Hattie goes glamping…28/7/18

We have been putting Hattie’s new air suspension and hydrolics to the test over the last couple of weeks and taking in some more of the beautiful Yorkshire countryside staying on some fantastically uneven grass sites just to make sure that everything works as it should !

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I’d like to say that we have been lucky with the weather but we are starting to feel a little sorry for the farmers as they are unfortunately already starting on their winter feed for the dairy cows as the grass is so dry.

Saying that, our last day in Ripley was wet.  We had already decided to do the walk over to Masham, a lovely village and home to both the Black Sheep and Theakstones breweries so we just got wet but were rewarded by The Black sheep brewery bar and restaurant – which has been done out really well, something for everyone …. wine, gin, beer and even coffee and the food looked pretty good too!  Theakstones was a bit more rustic, but there was still opportunity to buy a beer or two and while we did so the sun came out again to help dry us out!

Waking to another corker of a morning we both set off on hilly runs in opposite directions, heading off after breakfast an hour back south to Otley where we had booked in at the Plantation CL (£9 a night no elec).  The entrance was lined with low hanging and narrow fitting trees so poor ‘ol Hattie took a little bit of a scraping …. before the owners told us we could have come in the next entrance up which was much more Hattie friendly …. needless to say we went out the other way!

We parked up in our little field and sorted ourselves out before heading off into Otley for a little look around and to find a pub to watch the World Cup 3rd/4th playoff.  Not having been to the area before we hadn’t quite appreciated that the 1.5miles that we were outside Otley were almost vertically downwards …. or should I say upwards when walking home… I think that we had sweated off all the alcohol consumed by the time we got back to motorhome so we can call it a ‘cleansing’ location!

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Otley itself sits on a river and is beautiful.  It is a market town but just has that lovely feel to it of normality but a little bit quirky.  We had decided to visit it because it had a food festival on on the Sunday – to be fair it was probably a bit more like a large farmers market but we were not disappointed, the Yorkshire folk know how to do good food, whether Pork Pies, Scotch Eggs, Sausages or Sweet Potato fudge… it was all exceptional…. and that is without mentioning the Cider, Gin, Vodka and other bits!

We left Otley contentedly happy to return and explore the area more, moving all of 25 minutes down the road to Ilkley where we were staying at another little CL (Hall Croft, £15 per night) just a mile outside the town. The weather had temporarily turned and we were met with a good downpour of rain to help bring the evening in and freshen up the air.

Although we have benefitted from many a bar b q over the last few weeks it was actually quite nice to ‘pretend’ it was cooler and enjoy a lovely Cassoulet and a Fish Pie …. obviously not together!

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The area surrounding Ilkley is stunning, as Ilkley itself sits in a valley so although we opted for a quick trip into Leeds on the train on Tuesday, we quickly returned to our natural habitat of walking, doing a wonderful circular walk on Wednesday out to Addingham then up onto the Ridge before walking back to the Cow and Calf rocks and down into Ilkley before coming home.. totting up 20km, then on Thursday we ventured along the river which was part of the Dales Way … another 21km… all lovely although the search for the Ilkley brewery left us a little disappointed as there wasn’t any shop or bar to check out or buy the produce.

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To finish our little tour in Yorkshire we had booked ourselves a spot at the North Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival which is held at a farm about 2.5 miles outside Skipton…. Hatties’ first Festival … as far as we know anyway!!

We sat in the queue to get into the field, looking jealously over to our right as a double decker bus happily entered the main exhibitors field whilst we were tousled by the trees dangling down, slowly scraping along the roof.  We made it through to our field without damage where we parked up, dropped anchor – better known as the hydraulics – and watched as the everyone else around us set up caravans/tents as the rain started to fall…. it was only light showers but still good entertainment!

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Friday night was a quiet affair as most stalls were still setting up but we ventured out for a wander around, a couple of drinks and to listen to some music…. all very calm.

