Quite a homecoming

You would think would you not, that I might have cracked on with writing up our adventures in the blog once we had arrived home. So, why the radio silence?

We had a difficult week.

We arrived home to find that the battery on the Batmobile had died whilst we were away. The Batmobile turns out to be a very touchy car and accessing it with no life in the battery was very challenging. To keep a very long and fraught story short, it has involved buying jump leads (no success), an intelligent charger (it gave up), a nifty wee booster box (got it started!) and a new battery… which then necessitated further purchases of a Diagnostic Box and a couple of Apps to get things working, Much time has been invested and much staying in for deliveries. We finally had a working vehicle a whole week after we arrived home.

Dusty needed to go to the vet on the Monday morning. A hitherto unrecognised abscess on his leg burst on Sunday evening, the day after we got home.

Five return visits to the vet in L’Isle Jourdain were required. Again, time-consuming – not to mention the mental stress involved in caring for a sick animal.

Aside from the initial servicing of tanks etc. on the day after coming home, the van has been in almost continuous use in lieu of the sick car and has yet to be properly unpacked/repacked.

Our forward plans include a return to Spain in mid-May, to Girona. We had intended to go out every week between coming home and the Spanish trip. Part of that thinking was to get plenty of use out of the van. More importantly we felt that we should keep Dusty used to travelling and to being confined.

Due to our difficult week we did not go off anywhere last week and this week the weather seems to be against us, so it seems that we shan’t be going off until next week. It’s disappointing. However, at least Dusty has been getting plenty of travel/carrier practice in – not to mention having to be kept indoors rather than regain his outdoors habit. Not all bad then.

Looking Forward

In the course of writing this post in dribs and drabs throughout the day (I have been doing a lot of cooking and freezing in readiness for future travels) plans have been morphing. Plans may morph further still but currently we are looking at another long trip of probably around four months duration.

We want to go to Scandinavia to avoid the worst of the summer heat in France.

Now, we could come home from Girona in May, pootle around a little for a while and then head North, but we have reached the conclusion that once we are out, we might as well just keep on going. Bad news for Dusty!

There is a deal of fine dining factored in to this trip. El Celler de Can Roca in Girona in May is to be followed by Noma in Copenhagen in June (Seafood Season menu) and a return to Noma on a date between July and September (Vegetable Season). Between the two Copenhagen stops we will explore as much of Scandinavia as our time allows.

Quite a trip, if it comes off. As always, we remain at least flexible, if not downright fluid.

We need to get Van Nessa in for her first annual service before we go anywhere too far afield or possibly en route if we really do set off in May. There are plenty of Fiat garages in Europe, aren’t there? we’ll find one somewhere.

One thing is for sure, if we do carry out this mad plan, we can convince ourselves that we are genuinely giving Nessa a run for our money.

Will I find time to bring the blog up to date with our Iberian adventures before pack up and head out again? It seems unlikely, doesn’t it. I will do my best to post some highlights and some photo galleries. Every little helps.

Leaving (not on a jet plane)

Well:
our bikes are packed,
we’re ready to go…

We shall be leaving Vila Nova de Milfontes tomorrow. We have had a good stay at the Orbitur campsite here. It is perhaps not the optimal place to stay for a lengthy period but the weather has been fantastic until now and we have enjoyed cycling out to the shops when necessary (around 16 Km round trip). The walking is of course very good and we walked all the way into town and back one day.

At the beach

The beach at Malha√Ķ is exceptional and is one of the finest in the whole country.

The riverside Fort at Vila Nova de Milfontes

It has been fun to explore the town a little and we have been much taken with the area along the rivermouth. It is very beautiful.

Panoramic view from the end of the road: click through for large view
Outside the fort – never did find out what this was about…
The Archangel

Shopping has been hit and miss between the holiday period and our lack of local knowledge. We still haven’t managed to visit the market hall but we did cycle out to the monthly market at Brunheiras, which was tremendous fun – if a little disappointing on the food side of things, though we did manage to come home with bread, cheese and meat for a simple supper.

Overall, we have enjoyed ourselves a great deal and the peace and tranquility of the site here is so much better than the encampment down at the beach car park. We counted at least 40 vans at New Year. Quite ridiculous and hardly what you can call “wilding”. Observing individuals going to the toilet in the bushes is not a lot of fun either. Some disgraceful behaviour going on down there. Much better up here, with 70 acres almost entirely to ourselves since the permanent pitch people went home after their holidays (not that there were all that many of them anyway).

One disappointment has been the restaurant on the campsite. It was not as good as we recalled from our previous visit – except on a weekend, when the food is much better than mid-week. We suspect a different cook on duty. We gave the matter some thought and realised that when we were here previously it had been Saturday and Sunday when we ate at the restaurant so that might support our theory.

