Clérac, Charente Maritime, Friday 3rd April 2015

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The lovely motorhome aire by pond at Clerac

The lovely motorhome aire by pond at Clerac

It’s been a funny old week during which hardly anything has gone according to plan, in as much as we have a plan.

We set off last Saturday morning and caught an earlier Eurotunnel crossing than anticipated with the hope of getting to Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer early in the evening in order to to our weekly shopping, but alas, this is where things started going pear-shaped.

We were surprised to find exit 31 on the A16 closed without prior warning, so we had to carry on to the next available exit at J.29, where we saw a big Leclerc. Not being familiar with the layout of this hypermarket, our shop took a bit longer than expected and I was a bit disappointed at not finding a magazine section to get my ‘must-have’ Marie France to read during the next few days and, as things turned out later on in the week, I really missed.

A wet arrival at Le Portel

A wet arrival at Le Portel

With the shopping out of the way, we carried on to Le portel, as it was off the same J.29, to try the motorhome aire there, which we found very pleasing, even though it was dark and raining quite heavily when we arrived. We quickly got on with warming up our dinner for the night (paella from the delicatessen counter) and had an early night after a long day driving. This aire costs 5, payable at the entrance barrier).  Before leaving on Sunday morning, Adonis enjoyed a very windy walk with Beano on the dramatic seafront, perfect for wind turbines.

Early morning walk on seafront at Le Portel

Early morning walk on seafront at Le Portel

We spent Sunday at lovely Pont de l’Arche, still in the rain, but this cleared by the time I took Beano for his afternoon walk and, unusually, I didn’t come across anybody walking along or fishing by the river, even though it was Sunday. Something to do with the clocks going forward the night before or it being a wet day?

Only the ducks came to say hello today at Pont de l'Arche

Only the ducks came to say hello today at Pont de l’Arche

Our first proper destination for this Easter holiday was Etang Neuf at Neuilly-sur-Eure, where we arrived just after 11 am on Monday morning, but were unable to drive onto the pitch itself due to the wet grass. We first tried our bread crates to help us into position, but our efforts failed, so Adonis went off to get some help and came back with two very nice and friendly young men from the north of England and, with Adonis at the wheel, the crates under the tyres and the 3 of us pushing the van, we got nowhere fast, either forwards or backwards and only succeeded in making a muddy mess on the ground. The next move was to get Didier, the farmer, to tow us in with his 4×4, but this too ended up with the ground churning up below the van and not moving an inch.

Being towed by 4x4

Being towed by 4×4 at Etang Neuf

As a last resort, Didier set off on his 4×4 to fetch his tractor and a few minutes later we were finally into position on our pitch Number 4 hoping it wouldn’t rain and soften the ground even further for the next four days.

Being towed by tractor, this time successfully!

Being towed by tractor, this time successfully!

Luckily, Monday was a mixture of sun and clouds with no rain and we were optimistic enough to put the awning out with the wind-blockers on either side, but the wind picked up in the evening and seemed to turn into a gale-force storm during the night, to the point where the awning was flapping about so much that Adonis had to get up in the wee hours of the morning to put it all away again!!!

Enjoying a drink in the sun at Etang Neuf

Enjoying a drink in the sun at Etang Neuf

Tuesday was still a very windy day, with no chance of me sitting outside after mid morning coffee, to the extent I couldn’t even cycle to the village to get our daily baguette and, although Adonis kindly offered to go himself, he had a puncture on the way up and had to walk the rest of the way and back (about 4 miles altogether). Luckily, he bought a very big baguette that saw us through lunch for the next couple of days.

Lovely morning light on Wednesday morning at Etang Neuf

Lovely morning light on Wednesday morning at Etang Neuf

Etang Neuf from side nearest the farm house

Etang Neuf from side nearest the farm house

The weather didn’t improve much on Wednesday and I spent most of it inside the motorhome with no internet or 3G connection and NO Marie France magazine: I was really missing it by now… Well, at least I managed to work on my crochet and make a necklace and bracelet set and read my kindle and my brother’s book ‘Huyendo de Occidente’. The best thing that happened was Adonis catching 2 carp in one day. The first one was around 14lb and the second around 20lb, so at least we both got something out of our stay at the lake.

