Heading for home at Changè

So Thursday morning has arrived and after a tremendous downpour all night we woke to blue skies and a much fresher feel. Such a shame we need to move, but move on we must.

Now dear reader we have had a problem with our electronic emobilser contol for the whole of this trip. It started as we tried to disembark the ferry in Saint Malo. On turning the key the engine starts to turn over but doesn’t ever do the final turn and fire up – if you know what I mean. The boat crew are waving us forward as we are at the front so no one can disembark. Try again – nothing. Try the old take the key out, put back in method – nothing. More frantic waving from the crew. Andy notices there is a yellow light now lit on the dashboard. It seems unusual. Not somthing we have noticed before. Closer inspection reveals its a padlock. Umm. At this time we had no idea what it meant. After several attempts, taking the key out and trying again – Bingo, the padlock stays off and we finally got the engine to fire up. Much to the crews delight and all other vehicles on board. Sorry Condor- technical issue, you know how it is.

Parked up just round the corner from the port, all those nights ago, we get out the manual and discover what the light means. It is to prevent anyone who hasn’t got the correct key from starting the engine. It also mentions this can happen if the key has had a sudden knock – not aware of this happening since boarding the boat. There is also a guide on how to fix the issue, we have tried it numerous times but it hasn’t worked for us. We rescue the spare key from its hiding place in case we need to use that one.

Since then everytime we need to start the engine we have had to play key shuffle and try several times. We have googled the issue but not found anything about the intermittent issue we are experiencing. The only thing we are beginning to think is that the engine battery is just slightly low, not enough to stop it starting but just enough to upset the electronic emobiliser, as once we have been driving for a bit it starts fine first time with no yellow padlock light staying on, but if we stop the engine after just 5 mins we have the issue again. So in the mornings when we need to make use of the emptying and filling facilities we have had to leave the engine running.

Anyway, back to today, and Bella starts after two attempts and we settle our bill.

The road follows the Loire for a few miles before cutting across passing fields of corn that have been flattened by the heavy rain last night. The journey is only two hours and no toll roads today. We pass our first fields of sunflowers this trip, normally the country side is ablaze in yellow during our holiday.

Driving up to one village Andy points out the crooked spire in the distance, being very knowledgeable as he is he calls it a spiral spire and sure enough as we pass it you could see the spiral design.

By lunch time having stopped at a Super U to just get a few small bits for the next couple of days, we pull into the Aire in Changė. We last visited here Easter 2017. It is only a gravel area but with the canal on oneside and a large boating/leisure lake the other it is quite pleasurable. The town is five minutes walk over the bridge and yes they have a nice restaurant. Finally we can easily have a meal out.

After our usual G&T it was time for showers and to dress up a little.

The meal was lovely, I had lobster with a pea puree, sounds weird but was so good, to start and Andy had prawn and strips of sundried tomatoe risotto, I had cod for main and Andy lamb. We both indulged and had a dessert (sorbet-ah) but it was included in the price. Feeling very full we stroll back for a coffee and a couple of rounds of Rummekub before bed.

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Change of mind – Saint Martin De La Place

About half an hour into our drive from Gastes Andy puts out the idea of going straight on to the Campsite on the Loire at Saint Martin De La Place and miss out Hourtin. We don’t have the bicycles this year so it won’t be quite so quick and easy to get to the beach. I know, we have the motorbike but the beach is at that in between distance from the Aire. Much too short for the motorbike, just a little too far to walk in this heat (read that as getting lazy). Now I had my heart set on an evening meal out at Hourtin as there are several restaurants at the marina so wasn’t too sure about this change of plan. I put the town of Saumur in the Satnav just to see how long, 4 hours. Your driving, I say, up to you.

Beautiful straight tree lined roads just so French.

Love their roundabouts. This one had grape vines too. Anyone home?

Andy then offers a meal at the restaurant along the river bank that we saw last year and a promise of a fruit de mer in Saint Malo as compensation. Ok, let’s go as we will be able to enjoy a longer spell relaxing and swimming in the river will be great during this hot spell.

