Friday, 1 June 2018

Our 3 month trip - a retrospective

We've been back home for a week now, although it feels a lot longer.  Arriving home to a huge pile of mail on the doormat, both the van and our car needed insuring over the last week.  I also re-negotiated our broadband and phone package with BT, who finally offered a 12 month deal that was half the price we started at and cheaper than the competition - it's always worth haggling.  Cathy's been busy in the garden, ripping out the 'old people' shrubs and preparing to re-design both the back and front; it's looking a lot better already.  We're also doing some decorating and tile removal ready for the bathroom refit and new flooring in the hall. 

I'm back into the training pipeline with Mon SAR, Anglesey's Lowland Search and Rescue team, having completed an exercise to search for 'downed' trainee RAF pilots in Snowdonia a couple of days ago, and looking forward to our formal assessment tomorrow which, if the team passes, we'll then be available for North Wales Police to call out to assist with missing person searches.  I have a few weeks of training to get me back up to speed, including a first aid course, land navigation and radio communications.

It's also exactly a year since I retired from work, with 1 June 2017 being my first full day as a 'retired naval pensioner'!  This 12 months have flown past and we've been busy, with selling and buying a house, moving to Anglesey and completing a 3 month trip in our campervan.  It's been fun and we're looking forward to making the most of all this free time - how did we ever find time to work!

So, on to our recent trip.  This was our first really long trip in the campervan, with the longest before then being the usual annual two week holiday.  We'd planned this trip for some time as we wanted to see how we'd get on living in a small metal box for several months.  We left home on Monday 5 March and returned (albeit one week earlier than planned) on Thursday 24 May.  Our journey took us down the Atlantic coast of France, across inland Spain to the mediterranean coast near Valencia, then along the Spanish and Portuguese coast, back into northern Spain and up through the middle of France, with a  week's house sit in the Limousin area before returning to the Normandy coast.  We decided to return a week early to enjoy some good weather on Anglesey and get ahead of the house and garden jobs.

We learned a lot during this trip, the main one being that we don't want to over-winter in southern Spain and Portugal.  This really surprised us as we thought we'd want to escape the long British winter.  But the large, soulless campsites in remote locations, combined with long dark nights, made us realise that spending several weeks in our small van in those conditions wasn't for us.  But we're happy with this decision and glad we came to it before incurring the expense of a long winter trip.  We also felt that 3 months is too long for us.  For the first time ever we felt homesick and were really looking forward to returning to our home on Anglesey.  We think this is because this is the first time (in 35 years) that we were able to choose our location and home, due to my naval career dictating where we lived and I worked. But we still love travelling in mainland Europe; future trips will be a bit shorter and will probably focus on getting to know an area really well, rather than travelling widely throughout several countries.  We're also looking forward to travelling more throughout the UK.  We compared all we saw with the British Isles and, although we stayed in some beautiful places, it made us realise just how special our countryside and beaches are.  We're already planning some short trips of a few days into Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula and a 2-3 week trip to Scotland in the autumn.  In the meantime we have all the delights of Anglesey to enjoy, especially as the summer tourist season ramps up.  The island has changed a lot since we left, obviously much greener (and warmer!) but also loads of cafes, tourist sites and places of interest are now open.

I've always been interested in the logistics and costs of a long term campervan trip and spent many hours researching other blogs, estimating budgets and managing finances.  The details of our trip are below.  Everyone is different, so our budget and costs are unique to us and are not indicative of everyone's travels.  We ate out rarely, preferring to buy good produce in the local stores and markets where possible and eat in the van.  We also made the most of free overnight stops, plus a one week house sit to give us a break from the van and enjoy more space, long hot showers and access to a washing machine!

Travel:
We crossed the channel via Eurotunnel.  It's more expensive than ferries, but we used Tesco vouchers to reduce the cost. We mainly stuck to non-toll roads, except for some travel in Portugal as the other roads were in a dreadful state and a couple of short stretches on our fast, late-notice run up to Calais when we decided to bring our return home forward.  Where possible we also avoided motorways, preferring to stick to the equivalent of A and B roads.  This was a slower way to travel (which we prefer) but also meant we saw some lovely small towns and villages that would otherwise have passed us by.

