anthony galvin


For a whole heap of reasons we usually end-up in the Alps for some spring skiing and snowboarding. The snow conditions have varied over the years. Weather in the mountains is unpredictable at the best of times. If you go to the mountains there's no point worrying about the weather, you just have to put the right kit on and get on with it (or sit it out in the cafe / chalet / cabin of your choice).

Environmentally resonsible winter sports holidays are clearly a difficult thing to achieve. Anyone interested in snow sports knows that many resorts are struggling with the impact of climate change. Fewer snow sure weeks - especially for lower resorts - reduces the viability of many winter tourist businesses across Europe (and beyond). Without at least 100 days of snow resorts will close. Any holiday is probably contributing to climate change, especially if you holiday in a ski-resort.

Despite the cognitive dissonance we pootle along pristine French roads, enjoying the mostly good charging infrastructure. And what a trip. Visiting old friends, making new ones. Having lots fun in the sun and snow - and wow - what great snow. For the entire week the weather alternates between warm blue sky days or massive dumps of snow. As the seasons change under the weight of human influence and inaction, it seems, at least for now, spring is the best time to catch the snow.

#boarding #family #morzine #snow #france #holiday #environment

07/04/2024 permalink

As the Scots say, "West is best". So for our August holiday we put that to the test, heading slightly further west than usual. But not by much. A few days west of our usual summer spot on Mull, in a off-grid Bothy on Ulva. A couple of hours walk from the ferry under leaden skies. Past the many cleared settlements. To arrive at the most perfect spot. A little house by the sea with a white sand swimming beach. In the evening a cosy fireplace and just enough comforts. Not to mention an owl outside the kitchen window. Not luxury in the holiday brochure sense, but a place to make family memories, which is it's own kind of luxury.

#scotland #mull #islands #ulva #family #holiday #2023 #bothy

10/12/2023 permalink

Charging to the Dordogne (and back)

Thursday afternoon and in between the last few work calls of the day we throw in a few bags and the inflatable paddle board then head south. Our first stop is going to be Folkestone, but our goal is to arrive at our gîte for the week near Bergerac, in South West France.

Getting There (Northamptonshire - Folkestone - Chartres - Bergerac)

As well as packing for this trip we have an additional consideration. Charging. This is going to be our longest trip in the Enyaq so far, a 1500 mile round trip. We are setting off with a fully charged battery (or about 270 miles of motorway driving) so the main concern on the trip down to Folkestone from Northamptonshire isn't range, but the usual M25 chaos and rush hour traffic.

Our 'Le Shuttle' isn't until the next morning, with an overnight in the squarely functional Holiday Inn Express near the terminal. But to make sure we can set off with a full battery again in the morning we stop off at Folkestone services for a top-up charge and some dinner. The Ionity fast charger isn't in the main part of the services, but located by the petrol station. We park up, plug-in and tap our Electroverse card and then make our way back along the exit road to the services, which isn't as straightforward as it could be.

It's only 7pm when we get there, but already most of the food options have already closed, so there's only a packed McDonalds for dinner. Not quite the culinary start we'd hoped for, but hopefully a contrast with the better things to come.

After a night at the Holiday Inn Express we nip over to the Eurotunnel and manage to get on a slightly earlier shuttle. Before we know it we are on the French autoroute and heading along the rolling toll roads of Normandy.

We are firmly committed to using the Route Anglais, even signing up to a 'blip and go' tag so that we can use the fast lane at the Peage. It's only when we arrive at the first toll gate do we realise that I've stuck the 'dongle' on the wrong side of the car, meaning Emma has to unclip it and wave it at the invisible gatekeeper as we drive up to the barrier!

Our first stop is the Aire de la Baie de Somme, for a quick charge to top up (30 mins and a terrible service station coffee) before heading into Saint-Vallery-sur-Somme for a fantastic lunch, ice-cream and leg stretch. It's a lovely French sea-side town and it's hard to drag ourselves away, but we've got to push on to our overnight stop-off in Chartres.

The toll roads are suitably clear and after a few hours and some more 'dongle waving' we make it to Chartres for late afternoon. There's a street charger that allows 2 hours slow charging just round the corner from our hotel - the slightly decadent Hotel Le Grand Monarque - so we take the free juice before moving the car to the car park and then exploring the old town. The highlight of the evening being the amazing projection mapping show that turns the towering cathedral into a canvas.

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, there's the dawning realisation that we've still got a lot of kilometres to cover. It's another day of Ionity charging with a couple of stops, including the slightly sparse Rue Henri Becquerel. Which is just a row of chargers in a car park near the motorway - no toilets or refreshments available. The Saturday traffic isn't great and it takes 6 hours driving and nearly two hours charging to make or to our gîte west of Bergerac. The temperature is in the low 30s which is great for the battery efficiency, but also means we have the aircon cranking the whole day.

750 miles after we set-off from Northamptonshire, we arrive at our home for the week. A little tired, but happy and ready to hit the pool!

Over the next week we don't head too far. Most of the week is spent in the pool, eating cheese or canoeing and paddle boarding along the river.

