My CoronaVirus Distancing in Numbers – Days 13 & 14

2nd Instalment of my own lockdown journal.
Are you on your own, even if only for part of the day, during this lockdown? How are you coping? Are you managing to fill your time?

A continuation of my lockdown ‘journal’…   Click here for the 1st instalment

I did fairly well on Monday (Day 13) with staying off social media and games, although I lapsed a little towards the end of the day.  (I need to write the day every now and then as otherwise they all meld in together; in other words I don’t know what day it is!!)  Today is Wednesday (aka Day 15)

Date:

Wednesday 1st April 2020 (I’m not really expecting there to be many April Fools jokes today)

Current Day of Social Distancing (following government guidelines):

15, but I’m writing about 13 & 14 (as it’s still before 8am on Wednesday, day 15)

Days spent on my own while Calv works (as an HGV driver)

8

Les Mills workouts completed

5* (well 3 1/4 as Body Balance really isn’t my thing…)

  • 3* x sh’bam
  • 1 x Body Combat (the ‘how to’ – will do a proper workout next time)
  • 1/4 x body balance – I never could do it, but thought I’d have another go.  The one I chose involved pulling legs towards me by the ankle.  My right ankle (injured almost 5 weeks ago while playing netball) still isn’t ready for this.  So I gave up 😦

Bring Sally Up (Sally Squat’s)

5* – I still haven’t had to cheat again 🙂

Planks

5* – I’m managing to add 5 seconds each day (I’m now up to 40 seconds and VERY pleased with myself)

Run

1 – I haven’t plucked up the courage to try again after last time but have every intention of doing so tomorrow (I think it’s Thursday tomorrow)

Walks

9*

No walk on Saturday – that was the day we had our visit trip to the supermarket under these current conditions.  I was dreading it!  It was also my 1st time out in a car for over 2 weeks.

At Asda the queue snaked all the way across the front of the store and into the car park.  Everyone was standing patiently 2m apart, although we did see someone give up and go back to their car ( we did wonder if they were thinking it might be quieter later – I wouldn’t have thought so!)

We were let in 1 (or 1 couple) at a time as people finished their shopping and left.  Inside the store there were arrows on the floor to try to dictate the direction of flow.  People were clearly trying to follow these, but it’s not easy is it?  Most people were observing the 2m rule but, again, there were a couple who simply didn’t seem to understand it and would come barrelling towards you.

All in all though not a bad experience and we got everything we wanted/needed.

After dropping some bits off to my dad – he’s 85 and seems to be coping quite well with the lockdown (he has lots of books!)  He’s following all the advice to the extent that he refuses to go out into the back garden despite us all telling him that this is allowed!

Anyway, I digress.  On the way home as we pulled onto the Delme roundabout the van in front of us hit a swan, which came flying over the top of the van to land in front of us.  Of course we stopped and put the hazards on as did the car behind us.  After about 5 mins of being sheltered by us and the guy behind (and me trying to ring the RSPCA, who didn’t pick up) the swan seemed to get over it’s shock and stood up to waddle onto the centre of the roundabout – it knew exactly where to go to be safe.  Hopefully it was just shocked.

I eventually managed to persuade Calv to come out for a walk later on on Sunday, by which time there was a bracing wind.  We managed to avoid this on the way back up the hill by taking the bridleway up past the crematorium.

My walk on Monday (day 13) included stepping over the barrier in front of a footpath just before the road bridge over the motorway.  The foot traffic thinned out as I climbed higher towards my goal (I’d always wanted to take this path to see if it would take me directly to the footpath over the motorway – it didn’t).

I did see a little girl with her dad checking out the house (right beside the barrier) that recently had a car buried in it’s front room.  There is no reason for the barrier itself to be there – I wonder if it was just laziness or thoughtlessness that means it’s there?  Or does it have to extend a certain length either side of the bridge?  Who knows!

I found myself walking through local roads that I’d heard of but never walked through (they’re all within minutes of my house!)

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Barrier across the Footpath

Yesterday (day 14) I found that the bottom of my road was quite congested and much changing of direction and crossing of the road was required to negotiate my way safely home  🙂

Wii-Fit

3* – Yesterday, (day 14) I wasn’t really in the mood for a full on workout so decided on the WiiFit.

