22 Nov 2017

Intrepid For 10 Minutes rides again (this time in comfort)

With the Land cruiser still in South America and us spending more time in Europe we bought a hi roof, long wheelbase Renault Traffic and have had it converted to a camper and after 2 short trips in the UK we crossed from Dover to Calais on 6th September and headed south.

Our first target was to catch up with Paul who was cycling the length of France (from St Malo to Sete), had circumstances been different I would have been cycling with him, but fitness dictated that this was not possible. We caught up with him in the Dordogne and because the forecast was so bad for the next few days he reluctantly accepted a ride with us down to the Carmargue. Where, although the weather was good the wind was horrendous and my plan to cycle with him failed after about 8 miles and I just let the wind blow me back to where I started (even Chris was struggling on her electric bike!). Paul did manage to cycle on to Sete and we followed on in the van.

After Paul flew home we crossed into Spain and then headed East for Portugal. We had intended to cross the Pyrenees, but again the forecast was for heavy rain for the following few days so we took the good weather route.

By the time we crossed into Portugal a cold that had started in France had turned into Bronchitis and having had this before I knew that it would not go away without antibiotics. I discussed the options with the camp site owners at Lamego and took their advice to go to the local hospital and a couple of hours later, after blood tests, chest xray and 45 minutes on oxygen (not sure what that was about, maybe they thought I had Pneumonia) I left with the appropriate prescription, and I must say the service was excellent!

After a week recovering we carried on down the Douro, then doubled back to the border and south, visiting many of the old castles along the border down to Evora. But then we heard that Chris's Mother had been taken into hospital. Although she was only in overnight our daughter Sarah went over for a couple of days and said she thought someone should be with her, so Chris took the decision to fly home. Unfortunately flights were in turmoil with loads of flights being cancelled, but we managed eventually to get a flight from Lisbon and our other daughter Jenna, picked her up from the airport.

I carried on as planned, spending a couple of days with friends near Seville and then on to our house in Spain to either put it on the market (as we are now travelling too much to go there) or look into long term rental.

After a coupe of weeks of painting internal walls and seeing friends I, in many ways reluctantly, headed slowly home (reluctantly as although late October the weather was still amazing), spending a day cycling on the Via Verde, another night with our friends near Seville and then back up through Spain and France to Calais. Finally leaving summer behind in northern Spain, spending a few days of autumn in France and arriving at Dover in the Winter!

First night, we line up with other motor homes by the beach at one of the many free Camping Car Aires.

We catch up with Paul in the Dordogne.

Paul tries to get all his ducks in a row.

Now in the Carmargue Paul sets off into the wind.

We find another free camping car stop in a car park 100m from the entrance to the old town of El Burgo de Osma between Zaragoza and Valladolid as we cross northern Spain

A few hundred metres from the camp site at Lamago we find this,

With amazing views over the town and surrounding area.
We drive past this at Sabugal and have to go back for a look.

Most castles are free to enter and some are in a really good state

This original Moor fortress at Monsanto is pretty much as the Crusaders left it after defeating the Moors, interesting because it was not really used for later conquests. Quite a walk to get to, through the old village of Monsanto, which was had also been fortified for later conquests.  
Pehna Garcia, just down the road from Monsanto, which does have a castle, but more interesting for the walk  from the castle over to the reservoir and down through the valley past the old mills.

A short cut through Spain we aimed for a camp site just outside Alcantara, this was closed so we camped at a car park by a reservoir (keeping a tree between us an the town down below.
With views down the valley of a Roman bridge, still in use today.

That night we camped under the castle at Marvao (at another free spot)

And had a walk round the castle before moving on in the morning

We stopped in Evora for 3 nights

and managed to catch this free classical guitar concert, where they played a number of famous Spanish and Portuguese pieces

Then we had a beer and watched the sun go down over the roof tops.

