The Cathedral - this is what makes Old Dubrovnik a city

Due to the continued defence cuts this is the proposed replacement for the Trident submarines

MONDAY 11-6-18

The live band down at the beach or across at the hotel finished performing at about 23:00, which was fine, young folk get a bit of entertainment and we get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Actually they weren't a bad band to listen to.

We both slept well and awoke early, due in some large part I'm sure to having gained an hour since leaving Greece.

Up and scrubbed I did some hand washing as I like to keep on top of things. My wardrobe contains plastic boxes which fit on the shelves and contain items ready for use. I carry five of everything, be it pants, vests, T shirts, pairs of socks, short sleeved shirts, long sleeved shirts etc. Once I get down to only two of anything left I know I need to get on top of things before I run out.

It was obvious even early on that today was going to be a real scorcher, and so I just laid the items across my easy chair to dry in the sun while we went back in to Dubrovnik City.

We went to Reception for our bus tickets. In front of us was a couple who told the staff that they had been there before last year, but today they just wanted to park their car and caravan until 18:00 as they had a ferry to catch down in the port.

In order to pop in to Reception to make the request they had parked up in the 'Late Arrivals' parking area, away from Reception. In the end they had to pay a full days campsite fees because they kept digging themselves a hole. I said to The Chef while we stood there "How stupid are these people?" They were already parked up, all they had to do was walk away from the vehicle, job done.

We were soon on a bus heading for the city, though this one was full before we got on, and it had only started its journey up the road at the hotel complex. For the whole journey the bus kept stopping and more people tried to cram themselves in to the available space.

On arrival went for a wander around, and I noticed the staging from last night's children's performance had already been dismantled and removed.

After a while it was starting to feel rather hot and so we decided to have a drink, do a bit of people watching then make our way back to the campsite to try and escape the heat of the afternoon sun.

When the bill came for just one large beer and one not very large coffee - the equivalent of nineteen pounds. On returning for lunch we passed the off-site campsite restaurant, looked at their menu and decided to eat there instead, which would save us the hassle of going back in to the city later this evening.

During this trip we've had two or three Dutch travelling circus's and one German invasion, but today it was the turn of a Brit circus to come to town. And what an entertaining performance it was. There were, we reckon, fifteen of them, a mixture of motorhomes and caravans, though predominantly motorhomes. It was heartbreaking to watch these people trying to organise themselves. One motorhome (number 5 - they all had  numbers on their rears) kept touring round and round trying to find a pitch, while number six was trying to get parked on the row behind us, only to then discover once finally parked that there wasn't an available hook-up socket in the junction box. Then there was a group huddle to discuss the crisis, with one or two coming to take a closer look at the box and have a count up of leads going in to it. I told The Chef I couldn't take my eyes off them because if they started to get above themselves and start removing existing plugs then the shit really would hit the fan.

I tell you it made me feel ashamed to be a British motorhomer. What a shower, it was like something out of 'Dad's Army'.

This afternoon it was 33.8˚C in the shade within the motorhome, and  over 40˚C in the sun. We're melting even with the hovercraft engine fanning cooling air. At 18:00 it was still about the same temperatures.

Before going down the road this evening I went for a nice cooling, cleaning shower, what a treat it was, I felt so much better afterwards.

Our meal was pretty straightforward - a steak for The Chef, BBQ ribs and chips for me, plus three glasses of wine - €46.60, about £41, plus a tip. I suppose that's about the going rate these days, and would certainly have been cheaper than dragging ourselves back in to the city this evening.

Tomorrow we leave Camping Solitudo here in Dubrovnik. Firstly we are going back down the road a few miles to a large supermarket we spotted down in a community off the coastal road. Then we'll be making our way to Omis, somewhere we've stopped before, though this time we'll be using it as a base to enable us to catch a bus further up the coast to Split which is supposed to be rather nice. There is a campsite there but at this time of year they insist on a  minimum five-night stay. So that's their loss.

There are two possible ways of getting there and I'll let The Chef decide which way we go come the morning.

So from us and all of those clowns in the Brit travelling circus - Hi-de-Hi!!