I was proud of myself for finishing off though with Sally Squats, some crunches (numbers upped on previous days) and the obligatory plank 🙂

Trips to the van ‘larder’

So far I have visited most days and had to procure the following:-  (a * denotes a change from my previous post)

  • 2* bottles squash
  • 2 packs of teabags – the small packs you get in big boxes
  • 1 box green teabags
  • 4 tins baked beans (Branston)
  • 3 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins butter beans
  • 1 tin haricot beans
  • 1 jar of pesto
  • 1 jar of Ragu
  • 1 jar of jam
  • 1 packet of caster sugar (very important)
  • Garam Masala
  • Several bottles/cans of beer and cider
  • 1 bottle of wine
  • 1 jar of coffee
  • 1 box of pasta
  • 2 packs of Mexican style rice
  • 2 x toilet rolls

Also now:

  • 4 tins of tuna
  • Jar ground coriander
  • 1 tin of custard
  • Several stock pots
  • Crisps
  • 1 box jaffa cakes

Conversations on HouseParty/other video calls

6 so far on HouseParty / 7/8 on FB or WhatsApp / 1 Google hang-out with work colleagues

I’m still finding that I’m talking to people much more.  I’m still not very good at phone calls though!

Watching Homes under the Hammer

I watched most of this on Monday (day 12 🙂

Watching TV in general during the day

SHOCKER – neither Neighbours of Emmerdale were on yesterday (day 13)!!

I’m still not struggling with abiding by the social distancing, but it’s only been a couple of weeks – let’s see what I’m saying this time next week (especially as it looks as though Calv is likely to be at home with me by then!!)

I hope you’re all coping as well and finding plenty to do to occupy your time.

Above all, stay home, stay safe and call someone if you’re struggling (that includes me if you know me xx)

Until the next time xx

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My CoronaVirus Distancing in Numbers

Are you on your own, even if only for part of the day, during this lockdown? How are you coping? Are you managing to fill your time?

Rather than write a full-on journal of my time during this period I thought I’d go for more of a Bridget Jones style tome (having finally watched Bridget Jones’ Baby last night – loved it 🙂 )

Also today I am trying to stay off of Social Media and also the games that I play on my phone (WordBlitz, Sudoku, ConnectOne).  Wish me luck!!

Date:

Monday 30th March 2020

Current Day of Social Distancing (following government guidelines):

12 (18 if you count the time we spent in France), but let’s stick with 12 – which is since we got home

Days spent on my own while Calv works (as an HGV driver)

6

Les Mills workouts completed

4 (well 3 1/4 as Body Balance really isn’t my thing…)

  • 2 x sh’bam
  • 1 x Body Combat (the ‘how to’ – will do a proper workout next time)
  • 1/4 x body balance – I never could do it, but thought I’d have another go.  The one I chose involved pulling legs towards me by the ankle.  My right ankle (injured almost 5 weeks ago while playing netball) still isn’t ready for this.  So I gave up 😦

Bring Sally Up (Sally Squat’s)

4 – only had to cheat the 1st time, but boy does this hurt!

Planks

3 – I’m trying to add 5 seconds each day (I’m now up to 30 seconds and, whilst you may not be impressed by this, I am!)

Run

1 – well sort of.  I put on my ankle support and had a go.  I managed 1/2 mile before my calves called a halt.  I kept having to stop to stretch.  So my run stayed as more of the walk it was originally intended to be.  I’ll have another go tomorrow.

Walks

6.

The 1st couple of days that we were back were spent sorting out the van, so I was backwards and forwards, up and down the steps and stairs.  It should count as a long walk really!  Saturday we had to brave the supermarket and I haven’t been out yet today (that’s an afternoon pleasure)

If I do need anything (that I can’t get from the van, like bread or milk) I’m trying to shop local and incorporating this into my daily walk.

Everybody that I’ve come across has been very good with the social distancing, although it still feels wierd to cross the road when you come across someone else walking…

I’ve also found it quite sad to see funeral directors waiting outside the crematorium, with no family members in attendance.

In the shops social distancing is being observed (although there’s always the odd 1 person who doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on 😦 )

Wii-Fit

2

I know this is no longer fashionable.  In fact I’ve heard people saying things like ‘Who even has a WiiFit anymore?’  Well, me.  I do.  And I still like it 🙂

On the WiiFit + I can do a ‘step’ class to get my steps up for the day (as I’m still participating in FitBit challenges).  I can also do the fun stuff that keeps me sane.  Perhaps I’ll put the Active on at some point for a proper workout.

Trips to the van ‘larder’

As many of you know we are currently supposed to be touring around Europe – right now we should be somewhere in Italy heading for Rome.

My point being the van was well stocked up with essentials that we have had trouble getting in Europe previously (beans, tea-bags, salad cream etc.)

