Looking back on this trip and comparing our travelling life to being at home, the difference was not so great. Each day when we were travelling we had our regular tasks similar to those we have at home. The camper had to be kept clean and tidy, inside and out. Our water tank had to be kept filled with fresh water and the toilet cassette emptied regularly – these were “blue” jobs. Occasionally the laundry had to be done (“pink” job) and often without the use of a washing machine. When the weather was good the wind and sun worked much better than any tumble dryer – and absolutely no ironing required. We had no dishwasher, no television and no car for everyday transportation.
These blogs had to be written too and the most important component that kept us sane was having access to wifi. We used emails, Whatsapp messages and Facebook to keep in touch with home. If we happened to come across inclement weather on our travels we consulted our weather app in order to avoid an area that had rain or storms forecasted.
We kept abreast of current affairs by downloading a newspaper each day. The evenings were long and warm enough to sit outside until the mossies started to bite. For us, travelling was a healthy lifestyle. Although we probably ate (and drank) more than we should have done, most of each day was spent in the open air, either walking or cycling wherever we went.
What did we miss? Our friends, the pub, a decent pint of draught beer, being surrounded by English speaking folk as you went about your business each day. But most of all we miss our lovely family, including the dreaded grandchildren and we can’t wait to see their lovely faces again.
Grandparent alert!! We are on our way home.
If you are a skinny, Lycra clad type of cyclist that pedals fast, head down and bottom up, Ré is not for you. Almost all visitors to Ré travel around by bike – from wobbling grandmothers who hadn’t been on a bike for years to confident youngsters arriving by the coach load on school trips with their teachers. We watched a family of very young children, the lad was cycling independently with stabilisers and was being helped to keep up by Papa’s strong hand on the back of his seat; a second child was riding on a tandem seat attached to the father’s bike. Mama followed with the two youngest family members safely strapped in a baby trailer. We also saw people cycling around with their dog riding in the baby trailer or the smaller dogs would ride in the front bicycle basket. Wheelchair users could travel in a specially adapted chairs that clipped on the front of the rider’s bike.
Nobody rushed, just gentle pedalling with numerous stops to admire the view or to consume a packed lunch. Oyster producers had stalls dotted along the route and you could take a break to try some seafood, especially oysters, served with fresh, crusty bread and, if you like, a glass of local wine.
View From Campsite Entrance
The Toll Bridge To Ré – €8
We managed to stay only two days on Île de Ré before it was time to head north to Calais. On our second day we cycled to St Martin Del Ré, the largest town on the island. The town was surrounded by ancient fortifications, complete with a grassy moat with four stone entry gates. We stopped for lunch at the port before cycling on to La Flotte.
City Gate at St Martin del Ré
When we left Quillan we had a long drive ahead of us, mostly on the motorway, heading north west through Carcassonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux and on to La Rochelle on the west coast where we crossed the toll bridge to the Île De Ré, an island off the west coast of France. We had visited the island many times in the past and always enjoyed cycling from town to village along a network of dedicated cycle paths that kept well away from the main roads. Their main industry, apart from tourism, was oyster production and making sea salt. The island was 30k long and 5k wide and we stayed in the middle at La Couarde Sur Mer from where it was easy cycle to Les Portes-en-Ré for lunch after visiting the morning market at Ars-en-Ré. We cycled back over the salt marshes.
We passed through unspoiled villages with their narrow streets, there were no high rise buildings here and everything was spotlessly clean and litter free.
Quillan was a small town at the top of the High Valley of the River Aude. The surrounding mountains made the weather unpredictable and dark clouds hung over the high peaks surrounding us. The weather was cooler there but the sun did shine and we had a lovely lunch sitting outside in the town square by the river. We met up with Debbie Savage who was enjoying a sabbatical in the area having rented a little house close to our campsite.
We travelled north along the coast past Tarragona, Barcelona, Gerona and on into France before turning west from Perpignan on the D117. It was 27° and windy when we stopped for lunch just before the French border; as we left the restaurant it had clouded over and had started to rain. The temperature dropped to 21° as we climbed into the hills. It was a spectacular drive through wine producing country and the vineyards stretched away to the mountains in the distance. Then road followed the River Aude into high country, through a ravine with overhanging rocks where folk braver than us were able to do white water rafting. At the other side of the ravine was the town of Quillan.
At the North end of the promenade were a row of detached villas set in mature gardens, mostly built in the early 1900s. There were originally twenty seven villas but, since that time, some had been demolished, some had been replaced by modern villas and some still waited in a delapidated state for the attention of the developers.
In their heyday these properties were the scene of elegant and extravagent beach parties They were used by their wealthy owners to entertain the rich and famous – aristocracy, politicians, wealthy businessmen and film stars. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War brought an end to the beach parties when the anarchists requisitioned the villas and used them as a administration centres and hospitals – Ernest Hemingway was treated there and later settled in the area. Today, in 2015, peeping through the railings, I could imagine how the villas might have been a hundred years ago – you could almost hear the music and laughter echoing down the years. Ah, those were the days . .