10 Tips for Navigating our Schengen Sentence

10 Tips for Navigating our Schengen Sentence

At Motoroaming HQ we are finally coming to the end of our first official Schengen Sentence. After 84 days in Europe through the winter 2021/22, we returned to the UK to tread water until we were able to step back into the Zone. The period from 21st February until the end of May has taught us so much about how navigate this ‘sentence’ (said of course tongue in cheek). Such have been our revelations during this time that we wanted to share our lessons about how to make the most of this period, based on our experiences.

Irrespective of your views of Brexit, we have it, fair and square; now we must navigate it positively in a way that meets all our travel needs and personal requirements. There’s no doubting for those of us who have been used to roaming freely across Europe, navigating the Schengen has had an impact on all our travels. 

As with all aspects of life, how we deal with our challenges is driven by the mindset we adopt when managing these changes. We can moan all we like, although these new rules are here to stay and so if we ‘bend with the wind’ we can learn a new way of travelling that creates a ‘new normal’. 

We have talked to so many people over the last six months and there’s no doubting that the prospect of coming back to the UK for long periods is faced with a dose of dread. As a result we have found many like-minded souls trying to string out their stay in Europe for as long as possible. Often we saw people choosing to bomb it back to the nearest ferry to maximise their time, some having issues with breakdowns that took them to the edge of their allowance, placing all manner of stress on their lives. 

It’s worth adding at this point that we all adopt our own strategies for making the most of our travel time, especially if we are full-time; so there is no judgement being made here. We are, after all, all doing our best with what we have available to us. There is no right or wrong way – just our own way.

As I reflect back to our return in February, I remember we stepped upon our English shores with heavy hearts. We knew that, for at least the next 90 days, we would need to manage our time in the UK otherwise it could feel as long as a winter’s night. We knew instantly that exploring ways to make this period productive and deal with our itchy feet would be a really constructive conversation to have. So having now experienced our first Schengen Sentence, we wanted to share our thoughts, reflections and tips, given we are all in the same boat. 

Scoobie Gamle Strynefjellvagen

10 Tips for Navigating our Schengen Sentence 

1. Hold back some of your 90 days 

When we started talking about our approach to the Schengen Shuffle, we decided our strategy would be not to use all our 90 days.  We wanted to have a buffer to make allowance for any unexpected events. So we choose to save some days in case we break down (which we have a tendency to do) or we needed to get back in hurry. And bizarrely this strategy has really helped us navigate our Schengen Sentence, albeit by default.

This year we ended up having 6 days spare from our winter trip. This enabled us to use these days for a surprise visit to Paris for my mum’s 80th Birthday. Whilst we considered ourselves lucky to have had these extra days, in fact it will now form the basis of our travel strategy catering for our UK lay-over. That break away to foreign shores was great to give us a bit of a European fix, which has proved to be a priceless lesson. Whether it is a City-break for a long weekend or a quick week in the sun somewhere, having enough days to facilitate that break away that could be a god-send during our time back in the UK.

2. Book things up ahead of your return to the UK

Psychologists and Life Coaches agree that to have something to look forward to every 13 weeks is important for our well-being. I think for us wanderlusters, we need something more frequently than that. 

Whilst we were in Portugal, three weeks before our winter trip ended, we began making plans for our 90 days sentence in our homeland. Those plans included a surprise Birthday trip to see my bestie on the Isle of Man, family gatherings to reconnect with loved ones and even practical appointments like Motorhome service, MOT and Dentists. We also took the opportunity to do different things to mark events such as Mother’s Day and Birthdays. This certainly made our time back in the UK more wholesome rather than simply ‘sitting out our time’  before our pass to freedom was released. It gave us a purpose, made life more pleasurable and allowed us to do things that added value to our lives. After all life is just too damned short. 

3. Build in a European non-Schengen or long-haul visit

We’ve talked a lot about the Schengen Shuffle and how to maximise our travel time outside of the UK. And there’s absolutely no reason why this couldn’t work in our favour during our Schengen Sentence too. So why not consider a week to Croatia whilst they finalise their Schengen membership?  At the time of writing, they are a non-Schengen option and will be until 2024. So that is a very viable option that has no impact on our allowance. What about Cyprus? They too are outside of Schengen for the moment; same with Morocco, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. We’re not suggesting taking the van; we are saying – why not fly for a bit of a holiday? If funds allow why not go further afield for an adventure? This will certainly be on our agenda for future years as we look to take advantage of what Brexit offers.

4. Put your van in storage and have a staycation

If like us you are full-time then some of the options above might seem a bit more tricky to navigate. After all what do we do with our van? Often our insurance small print says that we are not allowed more than 48  hours away from the van, so that can add a very real complication. Our Comfort Policy though does say that we can store the van in a CaSSOA Gold standard Site, so that is what we did. We found Cadeside Storage and Campsite in Wellington, Somerset, that allows members of the Caravan and Motorhome Club to store their van safely and compliantly. So we took advantage of this and on two separate occasions stored Scoobie for just £50 per week. There is also a monthly charge if you wanted to go away for longer.

This has been revolutionary for us and will absolutely feature in future Schengen Sentence periods. It has also confirmed our need to ensure we keep up with our C&MC membership fee. This storage facility allowed us to book up an AirBnB in the Roseland Peninsula, a part of Cornwall that we don’t know and would never dream of taking Scoobie to – and it was an amazing retreat. 

5. Tour the UK and Ireland

I think Brexit offers us a huge opportunity to explore our own country. And whilst we may prefer the balmy weather and cheaper lifestyle across the Channel, our homeland has some terrific sights to see. Whilst we didn’t do much exploring during this particular period, 2021 saw us explore areas that were brand new to us. Essex, what a joy that county is. Scotland – goes without saying, especially Dumfries and Galloway. And then there’s Wales with its hidden gems. Of course the weather is not guaranteed yet having seen some of the Spanish forecasts this spring, sunshine is never a banker.  

As part of our 2022 advantures, we are heading over to Ireland, both north and south. Neither of these countries contribute to our Schengen allowance so we are totally free to roam here either as part of a longer road-trip or as a way to break up your Schengen Sentence. You can sail with Stena Lines from Liverpool, Holyhead or Fishguard. Or why not take the opportunity to visit the Isle of Man, sailing from Liverpool or Heysham. Whilst the ferries are not cheap, if you go for long enough, then the cost is no more than hard hitting than our diesel costs. 

6. Buy a little run around car (if you don’t already have one)

Whilst I would much rather ride alongside my travel buddy in the van, having our little runaround car that we bought during Covid, has been a priceless resource for us; even though we have to travel in convoy. Finding little campsites tucked away in the countryside has allowed us to still roam and reach appointments having the car by our side. Granted this comes with additional complications when you come to return to the Schengen Zone again. Although we have found a campsite who will store the car for us for £30 per month and of course we can SORN it and don’t have to pay out for insurance whilst we are away. So we will just built it into our monthly budgeting.

 

7. Get your DIY jobs done

As we reflect back on our 6 years of travel, we have found that whilst on the road, we rarely have much time to do practical ‘stuff’.  You know things like clean the roof, bash the carpets and fix things that have rattled and rolled on the roads through Europe. The one thing about living or travelling in a van is that there is always something to mend – or so it seems to us. It is true that our travel lifestyle means that sometimes we need to stop to do our jobs, and so having time in the UK to be still and address our little niggles has been so productive.  Having access to DIY shops and places that fulfil your creativity is great and gives your van a whole new personality, ready for your next trip.

When we see that this period can serve a positive purpose, then it helps us navigate the time with a healthier mindset.

8. Start to plan your next Schengen trip

Talking about your next trip, use this homeland time to look forward; to dream, plan and organise. It keeps your wanderlust satiated and gives you something to work towards. This has certainly been true for us. Planning our next 10 months out has been a really good focus, especially given that it needs a bit more thinking through these days. I have really enjoyed finding places to visit when we head over to Ireland. Going through Pinterest and joining new Facebook groups to collect ideas keeps the excitement going. Whilst I am an advocate of being grounded in the here and now, having half an eye on the immediate future is also healthy, especially when you are trying to navigate being in a place where you might find yourself stuck. 

