Welcome to the December edition of newsletter. We have just come back from an excellent recce of France and Switzerland and we have a review of that this month. We also have a brief update on 2022, with a reminder that the early bird offers run out at the end of this month. As usual we have another great one-pot recipe (veggie this month) and this month's motorhoming tip are is about a new(ish) website that could help you find cheaper travel insurance.
France and Switzerland recce
Regulars will know that we love a recce. All of our tour leaders do them either to find new campsites, or to familiarise themselves with tours that they have not run before. November is our usual recce month and it is great to get back to normal this year.
Recces are hard work. They involve going to interesting places, finding campsites, eating the local restaurants and checking out the tourist attractions. It is a very difficult life that we lead. This year we needed to find a couple of new campsites in the Auvergne and in the Alps as COVID has brought forward retirement plans for some of our campsite owners.
We started off down the Loire, which is visually stunning at this time of year with the changing colours of the trees and hedgerows that line the river. You are also deep into chateaux territory here with over 300 of them lining the valley. Tours and Amboise are two of our favourites towns (both with chateaux) on this stretch. Of the bigger castles you can't beat Chenonceau, Chambord or Villandry but we have a soft spot for some of the smaller, less commercial ones like Brissac (the tallest) and Chateau du Clos Luce (home to the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum).
After driving the length of the Loire (not strictly necessary for the recce), we headed south to one of our favourite French cities, Bordeaux. We go down here on a couple of our tours and in addition to the city itself (a mini Paris), it is surrounded by rolling hills covered in vines. In November, the vines go all autumnal and look fantastic. We travel here in June (vines in full juiciness) and September (during the harvest with associated aromas).
Our main reason for this winding route was to follow the path of the Dordogne, home to striking ridges and some of Frances most beautiful towns and villages (according to the the official "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France"). Our ultimate destination was the Chaine des Puy mountain range. Here, in addition to a new campsite for our collection, we discovered a fantastic little train that takes to straight to the top of the Puy De Dome, the areas highest peak. Highly recommended if you are on our Idyllic France Tour next year.
Next stop was to see a friend of ours who runs a campsite down near Narbonne. Although we don't go to this area on any tours just yet it was a bit of a treat as we were offered a glamping cabin with a jacuzzi and sea views for a couple of nights. It was a bit of luxury and saved me from having to fill up the jacuzzi in the motorhome.
Next stop was a flying visit through our favourite region of France (The Ardeche), en route to the French Alps. The mountains are great fun in mid-November though it only went to -1 degree this year. Our record is -13 degrees. That was quite cold and the diesel nearly froze.
Our reason for coming this way was to pop into Switzerland to see a couple of campsites owners where we go on our Alps Tour. It would be fair to say that June would be a better time to see the mountains!
You may be wondering how easy it was to travel during this time and the answer is - very easy. We are double jabbed (triple now in fact) and we have the NHS app to prove it. We also have the French app and uploaded our NHS QR code to this. The French call this the Pass Sanitaire and you need it to get into the country and in restaurants and tourist attractions. We used this in Switzerland too to prove our vaccination status, although we weren't actually checked at the border.
Everything was open, the public transport was running as normal and as long as you could flash your pass, you could move freely and do what you liked. We suspect that this will be the model for travel next year i.e. get vaccinated, download the necessary apps and then work out where you want to go. I'm calling it: "Jabs, apps and maps".
Two things to say about 2022. The first is that we are very confident for travel next year. We have been away for a couple of months this year and things do seem to have settled into a new routine.
Obviously, this virus has not gone away and we would remind you that our Covid Guarantee continues into next year allowing you to book with full confidence. Full details are on the website.
The second thing to mention is that our early bird offers run out at the end of the month. If you do want to travel next year, please book before then to get the best price. We never ever discount below the early bird price so it is the best deal you will get.
If you have any questions about any tour or to check availability, please contact us.
Coq au Van (the amusingly titled recipe feature)
Vegetarian Gnocchi with Pumpkin
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, plus extra to garnish
800g pumpkin, cut into 3cm chunks
2 tbsp vegetable stock powder
2 x 400g cans baby roma tomatoes
500g packet shelf-stable gnocchi
60g baby spinach
60g fetta, crumbled
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until just softened. Add garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
2. Add pumpkin. Stir to combine. Add stock powder, 1 1/2 cups water and canned tomato. Bring to a simmer. Cover, simmer for 5 minutes. Add gnocchi. Stir to combine. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until gnocchi is tender.
3. Serve topped with spinach, fetta and extra thyme.
This month's tip is from one of our regular readers. I think there are four of you now!
It's about insurance again, but as things change so often, I make no apology for covering it.
So thanks to David for putting me onto a government website designed to help everyone with all aspects of money, including sections for people of a certain vintage. It's called moneyhelper (www.moneyhelper.org.uk) and among the many topics it covers, it has a section on travel insurance for the over 65s. This has loads of guidance and information including getting cover for pre-existing conditions.
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.