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To a Goat Farm North of Amboise, Loire Valley



This post was originally published on this site

Zagan the motorhome’s within a stone’s throw of the world-renown châteaux of the Loire, but first things first, we’re visiting a goat farm. Yup, we’re at Berneux Dominique’s farm at Pocé-sur-Cisse (N47.44473, E0.97048), just north of Amboise. The farm’s part of the France Passion scheme, and also listed in the park4night app, which is where we found it. Officially there is no obligation to buy produce, but we’ve always bought something at these locations, and always enjoyed it (like: an olive farm near the Pyrenees, a farm restaurant near Dax and a vineyard at Monbazzilac).

Berneux Dominique's Goat Farm Welcomes Motorhomes OvernightBerneux Dominique’s goat farm welcomes motorhomes overnight

The weather’s turned now, and we’re sat with the rain hammering down on the roof, a snoring pooch and the heating on. Just yesterday, back up the road, we were tucking into steak haché (burgers) and salade (lettuce) on a picnic table by the aire. I’ll be honest: it wasn’t as great an experience as I’d hoped, lugging all our stuff across the stream, including carrying a fed-up dog, eating in five minutes and lugging it all back again. Ho hum, we should have stretched it out with some vin blanc methinks.

I enjoyed cooking al fresco though!I enjoyed cooking al fresco though!

The drive here, in current ourtour style, took 20 minutes. The farm announced itself with a proud herb-n-wire billy at the entrance, and pointed us into place in the small yard with a sprouting of bienvenue camping cariste signs. Fessing up, our France Passion book is about 6 years out of date, and we don’t even have it with us, but the participants really don’t seem to mind. None of the hosts have ever checked us for the official card/book/sticker/tattoo, and my guess is they just want the potential business. That said, the France Passion book is by far the most comprehensive listing of participants, so well worth getting if you plan to use the scheme much.

Arriving, I got a tad excited and forgot to flip the fridge from 12V to gas. Fortunately Ju was on the ball and did the job for me as I legged it to the lady stood in a doorway in front of a pile of ice, removing a hair net and gloves to say hello. My grasp of French is probably best described as that of a small child. A small child who cannot speak much French. But I manage, and usually get the gist of things if done slowly enough: Yes, of course we’re welcome to stay tonight. If we want, we can park a little further from the goat shed, as there’ll be noise at 6am. Yes, there is a shop, just around the corner here. Yes, of course you can watch la traite des chèvres (goat milking), it’ll be at 5pm. Sure, you can go and look at the goats, but please don’t take your dog.

And with that, we’re in. With Charlie pacified with a sniff around and a treat, we headed to the shop, always a moment of tiny trepidation that our ignorance of all things might be betrayed. Thinking back that’s only happened the once, at a Champagne house which allowed motorhome stopovers and provided tastings where being the only guests in a very posh, locked room we sat wondering what we were supposed to ask for: a taste of every type they sold? How should we respond to the taste of the stuff, which neither of us much like? What are we doing here? Are we perhaps a little under-dressed for all of this? In the end we left with a €15 bottle of champers, pondering the fact we could have had an overnight stay, use of the service point, drunk two glasses of bubbly and bought a bottle of the stuff for about £12.

Back to the chèvres, I’ve managed to ascertain they have about 90 of ’em here, and no, they don’t have names. The farmer’s a friendly chap, but his rapid-fire French had me guessing the rest: it sounded like they used to have about double the number but he’s en retrait now (retired), and then something about his femme (wife) which I guessed meant she still likes making the cheese and running the shop. See what I mean about my French?

The shop turned out to be a lovely little thing, with the friendly madame running us through the arrangement of fromage in the fridges. Frais (fresh), with a coat of shallots, garlic, pepper or herbs and mustard, sec (dry) or demi-sec (dry-ish?) in various shapes and sizes. We plucked for a frais with shallots and a demi-sec, and some goat’s yoghurt, all of which are delicious, not strong, creamy and lovely, and for the princely sum of €7.

After an afternoon of reading and keeping dry, the main event kicked off: the milking! Into the barn we ambled, nonchalant as a couple of goat-illiterates can be, going all gog-eyed at the 3-month old kids, horns just sprouting, sucking on rubber teats and eager to eat our shoe-laces. The nannys were next up, legging it about on cue, out of the open door, up the makeshift ramp, faces into food and necks gently trapped in place as the teat-milking-thing was popped onto each of them in turn. A few seconds of pumping and the suckers released themselves, ready for the next goat. And that was that, enjoyable to see, especially as we knew we were eating produce milked 10 metres  to the left of Zagan, and made into cheese 10 metres to the right, smashing.

So, the rain looks to be on and off, for a few days now, so the heating’s staying on. There are a ton of places to stay to the south of us, and as usual we don’t know which we’re heading for. Job, once again, for this evening. A hard life, it is not.

Cheers, Jay

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Food & Drink

Numb on the Route des Grandes Alpes



This post was originally published on this site

Zagan the motorhome has mountains out of his widescreen windscreen, we parked at the aire in Les Saisies Ski Resort (N45.76203, E6.53371) on the Route des Grandes Alpes, but the beauty is a bit lost on us at the moment. We’ve already said that we’ll have to revisit this area another time.

Motorhome parking in Les Saisies on Route des Grandes Alpes

After those very difficult days in Bourg Saint Maurice when Charlie was struggling, we had to leave the morning after he was put to sleep. There were too many memories on the campsite, not that he ventured more than five metres from our pitch the whole time we were there, but we kept expecting to look out and see him.

