I’m sure the last e mail arrived safe and sound, although I struggled to get to an internet café in Pau. 2 punctures, on the bike and about 3 miles walk on the first day. The next day I caught a bus which made much more sense. I have started copying and pasting the text onto the e mail but if you open the attachment and have the right version of windows you can see that I have learnt how to copy maps on to show where we have been. I thought this would make it easier to visualise. Hopefully future editions will have photographs as well. I think I have definitely got too much time on my hands!! Having said that what’s wrong with learning a few new skills? (Even if it is boring old computers!)
Mike got safely back to Pau on 25th June and we left the next day with the intention of driving slowly through France, staying at Aire’s (free car parks for motor homes) or on vineyards. Unfortunately we couldn’t find either and ended up in Perpignan on the South coast before we knew where we were. We were unable to appreciate the Pyrenees from the French side as they were covered in mist, amazing when you think that while Mike was away I was sweltering in 40 degree heat (104 Fahrenheit!) There were lots of huge campsites along the coast which was very flat and extended for miles. We continued until we found an Aire just before the Spanish border at Port Vendres. It was 8.30 by the time we got there and we were absolutely exhausted. We left early the next morning and headed into Spain, a journey that we had allowed a week for had taken just a day!
We drove to Cadaques where Salvadore Dali had lived for many years off and on. It was a lovely little village and port. It was easy to see why it was a favourite amongst artists with all the whitewashed cottages and pretty little fishing boats. I put my new camera to the test and took lots of snaps (birthday present from Mike-lucky me its fab) –more about that later. We then drove on along the coat to Roses which Mike had read in a brochure was at the start of the beautiful Costa Brava. It has to be said, we weren’t all that struck as it was rather flat and uninspiring but we may have gone to the wrong bit so we missed it out and continued along the coast. By now Mike was getting tired and fed up with driving so we decided to go back to Palamos!! This you may recall was where we started out back in January; we’ve just done a huge circle. But we decided that although this wasn’t really in the adventurous exploring spirit it would enable us to get a few chores done. We knew of a bike/lawnmower shop/workshop where we could get the bikes fixed as both of them had stopped working, as well as having those punctures. Mike would be able to get on with a load of office paperwork knowing where all the facilities are for e mail and faxing. We couldn’t find anywhere to wild camp and went back to our original campsite. They wouldn’t give us a discount so we didn’t stay there out of principle, though we have since helped ourselves to fresh water to fill our 130 litre tank, ha. Anyway we checked into the world’s most expensive campsite in San Antoni de Calonge, just up the road. What a fantastic place. 3 22 metre swimming pools, tennis court, free aqua aerobics every day (tried that, not too difficult to work out the Spanish commands) and the showers, they were all like little en suites each cubicle having a sink, loo and shower. Excellent. Mike got all his paperwork sorted and I got to grips with using my new camera, unfortunately losing the snaps of Cadaques in the process. Mike also managed to repair both punctures, one of which was a damaged valve. But he has never done anything like that before and he had the added intricacy of an engine on the back wheel.
We had 4 nights at the de luxe campsite and they agreed to let us stay on the site until 4.00pm of the last day which was super as we enjoyed the pool and the amenities that little bit longer. We’d seen motor homes parked in a small un-barriered car park practically on the beach right next to the promenade. We decided to stay the night there and walked to the traditional Catalan restaurant in Palamos. We had an excellent evening and walked back, falling asleep at around midnight. In the morning, we woke up to see that the ladder had moved and was propped up about 4 feet away against the dinette chairs. I thought I had heard something bump in the night, at the time it sounded like the baseball bat falling off the bed but I then assumed that it must have been the ladder after all. Mike went to the front to get his binoculars out and discovered that the cab was unlocked. How ridiculous, we thought. Fancy us being so stupid as to leave the cab open. Next question ‘Al, why is your handbag on the front seat?’
‘I don’t know’, was the reply (although we should have by now) Mike wanted his mobile phone but it wasn’t in there. I rang it up using my phone but there was no reply. We decided to retrace our steps from the night before and planned to go back to the restaurant to see if it was there. A full half hour had gone by from waking up. I then went back to my bag, got Mike’s wallet out and the penny finally dropped-no money in the wallet! We had been burgled! We finally realised what they must have done.
1. Opened the cab door, locked but not alarmed.
2. Opened the dividing curtain between cab and living area.
3. Moved ladder across to other side of table, picked up my bag from the seat, and baseball bat, which had fallen to floor just as we were going to sleep.
