Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Walking in the woods

It is very tempting when you are in a campervan to spend the whole trip 'touring' rather than setting off on foot and just explore where you are. We were determined that while we were in Portugal that we would spend our time in and around the village, with the occasional foray by bus to the nearest big town, for Banks, groceries etc.

This area of Western Portugal, Leiria, is dotted with beautiful sandy beaches and very well managed forests. We spent Sunday walking through the forest before picking up the path down to the coast. It was lovely walking through the woods, taking the time to see the things that you miss when you are in the van, pine cones the size of house bricks, little picnic areas set back from the road and the cups hanging from the trees to gather the resin. It was while we were taking a well earned rest at one picnic area that we started to think of all the things that we hadn't spotted so far around the village; birds (believe it or not) snakes, gays (I kid you not, we hadn't seen one guy couple for at least 300 miles) or bears (we were getting silly by now)

As we set off back to the path Dave stopped suddenly and said 'My God there's a snake' Now I'm no expert but I didn't think that stopping to look at a snake was such a brilliant idea, but I must admit it did look good weaving it's way amongst the undergrowth. A little way along the path we both looked up in surprise to see, what looked like, a hawk hovering over the forest, 2 out of 4 in 10 minutes, spooky. Having a welcome cooling beer when we reached the beach, we were joined in the bar by a very nice gay couple (Dutch I think) so we nervously kept to the coast road on the way back, didn't want my last words on this earth to be 'shit five out of five'

Sao Pedro de Meol

After a week at the seaside we are planning to move inland tomorrow.

Our original plan was to stop for a couple of days in Meridha,which I think, is a lake district in Spain, then further inland to Madrid for 4 nights to pick up on SPB's route again. But after a perusal of the AA road map we have know decided to cut short Madrid and add in a 2 night stop in Toledo.

I think that we will notice a difference in the temperatures inland. It has been quite cool here on the coast, I suppose the average daytime temperature has been about 25C with a cooling breeze. I have been surprised by the weather so far on this trip. It was a lot cooler in Northern Spain than we expected and even when we reached Portugal the wind was so cool at first that, in the shade, you needed a light sweater. Is this typical, or are they having the same Atlantic low that has blighted the UK summer this year?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Travel Books

I love travel books, any travel books, but especially those that tell a story at the same time. I suppose my favorite has to be Bill Bryson but having recently discovered Peter Moore I am a convert, he writes with so much humour that you are there on the road with him, very clever.
One of my loves is to trawl old book stalls and charity shops for obscure writers and one of the best I found was SPB Mais. His 'Spanish Holiday' is a classic. Written in 1955, it charts his journey by coach from London, through France and Spain. SPB (you never learn his first name) lists, with monotonous regularity, the price of water, tea and their mid morning Brandy, which his wife had 'to settle her stomach'

I personally think that Gillian (his wife) took the Brandy to cope with being stuck on a coach with SPB.............his comments on Franco's Spain are priceless and in these politically correct time really quite outrageous, but of his time brilliant.

We followed part of the 1955 route down to San Sebastian and will pick it up again in Toledo and Madrid and I'll let know how things have changed in the past 50 years, especially the price of brandy.

Little Trains

Portugal is missing a trick, there is a severe shortage of little trains!

Dave was so enthused by my posting in Venice Vert that he spent the whole evening trying to convince me that what the world needs is a Blog dedicated to the Little Trains of the World. He had the whole thing planned out, we would travel the world to find and travel on little trains then we could give them a score out of 10 for comfort, value for money and quality of the commentary, before you start thinking that the sun has gone to his head, I would say in his defence that the wine was particularly cheap and plentiful.......

Sao Pedro de Moel

Oh me Oh my which silly billy put the wrong village name on the last only excuse is that the mobile Internet cabin on the seafront in the village was full of little kids playing ,shoot em dead, games and I couldn't concentrate!!!!

I have found an Internet cafe today but the keyboard is knackered but I will persevere for my 3 euros worth.

We are staying in the lovely village of Sao Pedro which is the rather upmarket seaside resort for Marinha Grande. Lots of plush villas, 3 lovely beaches and two big campsites. Mike, you would love it here and you could even fly drive for a Keycamp holiday in a very twee little cabin. The campsite has a huge pool, basic restaurant (very cheap) and cute little bar with terrace. What more could you want!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Caminha to Porto de Mos

Tuesday 21 August

It was just too windy and cool in Caminha so we thought that we would head south in search of some warmer winds.

