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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The Schengen Shuffle for Motorhome Travellers

The Schengen Shuffle for Motorhome Travellers

Mention the word Schengen to most people and it will be received with a mixture of anger and frustration. We’ve been trying to come to terms with our travel restriction for a few years, although on 1 January 2021 it became real. Irrespective of your Brexit opinions it is here to stay and Schengen rules now apply to us if we want to cross into Europe.
 

We have decided to put pen to paper after seeing far too much confusion on our Motoroamers’ Chat Room in particular. It’s odd, I so thought we had ‘got it’ although one particular post challenged my thinking and got me into a right old panic. So we had two days doing more research, looking for blogs and trying to get clarity. Myles even built a spreadsheet so he could get it clear in his own mind. The one thing that I noticed was there was little by way of blogs relevant to motorhomers looking to extend their stays in Europe. So the culmination of our tears, tantrums and stress is this blog with the specific intention of providing information for those of us who want to do the Schengen Shuffle without risking getting a fine.

 
We realise that it’s a bit of a risk going public as you are so open to criticism although we wouldn’t do it unless we were totally comfortable in our information. So we offer our research, explanations and presentation in an attempt to help you. With examples of how trips might look, we want to give you knowledge and confidence in the Schengen processes. Although please we ask you to do your own calculations relevant to your trips. This blog is just to get us all clear on what we can and can’t do and all the terminology that seems to set out to confuse and get us tearing out our hair.
 
We also acknowledge that although Schengen is a reality for us right now sat in 2021, because of Covid travel restrictions have created a double whammy for us. So few of us as yet have been able to put all this into action. Please refer to the examples as hypothetical as we are currently not allowed to travel anywhere at the moment. (@March/2021). This is how the blog will shape up.
 

What is Schengen and what does it mean for us as motorhomers?

Schengen is the term used to describe the treaty that lead to a passport-free zone that currently covers 26 countries across the European continent. It was created on June 14 1985 resulting in individual countries ending border controls between members. The vision was to build ‘a Europe without borders’ creating a concept of free-movement. Five years later the Schengen agreement was implemented although in reality the policies and rules didn’t come into force until 26 March 1995. After this the Schengen agreement grew with more countries joining the original five members. And now 26 countries are part of the Schengen Area.
 
The essence of Schengen is that within the continent it abolishes border controls and the need for passports to cross from one country into another. This of course is favourable for those countries within the Schengen club. For all other countries outside of the Area, restrictions are imposed to the amount we can travel visa-free through the member countries. This has implications for us as we have now left the EU meaning we become a third nation country. We will be restricted to a 90 day limit in any 180 days. More on this shortly. At borders after leaving the UK, our passage into Schengen will be recorded either electronically and/or via a stamp on our Passport. It means that we will need to plan our trips more carefully to ensure that we don’t overstay our visit to the Schengen. At the moment we don’t have any data to state what the fines would be for exceeding our limit although we need to expect some sort of penalty. It is reported that different countries impose different fines and that won’t become clear for us until we are once again allowed to travel outside of the UK.
 
Currently 62 countries, including the UK  can visit the Schengen zone for business or travel reasons without the requirement of a visa. In order for the Schengen countries to control security there is an electronic application called an ETIAS planned for launch by end of 2022. This ETIAS enables citizens of third countries such as UK to enter Schengen without the need for a visa. So the good news is that we are visa-exempt for entering the Schengen area for up to 90 days. We will provide more information on this when implementation dates are announced. Although for the time being no ETIAS is required for our entry into Schengen.

 

Schengen Terminology made simple

Schengen country – Is a country who has signed up to the Schengen Agreement and thereby allowing freedom of movement across their borders. Visiting each of these countries means that we can only spend 90 days in each rolling 180 day period.

Non-EU Schengen country – There are members of Schengen who are not part of the EU such as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein although have for economic reasons decided to sign up to the Schengen Agreement. 

Non Schengen country – There are three types of non Schengen countries. The first is Ireland who has opted out of being in Schengen meaning that we can visit without needing a passport or it affecting our 90 day allowance. The second are countries who are part of Europe although who are not part of Schengen such as Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Russia and Ukraine. The third are countries outside of Europe that we are able to access for up to 90 days that include Turkey, Cyprus and Morocco.

Pending Schengen countries – It’s important to set these countries apart from other non-Schengen countries as their membership is currently pending and under review. So Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are expected to join at some point in the future, although for now we are able to travel around these countries for up to 90 days, without it affecting our Schengen allowance.

