Hit and Miss, and Staircases.

The Aire at Mont de Marsan was a Hit; I was able to fill up with water, empty out the grey water tank and have electricity overnight.

The Aire at Mont de Marsan was a Miss; the French Air Force appear to have a base very close, landing and take off was directly overhead and the fast jets were very low and a tad noisy.

We left the next morning; strangely enough not long after flights commenced for the day.

Auch was a Hit! We arrived mid-afternoon parked up and had a mooch. The Pooch was dragged up the 374 steps of the monumental staircase, she didn’t seem very impressed but I was; my knees coped, I didn’t get out of breath and the view from the top was superb. Last time I was in Auch the staircase was being repaired. When originally built to impress (1863), and to improve access to the cathedral, it was made of poor quality stone and had deteriorated to the point where the repair that finished just after I last visited took eight years to complete; the staircase does impress now.

 

The monumental staircase ( these we walked up and down)

This morning we went on another quickish mooch this time using one of the pousterles (narrow steps) built in the Middle Ages to allow the citizens of the city to easily(?) get down to the river for water supplies, but were easily defensible. We entered the citadel via the east steps and left via the steps of the Oumettos (I have no idea, I think it might be Spanish as the street that leads to them is call Rue d’Espagne)

 

From L; Eastern steps (up), Oumettos steps (down), Oumettos with cat

It was all about steps and staircases. I also visited the Maison d’Henri IV as did, tradition says, Henri IV in 1578, and he would’ve walked up the stone and wood staircase. I didn’t.

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Henri VI’s staircase (allegedly)

We are overnighting in Auterive on our way to Mirepoix. The more attentive amongst you may have noted, if you’ve consulted your maps to ascertain my whereabouts, that I do not appear to be heading for Portugal via northern Spain. I have decided to wait to do that until the night temperatures in the mountains there are above freezing, I’m nervous that it will be difficult to get LPG thereabouts and I don’t think these old bones could manage without heating or hot drinks if the gas ran out.

The new plan is to mess about by the sea in eastern France and Spain whilst waiting for the nights to warm up – daytime temps are lovely and loads of sun at the moment.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Little Britain?

I’m back into the habit of picking out the best Aires and villages. This Aire has a lovely view of the river Charante just the other side of a small green park and electricity for only €2 per 24hrs which is wonderful as the nighttime temperatures (brrr) require heating to be on, and the boiler positively gobbles gas. My trusty electric heater is keeping us toasty at night and the daytime temps require no heating at all – wall to wall blue skies and lovely warm sun.

A quintessentially French village, Verteuil-sur-Charante is deservedly on the Beaux Villages list.The village boasts tiny independent shops, restaurants, a weir, two mills, one converted to a five star eatery, a chateau, a splendid church and, I’m reliably informed, six watering holes. 

Well gorgeous!

My reliable informant is one of a strong English community here. He was an early settler 20 years ago; lots more English arrived after some celebrity chef did a programme a few years ago about the restaurant at the mill and it’s chef who’s a whiz at brioche, and showed the village as well. There are now about 50 households of soon-to-be non-Europeans! It’s a beautiful place even in winter, in summer it must be absolutely gorgeous; unfortunately for the local populace, French and English, it’s then not so tranquil – Grockles like mosquitos, in droves!

We’ve been here four nights. I’ve been unable to drag myself away. LWD is well happy, loads of dog friendly lanes to wander off-lead. But we’re continuing south tomorrow …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Somerset area motorhomers meeting!

Bonneval lived up to my expectations. A superb medieval town which grew up around the monastery originally built in 857. The town was eventually fortified and part of the R. Loir (not the famous one with an “e”) was diverted round its walls to make a moat for added security (and doubtless a dumping water for all sorts of medieval rubbish). Of course it was fought over many times, walls torn down, church and abbey destroyed/rebuilt, destroyed/rebuilt, yada, yada. Many lovely old buildings do remain and the Aire is up against the walls of the rebuilt rebuild which was then restored, monastery which was eventually acquired, firstly by a private owner, some Duke or other, whose family either petered out or had money problems and sold it off to the government a century and a half ago; currently in use as a mental health hospital. I decided not to offer my skills!

Bonneval

I got chatting to my next door motorhomers (English) and was invited in for a cuppa, lovely couple, live just 12 miles up the road from Langport, in Taunton!! It also transpires that he vaguely remembers the name Mepstead from his REME days as an electronics engineer, BB would have been the senior (but then he’s older than Methuselah!). Small world – again! We’re headed to some of the same places so we may well meet up again and we’ve exchanged home details.

As can be seen, lovely weather during the day, freezing at night, literally.

P.S. Luvsya BB, mwah!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Docking at Dieppe

It amazes me how these ferry Captains turn it on a sixpence in the small harbour at Dieppe and side it in with unerring accuracy to tie up with nary a coffee spill, I wanted to clap but knew he/she wouldn’t hear. We were first off our deck and I hared off to Intermarche for diesel and a baguette; LWD did her first (desperately needed) pipi on French soil – vive la France, enfin nous sommmes ici!

“ Dieppe? DIEPPE? What happened to Cherbourg?”

Brittany Ferry’s prices are what happened to Cherbourg, dear regular reader. No Old Farts discount, £25 for LWD and she doesn’t even leave the van, and the total came to well over £200 for a crossing that’s only half an hour longer than Newhaven/Dieppe. I did not book. I did the maths on the extra fuel. We crossed for significantly under £100 thanks to DFDS whose staff are lovely, friendly and efficient. It doesn’t surprise me that they win ferry operator of the year; every year.

Newhaven harbour, the Seven Sisters ferry and the RNLI lifeboat

Le (millpond) Manche was so calm we arrived early and I had only one small (unsigned) diversion to overcome before reaching our designated Aire at Bonneval just after dark. The town, from our brief recce of last night, looks picture book. We are off for an explore when I’ve drunk my second cuppa!

