Walking and Kayaking in Symonds Yat

I’m always surprised how many people HAVEN’T heard of Symonds Yat! Yes, I have childhood memories of trips here, but it is such a beautiful spot it should be on everybody’s UK bucket list (IMHO) 🙂

After our time in Lynmouth we headed north again for the stunning Wye Valley. We stayed at Greenacres nr. Coleford, which gave us the perfect excuse to walk 12 miles to take in Symonds Yat 🙂

We arrived mid-afternoon to find that our booking hadn’t been updated from the previous Saturday – oh no! Mild panic ensued, but we waited patiently until we got the good news that there was a pitch for us – phew 🙂

Once pitched up we headed off toward Monmouth to get in a few supplies for a bbq as my sister and her husband were joining us for a couple of nights. We were very confused on entering Lidls. I kept nudging Calv.. ‘They’re not very mask compliant here are they?!’ Then we realised that we were in Wales where (at that point in COVID history) they weren’t required to wear masks… We took ours off, and then found it didn’t feel right and put them back on again! (Who would have thought it?!!)

Back in England my sister arrived, we enjoyed our bbq and evening and in the morning we checked the route we needed to take for Symonds Yat. The footpath starts in the campsite and, although I’m pretty sure we took a few wrong turns, it was a lovely walk and we eventually made it to the river and the sanctuary of the ancient Saracen’s Head Inn, situated in front of the old hand-pulled chain ferry across the river (sadly not open at all during our visits). Here we navigated all the new rules and found a seat on the terrace for a drink and a spot of lunch.

Debs and I set off up the hill to the viewpoint before the boys. Luckily I had forgotten what a hard trek this is uphill!! But it is sooo worth it as the views are truly spectacular 🙂

It was a very tired group of 4 that arrived back at the van late on, so we decided to eat out. We investigated many local pubs, finding most were either booked up or we didn’t fancy what was on offer. In the end we chose to head into the nearest town, Coleford, and see what we could find.

We found the town of an evening to be not particularly, shall we say, inviting… Lots of people milling around, drinks in hand, outside the pubs.. Anyway we found a little Indian Restaurant that had a few tables, Cinnamons, and decided to give it a go. Very pleasant it was too 🙂

I must say that Calv and I had visited Coleford before and did note one place of interest, which was just off the main car park, being the GWR Railway Museum. (Every town has something to offer 🙂 )

Having extended our stay at Greenacres by a couple of nights (we had to move all our bookings around suddenly when Greater Manchester and the surrounding areas had new restrictions put in place – meaning we decided to cancel our stay up in Ingleton), we didn’t need to rush off in the morning. This meant that Debbie and Paul were able to come back down to Symonds Yat with us (this time in the car) as we had missed Biblins Bridge the day before. This is a rope bridge across the river.

It’s a couple of miles back upriver from the car park, so was a decent walk. There is a tearoom on the other riverbank, which we took advantage of, as well as a campsite for tents and small camper vans (which looked absolutely idyllic – Biblins Youth Campsite). Obviously there was another visit to The Saracen’s Head involved as well…

I need to just mention that the roads in this area are narrow and steep in places with some very tight bends – careful driving is required!!

Debbie and Paul headed off home on Sunday afternoon, and I’m pretty sure we just relaxed in the sun.

Monday was set aside for a spot of kayaking on the river, having discovered that we could launch from the carpark for just £2 (on top of the £4 per day parking fee).

Another beautiful day dawned, and we made our way down river, ‘beached’ for a short time (when Calv managed to drop his phone in the water – but don’t worry; he eventually found out that it’s waterproof (after a couple of days panicking), and he’s stopped telling everybody he meets now….!)

Once we’d landed and put the kayak away we headed back (yep, you’ve guessed it) to The Saracen’s Head – it would have been rude not to!

All in all another wonderful visit to the area, and we are certain that we will return again, and would highly recommend both the area and the campsite to others 🙂

Next up: A short visit to Shrewsbury and Oswestry

Where we stayed: Greenacres Campsite, nr Coleford

Related Posts: Walking in Lynmouth

Walking Lynmouth to Watersmeet

Walking in Exmoor – Lynmouth, Lynton, West Lyn

A ride on the Lynmouth/Lynton cliff railway has been on my bucket list since way before I knew what a bucket list was! Recent appearances on travel programmes re-ignited my interest, plus a walk on Julia Bradbury’s Great British Walks ignited Calv’s interest too – so was the 1st stop on our UK mini road trip decided 🙂

After a slightly stressful run-in to Lynmouth (don’t take the A39 – read why here), we settled down for a few days of walking.

We arrived the day after a big storm and the weather was still a bit dull, but the following day was much better, and we set off, pretty early for us, at about 9.30am.  The main reason for this is we were looking for somewhere to treat Calv to a big English Breakfast on his birthday 🙂

We found the footpath out of the site and set off down the lanes and across the fields to head down the hill.  Some wonderful views greeted us even at this early part of the walk.

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Once we hit the path we weren’t sure which way to go, so we headed left as this seemed the most logical direction. We were wrong as this took us back up the hill and around a gorge back downhill, before heading back up to meet the road skirting Lynton – meaning a walk along the road (some of it on the road) steeply downhill into Lynmouth. It wasn’t a problem, at least we saw more of the countryside!!