Microstate de facto principalities – Aside of all these categories there are also four microstates that are principalities with a small population and few natural resources that whilst in Europe are not in Schengen. They are known as de facto countries and we are able to visit these countries without it affecting our allowance. They are San Marino, Vatican City, Andorra and Monaco.

Third Nation – This is the description used for countries that are outside of the EU. UK is now recognised as a third country following our exit from Europe on 1/1/21.

ETIAS – This is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. Similar to the system required to enter US, at the back end of 2022 it is expected that we will have to register an Etias prior to entering the Schengen zone. It will cost around €7 per application.

Rolling 180 days – This is one of the key elements of Schengen that is most misunderstood and yet so critical to our plans to Schengen Shuffle. Schengen is like an escalator; always moving, rolling. So not like a calendar where the months are static. The 180 days will move according to when you want to enter and exit from the area and it is a counting back exercise from those dates. I will talk more about this, although see your available time as moving and not static and this will ease your planning pain immensely.

Schengen entry and exit points – These dates are really important to us in getting our allowance accurate. Your entry date is the day you leave the UK (or a non Schengen country) and make your journey to a Schengen country and this counts as DAY 1 of your 90 days. Even if you leave the UK at 6.00pm at night, you must still count this as 1 day in Schengen, irrespective of the hours you have stepped onto Schengen soil. Your exit date is the day leave Schengen and move outside of the zone, either returning back to the UK or moving into a non Schengen country. This is also counted as 1 DAY, irrespective of the time you leave the Schengen area.  

Schengen allowance – This is the second key element that we have to get our heads around. Understanding how our allowance works and more importantly how to calculate days spent in the zone is vital, to both your sanity and your noiseless navigation around Europe. So here we go. We have 90 days available within any 180 day period – as we know from above. We also know that this 180 day period is a moving beast and not static. So every time we enter and exit Schengen we must look behind us to see how many days we have already used up. The way to calculate this is;

You take your proposed exit date from the Schengen zone and count back 180 days to establish how many days you will have spent in the area. So as an example let’s take a trip into Schengen from 17 May 2021 with a proposed exit back to the UK on 16 July 2021. Using that exit date count back 180 days = 17 January 2021. Now you can work out how much of your 90 day allowance you have used up during this period and assess whether this trip therefore is doable. If you have spent too many days in Schengen already, then simply make your proposed exit date earlier.

 

Schengen/Non Schengen Map

Understanding which countries we can and cannot visit is imperative to us as we plan our European road-trips. So hopefully this visual map will help to grasp how to Schengen shuffle. 

 

There are a few points to make on this map; the originator of the map didn’t differentiate Andorra, San Marino, Monaco or the Vatican City I guess because they were too small to annotate. So whilst these for all intents and purposes look like they belong to the Schengen area – they don’t. We can travel here Schengen free and save some days from our allowance. So for skiers this might make Andorra a strong possibility.

Ok, so as you will see from this map, it clearly shows those areas that are defined by the Schengen agreement and allows us to plan where we can and can’t go travel to. So first of all those countries that are purple are currently in the Schengen zone and means that we are restricted to 90 days in our rolling 180 days and so careful planning is required here to avoid any penalties for overstaying our welcome. More on this later.

The blue countries are those who are not in Europe although for economic reasons have decided that being part of the Schengen Agreement is important for their countries. So travel here impacts on our Schengen allowance and must be treated in the same way as the purple countries.

The green areas; the first is Ireland which has opted out of Schengen and the second are those countries currently with their application to Schengen pending. So for now we can travel here without having to use our Schengen allowance. Which is great news.

And finally the grey countries are those that are not part of Schengen and are known as Third Nations. So in theory we can travel here without our Schengen allowance being affected. Clearly we will have unlimited travel through UK and Northern Ireland whilst a trip to Turkey and Morocco will be allowed for up to 90 days. So this has some terrific opportunities for those of us wanting to do the Schengen Shuffle especially during the winter.

 

Schengen Shuffle Scenarios

I think to really bring Schengen to life in a clear and non-scary way, we need to create some scenarios for you that will help you work out how your trips might look. So below we illustrate some options and how to calculate the days so you can dance your way around Europe without risking a Schengen penalty. For each of these scenarios, let’s assume that because of lockdown, none of us have been into the Schengen zone because of our lockdown periods. 

