Fri 2nd Sept
Left the house at 10 am, to catch the 1440 Sea France ferry
from Dover. Got there with an hour to spare and had lunch in the queue. Motor
caravans were loaded last, after all the lorries, and we were right at the back
of the vessel, behind a German van behind the central island. Smooth crossing.
As we sat in the van waiting to disembark, the lorry queue on one side moved
forward. We would have jumped in behind them, to save waiting until everything
else had gone, but was blocked in by the German. I suggested they drop in behind
the lorries, but was told “we are waiting for instructions”. I said “just
do it!” The German lady passenger repeated “just do it”, grinned, and away
they went. So after thinking we'd be there hours we were off quite quickly.
Ashore, we turned right for the first time for years, and
headed for Normandy, eventually dropping at
an aire de camping car at Le Croloy, on the Baie de Somme. It's by a
sandy beach, so was quite full. Costs €5 pn. We walked along the sand in to
the town, which does appear to be one long promenade. The tide is out, so the
water is miles away!
Miles So Far (MSF) 250
Sat 3rd Sept
Left by 0900, following Sally's route towards Fontevraud
L'Abbeye: A28 (a very pleasant road, good dual carriageway, little traffic, nice
views) through Rouen, South on D836, Evereux, Dreux, Vernuil-s-A, D941, At La
Madeleine Bouvet, beside a nice lake, there is a camping car dump. A lovely
spot, but is unclear whether overnighting is permitted, so we moved on after a
couple of hours. As we reached Nogent le Rotrou it started to rain, and the
skies were black, so we made for one of the aires there (actually a car park in
the square). As we pulled in the heavens opened, with a thunderstorm overhead.
Sun 4th Sept
More rain overnight, but drying up by the morning, and even
brightening up. Several heavy showers during the drive to Fontevraude (Now
rebranded as Fontevraude l'Abbe after the old prison was refurbished as the
abbey it originally was.) The aire at Fontevraude has been moved to a small car
park beside a brand new residential area, with tiny places for vans. There is
water there, and grey water emptying, but no loo disposal. Over lunch, more
heavy rain, but then the sun and bright blue skies as we visited the abbey. It
certainly is magnificent, and was where Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Henry II, and
Richard the Lionheart were buried. Their tombs are there but the bodies were
disinterred during the vandalism of the French Revolution.
Late afternoon we headed south again, past Poitiers to a
rather nice aire at Chateau Larcher. It even has electric hook up (but not
enough, as we discovered, to boil a kettle without tripping. Fine for fridge and
battery charging though). Costs €3 if you use the facilities, to be put in the
Mairie letter box. Excellent value! The village is tiny, and has the remains of
2 other vans turned up - a French couple in a Slovenian
van, a Dutch couple in a German van, and we Brits in a French van.
Mon 5th Sept
A long drive to Spain today, so left by 0900. Most of the
trip was on the N10, a long straight dual carriageway. It all went well until we
got to Bayonne & Biarritz, where the
traffic was horrendous, stop-start nose to tail for an hour and a half!
Eventually we made it into Spain, where the queues continued. We were heading
for an aire south of San Sebastian, at Astigastiarraga. Sally tried taking us on
some very convoluted routes. We travelled one very narrow and steep track for ½
mile, but gave up when it went into a farm, reversing a couple of hundred yards
before we could turn. Eventually we found it, after following a VERY slow moving
tractor that was determined not to pull in to let people past. GPS N43 16.076'
Tues 6th Sept
Awoke at 7, and it's still pitch black outside. Good
bunkering facilities here. We are heading for Santallana del Mare, and Sally
found us a route avoiding toll roads. We thought it would be a difficult road
through the mountains, but in fact it wasn't too bad at all.
First stop was the Cuevas del Castillo, about 10 miles from
Santallana. This limestone cave has 20,000 year old cave paintings, including
several outlines of a hand. The tour was all in Spanish, but a few of the other
tourists translated for us. Worth a visit. Whilst we were waiting for the ticket
office to open (closed for Spanish lunchtime: 2-4) an American tour arrived,
with an American guide. It seems that Americans aren't always aware that
Europeans also understand English, as he spent 10 minutes belittling European
guides, and the way they conduct tours.
We attempted to find a Romanesque church nearby, but after
Sally tried to take us down impossible roads and round impossibly sharp corners
we gave up and continued to Santallana. Lonely Planet describes this as a gem of
a medieval town – and indeed it is. Cobbled streets, lovely old buildings,
touristy without any of the usual tourist tat. We spent the night in the car
park – also cobbled, just outside the town wall. Parking is only €2.
Wifi hotspots are available free, login details from
tourist information offices. Very useful
Wed 7th Sept
Another trip into town, for most of the morning, for
Rosemary to paint some of the lovely historic buildings, and to catch up on the
BBC & Guardian news, and email. Who knows when we'll get it again? Bought
some bread, but so far Spanish bread has proved nothing special. However it is
good to buy decent coffee at a reasonable price. Cafe solo, a cappuccino and a
pastry only set us back €4, and it was good coffee.
Thence a dash along the excellent motorway (good surface,
empty, scenic, and free!) to Cordillera, an attractive fishing port 120 miles to
the west. Our first attempt took us down a steep and narrow hill, to be met by a
“no motorhomes” sign. On the way out we found the way we should have gone
in, to the west of the town, which takes you down to the large quay, where there
is overnight parking and an easy walk into town. It really is a lovely little
fishing village, with quite a few active boats, and a town largely set up for
Spanish tourists, but nicely. The restaurants looked good – but we baulked at
€30 each for a shellfish meal, without wine. (Later observation of the dish
indicated VAST amounts of protein – more than we eat in a week!)
Thurs 8th Sept
During the night we were
woken by a group of youths talking and shouting, with the obvious intention of
annoying us (“us” being several motorhomes). They eventually moved off,
noisily, but then we were kept awake by loudly squeaking bed springs in the
Dutch van adjacent to us. They still weren't up when we left in the morning –
and I'm not surprised!
Yesterday we noticed a tunnel near the town, a stream with
narrow walkways either side. The tunnel was lit (just) and people were coming
and going. So this morning I went to investigate, following the tunnel until the
lights ended. The tunnel continued, but without lights. Here there were stairs,
and I popped out in a residential area of the town, surprisingly high up. It is
obviously used as a shortcut to the fishing port – I exchanged holas with one
fisherman going the other way.
This has been a good place to overnight, or longer, And
vans rolled up quite late (like midnight)
First stop was Plaie de Silenzio, which Lonely Planet raved
about. The views were good, but pretty disappointing as a beach – and the road
to it and the parking were difficult, to say the least! Then on to Busto Faro
(lighthouse), which we also found
Next, we planned to drive up a scenic ride, along the Val
de Navia, to Lugo. However, although this was a good road, it was very twisty.
