|Around the Iberian Peninsular in 6 weeks - June/July 2009|
Summary Our plan for June/July 2009 or rather mine, the better half takes little interest in plans, was to travel through central France, cross the Pyrenees to the Costa Dorada, travel down the Mediterranean coast as far a Marbella before turning west to the Algarve via Ronda, then up through central Portugal to Oporto before following the coast into Northern Spain and on to Santiago del Compostella and Coruna. At Coruna we would turn east along the north coast of Spain back into France and up the west side to meet our outward route near Tours to travel back home. In so doing we had ticked off places we wanted to visit which we had not been to before or visited very little. North of Oporto in Portugal and north western Spain were mostly new to us.
In essence we stuck to this plan with one or two detours and travelled a total of 4021 miles and used 22 campsites or aires and 734.6 litres of fuel. The average fuel consumption was 24.85 miles per gallon and the minimum we paid for fuel was Eu0.92 per litre near Girona and the maximum was Eu1.06 per litre in central France.
Our favourite place of the trip - Ronda.
Days 1 to 7 - outward through France to the Costa Brava, Spain
Days 8 to 22 -south along the Spanish coast to Torre del Mar
Days 23 to 25 - to Ronda and the Algarve, Portugal
Days 26 to 31 - the journey north through Portugal to north west Spain
Days 32 to 34 - Santiago de Compostela and the Costa da Morte
Days 35 to 39 - east along the Spanish Costa Verde (north coast) to France
Days 40 to 46 - homeward bound north through France
Day 1 In glorious weather, on 31st May, we set off on the first stage of our journey, a three night stop over on Hoe House CL near Woking, arriving in the early afternoon. The objective was to visit friends prior to making our way to the Channel Tunnel. Hoe House is located in heath land within walking distance of Worplesdon station giving the opportunity to travel south to Portsmouth or to London Waterloo. Trains do pass close to the site but are not too intrusive.
Day 2 We drove the 4 miles to our friend's house parking in their driveway before walking to a local restaurant for lunch. Another sunny warm pleasant day.
Day 3 A glorious sunny hot day, just right for doing very little other than firing up the Bar-b-que and downing a bottle of wine after which we walked the dog through the heath land and sat around in the sunshine. A good day busy doing nothing.
Day 4 Travelled to the Chunnel stopping to refill with LPG and last minute shopping at the Ashford Tescos just off the M20 junction 10. Arrived at the Chunnel at 1330hrs and were allowed to catch the earlier train at 1350hrs instead of 1420hrs. Filled up with fuel on exiting the tunnel. Euros 1.05 a litre so little different to the UK price. Headed for the aire at the sailing club in Le Touquet arriving at 1630hrs to find the aire nearly full! Temperature considerable cooler now and a jacket was needed walking the dog. The cost just to park was Eu6 per night with an additional Eu2 required to use the bourne
Day 5 A cloudy start and we were away by 0930hrs. Took the D140 south to Abbeville to join the A28 to Rouen then on to Evreux, Dreux, Chartres, Chateaudun, Blois, finally arriving 259 toll free miles later at Camping Les Saules, an ACSI discount site, near Cheverney. An uneventful trip with brightening skies and rising temperatures as we journeyed further south. Euros 15.80 for the night including electric and the dog on a very well maintained, wooded, pleasant site. Pitches are a good size with plenty of room among the trees which had no low branches to catch out the unwary. Set up the satellite TV, walked the dog, enjoyed an expensive beer, Eu2.60 for a 25cl glass, at the on site bar while sat in the sunshine.
Day 6 Set off south at 0900hrs down the "D" roads stopping at a Super U just after leaving site to buy some beer, wine and a few groceries, also filled up with diesel at Eu0.95 per litre. The price of wine seemed little different to the UK, a bottle of JP Cheney, Eu2.45 and my yard stick on prices a bottle of Mouton Cadet, Eu8.45 which I think could be more expensive than UK! We joined the toll free A20 north of Chateauroux at Vatan for a long boring run down the A20 to the start of tolls at Souillac. Left the A20 and carried on down the old N20 through Souillac on to Payrac where we night stopped at Camping Les Pins arriving at 1530. A journey of 222 miles on an overcast day with the temperature climbing to 29C. This turned to thunder and rain by 1700hrs. A wet evening.
