Sunday, 10 September 2017
Sunday 10th September 2017 We are parked up this afternoon just outside Albarracin which is described as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. This may well be true but the reason we have stopped here is because we needed some reliable WiFi and so, reluctantly, we are on a campsite just outside the town (40.411917 -1.427559). We're at an altitude of just over 1200m and although it's sunny it's also very windy today and a cold wind. We're on our way to Bolnuevo for the winter and I was not going to bother with the blog but two events have encouraged me to change my mind. Firstly an email from my eldest daughter saying "Wot, no blog?" And secondly to discover that our friends Paul & Chris are on their travels and have resumed their blog http://travelwithpaulandchris.blogspot.com.es/. So here's what we've been up to since we left England on 29th August. This is our 8th trip to Europe since we bought the van in 2013 and previously we've always crossed via the tunnel to Calais or Portsmouth to Santander/Bilbao and the same thing coming back but the drive to and from Yorkshire from either of those places is always a pain. Roadworks on the A1/M1, the crawl around the M25, the constant nose to tail traffic, aargh we're sick of it! So when we came home last May we took the ferry from Zeebruge to Hull, 90 minutes down the M62 and we're home! So a couple of weeks ago we took the ferry from Hull to Zeebruge which was painless. A bit longer drive through Belgium and France but along roads which have a fraction of the traffic compared to the UK. A tip for anyone contemplating using P&O on this route - when booking choose the cheapest cabin option and then upgrade on board, it's much cheaper. Or, of course, stick with the cheapest cabin and send your partner up the ladder to the top bunk. This was not an option for me. After docking in Zeebruge we set off for Reims and the dedicated motorhome parking (49.250301 4.020210) which is only a ten minute walk to the city centre and another five minutes to the Cathedral but we explored both last May and it was raining this time so we did very little other than plan the next day's stop. Bray-sur-Seine is a pretty town with some interesting river walks and we parked on the quayside (48.417112 3.238018), ideal for watching the big commercial barges sliding by. From Bray we set off for Bourges and another large parking area for motorhomes (47.076323 2.398953) and another day of torrential rain. Bourges was not explored, saved for another day. Next stop was Sadroc (45.283443 1.548686) which I would have described as a one horse town had I not seen a couple of young lasses on horseback. A tiny village but with some lovely large houses. There's money in Sadroc we reckon. Onwards the next day to Cahors and parking close by the river Lot (44.438874 1.439712) A beautiful medieval quarter to explore, monks gardens, ancient river bridges and lots of public gardens. We liked Cahors. By now we realised we had been in France for 5 days and hadn't stopped at a vineyard. This was soon rectified by a stop at Domaine de LaBarthe (43.984107 2.020776) just outside Castanet, nice views and nice wine from the Gaillac region. A short drive the next day to Albi and some more parking reserved for motorhomes (43.927384 2.140944) in the shadow of the massive Cathedral which, unusually, is built of brick and is reckoned to be the largest brick built structure in Europe. The inside of the Cathedral was no less impressive where the limestone rood screen was still intact. St Cecile Cathedral was built between 1282 and 1830 and Italian painters found plenty of work in the C16th painting every available wall and ceiling. We stayed an extra day in Albi so we could visit the museum and art gallery dedicated to Toulouse Lautrec who was born in the city. The museum is housed in what was the Arch Bishop's palace, also built of brick and equally impressive. The next day was to be our last stop in France for a while. Vicdessos is a short drive from Cagnac at the end of the N20 in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Another tiny village but dedicated motorhome parking (42.768436 1.502073) including electricity for €7.65/24hrs and with the bonus of free herb gardens where visitors are invited to help themselves, which we did. Leaving France the next day we climbed up to and through Andorra and then descended to the town of La Seu d'Urgen in Spain after a brief halt leaving Andorra where we were asked how many cigarettes we had bought. We waved our electronic fags and the customs officer waved us goodbye. Half the fun of travelling in a motorhome is stumbling upon places and events and La Seu came up trumps on Friday. We parked up and could hear somebody talking excitedly through a PA system. At first we thought it was the travelling fruit and veg man but I listened a bit closer and it sounded like a sports commentary in English. We set off to see what was happening and