Welcome to the October edition of the newsletter at the tail end of what has been a very busy touring season. We have had three tours out in September. Gary and Eleanor took out a very successful tour to the Loire & Burgundy and Wendy and I have just returned from an equally successful Tuscany Tour. Meanwhile, Colin and Sue were running the perennial favourite down to Croatia & Slovenia. We have full tour reports in the French and Italian tours with Sue's report featuring in next month's edition.
This month also see the 'big one' in terms of motorhome shows at the NEC. We will be there as usual and have a bit of a preview later in the newsletter.
We have another great one-pot recipe (inspired by our Italian trip) and this month's motorhomers are all about not using satnavs.
2024 touring season update
Just a reminder that we have just added a new tour to the 2024 schedule - Lake Garda & Venice May 2024. We do still have availability on this tour if you would like to join us.
Also, although the Swiss & French Alps Tour was full, one of our regulars has transferred across to another tour. If you would like the space, please contact us.
Regular readers will know that our tours do fill up quickly and that we are now fully booked on most of our tours. However, we have added extra capacity for 2024 and will put on extra tours where the demand exists, so please do contact us if there is anything you are interested in for 2024 - please do not assume that we are full!
We also operate reserve lists for each tour. There is no commitment if you do put your name on the waiting list - it just means that we will come to you first in the event of a cancellation.
To check the latest availability on all of our tours, the easiest thing to do is call (07957 745434) or email email@example.com.
NEC October Show Preview
Regular readers will know that this is by far our favouritist show of the year. It is the biggest (with over 100,000 visitor) and the best (with all the new motorhome models being displayed) and also has a bunch of D-list celebrities. Notably, this year we have our namesake Mr Vic Reeves. It is a sign of our great age that these once anarchic and edgy comedians now make a living as minor celebs at a motorhome show.
My cynicism aside, if you only go to one motorhome show a year, make sure it is this one. There are over 1000 leisure vehicles on display and the best bit is all of the smaller stands that have everything you can think of. We are in one of these smaller stands in Hall 9 on Stand 9.34b. Please come and say hello if you are visiting.
Tickets must be bought in advance. Full details on the show website: https://thenec.co.uk/whats-on/motorhome-and-caravan-show/
Loire & Burgundy Tour Report
This was the first outing for our Loire & Burgundy Tour, with Gary and Eleanor at the helm. We have done lots of tours to France over the years, focussing in on particular areas. The idea behind this one is that it allowed us to get into the heart of 'French France' without having to do massive mileage whilst avoiding the big cities and tourist traps.
First stop on the Loire was the historic city of Le Mans. Le Mans is perhaps best known for the racing circuit, which you can visit anytime of the year along with a very interesting museum. For most, the main attraction as the city itself, which is a largely Gothic place boasting a wonderful 13th century cathedral and plenty of more modern shops and restaurants. At night customers enjoyed the annual light show where massive lasers project colourful images onto many of the historic buildings.
Next stop was into the Loire Valley itself with a few nights spent on a couple of beautiful campsites on the stretch between Angers and Tours. Here we organised a wine tasting evening for the group. This is the Anjou wine growing region and in addition to the tasting, guests were taken by our expert local guide for a stroll into the vineyards to see how the grapes are grown and harvested. This is a great time of year to go as the harvest is in full swing and you can literally smell the grapes as they are pulled off the vines.
We are slap bang in chateaux territory here with guests getting out to visit some of the better and lesser well known castles. Highlights include the stunning chateau and gardens at Villandry and also the tallest chateau in the Loire at Brissac. Our more energetic guests were able to access the Loire a Velo cycle path, which runs close to our campsites and provides a fantastic traffic free and flat ride down the river.
There are some cracking towns down on this stretch too including Angers, Tours, Amboise and Blois all of which nestle on the river and all of which have stunning chateaux.
The 12th of September was the tenth birthday of our business so all three tours had there own get-togethers to join us in a toast to our first decade. On a personal note we would just like to thank everyone for the messages and videos that were posted that night, which do mean a lot to us - thanks.
It was time for the tour to move into the Burgundy region. Basically, if you keep following the path of the Loire and then continue east, you end up in Burgundy. The region is famous for food and wine and also has loads of unspoilt towns and smaller cities to enjoy. We had a couple of stops here, the first near the lesser known small city of Auxerre. The city is the perfect place to have a day out. There is a massive cathedral that sits on the hill with the winding river beneath. Around the cathedral there is a network of cobbled streets teeming with shops, bars and restaurants. "French France" at its best in many ways.
We also spent some time in the equally pretty walled town of Beaune. This is the capital of the wine growing region with many of the local attractions centred around wine. It is home to the beautiful old hospital (called the Hôtel-Dieu) with its distinctive geometric patterned roof. The building now houses a museum that explains the wine industry in detail and it is home to the internationally recognised annual wine auction.
Quite apart from the lovely locations, Gary and Eleanor were keen for me to report back on what a wonderful group of people they had on this tour. We like to let the social events happen organically at Crossings (rather than enforcing them) and by all accounts the social side of this tour was very successful. We could see from the pictures from the group meal (where we took over the whole restaurant in Burgundy) what a great time everyone was having. So if you are reading this and you were on the tour, thanks very much for playing your part in such a fantastic trip.
Our Burgundy & Loire Tour is having a rest in 2024, but we are running other tours to different parts of France including a new one to Brittany, Normandy & The Atlantic Coast
and an old favourite to Provence & The Ardeche. Please contact us to check availability.