Planning for a trip

9. Find new places to visit and some ‘go to’ stopovers

Whilst we have focused our time and location on the M5 corridor, we have also tried to mix up our ‘homes’. We’ve balanced going to CL’s that we love for their location, walks and accessibility to the motorway. Also we have relished finding new spots that are so easy to bypass keeping our sense of exploration alive.

We loved our Orchard Farm Campsite and Glamping Pods near Glastonbury for a Mother’s Day surprise; being on the Somerset Levels exploring the Nature Reserves; finding a lovely wild spot at Dunkeswell Aerodrome and enjoying Broadhembry in Devon.  We have a go-to site in Hereford in the middle of the countryside at Holme Lacey and love our Golf Centre retreat at Cleveland. We have indulged ourselves in days out finding new hidey holes at Frampton on Severn and Otterton Mill down in Budleigh Salterton.

When we reflect back it’s been quite a rich set of experiences that are all too easy to miss waiting impatiently for our new 90 day allowance to begin. 

Avoid places that just make you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason. It’s important to feel at home whilst we navigate this period. We’ve chosen mostly CL’s with hardstanding to avoid sinking and which enable us to manage our UK budget, which is invariably more expensive than on the continent, where we wild camp a lot more. Also it is worth keeping a mindful eye on Bank and School Holidays as advanced booking may be required. We got caught out during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.  

10. Do things that make you feel good

Life is always about balance and when you find yourself in a place that feels less than appealing, it is important to nurture your physical and mental well-being. So dig deep and focus on what motivates you, makes you feel fit and healthy and that pleases you. Whether that might be finding a yoga class, doing some daily walking, eating nice meals or engaging in a hobby that you love. Or perhaps do things that you wouldn’t normally have time for when you’re out travelling. Treat yourself to meetings with friends, or making connections with people you’ve met on the road. Anything that gives you a focus, makes you feel good and inspires you. All these important little wins will help you manage any sadness you feel not being able to travel in the way you really want to. 

Whist we would undoubtedly prefer to be in Europe full-time (minus the MOT of course), that is not possible right now. So this time back in the UK has been revolutionary for us and has given us a new perspective of how we can travel differently. Small adjustments to the way we manage our non-Schengen time will help make a happy life rather than one peppered with irritation and longing. Life is short and finding ways to adopt a healthy approach to our challenges is key to our happiness.

So we hope that sharing our experiences from the last three months might give you something to think about with your travels. We would also love to hear from you if you have other ideas to add to this list. How have you managed your Schengen Sentence that we can share with others? Please feel free to add comments below or comment on our Facebook Page.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and heavenly travel experiences, home and abroad.

 

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6 Reasons to send you to Coventry

6 Reasons to send you to Coventry

Coventry is not the first place in England that I would naturally think of as a place to visit. Yet we have come to appreciate after 6 years of full-time travel that every place has a uniqueness to offer anyone who has a dose of curiosity. So in this short City Guide we share with you the highlights that we found during a recent half-day visit.  You never know, Coventry might well end up being on your ‘Travel To Do List’. Let’s see if we can persuade you.  

Coventry is perhaps famous for two things;

  • The idiom of ‘Sending you to Coventry’ suggesting that we are deliberately ostracising you, which really doesn’t sell the notion of visiting any time soon.
  • The infamous bombing of the city on 14 November 1940 that whilst it may have destroyed its Cathedral did not dent its spirit. 

 

Officially mapped in the West Midlands, Coventry is nestled in the heart of industrial Britain and as such leaves the city with a reputation that seems not worthy of a tourist visit. These days that industry has morphed from clock and watches to bicycles, motor and aircraft manufacturing.  Yet as England’s 20th largest city, when you open its Pandora Box you might be surprised with what it has to offer.  

 

1. City of Culture 2021/22

In 2017, Coventry was awarded City of Culture for 2021 due to its diversity, youthful vibe thanks to its 3 universities and central location. Postponed from 2021 because of Covid, Coventry has been celebrating its City of Culture status that has firmly put it on the UK map. Even Radio 1 are doing a Roadshow up there. The kudos of having this accolade does Coventry’s reputation the world of good and encourages us to see it through new eyes. 

 

2. The Reel Store

Triggered as part of the cultural celebrations, the old Telegraph Newspaper offices have been converted into a state of the art immersive, digital gallery allowing visitors to be entertained by an AI experience. The Reel Store is expected to be a permanent exhibition and on 13 May opened its doors with this unique art presentation – and we were one of the first to experience this incredible event. The current exhibition is a collaboration between Rafik Anadol and NASA, using a collection of 2 million pictures from space and calibrated into this unique immersive experience. For £10 per person you will be thrown into a 20 minute display of movement, colour and sound that will transport you to a totally different world.  Check out our video below.

 

3. Medieval Coventry

Coventry has a long history going back centuries and had, once upon a time the best preserved Medieval quarter of any city in England. Although Spon Lane’s offerings, where you will see magnificent examples of buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, didn’t in fact originate here. They have been relocated from around the city and brought together in one place. As you walk down the lane you see the fusion of Tudor designs and timbers at home alongside modern premises and businesses. Yet the paradox is that they are kept alive by this symbiotic arrangement. It is well worth searching out this area of the city, which is within walking distance of the train station. 

Check out our gallery below.

 

4War-time Coventry

Of course Coventry is perhaps best known for its World War 2 history, where on the fateful night of 14/15 November 1940, the Nazi’s blitzed the city, thought to be a target because of their ammunition factories. Coventry had no warning of the impending doom for their city and so they were at the mercy of the German’s bombs. Razed to the ground, Coventry was seen as one of Germany’s most successful battles; killing more than 600 people, bombing over a third of the factories and ammunition centres and reducing Coventry’s industrial reputation quite literally to rubble. To see Coventry’s strength in redefining itself is a testament to its spirit. Today the modern feel is shaded by unnaturally open city spaces that have clearly been shaped by that fateful night. It feels like an emotional journey to come here amidst the modern office buildings and tower blocks although their facades hide a pain from the past and a spirit of forgiveness. 

 

5. Coventry Cathedral, Old and New

One very noticeable victim of the bombing was the city’s grand Cathedral. Defiled by bombing, the building was almost completely destroyed much to the horror of the locals. And yet the very next morning, it was not anger that fuelled survivors to rush to the razed church body, it was forgiveness. It stands today as it did on 14th November 1940 with its heart ripped out and yet when you walk through the church gates into its seemingly empty belly, its soul is very much in tact. A skeleton that stands for forgiveness and fortitude.  The tower, which avoided destruction can be climbed for an aerial view of the city, which they hope to reopen in summer 2022. 

Then in direct contrast, the new Cathedral which adjoins the old has a totally different feel to it. Tall, hollow it felt to me and very soulless, although with a stained glass window that is its crowning glory and well worth seeing.

 

6. Coventry’s Parks and Canal 

Whilst on this visit we didn’t get a chance to visit, Coventry has a surprising number of parkland areas for walking, cycling or play if you have kids to entertain. In fact there are around 16 parks in total. If my intuition was to serve me well, I suspect that some of the parks are as a consequence of the bombing and using the demolished sites in a more positive way. I could find nothing to confirm my instincts, although it feels right. The Coventry Canal, the basin of which you will find to the north of the city is a 38 mile stretch of canal that eventually feeds into the Trent and Mersey at Lichfield. It is navigable by boat, Paddle Board or cycle – on the tow path of course (she says having steered her electric bike into the Llangollen Canal in Wales). 

 

How to get there

Coventry is dead centre in England and in the heart of the motorway network so whichever direction you come from, getting here is pretty easy. South east of Birmingham and directly north of Leamington-Spa, you can easily hop onto the M6, M1 or M40 to reach this understated city. Alternatively you have a great rail network that links Coventry north and south, so reaching this unusual hub is relatively easy. There are plenty of car parks in the city as you’ll see in the map below. For a day’s parking we paid £6.

 

Where to stay 

If you are travelling with your camper or motorhome, then there are no campsites in Coventry. Although you don’t need to go far to find a range of sites from which you can hop onto a train. We’ve included a map from Search for Sites of just some of the options. Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in particular would make a really nice base enabling you to explore more than just Coventry, which is just an added bonus. 

For hotels, check out the map below just to show you how many hotel options there are open to you and choose a booking platform to assess prices across the city. 

