Turning on the heating ….. 9/12/17

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After my failure with soda bread you will be happy to hear that I have returned to making rolls again, although we have now completely run out of our Waitrose flour that we stocked up on before we left home and the mix is pretty much 50/50 White and whole meal, with a handful of both Sunflower seeds and Linseeds thrown in for luck…. although I forgot the linseed this time!  They were however super light and fluffy, although to be fair anything would have appeared light and fluffy after the rock like Soda Bread rolls I made previously, which was why it surprised me so much when Keith bit into his first roll and found something hard – I was distraught – thinking I had lost my touch until Keith realised that it was a tooth that had finally given up and decided to make the most of the soft bread cushioning to break free!  Thankfully Keith wasn’t in any pain but it was a tooth that had a large filling from a long time ago and the tooth had cracked so a visit to the dentist was inevitable!

The dentist was friendly and reasonably priced and Keith is certainly getting his monies worth as despite the Dentist originally planning on doing an ‘inlay’, he soon realised he couldn’t so has given him a temporary filling until next week when he goes back to have a crown…. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we have survived this long without needing any dentistry work abroad.

Having been here for just over five weeks and with the nights getting colder (yes, believe it or not it has been down to about 6 degrees in Alicante …. positively chilly!) therefore we have required a bit of heating over the last week or so, we decided that we should probably go fill up with LPG, give the water tanks a bit of a shake and clean, whilst at the same time popping into Decathlon.  We were amazed by the fact that we didn’t come out with our arms full as we normally do – I would like to say that we are reigning in our inability to control our (ok maybe it is just my) sports clothes/accessories addiction but I think it was simply the fact that they didn’t have such a great selection this time…. he ho, saved for a couple more months at least!

As we have now entered December the Duel of the Tapas has started again in El Campello. So as always we feel obliged to go along and try a few to get to know some new places as well as enjoy their culinary skills.  We were fairly reserved last Friday night and only tried four places, the first was a waste of space as every time the barman was asked for a drink he huffed so loudly we felt that we were imposing on his personal space, needless to say he couldn’t be bothered to do the Tapa or perhaps just didn’t have the ingredients but whichever it was, we won’t be going back.

The second place offered an aubergine stack … I was going to say quite impressive for Spain to have a veggie Tapa but apparently there was some bacon hidden in there somewhere – it was also very good. The third was a wine bar whose Tapa also appeared to be veggie from outside but they had also sneakily added a bit of cured meat but it was exceptional, a small slice of bread topped with goats cheese, caramelised onion, cured beef, watercress and a fruits of the forest reduction. The final Tapa of the night was a roll made with squid ink, filled with Calamari and crunchy fried onions …. taste was excellent and presentation the best yet … scoring a 5/5 from us all.

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The Duel of the Tapas goes on for a month and each time you try one you get a small beer or wine and the Tapa for 2.50 euros (although you do normally pay a little more if you choose wine) and you vote for the winner of the competition…. I am sure we will be trying a few more before the end of the month!

December 6th and 8th are two public holidays in Spain, so along with a couple of friends we headed off to Cuidad Real which is South East of Madrid, just under 400km away where Alfredo, another friend of ours lives.

Cuidad Real isn’t really known for much apart from its food which always bodes well for us but may not be high on everyone’s list.  The town used to have a 4km wall and 132 towers protecting its Christian, Jewish and Muslim population but over the centuries they have all pretty much disappeared leaving a fairly new shopping centre and only one or two buildings that date back to the 13th Century.

Needless to say we met for tapas and lunch trying out some of the regions specialties including ‘Migas’ (breadcrumbs fried with Chorizo and Pancetta and other lovely things) and ‘Caldereta Manchega’ (Lamb stew with potatoes) before heading back to Alfredo’s family country house where we lit the fire and baked potatoes in its ashes to eat with lots of lovely cheese and meats, all washed down with a mixture of red wine from the region and beer whilst watching the football.

Although the skies were blue and the sun was shining, the open fire was welcome as the temperature dropped to around -3 over night, although we did also have central heating in the house.  The morning brought blue skies and frost on the ground and set out to explore the garden with Alfredo’s father who had arrived to do some pruning of the grape vines and tend to the garden – 5000 sq.m in total giving them a sizeable veggie plot, tennis court, swimming pool and chickens.

After a Spanish breakfast of Panetone and coffee we set off in the car to find the setting of Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.  For those of you who haven’t ever heard of Don Quixote it is a Spanish novel that was written in early 1600’s, considered to be the most influential piece of Spanish work of literature of all times.