We need to do a “big shop” before we get there as the nearest supermarket is about 20/30 minutes away and there is only so much you can carry in a rucksack. Two hours into the drive we spot a Super U with easy access, makes life much easier. It is bliss inside with their air conditioning, so we travel up and down each aisle, a bit fatal as more and more goes in the trolley (£100+ which includes wine and cider)

Back in Bella and Andy opts to do the final hours drive as we had swapped after two hours. At 5,o’clock we roll up to the gate. The barrier is up and a notice on the reception door. They have gone to their daughters birthday party, be back at 7pm and a list of pitches already booked. We find an available pitch river side and go and have a swim.

Our view

More of our view

We arrived Friday 29th and today is Tuesday, yes I know dear reader, I have been lazy with the blog. We have been swimming, sunbathing and watching the most amazing sunsets each night.

Their has only been one fly in the ointment, excuse the pathetic pun, mosquitoes. We have never been bothered by them when we have stayed here before, but this year there are hundreds of them. We have tried everything, citronela candles surround us at night, smokey bbq, repellents sprayed and rubbed on us and in desperation we even rubbed lemon juice on ourselves as we had read on Facebook it worked. You should have seen us, now we smelt lovely but covered in bits of lemon that slowly dropped off us as they dried. We had to have another shower before we went to bed.

Church at Saint Martin De La Place

Yesterday in desperation we walked up to the little villages pharmacy and have purchased repellents for body and clothes, room repellents and antihistamine cream. What works best short term is a very hot tea spoon on the bites to get rid of the itching and then the cream on afterwards. The numerous bites are beginning to go.

Now on the way to the village we pass the said restaurant that was mentioned when we were changing our minds, guess what. It isn’t open. Now I don’t know whether it is permanently closed or just waiting for the season, but we won’t be having our meal there. That fruit de mer is getting bigger and bigger now.

The plan at the moment is to stay here relaxing till Thursday when we will move up to Changè and then Evian on Friday before catching the ferry on Saturday.

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Back to Gastes

After two lovely days at Soustons Plage we are ready to move on again.

Two hours drive through lovely villages and not a motorway in sight today we pull in to one of our favourite Aires at Gastes. The village is really tiny. A corner shop that sells everything from tourist beach items to fruit, veg and vino. Next door is now a new restaurant / bar that it still work in progress in places as benches and tables still being constructed. And finally a small fire station.

The Aire is €8.00 per night, toilets, washing up and laundry sink, empty and filling facilities, but no electricity. It is a bollard system in the middle of the entrance which when we arrived was down and a big notice over the pay station. Each evening someone comes and cleans all the facilities and they have also built a fenced in designated refuse area since our last visit.

We are soon parked up and off to the beach. The lake the Aire is next to is large and very shallow for miles out. I swam out about half a mile one morning and was still only hip deep.

We spent the next two days just relaxing again. Watching the sea planes practicing their take off and landing and the sun set over the little marina.

Thursday night was an early dinner and time to dress up in something a bit smarter than shorts and t-shirt as we were off to watch England play on the enourmas screen up at the bar / restaurant. Although England lost 1-0 to Belgium, both teams progress to the next round, so our Belgium neighbours on the Aire were happy and even gave us some Belgium beer to sample. Very nice it was to.

On the morning of our departure just as we are sorting out breakfast there is a knock on our door. The warden has come to collect his money. We nearly had a free stay although we are happy to pay if it means they go on providing a great Aire.

So we set of at about 10.30 for the short 2 hour drive to our next destination up the coast, Hourtin Plage.

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside……. Soustons Plage

After a peaceful night with just the odd clank from a mast or two we had breakfast this morning before setting off at a much more reasonable time at 10 am. Opting to use the toll roads we are soon passing through the boarder into France and just under two hours to our next stop. A total of €25.47 spent on tolls, a couple of times the Caxton card wouldn’t work interestingly this was always at the manned booths, and our second fillup of fuel.

As soon as we came off the motorway the scenery changed to one we remember so much of this area, large areas of tall thin pine trees and sand. Souston Plage is a popular place for the French activities week, morning and lunch time we would see large groups of children being dropped off by bus and would watch them walk past either on their way to surf school or learning to sail.

The aire is popular and we manage to get one of the last four spaces available. Luckly under the trees to help keep Bella and us cool.

