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!

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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!!