Easy Schengen Trip – Out for 90 and back for 90

The easiest Schengen scenario is where you simply decide to leave the UK and head to Europe for up to 90 days and then come back to the UK for 90 days and then head out again for another 90 day block. There is little complication here as there is no Schengen Shuffling going on. You simply leave the UK on 17 May 2021 and enjoy your Schengen countries for a full 90 days and then return on 14 August. That means that you can return to Schengen again for 90 days on 13 November. This calculator image below demonstrates this nicely.

 

 

Schengen Shuffle – Travelling for 11 months out of UK 

Now we start to dance our way through Schengen and begin our shuffle. So you want to spend most of your time in Europe and perhaps not too much time in the UK. Given that most us need an annual MOT, coming back to the UK is necessary, although with some careful planning you can be out of the UK for up to 11 months. We have shown you an example of how to do this using a trip down to Greece, over to Turkey and then back through Bulgaria and Romania. You could of course map the same sort of trip to include Morocco or Croatia (until the latter’s membership is approved.)

You leave on 17 May and decide on just 80 days in Schengen so that you have a 10 day buffer should you need to get back to the UK in an emergency. (Bear in mind that if you did 90 in Schengen and then went to Turkey and something happened back home then you have no days available in your allowance to return to the UK. You would have to leave your van in Turkey and fly back. So just as an insurance policy, it is worth having a little buffer period if your circumstances back in the UK drive it.)

On 4 August you cross into Turkey and stay for up to 90 days. After which you return to Greece and take two days to travel to Bulgaria where with Romania you can tour for 90 days per country if you wish. For the purposes of our exercise I have shown 90 days in total for the two countries leaving Romania for Hungary where we re-enter the Schengen on 1 February. We now have a totally of 88 days to return to the UK allowing us to meander through Austria, Germany and France.

 

To illustrate this one further step; if you look at each of your exit dates and go back 180 days you can calculate how many days you have spent in Schengen. This is how it looks in practice;

 

  • 4 August 2021 exit date – go back 180 days takes you to 5 February 2021. You have no Schengen allowance to consider in this period. 

  • Your next Schengen entry and exit points are 2 and 3 November 2021. Go back from 3 November 2021180 days takes you to 7 May 2021. During this period (which remember is a rolling 180 day period) you have used 80 days, so you have 10 left.

  • Your next entry and exit points are 1 Feb and 29 April 2022. So again from your 29 April date go back 180 days, which takes you to 31 October 2021 where you have used 2 days, therefore your planned 88 days can be used to return back to the UK.

 

There are obviously lots of other options we could illustrate, although hopefully seeing how we could have 11 months out of the UK should give you some confidence to begin planning your own trips. The bottom line to remember is that if you shuffle your way from Schengen into Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Morocco or Turkey, then you can have an extended trip out of the UK and still get back in time for your MOT. Obviously in the examples that we have given above, it doesn’t take into account weather conditions that might influence your decisions and the dates are just illustrative. Also as a disclaimer, we must stress that it is vital for you to do your own calculations and planning to ensure that the trip you decide upon is doable without penalty. 

 

Schengen Allowance and Date Calculators 

As we have navigated our way around this topic both for our own trips abroad and also for this blog, we have come across some great tools that will keep you sane, safe and in allowance, which we profile here. 

 

The first essential tool is the Visa Calculator. This is our preferred calculator tool as it is clearer and easier to use. The calculator allows you to input your entry and exit date to Schengen and then it calculates when you must have left the area to prevent penalties. It also allows you to map in multiple trips, which is great. So no paper calculations are needed as in our experience they can lead to mis-planning. We strongly urge you to if not plan with this tool at the very least use it to check your predictions. 

The second tool we found incredibly helpful is the Date Calculator. Trying to work out what 180 days back can be tricky even using your Phone’s calendar. So make life simple and use this site instead. It allows you to put in a date and then either add or subtract the desired number of days. It is terrific and makes life simpler, quicker and far less stressful than the classic ’30 days has September, April, June and November’. 

I have saved both of these websites on my phone and popped them into a folder called Schengen so that I have easy access to them. You can do this too by going into their websites and tapping the three horizontal lines on the bottom right of your screen. Then you press Add page to and you can put it on your home screen. 

 

Schengen Top Tips

This final section is more of a hypothetic section given that at the time of writing, we have not been able to travel and put our knowledge into practise. That said I think for now, there are some planning tips that we can offer you to help you navigate your Schengen Shuffle more easily. 