While on the campsite, we’d met David and Carrie who are legends in the world of rock climbing, they write loads of books about where to climb and were in the middle of researching one while they were there. As we were leaving they kindly suggested somewhere to go, and when you get a recommendation from someone who knows the area so well, you take it. Thankfully our route didn’t take us past the vets, but as we set off out of the valley our eyes filled with tears as we were leaving Charlie behind. I can’t recall how many times I said goodbye to him as I desperately tried to capture a photo of the town where he would always remain.

We followed the Route des Grandes Alpes to Les Chapieux (N45.69526, E6.73408) and found ourselves at the end of the Torrent des Glaciers. At the end of the road a sign said no camping as the area was prone to flooding. We could have guessed that from the name, but there were about 30 motorhomes scattered around the valley floor parking area, so we joined them. There was no phone signal or internet connection anywhere in the valley, which was just what we needed. Beautiful messages of condolence had been pouring in, and in time we’ll re-read them and fully appreciate them, but at that moment they just reminded us of what we had lost.

motorhome parking Les Chapieux on Route des Grandes AlpesMotorhome parking at Les Chapieux on the Route des Grandes Alpes

Parking up we went for a short walk around the few buildings that were Les Chapieux and then retreated back to Zagan. As we opened the door we both expected to hear a bark welcoming us, none came, but tears did. In truth we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. Charlie was so ingrained in our lives, especially over the last month or so when he was really poorly, that all our time and attention had been on him. The last time we had left him alone was over two weeks ago and that was only for a couple of hours while we had a meal out as an early birthday celebration for Jay. We were in a beautiful place with amazing walks on our doorstep, so Jay suggested we walk up the valley. With a feeling of guilt we both left, locking Zagan and putting the alarm on, something we haven’t done on this trip.

Over a few hours we walked, we talked, and sobbed occasionally. Holding hands we realised how far apart we had become over these past months and the healing process began. We crossed over water flowing down the hillside and I picked up a few stones and stacked them on a nearby rock. Charlie loved to rescue stones from the sea on the beach, so I felt this was a fitting tribute to him in a most beautiful place.

We ventured out a couple of other times while we were there because, like baby birds testing out their wings, we need to get used to this new found freedom. Jay completed another training run back along the road we’d walked the following morning, with his charity race less than a week away he is now easing off on the distances he is doing. I am so proud of how he has kept up his training through everything we’ve been through – he tells me that the running his helping to keep him sane, but I know it has been hard.

Dotted across the hillsides around us were two types of cows – La Tarine (the brown ones) and L’Abondance (the brown ones with white faces) – which are used to make Beaufort cheese. We’d seen it advertised in several places, the town of Beaufort was just up the road, and we both wanted a mobile signal to speak to our families, so we set off after Jay’s run.  The drive took us past a huge turquoise lake and around what seemed like a million hairpin bends.

Les Chapieux motorhome parking area in the valley and Glacier des Glaciers further up the valley which was covered in cloud on our walk La Tarine cows A mobile milking machine! Luckily Jay drove superbly so I didn’t have to jump out at any of the tight spots

Arriving in Beaufort we opted for a small parking area next to the river (N45.71968, E6.56971), and while it was free, they still ask you to pay the Tourist Tax if you are staying the night. So armed with a completed form and 0.50c (it’s €0.22 each but we didn’t have the right change) we set off for the tourist office and to have a look around the town.

motorhome parking in Beaufort on Route des Grandes Alpes

The temperature was in the low 30’s, but we no longer have to worry about seeking shade to keep Charlie cool, so in another test of our baby bird wings, we decided to stay for a couple of days. In the centre of the town is the Beaufort Co-Operative where they make the cheese. Small lorries with shining tanks on the back drive in and out all day, collecting the milk from the 170 farms in the co-operative.

Beaufort, FranceBeaufort is gearing up for the Tour de France which will come through here on the 18th July Even ‘Beaufort man’ in a large cheese is getting in the spirit of things

Beaufort Cheese Cooperative in Beaufort France

Inside the cooperative there is an exhibition area telling you all about how they make the cheese which you can visit for free. You can also pay €2 to go around the factory, but we weren’t in the mood, and having already been around the Pag cheese factory in Croatia we didn’t feel like we were missing out. Instead we stood looking through the glass wall down into the factory and watched transfixed as the huge Meules of cheese were covered in cloth, turned and stacked. Each Meule takes around 400 litres of milk to make and weighs 40 kilos so no wonder they had a machine to do the turning and stacking.

As with all good free places to look around, you leave via the shop where we got to taste all the types of Beaufort, and a few others, before plumping for a €6 slice of our favourite. As the wheels of cheese they make are so over 50cm in diameter, the slices are big and usually cost way more than that. Don’t worry if you find yourself in Beaufort and the factory and shop are shut, outside they have a vending machine full of the stuff with prices ranging from €10 to €40, all accompanied by the strong smell of a mature cheese.

Beaufort Cheese vending machine

Last night there was one super bright star in the sky just after the sun set, I know it was the planet Venus, I looked it up, but somehow to me it felt like was Charlie telling me that he’s OK and at peace now. I may sound crazy to those of you who have never lost a pet, but setting off this morning, the feeling that we were getting further away from Charlie was a bit less than it was last time we moved, and I guess it will be less again when we move tomorrow.

We had planned to head across closer to Chamonix today, but as we drove past the motorhomes parked up at Les Saisies we decided to stop. We paid our €8 for 24 hours stretched those wings again with a walk up to a nearby col. We sat on a bench in the sunshine and stared out over the ‘big’ mountains in the distance, all snow capped and looking like they are a painted on back drop.

