First Stage of the Journey to Greece, 2014.
Tuesday 20th May 2014.
We left home about 9am and had a good journey to Folkestone. We arrived early at the Channel Tunnel terminal but that gave us time to speak to Ella and Laura before we left. We went through the tunnel with the usual ease and speed and arrived in France about 4.30.pm and set off on the motorway towards Dunkirk and Lille. Unfortunately the motorway to Lille was closed due to some incident and it took us about two and a half hours to do the 30 miles to the aire at Bergues (Bergues 59380, Stade St Andries, N50.96491, E2.43223). The aire is large, flat, quiet and free; there are no facilities but it is very easy to find.
Wednesday 21st May 2014.
We left Bergues at about 8.30.am and had a good journey through Northern France, and Belgium stopping to fill up with cheap fuel in Luxembourg. It was a warm, dry and sunny day and we arrived at the aire at Charmes (Charmes 88130, N 48.37420, E 6.29339) at about 4pm. This was a lovely place to stop with marked pitches next to the canal, electric hook up, toilets and showers (10 Euros). We went for a run along the canal and through the town. There were lots of motor homes parked up there but we had a quiet night’s sleep.
Thursday 22nd May 2014.
We left Charmes at about 9am and it was a warm, sunny and dry day again as we drove to Basel via Epinal, Thann and Bussang. This is a very scenic route although the roads are quite winding and there were some steep parts (Col de Bussang) which made it quite slow but still worth going this way. We went through Basel with no problem; we still had a valid motorway toll document from last year so we didn’t have to stop at the border control point. We headed for Camping Alpenblick near Interlaken (46 deg, 40 mins, 46.90 sec N, 7 deg, 49 mins, 03.52 secs E) via Bern and Thun. We arrived at the campsite at about 2pm and set up near the front as it was the easiest place to park our TAG axle motor home. The facilities here were immaculately clean and the campsite owners were very friendly and helpful. It is quite expensive – 32 Euros per night – but this includes free use of the local bus to Interlaken and other villages near by.
Friday 23rd May 2014.
Hans picked us up at 9am and took us to their house for breakfast. Hans and Marianne live in Brienz in a traditional Swiss house built by Hans’ grandfather. It is a beautiful house and they have a garden with a wide variety of shrubs, trees and flowers with a view of Lake Brienz. There were lots of different areas to relax and enjoy the scenery around Brienz. We went for a stroll round the town and enjoyed hearing about the history of the area and the family. Wood carving is a tradition in the area and Hans’ grandfather played a key role in this industry. There were many examples of the wood carving throughout the village and the locality.
Hans took us to a spectacular waterfall at Geissbach where you could stand behind the falls and feel the power of the water cascading down to Lake Brienz.
We later took the free bus into Interlaken to buy a present for Hans and Marianne and to have a look round but we only saw a small part as we discovered the next day.
Saturday 24th May 2014.
Hans and Marianne picked us up about 12pm and took us up a mountain to a lake near Brienz. They played their Alpine Horns for us which was an amazing and unique experience. They also made a fire and cooked local sausages on it which we had with Marianne’s home made bread. Then we went to Axalp, a local ski area and walked further up the mountain where some paragliders were launching. After enjoying a drink at a café near the ski lift station we went back to their house and sat in the garden whilst they prepared food for us. Hans’ uncle and his wife came to join us and Hans cooked some lovely pizzas in his woodburning oven in the garden. We thoroughly enjoyed our two days with Hans and Marianne in Brienz.
Sunday 25th May 2014.
We left Brienz about 8.30.am and drove over the Brunnig Pass, through the Gottard Tunnel and into Italy. We headed for Malcesine coming off the motorway near Peschiera del Garda and driving alongside Lake Garda. It was very busy and a slow route passing through all the popular tourist spots on the lake. We arrived at Camping Tonnini and managed to get onto their biggest pitch next to the reception and on a slope but looking directly out onto the lake.
Second Stage of the Journey to Greece, 2014.
Monday 26th May – Thursday 29th May 2014.
We stayed in Malcesine for four nights and enjoyed exploring this part of Lake Garda. The campsite was about 2km from Malcesine centre so we were able to run there and back and comfortably walk to it as well. We had a look round the old town and the castle, spent some money in a very good windsurf shop and took the cable car up to the top of Mount Baldo. There were lovely views from the top although there was some mist (and lying snow!) so the one hour queue to get the cable car was worth it.