Day 7 A change of plan brought about by the site we were planning to visit next in Spain's Costa Dorada didn't accept dogs. We decided to head for the Costa Brava and Camping El Delfin Verde using toll roads most of the way due to a journey of 311miles. We set off at 0900hrs under ominous skies and it was probably just as well we changed our route because the weather over the Pyrenees looked to be very poor. We set off down the old N20, now the D820, as far a Montauban, encountering little traffic and made good time before joining the auto route to Toulouse and then the A61 and A9 for the French/Spanish border. The total cost was an expensive Eu32.60. We encountered heavy showers, sometimes torrential such that it flooded the road in an instant and almost brought the traffic to a standstill. Once over the Pyrenees the rain vanished and we arrived in sunshine. Even with a pensioners discount El Delfin is no longer cheap, Eu82.80 for two adults and a dog for a three night stop over in mid season! However it is a site we like and have been coming to for many years when down this way.
Days 8 and 9. An idle couple of days at El Delfin and a welcome break from driving. Our target is to be in Alicante, a further 400 miles south, on the 10th June. It remained fine and dry for the duration of our stay. Day 8, was very hot but strong winds on Day 9 lowered temperatures. Enjoyed walking the dog along the fine beach, sea too cold for a swim for me.
Day 10 Travelled 245 miles to Peniscola. We chose the N11 to the outskirts of Barcelona and then used the auto routes at a cost of about Eu12 to circum navigate the city down to Tarragona before joining the N340 for the final 70 toll free miles to Camping El Eden. We chose to stay at this ACSI discount site rather than the motorhome aire to check it out for a possible longer stay. It is a very tidy, urban, well kept site close to all amenities. Excellent sanitary facilities and the serviced pitches are very good but the trees make access very difficult with a larger motorhome and great care is needed on the majority of pitches. A pleasant stay for Eu15 per night but a little nerve racking getting on and off our pitch.
Day 11 We chose a 202 mile toll free route initially down the N340 to join the A7 to navigate around Valencia, then the A35, N344 and A31 towards Alicante. We stopped three times on route, once to shop in a Carrefour and, because the fuel station was not accessible we had to stop again very shortly after for fuel at Eu0.92 a litre. Our final stop was in a service area for lunch where we parked next to a French caravan. Whilst I was out exercising the dog the elderly French couple were apparently robbed. On my return, I did notice a young man wandering off away from the back of our van and the first I knew about it was the French lady exclaiming “Je ne trouve pas mon sac” at least that is what I think she said? She became more agitated as she searched and it was clear her bag was missing. From a brief one way conversation with her husband, my French is not that good, it became clear they had been robbed but it was not clear to me whether it was there or on the way earlier and it was only now the bag had been found missing! I never leave our motor home unlocked for a second, even when one of us remains in it. The temperature soared to 35C today making it the hottest day yet and the cold beer at our destination of my brothers villa was very welcome at the end of it.
Days 12 to 14 Parked outside my brother's villa. Weather continues to be exceedingly warm with even night time temperatures well above 20C. Visited local villages and we are finding everyday items much cheaper than in the tourist areas. 5 litres of Vino Tinto Selecto from the local bodega is Eu4.25 and it is excellent stuff. 8 litres of drinking water one euro.
Day 15 moved on a short distance to Banus de Fortuna where we stopped at Camping Fuente on a fully serviced pitch with private bathroom suitable for a wheelchair user for Eu19.70 per night. It being a Sunday the thermal pools were very busy but we decided to stay 2 nights and try the thermal baths on a quieter weekday The weather remains exceedingly hot, too hot to be pleasant and any breeze and shade was most welcome and I have never known water taste so delicious!
Day 16 Paid Eu4.50 each to access the sites thermal pools for the day. A hoist is available to lower the handicapped into and out of the water but some assistance may be needed to help the none ambulant transfer onto the seat. It's a very good facility and we both enjoyed the day spent dipping in and out of the pools. The smaller side spa pools are much hotter and strong jets squirt water and air for body massages. We ate in the restaurant in the evening and the 3 course menu of the day plus a bottle of wine was excellent value at 8 euros per person.
Day 17 We decided to head for Motril and took the local road through Fortuna to the toll free A7 and the N340 for the 215 miles to Camping Don Cactus stopping at a Carrefour on route to top up with supplies and to buy a fan. The past two days in Banos de Fortuna had been some of the hottest I have known in Spain and whilst we have cab air conditioning for driving, night times on site have been very uncomfortable. The journey southwards is much easier than when we were last down this way. Much of the N340 has been, and continues to be, converted to a dual carriage way autovia. However, as a result it has lost much of its charm and character but the last few miles on the old N340 were still spectacular. The coast seemed a little cooler on arrival at yet another Eu15 per night ACSI site. This large level site has many statics but was not very busy and we found a pitch with some shade which would just take our 7.25 metre home. In busier times larger motorhomes could have problems finding a suitable pitch. The on site pool is impressive but the sanitary facilities looked a little tired. There is an on site bar, restaurant and supermarket which was well stocked with essentials.
