On the road again…. 27/4/18

Where has the time gone? Neither Keith and I can believe that we have been in and around San Juan Alicante for the best part of six months …. although to be fair with the winter that everyone else has had, we are pretty happy that we were!
It will come as no surprise to anyone that the last couple of weeks since we got back from the UK have been spent eating, drinking, enjoying the company of our friends and doing the occasional Yoga and Pilates class…. ok so nothing new!
We have been cracking out the bar b q as much as possible although it has still been fairly windy …. but that is all behind us now as we have battened down the hatches and spent the last five days getting some miles in before we change our minds again on our destination!
As some of you will know, our plan this year – like three other years – was to head to Eastern Europe and do some exploring, alas, it looks like most of Eastern Europe will have to wait for another year…. but we will get there!  The plan changed when we found that we needed to be in Northern France at the end of May/beginning of June giving us only 6 or 7 weeks from leaving Spain, it has however changed a few more times since then and we are currently sat in St Valery sur Somme (GPS n. 50,18211 e. 1,62896) looking out at the dark grey clouds, ready to jump on the train back to the UK tomorrow to go and see a possible new (to us) motorhome….. exciting!
So, it has been a bit of a whistle stop journey, stopping in Teruel (GPS n. 40,33171 w. 1,09255) on Monday night – only to find out that Monday was a regional holiday.  Some regions of Spain celebrate St Georges day by giving books to their loved one(s) …. a little bit like Valentine’s Day but more educational! Shopping was therefore put off until Tuesday morning but my mum will be pleased to know that we did buy a tub of Boquerones (baby herrings in vinaigrette) before we left Spain.
After a quick shop we headed further north and into the snow as we crossed the border to France via the Somport Tunnel again.  A smooth journey and we were pleasantly surprised at the temperature when we arrived at Oloron Saint Marie which is roughly 50km into France as it was 24+ degrees …. definitely Gin Tonic weather!
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Oloron Saint Marie (GPS n. 43,18403 w. 0,60878) is a pretty little town on a river with about 10,000 habitants.  It appears to have three different ‘centers’ two of which are on the crest of two different hills which keeps the locals fit.  After a quiet night we woke to the soft drumming of rain on the roof and knew that our sunshine had probably gone for a while so tackling it full on I went for a wet run into the beautiful countryside.  It sounds daft but it was lovely to see green rolling hills and cows …. as much as we complain about the rain it brings a very special kind of beauty.
Setting off on our next stint we were horrified to find that we had been staying in the home town of Lindt chocolate and didn’t know anything about it ….. all we could do was drool a little … and lick the windows … as we passed the factory and shop on the way out of town and plan to come back and visit it next time.
Another 350km on the road and we stopped at Roullet Saint Estephe (GPS n. 45,5809 e. 0,04458), I guess what can only be called a village in the middle of nowhere that had an Aire and strangely a reasonably size motorhome showroom.   A good stopover and very quiet until the local farmer starting shooting at the crows in the morning.  Initially I thought that it was one of the automated shots that are in the crop fields to scare aware the birds, until I saw the guy walking round in his wellies randomly shooting at the crows …. I guess that we should be thankful that he didn’t mind motorhomes that much!
That said we set off on the road again arriving at another pretty town called Chateaudun (GPS n. 48,07138 e. 1,32423) at around 4pm for our stop.  The Aire was just by the bridge on the river Loir … yep, that is Loir and not Loire, we were about 100km north of the Loire by this point.
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We set off for a walk around town, taking in the historic center, castle and the tranquility of the countryside as we walked back along the river – definitely somewhere to come back to for some walking.
Once we got back to the Aire we took up our favourite sport of watching idiots… they were right on cue and arrived in a very large (9.5m at least) motorhome with a motorbike on the back and tried to park up in one of the bays.  To be fair to the guy he parked the truck really well …. until he reversed a bit too far and hit the tree with his motorbike/very expensive motorhome.  He then spent 5 minutes trying to get satellite signal and then realising that he couldn’t get it where he was, moved further away from the cliff to try again.  With each move you could see him getting angrier as the movements were more abrupt but he parked again…. albeit at an angle and barely allowing our neighbour to get into their motorhome… to then accelerate out of the space again five minutes later frustrated, leaving the aire for who knows where …. but away from us.  Too much money and too tight to want to spend it on a place slightly more suitable for a motorhome of that size …. sorry, did I say that out loud??
Now relaxed in St Valery sur Somme, stocked up with a little french wine before we head back to the UK for a few weeks we are settled in next to a nice Concord… just sizing it up for now, ready for the next part of our adventure, whatever it brings!!
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Spring has Sprung…. Possibly – 2/4/18

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Well most would have been fooled that summer was here when I last updated the blog as we had had a spectacular week of sunshine. However, fairly soon after my mum arrived bringing with her a suitcase of wind and rain from the UK for us.  I joke but it did cloud over and rain, thankfully mostly overnight though so we still managed to make the most of it, despite it not being quite as sunny as we would have hoped!

As my mums visit coincided with ‘Las Fallas’ in Valencia – and she had hired a car – we decided to drive up the coast on the 15th March (which also happened to be Keith’s birthday) to take in some of the celebrations.

 

We rented a little Apartment for the night and having dropped off the bags were planning on heading towards the center of Valencia in search of a traditional Valencian Paella – a good bit of Peter rabbit – but didn’t really fancy tackling the crowds on an empty stomach.  My mum was saved from us contributing to the culling of the Easter bunnies as the receptionist suggested a little place to eat rice just around the corner (Restaurante Levante) for which we were all very grateful.  It was a little more pricey than normal but the tasting menu was exquisite – although my mum and I could have happily stopped after the four starters – the main course was an oven baked rice with black pudding, chicken and sausage and desserts finished us off…..

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We were ready to take on the crowds with a slight waddle…

For those of you who haven’t heard of Las Fallas before (and haven’t read my Valencia blog previously) it is one of the biggest festivals in Spain celebrating the end of Winter and the commencement of Spring. Assuming the information I found is correct, historically they used to burn the rustic ‘Parot’ (a wooden device used for lighting) outside the workshops, feeding the fire with strips of old wood and old junk collected from the neighbourhood. The Parot would then be brought to life by old rags, giving it human form. Over the years this has changed dramatically into each area of the city building large clothed mannequin models which until about a decade ago took the form of oversized humans.  More recently however, they have become controversial structures carrying a political or social message in cartoon character style – Ronaldo and Trump both were present this year amongst others…. all burnt at mid-night on the 19th March.

Valencia is a beautiful city and well worth a visit whether the Fallas are on or not but over the 24 hours we were there we managed to walk my mother off her feet, see a large number of the Fallas and also take in the atmosphere of the ‘Mascletta’ which is held in the main square at 2pm every day …. 5 minutes of fireworks where the noise bounces off of the buildings. Not one for the faint hearted, but a good experience worth putting up with the crowds for.

The rest of the week whilst my mum was here involved many a market, eating and lots of walking ….. she definately went back home for a rest!

Now that my mum is safely back home the sun has come out again and we have had a couple of days where it has reached 28 degrees.  Naturally as everyone has been on holiday for Easter over the last few days it has been a little cooler, windier and more cloudy but it hasn’t stopped people piling onto the beach.

We decided to avoid the crowds and stay local for Easter, cooking a couple of meals for friends in the motorhome and catching up on a bit of admin …..who would have thought, not an Easter bunny or chocolate egg in sight.  Perhaps I should have had a go at making hot cross buns though…. heh ho, maybe next Easter!