El Puerto de Santa Maria

Well, we’ve not much to report for this week. We have spent our time chilling on a campsite and haven’t left it much except to walk across the road to the lovely large sandy beach. One day we took a drive around the area to revisit some places we’d been to previously on the bikes. Sanlucar de Barrameda was the one town we really wanted to see. When we arrived we didn’t recognise it at first but a walk along the beach eventually brought us to our old hotel. We couldn’t find our favourite square full of cafes and tapas bars which was disappointing. In recompense we found a very lively bar full of noisy locals where we had a second breakfast of coffee and tostada con jamon y tomate. Ie ham & tomatoes on toast.

We’ve very few photos this week, just a couple of the beach and Ian enjoying the sun by the van. It’s been 20° at times, wonderful for February!

A Week in Baelo Claudia.

Ever since we’d first found this little gem of a place, while touring on our motorbikes, I’d promised myself that one day we’d return. So here we are, and it hasn’t disappointed. Yes the village has a few more houses, admission to the Roman ruins is controlled, and access to the ruins is limited to a tourist route, but despite all this, the essential wonder of being able to wander around a Roman town hasn’t lost its appeal. Add to this wild camping overlooking the wonderful beach, what more could you want.

While staying here we were able to change our return Chunnel booking, giving us a further 2 weeks to enjoy our trip.

Hopefully the following photographs will demonstrate just how wonderful this place is.

Abandoned boat being swallowed by the sand

WW2 bunker

The Forum with the columns of the basilica

The fish salting factory. Dozens of concrete lined pits on the edge of town, close to the sea where the Romans favourite condiment, a fish sauce called gurum was made

An aqueduct

Decumanus Maximus. The main east west road through the town

Nearby Tarifa

To Gibraltar via Cullera and Vera

We decided to move on after 2 nights on the Delta, and head further south. Before hitting the motorway we successfully managed to fill up with LPG! Great news as we were running low.

Heading south we decided to use an ACSI site and get our washing done. We plumped for Cullera. It was supposedly open from the 15th January, but had literally opened the day we arrived. Only 3 motorhomes in residence and all from the UK!

The town itself was basically a pretty typical Spanish seaside resort. An older part of town that showed a few but not many signs of life, and the accompanying beach side hi rise blocks of apartments, all shut up and empty. It was easy to imagine the beach in summer full of loungers and sun worshippers. Truly awful, but now out of season empty it was a perfect place for Nefyn to chase the ball. She loved it.

Washing done and Nefyn happy we set off further south after 2 nights, possibly aiming for Cartagena and it’s roman remains, but while on the road we changed our minds and decided to head further south. There was a nice commercial aire listed at Vera, so we stayed there. [It had great Wi-fi so I was able to watch the second half of Wales v Scotland. It was a great match Wales running out winners by 34-7. More importantly Wales played really well!

Before heading further south the next day we Skyped Gaz, and were pleased to hear all was well.

After a leisurely start, and while on the road, we realised we could make it all the way to Gibraltar, in one hop, if we wanted. So here we are having arrived safely and after a good nights sleep, having today explored the rock.

Gibraltar was so worthwhile visiting. Easy access on foot from our aire in the Marina. Passports checked automatically and but no checks on Nefyn. Caught the bus into town, and while strolling down Main Street we were approached by guys selling minibus tours of the rock, and who would also take Nefyn. This was a real bonus as the tourist information peeps had said the heights were no go via the cable car.

In the end Nefyn did get a little excited when the monkeys climbed all over our bus, but other than that she wasn’t a problem. The tour enabled us to get a great overview of the rock, one which we would otherwise have been denied.

We indulged in a little tax free shopping, and had a truly British lunch of bacon eggs and chips in the main square, and then headed back to Wotan.

Ebro Delta

We’re currently between Barcelona and Valencia on the Ebro Delta This is very fertile flat land studded with lakes and drainage channels. The roads are narrow, single track & raised above the surrounding paddy fields and reed beds . The bird life is amazing, egrets, flamingoes, herons and assorted ducks and waders. Buzzards and harriers circle overhead. It’s very peaceful, we go to sleep to the soothing sound of distant duck quacking! To our surprise, in the middle of this seemingly unpopulated landscape there is a large, free, flat, tarmac motorhome aire with free Wifi, toilets and next to a good restaurant. There are about 30 vans here though it can take 70.

Yesterday we walked to the nearby village of Poble Nou stopping off at an observation platform to observe the birds. The roads are so quiet Nefyn could run ahead off lead.

There’s not a lot to Poble Nou. There’s a church and a couple of restaurants that were mostly closed. It reminded me of the Mexican villages in Spaghetti westerns. There was no sign of Clint Eastwood striding down the street in his poncho though

After rehydrating ourselves with a glass of coke sitting outside the one bar that was open we walked back to the Casa del Fusta restaurant by the aire. Here we indulged in a full on 3 course Spanish lunch with a bottle of local cava. Ian settled for oysters from the delta and steak whereas I was a bit more adventurous with a starter of grilled eel and aioli followed by wild duck, wild mushrooms and artichoke. It was delicious and we didn’t need to eat again that day! The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing around the van. We’ve not yet decide whether to spend another day here or whether to move on. It will depend on the weather and our gas supplies but there’s no hurry to decide, we’ll have another cup of tea first!

