Matt week 11
“Back Of The Trucks”
This week started with us still with Nick and Chez near Duras which is about 75Km’s away from Bordeaux. We had packed up the house and were now waiting for the removal men to arrive. We received a call from them about 9.30 saying they were just dropping a few bits off at a place only half an hour away so would be with us shortly. Well about two and a half hours later they arrived. Two vans had been booked but only one had arrived but after discussing the missing van with the first Romanian driver we were told the second Polish driver was very close he just couldn’t quite find us.
I was quietly concerned when the first drivers arrived as they asked to look at what was to be moved and then quickly went out to their van and proceeded to remove all their belongings from the rear including clothes, sleeping bags, food, bags of rubbish as well as two spare tyres. They then just started to load, which was a bit odd as when they had arrived they had just pulled into the drive forwards and now having been shown the things to move and where they were you would of expected them to turn the van around so the rear was facing the right direction and nearer to the door, but no they just started loading. There didn’t seem to be a huge amount of logic being used by either of the two removal men they were just walking into the house picking up whatever seemed to be closest to the door and putting it on the back of the van. After about half an hour there was a problem they had reached three quarters of the way to the back of the van but only loaded it to about three feet high.
This meant there was a lot of room that they could still fill but they just couldn’t quite get to it and then I think to the amazement of us all and Nicks clear anguish they started to load the front like you would load a skip (by throwing It), each item that came out of the house just kind of got thrown roughly in. Being all taken slightly taken back and having the feeling this may of been these guys first day at removals we had a meeting and decided we would have to load the second van ourselves or there may just be two van loads of broken bits by the time they reached Portugal. Thankfully by this time the second Polish driver had arrived in what appeared to be an altogether cleaner larger and far more road worthy van. This drivers only failing was he had just had a hernia operation so was unable to lift a thing (not sure that’s a lot of use if you’re in the removals business)! Anyway I jumped into the second van to start neatly loading whilst Nick told the removals men which would be the next item to be lifted on. After not too long and to the clear relief of the removal men the vans were both loaded to the max and ready to go and after Chez had to scrape around to give them money for diesel (not in the agreement) they finally headed off in to the distance with us all just hoping this wasn’t some kind of scam and that all the items would indeed arrive in Portugal.
The next morning we said our goodbyes and headed for the coast, the plan was to head to Arcachon which was west of Bordeaux and start our six week journey down the Cote D’Argent into Spain, along the Bay of Biscay and then down the West coast of Portugal and into the Algarve. When we arrived in Arcachon the weather was fab so we pulled into a car park and had a spot of lunch and then a walk along the promenade. It was nice to have made it to sandy shores before the last of the summers sun had gone. Knowing we could not park overnight where we were parked and having made a decision to try and avoid driving in the dark (Heidi’s rear light had only been temporarily fixed with a bit of plastic of an old trailer so wasn’t great) we decided to head off and find somewhere down the coast to park up for the night.
We had by now realised that campsites close, even when the weather is 22 degrees and bright sunshine and even when there are still many motorhomes on the road, come the end of October they close. This means we now have to be slightly more organised as we can either wild camp which means just finding somewhere preferably quiet and fairly level that you will not be asked to move off from before the night is out or finding one of the many motorhome aires that are found across much of Europe.
These aires vary significantly by type of location, which facilities they have and how much they cost. The type of location can be anything from 2 parking bays outside the Mayors office overlooking a stream in a small village to 100 tightly packed spaces in a car park in the industrial part of a large town overlooking railway tracks.
The facilities that are available are Fresh water, an area to discharge your grey water, a zone to empty your toilet cassette, an electric supply and if you’re lucky a Wifi connection. Again each aire varies most have water and waste water facilities ones with electric are much rarer and ones with Wifi even more so. This means planning ahead, not something up to this point we have had to give much consideration to. We worked out with the size of our water tanks and toilet we can go two to three days without having to visit an air to fill up or empty the motorhome. We have a solar panel that charges the batteries during the day and most of our light are L.E.D.’s, but my computer which also doubles as our DVD player needs mains to charge it (and being old it always needs charging). We have an inverter but if we try to use it with the computers transformer it sets off an aggressive “turn me off” beeping noise. We also have a mini kettle that whilst we have been connected to mains hook up at campsites we have used most of the time, so now we are boiling water for tea and coffee in a saucepan. The costs of these aires vary between totally free and about 15 euros and seems to be more about location than the quality of facility.
Anyway back to the week, we drove down the coast about thirty K’s as I had seen what looked to be a nice place to park in a woodland area right next to the coast. We followed the signs to the parking area through windy tree lined paths for ten minutes only to arrive at the exit with no way back in. Seeing quite a few motorhomes further down the hill we decided to give it another go and this time turned left at the clearly pointing right sign and found about a dozen other motorhomes parked up for the night. We picked our spot and as it was getting dark headed for the beach which meant a quick climb down the sand dune. The beach of golden sand stretched long and straight in both directions for miles with a backdrop of impressive and large sand dunes.
The next morning we went walking along the beach and planned our day. We walked past walkers dogs and fishermen all under the backdrop of these six storey high sand dunes. We headed back to Heidi for Lunch followed by a nice leisurely drive down the coast to Mimizan. The sun was still shinning and the drive was great, it was about 50Km and barely another car on the road. When we arrived at the town are we were a little disappointed the aire was pretty busy and at 9.5 euros was quite expensive but it did have electric so that was a bonus. We settled in and then I decided to go off for a wander over the dune and down to the beach. The sea was amazing, again miles of golden sand in each direction but here the waves were large and were perfectly forming before crashing into the beach. The next day we walked for hours on the beach, we saw little sand pipers pecking away at the sand getting closer and closer to the tide until a larger wave came in causing them to waddle of at super speed up the beach only to repeat the same thing over and over again.