 

Where to eat

As with every city in the world, there are all sorts of eateries to choose from, from your branded restaurants to local bistros with food represented from every corner of the world. As a diverse city with multi-ethnicities and not forgetting that it is catering for its University population, Coventry has every food style you can imagine. We ate at Wagamamas as Myles had never been there, so we thought we’d try it. If you would like something that is slightly out of the city and combine it with a place to stay overnight to boot, then why not try The Old Mill in Baginton which is directly south of the city just a 10 minute drive. It is a quintessential English pub and definitely worth checking out and has an enormous car park if you happen to take the motorhome in with you.

So what do you think? Coventry – is it worth a visit? Certainly before our day’s visit I can honestly say that I would never have considered it on my must visit list. Although having been, I think it definitely needs promoting for a day’s visit. Much like an onion, when you strip away the ugly outer layers that perhaps shapes its national reputation, a sweet centre is revealed. We hope that you might give Coventry a chance and let us know what you think. 

 

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The Roseland Peninsula – Cornwall

The Roseland Peninsula – Cornwall

Whether you are full-time travellers like us looking to navigate the Schengen Shuffle or holiday seekers after a unique destination, we have just the place for you. Get out that map, head to the UK’s south west coast and find the path less travelled at the Roseland Peninsula. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and as soon as you pass St Austell you are entering the land of the Heritage Coast. Let us take you on a journey to Cornwall’s hidden treasure where you be greeted by traditional fishing communities, stunning coastal walks and azure waters that would fit seamlessly into Greek holiday brochure.  We’ve added a series of galleries with pictures that capture the Roseland at its best. So click on each picture to see the full gallery available. 

* Map below courtesy of Into Cornwall.

1. St Mawes

We based ourselves on the western edge of the peninsula at the old fishing village of St Mawes. Named after Saint Maudez from Brittany who settled here in the 5th century, St Mawes somehow still maintains its charm and quaintness without the hoards of tourists you might expect of such a stunning picture postcard place. 

With stunning views over the bustling harbour there is a constant buzz from the ferries, fishing boats and wild swimmers looking to master the ocean’s ice-cold water. As a destination all by itself St Mawes is a delight with its remarkably in tact castle, built by King Henry VIII, its narrow Cornish coast-hugging streets, thatch cottages and its waterscape. The ebb and flow of the tide makes for a mesmerising display the waters of which gently change the scene hour by hour. The toots from the Falmouth ferry every 30 minutes reminds you of how the communities along this coast have made the sea their companion and not their enemy. The clinking boats moored up just outside the harbour walls signal the wind’s command of the airwaves whilst the relative shelter from St Antony’s headline to the east brings a certain calmness to life here. 

The stunning walks around this finger of the peninsula will stretch your willing legs for either 3 or 5 miles depending how long you fancy. For a slightly longer circular hike you can encompass St Just in Roseland Church which will net you a nice 6.5 mile return trip. More on that in a moment. 

With art galleries, smart hotels, fishmonger huts on the quay and deli’s you have all that you could desire here. You won’t find a major supermarket, although somehow that part of the matrix’s life sits on the fringes of your holiday. Your days in St Mawes get blessed with a simplicity that is second to none and really needs no interference from the ‘outside world’. 

There is a car park just beside the Rising Sun pub which is chargeable. We paid £35 for the week. There is room for motorhomes to park here for the day although there is no overnight parking allowed. 

 

2. St Just in Roseland

Two miles north from St Mawes is the small hamlet of St Just in Roseland, named in honour of Saint Just the Martyr. The community itself has nothing much of note – although what puts it firmly on the ‘must visit’ map is its ancient church and famous churchyard. 

Hugging the water’s edge, this church, the site of which is thought to have had a place of worship since 550AD, is reputed to have the most picturesque churchyard in England and the only one with a sub-tropical graveyard. Resting places for the local community from a bygone era, share this humble yet tranquil space with camellias, rhododendrons, acers, bluebells and primroses. It is the most incredible place to sit, wander and marvel at how special this piece of land is. It really will blow you away whether you are religious or not.  If you can, check the tide times and visit at high tide for the most magical of settings. 

There is a free car park at the top of the village from which you can walk down the hill down to the church for 0.3 of a mile – just remember you have to walk back. Or you can drive down to one of two car parks run by the National Trust which need coins or the PayforPhone app. There is a little cafe here if you fancy making a longer visit. You can also follow the coastal walk from St Mawes, which is 2 miles, taking the upper footpath back to the water tower for a nice 4 mile round trip. 

 

3. Veryan and Portloe

The Roseland Peninsula is a delight to explore along the coast and inland. Whilst not quite as picturesque, just a few miles away from the sea you are presented with curvaceous fields draped in yellow blankets of Rape crops so bright you need sunglasses. In between and down classically narrow Cornish lanes, you will stumble upon traditional rural villages. The one we loved best was Veryan not least because of the five roundhouse thatch cottages built by Rev Samuel Trist back in the 19th century for each of his daughters. A pair of cottages were built at the two entrances to the village and the fifth, which we never found is hidden behind the village school. Legend suggests they were built round so that the devil couldn’t hide in any of the corners. The village’s 13th century church is also said to have the longest grave in the UK, being the resting place of 15 sailors from the wreckage of stricken cargo ship the Hera, on 1st February 1914. 

The other place worthy of note that we loved was Portloe. This is not a place I would want to bring a motorhome to given the narrow lanes that lead here, although if you have separate transport or come in a car, then this is a must. Portloe on the east coast of the Roseland Peninsula is a traditional Pilchard fishing community that has so much charm and tranquility in equal measure. It is said to be on of the quaintest villages in Cornwall. With its steep streets that loom high above the sea, its tiny harbour is sheltered behind a headland keeping it protected from the Channel winds. Sir John Betjeman said of Portloe “One of the least spoiled and most impressive of Cornish fishing villages”. Although steeped in tales of pirates and the smuggling of French Brandy, today there is less controversy surrounding the village and the remaining three fishermen now trawl for crab and lobster along these crafted shores.

 

4. St Anthony’s Lighthouse and Coastal Walk

With stunning views across the water from St Mawes towards Place, a whole world of stunning hiking awaits you. Accessed either by car parking in Porth Farm National Trust car park or via a twice hourly ferry from St Mawes you will be in walking heaven. A circular route of 6 miles rewards you with World War 2 battery buildings, St Antony’s lighthouse and secret coves to the south; bluebell covered woodland that radiate divine scents, Place Manor and ancient St Anthony’s church to the east. And on the west, undulating cliffs fall away to a craggy coast where seals harbour and you gorgeous views across the Cornish coast towards Mevagissey.  

This walk is so mesmerising, appealing to every sense and every interest as you scale up this shapely landscape admiring the views surrounding you. With the southern tip looming, you begin to see the west coast stretch out in front of you with Falmouth and The Lizard tantalisingly close. The Artillery Battery Station served in both World Wars although was actually built back in 1895. In 1956 the buildings were decommissioned and by 1959 taken over by the National Trust. (If you wanted to you could drive down to this location and start your walk from here. Just around the corner you descend along the South West Coastal Path and come across St Anthony’s Lighthouse which was built in 1835 and is now a holiday cottage, although it is perhaps more famous as being featured in the introduction to children’s TV programme Fraggle’s Rock. 

For us it was the western section that popped like candy in front of our very eyes. With golden sand coves encompassed by jagged rocks and sparkling azure seas, we were immediately transported to somewhere else far away from the UK. Wind-shaped pine trees framed the scene atmospherically as we hugged the rugged coastline with views of our home across the water at St Mawes. And then with sneaky peaks of the crystal blue waters in between the woodland trees, a pine carpet was laid out in front of us with primroses, blue and white bells lining up along our path as if we were celebrities. The smell rose up to tease our nostrils with that heady scent that only spring can offer and our walk morphed into yet another phase of deliciousness. Only the presence of orchids could alter the joy of our day. And there, in the final approach before the car park, a whole field of these beauties welcomed us on the home-straight. Typically a late spring or summer blossom, we were blown away by the early arrival of this precious plant gracing our walk so magnificently. What a way to end this 6 mile hike. 

