Our beloved van Bertha had a traumatic beginning to our travels.  She had been stolen in January this year, 2023.  Despite all our neighbour’s attempts we could not be woken to the actual moment it happened.  At 7am the next morning they delivered the awful news.  Fortunately Ann, taking some excellent advice, had arranged for a tracker to be installed.  Despite all the thieves’ efforts they failed to find it.  Therefore we retrieved Bertha parked only 2 miles away.  Thieves obviously waiting to see if the van was tracked.

The garage returned her on April 26th – the day we wanted to leave on our travels!!  She required an MOT, so we did that immediately.  Phew, she passed. Then we returned the courtesy car arranged by the insurance company.  Then we packed up Bertha and finally left at 8.30pm that night.  Arriving in Dover we were placed on the next ferry 11.30pm.  We arrived in Calais, and Steve, by now an expert at uncovering wild camping places, set us on course.  It was lovely.

We were hot on route to our friends, Stephen and Mara Klemich in Omegna, Italy.  We arrived on Friday morning, the 28th, around 12.30pm.  We share long distance driving with 2 hours on and 2 hours off.  Despite the lack of sleep we did it only half a day later than intended!

Stephen and Mara have a wonderful gift for hospitality and we snuggled happily into their lakeside property.

On Monday Ann flew from Milan to Dublin via Munich for a writing gig with the WPCU (Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) – a fantastic, beautiful and eclectic mix of people. She returned on the Friday at 3am in the morning owing to the vagaries of delayed flights.

We did the Coronation – watching and praying for the country. Perhaps you were involved in a Street Party or gathering despite the weather. As our Queen often remarked, the rain was her constant companion throughout her reign.

We are now on our way to France, our aim to pick up the Camino de Santiago trail in Southern France and then journey into Spain. Our idea for this adventure is entitled Pilgrimage whilst recognising we will not do all the walking – we are in a van – but pilgrimage is our intention.

We are currently camping in Villecroix on the Italian Riviera.  Yesterday we took the opportunity to visit Monaco – by bus and train. 

The Rough Guide says that Monaco is roughly the size of Hyde Park, and the country is ruled by Prince Albert 11, alongside a government.  The total population is 32,000 of which 6000 are ex pat Brits. 

Built on rock by the sea it is a masterclass in how to cram the maximum amount of property in the minimum of space, both overground and underground. 

First impressions of the large underground train station was an immaculate construction bringing you seamlessly to the surface amongst, if not breathtaking highrise, certainly clever construction, clinging as they do to the rocks.

Everything is perfect. If work is being done, there is meticulous order about it as if nothing unsightly must be in evidence.

The Formula 1 race happens at the end of May and so there was a hive of activity with the construction of stands, safety barriers, press terraces, housing and hosting rooms for the Formula 1 cars, competitors, sponsors and assorted devotees.

Monaco dripped money – the cars, the shops (selling jets, super-yachts, jewellery, Ferrari showroom) – let your imagination run riot. If it was expensive you would be able to buy it in Monaco.

We visited the Monte Carlo Casino.  (It had to be done) We didn’t get far.  The entrance was a stunning room populated  above us with what looked like a decoration of green, Portuguese Men of War jellyfish.  They had an explanation – mine – ‘come and get stung so badly it could kill you!’ We got as far as the slot machines the use of which we were clueless.  We watched.

Still can’t get over seeing an outlet that would sell you a jet just like you’d look to buy a house!

Monaco –  Hyde Park with a huge ego and streets paved with gold – well almost! If they could they would.