Cards and cash:
I used two cards. Mostly it was a Halifax Clarity card as it uses a favourable daily exchange rate. The card is set up to automatically pay off in full each month and was accepted in just about everywhere, except one campsite.  For cash, I used a CaxtonFX card, which I pre-loaded with Euros - topping up as required via their app - and used to withdraw cash from ATMs.  These more than covered our needs.  I'd previously set us up with Revolut cards, which is another pre-paid card as a back-up, but we never used them so I closed these accounts when we returned home.  I also had a Tesco credit card and Santander debit card as back ups, but never need to use them.  It's worth noting that if you have a Santander current account in the UK, who can use the debit card to withdraw Euros in Spain with no additional charges.

Fuel:
Diesel prices varied significantly and was our second biggest expense.  Spain was the cheapest, where I found diesel at one station at only €1.09 per litre.  France was the most expensive and now more than the UK, in some places an eye-watering €1.62 per litre!  Portugal was between the two.

LPG was relatively cheap at an average of €0.66 per litre.  I filled up every fortnight and took onboard an average of about 10 litres each time, which ran our fridge, gas hob, BBQ and hot water.  I also found filling up easy with the various adaptors.  In Spain many of the fuel stations provide an assistant to fill up diesel and LPG for you.

Food:
Not surprisingly (at least for us!), food was our biggest expenditure.  We used local markets and supermarkets where possible, but also used Lidl, Aldi and some of the more expensive hypermarkets such as Intermarche (the most expensive supermarket) and Carrefour.  We bought local food items, steering clear of 'British' products, although we didn't take enough British tea-bags with us and the local equivalent wasn't up to standard!  

Eating out is a matter of personal taste and budget. We preferred the smaller village bars for  simple tapas or pizza.  Over the years we've been disappointed at the standard of restaurants when eating out, so avoid them now and mainly cook in the van.  We avoided the 'English breakfast with a pint' deals in the Costas!  In fact the best meal we had was a vegan lunch between Tarifa and Cape Trafalgar in Spain - delicious. We also enjoyed the chicken and chips for breakfast when blocked in by the local market in Portugal!

Alcohol is very cheap in Europe and there's a wide variety of wines and beers everywhere; it's possible to buy a litre of wine for €0.89 in Spain.   We went teetotal about half way through the trip so this no doubt cut our costs.  I'd been thinking about stopping drinking alcohol for many months but, like a diet, it always starts tomorrow.  But a realisation that alcohol was playing too large a part in my life, plus the opportunity to sit back and think about it on this trip allowed me to stop drinking.  I've not missed it and have discovered some lovely fruit cordials to mix with sparkling water and 'virgin G&Ts' (with a slice of lime and crushed juniper berries that we picked on our walks).  The heavy daily drinking amongst the 'snowbird' population over-wintering in southern Spain and Portugal also turned me off alcohol - they were wrinkled on the outside and pickled on the inside!  So - cheers to a healthier lifestyle.

Scores on the doors:
Here's the statistics for our trip:

Door to door, we drove 5,985 miles (9,631 kilometres).

We spent 80 nights away from home, broken down as follows:
  • Free aires - 42 nights
  • Paid aires - 20 nights
  • Campsites - 12 nights
  • House sit - 6 nights
We spent:

€3,143.15 (£2,831.61) in total over 80 nights.  

An average of €261.93 (£235.97) per week against a budget forecast of €285.22 (£256.95)

An average of €38.80 (£34.96) per day against a budget forecast of €40.74 (£36.70)



Breakdown of costs are shown below.  These are in Euros, so I've added a column to the right to show an estimated sterling cost:








Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Homeward Bounders!


Wednesday 23 May 2018 - Day 80

Change of plan!  We’re parked up at Cite Europe in Calais, just a few minutes from the Eurotunnel terminal.  We’ve moved our crossing forward to 0650 tomorrow morning.  

