High Ropes and after saying our final goodbyes to our friends and bunnies in Durham, our friend's waved us off on May 8th (only to get stuck in traffic on our first trip!). We spent the next two weeks visiting and say our farewells to my family in Nottingham, friends near Birmingham and Oxford and Esther's Mum and Dad near Aylesbury, and even squeezed in a Bushcraft day. Finally we left UK shores on May 25th taking the ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland. We arrived in Holland, planning to visit Esther's 97 year old Oma (grandma) for a few days and ended staying more than two weeks as the busyness of the previous month finally caught up with us and we needed somewhere to rest up before the travels really began.
beach walks, sunsets and bicycle rides and by 12th June were ready to set off into the unknown. The question was whether to head North to Scandinavia and the fjords or South to the Alps. As we set off, the decision was made to head 'Due South' and get to the mountains as quickly as possible. After learning how to use our first sat nav, we started a long drive through Holland, Belgium and stopping off along the way in Luxembourg and France.
few minor teething problems with the motorhome). After our first (of three) visits to the Roman town of Martigny, by June 21st we found ourselves in Val d'Anniviers where summer had "just started". Following recommendations from new friends, we started to make use of the Liberte pass and explore the valley properly. Our hiking boots got their first alpine experiences and we felt as though we'd really fallen on our feet; feeling so lucky to have found this amazing place so quickly.
the awesome sight of Aletsch Glacier we thought? But after boarding our home onto a train for the first time and taking a trip through the mountains into Northern Italy and arriving at the alpine Lakes of Maggiore and Orta, we quickly learned that different landscapes had their own beauty. After a few days putting up our feet, our hiking boots were on again. But as quickly as they were on, we made an unplanned dash for the Mediterranean. Hitting the coast first in Italy and then crossing the border to spend a lovely week around Nice, where for the first time since Holland the bikes were off the motorhome and we had some lovely cycles, including to Monaco and Cannes.
exploring the French Alps, moving onto the Ecrins National Park and being very lucky to enjoy some spectacular weather in an incredible place. We found some wonderful and remote places to park our motorhome and spend a few days exploring different valleys of this amazing National Park, on foot or bike, each with its own beauty. We also enjoyed some time wandering the old streets in Sisteron, Briancon and Grenoble before heading north to the Mont Blanc massif. Spending a week in the shadow of Europe's highest mountain and having a taste of the classic multi-day circuits left us marking the area as one we will definitely want to come back to. This brilliant month was finished off with a trip back into Switzerland as we headed towards Lausanne where we got to meet up with a good friend and catch up with news from home.
whole month in the Swiss Alps, but our luck continued and it did. Starting the month with an amazing hike on the slopes of the Matterhorn, it didn't take us long to remember why we had wanted to return following our brief stay in June. Again we made use of summer tourist schemes such as the Saas Pass allowing us to ride some of Switzerland's highest and most spectacular cable cars. We made a tour of the Bernese Alps starting with hikes and rides in the Goms and upper Rhone Valley, including to the impressive Rhone glacier with its views stretching right down the valley to Mont Blanc in the distance. From our peaceful stop at Grimselpass, we moved onto the Lauterbrunnen Valley, which lead to more hikes with brilliant views over yet more famous Alpine peaks; Jungfrau, Monach and the Eiger, and also allowed us to revisit the Trummelbach falls, which had made such an impact on us 11 years previously on our second interrail trip.
we started our journey south for the winter. After a few days in the French Provence and succeeding in our wrestle with Mont Ventoux, our journey followed the route of the Rhone River as it made its way to Europe's largest delta and the Carmague nature reserve. Here we were treated to our first sighting of Flamingoes and some peaceful beach walks, cycles and beautiful sunsets. Following a brief taster of the cycle rides along the Canal du Midi, our legs were ready for some more serious action. Having been to the Pyrenees to walk part of the GR10 last year, and as we were already missing the Alps we wanted to find a way back to the mountains. But the Pyrenees in late October? Again luck was with us and we were treated to some fabulous weather, which we intended to make the most of, after a short rest first. Several beautiful hikes in the Pyrenees National Park and eight Tour de France climbs later, including the Tourmalet, Luz Ardiden, Peyresourde and Apsin our legs were ready for a break.
Horquette d'Ancizan, Portillon and Port de Bales. Finally time to rest up and we found a lovely quiet campsite in Tarascon-sur-Ariege (which also had some famous cycle climbs to tackle). But as the weather turned chilly these were maybe a ride (or two) too far! Time to move south we thought. But as the long term weather forecast showed better weather still to come in the Pyrenees, we stayed put and enjoyed other attractions the region had to offer, including the fascinating Parc de la Prehistoric and the stunning Niaux caves which allowed us the unique opportunity to cast our eye over original 13,000+ year old cave paintings.
reflect on our best and worst bits so far. The nature reserve offered up lots of interesting wildlife too, giving Esther plenty of opportunity to get to know her new camera. Saying a "see you again" to the Devesa and once more stocking up with goodies from the bio shops of Valencia, our planned destination for the Christmas period was the Cabo de Gata natural park. Here we had been promised a remote coast line with numerous unspoilt bays and beaches to explore and some of Europe's driest weather. So far it has not disappointed and aided in our very different Christmas build-up.
Almeria, extinct volcanoes and abandoned gold mines to explore, we have decided to make this our base over winter and take a break from touring by moving into a mobile home, giving us some more space to really enjoy the Christmas festivities and to see in the New Year. Plus, 10 days on and I am getting used to the brilliant news that I am now Uncle Dan and today got to meet my nephew, Dexter, for the first time thanks to Skype.
Resolutions for 2015
This is the first year I've put pen to paper (so to speak) and written a summary of a year but what a year to start! With some very lows to start but with many highs to finish. During the challenging start to the year a good friend said to us that she strongly believed the old saying "every cloud has a silver lining" and that at times when things looked bleak you can't see that silver lining. At certain points in a hospital room on my own or recovering at home and frustrated through inactivity I would have be extremely grateful for someone to at least hint at what the silver lining to the situation was going to be in order to give me motivation to get through those difficult weeks. But sitting here on New Year's eve and reliving my year, it is clear now to see the silver lining. Not only have Esther and I had a fantastic time travelling in a motorhome during the last 7 months, but the true silver lining has been that for the first time in my life, faced suddenly with my own mortality, I have been given a deep appreciation of living life and living to enjoy each day to the full. So to quote several people (and one of my favourite films) my resolution for 2015: "Get busy living or get busy dying!"