France and Spain 2019, part 2
End of the morning Rob is back. The shop has ordered the broken part and Thursday it will be repaired. That’s good because the insurance already talked about repatriation of his car, not really an attractive prospect.
In the afternoon we walk to the diving school next door. Unfortunately we cannot get there because Rob’s access pass for the gate does not cooperate, but we manage to talk through the gate to a man of from the diving school.
After in vain walking back and forth a few times, that nasty pass refuses to give us access, we finally take our diving gear and Dick (who does have a working pass) to the diving school where we get dressed, getting our diving set ready and start clambering down the rocks.
The latter is necessary to reach the waterfront.
We have a wonderful relaxing dive and after a tiring climb up we are back at the diving school, but it was worth it.
Cor also arrived and we can hug him while rinsing our gear. We walk back, chat and enjoy a delicious BBQ in the evening.
Gert and Femmy join us, the coffee with baileys tast great and in this good company time flies. We dive into bed around 11 pm. Great that we can sit outside so late. Sunday morning we call it an early day because before 8 am Cor and I leave the campground. We are on our way to the airport in Girona, an hour drive from L’Escala. The roads are without traffic and the sun is shining abundantly. It is already 68 degrees.
Just before the airport we are overtaken by a plane. According to Cor the plane with Richard and Jaap and yes when we arrive a little later at the airport their plane just landed. We have to wait a while before they have their luggage but through the occasional open doors and our mobiles I let Richard known that the reception committee is waiting for them.
Well, I am waiting and Cor is driving because there is no place at this airport to stop unless you have the name “taxi or bus”.
It’s a good thing we didn’t come to the airport with our RV. Eventually we hug Richard and Jaap, walk to Cor’s car at “departures” and drive back to L’Escala.
Unfortunately, at this time of day, it is 11 am, their bungalow isn’t yet available, so Richard and Jaap take a seat outside. In the afternoon we decide to go for dive. Richard was afraid to sleep too deep to wake up (this morning his alarm-clock was set at 4am) so he did not sleep for more than 24 hours and decide to quit the dive. An advantage for the others because now they can easily find out how much weight they need. Richard stays ashore with extra weights. We have a good dive. There are huge schools of fish. In this bay that make the dive spectacular. When we are back (it is a physically challenging dive site to get in and out of the water) Cor and Ingrid also arrived. Our diving group is complete. Fortunately, Richard and Jaap can move into their bungalow and unpack.
We are in Spain where people don’t eat before eight pm so we walk to the beach at 7.30 pm to look for a restaurant.
We find one where we had dinner several times 3 years ago. We have a good time together although the food is a bit disappointing. The wines chosen by our master sommeliers Cor and Richard taste very good. When we are back on the campground we go to bed. I don’t even notice I am touching my pillow.
Monday, September 16th, the sun is shining early, the sky is blue and the temperature is quickly rising to 78 degrees. After a delicious breakfast, of course with fresh baguette (also available in Spain) we prepare to go diving. Dick don’t want to climb the rock with his equipment and stays ashore but all the others go diving.
It is a spectacular dive, one huge school of fish after another, there’s an abundance of life.
Three years ago when we also dived here there wasn’t so much life. After such a spectacular dive the lunch with fried eggs is tasty and because the weather is so nice we are going for another dive in the afternoon. Rob walks to the center of L’Escala and Cor and Ingrid enjoy the pool. We see significantly less fish now but nevertheless we have a nice dive. Before having dinner we drink something outside and at 7.30 pm we walk to a restaurant, this time a pizzeria. There is no big choice of food, (If you don’t want a pizza) but the quality is much better than the restaurant where we had dinner yesterday. The temperature is higher and even at 10 pm it still feels warm. Tonight all windows will remain wide open.
Tuesday, September 17th we wake up at 8 am. The others have a boat dive and Dick and I will be diving in the bay but when Dick says he wants to work on the website and I look at our full laundry bag I am easily convinced. No dive for us but washing and sitting behind the laptop. Unfortunately, we do not have enough trees on our spot so I cannot attach clotheslines and again I have to buy a coin for drying and for washing. Finally I buy 4 coins. Despite the fact that I already washed on Saturday morning, the addition of our bedding requires two machines. At 1 pm everything is clean and stored, our bed has a clean cover and we take our bikes. The weather is beautiful and the temperature has risen to 85 degrees.
