Thursday, 22 April 2010

Great end to a great trip

We stopped first at another great site near San Sebastian at a place called ITZIAR. This is deep Basque country and the language is full of x,z,& k's and sounds like something nasty in the bacof your throat. We came off the very scenic - sometimes motorway sometimes back lane that is being upgraded as we speak - road that runs along Spain's northern coast in order to get diesel before we ran into France and having cut it a bit fine, at a place called Durango and I spurned the opportunity to go back onto the A8 in favour of a pretty route as there was only a few miles to go. Big mistake. The A8 or its little brother and constant companion, the N634 ran right past the door ( although about 500 ft lower down the mountain) of the site we were aiming for,whislt we now meandered along increasingly narrower and hillier back roads. Such is life but it was great scenery if occasionally terrifying. The site, called ITXASPE ( don't even ask how to prounce it) at the end of a very narrow track, is stunningly perched on a hillside above cliffs and surf and has great views and beautifully run by two charming brothers. I'm sorry we could only stop the one night, although we did have time to descend to the beach when we were trying to ascend to the headland ( the ascending appearing less arduous than the descent and subsequent ascent back from the beach which nearly did for both of us). There was also a fair sprinkling of brits here, mostly on the way home like us, and one couple in particular were very chatty and were also heading towards BIARRITZ like us but were thinking of moving past quite quickly. When I pointed out the Aire in the town centre and extolled the charms of BIARRITZ as recalled from 40 years ago, they decided to stop off there too, so we caught up with Jeremy and Judith ( and Jessie the Jack Russell) on Friday at the Aire which was excellent and very full. It has space for 40 vans, charges 10€ a night and has electic hook-ups if you're lucky. Jeremy, being a gentleman, was keeping an eye out for us and guarding a spare electric point with his life. They had also parked next to the only other GB van in the park and so we were introduced to Barry and Ros and an extraordinarily pleasant weekend ensued. We walked into town on Friday afternoon,which is quite a hike but pleasant along the promenades- the Aire is also only 5 minutes from an actual beach, home to the surfing community and again lovely landscaped walks to meander along. The town is still delightful and very classy. Very busy, stunning views and a beautifully kept town. It reeks of money and there's few trashy shops. On Saturday we all caught the bus to the other end of town and basically walked back in the sunshine. We separated for lunch as the Gf and I had opted for the arm-and-a-leg option rather than the snack option as we were now on the run home and wanted to end on a high. Arm-and-a-leg it was but we got some change and had a great meal. Caught up with the others for drinks etc and had a very pleasant evening.

Culture note...(1) an altercation with mad french woman who accused the Gf of reporting them to the police who came round each morning & evening collecting the 10€. God knows what it was about, we never did find out. (2) The Aire filled up and a german parked his huge Hymer right over the toilet/waste emptying points for the night. As we set off at 9am I needed to park there to use the facilities so I knocked on his window as he was eating breakfast to indicate that he should move. He was not amused but as I indicated that I would empty the contents of our toilet under his van and hope it found the drain he realised the sense of moving but with extreme bad grace and much muttering.

An uneventful and rather boring run up past BORDEAUX to SAINTES where the expected Aire had been relocated from in front of the Abbey to outside the Camping Municipal (not yet open for the season) and required more back street driving to find it. Quite pleasant however
,next to the river and pleasant stroll into town for a sundowner.

On Monday, a fairly pleasant drive to 12 miles south of LeMans at La SUZE sur SARTHE where there was jolly nice Aire on the riverbank in the centre of a very pleasant small town. The centre of town was a Y shaped junction with no road markings. we had a prime position outside the bar watching going-home time. It was the Gf who sussed out the rule of priority....the car approaching fastest has the right of way. Unless you were turning right, every vehicle had to cross the path of two others - it was wonderful spectator sport and the bar did good business with maniacs flying around 6 feet from where we were sitting.

Tuesday was a long day to CALAIS. We decided for Calais and the noisy Aire across from the ferry terminal as our favourite restaurant, the Cote d'Argent would be open rather than Le Touquet which is a very long walk back into the town for dinner at La Petite Charlotte, another favourite. Big mistake to use the toll road from LaSUZE as 200kms cost 45€ so the last 200km after ROUEN was on the pretty (but slow) route....made even slower than by being behind two 'convoi exceptionel's until St.OMER. However, did run past a Carrefour and the opportunity to fill with fuel before the UK ( having checked with Julian on the price of diesel -£1.22 uk/ 1.13€ france) and some other liquid necessities. Had a superb meal at the Cote d'Argent even if the GF did argue with the chef when he came round, called him a liar and he had to go a fetch the very small pan he used to sautee the potato gallette which she maintained must have been deep fried. France 1-England 0.We had the Michelin Celebration Menu....don't ask. So a terrific end to a great trip, lots of sights, lots of new friends and a fair few places we shall return to to explore in greater depth. 4092 miles and we have circumnavigated the Iberian Peninsular. Next year, inland. we still haven't done Toledo, Segovia, Merida, Zaragossa, Salamanca,Pamplona, Aranjuaz or Madrid and there's all of Portugal not on the coast........we could be here for years !
Back home......water pump finally packs up, Tracker transponder needs replacing at £250 as it's just out of warranty, no hot water at home-fault on boiler system, car battery flat, won't start.........we're off to sunny Spain...................

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