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.





12th March 2011 – Biarritz to Bourg-sur-Gironde.

12 03 2011

Our route through France will mainly be concentrated on the N10 which is the most direct route from South West France to Calais, along the way we will be calling in at various places for overnight stops. Though we normally use the ‘All the Aires in France’ book I have also downloaded all of the French Aire GPS co-ordinates from the French i-Camping Car website which is a more exhaustive database. We are kind of planning to drive around two hours per day and our first stop from Biarritz was subject of much discussion, the aires in the Atlantic region didn’t really seem to be hitting the spot from what we could make out from the book (I think that maybe we have visited and stayed at the best ones on our route through that region) so, we got the sat-nav out and eventually decided to head for a little town called Bourg-sur-Gironde which was about three hours away.

12-03-2011 Biarritz

First thing was a good walk on the beach in Biarritz, possibly our last beach stop, it was a lovely day and Milady Plage is a really nice beach to be on. Soon after we were back at the motorhome getting ready for the off. We had no details on Bourg-sur-Gironde but we knew it was right by a Port so it was worth a look and there was bound to be parking available. The journey was fairly relaxed and when we eventually arrived at our destination it was immediately clear that we would be stopping the night.

12-03-2011 Bourg2

The parking (N45°02’17 W0°33’26) was on a large car park with house to one side and the river to the other, the town close by had a restaurant and cafe within a minutes walk and more shops within 10 minutes walk up the hill. The buildings were beautiful too, typically French, some looking derelict and falling down , others beautifully presented and sitting above where we were parked.

12-03-2011 Bourg

A really nice town, called Bourg-sur-Gironde, but according to one of the signs by the side of the river it is actually on the Dordogne as, in time the flow of the waters has changed but they didn’t change it’s name. We were originally parked there by ourselves but soon after we returned from a walk around we were joined by two other motorhomes and had a very pleasant evening in.

12-03-2011 Bourg5





11th March 2011 – Palencia (Spain) to Biarritz (France)

11 03 2011

We were out on the road by 9.15am this morning on our long journey from Spain back into France. The sat-nav was quoting just over 4 hours to Hendaye Plage which is our usual last stop in France before entering Spain, on the way back however we fancied a night at Biarritz as the aire there is very nice and has electric hook ups, there is a €10 charge per night but we were not particularly worried about that. The journey ended up taking us just over five hours with a short stop for a bite to eat and a re-fueling stop (the diesel price in Spain was €1.29 and in France €1.49 so it was worth the refill). We arrived in Biarritz and were glad to see that the aire wasn’t too busy and that there was an electricity point available, excellent. We were tired after the journey but a walk on the beach with Jack soon put paid to our fatigue.

23-03-2011 Biarritz2

After a visit to the supermarket to get some dinner, I was soon on the roof of the motorhome adjusting the satellite LNB to get a better signal, moving so far north meant that I could now use the normal transponder that is used in the UK and there was a good chance that we would be able to get all of the channels that we should be, ITV1 included. The adjustment was successful and we had a full range of channels so the evening was spent eating a steak dinner and watching Coronation Street and Benidorm before retiring to bed.





6th May 2010 Biarritz to Montagne-sur-Gironde

6 05 2010

Today’s journey was one of 294km from Biarritz to a little town north of Bordeaux and south of La Rochelle called Montagne-sur-Gironde, it looked like a nice place in our aires book and it wasn’t far off of our intended route back to Calais.

First thing we took Jack for another run on the beach at Biarritz before heading to the supermarket to get a fresh baguette and some stuff for breakfast on the way. The journey again involved the use of toll roads, but, on this occasion the sat nav was saying that by using them we would save over an hour on our journey so it seemed worth it considering our now tighter schedule.

We hit the motorways fairly quickly after leaving Biarritz and were quite happy pottering along at around 90-100km/h for the majority of our route. We stopped at a motorway services just north of Bordeaux and had ham on a baguette for lunch and then continued our journey. Once off the motorway we travelled through the beautiful French countryside with grape vine fields stretching far into the distance and through small villages with the kind of French architecture that we remembered from our journey south five months ago.

We arrived at Mortagne-sur-Gironde and found the aire easily (N45•28’34 W000•47’34), a lovely spot right next to a riverside marina opposite a row of traditional French houses with some restaurants along the front, gorgeous.

