Going Dutch

Well we’re off again on another adventure, for the next few months we’re planning to visit Holland, Germany (including a family rendezvous at the Munich Oktoberfest) and Italy.

This time we’ve decided to sail Harwich/Hook of Holland, a first for us. We arrived the night before the sailing and got our heads down in the carpark alongside a doz or so fellow travellers.

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Harwich check in

We’d booked early and got a decent price so decided to treat ourselves to a “captains class” cabin which was pretty decent, didn’t actually see the captain, but did get through most of his minibar.

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The daytime sailing gets you into Holland around rush hour, which is a nice introduction to a new country, but to be honest the road system here is top notch and the drivers seem pretty chilled out (I’m fearing Italy may be slightly different).

Our first few days in Holland are spent in a Camperstop in a small village between the the ferry port and Amsterdam (Abbenes) for €10 per night.

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Abbenes Camperstop

This is a good time to mention our new sliding Atera bike rack, which has enabled us to transport the bikes with the smaller van and still be able to access the rear doors, we’re well chuffed with it so far.

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Travelling position

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“Get at the doors” position – clever eh!!?

Anyway our first full day in Holland, time to get the bikes out and hit the cycle paths. Its no secret that this part of the world is a mecca for cyclists and its not difficult to see why. Proper cycleways, level landscape and superb “Olde world” scenery its pretty impressive.

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The cycle paths are all numbered with each junction labelled – to plan a route you simply look at the map make a list of numbers and off you go.

Easy peasy…………… If you can actually ride a bike that is!!

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1 roll away from a muddy dyke

Our next stop was Amsterdam, quite a contrast from Abbenes, but thats the beauty of the camper.

We checked into the “city” camperstop which was €21 per night, a bit functional in appearance but perfect for visiting the city centre (via the free ferry).

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Not pretty, but…….

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10 mins on the free ferry

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And you’re in the city centre.

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Were they have multi storey bike parks, good luck if you forget where you “parked your bike”

Amsterdam is a very vibrant city, with MILLIONS of bikes, cross the road (or cycle path) with extreme caution, they do not slow down for anything, including red lights.

Talking of red lights, I know what you are all thinking Amsterdam/Red light district, well obviously you have to have a look, the area is an eye opener for innocent people like us but Just like Holland itself, Amsterdam is a city of massive contrast.

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From the working girls

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To the specialist Alehouses

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The quaint backstreets

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And a vibrant cafe culture

Its a great city, but watch the bikes! (the coffee shops smell a bit funny as well)

After a couple of days in the city we decided to retreat to the country for a few days, and following a recommendation from the Hudson crew, we checked into a camperstop on the German border in a village called De Heurne €10 per night including lecky and this view…….

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We got the bikes out (practice makes perfect after all) and cycled to the town of Dinxperlo which is unusual as half the residents live in Holland, the other half Germany. Basically the guy across the road (on the same street) lives in another country.

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Deb’s in Germany I’m in Holland, the fun we have!!

Anyway no bike ride would be complete without the reward of a cold beer, so here was ours.

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The camping hypermarket Obelink is next, then onto Germany. Our brief visit to Holland is one we’ll repeat we’ve both been really impressed.

Take care

Mick & Debs

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Along The Algarve (and up the Costas)

We decided to travel along the Algarve coast back towards the Spanish border, call back at Messines for the Easter break, then cross back into Spain for the steady trek North.

Our first stop was Lagos, a pretty marina town with an equally impressive beach. It was a warm sunny day, so we had a walk down to the beach. One thing we don’t seem good at though is passing the bars on the way back though and when theres a live blues band just setting up, it would be rude not to call in.

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Lagos beach

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Lagos 

We did notice that there is a pretty substantial expat community around here, not very “authentic Portugal”, but not as “in your face” as the Brit resorts over the border.

The camperstop was “buzzed”that afternoon by some local joyriders, but they didn’t burn too much rubber!

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We moved along to Alvor and a camperstop right on the beach, which was a short walk into the small town. Debs has learnt her lesson with the cat feeding but has found a new hobby.

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Praia Du Rocha next and a camperstop next to the marina, really sunny weather, but the wind was a bit cold. Called at a cafe for that good old fashioned Portuguese dish, fish, chips and lager!! Decent views though.

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Our next stop was Silves (20 mins inland) Debs checked us onto the camperstop

Debs – “Three nights please”

Camperstop reception woman “we are doing an offer, its buy three get one free”

Debs – “four nights please”

Silves is a pretty nice small town with an “old town” with a moorish castle at the top of a hill and an abundance of cafes. Time for Silves offer number two, Debs picked up a leaflet at reception for a local restaurant “bring this leaflet for a special price”.

So we had…………..

Starter (Bread, Olives, Pate)

Soup

Piri Piri Chicken, salad, rice, fries

Desert (trifle)

Litre of red wine

Glass of port

Coffee

Total bill (for both of us including VAT)?

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Silves has a large population of storks, and there are nesting platforms built for them on streetlights, buildings, telegraph poles etc. I got a few pics, but missed the best one as a stork flew close over our heads with a frog dangling from its beak.

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We have discovered that wine prices in Portugal don’t seem to effect the quality too much so we thought were push the boundaries – and at 65c (50p) a litre, maybe we found the limit. To be honest it wasn’t as bad as we thought.

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He has a wife you know

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Hmmmm – White Port

Next stop for us was Albefuira for a few days, staying at a camperstop on the outskirts of town. The old town of Albefiura is pretty decent with the usual collection of bars/restaurants. Eating out here is really cheap (not Silves cheap though!!) and there’s plenty of choice. The camperstop was “functional” and handy for town, but really packed in. (no snoring Debs) The plus side to this of course is that you tend to interact with your fellow “vanners” more and we met some really nice people here.

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Easter weekend was here and we decided to get away from the crowds a bit and head back to Messines. Andre, the camperstop owner was pleased to see us and was taking orders for the restaurant lunch – yes please!

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Debs does Portugal

Well Messines was our first and last stop in Portugal and we headed over the border to Spain – we’ve really enjoyed Portugal. Fantastic scenery, good company, and really friendly people (and storks!!)

Mind you, they also sell this stuff………………… on second thoughts stay away!

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You don’t need to look to hard to find the Bacalhau section – just follow your nose

Oh, and would you buy a house from Mario?

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Gorjao indeed

Our first night back in Spain was on the top of a mountain, we’d seen a parking spot on our app that was in the hills above Malaga  – it didn’t say in the description that oxygen was required though! The road up was pretty tortuous and it was one of those “once committed, no turning back” roads, with the odd passing place, but no chance of turning round.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself when I got to the top (in fact almost bragging about my obvious driving skill) until I noticed the full sized coach pulling up and dropping 50 school kids off at the observatory.