Of course we cycle a route based on hidden geocaches. We drive partly along the coast, there are blockhauses and idyllic bays, and partly through the dry and arid inland of Spain. We glance through the fence at the Roman Ruins on the edge of L’Escala but decide not to go inside.
It is far too hot to walk around between ruins and old pillars.
Around 5 pm, after 15 miles of cycling on steep slopes, we are back on the campground. We still have plenty of time to clean up and hear about the boat dive before we walk back to the bay at 7.30 pm. To restaurant number 3. This turns out to be a more luxury restaurant with a wide choice of dishes. We don’t get disappointed. The food is of good quality and thanks to Cor (white wine) and Richard (red wine) we also have a good wine with our dinner.
Wednesday morning we get up at 7 am because we have to be at the diving school at 9.15 am. Enough time to get fresh bread at the super mercado and a breakfast. We arrive at the diving school on time, put our diving gear in the van and then drive to L’Estartit, on the other side of the rocks. The drive is not very long and we arrive in time at the diving school who take care of the boat dive to the Medes Islands. After waiting for half an hour and some administration, we leave for the harbor where, on the quay, we set up our diving sets and change clothes before boarding the boat.
Next to our group are 13 other scuba divers, French and Spaniards. After a briefing about the site and a 5 minute boat ride we arrive at the dive site. The waves are high and the wind is blowing hard so it is not pleasant to wait until it is our turn to jump into the water.
It is a good thing that Dick got anti seasickness tablets from Gert and Femmy, otherwise Dick’s facial color would now be green. But even my person doesn’t feel great in this waves. Finally we all float in the water and start our descent via the anchor line. Fortunately, because floating in these high waves is not pleasant. Ingrid does not manage to get deeper than 15 feet, she cannot clear her ears anymore and has to return to the surface. Cor also suffers a lot from his ears (because he has an cold), but after 8 minutes he finally reaches 55 feet and Rogier, our dive guide, can show us around.
Again it is astonishing to see how much fish is swimming around. Huge schools of fish, from 1 feet in size up to the small sardines are around us and several times we also encounter huge groupers. It’s a pleasure to swim around. And it is busy under water because several times we meet the other groups from the boat. Comparing to the dives in our bay here it’s deeper water. That’s why these huge Groupers are here. It’s awesome to swim next to these impressive fishes. I hate it that I don’t have a camera with me. Unfortunately after an hour we have to surface again. Most of the divers finished their air. The sea is even rougher and we are hurled back and forth. That causes that Dick gets the boat stairs against his knee when stepping on the boat and when the crew also turns his knee to get his fins out on this raging boat, it’s over for Dick. His knee swells immediately. Back on the quay we change clothes, put all our diving stuff back in the van and drive back to our diving school in L’Escala where we rinse our diving gear with fresh water.
That is really necessary because the water of the Mediterranean is very salty and you don’t want that salt on your diving equipment.
After lunch we decide to have another dive in our bay at 4.30 pm. The weather is still good, the wind is less turbulent and it is not cold. Unfortunately, you cannot say that about the water temperature. We feel the thermocline and the water is not warmer than 65 degrees. With this temperature, a suit of only 0,2 inch (5 milimeter) is not really comfortable.
When we get out of the water Ingrid, Cor and Richard are on the side to help us out. Very nice because rocks are scattered everywhere and to get out of the water is not really easy; a helping hand from the shore is very comfortable. After having a shower it is time to refill our burnt calories. In the same restaurant as yesterday because everyone really liked the food. Fortunately, the wind (blowing hard this morning) stopped so we can eat outside. On Thursdaymorning the sky is blue and the sun has power. Time to wear shorts again.
