L’Ile des Papes – Popes Island!!!

We left Camping Botanic on the morning of the 28th May 2018, it was funny how we had arrived and pitched up to that campsite in the pouring rain, followed by 2 beautiful weeks of sunshine and then left again during the pouring rain!!! We’d stayed at Botanic for longer than we’d intended due to needing a new gas regulator which was posted to us by gaslow but due to postal delays with it being French bank holiday etc it had taken longer to arrive than planned so we just decided to stay until the following Monday…

It was my birthday during our stay there and we’d cycled down to the supermarket for fresh food supplies during our second weeks stay, Pete had said that there may be something there I might want to get as a birthday gift… but somehow Pete arrived home with a new hair shaving kit and a new pair of open toe sandals for himself, but to be fair there wasn’t really anything of interest to me there… so I ended up with just a chocolate eclair cream bun to celebrate my birthday with… although Pete did then cook me my favourite meal… steak with peppercorn sauce for a birthday dinner!!!

After driving for two and a half hours to cover just 100km we arrived at 2pm on the 28th May to a site called Camping L’Ile des Papes (Popes Island) again we arrived in the pouring rain… the French lunch times vary from region to region but they generally lunch for 2-3 hours during the heat of the midday sun, from around 12 noon sometimes till as late as 4pm, so we happily and patiently sat outside and waited in the arrivals parking lot and made ourselves coffee had a spot of lunch and refreshed ourselves from our journey while waiting for the staff to open camp reception and to book us in and allow us to pitch up… we were grateful to them that they allowed us in early to find a pitch for ourselves at 2.30pm and told us to come back around 3.30pm to book ourselves in and sort out paperwork with reception…

The rain had started to ease by late afternoon and the grey skies started to clear… sunshine had prevailed once again, and our spirits started to lift… it’s amazing how everything always looks so much better in the sunshine!!! It was time to enjoy the little things in life… taking the time to enjoy the pretty flowers that were just starting to appear from their buds and spot the wildlife down at the riverside that were around dutifully going about their daily lives…

 

The camp L’Ile des Papes is situated and nestled on a small Island in the middle of the River Rhone with lots of great walks along the riverside and just 5 miles outside of Avignon, the day after we arrived we thought we would take a look at walking to Avignon, but the heat was already getting to poor Toffi not long into the walk, we actually hadn’t even got outside the campsite and she was already showing signs of it being far too hot for her to be out during the midday sun, there was no way we were going to force a long 10 mile hike on her in temperatures of 29°+ so we walked her back to the Motorhome opened all the skylights and a few windows to allow the breeze in, supplied her with plenty of cold water and her favourite food then placed her in front of the endless Breeze fan to keep her comfortable and cool with her favourite music playing in the background for entertainment… nothing like a bit of pampering for the pooches!!!

We then got on our bikes and began our own trek to Avignon leaving Toffi in the coolness and comfort of the motorhome… Being so close to the famous city and world heritage site and not getting to see some of it for at least an hour would have been devastating… It took us 25 minutes at a leisurely pace to cycle to the old part of town… We found a bike park up which luckily had a couple of spots free secured our bikes and headed off to explore the streets of Avignon… we wandered down a few of the old streets, we were surrounded by wonderful old buildings with lovely shuttered windows…

 

We then headed towards the world heritage site of “Palais des Papes” (The Pope’s Palace to you and I) this being the Popes old residence which was opened in 1364 and where he had probably lived very happily in since the early 1300’s, that is until… due to unforeseen circumstances… he decided he wanted to live back in Rome again in 1377… but what a magnificent building… the church’s hierarchy sure do know how to live in sheer luxury!!! Apparently the building cost most of the papacy’s income!!!

 

Walking the streets of Avignon I’d spotted a gorgeous dress in a shop window and Pete offered to buy it as a late birthday present but when I looked at the price tag of €190 I decided I could probably do without it!!! especially at that price… I did however buy myself a pair of earrings for €5 instead… We didn’t hang around the town for long as we really didn’t like to leave Toffi on her own for too long, so we grabbed a take away lunch of a ham and chicken baguette and a soft drink each took a quick tour before we then cycled home to reunite with Toffi… with one last photo taken of the famous Pont D’Avignon in the distance as we passed over the bridge on our way home…

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We arrived home to find Toffi perfectly content back at the motorhome… which had stayed lovely and cool inside!!!  (I repeat… it was such a great buy that Endless Breeze 12v fan!!!)