The Porth Farm car park takes either £1 coins or you can use the PaybyPhone app. Although please bear in mind that there is no signal at the car park so you will need to move out to the coast to be able to pay. There is a cafe just across the road for refreshments or toilets and there are toilets at the Battery half way round the walk. There are plenty of benches to grab a rest and have a picnic. Or you can take the Place ferry from St Mawes, tickets for which can be made on-line with a 10% discount or you can buy full price at the ticket office at St Mawes harbour. In 2022 the cost was £8.50 or £7.65 on-line per person.

 

5. Portscatho and the Hidden Hut

On the east coast of the Roseland Peninsula you will find fine views along Cornwall’s enigmatic coastline where hidden fishing villages hold tales of a bygone era in Mevagissey, Looe and Fowey. Although of course you will have to share your experience with many  other visitors. Not so in this hidden gem of The Duchy. Perhaps the surfing waves of the west are more alluring to most meaning that this tucked away little haven is shielded from too many tourists. 

Portscatho is just a few miles from St Anthony’s Point and is known for its Art Galleries and traditional pilchard fishing community. Although for us, it was the draw of the Hidden Hut that so many had told us about that brought us to this spot. Parking in the car park you have a short 10 minute walk to Porthcurnick Beach. A vast expanse of white sandy beach awaits you that has dogs salivating at the potential for ball games and swims. It is though a different salivation for the two legged kind, as just up from the beach is the famous Hidden Hut, an eating experience that has many famous sort praising their culinary delights with adjectives abound. With a delicious menu that is delivered with efficiency, your taste buds are soon quietened as their eco-friendly serving plates and cups are filled with the most incredible fare. From chowders to curry’s, fish to veggie soups and naughty cakes, this takes the idea of street food to a whole new level. And after a sumptuous partaking of grub, you can then walk off your meal along the South West Coastal path as long as your feet can take you. 

The car park has a tricky entrance to it that has a huge hump that even with our little Hyundai car scraped the undercarriage. So please beware if you bring a camper or motorhome that you might need to enter through the exit to save your undersides. 

 

6. Falmouth

What a lovely surprise Falmouth was. As a general rule we’re not big town/city fans, preferring the charm of rural life that is brimming with natural life and energy. Although we have also come to appreciate after 6 years of full-time travel, that no travel is complete without experiencing all sides of the coin – even the stuff that we like less. And so we made the decision to see Falmouth knowing that a large part of the adventure was to take the ferry across from St Mawes. Seeing things from the water always has a different feel to a land view as it creates a broader perspective. So our 20 minute journey offered us a real treat as we saw the village with fresh eyes and of course had a super welcome into the buzz of what is the world’s third largest naturally deep port. 

Known as the Port of Protection, Falmouth has for centuries been a safe haven for merchant ships passing through the Channel and today large tankers can still be seen harbouring here in the sheltered waters. With a sparkle of tiered streets housing colourful fishermen’s cottages, Falmouth has a quintessential seaside town feel about it. Walking north through the High Street upon cobbled streets, you are welcomed by fluttering flags and independent restaurants overlooking the sea and shops offering a range of purchases to the eager tourist. And that, of course includes the must try Cornish pasties. 

Heading south takes you out of the town hub towards Pendennis Castle. Although before that, it might be worth a visit to the charity run Maritime Museum that focuses on seafaring life, community issues in Cornwall and around the world tthat please visitors of all ages. 

If you’re up for a bit of a walk then you can take the Scenic Route east towards the Castle that will show a bird’s eye view of Falmouth docks. Perhaps not the vista you might choose, although it is actually really interesting to read its history from the information boards along the route. And then you have the mighty fortress of Henry VIII’s Pendennis Castle to feast upon. This 16th century castle with its perfect position looking out to see, was built to protect the country and was one of a number of fortresses that Henry Tudor commissioned during his reign. Now run by English Heritage you can either pay to enter and explore or simply walk around the moat and see Little Denis for free, that perches right on the cliff edge at the peninsula. As you stand at the arch windows looking out towards St Mawes and St Anthony’s Lighthouse you can marvel at the crashing waves and just for a moment or two ponder on the battles that the past holds tribute to. And then walking back along the one way road to the west you will see the beach offerings of this lovely area, which at low tide must be a delight. Falmouth was lovely and albeit just a half day visit, gave us a flavour of this busy and significant port and its role in the shaping of Cornwall’s history. 

If you decide to drive to Falmouth then there is a free car park just before you reach the Castle where it looks like you can stay overnight without restrictions if with your camper (50.148623, -5048318). Or you can park at Little Denis again for free although there is no overnighting allowed here. 

The Falmouth to St Mawes ferry (like the Place Ferry) can be purchased on board for £12 or £10.80 with an on-line 10% discount. They ferries run every 30 mins to the Custom House Quay or the Prince of Wales Pier alternately. You can take dogs and bikes.  The Museum costs £13.80 pp or £12.40 for concessions and £7.75 for children aged between 5-18. Children under 5 enter for free. 

 

7. The Lizard Point – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Whilst not technically the Roseland Peninsula, The Lizard is an easy to reach destination whilst you are in this beautiful part of the world. We don’t class ourselves as Compass Chasers, although it is always nice to place your feet upon the extremities of a country. And as a Brit, born and bred I am ashamed to say that I have not been to any of the four compass points of my own country. Well this week I managed to address that failing by driving down to the Lizard Point. Just 80 mins drive from St Mawes the drive was easy, made especially pleasurable thanks to the ‘rat-run’ route across the upper reaches of the Fal River. 

To save time and 27 miles, we did a quick hop on the King Harry Chain Ferry; one of only 5 in the country. Crossing the Fal on this historic route, that has been serving the area since 1888, was a great experience  – in the car. The ferry is brilliant and runs every 20 minutes with just a 7 minute crossing. With a few chinks of the chain, a few wistful looks up the river and a quick chat with the crew who take your £10 day return ticket, you have arrived using a totally green travel option.  

Then onto The Lizard we went; both a village and your final destination at the Point just a mile or so further south. With endless walks along this spectacular coastline you will be treated to a sensory feast. 

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this region is host to 600 different species of flower, seals, sightings of dolphins, in season and the Cornish Chough. Your breath will be taken away by both its splendour and its Channel winds. Thought to have derived its name from the Cornish, Lys Ardh meaning High Court, The Lizard offers natural beauty, maritime history, tales of smugglers and a lesson or two in geology. What a magical place with its undulating cliffs, rock formations, cascading walls of flora and its azure blue seas. I would go back in a heart-beat.  

The King Harry does take campers and motorhomes, although if you have a big overhang like Scoobie, we strongly recommend you avoid this route. We arrived at low tide and the ferry entry would have ripped our rear bumper for sure. Even our return at high tide would have been a close run thing. If you have a camper or small moho, we reckon you would be fine.   

If you come to The Lizard in your moho, we suggest parking in the village and walking as the access road is very narrow. There’s a suggested donation of £3. If you come by car, there is a National Trust car park at the Lighthouse that costs between £1 for an hour or £3 for all day, payable by coins or PaybyPhone app.

 

8. Practicalities of visiting the Roseland Peninsula

Below we have outlined some of our recommendations for travelling to and around the Roseland Peninsula and where to stay depending upon your wheels. 

Getting here

Travelling to Cornwall is certainly getting much easier. The road network is much more fluid than in the past and traffic jams are less of a problem except in the height of summer. We travelled from Somerset having put our motorhome in a Gold Standard CaSSOA site at Wellington just outside of Taunton to ensure we complied with our Insurance T&Cs. It cost us £50 for the week and gave us piece of mind to go away on a holiday.

From there it took us 3 hours to get to St Mawes including lunch at the gorgeous Lifton Farm Shop – Strawberry Fields. They also allow you to park here overnight with your motorhome and camper van for free. 

If you want to travel to the Roseland Peninsula by train, then there is a main line train from London Paddington direct to either Plymouth, Penzance or Truro taking around 4 hours and costing from £73 for a single journey per adult. 

Getting around

As we’ve mentioned throughout this blog, getting around this coastal jewel is easy if you decide to leave the van behind.  After all the roads here are notoriously narrow, which out of season is not a massive problem, although I suspect from June onwards that might well change. We both agreed that even in our little car, driving these roads in summertime would be an absolute no-no. The stress that pulling over in very limited passing places would make for a very stressful time. 