As we are hoping (there always has to be hope even if it’s rather forlorn) to maybe get away for a month or 6 weeks of this trip (we were not aiming to be home until mid August) we have left all non-essential food in the van for the time being.  When I need something I visit the van-larder.

So far I have visited most days and had to procure the following:-

  • 1 bottle squash
  • 2 packs of teabags – the small packs you get in big boxes
  • 1 box green teabags
  • 4 tins baked beans (Branston)
  • 3 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins butter beans
  • 1 tin haricot beans
  • 1 jar of pesto
  • 1 jar of Ragu
  • 1 jar of jam
  • 1 packet of caster sugar (very important)
  • Garam Masala
  • Several bottles/cans of beer and cider
  • 1 bottle of wine
  • 1 jar of coffee
  • 1 box of pasta
  • 2 packs of Mexican style rice
  • 2 x toilet rolls

In addition to food I’ve had to retrieve 1 x ankle support, 2 x VGA to HDMI cables (so that I can see my Les Mills workouts on the TV), my gym mat & kettle bell and my running belt and headphones.

At this rate I’m going to have to fully stock the van again when we can eventually go away!

Conversations on HouseParty/other video calls

3 so far on HouseParty / 5 or 6 on FB or WhatsApp

I am finding that I’m talking to people much more.  I’m not very good at phone calls but have been making the effort to keep in touch far more then usual

Watching Homes under the Hammer

Very little.  Which may surprise people who know me as I have, in the past, been obsessed with this programme!

However, I have other things to do!  Such as exercise, making dinner (tonight I’m making a Chicken Dopiaza from the Pinch of Nom cookbook), washing, ironing, reading, updating my coronavirus tracker (yes, I’m doing that – it keeps me sane!)

Watching TV in general during the day

Surprisingly little.  I watch Neighbours daily (yes, something else I still do!!), although quite often I don’t get to watch it until about 6pm!

So, so far, I’m not struggling to abide by the guidelines (rules), although I have to admit I did have a bit of a wobble on day 1 of these being more official (last Tuesday).  More of the fact that you simply have no choice in whether you interact with people.

But I got over it fairly quickly and am now finding that I still don’t have enough time in the day to do everything that I’d like to!

I really hope that others in my situation (I’m on my own throughout the day, normally until about 6pm give or take) are coping well and continue to do so.

Above all, stay home, stay safe and call someone if you’re struggling (that includes me if you know me xx)

Until the next time xx

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European Tour cut short by Coronavirus Crisis

Did you start a European holiday only for it to be cut short? Here I talk about our recent experience of exactly this. Here’s hoping everything will be able to go back to normal soon and we can all start visiting each other again xx

When I wrote my last post we were newly in France with the 1st set of closures put in place (i.e. non-essential shops and business closed), but with the local elections set to go ahead the following day.  We felt fairly confident that our plan of making it to a site in the South of France and sitting out any further measures, should they occur, was still achievable…

Obviously this isn’t what happened!  However, it was a couple of days before this became clear – and it was rather sudden!

So I thought I’d give you a whistle-stop summary of our whole trip in just the 1 post!  So here goes…

Days 1 & 2:  Friday 13th & Saturday 14th March 2020 (perhaps there was a clue here?)

We arrived in Dieppe aboard a pretty empty ferry after a slightly bumpy crossing, and shared the Aire with a number of other vans (mostly French), before taking a walk around Dieppe (already socially distancing ourselves) and then spending a 2nd night in the same Aire.  (I wrote a post covering this already – click on the link above)

Day 3: Sunday 15th March 2020

We made the decision to use proper sites rather than free aires ‘just in case’, thinking that we would be able to stop on a site once we were there, and also to go further than we had originally planned.  So I looked through the trusty ACSI book and found a site in Sully sur Loire, about 100 miles south of Paris, Camping le Jardin de Sully  (You’ll be able to see my review here when I’ve written it!)

For us this was a long journey being 200 miles as we normally aim for under 100 miles.  Little did we know at this point that we would be driving almost 900 miles in total in the next 5 days before we made it home…

The campsite was lovely, and pretty empty, although there was another English couple in their caravan who were heading home via the tunnel because they had medical appointments and wanted to ensure they got home for them.

