14th March – Monbazillac

22 03 2012

We left the campsite at Evoramonte and headed out of Portugal into Spain for our stop at Caceres, a lovely town that we wanted to visit again. The aire at Caceres was rammed full unsurprisingly and we had to park out of the aire on the coach park as did many others. We sat and watched as many more motorhomes arrived and had to turn away and go elsewhere. If you are going to Caceres, arrive early! As we were in no particular rush we had two nights at Caceres and then, after moving on, two nights at Palencia, our next stop in Spain. The drive to Palencia is a nice one, plenty of eagles soaring overhead and some beautiful scenery along the route. Normally from Palencia we head straight to Biarritz which is a fairly long drive but this time we decided to make another stop in Spain at Vitoria Gasteiz, somewhere we had not stopped before. The aire here is on a large out of town car park with specific bays for motorhomes but when we arrived there were more motorhomes parked all over the car park as well as numerous caravans, something that we hadn’t seen much evidence of before. Vitoria Gasteiz is a big place and the basque capital of Spain, unfortunately the parking area is well out of the main town making visiting the centre a bit of a problem for us as we have Jack to consider but, just up the road there is a massive park to walk around which is very pleasant.

The extra stop made our journey back into France much easier that it would normally have been and we arrived at Biarritz to find a big motorhome show being advertised. Again the place was rammed, made worse by the fact that the aire at Anglet (which we initially tried to stop at) was closed, looking like reserved parking for the show. We managed to get a spot at the main aire at Biarritz and had to share electricity with an Irish couple parked next to us. Motorhomes continued to arrive at the full aire and we saw at least ten have to go elsewhere. We had some lovely walks on the beach at Biarritz in wonderful weather, it really is a nice place to be but we needed to move on the next day to continue our journey, to Lourdes.

I had wanted to visit Lourdes for a while as I find the religious aspect and peoples reactions to it quite fascinating. When we arrived we parked up and walked to have a look at the huge church there. With the backdrop of the snow capped mountains of the Pyrenees it’s quite a spectacular place, when you get there.

Lourdes

Lourdes

To get there though we had to walk through a street of shops all selling tacky religious fare and (plastic) bottled ‘holy’ water. It wasn’t clean either, rubbish piled up on the street and many places looking fairly grotty or closed, not very impressive for such a famous place. Jack wasn’t allowed in the grounds of the church so we walked him back and returned to have a look around the inside of the church which I have to say was not as impressive as the outside. They have a 20,000 seat underground bascillica there which was amazing and whilst people queued up at ‘The Grotto’ to touch and kiss the stone walls where the Virgin Mary was apparently seen I found the architecture of the bascillica much more moving. You probably have realised that I’m not the most religious person in the world!

Lourdes

Lourdes

Luckily, we walked into a different part of town the next morning before heading off and we were glad that we did, this side of town was much nicer, clean, tidy and fairly busy with folk going about their business. We left Lourdes with a better impression than when we arrived.

Next stop was an aire at a small town called Barbotan-les-Thermes which was just stunning. To stay on the aire we had to go to the tourist office in town and pay the €6 for the overnight stop but, also a €60 deposit on the barrier key. The aire is right on the edge of the Lac de l’Uby and is one of the nicest aires in France that we have stayed, peaceful, quiet and a stunning location.

Barbotan Les Thermes

Barbotan Les Thermes

We only planned to stay one night but after we heard that the market was on Wednesday morning we decided to stay another, the weather was beautiful and we had chores to do so it made perfect sense. The lady in the shop that told us about the market was also the one that sold us three bottles of wine, two being very local from just across the lake where we were staying. They didn’t last long.

I managed to get up early and take some photographs in the morning mists, should have tried harder to get up an hour earlier though I think.

