Julie: I can not believe it has been a year since Tom and I retired, and we set off on our travels around Europe in our beloved Hymer Motorhome called Nelly, and with the little Honda Motorbike called Zippy. The year has just gone so quickly. My 12 year old Cat called Cfor came along too.
Julie: We have travelled through France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Morocco, Gibraltar and Spain.
Tom has asked me for my highlights for the blog to celebrate our first year of travelling. I’ve chosen some of my favourite photos to show the gorgeous places we have visited.
So we set off very excitedly on Friday 9th March 2018, we drove to Dover to catch the Ferry to Calais. While on board the Ferry Tom received a message from a friend it said “Your adventures start today. Have a wonderful time, try everything and regret nothing” those words have stayed with me for our entire journey. I’ve tried to do so everyday.
Our journey from Calais to The South of France was lovely. The highlight for me was the beautiful little villages we stayed in. Parfondeval, Mirmande and Oingt.
Julie: Then to the charming town of Avignon, really loved the ‘Pont Saint Benezet’ a really sweet little bridge with a Chapel built on it. Aix-en Provence was lovely too.
Julie: Then on to Antibes, we both loved it. Lovely town and very swanky harbour with splendid superyachts. The campsite was really good, we had a large pitch and the site was very cat friendly.
Julie : While in Antibes we saw the superyacht called Sailing Yacht A, it is owned by a Russian billionaire and is worth £360 million. It started my obsession with spotting superyachts, but this is still my favourite.
Sailing Yacht A
Julie: Antibes is between Cannes and Nice. Nice is absolutely gorgeous too, actually all the Cote d’Azur is just perfect.
Julie: Nice has a Hard Rock Cafe (an obsession of mine) My son Darren and his girlfriend Lucy took me to my first Hard Rock Cafe in 2007 in Times Square in New York where I bought my first T-Shirt. Ever since then I get very excited when I find another Hard Rock Cafe and I just have to buy another T-Shirt for my collection.
We travelled on to Italy. We had many scares in Nelly on very narrow roads which Tom has covered in detail in his blog. But it was all worth it to arrive at La Spezia and from there by boat we visited ‘The Cinque Terre Villages’ Portovenere, Riomaggiore and Vernazza. So very beautiful.
Julie: In April we visited Pisa and the famous leaning tower. It was far more beautiful than I imagined it would be. The Cathedral and the Battistero were extraordinary too.
Julie: We then went on to Barberino val d’Elsa in the Chianti region of Tuscany and from there we visited Florence and Siena both wonderful, really enjoyed both, but got very excited in Florence as it has a Hard Rock Cafe.
Julie: In April we headed back to The South of France and to Antibes, Nice and Villefranche-sur-mer. Very picturesque, sweet little harbour and old town.
Julie: We visited Cannes which I loved but Tom didn’t enjoy all the designer shops and expensive cafes and bars all along La Croisette, that is the boulevard along the bay of Cannes. But I got very excited seeing the red carpet on the steps outside the Theatre for the Cannes Film Festival. The Red Bull Air Race was about to start so a real buzz about the place.
Julie: We went on to Port Grimaud a gorgeous little port, we took a boat trip around the Marina just fabulous! The Campsite here was very good too, good facilities and right on the beach with amazing views.
Julie: The real highlight of the Cote d’azur for me is Saint Tropez. I can’t find the words to describe how beautiful this old little fishing port is. I just totally fell in love with everything about it. The surrounding little villages Ramatuelle and Gassin are lovely too.
Julie: We were in Saint Tropez for ‘Les Bravades Festival’ The whole town dress for the occasion and we saw the ‘Benediction des Armes’ marching bands, gun shooting and the carrying of The Saint Tropez through the town. It was spectacular.
Saint Tropez Festival Day
Julie: We just couldn’t miss going to Pampelonne beach and the very famous Club 55 frequented by Joan Collins and all the Celebrities when they are in Saint Tropez.
Pampelone Jetty for Club 55
Julie: In May we went to Monaco the F1 race was there. What an absolutely amazing experience. Went to the Fanzone and met six F1 drivers and got their autographs! Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas from The Mercedes Team, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin from The Williams Team, and Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen from The Haas Team. We walked around the entire track, just the most incredible day! I’m a big F1 Superfan!
