A Travellerspoint blog

The Pissed Man Only Knocks Twice

storm

Well the day didn’t start too brilliantly. We faced a long drive to Santiago del Compostelo from Cadavedo, so I could have done with a good night sleep (especially after the tempestuous last night we had at Santillana Del Mar). But some midgies decided to have a party in our van during the night using me as the buffet - I was scratching all night.

The day was wet and squally and it made driving at times a little difficult. Roadworks seem to be everywhere – the EU must be supplying Spain with billions of euros for their road infrastructure, because there are huge motorway bridges being constructed along the north-west of the country.

Our camping guide gave us no address for the campsite at Santiago del Compostelo, but John (the chap at the Cadavedo campsite) kindly printed us out a Google map of the camp’s location. We arrived in the rain in the rush hour on a horrible day. It was as much by luck as anything that I programmed in on the GPS a street that looked as if it might be near the campsite. The street was about three kilometres long and there was no indication where the campsite might be. I stopped at a fuel station; luckily the girl at the counter said it was first left at the next roundabout. It wasn’t all plain sailing, but we eventually found the place. We picked a site and dug in for what was sure to be a very wet, grey and muddy overnight stay in town.

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Well it certainly was a grim night. We left a damp and unimpressive campsite that morning without seeing Santiago del Compostelo at all. It may have been a great place, although having ‘compost’ in the name didn’t exactly fill me with confidence (just joking of course). We drove south and west for only a couple of hours until we reached Portonovo, right on the coast. The campsite had great views of the sea and the surrounding promontories; it’s a shame the site looked like a caravan graveyard. It is clearly a weekender’s getaway, littered with caravans and all the detritus left behind by recent storms and careless holidaymakers. The weather cleared to a bright sunny day; we walked into the town looking for a place to have dinner to celebrate our five years together.It was a nondescript sort of place; Ann decided it was all a bit too blue-collar and asked if we could leave the next day; which we did.

We drove the fifty or so kilometres into Portugal the following day on what was another another grey and rainy day (the previous night’s weather forecast had shown a massive front heading for the north of Iberia and southern Europe – lots of rain and wind were promised).

We drove mostly on the motorway until we got to Porto in northern Portugal in the late afternoon; the weather had been a mix of bright cloudy skies and the odd squally rain shower. We found the ‘Orbitur’ site (Parque Campismo de Madalena) on the south side of Porto. It had obviously been raining recently as the site was very damp -it was a prelude of things to come!

It rained almost all night but seemed to clear up slightly in the morning. Too damp to do any washing but at least it remained dry. We decided after lunch to take the bus into Porto; that’s when the rain started in earnest.

Porto’s an interesting town, all steep slopes and narrow streets. We didn’t see it at its best because after about an hour, it started tipping down. We spent most of the time cowering under doorways from the deluge. Ann took this opportunity to buy up lots of silver jewellery from the quirky artisan silversmiths, all thankful that the rain was forcing tourists under cover. We did stop for a coffee and a couple of ‘pasteis de nata’, the small famous Portuguese custard tarts.

The ride home on the bus was interesting. It was running hopelessly late, having been caught in the gridlock caused by the cataract. It was full of damp steamy people going home from work, the floor wet with countless soggy shoes and umbrellas. The ride itself was mad – hurtling through absurdly narrow streets in the inner suburbs of Porto.

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That evening the rain subsided and Ann and I got dressed up to go out to our celebratory dinner at a nearby fish restaurant. It was a really nice evening. The restaurant offered excellent food and wine – I started with a creamy seafood soup, and we both had the grilled sea bream. Ann had the cheese plate while I waded through a gigantic profiterole dessert with ice cream and chocolate topping. The waitresses were friendly and courteous, and I practised my Portuguese on them. Ann and I had some good laughs and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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At 6am the next morning, we were still fast asleep in the van. It was pitch dark (but for the camp lighting); it was still raining, and it was cold and miserable. I heard the side door of the van being tried and assumed it was Ann popping out to the loo. That was until there was a forceful banging on the door, and a voice saying “Let me in!” in a definite Australian accent.

