mtrs long , which takes two weeks to make, and would have cost him €3,200 including shipping and insurance if he'd wanted it.

In the shop The Chef took a shine to something and so I bought it as an early 'big birthday' present. It did mean of course, that I had to carry it around for the rest of the day. Thankfully the staff made a good job of packing it up.

Before leaving Murano we sat and had lunch in the sunshine. All for about thirty euros.

After we arrived back at Venice we walked to St Mark's Square which is a bit of a distance in itself. There we thought we'd see if our luck was in regarding the length of queue to visit the Basilica, and Vivaldi's church. First it was the Basilica, but no luck, the queue was still very long and by then it was 16:00 and the last permitted entrance was 16:45, and there was no way we'd have reached the front by then, never mind looking round, so we forgot about that one. Next The Chef wanted to take a few pictures around the area as she's bought her iPad out with her today.

After a walk along 'the prom' we reached Vivaldi's church. We were going to look inside yesterday, but we were a bit tired and thought we'd do it today instead. On entering the foyer there was a desk, and behind it two Italian ladies in deep conversation completely ignoring us. So we stood there and stood there. Fortunately there was a big gap in the drapes concealing the church interior and so while we stood there had a look inside, decided it wasn't worth waiting forever to pay our three euros entrance fees and walked out.

That was it. We'd had enough, and decided to make our way back promising ourselves an Italian ice cream on the way. Sitting down for lunch and our ice cream were about the only opportunities we had to rest our legs so it had been a hard day, and a warm afternoon because, finally today the sun came out.

We were delighted upon our return to Camping Rialto that 'Fritzy no Mates' had indeed left. Gone somewhere else to be a nutty nuisance.

Tomorrow is chores and a rest day as we prepare the vehicle for the long run home starting Saturday morning. I'm going to keep an eye on the weather forecasts, not that they're much good, and if it looks as if we'll get a lot of rain before we leave I'll move off our pitch tomorrow evening forsaking the electrical hook-up, and spend the  night  in the parking area close to the dump station.

Bridge of Sighs interior

Bridge of Sighs exterior

Courtyard of the Doge's Palace

Centre right, start of the Grand Canal

St Mark's Square

The Doge's Palace

The Basilica

Some of the bells in the bell tower (Campanile).


We went to bed early last night as we were feeling tired. I must have dropped off quite quickly which is unusual for me, because this morning The Chef told me that 'Fritzy no Mates' our loony next door neighbour, who we thought had gone, arrived back at about 22:30 and parked back in his pitch, followed by whoosh, booms etc, and I slept through it. At least he didn't disturb us during the night.

This morning, having endured yet another night of rain hitting the roof, we arose at about 09:00 because neither of us in the end had a good night's sleep. I bet the loon next door slept like a log.

This morning began with a lovely hot shower over at the toilet block, followed by my sitting in my dressing gown reading the thoroughly depressing news online. This was disturbed by the campsite's Bruno & Luigi requesting my assistance, as our French neighbour behind us in a large fancy class 'A' motorhome had got himself good and proper bogged down in the mud whilst attempting to leave his pitch. This gives you some idea of the amount of rain  that has fallen in this area recently.

After a bit of rocking, rolling, bouncing and pushing we got him clear and on his way.

After breakfast etc we were ready to go back in to town to try and visit some of the sites on our wish list. As usual we didn't have long to wait for the bus, though the bus stop has to be accessed by an Italian 'zebra crossing'. By the end of the day we had it worked out - they know they should stop but don't want to, whilst you know you have the right of way if only you can be brave enough to step out in front of them.

We were soon back in 'town' and on our way to our first stop - The Campanile (bell tower) on St Mark's Square. I had wanted to visit it the last time we were here, but there was always a very long queue, but for some reason this time the queues are very short, so we were in line and ready to pay our ten euros per person entrance fee. My darling Chef isn't keen on heights and I was a bit concerned about how she would cope with the view up there, but she was fine.

Then it was off for yet another tour of the Doge's Palace. The last time we were here we joined a tour group after I'd paid about seventy euros online  for two tour tickets which turned out to have a face value of fifteen euros each. The guide turned up late and we were whisked through the complex as a result. We felt we had been denied access to some areas because we were running late, and so today we thought we'd find out which areas they were. Well having spent another thirty euros for two tickets and self-guided ourselves around it, with the aid of two audio guides at an additional cost of ten euros we were able to satisfy ourselves that last time the guide hadn't missed anything out, he'd just sped it up a bit. So that was a lot of time and forty euros down the pan.