On our ride into the city we found there was an aire just on the outskirts and also a couple of other campsites nearby that would have been closer for visiting the city but to be fair they did look kind of drab, dreary and a little bit bleak…

We chatted with a friendly camp warden on site on the first day we arrived and he asked what breed type of dog Toffi was and we told him she was a Staffordshire bull terrier, he asked did we know what class she would come under? and to be honest I wasn’t too sure myself what class/category in France she came under as we had been to so many places and different countries by then I had forgotten and we had already been through France once before for a month or so with no issues, but I had forgotten to brush up again… so instinctively I said oh… um… I think maybe “class 2” he then went on to say that there are restrictions for class 1 and 2 dogs usually… but because the camp is pretty empty it should be fine for “this time”!!!  Well to be honest it was the first time in our entire 9 months travel that it may have been an issue or that we had even ever been asked and so once we pitched up I thought I had better check up again on France’s laws to see if she was actually restricted and I am thankful to state that in France since a repeal in 2001 the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is no longer deemed a dangerous dog in the country and was previously class 2 but now does not come under any class… Phew… for a minute I thought we may have had an issue on continuing to travel through France with Toffi!!!  Below is a link with info and an excerpt copied from it with the words and confirmation from consulate General to prove so…

https://uk.ambafrance.org/Frequently-asked-questions,17660

Consulate General of France in London

 

-  Staffordshire bull terriers are not on the list of dangerous dogs in France. An answer to a Parliamentary question put to the Ministère de l’Intérieur (Home Office), published in the Official Journal dated 5 February 2001 (page 774), confirms the amendment to the list published in the decree of 27 April 1999, and excludes Staffordshire bull terriers from the said list.

We thought we would try the campsites restaurant here as the days excursions had left us hungry and far too tired to cook, we were not disappointed the food was great and I again got to enjoy a decent steak and peppercorn sauce (and to be honest it was the best steak we had been served while eating out in the whole 9 months of travelling!!!) In fact it was that good I insisted we went back the next evening for me to enjoy yet another steak!!!

The weather during our last day here was thundery with a lot of heavy rain which started late during the night and lasted way into late afternoon, there is a dam situated just outside the campsites gates with automated sluice gates that open when the water level gets too high… the water is so powerful and strong at the dam that it causes rip currents and whirlpools for quite some distance downstream… there are warning signs all along the riverside even inside the camp that warn of the strong current and of extremely fast fluctuations of water levels, I was a little nervous at one point with the amount of rain we were getting that the site may flood but it was fine and other than some very soggy and saturated pitches it remained safe… the rain started to ease again late afternoon and so we took the chance to get out and take Toffi for a leisurely stroll down along the riverside where we saw 3 fishermen each in tiny individual rubber dingy type boats, I have never seen boats like it before!!

Well we shall be moving on again in the morning (31st May 2018) a further 80 km northwards so we will update from where ever we settle next… We have come across a slight hitch in our plans as although we talked about getting a French Crit’air sticker for the motorhome before we started our travels we never ended up getting one, as we just figured we would avoid any cities that needed it for the year, (France has a Crit’air regulation now, not that different to London’s congestion charge, the sticker itself is fairly cheap to obtain but the fines for not having one are horrendous… when we set off last year it involved just the 3 major cities of Paris, Lyon and Grenoble but has since expanded to include other areas) but we also now have the opportunity to catch up with one of Pete’s lovely daughters Liane and her husband Steve who are currently also on a working traveling tour as a hospitality couple at various prestigious venues, Steve is a 2 AA Rosette accredited chef, (please forgive me Steve and Liane if I have failed or worded this wrongly or in anyway under credited yourselves… as I have no idea about these Michelin foodie award things… but will gladly edit/recredit if needed… all I know is I get to enjoy the wonders of eating all the fabulously tasty culinary feasts you wonderful chefs prepare, cook and slave over for us ignorant eaters!!!) we are currently just a few hundred kms away from them at present, but this means we will now be heading straight towards those cities we vowed we wouldn’t go near, let’s just hope I set the sat nav correctly on the day when we get closer… In the meantime Pete has been busy on the internet trying to get us registered and purchase us a Crit’air sticker (or at least have the the receipt for one) pronto otherwise we may face massive fines!!! It’s all part of the fun and surely it’s better late than never to get the sticker itself…

Take Care for now…

Donna x

 

Le Botanic GPS N43°32’28” E3°44’50”  Total spend for 14 nights camping €229

L’Ile des Papes GPS N43°59’36” E4°49’4″   Total spend for 3 nights camping €56.16

 

 

 

Le Botanic

We seem to be somewhat stuck here at the lovely campsite Le Botanic while waiting for a parcel to be delivered from the UK, the French postal service is I must admit not entirely one to be rushed and to make matters worse it is a bank holiday week… We have had to order a part for our gas system, we need a new regulator, as our gas regulator has become faulty and although we have tried resetting the safety feature on the regulator, the gas flow to the cooker etc is still limited to low which in turn is making cooking any meals on it hard work!!!