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High speed action shot, or possibly I set the shutter speed too slow

We carried on the next day to Almerimar, back on the coast, and the wind was blowing a hoolie. The wind surfers and Kite surfers were having a pretty decent time.

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A cpl of hours further up the coast we found a “wild camping” spot at a place called Aguilas. We were parked right on the beach, with fantastic views of the med. We had 3 days here, with the beach pretty much to ourselves. Looking out of the van window and seeing the sunrise over the sea and sunset over the mountains was pretty special.

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Sunrise from the bedroom window

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Sunset from the other bedroom window

Ok I admit it, our next stop was another week in Benidorm. Yes we had Tapas by the bucketload, yes we had too much to drink 1 night, yes we had a hangover the next day. Moving on……

Next stop Peniscola, and the best toilet sign of the tour.

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This way lads

Our final stop in Spain was in the town of Blanes, just round the bay from Lloret De Mar, the camperstop was just a carpark in town, but it was free and the seafront was pretty nice.

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Blanes

As I write this we have just parked up in France at a favourite spot of ours in a village called Latour Bas Elne. We’re going to have a few days here visiting friends and then its goodbye Mediterranean, hello English Channel!

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Portugal (Pete & Nina)

We left Seville and had the brilliant idea of surprising some friends of ours. Pete and Nina have been “full timing” throughout Europe for the last few years, their comprehensive and informative blog can be found here. Pete and Nina on tour.

We had been following their blog and had exchanged a few emails – they were in Portugal, so it seemed like a plan. We hot footed it to Camperstop Messines which is located in the Eucalyptus groves about half an hour inland from the Algarve coast. On arrival it would appear that our stealthy approach had been our undoing, we’d missed them by a cpl of days! Oh well, we were in Portugal for a month, so we emailed them and told them we would catch up with them some other time.

Bless em, they emailed us back and told us they were on there way back (and we should prepare our livers!!)

We’ve not seen Pete & Nina socially for far too many years and there was a lot of catching up to be done (Deb had 2 decades of pent up “banter” to let loose on Pete)

Anyway some pics…..

Now I’m probably in for a rollocking for posting this rather uncomplimentary pic of Deb, but there is a tale to tell. Debs a bit of a soft touch when it comes to strays and I’m constantly telling her not to attract them to the van, my theory being that it will be even harder to leave them, once “befriended”.

She’d spotted a cat at Messines and (after being told not to) had snook out with a pack of ham. This pic is the “oi” moment.

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The cat had the last laugh, having eaten all our ham it went back to the van next door (its owners van) for a kip.

Messines is the perfect “chill out” place, the owner Andre, told us that his ethos was to provide a “wild camping” experience, but with servicing facilities. The camperstop is surrounded by walks (some arranged by Andre) and he even provides a shopping service for 50 cents (to cover his fuel costs!)

Here’s some pics of the countryside around Messines

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Camperstop Messines

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Recently harvested cork tree

The Hudsons arrived and Pete appeared with 2 x 1 gallon containers, these contained “Sherry” and Creosote “Brandy”. To be fair the Sherry was pretty good and I like a drop of Brandy, but OMG this was a bit too “industrial” for me.

The site owner Andre had booked us into the weekly meal at a local restaurant and we set off walking. Obviously if you pass a bar on such a nice day then it would be rude not to partake, even if the bar is half a doz plastic chairs at the side of the road (we looked like traffic surveyors, but we had beer and it was sunny)

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Once we got to the restaurant the meal was pretty impressive, a starter, then the main course, which was a hot stone provided to cook your own steak at the table, chips and salad, a sweet and nice coffee – all for just over a tenner (including wine of course)!!

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We had a few days chilling out at Messines then decided to go on Andre’s organised walk (me and Deb had missed the previous week’s walk due to an overlaying incident)

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We decided to have another bash at the local cuisine, this time we walked to a restaurant to have the local speciality Porco Preto (Black pig). Petes been to Portugal loads of times and is on the face of it (compared to me) pretty conversant in all things Portuguese (I’m at the hello, and thank you stage). With the food and wine ordered, I have to say I was pretty impressed with my old mate – however things were not all they seemed, and when Pete asked for more bread with the starter (and 2 fried eggs appeared) we did fear for our black pig!

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Eggy bread

Time to leave Messines, we decided to have a cpl of days together on the coast, then go our separate ways. Pete and Nina took us to one of their favourite spots, the gorgeous Odecaixe (pronounced Oh – de – zesh) a “wild camping” spot at the top of cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.

The weather was a “bit grim” when we arrived, but the next day was clear blue skies and fantastic views of the coast.

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Arrival day at Odecaixe

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The next morning

We went for a clifftop walk, which had its windy moments, but the views more than made up for it.

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Stork in action

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There’s always one!!

The next morning we had our “farewell coffee” and the Hudsons were off on a new adventure.

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The Hudson mobile

We had a great time, Pete and Nina were brilliant fun, really helpful and our detox only took 2 days. Pete’s blog was a must read for us whilst we were waiting for our turn to hit the road, and meeting up has rekindled an old friendship (not forgetting introducing us to Industrial strength Sherry, Natas, Tostas, and Pate de Sardinha)

After Pete and Nina left, we decided to have another night at Odecaixe before working our way through their provided list of “must see’s on the Algarve”

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I’m fairly pleased with this piccie

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And our breakfast view wasn’t too shabby!!

We left Odecaixe and headed to Sagres and an encounter with potentially the worlds tightest motor-homer. Unlike the UK, some of the supermarkets on the continent have service points for motorhomes, where for a cpl of Euros you can dump your loo and waste water, and fill up with fresh water, enough for a few days “wild camping” (also frowned upon in much of the UK). Anyway at the Intermarche supermarket in Sagres, there is a service point, on one side of the “borne” is waste water and loo dump/rinse, the other side fresh water. (its a good idea to keep them apart).

The €2 fee is to turn on the fresh water – dumping/rinsing is actually free here.

Anyway we paid our €2 fee (the only fee paid that week to camp for 5 days) and proceeded to fill up. we were then approached by a guy from the van parked next to us. In his Franglais he explained that there was no need to pay as “its gratuit this side of the borne”.

When I told him about a thousand toilet cassettes (including mine) had been pushed over the rinse tap (it was clearly marked “non drinking”) he said – “yes but its free” Deb joined in with the Le Toilet (in perfect French) but he just walked off shrugging his shoulders at our extravagance – hope the listeria doesn’t ruin his holiday and he spends his €2 saving wisely!!

Sagres is the most Westerly point in mainland Europe and we parked in the fort carpark which was ideal for walking the cliffs and visiting the town.

 

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We love it here, it reminds us so much of Cornwall – only there’s more sun, the cost of living is cheaper and the local council don’t give you a parking ticket for parking slightly over the line.

