Setting off on a slightly overcast Sunday morning, having said our farewells to family, we headed north west to Wiltshire and Royal Wootton Bassett. We had found a Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) Certified Location (CL) at a Fishery. Flaxlands Fishery is a short walk to the main town and the CL is located at the top of the site, with spectacular sunsets, but it’s not very dog friendly. There is a dog walk which is along the side of the M4 (it is fenced from the road, but I always worry there might be a gap and a return walk inside a conifer corridor. The back of the CL leads to a footpath, which given the time of year was through haylage awaiting harvesting – Reg loves running in the long grasses, not to good for his new found hay fever but.. As the next footpath was unwalkable in shorts (nettles and brambles adorned the stile) we could only walk a straight walk out and return the same route, according to the fishery map, dogs are not allowed to walk through the fishery even on the roadway! so a round trip was not possible walking along the road.
We did venture into the Abbey, however! It was a very hot day, and for the first time in all our visits to Tewkesbury, the doors were open, so we were just going to have a sneaky peak, but it’s dog friendly – dogs are welcome INSIDE! A great relief from the rising humidity and heat outside. Tewkesbury Abbey in parts dates back to the 12th Century, and was built to house Benedictine Monks. The build was started in 1102 and it was almost complete when it was consecrated in 1121. As always, Ric is fascinated by engineering and found two Gurney Stoves, made by the London Warming and Ventilation Company in the 19th Century, to provide heat by burning anthracite, and have now been converted to gas. https://www.tewkesburyabbey.org.uk/visiting-the-abbey/
Our next stop, and we’re still not in Wales, was the World’s First Book Town, Hay-on-Wye. Home to over 20 bookshops and a castle. We had a wonder around the town, walking up the little roads and twitterns. We ventured up into the castle – again dog friendly – and home to the oldest set of working defensive doors still in situ in the UK, having been first installed in the 13th century. We walked along the river walk as well as through some of the fantastic countryside. There is even another gold post box (our second one found), for Jody Pearson, a paralympian discus thrower.
Our stop for the night was a lovely CAMC CL – Dark Orchard. It is off grid, but in a large secure field about a 5 minute walk from the town centre and so peaceful, with a stream running along the edge. The owners Linda and Chris are so welcoming as is the official welcome you will receive from Linda’s father, Pete the Greet. This is on our list to return to (especially as we have had a whole list of more things to do and see)! https://www.no10dulas.co.uk/dark_orchard_cl/
Leaving Hay-on-Wye, we crossed the River Wye and into Wales! It was only a short drive to our next stop and a short detour to Brecon first. Each time we have arrived at Brecon, we have been drenched and this trip was no different. Stepping out of the motorhome and taking two steps, prompted the biggest downpour yet! Having stocked up with food and essentials, we headed to our next stop, Aberbran CMC Site. A short drive from the A40 and alongside the edge of an old railway line, unfortunately the old railway is not a walkway, like Slinfold CMC, but we did manges to find a walk through the countryside. https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/club-sites/wales/powys/aberbran-club-campsite/ The weather has yet to improve, although the rain has abated, the wind has picked up, gusting up to 30+ MPH, the awning was safely stowed early in the morning, having read it is only tested up to 20MPH!
As always, thank you for reading and we hope you and your families are safe and well. We’ll be continuing Our Tour of Wales, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep you updated as we go!
When we returned from Europe, we knew we had a few things to sort out. Arriving back at Gatwick Caravan Club Site, we made arrangements for Reg’s annual vaccinations, and more importantly the Motorhome needs it’s first MOT! We’ve been on the road for nearly three years – how time flies. So far, we’ve travelled to so many places in England and the UK as well as in Europe, survived the COVID lockdowns in our first and second year and have slowly but surely become more efficient in the way we do things – a shower for example when we’re in the motorhome is far quicker than one in an unmetered campsite (luxury), we have adapted more and more to being off-grid, although power is lovely, it’s not essential.
Next, we arranged to have the brake discs and rear tyres changed – in our last post you’ll remember the issues we had with the brakes, well it’s all sorted now! We haven’t yet had to change the rear tyres but after 43000 miles, they were beginning to show signs of wear and while still legal, we didn’t want a recommendation on the MOT advice note. We were also able to get the part for the chassis, we’d been waiting so long for, you might remember from a post, last year, we were waiting for the part to materialise from Italy, but it never did, this year though we only had to wait ten days, luckily we have a very good friend who is a mechanic and can sort all our little issues (except a post COVID Italy delay)!
While we waited for all these to be completed, we’ve stayed at a number of local sites – some we’ve been to before, some very new to us, but now very familiar:
Gatwick Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Goffsland Farm Caravan and Motorhome Club Site Certified Location;
Slinfold Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Slindon Camping and Caravanning Club Site; and
Brighton Caravan and Motorhome Club Site.
