Saturday 27th September Same coordinates as the last blog because we are still here
First of all, hands up all of you that noticed my mistake in the title of the last blog and I am not talking about the spelling errors of some of the towns I have talked about. I suppose it shows just how relaxed we are when I do not know what day of the week it is. The 25th was a Wednesday not a Thursday and I didn’t notice the mistake until later. Ah well!!!
We are still on the same site and are thoroughly enjoying the fabulous weather and all that we find in this area. Now I have to admit another mistake I made the other day. We walked to find a garage to get the tyre we needed and found exactly what we wanted and they had it in stock. Come back at 4o/c they said. We had lunch at a nice restaurant near the massive E.Leclerc supermarket and then we walked home with our French bread under the arm. Later Elaine stayed enjoying the sun and I went off to go to the garage. First I have to remind you all that we have done all our mileage on the back roads and have paid not one cent to the French government for driving on their roads. I tuned left one turn too early and found myself on a road that did not take me to my destination. No, I was now on a two lane motorway heading towards Biarritz. Worse still it was a Peage and I threw the 1 euro 80 into the machine to get the barrier to rise. Now I have to get back for my 4o/c appointment. I think the road works that were on my return journey were put up just to delay my journey. The long and short of it is that it was 3 hours later that I returned to the campsite. Poor Elaine was worried stiff that I had had an accident and how would she get home????????
We went by bus to Biarritz yesterday and had a super day exploring this city. I think it is no longer the mecca of the rich and beautiful but it is now a massive magnet to surfers and sun worshippers as the waves and the endless beaches are full of people enjoying themselves. When we got back to the camp site we were thoroughly entertained by a display by the French equivalent of the Red Arrows as they performed over the bay of St Jean de Luz.
Today was extremely hot but we still walked into the town, all around the bay and all the way to the old Fort. After lunch we walked all the way back and Elaine didn’t complain once. The whole journey was around 9 miles and if we had brought our evenings meal with us then it certainly would have been cooked by the time we got back because of the extreme temperatures of the day. I do not think we will be doing much this evening.
We arrived here Monday and have decided to stay here for possibly as long as a fortnight. We are on a site which is very pleasant indeed and we can see the sea from inside our motor home. Saint- Jean-de-Luz.is ideally suited for our prolonged stay. We have already walked some of the coastal paths which give us spectacular views of the Cote Basque. The Pyrenees Mountains are making a wonderful back drop, however the weather has changed and now there is cloud cover and the temperature has dropped to around 21 to 22 degrees in the daytime. The forecast is for the temperatures to climb again through to the weekend.
We will take the bus to Bearritz one day and although it is no longer the mecca for the rich as it once was it apparently is still a very worthwhile place to visit, with lots of history and old buildings to see. We will wait for a really clear day then we will travel 15 kilometres go to La Rhune where there is a train that winds its way up one of the mountains and the views at the top are supposed to be stunning. This is why it has to be a very cloudless day to make it worthwhile. Bayonne is another place we will visit which is a warren of medieval streets and because there is a street dedicated to chocolate there and Elaine has said she is not going to miss that for anything.
Here we have met up with Clive and Ruth from Devon and we were forced to sample the red wines they had bought on their travels. We also have spoken to the English couple who proudly have a full sized, stuffed sheep dog puppy which they sit in front of their motor home. He told us that this thing has been taken on every holiday all over Europe. What is that man doing to the reputation of the English considering that there are vans here from all over from Finland, Austria, Italy and the rest. The only saving grace is that his “dead dog” doesn’t bark which cannot be said about the dogs that are carried about by our French friends.
We had 3 lovely days at Casteljaloux and today we drove 98 miles to the west coast. Again we used the D roads for the whole journey and for quite a few miles we drove right beside a “Peage” motorway. It is difficult to find out how much we would have paid to do the same mileage on the motorway but our journey took us through some beautiful French towns and villages so we stopped and took pictures when we saw something different. We are now at Mimizan Plage and we arrived at the campsite during the extended lunchtime that the French take for themselves. So we drove into town and there we came across lots of motor homes parked on a car park in the middle of the town. We drove in and this will now be our free nights stopping place. After all, when in France do what the French do. The beach here goes on for miles and there were many surfers, swimmers and people just enjoying the lovely hot day as they sit on the beach. There are lots of small shops leading up to the beach mostly selling sea side type stuff and of course places to eat.