🙂 🙂 🙂

All good fun

Four frosty days hooked up, thankfully, in the Midlands hanging out with BB. There are times when we behave like children, spontaneously play silly games and dissolve into fits of giggles.

Me: Where are we going?

BB: Dunno, which exit shall I take off the roundabout?

Me: First.

BB (having complied): At the junction?

Me: Straight on.

BB: At the roundabout in about five miles?

Me: Second exit.

BB: If it’s the M6 toll as I think it is,  you’ll have to chose another.

Me: I said second exit!

BB: That roundabout was the next roundabout, not the roundabout in five miles!

The second exit at the roundabout in five miles was the M6 toll. So we ended up taking the third exit to Lichfield; which was probably where BB intended to go all along, we just got there giggling and via a longer route!

Like me he’s into shop and market browsing and certainly neither of us is to be trusted in Fat Face. We enjoy the same films (mostly; I’ve never been a John Wayne fan), comedy (Swimming with Men and The Last Laugh watched this week) and music. You might think that’s entirely unexpected for siblings but BB left for Army Boys School when I was still in single figures (just) and I didn’t see much of him for the next dozen years – has to be the genes! The fact that we’re both currently having to diet I blame on the genes too!

The snow was very kind to us; I think Fazeley and a small surrounding area might have been in the only place in the UK that didn’t get a snow dump. Even Langport had sufficient that a snow day was declared by the local schools. The Smart One had huge fun with his mates snowball fighting and sledding, apparently returning home virtually hypothermic.

Tuesday was Coventry;

Wednesday was a brisk walk around Kingsury Water Park;

Thursday was a tiny bit frosty and included a trip to Lichfield;

I’m back now for the final week, which includes a meet up with The Bezzie and a double birthday party (J’s 40th and K’s 45th) before main engine start …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Medically and dentally fit to travel!

Last week the dental extractions happened, I can’t believe how much better I felt virtually immediately. Having had months of sinusitis and troublesome teeth it’s great to be pain free!!

This week I visited my new Practice Diabetic Nurse. She was all ready to plough through the indoctrination spiel and was heartily glad that she didn’t have to after I gave her my history. She was very pleased that the weight loss programme is well underway, and that my fasting blood sugars are already responding to the weight loss so far; not yet down to normal range but showing an improvement. Go me! As I requested she’s leaving matters to me for the next six months; when I go back to see her on my return, all being well I shall be down to my target weight, and back in remission.

The last few days I’ve been converting my travelling thoughts into hard plans; deciding on places I want to visit and finding Aires and Camper Stops. On the plans are granite granaries, schist villages, medieval bridges, and a lot of twisty windy mountain roads (snow chains and shovel are on board just in case). I’m down to Central(ish) Portugal and week 5 so far. Place your bets, dear regular readers, as to how quickly I throw the plans out of the window …

I’ve made a conscious decision to avoid all large towns and cities unless there is something in one that I really don’t want to miss. Neither Daise nor I like the noise, traffic or crowds so we’ll stick to being country bumpkins. There will be one exception; just before Easter, K and The Smart One are going to a resort just outside Barcelona. I shall find a campsite close by for that week and show them round one of the few cities I actually love.

 

Next week I’ll be spending a few days with BB at the marina; the lady “what runs it” says I can stay in the car park – if the weather remains this cold I’m hoping she’ll let me hook up for a reasonable charge.

20 sleeps to main engine start …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Well slap me on the back …

… and call me slimline; the first 5lbs are off!

It’s taken a little longer than I hoped but it was the season of good eating; I could’ve really stuck to my calorie limit and lost more but the blood sugars weren’t super high; I have another three weeks before my diabetic appointment and if I’ve lost another 3 lbs by then I’ll be happy. I’m using an app on my phone called Lose It, (Thank you for the recommendation Richardsons!) it really helps keep track of the calories for every meal, I don’t have to count the calories, the app does it; also, I’ve become more aware of where the excess calories are. Alcohol is off limits temporarily – but they say “no pain; no gain” – p’raps I should say “no gin; get thin” or “no wine; look fine”.

I’d got a more than a little lazy so I’m increasing exercise both LWD walking and knitting. Knitting apparently uses 102 calories per hour so my cotton tops for the summer are being made whilst I  sit virtuously and lose weight! In fact I may give up the walking in favour of speed knitting! (Escape Route, I presume the Extreme Knitter is super slim?)

Over New Year my favourite ATM was attacked by an explosive device

I’ve got fed up with the back cushions on R0X1’s sofas being too deep and being unable to sit sideways without back support to snuggle with LWD; guests find sitting straight a bit uncomfortable as they’re pushed too far forward. So, as I don’t need the back cushions to use as a bed, I enlisted The Bezzie’s help to measure up for slimmer replacement foam and I then alter the covers to fit. Great minds having got together we came up with a plan, which we promptly jettisoned for another plan and the final plan really works for me. With the old back cushions removed I can lean back on the cab wall comfortably and sit along the sideways sofa without having to add a panel at the cab end to lean against, (loads of work saved). The thick back cushions have been replaced with scatter cushions on both sofas which sorts out the lack of room and also looks much more homely. R and I make a great design team!!

A dart got metaphorically thrown at my computer calendar and I’m off on the 12th February. I’ve got a couple more things to do on R0X1, spring clean for a start and a little more discipline in the storage area would help, before we head for Poole. (Anyone know of a good overnight stop in the Poole area – preferably free?) I have to admit to a twinge of excitement …

🙂 🙂 🙂

P.S. Seen in Tesco Friday 3rd January 2019

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Happy Easter 🤣