Friday, 20 November 2015

Target- North West Spain

North West Spain April 2015

Places we stayed overnight:
Marine Parade, Dover
Camping Saint Claire, Neufchatel en Bray
Ile  D'Offard, Saumur
Le Village du Lac, Bordeaux
Il Barritaz Holiday Village, Biarritz
Grand Camping, Zaraultz
Cabo Mayor, Santander
Virgen Del Mar , Santander
Playa de Oyambre, S. Vincente Barquera
Camping Gaivota, near Barrieras
Camping A'Vouga near Mouros
Gaivota, again
Ribadesella Camping 
Haro, Rioja region
Orio Camping  near San Sebastian
Camping Les Grands Pins, Sanguinet, France
Camping Municipal La Pelaise, Bergerac
Le  Port de Limeuil, Alles Sur Dordogne
Camping Les Acacias, Sarlat la Canada
St Julian de Lampon, Lemondou
Camping Les Ondines, Souillac
Municipal Aire, Blois
Municipal Aire, Chateaudun
Aire at Camping Sainte Claire, Neufchatel en Bray
Aire at Equihan Plage

Overnighted on my sister's driveway- a cheap stopover!

Day 1 Dover
We went early to Dover and parked on  Old Dover Road for a cuppa and an ice cream at Capel le Ferne in sunshine with lovely views. Met up with Andy and Carol in Dover for the traditional last meal in Wetherspoons. Mel arrived late evening.

 Day 2  Neufchatel en Bray - Camping Sainte Claire( Acsi site) 14`euros
We got up at six am but plans to keep Mel's van in the middle didn't work as we were pulled in and searched. We had a smooth crossing and headed for Auchan for shopping and a diesel fill before heading off towards Rouen on N roads stopping short of Rouen at Camping Sainte Claire, Neufchatel en Bray. There was a choice of aire or campsite and we chose campsite.We sat in the sun and had a lovely late afternoon then cooked salmon steaks and ate outside- great start to the holiday. This is a neat and tidy little site with reasonable size pitches, good facilities , near shops and a traffic free cycle path.

Day 3  Saumur Isle D'Offard  Acsi

The plan was to head for Le Mans and we went via Rouen, Evreux and Alencon. We had a  nice wooded place  to have lunch.
 After lunch we decided not to stop at the planned site but to push on to Saumur. It was overcast, the roads were quiet so on we tootled, singing along to music and making comments to each other through  the 'squawkies' - walky talkies.
We stopped in La Fleche where there is a riverside aire, then on to the D437 to Saumur. Andy and Carol cooked chicken for us all.

Day 4 Saumur

 We met up and walked along the river into town. We had coffee and sandwiches in Place St. Pierre then made our way to Grennelle wine tasting cave. We went 17 metres underground and had a tour then a tasting...mmm....We  bought a few bottles...choosing was the difficult part!

( Me and Carol looking happy- but  those boxes of wine aren't ours)

We walked through the quite quiet town and had a drink before going back to the site for a rest before going out to La Bouche au Oreille and having a delightful meal. The waitress was super , explaining the menu and laughing at Mel's aghast face when she suggested sparkling water to drink!  

Day 5  Bordeaux.. Camping Le Village du Lac
  We headed off early this morning along the river towards Tours and Fontevraud L'Abbeye over a very narrow bridge...holding our collective breath.

We drove along some beautiful roads . We stopped at Auchan on the Poitiers ring road but it was a huge shop and we only needed a few basics. We stopped at the Aire de Greisnes on the N10 for lunch then headed down to Bordeaux . We followed signs to the Parc Des Expositions and found the site. The  pitches weren't well marked but we all got pitched up as it started to rain heavily. The rain hardly drowned out the frog's chorus from the lake. We went to Mel's for our evening meal after messing about trying to get internet so Pete could watch football to keep his mind of his bad back- done, I think, climbing on the wheels of the van keeping the windscreen bug free.

Day 6 Biarritz,  Il Barritz  holiday village.
We drove through some lovely countryside, sometimes on motoroway, sometimes not when the motorway became a toll road ( peage) We had issues with sat navs not matching up but followed Andy's great lead. We stopped at a brand new aire, L'Ocean Ouest, for lunch then went on towards Dax. When we got near Biarritz, the sat navs were pretty useless. The helpful lady at reception told us to walk down the hill to choose pitches but there weren't many level ones. It's got pools, bar and restaurants but Carol cooked some lovely fish.