On Saturday whilst being watched over by surrounding neighbours we both did our morning exercise routine before heading into Skipton for a walk around.  Skipton is a pretty little market town with lots of interesting shops and cafes, being a Saturday we had a walk through the market and stopped for a coffee before heading back to the festival for lunch.

The festival was in full swing by the time we got back and it was difficult to choose what to eat for lunch but after a couple of trips round all the food stalls we settled on BBQ Ribs … Keith had a rack of Pork ribs and I had Short Beef ribs,  both with chips and coleslaw… proper finger lickin’ food.

We had sat by one of the demonstrations to eat our lunch and just as we had finished the chef came round with a nice bit of Venison and Ciabatta – perfectly pink which led us nicely into the rest of the afternoon which was spent enjoying the tasters from the different stalls – Gin, Cheese, Cake, biscuits…. and much more, not bad At all!

James, Gail, Amy and Jack came to visit us on the way back from their holiday up in Northumberland so we got to do a second taster on the Sunday enjoying quality scotch eggs, and a pulled jackfruit burger amongst other things!

Unsurprisingly a large number of the campers left by Sunday evening which meant that getting out on Monday morning wasn’t too bad.  This time though we remembered that we could actually use our Air Suspension to lower the vehicle by a few inches and do a bit more of a limbo under the trees…. still not perfect but much less of a scrape than on the way in.

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The journey back to Holyport was long and hot but problem free.  We hadn’t quite appreciated how much cooler it had been up North in comparison to the South but by lunchtime we had hit 30 degrees and were glad to get out of the motorhome by the time we arrived.

It’s nice to be back in our field although it is very yellow, the cows seem happy and my run is much less hilly so my legs are too!  Along with the normal chores and Hattie’s mechanical service, we took the mum’s out for lunch to Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers this week and it surpassed expectations – proper posh pub grub in a lovely environment!

 

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Pumped and Charged…. 12/7/18

We woke early, packed our bags and watched Hattie get lifted up onto the ramps for her cosmetic surgery to begin.

After a quick demo of the E&P Hydrolics and VB Air Suspension that she was about to have added, we headed into York on the train to our little Airbnb between the Shambles and the shortest road in York which is called Whip ma Whop ma Gate (or as it used to be Witnourwhatnourgate).  I hadn’t realised it when I booked but apparently the Shambles (better known as Diagon Alley) is where part of Harry Potter was filmed – where they go to buy their wands and wizardery bits.  Our Airbnb was a house above one of the shops which we were sharing with Sean (the owner) and his dog, rather strangely Sean’s surname was Potter ….

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It has been about 6 years since Keith was in York which was for work – I however, haven’t been here since I came with my parents 35+ years ago. Both of us were keen to come back, I have distant memories of the railway museum and the smells from the Viking tour!  Needless to say we didn’t re-visit either but may be back again as we had a great time.

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We couldn’t have asked for better weather or food – either we completely lucked out on our random choices or Yorkshire really is food central as everything from the bread to the curry was delicious.  We walked the city over the three days we were there, around the wall, along the river Ouze (in both directions) and through all the interesting streets.  I also managed to go for a run each day along the river … impressed by the quantity of people who cycle to work, although I appreciate that the weather helps.

We obviously did our best to try out the local taverns as well and ate out in three completely different places … all were fantastic.  The Rose and Crown, where we watched the footie on Tuesday night served up whale sized fish and chips and a fantastic Japanese Curry along with good beer, wine and a win for England. The Coconut Lagoon, which is an amazingly place just outside the city wall serving Southern Indian Cuisine where we had a mixed starters to share, Keith had a Thali to follow – which was almost enough to feed a small family – and I ordered a Prawn Curry which was spicy but creamy and delicious…. this would definitely be a local curry house if we lived in York.

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On the third and last night we found a lovely little place called Bistro No. 8 where the food was local and equally delicious….fish cakes, Beetroot and goats cheese salad, Slow Braised beef, Pork Belly and to finish, the most deliciously rich – but not too sweet – Chocolate terrine…  properly spoilt!

