To Gibraltar and back home

Part 2:
Continuation of our journey to our destination, the Rock of Gibraltar and then slowly towards north

The weather is lovely again when we get up at 7.30 am on Monday morning November 15th and although the temperature is only 52 degrees Fahrenheit it is getting warmer soon. After paying for the parking, we dump the last black water and leave this wonderful place. The road takes us straight through the mountains and it requires a lot of climbing from our Frankia. But finally, after endless descents we leave the mountains behind and drive through cotton fields.

Unfortunately, the harvest has already taken place, but you can still see tufts of cotton everywhere. After crossing the port city of Algeciras, we arrive in “la Linea de Conception” a town on the border with Gibraltar. Here is a nice parking lot along the harbor. There are quite a few motorhomes, but we still find a nice spot and after a cup of coffee we walk to the border, which is only 750 yards away. We flutter with our passports, but nobody actually looks at them and soon we walk on British territory.

Over the runway to Gibraltar

Now we have to wait a while before we can continue walking. A plane is about to land and then (of course) you can’t cross the runway, but as soon as the plane is at the gate, we can cross the airport. Fortunately for us the traffic, like the rest of Europe, drives on the right side of the road. Only for the British, who of course are not used to this, is at every crossing point indicated which way they should look. Slowly we walk closer and closer to the center. However, after walking around for a few hours, we can’t resist a Mac and so before we enter the center of Gibraltar, we first have a burger.
The small center actually consists of a large walking area along various shop. Of course, they are all open. The final point of our walk today takes us to the funicular where one gondola after another disappears high up the mountain. We feel on our legs that we walked quite a bit, so we decide to go back slowly, again past endless shops. When a yellow T-shirt fits well, I want it and have to pay in pounds. Luckily, we live in a credit card era because we don’t have British pounds.


The Gibraltar Airport from above

On our way back we overlook the airfield from a higher point and again have to wait some time before we may cross the runway. All those planes and then bystanders tell us that now in Corona time, it is very quiet with planes. After holding up our passports again walking in a huge queue of commuters, we arrive safely back at the Frankia at the end of the afternoon. We are a bit worn out after almost 9 miles of walking and we plop down on the couch. I only get up to take a picture of the sunset. The rest of the evening we read books.

Unfortunately, there are considerably more clouds on Tuesday November 16th and only a little bit of blue sky can be seen, but nevertheless we unload our bikes today to see if we can cycle up the Rock. Yesterday we were approached by dozens of people with the question if we didn’t want to make a tour over the rock by tourist bus, but it seems more pleasant to us to do it on our bikes.
Geocaches are hidden in various places in Gibraltar, so they will give us a guideline which way to take. First of all, the geocaches take us to the southeastern tip of the Rock where a lighthouse is situated from where we have a view of the African continent. What is that continent close by from here. For a long time, we stay here looking over the Strait of Gibraltar, but then we really start the steep climb up to the top.
Half way on the rock we are stopped by barriers. Only after buying a pass can, we continue. The upper part of the rock is a natural reserve and can only be visited when you pay for a fee. Even if you are walking or cycling. While we climb higher and higher, in turbo mode because the road goes up so steeply, we are often passed by the small buses full of tourists. I wonder how busy it is here during high season. Of course, we stop at St. Michaels Cave. This cave was long thought to be bottomless, which probably gave rise to the story that the Rock of Gibraltar was connected to the continent of Africa by an underground passageway under the Strait of Gibraltar. It was also said that the famous monkeys, who roam everywhere, study the tourists and from time to time show their spine-chilling teeth, have come here through this underground passage.

Angels projected on the walls

The cave regularly has a colored light show and is very touristy, but Dick knows how to capture the angel in a picture. It can be seen on the stalactites at a certain moment. After leaving the cave we drink a cappuccino with a delicious pastry and then we continue our cycling trip.
We climb to the highest accessible peak, O’Hara’s battery, at an altitude of 1381 feet, from where we again have a huge view of the sea around us. The continent of Africa is now hidden from our view by a thick band of clouds, but standing here, so high on the rock of Gibraltar, is beautiful. Unfortunately, we have to descend quite a bit from here. Not pleasant at all, especially since the road gives you the feeling that if you make a steering error, you immediately plunge into a dizzying depth. So slowly, demanding everything from our brakes, we descend and then we climb again because, of course, we also want to visit the tunnels carved into the mountain on the other side of the rock. Meanwhile, the tourist flow is a bit less and so we can easily climb through the tunnels to the end point which is on the other side of the mountain. These tunnels were dug out from the solid limestone in the late 18th century. It is really special to walk here.

