Welcome to the November edition of the newsletter, with a particular welcome to those of you press-ganged into signing up at the NEC.
The main feature this month is Sue and Colin's tour report on the Croatia & Slovenia Tour that came back at the end of September. The lovely Lake Bled is pictured.
We also have a run-down of the NEC Motorhome Show. It turns out that the newsletter actually has more readers than I realised. There were at least six (yes, six) people we met at the show who admit to reading it. It seems you particularly like the recipes! Half of the readership (yes, three) have commented on the number of typos, for which I apologise. Sometimes I get my worms mixed up.
As usual we have another great one-pot recipe and this month's motorhome tip is all about preparing your van for the winter.
Croatia and Slovenia (September) Tour Report
A big thanks to Colin and Sue for running the tour and to everyone who came along. Thanks too for Sue for the following report:
The second tour of the year to Croatia & Slovenia left Dover on a calm clear day at the beginning of September. The first four days of the trip were mainly driving days getting us across France, Germany and Austria before our first longer stop in Slovenia.
Despite the longish drives our guests still found time to fit in visits into Strasbourg, a morning at Dachau concentration camp – a very moving visit, stock their motorhomes with local supermarket produce and even swim in the campsite pools and lakes.
Arriving at the beautiful Lake Bled in Slovenia gave us 3 days to re-charge our batteries and really get into holiday mode. The weather was sunny and warm and guests enjoyed a walk in the Vintner Gorge, cycling round the lake and local area, visiting the castle and being rowed across to the island in the middle of the lake – nobody was brave enough to swim to the island. We also enjoyed a group meal at the campsite overlooking the lake.
Next stop on the tour was the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana where we explored the castle, took boat trips and enjoyed some of the many excellent restaurants. Local buses were the preferred mode of transport here.
Continuing on, we headed down into Croatia for the next part of the tour. The weather continued to be kind – lovely warm sunny days gave the chance to swim in the sea. The sea around the Croatian coast is crystal clear and a pleasant temperature (once you are in!).
We spent several days in the coastal areas of Croatia – one of the highlights were the stunning sunsets over the sea. A particularly memorable evening was spent on an evening boat trip around the islands to see dolphins and enjoy a meal on board as we watched the sun go down. There was time during the days to explore on foot, by bike or on local buses.
The drives between sites along the coast offer amazing views. From the clifftop roads you can look down on the vast expanses of water and the tiny villages and bays dotted amongst the cliffs.
A favourite drive of the tour was the drive of two halves – the first hour or so was along the coast road overlooking the coast. The second half then takes you inland into the pine forests, over the mountains, around hair pin bends and on to our next stop at the Plitvice Lakes National Park. The temperature went from 26⁰C to 16⁰C and back again on this journey, part of which was up in the clouds.
The lakes are one of the highlights of the whole tour. 16 lakes interlinked by waterfalls and streams which you can explore either on foot or via a boat or panoramic train. Unfortunately, although the day started fine, we encountered some thundery rain from late morning until about 3:00pm so there were some slightly bedraggled guests and Tour Leaders returning to camp. We soon dried out as the storm passed over and left another sunny warm evening.
Next stop on the tour was a full day out in Zagreb the capital of Croatia. There was plenty to do and see either walking or taking the hop on/hop off bus and a wide variety of restaurants and bars where you can sit and watch the world go by – this seems to be a favourite pastime for the locals. Thankfully the forecasted rain held off until we were on the coach back to the campsite.
After leaving Zagreb it was time to head for home. Amazingly the weather continued to hold out, a couple of misty mornings but they soon cleared to leave blue skies and pleasant temperatures again so we could make the most of our last few days. Driving back through Austria and the Black Forest region in Germany the views never fail to impress although the few flakes of snow spotted on top of the mountains reminded us of what to expect back home!
Thank you to all our guests for joining us on another memorable trip.
Sue & Colin
Our Croatia & Slovenia Tour is running again in September 2024. It is now fully booked but please get in touch if you would like to add your name to the reserve list.
NEC October Show
I start this section with an apology. It turns out that the organisers of the NEC Motorhome Show read last month's newsletter (hello Ema and Karen). So let me start by saying what a fantastically well organised and professional event it was (and that we really liked our stand on a very busy corner right opposite the Motorhome and Caravan Club and if we could have that again next year that would be great despite what I said about z-list celebrities in last month's edition).
