The names Balbianello, Villa Balbianello.

Any James Bond fans reading this? Remember the scene in Casino Royale where Bond is recuperating in the garden of a hospital? Vesper is there and the swiss banker arrives by boat to get the code.

That “hospital” is Villa Balbianello, overlooking lake Como and it’s an absolute stunner.

We bussed it the 15 minutes from our campsite, La Fornace to Bellagio and spent another 15 minutes deciphering the overly complicated ferry timetable. Both Garda and Como ferry services have been poorly designed and chaotic to say the least. Eventually we found the right pier and piled on a ferry to Lenno.

As luck would have it, it was market day in Lenno. I needed some new sports socks. 6 for €4, bagged. That’s how I roll.

The entrance to the Villa was all the way around the pretty harbour which was lined with small speed boats and the occasional sail boat.

If we lived somewhere like this we would defo have a little boat to pootle around the lake. Maybe go say hi to George and Amal.

Villa Balbianello stands on a steep promontory jutting out into the west side of lake Como. The villa was left by the Italian exporer, Guido Monzino, to the Italian National Trust when he died in 1988. We watched a 30 minute video about his life and exploration accomplishments that culminated in saying Balbianello was his ultimate legacy. Some legacy.

It was a 20 minute woodland walk to get up and over the hill from the ferry terminal at Lenno to the villa entrance. It had a totally private and secluded location that gave it a sense of exclusivity. We were grateful of the shade as once again the lakes had delivered a scorcher.

Entrance was €10 each for the garden or €20 for garden and guided tour of the villa. We opted to make the most of the sunshine and nail the gardens.

From the moment we entered we were blown away by the immaculate gardens and the stunning views across the lake.

The gardens are landscaped over multiple levels which added to the drama. We could see why this was used as a location for Casino Royal and Star War II: Attack of the Clones.

Exposed on three sides, the villa had beautiful terraces with sweeping views of the water. It even had its own private jetty for boat access.

There was a separate outhouse which formed a private study and library and had an incredible double balcony with ivy trained up the walls and pillars.

Everything about the property and gardens was ornately designed and immaculately presented with wonderful bursts of colour.

Being a tourist was thirsty work. We grabbed a quick drink and ice cream whilst waiting for the ferry in Lenno.

Once back in Bellagio we found a lovely little trattoria with a cool table right outside in the cobble stone street.

We finished off the day with tasty pasta dish and a few games of Uno. Emily is on a winning streak. Time to think of some different strategies me thinks 🤔.

we arrived back to the campsite to catch a pretty cool sunset sky.

A Quick Pitstop in Bergamo


We didn’t fancy the three plus hour drive to Lake Como so we broke the journey up with an overnight stop in Bergamo.

It’s a good job we broke the journey up because it took us two hours just to get out off the Garda lake road. There was heavy traffic heading in both directions and the roads were really tight. Combine this with the unreal driving of Italians and the numerous potholes you’ve got an intensely stressful drive. As compensation, the road was incredibly scenic, hugging the lake all the way and going through epic tunnels that cut through the mountains. This road actually featured in the opening car chase scene in the James Bond film, The Quantum of Solace.

We eventually made it onto the main roads and into Bergamo, an eastern Lombard city. Our sosta was located about 3 miles from the city. We parked up, had some lunch and then got the bus into the new town. From here we needed to switch buses to reach the ancient hilltop city perched high above. The city has over 5km of Venetian walls and the views were stunning.

For a small city, Bergamo is a heavyweight when it comes to medieval Renaissance and baroque architecture and charm. We wandered through the tiny alleys and window shopped.

They really love their food here and every other shop was a patisserie or panificio. We snacked on an arancini and coffee granita. Polenta is a really big deal here and the locals enjoy it in every form including savoury with a rich wild boar stew and sweet as a set cake.

Bergamo’s mast famous landmark is the elegant Piazza Vecchio. It’s lined with lovely cafes and is home to the awesome Cathedral. With a striking black and white tiled floor and stunning frescoes, it was one of the more beautiful ones we’ve seen on our travels.

We loved our little wander around the old city which was small but perfect. Rather than take the bus, we walked back down to the new town along cobbled streets which was gorgeous.

