Wednesday, 25 May 2016

More preparations

Today, the camper had a habitation check carried out. It's recommended to be done every year but I think it was last done in 2012. I think if we'd had more regular and sustained use of the camper each year, I'd have been more particular about it. Anyway, with the big trip coming up, it's best to have it done. The check is concerned with the gas, electrical and water systems and hopefully ensures that everything is working and safe. It cost £120.

Also today, two books arrived that I'd ordered from Vicarious Books - first, Go Motorhoming and Campervanning, covering all aspects of using a campervan. Although we've had our camper for eight years (and another one for a few years before that),

Ours is the VW left of centre in the background - Brittany 2006
there is always more to learn. The other book, which is going to be really useful on our trip, is Camperstop Europe 2016. Now, this isn't just a book of sites. It consists of thousands of places all over Europe (and, new for this year, Scandinavia) where you can break a journey overnight (or even spend more than one night in some cases). Many are free or cost just a few euros. Facilities are often minimal but adequate. The UK is covered but the sections featuring France and Germany, in particular are amazing. Sometimes, the stopovers are car parks with spaces for a just a few campervans, many are larger dedicated sites, but all are aimed at providing a safe place to overnight. Detailed maps are provided with all sites marked with a red dot; below the maps are a list of the sites shown and a page number where more information can be found. This book is going to be invaluable.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The route - in brief

The plan is to travel by ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, drive through The Netherlands and northern Germany to Denmark. Up the west coast of Denmark, down the east coast, across the islands of Funen and Zealand and then the Øresund Bridge to Sweden. Up the west coast of Sweden to Oslo for a two day excursion by rail to Bergen and back, then back into Sweden across to Stockholm. The canal cruise to Gothenburg is next, taking a week, then train back to Stockholm. Next is the vehicle ferry to Finland. Whilst there, we have the chance to take another ferry (as foot passengers) to Russia, visiting St. Petersburg for a day, maybe two. Back in Finland, there can be a day trip to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Heading homewards, we take the ferry from Helsinki to Travemȕnde, then heading back to Hook of Holland. That's it in a nutshell, but with two and a half months, we're going to take our time, spending a couple of days here and a couple there.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The plan

The first thing set in stone was (and will be) amazing. It's a canal cruise from Stockholm to Gothenburg along the Gota Canal on a restored passenger boat. Luxurious it is not really. Accommodation is in small cabins (think rail sleeper) but it will be memorable. This is what the company says:

"Travel with historic ships in a unique environment

A cruise on one of our canal ships is like journeying into another world. You turn off your mobile phone, leave the stress of everyday life behind, and give yourself a few days of total relaxation with good food, interesting encounters and rewarding conversations.
The Göta Canal is one of the most remarkable waterways in the world and one of the communication links between Sweden's two largest cities.
Whether you travel with M/S Juno, M/S Wilhelm Tham or M/S Diana, each cruise should be an unforgettable event for our guests. Along the route there is so much to see and experience - to us the journey is more important than the destination."

That having been booked, the rest of the journey can now be planned. The trip will last two and a half months.

The idea

This is how the idea came to be born. I finish work at the end of June 2016. How to draw a line under it and do something awesome? We have a camper van. We will have time. We really like Scandinavia and driving there from the UK (via the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland) is eminently doable. I said, "Let's go and probably be back by Christmas." The idea met with approval and approximate dates were set. We would, in fact, be back earlier than Christmas but the plan started to fall into place.