Day 1183 – Into France – 28 May 13
Primarily this blog is aimed at keeping our daughter in the UK, Chloe, abreast of our adventures in Europe. Additionally, we hope that other readers will find snippets of info regarding campsites, prices and foreign travel interesting or perhaps just informative.
For piccies see www.eastmidlandsdea.co.uk
Bad news to begin with …. But I suppose we’ve been lucky so far. We cycled into Cambrils railway station and chained the bikes up to a specific bike parking stanchion and waited for the train into Tarragona. There was a young bloke acting very suspiciously around the area, which we discussed and I took a photo of him side view. (see piccie). Shirl wanted me to just take one of him front face and let him know it – but one has to be cautious in these situations. He might have got aggressive and I didn’t want to put Shirl in a tricky spot. Anyway, we left the bikes in open view and spent the day touristing. (see below). With hindsight, we should have taken the bikes away.
We returned at around 1630 and yes, you’ve guessed it – the bikes were gone – stolen.
So we trudged up to the local police station and filed a report and it was clear that they had absolutely NO INTENTION of doing anything to recover the bikes. I even showed them the photo of the suspect and he was recognisable and distinctive in his bright green hoodie. No dice, no CCTV and no mug shots – illegal in Spain apparently.
Therefore, we had no option but to walk back to La Llosa campsite and accept that we would be ‘bikeless’ till we got back to a Halfords in the UK in July. Bloody annoying. Lucky we’ve got Smartie, really!
Lessons? Walk to the station in future. Get a bloody big motorcycle chain lock. Take photo of any suspicious character and let them know it. Don’t expect any help from the Police.
Just checked our insurance and we ARE covered, for bikes and accessories – ‘temporarily in Spain’. £700’s worth of kit! He probably got €50 for some drugs! It tainted a really nice day in Tarragona, which is a surprisingly good place to visit!
It's a 20 minute train ride (€5.20 rtn) and is about a 10 minute walk into town. First thing you see is the Roman amphitheatre which is more impressive from above than inside. (€3.25). Then a tower which overlooks the whole ‘Old Town’. A short walk to the square where they have the ‘Human Tower Building’ in September of each year and we plan to visit sometime in the future. Then a walk through the old streets to the Cathedral and lunch. Very impressive church – as is the whole town. I don’t suppose many people have even heard of Tarragona (Tarroca) or even know where it is, but it's definitely worth a visit.
Next 2 days spent in and around the 'van in bright sunshine, planning the next stop. The whole of Southern France and Northern Spain expects 3 or 4 days of heavy rain from Wed – Sat (18Th), so we have searched for somewhere dry, but Argeles looks best, so we’ll stick to our plan and sit it out if necessary.
A long journey from Cambrils to Argeles Sur Mer – 185 miles and €25 in tolls on the AP7. Well worth it at 09c per km as travelling through Barcelona and back roads would have turned the trip into a marathon. Found the site easily enough on very quiet roads. Wooded glades on grass pitches. Ours is Double King Size and we all fit on nicely enough. The trees are pouring down flying umbrella seeds and we’ve started to sneeze, but this should ease when the expected rain starts at midnight tonight (14th). It's a shame the bikes were nicked as this is perfect cycling country. No wi-fi on the pitches – so that's a real negative – as we’ll be wag bound during the expected inclement weather. Sites have also started charging 50c-90c per day pp Tourist/Eco Tax.
It was a dry night, so we walked into Argeles Plage and in the small stream running past the campsite, we saw a beaver gently swimming upstream. It stopped a couple of times and continued merrily on its way. In the town there were a sprinkling of restaurants and bars open, but they make it clear that the ‘season’ does not start until 16 June! So, the majority of shops and bars are very low key. The beach is gravelly sand, but long and deep. It's a bit touristy, but upmarket. The main tourists are the French themselves and the Dutch are here in force- hardly a Brit to be found.
Rain arrived at lunchtime (15th) as predicted, but not before we drove into Argeles Village for the market. All the usual stuff and we got some mussels for lunch again. We also realised that this is strictly the ‘South of France’ and prices reflect that across the board.
It's your birthday today, Chloe - 17th May – and we hope you have a good one. Don’t get too squiffy!
We are going for a drive down the coast just to get out of this really cold wooded glade. The bright sunshine barely creeps through the tree canopy and we are freezing in 25 degrees C. We parked on the wrong side of the street. I’ve also got cold number 10 since we left home…and Shirl has only had 3. How does that work?