We managed to make sense of the buses back to the sosta from there and cooked at the van, dodging some killer mosquitos. We got an early night in preparation for our trip to Como the next day.


The next big hitter after Florence was due to be Venice but we thought it a shame to miss out on some nearby smaller cities. Distance wise, Bologna was a perfect half way point but the lack of campsites nearby and bad reviews for Sostas put us off. It’s a real shame as I would have loved to take a tour of the Ducati factory. I ride a Triump Street Triple R back home but would jump at the chance ride a Ducati Monster or 959 Panigale. Another time hopefully.

Instead we opted to stay the night in a sosta about 4km outside of Modena with a friendly tree lined cycle path right into the heart of the city.

The car lovers out there will no doubt already know that Modena is home to many of the top Italian car makers. Ferarri, Lambourghini and Maserati the most notable. Indeed the Ferrari 360 Modena was named after the city.

We also learned that Modena has a prestigious University traditionally strong in economics, medicine and law. As luck would have it lots of students were celebrating graduating with bottles of rum taped to their hands and laurel wreaths around their head. This made for entertaining people watching.

We visited 2 Unesco world heritage sites. The Cathedral and the Piazza Grande.

Famous Modenesi include operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari and the Queen consort of England and Scotland, Mary of Modena. Despite all these highlights the biggest draw for me was that it is home home to Osteria Francescana. A year ago I watched a netflix original called Chefs Table featuring the eccentric Massimo Bottura.

I was captivated by his story, creating a restaurant from scratch, Osteria Francescana, and building it in to the world’s best restaurant. As one can imagine not without it’s trials and tribulations. “Nothing easy is worth the ride.”

I wish I could say we managed to get a table to eat there but the waiting list is 6 months.

The next day we attempted to visit Parma for an afternoon explore. We were spooked by the total lack of campers in the dodgy looking sosta and the surrounding car park full of transits selling hooky goods.

We decided to abandon our plans (genuinely the first time we’ve had to forgo a destination due to safety concerns) and head to Verona instead. The drive was not without its tribulations, with terribly poor roads full of potholes and loose tarmac that shook and rattled the motorhome. Our satnav also took us to closed roads and sent us on bizarre diversions but this did afford us views of the incredible scenery.

We drove on another two hours to Verona only to find that sosta completly full of campers. Boom or bust it would seem. Exercising patience is not my usual forte but on this occaision it was necessary. We waited about an hour for somone to leave and gracefully ‘jumped in their grave’.

Sainte Maxime, the Patron Saint of Thunder?

We woke to an ominous sky for our last day in the St Tropez area. We decided to enjoy a lazy morning and watch Love Island. Yes we are both obsessed. We finally managed to finish the 1st series. No, we can’t even remember who won but it’s fascinating entertainment.

By the afternoon things didn’t look much better with the sky but we were getting cabin fever so we decided to brave it, pack our cagoules and cycle the 3km to Sainte Maxime. It sits across the gulf from Saint Tropez and I would hazzard a guess that a large proportion of the worlds fanciest and most expensive yachts have anchored off its shores.
Sainte Maxime seemed to be a more family orientated town and recent developments include a new cultural centre built with a cinema and activities for both children and adults. The new road from Le Muy to Sainte Maxime has made the whole area more accessible and it is increasingly attractive as a holiday destination. The largest source of revenue for Sainte Maxime is the summer tourist industry but the city is very much alive all year round with approximately 14,000 local residents. Property is being built along the coastline and restaurants and bars with music are springing up everywhere. However, the town retains its local traditions and there are several festivals throughout the year in celebration of its history.

Unfortunatley for us about 5 minutes after we arrived the heavens opened, the sky lit up and thunder rumbled so loud it shook the shop windows. We ran into a post office to send some postcards to our parents (let us know when you get them please) and then waited under a facade for the storm to fizzle out.

After about 20 mins the rain had subsided enough for us to at least wander around and find somewhere to have a warm drink. We settled upon Maison Du Chocolat as I really felt like a hot chocolate and Emily needed a cake. Yes needed.

Feeling refreshed and realising the rain was not going to stop we dragged ourselves out of the Chocolate shop and wandered the town in our very stylish get up – we really embodied the South of France chic.

Who would have thought that we would find an Artisan Boulangerie with yet more iresistable sweet stuff that we needed. We reasoned (fooled ourselves) that we must try the local speciality of tarte tropezienne.