Barbotan Les Thermes

Barbotan Les Thermes

At the market this morning we managed to do the usual and overspend quite easily. Olives, garlic in oil, proper green tea, vegetables galore, confit de canard, a duck breast and three types of saucisson, Pig, Deer and Duck. I was close to buying the Donkey variety but Lorna said no. Shopping done we used the free wi-fi at the Tourist Information and then headed on our way to our next stop, Monbazillac which is where this is now being written. We stayed here on our first trip out in January 2010, a ‘private’ aire where the owner lets you taste his wines made from his grapes grown in his fields which surround the house. Perfect, and though I can see us going seriously over budget today, we will eat and drink very well. I took this as the sun set over the landscape in the evening.

Monbazillac

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10th December – Silves

10 12 2011

We headed off from Vivonne after a good walk with Jack in the morning and headed along the main route toward Biarritz. The drive there would hve been too long for us so we stopped off at a small town called Marsas along the way. There was a designated place for motorhomes to park opposite the school and church so we checked that out before heading to another aire in a neighbouring village called Marcenais. This aire, parking only, was right in the middle of nowhere but it was a pleasant enough place for us to be stopped to have some lunch before heading back up the road to Marcas for the night. When we got back there there was one other motorhome parked up so all felt nice and secure for a restful nights sleep, even after watching Hostel II on DVD.

Next day we set off to Biarritz where we met up with Marion and Dave again. We decided that we would have a couple of nights here as the weather was wonderful when we arrived, bright sunshine, lovely blue skies and an outside temperature of 22.5 degrees. Jack had a lovely run on the open beaches and we had a load of fresh air before a good dinner in the evening. The next day I decided that the motorhome needed a good clean so I gave it a good going over, getting the bikes off the rack and making sure that every inch outside was washed off, how it managed to get quite so dirty I have no idea but it was a good job done. Typically, it rained heavily overnight and, as it was still raining the next day we decided to move on to our next stop of Hendaye Plage. This stop is only about 45 minutes away but it does knock that time off the journey to Palencia which we had planned for the next day. This drive is normally one of the longest and most stressful as we invariably get lost once we enter Spain from France, toll roads not signed properly, roads all with similar numbers etc, you’d think we would know our way by now!

So, on Saturday 3rd December we made our way from France into Spain, taking the usual detour along a toll road that we shouldn’t have been on and having to pay both on our exit and entrance back on to it. Nothing changes. We stopped off after about an couple of hours and had a quick bite to eat before setting off again and eventually arriving at Palencia late afternoon. As always seems to be the case when we come to this city, it all appeared closed so our initial scout around the town was just looking at closed shops and empty streets. Looking at some of the opening times on the shops showed the siesta in full operation, 8.30am to 1pm and 5.30pm to 8.30pm, that’s some break! At the right time we wandered back into town and got some basic provisions and settled in for the night, discussing our route down south. Either we could drive from Palencia into Portugal and stay on a paid aire for one night or, head further south in Spain and use an aire in Caceres which we had been to before. The latter won so, the next day we headed off to the town of Caceres where we had stayed before. We remembered that it was a very nice town and recalled that last time we were there there was lots of work going on in the central area so we were interested to have another look around. Our journey took around three and three quarter hours but it was a nice steady drive along good Spanish roads. When we arrived at Caceres the aire was packed, it’s a popular place as it does have free electricity albeit with limited points available, generally there are leads everywhere and much evidence of splitters being used. We were not bothered about getting electricity so found a spot and parked up. Because we wanted to have a good look around the town we decided that we would have two nights here and spent the next day walking Jack around the town, taking some photographs and looking for somewhere that we thought we might like to eat lunch. The central square, where the work was being carried out on our last visit, was now very pretty with plenty of folk around and restaurants taking advantage of all the space to have their tables and chairs out in the beautiful sunshine. We dropped Jack back off at the motorhome and went for lunch.