discovered the canoe slalom world cup taking place on the course designed and built for the Barcelona Olympics 25 years ago. It was the men's qualifying rounds and we sat and watched these sportsmen for ages, cheering everytime someone came down the course with a union flag on his kayak. There were contestants from all over the world and I got chatting to a guy from team GB who reckoned we were in with a shout for a medal. It was a great atmosphere and it was great to watch a sport I've never followed before and admire the skill and massive upper body strength of these guys. It was a beautiful day and we wandered up and down the course and then sat in the shade watching how the "paddlers" maneuvered through the gates in the roiling water. A World Cup event - for free! Last night we stopped in Zaragoza after a long day's drive and managed to squeeze into a car park on the northern edge of the city (41.661869 -0.8799600). There were supposed to be 5 parking spaces for motorhomes but we found no evidence of them. We had wanted to explore Zaragoza but a combination of tiredness and a feeling of not really wanting to leave our home on wheels unattended where we were parked prevented us from doing so, maybe next time. We are booked into our winter campsite in Bolnuevo from next Wednesday so have a couple more stops on the way I'll post another blog next week and when I've resolved the usual "photo issues" I'll post some pics. Pat
Monday, 8 May 2017
Tuesday 2nd May 2017 We left the beautiful City of Reims and headed north with an uneventful drive and arrived at Banteaux (N50.06280 E3.20105). This is a nice stop over next to the canal with all services including electricity for €5/24hrs but the weather was cold and miserable, we were the only folk there and we didn't bother exploring the quiet town. Wednesday 3rd May 2017 From Banteux we set off on the national road to Lens and a motorhome stopover next to a drive through Macdonalds (N50.43245 E2.82009). Space for 6 vans but a large overflow car park adjacent, it's free to stay here with the benefit of Maccy D's WiFi. It poured down with rain all day and I don't think the folk from Lens would disagree if I said there isn't a great deal to see in their city so another day of not doing much at all. Thursday 4th May 2017 Our last stop before our ferry on Friday evening was to be Bruges. The motorhome parking provided there is outrageously expensive at €25/24hrs and if you go over the 24hrs it's another €25 so we didn't want to get there too early in the day so we set off first for Dunkirk where we could park behind the dunes, have some lunch and set off for Bruges to arrive late afternoon to allow us a full days sightseeing the next day. The parking for motorhomes in Dunkirk has no facilities but it's free and it's next to the beach and the promenade with lots of shops, restaurants and cafes (N51.05298 E2.41425), I would imagine it would get pretty busy here in the summer. So after a bite to eat and a stroll on the beach we set off for Bruges and arrived a little after 4pm. (N51.19582 E3.22569). Although the parking here is expensive there are the usual facilities, waste water and wc dump, fresh water and electricity and it's only a ten minute walk to the old town. It's a bit noisy during the day with traffic noise from the nearby road and the adjacent coach parking but it was quiet enough at night. Friday 5th May 2017 We spent the day exploring Bruges together with thousands of other tourists including lots of school parties with kids frantically running about filling in work sheets. Another cold and grey day but we were still impressed with the city which still has many old buildings and plenty of museums. The Cathedral was undergoing some renovation but it was free to visit. On a better day weather wise we would have taken a canal boat trip but the folk we saw huddled up on the boats looked frozen so we didn't bother. I would have liked to sample some of the beers on offer in the many bars but as I was driving later in the day I abstained although I did buy a selection of bottles to sample on our return to England. The restaurants here aren't cheap by any stretch of the imagination but we found somewhere that didn't cost an arm and a leg and managed to bag the last table. We returned to the van, emptied everything that needed emptying, paid our €25 and set off for the 20 minute drive to the ferry port at Zeebrugge. Now, we've been on a few ferries over the last few years and experienced some pretty chaotic loading arrangements and delays whilst everyone gets loaded before finally the motorhomes are squeezed on. But this couldn't have been quicker or easier. We checked in, obtained our boarding passes, followed the signs and parked up anticipating a long wait. No sooner had we stopped than a guy came over, checked the van for stowaways and ten minutes later we were on the ferry and collecting our room keys - brilliant. We were impressed with the "Pride of Bruges", a couple of