The great thing about the restaurant here is that the dish of the day is traditional Portuguese food. It tends to be simple (it’s cheap! Bread, Main Course, Dessert and drinks for 9 Euros) but is always interesting (for us, at least.) The days after New Year were pretty poor and we think that we may have been eating leftovers from the New Year’s Eve party. We had decided not to bother again but risked it on the Sunday, when we were served a very good Bacalhau Com Natas – better even than our introduction to that dish here last winter. This Sunday we were served Spare Ribs with Migas, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Migas is a staple made from breadcrumbs and is far nicer than it sounds.

So, a bit hit and miss but worth taking a punt, especially at the weekend. The staff are extremely friendly. They have some English and try hard to explain the dishes but sometimes need a bit of help ūüôā We do this by guessing and seeing if we reach common ground. Meals can still be a little surprising but that’s the fun of it, I think.

The weather having turned cooler, duller and breezier, with showers predicted for today and tomorrow, we packed the bikes away yesterday. This morning we put our tables and chairs away before they get wet and tomorrow we are setting off inland for a remote site by a reservoir. We don’t know how long we shall stay, which will make shopping en route tomorrow something of a conundrum. As I write this I am also constructing meal plans and a shopping list based on a “worst case” scenario.

Our following stop is to be at the World Heritage Site of √Čvora. I am much looking forward to that.

Now that Image Uploads are working again I hope to do some more writing up of our recent travels. It looks very much like the expected weather might support that aim!

Moving North with the Sun

Tomorrow we are leaving Sagres. It is difficult to believe that we have been here for a month. I would happily stay for another. However, we turn towards home now and it seems like an appropriate point in time to summarise the trip so far.

FromToOdometerDistance
Home31/10/194629
Lamagdeleine31/10/1901/11/194880251
Tournay01/11/902/11/195134254
SPAIN
Viacamp 02/11/19 03/11/195376242
Ribamar, Alcossebre03/11/1918/11/195645269
Vilargordo del Cabriel18/11/1920/11/195867222
Santa Elena Despenaperros20/11/1921/11/196150283
La Carlota21/11/1923/11/196325175
Valverde del Camino23/11/1925/11/196526201
La Rabida, Huelva25/11/1926/11/19658357
PORTUGAL
Sagres26/11/1926/12/196819236

Home to Sagres = 2,190 Kilometres and 26 days.

56 Days elapsed

10 halts

Going Home

We are in no hurry and we don’t particularly want to be home before the Spring arrives. Having passed the Solstice and knowing that the sun is returning Northward we are happy enough to keep pace, more or less.

Our initial destination is Zambujeira do Mar. We are visiting purely in the spirit of adventure and discovery. Can’t keep returning to the same old places all the time.

Photos

There are photos. Yes, of course there are photos. Unfortunately a recent upgrade to WordPress seems to have broken the photo upload process so we shall have to wait for the images. My apologies for this interruption to normal service.

On yer bike!

Earlier this year we bought a pair of e-bikes to take touring with us. To further that end, we also bought a tow-bar mounted bike carrier. We haven’t actually taken the bikes anywhere at all due to being unable to find a cover that fitted them properly and then because we agreed the part-ex of the Hymer and couldn’t add any miles to it whilst waiting for the new van. We did go out cycling locally, the once…

Fast Forward: >> the new van has of course got rear doors and it seems that even if we fitted a tow bar that the carrier we have won’t work for us because it wouldn’t drop down far enough to get those doors open.

We looked at an alternative solution. As the bikes are too heavy for a door-mounted bike carrier we considered a very swanky arrangement of a bike carrier that is chassis-mounted and swings clear before the doors are opened. Very expensive but even more problematic was the payload issue. They are very heavy bikes.

Fast Forward a bit more >>>>> we decided to buy folding bikes that we can carry in our luggage space.

After intensive research, Mr Snail elected to purchase a pair of Gocycles. He found that the main French dealership in Nantes had a couple of lightly-damaged ex-demo bikes at a slightly advantageous price. He bought them online but travelled over to Nantes last week to collect them. We had intended to go away for a couple of nights but the heat and pet issues led me to stay home with the furries and he went for a single overnighter and returned next day with the bikes.

Mr Snail’s is grey and mine is white

We have been out on them twice and found them serviceable and also manageable on some of the rougher surfaces around our home. We have also been out on the earlier purchases because we now have to decide whether to sell them or not. We have the option to retain the sturdier bikes for riding around the lanes at home and just keep the folding bikes in the van for use when we are away. So, comparisons and evaluations are needed. There’s also the old price/usage consideration to factor in to the decision-making process. Not to mention the depreciation on a pair of only-used-twice bikes!

Both bikes had around 500 Km on the odometer when we bought them and we have added 25 Km to that on a couple of local rides.