Arriving in Lynmouth we headed down towards the main area where there is a good selection of tourist shops, bars, cafes and pubs 🙂 We were here at the end of July so everything was open with social distancing protocols and masks in use.

At the far end of parade of shops we found The Ancient Mariner, just the right degree of quirkiness and a simply wonderful breakfast. We liked it so much we returned a couple more times during our trip 🙂

Revived by our breakfast we set off in search of the cliff railway that I had spent so many years wanting to visit. We first found the seafront and the Rhenish Tower (originally built in 1860 to store salt water for indoor baths, it had to be rebuilt after being destroyed in the disastrous flood of 1952). The historic cliff railway cannot be missed (both literally and figuratively), carving it’s way at a seemingly impossible gradient up the hill as it does! And it is still completely water powered.

At £3 each way for an adult (£2 per child, £1 per dog) it was well worth the total cost of £12 (we came back down later on in the day). A childhood dream finally realised!! I can’t wait to go back and do it again. And again. And again 🙂

At the top we took a walk around Lynton which is a bigger town than Lynmouth with more choice of shops and eateries. Perhaps not quite as charming though.

Completely by chance we looked at a info board in front of the town hall (and cinema. Apparently Lynton is the smallest town in England to have it’s own cinema) and decided to follow the walk up Hollerday Hill to find the old Hollerday House. There really was no evidence left of the house when you got there, the most complete area left was where the tennis court had been, although there is a really good information board.

Once you have walked up (and I mean up) as far as the house it is definitely worth walking the extra 5/10 minutes to the summit of the hill and the site of the old Iron Age Fort. It was VERY windy on the summit, but what a wonderful view we had – to the east the bay in front of Lynmouth, to the west ‘Valley of the Rocks’ and to the North the Welsh coast. We really wanted to visit The Valley of the Rocks, but simply ran out of time. Yet another reason to return 🙂

Once back down in Lynmouth we popped in for a drink in the Ancient Mariner before visiting the Glen Lyn Gorge . This perhaps feels a little expensive at £6 per adult, but it is privately owned and they have provided plenty of pathways up to the waterfalls, together with the loan of a mobility scooter that can get the less abled up to see these. The little museum is brilliant. Once the families left we had the place to ourselves (in these Covid times we waited for them to leave) and we were in there a fair while!

You learn a fair bit about the flood of 1952, which devastated the town, here. The other place is the Flood Memorial Hall which is near The Ancient Mariner. It’s free to visit but was unfortunately closed when we were in town (due to Covid no doubt).

So now we had to get back to the campsite. We knew we had to go uphill, but asked the guy in the Gorge what was the best way. The answer is to go to the right on leaving the gorge, and very soon there is a pathway up through the houses (we missed it at first, but I really don’t know how!!) You start off following the Two Moors Way (Devon’s coast to coast walk).

It is very steep, right from the start. And it doesn’t really get any better for a good long way…. Once off of the tarmacked path and into the trees you zig zag for what seems like miles (and not helped by people coming the other way telling you you’ve still got a long way to go!) before hitting the flattish path near the top. Here to get back to the campsite (Lynmouth and Lynton Holiday Retreat), you need to turn right. Then you will find the gate into the field waymarked for West Lyn. Good luck 🙂

This was a really long day and I’m sure you can imagine our legs were really tired, having walked over 11 miles – half of it up really steep hills. So we didn’t do much more that evening (not even a quick drink in The Beggars Roost...)

With tired legs the next day was spent visiting Ilfracombe. It’s so memorable that I forgot I’d been before….

In my next post I’ll tell you about our walk to Watersmeet and back to Lynmouth (the same walk that Julia Bradbury did on the telly).

We stayed: Lynmouth Holiday Retreat

Related Posts: Travelling to Lynmouth? Don’t do what we did!

Lynmouth to Watersmeet walk

Our Next Stop: Greenacres Campsite, for Symonds Yat

Walking and Kayaking at Symonds Yat

Around the UK: A Photo Diary #2 – East Anglia

I’ve decided now to just put some photos up!  Again they’re all from our 2017 trip and I’ve given links to relevant posts should you want any more detail of the areas shown.

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Maldon

Campsite – D’Arcy Equestrian

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Framlingham

 Dunwich (& Southwold)

Aldeburgh (& Thorpeness)

Orford

Campsite – Fishers Field

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Norwich 

Broads

Norfolk Broads

Campsite – Lower Wood Farm

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Langham

Cromer

Campsite – Woodlands, Sheringham

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Cambridge

Campsite – Highfield Touring Park

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Lavenham 

Campsite – Kings Forest Caravan Park, West Stow 

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Castle Rising

Holkham Bay

Sandringham

Campsites – Whitehall Farm, Burnham-Thorpe

Manor Park, Hunstanton

Other potential posts of interest:

Our time in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire

Around the UK: a Photo Diary #1 Kent, The Garden of England

 

We used the Rough Guide to Norfolk & Suffolk to help decide places to visit and walks to take.  Very useful as ever 🙂

My next gallery post will cover Lincolnshire, Rutland and Northamptonshire (for the British Grand Prix).

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy an item after clicking on one of these links we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you choose to buy anything it’s very much appreciated, thank you.

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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