Naturally I was instantly on alert and Ann quickly woke up, the alarm in her voice evident. The window in my ‘bedroom’ above the van’s cab was open; so I could look down on the figure outside but he was unaware of my presence. I called out to him to go away, but he seemed insistent that I let him in. He was wearing what looked like a brown checked jacket and he stood under the partially opened awning to hide from the cold rain. He looked a sorry figure I must say; but there was no way he was coming in.

After a couple of tense minutes he started to walk away; but my heart sank when he returned and stood under the awning again. Next he banged loudly on the door again asking to be let in. When I told him I wasn’t letting him in, he appeared to get angry and replied that if I didn’t let him in he’d “break the f**king door down!” At this point I was ready to jump out and confront this idiot; but I first told him that if he knew what was good for him he wouldn’t even try it.

After a few moments’ hesitation, he sloped off down the path and disappeared into the distance. I thought he’d possibly wander off to trouble some other campers; but as we heard nothing more I assumed he’d gone to cower in the sanitation block.

The next morning I visited a neighbouring camper to ask him if he’d been troubled by anyone with an Australian accent. He said he hadn’t but that he thought there was a motorhome across the way with some young Australian lads in it. As their van (which was very similar in appearance to ours) was located near where I last saw this joker, the penny dropped. It had been obvious to me from the start that an Australian would be unlikely to just wander in from outside the camp; when the neighbour told me about the Aussie guys, it was obvious what had happened.

Try this for size – a young Aussie gets totally bladdered in town, comes back in the early hours, cold and wet and disorientated, mistakes our van for his own, and gets angry when his mates won’t let him in.

The mystery was solved when early that afternoon. Ann and I went to the van to learn the truth. The two young guys who met us confirmed what I suspected – their friend Scott had come home drunk and gone to the wrong van. They were extremely apologetic for their friend’s behaviour, but they said he was a nice guy really who would never have carried out any threats. ‘Apparently’ he was still unconscious in bed while we were there.

We laughed it all off, but I warned that he ought to be more careful in future, especially with threatening behaviour. After all it was quite a scary situation to be faced with, a stranger banging on your door in the night.

We had hoped the young guy might have had the courage to come to us at some point and apologize in person; however, by mid-afternoon the next day the van had left the camp.

ON

Posted by OrlandoN 06:32 Archived in Portugal Comments (1)

Somewhere beginning with...San!

storm

Well I almost put the curse on it with the weather prediction. Our one night in Biarritz was wet; and the morning looked grey and singularly unpromising. We took off for Spain stopping off at a great little boulangerie to pick up a couple of slices of quiche and a great little tart topped with Chantilly cream and raspberries!

The drive into Spain was unremarkable in that our entry was simply a turn-off on a roundabout – but for the change in roadsigns you’d never guess you were in a different country. However the townscape almost immediately felt foreign, somehow a little more dishevelled and ‘busy’. Heading for San Sebastian we started by going through busy streets, industrial towns and heavy traffic – a bit of a change from France.

We didn’t immediately take the Autovia (motorway) as our GPS was programmed to avoid tolls. So the first hour we hugged the coastline which was all slow mountain roads. We crawled behind logging trucks and other articulated lorries, feeling we’d never arrive at our destination. The scenery was great though – high rugged hills on one side and lovely beachy coves and seaside towns on the other.

Soon after we found ourselves on toll-free motorway and arrived in San Sebastian on an uninspiring grey day. Igueldo campsite was at the top of a mountain that looks over the city; we booked in but decided to stay only one night as it cost 27.80€ - ouch! As it was early in the day we took the bus into what turned out to be a really lovely town. Like Biarritz it straddles the coast but San Sebastian sits in a protected bay. There’s a long promenade with beautiful buildings looking out on to the water. And no tacky seaside stalls - just fabulously ornate structures housing cafés and restaurants – all very tasteful. Ann says the seaside seems very ‘Victorian’ in appearance – I think she may be right.

We returned to the campsite and struck up an acquaintance with Iain and Anne, ten year veteran campers who travel for months at a time. We sat outside their motorhome enjoying drinkies and great conversation. The weather improved late in the day; so the evening was clear, mild and reasonably warm.