4. Removed wallet, phone and new camera (only 8 days old and only one picture transferred to computer. grrr).
5. Removed money from wallet and put bag back on seat closing the door after them.
We had slept through the whole lot, without a stitch on. The bare faced cheek of it. Next followed a fairly stressful day. Hours at the police station, hours at call boxes to get claim forms in the post. We were both upset and shocked but remained calm and just did what we had to do, finally finishing on the phone at 5.30 pm.
We are fine about it now and have seen the experience as a part of a learning curve. We have heightened security measures now. We always sleep with the van fully alarmed, we have bought a chain to span the inside of the van tied to the inside door handles so if anyone tries to open them they won’t be able to. We have the windscreen fully covered so no-one can see in and make any route plans. We have also wedged the van catch of the side door so that if anyone does try from the outside, again they will be unable to open the door. We have also purchased a new baseball bat. We have moved the laptop from its old storage space in the wardrobe to underneath one of the chairs, much more inaccessible. We also have to look at the positives, in a way thank goodness we didn’t wake up or we might have had a nasty fight on our hands. The burglars, although obviously very bad at least only took the cash items, they put Mike’s wallet back leaving our driving licences and his photos behind. These are obviously irreplaceable and we would have had more hassle getting driving licences. They also only sent 4 text messages on the phone; we were fully expecting great long telephone calls to far flung places. We were also lucky that they didn’t get hold of the laptop. So all in all it could have been worse, but we were a bit numb for a couple of days afterwards, lets hope the insurance pays out!
After that we didn’t really feel like parking on the sea front there so we returned to Platja D’Aro, just up the coast. We spotted a motor home parked in the municipal car park, next to the bus station. They had a fierce looking dog with an equally fierce bark keeping guard outside so after our ordeal we thought this would be a good place to stop. It was fine and the dog gave us extra peace of mind. Good job as we watched some very suspicious goings on with a driver of an Audi A6 who appeared to be picking up a possibly Moroccan chap who had been sleeping in his car nearby. Another night an English Coach driver had the whole of his bus COVERED in graffiti. We didn’t hear a thing.
We had a very pleasant few days parked there and then headed down to Lloret de Mar stopping on the way to pick up 4 16 year olds from Girona airport. These individuals were Amy, and 3 of her friends; Jade, Carl and Dale, who had a weeks holiday in Lloret. We visited here in the winter and felt that it wasn’t really our kind of place but when looking for a suitable place for 4 lively 16 year olds we thought it would do very nicely. We installed them in their apartment last Tuesday 8th July. The idea was hatched up by Amy and her friends as an ideal way of having a fun holiday without having to see too much of Dad and Ali. We were going to find a campsite but the apartments were in a very quiet (hurrah!!) urbanisation about a kilometre out of Lloret. We parked outside an apartment block just for the first night but have stayed ever since. Making full use of the pool, bar and shower and loo in the apartment. I wonder if Thompson Holidays guessed? No-one complained or said anything to us. All in all they’ve had an excellent time and have seen more of us than they planned as it turns out we weren’t so boring after all!! Illicit late night swimming in the pool being one of the antics we lead them astray with! The last I heard Dale say before he dived in, fully clothed was ‘well, if they chuck us out of the apartment we can stay with you in the motor home!’ Thank fully they didn’t get chucked out of the apartment, just out of the pool.
Mike and I have turned down offers to go to bull fights in the past but decided that although we didn’t agree with it as a sport it is so much a part of Spanish Culture we ought to go along for the experience. Well it certainly was an experience alright. Jade and Amy stayed away but the boys came with us. It may be a part of their culture but it was extremely gory and unpleasant. I’m still having mental flashbacks now. I thought I was going to have to leave after the first one as I was in tears when they bought out the horses and then I very nearly fainted. I did make it to the end and we did admire the Matador for his bravery and showman style. But never again for Mike and I. We were worried about the boys as we weren’t sure how they would cope mentally but they thought it was brill. I’m feeling a bit sick writing about it now. So I’d better move swiftly on.
We have now dropped Amy and her friends back to the airport, we are sure they had a great time and that they could have done with longer. The weather is supremely hot and we are learning not to buy too much food at one time as the fridge is struggling to keep things cool and I found a maggoty potato today which as you will imagine was extremely unpleasant and very smelly.