Our Northern European motorhome tour
We planned this holiday with the specific aim of giving the motorhome a European test run and experiencing the feel for driving on the wrong side, in a right-hand drive. As we planned to do a lot of cycling we aimed for the areas of Netherlands, Belgium and France. It was also a chance for us to check out the Aires and how they worked.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get off to the best start though with a broken starter motor. A quick dash to the mechanic and it was fixed just in the nick of time! phew… It really didn’t help when my phone broke too!! What a start…
So, our first stop was without Keith; just me & the boys for a few days in Sussex visiting close friends. I was looking forward to getting a taste of some warm southern sunshine that I hear so much about. Hmmm… it rained – alot! but it didn’t stop us and we had a great time exploring the forests around the area.
We visited a few local parks, such as Bedelands where the kids climbed, crawled, slid & splashed their way around. And when the sun did come out we visited Tilgate Park, Crawley with lots of activities to for for all the family, you can read about all the activities here.
Keith finally joined us a few days later, arriving with the motorhome having travelled by IOM Steam Pack to Liverpool (albeit on a slower journey due to a broken engine – is that 3??).
Our friends suggested we go to Brighton Marina but due to the torrential rain we decided to head indoors for a quick family game of Globalls. Given it was another wet day, it was VERY busy so booking ahead is advisable! We finished off a lovely day out with a delicious meal at American Diner, Coast to Coast.
Channel Tunnel, Folkestone
The next morning we were up early for our first bucket list tick of the holiday… the Channel Tunnel (‘Chunnel’). The drive down was only an hour and a half and once you took the exit it was a seamless process from start to finish. All we had to do was give our surname, passports then off we went. There is a good service station with eateries and shops so that you can stretch your legs before your called for boarding.
At this stage I still had no idea how a motorhome was going to fit on a train or how I was going to drive it on (thanks for that Keith!). Needless to say when I saw a coach in front of us I relaxed a little and to be honest it was a breeze!
Once on board it was a 30 minute blink and we popped out in France – too easy! Navigating across France, into Belgium and onto Netherlands was good. Before we knew it we were arriving into Amsterdam for our first camping stop, Gaasperplas where we stayed for 5 nights. Read our review here.
Only downside is there’s no swimming pool on site or nearby…
For our Best budget things to do in Amsterdam for families following the link here.
As we had the bikes with us and Amsterdam is the cycling capital of the world (or so I’ve now named it!) we spent much of the time exploring on 2 wheels. The boys were able to travel quite some distance due to the ease of cycle routes and also how flat it was! We explored a number of parks around the area which were completely deserted and easily accessible. We were planning to reach Marken Island and although it was a stretch too far, it was still an interesting and enjoyable ride.
We had an indoor day planned on Thursday with Anne Frank museum and then Nemo science museum due to a change of weather. I thought if we got to Anne Frank Museum early we could miss the long queues and be first in the door.
It turns out you have to book Anne Frank tickets a month in advance to enter between 9am and 3.30pm!! Or risk life, limb and boredom queuing with the rest of the boozeless world… WHAT!?!?!! It wasn’t like that back in 1998. Epic fail!
As part of our pre-planning we had talked about the regions we were travelling through and mentioned about war museums. The boys leapt at the chance on the proviso that there would be tanks in the one we visited. This actually turned out to be trickier than I thought. We did however find a museum based in Overloon, southern Netherlands. I didn’t mind too much as it gave us a chance to check our local Aires and answer another question… What is an Aires?
It was actually amazing and I’m not really a museum kind of person. There were 2 parts to the museum, first the artifacts, personal stories and videos showing the devastation and battle which took place within this area during WWII.
The second was a MASSIVE warehouse full of tank, armament and war vehicles; it surprised even me. The boys ran from one vehicle to the next, and whilst we found this amusing we did slow them down and explain what uses these had. We tried to gently explain that lives had been lost and asked them to consider the feelings the soldiers and civilians would have had.
The general message & stories were not lost on them and in unison with the museum we re-iterated that ‘war only belongs in a museum’. It was very well portrayed.
After only a brief stop in Overloon, we ventured onto Belgium, having booked a campsite next to a large lake in a fairly remote area. The plan was to have a low key few days and to enjoy the on-site facilities to reduce the travelling for a few days.
The plan worked and we sat peacefully in the sunshine at the beach area of Domein De Gavers. The boys were happily entertained with a combination of rafts on the lake, building sandcastles and using the well engineered watering play system situated at the back of the beach. Bliss!
Our version of relaxing is certainly not lying on a beach so the next few days we spent cycling, climbing, running, swimming and exploring the area.
Our final european destination was to to stopover in Ghent after recommendations that it was on par, if not better, than Brugge before driving to our final aires. However, as mentioned, it didn’t quite go to plan. As Ghent is a large city centre it is difficult to park a 7m long and 2.8m high motorhome so a little planning is required.
I found a car park on the outskirts, next to a canal which allowed for parking and meant it was only a 20 minute walk into town. For more information about Ghent and things to do, follow this link here.
We were now on our return leg and apart from driving through atrocious conditions during a thunderstorm, everything went to plan. The Eurotunnel departed at 11.25am and arrive back in the UK at 11.00am! I love that!!
I was excited for the next part of our journey as we were heading to an international Balloon fiesta being held on the outskirts of Bristol. The take off was due to take place at 6pm that day (we were in Belgium!).
We therefore had 4 hours to cross England, check into the campsite and drive to the venue… perfectly doable! Having the briefest of toilet stops helped and after checking into Lower Woodhouse Farm, Bristol we joined the queue of traffic heading to the festival.
We arrived, not quite knowing what to expect, and were delighted that it surpassed our expectations. Read more about the International Balloon Fiesta and how amazing it was here.
After an exhilarating and exhausting day we had a gentle morning packing up and preparing the motorhome for the return home. When we did finally get organised we only had a short journey into Teweksbury, via a few outdoor shops to check out possible backpacks!
I was actually looking forward to a decent nights sleep! Alas, this was probably the worst sleep all holiday with the room like a sauna, even the fan did little to ease the sticky uncomfortable night sleep we all endured! I never thought I’d be so excited to sleep another night in the motorhome!
Having parked up at Llandegla Fishery campsite we climbed on the bikes and headed out in the hope of missing the rain showers which had appeared in the distance. We had arrived into a beautiful valley and the location was ideal to access the cycle centre.
I hadn’t anticipated such a climb to reach the cafe area and tiredness from last night was already kicking in. Queue the complaints, excuses, moans, groans… and we hadn’t even started!! arghhh
We manage to achieve all our goals and ultimately prepare ourselves for the bigger adventure ahead!
Only 8 months to go!!!