The area we'll eat in tomorrow evening

SUNDAY 10-6-18

We were awake in good time and at 06:50 I decided to get up and beat the Germans from the circus camped on the grass area across from us to the two unisex shower cubicles. No chance, the block was only next door to our pitch but as I walked around the corner two large German women beat me to it. There I was at the front of a one-person queue at that time of day. I soon decided there were better ways of spending my time and so nipped back 'home'. The Chef being far more patient than I decided to give it a go, and was lucky enough to bag a cubicle in reasonable time. On her return she told me to get round there quickly as the cubicle she'd just vacated was still free. Off I went so swiftly, that I forgot to take my towel with me and had to call out to the Chef to bring it round for me.

What a carry on. I did enjoy my shower though and had it on full belt fantasising that I'd get to use all the hot water up before the rest of the Germans got in there.

Our original plan was to hang around on Camping Kate until about noon which is usually the latest you are allowed to leave a campsite, then make our way to Camping Solitudo on the other side of 'New' Dubrovnik where we could book in at 14:00. On our way out we'd pop down to the supermarket we came across yesterday and stock up with fresh bits.

Best laid plans and all that. I couldn't find anywhere to park the vehicle, and after turning round and passing the shopping mall again The Chef wasn't even sure if it was open, this being a Sunday. Off we went then, back on the main coastal road to Dubrovnik. I suggested to The Chef that we'd arrive early tell them we'd booked ahead (last December actually, with a €50 deposit) and ask if there was somewhere we could park the vehicle whilst we popped in to Dubrovnik City.

On our arrival they were happy to let us go on to the campsite and find a pitch, what with them only being about one third full, which at this time of year surprised me, but then given the rates they charge hardly surprising. This doubled the pain as we then realised we hadn't needed to book at all, and could instead have stayed back at Camping Kate and reached Dubrovnik from there.

It was so hot this afternoon that we decided to hang around the pitch and relax, trying to stay as cool as possible. We'd then go in to the city this evening when it is cooler.

Come about 16:30 the heavens opened and that certainly cooled things down a bit. There were a number of caravans and motorhomes which had been left unattended with their skylight roof vents wide open - bad thing to do. If we go out we never leave the vent above the bed open whatever the circumstances, and we make a judgement about the front vent above the kitchen/lounge area but it's never left more than half open.

To use up some of the food in the back this evenings meal was a pulled pork in barbecue sauce in a tortilla wrap with salad. The Chef wasn't too wild about it as she found the sauce a bit sweet. We ate early so that we could go to the old city for a mooch around and see if we could find somewhere to eat tomorrow evening. I promised myself last time we were here three years ago, that when I came back I'd sit and enjoy an evening meal al fresco at one of the many restaurants.

We bought our bus tickets from Reception and then set off for the walk to the bus stop. Fortunately the busses run about every fifteen minutes, and it's a ten minute bus ride the gates of the old walled City of Dubrovnik, so we were soon there.

It was lovely to be back again but it was oh so much busier this time, last time we were here a bit earlier in the tourist season. It was the peacefulness and lack of people that was so appealing during our last evening visit. Never mind.

We treated ourselves to an ice cream as we wandered around and have selected an area in which we'll eat tomorrow. The highlight of the evening was being entertained by groups of children on stage. I assume there must be some kind of arts festival on at the moment.

Just out of interest I checked the blog on our return to see where we were ten years ago on our first tour around America, and saw that this morning we had left Custer, South Dakota, heading back towards Texas for the end of that first trip. That was a long time ago, but nobody can take those memories away from us.

Tomorrow we shall go back to Dubrovnik City before it gets too hot for a walk around in the sunshine, then we'll come back to escape the heat of the afternoon sun before returning again in the evening for that promised meal.

Mlini harbour

SATURDAY 9-6-18

Last night we had thunderstorms and heavy rain. I remember hearing the very heavy rain on the roof, and rumbles of thunder but that was it. the Chef on the other hand couldn't believe I wasn't disturbed by the loud sound of the thunder or by the huge flashes of lightening. But sleeping well after a long day's driving is, I suppose, drivers perks.