Adonis's first catch

Adonis’s first catch

Adonis's second catch

Adonis’s second catch

As we were feeling a bit dead in the water, we decided to cut our stay short and left a day early on Thursday and once more we had to be pulled away by tractor after packing our very muddy belongings.

Yesterday morning, we bit the bullet and payed for the motorway tolls on A28 from Le Mans to Tours and A10 to south of Poitiers at J.30 for Château Larcher, driving for over 4 hours and skipping lunch, with a quick stop at Super U at Vivonne. We love the motorhome aire at Château Larcher and the walk around the pond and it already felt much warmer with neither wind nor rain. It finally began to feel like the holiday had started at last and my spirits lifted immediately. The local guard came to collect the 5 fee in the evening, a small price to pay for such a charming aire with free water, electricity and very good recycling facilities.

This morning, we left Château Larcher at about 9.30 am and joined the motorway again at Vivonne to head south of Angoulême, where we did another big shop at Auchan at La Couronne and bought 2 spare inner tubes for my bike – just to be sure – as I’ll definitely need it to cycle into Barbotan-les-Thermes from the campsite at Lac de l’Uby, our next big destination.

We wanted to try the motorhome aire at Montlieu-la-Garde, just off the N10, but it was shut, so we’ve come here instead and very nice it is too. This aire at Clérac (N45° 10.745′ W000° 13.693′) is lovely and quiet, with a pleasant walk around pond and beyond for Beano and it’s free, very well maintained and with a very large and clean toilet to boot!

Our quiet spot at Clerac motorhome aire

Our quiet spot at Clerac motorhome aire

Barbotan-les-Thermes tomorrow: Oh Yeah!

Geese Migration, Climping Beach, West Sussex, Sunday 22nd February 2015

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A magnificent sight!

A magnificent sight!

Continuing with our relaxing walks on a Sunday morning on this gorgeous West Sussex coastline, we were lucky enough to witness the most amazing geese migration, which, to our delight, came in wave after wave completely by surprise and flew right over our heads!

Here are a few shots of the beach near Littlehampton and the mesmerising geese.

The forerunners (or should I say forefliers?

The forerunners (or should I say forefliers?

Closer!

Closer!

And closer!

And closer!

Going...

Another wave!

Going...

Going…

No, wait!  Another wave!

No, wait! Another wave!

Saying Hello!

Saying Hello!

And stopping for a much needed rest

And stopping for a much needed rest

And the sleepy beach groins witness are quiet witness to this beautiful sight

And the sleepy beach groins are quiet witnesses to this beautiful sight

Let's go back along this peaceful shore

Let’s go back along this peaceful shore

 

Carnival in La Coruña, 15th and 16th February 2015

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Original street lights in the neighbourhood of Montealto

Original street lights in the neighbourhood of Montealto

As my visit to La Coruña coincided with the Carnival celebrations, my good brother Fernando and his charismatic girlfriend, Sonia, took me under their wing and drove me all around town and surroundings, as the weather was rather windy and often wet, to show me the sights and soak up the atmosphere.

Playa de Santa Cristina, a bit wet and misty today

Playa de Santa Cristina, a bit wet and misty today

They also took me to a beach just out of town where our parents used to take us when we were children, for which purpose we used to take a boat from the Marina and this was always one of our summer holiday treats. We were always so excited to get on that boat and sail to La Playa de Santa Cristina!  But today, Fernando drove us there.

Promenade along the beach of Santa Cristina

Promenade along the beach of Santa Cristina

So this was our first stop on Sunday morning, where we managed to get a few shots, including the ‘Angulo Fernando’ as you can see in this picture.

Angulo Fernando

Angulo Fernando

Effective, isn’t it? This angle is great to include tall buildings and features in photos which otherwise wouldn’t have been complete if using the camera in either landscape or portrait mode. I love this angle and I will be sure to use it in future.

This is my shot of same spot with Fernando and Sonia before being told about the 'angulo Fernando'

This is my shot of same spot with Fernando and Sonia before being told about the ‘angulo Fernando’

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At Santa Cristina, we had a drink at the lovely seafront bar of La vinícola and then we headed back for our walk along the Paseo Marítimo and a quick visit to La Torre de Hércules just to give me a chance to photograph it for my blog (published last week).

Locals braving the elements for the town folk's enjoyment.

