The courtyard of the Basilica Di San Lorenzo

The courtyard of the Basilica Di San Lorenzo

MONDAY 23-4-18

Today was almost a wasted day. We sat around in the lovely sunshine waiting for 'Mr Fixit' to call and tell us what was going on, and whether or not he'd managed to source an LPG on/off valve.

At around 17:00 our Brit neighbour in the motorhome parked behind us enquired on our progress. When I told him, he very kindly offered to take a look at it for me. His career had been in hydraulics, and he said it's all much the same. After twiddling and resetting all the safety valves etc we had gas. I was so pleased and gladly gave him a bottle of Pimm's as a 'thank you'.

I then popped up to reception to tell them we didn't need the engineer now and could they let him know. I also gave them €20 to give to him for the short time he spent with us yesterday, if he felt it should be more then to let me know in the morning when we leave.

So as it turns out, it wasn't the on/off valve after all, and had he fitted a replacement at no small charge we would still have been in the same position, but even further out of pocket.

The above would have been a painful reminder of back home, where, only very recently, having noticed a wet carpet in the front passenger foot-well of our car I took it to our local garage to sort out. They checked the drainage channels and they were clear, continued to take a look, but couldn't find the problem. And for their abject failure, charged me about £100. They did suggest that the water was probably coming in around the windscreen seal, and that a new windscreen should sort it. So after about another week of trying to  minimise the damage I booked the car in for a new windscreen. This time it cost about £185, and the result? We still have the leak.

With our LPG now sorted we are free to leave tomorrow morning. It was important to sort the gas as we will be relying on it heavily in the coming weeks because the gas BBQ will give us the 'lifestyle' but the combined gas oven and grill will allow us to bake part-baked baguettes and any other meal during our many planned stops at locations without any electricity. The gas oven weighs quite a lot and the thought of dragging that and the BBQ around with us for the next 12 weeks and not being able to use it would have done my head in.

Tomorrow we head for Lucca, a walled city which is supposed to be very nice, and the following day set out early for the eleven or so mile journey to Pisa. We need to arrive early because, according to Reception Wednesday is a Feast Day, a national holiday. I don't know what it celebrates, but it can't be National Surrender Day, when they celebrate all the military victories they never had, and wave white flags out of their cars, as I'm sure that's a bit later in the year.

I will end this 'chapter' of the blog here and start another one tomorrow. I think I have inadvertently selected a different kind of page rather than a proper blog page, but I have to say it does make it so much easier to just scroll up and down one page rather than having to keep selecting 'Older' and 'Newer'. I keep getting red warning messages coming up telling me I've overloaded the page, but what the hell.

SUNDAY 22-4-18

We awoke to a truly lovely morning. The sun was rising in a blue sky and the air smelt lovely and fresh. We are fortunate that our pitch is fairly shaded  by a couple of trees, which helps but even so, when the sun is high in the sky it's hot, very hot, though thankfully today seemed a bit cooler than yesterday.

Showered and fed we both took it in turns to do our bits of washing. Rather than tie a line between two trees we laid the items out on both of our large oblong tables. The reason we carry two is so that The Chef can use one for cooking outside and the other  can be used to sit at for our meals should we choose, and the reason we didn't want to stretch a line between two trees is because we have numerous caravanners around us who would probably turn their noses up at such a practice since they like to recreate their home from home. All of them use a small freestanding rotary clothes line. I've yet to spot plastic garden gnomes sat on mushrooms or holding a fishing rod, but we've twelve weeks to go yet.

This is a self-imposed rest day and we've spent most of the day outside reading. Currently I've got my head in a book entitled 'The Silent Deep' about the Royal Navy's Submarine Service since 1945. Quite interesting, but not a light read for those who have no knowledge or interest of the subject. I spent two years of my service in the Royal Navy doing work associated with anti-submarine warfare, and so have some interest in the subject, but I tell you the officers and men of the Submarine Service during the 1950's and 60's particularly, were the true unsung heroes of the Cold War. What they did, and the conditions they did it in, deserves our huge respect, and because they did it 'silently' the public didn't get to appreciate the risks they took. Sadly since they weren't gay 'celebrities' or Whitehall Mandarins  there were no gongs or knighthoods for them.