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To be fair there are worse places to be stranded at, the site we are on is called Le Botanic and is on the whole a pretty decent site, with awesome friendly, lovely, well mannered and helpful staff, the nearby town is good for a visit too, so that’s a bonus… there are two pools which are great… one of which looks like an oasis from a paradise Island with white sand surrounding it and great looking wicker shades to place a lounger underneath and relax, the only downside to this camp would be the timing on the water flow at the showers, they are those rather annoying type… where you have to push a button for the water, I understand that these are for reasons of water saving and I agree that these are very useful as they prevent water waste and over usage, so I am not against such showers… but usually you at least get a 10 second jet of water from each button push at a time… but these ones you literally have to keep the button pressed or the water stops immediately and you get nothing… It’s pretty hard trying to shower, rinse soap suds off or wash and rinse your hair with one hand permanently pressed on a push button and well it’s nigh on impossible to wet or rinse your back off without trying to get into a position resembling something similar to a demonic possession off of the film set the exorcist… seriously… you have to be some sort of contortionist to use them!!! But the campsite other than that is rather nice the plots are plenty big enough and the staff care about the place which does make you appreciate the efforts they make to make your stay a good one!!

There’s lots of wildlife around here too with a mix of birds, frogs, Lizards, snakes, insects, squirrels etc which are lovely to see and hear, and of course it also means the campsite is also doing it’s job in caring for the environment too… there’s also a pony and a horse in a paddock here, both are gentle and friendly creatures who come running over if you approach their paddock to see if you have any goodies or treats for them (ahhh bless, I was gutted I didn’t have any apples or carrots etc that I could have cut up to take down to offer them…)

The weather has been amazing in the last week here everything has dried out and we’ve had beautiful blue skies, lots of sunshine with the occasional fluffy white cloud passing over and then some odd and very short lived dry thunderstorms passing over head very quickly in the afternoons… the 12 volt endless breeze fan has been getting its fair use to help keep me and Toffi cool and comfortable in the heat… We have spent our time here mostly just chilling out, it’s been too hot to walk Toffi for any distance and to be honest she just doesn’t want to go anywhere in this heat except sitting in the shade or with me beside the fan enjoying the coolness of the air it provides…

We have spent the week here considering our options and whether we would be better off in a caravan and car and to be honest and we are seriously looking into this option when we return to the UK… as throughout this trip we could have done so much more with a car available to us on many, many occasions… now don’t get me wrong the motorhome has been an idyllic mode of transport in many ways and we love the motorhome we have, it is sound in all ways mechanically and structurally and hasn’t skipped a beat with just the odd maintenance or pretty cheap replacement part here and there needed (as in the habitation water pump and the gas regulator)… both of which are just part of either motorhoming or caravanning issues and maintenance anyway… but due to Toffi not getting with the plan and not taking to her doggyhut in the way we hoped she would (even after a good sitting down and talking too, bribery, short training sessions etc…)  she still refuses to travel in the thing, and it would be unfair, potentially dangerous and stressful for all to force this on her, so we feel we have missed out on many trips, sights and days out which could have been great…

Wherever we go we have had lots of people telling us about their making good use of public transport, buses, trams, trains etc… but we have found that poor Toffi is also banned from the use of these modes of transport in most of the countries we have visited so far, the general rule being if your dog is a toy breed or small enough to fit inside a handbag sized bag and able to be carried whilst on the transport then its fine, if not… then they are simply not allowed or you may be allowed at individual drivers discretion (which is then a gamble in itself as one driver on the way to the destination you are headed too may let you travel only for a different driver on the return journey to refuse you travel back)… now Toffi weighs in at over 4.5 stone so she’s definitely not a handbag sized dog and what’s more she is a bull terrier breed… so this is even further frowned upon on public transport as she would generally be categorized as a guard dog also… so this public transport option just isn’t available for us to use.