We woke to a grey, windy day, cool at 10’C, although the forecast over the coming days was improving and warming up.  We drove about an hour up the coast to an aire we’d stayed at before, but on arrival it looked a bit bleak and uninviting, so we decided to drive on.  To make it worse the van grounded on the way out - a horrible crunching sound.  Reversing off I checked underneath and the securing bolts on the electric step had caught the top of the steep exit.  It sounded bad, but luckily the damage was minimal and the step’s still working. So we drove to the other end and exited via the one way entry sign!  Instead we moved on the aire at St Valery en Caux.  Again, we’ve stayed on this one before.  It’s right next to the harbour entrance, by a stony beach and under a high chalk cliff.  The weather wasn’t great and although we ventured out for a walk, we were soon back in the warm of the van!

The afternoon was spent snoozing and reading and I had a thought that we were just marking time, making our way up the coast to cross over next Wednesday.  We’d seen the forecast of great weather back home, so we made a decision to amend the booking.  This only took a few minutes and didn’t cost a great deal more and we were soon packed up and back on the road for the three hour drive to Calais.  The alarm’s set for 0500 tomorrow and we’ll make a flask of tea before switching off the gas, so we can have a hot drink on the train.

So our three month journey has ended one week early, but we're really happy with the decision and really looking forward to getting home tomorrow.  I’ll post a retrospective on our trip another time, with some costings for those that are interested in the numbers.  Until then, Anglesey here we come!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Back at the coast

Tuesday 22 May 2018 - Day 79

Nido’s parked up in the aire in the village of Étretat, on the Normandy coast - we’re back at the seaside!  The aire’s about 5 minutes walk from the town, which is pleasant to walk through and quite touristy and the sea, which is another few minutes.

We enjoyed our week of house sitting - it was just the break we needed - and we were ready to hit the road for our last days of this tour.  We left the house at about 1630 last night and drove nearly 5 hours, stopping at the free aire in Chateaudun.  It was a very warm evening and, as we parked up by the chateau, we could hear the swifts and some sort of party going on inside - it sounded like fun.  We’d eaten at the house so it was a quick cup of tea and a leg stretch, before we both slept well.

Up early this morning, it was a 4 hour drive to this place, which I really just picked to have somewhere to aim for.  It’s a nice village, obviously well visited going by the number of cars and coaches parked up.  We got about the last pitch on the aire and walked to the coast for our first paddle in the Channel this trip. The water was cold but very clear, probably because of the pebbles on the beach and under the water.  There are steep cliffs with paths on both sides of the town, very similar to West Bay in Dorset.  We walked up and enjoyed the views, with Cathy getting much closer to the edge of the cliff than I would have wanted to!  Dinner was a simple chicken salad, made with the cooked chicken I bought in the Leclerc supermarket this morning.  

It’s good to be back on the coast and we’re looking forward to a slow transit up the coast towards Calais over the next week.

Chateaudun

Etratat beach







Monday, 21 May 2018

Bourganeuf, Limousin: 15 - 21 May 2018


Bourganeuf, Limousin: 15 - 21 May 2018

Our journey
The journey to the housesit was very short - just 10 km from the aire at Bourganeuf, where we waited out the weather. So it was a short hop on Tuesday afternoon, mainly along minor roads through forest and meadows.  We pulled up outside the house at about 3pm. The owners had helpfully provided an accurate map and GPS co-ordinates, plus a street view image of exactly where to park, which made life much easier.