Our Spanish caravanning couple next door, she, who seems quite nice and he who spent the whole period yesterday setting up his caravan walking around in his underpants with his knackers visible on either side went out for the day leaving their roof-mounted air conditioning unit running. So we got a bit of peace which was most welcomed.

I have to say I'm getting to much prefer parking up at Camperstops. Only motorhomes are allowed to use them, they're either cheap or free. The folk using them seem friendlier, and no sign of yelping balls of fluff, rotary clothes driers or plastic gnomes.

Tonight, as nothing has happened except our sitting on our butts all day, I will share with you another gizmo I had fitted to 'Freddie  Fendt' just before we came away.

Mindful of many European towns and cities becoming stricter about their levels of pollution I wanted to find a way of reducing our engine's pollution level, as well as improving our fuel consumption. I had spotted a very small article in a newspaper mentioning a gizmo that can be fitted to either petrol or diesel engines. It was developed by an ex submariner who had worked on the equipment which extracted oxygen from sea water whilst nuclear subs remained submersed for weeks on end. After his discharge from the Royal Navy he went in to his garden shed and slaved away adapting that technology to create a gizmo that could be adapted for vehicles. Basically 'the box' is installed under the bonnet in to which a sachet of Electrolyte is poured in. The box of tricks is wired up to the 12v system and whilst the engine is running the chemical reaction between the electricity and the electrolyte liquid produces hydrogen. In fact, you can stand and watch the hydrogen being produced in the form of bubbles. That gas is then passed down a pipe and introduced in to the inlet manifold and mixed with the incoming air. The hydrogen (remember Hiroshima?) enriched air enters the cylinder and is ignited . You get a bigger 'BANG' for your buck, and a cleaner burn by igniting more, if not all of the fuel.

I am keeping a log of my MPG  and I have to say that early indications are very promising. Don't get me wrong, this Ford Transit engine is brilliant without any help, but I am now getting more consistent performance. I can now undertake motorway journeys averaging 50mph and still get about 35mpg. I will keep you informed. Check out their website at  

Tomorrow we are hoping to get a phone call from the Italian 'Mr Fixit' regarding our LPG problem. If he can get that fixed we're away heading towards Lucca and Pisa.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Piazza Della Signoria

Piazza Della Signoria

The Baptistry

The Baptistry

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

Baptistry, Cathedral and Campanile

Baptistry, Cathedral and Campanile

SATURDAY 21-4-18

The chef didn't get much sleep last night which was unfortunate as I had set the alarm for 06:00, the plan being that we would catch the 07:30 bus from just down the road, knock off Florence, missing the crowds, and then make our way back.

The shower block was of course quite empty at that time of the day, however it took ages for any hot water to reach the shower head. I was beginning to resign myself to having a cold shower when finally it appeared.

Scrubbed up and fed we made our way to the bus stop in the village, arriving ten minutes before the scheduled 07:30 bas due time as advised. I was travelling in just a short sleeved shirt and trousers, my thinking being that it would soon warm up and I'd be comfortable. The Chef, wisely was wearing a denim jacket to protect her from the early morning temperature. I was not and stood there feeling rather cold to say the least. But never mind the weather turned out to be another cracker. Baking hot, and for me personally too hot. There's no point in having very hot days unless you have nothing to do and can keep out of the sun or lie out in it and chill (and fry).

The bus journey in to Florence was about an hour. The hairy, hilly journey was undertaken by a driver who could multi-task. As well as driving he could chat most of the way hands free on his phone and turn sideways to chat up a pretty young lady he seemed to know sat the front. They don't fit seatbelts to these busses for no good reason.

On arrival in Florence we took at look at the Basilica di San Lorenzo, which I think may have been the original location of the Catholic Church's  School for Child-Beating Bullying & Abuse, run by nuns for nuns. Their influence was to be felt in Orpahanages and Childrens homes throughout the world. Well I think that's what was here.