And finally………

One thing we always comment on is the ingenuity of people, when it comes to getting away from life in the suburbs. We’ve seen transits containing simply a mattress (with a family of four inside), converted fire engines, delivery trucks, just about anything capable of kipping inside. We think they’re great.

I have to say that the Dutch are the masters when it comes to radical conversions (the Brits are a poor 4th behind the Dutch, Germans and French)

This was our favourite this week – impressive balcony eh!!

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We’re still in Portugal making our way along the Algarve and in a cpl of weeks will pass back into Spain – we’ll be back, Portugal is great. (even if the “bread” yolks are a bit runny)

Take care Mick & Debs

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Southbound to Seville

After resting the blisters from our epic walk in the Sierra Espuna, we decided to have a more leisurely hike on our last day at Totana. It really is a nice place to get away from it all, and the scenery stunning.One thing we saw a lot of were, what we thought were large spider webs. On closer examination we discovered that they were in fact caterpillar “nests” during the walk we saw them leaving their nests (dunno where to) and realised that they were these buggers  Pine Processionary Caterpillars

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On the March

 

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Deb walking purposefully (in my socks)

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The forecast in Totana was a bit overcast, so we decided to travel back to the coast, stopping on a camper van park in the seaside resort of Almerimar. Quite a decent little town, however for some reason the local Tesco wouldn’t price match, or issue club card points.

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Our next stop was a small town on the outskirts of Malaga called Rincon de la Victoria. Another camperstop with a great owner who couldn’t have been more welcoming. He insisted we caught the bus to Malaga, telling us it was a beautiful city (we did, and he was absolutely right)

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Camperstop Rincon de le Victoria

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I’m predicting this months works photo comp is leading lines

 

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Malaga cafe culture

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To be honest the guitarist was rubbish

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Some fish we saw

Well Malaga was superb, much nicer than we imagined. But of course this blog would just be a collection of someone’s holiday pics without the monthly “Faux pas” this month we have two and at last they’re not both mine!! In fact I’m claiming that mine was a direct result of Deb’s.

Anyway here goes, we’ve spent a lot of time in France and can pretty much hold our own with regards to getting by with the local lingo, but with Spanish we’re quite frankly, rubbish. We’ve said “oui” several times as well as “merci” “sil vous plais” and “pardon” leaving the locals well confused. Do they try out their “Spanglish” on us or “Spanfranc”?

Anyway, determined not to do the “Brit abroad” thing and insist on waiters speaking English, Deb manned the “iPhone Google translate” app and set to work on the menu. Now it’s a good app, but sometimes it’s a bit literal when it comes to localisms. She read out the menu which included (according to the app)

“large worms depending on size”

“clam milk shake”

“Bulls penis – bone free”

We decided on the “Beef skirt in the chicken grill”, which was actually grilled chicken breast (not a bad choice) no sign of beef though, skirt, clam, or penis (bone free).

Anyway, we decided on a nice cold bottle of white wine as it was a sunny day and the camperstop owner told us white wines were a speciality of Malaga. Deb chose (using the trusty app) and went for the “point at the menu method” of placing the order. The waiter looked a bit confused, but fair play to Deb, she stuck to her guns.

The chicken appeared, closely followed by our wine (a bottle of the finest sherry).Now it would have been rude not to drink the sherry, but I’m sticking to my guns that this (and the sun) was the reason I marched us onto the wrong bus, which meant an hours walk back to the van. Deb’s feet (already blistered from Totana) look like something from Rocky Balboa’s butchers hook.

Anyway, we limped our way to our next stop, BRITAIN!! Well Gibralter actually. We found a camper park which was a 15 min walk to “the rock” got the passports out and went “home”. Now if you’ve never been to Gib, you’re in for a surprise, the Rock is much bigger than it looks on the telly, and Gibraltar is actually quite a large town. Duty free stuff (booze and cigs) are cheap, but the rest is not. I priced up a camera lens, which I could buy in the UK £150 cheaper, so check prices folks 😉

We were obviously back On British soil because it was jeans and jumpers weather for the first time in over a month. On our second day in Gib, we had the mother of all thunderstorms with scary lightening and everything. I mentioned to Deb that we were perfectly safe in our Faraday cage van (which confused her as she thought was an IH).

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Diesel 58p  in the cradle of history

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You have to cross the “live runway” to get in/out of Gib “please cross quickly”

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Half way across you get a pilots view of the runway

We didn’t spot any monkeys

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Later it wanged it down

We left Gibraltar and headed for our last Spanish destination, before we cross into Portugal – Seville.

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Seville – plenty of oranges here, but I was a bit disappointed by the lack of barbers.

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Spot Deb competition

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Spot Deb competition 2

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Makes you wonder why Nottingham’s brand new tram relies on wires bolted to every building along the route, when Seville’s simply recharges at every station.

Seville’s a lovely city and we had 2 great days here, you would probably need a week or so to appreciate it fully though.

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This shop is called U Lanka, not sure the sign manufacturer got it quite right.

Anyway that’s all for now, we’ve just crossed into Portugal and its blue skies and sun forecast for this week, anyone know the Portugese for clam milk shake?

Take care everyone…..

Mick & Debs

 

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Benidorm and beyond

Our next destination is as far from “normal” for us as is possible, firstly we haven’t  visited a “lively Spanish/British” resort in over 30 years, and in 11 years of vanning, we’ve never stayed long term on a commercial foreign camping site.

With Deb’s birthday coming up we really didn’t fancy searching for somewhere to park or finding ourselves in a town closed down for the winter (as many are).

So we decided after reading many online forums, that we’d give Benidorm a try, Thousands of Brits choose to overwinter here, many of them in motorhomes/caravans, they can’t all be wrong can they?

Anyway, we were about to find out. We booked ourselves onto Camping Villasol for 3 weeks, a massive commercial site 15mins walk from Levante beach, 19 Euros a night (with ACSI discount) and electricity via metered supply.

Everyone we spoke to said, “look Benidorm is what you make it”

“if you want lively its there, if you want Spanish/British food or entertainment its there and if you want to get away from all the noise, then the surrounding countryside is really impressive”.

“and……. you can walk around in shorts and T shirts, in February.”

Anyway, on our first walk into town we saw our first Benidorm icon, the double buggy.

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Double buggy (with horn)

We sent Leanne the pic, who sent us this.

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We reached the beach and were passed by a gorilla………………….. on a segway.

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Gorilla on a segway

I said to Deb, “Oh, what are they called?”

She replied “Gorillas”

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Levante Beach

I have to say the Levante beach is top notch, spotless with really fine golden sand, we had a paddle in the sea which was not as cold as we thought. I laughed at a fellow paddling Brit, who was caught out with a wave and got a wet trouser leg.

Then lady karma bit me on the bum immediately as I dropped my plimmo into the sea.

