Enjoy the Journey

Follow our journey as we tour in our Hymie around Britain and Europe.

Europe trip 2015

France 2015

Cite Europe, Calais

We left home around 10 am, encountered slow traffic on the M6 and M25, drove through diversion routes in Kent, due to “operation stack”. We arrived at Euro tunnel earlier than expected, arriving in France one hour early.

We stayed the night in Cite Europe, with another 4 motorhomes, despite the current situation with migrants.

Cite Europe

A large group of migrants walked by, and they didn’t bother us.

It was a quiet and pleasant evening.

2/8/2015 Day 1…

Sunday morning we left Cite Europe, topped on fuel and headed south.

As we previously had bad experience driving through Rouen, we took a different route towards Paris.

The road was open, sun shining, the weather’s wonderful! What can one want more? Radio? Switch the radio on, and what do you know!? It is Steve Wright “Sunday love songs”! I wonder how long this would last before the signal is lost…

Heading South

Heading South

Aire at Lailly En Val, Centre

We arrived at Lailly En Val aire, around two hours south of Paris.

Aire at Lailly En Val

The Aire is located by the church and a fishing pond. The church bell chimes every hour/half an hour from 7am till 11pm.

Lailly En Val

 

At the time of our arrival, there were a few motorhomes, but it soon it proved to be a popular spot.

Our stay and facilities were free to use. However, the shops were closed.

This aire was perfect for one night stopover.

Uzerch Ville

We left Lailly En Val mid morning, disappointed that both patisserie shops were closed, and continued south.

The heat of summer has worn us out, we were taken aback by the sticky humid air, but we’d rather cope with the heat than the rainy weather back home.

We arrived at Uzerch Ville Aire mid afternoon, just in time to catch a brilliant spot in the shade overlooking the river below.

Uzerch Ville

The shade and the gentle wind from the river provided us with some relief from the sticky heat.

Aire at Uzerch Ville

All motorhome facilities were free including unmetered electricity hook-up point.

View of the Aire from the other side of the river

Uzerche

We went into town exploring, buying snacks and cold drinks. On our way back to Hymie we noticed grey clouds in the horizon, it was only a matter of time before the heavens opened and a thunderstorm was well underway.

Nègrepelisse, Midi-Pyrénées

We left Uzerche mid-morning. Half of the motorhomes have disappeared by that time.

We headed south, enjoying the drive on the toll free road. The rain from last night has left no tell tale sign. The sun was out again as we made our way to the next Aire.

Daffy (Duck) has finished reading all three books in four days! Maybe we have been travelling for too many hours for the past few days however we wanted to spend longer time in Spain before making tracks home. With no more books to read, the addiction to electronic gadgets is inevitable.

Still, once those batteries have died we will be back to the art of conversation and board games…

We located the next Aire fairly easily. It is a small and basic Aire. Our stay here was free.

Negrepelisse Aire

Negrepelisse Aire

When we arrived there was one French motorhome, one man and his quiet Yourkshire Terrier.

We levelled Hymie, put the kettle on, organised a few things and walked into town centre.

It is not the first time that we have noticed there aren’t many people out and about. There are a few shops around town square, but a very quiet place. Where is everyone? Why does the town look like another ghost town?

Negrepelisse town

After having a nice cold ice-cream from the small cafe, we went back to Hymie, and there a few new arrivals at the Aire, all French…

Aire at Vicdessos, Midi-Pyrénées

We set off driving south again, the sun is shining, yet another hot day 🙂

The Pyrenees are revealed in full view after a drive through, up a mountain down to a valley.

U2 Live Lounge blurting out “It’s a beautiful day!” It certainly is! What more can one ask for?!

We are heading for an Aire that is close to Andorra. We would like to enjoy a nice drive without the pressure of time and spend time looking around shops in Andorra.

We arrive at Vicdessos Aire early afternoon, with plenty of time to sit and relax, perhaps explore the town later.

Our stay costs €6 includes unmetered electric hook-up. Not that we need it, but it’s always a useful boost to cool the fridge down a bit more.

The Aire is by the river surrounded by the green mountains. The main road to town is on the other side of the river, traffic noise is swallowed by the river’s flow.

House in Vicdessos

We walked around the old town, the narrow alleys and small windows seem to be stuck in time. I think only an old mini car can fit down these allys.

Vicdessos

Again, I wonder where everyone is; the shutters are narrowly closed, leaving a tiny gap for some daylight and the heat out.

Hollow Tree Vicdessos

6/8/15 Day 6…Driving to Andorra

It is an early start, leaving Vicdessos heading for Andorra.