The French were out and about in droves taking walks along the river, and even in the evening the youngsters were congregating in their cars in car parks as they couldn’t go to cafes and bars.  We know this as we went out for a walk in the evening once, or so we thought, everyone else had gone home!  We were able to avoid these groups and walked for a few miles, crossing the bridge and finding the chateau (and the town Aire) and several closed bars and restaurants.  It looks like a lovely little town and we have no doubt that we will one day return to explore the area by cycle (the cycle path system is very good)

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Day 4: Monday 16th March 2020

We had been thinking of staying here for a 2nd night, but in the end decided to crack on further South.  On checking out I told the lady what we were hoping to do – in hindsight it would have been nice if she’d mentioned that President Macron was due to address the nation that evening with an important announcement.  But she didn’t, and we had contacted 2 campsites that both said they were fully open… So we headed off further South.

225 miles further south to be precise to Vielle Brioude, south of Clermont Ferrand and Issoire.  We chose to take the toll motorway this time, as we were going so far.  Then I forgot to press the button when paying to explain that we were a camping car (the rate will be changed if you do this).   In my defence I was intent on seeing if my Halifax Clarity card would work this time (as it didn’t the previous day when we used a short section of toll, and I’d had to use my debit card); and I just completely forgot…  It probably cost us about 15Euros, maybe 20…   I won’t forget again!

Just before our destination we stopped at an Intermarch to get some essentials, and top up with fuel.  The supermarket was very busy with several items unobtainable, but we managed to get everything that we needed, and set off again to find the campsite.

A couple of wrong turns and slightly unsuitable roads later we found it, Camping de la Bageasse, which looked much nicer in the photos than in reality!!

We were the only unit there (although there were a couple of chalets in use), and once we’d chosen our spot and found electricity that worked (by now our fridge had stopped working on gas), we settled down for the evening.

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In the evening the lady from reception came to see us to explain that the campsite was possibly to close in the morning after the president’s address.  Instead of waiting we spent the evening trying to book a ferry home.  We had problems with booking the DFDS ferry from Dieppe, and thought that we’d managed it, only for the site to crash on us again.  So we booked a ferry into Portsmouth on Brittany (at an extra £100).  In the morning though I had an e-mail from DFDS confirming our booking!

Thankfully Brittany Ferries were brilliant and cancelled our booking with an immediate full refund.  The receptionist also confirmed that the site was indeed closing and anybody on it being asked to leave.

Day 5: Tuesday 17th March 2020 (midday lockdown)

Approximately 425 miles to go, but 2 days to do this (our ferry was Thursday at 05.30am – changed from 6.30pm Wednesday foc by DFDS Ferries).

We chose to avoid the toll motorway this time as we had a bit of time.  But it did seem to take forever; so we ended up doing the last 30 miles or so on the toll; I remember to press the button this time and saved 9 Euros.  We were stopped once, just after midday, at a routine checkpoint on a roundabout – a show of our ferry booking and my ‘nous allons au bateau pour aller chez nous’ did the trick, and we were soon on our way with a smile and a ‘bonne route’.

We were then held up driving through a small town where we had to pull into a car park.  There were 2 other British vans in there with us.  A French lady also pulled up and started talking to me – I did pretty well, in that we sort of understood each other and she told me what had happened (sadly a little boy had run out into the road and been knocked over), but she just kept moving closer and closer to me!  In the end I had to run into the van saying my tea was getting cold!  (nb: I don’t understand why the police in France need to carry massive guns when attending a traffic incident in a small rural town though..)

I’d found a likely overnight stop in Mery sur Cher, west of Vierzon, and we were so happy when we made it there.  Absolutely perfect spot behind the village car park, but with a toilet, electricity, security lights and little individual pitches as well as the normal amenities.  The barrier had been removed meaning it was all free as well (although we would happily have paid).  I hadn’t been so happy in days!

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Day 6: Wednesday 18th March

The traffic increased as we made our way further north, although eerily quiet as we drove through Orleans.  Driving past Chartres I was, again, amazed at the size of the cathedral – you can see it from miles away and I must see it in reality 1 day!

From Rouen the traffic really picked up, and once in Dieppe we managed to get a little lost as we had never approached from this direction before 😦  This time we were 1 of only 3 vans in the Aire – we think most people turned up late and waited in line at the port.

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Day 7: Thursday 19th March 2020

An early start (4.15am) to catch the 5.30am ferry.  We were pretty much at the back of the queue (see main photo – which doesn’t really show just how many motorhomes there were).

An uneventful journey home.  2 members of staff were operating the coffee machine for everybody as you got on (free), but there was no food being served.

All in all we were pretty happy to get home, although obviously absolutely gutted that all we had achieved in our week away was 2 fairly long walks and over 900 miles driving…

If things improve in the next couple of months however we will head off again, even if it’s only for a few weeks.