There's still some pottering about and from time-to-time we do need to top up. This is a little hit and miss. Every little town and village in the Dordogne has a charger, usually in the town square or near the Marie. However, the first time we try and get one to work with our Electroverse card nothing happens. The same is also true with the chargers at the local Leclerc - I did try and get to the bottom of this with someone on the desk at the supermarket, but my GCSE French doesn't run to the intricacies of the different charging networks, so in the end we plug-in the granny gable overnight.

Once we've download the local charging app we manage to get up and running in the car park in Beynac. It's not clear if the problem was with the RFID card, our network or the local provider, but the lesson here is if in doubt also try the local networks own app.

Heading Home (Bergerac - Paris - Calais - Northamptonshire)

The last Saturday in August is not the day to be hitting the French roads. Once we get away from our quiet rural corner and starting heading north it very quickly becomes apparent that the roads are going to be busy. Thanks to the granny cable, we are setting off fully charged, but we still have to top up a couple of times on our way to Paris.

As we pull off the motorway for our first stop, it's clear the service station is at capacity, with people parked on the grass and a queue spilling out of the toilets into the car park. Somehow though there's a spare Ionity available and we can charge up whilst we grab some lunch. By the time we've had something to eat there's a queue of cars waiting to charge. It's a short stop for us, but that's more down to luck than judgement. We push on trying to get to Paris in time to enjoy our evening (with a trip up the Eiffel Tower already booked in). Our 2nd stop is slightly less successful - there's a bit of a queue and we spend half an hour waiting before we can start to charge up. We crawl into Paris and find the entrance to our underground car park.

We squeeze our way into the Q-Park Rivoli Pont Neuf, near Les Halles, and are delighted to discover a bank of empty chargers at the far end of the car park. This wasn't a planned charge, but as we are leaving the car overnight anyway, it's ideal and we plugin and head off to check-in to the Novotel Les Halles. The hotel is in a great spot, in the 'new Les Halles' - much nicer than I remember it being 20 or so years ago. The parking is fairly good value if you're staying at the hotel, and the charging is also reasonably priced.

After a morning wandering round the Louvre, some shopping on the Rue de Rivoli and long lazy lunch at Nelsons we get ready for the final leg of our journey. Fully charged we don't need to stop on the way to Calais.

We arrive a little early and nip up to the Ionity chargers that are located at the Holiday Inn just a few minutes from the Eurotunnel terminal. In hindsight we shouldn't have bothered and should have gone straight to the terminal and charged up there. Due to some unexplained delays all the trains are out of sync and there would have been plenty of time to queue up and top-up at the chargers in the Eurotunnel carpark.

After a couple of hours waiting we make it onto a shuttle and the final part of our 1500 mile journey, heading round the M25 and up the M1 to make it home in a single hit.

Would we do it again?

A 1500 mile road trip is always going to take some time, and having to queue and charge probably did add a little bit of extra time to our overall journey. At most of the charging spots we stopped at we didn't need to queue for more than a few minutes, if at all, and we were travelling on some pretty busy days in the holiday season.

The prevalence of the Ionity chargers certainly makes travelling long distances easier (there's over 100 Ionity locations in France). Overall we spent about £200 on charging £70 on tolls. Driving isn't going to be as time efficient as flying or getting the train, but it does allow you to stop off. We probably wouldn't have had such great visits to Chartres and Paris if we hadn't driven (though we also stopped off in Folkestone, so it's not all gravy). In terms of the environmental impact, flying would release about 700KG of CO2, whilst driving our EV is about 145kg so as well as being more enjoyable it's better for the planet (with all the caveats that driving hundreds of miles for a holiday is never going to be 'good' for the environment).

Would we do another EV road trip through France? Well yes, we are already planning a trip to the Alps at Easter!

#holiday #france #dordogne #cars #charging #ev #electric

19/09/2022 permalink

Heading north again, as we do every summer. Mirroring the paths of the migrating birds who also head for the islands. They travel far more efficiently than we do, laden as we are with tents, stoves and a collection of coats and hats. They soar on the wing, using the motorway thermals and road kill for their own ends. As we trundle north, in a queue near Preston (always Preston), I envy the lightweight ease of the birds overhead.

But the roads do open up and we find ourselves by harbour in Oban, watching the ferry’s come and go. The familiar queue at the seafood shack snaking it’s way along the quayside. It’s become a familiar routine, the slow ferry queue and the dash for essentials that we might not be able to get on the island (food, drink and a haul of books) but the excitement is always the same.

Finally we are away. Despite already being on the road for a couple of days, it’s only now the holiday feels like it’s begun. The ferry slides up the Sound of Mull, past the Lismore lighthouse, which is always a marker for our trips this way. Then beyond Duart Castle and the brief glimpse of Tobermory as we head for open water. We swing away from Mull and a school of dolphin jump in the swell below the boat. The four of us (not to mention the dog) settle down to another few hours on the ferry, broken by expeditions round the deck and fetch provisions from the CalMac cafe.

