Wednesday, 18 January 2017

From Spain, Wednesday 18 January

It was bitterly cold in Calais, although we were snug and warm in bed, and the water didn't freeze.  We put the heating on when we woke, and it was lovely to get dressed in the relative warm!

I then had some bits of shopping to do, so after breakfast went over to the Carrefour and did that, and then we still had a bit of time, so we drove into Calais and said "Hello" to the Burghers, who were surrounded by a funfair.
And then we went into the Shuttle and were offered a crossing an hour earlier than scheduled, which was nice, so we took that and were home by 3:00 pm UK time, including a stop for lunch at Maidstone Services (our own lunch, not that sold by the services!).  And unpacked the van and did a couple of loads of washing.... and so it goes.  Lovely to be home, but we'll have itchy feet again very soon, no doubt.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

From Spain, Tuesday 17 January

We basically spent all day driving up from just south of Poitiers up to Calais. We left our friends after breakfast, and stopped off at the Auchan in Poitiers for bread and diesel. Then we stopped for lunch a couple of hours later, and a final stop for a splash of expensive motorway diesel before coming straight to Buffalo Grill for our now-traditional Last Supper. 

As I didn't sleep very well last night, I slept a lot of the way, but it was a lovely day for driving, although cold. The trouble with driving days, though, is that there are few, if any, photo opportunities.

Tonight will be cold, but not as cold as in the Massif Central. All the same, bedsocks and hot water bottles, and rugs on top of the duvet.... cosy!

Monday, 16 January 2017

From Spain, Monday 16 January

A couple of hours' drive this morning brought us to our friend's house, where we are spending 24 hours. Very enjoyable, but not blogging material! 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

From Spain, Sunday 15 January

Really a nothing day; it has rained the entire day. We came to this village called Clérac, driving up the motorway in the rain and stopping at a rest area to have lunch. The village is about half way between Hossegor and where our friend lives, and was supposed to have free services, but they are closed for the winter, although there is a loo.  And there is a bakery, but of course it is closed on Mondays. Oh well.

We are having a chicken, leek and mushroom casserole for dinner, followed by some kind of chocolate dessert I bought in Spain. And a very nice Rioja that I wish we'd bought more than one bottle of.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

From Spain, Saturday 14 January

Well, I can't exactly say "To Spain" any more now that we are on the homeward leg of our journey!

We left our very nice aire of last night after using the services, and drove north towards France. We stopped, as we had on the way in, at a huge shopping centre, 95% French cars, and I went shopping. Took ages, because so many things were on offer for €1 each, things I wouldn't have thought of buying but which I would certainly use, like dried beans and chick peas and a thing of 6 small containers (perfect for mixing curry powder for a trip like this) and a cake cooling stand because I can't find mine!  Also wine and stuff. What we needed was bread and milk, and I took ages to find the fresh milk, which was in a fridge beside the UHT stuff; logical, I suppose, but I had to ask...  Also a bottle of Grant's whisky for €10.50, do nicely for my mother's birthday next week.  Anyway, I bought masses of stuff and only spent €50 or so.  Very pleasing.

Then we drove on and into France (eventually; we took a wrong turn and ended up on the motorway going the wrong way!), and are now parked up outside Hossegor, a little town on the edge of the Landes where I direct a holiday as a child, although I don't remember it very well. It was where I first learnt to like Astérix!  The SW went for a walk, and then we had supper. It is cold - not freezing, but dank and wet - so we have gone to bed early to read and listen to the radio (free WiFi at this site!).

Friday, 13 January 2017

To Spain, Friday 13 January

I said, when I planned our trip, that where we spent last night, on a headland overlooking the Port of Bilbao, would be lovely unless there was a storm. There was a storm!  We were horrendously exposed, and I slept very badly, being quite convinced that a window would blow in, or the van would blow over, or the solar panels would blow off. However, none of those disasters occurred, and morning came at last.

We didn't hurry to get up, and when we eventually set off, we asked the machine to take us into Bilbao, which looked really rather nice once you were there, and then we drove to Donostia (San Sebastian), and again, had a quick peek at it before we headed to the parking, which turns out to be a very nice aire by the university.  Not free, but not expensive (€3.25 per night), and services are provided. And it is sheltered, so although it is raining steadily, we are not buffeted as we were last night.