Day 18 We decided to stay a further day and walked along the beach road into Calahondon. Fortunately it was a considerably cooler day and it was a comfortable walk of about 2 miles to the centre where we had a coffee, one Euro per cup, and a wander around before ambling back to site for the afternoon. The town is quite wheelchair friendly although we did notice a ramp, into one restaurant, had a step onto it! Parking in the off season for a large motorhome did not appear to be a problem and there were many spots we could have easily parked. Except for the town's main beach, none of the cafes or toilets were open on the other beach fronts. We assumed this was because it was mid week and too early in the season although there were a few folk enjoying activities on the well swept but grey, mostly stone, beaches. We noticed some provision had been made for wheelchair access to these toilets and beaches. In the afternoon I swam in the on site pool and later lost the battle with the flies which plagued this site and we ate our evening meal in the van.
Day 19 We arose lazily, no real hurry as our next destination, Torre del Mar, is not much further than 50 miles. I took the dog on the beach for his morning walk after which we set off keeping to the old N340 all the way and arriving at Camping Torre del Mar at about 1300hrs. It wasn't at all busy and we had a good sized pitch and no flies but at 24 Euros a night, not cheap, but it is a great location close to all amenities. The site is level and the disabled facilities are unsex and are located centrally in a very large room which includes toilet, bidet, washbasin and hand shower, all with hand rails. The shower is recessed so was not wheel in but there is a built in seat to transfer to or a free standing chair or stool. We were last here in 2001 and a short walk along the front in the afternoon soon revealed quite a few changes. There were many more beach side cafes and the town looked far more modern and bigger than I remembered. We particularly noted the greater provision of dropped kerbs with "stippled" approaches to help those with poor sight and the addition of wheelchair accessible toilets in at least one of the beachside cafes. We stopped for an iced coffee with ice cream floater, yummy.
Day 20 Caught up with the household chores. Eu3 to use the on site washing machines which I thought very reasonable. We have been charged as much as Eu5.50. Visited town and strolled along the excellent level promenade, stopped at a beachside cafe for a beer and a sardine lunch. Topped up with groceries from the nearby excellent Mercadona which included a couple of Dorado which we bar-b-qued that evening and ate with a salad, all washed down with an inexpensive bottle of Rosado. Drank and chatted to our fellow Brit neighbours until bedtime. Another easy living day.
Day 21 Another lazy day, walked the dog along the beach in the cool of the early morning. It was a bright morning when I set out but a sea mist rolled in as I walked back from checking out the adjacent Camping Laguna site which appeared to be much the same as Torre del Mar. Both sites are filling up for the weekend and I think we can expect a lively Saturday evening and forget about an early night. The mist didn't clear until early afternoon meantime I scanned the TV channels for any programmes about the Silverstone Grand Prix. I can still pick up the 28.2 degrees Astra south beam but have not been able to receive the main British TV channels with my 85 cm dish since leaving the Costa Brava. Reception of Spanish TV channels with my Status flying saucer at the Torre Del Mar site is not good either although I had no trouble at all picking up the many digital channels at Camping Don Cactus. Made another visit to the Mercadona supermarket but this time to buy more bottles of wine and beer. Stopped at the local cafe on the way back for a coffee Eu 1.10 per cup. Visited the beach and found a bar to watch the Grand Prix tomorrow.
Day 22 All partying stopped at midnight so we did get some sleep. Had a lazy morning, left for the beach at about noon and obtained a table at the beach restaurant, had a good lunch of a platter of local fish with salad finished off with an ice cream. Watched the start of the British Grand Prix but the restaurant was getting very busy with queues for tables so we then wandered off to a local bar to watch the finish. Seemed a bit of a dull race. We are moving on tomorrow so I will probably lose my internet access again. Started packing up to leave, less to do in the morning.
Day 23 A bad start to the day, moved off pitch to the disposal point which is not really suitable for motor homes but it saved carrying waste too far. In trying to park up to allow other vehicles to pass, I brushed against a low wall and damaged my accommodation door frame, not too serious fortunately but I was angry with myself for not seeing how close I was getting to it. Waste disposed of, we set off down the coast road avoiding the toll roads to Marbella where we picked up the A397 to Ronda, our next destination. The drive up the mountains was very scenic but a little disappointing due to the very dusty atmosphere which restricted photographic opportunity. It was another hot day with temperatures in the mid thirties when we stopped for lunch in a lay by. We arrived at Camping El Sur at about 1430hrs after a drive of about 90 miles. It was a little further out from Ronda than I thought and it was up quite a steep hill. We set up pitch, had a swim in the nicely laid out camp site pool with its view overlooking Ronda and bar-b-qued in the evening.