We could hear loud music so Elaine and I walked towards the sounds only to come across a meet for bikers and old car enthusiasts. There were some beautiful old cars and motorbikes all around with food stalls and other merchandise all on what appeared to be the car park of the football stadium. It was a lovely atmosphere and probably the most enjoyable bit was the couple of ice cold beers we purchased from the beer tent for 2 euros each. Money very well spent.
Because we are on the west coat then as the sunset started I rushed up to the sea front to get a picture. All along there were people with the same idea and I will say that it was quite spectacular but not the best sunset picture I have ever taken.
The numbers in the title are the longitude and latitude of where we are parked for the night. Maybe it will pinpoint our position and I’m sure will be useful if anyone should want to locate Mimizan on Google Maps. We will head on down this coast tomorrow as we have the best weather on this side of France.
Our journey from St Symphorien brought us through a totally different driving experience here in France. Very narrow roads led us through the National Parc de Gascogne, not unlike the New Forest from the scenic aspect except we past virtually no other vehicles and there were long distances between the villages.
We are parked in an Aires just behind the Lac de Clarens which is situated on the outskirts of Casteljaloux in Aquitaine. The Lac de Clarens is a large lake with an artificial beach on a good part of its shore. There are safe swimming areas and it is a wonderful inland “seaside” area. A large casino is just being built to one end of the lake nearest the town and just across the road is a golf course. There is also a “go ape” area with 2 zip wires running across the water. Cross the lake one way then climb higher up the tree for the return journey. I have tried to cajole Elaine into giving me the photo opportunity of a life time but to no avail. With the beautiful warm weather that we are having at the moment there are quite a lot of people swimming in the lake and lounging on the beach.
We had a wonderful visit to our daughter-in-laws parents who live in St Martin de Curton just the other side of the town. We were wined and dined and made to feel most welcome by the offer of a bed for the night. Bearing in mind they have 6 bedrooms most en suite. However we could not succumb to that luxury as we may find ourselves wishing we could rent the room for a year. So we retired to our old bus after the luxury of sitting on a soft couch and watching Bake Off. Jack watched a few shooting stars and lightning in the distance. This lightning was to develop during the night into a full blown storm with very heavy rain – oh how we wished we had taken the offer of a bed!! We have moved to the lakeside whilst we wait for our parcel to arrive which should solve our on-going wi-fi problems.
We were told by our hosts that we need to keep a lookout for masses of cranes migrating from Holland to Africa and that we would have no problem identifying their flight as the sound is that of a full blown football match. Migration takes effect from late October so we may be in the appropriate part of Spain when this happens. Also in this region the hunting season starts and as they shoot everything that moves we will be planning on leaving fairly soon.
Elaine is keeping a daily journal of our travels and I love to hear her version of the day as she reads out what she has written. She is also keeping a record of mileages we have travelled each day, fuel expenditure and overnight camping fees and at the moment we are averaging around £7.80 a night since we started out after she has taken into account the free Aires we have stopped on. So Elaine is the scribe and pours endlessly over all the maps we have deciding where she thinks will our next port of call. All this keeps her very busy so I am Toilet Waller, waste emptier and driver and I write the occasional blog and tweet. With the average day temperatures being in the 80s we have mostly been living on salads and fruit so the role of chief cook and bottle washer has not been decided yet as throwing salad and bits onto a plate hardly can be called cooking.
We keep meeting up with all sorts of people of all nationalities and yesterday we met an English lady who was a teacher until she retired. She had moved to France and at the moment was travelling around in a motorhome with her French lover. Her words not mine! Henri was brought along to meet us .
I am going to start putting the longitude and latitude of places we stop at and google maps will pinpoint where we are if anyone is interested. Next, on our way towards the Atlantic coast again working our way towards Spain – maybe in the next couple of weeks. Life can be so tedious!!
We have been away 2 weeks now and yesterday (Sunday) we moved away from the site we were on in St Emillion and moved just to the other side of the town to a free Aire we had found in a vineyard. Our washing was now up to date and two days plugged into electricity had got everything nicely charged up. The Aire was probably the most peaceful sight we had stopped in for the whole time we had been away. It does seem that we have found that every French motor home or caravan is not complete without at least one yappy dog. The 85 year old owner of the Chateaux invited us to visit his home in the evening in his chateaux as he directed us as to how we could cross his fields of vines to walk to St Emillion. The town is an ancient, historical place that could be described as a living museum in its own right. It was once a walled town and is set with parts of the old wall remaining around the town of very narrow streets set below. Virtually every shop is taken up with selling wine or wine accessories. It is a photographers dream and I have taken full advantage. After walking back we relaxed before visiting our hosts and I was really pleased that I was able to converse with the old couple and learnt how they decided when the grapes should be harvested.
