Pagham Harbour, West Sussex, Sunday 17th May 2015

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Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour

As we have now sold our Elddis Motorhome and won’t be going away again until early July, missing out on our May half term holiday, and taking advantage of the glorious sunshine, we thought we would just drive to this beautiful natural wildlife sanctuary, which is only a few minutes from our house.

The bird watching hut at harbour entrance

The thatched bird watching hut at harbour entrance

Looking towards the village and church

Looking towards the village and church

We used to come here often when we first moved to Bognor Regis on our long Sunday walks with our son followed by a drink in a local pub, a habit that, sadly, we have neglected of late, sometimes due to the awful weather but also to the always rising beer prices. But the sun was out with a vengeance today, first time this month, and I just couldn’t wait to get out there and soak up all those important sun rays and enjoy a stroll in this very special local jewel.

A natural pool for wildlife

A natural pool for wildlife

It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen this natural harbour, it always looks marvellous at any time of year, not just because of the gorgeous landscape of the wetlands but because of the wading birds that live here or come to visit at different times of year, like little egrets, herons and ringed plovers. It really is a treat for bird watchers and walkers alike and we are very privileged to live so near such a special place.

A heron in the bushes!

A heron in the bushes!

A swan and a heron in flight crossing right in the middle of the picture

A swan feeding and a heron in flight crossing right in the middle of the picture

Another swan leading the cows to the water!

Another swan leading the cows to the water!

I really believe the cows were following the swan

I really believe the cows were following the swan

The site is now managed by the RSPB and more information about location and special events can be found here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/p/paghamharbour/about.aspx

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A beautiful field full of buttercups and Pagham village in background

A beautiful field full of buttercups and Pagham village in background

Plant life is also stunning here

Plant life is also stunning here

Escalles, Pas de Calais, 15th April 2015

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The beautiful walk up the hill from Escalles

The beautiful walk up the hill from Escalles

After our pleasant stay at Veigné, we went straight to Pont-de-l’Arche for our appointment with the vet on Tuesday to get Beano ready for our return to England, but again, things didn’t quite go according to plan. I duly turned up for my morning appointment, but while I was waiting, the receptionist received a call and, judging by what she was saying to the person on the other side of the phone, I knew it was bad news for me. Indeed, when she got off the phone, she very apologetically explained to me that the vet on duty had been held up with an emergency at their other surgery and she wouldn’t be able to see me at the appointed time but that I could return at 5 pm if I wanted. I knew immediately that that time wouldn’t work for us and I replied I would check with my husband back at the motorhome aire and I would ring back confirming or cancelling the appointment. Back at the aire, Adonis wouldn’t even consider this new arrangement even for one moment, so I phoned back as promised and explained we had to go.

A quick search on the internet informed us of a vet in Neufchâtel-en-Bray (2 Boulevard Industriel) and I phoned hoping to get an appointment for that day, which we did at 4pm, but at least we were that bit further up north and well within the time limit of 24 hours after the vet’s check-up and worming tablet for Beano to be allowed back in the UK on Thursday morning. We were delighted with their efficient and helpful service and even more delighted when I actually went there and found that the vet could speak perfect English, which always helps, even though I can manage quite well in French. So we have now made a note of this newly discovered vet surgery and might make it a regular thing.

Whilst in Neufchâtel-en-Bray, we stayed at the new and wonderful motorhome aire by the camping Sainte Claire which we discovered last year. This aire is gated and costs 12 for 24 hours, payable on departure, and includes water, electric hook-up and the best recycling facilities I have seen anywhere so far in our travels. It is also very close to Leclerc hypermarket and other retailers, so it’s very handy for shopping, as well as within walking distance of the town and the vet. It was a very hot day and we made the most of the sun enjoying our meals and drinks outdoors, both in the sun and shade (when the sun proved too hot) and wished we could have stayed there another day.

I had to laugh when we were ready to leave the aire at Neufchâtel-en-Bray and I went to the payment machine only to find that it was out of order and I had to phone the guard, who came after a couple of minutes on his bike to collect cash from me and open the gate manually, so that was very efficient too.

From Neufchâtel-en-Bray, we carried on to Auchan in Boulogne-sur-Mer for our usual big shop to stock up on enough wine, beer and cheese to see us for a few weeks until we return and we were happy to see that Junction 31 was open again, al least on the northbound side of the motorway.

The magnificent view from Mont Hubert over Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez and Wissant

The magnificent view from Mont Hubert over Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez and Wissant

Our final stop of the holiday was to be at Escalles, where we stayed for the day and night at the big car and coach park, at the foot of Mont d’Hubert, which is popular during the day for walkers who wish to enjoy the magnificent views of Cap Blanc Nez from the top of the cliff. It is not an official aire as such and not many motorhomes stop for the night, but we have done a few times now and we have been allowed to stay, so until an official guard tells us otherwise, we shall carry on stopping there, as it is more pleasant than the one at Wissant, which has got too overcrowded in the last couple of years.

