Our long awaited visit to A Coruna

Friday 30th September

Up and away early before breakfast, but stopped for the usual “empty the facilities” whilst we have the chance!! Then out of a rather quiet Valladolid, probably too early for the locals.

Autovia all the way and apart for a couple of “aborted” stops for gas, it was a reasonable run arriving at our motorhome pitch around 1400hrs.

Lunch was had before we checked in and wandered into the historic part of the town.  We did have a shock when we paid for our two nights though; €59 (including IVA), but we are in a marina car park in the heart of everything.

Ramparts

From our parking spot we can see the ramparts surrounding the old town so when we set off we “marched” straight up a steep hill interspersed with steps.   At the top we wandered around the quaint narrow streets but being a Friday afternoon, rather chilly and rain was threatening, there weren’t many people about, but still enjoyable.  

Lovely narrow streets

A Coruna is a small peninsula dominated by the historic centre with much of the original ramparts still visible but the narrow strip of land leading up to it has been completely built on and merges into the old town.    We eventually came across the main square dominated by the town hall, but again not the bustling place one normally finds in Spain.   Today the most active thing going on was the erection of a stage, council depositing dustbins and crash barriers being erected; tomorrow must be a “big” day in A Coruna.   Apart from a gentle stroll to get our bearings, we were also looking for a nice restaurant for tomorrow, being our last leisurely day before setting sail to our new life back in England.  This was quite difficult as all the restaurants were closed so had to make do with a couple of beers instead; tomorrow is another day.

I love these Squares, people watching

Returning, we couldn’t face walking up and over the big hill through the old town so elected to take the flat way, walking along the harbour and passing two marinas; though longer it was flat!!!

Back in Rosie we settled down to watch a film but half way through the ‘phone rang, it was a very excited Ashleigh, she had been to a graduate assessment centre for a very large international logistics company and out of a roomful of candidates, was offered a placement.   We also had a drink to celebrate.   Ashleigh suffered through her University years due to Covid, she didn’t get to enjoy the normal “life” associated with university and worse, her freshman’s year was spent at home!!!  Under these tough regulations she did well to achieve a law degree, well done Ashleigh, and good luck in your new career.

We resumed the film then hit the sack, tomorrow we’re going to look for the tomb of Sir John Moore and other things.

Saturday 1st October

No rush this morning, sightseeing and a nice lunch is our itinerary for today.

As I stated in an earlier post, I have wanted to come here for a number of yeas mainly due to my time at school.  I was always fond of history and had an interest in the time around the “Peninsular war” and also as a part of English, had to learn Charles Wolfe’s poem,  “The burial of Sir John Moore”; first verse:-  

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note, 

As his corse to the rampart we hurried, 

not a soldier discharged his farewell shot, 

o’er the grave where our hero we buried 

I could go on with the next 7-verses, but I won’t!!! So great excitement to visit his tomb.

Castellated de Santo Anton

Leaving Rosie we headed out to the “Castelo de Santo Anton”, the 16th century fort constructed to protect the harbour and part of a network of forts to defend the city and the region of Galicia.    This fort was declared a Historic-Ancient Monument in 1949 and since 1994 has been considered a site of Cultural Interest.   Additionally since 1968 it houses the Archaeological and Historical Museum of A Coruna and though there are many interesting artefacts stretching back to Roman times, all descriptions are in Spanish and in their own local language, “Galician”, so short of using Google translate at every artefact which would take months!!! We had to make educated guesses, which we did and enjoyed it.  One interesting commentary was the Spanish “take” on the Armada 1588 and no doubt taught in schools so I did a Google translate and their “take” on the outcome if anyone is interested is at the end of todays blog.

View from top

Like many other similar monuments there are the usual medieval lookouts and old cannons, manicured gardens etc., but from the top one had a wonderful view of the bay and harbour; these medieval chaps knew a thing or two!!!   The only issue for us was getting to the top.   We had to climb up this very narrow spiral stone staircase and what with our collective bone issues it was a challenge to get up however, getting back down was worse.   It was a good job it was quiet, we didn’t want to meet others either going up or coming down!!!!

inside looking at relics

Having done the fort it was time to head up the hill to the “Xardin de of San Carlos”, for me one of the reasons to be here was to see the tomb of General Sir John Moore which is in this park.   Having puffed our way up the hill, we found the gates were locked and chained👹👹 but there was an arrow pointing round the corner, but opposite was Bar, so a rather late mid-morning coffee was had.  

Refreshed we set off, following the arrow around the corner, nothing!!!  Round another corner we did find another entrance but no, the gates were also locked; what’s going on??  So I didn’t get to see his tomb🥵🥵🥵🥵.     Maybe the locals heard me “scoff” at their story about the Armada and had their own back by preventing me entering the aforementioned park 🤔🤔🤔.     Something to do when we return!!

back to the square

We then strolled through another part of the old town and arrived in the main square.  The good news; today it was vibrant with restaurants opening, so after studying several menus selected a very nice, classy one.   Being the first in I was a little anxious, it’s never nice to be the only diners, the mind wanders and you start wondering what’s wrong. We ordered a bottle and said we would order later, we just wanted to enjoy a drink first.  Our minds were soon put at rest as within twenty minutes the place was half full, so we ordered.   Now we had been recommended to eat fish in Corunna, being a fishing port the restaurants all serve good fresh fish and seafood.   Having made our choices of fishy starters and mains we were apologetically told everything we chose was un-available, they couldn’t get any from the fish market, so we had another go, but again, unavailable.   What they recommended was Merluza (hake) but that didn’t inspire us so we paid for our bottle of wine and took it with us as we left   They were very nice about it and couldn’t apologise enough about the lack of items on the menu.    Maybe they have a cash flow problem!!!

