Posted by: yatesontour | January 26, 2014

To infinity and beyond

Back on the road again……. In December last year we finally sold our house and so we are ready for our travelling adventure. We decided to start it in South Africa visiting Rob(Graham’s son) and his lovely wife, Kerry, definitely the better half, sorry Rob. They live in Johannesburg and this is where we have made our base since the beginning of December.

DSC_4710

We have been aided in our quest for the ‘Good Life’ by the wonderful currency exchange rate of 18 rand to the £, incredible!! A cup of tea and coffee at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Course (Woburn or Celtic Manor in UK golf terms) cost us £1.60!!

100_1091We spent our Christmas break with Rob & Kerry and headed south. The aim was to complete two hikes, the Tsitsikamma Mountain trail before Christmas and the Strandlopper coastal hike over New Year. On the way we visited the Mountain Zebra National park, a beautiful  place and then over Christmas Addo Elephant reserve, again a lovely place to be. There is something very special about being able to see wild animals in their native habitat and it never ceases to make my heart beat faster to see any of the big five. DSC_4876

On this trip we have brought our golf clubs and have been playing two or three times a week at different courses again the exchange rate has helped but it is still very cheap here.

South Africa is a very beautiful country but at the same time a country of many contradictions and place that is hard for me to reconcile with what I have been used too.

Anyway enough for now. We are off for a week of luxury next week at the Riviera on Vall hotel playing golf and lying by the pool hard life!!

http://www.rivieraonvaal.co.za/

For more photos make friends with me on facebook!!

https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_nonslim

 

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Posted by: yatesontour | January 19, 2014

We’re back!!

Watch this space just getting our blog going again. Currently in South Africa for three months. I will put a proper blog on this week love to everyone.

Cathy & Graham

Posted by: yatesontour | March 29, 2012

The final curtain……

Tuesday 20th March………

I am sitting writing this the day before we are due to catch the ferry back to the UK and I have to say just writing this brings a lump to my throat. The time has just flown by and our adventure will soon be over but we are both sure that this is only the beginning of our future travels.

Having stayed for one night at our beautiful vinery campsite we headed north again, to Clermont Ferrand.  One of the main reasons for choosing this route up through France was to be able to go across the Millau bridge and it was truly spectacular!

Millau Bridge

Blot l'eglise campsite

We found another lovely campsite in the Northern Auvergne run by a Dutch family. We were going to stay for 6 days but extended it to 8 because it was so peaceful. We once more put on our walking boots and headed off down the local French tracks. Under an increasingly hot sun we found the beginning of our walk and so set off photocopy map in one hand and an eye out for the markers. It was an 11km walk just enough for us at the moment. We carefully followed the markers but soon realised that the map and the marked route were not quite the same by about 5 kms! So what started out as a nice stroll turned into a bit of a slog towards the end but the scenery was very nice and wetted our appetite to visit again.

The Auvergne

X-RATED

Our next journey was to take us further north to Le Mans via the wonderful French motorway system and another exciting happening on the way. At one of the toll booths we were stopped by the French customs and they x-rayed the truck and fifthwheel, yes X-RAYED the vehicle, cool heh!!

Now we have travelled approximately 16,000 miles this year and have been using the ACSI camping card and information to help us find sites to stay on and it has been brilliant. We were quite concerned when we set out about finding places to stay and have become more confident in going to different campsites. Not one campsite has ever turned us away until……..

What do you say when you are told you cannot stay here because you have two axles and you look over the fence and all the roads on the site are tarmac and all the pitches are hard standing. We could not believe our ears but there was obviously no point trying to argue our case so we had to find another one soon remembering that it was now 5pm and Graham had just driven 400 kms. French campsites tend not to open until April so we were a little worried but ACSI came to our rescue again and we found a small municipal site open 50 kms further on. Sat nav can be very useful but in this instance it nearly undid us as it tried to take us down the back streets of Le Mans so out came the map and the retaliatory  cry of ‘oh no we won’t’ to the Sat nav instructions, we made our way back to the motorway and made our way to Mamers.

Our final campsite

But once here we realise that we are probably on a prettier site with free internet as well!

So tomorrow Friday 30thMarch 2012 we leave to catch the ferry from Le Havre to Portsmouth, arriving home about midnight. We are looking forward to seeing our family and friends again and regaling them with our tall tales!!

fifthwheel's aren't that big

Posted by: yatesontour | March 24, 2012

Chips and Branston pickle

 

Monday 12th March-Monday 19th March

The sun was shining brightly as we set off to visit the last country on our grand tour, France. It was going to be a whistle-stop tour dedicated to trying to find campsites that were open and could take us and minimising the cost of the peage wherever possible. Our first stop was at the small town of Saint Martin de Crau, a lovely sleepy little town on the edge of the Carmague. But before we got there we suffered the wrath of the motoropolis the Italian god of the peage and he charged us 74 euros for the pleasure of leaving Italy. After that the French charges seemed mild by comparison but we soon racked up over 100 euros peage charges by the time we reached Saint Martin.