Sometimes the lack of ability to drive such a large vehicle into some smaller towns, villages or cities becomes annoying… and when it is possible to do so, we then have to think of it’s safety when parked in public… can we leave it and its entire contents parked… safely? in some of the smaller towns or larger cities it’s becoming a major flaw to our plans… for example the camp we are currently at is lovely, and although the town isn’t that far the walk into it takes 45 minutes each way, probably 15 minutes by bike and less than 5 minutes by car, but its not suitable to drive the motorhome into, which means we have only been able to get to the town altogether once this week, reason being because it’s been too hot to safely walk Toffi that far in this heat and she refuses to ride in her doggyhut therefore its left us feeling a little trapped at camp… whereas if we had a car we would have been able to get out and about with much more ease… there has also been the issue of the ability and availability of parking for larger vehicles or even fitting through many towns, in many places it’s just not viable, even the supermarkets over here seem to have height restrictions and some have those lovely shades over the car ports to keep cars cool whilst you shop… but the height of these are roughly 2 metres high so again no chance of us parking to even go get shopping safely, not to mention again the safety of the vehicle when it’s left alone in places of which we have no idea whether the motorhome would get broken into, damaged or even stolen along with our entire life contents and leaving us possibly homeless on the side of the street!!!

So now we have to seriously think about our options, we could tow a car behind us… but really??? what’s the use of having 2 engine/vehicles to tax, insure and maintain… and as we have already experienced it’s pretty hard to reverse if needed when your towing something full time, then there are different rules in different countries on how you go about towing that extra car… some allow A frames, while some want the entire car on a trailer etc then there are weight/size issues of a tow vehicle plus trailer and also train weight limits to consider… so we have started our research into changing our set up to a car and caravan instead, yep we are thinking of going to the dark side…. and becoming tuggers instead of chuggers… I have been looking at layouts/types of suitable caravans for us, while Pete has been looking at 4×4 vehicles and their weights and abilities to tow… We also have to take into consideration weights of combined train weights of the vehicles, lengths and max payload capacities for both… due to my lack of what they call a grandad licence!!! (if you passed your test after a certain date you are restricted about the overall weight/size of vehicles you can legally drive, even though you are just as capable as the person that obtained their licence before that date… different rights all because of the date you passed your test!!!) Other option is I arrange and take a C1 test when I get back to the UK to enable me to drive larger heavier vehicles…

Well we will just have to wait and see what we come up with, but in the meantime we shall enjoy lounging around and just being lazy overall…

Have fun wherever you may be…

Take care,

Donna x

Campsite Le Botanic GPS N43°32’28  E3°44’50” €15 per night

 

 

Rain, rain go away… come back another day!!!

MiSte Anne campsite in Villegly was a lovely pretty little circle of a campsite with very good sized daisy covered grass pitches, with more rows of pitches cutting across the midsection of the camp, and spotlessly clean facilities… On arrival the owners also supply you with a welcome pack filled with info on local tourist attractions you may wish to visit during your stay, the place was peaceful the site has a bar, restaurant and a very refreshing swimming pool… nearby is a bakery and a few other small local shops just a short walk from the site.

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The surrounding areas are very picturesque and we walked up a small hill to the windmill and then down past flowing fields full of growing grape vines and then up into a wooded area where we found the dumped rusty skeletal remains of an old Citroen 2CV which was by now almost buried in the undergrowth, which Pete found great pleasure in exploring… along with the dog who followed and jumped right in after him into the overgrown bushes, and by doing so then proceeded to pick up a few of those pesky ticks who were just waiting to be picked up…

Toffi had a lovely long stroll that day but she gets very concerned when one of us is out of view… she then has to go find the lost one and herd them back into her view, she got most concerned when she noticed Pete had dropped behind on our walk and was out of her sight… so while Pete was busy taking pictures… Toffi was busy looking for him…

The weather was a mixed bag with some sunny, beautiful and pretty hot days… on the hot days you could find me and Toffi being cooled by the fan and hiding from the heat of the day…

But alas the weather didn’t last and we had days of really heavy constant downpours of rain and thunderstorms, the heaviest of the rain fell on our last two days of being there and being on a grass pitch both Pete and I started to sweat about whether we would be able to drive off the pitch without hassle…. and when our time was up there, yep… we were stuck on the pitch and unable to move without some help as the tyres just couldn’t get any grip (we had purchased some grip strips for when we found ourselves in such a situation but they turned out to be a complete waste of time and money, they are also a risk of injury or damage as they fly out the back of the wheels the instant any traction is made whilst also ripping up the turf as they do so!!!), so we called on help from the campsite owners (Magali and Antoine who were by the way also very lovely people and they brought us up some mattress protector material to put under the tyres to help give the tyres grip on the slippery grass and to be fair… it worked!!!) our dutch neighbour also pitched in with a helping hand to get us off the pitch so with 3 of us also pushing the motorhome and the material placed, we managed after a few minutes to get off, we did churn a small patch of the turf up which we felt really bad about!!! We apologised for the turf mishap but the owner was very patient, told us not to worry it was the weathers fault and told us they had the campsite for the past 18 years and this was the wettest start to the season they had seen and apparently we were the second vehicle that had struggled with a pull off that day… the site itself though is very well cared for with everything tended too really nicely and it’s a very pretty and attractive place to visit we stayed 7 nights and thoroughly enjoyed it…