Out we went but decided to give up on the square and headed to the harbour front, bound to find somewhere there🤞🤞.    We walked the full length but nothing we fancied, after all we are in a fish port, we don’t want Italian, Asian, burgers etc., etc., we want fresh fish.  So kept wandering, this time away from the big square and the sea front and, looking up a narrow street “clocked” some tables so wandered up.  This was a small fish restaurant heaving with locals, nothing special to look at but we just had that feeling, so we sat down outside; inside was totally full.

Unlike the earlier restaurant with all the paraphernalia, white linen and smart waiting staff and chandeliers etc., this had paper table cloths on wobbly tables a scruffy looking waiter but the fresh fish in the window said it all.   We ordered another bottle of white, €7 cheaper and just as nice, and the good news everything on the menu was available!!!

We settled for a couple of moderate starters but then for the main course, we ordered a fish parrillada for two; Christine was a little reticent as her last 2-experiences with sharing a parrillada we’re not good, perhaps third time lucky.  

We had two pieces before I took photo, FAB-U-LOUS!

We hit the jackpot with the prawns in garlic, they weren’t the normal sized ones, no they were big ‘uns, and so fresh, yum yum.    Our parrillada soon followed and it looked good but once we got stuck-in, we both agreed it was excellent, very fresh and all the different fish cooked to perfection; yes third time lucky.   It just goes to show, it’s not about the surroundings, it’s about the food and yet again we’ve proved to ourselves that many restaurants in backstreets can be extremely good.

Concluding our meal a couple of hours later, we then headed back to Rosie.   We had an appointment with Channel 4; qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix.

The other monument we wanted to visit was the “Tower of Hercules”, an ancient lighthouse constructed by the “Romans” about 2000-years ago, and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   The sea around this area is known as “Cape Finistere”, named by the Romans and meaning “end of the earth” in Latin.  Unfortunately time prevented us carrying out this mission today but will try and get there tomorrow as we head out. .

Tower of Hercules

We were a little surprised when we returned to Rosie;  we had parked in an fairly isolated spot but to our surprise others had parked around us, whatever next!!!   Having paid extortionate fees for this site, we both went and used their showers as well as their electric hook-up points.

……………………….

The Spanish view of the Armada

“SHIPWRECK OF THE “II INVENCIBLE ARMADA” 10-28-1596, FISTERRA (A CORUÑA) Invincible Armada is a term of English origin, referring to the Company of England of 1588 projected by the Spanish monarch Philip II to dethrone Elizabeth I of England during the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604.  Felipe II ordered the formation of a fleet that he called “Great and Happy Armada” whose mission was to facilitate the transfer from Flanders to the Spanish Tercios, who would be in charge of invading the British island.  This invasion did not seek the annexation of the British Isles to the Spanish Empire but rather the expulsion of Elizabeth I from the English throne.  Directed by Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 127 ships departed from Spain, of which 122 entered the English Channel.  The Spanish navy failed in its mission due to the bad state of the sea, the means and the cartography of the time.  However, the tradition, popularized by the Anglo-Saxon world, maintains that it was the English fleet that defeated the Spanish navy in combat, even annihilating it.  But today it is known that most of the shipwrecks were caused by the weather , and that three quarters of the ships ( 87 boats ) returned safely to Spanish ports .  In 1596, a total of 170 ships were preparing to set out for the British Isles with the intention of compensating for the failure suffered eight years earlier by the Spanish Armada.  The so – called Invincible Armada II , led by Martín Padilla , was off the coast of Fisterra in A Coruña , when on the night of October 28 to 29 , 1596 , a strong storm surprised them causing the sinking of around 30 boats and the disappearance of of approximately 1,700 people.  This episode , less known than that of the Invincible Armada , has gone down in history , however , as the largest shipwreck recorded on the entire coast of Galicia.”

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Valladolid

Wednesday 28th September 

This morning was the first morning we hadn’t had to rush to do jobs etc, we were “free”, so enjoyed our breakfast with nothing on our minds!!!!!

One very useful advantage of staying in a “free” municipal motorhome site are the services it provides, toilet emptying facilities and fresh water etc., so naturally we took advantage of them.

Our planned drive today is around four hours, heading to Valladolid north north-west of Madrid, somewhere we haven’t visited before, so should be good.

Our uneventful 4-hour trip actually took nearer 6-hrs, firstly we stopped to make use of the  municipal site facilities, then soon after starting it was coffee time and this was followed by a Diesel stop.  Also Waze/Google Sat Nav are for cars and best will in the world, we can’t achieve their speed; Rosie does her best but unfortunately it’s not good enough 😢😢 and our arrival time gets further away.   Madrid also contributed to our delay; driving the west side of Madrid the road spends much of its time in tunnels and of course the navigation system can’t hook onto any Satellite, we then missed our turnoff and ended up in Madrid!!!   Fortunately the traffic was light and we finally caught up with the right road.

Leaving Madrid we headed up into the sierra de Guadarrama mountains passing the tomb of General Franco high up, and tunnelled by hand well into the mountain.  This was his mausoleum but a few years ago his remains were moved elsewhere.   This route was very picturesque and a good old fashioned mountain pass with hairpin bends etc.   as we were descending we stopped for lunch also adding to our journey time.

Our home for the night

We eventually arrived at the municipal site in the heart of Valladolid and found a space.   It was a good job we weren’t much later as the place was already quite full but to our surprise we had to pay, 5 euros a night!!!!!