As this is our last night in Spain, we decided to go out to dinner (plus I hadn't been out all day) to a nearby burger bar which was well-reviewed, but of course when we got there it had closed down. So we went to another one, which was ok, but not brilliant, but perfectly edible, and delicious beer, only €2.50 for 500 ml, and then came back to the van and ate coffee-flavoured "flan" and ginger biscuits before getting into our cosy, warm and dry beds! 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

To Spain, Thursday 12 January

I have had a relatively quiet day today; I find I need that occasionally. We set our sat-nav to take us to a services in Vittoria-Gasteiz, as needed to use them.  While we were there we went to a Mercadona and bought the biggest bag of oranges you ever did see.
Then we drove to where we are spending the night - a car park above Bilbao, which I thought would be lovely if it didn't storm - so, of course, it is pouring with rain and very windy!  But we watched the Bilbao-Portsmouth ferry head out - sooner them than me -
and the SW went for a walk before the rain started which he enjoyed. And now I am going to curl up in bed. The rain is making the grey water tank say it is full, but we know that is rubbish! 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

To Spain, Wednesday 11 January

I always say that you don't really know a city until you have used it's public transport, but these days with the Internet to tell you how, it's almost too easy. So we found there was a bus that would take us right into Zaragoza town centre from about 500 metres from where we were parked up.
Idiot Google had said there was no pedestrian route to the nearest supermarket, but there totally was, it was just by the bus stop on the way back and a perfectly good pedestrian crossing!  Anyway, that was later; for now we caught the 41 into town and made a note of where we got off to get back with no hassle.

Then we walked through the town centre to the river, and along a bit past the Cathedral and the Basilica, and then there was a big market so we wandered through that, amazed at how cheap meat is here.  Then there was a tram, so we got on that for a couple of stops, and then only a short walk back to our bus stop, via a cashpoint, as I was running a bit low.

I went to the supermarket as I wanted mushrooms for a risotto, and was amazed at how cheap stuff was - ended up buying some deodorant, as it was a brand I use and reduced to 60 cents!  Beer is also incredibly cheap, but I'm not buying that until I don't have to carry it!
Then we set off and drive out of town - why are the outskirts of towns always so hideous? - and stopped in a random services for lunch. Then I went to sleep while the SW drove here, to Lograño, where we are parked up by a reservoir.  He went for a walk, and then I cooked risotto which was very good.  And we drank some of the wine we'd bought at Mas Alart, which was just as good as we'd thought.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

To Spain, Tuesday 10 January

We left Barcelona about 11:00 this morning, having asked the sat-nav to take us so we didn't have to pay tolls. The urban motorway in Barcelona was super, and carried the traffic very easily and quickly down past the Maremagnum area where we had been the previous day, and then down past the port area before the A2 finally branched off inland.
We drove a couple of hundred km to Zaragoza, stopping in a random aire by a lake to have lunch.
When we had found our car park for the night, we set off again to find a big supermarket, a Mercadona, to stock up and get a tortilla for supper, also since salad. It was very difficult to find the supermarket, which was in a big shipping mall, and I walked the whole length of it before discovering it was on the lower level, whereupon I had to walk all the way back to get to it. Some things much cheaper than the UK, others about the same.  Certainly cheaper than France, though.
Then back to the car park, and the SW went for a walk, and then we had supper. I have been very tired all day - suspect I over did it yesterday - and am looking forward to an early night. Plus it is much colder here, although I don't think frost.  Very dry - we drove past where some idiot had set the verge on fire, luckily on the other side of the road, but scary!  Also we were amused how many lorries were on the non-toll road, compared to in France where they all pay the tolls anyway.

Monday, 9 January 2017

To Spain, Monday 9 January

Barcelona in January is really lovely!  Not hot, but not cold, either.
We set off after a late breakfast and took the metro (with a horrendous change in the middle, one had to walk for miles) to the big food market off La Rambla.  We wandered round there, wishing we were hungry, and then came away and bought a guidebook and had a cup of coffee while we looked at it. Then we got a bus a few stops and walked to the metro station called Paral.lel (with the dot!), whence we took the funicular up Montjuic, and then the cable car right up to the top, to the castle.
And then a bus down, which delighted the Swan Whisperer by going past the Olympic stadium (don't we want rather to forget the 1992 Olympics?), and this deposited us in the Playa d'Espanya.