There are two beaches, one we overlook which is a sheltered inlet with a small island in the middle. You can hire all sorts of water sports equipment from small catamarans, kayaks, wind surfing boards and stand up paddle boards. Behind us and over the sand dune is a large beach with constant rolling waves ideal for surfing.

We spent the next couple of days enjoying both. But my favourite was an hour on the stand up paddle board. My feet ended up with pins and needles as I daren’t move them in case I fell off. It has been on my to do list and absolutely loved it. I can proudly say that we both stood up after just a few minutes and neither fell off.

Andy had a ride out both nights, the first time to Hossegor and the second time further up the coast past Messenger. It is a bit awkward getting the bike on and off as the ground is rarely flat but lovely for Andy to enjoy the faster roads and forest tracks.

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Moving North to Santander

It has been lovely spending time in the Pico, but all good things must come to an end and we need to start thinking about heading back into France as it is now the end of our first week.

Amazingly, as I gingerly climbed down the ladder from our bed, the body felt ok. Just one blister a bit sore but legs not too stiff. It is only then that I realise it is 7:30 am and the sun hasn’t even made it over the mountains yet. Mr Holmes! we are on holiday, but I do understand his reasons for being up, it is better to get some miles covered, stop for breakfast on the way to break up the journey and still arrive before lunch with the rest of the day to relax.

So, without even a cup of coffee, as I would just take too long enjoying it, we are off. The road out of the village climbs and climbs and once again we are almost up to the snow line. Finally we drop down on to the N-621 which twists and turns around the southern part of the Picos.

By lunch time we are parked under some trees overlooking the marina at Santander with Seve Ballesteros Airport along side, a couple of other motorhomers and loads of people with deck chairs, umbrellas and windbrakes. So far two planes, an Easy jet and Ryan air have taken off. Having spent about two hours here sunbathing, something doesn’t feel right. I don’t remember any mention of an airport when reading the Aires book. Consulting the book again and we are not in the right place. We should be much further round the marina. Chairs, table etc all back in. Finally we find the right place and park up next to a lovely very big English reg expensive motor home.

After diner we have a walk round the marina before retiring early to bed. Another travel day tomorrow aiming to cross the border and make it to one of our favourite areas on the French coast.

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It was a good idea at the time.

Whilst still in the midst of the cold and very wet winter that we seemed to experience this year, Spain was mentioned as our possible holiday destination in Bella. So the research started and once I had finally discovered that we could get an over-night boat from Roscoff to Spain it was much more appealing. The reason we chose the Pico mountains can only be blamed on several other people’s blogs who had written so much about their beauty and the fabulous walks and the fact that it was good motorcycling country. During my research I came across the Cares Gorge walk which links two villages Cain and Poncebos. Everything I read about it was how stunning its scenery is and they had walked it in 6 hours.

Now in my mind I had it that we would walk one way have a nice lunch in the village and then complete the return leg – simples.

First things first, we needed to get to the start which for us was in the village of Cain 9 kilometres away. Now we had the motorbike so no problem. Then we realised that not only will we need to change out of bike gear and somehow lock it on the bike with our hemets but we also needed to find somewhere flat to unload the bike off the trailer. This meant moving the van to the middle of the entrance of the aire and blocking it for about 20 minutes. Before we implemented this plan Andy paid a visit to the tourist office and enquired about other options. Taxi €30.00 each way, or we could drive the motor home, it is narrow in places but ‘doable’.

So plan B it was, motor home with bike on the back going to Cain.

Yes dear reader(s) as you can see it was narrow and that was not the worst. I couldn’t take pictures of the worst section as I was too busy checking we didn’t catch the roof on the rocks as we take the bend completely on the wrong side of the road just praying we wouldn’t meet anyone as there was just no way we could pass each other and the passing places were very very few and far between. Added into this mess we had now got in to was inclines of 20%. Now going, they were down hill and only had to stop once to let the brakes cool down, but now I am worried how we will get back up them. All sorts of things are going through my mind, need to get rid of the water we are carrying, unload the bike , no idea how, and even remove the gas cylinders.

We eventually see somewhere to pull over, and we discuss parking up and taking the bike the rest of the way. But the car park is in the middle of no where so we decide to press on. We round one bend and the village of Cain appears. That would have been embarrassing.