Day 24 As previously mentioned, El Sur overlooks Ronda and it is a 2 mile downhill walk to the old town. The site is set on a hillside and the pitches are terraced. The ramps to the sanitary facilities were quiet steep and the disabled facility is unisex but can be accessed from either the gents or the ladies and comprises a wheel in hand shower with shower seat or free standing chair, low toilet with a seat raiser and washbasin and mirror at the correct height for a wheelchair user. Altogether we were quite impressed with this well maintained tidy site which was one of the best we visited in Spain. We were charged Eu25.15 per night for two adults, our dog and electric. We spent the day in Ronda, walking into town in the cool of the morning and staying there until the cooler part of the afternoon for the uphill walk back to site. A visit to Ronda for a wheelchair user in not very practical unless you have a power chair. It is hilly and the streets of the old town are steep and cobbled. We took two batteries for the power trike keeping one in reserve for the uphill walk back to site! The trike's odometer recorded we covered 8.25 miles during the day. Ronda is breathtaking and with its stunning views, Moorish origins, monuments and the oldest bullring in Spain, interesting at the same time and is a great place to visit.
Day 25 Set off on the 202 mile drive to Quarteira on the Algarve. In contrast to the drive to Ronda the air was crisp and clear for the picturesque drive through the mountains down to the plains around Sevilla, there after it was a fast but uninteresting drive on the autovia to the Portuguese border. We had noted our ACSI card gave discounts at all the Orbitur campsites until the 15th July so we headed for the conveniently located Camping Orbitur Quarteira, a site we had last visited in 2001. The site has been greatly improved since then, trees have been thinned, grass planted, and terraces created where once it was even a struggle to pitch a caravan. It is however no longer surrounded by open land and building is going on all around. This conveniently located site is destined to close, probably at the end of the 2010 season when a new site will replace it but it will be further from the beach and the town. Sanitary facilities for a wheelchair user are pretty basic here and the on site bar and restaurant are not accessible.
Day 26 Walked to the beach and observed about 30 motor homes wilding on the dirt patches at the end of the promenade. Cheap it maybe, but not for us who prefer ample water, electrics, sanitary facilities and a pool for a dip. We walked as far as the harbour and then found a restaurant for lunch which we ate with a nice bottle of Vinho Verde and watched life go by for a couple of hours. After this we were only capable of chilling out for the rest of the day.
Day 27 It has been a good 5 degrees cooler on the Algarve compared to inland and Mediterranean Spain. Walked along the beach in the morning followed by a little bit of shopping and then we chilled out for the rest of the day. Unfortunately we got little sleep that night as there was a pop concert down on the beach and even though it was a good half mile away you could quite easily distinguish the tunes being played until 0330hrs. Bob Marley's music would have been appreciated at any other time than the early hours of the morning!
Day 28 We decided to head for a site near Obidos, about a 240 mile drive north. I didn't want to cover old ground so I decided to take the scenic route up the N2 to Almodovar and join the IP1 shortly after for a toll free drive to Villa Franca on the outskirts of Lisbon and beyond. The drive to Almodovar along a good road was tortuous and slow. It passed through some interesting little villages and offered one or two fine views thereafter the journey was without any interest along roads that sadly lacked maintenance and made the journey very tiring. We chose another ACSI discount site, Orbitur Foz do Arelho, which was about 7 miles from Obidos. We were lucky and found a good pitch on a rather hilly site where for short stopovers you were allocated a more rougher area of the site. Apart from this drawback the facilities were very good for Eu13, with electric for the night.