The house and area
The house is a beautiful old water mill which has been tastefully renovated. It’s in a small hamlet surrounded by forest and wildflower meadows, with a couple of neighbours not too far away.Some of the original parts of the mill are still visible, particularly in the bathrooms and the basement area.  Outside, the area where the water wheel would have been is still visible, with the water cascading down beside it.  The owners have done a great deal of work, including adding a full length raised deck to the rear, which is south facing so gets lots of sun.  As with most houses in France, it comes with a lot of land - and I mean a lot!  It must keep the owners really busy with keeping on top of the garden, pruning trees and cutting grass.  They also have a separate gite up by the road, plus a swimming pool which is used in the summer.  There’s a large poly tunnel next to a vegetable plot and the chicken run and a much larger stream runs down the bottom of the garden.  There are loads of trees surrounding the house, so lots of birdlife too.   We didn’t explore too far as it was so relaxing just staying at the mill, although we did see lots of the surrounding countryside while waling the dog.

 









The Pets
We really enjoyed looking after the pets.  The owners had mentioned in our pre-sit phone call that the dog - Freddie - had been rescued and didn’t get on to well with other dogs and people.  They said he could be a bit loud when he first met people until he knows them, but he was fine when we first turned up.  He doesn’t like his paws touched, although he doesn’t mind a tummy rub and tolerates a brushing to find any ticks that may have grabbed hold when walking.  He was absolutely fine with us and we really enjoyed his company.  He turned out to be calm and quiet and was very excited at meal times!

There were also a couple of cats - Pocus and Tinkerbelle.  They too were calm and content, spending most of the day snoozing on the sofas.  Apparently they’re well known for bringing in little presents from the countryside, including live mice!  But we didn’t have to deal with these.  They weren’t really cuddly cats but liked to come over when they felt like it.  Pocus liked to sit on my lap and watch when I was sat at a table typing on my laptop!

The two Shetland ponies - Attila and Grace - were kept in an enclosure in a separate field a short walk from the house.  They were always pleased to see us at mealtimes.  Grace in particular liked to try to get to the hay, which was kept the other side of a fence and covered up!  They took little effort apart from feeding, watering and scooping quite a lot of poo each day - great for the garden!

Finally, there were two hens and a cockerel called Dave!  They had an enclosure in the garden and, well, did what most chickens do - scratched about.  I fed them a few worms from the garden which they enjoyed.  The hens presented us with two large eggs each day.

Freddie chilling on the deck

Pocus

Tinkerbelle

Grace and Attila 

Dave and his harem!
 Our days
We didn’t do a great deal, apart from look after the pets.  We’d been on the road in the van for over 10 weeks by the time we arrived, so we were more than ready to escape from the confines of the van for a few days; we enjoyed sleeping in a large bed, having sofas to stretch out on and a hot shower!  We arrived a day early so the owners could take us through the pet routines, which is always helpful. Most of our time was spent in the garden and on the raised deck, plus our daily dog walks.  We did a bit of gardening to keep ourselves active.  Evenings were spent chilling out watching some TV and reading.  It was very relaxing.

And to finish
The owners returned after their 5 night break and we did a quick handover with them. I’d cooked sweet and sour vegetables with egg fried rice for them, as they’d had a long journey and I’m sure they wouldn’t want to cook when they got home, so having a meal ready helps them (and it’s one of our USPs when house sitting).  This was their first experience of Trusted Housesitters, so hopefully we did OK and haven’t put them off getting other sitters in the future!  We have a plan to make a fast run to the northern coast of France, to allow us a week of sea and beach time before crossing back to the UK.  After a long time on the road, putting down roots and relaxing in a lovely house for a few days was just what we needed.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Nearly floating in Bourganeuf

Monday 14 May 2018 - Day 71

Nido’s parked up in an aire in the middle of the town of Bourganeuf and we're not moving anywhere until tomorrow afternoon.  It’s been tipping it down since dawn and is still going, so we left Bellac and stopped off at a Leclerc supermarket, where I parked in the corner and cooked a good old fry-up for breakfast!  Another large shop was done as we’re house sitting from tomorrow, at a renovated water mill, about 20 minutes from here.  We’ll be there for a week, so they’ll be no daily blog updates, although I will do my usual house sit blog at the end.  I hope they have some wellies for walking the dog, feeding the chickens and sorting out the ponies - we left ours at home as we didn’t think we’d need them!  