bars and restaurants and lounges spread over three decks, helpful and cheerful staff and everywhere spotlessly clean. The only downside was our cabin which had bunk beds and I'm getting to the age where climbing a ladder to get to my bed has kind of lost it's appeal. I checked whether cabins were available with two lower beds and I would have to book a 4 berth to avoid mountaineering in the future or use the Rotterdam/Hull route where the ships do have two berth cabins. But apart from that small inconvenience I think this will now be our preferred route to mainland Europe in the future. It avoids the long drive in England from Yorkshire to the South coast and back again. Once we had docked at Hull on Saturday morning it was only a couple of hours drive before we were back home in Bingley. Some statistics from this trip: We left home on 28th September 2016 and arrived home on the 6th May 2017. We spent just over 5 months in Bolnuevo. We made 21 stops in France (13 free), 14 stops in Spain (7 free), 7 stops in Portugal (5 free) and one stop in Belgium. We covered 4,300 miles which was one of our shortest trips. We no longer record our fuel consumption nor do we keep a detailed breakdown of how much we've spent or what we spent it on. We'll spend the next few months in the UK visiting friends and family, servicing and MOT'ing the van, replacing some hanging wardrobes with shelves and taking a trip to the Highlands. Then, late summer we'll set off again for Europe, spending the winter in Spain and heading for Greece next spring. Thanks to everyone who has followed our journey via the blog and commented. Bye for now, Pat & Phil.
Monday, 1 May 2017
Friday 28th April 2017 We're slowly making our way up to Belgium for a ferry next weekend and thought we had better visit a vineyard on the way to stock up! An independent vineyard at Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, ( N47.52155 E4.52961 )a little north west of Dijon looked ideal and so it turned out to be. One of the oldest vineyards in France, listed and mapped in the time of Charlemagne, it dates back to 741 but gradually disappeared by the end of the C19th. A little over 20 years ago 13Ha were replanted and the current owner is trying hard to promote not only the vineyard but the region. Located near the historical site where the battle of Alesia took place between the Romans and the Gauls it is considered to be the birth place of the French nation. There aren't as many vineyards this north in the Cote D'Or but we chose well, the wine was terrific (we bought a bottle or two!) and the location was excellent, the vines planted on the south facing hills looked down upon us, swallows performed their ariel acrobatics ,owls screeched and hooted and once the sun went down there wasn't a sound to be heard other than the birds. No traffic, no trains, no planes and we didn't hear a strimmer until 9.30 the following morning. Our non-scientific study suggests that Greece has the highest per capita strimmer ownership, Spain second and France in third place. Strimmer operatives generally wear ear defenders. Folk nearby generally don't. That's all I have to say about strimmers. Saturday 29th April 2017 We left the Cote D'Or and set off toward Chaumont, leaving the vineyards behind and were soon driving alongside fields of rape, wheat and corn. Not the most scenic of drives but we drove through some woodland and a quaint village or two. I use the word quaint to describe villages we drive through where Phil tenses and I say that a bus could get through here as I pull in the side mirrors. The 30kph speed signs are generally unnecessary as I crawl through with all senses on high alert. After a brief detour to Intermarche to buy 5L of white vinegar ( we put it in the waste water tank to keep it smelling fresh - or vinegary, dependant upon your sense of smell) and its cheap in France, we arrived at the motorhome aire just outside Chaumont. It wasn't the most pleasing of places and there was nobody available to turn on the, allegedly free, electricity and water until 4.30pm. As it was only 12.30 we had a look at a book or two and drove another 30mins north to Froncles. A great stopover, all services including electricity, next to the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, and all for €8.45 per night (N48.30138 E5.14885). When the young lady came round to collect the money I mentioned that I would fill up with water the next morning and she asked if I had an adaptor for their water outlet as it was rather unusual. If I didn't have one she could lend me one in the morning. Now, I reckon I've got an adaptor for every tap/water outlet known to man or woman in Europe so I retrieved the bag of fittings and wandered casually over to the water supply. It all looked a bit high tech and very new and sure enough there was an odd looking stubby lump of metal coming horizontally out of the stainless steel box. Closer examination and it turned out to be a push fit thingy