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Don Quixote talks of the tilting of the windmills …. and we found the windmills that are described and it is fair to say that it is a fairly stunning setting.  However, with not a huge amount more in Consuegra than the windmills we headed off to the ‘Lagunas’ (Lakes) for lunch and a short walk.

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Lunch was excellent, enabling us to try some more local delicacies including ‘Atascaburras’ which is mashed potatoes with cheese, eggs and walnuts and I tried something I can’t remember the name of that was eggs with chorizo, cheese, mushrooms and pancetta – delicious!  All the starters were followed by meat – what else in La Mancha – and home made desserts of rice pudding or cheesecake.

Despite spending a fair amount of time in the car during the day we still decided to head back to Alicante which was another four hours drive …. slightly longer than expected as the cheesecake had disagreed with Manolo so we had a couple of enforced stops!

A good couple of days away but happy to be back at the motorhome and in our own beds again.  The food was excellent but it was rich so although we were out again last night with some other friends, it is nice to be eating slightly less rich food and doing a little bit of exercise!

We have had a busy couple of week of cooking as well so I have added some of the recipes that I haven’t shared previously onto the blog.  Keith made his first motorhome Gravaldax with the 4 euro bottle of gin and it was great (and has subsequently made teh second), he also decided to try his hand at Pitta breads which came out brilliantly and take less time to prove so possibly another option if we don’t have two and half hours to make bread! We have also made a couple of dinner dishes – an old favourite Kedgeree, although they generally don’t have smoked fish in Spain so we just used cod loin.  We also made BBQ Baked Beans with Sweet Potatoes which is a veggie wonder – full of flavour and warmth for the winter.  Finally today, we risked enforcing a bit more of England on Manolo and Santi  by making Fish Pie which went down well…. although we still can’t get them to eat any veg if it isn’t actually part of the dish itself!  As it is coming up to Christmas the first batch of  Fruit Cake Muffins also came out to come with us to Cuidad Real which were very tasty although could have probably been cooked for a couple of minutes less in our oven to keep them a little bit more moist.

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A quick trip home…. 26/11/17

When we set off from the UK we had already planned to be back no more than six weeks later which seemed a little odd but worked out well.  Having settled into our routine in Alicante and got ourselves a little bit of sunshine, just over a week ago we caught the tram and then bus to the airport, injected a little of Starbucks caffeine (Gail) and before we knew it were being picked up at Gatwick by my mum – how easy is that?

Although the first morning on English soil was only about 2 degrees when we went out for a run, it soon clouded over and warmed up leaving us with warmer (about 11 degrees) although slightly duller days for the rest of our stay – can’t really complain.

 

We were back in the UK naturally to catch up with family but that came as a bonus as this trip was a well planned 50th Birthday celebration for Keith’s sister Shaz….. several months in the pipeline!

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Who would have thought that we would manage to see one of the most beautiful sunsets that we have seen in a long time on home ground, just a shame that it was on the Friday and no-one else managed to enjoy it with us ….. I have to admit it was pretty chilly though!

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Not one to really celebrate in a big way, it was a small family affair down in Bournemouth staying at the Sandbanks hotel for a couple of nights and checking out two lovely restaurants – The Cliff and Rick Steins, we couldn’t have asked for more.  We walked, ate, drank, chatted, drank and ate some more …. all in all a lovely weekend and it would be fair to say that Keith and I both managed to consume more than our fair share of Bacon whilst at the hotel ….. it is still something that the Spanish just don’t know how to do.

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Bournemouth, Bacon and the trip home feels like ages ago now though as we have been back for six days and life is back to normal…..although within a couple of minutes of being home (it was 10:30 at night) we had our neighbours knocking on the door as they thought we had broken in – scared the life out of them apparently they thought we were still away – its nice to have people looking out for you!

Although it is still mostly sunny the temperature has dropped and this morning it was about 10 degrees when we got up to do our morning routine …. definately time for thin gloves and a long sleeved top when running although it does generally warm up as the day goes on.

We have been doing a bit more cooking over the last couple of weeks so I have added a few more recipes to the site.  I cooked up one of our favourites ‘Salmon Monster (coulibiac)’ which is a bit of a center piece for both mums before we headed back to Spain,  made Cheesecake (and dare we say it, it was delicious) at the weekend when Manolo and Santi came over for lunch and a Quick Stewed Squid with Pasta dish for lunch a couple of days ago.

