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  • Bob and Wendy

June Newsletter


Welcome to the (slightly late) June edition of the newsletter. May and June are busy months for us here at Crossings with a total of six tours spanning across Europe. We have just arrived back from our Budapest, Prague and Vienna Tour, hence the slight delay in the getting the newsletter out this month. We have a full tour report on that next month.


Our Three Country Taster Tour came back at the beginning of May and we have a full tour report in this month’s edition. Our Baltic States Tour (Tallinn pictured) has also recently returned and we have a full tour report on that one too!


As usual we have another “cut out and keep” one-pot recipe and this month’s motorhoming tips are all about European toll tags.


But first, a quick update on 2024 and 2025 bookings

 

2024 Update – two cancellation spaces available


We have had a couple of late cancellations on our September tours for this year. These are:



The spaces are available of a first-come, first-served basis. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.

 

2025 Tour Update


We have eight tours on offer next year with some perennial favourites on offer along with new tours. Please act quickly to secure your place as our popular tours do tend to fill up very quickly.


The full tour schedules are available on the website and you can also view or download the brand new brochure too.


Click the links for more information:


 

NEC Ticket draw


Thanks to everyone who has put their name in the orange woolly hat to win 10 pairs of tickets for the NEC Motorhome Show in October. The draw took place on 6th June as planned (although we didn’t take the woolly hat on tour so it was a blue baseball cap). The video can be seen on our Facebook page and winners have been notified by email. Well done to all of the winners who are now able to visit the NEC Show on any day they like.

 

Three Countries Taster Tour 2024


Thanks to Sue for the following report…


It was 2024 first tour of the year for Crossings with 14 motorhomes setting off for a tour through Holland, Luxembourg and France.

 

For several of our guests it was the first time abroad in their motorhome, so we gave a thorough briefing the night before the crossing to allay any fear and answer questions.  Then up early the following morning for stage one of the trip, ferry crossing, and the drive through France and Belgium heading into Holland. 

 

Holland as you would expect is very flat and there were waterways and bikes seemingly on every corner.  Our first stop was in Zeeland on the western side of the country where our guests got the opportunity to learn more about the flood defences, dams and dykes which are a feature of the area.

 

Next stop on the tour was the city of Delft – famous for its blue and white pottery.  Our base here gave our guests the chance to visit Amsterdam, Gouda, the Kinderdijk Windmills, Royal Delft Pottery and even shop at Ikea!  We went by bike, train, on foot and also by electric tuk tuk taxi – a memorable experience we gather.

 

Leaving Delft we moved north to what was surely one of the highlights of the trips with a large part of the day spent at Keukenhof Gardens.  The world-famous spring gardens are only open for 8 weeks of the year with show stopping displays of 7 million spring flowering bulbs all planted each year by hand.  After leaving Keukenhof we drove through bulb fields ablaze with colour on the last few days before they were “dead headed” so the bulbs can die back for next year.


Two more typical Dutch events were to be experienced at our next stop - the Alkmaar Cheese Market and Kings Day.  Crowds gather to watch the buying and selling of cheese rounds which are then carried off by cheese runners.  Kings Day on 27th April is a national holiday in Holland.  Everybody wears something orange, the brighter the better, and there is one huge national party in every city, town and village.  Music, eating, drinking and lots of fun was had.

 

Week two of the tour took us eastwards and way from the coast. The drive towards Arnhem took us over the Markwaaddijk Dam – 26.5km across the water.  Guests visited another tour highlight the beautiful car free village of Giethoorn.  Other guests visited the Open Air Museum and the Hartenstein Airborne Museum. 

 

By the time we reached our next site the temperature had risen to 23⁰C and the shorts and t-shirts began to appear – along with some very pasty looking arms and legs!  These splendid temperatures stayed with us for our visits to Maastricht and Valkenburg which provided a great chance to sit and relax in the sun and people watch as well as to enjoying tourist train rides, caves, castles, boat trips and in one case a spa day.

 

Leaving Holland behind we travelled into Luxembourg.  The weather became more typical for this time of year – sunshine, cloud and a few showers.  Two days spent in Luxembourg gave plenty of time to find out more about this small country surrounded by Germany, France and Belgium.  All public transport here is free of charge so it was on the buses for our days out in the Luxembourg City.  There is lots to see and do in the City, underground tunnels, wonderful views of the city walls and gardens and some very exclusive shops – window shopping only!

