Well that was an interesting year, when we started 2020 life seemed so simple, we were getting ready for what we thought would be a fairly different adventure, by driving to Azerbaijan in our lovely Elddis Encore 250 motorhome.
There would be some challenges but all in all an exceedingly long drive across new countries meeting lovely people, what possibly could go wrong….?? Well to be fair we had thought of a few things, getting lost in Turkey, not being able to get water, the van breaking down. Not being able to get money as the cash machines would not work. Even not being able to get Turkish car insurance for the van. The last one did happen, but we sorted that!
We left the UK after a van shake down on the 23rd of January 2020 met up with family in Champagne on the 25th which gave the trip it’s name ‘Champagne to Caviar’ as we were heading to the Caspian sea.
As we moved down through Europe, we heard mention of some new virus affecting Italy that had come from Wuhan in China. Not our problem, but we avoided that part of Italy as we went through. We arrived in Greece on the 10th February and we did not know what was following on behind us. We spent the next month exploring the Peloponnese enjoying the calm beautiful landscape that is Greece. We had been told it was nigh impossible to take a boat with the van to Turkey but to save a 1000 mile drive and tolls we found a route through the island of Chios to Cesme arriving on the 8th March.
Here we heard they had 1 case of the virus in the whole country and were not that worried about it. We drifted down the coast visiting some lovely places meeting friends old and new before arriving in Belek to meet friends of mine to play golf. They were due to arrive on the 15th and we got a call from them in Gatwick to say Turkey was closed due the Coronavirus and they could not fly. That day the hotel told us we could stay the week but had to be out by the 21stas all hotels must close, Turkey was going to go into lockdown, Covid-19 had arrived.
We were lucky to find a campsite near Sundance that would take us for the duration, and in the end, there were 9 motorhomes made welcome by the owners of the camp. They were from all over Europe, we hunkered down from the 21st March through until when we left on the 1st of June. Probably a better lockdown than most as it turned out, the sun shone and we never had toilet roll or past shortages.
After we left we enjoyed being able to visit an empty Pamukkale, the lovely towns of Kalkan and the unforgettable sight of Gallipoli with its history. For many this is an Australian / NZ place, but for me knowing that my great uncle was wounded there along with 1000’s of other Irish killed and wounded at ‘V’ beach. We were able to have a guided tour that explained and brought alive the scenes before us.
The borders of Europe were loosening their restrictions, and we finally able leave Turkey on the 20th of June. But the EU had not yet opened to Turkey, so we headed to Serbia and explored it for a week, it was a real surprise being accessible, friendly and beautiful.
But we wanted to be back in the safety of the EU so we did a U turn headed back through Bulgaria who at the time only allowed us to transit and entered Greece, Karen had a Covid test and we were clear to enter one of our favourite countries and spent three weeks exploring. Thessaloniki was fantastic, probably the nicest city in Greece, Mateora is stunning, Vikos Gorge is a must see and Parga is one of the prettiest beach resorts we have ever seen. So put mainland northern Greece on your to do list.
We sailed back to Italy through Ancona, finding amazing new and old stops, highlights being Florence again, Lucca, Cuneo, Barolo and Portofino and the Italian riviera, though the fact you had to pay for your spot on the beach was very odd. But it was August, and it was hot, very hot so we headed north into France, taking in the awesome view of Mont Blanc from Passy. Our new plan being to revisit Champagne to celebrate Karen’s brother David’s, 70th. But France fell off the safe list for the UK and so that has been postponed to same time 2021.
We instead visited Puy a wonderful town with fantastic light shows, then drifted to Millau Viaduct a must see as far as I was concerned, on down to the Pont Du Gard and Provence. We stopped by St Tropez and headed back to Italy to see the Cinque Terre as it was too busy and hot when were there earlier. We visited my friend Mark once more in Lucca before deciding as it was now October we would head to Spain for a few months as it is warmer there. We stopped in Beziers in France and do wish to have some time around this area in the future.
As we moved into Spain we had the feeling that a second wave of the virus had stared to engulf Europe once more. With that in mind we decided to head to a part of Spain we know and love from the first adventure back in 2016. Between Tarifa and Cadiz, huge beaches long walks and cycle paths. It turned out that this was not a bad an idea. A new semi lockdown and curfew started. We had stopped at a lovely site we knew of and though virtually everyone fled we remained with two other motorhomes from the 1st Nov through until the 18th Dec when Andalucía lightened up their restrictions. Compared to other part of Europe it was a simple lockdown stay in your municipal area, bars a restaurants must close at 6pm and you must be tucked up in bed between 10pm and 6am.
At present until the 10th Jan we were able to visit other parts of Andalucía and spent Christmas in Rota and had a meal in a restaurant on the beach. We moved onto a campsite near Tarifa for New Year and again had lunch out, so all quite lovely to be honest.
But now with the vaccine starting to be rolled out, a third wave has engulfed the UK and Ireland. Plus Gibraltar and the towns in Spain around it are back in lockdown we can only hope that 2021 will be the end of this pandemic. But we must make plans for the next few months. We will probably move to Isla Christina near the Portuguese border and wait to see how the next few weeks turn out in Spain.
Today we had the real pleasure of meeting up again with Jason and Judy of OurTour, who for us have been a real help over the years not only to us but 1000’s of people who only wish is to travel and see the world in a motorhome. They make it accessible and fun, we have tried to emulate them and show that this motorhome life can be fun, safe and accessible.
It turns out that Covid has shown that living in a motorhome and travelling around is possibly the safest way of travel in these times. Your hotel room is the one you bring with you; your bed is your own and you never have to unpack or travel through airports. For those of you that tried it in 2020 we hope you found it to be the joy we do.
We hope we can continue to travel and see many more places before we return to the UK in April, but our biggest hope is the 2021 sees the end of this pandemic and we can hug one another again.
So happy new year to you all and big virtual hug for 2021. David and Karen