Week 1


After lunch in the Royal Oak we finally set off on our travels at 2pm on 7th June. We took our first official photo at the Eurotunnel car park, which was amazingly empty; we had planned on a queue but as you can see the place was virtually deserted and we got put on to an earlier train. Whilst we were travelling over, we thought that we had better plan where to stay on our first night. We decided to miss out France and head straight for Belgium and picked out a campsite in Koksijde near the coast.

The sat nav did a brilliant job getting us there. The reception was closed and I pressed the button and the lady told me, breezily, to park anywhere. So we drove round and round in tight circles (not easy in a motorhome!) trying to find a vacant anywhere. Luckily the site manager appeared and led us to the only remaining pitch. We had planned to pick some food en route – but everywhere was closed. For supper we had some truly convenience meals from Sainsburys, ours were allegedly chicken and asparagus which I suppose explained the green bits, but the boys were not so lucky!! In the morning we walked down into the village for breakfast – only to find that there were no cafes. We were feeling pretty hungry by then and went to change up some money and told the bank teller our plight. He said but why do you not go to the beach…. So we bought some croissants and headed to the beach on our bikes. The whole of Belgium seems to have brilliant cycle routes. The beach was fantastic, the picture shows the boys in the very far distance down at the water. It was amazing.

We stayed two nights in all then headed up to Ypres (Ieper). The campsite just outside the town was perfect. We first went to the Menin Gate and found the name of William George Allen who died in the first battle of Ypres. He was married to Lilian and they had a 3 month old son George, when he was killed. Lilian went on to marry George Oakley, Gary’s grandfather. So he literally gave his today for Gary and the boys tomorrow. We have included the photo of his memorial. We went to the Last Post at 8pm, it was extremely moving. On Friday it was Josh’s 10th birthday. We tried to buy a cake, but they don’t seem to do them, so he chose a selection of chocolate bars that he put on a plate and we added some candles. The boys spent the afternoon in the campsite playground as a treat. The following day, we went to Tyne Cot. It is almost impossible to find.

Just for the record, go to a village called Zonnebeke and ask. It is just up the road, but there are no signs until you get to the final turning into what seems like a housing estate. Our next stop was Gent from where I am writing this. It is another very pretty town. We are staying about two miles out in another good campsite that has a great playground for the children. We went on a boat ride round the city which was very interesting. It seems that by 2008 a lot of refurbishment on the older building must be completed and it will be worth another visit then. We also took a tram ride, to find out where the station is as we hope to go to Bruges tomorrow by bike and train. We will be fit if nothing else!!

Week 2

Well, this has been quite a busy week! We started off by getting the train from Gent to Bruges. The boys travelled for free which was great, although it turned out that we should have paid half fare for Josh and probably for

Rory too, but it all got lost in the translation somewhere along the line, and I guess that the Dutch Rail staff weren’t that bothered. We had intended to go on a trip to the Straffe Hendrik Brewery, following a tip from Paul, but we never found it. In fact, we failed to find the Tourist Information, although we got as far as the square in which it was alleged to be, so ended up looking at the buildings in general but nothing in particular

We had lunch in a small bistro in a courtyard, it looked great as seemed full of locals, so in we went, thinking things were looking up……. the service was appalling and if anything the food was worse. The salad (we had all gone for healthy options. big mistake) had small slugs in it which were clinging grimly on to the back of the leaves. The boys were fascinated!! When the waitress finally arrived with the bill, I pointedly asked what they were, with marvellous aplomb, she inspected the wildlife briefly, looked me straight in the eye and said “I don’t know what is in English, but it comes with the salad”! I dare say it got added on as an extra!! Anyway, the day was saved by the fabulous Rodin exhibition in the main square. All the major pieces were there and it was brilliant, the more so for being totally unexpected. As we couldn’t take pictures inside, I have put a picture of Gary waiting for us outside for you all to enjoy.

On Tuesday we travelled to Antwerp, another wonderful Belgium city. The opulence of the churches and buildings is fantastic. The gold, bronze and carvings are truly fabulous. The route from the Le Molen campsite to the town was along a cycle path on the opposite side of the river from the main town, so the views were magnificent. The river was crossed by a tunnel, open to pedestrians and cyclists, accessed by a lift. The tunnel was 31 metres down and was opened in the 1930’s. It was 500 metres long and at the mid point there were stunning coloured lights. I have put a picture in, but you really will have to go and see it for yourself. We went to the diamond district, but it was only average, a bit better than Hatton Garden, but not much.