The marina at Montagne-sur-Gironde

We parked up and then moved after we realised that the motorhome we had parked next to had a cat, no need to stress Jack we thought. We then walked Jack for a good 45 minutes and when we returned we noticed that one of the lock up stalls not far from where we had parked had opened up, as it happened it was the stall of a local vineyard that was selling both red and white wine as well as Cognac and a locally produced beer. We obviously had to visit and bought a good stock for both us and presents for our nearest and dearest for when we return to the UK next week. The beer was the first locally brewed ‘ale’ I have seen since we set off in December 2009 so I had to try some. The woman selling it said it was very good and it had Cognac in it, I should think so, it was 7.5%!

Vine, Window, Door

We took our purchases back to the motorhome and had a chance to try some of them out, all superb, our nearest and dearest are very lucky! Dinner was steak with potato salad which we ate whilst watching motorhome after motorhome turn up. After this we planned the route for tomorrow, undecided at the time of writing but sure to be a reasonable distance again.





5th May 2010 Palencia (Spain) to Biarritz (France)

5 05 2010

We set off from Palencia a little later than we had anticipated and hit the road at around 10.30am (11.30am Spanish time as we still hadn’t adjusted our clocks). We had decided that we would use the toll roads as we could cover the distance we needed to more quickly than using non toll roads, plus the fact that the normal roads had more tunnels on them than the tolls and Lorna is not comfortable with tunnels at all.

We headed from Palencia toward Burgos and then from there toward Bilbao on the toll road. We had no idea how much the toll would be and unfortunately you don’t find out until you get off, in our case over 150km later. Lorna estimated €10 but it was no suprise to me to be charged nearly €18 for the use of the road, I abhore paying tolls! After this we decided to set the sat nav to take us to Biarritz which, from where we were was suprisingly close, around an hour or so away.

It would have been an hour away if it hadn’t have been for an accident on the motorway we were on which delayed us for a good 40 minutes. Once through this we then hit three more toll booths, one for over €7 and the other two for around €2 each…….I hate paying tolls, did I mention that?

We stopped off at the Intermarche in Biarritz to get some meat for our dinner as our recent diet has been quite poor (Burger King, eggs and ham and other ‘snacky’ food) but couldn’t resist a big chunk of brie, some bread and some chorizo to go with our lamb and lentils.

It had rained for the majority of the day and when we pulled up at the Biarritz aire it stopped for long enough for me to take a recently neglected Jack out for a good walk and a run on the beach, something that he appreciated greatly seeing the way that he exitedly ran around like a nutter on the beach.

Dinner was had with a bottle of Portuguese wine and then plans were made for our journey the next day which will take us up to the Bordeaux area, another 3 hour plus drive.





3rd February 2010 Biarritz to Hendaye Plage via St. Jean-de-Luz

3 02 2010

Again woken by traffic noise we were up and about fairly early and we decided to move on to have a look around St. Jean-de-Luz which was about only half an hour away from where we were. Before we left we carried out the usual tasks such as emptying the waste and brimming the water tank to give us as much water as we could carry.

We arrived in St. Jean-de-Luz and, after a quick lunch we had a walk around the centre and along the sea front, the sun was shining and we had temperatures of around 18 degrees, very pleasant.

The Harbour at St. Jean de Luz

The aire there was right on a very busy main road so we decided to move on to the last aire in France before Spain, Hendaye Plage.

The aire there is located right outside the small train station and we parked up alongside two other motorhomes and then walked down the hill toward the beach. It is a lovely place with lots of beautiful houses along tree lined avenues and the beach was a massive expanse of sand with the calm sea softly lapping on to it.

Hendaye Plage Reflections

We sat on the beach for a short time before heading into what we thought was the town centre. This turned out not to be the town centre of Hendaye Plage but the centre of a Spanish town called Hondarribia, which was inacessible because of the harbour water. Spain was literally just over 500 yards away. This photo was taken in France but is of the Spanish town of Hondarribia.

The Spanish town of Hondarribia

The harbour area of Hendaye Plage was also quite big with plenty of boats moored there, we then went to find a supermarket that was open to get some wine for our evening meal. After finding one in what was the centre of town we decided on an aperatif at one of the small cafes. They had wi-fi so after a few Skype calls, a blog update and a few emails we finished our rose wine and walked back to the motorhome. Things had certainly got a bit busier since we left as there were now about seven motorhomes parked there. We settled in for the evening with a dinner of Toulouse sausages and lentils.

Spain tomorrow!!








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