Dinner and a quiet evening followed, tomorrow we are off sight seeing.

Thursday 29th September

River Pisuerga

Woke up to a dull, and not so warm day but hey, never mind we’ll manage!!

Town Hall in magnificent square

Our first mission after breakfast is to find a branch of “Caixa Bank”, I have to complete the formalities, bloody Spanish bureaucracy;   All I want to do is close my current account, how hard can that be???    Tourist information were very helpful, they gave us directions to the nearest Caixa branch and a map with all the places of interest.

We found the bank with ease, and completed our mission, helped by a very nice man with no queuing!    I’m out of here now😀😀😀😀

Cathedral

After our mid morning coffee and yes you’ve guessed it, a Soberano accompanied by churros we set off and became a tourist and our first port of call, naturally the Cathedral.  What I didn’t know was that Valladolid was the capital of Spain, home to King Philip ll (this was the same king who married our (bloody) Mary 1) and his court and at that time this city didn’t have a cathedral so one was commissioned.  The plan was for the new building to be the largest in Europe as befitted a capital city.     Best laid plans and all that; sometime in the 1560’s King Philip moved his court to Madrid and that’s when it became the capital.   The upshot was the funds to build this enormous cathedral dried up and a much smaller one was built.   Having been inside it hasn’t got the usual splendid gold guilted “everything”, in fact by normal RC standards it’s rather sparse, and the construction was more Rudimentary than most we’ve seen, still it was very solid, it’s not going anywhere.   The plazas around were very decretive and sprouted many statutes etc.    At the rear of the cathedral was one of the university buildings, a magnificent building with an equally magnificent stairway.

Alter

The tourist information highlighted many different buildings to visit and they all looked very splendid but information was hard to come by, everything in Spanish, perhaps Valladolid isn’t on the British tourists routes!   Still it was a very nice place to wander around though being the end of September everywhere was quiet, even the main square, Plaza Mayor was empty, mind you the weather didn’t help!!!

The structure was amazing


Wandering around the historic part of the town we came across the statute of Miguel D Cervantes, the renowned early modern (1547 – 1616) Spanish writer best known for his novel “Don Quixote”

Eventually we headed into a restaurant just off the main square and settled on a nice bottle of “Vino Blanco” but time ran on and suddenly it was “menu del dia” time, so ordered another bottle and enjoyed, probably our last menu for some time😢😢.

University with magnificent staircase

Wandering back through the narrow streets and across the River Pisuerga the heavens opened so we sheltered in the entrance to a block of flats along with others until it eased.

Cathedral and Monestry

Back in Rosie, wet and cold so we had showers but unfortunately the water wasn’t hot; most probably something we’re not doing right, after all this has been the first time we had a shower in her!!!

The rest of the evening was taken up with family chats, after all, everything happened so quickly at the end they all needed “up-dating”

Tomorrow we head to A Coruna, the most Northernly and Westerly point of Spain

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Time to catch up!

End of August to 26th September

A lot has happened since the last published log.

Firstly after the debacle of the Germans sale falling apart, the house was immediately put back on the market and not long after we had an acceptable offer but knowing how precarious offers turning to sales can be, we kept it under the radar.    The potential buyers came whilst we were in U.K. as did the offer, so our paths never crossed; perhaps that was a good thing!!!!!

We took a positive step be taking Rosie back to U.K. full of unwanted winter clothes and other stuff, just in case we sold.   We had engaged the services of “Pinar Properties” , they not only sold this house to the Germans, they also sold our old house in Calle Acebo so we knew Kristian very well and he was very positive of a quick sale.

We had already started the box-packing due to our “first” sale but naturally as time went on we had broken into some of them, but on our return from U.K. it was all go, “again”!!  We  left Rosie at Hope Farm and flew back with a long list of “things to do”.   But nothing really got under way until we had the buyers 10% deposit in our bank account.    If they pulled out now, tough!   So it was all go.   We had to organise the removal company who could also store our goods until we found somewhere, sort out bank finance’s, mortgage etc., cancel contracts with electricity, security, phones etc., sell the car 🥵🥵 cancel our residency, in fact the list just goes on.   The hardest part was sorting the TOR1 procedure, this is most important to avoid paying VAT on everything you are taking to U.K.  Being out of the EU now, everything is treated as imported and subject to VAT irrespective of its country of origin.   Anyway at the eleventh hour, in fact the night before we loaded our chattels onto the lorry we got confirmation we had been successful in our application, so no VAT.

Whilst all this was happening our purchase fell through so back to the drawing board!!!

During this period we suddenly realised we would need “wheels”; our idea of flying back was never going to be a runner as we had things to do, and extras we needed after the furniture vehicle had gone, so a quick dash back to Blighty to collect her was called for.  It was relatively easy to get one flight ticket to Bristol, but the ferries back were another story.   Being early September there were many “snow-birds” heading south for the winter, in fact I was stuck in England for 5-days before there was a place on the ferry to Spain; naturally at premium prices to add salt into the womb.   Still mission accomplished and Rosie was returned.

When one is vacating and moving away there is always a rush to meet as many as possible to say good bye.   On Thursday, Helena and Roger invited us to dinner along with Monica and David which was very kind of them and they had also come up trumps if our “hour of need” had arisen with a bed, fortunately with the return of Rosie, this wasn’t needed.  Thank you for your kind offer Helena. 

