There's got to be more to life.....

Trip Start Mar 02, 2013
Trip End May 08, 2013

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Where I stayed
Home ....
Home....nuff 'said
What I did

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm writing this from the comfort of what I laughingly call
'my office’ at home. We arrived home on Wednesday afternoon, to rain and wind
and, here’s what’s been happening to us

I’ll start where I
left off, at the camp site at Colombres, on 5th May.......

1030......up early and away! Well, reasonably early.....can’t
be too careful at our age.....

A hot sunny morning invited further exploration of this
lovely region, so we hit the road for Potes, a town about 60k away, down
through the La Hermida Gorge again.

If anyone is thinking of going this way, I can do nothing
but recommend it to you. However, be warned, that in places it is very narrow,
with overhanging rock faces at just the height to whack your van or motorhome
if you venture too close. Also, be aware that the Spanish drivers.....well,
‘nuff said!

I had an interesting bout with a motorcyclist, who on his
large machine, was determined to pass me in the ‘wrong’ places which would
force me to take avoiding action. He was a bit miffed when I didn’t budge an
inch, and he had to pull back in on three occasions. He rode about 6 inches
from my back bumper (I couldn’t see him in the wing mirrors) but a quick dab on
the brakes cured him of that. I got the traditional gesture when he eventually
passed, but all faith was restored when we reached the fast curves at the end
of the Gorge, and saw him pulled over in a lay-by, deep in gesticulating
conversation with officers of the Guardia
and their radar gun.....

Anyway, back to the beginning.....

Potes is a lovely town, and we visited on a Sunday, when all
the locals did the same. Parking was free and abundant, if you didn’t mind the
straw in the local cattle market! You just had to watch where you put your

After exploring (and going in just about every shop looking
for gifts!) we had lunch outside a cafe called La Majada, on the riverside. The
views of the mountains in the distance was lovely, but please excuse some of
the photos, as I must have fiddled with the camera and set the ‘white balance’
incorrectly. I don’t remember doing it, as it is normally on auto mode, (idiot
proof), but many pics after then turned out over exposed....

We returned in the late afternoon, and set about getting
things ready for the next day, 6th May, and the ferry. After the
trials of the trip down (the blowout on the motorway) I didn’t want to be held
up any more than necessary and wanted an early start next day.

You know how it is see a van or motorhome
and think, ‘I know that outfit’ it was when we pulled into our pitch.
Adjacent was a large American RV, very similar to the one we had left behind at
the campsite in Salamanca. Identical, in fact! Even down to the tilt-bed
trailer it was pulling. Strange....All was revealed when, half an hour later,
the familiar little red Citroen pulled up, and Alistair and his family piled
out! My plans for the evening went out of the window, and my carefully nurtured
stock of local cider (more like Scrumpy!) disappeared!

Alistair’s dad is a keen First World War historian, as am I,
so the evening went well. The conversation flowed back and forth, much wine and
cider was drunk, until at about 2230 Alistair announced that he was going to
cook supper as they hadn’t eaten that day! That closed the night on a high
note, and, once again, we slept the sleep of the just.......

Next morning, we awoke to thick mist, and thanked the Lord
that we had prepared everything the night before. After saying our goodbyes,
and thanking our excellent hosts at Camping Colombres (really recommended, but
not in the high season!), we drove out of the hills and back onto the motorway,
heading East for Santander and the ferry.

If I can give anyone some advice at this point, it is to
fill up your fuel tank at the first opportunity....the prices only vary by a
cent or two, and it’s so cheap that it doesn’t matter. Playing the canny
Yorkshireman, I left it until we were into the outskirts of Santander to pull
off to fill up. We had half a tank left, but a top-up would see us home on
Spanish diesel. As we pulled off the motorway, I failed to see the small sign
‘Fuel’, pointing to the left, until I had committed to the right!

The road swept gloriously round the services, rejoining the
motorway further down, and we entered Santander without seeing another petrol
station.....Hey ho.....again......

The ferry (Brittany Ferries ‘Pont Aven’) was just docking
when we arrived at 1230, and we settled down for a long wait. We were not
disappointed, as we loaded at 1500, and she sailed late at 1545.