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We have also bought some of the cheapest gin we have ever come across …. 70cl for just over 4 euros to make some Gravadlax and I also had my second attempt/failure at making soda bread rolls.  I’ll share the recipe for Gravadlax next time assuming it turns out as good as it has done at home (although we used to make it with vodka….) and I am not convinced that you want the Soda Bread recipe unless you would like to use the rolls as ammunition to take out a neighbour as they were so dense and rugged they would have killed a small child or animal if thrown with force ….. next time maybe?

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Settling in for the winter….. 13/11/17

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Sometimes I wonder where time goes as we manage to fill the days and constantly be out and about.  Before we know it we are watching the sun go down along with the rest of our Northern European neighbours shuffling their chairs, desperately trying to make the most of the last bit of sunshine before it disappears for the night.  There have been mornings over the last couple of weeks when I have looked at some of our fellow motorhomers slowly venturing out of their vans to put their chairs and table in a sunny spot to eat their breakfast at 9:30am and smiled to myself as they are probably thinking we are lazy buggers doing the same…… little do they know that we have been up for at least an hour and a half and probably had a lovely run along the seafront for 45 minutes …. We just smile and try and wish them a good breakfast in the appropriate language 😊

It is strange to be back but a couple of weeks in and we are settled with a lovely private spot in the corner out of everyone’s way and view so we can socialise when we want to but also have our privacy!  It is also great for when we have our Spanish friends over as we were always a bit conscious of the noise levels, I am sure our neighbours are quite glad that we face out into the field as no-one wants to hear the political debate of the independence of Catalunya for the umpteenth time!!  There are only a couple of people here who were here a couple of years ago, everyone else currently appears to be transitionary, stopping for a few days or a couple of weeks before heading back home.  It is however nice and peaceful and we get good practice of switching between French and Spanish (as well as English) on most days…. If only we spoke German and Dutch too!!

There is no doubt that our fellow motorhomers think we are weird but they have reason to express surprise again as we have now done our first haircut of the winter in the gents toilet/shower block – you never know we may build up some business by the end of the winter as it always sparks a lot of interest and this year there is no Michel and Teresa – Michel having been a hairdresser….. 5 euros a pop?

As this is like a second home and we plan to be here until the end of March, we decided to join the local gym where we occasionally swam two years ago if the sea was too cold/rough.  We aren’t using it for the gym, but instead trying out the Yoga, Pilates and Body Balance classes which so far have proved to be pretty good…. Although surprisingly busy at 11:30 in the morning which possibly says something about the level of the clientele (unemployed by choice rather than force).  However,  this means that the last two weeks have been fairly full on from a fitness point of view, exercise first thing, breakfast (….. around 9:30), Class, 20 lengths in the pool and lunch – before we blink it is 2:30pm….. I am still trying to work out how we ever managed to fit full time work in, although there is enough time to catch up Spanish style!

In the evenings we have been making sure that everything continues as we remembered – the cinema still offers ten tickets for 40 euros …. Bargain, so we went to see a Spanish Comedy called Toc Toc last week which was good fun (and all the better accompanied by some delicious Turron (nougat)….so much better than M&M’s).  We have also been trying out the local bars, although so far have only ventured to L’Hexagone which is more of a restaurant, owned by a French couple but they do good wine and Pepitos …. The old favourite!

We are lucky though, the weather is still unusually warm for this time of year – rising to 20+ during the day and dropping to around 12 overnight.  We have had one night of rain which freshened everything up a little, but have been able to walk, run and entertain outside until around 5:30pm when it cools down rapidly and get dark.

We have been cooking outside on the Bar B Q most days and have added some more recipes to the website that we have made during the last couple of weeks including Flapjacks, Pumpkin Soup, Crumble and Brownies.  We also did our first bit of entertaining, a quiet Bar B Q with Santi and Manolo last weekend, despite being distraught by the closure of our favourite butcher we managed to provide ample sausages, chorizo and morcilla (black pudding) to fill the bellies but the crumble and custard were the stars of the show – Birds Eye are definitely missing an opportunity not marketing to Spain, the Spanish love it! After lunch and feeling rather full, we all hobbled along the promenade for a walk (at 6:30pm), stopped in our steps by the beauty of the bright orange moon slowly appearing out of the water – Absolutely amazing, just a shame that the camera on my phone couldn’t capture it.

Tuesday brought us surprise visitors, Amanda and J – which was lovely as we struggle to see each other in the UK. After lots of catching up, copious amounts of Dijon Chicken, Coleslaw, Lentil and Goats Cheese Salad and a walk along the beach the world was a far better place…although it definitely still has some improving to do!

