Wednesday, 14 March 2018

And Our Homeward Journey Commences - Day 98 - 105

Happy Birthday Louise - Hope you had a lovely Day xxx

Wednesday 7th March 2018

As planned, today we left the Ebro Delta and set off on our long trek to the town of Roses - a place that lies very near to the Spanish/French border.  We're booked in at the Joncar Mar Campsite for 3 nights so we've still got a bit of time in Spain to enjoy before we start our 1000 odd mile drive back to our home town of Ripley.  And really I haven't got much else to say about  our journey.  It only took us a little over 5 hours (which included 2 good breaks), the weather was fine for most of it and we were soon pitched up and comfortable when we arrived - all a bit boring really!

Thursday 8th March 2018

Today was a day spent catching up with some admin jobs!  The van needed it's insurance updating,  (and that was an eye watering 4 figure sum), we needed to confirm our camping spot back in Ripley, and we also wanted to hire a car for a short period while we're there.  So that, along with a few other chores such as catching up with our laundry soon saw the morning off.

Whale Sculptures on Roses' beach
However, while I was doing my washing I got chatting with a fellow Brit who was travelling with only the company of his little 11 year old black poodle - Frankie!  Basically, he wanted to ask for help!  It transpired that he was brand new to motor homing  and he was travelling in his 23 year old van which he'd only owned for a few weeks and  he hadn't really got a clue how anything worked!  He hadn't even managed to put any fresh water in it's tank, and as for  how many of the controls within the habitation part of the van and on his dashboard worked - well to him they were all a huge mystery!  At that point in time we were nipping out for a walk along Roses's lovely prom, but later in the afternoon we met up for a chat and we attempted to offer lots of practical advice for his ongoing travels.   Unfortunately a fair few of his controls were a lot different to ours and therefore  offered conundrums which weren't easily overcome  - so possibly our help wasn't as much as he would have liked!  However,  he later told us that the van had come with a huge pile of  instruction manuals so maybe the best advice that we could offer was that he should get on and read some of them!  He replied that maybe that would be too much like hard work and that he'd always got something better to do - but our thoughts were that for his own comfort and safety maybe he ought to try!!

Friday 9th March 2018

Today was a lovely warm sunny one so we quickly decided we'd cycle out to the Els Aiguamolls de l'Emporda Natural Park - another huge wetland with freshwater marshes, lakes, saline lagoons, beaches and parkland and it's another domain that  is a mecca for hundreds of species of birds.  So with picnic packed off we went - and we weren't disappointed!  Early in our ride, to name but a few, we spotted Harrier Hawks, Kestrels and both white and grey herons, but later our sightings of white storks made our  day.  John spotted their nests from quite a distance away - they stand out clearly because the're often atop tall structures such as pylons or lopped trees and the're often in a community of several nests together. As we got nearer we could also hear the distinctive 'clacking' of their beaks as they seemed to call and chat with one another, and additionally we could see them soaring gracefully overhead!

Apparently there are about 40 pairs in the park, and very conveniently the management have arranged a visitors centre and picnic area very close to some of the nests, so while we enjoyed out lunch we were able to observe the going's on above us - and a couple of them were actually 'at it' so someone may enjoy a visit from a stork sometime in the near future!!

We were also very lucky in the fact that neither of us got any bites!  - No  not from the storks!!  The information book advised that there are millions of mosquitoes in this area and they are particularly blood thirsty in Spring, Summer and Autumn - but happily they missed our visit altogether!

Saturday 10th March 2018

This morning it was time to say goodbye to Spain for now - but! "we'll be back".  We quickly got everything ship shape for travelling, paid our bill and then got on the road for what was to be 180 mile journey to an Aire in the town of Castelnaudary in France.  Once again, this is an Aire that we're quite familiar with because we stayed there on our outgoing journey and it' s also the place where we had a funny little incident - I posted the card that would release us from it's confines into our DVD player - Whoops😱!

Our journey was mostly uneventful, but it was unusual in that when we came to the border crossing there were a large number of armed police, and vehicles were being stopped and searched!  On previous occasions when we've crossed there hasn't been a sole about and certainly no police presence, however even this time we were lucky enough to avoid any delay, and as is our normal habit, we just sailed through without any problems.

Then after that little bit of excitement we found ourselves traversing through the Eastern edge of the Pyrenees where magnificent views of snow capped mountains, fast flowing streams and rugged hillsides seemed to be around every corner, and when they petered out many miles of vine clad fields and pretty French villages took over as we travelled first through the Parc Naturel de la Narbonnaise and then on to Castelnaudary.  And really, for saying we'd opted to avoid toll roads for today we made very good time - we arrived at out destination at about 3pm, but by that time strong winds were blowing and rain was in the air so as we'd seen much of the area before on our previous visit we just snuggled in and did nothing much for the rest of the afternoon.

Sunday 11th March 2108

Happy Mother's Day Rosie and also every other Mum who's reading 😊😘

Today is going to be another long day in the saddle🐎, and while we managed to avoid toll roads yesterday, that wasn't the case today!  We'd got 230 miles to travel and that was by using the motorways - if we hadn't it would have been at least another 50 miles and probably an extra 2 or 3 hours because of the terrain!  In the end the tolls amounted to about 35 quid but the driving was much easier for John - there were no narrow bumpy streets in villages or twisty turny country lanes to negotiate and on the whole we almost had the billiard table smooth topped A20 to ourselves.   Our destination was a free Aire at Lake Pardoux (near Razes) in central France, and because we'd chosen the easy option we made it in 5 hours, and that was including a couple of  good rest stops.  Therefore, once we'd arrived and settled in we had time to relax and take a short walk in the lovely parkland in which the Aire is situated.

Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th March 2018

After lots of overnight rain that drummed on our roof, and frolicking winds (I had to be careful what I put there!!) that almost bounced us out of bed you may imagine that when we rose on Monday morning we were a little bleary eyed.  However, we had the luxury of being able to surface slowly because we only had about 130 miles to travel to our next destination which was to be an Aire at Villandry - a place we intended to stay for 2 nights so that we could have a break from continuous travelling.  Once again we'd been there before on our outward journey, but on that occasion, because of inclement weather, we didn't get the opportunity to do any of the off road cycling that runs for 800 kilometres along the Loire River valley!

The Loire Valley has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list since November 2000 and we've cycled on parts of it before back in 2015 - near Sully-sur-Loire and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Therefore, it was high on our 'to do list' to access another part of it and we thought Tuesday would offer the perfect opportunity.

The day started with heavy cloud and drizzly rain but the forecast was for a big improvement in the afternoon so we delayed our outing until about 11.30 and then almost from out doorstep we were on the 'Loire a Velo' which we initially thought would allow us to cycle right beside the River all the way to Tours.  And it did - but not the Loire River!!  The river that we cycled beside was very swollen, wide and fast flowing so we just assumed it was the Loire but in this vicinity the  River Cher runs parallel to it and this turned out to be the water way that the cycle path follows in this area.

The water here was almost level with the top of the weir 

So really, on our ride to Tours we didn't see any of the Loire but it didn't matter because what we did see was very beautiful and allowed us to spot creatures great and small along the way!

Bleating for his Mama who was nowhere in sight!!
Our ride also enabled us to see the Le Grand Moulin which has stood with it's foundations in the water's of the Cher for almost 400 years. The Moulin is a water mill that was built by Jacques de Beaune in the first quarter of the 16th century however since then it's been renovated twice.  The first time was in the late 19th century when the old wooden milling apparatus was replaced by steel and cast iron parts to boost it's production, and the second time was in the 1920's when numerous auxiliary motors were added to compensate for variations in the flow rate of the river!  After that the mill remained in operation until 1973 but then it was made redundant and the milling activities were moved into a new building on the river bank. 

Where else would you get an
air pump on a bike trail!

In all our ride only covered a little over 12 miles of the track but we also had a similar distance to ride home, and as most of it was achieved in watery sunshine ⛅☔⛅ (it only rained for 5 mins but to start with the clouds looked very ominous) it proved to be an extremely enjoyable outing after being mostly confined to T4rdis2's comfortable interior over the last few days. 

Wednesday 14th March 2018

Well it was forwards and onwards today because our Ferry is booked for 8.30 tomorrow morning and we'd still got about 165 miles to travel to an Aire in the small village of Colleville-Montgomery so that we'll be within easy striking distance of the Caen's Port for our early start - but that didn't quite work out as planned!  Once again we could have opted for toll roads and when Mrs Snoopy (sat nav) said our journey would take 5 hours we were tempted - however, as I have absolutely no responsibility for the driving I left the choice entirely in John's hands - and he chose the scenic route!

For me this proved to be quite delightful and allowed me to enjoy one of the two things that we've noted that are completely different to the parts of Spain we've been staying in!  The first difference was a boring but costly one - the price of fuel - its about 25p a litre more expensive in France and almost on a par with UK prices!  The second one is the lovely greenery and dousings of spring flowers that this much less arid country has to offer.

The terrain we traveled through included many miles of agricultural land, open fields with animals grazing, pine forests, vine yards and blossom filled orchards and in today's sunshine it was all very lovely to see!

Additionally, early in journey we crossed over the mighty Loire a couple of times, and we weren't suprised to note, that much like the Cher, it's swollen water's were almost bursting from it's banks, and the amount of water that must have fallen in this region was also in evidence in the many waterlogged fields that we passed!

I really enjoyed this part of our journey, but I'm not quite so sure how much John enjoyed the early part of the drive (it's a good job it was his choice!)  At times Mrs Snoopy really did seem to be leading us up the garden path by taking us along narrow country lanes and along tight squeezey village roads - and because of this, in the end the time estimation of the duration of our journey wasn't that far out!  But hey ho, we hadn't really got anything better to do today so it didn't matter!  However, what did matter was what was waiting for us at what should have been journey's end of a 5 hour drive!  We entered the village of Colleville-Montgomery only to find the Aire that we'd planned to stay in was closed and it's entrance was blocked by 2 huge boulders!  It was a good job my trusty husband had a plan B tucked away up his sleeve 😂!  And in the end plan B turned out to be better than plan A because it was another Aire (at the cost of 10 euros) that sits right beside our departure Port in the town of Ouistreham (near Caen).  I think initially John hadn't really wanted to come here because it's got a bit of a bad reputation for robberies but as we didn't plan to stray far from the van we felt reasonably safe.

And that's it really for this 'little trip' - we're nearly home and very much looking forward to being reunited with our family and friends!  However, we're a bit concerned that we may have departed from the warm shores of Spain a bit to early especially in view of the weather predictions for the weekend - the suggestion is that night time temperatures will fall below freezing and there may be some more  snow!  From the 16th we're going to be staying on a Certified Location site on the outskirts of our hometown of Ripley and as it doesn't have any Electric hook up!  Therefore, we 'll have to rely entirely on T4rdis2's resources to keep us warm and to prevent our chariot's pipes from freezing - I think we may be in for an interesting and chilly few days ahead😱😱!!
We'll let you know how we get on when you tune in for the next episode.

Bye for Now xx

Click here to see our Spanish camping spots
Click here to see our French camping spots