The ferries out of Britain, the week before Christmas suffered from a price hike. £133 for a flexi fare (Single!) from Dover to Calais where we are used to paying no more than fifty quid. We were booked for the evening of Saturday 20th December and the travel bulletins were alarming. Road chaos was predicted with Christmas shoppers and holidaymakers hitting the highways for their annual migration somewhere several miles drive away from where they live. We set off down the A1 early, the dreaded M25 was bound to be blocked at the Clearwater Shopping Centre exits, then there was the Dartford crossing to contend with. An 'incident' in Kent was reported that was affecting road travel and high winds in the Channel were causing delays to ferries. This news wasn't conducive for coffee stops, lunch breaks or even toiletting. We had to keep going, our road was clear. No queues at Clearwater, the new system at Dartford meant we hardly had to slow down. We followed the diversion signs to avoid the 'incident' and, whoa, hold your horses, we arrived in Dover five hours early! Mike smiled sweetly at the lady in the check-in booth, cajoling her with charming witticisms. Having heard his patter before I grimaced inwardly, but after Mike drew her attention to the flexi fare, she didn't turn us away, but indicated where we could park until it was time for us to arrive.
In the event we did get across on an earlier ferry - four hours ahead of our booked crossing, filled up with fuel in Calais (€1.06 per litre at Carrefour) and arrived in Clere for a free Aire just north of Rouen for the night.
Negotiating Rouen the next morning was easy peasy, (Sunday, no lorries) and we cruised south, arriving at an Aire near Soustons, just north of Biarritz at dusk.
We usually avoid toll roads, "Time's what I've got" is one of Mike's favourite phrases, (Ad nauseam, in all honesty). But we do avoid tolls, and slow down using the national road network. However, we were on a mission to be settled for Christmas and so with Christmas Eve as our deadline we parted with the cash, and paid for the Autoroute from Tours to Poitiers. I was dismayed that the stretch south of Bordeaux had become a Peage. It always used to be free, because there's no decent alternative. Anyway, putting my penny pinching grumbling to one side our location for the night was a few miles off the A63, in a pinewood next to a lake. Although I've had to look up the name now, I've made a note for a future visit. I'm sure it would be hellish in high season, as it was next to a large holiday complex but as we're fortunately not tied in with dates that's not a problem for us.
Our second full day took us through northern Spain on the free dual carriageways to Caceres where after filling up we spent the night with some trucks at a fuel station. It was incredibly peaceful but we woke up just after 5 and set off for our final day's drive to Portugal. As we counted down the miles to Seville we noticed a national road on the map that would take us 'cross country', leaving the dual carriageway at Zafra. This was a picturesque scenic route and slowed us up a bit, however it enabled us to avoid Seville at rush hour.
In Portugal we used the A22 toll road for the first time since it became a paying route. In order to drive on it we had to register our credit card at a machine just over the border. Cameras apparently scanned our number plate at that time and again and again, and again, as we crossed the Algarve. We've yet to see the final bill but suspect it will be in the region of €12.
So, we arrived in Albufeira for elevenses on the 23rd December, 24 hrs ahead of schedule. I've been posting irritating photos of Mike sitting in sunny locations on Facebook. Fingers crossed this settled warm and dry spell continues.
Much to my horror, I've realised I'm morphing into Mike. I was unsettled until we'd repacked and re-organised our cupboards. The anti malarial tablets were where the shampoo should have been, luckily arriving here has made all the difference to my mental well-being and I'm tidy again.
On Christmas Eve we found an excellent new bistro in the old town and have booked for a return visit tonight. All the football club need to do is lower the expectation of the motorhome owners, perhaps the website should read, 'Parking only'.Then the lack of wifi, intermittent 6 amp electricity, bracing cold showers 23 hrs a day, (your guess is as good as mine for the hot water hour)' would surprise and delight the guests and fit the bill nicely. I remain optimistic with the moaners. We're on a car park, located walking distance from the town centre, most of the inhabitants hate the over regulation of northern Europe. And yes, indeed, if you don't like it you're in a motorhome, with wheels. You can head for freedom and 24hrs costs less than a few hours in a car park at home. However, to remain honest we're here for the location but it's certainly gone down hill and costs more than last year.
In the morning we're breaking free and heading for a beachfront a few miles down the road.
That's all for now folks, so let's raise a glass for a healthy and prosperous 2015.
HAPPY NEW YEAR.