Buenos dias dear family & friends, from a very warm and sunny Costa del Sol in Southern Spain. We are nestled in a small seaside town called Motril, on the coast of Andalusia about 30 miles east of Malaga. Today the temperature is around 26 degrees but with a nice sea breeze to keep things comfortable.
‘But hang on a jiffy’ I hear you cry ‘the last we heard, you two were holed up in Macclesfield’......so let me explain....
We have become full time travellers...oh yes we have! We have rented out our house in Macclesfield for the next twelve months and are homeless, foot loose and fancy free; to go anywhere we please and do anything we desire.
We have been thinking and talking about making this move for a couple of years now and after much deliberation and changing of minds we finally decided that what we really love doing is travelling, and so here we are with the Trundle Bus as our permanent home. Nick, Ellen and their delicious delectable son Oliver moved into our house on the 12th September. Oliver has adopted Fang as his Grandma and we now refer to Melford Drive as ‘Oliver’s house’. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to be really free to come and go as you please.
We are doing nothing new here of course, over the past 3 years of travelling we have met a number of people who have done and are doing exactly as we are, and indeed it is these people who inspired us to make this change in our life style. And so travellers we are, and the way we feel right now, travellers we will be for the foreseeable future, or at least until I can’t drive and Fang can’t make the lunch any more.
‘So what’s the plan’ I hear you ask. Well, the plan is to spend some time in Southern Spain basking in the sunshine (we hope) and then around the middle of December we will catch a ferry across to Morocco and spend the next 2 or 3 months there, out of the winter cold. After that we will come back across to Southern Spain and hideaway here for the rest of the winter......and after that we don’t know, maybe Greece maybe Turkey maybe somewhere else altogether, we will see.
Phase one of our master plan kicked off on the 2nd of October when we travelled across the Channel to France. We decided to try the Chunnel this time as Fang is not very good at sea and has to take tablets to avoid chucking up all over the Captain and his crew, which then puts her to sleep for the rest of the day.....personally I can’t see a downside, but she decided she wanted to stay awake. As for myself...... well I come from a long line of distinguished seadogs and there is nothing I like more than being on the ocean waves and sharing a rollicking good sea shanty with me crew mates below decks.
Anyway the Chunnel it was; and what a very efficient hassle free journey it is......how come I can travel through a tunnel out of the country on a train without getting out of my Trundle Bus and with no fuss or delays, and yet I can’t travel by train from Macclesfield to London and ever hope to arrive either on time or relaxed. How did we manage to get the Chunnel so right?......perhaps we should do more things with the French?
After arriving at Calais, we turned south and had our first nights stop at a little town called Ault on the Normandy coast. Nothing of note about this town other than apparently Victor Hugo saw fit to write at some length in his diaries about the place; between you and me I haven’t the foggiest notion who Victor Hugo is, but the Tourist Board saw fit to plaster his name all over the place so he must be of some note, if only to the French. Fang, who is far more literate in these things than I, tells me Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserable and The Hunch Back of Notre Dome.
The next day we moved further south to a place called Argentan. A nice enough provincial town and a very pleasant overnight stop.
The next place worthy of a mention was Samur. Sitting on the banks of the River Loire and slap bang in the middle of the famous wine making district which is the Loire Valley; this is a very affluent looking town with a most impressive chateau overlooking and indeed dominating the town. You can just imagine in days gone by the peasants of the town looking up at the walls with a feeling of dread, which I guess was the idea.
Unfortunately the chateau was closed for repairs and so we didn’t have the chance to look inside. Even more unfortunate is that no one from the French tourist office had the nouse (or in French nousè), to put any signs up until the hapless visitor had clambered up the steepest ruddy hill with their bicycles, at which time said visitor was told the chateau was being renovated.......with a grant from the EU of course.....and would we silver plates come back in 2015 for another look mercy buckets.....yeh, fat chance of that Claude!
|The imposing chateau viewed from the town|
|You can look at the outside but can't go in....|
|The Trundle Bus parked up for a peaceful night|
And then onto a little town called Matha, which is just south east and inland of La Rochelle. Nothing to say about the town, but we know from past trips that the overnight parking has free water and a free electric hook up, which some of these places (Aires) do in France. So it was an ideal place to spend a couple of nights catching our breath.
