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

Hitting the road (part 2)

Busy old week again.

We’re not sure when we are going to be able to get to Asturias, hopefully by the end of the month. Things have had to be put on hold as the Boy Dog still isn’t well. He remains lethargic and uninterested in anything apart from food and cuddles. Although he did almost revert to his old self when my best friend came around the other day – he greeted her with his usual charm and sparky yodel and made a lovely fuss of her.  It was good to see that he is still in there.

We had the results back from the tests he underwent – once again all results were within normal parameters. He is now a perplexing conundrum. Our vet (wonderful man) has referred him to a specialist centre in Somerset. Tomorrow we are hitching up to go and stay near the centre in order for Boy Dog to undergo a consultation and further tests. Worrying times.

However, the enforced stay has meant we’ve been able to enjoy a lovely Bank Holiday weekend, with gorgeous weather on Sunday – apparently it was the sunniest Bank Holiday for six years according to the weather forecasters – and we’ve been able to see the azaleas in bloom for a change!

We also voted in the local elections. The Unitary Authority has had numerous problems over the last four years with a coalition of Lib-Dem and Tory councillors running(?) the organisation. Now there is no overall control with the Independents, Tories and Lib-Dems all having around the same number of seats and in talks to decide how to proceed. However the good news is there is now a very strong Labour Group (8 councillors), meaning that there will be a chance of decent debate and responsible oversight, particularly as it has at its heart a former MP with experience of Government and whose passionate commitment brought Objective One to Cornwall.

Now off to sort out the caravan for the next few days. Fingers crossed for the Boy Dog.

                                            image

One of the azaleas  finally in bloom. There is also a new haiku celebrating May.

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.

A spring in my step

Well, it’s beginning to finally look like Spring is here. The sky this morning is a lovely china blue, with nary a cloud in sight, and when I took the dogs for their daily constitutional there was a hint of gentle warmth in the air, which is very welcome as for the last week we have had an Easterly wind which was bitingly cold. Things are looking up!

It’s been a busy week, starting last Friday (I know not strictly this week, but near enough) with the Daughter coming home for Easter carrying enough washing to start her own laundrette, an appetite for home cooking and a head full of her upcoming university Finals. She’s a great girl and is going to go far.  After she graduates she plans to move to Edinburgh to work for a while in the Voluntary Sector (paid work, I hope).

The dogs went crazy for her, the Boy Dog does a fantastic yodel, hitting several notes that have not yet been identified, and sets off around the house at high speed leaping stairs and humans alike in one bound. The Girl Dog wags her stumpy little tail until you think she’s going to take off and wears the biggest grin you can imagine all the time the Daughter is home. The house always feels that little bit emptier when she leaves – mainly because she has nicked my toiletries and clothes and been packed off with a kitchen full of food.

We also went out for dinner on Friday with some friends to a wonderful Nepalese restaurant, the Kathmandu Palace in Truro. The food is incredible and the staff knowledgeable, helpful and downright charming. Where else can you get them to add extra chillies to an already hot curry?

Monday saw the start of spring cleaning which, despite my best efforts at trying to wheedle my way out of it (tried it all…knee still not working properly, bad back, it’s too cold, can’t find the vacuum cleaner, it’s our wedding anniversary dammit…) but Himself was having none of it. I now have a sparkly kitchen where, get this, I can actually find things! Next up, the bedrooms…

I’ve spent a fair bit of time, too, playing with my new iPad. Now, I’m not a techie person and the only geekie stuff I’m into is sci-fi related – Star Trek, Dr Who, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaimon, Stargate – but I have become totally addicted to this thing. The sexy, slimline shape, the naughty speed with which it downloads stuff, the temptations of free apps….and, if I remember how to input the information properly each time it will also tell me where to be and at what time but without nagging! It even has a little man inside it to answer questions who doesn’t get offended if he’s ignored! Himself could learn from him.

http://www.kathmandupalace.co.uk

There’s a new haiku on the Writing page.

Spain 2011 017

The photo is of a storm coming up one of the valleys of the Picos de Europa.

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.

Image

As Time Slips By

Funny how quickly time goes when you’re not really doing anything with it. Since being trapped in the house for extended periods of time and heavily reliant on the goodness of Himself in taking me out, I have noticed that one can potter around all day and not really achieve anything at all.  I mean, once I’ve checked my emails and Facebook for anything interesting and then read the paper online it’s time for lunch. A little trip in the car in the afternoon and maybe a gentle amble along a sea shore – by the way, I recommend Swanpool in Falmouth, nice flat walking around the nature reserve then treat yourself to a  hot chocolate and flapjack from the Beach Cafe (very yummy and very good value) – and it’s almost time for dinner.

However, all of this leisure time is coming to an end. I will soon be able to drive again and we are making plans for our trip to Spain. Which this year has involved the purchase of a 4 berth caravan to make the journey better and less stressful for our dogs. Seriously. They are getting older and find the 24 hour crossing from Plymouth to Santander on the ferry just too much.  So the plan is to use the caravan. Bear with me, it will work.

The plan is to take the ferry to Roscoff, it’s 6 hours. The dogs are allowed to remain in the car, which they like. We stop off to visit friends in Brittany and then take 3 or 4 days to travel to our home in Asturias. We all have a big adventure and the dogs are happy! Can’t wait!

Weed or flower?