When we loaded, the Loader Chappie (forgive the technical
terms....) insisted on us parking the van ever closer and closer to a bulkhead
on the side of the ship (see pics!), which I thought would cause problems
later.....I wasn’t disappointed!

Meanwhile, I had decided that we would treat ourselves on
the return home, and was prepared to bargain with the Purser for an upgrade. I
knew that they were about 200, and wanted to pay no more than 150. So, Yorkshire Battle Cry at the ready (‘Ahhhmuch’...
(To be sung on an ascending note of incredulity))I approached the desk. I
should have twigged earlier, on the quayside, with all the Maserati’s queuing
alongside us Proles that Commodore Class cabins would be at a premium. There
was only one left, and, if I didn’t take it at the price given to me, it would
go to the petrol-head standing behind me! I took it at 175, and really liked
the look on his face when I turned round!          I never thought to offer it to him for
200.....I must be slipping....

(The Maseratis were gorgeous. There had been a gathering,
and about a dozen of the beasts queued up to get aboard, including a brand new
‘13’ plate model. Beautiful and a lovely sound.....)

The cabin was fine, the beds seemed soft and luxurious, the
balcony was great, and everything seemed lovely. We dined well that night, with
a fine bottle of Graves to compliment the meal. C had Sea Bass and I had the
lamb cutlets, which were done to perfection. Suffice to say that when it came
to the cheese course, I could not do it justice, and passed with just one

We climbed into bed about 2130, tired out. It was then that
the trouble started: After about an hour asleep, we were awakened by the most
tremendous vibrating and groaning of metal.                       The vibrations seemed to pass
through the beds and into our very bodies, so much so that sleep became almost
impossible. We passed a restless night, cat-napping as the noise and vibration
went on.  I think the ship had hit a
patch of rough weather, but we are both good sailors and that didn’t bother us,
but the racket certainly did!

I didn’t pay all that money to be kept awake all night, and
next morning complained in writing.        To date, I have heard no more, and they
have until the end of the week to get in touch with us.         It was strange that after the ship left the
Bay of Biscay, and turned into Channel, the motion and the noise ceased
altogether, and, investigating cabins at the fore end of the ship, I found that
there was no engine noise whatsoever! Next time, they can stick their upgrades
where the monkey, etc, etc, etc.....

On getting back to the car, I found that the motion in the
night had moved our van about 3 inches to the right.....closer to the bulkhead
and dangerous to drive away from. It was when we didn’t move that the Unloader
Chappies (more technical jargon....sorry) gathered round us in clouds of
garlic, with cries of ‘Sacre Bleu’ and ‘Do nit meeve’ that we got some help. In
a flash, the van had been unhitched, manoeuvred this way and that way, with
much Gallic shouting and gesticulating, and then finally hitched again. With a
flourish of arms, the Head Unloader Chappie stopped the Maseratis streaming off
beside us, and we pulled away into the bright sunshine of a Portsmouth
afternoon. Bon Soir, Mes Amis!

We left the docks at exactly 1500, and headed north to
Oxford, pausing only once to have a check around the van and the car. After the
happenings on the way down, I’m getting ultra cautious. After the easiness of
the roads in Spain, the M27 came as a bit of a shock, with tailgating lorries
and cars and huge amounts of traffic. I hate the road.

Oxford Camping and Caravan Club site was reached about 1715,
and, being old hands in Oxford, we pleaded for a pitch away from the milk depot
on the west side. The noise from there early in a morning has to be heard to be
believed! Our pleadings were heard, and we slept comfortably on the opposite

Home was reached next day at spot on 1300, and after parking
the van, the reaction set in and we started planning next year’s jaunt to
Sicily! Did you know that the ferry from Civitavecchia to Sicily is the old
‘Norland’, of Falkland’s fame? I wonder if she still has the famous painting in
the lounge......?

So, there we are.......home again and miserable in an
English Spring.

To all that we met and whose company we enjoyed, we are
missing you already!

Until next year,

 from John and


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