Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Another Vineyard!

Last night we were parked up in the courtyard of a vineyard in Cormot-Le-Grand near Beaune, we were back in Burgundy country next to a small fast stream and nestled into a hillside. We arrived mid afternoon after a drive through some pretty bad fog with visibility down to maybe 50metres at some places on the motorway, pretty scary on occasions and we drove past a horrible accident on the other side of the motorway with the emergency services just arriving. Very upsetting.


The lake on a cold morning

We were up before the sun yesterday and went to explore the lake we parked next to the night before, a gold and red sky to the east and a pink horizon to the west made for a beautiful panorama but it was freeeeezing cold and after twenty minutes of Jack Frost having a serious nibble at our ears we took a couple of quick pics and retired back to Lulu for a cuppa. We were going to stop in a free camping car Aire in Nuits St George yesterday but when we arrived it was pretty bleak so we just emptied the waste and water and pushed on down to Beaune for a leg stretch. The courtyard we parked in was tiny but since we arrived another two Motorhomes managed to squeeze in.

Of course it's customary and only good manners to sample the produce of the folk allowing you to park on their property for free and very nice it was too and so we are now the proud owners of a half dozen bottles of Hautes Cotes de Beaune but not for too much longer I suspect.

The village of Cormot Le grand

Today we set off to St Etienne to see in the New Year with our eldest daughter Catherine and her family. The sat navs gave us two choices. 2h39m and 217k on the toll motorways or 3h37m and 217k on the free roads. We decided on the tolls as it's cold and foggy again today and we want to hurry up to see our daughter.

Talking of sat navs; it was getting a bit much with Helen and Bernadette directing me and Phil adding her two penn'orth as well. But thanks to the wonders of modern tech I've eased the situation a bit so it's goodbye to Helen and hello to George. (Nothing personal Helen but one of you had to go and I couldn't really see you and George working well together). Incidentally I once had a phone with sat nav and Ozzie Osbourne's voice on it and I know it's pathetic but it cracked me up every time he said in a slightly slurred Brummy twang "You have now arrived at your f*****g destination". Wish I still had that.

Medical Update: Patient has almost made a full recovery and should be on top form to see in the New Year.


And now here we are in St Etienne, we've had a bite to eat and we're waiting for Catherine to come home from work so she can get the party started. Lulu is parked outside so no worries regarding windows this time.

Wishing you all a peaceful and happy 2014 - Bon Fete!!


Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Big Sky and a Big Lake

Tonight we are parked up in a car park on the edge of Lac D'Orient in the village of Mesnil-St-Pere. It's a massive lake, with a beach! It was getting dark as we arrived but we could see lots of cruisers and dinghys moored up and lots of cafés and water sport facilities. We'll have a walk round tomorrow in daylight before we leave. We stumbled across the car park as we were headed for an Aire about 15k away which is good because we are only about 15mins away from the motorway when we continue our journey south tomorrow. It's also good because it's FREE. On the last trip we spent more than we anticipated on campsite fees because we lacked a little confidence to just stop and park up in car parks. We need campsites every few days for washing clothes but other than that we are pretty independent. Two big gas bottles for cooking, hot water and heating and a solar panel to top up the two 110ah leisure batteries for the electrics and we can go for days without facilities as long as we can find water and somewhere to empty the chemical toilet. In fact we don't use chemicals in the toilet, cheap Aldi bio washing tablets do the job just as we'll and we're not using formaldehyde and goodness knows what else in the expensive bottles of stuff sold in caravan shops. I'm sure you're all finding this very interesting and if anybody wants to know more about our toilet I'll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

There's very little light pollution here so there are plenty of stars on a clear, crisp night. I'm ashamed to say I couldn't identify a star or a system in the sky if my life depended on it. Someone mentioned that there are phone apps available to aid identification of the solar system but the down side apparently is that after you've looked at the app your night vision is gone, hmm! Anyway on a clear night like this I think we will be glad we brought a heavier duvet with us this time, it's already starting to frost outside. When we run the heating in the M/home it gets toasty in no time at all but we don't leave it on all night and, not being the best insulated dwelling, it gets cold again after a few hours but the 10tog should do the job we hope.

Medical Update: The Navigation & Comms officer is making a slow recovery and hopefully will be back on top form tomorrow after a good night's sleep and a bowl of porridge. I hope so 'cos it's no fun driving through France with the co-pilot groaning all the time and also means I can't really shout at a poorly wife when her directions aren't all I would like/expect.

No pics of where we are at the moment but here's a couple of the sunrise at Dover this morning.


We're back on the road!

We are parked up tonight on the Esplanade at Dover again ready for heading off to the Tunnel early tomorrow morning. I'm tucking into a Kalbrau (Biere blonde de luxe) and a roast beef sandwhich. The beer has come from France and survived a week in the fridge at home and the sarnie is from M&S. We know how to dine in style eh? Phil, unfortunately, isn't tucking in to anything. She felt unwell about midday and has gone downhill ever since and although it's in contravention of some traffic law or other she's spent the last leg of the journey down here curled up in a ball, clutching her stomach, on the bed. I guess I'll just have to eat her sandwich as well.

We have to be in St Etienne for New Year's Eve so it's back on the toll roads for the next couple of days but after that we'll be back on the by-ways again heading south toward Southern Spain and then Morocco. We are joining another couple for the Morrocan trip, Paul and Christine and Paul, who from now on shall be known as Team Leader, has produced a map to give us a few ideas of places we might like to visit, here's a link:


Paul has obviously put a lot of time and effort in to producing this map whilst we've been lying about on Spanish beaches and that, folks, is why he is Team Leader. Oh yes, he has an RAF background so that's another reason.

Well, that's all for tonight, I'd better go and look after my sick fellow motorhomer. I'll give you all a medical update tomorrow



Friday, 27 December 2013

Pictures, again

We'll, it looks like I've finally cracked the photo issue so from here on this blog should be a little more interesting.

So just to whet your appetites for what's to come here is a pic of St Emillion taken from the roof of the church, hope you like it.

It was a pretty grey day but we just loved the Autumn colours.


Pictures, again!!

Ok so here we go again trying to post pictures to the blog.

If this works you should be seeing a picture of a sunset at La Garrofa.


Fingers crossed eh?