Locals braving the elements for the town folk’s enjoyment.

Even young kids joined in the evening celebrations and were happy to pose for my blog!

Even young kids joined in the evening celebrations and were happy to pose for my blog!

After another drink and lunch at their flat, we parted our ways until Monday evening, when people dressed in Carnival fancy dress were expected to ‘patrol’ the old part of town, and we weren’t disappointed, as lots of fun-loving locals had made the effort to dress up and face the rain and the wind for everyone else’s enjoyment.

More cheerful Carnival illuminations

More cheerful Carnival illuminations

We finished our most enjoyable evening at the Mardi Gras Club (very aptly named for the occasion), where we were lucky enough to watch and listen to the excellent band Los Claretes perform for about 90 minutes. They do covers of old Pop and Rock & Roll anthems, both foreign and Spanish, and we all had a wonderful time and a chance to let our hair down, boogying and singing along.

Band Clarete performing at the Mardi Gras Club

Excellent band Los Claretes performing at the Mardi Gras Club

Punters having fun!

Punters having fun at the Mardi Gras club

Sonia and Fernando joining in the fun

Sonia and Fernando joining in the fun

When the club shut, I said my sad goodbyes and headed back to my niece’s flat walking along the seafront and trying to capture the charming look of the town with all the lights on, as well as the light from La Torre de Hércules lighthouse. Here are the results: think Impressionism if you wish…

Playa del Orzan at night, looking towards Playa de Riazor

Playa del Orzan at night, looking towards Playa de Riazor

Sand barrier to protect promenade, looking towards La Torre de Hercules

Sand barrier to protect promenade, looking towards La Torre de Hercules (you can just about see its light)

La Coruña, Galicia, Spain, 14th-17th February 2015

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La Torre de Hércules and Statue of Breogán, a Celtic King

La Torre de Hércules, Roman lighthouse, and Statue of Breogán, a Celtic King

When I talk about home in Spain, I am referring to La Coruña. This is the place where I grew up from the age of 5 to 18, where I went to school and college, where I met and played with my childhood friends, where I celebrated my successes and cried about my failures, where I first fell in love and where I decided I was going to travel the world on the long afternoons walking along the beach and around La Torre de Hércules – the oldest lighthouse in the world dating back to Roman times and a UNESCO World Heritage site – looking out at sea, always wondering what there would be beyond the horizon, fostering my thirst to learn languages and, in short, made me who I am.

La Playa de Riazor, looking towards La Torre de Hércules

La Playa de Riazor, looking towards La Torre de Hércules

It has occurred to me that, with all our motorhome travels, we have only been once to La Coruña, back in the summer of 2010, as it is a very long journey from England, and I felt I was getting homesick again (a feeling best expressed in gallego by the term of ‘morriña’, often shared by the many emigrants who over the years felt obliged to leave this stunning region of Galicia in the north west of Spain in search of work, meaning a longing to come back).

Playa del Orzán, looking towards the Millenium Obelisk

Playa del Orzán, looking towards the Millenium Obelisk – Bring me that horizon!

So today, I would like to pay my little humble homage to this attractive and inviting seafaring town, with so much to offer, both to the locals and visitors and where most of my family still live.

Plaza de Portugal near the Deportivo Football Club and Playa de Riazor

Plaza de Portugal near the Deportivo Football Club and Playa de Riazor

I was lucky enough to stay with my beautiful niece, Susana, her husband and daughter in their flat very close to La Playa de Riazor, the beach we frequented as children during the long summer holidays and where I kept gazing out at sea knowing that one day I would follow that horizon.  They live in a prime spot, perfect to begin my walk along the beach towards the old part of town or Ciudad Vieja.

Walking along from Riazor to Orzán beach

Walking along from Riazor to Orzán beach

It was Susana who was kind enough to organize a session of ‘chocolate con churros’ (thick hot chocolate sauce served with a crispy doughnut-like pastry but in cut in strips) in a ‘churreria’ in the neighbourhood with all my brothers and sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces and in-laws. I had a fabulous time and I felt very humbled and honoured about so many of them coming to see me: it really felt like a fiesta. If you have never had chocolate con churros on your visits to Spain, I urge to have it next time you’re there: you’re bound to fall in love with it and, even more than Paella or Sangria, is a very integrate part of the Spanish culture, loved by all, young and all, and usually to be had in the late afternoons, say 5pm onwards.

