4TH APRIL 2012
So we left Olhao on Thursday, 3 days ahead of schedule but no point in sitting around in the rain when the weather is better somewhere else. Acting on information received form Colin & Sue who were heading for an aire at a town called MONTSARAZ and promised to send a report via email, we also set off for there. They described the road as 'bumpy' so I took a slightly different route and after an initial very pleasant road came across the worst 36kms of road in christendom.For anybody stupid enough to try the A499/A495, after a town called Cabezas Rubias, there is no A495. What there is has apparently been made by a man with a shovel, a garden roller and a wheelbarow full of asphalt who has devoted his life to demonstrating how not to repair a road for 36 kms. It is probably a civil engineering exam question in that part of Spain where candidates have to list all the mistakes and bad practices and write a report on how to rectify it. On the worst 3km section where a large notice from the local JUnta announced that travellers should proceed with caution as the the road surface was uneven, we were reduced to 10-15 mph and I believe I lost at least 2 fillings.
However, Montsaraz was a stunning find. We parked on the castle ramparts overlooking the largest manmade lake in Europe where the Rio Guadiana has been dammed,and had perhaps the best views we have ever had from the motorhome. A lovely ancient walled village, a lovely man in the tourist office who talked us through what we were seeing and gave me a 25% discount voucher for wine from the local co-operative where a lovely young lady gave me lots of wine & aguadiente to taste and sold me wine at extremely reasonable prices-and if they hadn't run out of the 5 litre boxes I would have bought far more ( €5.99 less 25% !!!)
Rain caught up with us overnight with a couple of showers and the morning view was spoiled by an overcast sky over the lake but the outlook was brighter to the north where we were heading for SALAMANCA which we failed to visit on the way down due to the cold weather. Another campsite recommended by chatting at the friday night sports bar sessions turned out to be a real gem and much better than the 'official' site close to the city. We were furnished with bus times from the very helpful owner and so caught the 9.10 on saturday morning to Salamanca and spent an excellent day exploring a very delightful city. The main square, Plaza Mayor, has to be one of the best we have ever sat in and certainly rivals St.Marks in Venice.
The Olimpia campsite is very new and purpose built almost as a travelodge for 30 caravans/motorhomes. Excellent facilities,close to the motorway, large pitches and a very good restaurant serving a 3 course meal for €10 which we had on sat.night. A great stopover as it is just in the right place to break the journey from the french border to the Algarve into a two or three day journey.
On Sunday a good run in mainly sunshine up to Donastia San Sebastian where the empty aire we had stopped at on the way down was packed with 40 motorhomes, all but 4 being Spanish. It is of course the start of the week leading to Easter next weekend......however, most of them left by 7pm and then there was an influx of french and germans.
On Monday to ARCACHON where we fondly remembered a family holiday about 32-34 years ago in the trailer tent when I first discovered the pleasures of oysters......and they are still as cheap today. We stopped 2 nights at a campsite on the beach in Andernos-les Bains which had only opened for the season on sunday and the premium beach-side pitches were available at no extra charge, there only being about 6 of us there. So nice views over the bay with great sunsets. Great cycle tracks all round so had a nice ride round the bay on tuesday towards Cap Ferret. On Wednesday took the van round to Arcachon and the Dunes of Pylat for old times sake but the Aire was crap at Arcachon and expensive at Pyla so parked in the town after much searching for a parking area and had the most expensive coffee in a smug bar on the front that cost €7 for 2 small cafe cremes.....average price in Spain & Portugal €2.40-€2.60 for 2,(most expensive €4.60 in the posh bar in Salamanca Plaza Mayor) and €4.50 in Andernos....that's the coffee cost of living index.
Finally returned to Andernos where we found a superb aire for €7.70 a night by the Oyster farms where there were half a dozen wooden shack restaurants run by the oyster growers with shops as well. Had a cracking meal at Chez Eliet which also had a jazz duoon tap to entertain as I knocked back a dozen
Grandes followed by 2 grilled Merluchon whilst the GF had a something called a Maigre which looked like seabass or dourade but wasn't. Excellent night.
Up to SAUMUR for a couple of nights at a site on a island in the Loire opposite the Chateau, then an aire on the Seine at La Mailleraye s/s on Saturday and Gravelines on Sunday ready for the tunnel on Monday.
I might be back ...
10 months ago