Rob leaves immediately after breakfast to have his car repaired. Hopefully it works because driving all the way home with flashing red lights and every now and then an alarm tone is not agreeable. Dick’s knee is doubled in size but luckily we have a bandage so he can still walk to the bay to help us getting in and out the water. Again we have a relaxing dive around the beautiful island in our bay and again there are many schools of fish, although less than a few days ago. It is a nice dive. After an hour we are back at the entry. Balancing over the loose rocks and boulders in the water will never get used. When Rob returns at 3 pm with a repaired car we make another dive in the bay. This time we see a beautiful lobster while we spot the Dalmatian snail on several places. I like this bayside dive.
Back at the campground we find out that Richard followed us from the top of the cliff and we look at the pictures he took from his high viewpoint. It is good that it is almost 7 pm so we do not have to wait long to have dinner. I am starving. Diving and climbing means that there is a need for many, many calories.
For the third time we walk to our beloved restaurant. When we arrive, the tables are pushed together and we are welcomed with a broad smile. Again the food is of good quality and the atmosphere excellent and with a full stomach and a smile about the pleasant evening we walk back to the campground after dinner.
The sun shines again on Friday September 20th. We love it because a weather change is expected. But today the weather still looks good and the temperature soon rise to 77 degrees.
Although there are vague diving plans, for various reasons they don’t go on, so we spend the day chatting, gathering and hanging out on the railings of one of the bungalows. We lay our diving gear in the sun so its can dry.
In the afternoon we shop in the large Carrefour on the outskirts of the town for our joint BBQ tonight. In this Supermercado is a lot more choice of meat and side dishes than at the Mercado next to the campground.
When we are back I walk to the cliffs around the bay of L’Escala to look for a geocache. Despite the help from Gert, I meet along the way, we cannot find the cache. Climbing around the huge boulders and climbing down the wall to the bay has no result. But searching has kept us off the street for a while and I prefer to do this rather than lie down on the beach. Or I will reach home is the question because a monster dog runs barking towards me, stops right in front of me and I only see flickering teeth. It does not feel good. I carefully pick up two large boulders just in case this dog will attack me. The monster stays and bark and show his teeth and he is not listening to his boss down at the bay. I am struggling. What to do? Finally I decide to throw a rock next to his head and it works because the monster dog turns around and runs behind the rock. I don’t know how quickly I leave this place. Back home it appears that the cache (a spring edition) is only accessible for a few months. If I had read correctly I should have known that the cache would not be here in autumn.
While I was playing outside, Ingrid was busy preparing our BBQ so after taken a shower I only have to put glasses, plates and cutlery on the tables. Fortunately there is tableware in the bungalows because our RV does not have that stuff for eight people. We are lucky with the weather, it is not cold so we sit outside until 11 pm. The food from the BBQ and grill taste excellent, the wine goes well with it and the company is good. A pleasant Aqualis diving vacation has been ended. Tomorrow Cor and Rob will be the first to drive home. Saturday morning we get up at 7 am because we want to say goodbye to Cor and Rob. They don’t leave before 8.30 am. The weather has changed completely and it is raining but it is still 68 degrees so we keep our shorts. After Cor and Rob left, it is time to focus on our chores. The rope around the neighbor’s tree (only accessible via a high ladder) must be angled down and the huge pile of empty bottles taken away. The latter is embarrassing, everyone turns around when they see me walking with all those empty bottles.
And those were our own bottles at the BBQ. Not like the ones we had before on our grounds. That small pile of bottles turned out to be left there by our dear neighbors. Unfortunately, the effect of leaving them was lost because nobody knew that these bottles were n ‘t ours. The BBQ and Grill still needs to be cleaned and the garage packed, not really pleasant in a continuous rain shower so Dick expands the awning and we can work under it. No luxury because a lot of things need cleaning before we can pack everything in the RV.
Finally we are done with all our chores, a large part of the diving gear is stored, the diving suits are hidden between the floors and we can sit behind the laptop and write and read. Time passes pretty quickly and it is dinner time again. No BBQ this time, the weather is still too wet, so we walk to the pizzeria and enjoy Richard and Jaap’s farewell dinner. Their night is a shorter one because on Sunday morning at 7.15 am they leave with Cor and Ingrid, going to the airport. Of course we wave them goodbye. Going back to bed makes no sense because once out of bed means wide awake.