My big family, gathered for chocolate con churros to greet me

My big family, gathered for chocolate con churros to greet me

I am also taking this opportunity to introduce my family to you, as those of you who have been following my blog for a while and regularly commented on my posts, I have come to think of as friends and it seems to me that this blog is no longer solidly about my travels, but about you as well.

Chocolate con churros

Chocolate con churros

My wonderful family

My wonderful family

I leave you with some shots around the town.  I hope you like it and will inspire you to visit soon.  Enjoy!

The Octupus on the Paseo Maritimo, a new and populat addition to the town

The Octopus on the Paseo Maritimo, a new and popular addition to the town – octopus is one of the popular local dishes and simply delicious

The Millenium obelisk and Tower of Hercules in the background

The Millennium Obelisk on the Paseo Maritimo and Tower of Hercules in the background

The Millennium Obelisk, facing La Torre de Hercules

The Millennium Obelisk, facing La Torre de Hercules

The Bubble Lift on the Paseo Maritimo to El Mirador or viewpoint

The Bubble Lift on the Paseo Maritimo to El Mirador or viewpoint

La Torre the Hercules, the town's symbol and a UNESCO World Heritage site

La Torre the Hercules, Roman lighthouse, the town’s symbol and a UNESCO World Heritage site

typicla houses in El Casco Viejo or old town

typicla houses in La Ciudad Vieja or old town

This reminded me of France

This attractive house reminded me of France

Typical houses in the old part of town

Typical houses in the old part of town – La Ciudad Vieja

La Calle de los Vinos (Wine Street) where everything happens.  Excellent seafood too!

La Calle de los Vinos (Wine Street) where everything happens. Excellent seafood too!

Entering the Main town square or Plaza de Maria Pita

Entering the Main town square or Plaza de Maria Pita – Notice the sign for Meson del Pulpo or Octopus House

La Plaza de Maria Pita (a local heroine who helped fight the English in 1589

La Plaza de Maria Pita (a local heroine who helped fight the English in 1589) and Town Hall

Statue of Maria Pita, local heroine who defended the town against the English invasion in 1589

Statue of Maria Pita, local heroine who defended the town against the English invasion in 1589

Fine restaurants and bars are to be found under the archers in La Plaza de Maria Pita

Fine restaurants and bars are to be found under the archers in La Plaza de Maria Pita

la Ciudad de Cristal (Crystal City) facing the main Port

la Ciudad de Cristal (Crystal City) facing the main Port

La Ciudad the Cristal (Crystal City) opposite the Port

La Ciudad the Cristal (Crystal City) opposite the Port, undergoing renovation at the moment

More archers holding bars and restaurants under Crystal City

More archers holding bars and restaurants under Crystal City

Dell Quay and Chichester Marina, West Sussex, 1st February 2015

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Chichester Marina

Chichester Marina

We won’t be travelling in our motorhome until the Easter holidays, so we thought we’d take advantage of the dry weekends we’ve been having here in the south of England and enjoy the beauty of our surrounding area. Then I thought I could share this most charming of natural harbours with you all, just in case you feel like paying us a visit.

A grey Dell Quay to begin our Sunday walk and the tide was out!

A grey but serene Dell Quay to begin our Sunday walk and the tide was out!

Looking back to Dell Quay pier and pub

Dell Quay 

Waiting for the tide to come in

Waiting for the tide to come in

Further on our walk and you can see Chichester Catheral in the backgroudn through branches

Further on our walk and you can see Chichester Catheral in the background through the branches

Last week, we ended our long walk around Dell Quay at the marvellous Crown and Anchor pub, which is typical of this area, where we had a refreshing couple of pints of real ale. We liked it so much that we booked a table for lunch today, as pub was heaving with customers and by the time we left there were no tables available. I am very happy to report that we were absolutely delighted with the service and the food (local Sea Bass and Plaice served with mushy peas, thick-cut chips and Tartare Sauce) and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Must do this type of thing more often…

Enjoy the photos and thank you for reading!

But today was a much brighter day!

But today was a much brighter day!

But today was a much brighter day!