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Tuesday 17th December
We are parked up on a campsite just outside Boulogne, another €16.00! We were trying to avoid campsites for the last couple of days of our journey but the free camping places we looked at today had no facilities so here we are. Next to a busy railway line but a view over the hedge to the Channel. When we arrived the lass on reception showed us a plan of the site and we settled on a space. The campsite was empty of tourers when we arrived and the space allocated was on a slope, I couldn't be bothered getting out the levelling ramps so we pitched up on the spot next door, which was flat. Hooked up the electric, put the screen on the front window, had a walk to locate and inspect the loos and settled down with a stubby before getting the evening meal prepared. I wandered about to stretch my legs and saw another UK Motorhome arrive and by the time I got back he was parked next to us. I gave him a wave, said hello and the guy responded by saying that I was parked on "his" spot. I suggested that it didn't really matter as there were another 20 pitches to choose from should anyone else turn up. He wasn't happy and said he would have to go down to the office and seek further advice. I haven't seen him since so I guess he's happy where he is eh?
It's been remarkable how little traffic we've seen over the last five and a half weeks, both in France and Spain. Compared to the UK the roads are virtually empty which makes for hassle free driving but the exceptions, obviously, are the major towns and cities. Travelling through Bordeaux, St Etienne and Valencia especially was a bit uncomfortable but we try and set the sat navs to avoid the bigger towns whenever possible. Rouen today was a nightmare; roads closed and a lot of traffic. When we are diverted due to accidents or road works we are reliant on the GPS to find us an alternative route, and quickly!  Back home we can pretty much figure out where we are and where we should be headed but in a strange town with road signs in a "foreign" language it can be a problem. And French drivers aren't the most considerate or patient.

Wednesday 18th December
Tonight we are parked up on an Aire in Wissant, just south of Calais. We did our last bit of Christmas shopping this morning, had lunch and then went for a long walk along what seemed to be an endless sandy beach. Wissant is a small, pretty village which I would imagine would be very busy in the summer but like most places we've been to at this time of year we had the place to ourselves. Lots of restaurants, shops and small hotels closed for the winter but handy for us being only fifteen minutes from the Channel Tunnel. We've no wifi so by the time I post this we'll be back in England.
If you've been reading this blog for the last six weeks, thank you. If you want more then check in again at the end of the month. We are back in France on the 29th December and after celebrating New Year 2014 with our daughter and her family in St Etienne we will be off a again to Spain and then Morocco before coming back again to England late March.

Wishing you all a Merry and Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

Pat & Phil

Monday, 16 December 2013

Slowly making our way home

Tonight we are parked on a municipal Aire in Bellac, a little north of Limoges. It was dark when we arrived so we don't know much about where we are. But it looks like a pretty town and apparently it has a Roman bridge over the river. We shall explore tomorrow. Our initial plan was to stop in a town called Nieul, again a munjcipal Aire and just outside Limoges. When we arrived however the water had been turned off. It's winter and many places turn off their water to avoid the pipes freezing and bursting. We're nearly out of water so we set off to where we are now and...... no water, tap turned off. We have enough to last the night and we'll find some tomorrow.
Last night we had a delicious meal here:  http://www.aubergesaintjean.com. It really was fabulous. We stayed here last night: http://www.chateaudecourtebotte.com/?lang=en. It was our wedding anniversary treat and very self indulgent but you're only married for 44 years once right? Before we left for the meal the owner of the Chateau, Isobel, offered to pick us up in her car when we had finished as it was a cold and damp night. We didn't like to trouble her but as we were leaving the restaurant Manuela, who runs the front of house whilst her husband is the chef, also then offered to give us a lift back to save us walking! I can't imagine that happening in England.
This morning at breakfast Isobel asked if we had been to the village of St Emilion, a few kilometres down the road. We said that we hadn't and she insisted that we must go. So, off we went for a bit of sightseeing. We didn't regret her suggestion. She said we must visit the underground church. We had to call at the Tourist info centre first to arrange a guided tour and the next tour was at 11.30. No English guides on a Saturday but we understood the gist of the commentary. The church is 38m long, 20m wide and 11m high and was not built, as such, but carved out of the limestone rock in the twelfth century. Later a gigantic bell tower weighing 4500 tons was added. It's truly amazing and we had seen nothing like it. Some of the original bas relief carvings remain but little of the original decoration. The church was abandoned during the French Revolution but reconsecrated  in 1838. Attached is a chapel, built in the thirteenth century and catacombs dating back to the eighth century.
Isobel advised us also not to buy wine, should we be tempted, from the many, many shops throughout the village. It seemed that every second shop was selling St Emilion wine and we wouldn't have known where to start. Go to Maison Du Vin she advised where all the wines were sold at the prices you would pay if you bought directly from the Chateaux and the staff would be only to pleased to offer advice and recommendations. We had a quick look around before we embarked on the tour of the monolithic church and then got back just before they closed for lunch. Inevitably we bought some wine after accepting the advice of the staff so that's the wine for Christmas lunch sorted!!
Even without the guided tour and the wine, St Emilion was a great place to visit. Narrow streets of cobblestones, some of them so steep we were nearly on our hands and knees! The steep streets are called Tertres and and the word is specific to St Emilion , there are 4 of them and I think we climbed them all !!  Fabulous Chateaux and the whole village surrounded by hectares and hectares of vineyards.
Tomorrow we're going to head off toward Tours and the Loire valley seeking out some wifi and no doubt some wine on the way.

Sunday 15th December.
Tonight we are parked up in the middle of a vineyard in Chancey, between Vouvray and Amboise. We didn't arrive until the sun was setting after failing to find another one of the places we wanted to stop at tonight. Actually we found the place we wanted to stop at after searching for 45 minutes all around Amboise with not very good directions only to discover that there was no one about. We could have just parked up until the morning but we were running low on water and needed to find some before tomorrow. France is great if you're driving around in a Motorhome as I think I've said before. There are plenty of places to park up for the night and very often even the smallest villages will have a couple of places reserved for Motorhomes with varying levels of facilities offered. The problem at this time of year is that although there are places to park, the water supply has been turned off to prevent the pipes freezing. As we have passed through towns and villages over the last couple of days we have stopped at the local facilities but there has been no water. We could have stopped at campsites but we are trying to save pennies at the moment so this is where the France Passion stopovers come into their own.
We arrived this evening and the guy here immediately offered us water although he had to turn on several taps to get a supply to the van and then showed us to a great spot to park on the top of a hill where we are surrounded by vines in every direction. Ok, so tomorrow he has invited us to taste his wine before we leave and inevitably we'll buy a bottle or two but I'm sure we're both happy with this arrangement.

