Posted by: glenswatman | October 21, 2011

20111011-20 FRANCE SPAIN

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TUESDAY 11 OCTOBER – Jo’s is not feeling at all well, probably a reaction to the flu jab. In the afternoon I give her a back massage which helps her feel better. It’s a balmy evening so we sit out eating and chatting until late.

WEDNESDAY 12 OCTOBER – It’s only a short drive to a free camping aire by the little village of Peyriac de Mer behind the salt lakes. Parking is by the rugby pitch and with the van blocking the worst of the wind it becomes a very pleasant spot. Walking around the salt lake we see flamingos and enjoy the track that goes over bridges and out on a boardwalk over the water. In the evening locals come out for floodlit rugby practice, they almost don’t need the lights as there is a lovely bright full moon.

THURSDAY 13 OCTOBER – It’s still very windy but reasonably sheltered here so we will stay put. A Frenchman tells me it is the Mistral wind and it usually lasts for 3, 5 or 9 days. As it started last Thursday night we could be on the 9 day one but we did have a day in the middle when it died down so are we onto a different cycle? This is a pretty good aire with a clean squat toilet, sinks with water and a dump point. I do what little washing we have and get it dried in no time. The red cabbage I bought is huge so I check out the recipe book for inspiration and come up with “Viennese cabbage” which is cooked in stock with apples and turns out to be very tasty. The rest of the day is fairly typical now for us, reading, playing cards and a movie in the evening, very relaxing.

FRIDAY 14 OCTOBER – Who cares what wind cycle we are on it has died down completely so we head off on a short drive down the coast. The aire at Franqui is over a bridge on a small island. Adjacent to the closed campsite is a large car park and even the back section that says “no camping cars” has had the height barrier removed and motorhomes have moved in. There are numerous parking bays designed to take about 20 cars but each now taken over as a large motorhome pitch. We are very lucky and get one on the perimeter and by parking diagonally in the corner create our own private retreat. At the far end of the parking area are some huge bus and truck conversions and one has a sign in the window saying “cirque” (circus). The beach is backed by a massive dried up salt lake and the flat surface makes it perfect for wind sports. Today most people are racing along in go carts powered by a kite.

SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER – The wind is back but now from the opposite direction, SE. We won’t get the sun on “our patch” until about 11am so head off for a walk around the town. There’s little to see and almost everything is closed down. There is a bar open and showing the Wales v France rugby match and this is very busy but probably not a good place for Steve to stay and voice which team he wants to win. For lunch I cook up the duck breast and make a sauce from the plum jam that Daniel made at school. I’ve not much idea how or how long to cook the breast but fluke it and have them turn out just perfect and delicious. We have a little disturbance during the night when a disco car arrives, luckily for only about an hour around 2pm an also not too close.

SUNDAY 16 OCTOBER – Heading down the coast towards Leucate the motorhome aire is not very inviting. It is a like a huge tiered car park, very barren and exposed (and you have to pay). A little further on we spot a motorhome parked by some fishing boats and make our way out onto the headland. It’s a very attractive spot with space for dozens of motorhomes but the entry sign saying “sons peine d’amende Euro 133 20h-7h”, literally with pain we fine Euro 133 for being here between 20h and 7h! A Swiss guy in a camper with his family says he stayed for 10 nights in April with no problem and has now been here for 3 nights. Steve has noticed a parking spot just before the sign so decides we will park by the lake during the day then move out overnight. We have a stunning view out across the water to the causeway and bridge. No matter how often we look across there is always at least one motorhome going over it. Once the early clouds burn off it is a lovely hot day and we really enjoy our little spot. Before tea we move to the parking area and spend a nice quiet night.

MONDAY 17 OCTOBER – We move back to the waterfront for our breakfast. Leaving for a cruise on Sunday we are running down the fridge and freezer so meals are based on the odds and ends we have left. Today it will be sausage curry. It also seems like a good time to do a bit more planning for our trip into Spain.

TUESDAY 18 OCTOBER – It’s a dull start to the day so we press on and check out the naturist villages at Leucate. Back in 2001 we parked on the beach outside of Aphrodite village but this is no longer possible. There are now 3 separate villages in the complex but all have height barriers. Tom-tom tells us there is a Lidl nearby but it is the worst we have come across for parking. Most of it is only suitable for small cars so we follow a “P” sign round the back of the building and end up down a narrow service lane, again with parking just wide enough for cars. However this leads us to a very interesting spot under the causeway bridge where dozens and dozens of French men are fishing. We have never seen so many fishermen gathered in one place. Eventually back track and park on the road outside Lidl. The next seaside town of Le Barcares shows 6 different motorhome aires but the first 3 turn out to be just roadside. The last one is by a lake and we see a track going further along the side of it and set out to explore. As the track becomes sandy we call a halt but have seen motorhomes up ahead. Steve walks it and finds a number of vans in a car park at the side of the lake. We back out and manage to find the correct way to the parking area using a proper road. Not only that but at the side of the car park are more tracks and we secure what we think is the prime position in our own secluded sheltered area complete with grassy terrace and beach. Find it hard to understand why the majority of motorhomes cluster together like soldiers when spots like this are nearby. We are reminded of Daniel and Natasha as there is a cable water ski set up in the lake, the same type the kids learnt to water ski on in Germany. The sun is out and by late afternoon we are hot enough to venture into the water for a dip, it is crystal clear and just a bit gravelly so pretty near perfect. The enormous red cabbage is still with us so tonight I cut it into chunks then batter and fry it tempura style and serve it with chilli and garlic sauce and French bread, actually not bad. To top off a lovely day we enjoy sundowners by the lake and get a nice pink sky just before the sun drops behind the low clouds.

