Clive and Jacqui's big tour
01.03.2018 - 30.03.2018
We left Benicola with a bit of a plan to use the Somport Tunnel under the Pyrenees, a high and long tunnel which looked quite fun to drive. As the weather wasn't particularly great we decided on a long drive into the foothills of the Pyrenees, a good drive in better weather with lots of birds of prey, at one time over 50 circling a hill top.
We headed for the tunnel via Huesca, we could see the snow on the mountain tops and 12k outside the city we were flagged down by a couple of very friendly Guardia Civil. They told us the route through the mountains was blocked by snowfall and impassible and we didn't have snow chains. A quick U-turn and we headed back to Huesca for the night, very windy and cold but not stuck in the snow.
This meant a bit of a detour to Pamplona, a city we had visited before, when we arrived there there was a couple of inches of snow but clear roads. We carried on towards the coast and found a low pass into France and a village called Sare, one to keep on the map to avoid the horrid crossing at Hendaye. Little bit further and we find a nice aire in a quiet French village on the river Nive. All the facilities and a burnt out motorhome, a lesson for all smokers!
Next day we push into the Bordeaux region and look for an overnight spot with some wine tasting. On the way I notice we need some air in the front tyre and none of the supermarket fuel stations have a pump capable of the required pressure. We stop an ask at a tyre fitters and the friendly chap even inspects all the tyres for free, nice man.
We find a vineyard with parking, electric and showers, €6. The wine tasting is booked for 5pm and we get there and neither of us like the wine, so disappointing. The young lady who carried out the tasting had one of those unfathomable looks on her face, typically French, she couldn't believe we didn't want to buy their wine!
The next day of our last week sur la continent was a fair drive to Angouleme to stay with Wendy and Clive. I wrote last year about the gastronomic experience with these two, well now added several wine caves and an extremely good lunch and chocolate shop next to a chateau and you are nearly there. Great fun.
We headed north after consuming too much food and drink, we needed a rest from such good times, so we parked at an aire by the usual cemetery on the way to St Malo.
We certainly have this feeling of something coming to an end and we bolster each other by using reassuring remarks, such as, "we'll see Theo lots" or "The house will be lovely" but I think we both have enjoyed it so much we'd go round again.
We had no chance to do St Malo, although a summer around Brittany and the Loire is on the next list, we got on the boat and found our cabin, with our cabin picnic and wine.
Next morning we arrive in a grey old Portsmouth and I wanted a full English, I'd only had one in three years whilst we were abroad; I had shunned the Spanish and Portuguese bars advertising such and only had one in Gibraltar. So we headed to the nearest Tesco only to be told there was only a Costa! Jacqui grabbed some hot cross buns so we could have our own breakfast and when we looked at them in the van they were salted caramel and chocolate, in one bun, how absurd!
We had planned 6 days in Dorset to reacquaint ourselves with the area with a view to house searching but the rain drove us away. We only stayed one night on a little site near Weymouth that we like and got back to our house for Easter.
01.06.2015 - 31.03.2018
If you ask either of us, who had the idea to travel we couldn't say, but the whole three years has been a blast, a team effort and neither of us would have missed a minute of it. Jacqui has embraced everything we have done, she has bounced back from falling off her bike and tackled rope bridges and now likes red wine, I love her to bits.
Jacqui has been JacNav, guiding us round 32000 miles of places we have never been before, up mountains and by the sea.
We have made mistakes, I've hit things, trees and that, Jacqui bought two right boots in a Portuguese market!
Jacqui has cooked and baked her way around all those camper stops, providing cakes, bread puddings and the like for me and sundry interested parties on loads of campsites. I bet there aren't many motorhomes with cake forks in the drawer!
She has an outfit for every occasion and no one would have expected her standards to drop just because she is in a motorhome. Sparkly dresses for New Year, Christmas jumpers, the works. She has had her hair cut in six different countries all with the aid of Google translate.
She has been brilliant and we have both loved spending all our time together. We can't wait to start the next part of the adventure together, looking for a new house and hopefully doing some travelling further afield and most importantly being grandparents to Theo, Jacqui is already practicing jumping in puddles.
See you all back in blighty! ?
04.03.2018 - 19.03.2018
So instead of taking the pretty mountains roads east to see lots of lovely stuff, it's now snowing in some parts at 3000', we travel along the worst road in Spain, the A7. Imagine the M25 with varying speed restrictions trying to host an F1 event, that's the A7 going through Malaga and Marbella!
We do 260 miles in a day, unheard of for us, mostly in the pouring rain and end up at a small seaside town called Castell de Ferro, the castle a ruined tower and the rest of the town asleep for winter. One saving grace is a surprisingly new self service laundry, I was straight in there! More rain overnight and we head towards Lorca to cut the corner off around Almeria. We had already started to see large areas under plastic, looking like giant space ships taking route in the Spanish countryside; now we see the plastic right up to and inside towns as every square metre is put to use growing tomatoes et al. I think we have a litter problem in the UK but Spain must have captured the market on wind blown plastic waste, it's everywhere and nobody does anything about it.
It's Sunday afternoon in Lorca and a quick walk round does not reveal it's Moorish roots to us, so we leave the TI car park and head off to Totana where we find a good, which is full so we park by reception for 2 nights. We wonder why we did this after a walk into town got us soaked and can find nothing of any consequence here either.