When Cor and Ingrid are back (already after 1.5 hours) we have a nice chat and coffee with Gert and Femmy. It seems as if we know each other for years. Fortunately the weather has been improved and even the sun comes out so it is pleasant to be outside. But sitting outside and doing nothing is not an option because our laundry bag indicate that it is time to do some final washing. The result is that I walk up and down the next two hours. With Dicks help everything is clean at 1.30 pm.
We take the bikes to find some more geocaches. It is a good thing that we have electric bicycles because the route that Dick has chosen leads us steeply into the mountains. Unfortunately the road becomes rougher and rougher and very stony.
Actually, this is not a path to cycle with bicycles, but rather a steep climbing path. But we manage to get on, push our bikes regularly to get to the top from where we have a magnificent view of the surroundings of L’Escala.
At 6 pm we are back, tired and sweaty because of the walk, cycle and climb. We found almost all our geocaches and are satisfied.
In the meantime a storm is raised and when we walk to the bay at 7 pm (of course we can’t enter the restaurant because nobody is here before 8 pm) we see the waves beat the coast. It’s really wild outside. We were really lucky with the weather the last days. Now it’s bad diving, almost no visibility. After some raindrops it stops so also this last evening we can sit on the terrace. Now we have a real farewell dinner because tomorrow both Cor and Ingrid and Dick and I will leave L’Escala.
On Monday morning the sun shines again and we see a partly blue sky. After saying goodbye to Cor and Ingrid and Gert and Femmy we leave the campground. Soon we see the Pyrenees looming in front of us. Fortunately the few clouds are high in the sky so we can admire the mountains in their full splendor. It is wonderful to be “on the road” again.
Even though we had a nice diving vacation, it is not common for us to be in one place for 10 days. We drive over inland roads to the border with France and then on even narrower roads through huge gorges further in the mountains. The places we pass have incredibly narrow streets and sometimes other cars have to drive back to give us the opportunity to pass. We drive in “Katharen country”. In the 12th and 13th centuries the Katharen were a major religious movement that, with their interpretation of the Bible, deviated so far from the Roman Catholic church that they were considered heretics and persecuted. Everywhere around us you see the remains of the Kartharen castles built on high rocks that were almost impregnable. The temperature rises gradually and when we arrive at Fanjeaux, high on a mountain top, it is 77 degrees. The camper place is not really big but it is 2 pm so we still have a choice to park. Not long because within a few hours it will be full with RV’s. At our leisure we stroll through this small mountain village with its narrow, steep streets and its magnificent view of the surroundings. At the end of the afternoon we sit in the sun next to the camper.
We are lucky because our spot has sun until it disappears in a beautiful sunset. It is very quiet and we sleep like roses.
Tuesday morning it feels like winter. Even though the sun is shining and the sky is steel blue, summer is ended.
Not really annoying because we love lesser temperatures. After buying bread in town, we continue on through the narrow streets of small villages. The agricultural fields are brown and the sunflowers fields have lost their glory.
At half past one we arrive in Cahors. There are only three places on the RV site at the river Lot and we are surprised that only one is occupied, so we quickly park our RV. The weather is somewhat changeable today. The blue skies have given way to heavy clouds and some rain. But it doesn’t stop us from exploring the city. The parking lot is really central and all we have to do is crossing the bridge to be in the center.
Cahors has an pleasant city center where it’s nice strolling and after exploring the 900-year-old cathedral with its beautiful inner gardens, we also walk to the logo of Cahors: the Tower bridge.
Despite the threatening black clouds only a few rain showers are falling, so we continue our walk. When we are almost back at the RV, after admiring the basin that for centuries supplied the city with water, the drizzle turn into real rain. But in the evening it stops again so that we can walk back to the center for a delicious meal in a Turkish restaurant. We arrive too early and are the only ones but this Turkish owner doesn’t care and starts cooking. On wednesday the weather is still very unstable and there is regular rain. It is not warmer than 62 degrees and after having a fresh baguette, we leave Cahors. We see the first fall colors appear outside the city and drive along narrow winding roads to the Dordogne.