One interesting fact: 7 out of 10 diamonds sold pass through Antwerp. There was a chart on the wall of DiamondLand showing the chain of distribution – with so many taking a cut, no wonder they are so expensive!! The rest of the city is well worth a visit though. We did a day trip to Brussels, again on the train. Going out it was a state of the art double decker which did the journey in 45 minutes, on the way back we had an old pennystopper that even British Rail might have considered pensioning off; the return journey took about an hour and a half! The main reason for going was to see the European Parliament. It was closed to visitors because of the European Summit. I did read somewhere that the key to a successful trip was careful planning – I guess they were right! Anyway at least that explained the knots of smartly dressed armed men that seemed to be unnervingly everywhere. The main square is worth a trip to the city on its own. Words cannot explain how utterly magnificent it is. There are carvings on all the buildings and the detail is incredible. I have included a picture of one of the main buildings, although it doesn’t do justice to the reality. We also touched the “lucky” copper statue and saw the mannekin pis.

When we got back to the campsite, the boys spotted an amazing bird, just like a pigeon but with a brown raised collar, if anyone knows what it is, we’d be delighted to hear. I’ve included a picture in case that helps. As you can see it was also tame! The boys were able to stroke and feed it as if it were a pet. The highlight of the day. We then headed for The Netherlands and Hoge Veluwe, for a couple of days relaxation, we were getting a bit sore from pounding the pavements.

The Hoge Veluwe is a National Park and the campsite was just on the edge of it. Best of all, it had a washing machine and tumble dryer, so we got all the laundry done whilst the boys played in the playground. The next day we decided to do a 10km cycle ride through woodland adjacent to the National Park. We got a free map from reception. We could have paid 6 euros for a more detailed map, but it hardly seemed worth it for an hour’s cycle ride. As Josh said, the clue was that our’s was free. The ride took over three hours and we were lost for about two and three quarter hours of that. We went over heathland, through woods, round a pond (three times from different directions!) over brooks (were they the same ones – we’ll never know!). If it was possible to take a wrong turn we did, going round and round in ever increasing circles. We asked for directions when we came across anyone, but then got more lost. Eventually we met a very pleasant Dutch couple who set us on the right path. Then we missed the turning and had to be put right again by a lady who had had the foresight to buy a proper map. We cycled miles! I could hardly walk by the end of it. The boys got off their bikes got the ball and went and played basketball! One tip, avoid trying to cycle through sand, it really is very difficult!! Today we are in Germany, near a very pleasant (and shut because it is Sunday) town called Wesel. We thought we might enquire about camping in the town itself but as there was no-one to ask have come to a camp site about 9kms away. We are on the banks of the Rhine and it is lovely. The boys and Gary went down to the river, about 20 metres away, and fed the ducks. The swans were flying in a V formation down the river, about ten of them. There was also a heron to see. It stays light until gone 11pm as the clocks are an hour ahead of England, so we are sitting outside while I am typing this and 10pm. The boys are in bed, supposedly going to sleep. Will continue next week, talk to you then!

Week 3


OK so it’s actually the end of week 4, but the computer got locked in the new motorhome which then spent most of the week in the workshop having the snagging attended to, so I couldn’t send the diary to the website

. On Sunday, we went to Wesel and found out the hard way that virtually all German shops, including restaurants are closed on Sundays. Luckily there was a solitary Italian restaurant open and we were very glad to eat there. It seemed very odd that Italians should be speaking German, but I guess no more so than speaking English. This is another very nice, clean German town. We stayed in a stellplatz – areas set aside in many towns and cities for motorhomes that provide water and electricity at a nominal cost.

Monday was Rory’s 7th birthday, but it didn’t start well because I had bought him a Nintendo game and not a gameboy game, so it didn’t work. Luckily, Grandma had given him a card with some pocket money in it, so he had something. Obviously the main task of the day was to find a gameboy game, which, thank goodness we did! Getting a cake proved much more difficult. None of the German supermarkets seem to do basic cakes. We were moving on the Bruggen for the night hoping to find one there. As a last ditch attempt we went into a closing bakery and she produced a fantastic black forest gateau, for twenty people, as there were only four of us, she cut it in half. Rory’s eyes were like saucers, and my heart was racing at the thought of the price! I needn’t have worried – it was 9 euros – about £6! What a bargain!! I have included a picture of Rory and the cake.