Returning to the van it wasn’t until I was putting a packet in the bin that I realised I hadn’t expected Charlie to be here when we returned. A wave of guilt consumed me, it’s only been four days and already I am starting to forget him. Fortunately while Jay was writing his beautiful eulogy to our little man, I wrote a list of all the things I miss about him – it’s currently around nine pages long, but at least I know I won’t forget all those little things I took for granted every day.

So that’s it, my first blog post without Charlie – although he does feature rather heavily, sorry about that. I kept putting off writing it as I don’t want to move on without him, but I know we need to. We need to form a new way of life, stretch our wings, establish new routines and at some point make new plans. What those plans will be, we have no idea, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do.

Ju x

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Food & Drink

Slow Travel Along the Loir River, Chateaudun



This post was originally published on this site

Camping Municipal at Chateaudun, France Huge pitches and tree shade – not bad for €12 a night!

Zagan the motorhome, once again, has the banks of the Loir River close to his sleeping spot. This is the fifth night in a row we’re against this smaller cousin of the Loire, as we slowly meander along the same path as the river. With sunny skies the rising temperature was getting too much for our pampered pooch. Struggling to keep him from panting all day and night, we resorted to what we learned in Spain last summer, and headed for a campsite. Camping Municipal Moulin A Tan (N48.07935, E1.33118) is a small site on the banks of the river just a short walk from the town of Chateaudun. Having previously stayed at the motorhome aire in the town, we knew that if it stayed too hot, we could chill at the campsite knowing we’d already seen the town.

Camping Municipal at Chateaudun, FranceCamping Municipal at Chateaudun, France

Huge pitches and tree shade – not bad for €12 a night! But let’s get back to Bonneval where we last left you. We had a great couple of nights watching the world go by over the weekend. When I went out for a jog on Monday morning I got a little bit lost finding my way back, so I ended up jogging through the centre of the town. Obviously it was fate that sent me on that course, as we’d totally forgotten Monday is the town’s market day. The stalls were only just setting up, so after a shower and some breakfast we headed over to the action to see what tasty treats were up for sale.

Chicken seller in French Market

There were stalls selling flowers and plants, a few selling clothes and accessories, two selling mattresses (you’d think one would be enough) but it was the food stalls we were interested in. There were several fruit and veg stalls, a cheese stall, fish monger, a very busy butchers with a queue stretching past the stall next door, as well as several stalls selling home grown produce – one specialised in just white asparagus, another eggs.

French goats cheese‘Sec’ (dried) goat’s cheese on the left, and normal goats cheese wrapped in fig – tasty!

After stocking up on a couple of bags of veggies and two different types of goat’s cheese, we were drawn to the chicken vans. We were spoiled with a choice of two vans and after surveying the wares of both we opted for the bigger van. For €7 we got a small chicken, and a shovel full of spuds roasted in the chicken fat. Top Tip – If you are ever buying from a chicken van and they ask if you want sauce, or point to a tray at the bottom of the van, say yes – it is the tastiest (and probably unhealthiest) gravy you can imagine.

poulet roti bag FranceTop Tip 2 – best not to look at the picture on the bag, the French have a cheeky sense of humour when it comes to food

After filling our faces with chicken and spuds, we decided it was time to tear ourselves away from Bonneval. We could have happily stayed for a few more days, but we had seen all of the town and you never know what might be just down the road.

It turned out to be Marboue that was just down the road, only 10km from Bonneval, but enough to say we had moved. We pulled into the free aire (N48.11239, E1.32777) which overlooks a boule court (or is it pitch? I’m not sure what you call it) and a large field through which the Loir river runs through.

motorhome aire in Marboue, FranceMarboue aire

Despite our best efforts to find some shade, it still got to over 30°C inside Zagan, so we sat under the trees until the sun set and it cooled down a bit. At night it was still too hot inside for Charlie, so I slept on the bench by the window, that way we could leave the window open and get some cooler air in, and any nasty robbers would get a shock if they tried to climb in through the window. Luckily no one was bothered about us, and the cool air soon got Charlie snoring at full volume – so apologies to our motorhome neighbours.

Keeping cool in Marboue. Charlie’s wearing a cold wet towel, I’ve got my sun hat on and Jay, well Jay was out running – I admire his dedication.

That night we knew we needed to find a campsite, somewhere that we could park in some shade, sit outside and leave the windows open all night. I looked on our campercontact database and found Camping Municipal was not only the closest, but the cheapest by far, and more importantly was open. Plotting it into the satnav, we realised we probably could have walked here as it was only 2km from where we were along some paths, but as we needed Zagan we opted for the 7km drive.

We knew 8th May is a National Holiday here in France, so we were surprised to see that the Intermarche was passed on the way was open. We nipped in and while Jay and Charlie waited in Zagan, I grabbed a bag and set off to procure a baguette. On entering the store a sign on the door said it would close at noon, it was now 11am. The bread section contained only crumbs and it was six deep at every check out – I left empty handed. There’s another National Holiday on Thursday, yes two in a week, I think we’ll just survive on what we have in the van until things get back to normal.

Arriving at the campsite we were stopped by a height barrier, which is unusual around here. The guardian opened it for Jay to drive in while I filled out the paperwork. We were advised not to park on the river bank as it had rained a lot recently and we would sink, then the guardian kindly talked me through the campsite facilities in English. ‘In the TV room there is a fridge and a err, um super fridge’. I smiled and told her that I think super fridge is much better than freezer.

