Category Archives: Europe

Travelling around Southern Europe  with a dog, in a motor home

Southern Albania – The Riviera

Date of travel: 9th – 19th October 2018

We continued our journey  south west, if you haven’t read about Central Albania, please click here: Central Albania

Please note – to travel the Albanian Riviera, you really need wheels as there is much distance between each beach.  Please do NOT let this put you off. The spectacular mountain drive, as it corkscrews between them is a gift in itself. 

Alf, watching the passing goats

We arrived in the coastal city Vlora mid morning.  We headed north of the city, straight for the beautiful long golden sandy beach to find a place to call home for a day or two.

Not a bad place to call home…

The beach is huge and undeveloped apart from a few wooden beach bars scattered along it .  As we were there in October the bars were not open but this meant we had the whole beach to ourselves except for locals doing their daily exercises and a few beach dogs that Alf had fun playing with.

The next day we walked south along the beach, where we found a newly developed port. Just past here there is a newly built promenade with lots of bars, restaurants and hotels.  I imagine in season this would be buzzing with life. We spent 2 nights here but we could have easily spent longer.

We then continued our journey south along the twisting and turning mountain roads, stopping at the picturesque pebble Drymades beach for a night.  A lot of reviews that we read, say that this is the most beautiful beach in Albania, who are we to argue…

Drymades – Alf enjoying the view.

We even got to share the beach with a cow who had a paddle to cool down.

A Cow, having a paddle

We climbed up through the split rock to find yet another beautiful beach, this one was sandy so you have the best of both.

Can’t argue with that…

Next stop was Hirmare, we liked it here and thought it would be a great location for a week holiday, we spent 2 nights. This seaside town is split into three sections. The 1st is a modern pedestrian promenade full of bars and restaurants.  The 2nd, a small pebble beach with a campsite and a few apartments. We were lucky and the owner of the campsite let us stay for free as it was out of season.  And the 3rd, a long pebble beach with more apartments and residents.

Continuing south, Porto Palermo Castle is well worth a stop, it cost 200 Leke each to get in.   We just wandered around but you can get a guide. There is also a small beach here if you wish to have a swim.

Porto Palermo Castle

Borsh beach is a very long unspoilt pebble beach. It would be rude not to stop and have a swim, so we did….

No sandy bum, here…

We popped into Ujvara Varander where we enjoyed a coffee sat amongst a natural spring as it cascade around the seating area.
(Reviews for food on trip adviser are not great, we only had a coffee so I can’t comment).

A quirky café.

We then headed to Sarande, the main holiday destination in Albania. There are plenty of resorts and bars stretched along the promenade and 100s of shops.  For 1st night we stayed in Camping Ecuador which is south of the city, we had the ocean straight in front of us and a river to our left.

View from our home, oh the joys of Moho life…

From here we drove inland to Gjirokastër (it sometimes is spelled Gjirokastra) for the day, where we spent the day roaming the spectator Ottoman UNESCO old town.

A once secret tunnel, running under the castle.

The Castle is absolutely incredible and very well preserved. It is definitely worth pulling yourself away from the beaches of the Riviera to spend a day or two here.

Inside the castle.

We then parked for free closer to Sarande city with breathtaking views, I was very lucky and spotted dolphins whilst we were having a beer.  We then enjoyed the evening having dinner and drinks along the promenade.

The following day we went to see the famous blue eye.

Beautiful colours.

We should have incorporated this as a stop on the way to Gjirokastër as you do not need long here.

We continued our journey south to the stunning picturesque Ksamil, it really is paradise and in our top 12!! We spent a few days here, kayaking around the close by islands and eating at the local restaurants.

Alf, refusing to pose for the famous shot…

(Please bear in mind we were there in October so pretty much had the small beaches to ourselves, this may be very different in peak season).

No better way to lose a few hours.

Whilst here, we decided to be a bit more advantageous and kayaked along the coast to Butrint national park, leaving our kayak with some fisherman to look after.  It sure was worth the energy as the archaeological site is very impressive!  It’s one of the most important in the country and is still being discovered to this day.

A recent discovered amphitheatre.

We kayaked back to Ksamil via lake Butrint which is absolutely huge.  At one point we had to get out and carry our kayak with the help of a fisherman around a fishing gate.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t see to many tourists and their dog doing this.