Julie: In June we went to Eze, a delightful little village very high on a mountain top. The garden at the very top was beautiful with amazing views.
Julie: Our journey then began heading North. We travelled back through Avignon and Macon to Freiburg in Germany.
Stopped by the bank of The River Constance at Friedrichshafen, so picturesque very beautiful.
Julie: As we were close to the border with Austria we went over and visited a town called Bregenz.
Next was Munich back in Germany. I loved it, okay so it also had a Hard Rock Cafe but I loved the famous beer tavern called ‘Hofbrauhaus’ as well. The English garden was lovely too.
Julie: We then visited Prague in The Czech Republic. The main square, castle and cathedral all splendid, and I found another Hard Rock Cafe how fortunate.
Julie: Back into Germany and to Berlin. The Alexanderplatz TV Tower was impressive. We also saw The Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and The Brandenburg Gate. All very iconic.
View from Berlin TV Tower
Julie: We visited Poland briefly then headed back home via Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France.
In August we celebrated Tom’s 60th Birthday with his daughters Lily and Elizabeth, my son Darren and his girlfriend Lucy.
Elizabeth, Tom and Lily.
Julie: Late August we set off again through France to Belgium. We visited Ghent and Bruges both gorgeous. It truly feels like stepping back in time, the buildings are so old and just beautiful.
I have a painting of this view of Bruges at home.
Julie: In September we went to Amsterdam. Such an amazing place, I didn’t know what to expect I’d heard so many horrid things, but it is gorgeous and yes okay it has a Hard Rock Cafe, but so much more too. Loved the Van Gogh Museum and we had a tour at Coster Diamonds and of course we went on a Canal Cruise. The Micropia Museum and the Brouwerij ‘t IJ Brewery were great as well.
Julie: In October we travelled through the West Coast of France. I loved Bordeaux. To my surprise the beaches near were lovely. Biarritz was nice too.
Julie: Then through Northern Spain. We went to San Sebastian and Bilbao. I loved the Guggenheim Museum Building it was extraordinary. I really enjoyed Santiago de Compostela and seeing the ‘Centro Internacional de Acogida al Peregrino’ where all the pilgrims collect their certificates.
The Guggenheim in Bilbao
Julie: Then on to Portugal. I loved Porto. Yes it did have a Hard Rock Cafe, but I really enjoyed our boat trip down the River Douro, walking across the Ponte de Dom Luis Bridge, and our tour and tasting at the famous ‘Taylor’s Port’ and a ride on the Funicula Rail.
Ponte de Dom Luis Bridge in Porto
The View from the Ponte de Dom Luis Bridge in Porto
Julie: Really enjoyed Lisbon too. The Elevador de Santa Justa was very scary at the top but amazing views! Loved the yellow trams very iconic of Lisbon. Visited the Hard Rock Cafe, but the Rock Shop was so small it didn’t have any T-Shirts that I didn’t already have! This obsession is getting serious. I bought a beautiful scarf and bracelet.
The iconic yellow tram
Julie: On the 24th of October we arrived at Lagos in The Algarve. Fabulous campsite the best we have stayed in. The site is immaculate, with fantastic facilities including outdoor pool, heated indoor pool with aqua aerobic classes. Also outdoor jacuzzi and fabulous indoor jacuzzi. A new gym and spa. All sorts of sports and games including petanque, badminton, yoga, tai chi, table tennis, and archery. It also had a nice restaurant, bar, and a good little supermarket. The gardens were beautiful and the Mediterranean plant called Bougainvillea was so pretty everywhere. It had lovely bungalows and some even had hot tubs. All the Staff were so welcoming and friendly, it is just a wonderful site.
The swimming pool
The indoor pool
Julie: Lagos is lovely, The coastline at Ponta da Piedade is just stunningly beautiful. We were near Praia da Luz and that has a lovely beach.
Ponta da Piedade in Lagos
Praia da Luz
Julie: We loved Lagos so much we stayed until January. The highlight for me was my son Darren and his girlfriend Lucy coming to stay on the site in a bungalow just before Christmas. When they arrived we took them to Lagos Marina and to Lazy Jacks Restaurant for a superb Sunday Roast Lunch.