Mel took the motorbike off the rack and we went for a ride to Torbole and Riva del Garda. Had a walk around both places but weather a bit dull and we had rain on the journey back to the motor home.
We left Malcesine at 9am on the Thursday after taking a little while to get off the pitch. We drove north along the lake and then took the motorway route south towards Modena and then to Venice.
Thursday 29th May – Sunday 1st June 2014.
We arrived at Camping Fusina in Venice late morning and pitched the motor home at the front of the site by the water and looking out towards Venice. We spent the day relaxing on the site but later in the evening there was thunder and a light shower of rain.
On the Friday and Saturday we took the water ferry from just outside the campsite entrance across to Venice. We spent two days exploring the city, seeing all the tourist sites (St Mark’s Square, Bridge of Sighs etc) following a recommended walking route but also catching a vaporetta (water taxi) to the Rialto Bridge. We really enjoyed seeing Venice although it was very busy and it was hot and tiring walking around.
It was a very easy journey to the port on the Sunday morning (4 minutes away from the campsite). The ferries had started to leave from a new port at Fusina on the 31sr May so it was very convenient for us staying on the campsite right next to it. It took a while to load up the ferry which was very full but we left eventually at 1.15 pm. We had a good place again next to the side of the boat, making use of the camping on board facilities. We arrived in Igoumenitsa at 4pm on Monday 2nd June after a very relaxing and smooth ferry crossing. We drove to Vassiliki, arriving about 7pm and parking the motor home at the front of the campsite whilst we went into town for something to eat; Colin came to find us to say hello. It was a bit cool for Vass but it felt good to be back!
First few weeks in Vass.
2nd June – July 21st 2014.
We quickly set ourselves up on the same pitch on the campsite as last year and took all the windsurf kit to Sun Waves. The weather was a bit cool and we had rain on the first day, which was a bit unusual. We met people we knew from last year at Sun Waves – Jean and Clive, Ian and Annie, Carol and Colin. Derek and Anne arrived on the Friday and set up on the pitch next to us.
We started to get into our routine of getting up at 7am, going for a run, having showers, breakfast, washing clothes and shopping at the Euromarket, local bakery and butchers. We also went along to the Cosmos Hotel to say hello to Stelios and Tom. The wind wasn’t really blowing in the usual way as yet so there was not a lot of windsurfing going on. On Sunday 8th June there was heavy rain with thunder and lightening and the campsite became very wet and muddy.
Mel started to go to circuit training with Amy’s group on the 10th June (and every Tuesday/Thursday at 8am) and I started to do classes with her too – Swiss Ball on Tuesdays and Body Sculpt on Fridays. We both kept going to these sessions through out the three months and thoroughly enjoyed them; Amy is a good instructor, always enthusiastic, motivating and professional.
Anne and I attempted to do a bit of windsurfing but there was rarely the right amount of wind or the right conditions. Even Mel and Derek struggled to get the wind for them to have a good session. For the whole of June there were only ten days when they had planing conditions.
Ian and Pat arrived on the 13th June and set up their pitch in the usual place; it was good to see them again. We also met Claudia and Ralf again, a couple we had met in La Manga who had come to Vass for the first time to windsurf. They persevered with the wind and really improved their technique and ability to windsurf in strong winds.
Sunday 15th June was Derek and Ian’s birthdays so we went to the campsite restaurant with all our friends and had a lovely evening with some good food and excellent Greek dancing! The birthday cakes were good too!
We started to do some bike rides and Mel took Derek up to Agios Petros and the came back down off road whilst Anne and I cycled round the olive groves.
On Tuesday 17th June we hired a car and took Derek and Anne to Karia, Agios Nikitas and Athani. We had a lovely day showing them the west side of the island even though the weather was overcast and quite close but at least it didn’t rain.
On Tuesday nights we went to a few of Wild Wind’s live music nights and recommended other people to go. There was a guest singer for a few weeks – Andy Lewis who also played the trumpet; he really made the music come alive. Mel got to know him quite well as he also went to the circuit training. There were also a few other guest musicians who were very good and we had an excellent time listening to the band and dancing till quite late (for us!).