We were blessed by the weather though and had a week of pleasant sunshine, free internet, abundant electricity and lovely countryside. The Camargue is very flat and reminded us of Norfolk apart from the abundance of pink flamingos which added a very exotic feel to the place. We visited Stes Marie de la mer, the most southern tip of the Camargue and had a lovely walk along the beach and among the flamingo covered lakes. This is definitely somewhere I wish to visit again it was very beautiful and quiet.

Having moved into our last country our thoughts have started to move towards home and seeing the family again. Skype has been great for us while we have been away, being able t talk to all the family has been very important. But there is another side to Skype the side of envy and torment as my grandchildren took great delight in inflicting on us in a recent call home. They had the cheek to sit there eating chips! Yes eating chips and Noah (aged 22 months) was licking tomato ketchup off a plate! Oh chips and tomato ketchup but that only started me thinking about the one other foodie thing that I have missed while away, BRANSTON PICKLE. Going to be the first thing on the shopping list when I get home.

Anyway after our first week in France it was time to move on again. We had planned an overnight stop at a vineyard and then up to a dutch run campsite near Clermont Ferrand. The vineyard was not far down the road so we set off Sunday morning but when we arrived they told us they were shut due to winter damage but they didn’t take much persuading to let us stay one night.

The campsite was gorgeous, not for facilities there weren’t any to speak off but the setting and the view were lovely everything you would imagine a french vineyard would look like. The following day we bought two bottles of their wine and paid for our night’s camping and then set off on our journey north on the only FREE motorway in France.

Posted by: yatesontour | March 16, 2012

Blog blitz

95 hits in one day!!!

What has happened to my blog has someone hacked it? Has someone put something pornographic on without me knowing? No the lovely Gethin from the Fifthwheel company (http://www.fifthwheelco.com/)  has put my blog site on the FWCo facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fifth-Wheel-Company/494576150437). Now I can bore lots more people with my drivel, anyway back to the story.

Finally we have found some better roads in Italy, we travelled up to Italy in relative calm our second day travelling without fear of huge potholes! But once again we were faced with the sat nav not being up to date and so many times it has been better to navigate by map, circumnavigating the Rome ring road being one of those but we got there. All through our trip we have been using ACSI to help us find our campsites, for those of you that don’t know what Acsi is it’s a Dutch camping organisation that checks sites and provides details on each one. The one we are always interested in is can it take bigger vans ie over 8m in length? We always walk the course as it were before entering as the information isn’t always correct. Happy camping as our Roma campsite was called could technically be said to take bigger vans and we did find one spot where we could park but Graham had to manage a very steep slope and some tight reversing before we managed to get parked diagonally across the pitch. Well done to Graham again.

The campsite provided a shuttle service to the train station every day which was very helpful as the traffic around Rome as per the rest of Italy is mad. Bill Bryson in one of his books said that the Italians should never ever have been introduced to the invention of the motorcar and their idea of parking is if one part of the car is touching the kerb that’s ok and zebra crossings are fair game.

Italian parking

 

 

 

So having parked up safely we made our way into Roma on one of the not too modern trains. We had planned to visit Rome for three days but after day one we were so knackered that we had to have Sunday off and then visit the Vatican on the Monday. The highlight of my day though was Graham asking directions from the Carabiniere using his best Italian thumb. I did a caption competition on facebook and I am pleased to announce that the winner is Ed Yates.

No you can't have your photo taken with us so **** off!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rome is a lovely city and has many lovely sites to see so sit back and enjoy the film I made.

Carabiniere in Rome

On the Sunday to while away the time I decided to make a film for the fifthwheel company to celebrate their expo they were having the following Saturday March 10th. I had great fun making it and it kept me quiet for hours.

After Rome we moved north into Tuscany, near to the town of Arezzo in order to meet up with our hero Leonardo da Vinci. He has to be one of the true greats of history, an ideas man totally ahead of his time and an amazing artist. We visited the museum at his birth town Vinci which was filled with models of a lot of his designs, amazing. We also visited the beautiful town of Siena but we had trouble deciding which roofs James Bond was jumping over and they certainly wouldn’t get that bus down the streets of Siena!