View on Gibraltar

When we are outside, we watch a landing plane again. From this high point we have a good view on the airport. But then, it is already the end of the afternoon, we descend to the center, do some last shopping in an English food store (and leave with Spanish products) and then cycle through customs back to the Frankia. What a wonderful trip we had. I would like to make this climb again, but then with a steel blue sky when you have an even better view of the surroundings. Because it was quite cloudy today, the temperature did not rise above 59 degrees, but now, that dusk is almost falling, a cool wind is blowing so we are happy to be back home.

Since we cannot leave Gibraltar before we have had the English Fish and Chips, we decide to stay one more day on Wednesday. During the morning we will clean our clothes and bed linen and after that, in the afternoon, we again can have a look at the shops and have fish and chips in town. Unfortunately, the only washing machine is still occupied when we arrive with our laundry bags, so there is nothing left for us but to wait for the machine to be released. However, the English couple who occupy the machine do not have enough change to dry their clothes as well. At some point I can slip through it (the English are on the hunt for change), but then I have to give up my place in the drying row again so they can dry their laundry. And that again takes much longer because one drying cycle is not enough (you need two drying cycles with these poorly drying machines) and again they need change and have to scour the neighborhood again. To get change they have to buy something because nobody wants to exchange bills for change. But finally, our laundry dried too and at 3 pm we walk to Gibraltar. Again, we walk through the only land gate in the Casemates into the city center. There is more sun than yesterday, although there are still quite a few clouds, but the temperature has remained the same and does not rise above 61 degrees.

Fish and Chips in Gibraltar

After walking through the entire shopping street again and looking at some nice shops, we find a free table at the end of the afternoon in the oldest pub in Gibraltar where we eat real British Fish and Chips. It tastes good but I think the version we eat in St Malo is much better. In the evening it starts to storm. So severe that watching TV becomes impossible (the signal is disturbed too much) and we even have to close the roof hatches because the wind is trying to get under them. We don’t sleep very peacefully and the Frankia feels like a bobbing ship.

This storm continues on Thursday, November 18th, the thermometer still shows 60 degrees and it is dry. Unfortunately, the road we want to take is closed so we are being redirected through very narrow roads past refineries. On one of these roads, we are stopped by a group of strikers. They refuse to continue working until a pay rise is promised. Why they make such protests on such a narrow back road, where no one else sees them, is a mystery to me, but luckily, we are allowed to continue our ride after fifteen minutes (waved goodbye by the strikers who, in faltering Spanish, we wished good luck).
Driving on is a very laborious process because the road is actually too narrow for both oncoming traffic and our motorhome, so we just have to be patient until all oncoming traffic has passed, which sometimes just goes well. I’m quite happy when after a while we reach a normal road again and we follow that road to the city of Cádiz. Here too we have to maneuver through some very narrow streets, before we finally arrive at the large paid parking space on the edge of the city in the harbor area. Despite the many cars parked here, there is enough space in the back to park our motorhome and we walk into the town of Cádiz. The sun is shining again and the clouds have almost disappeared but the wind remains. So, despite the fact that the thermometer now shows 66 degrees, it feels cooler and a body warmer is very pleasant to wear.

Boulevard in Cadiz

Cadiz is a beautiful town with a beautiful boulevard, ancient trees that are colossal in size and an old cathedral. Apparently, we take the wrong entrance because after wandering through this cathedral and visiting the enormous crypt underneath, which is still used as the final resting place, we find out that the entrance to this cathedral costs 11 euros a person. I would never have paid this amount to enter a church, so we’re lucky. We now walk around for a couple of hours and when we see the Spaniards eating delicious tapas on a terrace, we sit down at an empty table and after asking our neighbors what the various dishes are called, we also order some tapas. They taste really good and I now understand that these snacks are so popular during the day. Especially if you drink something with it.

A special tree in Cadiz

Just before the sun sets, we walk along the boulevard, look for a cache in one of the huge, ancient and irregularly shaped trees and when it gets dark, we arrive back at the Frankia. Tired but satisfied and because we have eaten so many tapas at 4 pm, we don’t have to eat anymore. Once again, after darkness has fallen, the storm rises and again it feels like we are on a boat, the Frankia moves back and forth.