The following day after 2 weeks and 4 days, we said our farewell’s to Albania, a country that we loved and headed back to Greece…

Thank you very much for reading about our Albanian road trip. I really hope you enjoyed it and it helps you to plan your trip to Albania. I wouldn’t leave it too long…

Please click here to read our Albania – 12 Must Do’s…

Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality

Date of Travel: 5th October 2018

Following on from our Northern Albanian road trip – please click here if you haven’t read Northern Albanian – Road Trip

Whilst chilling on the long sandy beach of Kune-Vain-Tale Reserve, a young guy (Ndue) and his Mum (Bardhe) came over to speak to us.  Ndue spoke fluent English and translated for Bardhe as she spoke none.  They invited us over to their house for the evening as they wanted us to experience Albanian hospitality.

Sandy beach as far as the eye can see…

We were very grateful, as we had a fantastic time, hearing all about how Albania has changed over the last 20 years.  Whilst feasting on home made wine, goats cheese, bread, jam, vegetables and in fact everything we eat and drank were all grown in their garden.

Yummy vegetables growing in their garden.

They even made their own Raki, which was incredibly strong at almost 60%.

Ian, Ndue and Bardhe with the super strong Raki.

Bardhe thought it was funny that we could not drink much.

See, I told you it was strong…

The following day Ndue became our local tour guide and took us out site seeing.  We went to a town called Lezhë, had a coffee along the river and then went up the hill to see Lezhë Castle  and its view of the Lezhë.

Atop, Lezhë Castle

We then headed north along the coast to see the Thrown Sand at Rana e Hedhun at Shengjin Beach.

A beautiful, long sandy beach, where a mountain meets the beach and has deep sand half way up it.  Ndue tells us that in summer a slide with water is put here and people slide really fast down it, crazy aye…

 

It’s a lot steeper than it looks….
See, I told you it was steep…
The climb was well worth it…

We said our goodbyes to Ndue and headed south…

To read the next part of adventure please click here Central Albania

Thank you very much for reading xxx

Central Albania

Date of travel: 7th-9th October 2019

We continued to head south if you haven’t read about Northwest Albania, please click here: Northwest Albania – Albanian Hospitality

We stepped back in time, visiting an old bazaar town in the charming Pazari Krujes.  The market sits on old cobble stone streets with traditional wooden houses above the stalls.  As you wander the narrow lanes you cant help but imagine all the 1000’s of different people that have also wandered the same lanes through the centuries.

Step back in time

Make sure to buy your traditional Albanian clothing, rugs and souvenirs here, as we found them to be cheaper than most of Albania.

You will also find Kruje Castle , the center of Skanderbeg’s rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.

Kruje Castle

We then continued south deciding not to go to the capital Tirana as it was raining and getting late in the evening.  (There is a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain, we were told the views are spectacular on a clear day, so may be worth a visit).

We headed to Berat a city on the Osum River, known as the city of windows due to the white Ottoman houses.

Ottoman City of Windows

Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city is Berat Castle, its worth the steep climb to see the beautiful view.

Take yourself back in time, to an archers view from the castle walls.

After a few hours of sight seeing we headed down to the new part of the city to mingle with the locals.  We watched a premier league football game in a betting shop and was made to feel more than welcome and even put a few bets on, we didn’t win.  There are many bars and restaurant’s, so the evening quickly went.

The following day we attempted to drive to Tomorr National Park unfortunately this was not possible in Doris (motor home) as you need a 4 x 4.  So instead we stretched our legs with a long walk along the beautiful river at the base of the park in Polican.

Not such a bad walk…
A steep climb down

We spent the night here in Doris before heading to Southern Albania – The Riviera

Ancona, Italy – England

We rushed this part of our 24 week adventure around Europe, simply because … We wanted to stay in the sunshine until as late as possible!!!…

We arrived in Ancona at 8pm on Tuesday 23rd October after being on a ferry from Igoumenitsa Greece for 18 hours.

Our, not so comfy bed…

We drove for about an hour, heading north before finding a place on the side of the road to spend the night.

The next day we headed for Trento to take Alf (our dog) to the vets to get the tapeworm medication and to have a health check. This is needed within 24 hours and 5 days before returning the U.K, the passport MUST also be stamped and signed by the vet.

(Read Alf’s European Adventures – our BIG mistake!!!  to see what happened when this wasn’t done correctly).