  1. Perhaps the flexibility of travel may be jaded by Schengen with intuitive right turns limited under the restrictions. Although there is no reason why, certainly for now, we shouldn’t be able to enjoy full and rich travels through Europe. We just need to plan a little more precisely than we have in the past. Travel is still possible and so keep your minds positive and upbeat.
  2. Avoid going to the edge of your allowance. 90 days might be alluring, although in any plans we need to cater for the unforeseen such as family crises, illness, breakdowns and incidents and our Schengen Shuffling is no different. Make sure you give yourself some scope for emergencies or things that you hadn’t catered for. Don’t risk getting penalties for having to overstay because of that breakdown that cost you five days you hadn’t allowed for in your plans.
  3. Make sure if you visit Turkey and Morocco you will need to get additional insurance. We have recently found out that Comfort have suspended their Morocco and Turkey cover. So sadly unless Aviva’s policy changes, we will be leaving for Saga in December. Make sure that you provide the specific dates to your insurers of your stay in these two countries so that they can send you the Green Card that is a requirement. For more information on Morocco, check out our free Ebook which gives you more essential information about your entry to this exciting African country.
  4. Make sure that your passports have at least 6 months left on them otherwise you may be prevented from travelling outside of the UK. Also make sure that you get a stamp from the Border Control to show your entry and exit points. Whilst it should all be automated, for us this is still so new, a stamp will prevent any disputes along the line.
  5. When you use the calculator to plan your trips, especially if they are multiple, take a screen shot and save it on your phone so if there is again any dispute you can demonstrate your dates using the calculator.
  6. Remember when travelling to the continent there are restrictions on the food you are allowed and prohibited to bring in. Check this website for the specifics otherwise you risk these items being confiscated.
  7. If you travel with pets, you should look to explore getting an EU Pet Passport otherwise you will be restricted to just 4 months in Schengen and non Schengen countries using the UK’s Pet Passport scheme.
  8. Keep your eyes open for Visa Extension information from each Schengen country. Whilst there are visas that you can apply for, for work purposes, there are few that cover tourism extensions. This may change as Covid restrictions are lifted and countries want to encourage UK travellers back into their countries. Although at the time of writing there are no immediate plans for this to be offered.

 

So this brings us to the end of our Schengen Shuffle guide. We hope that is has helped demystify some of the terms used and the confusions that have been building around what we can and can’t do. The bottom line that travel is still possible and more than perhaps we thought possible. So we hope that this will all feel hopeful and positive for you.

If you have any questions please drop us an email at themotoroamers@gmail.com and we will endeavour to answer them.

 

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Handling your Motorhome Breakdown – Part 1

Handling your Motorhome Breakdown – Part 1

After a year of ‘engine’ issues, this week saw the conclusion to getting our Scoobie fixed, fit and finally back on the road. Such has been the drama of these unfolding events with twists and turns we thought we would put it all down in a blog.

We hope that if we can share our experiences and the lessons we learnt, potentially it could help mitigate some of your stress – should you find yourself in a similar situation. We write this not as mechanical or legal experts although as people who have learnt the hard way. Of course you must always seek your own counsel as your circumstances may not be identical to ours.

Part 1 of our Breakdown – November 2019

Our breakdown saga started one year ago. As we innocently sailed across the Mediterranean from Italy to Spain little did we know what the next 12 months would have in store for us.

It started as we headed south for our rendezvous in Dènia for a Christmas gathering with our family. A gentle loss of power past Sitges told us that something was wrong. With a call to our EU Breakdown, a local garage broke the news that it was the radiator. He duly ordered a new one for the princely sum of €1,000 plus labour. Interestingly we inspected the old radiator before we retrieved Scoobie and there were no obvious cracks or splits – so warning bells rang.

Lesson 1

I’m really not sure as we reflect back what we could have done differently. We weren’t fluent in Spanish, so how we could have challenged the repair? So we accepted the financial hit and moved on! Acceptance and trust were key to us at this point. Also clarifying with our insurers that we had accommodation cover gave us peace of mind whilst the repairs was carried out. 

Continuing problems

After just one day, the radiator began to leak again, although Myles found that the pipe at the top of the radiator had come off, so we assumed that the garage had just not put it back on tightly enough. So we popped it on, filled the radiator back up and went on our merry way. This happened to us on three more occasions; twice in Morocco and once in France en route back to UK, 3 months later. 

We class ourselves as fortunate that, knowing what we now know about our engine failure that nothing more serious happened whilst in Morocco as that could have been a whole different ball game. It did though start ringing more alarm bells as we began to think there was something more serious going on.  We started to speak to our mechanical friends to assess the possible causes. Surely it couldn’t be our engine? We had only done 56,000 miles so was hardly even run in. 