Day 29 It rained overnight, the first we have had since crossing the Pyrenees. It was overcast as we drove to Obidos where we noticed there was a good, well used overnight parking for motor homes. Shame we did not check this out before going to Foz do Arelho. It was at the bottom of the hill though and would have been a long uphill walk into the old town. We noticed another motor home climbing up the hill ahead and decided to follow it and it led us to a motor home parking area with a good service point not far from the entrance to the walled medieval town of Obidos. For Eu 2.50 you could park until 1830hrs and I think it was EU6 to stay overnight. We spent 2 to 3 hours wandering the streets of the old town and admiring the views from its walls. The main street is the liveliest and the most accessible for a wheelchair user, beyond that a power chair is essential and even then steps could bar the way. We bought bread rolls in the old town’s mini market and returned to the motor home for lunch and a coffee after which we set off along a 90 mile toll free route to Coimbre. In contrast to the sparsely populated areas we had driven through on the way to Villa Franca on route to Foz do Arelho, this route was far more cultivated and heavily populated. Loads of speed restrictions and poor road maintenance made the journey tedious and the outskirts of Coimbre were a welcome sight. The new campsite in Coimbre is well sign posted and after a small error (the access roads to the site were not on my TomTom) we found it without too much difficulty. Unfortunately, at 4 hilly kilometres, it was further away from the town centre than I would have liked. There was a bus service but I doubted its accessibility for a wheelchair and a trike, the latter I knew we would require to get around the sights. We hatched a plan!
Camping Coimbra is a modern terraced site, clean and tidy. Pitches are level and about 10sq metres with 10 amp electrics sourced with a continental 2 pin plug. There are good views from the majority of pitches and apart from the steeply sloping access roads, sanitary facilities for a wheelchair user were excellent but not unisex. For good access, it is therefore better to pitch on the same terrace as these facilities.
Day 30 It rained overnight and it was still a heavy drizzle when I walked the dog in the early morning. Not a very nice start to the day and the morning wasn’t to get much better. Our plan was to leave the site and find somewhere to park in Coimbre and, having looked around either return to site or go on to one at Luso which was 10miles further north. I programmed TomTom for a motorhome aire in the city which I had previously loaded before leaving home. Trouble was there were many new roads and GPSs are prone to loosing position in built up areas and inspite of trying, and a couple of narrow nerve racking escapes we never got there. The clouds were building and it started raining again so we gave up and headed up north up the toll free IC2 into better weather and eventually deciding to pass through Oporto taking the IC1 and heading for the beach side site of Camping Orbitur Rio Alto which is just north of Vila do Conde. The approach road from the N13 is narrow and cobbled but it was worth it and we found a good peaceful well maintained site at the end of it. A little remote from anywhere but just right for a couple of days lay up. The dog loved his evening romp on the beach which is accessed through a couple of tunnels under the dunes. It then shelves steeply to the sea and is pounded by Atlantic rollers. Not an ideal beach for children but the surf made a better spectacle.
Day 31 Apart from doing more laundry, the most we did was walk the 200 yards to the beach where we sat awhile on top of the dunes admiring the view and relaxing. We really chilled out in the afternoon, sat and read the guide books of the journey ahead which was new territory for us. It wasn’t long before the tranquility was shattered when a German escorted tour of 17 motorhomes arrived and encircle us and we lost the open feel of the site which we liked. They are moving on tomorrow and so are we. We liked Rio Alto for a short stay. It's a fairly level site with a good choice of hard standing pitches, clean facilities as well as good facilities for wheelchair users except the beach was not accessible without a lot of effort from a carer. With the ACSI card it cost Eu13 per night with electrics.
Day 32 We rejoined the IC1 to continue our journey north and left it to enter Viana do Castelo. We found no obvious parking spot so continued on up the N13 coast road to Valenca, a bone shaker of a ride along a road in poor state of repair. It was with relief we joined the AP9, a toll road, at the Spanish border and headed for Vigo where we lunched and refuelled in a service area overlooking the Rio de Vigo. Continuing north on the AP9 we soon arrived in Santiago de Compostela for a toll of Eu8.45. Here we headed for the closest site to town, Camping As Cancelas which also fortunately was the only site in the area to accept dogs but it was expensive at Eu 29.10 per night for a pitch, two adults, electric and the dog. I was glad we arrived in the early afternoon at this terraced site because the choice of suitable pitches for a large motorhome and even caravans was very limited. We squeezed onto a pitch on the lower terraces and settled down for the rest of the day.
Day 33 The old town of Santiago was just under a 2 mile downhill walk away, quite feasible a journey but there was also a bus service from close by the site and it was wheelchair friendly so we decided to use this. The single fare was Eu0.90 each which took us to the Plaza de Galicia on the edge of the old town where we sought out a cafe for a coffee before visiting the cathedral. The old town is not difficult to get around in a wheelchair although there are some steep areas and some of the buildings are not accessible due to steps. For a wheelchair user, the cathedral is best accessed through the shop and much of it can be seen although the tomb of St James and the "Apostle's Embrace" are not accessible. We were fortunate that during our visit, there was a medieval market and it was a delight to wander the streets and squares taking in the smells of the spices, the herbs and the cooking as well as viewing the crafts stalls and the shops. We purchased a light lunch from one of the stalls and continued to wander the narrow but smooth streets taking in more of the architectural sights and shopping in the local market before returning to site by bus. Santiago is a town well worth visiting and the piece of beef purchased in the local market was the best we have tasted for some time.
