Posts Tagged ‘October’

Back through France

From Hendaye, we continued up through France to Vouvray, just east of Tours on the north bank of The Loire. Traffic was not too busy but busy enough around Bordeaux. Sharon did  nearly commit murder in a service station en route!  I’d gone to the loo and left her looking out over our car parked in front of the café when a car pulled in and slammed their door into ours! Not being shy – Sharon darted out to catch the woman responsible before she left, but she (the door slamming, evil criminal) managed to evade Sharon’s wrath by backing out of the space and driving back on to the motorway, pretty quick sticks! We were left with a dinted door.30161183796_7e9823d524

The sun shone throughout the afternoon, but by the time we arrived at our Chambre d’Hote just outside the village, it had become chilly and we were glad of our Lidl ‘extras’. In Hendaye, it had been so cold that we had looked around for warmer clothing and found a tracksuit for me and a long sleeved shirt for Sharon in a Lidl just around the corner from our hotel.  As I say, thank goodness for those Lidl ‘extras’.

We walked into Vouvray twice while we were there; a 4.5-mile round trip each time. The first time was to explore the village (it’s tiny) and the second time to find food; there are several places – but we had to find them. Whilst there, we checked out one of the Caves and made some essential purchases. We ate at La Scala.

After a comforetable breakfast we continued our journey up through France to Boulogne. It being Saturday, we expected more traffic but the roads remained quiet and uneventful for the entire journey. Although we’ve visited the area around Abbeville lots of times, we’ve never been to Le Crotoy (and there’s quite a bit of mention in Bernard Cornwell’s book – Harlequin – which I’ve just read) so we called in there for lunch (I had a bucket of mussels!). We will certainly try to visit again, it looks lovely.img_7321

Our Boulogne Chambre d’Hote was right in the middle of the old town, yet we were (just) lucky enough to grab a parking space not too far from our bed. Our room was on the first floor and huge. The windows overlooked the town hall square, where this year they had planted a sensory garden. Well done Boulogne once again.

The Sunday roads in England were also surprisingly quiet. The M20, the M25 and then the M11 were a breeze. So setting off from Boulogne at 8.30am French time to catch a 9:50am train (on time) we were home for 3:00pm UK time.  Not too shabby.

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Avila and Hendaye

We were met in Avila by Tony and Gill. They had travelled to meet us via Madrid where they were staying with their daughter Becky. They had taken the train out to Avila and had arrived about an hour before us. Tony and Gill suggested that we all have a drink first, as they needed something to eat, and that we should then walk around the city walls.

Built in the 12th Century the city walls are part of the reason Avila is named as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We started at Gate C (the bottom of town) and made our way up and around to the basilica at the top. Including the separate walk, at the other side of the basilica there are 1.7k of navigable walls.img_7287

The views both from and of the city walls are tremendous and this is certainly a city we would visit again. It seems odd for me, a tourist, to be glad that other tourists were in abundance and were not crowding the city. So, as there were no coach loads of folks following raised yellow umbrellas or filling the narrow city walls, as there were in the other cities – it was a delight.

As we had driven further north, the temperature had cooled noticeably. So much so that when out of the sun, it began to feel quite chilly (when in the sun however, it was still quite nice).

The journey from Toledo to Avila took us over some mountains and the views were terrific. In fact the entire journey was pleasant.  As was the first half of our journey from Avila to France.  The route via Valladolid is peacefully quiet and toll free – once the toll roads start they become a little busier but until Burgos, nothing like busy enough to make driving a chore.

I’ve also FINALLY worked out the Spanish motorway EXIT numbering system.  On the face of it, the system is shambolic and hard to understand with exit numbering bearing no resemblance to anywhere else on earth (unless you know different?).

HOWEVER – all motorways are mile-marked (or kilometre-marked in this case) and the exit number represents the closest kilometre-mark. EASY!

Once we hit the French border, we turned off and entered Hendaye, the nearest French town to Spain. This was a far busier than expected town – not sure what I did expect so close to the border with a ‘toll’ motorway thundering past about half a mile away. Of course, people use the town to cut across the old bridge to and from Spain – doh!

Cordoba

The journey to Cordoba, about two hours long, was uneventful.