Porto de Mos is in the Leira region of Portugal and is a very pretty seaside town with beautiful beaches and some very swish looking villas.

I am posting this in a free Internet facility on the beach so will keep it short.

More details and pictures of this beautiful region to follow!!!!!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Luarca to Caminha

Sunday 19th August

It is a fair drive down to Portugal from Northern Spain so we decided to set off early for our drive across the mountains. As it was a Sunday morning the wasn't much traffic on the roads, which was quite fortunate as a lot of the main road is being upgraded from the N634 to E70 i.e from a main road to a motorway. When I printed the route off Google Routes I thought that it seemed very complicated for what looked on the AA road map to be quite a straight forward route. But with some excellent map reading, Google and good road signs we arrived in the campsite in Caminha by about 2pm.

It is strange but you can not book campsites in advance in Portugal, it's first come - first served. We had planned to travel down to Lisbon next but I think that we might just wander down the coast and stop where the fancy (and campsite availability) takes us. But we intend staying here for a few days, sunbathing, swimming and's a hard life.


Saturday 19th August

The weather was beautiful so we thought we would set off early and walk along the coastal path to Luarca for breakfast.

It was a lovely walk and thankfully not very steep, along the coast into the harbour, which is probably more like Brixham than Padstow with all the coverful fishing boats sitting in the harbour.

After coffee, we took a stroll around the town and bought some souveniers from the little hippy type market.

We couldn't believe our luck with the weather so making the most of the sunshine we thought that we would stroll back to the campsite when the hill up from the beach seemed a lot steeper than it did on the way down!

Friday, 17 August 2007

Zarautz to Luarca

17th August

Dave and I are amazed by the beauty of this coastline in Northern Spain. With the Pyrenees on one side and the ocean on the other it has been a spectacular drive today. OK so some the the viaducts over the valleys had me gripping the seat for dear life, but the views were amazing. A lot of the coastline looks remarkably like Cornwall and Luarca, set as it is in a steep bay is a lot like Padstow (without, of course, Rick Stein)

Our campsite, Camping Playa de Tauran, is about 1.5k outside the town (as the crow flies) set on top of a cliff overlooking the Ocean.........I could get used to this life..................


16th August

I think that we have brought the English summer with us to Northern Spain, changeable sums it up really. I´m not complaining, if it was wall to wall sunshine we probably wouldn´t be doing half as much as we are. Today, for example, we took a cab into Zarautz town. We did intend walking in via the cliffs but it had been raining in the night and the path was very slippy and I am a wuzz about heights at the best of times. It isn´t that I think I am going to fall, it is I KNOW that I Will slip, fall head first into the cliffs and die a slow and painful death.......I think they call it vertigo.

Zarautz is a lovely seaside town with a long promenade and a brilliant surfing beach. We spent a great afternoon having lunch on the prom and pottering about in the town.

I am really disappointed that I haven´t had any answers to the quiz the other day, do you remember? What is a weesee.............answer...........accoording to the little girl who was trying desperately to open all the doors in the sanitation block on the´strange´ campsite, it is a WC.....this multilingual business is easy when you know!!

Talking of loos, how is it that a Nation that has brought us the glory of Versailles, the chic of Channel and the heart stopping beauty of Paris, thinks that woman want to wee standing up??? We don´t, even little French girl´s don´t that´s why there is always a queue for the disabled toilets on the motorway Aires. I think that if all the women in France, French and Tourists alike boycott these abominations, maybe, just maybe, somebody will take the hint..........rant over.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Creón to San Sebastian

'I'm sorry we don't take reservations, but as long as you arrive by 12 o'clock - no problem'

That is the last time I believe a Spanish campsite!!!! We arrived in San Sebastian just before 12 o´clock unfortunately so did half of Spain, nobody told me that 15th August is a public holiday in Spain (Google Calender please take note) and that the world and his mother goes camping at the seaside.

No problem, we were told, there is another campsite further along the coast, just follow this narrow track for about 5k up the mountain in foggy sea can't miss it....well OK maybe they didn't quite put it in those words but you get the drift. Guess what the next site was full as well. We were just about to cut our losses and find the motorway to Santander, the theory being that there were bound to be lots of campsites around a port, when we spotted a sign for another site.

How lucky were we, it is a big site just outside Zarautz and our pitch looks right over the headland and last night there was a fiesta in town and they finished off the evening with a firework display that we could see from the campsite (and you know how much I love fireworks)


There wasn´t an internet cafe in Creón and I didn´t manage to find a Wifi spot on the campsite so these postings are out by a couple of days.