Iain and Anne were planning on heading in the same direction we were i.e. towards Santillana del Mar; however as we were leaving the next day and they were staying on for a day or so, there was no guarantee we’d meet again. We said our farewells.

The drive to Santillana was all on great no-toll motorway, which was just as well because it was a long drive (we’re forced to drive long distances now because most campsites in northern Spain close down on 30 September, and there are only about five or six sites open the whole way across to Portugal. This means having to cover at least 200 kilometres each trip to arrive at the next place).

The scenery is wonderful (even seen from a motorway) - rugged verdant hills, pretty villages and very little industry. After passing the gigantic city of Bilbao, we stopped at a motorway service bay, parked the van and had a great salad lunch as usual. We popped into the café cum restaurant and bought a couple of coffees (food and drink is half the price of France).

We arrived in Santillana del Mar mid-afternoon, found the campsite, then walked the five hundred metres into the fabulous old village. It’s very popular with tourists and it sells all the usual paraphernalia; in spite of that it’s a top little town. We returned to the camp and I did my usual ‘getting to know the neighbours’. It’s much better now because since Arc-en-Ciel there have been so many more Brits around. It seems they all love southern France, Spain and Portugal; so I imagine we won’t be short on company for the rest of the trip.

The weather had turned really nice; so as it was Friday we decided to stay the weekend. It would give us a chance to do a good wash. Saturday we went into town again and Ann did her usual buy-up of linen tablecloths, rings, brooches and pendants. However she wasn’t alone on this occasion; I bought a pair of slip-on shoes, a pair of slippers and (I have to confess I find them quite irresistible) a little stuffed puppy asleep on a cushion. It looks so lifelike and it’s like having a pet in the van. I’ve called him ‘Rascal’ (am I going soft in the head?)

Later that afternoon, Iain and Anne showed up – we decided to go out on the town together for a meal (it would be the first time we’ve been out with anyone since the start of the trip). We went into a couple of bars and tried the local brews; then finished up at about 8pm at a bistro advertising a fixed-price meal of 12 euros a piece which included entrée, main, dessert and wine (I told you it was cheaper then France!)

We had a thoroughly good evening, chatting animatedly about all sorts of things. I think we all benefitted from just the normality of going out to dinner, as we might do at home.

Sunday we had a quiet start, as we’d had a late night the night before. In the afternoon, Ann, Anne and I walked the four kilometres to the Altamira caves. Like the Lascaux caves in France, they are a reproduction of the originals and show wonderful wall paintings dating back some 18,000 years. Best of all we discovered it was free on a Sunday!

The weather all day had been a bit grey and threatening, but warm and very squally. I’d brought the van awning in as I habitually do when it’s very windy (the manufacturers recommend it). It was just as well, for Sunday night all hell broke loose. The squalls were intense, the rain came down in windy sheets and the van was buffeted like a small boat in a storm. Ann and I were awake most of the night (I didn’t get to sleep till 5am).

The morning brought with it a drier cloudy day, but the campsite was wet, muddy and strewn with branches and leaves. Luckily all the other campers had withdrawn their awnings and outdoor furniture too; they all complained of sleepless nights. Somehow a pair of Aussies in a tent survived the night – Christ knows how – I think they must have slept in the car!

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We said goodbye to Iain and Anne after being invited for coffee in their very comfy van. I just managed to drive out of our muddy patch after two attempts (the first saw the front-wheel-drive spraying mud all over the passenger side of the cab).

The day was sunny and bright heading west and we had another long drive ahead of us. We’d started out late because we’d slept in, so we knew we wouldn’t make our next campsite – Cadavedo – till late in the afternoon. The drive was great again, following the picturesque motorway past beautiful rocky peaks, over lovely viaducts and through long tunnels. We stopped at another motorway service station this time deciding to buy lunch (driving on the motorway had meant we didn’t pass any supermarkets where we could buy salad ingredients).