We have three days left in France now before we scoot under Le Chunnel early on the 19th. Although we'll be happy to be home for Christmas and to see our family again, at the same time we'll miss wandering about doing whatever we wanted to do with nobody to please but ourselves. We've discovered that two people can live in a small metal box smaller than the average kitchen and not attempt to kill one another and apart from the odd navigational dispute we haven't had too many crossed words either! We'll have travelled over 4,000 miles by the time we get back to Bingley and we'll have been away 42 days. We've met some lovely people during this journey and everybody we've met has been readily forthcoming with help, advice and many tips which have been more than useful on many occasions.
 I just hope I can remember how to drive on the right side when we get back to the UK. Although I've driven in Europe loads of times before I thought it would be a problem dragging a six and a half metre Motorhome around on the "wrong" side of the road with r/h drive. Previously the biggest problem always was overtaking on single carriageway roads but with the Motorhome you're sat up nice and high and can see over other cars so that's no longer a problem. Not that I do a lot of overtaking, of course. Never did.
So we'll be home by tea time on Thursday the 19th and I'll be looking forward to a pint of decent beer by then (hello Mo & Bill).
Still looking for wifi!!

Monday 16th December

We are parked at a campsite at Marcilly-Sur-Eure near Dreux.
 We had a quick degustation this morning, Vouvray before breakfast and very nice it was too. The vigneron (I think that's the right word) only had a sip with us as he explained that he was trimming his vines with some dodgy electric secateurs and he valued his fingers. Anyway, we bought a bottle or two and we now have a nice selection of wines for Christmas and New Year all bought directly from the vineyards.
The Campsite we are on is very pretty, or would be in spring or summer. At the moment although we have had a couple of bright sunny days by late afternoon it becomes cold and damp. We arrived in daylight and after being ripped of to the tune of €9.00 for 24 hours wifi found that there was no water on our pitch. Taps, but no water. After explaining to the management that I could have parked anywhere with no water and saved myself the €16.00 campsite fee the maintenance guy reluctantly came and turned on the water for us.
We were going to take another two days to drive to Calais but have decided now that we'll push on tomorrow and stop just outside Calais for a couple of days at Wissant where folk have mentioned there is a pretty Aire and we can relax for a day before the tunnel. Thanks for the comments, by the way, keep them coming.

Friday, 13 December 2013


We are today living the dream in Dordogneshire, as my son in law's father calls it. It's our wedding anniversary and before we left the UK Phil's sister Helen very kindly gave us a gift of some money to spend on celebrating today. So we are in a fantastic Chateau in a beautiful room with....... A BATH!!! We haven't had a bath in five weeks. We've showered every day in case you were wondering but a bath is such a luxury. And it's a massive bath. Oh yes, and the bed is massive too. We're shortly off for a meal at a local restaurant which has been getting rave reviews so we are really living the high life at the moment.
We stayed just over the French border a couple of nights ago in Basque country just south of Bayonne and last night on a campsite just north of Bordeaux. The weather is a bit miserable at the moment, grey and damp, so we're not seeing this part of France at it's best. It's been cold at night in the Motorhome but we've been resisting leaving the heating on all night. If it gets any colder I think that policy may change.
Tomorrow we head off toward Limoges. We're trying not to use toll roads on the return journey and to avoid campsites so maybe not too many opportunities to find wifi over the next few days.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Change in the weather

We are parked on a campsite in Villafranca, between Zaragoza and Pamplona. It is described as a new campsite with excellent toilet facilities. Unfortunately we have no idea what the surrounding countryside or the campsite is like as it was pitch black when we arrived. The money spent on the toilets was taken from the lighting budget possibly.
We would have been here in daylight but for a bridge over a river on our route which was closed and being repaired. We spun round to take a different route and after 20 minutes driving around a massive new housing development arrived back at the bridge. Re-programmed the sat navs and set off only to return to the bridge 20mins later, albeit by a different route. By now it's dark, we're tired and we're lost. After reprogramming Helen & Bernadette, our (not so) faithfull sat navs with a route involving a massive detour to avoid the bloody bridge we arrived here two hours later than planned. Nobody in reception but a phone number to ring for late arrivals like us. "Park anywhere" says David "I'll see you in the morning". So, we've parked somewhere, found the electricity, enjoyed a meal of Lidl's finest and we're about to hit the hay.
Last night we stayed in Navajas, a small village about 40k north of Valencia. It was a long, long drive from Almeria and a severe change in temperature! It was freezing last night, everybody's windows we're iced up this morning. It was the first night we slept with the heating on but we still couldn't get warm.
We've been spoilt in more ways than one in our time spent in La Garrofa. The days have been sunny and warm and the nights mild. It was a wrench to leave yesterday and say goodbye to folk we had met and who in the course of a week and a half had become friends. But we'll be back there again in mid January to renew those friendships before we set off to Morocco.
For now it's a matter of planning our route back to Calais. Tomorrow we are heading for Hendaye which is between San Sebastián and Biarritz. The site we have chosen looks ideal so we may just chill there for a couple of days.
Those of you following this blog may remember that I damaged a window on the Motorhome at my daughter's house in St Etienne in early November. Since then I have been in contact with the company who manufactured the Motorhome, various companies who specialise in Motorhome parts, especially windows, and also breakers yards in an attempt to find a replacement window. I've contacted companies in England, Wales and Italy without success. The company who produced the Lunar Motorhome have been less than helpful and considering the vehicle is only 5 years old I would have expected a better response from them. But, good news arrived today. My daughter has also been on the case looking for a new window and, hopefully, she has come up trumps. A firm in the UK say they can provide a replacement so a big, big thank you to Catherine for all her hard work and persistence. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Sunrise Madness and a Flea Market

An elbow in the ribs this morning told me it was dawn.  Wake up! Watch the sun rise! Lay there for a bit watching the horizon become red. Thought I should take a photo. Thought a bit more and then scrambled out of bed, found the camera, tripod, trousers, t shirt. Fell out of motorhome door a bit sleepy still and I'd missed it. Sun was up above the horizon and a yellow ball in the sky wasn't really the photo I'd hoped for. I have one more chance tomorrow and then we are starting the journey back to the UK. Tomorrow we set off for a campsite a little north of Valencia and then we'll head north through Zaragoza, San Sebastián and then back into France.

