March to June 2019

The title of this post is March to June 2019 but the date of typing is January 2022. I’ve slipped a bit:-( What follows is more a list with photos than any kind of detailed blog. To remember that far back we have to scroll through our photos and see where we actually went that year. Because we often visit the same favourite places each year it all becomes a bit of a blur!

So there we were on the Costa Del Sol at the end of February 2019 with one month ahead of us to enjoy the Spanish littoral, cross into France, get back to the fermette to pick up the car and take it to Folkestone for its MOT before 4 April. All very doable.

I picked as direct a route as possible to get to Denia on the east coast in a day or two. This took us a bit inland and up the mountains to a lovely aire at Totana. We whizzed (relatively speaking) on the motorway past the ancient city of Lorca which I noted for a return visit. Totana is also a historic town but we did not see it as the aire is a bit outside and we arrived too late to wander in. It is constructed on terraces with view points over mountains and trees.

The alley of trees led down to the viewing and al fresco dinng area and…

…the sunset was magnificent.

Charging on the next day we reached Los Pinos in Denia – one of our favourite places to spend time. We settled into a reasonably sunny spot and took advantage of the comprehensive on-site facilities to launder everything we had used in the past several weeks and dry it under the clear blue sky.

The sea was as cool and clear as ever

We had our ebikes on board so whipped along the 4 kilometre fabulous but slightly bumpy coastal path into town. I discovered some time ago that the saddles on our Gtech ebikes are on the hard side so had bought a gel-filled saddle topper. This helped but only just enough for adequate comfort. We probably should get off-road bikes rather than city bikes as more often than not we are on paths rather than roads. Nonetheless we shopped and enjoyed lunch in one of the many, many cafés that line the streets. The fish was delicious, if a bit bony.

We had an exciting visitor on site! A magical and colourful pigeon that could only be a cross between a local pigeon and an exotic parrot wafted here from foreign shores!

Talking to others we discovered it was not a wierd and wondeful new species but simply an ordinary pigeon got up in its racing colours by a local pigeon fancier:-( It makes them easier to pick out of a crowd when out and about. Ah well – it was exciting for a few minutes.

We’d made an appointment on with our regular mechanic in France to get the car serviced before we took it up to Folkestone for its MOT. So now we were counting down. In fact we were getting a bit tired of this fixed MOT commitment in late March that curtails our winter break in the south. Now we were on countdown to being right out of the EU as well so things were about to change anyway. We left Denia on 9th March and started back north. A shortish drive the first day to Peniscola to a typical town-type motorhome park – nice enough but a bit drear in winter and not on the beach. I have no photographs so it looks as if we did not leave the van:-( The next day a much longer drive on the motorway up to Girona, which suprprised me as I had always thought it was in Italy. (There is another one in Italy apparently but the Spanish one is just as historic.) We parked in a large, not unattractive, car park that allowed motorhomes to stay and walked in.

It is an attractive old city – worth more than the hour or so we had the time and energy for after a long day on the motorway.

Next day was another day on the motorway that would take us north over the Spanish border, bear right a bit and onto the French mediterranean. Vias Plage is a site that is part of a big campsite in season but opens only basic facilities for over-winterers. It’s a lovely spot right on the beach but a shame the toilets and showers are not open. And to fill with water you have to take the van right up to the metered tap due to the way you have to pay and the timings. Not a problem if you are just passing but a real pain if you wanted to stay and get set up for a few days.

Hard to believe that with such a prime sea front position we only stayed one night. But we did, obviously noting it for a return trip. In fact I had found it from a post on the ourtour blog. Thanks Ju and Jay!

Onwards and upwards on the magnificent and free A75 – although there is a fee to cross the splendid viaduct at Millau. We are lucky that this motorway is the direct route to the Med from our fermette in south-west Burgundy – it has become our regular escape to the sun when the weather looks warmer down south.

A quick overnight at charming spot in Massiac in the Massif Central with enough time for a quick beer.