On Friday, after a last walk through York we headed back to see whether Hattie was ready for us, alas not and the TV wasn’t working either so Keith’s plan to watch the 3pm game on the big TV whilst waiting went out the door …. so too did most of the 7pm game as Hattie had a problem with the auto reset which is supposed to kick in when she gets up to 26 mph, thankfully Keith caught the key bits of the games on his mobile.

The team at SAP were amazing and carried on working until 8pm but called it a day and decided to come back at 7:30am Saturday morning with fresh eyes …. a task reasonably quickly resolved after a nights sleep!

It was late by the time we got back into Hattie on Friday night and thankfully we had planned a fairly simple dinner as we also ended up sharing it with someone else who also hadn’t planned on staying the night ….. a new recipe from The Minimalist Baker, Mushroom and Lentil Stew served on Mashed Sweet Potato – really flavorsome, although I think next time I am going to add some squash to bulk it out a little as well.

After a good play with the new suspension and hydrolics we finally got on the road from the SAP workshop just after lunch …. pushing it a little to get to our CL for the England game.  The drive was smooth and solid demonstrating the new Air Suspension was worthwhile and although the ground we originally parked on was slightly too uneven for the automated hydrolics, we moved slightly and set it to manual and had a play … very sturdy!   All in, only missing the first five minutes of the game.

The CL was Holly Tree Cottage in Upper Denby (£14 per night inc) which is owned by a lovely couple who keep the site in top order and are really helpful.  The field was beautifully tranquil, stunning views with a couple of overly friendly chickens and a mixture of varieties of sheep …. including two who were hand reared in their kitchen so behaved a little more like dogs than sheep!  Unfortunately we only stayed two nights due to my bad planning but we did manage to get in a lovely circular walk on the Sunday.  We will be back to take in more of the area as the rolling hills just go on and on.

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After both completing a morning run on Monday we headed North from Upper Denby to a pretty little village just outside Ripon where we are staying at Ivy Bank House (£12 per night).  Until recently it was a CL but between the time we booked it and when we arrived, it has changed to be a Caravan Club site.  Its a very nice field though, has a bit of a slope which is good for the ongoing testing of the hyrdolics, has sheep which is a bit of a theme now and is incredibly peaceful but the surrounding area is very hilly….. which is a bit of an issue for my poor legs and running!

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The campsite is just on the edge of Kirkby Malzeard,  6 miles from Ripon so we have been out on the bikes today and Tuesday …. first time in ages so that’ll be it for a few days now! We have also headed cross country on a few walking routes taking on the stinging nettles as they are particularly on form at the moment and tomorrow we are planning to walk to Masham …. the home of both the Theakstons and Black Sheep Brewery – might just be a taxi back then!

Just as a reminder I have started a new map as well for 2018/19 so you can follows us – have a look here if you want to see more

All charged up and on the move… 2/7/18

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Who needs to be in Southern Europe to get the sunshine…. its scorching over here – couldn’t ask for more, although a bit disappointed that they are already talking about a hosepipe ban after the winter the UK has had …. but what can we do?

After leaving the farm we spent a night at Rookesbury Park Campsite (£22.50) which is just north of Portsmouth before taking Hattie down to Southdowns Motorhomes early Monday morning where she was booked in for a bit of TLC…. it was always going to be an expensive visit.

Hattie stayed at Southdowns all week as there was a fair amount of work to do….. a couple of extra sockets, a fitted bike rack in the garage, new oven hinges, connecting to the France freesat box and enough Solar panels to be seen from space.

Its great, although I appreciate that we are having a particularly good June but Hattie has been fully charged by breakfast…… even with a lot of football watching!  The only issue we have found is that whilst putting the television back together we think that they didn’t quite connect one of the cables properly so currently the UK TV stations only show martians….. a bit of an issue with Red I think!  They’ll get it sorted but we need to head back for them to do it so our green faced friends will be around for the rest of the World Cup at least!