Oh my they were good. Like little fluffy clouds made of cream. I wish I didn’t have such a sweet tooth. With our bellies full of sugar we peddled extra fast along the empty cycle path back to Harvey for some more Love Island. Losers…

The Beautiful Cote D’Azur and Motorhome Woes


We’ve had a great couple of days exploring the French Riviera. On our first full day we put our bikes to good use, cycling to nearby Antibes. We used the main road which was pretty hectic and not particularly enjoyable but it was only for a short period of time before we dropped down into the port area.

Antibes is really beautiful spot and has enchanted the likes of Graham Greene and Picasso, who featured the town in many of his paintings. It boasts small sandy coves and a pretty town ringed by medieval walls, encasing boutiques and fancy restaurants. It also has a huge harbour with mega flash boats. There is a super yacht dock which hosts the massive, luxury boats which was fascinating to gawp at. These yachts were huge, lined up one by one in an immaculate parade. It was a hive of activity behind the security gate with deckhands polishing the brightwork, butlers whizzing back and forth and hostesses grabbing supplies.

Strolling around the dock brought back plenty of memories for Gary from his sailing days but it is nice to experience these towns under our own steam without having to work at the same time.

We walked into town, window shopping and people watching. Antibes has a really lovely vibe. It’s pretty laid back and has art installations around the sea front and cute independent food trucks like this juice bar.

We cycled around the headland to the next town called Juan Les Pins which was the home to F Scott Fitzgerald. This had a completely different feel to Antibes and not quite as classy. Dare I say more Brits abroad? There were more bars and shops and a long beach that was absolutely crammed with sunbathers. We were so hot from the cycle and the sea looked so inviting that we stopped for a quick dip in the refreshing water. On our way back we discovered a cycle lane that took us away from the noisy traffic and hugged the coastline the whole way which was much more enjoyable.

The next day we planned to go to Nice on the train. We had a fairly frustrating morning after attempting to use the campsite’s washing machine which took an hour and barely got our clothes wet. I put it in for another load and an hour later it had failed to clean the clothes or wash the powder out so we had to hand wash everything. We eventually made it to the station to find that that the next train wasn’t for an hour and then it ran 15mins late.

We got into Nice later than we’d have like but we had a great time to make up for it. We walked from the station, through the contemporary shopping area to the old town via an awesome set of fountains. They went off every 30mins to music and kids would go mad, running in and out of the fountains and getting absolutely soaked. There was also a lovely set of public gardens with gorgeous plants providing splashes of colour.

The old city is a warren of lanes and tight backstreets filled with shops and cafes. At every turn is a small square or pretty church or market. We found a cute place to eat lunch on the Cours Saleya which hosts a daily flower market in the morning. Disappointingly we missed the market but there was plenty of people watching on offer as tourists, street entertainers and locals buzzed around.

We walked off our lunch hiking up the Colline du Chateau hill for views across the bay. Nice has a huge amount to offer for a city break with good restaurants, a lovely cafe culture and a long stretch of beach just minutes from a historic and vibrant old town. They were setting up for their annual jazz festival which looked awesome.

Rather annoyingly we got back to find a problem with the gas flow on the van. We’d experienced a few niggles over the past couple of days with the gas failing on the fridge when we turned the hot water heater on or the the hob. Gary seemed to be able to fix it with a bit of jiggery pokery on the regulator or by switching our gas tanks but it was now officially dead. After testing both tanks with the BBQ we couldn’t diagnose an issue with them so could only assume that we weren’t getting any circulation because of the regulator. Whilst in a campsite this isn’t much of an issue because we are plugged into the mains and can use electricity to power the fridge, heat the water and use the facilities but it poses a problem when on the road or staying in Aires. We have no gas for cooking on the hob or heating water or powering the fridge which means we are at the mercy of expensive campsites until we can get it fixed.

The Lavender Route in Provence


We left Aix-en-Provence by 11.00am and headed East towards the Vaucluse area. I was so looking forward to going to the Provence region, my excitement based mostly around the food and produce from there. I had visions of rolling farmland, sun-filled fields of corn and long lazy lunches with chilled rose.