So instead why not make use of the ferry network, which is outstanding and we highly recommend using these services. If you’re in the area for at least a week and want to spend your time exploring and walking, then we suggest you buy a Mussel Fal Card. It enables you to buy a card that you can then use, on consecutive days on either train, ferry or bus. Alternatively we recommend using this website for access to ferry information and on-line purchases which give you a 10% discount. All you need to do is validate the email you receive at the Ticket Office and off you go. 

Staying in the Roseland Peninsular

We chose an AirBnB apartment right in the heart of St Mawes overlooking the harbour. It cost us £705 for the week with £35 for car parking for seven days. There are of course plenty of other options in the village such as The Idle Rocks, which bizarrely enough I remember looking at when we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary 7 years ago. Or you can stay at The Rising Sun restaurant and hotel .

If you choose to come here by caravan, camper or motorhome, then there are a few options for you to consider. Just bear in mind that the roads are narrow so if you have an additional mode of transport, we would highly recommend you take it, or at the very least choose a site where there are good transport links. Here is a link to the campsites in the area. 

Eating out 

If you love seafood then you will be in seventh heaven. A little pop up Seafood van is located in St Mawes and Falmouth. In fact in most larger towns you will undoubtedly find farm shop or fishmonger selling their catch of the day. The crab is just to die for and the scallops – well what can I say?  We would also recommend trying the local pasties. We hear on good authority that the Pasties down at the cafe at The Lizard are the best in the area. 

We also absolutely loved The Hidden Hut out at Porthcurnick Beach just next to Portscatho which is best experienced in fine weather so you can side outside or down on the beach. 

Parking and Petrol 

Most of the places to park around the Roseland Peninsula are fee paying parking. They are either cash or payable by PaybyPhone App, so it is worth having yourself armed with this already download on your phone before you go. You will of course have to pay 0.10p for the privilege although in today’s modern era where cash is used less and less, then the app works just fine. The most we paid was £4.10 for all day parking. 

We took advantage of cheap petrol just outside St Austell on the way in. There are no other petrol stations on the Peninsula itself and you would have to wait until you reach Falmouth, Truro or Helston to replenish. 

Food Shopping

St Mawes has a co-op, butcher and bakery and Falmouth and Truro obviously have the stable supermarkets available. Although many of the other small villages on the peninsula don’t have facilities so it is worth coming fully loaded to be on the safe side. 

 

9. Our final thoughts on the Roseland Peninsula

This is one of the finest corners of Cornwall we’ve visited and whilst we’ve not seen the far south west between St Ives and Penzance, so far this is our favourite spot. This is in part because of the lack of crowds and also thanks to the idyllic countryside and coastal scenery. There is so much to do here to fill at least a week’s break down here more if you wanted to expand your trip towards Fowey, Looe and Mevagissey.

We would definitely promote this area during the shoulder seasons to avoid the main tourist season. We visited in the last week in April and were blessed with amazing weather. Of course in the UK you take your chances at any time of the year.

If you want beauty, quintessential Cornish fishing villages, coastal scenery and just a little slice of heaven, then you would not be disappointed making the trip down here.

 

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Morocco in Pictures

Morocco in Pictures

We were so inspired by Morocco; its landscape, people’s spirits and culture that it brought my imagination alive and my camera’s heart beat faster than ever before. So as we compiled our Morocco by Motorhome ebook, it felt appropriate to put together just one album of all our favourite images from our month there is February 2020. I took hundreds of images and I really wanted to showcase them in one special place.

We hope you enjoy our tour of Morocco through my camera’s lens.

Click on the image below. You may need to wait a few moments whilst it loads due to the megaloads of pictures I couldn’t resist including. Although if you experience any difficulties viewing it on any device, then click here.

Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

In our Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome series of posts, we take an in-depth look at everything to do with bringing your motorhome to and touring around this fascinating north African country. In this first blog we focus on what you need to do before you come and how to arrive smoothly in Morocco by Motorhome.  There are a lot of reports about where to sail from, and whilst everyone’s experiences are, for sure, valid and personal, we wanted to share our practical tips based on our journey in February 2020. Our aim is to quell those raging doubts and fears and give you both the knowledge and confidence to make this epic journey to Morocco by motorhome.

 

Part 1. What to do before travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

Whilst you may be like us and enjoy winging it – there are some destinations that really need some fore-thought. Morocco is one of them and Norway another. For Morocco, plenty of preparation is required. In part because it’s a different continent and the requirements are different to a majority of Europe. And also because, for many of us Moroccan newbies, it has a feel of taking us out of our comfort zone. Travelling with huge anxiety is not a great mix and so we must do some homework to make sure that our experiences are positive and fulfilling and not fear-making. 

We hope that this section might allay some apprehension as you begin to dream and think about taking your motorhome to Morocco.

 

1. Check out your Insurance and Breakdown cover – Green Card

Morocco is not often covered under standard UK motorhome insurance policies –  European firms may be different.  So your first step is to enquire about your particular company’s terms and conditions.  If they do allow for you to travel to Morocco in your motorhome, then you may require a Green Card which gives you Fully Comprehensive cover during your stay in the country. Sometimes these are offered free and others charge.

Comfort Insurance charged us £20 as an admin charge and then £22.40 per week of our travel through Morocco. 

If your company doesn’t cover Morocco even with a Green Card, then don’t give up. Speak to HIC Herts Insurance. They  offer a bolt-on cover and Green Card, so if your van is under £40,000 in value, then talk to them.

It’s worth mentioning whilst talking about Green Cards and Insurance, that you can get Third Party cover at the Port which is around 90€ so this is an option.

You also need to have a conversation with your Insurance company, if you have Breakdown Cover included in your policy. Or of course, call your Breakdown agents if you have separate cover. Just check what your cover is for visiting Morocco. With Comfort we are covered for breakdowns although DAS, our recovery company is not present here in Morocco. So their instructions are to arrange and pay for any mechanical issues whilst in the country and then make a claim for a reimbursement when we are in EU or back in UK.

 

2. Check your Travel/Health Insurance

If you already have Travel Insurance, then check that Morocco is covered, because whether you are travelling in the Brexit transition or not, the EHIC card is not useable here. As we travel full-time, we needed to secure our cover whilst out of our home country, and most UK companies will not therefore instigate cover.  So we sought the best deal from those that will cover you whilst you are already travelling. The quote ranged from £113.20 to £355.80 for two people without and pre-existing conditions. We chose True Traveller as they had the lowest quote for us for our one month road-trip. Make sure you choose the European Cover and not Worldwide, as Morocco is covered under the EU countries. The other insurer options are:

                                              World Nomads      True Traveller    Worldwide Insurance

 

3. Internet/Apps/Telephones 

Talk to your telephone supplier as their coverage and packages don’t cover Morocco and you will be charged crazy prices for calls and data, as it comes under International Rates. You will need to buy a Moroccan SIM card for calls and data, so you will need them to unlock your phone (you can do this online with most companies). Whilst some campsites have wifi, it’s not always great, like anywhere and whilst you are out travelling, you will want to have connectivity.

Our advice is to make sure you have off-line versions of the apps you use most often. Before you leave Spain for Morocco, make sure you have downloaded all the Moroccan maps for your maps.me app, if you have it.  Also we use Park4Night for wild camping and so bought the off-line version for £8.42 per year, and the Search for  Sites app for campsites for £5.99 per year. 

 

4. Documentation to take with you

Like with travel to most countries, you will need:

  • Passports and copies in case you loose them
  • V5 – in Morocco this is known as the Carte de Gris – the grey card
  • Your MOT certificate as it is reported that sometimes Police wish to check this
  • Hard copies of your Travel/Health Insurance and your Vehicle Insurance
  • Your Green Card

                                             

5. Plans for maximising your LPG

Because Morocco doesn’t have any LPG as we have heard, you will need to judge the use of gas carefully, especially if you are coming for over a month or more.  So think about options for conserving your gas. Obviously campsites will give you access to EHU, although from a cooking perspective and for wild camping, then may be you will need to look at other gas saving approaches. Some visitors have told us that they have been able to buy Red Moroccan gas bottles for 50MAD and swapped them in for 20MAD and this has got them through a 10 week road-trip.

We invested in a Remoska which is a fabulous electric oven that cooks pretty much anything, in about an hour, just like a normal oven.  It even works off the inverter whilst you are driving and is a great gas saving resource. 

