Monday, 29 July 2013

On the road again!

Apologies to everyone thats missed us! Our excuse is a simple one really, for the last 4 days we have been staying at Les Ranchisses campsite in L'Argentiere. We met up with family, went swimming and went out for dinner but mostly we were busy doing nothing. For that reason it's pretty hard to do a blog post on erm... Nothing. But below is Les Ranchisses in pictures...:

Arriving at Les Ranchisses:

Seeing pretty Motorbikes:

Changing wheel bearings on the car:

Putting him back together:

Making friends and sitting out and watching storms:

Apologies for the crap photos, and the severe lack of them!

Yesterday we left Les Ranchisses, fired Timmy up and set his wheels rolling again in a Southbound direction! It was lovely being at Les Ranchisses, having the use of the pool, having time to relax and sort the car out, change the wheel bearings as well as making friends and having far too much to drink in the evenings! But at the same time, we're aiming to get atleast as far as the Amalfi coast in Italy... Which is over 1000 miles away at the moment. That number wasn't getting any smaller laying by the pool!

Last night we stayed at camping Les Olivettes just outside of Les Mees, lovely little campsite, and we met some people with a very cool VW T25 camper, the space alone that they had was pure luxury! Let alone the  two double beds, 4 burner hob and grill and table and chairs... It sounds like im jealous, i'm not... Okay, maybe a wee bit. Most expensive campsite so far though, i nearly choked when she said 28 euros, especially when we only take up quarter of a pitch!

Before getting to Les Olivettes yesterday we met this Scottish guy on the A7 in a Citroen 2CV, i'm not usually a fan but this was quite cool, plus Han loves them. Apparently there's an international meeting of them in Spain next week, over 10'000 2CV's are due to turn up!

Currently we're sitting in a Maccy D's, stealing there wi-fi, and just filled up on 2 big Mac's! We are now on our way to a campsite just outside Cannes, about 100 miles away, there for 2 nights and heading into Cannes tonight and Monaco tomorrow... Well that's the plan anyway!

Post again soon, Joe.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

I like curves....

I like curves or corners or bends, whatever you prefer to call them, they are probably the main reason that i enjoy driving so much. They also probably help explain my choice of cars as well, going fast in a straight line has never held massive appeal to me, acceleration sure, but top speed? Anything over the magic 'ton' always seems to be a wee pointless to me anyway, especially in these days of speed cameras, mobile speed vans and undercover police cars everywhere. To me its always been about the corners, flowing from one into the next, feathering the throttle whilst dabbing the brake with my left foot, feeling the rear start to slide before giving it a wee more throttle and pulling the car through to the next one. Feeling the buzz just writing about it. Han's looking at me funny...

Anyway, there is a purpose to all this rambling of my love for the clipping of apexes. Simply put, the roads that i have driven here yesterday on the way to our current site, are some of the best i have ever driven. Proper mountain roads, mile after mile of smooth flowing corners, undulations, positive camber corners which you can fly into before having to scrub off major speed for the next as the camber isn't so friendly! It's a shame that there was so much weight in the car (not just referring to my passenger!) as without that they would of been even better! Anyway, here's some pictures of said roads, taken by Han strapped into the passenger seat, as well as some of us at the top of the local 'Col', around 1400m in altitude.


After bend...

After corner...

 Until finally, we reached the top!

Talking of bends and corners, yesterday on the way to Camping La Cascade, i got a wee excited when we drove past a big red building with 'Caterham' on the side of it, Han couldn't understand my excitement, so to explain, i drove inside...

I really wanted to get a phone of Tim in the line up, but Han wouldn't let me...

What she doesn't know is that we're due to drive back past there tomorrow... 

Today we have been up to very little, we went into the town of Meyrueis this morning which was pretty with a lovely river running through the middle of the town. Stupidly i left the camera in the car, so you'll just have to picture it in your heads. We then stocked up on supplies of biscuits, jaffa cakes and water. Oh, and crisps. All essential supplies i'm sure you'll agree!

I did some work on the car, nothing major or even that exciting, just general checks, adjusted the mixture again for the change in altitude, checked fluids, general spanner checks. So far so good! Wheel bearings are starting to make a rumbling noise though, they've been becoming more and more vocal since we left so they're probably due a change by now. Luckily i brought some with me, along with a ball joint splitter and a large breaker bar. It's almost like i knew they'd need changing!

