Friday, 15 March 2013

Who'd have thought there could be so much in it???

Arrived home on Tuesday 12th March lunchtime after a night on Homebase, Warwick's car park which is at the end of Richard and Aoife's road. A large sign says "Overnight parking strictly prohibited" but R and A assured us that many of the locals park there after the store has closed.

We had a lovely meal with Richard and Aoife here on the Monday night after calling at my friend Jean's for lunch in Bedfordshire. Prior to that we had driven through blizzards in Calais and Kent but the journey was not too bad at all considering the conditions. It was good to be able to break it up in stages and to see different people along the way.

We arrived home in Bolton to the smell of our tea cooking, Drew's speciality bolognese sauce was simmering away in the oven though he, Alana and Hattie weren't in so we had to wait even longer to see them!

But it was worth the wait, Hattie is developing a real character and is delightful. We are very proud of Drew and Alana, they are doing a great job!

The title of this blog refers to the amount of "stuff" we are having to remove from the motorhome before it goes off on Monday for its service. We have been emptying it bit by bit and finding temporary homes for things. We decided it would be best to empty it completely so that nothing is in the way for jobs to be done.

So the garage now resembles a plastic storage box outlet.... they are an absolute boon for organising things in the MH but I think we had forgotten how many of the blooming things were hidden in cupboards, under the floor, in little nooks and crannies!!! No worries, they'll be going back in when it comes back from Newark. 

Tomorrow the grand clean starts, I wonder how much sand will escape our dyson....quite a bit I should think! 

Sunday 24th March

The motorhome is back in Newark now for its service, been a busy week. Last Sunday Richard ran a half marathon and completed in a very good time, very proud parents! He has trained hard for it so deserved to do well. My sister came over on Tuesday to meet Hattie and we all had a good day. She  even stayed for tea and didn't get back home to Rotherham until 10.30pm and what's more she didn't turn into a pumpkin! We've also had catch ups with friends which is always lovely. I've had the privilege of watching Hattie at her water babies class and going to a playgroup morning with them and Alana's yummy mummy friends. Great memories to take back to France with us and for me to ponder when I'm missing them all. 

We've had lots of things to organise this week but I think we are almost ready for the trip back to the boat. One of the many things Nigel has done is to organise a new internet provider, our service has not been good in all the time we have lived here so we are changing to cable and my biggest hope is that we will get skype and facetime running smoothly, we were very disappointed not to be able to keep in touch this way over the winter. 

How naive I was thinking the car would be nearly empty this time! However I am not taking any foodstuffs apart from tea bags. My experience in Morocco has taught me that we can survive very well with local produce and without the luxuries and anyway, there are plenty of supermarkets in France. If I can't find exactly what I want then we will do without! Notice the word "want" there and not "need". Morocco has taught us that there's a very big difference.

This week we have two more visits to the boat confirmed, my sister is coming out early May, around my birthday and Bill and Mandy for a long weekend on 18th May. Visits from the UK are now easier as there is a new Ryanair service from Stansted to Dole (20 mins drive from the marina) running twice a week. So as long as we are at base, it is very simple for people to come and stay.

It's certainly been a return to winter for us, a few bright days followed by snow which is still covering the garden. But surely winter is nearly over?????

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Goodbye Morocco, back to the land of plenty......

Well, here we are in France, just south of St. Quentin, Picardie on the homeward leg of our 3 month trip. Just arrived at a campsite that has only just opened for the season. We've been staying in Aires on the way through Spain and France  but there aren't any around here so we have had to resort to a campsite and it has free wifi....hey!!!!! Oh, and great showers.

A modern port and a modern fleet
 but what an organisational shambles!