Others have reported buying small, low wattage, two-ring hot plates and electric kettles. However you choose to conserve gas, it is certainly worth thinking ahead for this. 

 

6. Maps/Reference books

There’s a ton of blogs out there about Morocco from motorhomers and overlanders. Some you buy and some are free on the web. It’s definitely worth researching and having a read. We bought the book by Chris Scott called Morocco Overland, which offers lots of off-road tips if you are travelling with a 4×4, which also has great info on how to travel to Morocco by motorhome.  Whist the latest edition is 2017 and some of his information is out of date, there’s a load of really helpful tips in there.

One of which is to buy paper maps of Morocco. Given that whilst travelling in Morocco you need to buy a data SIM to stay connected to internet that apps like Google Maps feed off, hard copies can be essential.  So we bought two maps based on recommendations; the Reise Know-How 1:1 Mill and the Michelin Map. 

 

7. Stuff to take with you – and NOT!

In terms of stock-piling before you go, unlike our trip to Norway, Morocco doesn’t have the same price issue. Although these are the items we did buy;

 

  • the wine we like in boxes for easy storage
  • some chicken for the freezer
  • a few tins of staples that create the meals we enjoy.
  • we heard that crisps and nibbly bits are expensive so have plenty of these
  • Hand Sanitiser to keep carry around with you for their public toilets
  • a shawl for me walking through towns or mosques.
  • some long sleeved shirts and a head scarf to ensure my attire was appropriate for visiting towns and mosques
  • two tyre repair canisters in case of a puncture.  Although we would recommend you investing in TyrePal or a similar  notification system that gauges the pressure of your tyres and advises you of potential punctures or deflating issues.

And a final point – DO NOT TAKE YOUR DRONE WITH YOU. Either leave it at home or leave it with someone you trust as they are illegal in Morocco and if you van is search and your DRONE found it will be confiscated.  

 

Part  2 – Travelling to Morocco in your Motorhome

So armed with the results of all your research, you are now ready for the exciting bit – the travelling to Morocco. In this section we offer you a detailed and step-by-step account of the whole ferry and Custom’s procedure. I am driven to write this because of the plethora of reports out there and to share exactly what happens when you leave Spain and arrive in  Tangier Med (as of 6 February 2020).  So much of my EXCITYSCARED feelings were because of some of the horror stories we had heard about getting through Customs and what was to be expected. Now I have been through it, I felt it was really important to share how it was for us and give you top tips for navigating it smoothly.

 

1. Choosing which port to sail from

There are plenty of Spanish ports to sail to Morocco from along the south coast – you can even choose to go from Sète in southern France, Italy or Barcelona. As long as you are prepared for very long sailings of up to 60 hours. For the purposes of this blog, let’s stick with Spanish ports for ease;

  • Barcelona to Tangier Med; offers two ferry companies and up to 5 sailings per week and is up to 32 hrs sailing time
  • Almería to Nador or Melilla;  offers 7 sailings a week to Nador & 8 weekly sailings to Melilla taking around 5-7 hrs
  • Motril to Nador, Tangier Med or Melilla; for Nador there are 4 sailings per week, Melilla 6 sailings per week lasting aound 4-5 hrs and Tangier Med 7 times per week and is up to 8hrs
  • Malaga to Melilla; offers 14 per week sailings of between 4-6.30 hrs. You can also go to Tangier Med although only once a week
  • Tarifa to Tangier offers two companies who sail 11 times per day and 36 times per week. The sailing is just 1hr
  • Algeciras to Cueta and Tangier Med, offering 8 sailings per day and is about a 90 minute crossing.

Nador and Melilla are smaller ports that encounter less traffic and so their Custom’s processes tend to be swifter, according to Morocco lover and author Chris Scott.  And Tangier City has the reputation for being a nightmare as you have to drive through the city. And Cueta is a Spanish enclave so you have to drive a mile or so before hitting the Customs areas.

Algeciras to Tangier Med is the most popular crossing route and this was the one we chose. We stayed overnight just across from the port in a free car park, joined by four other vans. You may be approached by a man who says you can pay some money, although he is not an official car park attendant and whatever money you give lines only his pocket – you are not obliged to pay anything.

 

2. Buying your ferry tokens

There are plenty of Ticket Kiosks around the city, although the one that is pretty well famous these days is ‘Carlos’ from Agencie de Viajes on the Zone Commercial, just a mile out of Algeciras city. The coordinates for the Agency are  (36.17932 -5.44126). Whilst it is said that ‘Carlos’ no longer works there, there is  a toothless old man with a  kind  smile who greets you with a hand-shake and a Spanish kiss, looking like he owns the place. So whether it is him or not, for the purposes of this, the Agency is known as ‘Carlos’.

You must travel to ‘Carlos’ and buy the tickets face to face, there is no online facility. You can park your van in the parking area opposite and you are able to stay here for the night for free too. You have a Carrefour and Lidl within walking  distance and you are about 15 minutes driving time to the port.

Make sure you take cash with you as no credit card payments are accepted. If you don’t have a chance to get any before hand, there is a Santander in the main street opposite the Agency, although you will be charged 7€ transaction fee. You will be offered two ferry firms – FRS offers just three sailings per day for 180€ or Transmediterranea that offers six crossings for 200€. The latter has the better record and we chose this because of the timings, which start at 0800. You then get a pack with your tickets, Immigration Entry Card and a free gift of wine and biscuits. And that’s it – all done in under 10 minutes. 

Top Tips for your tickets

1. Take the early sailing.  Given the reputation for ferry delays and Customs Checks in Tangier Med, we chose the early morning sailing. Our thinking was, get on the first ferry and there will be no impact for backlog from previous ferry delays. Also when arriving in Morocco, there’s only one boat load of vehicles to deal with, so the process should be more efficient. You also guarantee landing in Morocco in the light, which if this is your first time and you have any apprehension, is sensible. 

2. You don’t book a specific sailing. You receive a printed token and take it with you to the Check-in, at least one hour before your desired ferry departure. We are guessing that if the boat’s capacity has been reached you will be put on the next departing ferry.

3. Take enough cash to exchange into Dirhams. Whilst the Agency doesn’t have a lot of cash to exchange, you will be able to get a small amount of Dirhams. The rate was 10.20 MAD to the Euro, which was slightly less than at the port, which offered us 10.36 MAD to the Euro.  Although I thought it was useful to have cash just in case. You can only get this cash  as part of your ferry ticket transaction.

4. Don’t worry about not speaking Spanish. The admin team speak French and English, although old man ‘Carlos’, if it is him – the god of Morocco tickets – does not. Hand signals worked pretty well. He doesn’t work behind the desk though so don’t worry – his admin team area great. 

5. Complete your Immigration Entry Card before boarding the ferry. This will save you time and stress when queuing up to get your passport stamped. Completion notes are in the next section. 

6. Keep all your documents and tickets together. I know it might sound a patronising tip, although in the stress that inevitably comes with ferry embarkation, arriving in a new country and not knowing what is expected, having everything in one envelope keeps your sanity in check. And I talk from experience and Myles will back me up for sure. 

 

3. Completing your Immigration Card

Whilst I may risk insulting your intelligence, I do want to go through the completion of the Immigration Form that you will receive from ‘Carlos’. I know it sounds ridiculous, although I spent a bit of time working out and researching all the categories I had to fill in. And because I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong and causing unnecessary delays, making sure the details were right felt important. So to save you that stress, here are sections and their interpretation.

  • C.I.N  This is a National Identity Card number and only needs completing if you have been to Morocco before and had your Passport stamped. You will find this number on the stamp, written in ink. If this is your first time to Morocco, then leave this blank.
  • Composteur No. This is some sort of validation number and we left this blank and it caused no issues.
  • Nom. Your Surname goes here.
  • Prenom.  Your first name.
  • Nom de Jeune Fille. This is your maiden name ladies.
  • Date et Lieu de Naissance. Date and place of Birth as in your Passport.
  • Nationalite. Nationality goes here.
  • Pays de Residence Habituelle. Put your country of normal residence here, ie where you live most of the time.
  • Profession. Your job or retired.
  • Passeport No. Passport number here.
  • Date de Delivrance. This is your Passport Issue Date.
  • Provenance. Where you are travelling from – so the Spanish or French port you are sailing from to Morocco.
  • Destination. The Moroccan port you are sailing in to.
  • Adresse au Maroc. Give the address of the first campsite you will be staying at or something like Hotel Fez.
  • Motif Principal du Voyage. What is the reason for your visit to Morocco? So holiday will do fine.

