05.12.2010 - 10.12.2010
We went into Barcelona on Saturday afternoon by bus. Sadly the campsite was so far from the city that it took us 70 minutes to get in. Not our fault, there are very few campsites open in northern Spain – you take what you can get.
We enjoyed the afternoon and evening in town; it was cold but crisp in that wintry sort of way. And because we didn’t arrive in the city until well after 3pm we decided to stay late and take the 8:20 bus back (they only run every couple of hours!)
We hopped on the Metro to see Gaudi’s Park and the Sagreda Familia (I’d seen it five years before but wanted to know how building works were progressing). We’re glad we stayed in town till after dark because we enjoyed the walk through the main pedestrian streets festooned with Christmas lights and crowds of shoppers. There were the usual hawkers selling little battery-operated barking puppies and catapulting illuminated parachutes; there were living statues - like a robot, a laughing disembodied head and the Alien. The crowds were heaving and noisy but it all had a really seasonal feel.
Originally we’d planned to go into Barcelona twice this weekend; however as neither of us could face the two and a half hour round trip, we decided to have a nice easy day on the Sunday. The weather stayed fair although it was still quite cool; and what with the telly and DVD movies to watch we made the most of it. I cooked beef in red wine sauce for dinner – delicious!
We had a long but pleasant drive to Zaragoza on the Monday (6th December), feeling that this route was the quickest to the west coast of France, avoiding a rather arduous drive through the southern foothills of the Pyrenees. Luckily an English chap at the Barcelona site had told me there was a municipal campsite at Zaragoza, making the decision to head there all the more worthwhile – none of my books showed any campsites open except in the mountains.
The site, though expensive, was really nice, and the sanitation block was fabulous. It was totally enclosed and had central heating – heaven! The weather was not unpleasant either, staying relatively warm and dry.
We left the next day heading for the French border on a cloudy but bright morning that seemed if anything to be getting warmer the further north we got. It was another long drive avoiding toll motorways, but we drove through very interesting and changing landscapes. In the morning the scene was all of distant arid hillsides (reminiscent of the Middle East), dotted with windfarms. In the afternoon the driving was through mountain tunnels and past alpine landscapes, typical more of French countryside than what we think of as Spanish.
We stopped at the only campsite open near the border at a little place called Urrugne. The weather is strangely warm – I can’t help feeling we’re in for a shock later in the week – Ann’s iPhone told her it was zero degrees in Paris!
Continuing our fast trek up to Paris we stopped at the campsite in Bordeaux near the Exhibition Centre at Bordeaux Le Lac, the only site we’ve revisited on this trip. We quite looked forward to heading there, a place that was familiar to us, rather than the usual trip to an unknown destination and the often frustrating search for a campsite.
The weather had got decidedly cooler, a far cry from the unusually warm night we’d spent only the day before at Urrugne. Winter was on its way; that was for sure!
The cold hit us with a vengeance the next night as we arrived at a site south of Poitier in a village called Chef-Boutonne. It’s a quaint, small campsite run by a British family; it reminded me more of the ‘Certified Locations’ sites we’d stayed in in England.
The shower block was really just a single room, part of the main farm building where the family lived. There was a single loo, washbasin, and shower in it, but it was centrally heated and the water was beautifully hot! Trust the Brits to provide hot water; the French don’t!
After the usual dinner, wash up and shower, we locked up tight against what was going to be a very cold night. We had the heater on until we went to bed, but we perhaps should have left it on all night. The temperature dropped to minus 6 degrees! Thank god we had warm bedding on!
When Ann opened the van door in the morning there was a thick frost everywhere; to all intents and purposes it looked like a thin layer of snow. The grass crunched underfoot and the taps on the side of the farm building wouldn’t turn – it was verrry cold!
Mind you, when we rugged up it was really quite pleasant – there wasn’t a breath of wind and there was a bright sunny day on the way. After a gloriously hot shower, we upped sticks again and prepared for a very long day on the road, heading for the only campsite within reach and not too far from Paris – at Sully-sur-Loire.
It was a horrible day – our 350km journey took seven hours in all. The GPS took us everywhere but where we wanted to go – I was just so exhausted from all the driving this last fortnight that I raged in frustration on several occasions.
Thankfully the weather was sunny, although by the evening small puddles were still frozen over and streams and gullies were still lined with crinkly ice. We pulled into Sully, a nice town with a huge and impressive chateau; all I wanted to do however was park up – which we did!