In fact, it was a very successful show for us. We have been going for ten years now and this year we had more newsletter sign-ups than ever and gave away more brochures than ever. In fact, we only had 12 left by Sunday afternoon, which was getting a bit dicey.
Overall, over 100,000 people visited the show during the six days, including loads of our regular customers - it was so nice to see you all and thanks for coming to see us. Sorry if you didn't get a cupcake, but they were all gone by the end of the first day!
We normally get a good feel for the motorhome market by chatting to the dealers at the shows. It looks like the market may have topped out now. Prices are still high but they do not seem to be getting any higher. It seems that there is more stock around now and the dealers are looking to do deals. Supply of new models still seems to be an issue with new owners waiting up to a year on some (but not all) models.
Aside from all the serious business, we did get the chance to see a bit of (our namesake) Vic Reeves who was talking about bird watching and painting. We didn't hear any mention of the "dove from above" or the "crow from below", which was a missed opportunity in our opinion. If that means nothing to you, then please Google it.
The next motorhome show at the NEC is the on from 13th to 18th February 2024. We will be there as usual. More details about the show can be found here: https://ccmshow.co.uk/
2024 Bookings - an update
At this time of year we are now full on most tours with limited availability on what is left for next year. We do still have spaces available and we do operate reserve lists on our over-subscribed tours, so please get in touch if you are considering travelling with us next year.
We also like to be flexible and if there is a lot of demand for a particular tour, we will try and put a new tour on. We have already done that with the new dates for the Lake Garda & Venice Tour. So the main message is: please do not assume that it is too late to book for 2024!
Also, a reminder that our early bird discounts of £100 are still available until 31st December 2023. Please note that we never do any last-minute offers so our early bird price (in combination with loyalty discount if you have been before) is always the lowest price you will pay.
Coq au Van (the amusingly titled recipe feature)
I realised this morning that despite the hilarious title of this feature, I have never actually done a Coq au Vin recipe. Se here it is.
Coq au Vin
1.5kg free-range chicken
2 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
200g smoked lardons
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved
12 shallots, peeled
2-3 tbsp cognac
750ml bottle good red burgundy
1 bouquet garni (see tips)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp cornflour (see tips)
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Buttery baked potatoes or mash, crème fraîche and dressed baby salad leaves to serve
Cut the chicken into 4-6 large pieces (or ask your butcher to do this for you). Heat the oil and butter in the casserole/pan and brown the chicken all over, working in batches if necessary. Remove the chicken and set aside.
In the same pan, fry the lardons until crisp, then add the mushrooms and shallots and cook until lightly coloured. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, then remove it from the heat, pour in the cognac and flambé to burn off the alcohol (see tips).
Return the pan to the heat, pour in the red wine, add the bouquet garni and garlic, then season well with salt and pepper. Add a little water to the cornflour (see Make Ahead) to make a loose paste, then stir it into the sauce in the pan, making sure there are no lumps.
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Bring the stew to the boil, then put on the lid and transfer to the oven for 60-75 minutes until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened.
When ready to serve, remove the bouquet garni, season the stew to taste and scatter over fresh parsley. Serve with baked potatoes or mash, crème fraîche and dressed baby salad leaves.
As it is getting close to that time of year where you might be laying up the van for the winter, I have prepared/plagiarised a handy checklist for winterising your motorhome:
Drain the water and waste systems and leave the taps and valves in the open position
Empty and clean the toilet cassette and lubricate the blade
Leave the fridge and freezer doors slightly ajar and make sure both are clean
Lift up the cushions and stand on end so air can circulate
Open cupboard doors for the same reason
Make sure batteries are charged and use a trickle charger (if possible)
Switch off 12v systems (if possible)
Release the handbrake and leave in gear
Slightly increase the tyre pressures
Turn off the gas
Ensure security measures are in place
Take if for a drive from time to time or at least run the engine and move slightly
Keep in touch
Wendy has asked me to remind you all that we are on Facegram and Instabook. On there you will find lots of lovely tour photographs and the latest updates on all of our tours and exhibitions. Wendy has asked me to ask you to "like" and "follow" us though I have no ideas what either of these things mean. The links to both are below:
Please feel free to contact us at any time. When we are away, calls will bounce to our mobiles at no expense to yourself.