We picked a shaded pitch, cracked open all the windows and skylights, rolled out the awning and our Moroccan mat and settled in. We got chatting to two other British couples who are here, and invited them round for a ‘bring your own chair, glass and wine party’ at ours. We sat chatting with Len and June and Lynn and Martin until it got too dark to see each other and the empty bottle collection looked suitably impressive. As today is Martin’s birthday, we’re having a BBQ later. This morning I earned by wine points with a hungover jog up into the town, fortunately it was a bit overcast so I didn’t feel too hot and poorly.

Chateaudun, FranceJogging is a great way to do some sightseeing – me the Loir and Chateaudun Chateau

By the time Jay and I wandered up into town it was lunchtime, also known as ‘locked o’clock’. We grabbed a couple of baguettes and will ‘create’ something from what we have in the cupboards for the BBQ later. It’s been great just chilling out and listening to Charlie snore as we know he’s cool enough when he can sleep. Over the next couple of days it should get back to normal temperatures for this time of year. After Jay has done a 14 mile training run for his Zermatt half marathon (please help him out with a bit of sponsorship if you can as its for a great cause) in the morning, we’ll head off tomorrow and see where the river or road takes us.

Ju x

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OurTour Motorhome Essentials Packing List



This post was originally published on this site

Updated – April 2018

When I originally wrote a packing list of everything in Dave, our motorhome, on a rainy day back in 2012 I had no idea how useful it would still be some six years later. We no longer have Dave, who took us on an adventure around Europe for two years, but I used it to pack his successor, Zagan, when we first bough him. I now use it when repacking Zagan after a stop back in the UK. Realising that what we have in the van has evolved over the past six years, I’ve taken this opportunity to update our list with things we’ve added and things we’ve taken out (and why). I hope you’ll find it as helpful as us for kitting out your van and ensuring you don’t forget the potato masher, again!

Apart from the links in the ‘Documentation’ section and those where I’ve stated where they link to, all other links will take you through to, to either a specific item if we use it, or search results displaying a range of options. Find out more about Amazon affiliation.

ess policeLegal bits

There are things that you are legally required to carry in some countries that we don’t have to carry in the UK. It’s best to check the AA website for an up to date list of what you need for the countries you’re going to, we’ve also written an article on the subject too.

ess documentsDocumentation

I know it’s boring, but there are some documents you’ll need to take with you and others it will be handy to have in case of a problem.

  • V5C (your motorhome’s ‘log book’)
  • Motorhome Insurance (make sure it covers where you are going for entire duration of your trip – more information on our cover is here)
  • EHIC Cards (if going abroad you’ll need your European Health Insurance Card – you can get one free from here)
  • Travel Insurance (for you in case of accident or illness – more details of our cover here)
  • Driving Licence
  • Passports
  • Photocopies of all documentation (kept somewhere safe; we scanned ours and emailed them to a web based email (hotmail) so we can acess them anywhere)
  • Motorhome Instructions (always handy for the trouble-shooting sections as stuff inevitably packs up while you’re away!)
  • Breakdown Cover (we use ADAC who cover us in Europe and the UK, but sadly they’re no longer taking UK-based customers)
  • Mobile Phone contract details if in contract (if going abroad for a long period these are handy to have for bill queries and renewing)
  • ASCI Discount CampingCard (gives you discounted stay at campsites out of season across Europe, not to be confused with the ACSI campsite guides)
  • EU Pet Passport (if your four legged friend is going abroad with you)
  • Spending Book (if you’re on a budget a small book to track all your spending is a big help)

ess serviceDaily Servicing

Once you’re out on the road you’ll need a few essential items to keep you in supplies that you’d normally take for granted in a house such as water, electricity and gas. You can find our motorhome guides to all things to do with daily servicing here.

  • Hose Pipe (we used to have a triple core one as you don’t need to unravel it to use it, but any hose will do the job as long as it hasn’t and won’t be used for anything else)
  • Hose Pipe Connector (we have the standard UK one and have been picking others locally at hardware stores, different countries have a wide range of different tap connections)
  • Collapsible Water Carrier or Watering Can (sometimes you can’t connect to or get near enough to the tap to use your hose. When this happens we use a carrier as we don’t have the space for a watering can)
  • Funnel (you’ll probably need one to get the water into your tank if you use a water carrier rather than a watering can. We fashioned a flat, fold-around one from the lid of an ice-cream tub which works very well, allowing an almost full flow of water into the tank)
  • Antibacterial Wipes (for wiping the water supply before you use it)
  • Bucket (Many uses, but great for emptying grey waste)
  • Power Hook Up Cable (buy the longest one you can – we have two that we connect together as the hook-up boxes are sometimes a long way from a good pitch)
  • Hook up cable 2 pin adaptor (loads of campsites and aires still use the 2 pin plug as opposed to the European 3 pin that is likely already on your cable
  • Electric Halogen Heater (save your gas and heat with electric when on hook-up, this type of heater is silent so suitable for leaving on overnight. Note that neither this nor the next heater will protect your cupboards or water tanks in very cold weather – you’ll have to use your blown-air heating/grey tank water heater for this)
  • Electric Fan Heater (we use this type of heater when we are awake and it’s really cold as it’s noisy but quickly heats up the van and keeps it nice and hot)
  • LPG Connection Adapters (we have an onboard LPG/GPL/Autogas Gas-It system, when filling up abroad we use adapters, mainly the dish and bayonette type. If you have standard gas bottles you might not be able to refill them when abroad as they use different systems and regulators – best to double check before you go)
  • Grey/Waste Water Tank Fresh (trust me, when it gets hot the grey tank can stink. We’ve used this stuff, but now tend to dissolve dishwasher tablets and pop them in it overnight – not as effective, but much cheaper)
  • Fresh Water Tank Cleaner and Purifier (you need to do everything you can to keep your fresh water tank clean, either that or drink bottled water while travelling)
  • Spirit Level (perfect for ensuring your is van level and to work out which way round to sleep in the bed – there’s nothing worse than sleeping with your head lower than your feet!)
  • Levelling Chocks (as car parks nearly always slope when you want to sleep in them! Note, it’s worth measuring how high your front bumper is from the ground, we had some big, sturdy chocks but they hit our bumper and damaged it.

ess mapsNavigation and Finding Places to Sleep

Below are the tools we use for navigation and finding places to sleep, the ones marked with * we personally use, the rest we’ve see others use and cribbed notes from. We’ve also written this article which will give you more information about how we find places to sleep.

