679-693: Travelling North and the First Birthday Party

A very late post …. lost our internet 10 days short of returning to the UK and then, somehow, we’ve been amazingly busy!

679 – Wednesday 5th April 2017:  Driving Day

We hadn’t driven all day – since we flitted from Portugal to Nice…. 8 hours travelling – and a nice aire in Cusiance – near where we had stayed before on our way home, this time last year.  Met a motorhome neighbour….  Now, when a young lady meets a nice Swedish man – what does she say, eh?  Obviously – in fluent Swedish – “I’m drunk and I love you”!!!  K seemed taken aback when his hands suddenly became more tactile…. and her Swedish wasn’t that fluent, either… I wasn’t impressed.  Perhaps, that’s the direct line Oscar should try with Kensey?  K’s excuse was that she learned it from some sailors?  I wanted a Harry Potter wand – to turn the Swedish man into – a tartcitron with extra mushypeas – deepfried!  

A quiet night…..

680 – Thursday 6th April:  Langres

Driving for a few hours, we stopped for lunch at an aire in Langres…  A Dutch van parked alongside us (a bit close) – they appeared tone a bit taciturn….  However, quite understandably so – when we saw they unloaded a completely shredded rear tyre – and the chap closely inspected their spare which he had fitted. We picked up some of the local cheese – orange skin  and the lady in the shop gave me some paper bags so it could breathe … nice.

We walked the walls around the town and thought it a pleasant town.  We drove on a France Passion vineyard … with views over fields, including one with Llamas, one sheep and one goat!  Peaceful and on an Oscar walk, I discovered that the town housed the country retreat and museum to Charles de Gaulle.

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With M. Didier – something to do with encyclopedias.

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All that remains of the funicular, as Langres is built on a rocky promontory.

681 – Friday 7th April:  Vet Day

We contemplated visiting the de Gaulle museum etc, but at EUR16 and with limited time to us, we declined.  Met Robyn and Kensey in a car park very close to the centre of Troyes.  We wandered and imbibed several glasses of Chablis with Robyn.  Oscar had his first visit with a non-English vet.  A thorough examination and prescribed the worming tablets required for the pet passport.  My vet had said that he should not have a certain type as they contained a medicine already in his Advantix or Advocate …. I tried to get the vet to give him Droncit, which I knew was OK, but no go.  Fortunately he gave me the tablets to give to Oscar with food later that evening.  Completely against the rules, but I was able to ring my UK vet practice and verify if this particular tablet was OK for him to take.

Robyn had identified a Sport Centre parking just on the outside of Troyes, which was a lot quieter than the city centre car park would have been on a party night.

 

682-683 – Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th:  Moving North – Another Shangri-La 

Robyn, again identified another superb aire at Mareuil le Port.  Not on most of the apps, just as well or it would have been over run!  A park next to the river.  The motorhome bays had their own water and concrtete patio area.  As well as electric for those of us that parked where it worked.  So lovely we decided to stay two nights – Robyn longer.  Robyn started hand washing, so I got the old twin tub out and was guilted into doing a load of ours too.  Perfect sunshine and a gentle breeze for drying the washing and us being outside pretty much all the time.  J lost a bet over when the Sicilian earthquake devastated the SE corner … 1693 is now engrained on his memory!  Consequece for J was to get the ladder out and clean the road kill on the from to Robyn’s van!  We had a ‘slight’ incident where I slammed j’s hand in Jez’s door.  Bearing in mind we have to really REALLY slam it, I was convinced all the bones in his fingers were crushed to a powder.  The neighbouring French motorhomers shot out with some magic Arnica cream and J did not have bruising or swelling.  I’ve bought some now, for the next time I try to damage him!  BBQ both nights.

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Foot care! 

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Amazing Pitches.

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Kensey basking in the sun.  Oscar finds the shade … they are so incompatible!

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Pilates class … who is absent?  That would be the photographer!  Oscar tied up or he would try to join in ….

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… he seemed to derive much enjoyment just watching … little perv!

684 – Monday 10th: Bergues for an Overnight

A longish drive up north and we overnighted at Bergues, just 35 mins from the Tunnel.  Far enough away from trouble and really quiet.  I took Oscar for a walk around the Vauban fort and walls and then into the town centre.  Being British, I was all bagged up to poop scoop by one of the outer paths, to be told, most insistently, by locals that it really was not necessary to pick up not in towns.  J struck up a conversation with our Belgian neighbour who told him that he had fought in the war and was on his way Normandy in his motorhome to meet up with some surviving members of his regiment.  Just how old would this have made him?  Almost 90 at least!

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Bergues.

685 – Tuesday 11th:  Back to Blighty and with the Reads

Early for our tunnel crossing as slightly anxious about how long the Pet Reception area would take.  In the event, it was super quick and we caught an earlier train.  We did not experience the sinking feeling we had this time last year … the sun shone and the M25 behaved!!!!  We parked up straddling Ian and his neighbour’s drive (they kindly move out and we pay motorhome parking rent in the form of a bottle of whence became).  A great evening, only marred by the fact that Nicky’s father really was not well.  Got to watch Robot Wars with Jimmy …. forgot how much I used to enjoy it.  

686 – Wednesday 12th:  Sinead and Shane

Ian and Jimmy were off to Barcelona the next day, so we took Jimmy for a blowy walk along the sea shore and for a muffin and hot chocolate in Rusty … Ian could pack and still deal with work (he works from home).  We then legged it to Farnham to Coxbridge Farm, where we stay near my family home.  We collected the car from the Aged P’s on the way and then battled our way up the M3, M25 and cut across W London to Ealing.  It all felt incredibly built up and busy.  just where do all these people come from?  Our destination was to dine with J’s baby daughter and partner, Shane in their new flat.  

