31st January 2010 Vieux-Boucau les Bains to Capbreton

31 01 2010

It was nice to wake up to a sunny day today. I took Jack out for a good walk around Vieux-Boucau les Bains, down to the end of the holiday apartments, virtually onto the beach and back again.

Vieux-Boucau les Bains

Being a Sunday we chose to get our blogs and photos uploaded before going to the next stop of Ondres Plage, an aire that was again right on the beah and recommed by Ken and Lynda.

We unplugged and left at about 11.30am and made our way to St. Vincent-de-Tyrosse where we sat in the McDonalds there for about 2 1/2 hours. I managed to get completely up to date, thanks to the WordPress app on my iTouch I instantly upload all of my blog posts and then insert the photos using my laptop. This took a long time as this was the first opportunity to get back up to date since the laptop crashed, my battery completely failed to give me the stated life and I was seriously low after just over 1 1/2 hours, on low brightness too, but I managed it.

Lorna spent a little longer but we stuck to our guns and resisted another burger, maybe we should have given in as just as we had parked up at Ondres Plage she realised that she had left her coat there. We plan to return tomorrow to retrieve it.

Ondres Plage is a fantastic beach and very popular with suffers, amazing waves. We walked on the beach with Jack for a while before deciding to move off the aire as there was only us and one other van there, also it felt a bit enclosed. Whilst we were on the beach I pointed out to Lorna the Pyrenees which could be seen in the distance, snow capped peaks and a big difference to the fairly flat landscape we have been used to, looking forward to it.

We arrived at Capbreton just after 5pm and managed to find a perfectly level spot on the car park, electricity was off (I’m predicting lack of electricity to be a bit of an issue for us in Spain and Portugal as it clearly isn’t as readily available unless on a paid campsite) but it was a wide open aspect with other motorhomes there, including this beauty!

Old Campervan at Capbreton

Light fell pretty soon afterwards and Lorna cooked vegetable stew whilst we saw the other motorhome that was at Ondres Plage pull up, they obviously prefer the views and company too.


30th January 2010 Mimizan Plage to Vieux-Boucau les Bains

30 01 2010

The Aire at Vieux-Boucau les Bains

We were unsure as to whether we were going to leave Mimizan Plage today as we had been having such a lovely time with the people there. David and Anne came round for coffee mid-morning and we had a chat with Ken and Lynda before having a tidy out (between more showers), filling with water, emptying the waste and finally leaving Mimizan Plage at about 1.30 with some good memories. We hoped that we would be able to upload our blogs and photos but didn’t pass any well known burger outlets on the way to our next stop, Vieux-Boucau les Bains, about an hour or so away. The sat nav decided to take us on a different route than we thought and took us all the way on the D652, through numerous different little towns, none with supermarkets that were open and nowhere to fill up our LPG bottles, something I think we will have to get used to quite quickly as in Spain it is not as common and so difficult to get hold of. We arrived at Vieux-Boucau les Bains which is a specific motor home park set in tall trees with gravel paths at pitches, very pleasant despite the fact that the rain came back. On entry you take a ticket from the machine and the barrier allows entry. There are electric points dotted around but some were not working so we found one that was and parked up. We were told that the charge was 5 euros for 24 hours, electric included.

26th-30th January 2010 Mimizan Plage

26 01 2010

We got up at around 10am and we were walking in the massive beach at Mimizan Plage by mid-day, in the sun, but there was a chill in the air after a bit of frost overnight. We returned to the van and did some washing, by hand, the British couple, Ken and Lynda, over the way from us lent us their spin drier after they saw us manually wringing out our clothes, most appreciated indeed. For our lunch we had some lovely home made soup that Lorna had done yesterday and then we just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Lots more vans turned up today too. Not much else to report really, a very quiet and relaxing day.

Lorna at Mimizan Plage

On Wednesday we were woken at 9am by the Police knocking on the door after their 6 euros, we paid them and went back to bed for a couple more hours. We eventually got up Lorna went round to David and Annes motorhome for a chat (the couple from Nothumberland who we had met just outside L’Aguillion sur Mer on the 12th January). Whilst she was there I filled the water tanks up and had a shower. Lorna returned saying that we had been invited for a drink at Ken and Lyndas that evening. We walked Jack and went to the small supermarket to get some supplies before returning when Lorna showered and dud some more washing. Later on I took Jack on to the beach as the sun began to set, it was like a massive fireball in the sky so I rushed back to get both my camera and Lorna expecting a superb sunset. It turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax unfortunately but it was still nice to be on the beach watching the sun disappear for another day.

Mimizan Sunset

We ate our tea and then went over to Ken and Lyndas where we had a very good evening chattting and drinking. We got to bed late!