that you get with garden hoses. I retrieved my fitting from the bag and inserted it into the outlet. It didn't quite fit. I tried three and then a nice Frenchman wandered over and showed me the fitting I needed and said I could borrow his. "But I've got one of those" I said showing him the piece. We tried again and sure enough my bit of kit worked and water came out of my hose. I thanked the French guy as I pulled the fitting from the outlet and covered myself in about 5L of water! A quick change of clothes and, as we were only 20m from the canal bank a spot of fishing was in order. No fish were harmed in this fruitless endeavour. Sunday 30th April 2017. No quaint villages today but plenty of quaint roads. Eventually we ended up on a road with a white line down the middle and Phil was able to exhale the breath she had been holding for the last 10miles. Onwards through more fields of grain until we reached Nancy. Few large cities have motorhome aires anywhere near the centre but here in Nancy we can park up next to the canal marina with all services (N48.69228 E6.19320) and a ten minute walk to Place Stanislas, the medieval quarter and a lovely urban park with a small zoo. The harbourmaster (la capitainerie) after we stumbled along for a while in my fractured French, asked me if I spoke a little English after which we got on like a house on fire. He accepted my €16.40 for an overnight stay, gave me a map and told me that Place Stanislas was the most beautiful square in France, if not all of Europe and drew a little route on the map which would show us the best sights and only take a couple of hours. We set off but were delayed after ten minutes by a vintage car rally where the vehicles we had earlier seen being escorted through the city were parking up. Old Renaults, Citroens, Austin Healeys and MGs and a superb AC Cobra amongst others. Before they had parked up they had been escorted through the city by police motorcyclists who looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Blue lights flashing, vintage car horns honking, pedestrians gawping as they drove past - what's not to like? Being in the centre of a large city I didn't think I'd have any problems finding some WiFi so I could follow the Spurs/Arsenal match. If not a live feed at least a commentary. Unfortunately we appear to be in some kind of WiFi black hole here but my son kept me abreast of the game via a series of expletive filled text messages. Oh well, there's always next season and we're in the FA Cup final. Tomorrow we head to Reims. Monday 1st May 2017 What a beautiful city Reims is. Wide pedestrianised boulevards with stunning architecture,although a lot of it is obscured by the many tall trees, now in full leaf. We were lucky to be able to walk about here today with hardly any traffic and no crowds of shoppers. Today being a National Holiday the shops were all closed as were many of the bars, can you imagine shops and bars closing in England on a Bank Holiday? No, me neither but it made for a peaceful stroll around the city centre. But first we headed for the Cathedral where between 816 and 1825 some 34 sovereigns began their reign here, including a couple of dozen Kings. Building on the Cathedral in its current form began in 1211 and was mostly completed 100 years later. The view when you approach from the west is stunning with the front of the Cathedral framed by trees either side of rue Libergier. The Cathedral is 139m long but what amazed me was the height. Looking up from the nave with massive pillars either side and buttresses crisscrossing above took my breath away. It was a little cloudy today so we didn't see the best of the stained glass windows but we saw enough to be amazed. Some of the windows date from the fifteenth century but there are three large panels by Chagall which are almost as impressive. Damage during WW1 & WW2 took its toll but the restoration work itself is a wonder. I've recently read "The Pillars of the Earth" and I can imagine how awestruck English builders and masons must have been when they first saw these magnificent French Cathedrals. The 250 step climb to the tower affords 360deg views across France's flattest region but we were spared the ordeal with it being a Holiday and the tour wasn't available - phew! We arrived here early afternoon and unusually the motorhome aire here in Reims (N49.25006 E4.02164) is just on the edge of the city centre however, unlike last night's stop in Nancy, this one is free. There is only space for 7 vans and the access is barriered with a phone number to obtain the access code- "Bonjour, J'ai un Camping Car" "Oui?" "Err......" "Do you speak English?" "Yes - I have a camping car and I'm outside the barrier" "Yes, I know. The code is xxxxxxx." "Merci" "You're welcome, have a nice day" Easy peasy. Tomorrow we'll have another look around the City, there's lots we haven't seen, and then set off toward Cambrai which will possibly be our last night in La Belle France for a while.