Drove along the Pyrenean foothills for 35kms and visited the 4 villages down towards the Spanish border. Cerberes, Banyul Sur Mer, Port Vendres and Collioures. The first two are sleepy little fishing/tourist villages but Port Vendres is quite big with a thriving port. Collioures has an old fortress and even though it's picturesque and in a nice setting, has given over completely to tourism – albeit marginally upmarket.
The whole area is still awaiting the ‘season’ and as I mentioned before, nothing is really open yet. We set off to look at the Millau Bridge tomorrow, if we can get the 'van out of the boggy pitch! It rained heavily last night and loading Smartie on the grass/mud is not an option. We wouldn’t get it off. So, I’ll be waking up the neighbours at 0800 sparrowfart tomorrow morning to load everything up.
Which we did, but as quietly as possible. It all worked OK and got Smartie loaded and away by 0850. Lovely sunny weather for the transit up the A9 to the campsite at Severac. However, 10 kms from Millau – out came the clouds and it started raining. Although we drove over the very impressive British designed structure, we were unable to climb up to the viewing point. So we carried on to Severac and the night-stop. There was no-one at reception, as expected, so we sited ourselves and apart from a scattering of unmanned caravans, the campsite was ours. However, as we examined the grass pitches we discovered that they were flooded from recent downpours and there were a couple of deep motorhome type ruts. Consequently, we decided to park on an access road – on tarmac – effectively blocking off two pitches. It's still raining and it's only 5 deg C,but Shirl is stir-crazy and has walked into the charming village of Severac to find a restaurant for tonight. I don’t hold out much hope of success.
She returned after a valiant effort, scaling the castle in the Medieval town. But no joy with civilisation as we know it…so we had to make do with scrabble and an omelette, a DVD and bed only to be awakened at 3am by the Carbon Monoxide alarm. We only had the electric fire on and were puzzled as to why it set off. Also, at 4am the Dutch caravan next door - 50metres away – woke us with its alarm going. Strange.
Anyway, we left at 0900 for Sarlat and 5 days on the Dordogne. It was all N and D roads and took nearly 5 hours to do 140 miles. The approach to the site was a nightmare. No signposts and SatNav acting up. Luckily we came across a couple of chaps in a 'van who put us right, so we did a u-turn and after ignoring SatNav lady several times, we found the site. Les Acacias is very pretty and well organised. Got a nice big pitch – on grass – all for ACSI €12. Shirl is planning lots of trips out this week, so I'm resting up today……I'm knackered after that drive. The next stopover is supposed to be Ile De Re, but it's too far for one transit, so we’ll hole up near Bordeaux on Saturday.
We checked the weather for the rest of the week and it's doggers – especially tomorrow (21st). So it’ll be a bus into Sarlat for lunch to sample some Foie Gras et Canard which are specialities de la region. Hopefully, we can enjoy a dry day at the weekly market on Wednesday.
We gave that a miss and took Smartie out for a tour of the local villagy hotspots – The CX11 church at Carsac, the Chateau at Montfort, the Bastide at Daume, the morphing houses at Roque-Gageac and then finally the Chateau at Beynac. Quite entertaining and Shirl had her day by the Dordogne.
I also have to report, to my eternal shame, that Shirl beat me at the Fantasy Football! By 27 points – all thanks to that van Persie bloke! Next season she gets no help AT ALL!!!!!oh:
The weather has really taken a turn for the worse. It started raining on Sunday (19th) at the Millau Bridge and is predicted to continue until early June in Central France. It's playing havoc with our plans as sitting in the 'van all day for 2 or 3 weeks is just not on. If we weren’t meeting Carole’s brother in Brittany on 1 June, we’d go home. However, we are now taking it day by day and literally chasing the sun. It must be really disheartening for those people on their annual holidays, especially after the awful winter they suffered in the UK. Nevertheless, it must be Spring at last, because we heard our first Cuckoo on Monday 20th May! Also spotted a Hoopoe Bird here, this far north – surprising.
And I had to laugh in the shower this morning when I read one of the plethora of notices. Apparently, there are dire consequences, involving the police, if you ‘persistently’ look into the next shower cubicle (it's mixed here). ‘Persistently’, mind you, so you could, in theory, get away with it until you were caught 5 or 6 times!!! Well, this is France, after all.