We estimated we had another 100km to the next site we’d planned to visit and with me dreading it would take us another 6 hours travelling we were relieved to find it took just 3 hours, we stopped briefly for coffee and to fill up with diesel as we were nearly running on empty and although we had passed a few stations the height of the roofs over the fore courts were all too low for us to enter safely, we finally arrived at Campsite Le Botanic in Fabregues just after 3pm on the 14th May, the day was rainy, grey and miserable, the ground was very wet still and the camp was soggy with some of the pitches clearly waterlogged due to the sheer amount of rainfall France has had in the last few days… reception was friendly and welcoming, and allowed us to locate a suitable pitch we liked, we were advised to go to certain areas in the campsite as they may be better and less water logged but they’d failed to mention the map of the campsite was wrong and we ended up taking a turning which according to the camp map should have had a way out, but this had now been fenced off and become a dead end!!! we ended up having to unhitch the trailer and try to turn our big vehicle back around somehow in a small car size turning space while also navigating around a palm tree that was planted smack bang in the middle of that turning space… eventually 10 minutes later and after getting ourselves out of that muddle, we decided it was a better idea for us to go on foot around the campsite to find a pitch… something we should have done in the first place!!!

We couldn’t find anything that suited us or that wasn’t really overly waterlogged and too soft for the weight/size of our vehicle to be parked on in the area we were directed to… but we found another pitch at the other end of the site… this pitch has a slight decline to the entrance/exit and more felt more solid, stoney and stable under foot, although there are some rather large swaying trees over us… so here is where we are pitched, and although the weather reports say the weather was supposed to be improving… once our levelling ramps are removed we should be able to just roll forward gently on this pitch to get off should there be much more rain!!! There are frogs here and at night they come out to play and if outside all you can hear is there throaty, bellowing chorus of their calls…

The next day the weather started to clear although it was slightly breezy the sun was shining, everything was drying out and all was starting to be good in the world again, we decided to take a stroll into the town, the camp reception had told us of a route we could walk down which was a much quieter and a much safer route than walking down the main road, and they were right it was a really lovely quiet route to walk along, the old town was great, with really quaint looking streets and buildings and although there were posters advertising a fete that day we unfortunately failed to find it…

But we did however find the Intermarche supermarket and Pete went in to buy some salad, fresh veg and fruit, while Toffi and I found somewhere shaded and quiet to await for his return… and although I had said not to buy too much as I could ride back in with the bike and doggy hut for more supplies and as we had to get the stuff back on foot… he returned to us 30 minutes later weighted down with a heavy rucksack and with over a 2.5 mile walk ahead

back to camp carrying it all, the poor bloke was knackered by the time we got back (please note I had offered multiple times to help and take turns to carry the backpack back during our trip back to camp but Pete declined my offers due to him not wanting me to hurt my poorly shoulders and back… such a gentleman!!!)

Well better get out there and enjoy the surroundings while the sun is still shining…

Take care

Donna x

campsite Le Moulin de Ste Anne GPS N43°16’59” E2°26’29” €17 per night total spend €127 including tax

Let’s avoid the motorways… he says!!!

On the 7th May and after a 7 night stay it was time to move on from Campsite Las Casteillets which had been our hideaway and retreat, for the past week we’d enjoyed the beautiful views of the mountains and chilled out there with the donkeys as company, we took just a couple of short walks, even though the place had plenty of walks we just didn’t have the energy to really explore much and found we just needed the time to recharge, but when we did finally venture out we found the the small nearby town to be thriving, with a busy bakery, greengrocers and medical centre plus Chemist…

We definitely needed the chemist as Pete had managed to get himself into a pickle with a dose of athletes foot, I had brought with us medical supplies for treating such ailments and we were armed with Daktarin cream in case one of us ever got the dreaded foot rot, this should have solved the problem and although Pete had been using this cream for nearly a week he was adamant that he would continue to wear these nasty flip flop sandal type things he’d brought along and had been wearing for months… these shoes were material based and were not water proof but he had got them soaking wet so many times they were now giving the bloke a dose of trench foot… this in turn meant that each time he put these nasty shoes back on his feet he was reinfecting his feet despite his medically treating them… the chemist was by now first on my list of shops to visit so armed with google translate… in I went… determined to solve Pete’s rotten trench foot situation… and for a whopping €20 I managed to get him a one step treatment and finally persuaded (nagged) him to part ways with that nasty pair of flip flops before we both ended up needing treatment (I have been teasing him like crazy ever since about his diseased rotting, trench foot ridden feet) hopefully they will now start recovering…