Miguel and Elisa had their first bar b q of the year on Saturday … some might say slow starters as the 11th November seems more like the time to put the Bar B Q away than get it out but none of us are complaining!  We have now had our fill of red meat for the next two months and will be focusing on eating salads and fish for a while hoping to reset out iron levels before Christmas 😊   It was lovely and we were also pleasantly surprised by the banana and chocolate ice-cream Miguel brought home from work…. not a flavour either of us would choose, but it wasn’t bad (and went pretty well with the brownies!!).  One of those days where you start off wearing shorts and a t-shirt, happily eating outside and by 8pm they had lit the fire in the living room…. That’s autumn in Spain for you!

Yesterday was a far quieter day, a lovely walk along the seafront admiring the Harley Davidsons, a quick trip to check out the local Sunday market to see if it had changed at all, then back for a home cooked ‘rice’…. Our version of a paella. Yum!

Clearing the air…. 28/10/17

After more heavy rain during the night we woke to a fresh, clear day – ready for moving on to Calpe.

The journey was short but followed windy, narrow roads with beautiful scenery arriving at Camping Estrella Polar (9 euros per night GPS n.38,6579 e.0,0776967) just before mid-day to set up in our wooded location looking out into the mountains.  The Aire is slightly different to the others in Calpe as it is just outside town and err’s towards nature rather than being one of the huge sites for 100+ motorhomes on concrete pitches. Part of it is still under construction and the rest is a little higgledy piggledy…. or perhaps I should just say rough and ready! It suited us as it was a lovely location and had fantastic views but it had more than its fair share of tiger mosquitoes, which as everyone knows aren’t my best friend!

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From the motorhome we walked down to the first beach and decided to climb to the summit of Penon de Ifach, which surprised us in its complexity.  Watching the people who were going up we would have thought it would be straight forward but there were parts that were more complicated than expected and I am still not sure how the Russian family who were on their way up to the summit when we were coming down ever got down as the mother was hugging the rock and looked like she was suffering from Vertigo.

Despite being very built up the views were spectacular from the top and it was well worth the walk, definately wear decent shoes and I don’t recommend going to summit if you suffer from Vertigo!

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After a rough nights sleep fighting off the mosquitoes – seriously we must have killed at least ten in the night and they were probably only half of  those that were in the motorhome – I set off for a run along the two beaches. I hadn’t realized quite how hilly it was and arrived back to the motorhome a little more red faced than normal!

As we hadn’t been to Calpe before but had heard so much about it we set off to explore the town and the other Aires as we had heard that quite a few had recently opened. There are four open and one more coming at the beginning of November and you can’t not be impressed by what the company who owns the most recent Aire (and the one due to open in a week or so) has done – it appears very Germanic … i.e. clean, solid and excellent facilities however we understand they are apparently both owned by Italians….rumours say, Mafia ….

The rest of the town reflected the clientele – Northern Europeans.  Therefore the shops were a different level – and price.  The Old town was typical white wash houses in a pretty quarter with lots of little restaurants and bars looking out over the town and to sea.  It is easy to see that the local council has done its best to encourage foreigners to visit the area – it was buzzing with tourism – in a nice way, albeit a little too busy for us.

On Wednesday we left Calpe and headed 50km south to San Juan Playa, just north of Alicante.  This time stopping at Area 7 (13 euros per night GPS n.38,4049 w0,409628) for a few nights to catch up with Michel and Teresa before we get to Campello Beach.  The Aire is also new, only having been open for 5 months and it is run by a lovely couple who go out of their way to help anyone and everyone …. their showers and toilets are also hotel quality!!

We ended up cooking for Michel and Teresa on Wednesday and the Bakewell came out perfectly – although I added a second egg by mistake which may have helped.

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We have done quite a bit of cooking over the last few days so not only will you find the Bakewell recipe under the ‘Recipe’ tab at the top of the page but also focaccia, bread rolls, Spiced Onion Chutney (we had run out and they don’t do chutney over here so I thought I’d try turning my hand to it) and Tzatsiki.

Since being at the new Area we have checked out our neighbourhood and despite it being a nice,  it is slightly further from the places we go to regularly to meet up with friends and doesn’t have any bars/restaurants around it to feed Keith’s football addiction.  We have therefore decided that El Campello Beach works out better for us so we are moving back over there tomorrow – only time will tell whether it is the correct decision!

25 degrees and rising ….. 21/10/17

Where does the time go?  Each time we blink another week appears to have flown by – difficult to believe that we have been in Spain for a week and have already arrived in the land of the Oranges

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The weather has been strange as most of you would have heard, with fires in Northern Spain and Portugal which on Wednesday were thankfully put out by the torrential rain, bringing with it different problems, although 24 hours later in many parts you wouldn’t have known there were storms.