Friday, November 19th the sky is steel blue again and the sun is shining. There is still a strong wind blowing, but the temperature is around 65 degrees. We pay at the security and have to pay double the rate because we are “Too Big” and then we leave Cádiz over a very high and 1,5 miles long bridge where the Frankia has a hard time because of the strong wind gusts. Soon we are on a large 4-lane road and 2 hours later we arrive in Sevilla. We find a spot on a guarded property of a car dealer. From here it is easy to walk to the center. We won’t get that far this afternoon. Our goal is now the Plaza de España, where we arrive after a walk through endless parks. This square with a diameter of 650 feet, is overwhelming and is bordered by several palatial buildings with two high towers on the flanks. At the foot of the buildings are 52 benches with mosaic tiles, depicting all 52 Spanish provinces. You can even row a boat through the canals. A beautiful and overwhelming place. It was designed for the Ibero- American Exhibition of 1929. I have never seen such a beautiful square and we are not getting tired of it. Yet at some point we have to go back and just before dusk we are back at the Frankia. Luckily the wind has died down, our motorhome is stable again and we can watch TV.

Unfortunately, it’s cloudy on Saturday November 20th and even now and then there are a few drops of rain. After the storm of the past few days the Frankia is completely covered with sand, Dick first cleans all the windows and then (it is now 11 am) we walk to the old center of Sevilla. The walking distance is not too bad and we soon wander through the narrow streets of the old town. Everywhere we find nice squares with orange trees. Around the Cathedral are market stalls selling nativity scenes and figures to decorated for Christmas. It’s special because we’ve never seen anything like it. Despite the high entrance fee of 11 euros pp, there are also huge queues waiting to enter the cathedral.

Tapas restaurant in Sevilla

But we walk on until we see a bar in one of the narrow streets where they sell freshly squeezed orange juice. We love that drink and soon we are inside, sitting at a table. It is special here because the walls are covered all over with pictures of saints and processions. We soon enjoy not only the fresh orange juice, but also various small snacks. The spinach-cheese tapas and the croquettes in particular are very tasty. Just before the big crowds arrive, we leave this bar again and continue walking. Unfortunately, all shops are closed again, even the Christmas stalls and so we can no longer sniff around, but we discover a Starbucks and as the temperature has now risen to 63 degrees, we take a seat outside with a Starbucks cappuccino and frappuccino. These tastes good. Completely strengthened by all that food and drink we walk back at our leisure.

Plaza de Espagne in Sevilla

Again, we pass the Plaza de España where we climb the stairs of the impressive buildings and now, we can have a look at this beautiful square from above. Despite the much lesser weather today, it is still beautiful here. From afar sounds an ominous thunder. So, after a few more pictures (again) of the mosaic benches we walk back. Unfortunately, when we still have half an hour to go, we are attacked by a heavy and prolonged downpour. It’s unbelievable that our rain jackets are holding back this deluge. Unfortunately, we don’t have our rain pants with us and so everything gets soaked below our waist. Not only because of the rain falling from above, but also because of the cars, when we cross the bridge, racing past us through at least 6 inches deep water and spray us completely. So, it doesn’t matter anymore when we also have to wade through a long 8 inches deep river just in front of our parking. So much water has fallen in a short time that the road completely disappeared, it now functions as a riverbed. At home we take off our soaking clothes on the doormat and putting on dry underwear and socks is not a luxury. A huge puddle of water comes out of our shoes. For the time being we cannot wear these soaking wet shoes. While it continues to rain and the incessant flashes of lightning illuminate the sky, we stay warm and dry by the motorhome heating while enjoying a glass of wine. The entire motorhome is filled with soaking wet clothes. But we loved our walk to the center of Sevilla.

Fortunately, the sun shows its best side again on Sunday November 21st and it is 64 degrees early in the morning. Our French butane tank is now really empty and replaced by a Dutch tank with propane. For now, we don’t have to worry about our gas supply. As we could buy a connector in Ronda, we can now also connect a Spanish gas tank. It is quiet on the road and we are getting along well. Unfortunately, the clouds increase in the morning and every now and then a few drops of rain fall again.

