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.





9th March 2011 Caceres to Palencia.

9 03 2011

Our drive from Caceres to Palencia was 3 hours 50 minutes according to the sat-nav but as we rarely go as fast as the speed limit it always takes much longer than the sat-nav suggests so we were banking on at least 4 hours plus stops for lunch and refueling. We set off, in the rain, at around 9.30am and started our journey which started pretty badly as, at the entrance to the car park we were in the sat-nav told me to turn left, I did and it immediately then told me to turn around, typical. So, I ended up driving around the back streets of Caceres to get back on to the main road. That done we headed off into the wilderness, through some sparse but lovely scenery. As we headed toward, through and past Plasencia the scenery was particularly nice as the low clouds hung to the mountains making for some very dramatic scenes. The road from Salamanca to our destination of Palencia was less dramatic as the land was very flat and pretty lifeless except for around Valladollid which looks like a huge sprawl of a city. The one saving grace of this journey was the fact that I was able to listen to the RNE 3 radio station which plays some great tunes, lots of lo-fi and electronic.

 

We arrived at Palencia just after 2pm, giving a journey time of just over 4 and a half hours, not too bad really. We were both tired and a bit munchy but first thing was to give Jack a walk as he had been very patient throughout the drive. After a short walk we left him to sleep a little more and we both headed off into town to get some food, we knew exactly where the Burger King was and that suited us both fine. Back at the motorhome we rested for a while before heading back into town with Jack for another walk. There was a fun fair just kicking into action and there were people there putting a stage up, more Lent celebrations from what we could see. Unfortunately we were both a little too tired to have a night on the town so we had a late dinner of chicken with pepper, garlic and ginger served with cous cous, quick, easy and most tasty.





8th March 2011 – Terrugem (Portugal) to Caceres (Spain)

8 03 2011

The music started and it was loud, that loud thumping that you hear when some young lad in a Nova SR pulls up and turns up his subwoofer, but it wasn’t coming from a car, it was coming from the small bar/social club not far from where we were parked. We had seen a few people dressed up as we passed through Borba yesterday and we soon found out why.

It was the Carnaval. The celebration that happens four days before Ash Wednesday. It is something that we later realised we experienced last time we were out and at A’ Coruna in Spain, that time though the music started very early morning. This time the music started late and continued throughout the night, in fact it didn’t stop until early morning, or late morning depending on your perspective, it was just after 6am when I decided to go outside and shoot this video with our little compact camera.

Just after this was taken the music stopped, 6.30am I reckon and we had had a bit of sleep but not much. Unfortunately, just as the music stopped it started to rain heavily so we had a very restless night overall. After a bit of sleep we were woken by music again at 9.30am, the cleaner must have turned to PA back on. We have made a mental note to make sure that when we are abroad this time next year to either be in the thick of it for the Carnaval and join in, or be somewhere very isolated to try and avoid the disturbed sleep.

By 11am we had packed everything up and were headed off out of Portugal and into Spain for our first stop of two nights in that country before getting back into France. We headed for Caceres as there is an official aire there and passed through the Portuguese town of Elvas which we noted had plenty of parking so we will be back there for a good look around next time we are in the area , we also passed through some lovely countryside on our way, it’s a shame it was raining really as I’m sure the views would have been much more spectacular had the skies been clear. Arriving at Caceres (N39°28.817′ W006°22.123′) around an hour and a half later we had a small lunch and eventually dragged ourselves out of the motorhome for a walk around the town with Jack. We walked through lots of narrow little streets filled with character, and graffiti, up to the main square which was all cordoned off as it was being repaved. Caceres certainly is a lovely place and probably needed more investigation that we managed to give it but we were both pretty knackered after our sleepless night and, knowing we had a long drive up to Palencia tomorrow we spent much of our time in Caceres, in the motorhome resting.








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