The journey from the outskirts of the city to the hotel was however, somewhat trying. The hotel is right in the middle of the Jewish quarter of the old town. We knew that. What we didn’t know was that we would have to navigate tiny, narrow, cobbled streets to get to the hotel. We’d had a note from the hotel saying that we should not use our SatNav as it wouldn’t get us to them – instead we had to follow their instructions; which luckily and apart from one turn right at the beginning, were very much the same as the SatNavs. THAT was a stressful, wing mirror scaring drive. 

img_7244As was the route out of the city, which because we unwittingly chose school-start time to begin our journey, had lots of roads closed by local police to allow the scores of children, parents and old folks (!!!) to navigate the VERY narrow streets.

img_7250The city itself is blessed with historic buildings and areas and because we were there just one afternoon and evening we could hardly due them justice. A number were under repair/renewal too, so apart from the outside views, we didn’t do much except enjoy the mid-30s heat and street cafes. It’s useful to note that, unlike Seville and Salamanca, many of the shops were closed by 9:00pm.

We didn’t find that any of the food places close to our hotel were anything to shout about; in fact we didn’t really like anything we ate in Cordoba.  Not the best place to eat on an overnight stay.  However, we didn’t try either of the recommended ‘flamenco’ bars either. But there were execrable noises coming from both as we passed.

The journey to Avila, where we stayed on Wednesday was, apart from Sharon having to drive all the way, pleasant and uneventful.

September in the sun

As October begins and we begin our preparations to return to the UK, I have to ask: Who knew that September could be such a fabulous month for taking holidays?

Who knew!

As a child, the school’s six-week holiday was always mid/late July and all of August. Depending on the year, we might still be off school for a number of days in September, but not many. Holidays ‘away’ with parents were always limited to two weeks in late July as Huddersfield closed down for the ‘Textiles’ holiday, or in our case the ‘Engineers’ holiday. At least one week of those holidays were invariably spent in Blackpool. We did go to Great Yarmouth when I was 10 and to Weymouth when I was 11, but after that I rarely went with parents, preferring the weeks I spent camping with the scouts, and school trips.

My early working life was pretty much dictated by the same local holiday pattern before my own family life began and that meant that ‘main’ holidays were to be taken, as above, sometime in July/August.

I compounded this then by working in the education sector, where it can be difficult to take any time off work that is different to the students. So, only now that Sharon has divorced herself from ‘Education’ and we are both self-employed (both with ‘online’ work), can we contemplate going on holiday when we like. And we like September.

The very high temperatures we experienced on our journey down became somewhat muted, settling into the mid-high twenties and there were not the crowds I saw in August when I was here with Emma, Charlie and the girls. More and more snowbirds began to arrive as the month progressed and parking was a dream.img_7148

Readers will have noticed that we set off on September 2nd, stopping in Kent for the night before travelling down through France and Spain to our small apartment on the Costa del Sol. Here we were met by friends, who had also taken advantage of being old enough to leave the country in September. We spent some good times walking here and there, eating here and there and simply enjoying the glorious sunshine. For the last two weeks, Sharon and I have been here alone and that has allowed us to complete our work, to read copiously and to ‘scoot’, something we have done most mornings, along the paseo between Torreblanca and Carvajal.

And today, we depart for home. Our journey will take us to Cordoba tonight, then to Avila, where we will meet Tony and Gill who will travel by train from Madrid, where they are staying with Becky, their daughter. Then we will drive up through France staying in Boulogne on Saturday night and home by Sunday teatime.

Spain – October half term

As some readers will know, Sharon and I bought a share in a small apartment on the Costa del Sol last year. Furthermore, as we also have a good amount of air miles (which is a longer story than needs repeating here), we decided to visit during last week’s half term holiday.

We arrived in Spain fairly early on Monday, following a very early flight from Manchester. We’d left home at 4:30am, with less than three hours sleep (and I had a sore throat), so the overcast weather we saw upon our arrival was a little foreboding. Still, it wasn’t far to the car rental place, Malagacar.com, and we were quickly on our way in a Toyota Auris.

The first thing we did was park the car in front of the apartment block and unpack. Once we’d done that, I went and moved the car into the official car park but when I got back to the apartment the door-key wouldn’t work! Luckily, Sharon was still inside so we were able to strip the lock apart and to confirm the lock’s knackeredness. Luckily (again) we found ex apartment-partner (and close neighbour) Bernard in and he was able to tell us that there was a spare lock in a drawer (we’ve no idea why). So we found that and fitted it!

The cloud didn’t lift all day and my throat simply got worse, so after shopping we came home, had tea and went to bed (8:30pm – slept through to 7:30am).