We have been lucky where we are as despite it being very dry, there hasn’t been fires and although we had two torrential downpours on Wednesday and Thursday there doesn’t appear to be any lasting damage – it is just unfortunate that the rain fell so quickly and heavily it won’t have allowed the ground to soak up enough of the goodness, or enabled Spain to build up any reserves.  As much as us Brits complain about the rain, spending time in somewhere like Spain really makes you appreciate the beautiful lush landscape we have in the UK.

Back to the day job…. waking to the busy sounds of Huesca, we set about our morning routine, went and stocked up at the local Mercadona and headed on our way to Teruel.  The route saw the landscape change even further, having been lush and green as we crossed to Spain, Huesca was almost desert-like sand coloured rock and then on this journey changing again to a dry red soil and rock lined with vinyards.  Teruel is known for its Mudejar architecture which is a mixture between Gothic and Islamic, using beautiful green and blue stone mixed in with brickwork.

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We parked up in a car park near the Guardia Civil building which allows overnight parking for motorhomes (GPS n.40,33171 w1.09255) and went for a nice walk around the walled town.  Teruel is still fairly high at 900m, so despite being 24 degrees during the day it cooled down overnight making it rather fresh for our morning exercises!

As we left Teruel in the morning we were consumed by the fog where the temperature dropped below 10 degrees for at least ten minutes before we emerged on the other side to blue skies, Valencia’s smog and a rapidly rising temperature gauge.

We had decided to stop for a couple of nights in a little place called La Alqueria de la Comtessa which is right in the heart of the Valencian Orange Groves (GPS n38,93878 w0.15277 10 euros 1-3 nights, 8 euros after, or 6 euros 30+ nights).  Although we had heard a lot about the aire from Michel and Teresa we hadn’t been here and thought it would be a good place to catch up with them …. needless to say they left on Tuesday morning and we arrived Tuesday afternoon – we might start to take the hint!

The Aire is just off the main road in a little village roughly 3km from the sea but there is a cycle route that runs to Oliva – 3kms to the right and Gandia – 4kms to the left so we decided to stay a few nights to explore the area a bit more.

As we knew that it was going to rain on Wednesday we decided not to venture too far … unfortunately we got to the seafront and got distracted, stopping for a drink, then to pick up some bits and without us realising it the clouds had us circled… in fact I think we can only say that we were well and truly consumed – the heavens opened…. unfortunately not only had we left some of the windows open, we had also left all our towels and sports gear out, thankfully it was due for a wash!  Everything was a little soggy – including us!

We woke to clear skies on Thursday so got a wash in early…. not wishing to take any of the wet towels back into the motorhome until they were clean and dry!  The forecast again showed that we were possibly due for more rain so although we headed to Oliva – a pretty little town with a nice historic area up on the hill – to explore, we made sure we were back by 3pm, enough time to collect the clothes in before the skies opened again at 5pm.

With rain out the way, we put another wash on and with confidence headed off on the bikes to Denia which is roughly 28km along the coast towards Alicante. The route was mainly through Orange Groves and really quiet except for the last 10km or so which was Restaurant after Bar, after restaurant ….. highlighting the Northern European influence on the area.

Denia is a good sized town which appears to have got its mix right, a big castle, a lovely market on a Friday, lots of restaurants and bars (both local and to suit tourist needs) and a bit of culture …. it is also helped by the fact that it is actually on the seafront where Oliva and Gandia’s main town center’s are 3km from the sea….well worth the visit despite being a little achey by the time we got back …. I had been for a run as well in the morning!

This morning and we both set off for a run with the sun shining down on us before a walk back along the cycle path to Gandia to explore further.  Not knowing anything about the town we were pleasantly surprised by the size of it and its ‘normality’.  It didn’t feel touristy at all and had a really good selection of local shops, restaurants and history.

So, although not many photos to show, we have managed to fully explore the area, taking in many an Orange and Satsuma tree along the way.  Tomorrow we move slightly further south but would definately stop here en-route again, even if it wasn’t just to avoid Michel and Teresa and to take cover from the rain … which incidentally was far worse further North.

Since crossing over into Spain we had switched back to speaking Spanish together which has been difficult to say the least – so Keith is currently speaking some kind of ‘Esperanto’! We have also bumped into several French people who we met a couple of years ago so it has been difficult to just focus on Spanish…. good practice at switching if nothing else!

Just in case you haven’t noticed, I have added a link for some recipes at the top of the page – this week we have had both Lentil Chilli and Mixed Bean Curry and have managed to demolish about half of the Sienna Cake so far, but there are a few more of our favourites up there as well – Enjoy!