Square in Badajoz

In Badajoz we can park on the last spot and after drinking coffee, as usual, we cross the river via an old 15th century bridge and walk to the center of this town. It is not unpleasant here but the center is completely deserted. On Sunday all shops are closed. Although the sun is shining and it is around 68 degrees, we don’t see anyone on the street. On one of the squares, even the terrace is completely deserted. Apparently, there are not enough customers. One store catches my eye because of the mountain boots in the window. I’m in desperate need of new hiking boots. My old Keens are now so worn out that they leave bits of soles everywhere. Tomorrow we will have to look here. Just before we give up, we find a small shop that sells bread, so we can eat tonight. I forget to mention that we also have cauliflower and sausages, so we don’t have to eat dry bread. Slowly we walk back to the Frankia over the old bridge and past the fortifications at the end of the bridge and we are back just before dusk. And the evening meal? It tastes fine after this walk.

Monday, November 22nd, the sun shines again, but there is more wind, which immediately affects the temperature, which does not exceed 59 degrees. We haven’t discovered a bakery nearby, so we have breakfast with Oroweat. The same bread brand we bought in America and it tastes better than our survival bread which always has something spongy. During breakfast we notice that something is wrong with the levelers of our Frankia. The left side collapses a bit, so before we go on a mission, Dick first levels the motorhome. But then we walk to the shoe store. The number of mountain boots appears to be limited and after I have tried on 6 different pairs, all of which are not comfortable, we decide to end my mission. I’ll have to walk a little further on my kicked-out Keens and hope for better times. So, we wander further through the town where geocaches bring us to the foot of a fortress.

Fortress wall in Badajoz

We are now walking high on the hill above town. It’s a good climb and a narrow path takes us under the city wall until we finally discover a gate we can enter and continue our walk over the walls of this fortress. Slightly safer because the path on the outside of the wall became narrower and the abyss next to it became deeper and deeper. It is nice to walk all the way around and we have a beautiful view of the wide area around us. That walking around and clambering does require a lot of energy, so when we finally arrive back in the town, we look for something to eat and drink. But we’re too late, everything is closed now and even the open panederia (sandwich shop) doesn’t want to sell anything. We can take a sandwich and eat it outside, but the temperature has dropped to 46 degrees and we will sit inside. So, we walk back to the motorhome, where we make a cup of soup and sit behind the laptop for the rest of the afternoon to write something again. Our dinner is simple, some leftovers from the previous days, but it tastes good and is sufficient. We sleep well and no longer hear the clock strike 10 pm.

Tuesday November 23th we get up at 8.30 am and after dumping and filling water we leave this pleasant town. Badajoz is located on the Portuguese border and so we soon enter Portugal. It is an hour earlier here so we gain an hour which is not unpleasant. We drive to Portugal because we need cans of soda. That cans are heavily priced in Spain. In Elva’s, the first town across the border, we stop at the supermarket. Not only we may spend the night here, there are also washing machines and dryers on the site, so we will do laundry again. Because we don’t have to wait for anyone, we can immediately fill the available machines and all our clothes are washed and dried before 12.30 pm (Portuguese time). Time for lunch and we walk to the cafeteria of the supermarket to have a delicious lunch. We discovered another RV parking near an old fortress high on the mountain “Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graca”. We want to go there and after lunch we drive there. The road climbs steeply and ends in a large, but steeply sloping, parking lot covered with cobblestones. They are very slippery and our Frankia has no grip. It’s difficult but Dick manages to turn the motorhome on this steep parking lot and we don’t know how fast we have to drive back to the super-mercado. Next time we visit Elvas we will look around here, but then by bike. After all, we would like to visit this largest bastioned fortress in the world, consisting of several triangular bastions. With its star-shaped walls, it is one of the best-preserved city walls in Europe. As soon as the motorhome returned to its old spot, we walk into the town. The sun is shining brightly, but it remains quite cold at 41 degrees. Fortunately, we keep it warm with both a down jacket and a rain jacket over it.

Aquaduct in Elvas

We walk to the large Aqueduct (Aqueducto da Amoreira) which is partly being restored. It has a length of 19 miles, consists of 843 arches and is 102 feet high in some places. While we walk along the endless arches of the aqueduct, we slowly climb up to a fortress located on another hill, “Forte de Santa Luzia”. This fortress is also star-shaped and impressive and from the ramparts we have a beautiful view of the surrounding area, hiding in our jackets. Finally, we are back at the Frankia at 5 pm. I buy some food supplies, we read and later on we watch TV. There will be no cooking tonight. Only a few toasts with cheese is our evening meal, but that makes sense after this afternoon’s extensive lunch.