Also Lugo turned out to be 70 miles away, so we returned to the coast. There is
a good bunkering aire (fresh water, waste disposal) beside the hospital at
Burela. Very useful, but not somewhere you'd want to spend the night. We had our
eye on an advertised aire at Port de Bares, 25 miles further on. I had now spent
much of the day driving on difficult roads, and was hot & sticky, so was not
best pleased when we got to Bares to discover a big new sign banning
overnighting by motorhomes. This seems to apply to all ports in Galicia. So back
on the road again, and we are currently holed up beside the beach at Orteguira.
Fri 9th Sept
A quiet night. A good place to overnight.(N43 42' 00” W 7
51' 41”) After a walk on the beach/nature reserve, we set off for the Cabo
Ortegal, where there is quite a scenic lighthouse. Then a narrow but scenic
drive down the coast road – some steep hills here. We were less successful at
reaching the lighthouse at Cabo Candieira – thick fog took visibility down to
only a few yards, in a narrow road with undefined edges. We drove on for at
least a mile before we could turn round.
Now to head to Corunna. We visited 10 years ago and loved
it to bits. Now there are a couple of aires. The official one has all the
bunkering facilities, but had an air of dilapidation, despite being purpose
built. It was also some distance from the town. And to cap it all, the adjacent
car park had 2 wrecked and overturned cars in it. So time to move on to the
unofficial aire at Tore del Hercules, right on the western end of the isthmus.
Spectacular, but also spectacularly busy. It took 3 circuits of the car park
before we found a place to park. (free parking)
A walk into the old city, to see again the burial place of
Sir John Moore, killed in action in 1809 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Moore_(British_Army_officer)),
and about which there is a famous poem. It is a nice quiet garden in a prime
location. Back at the car park, cars and vans continued to jostle for space
until about 9 pm, and by the morning there were only motorhomes in the car park.
During the day we did a shop up at a supermarket.
Attempting to pay by credit card, I was asked for my passport, which was back in
the van. She seemed quite happy to accept my North Dorset bus pass, however!
Sat 10th Sept
Awoke to a fine morning, which soon turned to rain. It
eased off by mid morning, and we walked around the long promenade that forms the
perimeter of the isthmus on which Corunna is situated, into the old shopping
streets. As we passed the port a large cruise ship was docking, and soon the
town was full of passengers – they were easy to spot, small groups of English
speakers wearing “cruise rig” and looking bemused and lost. (Actually, that
could be us too, except for the cruise rig!)
Lots of restaurants, but none had the menus in English, and
the Spanish menus meant absolutely nothing to us as we had left our dictionary
in the van. Luckily we found a waitress whose English was excellent, who told us
exactly what the menu choices were.
Sun 11th Sept
Rain! Left fairly earlyish, via the bunkering at the other
aire Then, head down the coast.
Sally took us down some fairly narrow roads to avoid the toll motorway.
Lunch on the quayside at Laxe, before heading for the beach Praia de Trabo,
where we think we wild camped 10 years ago – but it has to be said we don't
recognise it! A lovely spot. But some very narrow roads to get to it. Long sandy
beach, huge Atlantic surf, and almost deserted (but it is raining!) N43 11'36”
W9 02' 16”. We can still get BBC Radio 4 on Long Wave (just)
Mon 12th Sept
A damp morning, but it brightened up later. We followed the
Spindrift walk into Laxa (is a native of Laxa known as a Laxative?), and back
the same way. A splendid walk along a lovely coast, a 9 mile round trip.
Back at the van, we got talking to another pair of Brits,
who, it turns out, come from Weymouth, only 40 miles from Shaftesbury. A small
Tues 13th Sept
Rain! We didn't come to Spain for rain! But at least we
were in the dry – the 3 young German surfers travelling in a small car and
sleeping outside in their bags were not so lucky!
The location has all the usual bunkering facilities, so
after that we moved on to Camelle, a few miles away. We came here 10 years ago,
and visited the weird “Aleman Museum”, a collection of stone sculptures put
together by a German who lived on site in only a loin cloth, charging tourists a
euro to come in. He died in 2002 after a tanker disaster spilled crude oil over
his sculptures. We returned to pay our respects, and see what was left of his
life's work (he started in 1962, when I was only 15). It is still there, but
gradually decaying. The small hut he lived in has had the floor and roof
collapsed, and sculptures are beginning to come apart.
Camelle itself was pretty depressing – there are scarcely
any shops, the grocer had only a
few items in, and almost all the bars were closed. Camarinas, our next port of
call, was completely different. A good sized working port, large fishing boats,
hotels, bars and a few supermarkets. We are spending the night on the quayside.
Wed 14th Sept
Turned into a very hot day! That came as a surprise after
the recent gloom. A quiet night, and another van turned up about midnight and
parked beside us. Drove to Cape Finisterre, via Muxia. Three good supermarkets
all in a row at Cee- fresh milk at last – tea made with UHT tastes horrible!
(Ultra Horrible Taste)
Finisterre is where the pilgrims walking to Santiago de
Compostela normally end the walk, by burning their sweaty underwear beside the
lighthouse. Lots of visitors here, and we considered spending the night here,
but moved back to the beach at Fistera.
A short hop down the coast, to our first campsite this trip
(well, we need a washing machine!)to an ACSI site near Muros, Camping A Bouga
(€11 pn). Whilst we were doing the washing, and over a late lunch, the sun was
red hot. Then when went to the sandy beach attached to the site, thick fog came
over and it got quite chilly – rather a waste of the little informal nudist
Fri 16th Sept
On the road again. This was just about the end of the Cote
de Morte, which despite its name has been pleasant and unspoilt. From here until
Portugal we found the coast extensively developed, and mostly unpleasant. The
motorway is a peage, so we avoided that. An aire at Boiro that our directory of
aires said was good was actually not very pleasant, and cost €6, so we carried
on to within a mile or two of the Portuguese border, to a very small aire at Tui,
with a good view of the old town.
In the evening we walked in to town. It's a gem of a town,
with a lovely cathedral, and other nice old buildings. It was a balmy evening,
and there were lots of families promenading, children playing – just lovely!
And today we saw our 2nd Spanish lady
carrying a large basket on her head. No hint of trepidation, just confidently
Sat 17th Sept
We enjoyed the town last night so much, we returned this
morning, but almost nothing was open except the cathedral.
After using the bunkering facilities, we moved on into
Portugal, but only half a mile or so, to the citadel at Velenca de Minho. This
fortress withstood sieges even in the 18th
century, and is quite a gem, a city within the ramparts, mostly selling cheap
linen, but well worth a visit. The cobbled streets came as a shock to Tilly's
suspension, but luckily these gave way to tarmac outside of the city.
