We are currently in Norfolk staying with Jon and Linda in Rackheath. We have come back for medical appointments (all fine) and now the van is at Citroen on a recall and we are hoping to be on the move again next week. This has been a month of visiting and staying with friends and family as well as the drive back.
When I last wrote we were on a gorgeous beach at Manta Rota on the Algarve. A rumour went round that the authorities were going to move us all on and fine us. I don't think anyone was fined but it was about time for us to move on anyway. We had eaten exactly the same meal at Mar's Bar three times in a week so the waistline was saved and there was a serious risk that we would have to keep going back. The home made burgers and BBQ ribs are THE BEST. Honestly.
Next stop was a chilly one night near Granada then on to Mojacar on the coast for three nights. We had decided to surprise Peter and Vera and just turn up. Their campsite was very well hidden down an unsignposted back lane which we hadn't seen from the main road. We eventually found it by just heading for their motorhome which we could see parked but to get there we had to cross a dried up river bed and the engineering works where a section of the new high speed rail line is being built. The site was actually near Turre just outside Mojacar which is a quaint traditional Spanish town. On from here we stopped at Javea and then L'Estartit respectively. Javea to catch up with Tynes and L'Estartit to see friends we have made at Camping Les Medes. While we were at Les Medes I was struck with the thought of how few campsites open all through the winter are actually prepared people to use their facilities in winter. I could have a serious rant about cold draughty shower blocks with inadequate hot water and non existent heating. But they do it right at Les Medes-unlimited boiling hot water in a modern well heated block. Should be a minimum standard to stay open in the winter. The only other one we have been to like that this winter was Crystal Palace in London. This is a poor show when you think we have been living in the van since October. We stopped at L'Estartit long enough to catch up with our friends on the site and went for a lovely meal at Roberts in the village with Chris and Peter. Roberts doesn't seem to get a good write up with Trip Advisor but we have always been very well looked after and had delicious food.
I have mentioned Aires several times before. They are designated parking areas for motorhomes with a service point for fresh water, drainage and sometimes electricity. Spain and Portugal are just starting to make these available to encourage visitors into local communities. There are loads of them in France, Germany and Italy as well as other European countries.
After a couple of nights in L'Estartit we headed to France and had a superb drive in good weather. We drove down into the valley to go through Millau as we went over the bridge last time. There was an Aire in the centre of town but Mike was in the mood for more driving so I found another one at a place called St Flour. It was conveniently located about 5km from the motorway and we thought we would be able to wander round what looked like a very picturesque spot. It was situated just off a lane in the centre of town next to a small stream. As we drove in it looked quite foreboding as it was at the base of a cliff. We parked with the service point to our left.
We settled down, cooked supper and watched a film. Two other motorhomes parked alongside us. Just around 10pm when we were both in bed we heard a loud noise outside but couldn't quite place it. Not wishing to over react we just ignored it but kept our ears open. Then we heard a metallic clang and thought that must have been one of our neighbours emptying their cassette toilet at the service point. Bit late but possible. A few seconds after that we heard a very definite loud metallic clank on the bike rack. I opened the rear blinds to show we were awake. As Mike got out of bed we felt something hit the van and actually move us slightly. We then knew exactly what was happening-we were under attack. Never before has this happened and quite frankly I was terrified. Mike went outside to see what/who was out there but there was only one street lamp and the area wasn't well lit. He could see a row of soft rocks in a line on the ground next to the van which were obviously the missiles that had been used. Probably thrown from the top of the bridge to our left. Mike didn't want to stray too far from the van as I was in there on my own. I got dressed and packed as quick as I could, we took the van off the blocks and drove off.
We parked at the service station just before the entrance to the motorway and had a bit of a discussion on what to do next. We didn't know if we were still targets and being watched by somone so we decided to clear off. Mike walked round the van to check we hadn't sustained any further damage such as slashed tyres. Luckily we hadn't so we drove two hours further to the north of Clermont Ferand. We have analysed what must have happened at length. We think they might have been trying to steal our bikes off the back and it is possible that when they failed they decided to bombard us with rocks. The damage to the van was fairly minimal, small dents and scratches to the paintwork and another dent in the window frame. Fortunately most of the rocks seemed to have hit the service point. Had we chosen the wrong place to park? -well clearly yes but only in terms of being there at the wrong time- the place was fine. It was a proper designated Municipal Aire and there were other motorhomes with us. Thank goodness nothing nasty happened to us or there could have been worse damage to the van-smashed windows and the like. Just as if we had to remount a bike after a fall we parked at the next camperstop and slept well. I must emphasize this is extremely rare. We have been using Aires since 2003 and have never heard of anything like this happening to anybody.
The rest of the drive back was completely straight forward and we arrived back in the UK in the middle of March. As usual there has been loads to do and as I said earlier we have enjoyed catching up with friends and family.
Have a lovely Easter
Lots of Love
Ali and Mike xxx