Back in Hattie and at the farm we have new calves in the field …. well, when I say new they are probably about 6 months old but very cute and inquisitive!

We have been enjoying the sunshine and even had Jonah, Karen and the kids out for a picnic…. not often that you see them outside the M25!!

As the weather has been so good we have been making the best use of the BBQ… I think we managed 6 over 8 days …. not bad… nice spicy Chicken, burgers and Lamb chops at my brothers on Sunday, Prawns and Chorizo on Monday, Smoky Beetroot Burgers on Tuesday,  Steak and Chicken on Wednesday, Chicken and Halloumi at Jools and Clares on Friday and Sausages and Chicken with Mike, Jo and Ella at ours on Sunday …..a good mix… although it makes us out to be meat lovers, most were accompanied with a good varied selection of salads!

So a few recipes that I haven’t published before….. Mackeral Pate, Mixed Bean Salad, Lentil and Goats Cheese Salad, Smokey Black Bean Beet Burgers – really moist and nutty, Chocolate Beetroot Cake and Nutella Ice Cream……so easy and so very yummm!

I did also try my hand at a bit of Strawberry Ice Cream yesterday but I think it needs another try as it wasn’t quite strawberry enough …. so watch this space!

This is now going to sound really sad…..we have a new addition to the motorhome – don’t laugh – its a twin tub washing machine ….. and its great!!! We had been talking about it for a while and now we have an inverter (and now a socket in the garage) we thought why not.  We have only used it a couple of times for clothes (not bedsheets) so far but it has a great little spin, although you do have to hold it down for the first ten seconds so it doesn’t work its way around the garage and you can wash and spin in under 15 minutes.  Yep, sad… I am sure the novelty will wear off soon!

Leaving the farm again on Thursday we headed down to Bath to catch up with friends and take in some of the beautiful rolling hills that surround it. Although we used to stay at the CL when we could, the entrance is a little too complicated for Hattie – lots of low hanging trees and a very steep slope – so we headed back to the Bath Marina Campsite which although a bit bigger than we would normally opt for, suits the purpose and worked perfectly for entertaining and also getting to friends to be entertained!  We had also forgotten that it is just around the corner from the Electric Bear Micro-Brewery so Keith decided to buy a few to sample whilst we were in the vicinity…

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Waking to what can only be the warmest day yet this morning, I went for a run along the old railway path whilst Keith got some HIIT training in before we set off up the M5 to a little place just North of Doncaster where Hattie is having her next round of work …. air suspension and hydraulic levelling jacks.  We are staying overnight in the van tonight and then leaving her for a few nights to have the work done whilst we head into an Airbnb in York.

 

No looking back …. 16th June 2018

So, we are now six weeks into our new life with Hattie and all is good ….. well mostly anyway !

It would be incredibly dull if everything had gone smoothly so just to help mix things up we managed to break the oven door… how, I don’t know but I think that there was a very key point when it was coming in between Keith and his dinner ….. and I am afraid Keith won.  Needless to say that was four weeks ago and we haven’t been able to use the oven since which is a massive shame as we were really getting used to it being so much better than the last one.  Since then we also managed to break out little manual hand mixer (better known as the Hummus machine!) through too much pulling …. but Lakeland replaced it for free as it had a 3 yr guarantee… quite impressive!

After our last blog we ventured up to Thirsk in North Yorkshire to get our gas bottles switched for an Alugas system, enabling us to fill up with LPG at petrol stations…less stress and cheaper than standard bottles if you are in it for the long run.  Autogas 2000 did a great job, with a smile whilst introducing us to a great little pub round the corner where the burgers are towers and the fish are whales….. we will be back if we are passing by!

On the way back south we couldn’t help but stop off at Melbourne again which is beginning to feel like a second home now, not only is it a beautiful location but the butchers is great and we were running low on Black Bomber Cheddar!!