Thursday, 27 April 2017
Tuesday 25th April 2017 Lapalisse, (N46.250225 E3.635375) I'm sure, would be lovely if the sun were shining. It was when we arrived so we set off for the C12th Chateau. The description suggested that there were still many of the original details and a tour was only a few euros including the large gardens. But it was a Tuesday. Closed! In fact everything was closed except a kebab shop with a sad looking streak of lamb on a silent spit. Oh well, back to the van and........the heavens opened. It rained for 12 hours without a break. When we arrived there were a couple of motorhomes parked up and by early evening there were 20 plus but no chance of conversation with our neighbours as we were all sheltering from the rain with the heating on full blast. We've been lucky with the weather since we left Spain, we had one night of rain in Vic but apart from that it's been sunny, although a little chilly in the mornings, so nothing to complain about really. Unfortunately the lights and heating, coupled with the WiFi booster and charging of IPads/phones etc took its toll on the leisure battery and by mid evening the monitor was suggesting that it was getting a bit distressed (as were we). We have a 100w solar panel on the roof and usually we have some sunshine to top up the battery and, coupled with the charge from the alternator when we are driving, we don't usually see the battery running low. But short journeys and cloudy days don't help. Wednesday 26th April 2017. We set off this morning heading to Beaune where we've stopped a couple of times before(N47.01754 E4.83669). It's a lovely town and the motorhome parking area has a supermarket next door and WiFi courtesy of the Mercure hotel opposite. It also has an electric hook up point where we got 4 hours of electricity to top up the battery for €4. It pretty much rained all day so we didn't revisit the town, the old infirmary or the mustard factory although they are all highly recommended. The drive from Lapalisse was mostly scenic, especially when we drove alongside the Canal du Centre after stopping at Ecuisses for water. Ah, water. We have a tank that gives us about three days of water if we each shower every day and wash dishes etc..., despite this I like to top up every day if possible but I don't like paying for water. Many of the motorhome service areas now have a service point which accepts jettons which are purchased from the Marie/boulangerie/cafe or local tabac. This is not unreasonable, I guess if the machine took euros it would pretty soon be robbed and vandalised but it is a nuisance. But, the toilet cassette rinsing points supply water free although it says it is NOT DRINKING WATER! Now, I can't believe they have two water supplies to the same facility and we drink bottled water anyway, so it's out with the antiseptic wipes, clean the tap and eh voila! Fresh water! This we did at Ecuisses. Thursday 27th April 2017 Nearly twenty years ago our eldest daughter gave birth to her first son whilst living in Tavernay, just outside Autun. Phil came out a couple of weeks after the birth and then a few months later we both came out with our son and one of his school pals. During that visit we came into Autun one day and had lunch at La Tete Noire where our son had Duck breast in black currant sauce which he still talks about today. So, although they say you should never go back, this morning we set off from Beaune for the short drive to Autun. We parked up with a view across the lake to the hills (N46.95099 E4.31152) put on our finest and set off to the restaurant. We both had the Pike soufflé to start (isn't Pike out of season now, in April?), delicious! We're in Bourgogne so Phil had to have Coq au Vin and, just to make our son jealous I had the Duck. Cheese, a pudding, good wine, coffee and Armagnac, what's not to like? Twenty years ago I remember the service as being a little formal but today it was relaxed but I swear it was the same Maitre'd from two decades ago. Before we went into the restaurant it was windy and chilly, when we came out it was snowing! When we got back to the van - after a short cut through the cemetery - the sun was shining. April weather eh? A couple of days ago there were twenty plus vans in Lapalisse, there were twenty seven last night in Beaune; there are a half dozen here this afternoon in Autun and by tonight it will probably be twenty plus again. But where are the Brits? We haven't seen a British motorhome since Port Vendre three weeks ago! 6.30pm now and..............hailstones!!!!!! Pat