On Friday as pre-arranged, two porters turned up to start moving boxes etc., and at the appointed hour the removal vehicle turned up.  We had also arranged for Femi to be there as an extra “pair” of hands.  At the outset we estimated 10 cu m, this soon became 20 cu m then 25 cu m but in the end we just booked 30 cu m and kept our fingers crossed.     Not only was estimating the volume an issue, customs paperwork was equally intense.   We had to item everything plus add the value and approximate weights; real hair pulling stuff!!!!!

Anyway by the end of play on Friday 23rd September the vehicle was loaded and we just squeezed into 30 cubic metres. “phew”. The removal crew were extremely impressed with Femi’s contribution, they couldn’t stop raving about him and each thanked him personally; how nice was that?   We were also impressed with the removal crew and they were a credit to their company, Ambrose Logistics International; so far, highly recommended.

It was very strange, the bar empty of all our memorabilia, no beds to sleep in, and by Saturday night, after Christine had worked her socks off, half the house, cleaned and shut down.    What a good decision to return Rosie to Spain as we had no choice but to sleep in her.   The car went Saturday, in the 61-yrs I’ve been driving, I have never not had a car🥵, so first job on our return, source a car.

Saturday evening was spent with Helena and Roger at Casa Arez, an excellent evening and what better way to have our “last supper” here in Spain with good friends and good food.

Sunday was also another gathering to “see the back of us”!!!!, Monica and David had a Sunday Brunch Party, very enjoyable and excellent scrambled eggs David 😁😁😁, thank you both.

Final sorting on Monday, clearing up the last bits and bobs when we realised we had to print some notes off for the new owners, printer packed!!!   Martin and Jackie next door came to the rescue but instead of popping in for a couple of minutes for the printing, we got stuck into the wine!!!   Several hours later we waddled home; last minute things will have to wait ‘till tomorrow😖😖😖😖

Tuesday 27th September 

Our original plan was to be out for haircuts with Paula at 0900hrs and have a “full English” to set us up for the day, then hit the road; well, the “best laid plans” and all that.   As we had been out partying , unexpectedly I add, we had to have a rethink but instead, Christine emerged from her “pit”, slightly “hung-over” I may add at 0600hrs to complete the final bits and bobs and last of all,  wash the kitchen floor.    When I emerged a couple of hours later, the work had been completed!!!!   I have to admit I was gob-smacked she hadn’t woken me to help, thank you very much Christine; still it was self inflicted!!!!    Still all packed, engine started, doors locked with keys inside waiting for buyers when it dawned on us, we were locked in with the electric gate closed, how do we get out????    This drinking game has to stop!!!   So round to Martin and Jackie to get their keys to unlock etc etc, but we still made our appointment for our hair cuts!!!

One mission we had to do after haircuts was to cancel the internet, mobile phone and land line contracts which we did with zero hassle other than they wanted the router back, so a return journey to home was necessary.  Go and see Jackie again to get keys. After handing the router, in its original box I hasten to add👍 we went to “Portobello” for our breakfast.  As we were leaving we got two calls; 1 from  Avatel wanting proof of who we were!, so back to there office to show passport and the second call was from Martin telling us we had left a hold-all outside the back door, so back home again!! Jackie thinks we don’t want to go!

At last we’re off and out of the village.   First stop to fill up with fuel followed by a quick visit to Mercadona, then onto Autocaravanas in Murcia to sort a minor gas issue we have.

Fuelling up no problem, Mercadona whisked in and out in no time and arrived in Murcia a little after midday.   Our issue was sorted immediately and this time we are off for real!!!!!

We only did a short stint today as there has been a tight lead up to this point so didn’t want to aggravate ourselves with long driving stints, so settled for Albacete as our destination, arriving a little after 1400hrs, in their municipal car park for overnight motorhomes.

One of the many knife shop windows

Once parked we headed to the centre of town, just over a mile away.

Albacete is the 7th largest town in Spain, rather a modern town with a major university, a big aviation industry and an air base where they train NATO pilots from many of the NATO countries including the U.K. and the USA.  Though we didn’t see many planes going around, we could certainly hear them!!!!

Pasadena de Lodares

The highlight of our stroll into the centre was the “Pasadena de Lodares” a historic and monumental commercial and residential gallery in the historic centre, well historic is interesting as it was designed by a Valencia’s Architect in 1925!!!!!   

Geoff is in there somewhere

Having arrived we decided there wasn’t much to see and of interest us so after some liquid refreshment headed back to Rosie but this time we walked through the “Parque Abelard Sanchez”; small but very pleasant to be in.  This park also houses the Albacete Museum.

Back at base we enjoyed a super meal and settled down to do nothing.    The only issue with staying on municipal sites is you are crammed in and unless you pull the blind’s across,  you are sitting in a goldfish bowl; still they are free!

Arnold, Ted and Squidgy came too.
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Very late, but better late than never!!!!!

Thursday 25th August to Saturday 27th

These few days were all about “house hunting” and during this period we finally agreed a sale for our home in Campoverde; fingers crossed this isn’t another false start but who knows, anything can happen and that’s why we have not gone out publishing this fact!!!    

Having travelled most of Somerset we are now dipping our toes into Devon and Dorset but our preferred area is South Petherton, a village midway between Hope Farm and the beaches on the south coast.

Still being school holidays, we also spent a lot of time with Mia and several evenings playing Marjon, not to mention the occasional babysitting.

Sunday 28th August

needles in the distance

A couple of weeks ago, once Trevor and Gill knew we were in the U.K., we were invited to Trevor’s 60th being held in Barton on Sea.    Having sold their home they are renting whilst looking which meant we would have to sort our own accommodation out; no problem, we have Rosie.    Barton on sea has a long seafront high up from the beach and between the road and the cliff there is a very wide stretch of grass and Trevor and Gill advised us that motorhomes often stop overnight on the road next to the grass verge.