We found a restaurant and ate tapas, and then headed down to the sea, to a huge shopping centre called Maremagnum, and eventually back to the motor home via two buses. I'm exhausted, but the SW has gone out for an explore by himself! 

I don't suppose we've seen all of Barcelona, but it's a lovely place, what we have seen.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

To Spain, Sunday 8 January

We didn't hurry away this morning after a very windy night. The Mistral was blowing like anything. I never really mind wind in the machine, but it does creak!
Bought 6 bottles of the wonderful Muscat they do here, and then headed off to Spain. Made a nonsense at the frontier, as we wanted diesel, but ended up coming straight off the motorway and were charged nearly a Euro in péage!  Our télépéage  dongle doesn't work in Spain, alas. So we got diesel at a local garage, and also bought some milk in a ginormous shopping centre which was rammed, mostly with French shoppers looking for bargains.  We drove on down a motorway which kept smelling of ham, and finally arrived here in what is basically a secure car park, not very glamorous and quite expensive. But good transport links into town, and nice loos, less nice showers, and a sitting-room with free WiFi.
We ate lunch and then went straight to the Sagrada Familia, and I regret to say we hated it! Not to our taste at all. 

And when we finally found the ticket office, we found it was €18 each to go in, so we said no, and caught various buses to the edge of the Old Town and wandered round until dark, and then caught a bus back to the machine. Citymapper works here, and is invaluable as always.

Supper in the van, and really enjoying the mild weather - it was about 18°C, such a change from two days ago. No bedsocks or extra rug tonight!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

To Spain, Saturday 7 January

I quite thought, when I got up this morning, that I would be telling you tonight that we were sadly on our way home.  There was a very sharp frost indeed overnight, and although we were snug and warm in bed, when I got up it was to find no running water!  The Swan Whisperer investigated, and it became clear that the pump was still working, but the water in the pipes underneath had frozen!  Luckily there was a public loo (the Turkish kind) just across the car which was clean, warm and had paper! Sadly it didn't have hot water, so washing was done with a kettle of drinking water and/or wipes. 
Then the heating didn't seem to want to work properly, either, so we looked and saw there was a motor home place over Limoges way, which might be able to help, (and from there we could either go on or go home) but it was closed until 14:00, and by the time we had done a bit of shopping, everything was fine, and the pipes hadn't burst. So we headed on, another interminable drive, and now we are out of the frost zone, and only a couple of hours from Barcelona. It is windy, but much warmer than last night.
Such a beautiful sunset en route. I tried to take photos, but they are too yellow. The reality was much redder.
We are at Mas Alart, where we have stayed before, blissfully quiet and we can buy some of the white wine we like so much!  Such a friendly family, they remembered us.

Friday, 6 January 2017

To Spain, Friday 6 January

We crossed last night, as is our wont these days, and despite a lazy start, we were away by 10:30, to drive half-way across France on our way to Northern Spain.
All went well at first. I didn't feel I'd had quite enough sleep, so dozed off while the Swan Whisperer drove down the A16 until he was ready for a break. This was not quite lunch time, so we decided to go on for a bit.
Alas, as we went round Paris on an outer ring, catching glimpses of the Sacré-Coeur and the Eiffel tower, it all went pear-shaped, as we got to a place where suddenly there was a height restriction, and could we make the sat-nav, either one, take us around it? You guess!  We must have wasted two hours trying to get round it and then getting lost - lunch was eventually eaten on the go, with me making sandwiches in the back, in a traffic jam.
However, after that, when we were finally back on the right route, the sat-nav told us there was a massive traffic jam up ahead, and would we like to go a different way to save us well over an hour. So we said yes please, and it took us down the old road to Orleans, and I was delighted to see the track where they had conducted their experiments with monorails back in the 1970s - I'd last seen it over 40 years ago in a company that included the present Bishop of Rochester!
We got here eventually - an aire about half-way to the Pyrenees, only to find that the restaurant advertised has closed down. Don't know if the Mairie is open on Saturday mornings, hope so, as we need a jeton for the services.  Anyway, we found a restaurant not far away and had dinner, and now are heading to bed as it is bitterly cold, well below freezing!  Bed, one hopes, we'll be warm!