  • SatNav* (love or hate them, without a satnav driving just isn’t as easy. We have a TomTom like the one linked to, we ensured it had lifetime European map updates as updated cost about the same as a new satnav these days. We load it with various Points of Interest such as Lidl stores, aires and campsites etc)
  • Paper Maps* (don’t ever fully trust your sat nav as they love short cuts, great for cars but not motorhomes! We always have a paper map for the country too)
  • Highlighter Pen* (track your progress on the map and create a great reminder of your trip)
  • Phrase Books* (so you can always ask for directions!)
  •* (free app useful for navigation if satnav issues, or when out walking away from the van)
  • Compass (it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it’s handy for working out which way the sun will come up and set for when you’re parking your van and setting up your satellite dish if its manual)
  • Apps for overnight stays – we use Park4Night and CamperContact both of which we have paid for the offline version so we can use them without internet access.
  • Camperstop Europe Book* (Thousands of free and cheap stopovers across 27 European countries)
  • Previously we’ve used the below to find places to stop, but now we tend to use the apps, camperstop and the ASCI discount card mentioned above.
    • Offline copy of the Camping Car Info Database* – link to our review of it (a French website which you can download. Includes loads of information on free aires, service points and campsites)
    • All the Aires Books* – (these guide books, in English, are great for locating Aires/Sostas/Stellplatz but cover a limited range of countries)
    • Wohnmobil Books* (German language guidebooks each taking a route around a country/part of a country and offering details accounts of things to see and places to stop – we no longer use these)
    • Bordatlas Guide (another great German language guide to motorhome stopovers across Europe

D42 002 Dave check up at LlanesTools and things for fixing stuff

Dave is old, bless him. So we’ve needed to do quite a few repairs as we’ve travelled. But even if your van is new, it’s always good to have a few tools and bits to fix to stuff with (and preferably a ‘Jay’ who’ll know what to do with them!)

  • Ratchet Socket Set
  • Multi Tool
  • Hammer
  • WD-40 Lubricant
  • Assorted Cable Ties
  • Gaffer Tape (also called Duct Tape or Gorilla Tape, we use the silver one Dave’s ailing front grill and a clear tape on Zagan’s front bumper)
  • Super Glue (either lots of little tubes or a decent resealable bottle)
  • Epoxy Adhesive (for repairs that need to be a bit stronger, like repairing the bathroom sink plughole)
  • Spare Car Fuses
  • Wheel Brace (your van should have one but best to check now before you get a flat tyre!)
  • Bottle Jack (we find these easier to pump up than a normal jack, but remember to check the weight of you van, and whether it will lift your van high enough to fit a spare if the tyre is flat)
  • Axle Stand (we only found out we needed one of these when our tyre blew out on the A9 in Spain – again make sure it will take your vans weight)
  • Precision Screwdriver Set
  • Standard Screwdriver Set
  • Spanner Set (or work out which ones you need for your van and carry just those to save weight)
  • Power Pack and Compressor (we’ve used ours for emergency power, pumping up our air suspension and in case we need a jump start)
  • Torch (any sort will do, but LED ones last for ages – I’m amazed at how dark it is in some places we park!)
  • Tow Rope (The Italian coast guard were very pleased we had one of these when we towed them off a beach!)
  • Traction mats (we don’t have any of these but a couple of times we’ve used our cheap door mats when stuck in sand and they did the job – not tested them in snow yet though)
  • Spare Engine Oil
  • Disposable gloves (as they keep your pinkies clean while doing the repairs!

Outdoors, another room to your motorhome

Motorhomes aren’t huge, but once parked up on a campsite the outdoors becomes an extra room for you – you just need to furnish it accordingly.

  • Camping Chairs
  • Camping Table
  • Foldaway BBQCadac Gas BBQ or Gas Stove (we’ve used all three over the years, we’re currently using a camping gas stove as we can take it anywhere)
  • BBQ Tools
  • Picnic Rug
  • ‘Moroccan’ Mat (large plastic woven mat like a ground sheet that we use outside for sitting on)
  • Sunglasses / Prescription Sunglasses
  • Insect Repellent (we discovered Off in Finland, home of monster mozzies, it worked a treat)
  • Mosquito net (used over our dropdown bed – fixed with bulldog clips and cable ties)
  • Citronella Candles (help keep the mozzies away and nice to light up at an evening BBQ)
  • Fly Swat (for the middle of the night mosquito cull)
  • Umbrellas (I won’t lie to you, it’s not always sunny when you’re motorhoming – we have a large golf umbrella and a couple of fold up small ones)

DSC_0148Kitchen Essentials

We’ve stocked both Dave and Zagan with a lot of items from the kitchen of our house. But there are a few items we’ve bought especially for the trip and a few things we forgot and had to pick up as we travelled – thank goodness they have shops abroad! 🙂

