694-697: Burton Birthday in Barcelona

694 – Lloret de Mar ‘ere we Come

A separate drive (car and van) back to the farm in Farnham.  We collected Maddy from work and drove to Gatwick.  We’d had limited choice of destination with wanting to depart on Thursday evening … Maddy had Friday – Sunday off work – even arriving very late in Barcelona on Thursday night (really Fri morning!), it still gave us two full days.

695 – Catching Up the Zzzz

I slept in.  And Maddy slept in majorly!  A wander around the town, lunch and then cosies on for a sun bathe.  Supper after another Sangria and a wander around the small streets.

P1130719

We lunched in the sun with Sangria …

P1130720

… followed by an ice cream at the end of the beach.

696 – Barcelona Architecure

We caught the 9.00 bus into Barcelona and followed a phone app walk to view some of the best and interesting architecture.  Fortunately M did not want to join the massive queues to go in ay of the Gaudi buildings as it was sunny.  We walked our socks off … but it was worth it.  One detour to a Sephora …. a make up store for M to spend some of her birthday money.  She ticked lots of boxes on her wish list; Tapas, Paella, Ice cream and walking Barcelona.

P1130726

P1130727

P1130729

P1130737

P1130742

P1130743

P1130744

P1130745

P1130746

P1130748

P1130755

P1130761

P1130762

P1130765

P1130767

P1130771

P1130778

P1130781

P1130782

P1130783

P1130784

P1130788

P1130797

697 – Home Again

A walk and coffee in Lloret and a little sun bathing on our balcony – the bus transfer picked us up at 12.30.  

P1130721

I had hung all these up!

P1130722

My stuff is just in one small plastic bag!


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.

IMG 3475

With M. Didier – something to do with encyclopedias.

IMG 3476

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.

IMG 7994

Foot care! 

IMG 7997

Amazing Pitches.

IMG 7995

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

IMG 8001

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

IMG 8003

… 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!

IMG 1379

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. 😦

Screen Shot 2017 04 28 at 11 36 28

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.

IMG 1411

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!

IMG 1388

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

IMG 1390

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…

IMG 7923

The shorts and the knitting came out.

IMG 7927

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?

 

IMG 1364

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

IMG 1365

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

IMG 7929

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.

IMG 7934

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! 

IMG 7938

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 🙂

IMG 7945

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.

P1130644

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.

P1130645

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

P1130646

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

P1130651

Palais de Papes.

P1130652

P1130654

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

P1130662

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!

P1130666

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

P1130667

P1130669

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!

P1130677

Inside one of the courtyards in the Palais de Papes.

P1130682

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

P1130683

P1130685

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.

P1130688

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

P1130691

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!

P1130702

P1130704

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

P1130689

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’.

IMG 7946

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

IMG 7948

 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.

P1130713

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

IMG 7964

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!

IMG 1166

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!

IMG 1170

A walk to Jade means a carry!

IMG 1172

Tummy tickling time.

IMG 1178

IMG 1350

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

P1130641

Lunch with Sarah in Biot.

IMG 1352

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

IMG 1354

Leg exercises.

IMG 1356

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. 

IMG 7852

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

IMG 7858

IMG 7860

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

IMG 7862

How much, Sir?  Two white coffees … EUR6!

IMG 7866

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

IMG 7878

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.

IMG 7880

Aigues Mortes with its complete town walls.

IMG 7882 

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’. 

IMG 7891

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

IMG 7892

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?

IMG 7894

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.

IMG 7896

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

IMG 7898

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!

IMG 7901

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.

IMG 7905

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

IMG 7908

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.

IMG 7910

Where you off to?  I was playing with you?

IMG 7916

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

 

 

 

 

 

654-660: Porto to Nice, via Shangrila

654 – Saturday 11th March 2016:  Lost a Day in Porto

Afurdada is a sort of suburb of Gaia – but only a few kilometres from Porto and the Louis 1 bridge – and very near our parking. A leisurely stroll for us – public communal laundry building and very public washing lines!  Coffee – of course… and sunshine.

England won – the same thrashing we reported on the wrong day – it doesn’t mean they won twice!  Ireland awaits next week…..

