Europe road trip: half time report

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We’ve reached the halfway point in our 4.5 week camping trip. I have to be honest and say I’m really not missing home at all. The sleeping mat we invested in before we left has been worth its weight in gold and my nights in the tent have been pretty comfy (earplugs in, and an eyemask ready and waiting for when I stir as the sun comes up). There are two home comforts that I do really miss, though. The first is sleeping with two pillows. We could only fit one in (and that was a luxury – travel pillows would have been more space-savvy) but I sleep with two at home and no combination of jumpers, towels or blankets can recreate the comfort level. The other thing I hanker after is our sofa, or at least a comfy chair to curl up in at the end of the day. Our camping chairs simply do not deliver, and I remain skeptical that any camping chair could offer equal comfort.

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Our main route hasn’t changed significantly (we decided to swap Venice for Tuscany before we left) but the amount of time we’ve spent at each location has changed depending on how much we like it. We plan one stop ahead, so when we’re at our current site we read up on the next destination. We have ACIS membership and that has a great app with a map showing all the campsites and I’d favourited a load along our route before we left the UK. Then we narrow it down to our first choice (or on the odd occasion we have two choices and pull in for a look at each once before we finally decide where to stay). It’s not high season yet so we haven’t had to book ahead which has made this approach easier.

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Our days have been fairly evenly split between things the adults want to do and things for the kids. For example we chose a campsite by Lake Como, right in Menaggio. It didn’t have a swimming pool for the kids (something they would say is a must) but it was super-convenient for the sight-seeing that I really wanted to do. We made up for it by choosing a really kid-friendly site for our next stop. This week we’ve done day trips to Florence and Lucca, but have sandwiched them between days spent around the pool. We’re all pretty happy and content with this running deal I think.

The journeys in between sites have been far less painful than I feared. I give the twins full credit for this – they have been absolute superstars and have made the travelling a pleasant experience. Colouring in the back has kept them occupied for the 15+ hours we’ve done in the car and I am amazed that in that whole time they have only watched one single DVD. Hats off to them, and to toll roads across Europe which have made the driving straightforward.

Here’s where we’ve been so far:

Camping de la Foret, St Dizier, France. One night stopover on our way to Switzerland. Some paddling in the lake and a very sleepy (ie empty) campsite.

Camping Grassi, Fruitgen, Switzerland. Gorgeous alpine site in spectacular surroundings.

Camping RiaRena, Locarno, Switzerland. Busier site with a lovely pool for the kids. Lots of sunshine and some thunderstorms at night.

Camping Europa, Lake Como, Italy. This site deserves a blog post all of its own. Basic, to say the least, and stuck in a 1970s time warp. Hilarious and charming for a couple of days (plus a brilliant location right in Menaggio), but the charm did wear off and we yearned for some decent facilities.

Camping Belsito, Tuscany, Italy. Site with gorgeous views over the Tuscan countryside and an amazing pool. We’ve ended up staying here longer than planned – like a holiday within a holiday – and will move on to the Cinque Terre on Monday.

The biggest surprise has been that in all the places we’ve stayed so far we have been pretty much the only English people on the site. We’ve met a couple of older British couples but have yet to come across a single British family. I know it’s still term time in the UK but I did expect to see families with younger children like ours. It has meant that the social aspect of our trip has been a bit lacking. Maybe this will change when we hit France next week.

All in all we’re very happy campers.

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