Heading South … 15/10

Leaving Bagnoles De L’Orne fully loaded with apples we headed south to the Loire to a little place called Avoine where we stopped on a tranquil Aire by the side of a lake (4 euros for 24 hours, plus 2 euros for each electric and water. GPS n.47,21292 e.0,17702). After a walk round the town and an impromptu investment in a bit of local wine we settled back at the motorhome to finish the last phase of our apple production line….. Spiced Apple Muffins which we hadn’t made before but were delicious – thank you Delia) Not too sweet and enough apple chunks for the texture and flavour to come through. The silicon muffin tray was a good investment last year …. we will definitely be doing those again as they appear to have evaporated!

Talking of which – recipes, not evaporation – as everyone knows we are doing our best to eat our way round Europe, I have decided to add a new ‘Recipe’ page to our Blog as several people have asked for recipes. I plan to add some of our frequently used recipes over the next few days and then going forwards, each time we make something that I haven’t added the recipe for I will update it and add the link to the blog … nothing fancy I am afraid but quick and easy and hopefully full of flavour!

After a tranquil night in Avoine we headed off walking through the vineyards into Chinon a pretty town which is on river Vienne, just 10km from where it joins the Loire.

Chinon is apparently known as the ‘Garden of France’ not only for its food but also for its red ‘Cabernet Franc’ wine. It is a historic town dating back to prehistoric times. The castle, which is quite imposing, has a lot of history itself. It was home to Henry II who was crowned King of England in 1154, but was later lost in 1205 to King Philip II Augustus of France, later serving as a prison….. it certainly holds quite an impression on Chinon itself.

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After our trip to Chinon and as the weather was looking nice (that means dry in our language) we decided to stay another night in Avoine and take the bikes along the Loire. We did a nice 2hr30min route of about 50km, cycling to a pretty little town called Langeais and back. Contrary to the forecast, the weather was a bit ‘moody’ although it still enabled us to remember why we like the Loire so much … there is something about a wide shallow river with all the contours, shapes and colours.

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We woke to rain which wasn’t part of the plan but as we had both been kept awake by a noisy mosquito we dozed a while longer than planned and as if by magic, 45 minutes later the rain had stopped…. perfect and just enough time for a quick round of hiit, shower and breakfast before hitting the road to Cognac where we had found a nice little Aire 5km North in a little town called Cherves-Richemont (GPS n.45,74032 e.0,35594) After parking up we had a nice little walk to admire the views over the valley before settling down for the night.

How is it that with seven high level cupboards in the motorhome we have only ever had one hinge go … twice? I wouldn’t say that we use that cupboard much more than all the others and before you ask, yes – it was replaced with a new one from the manufacturer last time ….. just odd, but yes we are grateful that only one has ever gone in nearly four years – we shouldn’t really complain!

The following morning, with no sunrise to mention, I had a rather fresh run through the misty vineyards. Thankfully there were some good rolling hills which helped get a bit of a sweat up as I needed a bowl of porridge to help me warm up by the time I got back … who said that it was going to be 25 degrees this week????

Warmed up but still no sign of the sun, we set off on a lovely walk through the vineyards into Cognac which I hate to say it, was a little disappointing. It has a lovely park in the centre with the ‘Hotel de Ville’ and a beautiful walk along the river, but as neither of us are fans of Cognac and the old town was a bit average there isn’t a huge pull for us to come back.

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With nothing else to do on a hot afternoon (or perhaps just because we had run out of snacks),  I set about making some Chocolate Sienna cake, a recipe that my mum dug out while we were home over the summer. It is a bit of a weird one and you need to like nuts and dried fruit but we think it is really tasty, not too sweet but with a nice chocolate hint …. its like a protein bar I guess although it wouldn’t have ever been made as one originally. It was the first attempt in the motorhome and despite looking slightly darker round the edges than I had hoped, it tastes the good, although Keith has cut fairly good sized portions so it won’t last long!

In the morning we both set off on our Saturday morning run’s in different directions; Keith got the ‘Morning Mist’ and I got ‘Burning Cognac’ as the sky behind Cognac looked like it was on fire, absolutely stunning sunrise….. I still love my morning runs!