The café advertised a fixed-price lunch for 8.75€ each; so we thought “yeah why not?” Well I can tell you that by the end of it we felt like a couple of beached whales! Starter was a hearty lentil soup with potato and chunks of chorizo, and other sausage. That would have been enough, but then it was the main. A spicy sausage, split down the middle and grilled, matchstick chips and salad. I had ice cream for dessert while Ann had a pear, the whole lot being washed down by a very drinkable bottle of dry white plonk. We added a couple of coffees to this repast, then waddled out of the café.

At 4pm we arrived at Cadavedo, a tiny little place of no particular note and drove into the campsite. It is managed in off-season months by John, an ex-pat Geordie who lives in Spain with his Spanish wife and kids. We’re the only campers here and it’s as quiet as the grave. We haven’t bothered with dinner (for obvious reasons), it’s now half ten and Ann’s in bed.

Tomorrow we drive three hours to the next site on our list – Santiago del Compostelo. ‘Bye for now…

ON

Posted by OrlandoN 06:27 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

What's Up D'Oc?

sunny

There’s a definite sense that the season is, if not dead, definitely in extremis. The campsites are sparsely populated, the weather has turned decidedly unfriendly, and the world seems to have gone deathly quiet. The campers that arrive at sites appear only to stay one or two days; most of them seem to be coming to the end of their holidays and are just filling in the gaps on the way home.

We left Saint Gilles and made for a campsite at Castries, utilizing for the first time our ACSI discount card. We only stayed the night there; the weather was warm but changeable. The site was fine and peaceful, although it’s curious that places seem to lose some of their character and excitement when there’s no-one around.

The next day we drove to Carcassonne, partly because we’d been told it’s a nice place to visit and partly because it was, sort of, on our way west. The weather on arrival was glorious – sunny and very warm, the warmest weather we’d had in a fortnight. It didn’t last though – the grey wintry weather hit us overnight, and it stayed squally and showery for most of the time we were there.

It didn’t spoil our enjoyment of the place, simply because Carcassonne is rightly famous for its magnificent mediaeval castle. I know I recently said that travelling for such a long time had somewhat dulled our appreciation of new things, but the castle is really something else. In fact I’d go as far as to say that if you only ever went to a castle once in your life, make it this one.

In our three days at Carcassonne we visited the castle four times. It’s a hundred feet or more above the surrounding countryside and is really a walled city within the town of Carcassonne – it has shops, restaurants, museums, a school, a youth hostel and a hotel. It caters almost exclusively for the masses of tourists that file through the castle every day, but it probably pays for its upkeep that way. There’s no entry fee (except for the royal residence); so I imagine that all the retailers must pay a levy for being in the castle.

I don’t know what it was about the castle that held my interest so much. Apart from its vastness, it seems to have an organic feel to it, as though it’s still a living breathing place. Not just because it has a working town within, but somehow you can almost imagine there are still mediaeval goings-on happening there. Go see it!

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Next up we drove to a place called Martres-Tolosane for no other reason than it was just about the right distance to travel in one day. The campsite was nice enough with only a handful of campers. The nights are getting really chilly – thank goodness I picked up a cheapie fan heater at a recent stop at a hypermarket. The best fifteen Euros we’ve spent!

We had wanted to make Biarritz on the coast but realised it was still five hours drive away – too much to do in a day. We generally like to start off at about 10am, drive a couple of hours (after the usual tedious stop-off to pick up groceries), break for an hour for an extremely pleasant lunch (consisting normally of a slice of quiche, a few slices of baguette and whatever salad Ann can rustle up in five minutes - I have to say that the lunchtime stops by the side of the road are some of the most enjoyable parts of the trip), then lob into a campsite between about two and three in the afternoon.

So it was when we arrived on a beautiful warm sunny Monday at a small town called Louvie-Juzon. We passed through Lourdes on the way, which seemed like a nice looking town. However, not wanting to appear as though we were just another of the many moronic pilgrims who turn up to be cured by non-existent miracles, we drove on. It never ceases to amaze me how gullible people are.