We followed the Minho inland, and then set off to find
Camping Lamas de Mouro at (wait for it) Lamas de Mouro, in the Peneda National
Park. This turned out to be shady site set amongst trees, obviously aimed at
tents as much as motorhomes and caravans. We were surprised to find the site is
at 900 metres, almost 3000 ft, so the air felt fresh. After an afternoon walk,
and as we were cooking dinner, a Portuguese coach arrived, disgorging about 60
people, of ages ranging from a few months to 80 or so. They scurried about in
their family groups, and within an hour there was a tent city, and food was
being eaten. There appeared to be no central organisation, like ants, they just
got on with it – very impressive.
The bar has free wifi
Sun 18th Sept
Woken at 7 am by noise of campers striking tents. Then,
tents struck, about 2/3 of them disappeared at 8 am. At 9.30 the rest got on
their coach and disappeared into the sunrise. It transpires the Sanctuary of Ste
Penada is 8 Km away, a noted place of pilgrimage in September. We assume that
the earlier group set off to walk to a 10 am mass, and the rest went by bus. At
lunchtime, the nearby picnic area was awash with picnickers, and there were at
least 2 rival piano-accordionists playing local music to which a number
of girls were dancing.
It is bitterly cold today, even in the sun, with a keen
wind. After lunch we set off to follow a marked trail – we ad been given a
tiny map in the tourist information office yesterday. The first half was fine,
and I left Rosemary painting the scenery. In the second half of the walk I found
only one waymark, lots of fierce dogs, and lost the path several times. Each
time I had to return to the fierce dogs, and was not in the mood to retreat from
them. Once again, pretending to pick up a stone sent them running. 2 hours later
Rosemary also lost the path at the same place, but luckily the dogs were then
Mon 19th Sept
By Golly, that was a cold night!
The site cost €31 for 2 nights. The bread we ordered last
night failed to materialise before we left at 9.30. We travelled only8 Km or so
to the Sanctuary of Ste Penada, the site of yesterday's pilgrimage. It's an
impressive church, with a very impressive set of steps leading up to it. It's
not that old, 17th & 18th
century. Apparently the image of “The Virgin” was seen in a cave nearby.
Being quite early, the place was almost deserted, except for 3 Portuguese
motorhomes that had obviously spent the night there.
Following some spectacular (but not difficult) mountain
roads, we came to Ponte da Barca which, as its name suggests, is beside a river
(Rio Lima). This is quite a large town, and very pleasant. An old bridge
(Ponte), stacks of easy parking, very pleasant parks, gardens and riverside
walks. (None of the shops had fresh milk to make a decent cup of tea. Perhaps
the nearby Intermarche will have some tomorrow)
The plan is to eat in town, and spend the night in one of
the spacious riverside car parks.
In fact we had a very nice meal for €25 – an excellent
and large steak for me, and 3 whiting fillets for Rosemary, and a carafe of a
very nice Minho red – and they had a good wifi connection, too. Other vans
stayed on the car park nearer the town, but moved to a large and empty car park
overlooking the river, for a very peaceful night. We like Ponte da Barca very
much, a very pleasant town.
Tues 20th Sept
Picked up email and BBC news by sitting outside last
night's restaurant. The large green parrot in a cage in an upstairs balcony
whistling at me, and making loud comments in Portuguese, was slightly
off-putting. Then on to a reasonable sized Intermarche on the edge of town. We
narrowly avoided being led into their underground car park, and did a big shop,
mainly of fruit & veg, but also fresh milk, which is difficult to find. It
was very short dated, but I bought 2 litres anyway.
Then on a few miles to Ponte da Lima. This is an historic
town, with a long bridge that is partly Roman, but is very touristy and nowhere
near as nice as Ponte da Barca. As we drove in we passed long lines of tractors
with trailers bearing huge casks of grapes, obviously delivering to a co-op.
Later we set off on foot to investigate, and found the queues of tractors were
MUCH longer than we thought, and moving very slowly. We reckoned a farmer would
be lucky to deliver his harvest in less than 3 hours, and no doubt he would have
to go back and collect another load. Being nosy, we investigated where the
grapes were being taken. And it was an incredibly slow, tedious and inefficient
process. Trailers would be weighed, then each cask of grapes was sampled by one
guy with a large auger type thing, presumably to check quality and sugar
content. Then the tractor driver would take the load to the next stage, where
each cask is lifted off the trailer and tipped into a hopper. An auger type
mechanism draws the grapes further into the machinery. Two machines were in
operation, and in the 10 minutes we were watching, both of them broke down.
Meanwhile, the long queue of tractors and trailers waited in the sun. I think
I'll stick to drinking wine, not creating it! So after lunch by the river at
Ponte da Lima (where, incidentally, it looks as if several vans will be spending
the night) it was on the road again to Bom Jesus, a shrine with a spectacular
staircase near Braga. Camperstop claims there is an aire here, in a car park,
and there are quite a few French vans obviously travelling in convoy. (Safety in
numbers, don't you know!) We plan to spend the night here too.
Bom Jesus is one of Portugal's prime tourist sites, and we
were rather disappointed by the state of disrepair of much of it. The aire is
right at the bottom of the steps, and there are 561 steps up to the shrine (I
counted). The car park at the bottom is quite small, and quite empty, so I'm
sure there is a large car park near the top.
Wed 21st Nov
A quiet night, apart from owls and the occasional acorn
dropping on the roof. Altogether there were 7 French vans and us there
A short drive, 5 miles or so, to the large Celtic
settlement at Citania de Briteiros (300BC-100AD). A large number of stone hut
circles, paved roads, water conduit, and a resident friendly dog. Only €3 each
Then on to Guimares, quite a large city with a medieval
heart. Parking wasn't easy, and later on we discovered there is a large, flat
and mostly empty car park by the castle – ideal for motorhomes. It is quite a
touristy town, and there are stacks of restaurants. We had an excellent lunch in
one of the squares for €18.
Now the fun begins. We planned to spend a few nights at a
campsite near Porto, only 45 miles away. We set Sally the co-ordinates, asked to
avoid toll charges, and followed her route. Unfortunately her maps are now 5
years old. Motorways that were toll free now not only have tolls, but you can
only pay by obtaining in advance an electronic card, and loading it with Euros.
