SUNDAY 9th JANUARY 2011
All packed and ready to roll. Despite the absence of the scooter we seem to have no more space than before and the Gf kept appearing with yet another bag of last minute items that required packing as essential items and I fear for the payload. We gained about 100kg from the scooter and the bikes weigh in around 45Kg with the necessary-for-insurance D-locks at 2 kgs each so we should be fine as there will not be much water aboard....or fuel at £1.30 a litre which will be cheaper abroad... but we do appear to have a vast amount of 'stuff'. The Gf has taken her winter and summer wardrobes, pessimistically. Optimistically, I have thrown in an a thick jumper to wear down to the Spanish border.......who'll be smug in Madrid?
Off at midday, sunny run down to Folkestone and straight on to 15.50 and in Calais aire by the port by 17.45 CET. Aire full of british vans heading south. V.cold night..and noisy, as the ferries berthed in the port seem to have reverted to running their engines all night, a practice they stopped last year. Consequently up and away at 8am.
Monday 10th. Jan
God run to Lemans. Used toll road down to Rouen for €11.30 to save time. Remembered that we had used an aire close to Lemans at Suze La Sarthe so changed plans halfway and got there about 16.00. Brisk walk round town. Everywhere very wet but temp. quite mild. Chat with other british van also heading to Spain.....their first van and first trip abroad with v.long Kontiki double axle. No guide to aires, finding them by luck and intending to cross the Pyrenees- when I raised an eyebrow, Adrian said that he thought they were like the welsh hills so what was the problem? I explained about alp-like mountains & snow and he seemed surprised.
Gave him details of some aires on the route. May see them at next stop.
Tuesday 11th. Jan
To CAVIGNAC, as last year. Good run mainly down the N10, no tolls, very busy with lorries.
Minor disaster to find height barriers at both entrances to aire ! Found details of another one in next village but as emerging onto main road saw aire sign pointing up towards church...they had relocated the aire next to the cemetary and a vineyard but it was very new and clean so fine. Walked down to the supermarket and bought 3x5litre bottles of water. Later joined by another brit van who I re-directed as we were walking back from shop, also stuck in front of the height barriers and feverishly thumbing through the Aires book. A sign at the barrier would be helpful.
Wednesday 12th. Jan
Horrendous journey to PAMPLONA. The A63 was 'fermee' between Bayonne and the Spanish border and there was a 'Stockage des PL' ?????? according to signs out of Bordeaux. As I intended using the A63 between those points this was worrying but not disastrous as we could continue on the N10. At coffee time in a service area I walked round the truckers asking what the problem was but they all shrugged and said that the road was closed for some reason not known. 50km from Bayonne we discovered what 'stockage' was.......stacking. The 2 lane dual carriageway was coned off and gendarmes were waving lorries into the inside lane where they parked. The nice policeman waving cars through thought about us but grinned (?) and waved us on. The queue of lorries, parked nose to tail went on for 15 kms ! Work that out. Suddenly we got to the head of the queue and there was no reason for the parked lorries. The road was clear for us and a few cars for 20 kms and then we ran up against another stack, this time 10kms long as we were waved through on the outside lane. As we joined the A63, the stack started to move so were slowed as they tried to filter into our lane because there were road works ahead. Chaos. And then there were signs saying we would have to leave the motorway at J.7 as there had been a bad lorry accident with a fire in the roadworks and which was why the road was closed ahead. Fortunately, it was cleared and re-opened as we approached and we saw the debris being carted away on flatbeds on the opposite carriageway. So we got through with only about 30min delay in the end.........I think the last lorries in the first stack would take 24 hrs to get moving so we were lucky. New Motorway not on Satnav caused some anxiety trying to find motorway to Pamplona as the signs showed Pamplona, didn't show Pamplona etc as the satnav went into a sulk. But we got there in the end. Should have been a spectacular view but crossed mountains in low cloud all the way until 20 kms from Pamplona when we burst out into bright sunshine. Campsite above town, we were the only visitors. Ground v.wet so parked on roadway close a hookup rather than a pitch. Nice and sunny and mild. Chilly overnight. Might come back this way and explore into town as there is a bike route.
Thursday-Friday 13th-14th. Jan
Terrific run to ARANJUEZ, just south of Madrid. Only spoilt by great banks of low cloud/fog for much of the way, spoiling any views. But the driving was great with very little traffic until the last 35 Km round the Madrid ring-road and onto Aranjuez. Very nice site behind the royal gardens which we explored in the late afternoon sunshine. Decided to stay 2 nights in order to do the palaces as we are here and break the journey. Ground again very wet and much signs of trouble getting off pitches even though sun is shining. Parked on the mats. Had the first bottle of Rioja to celebrate from the camp shop at a mere €4.
Woke to thick fog....the site is at the confluence of the Tagus and Jarama rivers and prone to this. Didn't burn off till mid-day when we walkked through the gardens....being Jan. not much too see but will return later as they look wonderful....to town,had bloody awful lunch including a soup like dishwater with a poached egg in it but 3 courses, bt.of water and decent bt.wine for 20€. Vist to the Palace, well worth the stopover and EU citizens over 65 with audio guide each for 10€ for both of us was value for money. We were vastly outnumbered by the guards as I rhink we were the only visitors that afternoon and monitored very closely. However, top monument and very informative guides.
Saturday 15th Jan.
Again woke to thick fog, apparently its normal. Good run down the A4 to CORDOBA (or VILLAFRANCA DA CORDOBA to be precise) spoilt by endless fog banks. Ground is very wet but sun is very warm. Having 'done' Cordoba twice now ....its still my favourite city....we are only stopping overnight so staying at Villafranca is easier and cheaper than the city site.
Arrived in glorious sunshine and sat outside for the afternoon after strolling into town. This is what we came for !
5 weeks ago