 

655-656 – Sunday 12th & Monday13th March: Vila do Conde

Adieu to Porto, for now…we will be back. Our favourite city in Portugal.  On to Villa do Conde – 50+ motorhomes on a very windy free seaside parking – rocking and rolling.  Windy walk – any of our cobwebs blown to America, probably.  We moved Jez to a much more sheltered car park just away from the sea – but no rocking now.  The Portuguese motorhomes largely emptied out … a weekend only excursion for them!  

Town perambulation – huge monastery – supposed to be a future conversion to a Pousada – no sign of this happening…  Lunch – with(?)  no vino – two meals with drinks, soup – for £7.50!  Lidl shopping – we like VilldoCondeburgh for relaxing, but very little happening or to see on a Monday.

IMG 7773

Our sheltered car parking for two nights.

IMG 7775

View along the river up to the once Monastery.  Used for some years as a reformatory for unruly boys … a bit smart for them surely!

IMG 7776

Lots of life sized statues, quite recent.

IMG 7779

Vila do Conde is also well known for its bobbin lace making.  We visited the museum in Peniche to see samples of work.  Lace making earned monty whilst men out fishing.

IMG 7780

999 arches on the viaduct to the Monastery … we did not verify the number … we had better things to do ….

IMG 7785

… such as non alcoholic lunch! 

657 – Tuesday 14th March

Pont de Lima – turned out to be a stunning little town – we could buy a very decent house here for <£250k….. thinking about it.  Definitely requires further investigation.

A lovely free parking beside the river and brand new services – just one other van for company – plenty of Oscar walking space.  We met a young Dutch back packer cyclist with a young German girl for company – they just met – later we saw him with a different girl… a lady in every Ponte?  Beautiful Botanic Garden – a future Shangri-La for family Jez?  

IMG 7787

Adjacent to our parking … sleeping to the sound of the water.

IMG 7790

The long lane of Plane trees.

IMG 7793

More large statues.

IMG 7794

Ajuelos on one of the old tower walls.  The first King, Alfonso Henrique was about to engage Moors in battle, one when of his Knights said “They’re goats m’lud!”

IMG 7795

Rude not to!

IMG 7798

Two codgers leaning against the even more ancient olive tree … we like the laid back vibe here.

IMG 7801

The oldest bridge in Portugal.  The far end is Roman.

IMG 7806

… Crossing the River Lima.

IMG 7809

Odd statue, amazed it’s not been dragged away in floods.

IMG 7815

The Botanic Gardens.

IMG 7811

Even had a relica Roman garden.

IMG 7830

No dogs allowed, so we took turns.  I used my waiting time wisely!

IMG 7834

 

658 – Wednesday 15th March

K ran – both showered – courtesy of free site water.  Slight (?) change of future route (you know us) – from Ponte de Lima to – Nice, France!!!  A mere bagatelle of 1500 km…… To see daughter Sarah and granddaughter Jade…  275 miles today (Km 400) – motorway travel – very busy aire. But fabulous mountain scenery on the first non-motorway stretch, Braga to Chaves.  Another come back too.

SatNavColin took us to a free overnight parking – quiet spot expected. On arrival – medium sized car park – 7:00 pm – packed to the gunnels with more than 50 motorhomes – obviously a super-busy transit stop – we squeezed in barely – a French van had no choice but to park parallel to ours…

659 – Thursday 16th March

K and O running (am I slowing up?) along the canal – stunning parkside with swans.  Off again – for 600+ km – 9 hours…  Jez is performing magnificently. Campsite stop – in La Belle France for Euro 8.50!  At Bessnes Roquefort.  Guardien came to lift the height barrier – and food from the freezer, followed by zzzzzs.  

660 – Friday 17th March

Yeaahh!  St Patricks Day – an omen for tomorrow – Ireland v England in Dublin?  Another 600 km – and arrival near Nice – our favourite place in France – Promenade des Anglais, Baie d’Anges…

Campsite at Villeneuve Loubet – nice site – good manoeuvring onto pitch no need for electric hook up as – sunshine all around!  K Haute Cuisine from the freezer and rest – the 3 day trip was absolutely splendid and without any problems…