Returning from Austria

7B304946-6E78-4379-893D-58FE4689A145So we have had a fantastic ski holiday. Maria has gone from being a little apprehensive because of her boots to loving every minute. She is now desperate to get back on the slopes.

After our last day of skiing I have had to clear quite a bit of snow from around the van, including an area for us to turn around. There is also a lot of ice under the van but he comes off the pitch with no problems.

We have decided to leave early, you have to leave the camp site before midday or you are locked in and charge an extra day. So it is before 10am and we are coming off the site,  B68C79C9-87F8-4931-9F1C-FA70C7CE5571The staff are back in their big snow ploughs and are clearing up the six inches of overnight snow and one of the snow ploughs blocks our path – I vaguely remember a similar scene at the start of the Italian Job and that didn’t end too well for the sports car. Today we’re all playing nicely though with the snow plough moving out of the way so that we can leave. The snow chains have been left on the front tyres from when we arrived so we have good grip as we proceed downhill through the tight little roads to get back to the exit. FDA11E4F-8179-455A-A288-B9FD71419334Knowing that the roads are excellent once you get out of the resort we decide to stop early to remove the snow tyres.  This isn’t as mad as it sounds because the motorhome is fitted with snow tyres which have been fine until the conditions get a little extreme. As expected the roads are excellent as we head through the villages and back down the mountain to the motorway and being a Friday the traffic is light.

Quite often when we are travelling, Maria is very happy and singing songs and we have the videos to prove it.  However, after quite an energetic holiday with a fair bit of apres ski and dancing, Maria is a tired bunny and spends most of start of the journey asleep.  Looking around, the cats seem to have suffered the same so I am the only one awake with my music gently playing.

It doesn’t take us long to get out of Austria and of course one of the things we have to do is return the go box (The method for pay paying motorway tolls for vans over 3.5T in Austria). I stop at a petrol station and go to the go box queue to see how much of my €70 of credit I will get back. Last year, when we went to St Anton, i received a few euros but part of that was my fault when we stayed on the motorway after missing our exit. This time however, we get back over €60! Result.

13FE35D3-5BC7-45C8-9660-ABE080608DD4Maria and the cats have woken up but Maria is paying the penalty as she has to sit there with two cats on her lap since they both want their mum. You may wonder why Maria, in the picture, has a large pillow on her lap and a cushion underneath it. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the cats like to spread out and Clyde in particular is a big cat, he needs the pillow to give him enough space. The cushion helps to keep the edge of the pillow up so that he doesn’t fall off the front, definitely something he would do. The pillow also provides protection from Bonnie’s claws. She likes to pad on her mum’s legs and she has claws like needles. Sometimes, Maria forgets the pillow and I am reminded when there are several gentle screams as Bonnie gets herself comfortable. I usually have to stop the van to get the pillow for her because Maria doesn’t stop after a few minutes but just continues to do it.

As well as checking out what is going on in the world, Maria also has the task of identifying where we will stay overnight. We want to be four hours or so from the Eurotunnel which means a reasonably long drive on the first day. We decide to go through Luxembourg which will be another country for the cats to tick off :). Maria finds a really good site adjacent to a fire station with electricity and other facilities. We will be stopping at a reasonable time too. We arrive as it starts to get dark but all five spaces are full. We could find a spot to stay but we don’t want any trouble or to be moved on so we decide to go for another site.

Maria finds another site at Herbeumont. This looks quite good with a mixture of hard standing and grass and it can take 53 vans so at least it won’t be full. It’s a fair distance away and after about 30 minutes we arrive to a sigh that looks like a crime scene. A lot of the village has red and white tapes cordoning off large areas of the grass.  As we find the site, we notice that there has been a lot of rain in this area maybe there has been some kind of show because everywhere is covered in mud.  27389E1D-46EA-4B50-B6C2-DB95963EB3F5There is not a single van in the site, is it closed? At least it is secluded 🙂 it is now getting late and we are going to be leaving reasonably early.  So we are staying but we are not going to risk going axle deep in the mud. So I stop on the hard standing in a quiet spot and we start to get dinner ready.