  • Melamine Plates and Bowls (they rattle a lot less when you’re driving and don’t break, we bought ours in the sales at the end of summer)
  • Mugs (any sort, but the more stable the better)
  • Wine Glasses (we didn’t bring any – big mistake, cheap wine tastes so much better from a glass, the sturdier the better!)
  • Plastic Glasses (for drinks other than wine, less glass means less noise and breakages on bumpy roads)
  • Small Glass Pitcher/Jug (we picked one up in France and decant our wine from its Lidl box into it when we want to feel posh or have guests!)
  • Double Skillet  (links to Double Skillet Company site – this is a great invention, especially if you don’t have an oven like us. We use ours for all our hob cooking along with a saucepan and small omelette pan)
  • Remoska (another great alternative if you don’t have an oven in your van, uses electric so would need to be on hook up)
  • Frying Pan (before we got our double skillet we used to use a large frying pan, but measure the width of cupboard it’s going in, and the dimension of the pan across the top, not the base. We didn’t and because it curves outwards it was slightly too big for the cupboard – doh!)
  • Saucepan(s)
  • Pan Protectors (we use bits of non-slip matting cut to fit so the pans don’t scratch each other when stacked)
  • Oven Proof Dishes (we don’t have an oven, but if you do you’ll need some!)
  • Oven Gloves (even if you don’t have an oven sometimes you have to pick up hot stuff)
  • Place Mats / Trivet (for putting hot stuff on)
  • Gas Hob Kettle (for when you aren’t hooked up to electricity) 
  • Low Wattage Kettle (for when you are hooked up to electricity)
  • Cafetiere (a little luxury for coffee lovers as you’ll get fed up with instant)
  • Espresso Maker (Jay loves his coffee, so we picked up one of these in Italy. It sits on the gas hob and makes a strong little brew)
  • Chopping Boards (it’s worth having a couple)
  • Cheese Grater
  • Measuring Jug (decent size, plastic or acrylic)
  • Compact Weighing Scales
  • Cutlery (solid metal is best as handles don’t fall off and be sure you have plenty of teaspoons – they always seem to vanish)
  • Scissors (at least a couple of pairs)
  • Quality Tin Opener (we forgot ours and bought a cheap one, it’s faulty, it wouldn’t open tins!)
  • Vegetable Peeler (also handy for shaving Parmesan cheese!)
  • Juicer
  • Bottle Opener/Cork Screw (hmm, perhaps this should be at the top of the list!)
  • Bread Knife (we forgot ours and bought one as un-sliced loaves are cheaper and last longer)
  • Sharp Cutting Knife (invest in a decent one and it’ll stay sharp for your entire trip)
  • Wooden Spoons
  • Spatula
  • Serving Spoon
  • Wooden Skewers (good for marshmallow toasting, making kebabs and poking at/fixing stuff stuff)
  • Potato Masher (if you forget yours be warned they don’t sell them anywhere in Italy – trust us, we looked!)
  • Plastic Storage Boxes (collect as many as you can, we use large upright ones for cereal, rice, pasta etc, oils and jars sit in them in cupboards to catch leaks, veg separated into them and food for the fridge needs sealing sometimes)
  • Cigarette Lighter/Matches (for lighting the hob if the ignition fails, or a BBQ)
  • Cleaning Sponges
  • Cleaning Wipes (we use antibacterial wipes for cleaning the van as well as the taps and hoses at water points)
  • Microfibre Cloths (great for cleaning around the van and quick drying – get different coloured ones so you know which is for the bathroom, windows, kitchen etc)
  • Cleaning Scourers
  • Washing Up Liquid 
  • Washing Up Bowl (handy for taking your pots to the campsite sink)
  • Universal Sink Plug (as every campsite sink has a different sized plug hole)
  • Tea Towels
  • Dustpan and Brush
  • 12v Vacuum Cleaner (so you can clean even when not hooked u to the electricity)
  • Antibacterial Hand Cleaner (you’ll want it when you’ve emptied the loo!)
  • Kitchen Roll
  • Tin Foil
  • Cling Film
  • Freezer Bags
  • Ice Cube Bags or Tray (for those long hot summer days!)
  • Bottle Holders (the free cardboard ones from the supermarket are ideal to avoid clinking)
  • Oil Burner with essential oils and tealights or Joss Sticks (not strictly kitchen, but good for taking away all the cooking smells)

ess teabagsStore cupboard food items

While we’re in the kitchen it’s worth thinking about having a few items always in your van to save you from having to buy them when away, and so you can have a cuppa at any time! I’m not going to list loads of things, as each person has different tastes, but a few tins (soup, beans?) along with some teabags, coffee, stock cubes, gravy granules (we can’t find these anywhere abroad), UHT milk, a bottle of water, a bottle or two of wine, salt and pepper, vinegar, ketchup and chocolate would never go to waste in our van!


