Yes, I know. We’re here already so why blog about the journey? Think of it as a self indulgent form of therapy – it’s needed.
We had left our lovely friends in Brittany to head down the coast towards St Jean-de-Monts where we found a campsite, one amongst dozens, to pitch for the night*. It was OK, geared up for young families and a bit noisy but the staff were pleasant and the weather warm and sunny.
We had a lovely early morning walk on the beach the next day giving the dogs the chance to stretch their short, stumpy legs before setting off towards La Rochelle and Rochefort where we had found a lovely campsite, Camping Le Bateau* right next to the River Charente. We found it through the Caravan Club sites and touring handbook*.
The weather was beautiful and the site so calm and relaxing Himself made the executive decision to stay for two nights to give us a chance to explore the nearby port of La Rochelle. We will be going back.
The next stage of the plan was to head to past Bordeaux and to find a place to pitch for the night between there and the Spanish border, before striking for home.
This is where we made a mistake, and in hindsight we should have known better. From Bordeaux it is a long, but achievable drive to our home in Asturias; it takes about 14 hours with stops and shared driving. However, that was on a mercy dash to The Daughter, who spent six months in Bordeaux as part of her gap year, and not pulling a caravan behind us. We should have stopped a lot earlier than we did. Driving down that long, long and, it has to be said, very boring road with the sun in our eyes was a recipe for marital discord. To say we were both evil by 5pm is an understatement. And still we kept driving. By this time it was a matter of endurance along the lines of an Arctic expedition but without the camaraderie and with 80ºF heat.
Why not stop at an Aire?* One of the problems with the Aires in France is that you hear so many stories about robbery from people who have stayed in one overnight. This gives you (well, maybe not you but definitely me) a skewed view about staying on any of them. So, we decided, after considerable (heated) debate to head over the border into Spain and find an Aréa de Servicio* there.
At this point we met the Troll Roads. Roads that are cared for by the lumbering, granite-like, lifeforms who dwell in secret caves and tunnels carved underground sheltered from the heat of the day and who only communicate through speaking tubes to demand payment for passage over and through them. What happens if you don’t pay is the stuff of fairy tales (they make grim reading). Now, Himself had spent a long time preparing the route to avoid said Trolls but hadn’t factored in that certain ‘improvements’ in the system had occurred meaning that the whole of the route from Junction 17 on the A63 to past Bilbao was now Trolled. A whole 30 Euros worth. Add that ‘disappointment’ to the burden of driving almost non-stop since 9am and Himself was not a happy husband.
Also, there are no Aréa de Servicios on this stretch of road in Spain. So we just kept driving past Bilbao, past Castro Urdiales, past Santander…
Finally, just as the sun was becoming big, red and unbearably mellow we turned off just outside Torrelavega into a rest area that is well used by weary travellers. So, huddled between large transporter lorries, the caravan, two very tetchy, unspeaking, middle-aged, much marrieds and two extremely tired dogs slept dreamlessly.
And, to think, we’re doing this all over again but in reverse, when we return to England for The Daughter’s graduation at the end of July.
Our mood as we crossed the border into Spain…the actual weather was gorgeous!
Les Jardins de L’Atlantique http://www.camping-jardins-atlantique.com
Camping Le Bateau http://www.campinglebateau.com
Caravan Europe 1, The Caravan Club Ltd, 2010
Aires are large parking areas alongside the main routes which offer free overnight parking and a variety of facilities and can be quite basic with just a set of toilets or more grand and include a service station.
Aréa de Servicio, as above but Spanish.