Lesson 2

If there is a pattern of repeated issues then call your Breakdown company back and explain the situation, as they hold some liability for the original call out repair and use their services to help rectify the root cause.

Of course had we done this earlier on, perhaps the scenario might have been different. Who knows and we’ll not put any energy into working that through. Potentially we could have ended up with the exact same situation although perhaps if we had picked it up with our DAS breakdown, things could have been addressed earlier.

Back on UK soil – Spring 2020

So jump forward to March 2020. When we arrived back in the UK we hoped to get straight to our mechanic to do a pressure test, although we were affected by lockdowns just like everyone else across Europe. So Scoobie was parked up and the handbrake on!

When we could finally move again we rescheduled our MOT, our damp assessment and Service back in our home town of Wellington when boom! Just 500m from Gloucester services on M5 Scoobs gave one last puff and simply stopped.  This time the pipe that had been popping off was not for turning and we had to call our Breakdown. 

Towed to our Service garage we looked on in dismay as the mechanic shook his head – this was not going to be good, we could feel it. In truth we had been feeling ‘it’ for a while. With our regular garage not fit for such a major diagnosis, we had to abandon Scoobie at a neighbouring garage, who had just started up in business and who had a large under cover workshop. We only had his word that these guys were good and on face value they seemed nice enough. Although given that no Fiat garage in the area or in Weston Super Mare would take us, we were left with no choice than to abandon him.

Two weeks later they diagnosed hairline cracks in the cylinder head, a conclusion they came to after sending the head to a professional pressure tester.  So that meant a new engine. Whilst they did suggest an option of just replacing the cylinder head,  they advised that the block (the main body of the engine) was warped and they were not confident that there wouldn’t be other associated problems within the body of the engine that could bite us on the bum further down the line. Now we wouldn’t want that now would we?

You can imagine our turmoil, especially given that the engine was barely run in! A mere 57000 on the clock! Come on Fiat – really? A set of unbelievable circumstances and clearly a Friday afternoon production that ultimately cost us £7,300 plus £1500 for the diagnostics and labour. Ouch! And of course we were well out of warranty so it was our cost to bear!

And get this…. When Fiat say you need a new engine you don’t actually get a ‘new’ engine. You get a remanufactured engine and you have to pay an additional £600 deposit for the privilege of them having your broken engine returned so they can remanufacture it and pass it onto another customer!

Lesson 3

Even with Myles’ technical knowledge we could not have known that a pipe popping off could have given us such a dramatic diagnosis. Even our mechanical friends said it was highly unlikely, especially given the additional 4000 miles we covered after our Sitges breakdown. Don’t give yourselves a hard time – it is not likely to be anything that you did.  Throw cash at it if you can and swallow that bitter pill.

3 months later – another breakdown

Imagine our delight bringing Scoobie home especially as in the July, campsites opened up again. Finally we could get a much needed break. We headed over to Tenby which was lovely although not without anxiety as we had to reconnect with Scoobs after such a tempestuous period. The lack of confidence we both experienced in silence was odd. After four years on the road, we had overcome so many challenges, although this felt big. Still things are only as big as you make them and we soon got back into a Scoobie rhythm. Surely the fan-belt whistling was nothing much to worry about.

After a mammoth effort on our renovation project, which we had invested in to get us through this Covid uncertainty, at the end of September we decided we needed a break. So we went Scotland bound for a month for a touch of RnR. What happened to that pesky fan-belt noise you might well ask? Well it got gradually worse as we sauntered up through the Staffordshire countryside. And the smell – it was like TCP – just like chemicals, was not pleasant. We limped along to a rendezvous with friends – all socially distancing of course and it was at that point that we decided Scoobie must roll no further. With the smell increasing and the noise getting worse, it was the only responsible thing to do. So Breakdown recovery called once again. We’ve seen a few of these over the years!

The recovery in itself was a drama after a series of undersized trucks visited us over the course of 24hrs. Even after an AA technician had spent 2 hours trying to diagnose the problem, his report simply said “the engine is shattered” and he recommended that we should not drive anywhere.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was vehicle number 3 that turned up to collect us. As he began to tow us onto the back of his truck, it took off our rear bumper.  It was obvious that it wasn’t going to fit, although he forged ahead regardless.  Oh the pain of hearing that grinding sound as plastic scrapes along tarmac. That sent me over the edge! They of course had no choice than to accept liability for the damage and agreed to sort out the repairs.