As it happens we were visiting at the perfect time to see the lavender fields in bloom. They come into full flower at the end of June/beginning of July and are harvested at the end of July. Each town has a lavender festival to mark the date of harvest. It was more of a happy coincidence than a master plan but timing is everything and we were happy to have lucked out with this one.

We were headed for another France-Passion stop in Valensole. We drove almost the whole journey with no glimpse at all of lavender and I started to get a little nervous that we had misjudged how grand of an occasion this actually was.

It was only in the last ten minutes that fields of pure purple unfolded before us. It was so much more impressive than I’d imagined, with row upon row of neatly planted lavender bursting with colour and fragrance. The France Passion stop was on a lavender farm on the outskirts of town and with the hosts no where to be seen, we plumped for a perfect spot overlooking fields. We jumped straight on the bikes to retrace the route we’d just made in the van and get some pictures.

There were a few coach tours out and about but we mostly had the roads to ourselves and it was like something out of a painting. It was so picturesque to cycle from field to field and stroll through the blooms. There was a constant low-level hum from the bees that were busily working away and hives dotted along the borders.

We decided to cycle down into the town of Valensole which is tiny but beautiful.

It’s basically a shrine to lavender, with every single item on sale either fragrance, flavoured or infused with the stuff!

We wandered around the pretty streets and found a nice cat to fuss over before a hefty, up-hill cycle back to Harvey. We had dinner and then watched the sun go down on the field we overlooked, not believing that this was another freebie.

The next day we moved on to another France-Passion site a few kilometres south on the Lac du Sainte Croix. We cruised through more beautiful scenery before arriving at yet another lavender farm. This place was more commercial and our host welcomed us to our spot which was in a gorgeous field behind the farm shop amongst olive trees and a vegetable patch.

Making great use of the bikes, we cycled through more amazing fields of lavender, this time flanked by rows of sunflowers. The richness of the purple contrasting with the sunburst yellow of the sunflowers was amazing.

We spent ages marvelling at the colours and taking photos before moving on. Just at this point a bee flew up my dress and promptly stung me right on the rump. Not knowing what it was but feeling a sharp pain I dropped my bag and pulled my dress right up, revealing way too much to the drivers passing by and found the sting. Thankfully it wasn’t too painful and considering the sheer number of bees that would fly into us as we were cycling, getting just one sting seemed ok.

From a viewpoint we could see the lake in all its glory.

It’s 11km long by 2km wide and is a stunning blue green colour. We freewheeled all the way down to the town, picking up speed on the steep descent and swerving into the hairpin turns. I was clinging on for dear life, wearing the rubber on my brakes, whilst Gary hurtled off into the distance.

Unfortunately we were too late to enjoy a fancy lunch at one of the terrace restaurants overlooking the lake, so we settled for a panini on the beach.

We sunbathed, snoozed and swam in the lake which was fresh and clear.

We wanted to wait for the fierce sun to calm before mustering the energy to climb back up the hill but even at 6pm it was incredibly hot.

We definitely earned our BBQ that night and we enjoyed it with a glass of wine from the France passion stop in Uzes. It’s such a great venture and so far all the stops have really delivered. We bought some handmade soap and lavender infused biscuits from our hosts and enjoyed them with tea in the evening, watching other guests play pétanque in the light of the setting sun.


For those who don’t already know, take a guess as to how to pronounce “Aix”. I would love to hear my Mum’s guess. Maybe some of you thought as I did it was a three sylable “aey-eye-ex”. As it turns out the correct way is much simpler and cooler, you simply have to say “X-en-Provence”.

Using our Camperstop App we found a random overnighter about 2km out of “X”.

The entrance looked promising.

However that was next door. This was our place.

Upon arrival at the correct place I was greeted by a very friendly Frenchman in the skimpiest of skimps. Emily actually guffawed at how ludicrous they were. Monsieur Smuggler showed me our pitch and gave me some useful information about the site and where to get the bus into X. Although super basic the pitch was side on to the most beautiful example of a wild flower border. Eat your heart out June and Mon x.

We sorted Harvey out with his awning, floor matt and chairs and headed for the bus into X. The bus was about a 5 minute walk down a steep hill to Pont L’arc. Mr Smuggler told us to take bus number 10 but as it happens bus 51 turned up first and an old man told us in French to jump on for centre ville. If this was a year ago we would have ignored him and waited for bus 10. Now we kinda just go with the flow and trust random strangers and know it will work out. Indeed, number 51 took us the 2km uphill to the bus station right in the middle of this pocket of left-bank Parisian chic.