Tuscany Tour Report
Whilst Gary and Eleanor were enjoying the fine weather and company in France, Wendy and I set off of the inaugural outing of the Tuscany Tour. Planned in 2019 and then kiboshed by COVID, we were all very keen to get going.
This promised to be a lovely tour for us personally as we already knew 10 of the 12 couples that joined us. Our two new couples were made to feel very welcome (as we don't do cliques at Crossings)!
First off were a a couple of driving days to get us down through France. We broke these up with a couple of social events in the evening starting with one of Wendy's (fast becoming famous) cheese and wine events. The following night we all found ourselves eating Beouf Bourgignon in the campsite restaurant in Bourgignon!
The next stage of the trip saw a slight change to the schedule in that we would normally head for the Mont Blanc Tunnel. However, it was due to be closed from September to December for some major surface repairs, so instead we headed for the Frejus Tunnel with a two night stop-over in the very pretty lakeside town of Annecy. Here, guests were able to cycle or take the bus into the town, take boat trips on the lake, or just amble down the small canals and quays in the old town.
It is worth mentioning here that we got one of the best and certainly the largest group meal that we have ever experienced. The portions were simply huge (and also really good) and I have to admit that on this rare occasion, I was beaten.
The next stage of the journey turned out to be rather serendipitous. A few days before we left, there had been a landslide that closed the approach road to the Frejus Tunnel for vehicles over 3.5t. Consequently, the Mont Blanc Tunnel stayed open. As a result we had part of the group go through Mont Blanc, another part through the Frejus Tunnel and another group go over the Mont Cenis Pass. The latter of these proved to be the best driving day of the tour (and of the year for some) with everyone choosing to go back this route on the return leg.
So we were now all in Italy with a stop over the hills around Asti (famous for fizzy white wines) and also pretty good at doing pizzas. We love the look on the chef's face when 20 of us all turned up for a pizza unexpectedly.
Our first main stop was in the delightful city of Pisa, famed for the tower of course but also a very pretty and lively city in its own right. Our schedule allowed for two full days in the city with some guests choosing to take the short train ride of the walled town of Lucca, just half an hour away.
From here we spent a few nights in the ever-popular Florence. It was hot in the city (to quote Billy Idol) and although this slowed us all down a bit it didn't stop us enjoying the highlights including the stunning Duomo, Pont Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery (home to the famous statue of David who had the right idea being naked in this heat). Our favourite view of the city is from the high point at Michelangelo Piazza. From here you can see all of sites, the river and the mountains in the background.
Next stop was the slightly more sedate hill-top town of San Gimignano. This really is the quintessential Tuscan town with its distinctive towers, tall buildings, narrow streets and surrounding defensive medieval wall. The views to and from San Gimignano are simply stunning as it nestled among the vines and cypress trees.
Time for a change of scenery and pace starting with a lovely drive through the Tuscan hills and onto the Etruscan Coast. Although Tuscany is not really famous for its coast, we wanted to include it in the tour to give everyone the full experience. In the end, we are pleased that we did it as it was much quieter and slightly cooler by the sea. For the first time, it felt like it was the end of the season as we enjoyed a much slower couple of days around the coast, the campsite pool and the campsite restaurant.
Our final stop, although not technically in Tuscany, could not be missed. This was the Cinque Terre, a series of five beautiful fishing villages made up of brightly coloured houses and cottages clinging precariously to the cliff-side. The best way to access them is by train, which we were able to access from close to our campsite. Some guests managed to get to all five towns in the day, which was pretty impressive. We managed two.
It was time to start the journey north with a route back up through the Piedmont region of Italy (close to Turin) followed by another stunning drive over the Mont Cenis Pass and then a couple more stop-overs in France before getting back to Calais.
On a personal note, this tour was a long time coming. Thanks to everyone who has been waiting since 2019 to come on it and thank you to all of our guests for making it such a memorable tour in our tenth anniversary year.
The Tuscany Tour will be running again in 2024 with a couple of changes from this year's itinerary (most notably the addition of Rome). Please contact us to check availability.
Coq au Van (the amusingly titled recipe feature)
3 tsp olive oil
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds
pinch of chilli flakes
150g baby plum tomatoes, halved
80g shredded kale
zest and juice of ½ a lemon
15g grated Parmesan
Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large non-stick sauté pan or wok then use scissors to snip in the chipolatas in small chunks. Fry for 2-3 minutes until starting to colour then add the gnocchi and the rest of the oil and cook on a high heat, tossing occasionally for 5-6 minutes until crisp and browned.
Add the spring onions, garlic, fennel seeds and chilli and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, then mix in the tomatoes and the kale. Add a drizzle of water to the pan then cover with a lid (or a baking tray if the pan doesn’t have a lid) and cook for 3 minutes until the kale and tomatoes have wilted.
Remove the lid and cook until any excess water has evaporated. Finally, add the lemon zest, juice and Parmesan and toss everything together, seasoning to taste. Divide between two bowls and serve.
This month's motorhoming tips are all about satnavs, or more specifically, not using satnavs. This is a very subjective one, but having motorhomed on the continent for the last 14 years, we have come to the conclusion that the best way to navigate is...Google Maps.
We have found that it provides the most reliable and up-to-date route planning. I could give lots of examples of where satnavs have not been as good, particularly with the expensive ones designed specifically for motorhomes.
This is not to say that Google Maps does not have any issues. All navigation systems need to be used with a degree of common sense. However, when I think back to pre-satnav days and all that map reading and arguing, on balance, Google Maps has the edge.
Although Google Maps will work off-line, we recommend putting your data roaming on so that you get live updates (saved us half an hour on the way home last week). It actually uses very little data by the way.
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.