 

If you make a mistake on the forms that Carlos gives you, you can get blank ones on board the ferry.

 

4. Boarding the ferry

We recommend getting to the ferry at least 90 minutes before the ferry is due to depart. This way you can be sure to get your chosen sailing. Follow the signs for Puerto through Algeciras and then at the port, the signposts for Tangier Med.  You will then take these steps for boarding your ferry.

  • Check-in 1. Hand over your token from ‘Carlos’ and your Passports. You will be guided to park up in a line.
  • Check-in 2. One hour before the ferry sails, you are guided to another kiosk where once again you hand over your token and Passports. In return you receive a Boarding Pass per passenger. You then proceed to another parking lane.
  • Check-in 3. Five minutes later as you head for the embarkation parking, where a ferry officinado will check your Boarding Passes.
  • Final Check-in.  Another officinado will approach the van and take one of your Boarding Passes and leave you with a copy. And that’s it. You wait for the lorries to embark and then it’s your turn. Chances are that you will go up to the top deck, which means if you have a big bottom like Scoobie, it might be a very tight clearance.  Although there was no scrapping for us thankfully.
  • Park where indicated and turn off your gas.

The whole process was very simple and we only left 45 minutes late, which given the reports from others, was nothing at all. Now the final bit you need to do before grabbing a coffee, is to queue up to get your Passports stamped and hand in your Immigration Form. Each boat will probably have a different location, although it is likely to be by the cafe area.  You will now be in possession of a mighty fine stamp in the back of your Passport. 

Do bear in mind that the ferries are functional. It is only a 90 minute crossing so they are ‘no frills’. There are not enough seats for all the passengers – our boat was only 2/3 full! And be warned that the cafe is very basic. So either bring your own water, coffee or breakfast, or wait until you are the other side. The toilets though are clean and have paper. 

In terms of the question over whether dogs are allowed on board –  we found nothing definitive. There is a No Dogs sign although we saw two passengers both with dogs on deck. So make of it what you will. I would attempt taking your dog with you until someone says you can’t.

Check out our gallery by clicking below.

 

5. Disembarking the ferry and getting through Customs

Now this is the bit that I think, in all reality, I was dreading the most. That moment in time where the horror stories of chaos, money-greedy touts and stress would ensue. So I was prepared and mindful of what could happen next. Although I was also keen to see how the process worked in practice given all that I had read. So here is the most up-to-date information about how the disembarkation from Tangier Med looks like (based on February 2020 arrival.)

  • Getting off the ferry. This did take a while as it does often with all ferries, so nothing major to report here. Even our low-slung rear made it off the boat without incident. So far so good.
  • Passport Check. We were guided by an official to have our Passports checked, which he gave a rudimentary check for the stamp on the back page and he waved us off. Still doing well.
  • A long drive to Customs. You then, most disconcertedly follow the EXIT signs for what seems like ages. It feels like you are heading out of the port and it left me wondering if we missed something. We finally saw the signs for the D16.  We headed for the lane marked ‘Our vehicle is not registered in Morocco‘ and waited.
  • D16 – Vehicle Import and Export form. This is the vital piece of paper you need to show that you and your vehicle will be leaving the country. I had read that this could be completed on-line although this is no longer the case. The Customs’ Police do it all for you. So sit tight until you are asked to drive to a holding area. Within 15 minutes our V5 (Carte de Gris) and Myles’ Passport were collected and taken to the Kiosk. We had a little panic at this point, as Myles is not the Registered Owner on the V5, that’s me. So we wondered whether the discrepancy would cause a delay.  Thankfully it didn’t and we were on our way. The D16 is a small Credit Card sized card that you must keep safely as you will be asked for it on your return journey. It’s good to see that things have progressed with these official procedures.
  • Another Border Control Check.  Once D16 and Passport are firmly back in your grasp, it is wagons roll. Well as far as 100m where there  is another Border Control Check. That takes seconds and you are on your way.
  • Money and Insurance.  The final step in the process is to drive a further 100m where there are some cabins on your left-hand side. Here you buy your 3rd Party Insurance if you don’t already have your Green Card and exchange your money. There are lots of cabins to choose from although they are not all occupied. So I chose the one that had a name I recognised. They are all kosher and there are no touts milling around putting on the pressure.  The attendants speak English too, so if your French is minimal, then you don’t need to worry.  They give you a receipt for your money and that’s that! You are good to go. I strongly recommend that you do the money  exchange, because if you head off south on the A4 motorway, it is a Toll Road and you will need cash to pay.

 

So our verdict of the Customs’ process? Easy as anything and nothing to worry about at all. From getting off the boat to hitting the road having got our D16 and our money was a mere 65 minutes. So my ‘catch the early ferry’ strategy seemed to work really well and I highly recommend it, to keep you and your family sane. 

Check out our gallery below.

 

Part 3 – Leaving Morocco

We thought it would be worth a quick mention as we’re talking about the process of arriving into Morocco, to share our experiences having just left. All in the spirit of preparation, knowledge and confidence, it feels important to take you through the steps for leaving the country.

 

1. Staying somewhere safe overnight

Depending on the ferry you have decided to catch for your return will partly dictate where you stay. Somewhere close to the port would be sensible if you are on the ‘red-eye’ 0830 with Transmediterranea.  Although there don’t seem to be many  options. There is a public parking area which is guarded by staff that some people have reported staying at (35.884201 -5.50203) although it depends how comfortable you are with staying  so close to the port. We decided to stay at a wonderful wild spot that was just 45 minutes drive and chose the 1100 ferry. Given the advice we received numerous times about not driving in Morocco at night, taking the ‘red-eye’ was not an option. So this was the perfect place to be. We left at 0800 and were having breakfast in the queue at the docks by 0920 having gone through Customs. More on this in a moment.

Our overnight was lovely, overlooking Erraouz Reservoir. It’s on one of Morocco’s  Provincial roads, which means that it varies in quality from a bit bumpy to good quality tarmac. It was one of the lesser quality roads we had driven on, although none the less very doable, just slowly. Here are the coords. (35.713367 -5.52351). It is a peaceful spot with herds of goats and sheep passing through from the village directly above you and there were four of us staying there, without any issues from the locals.

 

2. Arriving at the port

The port is as easy to arrive into as it is to leave. Whether you come in on the back roads or the motorway, just follow the signs for Automobile Access. You will pass all the cabins where you may have picked up your money on the way out and be guided to park up. This is so that you can validate your Ferry Token that you received from Carlos’ Agency. If you have asked for an open ticket, then you can choose the time you wish to depart. Get there earlier enough and it should be no problem at all. 

Take your Passports and your ticket, and in return you will receive a triplicate ferry ticket for the next available ferry.

 

3. Going through Customs

After the ease of arriving through Customs four weeks earlier, we wondered whether the process would be as simple on  our return. After validating your token and receiving your ticket, you have four stages to go through;

  1. As you leave the Ticket Validation car park, an Official will examine your ticket and wave you on.
  2. You then arrive at the first of the Customs’ Checks. They will check your Passports and give you a stamp to say that you have exited the country.
  3. You then move forward 100yards to the next Kiosk where they ask for your D16 – the small business sized card you received on  arrival. They stamp this saying that you are officially exporting your vehicle.
  4. Then you drive a mile up to the X-ray machine. Two vehicles at a time drive on the examination platform and you are asked to exit the vehicle.  They are searching for drugs and arms! Whilst we were there a converted, rally Renault who came through the day before had been impounded for carrying 52kg of Hashish. That’ll not be a pleasant extension to their holiday I’m sure. After a couple of minutes you are allowed back on your vehicle and you exit the platform. Then you take another short journey to find the departure  gate for your chosen ferry carrier and park up and wait. That’s it.

 

All of that took us just 30 minutes from arrival to parking up. So make sure you allow yourself enough time to go through that procedure for your chosen ferry. 

