All posts filed under: Places

Salamanca

Salamanca. Even the name of this city makes me smile. Somewhere between salamander and Scaramanga, it sounds exotic and dangerous, a place where James Bond might surreptitiously follow some femme fatale through the echoing streets. It’s word that simply feels lovely in the mouth. So it’s with some embarrassment then that I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of the place before I looked at a map and realised it was well positioned for an en route visit. After we left Vitoria Gasteiz in floods of rain on the morning of Rob’s fortieth birthday we worked out that if we put in a good enough drive we could make it in a day. Most of the time the boys just aren’t up for driving anything longer than a couple of hours but after a few days of storms, they were willing to deal with the tedium of a long stint on the road to try and get past the bad weather. The landscape was barren and windswept for most of the journey but the …

Stopovers

I’m in danger of forgetting all the stops we’ve made over the course of our journey so far so I thought I’d make a quick list here in the hope that some of this information may help some hapless motorhomer who, like us, set off with no real idea of what they’re doing or where they’re going. To those of you not intending to go off motorhoming around Europe in January the following may be of limited interest. First stop – Dover. Motorhomes are allowed to park along the front. This road is known, I believe, as Marine Esplanade. It goes without saying there are no facilities, it is just a road. Free. Second stop – Disneyland Paris This is just an enormous car park that you pay 20 euros a night to stay in, although after our first night no one came to ask us for more money. I think they pitied us. There are absolutely no (official) facilities in winter but if you’re sneaky you might get away with having a shower in …

Ancestor Art

We almost completely bypassed the caves of Les Eyzies. I was browsing the map and guidebook – my favourite pre-sleep activity – when I came across a little information box concerning some very important cave art. At that point we had stopped at Pageas, just south of Limoges. I imagined that we’d drive on to Bergerac or somewhere close by. I mentioned casually to Rob that there seemed to be some interesting cave art not too far away, Lascaux or something? At which point Rob became very excited, very excited indeed. Being a former archeologist, Rob retains a fair bit of fascination for old stuff. It turned out that these particular cave drawings were amongst some of the most important in the world, and Rob had written papers on them as part of his degree…understandable then, that he said we absolutely had to go and see them. Lascaux itself has been closed since the sixties when around 1200 visitors would cram themselves into the caves each day. Unsurprisingly all those hot little bodies, churning out …

Passing through

After Blois we drive down through the centre of France, sometimes for just a couple of hours at a time and occasionally managing a slightly longer stint. We generally wake up slowly and only manage – frustratingly – to get going around noon. Once or twice with a lot of effort we’ve managed a slightly earlier start. There are always jobs to be done; water to be filled up, loos to be emptied, beds to be taken down and put away, children to entertain and food to be cooked. Due to extreme cold and wet, we have really only ventured out for the odd mooch. We don’t stray far from our little home; we’re not in the lingering phase of our journey yet, we’re compelled at the moment to keep moving. The changing landscape is a constant source of interest to us adults. From flat, vast expanses of land dotted with sparse trees hung with spherical blobs of what looks to be mistletoe, to gradually more undulating fields, then to thickly wooded hills. The character of the buildings changes …

Blois

The Good Blois is beautiful We see the sun for the first time in what feels like weeks We find a launderette We get to feel like we’re sort of on holiday as we potter about like tourists We get some groceries and speak a little French The Bad When we arrive it is shut The Ugly We’re all a bit unsettled and homesick and downright loopy

France is shut

  Sleeping in the Disneyland car park for two nights felt like a test. I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to sleep in such ridiculous circumstances. Despite several layers of clothing, a duvet, three blankets, hot water bottle and hat, I was still freezing. Any skin that was left exposed (my face!) was almost painfully cold. This feat of endurance was conducted in the bleakness of an almost entirely empty car park, under flat grey foggy skies. I cheered myself with the thought that things could only get better. After consulting our various oracles – road map of France, Lonely Planet France, and Camperstop Europe – we point the van in the direction of Blois in high hopes of a less depressing stopover for the night. The aire in Blois itself was closed so we found another a few kilometeres away in Les Montils that had water and somewhere to empty the loo. I looked forward to meeting a few other folk in motorhomes and perhaps wandering into the town for our evening meal. When …

Dover to Disneyland

We got to Dover just before midnight. Driving along the front we spotted other motorhomes tucked up for the night and parked near one. It felt so good to make up our bed that night, right there at the side of the road and sweeter still to wake to the sound of seagulls calling the morning in. There wasn’t time for much before we had to make our way to the ferry. The lorries from the night before were all still stacked along the approach to the dock; the drivers, grey and crumpled, rubbed at their faces wearily. We, relatively fresh and rested, were increasingly giddy with the expectation of our imminent crossing. Driving through the various gates, we cheered at everything and marvelled at the giant boats that would swallow us up along with the now comparatively teeny juggernauts, then spit us out on foreign shores. Once on deck, we grinned and jigged and ran about. The boys, who had been feeling concerned about the possibility of sinking, were reassured by the scale and …