We then went and saw some friends from Newbury who were just outside Dusseldof, Hannah and Josh met at pre school and started “big school” together. We had a lovely afternoon there and the children got on really well together. We went on to Cologne, which was not very far away.

Two tips:

One, if you are going to Cologne do not drive through the city centre; Two, if you feel compelled to ignore tip one, definitely do not do it in a motorhome.

We didn’t know that of course and ended up in a right mess. The sat nav was determined to take us through, but didn’t know that the main street was being very seriously dug up. As an example, at one point I got Gary to turn into a road leading to an underground carpark and then had to get him to back out on to the main road in the rush hour. Well, that was a memorable time!! We eventually got to the campsite thanks to the kindness of a man in seemingly reduced circumstances, who spoke no English and couldn’t use the German English dictionary because he couldn’t read. I was so grateful to him, he got us sorted out at a very low time!! The campsite was eulogised by Alan Rogers (campsite guru) but we found it to be ok, but no more, despite its great position next to the Rhine. The picture of the bridge is the view from the campsite and this is the bridge we cycled over to get to Cologne which was about 8 miles away. The cycle path was completely separate from the road so was very safe.

In Cologne, we went to the chocolate museum (the boys loved it) the cathedral, (that was absolutely awesome and so big we couldn’t take a picture of it, but I have put in a picture of one small section) and the 4711 shop, lovely and cool and they have a small fountain running with water scented with 4711 – great for cleaning very sticky hands.

Our next stop was Clervaux in the north of Luxembourg, a stunning location. We had a day trip to Luxembourg city but really it was too hot to enjoy it and there didn’t seem to be much there, or maybe there was and we missed it!! In Clervaux we went to the Family of Man photographic exhibition showing photos of the ages of man (and woman!) brought together by Edward Steichen in the fifties. There were a couple of exhibited American tanks in the grounds, which the boys loved, so there is a picture.

The boys also went fishing for the first time and really enjoyed it. There was a small river running through the site, which was quite shallow so they could just go off and fish.fish.

Week 4

The week has been spent at Sprendlingen, near Frankfurt, collecting our own motorhome (at last!). The layout, giving the boys their own beds is much better for us and makes life a lot easier, particularly for Rory as he now doesn’t fall out of bed!

Although the motorhome was ready on Monday, there was still quite a bit to do on it. We have had our safes fitted in and the gaslow system also had to be fitted. This means that we can fill up with gas at a petrol station rather than having to try and find the local equivalent to calor gas dealers.

On Tuesday we went into Frankfurt on the train. We had to ask the signalman at the station to help us buy the ticket because we hadn’t got a clue how to work the ticket machine, there are about thirty different options, none of which we understood.

Frankfurt is another lovely modern vibrant city. It was also the hottest day so far – 38/39 degrees in the shade, and this took its toll on Josh who was violently sick in the spick and span café where we were having our lunch. At that point we decided to call it a day and head back to Sprendlingen, a mere three train journeys away.

The highlight of Wednesday was the restaurant in the evening. It was run by a Turkish couple about our age, who didn’t speak any English. Somehow we managed to get on really well and by the end of the evening could talk to each other very easily, a few glasses of wine being worth more than hours of lessons! There was a terrific storm whilst we were there and the sunroof had been left open, so Ismail gave Gary a lift back to the site so that we didn’t get back to a thousand pieces. The evening ended with Ismail and Gary having Schnapps - well it seemed like a good idea at the time!! Just in case you are ever in the area (it is only about 10miles from Bingen on the Rhine) the restaurant is Zum Felsenkeller and they also have a guesthouse Gasthaus Zum Felsenkeller, Gertrudenstr.35 55576 Sprendlingen. The food is marvellous but the craic is even better.

We took it easy the next day! We were getting the things from the “old” motorhome into the new motorhome, with the help of Herr Flick and Thomas from the factory who were very generous with their time sorting out the minor snagging issues. The boys were given a rope by a Dutchman, Harry, who is also staying here and had great fun erecting swings, slides and climbing frames, as you might be able to see in the picture.