Gatwick CMC Site, is very close to the runway – if you don’t sleep well, we wouldn’t advise it, but it’s handy for us to get a curry from our absolutely favourite Curry House – you have to order via Just Eat but…. Ric has been eating from this handy takeaway for over 40 years and me for nearly 20. Thank you The Raj Tandoori http://www.rajtandooricrawley.co.uk/. It is also close to our Vet, mechanic and family
Goffsland Farm CL – an absolute gem of a CL, with a shower and toilet along with a washing machine! Located between Southwater and Shipley, we found it by accident and have been back twice in the month! It’s a Cattle Farm, primarily and also sells fresh produce – home reared lamb burgers, pork sausages and eggs as well as jam, honey and cheese sourced locally. There are footpaths all around so Reg was kept out of mischief!
Slinfold Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, one of our go to favourites, no shower block, but electricity, a local village within walking distance, the Downs Link cycle and footpath, numerous footpaths and a laid back atmosphere – we do have to call ahead as we are quite long – the site has an 8 metre maximum length and not all the pitches are over 7 metres! BUT, they’ve always managed to accommodate us. It is staffed by volunteers.
Slindon Camping and Caravanning Club Site – located within the National Trust Slindon Estate, nestled in the South Downs, there are so many walks and things to see. There is a thatched railway carriage and a house once lived in by the Writer and Poet Hilaire Belloc and his wife, we walked up to the Folly, which you can see from the road outside the campsite, it was built in 1814,to impress the Countess of Newburgh, who would take her four horse drawn wagonette there to take tea with her friends – as you do (or did back in the day)! We liked this little gem so much we went back here twice too!
Brighton Caravan and Motorhome Club Site – what is there to say, close to the city, the sea and the Downs. The Marina is walking or cycling distance, there is a bus stop nearby which will take you into the city centre and beyond. I love it as it is close to my hairdresser and appointments are always made when there is availability on site! It is also close to more of our family and meeting up for birthdays, dog walks or just to say hello is ideal.
We’re heading off on another tour on Sunday, this time to Wales, before we decide when and where we go next – Europe beckons but no decisions yet. First, we have goodbyes to say, hopefully we’ll be keeping you up to date with our tour of Wales very soon. As always thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well…
Having crossed the border through the Somport Tunnel, our first stopover was a free Aire in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, a lovely town in the Pyrenees, with links back to the Roman times. A walk alongside the river takes you into the town and up towards the cathedral. From Oloron-Sainte-Marie, we headed along the foothills of the Pyrenees to Lourdes. Having visited Fátima, in Portugal, it felt almost rude not to visit, however the Grotto and Sanctuary of Our Lady are not dog-friendly! We chose to stop at Camping La Forêt https://campsite-lourdes.camping-hautes-pyrenees.com/ which is a short walk to the Sanctuary – although we couldn’t go in with the dog, we wandered to the Cathedral and peered in from outside the fence!
Leaving Lourdes we headed to the town of Auch. Located in the Occitanie region of France, and the capital of the Gers region, it is another town steeped in history. The municipal aire, is located on the edge of the old town and walking along the riverside Promenade Claude Desbois you arrive at the Monumental Staircase – 374 steps upwards, linked by three terraces with a statue of Charles de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan, a real 17th-century musketeer who inspired Alexandre Dumas’ novels and lived in Auch. There are many things to see and do – our inspiration was taken from this blog: https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-things-auch-france/
From Auch we travelled to the little village of Roquecourbe and a Camping Car Park site on the river Augout. A short walk along the river takes you into the village with its Mairie, Village Square and local shops. It is also a short drive from the town of Castres. https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/camping/occitanie/81-tarn/roquecourbe Leaving Roquecourbe, we headed back to Castres and on to Albi, where after a quick lunch we stopped to clean the incredibly dirty roof of Nortia! We’d been hunting for a car wash with a gantry, so we could reach and a day where it was neither too hot, or wet. The car wash at AJP Eco Lavage, was just perfect.
We continued our journey along the D999 to Millau. We chose to stay at a campsite, but although the campsite was nice, it wasn’t much better than the Camping Car Parks and Aires, we’d been using and we opted to stay another night at the Camping Car Park, just along the River, after a very expensive trip along the Viaduct. Just to let you know there are a number of campsites in and around Millau, but the one we chose wasn’t right for us! https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/occitanie/12-aveyron/millau Be aware this does get very busy, but it is perfect for the town and the river.
Into the Limousin Region and a region we hadn’t really visited before, another region we will definitely return to, with the Massif Central mountains, cattle and vast countryside. Our first stop was on the edge of Lac de la Siauve, just outside the town of Lanobre, before we headed to the town of Bugeat and a lovely family run campsite, on the edge of the town – Camping aux Portes des Mille Sources https://www.camping-en-correze.com/ This is a site we want to return to. We arrived for two nights over Easter (and left four days later)!
