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.


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.


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.


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.


15th December 2010 – Hendaye Plage (France) to Palencia (Spain)

18 12 2010

We actually managed to get up early and get away from Hendaye Plage before 9.30 which was a bit of a result for us, up, cup of tea, off…..done. Lorna had spent the last two nights worrying about tunnels on our way into Spain, she hates them and gets herself in a right state and had planned a route that involved as few tunnels as possible, until I found another more direct route that invoked a slight detour to avoid a rather long one. Lorna was concerned that if we missed a turning we might have to go through this tunnel, despite my assurances on my navigation!

Route finally decided we set off and headed out of France for a long journey to Palencia, our mid-way stop before hitting Portugal. The sat-nav was telling us 4 hours 16 minutes so we prepared ourselves for the drive. As soon as we got into Spain I filled up, expecting diesel to be slightly cheaper but it wasn’t particularly at €1.16 a litre, then we headed toward Vitoria Gasteiz. It was cold and we actually had a bit of snow as the road snaked it’s way up and up onto the plains of that part of Spain. Some of the views were stunning but as always, nowhere to stop and take photos.

(I’ve been expressly forbidden to write about Lorna taking diazepam and slugging whisky to help with the nerves about tunnels at 11.30 in the morning so I shan’t mention that at all).

We ignored the advice of the sat-nav to get onto the E5/E80 toward Burgos as this was a toll road and we wanted to stop on the N-1. We’d actually set it to avoid toll roads so we reckoned that the E5/E80 must have only recently changed to a toll, especially considering the graffiti in Miranda de Ebro which appeared to be against the toll road quite strongly. We passed through Burgos and were pleased to get on to the smooth and fast, toll free section, of the E5/E80 which took us swiftly into Palencia where we got straight to the aire and parked up alongside three other motorhomes, two of them British. Four and a half hours, not too bad.

After a walk into town to get some provisions (get this, 2 bottles of red wine, 1 carton of red wine, 1 bottle of lemonade, 1 carton of orange juice, 2kg of onions, 2 peppers and 2 large oranges, €6.94!) I spent a while on the roof of our motorhome adjusting the skew on my satellite dish LNB, we’d had difficulty getting certain channels since leaving Mimizan Plage and this was the problem (helpfully pointed out by one of the other motorhomers that I had noticed also had an Oyster system and so asked for help). That done and an evening of The Apprentice guaranteed I failed find a free wi-fi signal whilst Lorna made a curry for our tea.

Portugal tomorrow!

14th December 2010 Mimizan Plage to Hendaye Plage

18 12 2010

A fairly simple plan today, get up, shower, pack up and get on our way to our last stop in France, Hendaye Plage. We stopped off there last year on our way down and found it a really useful stop off point, free, quiet and about as close to Spain as you can get.

The journey was only about two and a half hours and we stopped mid-way to refill our LPG cylinders, I was very surprised to find that we had only used around 10 litres since our last fill up in Telford. Always better to be full when going to Spain and Portugal as it’s not so available in those countries and we expect to be using a fair bit if the temperatures remain low at night, this morning we had ice on the side of the motorhome but when you are plugged in with a really good electric heater you don’t notice it’s cold outside.

After a light lunch when we arrived at Hendaye Plage we walked into town and had a wander around as the sun set behind Spain in the near distance casting it’s golden light on the coastal rocks of France.

Hendaye Plage

Up earlier tomorrow for the long drive to Palencia, our first and probably only stop in Spain before we hit mid-Portugal.

4th February 2010 Hendaye Plage (France) to Cabarceno (Spain)

4 02 2010

Up at 9.30am the excitement was building as our next stop would be in Spain. We left at about 11.30am having planned our route, deciding to rely more on road maps than the sat-nav.

The transition from France to Spain was barely noticed as slowly all of the signs were in Spanish, no ‘Welcome to Spain’ signs and no passport control at all, just another road. We took the A8 toll motorway until we passed Bilbao. On the way there we went through a number of tunnels and those that know Lorna will know of her phobia of them but all went well and we travelled through tunnels up to over a kilometre and a half long without an issue, no screaming, no shakes and no attempt to traverse around them. We then decided to get off the busy motorway as we felt we were missing so much of the smaller places, not that there were many unfortunately, the areas surrounding both Bilbao and Santander were busy bustling towns. We took the N634 which took us up hill and down dale, all with views of the peaks of the Pyrenees and it’s snow capped mountains.

We wanted to have a look at Laredo (something to do with it being mentioned in a Johnny Cash song though I presume there is also one in America). This was another large town so we simply drove through and headed toward Cabarceno, an aire mentioned in the ‘All the Aires in Spain and Portugal’ book that we have. In total we drove for nearly four hours and eventually arrived at out destination, I was tired, the concentration of driving both on the busy motorway and the smaller, tight and twisty roads taking it’s toll. However, we still had enough energy to go to a local bar to have a drink, my first pint (yes a full pint!) of beer since we left the UK on Christmas Eve, Amstel.

The language barrier got the best of me I’m afraid as I had to show Jack to the bar owner and make insane waving motions indicating that I was asking if it was ok to bring him in. It must have been quite funny for the people in there plaing dominos to watch. After the drinks we settled up and went to the local supermarket, it looked like someones front room but Lorna managed to buy a baguette and a bottle of unlabelled local rose wine which was suprisingly strong.

I think that Spain is going to be a bit more of an adventure, the problem of us not speaking the language and the lack of ‘official’ parking spaces means that we are going to have to chance our arms a bit as to where we stay and if someone wants us to move on, we won’t understand them, there is also the issue of the availability of water which really was no problem in France but in Spain it could be more difficult, certainly LPG will be a problem but we are now on rations. It does feel good to have moved on to a different country, new challenges and new experiences await us at every turn.

Madness really, but happy days indeed.

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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