Decisions have been deferred until we return from Italy. We shall have to see how much use we make of the folding bikes once we are out on the road.

The big selling point for us were the docking stations – the wheels were a surprise but are actually very useful for manoeuvring in and out of the van
The fact that the docking stations have a zip-on protective cover came as a happy surprise for us
A pair of bikes fits happily at the rear of the boot…
…with sufficient room left to stack a couple of 42 litre Really Useful Boxes

Doesn’t appear to be much space left for the hoped-for Cadac…

We are busy packing for the Italy trip. I shall report back when we return.

I have a couple of local short trips to complete writing-up. I hope to get these done before we leave.

Van Nessa : Her Leak

Home from Melle, we set about cleaning the van in preparation for going out again. At the moment we are hoping to go out for at least one night every week in continuing efforts to break the cats in (or down!)

Mr Snail was cleaning the bathroom. Although we haven’t used the shower we had of course been going in and out and the cat tray is kept in there and is subject to dispensing flying cat litter…

There was water leakage.

We were downhearted and resigned to returning the van to the dealer for investigation instead of setting off for Charroux, as we were planning. Then Mr Snail found an access panel and elected to try an idea, which turned out to be the right idea. The water inlet to the shower head simply needed a little tightening.

Everything seems okay now but will likely get a proper testing in Charroux, where there are no sanitaires and we must rely on our own facilities.

August, 6-9th, 2019

Deeply disappointed by our early return from the Dordogne and buoyed up by slightly cooler weather we effected our plan to go out “little and often” in an attempt to train the cats for living in the new van.

Melle, Fontaine de Villiers

Trip the 2nd for Van Nessa.

GPS Coordinates : 46.231778  -0.143972

https://campingcarpark.com/en/shop/parking-areas/camping-de-village-area-of-melle/

Another former Municipal campsite, smaller than the one at Tauriac and less formally arranged. Sanitaires again – just one toilet and one shower, and again rather basic. They don’t look very nice and could do with an upgrade but that shower performed fantastically well, with plenty of hot water on tap.

We chose this site for the same reasons that we chose the last one – good shade from mature trees and a safe area in case of cat-escape.

The weather being cooler and the cats being less hyper, we managed to stop out for our planned three nights. Melle offered plenty to keep us occupied and although I took many photographs on our wanderings I actually failed to find the time to take photos of the site, sorry.

An extensive network of footpaths can be accessed directly off the site. Much of the walking forms part of an Arboretum, with 1,800 different types of trees and 300 different roses. Three National Collections are held. There is an additional Forest Arboretum opening off the Discovery path, and a cycle route on the former railway extends to almost 15 km (linear route). Some walking routes are entirely off-road but others cross parts of the town

In the town there are three lovely Romanesque churches to visit, a market hall, a motorbike museum, and some historic silver mines to see. Good eating possibilities, with two Michelin-recommended establishments within half an hour’s stroll of the aire and plenty of other eateries available. A particularly lovely Lavoir is sited right by the aire. Children’s play area faces the site. Friday market.

The Verdict

I am going to give this one 4 stars also, mainly based on its fit with our preferred lifestyle.

We enjoyed our stay and plan to return in the future.

Van Nessa

We ate out twice and made a salad on the other evening, so cooking facilities remain untested.

Having twice been to a site with showers, the bathroom remained untested also (but see forthcoming post…)

The bed remains comfortable and we slept transversely again.

The Cats

Dusty and Chloé behaved better than we might have expected. Dusty was a bit rowdy on the journey there, Chloé elected to travel on the bench seat and snooze her way through the journey.

Dusty was less inclined to sit outside this time, due possibly to this site having become quite busy whilst we were there – he’s nervous of other people and vehicles. I put him out on a line but he chose to return inside.

I also tried Chloé on a line but she got in a bit of a guddle with the washing up bowl, scared herself and managed to back out of her escape-proof jacket. Fortunately she did not run off but went up on the axle somewhere similar and when she emerged, she also chose to go back inside the van.

Overall I believe that she is now pretty much bomb-proof in this respect, seeing the van as her safe place. We have concluded that she learned her lesson in Viviers and is now minded to stay close to home. We also believe that her stopping out for three nights was probably not of her own choosing.

Those may be filed under “famous last words” I expect.

Being on mains hook-up we plugged in a Feliway diffuser and nights were fairly calm. Dusty was far quieter on the drive home, though a long way from actually being silent. Chlo√© popped up into the over -parcel shelf and didn’t come out until we were parked back at home.

Overall I am leaning towards finding a tethering solution for travelling with Dusty in preference to putting him in a carrier. He’s far too active to allow him to be loose when we are driving but may complain less if not boxed. Mr Snail finds driving along to a cat’s chorus to be very stressful.

Our next task on the van will therefore be to fit an appropriate fixing point for the cat’s harness.