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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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′).

22-03-2011 Calais2

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.

22-03-2011 Calais3

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!

22-03-2011 Calais4





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:

21-03-2011 St. Valery-en-Caux4

21-03-2011 St. Valery-en-Caux2

19-03-2011 St Valery-en-Caux3

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.





19th March 2011 – La Mailleraye-sur-Seine to St. Valery-en-Caux.

19 03 2011

St. Valery-en-Caux is somewhere we had been before, a nice aire right on the sea and close to a nice town with a large marina and this was the place that we had decided would be our next stop off on our continuing journey north and toward Calais for our eventual return to the UK. We left La Mailleraye-sur-Seine late morning and, after emptying our waste water, we hit the road for the journey which would take just under an hour and a half. As the journey wasn’t too long we decided that we would stop off on the way and take the opportunity to do some more on the internet, this blog was way out of date and I had all of the words and photos to get uploaded, plus I fancied another burger! Although I didn’t manage to get everything done on the internet I did thoroughly enjoy a chicken and bacon burger with fries, Lorna enjoyed a coffee but did have a bit of trouble getting one with milk and eventually had to go back to the motorhome to get some as the girl behind the counter refused to serve a black coffee with milk, unless she had a latte…….most strange. Again the internet connection was slow and I again managed to leave without getting up to date which was most frustrating.

We arrived at St. Valery-en-Caux relatively early in the afternoon and managed to find a spot right on the front looking over the harbour and, after a walk with Jack into town to get a token for the service point we filled up with water and settled in for a lazy afternoon.

19-03-2011 St Valery-en-Caux

We didn’t really know what we were going to have for our dinner and after a bit of a discussion on the subject I walked back into town and managed to get to the butchers and order a big slab of steak before they closed, I also got a jar of haricot verts and then walked into the main part of town, to the supermarket, and got us a nice bottle of St. Nicholas de Bourgueil which was a bit of a snip at €5.99, the most expensive bottle of wine we have bought since coming abroad (restaurants excluded). We then settled for an extremely tasty meal and a relaxing evening in, it was cold though, much colder than we had been for a good while so extra blankets were required for a comfortable nights sleep.





17th March 2011 – Gace to La Mailleraye-sur-Seine.

17 03 2011

We had to be up early today as the parking on the aire at Gace is only available between the hours of 5pm and 10am, worse still we were still working on British/Portuguese time and had not adjusted our clocks since leaving the UK at all meaning that we had to be up especially early to get moved on. We had decided that our next stop would be at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine, where we had stopped before on our last trip out, it’s a nice aire right on the banks of the River Seine and with just a few shops within 500 yards it is also nice and quiet, we would have our chill out time there. We still had not had access to the internet for a while following the disaster that was yesterday so on our way we stopped off at a McDonalds, had a coffee and burger and managed to get some, but not all, of our internet business done, the connection did seem to be particularly slow and waiting for the video that I took at Terrugem in Portugal took an age. In the end we both got a bit bored and decided to leave it and get to our destination.

Once we arrived at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine we parked up and then decided to nip to the Shoppi to get some provisions. We had seen adverts for a circus at the weekend and as we walked to the Shoppi we passed by as they were setting up. Strange sight seeing a camel grazing on the grass as well as numerous goats (quite why they would be in a circus I have no idea) and, a great big lioness who was happily gnawing away at some rather large bones. Despite it being of the cat family, Jack took very little notice indeed……….sensible lad! On our way back to the motorhome we bought ourselves a couple of cakes from the Patisserie as a treat to have after our dinner. In the afternoon we chilled out and watched the large empty container vessels sail slowly down the Seine toward the sea, our evening was spent eating our very tasty chilli, woofing down the cakes we had bought , watching TV and relaxing.





16th March 2011 – Azay Le Rideau to Gace

16 03 2011

Some days you have bad days and today was one of them.

Last night we had realised that we were only just under two hours from La Suze-sur-Sarthe which is an aire that we have used numerous times, for €3 it is right on the river Sarthe, has electricity and there is normally an open wi-fi signal available, I had loads of photos to upload as well as updating this which hadn’t been done since we were at Pego do Altar in Portugal, in addition we could use the wi-fi to check ferry prices and book Jack in at a vets prior to our departure back to the UK, all in all an ideal stop to get ourselves sorted before we continued north to Calais to catch the ferry back. We were up and away before 10am planning to get there relatively early and relax there for maybe two days before moving on again. It seemed as though we had been doing quite a bit of driving of late and we both felt like we needed a bit of a rest.

We arrived at La Suze-sur-Sarthe at around noon only to find that there were gypsies on the car park next to the aire, washing machines in the middle of the car park, clothes hanging everywhere, kids and dogs running around and no motorhomes on the aire at all. We didn’t feel too confident about stopping there for the night, in truth if there had been other motorhomes there then we probably would have stopped but it was most strange to see none there at all, it’s a popular aire and whenever we have stopped there there have always been others about. So, we had a bite to eat and reluctantly started checking out where we might be able to go that was within easy reach, it didn’t look too promising so we decided to go to a small town called Ballon which had a ruined chateau there, we thought that we might be able to stay somewhere there. There was nowhere for us to park for the night that we could see so we then headed to Montbizot which had an aire outside the campsite. We arrived there to find that the aire was closed, despite a sign saying that it would open on the 15th March so we headed off to the next one in Sille-le-Guillaume. Driving through the countryside toward the town was an experience that I didn’t make the most of, the views and scenery were spectacular but I simply was not in the right mood to be enjoying it. When we eventually arrived the aire there was awful, right on the car park for the main train station but not in the main part, tucked away down the bottom end amongst what looked like disused factory units, not ideal at all. We did have a walk around the town to see if there was somewhere suitable for us to stay but we couldn’t find anywhere so we headed off again. I was hot, tired and getting increasingly annoyed about little things, it’s been fine giving up smoking up until this point but it’s in situations like this that I really missed being able to have a calming smoke!

Our next port of call was a town called Fresnay-sur-Sarthe which also had an aire but this too was very badly located indeed. Well out of the town and alongside an old train station, a bit rough and too remote for our liking. We did manage to get some water there though which was welcome as we also had the problem that we were empty. We stopped there for a while and scoured the book on aires that we have trying to find something suitable, in the end deciding to head toward a town called Gace which had parking available outside the Town Hall, on the way there we would look for other places to spend the night as it was just under an hour and a half away. It was starting to drop dark and typically the mist was coming down as well. We didn’t find anywhere on the way but when we did arrive at Gace (N48°47.730′ E000°17.767′) we were both very relieved indeed. Not only were there 3 other motorhomers parked there but we immediately recognised one that we had seen at Vivonne a couple of days earlier and, very strangely, one that we had briefly met whilst parked at Boiro in Spain last year!

Finally happy and settled we managed a short walk with Jack who had been most patient with our faffing about all day before eating a thrown together dinner of Toulouse sausages with a mix of chilli and bolognaise all washed down with a bottle of Monsaraz from our Portuguese stocks. Not the kind of day we particularly enjoy, not the kind of day you generally expect to have when you are in a country with such a good network of aires but, these days come along every now and then and to be fair, this is the first of this trip so we haven’t done too badly I suppose.








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