20. Feb, 2017

Our stop for lunch

20. Feb, 2017

SATURDAY 18-2-17

We had a lovely night's sleep, the sea had remained calm which is unusual for the Bay of Biscay. After a lovely hot shower and shave we were dressed and on our way to the Self-Service dining area and a Full English breakfast. The thinking was that once we drove ashore we could cover a good few miles before we needed to pull in somewhere for lunch. Then it was back down to the cabin for a read before vacating it thirty minutes before docking.

We watched our arrival in to Santander before making our way down to the car deck. We had been the first deck to be called forward.

What a surprise, we were one of the first to get off the ship, so maybe it was worth the long wait to load back there in Portsmouth.

This would be a good time to mention my 'Travelscript'. It's a form I developed for our tours around America, and I have adapted it slightly for our European trips. Basically it identified each motorhome journey. That journey will have the distance between A & B, the intended route listing the road numbers. The campsite or parking area we intend to stop at once we reach our destination together with en-route campgrounds should we need to abort the journey along the way for any reason. It will also show places that are worthy of a visit at each destination and a guestimate of how many days it would take to do it all. Throughout each trip it is always available for modification, but it's useful to have as a starting point.

I don't think I could have had my mind on the job when I began planning this trip. I had our journey when leaving Santander as going east along the coast to Bilbao, leaving me wondering why we didn't just sail to Bilbao in the first place. This involved us travelling on a motorway running parallel with the coast going up and down, up and down as we weaved along the mountainous coast. From here we dropped on to a toll road, the AP68 heading towards Zaragoza, our intended overnight stop. After The Chef had a look at the map and our route taken thus far, she pointed out that we could have just headed south from Santander to Burgos, then headed east to Logrono avoiding an awful lot of toll charges. We have  now agreed that in future I will continue to produce the 'Travelscript' for each trip, but The Chef will then give it a closer look armed with a road atlas. Another pair of eyes would have saved us time and money on this occasion.

Lunch was taken in a picnic area in the Logrono area before we continued onwards. It was a lovely sunny day and we were in Rioja wine country, thousands upon thousands of vines on either side of the road. All very nice but what we needed to see were Truck-Stops, our regular freebies for the night when out on the road. I had earmarked one just west of Zaragoza, but when we took a closer look it was too small and crowded, so onward we plodded.

At Zaragoza we headed south  on the A23 towards Teruel. This is the road which would take us pretty much all the way to the seaside. We eventually found a rural filling station just off one of the interchanges but it didn't feel a very safe place to spend the night, so back on the road we went.

Fortunately not too much further down the road we came across a Truck-Stop where, having topped the tank up, we were given permission to park for the night, although I'd have parked there anyway, as I needed to be off the road and rest.

We tried to get right away from all the activity of the Truck-Stop operation and parked next to an HGV right on the edge of the very large parking area. It wasn't until he fired up his refrigeration engine that we realised why he had also parked right away from everybody else. Oh well, back behind the wheel after our evening meal to move us alongside another HGV which I had checked didn't have a refrigeration unit on it.

Today we had passed thousands of ugly wind turbines and not one of them was turning. Between them they hadn't generated enough electricity to power a one-bar electric fire due to the fact that the wind was perfectly calm.

It had been a long day with a lot of driving, but it was warm and sunny which made it all worthwhile. In fact spring seems to have arrived in this part of the world. The sun was shining, there were lots of birds about and thousands upon thousands of trees covered with blossom.

The biggest tragedy of the day was finding an aluminium one-litre container I use to decant wine in to, and was, until this evening, full of nice chilled Ros—ź, now partly empty with a damp fridge interior. Somehow or other it had sustained a tiny hole near the base. This gave me an excuse to drink some of it before turning it upside down to preserve the remaining contents. Once we arrive at the seaside I shall attempt to repair it with some Epoxy Resin.