And the next day…. ensconced at home with the fire blazing, Frasier on the TV and a nice chilli with a bottle of red. Lovely:-)

The tunnel was booked for Sunday 24th March, returning Monday 25th fully MOT’d. Fingers crossed! So we had ten days or so for Neil to fettle the car and beat the lawn into submission while I painted the upstairs and tangled with unruly trees. Together with visiting neighbours this constitutes the full range of Fermette low season activities.

It looks like it was lovely weather. The main cloud on the horizon was the imminent departure of the UK from the EU. There were desperate last minute attempts to reverse the decision – I have copies of petitions etc. – but, as we now know, the disaster could not be stopped.

Smooth trip up to Folkestone, fish and chips for dinner, full English for breakfast. Can’t get nasty at that! A nice day wandering the beach on the new boardwalk and around the harbour with pop-up tea and cake thrown in.

A successful MOT and smooth journey back. Hurrah! I have no record of where we stayed on the way back, but it was a lateish crossing so we would have had to stay in a hotel somewhere.

We seem to have remained in France for another month and stayed pretty local to the fermette. All my photos of the time show a lot of gardening, some furniture renovation and canal walks. There were also a few brocantes with the regulation saucisses frites.

We were delighted to get a surprise visit from an old friend from Portugal in 2018 – Louisa. Louisa had overwintered in Sicily – I so want to do that. We still want to get to Guernsey to pay her a visit as well but things have conspired against us for the past two years! And we were lucky enough to be at the Fermette for the Easter meal the commune was holding in the salle des fêtes.

Speeding along hoping to get to the end of this blog before the end of winter (reminder – I’m writing in January 2022) we plotted a route home that took a detour to Bristol to visit my mother. 2019 was an atypical travel year for us as we wanted to be in the UK in August for the wedding of my niece Lydia and her fiancé George. We normally aim to be overseas in the high season as our home city becomes impossibly full of tourists and we prefer to seek out lesser known places. In any event, this gives us a chance to do some touring closer to home in the summer.

Our route home takes us along the Val du Cher, across the Loire and up into Normandy to the port at Cherbourg. We do this with two overnight stops – we prefer to drive only about three hours a day and have time for a bit of a wander around. Our first stop is the charming little town of Montrichard-sur-Cher where a stroll along the river brings us into the town.

The second is in a nicely laid out aire in Saint-Friambault, Normandy – a town very proud of its four star fleuri status. We did not have to jostle for space in the aire:-)

The final night before sailing was in car park next to the ferry port in Cherbourg where we had a tour of the submarine museum. That’s an early wooden submarine in the picture – who knew? Well worth a visit. Neil paid extra to go on the tour of the nuclear submarine.

Then a drive up to Bristol from Poole and a sneaky park on the road opposite my mother’s flat beside Frenchay Common. Very handy! At the time this spot appeared as a legitimate overnight place on Park4night, and we have used it many times, but recently a comment has been added indicating that local by-laws prohibit sleeping between 12pm and 6am. We will see next time.

Once back in York we were delighted to find that our local footbridge over the Ouse had finally been upgraded to a pedestrian and bicycle super-highway after decades of having to struggle up and down steep, narrow steps with suitcases or bicycles. It now takes you straight into the station cutting several minutes off the walk.

We spent the late spring walking, cycling, gardening and generally enjoying our home city.

Along the river, over the quirky bridge …

…down country lanes…

…and back alogside the racecourse where beautiful, glossy horses were running for their lives:-(

Helen paid a visit to see if York’s range of independent shops could provide a suitable dress for her daughter’s wedding and to visit old north Linclonshire haunts. We visited the tree I had planted for my father in the school garden at Alkborough. It had failed to thrive here as it had failed to thrive in his former vegetable garden, but for different reasons. I suspect the play area has encroached upon it here – it looked a little broken:-( I think a new fruit tree may be in order for the school. Helen enthusiastically trod the Jacob’s Bower labyrinth right to the middle in keeping with family tradition.

Then in June was the incomparable Festival of Ideas run by the University. Many events, installations performances are held in city centre venues – and they are free for the most part!

I think I have run out of steam on this blog. Later in June we were back on our travels which I think will make a good starting place for the next one.