Neil and Janette Jones were staying on Cephalonia for two weeks at the end of June and they came across on the ferry to see us. It was lovely to be able to show them Vass and Neil even had a go at windsurfing (he did quite well for his first attempt). We had lunch at Sun Waves and Neil had a few beers whilst Janette and I relaxed on the sun beds (and Mel windsurfed). In the evening we went into town with Ian and Pat and we went to the new pizza restaurant. The pizzas were very big but very nice and we all struggled to finish them. We had a quick drink at Livinakis and then went back to the motor home with Neil and Janette who stayed the night with us. They caught the ferry back to Cephalonia the next morning having enjoyed seeing where we come back to every year.
From Monday 30th June to Saturday 5th July Mel did a wind surf course with Peter Hart at the Neilson centre (Cosmos Hotel). The wind conditions were not great all week but there was enough to enable him to get planing most days. He thoroughly enjoyed the week and got a lot out of the excellent tuition from Peter. Peter took videos of the group all week and gave feedback every morning; Mel got really confident with using his new 86 litre Kode wind surfboard and 5m2 Tushingham sail. On the Wednesday night we went to Stelios restaurant in town with Peter’s group and other guests from Neilson to celebrate Peter’s birthday; we had a very pleasant evening.
On Monday 7th July it was Kula’s ‘Name Day’ and we all went to the campsite restaurant and had another fun evening with lots of food, drink, Greek music and dancing.
We found a new route to Sivros this year, via Kontarena with lovely views over the olive groves. There is a monastery on route with spectacular views all around and well worth the effort to get there. We went on the bikes a couple of times and Mel also ran it a couple of times, stopping for a frappe in Sivros, of course.
Wifi and the internet were not very good this year in Vass. It seems that there is a problem with the infrastructure and none of the hotels, bars or the campsite had reliable and constant connections. This meant we were not able to Face time or Skype Caroline, Laura & Ella or Tom very successfully, which was very frustrating.
The campsite started to get very busy from the middle of July. Lots of people we met last year arrived but also lots of new people. The showers were a bit un-predictable. Sometimes cold and sometimes none of them free but we coped with the situation; it is good for the owners of the campsite for it to be busy in the peak season. Mel and Ian ‘commissioned’ a sail rack at the campsite this year which was very full for some of the time, saving space on the campsite.
We had another thunderstorm on the 15th June and it rained from about 7am until 11am. Then it cleared up until about 5pm when it rained again but only for a short time. We wondered what was going on with the weather, as it was very strange for Greece at this time of the year. The wind was a bit better in July, Mel had 18 days of planning conditions and I wind surfed about six times.
Saturday 19th July was Yvette’s birthday and we were invited to another campsite evening of food, drink, dancing etc. We had another very enjoyable evening with Kula dragging (literally) everybody onto the dance floor although Derek escaped by hiding under the table!
On Sunday 20th July we had Derek & Anne and Claudia & Ralf for dinner at our motor home. Anne, Claudia and Ralf are all vegetarians so I made a vegetable curry with dips and pitta bread, which everyone enjoyed. We had a very nice time together; this would be Derek & Anne’s last evening in Vass as they left on the 21st to catch the ferry back to Venice. Danny, Maria, Teas & Flor from Holland pitched their tent in Derek and Anne’s place and we were very pleased to have them as our new neighbours.
Second half of our stay in Vass 2014.
On the 21st July 2014 Derek and Anne left and on the 22nd Ian’s daughter Sally arrived. It was lovely to see her again and she started to go to circuit training with Mel and wind surfed from Sun Waves with Mel and Ian. She stayed in Ian and Pat’s motor home until Fraser arrived two weeks later. On the 23rd July we had another thunderstorm in the evening but not as heavy as the previous one.
On Sunday 27th July Mel’s daughter Caroline and her husband Sam arrived at Preveza airport at 7pm in the evening. We hired a car from Alex in Vass and went to pick them up. As we had the car for the day we made use of it and went to Lefkada Town for a coffee and walk round then to Preveza town which we hadn’t been to before. We had lunch on the sea front and then went to a small beach near by and sat there for a while before it was time to go to the airport. Caroline and Sam arrived on time and we drove back to Vass with the Neilson coach following us all the way! When we got back to Vass we went into town and had a pizza at Alex’s Italian restaurant which everyone enjoyed.