687 – Thursday 13th:  Supper with the Aged P’s

We sorted out the rest of the garage and lugged a LOT of stuff back over to the Aged P’s for storage in their attic.  We now have room for the bikes 🙂  It will be interesting to see how oscar copes with us on bikes!  The former Welshie, Will, knew to avoid wheels and when I called him to heel, would run around the back of my bike and trot along bedside my left foot.  Somehow, I am in no doubt, that Oscar is not going to be so bike friendly.

I cooked at Rothbury for the Aged P’s and since we were sampling the Portuguese Moscatel that I’d squirrelled away (had buried it deep in the garage so we were not tempted to drink it when our own supplies ran out) and the Rasteau from the France Passion Cotes de Rhone vineyard we’d stayed on, we stayed the night.

688 – Friday 14th:  Supper with Caroline and Terry

Another boozy night with food away!   It started with a bottle of proper Champagne to celebrate J’s forthcoming BIG birthday.  We started the night here too!

Their No. 1 Daughter is Maddy’s bestie and they had news of the intimidation and bullying that goes on for freshers on the Uni Hockey Tour to Croatia.  She had been forced to eat and drink all sorts of obnoxious concoctions, including the pee of one of the lads …. Just horrid.  Given how much anti bullying education goes on in school, it is just incredible that they are all too intimidated to speak up.

689 – Saturday 15th:  Meeting the NEW Boyfriend

Maddy (she now spells her name Madi) and Brad came to supper.  Their friends have dubbed them Bradi!  We really liked him.  They’ve known each other a few years and he seems to have the measure of how she will wind him up when she’s bored!

690 – Sunday 16th:  Cooking and a Turkey Easter Supper

I spent most of the day food prepping at the Aged P’s.  So that I could use her kitchen, Mutt moved her food prep to Clare and Chris’ house.  Cx2 have, for the second Easter running, been tow path support crew for Louis who was competing in the Devizes to Westminster rowing race.  The competitors have to camp and prepare their own food in the evening.  The support crews, literally wedge food in them as they pass by, but it means very early starts and a lot of driving.  Hence Mutt cooking an Easter meal at Clare’s.  J and I have not had a proper turkey dinner for 2.5 years … just scummy.

691 – Monday 17th:  BIG Party No.1

We had a great evening with some England based friends for the first of J’s 70th birthday parties.  The raffle, where you can steal what someone else has was fun … with people hunting down the whisky, port and the camper van mug.  The BBQ sauce bottle nearly ended up with Clare – she did keep offering it around.  Madly, so busy I forgot to take any pix. 😦

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Besties Maddy and Dayna – besties and their youthful mothers!

Frances and Edward gave J two hedgehogs … we named the Van Jez, which is Slovenian for Hedgehog (so named after it’s brand Adria Sonic Supreme – Sonic the hedgehog.  We’ve named these two Jez and Belle … Jezebel.

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Jezebel.

692 – Tuesday 18th: Cleaning

Thank goodness for dishwashers!  And I had forgotten (put it from my mind) how long it takes to clean a proper house, and we only cleaned a few rooms!  Think we’ll stick with a motorhome.  No garden either!!!

693 – Wednesday 19th:  Warranty Work

Our list of Jez faults, included a dodgy step, no hob ignition, a leaking kitchen sink, no rear view / reversing camera and some smaller items such as bits of trim falling off.  An early start and down to Family Tavel Centre in Bristol for the repairs.  Nearly all completed and at no charge :).  Having walked Oscar in Stoke Park for the best part of 2 hours, we left him in the car whilst we shopped till J dropped!  I then carried on – buying something pretty much from each floor in John Lewis!

Then over to Stephen and Kay for a lovely tapas / grazing supper.  They are really pleased with their new motorhome – an 8m AutoTrail …. I have storage envy!  

We had booked to stay in Bristol for a few days, but the doctor had rearranged J’s over 70 DVLA for tomorrow and I was off on a TRIP!  Barcelona with Maddy – Ola!

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Stoke Park with the Dower House in the distance … we lived next to it for 3 months.

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Pleased to be back in time for the bluebells.

 

 

 

 

 

672-678: Poncing About in Provence

672 – Wednesday 29th March 2017:  Pitch Perfect

Now, some days we drive for hours – today’s odyssey took all of 10 minutes – or less!  To the campsite near last nights stay – at Pont du Gard – for laundry, some other jobs – and chilling.  But mainly as the weather forecast was excellent for the next few days and it would give us chance to get the chairs and BBQ out as well as feel the sun on us before returning home.

Gorgeous large pitch right on the riverside…..  no passing traffic other than the birds.  Llovely German neighbours on both sides with chats in English and German – K. Barbecue in the evening…

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The shorts and the knitting came out.

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Our beautiful boy.

673 – Thursday 30th March: Bridge Running and Walking

Our running has really taken off, again – K ran across the Pont du Gard and I ran back into Remoulins – trying to build the mileage for the 5k race on 15th April. Post-brekkie, we walked across the bridge and clambered up high to a circular path – with manicured gardens in the wild!  Pm saw us relaxing in the sunshine…  Another BBQ – why not?

 

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K’s morning’s run – view from the 2000 year old Roman bridge.

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When I ran, it was devoid of people … for once we were up reasonably early!

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The highest bridge ever built by the Romans at 49m.  It stands as a testament to their engineering.  Slaves, using pulleys, hauled massive blocks, up to 6 tons, of stone into position.  The upper channel is the aqueduct, in use for 400-500 years, and the lower the road.  When I visited with the Aged p’s as a child, there was not a tourism industry here – no museum, cinema, upper level tour, massive carparks etc.  However, you can follow the footpaths and still cross the road bridge for free.

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The walk along the remains of the aqueduct was through perfectly trimmed hedges, an observation tower and an ornamental herb garden … all in what should have been wild countryside! 

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Evening sunset from our perfect pitch.

674 – Friday 31st March:  Hair Yesterday and Chopped Today

A late am start – why?  Because we can!  

