Sunday, 31 May 2009

The planes run across the road!

26th – 30th May
After the last marathon blog hopefully this will not be quite so long but you’ve all had a weekend off so should be ready for it.
With another 100 miles left to do to get to La Linea we made damn good time but at some point as we approached it Joan decided that the sat-nav lady did not have a clue and directed me to ignore her. What followed was a very extensive drive around the surrounding area until we returned to the point where the sat-nav had said turn left, and within a couple of miles we found the campsite. (I’m saying nothing!).

On our various detours trying to find it we had spotted several motorhomes parked apparently for the night and we were tempted to join them, thank God we didn’t. The next day when we cycled to Gibraltar we had to pass through a huge market set up where they had been, phew. As they were all French we now think they must have been waiting to catch the ferry to Tangiers.
La Linea campsite turned out to be combined with the local social/sports centre, this at first worried us but we soon realised that it was manned 24 hours a day and so was pretty safe. On the evening we arrived the temperature was somewhere in the thirties, but the next morning we were subjected to the Levant wind and a lot of cloud so the small person was definitely not amused. We spent the whole day wearing our coats which we’d put away a couple of weeks earlier!

As I said, we visited Gibraltar on our bikes and it was very strange as we were in this sort of manic rush of traffic and people trying to get on and when we returned it was just the same to get off again. The other thing is the road goes straight across the airport runway so it seems worse. We were stopped for passports and then had to wait while a plane taxied out and then returned and took off, the barrier opened and I thought somebody had said free pound notes for the first 4 across! Although there was a so called cycle way it was full of people and scooters, amazing. The small one was quite frightened.

Those of you still awake and who have been following this, will remember that I was attempting to find an ex-colleague who I believed lived here and we decided to try and find him first. We did not succeed but it was not for the want of help from the authorities. The lady on the door of the civic centre sent us to another building across the road and also went and scoured the phone books for us. Meanwhile at the other building which was the Parliament we were given access and helped to search the electoral roll. When we left the first lady came over and handed me a piece of paper with a possible phone number on it, which was kind of her. However we had a pleasant time there and it was certainly an experience. I did try the phone number at different times and got no answer but I’ll keep trying.

On the way back the wind was so strong that we kept to the back streets away from the coast to try to get some shelter as we were peddling against it. We were exhausted when we got back but just then the sun came out and it was red hot again. Having thought we might stay a while I was suddenly informed we were leaving in the morning! Actually we did look at the beach and it left a bit to be desired really.

So on Thursday 28th May we set off for our last stop before reaching Portugal. It was just over 200 miles so we tried to leave early and for once managed it. Ever since we arrived here at Isla Cristina it’s been good. I can’t explain it but it is just perfect, so much so that after one night we extended our stay to several days and I am not sure we won’t stay even longer. One couple in a caravan near us are here for the 5th year and have been here 7 weeks. Although very few people in the town speak any English at all they are all so friendly and helpful. We’ve got temperatures in the 30’s, free wi-fi, nice neighbours an amazing security system, the sea is warm and is only about 200yds away! A typical example of our stay here is we had a really nice German couple called Joe and Ingrid parked behind us in a Hymer van like the one we first owned. I am not sure how but we got chatting, I think Joan commented on the van. Over the next few days we spent a lot of time together especially in the evenings. They were so lovely, both had a brilliant sense of humour and spoke good English. We got on really well, so much so that they have invited us to come to Germany next year where they will introduce us to some nice beer gardens. Sounds good to us!

Some other good news is that we have heard by email from some of the St Reverend Boule club 2008 and we will be seeing them when we hit France again.