Today the folk here held a flea market. Some weird and wonderful stuff for sale that people had found in the back of their vans and some crafts they had made specially together with some delicious food. Another chance to meet folk and compare journeys whilst scoffing tortilla and sangria. Phil bought a hat which our neighbour here had crocheted; very cute. I bought her  a 12v DustBuster which she is really pleased with. I know, I just have a talent for sniffing out the perfect gift eh?

We've met some really nice people over the last few weeks, especially here in La Garrofa. Everybody is free with help, advice and suggestions. When we met new people socially back in England the question after a little while would be "What do you do?"  Here it's "Where have you come from and where are you going?" So you swop stories about the places you've been to and learn about the best places to stop where you're going next. After a year or so of doing this I reckon you could ditch the maps and sat navs. But perhaps just not yet for us novices. At the moment we're running two sat navs; a Garmin and a Tom Tom. They don't always agree on the route to our destination and do they ever whinge when we take a wrong turn or detour. I've christened them Helen and Bernadette. Phil is sat beside me with a map. Driving through medium sized towns is all the fun you can imagine. If Luke Skywalker thought he had a difficult run he should try getting a Motorhome through Valencia with three conflicting guidance systems! Anyway, tomorrow's journey should be pretty straightforward, A7/E15 all the way. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Busy Day in the Bay

Busy Day in the Bay

Just missed the sunrise this morning. Opened the blinds to be dazzled and blinded by the sun a few degrees above the horizon. I'm guessing you folk in the UK didn't quite have the same experience this morning? I understand it's been a bit blowy there eh? Bit of rain? I'm telling you, we are feeling your pain big time. We've been looking for clouds all day so we could get a feel for home but no success at all. Chins up eh?

Funny how quick the days go here. By the time I've done the water emptying/carrying thing, had a shower and breakfast, wandered about chatting to folk, checked emails and had a coffee at the bar before you know it's time for lunch. Hard life doesn't begin to describe it.

In between times we've had a busy day in the bay. Lots of small fishing boats and pleasure boats (it's a holiday here today). Not to mention the guy who snorkels his way across the bay and back every morning. No one knows where he comes from. Sometimes he drags a collapsible life raft behind him. We thought of fishing with a sausage for bait to see if we could catch him. The fishermen in their small smacks wave back when they see the glint of my binoculars which is nice. We watched one trawl half the bay for very little return, there were two guys on the boat and by the time they'd paid for diesel I don't think there could have been too much left for them. There was a massive factory ship anchored a way offshore earlier in the week and we would watch the medium sized trawlers drawn toward it. It's gone now which is fine by us 'cos it kind of spoilt the view a little bit.
Somebody said there would be a Christmas Market in Almeria this weekend so we'll probably catch the bus tomorrow to have a look around. We need a bit of shopping anyway to top up supplies until we leave here on Monday to start the journey home.
Anyway, enough of making you jealous and hating us. It's almost Friday evening and that means just one thing at La Garrofa. Yes, it's BINGO night. Sharp at 8pm. So I'm going to pop up to the bar (best wifi reception) and post this before it's time for "eyes down and looking".

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Still in La Garrofa

Well, we're still here. The weather has been good for the last few days and the location is ideal so we can't really see much point in moving. We're going to set off after the weekend for the journey back to Calais. Rather than retrace our route here we are thinking of travelling back via Granada, Cordoba, Toledo, Madrid and then to San Sebastián and on to Bordeaux. We have to be in Calais for the 18th so we should have plenty of time for a leisurely journey if we set off on Monday. We'll miss this place and the people we've met but I suspect we'll call in to see them again in January. There was an "international darts tournament"here on the campsite last night. I went out in the first round to a Belgian lady who had only ever played darts once in her life before!! She then went on to defeat her husband before being knocked out by a Welshman who last in the final to an Englishman. All good fun.

Not much else happening really. We caught the bus to Aquadulce yesterday, wandered about a bit and caught the bus back! Today we felt we needed some exercise so got the walking boots on and set off up the dried riverbed from the beach here and walked through gorges and small valleys for a couple of hours. At midday! It was hard walking over pebbles and rocks and hot and windless. Not much growing apart from thorn bushes, mountain thyme and one acacia tree. There were some ramshackle sheds and enclosures where until a few years ago a few goat herders lived. Apparently the police moved them out when they started tapping into the aqueduct for water!

I'm off now to buy some more wifi. Which I have now got, obviously. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Stuck on the beach!!