So vehicle number 4 came and went and number 5 finally was a low-loader that could take Scoobs to the nearest Fiat garage who we had secured an appointment with. Why a Fiat garage you may well ask? Given our remanufactured engine came with a one-year warranty, we needed to keep within the Fiat network to protect that warranty, just in case it was their fault.

With emergency accommodation secured (with our Breakdown cover we are entitled to up to £500 accommodation expenses) we waited for a diagnosis. We had to pay £270 for that diagnosis and after a nail biting day – sat like nervous parents we got our answer… It was a mis-threaded bolt on the EGR valve. A fault they concluded that lay in the hands of the garage who had fitted our ‘new engine’  a mere three months earlier.  Now that was the trigger for a series of events that is a blog all by itself and will come in a follow up.

 

Breakdown Top Tips

So from these experiences what have we learnt that we can share with you?

  • If your vehicle is still under a Fiat Warranty (normally 2 years on a new vehicle), then make sure you use their Vehicle Assist Breakdown cover. If you don’t and your Breakdown Recovery take you to a garage outside of the Fiat network any claim will be null and void.
  • If you have an EU breakdown and you are not satisfied with the service/repair or something else goes wrong soon after the repair, then speak to your breakdown company immediately and question their diagnosis. It may prevent a string of unfolding events at a point in the future.
  • When taking out UK and EU breakdown cover, find out whether you get emergency accommodation cover and if so how much are you covered for. We have had to use this cover twice and it has been a lifeline given this is our full-time home.
  • If you suspect that you need a ‘new engine’ at any point in your motorhome ownership and are in UK, ask for a second opinion as it is a costly affair. If we ever had to repeat this exercise we would pay for an independent assessor from someone like DEKRA (0800 334 5678) www.dekra-expert.co.uk.
  • DEKRA offer an independent report for around £200 that will provide you with a diagnosis. It could be money well spent. We are often at the mercy of the garages we go to and if you are not familiar with the business, then this independent report could be vital.
  • Remember that a new engine does not mean new. It means remanufactured. Do not buy a reconditioned one that will undoubtedly be cheaper on Ebay as you are not guaranteed quality or a faultless product. Go to your manufacturer, you will pay a premium although you will get an extended warranty and a better quality product.
  • Once you have your ‘new engine’ fitted, we suggest that you take a week to travel around in close proximity to the garage to test it out. Within a couple of hundred miles, you should tease out any teething problems and you will be able to return it immediately to the fitting garage for assessment and immediate repair.
  • Make sure you keep all receipts in case they are needed as evidence for a claim against a garage.
  • When you register a call out with your Breakdown company, if your vehicle is over 6m make sure you specifically request a low-loader otherwise you may get the wrong size vehicle. Also we strongly recommend that you ask for an AA Technician to attend your vehicle in the first instance in case the problem can be diagnosed and fixed without needing garage repairs.
  • If the Recovery firm damage to your vehicle as they attempt to load you, make sure you take a video and photographic evidence of the damage so that you can secure admission of liability. Take their phone number, owner’s or MD’s name and email so that you can immediately attach damage evidence and get liability in writing from them.

 

So like most things in life, there is always a lesson and we have sat patiently in our classroom absorbing the teachings. As if this wasn’t enough, our next series of tests took us down a more legal route that shall share in our next instalment. We really hope that our experiences might help you in the future. 

 

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Herefordshire Interactive Map

Herefordshire Interactive Map

With Covid keeping us grounded for the moment, we have had the opportunity to explore the area right beneath our noses.  Herefordshire is a stunning region; home of cider, stunning countryside, Areas of outstanding natural beauty and a river that meanders from its source at Plynlimon, Wales to Chepstow.  There is just so much to uncover.

We continue to be humbled by how your local area can offer so much and yet with it on your doorstep it is often the least likely place to explore. There’s some sort of psychology that says an exploration has to be far afield. Not so, as we show you in our latest Interactive Map. We’ve stretched the boundaries a little beyond just Herefordshire, although all within an easy circumference. We hope that if you are ever passing you take the  time to stop and explore this little pocket rocket county which has so much to offer. 

Check out our Interactive route map below.

Step inside Herefordshire and come with us as we explore various points of the River Wye, find unique medieval treasures, castles, fabulous walks and Areas of outstanding natural beauty. Symonds Yat, Ross on Wye, Hereford, Hay on Wye, Crickhowell, Tintern Abbey to name just a few temptresses. As our travel is twarthed beyond the Channel, perhaps the UK can offer us some alternative beauty to appreciate. Click on our gallery below for a bit of a visual teaser. 

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