Creón was a nice little village, unfortunately it was shut when we arrived but at least we didn´t have any trouble parking....

We were staying on a strange little campsite. Nothing bad you understand, just a little odd. You know sometimes when you walk into a strange house and get that 'feeling' that everything isn´t just right, or is that just me? Well it was like that, everything seemed a little off kilter. There were lots of very plush static vans with wooden verandas and more flowers than Kew gardens, the Bar doubled up as the bread shop of a morning and there was a new mini golf and a freezing cold but very nice little pool.

I have been learning more French though. I seem to strike up conversation with random people while waiting to use the loo, no change there then, and slowly but surely I am beginning to understand more than I can speak. Do you know for example what a weesee is? think about it, I will give you the answer tomorrow.

Coulon to Créon

Monday 13th August

A nice easy trip today from the lovely Venice Vert region to the wine growing region 20k east of Bordeaux. Dave found us a little campsite from our very thick Eurocamping bible which promised`'a quiet site, Swiss owners, English spoken'.........well one out of three wasn´t bad........they were Swiss!!!

We had promised ourselves a lazy day. Catch up with the writing, sunbathe, have a swim and get the laundry done before the trip to Spain. we managed them all except for the laundry, they didn´t have a washing machine and my days of washing clothes by hand in cold water are long gone.

It was a shame that we had picked the one night of the week to stay here that they had, what seemed like, a communal BBQ and Karaoke, deep joy, drunked French men singing out of tune until the early hours of the morning, how have we ever lived without it before.....

Sunday, 12 August 2007


Sunday 12th August

Deep joy, Coulon has 'Le Petite Train' I love little trains. Everywhere we go I have to take a trip on a Little Train. Dave thinks that I should design a whole Blog around Little Train journeys. You know the kind of thing: value for money, length of journey, quality of the commentary and most importantly, the LA rating - i.e. the Lesley-Anne cringe factor. Yes dear daughter, even though I have no little kids with me to drag onto random little trains I still enjoy them, and today's was a cracker. Travelling around the canals of Le Venice Vert for an hour with a French commentary and VERY loud music, we had to give it a LA rating of 9.

This is a really lovely pat of France. Very relaxed and exceptionally pretty. Definitely worth a return visit.

St Malo to Coulon

A word of warning....Do Not, Under Any Circumstances on a Saturday in France in August........there I have told you. It is a truly mad thing to do, every bugger and his mother is on the road, either going to or coming back from their holidays. The ring road around Nantes went into melt down and I could write a book on the madness of drivers in the Aires (rest areas) on the motorway. Needless to say it was busy, and our short drive down to Coulon, in the Venice Vert was a long one!

Coulon is known as one of the most beautiful villages in France and our campsite is just on the edge of town, superb.

There are quite a mixed bunch on the campsite, mainly French but a scattering of intrepid Brits. Most of the French are in either in clapped out old caravans or state of the art campervans, while the Brits seem to be mostly middle aged caravaners.....except for one family who have the biggest campervan this side of Montana! It is big, very big, absolutely huge. A family of six could happily live in it, that's big, and no gentle reader, I am not jealous, even though our treasured camper would fit quite snugly into their boot.

St Malo

St Malo
Friday 10th August

We didn't feel like driving today so we took a cab into St Malo town from the campsite. There is only one problem with travelling - how to make yourself understood when the wonderful English education system failed to teach languages (at least to me) in the 60's. We weren't sure where in St Malo we wanted to go so when the cab driver suggested the railway station we agreed with the usual 'oui monsieur, merci' which is about the limit of my French conversation, well apart from 'deux bierres s'il vous plait'.

A word of advice, if you ever visit St Malo other than by train, don't bother visiting the railway isn't worth it!! Unlike us, you need to ask for the old town, it is absolutely fab. Lots of little lanes inside a walled area surrounded by beaches. We had a lovely lunch of moules et frites watching the world go by, bliss. The rest of the afternoon was spent pottering around all of the lovely little shops, yes James I have bought you a present, and sitting at a beach cafe with a small coffee soaking up the early evening sunshine.