Tomorrow we should be at our destination at Benicassim, a whole twenty-four hours before we are expected there, but by allowing adequate time to make the journey it took the pressure off us. After all we could have been unlucky enough to have encountered snow inland at these high altitudes.

20. Feb, 2017

Our cabin with en -suite on the left

20. Feb, 2017
20. Feb, 2017

FRIDAY 17-2-17

We left home at 01:15 having spent the whole of yesterday doing odd jobs connected with the motorhome, shed, garage or house.

We were booked on the 11:00 Brittany Ferries service from Portsmouth to Santander, and were trying not to arrive too early and have to spend the night dossing in the ferry port area.

The cunning plan was to travel around the M25 before heading south on the M3 towards Southampton. Unfortunately the entrance to the M3 from the M25 was closed due to roadwork's. Unlike other roads which are closed, on motorways there are no 'Diversion' signs, you're just left to fend for yourself. Luckily I remembered the A3 route which must have been the main route south before the M3. was built. So further round the M25 we went until we came across the A3. Now bearing in  mind this was the middle of the night, I found this route to be just fine for us. It was very quiet and gave me the opportunity to concentrate more on the twists and turns of the road.

We arrived at Portsmouth terminal at about 05:00 and joined a line of vehicles queuing for the ferry, we turned the fridge/freezer to 'LPG' operation, and rather than fight the urge, succumbed to a nap on the bed having set the alarm for 09:00 guessing they wouldn't be checking in anybody before then.

We were woken at 08:30 by a knock on the side of the vehicle. It was 'Check In' time. Having worked our way to the front of the queue the young man in the kiosk was very polite, then looked up at the height of the vehicle. Clearly we were worthy of closer inspection. Out of his kiosk he came to make a visual check of the vehicles height against markers on his kiosk wall. We were ok, we passed the test, we could go through. He even issued us with our two cabin keys to be used onboard.

We then joined more lanes of vehicles waiting to board, the very front of lane four infact, but not before a man with a long wooden stick with height markers on it checked us and every other van and motorhome again - just to make sure. I swear a passenger on one occasion had one over on them robbing them of an additional fee for their height and have vowed it will never happen again. Obviously 'Check In' was a ruse to make us all feel as if we were really making progress. And there we sat. One of the first vehicles to arrive at the terminal, and one and a half hours after 'Check In', one of the last vehicles to board.

We were to travel on Brittany Ferries www.brittanyferries.com  'Pont-Aven' ferry. Once parked up onboard I had to turn the gas bottle off which then meant there was no power supply to the fridge/freezer. I was confident that the way we'd packed it, everything would survive just fine. Rubber chocks around the wheels as I was not prepared to leave the vehicle in gear as instructed, and then we went to find our cabin, number 5105. Once found we were most impressed. The last time we made this journey it was on 'Brittany's' Economie ferry. We ended up hiring two reclining seats for the journey across. What a nightmare, we didn't get a wink of sleep, not helped by the fact that the lounge area was located close to the bar and social area frequented  for half the night by drunken HGV drivers. We vowed we would never do that again. So here we were, for about eighty pounds extra, our very own cabin for the crossing. It had bunk beds. The bottom one was created from the long sofa, and the top one dropped out from the ceiling, all very clever. It has an en-suite and a small desk. Money well spent.

To keep our costs down we took a travel kettle in to the cabin with us together with our evening meal and other snacks in a coolbag.

I don't know if the Isle of Wight is treated like a roundabout, but when we left Portsmouth we went around it in a clockwise direction, which meant we got to see most of the islands shoreline before finally heading out to sea. It was a sunny day and the sea was calm, what a lovely change from our maritime experiences of a couple of weeks ago courtesy of Fred Olsen cruises.

Then it was off for an exploratory look around the ship. It really was very nice. Lovely decor in different styles, dining to suit all tastes, shops and ample seating for all.

Back to the cabin for a read, then a five star dining experience produced from the coolbag, followed by an early night. It had been a long day.