Artie & Chris on tour 🗺

Artie & Chris on tour

Spain and France in the Campervan 2011

Day 9 (Jeudi) – Villeneuve
Posted on April 23, 2011 by vosselnewmans
We decided to walk into town and take Gypsy with us and it wasn’t too bad at
all, a pleasant 30-minute stroll. When we got to the outskirts of villeneuve, an
impressive looking town gate took us into little streets with olde worlde
houses, very nice, and when Chris spotted another Carrfeour Cite, he went
shopping while I had a coffee in a little bar sitting outside – perfect
division of labour 😉 Well, I was looking after the dog as well, you

Anyway, it was getting close to lunchtime and so we spent about 20 minutes
wandering around and assessing potential eateries before we settled on one that
was busy with french people. We both had the plat du jour which was faux filet,
whatever that was, but it was nice and we had a bottle of rose with it – when
in France… we were inspired by the 3 French businessmen next to us who were
drinking wine with their meal. It got us contemplating about the different
approaches to the lunch hour between France and England where breaking for lunch
in England is almost frowned upon and a sandwich at your desk will have to do,
compared to those 3 polishing off a 3-course meal and a bottle of wine for lunch
– how civilised. We then trundled back to the campsite and had a bit of a
siesta, Chris in the van, me outside sunbathing. We then looked at potential
campsites in the dordogne where we could stay for a few nights over easter and
found an ACSI site that ticked several boxes: fairly central (1 km from Beynac,
10 km from Sarlat and Domme) and also near the river Dordogne – that was it
– selected. 50 km away – a good hour’s drive. Nothing more to report from
Villeneuve – the site was basic but actually quite nice – very quiet, and
only cost €12 a night.

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Day 8: Mercredi (20th) – Anglet – Villeneuve-sur Lot
Posted on April 21, 2011 by vosselnewmans
Today would be a long drive, 200 km, for which we allowed 4 hours so we set off
early without any breakfast at 9.30. Tom Tom took us to Mt de Marsan, which was
almost exactly half way. We thought we might stop if the opportunity arose but
hadn’t planned for it. As it happened we did stop as we needed money but my
card is not working, probably because I didn’t tell my bank we were going and
it is trying to protect me. Never mind, Chris’ worked so coffers replenished
we had a little wander through what turned out to be a very pleasant little town
with a nice castle and a river running through it. Having got more bread and
some stuff from a Carrefour City, like Tesco metro, we had a little picnic in
the van before tackling the second half which saw me driving for the first time
on this trip. I came up with a, even if I say so myself, ingenious solution to
the problem of my foot being too small to control the accelerator comfortably
which consisted of one of our fiamma wheel ramps getting a new use as a foot
rest – perfect! The destination was a place listed in our France Passion book
of free places at farms, vineyards etc. which we wanted to try out and as a
musee de pruneaux sounded intriguing but when we got there it was just off the
main road in the middle of nowhere so we swapped drivers again and decided to
try our luck at Villeneuve-sur-lot, only another 30 minutes away. And that’s
where we are now, on a camping municipal site a couple of kilometers outside the
town but it’s a pleasant site and so we booked for 2 nights to give us a
chance to explore the town a bit tomorrow, either by bike or on foot – we’ll
see. So that’s it from me for today – bonne nuit.

Hi yer… La Belle France…. hmmmmmm…. Im getting my lingo back: “Bon Jour
mon garcon, c’est sur le pont de mange toute.. et je’suis un Chauffager et
un tip-top plombier oui!!, et, ma petite poisson et fritte..n Mac-donald’s
pour moi silver-plat”…brilliant eh?… I can hear you say…spoken like a
real local eh eh eh ??