In Saint Jean de Cole we find a nice parking spot in the village. It is one of the beautiful villages in France and the buildings are nice and old. It is a pleasure to walk around. Unfortunately we don’t keep it dry and after we get wet and more wet we decide to go back to the RV, leave and drive to the nearby city of Nontron. In the parking lot of a large Super U it’s allowed to stay overnight and we can do the necessary shopping.
Not a bad choice because at least we have a well-spent end of the day. Dick thinks differently because he doesn’t like to walk around for hours in a supermarket.
Towards the evening I see two people walking to their car, parked next to our RV and I call them why they did not brought better weather. The men answer: “a familiar voice” and when we walk towards each other it turns out to be Jan, one of my colleagues I worked with 30 years ago in the “Noordsingel”, as the prison in Rotterdam was called. Together with his wife Marie Louise he is on his way to Spain. Of course we sit together, talk and exchange experiences. Unbelievable to meet someone you didn’t see in years. We have a nice evening in spite of the heavy rain. In the morning the rain stops and it clears up. Now we have the opportunity to admire their small RV-car. Very simple and very practical, but not for us who want to live in an RV for a year. We chat some more, wish each other a good trip and leave.
We drive over a National route to the north. Not really fun but we have to cover a great distance. There are many checks points on the way and groups of police officers are everywhere. Even on parking lots cars are checked but we are clearly not a target because nobody wants to enter our RV. In Vouvray we find a nice spot in the center. Unfortunately the weather is not great because otherwise we could sit outside in the park. Just like always, we walk into town, which consists largely of wineries. That make sense when you stay at the river Loire. Although there is a designated place for 3 RV’s, in the evening the parking lot is occupied by 8 RV ‘s. A sign says only 3 RV’s are allowed for the night but nobody cares.
Friday morning it is only 59 degrees, there are still some clouds but every now and then the sun also tries to show a ray. We drive further north over the “Le Mans” street circuit and arrive in Honfleur at 3 pm. The last part of the road is a toll road. All roads around Honfleur are limited to 3.5 tonnes and our RV is considerably heavier. Although it is real busy in summer, there are also many RV’s parked now, but we find a beautiful spot next to the water. Fortunately there is no rain so we can walk around.
Despite the fact that we have been here several times, still a few geocaches are hidden and we want to find them. The rest of the afternoon we walk along the water with its large river boats and through the narrow steep streets of Honfleur. We don’t eat on the many terraces along the old harbor, but in the evening have a kebab dish in the RV. It taste excellent and we look at the fast falling darkness. After a good night’s rest, we get up on Saturday September 28th at 8 am. Have breakfast, dump and refill water and drive further north. The weather forecast is not really good so we go to Boulogne sur Mer, 156 miles to the north. When we arrive, the wind has increased in strength and instead of standing on the cliffs, outside the city, we park our RV behind the casino in the center of Boulogne.
A nice place, to get into the center we only have to cross the bridge. We do not walk for a long time because after some sun the wind quickly brings black clouds and we have to hide at one of the many terraces otherwise we will get soaked. We don’t really want to take a gamble at the casino, so when we return to the RV we read books and have a good macaroni dish. Although this place is ideal for exploring Boulogne, the casino is located between two bridges and busy roads and it is very restless during the night. I regularly wake up while Dick sleeps like a block of concrete. Cars with blue flashing lights drive over and over the parking lot and certainly when a platoon of officers walk around behind our RV, I am wide awake. Eventually I fall asleep to wake up from an alarm of a parked car because I don’t see any movement at the casino. The alarm lasts an incredibly long time, stops for a while and start again. In spite of this alarm finally we fall asleep and wake up at 8.30 am. The weather has code yellow, it’s very turbulent on the coast, so after breakfast we decide to drive back home. Despite the strong winds there is no rain but at the Dutch border we have to deal with heavy showers. Not nice because when we arrive at home in this pouring rain we have to unload. We only take the most important gear, the rest will come later when we have to unload everything and clean the RV. Next weekend we will hand over this RV at the dealer.