We were too early to be allowed in, and when they opened, we would have to pay, so we were off - to the famous Cathedral, the Santa Maria del Fiore, with its orange tiled roof. Next to it was the Campanile (Bell Tower) clad in white, green and pink Tuscan marble, and the Baptistry. Once again I was struggling to get everything in the photograph. I had already decided not to bother using the video camera on this trip, and now I think I will leave the SLR camera behind as the lens can't cope when I'm up close to the subject, and it's pretty heavy to lug about along with everything else. As usual the little Canon pocket camera was the fall back position.

I was hoping to go in to the cathedral to see the magnificent dome painting, but by about 08:45 the queues were already very long. It really wasn't worth the effort, especially as I wasn't sure if we needed to buy tickets to get in.

Then it was off to the Piazza della Signoria home of numerous statues, and the magnificent Fountain of Neptune, which, being our luck, was covered in a temporary roof and surrounded by covered fencing for a long term renovation including the replacement of all the water system. No help to me though.

We then headed for the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge across the river with shops and flats built on top of it. For some strange reason nearly all of the shops were selling gold and other jewellery items.

I was beginning to be amazed at just how walkable the city centre of Florence is. We were making cracking progress. For me there was probably only one other thing I fancied doing, and that was to view the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo. An observation point across the river, up a steep hill and then up loads of steps. Not recommended for those which a chest or heart condition.

Naturally of course, when we arrived at the top there was a large car park full of cars, tour busses and even motorhomes - but we prefer to do things the hard way.

After a few photographs we made our way back down the hill intent on buying a couple of €5 take-away pizzas we'd seen advertised back down near the river. Having decided to add a couple of glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice to the order, and sit and eat it as invited to, our bill came to €26 - screwed again. I think we'll have to resort to doing what we used to do, and that is make up a couple of filled crusty baguettes and take those and two drinks out with us. I'm quite happy to put a bit in to the local economy, but I don't like the thought of them sniggering behind my back because they've caught another pair of unsuspecting tourists.

We had a terrible time finding the different location for the bus stop for our return journey, but we did eventually find it and were glad for the chance to sit down for an hour.

That was hard work. It was hot and became very crowded, but hey, that's what being a tourist is all about. It was harder for The Chef because she'd been there twice before and endured it for me.

This evening, thankfully is cooler, and we share it with a new neighbour to our right. A Spanish couple with a caravan, which has no carpet on the floor and coupled with their having all the windows open and watching mindless TV via the internet they're in a noisy box on wheels.

Tomorrow is a rest and wash day. We could have just left, but we need to hang around in the hope the local engineer can fix our gas valve problem on Monday.

FRIDAY 20-4-18

The time we'd spent on our freebie piece of land next to a campsite and Camperstop had come to an end. We were to set off back towards Maranello and park at their Camperstop on the edge of town somewhere. According to the Camperstop book, 2017 edition it was a little piece of heaven with buses to both Bologna and Maranello from a bus stop right outside. Sadly, the truth was that it was quite neglected, didn't even offer water, as the tap had been blocked off, the parking areas were quite overgrown, there was no sign of shower facilities etc and all for just €7 a night. I think it was a con to try to get mugs like us to stay and spend money in their restaurant next door.

Having parked up we agreed not to stay, so I took advantage and used their dump station facilities for our 'black' water, the 'grey' having been left behind on our wasteland to feed the grass.

The lady in the bar was surprised that we had decided not to stay, though I can't think why. We agreed we would head to a Camperstop near Florence. It was next to a Lidl store and only one hundred metres from the railway station, from where we could catch a train in to Florence lasting just twenty minutes.