You have to load a minimum of €50, and if you don't use them all you don't get
a refund. A good wheeze there, then! Anyway, we didn't have such a card, which
meant we had to avoid the motorways that Sally kept directing us onto. On
several occasions we got completely lost, because our Michelin map had
insufficient detail. At last we got to Porto, but then had to find the only non
motorway bridge over the river Douro. This was finally accomplished by stopping
at a taxi rank and asking a taxi driver. So, several hours after leaving Guimares
we arrived at the Orbiter campsite south of Oporto, at Madelena. Good free wifi
here, €15 with an ACSI card (expensive otherwise)
There's a bus into Porto every half hour from just outside
the site, which takes about 45 minutes and goes through some of the narrowest
streets with high walls on either side that you can imagine! And most of the
streets are cobbled.
We loved Porto, the whole ambience is lovely. Grand
buildings, statues, the station is a tiled jewel. We walked over the high level
bridge, and back. This gave me serious vertigo and I couldn't go near the edge.
On the far side of the Douro are all the Port lodges, most still with British
names (Port, like Champagne, being largely a British invention, it seems). An
excellent meal in a restaurant overlooking the Douro.
Fri 23rd Sept
Into Porto again, another uncomfortable bus ride. This time
we got off on the other side of the river at Vila Nova de Gaia This area is
where all the Port wine lodges are, almost all set up for guided tours and
tastings, some free and some costing €4. Most were set up by the English in
the 17th century, and there has been a
huge English influence in the city. We chose to visit the Taylors lodge, partly
because it was free. A fascinating tour, which explained a lot of the mysteries
to me, followed by a sampling of a dry white Port (“Chip Dry”) (but still
sweet compared to a white table wine) and
a “Late Bottled Vintage”. Real vintage, apparently, is bottled after on 2
years and matures in the bottle. LBV matures in the cask, where it matures
quicker, and is massively cheaper than real vintage. (€12 cf €40 plus).
Taylors is also selling 150 year old vintage Port – a snip at only €2350! I
also learnt that real vintage Port should be drunk within 48 hours, or you lose
the vintage benefits.
We took the lift from the river level up to the top of the
city – it is quite steep and a long way! Then wandered the streets again. A
Must See is Livrario Lello, a bookshop established over 100 years ago, and
beautifully decorated, with a most unusual staircase. A great selection of art
books, too. Unfortunately photography is prohibited, and you get sudden influxes
of coach parties. Why is that coach parties always seem so bad mannered, no
matter what the nationality? Pushing and shoving, ignoring customers and staff,
and talking loudly and ignorantly!
And back at the site, use of the washing machine and tumble
drier. Expensive here, but needs must.
Sat 24th Sept
Itchy feet – time to move on. Another battle with Sally,
who kept trying to put us on motorways. I'm sure some of the motorways are free,
but there's no way of knowing in advance, and it is illegal to drive on without
the new fangled electronic card that you have to buy elsewhere. No wonder the
towns and cities are clogged with traffic! Our plan is to follow the Douro up
into the wine growing area. Eventually we made it Pala, just below Ribadouro,
and stopped on an esplanade by the Douro. Rosemary saw a kingfisher in the reeds
beside us, but needless to say it had gone by the time I had turned to see it. N 41 6' 6”
W8 5' 29”
Sun 25th Sept
A quiet night, except for an owl screeching right outside.
Topped up with water from a constantly running tap, and carried on up the Douro.
The road (N222) that we thought from the map would run right beside the water
actually runs a good 700 foot above the river, and the views are spectacular.
By early afternoon we had reached Lamego, where there is
supposed to be an aire. After a couple of circuits of the town, when Sally tried
to take us through gardens, pedestrian precincts and footpaths, we found the
aire (just a car park, N41 5' 41 W7 48' 40”) ¾ mile from where Sally thought
Lamego is much bigger than we expected, with a cathedral,
(small), castle, and yet another fancy staircase for pilgrims to ascend on their
Mon 26th Sept
Well we had to walk the staircase, and at least it's fairly
cool first thing. To our surprise there are 606 steps, more than Bom Jesus,
which is twice as high, but BJ has a lot of slope, too.
Next stop, Amarante. It isn't far, but the roads are so
difficult it took us 3 hours. It must be a descent of 1000 ft to the Douro, then
a similar ascent the other side, with bends at least every 100 yards. We did
find LPG at Marco Canaveses – useful as we had just emptied one cylinder, and
LPG can be hard to find. We had used 22 litres in 3 weeks, so now we should have
enough to get home. In any case, it is readily available in France.
When we got to Amarante, Sally took us over an historical
bridge, and at the end traffic was directed right through a narrow gap. There is
no way we would have got Tilly round the corner, and as we pondered what to do,
a guy waved us through the pedestrian precinct, being stared at as we went. A
long circuit of the town, and we got back to the other side of the narrow
opening. We parked in a car park nearby overlooking the river Tamega. (The
advantage of arriving in a town at lunch time, most people have gone home for
lunch and there are spaces in the car parks.)
Failed dismally in finding a wifi connection, but the car
park (around a market building, and closed for markets on Weds & Sats) does
have a loo, so the cassette could be emptied.
Tues 27th Sept
The car park didn't start to get used until after 8.30, by
which time I had topped up the fresh water from the taps in the market. Drove
via Pasa de Regua to Pinhao, a small town on the Douro, and parked on the
quayside. The waterfront is quite touristy, but the town seems quite poor away
from this area. We took 2 ½ hour
boat trip up to Tua, in a replica port wine barge (barquo rabelo). This part of
the Douro, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is only visible from boat or railway,
as there are no roads. Cost €20 each.
When we got back two large floating hotels had berthed
alongside us, blocking both our view and the cooling breeze. There were about a
million wifi signals to connect to from the ship, but they all required
purchased logon details. Luckily, a bar nearby had free wifi, although I
couldn't quite get it in the van.
Wed 28th Sept
Rather a noisy night, and we woke to rain! We didn't come
to Portugal for rain! We had planned to catch the train to Pocinho, to see the
upper Douro, but instead decided to go an see the vineyard that had been
exhibiting at the Grahams Port Lodge, Quinta do Panascal, belonging to the Port
shipper Fonseca. This was only a few miles away.
Problem! The light rain, the first rain for months, had
made the granite cobbles very slippery. The way out from the quayside where we
spent the night was up a narrow cobbled street, with 2 blind & sharp right
angle bends, immediately under a narrow rail bridge then up a steep cobbled
street to join the main road through the town. We got as far as the hill, but
could not get any traction at all, and slid back down. Luckily a) we managed to
avoid sliding into the wall, giving us some room to manoeuvre, and b) no traffic
came in either direction. We were able to reverse all the way back to the quay
without further incident.
Back at the quay, we looked for another way out. One more
road was even more risky, heading into a maze of side streets. Another petered
out into a footpath. There was a route along the quay and out the other end, but
this was chained in 2 places to form a pedestrian precinct. Upon investigation,
although the chains were locked, they could be easily unhooked. And this is what
we did. This is the second time in 3 days we've had to drive through a
pedestrian precinct to get out of trouble.