After the house sit we’ve decided to make a fast run for the north coast (might even use the ‘troll’ road if it’s quicker!) so we can spend our last week by the sea.  Got to go - just seem some chap in a big beard building a huge wooden boat and leading animals into it, two by two...

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Remember

Sunday 13 May 2018 - Day 70


Nido’s parked up at a small aire by the river,  below the Village Etape of Bellac.  Today we visited the Martyr Village of Oradour-sur-Glane.

About 25km northwest of Limoges, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane stands just as the soldiers of the SS left it on 10 June 1944, after killing 642 of the inhabitants in reprisals for alleged attacks by French maquisards. On arriving, the SS surrounded the village and gradually move inwards to its centre, rounding up all the men, women and children.  The SS took the men into barns, where they opened fire with machine guns, deliberately aiming low to wound rather than kill, before setting the barns alight; only six men escaped, one of whom was shot dead shortly after.  Meanwhile, the women and children were shepherded into the church, where a gas bomb was set off; when this failed, the soldiers let loose with machine guns and grenades before, again, setting the church, and its inhabitants, and then the rest of the village on fire.  Over the following days the SS returned, gathered up the charred bodies and bones and dumped them in a mass grave, so that no surviving family members could ever bury their own dead.  The entire village, which sits to the southeast of the modern village, has been preserved as a shrine to this evil act.

Access to the Martyr Village is only possible through the Centre de la Memoire.  An underground passage leads from the the ticket desk into the village itself, where a sign simply says “Souviens-toi” (“Remember”) and the main street leads past roofless houses gutted by fire.  Telephone poles, iron bedsteads and gutters are fixed in twisted shapes where the fire’s heat left them; pre-war cars rust in the garages; cooking pots hang over empty crates; children’s prams and bikes lay abandoned; last year’s grapes hang wizened on a vine whose trellis has long since rotted away.  To the north of the village a slab on a shallow plinth covers a crypt containing the relics of the dead and the awful list of names and ages, while to the southeast, by the stream, stands the bullet and shrapnel-riddled church where the women and children - five hundred of them - were burnt to death.

“Souviens-toi” 

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Fish and Chips!


Saturday 12 May 2018 - Day 69

Not much to write about, as it’s been torrential rain all day.  Given the weather we drove a little further north, ignoring one aire that was very isolated, to the town of Confolens.  The plan was to stay on the aire, however with the rain, we decided to stay on the ACSI campsite next to it, right by the river.  For only €5 more than the aire we’re on a lovely grass pitch overlooking the river, with electricity, wifi and hot showers.  Furthermore, on the way through the town and almost at the campsite we spotted a ‘real’ fish and chip shop - yay!  This afternoon was spent chilling, catching up online, doing some accounts and watching some TV series.  I walked up to the chippy when it opened this evening.  It’s run by English people, with even the menu in English - no French translations anywhere.  But the fish and chips were excellent, the best we’ve had since a trip to Seahouses in Northumberland when we first retired last year.  It’s going to be a bit chilly tonight I think, so time for a brew, shut the van door and get the TV back on!  It’s a shame it’s too rainy to look around the town, which looks quite interesting, with a wide variety of individual shops.  Catching up with others around Continental Europe, this pattern of one sunny and one rainy day seems to be affecting everywhere.  

Yum!




Friday, 11 May 2018

Lakeside in Angoisse

Friday 11 May 2018 - Day 68

We’ve had another lazy day in lovely hot sunshine.  Nido’s parked up in Angoisse.  There’s a leisure lake (Base de loisirs de Roufflac) a couple of minutes downhill with a swimming beach, drag water ski-ing (ie they’re dragged along by a high wire, not they’re dressed up as women!) and a restaurant.  There is a service point here but the water is switched off; luckily we still pretty full.

I popped out first thing this morning for a croissant and baguette and had a quick coffee in the shop, because that’s what everyone does in France!  It was misty in the valley but the sun was burning it off and plenty of blue sky was visible.  Our first stop was an Intermarche in Montignac as we were very short of food.  €96 later (gulp!) - and remember we’re not drinking alcohol! - the van was a few inches lower on the suspension!  After filling up with diesel, we drove the hour to this current stop.