Note the importance of using clean waterproof flip flops or such when using communal shower areas and also the sensible walking shoes you need to bring with you on trips like this… Pete was amazed when we set off at just how many pairs of various walking shoes, even walking shoe sandals and flip flops etc I had brought with me at the start of this trip but I am a firm believer for the health of your feet you should try not to wear the same shoes everyday and to be fair I have managed to get through 4 pairs of the 5 pairs of walking shoes (1 pair were found to be faulty and had to be binned after the heal support began shearing into the back of my foot leaving me with a nasty cut and blisters) and I have also gone through 3 of the 6 pairs flip flops I brought with me so far… I think Pete may well need to go shopping for sensible shoes as soon as his feet heal that is…

We set off from Campsite Las Casteillets on the 7th May at 10.30am Monday morning and headed for the Intermarche which was just a mile down the road to get food shopping, there was also a Camping RV shop nearby and we needed to top up with toilet chemicals, finally we had everything we needed to last us for hopefully at least the next couple of weeks just over an hr later and nearly €300 lighter…

After putting in the coords for the next campsite we were now ready for the off… 3.15 hours the satnav promised for just approx 100 kms… so with Pete insisting the satnav be set at avoiding all toll roads, we should get to the next camp just after 2pm… 5pm we rolled into the next camp a whopping 6 hrs later, we had driven all that way in temperatures of 28° to 30° and we were all sweating like pigs on a spit by the time we got to our destination… we had been taken by the satnav along the very scenic Route of the wines (Route de vins – “Route 20” along the D9) this route though very scenic was very, very long… the first city we hit and passed through was Perpignan and with that we were thinking the sat nav would then take us along the coast and then over inland to avoid any tolls… nope… boy were we wrong… it took us alongside countless vine fields and up through the mountainous region of Corbieres Minervois… we have 3 motorway settings on the Noza tec truck sat nav, motorways are ticked good to go… but then a further 2 settings one to avoid toll roads which is set to avoid as the tolls are quite costly in France… and Pete wanted me to set that as a definite off… but then there’s one more setting which I really should look into for pay per use roads… which I think is the setting getting us into trouble and making our routes much longer as it will avoid all payment roads some of which I think the satnav gets mixed up with toll roads and thus avoids the routes and sometimes we may need to join onto/cross some of the different motorways and some don’t actually need you to pay on those parts (I think), I noticed it did this on the route from Portugal into Spain…

On some parts of this drive through the mountains the roads we were on were pretty much single track roads, although they were in good condition and were well tarmacked roads… but some parts had sheer drops off down the mountain side, so with me clenching the side of the seat with one hand and holding tight to the door handrail with the other and pretty much by now close to re-seeing whatever I’d had for breakfast that morning… and Pete’s there declaring what lovely views of the valleys below us and also of the lovely sights of the mountains we were getting, whilst going along these winding, twisty, narrow roads and how he thought that I should be taking photo’s… even though by this point I could barely glance out the windows without getting dizzy with fear or taking on a lovely shade of grey/green with the colour quickly fading from my usually rosy coloured cheeks… I really do not do well with heights or if there are sheer drops down the sides of roads I turn a lovely shade of green/grey just going over the tall viaducts in Spain, I have serious height fear issue and I simply must look straight ahead or close my eyes, if I catch sight of the sheer drops my body tends to go into panic mode… although I did manage a few pictures when the road safety had improved and the drops weren’t quite as bad and of course once I had managed to prise my hands off the aforementioned objects…

 

 

 

We thought about stopping at an Aire we’d found along the road in the mountains and we pulled in but decided not to stay here as the next day was a French holiday and this week being slightly odd in the French calender as the French have 2 bank holiday days in one week so we were a little concerned as to whether we would be able to book into somewhere the next day being one of these mentioned days so instead stopped for lunch on a mountain pullover and then once refreshed we continued along our journey finally managing to get onto some better roads, where we just had to navigate down some narrow streets when passing through some of the towns, but these streets although narrow at some points were sign posted as suitable for 15 tonnes so we made it through…

 

 

 

We had a slight delay in one of the towns we were passing through where a lorry was making a delivery and blocking the road, but after about 10 minutes we were on our way again…

 