Stay safe everyone – and remember, this too shall pass and normal life will resume.  Maybe at that point we’ll all be a little more grateful for our normal freedoms 🙂

Travelling during the Coronavirus Outbreak – Our experience so far

By ‘so far’ I actually mean join us from the beginning of our trip!  We left the UK yesterday on a pretty empty ferry out of Newhaven, bound for Dieppe.  To all intents and purposes it would appear we left in the nick of time, as much of Europe is now beginning to close their borders. 

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Now before I go any further I do feel the need to defend ourselves for going ahead with our trip.  It’s not a decision we made lightly, but we don’t regret it for a second.  Even though we are fully aware that we are unlikely to be able to visit all the places that we were hoping to (mainly Croatia, but this entails a trip through Italy so fairly unlikely – although we do have 5 months, so you never know…),  we are currently heading down towards the South of France – where would you rather be stuck? Continue reading “Travelling during the Coronavirus Outbreak – Our experience so far”

Coronavirus and Travel Plans – To Go or Not To Go…..?

So here we are at the end of February with a planned date to leave for Europe of 5th March… Our plans? Head down through France to Italy, take in Rome and Venice on our way through Italy to visit Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Belgium.
Hmm – little spanner in the works now called CoronaVirus means our plans are up in the air – what to do?

Do you ever get that feeling that you should be more excited for your upcoming plans than you are?  And then something happens that suggests you were right not to be excited – you’re pshycic – you knew all along that this might happen (or not, as the case may be).  Ever been there?

Well, I suspect that we’re not the only people in this position currently.  Only perhaps we are slightly more fortunate in that we have nothing booked and we can just do what we want, when we want – to a certain degreee anyway.

What am I talking about?  Well our plans for our next trip were well underway – in sofaras we ever plan.  This time the plan was catch a ferry, possibly on 5th March (we haven’t booked it yet), pootle down through France, finally crossing the Millau Viaduct on the way; head into Italy and down Continue reading “Coronavirus and Travel Plans – To Go or Not To Go…..?”

Suggested Route & Overnight Stops when travelling through France to Spain

Are you travelling to, or from, Spain via France? This is the route we took on the way home last year and the overnight stops we used (all free). It’s a route we would definitely use again 🙂 (GPS included)

Whilst trying to decide what route to take home from Spain last year, we were thinking of heading up to Pamplona and taking the motorway from there to France, maybe visiting Biarritz on entering France.

But then somebody told us about the Somport tunnel which goes through the Pyrenees.  We had no idea!  After a bit of investigation we decided that this then would be our route home 🙂

We didn’t have to alter our plans too much as we were using the same road north through Spain, just leaving it a little earlier.

As we approached the tunnel (well a few miles away) on the Spanish side, we stoppped at our last service area, I think it was at Jaca, where there was a rather lovely chocolate, patisserie shop.  We managed to resist before heading off on our last stretch of road in Spain, which was punctuated by charming little villages and blue sunny skies.  We would probably try to stay at least 1 night in future in this area.

The tunnel itself is free to use and 5.3 miles long. It’s amazing to think that you’re driving through the Pyrenees!  So we left Spain’s sunny skies and emerged on the other side in France to drizzly rain!

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Stopped on the French side of the Somport Tunnel (blue skies on the Spanish side!) (video above is the approach to the tunnel on the Spanish side)

But there were still lovely features – better roads for a start…  Also an old railway line (I believe the Pau-Canfranc) running along the side of the road, in places this seems to have been restored.  Again, we would like to stop in this area on a future trip and making sure we visit the Canfranc International Railway Station on the Spanish side.

We found the roads absolutely fine for our 8.56m motorhome towing a Citroen C1 behind, although, I have to say, Calv IS a lorry driver and very confident in pretty much any situation.

I think that perhaps we travelled too far on the French side on our first leg, and unfortunately, despite some investigation, I can’t remember the name of the town/village we stopped in. Sorry – I’ll do better next time!

We arrived in the dark and the parking was all taken, so we parked on some ground next to it which was being used by coaches to park up overnight – we parked next to a Morello!  We set off nice and early in the morning though and then headed to our next stop, which was to be Montreuil-Bellay, apparently celebrities as diverse as Edwina Currie and Mick Jagger have homes here – I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a lovely area and it wouldn’t surprise me 🙂

Although we were aiming for a different overnight stop (3 spaces behind a wine cellar at GPS, N47.13.522:W0.11121), when we got there it turned out to be too small really for us, so we set off looking for the other stop (Les Nobis – 30 spaces at GPS, N47,13272:W0,15835), which would have been easy to find had we not already left the main road!  Trying to make our way through town was not easy, entailing leaving the van parked up, unhooking the car and driving round and round in an attempt to find the site…  (There are areas in town where it’s not possible to take a camper or caravan; low, narrow arches and suchlike).

