Here we go again….

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We loaded up the caravan, manoeuvred it up the short, steep lane to the road, hitched it to the car and took the first steps towards retracing the 1300km back up through Spain and France to catch the Ferry, this time from Roscoff to Plymouth, to get back to Cornwall in time to travel to Bristol to watch our beloved Daughter graduate with a 2:1 (Hons) in International Relations. Oh, the things we do….

It’s been hot, hot, hot! The temperature has been above 32 deg and the air-con in the car gave up just past the Spanish border on Thursday,  so we had to resort to the old fashioned method of opening the windows. However, this time, Himself and I have stayed on speaking terms even when I have been driving!  It helped to have a plan of action: the first night we stayed on an Aire, which had the added bonus of a rather posh shower; the second night we headed back to Camping Le Bateau at Rochefort (Charente Maritime) which we had so enjoyed on the way down.  I so recommend this site! Then today we drove straight through to just beyond Quimper to stay at our friends’ house in Brittany, in preparation for our early start tomorrow (5am for heaven sakes – it still comes as a surprise when I realise there are two 5 o’clocks in one day) then we nip across the channel to Plymouth and head West.

The Pups have been wonderful: Boy Dog always travels well, he hunkers down and stays relaxed all the way through (upside down, legs in the air), Girl Dog sightsees out of the windows, her ears flapping in the breeze and a contented smile on her face. Of course, they just know that at the end of it all they get to see two of their favourite people, after us of course, The Youngest and The Daughter. And, when we come back this way in two weeks time, there is an extra special surprise for them – The Eldest will be waiting for them!

Hitting the road – part 2

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.

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Our mood as we crossed the border into Spain…the actual weather was gorgeous!

Notes:

  • 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.

And we’re … off!

Finally, finally, finally we are leaving for Asturias!

The car and caravan are both packed fit to burst, the dog guard fitted to prevent any small Boy Dog or Girl Dog finding their way onto our laps mid-journey, tank filled with diesel, sat-nag keyed in with various destinations, No.2 son is doing a jig of joy…we are READY!

                             Spain 2012 182

            A glimpse of the Picos de Europa

Prior planning prevents…..

A decision has been made – we are planning on leaving for Asturias next week!

The logistics of actually how to transport ourselves, two dogs (one now blind), a caravan, all the stuff we ‘need’ for the summer and a motorbike in one trip  have left us a little dizzy. Originally we were going to use a trailer for the bike, but that was before we decided to buy the caravan. So after much thought and various contortions with bike, caravan, pieces of paper, bungee cords and elastoplast….

Himself whizzed over to Spain yesterday to drop off said bike, which he will  leave there before coming back in a few days. Well, that’s his story anyway. He’s gone with a friend and I do believe there is a little road trip planned on the side.

This now means I have space and time to sort stuff out and start packing without any distractions or the need to justify how much wool I do actually own – and for a final lunch with my Best Friend (fingers crossed).

As for Boy Dog: we have been told that there is no chance of his condition improving. However, he is adapting so well to his new world, shaming us with his “can-do” attitude. He is an absolute inspiration – he’s climbing the rockery, forcing Girl Dog out of ‘his’ chair, sunning himself in the garden, racing around all his favourite walks and is getting back to his cheeky, charming self. So the least we can do is stop moping about what can’t be changed and start getting back to what passes as normal in our household.

Needless to say,  No.2 son is delighted that we are finally going !

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Himself’s next bike?

Dia de las Americas, Oviedo, 2012

Hitting the road (part one)

I’ve been a bit slack in updating my blog recently – what can I say?

We’ve been test driving/towing the caravan to make sure that when we flee these cold, wet shores for the summer we won’t make any huge mistakes/forget important things (like attaching the brake cables) when we hit Brittany and Spain.

We took our first trip to a lovely little campsite outside Tavistock – Woodovis Park – where the staff were friendly, helpful and reassuring to newbies like ourselves. This site is situated between Gunnislake and Tavistock and is a little jewel; it has everything you need – shop, clean, hot showers, washing machines and an indoor, heated, swimming pool. The only way in which the experience could have been improved would have been the weather, which had reverted to type and was wet, cold and windy. But we were snug, smug and warm.

The second part of our trip was to Trethewett Farm, a camp site between Boscastle and Tintagel, which saw me do my first drive towing a caravan. I managed to scare myself silly by driving through the twists, turns and steep hills of Gunnislake – not to be recommended for the faint of heart. Himself was ‘calm’ and ‘supportive’ through gritted teeth and white knuckles. When I finally managed to find a lay-by I couldn’t get out of the drivers’ seat fast enough. Himself took over.

We spent three nights at Trethewett Farm, two of which were more than a bit windy meaning our little Girl Dog slept on the pillows between us and I didn’t sleep at all worrying about flying off with a gust of wind and sailing down the North Coast of Cornwall.

I had actually forgotten how beautiful my county is; one of the drawbacks of being a native is you don’t get to do much sightseeing as you are either working or the county is full of tourists, the roads get clogged and parking is exorbitant – if you’re lucky enough to find it. To have the chance to explore it again has been lovely. I do love the North Coast with its mystical, wild and rocky coastline, fantastic surfing and gorgeous beaches, it beats the South Coast any day of the week.