Animal Care Trento is the name of the vets we went to, it cost €35.00.

https://www.animalcaretrento.it/

We then met up with our two close friends who took us to a hidden gem set up in the mountains with a view over Trento.  If you find yourself in Trento it is definitely worth going too, the food is delicious and the view spectacular!!

http://www.sat.tn.it/rifugi/elenco-rifugi/show?nome=Bindesi+-+%22P.+Prati%22&id_rifugio=4

The next day we set off at 8am and drove until just after midnight, stopping only for quick toilet and food breaks as we wanted to be in Düsseldorf to have breakfast with friends the next day.

We drove through the beautiful alps, the views were absolutely incredible and I’m sure we will be back another time.

The next day we said farewell to our friends and headed for Calais to return to England, we booked with Aferry.

https://www.aferry.co.uk/

Our journey cost us:

Fuel – €250.00

Tolls – €65.00

Ferry – £134

I’m sad that this adventure is over but I know it won’t be long until the next….

Help – Stand Up Toilets???…

What way do I stand???

I know it’s a dirty subject but everything living must go!!!…

I am lucky enough to have travelled a lot throughout the world but there is one thing that I just can’t get the hang off??..

How does one use a stand up toilet??..

Do you stand backwards, like a sit down??

OR

Face forwards??

A bit of fun – please vote 🙂

How should you use a stand up toilet?

AND,

How low do you squat so as not to get splashed when you pee??

How should you use a stand up toilet?

 

Alf’s European Adventures – our BIG mistake!!!

Our fur baby

Alf is our 15 month old fur baby, he is a cross between a border terrier and a Jack Russell. We called him Alf as he has big pointy ears like the alien in the US sitcom.
Getting Alf ready to travel around Europe was very easy, he just needed a passport and the rabies vaccination. Most vets can do this, the cost will depend on the weight of your dog. Alf cost £120 and weighs 4kg.

When we got to Dover they checked Alf’s passport just like they do ours they also scanned his microchip. Unfortunately Alf had to stay in the van for the short crossing to Calais.

Once in Europe a dog can travel around just as easy as a human.  Our problem began when we had to pop back to England for a few weeks, we were in Greece at the time.  After several phone calls to different airlines we managed to work out that England does not allow a dog to travel to England via a plane unless a haulage company is used.  This would mean that Alf would have to travel alone in the haulage department of a different plane to us, we got a ridiculous quote of £1600.

Eventually we managed to find a way to get Alf back to England that wasn’t going to cost us the earth although it meant a very long trip ahead involving ferries, planes, trains and automobiles.

Igoumenitsa in Greece – Brindisi in Italy

We decided to make this trip as wanted to leave Doris in Sicily for when we returned.

This was a 10 hour night ferry, costing £202.59 for 2 adults, 1 small dog and a motor home this did not include a cabin or a seat. We booked using Direct Ferries, there are also other companies.

https://www.directferries.co.uk/

https://www.ferrysavers.co.uk/

An uncomfortable night on the ferry floor.

Warning, the air conditioning makes it pretty cold on board especially through the night so make sure to have jumpers and socks etc. Also, as you haven’t got anywhere to sleep except for a hard plastic chair or tiled floor, be sure to take a sleeping bag and pillows. Most people also took blow up air beds or a lilo. Toilet roll is a must also as often there wasn’t any.

As Alf is small he was able to stay with us on the ferry at all times but bigger dogs have to go in a kennel, you can go to visit them as often as you want and take them out for a walk.

Italy mainland to Sicily

We couldn’t find a ferry company that we could book Doris on and then by a bit of luck Ian stumbled across this website:
https://carontetourist.it/en

It is a company that takes motor homes from Villa San Giovanni (right at the toe of the boot) to Messina, north Sicily, costing €100 for the pleasure of no more than 30 minutes!!

Please note if you have not got a motor home you can make the journey very easily with lots of different companies for, I think as little under €10 each.

Catania in Sicily – Paris in France

You must be thinking France, I thought they had to go to England, you are correct, I did say it was a long journey….

We were happily having lunch near the beach (thinking for once we are organised and on time) before our flight and then I got a text message from my dad…

He had just spoken to my uncle who lives in France and he had asked if Alf had been to a vets within the last 24 hours to 5 days to be wormed. He said that all dogs returning to England must be wormed within this timeframe to be allowed back into England.

Of course Alf hadn’t been. We thought, if he had an English passport, he could come and go as we pleased.