Monday, 24 April 2017
Monday 24th April 2017 So, we've been to a few places since we left Gordes a couple of weeks ago. First stop was Banon (N44.03966 E5.62962) in the eastern edge of Provence; a beautiful small town with a steep walk to the Church offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside. It's the place to come in summer when the lavender fields are in flower. However we don't come for the view, we come for the restaurant "Les Vins Au Vert" ( www.lesvinsauvert.fr ). We discovered the restaurant 4 years ago and its a delight every time we visit. The walls are covered in wine racks offering wine from every region in France and beyond, the food is a selection of charcuterie, salad, cheese with a small pot of soup. Doesn't sound like much but every mouthful is delicious. From Banon we headed west to a vineyard at Bagnols-sur-Ceze (N44.18519 E4.62158) a little way from Orange. Of course we had to buy some Cote du Rhone and the next day set off for Aveze (N43.97552 E3.59860) just outside Le Vigan, a great stopover by a river with beautiful walks. The following day, Saturday, we set off for Aumessas (N43.98997 E3.50429),a tiny village in the Cevenne. Our eldest daughter lives in St Etienne with her husband and 3 children but her parents in law have owned property in Aumessas for many years and they take every opportunity to spend time there. It is a beautiful area and we've visited many times. Part of the village is a jumble of houses all joined together, perched on the hillside occasionally separated by a courtyard or narrow alleyway. Many years ago this was a prosperous village with terraced mulberry trees supporting silk worms and the resulting silk was sent to Le Vigan by rail to the factories there. Chestnuts also were harvested in the area. The railway line is long gone although the station remains and is now the village bar and social centre. The permanent population would be measured in the low hundreds I guess although there are many more folk here during the summer. Despite this there is a lively social scene and a wonderful atmosphere. The downside is that its a 20 minute drive to the shops but with a bit of planning this isn't really a problem. We spent a week there during which time Phil celebrated a birthday, we enjoyed a couple of walks in the mountains and met up with friends we have made over the years (Hi Patrick!). But all good things come to an end and on Sunday we bade farewell and set off for the even sleepier village of Campagnac, (N44.41955 E3.08866) 70 miles to the north. We didn't really have a plan once we left Aumessas other than to arrive in Zeebrugge on the 5th May for our ferry back to England but we knew that the A75 is a scenic toll free motorway (apart from the bridge at Millau and I don't mind paying the €12 for the privilege of crossing) and we could get some miles under our belt. So today we are parked up in Perignat-les-Sarlieve (N45.73707 E3.13847) a few miles south of Clermont-Ferrand. It's an official motorhome stop over but whereas some of the aires we stop at supply water free,some charge and a Jetton for the machine has to be purchased from the Marie or the local bar or suchlike. Here they want €2 for water but we had a lucky moment. Shortly after we arrived a workman from the Town Hall arrived with several steel sheets with posters attached showing the candidates for yesterday's first round of elections. He turned on an outside tap and proceeded to wash the posters off the sheets (we cheered when Marie Le Pen was washed away hoping it was some kind of sign for the final round of elections in a fortnight) and when he had finished I asked if I could fill up a couple of water containers from his tap - pas de problem! I swapped the water for a can of cold beer and everyone was happy. And now, after lunch and a look at the maps, we have a plan; we've decided to have a nosey around Metz, Nancy and Strasbourg having never explored that part of France, stopping off on the way at Macon and Dijon. Of course we all know what happens to plans but another good reason to explore these places is to do with the weather. We've had glorious weather for the last few weeks but all the forecasts indicate a sharp drop in temperature and some rain over the next few days so towns/cities with galleries and museums seem like a good idea. Pat