Thursday and Friday were both pretty miserable days with heavy rain showers throughout so we spent most of the time watching DVDs and generally cleaning up, sand gets everywhere! Also we did a bit of maintainence on our gas system as we were aware of a slight smell of gas outside at times. David (from Northumberland) came to the rescue as I hadn’t got a spanner wide enough to tighten the fittings so this now done we are hoping our gas smell will now be gone for good.

Later on Friday, Ken and Lynda came round for a chat and a drink and we had another enjoyable night in their company.

25th January 2010 Gaste to Mimizan Plage

25 01 2010

After a short stroll by the lake at Gaste this morning we headed on to Mimizan Plage as we had heard from another couple that we were in contact with that it had all the facilities like water and electric and that there were numerous other motor homes there. The drive was about 40 minutes and we parked up along with around 20 other motor homes, two of them British including the people from Northumberland we had met a week or so ago. You have to pay at Mimizan Plage but there is as much water and electricity as you need, 6 euros per day, bargain.

We soon got chatting to the other British couple, Ken and Lynda, who lived in their massive American RV full time, they mentioned that they had processional catterpillars here a few weeks back so we decided to keep Jack on a tight leash, there were also a lot of wild cats about too, he would have a right old time if we let him off!

On the Beach.

It looks like we may well stay here for a few nights, the weather is decent, it’s secure and there are other Brits about and it will be nice just to relax and get more of our photos/blogs done, have a tidy out and fully recharge so we can be completely done before we move on further south and into Spain, it’s not that far away now.

24th January 2010 Blasimon to Gastes via The Dunes of Pilat

24 01 2010

Today was the day when we headed back toward the Atlantic coast from our little diversion inland, setting us up for the journey into Spain. We were much closer to the coast than I had realised and we arrived at The Dunes of Pilat easily within two hours.

Lorna had wanted to visit the dunes, the largest in Europe, for a while after reading about them I’m a motorhoming book and what a good decision that was. The dunes are amazing, after the steep climb up to the top of the first peak you are treated to a view over the Atlantic ocean and the mass of sand just disappears into the distance with numerous peaks jutting into the skies.

Dunes of Pilat

Jack of course had a wonderful time, running up to the top of the first peak whilst we struggled up, sinking six inches into sand with each step. Once we were at the top he ran around like he hadn’t had any exercise for weeks, coming back to us covered in sand and panting like a good ‘un. We walked all the way along the top of the dunes to the highest peak we could see, stopping ocassionally to take photos as the light from the mid-afternoon sun lit up different parts of the sandy landscape. What an incredible place to be, just stunning. After I ran down the steep side of the dunes like an excited teenager we got back to the motorhome and de-sanded ourselves and headed off to have a look at the aire I’m Gastes.

Kite Flying

One thing that you notice in France is just how straight the roads are. The sat-nav directed me to the D652 and the next instruction was to go straight over the traffic island 12.8km away. For 12.8km the road didn’t bend once, perfectly straight all the way. The same was true for the D46, the next road, but this lost out on the straigtness competition as I had to turn slightly left after about 8km.

We arrived at the aire in Gastes at about 5pm, just in time to watch the sun set over the massive lake that we were parked on the side of, yet another beautiful location, so peaceful and so very relaxing.

23rd January 2010 Blasimon and St. Emilion

23 01 2010

I woke up with a bit of a hangover after a bit too much wine last night and we both felt that we wanted to explore the immediate area a bit further, especially St. Emilion. We had a word with our host and booked and paid for an evening meal, this left us knowing where we were stopping and what time we had to be back, leaving us a full day to visit other places.

Lorna must have been suffering a bit too as her first request was to find a McDonalds so she could check her blog hits, I knew that she really wanted a quarter pounder though.

Suprisingly I had received an email from the HP customer support people, a pretty standard reply going through some steps I could take to isolate the problem, but with bits of personalisation in it as well. Though it didn’t answer my question about where I could take the laptop to be fixed it did offer to mail replacement parts to me if needed, things were looking up a little.

After a fairly quick late breakfast/early dinner we drove on to St. Emilion, a small but very pretty village with lovely yellow bricked buildings, terracotta roofs and wine shops everywhere. In the centre of the town stands a tall bell tower where we paid just over one euro to go up, 191 steps but the views from the top were great, looking over the town and all the terracotta roofs. I wished I had taken my longer zoom lens with me as there were masses of abstract shots to be had there.

St. Emilion Roofs

St. Emilion Roof Tops

We knew that we both wanted to take a shower before our meal and we needed to take on some water to make sure we didn’t run out. We had asked if there was a tap available at the vineyard we were stopping on, there was but there was a five euro charge to use it (I thought this was a bit much considering we had just spent nearly seventy euros on the meal and wine from last night) so we smiled graciously and planned to fill up elsewhere.