An added bonus was that we weren't plagued at all by persistent flies and biting bugs which have been a pain for much of this trip.

I was up in good time as there are only two unisex shower cubicles in our toilet block, with a similar block further down the campsite. My thinking was to get in while it was still quiet, which of course it was. No matter where we go, we nearly always find quiet shower blocks. That's skanky foreigners for you.

We idled away the morning as there was the odd rain shower about, but we had agreed to go out for a walk this afternoon to try and find a way down to the beach.

Lunch was our one remaining part-baked baguette which we'd bought back in Italy (they didn't sell them in Greece). It was in perfect condition given that it's 'best by' date was 19th May.

We had been expecting the arrival of the group which were having the grassed area in front of us reserved for them, but by mid-day there was no sign of them We expected it to be a group of Dutch, since on this trip we've come across a few groups of Dutch campers. I think they travel around together for safety in case their European masters, the Germans come over and bully them.

Then it was off for our walk, stopping by at Reception to ask for the route, expecting to have to walk along the main road for a while before heading downhill. But no, it was down to the bottom of the campsite, though the gate and down the steps. Not only that but the receptionist told us that down in the harbour they ran boats round to Dubrovnik for a return fare of about twelve pounds, and she was surprised we hadn't been told that, especially as they also sold the tickets.

Soon we were making our way down many steep steps towards the beach, passing numerous private properties, and once at the bottom one or two hotels. It was pretty much what we expected to find, though the hotels were much larger. Sure enough there in the tiny harbour was the ferry boat service, which ran about every half hour to Dubrovnik. The place was also crawling with Brits who I suppose fly in to Dubrovnik airport back down the road, then stay at one of the hotels or apartment blocks.

As we walked further around the bay things just got better and better. The whole promenade area had been upgraded. It looked very smart and they were making a real effort to steal tourist business away from their bigger neighbour Dubrovnik about five miles down the road. There were bars and restaurants, nice hotels, and believe it or not a shopping mall. I just couldn't believe it. All of this was accessed from a side road further down the main coastal road. It was like another world, quite unlike the odd bar and restaurant I expected to find down there.

Despite the thunderstorms it was still hot and muggy and so we thought we'd pop in for a look around the shops in the mall and a cool down in their air conditioned complex. One of the first shops we came across was a shoe shop, and just inside - sandals. Fortunately I had a bank card with me and the next thing I knew I was the owner of spare pair of new sandals for about £30, which wasn't too bad. I'll carry on wearing my repaired pair, but it's reassuring to know that should they fail me I now have replacements. We also came across a large supermarket on the basement floor and so we'll probably drive down there tomorrow on our way to Dubrovnik for a few fresh bits and pieces.

Having seen what is on offer here in Mlini I'm a bit miffed I booked the campsite at Dubrovnik weeks ago to make sure we could get on there. But at €37 a night it's very steep, but it's the only campsite in Dubrovnik. When I say IN Dubrovnik, it's actually on the outskirts of 'New' Dubrovnik, as opposed to the ancient walled city, and is therefore still a ten minute bus ride away.

For €19 a night (they are in ACSI) we could have stayed here at Camping Kate www.campingkate.com and used either the ferry boat service as a novel way to arrive in Dubrovnik, or the bus service outside the campsite gate. Never mind, what's done is done, and we've paid a deposit of something like €50 for our two night stay down the road.

On our return we got the folding chairs out, had a cold drink and then awaited the arrival of the travelling circus, the camping equivalent of cruise ships and coach tours. In the end it turned out to be a group of Germans, yet more Germans, each vehicle containing the classic female German motorhomer, short and plump with short hair and a face like thunder.

The group leader's vehicle was decorated in a very visible way just in case there was any confusion about which vehicle they should all be following.

The centre of Kotor

Down the mountain to Budva

Somewhere in Montenegro

FRIDAY 8-6-18

We slept well last night and were up in reasonable time ready to hit the road again. Today we were to clear Albania, then on to Podgorica in Montenegro, before heading down the hill towards Budva on the Adriatic Sea.