Stuck on the beach

We are parked at La Garrofa campsite just outside Almeria. We arrived yesterday and found a spot offering plenty of sunshine - we thought. As more folk arrived and parked around us our sun diminished. This time of year it's pretty low in the sky so a Motorhome parked to the north of us is a disaster! We had a look around the site and decided where we would like to be and noted the spots in case we had a chance to move. (More on the move later)
The bar/restaurant on the site was offering a three course meal with wine for €8.50 and as we had only had one meal in a restaurant since we left England we thought we would give it a go, especially as this was the first site we had been on where the bar was open. Last night, also, was Bingo night! We looked for somewhere to sit without listening to the bingo caller but it was either in the bar with bingo or outside. It was a little chilly so we thought we'd put up with the bingo and sit inside. An excellent choice! The bingo caller was a long time resident Scot. The players were a mix of Dutch, Belgium, German and English folk and the whole thing was a laugh from start to finish. We got chatting to more folk in one evening than we had in all the other sites we'd stopped in so far in Spain.
Today we took the bus to Almeria. I'm not sure if it's a city or a town but it has a Cathedral (which was closed!) so by uk standards it's a city, right? There's a big covered market in the centre of town, upstairs are maybe 50/60 stalls with fresh veg, meat, charcuterie all looking appetising and downstairs the same number of stalls selling fresh fish. Everything looked delicious and we had to resist buying a little of everything. In the end we bought some bread.
A bit peckish by now we wondered the back streets until we found a small tapas bar; some Iberian ham, Calamari, sweet pork, frittes, delicious fish balls, a couple of glasses of wine, coffee for €12.
The Alcazaba de Almeriawas our next stop www.juntadeandalucia.es/cultura/alcazabaalmeria. The site dates back to Roman times and was an Islamic seat of power in Spain until the 12century when it was occupied by Christians and then retaken by Islamists and held until the mid fifteenth century until Catholic monarchs finally conquered the Alcazaba and from which time the site took on a primarily military character.
It was free for us to visit and a really fascinating place. Only partially restored but enough to give you a feeling of what the place must have been like.
With tired feet we found our way back to the bus station. Back to the campsite and a quick survey showed that our favoured spot was still occupied however there was a spot on the beach. A bit tight to manoeuvre in to but hey, the views were amazing, sunshine all day long, the sound of waves lapping not 20metres away. I checked with the campsite folk, was it ok to move there?  No problem.
Everything packed away we rolled down to our spot after checking with the folk either side that it was ok. Yes, they said, you're more than welcome; please join us. The beach is pebbly, the pitch we wanted was sandy. First drive in was ok but not really where I wanted to be. Reverse out, drive in but wheels slipping on sand. Reverse out even further, take a run at it - still can't get right where I want to be. Reverse even further to get a really good run - fall off beach and ground van! Couple of guys rock up to give a push, no go. Few more folk arrive to give push, no go. Half of campsite arrive to give push and here we are. Forever probably 'cos I don't know how I'm ever going to get out of here.
Tonight was the walk of shame to the bar where I bought drinks for all the folk that had helped us out today. People from New Zealand,Spain,Holland,Germany,Belgium. And it was my pleasure to do so!
Tonight we are "on the beach" and tomorrow morning when we open the blinds at the back of the van we're going to see the sun rising over the sea.

Monday 2nd December

We'll, we didn't see the sunrise yesterday, firstly because it was a grey day and secondly 'cos we didn't get up early enough. Most of the night was spent listening to Eucalyptus branches falling on the roof in the high winds. Some of them felt like bricks dropping on us. Yesterday was spent clearing them off the roof and raking them from the surrounding area. Then it was siesta time and then up to the restaurant for a fabulous Paella and a chat with a few more folk who had just arrived. We keep bumping in to people that we had met a few days or a week ago, I suppose at this time of year there are only so many campsites open so it's inevitable, I guess.

Today we did see the sunrise! We pulled the blind up at 8am and lay in bed watching the sun rise above some low lying cloud and turn from orange to bright yellow. Fantastic. We've had eight hours of sunshine today. Another couple were doing a supermarket trip today so we cadged a lift and stocked up with supplies for a week or so. Then it was back for lunch on the beach. We're thinking we might stay on this site until it's time for us to set off back to Calais. The weather won't be better anywhere else, we're in an idyllic spot and the people here are really friendly. We can catch a bus to Almeria or Aquadulce, both about 10/15 minutes away so it's got a lot going for it. The only downside is the poor wifi. I bought a day's worth last Friday and couldn't even get my emails. I've since learnt where the best reception is so I'm off know to buy some more and hopefully update the blog. Failing that I'll have to wait until we are next in Almeria and find some free wifi there. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

We are parked up at Los Escullos campsite near San Jose in the Gata-Nijar national park. I'm sure that sounds very exotic and it probably would be if it wasn't cold, wet and windy. This site was recommended by a guy at the last campsite we stayed on but we feared the worst as we approached the site over the last 20miles or so. We turned a corner coming over the Sierra Cabrera and saw what we thought was a bay or large lake with the sun glinting in our eyes. Another couple of hundred metres and we realised it was a sea of poly tunnels. A few miles further on and a whole plain as far as we could see on either side of the road was just mile upon mile of poly tunnels. In a "Parque Natural" no less. The most disturbing feature is the plastic just lying about where the tunnels have been ripped by the wind. That stuff is never going away.

One of the fascinating things about this blog is we can see where the viewing traffic comes from. Mostly UK, obviously, some from Spain, France, N America even. And someone from South Korea!
So Sir or Madam, this is for you,

안녕하세요, 좋은 하루 되세요


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Classy lady and a lack of buses

Did I mention Phil was painting her toenails while I was cooking the tea yesterday?
Anyway, I took a cheeky picture.

Today we thought we'd get the bus into Mazarron and have a look around. We went for the 11.20am bus and got chatting to a couple at the bus stop waiting for the 11.30 to Murcia. At noon we went for a coffee thinking we'd get the 12.20. At half past twelve we sacked the idea and went for a beer instead in the bar opposite the bus stop. We asked the barmaid "Is there a bus strike today?"  She thought for a moment and said that although she didn't know if there was a strike or not, now we mentioned it she hadn't seen a bus all day.

Anyway, it's time for us to move on now, this has been the longest we've stayed in one place since we set off and I think we'll head to Almeria tomorrow with a Lidl shop on the way. The weather's changed a bit, in fact it's raining now and we're not due much sun until Saturday by which time we should be in Malaga or maybe even Marbella. We've enjoyed it here, 100m from the sea and a couple of shops and bars and of course, a bus stop right outside.

And yes, I've posted a picture.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A bit about us

Philomena and I started this blog as a way for friends and family to follow us and keep in touch as we travelled across Europe and, hopefully, beyond in our motorhome. We thought it would be easier than us sending multiple emails every day or so. So far it's worked out ok although my inability to post pictures is still an irritant. I know if I want to store all my pictures on Picasso I can then access them for the blog but I don't really want to go down that route. If anyone has any other suggestions or has experience of this problem I'd be pleased to hear from you, especially if your name is Page, Brin or Schmidt.

We've noticed, however, that our blog is reaching a wider audience; not that we're becoming famous or anything but the stats tell us that that folk are having a look at the blog from some far flung places, no jokes about Middlesborough please. So I thought it might be an idea to fill in a bit of background about who we are and what we're doing.

It's been a dream of ours to travel in a motorhome for as long as we can remember; the dream nearly became a reality over 30 years ago when we were pretty much all set to travel overland to India with our daughters (No, we're not hippies although we maybe had a hippy sensibility) but events conspired to prevent us realising our dream. Pregnancy, Russian invasion of Afghanistan, you know, the usual things.

