Planning 2015 adventure

Looking at motoring through France, Belguim, Holland, Germany, Switzerland through to Italy where we will take a ferry to Patras in Greece. After exploring Greece feel we would like to travel back through some of the eastern bloc countries of Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and back into Germany then home for the British summer. Plan to leave UK end of March early April returning July/August.

Dont know wether we will persevere through the UK winter without finding some sun elsewhere but nothing as yet planned apart from a few days in France before Christmas.

Have now finished all the jobs on our Motorhome so she is ready to roll and looking good after I spent a day hand polishing all the bodywork.

Île De Ré 2

We stayed seven nights at Île De Ré. The weather was mixed but when the sun shone the cycling was wonderful, each of our senses was entertained with lovely views, sounds and especially smells. When it rained the perfume of the wild flowers mixed with the smell of the ocean. It was good to be outside.

We made full use of the evening visits of the pizza van. He lit his wood fire at 5pm and did a roaring trade throughout the evening, taking a ball of dough, quickly rolling it to paper thinness before adding the toppings – starting always with fresh tomato sauce. The result was a crunchy, wood smokey delight, complete with dribble bits, far removed from the stodgy, oily things one usually gets in the UK.

We stopped overnight on our way to Eurotunnel at La Crotoy where we had our last seafood meal and next day we bought fish and little Baie De Somme prawns to bring back to the UK for supper that evening with Kate and family. The crossing was quick and easy and within the hour we were sitting having a cuppa in Folkestone.

It was wonderful to be in UK again, being away for so long made us appreciate how special is this place we call home.

Blog ends

Île De Ré

We set off next morning for the Île de Ré on the west coast of France near La Rochelle. The island was 30K long and 5K wide, connected to the mainland by a toll bridge. The island was famous for its oysters and the production of sea salt (and soap made with donkey milk).

It was a wonderful place for exploring on a bicycle. Its towns and villages were all connected by cycle paths and dotted along these paths were numerous oyster sheds with tables and chairs outside, selling oysters (and often other sea food) either to consume on the premises or to take away. For €10 you got a dozen oysters, the freshest bread ever, with butter, and a glass or two of wine. The landscape was very open with few trees and if it rained . . . . you got very wet.

St Martin was the largest town on Ré and, like everywhere on the island, it was neat and clean with narrow cobbled streets lined with hollyhocks growing in abundance

Hollyhocks In Bloom

Hollyhocks In Bloom

Harbour At St Martins

Harbour At St Martins

Lunch Time - Market Square, Les Portes

Lunch Time – Market Square, Les Portes

out of the old stone walls. The shutters and doors of the traditional white stone houses were all painted the same colour, usually green or blue. The narrow streets led down to the busy harbour area, full of restaurants with their tables and chairs spilling out on to the wide pavements. We marvelled at the number of small shops all selling the same souvenirs and sailing type clothes with the blue Breton stripes.

The Etiquette Of The Shower Block

In Spain it was normal to have separate shower blocks for men and women – but not so in France, everyone used the same facilities so, after showering, for the sake of modesty, it was not possible to come out of your wet shower stall to find a dry area to dress yourself as you would do in the “Ladies”.

Therefore much thought was needed about what to wear when going for a shower. The walk to the shower block took you past other campers sitting outside enjoying the view so I chose not to adopt the Hyacinth Bucket style of pink dressing gown with matching fluffy slippers especially as French campsites often don’t supply loo paper so a toilet roll had to be carried proudly under the arm.

My choice of outfit was practical rather than attractive, track suit bottoms topped with a loose blouse (no underwear) so, when showered, I could dry above waist and put on blouse whilst still in wet shower stall, then wrap towel securely round my waist, skirt style and sashay back to camp holding tightly to the towel.

One morning, when I left the showers wrapped neatly in my towel, I remembered that I had ridden my bike to the shower block. I felt it would be courting disaster to ride back relying on a clutched damp towel to retain my modesty so I had to retrace my steps to the privacy of the shower stall and put on my track suit bottoms (balancing on one leg to avoid wet floor). Only then could I cycle back with confidence, running the gauntlet of other campers sitting outside having their breakfast. My days were filled with such dilemmas.

France

Not every day was spent having long lunches and drinking lovely wines – occasionally we would have a Disaster – and once one little thing goes wrong that often leads to another and another . . . yesterday was such a day. We were driving through the town of Dax looking for a pharmacy and maybe a place to park so we could have some lunch. The town had a river running through the middle and a bizarre one way system which made it difficult to navigate our way around. When we wanted to turn, a “no entry” sign would appear. At one stage we found ourselves entering a one way street the wrong way and we had to reverse out against the traffic. The next turn was into a steep, narrow street that got more and more skinny as we went up and rounded a corner. Our only way out was down a steep alley with high stone walls on either side and a tight corner at the bottom. We gingerly drove down and we had almost made it when our wing mirror smashed against the wall and shattered. We managed to turn the corner at the bottom without further incident. We resumed our journey and stopped at a fuel station; unfortunately Tony picked the petrol pump instead of diesel and had quarter-filled the tank before he realised his mistake.