Leaving Morocco, just 8 days ago, was a marathon! We left a day earlier than planned as the weather had changed, we arrived in Tanger and went to have a look at the port to suss it out for the next morning, but as it was quiet we decided to just bite the bullet and go, as it was still only 1.00pm. I joined the queue to have our tickets confirmed but got turned away and told to return at 2pm. IT WAS COLD!!!
So I rejoined the queue after a brew and a quick bite to eat and at last had our tickets verified and was given boarding passes for the 4pm ferry. After that, it was simply a matter of getting our passports stamped and the vehicle scanned for drugs (they do about 6 at a time on a moving scanner) and off we went to the waiting lane on the dock, we were third in the queue. It was blowing a gale, spray was splashing up 20 metres over the harbour walls, rain lashed down and then we had a thunderstorm!
We waited and waited, 4 o'clock came and ferry. Eventually it arrived about 5.30, unloaded and started loading again, mostly with HGVs. At 6.30 the ramps went up, we hadn't was obvious we were not going on that one.  No information boards, no announcements, no idea what was going on. I got out and spoke to a few people who shrugged and said they thought there would be another one along in a while!
So we had a snack from the cafe as we had nothing to cook, and waited. Eventually about 9pm another ferry arrived and this time we got on it and arrived in Algeciras about 1a.m. What a disorganised shambles! By the time we had got through passport control and customs and made our way to the Lidl car park we eventually got our heads down about 2am. There was a reason for parking at Lidl, apart from it being popular with Motorhomers on their way to and from Morocco, they sell BACON!!
We had bacon butties for breakfast and as it was the first bacon we'd tasted since New Year, wow, did they taste good! Then we set off towards Malaga to fill up with LPG and then onwards to stay at a very nice Aire where we walked to get a pizza for tea and spent a very comfortable night.

Nigel and Bob cutting trees down on his drive
to make room for the motorhome

Next day, Saturday, we arrived at Bob and Ann's in Teresa de Cofrentes, near(ish) Valencia. Sadly, Ann wasn't there, she had gone back to the UK but we hope we will be able to catch up with her when we get back.
It just so happened that it was Bob's birthday the day we arrived (I had thought it was 5th March, not 2nd) so we went for a very nice meal in the evening and had a good catch up. We are both very impressed with Bob's ability to speak the lingo! Getting onto and off Bob's drive was hairy stuff!

Wasn't long before Nigel and Bob were
doing what they do best....
putting the world to rights!

Next stop was a campsite on the Mediterranean coast recommended to us by Mandy and Chris who we met on the tour. Very pleasant overnight stop with walks directly on the beach for the dogs. Thanks Mandy and Chris for recommending Camping Oasis Mar near Cambrils.

Approaching the Pyrenees

Winter games for Belle and Dash......
they're there somewhere!

Next day, Monday 4th March, we ploughed on northwards, over the Pyrenees, through Andorra for some cheap(er) fuel and into France.  We saw plenty of snow, ski lifts were open and many people were skiing. Monday evening we stopped at a lovely aire in Les Cabannes. Just 4€ for  a 24 hour stay. It was great to be back in France and it really felt like the land of plenty, I was up early the next morning and went to the boulangerie for a baguette and we used up the Lidl bacon for bacon butties again. We are saving ourselves, croissant wise, for our weekly treat when we get back to the boat as the croissants at St. Usage are hard to beat!

Les Cabannes overnight spot, lovely!

We overnighted on Tuesday at St Flour in the Auvergne, another free aire and a pleasant spot with good dog walking close by.
And then at last and quite late after a long day's drive we arrived back at St. Jean de Losne, a quick run around Lidl for some wine and beer and a takeaway from our favourite kebab shop, we were at last ensconsed at the Gare D'eau within sight of our boat. We slept well on Wednesday night!
Thursday was spent taking things down to the boat and bringing other things back that we need to take back to Bolton. All seems well with the boat except that when it was moved to another mooring after we left, someone with very mucky hands has mauled our newly installed white roller blinds and rolled one of them down again very awkwardly so that it has a nasty fold across the centre. Grrrrr!!!! We were so careful installing them last summer, one of the last jobs before we left.
We hardly had time to catch up with anyone, just Jo who was walking round the Gare D'eau when I went to the boulangerie and Nigel walked up to see Dave and Pamela but the impression is that most people are still hibernating.

Joinville aire/halte Nautique,
we moored here last summer
 and first met Grant and Susan.

Next stage of our journey was to retrace our cruise of last year, we set off in the direction of the Canal between Champagne and Burgundy, we called at Cusey for lunch, from where Sue and I went truffle hunting last summer and then we stayed last night at the aire/marina at Joinville where we first met Sue and Grant and invited them and some motorhomers onto our back deck for a "soiree." It was interesting to see the names of the little villages we had moored at along the way and cycled around and to think that we'd got there in a few hours today whereas last summer it took us 10 weeks, such is the pace of boating!
Tomorrow, Sunday, it's on to Ypres where we will witness the last post which is sounded every night at 8pm and then on to Calais to catch a "chunnel" train at 8.50 Monday morning.
Once back in the UK we intend to visit my old college friend Jean, in Bedfordshire and then Richard and Aoife in Warwick on Monday evening.
Home to Bolton Tuesday morning and a big cuddle catch up with Hattie!