Anyway, fast forward a few decades and we're both looking at retirement. With big smiles on our faces, natch. So, we do the sums and then we're off to the dealers looking at second hand motorhomes which, incidentally, cost more than we paid for our house! We saw one we liked and went away to think about it and then saw the same model for sale privately for a lot less money. Bought it, used it for one weekend and realised that putting the bed up every night and taking it down every morning was a big problem and not for us. First mistake and first lesson learnt. Back to the dealers, found what we wanted with a fixed bed and after some masterly haggling got what we wanted for more than we wanted to pay. But hey, it's only the kid's inheritance we're spending, right?

Meanwhile we'd read a few blogs and books by folk who had travelled across Europe for a year or more so we were picking up loads of tips. We subscribed to an excellent forum www.wildcamping.co.uk and the folk on there gave us so much invaluable advice. We had a few trial weekends away and now we're in Spain and we've been on the road for 3 weeks and we're experts. We define experts as people who make no more than 2 catastrophic mistakes each day.

So if you didn't know us before you have a bit more of an idea now of who we are. This gives you license to laugh at us and insult us in the comments section. We hope you do, it gets a bit lonely out here sometimes you know. 

Lazy, lazy day.

Still in Bolnuevo , having a very lazy day today.  Another lovely sunny day and I took the opportunity to catch up on a weeks washing while Pat made one of his famous curries ( chicken and chickpea) . I spent some considerable time sat in a chair doing nothing which was a novelty . We went for a very short walk around the site this afternoon so we could look at everyone else's vans and encampments - some of them are amazing. We spotted outdoor washing machines, gardens , seedlings growing etc. The great excitement of the day was half the campsite attempting to park a Brit  in one of the bays - unsuccessfully - he's now parked on the road ! In the spirit of research we are now sampling the local Cava, - it has to be done.
Buenos Noches

The Brit Phil mentioned was a real charmer. He rocked up and looked around, saw I had UK plates and asked about the location. I said it was ok and he'd get the sun all day on the pitch behind ours. "Are you noisy?" he asked. Err no, not really. "Wot's the tv reception like?" Dunno, haven't got a tv. End of conversation. First thing he did was pop up his ariel and spin it round for about 45mins before packing it away again. Different folks for different strokes eh? If I'd been him on a new site I'd have asked "Any wifi?" By the way I'm still tapping in to the guy next door's. He doesn't seem bothered.

Ok, time for that curry,

Buenos Noches,


Monday, 25 November 2013

Still in Bolnuevo

Yes, we're still here. No reason to move really. Today we caught the bus to Puerto de Mazarron, ten minutes down the road. It was strange to be walking around a town with shops, banks, restaurants etc..  We haven't done that for a while so we celebrated by buying 2litres of wine for €2.60 from the friendly wine merchant, had a coffee and caught the bus back!

After a leisurely lunch in the sunshine (you're getting sick of this aren't you?) we walked along the beach to a tiny cove with a couple of small fishing boats and a small sandy beach. There's 18km of continuous unspoilt beach here, where we are there is a boardwalk with a mix of houses, bars and restaurants, mostly closed at this time of year. Palm and tall Eucalyptus trees line the pavement and there is a sandstone cliff about 200m inland which has been eroded into some weird, bizarre shapes. It's a lovely spot with none of the massive high rise hotels further up the coast. On the way back we watched the sunset behind the mountains over the bay. It really doesn't get much better than this so we'll probably stop for another couple of days and then move down the coast to Los Escullos to a campsite recommended by the only other English guy we've found on this site. It's interesting here, it's a large campsite with enclaves housing French, German, Dutch and Scandinavian folk with massive motorhomes. You can tell the Dutch 'cos they all have potted plants round their pitches!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The wind, the wind

We are still in Bolnuevo. Last night we were woken by the awning flapping and rattling in the wind, it was getting a right battering. Although it was pitch black I should have got out of bed and wound it back in to avoid any damage, it was damaged once before when we were in North Yorkshire and the price of spare parts is crazy. But it was warm in bed so I lay there with my fingers crossed and fell asleep again. This morning I feared the worse but I had secured it well enough the previous day and all was well, phew! I did wonder yesterday though why hardly anybody else on the site had an awning out. Another lesson learnt.

Some kind soul nearby has left his wifi unsecured so I'm pinching a bit while he leaves it on. A couple of people have said it's difficult to post comments on the blog so I've had a good look at the preferences and now there should not be a problem. Please, please let me know if you are unable to post comments.


Saturday, 23 November 2013

It's getting warmer

We are parked up at Camping "Playa De Mazzarron" at Bolnuevo, about 25k west of Cartagena. We're next to a long sandy beach and a "lively" village which is not too lively in November but which has a Spar shop stocking everything you could possibly need and a lot of stuff you wouldn't know what to do with.

Yesterday we spent the day with our Daughter's parents-in-law in La Coveta Fuma just north of Alicante. They have a lovely house overlooking the sea and after a lazy lunch on the terrace they showed us around the area and found for us the elusive euro pin adaptor we've needed on the sites we have stopped at lately. They have a motorhome too, about twice the size of ours and have been far further afield than we have and it was good to pick up tips and advice from them. The night before that we stayed at a pretty scuzzy campsite at Gandia.

The site we are at now is full with over-winterers, mostly Dutch and German but we've just had an interesting chat with an English couple who have spent the last 9 years traveling around Spain and Portugal. They are now semi- permanent here and gave us a few more tips on the climate in different parts of Spain during the winter months. Today was very hot and sunny with a breeze from the mountains behind us but as soon as the sun drops down so does the temperature and it's quite chilly now.

Oh yes, we saw the flamingos today on the inland saline lakes near Torrevieja. Flamingos on one side of the road and enormous piles of salt on the other.

The only place I can find wi fi on this site is in the social room and I have 20 mins free. I am sharing the room with 4 tables of Dutch women playing some serious games of dominoes but very quietly. I don't think it's fives and threes they're playing!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lazy Day

We've spent another day in Moncofar doing not very much at all. It was sunny till mid afternoon but there's still a chill in the air. We walked the 20 minutes to the supermarket to top up the food and beer stocks in shorts and t shirts, the few locals out and about we're wrapped up in jumpers and fleeces. A woman driving past in a fur coat actually shook her head in dismay at us.