We made it down the prom to the old town area and decided to visit a few Tapas bars, these I can recommend. 1 Euro gets you a glass of wine and a tapas, 5 Euros gets you a bottle of wine and 5 tapas.

10 Euros later, we were starting to see the attraction of Benidorm.

We then got a surprise as Deb’s sister phoned to say she’d booked a flight and was coming over for a week, just in time for Deb’s birthday. Its worth pointing out at this time that Deb’s sister is teetotal.

We’d had a few days in town and fancied a walk into the surrounding hills, so with walking boots on, off we went – to the cross on the hill. I took the camera up and had my best go at making Benidorm look attractive. I suppose it has a charm of its own.

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Benidorm from the cross

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The Benidorm cross

The blog wouldn’t be the same without me demonstrating my ability to break stuff, and this one is no different. We were noticing that the solar panel wasn’t keeping the leisure battery charged quite as well as it should, in fact it wasn’t charging at all. Bearing in mind that the sun was out for 5-6 hours most days there was obviously a problem.

I decided to make sure that the connections were secure, this involved me scrambling onto the roof (ninja stylee) getting up was no problem, getting down slightly more troublesome. I dangled my legs down onto the sink unit, well actually I dangled them onto the glass part of the sink unit…………….. Bang!!

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Ooooops, I bet these cost more than 5 tapas.

Eventually I tracked the problem down to a faulty control unit, and after a few emails, one was posted out to us by the manufacturer (thanks Carol at IH)

It was time for teetotal Paula to arrive, and on her first day in Benidorm we decided to show her the delights of the old town tapas……

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And the attractions on the main prom

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Our attempts at convincing the kids that we had gone “full Benidorm” failed miserably though.

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But the next morning things didn’t seem quite as funny……………………..

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Apart from the pictures I can’t say too much about our night out as 90% of it seems to be missing from my memory, I did get a rollocking from our daughter Leanne though, apparently sending a message at 1:30 am simply saying “we’re lost” was not my brightest moment.

My hangover lasted 2 full days, never again!!

until ……..

A few days later it was Deb’s birthday, and we had a full day of Benidorm planned. Deb opened the door in the morning to find a bottle of Cava, and a bottle of Orange juice from our neighbours (bucks fizz courtesy of Bernie and Sheila) this was a lovely gesture bearing in mind were only met a few days earlier.

Our plans were fairly “international”………….

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A full English breakfast

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A Spanish tapas lunch

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A Chinese buffet, with Bernie and Sheila

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Oh, and a walk on the beach

With pressies and messages from home, Deb had a great day – Welcome to the Saga club you old fart!!

A couple of days after Deb’s birthday it was time to say our goodbyes to her sister Paula, to Bernie and Sheila, and to Benidorm. We’ve had a great time, and met some really nice people but both agree its time to see some “real Spain”.

Well, we wanted “real Spain” so have moved away from the coast onto the edge of the Sierra Espuna national park, were staying here for a few days for a bit of walking and chilling before moving further South.

We had a “bit of a walk” yesterday (18k of hilly stuff) and are nursing our blisters this morning, but got some decent piccies.

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Spot the lemon

Spot the lemon

 

Next up……….. Southbound to Seville,

 

Take care everybody, Mick & Debs

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And We’re Off…….again

Well with Christmas over, we decided it was time to load the van and make our first attempt at winter sun seeking. We are planning to visit the South of France, Spain and Portugal – but have to admit, we are pretty much making it up as we go along.

Tunnel booked, van packed (more on this later) and we were on our way South. As usual the train was on time and whisked us under the channel without hitch it really is a brilliant service.

We always like to travel in the evening, its easier to get around the M25 and you can generally stick the cruise control on, The Stone Roses on, and your feet on (the dash). The cruise control also allows me to nip in the back should nature call.

We arrived “En France” on Sunday evening and decided to travel an hour or so down the motorway to a service station with a motorhome parking area. (Baie De Somme) Apparently these service areas are full of mad axemen waiting to pounce on unsuspecting Brits. Rumoured to be armed with toxic gas (and axes obviously) we were risking life and limb even slowing down.

Luckily for us there was another van in the parking area, it was a big posh bugger manned by an elderly couple. Now I had this theory that any mad axman would rather chance his odds on the elderly rich buggers, rather than us younger less well off “vanners”. In addition, Deb can obviously handle herself and I can outscream a banshee who has his willy stuck in his zip.

Well what a crap nights sleep, first of all we were buzzed by a helicopter (which on further investigation turned out to be a wind turbine) Then woken in the early hours by a mad axeman (which on further investigation turned out to be a council worker, hitting frozen molehills with a spade).

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Us and The mad axeman, a keen eye will also spot the helicopter in the background

Monday morning, minus 2 on the temp gauge, it was time to continue South.

There are 3 main routes into Spain, Via Perpignan (med coast) Via Irun (Atlantic coast) or via the Somport tunnel (somewhere in between, but through the Pyrenees). Now we do like to make it up as we go along, but it was really time to make a decision. Deb managed a shoulder shrug to go with her “its up to you” pout.

I’ve been watching the weather forecast for Somport over the last few days and with a regular dumping of snow it was looking like the most exciting route, however I’d left my wellies, shovel and snow chains in the garage to make room for my guitar (priorities peeps).

Well, night two on our quest for summer sun doesn’t exactly deliver, we pulled into a motorhome parking spot (aire de camping car) at a place called Chateaudun which to be fair was in a great location, right under the Chateau.

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The Chateau at Chateaudun

Unfortunately it was getting colder, not warmer and to top it off its started snowing. We attempted a walk around the town, but to be honest, even with the protection of a scarf stolen from Leanne, we didn’t get much further than the end of the street. We need sun!!

Deb cavignac

You might recognise this scarf Leanne – sorry

We pressed on South and watched the temperature gauge rise (by about 2 degrees), we were in the dordogne now surrounded by vineyards. Wine needs sun doesn’t it? it has to be sunny soon doesn’t it?

We pulled into an Aire in a village called Cavignac and I jumped out of the cab into a yard containing more dog poo than a scary vets dustbin. I looked like wayne sleep (without the bulge) pirouetting my way through the minefield of “dog gifts”. Deb looked somewhat puzzled as though she was watching “the vortex” on an episode of the Adventure Game.

The Vortex

The Aire had an attractive outlook, an old graveyard – the reviews were spot on, “quiet location”, we moved to a village called Saint-Savin, no graveyard, or dog poo and a boulangerie across the road.

Well after another go at the Bordeaux ring road avoiding hundreds of “freelaning” HGVs I can report we have double figures on the temp gauge and SUNSHINE, woo hooo. We’ve arrived in an old favourite spot of ours at a place called Port D’Albret on the Atlantic coast, we’ll stay for a few days (decent forecast) before heading to Espagne next week.