Barton on sea

Christine and I did debate this but in the absence of a camping site nearby, well within walking distance, we made the decision to take the risk.    The other issue of course was, “will we find a spot”??

The party started at midday so an early start was called for, so the alarm went off at 0700hrs followed by a quick breakfast and we were on the way.   Being a bank holiday weekend we were conscious there may be rather a lot of traffic about but on the other hand we basically went “cross country” crossing all the main roads to and from the West Country.     En route we both decided this was a new place, neither of us having been to Barton on Sea before but to our surprise as we turned onto the sea font we realised we had been frequent visitors in the past when we had Sooty and Bella; we used to come here from Bournemouth to give the dogs a jolly good run and for us, get some good, clean, sea air.

As we drove onto the front with our eyes scanning for a parking place, we “clocked” a couple getting back into their car and better than that, their car was parked in an ideal space, right on the end of the allotted parking spaces before the double yellow lines started.   Bingo, they left and before anyone else had a chance, Rosie was parked.

Leaving extra time to get here and straight into a parking space we were early, still better to be early than late!!!!   Having parked up, on went the kettle and settled down into, fingers crossed, our overnight spot.   To add to our good fortune, when we put their address into Google, we were only 3-minutes away, it was round the corner; what a good result all round.

We arrived at the party at the appointed time only to find, apart from close family, we were the first to arrive, still this gave us uninterrupted time to catch-up with all the family news.

By early afternoon the party was in full swing; it turned out Trevor was only aware of family members being invited so was totally surprised when their friends from the London/Berkshire areas arrived.    Being his birthday he was relieved from bar-b-q duties, these were undertaken by Trevor’s son Edward, an Gill’s daughter’s boyfriend, and what a good job they did.   They cooked an assortment of meats etc., for about 25-guests “and” there was meats over at the end.

Full and replete, not to mention well oiled, out came this perfect party game for revellers, called Kubb.   This, dare I say “stupid game” was ideal as it involved 12-people and an umpire to keep an eye on anyone “cheating”.   The basics involved a number of 2” square pegs about 8-inches long, spread in two lines about 10-foot apart.  The two teams of six stand behind their line of pegs and armed with round sticks or a cut down broom handle into lengths of 6-inches, they each throw one to knock the square peg down.   I can assure everyone this was jolly difficult, but very hilarious both to play and watch.   Two “matches were played, between a team of the fairer sex and the men; the good news is, honours were equal.   Because of the level of “difficulty” or the “amount of alcohol”, these two games too the majority of the afternoon to complete.

Exhausted!!! We all sat and continued sitting around a rather large table discussing everything under the sun whilst watching it go down, occasionally heading to the table still laden with goodies.   Fortunately the weather was perfect for Trevor’s 60-party, sunny, but not the intense heat that blanketed England the previous weeks.

We eventually headed back to Rosie in the evening wondering what we would find, or not as the case maybe🤞🤞🤞.    As we turned the corner onto the sea front there she was, still in the same place.  First concern over; not towed away.   As we approached we checked each wheel; second concern over, no clamps.    The third concern won’t be resolved until the morning!!   We think Rosie thought she had been abandoned, as previously she has always been parked in a secure place🤭🤭🤭!!!   Now It was time for bed though I went to bed in trepidation.   Rosie, parked on the edge of the road which was sloping to one side; Christine would roll into the motorhome’s side, whilst I could fall out of bed, so extreme caution was called upon by me.

Monday 29th August

We awoke to a sunny morning in Barton on Sea, and no knock on the door during the night, what a result.   Last night there was talk of going for a swim this morning so after breakfast we quickly did a “recce” of the way down to the beach, never mind the sea temperature!!   There was quite a steep path down to the stony beach and with my bad knee, I didn’t fancy the walk backup the cliff path, so made the decision not to join the party, and besides the sea may not have been up to our pool temperature!!

Back in Rosie, this voice boomed out, you can’t park there, oh dear caught at last but looking out of the van, there was Gill, driving by, stopped, and did the shouting; thank goodness.    Later Trevor arrived far a coffee which rounded our weekend trip off nicely.

For our return journey I changed the route to one that was slightly longer but had less “B” roads as Christine doesn’t like twisty narrow lanes; I don’t know why, perhaps it’s because Rosie being a “left hooker” she is in the middle of the road.

Our run back was un-eventful and again, crossing all the main routes to and from the West Country, no hold-ups.

Arriving back to an empty Hope Farm as the Littlejohn’s were out for the day

Tuesday 30th August

Great excitement today as we have two viewings in South Petherton early afternoon and Jane is joining us.   To make things even better, both these viewings are for bungalows that need some TLC.

After Jane had done all her horse duties and with Christine’s help did a couple of change-overs we headed off. We left in sufficient time to visit the Brewers Arms in South Petherton for lunch before our viewings; again not disappointed with what we ordered but, “note to oneself”, one “light” lunch between two in future!!!!

Our first viewing as an interesting proposition, had nearly everything we were looking for including “hideous” colours on the walls but with potential.  The downside were the miserable owners, no help whatsoever, questions answered with grunts; maybe they don’t want to sell.