Anyway, where was I? Yes, we turned up at La Rey campsite in Louvie-Juzon, a small sub-alpine village just a few kilometres west of the miracle factory. The campsite is virtually empty save for one or two campers on their way home. It’s the cheapest place so far on this trip – 11 euros a night (about $17 - that’s great when you’re on a strict budget of $300 each per week. N.B. this is separate to the private spending budget of Ann’s which probably rivals Julia Roberts’ in ‘Pretty Woman’).

The internet is free, the showers are glorious and the staff very friendly. Our arrival was on one of those bright sunny days with just a hint of Jack Frost in the air. It’s the sort of weather where you sit in the sun, not to tan but to absorb the warm photons.

We walked the one kilometre in to the sleepy village of Louvie-Juzon after dinner; it was a pleasant walk. On the way back, we enjoyed watching about four hundred woolly sheep being herded along the narrow streets by their shepherds, low-toned bells clanking around their necks – the sheep’s necks, not the shepherds.

The clouds had slowly gathered in the late afternoon blanketing the sky and promising a less chilly night. That’s good because as La Rey is over 400 metres above sea level, it can get a bit nippy.

We stayed a day there because it was just so nice – I got my hair cut, and we spent a leisurely hour in the local pub (or what passes for a pub in France) talking to the publican (in French of course). The people in this part of France have quite a different accent; it just added an additional degree of difficulty to my understanding of the language.

Our last night was peaceful (we were the only campers there); so we were undisturbed but for an hour-long chorus by a couple of owls – ya gotta love ‘em! Anyway we left this campsite with its lovely hot showers and its sleepy little town at the bottom of the hill and headed for Biarritz.

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It’s Wednesday 30th September, it’s ten at night and we’re in Biarritz, at the ‘Ilbiarritz' campsite to be precise. Our extremely useful ACSI discount book showed a number of sites around the town, all closing down tomorrow. When we finally pulled in, the receptionist (a Scottish lass, a 13-year resident of Biarritz) told us that in fact the campsite was already closed – there’d been a cock-up in the closure dates on the ACSI handbook – but they were honouring anyone with a discount card.

So here we are at this gigantic 600-site camp, and there only four of us – three motorhomes and a tent. Needless to say it’s quiet and there’s not a soul stirring – there’s no sign of any staff.

As we must leave tomorrow, this afternoon was the only chance for Ann to check out Biarritz and its shopping. I must say it’s a beautiful town resting right up against a peaceful blue Atlantic Ocean. There’s a nice beach (which judging by the still significant numbers on it must be hideously overcrowded in summer), the buildings are fabulous - an architectural mish-mash – and the streets are clean. It reminds me in fact of when we drove through Monte Carlo, narrow sloping streets with an expensive feel to everything. Because we’re in Basque country, all the road signs are written in French and this very odd looking language which bears no resemblance to any Latin language I’ve seen (I think I saw on the telly once that the Basque language has its origins somewhere in Eastern Europe – or did I dream it?)

Ann bought some clothes while I ambled aimlessly around in her wake; then we had a quick walk on the beach. The weather was fabulous and warm, without a hint of the nip in the air of previous days. Let’s hope that this weather is what we can expect in northern Spain.

Posted by OrlandoN 00:54 Archived in France Comments (1)

On The Road Again...

sunny

Well, all good things come to an end they say. We left Arc-en-Ciel feeling that we’d made a real impression on the people there. I must say that although I’d been ready to go for a few days, it was difficult to say goodbye to what’s been our home in Provence for the past month. We came for a week and stayed for a month – I think that speaks for itself!

It’s noticeable that the season is coming to an end, as more and more of the regulars here – those who return year after year – have been leaving to resume their daily lives in the somewhat less welcoming climates of Britain and Northern Europe.

However, in the past week we made friends with loads of people – principally Dutch and British – but in particular, two couples from England. Firstly, there was Jeff and Margaret from Staffordshire, who come here twice a year as a home away from home. They both still work – he’s in finance, she’s a solicitor - and like most of the return visitors, keep their caravan here. (Arc-en-Ciel has facilities adjacent to the campsite where caravans are housed at a very reasonable yearly cost). We had drinkies and nibbles with Jeff and Margaret a few times, found them easy to talk to and very pleasant company.