WEDNESDAY 19 OCTOBER – We want to get as near to the Spanish border as possible today. We stop at Auchan to fill up the LPG (gas) as it is not so easy to come by in Spain. It’s also massive shopping centre where I manage to buy the more unusual things you can’t get at Lidl such as green cardamom pods. Next stop is MacDonald’s for free Wi-Fi and there we find out my return flight from England in January has been cancelled by Ryanair and they are now offering me one on the date of my operation. A quick search reveals nothing obvious as an alternative without me being away for over 1 week (Steve and I have never been apart for more than 1 week since we met in 1973 so this could be history in the making). At Le Boulou the parking is roadside opposite a cemetery and near the sports stadium but of the 20 or so spots only about 5 level. We’ve little choice and try to ease into the least sloping spot between 2 French vans. This is when we start to hear the French horns. Each time we get within about a metre of one of their motorhomes they hoot. Understandable had I not been outside directing Steve and stood beside them! After a few hoots Steve gets out and tells them that we know what we are aware but he has to come back close to them before going forward and straightening up for the final reverse. It makes you wonder just how they manage themselves, maybe a 53 turn attempt at each parking spot! I’ve just got dinner cooking when Steve comes back to tell me the people in the prime spot at the bottom have just left. I grab the pans and walk down the street to stand and commandeer our new position. Now we are level, have a picnic bench by our door and a nice view. The final bit of cabbage gets used up when I pickle it, that’s the last time I buy such a large cabbage and definitely won’t get red again as it is so very messy. The only reason I ended up with a football sized one was that they were all 89c each. We take an afternoon stroll around Le Bolou, a small but pleasant town. Unfortunately we have to leave before tomorrow evenings chocolate festival. Outside the Police station we spot a defibrillator machine attached to the wall complete with instructions – guess this is for when the station is closed and no other help available. Returning to the aire it is overflowing and a couple of British vans are parked out on the street. Peter and Margaret from Dewsbury are on their way down to Spain for the winter. They cover the fuel costs of their trip by metal detecting on the beaches. In England they are members of a local group and in February had access to a farmer’s field where Margaret unearthed pieces from a Roman chariot. They are going back to the site next February (when the farmer has no crops in) and hope it turns out to be a burial site with the whole chariot. In the evening we get our first rain in weeks, time to head for Spain.

THURSDAY 20 OCTOBER – By 9am we are crossing into SPAIN through the typical border towns lined with all manner of shops. Eddie is no longer a camping car but now an auto caravanna. We stop in Figueres, birthplaces of Salvador Dali and home to his best museum. Parking is difficult until we eventually drop on the coach parking, pretty expensive at 10c (9p) a minute but very close to the museum. We are next to a Gain Travel coach and the drive is from Bradford and has brought his group to visit the museum. The building is incredible, a bright orange pink colour with huge eggs around the top and sort of blobs shaped like bread studding the walls. It’s Euro 12 (£10.75) for the museum within the theatre then to see the collection of the jewellery he made. We are initially impressed as we walk into a central courtyard with Al Capone’s old car in the middle, inside are sculptured people and if you put Euro in a slot it rains inside the car. The walls of this central courtyard are lined with all sorts of faces shaped by stones. We progress through various rooms and alcoves being blown away by whacky sculptures, strange paintings such as a ceiling with huge feet that always seem to point at you. Whatever he was on I want some as his work is fantastic. I’m not so keen on his paintings but everything else is stunning. We take as long as we feel necessary but as still through in about 45 minutes so the parking isn’t too expensive. Unfortunately this has made us want to see more of his buildings and art works. Although many people have told us we should be on the toll road we are enjoying the N11, good surface and not too much traffic. South of Gerona we reach an area with numerous prostitutes sat at the side of the road touting for business. Occasionally you see an empty chair so they obviously do get some work. They seem to account for all tastes as one of them looks like the character Vicky of little Britain. Our journey takes us along the coast through holiday resorts we have visited in years gone by, now totally un recognisable due to the building boom. The free road skirting the northern outskirts of Barcelona is also excellent but we do opt to pay the toll near Sitges to avoid a very narrow and winding mountain road, Euro 10.45 (£9) if the charge and when you see the engineering that has gone into the many tunnels it is easy to justify. At Cubelles we easily find the home of our Couchsurfing hosts Juan and Angeles. They are both home and extremely welcoming. In no time at all we have our motorhome parked on the drive behind theirs and are sat out by the pool enjoying a drink. We are offered everything we might need before they both head out, Angeles to the gym and Juan running, looking at them both we can see they are into fitness. Angeles runs a hairdressing business but only works weekends and it sounds like Juan has a breakers yard but they work as little as possible and do long trips in their motorhome or to Asia. When they return we learn that Juan does a tri-althlon every year and his evening exercise tonight was a 20km run up and down a mountain, maybe we should try it –not. Spend a very pleasant couple of hours chatting to them about travel stories.


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