Our second viewing was next door and on paper, Christine’s first choice.   We naturally had some concerns with two places, next door to each other, and on the market at the same time.   Fortunately we had half an hour to spare and spoke to the lady doing her garden who lives opposite, to find out the ”low-down” and the “reasons”, if any why they are both for sale.    This extremely friendly lady, “Penny” gave us chapter and verse about nearly everything.   She has lived in South Petherton for a number of years but recently moved into her current abode and loves it; worries over.

Our second viewing, also very interesting as this place was like walking into a time-warp, good sized rooms, strange layout but nothing serious though the neighbour “Nelson” has not got the “tidiest” of Gardens, otherwise a good visit until we were informed there was already an offer on the table.

After a few hours deliberations we “bit” the bullet and put in an offer.   With the U.K. market as it is, offers have to be on or above the asking price which certainly goes against the grain!!!   So in it and we had to wait.

Back home, dinner, a quiet evening and bed whilst anticipating what the decision will be tomorrow.

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The final leg

Saturday 20th August

Another good nights sleep in Rosie though we both had to have our duvets on as it was rather chilly; this is the third night in a row, we’re not used to being cold at night; still we’re acclimatising for our return to the U.K.🤭🤭

Our plan was to leave no later than 0900hrs, and as our hosts are not early risers, we said our goodbyes last night but to our surprise, they were up so we all enjoyed a hot drink before leaving as planned.

Sandy and Wendy’s home

Toulmelin, the hamlet where Sandy and Wendy live is serviced by minor roads so leaving and heading to Roscoff cross country did worry Christine a little but fortunately being fairly early and a Saturday, no problem.   What we have found keeping off toll roads and using the “D” roads, we have seen much more of France and this morning is no exception.  We drove through some very attractive countryside, but the one thing we have noticed most days is the spectacular colour of the trees; it appears Autumn has come early in France.   No doubt this is also global warming and is all to do with the heatwaves we’re all suffering!

Autumn coming early this year

Overall our 2-hr drive finished as a 4-hr drive but this time it was down to us.  We stopped for breakfast and later had a coffee stop; this is what Rosie is all about😁😁😁😁 and arrived in the port with time to spare so after checking in and joined the queue, Christine knocked up some scrambled eggs for lunch.  The time taken to cook, eat and clear up was just right as our queue was called.    To our great surprise we entered the ship and kept driving and finished up right in front of the exit doors; this hasn’t happened for a long time, just have to hope we come off this end!!!

St Pol de Leon, a very pretty village on route

An uneventful crossing and like a mill pond, but the ship was full of families with little or no commercial vehicles.   The down side to so many families, all returning from their holidays were the screaming children running about the ship.   Today we were early enough aboard to get to the tables looking out over the bowes of the ship so settled down for the 6-hour crossing.   We had the self service restaurant close by for later, toilets within easy walking and a good view.   Unfortunately our all are various table neighbours throughout the crossing we’re families with screaming kids!!!!

Wow never been first!

After docking we headed back to the car deck and waited with baited breath for the doors to open, and once open we were the first to be waived off; perfect.   We dutifully followed the instructions from the port authorities but to our horror were directed a different way to the rest behind us; naturally we thought this was a penalty for being so lucky to be first off!!!  In front of us was a “unmovable” looking gate with a very “serious” looking border control / customs officer with his hand up telling us to stop on the white line.   Our thoughts then turned to how much booze we had, naturally “over-the-top”, but to our dismay he just took our passports for scanning and sent us towards the “big” gate, saying it would open as we approached, and it did, we were the first to leave the docks; amazing, a definite first for us.    The strange thing was an announcement prior to leaving the ship saying the port was congested and running late; they got that one wrong!!!!

Being fairly late we were soon clear of Plymouth and ‘batting” up the A38 towards Exeter where we pickup the M5 heading towards Bristol.   We made good time and soon arrived at junction 22 where we left and headed to Hope Farm arriving about 2230hrs.   To our surprise there was a light on in the kitchen so headed inside to find Dave and Jane closing down and heading to bed, well that was until we arrived, any idea of an early night went straight out of the window!!!!

Sunday 21st August

Arriving fairly late last night we parked in their cottage guests “car park” so first thing we needed to park it in their field, away from the house, I wonder why!!!!!   This morning we also carried out maintenance, cleaning Rosie through and sorting water tanks etc.   after lunch the 5-of us got engrossed in the guests games room; table football being the most fun with minor “riots” taking place and accusations of all sorts being banded around, but good fun had by all.

Rosie all on her own

The weather wasn’t the best, overcast but not raining, so Dave did an excellent bar-b-q rounded off with strawberries coated in milk and white chocolate, delicious.   After Mia retired to bed, the four of us played Mahjong.

Monday 22nd August.

Today we head down to the Portsmouth area to catch up with Christine’s sisters and for Dougie’s funeral tomorrow.

There was a delay in leaving as Jane had very kindly put us on her car insurance but hadn’t realised I had a Spanish driving licence and had told the company my licence was a U.K. one; this needed to be corrected before we headed off.

Our first stop was Kathleen and Tom for tea and cake.   Tom had just come out of hospital and didn’t look well at all, he just sat in his chair having lost all his “sparkle” and his enthusiasm for his garden was also lacking, hopefully the NHS will resolve his issues before too long.

After tea we headed to Bill and Jenny’s; they very kindly offered us a bed for two nights we’re in Portsmouth, and tonight they are cooking us a meal.  After an excellent meal we had a very nice evening chatting and catching up with news etc.

Tuesday 23rd August

Dougie my mate RIP

Dougie’s Funeral is at 1500hrs so firstly we headed back to Tom and Kathleen’s for mid morning coffee as their daughter, Amanda, was staying overnight and it has been some time since Christine has seen this particular niece, now was her chance to catch-up, but unfortunately no.    Amanda had left at 0830hrs to catch her train back to Cornwall, still it was nice to be able to visit Tom and Kathleen again.