Anyway, after Pied de Port (fantastic place to visit and well worth the trek
over the Pair-of -Knees) it was a couple of trying days drive wise, and, in hind
sight, going to Bayonne to me was a bit of a waste of time…albeit Ati’s
“T’Surfs up cock: go for it”…or could it be “come on chaps, a damn
good way to drown one’s self yarp yarp…”… all very funky and groovy ‘n
all that but nothin special for me …

Grand-dad driving update: the road from Bayonne to the Lot was as straight as a
die and it was very very exciting cos I got up to over 70 MPH yesyesyes
andandand (wait for it) I even overtook lorries and stuff (wow eh)… all that
barracking I got for going 15MPH hmmmm… we were at Villeneuve a few years
back, boating along the Lot and canals: great place… and we are now an easy
drive from anywhere in the Door-doyio-ing (whatever?) which seems like a home
away from home (brilliant area)… so a day of feet up and maybe get the bikes
out … chill-time! So Bonee new-wheat from me too…

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Day 7 – Mardi: St Jean Pied-de-Port to St Jean de Luz – Anglet
Posted on April 21, 2011 by vosselnewmans
Having paid for our parking till 4 pm (all of €5.50) we wanted to make the
most of this opportunity and as our next destination, “Luz” was only just
over an hour away, we set off at about 11.30 and started the ascend to the
citadel. But first of all we stocked up our supplies in the Carrefour next door
which was a welcome opportunity.

Gypsy came along too so we had a little walk around there which was very
pleasant and then headed down town again to explore the little roads with nice
small shops, selling Basque linen (very colourful – great!), Berres, local
specialities like Basque cake and also dried red pimentos (strings of) which
Chris purchased one from a Butcher’s shop. We also found access to the river
Nive so Gypsy could have a little swim as it was getting quite hot around
lunchtime. So we found a nice restaurant and settled down for a very nice meal
consisting of a ham and pate/ham and tomato/pepper puree starter, chicken/trout
and Basque cake which I’d read about as one of the specialities. It was really
nice, a biscuit y base and crunchy top and a kind of eggy slightly liquid
filling – lovely. Another swim for Gypsy and back to the van it was.

I think we left around 3 in the end and apart from one strange tom tom D-tour
made it to St Jean de Luz at around 4.30. The plan was to look for an aire de
camping but soon the busy roads made this quite a stressful venture and with
neither aire nor campsite in the town, we got tom tom to take us to the nearest
one outside town, about 3 km away. But not having the exact address and again
not picking up any signs for it, we got our secret weapon out: the ADAC (German)
Stellplatzfuehrer, listing aires for campervans and it had one just south of
Biarritz in a place called Anglet. And that’s where I’m sitting now,
surrounded by other campervanners in quite a restricted site, but only about
500m from the beach – wow, the Atlantic on our doorstep. So, once parked up we
took Gypsy down to the beach, on which she wasn’t allowed so we stayed on the
promenade, and went down some concrete pathway with waves coming across from
either side where she managed to have a quick swim. Once back in the van, Chris
decided to put his feet up and I put my bikini on and went down to the beach
again. Ooh, cold at first, it took several attempts with just feet in to get
acclimatised but once used to it it was nice and refreshing. I walked back to
the concrete pontoon type thing and stood next to the rocks, this time the water
coming up to my knees. Having now got used to it, I thought I’d brave the
deeper water but there was a kind of sandbank a bit further out again which made
the waves brake and I thought they wouldn’t therefor be as powerful – wrong!
The next wave washed my feet away and dragged me towards the beach for a good 10
meters – I was now fully drenched! So while you couldn’t really say I swam
in the atlantic perhaps we’d call it I was washed up by the Atlantic. In
younger years I would ran towards these “Krachmannswellen” but Chris not
being there and the beach not being supervised I thought it would be stupid to
venture out on my own so I left it with one more attempt to go a bit further out
but hitting a painful shingly bit underfoot so I then gave up and contented
myself with walking along the water.

I needed to have a shower when I got back to wash the gravel out of my bikini
– seemed I wasn’t just washed up, I was also stonewashed 🙂

Chris didn’t feel like cooking so we just had our usual nibbles: bread,
olives, sausage, cheese and a punnet of strawberries for afters – tres bon!

