…and keep on going :) Change your mind and change your life
I'm a middle aged accounting tutor looking for my own mild adventures with my other half before it's too late..... I took the plunge and organised a year long sabbatical in 2017 (a year with no pay!!), sold the house and my car and am ready to go :) Towards the end of my year off I decided to give up full time work completely and go freelance to enable us to travel more :) So far, so good!
One of the places on my list to see whilst in Spain was Tarragona – so for just the 2nd time this trip we managed to actually tick something off of the, admittedly very short, list (the other being Carcassone).
From our campsite we had about an hours drive. We took the non-pay road. Well we fully intended to, but accidently ended up on a pay road for about 2 mins – we came off as soon as we realised – but it still cost us 2.13 Euros!! This was the C-32, and it happened as we believed that all toll roads began with the designation of ‘AP’. We now know we were wrong on this! The fact that it was a ‘peage’ road was shown by a small sign next to the road name with ‘peage’ running through the middle – if I could find an image for you I would, but let’s just say it wasn’t an ‘in your face’ kind of sign! Anyway lesson learnt we carried on along the C31 through Cubelles and beyond.
About 1/2 hours out we realised that whilst we had remembered to put our hi-viz jackets in the car (this time – we keep forgetting), we had left all the other documentation AND our passports and driving licences in the van – doh!! This caused the stress levels in the little car to rise somewhat, as the police in Spain have a habit of stopping cars, pretty regularly, at the entrance to roundabouts for spot-checks.
We’ve been stopped twice, once on the way to Tarragona…. Luckily though, as soon as they realised there was no steering wheel when I opened my window, they waved us on (this happened the first time as well) – phew 🙂
Once there we took a left by the ‘ampifeatre’, following the road towards the train station and the sea and found a car park immediately. We were right in the centre of things and ended up paying 10.75 Euros for about 6 hours – we were happy with that (even though we hate paying to park!!)
So our first stop was to see the ampifeatre. To be fair you get a really good impression of it without paying to actually go in, but it is worth wandering Continue reading “Sunday in Tarragona”
The next day we stayed local and used our bikes. There are many opportunities for cycling around this area and numerous cycle paths (we tend to make up our own routes!) We first headed right out of the campsite, finding la Gola, where the River Ter meets the sea.
Unfortunately, due to the recent storms, the beach area was a bit untidy. However, there were people there busy clearing it all up.
We then headed back up towards the campsite and the other way towards the marina. This entailed cycling through the floods (we weren’t meant to, but I followed Calv – although I but managed to hit a large bit of debris and ended up jumping into the water to stop myself from falling off completely! It was deep enough to come up to my ankles, so the rest of our ride was completed with me in sodden trainers….)
The day that we came across the border from France into Spain was, it’s fair to say, a bit stressful…
Firstly we were affected, twice, by the fuel protests happening all over France. First as we tried to leave Narbonne, and then as we tried to get onto the motorway at Perpignan. I simply cannot imagine anyone getting away with protests like these at home – making a point and then letting people through, fair enough; burning tyres at the side of the road and not letting anyone through (as happened to us on Saturday) would not be tolerated. On Sunday they were holding everything up for about 15 minutes and then letting a few vehicles through – I guess thereby keeping the police off their backs. We were probably held up for a total of about 1 1/2 hours.
Then, once in Spain, we had heavy rain (yay, welcome to Spain!!) and started noticing increasingly bad floods in the fields alongside the road. As we neared our chosen site we suddenly came across a road closed sign (no diversion or anything…), so we stopped to find a new route, only to have the same thing happen again. It was due to flooded roads and this time we were sent off on a diversion by the police manning the closure. A very interesting diversion it has to be said (it was a road, but not really if you see what I mean!) – anyway we made it through and stayed 1 night at a different site (which was actually very nice – Mas Patoxes, Pals) before heading to L’Estartit and our chosen site, les Medes, in the morning.
Approacing l’Estartit via Toerella de Montgris we could see a castle sitting high atop the mountain – every time we passed it over the next couple of days we would look at each other and say – ‘We’re going up there!’ (and we did 🙂 )
But before we did we visited Empuries at L’Escala, a little way up the coast, cycled around l’Estartit – through the floods and getting waylaid by a little bar open outside the marina (oops) and also took in Dali’s castle in Pubol.