Now, readers – a little known fact to whet your appetite for tonights imbibing – those of you who do have a regular libation…  Official UK figures show that sales of alcohol are double the amounts declared by folks in their medical or other declarations!!!  Obviously, as nobody lies about their consumption (!) – there’s a vast alcolake in the UK – it’s called “Lago da Vino” and the tributaries are everywhere…  If only we could tap into it…well then, we would have to declare an increase in consumption?  This is something of an esoteric circular discussion which may not have a conclusion. “Lies, lies and damned statistics”  

Todays jobsjoys included Oscar hair trim, J hairkutz and K hairdye – and campsite showers – just like boarding school – on the cold side of lukewarm!  But good for the soul…  And all in pleasant sunshine.

 

675 – Saturday 1st April:  Where did the sunshine go?

Morning – as forecast – teeming rain – visions of Cabo di Especial – mudstuck and towout in Portugal. We moved Jez to an adjacent hard standing pitch – see – we do learn from our adventures.  We’re not used to cold temperatures (we will be soon enough – UK-side).  Drove Jez to Avignon – and straight to an ACSI campsite – to run the heating on mains electric!  Lovely site – by the Rhone – and nice wide pitches.  In response to a wild camping forum challenge, K prepared a special Escoffier recipe – the usual KHC result!  

An April Fool link posted by our friend Dan on a forum we’re members of … no longer just the midges to be aware of on the W coast of Scotland, but Polar bears fleeing the melt down of the arctic spotted 🙂

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Stuffed onions: adapted as using a slow cooker.

676 – Sunday 2nd April:

What does one do in Avignon?  Pontdancing, of course…not pole dancing, or poncing.  We did a little jig – looking around to make sure nobody was watching – they were all pontjigging, too!  Good old St Benezet was responsible for this bridge, miraculously – according to legend he was a shepherd who had a visitation and told to build the bridge.  He attended a council meeting and declared his mission.  The Provost laughed and told him that if he could move a massive stone that had not been able to be used in building the cathedral as no one could move it, he could be believed. He lifted the stone and carried it to the river.  According to some witnesses, he gave a shrug of the shoulder and threw it into position as the foundations stone.  Others reported that he was assisted by divine intervention.  Funnily enough, he went on to be the bridge manager and run a consortium of bridge builders.  And since the bridge kept being washed away by the currents of the Rhone, he was onto a good thing!  

We phoneApped our way around the city – we discovered that K9s are banned from all parks – but are allowed in restaurants! Logic? 

My lunch pudding was straight out of ‘Hammer films’ – should have been served by Vincent Price!  

En route to our Jezorhome, we stopped at a bar (we know – not unusual in itself) – but this turned out to be a film club bar – beautifully comfortable armchairs to sink into – a selection of eclectic films – cartoons and monochrome – kooky.  An amusing one with every known corporate logo where the Michelin men attempted to catch Ronald McDonald the burger and then the world collapsed due to earth tremors.  Another a silent one.  Audience mostly young folk…  but one of those kooky moments in time that you don’t go looking for.

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Yep, the Pont d’Avignon is only half a bridge.  Actually it’s pukka name is Pont St Benezet, and there’s a chapel with some of his relicts – the rest are scattered, of course, in other churches!   For some time, part of the bridge was wooden and only one person wide, so not much use for trade.

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On said bridge.  Watched a couple doing a little dance.  Were we too cool or just plain cold to do much?

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View from the Rochers des Doms gardens (before we were doggyvicted)  of the city walls and the bridge.

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Palais de Papes.

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Built like a fortress, and of the 9 Popes, most had a go at adding or removing towers etc.

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Lunch was OK, omelette and chips for J, cod in provencal sauce for K, but the chef must have Parkinsons to have put so much pink sauce on J’s Tarte au citron!

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Wandering in the Quartier des Teintures, where most manufacturing used to take place, there are still old relicts remaining … 4 water wheels that is!

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Now ~wine o’clock~ would be more our style.

 

677 – Monday 3rd April:  Palais de Papes and Villeneuve les Avignons

When did I last run in the rain?  Gwent League Cross-Country, probably…. the motivation is high – so a damp training route along the Rhone – completely flat 5k – and it’s getting quicker…  K resting her ham string 😦

Sady, we left Oscar in charge of Jez and headed for the ferry across the Rhone to visit the Palais de Papes – largest Gothic Palace in the world… vast – good history of the 9 popes who held office in Avignon when the Papacy left Rome – for political reasons in the 15th century.  One Pope decided that the best way to honour God was to live the most opulent lifestyle – why?  

Back to reassure Oscar that we hadn’t left him permanently – he understands, we think…  Across the opposite side to Avignon – to Villeneuve lez Avignon (city of the Cardinals).  Really pretty and simple town/village – coffee and chat at local bar.  Visit to Tour Phillipe le Bell – and the monastery of Chartreuse du Val de Benediction – a real gem.

A glass of wine in the town square was going well – until my glass exploded into smithereens (and spilled the blinking wine too). Some children were playing ball and the result was a ‘vinoplosion’, as the ball ricochetted off K’s unsuspecting head and missile like onto my glass.  The young lady was ‘tres desole’ and Dad apologised profusley – no harm done.  

For some obscure reason, our talk wandered around to buying a house in Provence – why? Another impossible/improbable dream?  A whim? Who knows – we bought a previous house and a motorhome spontaneously…  Last week it was shangrila in Portugal Ponte de Lima.  To celebrate our discussions we ate in the campsite restaurant … not fine dining, but a lot of meat came away with us to furnish two more meals!

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Inside one of the courtyards in the Palais de Papes.

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An amazing height achieved in C14.  The largest Gothic palace in the world, with great big cavernous rooms.  

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Villeneuve:  Tour Philippe le Bel.  Built to guard the other side of the Pont d’Avignon which straddled the island in the middle of the Rhone, where our campsite was.

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View up to Fort St Andre, built by the French royalty so they could keep an eye on the Popes!