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Day 6 – Pamplona – St Jean Pied de Port
Posted on April 18, 2011 by vosselnewmans
Having followed tom tom into the city centre, we managed to find a great little
parking spot just by the side of the road and as no signs were visible asking
you to pay we assumed it was free – how wrong we were…
Anyway, having no map or anything (next time we must remember to take tom tom!)
we left gypsy guarding the van and headed for what looked like the city centre.
We soon picked up the sign for the Tourist Information office, walked past it
once, walked back again, found it, found out it had moved to a different
location so almost gave up but low and behold there was a temporary office in a
town square so we got ourselves a map with explanations in Spanish (not very
helpful!) and just wandered round for a couple of hours to get a feel for the
place, with the highlight of buying provisions in an indoor market: 2 more
chorizos (picante – with the red string rather than the white string which is
natural, so we learnt!) 6 slices of ham, half a dozen eggs and asparagus – a
feast would await us again tonight! After a quick cafe solo we walked back to
the van, walked around the adjacent mini park with gypsy for 5 minutes, packed
our stuff away, chris made a cup of tea and we were just about to drive off when
a woman knocked on the window, pointing at the hub-cab on my passengers side.
When I opened the door and looked… yes, you got it, they had clamped us!!! So,
with only a phone number to call and obviously no spanish to explain the
situation, we were going to ask a friendly looking woman opposite from us to
phone on our behalf but then 2 parking attendant women came along and,
surprisingly, they didn’t speak much English but we got the gist of what we
had to do: go to the police, pay the dosh and get released – they walked us
more or less there pointed us in the right direction and off we went. €112
later, we were free to go and one experience richer….

Ey’ oop muchachas… its Chris again (Artie is doing the washing up and
“powdering her nose” (why having a pee is called that I don’t know but
someone will enlighten me one day)..

So, van now free from T’El’Clampo we decided to depart dear old L’Espanol
as soon as possible… there appears to be a tom-tom time warp around Pampers:
round and round but still in bloody pampers (hey its better than LSD man?) ..
but, anyway, after several near misses we were finally on the Pilgrims road up
and over the Pear-n-Knees (get it?) towards La Belle France… its about 58 KM
of hairpin bends to about 5 million mrs high (whatever etc etc) to St Jean-Pied
de-Port but as there was virtually no traffic I plodded along like the old
grandpa (which I am hmmm) and it was superb gob smacking scenery albeit Artie
and Gypsy were snoring (almost) we arrived… hoorah… and I was informed that
I averaged 15 MPH tops (sod it I am on holiday?!!)… when you see the many
mushes plodding along walking their pilgrimage (no joke) the van has many many
attractions… if nothing but having a good old cup of tea or a pee-pee when you
fancy…. and slightly faster than walking: yeah OK hmmmm…

The difference between Spain and France is unbelievable: Spain has virtually no
facilities, whereas within 5 KM of the border we are now glutted with where to
stay, restaurants, bars etc etc …. c’est civilisation n’est-ce pas?….

so parked in an air-de-camp about 200 mr from Carrefoure and about 1 km from the
town…and a big session of sun-shine (about 20-25C), a fresh breeze, cool music
from the Ipodge, fresh crunchy baguette, fresh olives, cheese, asparagus, some
boiled farm eggs, ham and a just wee splosh of wine what more can you ask for?
Oh yeah: walk the dog…. till next time Ow’re’voyer garcons n all

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Day 5 – Sunday: Puente La Reina, Camping Ezkoba
Posted on April 18, 2011 by vosselnewmans
Having taking advantage of the free wifi in our last campsite, there is nothing
else noteworthy about the stop and we left around 10.30 on Sunday, to visit
Puenta La Reina, which was only about 10 minutes away. A famous bridge and a
couple of churches were the main attraction of the town, so walked over and took
several photos of the bridge from several angles, visited one of the churches
with a famous y-shaped carved crucifix and then sat down for a coffee and an
agua con gas in a little bar next to the main road. It being palm sunday, lots
of people walked past with their very substantial palm twigs, one had a man size
whole leaf of a palm tree – which I thought was somehow over the top but there
you go…