Jim and Elizabeth, retirees from Newcastle, likewise spend each year here and leave their caravan behind. They’re a good laugh and extremely friendly. Jim’s originally from Scotland and has an infectious good humour mixed with a critical eye that I can really relate to. Elizabeth’s the good-natured but strong arm of the pair, putting Jim in his place when he needs it. We all shared many laughs and some glasses of their rough red; and Jim and I often found ourselves by the river having some good ‘male time’ together as we dangled our rods in the river (oo-er!)

Speaking of fishing, competition day was never a very successful time for me and Jim; although last Saturday prior to the comp, I had my only success to date. A decent fish, a good 16-17 inches long, thrashed about on my hook, until my reluctance to land him resulted in him freeing himself from the hook and swimming off. (fish caught are always returned to the water).

Last Tuesday Corinne (the manager and owner here at the camp) organised a dinner party, to which everyone was invited on the proviso that they bring a dish. It was a hugely successful evening with a good fifty guests in attendance (almost all long-stayers). The variety of foods was amazing, and of course the amount produced somewhat exceeded the capacity of those present to consume it. However we all gave it a good stab, and washed the lot down with large quantities of plonk, including copious bottles of champagne provided by the hostess.

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On Monday morning the 20th September we reluctantly said farewell to our many temporary friends, people we genuinely will have fond memories of. Photos were taken with the staff, and promises made to return one day. Where most couples say ‘au revoir’ to the camp, expecting to return the following year, for us it was a goodbye to Arc-en-Ciel and Aix en Provence.

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Our trip out started on another sunny day after Ann had sent yet another parcel home to Australia, and we’d fuelled up and checked the tyres. We didn’t travel too far this day as I wasn’t yet back in the driving groove. We stopped at a hypermarket (E Leclerc) and stocked up; then got as far as Saint Gilles in the Camargue area before I felt I’d driven enough for the day.

We stopped for the night at the town’s campsite - a nondescript sort of place – then headed a bit further west reaching a campsite a few miles outside of Montpellier. We don’t plan on staying here; we’re making for Carcassone where we’ll probably stay two or three days.

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We’re mindful now of the fact that most campsites are shutting their doors for the year; we rely on our very useful discount campsite book (given to us by a nice Scots couple who hadn’t used it this year). There’s a discount card that goes with it, giving us off-season discounts at participating campsites. There are loads throughout Europe and the maximum you pay is fifteen Euros a night. We’ll be using this card a lot over the next three months, which will help keep the costs down.

Speaking of costs, while the campsites are very reasonably priced, France is very expensive for food. Meat, fish and chicken are ridiculous prices, even in the big supermarkets; so we’ve taken to shopping at the cheap discount supermarkets like Lidl, Asda, Netto and others. They are no-frills places that don’t really specialize; but their meat is half the price, making it affordable. If we want any particular items like curry paste, peanut butter or the like, we’re forced to go to the hypermarkets; but otherwise it’s the budget places for us!

ON

Posted by OrlandoN 07:59 Archived in France Comments (1)

Hotel California

sunny 30 °C

It’s September 11th – nine years to the day since a bunch of insane religious fanatics decided to murder 3000 innocent people for no reason whatsoever; anyone who rebuffs that statement by claiming that they had their own reasons is taking pedantry to an absurd extreme.

It’s still incredible to believe that, whether Christian, Jewish, or Islamic, most of the world still believes in a mythical god, and many among that number will go so far as to kill in its name! It beggars belief how pitiable most of the human race is! Ho hum…

OK – that’s my one minute of righteous indignation over and done with – I’m on holiday remember - where politics, religion and the day-to-day worries of human life are set aside for the sake of hedonistic self-indulgence!

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I’m reclining on one of those folding nylon chairs – you know, the ones with a glass holder cut into the arm – I’m feeling the warm Provençal wind blowing over me, and the dappled sunlight flickers as the willow tree above my head waves gently in the breeze. All very poetic I know, but it’s not often you get to laze around in ideal conditions such as these. We’ve been here at Arc-en-Ciel three weeks and we’re still not inclined to move.