Siena

We stayed in Arezzo for 5 days and then moved on to our last campsite in Italy up near the border with France. As I said earlier the info is not always correct on the ACSI website and our first stop proved to difficult to get the trailer into, fortunately there was another down the road. Now you have to remember that we have been staying at sites that have been mostly empty as the Italians don’t like winter!! So when we arrived we were amazed to find it full of hundreds of Italian motorhomes!! So full in fact we had to park near the entrance with no electric and then to add insult to injury the generator wouldn’t start! We then became the focus of intense interest and spent the next few hours doing the sales pitch on the fifthwheel including guided tours in the near dark. But it was bella bella all the way the Italians love the concept of the space.

The truck hadn’t charged the trailer so the batteries decided to run out of juice so it was off to bed early ready for an early push into France.

Posted by: yatesontour | March 5, 2012

On the road again

Thursday 23rd February – Friday 2nd March

Mount Etna

Once again the sun was shining down on Sicily but it was time to leave and start to make our way home, it was Thursday 23rdFebruary and we had been on Sicily for 3 months. We made our way to Messina and finally found our way to the dock after our second circumnavigation of the city. Italian signage is always interesting they think that once is enough and that after that you must know where you are going so you don’t need anymore!!

Leaving Sicily

We had decided that because of the bad storms that had lashed us on our last few days on Sicily that we would be bold and drive all the way up to Paestum just south of Naples in one go. Ha! We left the campsite and our lovely friends Rob & Sarah at 9am and arrived at the campsite at Paestum at 5:30pm, tired and our nerves very jangled from travelling on the A3. How can anyone decide to repair a stretch of road 200kms long all at the same time. 200kms of roadworks!! I’m sure there must be a good engineering reason………….

My amazing driver

La Foce dei Tramonti Camping

We were staying at a lovely site right next to the Seles river with views of the nearby mountains and the Amalfi coast. The only drawback to the site was the electricity it was only 3 amps which is less than 1 kw. So you have to manage the electricity, if you want to boil a kettle you have to turn the fridge off or it all trips out. Anyway small price to pay and we always had the gas to use if necessary.

The campsite was run by a family, brother, Fernando and sister, Barbara who were very nice and brought us a bag of oranges, grapefruit and lemons from their trees. The fruit when it’s fresh from the trees is just fantastic, juicy and sweet, I shan’t be able to eat Mr Sainsbury’s again without thinking of Italy.

The main reason for staying in the area was to visit a work colleague of Graham’s who lives nearby and works from home, the power of the Internet. Bruce and Zena moved out here about three years ago and are renovating a lovely old house in a nearby hilltop village. It was great to be able to see inside one of these houses which seem on the outside to be completely ramshackle. It was very impressive and lovely to hear some of the tales that went with it. We enjoyed a lovely meal out with them in the evening at a local restaurant which you probably wouldn’t find as a tourist.

Paestum

We visited several places while we were there, Paestum, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. The first two were fantastic both archeological sites and very well laid out for visitors. I was bowled over by the shear size of Pompeii and we didn’t see it all.

Pompeii

Pompeii & Vesuvius

Italian haircut!!

Towards the end of our stay Zena arranged for me to have my hair done and I finally found someone who cut it as I liked it!!

Bravo, bella. To celebrate Bruce and Zena bought cakes and came back to our van for a nose. Italian cakes are brilliant and every Sunday Italian sons and son-in-laws (I’m sure) go to the Pasticheria and buy their Mama cakes!!! Good tradition, I hope you son-in-laws are reading this!!!!!

Cakes!

We left La Foce dei Tramonte after an eight day stay,  fatter than we started determined to walk some of it off in the beautiful, romantic (yes Graham romantic) city of Roma………

Posted by: yatesontour | February 19, 2012

Happy days

And now the end is near……. almost time to leave Sicily. We have just 4 more days here on this beautiful island and then we must cross back over the water to the mainland. In the last couple of weeks we have moved round the south coast from Seccegrande to Marina di Ragusa to S. Allessio on the east coast, our last stop before catching the ferry.

Marina di Ragusa was a lovely spot to stay in, it is a relatively new town with a yachting marina and lots of new apartments but it did have it’s nice centre and the best pastry shop and even better ice-cream. The weather as in the rest of Europe has been poor by the usual standards and our say at Marina was nice sunshine and very heavy rain showers. As I said in a previous blog we have teamed up with another British couple Rob & Sarah and have been enjoying each others company for several weeks now, walking, chatting, drinking tea and playing some very competitive cards in the evening.

It’s funny how nice things happen when you least expect them and three instances happened to us whilst staying at Marina di Ragusa.