X is all class: its leafy boulevards and public squares are lined with 17th- and 18th-century mansions, punctuated by gurgling moss-covered fountains. Haughty stone lions guard its grandest avenue, cafe-laced cours Mirabeau, where fashionable Aixois pose on polished pavement terraces, sipping espresso.

We spent an hour wandering the streets for the perfect place to have some lunch and people watch.

Who can resist a little bit of lemon drizzle cake or a coffee macaron?

We walked off all those calories through narrow polished stone streets from cool squares to the amazing cathedral.

We also needed to catch up on some blog writing as we have been traveling so much it has been hard to keep up. It wasn’t hard to find a suitable place to have a beer and knuckle down.

We even managed to find our French names up in writing.

And for Emily. Strictly speaking it should have been Le Porcelet.

After hard day being a tourist we were tempted by the onsite pool.

But decided it looked more like a swingers hangout so opted to binge watch “Love Island” on the free WiFi.

Our First Bike Expedition in Uzes and Pont Du Gard


We left Narbonne in the afternoon and headed about 100 miles north east to the town of Uzes.

We were keen to test our ’France Passion’ membership which gives motorhome owners overnight parking for free on farming or vineyard land. The idea behind the program is that it enables you to get off the beaten track and explore the hidden treasures of rural France. In return for your stopover, you are welcome to purchase some goods produced onsite. As we rocked up to our selected stop (a vineyard just 200m out of town), we were relieved to take one of the last spots available and headed to the reception to introduce ourselves. The owner was so friendly, offering us two nights for free with the included use of the facilities to fill up with water and dump waste. There was no heavy sell whatsoever with the wine they produced but after a free tasting we snapped up two bottles of Rose and a jar of confit onions for the total bargain price of 12 euros. If all France Passion sites are as accommodating as this then we’ll be sorted for July.

After quaffing half a bottle of wine we sauntered into town to explore Uzès in the magical late afternoon sunlight. The old town, enclosed by a large stone wall, was a maze of beautiful cobbled streets. Every turn offered a square or fountain more beautiful than the one before. It was so impossibly perfect and quaint that it felt like something from a film set. The architecture was stunning and the boutiques were so stylish.

We settled down to watch Portugal vs Uruguay match in the main square called Place aux Herbes. It was full of families eating al fresco and locals drinking with friends and the atmosphere was lovely and warm. To our surprise an awesome jazz band started playing as the evening began and we turned our chairs to enjoy the entertainment. There was some sort of book fair going on with illustrators creating personalised copies for buyers and the jazz band accompanied the festivities which made the perfect end to the evening.

The next day dawned as the sun streamed through the motorhome windows and as we’d been warned, it was set to be an absolute scorcher of a day. We had set our sights on a bike ride to visit the Roman Pont Du Gard aqueduct some 16km away. The vineyard owner had advised that if we were to go, we should beat the midday sun and leave early. As always, best laid plans went to shit when Gary discovered that my bike had a flat tyre. Considering that the bikes were less than 24 hours in our hands, this was hugely disappointing. Thankfully we had the foresight to buy a repair kit and spare inner tyres and Gary set to work on fixing her up. Needless to say that Gary expertly sorted this which is fortunate because I wouldn’t have a clue in this department.

Better late than never we set off on our shiny new bikes and plumped for the scenic route as opposed to the direct road that was busy. This was a wonderful idea at the beginning and we cycled past gorgeous fields of sunflowers and vineyards and crossed babbling brooks. Not long into the journey however we realised that Google was taking us on a rather convoluted route that added plenty of mileage and had us sweating our arses off in the searing heat. We were also led off road and found ourselves bumping along tough terrain and actually through farmer’s fields, which felt a little naughty. We eventually made it back onto a sensible road and finished the ride in a more direct manner but we were knackered and the cheap seats had done their damage on our sensitive bottoms and we dismounted looking like something from a John Wayne film.