Our next stop was the lovely village of Dun-le-Palestel and the campsite of the same name –https://www.campingdunlepalestel.fr/fr/ It is run by a Dutch family and a relatively new campsite, but it’s lovely – there is a wood next door and the village is a short walk, but follow the back roads and not the main road!
We continued our tour of the Limousin up to the town of Bourges, where we had found an Aire to stopover; however in true Three go Travelling style, the Aire was closed due to an Easter Festival, so we headed north to the Town of Aubigny-sur-Nère, where we’d found an aire in the All the Aires book (our tale is now beginning to sound like Goldilocks – the aire was closed due to falling trees! However, there was a campsite just up the road, so we opted to stay the night there!
What a find! Aubigny-sur-Nère the town and the campsite- Camping Des Étangs https://www.camping-aubigny.com/ Aubigny sur Nère is located in the Eastern part of the Loire Valley and has a long attachment to Scotland and the Auld Alliance (an alliance made in 1215 between France and Scotland with a treaty between John Balliol and King Philip IV of France, stating that if either were attacked by England they would invade English territory). Aubigny-sur-Nère is the only place which still celebrates the alliance on Bastille Day each year. The town is steeped in history and a walk along the Étangs and the river takes you into the heart of the town via the site of the old Lavarie, at the side of the river. We arrived for one night and left four nights later, having spent a day fishing (Ric) and exploring the old town.
Coming down the hills into Château-Renault, we had noticed a warning light for the brakes and also a grinding noise, which continued as we headed to Le Mans. We had chosen to stop at a free aire on the edge of the old town walls of the City of Le Mans and as we were stopped a further investigation of the brakes, meant a trip to get replacement pads (and discs, ideally). First, we explored the old town, which was an old Roman Town, up the steps to the Cathedral and back down through the cobbled streets with half timbered houses and back to the river Sarthe, through the tunnel, built in the nineteenth century – one of Le Mans’ biggest civil engineering feats.
The next morning we headed to Euromaster, we like ATS when we are at home, so this seemed like a good place to start, but no, they can’t help, but they assured us that Norauto could help, so off we went – no they can’t help, but they said definitely BestDrive would be able to do it, so off we went again, and guess what? No! We were sent to Fiat! Yes they had the pads, but we should also buy the discs too, ok how much? We don’t have the discs in stock!!! So, we bought the pads, declined fitting were advised not to change the discs on their forecourt (the thought had not even occurred to us) and headed out of town (driving around the city four times was enough for anyone, but we will return one day). A quick note, although the Aire is free, they do charge for water, so arrive with some! We used their disposal point and cleaned up with a bottle or two of our onboard water.
Thirty kilometres or so, south of Le Mans, we stopped at another Camping Car Park in the village of Mansigné. Mainly, this was because it was secure and flat and a hardstanding so we could change the brake pads, (it is recommended to change both pads and discs at the same time, but we couldn’t buy them and we knew we were taking the motorhome to be MOT’d on our return and the discs would be changed in a couple of weeks! https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/pays-de-la-loire/72-sarthe/mansigne The Camping Car Park at Mansigné, is right next to a very large Lake, it reminded us of the Loch at Forfar and perfect to walk around. A couple of minutes walk in the opposite direction and you are in the village too!
As we continued our trip north, we felt happier that the brakes were now fully functioning and we would be able to wait for our return to the UK to change the discs. With a slight detour to the Château de la Motte-Husson, in Martigné-sur-Mayenne, home to Dick and Angel Strawbridge, off the telly – https://thechateau.tv/ where we think, we might have even seen Dick in the garden!
It’s getting close to heading back to the UK and we needed to find a vet to take Reg back with us! Our next stop was a site we stayed at before Camping Sous Les Etoiles, https://www.sous-les-etoiles.camp/ in St Martin des Besaces, Calvados, Normandy. It’s a lovely campsite and if time had been on our side we might have stayed longer, but the tunnel beckons and once Reg has seen the vet we have 120 hours to get back to the UK. If you’re in the region and need a vet, we can recommend Clinique Vétérinaire de la Détourbe https://veterinaireconde-torigni.fr/ There is no need to book an appointment, Monday – Friday 08:30 – 09:30; 14:00 – 15:30 and 17:00 – 18:30 and Saturdays 08:30 – 09:30. It’s a short walk into the village with local shops and a garage and Pizza Vending Machine (which we can also recommend-we bought ours cold and heated it in the oven).
