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  • Bob and Wendy

August Newsletter


Welcome to the August edition of the newsletter and hello to everyone who signed up at the (slightly damp) Norfolk Show at the tail end of July.


This month we have a full tour report for our French & Swiss Alps Tour, which came back at the beginning of last month. (The picture on the right is of taken from our campsite in Interlaken). We also have a "recce" report on our recent fact-finding trip to the Baltic States.


We have another motorhome show later this month so please do come and say hello if you are in attendance at Malvern from 18th to 20th August.


As usual we have another great one-pot recipe and this months' motorhoming tips are all about your vital statistics.

 

French and Swiss Alps Tour Review


The Alps has always been a staple of our our touring schedule ever since we started running Crossings. This year we decided to make a few changes, focussing more on the French side of the Alps. We are pleased to report that it proved to be a great decision with excellent feedback on its first outing.


As with all of our tours, we always start in the UK and after a couple of driving days, we got our first sights of the mountains as we skirted the Alps on the border of Switzerland and France. Technically we were located in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps with wide open vistas and snowy peaks in the distance.


One of the changes we made this year is to provide a couple of bus excursions from one of the campsites. Our first one was into the delightful town of Annecy - the "pearl of the Alps". The town borders the lake and as you might expect, there are plenty of opportunities for boat trips. The old town (the best bit) is picture-perfect with medieval castle and beautiful old buildings built up around the network of small canals. The market was in full swing on the day of our visit, just to add to the ambiance.


Another day and another excursion. This time we headed across the Swiss border and into Geneva. Another very pretty city set on a lake, the star of the show is the 'old town' sitting on the top of the hill overlooking the Lake Leman with the famous water jet (the Jet d'eau). Geneva is a relatively open and relaxed place with loads of opportunities to sit and drink coffee or enjoy a meal.


On the return leg of our journey, our friendly bus driver (Phillipe) took us past the United Nations HQ. The main attraction here is the massive palace set in a large open square, with water fountains and a distinctive sculpture of a massive chair with three legs. It sounds a bit unusual as I write this, but it proved very popular with the group.


Also on the way back, Phillipe decided to test his bus-driving skills and took us up the Saleve mountain. To give you an idea, this road is used on the Tour de France during the King of the Mountains stages. The views from the top were absolutely amazing as it was such a clear day. You could see the whole of the Mont Blanc Massif.


Weather update on all of this by the way - it was stinking hot.


It was time to move campsites and the next stop was in the Swiss capital of Bern. Highlights of the city are the distinctive arcaded streets, the unusual clock tower and the lovely River Aare. Every year I am amazed by the thousands of people who throw themselves in miles upstream of the city and float down with their 'drybags' containing their clothes. It was so hot that quite a few of us joined in this crazy ritual.


Another great spot within walking distance of our campsite is the Gurtenbahn, a modern funicular railway that takes you up to the park from which you get a 360 degree view of the Alps. All of this with a free ticket courtesy of our campsite!


Time to move on and the next stop was our idyllic campsite in Interlaken. The view over the mountains was simply stunning - we could see the Jungfrau from our van window. We continues to be blessed with hot weather and clear skies, making the snow-capped peaks even more stunning. To be honest, the backdrop looks like someone has painted it on - it is slightly unreal.


Our intrepid group really made the most of their few days here with people taking advantage of the many buses, boats, trains, funiculars and cable cars in the area. Folks went up the Jungfrau, the Schilltorn (as featured in "Her Majesty's Secret Service") and many of the other peaks.


One of our customers took an even more unusual form of transport throwing herself from the top of one of these mountains attached only to a paraglider and man with massive calfs. Both landed very successfully in the main park in Interlaken. I have the greatest admiration for both of them.


In the end, no-one really wanted to leave Interlaken, but it was time to head home with a brief stop at Strasbourg along the way. This remains one of our favourite cities - a bit French and a bit German. It is a laid-back place, where we spent most of the time moving from one cafe to the next.


So to summarise, all-in-all it was a great outing for our inaugural French and Swiss Alps Tour. Great sites, great weather and great company.


Full details of nest year's tour can be found here: https://www.crossingsmotorhometours.com/swiss-french-alps-2024

 

The Baltic States


We have just returned from a very enjoyable and successful recce to the Baltic States. We have a tour going there in 2024 (with one space available as I write). We had a tour scheduled for 2020, which got kiboshed by Covid, so we thought it would be worth heading out again to see what has changed.