Day 34 We decided to travel via the Costa da Morte rather than take the direct route to Coruna. We left in fine weather but as soon as we got near the coast at Noya the weather turned drizzly and misty ruining the views. This persisted most of the day rather spoiling the trip. In Muras it was market day too and we could not find anywhere to park along the pretty but crowded sea front and had to pass straight through. We had a lunch stop in a picturesque bay but our first real stop was at the light house of Finisterre but again the visibility was very poor. Somewhat disheartened we decided to call it a day and pulled into a nicely located campsite, Ruta Finesterra, overlooking a pretty bay between Finisterre and Corcubion. Blue sky appeared and the sun finally shone at about 5pm. We could see the Finisterre lighthouse from the window of the motor home and the flat calm sea took on an orange tinge as the sun slowly set and the tide receded. The only sound to be heard was that of an owl going about its nightly foraging. The Costa da Morte was certainly not living up to its reputation for wild seas.
Day 35 The calm conditions continued and the sun was shining as we left site heading for Coruna using a toll road for the last 20 miles at a cost of Eu2.15 and aiming to park in the Hercules Tower car park, have lunch and go for a stroll along the Marine Parade. Arriving at the tower we found the major part of the car park closed and the police would not let us use the remainder. (we think they were clearing the car park for a Sunday market). Fortunately we had spotted a space in the road side parking on the way to the tower and on retracing our route it was still vacant and we managed to squeeze in not too far from the Tower and the Finisterre Aquarium where, at the latter, we also could have parked had we known! We lunched and then had a walk in the sun shine along the Marine Parade before continuing our journey heading on toll free scenic roads to Viveiro. Just outside Ferrol, just as we expecting a change of road we came across a new autovia which was not on our maps. This totally fooled TomTom and we had no idea where we were. The autovia went in the general right direction so we took it and found ourselves on the way to Vilalba. TomTom still had no idea where we were but spotting an exit to Viveiro we took it and found ourselves on the LU540, now a totally upgraded road all the way to Viveiro most of which didn't appear on any of our maps or TomTom. It was a nice drive but we had travelled a dog leg and arrived in Viveiro much later than we had wished. We headed for yet another ACSI discount site, Camping San Rafael, just west of Foz. It was a pleasant spot for a night stop and an evening walk along the paved cliff top path revealed an impressive coastline and equally impressive beach facilities. Parking facilities, picnic spots, toilets, including wheelchair accessible ones, showers, drinking water and access to the coves had been provided for both the able bodied and disabled alike. We were also to find these facilities repeated at suitable coves when we journeyed east along the coast the next day.
Camping San Rafael is a small coastal site mainly used by the Spanish. Facilities were basic but clean. We found it an agreeable night stop at Eu15 per night worthy of a longer stay in better weather.
Day 36 We awoke to the sound of rain pattering on the roof. The Costa Verde was living up to its reputation! It was full wet weather gear, wellies and all, when walking the dog. It didn't stop until 1030 and even then low cloud shrouded the nearby hills obscuring the summits and mist limited visibility along the coast. We decided to potter on to another site. The town of Luarca was the target, my guide book stated it was worth a visit. The nearest site was Camping Los Cantiles which was where we headed. On route we left the main road and visited the impressive cove of Playa Las Catedrales. By now the weather had brightened up a little and there was quite a crowd in the large hard standing parking area which had all the facilities we had previously encountered along with a cafe/restaurant. A number of Spanish motor homes looked as though they had overnighted here. After a walk around this impressive cove, we continued along the narrow coast road for a few miles visiting other coves before re-joining the main N634 road for Luarca. We had not long been on our pitch at Camping Los Cantiles, a cliff top site amongst pine trees, when the weather closed in again. That was that for the day and I couldn't even get the satellite TV to receive Astra 2D!
Day 37 We awoke to sunshine, so attended to the laundry first before setting out to walk into Luarca whose centre was just under a downhill mile away. It's a steep descent into town after an initial level stretch. There is an hourly bus but we did not bother preferring to take two batteries for the trike and walking. One proved to be just sufficient. It's a pleasant enough spot but Cornwall has better fishing harbours. I couldn’t help but compare it to St Ives which I think has much more character although the harbour of Luraca is much bigger and akin to Newlyn. We watched them unload fish and strolled along the quiet harbour front and then made our way back to the camp site via way of the church and lighthouse on the cliff top overlooking the harbour. A good mornings stroll of just over five miles by the time we arrived back at site for lunch after which we lazed around in the sun shine for the rest of the day.