Sent from my iPad

Séte

We woke to a heavy frost this morning, though we’d been nice and snug overnight in the van. Driving past Clermont Ferrond there was bright sunshine , whispy mist in the valleys and snowy tops to the puys. It was beautifully crisp and clear. Further south we crossed the Haut Loire region, getting up to 1100m in height. There the snow had been cleared from the roads but was lying deep on the land. It was picturesque but the valleys were thick with fog so we alternated between bright sunshine and grey murk. We stopped for lunch just before crossing the spectacular Millau Bridge. An hour or so later we were down at the coast basking in temperatures of 15°. It’s the first time since leaving home that we’ve not had the heating on!

There’s a huge sandy beach here so off course Nefyn is in her element. We’ve restricted her to ball chasing as it’s still a bit chilly for swimming and I don’t fancy a sopping wet dog in the van. We’ll stay here tomorrow but there’s not a lot else here so we’ll then move on to Spain. In the meantime it’s nice to not be travelling

Auxerre

Yesterday we continued down the peage from Arras to Troye, to put us south of Paris. Then we headed cross country. It was good to feel we were properly in France. Motorways feel the same everywhere. Our overnight stop was on the banks of the river Yonne, in a carpark, in the old town of Auxerre. We took a short walk into the town of half timbered houses and had a quick look inside the cathedral, returning to the van before it got dark. The night view of town was quite impressive but then this morning we woke to fog. I walked back to take some photos while Ian practised harmonica

I managed a quick sketch of the cathedral before we set off on good roads through rural France. We had lunch and a late shower in a motorhome aire in an industrial estate of a small town before getting on to a stretch of non motorway peage. There we were held up at a Junction by a host of motorbikes with police escort. There were hundreds of them. We thought they would zoom of into the distance but no. The police kept other traffic well back and we progressed at a snails pace then stopped as some of the bikers appeared to be doing burnouts and donuts and the others just stood around watching. All this on a motorway! We then crawled on for a few more miles before the bikes and a lot of the cars at the front turned off. At this point we realised they were protesting about the imposition of 80kph speed limits on many rural roads

They had delayed us by about an hour so we just got to our next aire at Aigueperse before dark. We’ll explore in the morning but it’s quite a small town and then will continue southwards

Vimy Ridge & Arras

We had a very early start from Chertsey as the campsite warden told us the traffic would be more terrible than we imagined We arrived very early at the Eurotunnel terminal and had a looong wait!

In France we headed straight down the peage to Vimy Ridge. Although the final battle in April 1917 only involved Canadian troops, I have just discovered my great uncle Arthur Gough was also there with the British troops in the trenches the previous year. The restored trenches are on the final Canadian front line so a little ahead of where Arthur fought but the small visitors centre gave us some info on the British positions. The place is run by young Canadians, one of whom gave us an informative tour of both the observation trenches and the communication tunnels. The tunnels were built by a specialist tunnelling regiment of Welsh miners known as the Bantams. The landscape around was pock marked with craters but the dreadful mud that had to be endured has been replaced with grass and woodland

It’s all rather sterile now but enough of a reminder of the folly of war. On the ridge itself is a memorial to all the Canadians who died in France.

Leaving Vimy we passed Neuville Sant Vaast and Roclincourt , both part of the British operation there on our way to nearby Arras

Here we’ve parked in the free aire close to the town centre. After a walk around the magnificent mediaeval town squares we’ve enjoyed a pasta meal and are settling in for a quiet evening.

On the Road Again!

just a short post and relatively short trip compared to last year. We’ve just over a month and are heading to Spain hoping for some warmer weather.  We’re currently plugged into the electrics at Chertsey Camping and Caravan Club site with the heating on full blast.  It was a tricky journey to get here with rain and spray making driving difficult. Tomorrow we’re crossing to France on Eurotunnel & hopefully we’ll have some photos for 5he next post!

Home Again

We arrived early at the Channel Tunnel terminus but our train was cancelled and we had to go on the next one. It was a long wait!  The M25 was typically slow too with traffic at a standstill in places. The M4 wasn’t too bad though and we eventually arrived at our overnight stop at Beachley, in the car park of the Ferry Inn where the old car ferry used to cross the Severn. It’s right underneath the old Severn Bridge so we had quite a dramatic view.  A pub meal brought our holiday to an end. We were home early the next morning to start theunpacking.

 

Along the North Coast

Surprisingly we’ve never visited the small ports along the Channel coast of France other than trips to Brittany or Normandy. Between Le Havre and Calais was unknown territory so that was the route we took. We had four nights en route.  Our first was spent inland in the pretty Normandy village of Broglie. The Aire was on the old railway line and the village full of half timbered houses.


The countryside became a lot flatter & more agricultural as we approached the coast. There were plentiful tractors and narrow roads to impede progress. We stopped at a pebble beach for lunch the next day, so Nefyn could have a play & then moved on to Fécamp. The Aire overlooked the marina but was very noisy early in the morning   We ate out at one of the seafood restaurants nearby. Ian of course had steak but my sole was truly delicious.


Next stop was Tréport where we took the funicular from the cliff top Aire to the beach. Nefyn enjoyed a swim & Ian watched the many fishermen on the beach and pier as they fished for mackerel. They were very successful too.  Unfortunately after walking around the harbour Ian tripped on a curb and fell heavily.  Luckily he had no serious injury but was quite shaken and rather sore for a few days.


Our final stop in FRANCE was at Le Touquet.  The beach there is vast so we had a good walk. On the way back we walked with a couple from Germany & their two dachshunds. She was German & he was American, so we chatted  happily while the dogs ignored each other!