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The Chartreuse du Vale de Benediction:  once the largest and most important Carthusian monastery in France.  Bits had been sold off but now reclaimed and restored – sort off!

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Three cloisters still with the food serving hatches for the monks.  This one looking up to the Fort St Andre.

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We really liked the chilled and less touristy Villeneuve.

678 – Tuesday 4th April:  Chateauneuf deu Pape and Rasteau

We bid a fond adieu to campsite Pont D’Avignon after the usual van water/waste/wc services – and our wineavigator compass needle flickered around to – direction Chateauneuf du Pape!  Town square lunch – K – foie gras – and a glass each of the obligatory (expensive) produce…  

Our destination tonight was another France Passion site – a vineyard. On arrival and setting up Jezacamp, we has a degustation – and the subsequent purchases included some Euro 2.90 per litre local wine and a few bottles of the better stuff.  Evening sunset over vines as far as the eye can see – and mountains on the other (sunrise) side – and all for free!  Seven star hotel surroundings – is this the life?  Just a smidgen of wind to contend with (and not just from Oscar!) – our host referred to it as a ‘mistral’.

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It had to be done … one glass of Chateauneuf de Pape was EUR7 and the other 9.  We swapped halfway through.

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 I just had a starter – panfried foie gras with a poached quails egg and a light black olive tapenade … yummy.  Followed by a shared cheese platter with J.

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Our Rasteau vineyard pitch.    Just us, the farmhouse behind us and views across to the hills.

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Most of the land is flat and vines as far as the eye can see.


Oscar’s Diary

Well then, another diary entry – for my fans…. What to write? No need to describe meal times, walks, being left in the van while the ‘owners’ go to a museum – or a bar – latest excuse was they were visiting some Paper Palace in Avignon – ‘Palais de Papier’, I think they said…  I suppose you could learn about – tissues, wc paper, kitchen rolls, papier mache – paper airplanes?  Paper over the cracks in their logic, maybe…  Anyway, they’re only humans, after all.  

We dined in the campsite restaurant one night – I was allowed in – unlike the Avignon Parks!  I was appalled!  Other dogs barking inside – and being generally misbehaved – the owners didn’t seem to care, unlike my K and J who care a lot about me (I had to get that in – I like to flatten, sorry flatter them, sometimes).  

Now, they tell me I will see Kensey on 7th – this Friday. Which approach to use this time? The aloof, devilmaycare, manabouttown syndrome? Or the getyoursnoutinthere directline way?  Women are a mystery – I heard James say that once to K – his ear developed a sudden dent, then.  Maybe the cautious approach – you blokes will know – pay a compliment – like when ladies say “does my bottom look big in this?”  You say “Not much darling” – no – “Never, sweetums” is better.  How much have I learned from James?  Build on the cosy atmosphere following the compliment, a bunch of flowers (pansies are good) – and then – fly under the radar – and Bob’s yer uncle!   If we’re going to have a long term relationship, something needs to give….  

Back to the UK next week – I’ve forgotten the cold weather, the M25, the other roads with never ending queues of cars – but – we will be with family and friends.

K and J have been listening to “Harry Potter” on audiobook whilst driving – I thought it was a mistake….  Now when James produces my doggybowl, he waves his wand (no rude jokes, please) and says “enterfariumdoggywoso” – and nothing happens!  No magic dogfood appears in the bowl – so he has to go back to actually manhandling the food into the dish.  I may try to delete the next episode from K’s KPad…

That’s from me – for now – back to Kenseyplanning…..

 

 














661-671: Nice Family & the Camargue

661- 666 – Saturday 18th to Thursday 23rd March 2017 –  Nice in Nice

K picked up our rental car from Nice Cote Dazur ‘Kiss and Fly’ airport – an Opel ‘Ostracar’ Astra TurboSonicSupreme – just like Jez!  We journeyed into Nice – always heavy traffic into town…  to se Sarah (J’s daughter) and Jade (Sarah’s daughter).  One day we were picked up by Sarah from the campsite … (the NouNou – I know, but honestly this is what they are called!  aka. the Nanny was Jadesitting) and off to see their prospective new home in Biot.  A snip at (offered) Euro 455k.  Large home – needs some work but eminently liveable in for now – 3 beds – pool – and room for Jezparking too. Let’s hope they get it…   Lovely sunshine lunch in Biot with Sarah – we returned the following day for a reprise – fantastic fish course in with the locals.  

Young Jade wasn’t quite herself – bit of an iffy tummy, but we persuaded her to walk out with us without her Mum – first time for us too!  She walked by herself some of the time – and had amore than a few carries. In the park, she chased a pigeon but the pigeon won… Jade won the beauty contest, though…  Plenty of Grandad time – ooops, am I really a grandfather?

Nice meals at Sarah’s – K cooking – Jade improved during the week – looking forward to seeing her Dad on Friday in Carthagena.

K here:  Funny  – J forgot to mention Jade’s name for James … Grandpa Pig …. hilarious!  It comes from Peppa Pig.  J was less than enamoured with it!

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We missed seeing Jade on St Pat’s, but she did wear an Irish rugby shirt on Saturday, but wouldn’t keep still long enough for a non fuzzy photo … something to do with all the cheering and arm waving!

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A walk to Jade means a carry!

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Tummy tickling time.

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Not sure how appropriate to take a toddler into an e vape shop?

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Lunch with Sarah in Biot.

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Set lunch – sole around salmon … guess who had chips with theirs?

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Leg exercises.

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All fall down.

667 Friday 24th March

Sarah and Jade left at 5:00 am for Spain and Daddytime – K returned our hire car to the airport. The day was spent doing van cleaning and admin – must be done – the rain came…one last night at Parc des Maurettes – we will return – probably in the summer – to help with the house move, we hope.

