Day 01. Folkestone to Epernay

We did it!

All that talking and dreaming…from today, we’re actually doing it!
This blog, after seven months, is now a travel blog…its true purpose!

After a smooth and well organised start to our adventure, we are sitting on the ferry, caravan stowed below with the juggernauts!

So far so good! Shouldn’t speak too soon!

au revoir folkestone
bonjour Calais


On arrival at Calais, we have a 6 hour drive to Epernay, hopefully arriving by 18.00. 

Slight delays on the route out of the port as young men were throwing burning debris on to the road in the hope of slowing down lorries so they could jump onboard. Sirens blaring, police vans and motorbikes squeezed through the traffic jam, to try and prevent them from causing any more distruption and panic…to keep them off the road. We see the “camp” behind the barrier fencing. A very disturbing scene which immediately reminds me of the sci-fi films, I watch with Rog, set in a dysfunctional dystopian world where all social codes have been lost…a total breakdown of society. But, this isn’t the place to talk about this huge immigrant crisis. 

Long interesting drive. It never ceases to amaze me, just 22 miles over the Channel, how different the architecture and countryside are. The vastness of France always gets me!

Arrived by 19.00, when I took the opportunity of speaking French, by checking us in to the site and learning of all its facilities. 
Team Mepham then took over…getting the caravan sited, unhitched, levelled, hooked up to electricity and supplied with water!

Basically, ready to live in once again…but just sufficient for one night. 

Warm balmy evening. All pitches are hedged and set under mature trees for shade and privacy. Very pleasant!

Day 02. Epernay to Lausanne

Awoke to a beautiful morning, fresh and airy under the mature trees. A morning walk around this very well kept municipal site, bordered by a lake and wide river. After a second coffee, Team Mepham swung into action reversing all the setting up duties of the previous evening!

By noon (remember we’ve lost an hour!) we were on the road, stopping for me to jump out and buy some fresh local produce from a farmer’s van. 

A long journey through the lush, vast flat farmlands of central France.  Motorway for this stretch else our journey would have been 8-9 hours rather than the 6-7 hours of today!

Although beautiful, the trip became more interesting when we continued on the A roads. Suddenly, we were surrounded by forest covered hills, windy narrow roads and picturesque villages.

A diversion took us high up into the hills…slightly worrying for Rog…great fun for me! He managed admirably!

coffee with a view!

Short coffee stop!

Miles of forest covered mountains then the Swiss border. They nonchalantly waved us through without any concern that we may be smuggling people in our caravan!

the Swiss border

We weren’t of course!

By 19.00, we arrived at our camp site…thank goodness for sat nav!

driving into Lausanne, surrounded by Alps

Once upon a time, we all managed with paper maps and lots of handwritten notes but probably many marital arguments too!

Very surprisingly, my cousin and partner were there to meet us!

Lovely to see them, and as we caught up, Rog settled the van! They seemed surprised and impressed by it!

Large, very full site by the lake, seems to me that some people live here permanently. This was confirmed by my cousin who explained about the price of housing in Lausanne…much like London.

Not a beautiful site, no trees or hedges, just ground covered with all sorts of caravans, campervans, motorhomes, awnings and tents!

But is by Lake Geneva and near my cousin!

After we both showered and changed, my cousin’s partner very kindly treated us to dinner by the lake. A fun lively restaurant in true holiday/ weekend mode…live music and dancing, good food!

Was a lovely evening…so much catching up and discussion.

Tea and a cookie in our van…more chats trying to put the world to right!

Day 03. Lausanne

After coffee in bed and on looking out the window, Rog said “it’s like living in a car park”!
Yes, a bit, not our usual choice of sites but convenient.

I sometimes feel as if I’ve been transported to another world…we wake up in our own space, then look out and find we’re somewhere new!

Or like yesterday, we drove and drove, landed at this site, met by my cousin, off to restaurant, hadn’t had a chance to get my bearings, so felt as if I’d been magically teleported, as in a film!

Once up, we walked the two minutes to the lake, in daylight this time, and what a magnificent view especially as it was still earlish and the heat of the day was yet to come. 

Whilst waiting for my cousin, we walked around the lake…wow, what views!

our table , the morning after the night before

Families gathering, setting up bbq’s and “stuff” for the day, on the lake beach and surrounding parkland.

that dress again…it’s so useful!