Next stop, the Normandy Coast and the City of Caen, the Camping Car Park is next to the Caen Memorial, but be aware, the service point is outside the gates, so fill up before you enter (or it’s a costly mistake if you try to leave and fill up)! The site is located next to a large park too and a short walk to the city centre. Although you have to pay to enter the museum, the gardens are free and we enjoyed a walk before opening time and the crowds arrived. https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/normandie/14-calvados/caen
Three more nights left of our first post Brexit and post COVID trip, next stop Evreux. Yes, another Camping Car Park https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/normandie/27-eure/evreux Evreux has always been a place we wanted to visit and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the capital town of the Eure region and dates back to the fourth century, as a Roman town. We walked into the town centre, up to the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, admired the statues, walked along the Ilton River, which appears under and around many houses and districts a little like a mini Amsterdam!
Two more nights and we headed towards Calais. Our plan was to stop at a campsite in Rang du Fliers for them both, but luckily we only paid for one and left the following morning. The site was very nice and centrally located for the village and shops, but the pitches were a little tight and the shower block, not worthy of the cost, so we headed to Sangatte, not really knowing what to expect. We’d only really heard of Sangatte for the refugee camps and trouble but what a find. The town is located right on the beach and the campsite, Camping Noires Mottes https://www.campingdesnoiresmottes.fr/ two streets back, lovely open grass pitches and a good shower block, our only question, was why didn’t we come here before? The Opal Coast, does have some stunning villages and is ideal for the tunnel and ports.
Tomorrow, we return to the UK, once we’ve cleared animal control (always a breath holding moment)! We’ll be back soon and let you know what we’ve been up to! As always, thank you for reading and we hope you and your families are safe and well, à bientôt !
We chose to return to France along a part of Spain we hadn’t visited before – La Rioja. Our first stop, not far from the Portuguese Border was Zamora. We decided to stop in a Motorhome Area, FREE, along the side of the river with a great view of the walled town. The last time we drove through Zamora, heading south, but now we had time to spend visiting. Zamora is famous for its numerous Romanesque Churches built in the 11th and 12th Centuries, while we didn’t see them all, we did wander up to the Castle on the top of the hill and crossed the Poets Bridge, wandered the small bar-lined narrow streets. Zamora is definitely worth a visit!
Heading east towards France our next stop was a very pleasant surprise – Haro – the capital of La Rioja and the centre of the wine producing region. We stopped at https://www.campingdeharo.com/en, located just outside another very picturesque town, centred around a square and the old streets meandering off around. At the base of the hill there are a number of Wine Bodegas, think Caves in France, more than a store, generally the hub of the wine production.
After Haro, we continued our journey east, the intention was to stop overnight at Canfranc-Estación. We stopped for lunch close to the Motorcycle Circuit de Navarra, at Los Arcos. We did ask the Security guard if we could take photos inside but she was not impressed!
We had been watching the weather for a few days, as there were avalanche warnings in the Pyrenees and more importantly at Canfranc. Canfranc-Estación was designed in a very elaborate style and at great expense, on one of the few border crossings between France and Spain. It had a slightly chequered past, a fire in its early days, a hub for Nazi profiteering and strangely also a known route for Resistance, Jews and British Military leaving occupied France in World War Two, before closing in the 1970s, when the last train to leave actually demolished a bridge on the line (without fatality). It was left abandoned for several years, but typically is now surrounded by scaffolding and fencing as it is being refurbished and brought back into life as a Station and Hotel.
Instead of staying at Canfranc, with the threat of bad weather, we headed through the Somport Tunnel and into France…. As always, thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well, we’ll be back with our trip through France, soon!
Having only spent one night in Portugal before, we planned to do a brief tour and take in a few sites. We didn’t really know too much about the country so we were very keen. Our plan was to head west along the coast and then north, before crossing eastwards back to Spain.
Crossing the border into Portugal, in the worst rain, since Finland 2019, was an adventure. We got onto the toll road, rather than a ferry (as we couldn’t find any information about the maximum size of vehicle), and over the bridge, then we were at a Toll Plaza (Portagem), where foreigners are directed to a machine to pay, but it wouldn’t accept any of our cards! We weren’t the only ones, everyone seemed to be having an issue, we tried logging in to the website, but still nothing, so last result – DRIVE!!! We have subsequently found out that there are often issues with the website and have since logged in and signed up,fingers crossed we haven’t got a letter when we get home!
We got off the Toll Road at the next junction and headed to Faro. Our first night stay was at the Faro Motorhome stop https://www.farocampervanpark.com/ Just a short walk from the town and the airport, but due to the torrential rain, we only wondered to the local shops.
Our next stop was Alvor and Camping Alvor https://www.campingalvor.com/en/ We managed to find a relatively nice pitch, but it was very cramped and despite finding an Indian Restaurant in Irish Town, we decided to head off the next day. In Portimão, we found an International Supermarket – we weren’t actually looking for English Food, but English mustard, Greg’s Steak pies and Cheddar, how could we refuse! We also found a Worten, a little like Currys/PC World at home, where we were able to buy a Portuguese Data SIM – MEO €14.99 Unlimited Data for 15 days!