 

From Luxembourg it was time to taste our third country - France with two stopovers, one in the Champagne Region and one close to the Opal Coast as we headed back in the direction of Calais and then on to Dover.


 

The Baltic States Tour


Thanks to Eleanor for the following report…

 

On a bright but cold May morning, our intrepid group awoke on our site near Dover. We could see our breaths!! Then the sun came out at the ferry terminal and all was good as we sailed smoothly through border control and across the channel.

 

Over the next two nights we headed north through the Netherlands and Germany with overnight stops in each. Our campsite near Bremen was a particular highlight with the group parked on the lakeside enjoying the campsite restaurant.

 

There was a discernible air of excited expectation as we arrived at Kiel for our mini-cruise to Klaipeda in Lithuania. DFDS have just put a brand new boat on this crossing and guests were delighted with their outside cabins complete with views of the Baltic Sea. They were also delighted with the choice of food and drinks on board and it is reported that some folks were up until after midnight (on a school night)!

 

After a very smooth and sociable crossing, our adventurers arrived at our first stunning site, set amidst a pine forest. Guests took advantage of either walking or cycling or bussing into Klaipeda. Some guests ventured onto the Curonian Spit, a 60-mile long very narrow curve of sand that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic.

 

We were also lucky enough came across a singing competition where all the locals were out in their national dress singing national folk songs. It is a little known fact that the Baltic States peacefully separated from the Soviet Bloc in the late 1980s and early 1990s with what was called a “singing revolution”.

 

It was time to move on as we ventured inland towards the capital, Vilnius. The group stayed near the historic lake castle at Trakai. En route they were able to visit the ancient capital of Kaunas, itself home to a formidable castle and an unspoilt historic centre.

 

Whilst at the Trakai campsite, tour leader Gary (ex-sailor) chartered a “boat” to take some of the group across the lake from the campsite to the castle. After much amusement and demolishing the small jetty, the group did eventually arrive for a wonderful day out. Four hours of discovering the castle and its history, bird watching, lunching in the super lake side restaurants and some visiting the chocolate factory.

 

Vilnius itself is an interesting capital city. It is a mixture of old and new with a distinctive white cathedral set in a large open square. There is also evidence of their more recent Soviet past with a chilling KGB museum that details the history of some darker times. On the whole, Vilnius is a very open, welcoming city with lots of bars and restaurants and as it was not very busy during their stay, guests perhaps saw it at its most authentic.


The next stage of the journey took us deep into the heart of Latvia. We had a couple of overnight stops in the sticks complete with nesting stalks. The first of these was on a farm where there was a barn full of vintage wooden bar and board games, which made for a very entertaining evening.

 

The star of the show in this area is very much Rundale Palace. Many of our guests took the opportunity to visit the magnificent building and its stunning gardens whose tulips were particularly spectacular. The BBC series War and Peace was filmed here as all of the rooms are still intact from when the palace was built.

 

Our second night in the countryside was spent in the Gauja Valley and National Park. This is the hilliest part of Latvia with rolling hills, forest, lakes and even bears! The biggest town of note is Cesis, home to an ancient castle and brewery.


Next stop Tartu in Estonia. This used to be home to the KGB but in 2024 is he European City of Culture. The group enjoyed music rehearsals for a live TV programme later, children's choir competitions, dancing displays, museum visits (national museum day when entry was free), a walking tour and eating. What a beautiful little city.

 

Our pioneering Baltic adventurers decided to run the gauntlet at the Russian Border - no hostages taken! At one stage we were on one side of a river with Russia on the other. There is also the massive Lake Piepsi where the border is in the middle of the lake.


The reason for this trip was to get to Tallinn where we had two full days. On Day 1 our crew took advantage of exploring this ancient city, taking in Viru Street,  Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Niguliste Church, Independence Square and the views from the Patkuli Viewing Platform, which were spectacular. Others "chased waterfalls" whilst some vans ventured out to visit the Estonian Open-Air Museum, another "must" on this tour. On Day 2 the exploring continued with trips to Tallin Old Town, the  Seaplane Harbour and the Estonian Maritime Museum. This little city packs a huge punch!