The boat slows as we find the slightly smoother water and shelter of Castlebay. We shake the tiredness out of our legs and join the cluster of passengers in the afternoon sunshine to watch the castle come into view. Low clouds hang over the little town, and in the distance we get our first glance of the white sand beaches of the Island.

Over the next week those white sand beaches will be our daily destination for a swim or to launch a “sit on top” kayak. Afterwards in the photos the water will look fake, too blue to be real.

All that is yet to come as we dash down to the car deck. Our thoughts turn to the camping gear crammed into the car, and the drive past the beach runway of Barra airport up to the campsite at Scurrival which will be our temporary island home.

#scotland #family #holiday #barra #camping #islands #hebrides #ferry

03/09/2019 permalink

That moment when you let go of the saddle and instead of swerving off to the left or right they glide forwards, feet whirring almost in a blur.

When our eldest Vi learned to ride her bike, it was a slow and painful process. I’d bought a heavy old bike off eBay. At that the time we lived at the end of a cul-de-sac. On a Sunday morning we’d go out and try to get her riding on her own, but it usually ended up in both of us getting frustrated. Bike on the floor. Tears. Shouting. She can ride her bike now. We soon got rid of that clunky old bike for something more lightweight and easy to manoeuvre.

A few years on and it’s Hazel’s turn. Full of gung-ho enthusiasm to emulate her sister. We don’t live on the ‘banjo’ anymore, instead there’s a few quiet village roads which have served as good training. Hazel wobbling along with me running alongside. Grabbing the saddle as she veers towards the curb. Almost there, but not quite.

Easter time and we are away on holiday, staying on the old Stanegate. There’s some traffic during the day to the Roman fort of Vindolanda, but after closing time there’s no traffic at all. After a few test runs she’s racing up and down the Roman road.

Over the next few days we find a few different routes. A disused railway in Kielder Forest and a dedicated trail at Wallington. But it's the deserted Roman Road each evening that's the favourite.

"Dad, can we go on a bike ride"

#cycling #family #holiday #northumblerland #kids #bikes

07/05/2019 permalink

Once more. With feelings.

Back to the “inner isles” (Na h-Eileanan a-staigh) for our summer trip. Some new islands this year. But the same objectives: Immersing ourselves in landscape and history. Exploring beaches. Scanning the horizon for the wildlife (this time including Basking Sharks).

Each time we go back to these islands the connection gets stronger. Our collective Islomania intensifies.

3 weeks, 1500 miles driving, 5 Scottish Islands (Coll, Tiree, Mull, Ulva, Bute) and 11 ferries. Happiness.

#holiday #scotland #islands #hebrides #family

2017-09-11 20:22:59 GMT permalink

10 winters

Back to Morzine. I remember a springtime visit 10 winters ago, when Richard and Fiona had bought the old barn on the edge of Morzine. I slept on a concrete floor and then Richard and I went up to the top of the Avoriaz and talked about the future. Then we boarded down in the spring sunshine and it didn’t seem real.

Fast forward to 2017 and we are back in the Alps. The sun shone again and this time I’m on chair lifts with my Violet and Hazel. Sitting at the top of the resort looking out over the mountains, still thinking about the future. 

#boarding #morzine #holiday #snow #family #spring #alps

2017-04-11 22:15:44 GMT permalink

On a blazing hot August day we jumped aboard the Island Lass and headed off for a boat trip round the Treshnish Isles, past Fingal’s Cave and onto Staffa

After spending a few days on Ulva the crowds on the boat and island felt a bit overwhelming to start with. Despite the good weather it was still pretty choppy on the way into the landing at Staffa. It’s hard to imaging the portly Dr. Johnson arriving in 1773.

#islands #staffa #holiday #scotland #boats #photo

2016-09-05 21:16:05 GMT permalink

After our week on Ulva, back to our usual Mull haunt of Treshnish

Fabulous accommodation. Great weather, the best beaches in the world, amazing local food and swimming in the cold, cold sea.

#mull #scotland #treshnish #holiday #photo #islands #beaches

2016-09-05 21:16:02 GMT permalink

Late summer and we headed northwards again. To Ulva, a place we’d visited but never spent more than a few hours at a time.

People first started living on the island more than 7000 years ago. At the height of the kelp boom in the 19th Century 600 people called Ulva home. It’s a much quieter place now with just a few residents. The passenger ferry runs 6 days a week at the height of summer and stops at 5pm. There are no paved roads. No street lights. Little phone signal.

The week at Fisherman’s Cottage will live long in the memory. Great food from The Boathouse. The amazing landscape and weather. Walking through abandoned villages. Stumbling across a family of red deer. Watching curlews and buzzards.

It’s easy to think about places like Ulva as period pieces or as a tourist destination. Our stay made me realise that it’s much more complex. Ulva is a private island and a real place.

We’ve been coming to the Inner Hebrides for about 5 years. The relationship between the ecology, animals and people who live on and around the islands is complex. Each time we visit, I understand a little more.

#scotland #islands #ulva #holiday #family #hebrides #photo

2016-09-05 21:03:05 GMT permalink

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