We sat outside for lunch and then had a good walk around the lake - about 8km.  It’s a lovely spot and the staff were getting the drag ski-ing set up and ready for the season.  Back at the van we sat under the shade of a large cherry tree with a brew and our books, before preparing dinner.  I’d bought a couple of lovely steaks and some fresh local asparagus, which were both grilled on the BBQ while Cathy made some chips in the van.  It was all delicious and all the better for sitting outside on our own with no other vans, although cars were coming and going in the separate car parks, including the young kids keen on wearing out their car tyres wheel-spinning, but they’ve all gone home for their tea now!  We sat outside listening to the birds and crickets, with a cup of tea and a lemon tart - bliss!









Don't scrump the nuts!


Thursday 10 May 2018 - Day 67

Nido’s parked up in a lovely little aire in the village of Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, another ‘Beau Village’, with many honey-coloured cottages and narrow cobbled streets, with the river running alongside.  Once a rich inland port, changes in transportation gradually pushed this village into the background.  It’s been resurrected by tourism and, as today is another public holiday, it’s been quite busy.  Several pétanque courts are in front of us and they’ve been well used all afternoon by people of all ages.  The aire is in a small copse of open walnut trees, each with a large signed attached to the trunk saying ‘Defence de remasser les noix’, or in other words, don’t scrump the nuts!  I’ve just wandered into the village and ordered takeaway pizza; our victuals are low and the supermarkets are closed on the is public holiday.  But we’re overdue an ‘eating out’ treat.

We left Beau Rivage this morning and drove the few minutes to La Roque Gageac, parking in the aire by the Dordogne.  This is (yet!) another beautiful village, built along the bank of the river and climbing up and into  the steep cliff-face.  Since our last visit in 2013 it’s naturally become more commercialised, with lots of tourist shops and a few more restaurants.  We walked up the narrow lanes, past the botanic gardens with its palms and bananas.  It was busy so we took a footpath that climbed steeply through the forest and were soon away from the crowds.  It was another lovely walk through forest and past meadows and beautiful homes.  The circular route brought us back into the village opposite the aire.  

Our drive to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère was on small roads through yet more deciduous forest - there are literally hundreds of square miles of oaks, walnuts, sweet chestnut, hazel and beech.  We took a walk around the village, which has a number of well documented noticeboards detailing the history of the village and its buildings.  So we’ve not done much today, apart from enjoy the peace and greenery of this lovely part of France.




Some houses are built into the cliff











Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Cycling, walking, chilling

Wednesday 9 May 2018 - Day 66

We’re still chilling out at Camping Beau Rivage by the Dordogne.  It’s been good for both of us to put down roots and do not much for a few days, particularly allowing Cathy to recover from the insect bites around her eyes.  She no longer looks like she’s been 5 rounds with Muhammad Ali! 

Yesterday I went for a bike ride around some of the villages and cycles lanes, while Cathy spent some time cleaning the van, changing bedding and sorting out.  It sounds like she got the bum deal, but she really does like me out of the way when she does her ‘van slavery’!  I took the road right out of the campsite, cycling along the D703, firstly through the village of Montfort, with its imposing castle on the rocks above the river, no doubt once belonging to Simon De Montfort, who was a ‘grande fromage’ in this area.  Following the road above the river, I carried on to the next village before reversing my route and taking the bridge across the river up the winding roads to the village of Domme.  This is another medieval fortified village on top of the cliffs above the valley, with narrow streets and half-timbered houses, surrounded by high stone walls and easily defendable gate houses.  It’s clearly made the most of the tourist trade and was busy on what is a public holiday in France - the anniversary of VE Day.  Through all the villages, the war memorials were the focus for ceremonies and they all had wreaths and bouquets, with many of the old boys wearing their medals and berets.  I hope they enjoyed the lunch - they certainly seemed to be!  