On the way we pulled off the toll road and filled the fresh water tank for free, as we were a bit low on water having had a shower this morning. Patting ourselves on the back for our resourcefulness we made our way to the Camperstop. Well it would have been a very convenient and cheap Camperstop  were it not for the fact the Lidl store had closed down. Now, only grass grew in their car park, and within eyeshot was a fast looking train stood at the station. Despair, it was time for something to eat and so I pulled in to a small car park and The  Chef cobbled something together. During this break we decided to give up on Camperstops and go to a campsite instead. And so it was. we arrived here, Camping Village Il Poggetto (GPS: N43.701346 E11.405242), somewhere off the toll road and at the end of about eight miles of narrow, climbing twisting country roads. Needless to say the campsite's swimming pool which it lays great store by is a ghastly colour and probably full of local aquatic life and frogspawn, and will remain so until the season gets busier.

Having set ourselves we made our way in to the local village in the hope of finding a supermarket, even a small one, but no, it was not to be. We had to buy bottled water from the campsite shop at €1.50 a bottle, ten times what we'd been paying, and I have spent time on the naughty stool for going back up there and buying a 2 litre bottle of Coca Cola for €2.90. Who said crime doesn't pay.

The one positive thing to possibly come out of it is that I enquired at Reception about a mobile engineer who could come out and look at our exterior gas outlet problem. The very helpful guy there arranged it all and the engineer turned up and took a look. He reckoned that the isolation valve that the folk at Essanjay in Poole, Dorset had fitted wasn't working. If he's right then that would be very annoying since they'd only just fitted it during the habitation service. Anyhow our little man from somewhere down the road is going to source us a valve of some sort to replace the valve he says is not working. If he's right, that's fine, hats off to him and I'll pay what's due. However if he's wrong he will have to join the list of so-called 'experts' with whom I have just lost faith. That may seem petty, but back home we have a water leak on our car around the front windscreen area. The local garage assured us that if we changed the windscreen it would solve the problem. And the result? We are £180 out of pocket for a new windscreen and we still have the water leak. So I suppose, as a guest in a foreign country, if our little man down the road changes the gas isolating valve at huge expense and it doesn't work, I'm supposed to pay with a smile on my face and say something like "Don't worry, you did your best"

At this point I am reminded of the Morecombe & Wise sketch with the conductor Andre Previn. Eric is playing the piano and says something like "I am playing the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order". And that after a few glasses of French Rosé wine is my predicament with this laptop keyboard.

Tomorrow an early morning bus trip in to Florence.....................

THURSDAY 19-4-18

Well that was a pretty good  night's sleep. I think the family from hell must go home or somewhere else later in the evening as we didn't hear anything from late evening until mid afternoon today when I assume the kids came out of school.

Today was leak day and I must admit it troubled me during the night, but this morning it had to be done. I emptied the rear locker completely said a little prayer, took a deep breath and hack-sawed through the first of four pipes. Once I'd fractured the first one there was no turning back. The biggest problem for me was working in such a confined space. I had to lean through a small exterior locker door then open the boiler cupboard door and work on the manifold on the far wall of the cupboard. Basically this manifold takes the pressurised hot water from the boiler tank and then distributes under pressure from the pump, three ways, one to the shower head, one to the bathroom sink, and one to the kitchen sink.

As I squeezed through the narrow openings I wondered if my career in the NHS could have been better spent as a gynaecologist.

By lunchtime I was done, thankfully the job appeared to be a success and all I had to do then was dry out the interior as much as possible. Our finishing up here, in wherever we are, though an annoying detour, has been a bit of a blessing as we've been able to spread out and crack on with jobs, and all for free.

This afternoon I showed The Chef one of the gizmo's I'd bought for the motorhome - a folding solar panel. I didn't want a solid one mounted on the roof as it would have meant drilling holes in the roof, and I didn't want that done. This gizmo can be deployed as an when required and top up the habitation battery while we are stationary for a few days, or only making short journeys which wouldn't give the alternator  much chance to top the battery up.

Having found one problem I discovered another - I had an exterior barbecue gas point installed last summer so that we could operate the BBQ and newly purchased portable gas oven/hob from the vehicles two internally mounted refillable LPG bottles. I'll look to get the problem sorted further down the line when we use a proper campsite. Most of them tend to have contact details of a mobile fitter/repair man.