We discovered what a beautiful, historic town this was and eventually found our destination.  And how amazing it was too – a dedicated area big enough for a couple of dozen vans, located in front of an outdoor swimming pool and next to a nice looking campsite (closed out of season), alongside the river and with a wonderful view of the castle 🙂  See the pictures below:-

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And those photos are just of the Aire!  We actually stayed 2 nights as the town was so lovely.  Photos of the town follow 🙂  Most of these pics are within a 5-10 minute walk of the Aire.

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Once we managed to tear ourselves away and get back on the road we headed on up to Le Mans, where we had already decided to stop overnight – the medieval old town is something special, known as Cite Plantagent as Henry II was born there in 1133.  The Historic Quarter comprises 20 hectares of cobbled streets; still inhabited and a wonderful walk.

The Aire is immediately at the foot of the Historic quarter, on the Quai Louis Blanc    (N 48 ° 0’45.0036 ”E 0 ° 11’55.7628) , at the end of a series of large car parks (it’s a dedicated area but several cars choose to park there during the day, despite there being more than enough car parking spaces in the other car park areas…).

It is next to a busy road, but this does quieten down outside of rush-hour, and it’s opposite the river with a lovely view of an old mill and an historic bridge almost exactly opposite.  The real downside is that, although there is water available, it costs 8Euros!!  Just make sure you have enough onboard before you get there would be our advice 🙂

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We only stayed 1 night, but arrived fairly early in the day so were able to explore the historic quarter at our leisure, including a lunch watching, yet another, French protest.  This time lorry drivers who were no longer to be allowed to park up in front of the new town hall.  They had been blocking the road for the last 24 hours, with another 24 hours to go – or so we were told by one of the policemen looking on (there were many, many policemen).

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We had 1 more stop before the ferry – we were going from Caen.  We chose a small stop behind the town square of Hermanville, with a 5 minute walk to the British War Cemetery (GPS, N48,97026:W0,31243).  A lovely little find with a shop, bakery, florist and hairdressers right on hand Plus a nice little walk around the village and a 10 minute drive to Caen.

We spent the afternoon in Caen and discovered the old part of town as well as the beautiful beach; although this does evoke mixed emotions when you consider the history of this whole area.

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And of course, knowing that you only have a 10 minute drive to the port in the morning for your ferry is very welcome!

Nuevalos – a visit on the way home via the Somport Tunnel

A final Spanish stop on our way home. Another little find; another place to revisit (especially as we missed the best part of the Monasterio del Piedra – the park itself)

Our final stop in Spain before our run through France to catch the ferry home.  We chose Nuevalos via the ACSI book mainly for it’s proximity to Calatayud, not realising it’s a lovely area in it’s own right.

The drive was interesting with the SatNav taking us along a narrow, bendy road through the mountains for the last 20 or so kilometres.  Luckily we didn’t see too many other cars, and when we did we were close to passing points (with the little car on the back it’s not so easy to reverse).  For most of this section there was nowhere to go on the right hand side of the road.  Calv would have loved it if we had just been in the little car; in the van – not so much!  Anyway, we survived and made it to our campsite on the lake, Camping Lagos Resort, Nuevalos .  This is a nice, terraced site overlooking a beautiful lake.  Quite steep in places and unfortunately, at the time we were there in mid-March, there were alot of little, annoying, flies 😦

We stayed 4 or 5 nights and were lucky to enjoy some beautiful weather (although we couldn’t really sit outside the van due to the flies).  We visited Calatayud, a pleasant town about 10 miles north, where we were able to stock up on groceries.  We also wandered along the lakeside, around Nuevalos itself and took a longer walk to the Monasterio del Piedro.

Calatayud Continue reading “Nuevalos – a visit on the way home via the Somport Tunnel”

Another Spanish Hidden Gem – Albaraccin. The Most Beautiful Village in Spain?

We enjoyed a wonderful stopover in Albarracin and would highly recommend a visit to those touring Spain. Possible if you’re heading north either towards France (via Somport Tunnel) or to either of the ferry ports.

Sometimes, when you have no idea where to go next, the ACSI book supplies a corker!