The folk at Camping Legjenda, located just on the south side of Shkoder were very nice as we left and soon we were in the middle of the town itself. My word what an eye opener, quite the craziest driving we've seen yet. We had motorbikes, push bikes and scooters coming towards us on our side of the road, and at one point we even had a car on our side coming towards us. I wasn't sure if he was making a left turn or intended to park on our side or it was an overtaking manoeuvre of some mind. In the end he did return to his side of the road. We also had horse and carts to overtake as well as the fun of the roundabouts where even though you're on it cars will just pull across in front of you or force their way down the side of you as you're trying to exit.

Thankfully once we cleared the town we enjoyed a good road surface again. Much of it looks to have been upgraded which is most welcomed.

Once on the outskirts of Podgorika we turned left to head down the mountain on the E80, though not before we had endured a long traffic jam at the junction to it.

By coming down the E80, I was hoping we'd be able to find a campsite or camperstop in Budva, a town we didn't get to see three years ago when the road we used then had dropped us in at Kotor.

Eventually there it was below us - Budva, and it looked very nice indeed. We were full of anticipation as we came down to sea level and began passing through the town. Sadly there was no sign of anywhere to park or camp for a motorhome. What made it more frustrating is that I had made several attempts to get an internet connection on the way from Podgorika in order to find some facilities, but the MiFi just couldn't get a signal.

So that was that then, it may have looked very nice indeed, but we just had to wave it goodbye as we passed through it and back up in to the mountains again on our way to Kotor.

yet again I was hoping to find somewhere for us to stop for a couple of days because we are not due at the campsite in Dubrovnik until Sunday. Again, no internet access to find a campsite there, so once again we just passed through. By then I was getting pretty peed off. This really was becoming a working day. Thank heavens for air conditioning, at least we could sit comfortably as we were forced to eat up the miles in the +30˚C heat.

I was continually scanning the roadside for signs of campsites but there was nothing. Eventually we crossed in to Croatia, and I became fearful that we'd find ourselves at the campsite in Dubrovnik two days ahead of schedule and having passed along the coastal road to get there when tired and unappreciative.

Finally, and luckily, we came across a sign at the entrance to Camping Kate, only a few miles before Dubrovnik and right next to the main road. But never mind, it will do us for a couple of nights, giving me time to have a break from the driving and for us to have a look around the local area.

We did manage to find a nice pitch but we couldn't stay on it because two ignorant German motorhomers with large vehicles side by side had parked in such a way that I couldn't get around the vehicles to hook up the electricity. I could mention it to the owners, though I'm sure they're aware of it. Campsite owners everywhere just seem to let the arrogant bloody Germans do as they please, they seem afraid to challenge them. Bring on round three that's what I say.

This evenings meal, as last night, was a meal I purchased from 'Parsley Pot' https://www.parsleybox.com . Last night we had a lasagne each. The box comes with the 'meat' element of the meal and so you add whatever else you wish to it. So for us it was garlic bread, though it could just as easily have been a salad. Tonight it was a Rogan Josh curry, where we added the 'boil in the bag' rice element. Though if you're a Brit it could just as easily have been a portion of oven chips. The portions are the right size for a healthy meal, though of course if you were one of today's modern Chav's you'd probably want a double cheeseburger and fries - supersized, as a side dish followed by a two gallon bucket of ice cream and a dozen doughnuts. And obesity is now classed as an illness? Spare me please. Next thing you know they'll be getting their take-aways on prescription.

So finally do you have an elderly relative living with you? You know, the one you begrudgingly agreed to have come and stay with you permanently just so that they don't have to pay Residential Care Home fees, thus protecting your inheritance.

Well personally I think the 'Parsley Pot' folk have put so much thought in to their products regarding the portion size that you should be able to slide one of these meals under the door of their padlocked room. They get to eat healthily, and you get to keep their money. It's a win-win.

 

Addendum:

 

The route we took was as follows:

 

Ioannina (Greece)/Kalpaki (Border)/Kakavia/Levan/Fier?Lushnje?Durres?Vorё/Fushё-Krujё/Lezhё District (or just Lezhё)/Shkodёr/Podgorica.