Happy 30th Birthday to John Bell, hope it’s a good one!!
Lots of love,
Joan & Bryan xxxx

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Teddy, splodge and cookie

Another picture from when we were at Julies just to make sure we can work it.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Lots of wonderful old buildings plus a key moment

21st to the 26th May
We apologise for what follows as it is several days and thus a very long blog.
However for those with a squeamish disposition here is the short version. We got out of the village without mishap, went to Granada and the Alhambra. Then up to Cordoba to see the Mezquita, had a problem with a key, nipped to Malaga and ended up near Gibraltar. But you could read it in full. J&B x

Now having slept reasonably well, the small one awakes Thursday morning and immediately says, are we going to get out all right? Of course we are I answer and then as we left the lady stops us and says, you can go to the right which is very difficult and narrow and bendy, but the villagers want you to go up the hill (1 in 3!) behind and along the back of the village! Right we say. Now I must say that a German chap took a big van up to the right and we saw him a few days later so he managed it, but I was told in no uncertain terms NO! Joan and I agreed that through the narrow streets of the village was the way to go so we did! So Poo! This worked out extremely well and we were through in no time at all safely and I could feel her relax immediately. Very soon we were back on the main road to Granada and for the first time had no trouble finding the campsite, we arrived and were set up by 1pm.

Although it was a wee bit expensive it was a delightful little site and as soon as we were set up we enquired about buses and tickets for the Alhambra visit. The bus stop is right outside and there is a standard fare. We were told that the earliest they could fit us in was Saturday at 2pm with the Royal Palace at 7pm, so we would need to stay an extra day. There was apparently a chance that if we went at 8.30am Friday we may be able to book a ticket as they retain some for sale that day but most tickets are booked on the web by hotels, travel agents and campsites. As it was still early we thought we ought to nip into Granada and check it out, thank God we did. It took us ages to locate the tourist info and find out where to get the bus for the Alhambra, plus they convinced us to let our site book for us. After spending a pleasant few hours in Granada and enjoying a beer, we returned to the site and began a typical Joan & Bryan saga.

We were supposed to get wi-fi in the van and had paid for it but it did not work, so they gave us our money back. When we arrived back from Granada Joan went straight in and tried to book the Alhambra but they were fixing the internet. So began a saga of her popping over every half an hour until finally at 9.45pm she got our booking sorted. Phew, they close at ten! I of course as any red-blooded male would do, had slept through the entire process. So Friday we decided to just chill and pop over the road to the supermarket for a look around. BUT! It turned out to be a small shopping mall, Yippee! she said, but actually I got a couple of things and she got nowt. A first I assure you, but Joan having tried lots on was happy and we returned to the important business of chilling out plus helping the sales of San Miguel.

Saturday morning arrived and not only was it a bit chilly but it kept threatening to rain with several heavy rain drops then as soon as Joan got her brolly out it stopped. I tried to point out that it was perfect weather to go sightseeing but ‘we’ were definitely NOT amused. I should explain that our tickets for the Alhambra allowed us to go into the main area at 2pm but the palace is strictly controlled and they only allow a set number in every half hour. Our tickets were for 7pm which seems odd but we only just managed to see everything and returned in time to join the queue with 15 minutes to spare.

Rather than waste the morning we decided to go into Granada early and be poised for the bus to the Alhambra at 2 o’clock. Our intention was to wander around the old town but after a visit to the cathedral we were pleasantly surprised by a huge carnival procession. We had earlier noticed some women in extremely figure hugging dresses with lots of frills and boys and girls also in traditional costumes. Suddenly everybody started lining the street so we joined them. First came the horsemen/women followed by lots of the ladies in costume dresses, then to the small ones looking an absolute delight then a couple of huge bulls pulling a large cart with more ladies in it. Next came about 30 brightly decorated floats, all apparently to celebrate the ascension. We suddenly realised it was time for our bus and as far as we could tell it had to go right through the centre of the procession? However it arrived on time and we made it to collect our tickets on time.

It would be difficult to explain how wonderful everything we saw was without boring everybody stupid. The Alhambra is one of those places that you just have to see for yourself. One thing we will be taking up with Andy and Carole is how bloomin fit you need to be to do the full tour as some of the steps are pretty high! As we staggered out absolutely cream crackered around 8pm we both agreed it had been well worth the trip. On that note we were pleasantly surprised at how cheap it actually was and how well organised, I’ve been told to say the loos were spotless as well. After a lovely meal in town we headed home for a final brandy.