The car and coach park at the bottom of Mond d'Huber at Escalles

The car and coach park at the bottom of Mond d’Huber at Escalles

Before our 'last supper' in France at Escalles with Dover, UK, in the background

Before our ‘last supper’ in France at Escalles with Dover, UK, in the background

We treated ourselves to a wonderful meal at L’Escale Hotel and Restaurant, just down the road from the car park and, although initially we were told they were full, while we were having a drink at the bar, the barman came back to say they had now a free table if we still wanted it, which of course we did. We both ordered from the set menus, which work out very economical, starting from 16.50 for 3 courses, and thoroughly enjoyed our ‘last supper’ in France. A bientôt, ma cherie France!

Veigné, Indre et Loire, Sunday 12th April 2015

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Roullet-St-Estephe to Veigne 027

Well, we didn’t make it all the way to Marboué, not even Villedômer, due to a late start, so we stopped for the day at Veigné, just south of Tours, after following the N10 to Poitiers and the A10 to junction 25 by Ste Maure de Touraine, where we tried the motorhome aire there, but that proved unsuitable for us as it was too crammed and not very attractive. So, after a quick look at the Vicarious All the Aires in France guide, we saw we weren’t too far from the lovely town of Veigné, on the river Indre, which is on a much more attractive setting, even if there is only room for a couple of motorhomes. Still, we were lucky and were the only ones there, so the small size didn’t matter. The aire is just by the campsite and community park with a swimming pool, but this was shut being so early in the spring.

The small motorhome aire at Veigné

The small motorhome aire at Veigné

We arrived there early enough for a beer before lunch and then we went for a walk through the town and along the river by the old watermill and Music school, which is used for various cultural activities and, being a hot Sunday afternoon, it was nice to see so many people enjoying some quality time with their families playing petanque or just having a picnic. I particularly enjoyed the beautiful flower displays in town, especially the tulips, which looked fantastic in the sun and heralded the hot summer days ahead.

Enjoying a walk along the river Indre and into town

Enjoying a walk along the river Indre, the watermill and Music school

Loving the flower displays

Loving the flower displays

Beautiful tulip displays in town

Beautiful tulip displays in town

My attempt at an artistic picture

My attempt at an artistic picture

We found this to be a very charming place in which to spend a day and no doubt we’ll come here again and with a bit of luck, the swimming pool might be open next time.

The setting of the motorhome aire and community park

The setting of the motorhome aire, community park and campsite

Empty swimming pool with our motorhome in background

Swimming pool with our motorhome in background

Roullet-St-Estèphe, Charente, Saturday 11th April 2015

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Roullet-St-Estèphe from motorhome aire

Roullet-St-Estèphe from motorhome aire

We had such a wonderful and relaxing time at Camping Lac de l’Uby, in the Gers Department in the Midi Pyrénées region, that I even forgot to write in my diary!

We arrived one day earlier than arranged, so they gave us a temporary pitch for the day before we could set up at the pitch we’d booked, 134, which is just perfect for access to the lake for fishing and proximity to shower block and washing facilities.

Our pitch at Camping Lac d'Uby

Our pitch at Camping Lac d’Uby

There we met up with some of the people we met last year, who seem to go there every year for the heart treatments at Barbotan-les-Thermes, just down the road. I was delighted to see Dany and her husband again and we even spent a couple of hours crocheting together, as she was quite keen to learn how to crochet with wire and beads, and we made a necklace together, which was also great to improve my conversational French.

Adonis bringing in one of his many catches!

Adonis bringing in one of his many catches!

Adonis was extremely successful with his fishing, catching an amazing total of 11 carp, ranging from 8 to 14kg, and he really was the star of the show, with some of the other campers coming to see and photograph what he’d caught.

Fellow campers coming to admire Adonis's catch

Fellow campers coming to admire Adonis’s catch

And another carp

And another carp

A nice looking fish and fisherman!

A nice looking fish and fisherman!

I had my usual Spa treatment at Barbotan, this time the Soin Sérénité, which included a full body massage, a kaolin bath, a hydromassage bath and access to the steam room and jacuzzi: just heavenly!

Barbotan-les-Thermes Spa Hotel and gardens

Barbotan-les-Thermes Spa Hotel and gardens

Barbotan-les-Thermes

Barbotan-les-Thermes

We were having such a fantastic time in the sun and warmth that we booked 2 extra nights and only left this morning and we have decided that next year we’ll book for 2 weeks and drive there straight from Calais. It was really hot at times, needing sunblock and hats and swimwear, and we had the most amazing and idyllic sunsets right in front of us.

Idyllic sunset at Lac de l'Uby

Idyllic sunset at Lac de l’Uby

We did a small shop this morning at Supermarché at Cazaubon before joining the motorways A65 at Roquefort and A62 at Langon towards Bordeaux and A10/N10 to Angoulême.

This motorhome aire at Roullet-St-Estèphe is just about 5 miles south west of Angoulême, it has enough space for about 20 vehicles and is surrounded by green fields and only 5 minutes walk to the village. It’s free, it has a water tap and emptying facilities and a few picnic tables. There is also a lovely dog walk and a YPO motorhome and accessories centre and shop.

Roullet-St-Estèphe motorhome aire, surrounded by lovely fields

Roullet-St-Estèphe motorhome aire, surrounded by lovely fields

Tomorrow, we are hoping to make it as far north as Marboué, just north of Châteaudun, and then Pont de l’Arche for Monday to take Beano to the vet on Tuesday morning, but if Marboué proves too ambitious, we might cut the journey short and stop at Villedômer, just south of Château-Renault.

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 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)