 

Fortunately this is route is also given by Google Maps. 438km/272 miles

 

Entering Fier

The scenery soon after crossing the border in to Albania

THURSDAY 7-6-18

Well hat wasn't a very goodnight's sleep. The locals were out eating and enjoying themselves noisily until the early hours although the worst was over by mid-night. Add to that we were down by the lake and so the local mosquitoes popped by for a nightcap before turning in themselves having first played games with us buzzing around our heads.

We were up in good time, for today was a work day, we had to prepare the vehicle for the road and then make our way to the border with Albania. I checked and adjusted the pressure in all of the tyres as well as the assisted suspension airbags. They needed a bit more air in them as we were down about three-quarters of an inch compared with when we left home. That bit of extra air and height put Freddie Fendt back on tip-toe and ready to go.

The Chef popped up the road for a loaf of bread whilst I finished off with the vehicle. I even cleaned the windscreen as best I could so that my onboard camera operator stood a better chance of getting a clear picture out of the windscreen.

Then it was time, and off we went. It took probably about an hour and a half to reach the border. First through the Greek checkpoint which was no more than a quick check of our passports at a Border Control followed by a friendly wave goodbye through the window at Customs. Then it was across no-man's-land to the Albanian side. Needless to say it wasn't very well organised. They had three lanes clearly marked. The first was for pedestrians, the second was for cars but it was blocked off, the third was for lorries. As we weren't pedestrians we entered the lorry lane and pulled up at the kiosk nobody there. In fact we were met by a professional begging child before we set eyes on any border staff. At that was only because The Chef popped out with the paperwork and spoke to the man in the kiosk for 'Pedestrians' There were n o problems, though he didn't understand what she meant by 'Insurance', as we needed to buy some. Our own Insurance Company did not issue a green card for Albania. Never mind, we slipped though and then pulled up at an area containing shops etc. It was here The Chef found somewhere to get the insurance. A whopping forty-nine euro's for fifteen days cover, and it's only Third Party, so we'll have to drive even more carefully.

Now the Albanian problem. I had selected our route during the planning stage of our trip and had checked the condition of the road at various points along it using good old 'Street View' on Google Maps, and as I recalled it looked alright. Yet despite that I kept reading horror stories about the roads in Albania, reinforced by tales from a couple we met at a campsite a couple of weeks ago who told us how bad it was. I concluded that perhaps they had taken a route through the middle of the country passing through Tiranё, Albania's capital. My route kept over to the west coast. That was the natural place to join it from where we were in Greece and it was the natural pace to leave it given that our next stop would be Podgorica, before we dropped down the mountain towards the seaside.

I shall not linger too long on the route but basically it was as follows:

Kakavis (the Greek border)/Levan/Lushnje/Durres/Lezhe/Shkoder/Podgorika

With our grossly overpriced Third Party Insurance Certificate in our hands and hope in our hearts we set off in to Albania.

My what a pleasant surprise. the road was absolutely fine, and the scenery was absolutely lovely. The speed limits are a lot lower than in the UK, but who cares? We were enjoying the views as we made steady progress up through the country.

The only crappy bits were as we passed through large communities, as then the road would narrow dramatically and you were then reminded you were then on the 'old road', but once clear, the road widened up and away we went.

Then there was Frier, which I'm sure is Albanian for fear. On approach the road  not only narrowed but became considerably worse. It was like being back in Italy, absolutely dreadful, and we had a few miles of it until things improved, and by the time they did it was time for lunch.

We pulled off the road next to as filling station in a parking area for bitumen tankers. Not grand, but I was able to park the vehicle discretely and dump about fifty litres of grey water in to a row of thirsty looking trees.

During our lunch break I told The Chef that we were making good progress and we had to either stop at a planned campsite fairly soon and fry in the sun, or make a run towards the border. We chose to make a run for it.

And all went well until the satnav remembered that it hadn't buggered us about at all today and really did need to before it got too late, and so when we got to Durres it took us off the modern dual carriageway and took us for a ride along the most atrocious roads you could imagine, just so that it could save us perhaps two hundred yards on the journey before putting us back on the modern, good road.