When unsure where exactly to head we decide on a general direction and roughly how far we want to travel – then we simply get the ACSI book out and see what’s available!  (This doesn’t always work of course.  At which point we get out the ‘Motorhome Stopover’ book and/or defer to the internet).

On this occasion though we knew that we were heading for the Somport Tunnel as our way out of Spain (as we were towing the little car we were avoiding Northern Spain), so we were to head in the direction of Zaragoza – further away from Valencia than you would think!

We were originally considering the town of Teruel but on checking the ACSI map saw a site a little further on at a place called Albaraccin.  A quick check online confirmed that this could be a nice place so the satnav was set accordingly.  The A23 (non-toll) took us most of the way before we headed off onto the 234 just after Teruel, and finally onto the road running into Albaraccin.  This is where we really started to get a feel for where we were heading as the scenery was stunning as we headed through gorges and past ruins high up on the hills.

(This YouTube video from ‘Spain Speaks‘ gives a fair idea of what we experienced – but remember we are sat up higher in the motorhome.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=MtIlBbAtbD0 )

Camping Ciudad de Albaraccin is located on the outskirts in the ‘new’ part of town.  By going this way you also understand that there is more to this region than just the beautiful old town (cave paintings/bouldering/walking/dinosaurs…)

Once parked up (with amazing views of the old fortification walls forming a spine on the mountain) we set off to explore immediately (we were only staying overnight).

The old town beckoned.  With little time we took the little car and headed back out to park in the big car park we’d seen as we took our first left towards the campsite.  Even this was pretty with a little stream running alongside.

Wandering through the lower part of town we found a couple more carparks (possible for motorhomes perhaps to park –  not sure about overnighting though) before starting on the long climb up to the main old town.  One thing we didn’t manage to find though, on a warm Tuesday afternoon near the beginning of March, was a cafe!

No matter, what we did find more than made up for the lack of a beverage 🙂

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After finding the Torre Blanca (sadly closed for visits) and the stunning scenery surrounding it we made our way towards the castle, the el Salvador cathedral and, eventually after a wander around the narrow, steep, winding cobbled streets – at times together, at times separated by my desire to explore a little set of steps or a covered alley, we found the Plaza Mayor (from where the main picture was taken).  On my circuitous route to this spot I also found the base of the wall snaking it’s way up the mountain.  Although there were 3 lads clambering up towards the wall itself it was definitely way beyond my capabilities!

Entering the Plaza Mayor is shown in the following video which will, hopefully, also give you an idea of what to expect from Albaraccin. Continue reading “Another Spanish Hidden Gem – Albaraccin. The Most Beautiful Village in Spain?”

Valencia, Pucol and Sagunto

We decided on a final visit to the coast before heading for home, choosing a site near Valencia (Camping Valencia) in a small town called Pucol.

Van on site in Pucol

Even though first impressions of our chosen site were, shall we say, less than favourable, we managed to move to the nicer part of the site on the 2nd day and ended up extending our stay to a whole week 🙂

We did spend a fair bit of time simply relaxing here, but we also visited the nearby town of Pucol on our bikes – there are many opportunities for cycling, with a really good cycle/running path into town.  We also cycled the other way along many green lanes/farm tracks – of which there are many 🙂

Days out were 1 day driving to Valencia, failing miserably to find a parking space so parking on the outskirts and riding back in!  More on that later 🙂

We also drove in the opposite direction to visit the ancient town of Sagunto, which is well worth a visit.

So let’s start with our visit to Valencia.  Having parked on the outskirts (I’m sorry I can’t tell you where exactly (it might have been Benimaclet), but it was adjacent to the cycle path and we parked for nothing).  I do know that we headed past the university and into the city before finding our destination of The Turia Gardens.  We had heard that this was a wonderful way to cycle the city situated as it is through it’s heart where the Turia River flowed until it was diverted to prevent further flooding.

With numerous exits and entrances to this 8km long area we joined a little way before the futuristic Museum of Arts and Sciences, an amazing building bordered by numerous wasterways and fountains.  A beautiful, tranquil area to relax.

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We simply cycled along the paths of the gardens, eventually stopping for some lunch near the old city – I think it was the Bar Baja la Puente Calatrava (no. 7 on this list of Turia Garden eateries from JuliaEats).  I do know that we enjoyed our lunch and that there was plenty of parking available for our bikes 🙂  I also know that whilst we were sat there there was a long series of VERY loud bangs, which startled us but seemingly nobody else!  We later discovered that this is a daily occurrence in the weeks leading up to The Fallas Festival – The Mascleta; read all about it here.