The first thing to say is that The Baltic States still have that pleasant feeling of not being over-developed. Although all three countries have clearly got more affluent since joining the EU, they still feel relatively undiscovered compared to Western Europe. This is reflected in the 'camping scene', which has not reached the same level as the rest of Europe just yet.


This provides a very varied and different campsite experience. There are not that many campsites in the Baltics and some of them are in funny places! One of the campsites we use is 'pop-up' campsite behind an exhibition centre. Another is on a large field behind a motel. At the other end of the scale we stay on two of the best campsites I have ever stayed on anywhere in Europe. Both of these are where the enterprising owners have been across to the Netherlands to look at their campsites, and then modelled their own sites on them. These have modern toilet blocks, drive-over motorhome points and hard-standing throughout. They will all be like this one day so maybe now is the best time to visit!



All of our campsites do have a few things in common. For example they all have 16 amp electricity and wifi. The second is that all the sites are very friendly, being run by owners and managers who are really pleased to see overseas guests and do their best to make your stay a pleasant one.


As always, we have chosen sites that are well connected to the main cities and attractions in all three countries. We will also be putting on a couple of buses in Vilnius (pictured) and Tartu where the transport links are not so good.


So how would I describe the tour? It is for those motorhomers who fancy something a bit different and want an experience to what you might get in other parts Europe. There are three lively capital cities, lots of history from ancient castles to 18th century palaces, through the Soviet era and right into its current period of rapid change. There is also un-spoilt coastline, resort towns, long open roads through forests and lakes and even a mini-cruise across the Baltic Sea. You can expect friendly locals (who all speak English as soon as they look at you), hearty food with hearty portions, and easy driving.


Finally, the churches are worth a special mention. In the tour industry there is a thing called "ABC", which stands for "another bloody church". However, in the Baltics the bloody churches and cathedrals are far more interesting. Often they are brightly coloured (gold and blue for example) and as many are Orthodox, they have the distinctive "onion-domed" roofs that make them quite different from the BCs in the rest Europe.


So if you would like to read the full schedule, please take a look on our website here. If you want the last spot, please act quickly. If you would like to have a chat about what to expect, then please get in touch or you can book now here.


 

2024 Tours update

Just a reminder that we are now taking bookings for 2024 and all the details are on the website. To view details of the 2024 season please click here:



To view and download the brochure PDF please click here:



We are now getting full up on many of our tours, but please do not assume that we are fully booked on everything. We have extra capacity this year and will put on extra tours if needed.



If you have any questions about any of the tours, please feel free to get in touch at any time.

 

Coq au Van (the amusingly titled recipe feature)


One-pot Moroccan Lamb with eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 onion

  • 1x500g pack minced lamb

  • 2tbsp olive oil

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1tbsp ginger, grated

  • 1tsp ras el hanout (morocan spice mix)

  • 1x400g tin chopped tomatoes

  • 4 eggs

  • handful mint leaves, chopped

  • couscous, to serve

Method:

  1. Grate half the onion and add to a bowl with the lamb. Season well and mix together. Use your hands to shape into 12 small balls, each about the size of a golf ball. Finely chop the remaining onion.

  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the meatballs and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until golden all over. Then add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook for a couple more minutes until softened.

  3. Stir in the ras el hanout, then pour over the tomatoes and 200ml (7fl oz) water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.

  4. Make 4 little hollows in the mixture and crack an egg into each one. Cover the pan with a lid or piece of tin foil and leave the eggs to poach for about 5 minutes, until the whites are cooked.

  5. Scatter over the mint and serve with some crusty bread or couscous.

 

Motorhoming Tips

This month's tips are all about your size, weight, length and emissions. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it is really useful to know the vital statistics of your motorhome. It is even more important when you travel in the continent. You need this for all kinds of reasons including: ferries, toll roads, toll bridges, low bridges, low emission zones, weight restricted roads etc etc. You need to know:


  • Height: in metres and in feet and inches.

  • Width: in metres and in feet and inches.

  • Weight: in kilos or tonnes.

  • Length: more useful to know this in metres these days (we went metric in 1965 for gawd's sake)

  • Emissions: you need to find out your Euro rating (e.g. Euro 6)

All of this information should be available from your V5 and other documents supplied with your motorhome. Keep it handy or make a note of it and put it behind your sun visor in the van.

 

Keep in touch


Please feel free to contact us at any time. When we are away, calls will bounce to our mobiles at no expense to yourself.




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