Day 7 Biarritz
 We walked to the beautiful blue Atlantic sea and along the beach. We dipped toes in the sea for the first time this year, and felt so happy to be in the sun.We walked along to a little beach cafe for lunch- super crunchy baguettes.  When we got back, we relaxed by the pool. Andy was brave enough to go in. We went to the bar and some of us won free drinks throwing hats onto a stick. That's not normally our sort of thing but it was funny. 

Day 8 Biarritz
We got a taxi into town and some got a little train round while me and Pete watched surfers and went window shopping. We had sardines and calamari in the little harbour, sipping cider. It was all very fresh and lovely and a good place to watch the bustle of the cafes there. The super taxi man re-appeared early and took us back as arranged- he refused a tip! He had even brought a little step so Pete could get in easily as his back was hurting a lot. What a nice guy. We spotted an aire at Plage Ilbarritz so we noted that for another time. We had an evening at the bar sharing pizzas and rose wine.

Day 9 Grand Camping Zaraultz
We drove into Spain after stopping at a nearby Lidl. We lost Andy and Carol but I followed the N634 , drove alongside a river then heard Carol on the 'squawkies' ( walky talky) so we were reunited. It was a good idea for us to have them as it saved on mobile costs. It was a steep and winding uphill drive to the site but the owner was brilliant, showing us to some great pitches with a sea view and he even offered to take us all to the station next day to catch the train to San Sebastian.  We already had a list of suggestions for tapas there. We braved 441 steps down to Zaraultz but came back up again when we saw the bridge was down and we couldn't cross. Part way back up, we went down another path to a place where iron ore had been mined and taken across a set of pulleys out to sea and onto ships. There were loads of wild flowers and we saw the tiniest baby vole or mole.  

Day 10 Zaraultz
We went to the cafe for a cafe con leche and the owner and his friend ferried us all down to the station to catch the train to San Sebastian. It cost two euros thirty five pence for the return journey on a clean, modern train taking 30 minutes. 

We walked through the town to the stunningly beautiful beach. We walked along the bay to take the funicular train up the Monte de Iguldo. It cost just over three euros to rattle up the little wooden rail to the top. We marveled at the breathtaking views from the top. Sea, city, sand and sunshine- a glass of rose was absolutely necessary.

Back at the bottom, we met the ladies who had given Carol the tapas place list.  We struggled to find places open as we had left it a bit late for pintxos ( tapas)  but found one that although they were ready to close, stayed open for us. We had prawns in filo,ham and cheese croquettes and the most fabulous cheesecake.The waiter gave me the recipe and the amount of cream in made me wince!
We had a drink in a square before getting the ten to six train back then taxis back to the site. We ate in the restaurant and had good local food. It was a great day out.

Santander Cabo Mayor
We had a bit of a fraught start to the day as we couldn't find the coordinates for the campsite we were heading for- Camping Virgen del Mar but we set off anyway. We headed along the beautiful coastline , where it's possible to cycle for miles. We tried to find a place to stop for coffee but with three vans, we couldn't find one.  but just as all hope was fading , we found a lovely place in the sun. We bustled through Bilbao ( need to stop there another time) and till we found a site., Cabo Mayor. Mel broke a levelling block trying to get level but a Spanish guy lent him one. Mel gave him some beers and he got a bottle of wine in return! Something happened we'd never seen before- there was a British van opposite and they closed their curtains when we turned up.Hmm? We had a walk to the sea and the lighthouse and Matalena Beach. We saw a man living in a cave on the cliff, lots of men meeting for a sit and a chat and a group of young people playing tag rugby on the beach. We weren't too keen on the cold water washing up and the doorless showers but there was good free wifi.

Santander Camping Virgen del Mar.
We went for a shop in Lidl and moved about three miles away to the next campsite. I did some washing and it  almost dried in the sun.  Some of us went cycling round through houses and found a small bar. I got sunburn on my neck! we had a nice evening outside the van before it rained and my washing got wet.