After a bit of deliberating we decided that we would head over the boarder this weekend. Initially it was due to the rain but the forecast appears to have changed for the better and we have decided to continue with the plan anyway. We wanted to cross through the Western Pyrenees this time – hence wanting the weather to be clear if at all possible – so our last stop in France was Camping Vieux Plantain in Dax (10 euros plus 2 euros electricity GPS n.43,70161 w.1,01443). A lovely quiet campsite 3km outside Dax with excellent facilities. The only downside was that we had additional guests who decided to join us for our Bar B Q – whoop whoop …. so, nice to be able to cook outdoors – the uninvited guests however were tiger mosquitos …. the little buggers. The Bar B Q was tasty and apparently so was I….. 😦

Thankfully we either managed to kill any remaining mosquitos before we went to bed or they were so fat on my blood that they didn’t stir during the night as there wasn’t any buzzing…. nor any additional bites.

Despite a mildew on the ground it was far warmer this morning so we took the call to start the day in shorts ….. the right choice! As we headed towards the Pyrenees the temperature rose and even as we climbed up it didn’t really fall below about 20. A beautiful and easy journey enabling us to stop briefly just before we entered the Sompard Tunnel leaving France to admire the view.

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Once through the tunnel and into Spain we headed to Jaca where we had stayed previously. Unfortunately as it is a warm weekend it appears that many a Spaniard had had the same idea and the Aire was full. Although we know many Spanish leave after lunch on a Sunday …. that could mean waiting for four or five hours (Spanish Sunday lunch can go on into early evening!) and rather than risk it, we stopped, ate our lunch and moved on to Sabinanigo 24kms further along the road.

Upon arriving at Sabinanigo we found that the Aire which is alongside the police station is closed for Firework preparation – just not our day today, so we moved onto Huesca which was another 60km away with continued beautiful montaineaous scenary.

Despite thinking that we haven’t been here before we worked out en route that we had, roughly 18 months ago but they have added a service area since we were here last time and unsurprisingly there were quite a few motorhomes here. (GPS n.42,1353 e.0,420295)

Last time we were here I went for a lovely run out into the countryside which was a designated walking/cycle route …. quite unusual for Spain so we set off to explore a bit more and walk the 10km circular route to stretch the legs a bit on Spanish soil.

On the road again….. 8/10/17

After just over fourteen months back in the UK, six months living in a flat in Slough and eight months on and off in Mika in a field in Holyport with our friendly cows, we are off again.

We had an incredibly mild winter which made those morning runs and exercise routines not so bad and don’t tell them, but there is a lot to be said for being close to family and it isn’t just about having the washing done without having to go look for a launderette!

As I am sure that you will have gathered from the lack of blog over the last couple of months, my father unfortunately passed away in mid-August. He was a fighter and did his best to make the most of everything right up until the end. He hated the thought that he was holding us back from our travels, mainly because he was jealous and would have liked to be doing it himself but probably also because he loved the stories when we came back from our short trips away over the summer.

So, having celebrated his life and said our goodbyes to him we set off again on Tuesday taking Mika on the Eurotunnel for the first time.

It’s amazing how each year you focus your approach when leaving the UK … this year we have stocked up with two 500g jars of Marmite, two pots of 1kg Peanut butter (we got rid of the electric hand held mixer so we can’t make our own now!) and lots of lovely Waitrose bread flour … yep, I know that is going to run out soon but we may as well enjoy it for a bit!!!

The plan – as we always start with one – has already changed and we are less than a week in – so there is no hope. Keith has decided he would like to go to Cognac (why not?) but apart from that it will be a little bit of a ‘suck it and see’ trip, although we need to be in Alicante at the beginning of November which if nothing else gives us a target to work to.

As before, we will be logging the trip on Travelerspoint so if you like to visualise the route – and don’t get too dizzy when we end up going round and round in circles -please keep an eye on the Map

Having left Holyport with plenty of time for a train we ended up parked up at the Eurotunnel for nearly three hours due to an ‘incident’ in the tunnel and over ‘keen-ness’. Ninety minutes after our departure time (that serves us right for getting there 90 minutes early) Mika slowly got onto the train and thirty five minutes later we were in France working our way towards St Valery sur Somme (GPS n.50,18211 e.1,62896) to spend our first night.

St Valery sur Somme is a lovely town with an excellent aire and lots of walking/cycling close by, however as we have stayed here a couple of times before we only stopped for the night. We woke to a dark chilly morning and I set off for a run around the bay and along the canal whilst Keith did some Hiit training being watched closely by some of the neighbours… we forget how amusing this can be!

Still unsure whether we needed to go back to Bagnoles De L’Orne (to see the Notaire relating to my father) we thought we would do a short hop along the coast to Fecamp (GPS n.49,76108 e.0,37398) as we hadn’t ever been there before.