We’re giving ourselves one more week before we face the reality of our ‘other’ holiday. We really must move after next week so that we squeeze the most out of what’s left of this summer’s warmth. We head south again and southern Portugal is our goal. We missed out on so much good weather the first four months we were travelling that we’re determined to follow the sun wherever it is.

Besides, we’ve only got ten weeks before we have to head north again. Ann wants to spend a week in Paris before we go back over the Channel. If we’re to be in Portsmouth for Christmas, then we’ll be most of December in France – and France can be perishing in December.

So it’s October and November in Iberia and then it’s back up to the cold and damp of Northern Europe.

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The van’s road tax is due at the end of the month; Helen James has been wonderful as usual - sending me copies of receipts etc. Of course, since buying the van we’ve used her address in Axminster for our mail; so I’ve had to depend on her if any vehicle-related issues emerge.

I told her in passing that we’d been invited to Christmas in Portsmouth, and that it would be nice to catch up with her and Steve after that. She emailed me back and invited us both to Joe and Sophie’s usual New Year’s fancy-dress bash. That’s great news! Firstly Sophie and Joe are a hoot, and they were so nice to us when we first showed up at Helen and Steve’s (you may recall if you’ve been reading the blog from the start that Sophie is Helen’s sister; she and Joe live a couple of doors down).

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Haven’t talked much about health on this trip, as by and large Ann and I have been fine. Ann’s had some tummy troubles; I caught a cold in Germany and got hit in the eye with an icy missile; but that’s about all.

A couple of things have been bugging me recently though and are of some concern. Firstly (and Terry if you’re reading this take note) – my eyes have been really bad. I had my lenses replaced just before we left Oz (it’s called intra-ocular lens replacement). It was supposed to improve significantly my close-up vision. However my vision has been anything but improved. I know from having radial keratotomy performed on my eyes in 1986 (oh, look it up) that it took my eyes twelve months to improve. But I also remember that my vision during that time fluctuated frequently from bad to good. Since having my lenses down however, my vision has been steadily deteriorating to the point where I find it very difficult to read anything except in very bright light. I hope things improve soon; it’s very debilitating and if I’m honest, quite worrying.

The other thing is my neck – I’ve had problems with it for thirty years since a pre-OH&S bank I worked for had me lifting equipment that was far too heavy for my frame. Well, it’s flared up something shocking the last few weeks. I think it’s due mainly to sitting poorly whilst driving, but also it’s caused by poor back support in our camp chairs. I’ve been in silent agony this last week, popping paracetamol like Smarties.

On the plus side, my diet’s good and I have no issues on the regularity front. We eat salad for lunch nearly every day (we do vary it – one day it’s cured ham, the next it’s quiche etc.). Breakfast is usually either corn flakes or crusty toast with paté – I never took to croissants and strong black coffee – and for dinner I normally knock up something special. Yesterday it was cottage pie with vegetables, the night before spinach and ricotta cannelloni (all motorhome-made of course, none of your supermarket rubbish).

I drink very little alcohol, preferring instead grapefruit juice or a soft drink. Ann however is thoroughly Francophilic when it comes to wine and stinky cheese. I confess to having developed a palate for ‘le fromage Francais’ but I still only consume it in small quantities. Shame really, wine and cheese are about the only two cheap comestibles in France – food here really is quite pricey.

The budget’s been quite healthy too the last couple of weeks – while this campsite isn’t particularly cheap, we find that we’re saving on fuel and eating in. We chatted to a nice Scots couple last night – Liz and Alan – who passed on to us a discount camping book. For the rest of 2010 it provides us with savings at designated sites throughout Europe on presentation of a card. Liz and Alan won’t be using it anymore; so they felt we could benefit from it. Too right! The book includes a map with all the discount sites; so it’ll make scheduling our run through Spain and Portugal that much easier.

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12/9
Tonight it’s the fishing comp – let’s see if I can catch anything remotely resembling a fish!

ON

Posted by OrlandoN 06:08 Archived in France Comments (2)

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