Today The Chef was to bake some part-baked rolls for lunch and this evenings meal of Spag Bol. Nothing was the result, the gas just wasn't coming through. I can only assume the folk did something to screw things when they installed an isolation valve in the gas line. Still not to be deterred we baked the baguettes indoors on the gas rings using a cast-iron griddle and covering the rolls with foil.

Tomorrow we plan to find the Maronello Camperstop site, where we should have been, and then look to catch a bus or train to Bologna the following day.

WEDNESDAY 18-04-18

This morning we left our Camperstop at Parma and headed for the Ferrari Museum at Maranello. Unfortunately the journey involved a trip on a toll road. Not so easy here in Pastaland. On arrival at our automatic toll booth we were required to take a ticket. Press the big red button - nothing. Press the big red button higher up for bigger vehicles - nothing. Tried again and again - nothing. So I pressed the button to talk to somebody. There was a muffled voice and I said something like "English ..........  pressed button ........... no ticket". Anyhow after a while the barrier raised and we were away. Well we were away until about 12 miles down the road when we left the toll road and arrived at a toll both manned by 'Frank Cannon's' brother. I explained the problem, that we had no ticket, that we entered the system at Parma and needed to pay.  This man insisted we owed €58.50, that's  €3.50 for the journey and €55.00 because we had no ticket and must presumably pay from the very beginning of that stretch of toll road. Gosh I wasn't pleased and eventually after much tapping away on his keyboard we were asked to pay €3.50. We thanked him and were given our 'receipt', only to discover as we drove away that it had deducted our €3.50 and so we still owed €55.00. We have something like 15 days to pay it and so we will attempt to make contact with them this evening online to see if we can sort it out. Basically their ticket machine was duff and we should never have been allowed through the barrier without said ticket.

Anyhow we eventually arrived at the Ferrari Museum (GPS: N53.530096 E10.861616). We parked up and had an early lunch as I had no idea how long it would take us to get round it.

Quite enjoyable I have to say. I paid for The Chef's entrance fee since I think it unlikely a visit to the museum would appear on her 'must see' list. €32 in total.

On leaving town we passed the entrance to the Ferrari factory, all very low key so that it would blend in to the surrounding area. More interestingly just down the road from that was Ferrari's own test track. Unfortunately I couldn't pull in anywhere to take a picture of it. 

Next we made our way to what was supposed to have been the Maranello Camperstop. But no - I'd got it wrong and had recorded the GPS co-ordinates for it incorrectly and now we find ourselves on a piece of wasteland next to a campsite-cum-Camperstop.

I have had everything out of the left rear locker and taken a closer look at the leak. I have decided to take the huge risk of cutting in to the water pipes and installing a new water manifold.  Not one made for, or by Fendt in Der Farderland, but a French version made for a Rapido motorhome, but it was all I could get my hands on in the time allowed before we left. Thirty-three pounds for a bit of plastic.

I have decided that tomorrow will be 'L' day - leak day. Hopefully we'll get a permanent fix until we get back to the UK where we'll get it sorted properly. If I get it wrong we're truly screwed.

So now we are parked up on our little bit of wasteland next to a Camperstop, where those who entered are paying €5 a night to share a space with the family from hell. An Italian family with two young, screaming brat kids and a fondness for loud amplified music.

As I pointed out to The Chef "At least we get to listen to them for free - other people have paid good money to be their neighbours".

So tomorrow I plan to fix the leak (God willing) and let it settle, before we make our way back to Maranello and the correct Camperstop, from there we  can get a bus or tram in to Bologna. Maybe Bologna isn't everything we would hope for, but if we skip it, then the next stop is Florence, and it's too soon to arrive there.