Day 38 We needed to average 180 miles a day to arrive in the north of France to see the Vet so took the N634/A8 autovia east for the morning and made good time before stopping for lunch at Playa La Franca near Llanes. Here the road skirts the Picos de Europa and there were some fine inland views. Shortly after, we left the A8 to take the coast road to Comillas and on to Torrelevega. It turned out to be a well worth while scenic detour. Rejoining the A8 autovia, we pushed on to Laredo where we searched for a site following the "Campings" signs which took us along the front to the western edge of the town where there were three category 2 sites. Two didn't accept dogs so we were left with Camping Carlos V which happened to be the closest to the town and sea front. It turned out to be expensive at Eu27.60 for the night. It was a very Spanish site with many closely packed statics but the touring pitches turned out to be quite level and spacious and we were quite content with the pitch we ended up with which was alongside two other motor homes. In the evening we went for a stroll along the very long wide sea front promenade and thought Laredo was a good place to stop a while but tomorrow we will have to be back in France.
Northern Spain is very different from the rest of Spain, apart from being cooler and greener and therefore wetter, it looks more prosperous and is definitely cleaner and tidier. There is far less litter, we saw no unattended waste patches of land and very few unfinished buildings. The roads we have travelled have been good, even the remote coastal road along the Costa da Morte. The A8 coastal road from Irun is progressively being extended to Coruna and other roads have been upgraded and as a result we found our 2006 TomTom incorrect on many occasions. One of the lasting memories of the area will be of the profusion of vivid blue Hydrangeas. They obviously thrive there particularly in Galicia.
Day 39 The next section of the journey can be particularly busy with the major cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian to traverse. The morning was rather grey and cloud obscured the tops of the mountains so we opted to take the auto route all the way to the border at a toll cost of Eu11.60. It was bright and sunny by the time we arrived at the border where we left the autoroute to take the N10/D810) into St Jean de Luz, Bayonne and Cap Breton, this last section of the journey was very busy and slow and after a shopping stop at a Carrefour we arrived two hours later than planned. The beach was very busy although there was plenty of room for motor homes on the aire. The overnight charge was Eu9 and included 10 amp electric. Now back in France I phoned the vet and booked an appointment for our dog's passport check, had a wander with the dog along the dunes and watched the sunset before retiring.
Day 40 Sticking to the N10 we continued north along the long boring 90 mile stretch to Bordeaux. A flat run with mostly pine forest set back from the dual carriageway occasionally interrupted by fields of maize. We passed around Bordeaux and then on to Angouleme where we turned off to take the D roads to Camping Municipal Platanes in Montignac, a quiet little site on the banks of the Charente in a small village. The cost per night was Eu12.30. With time to spare we planned a couple of nights here and a quiet day. There is a height barrier at the entrance of the site and arriving in the early afternoon, we expected to have to wait for the site attendant to let us in but one of the residents had a key and kindly opened up for us and the other Brit motorhome which had followed us to the site. We had a short walk along the river in the afternoon, the dog enjoyed a cooling swim and we bar-b-qued a couple of steaks to have with salad for our evening meal. I finished the last of my Spanish wine purchased from the bodega.
Day 41 dawned bright and sunny and we rose lazily, washed a few clothes and walked into the village for a look around and to buy bread and milk. There was a Chemist, a Boulanger, a Charcouterie, a cafe/bar and a market stall selling fresh veg and that was it. All ones basic needs but at a price. A couple of beef keebabs cost Eu6.20, a small brown loaf of bread Eu1.20 and two cups of coffee in the cafe Eu5.00! I will never complain about the price of Starbucks or Costa's coffee again! While we were having coffee a funeral came by, just a hearse but in the old style, the mourners walked behind. After lunch, back at the motor home, we strolled along the river bank. A French family were having a picnic by the river otherwise it was tranquil and deserted. It wasn't long before our terrier dog spotted the fish in the shallows and it was quite funny watching him trying to catch them. Of course all he caught was stones from the bottom but he enjoyed the experience and the swim and he did look and feel the cleanest in weeks! Bar-b-qued in the evening sunshine, chicken thighs accompanied by two veg, potatoes and gravy and of course wine. A peaceful relaxing day.