We headed along the coast to Sagres, not quite the most southern point of Portugal but definitely one of the most exposed, with coastline south east and west – next stop USA! Our camping stop, Parque de Campismo Sagres https://www.orbitur.pt/en/destinations/algarve/orbitur-sagres was amongst the Pine trees, a short walk to the coast and close to the lighthouse, the Farol do Cabo de São Vicente, opened in the 1500s and first destroyed by Frances Drake in 1587.
After a couple of nights we headed north towards Lisbon, stopping at an unplanned location in the beautiful town of Odemira. Although not a lot more than a car park, it was right on the river and a stone’s throw from the old walled town.
Next, we stopped at a motorhome Aire just outside the walled town of Évora, the capital of the Alentejo Region. In the centre stands the old Roman temple of Diana, a twelfth century cathedral, white washed houses, cobbled streets and the Chapel of Bones.
Heading North, we stopped at another Orbitur site, just outside Lisbon, in the town of Cascais, next to a nature reserve, with view of the surfing beaches
Continuing north we headed slightly inland to another walled city – Obidos, home to a Chocolate Festival and Reg met the Easter Bunny.
We headed to the Catholic Pilgrimage Site of Fátima. There is a motorhome stop at the Cathedral, The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, but we chose not to stop as we’re not believers and the bells rang every fifteen minutes, without knowing whether they continued all night it was too much to consider! Fátima, is the fourth most popular catholic pilgrimage destination in the world. It is a place of pilgrimage, which celebrates the memory of its founding event, the apparitions of Our Lady to the three little Shepherds, who are honoured in the Cathedral – Lúciaand her cousins Jacinta and Francisco.
Instead we stopped at a campsite in he town of Coimbra, before heading to Estrelo Paxio de Varzim and a campsite right on the Atlantic, with a fabulous sandy beach, next to a golf course, which is great until Reg chases a seagull shadow up the rocks towards the green (Don’t know which hole, as he came back before reaching it!). Estrelo Paxio de Varzim is also on one of the Camino routes.
Our last night in Portugal, was in the town of Chaves. We had stopped here before on our first trip to Spain, back in 2019, but had never ventured into the city, it was another fabulous old walled city.
Now our journey takes a turn back to Spain, we’re heading homeward, but looking forward to touring areas we haven’t seen. Portugal has surprised us, there is so much history and countryside to explore, we will be back, in the future to hopefully explore the areas we haven’t yet seen. As always, thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well. We’ll be back soon with news from our second Spanish Leg…
Spain, we’d been looking forward to returning to Spain for two years, having left just as the pandemic started to break in 2020. We had hoped to return later the same year, then last year and we had planned to return after Christmas but that wasn’t to be. It feels so good to be back on the road and head towards some sun. Although we only have a three month window this time and the Schengen Shuffle (dipping in and out of the Schengen Zone,there is a little explanation here: https://motoroaming.com/the-schengen-shuffle-for-motorhome-travellers/) isn’t really an option, for us, at the moment with the crisis in Ukraine, we have planned to visit some of the places we’ve previously been and some we hadn’t!
We crossed the border from France on the Mediterranean, between Cerbere and Portbou, having chosen a good weather route, not over the Pyrenees or across the Spanish plains, where we knew the weather could also be bad, and travelled along the coast of Cataluña, stopping at a lovely site in the town of L’Estartit https://www.campinglesmedes.com/en/ where the sun shone for all but one of our four days. The site is a short walk from the beach and the town.
We left L’Estartit and headed south to Cambrils and a site we had stayed at before – Camping La Llosa https://www.camping-lallosa.com/en Right on the beach and a short walk to the town, with a bakery / patisserie/ cafe on the doorstep. We took a stroll to the town and enjoyed an ice cream on the beach, before wandering around the old town. The weather was still on our side and we enjoyed a few more days in the sunshine.
Continuing our journey south, and into Communidad Valencia, we headed for another site, we’d stayed at before, in Peñíscola, but this time we were unlucky and the site was full, so we had a brief check on the interweb and the guide books and found a lovely site slightly further along the coast, along two miles of unpaved track, in lovely wooded grounds at Alcossebre https://campingribamar.com/?lang=en. A definite little gem and a short walk to the rocky beach, you could hear the waves crashing onto the beach from the campsite.
From Alcossebre, back along the unpaved track, we headed along the coast to Oliva, and a campsite, which in the book sounded great, but was a big disappointment, despite being right on the sandy beach, the rest of the local area was a bit deserted and run down. Being shown to our pitch, which was just about big enough, we had to clean it before we could get sorted, but it was ok for one night! https://www.camping-ole.com
Our trip now took us to the Murcia Region, and a site we’d also been to before at Mar Menor, https://www.camping.info/en/campsite/camping-caravaning-mar-menor, between the towns of Los Alcázares and San Javier, right on the edge of the Spanish Air Force Base, and the planes take off regularly every day! The site is located next to a nature reserve but with good walking and cycling routes into the towns and right on the beach of the Mar Menor – a coastal inland lagoon, protected from the sea by a peninsula.
