It is quite ridiculous how fast time zooms by but here is a quick update so that you don't think our trail has gone cold. We arrived in the UK on February 2nd and haven't stopped tearing about since, and the poor blog gets neglected as a result.Here are some photos we took on Sunday. We went up to Cromer for the day and the wind was biting but it blew the cobwebs away as we stretched our legs.
Cadillac to Calais
Now we're in Calais, I'm struggling to remember what Cadillac was like. I thought I knew it was south of Poitiers but then again...I can't be sure, I haven't got the map or my journal in front of me because we are on the ferry. Mike decided to have a bit of shut eye as he's tired having done so much driving. He hasn't chosen the best spot. Nice long sofa for stretching out but we're next to the Bureau de Change and the office and there seems to be an entire French secondary school on board, all changing monnaie at the same time. Noisy and exciting business.
We did a long drive yesterday, that I can remember. We covered the distance planned for three days in one. This was because being Sunday there were hardly any trucks on the road. Once we were past Tours Mike could scent the finishing line, the roads were clear and we only had to skirt Rouen. Another overnight planned spot just north of there, but then we could see snow on the ground and had heard that a batch of snow was heading towards northern Europe so not wanting the weather to hamper our progress we pressed on to Calais. After filling up with cheap fuel we went to the Aire. It was blowing a hurricane and extremely cold. When we first drove into the car park we couldn't see any motorhomes but it turned out they were backed up against the rear wall. Presumably to keep out of the wind. We decided to tuck in alongside them. Mike had just switched off the engine when a french man came over and told us that two bicycles had been stolen at 2am that morning. The motorhome had been against that wall and he indicated that we should park in the centre of the carpark underneath the street lamp, in the light. We thanked him and moved. When we went to bed we had torches and mobile phones to hand and had packed up the cupboards ready for a swift departure. A few years back we parked at an Aire and someone tried to pinch the bikes off the back, when unsuccessful they ended up lobbing stones at us and we had to hot foot into the night. Therefore, we decided we'd be ready just in case. I think it would be pretty impossible to get our bikes off the back without damaging the rack and removing that with the bikes. The cycles are attached to the rack with 'D' locks which cannot be hack sawed through. (I'm sure that's what the manufacturer's blurb said.) Anyway, of course we slept soundly, no one disturbed us and the wind dropped as well, so nice and peaceful.
P and O have changed their ticketing recently, must have been the end of last year. Our single fare, booked online with a week to spare was more expensive than it would have been last year at £56. However, it was called a standard flexi. This gives a four hour window in which to sail but we weren't sure how steep the financial penalty would be to change the date of crossing. We had just cleared Chartres yesterday when I rang them to ask how much it would be to change it from Wednesday 4th Feb to the following day, Monday the 2nd. I was filled with disbelief and had to ask for reassurance when the booking office said it would be £4.80, payable there and then with a credit card, no charge for the card. So it appears to me that P and O fares have gone up, but if this means extra flexibility such as this, we're pleased. Because we like to get going once we're going somewhere, we often arrive early.
We left the Algarve on Wednesday 28th January. We haven't spent a cent on Aires or tolls and we've had 5 nights. We've covered 1373 miles and spent £166 on fuel.
Now then, where's Cadillac again?
I'll post a map in a few days, when I have wifi again to show our route.
Drove on toll free roads which were all good quality dual carriageway until we got to France, then the D roads got laborious but I accepted our fate. Didn't get lost but couldn't have done it without the sat nav because the free motorways around San Sebastian in Spain were confusing and not on our map. I dislike the sat nav because I don't like pitting my navigational skills against a computer. "We have a brain Mike!" Is one of my frequent laments as we accept our fate as served by a sat nav. Rant over, we got to Cadillac fine, what a pretty place. Chateau, river running through, medieval square, all the ingredients enhanced by a dear little free Aire, easy to find but no water only dump for grey and black water.