We knew we were very near our destination when we passed the city of Carcassonne… if you have never been to Carcassonne I would highly recommend visiting the place… you will find in the old part of the city the most wonderful ancient walled city with streets like mazes, filled with restaurants, cafes and bars the place is a well deserved world heritage site and one that my passing photo does no justice too!! nearby is the canal du midi which is another of France’s beautiful attractions and another must for the list if you are healthy enough or get the opportunity to go and rent a canal boat, take a slow meandering trip down along the canal as it passes through some magnificent places and wine making villages and towns these are also worth mooring up along the canal to go take visits…

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We were lucky enough to have had at least 2 canal boat holidays down along the canal du Midi in the past where we witnessed wine running down the streets, eaten some fabulous food and had fun mooring up along the banks, enjoyed exploring places and also entertainingly maneuvering into and back out of the stunning locks, it’s certainly something for the list of holidays and adventures!!!

It’s the morning of May 8th as I write this and we can hear the remembrance celebrations at the statue in the nearby town Villegly marking the Victory in Europe Day, generally known as V-E Day, VE Day or simply V Day, it was the public holiday celebrated on 8 May 1945 to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. … It thus marked the end of World War II in Europe… and is celebrated to this day… We shall go take a look, I’m all for celebrating peace over a cuppa!!!

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We arrived at Campsite Le Moulin de Ste Anne at about 5pm and managed to pitch up and enjoy an hour or 2 before a predicted Thunderstorm hit and boy was there loud claps of thunder and lightning, but to be fair the air really needed cooling as the heat and closeness was intense in the hours beforehand…

 

When we woke this morning we decided to stretch our legs and check out the local village & also the grounds of the local Chateau… there was a statue in the grounds which Toffi clearly thought this was a real person in distress and was very concerned for it… bless her!!! and then the beautiful medieval bridge in the middle of the gardens where once the stream had ran underneath this however was long ago diverted to make the gardens larger…

 

 

 

 

Well enjoy folks till next time take care of yourselves, happy safe travels…

Donna x

 

Campsite Le Moulin de Ste Anne, France GPS N43°16’59”  E2°26’29”  €17 per night free wifi

Campsite Las Casteillets, France GPS N42°30’36”  E2°46’59”   €13 per night €5 per week for wifi   Total spend €93 (including 3 x wifi passes each for a week)

Notre retour en France!!!

 

Our first few days and nights at Camping Ametlla were good, we enjoyed some lovely weather and relaxed in the sun, got all the washing up to date etc, and managed to get some nice walks in, the nearest beach is not far from the campsite and through a wooded area where Toffi got to enjoy some wandering about time and also got to enjoy the beach all to herself, although it was a pebble beach which isn’t actually her favourite (but she’s not one to say no to a romp in the sea whatever the case), we then found a car park down the road on another of our walks, we were tempted to wild camp after our stay at the campsite, it had an amazing view from there looking right out to sea…

we also found yet another unfinished housing project on the outskirts of town where all the pavements were laid, drainage, lampposts and electric points installed, sadly now trashed and overgrown, long forgotten by the failed developers… apparently there are over 3.5 million empty, part built estates, or unfinished houses in Spain… mind you looking at some of the build quality of the unfinished and abandoned houses here, I am really not surprised they failed!!!  but these areas make great places for dog walking!!!

Sadly the once peaceful campsite turned into something similar to Butlins as soon as the weekend approached, we stayed from Monday 30th April 2008 and Pete had booked us in for 7 nights, but on the Friday it started to get pretty busy on site and in the evening at a whopping 11pm a campervan turned up next to us, ok, we thought, fair enough, perhaps a long journey had made them run late etc, but taking Toffi for a walk or even trying to sit outside of the motorhome turned into an adventure from hell from then on in, as the campers that had turned up late Friday also had a Staffordshire bull terrier with them, not a problem in itself, but they were not overly willing to keep an eye on it or even put it on a lead or keep proper control of it… and Toffi reacts badly with other Staffy’s!!! Although I must admit once they saw Toffi was 3 times the size of their dog and not a force to be taken lightly they did start show a token effort of control by grabbing hold of theirs… occasionally…

Well after the Friday night things just went from bad to worse… the campsite went from having approx 10-15 motorhomes on it to being almost completely full including most of the once empty hundreds of cabins, so from maybe having 30 people on site it then went to having many hundreds of people on site!!!  We came back from a leisurely stroll with the dog on the Saturday morning to find people queuing up outside the reception to book in, Not really my idea of a peaceful place to stay once it got busy, although the site would be great for families as there were tonnes of activities for them and 3 swimming pools, I think it was the equivalent of a bank holiday weekend in Spain… and the Spanish as we now know love to gather at a good old campsite!!! As is usual on bank holidays in the UK the poor Spanish unfortunately had thunderstorms and rain mostly throughout their holiday weekend too!!!