So when we got to the quinta, we baulked at the steep
cobbled drive, parked at the bottom, and walked up. The tour consisted of a
personal player, with a very lucid
and interesting commentary about Port, wine, grapes, the Douro, and I now know
what the differences are between the various Ports. (At least, I did this
afternoon, by tomorrow it will have evaporated.)
More Port sampling, and we splashed out on a variety of
bottles of Port.
Back at Pinhao for the late afternoon and night. We learnt
the lesson from this morning, and headed for the other end of the quay.
Whilst avoiding a road sweeper we managed to clip the high level rear
light fitting, the one that sticks out and is guaranteed to get swiped off
somewhere. We didn't stop for it, because it was a difficult place, and carried
on. The road sweeper however walked a couple of hundred yards to deliver us the
remains. People round here are very kind!
Having moved to the other end of the quay, we had expected
a quieter night. We hadn’t reckoned on the local bar (the one we get free wifi
from) playing Rolling Stones CDs loudly at 3 a.m.
Woke to a lovely morning, and took the train to Pocinho.
The little train follows the Douro, and you get views you can't get by any other
means. At least, you would if the windows had been cleaned in the last few
weeks! But it did cost only €8 each return, and Pinhao station is quite a
little gem on its own. When we were waiting a coach load of Germans arrived to
take photos of its tiles.
Pocinho is Portuguese for “Pokey Little Hole”, or if it
isn't, it should be! To call it a one horse town would insult the horse. There
is even a derelict tank engine with weeds growing through it. But we went for
the trip, not the destination.
Back in time for lunch, outside on the nice picnic tables
provided. I managed to trip, and broke one of our Portmeirion dinner plates. Ah
On the road again, heading for Coimbra. This is a bigger
jump than we have been used to recently. We took the N222, which goes up, and
up, and up, until it seems you're on top of the world. The views are
spectacular. Then south on the N102 and N17. Much of this road is brand new,
very fast and easy. We were making good time until about 15 miles from Coimbra,
when we joined the end of a long and very slow moving queue, that was diverted
off the fast new road onto, presumably, the old road, which wound through
village after village, at snail's pace. So we reset Sally, and headed for an
aire by the convent at Lorvao. This has a signed motorhome dump for bunkering -
Fri 30th Sept
A quiet night, except for the cockerel! I am loath to
complain too much about cockerels – they remind me of the city dweller who
moved to the rural village of Henstridge a few years ago. A neighbour had
cockerels, and he obtained a noise abatement order against the owner, meaning
they would have to be destroyed. The news set the whole village against him, and
youths & old ladies would stand outside of his window going “cock-a
doodle-do”, After a week or two of that he cancelled the order, and complained
about being victimised – so I'm not complaining about cockerels doing what
Back down the hill, and finished the remaining 15 miles
into Coimbra. Whatever the traffic problem was last night, it seems to have been
fixed. A note for motor-homers, we noticed a petrol station selling LPG on the
Coimbra ring road. Nearby we stopped at a Pingo supermarket and did a large shop
up. OK, quite a lot of that was Port. Then on to the aire at Coimbra. This is
over the river from the old city, but connected by a pedestrian bridge. Max stay
24 hours, and there is bunkering.
Coimbra is certainly the nicest city or town we've visited
in Portugal. It doesn't have the interest of Porto, but it has some grand
university buildings, and is just very pleasant.
The university buildings are open to the public, at a
charge of €5, but this is poor value for money. You get to see an old and very
ornate library, but most of it is roped off. The price includes the chapel, but
that wasn't exceptional, given how great many of the churches and cathedrals
are. The cafe next to the cathedral, Cafe Santa Cruz, has free wifi, and worth
seeing architecturally (and makes superb cappuccino). Microsoft Security
Essentials has decided that It doesn't like Google Chrome, and won't let me run
it. I don't know if this is a genuine threat, or a false alarm. Luckily Internet
Explorer and Firefox are working fine.
I also managed to buy some large tap connectors, to fit the
large taps we keep running into when we need to fill the water tank.
Sat 1st Oct
Before we left for Batalha, I had a long chat with a
Portuguese guy (Henrique) who had been instrumental in the recent setting up of
a Portuguese Camping car association. He says that new aires are opening every
week, and to look at www.campingcarportugal.com
to see info about them. Useful stuff.
Took the IC2 (non motorway) to Batalha (effectively,
“Battle Abbey”, just like ours near Hastings). We passed 2 LPG outlets on
the way, both Repsol. The first is fairly close to Coimbra.
The aire at Batalha has full bunkering facilities, although
you pay for water. The abbey costs €6 to go in, half price if over 65. Well
worth a visit, spectacular Manueline architecture, and the tombs of Joao & his English
wife Phillipa of Lancaster – the origin of our long standing alliance with
Portugal. Also their son Henry the Navigator, who set the scene for Portugal's
prosperity. Joao's army was outnumbered 6 to 1 by the Castilian army, and
inflicted a crushing defeat. As Henrique said this morning, “it was our
Agincourt”. Joao made a personal pact with the BVM that if he won he would
build an abbey – so I guess this makes the BVM a mercenary! What if he'd been
outbid by the Castilian king? The display board aid he had 6000 men, and a
couple of hundred English soldiers.
Later: We've just looked the battle up on Google. It seems
Joao had not just “a couple of hundred English soldiers”, but a hundred English longbow men, fresh from their success at
Crecy. The Castilians
were supported by the French, so you would have thought they would have
understood about longbows! The same tactics that devastated the French at Crecy,
devastated the Castilian infantry & French cavalry here. Agincourt was still in the future, when the
French failed again to understand the power of the longbow. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Aljubarrota
Whilst Rosemary was in the abbey sketching, a full wedding
took place, with choir, orchestra – the works. But tourists continued to
wander round. And the acoustics are brilliant for music, but there is so much
echo the priest's words were unintelligible. (i.e. not just being in
Sun 2nd Oct
On Sundays the abbey is free entry, but because it's free
entry, they don't open the toilets! This seems rather bizarre, the sort of
pettiness the Brits would go in for. The lady who explained it seemed rather
embarrassed about it. We had gone in again to see if the different lighting gave
better pictures, but actually the afternoon sun was best. Rosemary did another
sketch of a Manueline pillar. Then we drove to San Pedro de
Moel for lunch, and the night. San P is a seaside town, lots of car parks
overlooking a seriously long sandy beach, with
Atlantic rollers creating a strong undertow.