Wednesday November 24th the sun is shining but there are also some clouds. The temperature does not exceed 41 degrees. At 8.30 am we cross the border with Spain. Now we lose the hour we were given yesterday. We drive slowly to the north through mountainous areas. It is quiet on the road and there is practically no habitation in this Sierra de San Pedro, a wonderful trip. Just before the town of Plasencia in Spain, a huge tornado-like cloud appears in the horizon. This cloud is approaching closer and swallowed all the blue sky when we arrive at the large parking lot on the edge of Plasencia. As soon as the Frankia is parked at the right place, we walk into town.

Cathedrale in Plasencia

It is more climbing because the streets to the center lead up steeply but finally, we are high up the hill and arrive at an aqueduct, yes again but this one is not so impressive. From here we walk around using geocaches to show us the way. They always take us to surprising places. Through the old and narrow streets of this town, to the old Cathedral which looks somewhat dilapidated and, as usual in Spain, is locked. Just before dark we are back at the motorhome and I can’t resist looking around in a Chinese Bazaar, which adjoins the parking lot. I buy a new coffee pot but I don’t know whether it is really a success, because after making coffee once, Dick has to glue the lid.

Fortunately, the influence of the tornado cloud has completely disappeared on Thursday morning because when we get up at 8 am the sun is already shining in a steel blue sky, but it is only 46 degrees. Soon we drive through the mountains again and slowly climb higher and higher. We are now in the Sierra de Gata. It is a beautiful road through the mountains that climbs up and up but eventually descends again to 2300 feet. We drive on a plateau where the Portuguese town of Almeida is located, our destination today. Just before we take the road exit to Almeida, we are back in Portugal, there is some confusion whether or not we are on a toll road. There are signs all over warning foreigners that the toll will be collected automatically, something we experienced in Portugal a few years ago. Then without prior warning, we suddenly found ourselves on a toll road. Very annoying if you don’t have a toll box. We’re hoping that this isn’t the case now.
In Almeida is a nice parking lot on the edge of an old fortress in which the old town is located and we park our Frankia. Almeida is one of the 12 Portuguese Historic Villages and is known for its massive star-shaped defenses. After the Romans, the town knew the Germans and then it was conquered by the Moors who not only built the first castle on the hill here, but also gave it the name Al Meda. In 1190 it was finally recaptured by the Christians. Only after a continuous struggle between Portugal and the Spanish Kingdom of Leon it was finally recaptured by the Portuguese in 1296.

Fortified city Almeida

Because the following centuries did not pass without a struggle with Spain, the Praca Forte was built on this hill. A fortress that surrounds the entire village with 6 bastions that together show an impressive star shape. Unfortunately, I don’t have a drone to photograph this. Of course, as always, we walk through the town using geocaches and clamber over the star-shaped defensive walls. It is impressive here and we enjoy the beautiful view over the surrounding landscape. We’re back at the Frankia at 4 pm.
Then I decide to walk to the post office to check whether or not we were on a toll road. Luckily the post office is open. With the help of Google translate I ask questions about the toll road and immediately get an answer in a never-ending stream of Portuguese. With the help of hands and feet (my Portuguese is not so good) and a picture of our driven route, I am told that we didn’t find ourselves on a toll road and therefore we do not have to do anything. But when we want to go to the town of Bragança tomorrow, we have to drive back to the south to drive up the toll road. At this place is a machine where we can pay with a credit card.
Relieved and with a signed map I walk back through the picturesque town that already won my heart. When I pass a shoe shop I don’t hesitate and walk inside. There is no one there and at my leisure I try on various mountain boots, helped by the shop lady. I end up with a pair of shoes that fit like a glove. Even my arch support can easily be put in and the shoe is still comfortable. I finally have nice sturdy shoes. However, I want to have other, more colored, shoe laces because the brown ones are very colorless. But that’s no problem.

Friday November 26th the sky is steel blue and the sun shines. It is cold and at 8 am the thermometer shows only 36 degrees. Because we are not yet used to the Portuguese times, we got up at 7 am Portuguese time (8 am in Spain). And after breakfast, filling the water tank and dumping gray and black water, we leave Almeida. We decided not to go to Bragança (we will visit there next time when we have a toll booth) and drive to the north, into the mountains.

Parc Natural del Douro

To our surprise we suddenly are in the Parque Natural do Douro and the road through the mountains climbs higher and higher. The deep valleys of the river provide monumental views and I am glad that there are regular viewpoints from which we have a beautiful view of the area. The bands of clouds hanging down in the valleys make the views even more spectacular. It’s nice that we are all alone here so we can make regular stops. The parking spaces are not that big, so if there were many passenger cars, we wouldn’t fit in here. After the high peaks level off, the view is still beautiful.