Our very own Stevie Wonder - but with a violin

Our very own Stevie Wonder - but with a violin
Parma Cathedral

Parma Cathedral

The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista

The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista

TUESDAY 17-4-18

It was good to get in to the shower this morning. There is only one cubicle for the Camperstop but The Chef and I were first to arrive. As I stood outside waiting my turn I could tell my hair had missed its shampoo yesterday. I only had it cut  few days ago, I leave it as late as possible so that I don 't have to go out in public afterwards. It looks like a five-bob cut. He hasn't said anything but I think my hairdresser still holds a grudge because I didn't buy his guide dog a new rubber toy after our last trip.

Scrubbed and fed we made our way to the bus stop. Today we were to visit the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista, Cathedral and Baptistry in Parma. I'd seen them featured on a TV programme hosted by an Italian chef and an English art historian, who were touring Italy, and thought they'd be worthy of a closer look.

After a twenty-minute bus ride and visit to the Tourist Information Office we arrived at Church of San Giovanni Evangelista, whose dome features a fresco (c1520) of the Vision of St John at Patmos by the artist Correggio. The side chapels were painted by artists such as Correggio and Michelangelo Anselmi. I have to say it was all very nice, but also very grimy. I suppose it would be difficult to clean the stonework without damaging the artwork.

Next we were off just down the road to the Cathedral or Duomo as they call them, probably because they can't spell Cathedral.

The sun was in the worst possible place for taking exterior shots of the  buildings as it was shining right in to the lens, and what pictures I did get to take were a bit of a compromise to try and hide the sun behind a building, but not getting the shot I really wanted.

I have to say the interior didn't disappoint, even though, again the stonework was quite grimy. I think in future when I visit places like that I will take with me my monopod or tripod, because trying to keep the cameras steady in low lighting is a nightmare. The most famous painting within the building was on main cupola, or dome, the Assumption, painted by Antonio da Correggio.

Imagine how hard it must have been to paint such ceilings and domes. Presumably the artists, would, for many months or even years have had to climb very tall wooden scaffolding held together with rope. they'd have had to spend all day up there, probably laid on their backs whilst they painted. I tell you I wouldn't have wanted to be around at the final stages of this painting when somebody told Correggio Dulux had just invented Brilliant White Emulsion. It must have put a lot of talented artists out of work, forcing others to make a living as portrait painters. Harold Eastman put the final nail in their coffin when he invented photography.

On exiting the Cathedral we decided not to go in to the Baptistry, mainly because they were charging something like eight Euro's entrance fee. For a combined sum of sixteen euros we could buy an awful lot of Dulux Brilliant White Emulsion.

Whilst wandering around town I found myself needing to spend some of my wee money, but with the misfortune of being unable to find somewhere to spend it. Step forward two bored looking tourist helpers with appropriate Hi-Vis jackets. I told them the problem and, no kidding, I had my own personal escorts all the way to the public loos in the market area. Now that's what I call service.

As I've said in the past, we do tend to have a problem in finding fresh cow's milk and fresh bread. Yesterday Lidl didn't sell it, but today - success. Within the market area was a very nice supermarket cum delicatessen and we managed to buy a bottle of the stuff. I have photographed the bottle should we have a problem in the future, and can show staff what it is we want.

Then it was on the bus and 'home'. The weather here is absolutely cracking, though I'm hoping the folk back home are also enjoying the forecast warm sunny weather.

Whilst sitting outside enjoying the sunshine music wafted across from the Camperstop cafe area. It turned out to be violin's version of Steve Wonder playing easy to listen to music with a taped piano accompaniment. You really don't get that at Starbuck's.

Tonight The Chef is serving bacon and egg, mainly because she can't get any more bacon in to the freezer and therefore it needs to be eaten. OK so it's not Parma ham but it's close - it's pig.

The manager of the Camperstop, sat in the café area, has just started playing his accordion. The tunes sound like sea shanty's, so I need to conclude this as I am fearful it may be my turn in the barrel (Navy joke).

Tomorrow we make our way to Maranello where we may get to see some red cars.

MONDAY 16-4-18

This morning started fairly wet as usual, but it didn't dampen our spirits because all being well we were starting out on the final leg of our journey to Parma in northern Italy.