Down from Domme, I was back on the D703 past the campsite and onwards into the village of La Roque Gageac.  This beautiful village, on the banks of the Dordogne and built winding up and sometimes into the cliff face, is a favourite stop of ours and, given the public holiday, was very busy.  I cycled through and carried on to Tournepique, where I stopped to buy some bread and replenished with a can of orangina and a snickers bar.  Just outside the village I picked up one of the many cycle paths in France, well away from the main road, and cycled along through myriad walnut tree forests to reach the very peaceful village of Daglan, deep in the Perigord Nord countryside.  Another quintessential French village, the local bistro/cafe was doing steady business and I sat on the opposite side for a drink of water, just chilling out.  My return route took me along the main roads back to the campsite.  A really enjoyable 40 mile ride that helped me clear my head.  We enjoyed our pork, vegetables and potato dinner (cooked in the Remoska) and spent the evening watching some TV series on the laptop.

Today we didn’t wake up until 1000, which meant I didn’t have a chance to pick up Cathy’s pre-ordered croissants before the campsite shop closed!  Still, we had some bread left from yesterday which toasted well.  It was a bit drizzly first thing but eventually it dried and we had a good walk (about 6 miles) around the country lanes, past lots more walnut trees, wild meadows and farms.  We even saw an otter floating around in a lake. There were also some lovely old, remote homes.  It’s so peaceful walking around the lanes here.  Tonight’s dinner is a curry, again cooked in the ever-useful Remoska, then perhaps a bit more TV series watching, while we have electric hook up (and we’ll charge up all the gadgetry overnight).  We’re moving on tomorrow, with only a few days before we start a week’s house sit near Bourganeuf, not far from Limoges.  

Monday, 7 May 2018

Making camp by the Dordogne

Monday 7 May 2018 - Day 64

We’ve set up camp for a few days at Beau Rivage campsite, on the banks of the Dordogne, about 3.5km from the lovely village of La Roque Gageac.  Our original intention was to stay on the aire at La Roque, but with good weather, we decided a few days in one place, with electric hook up, long hot showers and a heated swimming pool, was too good to miss.  And all for only €13 with our ACSI Discount Card.

Yesterday we stayed on a free aire right alongside the Dordogne in the village of Gluges.  It was busy, next to a large picnic site, so cars were coming and going during the day too.  There’s also a campsite adjacent, but that wasn’t yet open for the season.  It was a hot day (yippee!) so we spent most of the day sat outside reading in the dappled shade of the trees.  We also had a good spot to watch the kayakers heading downstream and a couple of fishermen in small inflatables, with their legs dangling in the water, wearing flippers; I’ve no idea if they caught anything but it looked fun!  Cathy’s still suffering with the insect bites around her left eye and that side of her face is still swollen and sore.  I roasted some vegetables for dinner, mixed into boiled rice and eaten with some merguez sausages cooked on the gas BBQ.  Once darkness fell we were treated to a ‘dry’ thunderstorm - lots of sheet lightning and rumbles of thunder but not much rain.  It cooled a little during the night so we both slept well - especially C who had been up the past few nights in pain.

This morning we had a lazy breakfast and slow start and after topping up with fresh water and emptying the loo, we only had an hour’s drive to our current location.  We’ve visited La Roque Gageac before, back in 2013 when we first came to France in a campervan.  Then I enjoyed a great bike ride and Cathy a good walk, so we want to explore a bit more on foot.  We did drive to the aire, but it was busy and hot, hence the change of plan to come to this campsite.  After setting up camp, we made good use of the large heated swimming pool, for a cooling swim and a sit in the sunshine with our books.  Now fed and washed up, I’ll stick the kettle on soon for a brew.  

I’ve seen the reports of great weather back in UK for the Bank Holiday weekend and it’s made me feel homesick for our lovely house on Anglesey (C’s been feeling it for a couple of weeks).  This has been an interesting trip, but we’re missing our new home and are excited about getting back in just over 3 week’s time.  Although we’ve got a lot planned for the first few weeks back, with decorating and replacing the bathroom, we’ll also be making the most of the summer weather with the beach pretty much on our doorstep.  I’m also really looking forward to picking up my training again to become a qualified Search Technician with the Anglesey Lowland Search and Rescue Team.