This is a really interesting site – it is, in fact, 2 ancient cities that have been unearthed (this is actually on-going) – 1 Greek (this came 1st) and the other Roman (bigger, but only 20% so far unearthed).
For just 5.50 Euros each we spent a couple of hours wandering the 2 cities and learning of their history, via the audio guide included in the price; visiting the museum and also having a quick drink in the cafe (2 drinks and 2 cakes for about 6 Euros). We would probably have stayed longer but our feet were aching!
This had been a particularly busy day of exercise for me as I had been out for my 1st run in over 3 weeks that morning, surprising myself with how much I enjoyed it! I had also taken advantage of the indoor pool at the campsite the afternoon before – so I was feeling very smug with myself.
Looking for a site around Carcassone we were struggling to find somewhere that was still open at this time of year. So we decided to just visit on the way to the coast – we’d found a site at Narbonne that was open, les Floralys.
What we neglected to do was to decide on where to park when we got there! So we ended up following the signs for ‘La Cite’ before taking a wrong turn and ending up on a dead-end outside a school. There was plentiful parking available so we stopped there! Much to the amusement of the school children milling around. (What we discovered when we left, after having to get the van turned round and the car re-hooked up, was that if we HAD carried on around the roundabout there was an actual parking area right there!!)
Anyway we unhooked the car and went off in search of parking closer to ‘La Cite’. We drove around and around the narrow one way system looking – any on-street parking is covered by permits it would appear, but we eventually found a car park by the river where we parked for free. From here it was about a 10 minute walk up to the medieval city.
Entrance to the city and it’s outer walls is free, but once inside you will pay to visit the castle, school museum and any other attractions of interest. The streets are delightful and the church (see main photo) is beautiful. There are the usual souvenir shops in abundance and many, many eateries. There is also, apparently, a haunted house. Close to the castle.
Back to the van for a quick bacon butty (cue more curious stares from the school kids…!) and then we were back on the road headed for Narbonne.
At this point it was lucky that I’m in the habit of following our route with the map as our Aguri tried to take us down a road that didn’t exist and I realised we were heading away from our destination, so we took over with the 2 phones on Google maps until the Aguri eventually caught up with us.
We chose to stay 2 nights, but it turned out we had little choice anyway as we were affected by the mass protests on fuel duty across the whole of France. We couldn’t even get to the supermarket for milk 😦 And it didn’t stop raining, pretty much, the whole time we were there.
When we couldn’t get to the shop we headed in the opposite direction, towards the sea. At the first roundabout we came too I said ‘we need to go right’, but Calv said ‘I want to go that way’ – up into the mountains! So we did, to see some stunning scenery as we wended our way up, and then back down, the mountain road.
Back at the roundabout we took the road towards Gruissan and Narbonne Plage. We spotted flamingoes out in the lake and a castle up on the hill – so we had to go have a look didn’t we?
Parking up we found our way through the narrow streets to the church and the steps behind leading up to the castle. At first we thought it was closed, but a quick push of the gate and we were in. There’s not much to see but there are wonderful views from the top. Whilst there the wind picked up and the rain didn’t let up, so we headed to an open bar for a quick drink. This particular bar was a sports bar that actually had a betting office on-site!
On the way back to the site we managed to get milk in the garage as we headed out of Gruissane. We did look to see if the protestors had abandoned their post underneath the bridge, but they hadn’t. They had when we popped out a little later though, but all the shops were shut – we’re not entirely sure that they bothered opening to be fair.
The protestors stopped us from driving in to see Narbonne, and the rain stopped us from cycling, so unfortunately we missed out.
The protestors were still out on Sunday when we left for Spain. We thought at first that they wouldn’t be as they weren’t at 10am, but they soon started appearing. We were held up for about 20 mins whilst trying to get out of Narbonne (tyres burning and everything), and then again around Perpignan – this time for over an hour 😦
Everything seemed to go smoothly after this; even the tolls weren’t overly expensive. It’s best to take the toll road from Perpignan into Spain as otherwise you have to deal with very mountainous terrain – the total cost in tolls from Perpignan to Figueres was 11.50 Euros and it took a whole hour off our journey time!