Day 42 Rejoined the N10 up to Poitiers where we stopped for a final shop for groceries to take us home and some wine and tinned duck. Continued on via Tours avoiding the toll roads and heading for the municipal camp site, Les Reclusages, at Montoire sur Loire, far enough off the beaten track not to be too crowded with the countless holiday makers we were now beginning to see on the main roads, even so I still observed the local aire was full. The weather remained fine and warm and we bar-b-qued the keebabs purchased the day before along with local pork sausage which tasted very good. Must get some more!
Camping Municipal Les Reclusages is a level riverside site with some statics. It was well maintained and clean with basic facilities for wheelchair users. The cost per night for two adults, electric and the dog was Eu10.70. It is also co-located with the towns swimming pool which is next door and it is an easy walk into Montoire via a footbridge across the Loire.
Day 43 The morning was showery as we headed for Vendome to rejoin the N10 north but it brightened up towards lunch time as we skirted Dreux and headed up the D928 to the municipal site in Anet. Not a long journey and it was lunch time when we arrived at the site. A quick look around established there was a pitch I could get on to and we checked in for Eu11.30 for the night. We watched the German Grand Prix and then went for a walk into town. The Chateau was open, Eu 7.50 entrance per person, but we didn’t bother to have a look around. We have never been impressed with French Chateaus, the interiors are barren compared to the stately homes of England. I didn’t much care for the site either, 98 percent statics and too many overhanging branches from the trees and the possibility one could get stuck in the wet.
Day 44 We were off site by 0930, we took the opportunity to use the extra manoeuvring space created by the absence of the opposite neighbours car when he went shopping! We took a cross country route to Vernon, very narrow in places but thankfully we did not meet any oncoming traffic. From Vernon we travelled along the Seine to Les Andelys. Here we observe an interesting town and a good campsite but did not stop. We stuck to the country roads meeting very little traffic and passing through some pretty little villages on the way to Gournay-en-Bray where we took the D915 to Forges Les Eaux. Here we had an appointment with the local vet to validate our dog's passport. Arriving at the excellent aire just after mid day we got a good pitch with electric for Eu 5.70 and settled down in the warm afternoon sunshine for lunch after which we had a circular walk into town and back at the same time locating the vet and noting it only took 10/15 minutes to walk there. We spent the rest of the day lazily in the sunshine and in the evening I took the dog to the vets. I took along our own Frontline and Drontal which the vet used and the charge for the passport check and treatment was then a very reasonable Eu26.50. This still left me with a few Euros to spend.
Day 45 Not a cloud in the sky. We have been blessed with fine weather for nearly the whole trip. What poor weather we have had has never lasted the whole day and I can count these days on one hand. We had a day to kill while we waited for the 24 to 48 hour window to repatriate our dog so planned a trip to Calais via Le Treport, St Valerie and Le Crotoy. Le Treport was bustling and the aires overflowing into the streets. Coastal roads were also very busy. We stopped for a final shop at an Intermarche and the pushed on to Cayeux sur Mer. It was the same there but we did find a spot to park for lunch on the very edge of the town. Concerned we would have difficulty finding overnight parking we decided to take the faster toll route to Calais at a cost of Eu 8.10 and made haste to a site near the village of Escalles. On arrival at about 1530, Camping Les Erables, a terraced site, was fairly full but there were a few pitches left at Eu12 per night and we settled down in the sunshine for the night on a pitch with a view of Cap Griz Nez and the coast of England. It left an early morning drive of 5 miles to the Channel Tunnel for our return to England. The site was full by 1700hrs
Day 46 Our last day of travel. We were away by 0830 which left us a good hour to catch our reserved train. My heart sank at the pet check in when I couldn't get the microchip reader to register anything. Fortunately I was using it incorrectly and the nice French lady soon got a reading. All was well and we were soon being whisked across to Folkstone. We again stopped at Tescos in Ashford to replenish supplies and were home by mid afternoon.
Some General Comments We were increasingly asked to produce our passports even though I had an ACSI and a CCI card. On questioning this at one site, I was advised the police had requested this and IDs are increasingly now passed to centralised police computers and your whereabouts can be tracked!
I worked on Eu1.1 to the pound and it is now increasingly expensive to tour the continent and in my view I don't think there is much to choose between the costs of visiting Spain or France. Site fees including cost of aires have increased appreciably and the difference between the cost of fuel on the continent to that of UK is narrowing. The cost of groceries, my biggest expense, and which included dinning out was about 25 percent higher than the UK and this is with mostly buying local. If you don't buy local expect a 50 percent increase!
We economised by eating out much less than we normally would, avoiding toll roads as much as possible and using sites which offered an ACSI discount and where this was not possible seeking out cheaper sites to stay. The latter option being much more practical in France.
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