Port Albret

Port Albret

Deb at Port Albret

Sun out, scarfs off

Ive decided to include a cpl of arty photo’s in case the works photo competition is still running and by some coincidence this months theme is sand, sea, or tree’s

Port Albret beach

Arty Beach photo

Port Albret tree

Arty tree on beach photo

Oh dear Ron, Ron

We have (had) a WIFI boost ariel called a “rocket” (trade name) which we nicknamed Ron (not after the bike racer, but after my old somewhat grumpy Sub Officer) anyway, me and Ron have been through a lot together. I made him a collapsable roof mount, and fetched him in every night to keep him safe. I once forgot about him though and left him on the roof whilst I drove off. He flew into a grass verge in Collioure and my son Adam risked his life in a valiant rescue mission. He’s been providing wifi for us for a cpl of years now and in return he gets a seemingly safe home in the base of our wardrobe.

That was until this years packing event. I didn’t put anything in the wardrobe, but somehow this is still my fault.

Ron

It wasn’t me guv’

On Friday we decided to cross into Spain as although the weather on the Atlantic coast was ok, the forecast wasn’t great, time to move on. We had travelled right down the West coast to Capbreton, so the obvious choice of routes was now into Spain via Irun.

Neither of us could believe how quiet the Spanish motorways were, often there were no other vehicles in sight, our first night in Spain however was not so quiet.

We had found a parking place for motorhomes in a town called Carinena, just south of Zaragoza. It seemed perfect as it was just off the motorway, tucked away in the corner of a swimming pool car park, with all the facilities provided for emptying/filling our tanks.

Debs knocked up another culinary delight and we settled down to a cpl of episodes of “Prison Break”, glass of wine in hand, life was good and then it started……. Boom, boom, boom – rattle, rattle, rattle – boom rattle boom, rattle de rattle rattle, boom boom.

(There’s a baldrick poem in there somewhere)

Anyway, Friday night was the local marching bands drum practice night, with the nearest marcher/drummer centimetres from our van, the only saving grace was that Spanish marching bands don’t do Kazoos, just drums.

“That base drummers off” I said

Debs just gave me the “here he goes again” glare “expert at everything”

“No seriously, he’s half a beat out, cant you tell?”

I was obviously right as the instructor made them play the same bit for over an hour.

The rest of the night was perfectly silent (apart from the obligatory early hours dustbin lorry, that has followed us for years throughout Europe)

So if you are travelling through Spain, I can recommend Carina as a stopover, maybe give Friday night a miss.

On Saturday we continued through Spain to the Mediterranean coast to our first stopover in a town called Daimus, just South of Valencia, we are intending to stay a cpl of days, drive an hour, stop for cpl of days etc etc until we reach Portugal.

Its Deb’s birthday on the 14th Feb, (she’s joining the SAGA club ha ha) so I might just treat her to an all day breakfast in Benidorm! (providing she doesn’t break any more of my stuff)

Its high teens at the moment and were just off for a stroll on the beach – If Damius isn’t closed for the winter, maybe we’ll treat ourselves to a Cerveza.

PS there’s trees here – with oranges on them!

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Drivin’ home for Christmas

Heading back up through France is always a tricky one. Do you stay in the warmth for as long as possible, leaving a long drive on the last day or so? or do you travel a cpl of hours a day and see more scenery?

With the old kidneys playing up and my waste products resembling a wine bars drip tray we decided on the latter, I didn’t really fancy a full day sat on the autoroutes and we had heard that the central part of France around Auvergne is pretty spectacular.

So our journey Northwards went something like this………..

As mentioned in the previous blog, we spent a cpl of days in Lautrec, a free spot at the side of a lake and a 20 minute walk into the village.

The sunflowers have had enough

Lautrec lake

Lautrec lake

Our next stop was Bozouls which was a fascinating place part of the village is built on the edge of a canyon situated on a bend in the river. part of the village is built in the bottom of the canyon and there are some decent if hilly walks.

Bozouls (1)

In case of fire, do not use the rear windows

Bozouls Deb

Entraygues Sur Truyes was our next stop, which was an aire right at the edge of the river Lot. The village itself is quite picturesque as are the walks along the river. The area reminded us of a “grown up” version of the Derbyshire Dales.

Entraygues Sur Truyes river

Le Lot

Entraygues Sur Truyes

Our back garden for a few days

Entraygues Sur Truyes deb

I didn’t feel so grown up when I decided against all common sense to follow the satnav’s suggested route to our next destination, we were in a smaller van this year, what could possibly go wrong?

“continue for 5 miles” – er ok, its this way Deb

Well I’ll tell you what could go wrong, you could moronically drive 5 miles down a very narrow and winding road (cart track) hoping for it to widen out “at the next bend” only to discover that the next bend led to a tractor/trailer combo cutting the hedge and travelling in our direction.

Time for the mother of all reverses – “I think the saying rhymes with clucking bell” (Cpt Blackadder 1917).

Bort Les Orgueswas next, and an Aire on the edge of the town overlooking the river Dordogne not as picturesque as we were used to but a good facility if passing through.

We were getting really rural now and discovered an Aire in a small village called St Remy De Blot. The village was tiny (20 houses max) but bizarrely had quite a large and posh hotel. There were plenty of marked walks including one to a nearby Chateau.

Chateau BW

Chateau Rocher

Bort chateauBort cottage

Our days now seemed to be blending into one – drive a cpl of hours, find a nice spot, walk for a cpl of hours, flush kidneys with local produce, late film, repeat.

Actually our choice of late films was a pretty poor bearing in mind we were completely isolated, “The Night Of The Living Dead” particularly ill advised.

We were getting further North now and the weather was becoming more “British” – but we were on our holidays and the shorts were staying (for now) we were starting to get some funny looks though, so the sandals were replaced by plimos and socks. We stayed over at a town called St Amand Montrond which had a free Aire on the edge of town at the side of a lake. (drive, walk, drink, film, sleep)

The next days destination was Lamotte Beauvron another free Aire at the side of a lake. The weather was pretty bad though (heading North so soon wasn’t going down too well) so we did the usual stuff, but omitted the walk.

Sunday morning, crack of dawn (actually it was still very dark) the phone rings, its Deb’s mum’s partner (panic mode)

“hello is Dave there”
“no, its Deb, you’ve phoned the wrong number”
“Oh sorry, he’s supposed to be picking me up to go fishing”
“sorry we haven’t seen him”
“Ok sorry to bother you”
“No worries”

Where would we be without modern technology? (still bloody asleep on this occasion)

Our next stop was a village called Nonancourt not much here, but handy as a stopover and a nice Boulangerie. We spotted what we thought were “religious people” knocking on van doors (a first for us) our neighbour didn’t and answered, he was still nodding as we pulled off half an hour later.