Sunday 24th May. We are still not sure about going to Gibraltar as we leave Granada but after a few miles decided that we could not possibly come all this way without seeing Cordoba and visiting the Mezquita. This involves a quick bit of map reading and a consultation with the sat-nav lady plus of course the ACSI book for a campsite. I merely keep driving and await further instruction. It turned out that we could not find a campsite in and around Cordoba but there was one about 15 miles to the north. As we entered the city we were amazed at all the beautiful fountains and waterfalls but it was also wall to wall traffic and impossible to park so we left and headed north. The campsite was good and as always the young lady seemed only too glad to help us with bus times and the best place to catch it. The thing was that the bus left at 8 or 9.30am then 2.30pm the return was 3.30, 6 or 8pm. At 7am when the alarm went off the sleepy little person complained bitterly but we had tried the walk to the bus last night and it was a fair distance. When we finally arrived at 9.05am, 25 minutes early along with several Dutch couples it appeared that all the husbands had committed the same sin!

On arrival in Cordoba we made straight for the old city and the Mezquita which is an incredible building and did not disappoint us at all. Lunch was genuine Tapas, something I have certainly never had before and it was excellent. That night getting ready for our trip the next day, I managed again to mess things up. It all happened because our on board water was not working properly and I wanted to empty it all and refill. Having located a suitable tap, not an easy task as it turned out as it was located behind some holiday flats, I asked permission and was told it’s not drinking water, just for washing etc which was fine. We moved the van, drained it and refilled it, everything worked fine, hurray. Then this geezer appears and starts having a go in foreign, then brings the girl from reception over both yammering on. I thought I had done something wrong and got her into trouble so I hastily packed my hose away and shut it into the locker with the gas bottles. As I shut the door I realised the water stopper with the KEY in it was resting on the gas bottles, something I’m paranoid about not doing! Oh Joy! We had realised some time ago that the spare is safely in a draw at home. So Joan got the massive hump with me and I started trying to dismantle the van, this worked and all’s well etc, but it was touch and go. I had visions of asking Jacqueline to send the one from home by DHL! Later she said it was Pam’s fault as she had spoken to her 20 minutes earlier on the phone and Pam asked whether there had been any more mishaps with the van and Joan said confidently, no, none.

We then continued with our original plan to go to Gibraltar but decided it would be nice to have a few days near Malaga first. We headed back down through Cordoba for the only ACSI site on the south coast near Malaga which had a good write up in the book. We made reasonable time but when we finally found it, it was not very appealing and was actually 15 miles east of Malaga so we headed for La Linea, the border crossing for Gibralta.
Lots of love,
Bryan & Joan xxx

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Thanks Stephen for sorting the pictures.

We were having all sorts of trouble getting our pictures on and Stephen has sorted it for us so look forward to a picture now and then.
Love us xxx

lunch stop Orleans

All is well BUT we may need a new clutch!

19th & 20th May
We were up and off to the beach early to get our paper with the answers to Saturday’s crossword. Next it was along to the supermarket on the bikes to stock up on a few bits and pieces. We do this early as it is pretty hot a bit later on. Then we just chilled out until it was time to take Liz & Mo out for dinner. They had surprised us by saying they wanted to go to an Indian restaurant which turned out to be Nepalese, still the food was excellent but not very hot, as in spicy. Then it was off home this time in a taxi arranged by Liz.

The next day as they had insisted we go to another restaurant for dinner on them, we decided to check out just how far it actually was to cycle. When Joan discovered that we had spent nearly £40 on four 2 mile journeys she announced firmly that we could cycle. Fortunately this time I had put the cycle torches in so we were all set. Having had yet another super sunny day off we went on our bikes and found it very easy. Everything was going far too well so I was not the least surprised when we returned to their flat after the meal for a liqueur to discover I had a flat tyre! Still I had everything with me so it was soon fixed and we said our goodbyes to them for this year.