We wouldn't choose to stay on this campsite for an extended period although there are plenty of long term uk residents here; there just isn't that much to do here. But the campsite is immaculate, the showers are better than those in some 4 star hotels we've stayed in and everywhere is kept spotlessly clean and tidy.

Tomorrow we'll head another couple of hours south heading toward Alicante.

Buenas noches,


Tuesday, 19 November 2013


We are parked up at Mon Mar campsite in the resort of Moncofar just north of Valencia. The campsite is full but the hotels and apartments are empty. Absolutely empty. We walked about half the length of the resort today along the promenade. I guess it's a couple of miles or so long and has wall to wall four storey apartments going back about 4 blocks. It must be absolutely rammed in the summer but now it's just empty. A ghost town. English seaside resorts still have a residual population and some tourists in the winter but it looks like someone locked this place up a month or so ago and that's it till next summer. Weird.

One of the exciting things about this trip is the challenges it throws up and the new things we are learning every day. Living in a motorhome is not like living in a house!
Yesterday we stayed in the wetlands I mentioned in the previous post, we were almost at the tip of the delta and it was completely flat for miles in every direction. We usually park bearing in mind the view we will get as we open the blinds in bed first thing in the morning and yesterday was no exception. Despite the fact it was raining and a little breezy we parked to get a view over the paddy fields and watch the egrets and herons with an early morning cuppa. At 3am we woke up to howling winds and the motorhome rocking quite violently. I was convinced that we were ok and that three and a half tons wasn't going to be blown over too easily. So, we got up, got dressed, took off the outside screens and turned Lulu around to face the wind! Another lesson learnt.

We arrived here today just a couple of hours south from the cold, wet and windy wetlands to............YES, Sunshine!!!!  Out with the awning, on with the shorts, al fresco lunch at last. It's since clouded over but the forecast is good for tomorrow so we plan to stay here for another day and chill out before heading further south.

Adios, amigos.


Wet in the Wetlands

Wet in the Wetlands.

We are parked in an Aire at Els Muntells in the Parc Natural del Delta de L'Ebre, a large wetland area with many rice paddies and migratory birds. Flamingos allegedly but we've only seen herons and egrets so far. We are sharing this spot with an Italian and a Spaniard. They both have massive motorhomes yet are traveling alone. Unless of course there are more people locked up inside who aren't allowed out. We each only speak our own languages so we've had a really interesting conversation so far and we've all agreed it's very flat here and yes it rains a lot.

Now I'm not moaning but....... I can't remember when it wasn't raining. St Etienne I think and that was a week ago. The sun did come out for a couple of hours today in between a thunderstorm and a sort of persistent heavy drizzle but, hey ho it's warm inside Lulu and we have plenty of fresh water, food and drink.

We've just been for a walk through the village to stretch our legs. There are three restaurants, two bars, a bakers, a museum, a general store, village hall and a church. All closed. In the last town before here though we found the best ever Lidl store. We stocked up with food for a couple of days for about €17.00 and the quality, variety and freshness of the food puts our supermarkets to shame.

Tomorrow we're heading off to check out a couple of campsites we've seen near Valencia which will, hopefully, have some wifi.

Adios, Pat.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday in Sitges


Wifi at last, two hours for €2, yippee. Time to update the blog, catch up with emails and check the weather further down the coast.

We left Olot this morning on the LPG hunt and, as directed, found some at a motorway service station just outside Barcelona. When I bought the refillable gas kit I also bought adaptors which would cover all the different pumps I might encounter throughout Europe. After 20 minutes of attempting to get LPG into the bottles and just as I was about to do a John Cleese impression with a tree branch and a motorhome the nice man appeared from the service station and showed me how to do it with the first adaptor I had tried!

We are now on a campsite at Sitges and, you've guessed, it's pouring down. We've got all facilities here for €17.00 a night and we're waiting for a break in the rain so we can get a week's worth of washing done and dried. Meanwhile the ragu sauce is simmering away and despite the lousy weather we've had for the last few days I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.

Yesterday we drove up through  the  mountains from France  and to the coast of Spain.  We stopped at a couple of places on the way but as it was lunchtime everything was closed and it was so windy we didn't stop long. However we did stop in Cadaques  , a beautiful fishing village with twisting , winding streets and houses with whitewashed walls . We wanted to go to the Dali museum but unfortunately that was closed too ! We settled for a walk around the port , wearing hats, gloves etc before setting off for Olot .

There are a couple of dozen other m/homes here and we're the baby of the bunch. Some are almost as long as a bus and they nearly all have massive satellite dishes on their roofs. Us? We're listening to Yo La Tengo through the mini speakers
Adios for now,

Saturday 16th November

Saturday 16th November.

We are in Spain, just. We are on a campsite just south of Olot in Cataluna and it is pouring down. We left Port-Vendres this morning and after several detours (more later), we arrived at Cadaques. Salvadore Dali lived and painted here for many years and there is a museum dedicated to his life and work which was, of course, closed today. Cadaques though, not withstanding the grey skies, is a beautiful little town with houses built on steep narrow streets leading up from the harbour and restaurants tucked into tiny alleyways. From the number of restaurants I guess this place would be very busy during the warmer months.

Our plan this morning was to call into the garage for some LPG and them head off, picking up some fresh bread on the way. Nearly every petrol station we've passed in France has had LPG but Super U today didn't have any. The lass there said to go to the big DIY store that we'd just passed, they would have some. We went there and they didn't have any but the lass there said to go to Super Marche 10k in the wrong direction they certainly would have LPG. They didn't but said the service station in the centre of Argeles would have some. We couldn't find the service station but we found a Gendarme parked up picking his nose. I tapped on his window which he wound down somewhat reluctantly and I apologized for my poor French linguistic skills and asked where we could find some LPG on a pump. Blank look. I trotted over to the motorhome and mimed filling up with LPG and trotted back to his car. Without even a smile he said in pretty good English "I have absolutely no idea".

We set off for Spain calling at every service station on the way with no success. Parked up tonight we did a bit of research and discovered that LPG in Spain is a rarity. The nearest garage is in Barcelona so guess where we're going tomorrow?

Friday, 15 November 2013

Friday 15th November,

We are in Port-Vendre where it is blowing a gale, I'm told the winds are 80/90kph.