Mon 3rd Oct
A gentle drive down the coast, spending several hours on
the sandy beach at Praia del Selgado, before heading on to Sao Martinho do
Porto, a small resort set in a small circular cove. The aire (just a car park)
is at the southern end of town, a ¾ mile walk back in. A lovely sandy beach is
adjacent, and sand dunes. There is free wifi at a cafe on the seafront – no
need for a password.
The Dutch couple with the squeaky bedsprings (see 8th
Sept) arrived, but parked far enough away to avoid disturbing our beauty sleep.
Tues 4th Oct
A short drive to Alcobaca, where there is a huge church and
monastery in which are buried Pedro & Ines, real life Romeo & Juliet or
Tristram & Isolde. Pedro was the crown prince in the 14th
century, and fell in love with a Castilian noblewoman. They eventually married
and had 4 children before she was murdered on the orders of Pedro’s father,
who feared being drawn into the Castilian civil war. When Pedro became king he
had her disinterred, instated as queen, and had his courtiers kiss her hand in
allegiance. The murderers had their hearts torn out and, the story goes, Pedro
ate them. They are buried in magnificent tombs, which show their story in some
detail. They would have been even more magnificent if they hadn't been broken
into by Napoleon's troops!
Alcobaca is a large and uninspiring town, so after visiting
Pedro & Inis we headed south to Obidos, where there is a privately run aire,
€6 pn, or €2 just to use the bunkering.
Obidos is charming but very touristy, with complete
medieval walls and castle. The houses within are white, trimmed either with
yellow or blue. There appear to be only tourist shops and bars, and I couldn't
find a useable wifi signal.
Outside the wall there is an enormously long aqueduct,
quite the longest I've seen, built in the 16th
We walked back in to the town in the evening, and it was
almost deserted. One or two restaurants open, with no customers, but that was
it. Quite disappointing.
Wed 5th Oct
I walked in for bread at 0915, and already there were 4
coach parties. Half an hour later there were many more. Rosemary liked Obidos,
but I found it lifeless, just a tourist trap.
It seems we are in need of a washing machine, so we drove a
mere 16 miles to Camping Peniche Praia, on the end of the point at Peniche. We
looked at one campsite on the way in, but it looked like the campsite from hell
– big, dusty, full, units crammed together, no scenery, no town nearby. Praia
Peniche on the other hand is rather like Fort Knox! Swipe cards to get in and
out – that don't work, electricity boxes double locked, washing machine €6,
and wifi at €1 per hour! The name “Peniche Praia” would imply a beach
pretty close by. In fact the nearest beach is 1.5 Km. One night here will do
Later, the cafe/bar on site has free wifi, and the drink
prices are reasonable.
Thurs 6th Oct
Not a good night last night, kept awake by the sound of
wind and waves. Peniche is as far as we go this trip, from now we start heading
home. Drove back to Obidos for lunch, and for Rosemary to do some more drawing.
The tiny grocery there sells fresh milk, something we've struggled to find in
supermarkets. (Tea made with UHT milk is 'orrible!) Then back to Sao Martinho do
Porto. The idea was to spend the night here, and swim in the cove, but the wind
was blowing straight in from the Atlantic. We envisaged another windy night like
last night, and moved on again, back to Batalha. We liked Batalha, and there is
a good bar with free wifi. This time we parked in the car park close to the
Another chance for Rosemary to do more drawing/painting,
and for me to use the wifi at the cafe. I had a nice local confection made of
milk and egg with my cappuccino and BBC News. I never did find out what it was
called, but imagine a crumpet soaked in eggy milk and cooked...? No? Oh well.
2 French vans were occupying the bunkering facilities when
I went to use them - and you've
never seen such a performance! It took 4 of them, working together (or often
against each other) half an hour to accomplish what it took me 5 minutes to do.
And you've never seen so many bottles of bottled water one had to move before he
could find his hose.
Left Batalha about 3 pm, for Tomar, where there is yet
another religious monument, the Convento de Christo, actually once a
monastery/castle, of the Knights Templar. There is precious little parking here,
and cars and coaches were coming and going, with little room to turn round or
even pass. We waited an hour for things to clear a bit, before we were able to
turn and escape.
There is supposed to be an aire in Tomar, but after several
circuits of the town we gave up and went to the municipal campsite, which is
actually quite nice. But the main problem with campsites is the absolute palaver
of checking in. Why do they need to know my date of birth and my inside leg
measurement? OK, I lied about the last, but they all seem to demand minutiae
that is just data for the sake of data. No wonder we use unofficial camp places!
The original plan had been to stay here only one day, but
the town and the site seemed so pleasant we extended it to 2 days. Tomar is an
example of everything the Portuguese do best – parks, gardens, statues and
fountains. And unlike Obidos, it's a living town. A stroll around the town in
the morning then, after an early lunch, a walk up to the Convento de Christos,
which started life as a Knights Templar castle, became a monastery (despite the
convent name) with classic Manueline architecture. It was quite a climb, but
well worth it. I've never seen so many cloisters! Architecturally, it’s an
orgy of Manueline columns and windows. And the advantage of arriving during the
Portuguese lunch break is that it is largely deserted.
And back at the site, a large convoy of Belgians had
arrived, and clustered together for safety! It is unwise to generalise – but
why do Belgians always travel in convoy? (and, to a lesser extent, the French?)
Another lovely morning – I could get used to the idea
that you can safely expect every day to be nice weather! Time to start moving
towards Spain, and home, and we drove
inland to Castelo de Vide, hard on the Spanish border, and set on a hill. We
parked in a small car park just outside the city walls. We had expected it to be
a tiny town, but was surprised to find it was quite extensive, and very
likeable. There is another city wall inside, within which is the original
medieval town. Not at all touristy, and completely unspoilt (what Obidos could
have been but isn't). Lunch cost €20, including half a litre of wine, and we
went back to the van to sleep it off. Absolutely the nicest town we've been to
A quiet night, and not as cold as we had expected. Another
walk into the medieval town, and to the old (and tiny) Jewish quarter. We were
rather too early, and the lighting wasn't good for photos.
Nearby – 7 miles or so, is Marvao, another old fortified
hilltop town, and we went there for a few hours. Marvao has an aire with
spectacular views, and full bunkering facilities. The town itself is also
spectacular, little white houses in a picture postcard setting, with a large
castle, and seriously spectacular views in 360 degrees. We had expected it to be
very touristy, like Obidos, but because it is off the tourist trail, it is
remarkably untouristy and unspoilt. But we both agreed, Castelo de Vide was much
more interesting, a living town, if much less “chocolate boxy”.
