I had a bit of a dilemma this morning – should I start preparing our Tax Returns or should I write a bit of a blog on our amazing Italian Adventure with Just Go? Hmm – no contest – so armed with a large mug of caffeinated beverage I began my memories ……..
Tone and I LOVE a road trip. We adore the Just go motorhomes and the Italian Adventure is one of the highlights of our year. We are not, however, normal motorhome travellers insofar as we do not stay anywhere too much. We don’t do many museums, visit many “sights” or spend time relaxing on beaches when we are road tripping. We rarely stay more than one night in any place and we hardly ever go onto official campsites. For us it is the journey and the overall experience of the road trip that matters. We love the haphazard unpredictability of it all and we only have a very rough plan as to where we will travel to and where we will stay each evening.
We do lots of miles – 2700 this year. Not for everyone, but it works for us.
“Helping Hands for other Just goers”
Starting in Poggibonsi – we just loved being “Helping Hands”. Our role was to be in PAMS car park to provide an additional resource for everyone. The induction at the factory is fabulous and the Just go team are really knowledgeable – they really do cover everything for the motorhomes but inevitably there are other questions which pop up once you have had time to drive your home-on-wheels for a short while. Also some of the more practical queries only occur once you are away from the factory and as we are all so excited to get going, we do not necessarily retain all the instructions given – so Just go felt that having back up help at PAMS was a good idea which together with the Facebook group – which really helped everyone with on-going queries and advice. We totally agreed. Tone is quite technical and mechanical and has really studied the heating/lighting/electrics and over the years I have managed to solve various issues – such as how to stop the grill trays rattling whilst driving and where the nearest restaurants are to the local camp sites. So – we parked up and waited for you all to arrive. There were queries with the heating and fridge application and there were some electrical problems which were simply omissions from the factory – mostly easily solved – but great to work out with a fellow traveller – we made quite a few friends and there was a lot of banter. It was also great to share 2-for-1 offers on paper towels and washing up liquid from the supermarket with a few of you. We really enjoyed meeting so many of you and hopefully we were of help. We also made pals and managed to find restaurants with other Just goers and that was great fun, but once we had finished our time at PAMS (ladies – did you realise that there is a great shoe shop next door? I managed to just buy one pair) we hit the road with a vengeance.
Our basic plan was to head straight for the Cote d’Azur and get as far as we could on the first day and as our first day was raining cats and dogs it was a good day to hit the road. We never book or plan a campsite in advance and we use the Camper Contact App all the time, simply driving until about 4.00 pm every day and then finding a spot close to where we end up. This sometimes means that we are in Aires, (quite often for free) and sometimes we are staying in designated Camper Car sites that even the locals do not know exist. The Camper Contact App details all the facilities offered (we do not always need electric hook-up) so we know exactly what to expect and how much the charges are. At this time of year there is usually availability, but if not there is always another site not too far away.
“We had the best pizza we had eaten for years, literally 15 feet from our motorhome”
Our journey today got as far as Nice and set the satnav for an Aire which looked to be a decent place. The directions took us through Anatole on the outskirts of the city which was a really scary. I think Anatole featured in a famous film – French Connection springs to mind – and it was a pretty uncomfortable place. The Aire, however was fabulous. Just 6 miles away from Anatole it was right by the river, in a small village – bakery and bar just over the road – and having parked up in one of the three available Camper Car spaces, a pizza van pitched up alongside, fired up the wood burner and within 30 minutes we had the best pizzas we had eaten for years – thin crust, freshly hand prepared with toppings of choice and literally 15 feet from our motorhome.
Day 2 dawned bright and sunny so we raced through Cannes and beyond into Provence past Marseilles, Montpelier, Bandol, St Tropez, Sete and on past Carcassonne towards the Pyrenees. We have both travelled extensively through our lives and felt we did not need to explore any of these sites as we have been there before – that is just us – and our goal was to reach northern Spain this year.
“We LOVE finding obscure locations to discover the roads less travelled”
Our search through Camper Contact found a place we had never heard of – Foix – and we LOVE finding obscure locations to discover the roads less travelled. I’m not sure I can even pronounce it. The town was charming – a beautiful town square, fabulous mountain views, a cathedral and superb restaurants serving traditional French food. The Camping Car site was right in the middle of town, but in a quiet and picturesque location and again, completely free.
We have certain things we need on road trips – a proper coffee maker (really cheap at PAMS) and strong coffee. We then buy our croissants fresh each day from the local bakery and enjoy the local fare. We also swear by our satnav and webcam (just in case), and a decent pair of boots – it quite often snows in Europe in March.