 

668 – Saturday 25th March

Off to the Camargue – on a friend’s advice – totally flat landscape – rice, lots of horse riding, rare birds…  We started in the rain on the Peage … but after the first toll of EUR22, we headed onto the free roads.  We overnighted at a ‘France Passion’ (rice farm) for the first time in a year or more – so peaceful, no nightly light pollution – lots of stars – and – quiet all around.

 

669 – Sunday 26th March

As we drove to Santes Maries de la Mer we passed many horse riding stables.  I was into horse riding once – teenage years – my first (and only) mount was Raquel – who liked me so much she wanted to tickle my tummy on the ground – after she had thrown me unceremoniously. Pride comes before a?  

St Marie de la Mer – gorgeous sea walk – flamingoes, more horses – and lovely sunshine…  Euro 6 for 2 coffees!!!   We are in expensive France, now.  On to Aigues Mortes – stunning medieval walled town.  Euro 20 for 12-hour parking – no!  Parked at good old Intermarche and walked into town.  Aigues Mortes was once a major sea port, but is now marooned 5kms from the sea.

Our second France Passion – a winery – same peaceful quiet night – and zzzzs. 

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There are some pink flamingos, top right of the pic – but we were completely outdone by others’ long camera lens. 

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Horse riding is the major tourist must do, but we didn’t.  Something to do with a horse named Raquel … ask James!

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How much, Sir?  Two white coffees … EUR6!

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Stables just everywhere with the small sturdy white Camargue horses.  Although historically the horses were never stabled and were used to thresh grain.

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The vines are mostly ‘Gris du Sable” , a rose – low growing and looking like a Germanic war cemetery.  The other main industries are salt, rice and tourism, of course.

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Aigues Mortes with its complete town walls.

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670 – Monday 27th March

Intermarche for LPG and provisions – onward to Arles.  We passed by St Giles and K recognised the waterfront where we had walked and lunched with Maddy nearly two years ago.  Arriving in Arles we found the Riverfront free parking with free services – flat embankment for running – and wall-to-wall sunshine.  Lots of narrow streets, Roman remains – and a glass of ‘Frexpensive’ wine at Euro 8 for 2!  We reclined back at Jez – with our supermarket rose ‘Gris’. 

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Along the Rhone by our aire … just a wall separating us from the view, but nothing separating Oscar and a long drop!

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Our near neighbours.  The camels, goats, horses and dogs did not make a sound … but why do donkeys sound like they are building up to a hernia?

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I had just been saying to J that last year I really liked the Sicilian Baroque architecture, and this year the Portuguese Manueline … and lo … some curly pillars.

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Elise St-Trophine:  Just read that this portal is one of the French Heritage Sites … knew it looked impressive 

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Take you fun pick – but not at EUR69 each.  Did I mention we’re finding France VERY expensive?  I know we’re in the touristy area, but!  I googled a comparison of the cost of groceries between Guildford and Dijon … 23% cheaper in Guildford.  yes, really!

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Arles: the Roman amphitheatre is one of the best preserved in Provence and still used as a gladiators’ arena.  Bull contests in the summer, but apparently here they pluck a rose from the bull’s horns.

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Sampling the ‘Gris’ rose – not cheap (that old chestnut again!) at EUR4 each and not very good either!

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The mellow water front.

671 – Tuesday 28th March:  Recreation in Remoulins

Excellent runs for both of us along the beautiful river (Rhone?) in the morning – perfect conditions – I have identified a 5k race for us in Farnborough on April 15th – a good test – we have done these ‘Park Runs’ before – good atmosphere. 

I tried to up my speed a bit and surprisingly ran 4:48 for the last km – good improvement – K ran further than for months, too. A bit of admin to do – beers by the river…

PM – to Remoullins area intending to stay at another France Passion – but just outside the town – a nice compact aire on the river – quite full, but we squeezed in. Nice walk on the stony beach (J, you omitted to mention the couple of beers each!)  – mega play time for Oscar – he even walked on water – literally!  Months ago, he would have run a mile.  Some motorhomers in these parts are not exactly over friendly… perhaps the French think we look unfriendly, but we only get a grudging Bon Jour to our jovial one.

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Where you off to?  I was playing with you?

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No, you keep sending my pink teddy bear into the water!

 

 

 

 

 

524 – 526: French Partings and Reunions

524 – Wednesday 2nd November 2016:  Temporary Partings

J ici – 6:30 am start from Pereihat to get me to Bordeaux airport for flight to Gatwick – minor medical appointment in Guildford on Thursday morning. Ring motorway was well behaved – no serious bouchons… Some flights delayed due to heavy fog – but my Niceyjet plane left only 5 minutes late – and arrived in Blighty 15 minutes early? How does that work? I suppose its like construction programmes – we always allowed ‘float’ time in establishing targets.  Huge thanks again to Diane and Grahame (still in France!) for allowing me to bivouac at Royal Rothbury Dock… 

K here … I drove onto Le Teich, along the Arcachon Baisin.  The motorhome aire was out of order, next to a station and with no other motorhomes.  I reckoned it would not be my resting place for the night, but Oscar needed a walk so I followed the sign for the port … and found a nest of motorhomers, just outside the Ornithological Park.  I moved Jez here …. 14 vans by night time and a further 5 up the road.  I did feel safe.

Being Oscar’s birthday, he got several walks and playtimes with his balls (the throwing sort!).  He is now a mature (!!!) 3 years old.

I cleaned the inside of the van, which we had not had time to do on the jobs day yesterday and caught up with some blogging.  I don’t know if it was NOT overeating or having the bed to myself, but I slept really well!

J here – ok so you sleep better when I am away…???