The walks are spectacular too, we did the ‘easy’ route along the coast path into Boscastle (and saw a Chough!). I’m not sure I would have described it as ‘easy’ as some of it was more than a little challenging and had steps hewn into the cliffside to help out. These saw me crawling up them, breathless and quivering, desperately clinging to the grass at the side and with my eyes shut, as I’m not too fond of heights and there appeared to be a sheer drop into the boiling mass of sea down below. Himself told me off for being melodramatic. However, Boy Dog had to have a nap halfway through and then a carry up the steps, which I felt proved a point. However, finally getting into Boscastle was worth it. I felt I had achieved a major breakthrough as for the last three years at least I have been unable to walk more than half a mile without severe knee pain; my bionic knee is certainly working well!

Unfortunately, we’ve had to put off our trip to Asturias for a couple of weeks as, since the caravan trip, Boy Dog has become quite poorly. He’s very lethargic, drinking copiously, eating ferociously and gained 2 kg in a fortnight, which given he is a small terrier is quite significant. He doesn’t appear to be in any pain but he’s just lying around the house not engaging in anything at all. He’s at the Vets today for more blood tests, an ultrasound and X-Rays in the hopes we can find out what is the matter and make him better. Girl Dog is missing him. We are too.

                                 Tintagel to Boscastle

 The photo this week shows a view through the rocks on the Tintagel to Boscastle cliff path.  Many thanks to Himself  for the photograph.

Get a move on will ya Ma

‘Sick leave’ is now at an end. I’ve had my post-op follow up and saw the ‘After’ X-ray of my troublesome left knee and it looks absolutely fantastic – all high grade titanium – I could see the new covers on the bone ends and knee cap in lovely, crisp, high definition. Such a difference to the sorry article I had X-rayed in November. That knee was a disgrace to its name. This new one however is lovely and shiny and working well. It is one to be proud of – with the added bonus of setting off security alarms in airports!

Himself is delighted that all is well as it means he can now delegate tasks and chores without fear of me overdoing it (‘As if that’s ever likely to happen!’ Himself) so next week is set aside for general tidying, cleaning and painting before we leave for Asturias at the end of April. This is not soon enough for No.2 son who is literally hopping from to foot in anticipation of a summer free of maternal nagging.

However, apart from Junior’s disappointment that we are still here, everything is going to plan: the dogs have been boostered and anti-rabied, the car and caravan have had their MOTs, the lists are being ticked off and the days counted down. 

We’ve had some lovely news from our Spanish friend who rang up to let us know our neighbours had had a little boy on Sunday. Both mother and son are healthy and dad is tired, happy and very proud. We can’t wait to meet the little chap for a cuddle!

In the meantime I am ensuring I get to spend enough quality time with friends, so have been indulging in some pretty nice lunches and hardcore gossip, enough to keep me going for the duration of the summer. 

There is a new haiku on the Writing page.

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Photo: Statue of Eugenia Martínez Vallejo, La Monstrua, in Avíles

 

Counting down the days….

It’s only another four weeks or so before we start our annual pilgrimage to our home in Asturias where we spend each summer. This is the time when I get over-excited about going and generally get on people’s nerves with my rhapsodising about the area in which we live.

Despite the fact that this is the fifth year we’ve properly done this there always seems to be more we need to take. Himself has been hitting eBay to provide the caravan with essential equipment (I’m not sure what’s going to turn up to be honest), working out how to transport said caravan and his beloved motorcycle along with two dogs and as many boxes of books, clothes, electrical widgets, food and wool as I can slip into the space available.

The dogs also need to be travel ready so it’s off to the Vet for their booster jabs and Rabies update and to make certain that we have enough Metacam to provide respite to the boy-dog’s arthritic shoulder until such time we can get to the local Vet.

Once my knee has been given the all-clear (not long now) I’m also shopping for the kitchen necessities that are either difficult to find, or downright expensive, out there – various curry pastes, Worthy Cheddar (a waxed cheese), PG Tips tea bags and 2 in 1 shampoo (it’s surprisingly hard to come by).

The one thing I have not been able to do is to physically go wool shopping and have been relying on the Internet (Deramores is brilliant), which is all well and good but means that Himself knows exactly how much wool is coming into the house and, given that last year I did go a bit crazy and built myself a moderate-sized wool mountain to take with us, means that if I don’t get to the postie first I end up being lectured on my profligate ways. However, my wool addiction is a lot less expensive than his motorbike addiction…as I frequently point out.

I’ve spent the last few days working on a couple of new pages to add to my blog you can find them at the top of this page labelled ‘Knitting’ and ‘Writing’. I’ve also added a short story, which I was lucky enough to get published by the One Million Stories project in 2010 and I hope you enjoy it.

www.worthycheddar.co.uk

www.deramores.com

www.millionstories.net

The photo is of Playa de la Andrin (Andrin Beach) near Llanes, Asturias.

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