We were only about 8k from our destination, staying with Charles and Caroline Lamb at Monségur so with fingers crossed we limped to the Lambs. They were having an extension build and the builders (English), on hearing our predicament, helped us drain the fuel tank using their electric pump. We were then able to refill with a can of diesel, enough to get us back to the fuel station to refill. Fortunately, it seemed no permanent damaged had been done.

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Swimming Pool that Charles was building

Swimming Pool that Charles was building

Aranjuez and Haro

Our tour of Anadlusia finished when we arrived in Ronda and we were now heading north towards home. Our first stop was 40k south of Madrid at Aranjuez. We had stayed at the same campsite earlier in the year when I described it as “scruffy”. On this visit it was full of campers and reverberating with the squeals of pleasure from the children in the swimming pool and later in the play park; it seemed a much less dreary place. Unfortunately a thunderstorm hit the area mid afternoon, it rained until the evening and then cleared sufficiently for us to walk into town. Whilst waiting for the weather to clear I read the Emergency Drill on the reverse of our site map:

“Do not open the door from which comes smoke out. Do not loose the calm, don’t scream, don’t run, it can cause collective hysteria and hinder the people evacuation”.

We stopped at Aranda del Douro to pick up some wine, we bought 5 litre boxes of rosé at under €8 a box. We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant, €10 for three courses, including bread, water and wine. The food was home cooked, rustic but very tasty (we had venison casserole). We stayed the night at a campsite in Haro (in the Rioja region) and bought boxes of young red wine, 15 litres for €25. By afternoon the sun was out again and it was a warm 28° encouraging us to have a swim in the pool.

Haro - An Evening Drink In The Square

Haro – An Evening Drink In The Square

Ronda

Our campsite was about three miles from Ronda. We travelled into the city by car and found several underground car parks within walking distance of the city centre. We visited the famous bullring and learned that only one bullfighter had been killed there since it was built in 1785 – although many thousand bulls were not so fortunate.

The city was beautifully clean with many restaurants and cafés. It overlooked a deep, rocky chasm and its narrow streets lead down to the bottom of the chasm where there were some Roman baths. The chasm was spanned by several bridges. The New Bridge was constructed in 1850, the other bridges were several hundred years older.

Ronda Bullring

Ronda Bullring

View From Top Of Ronda

View From Top Of Ronda

Ronda

Ronda

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Sierra Ubrique

We arrived in Ronda the following evening, the campsite was next to a hotel so we spent an enjoyable evening eating tapas, drinking wine and watching England being thrashed by Uruguay in the World Cup. The owner of the hotel seemed very sympathetic and brought us a complimentary liqueur when the match was over. The bar was pretty full, including three Guardia Civil.

During the next two days we did a circular drive into the Sierra Ubrique, stopping at a campsite at Benamahoma in Grazalema National Park. We visited the Pileta Cave, a series of underground caverns and lakes discovered in the early 1900s by a local farmer and found to have been inhabited thousands of years ago. There were prehistoric paintings on the walls, some judged to be 22,000 years old. The caves had not been “modernised”; we were given electric lamps and followed a damp path using the steps cut in the rock by the farmer and holding onto clammy, rusty handrails. Bats lived overhead. We walked slowly through narrow passages from cavern to cavern, admiring the lofty roofs, the clear lake water, the huge stalactites that grow from the roof – 1cm every hundred years. At the end of the tour we had to turn round and retrace our steps back to the narrow entrance. We had been underground almost two hours, it was good to be out in the sunshine again.image

Cave Paintings 22,000 years old

Cave Paintings 22,000 years old


We ate in a restaurant that evening, their speciality was local trout from the nearby trout farm, fed by mountains streams.
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We visited the town of Grazalema which was the centre for leather work and blanket weaving. It was Saturday afternoon and all the cafés were open but the shops were closed. The following morning -Sunday – we visited Zahara when they were celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi. The narrow streets and squares were lined with foliage and flowers, with thick layers of fresh reeds on the ground, creating a fragrant green carpet. The streets were crowded with folk in their Sunday best, mingling with the tourists. There was a service in progress in the church, the interior was hot and humid and packed with worshippers who appeared oblivious to tourists crowding in on them and taking flashy photos of their beautiful altar and chancel.

Corpus Christi Celebrations at Zaharah

Corpus Christi Celebrations at Zaharah

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Corpus Christi at Zahara

Corpus Christi at Zahara