Playa de Oyambre St Vincente de le Barquera
Pete took a jug to the showers so he could have hot water for a shave in the bathrooms there as there was no hot water to the sinks. We weren't sorry to leave that site at 26 euros a night but at least the showers had doors. We took the A8, the N634 and it took us about 35 minutes to get to Playa de Oyambre. We could see the Picos de Europa peeping through the clouds. We weer met by a really friendly man who walked us to some pitches away from the busier places but near the showers/ restaurant/ swimming pool. The site had a nice feel about it even though the trees had been pollarded back to looking like lollipops.
I had a great shower- limitless hot water with no button pressing! We went to the restaurant where the waiter- who had lived in Hackney for two years- brought us patatas en salsa verde, big prawns, squid, pork loin and a big steak for Andy. It was lovely! We even had profiteroles and cheesecake. All for 14 euros each. Great.

Playa de Oyambre
We woke late to see a beautiful mountain view. We got the bikes and rode down to the beach where we walked along the white sand. We walked into the estuary past a golf course where a group of men where picking deep rooted weeds. We had a coffee in the beach cafe and got a bit wet going back. We had a quiet afternoon in the van. We had a good laugh looking at photos of the trip so far. We heard owls in the night.

We heard buzzards this morning. I didn't have a shower as the joiner was in fixing doors. We gave a lift to Andreas the waiter who was heading for San Vicente. We then drove along a very quiet motorway with steep ravines underneath newly built viaducts. Looking to the left, the mountains were brightened by gorse in full bloom. Two hours down the road we turned off to the planned campsite outside Cudillejo but it was closed. We had a quick lunch stop and went past more gorse, more sweeping viaducts and despite sat nav variations, we all ended up at the camp site near Barrieras. It's a small site with small grass plots but right next to the sea.  We had tea and toasted teacakes before heading off along the coast on bikes. We found wooden walkways to the amazing rocks which are better seen at low tide. We enjoyed the ride coming back for good hot showers and a nice meal in Andy and Carols.

It started off sunny so we had a lazy morning. we looked at maps and thought about cycling into Foz. Pete Mel and me cycled 22 kms to RInlo and back. All the way is beautiful scenery but it was all very quiet and closed.  we turned back to the site and went to the bar for a meal. We were the only ones there and ordered a selection of raciones. I learnt a Galician word- quentes- meaning calientes- hot food. We had a pizza, peppers stuffed with salt cod,salad, boquenas ( white anchovies) a selection of meat and cheese and patatas bravas. We had some good wine and beers and a laugh with the two ladies working there who gave us tasters of every liquer they had made! Wow! 

Camping A Vouga near Mouros
It was windy and rainy in the night and a blustery morning. We drove along and up a winding lane past farms back to the N road and through some villages. We turned onto the A8 just before Foz and drove along a good road with sweeping curves and viaducts up, up, up looking down at the valleys. Sadly we went into cloud and it was a bit scary. We drove for two hours and then came off for diesel onto the N road. We went on towrds Santiago de la Compostella calling in for shopping. We stopped in a small town so Mel could get money (past Noia) The sat nav stopped working but we drove on into Louro and turned down to the site right next to the beach.  We parked down a ramp. It's a beautiful place but the weather was absolutely foul!  I cooked some food trying chiprones en su tinta ( squid in ink) and onion tortilla then albondigas with baked spuds.

Camping A Vouga Mouros
It rained through the night. I had left the blinds open facing the sea hoping that we'd have sunshine coming
We sat about planning what next then it stopped raining. Mel Andy and I went for a walk and we saw fantastic lilies. Louro is tiny and we walked along the beautifully maintained beach path to San Fransisco. We saw lots more cala lilies and hydrangeas already in flower. We got back without getting wet and the sun came out briefly. Carol made some wonderful stuffed peppers. The campsite is okay, showers tired and dated.

This place really is wet! Both Andy and Mel hit their exhaust pipes going back up the ramp. The fog and high winds driving up to Santiago were horrendous. Our plan was to stop at Camperstop A Coruna as Andy and Carol wanted to stay in Santiago for a night. We hadn't realised A Coruna was such a huge place and both sat navs went haywire. We eventually go to the Port of San Pedro at the end of A Coruna after a hair raising drive through the city streets. The winds there were gale force so we recuperated from the drive having luncj then set off again. We did pray to be beamed up! We went up a residents only road and here we were again....managing dodgy sat navs. My mission was to not go back into town so we headed for the airport. We lost Mel at a busy roundabout. I used the map through Cambre and Betanzos , up to Ferrol and then to the campsite where Mel was waiting. It was a relief to hear his voice.
We checked in and sat in the sun at the top of the site with a sea view. The guys went down to reception to watch football. AFter dinner we walked along the fabulous white beach to where there were bars with people. When we got back we did some planning before the heavy rain set in so we decided we would wait and see what the weather was going to do........