 

525 – Thursday 3rd November 2016:  Reunited

James … Thursday at 7:30 am, I joined the jolly commuters (just like old times again…) en route to business – our business is travelling and being retired – but not exactly being put out to grass!  Guildford, successful appointment – minor window shopping – and back to Gatrow/Heathwick…Gatwick – for BA this time. K managed to recognise me on the kerb at Bordeaux Airport next to a giant wine bottle – and off back to the Aire.  There is a story here, folks. Some years ago (about 100 or so), when I was an ‘important’ CEO of a medium-sized PFI company, I stayed with K (before we lived together) at her house in Fleet and took the train to a Board Meeting in Londinium.  Kindly, after her usual frenetic but superbly managed schooldays, she offered to collect me from Fleet station. I alighted from the carriage (isn’t that a lovely word? “alighted” – if you alight from a train – do you belight on to it?) and rushed to be greeted by my darling! As I approached, she stared fixedly past me – and I was completely ignored!!!  I wasn’t too ‘belighted’ at this! She claimed it was my suit – I suppose I was disguised to look like every other ‘very important’ business bloke at the station…  Now that we are full time motorhome travellers, we know we are really ‘important’ indeed…  We don’t really miss the ‘suited and booted’ days, but they were fun, sometimes…   

K back again … I took Oscar for a longer walk than usual around the Basin de Archachon, hoping to  find a bistrot for a bowl of soup in the next town … No, full of burgers and pizza, all offering student rates … YUK!  I had a white coffee at a bar and then wondered how to go for a pee with Oscar and a largish rucksack.  If I had left him outside he would have created mayhem with pulling and barking …. in the end I just took him and bag with me.  Anything seems to go in France with dogs.  I munched on my reserve breakfast biscuits on the way back and then fell on some soup.  

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The Basin de Arcachon really reminded me of the Norfolk Broads, near where I used to have a holiday home.  Dead flat, reclaimed land and sedge and reeds feeding an abundant birdlife.

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I was lucky enough to catch this fellow eating a fish … he allowed me time to change my camera to 400x zoom and only paused for a second when Oscar made a noise.  Think he may be a stork.

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I collected James via the large Carrefour, so large the staff are on roller skates.  We I’d been there after dropping Kerstin at the airport, it been heaving with families and children … today was much quieter and altogether more pleasant.  We are intending to de-tox a bit (only a bit), so it was strange coming out of a supermarket with no booze!

We overnighted back at the same spot in Le Teich as it was under an hour away.

 

526 – Friday 4th November 2016:

Running had taken a back seat in recent times – due to Chardonnay issues and K9 capers – the former a bit of a chore and the other a huge joy – Amelia and the other Irish siblings will know the meaning of “an madra deas alainn air fad!”.  OK, ok – the Dublin Olympics may be light years away so we have ample time to prepare for the Decathlon – we’ve started by spending lots of Euros at  Decathlon stores in Euroland!  K9Oscar will of course enter separately for the Welsh Winter Olympics – he already has a medal in Olympic ‘lock picking’ – specialising in opening/tearing soft doggy crates and doggy treat bags!!!  He will fail a ‘drogs’ test every time… we have years to get the red vino out of our system – trouble is – we keep topping it up again…    

Following our soft training and Oscar’s poo-training, we visited the town of St Jean de Luz – a seaside resort where Louis XIV married Maria Therese of Spain to cement a political alliance that didn’t prevent the 2 countries going to war subsequently. He was a randy old git, sorry – goat who rushed to privately consummate the union before the “public” consummation!!!  Can you imagine it – the young couple at Westminster Registry Office – the Registrar says – “now you’re officially married – get out on the street and get your kit off and have your consome soup – with afters!”.  Pleasant seaside resort with nice sqares, we retired to our nightly bivuac – a small Aire with tightly packed vans on the edge of the town railway station main platform!  The trains didn’t stop all night and the really loud ones were the freight trains – the station announcements went on also every half hour – “don’t leave any unattended bags on the station, etc etc”.  Therefore readers will understand that when K’s daughter phoned at 3:30 am from UK to complain of a headache – K patiently restrained from suggesting an enema placed up her nether regions!!!  

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St Jean de Luz … the port area is pretty, and so it the beach, but …

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… Dogs not allowed, not any time of year!  We had to walk him right along the promonade in the lead to the hill one end of town, before we could let him have a free wander!

Now we don’t like to moan – but the rain did beat incessantly all night in tune with the trains, announcements, enema-esque headaches, etc. Very little would have been connsome’d in our van last night!  Too much detail? Let’s move on then…  Spain tomorrow for some sun????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

518-523: A Surprise for Dad’s Planned 80th

518 – Thursday 27th October 2016:  Collecting the Surprise

Grahame and Diane had no idea that Kerstin (Kooky Kerstin) was coming to stay at chez Jez/Perechat  – so we had an extra day away from them as a pretext for collecting KK! We identified a secure parking near the Bordeaux Merignac airport – Katherine dropped me at the Arrivals Building and awaited at the parking for my call. Kerstin arrived very quickly and K/Jez appeared right on time. Kerstin had not experienced Jez and was suitably impressed – she was particularly pleased with the sleeping accommodation… having previously called Jez a folly by email!!

We drove to the coast W of Bordeaux to an aire … due to the heavy traffic, we arrived just as the sun was setting…. another of those moments in time, which you cannot plan.  As K and K walked Oscar, K tried to persuade K to let out her properties in Germany and buy a motorhome … you don’t get moment like this stuck to a desk and a computer screen.

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519 – Friday 28th October 2016:  Dune de Pilat

The largest sand dunes in Europe lived up to all our expectations – and more! Beautiful soft sand and convenient steps up to the top – stunning views for miles/Kilometres in every direction. Oscar even managed to run in the sand – we had a very sandy van later….  It grows and moves every year … so far streets and houses consumed and one guid book said a campsite was next in line.

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Kerstin determined to ‘control’ Oscar!

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All 3 sliding down the sand … K took the steps to catch the pix.

 

Arriving at Perechat, where the family were convening, we parked with Kerstin lying low – K brought Diane and Grahame from the house – and mega surprise – a loving reunion!  Much jollification – and some drinkies also…

520 – Saturday 29th October 2016:  Aubeterre and Supper

We hd been to Aubeterre before, briefly for coffee last July – this time a better tour and the 2 K’s visited the underground church – much impressed – see photos! A good wander in lovely warm sunshine.