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
Monday 11th April 2017 After leaving Peniscola last Tuesday we headed toward a Cava vineyard about 12k north of Sitges with views across to the mountains of Montserrat (N41.36851 E1.77221). We were given a tour of the cave in the vineyard and our guide was very effusive about Montserrat, suggesting the mountains defined Catalunya. After the tour comes the tasting and we always feel obliged to buy a few bottles. We reckon we've had a free nights parking in peaceful and scenic surroundings and its a way of showing our appreciation. Unlike the other 8 people on the tour who didn't buy a bottle between them. The next day we headed off for Vic, a bustling University town with an interesting Old Quarter (N41.93475 E2.24044). First stop the Tourist Office where it was suggested we follow the tourist route marked in brass signs on the pavement. This we did and after a pleasant hour or so ended up where we started. Time for a beer. We've been used to paying a euro for a small beer so it was a bit of a shock to be charged €5 for two in a bar by the market square, I felt like asking for a doggy bag for the complementary peanuts. It's a shame we couldn't have stayed in Vic until the weekend where there were lots of celebrations and unusual markets to celebrate Palm Sunday but there wasn't really enough there to keep us occupied for another four days. And they were setting up a fun fair about 100m from our parking spot. Our guide book suggested a route to Figueres through the lower slopes of the Pyrenees would yield some interesting sights so we set off the next day stopping first at Rippol, we were running low on water, the tap at Vic wasn't working and neither was the one at the motorhome parking in Rippol. Onwards to S.Joan de les Abadesses. Not only did we find water but a beautiful town with a superb monastery and museum. We find that it's often the smallest towns and villages that have the best places of interest and S J de les A was no exception. The monastery began life as a nunnery however the nuns were expelled in 1017 for alleged licentious conduct! Next stop, Besalu which we entered by foot over the 11th-century fortified bridge with two tower gates and portcullis leading to a remarkably well preserved medieval town albeit with the usual collection of tourist tat shops and overpriced restaurants. Well worth a visit and a leisurely stroll around though. Finally on Thursday we arrived at Figueres, one of our motorhome guides suggested there was a supermarket with dedicated motorhome parking for 5 vans(N42.26047 E2.95108). When we arrived there were already 12 parked up so we joined them and nobody seemed bothered. Now, I had it in my head that there was a Gaudi museum in Figueres so we trotted off to town to find it and check out what time we should arrive the following morning to avoid the queues. The museum was only a fifteen minute walk away and the guy in the ticket office suggested it was a quiet time of year and if we arrived soon after they opened at 9.30 we shouldn't have to queue. We set the alarm for the morning which was completely unnecessary as a guy fired up his petrol driven leaf blower right outside our door at 7.30am - thanks! So we arrived at the museum a little after opening time and sure enough there weren't many folk there and we could view the exhibits at leisure. After five minutes or so I remarked to Phil that there were a lot of Dali exhibits to which she replied "That's because it's a Dali museum". Hmm, "So it's not a Gaudi museum then?". Once that was settled and I had my Dali head on rather than my Gaudi head a great time was had by all. Whilst I had always understood him to be the master of surrealism I had never appreciated how varied his work was from paintings to sculptures to installations and much more. Just about every exhibit brought a smile to our faces. It's the second most visited museum in Spain and its worth every euro. Not wishing