There are various small cafe’s, hostels and a couple of restaurants. The rest of the available space is car parks. Anyone who has a field provides secure parking for €5.00 for the day. The one we choose looks the easiest to get into, although we still had to pull in the wing mirrors.

And finally we set off walking at 10.20. Small back pack each containing 1 litre of water each, Sun hats, sun cream and the all important purse for the lunch in Poncebos.

The first 3 or 4 kilometres are beautiful over fast flowing water, through tunnels and alongside waterfalls. We start in long trousers as it is still cool but soon the bottoms of the legs are removed (unzipped rather than we cut them off) as it starts to heat up. We pass loads of people who have set out from Poncebos and people in running gear with water packs on their backs jog pass us. We overtake some groups who are of all ages, many a lot older than us. After about 6k the gorge opens up and is much more of a barren feeling as we start our climb.

The last section of the 12k is downhill and steep. Now this is where we should of turned round but we had set ourselves the challenge and we weren’t going to give up. Plus I still wanted my lunch in Poncebos. We made it and yes I did have my lunch, but only the Apple each and Baby bell cheese we had carried as a snack. There was nothing, just a few bins and rows and rows of cars. Not even anywhere to buy some more water or any form of transport back the 100k by road to Cain.

After 20 minutes of rest, if that, we start back, yes we still had to walk another 12k back to Cain. I know you must be saying we were mad, and at one point I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. The climb back up from Poncebos sometimes on hands and knees up the rocky goat track, which had taken an hour to cover the 2k down took me 2 hours!! I felt dizzy, sick and at times struggling to catch my breath. Probably not the best conditions to have on a four foot wide track that disappears on my left over 500 meters to the river far below. The sun was just beating down as it was 2pm and hardly any shade. With lots of stops every 50 meters or so we finally make it to the top – only another 10k to go. Fortunately the rest of the way is either flat or down hill and I was now back to normal. (!-AH). Breathing was fine and the dizziness and sickness gone.

No further pictures taken as didn’t have the energy. Andy bless him carried my rucksack. (more brownee points-AH). We had to rashion our water and had our final sips as we crossed the middle of the three bridges that are close to the beginning. Finally we make it back to Bella, sit in the shade and devour a large bottle of fanta orange. It was now 5.30 pm.

Time to get out of here and back to the Aire. Bella was magnificent. She managed every hill without any unloading, albeit in first gear and very slowly. There were only two scary moments one when a motorbike coming the other way breaked sharply on the bend to allow us to pass and he nearly dropped his bike as he skidded on the gravel. Second was when we met another car coming the other way and she wasn’t reversing up but instead tried to squeeze past, the drop off the hill was her side so we pulled into the ditch our side and let her get on with it.

Finally back and safely parked up. In a day or two I will be immensely proud at completing the 24k but at the moment I have blisters and very tired legs. Didn’t really feel like cooking for some reason so thought we would eat out. At 7pm we set off but neither of the restaurants open till 9pm. Too shattered to wait we head back for spaghetti Bolognese.

One of the the three blisters I ended up with.

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Moving into the heart of the Pico Mountains

Today was a day of lots of oohs, ahhs and oh my gosh. Added in were lots of breathing in as we squeeze past on the narrow roads with barely inches to spare with the rocks hanging over the road – invariably it always seemed to be right on a blind bend.

The morning started misty as we headed off along the N-625, a road that twists and turns, as we started to climb up the Picos we couldn’t really see much. Then suddenly as we reached the summit the mist broke and the most amazing view came into sight.

Luckly there was a viewing area with picnic tables and plenty of parking. We stop and just stand and stare. No words can really describe them and then all too soon the mist rolled back in again. It was as if mother nature was just teasing us.

We start the decent down to a lovely village called Posada De Valedèon and finally we have lost the mist. For the rest of the day we could see the mist and low cloud around the Pico mountains that surround us but this village was constantly bathed in sunshine.

The aire is €10 a night with all facilities including showers. The village has a couple of restaurants that don’t start serving food until 9 pm in the evening (as it seems the way with all Spanish restaurants), a tourist office, a couple of 2/3 star hotels and a small church which Andy climbed up the very steep steps to the bells. Tomorrow is “the” walk.

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