At this point we started noticing the floods on either side of the roads, whole fields under water. Then about 10 miles away from our site we were barred from taking our required road by a police blockade – that’s all you get though, no diversion or anything! So we had to stop and re-calculate a route, which we did, only to be stopped again. This time the police directed us around the floods, which made for a very interesting 10 minutes or so 🙂 We’d already changed our destination by now as we thought we couldn’t get to l’Estartit, and we were very relieved to pitch up for the night. Ready to head the 10 miles to l’Estartit in the morning.
Leaving Tours we decided that we would have a couple of overnighters on the way south, which meant we stayed at a site, de Montreal, a little south of Limoges. A lovely little site set out of the way on a lake in St Germaine-les-belles. We had chosen to take the toll road from Tours to Poitiers, which we regretted as it came at a cost of over 35 Euros!
The next night was spent in another lovely site, de Bois-Redon, in a village outside of Caussade called Septfond. We then headed down towards Toulouse where we had decided to stay for 2 nights (overnighters are all very well, but, for us, 2 in a row is more than enough!)
Having rocked up just outside of Toulouse we decided that we really should make the effort to go into the city.
We were staying at Les Violettes, a campsite just south of the city (and very close to the Canal du Midi) and managed to find out that we could use a park and ride at Ramonville, about 4 miles away, to get on the metro taking us straight into the heart of the city.
At a cost of 6.10 Euros each we were in the city within an hour of leaving the site – even though both car parks were full when we arrived. Just a little tip here – it is worth waiting at the barriers as people do come and go and the barriers will go up when there are a few spaces available; we waited about 10 minutes and then we were in!
Ramonville is the end of 1 of the 2 metro lines that serve the city, and you change after about 11 stops (at Jean-Jaures) to go to Capitole, which is a good place to start your visit.
This is where you will find the Tourist Information centre (in a rather impressive building), and where you can then head down to see the Hotel de Ville (a much more impressive building – mostly hidden by the preparations for an event whilst we were there, sadly).
We moved on towards Tours after leaving la Ferte-Vidame. This route was chosen after much deliberation regarding our route – resulting with us eventually, and reluctantly, deciding to abandon our plan to cross the Millau Viaduct (boooo….); mainly due to the seeming lack of campsites open for us on that route 😦
Having decided on Tours, I thought that we might actually stay for 3 nights, having seen a weather forecast suggesting full sun and a high of 21C on Monday. Sadly it turns out that there are several towns called Tours in France, and my app had decided to provide me with information for a different one, rather than the main town of Tours located in the Loire Valley. So we just stayed for 2 nights after all.
We could have hopped on the cycle path and ridden into Tours to visit the old city (about 4 miles away, with the cycle path passing within about 50m from the site – albeit across a busy road); but we didn’t…
We paid 14 Euros each to visit the castle and gardens – other attractions within the grounds include a maze, wine cellar (caves), gourmet restaurant, tea-room, self-service restaurant, 16th century farm with carriage musuem and donkeys 🙂
6th November was the day we left home for our next adventure. We said our goodbyes and waved to the house, with barely a backward glance.. except we had to go straight back before we made it to the motorway as Calv had left his phone behind…!!
1st stop Brighton for an overnight at the Caravan Club site situated just inland from the marina. We had a bite to eat in the marina; a first ever visit to Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and later in the afternoon (although it felt like the evening by the time we came home (by which I mean ‘van’) at about 6.30pm, as it was so dark), we headed into town to visit the Pavilion and the ice skating rink.
We drove around for a while trying to find somewhere to park for less than £10 for 2 hours; on the seafront you will pay £6 for 2 hours closer to Palace Pier, but we parked nearer to West Pier where we paid ‘only’ £4.20 for 2 hours.
I’m glad we did though, as it was just a 15 minute walk back to the Pavilion which looked perfect all lit up for the ice-skating. We didn’t partake (we didn’t want to risk either of us breaking a leg before going away!) but it was great fun to watch. (We have no idea who these lads are in Calv’s photo – but they seem very happy with themselves!!!