We left the gardens at the Puente de Flores, bordered as it is on both sides with beautiful floral displays 🙂

We came out by the old gateway to the city (that we saw on our last visit), had a little cycle around the fountains before returning to the gardens and heading towards the car.  Which we eventually found – even though we took a completely different route!!

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Our other day out was to Sagunto, a small town with a big history.  There was a market on the day we visited so we couldn’t drive directly into the old town; after a detour of about 2 miles (well it felt like it anyway) we found ourselves about 100m up the road and on the other side of the old town – these were very narrow streets!  Even in the little car it felt tiny.  We had to be really careful as many of the streets turned out to be dead-ends and it was pretty awkward reversing back down the steep hills whilst navigating the amazing Spanish parking!!  We finally spotted a space by the side of the road.  Leaving the car we headed up one of the steep roads towards the hill holding the massive castle.

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I say massive – this castle is visible from miles away (including from the campsite), and during our visit we discovered it actually ranges across the top of the hill for about 1/2 mile.

We followed stone steps and pathways up, up and then down, down the hill.  Which was a little disconcerting!  We passed a small white chapel on the way before coming across the Roman Ampitheatre, free to visit and definitely worth a visit.

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Around the hilloutside the ampitheatre was the old cemetry (Judio Cemeterio) consisting of graves dug into the hill itself.  We walked passed many more as we made our way up the steep hill towards the castle itself.  Also free to visit we maybe managed to see half of what there was to see!  There are extensive ruins to be seen, although it is a work in process of renovation.  I would suggest taking a picnic and spending the day exploring 🙂

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I need to point out that the beach at Pucol was lovely, but unfortunately we didn’t really have the weather to take advantage of it 😦

All in all we had a lovely time here and there were a couple more excursions that we could have taken, but we just wanted to relax by then!

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Here’s hoping I manage to finish off posting about our last trip before we head off on our next one (in a couple of month’s time!!)

 

We stayed:  Camping Valencia, Pucol 

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A return to Banos de Fortuna (we finally found the Roman ruins :)

On leaving the desert plains of the Cabo de Gata we decided to head back to the Banos de Fortuna with a view to finding the ruins of the Roman baths – which we summarily failed at on our last visit!

This time we had a couple of days at the back of the site (Camping La Fuente) with no electric before moving back to the access road with electric for a few nights.  We would have been really happy to stay where we were, but couldn’t as there was someone booked in.  (Note: If you have a non-electric spot the swimming pool is included in your 15Euro nightly charge – bonus!)

Anyway we were very happy to be back – and it was very much hotter this time!  Our first mission was to find the roman ruins, which turned out to be much easier than we thought.  It helps if you talk to the right people of course!  Straight up through the village past the church, slight left and hop over the ‘chain’, follow the track – the ruins are on the right, but it’s worth looking to the left as well 🙂

We were really surprised at how much there was left and also at the fact that nothing is being made of them at all since an earthquake (I would have loved to have seen them before the earthquake).  Apparently this is actually only a tiny proportion of the original site, much of which is now buried beneath the ‘modern’ buildings (built in the 18th century).  See here for more information on the area.

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Having finally succeeded in our mission we tured our attention elsewhere.  On searching for a new gas bottle (we should have just bought it on the site) we drove past, for the 2nd or 3rd time, a reservoir that looked to be worth a visit.  So we headed back out there and followed signs to try to find somewhere to park up and explore.

We found somewhere and were able to walk across the top of the dam, from where we found the water didn’t appear quite so enticing 😦  We chatted to a couple of other Brits who had attempted to walk around the reservoir – they told us that it was very uneven and you never really get close to the water, and having walked for a couple of hours they didn’t really seem to have got very far!  So we decided against it 🙂

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Instead we had a little wander finding a couple of abandoned old buildings, and also plenty of evidence of drug taking and, seemingly, someone taking potshots at bottles (lots and lots of glass).  So not the best of expeditions, but at least we know now!

The other thing that we did that we hadn’t managed on our last visit, was to visit Tina’s bar properly and eat there (we had fish and chips – very good).

The only other activities that we engaged in whilst staying here was taking advantage of having free entry to the pool for a few days, finding new running routes and basically lounging around doing very little 🙂

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Another day, another sunset
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Our 2nd pitch at Banos de Fortuna

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We would highly recommend a visit to this area.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time here (on both occasions).

Next stop, Valencia 🙂

We stayed:  Camping La Fuente, Banos de Fortuna

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