Caceres

When we got back into the square we saw that it had become extremely busy so we had to wait for a table at the restaurant that we had decided to eat at, being typically British we started a queue and once a table became free we were seated. This was not before our waited had to throw someone off a table as they just marched up and sat down without queueing, he probably thought this was most strange but he did it and then proceeded to keep shouting ‘Loverly Jubberly’ to us every time he passed by, quite a character. The menu was in both Spanish and English but the English translations left a lot to the imagination, I started with an Iberian Mixed Platter which ended up being a good portion of salamis, hams and cheese, Lorna had the paella. My main was described as ‘Serloin of the cake of to Mary’ and obviously I had no idea what was going to come when I ordered it but I was very pleasantly surprised to get chunks of steak served in a quite strong cheese sauce with a peeled pepper salad and chips. Lorna had suckling pig. Our sweet was a creme brulee each and for just €12 for three courses, in that location, it was a complete bargain.

Caceres

From Caceres we moved in into Portugal and made our way to an Orbitur campsite in Evora. We had wild camped in Evora before but we needed to get some washing done as well as making sure that everything was charged up and we were full and empty with water. We booked in for two nights at a cost of just under €30. Our afternoon was spent clearing out and washing so the next day we headed into town to have another look around, maybe to see things that we missed on our last visit and then we treated ourselves to a late afternoon BBQ.

Evora

Next stop was Silves on the Algarve, a place where we will probably spend most of our time over the next few weeks and where I am writing this from now. The weather isn’t brilliant at the moment but we are here with friends and it’s not raining. We celebrated out 6th wedding anniversary yesterday and it’s Lorna’s birthday tomorrow and a big BBQ is being planned, hopefully the showers that have been forecast will hold off and we can have a good day of it.





28th November – Vivonne

28 11 2011

We are now well on our way down through France and in reality all we have done is travel, not much sight seeing going on at all. We met up with Marion and Dave at an aire in Hondschoote which is just over the Belgian border into France and from there our first stop was the aire at Doullens which was just outside the town centre, a bit noisy as it was right by a bus terminal but also because we had some idiots knocking on our doors at 11pm and running off. We were not disturbed after this though and managed a decent nights sleep. Next stop for us was at a small village called Marboue which is ideally located just of the main N10, the main road that will take us most of the way through to the south of France before we hit Spain. Marion and Dave cooked us a lovely beef stew that night and with a few beers etc we had a good night in. Next morning we noticed a few Police about and it appeared as though one of the houses close by had been hit by a burglary, shame. One of the nice things about this aire is that it is right by a big park meaning.g that Jack managed to have a good run about for a bit.

Next stop for us all was the aire at the troglodyte village of Villaines de Rochers where, I had been told, there is free wi-fi at the Marie but, being a Sunday, it was not available as the offices were closed. Unfortunate but no real set back for us all. After an early dinner we watched a couple of films before having an early night. Next morning Marion and Dave left before us, heading south. We walked Jack and then set off to our next stop at Vivonne, a nice aire set just outside a pleasant town, again with the bonus of having plenty of open spaces around for Jack to get his exercise. We arrived quite early as our planned stop at Richelieu didn’t happen so our afternoon was spent pottering around the town and relaxing.

At our current pace it looks as thought we will be hitting Biarritz before the weekend meaning we should be in Portugal easily by early next week. The weather already seems to be a bit warmer than it has been in the north of France so things are looking very positive indeed!





21st November – Brugge

21 11 2011

We decided to have another night at Calais as we had never really seen much of the town, it always seems to be that people arrive at Calais and then get off to their destination as soon as possible without actually taking in any of the town itself, except maybe for the wine warehouses. Calais has a massive beach which is kept very clean and gives great views of the massive ferries coming from and leaving for the UK.

Calais Beach

Jack loves the beach, he can run for ages and as the sand is quite deep he gets a good workout, he also loves to dig! Our day in Calais consisted of a really good walk along the beach and then back into the suburbs and back to the aire, we must have been gone for about three hours in all and predictably on the way back we stopped off at the butchers and bought our dinner, pork mince wrapped in veal, a very easy and relaxing day.

Lorna & Jack

Saturday morning came and we packed up and made our way to Brugge which was around an hour and a quarter away. We had already investigated a camp site there which was just out of the city centre so we phoned, booked in and set off. The drive there was very easy, very flat and also very misty so we had virtually no view of the countryside at all unfortunately but when we started to approach the city we could immediately see that it was a very pretty place with a wide canal running in between the road we were on and the city walls. We found the camp site very easily and were soon parked up and settled in next to two other British motorhomes.