We then followed the Aqua duct which extends from near the centre (where at the end it is too low to walk under 

Getting bigger as it goes out of town

Until it reaches the car park where we were parked for the last night (we stayed in the camp site for 2 nights and cycled into town, but the bikes were a hindrance once we got to town, this location was easier as the entrance to the city is just across the road (and the car park is free so a bonus)

The old town & castle at Estremoz, our last stop before Chris flew back from Lisbon.
After dropping Chris at the airport I took a detour to Monsoraz, where I stopped on a cycling trip across Portugal about 15 years ago, a beautiful walled town

With a castle at one end
With fabulous views over the Lake
My last stop in Portugal was at Serpa, which I only stopped at because I put Moura into my camping car app instead of Mourao, when I found I was in the wrong place I carried on South to Serpa, which ended up as possibly the best stop in Portugal. I found a nice camp site right in the town with an excellent restaurant just opposite the site. Whilst having dinner I decided it was too late to catch that afternoons Grand Prix so watched the 6 minutes highlights on utube. The exact moment it finished a full race replay started on the TV! so I had to have a few glasses of port to watch the whole race.

Another town with an aqueduct

And yet another castle in the middle

Now in Spain and I find one of my favourite roads!
But not in the camper (I hasten to add) I joined some friends 'on safari' showing their Danish visitors round the area.
Ronda, from a different perspective to normal.
Serpa, where all of the house are built under the overhang (which are now virtually all restaurants as this is a real tourist trap)

The day ended with a short walk down a valley

into a cave.

With my bronchitis just about gone I manage 1 day cycling on the Via Verde on the way home. The Via Verde de la Siere is a railway across Andalusia commissioned by Franco, which has a vast number of tunnels and bridges but was abandoned before they laid any track and is now an excellent 36.5 mile cycle track

Although it is now 28th October the temperature is still in the 30's (and has been virtually since we entered Portugal)

Stopped over night at Caceres

A wonderful place for a wander

And stopped for a couple of hours at Salamanca

An impressive place that really does need more than a couple of hours

Getting a little cooler, but still a very pleasant 22 with blue skies
Half way through France, the nights are drawing in and its getting cooler

but I stopped early enough at Confolens (west of Limoges) for a quick ride, before heading back to the UK and Winter

2 Sept 2017

Home Again

We flew back to the UK on 1st June and since then we have been flat out with moving back into the house and sorting all of the issues associated with letting a house for 3 years (especially the garden), but given the income it has provided it has been worthwhile.

So apologies for the lateness of the final blog for this phase, especially as there is not an awful lot to report. The final week was a question of navigating by the weather forecast and whilst the skies were pretty grey with a fair amount of rain, we managed to avoid putting the roof tent up and down in the rain, but it was pretty cold in the evening, which required  thermals and down jackets to keep warm and resulted in the bottom room being added a couple of times.

The highlight of the last few days was the visit to the old Frey Bentos factory, where in its hay day they were slaughtering 2,000 cattle per day to make their corned beef and meat pies and oxo cubes.

Then back to Colonia where we decided to cross to BA a day early and booked an extra night in our  Air B&B.

Because we will now be spending a lot more of the year at home but the Land Cruiser will stay in South America for the forceible future we decided that another travelling vehicle was required and in February we bought Renault Traffic long wheel base, high roof van for conversion to a camper. This was supposed to happen whilst we were in South America, but various delays meant that it wasn't ready when we got back and was finally handed over 3 weeks later, 2 days before we moved back into our house!

It is not 4x4 and we sleep inside, so not as intrepid as the Land Cruiser, but just what we need for touring Europe. We have done a lot of touring round Europe over the years, but with a max of 3 weeks it was often a 1,000 mile dash to the area we wanted to visit and another 1,000 mile dash back at the end, so now we can go for a couple of months at a time and take it slowly.

Our first trip will be to Andalusia in Spain, starting in a few days, driving slowly down through France and round Portugal, the return trip will be a lot quicker as it will be cold in France at the end of October. Then 2 months at home before heading back to South America and hopefully this time Patagonia in January.

Overnight at a fuel station after a torrential downpour, but fortunately dry over night (and a nice hot shower in the morning)
The ubiquitous Frey Bentos tined pie, eaten by millions in the UK, but how many of them realised they were manufactured in Uruguay?

Many of the buildings are in a state of disrepair

But the offices have been left exactly as the last employees worked there

What they produced over the years

The famous OXO

An add from the First World War

Camped on the beach, it was quite sunny and warm here for much of the day, but cold in the evenings.

It is amazing what you find in a loo, this is the toilet bowl of a disused toilet with 6 pups crammed in!. There was a large bowl of dried dog food for mum and Chris cooked an extra portion of chicken and rice for her.

Intrepid for 10 minutes rides again! This time in comfort