We were getting North now and the shorts/t shirts were becoming a distant memory, our next parking spot was Mailleraye Sur Seine right on the bank of the famous river. Plenty of ships were passing en route to Rouen and Paris (we downloaded a shipping app for added geekiness)

ship

Big ship

ship 2

Bigger ship

We had a few days to wait for our booked tunnel, so decided to have a look at the Picardy seaside towns.

First was Fecamp the local council have provided parking spots for motorhomes on the port.

Fecamp 2

Fecamp Port

Fecamp

Fecamp Beach

Fecamp 3

Stella Plage was the last resort we visited before reaching Calais, and it was closed. Not letting that put us off we stayed a cpl of days right on the seafront and were treated to deserted beach walks by day and fantastic sunsets. (the joys of motorhoming)

Stella day

The Beach at Stella Plage

Stella

Stella Plage sunset

Home at last and time to get stones and tubes removed from various parts of my body, not as easy as you might think. However following various frustrating appointments, bizarre phone calls informing me the stone had gone, fainting in A&E, and another op for a good laser blasting of my bits, I can announce that I’m finally stone (and tube) free!!

We have to admit to being “Francophiles”, the pace of life, the freedom from “parking eye” type companies, the general politeness of the people and the motorhome friendliness of the country make it a favourite place for us to visit. The scenery is so varied and touring France can result in so much variety (high mountains, atlantic waves, mediterranean sun, forests, chateaux etc etc)

Having said all that, we have had a few decent days weather since we got back (ok I did say a “FEW”) and we have visited local attractions and our son in Cornwall, the images below show that the UK aint so shabby either 🙂

Thoresby, Nottinghamshire

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

Holywell Bay, Cornwall

Holywell Bay, Cornwall

Holywell Bay, Cornwall

Bedruthen Steps, Cornwell

Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

We have had the family home for Christmas, which has been great, including these two shady characters

Ho, Ho, Ho

Ho, Ho, Ho

And now its time to load the van for our first winter visit to Spain/Portugal, watch this space

Happy New Year!!

 

PS, I also made these (although they appear to have since disappeared)

Beer

 

 

 

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Adam visits – so does Debs

Time for another visitor, our son Adam, we had arranged to meet him at Carcassonne and take him to the coast for a weeks R&R.

We took him to Collioure and he dropped quite lucky with the weather, as we were able to visit the beach most days (after a cheeky beer O’ Clock of course.)

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Moules Frites

Moules Frites

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Sorry Ads

Sorry Ads

I’d had kidney pain for a few weeks and it was starting to get worse, so when we dropped Adam back at the airport we decided it would be wise to get it checked out at Carcassonne hospital.

The next three days are lightheartedly summarised below, but before you read it, I’d like to make it clear that the A&E staff at Carcassonne and the Urology team at Clinique Montreal were superb. The treatment I received was first class and I will be writing to thank them for their care when I return to Blighty.

By the time we got to the hospital I was virtually on my knees with pain, those who have had a kidney stone will appreciate where I’m coming from, those lucky buggers who haven’t can be reassured that it bloody hurts (a lot!)

Debs led me to the reception and when it was our turn, purposefully stepped up the the mark and announced “Mon Mari est mal de Calculi Rein”, well that’s what she practiced, what came out in the stress was Mon Mari est mallard (my husband is a duck!) we could see the confusion on the receptionist’s face as she obviously thought, this is a hospital, the vets is down the road love.

Anyway, she gave us a form, took our E1111 details and sent us to the waiting room.

Triage next and this guy spoke English, we were on a roll. (Well actually I was rolling round now)

Do you have pain? (He’s being serious right?)

Oui

1 to 10 how bad?

11 mate

“Follow me” – “you go away” (to Deb)

I was shown to a bed in the A&E section and given a fetching white gown, there were no curtains in the room which contained about 10 beds of fellow patients and a waiting area for the walking wounded.

Do I strip here and put the gown on? I’m not too shy, but getting arrested for indecent exposure in a foreign country isn’t on my bucket list.

The nurse reappeared she would obviously advise – I was right, she tugged my t shirt and announced “OFF” waved the gown in the air “ON” ah right just the top bit then. I was starting to attract a bit of attention by now due to my obvious lack of common sense (you can just tell, can’t you?)

Anyway, I got the gown on and layed on the bed just in time for the second nurse to arrive with the blood kit. He was fully kitted out with needles (large), wipes, blood sample bottles, cannulas, saline and those all important pain relief drugs. Thankfully he spoke a bit of English, unfortunately his vocabulary included the words “boom”, “explosion” and “vein” all in the same sentence. I understood what had happened and the words “don’t worry I’ll try again”.

If he thought needles hurt, he’d never had a kidney stone.

The guy in the bed opposite didn’t understand a word, but I did notice him looking away on attempt 2 (he was next!)

I was finally sorted, with pain killers being dripped into my non exploded vein and I was a happy chap.

Nurse 1 then re-appeared, with a sample bottle and some bleach type wipes.

“Pee pee, after, this” (pointing to the wipes)
“Oui” (see what I did there?)
She pointed to the loo and off I went
Now, at the loo I had a dilemma (well several really)
“Pee pee after this”,
What did she mean??
Pee pee – then wipe container with bleach to keep her hands clean?
Pee pee then wipe my hands on the wipes?
Pee pee after wiping Mr Mick with bleach?
Clean the loo with bleach after pee pee?
I went for all four (in case she checked the loo after)

This was no mean feat as I had to hold the saline drip bottle and associated pipework, the sample bottle, its lid, the bleach wipes, the wipes tub/lid and of course Mr Mick.

Obviously the shorts had to come down as well, which unfortunately were the “oh so easy when you’re one handed” button flies.

So with the drip bag between my teeth and the Sample bottle balanced on the bleach wipes tub in one hand, I had a free hand to drop the shorts and do the business. (Hoping it wasn’t actually bleach)

In my eagerness to comply, I’d forgotten to lock the door and at the crucial point, shorts/pants around my ankles, a bleached Mr Mick in the sample jar and me unable to open my mouth due to it doubling as a drip bag holder, the door opened.

I didn’t look who it was, but heard the ooh la la and the door slam shut. At what point would this embarrassment end? (Unfortunately, not for a good while yet)

I bleached the jar and the loo with the wipes and was feeling quite pleased with my efforts. That was of course until I saw the drip pipework. I had let the bag get lower than the cannula and my blood had filled the pipework including the drip cup part. No problem, I’ll hold it up high and let it flush the blood back in to my arm.

Problem, there were 2 bags (saline and drug) whilst I had some saline left, the drug bag was empty. Solution – go back to the nurse with an empty wipes tub (I made a decent job of the loo) a full sample jar and some trendy red pipework. (and an apologetic puppy dog smile)

I tried not to make eye contact with any potential Mr Mick spotters on my way back through the waiting room, but were those French sniggers I heard?