Tuesday

Click to see full sise pictureWe were much less tired by the time we awoke, and actually saw the sun rise for about 10 minutes, as it lifted itself out of the sea and then disappeared behind the shroud of cloud that had not left since yesterday. A sort of ‘hola’, ‘adios’!

Since we were too cold, we thought that we’d pop into Los Boliches and see what they had in the way of ‘appropriate’ clothing (this was our first autumn in southern Spain – so our guess at what was required was way out).

We found a chemist easily enough and bought a spray for my throat, then trawled round looking for something a little warmer than a shirt and some more socks. Sharon needed socks too, and something warm to sleep in. We DID manage (ish) but because of the rain that had started, we were drenched through to the skin by the time we got back to the car.

  • Lunch was the same as last night’s tea: salad, anchovies, roast red peppers, Serrano ham, slices of Gouda cheese and crappy white bread squares.
  • Tea was: pan-fried cod with honey and garlic (and peanuts), asparagus and a jar of chickpeas/spinach. Lovely.

And that was that for Tuesday. We just stayed in and read for the rest of the day – the rain never let up and although the temperature gauge said 20° we needed plenty of heating to dry our clothes and to stop our teeth from chattering.

Wednesday.

This was a much better start to the day. With very few clouds in the sky this morning, we had a magnificent sunrise once again.

We went into Los Boliches during the morning, to get new keys cut for the lock we replaced on Monday. There are ten partners in the apartment, each requiring two new keys, so when we found a fereteria we had to wait for twenty keys to be cut, filed and finished! €1.40 each. So that was the morning gone.

– Lunch was much the same as before and after eating, we drove back down the hill for a long walk along the front. It got colder as the afternoon wore on, so when we’d had enough and fancied a coffee, we decided to come back to the apartment and make our own!

For tea, we ate at Pepe’s across the road – ok, nothing to write home about. 🙂

I stopped using the throat spray today. It HAD helped but it was ferocious. Each spray felt like someone had climbed inside my mouth and slashed it with a razor blade.

Thursday

Straight after breakfast we set off for Alcaidesa, to meet John and Carol at Michelle and James’s place. Now that Michelle (Jon and Carol’s daughter) is stationed in Gibraltar, they are setting up home there and John and Carol are visiting for the week. We’d arranged to stay there with them overnight and to have a trip around Gibraltar on Friday.

Once we got sorted out in the afternoon, we drove up the coast to a marina somewhere, where we had a drink and a nice walk in the hot sunshine. It had rained on the way to Alcaidesa, but was much better by the afternoon. In the evening, once James had got home from work, we all went into La Linier for tapas. James explained the difference between tapas and raciones, so whilst visiting a couple of places, we enjoyed a number of ‘raciones’. Lovely.

Friday

We had a steady start to the morning and after breakfast John and I cycled down to the beach at Alcaidesa for some wonderful views of the Rock. The ride back was MUCH harder!

Michelle had arranged for us to have a tour of ‘The Great North Road’, part of the 34 miles of tunnels to be found inside the Rock. We were met at 3:00pm by Gary Mitchell who then took us on a very interesting and informative tour of the longest straight road in Gibraltar. This area of tunnels is not normally open to the public and can only be arranged through the military. Thanks Michelle.

By now, it had started to rain so, following a drink and some snacks at Michelle and James’s house, we set off home. The weather was horrendous and resulted in a fairly nervous drive. This was the first time I’d driven a left-hand drive car in the dark, in such weather.

We had pizza for tea, from downstairs – it was coolish by the time we got it up to the apartment (ninth floor), but tasty enough.

Saturday.        

Today was an absolutely appalling day weather-wise. We drifted into Los Boliches for some last minute stuff and then came home and festered in the apartment with all of the heating on. By now, we had the sense to wear shorts and sandals in the rain – so there was much less drying off required when we returned.

For lunch we had sautéed new potatoes and chorizo with pueblo bread

For tea, we had tuna steak, poached in garlic butter, with fresh asparagus and sauté potatoes. Yummy.

Sunday

Had a lazy start to what turned out to be a cloudy day.

Then, as it hadn’t rained, we walked down the hill to Torreblanca and along the front through Los Boliches. The cloud did disperse a little down on the front, so it was nice to walk (and have a couple of beers) on the front. It’s quite a steep climb back up to our apartment block, but not unpleasant, given the way the weather stayed fine.

For tea, we visited the pizza place underneath the apartment block and had an enjoyable, filling meal.