L gave us a splendid day out plus we managed to chat loads!
We drove around the bay, which in parts reminded us of the French Riviera, up to a very wonderful and unique area, just outside of Lausanne, where you can stroll through small vineyards and pretty villages on the hills overlooking Lake Geneva, the impressive Alps in the background.

What magnificent views! What an area of beauty! What heat!

L had kindly bought a picnic, which we ate in shade with those views.

After a few hours strolling, we drove down to a charming lakeside village with a small Marina, absolutely gorgeous.

Met up with L’s partner and home to her lovely apartment, in a pretty Swiss village, for a relaxed evening and a good meal on the balcony.

Thank you L, for your fabulous hospitality and giving us a truly memorable day x

Day 04. Lausanne to Calizzano (Piedmont)

After coffee, we looked at maps to plan our route…off to Italy!
Packed up and Rog took the road bordering the lake. On our left, the tiered vineyards of yesterday, but from below, Lake Geneva and the Alps on our right…Sensational!

We passed through beautiful Montreux, which Rog described as smelling even more of money than Monaco!

A forest covered mountainous route so huge and dramatic that it can’t be captured on a camera!

Pit stop for a quick lunch then on through the St Bernard Pass…entering the tunnel in Switzerland and exiting in Italy!

For hours, we continued driving, in our air conditioned bubble, stopping only for fuel then realising how hot it was in the real world!

Rog chose our destination site for tonight…fairly carefully, fulfilling many of our criteria but neglected to look exactly at it’s location, in relation to the mountains!

So, an hour from our site, we were guided off the main road and started ascending mountain roads, so high that we entered into clouds, deeply forested hairpin bends one after another…on and on…hooting as we climbed to avoid a collision with a fast Italian vehicle descending!

moving the chairs to allow us in!!!

Eventually arriving at a rather strange site…not the Italian dream but very real Italian…nothing touristy about this site or small town, which we later explored after dinner.

interested Italians
As Rog “motor-moved” the van into place, two friendly Italian men were fascinated and came over to ask about it…we explained as well as possible…was like magic for them! I understood, as they explained, that they had never seen such a device in Italy, nor in their lives!

Some shots of last night’s walk into this village:

Day 05. Calizanno

The day turned into a beautiful one after yesterday’s humidity and mountain mists!  I believe we are the only “foreigners” here and it seems to me that the Italians have either been here for the weekend or all summer, as there was a grand depart this am…many hugs, kisses and ciaos! So sweet to observe.

bedroom view

the grand depart!
time to relax and take stock!
The electrics kept overloading, so as Rog went off to find the showers, I decided to have a very refreshing cold shower…woke me up!

There’s a lovely friendly relaxed feel here. Rog needed a spanner so drew a picture and of course they found us one.  It’s really quite sweet and beginning to grow on us.

There are rows of wooden chalet-type buildings, under the trees, and they seemed to be used as holiday homes…some with caravans attached!

rows upon rows of chalets
a problem caused by all those bumpy mountain roads!
It took Rog two hours to fix the breakage, meanwhile I did some housework! We then strolled into the town centre, our first caffè and panini then an explore up to the 13th century castle ruins.

Bought some local speciality mushroom antipasto and back to the caravan for a cold drink and a rest…was hot!


We’re becoming more attached to this sweet, peaceful, relaxed, very Italian site, set on a stream. 

cooling off by the stream under the fir trees

Bbq chicken & salad, then a walk in the dark, under a clear stary sky. 

Day 06. Calizanno to Cannes

bathroom view


Where to start? All so lovely. Feel so very very lucky.
Earlish, we made our way down the mountain road, from our 750m valley site, a lot easier without trailing a 24′ caravan along hairpin bends!

We passed a super 24 hours with our eldest and partner. They are staying in my brother-in-law’s apartment, in Cannes La Bocca, overlooking the Med.

Last year, Rog and I stayed for most of September and I took photos of the views from the balcony most days! Stunning!

Met them sunning themselves by the pool area, great to see them! Shortly after, I walked to the beach kiosk where, last year, I occasionally bought us Pan Bagnat, which we would eat on the beach…delicious huge rolls stuffed with tuna, egg, anchovies, toms, olives, oil and pesto…speciality of Nice area.

half a pan bagnat!

We ate lunch on the balcony, then Rog drove us into St Tropez, taking the scenic coastal road. Passing along bays and harbours, up steep windy bends, through pretty Côte d’Azur towns, all the while, the blue Mediterranean sparkled on our left…from time to time singing to Roger’s music folder!