Unfortunately we had to forego our shower as we were getting very low on fresh water, this is not only inconvenient but now throws up another minor problem.

I mentioned that we had treated the motorhome to a complete set of new tyres. Not just the four corners but the spare as well. Not a worn spare either, but a brand spanking new unused spare. But it was a 'Continental' brand which differed from the four corners which are Michelin. Unfortunately our French cousins won't fit a different tyre should you have a damaged tyre, they all have to match. So I asked the guy at the garage to give me the 'Continental' tyre after he'd taken it off as I intend to sell it. I'm sure I could get £30 for it given the price of them new. The Chef will be pleased if I can sell it as it will mean she can give up the morning paper round I got her to help pay for them.

Having bought the tyres I was keen to prevent any unnecessary wear and stress to them. Enter the bouncy back end.

Despite best efforts we always set out with a full load onboard, especially in the rear exterior locker, or garage. This has meant in the past that we've gone along with the back end down and the nose in the air, which given that we're front wheel drive has led to many hairy moments on fast winding roads, but I never let on to The Chef. Determined to do something about it I have recently had Air Assisted Suspension fitted on the back axle. Basically it's a pair of bellows fitted in place of the bump stops/spring assisters. These can then be adjusted using compressed air to inflate or deflate them.

Before leaving home I adjusted mine with the vehicle fully loaded, which included a full 100 litre fresh water tank located inboard under the front sofa. That's 100 kilo's of weight. The vehicle can cope with the weight admirably but once that front ballast is missing, as in an empty tank we're back to a bit of bouncy bounce, but only because I couldn't be bothered to readjust it. But I have to say they have transformed the ride of the vehicle, it handles so much better.

So this morning we bounced our way out of Switzerland and in to Italy. My word I'd forgotten how crazy the Italian drivers are, but this afternoon I decided to play them at their own game. I now command the piece of road I want and I yield to nobody until I decide to do so. So far nobody has got excited about it.

So here we are then, at a Camperstop on the outskirts of Parma, Italy, (GPS: N44.80931º E10.28495º) and we're enjoying glorious sunshine in 25˚C.

We've already had a look around the Lidl supermarket across the road, have found the local bus stop, and this evening will be having a beer in the Camperstop's own bar, so that we can pick brains as to how we get in to Parma on the bus. Tomorrow that is where we intend to be, and from now on we are playing tourists. I hope the text and pictures become a bit more interesting now.

We're only 978 miles from home.

SUNDAY  15-4-18

That was a rather wet night. It began raining about 02:00 and continued throughout the night.  I know that because sleeping in a motorhome, or a caravan for that matter is akin to sleeping in a tin shed when it starts to rain. But despite that we had a good night's sleep. Mine could have been better, but being a pig, I ate nearly a whole bag of Sweet Chilli-flavoured peanuts with my wine last night and with the sloping angle of our parking space, and sleeping head-down, I suffered gastric reflux. Serves me right that's what I say.

Up this morning and in to the shower. As I've said in the past, whoever designed our bathroom should receive a design award. It's just amazing how much has been squeezed in to such a small space. After a lovely wet shave and shower I felt human again and ready to hit the road.

For those who read this with a European road atlas on their laps wondering why on earth we have selected this route, let me explain.

Last September we journeyed to southern France to visit two of our favourite spots, Villeneuve Loubet between Antibes and Nice, followed by Manosque further inland, but both in Provence, France.

We had decided to use the French toll roads as a rehearsal for this trip. However when the toll bills came in for the round trip the total cost was a whopping 320 euros. Admittedly it was a very pleasant and relaxing journey, but come on, 320 euros? We therefore decided to come this way, through Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and in to Italy. No tolls, other than these lovely Swiss people wanting a mere £33 off us to use their motorways for a whole year despite the fact I only need to use them for a total of 12 hours max, just enough to pass through their country, a place we love, but now, so, so, expensive.

Off we set then. The rain had stopped and there was a promise of a bit of warmth and sunshine in the air. We had planned, as usual, to drive for a couple of hours before lunch followed by three or four hours driving afterwards depending on how I felt.