Our next port of call was to Christine’s eldest sister “Pat”, firstly for lunch and then somewhere to change into our funeral clobber!!!!   Pat put on a good spread but unfortunately we couldn’t do it justice, probably due to being pre-occupied by the funeral.  Anyway dressed and booted we headed to the Oak Crematorium, we needed to be there early as there were going to be lots of people attending.

Dougie messing around as usual

The cortège arrived and after the family left the cars we all filed in behind the coffin, and as we thought the crematorium was bulging; Dougie had many friends both in the navy and in his retirement, he was very well liked and respected, larger than life man.   His brother once said that “Dougie didn’t join the navy to see the world, Dougie joined the navy so that the world could see him”. That just about summed up this remarkable character.   Christine knew Dougie for approximately 37 years, and though I only knew him for less than half that time, I had got to know him well and his stories will be told for many years to come.   To Jill we offer our heartfelt condolences but are happy knowing she has a large family and many of Dougie’s friends around to support her.   The funeral service ended with a member of the marine band playing the last post on his bugle and followed by a two minute silence, then reveille; it was very moving..

Jill with Dougie

Following the funeral we all went to the Brookfield Hotel for a celebration of his life where many of his “retired” fellow “shipmates” recounted stories of his escapades both in the navy and when sailing around the Solent in later life.   The bottom line is Dougie had a very full and eventful life.

Having said our goodbyes we headed back the Bill and Jenny’s and especially pleased to get out of our “funeral clobber”; hope we don’t need to bring it out again too soon🤞🤞.  Our evening was uneventful and we watched a film before having an early night.

Wednesday 24th August

We left our friends reasonably early as we had to stop in Fareham to sort Christine’s ‘phone out.    We both have duel SIM card ‘phones but are struggling, and as her’s is supplied by a company based in Fareham, she had an ideal opportunity to get it sorted, and they did, with no fuss or bother bearing in mind we just “turned up” at the office door.   Maybe when my contract expires I’ll go to them.

Being midweek our journey back via Salisbury was reasonably clear and un-eventful so stopped en-route at another Butcombe Pub, and again enjoyed their faire.

Back at Jane’s and after Christine cooked a superb and hearty roast dinner, the four of us played Mahjong before retiring at a reasonable time.

Posted in France, UK | Comments Off on The final leg

An un-forgettable journey

Tuesday 16th August

A lazy day today sitting around the pool and house apart from an interlude when Christine went with Andrew and Elton to an indoor activity complex, “Fun City”.   Apparently this complex had all sorts of activities for small children up-to performance “freaks”.   By the sound of the activities that Christine recounted on her return, I made the right decision; “stay away!”, still they all looked as they enjoyed themselves.  The link is if anybody wants a workout is:-   https://frejus.fun-city.fr/.  There are four “Fun City” places on the Rivera and the company certainly looks like they’ve created an excellent business model. 

Christine also spent time rearranging the “booze cupboard” to stop the bottles rattling, well, the ones we haven’t finished yet!!!  after all we have to get our priorities right!!

Whilst this was going on I downloaded a selection of films from Amazon which I can now play on Rosie’s TV; makes a change from playing crib each night!!!

Much of the afternoon was all about fun and frolic in the pool followed by another bbq, prepped and cooked by the two of us for our last supper; who knows when we will see Elton next for tomorrow we head north; oh yes, we also had rain this evening, nothing too hard but it’s a start.

Wednesday 17th August

The “little” rain we had yesterday evening turned overnight into “heavy” rain, but did stop in the wee hours. No rush today as Andrew had a pre-arranged “boxing” training session as “Nana” was here to look after Elton; a bonus for her!

We hit the road eventually at 1030hrs but changed our plan of direction.   Our original plan was to route north to Grasse, then over the top of the “Maritime Alps” at Gap “733 m” much to Christine’s displeasure, too twisty with big drops, not a motorway!!!!   Two reasons for choosing this route:  firstly it’s years since we travelled that road and secondly, the traffic along the “Autoroute de Meditarani” is diabolical, August and full of holidaymakers etc. Anyway a change of plan that we “might” live to regret later.   Our target destination was Beaune, a 6-hour drive🤞🤞

After our goodbyes we headed straight to the “Autoroute de Meditarani” mainly because though not raining as we left, the skies looked full of it and also these big black clouds were so low, we wouldn’t have been able to take in the splendid views from the top.

Hit the autoroute and though busy, it was flowing so started to relax.   There was some congestion at the tool booths but that was due to the volume of traffic, so “acceptable” but as we headed further west the traffic was backing up seriously, it was solid and just creeping now and then.    No fire engines to help us today!!!

Eventually after being in and out of 1st gear hundreds of times we came across the problem, a multi-car pile up but by the time we’d arrived all but one, “stuck in the middle lane”, were at the side of the road.   We’re off again then the rain came down, so that slowed things down as well.   The French don’t like driving in the rain and that manifested itself as we were passing Aix-en-Provence; the traffic was slowing and what appeared to be a 35cwt van in the outside lane indicated to move into the middle lane but as he was carrying out his manoeuvre, the traffic braked again and the van driver hit his anchors a little too hard and slewed into the middle lane with the back staying in the fast lane.  At this point the car following him must have thought with the van out the way I’ll gain an extra car length so in anticipation he accelerated, “BANG” he clipped the rear of the van and the central reservation concrete block.   We were right behind but had enough time to take the necessary avoiding action and once we passed the stricken van and saw the car all stoved in, our first comments were very friendly; “stupid buggers”.   With so much traffic behind we had move on But looking as we passed them, I have to say no one other than their pride was hurt.  