Julie: Then we went to the coastline at Ponta da Piedade. We all played Venn card game in the evening. I actually won a game, I really don’t know how that happened!
Darren & Lucy at Ponta da Piedade
Julie: The next day we all went Go Karting at The Kartodromo and then onto Benagil Beach. The Go Karting was fantastic fun, really enjoyed it.
Darren Go Karting
Lucy, Darren and Me on Benagil Beach
Julie: The following morning, we went swimming in the pools and went in the indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, great fun. We had lunch at The Galley Restaurant overlooking the beach at Praia da Luz. After lunch we went to Praia da Salema and to Lagos early evening to see the Christmas lights.
Praia da Luz
Julie: The next day we took a boat trip to the magnificent Carvalho and Benagil Caves and we had a lovely lunch in at Sereia Seafood Restaurant in Alvor. It was such a special time, just wonderful having them here for a few days.
The famous Benagil Caves
Julie: Late December we went to Tiffany’s Riding School for a 90 minutes beginners lesson. We went through the beautiful countryside, it was an amazing experience, I absolutely loved it. My horse was delightful so gentle.
Tiffany’s Riding School
Julie: So in January we left Lagos and Portugal and headed to Spain. The plan is to travel up the Spanish coast to Barcelona and then The South of France.
The highlight for me was going to Seville. I really loved Seville. The Plaza de Espana was absolutely stunning. The giant mushroom wooden structure called Las Setas de Sevilla was fun, and Seville also had a Hard Rock Cafe, another T-Shirt added to the collection.
Julie: Then on to a little town called El Rocio, an amazing place, it looked like a film set of a Spaghetti Western. The Church was gorgeous and the El Rocio Shrine was the most beautiful Altar I’ve ever seen, all gold, absolutely stunning. Every year thousands attend the Pilgrimage of El Rocio it must be amazing.
Julie: We moved on to Tarifa, the Kitesurfing capital of the world. It is very windy there which is obviously good for Kitesurfing. While we were there we went on a day trip excursion to Tangiers in Morocco, it was amazing! Everything I imagined and more. We had a tour guide who showed us all the tourist attractions but the highlight was riding a camel and visiting The Kasbah it was truly an awesome experience I shall never forget.
My ride on a Camel
Julie: Continuing up the Spanish coast we went to Gibraltar, the highlight was meeting the famous Monkeys fabulous!
Cheeky little monkeys
Julie: In February we continued along the Spanish coast and the next stop was Marbella and Puerto Banus. Guess what I found in Puerto Banus, a Hard Rock Cafe, marvellous.
Julie: We travelled on to Granada. We climbed up the narrow steep little paths through the old town were we had amazing views. I was surprised by The Alhambra it was truly magnificent.
Julie: I was really looking forward to visiting Valencia and I was not disappointed. First destination was the Hard Rock Cafe, then the Placa de l’Ajuntament (the town hall square) for the Mascleta. It is a very loud firecracker and firework display, part of the Las Fallas Festival.
The next day we visited La Ciutat des les Arts i les Ciències (The City of Arts and Sciences) it was extraordinary. It is a complex of amazing buildings with very modern architecture.
La Ciutat des les Arts i les Ciències
Julie: The following day we visited the Historic Centre. I really enjoyed the Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) the Torres de Quart (Old City Gate) The Cathedral and the Basilica.
Basilica de Nuestra Senora
Julie: Now it is March and we have been travelling for one year! It has been an extraordinary year. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences, I know how very lucky I am to have had the opportunity to do this. Thank you Tom for everything.
The famous Senequier Cafe in Saint Tropez
Julie: I must just mention my darling little cat ‘Cfor’ he has been incredible. He has adapted so well to life on the road. Tom would say Cfor has adapted better than I have! He loves exploring his new environment and always comes back on board Nelly when Tom calls him in, it is so sweet. He has been so good.
Julie: The second year of our Motorhome travels starts now, so much to look forward to, so many new places to discover and many places to return to that we loved first time around. I’ll tell you all about our new adventures / Hard Rock Cafe tour this time next year.