  • Microfibre Towels (we love these as they feel like normal towels but dry really fast so less damp towels hanging up around the van)
  • Suction Hooks (create handy extra drying space in the bathroom)
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • First Aid Kit (including pain killers, cold and flu stuff etc)
  • Toiletries
  • Soap
  • Toilet Rolls (you can get special motorhome ones like these, but we use the cheapest ones we can find)
  • Chemical Toilet Fluids
  • Air Freshener (with the loo so close to the living area, it helps!)
  • Medications
  • Contact lenses
  • Shaving Kit
  • Sunscreen / Aftersun
  • Nailbrush
  • Shower Head Holder (some vans don’t have these and expect you to hold the shower head while showering, it’s the same at some campsites too)
  • Bag For Life (in campsite showers 9 times out of 10 don’t have enough hooks to hang up all your clothes. I used a large supermarket bag for life – one of the thicker plastic ones with fabric handles – and hang that on the hook, keeping all my clothes and towels dry)

memory foamBedroom & Soft Furnishings

  • Pillows
  • Duvet (we have a summer tog duvet with an unzipped sleeping bag on top of it, then a blanket on top of that, so we can use whatever combination we need to keep warm/cool)
  • Memory Foam Mattress Topper (beds made from the chair cushions are comfortable with one of these on them, you can imaging how lovely our pull down bed is with one on it – sleep heaven)
  • Bed Sheet (preferably a Brushed Cotton one if it’s going to be cold where you’re going)
  • Spare Set of Bedding (as it’s not always possible to have a set washed and dried in a day)
  • Sleeping Bags (unzip and use over your duvet, or so you can camp outside)
  • Blankets (great for curling up under when the weather isn’t so warm)
  • Cushions (add a bit of comfort and colour to your van on one go – you can also stuff them with clothes as extra storage)
  • Sofa Throws (we use these on the seat parts of the sofa and dinette seats as they’re easy to wash and clean – especially with a pooch in the van who doesn’t wipe his paws!)
  • Hot Water Bottle
  • Ear Plugs (even the best campsite can be noisy and free camping places can be very noisy!)

DSC07266-1024x768Clothing and laundry

This was obviously a tricky one for us as we would be travelling through most types of weather. We have one shelf each in the wardrobe, one hook each and a cupboard each – in it we have to squeeze everything from ski jackets and thermals to swim wear and Jay’s wetsuit (to be fair Jay doesn’t have half as many clothes as me so his wetsuit easily fits in his cupboard).

We’ve found ‘technical’ clothing to be really good as it’s quick drying, and doesn’t need ironing. Check out the camping and hiking sections in shops or online and you’ll be amazed at what is out there – I even found a shirt impregnated with mosquito repellent! I’ve listed what is in my cupboards, but of course what you take will depend on when and where you’re going.

Don’t forget all those bits and pieces you need to keep your clothes clean if you’re going away for a while.

  • Laundry Bag / Sack
  • Washing Liquid/Powder
  • Fabric Softener
  • Coins for the Machines (save as many pound / one euro coins as you can)
  • Pegs (you can never have too many of them, you’ll be amazed!)
  • Clothes Line (we’ve used this pegless type of line, normal lines and loads of bits of string)
  • Pant Chandelier / Socktopus (officially a Folding Sock Dryer which hangs off the bike rack, wing mirror or in the bathroom if the weather is bad)
  • Folding Clothes Over Door Airer (We hang one of these out of the window or off the bike rack)

DSC01833Entertainment, Leisure and Tech (boys toys!)

  • Books (the link takes you to our books page with a selection of titles, and of course don’t forget to pack one of our books!)
  • Kindle / eReader (we have a Kindle as we could never carry this many physical books in our motorhome – it’s great!)
  • Board Games (we play Scrabble if you do too, bring a dictionary or download one to your kindle to settle any arguments!)
  • Chess Set
  • Playing Cards
  • Travel Journal (notes of your adventures make a brilliant keepsake)
  • Pens and Pencil
  • Paper Pads (you’ll be surprised at how much you scribble notes or lists)
  • Sewing Kit
  • Music (CD’s or MP3’s as the local radio stations are generally pants, unless you like the 80’s)
  • 12v TV (we bought a Cello TV as it runs off 12v so we don’t need to be hooked up,and it has a built in decoder for a satellite system and plays DVDs)
  • DVD’s (films or series box sets – perfect for wet weather days, we pick ours up at charity shops)
  • Headphones (so you can watch the TV without disturbing others in the van)
  • Laptop or Tablet/iPad
  • Laptop Mouse (we thought we wouldn’t need one so left ours at home, mistake had to buy one)
  • External Hard Drive (to back up all your photos, we also carry with us a small hard drive with essential info  backed up on it in case the van gets broken into and the laptop stolen)
  • Personal WiFi Hotspot and optional 4G antenna (we got all our kit from – the link takes you to their website – if you contact Adam he’ll sort you out with the best solution for your needs)
  • Mobile Broadband Data SIM (for use in the personal wifi hotspot. As most networks limit how long you can use your SIM abroad, we don’t sign up for contracts, instead we take several pay as you go SIMs)
  • WiFi Booster Aerial (also from link to their site)
  • Mobile Phone (we have a smart phone so we can pick up the internet using free wifi at cafes)
  • Handheld Games System (we have a Nintendo DS on which I play puzzles and games)
  • Camera (we love our Sony bridge camera, but it’s not available to buy these days, so the link tkaes you to it’s younger brothers)
  • Go Pro (great for action shots, time lapse and underwater)
  • Mini Tripod (fits both camera and Go Pro)
  • USB Memory Sticks/SD Cards (for storing and sharing photos and files)
  • Chargers for Everything – 12v if possible for convenience (but check they are compatible with your equipment)
  • Alarm Clock (we thought we wouldn’t need one, but we ended up sleeping later and later each day – ours tells us the temperature too!)
  • Spare Batteries
  • Binoculars
  • Walking Stick(s) (the hiking type, or we have one for keeping wild dogs away from Charlie – just wave it and they keep their distance)
  • Fishing Gear (our telescopic fishing line kept us fed in Norway, land of expensive food!)
  • Crab Line (just for fun, not for food)
  • Snorkelling Kit
  • Wetsuit
  • Inflatable Kayak and Foot Pump (we saw one of these for sale in Lidl and regretted not buying it for years, then we bought one and managed to break after a few trips out, so go for a decent one if you are buying)
  • Sledge (and ski gear if heading for the slopes)
  • Bicycle or Electric Bike (as you can’t always park close to what you want to see)
  • Cycle Helmet (obligatory in some countries)
  • Bicycle Pump
  • Puncture Repair Kit
  • Christmas Lights and Decorations (if you’re going to be away over the festive period)
  • Bunting/National Flag (for special occasions!)