Being a Sunday the most noticeable thing was that nearly all HGV's were off the roads and holed up in Truck Stops, thousands of them, quite unbelievable. I know they have something to that effect in France, so I guess it's applies here in Germany too. I must say though it does free up the roads for the 'locals' and guarantees the HGV drivers a day off whether they like or not.

The most noticeable thing about these German Autobahns is that there seems to be no upper limit to the speed you can travel unless they tell you otherwise on overhead gantries. This is a green light for 'Jack the Lad' to drive well beyond his capabilities. This was borne out soon after our lunch break and refuel.  We came to a grinding halt at the back of a three-lane queue of traffic which went on for miles and miles lasting over one whole hour. When we got to the front there had been a fender bender in the fast lane. Further down the road there had been another one on the opposite carriageway.

 Eventually we crossed the border in to Switzerland. I must confess to being a bit concerned as having ordered our vignette in advance I had stuck it to the exterior  of the windscreen, not the approved way but I was unable at that time to figure out how I display the '18' and a motorway motif  correctly sticking it to the interior of the windscreen. The fine for wrongful display is up to €1000, so I was  most relieved when a very bored border guard  just waved us through.

We are currently parked up for the night at a Service Area just past Lake Lucerne, about a third of the way across Switzerland. By the end of tomorrow we should arrive in Parma, Italy, home of the ham, and then the tour begins properly. Up until that point it's just 'work' to get us to the 'start' destination, and as for current photo opportunities, there are only so many pictures I can take of us in a parking area.

For tonight I shall leave you with this: Yesterday we crossed from France it to Germany quite seamlessly somewhere west of Cologne. Some miles down the road I mentioned to The Chef that there were an awful lot of signs to 'Ausfahrt', after all, we'd passed it miles back. I swear she gleaned huge delight in pointing out to me that 'Ausfahrt' was in fact German for 'Exit'.

Our location for tonight

Our location for tonight

SATURDAY 14-04-18

We awoke this morning in the car park at Cite Europe in Calais (GPS: N50.932880º E1.811049º). We had arrived via the Eurotunnel which is, I have to say, a far more pleasant, expensive, and civilised way to cross the channel than Mr Peando's Multi-Coloured Ferryboat.

Within about twenty minutes of the train arriving in Calais we were parked up and ready for bed.

We slept well save for the noise in the early hours, of what sounded like a security guard dog ripping the arse off a potential illegal immigrant within the Eurotunnel complex next door.

After scrubbing up this morning we made our way in to the Cite Europe shopping complex for a few last minute bits and pieces.

On our return I noticed the first buggeration of the trip - a water leak. Not a new water leak, but the return of an old enemy. I am so annoyed with myself. I spotted drips of water seeping from the rear of 'Freddie Fendt' during our last trip to Provence in France last September. I foolishly made the assumption that it was from a water pipe running between the 10 litre fresh water tank under the 'sofa' to the boiler and pump at the rear, and assumed I'd never be able to access it and would therefore leave it to the guys at Essanjay in Poole, Dorset who were to carry out our habitation service. Shortly before the service in March I decided to take a closer look at the problem and was successful in locating the source of the leak. Sadly the necessary spare part could not be ordered in time for this trip. Therefore I set about it with resin and hardener and a dash of silicone mastic. After the repair I tested everything and it worked just fine - until this morning, leaving a small puddle of water under the vehicle.

Today we have crossed Belgium and are now holed up at a rest area for the  night in der Farderland, east of Cologne, having managed to avoid German female motorhomers, as I just wasn't in the mood for arm wrestling or bare knuckle fighting.

Since the last trip which we posted on the blog ('Spain 2017')  'Freddie Fendt' has had a lot of money spent on him by way of a complete set of new tyres and numerous gismo's (more of those over the coming days).

Right now we just need to get back in to the swing of motorhome touring and the blogging. There'll be lots of experiences and thoughts to share throughout the trip but right now it's just 'work' getting us to Parma, Italy where the trip properly begins.