On the first afternoon there was a knock on the door which Fang answered.
Outside was an old woman with an enormous bag of beans (I mean French green beans not baked beans), which she had obviously just picked from her allotment, or perhaps someone else’s allotment, I can’t be entirely sure.
Anyway Fang being Fang thinks that Madam Green Bean is there offering to give her the bag for nought; and says in her best French ‘oh thank you madam’. On discovering that Madam Green bean is in fact there to flog her beans, Fang ducks back inside the van and gets a small bowl and again in her best French asks madam to ‘just fill the bowl’.
Madam Green Bean is so incensed, in a very Gallic way with a lot of tutting, shuffling of feet and shrugging of shoulders, that someone would even consider not taking the whole bag let alone have the audacity to ask for 3 beans to put in a bowl, that Fang immediately backs down and ducks back in the van to get her purse.
Two minutes and 3.50 euro later we were the proud owners of 2 ½ lb of fresh French beans from someone’s garden. Now I don’t know how many of you know what 2 ½ lb of green beans looks like, but unless you have catered for a party of 50 or more it’s unlikely!
We had beans twice a day and I even had them on my muesli in the morning, just to get rid of the ruddy things. Fang says she was conned and robbed in French, but felt much better when at the supermarket she noticed the green beans were 4 euro for a kilo, (roughly 2 lb).
On the second day we were joined by Rob and Brenda, (we blame them for where we are now as they encouraged us to believe we could get to the end of our drive in a motorhome!)
They were just on their way north to catch a ferry home and we had arranged to meet up. They arrived at lunch time and we hosted lunch which of course included a good portion of green beans. They very kindly offered to cook dinner that evening, but my suggestion that the menu might be enhanced with another generous portion of fresh French beans was not greeted with the enthusiasm I had expected....indeed I was told to go and do something very un-French with my French beans.
The next stop of note was in the little hill top fortress village of Sant Clar. This is an enchanting sleepy little medieval village in the middle of rolling fields.
On the second day, while we were wandering through the village, we came across what I can only describe as a huge mobile B&Q. I guess in these remote villages this kind of service is worthwhile to the traders, and certainly to the villagers who were flocking round as soon as the truck pulled up!
And then we were off to Routier,
one of our favourite spots in the whole of France. Those of you paying
attention on our last trip will remember me waxing lyrical about Routier being
wrapped in the local vineyards, and what a lovely relaxed time we had.
|This was in the village square?|
|Mobile B & Q|
|Fang enjoying a stolen fig|
It was on this first visit we met Ian who has a large house (it’s for sale) in the village, part of which he rents out as holiday lets, and his very handsome side kick Riley. We have kept in contact with Ian ever since our last trip and it was brilliant to meet up again.
On that first evening we saw Ian come through the Aire on his evening walk with Riley and joined him for a saunter through the vineyards ending up at his house for a drink. Ian was due to pick some friends up from the airport the next day and invited us to dinner at his house to meet them.
That evening we met the enchanting effervescent Susi and her ridiculously handsome husband Roger. Susie and Roger bought a derelict house in the village just down the lane from Ian and have spent the past 5 years renovating it, with Roger doing most of the work himself with some help from the locals, mainly Ian. They now have a dream house in France which they manage to escape to from their home in Belgium about once a month for a weekly respite.
We had a brilliant evening with
lots of laughter and good food, (Ian is a very good cook) and they all suggested
we join them the next evening at a local restaurant where they would be dining
with some other friends.
|Ian and Susi looking at the iPad with Roger in the foreground on the balcony of their beautiful home|
|Annette, Susi and Clare.....the local glitterati|
|Dinner at a local restaurant with more glitterati...clockwise round the table; Ian, Irene, Madam Fang, Annette, Susi, Roger, Me, Jackie|
|Me for some reason being very rude to Roger......sorry Roger!|
|Annette with a new friend|
|He also charmed Ian|
We had a word with Ian who looked on the internet and found a couple of places that looked like they might be able to help. Roger was good enough to get on the phone the day after we arrived (he speaks fluent French), but the place he phoned couldn’t help. However, we had discovered from some of the English Chapter of the Brotherhood of Motorhomers staying in the Aires at Routier, that there was a big Motorhome accessory place in a town called Narbonne, which was only about 45 minutes away.