Caroline and Sam stayed with us in the motor home for one week and they made excellent use of this brief time with us. They ran to Agio Fili beach three times and had a swim and coffee in town afterwards; they wind surfed and made good progress although the wind conditions weren’t the best; had a joy ride on a catamaran with Larissa; went for two bike rides (one in the rain); enjoyed treats from the bakery and sweet shop and experienced a campsite party night and a Wild Wind live music night. We think they enjoyed it and we were very happy to show them Vass and give them a sense of what makes us come back every year. On Sunday 3rd August they left Vass, travelling to the airport on the Neilson coach; we were sorry to say goodbye.
On the 4th August Markus, Evana, Mila and Jan arrived; it was lovely to see them again. Mila is now nearly 4 (birthday 27th August) and Jan is 20 months so now he is walking. Jan soon learnt Mel’s name and amused everybody by calling ‘Mel’ every time he saw him!
Ralf and Claudia hired a car and offered to take us to the restaurant at Nikoli which we had been meaning to go to since last year. We went on a Thursday evening and the food was fantastic – traditional Greek food cooked by Stathis’ mother (Stathis has the bakery just along the road from the campsite). Lots of vegetarian choices too which was good for Ralf & Claudia. The restaurant opens in July and August and it is quite a treck to get there but well worth it. We went again with Pat, Ian, Sally, Fraser, Giorgos, Gundy, Hugo, Marlies and Larissa on the 14th August (the day before the Greek National Holiday (Maria Day). There was live Greek music on that night and it was very busy. It was a very special evening and we all really enjoyed it. This time we went on the motorbike which was OK, going via Agios Petros on the way and then back through the olive groves route. We couldn’t resist going again after Ian had left with Giorgos, Gundy, Hugo, Marlies and Larissa, this time getting a lift with Giorgos in his car.
Ralf and Claudia decided to leave on 11th August and to drive to Croatia to try the windsurfing there. We will be very interested to hear how they have got on. Before they left they invited us to share home made pizzas at their motor home and then we went into town for an ice cream. We had a lovely evening again and we will miss them.
Many people who we met last year and have got to know came and went – Horst & Gabbi from Austria, Jan & Yvette from Belgium, Danny, Maria & boys from Holland, Ralf and Claudia from Germany, Chris, Sue, Emily & Lucy from Dorset too. Peter & wife from Austria and Peter & family from Poland arrived and wind surfed from Sun Waves again. Mila and Myia made good friends with each other and chatted away in their own language to each other (German and Polish!).
We went along to Cosmos each week and again people we knew from previous years’ holidays arrived – Adam & Alex & boys, Christiano & Steve, Kate, Michelle and Garth and during the last week of August – Eamon, Pat, Jo & Adam were there. We went out for a pizza to Alex’s Italian restaurant in town with them on our last night. It was good to see them again and spend time catching up.
On the 20th August it was Nikh and Maria’s 20th Birthday. There was the usual campsite party to which we were all invited and once again had a fun evening with the usual compulsion from Kula to dance. Ian & Pat left on the 19th August so we had another campsite meal to send them off. Sally and Fraser were going back too, getting a ferry from Igoumenitsa to Corfu then flying home from there.
The campsite was very busy from the middle of July to the middle of August. After Danny & Maria had left we had several new neighbours some of whom pitched their tents close to us and put their tables and chairs under our washing line! After Maria Day it quietened down again and by the time we left there was lots of space. Wolfgang, Rosemary, Dominic and Christoph from Bavaria arrived, also Ludwigg (Wiggle) and Lis with the monkey bike (all from Bavaria). Ian & Rosanne (Beef & Bunty) arrived on the 21st August and spent one night on the campsite before moving to their apartment in town. It was nice to get to know them a bit more this year as our time in Vass overlapped for longer.
Mel’s back began to trouble him after he went on a bike ride with Ian to the two aerials and back along the scar road. He had also done a few too many downhill runs which added to the problem. He went to see Rachael, the physiotherapist at Neilson who was very good. She gave him some treatment, some exercises and some advice about resting which he wasn’t very good at taking. But eventually he listened and didn’t go running or to circuit training for the last week. He was still able to wind surf though and over the whole of the three months he wind surfed with good planning conditions on 45 out of 90 days so an average of 50%. Not as good as last year but he was satisfied overall!