Eventful things to report from sitting down for a coffee was that the sun
umbrella blew over and one of the spikey bits landed right in the middle of
Chris’ coffee and splattered him a bit but no major damage was done so that
was ok. I then braved ordering tapas again and as the olives on the
neighboouring table looked nice I went for olives and tortilla, and, having got
what I ordered, was very pleased with myself.. Now, the olives were green, with
stones, and were some of the best olives we had ever tasted. There was a hint of
roasted garlic in the brine which gave them a lovely taste and there was none of
the bitterness that sometimes accompanies olives. So, after lunch we travelled
less than an hour to our next stop, camping Ezcaba, 8 km from Pamplona. We
hadn’t bought any more provisions so when we saw they had a restaurant we
thought we’d eat there for the night as Pamplona was too far to go and it was
nice not having to go anywhere. So a lazy afternoon followed, with a bit of
sunbathing, reading, games, ice cream and then dinner at 7 pm. Well, I say
dinner, the menu del dia consisted of a selection of 4 starters 4 mains followed
by a dessert and included wine, all for €20 per person. It started well with
fish soup for Chris and grilled veg for me and for mains we had ordered one lamb
one veal. The problem started when we couldn’t tell what was what, the chips
that came with it were underdone and just soggy in oil and there was a strange
smell coming from the meat. Still, we persevered and our omnipresent doggy-bag
was getting fuller by the minute – gypsy would have a nice surprise later.
Pudding was ok and we had a coffee to finish it off and then went back to the
van with much trepidation about how our guts would cope with such treatment.
But, I’m pleased to report, no accidents were had and so by the time the alarm
went off at 7 am the next morning all was forgotten but not forgiven, in
Chris’ case, though!).

We wanted to have a look round pamplona the next day hence the early start and
we made it there for 10 am, which was a good time.

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Day 4 – Haro – Laguardia – Mendigorria
Posted on April 16, 2011 by vosselnewmans
We hit the road at 10 and headed for Laguardia, only about 30 km away. When we
arrived the car park just below the town was empty so we just parked up in one
of the bays without any consideration about how to get out again. This would
prove an important lesson for the future as when we came back it was full and we
would have struggled to manoeuvre our way out of there. Luck would have it the
car next to us left just after we had started our monoeuvre and so we could just
swing out – easy. Anyway, Laguardia was a little gem. A small town with three
main roads running parallel, it has 2 churches, one of which, Santa Maria de los
Reyes, has a very famous and spectacular portal from the 14th century. When we
first went up to the church and read it would cost €2 entrance we weren’t
going to bother, but having frequented the Tourist information office, and being
told about it, we did end up taking a tour at 1.30 and didn’t regret it, even
though it was all in Spanish.

The other thing that was recommended was the town hall clock which chimed at 12
and showed a display of local dance and then we took an English-speaking tour of
one of the many cellars in the town that are used for wine making and storing.
How cool was that!!! Fascinating to learn that practically every house in this
town has one of these caves. There was only us plus a German couple taking the
tour and we learned that most of the Rioja wine is made from the Tempranillo
grape variety and that there are 4 types of describing the ageing process of the
wine: joven – young, crianza: a minimum of 2 years stored, reserva, about 5-6
years and gran reserva which is over 6 years. They have massive “tanks” in
these caves to store the wine and that’s what we had a little taste of to give
us the difference to bottled wine. Slighly acidic on the palate but not bad but
certainly better when stored in bottles and becoming more rounded. We bought a
wooden box with 3 bottles of Reserva – see how long they last…

It’s now 20.05 on Saturday evening, we’ve had pork chops with rice for
dinner, taken the dog for a final stroll around the quite spacious campsite
where she managed to have a little swim in the river and it’s starting to get
chilly so time to come in. Having said that, today is the first really warm day
so the shorts have come out – just great! In the bar area they offer free wifi
so we’ll probably trundle over there again later on and get this uploaded –
saving our dongle allowance. Interesting to see how many people take advantage
of this – everyone has got a laptop/notebook/netbook. The plan for tomorrow is
to head towards Pamplona, via Punta de Reina, a famous bridge. Will report more
then. So long, buenas noches!