I was ushered into a room out of the way my double pipework was upgraded to a single bag model and Debs was allowed in.

Don't do drugs kids

Don’t do drugs kids

The door opened and a porter appeared “scan”

Off I went on the trolley to the scanner (have to say I was impressed by the speed stuff was happening)

Into the scan room I went, loads of French instructions from the female scan operator led to my now standard reply “pardon, je ne parle pas bein Francaise, parle vous anglaise?”

And of course the standard reply “non”

Anyway,
she tapped the bench – I shuffled over
She demonstrated arms above my head – I put my arms above my head.
She shook her head and layed me down (apparently this was a scan, not a Mexican wave)
Now put your arms up you buffoon (the look said it all)

The drip was placed in my hands, and determined not to ruin my new pipework I concentrated on holding it higher than my arm. I may have had my tongue out at the time (as you do sometimes)

It was at this point she realised that I still had my shorts on. To be honest I was starting to get the impression that she’d just about had enough of my scan procedure incompetence, however a swift tug would get the situation back on track.

She was so swift though, that she managed to yank “the lot” down in one fell swoop, I have to accept that this was partly my fault as I have lost a bit of weight hadn’t fastened them properly due to only having 2 hands, and I had stealthily lifted my backside off the bed to “help her out.”

Now I know medical staff have seen it all before, but I’m sure the last thing she was expecting to happen was for her to be stood over me, face in my bits, with my undies in her hands around my knees. I was under the influence of medication so didn’t bat an eyelid, but I saw her walking away shaking her head.

Breath in – don’t breath – breath in – don’t breath etc etc and the scan was over.

The porter came in to take me back to the treatment room and seemed surprised to find me flat on my back, arms in the air with my pants around my knees and my tongue out.

Anyway I was wheeled back into the treatment room to find Debs waiting –

“how did it go?”

“Er, ok I think.”

“Pull your bloody trousers up then”

Those are my insides - ignore the poo, that white dot in the middle is angrier than it looks

Those are my insides – ignore the poo, that white dot in the middle is angrier than it looks

Time for the doctor’s briefing, we both listened intently hoping to catch the odd word each and therefore get an idea of what was to happen to me.

Between us we managed to work out that the kidney stone was stuck and I was to be transferred to another hospital to have it sorted out. An ambulance was summoned and I was on my way (leaving Debs to camp out in the car park next to the busy helipad)

Debs view for 3 days

Debs view for 3 days

I was checked into the new hospital (Clinique Montreal) signed the financial paperwork presented by a woman in a suit and asked “single room or share” “single room €80 per day extra”

“share it is then”

I was wheeled into my room, which was 2 bed sized, the other bed was occupied by one of the nicest guys I’ve met.

His name was Joseph, 85 and had worked all his life in the vineyards, none of this modern tarty tractor stuff, Joseph had picked by hand and used horses/carts. He’d never met an Englishman before and didn’t speak a word of the lingo. He was surprised we didn’t have bullfights in the UK, or many vineyards. He gave me a hug when I checked out and I hope he’s going to be ok.

Debs arrived on the day of my op and was met by “the suit from the Bureau” who stung her for €80 for the ambulance, added to the €20 each way for the taxi, resulted in an expensive visit!

My short blue number, it was very short

My short blue number, it was very short

I signed a few more papers after being briefed on the op and wheeled away, I’ve not “been under” that many times, but boy were they efficient in theatre.

“Arm please”

“bye bye”

Nothing funny about the next day, sore bits, rosé wee, doctor saying that they couldn’t get the stone out so has bypassed it, and me trying to arrange a taxi back to the van with no phone and a loud receptionist, who just kept sending me to the peage bureau.

Bearing in mind the ambulance was €80 I was dreading the peage bureau. I’d totted up my credit cards and pre paid Caxton, and I reckoned that anything over €15k  and I’d be trying to phone Mum for a sub (with no phone) or The Evening Post for a photo shoot and crowd funding appeal.

So if it was €80 for the ambulance (15 mins)

How much would – Scan, X-rays, operation, room (shared), drugs, food etc etc be?

Well the total treatment cost was €82 – moral of story TAKE YOUR E111 (EHIC) card when you travel into Europe.

We have insurance but it’s pay now claim later and they’ll only cover you if you use your E111 first (basically our claim is €160).

So don’t leave home without it!

Oh, Deb’s asked me to point out that her French has improved to such an extent that she managed to blag a lift back to the van one evening, from a French family, in French – impressive stuff.

Anyway, we’re back on the road and slowly moving up country (trying to hang on to decent weather as long as possible) yesterday’s view from the van was pretty decent from a lovely parking spot in a village called Lautrec and we managed to see the “super moon” from our sleeping bags.

Lautrec

Lautrec

The beards history - Christ I looked old when I got out of hospital

The beard’s history – Christ I looked old when I got out of hospital

I would imagine that it was far more impressive than the “super moon” viewed by the women who walked into my toilet performance last week.

Don’t even think about an “axe update”

Take care everyone

M&D

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Canal Du Midi

We dropped Deb’s sister off at Carcassonne and had 4 days wait for Adam to arrive for a weeks R&R.

We decided to spend a few days relaxing around the Canal Du Midi, our first stop was at a canal side parking area at a village called Argens Minervois. There were no motorhome servicing facilities here but the location was superb right alongside the Canal. The village had some decent walks along the canal and the adjacent vineyards which were bursting with fruit. We watched the farmers at work harvesting the vines (all mechanised now) and it seemed that everyone had their own mini tractor/trailer combo.

Canal Du Midi

Canal Du Midi

Google tells us that this is a Coypu.

Google tells us that this is a Coypu.

We were visited by what we googled to be a Coypu on both nights we were here, it came out at dusk to feed its young and I managed to grab a pick or two, which was difficult in the low light.

Rural France is so laid back, struggling for room in your car? Stick your mates in your trailer, a bit uncomfortable? Get them a mattress (obvious really!)

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We discovered that “boaters” we’re a friendly bunch, every cruising boat that passed waved vigorously at us, most shouted a friendly “Bonjour” as we sat on the canal bank with a glass of the red stuff. This is the life!

Time to move on, our next stop was a village called Lagrasse. This was another “typical French” village, with narrow streets, a monastery and an ancient town wall.

Lagrasse

Lagrasse

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We were sat having lunch in Lagrasse when there was an incredibly loud “air raid” siren, at first I though Paula was back, but then the reason for this became clear when we saw the local fire engine turn out, no alerters in them there hills.

The afternoon was like a bad regression dream, with what seemed like every fire engine in Southern France racing through the village. I was going to give them a dig out, but only had my sandals on. Things were obviously developing as we were now being buzzed by the “water bomb” planes, these would have been handy in my previous life in Garra woods. (If only to give the kids a bath)

A water bomber

A water bomber

We then had a visit from a Sparrowhawk, which had caught its lunch right behind the van, it was brilliant to watch until we realised its lunch was still alive and flapping about like a pigeon about to be killed and eaten by a sparrowhawk.