Shirl had an inspiration whilst sitting supping a glass or 6 of vin rouge ce soir. Instead of training it to Bergerac tomorrow, she suggested that we drive there, stay at the riverside campsite and we'd be closer to Bordeaux for the next day. So we did, and are now parked at La Pelouses campsite-come-Aire overlooking the town across the river. I'm glad we selected this option, as a 90 minute train ride to and fro plus associated walking and waiting would have been a waste of time and probably cost around €100, with lunch!. Bergerac is pleasant enough, but not worth more than an hour or 2 – which we did. The weather is not as bad as forecast, so that's a bonus.
Set off from Bergerac mid-morning and followed the D936 almost straight to the Village Du Lac campsite at Bordeaux. It's a large holiday resort built on lakes near a convention/exhibition centre on the edge of the city, and was quite full. We noticed dozens of vans parked in the exhibition car parks for an ‘Ideal Home/Boatshow’ type deal which was going on. The campsite had many other French vans parked up and we only just squeezed on. Nevertheless, it's quite pleasant even though it's still raining, so we caught the bus and tram (€1.40 single) straight into the town centre, where we went on a city tour (€11). Bordeaux is surprisingly ‘Architectural’ with many old 16th century buildings remaining in good condition. The riverfront has been renovated and would be worth a weekend break – in decent weather. There is a lot of infrastructure renovation and construction going on, so it appears that the city has great ambition.
TODAY, 24 MAY 13, IS DAY 1000 SPENT ACTUALLY ON THE ROAD IN THE 'VAN, excluding days in the UK at home etc.
It rained all night but by morning we had a sliver of sunshine, so we hooked up and set off towards La Rochelle. All péage, so it was a quick 2 hours except for the final mile which was along the obligatory narrow French village roads. No signposts to the site, so thank you Sat Nav. Arrived at 1235 to discover that reception was closed till 1400! WHY? Most campers tend to arrive between these hours, so why do they close? We couldn’t even get past the barrier until some kind gent let us use his fob. Then we waited and at 1400 there were 20 people queuing for service!!! What a bloody surprise!
Anyhoo, we had recce’d a pitch and moved on and set up by 1500. A quick trip to LIDL and survived yet another assassination attempt by a French driver. By Jove, the Spanish are GOOD drivers!
Nevertheless, the sun is out, Shirl has gone walkabout, the vin blanc is open, we've got some sexy looking salmon dish for dinner – so even the basketball court 20 metres away and the train track 50 metres away cannot spoil my mood. Where is that wine?
The little darlings have been playing Basketball for 5 and a half hours……………………………..
I’ve stared at them, shouted at them to go home and chucked rocks over the wall – but to no avail until at 1930, Mr Security locks the court and chucks them all out. Bliss…for 5 minutes.
They suddenly all reappear, mob handed, and start bouncing 47 balls at the toilet block adjacent to out pitch, Some fool of a cloggie says –‘ Ahh, they're just young!’. Shirl has to hold me back as I go for my shotgun! 90 minutes later they give up and go home…..no wonder we don’t stay in Europe during July and August. It's a living NIGHTMARE!!!!!
Anyhoo, next morning at 0800, they start again with the football outside…….We bugger off to the Ile de Re for the day and by the time we get back they have all left for their respective approved schools and borstals.
The Ile de Re is an island off the port of La Rochelle joined by a 3km causeway/bridge costing €8 to cross. It was €10 in 2001, so I reckon that’s a bargain. It's a purely tourist destination and we would have camped there if Shirl hadn’t got cold feet about wooded/shady pitches. Nevertheless, we visited La Flotte, San Martin and Ars! No comment! We had an excellent lunch at St Martin and toured in Smartie for 4 hours. Very pleasant but must be maniacal in July/August! You can't get in anyway, as it's always fully booked.
Had BBQ last night in bright sunshine and Shirl is going into La Rochelle today on the train. Only 5 minutes, but better than driving. I'm staying at home to wash the vehicles. Train worked well and on time both ways (€3.80 rtn) – 'van sparkling as is Smartie – to no avail as is forecast to pour down tomorrow (28th). The weather wasn’t as bad as it might have been, so we sped to Nantes and parked up at the site just 3 kms from town. Caught the tram in from just outside and rode the Nantes Noddy Train – Nice! Not as impressive as Bordeaux – so give it a swerve if you’re passing.
We are off to meet Alan and Mary in Brittany tomorrow, where we should have 10 days R & R.
All for now
M and D
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