Everyone at Eura Mobil has been very good to us, Beryl who had the difficult task of sorting all the problems out (which she was more than equal to!) who anyone would think was English and Baerbel on reception who speaks fluent English, Anete in marketing who generously offered the services of her washing machine and the lady in the canteen who would bring out the food when we didn’t know what it was and was very patient when it took us ten minutes to order two cheese rolls two ham rolls and four milkshakes. As I said above Herr Flick and Thomas were just brilliant!

The paperwork from England didn’t arrive as planned on Friday so we had to stay for the weekend, so we decided to go to Rudesheim, (on the recommendation of Paul). We caught the train ( again with the help of the signalman) to Bingen (15 minutes) and then the boat across the Rhine to Rudesheim. We took the cable car up to the Unity of Germany monument that is a magnificent edifice built by the Kaiser to celebrate the German success in the Franco – German war of 1870’s. The views were stunning and I hope that the pictures give some clue. Back in Bingen, there was a German band playing on the quay.

Week 5

The boys discovered the cherry trees in the parking area at Sprendlingen, and with the help of a pair of steps, spent a very fruitful time getting the cherries down. (Stop groaning!! It was just to check that you really were reading this.) They must have picked a couple of pounds and that doesn’t include all the ones that they eat whilst picking. Much of the time they were up in the tree, but the photos wouldn’t be clear enough for the web site, so I have put one in of them on the steps. The cherries were delicious.

The paperwork finally came through by second post on Monday, and we decided to leave straight away as the weather was taking a turn for the worse as massive storms were moving in and, in fact, were overhead. We headed towards Hannover. The storm kept with us for much of the way which made the driving very difficult for Gary. We had planned to start on the washing as soon as we arrived, but as the thunderstorm was overhead we stayed put and enjoyed a lovely meal bought, prepared and served by Josh. For just 5.20 euros, we had garlic bread for a starter, spaghetti Bolognese for main course and a fantastic banana and melted chocolate sauce (based on a recipe of Sally R) for pudding.

We were keen to reach Denmark, so after a heavy mornings washing set off again, this time for Engehausen, south of Hamburg. The autobahn took us over nearly vertical hills and it was hard to know whether it was scarier going up or down. The lorries were down to about 15kph in places, just to give you an idea; and there was an escape route for those in dire need. Luckily it all went ok, but it was a hard slog. We arrived quite late and to begin with couldn’t find the stellplatz, so resigned ourselves to staying at a lorry park at a service station on the motorway, served by McDonalds. (The perfect end to the day?) On the plus side, it was safe, had food (sort of!) and loos, but it wasn’t quite what we had hoped for. Anyway, Gary gave it one last shot and we found the stellplatz, in some woods, much nicer, though we still ended up eating in McDonalds.

We next headed for Kaltenkirchen a small town north of Hamburg. By this time, the vastness of Germany was beginning to make itself felt, especially as when we looked at the map, we had only covered a very small part of it. This was another delightful town, where we were able to buy the indispensable Reisemobil guide to stellplatz. It is the one that everyone recommends and uses, and I was assured that it was sold “everywhere”, but of course nowhere we went actually stocked it! It was Rory’s turn for cooking and he prepared brilliant homemade hamburgers with fresh fruit salad for pudding (ably assisted by Josh), all for 7 euros.

On Friday, we finally made it into Denmark. The Reisemobil book enabled us to find a lovely stellplatz on a farm. It was so peaceful it would have been easy to stay for a long time, especially as it was there that the farmer’s wife told us the devastating news of the London bombs.

Denmark seems a very calm country. The weather has been very hot, over 30 degrees, but there is a stillness about the place.

We went to Ribe, which is the oldest settlement in Denmark it began in about 700AD. It is now known for its medieval buildings of which there is an abundance. We went to the Viking Museum and the boys had great fun playing with the artefacts. I have put in a photo of Rory in chain mail and Josh with a huge heavy sword. Being able to play with the items, made a real difference to their understanding and enjoyment.

The stellplatz was also a small fishing resort and the boys were ableto learn a bit more about fishing. They both caught sizeable trout and a few rudd and perch. The photo shows them at the beginning of the session.

We also went to the marvellous Viking Centre. There is a replica Viking village and the village is worked in the same way as in Viking times. The buildings are all as authentic as they can be and crafts such as spinning, tanning and cooking are all demonstrated. The picture shows the boys grinding corn into flour. We also had a go at archery, just in case the money runs out and we have to hunt our own food, or may be for when McDonalds is the only option it will be another string to our bow…..