Miranda do Douro

 

 

Below us the Douro flows slowly and the more rolling hills are now covered with grapevines. What a beautiful area this is. After 4 hours of climbing and descending we arrive in the Portuguese town of Miranda do Douro. It is located high on a cliff along the Douro River and next to the city wall is a place to park, but this road descends steeply, so we don’t know whether this is an ideal place to spend the night. First, let’s explore the town. The actual center within the city walls is not very large. We walk around, look at the ruins of a castle and take pictures of the Mirandeses, the statues of the original inhabitants of this town.
But after walking around for an hour we have seen it and decide to drive on. After crossing some other mountains, significantly less spectacular than this morning’s, we arrive in Alcanices in Spain. It is now almost 3.30 pm because again, we lose our Portuguese hour. After the Frankia is parked between the residential flats, we also walk around through this town. There is a lot of climbing to do because the narrow roads are quite steep. When snow falls here, these are good ski slopes. It’s quite boring here and everything, even the supermercado, is closed. So, after an hour we’ve seen it here and walk back. We work at our administration, cook a simple meal and read in our books.

Saturday November 27th the sun shines again but with 39 degrees it is cold. After breakfast we drive again farther north. Another wonderful trip over winding mountain roads and under a steel blue sky. Unfortunately, a thick band of clouds passes over as we approach Astorga. But the clouds disappear again and blue sky appears. The temperature drops further and with 35 degrees and an icy wind, it is not really pleasant outside.
We park the Frankia in the middle of the town between the apartment buildings, under the smoke of the old cathedral and then walk, wrapped up in our down-jack, into town. The wind is so freezing cold that’s a good opportunity to visit the cathedral and the museum next door. It is beautiful inside, although we have seen more impressive cathedrals. Actually, we find the adjacent Palazzio de Gaudi much more worth it. It’s the episcopal Palace, was finished in 1893 and designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.

Snow at the Plaza Mayor in Astorga

After an hour we slowly walk further through the town until we arrive at the Plaza Major, a large square in the center. It now started snowing and we are so chilled that we only have to look at each other for a moment to decide to enter a bar where we warm up with a cappuccino. On the way back home, we do some shopping. We will not stay overnight in this place, a bare sand plain between the apartment buildings. The wind has free play on the motorhome, increasing in strength and here is no shelter. So, we drive back to the Plaza del Toros where we can stand more in the shelter of the Arena. The falling snowflakes have become thicker, so we quickly attach the insulation blanket in front of the windscreen and stay inside. It is no surprise that no one else stays here with a motorhome.

When we want to fill up with water before departure on Sunday November 28th, that’s difficult. A part of the water hose, attached to the tap, is frozen but with some rubbing Dick succeeds in removing the ice and can fill the water tank. It is 32 degrees Fahrenheit but the sky is blue and the sun is shining so we don’t complain. Because of this weather we choose the road through the mountains to Ponferrada. What we don’t know is, that to get there, we have to cross a high mountain-pass. We climb and climb and climb and more and more we end up in winter because we are surrounded by snow. The mountain pass is at 4100 feet and because Ponferrada is at a lower altitude, we descend almost 2300 feet. The snow around us soon disappears and the sun reappears. Next to an “albergho for pelegrinos” (after all, we are here on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela) we park the Frankia.

Disney like castle in Ponferrada

The weather is lovely, the sun shines and it’s 43 degrees. Because we parked close to the center, we only have to cross the street and then we find ourselves in the narrow old streets that all lead to the imposing Disney-like castle. Unfortunately, we are too late to visit it, in half an hour it will close until 5 pm and so we will have to come back to see it inside. After 3.5 hours of walking around we have seen it here and we decide to drive back to Astorga today.
It turns out to be a good idea because when we park the Frankia in Astorga, again between the apartment buildings, we find out that my niece Inge and her husband Paul also just arrived in Astorga. They found an apartment on Plaza Major (where we had coffee yesterday afternoon) and it is less than a 10-minute walk from the place we’ re parked.

