Tavistock – Ancient Stannary Town and Birthplace of Sir Francis Drake. Absolutely charming!

What’s a stannary town? Read on to find out! Tavistock is absolutely charming and has the added benefit of being on the route of the N27 cycling route

We have moved on from Cornwall; not far though, just as far as Tavistock on the western edge of Dartmoor.

There’s an awful lot to say about Tavistock. First of all, it’s absolutely charming with many of the Abbey ruins dotted around the town. The 10th century Benedictine Abbey must have been huge as the ruins are so well spaced out – some in the grounds of the church, and then the Still Tower (where medicines were made) still standing alongside the river, as well as the gates. The museum is housed in one of these gates, but was unfortunately closed during our visit.

The Still Tower by the Riverside

The town was granted it’s market charter in 1105 and a market has been held there continuously since then. Nowadays this is mostly held in the purpose build (1860) Pannier Market with many regular stalls. We were drawn in by 2 of these stalls and bought a few gifts (a couple of which were for us!) Around the outside of the market building there are many cafes serving local produce (including, of course, pasties and cream teas).

Tavistock Pannier Market

Speaking of cream teas, Tavistock is apparently the home of the Devon cream tea (cream with jam on top – of course!) The story goes that a group of workers making repairs after a Viking attack in 997AD were rewarded with bread, clotted cream and strawberry preserves – the rest, as they say, is history 🙂

Devon Cream Tea (at Badgers Rest, Dartmeet)

Tavistock’s most famous son is Sir Francis Drake, and there are many nods to this around the town – from street names, shop names and statues to the cycle path winding through the town.

Statue of Sir Francis Drake

The N27 cycle path goes through Tavistock on it’s way from Ilfracombe to Plymouth. The section from Tavistock to Plymouth is known as ‘Drake’s Trail’. We used it to cycle from our campsite in Peter Tavy (Harford Bridge) and were really impressed (this was 1 of 2, mainly off road, cycle routes into town – and the easiest of the 2 we used). There is ample cycle parking near the town hall (opposite the Abbey Church).

On arriving in town Calv continued cycling along the N27 with me desperately trying to rein him in – ‘You’re on your way to Plymouth’ finally worked! The park alongside the river (which contains tennis courts, a BMX track and, of course, a bowling green) is rather lovely and brings you back, if you walk along by the river, to the wharf and the start of the canal, some of which is underground.

We ate lunch in the EastGate Bistro, again alongside the river, enjoying local produce, including beer and wine 🙂 Very nice too!

We returned the next day to make our purchases in the Pannier Market (we wouldn’t have been able to carry them home on our bikes). We parked up on the top road near the road up to the hospital (and the town steps) where it was free. On the way back we took the long route – completely unintentionally, especially considering we didn’t just have our purchases to carry, but those of fellow campers who were on their bikes! This resulting in a steep climb up the town steps and a steep descent down them back to the car – Calv wasn’t impressed with me…

By the way, I promised an explanation of what Stannary Town meant. Stannary means this was where mined metal (tin and later copper) was weighed, stamped and assessed for duty. Click here for more detailed information.

All in all I would definitely recommend a visit, or 2, to Tavistock. We will very likely return 🙂

A New Discovery in North Cornwall – Porthcothan Bay :)

Cornwall – the most beautiful place in the world – especially North Cornwall 🙂
A new campsite found (to which we will return), and meeting with old friends.
This was a very special part of our trip 🙂

It’s been a few years since our last trip to Cornwall, but, considering it’s my favourite place in the world, it won’t be our last!

This trip in particular was a bit special. Not only was it wonderful to be out and about in the van again, but we were meeting up with friends who we hadn’t seen for nearly a year. AND we got to watch England beat Germany in the Euros together. What more could you want??

We discovered a site (Old MacDonalds Farm) that not only gave a wonderful first impression, but managed to build on that as our stay progressed – if we hadn’t had other bookings (due to worrying about being able to get in anywhere if we didn’t!) we would have stayed longer without a doubt.

We had 5 nights here and crammed a far bit in – here’s a summary:-

Looking out at the Petting Zoo (and the Alpacas) from the bar

Day 1 – Arrived (via a typical Cornish lane – meeting a tractor coming the other way!) We drove down (we were tired) to the Bay (it is walkable, but probably about 3/4 mile and quite a trek back up the hill!) There is a bus though 🙂

The beach is beautiful. The tide was out and we just walked out to the surf’s edge, exploring all the little caves and coves along the way.

We also noticed that all the beaches in this area have ‘litter picking’ stations, which is a wonderful idea. If we had been staying longer Calv would most definitely have got involved 🙂

Day 2 – It rained all night and didn’t stop all day, so we pulled on our wet gear and walking boots and headed out to get some fuel for the little car at St Merryn. Calv said the shop was amazing! So any camping needs should be filled here 🙂 We then took the road opposite the garage (and past the chippie) down towards Harlyn Bay and Trevone Head.

Initially we kept going straight on taking us past the golf course and driving range, before turning round and taking a left down towards the 2 holiday parks. There are 2 national trust car parks down here to take in the views or visit the bays. At the end of the road is the Trevone lighthouse – but the road goes no further!

We came back to the 1st car park and walked, in the rain, down to the delightfully named Booby’s Bay, which links up to Constantine Bay. I scrambled down to the beach via some rocks only to walk around the corner and find some wooden steps! Beautiful golden sands and patrolled by lifeguards, this was a lovely find.

Then we got a call from our friends to say they were waiting for us at our van! So we headed back and had a lovely afternoon catching up before they carried on to their holiday home in Padstow (normally rented out – #seaviewpadstow).

Day 3 – We headed slightly south to Bedruthen Steps, from where we walked to Mawgan Porth and back, a total of 5 miles. We didn’t know we were going to walk quite so far, and on leaving Mawgan Porth we decided to try to avoid the diversion on the cliff path (they’re putting in steps) by walking up the hill on the road (next to the Pitch and Putt). We thought this had worked, but the path ended up taking us back down to the beach anyway!! Massive fail…

An evening at #seaviewpadstow (our friend’s holiday cottage in Padstow) finished off the day. A taxi back to the campsite cost just £15 (although the taxi driver was pretty miserable!!)

Day 4 – Steve and Denise bought our little car back and then we took them back to Padstow, via Padstow Farm Shop (very disappointing) and Tesco’s. They later joined us at the campsite to watch THE match of the Euros so far (England v Germany in case you’re wondering) in the bar. The evening rounded off with a buffet meal outside the van and a few games of boules.

Day 5 – Our last day on site. We had a lovely sunny day so lathered on the suncream and took the kayak down to the bay. Great fun, especially surfing the waves back into the beach and even though Calv then tipped me out into the shallows – bless him….

Our last hurrah was to go back to Padstow for a wander before collecting Marie and Steve to come to pick up their car from the night before. They had all been on a Boat Safari during the day – seeing lots of dolphins 🙂

This part of the country is simply amazing – beautiful beaches, country lanes and stunning landscapes. A new view around every corner (and a tractor of course!)

We Stayed:Old MacDonalds Farm, Pothcothan

Next Stop: – Peter Tavy, nr Tavistock (Harford Bridge Camping)

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.

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