Charlie's new sleeping bag, fashioned from an old quilt and a dressing gown!Pampered Pooch

Charlie the pampered pooch rules the van usually finding the most inconvenient place to stretch out. He has his own cupboard for his toys, treats and medication.

  • Bed
  • Blankets
  • Non Spill Water Bowl
  • Food Bowl
  • Travel Water Bowl
  • Sleeping Bag (when it got really cold we’d pop Charlie in his sleeping bag to keep him warm, now he’s an old fella we leave the heating on overnight for him instead. The one on Amazon is an example since I made one for Charlie – see photo above) 
  • Dry Food (we buy the cheapest stuff in the supermarkets, less additives and he loves it, and somehow swapping between foods seems to have no affect on him)
  • Tinned Food (again super cheap and super tasty – we haven’t found any that he doesn’t love)
  • Medication (enough to last the trip unless you know for certain that you can get what you need where you are going)
  • Tick and Flea Treatment (check with your vet or a local vet in the area you are visiting to ensure your pet is on the best medication for where you are – Charlie uses Advantix or a Scalibor collar when away as they repel ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and importantly protects against leishmaniasis, which is prevalent in southern Europe)
  • Tick Removers (even though his treatment repels them, he still gets the odd tick so we need these to remove them with leaving the horrid head parts in him)
  • Worming Tablets (again check with your vet, and make sure you stock up with enough for your trip – we struggled to get worming treatment in Italy as they only treat worms if the dog has them, unlike in the UK where we give the medication to prevent them getting worms)
  • Claw Clippers (there isn’t always a dog groomer on hand, so we do him ourselves)
  • Fur clippers (as above)
  • Comb / Brush
  • Ear Cleaner
  • Shampoo
  • Dog Towel (microfibre for quick drying – trust me you don’t want you pooch borrowing your towel after a day on the beach, and some old towels that you can throw away after any accidents)
  • Lead and Spare Lead
  • Collar or Harness (Charlie’s has a harness as it enables us to pick him up easily when his legs give way)
  • Identity Disc (ensure it has the UK dialling code before your phone number if you’re going abroad)
  • Muzzle (in some places larger dogs will need one when in public places or on public transport, for smaller dogs the rules are often ignored)
  • Coat (pampered pooch never likes being cold)
  • Toys (even though he’s a pampered pooch he doesn’t have too many toys as he mainly chases sticks and stones)
  • Treats
  • Travel Carrier (we don’t have one, but in many countries you need to restrain your dog while you are driving, you may also need one to take them on public transport)
  • Bike Trailer (Charlie hated his, but then it wasn’t a proper doggie one and he could escape from it – we’ve seen loads of happy pooches whizzing along behind their owner’s bikes in one of these)
  • Poo Bags (never underestimate how many of these you’ll get through on a trip! Some of the more affluent countries do provide them for free in parks and cities so keep your eyes peeled)

DSC_00661Enhancements to your van

You can add numerous things to your motorhome to make life more comfortable on the road. The ones marked with * show what we’re using, the others we’ve seen people with and while they are not for us, they might be right for you.

  • Non-Slip Matting* (for every cupboard)
  • Blackout Thermal Curtain Linings* (our curtains are thin so lining them with this helps keep the sunlight out in the morning and the temperature warmer/cooler)
  • 300w Pure Sine Power Inverter* (for charging all your gadgets that don’t have a 12v charger, running clippers and the like – do your research to ensure you get the correct specification for your needs)
  • Windscreen Thermal Screens* (the least insulated part of your van so internal or external screens  help keep your van warm or cool, we have external ones which work well for us)
  • Solar Panel and Charge Controller* (for topping up your leisure battery on sunny days)
  • Leisure Battery(ies) (an alternative to adding solar panels is another leisure battery. We have two leisure batteries in our current van and solar, but in the past have managed with solar and one battery, which was actually a starter battery)
  • Habitation Door Fly Screen* (we had a net type on our previous van, the current van has one built in, if we needed to buy again we’d get a chenille one as they don’t get as damaged when trapped in the door)
  • Power Extension Cable* (for when you need to power something not in your van – we used ours to power stuff in a nearby tent)
  • Power Plug Adapters* (both of our vans have the odd two pin socket so we have one of these permanently plugged in and a spare in case we need to plug in while out and about)
  • Refillable LPG System* (link to our blog post of Jay installing our system. Refillable tanks which take LPG/GPL/Autogas are a big help on a multi-country trip as there is little gas bottle standardisation across Europe. We’ve met people with several bottles in their vans having had to buy a new one in each country.)
  • Satellite Dish and Decoder (when we bought Zagan he had a system already in place. We manually have to locate the satellites, but it works OK for how little we watch TV)

Finally, as your reward for working your way through this long list (I never realised we had so much stuff packed in our van, and I suspect we’ve still missed a few things) below is a link where you can download a PDF packing check list. It lists all the things above with a box to tick when you’ve packed it for your trip. There is also a space for comments and a sheet to add your own essentials. Simply right click on the link and choose the save option so you can store it on your own PC and print it off whenever you need it!

Have a great trip, wherever you go!

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