Alan's Blog

 

Travelling

A Traveller's Dream

I am very thankful that we have Google Maps (and other route planners) and the internet – something I could have only dreamed about as a much younger person. As a 'want-to-be-gypsy', I can roughly plan my dream tours mapping out distances and researching places of interest to visit. I say 'roughly plan', as planning is something I don't normally do – I usually just 'follow my nose'. However, it is sometimes a good idea to have at least some idea of where to go otherwise it is all too easy to miss seeing something worthwhile én-route. Even when 'following my nose' I still carry with me a box of selected guide books from my little library and some electronic versions too, so it is easy for me to search for (and make a diversion to) some place of interest along the way.

I even have a spread sheet that tells me how much money it will cost in fuel to travel the route in my car. Just recently, I've been considering spending roughly three months running away from the UK winter. I don't want to spend more than about £50/week on fuel overall so that limits me to about 4000 miles spread over 12.5 weeks – or an average of 320 miles per week. Of course, that is assuming that I use my usual car and don't take our caravan as towing adds hugely to the fuel cost. I also need to find somewhere to sleep at night unless I can somehow manage to sleep in the car, which isn't the most comfortable bedroom I'd like to use. If I take a tent, I get the worst of all worlds – discomfort and camp site fees, both of which I want to avoid as I don't like being uncomfortable and I certainly don't want to spend more money than I have to – after all, I'm not exactly affluent now I'm not working. Maybe buying the van I've been thinking about is the best idea. That way, I'd have a reasonable amount of space and could take my bicycle too.

As is so often the case in this life, one either has the time and no money or the money and no time. How sad.

The main problem is actually deciding where to travel and what route to take. The more I research the more I realise that there are so many wonderful places to visit – and I'm only considering Europe which is a fairly small area with innumerable fantastic places crammed into it. I guess it's being spoilt for choice – like a kid in a sweet shop!

One of the huge disadvantages of Google Maps is that you can only enter 10 places along your route. Yes, I know there are ways to circumvent this but none of them are particularly convenient. Enter TomTom - yes, the SatNav equipment manufacturer. Their route planning website at https://mydrive.tomtom.com/ allows you to enter lots of places along your proposed route - I don't know if there is a limit or not - I haven't encountered one yet. Another function absent from Google Maps but available on TomTom is the facility to enter details of your caravan or motorhome so that it can give you the appropriate route for your vehicle. Another really cool feature is that it links to TripAdvsior to tell you where there are things to do, hotels or restaurants. Just how cool is that! There are many other facilities available too.

Of course, running away from the UK winter really means running away from all unpleasant winter weather anywhere, so heading as far south and west as possible seems like a good option. In Europe, that direction would take me to southern Spain and/or Portugal, both countries having a mild climate for most of the winter – although gales and floods were a feature of their winter weather last year – something I'd like to avoid. Travelling further south means heading for some winter sunshine in Morocco although driving to Morocco would take me well over my 4000-mile budget; Agadir being a return trip of about 5000 miles and would increase my fuel cost to nearly £62 per week in fuel costs. However, that extra cost may be offset by lower living costs so I'm still thinking about Morocco as an option – and it's likely to be a warmer option that Spain or Portugal too, and with little chance of gales and floods.

Although a tour of three months seems to be a long time in which to see places, it may be insufficient to see all those places which I could visit during a 4000 mile journey. One of the advantages of staying in one place for several weeks is that one can spend time just chilling-out instead of being on the go like a tourist on a coach tour that covers seven countries in two weeks, for example. As much of my time away would be spent in Spain escaping from the worst of the winter weather, I may not have as much time to spend in the Dolomites or other places as I'd like. Last summer (2019), for example, we travelled 4000+ miles in France and Switzerland during a six week tour but still felt there was a lot more that we could have seen had we had longer to travel and thereby stay in each place for longer.

One of my routes, for example, takes me anti-clockwise around a number of countries. The reason for the anti-clockwise direction is because I'd be setting out towards Spain in the worst weather and need to get to the sunshine as soon as I possibly can. Having spent the worst of the winter in Spain, where I'd try to find some work as an English language teacher, I'd start moving at the start of Spring, when life becomes more bearable as the temperature starts to rise. I'd follow the coast from where I'd spent the winter, say, somewhere along the Costa Blanca, making my way slowly towards Monaco and the French Riviera. My journey would then continue along the coast to Pisa and then Florence before heading north to Verona, then Bolzano from where I'd spend time exploring the Dolomites. After spending some time in those wonderful mountains, I'd head for Austria, to Innsbruck and the Tyrol. My next port of call would be the area around the Sylvenstein Dam (refer to URL https://www.pandotrip.com/sylvenstein-dam-a-great-route-in-the-alpine-landscape-germany-13153/ ) in southern Germany before driving the 'Romantic Route' through the historic towns from Fussen to Wurzberg (refer to URL: https://www.romantischestrasse.de/index.php?L=1 and view the map below at URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Karte_Romantische_Stra%C3%9Fe_2016.png).

 

From Wurzburg, I'd be near the end of my time away and be looking forward to getting back home again to see Grace and JP, so I'd probably cover the distance home fairly quickly as, I hope, the weather would be getting much better on the home front.

The route I've described above is only one of many that I've planned during the last few months, but doing this has given me some great ideas of where to go and has passed my time during a long period of unemployment and 'lockdown' in quiet amusment - it's given me a lot of fun as well as some good ideas.

Other routes include a trip along the coast of Norway, from Denmark and southern Sweden, to the end of the road near Skarsvåg to see the aurora borealis, then travelling back through Sweden and Finland to St. Petersburg in Russia before heading south-west through whatever countries I happen to fancy visiting at the time. An Eastern Europe tour would also be a wonderful experience, as would a drive to Athens and Istanbul. I've always fancied driving around the coast of Europe as an amazing trip too. My list of tours is endless.

Of course, all this is somewhat hypothetical as I'm yet to decide whether or not to go as I really hate the idea of going alone; without Grace and JP (and Kanga). My real Traveller's Dream would be to go away and stay away - with no definite date to return to the UK - if ever.

map courtesy of Google Maps.

 

 

 

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