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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21st January 2010 Monbazillac

21 01 2010

Bit of a strange day today in that we spent the majority of our time at a well known burger outlet. Actually it was McDonalds and they deserve a mention as their provision of free wi-fi has allowed us both to upload our blogs, do a bit of research, answer emails, talk to our letting agents via Skype and cancel some direct debits from the bank accounts, all for the price of a couple of coffees and bugers.

I managed to get my blog uploaded without any problems using only my iTouch and the WordPress application, I sent an email to Hewlett Packard about my faulty laptop (apparently they have offices in both Bordeaux and Toulouse which are both quite close) and I also managed to find a possible answer to our faulty temperature guage (thanks to the people at motorhomefun.co.uk), apparently it’s a common thing and a simple fix is to disconnect the speedo cluster and reconnect. I’ll try and find that particular plug tomorrow if I get chance but that information has probably saved us a fair bit if money!

We returned to Monbazillac, which by the way produces the nicest rose wine I have tasted, at about 6pm after a short trip into Bergerac where the aire was right on the main road (not ideal and noisy!), walked Jack, caught up on a few text messages, ate tea (which turned out to be steak hache, essentially beef burgers…..two in one day! Shocking), watched a DVD and went to bed. We intend to go to Bergerac tomorrow for a good look around.





20th January 2010 Sainte Cyprien to Monbazillac

20 01 2010

After a rainy night we got up and went for a decent walk in Sainte Cyprien, up behind the chapel that sits on the hill and through the narrow pathways with houses arranged in no order whatsoever. We hung around for a while, me filling our water tank with water from the outlet via a watering can and Lorna preparing our lunch of Heinz tomato soup and bread. Then we drove to Soirac en Perigord to see the man about the computer. As I thought, the hard drive was completely FUBAR! So we took it away, with me resigned to having no laptop for the remainder of our six month trek. Lorna does have a laptop but the screen is so small it makes it difficult to edit photos on, plus it has no photo editing software on it.

So, I have potentially lost all the original copies of photos taken so far, all of my music back up, my point of interest files for the sat nav and some instructions for our gas system. Of course it may be possible to recover some of these but I doubt it. Great! Thanks Hewlett Packard for a great reliable product!

I decided to see if there was any chance of getting the laptop to a repair centre in France, thinking that if there was one South of us I could take it there myself on our way. A friend in the UK provided telephone numbers for me which was much appreciated but to be frank, Hewlett Packard customer service was awful. I tried to explain my situation to the ‘person’ on the other end of the line, explaining in great but concise detail that I was in France with a UK bought machine, under warranty, that needed urgent repair, was there somewhere I could take it? All I got back was PC World, Dixons or Currys. I explained again that those shops do not exist in France and that as they sell macines there, there must be a repair centre. PC World, Dixons or Currys was all that I got back, the person no doubt in Bangladesh, was simply didn’t have the knowledge to help and eventually put the phone down on me.

Thanks again Hewlett Packard, great service, great product……does anyone sense sarcasm and frustration here?

So, the upshot is that I shall continue to use the WordPress app on my iTouch to blog each day and upload from the iTouch whenever I get an Internet connection, but I am unable to edit and get my photos online. This now means that I shall have to fill up a CF card with photos, manually cataloguing them as I go, then buy a new CF card, storing the full ones for editing when I get back to the UK in June. Hardly ideal that is it? If anyone has any better suggestions please let me know!!

Off the computer subject for the moment.

We drove from Soirac en Perigord toward Bergerac and then took a slight detour to Monbazillac where we used a France Passion site for the first time.

We pulled up at what appeared to be a small warehouse bang in the middle of fields and fields of grape vines. Not long after a very friendly chap arrived and explained to Lorna where we should park, where the disposal points were and then invited us for aperatifs at 6pm.

The aperatifs turned into a bit of a wine tasting session and we tried the owners full range of wines. The father of the owner of the vineyard, Fabrice Camus, spoke only in French but I understand more than I can speak so I gathered that the wine has makes there, with his son, is not sold in any supermarkets but only from his vineyard.

It had the feel of a little cottage industry. Four generations of his family had grown grapes and made wine in the same place and the wines were really nice, I didn’t care for the red much but the white and rose were excellent, especially the rose which I am drinking as I type this.

He was saying, whilst showing us photos of barbeques with up to 15 motorhomes parked on his land, that he has had five motorhomes himself, and in the main season he has loads of motorhomers turning up.

Obviously a very proud man and rightly so.








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