We set off fairly early to travel the 128 miles to the camp site Joan had picked out as a halfway point to Granada as it was a fairly long drive to do in one go. I should have been warned what sort of a drive it would be when the sat-nav lady and Joan could not agree how we would get out of Javea. Fortunately I remembered so after stocking up with the heavy items like booze and water we hit the road. The journey was fairly boring until we left the motorway. I should point out at this point that we passed what appeared to be a perfectly pleasant campsite next to the motorway. Joan felt that it would be far too noisy but as we travelled up the mountain around the third hairpin bend she wondered out loud if it was perhaps a better idea to return to that site, if only! However we managed to get to the village easily enough and that was when the brown stuff hit the fan.

As we entered the village there was a sign diverting us to the right and of course straight up. Our van managed the first bit but just stalled completely on the 1 in 3 bit and as I could not go anywhere but up I had to slip the clutch a bit which resulted in a very nasty burning smell indeed. Hopefully I have not done too much damage but I had to do something to get up the hill. When we finally got to the site we found we had been directed all around the outside of the village and we think it was the villager’s idea. Their excuse being we would not fit. We have since found out we can easily fit through the streets when we leave. B*@*#**d’s. We had to do a quick reccy as I knew the small person was not going to get a seconds sleep thinking about how we would get out. So imagine how we felt as we saw a huge delivery van drive through.
On a lighter note if we thought Javea was hot we were in for a shock. I always thought it was cooler up in the mountains but most of today it has been really scorching and as I sign off for bed it is still 86°
Lots of love
Joan & Bryan xxxx

Monday, 18 May 2009

It's just like being at home with added sunshine.

16th to 18th May We literally had to drag ourselves away from the last site it was so perfect but we have aunts to visit. So next stop Javea or Xabia if you are Spanish. It was a pretty long and, as it was a motorway, boring drive but we made good time and were here and all set up by 3.30pm. When I say it’s just like being at home I mean we know where everything is, supermarkets, paper shops and of course the beach so after a relaxing drink it was off on the bikes to the beach, only about ¼ mile away. Next we rang Aunty Liz to say we’d arrived and we’d see them the next day but they wanted us to come over straight away. After our meal we splashed out on a cab to go to the Port where the aunts live and they were delighted to see us. We spent a very pleasant evening with them but when we left about 10.30pm to go to the taxi rank we couldn’t find it! This resulted in my phoning on my mobile for one, so naturally it had to be routed via England!!! As to taxi prices? Well as I said, it was just like being at home only dearer! Well the beach is calling..............Ooh and a cold beer, smashing.
Love from us

Friday, 15 May 2009

Well at least it is warm rain!

13th to 15th May. Having driven all the way to the south of France we feel that the least we could expect was some sunshine, but it seems determined to be cloudy and wet. Still as the animals seem determined to love us to death plus Julie and the family cannot do enough for us, it is all very nice and restful. We have managed to get up to date with the blog and recharge everything electrical, phones etc., plus ourselves. Today as planned we left chez Shbib around 10.30am and drove the 235 miles to a Spanish campsite just south of Tarragona outside the town of Cambrils. Half of this journey was dull and showery but we now have the glorious sunshine we have been hoping for. We are parked at the very edge of the sea and have listened to the waves crashing on the shore every time we awoke, lovely. This camp site is spotless and I am sure we would not have been given a place by the sea if it were not low season, but we still had to pay a supplement which I felt was well worth it. Actually my next trick will be to try and get a few pictures on here via flickr but please don’t hold your breath. Must dash I have an urgent appointment with a cold beer and a reclining chair, plus the small one will need reminding to turn and do the other side occasionally!
Lots of love, at last from the sunshine.
Joan & Bryan

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Talking about problems with inflation!!