That's pretty much it for now, and apologies to the non-petrolheads among you for the rather car related post. I'll make sure the next one has barely a whiff of petrol. 


Arriving at La Cascade. The bike really wasn't necessary, he could of pointed to the pitch!

Monday, 22 July 2013

One week in...

Hospitals, getting kicked out of hotels and off roading...

So now we're officially a week in to the trip, the car ticked over a 1000 trouble free miles yesterday, and is rapidly approaching the 1500 mark! It's been a strange few days, according to our 'itinerary' that Han had laid out we should still be in Chamonix, i think. That was assuming that we had spent a couple of days in Switzerland, but as our loyal and regular readers will know, we didn't, as the campsite was crap. We are currently just outside Ales, on our way to Meyrueis.

We decided to leave Chamonix yesterday, as Han has been feeling a wee under the weather, trying to get her to see someone was fun to say the least, as it was Sunday. I was aware that most things in France closed on Sunday, but i wasn't aware that included Hospitals, Doctors, Pharmacies, and all the rest of it... Arriving at the Hospital we were told by the ER department that she couldn't be seen as it wasn't 'Trauma'. We were then given the number and private address of a local doc, apparently he worked on Sundays. I rang the number, and the answerphone message said that he was closed until Monday. Brilliant.

Leaving Chamonix, Mont Blanc in the background:

We decided to carry on all the same, and with Han drugged up we left Chamonix and headed for St. Pierre d'Argencon, about 230 odd miles away. We were heading for a campsite at which i'd stayed last year, La Source. But as we neared, the home office (Thanks Anita!) let us know that it was in fact fully booked. Due to Han not feeling her best, we tried to find a hotel, which although it was going against everything we had planned, thought it'd be a good idea. Long story short it was, and she woke this morning feeling much better. We headed to a pharmacy/medical center where they've given her more drugs as well, we're like Boots on wheels currently!

Back to the hotel quickly, last night me and Han were rather peckish, so considering that our room was on the ground floor and had a balcony/veranda, i saw no reason why i couldn't fetch my stove from the car and cook us some chow. Apparently there was an issue with this, as the very angry French man notified us by banging on the door this morning. Helpfully he spoke no English, not even a little, and my French is conversational at best, most definitely not suited to resolving issues! Anyway, i'd left the stove and frying pan out on the balcony, and now it wasn't there. Bugger. Apparently someone in the room above us had smelt cooking and instead of speaking to us or speaking to reception, called the police. The police then apparently came and took stove away to Gap, about 35 miles from where we were staying. Sound a little fishy? All this was made even weirder by the fact that apparently the police hadn't been called until about 2 hours after we'd stopped cooking. Weird, something didn't add up to me. Anyway, repetitive questioning asking where my stove was resulted in nothing, with the Frenchman insisting that the police had it.

If the police do have it, then they still do, as i had neither the inclination or determination to drive half an hour in the wrong direction to go and argue with French policeman about a bloody stove. They can keep it.
Bon App├ętit!

Right, rant over, last night before the stove incident, we decided to go exploring some gorges down a gravel track that i'd spotted on the way to the hotel. Unexpectedly, this track went on for miles. 7 miles actually before we decided that we could be absolutely anywhere and it was a good idea to turn round. The scenery was beautiful though, and i think Timmy secretly liked being a little off road.

Left or right?

We're now heading off to the campsite, a place called Camping-la-Cascade in Meyrueis. We're set to be there for the next 2 nights, and Han tells me that they have wi-fi there, so i can do some more catching up on this!

Oh, and Timmy made a friend!

That's all for now folks!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

To Switzerland and back again!

So firstly we’d like to apologise for the lack of posts past couple of days, really struggling to find the wifi out here! Now where are we?

Well, the plan was to leave La Bresse and head into Switzerland, heading to a small town called Cudrefin just south of Munchenbuchsee. So we set off, only roughly a two hour drive away. But before we headed out of France, the Satnav led us on to what Joe would call an ‘awesome piece of road’. I on the other hand, wasn’t so convinced, turns out the French don’t particularly like having barriers to prevent you from falling to your death down the side of a mountain!