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Apart from the impressive cliffs, Fecamp is quite an industrial seaside town known only for Benedictine which was developed by the Monks as a medicinal aromatic herbal beverage, it was discovered by a local businessman who sold it into pharmacies for medicinal benefit, eventually mass producing it in probably the only beautiful building that remains in Fecamp before it was bought out by Martini Rossi and later by Bacardi!

After a good nights sleep we woke to really high winds and grey clouds closing in on us. Both closely watched by our neighbours we did our morning workout despite the winds – it was quite nice to be on nice flat concrete rather than a muddy field…. a pleasant change!

As the wind brought the rain we set off on another short hop to Honfleur, looking for somewhere ‘pretty’ to stay for a night or two. As the weather wasn’t great we decided to stop and do our shopping at Le Clerk on route …. still haven’t quite got over the excitement of the first couple of shops in a foreign country! (despite the fact that we were actually only in France two weeks ago). I am sure it isn’t just us that get carried away buying more than we need….. all those lovely cheeses!!

We hadn’t ever stayed at the aire in Honfleur before as when we were here three and a half years ago we were very new to the motorhome and booked into the flooded campsite….yes, in June it was mostly under water. This time the campsite was closed – it really can’t want to make any money, but we probably would have gone straight to the aire anyway. The Aire (GPS n.49,41924 e.0,24154) is enormous, not underwater, central, amazingly quiet, has good services and has enough space for 200+ motorhomes – it must be a great money earner for the town.

As it was still raining Keith made some Chilli and Squash muffins and we sorted out some admin, putting a little bit of thought into the next few days travels. Miraculously, although I hadn’t believed the BBC website, ahead of the said time of 5pm the rain stopped, clouds cleared and the sun shone down on us so we headed out for a walk around town and then back to the motorhome to enjoy the sun going down with a nice Gin and Tonic (me) Whiskey (Keith) ….. very pleasant!

After a quiet night we woke to the sun shining but a cool chill in the air, bounced out of bed (errr…not!) and I set off on a run whilst Keith kept the neighbours amused …. apparently one of the Spanish motorhomes has converted the area at the back which could either be a garage or bunk beds into a home for a Great Dane ….. how cool is that? Although I am not sure that I could cope with that much slobber in a confined space – I am talking about the Great Dane, not Keith!

As the weather was looking dry, after a shower and breakfast we decided to stay a couple of nights and walk up into the forest towards Deauville. Thankfully the route was lined with trees along the quiet lane and then we ended up in a fairly dense forest which was beautifully autumnal, all the way the trees protected us from the views out over Le Havre (You have to have been here to appreciate what I am saying the bay isn’t particularly scenic) – a really lovely walk.

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Back at the motorhome we set about making muesli, rolls and tortillas for our Fajitas … quite a productive evening!

Saturday morning as the sun came up the air was even fresher than yesterday. Keith is now insisting on running with me once a month and Saturday was the day … yep, I know that I am sounding negative and ungrateful, but I am pretty happy running on my own!! Anyway, we ran up the hill and into the lovely tree lined lane we walked down at the beginning of the route yesterday…. a hard climb but tranquil and refreshing…. it is nice having him there to encourage me along!

Before leaving Honfleur we went to check out their Saturday market which this weekend had an additional ‘Flavour’ theme, with stalls selling everything from Goats cheese through to Calvados flavoured sea salt …. needless to say despite the wonderful array of seafood and alike, having been shopping yesterday we only bought some Semi-fresh Goats cheese before heading on our way to Bagnoles De L’Orne…. we will plan better next time.

Without the need to see the Notaire we are only here for a couple of nights, parked up by the tennis club (GPS n.48,55559 w.0,40950) which is lovely and quiet if you ignore the occasional Acorn that falls from a great height…. hopefully not doing any damage as they hit with some force.

The last day and a half has flown by and has been lovely having spent last night eating a lovely French tapas type meal in front of the fire at Tom and Monique’s and then walking out to Geneslay today to taste some of the delights that the Auberge de la Corbonniere cooked up – we definitely needed a bit of a walk on the way back to help the food go down!

To finish off a lovely couple of days Tom and Monique popped back round later this afternoon while we were peeling our cooked horse chestnuts – what a faff – with a box of apples and despite my initial hesitation I think that we have just about done them justice ….. I forgot to take a photo at the beginning so this was how much was left after we cooked up the first wok full….

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Finally having cooked up more apples than we have places to put them (and holding three back to make some apple and cinnamon muffins tomorrow) we finally donated the last eight (generous or what….) to the neighbours who were very grateful once I stopped speaking French and realised they were English!!