Stupid of us for not checking we now know!! I would hate for anyone also to go through this.

We then panicked as you could imagine, thinking that our baby, be him furry could not come home.

We frantically googled vets and luckily the 1st vets we rang had someone working that could speak in English. I explained to her that we were leaving for Paris in 5 hours and then to England the following day just giving us over the 24 hours needed. I think she must have felt sorry for us as she told us to come straight in and she would do her best. When we got there I again explained everything and that Alf wasn’t actually due to be wormed for another 2 months, I had his box of worming tablets with me but unfortunately they were not in the original box so had no batch number also the vets were out of stock of the medication so we had to take a prescription to a pet shop to pick them up and go back to the vets. The vet was unsure of our to fill out a dog passport (remember this is Sicily so she had never seen one) so she didn’t want to complete it so instead she wrote a letter on headed paper stating that Alf had been wormed by her, on that day and that he was healthy to fly.

Alf didn’t actually take the tablet as two vets said as he wasn’t due it, it may do him some harm.

Hoping all would be ok and that Alf would be able to return to England we left Doris in an airport car park. We paid for 2 weeks parking but told them we may be longer, depending on how England do in the World Cup. England, did fantastic so we ended up staying for 3 weeks.

It cost around €8 a day, I can’t remember exactly. The staff were fantastic and said that they were flexible and they would take care off Doris.

We booked through this website:

https://www.parkvia.com/en-GB

Catania Airport

This was really simple with Alf, at the check in desk they checked his passport and microchip and made sure that he fitted in his small carry on bag. Alf, really did not like getting in the bag so they said we could walk him around the airport until it was time to board the plane.

We booked our flights with Transavia, an Italian company as they allow Alf to go on as hand luggage.

https://www.transavia.com/en-EU/home/

Important before you book!!!

You must ring the airline to make sure that there is room for your dog to travel on the flight you wish to take, they only allow so many animals per flight.

You, then have to book your flight (online is cheaper) and then ring the airline straight back to book and pay for your pet.

They will allocate you a seat on the plane but this does not mean you get lots of leg room for you and your pet.

Getting on the plane

As we were getting on the plane Alf was very scared as he really didn’t like the bag to be zipped up (it has mesh so he can see out). He somehow managed to work the zip and force he’s head and front legs out, Ian managed to get him back in without the air stewardess seeing.

Breaking Rules

We were very lucky as the plane was not full we managed to have Alf in the middle sit next to us and was a little naughty and unzipped he’s bag so he didn’t feel so scared. He was more than happy for the rest of the flight.

A kiss from mummy
Alf soon relaxed and had a snooze.

Paris

All was ok at customs, they didn’t even look at Alf.

We did however have a nightmare with the taxis, there wasn’t any. So we joined the long queue and waited for over an hour to then be told that it was going to cost us €60 to travel just 10 minuets as the taxi have a set rate for going into Paris city centre. We were not going anyway near that far as I had booked a hotel close to the airport as we were landing late.

He then told us to get out and wait at the taxi rank and a taxi will come, we hadn’t seen one in an hour. Finally another hour later and after taxis trying to get us to pay over €60 another taxi came and was a decent guy compared to the rest and charged us €30 (a lot more than it should be) but we were exhausted after all the stress of the day.

Eiffel Tower

The next day we had a lovely day around Paris, seeing the sights, before catching a train from Paris Nord to Frethun in Calais, this cost €35 and we booked with https://www.sncf.com/fr

Ian’s parents then met us at the train station in Calais in their car as dogs are not allowed to travel by ferry to England unless they are in a car.

Customs at Calais was extremely stressful!!!

When we went to the desk to show Alf’s documents they said that they could not except the headed letter from the vets and that Alf would not be able to travel home to England.

Panicking and trying to keep it together, I immediately rang the vets in Sicily and by miracle they answered, it was 9pm. Customs had agreed that if the vets completed one of their forms that they would allow Alf to travel to England but said once there, they might not let us through. So eventually after a long wait for the next ferry we boarded and was worried sick the whole time that we would arrive in England after all the stress to get here to be told Alf wasn’t allowed.

At last something went right and there wasn’t anyone stopping the cars as we drove through customs in England.

So, finally we made it to Dover after 2 days of complete stress and panic all because we were stupid enough not to look into how to travel back to England with a dog – a lesson well learned!!!