Inge en Paul inside the RV in Astorga

We agree to meet tonight and after sharing our location (how handy an iPhone is) we see them arriving at our motorhome an hour later and we can hug each other. Although we hadn’t counted on meeting each other tonight, the Frankia turns out to contain enough snacks and we don’t have to starve. The wine and the fully functioning heater ensure that we are not cold and we have a very pleasant evening together. It is really special to meet each other in this deserted place in northern Spain. But not so strange because Inge and Paul came to Spain to scatter the ashes of Paul’s father. He died 5 years ago but lost his heart to this area in northern Spain. After his divorce in 1991, he walked several pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella and that route passes Astorga. After a very pleasant evening together, we have so much to tell to each other, we agree to meet again tomorrow. Then we will explore the town of Astorga together.

Once again, we are lucky when we get up on Monday morning because the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the thermometer even shows 43 degrees. When buying bread in town I enjoy the Gaudi palace and the cathedral. Both of them now stand out beautifully above the city walls against the bright blue sky. After breakfast we discuss how we will continue our travels from tomorrow. We made a route, but it is now somewhat outdated and we have quite a few days left. So, we search for other destinations on our way to the north. After we have found a possible new route, we walk to the apartment of Inge and Paul.
It is beautiful situated, very large and has a great view of the Plaza Major. Unfortunately, the Christmas lights are not yet working on the square. After a nice chat with a cup of coffee we walk together through this pleasant town. Hannah and Henk recommended Astorga to us. We have not seen much yet and it is fun to wander together through the narrow streets, along the city walls, across squares and past old buildings, including of course the Cathedral and the Palazzio de Gaudi. Unfortunately, the clouds increase in the afternoon, but there is no rain and the sun shines regularly.

Cruz de Ferro along the Camino Frances

At 4 pm we are back at the apartment and then we decide to drive to the Cruz de Ferro. It is not really far away because half an hour later we are already on top of the mountain. This cross stands high in the mountains next to a beautiful chapel. The pilgrims pass here when walking the Camino Frances (the most popular pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela). At the foot of this high-placed cross, a hill has been created because it is tradition that pilgrims, standing with their backs to the cross, throw down their stone brought from home. Leaving this stone makes you free from worries and problems, so you can continue the pelgrimage. Although the sky is clouded and piles of snow are everywhere, the place is magical.
Especially when Paul walks up to this iron cross with his father’s ashes. All pilgrims pass by this place and so did Paul’s father, who loved it here.  I get that feeling because here, at almost 5000 feet altitude, with no noise at all and in the middle of the snow and clouds you feel peaceful and happy. My parents would have loved this place too. I have to facetime Hannah and make her part of this moment. After all, she and Henk passed this place a month ago on their bicycle pilgrimage to Santiago. I am very happy that Inge suggested to visit this place and I already know that I will return once more to throw that stone from our homeland. I also hope that one day I will have the opportunity to make this pilgrimage walk.
Unfortunately, we cannot light a candle in the chapel, it is locked, but luckily there is a peephole and we can still take a look at the inside. After many more pictures, walking around and talking together in this special place, we walk back through the snow to the car and descend the mountain again. Each with his own thoughts but full of gratitude that we were allowed to look around here. The way back is not so fast. Again and again, Paul has to stop the car on the shoulder of the road.

Albergue el Pilar, special for pilgrims

Both Inge and me are fond of photography and each time one of us sees a special spot along this pilgrim route high in the mountains that we want to capture with our camera’s. Just as the sun disappears behind the horizon, we arrive back in Astorga where Paul parks the car in his tight parking space in the garage and we walk back to their apartment.
What a fantastic day we had with the four of us and I am so grateful that we were able to experience the magic of the nightfall high on a mountain top in the snow. We talk again for a very long time.

Perfect meal prepared by Inge and Paul

Eat an excellent meal that Paul and Inge prepare us. It’s really great when you rent an apartment that is equipped with everything. Late at night, well I mean at 10 pm, we say goodbye to each other. We will continue our trip to the northeast while Inge and Paul travel to the west. Thanks to the family app, we keep in touch for the rest of their trip and can also follow the scattering of Paul’s father’s ashes. It takes place at the end of the world, on the westernmost cliffs above the ocean, in a strong storm. It’s special and impressive and I now know that if I die, I would like to be scattered in that way too.