Today (Monday) we actually got up early as we were to drive to the other side of the town to go to the station to catch a train for a day in Bordeaux. The idea was that we would then return to the vineyard that evening before moving on. Best laid plans!!!! The large council lorry parked in the narrow street doing something to the drains meant we missed the train. The next one was not coming along for quite some time so we decided to drive to Bordeaux. We looked at parking at a Park and Ride and found it quite easily along a one way street. Without any warning there was the height barrier saying 2.2meters. Our old bus is just over 3 meters so what now??? No choice, I drove through the no entry except for buses sign and found us driving through a massive bus station with everybody staring at us mad English people. If we had been nearer the English Channel we probably would have had people trying to get a ride to England. Luckily the local police have not caught up with me yet!!!!!!
That was it. Bordeaux had had its chance so we drove on south to Creon and are resting here with wi-fi that is ok with my anti- virus so a chance to update a few things and I was actually able to watch the BBC news live. It is the first television we have watched since we left England.
We stayed two days at La Tranche sur Mer. We quickly got to know another lone motor homer named Rod and another English couple but the best was the French lady from the motor home parked next to ours. She came over to apologise for some noise they apparently made during the night and although she was quite difficult to understand she spoke with a very broad French accent and very quickly. However she did end up putting circles on our map where we would find very convenient Aires and other sites on our way down to Biarritz. We are now at La Rochelle stopping in an Aires that she told us about. I cannot say that it is a beautiful spot to park our old bus as it is on a park and ride, however it is very close to the town and we do get a free bus ride into town. It was such a short distance that we decided to walk and re-visit at dusk to take some more photos – it was well worth it. There are some wonderful buildings and history in this area, but very lively at night. This is Elaine now. Well I must say that Jack’s French is amazing. When booking in at the site in la Tranche he must have thought I wouldn’t understand when the chap said there would be 44cents tax to pay per person on top of the bill. Jack said would it be okay if he left me outside the site so he wouldn’t have to pay mine ha ha ha I couldn’t stop laughing!!! I must say though the lovely man looked like the younger version of George Peppard and spoke like him too.
I think at this stage I should warn anybody, in the future, who may think it a good idea to invite Elaine and myself over to look at their holiday snaps. Be warned!!!!! We have taken over 230 picture and we have only been out ten days.
It is Sunday now and we have just spent a second night at a very posh sight at Saint-Emillion. Yesterday we treated as a chill out day and today we will move off from this site to the other side of the town to an Aire so we can visit this ancient town which is in the middle of the wine making region. Virtually every shop in town is given over to the selling of fine wines and every field all around here has row upon row of grape vines and the grapes hang on them heavily waiting to be picked.
We did have an email asking us how we were dealing with washing our clothes. Well yesterday whilst on the site we used the washing machines here. It is quite civilised here and most things are available except the internet. Everywhere there is wi-fi but it is all unsigned. Sorry to get technical but it means my computer software will not let me use it because of the danger of getting a virus. Blogs will become a lot more regular when the special machine which we should have ben using catches us up by post.
A very easy motoring day today. We have done precisely 19 miles but it has given us the opportunity to test out the satellite navigation system we have had to buy after the other one gave up the ghost on us on Sunday. This new bit of kit seems ok and the female voice has a bit of a French lilt and so far seems to know where she is taking us.
We left Talmont St Hilaire and we are now parked up on a small ACSi site at La Tranche-sur-Mer which is 12 euros a night and within a short walk to a very popular beach. The site is really good and of course this brilliant sunshine is everything we could ask for. Around us are Dutch, French, Belgians and some English and as soon as we arrived Rod came over to us and then went off to get his chair so he could sit and chat with us. Rod is another lone English bloke touring Europe in his motor home. Now what is it that makes us such good company to English people traveling on their own. Has Elaine’s Facebook pictures of all the Yorkshire Tea bags we have on board got round this quickly?