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That night we had a bizarre experience, with perfectly clear skies it started lightening. The skies alternated between thousands of stars and brilliant lightening for about 2 hours. We discovered the next day that the Narbonne area just North of us had received the mother of all storms with cars being washed down the streets.

Axe update – Deb assures me that my axe is performing admirably, it seems to be lasting a long time as well.

We’ve just collected Adam from the airport, who has already started drinking my beer, so must dash!

Take care everyone

M&D

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The Middo’s and the Med

We left Beleste having agreed to meet Steve and Heather and on the way passed through Ille-Sur-Tet, oh the fun we (I) have had in previous years singing its name.

Ille Sur Tet (Ille sur Tet) Alouette (Alouette) Oooooohhhhhhhhhh

Ille Sur Tet (Ille sur Tet)
Alouette (Alouette)
Oooooohhhhhhhhhh

Managed to fill up the gas tank at a supermarket fuel station and attracted loads of attention amongst fellow refuellers (and the attendant) by setting off the van’s panic alarm during the filling process. Everyone was looking around (including me) for the source of the noise until Deb put us all out of our misery by informing me I was an idiot.

Whenever we meet up with Steve and Heather, we like to give our favourite hobby a go (inappropriately dressed gorge climbing) this year we stepped up our H&S standards opting for shorts and plimos, but Jack was having none of that and showed the way in his new flip flops. I’ve just about forgiven Jack for a previous years antics of plunging my head into a waterfall and holding it there to stop himself from getting slightly damp.

The gorge had changed since our last visit due to a rockfall, meaning that the only access to the best bit (and the site of Jack’s failed “drown Mick” bid) was via an (ever so dark) irrigation tunnel half way up a rock face. It was at this point that talk turned to the snake we had seen in the irrigation system on a previous expedition and we did the only brave thing possible, we blamed Jack for wearing flip flops and turned back.

It was at this point that things took a turn for the best worst as Steve decided that hooking his foot under a tree root on a steep muddy bank would raise our spirits and give us all a laugh. Once he had convinced us that he was genuinely stuck, we did the honourable thing, climbed back up and took a picture off him.

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The worlds media had informed us that there was a meteor shower on its way and as we we had access to clear dark skies and Steve’s roof terrace, we were surely in for a treat. We positioned ourselves on the terrace, equipped with nibbles, wine, and Jack’s telescope.

Now I’m a bit of an expert on the old scoping, having had 2 goes on my mate Paul’s mega scope, so it was no surprise when I zeroed the spotting scope, consulted Heather’s phone app and pointed the scope straight at Saturn, (which I’m always amazed to see looks exactly like all the pictures, rings and all)

Well actually it was more of a miracle I found it really, as the heavens are a complete mystery to me, Paul manages to bamboozle me within seconds, and I’m having to read every chapter of my Brian Cox book twice in an attempt to get my head around what the hell he’s on about.

Of course I didn’t let any of this on and my status as “expert astronomer” remains intact.

The next day we set off for the village of Castelnaudry, a really quaint village in the mountains and whilst there had a decent lunch “avec pression”

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From Castelnaudry we went to Perpignan, which was holding its annual ironman competition, complete with obstacles, barbed wire, and a river run.

It was the kids first, and after a brief warm up, off they went, some in flip flops. 20 mins later the leaders appeared and slowly but surely the rest followed, some cheekily running at the side of the river not through it.

It all looked a bit of a H&S nightmare to be honest, but hey we’re in France remember, there is no H&S.

As we walked back to the car we noticed that along the course the Paramedics were patching up a few non-finishers. It would appear that the “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” gang haven’t arrived in France just yet.

A steak dinner to finish a good day and of course a lap of Perpignan’s “kamikaze roundabout” Steve drove, we screamed!

DSC_5292

This is a French automatic toilet, which I think you will all agree is a pretty smart bit of kit. It does however require the user to follow a set procedure with regards to its operation which goes something like……

1) Enter toilet
2) Lock door
3) Do toilety stuff (remember to wash your hands after kids)
4) Unlock door
5) LEAVE TOILET
6) Close door

The toilet then does its own thing and undertakes its own predetermined (and unstoppable) decontamination sequence. Until now this decontamination sequence has been somewhat of a mystery to us and millions of relieved patrons, however Heather has assured us that it consists of……….

Door locks
Lights extinguish plunging sealed compartment into total darkness
Internal water jets, activate and continue until toilet compartment is filled to ankle depth
Water drains away
Door unlocks

Her advice is that if at any point you are unsure whether you have carried out the user sequence in the correct order, don’t gamble, go straight to step 5.

A great few days with good friends, here’s to many more.

We had moved to the seaside town of St Cyprien for a few weeks staying in the towns Aire de camping car, 12 euro’s per 24 hrs with electric. only problem was that the exit barrier wouldn’t read any of our cards and the emergency phone number was answered by what could only be described as a troglodyte with a sore head. We were doing the British thing and standing firm not moving from the barrier (sod the queue behind us). The troglodyte kept saying he was on his way, and we kept ringing – one of us was going to get fed up first, and we’re here for 3 months 😉

We love this area, where the Pyrenees drop into the Mediterranean and the seaside resorts of Canet, St Cyprien, Argeles. All have decent yacht marinas, beaches, and of course bars for a cheeky lunchtime “beer o’clock”.

St Cyprien

St Cyprien

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The beach at Canet

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The med isn’t always calm

For Col, who requested "more flesh" - it could have been far worse!

For Col, who requested “more flesh” – it could have been far worse!

Damn!!

Damn!!

It was time to head for Carcassonne for a rendezvous with our first guest, Deb’s sister, Paula. Deb had been looking forward to a good old catch up – I had charged my iPod.

Carcassonne has, yes you’ve guessed it another medieval section and we had been before (once 7 years ago). We were practically locals, so no satnav insults for us, we were going “bareback”.

Of course I made a few minor navigational errors, but we knew we were on the right track when we caught up with the tourist train. Free commentary and a few strange looks but hey wave, we’re all tourists, go with the flow!

Follow that train

Follow that train

Paula’s plane arrived, time for my world to be broadcast in stereo.

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Oh no

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The Pyrenees dropping into the Mediterranean

We’ve revisited all our favourite spots with Paula, finishing today with a trip to Collioure. A beautiful “picture postcard” town close to the Spanish border.

Everyone takes this photo when they visit Collioure - here's mine.

Everyone takes this photo when they visit Collioure – here’s mine.

Paula took this!

Paula took this!

We now have a few days to ourselves before Adam arrives, warm up the jetski’s!!

Take care everyone

M&D

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