Our back garden

WEDNESDAY 12-12-18

Well we made it.

Having had a fairly restful night at the Truckstop south of Barcelona we were up and at after a good scrub and breakfast.

Once again I wasn't hanging around as I was keen to get to the campsite in good time in the hope they would let us on to a pitch earlier than the stipulated time of 17:30, which is an odd time, especially as it's dark by then.

We were in luck and wandered round to select a pitch from those remaining. There weren't that many of them as so many Brits and Germans especially, have already arrived, probably intent on staying here the whole winter.

As we drove on to the pitch who did we see the other side of the hedge giving us unwanted guidance using hand signals was the German woman who did exactly the same thing the last time we arrived here

We have a nice couple across from us with their caravan and nice quiet dog, Steve & Jane, who are here for a five weeks as it's their first attempt at doing this, and I think he's still working, but we'll find out this evening as they've invited us to join them to make a team up for the quiz night.

Putting up the awning was hard work, we've only used it once before and that was three or four years ago. Never mind it's up now and will give us much needed extra living space. Unfortunately we've had to trade off the folding bikes to bring it due to space and weight restrictions. Once again the assisted air suspension I had put on the vehicle earlier this year has proved an absolute boon. Without it we'd have been going along the road with our nose in the air.

Tomorrow we'll finish off getting straight though we'll have to keep an eye on the weather as they're forecasting a bit of light rain in the afternoon. Another reason I wanted to get here in good time today.

After a good thrashing in the quiz this evening followed by a good night's sleep I'll be ready to get my head around the blog, though I may not make an entry every day, we'll just have to see how it goes.

Calais to Benicassim statistics:

Total journey: 1558.4km (968 miles)

Average speed: 53mph

Average fuel consumption: 30.3mpg (it's usually about 34mpg but that's what happens when you put your foot down).

Fuel costs for diesel on the French toll roads was €1.58 (£1.42), rising at one point to €1.70 (£1.53) up in the mountains around Clermont-Ferrand. Luckily this morning here in Spain it was just €1.20 (£1.08) a litre.

 

Here's where we're spending the night - complete with our picnic area.

TUESDAY 11-12-18

Not the best night's sleep I've ever had, not helped by two foreigners standing right behind the vehicle in the middle of the night holding a conversation.

It would have been a cold night as well, given that we were about 3,000ft up in the Massif Central, had we not put the central heating on all night on a low setting.

This morning brought some sunshine and cold air (-0.7˚C) which was a bit of a motivator to hit the road. The Chef managed to buy a fresh baguette at the Truckstop garage shop, that was lunch taken care of as we hit the road at about 09:10.

Continually climbing steep hills and then descending equally steeply became a bit tedious, but at least the motorway south of Clermont-Ferrand is toll-free (apart from crossing the amazing Mallau Bridge - €12.50!)and surprisingly quiet and were able to make good progress. Eventually we came down from the mountains and I could get my foot down at bit. As we neared the Narbonne area we were enjoying bright, sunny warm weather, it was starting to feel that the hard work (and expense) was paying off.

We crossed in to Spain at about 14:15 heading south past Barcelona. It was starting to feel like hard work, but we'd made good progress, and so I called it a day south of Barcelona at a rather nice Truckstop where we'll stay for the night.

We should now reach our campsite tomorrow mid-day, about the same time that we would have arrived had we sailed from Portsmouth to Bilbao. The difference being that had we sailed I'd have had my feet up relaxing for the first 700 miles of the thousand miles or so, as opposed to hours and hours behind the wheel. Never mind it has been an experience.

As we are due to make our way back to the UK at the beginning of March we are now considering going home using the ferry as the weather through France at that time of year could be a bit dodgy. Once Brittany Ferries refund our £410 including a twin outside two berth cabin, we'll book and pay a deposit on the return sailing.

So looking at the online news this evening I see that Theresa May has gone back to Brussels with her begging bowl to try and get a bit more out of our 'friends'. She's got no chance, they had the measure of her and her weaknesses right from the word go, and before she humiliates our nation any further she must be removed and replaced by a somebody up to the job, a 'Leaver', but please, please, not Boris the Clown.

Statistics since leaving Calais yesterday:

Travelled: 1352km (840 miles)

Average speed: 57mph (thanks to today's efforts)

Fuel consumption: 30.3mpg

Distance to travel tomorrow: 208km (129 miles)

All being well we'll see you in Benicassim tomorrow.

Turning to my left from the previous picture this is the Citi Europe shopping complex, so it's a good location.

The car park this morning

MONDAY 10-12-18

Given that this trip, covering a ferry crossing and a spell at Bonterra Park at Benicassim is pretty much the same as 'Spain 2016' I was a bit stuck as to how I could make the ferry crossing sound a bit different. Although we were to be on a different vessel, the 'Cap Finisterre' sailing to Bilbao rather than the 'Pont Avon' sailing to Santander, a ship is a ship pretty much.

Well those helpful folk at Brittany Ferries helped me out - with just 48 hours notice they cancelled the sailing. Just like that, the weather was just too rough they said. Though I must admit, given the strong winds we've had recently I did expect a bouncy crossing, but at least we would have got there.

Thinking all passengers would have received the same email  I wasted no time in booking a crossing to Calais on Le Shuttle, at least that doesn't get effected by rough seas.

And the car park at Cite Europe is where we awoke this morning ready to face a 1,000 mile journey to our campsite having come over yesterday evening. Parking here overnight is really catching on. There were quite a few motorhomes here this morning.

Popping out to take a couple of photographs I noticed that two of our neighbours had dumped their grey water all over the car park. It really is a disgusting habit. They don't even make an effort to park near a drain. It really is unforgivable as there is a dump station at the Carrefour fuel station on the edge of the site. Such behaviour gives us all a bad name and if we're not careful such selfish behaviour could lose us the benefit of parking here.

Whilst The Chef popped in to Carrefour supermarket for a fresh baguette as soon as it opened at 09:00, I prepared the vehicle for the road and warmed the engine up.

Normally we would avoid the Paris area by going Calais/Rouen/Evereux/Chartres/Orleans then on to the toll road heading south. However because I had only expected to drive the last 300 miles or so once landed in Spain, the vehicle is well and truly loaded, and because of that I didn't want to travel across country. Instead, we would for the first time bite the bullet and head towards Paris and experience its peripheral road, a bit like our M25 around London. Except that when we finally arrived there it was amidst the suburbs of the city and more like London's North Circular Road, but with two or three more lanes to cope with. It was a nightmare and took us a long while to navigate - never again.

I wanted to get a good days driving in as this would lighten the load tomorrow. We'd hit the road having  bought the baguette, taken on fuel, and dumped our water etc, at about 09:45. Towards the end of the day behind the wheel it was dark and wet. I was caught out by the French rush hour at 18:00, I thought I'd managed to avoid it but no, they stayed at work late today just to catch us out. By then we were just north of Clermont-Ferrand and had vehicles coming at us from all directions as it seemed to have several junctions to major roads there. It was all quite stressful and I was pleased when we finally found a Truckstop and pulled over for the night. By then it was 19:00. It had been a very long day. Never mind, it should take the pressure off tomorrow.

Going online to check for emails and to catch up on the news I see that Theresa May has chickened out of having the vote on her Brexit deal. She really has to go. I had high hopes for her when she became PM, she was saying all the right things, but there's been no substance to it. I do however greatly admire her resilience given that shes got the baboon's arse in Scotland, the Welsh, the DUP (serves her right for calling an early election) Comrade Corbyn and his socialist bully boys, and both 'Remain' and 'Leave' politicians up against her she does seem to have the grit or stubbornness to carry on.