We woke up and couldn't decide whether to stay or go but as the sun came out, we felt brighter and had a democratic vote. Pete lost. It was good we decided to stay as Andy and Carol arrived! 
I did some washing in the huge barn like structure that is the toilets and showers. I even washed sheets as it was so nice. It was Mel's turn to cook but as it was so lovely, we barbecued and sat outside...yeah!

Gaivota again
Yesterday we did a lot of planning as it's almost time for Mel to head to Barcelona and for Andy and Carol to head home. We planned to meet with Mel in France. The sat nav locked but it didn't  matter as we were following Andy along the coast road via Ortiguera. We stopped in a car park in Viviero but the wrong end of the town as we found out later. We had a walk and I popped in a shop to get a huge pastry to share. As we drove out of town, we realised we should have stopped near the old town. The rain came again with a vengeance and another scenic drive was lost in cloud. We headed back to Gaivota where we had similar pitches. Pete sat out in the windy sunshine. We went back to the restaurant and the smiley ladies. This time they treated us a dish of liquer fruit in chocolate sauce. There were quite a few British vans on site but the ladies said not many ever used the restaurant- what a pity.

Ribadesella Camping
It got sunny. We stopped in Ribadeo for shopping at a huge Eroski and a Lidl next door. We had alovely drive to Ribadesella with sea views and huge sweeping curves. The route to the site looked unpromising but we got there. It's in a valley 1.5 kms away from the town. The owner told us to go up to the top tier of the terraced site and we had the best views- absolutely stunning! The Picos de Europa rising up into the clouds...and so green. The site is category 1 and it shows. There is an indoor and outdoor pool, kids club, restaurant, lovely showers and loos , hot water...possibly the best site we've been on for views and facilities. We had a cuppa sitting in the sun.Pete and me went for a swim in the lovely heated pool and it has glass around so you can see the mountains. carol cooked a lovely meal with prawns and salmon. 

A beautiful sunny morning with fantastic views- this is more like it. We walked down up the hill and down the other side into the town. The sea was an amazing blue against the white sand beach and the terracotta tiles of the huddled houses and flats were a contrast to the green of the surrounding hills. We walked over the old bridge over the estuary watching grey mullet swimming in the river. We walked along the promenade into town. We went to the Cueva Tita Bustillo but as only 15 people are allowed in at once to the caves, there was no space for us. We booked for tomorrow as we had already decided we liked the place so much we would stay. We went to the fishing harbour and had lunch in a sidreria ( cider house)  but it didn't have a huge choice. I had fabado- white bean stew. The waiter poured the cider from a great height...and mostly missed!
The meal was a bit disappointing and as we walked round and saw other menus, we realised we had made a poor choice. We climbed back up the big hill and went for a swim. Pete cooked fresh squid.It made the van a bit smelly.

Ribadesella. World Heritage site. UK Election day.

We went back into town and into the cave after visiting the museum. We waited to go into the cave with a guy who only spoke Spanish. It was amazing. We walked a long way into the mountain into caves which were spectacular in their own right led by a torch and very subdued lighting. At one point, the guy switched off his torch and we stood still in pitch darkness. Then he switched on his torch to highlight the main piece of cave painting- a horse's head. Then he carefully pointed out all the other paintings one by one. It was astonishing to think that these drawings had been down so many thousands of year before. 
We were very disappointed at the exit poll results later.

Haro- Rioja region
The day dawned sunny but the results were disastrous. We heard that Farage, Milliband and Clegg all resigned their leaderships. 
We set off along the coast on the A8. We climbed up and up and when we got to the border of Cantabria, we stopped at a former mirador for lunch. We had incredible views over a lake . We turned off towards Logrona on roads that had interesting surfaces- some better than others - ouch. We got to Haro and saw the first leaves on the vines. We were offered places on the plots of the campsite but chose the field as it seemed more spacious. 

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