The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River and boasts three tiers and 35 arches. It’s incredibly impressive thanks to its sheer size and grandeur. We were massively relieved to see plenty of people swimming in the river and we wasted no time in joining in. The water was quite fast flowing at its deepest point and was deliciously cool and fresh. The river bed was very rocky and the pebbles were slippy as hell so we gingerly waded in but it was so worth the journey. We paddled, swam and sunbathed on the banks and devoured ice creams in the beating sun. We crossed the aqueduct twice and marvelled at it from every angle before tearing ourselves away for the feared cycle home.

We were pretty tired so we decided to take the road back and really enjoyed the smooth paved route for the first 15 mins before we hit the start of the long ascent back up to Uzes. We hadn’t noticed on the way but on our return it was very clear that we were gradually climbing. Small hills at first and then long, drawn-out inclines that saw us changing down gears desperately trying to conserve energy. Gary had way more verve in him and he powered through but a couple of times I wimped out and walked my bike up the sharp, steep hills. I now have a new found respect for his choice in an electric bike (but don’t tell him that!)

We eventually made it back to Harvey and celebrated with about 3 litres of water. Having well and truly earned a treat, we walked into town for dinner. We found a great bistro that had a handwritten menu of just two starters, three mains and two deserts. We both chose the bavette steak which was served with insanely good dauphinois potatoes that we still talk about now. Gary finished with the house banoffee and I plumped for chocolate fondant that oozed melted chocolate when cut. It was the perfect end to a big day. We hit a wall of tiredness almost immediately and went back to laze around and rub our full tummies.

Back in France – Exploring the beautiful coast in Cote Vermeille

We packed up and left Roses in the morning and headed for the windy coastal road that would take us into France and up the Cote Vermeille. Although we only had 39 miles to drive, progress was slow on the narrow roads that turned and weaved around each bay. We were rewarded with amazing views of fishing ports below and birds of prey soaring above us and were happy enough to potter along. We pulled in every now and then to allow the stream of cars behind us to overtake.

Our first stop for the day was Banyuls Sur Mer. We lucked out with a parking spot on the main road just out of town and then strolled down along the seafront. It’s a beautiful seaside town with a promenade along the beach and avenues lined with plane trees. We stumbled across a market and shared an awesome savoury crepe (which I think is called a gallete) at one of the stalls. We got talking to the owner who was really sweet and enthusiastic about our trip, and had also done a similar route in a camper van a few years back, but taking in Slovenia and Croatia too.

We then made our way back to Harvey and headed up to our next stop, the picture postcard town of Collioures. The roads in and out of the town are so tight that we had to park in the motorhome carpark above the town. Turns out this was also an Aire with motorhome facilities so we decided to park for the night.

We left Harvey and trekked up to Fort St-Elme which is a military fort built between 1538 and 1552 by Charles V. It was a steep trek up to the summit on a dusty track, passing vineyards as far as the eye could see. The views down to Collioure were well worth the hike. We could see little boats bobbing in the port and the pebbly beach and around the craggy coast. We spotted an old windmill and I’d read that you could take a footpath down to see it. Uncertain we’d selected the right track, we started our descent down a scrabbly path covered in loose rocks, walking through almond groves and more vineyards. The Moulin de la Cortina is a 14th-century windmill and looks like something out of an Enid Blyton story.

Now we’d come this far we continued our exploration into the town of Collioure itself, which was stunning. Effortlessly beautiful town houses painted in pretty pastels lined the promenade and cutesy cafes dotted the lanes. It had a really nice artsy vibe to it, with loads of independent galleries and boutiques. Apparently it was a place of inspiration to artists such as Matisse and, later Picasso and it’s easy to see why.

The seaside castle called the Chateau Royal gave the whole town a sense of grandeur.

Having geared ourselves up for a bit of a slog in the still-strong afternoon heat, we headed back up the steep hill to the motorhome. We still get a bit nervy about leaving Harvey for prolonged periods of time in empty car parks but on our return we were pleased to see fellow motorhomers had joined for the night. This was our first stopover in an Aire and we loved it. The view was incredible and the sense of freedom we got from knowing that we were self sufficient in the van was liberating. We can drive and stop anywhere without having to factor in specific campsites which is more cost effective. We can still run the fridge and cook and have showers and we don’t need an electric hookup to power anything inside the van. We had a BBQ and sat watching the sun go down as the most incredible colours danced across the sky.