 

3. Getting on the Ferry

Just a word of caution. If they send you up on the top deck of the ferry, if you have a large overhang, as we do  then you are likely to scrape at the back. They will however give you ramps that will lift your rear end enough to clear it.

Once parked up chill out and wait for your passage to be completed, reflecting on your memories of your African Adventure. Just bear in mind that the boat only accepts Euros and not Moroccan Dirhams. 

 

Conclusion

So there we have it, in a rather large nutshell. Our entry into and exit from Morocco. Armed with plans, preparation and some conflicting information, I am pleased to report that it all went incredibly smoothly. I’m sure on another day it could have been different, although I am convinced that taking that first crossing made a huge difference to our whole experience. So I hope this detail helps you, if you are thinking about travelling to Morocco by motorhome or are about to do it imminently. As always, if you have any questions just drop us an email at themotoroaming@gmail.com

 

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Which is best? Spain to Italy – Road or Ferry?

Which is best? Spain to Italy – Road or Ferry?

The Age-old Conundrum – Road or Ferry? 

Europe’s shores are calling; adventure, culture and a rich tapestry of beautiful scenery awaits. And where better to explore than the delights of Spain and Italy. Whilst perhaps close in their language root, distance between these two European siblings is great.  So how is it best to experience these two great nations? How can you best dance between the joys of Spain’s Tapas and Flamenco to Italy’s Gelato and rock villages?

On our travels since March 2016 we have visited both countries and indulged ourselves in their beauty for months at a time. Although the thought of trying to get to each one easefully can be a tricky conundrum for us travellers. Do you go by road or by ferry? 

We’ve done both routes and feel that with both experiences under our belt, it’s a good time to share our journeys, the cost comparisons and offer these up to you. Hopefully as a result you can then make your own personal choices. 

 

The Road Route

The road route to and from Spain to Italy is surely a beautiful one. Flirting with the edge of the Pyrenees at one side of the continent, through the southern regions of France’s Riviera and skipping into Italy’s Riviera cousin. With such sights along the route as Carcassonne, the Camargue and Provence’s coastal delights it makes the road-trip an easy temptation. And who could resist the joys of baguettes, the regional Pastis and a croissant or two? Crossing the border into Italy gives you a plethora of seaside resorts to enjoy or the tourist magnet of the Cinque Terre, Portofino and Pisa. And so your Italian adventure can begin. 

With that in mind, let’s look at the stats and costs of choosing this route.

 

  1. It is approx 800 miles from Civitavecchia in Italy to Barcelona in Catalonia.
  2. That’s a rough cost of £140.00 for diesel, based on 0.17p per mile for a 3.5T motorhome.
  3. The Tolls through eastern Italy and France can add up depending on how many diversions you take for sightseeing. Allow around £130 for Tolls depending on the class of vehicle you are driving.
  4. There are potentially two Weighing Station possibilities, both on the France/Italy border and at Perpignan as you head to/from Spain. Whilst we have never been stopped, there are regular stories about campers being taken to the weighing station en route from Spain into France. If you want to avoid this, then the coastal route from Collioure to Roses is an alternative. This will take you an extra hour and an additional 20 miles.
  5. Depending on your travel philosophy and how many hours/miles you are willing to do in a day, it will take between 3-5 days.
  6. Meals/drinks for those days need to be built into the cost analysis together with campsites, Aires or services.

 

Advantages of the Road Option

  • It gives you the chance to explore en route if you don’t know the area.
  • Avoids potentially stormy seas of the ferry crossing.
  • You can be flexible when you make your journey.

 

Disadvantages of the Road Option

  • Much of the most direct route requires Tolls, many of which are nigh on impossible to avoid, can be tricky to navigate and can add to your stress, time and mileage. And the costs do add up. 
  • You need to build in the wear and tear on your vehicle, tyres in particular.
  • There is a risk of being stopped at the Borders for weight checks. 
  • Places to stay alongside the motorway are limited and not recommended so a diversion into the towns are required, adding further to time, mileage and costs.
  • If you are travelling in the winter heading from Italy to Spain for some sunshine, then most of the campsites will be shut, so you are reliant on Aires, wild camping and Sostas.
  • You are at the mercy of bad weather conditions and accidents. 
  • The road quality in the north-west regions of Italy are particularly low quality.
  • You have the Genoa issue to navigate following the collapse of the bridge in August 2018 that carries the main arterial motorway. 
  • If you are travelling in winter, then weather conditions and potentially snow around the Pyrenees are a factor to consider. Also in Italy, from 15 November, winter tyres are recommended and snow chains are compulsory so, if like us, you only have snow socks for your summer tyres, then the ferry is a strong contender.

 

Total cost for Road = minimum of £300 excluding campsites, Aire fees and the wear and tear apportionment.

 

The Ferry Route

From Baracelona to Civitavecchia, just north of Rome is a 20 hour sailing leaving at night between 2000 and 2300 respectively. So for 7 hours of the journey you are asleep. The boats are cruise ship size vessels from Grimaldi Lines and whilst not the quality of a cruise liner, it does what it says on the tin.  The boats for summer trips have a swimming pool and sun loungers and for other season, a Well-being centre, restaurants and bars. With plenty of cabins available you have your own private space and toilet/shower facilities. Or you can choose a reclining seat in a private lounge. 

Here are the costs for the ferry option;

 

  1. Based on an April 2017 from Barcelona the cost was £356.00 and a November 2019 sailing from Civitavecchia was £349.00. Both ferries included a cabin and were booked online with Directferries which was a lot cheaper than going direct to Grimaldi Lines.
  2. There is also a route from Genoa and Savona to Barcelona obviously depending which part of Italy you are travelling from or to and they are slightly cheaper by about £50. So it might make more sense to take this ferry if you are in the northern regions of Italy than to drive down to Civitavecchia. 
  3. Prices are based on the size of your vehicle <6m and from 6m-9m. 
  4. Allow for Breakfast, Lunch and refreshments whilst on board, prices of which average £17pp for the trip.
  5. You can reserve a reclining seat for £5 or a cabin for £80. Bear in mind that if you pay for a cabin when onboard, it will cost you  £10 more than if you reserve it on line. 

 

Advantages of the Ferry

  • It is much quicker than the 3-5 days it takes to drive. With the overnight boat, 2/3rds of your journey is done by the time morning arrives.
  • It saves on the wear and tear of your vehicle. The 800 miles direct route by road accounts for around 5% of your tyres’ lifespan. So this does need to be built in, mentally at least.
  • With a night time schedule, no accommodation the night before is required, so you can travel directly to the ferry, ensuring you check in 120 minutes before the sailing. 
  • If you order a cabin you can have unlimited showers with piping hot water! 
  • Dogs are allowed on the ferry, with either Kennels or Pet Friendly cabins. 

 

Disadvantages of the Ferry

  • The weather is unpredictable, so stormy seas are a factor https://www.instagram.com/ especially during the winter, causing potential sea-sickness if you are prone.
  • The food quality is not great and is expensive.
  • If it is busy then embarkation and disembarkation can take time.
  • The schedule is always open to disruption from operational issues. Although unless it is cancelled you are still across the Mediterranean within 24 hours. 
  • It’s never a great quality sleep on a boat. 
  • On exiting the ferry, a wrong turn could have you in Barcelona’s Low Emission Zone, which without a sticker could be an expensive fine. Although sticking to the outer ring road is not in the city zone. 
  • If you time your crossing over a half-term, there is a risk of school children crossing to or returning from a trip to Rome or Barcelona. This happened to us on our first crossing in March 2017 and it was not pleasant given their teachers were all sitting in the bar having a fine old time.

 

Total cost for the ferry = £385.00 with no additional extras

 

Conclusions

A significant part of our decision about the ferry versus the road is about time rather than costs. As you can see there’s not a huge amount in it, once you factor in the Road Option’s hidden and unexpected costs. For us the speed and efficiency of the ferry far outweighs the road. We all know that travel is tiring and to cut off potentially 3 days travel time is worth doing, in our book. Although of course it is a personal choice based on your individual circumstances and also where your start or end point is in Italy. 

If you have no time constraints and the seasons are in your favour, then the road has some huge sightseeing benefits. For autumn and winter, then the ferry is far more appealing. The choice is yours!  

We hope that this has been helpful in working through the options for you with some stats and facts. 

 

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