I can't describe a view, I haven't the words to bring one to life on the page. The drive from Caceres to Miranda Del Ebro in Spain is stunning. Seemingly endless hillsides dotted with cork trees, with pigs grazing in the south, as we headed North the landscape flattened, the pigs replaced with free range cattle. There was an occasional village, or smallholding dotting the landscape. And hardly any traffic. Our next drive won't be so pleasant. Crossing the border south of Biarritz. It's going to be busy, loads of lorries, then in France - A roads because the powers that be want you to pay for the privilege of a decent multi laned highway. It's not for us, we avoid tolls where we can, taxes paid to France already. So it's going to be slow going, I accept that. But getting from A to B in Spain is free and easy and the discovery that the N10 south of Bordeaux is now a peage gets on my nerves because there's no decent alternative through route. However, mustn't grumble, this is part of my chosen lifestyle.
Aire at Caceres, easy to get to, got the last remaining space at around 5pm. Quiet overnight and free.
Aire at Miranda Del Ebro. Easy to find, straight forward access from the N1. Quiet, pleasant location next to the river. One other campervan overnight. Free.
The weather on the Algarve continued to be sunny and warm so I was able to continue with my sickening shots of blue sky and sandy beaches
We spent last weekend parked outside our friends' house and they took us to some new spots. One was at the beach at Barril, near Tavira. There was a car park there for motorhomes which was €4 for 24 hrs. We assumed it would include fresh water and dump but when we went back after the weekend we found out it was for parking only. When we didn't immediately see facilities to take on water and to empty the toilet, Mike went and asked a couple of other couples. They all confirmed that it was just a car park, but if we were quick the first 15 minutes was 20 cents. We quickly raced towards the barrier and saw on the receipt that we'd been parked for 13 minutes, a close shave. Shame though because the location was lovely, with views across the ria to the island beyond. I'd been looking forward to walking across to the island and having a look at the sea on the other side. This is apparently an iconic Algarvian beach with anchors stood upright in the sand. I'll have to go another time. We then returned to the Aire at Manta Rota and bagged the last space, more reasonably priced at €4.50, all facilities except electricity which is extra. I love the beach there but the parking wasn't as attractive as Barril with the 4 long lines of motorhomes parked parallel to each other.
Another of our routine stops at Manta Rota is Mar's Bar. This has the slogan 'the best burgers and ribs on the Algarve' and having eaten there several times since we discovered it back in 2011 we have to agree. However, when I looked up their opening hours on Google I noticed an extremely negative review on Trip Advisor. Restaurants do go up and down and we were put off as it was recent, and vociferous. The reviewer had been particularly disturbed by inattentiveness by the staff and poor quality of the economy menu. Mike went to investigate what this was comprised of and it was a three course meal for €10 and with plenty of choice on each course. The negative review seemed unreasonable in light of this and so we decided to take a chance. After all with three courses for less than a couple of drinks in a restaurant at home, what were they expecting? We didn't eat off the economy meal and the food was first rate. I had the ribs, Mike the home made ground beef burger. I don't think the staff are inattentive, either. The geography is such that the dining area is separate from and out of sight of the bar and so in the winter when there are less staff the diners won't have a server in constant attendance. Again, the place is described as bar and bistro so we wouldn't expect a silver service meal with waiter enquiring after our every need. I'll be putting my own review on Trip Advisor, I don't know the owners nor am I affiliated to them in any way but an unfair review like that one could have put us off, how much business have they lost because of it?
Night two at Manta Rota and I scuttled up into the village for a whole chicken and chips takeaway for the princely sum of €6! I know it seems I'm writing about money a lot, but it was delish and with Mike such an anti fowl eater I couldn't resist AND it was our last night in Portugal. Our five weeks away from the UK have shot past so quickly.
We have decided to follow a similar route home to the one we used to get here in December. Clear running to Seville, then north for an overnight stop at Caceres. Have found the Aire in town and so far nice and peaceful. Got the last place on the Aire proper and there were about half a dozen on the bus parking spaces. Didn't want to take one of those and tangle with a bus in the morning, or run the risk of irritating them by parking out of bounds.
I love travel, any type. There is always a buzz in finding & exploring a place for the first time, meeting and making new friends and if you return things are never quite the same.
Going away? Travel essentials from across Amazon
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