to spend another night in a supermarket car park we set off after lunch for France. No more "Hola", "Que tal?"or "Hasta luego". Now it's "Bonjour", "Ca va?" and "Au revoir". We took the scenic route to Port Vendres where we've stopped a couple of times before and had a peaceful night's sleep with no leaf blowers in the morning (N42.51776 E3.11395). Saturday we set off for a vineyard in the village of Mirepeisset (N43.28496 E2.90327),about 30k north of Narbonne and a twenty minute walk along the river La Cesse to the Canal du Midi. We were shown where to park and I asked if we could use the electric socket I saw nearby - "Yes, of course. The electricity is free if you spend €20 or more on our wine, otherwise we charge you €5." Not a difficult decision for us really. Sunday we set off for the Camargue and a camperstop just outside Aigues-Mortes. There is a restaurant on site and the intention was to enjoy Sunday lunch there but when we arrived the restaurant was packed and there was no chance of a table - "Why not come back this evening at 7.30 for dinner?" This we did although the food wasn't as delicious as we remembered from our visit here exactly a year ago. Over the last week I've had to make a few running repairs to the van - fix a bad connection on one of the internal lights, repair a catch on one of the external lockers and repair a sagging shelf in one of the kitchen cupboards (twice!). None of these tasks cost me anything but time. Unfortunately on Monday morning disaster struck. We prepared to move off and when I turned the key in the ignition rather than the usual vroom all I got was a click! Flat battery. Had I left the lights on, the radio, anything? No, nothing had drained the battery. Opened the bonnet to check connections, where's the battery? Handbook out and discovered the battery is under a panel and two carpets in the cab, checked connections, all good. Fortunately we have European breakdown cover included with our vehicle insurance so after a lengthy phone call a mechanic was on his way although it might take him 2/3 hours to get to us as it was a very busy time. No problem, sit in the sun and read a book. Four hours later I phoned again, received profuse apologies and was advised he would be with me very shortly. Sure enough ten minutes later he arrived and told me I had a flat battery! "C'est Kaput!) Bravo! Jump started and engine running I asked, via the bi-lingual campsite owner, if he had a battery at his garage and was told to call there, about a twenty minute drive away, at 5pm. Now, if I was in the UK I would have plenty of options to find the best deal on the battery but I was a bit stuck here. It's a big battery, 95ah and they fitted it for me but I suspect I wouldn't have ended up paying €183 in the UK. Still, the duff one was the original supplied with the vehicle so it had lasted 9 years, weve had four years out of it so I can't really complain. Well, I can but I won't. So we stayed another night at the camperstop location and set off on Tuesday morning heading toward Provence, specifically the town of Gordes which the guide books say is a must see. We're in a car park with mixed parking and after a bit of shuffling managed to find a spot (N43.91569 E5.19775), many of the car parks that accept motorhomes have dedicated parking but here its every man or woman for themselves. A tiered village sitting on the white rock face of the Vaucluse plateau, it certainly looks dramatic as you approach. We're waiting now for the setting sun to turn the stone buildings to gold. Whilst the village is pretty it pretty much relies on tourism so every second building is either a restaurant (expensive), an art gallery (expensive) or a tourist tat shop. So as you walk down the cobbled streets and alleyways you see the same T shirts, aprons and dresses, flowerpots and door knockers as you saw in the last pretty village and you'll see them again in the next one. Nevertheless, if you ignore that and squint a little you can see the village as it once was and I don't blame the folk who live here one little bit for trying to get their share of the tourist euro or dollar. I'm not going to include any photos with this post because I'm having difficulties so doing but I will try to do a separate post and include a few pics. Pat