After lunch, a drive east into Spain not forgetting to
reset our watches to Central European Time. (My phone didn't get changed to
Portuguese time, so when I set an alarm for 0700 this morning, it actually went
off at 0600 local time!). Road surfaces are massively better than Portugal's,
and we picked up the A58 and then A5, past Caceres & Trujillo to Lagatera,
where there is a small aire, just 3 spaces. A Spanish Rapido was there when we
arrived, and another Spanish Rapido arrived shortly afterwards. It's not often
you seen an aire full of Rapidos!
Tues 11th Oct
Not such a quiet night. The aire is in the vee of a
confluence of 2 roads, which had tractors and stuff working late and early. Even
worse, a gang of teenagers sat on the seats just behind us from midnight,
drinking, chatting, laughing. Nothing malicious, just noisy.
Did the bunkering, then on the road before 9. We took a
detour to see Toledo, described as “a gem”, but which left me cold. Parking
was fairly easy, on waste ground below the city with about a million other
vehicles. (OK, I exaggerate, but only slightly!). A walk, then there is a series
of escalators up into the old city. The escalators were jammed with coach
parties of every nationality you could think of. Toledo is a mass of very narrow
cobbled streets, almost all shared by cars – and it seemed that most of the
cars were large BMWs and Mercedes, quite unsuitable for streets not wide enough
even for a car and 1 pedestrian, never mind the hordes that were there. There
seem to be more churches than you can shake a stick at, and shops selling Toledo
blades – even I had heard of Toledo blades! - but which would be totally
illegal in the UK. And cafes – but not one with a useable wifi connection.
There are lots of new roads around that our 5 year old sat
nav Sally knows nothing about. It's probably time to invest in a new Tom-Tom map
of Western Europe. We took the new (free) motorway to Cuenca, another old
hilltop town, through some of the most arid and boring countryside in Europe,
all the same monotonous shade of sand. We did see a pair of eagles, though.
Things improved towards Cuenca, and got better still after Cuenca as we headed
into the mountains, the Serrania de Cuenca, to the north of Cuenca. We have
stopped for the night beside a small nature & picnic spot, where we have
already seen deer, & a grey wagtail. (N40 12' 01” W 1 56' 17”). We had
hope to get to a specialist beer maker who accepts motorhomes under the “Spain
Passion” scheme, but time ran out.
Wed 12th Oct
A quiet night – and a very cold morning – we've put the
heater on for the first time. Then when we left, we had the heater going full
blast to warm our feet up. There was just a short period of no heat, before we
put the air con because it was too hot. Not surprising really, the GPS put our
elevation at around 3000 feet.
The scenery (Reserva Nacional den Montes Universales) here
is spectacular – crags, deep gorges, golden yellow aspen leaves, streams,
waterfalls. Just lovely. But it does make for very slow driving, there is a bend
every 50 yards, so you're doing well to average 30 mph.
Just before we left the gorges and mountains, we stopped at
an old Moorish town, Albarracin, built up the hillside and with most of the
Moorish fortifications intact. The buildings are all a warm red colour, from the
local stone. The town is touristy – there is a huge car park - but completely
At Teruel we picked up the N420, then N211. These were very
pretty good roads – I preferred them to motorways because they are fairly
fast, but do have bends, hills, and scenery. Slightly slower, but MUCH less
At Calanda we turned off onto the A226 to find somewhere to
overnight. We are currently beside a reservoir,
off the road. Being October, the reservoir is very low, probably 60 feet below
its normal level. (N 40 54' 17” W 0 13' 00” - almost on the Greenwich
meridian – yet Spain is on Central European time, an hour ahead of GMT)
Later: we failed to shut the door when it got dark, and
were rewarded with about a million little flying things dancing on the ceiling.
They didn't seem to bite, but they did take half an hour to eliminate.
Thurs 13th Oct
A good quiet night, and we were under way by 8.30, heading
almost due north towards the Pyrenees, via Alcaniz, Fraga, Leida, Benbarre,
then, as we ascended the foothills of the Pyrenees, took a small road up the
Vall de Bois to Caldes de Bois, to spend the night. The last few miles, as we
reached the Pyrenees, were absolutely “wow” scenery. Most of the roads were
good, and interesting. (Nothing can be as boring as the drive across Extremadura!).
The autumn colours here must be at their spectacular best. (I really must find
another word for “spectacular”!)
Later: I have just noticed that there is a large bull in
the wood just over the road from where we have stopped for the night. The only
thing between him and us is a single strand of electric fence about 18” off
Fri 14th Oct
An even quieter night – and we overslept. Typical! We had
hoped to move off earlyish, but never mind. Took the road north through the
tunnel to Vielha. Vielha is still in Spain, even though it's on the north side
of the Pyrenees. We had hoped to find a Spanish supermarket to stock up on
Rioja, but didn't find one. Never mind, we have a good stock of Portuguese Douro
& Port, and I'm not sure where we'd put the Rioja.
The plan was to battle through Toulouse to an aire at
Cahors. Cahors is an idyllic town beside the river, and the aire is equally
idyllic. However there are only 3 spaces, no room for overflow, and every man
and his dog wanted to go there – so with hindsight it was a bit unrealistic to
expect to arrive at 5 pm and find a space – which we did, and didn't!.
The next plan was to drive to St Cirque Lapopie, 18 miles
away, but as we drove through Arcambal we passed a lovely aire, with bunkering,
and decided to stay there. (N 44 27' 23” E 1 30' 58”)
Later, we have just watched a couple walking their 2 large
dogs, attempting to get the reluctant dogs to go underneath a 2 bar fence. They
tried pulling but the dogs were too big, and adamant. The lady (age 25ish) laid
on the ground trying to show the dogs how to get underneath. In the end one went
underneath, and the other just stepped over the lower bar. Well, it was amusing
to watch, anyway!
Sat 15th Oct
A cold & frosty morning. This really is a lovely part
of the world! A very scenic drive to St Cirq Lapopie, a “village de France”,
set atop a cliff over the River Lot, and on the side of a steep hill. A real
gem. Well preserved, and touristy, but the tourism is very tastefully done –
lots of restaurants, but not “in your face”. There are several car parks
charging €3 at a similar level to the village, or
free one which is a shortish and pleasant walk up a path. We were there
at 10 am on a Saturday, and it was quiet. By the time we left at 12 it was
filling up. I would guess that in August it would be heaving, which would rather
spoil its olde worlde ambience, which it has in shed loads. And I found a cafe
with free wifi.
Then via Figeac, where we were accosted by an ex-pat who
wanted to bend our ears, and Aurillac, to an aire at Super-Lioran, in the car
park of a ski lift. We were soon joined by 4 other vans, all French, who parked
as far away from us as they could! Hmmm!
We needed the heating on this evening.
Sun 16th Oct
Last night was extra cold, and there was ice on the bonnet
this morning. Thank goodness for an effective heater!