Sarah next to a mural in Caltagerone

Painting the plate

next husband?

One was our expeditions to Caltagerone, the centre of the ceramic manufacturing industry. We visited a fantastic shop where all the ceramics were handmade on the premises and were treated to a demonstration of throwing pots and then painting the fired plates. The skill is amazing, could have bought the whole shop. Our lunch was also quite spectacular, Italian towns have little shops down side streets that do spit cooked chickens and chips. The chicken is stuffed with onions and lemon and it tastes so delicious sitting on a park bench in the sun!! I also met a maybe new husband if I get fed up with Graham!!

Another was Noto, poignant for us in that Graham’s uncle was there in WW2 and probably sat on the steps where we sat in front of the cathedral. But we also happened to find the old palace down a side street that was open for visits and a very nice lady with very good English spent quite a while explaining the history of Noto to us, things like this make it much more interesting.

Noto cathedral

Our final fun happening was Valentine’s Day, this happens to be our Wedding anniversary, ah how sweet you’re saying but at the time it was a case of needs must. I was teaching and we had decided to get married at spring half term and the first Saturday of the holiday was Valentine’s day, a happy coincidence. We had spotted a restaurant the was having a special valentine’s meal so we booked a table for four. The day arrived and so we togged ourselves up and set off down town. We had a lovely meal of fish dishes and there was a very good guitarist/singer playing as well. Music, dancing, good food, wine, balloons who could wish for more!!!

The next day we moved on to Saint Allessio for our last week on Sicily. This is not the best campsite we have stayed on for facilities but it does overlook the beach and is close to Etna. We were discussing the insurance aspects of what would happen if Etna erupted big time and damaged the vans but well it’s only erupted three times since we’ve been here!!

We visited Taurmina again and were rewarded with the most fabulous views of Etna, smoking and covered in snow and the lava flow from the latest eruption in plain sight. It really is an awesome sight.

So on Wednesday we say farewell to our new friends and start our leisurely way home to England, expecting to be back in Blighty around the end of March, another five weeks.

Posted by: yatesontour | January 31, 2012

Blurring the edges

So 2012 what do you hold for us? This has been my contemplation for a few weeks now or rather what does the next few years hold for us. Much of what I thought was important now no longer is and making this trip has freed me up from the expectations of how life should be lived, it has blurred the edges.

So watch this space as they say.

The middle of January brought my middle daughter, Emma and her partner, John out to see us. Once again it was lovely to see them both and we wished it could be longer. We had a lovely time despite the weather and were sorry to see them leave so soon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKw4J-Q7UjQ&list=UUc3ygvHqf9gf1B-UJdN9msA&index=2&feature=plcp

Before Emma & John arrived we had made friends with an English couple, Rob & Sarah, similar in age to us. They full time in their motorhome spending time back in the UK in the summer and overseas in winter. They have given us plenty of food for thought in the short time we have known them. It’s funny how there are some people you meet and you immediately feel comfortable with, you don’t have to try and get on it comes naturally. It reminded me of when we first met our neighbours in Clifton Tei & Ian, that was the same, hi guys hope you are well.

So we have been out sightseeing with them and walking and generally just hanging out together, drinking and playing cards. The truck is certainly coming into its own now that we are staying in one place for longer periods, it gives us that flexibility that a motor-home doesn’t and that freedom to go places they can’t go. I think both Graham & I are now falling in with the fifthwheel better and beginning to understand its strengths and weaknesses better and how we need to use it.

Anyway so where have we been lately on this beautiful island?

Walking in the hills

Crystal hunting

Selanunte

Palermo

And Sunday lunch!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W_cqE6-NvU&list=UUc3ygvHqf9gf1B-UJdN9msA&index=1&feature=plcp

Nearly time to move on round the island, we shall be moving towards the East coast and then up the east side ready for departure in just under 3 weeks time.

Posted by: yatesontour | January 9, 2012

Happy New Year to everyone!

Happy New Year to all our family and friends and may 2012 be a good year for everyone.

I bet you thought we had fallen off the end of the world and sometimes it does feel like that off the map anyway, made more convincing by not switching ‘Spot’ on to mark our position. But we are still on Sicily enjoying the intermittent winter sun when we can and living each day as it comes. Even though you feel like there is no routine one soon sets in, get up about ten, put out the deck chair, knit, read and chat to neighbours. I could get used to this!!

Before Christmas we spent two weeks on the South coast, lovely wide open beaches and interesting archaeological ruins and not far inland more hilly regions. One of the highlights of our stay here was a visit to the valley of the temples, set on a ridge it is a Greek site of several temples, some of which are still quite intact.