When we were in Monsaraz in Portugal in early 2010 we met a couple, Jeff and Marie-Jeanne, who we spent a couple of days with, they lived in Brugge and had invited us to come to see them. We had had contact with them once in the meantime and still had their number so we phoned them up hoping to maybe see them whilst we were in the city. They were very excited to hear from us and instead of arranging something for the next few days they offered to come and pick us up that evening and take us to theirs for drinks and a sandwich. At 7pm they arrived, drove us to theirs and we had a great evening catching up, eating seemingly endless supplies of food and drinking. They looked after us! They had offered to take us around the city of Brugge and show us the sights the next day so in the morning they came to pick all three of us up and took us into town.

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Brugge has to be the prettiest city I have been to, canals run through the centre which carry tourists in big boats but there is also the option to see the sights in horse drawn carriages which trundle through the cobbled streets, we walked. The buildings are wonderful, the town hall, the Belfry, the main church which is the tallest stone built building in Belgium, the quiet area where the nuns used to live, the bustling main streets and the numerous bridges, just a really pretty place to be.

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As usual, Jack got his usual attention whilst out on the streets but for slightly different reasons. We had already seen greyhounds being walked around so were a little taken aback when people were still pointing and smiling at him, this was until Jeff explained that his coat was the same colours as one of the football teams in Brugge who were playing the other Brugge based team later in the day, a big local derby. Luckily we were inadvertently showing support for the more popular team. Funny.

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As we had Jack with us, Jeff and Marie-Jeanne had arranged for us to eat at their nephews equine centre which was just out the city centre, Jack was allowed in and it was really appreciated that they thought of him when planning the day. We ate pasta whilst watching horses trot about in a training area which was very pleasant. After this we went to the other side of Brugge where the streets are narrower and the houses are smaller and there are less tourists, we walked around for a while before stopping off for a coffee and then finally returning to the motorhome for a few hours before going back to our friends house for evening food and drinks.

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They really looked after us again and being able to see all of the places that we did and hear about some of the history of the place was really a big bonus for us. All of my photos here were taken on my HTC Desire, more on my Flickr stream which is linked on the right hand side of this page.

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On Monday we just had a quiet day on the site, walking Jack, writing blogs and, later in the day a bit of shopping in the local shops and supemarkets. Tuesday we have a lunch of moules frites planned somewhere in the city as a thank you to our hosts for looking after us so very very well.





22nd March 2011 – Le Treport to Calais.

22 03 2011

Jack settled down and we all managed a decent night sleep, lovely and warm and very comfortable. As we didn’t have to leave Le Treport until 12.45pm we were in no rush to get moving so we had an easy morning walking Jack (who seemed much better) and both having nice long showers. The journey to the aire at Calais was 2 ½ hours according to the sat-nav so, at 12.30pm we pulled out of Le Treport and started on our way at a very leisurely pace.

With diesel being much cheaper in France than in the UK I planned to fill up as late as possible and, as we neared Calais we stopped off at a supermarket and put as much fuel in as possible, in this instance just over €80 worth. We couldn’t resist one final shop either so we went into the supermarket and bought more sausages, more wine (two cases, one white, one red, buy one get one free making each bottle less than €1.30!), a couple of tins of confit de canard (duck legs preserved in their own fat) and some other stuff of little significance. The wine bottle count is now up to 48 so I think that we have enough supplies in to last us a fair while when we get back to the UK and, considering that on average we have paid around €2 per bottle we will be making a considerable saving over UK prices, not to mention the difference in quality.

We arrived at Calais at about 3.30pm and despite our plans to go to the wine warehouse to get some more bottles we didn’t get that far before the sat-nav told us to get off the motorway and took us toward the aire. I decided not to fight it as I thought we probably had enough wine on board anyway. The aire was busy and we eventually found a place to park that was reasonably level (N50°57.962′ E001°50.622′).