Our Journey to this campsite was pretty off putting as well to be fair, when the sat nav took us through streets we had no real business even driving down at all (some marked as 3 tonne max, our motorhome is 3.5 tonne!!!) and streets with no entry signs or that are now one way only forcing us down yet more less suitable streets again and again, and once in the town it was far too late to even attempt to turn around or go back, (plus there seemed no other way through it!!!) and it was pretty much the same experience on the outbound journey right back through the town and back down through the narrow and unforgiving streets with overhead balconies perilously sticking out, electric and telephone cables hanging down overhead between buildings and with parked cars either side of the already very narrow roads, this continued virtually all the way through until we finally escaped the madness… then there are the other type of spanish roads, the dirt track roads that run adjacent to the motorways here, which we found on our walks these are used plenty by the locals to get to their houses… apparently these are marked up and signed posted as suitable for 12 tonne trucks, yeah these signs did make me chuckle… I guess the pot holed dirt tracks are brilliant if you’re driving a tank, tractor or four wheel drive vehicle, but as you can see even a tank or tractor would struggle getting through the 2nd tunnel pictured below due to its height which they fail to give mention off or sign post along the road (not sure I know of any 12 tonne vehicle that could possibly fit under and through that 2nd tunnel, just in behind the first tunnel you can just make out in the picture)

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I have to also mention the road noise we endured while on the site which although wasn’t very apparent during the daytime it was extremely apparent in the quiet of night, and heavily present on at least five nights out of the seven nights of our stay, I presume this is down to wind direction and also the fact that the motorway was just a mere 300 metres away!!! even though you have to take a massive vehicle back through the nearest town to get back onto it… would we go back… no chance, would we recommend you to go??? well it depends what you want of a site, the facilities were fine and the staff pleasant so if you wish a family holiday with plenty for the kids to do, then fine… but sadly I wouldn’t recommend the site if you are after a quiet stay over…

As mentioned earlier we did look at doing a couple of nights wild camping in a park up just down the road from the camp, but by then I was mentally and physically exhausted and really needed to find some peace and tranquility to recharge, and we both needed a good night’s sleep without worrying if we may be disturbed or get moved on so we decided in the end to just not bother!!!

We had planned to stop one more time in Spain near Barcelona but again by this time we both just wanted out… someone had said to me in conversation over the last few weeks that “if the days grow long and tiring you know it’s time to move on” this really rang true for me by now… so we made our escape through the Pyrenees and back into France it was a good 4-5 hr drive when we finally arrived at our planned destination… Campsite Les Casteillets in the South of France… We found a great plot and pitched up, the facilities here are basic but clean, with hot water for showers, we are booked in here for a week, and so far it has been so very quiet, the view from our pitch is one of the Pyrenees Mountains in the background where again we are watching as the different weather systems move in around us… here there is total peace and silence with no road noise or people noise at night… with just 4 donkeys enjoying the lush green grass in the adjacent field, birdsong in the trees and the sound of crickets in the long grass…

Along our journey we saw plenty of other motorhomes, but sadly we saw one of them who had failed to put down their satellite dish going along the motorway without even realising, I did laugh as it is probably something I would do… we now check things before moving off (fridge doors locked? aerial down? cupboard doors locked? outside hab/garage doors locked? electric cable away? gas turned off? electrics turned over to 12 volt? trailer locked, secured and lights working? skylights down and locked? well the list goes on and on… but well I hope they made it safely to their destination without the thing flying off the roof and causing an accident… although I doubt very much it will ever work again by the time they get to wherever they were going!!!

Well enough of my ramblings for this week, I’m off to enjoy what France has to offer us… I’d forgotten just how much friendlier the French people seem compared to the sometimes seemingly impatient and brash Spanish, and so far I have had so many French trying to chat politely with me, it’s embarrassing that my French is still so poor… but it’s always humorous when my first words are “Pardon my French” and they seem to forgive me for at least making an effort with them and always being friendly back… even the children and teenagers are polite and respectful towards others here… always with a friendly “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” in passing…some British kids could definitely benefit from being taught this way of life!!!

Au revoir pour le moment,

Donna x

Campsite Las Casteillets, France GPS N42°30’36”  E2°46’59”   €13 per night €5 per week for wifi

Camping Ametlla, Spain GPS N40°51’54”  E0°46’43” €15 per night total spent €105 free wifi