The next day we drove off to Narbonne and found the place. I managed to find someone who spoke a bit of English and explained what the problem was.....he understood both the problem, and more importantly, knew what needed to be done to fix it! The next day a 4:00pm we took the van back and within an hour all was fixed and the fridge is running on gas again.....back in business we are!
Now here’s a thing......while we were in Narbonne we decided to have a look around the town. It was lunch time so there were lots of people around including a group of students. Fang absolutely loves going over to chat with students....I always stand back and just observe from a distance, because it’s like watching a visit by one of the royal family. She will start off talking to just a couple, and within a few seconds they are all crowding around her. She stands there with her hands clasped in front of her (just like the Queen does) and asks them questions about their studies their family and what they had for breakfast. They all seem to love it and answer her questions as though they were expecting her to visit! She will then arrange them in a group so that she can take a photo of the occasion.... This time she also asked them to get back on their skate boards to do a demonstration for her, which they did, without question......it’s just magic to watch!
Another little thing Fang manages to do on a regular basis is; she will stop someone in the street and ask them if they know where the post office, town hall, market is. When the person replies in perfect English Fang will say in her perfect English ‘oh your English is very good where did you learn it?’ ‘At school in England’ comes the reply ‘I’m just here on holiday’
|Fang's student group|
|The demo skateboarding|
|The Trundle Bus in Ian's french barn|
These vats are concrete and hold over 1,000 liters each, with a manhole cover at the top to tip the grapes into, and then a tap down the bottom to pour off the wine with another opening to scrape out the grape residue. Most of them are still there which makes a nice bit of social history.
|On the bottom left you can see the tap for drawing off the plonk with the door to the right of it to scrape out the grape sludge|
|There are three or four of these in each house|
|Roger has drilled out the wall in one and you can see the manhole cover where they put the grapes in|
|Bruno, Susi, Luc, Chantelle|
|Ian at his BBQ|
|With my second chef Riley|
|Chantelle, Stuart and Clare|
|Fang with Kingpin Ian|
|The spectacular Pyrenees|
The drive was, as you might expect, absolutely spectacular. We arrived in Andorra and after a chat to the local tourist information discovered that there were a couple of places where we could wild camp. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to spend a night actually on the top of the Pyrenees we took off in search of a park up for the night.
What an experience, parked in the middle of the Pyrenees at 8000 feet! Spectacular views from our bedroom window, just us and the mountains.....
That evening Fang discovered a
new cure for altitude sickness.......sucking duty free Tia Maria straight from
the bottle through a straw...... After the second slurp, herself decides she is
a bit peckish and pulls a big bag of crisps from the cupboard. ‘Look at this
Jono’ she cries. She is holding this big bag that, because of the altitude, has
blown out to the size of a jumbo party
balloon......next second she has poked a hole in the bag and crisps are
flying all over the van like an exploding crisp bomb!
|Our park up for the night at 8,000 feet|
|Sunrise at our camp|
|The mountains don't look very high because we are at the top of the mountains!|
|Breakfast looking back at the Pyrenees|
We headed for a place called Cala del Moral just outside Malaga, where we knew there was a wild camp by the beach.
|View from our bedroom window|
The reason for heading to Malaga was so that we could arrange our trip back to the UK for 3 weeks. We had done our research and knew we could park the van in a secure car park close to the airport and then catch a flight to Bristol direct from Malaga.With car park and plane tickets booked we were free for another 3 weeks to go exploring.
As we didn’t want to go too far from Malaga we headed east along the coast to a place called Salobrena, about a 45 minute drive from Malaga, and found ourselves a magic wild camp on the beach. Fang, in her usual style, has renamed the place Fisherman’s Cove because of all the night fishing.
|Still warm enough to swim in November!|
|The bay we were parked on|
|Fang......... looking good!|