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The positioning of the place is really quite nice, it looks right over the port and out to sea and you get to see the ferries really close up as they arrive and leave, which is very regular indeed. We had an wander around and got tempted by one of the food places on the sea front, ending up buying a big bag of chips and returning to the motorhome to eat them whilst watching Deal or No Deal and drinking tea.

As the sun set we were out again, running with Jack on the beach and savouring the lovely views.

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That is it now, our last day abroad and the final day of our travels. Tomorrow we will be back in the UK and back on the site in Stratford Upon Avon ready for work the day after. It is going to be a busy season and we are both looking forward to it immensely. 7 and a bit months to go and, all things being equal, we will be back out again…….excellent!

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21st March 2011 – St. Valery-en-Caux to Le Treport.

21 03 2011

We were up early this morning as we had decided to take Jack to the vets in St. Valery-en-Caux to get his tick treatment and worming done so that we would be able to catch the ferry back to the UK on Wednesday, it has to be done between 24 and 48 hours before you sail so we walked up to the vets at around 9.30am and were lucky enough to be able to get an appointment for 11am the same morning. Whilst we waited for the appointment time to come we had a wander around the town and harbour again and then returned just in time to be seen by the friendly vet. After what happened last time Jack had this done we had already checked that the worming treatment was done by tablet and not injection as we didn’t want Jack to be put through the pain he apparently suffered last time. The vet was lovely and checked Jack over before giving him his treatment and marking his documents, they did charge just over €60 for the pleasure though which we both thought was a bit much, but it seems as though that is the going rate.

Back at the motorhome I phoned up and booked our ferry crossing for Wednesday at 10.30am French time, next job was to get closer to Calais. We had decided to go to Le Treport because we knew that we would be able to get electricity there, there is a charge, but at €8.95 for the night it’s not excessive and it would leave us within easy reach of Calais where we planned to stay the night before we sailed. The journey there was nice and easy and took us just over and hour and a half, interrupted by a stop at the Lidl in Dieppe for some supplies (a bit more wine, some pate, sausages, cognac and razors). The stop there was a bit strange as as soon as we had parked we had a guy knocking on the door asking for money so he could eat. We had no change but, feeling a bit charitable we told him to come back to us once we had done our shopping and we would sort him out. I bought him some sandwiches in the shop but he wasn’t around when we returned so we ate them on our way to our destination.

At Le Treport we parked up and plugged in and then walked Jack along the path that runs alongside the aire, the same one where he was walked when we arrived here in December, in the snow. Things were looking much more colourful now though as the grass had grown and the trees were starting to get some colour back in them. Our afternoon was a very lazy one as we watched TV and then had pasta and sausages for our dinner, the sausages from Lidl were excellent, pork and red wine, and extremely tasty, comparable to ones I have had from butchers back in the UK. I’ll definitely be stocking up on those next time we are on our way through France into Spain.

Our night was much warmer as we had the luxury of having the electric heater on, unfortunately though Jack didn’t have a good night as he got us up early morning and was sick outside the motorhome, probably a reaction to the tablets he had had, maybe the injection was a better idea after all.





20th March 2011 – St. Valery-en-Caux.

20 03 2011

Another steady day today which was mainly comprised of walking Jack, taking some photographs and having an extended lunch which took us about two and a half hours, starter of an olive pate which Lorna had made, a main of chilli with more haricot verts, a cheese course and then to finish a bit of a naughty cake which we had bought earlier in the day. With it we had a bottle of red wine that Lorna had chosen which was excellent (and the second most expensive we had bought since we arrived abroad). France seems to have a bit of a bad influence on us food and drink wise, we seem to spend more on food here, eat more lavish menus and also get tempted by more expensive wines, bang goes the budget, and we had been doing so well!

Some of the photos that I took:

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Unfortunately, something on our menu didn’t agree with Lorna and she had a bit of a rough night of it, the temperature was also low again and concerns for our battery strength meant that we didn’t put the heating on for long and again relied on extra blankets and the sharing of body heat for a decent nights sleep.








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