August in France is the main holiday season and everywhere we have been so far is crowded with the French on holiday. St Malo in particular was very busy not only with the very chic middle class Parisian types but also with what I can only describe as 'hill folk'. I haven't seen so many shell suits since the 80's. And I think that if the family we saw in a little bar in town had shouted for the waiter one more time, the very sweet young waiter that had served us would have hit them!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Guines to St Malo

Thursday 9th August 2007 Guines to St Malo

It was quite chilly when we set off this morning, not at all like summer. I think that this part of France is suffering from weather from the west like we have been having at home. Gray skies followed us through for most of the morning but apart from the occasional very short shower the day was dry. This was the first journey that we were relying on Google maps to guide us. It was fortunate that both of the campsites had their postcodes listed on their websites as this seems to have made Google’s job a lot easier and the trip went like a dream. We didn’t get lost once, not even in the last half mile, which is when we usual go adrift, though this is probably more because we are tired rather than my map reading skills……well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The directions took us on mainly motorways rather than the N roads, which suited us as it was a long journey today. As usual, most of the toll roads were very quite and roadwork free. The only problem we saw on them was just after a peage when we saw a huge plume of black smoke on the opposite carriage. As we got closer we could see that it was a campervan on fire. The police were on the scene but the fire brigade hadn’t yet arrived. We could feel the heat from the fire on the opposite carriageway and I am sure that the petrol tanker that the police let through in the lane next to the fire was relieved that he was at least ten yards past the flaming van when the petrol tank went up………….I kid you not, they hadn’t even stopped the traffic going past the blaze at that point!! I am pleased to report that the people from the van had escaped the blaze and were sitting on the embankment but apart from the clothes they were wearing nothing but nothing was going to survive that fire. What a away to end a holiday.

I am going to start keeping my camera in the front of the van, there are so many things on the journey that are either interesting or just plain scary. Today for instance, we crossed the biggest new bridge in northern France – Le Pont du Normande – apparently, according to the oracle on all things bridge related, it was designed by an English man and it is an amazing feat of engineering. Personally, I think that any one who thinks that a road bridge should be approached on a near vertical approach is a sicko and should be locked up for a very long time.

We are staying at the campsite Domaine de la Ville Huchet, just outside StMalo. I must admit that from their website I was under the impression that the site was a) nearer to the town b) closer to the coast and c) well away from the business park on the bypass but on the positive side the staff are friendly, the site is clean and well managed and the facilities are very good with a lovely swimming pool, creperie and bar.

The site is in the grounds of an old villa which is now in a very sorry state. Earlier this evening Dave and I were having a look at it and started chatting to a Dutch (?) woman and her son. They are apparently big fans of British property show like escape to the country and A Place in the Sun, where people buy a house in Europe then spend a fortune doing them up. But how embarrassing to hear that they were amazed that we would buy property in a country where we couldn’t even speak the language, the shame of it!

Home to Guines

Wednesday 8th August 2007 – Home to Guines

Miles: 294

Tolls: £8

Lesley was due in work at 6.30am so we thought that we might as well make an early start on the journey and get Birmingham out of the way before the rush hour. It always surprises us as to quite how far away Folkestone is and how long it takes to get to the Channel Tunnel. With a couple of good stops and a tail wind we got there about 1.50pm so asked if we could get a train earlier than the one we were booked onto at 2.50. Luckily there were spaces o the 2.20 so we were in the campsite in Guines by 4pm local time.

We were both shattered by the time we had finished dinner. Neither of us had slept well the night before as John’s house alarm had gone off at about 1am and he couldn’t reset it. In the end James got him our ladders out of the garage, God knows how, they were well buried under ‘stuff’, and he climbed up and hit the box with a hammer and cut the wires. Fixed the blasted noise but as security systems go it is stuffed.

We were both happy to settle down early as we had planned an early start to St Malo the next day.

Monday, 6 August 2007

A Lovely Suprise

We have had a very busy weekend. Dave finished work last Friday and I have surprised him by organising a holiday for us both. We are planning to drive through France and Spain to Portugal. The whole trip will take about 6 weeks.....I don't believe in rushing..... and we are planning to finish up with a few days in Brugge.

As you can imagine trying to get everything organised has been a full time job, planning routes, booking campsites, buying provisions etc, but it has been worth it to know that on Wednesday morning we will be on our way down to Le Shuttle for the first stage of the journey.

It was a lovely surprise therefore when the phone rang on Saturday afternoon and it was my friend Noriko phoning from Japan. It is ages since we have spoken, we usually keep in touch by email or snail mail, and it was a joy to be able to have a proper girly chat. She is coming over to England with her family and was hoping that we could meet up. Guess what......... it is just the time when we are on holiday. I am so disappointed that we won't get to see each other but I am hoping that Lesley can get to see them (if she isn't working)

I am planning to keep Blogging while we are away, internet cafes permitting, so keep logging on to see where we are up to on our travels.