The drive on the single carriageway up the mountain is a quiet and slow one, with many turns, slow vehicles, traffic is hectic this morning.

The crawl up the Pyrenees turned a nice morning drive into an awful one. Hymie just shut down.

The engine has just stopped, dead. No power, no hazard lights either.

Nooooooo!

Our minds are racing…quick thinking. Lee and Ben jumped out of Hymie, got the hazard triangle out and placed it on the road behind Hymie

Traffic piling behind us, annoyed drivers beeping the horn…Seriously, we didn’twant to break down inconveniently right on this particular spot… 😦

Ben stood behind Hymie, making sure drivers notice that there is a problem. Lee went to have a look at the engine and noticed that a fuse has lost a connection, problem sorted, 20 minutes later we are on the move again!…

We are now gasping for a cup of tea, no rest though. Next stop Andorra. Two hours behind, but we made it.

A much needed breakfast in Andorra, a few hours of shopping, topping up on fuel and we off, driving through Andorra village- more like a city than a village.

We take a moment or two to catch our breath and enjoy the view.

Andorra

 

Andorra la Ville

We go through border control and we find ourselves in Spain!

Spain

 

Happen to be at the right place…

We entered Spain and headed en route to Barcelona, as we took the turn around the roundabout we realised we were about to go on a peaje (toll road), but needed a place to stop for a minute before we got onto the peaje, once we get on the toll road, we can’t stop. There are horror stories of tourists being targeted for theft near service stations.

As the road continued just outside ‘La Seu d’Urgell’, we hoped we would find a suitable place to stop. We got to another roundabout that had a motorhome sign pointing to the right. Following the sign, we got to a car park that leaded us to… a new Aire! Oh wow! It wasn’t in the Aire book, what a stroke of luck.  It has got all motorhome facilities too. Shall we stop here for the night? Well, why not 🙂

Hymie La Sew D'Urgell Aire

The stay in this Aire was free of charge. For use of facilities, pay at the machine;

1 €= two hours electricity hook-up, 2€ = 100 litres of water, Elsan point-free.

Facilities at the Aire

 

Hook-up Point

The Aire is located in the old part of the town; it’s close to shops, cafes, restaurant and museum.

Old town La Sew D'urgell

In the evening, when the heat had eased of a bit, we went to explore. There seem to have an event arranged by the museum; police car blocking the road, a stage has been erected, chairs organised in front of the stage. Music playing in the streets, crowds gathered to watch the event.

At the event

We later found out that it was Canoe Slalom World Cup 2015 event that took place in La Seu d’Urgell. Teams from around the world competed in this event.

Canoe Slalom World Cup 2015

We just happened to be in the right place at the right time to enjoy the lovely atmosphere…Life is so good 🙂

Three Aires, one day, 584km

La Sew D’Urgell is a nice town, its location is excellent spot for stopovers before and after a drive through the Pyrenees. With a quick exit to the toll road, all options are open.

We continued to make our way south on a fairly quiet road. The landscape is very different to what we are used to back home but equally magnificent. We noted that we need to top-up on our water supply and decide that we should head for Benicàssim aire just for water top-up and empty our grey water. The Aire itelf is small as it has a few bays for motorhomes, all on a slope.

While in Benicàssim, we take a short lunch break and calculate our next stop, perhaps for the night.

We carry on to Carcaixent, an Aire by a train station. It took us a while to find it, as we had to drive through the old part of the town, with narrow roads. We eventually found the Aire; no other motorhomes in sight and the water tap was locked. So we re-calculated our next stop and decided to gamble: keep on going south to Aire at Dénia Playa. We find Dénia Playa Aire is closed! No longer active.

It was 9pm, and we were all tired from a very long day, we would really like to find a place to stop for the night. According to “All the Aires Spain and Portugal” book, nearest Aire is in Calpe, an hour away from our location. Is it another gamble?

Turning back north is out of the question. We have no choice but to continue…

We arrived at Odissea Camper Área which is located between Aldi and Lidl shops, overlooking Calpe hotels. Upon our arrival we find the main entrance closed, it’s 10pm and the gates are locked. There is a telephone number to phone to open the gate, but someone kind has opened the gate for us before we could dial. Thank you kind person…

We found a pitch for the night. We will sleep here tonight and explore the site tomorrow morning. Things look better in the morning…It’s all good.

Calpe

We are not sure why Oddisea Camper Park is in “All the Aires Spain and Portugal” book as it is more of a campsite than an Aire. Facilities include showers, toilets and washing machines. There is a little play area for children.