So, St Tropez…we love this very pretty, charming ex-fishing village, not for the mega mega huge yachts (although they are fascinating to see, I admit!) but it has a very relaxed quaint feel, especially in the old town, away from the expensive harbour.

We wanted to bring our guys here as I knew, especially our eldest, would fall in love with it…yes, St Tropez immediately became her natural habitat!

This is where she was meant to live!

We enjoyed a few hours of strolling, taking beautiful memory photos (as you may have noticed, I don’t ever post my family or friends pics…so you’re stuck with those of only R & I!)

A leisurely cold drink sitting in a small square overlooking the sea, then up to the old town and Place des Lices, where the French still play Pétanque.

Around 19.30, we decided to make tracks and enjoyed pizzas and sparking wine on the Cannes balcony, playing card games until late. Perfect!

Day 07. Cannes to Calizonna

One minute he was lying on the sofa bed next to me…the next he was carrying in bags of freshly baked croissants and pains au chocolate!
Coffee, milk, sugar and pink grapefruit…so sweet!

I made us that vital first coffee, sitting on the wonderful balcony, watching Cannes La Bocca waking and seeing those views!

By 10, we were off to the beach, where we spent a couple of hours happily swimming, frolicking in the warm sea and me being drowned by my lovely daughter…she’s a demon!

we all had fun in the sea…heh, snorkelman!

Sitting on our towels, chatting in the hot September sun…what a morning!

Back to the apartment to prepare for our departure but not before enjoying a lunch, kindly prepared by “partner”, with fresh baguette and Profiteroles bought by our eldest…Roger’s favourite…and she knows! So Sweet!

So, after many hugs, kisses, byes…as we got into the lift we all watched the apartment door slowly close…with both keys inside!

Okay, not to worry, I called the manager and left a message in French on her mobile, and within moments all was fine again!
Rog and I enjoyed a wonderful 2.5 hour journey back up to our Italian mountain retreat! Stopping to take in the magnificence of the scenery…something we’re not always able to do with 2 tons of caravan behind us!
It felt good back at the site…cooler and fresher and the caravan was welcoming.

back into Italy!

We strolled into Calizonna centre, around 17.00, so shops were open and people in the streets. A very pleasant small town. Bought milk then home. Read by stream under tall fir trees.

reading by stream

As I prepared dinner, Rog was waiting for the Apple launch!

Wifi wasn’t strong enough by van so we both moved down to the restaurant, stream area, where we avidly watched for their new products!

local porcini mushrooms in olive oil & pesto
watching Apple launch

I asked if we could eat our meal in this shady place and they kindly bought us a tablecloth! So kind. So Italian.

We multi-tasked by watching the launch, listening to the the Archers trial, looking for our next site in Genoa area and then eating our dinner!

Day 08.  Calizonna to Genoa (Liguria)

Once packed up (must get faster!) we tried to pay our bill. Rog tried first, but they had a delivery so were preoccupied…Plus he tried in his Italian, gesticulating and adding “o” to each word, that we needed to use the back gate to exit rather than squeezing through the way we arrived, when they had to clear away all the chairs! I eventually paid and the gates were eventually opened…it all works just slowly…love it!

washing the van
off we go!


We left our mountain valley of 750m and continued to climb steadily up, very slowly and cautiously, along beautiful twisty forested mountain roads until our descent towards the coastal road via Genoa.

taken from car window!

stretching our legs


Arrived at our Genoa west site in good time, but in extreme heat!

our Genoa Pegli site

Sorted ourselves, had lunch, a rest then a thorough guided tour talk of Genoa.

Off we went, with our train tickets to discover for ourselves.

one view of Genoa

An old Port, industrial and very run down in parts but none the less, very interesting…not touristy!

shiny hot Mephams!

Wandered through the old town and up to a high point to realise the scale of the city. Ate gelato! So good!

such good gelato!

I always try to do this when exploring a new city…to get my bearings and to take photos!

such gorgeous children everywhere

Around 19.00, we’d had enough of the heat, needed to cool down so took the 20 minute train journey back to our side of town, Pegli.

Genoa Pegli…a former seafront village now lies within the boundaries of Genoa. It’s flower-filled, quaint, seems a friendly community and peaceful in comparison with Genoa!

Discovering, it reminded me of the Italian Riviera seaside towns…so loved it! Slightly shabby chic!

what a place to hear The Archers!