On Wednesday we stayed in (another!) vineyard just south of Carcassonne and the wind got up there but it is crazy now! Another English guy staying at the same motorhome park as who is also Spain bound says he is hanging on till the wind drops as he does not fancy getting tipped over on the road through the Pyrenees! So we are going to stay here at least another day.

The scenery has been stunning all the way , we have travelled on roads through the mountains and on vin routes where  the autumn colours have been stunning . We had a wine tasting at 9 30 am  which was a first- even for us!! Needless  to say we had to buy a couple of bottles!
Wednesday 13th November.

We've been a little tardy updating this blog for a number of reasons. Firstly I've been frustrated with not being able to post pictures. I've drafted posts, included pictures and then when I've attempted to upload them the pictures have disappeared. Whether this this is a problem with my net book or a Google problem or my stupidity I'm not sure. I suspect the latter.
Secondly we don't have as much wifi access as I hoped we would have.
Thirdly, driving around searching for boulangeries is pretty exhausting and by the time we've bought bread, found somewhere to stay for the night and cooked an evening meal we're too tired to do much else. I know, it's a hard life.
However here's an update on the last week which we'll post as soon as we have some internet access. Sorry, no photos.
We spent the last weekend in St Etienne with our daughter and her family which was great. We don't get to see her too often although now we are footloose and fancy free we have promised to remedy that. Yesterday we left there with the intention of stopping the night at Millau. We arrived at the motorhome parking area only to find that it was €9.60 for the night. There was a queue of vehicles waiting to get in so I consulted the sat nav, found a place 20k away and set off. On arrival this camping area was owned by the same company and was also €9.60! We were both too tired to drive any further so coughed up and spent the night at La Cavalerie.
At first we thought the gunshot sounds were bird scarers however the noise of automatic rifle, machine guns, mortars and god knows what else soon dispelled that idea. This morning we discovered that we were parked next to a Camp militaire. The racket went on all night!
Today we drove to Carcassonne and toured the fortress dating back to Roman times. It was enlarged between the 12th and 17th centuries and has undergone restoration since the 19th century. It was  very impressive and visiting at this time of the year we just about had the place to ourselves although looking at the size of the car parks surrounding it I would imagine there would be some very long queues in the summer months.
We are now parked up in yet another vineyard just outside St-Hilaire. It was dusk when we arrived and apart from a woman who told us to "park round the back, goodnight", we haven't seen a soul apart from a massive white retriever type dog who wants nothing more than his tummy scratched.
Tomorrow we're headed for Port-Vendres, Collioure and the Med. And looking for wi fi of course.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Wi Fi at last in St Etienne

Wednesday November 6th

Tonight we are in Bouzy surrounded by Champagne vineyards. We drove around the outskirts of Reims looking for diesel (€1.28/ litre, thank you very much) and it's wall to wall vineyards as far as you can see, rolling hills of vines in their autumn colours; very impressive.
The first vineyard we stopped at said he had no room at the inn for us. From the look of his establishment and his rather brusque manner I rather think he is hoping for rich folk in massive motor homes not a couple of pensioners from the UK on a winter break. We were luckier on our second choice and we are now parked in a tiny courtyard in the centre of Bouzy. The guy who produces champagne here has invited us for a tasting in his house, more to follow.
Our plan is to avoid toll roads during this 6 week break. We won't normally be in a hurry and every euro spent on toll charges will be begrudged. However for the first leg of our trip we want to get to St Etienne by Friday so once we were out of the tunnel today it was straight on the motorway to Reims. Hence it was a pretty boring drive although remarkable for the lack of traffic. I can't imagine a motorway in the UK being that quiet.

Thursday November 7th

We are parked up in another vineyard, this time in Auxey Duresses, just south of Beaune, the vines in their autumn colours stretch for mile upon mile and are truly spectacular. We drove down the motorway again today which was pretty boring scenery wise but once we came off and travelled the country lanes through small villages it was stunning. Fun also to match the village names to the labels on the bottles; Nuits St George, Meursault, Pommard, Volnay. We are in the heart of Burgundy and it was warm and sunny here today.
Tomorrow St Etienne.

Friday November 8th

Here we are in St Etienne looking forward to a long weekend with our daughter and her family. The journey so far has been uneventful, if a little expensive using the toll roads, however disaster struck backing into the yard here. Anyway we've administered the hi tec aluminum tape to the smashed polycarbonate window and it will last until we get back to the UK.
Whilst it has been fascinating walking around the couple of villages we've stayed in so far it is also sad to witness the demise of the French village, the local shops killed off by the big supermarket chains. I'm not knocking the supermarkets, we all use them, but it's difficult for older, less mobile, people living in villages which, in some cases, don't even have a boulangerie any longer.
As I type this our daughter is preparing Moules Frites, they don't take long, gotta go. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Here we are parked on the Esplanade at Dover with a bacon roll and a beer. We left Bingley at about 12.30 and arrived here about 8 1/2 hrs later. That's what happens when you doubt your sat nav but the Blackwall tunnel was interesting and we wouldn't have missed the rush hour at Lewisham for the world. We have two sat navs and I disagreed with both of them; lesson learnt? Possibly.
There are another ten or twelve M/Homes parked up here probably all waiting for the early ferrys or tunnel journeys tomorrow I guess, so it feels safe where we are, it's certainly very quiet apart from the sporadic fireworks. It's too late for the big displays now at nearly 10pm but we saw a few as we drove down through Kent earlier.
This time tomorrow we hope to be parked up somewhere near Rheims with a bit of luck. We've joined an organisation called France Passion, the idea is that farmers, wine producers, cheese makers and other, mostly rural, artisans allow you spend a night parked on their farm, vineyard, whatever free of charge. In return I think that they would appreciate it it you bought some of their produce although there is no obligation. Well, buying a bottle of wine has never been a hardship for me so tomorrow night should find us with some English speaking champagne producers in Bouzy!
Time to turn in now, we have a busy day tomorrow.

Monday, 4 November 2013


So, being a bit new to blogging I managed to delete my first post this morning!
Pretty frustrating but hey ho, I can vaguely remember my initial post which explains what we are about. Unfortunately I haven't time right now but will attack the blogosphere tomorrow and then, hopefully, everything will make sense to anybody stumbling across this blog. 

one more sleep