After that we did consider doing number three on our list, but The Chef was feeling rather tired having not had much sleep last night and so we called it a day and started to make our way back, though I did tell my darling travelling companion that there was no way I was going to wind my way through the back streets of Venice to try and find the bus station again, it was just hard work. Tomorrow we will catch the water bus.

On our arrival back at the campsite our favourite lunatic's vehicle is still here, therefore he must be also, but where I've no idea,

Tomorrow we're off to see some glass being blown, and if queues are long, or the pries are a rip off, we'll soon be making our way back via maybe, something else on our list.

The Bridge of Sighs

Doge's Palace in St Mark's Square

The Grand Canal from the Rialto bridge

Descending from the Rialto bridge

The Rialto bridge

TUESDAY 16-5-23

Oh dear. Our new nutty neighbour, 'Fritzy no Mates' was up at about 03:00 talking to himself or his dog, taking it for a walk and asking somebody out there (even at that time of day) where he could get some water for his dog, ignoring the fact there was a tap nearby and a very short walk to the bathroom block. This was made more irritating because he's got one of those wretched campervan conversions with their big sliding side doors, so every time he was up and out and back again we got the whoosh, boom, of the door. Then that started a chain reaction because other campervan owners decided that as they'd also been woken up, they'd get up for a pee, so more whoosh, boom! Things eventually settled down at about 04:15......and then it began to rain.

There has clearly been an awful lot of rain landing on Venice of late because when we set off for the bathroom block this morning much of our pitch was a waterlogged puddle. The shower cubicles here are very decent, and I took great pleasure in walking past those men with their heads in the sink having a wet shave before having their shower. Me, I do the whole lot under the shower, unless I'm doing it in the vehicle in which case I also shave in the sink because we can't spare the additional water required.

We didn't rush off to get in to 'town', eventually setting off at about 10:30. We bought the bus tickets from Reception before being lucky enough to dash across the road and catch a number '5' bus as it stood at the bus stop. It's only about a fifteen or twenty minute bus ride to the bus station on the 'island'.

Now they may be Italian, but I've got to give it to them when it comes to getting public transport sorted here. There is a wide causeway running from the mainland out to the 'island' of Venice. On that causeway there is a tram track, a railway track (there's a large railway station on the island) and a roadway. There are no cycleways however, because bikes are banned in Venice, and quite right to. Even the hated cruise ships have their own berths on the edge of town with a tramway (a bit like you get at some airports) linking their jetty to the town.

When you get off the bus you are close to the canals and can soon be hopping on a water taxi or trudging through the labarynth of crowded narrow streets.

So a bit about Venice:

Although no surviving historical records deal directly with the founding of Venice, tradition and the available evidence have led several historians to agree that the original population of Venice consisted of refugees—from nearby Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileie, Treviso, Altino, and Concordia (modern Portogruaro), as well as from the undefended countryside—who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic and Hun invasions. This is further supported by the documentation on the so-called "apostolic families", the twelve founding families of Venice who elected the first doge, who in most cases trace their lineage back to Roman families. Some late Roman sources reveal the existence of fishermen, on the islands in the original marshy lagoons, who were referred to as incolae lacunae ("lagoon dwellers"). The traditional founding is identified with the dedication of the first church, that of San Giacomo on the islet of Rialto (Rivoalto, "High Shore"), said to have taken place at the stroke of noon on 25 March 421 (the Feast of the Annunciation).

The city in north-eastern Italy is the capital of the Veneto region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers (more exactly between the Brenta and the Sile). In 2020, around 258,685 people resided in greater Venice or the Commune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical island city of Venice (centro storico) and the rest on the mainland (terraferma).

The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice for over a millennium, from 697 to 1797. It was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as an important centre of commerce—especially silk, grain, and spice, and of art from the 13th century to the end of the 17th. The city-state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial centre, emerging in the 9th century and reaching its greatest prominence in the 14th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. For centuries Venice possessed numerous territories along the Adriatic Sea and within the Italian peninsula, leaving a significant impact on the architecture and culture that can still be seen today. The sovereignty of Venice came to an end in 1797, in the hands of Napolean. Subsequently, in 1866, the city became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Although the city is facing some challenges (including an excessive number of tourists and problems caused by pollution, tide peaks and cruise ships sailing too close to buildings), Venice remains a very popular tourist destination, a major cultural centre, and has been ranked many times the most beautiful city in the world. It has been described by ‘The Times’ as one of Europe's most romantic cities and by ‘The New York Times’ as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man".