Bonny-day-horse and astra-lar-vesta innit peeps… yes, its me the typical
English Pompey ‘oick abroad, got the lingo; “Dos Sher-ves-os pour-for-voir
innit Garcon-moosh !!!” (usually shouted?!) what else do you need to know, eh?
.. Regards the Rioja Cellars in Laguardia : absolutely crazy, a small hill top
town but over 200 bogetas/cellars: but making the stuff is bizarre, the
traditional method is to bung the whole grapes into a pit, after initial
fermentation (8 days) they are then crushed with much foot work (not sure if
washing the feet is part of the process, but its all good fun), the grapes are
then pressed and poured into another pit in the ground, in the cellar, to brew
for a year… amazing: the pits are made from the living rock and the whole area
surrounded with dust, cobwebs and God knows what else… compared to
German/English brewing its ‘nicht sauber und ungemutlisch’ but the result is

We also (or should I say Ati) braved ordering some tapas, this involved much
pointing, no idea what they were or the cost, but they are a real work of art
and in this case very cheap, but I think the experience could be expensive if
you got carried away, but hey ho eh?… anyway with Arti doin’ the dishes and
dog snoring I will also wish you a Bonny-Nachos too ….

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Day 3: Haro
Posted on April 16, 2011 by vosselnewmans
We decided to stay put for the day and let the engine cool down for a bit so it
was a leisurely day spent doing very little. We ventured up the town again and
frequented the same shops as the day before. Bakery, where we also bought some
leche – semidesnatada – more queso from the charcuteria, some bits from the
supermarket and some more sausages, cuatro y cuatro from 2 different varieties,
from the carneria. You may notice I have learned my numbers now so that helps!
Right now we are waiting for the reception in our campsite for the nite, Errota
El Molino, to open at cinco. We arrived just after 4 but I’m getting ahead of

So, having done our shopping, this all without Gypsy by the way who we left in
the van, one of the advantages at travelling at this time of year when it’s
not too hot, we sat down for a beer in a bar in the town square and watched the
world go by. But I haven’t told you the coolest thing about Haro yet – it
has loads of Storks nesting on the town chimneys!!! You see them flying around,
you hear them rattle their beaks (hence “Klapperstorch” in German) and we
even saw them sitting in their nests from a little tower that was supposed to be
part of a museum but only had some strange bits of art exhibited and otherwise
nothing in it. Well it was free and it was worth it for the storks!

Having my own chef with me meant that we had patatas y chorizos for lunch
sitting outside the van which was very pleasant. In the afternoon we did some
reading, I cut out my Spanish flash cards from the book and tried to learn some
vocab in doing so, Chris is designing the junk rig for our boat in his mind
which is keeping him busy (thank you John!) but we also got our games compendium
out and had a game of chess which we hadn’t played for years and even Dominoes

The wind got up in the afternoon and it was quite chilly so we sat inside for
the evening to eat our salchichas, pan y queso. Thus endeth day tres.

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Day 2: El Helguerdo to Haro
Posted on April 15, 2011 by vosselnewmans
Having had a leisurely morning which included a bit of sorting out van storage
and window cleaning, we set off at 11.45 towards Vitoria Gasteiz, about 200km
south-east. We chose to go non-motorway, so took the N623 and N232 – very nice
drive, with quite a few serpentine climbs to up to 1100m at the highest point.
We had found a campsite on the outskirts of Vitoria which we drove past, Ibaya,
but we thought we’d have a drive round Vitoria first to get a feel for the
place – bad move!