On the way to St. Emilion we had passed a service point in a place called Branne, right on the Dordogne. On our way back we stopped, plugged in the electric to recharge Lornas laptop and our phones and then heated the water for our showers. I decided to have another go at starting my laptop as the HP people had asked for feedback as to what the actual error messages were. It started up pretty much in the same way, clicking and scraping noises and then an error with an option to run a startup repair program. I started this running and left it going…..more clicking and scraping. The program finished after about three quarters of an hour saying that the problem couldn’t be fixed. I restarted it and hey presto, it started normally……I got my photos onto a memory stick very quickly!

We both showered (there is something quite strange about showering parked up on the side of a busy road) and then I went to refil the water, put the token in the machine (as I had done previously for the electric), connected the hose and turned on the tap….nothing. Upon investigation the button to start the electric supply was stuck in and as soon as I put the token in the supply came back on, another hour of electric then. The laptop started up again and I was able to edit a few photographs without a hitch!

It was dark by the time we returned to Domaine de Grand Homme, we relaxed for a while before going to eat our home cooked meal.

Lorna and I sat down for our five course meal with four French adults and one of their children. Only one of the five spoke English so I had a quiet night of nodding and smiling where appropriate. I understood a little but not being very good with spoken French remained quiet for most of the night. We had, soup, salad, stuffed calamari, green salad and cheese and to finish off a creme caramel, all washed down with various types of wine. The one guy there (the one that spoke English) was clearly a bit of a wine buff, completely failing to just drink the wine, rather to wash it around the glass to see how it stuck, sniffing it before doing that slurping thing (most rude at a table thought I) before finally swallowing it and then commenting on it to the bloke that grew the grapes and made the wine, it reminded me if the scene in Pulp Fiction at Quentin Tarantinos’ house with the coffee. It’s probably that I am not into wine that much that I found this a little odd….just enjoy it for Gods sake! When I have a pint of a different real ale in England, I just drink it, if it tastes nice I’ll have another. Between all seven of us there must have been five bottles of wine opened, not one of them were finished and I doubt if I had half a bottle all evening despite having five empty glasses in front if me by the end of the meal, the most sober I have been at 11pm since we left the UK. Still, I had a good night, great food, a few different wines and no washing up.

22nd January 2010 Monbazillac to a vineyard just outside Blasimon

22 01 2010

We had already decided to rise slightly earlier than normal as we wanted to have a nose around Bergerac so we managed to be on the road for the short trip into the centre by 10.30. We parked up at the aire that we decided not to stay at last night and walked into the old town of Bergerac which was very quaint.

BergeracThe newer part of the town kind of creeps upon you as one minute you are in narrow streets with ornate houses and shops and then it changes to a bustling busy town. Lorna went shopping and bought a birthday present for her friends daughter Alex whilst I looked after Jack and prevented him from pissing up the outside displays of clothes for sale at various shops. We then walked over the bridge to another part of town and came across a market so we bought some fresh prawns, salmon and a large baguette for our dinner/tea.

Red Window Shutter - Bergerac

We had planned to stop at Frontenac for the night, after driving through what seemed like endless grape fields we noticed a sign for a vineyard that accepted motorhomes so we thought that would be a great back up plan if we didn’t fancy Frontenac. Typically, we arrived at Frontenac and decided to have a look at the other place we had seen so made our way back. Frontenac was fine, a small village with the aire directly behind the Mairie, a little isolated maybe but fine for a nights stay. I think the experience of staying at Monbazillac spurred us on for another night on a vineyard!

We followed the sign back to the vineyard but on arriving the gate was closed and there was no answer on the intercom. Deciding that the aire would be fine we started our way back. The roads we were on were narrow, just enough room for two cars and I am in the habit of pulling over if there is a car behind me just to make my driving more relaxing. Pretty much as soon as we reversed out of the driveway of the vineyard a car was behind me so I pulled over to let them past. The car behind didn’t pass, instead the lady driver wound her window down and started talking to us. Lorna got out and within seconds I gathered that she was inviting us to her house! She gave us directions and then drove off saying she would see us later on. The place she invited us to, Domaine de Grande Homme, was her and her husbands vineyard which was in the France Passion book (page 181) and we were greeted by a very large barking dog.

Her husband, Bertrand, welcomed us and showed us around his little shop and then some bedrooms where he has people staying, pretty much like a small bed and breakfast. We were invited for tea but we declined as we had some lovely salmon to enjoy.

The sun was out and it was about 15 degrees outside so out came the deck chairs and the wine and we spent a very pleasurable afternoon sat outside with Jack. Garlic prawns and pan fried salmon for tea. Hard life!

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