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 , 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 no work. 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 correct 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 at Essanjay, in Dorset, 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. 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

Parma Cathedral

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 Palma, Italy, 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 Palma 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 return journey the total cost was a whopping £305. Admittedly it was a very pleasant and relaxing journey, but come on, £305? 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 Palma, 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

SATURDAY 14-04-18

We awoke this morning in the car park at Citi Europe in Calais. 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 Citi Europe 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.