11th to 12th May
We arose early and were due to leave as soon as the bread arrived at 8.30am. Having breakfasted etc we drove up to the gate and I noticed the tyres looked a little under inflated. “No problem”, I told Joan “just pass me that black bag behind your seat and I’ll put some air in.” Everything was going very well until suddenly it stopped working on the last wheel. Either the fuse was blown in the cigar lighter which it was plugged into or the inflator was broken? Just then the English couple appeared and very kindly let us test it using the 12 volt plug on their car and when it worked let us finish inflating the last tire. So now I need to track down which of the 5 fuse boxes the blown fuse is in, plus of course which fuse and why it blew. Oh dear, the sat-nav works from the cigar lighter point, YES!!

Strangely enough we managed to find our way to Julie’s no bother although it was a very long way and with hindsight would have been better split into two stages. We travelled on the A75 which was a series of very steep climbs with short downs until we had climbed to 4000 feet! This then of course resulted in a steady drop down to the Milau bridge which Joan had been looking forward to seeing, frankly as it cost £9 to go over it I would have settled for a post card. After some 6 hours driving battling against some pretty horrendous cross winds, (we thought at one stage they might close the bridge), we arrived exhausted to the usual warm welcome from all the family.

Today has been a little disappointing weather wise, while not cold there has been no sun until late afternoon. Still we have replaced the broken fuse and been shown all around chez Shbib, a totally relaxing time and just what the doctor ordered.
Love Joan and Bryan xxxx

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Are there really BEARS in Italy?

8th to 11th May
We were away nice and early from Jargeau and although it was very dull with thick mist, quite soon the sun burned the mist off and is was sunny for the rest of the day. Because there seemed no alternative road going directly where we wanted, we had to use the toll road, Ugh! This resulted in us making really good time and when my little human computer had sorted all the facts out it actually only cost us about £10 more. Having left the toll road we went straight onto a free motorway. We then had one of those wonderful Joan verses the sat-nav moments where it tried to direct us down what I can only describe as a wide track. We ignored that and continued on the main road which wasn't much wider but did have white lines down the middle. For the next half hour we had "I dont know why we came down here it would have been better to have stayed on the motorway until junction ...." etc.

All the time we were getting higher into the mountains of the Auvergne with more and more stunning views. After some time we arrived at Chambon-sur-lac nice and early with wall to wall sunshine. We were directed to a lovely little spot from where we overlooked the lake on one side and had a good view of the snow covered mountains to the east. Being a bank holiday weekend there were lots of families and friends walking around the lake making for a very festive air. All the facilities were spotless plus free wi-fi, hurray. Now as I said we are up in the mountains so it does not seem as hot as it would nearer sea level and I am afraid we both managed to get a bit sunburnt but not too seriously. The other strange thing is the rain, as you sit there, all of a sudden a couple of huge rain drops fall on you from a clear sky, then having leapt into the van it stops. After a while you learn and dont bother and about now you notice that everybody else is looking at you and smiling. Next a bit of wind gets up and they all nip inside, then it really rains for a few minutes then stops, while those walking around the lake appear not to have noticed.

We awoke to glorious sunshine Sunday morning but as soon as we returned from our shower it started to rain heavily and didn't stop until 1pm. As soon as it stopped we started our walk around the lake just in case it decided to start again but it just got better and better. We ended up putting our coats in my pack and had to stop 2/3 of the way around for a drink, another lovely day. As we aproached our van we met a very interesting couple of eccentric English people. They were travelling in a large estate car in the back of which was a big air-bed, while next to the car was a 2 person tent. The lady slept in the car and he slept in the tent. They apparently felt this was a huge impovement on last year when they both slept in the back of the car for 9 weeks travelling around Italy. They had with them a small portable fridge which apparently was new as the old one was nicked by a BEAR in Italy last year very near where they had the Earthquake a few weeks ago!!!

We are off to see Julie & Khalid tommorrow if I can find their phone number which appears to have changed!

Wow! Finally after several attempts and enlisting Andy's help we have contacted Julie and told them we are coming. She managed successfully to sound pleased so we are all set for tomorrow. We have just heard from Kathleen and Ken, they have got wall to wall sunshine down in Sicily, hopefully we will see them in a few more weeks down in Frejus. Meanwhile Angela and Paul are enjoying good weather in Dorset so let's hope it continues for them.

love to you all
Bryan and Joan XXXX

Saturday, 9 May 2009

So we burned Joan of Arc for them? Weird.