 

Haapsalu railway museum proved to be a real winner as our intrepid bunch worked its way south from Tallinn to Parnu. This was the beach section of the tour! Parnu is a popular Estonian seaside resort and proved to be popular with some of our guests.

 

As well as mile of flat, sandy beaches, guests visited: the Red Tower, a little hidden gem, retelling the story of the growth of Parnu from the Ice Age until today; The Gild Art & Craft Center, an Aladdin's cave of crafts from local crafters; plus walking around to see the Town Hall and the Baroque church of St Catherine's Church built during the reign of Catherine the Great. Some stunning Baltic Sea coastal beaches were enjoyed, coupled with a white-tailed sea eagle sighting - thrilling everyone!


Our schedule allowed for two full days in in Riga - an eclectic mix of venturing there and thereabouts! One cultural highlight was a truly outstanding Latvian dance concert. From primary school age to more "mature" the dancers we were entertained with their grace, energy and passion. Aside from that the group enjoyed walking tours, the botanical gardens, the extensive markets (housed inside a row of massive aircraft hangers) and of course the local eating and drinking establishments.

 

It was now time to head back to Klaipeda for the return leg of the mini-cruise. On the way back guests took the opportunity to visit the beaches at Palanga along with Latvia’s most curious tourist attractions - The Hill of Crosses. There were so many of us there that one guest renamed it the Hill of Crossings. This is an ancient pilgrimage site where people come to lay crosses. What started at a small site now has over 100,000 crosses of various sizes along with a newly built visitor centre.

 

It was homeward bound from now with a lovely sunset as we boarded the "Aura Seaways" for our overnight crossings back to Kiel.


We had a couple of further stop-overs in Germany (where our campsite baked our group two of the best cakes ever made) and another stop over close to Eindhoven before heading back to Calais.

 

So all good things must come to an end. We had a little gathering on the final evening with a terrific group of people who really did push the boundaries in the Baltic States. Thank you to each and every one of you.


 

Coq au Van (the amusingly titled recipe feature)


Sausage Casserole with Garlic Breadcrumb


Ingredients

For the crumb topping (optional)


STEP 1

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a shallow ovenproof casserole over a medium heat and gently fry the sausages for 5-8 mins, or until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate using tongs. Tip the onions into the pan and fry for 5-8 mins until beginning to turn golden. Drizzle in a little more oil if the onions start to stick. Sprinkle in the sugar and cook for a minute before stirring in the vinegar, tomato purée and paprika to form a paste. Tip in the tomatoes, then pour the wine into the tomato can, swish it round, and add to the pan. Stir in the bay leaves and beans, then arrange the sausages on top so they’re half-submerged in the sauce but still a little exposed.


STEP 2

Bring the mixture to a simmer, then bake in the oven for 20 mins. Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix the breadcrumbs with the garlic and parsley, then season and stir in 1 tbsp oil. Scatter the topping over the casserole, then drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp oil and bake for 10 mins more until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then take to the table and serve from the dish.

 

Motorhoming Tips


If you are heading to either France, Italy, Spain or Portugal you may know that all of them have toll roads. The traditional way to pay tolls is for the passenger to hand precariously out of the window to grab tickets and/or insert cards or cash.

 

For just a few English pounds you could invest in a toll tag. A few companies do them. They all work in the same way in that you set up an online account (linked to your bank account), take delivery of a small electronic tag which you put in your windscreen and then just drive. When you get to the toll booth, it will beep, the barrier opens and you drive through. Payment is taken from your bank automatically and you will receive statements online showing you how much you have spent.

 

Try these:

·         “Emovis” provide tags that cover France, Spain and Portugal: https://www.emovis-tag.co.uk/subscription/ If you are a Caravan and Motorhome Club member they have a member discount on at the moment.

·         “Bip and Go” covers France, Spain, Portugal and Italy: https://www.bipandgo.com/en/

·         There is a French company called “Fulli” who also offer a tag to cover France, Spain, Portugal and Italy: https://www.fulli.com/en


 

Keep in touch



Instagram: CrossingsMotorhome


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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