The coastline is very pretty with long sandy beaches and we enjoyed several walks along them. One of these was the Scala dei Turchi, beautiful pure white cliffs going down to the sea.

After this we moved back up to the North coast ready for my daughter and son-in-law and 3 grand-children to arrive for a stay of a few days before Christmas. We cleared out the van put up the awning to give us a bit more room and trundled off to Palermo airport to pick them up. The weather was quite mixed that week and it went from the sublime to the ridiculous especially the second day they were here. One minute we were sitting in the awning having just had breakfast all calm, lovely sea view and the next there were 80 mph winds buffeting the awning. Kirstan, Dave, Graham & I were standing on the awning trying to hold it down waiting for a lull that would allow us to take it down. But no lull came and about half an hour later there came that rending sound of the awning canvas splitting, enough said! Fortunately the frame seems to be ok so just need a new canvas when we get home.

We had a lovely few days with the family and were very sad to see them go, click on the link to see what we got up to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvN67LXKpYg&list=UUc3ygvHqf9gf1B-UJdN9msA&index=1&feature=plcp

Christmas and New Year were very quiet for us but very relaxing and nice not to get caught up in all the rush we get at home. We have met up with a very nice couple Rob & Sarah with whom we get on very well and have enjoyed some good nights together, hopefully to continue. We are looking forward to a visit from my middle daughter Emma and her partner John next week and then we shall be on the move again but still on Sicily.

Once again Happy New Year to you all.

Posted by: yatesontour | December 14, 2011

Mafioso Land

Friday 25th November – Sunday 4th December

First sight of Sicily

D-day! The Sicily landing was going ahead, the skies were clear and the crossing should be fair. Ferries always make us nervous for some reason but they have gone off without a hitch and this one was no different. As we stood on the deck waiting to leave we could see Sicily not far away and the theme from the Godfather was playing in my head. I was now going to get to see the homeland of the infamous Mafioso; would it live up to our expectations?

Jonio camping

The ferry crossing was fine but getting out of Messina was quite a feat. There were cars everywhere if there was space to put a car part they would put it and Graham had to battle his way to the motorway. We headed south towards Catania and our next campsite, Jonio camping. The pictures in the camping book showed a lovely site overlooking the sea but campsite brochures are very like estate agents blurb, economical with the truth. The line can take caravans greater that 5.5 metres and motor homes greater than 5 tonnes is not always accurate. So once again we were relegated to looking at the back of the toilet block. But the up side was that it was very sheltered whilst those down by the sea were getting drenched by sea spray as the waves crashed against the sea wall.

Hot Cabinieri or at least one was!

Catania is the second largest city on Sicily and is the nearest to Mount Etna. Etna dominates the surrounding area being over 3,300 metres high and the surrounding area is mostly at sea level. There is also loads of history on Sicily and historical sites to visit on a scale that we just don’t get in the UK. The next day we caught the bus into the city centre, this being Saturday it was a market day. I love markets and Italian ones are much more interesting than the English counterparts, fish, meat, cheese and vegetables, all laid out beautifully. Italy still has a small shop mentality and each street corner has its own little market for essentials and all the locals use them.

From our base in Catania Graham & I did three lovely days out, Taormina, Syracuse and of course Mount Etna. Taormina is a lovely town set up on a cliff overlooking the sea with Etna in the background. The town has a tunnel underneath it that keeps all the traffic out of the centre apart from red Nissan trucks that ignore the signs! It is a more up market town and is probably the place to be seen in the summer. It also has a very beautiful Greek theatre site which had great views over the coastline.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz-FyIN6rRI&list=UUc3ygvHqf9gf1B-UJdN9msA&feature=plcp

Syracuse is even more spectacular as an archaeological site having a Roman site as well as a Greek. The best bit about being here at this time of year is that there are not many tourists around and you really get to see the sites properly and the photos are not crowded out with people.

Finally the most spectacular so far Mount Etna, a lunar landscape, a peak with a permanent cloud hanging over it. As you drive up you are surrounded by black volcanic rock with no vegetation, it looks like a giant natural slag heap and is quite eerie. We stopped at the bottom of the ski lift and walked around some of the old craters and watched the cloud roll up the mountain side until we were stood on an island above the clouds. Nature always has a way of outdoing anything that man tries to achieve, you can visit all the greek theatres you like and wonder at all the buildings that man has put up but nature can always out do it all.

View from mount Etna

The weather on Sicily is pleasant most days just under 20 degrees C, blue skies and white fluffy clouds, let’s hope it continues for Christmas!

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