Tuesday, 28 November 2017

South to Gruissan

Its good to be back on familiar ground and we continue our steady drive south stopping off for the night at various selected locations taken from the trusty App

A two night stay at St Christophe en Brionnais in the heart of the Burgundy region is perhaps not on a 'Snowbird's' itinerary bit we've been several times before and love the region
Its quite mild here today and we dust off Max for a blast in to nearby Roanne which turns out to be a really nice town

Moving ever southwards we enter the Auvergne region and rest up at Ruynes en Margaride taking in some much needed walking and a view of the Viaduct de Garabit

The village is friendly and the architecture built to combat those chilly winters...

A preview of things to come next week according to the local forecast

Time to visit that Bridge again at Millau

The A57 is a nice 'free' motorway which we have travelled and crossed before with the exception of the Peage section at the Millau viaduct
Its better to pay your dues at the toll booths here and avoid the steep, long & windy route through Millau IMHO....
Saves time, mileage and the grief on our van combo..or so the theory goes..
Last year we pulled up at the automated booth and were identified as 'Classe 2' and duly paid the €12.00 then set off for the rest area for the all important photo shoot
This time its a bit different...
Having ignored Tom Tom to get off the motorway and go via Millau (There's a 3.5t restriction but only apparently for genuine HGVs) we naively trundled up to the barriers
'Classe 4' shone brightly on the digital display alongside the €34.80 fee...What?

Having no ability to back out of the deal the CC was fed in to the machine and I instantly made the mental note not to pass this way again
Either the ANPR pinged us at 4.25t + trailer or some jobsworth sat behind a CCTV camera wanted a laugh that day
For the record it states 'Private HGV' on my vehicle reg document so can't really argue can I?
Lesson learned....

That sinking feeling was soon eased later with the help of some of these...

Onwards down to Lunas where last year it was 35 degs on our visit here and I had to go sit in the river, a little cooler today..

The Med is soon reached and the local strays come to greet us one lunchtime

The last of the treats have gone so a new supply is procured at the local Carefour

Gruissan at last amid blue skies but chilly winds
The local fish merchant makes a killing here and I came away with 2kg of very fresh Moules for €6.00

The marinas here are vast with several waterside restaurants devoid of customers partly due to it being out of season but I think they would get a few more customers if they lowered their prices considerably. It may be a gold mine in the summer with the Yachtsfolk throwing money around but at this time of year how can they be making money given they are almost deserted?

Next day its essential to step out the door tooled up for a Siberian winter as its not called 'Aire du Quatre Vents' for nothing!

Gruissan, from a very long windy way off

Our recent liking for this Belgian beer warms us up on our return to the van

We up sticks to the Aire at Narbonne for some lekky and a visit to the town
A walk to the local Carefour reveals a huge surprise...
A boulangerie that does fresh coffee!
Has my rant got round that quickly?

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

House Decoration

Its time to head back home alas...
We could happily stop here, park the van up for the winter and take on a rental, we love it so much here in this switched on, modern country.
I can't for the life of me understand why France & Germany are in the locations that they are. How easy it would be for us if they did a 'Country Swap'!
That way we could amble down through a superb Germany in the Autumn and pop out South in sunny Spain for the winter, perhaps taking in Portugal, then back through the Glorious Fatherland and on to home soil....
This would alleviate the need to pass through a country (France) devoid of community daily activity, one that shuts as you arrive midday, and has thousands of quaint, but deserted villages come 3 o'clock in the afternoon
Come on you Francaise...get on board!
Put coffee shops in the Boulangeries, charge sensible prices and for Pete's sake (thats me!) stay open when the tourists arrive at 11.30am...Simples!

As I blog this post we are sat in a lovely (but closed) village in France contemplating our impending loss of body paleness as we trundle south to Spain.

So going back a few weeks.....

Heading North Westwards we diagonalise the country taking in a few stops along the way and making the most of the surrounding forestry walking opportunities

The Rathaus at Frankenburg

Always in our sights is a return stop at Potts Brauerie so having parked up for the night at the rear of the brewery we walk in to town to discover an evening market is in full swing

Every local bar stocks the town's famous beer but I have to say at inflated prices (compared to the Brewery restaurant) 

Waffles on the burner

We walked briskly back to the Brewery where we settled in the restaurant for the main event..
A Fish Buffet of gigantic proportions on a 'eat at will' basis for €22.50
Just me on this one then as Nina went for the beast of a Schnitzel with caramelised onions
There are photos of course of my numerous fishy endeavours but I've spared you on this post (Ha Ha)
The 'Eat all' dilemma again raised its head but I felt vindicated eating my fill as there were guys there twice my size eating inordinate quantities of nourishing protein....

A stop at Coesfeld further west means a trip to Stephanaus Brewery and Nina is spoilt for choice after  we tell the barmaid we can't remember which beer is which when reordering
She very kindly insisted we tried the lot!
How we love this country......

Winter is coming Jon Snow!

The crossing from the Hook of Holland to Harwich was fine with the boat practically empty and after having stayed the night on the docks we headed for the local Morrisons superstore. A
refurbed cafe and a superb Full English had me leaving a deservingly good review on Google

I have to say that after 5 years touring some of the most beautiful locations in Europe this place ranks at No 1 IMHO
Beautiful Dethick
Absolutely no problems coming back here when we stay in the UK as the scenery is first class and the hospitality from Mick and his brothers on the farm is heartwarming

Not so warming is the daily temperatures that greet us when we arise each morning

Too late in the year for the field and its views but the farmyard (and an electrical supply) is more than adequate as a base for us for the next 2 weeks redecoration duties

Its been 5 yrs since we were last under a proper roof and the house although looking pretty good after the last tenants' departure needs a full internal and external makeover

This involves two coats of paint....everywhere
Some doing given we only have 12 days to do it in

And here he is, Leonardo himself (after doing the ceilings of course)

Mrs Mower trying to put straight a neglected lawn

Martyn is called as a reinforcement and soon the outside takes shape

The day before new occupancy we complete the job having done daily runs in the van (too cold and dangerous for Max) and finishing quite late most days

It felt quite odd leaving a squeaky clean immaculate house that we'd lived in previously for 15 yrs but in our hearts we know we'd be bored sick of our lives if we lived there now...

So why not jump back in the plastic & wood box on wheels and head south for the SUN!
(This is easily accomplished via a very rainy M11)

Soon we are in 'Deserted Northern France' and making our way southwards towards Perpignan and the Spanish border

Our second night's stay at Marcoing.
very quiet but oh sooooo cold!