The roads:

So in we went to Switzerland, or what we thought was Switzerland, turns out we were yet to reach Switzerland and were in fact on the border of Germany, oh well another country to add to our list! Once we were finally in Switzerland then came having to get the motorway tax, and how the hell we were meant to ask for it in Swiss?! Then came the standard pointing at the display they had, works every time!
Driving through Switzerland was beautiful, the sun was out, and I looked like a typical tourist taking photos hanging out the window! Turns out the Swiss like a tunnel as much as the French dont like having barriers!

 Catching our reflection:
Then the rain started as we were around 2 miles away from our destination. Turning into the campsite, seeing the look of horror on Joe's face when he saw it, I knew we definitely wouldn't be staying here! The campsite was MAHOOSIVE ( we were space 720!), and to make things less appealing, you couldn't park the car onsite, and with us hardly driving the most inconspicuous car ever, it wasnt something we were keen on!
So we hastily returned to Timmy, still clutching our sign for space 720, and sped off! Driving around and with the rain still pouring, we needed a plan B. At this point Joe grabbed the satnav, claiming that we were only 140 miles from Chamonix and could make it there by 7. Now knowing how much Joe has mentioned how much he loves Chamoix from his time there the previous summer, I was pretty sure that he had set this up on purpose!
After a short stop at the local Mcdonalds, where we were thoroughly ripped off I may add, recognising that the prices were all in Francs, we asked if they took Euros, they said they did, but then gave the change back to us in Francs, how useful!

Caught in a downpour:

So we left Switzerland as quickly as we had entered and we were on the road again to Chamonix. After how much Joe had hyped it up I was expecting big things from Chamonix! So we arrived here the night before last fairly late and ended up heading straight to bed. Yesterday we headed into the town to explore, Joe was right (but I won't let him know that), Chamonix is a really cool place! Such a great vibe in the town, surrounded by some of the best views I have ever seen! I'm sure Joe will want to tell you more when he is next on here, so I'll leave him to describe further! We plan to spend the rest of today doing some more exploring and preparing to leave for our next destination tomorrow, St Pierre D'Argencon.

Hoping to post again tomorrow, but for now thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

La Bresse!

So what has happened today? Not a massive amount, which has been nice, as although we’ve only been away for a few days now, the busy-ness and rushing to get everything done, the car, paperwork, the car, equipment and the car (did I mention the car?) finally having a day to chill whilst feeling fairly confident about the rest of the trip is nice. Really nice.

Relaxing after some big hills!

I’m sitting typing this from a camp chair next to Tim where the laptop has just been charging itself from a power inverter inside the car. I tried turning the laptop on with it still plugged in but it started beeping at me madly, so I unplugged it, afraid that it, the charger or the laptop would burst into flames. Or maybe all three. Did just have a worrying moment where I best thought I’d try and start it just incase charging the laptop was using too much juice. Not that I’d be able to do a lot if it had drained it, being a fool I think I’m carrying every spare apart from a pair of jump leads. Maybe I’d get Han to push me down the hill we’re camped on whilst I bump start him? Anyway, none of this was necessary, he started straight away, of course he did. Good little Tim.

He’s been running great of course, went for a little drive today up some mountain roads, he didn’t seem to be a massive fan of altitude though, we went to just over a thousand meters. Where I’d usually be in 4th I needed 3rd, 3rd needed 2nd, managed to stay out of first, hills are bloody steep round here!. Good job I stayed out of first really, considering tractors would probably be overtaking us by then! Kinda reminds me of that scene from that pants Mr. Bean film. You know where he goes through all the effort of stealing the Frenchman’s motorbike, only to have the Frenchman overtake him whilst walking and then taking back his bike. Just typing that made me realise how irrelevant that is, ah well, it’s staying in.

Snapped by the 'Papz':

Coming down:

Great roads round here:

Off the beaten track:

'That' scene:

Anyway, we found a lake, a nice one as well, and after failing to decipher the French warning signs but taking a gamble all the same that there wouldn’t be any sharks or crocodiles or jellyfish in there, we decided to go for a swim. It was bloody cold. Han dared me to try and swim across the lake, after getting half way out and realising that the lake was perhaps bigger than I first anticipated, I swam back. I’m a chicken I know, but it was cold. Honest.

Zee lake:

Testing the water:

Not quite Baywatch!:

Popped into La Bresse on the way back, as needed dinner for tonight as well as something to drink as I’d drank most of the beer from last night. After spending ages in the drinks aisle with Han marvelling at all the different variations we couldn’t decide between a few. So we brought all of them. Getting them in the car was fun!