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Oscar not allowed into the Church but having a look anyway.

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Aubeterre is a derivative of alba terra / white stone and the stone work of the old properties was indeed soft.

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Noteworthy carvings … acording to the guide book.

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The underground church was more impressive than we imagined.   Dug out during the Crudades by hand.  They think to house a relict.

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It was also the town cemetery, so locals and Pilgrims had to walk over the graves.

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The rellilquary  – carved out of one peice of stone.


The evening was the first restaurant meal for the  Grahame birthday celebration – we drove G and D and Katherine’s navigational skills were – in Kerstin’s way of speaking – “How shall I say?” – “interesting”! In other words, we got lost! But we arrived eventually to a super meal – complete with – the Birthday cake – no jokes about Grahame’s windy skills in putting out the candles…   A special treat was Danielle travelling from her University life in Birmingham to mark the occasion – one of many treats indeed!  She’d managed to have her parents book her Business, whilst they travelled with her siblings in steerage … she only managed one bottle of fizz … wasted on her!

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All in our Sunday best!

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I may need that wrapping paper!

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An expert in recycling!

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A different gift in the same paper … honest.

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Enough puff?  Oh I think so!

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Angelic or what?

 

521 – Sunday 30th October 2016: Angouleme

Day out to Angouleme provided us with a test of motorhome parking – seriously! We almost got stuck in the local Gare car park but escaped with our van intact – the first very narrow streets test… in Jez.

On street – and free – parking was found not very far away. K checked with a local who quizzed her on how the English find the French!!!!!  A good walk around the town ramparts – more spectacular views – and a coffee outside a dog friendly bar – most bars/restaurants are dog welcoming here.  The Basilica was well worth a visit – not overly adorned like some churches – a local christening was in progress. Back to Perichat for a Baker organised evening meal.

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Yes – chrysanthemums 

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Lots of official graffiti.  K sporting new ‘home knitted’ poncho.

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Angouleme is know for its annual car race around the ramparts.  Much be a bit hairy as the roads are twisty and narrow.

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It sits high over the undulating surrounding lands … nothing special, but pleasant.

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The exterior at odds with the plain interior.

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522 – Monday 31st October 2016:  The Big Day Itself

Monday was the exact day of Grahame’s birthday – starting at ‘breakfast o’clock’, Kerstin revealed her ‘piece de resistance’ with her usual understated aplomb!  A sort of “This is your life” version of Grahame’s life – with individual pages written by all the extended family members – from windy underpants – to odd sayings of his – to many holiday and camping adventures….. all bound and beautifully presented.  Amazing how once you start the memories keep on coming.

We took Kerstin to the Airport – she had work on Tuesday, after a diversion via Amsterdam (her not us!)… she needed to get to S Germany!!!   Back at Perichat, we readied ourselves for the second restaurant meal of the multiple celebrations – after all, you’re only XX years old once…  K driving to the restaurant – a short distance – with her navigational skills relegated to the sidelines – Diane guided Jez and us the short distance. A truly amazing meal again. K tried baked marrow bone!  Oscar started in his crate in the van.  when K went to check on him … he was sitting on the front seat looking right royal regal!  The little sod had burst through the front mesh.  He ended up in the restaurant again with us, but he was by no means the only 4 legged guest, but at least he did NOT sit on our laps!  J has effected a gaffer tape repair across the crate’s mesh, as we read dogs HAVE to be secured in Spain and it is safer too … we’ve been building to putting him in the crate for journeys.

Back at Clare & Chris’ pad … Did I mention “Baileys” – Katherine, Clare and Diane?  Somno vinoque prevailed later with lots of zzsssss…

 

523 – Tuesday 1st November 2016 – A Much Needed Down Day

After all the eating out etc, we all pretty much stayed around the house.  Both the Aged P’s and us were leaving the next day … the Aged P’s heading north back home and us migrating south.  I later discovered that the french is oiseaux de passages … I rather liked it.  A number of jobs were done, including trying to level out the deep ruts Jez had dug in the drive.

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Zoe pruning Oscar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

513-517: The French Pyrenees with the Aged P’s

513 – Saturday 22nd October 2016:  And into France … Finally

We don’t really do early starts, but don’t seem to find it hard to get up when setting off on the next adventure.  Our train was booked for 9.50 from Folkestone and it was our first time across with Oscar… They don’t care at all what animals you take out of GB … didn’t even check he was on board.  The train was late, but the trip passed really fast, as we have a large comfy bed and make use of it on most crossings … ZZZ.

We’d decided to ignore the Peage as I’d costed it at somewhere around EUR75 and the time difference was only 1.5 hours all the way down to the Pyrenees.  Lots of pretty towns (dropping to 50kph) and rolling fields.  Good to be in France.  

 

514 – Sunday 23rd October 2016:  More Driving

It’s getting warmer, oh yes!  Fantastic roads today … the N10 seems to be mostly free dual carriageway with odd bits of free motorway.   Being ‘le weekend’, the roads are quiet with few trucks.  We covered quite some distance today.

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Blissful empty stretches of tarmac … we still remember the feeling of gloom as we hit the M25 traffic in rain on our return to England last April.

515 – Monday 24th October 2016:  Campsite at Salies de Bearn

The scenery so far has been pretty flat but as we approached our destination, we could see the great outlines of the great Pyrenees.  Our site is just in the foothills.  The campsite is quirky.  Lots of terraces, empty this time of year and we positioned ourselves with a great view over them.  Free range foul of all sorts.  The host lady spoke Fr, Eng, German and Dutch (she was).  The Aged P’s arrived just as we set off for a walk, which we then aborted in favour of … drinks and supper in the van … and every following night.  The Aged P’s decided that Jez is very roomy and cosy.  Their apartment very traditionally Fr with high ceilings, ancient furniture and functional ablution facilities, but since I had all the spices etc, it seemed to make sense for me to cook.