The next day we headed to Biarritz. I was quite excited as the name conjured up thoughts of glamour and glitz all wrapped in a sea and sun extravaganza. I was thinking great food and cocktails overlooking the sea. It was not quite as I had imagined, we arrived at the towns aire which certainly wasn’t glamorous It had an old run down caravan on the verge as we came in with a tied up Alsatian hiding underneath and between the newer motorhomes were a few that looked like they had arrived and the owners had decided to never leave with weeds and plants having grown around the tyres. We popped over the main road and down to a small cove called Plage de la Milady. It was beautiful the sun was just setting and we could see the mountains of Spain in the distance. The beach had a bar so we decided to watch the waves and chill.
The next morning we had breakfast then headed into Biarritz proper it was a twenty five minute walk away up a hill and on the walk I guess I knew the town at the top of the hill was not going to be all I had visualised. There were lots of fairly run down houses for sale and quite a few ugly 1970’s hotels. As we arrived in the town a lot of the shops that weren’t closed down for good were closed for the end of the season. We walked around for a couple of hours looking for some positives to take away with us but the place had a sense that is was playing to the heyday of its past but was now down on its luck. This played out again when we found a restaurant that was open, Ellie explained about her being a celiac which they said there would be no problem with but when the menus arrived and the plastic inner sleeves appeared to have what looked like samples of each of the dishes smeared on the pages we should of jumped up and left. but having ordered drinks we decided to sit it out. I chose a selection of small tapas style dishes and Ellie went for a simple mushroom omelet. The tastiest bit of my selection was the free bread that came with it and even thinking about Ellies runny slimy omelet now makes my stomach feel a bit queasy. With one small beer and a small wine the bill came to 52 Euros which after so much recent economising felt like a bit of a waste of one of our fairly rare eating out ventures.
That evening we headed back for a quiet night in in preparation for our cross border drive into Spain the next day. According to the sat nav it was all of 50km away so should only take an hour or so.
In the morning we woke early and decided to miss the busier Saturday traffic and head off to San Sebastian a town of about 180,000 residents just across the border from France. We were going to be staying at an Aire near to the centre of town that cost 3.25 Euros a day. Just as we were leaving and at the service point filling up water we heard a G’day which is when we met Brian and Wendy two Aussies who were also travelling around Europe in their motorhome. We chatted for a moment but there being a queue behind us in the service point we only had enough time to exchange numbers and as they were heading to San Sebastian as well we agreed to try and meet latter that weekend.
We arrived in San Sebastian late morning and the aire was almost full so it seemed good we had arrived there early. We put Heidi up on ramps to level her off figured out the somewhat confusing pay and display machine to pay for our stay and decided whilst the weather was so nice to take a stroll into town. The town was about 25 minutes walk away walking mainly along the side of the beach of the large cove which made up the town.
I had read that the thing to do in San Sebastian was to find the old town and drink wine and eat Pinxtos (pron. pin-chos) which are small tapas dishes served on small pieces of bread. Anything from squid to ribs are put on them and they are piled high on the bar you just ask for a plate and then help yourself. This is what I did we had some wine and beer and I ate a selection of Pinxtos and somehow when it came time to pay at the end the barman seemed to have a rough idea of what we had had and charged us accordingly. The food was great but it was a shame that Ellie couldn’t try any as everything came on bread.
When we had returned that evening Ellie, not wanting to miss out again set about finding somewhere she could eat and with a lot of research it turned out only about 25 meters from where we had eaten was a Pinxtos bar that would cater for celiacs. So that became the plan for the next day.
In the morning just as we were getting ready to leave we noticed that Brian and Wendy had arrived so we popped out to say hello and agreed to walk into town with them. It was great to chat to such interesting people who both having been self employed we found we had a lot in common with. We chatted about our travels and plans and being more experienced travelers than us they were happy to pass on some travel tips and advice. When we got to town we headed for the bar doing the gluten free Pinxtos and they headed off to get their bearings, and we agreed to meet up later that evening for drinks.
The bar we went to was lively and we had to wait patiently to find a hole in the crowd to push our way into but once we did we got the attention of the barman and using a little of our recently learnt Spanish we were given a menu that had items marked as ok for gluten free. Ellies face lit up and she placed an order for four dishes. I started eating a variety of dishes including an amazing mini crab pie and a mango and spanish ham dish. We managed to find a great spot behind a pillar which meant we were not being barged out of the way, which was lucky as Ellies food all arrived at once and on 4 separate plates. The kind barman made us some room and continued toping up my beer glass and Ellies wine glass. The food at this bar had been at least twice as good as the one the day before and that wasn’t at all bad.
Walking back to the aire that afternoon we wandered the streets of the town, it was a lovely place with a really vibrant atmosphere and some interesting architecture and a glorious sandy beach.
That evening as agreed we met up with Brian and Wendy for a few beers and some wine. We chatted for hours. It was great to finally meet some people on out travels that we felt so comfortable hanging out with and in true Aussie fashion they kept us topped up with drinks!
The next morning with slightly sore heads we decided to stay another day in San Sebastian and remembering a little flyer that had been placed on our windscreen for a launderette we decided to do a bit of food shopping and get the ever increasing pile of laundry dealt with and make a plan for the week ahead. We had seen that Bilbao was not too far away so we could definitely go and “See The Guggenheim”.