While the description in our travel guide sounded great, they clearly didn’t
have motorhome drivers and dog owners in mind – it’s just too big and
hectic!!! So, having driven round the place for about 20 minutes we decided to
head back to the campsite, stay there for the night and find a new destination
the next day. So, 5.5 km back again, past the first Lidl we spotted, we pulled
in to Ibaya camping which looked, and was indeed, positively shut – oh no!!!
So, after a little “pinkelpause” for all passengers and a play with the ball
(mainly for the 4-legged one) we headed towards Haro which we knew had an open
campsite as it’s listed in our ACSI guide. This was just 30 minutes drive away
and as soon as we approached the little town, the “capital of the Rioja wine
producing region” according to our Lonely Planet, we knew this was much
better. Little river Ebo flowing past, a few Bodegas on the outskirts and an
open campsite – relief! We bought a bottle of Rioja at the Reception and drove
round to find ourselves a nice pitch, in the middle of a big green field, with
only 4 other campers as neighbours. Back window facing the church and the
mountains – what a view!

So, table and chairs came out, bottle of shandy and a beer, and “Prost” –
we would stay here for a couple of nights! Haro town centre is a 10-minute walk
away so we set off an a little explore. We had “emergency rations” like
tinned curry and rice on board but thought we’d check out supplies in town.
So, with my non-existent Spanish I braved a total of 4 shops: first the bakery:
“un pan por favor” accompanied with pointing at the baguette. It came to
“novente-cinque” so giving one euro and getting 5 cents back made me realise
it had cost 95cents – result! Armed with new-found confidence, a little
delicatessen shop with chorizo in the window beckoned. “Un chorizo de Haro por
favor” 🙂 accompanied by pointing at the one in the window. Now, here came
the test – did he have butter? Didn’t know the word for butter, he didn’t
understand English, bit of sign language followed, with pan – he did hand
movement of spreading butter on bread and said: “mantequilla” which for some
bizarre reason sounded familiar, yes! Mantequilla! No he didn’t have any –
argh! After all that effort… Never mind, I will never forget this ever now so
bought some queso de Haro as well and off I went. Next was easy – supermarket
– just grab and go, and they had mantequilla 🙂 Finally a butchers. They had
nice looking sausages with a helpful sign saying salchichidas so that’s what I
asked for. “Cuanta?” said the lady. I said “per dos persones” and she
then very helpfully switched to English and we settled on 6 – I will have to
make an effort to learn some basics, including numbers…

So, that was it – a little feast awaited. Table and chairs moved to be in view
of the church, sun on our back, dog begging under the table (Gypsy!) –
marvellous! We went in as the sun disappeared and it got a bit chilly, around
8.30, then played a couple of games of Rummikub and briefly phoned my mum. We
went to bed just after 10 and I trawled through my “Learning Spanish in 10
minutes a day” to try and learn some more words but I think the one that will
stick as the word for the day is, without a doubt: mantequilla. Adios,

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And…. touch down 🙂
Posted on April 7, 2011 by vosselnewmans
Hoorah! We’ve made  it – all three of us arrived safely at our first
campsite called El Helguero which is in Ruiloba, about 45 minutes drive from
Santander. The crossing was good, weather great, restaurant lovely and Gypsy’s
kennel, the biggest worry of the whole trip so far, worked out well. But we’re
pleased to be sitting here in idyllic harmony altogether now, me doing this,
Chris reading and eating chilli rice crackers and Gypsy just having retired to
her box in the “wheelhouse”.

We’ve got a month’s worth of roaming on the  T-mobile dongle so watch
this space!!! Will try and upload some photos tomorrow. This should do for now.
“Nacht zesammen, bess morje froeh” (apologies to non-germans – bit of
Cologne dialect).


Villeneuve, Blaye, Gironde, New Aquitaine, Metropolitan France, 33710, France Map

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