Mediteranean Europe (2010)

In 1976 we set off for what we thought would be a year in Europe. In the event, we only spent four months driving around the UK and Europe before Geoff flew off to a job in New Zealand and I travelled on alone. It was our first overseas trip, and provided a serious learning experience in how not to travel, at least for us. Eventually I rejoined Geoff in New Zealand, and we changed the way we travel - no more camper vans!

After thirty-four years we figured we could re-visit Europe. Our first trip in the van had imposed quite a number of restrictions - limited time meant we didn't go down to southern Spain, and having a vehicle tended to keep us out of large cities. This time we would more-or-less restrict ourselves to going along the Med, stop in all the tourist centres, not worry about the crowds. We would take as many different forms of transport as was practical, and stay in pensions or cheap hotels.

The trip is written up in seven quite short parts:

We had a great trip. We timed the journey so that left Australia in July, arrived in Spain in mid August, and finally flew out of Turkey in November. In general the weather was perfect, the crowds were thinning out, the places we visited were better than I thought they would be, and I'm happy we had another go at the "great European trip".

The one serious disappointment was food. Basically, because we were doing a real tourist trip we ate in places that catered to tourists. There was little relief from the pasta and pizza variations offered in every cafe and restaurant, and we were very hard pressed to find good fresh food. We tended to make up our own lunch from produce bought in markets, and we carried muesli for breakfast, but dinner was sometimes a real compromise. And don't get me started on iced coffee - something loved by Australians but totally foreign to Europe. Why this obsession with food? We live in the countryside, with a large vegetable garden and small orchard, providing fresh fruit and vegetables, supplemented with lots of other home-grown produce including eggs and meat. We make our own bread, preserves, sauces and even produce our own apple cider and vinegar. Kaye is a good cook (and Geoff can be if he can be bothered) and when we eat out we look for food that is at least as fresh and interesting as we normally have at home. On the whole we didn't find this in Europe, although we were very pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of cafe and restaurant food in the UK and Ireland, after having experienced truly dreadful meals in England in 1976, and Greece and Turkey did offer a wider choice of foods and some memorable meals.

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