Continuing south and into Andalucia, we found a lovely quirky campsite in the town of Adra. Camping Las Vegas, situated at the end of a road surrounded by greenhouses and small residences, it is a lovely spot to stop.https://campinglasvegas.jimdofree.com/ The sea is just over the road and although not much of a beach, ideal to let Reg run! This is one we will return to!
We continued on to Málaga, and had hoped to stop in a Motorhome Aire, but it being a nice, hot, sunny Friday the place was full, as was the next place we tried, the third was closed and we finally found a place to stop in Estepona, not exactly our cup of tea but ok for the night (what was more disappointing was the fact that we didn’t use our ACSI (cheaper camping) card, as there was no signage stating it was an associated site, but found it in the book a day later and about five minutes down the road there was a free camper stop, but lesson learnt…
Hello Gibraltar, moving further south we arrived at La Línea de la Concepción, and the motorhome stop on Alcaidesa Marina. We walked into Gibraltar, after being told off by the Border Guard, for not having our passport stamped when we entered Spain (or Europe, we’re not sure which) but made sure it was stamped when we left, took a trip to Morrisons, for some English bits – Bacon, Sausages, Walkers Crisps… and a bottle of water – in GIbraltar (and some of Andalucia) you are expected to wash down dog wee!
La Línea de la Concepción, is a beautiful Spanish town, in its own right, and we spent a couple of days wandering around the old streets and squares, before heading west to El Puerto de Santa Maria, near Cadiz. We had Christmas here in 2019 and met some wonderful people, this was high on our list to return to (and still is)! Arriving in glorious weather we made a lovely long term camp, and enjoyed the sun, before the rain arrived, followed by two more glorious days and then more rain…. Although it stopped us exploring out and about on our bikes, we still ventured into the town and along the port. https://www.lasdunascamping.com/el-camping/
Continuing west, we found an absolute gem of a Motorhome stop https://camperpark.es/en/home-3/ Camper Park Playas de Luz, in the small village of Pozo del Camino, just outside the fishing town of Isla Cristina, ten kilometres from the Portuguese border. On the edge of another nature reserve, complete with flamingos that you can see from the window and walking and cycle routes along a green lane. What a find, although when it rains, it rains!
We have fallen in love with Andalucia and it will be sad to leave but we’re continuing our adventure into Portugal, before we return to Spain, so for now it’s, ¡Hasta Luego España! – we’ll see you soon.
As always, thank you for reading and following our journey. We hope you and your families remain safe and well and we’ll be back with an update from Portugal, soon…
We headed home and booked our tickets for the Eurotunnel, arranged the vet appointment for Reg’s Animal Health Certificate (AHC) and booked our Lateral Flow Tests (LFT). We had opted to have our LFTs carried out at the local drive-in, but their website was down and there were no available appointments, so instead we opted for C19 Testing, who will send you the equipment (usually next day – we ordered on Saturday and they arrived on Monday lunchtime), then when you’re ready to take the test – check whether the time you need is arrival or departure! get ready to log in to the website with your identification and a clear photo, and the results will be back within 12 hours- ours came back in 2! https://www.c19testing.co.uk/
Next, the vet – of all the things we thought would stop us heading off the vet wasn’t one, but we had a phone call on the Monday to say our vet was sick with COVID could we reschedule to a week later? We were found an appointment locally with the same group, but a day earlier – better for us and a relief.
LFT complete – both negative, and uploaded to Eurotunnel website;
Sworn Statement – completed, signed and uploaded;
COVID Travel Passes, both downloaded and paper copies, sorted;
We’re ready to go! We sorted all our paperwork for travel, booked the Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Black Horse Farm, 8 minutes from the tunnel, said our goodbyes and headed off.
Arrival at the tunnel was relatively smooth, a little hitch with the automated check-in but soon sorted and off to the Pet Reception – complete, we’re ready to board and head to the sun! After almost two years waiting, we couldn’t believe we were this close, just Passport Control and Border Control to go, a quick chat to the English Police, Gas confirmed off and France Border Control – all we needed to do now was show our passports and COVID Passes and YES, we’re off….
Our trip south, we chose to use Camping-Car Parks -a one off fee of 5€ and you have access to their secure locations, electricity, fill-up and dump and in some cases WiFi. You receive a card, the Pass’Etapes which you can top up on-line or at the terminals to their sites. https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/search/areas/map
Our first night was at the lovely Normandy town of Formerie, near Forges-les-Eaux and about 2 hours from the tunnel, a perfect stop, just on the edge of the town, with its local shops and typical Norman atmosphere, this is one we’ll definitely be back to. The site was a remarkable 10€ (inc Tourist Tax).
