Friday, 30 September 2016

We're back!

Thursday 29th September 2016  Niort  46.329742 -0.464539  I'm sure you've all been eagerly anticipating our return to the road, like the next instalment at Saturday morning pictures or the final book in the Hilary Mantel trilogy. Well, wait no longer because we're back in the van again and heading south. We left Yorkshire yesterday morning and headed to Portsmouth to catch the overnight ferry to St Malo. We've travelled with Brittany Ferries before and haven't been particularly impressed but our crossing last night certainly had some good points, particularly the meal we enjoyed in the restaurant, freshly prepared and cooked by folk who knew what they were doing and at a very reasonable price too. We sailed on the Bretagne which folk in the know told us was the best in the fleet. Unfortunately we decided to indulge in a coffee and brandy before retiring to our cabin. This was a mistake. I don't know how many times we've said we wouldn't drink coffee after 7pm because it just keeps us awake at night, that coupled with a cabin in the stern of the ship with the associated noise and dipping and rocking ensured we had a sleepless night. But, hey ho, the sun was shining when we docked and we set off this morning with the intention of stopping in a vineyard a little south of Nantes. But the clouds descended, the rain came and as we were making good time we decided to push on a little further south. A quick search brought up the town (City?) of Niort. As we by-passed Nantes the sky turned blue and the warm sun came out and by the time we arrived here it was time to swap the jeans for shorts.  We knew nothing of Niort and there's no information to be gleaned from our Lonely Planet guide which is a shame. Niort definitely deserves a mention. A beautiful park next to our parking place with a pretty river running through, a castle, some lovely old churches and a well laid out pedestrianised shopping area is as much as we had time for this afternoon but we met another English couple here who told us we just missed the weekly market with some delicious seafood. They've been here a couple of days and would stay longer if they didn't have to return home. Likewise we would spend some more time exploring the town but we have an appointment much further south. We're heading for Albufeira to meet up with a guy I went to school with and who I haven't seen for over fifteen years. Another school pal is flying over from England and a grand reunion is planned for the middle of next month. So we've got just over a week to get ourselves to the Algarve. After the reunion we'll be heading to Bolnuevo again for the winter to meet up with old friends and, hopefully, make some new ones. Friday 30th September. 44.801502 -0.124715 We are parked up tonight in a vineyard, well we've been in france two days already. We've stopped here twice before at Chateau de Bonhoste a little to the east of Bordeaux and just down the road from Saint-Jean-de-Blaignac and a lovely place it is to stop. We joined the France Passion scheme a couple of years ago which provides a guide to thousands of vineyards, farms and artisan producers all over France. We can stop at any of these locations with no compulsion to buy the produce but we think it would be rude not to buy a bottle or ten wherever we stop. This particular vineyard really looks after us; there are showers, toilets, electric hook up, free WiFi and we park looking over the vineyards. We were welcomed like old friends this afternoon and after tasting their wines and buying a few bottles were given a complementary bottle of Rose - "For your aperitif, enjoy!". We commented that the dogs remembered us, especially the Golden Retriever which we thought was looking old now. Apparently it's only 7 but when younger was first poisoned when it ate rat poison and then poisoned again when it ate slug pellets! Our host commented upon how intelligent Golden Retrievers are. Mmmm, not that bright then if it keeps poisoning itself. Having said that we had a GR which would eat anything, a greedy breed eh? The drive down the last couple of days has been uneventful; against our instincts, but to push on faster, we've mostly used motorways so we've clocked up 350 miles but paid €40 in tolls for the privilege - ouch! Tomorrow we are heading for Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain, the capital city of the Basque country, it's another longish drive for us so we'll probably bite the bullet again and pay the tolls. After that we'll get back on the B roads and meander through Spain and Portugal. Normally I'd be posting a few photos but there's a small tech hitch at the moment (yes, I've tried unplugging at the wall for 60 seconds and turning it on again!) but hopefully the issue will be resolved and next time i post you can look at some pics. Pat  


  1. Glad to hear you back on the road again take care don't cane that Renault too hard in your rush to the sun. We are off to Calais to do another fortnight there before heading south for some time in North Italy. Take care travel safely.

  2. Hi Paul & Chris.
    The Renault rolled off the ferry, sniffed the air, pawed the ground and then set off at a steady canter. She's got fresh oil and new shoes all round and I never use the whip on her!
    We have utmost respect for the work you do in Calais and wish you a relaxing time in Italy.