We were heading south again as Keith’s sister and brother in law were very kindly hosting a bar-b-q / FA Cup Final afternoon which coincided with a big event in Windsor…. not quite sure what that could have been, but it meant that we couldn’t stay at the farm and had to find alternative accommodation.  It was great though, as we were introduced to the Hurley Riverside campsite which is half way between Marlow and Henley costing £15 per night for a grass pitch with electricity.  The site itself was a lot larger than we are used to with quite a few static homes but the location was stunning, right on the Thames with a path taking you into Marlow in one direction and Henley, the other…. lots of lovely walking and running routes!  Needless to say the weather was fantastic, the BBQ was lovely, the football went the way Keith wanted it to and what we saw of the wedding wasn’t too bad either….. just a shame that the oven didn’t see the weekend out …. at least the Stuffed Chicken with Wedges went down well when we finally extracted them!

We have now moved back to the farm and have been sitting comfortably, sorting out different bits of work for Hattie which has given us time to catch up with quite a few friends – trying out a good selection of Gin in a new bar in Maidenhead … including a rather nice Earl Grey one (I can’t stand Earl Grey Tea …. so was pleasantly surprised) as well as a Rhubarb one that wasn’t to be knocked either!  We have also been cooking lots to get used to how everything works…. (obviously not in the oven) so I have added a few of the favorite recipes as follows:- Chocolate Mousse Cake, Apricot Crumble, BBQ Baked Beans, Belgian Fridge Cake and Baked Bean Mince.  We have also been cooked for alot over the last few weeks …. Pizzas (yep left over Birthday Pizza… N+R – I am not going to let you forget it (only joking, it was delicious!!), BBQ’s, Curries, and Full on Roasts….  sorry Carly, I think it’s time for you to cook us some Yorkshire puddings as I have eaten what can only be described as the best puds I have ever tasted this week (thank you J!) ……. not to forget a particularly random (and lovely) Vodka (Gold Wasser) and Asparagus tasting session last Sunday afternoon …..its been a busy couple of weeks!

Getting back to Hattie, we have now had a play with her music system and its great – she is a proper party bus!!  Sub woofers and surround sound, better than most home systems, we just have to be careful not to park to close to our neighbours now!!

Just to make sure it works properly, Keith has also put the TV and satellite dish up a couple of times …. unsurprisingly to watch football – the dish seems bigger than the last one, a proper lightning attraction!

Now we are preparing for the first set of the awaited works…. solar panels, hopefully fixing the oven and a few other bits.  So, tomorrow we set off down towards Portsmouth so we can get her into the workshop bright and early on Monday morning – bring on independent living again!