Day 2 and a journey through Normandy and into the Loiret region and the pretty village of Lailly-en-Val, a lovely site popular with the French and relatively busy (it was Friday). and right next to a lake, another perfect stop at 10€, until three sets of bells started at 07:00, what a wake up!
Day 3 from Lailly-en-Val, we headed to the lakeside resort of Lac du Saint Pardoux, Razès in the Haute-Vienne region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. The site is in a large wooded area with plenty of paths and cycle routes, the lake is open for swimming in the summer, but there is a pool next door. Again 10€ for the night!
Day 4, still heading south, we chose to stop at Lamagdelaine, in the Lot, in fact next to the River Lot and a Boulangerie. Lovely gravel pitches at the top end, between the trees, The river end had grass pitches and was closed off – as it was fairly wet. Slightly more expensive at 11€!
Days 5 and 6, we chose to stay at a campsite for a bit of a relax. We had stayed at Camping Toulouse Le Rupé, just outside the City, we had been here before (in fact, two years to the date – thank you Google photos and Facebook), this time however, it looked a little unloved and uncared for. The people were still warm and friendly but… We did have a quick clean up, shop and relax before heading south again. 18€ a night. WiFi extra and poor!
Day 7 – wow a week on the road already and the sun was beginning to come out – despite a weather warning for avalanches in the region – we weren’t heading up tot the mountains, though. We travelled through the Occitanie region and to another Camping-Car Park at Elne. Here we recharged our Pass’Etapes and paid for the night 11.47€. A short walk away is the pretty village of Elne and a spectacular view of the snow-topped Pyrenees.
Day 8 – Over the border and another new country for Reg! We took the coastal D194, skirting above Collioure and Port Vendres, through Banyuls-sur-Mer and Cerbère, before crossing the border into Portbou. We had our passports and COVID Passes ready, but they weren’t required! We headed to the coastal resort of L’Estartit, where we planned to stop for a couple of nights at Camping Les Medes. https://www.campinglesmedes.com/en/
We spent the time between Christmas and the New Year at Henley Four Oaks Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) Site, which is just off the River Thames and a short walk into the town of Henley-on-Thames. From there we headed off to Chertsey and the Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC) Site, where we saw in the New Year. The Chertsey CCC Site, is also next to the River Thames and a short walk to the town and we had a long overdue meet up with friends and walked along the river to Shepperton.
From Chertsey, we had to head to a FIAT service garage to have the motorhome looked at, following a recall notice. HTC Croydon, looked at and fixed the issue in a matter of minutes, before we were able to be back on the road. After an overnight stop at Gatwick CMC Site. we headed off for a short trip this time we headed to Ashwell and the Ashwell Farm CMC Site;which we picked as we didn’t think we had been before and it was local-ish. On arrival, we have been here before – on our first trip in the lovely Nortia, returning south from Darlington. Ashwell, is a charming English Country Village, with three pubs, a butchers, bakers, village shop and church overlooking the cricket field. There are a lot of footpaths and places to walk from the club site too.
Heading back homewards, we stopped at the CMC Site in Welwyn Garden City, Commons Wood. There are so many lovely places to walk to, the site backs right onto woods. After an appointment with the Doctors and a short catch-up at the Gatwick CMC Site (it was lovely to see / hear so many more planes this time and hope we would be able to travel abroad again soon.
As France had closed its borders to all but essential travel, we had booked to stay in the Lake District, rather than just pop here and there! We stopped over at the Chapel Lane CMC Site, Birmingham, not far from the M6, be aware heading north the lovely Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav, took us through the Clean Air Zone. We have checked and at current our engine is compliant, therefore charge free! Next we stopped at Southport CMC Site.
Neither of us had been to Southport before and the town is a lovely example of a Victorian Seaside Resort, although the sea has receded by several metres over the years and the end of the pier is now not near the sea! We were greeted with a lovely sunset over the bay. Southport is also home to several cycle routes including the Trans-Pennine Route Irish Sea to North Sea.
Back to the Lake District, via Blackpool, which I had never been to before and it was as expected, but surprisingly not as tacky (in our opinion) as Benidorm! We stopped at Meathorp Fell CMC site, with the expectation of walking back into Grange-over-Sands, but the weather didn’t share our optimism and so that was washed out, but we did find a little footpath route from the campsite to let Reg have a good walk instead. Next we stopped at a lovely CMC Certified Location Holmside, outside Seascale, with a lovely village and walks all around, before heading to one of our absolute favourite sites – Keswick Camping and Caravanning Club Site.