6th to 8th May was spent at a pleasant campsite in a place called Jargeau near Orleans. the toilets left a bit to be desired ( until we found the newer toilet block), but otherwise it was very good, sunny and warm. Having set up we walked into town to get bus times for a trip into Orleans. We did consider cycling but it was 12 miles each way and the small one did not think we could do it. In the event the next morning, the bus was very cheap, quick and ran on time. On arrival we made straight for the tourist info but having gone to the place indicated by the street map on the lamp post, we were faced with a couple of very puzzled ladies employed in recruitment. They sent us to the right place which was near the cathedral.

Having gathered all the info and a book about Joan of arc we followed ALL the very small children visiting the cathedral, Oh joy! Then after a visit to the Joan of Arc museum and finding out all about how we burned her at the stake, mainly because the French wanted us to? Plus apparently, she had this annoying habit of going into battle against us and winning, so it served her right. Next a pleasant stroll around the old town and lunch immediately followed by guess what? Yes, some shopping!!! After what had been a very pleasant trip we returned and sat in the sun enjoying a glass or two of wine until quite late.

We are receiving complaints, a) about the lack of blogs and b) Their brevity plus they are not very funny. well I am sorry but a) we were not feeling very humurous and b)this is the first time we have had wee fee (that's what they call wi-fi). I did try and get into a Mc Donalds to use their free wi-fi but it was heaving so we left. Obviously the French have lost their love of good food!

Believe it or not we are supposed to be getting free wi-fi here but having typed the whole bloody lot in this afternoon, they had turned it OFF!?! So we had to start again tonight.

Lots of love
Hic, xxxx

Well I did it again!

4th & 5th May

Yes we have another new rear light cluster, and I am as sick as a parrot. So much so that we again really seriously felt like coming home and selling the van. No kidding we were really fed up and it has taken a couple of days for both of us to settle down and start enjoying our trip. having arrived at Angela's I had to get the van into the narrow drive at the side of her house. This sounds easy but it took help from Joan and Paul plus a couple of tries to acheive it. It was so tight that we could not get out of the drivers side and Paul had to lend us his cable so we could plug into the electricity which we could only just get to on the other side, to keep our fridge going. It was fine though as we were well off the road with the bikes hidden from view.

However once a week on a Sunday Angela's neighbour takes his car out for a run and it lives at the top of the drive so I had to move to let him out. At the bottom of the drive I had a lamp post on one side, a fence on the other and parked cars opposite. I had to swing out at such a sharp angle that the overhang at the back caught the fence post, broke the rear light and cost me another £60! Both of us were totally demorolised and so fed up, frankly I could have cried and Joan did. However after much cajoling and sympathetic noises from Angela and Paul we tried to get a replacement because of course you cannot drive abroad with it broken. It's bank holiday Sunday and we have got a ferry to catch tomorrow morning!!! After much googling Paul found a place who said they may be able to help, in Reigate about 23 miles away. so off we went and they managed to help us although it is not a perfect match but that's another story.

We set off the next morning and caught the ferry still both very much down in the dumps and began our trip in our usual fashion with a full English breakfast which did cheer us a little. we disembarked in glorious sunshine and set off on the 150 Miles to Neufchatal-en-bray, a lovely little site recommended to us last year by Kathleen and Ken. we felt our spirits lifting as finally we sat in the sun with a beer and a large glass of red wine and toasted all our friends and family. We determined to put it behind us and enjoy ourselves, but it had been touch and go I promise you.

First full day in France

Now I like the sound of church bells, and so when we were awoken by them at 7 am it was quite nice but they carried on and on and on! I thought they might stop if I got up? No! Anyway that aside this has been a lovely relaxing day of high cloud, hazy sun and our first cycle ride with Joan's new saddle courtesy of Andy, which is proving a great success.

Lots of love from the wrecker and her xxxxx