Day 3 took us through the Pyrenees which was an amazing drive. Andorra was on our list but we were running out of time so we swerved reluctantly towards our next destination. We were heading for Biarritz which has been on our list for a while as neither of us had been there. It is a beautiful, elegant and very graceful resort and we imagined very sophisticated travellers strolling along the Promenade. It was exactly as we envisaged – old-fashioned but beautiful. Our Aire today was really well positioned for sightseeing and restaurants and this time we did pay – via an automatic barrier like a car park – and the pitches all had electricity and water – so all the facilities we needed for just 12 Euros – bargain.
Biarritz is close to the Spanish border so we headed to San Sebastian. The coast road is excellent and although there were some tolls, they were cheap and infrequent. Passing through Santander and Bilbao our stop was a very different drive from France – the coastline is rough and dramatic and our overnight stop at Gijon was brilliant. Again – we had not heard of Gijon – but it is gorgeous. The Aire was about 20 minutes walk along a fabulous promenade and the town was easy to explore and real fun. Gijon is in the heart of Asturias so their local tipple is cider. The barmen serve this with great aplomb from a height, over their shoulders into the glass. I thought this was amazing until Tone pointed out that they actually spill quite a lot of it. Great showmanship though.
Weather really wasn’t the greatest on our trip – so we set off in rain and some snow as we climbed steadily into the Picos de Europa mountains via Burgos. Burgos was a lovely city, very picturesque and buzzing. The mountains were equally spectacular, quite remote, with long sweeping drives and great views. We had travelled through several Spanish regions – Basque Country, Pyrenees-Atlantiques, Cantabria, Asturias, Castilla Y Leon and finally into Rioja. OK – now we are talking. We both love Rioja wine and have visited part of the region before but we happily stocked up in one of our favourite places in the world.
Navarra was next and was our stop for the night. Again we had never heard of Olite but it was seemingly the seat of the Navarran kings. It is a walled city with ramparts and tiny cobbled streets and it is charming. The central plaza was filled with local people and children playing in the square – safe as there is no traffic allowed. We sampled the local Navarran wine at 2.30 Euros for a large glass, and then found a fabulous restaurant for a lobster and rice dish which was cooked to order. We met locals wearing Basque caps who were immensely proud of their heritage and were happy to tell us about their land and culture. The Aire was superb with large pitches, situated right outside the city walls and free again.
Bordeaux was on our tour – but having stocked up on Rioja, Bordeaux seemed to pale into insignificance. Our goal was to find an Aire somewhere in Cognac and we found Loulay (again, never heard of it before) which is a very pretty town with a central square with the Mayor’s office resplendent on one side, a deli on the other, a bakery over the road, and a bar/restaurant in the corner. The square has several free Camper Car spaces so we grabbed one and headed for the bar. Not a great restaurant, slow service and poor food but it filled a gap – needs must.
Our goal for the next day was Arromanches in Normandy. This was a long drive but we have been there before (we are both interested in World War 2 history and this is the site of the Mulberry Harbour. Some of the concrete harbour structures are still visible on the beach and as many of them were produced and floated across the channel from our home town, Shoreham by Sea, it is a really special place for us. We also know that the Camper Car site is right in the centre of town, walking distance to everything, and we know a brilliant restaurant just minutes away. It was St Patrick’s Day and we were thrilled to be invited to drink Guinness and Irish Whiskey at one of the bars in town – they also had an Irish band playing to celebrate. This evening was such a different experience and Brits are really welcomed in Normandy – the beaches are also spectacular.
In all of this time we did not see another Just go motorhome – which is hardly surprising given our route – but our next port of call (and final night before the ferry crossing the next day) – so we headed to Bruges to the Aire in the centre of the town. We have also stayed there before as it is so convenient for the town centre restaurants and it is only just over an hour away from Calais. We monitored the Facebook group all the time we travelled – great facility for all sorts of questions – and it became apparent that there were several other Just goers already there. In the end I think about 6 motorhomes were on the site that night – it was good to see people again and share some experiences. It is also a brilliant place for food.
Our ferry crossing was excellent – we had some big French chaps come on board to check we were not smuggling anything or anybody back to the UK. I actually think they wanted to see just how fabulous the Just go motorhomes are inside (I think they were impressed).
“This was our third Italian adventure and by far the best”
Our welcome upon arriving at Just go was wonderful – thank you ladies! A glass of Prosecco for me (Tone was driving) to celebrate. This was our third Italian Adventure and by far the best – we saw places we never knew existed – met fabulous people and had a fantastic time. We loved our A Class motorhome – so luxurious and easy to drive. This is such a brilliant opportunity to drive a motorhome through Europe and we definitely want to do it next year (different route – watch this space).
For more information on Just go’s relocation trips, please click here