We do things the hard way and trudged through the narrow streets stopping off at one point to buy a slice of pizza  each and sat in to eat it. That was a whole five euros, which, given the stupid prices mug tourists can be asked to pay when eating out here was exceptional value.

We were having to endure light rain showers while we were out but it didn't create any problems for us as we were wearing our Macs and carrying folding umbrellas.

Later on while ambling around we bought a coffee each and tried to make the small cup last as long as possible whilst enjoying the views over the water just past the Arsenale (visit our last trip here when we had a very interesting tour of that area).

We then had a slow wander back through the narrow streets towards the bus station having indentified four things we hope to do over the next couple of days when we go back to 'town'. We'll also try and include a few tips we've picked up should you wish to visit here yourself.

So that completes our first day in Venice which cost us just twenty euros and that includes the bus fares.


MONDAY 15-05-23

It was a dry night for a change and we were up in good time because today we were heading to Venice.

After The Chef had left for the bathroom block I nipped out and fed the fish with our grey water before then heading over to dump our black water. Then it was the ceremonial topping up of the fresh water tank.

After my shower and breakfast, a couple of Weetabix and a sliced banana (They're definitely getting smaller and crumblier. They barely stay in one piece these days) we were soon ready for the road.

The problem was, we were ready at 09:00 for what Google Maps said would be a 5½-6 hour journey, but the campsite owner had beggared off somewhere leaving us stranded as we hadn't paid him, and  more importantly, he had my passport. There was a phone number on the door of Reception, and so I phoned it, but eventually it timed out with no reply.

After waiting for what seemed like ages, I tried the number again. This time I was told the number wasn't recognised not just once but twice, and I double checked, it was the same number I was dialling.

Our German neighbours had twigged what was going on and eventually told us that the owner/manager was around the back of the toilet block having recently returned in a van with a younger man.

Jesus I gave him what for. He understood very little English, but he was very good at body language and shouty, shouty, angry, angry.

Eventually we were on the road, but having lost a precious hour. That now meant we wouldn't arrive in Venice until late afternoon.

I'm not going to begin to try and explain what the satnav did to us today, only that, apart from about half an hour for lunch we were on the road from 10:00 until 17:30 by the time we arrived here.

It has been a long day, but we did eventually arrive at Camping Rialto (N45.484418° E12.282870°) which is in a great location. The bus service which runs between the airport and Venice 'island', stops right outside and it's a short bus ride away to the city. Across the road is a Lidl supermarket, which will allow us to stock up before we leave here heading for home. Soon after we arrived and pitched up we had a new neighbour - 'Fritzy no Mates'. He's on his own (no surprises) apart from his multi-coloured cross bred Alsatian mutt travelling in a SWB panel van conversion. He's covered in tattoos and looks like a roll of wallpaper. The dashboard looks a real mess, and among that mess is a motorcycle helmet, so either he has a motorbike in the back of the vehicle, or he's here to do a bank job.

Tomorrow is predicted to be wet, so I think we'll go in to Venice and cross over to the island of Murano to watch glass being blown, and no Graham Norton, that's not 'class being blown'.

We are due to leave here Saturday morning, and if we can get all we would like to do completed by Thursday we can spend Friday just chilling before the long run home as we're predicted to have two wet days followed by two sunny warm days.

Having listened to our new neighbour we are convinced  'Fritzy no Mates' is a complete nutter. I shall sleep with one eye open tonight.

SUNDAY 14-5-23

My word, what a wet night that was. In fact, it was probably the wettest night we've ever experienced, and that's saying something. In the past we've had very heavy rain for short periods, and we've had rain all night, but last night it was pretty much heavy rain for the whole of the night. Needless to say we didn't get a lot of sleep. Never mind, I'm now confident that all of the catkins and leaves from Camping Kate have been well and truly washed off the roof.

This morning it was over to the campsite toilet block, something we've not done for a few days as we've preferred to shower in the vehicle rather than trudge out in the rain.

It's amazing what a difference blue skies and sunshine make. The last time we were here it seemed a really nice spot right by the water's edge, but today it's a bit grey, wet and bleak. We've even had the ceramic fan heater on for most of the day.