Spotted our first French Mini!:

Now currently just relaxing typing this out, about to take a wander up to reception to borrow there internet to publish this. My stove started playing up last night, emptying half a can of Coleman’s finest gas over the grass, bummer. Luckily I brought a spare little stove, Seven P’s and all that!

Camp at Camping du Haut des Bluches, La Bresse:

Oooh yeah, I finished my first book of the trip. The Long Ride Home by Nathan Millward. About a pretty inspiring English guy who has problems renewing his work visa in Oz, so instead of doing what most normal people would do and book a plane ticket home. He decided to ride 35’000 KM home through 18 countries on a Honda 110 postie bike over 9 months. Fantastic book, really well written and a great story to boot. I met Nathan back at the MCN show in February, he even signed the book for me, if he’s (your) reading this, sorry it took me so long to finish it!

That all for now, heading into Switzerland tomorrow, pretty excited about that as I’ve never been to Switzerland before.

Peace, Joe.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Life at 55 miles per hour....

Firstly i'd like to apologize for the serious lacking of posts that i've made to this blog. Since setting it up several weeks ago i've barely looked at it, Hannah has of course made a stirling effort in keeping it all afloat and ensuring that we have the 500 odd page views that we currently do so! Wahoo!
So here's my excuse, and i think its a fairly good one, i've been spending all the time that i should of been writing this on preparing our chosen Mini 'Timmy' for the trip. I'll give more details about him and what he went through for those that are interested on a separate page at some point, but long story short... 6 weeks ago he was a bare shell and needed a reasonable amount of work. The engine was removed, clutch replaced, as well as a load of other work before reassembling. 2 weeks ago his wee 1275 engine started for the first time in 18 months. On the evening of Thursday just gone, he went for his MOT. Due to mine and my dads meticulous preparation of him, as well as a fair amount of luck, and the good will of our MOT tester (Thanks Dave!) he passed. I managed to put around 200 miles on him before we left yesterday morning, hardly a lengthy 'shakedown' period! But that was all we had....

Waiting nervously for his MOT:

Yesterday, Monday the 15th was the day it all came together, months of planning, a little over a month of spannering and a few days of running in, this was the day that it all was put into practice. Ferry was booked for 11ish, and i was due to pick Hannah up at 9, for once i wasn't even late! Leaving Hannahs at a little after 9, we began the 60 odd mile journey down to Dover. Arrived there in plenty of time and waited to board the boat.

All ready to leave:

Waiting to board:

2 hours later we arrived in Calais. That was it, we were officially on the Continent, where we would remain for the next month or so... I can tell you at that moment in time, things were pretty daunting, but as the miles ticked by, the nerves subsided and my excitement for what was ahead began to grow. Unfortunately, the day was set to be pretty un-exciting. The plan was to cover well over 300 miles and arrive at a place called Villey-Le-Sec, getting us out of norther France, covering a fair amount of miles reducing the amount we'd have to do on the consecutive days. We arrived at the site around 8.30, and quickly set up camp as we were both pretty tired!

On the road:

Camp: (And Hannah looking scary...)

Timmy managed to catch a wasp:

Contemplating life:

Camping Villey Le Sec:

Quick note on the campsite, Camping Villey Le Sec, it was lovely, we pitched on the edge of a lake and the surroundings were great, as were the facilities as i found out as Han insisted that showers were necessary... We were there a little over 12 hours, but we would of gladly stayed for longer!

Anyway, back on the road again, and todays route was a lot more pleasant, and gratefully, a considerable amount shorter! It was around 120 miles to La Bresse, a place where i'd stayed before. Our crusing speed of 55 mph (slower if going up, faster if going down!) meant that the journey took between 2 and 3 hours. We arrived after a few stops on the way, to take photos and eat of course!
Camp has been set up for a few hours now, and the pitch is massive, in fact we could probably fit another Mini and tent on it... Any takers?

On the road again:

Hannah: "An ape in its natural habitat":

Timmy enjoying the sun, and cooling down after some serious hills!

Views from the road:

A very annoying hay truck that was eventually overtaken, we were just slip streaming of course!

Anyway, that's all for today, we're off to enjoy the sun and maybe even have a beer or two, more tomorrow. Peace.

Joe and Han