Bye bye Mika…. Hello Hattie – 15th May 2018

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It’s been a busy couple of weeks since we left St Valery sur Somme.  We caught the Eurotunnel and arrived back to a windy and rainy England with a brief stop overnight in Windsor before heading up to Derbyshire to a large village called Melbourne which is just near Donnington Park racecourse.
We booked the CL (Dovesite, £11 per night GPS n. 52.816825 w. 1.451407) on its proximity to the storage place where we were due to go and look at Hattie on the Monday morning… but what chance, as despite the heavy rain and it blowing a gale it is a stunning location and a great little site.  The CL was a field at the top end of a small campsite and as the entrance to the CL field was a muddy slope I called the owner and asked if she would mind if we took one of the hard standing pitches on the campsite instead of churning up her beautiful field … to which she was of course happy to oblige!
After parking up we set off to stretch the legs and were quite surprised to find that Melbourne is quite a ‘well to do’ village with a few pubs, butchers, bakers, deli, a couple of restaurants and cafes and a Sainsbury’s local… pretty much everything you could want surrounded by hills, reservoirs and national trust property.  All topped off by the campsite being about a mile outside Melbourne itself, surrounded by walks … pretty much perfect for us!
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So, after a windy and sleepless night (due to apprehension regarding the new motorhome) we got up, I went for a morning run up into Calke abbey (I got a little lost) and then we set off to the storage place to size up the possible new motorhome…… Hattie
As much as we both love Mika and have enjoyed the last four and a half years with her, we both agreed that Hattie has the right configuration for us for our next chapter and hopefully the next five years or more therefore it was time to cut loose and move on.  Apart from her tyres needing to be replaced she is in excellent condition for her seven years, so after a full check over by a very friendly independent motorhome chap and a little bit of negotiation we shook hands and did the deal.
It took another few days to move into Hattie as she needed new shoes before we moved her however, with Seven new shoes fitted (one was a spare), we spent Friday moving everything from Mika into Hattie, arriving back to the campsite shattered and glad that we were on hard standing and not the field!  Hattie, as you can see from the photos is slightly larger than Mika, weighing in at 5.4 tonnes and 8.13m in length….just under 2 tonnes heavier and 1.2m longer than Mika but she is a beauty.
We were lucky enough to meet some great people at the storage place (of whom two of incidentally are living at the campsite where we are staying) and therefore we arranged for Mika to have a full valet to prep her for being sold and also for the outside of Hattie to be washed and waxed next time we were up to help provide a good layer of protection going forwards.
With the swapover done, we were blessed with amazing weather over bank holiday weekend, so while we cleaned and sorted things out we did also manage to enjoy a few gin and tonics outside as well as get some walks in. We also caught up with both my brother and family who were on there way up to Manchester on Saturday, as well as James and Jack who came over to visit us for lunch on Monday.  The only downside that we found in the first couple of days is that the BBQ point for the gas has a different connector so we weren’t able to cook outside …..we did however manage to get some Bacon, Egg and Black Pudding butties in for lunch on Sunday…. lovely local produce!
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Thinking that we were going to switch motorhomes, we had run the freezer down on the journey back from Spain.  Therefore we have taken advantage of trying everything out in Hattie cooking up a storm over the last week or so – Chicken Cassoulet, Chilli Con Carne, Quiche …. a little burnt at the top of the pastry (my fault for talking on the phone too long), rolls, Fajitas (home made of course), Mushroom and Spinach Risotto, Kedgeree, Lasagne, Apricot Crumble, Lentil Chilli… the list goes on!  Needless to say we can confirm that everything works really well.
The oven is hotter than the previous one so we just need to be careful with the temperature …. but it cooks well. The oven is also slightly narrower than the last one so cooking 8 rolls at a time was a little cosy the first time round and they came out like one large loaf.  We have now found a new tray with holes in the bottom removing the need to turn them over for the last three minutes which appears to do an excellent bake!
We have both driven Hattie a couple of times and although she is very different to drive than Mika (Automatic vs Manual), she does drive well. We just need to get used to leaving a little more time for braking and acceleration, going slower round corners and holding on tight when passing a large truck as she is that much taller as well so you do notice the wind quite a bit.
After a fantastic weekend we left Melbourne last Tuesday to go back to the farm in Windsor to catch up with family.  Keith met the new cows getting a good licking each time he went to clean out the waste but thankfully we didn’t sink into the field.
We took advantage of having the car and did a big shop and filled up some of our storage areas …. the wine potential is amazing!  Now all we need to do is find a weigh bridge as it would be good to know how much we weigh laden before we have any additional work done.
We spent five nights at the farm without any electricity which pushed us to the limits on the current batteries, if we had been watching TV or spending more time in the motorhome we possibly would have only lasted four which does restrict us currently. We don’t have solar panels at the moment so are currently a little less self sufficient than we would like but have booked Hattie in to get Solar panels added (along with some other bits) in the middle of June… so we have a little while to get used to her and play around – but so far, ten nights in and we are very happy.
Yesterday however, was a very sad day as we said good bye to Mika who we hope will go to a lovely new home and that the new owners will enjoy spending time in her as much as we have but it gives us a fresh start to begin the next chapter of our lives with Hattie.

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!!

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!