Made our way across country to Le Mont Dore. This is a
gorgeous bit of countryside, a glorious drive in the autumn sunshine. We lunched
at a small ski resort above Chatreix, spectacular view – but there's something
depressing about all ski resorts we've ever been to. The nearby slopes are
wrecked, presumably to make ski slopes, the chalets and facilities are
invariably shabby. At La Bourboule the fuel level warning light came on, and we
struggled to find an open fuel station. Eventually we found a small automated 24
hour service at Intermarche in La Bourbelle. We had planned to spend the night
at the aire at La Bourboule, but it was in a dismal setting at the top of the
teleferique, beside a derelict hotel. Instead, we drove back to Super-Besse, a ski resort, where
there is a large aire, costs €5.60 pn, pay by credit card. There is also a
machine for buying jetons for the Flot Bleu bunkering facilities. We've seen
these around but had no way of getting the jetons.
Mon 17th Oct
I put the heating on low during the night, after a sudden
realisation that the boiler could freeze, very expensively. Sally set us a non
peage course for Calais, 500 miles exactly. Not 499.9. nor 500.1, but 500.0.
We were under way by 8.30, taking care on icy roads. The
good thing about spring and autumn is you get to see the world just as the sun
comes up – long shadows, misty and dewy fields, the volcanic plugs seen as a
series of receding greys – just lovely. Sally's route was lovely, a pleasure
to drive. Uncluttered easy roads (mostly) great views, sunshine, thousands upon
thousands of glorious trees, just beginning to turn. A route worth remembering
(so far, of course!). One bit of excitement, when a car overtook us and the
lorry in front, pulled in then put on his brakes, then drove slowly for a few
miles, whenever the lorry attempted to overtake he would speed up. At a small
roundabout both men got out and had an altercation. I thought we might see
fisticuffs, but no such luck! At Riom we were held up for a while by a march of
demonstrators, carrying red flags, escorted by police and with loudspeaker vans,
walking slowly round a roundabout.
We stopped for a late lunch at an aire at Briare-le-Canal,
N47 38' 04” E2 44' 25”, right beside the canal, alongside the canal
moorings. Now 320 miles to Calais
Later: we've discovered that we are 100 yards from a long
aqueduct that takes the canal over the Loire. Quite recently built, 1896. The
town is pleasant but unexceptional. Couldn't find a bar with wifi, but I did
suddenly find my phone had connected whilst walking down the main street, so
picked up email and headlines.
Route from Clermont Ferand: N9, to Moulins, (good bypass)
N7 to Nevers, A77 (non peage) & N7 when the A77 became peage.
Tues 18th Oct
A short walk to have another look at the aqueduct – it's
really quite impressive, then on the road before
9.The plan was to drive 45 miles or so to an
aire at Souppes sur Loing. This was also beside the same canal, with interesting
boats, but cost €5 inc electricity, and was also a long walk from a not very
special town. (Some French towns are just too good to be true, and others are
just plain depressing.), so we went for plan B – do a long hop to an aire at
Rouen. Sally's route took us through the outskirts of Paris, and we expected
hold-ups, but in fact we never went lower than 50 mph.
We must be getting close to home – the skies are dark and
we went through some very heavy rain – not much good for the solar panel.
Between Paris and Rouen the A15 become peage, and the non peage route took us
through little towns and villages with narrow streets, and traffic lights by the
dozen. Then Sally attempted to put us back on the motorway believing it to be
free, when it was still (or had become) peage. Battling along the N15, beside
the Seine, we stumbled on an aire at Pont de L'arche, 4 vans only. The town is
described as historic, and is a real gem. Good boulangeries, charcuteries,
greengrocers and bouchers. The aire is beside a Seine tributary. Bunkering
(outside the municipal campsite) costs €2.50, pay by credit card. (N 49 18,
20” E1 09' 27”).
The slightly bizarre but very friendly bar Kafaleon (there
were two motorbikes in the bar) has good beer and free wifi, and is only 100
yards from the aire.
Most of the way it was a very good route: N7, N37, A6/E15,
A86, A12, A13/E5, to Mantes where it becomes peage, N13, N15.
Rain overnight, and torrential rain today, or at least very
heavy showers. We planned to go to the aire at Rouen, and spend a couple of
hours in the city. Sally took us to the GPS location given in the directory, and
we found it was just some random place in the middle of the city. And to make it
worse, the fuel low light had just come on. With the warning lights flashing, we
set a course for a fuel at a Carrefour supermarket, and Sally took us on a
circular tour to find. Worth doing, as diesel here was 14 cents a litre cheaper
than standard garages. We spent a
couple of hours, and an obscene amount of money, in the supermarket, before
heading off to Boulogne, in the rain. Actually, after an hour or so the sun came
out and it was a nice scenic drive.
At Boulogne, where we planned to spend the night, both
aires were had in mind no longer existed. However, there was a new one
signposted up on the cliffs outside the town. Lots of spaces, €5 pn, fresh
water €3. (N50 44' 35” E1 35' 47”)As we settled in, a huge convoy of
French Bethleff motorhomes arrived. Talk about Fred Karno's army. Lots of
shouting and gesticulating, and despite there being lots of space in other parts
of the aire, they all had to squash in around us and a Dutch Hymer. Looking in
the doors of some, the Bethleff's build quality seems pretty shoddy.
There are some huge WW2 fortifications here, and
emplacements for very large guns. From here, the white cliffs of Dover gleam,
and seem almost just a stone's throw away. You can imagine the frustration of
the German high command, being so close yet so far. Boulogne is also where
Napoleon assembled his invasion fleet in 1804, and there is a memorial to his
review of the troops there in that year. (Interesting that Napoleon wanted to go
into exile in England, as an English gentleman on an estate.)
Thurs 20th Oct
Well the notice says that the cost is €5, but there was
no ticket machine, nor any instructions on how the charge should be paid. We
assumed an official would appear during the evening, but none did. Perhaps they
only bother in the summer?
Left by 8, for the short trip to Calais, just half an hour.
Our ferry is supposed to sail at 0930, but it's now 0945 and we're still
alongside. Later, Dover has been sharply visible for the entire crossing, this
We were held up on the M3, a serious crash on the opposite
carriageway, several fire engines, ambulance, police cars and the air ambulance
helicopter. A car seemed to have embedded itself under a lorry. Home by 3 pm, to
a mass of mail including more harassing letters from the TV Licensing Authority
(aka BBC). Did you realise it is illegal not to own a television?
Overall miles 4446 (4444 would have been too
Fuel 1119 litres, 246 gallons, cost £1382, £0.31
LPG used – 70 litres over 49 nights away
Nights on a campsite – 6. The remaining 43 nights were
aires or wild camping.