I now have to explain to anybody who has never had the experience of a French camp site just a few things we find amusing. For a start when you drive through any town or village in France you will see people walking along with a French stick under the arm. Here you will not find toilet paper in any of the toilets on French campsites. So here you see people walking with the toilet rolls under their arms…….guess where they are going. On that theme it seems quite common here to tie the toilet brush to the lavatory with a length of string. The theft of used toilet brushes must be alarming and I would have no hesitation in phoning the gendarmes if I saw anybody in the act of this dastardly crime. Hang on…….there is a chap walking by with a loaf under one and a toilet roll under the other. Perhaps he is off to the loo to have his lunch and steel a brush whilst he is there.
The beach here is mainly sandy so tomorrow we will spend our day on the beach because if it is as hot tomorrow as it has been today then a swim in the sea will be very welcoming.
It is now Wednesday, 03/09/14 and I am sitting here with the computer on my lap typing this whilst in a most beautiful sea-side resort of St Pair sur Mer. The weather has been beautiful today and there has been many people swimming in the sea and sunbathing on a most picturesque beach. We are parked on an Aire and those of you who do not know what an Aire is then I will explain. An Aire is a place for spending a night in a town for motor-homes with some amenities and our night here will cost us 5 euro or with today’s exchange rate £4.00. There is a very pretty church here and if they ever stop ringing their bells then I will look on it more favourably. I spent part of the afternoon watching a bunch of French men playing Boules. There have been technological advancements since I played Boule outside a French house I was stopping at a long time ago. One old boy had a magnet on a string and he used that to pick up his Boules…..genius!!!!!
Monday we caught the Barfleure and we were on our way by 08.30 and we were entertained for the whole journey by a recently widowed, fairly senior, retired police officer. He was lovely and we felt that we had done him a service by listening to his many lovely tales. We then headed down to Barfleux. What a beautiful town with so much history. We paid to see the tapestry, all 70 metres of it and I photographed the whole thing metre by metre. I did wonder why people kept looking round at me until we got back round to the entrance to see a sign that said that photography was not allowed. At this rate how long will it be before I am carted off by the Gendarmes. We then went to the Museum of the battle of Normandy 1944 which we followed up by visiting the war graves of the British that gave up their lives liberating this area of France. Acres of beautifully laid out gravestones with many un-named stones but all the others had the names and ranks of the fallen with the badges of the regiments each was from and what looked like personal messages from loved ones. Should we acknowledge the sacrifice all these people have made for our country or should we be ashamed of what human beings are capable of? Sorry! I got a bit serious there but that is how I felt.
The first camp site we used was a municipal site and frankly was not up to much but we did give it two days. Sorry ladies but will I ever get used to using urinals which are open for all to see what we are doing. Is it the way the French women keep us blokes in check??? That is all for now and for £4.00 a night we might stop another day and night before heading along to St Malo.
Sorry for the delay but our internet machine ” ne marche pas” or for those of you with no French, our machine is driving me up the wall and I have to use the local wi-fi which is very slow.
This will be our home for a year. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just load a few things into the van, say goodbye to friends and family and head on down to the ferry port to start the adventure.
Far from it, by the time we get away we will need a years holiday to recuperate from the strain of the constant preparation. In no particular order I will try to convey just some of the problems that have arisen so far.
Obviously you may know that we moved so that we can let our house easier now we are in Amesbury. The letting agent says let it unfurnished so no sooner has the furniture been arranged after the move then it is now the job to prepare to have it all moved into store. I have spent the last week in our boiling hot loft sectioning off an area where we can store some of our boxes. Maybe it is a good way for me to acclimatise myself for the weather I hope we find on the continent but it has been warm.
I thought being in the EEC would make things easier. Far from it. The old bus needs an MOT certificate and it passed with flying colours in June. However we are not due to leave until the beginning of September so we have to have another test in August. Then we have to return to England within a year or the MOT will be out of date and I will no longer be driving a legal vehicle. Common Market, its a joke, why can’t we just present the vehicle to a garage in any European country to get this precious document.
Our bank says we are not allowed to add another person onto our account (don’t all volunteer at once) so they can settle any bills that may turn up whilst we are away. So that’s why, if we owe you any money, then you will have to wait until we get back.
We have had lots of encouragement about our travel plans but we have had the gloom merchants who tell us stories of all the terrible things that Johnny Foreign is going to do to us. Delivery companies turn up daily to deliver more and more safety devices we can fit to the van. Does anybody know where I can get a sub machine gun that I can fit on top as Amazon let me down there.
Comment if you want more, comment if I should stop. This is my first ever blog, hope it is ok.