We explored the site in the morning and find different motorhome from different nationalities; (it is like a start of a joke) A Spanish, German, French, Dutch and a Brit sitting in a campsite in Calpe, when…

We are all here for the lovely hot weather 🙂

Hymie at Oddisea camper park

Our stay cost €12 a night, we stayed for three nights. After sorting out the paperwork with the campsite reception, it is time to explore the town. We follow the road to the hotels and find the beach, ten minute walk from the campsite.

Calpe

We must have walked for a solid two hours before deciding to make our way back to Hymie. We took a different route, walking up through Saturday market. We got back to Hymie with a need for a short siesta…the heat is getting to us.

Calpe Beaches

The winds started to pick up a bit and it seemed a good idea to roll our 5 meter long awning in. Good timing too as the heavens opened and it’s pouring it down, a much welcome break from the heat.

On Sunday night, we decided to wonder into town, and we are glad we did as crowds have filled up the streets, loud music playing and people dancing in the streets, children playing on the promenade and the beach. What an amazing atmosphere…

Benidorm

A short drive on the coast from Calpe, we arrived at Villasol Campsite in Benidorm. All home comforts can be found both in Benidorm and campsite shop, from English news papers to our favourite chocolate bars. It is like being home with the added bonus of the warm sunshine.

Camping at Villasol campsite

We found a pitch and the boys jumped into the pool even before I could say “pool”! While these two have forgotten our existence, we took a nice walk into Benidorm. The capmsite is about a mile away from the shops and beach.                                                                                                                                                       Similar to the T.V series “Benidorm” many people choose to use mobility scooters to get around and there are special mobility scooter parking bays!

Benidorm

We spent our fantastic time in Benidorm jumping into the pool, walking into town, walking on the beach only to hot hop off the sand as it was far too hot! We walked on the promenade, ate ice-cream in a cone, only to realise that was a mistake the ice-cream melts far too fast leaving nothing but sticky hands, (mental note; next time eat from an ice-cream pot instead). Choose mango flavour it is so refreshing!! We walked back to Hymie, sat outside and dozed off in the nice breeze, woke up wondering what time it is and then realised we are on holiday! Who cares?

We met Auntie Lesley and Mark in the campsite car park and went to their house, oh! Auntie Lesley has got a pool. The Children have gone again. We enjoyed cool sangria, jump into the pool and another sangria, enjoyed the views of the mountains.

Cool in the pool

We walked to the pub to enjoy cool drink, have tequila and another cool drink. The waiter approached us speaking Spanish while I looked at him with a blank face. He must be thinking I am stupid. We walked back to Hymie and glanced at a clock, OMG! It’s 3 am! Lesley, you party people! Hey, we are on holiday!

We woke up mid-morning; we haven’t done that for a while. It was 39°c! We went Go-karting in the afternoon with Lesley and Mark.

Go Karting

A waitress approached me speaking in Spanish…What?! Oh yes, a cold drink would be very nice, thank you. It is so hot that the ice didn’t stay in the glass very long.

Go Karting

The guys are on the track; Mark is first while Daffy (Duck) is on cruise control. Mark finishes first, Lee second, Ben third and Daffy (Duck) still on cruise control.

Go Karting-Scores

We went back to Hymie and jumped in the pool, the heat is definitely getting to some of us. We hopped out of the pool, got organised to go out for a drink and a meal with Lesley and Mark at Lesley’s favourite restaurant.

Selfie at the restaurant

We watched the waiter run all over the place forgetting our drinks, although we did have a nice meal. Another waiter comes over asking me something in Spanish (again).  What?! Oh, yes you can take this chair…seriously, I’m not Spanish, please speak English…

Lesley was not impressed with the waiter, who was still all over the place…someone is going to get a bad review…

Benidorm

We enjoyed Benidorm so much that we decided to stay here for another night…Life is so good!!

Last day in Benidorm

Our last day in Benidorm and we spent it by lazing around, chilling out in the sun, splashing in the pool, a leisurely long walk into old town Benidorm where the streets are narrow.

Old town Benidorm

We met up with Lesley and Mark for a cool drink and a final goodbye (or so we thought).

Thank you Lesley and Mark for everything, we enjoyed our time at your fabulous place and enjoyed Benidorm too.

Before we made our way back to Hymie, we thought we could have our tea at a place that serves fish and chips. Someone was missing home…We spent about an hour wandering, bumping into Lesley and Mark again 🙂

We finally stopped at a place called “The Battered Cod”. It was a small tasty surprise ending to a chilled out Spanish day. If anyone feels a little homesick in Benidorm and fancies fish and chips, this is the place to go. The fish was lightly coated in batter and the chips were lovely, non of those “French fries” malarkey. Well worth a visit.