516 – Tuesday 25th October 2016:  Orthez Market to Buy the Picnic

Found the crysanthums market, which people were buying in huge quantities.  Don’t know if it is a SW France peculiarity, but crysanthums everywhere here.  We were slightly worried as we thought they would be a food market as we planned to buy our lunch!  We then found food market under cover.  Bought some lovely cheeses, including an amazing goat covered in ash … really delicious!  Honest!  

The picnic site, we eventually found was by the side of a leisure lake, and we weren’t the only ones doing it … but they had wine!  A walk around the lake revealed a beach, fitness equipment, fishing areas and jet ski jumps. The French and Germans seem to do this outdoor sports facility really well.

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There had recently been a Breast Cancer Run and a lot of trees were ‘dressed’ … given I am now into knitting, I appreciated the work gone into it.

517 – Wednesday 26th October 2016 – Sauveterre de Bearn and Salies de B

On arrival at Sauveterre, we happened to park next to the TIC … who gave us a plan of the town with some information.  We followed this and like what we saw … some good views, quirky architecture … all a bit out of the ordinary.

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Part of the bridge had washed away.  Nice tale of a Queen who was thrown into the river for having murdered her child.  despite having been bound up, she survived and the child was subsequently found alive.  I wonder what retribution she made?

We drove back to Salies and had a wander around here.  This is a spa town since a wounded Boar was later found with its fur encrusted with salt.  The ‘top’ part of the town has the beauty treatments and posh hotel … yet compact and nicely done.  The lower part of the town is Medaeval streets around the bend in the river.  We found a super restaurant for lunch … it was a few Euro more than another formule, but the quality of the food was excellent  … and I was allowed to bring Oscar in … such a good boy, he just lies down and sleeps.  J and I elected to walk back to the campsite to shake down our lunch.  We discovered the Aged P’s partaking of a sneaky post lunch Port … fun that!  As it happens, The Aged P’s had come back from Spain via a big booze shop much frequented by the French for its cheep prices.  Over the couple to days here, we managed to get through quite a lot of Port, both colours, gin and dry martini, wine and I think (memory affected obviously) there may have been some Pinot de Charente too!

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356 – 359: The LONG Slow Trip Home – Part 2

356 – Monday 11th April 2016:  Lakeside 

We did not journey far … just a little east to a lake in the Foret d’Orient.  Nothing much of a forest or the Orient but a free and quiet parking – heard the ducks on the water all night.   We had an easy day, doing a few jobs and short walk along part of the lake when the rain eased.

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357 – Tuesday 12th April 2016: Chalons en Champagne-less!

K ran along the lake and did some carpark Pilates.  J is resting his old friend (!) – his calf.  Another easy drive to the centre of Chalons which the guide book hyped up.  The heavens opened so K hyper shopped wine and cheese to bring back to Blighty in one of the biggest ever Carrefour.  When the rain eased we had a walk into town … nothing worth coming back for.  The cathedral was shut, but the C16 stain glass in one of the churches was rather special.  

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J quaffing a red … we’ve avoided the Champagne houses / cellar visits as pukka fizz is a little out of the travelling budget.  We’re more Prosecco kind of people now 🙂

Another short drive (K driver – had consumed another far too long and weak espresso, compared the the Italian version) to an amazing pitch.  A village with a huge (hectares) circle mound which surrounded Atilla’s fort. So large that crops were growing inside and K was looking forward to running around it … but sadly not to be ….

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The sun blazed down later afternoon so we sat at the bench and sampled the supermarket purchase of Leffe beer …

 358 – Wednesday 13th April 2016:  Longish Drive to St Louis

…. we woke to the sound of heavy rain and I am a fair weather runner.  Original plans of stopping and exploring Laon shelved and we decided to push on for our final French destination not to far from Calais and have a two nighter there and a chill down day.  And, guess what, the sun shone forth later afternoon for beer o’clock!  

 

359 – Thursday 14th April 2016:  Sitting Still

The campsite is so quiet the silence is almost audible.  Consequently we did not wake until gone 9.00 to the sound of one of the campsite ‘girls’ on the sit on mower.  This site is seriously immaculate – even the hedges around each pitch dare not shoot beyond their given precision trim.  

We have been finding France altogether incredibly trim and organised after 6 months in Italy.   Signs everywhere quoting the law / rule number.  Lots of forsythia and spring blossoms.  Even the smallest of villages providing aires with services who cannot expect sufficient recompense to the local economy, and these largely are all clean and functioning.  Miles of rolling huge fields with early crops and oil seed rape.  So much food being produced.  Precision lines of tree planting.   Good roads … apology notices stating that holes are forming … where, we can’t see them?  Prices are a lot dearer, possibly 20-25% higher and sadly nearly all the fresh fruit and veg are imported … I know, if we had been a bit more static, we’d have found local markets.  However, we kinda miss the chaotic and unpredicatableness of Italy.  It’s almost too easy to be a motorhomer in France.

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Towns have formal spring planting and pruning.

Tomorrow we cross over.  Our first night in Britain is with Ian and Jimmy in Rustington … we departed on the 20th April from here and it is only fitting that we return.  The next two weeks will be blog quiet … we are doing the boring but necessary maintenance on Chard (MOT, Habitation service etc) and on us (Dr, dentist, optician etc) BUT we will be seeing friends and family … quite a task cramming them in and we shall be exhausted, but we can’t wait to hug them all.  And all in two week window, before we set off again!

Amazingly it will be one year bar 5 days that we will have been away.  And my day numbering on the blog has worked!  

We have seen and experienced so much  Made new friends.  We’ve been trying to name favourite places, worst moments (getting stuck in the Sicilian mountain village … incidentally we’ve won a prize for this story … a camper sat nav download … much needed!) and it so hard … so much has just been AMAZING.