Keswick CCC Site was our treat for not having been able to travel to Spain in December. It is a gem, right on the edge of the town, views over Catbells and Skiddaw and Derwent Water and walks all around. We had also hoped to catch up with our friends, John and Sheila, who were heading home from Spain, but despite blustery, stormy weather – Storm Malik hit us that weekend, there were no spaces and for a third time our catch-up was thwarted! Fourth time lucky, fingers crossed!
Heading south, we stopped at Chatsworth Park, CMC Site, right in the grounds of the house, with extensive parkland to walk, and the village on the doorstep. Reg was excited to see so many deer, so close (he was kept on the lead though)! Storm Corrie arrived with avengence here, we’re beginning to feel a little jinxed! Further south and a quick one nighter at Broadway CMC Site- the village is a very short walk and so picturesque, before heading to Bristol and the Baltic Wharf CMC Site.
Baltic Wharf is another of our favourites, and we’ll be sad to see it go, but we were so lucky to have been able to sneak a midweek break in here. We found so much more to do this time including the street art along North Street, Bedminster and the aray of little shops and cafes. We had an excellent lunch at Sandwich Sandwich, Baldwin Street. If you’re going to try a stack, we would recommend not eating before and possibly cancelling any dinner plans! But just so good!
Finally our tour came to an end in Brighton at the CMC site, and a Birthday catch-up with family for my mum’s birthday. We had a few other bits to do but we’re pleased to say we’re off to Spain very soon! We’ll keep you posted and let you know all about our trip, very soon!
As always, thank you for reading, we hope you’ve managed to stay safe and well and you too have plans coming to fruition….
As we prepare to welcome in the New Year of 2022, we have our fingers crossed we can carry on with our adventure, see some new (and old) places, meet up with family and friends, while continuing to be safe and well.
We’re looking back at what the last year has brought us and some of the places we have been.
We stayed at:
32 Caravan and Motorhome Club Sites;
34 Caravan and Motorhome Club Certified Locations;
5 Camping and Caravan Club Sites;
16 Independent Sites;
2 Motorhome Stopovers;
2 nights Off Grid; and
3 nights at home.
We left Lockdown 3 on 12th April, 2021 and have had a great time, travelling up to the Northern Coast of Scotland, completing the NC500, travelling along Hadrian’s Wall across Northumberland, down the east coast of England, discovered the Meridian Line, caught up with family, just missed meeting friends (who were on the same campsite, but arrived as we prepared to leave!).
We had an emergency trip to the vet, nothing serious as it turned out, but still a worry; found some great places to eat (and some not so great!) and followed whims as to where to go. We stayed at a variety of Racecourses, fishing lakes, Marinas and even an Aerodrome, followed the Grand Union Canal north and retraced our steps to the Bristol and Somerset.
We’ve rediscovered places we thought we knew, but found better weather really helped! Taken time to relax and not rush around, and seen some sights. We’ve learnt some good lessons (the hard way), if a site looks too difficult to get into don’t bother – this would have prevented an argument with a fence post/ LPG Lorry and a couple of sleepless nights working out how to get out of a site!
We have tried to think of our best places of the year (in no order):
The Lodge CL, Halmer End, Stoke;
Omaha Meadows CL, Verwood, Hampshire;
Grove Lock Marina CL, Leighton Buzzard;
Blythe Waters CL, Solihull;
Salisbury Camping and Caravanning Club Site;
Slinfold Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Bunree Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Seacroft Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, Cromer;
Gamrie Bay CL, Banff, Scotland;
Findhorn Motorhome Stopover, Scotland;
Minehead Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Lochgilphead Caravan Park;
Boston Aerodrome CL, Lincolnshire;
Lost Acres CL; and
Baltic Wharf Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, Bristol.
We don’t know when we’ll be able to get to France and Spain, but we’ve got our fingers crossed. For now, we’re happy to be safe and well and hope you are too. As always, thank you for reading, wishing you a happy and safe 2022, we’ll be back soon…..
Once back home we had flu jabs and boosters booked, staying at the CMC Gatwick Site, before it closed (lack of staff – we completely understand, the staff have all worked so hard through the pandemic keeping the sites running and looking good), we’ll be back when it re-opens. We hired a car, which allowed us to get about and see family. https://www.gatwickcarandvanrental.com/
Since then, we have alternated between Sumners Ponds and the CMC Site at Brighton. Our plans, along with those of many others, have gone awry, we had hoped to head to Spain after spending Christmas seeing families, we’d booked Reg into the vet for his Animal Health Certificate, located PCR tests to enter France and then the French President closed the border to non-nationals for non-essential travel. Not wanting to be stuck in a lockdown abroad, we’ve chosen to wait for borders to reopen and travel freely.
As always, thank you for reading, we wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and hope that you get to spend time with those close to you. We WILL be back with an update and more tales, soon…