Aire at Gluges

Dordogne by the aire


Nice to put down roots for a few days - Beau Rivage campsite

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Recuperating in Cardaillac

Saturday 5 May 2018 - Day 62

Nido’s parked in the aire in Cardaillac, another achingly pretty, medieval fortified village.  After a cloudy and chilly day, the sun appeared at about 1700 and it feels warm, although as the sun is starting to lower I can feel the coolness coming up from the stream running behind us.

Cathy’s been unwell for a couple of days.  A few nights ago she was bitten or stung by an insect whilst asleep. It got her right at the space between the top of her nose and her left eye.  She had an allergic reaction to this so, as well as the swelling, has had a very painful jaw and teeth and a constant headache.  She also had dizzy spells a few hours.  Anti-histamines and pain killers haven’t helped much, so she’s spent much of the last couple of days sleeping.  She did come out for our walk yesterday, but her face was too sore to wear glasses so she said she didn’t see much!  So today has been a day of rest with as little driving as possible, hence why I picked this spot in a sleepy village.

The bread van came to the aire this morning, so I was able to have some baguette and seville marmalade for breakfast; I bought a couple of croissants for Cathy but she slept through and wasn’t feeling up to eating or drinking anything.  We needed some groceries, so I drove to the Leclerc Hypermarket in Figeac.  I left C sleeping in the van.  I enjoy walking around foreign supermarkets, so took my time - I had a long list.  Cathy had asked for some soup and I also bought some iced lemon tea, to try and get some fluids back into her.  Unusually, I took a trolley around; I normally just get a basket with wheels. So I didn’t bother packing the groceries, just putting them back in the trolley and wheeling it to the van to unload by the side door.  With all put away I dialled in the co-ordinates for Cardaillac, just 13km away.

There was one van here when we arrived and it was thankfully quiet; several vans are now here for the evening.  I had some lunch while Cathy slept then when she woke up she was ready for her soup and some iced tea, then back to bed and sleep for her.  I took a walk around the village. It’s another lovely Beau Village, with lots of narrow cobbled alleys and half-timbered houses leading off the main street.  At the opposite end to the aire were the remaining medieval fortifications, mainly towers and gatehouses.  I wandered around for a bit, taking in the peace and quiet.  There’s an antiques (aka bric-a-brac!) shop on the mains street, as well as a restaurant and a shop/tabac.  There was also a boulangerie but I’m not sure if it’s still operating - it looked like the door and curtains had been closed for some time.  Many of the houses have retained their historical character. Some have been partly modernised, adding an extension or replacing a gable end with full glass windows.  I think this only adds to their beauty and it least people are investing in the village and living here; so many just fall into ruin as the last of the old inhabitants die out. Back at the van I had a brew and sat on the step in the sunshine, reading. A village dog wandered over and I gave him one of the treats we keep in the van. After that he escorted me to and from the bins and sat with me by the van step while I scratched behind his ears!  Cathy woke up later and sat in the cab for a brew - she’s now back in bed.  I hope she feels better tomorrow - she doesn’t do ill so if she’s suffering it must be quite bad.  So tonight will be another quiet one.  But it’s a pleasant place to stop over, with lots of birdsong.  There’s a couple of churches in the village. The one at the other end chimes the time but at about 1700 the one by us suddenly went crazy on the bells - really made me jump!  I think a couple of people were perhaps hanging off them!  It went on for about 10 minutes, then stopped and all’s been quiet since then.  There’s been a few lawnmowers and streamers going, but that’s normal this time of the year, although we do notice it more in the van.

Tomorrow, depending on how C’s feeling, we may drive over to visit Rocamadour, a town built on a cliff.  In any case, I’ll try to find us somewhere quiet in the countryside to stay over.

Cardaillac aire