We stayed in all morning amusing ourselves reading and doing Seduko and crossword puzzles. After lunch The Chef got to choose a film she'd bought along - 'Midnight Express', whilst I half watched it while carrying on with puzzles.

Luckily the rain dried up a bit and there became a window of about two hours of just very light drizzle, and we took advantage of it by going up the road for a walk. I took the little pocket camera with me intending to get a few snaps, but unfortunately after taking just one the camera packed up on me with a flat battery. Had I kept the camera in its little pouch I could have pulled out the spare battery, but I'd left it behind, just sliding the camera in to my mac pocket.

Well, I got the result of the Eurovision Song Contest completely wrong, although the UK did come second, second from bottom. Bring back Cliff Richard, Sandy Shaw and Lulu I say.

This evenings dining experience is to be burger and home-made chips because it is now unlikely that we'll get another opportunity to have a barbie so the burgers need eating up.

As I am typing this the sun has come out between the clouds and so I've popped out and tried to photograph it. It's not too impressive, but when you've endured as much cloud and rain as we have it's a little treat towards the end of the day.

Tomorrow we are off to Venice. We're booked in for five nights, leaving next Saturday for the journey home. I can't say I'll be sorry to see the back of this trip. I don't think I've ever returned from a trip with legs this pale in colour.

Whilst in Venice we'll have to sit down and decide on our route home. Basically it will be through France paying toll fees but having lower fuel prices, or through Germany toll-free, paying rip-off prices for fuel, plus more mileage. I think it will be through France, but we'll have to wait and see.

It will be an early night for us tonight so that we can catch up on the sleep we missed last night and to ensure we get up at a reasonable time tomorrow so that we can hit the road.

L-R Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren

SATURDAY 13-5-23

Today was the day we departed from Camping Kate. When The Chef went in to Reception to pay whist I did the dumping, she was informed that their rates had gone up yesterday, and needless to say they wanted paying in cash. Apart from the spivs selling us insurance for Turkey and Albania wanting cash, we've managed to hold on to our euros pretty well, but on this stretch of the journey more businesses are wanting cash, not that I would suggest for one moment that they were tax dodgers.

We had a look at Google Maps before setting out and concluded that to park up at the motorhome parking area near the railway station in Split (which on Google was showing it temporarily closed) would leave us with a bit of a hike to get to the Palace of Diocletian and surrounding  area, and as predicted, in the pouring rain. We decided to give it a miss.

Our first stop was the local Lidl store where we topped up with a few bits and pieces before heading north along the coastal road. It was raining heavily at times and we were the front slow coach at the front of a queue of traffic, but as I was breaking the speed limit (they set them much too low for a lot of the time out here), I didn't consider I was holding anybody up, and if they wanted to get past me I would always help them to do so.

It was mile after mile of twisting roads up hill and down dale with the satnav continually nagging me that I was over the speed limit. I had actually turned the verbal warning off after that awful day in Greece when we ended up in the mountains because it's bad enough trying to cope with situations that have gone bad without having that in my ear, but then I turned it back on for the trip across Albania, though fat lot of good that did me.

At one point I had a number of supercars in my wing mirror, all of whom eventually passed me.

Eventually we ended up on some motorway followed by a toll road for which we paid about twenty-one euros having travelled about one hundred miles on it which seemed reasonable, and saved us an awful lot of grief. I don't remember using that toll road on the last trip here, so maybe it's new. I think then we did it all the hard way along the coastal road, taking a couple of days or so to make the trip.

Lunch was taken at a motorway rest area, where we came across the supercars and their owners refuelling. They were all Norwegian for some reason and were a long way from home. There's obviously a lot of money to be made in Norway.

Back on to the toll road, and eventually we reached our exit which was about eight miles from our destination, Camping Antonio (N43.973773° E15.399949°). We've been here before as a stopping off point for a few nights, though back then it wasn't as scruffy. But scruffy or not they still know how to charge - twenty-three euros a night (cash of course). For that money we should at least get sunshine. We've only booked a couple of nights and will be back on the road first thing Monday morning heading for Venice where I've now booked us in for a five night stay. The weather forecast isn't very good, but that's what you get for setting out too soon on such a trip. This will mean we leave Venice a week today, so should be back home comfortably two weeks today.

We have considered going for a little walk down to the local village this evening, but the skies look awfully grey, with a forecast of thunderstorms. How lucky are we feeling?

It's the Eurovision Song Contest again tonight, hosted by that queen, Graham Norton. What a farce that programme is.