On the road again, heading North…

We left Benidorm headed back up north, with a sad farewell to Benidorm, we all had a fantastic time enjoying every moment.

Clouds on the horizon

As we drove on the toll road, grey clouds were looming over the mountains in the horizon. We tried to keep positive, thinking that it was just a storm far from us which will blow away, but we got caught in some heavy rain and flooded roads.

Rain in Spain, such a pain...

Adele is chasing pavements on live lounge, and Benidorm is becoming a distant memory. The air is becoming cooler despite being in Spain.

We arrived at La Seu d’Urgel Aire, a familiar spot before we continue our journey through Andorra. We spent a cold and quiet night here, despite the overcrowded Aire.

Breakfast in Andorra, Tea in France

It has been a very cold night, we all got used to warm nights that we forgot what it was like to feel the cold again.

We packed everything up fairly early in the morning, and left the Aire while others were still fast asleep. The mountains were the colour of blue with patchy fog here and there.

It was a leisurely drive as traffic was calm with not many vehicles on the road. Watch out for the odd cattle on the road…

Mind that cow...

A few motorhomes were parked on the side of the mountain, overlooking the valley below. What a wonderful morning to wake up to a magnificent view.

A room with a view

As we drove through Andorra la Vella we notice a motorhome sign, perhaps an Aire or motorhome facility place. The turn to this Aire is sharp, and our Hymie won’t take the sharp turn for its size, we carried on up the mountain.

We arrived at the shops in good time, breakfast was still being served. Last minute dashing around the shops, and we returned to Hymie to sort our next Aire stop for tonight.

We decided it would be a good idea to head for the Med, to make the most of our last week of our holiday.

We drove across the Pyrénées, taking a different route this time, towards Perpignan. We drove down the mountain, each twist and turn being technically challenging drive.

Down the Pyrénées

However it did remind us of the last scene from the movie “The Italian Job”. Not dropping off any “minions” (children) on the way down 🙂 we did feel a bit weak with every bend. The wonderful view of the valley, rail track bridges and villages makes up for the tricky drive. Well worth a visit.

Rail Track Bridge Pyrénées

The road finally opens up and it’s a relaxing drive on the coast.

We arrived at Leucate Plage. The weather is wonderful, one can get used to this.

The Aire is split into two; North and South.

South

The south side of the Aire benefits the beach. There are many motorhome bays here, but with the popularity of access to the beach, the south side of the Aire can be very busy during peak times of the season.

View from south Aire

The north side of the Aire is much quieter, with many more spacious motorhome parking bays. We decide to stop here.

Aire Leucate Plage North

Both sides of the Aire have motorhome facilities, and you pay at the barriers. The Aire is open all year round and prices vary to each season.

Aire Barriers

The nearest shop is about a mile away from the Aire.

Leucate Plage

It was a relaxing day, just what we needed after a long day travelling.

Although it was a cooler morning, we enjoyed a walk on the beach. Our feet were sinking in the sand as tiny cold sea waves surrounded our feet.

What! No waves?!

The boys would rather a dip in the Atlantic Ocean than the Mediterranean Sea, as they loved the higher waves, making it a more exciting swim.

A storm is brewing

We decided it was time to pack things away when the grey clouds have moved closer.

A fellow camper had just arrived and his motorhome seems to blend in with the scene.

Thank you so much to the kind German couple who gave us permission to take a photograph of the elephant on the back of their motorhome.

Look out for the elephant in the room

Our stay has been very pleasant, though it is time to move go back up north, make our way to the channel tunnel.

To Millau Viaduct and beyond…

After assessing the route options the night before, we decided it would be best if we took the shortest route through the centre of France. It is a lovely route that takes us from the coast up the hills and mountains then across Millau Viaduct.

Millau Viaduct

 

Millau Viaduct

On the way to Massiac, with 860 miles to go to the channel tunnel, while cruising down a hill, 5th gear went into neutral! We lost 5th gear! No! No! Nooooo! To add salt to injury, the heavens opened. It was a very slow drive and a very long day 😦 Any ideas of us making a U-turn to delay our journey back home, are not feasible anymore.

We had to stop and asses how to break-up our journey and find suitable stops to make the drive back easier. During a quick stop for fuel at Massiac, we looked up in the Aire book and found an Aire not far of the morotway. An easy drive would be very welcome right now. We could not afford to stretch Hymie to the limit.

5th gear

5th gear. “Dog teeth” have completely broken off the cog

Ebreuil, Limousin & Auvergne

We parked on the Aire by the football pitch, just us the mountains and fields. The Aire is located by a campsite that seems to have good rates for camping.  A few more motorhomes arrived later; two French and one Belgium with an adorable Labrador puppy.