The capital of this region, Murcia, is not too far away and the aire is next to Ikea! This looks like a really good place to park 100+ vans and that a is even a modern tram service into the city. Jacqui obviously wants to peruse the shops and we have lunch in Ikea with the rest of the motorhomers! We have noticed that we aren't anywhere near as great as them!
Tom and Cathy have contacted us and they are on their way to Cartagena, a city we have visited before, but we head down there to meet up. We discuss which Aire to meet at, we go to one and they go to another, confusing when I don't concentrate! The one we are at is closer to the city so we stand guard on a spot for them. We spent the evening with them and leave them to explore the city on their own the next morning. By the by jacqui managed to sneak in a quick market stop as well.
We head off to San Javier on the Mar Menor and get the wrong site again, we looked at a site recommended by Alan and Ann, we found our target Aire and was surprised how big it was. It is new this season and well laid out and doesn't have the feel of a big site, space has been left around the site for seating and boule, really pleasant. We have only been to this area once before, when we took Jord and a mate to La Manga, this side of the sleeve is much more Spanish holiday resort than the Canary Wharf experience on the other side of Mar Menor.
Cathy and Tom arrange to meet us for the weekend as it's a six nations weekend and Jacqui and I had found a little pub to watch it in. Tom explained to us what a Plastic Paddy is, someone with Irish heritage not born in Ireland, he certainly enjoyed his team's performance more than we did! Those two are great company and their dog, Bea, is always happy to see us.
The girls go for a final market jolly on the Sunday morning and we head off to a town called Chinchilla that has a great looking Aire, another recommendation by J&M. And you got to go to a place with a name like that!
So we climb away from the coast and start seeing almond and olive plantations, spring has just got to these hills. Lovely drive along good main roads and we head to the village, which is at 2800 feet. Getting a bit chilly with more of that unseasonal wind and we huddle in the van, as do the other half dozen other overnighters.
Next morning, with lots of layers and long trousers we climb the steps and steep lanes to the top of the village perched on a nodule of a hill. Fantastic views of the castle and some well preserved dwellings that must predate the medieval village by more than a few hundred years. Shameex we're getting blown off our feet. The ting village square is accessed through a small arch shared with cars, another historic village where people still live and work. This one goes on the list to spend more time at and walk to the older ruins.
The nearest city is a place called Albacete and we parked up at the Aire, it was only a short drive the next morning, still windy enough to blow the van around. The TI chap did his best to extol the virtues of the place, but his suggestion of spending 2 hours in an education museum wasn't on our list!
One of the reasons for this inland drive was to avoid Alicante and try and find some decent weather south of Valencia, the wind made us carry on a bit further and we ended up passing where other friends, Iain and Jane had planned to stay. We were a hundred miles past them when we found out, at least we know there'll always be a next time.
Another hill village has provided an aire, water, hot showers, BBQ and a loo for us, well worth the 12km drive along a concrete road that I hoped would take two vehicles side by side every time we turned one of many hair pins. I guess this type of aire is used a lot over the summer as there is a great outdoor cooking area with large brick built BBQs.
Another chilly morning must be trying to prepare us for what's at home when we get back, but he head towards the coast again to Castellõn. The first Aire has services and is full, it's near the beach and town, got WiFi and is free, who can blame people for staying a long time. Next aire is just a fenced car park but just across the road is a glorious beach, which we take an immediate walk on. The cycle path also connects up a lot of the coastal villages so I ride to Benicassim and back in the afternoon.
Staying on a car park for any length of time is not we enjoy, we can't get chairs out and there's no space, so we head up coast to Peniscola as we have been told by loads of folk, it lovely.
We arrive at an aire in Benicarlo which is the middle town of the three with Peniscola and Vinaros. Again we spend a couple of nights parked by reception but at least the WiFi is good. The cycle paths are all along the promenade here as well so we visit the town centre where they are in the middle of a fiesta week. Looks like fun and we get a schedule from the TI and plan which bits to see. Turns out any firework displays can be seen and heard from our site!
The furthest town, Vinaros, has a big big market once a week so we get a bus and had a good mouch. Bit like a lot of the 'knickers and olives' markets we have come across but a good one. We both get new underwear and I sample the wares at what I reckon is the best olive stall on our trip; I had to buy chilli and mustard flavoured olive, separate flavours I mean.
A beer in the sun and a walk into the centre of town and our bus turns up as we get to the stop, it's crowded but we squeeze on and have a jolly bus ride, with Jacqui admiring a nieto, grandson, explaining we have one as well to a Spanish granny and her daughter.
The weather is a bit hit and miss and the Saturday is one of the main days if the fiesta, we can hear the explosion that marks the start of the celebrations from the site. I brave the inclement weather to get a taste of the tapas at lunchtime but my planned second course of local stew stew is late do I have to cycle back n the rain
Sunday is the flower parade and we hope it's warmer for the ladies in their lovely local costumes. Each Falla, the organisation that builds the exhibits and celebrates St Joseph here in the Valencia area, parades through the town. Men and children but the stars are the ladies, there are 13 Falla at this event, each with its own band and over a thousand people taking part, a great thing to see.
We get back in time to change for the paella night and although we are sat on a table on our own, we get invited onto a table of Germans because jacqui had spoken to her in showers. We had a really good night, talking pigeon German and dancing, not a bad end to our time there.