We plodded on until we reached my identified en-route campsite here at Shkoder which is not too far away from the border. We will remain here overnight and set out for the Croatian coast tomorrow.

It's been a long day, but a good one, and I'm glad we did it, and that we chose this route and not others where I must now assume most of the problems lie with fellow travellers.

The only other thing to add is that the driving here is appalling and I have to assume that most people in Albania die in head-on collisions rather than old age, and that roundabouts are a game of 'dare', as it has sod-all to do with who has the right of way.

WEDNESDAY 6-6-18

It was good to be leaving Camping Village Kalamitsi Beach. It was overpriced for what it was, but I have to say it was lovely to escape the heat of the day for four days sat in our pitch under shady trees. To top it all The Chef got to pay by credit card AND she got a written receipt. My word the place must be legitimate and paying its taxes.

First port of call was a petrol station where we put in a whopping €72.45, which was far more than I expected, so for that reason I apologise and have amended yesterdays  fuel costs so far for the trip, giving us a new average of 22p a mile, which is not as attractive as 17p. Then it was down the road to the supermarket where The Chef topped up on fresh bits and pieces to see us through the next few days.

It was already getting very hot and so we had the luxury of the air conditioning for most of the way to Ioannina, our stopping off point for tonight before we enter Albania tomorrow.

We were both very surprised by what we found as we arrived in town. It is far larger than we expected, and rather quite nice, though we were back to the usual double parking on the busy town roads. We pulled up at our Camperstop at about 12:30, a parking area for cars, coaches and motorhomes, though we are the motorhome here right now. Just ten euro's for the night, and what a good location it is. Right by the large lake with the mountains as a backdrop, the castle is just around the corner as are lots of shops and eating places.

After lunch we went for a walk up the 'High Street' but it was very hot, being in the low 30˚C's again. Still we found a shaded bench in a park to sit for a while before making our way back down the other side of the road, the main reason being The Chef was looking for a bakery not too far away from our parking area where she could get a fresh loaf of bread tomorrow morning. As luck would have it there was one just around the corner.

On our return to the motorhome I had a bit of a lie down while The Chef had a read, then we swapped round. How lucky we were when the cloud which arrived a couple of hours earlier dropped some rain on us, not much but anything to cool things down is most appreciated.

This evening we went for another walk. We said we'd have a meal out while we were here but when it came to it we weren't that fussed and settled for a kebab each and a beer. Well at least I can say I've eaten Greek food in Greece.

So by late tomorrow morning we'll be done with Greece. A bit of a shame really. We have both enjoyed it, though neither of us would return, for us there just weren't enough 'Wow' moments, though the scenery has been quite remarkable at times, far nicer that Italy, even the Tuscany area, which for me was greatly overrated. We really liked our few days at Diakofto, though not the train ride. We did feel that we were in the real Greece. We had the little beach, the lovely views across the Gulf of Corinth, the town itself and the people and even the piles of rotting rubbish - now that's got to be the real Greece.

For anybody considering coming here with a motorhome I would strongly suggest cheating and doing it a far easier way. From Calais go to Venice either through Germany and Austria, or through France on their toll roads then in to Italy. From Venice catch the ferry which runs between Venice and Igoumenitsa, Greece https://www.minoan.gr/en/page/428/about-minoan-lines Check them out, I believe this is the company which allows you to hook-up on the ship's deck and live in your motorhome for the 28 hour trip. I reckon you could be here from the UK in three to four days.

Once in Greece keep to the western coast and head south to the Peloponnese Peninsular, that's where the best bits are, and if you want to do Athens and the Corinth Canal you can reach them easily enough along the peninsula's northern coastline.

So we're in to Albania tomorrow. I have some serious reservations about the trip which is about 200 miles. We could have chickened out, scrubbed a second visit to Dubrovnik and caught the ferry to Venice, but that would have been doing it the easy way and that's not what we do. By making the journey we'll be able to share the experience with others who may be contemplating it, and by challenging ourselves, and taking calculated risks we sometimes get the butterflies, and the heart misses a beat, that's when we know we're still living, as opposed to just alive.

Sorry but it seems the new 'chapter' I had to start now wants to list the contents in a downward direction