Since we have stopped, the cats want to go and explore the area. This is going to be a bad idea but the constant moaning is eventually enough to get Mummy to let them out knowing we will pay for it later.  Within thirty minutes there is a little scrapping on the door and Bonnie is asking to come in. Bonnie has grey stockings naturally and so you know she is filthy but she doesn’t look too bad.  She still gets the full cleaning treatment with a damp cloth and towel! There is then a loud thump on the step as a big cat jumps on it. I open the door to find a brown cat. Clearly not Clyde because he is white. But, it is the size of Clyde and makes lots of noise just like Clyde. Oh no. This clean up operation is a lot more work and more akin to when my parents used to clean their dogs in Spain after a winter’s walk. We get rid of the worst and the good thing about Clyde is he is meticulously clean but he will have his work cut out. Of course five minutes later, as we are eating dinner, Clyde is moaning at the door to go out – absolutely no chance, mate. Forget it and sit down.

It’s an early night, for us because we want to get on our way early in the morning, do some shopping and then get an early train so that we can be home by early Saturday evening.

The next day the drive to Boulogne is uneventful although we do pass Waterloo, nothing to do with ABBA, Amanda Furber ! I was very interested in history when I was a teenager but I have never been, funnily enough Maria has, and we agree that we will take a weekend and go there at some stage.

The route we have taken has again been toll free after leaving Austria and we have even been able to find really cheap fuel so it hasn’t been bad at all. We are now thinking whether we should try this route down to Italy but it a slight detour and the tolls to go through Austria are high, so maybe not.

Now you can’t leave France on your way home without stocking up on “essential” supplies and despite being on a diet which means we are not drinking wine (and won’t for a few months yet), we decide to stock up at Maria’s favourite, Auchan. I am always a little apprehensive about parking in the large hyper markets. 675C6BFC-8E13-41DA-9231-D6FA7EE51E54The motorhome needs two parking spaces and still slightly overhangs and of course you need more space to swing the back out to turn out of the space.  For this reason I normally park quite a way from everyone. I used to do this when we had a Lotus  Elise so that people didn’t park close and ding the doors. Whenever I returned to the car, it was like an island of cars with the Elise in the middle. I guess people just wanted to look. Unfortunately, it seems the motorhome is the same and despite having parked with eight spaces around me, I return to find cars on all sides. This should be interesting.

Maria and I load up the wine and some other supplies and I ask Maria to stand at the back of the van to check the rear corner doesn’t get too close to any cars. One thing that has shocked me about the motorhome is the brilliant turning circle. I fully expected to be constantly doing three point turns but the lock is unbelievable. Of course the other side of the coin is that the large overhang at the rear swings out a lot, hence Maria’s role. Surprisingly, we have nothing to fear and the van comes out of the space perfectly in one take and I can wait for Maria to come back into the van before driving off. Top safety tip, don’t drive off without her. Nothing will happen to you in the van, at least until she catches you up at which stage you are dead meat. Fortunately I am enough of a gentlemen to not drive too far and she is back in the van with the cats patiently watching her and waiting for the pillow to go back on her lap!

It isn’t long to get to the Eurotunnel and with pets on board the first job is to check in the cats.  SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe rules for cats are very different to dogs at immigration as long as their rabies is up to date. The process is very simple. Surprisingly, there aren’t many cats travelling back to the UK so Bonnie and Clyde are normally quite popular with the staff. Another advantage of going to the pet check in is that sometimes, when there is a queue, you actually bypass it quite effectively but today, despite there being cancellations, the queues aren’t too bad.  The cancellations mean that we can’t get on a very early train though, despite arriving at a good time, so we will be waiting a little while. Oh well we tried.

The train journey and drive home are uneventful and we are back early evening which allows us to get some food. We decide to finish off our holiday with a meal out, at Aqua 8 in Ipswich which is a nice Asian fusion restaurant and the people are also very close to our good friends in the China chef in Colchester. This means great food and a lovely chat too so a perfect end to our holiday. We try not to regret it too much the next morning though when we discover that we have gained three pounds in a couple of days. That’ll be the lack of exercise whilst still eating and drinking but at least “easy on, easy off”. We’ll be back on the diet tomorrow.

We’re home with a day to chill before returning to work. It’s been a great holiday but I guess now we just need to go back to work to pay for it.

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