The rain came down in buckets as we turned off the A8 and headed North on the A7, the main autoroute for anybody going to the French Riviera from Northern Europe, always has been a busy motorway but being August, it’s chaos.  

Once on the A7 we made steady but slow progress but soon began to realise out planned destination of Beaune was becoming impossible as time was running out and we had to pass through Lyon, always a disaster.

Eventually we hit the Lyon traffic, bumper to bumper, crawling slowly and now the heavy rain turned to hailstones, we couldn’t believe it.   Several years ago we were on the same bit of motorway, albeit heading south, and it was hailing then, but to make things worse, on that occasion drivers stopped under bridges, blocking lanes, until it stopped; today there was too much traffic for that to happen.

nice quiet spot

When we pulled out of the Lyon area our destination had changed, Christine searched her overnight stop books at vineyards and found a winery in a small village called Bully, in the Beaujolais area so that’s was put into SatNav and we escaped the A7 and the Lyon traffic.

Off the main road, driving down this rather narrow lane, we’ll off the beaten track we came across this “Domaine de Roche Cattin” and was greeted by Monsieur Le Proprietaire who showed us where to park.   Our eventual arrival time was 1800hrs; originally it was to be 564 kms taking circa 6-hrs, we actually drove “only” 442 kms and that took us 7.5-hrs; we have been fated all the way, August is a definite “NO NO”; still having parked up; rain still falling please note! We headed into the cave to do some more degustation and of course walk out with a case of rather splendid Beaujolais, and this put the whole torrid day into context and after downing a bottle over dinner, watched a film then slept like logs.

Lovely bottle of wine to chill

Thursday 18th August

We woke up to clear blue skies, the rain had gone, let’s hope the winegrowers are happy now, and hit the road before breakfast.   Our destination today is a little north of Poitiers, about 5-hours drive, “hopefully”!!!!!, but first stop is a supermarket for some basic essentials and fuel.   We are using normal roads today, none of the Motorways for us 🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞 they’re clear.

Supermarket visited, fuelled up and breakfast taken and back on the road, heading to Poitiers by 1030am and on quiet roads too, ok not so fast but the distance is 40kms shorter and no tolls, win win, hopefully🤞🤞🤞🤞

Our route took us along the traditional long, straight, tree-lined roads and through some very “typical” very French villages but unfortunately couldn’t stop as we had a “ferry to catch”; we must stop putting time constraints on our travels, we always seem to do this so made a decision, after this trip we will limit our day to 4-hours driving only.  This will give us the opportunity to stop if we see something or somewhere we fancy.

Typical French roads

During the day we had some rain and a lot of sun but one thing we didn’t have was traffic, we’ll none to moan about!

We by-passed Poitiers and then the “Navigator” set about finding us a vineyard or similar to stay the night.

Lots of Bee hives

Being in this part of the world, finding a vineyard is asking rather a lot, a cider producer would be easier but instead Christine found a honey producing farm; “that’s different”, not our normal overnight stop-over, and besides I’m not a big fan of honey!!!

We arrived at another out of the way place in the middle of nowhere, near the village of Soudan and reported to the first, sorry, only person we came across and was told where to park.   We were also informed that her Father, most probably the farm owner, would come and talk to us about their honey etc.

After settling in and enjoying a pre dinner drink in this idealistic setting, this old chap turned up and started “babbling”, at this point I must say it did sound very French, most probably “Bretton” and after a bit he twigged, he didn’t understand our French and we certainly didn’t understand what he was saying but once we got across that we weren’t, as our number plates suggest, Spanish, but English.   At this point he just walked off, probably in a huff knowing he wouldn’t sell any honey; oh well his loss!!!!

Geoff watching a film with brandy and coffee

We had a wonderful quiet night though it did get quite cold during the wee hours so had  to do something unusual, “wrap up” for the first time in weeks.

Friday 19th August.

Our night in Soudan was like the rest of our overnight stops taken out of Christine’s book, “France Passion”, so far every one’s a winner, we’ll worth investing in.

Tomorrow we catch the afternoon ferry at Roscoff, heading across to Plymouth so tonight we have “imposed” ourselves on our friends, Sandy and Wendy and as they have a big drive we can get Rosie into and we can sleep in her and save them unnecessary work for one night.   Today, as yesterday we headed out before breakfast to get a loaf and again fill up.

Our journey should only take about 3-hours avoiding tolls etc. so no problems.  Firstly we stopped for breakfast then later for mid morning coffee, the things we haven’t been able to do because of time pressure and heavy traffic.   We also stopped for an hour to enjoy a leisurely lunch, unheard of this trip!!!

Arriving at Sandy and Wendy’s

We arrived at Sandy and Wendy’s around 1530hrs and apart from a 20-minute break, for a wash and brush up, didn’t stop talking.   Normally we don’t meet up in the flesh more than once every couple of years, but this is our second visit this year, and still time flies by.

Tonight Wendy made an excellent curry which went down a treat followed by a Pavlova, much enjoyed by one and all though we couldn’t quite finish it off having pigged-out on too much curry.   

Following a lingering meal we headed back to Rosie; though Roscoff is only a couple of hours away, with our luck we’ll probably get held up somewhere so will leave early in the morning to make sure we catch our ferry.

Posted in France | Comments Off on An un-forgettable journey