Well, that was an interesting year! When we started our motorhome roadtrip back in January 2020 life seemed so simple. We were getting ready for what we thought would be a fairly different kind of adventure, by driving to Azerbaijan in our lovely Elddis Encore 250 motorhome.Karen sees Buster for the first time.
There would be some challenges, but all in all an exceedingly long drive across new countries, meeting lovely people, what possibly could go wrong?!… The setbacks we anticipated might befall us: getting lost in Turkey, not being able to get fresh water, the van breaking down, not being able to get money from cash machines, not being able to get Turkish car insurance for the van… Only the latter happened, but we sorted that!
We left the UK after a van shake down on the 23rd of January 2020 and met up with family in Champagne in France on the 25th, which gave the trip its name: ‘Champagne to Caviar’ - as we were heading to the Caspian Sea.Family visit to send us on our way at Champagne Jan 2020
As we motored down through Europe, we heard mention of some new virus affecting Italy that had come from Wuhan in China. ‘Not our problem’ we thought at the time, but nonetheless we avoided that part of Italy as we travelled through. We arrived in Greece on the 10th February but little did we realise the enormity of 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 motorhome to Turkey, but to save a 1000 mile drive and tolls we managed to find a route via the island of Chios to Cesme in Turkey arriving on the 8th March.First meetup with our friend Mark in Florence in February 2020
Peloponnese view, Feb 2020
Beautiful architecture on Chios
Here we heard they had one 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 to play golf. They were due to arrive on the 15th but we got a call from them from Gatwick to tell us that 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 vacate by the 21st as all hotels had been ordered to close. Turkey was going to go into lockdown. Covid-19 had arrived.Golf in Turkey, before we realised Covid had arrivedWe were lucky to find a nearby campsite called ‘Sundance’ that would take us for the duration, and, in the end, there were 9 motorhomes made welcome by the owners of the camp. A mix of motorhomers from all over Europe. Together, but socially distanced, we hunkered down from the 21st March through to the 1st of June when we eventually were able to leave what had become our temporary home. In hindsight we appreciate that we probably enjoyed a better lockdown than most. The sun shone and we never had toilet roll or pasta shortages.
The last night before we all started to leave Sundance camp
After we left Sundance, we enjoyed being able to visit a very empty Pamukkale, the lovely town of Kalkan and the unforgettable sight of Gallipoli with all its history. For many this is an Australian / NZ place, but for me, knowing that my great uncle was wounded there along with 1000s of other Irish killed and wounded at ‘V’ beach, it holds great significance. We were able to have a guided tour that explained and brought alive the scenes before us.Katherine and Karen having a paddle at an empty PamukkaleIrish graves near ‘V’ beach GallipoliThe borders of Europe were, by this stage, loosening their restrictions and we were finally able leave Turkey on the 20th of June. As the EU had not yet opened to Turkey, we headed to Serbia and explored for a week. It was a real surprise - accessible, friendly and beautiful.Serbia was an unscheduled but pleasant surprise
But we wanted to be back in the safety of the EU, so we did a U-turn and 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 where we spent three weeks exploring. Thessaloniki was fantastic, probably the nicest city in Greece. Meteora 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!Vikos Gorge by droneMeteora - and its monasteriesParga, one of the most lovely beach resorts in Greece
We sailed back to Italy via Ancona, finding amazing new and old stops - our highlights being Florence, Lucca, Cuneo, Barolo and Portofino and the Italian riviera … although the fact you had to pay for your spot on the beach was very odd. 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 revised plan was to revisit Champagne to celebrate Karen’s brother David’s 70th. But then France fell off the safe list for UK travellers and Champagne has been postponed to 2021.Pisa with no people around ... very odd!Guinigi Tower - Lucca is amazingBeaches on the Italian Riviera and you have to pay!A view from the van at a nightstop in Barolo (only €10)Mont Blanc from Passy - a free aire and such a view
We instead visited Puy, a wonderful French town with fantastic light shows, then drifted to Millau Viaduct - a must see as far as I was concerned. From here we continued the bridge theme, driving to the Pont Du Gard and Provence. We stopped by St Tropez and headed back to Italy to see the Cinque Terre, as it had been too busy and hot to enjoy when were there earlier. We visited Mark once more in Lucca before deciding that, as it was now October, we would head to Spain for a few months as it would be warmer there. We stopped en-route in Beziers in France and hope to have some time around this area in the future.
The light show in Puy a must see in France
The Millau Viaduct - totally awe inspiring.
Pont Du Gard beautiful from every angle.
St Tropez selfie
The Cinque Terre - so wonderful!
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 our first Elddis motorhome adventure back in 2016. Between Tarifa and Cadiz, there are huge beaches, long walks and plenty of cycle paths. It turned out that this was not a bad an idea. A new semi-lockdown and curfew began. 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 parts of Europe it was a simple lockdown: stay in your municipal area, bars and restaurants must close at 6pm and you must be tucked up in bed between 10pm and 6am.One of those big beaches near us Cabo De Trafalgar
Buster parked up for November lockdown
Did we mention it does rain in Spain?!
Pino - we so nearly adopted this very cute cat
At present, until the 10th Jan we’re able to visit other parts of Andalucía and so spent Christmas in Rota, where we had a nice meal in a restaurant on the beach. We moved on to a campsite near Tarifa for New Year and again went out for lunch, so all quite lovely to be honest.Some of the haute couture of the year.
Cadiz - a wonderful city!
As we begin 2021, the vaccine is starting to be rolled out in the UK, but the third wave has engulfed the UK and Ireland. Gibraltar and nearby towns in Spain are back in lockdown and we can only hope that 2021 will be the end of this pandemic.
Isla Christina ... and onwards to Portugal?
We have to make plans for the next few months. We will probably drive to Isla Christina near the Portuguese border and wait to see how the next few weeks unfold in Spain.
Today we had the real pleasure of meeting up again with Jason and Judy of ‘OurTour’, who have been a real help over the years, not only to us but 1000s of people whose 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 – even during a catastrophic pandemic - can be fun, safe and accessible.
We meet up with OurTour, the best motorhome travel advisors we think there are
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 that 2021 sees the end of this pandemic and we can hug one another again.
So Happy New Year to you all and a big virtual hug for 2021.
David and Karen