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.



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!



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.



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.

10th March 2011 – Palencia

10 03 2011

We were both dead against the idea of traveling over four hours again today so we had a bit of a lie in and then a good walk with Jack along the path that we discovered yesterday that runs all along the river, down the side of the golf course and then back toward the town. We had a little browse around the town and then returned to the motorhome for a light lunch. Later in the day we decided to have a more exhaustive look around the town as we still hadn’t really seen that much of it. It’s a nice place, much nicer than we had originally thought on previous visits. A wide paved high street which stretches for a good distance, nice looking shops, the occasional bar and buildings that rise high up but with nice old features. We stumbled across various squares that sit in front of places like the council offices and the beautiful Gothic cathedral. Lorna got into the shopping spirit and came away with a nice pair of boots as well.

Dinner was a home made chicken curry which we had with a bottle of Portuguese vinho verde and then we had an early night in preparation for our long journey out of Spain and back into France tomorrow.

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.

16th December 2010 – Palencia (Spain) to Vilar Formoso (Portugal)

18 12 2010

We were in no rush to complete our ‘three countries in two day’s challenge’ today as the journey to our selected stop over in Portugal was only estimated at just under three hours, so, we were last to leave the aire in Palencia at 10.30am.

We headed off and got onto the A62/E80 straight away headed toward Valladolid, only a fairly short journey. Staying on this road we passed Valladolid and the sat-nav informed me that the aire was 125 miles away and my next turn was in 124 miles so on went the cruise control at 60mph and potter along we did stopping only to fill up with fuel as we expected prices in Spain to be cheaper than in Portugal.

The road was lovely to drive on, smooth, fairly straight and not very busy and the bonus came when I found the RNE 3 radio station which played some great music. Normally I would have my iPod on through the radio but the issue with the charging/connectivity is getting worse again. My nightly ritual is to sit holding the sync lead in to charge it enough to write my blog and maybe play some games, the slightest move and it disconnects, most annoying indeed!!

We pulled up to the now defunct border control and sailed through into Portugal, minutes later we were parked up at the aire at Vilar Formoso (N40•36’55” W06•50’18”) and, having paid our €5 for the electric hook up went for a walk back to the Spanish border to have a look at the shops etc. When we returned I plugged in and promptly tripped the circuits putting the heater on, the sun was out and looking out you’d think it was boiling but it was only 7 degrees with a cool wind. A 4amp supply isn’t particularly useful but better than nothing I suppose.

The aire at Vilar Formoso

We are not sure where we will be going tomorrow but it will definitely be toward the coast.

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!

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.

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