As we sat on a bench, overlooking the sea, Rog found us the next Archers episode…how incongruous but lovely!

Day 09.  Genoa

Although up early, a slow start…touring as we are, we need time to catch up…still need to find a washing machine!
So, finally off into Genoa. We had valid train tickets till 16.00 today, so decided to take the hour long train journey to the other side of Genoa: Nervi, where a stunning cliff sea promenade, winds along the coastline with glorious mature trees and parkland on one side, Italian villas dotted on the overlooking hillside, and beautiful sparkling clear blue sea with rocky outcrops slicing into it, on the other…

graffiti covered trains

On the way to the station, I spotted a produce stall and quickly bought two Italian peaches and a bunch of Sicilian vine tomatoes, some rolls and Italian cheese for our picnic lunch…really need to stock up on Italian supplies soon, still getting through food we bought with us!

We strolled along the promenade and through the shady park on a very hot afternoon, stopping for our picnic on the patterned terracotta tiled promenade…sea views and a breeze!

This part of Genoa east, seems very exclusive…you can just tell…beautifully tended parks, villas, pools in cliffs…so peaceful.


it was so lovely!
beauiful tree lined roads

After a few hours, we took the train back into central Genoa but this time in to what’s called “the new city” … maybe by Italian standards!

We both loved the feel of this part of town and enjoyed a few hours meandering along the boulevards on the patterned tiled floors.

We came across a fantastic market with amazing fresh produce, fish, cheese, meats, spices…everything you could possibly want to eat!

courgette flowers

local mushrooms
porcini mushrooms


We bought some fresh ravioli and fresh Genovese pesto for dinner.

In fact, we’ve both acclimatised to Genoa and grown fond of this bustling city.

We made our way to the Port and caught the Navbus (boat-bus) to our typically faded pastel orange and yellow Italian Riviera seaside town of Pegli, which we love now! A great trip, seeing Genoa from a different perspective and the huge working container Port.

At Pegli, we popped into a shop for supplies, then home for showers, drink and dinner…which was yummy!

fresh Genovese pesto

Day 10. Genoa (Cinque Terre/Portofino/Rapello)

The Cinque Terre or the Five Towns are five ingeniously constructed fishing villages, set in dramatic coastal scenery, connected purely by footpaths in the cliffsides. There is a 19th century train line, cut through coastal tunnels and ferries from village to village but cars are now banned in this Unesco World Heritage Site. These villages date from AD643.

en route to Cinque Terre

We decided to drive to Levanto, and buy a special day ticket enabling us to use the trains between each picturesque village.
We packed a basic picnic, so were as free as birds to explore. Very hot day again, but Italy is excellent at providing water fountains everywhere…and fantastic coffee!

We enjoyed a cappuccino piccolo whilst waiting for our train.

the fifth village (our first) Riomaggiore

So, five beautiful, quaint seaside and cliff villages, faded shades of orange, pink and yellow buildings tumbling down hillsides to the amazingly clear aqua Ligurian Sea.

couldn’t resist a paddle!

We started at the furthest, slowly making our way back to Levanto over six hours…marvelling at the beauty of each charming village. Being Saturday, it became crowded with both Italians and tourists but we saw and did our own thing.

the bays

beach views of Monterosso
bougainvillea everywhere

By 18.00, back to our air-conditioned car…pure relief! Chilled, literally, in our great car, as Rog drove us up the coast to Rapallo.
Each drive along this Ligurian coast is spectacular…Rog always whistles the Bond theme, which is played as 007 drives a luxury sports car along impressive scenic routes!
Through Riviera style seaside towns, along mountain routes with pastel coloured villages perched on wooded mountainsides, in and out of tunnels carved into the mountains. Sea views with churches hanging off a cliff side.

Rapello at dusk

Rapello was, once again beautiful and we would have stopped if we could have parked! It was a busy Saturday evening, so very hectic!
We drove on to St Mag. and Portofino…both absolutely gorgeous but both totally “full on”….Rog equated it to driving through London but with Italian drivers and Vespas dangerously weaving in and out of the traffic! “The man did good” driving our large car in this crazy, excited traffic!

Portofino coastline

Lovely to see these very special towns but we couldn’t stop!

Finally back to the calm of Pegli, but no rotisserie chickens so once again, as late, Genovese ravioli, (again…what a hardship!) tomato salad and cheesy focaccia! I’ve never eaten so many white carbs in my life!