Ebreuil Aire

We enjoyed a quiet evening. With the sun setting the evening turned cooler, goodbye summer?

Ebreuil Aire

We went in Hymie for a few games of Taki followed by a game of Rummikub, trying to keep off our minds that we lost 5th gear, we just can’t believe it! We have had to recalculate our route and break the journey into chunks of ‘how many miles can we drive a day’.

Fitting many miles from this point, so that if anything happens during the next few days, there would be some time to sort it and we could at least arrive to the Eurotunnel in good time.

We set off in the morning organising Hymie, filling up with fresh water, emptying grey water at the Aire’s service point across the road.

By the Aire facilities

We turn onto the toll road with 777 miles to go. There are two lanes on this stretch, which gratefully eliminates middle lane hoggers. Lorries and cars whizz past us, 90 kmh (56 mph) is our best speed.

The boys are missing their friends, and are busy listening to their music, while Lee and I would have rather continued on a fabulous journey if conditions were different. Neither of us have watched telly or listened to the news in the past 3 weeks and neither of us is missing it either.

Looking at the bright side (or, never say it can’t get any worse…)

We left Aire Ebreuil with bitter-sweet feeling; heading back home minus 5th gear. One must make the most of a bad situation. I suppose the best way we can look at it is by taking the slow lane, for a change, watching the world go by as vehicles whizz past us in the fast lane…Life is good, even without 5th gear.

We chose to take Paris ring road. Traffic is slow, making it easier to feather out of the motorway, but we are aware of “mad” drivers who dart in and out of the motorway. It isn’t a nice experience driving through this road, but we made it, no rush or panic, just keeping safe, we got to the other side. Now, one must stop for a quick cup of tea, phew.

We continued north to our next Aire, hoping that it wouldn’t be busy. A short drive from the motorway, along a single carriage road, through a very tiny quiet village, we arrive at the next village; Conty. Drive through it and find a camping car sign, not far from the information office. Turn off the mini-roundabout, pass a little children’s play area, and arrive at the Aire.

Aire at Conty

The Aire is popular stopover point for motorhomers who are returning to northern countries. We arrived after 6pm and found a good spot, a few more late arrivals have managed to squeeze in and the Aire was practically full.

A pleasant evening walk to town, we find a small grocery shop, news agent, a butchers shop, and patisserie that sell lovely fresh croissants in the morning.

main street Conty

A lazy morning for all of us, the guys sort Hymie while I walk to the bakery; “un baguette, quatre croissants s’il vous plaît, merci… Au revoir…”

As I arrive back at the Aire, the Dutch neighbours’ dog darted towards us, keen to say hello. They were leaving the Aire too, heading back home, where apparently the weather is still warm.

Cite Europe, Calais

We arrived back to Cite Europe after a few hours’ drive from Conty Aire. We could tell we are close to home, it’s raining 😦

There were a few more motorhomes here this time; however it was still early in the day.

We decided to grab a late lunch at flunch; it is always a great experience to stop for a “flunch”, great food at a reasonable price.

We returned to Cite Europe with Hymie, some motorhomes have disappeared, perhaps caught the Euro tunnel. The guys went for ice-cream and waffles, one must enjoy every bit of what France has to offer…while they were gone, 9 police vans turned up out of the blue, the number of motorhomes has dwindled down to 6.

One particular chick, I mean duckling has decide to go on an adventure around Cite Europe shopping centre, alone. Our hearts were in our mouths for half an hour, which seemed like forever. Duckling returns as if nothing was wrong. I’m sorry son, if we were at any other Aire this would have been fine and safe. But with 9 police van across the car park/Aire this was no time for a walkabout adventure.

The night was fairly quiet, a few police sirens some loud bangs, but we slept well 🙂

Early start- we sorted Hymie for an early departure and a full day’s journey. We arrived at Euro-tunnel in time to get an earlier shuttle. We left France in a glorious sunrise…

Au revoir France

and arrived in the UK to fog, grey weather…welcome back 😦

Home sweet home

As we drove back home on the English motorways, we watched the world go by as some idiots have made some hazardous mistakes; fly on the outer lane just to cut through back to the left lane for the exit or overtake us just to hit the brakes, never mind the 3.5 tonne vehicle behind you that can’t stop so easily! Look out a…bleeep!

We enjoyed our journey, holiday abroad. We loved every moment of the trip good and bad. We can’t wait for next summer, when more advetures will be written.

Round trip 4988km !

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