And the local birds were enjoying it too as we spied from the hide

A large flock of geese

A large flock of geese

And a family of swans

And a family of swans

A welcome sign after a long and thirsty walk

A welcome sign after a long and thirsty walk

And we were ready for lunch

And we were ready for lunch

The patio

The patio

And the beer garden right on the quay!

And the beer garden right on the quay!

Wissant Beach, Pas de Calais, Friday 2nd January 2015

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Glorious Wissant Beach, even in early January

Glorious Wissant Beach, even in early January

What better way to spend our last day in France before returning to England than taking a gentle stroll on this magnificent beach? Not much to say, except I hope you enjoy the vast expanse of sand and sea and the glorious light of winter in Pas de Calais. In some of the pictures, you can see England in the background.

Can you see Dover, England, in the horizon?

Can you see Dover, England, in the horizon?

Ferries heading for England.

Ferry heading for England

Plenty of walkers enjoying the beach in the new year

Plenty of walkers and kite fliers enjoying the beach in the new year

Bring me that horizon!

Bring me that horizon!

Kart surfers too!

Kart surfers too!

Heading towards to setting sun

Heading towards to setting sun

Adonis and Beano on our last walk of the winter holiday

Adonis and Beano on our last walk of the winter holiday

A sight for sore eyes

A sight for sore eyes

The recent breakwaters installed on Wissant Beach in a stunning sunset

The recent breakwaters installed on Wissant Beach in a stunning sunset

Breakwaters from the promenade

Breakwaters from the promenade

Another pretty sight in the town of Wissant

Another pretty sight in the town of Wissant

Quend-Plage-les Pins, Thursday, 1st January 2015

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Sand dunes on Quend-Plage-les Pins

Sand dunes on Quend-Plage-les Pins

On this first day of the new year, we find ourselves back at the motorhome aire at Quend-Plage-les Pins, as when we came here last Saturday, the weather was rather atrocious and we didn’t get to enjoy a long walk on the beach as we had intended. So, after 4 very cold days at Broglie and La Suze-sur-Sarthe, we thought we would like to give it another go and we haven’t been disappointed.

The stunning setting sun at Quend-Plage-les Pins

The stunning setting sun at Quend-Plage-les Pins

We’ve just come back from said second attempt and it was just absolutely lovely, with a beautiful sky lit by a stunning setting sun and the tide completely out, which gave us masses of sandy beach to stroll on and for Beano to enjoy some proper ball-chasing time. It is obviously a very popular area for walkers, judging by the number of people joining us, even on this cold, winter day.

Belle Dune Eco Village

Belle Dune Eco Village

On the way down, we walked through what looks like a brand new Eco Village by the motorhome aire, and very charming it looks too, but I have the feeling that it is more a holiday complex rather than permanent homes, as most of the houses looked quite small. Still, it is very pretty indeed.

Closer

Closer

So we went back to Broglie yesterday after our two-day stay at La Suze-sur-Sarthe, which turned out to be free after all, as nobody came to collect fees and the paying machine was out of order. At Broglie, we took Beano for his pet-passport check and worming tablet, which made him very sick, and spent another very pleasant afternoon at the aire and walking along the Charentonne river to the water mill and beyond.

Christmas Break 2014 029

This morning, we got talking to a couple of ladies parked next to us on their 8-week break heading for Almería in south east Spain, as their 2 leisure batteries had packed up and their van wouldn’t start, so Adonis helped with a jump-start so that they could go merrily on their way to warmer climates. It just made us feel very grateful for our Elddis Autostratus serving us so well and not letting us down in the freezing cold. Our heating has worked very well, both on gas and electric, and it only takes a few minutes first thing in the morning to warm it up enough for me to get out of bed.

A very cold morning at Broglie's motorhome aire

Broglie’s motorhome aire

This is it for now. We’ll do our shop in Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer tomorrow and then we’ll spend the rest of the day at Wissant, where we hope to go for another long walk on the gorgeous beach.

The start of a stunning sunset at Quen-Plage-les Pins, seen from the motorhome aire

The start of a stunning sunset at Quen-Plage-les Pins, seen from the motorhome aire

Take 2

Take 2

Take 3: fire in the sky!

Take 3: fire in the sky!

We’ll be on the road again at Easter and we hope it’ll be much warmer then.