Tuesday November 30th, we get up at 8 am and after dumping our gray and black water at the other parking space behind the Plaza del Torros, we also try to fill up with clean water. The latter takes some effort because the tap is frozen, but after a lot of rubbing Dick finally manages to get water out and we leave. The weather is beautiful and the white snow-capped mountains in the distance, where we drove yesterday, stand out against the blue sky. As we head north, we change our plans. We drive to Palencia. I have discovered that the parking here has washing machines and actually is doing laundry a good idea. Unfortunately, when we arrive in Palencia, we find out that the washing machines are out of use because of Corona. So, we clean our Frankia, that’s possible too, and when it looks reasonably clean again, we load our clothes and bed linen on our bikes and drive to the center of Palencia to do laundry at a Lavandera. First, we try to drive there with the Frankia, but there is no parking space in the furthest distance. As we are the only ones in the laundromat we can fill as much machines as we need and after everything is dried, we fold our clothes and bedlinen and cycle back to the parking where it is still dead quiet and I can make our bed with fresh bedding. The whole motorhome now smells of oranges (very appropriate in this country of oranges). The fabric softener clearly had an odor.

On Wednesday December 1st, the blue sky has unfortunately disappeared and the gray sky feels a bit dull. Soon we are on our way to Burgos where we can park next to a large shopping center. We walk around in the suburbs of the town, but when it starts drizzling after 2 hours, we decide to drive on to Vitoria. It is the capital of the Basque Country and is therefore also called Gasteiz. We can park the Frankia in a huge parking lot near a large supermarket and then we walk to the store to finally do some shopping again. Tomorrow we will stay here for another day and then we will explore the area. Now we stay in the neighborhood and when in the late afternoon, it starts to drizzle, we drink a glass of wine and it is time to do our administration again. Thursday December 2nd we finally have breakfast again with fresh bread. That tastes so good, also because Dick cooks an egg.

Statue in Vitoria-Gazteig

Because it is raining lightly, we don’t go out immediately, but first work on the laptop for a while. But soon the weather clears up, the rain stops and we walk to the center of Vitoria. Although we don’t keep it really dry, the precipitation is insignificant and so we just keep walking. Of course, we hang around on the large square in the center and admire the beautiful monument, but then we walk to a bar to warm ourselves. Outside it is only 41 degrees and therefore not really warm. The tapas we order are not special. We have had much better ones before, but we are hungry and then everything tastes good. After an hour we continue our walk. Now with a full stomach and so it feels warmer outside. Our break has done well to the sky. Some clouds disappeared and blue skies appear here and there. So, we walk a little further under beautiful arcades. When we pass a bakery that sells freshly squeezed orange juice (for me) and cappuccino (for Dick) and we can sit inside, we stop again, have a drink and of course eat a pastry. After this stop we walk back to the Frankia. We are not really hungry in the evening because of the tapas and the pastries, so we have our evening meal with some baguette and cheese. Just before dawn the sun starts to shine, the parking space is completely full and the temperature drops to freezing point, so naturally we attach our insulation blanket in front of the windscreen.

Friday December 3rd, we don’t get up until 8.30 am and have breakfast again with a fresh baguette. How wonderful it is when there is a shop next to a parking lot. Then we dump our gray and black water, fill clean water of course and leave. At first the road still leads to the east, but soon we drive north on steep narrow roads with many tunnels and higher and higher we climb into the mountains. Fortunately, the road is clean. That must have been different when you see the packs of snow on the side of the road. It is a pity that the cloud base hangs so low because the view of the surroundings must be beautiful. After a long climb we finally start the descent to San Sebastian.

The temperature is rising again. Just before we enter France we can fill up with very cheap diesel. It’s a pity that our spare jerry can is still full with Andorra diesel and then we are stopped at the border by the French Police. Although I have our passports and vaccination papers at hand, they are not interested in that. They only want to check inside to make sure we haven’t hidden any refugees (which of course we haven’t) and so we can quickly continue our way.
We are now driving along the coast, straight through the French coastal towns in the south. The small streets reduce our average speed to 13 miles per hour. In Bayonne we bend inland and stop in La Bastide Clairence. Unfortunately, the weather is gray and the clouds are still hanging low, but when we arrive at the parking space on the edge of this picturesque town, it is dry.

Lavoir in La Bastide Clairence

This town, founded in 1288, is small but beautiful with its red and white houses, a building style that is typical of the French Basque Country, and we slowly walk through it. I am delighted with the lavoir (washing area) next to the river. This place has been used until the last century and I understand. It is right on the river and a great place to do your laundry.
Unfortunately, everything in town is closed, even the restaurants, but early December is probably not the best time to visit such a village. So, after looking around we decide, two hours later, to drive on to Bardos, a slightly larger town which is 6 miles to the north.
When we arrive there, it unfortunately starts to drizzle but it doesn’t stop us from walking around here as well. We pass a shop where propane tanks are for sale and soon our empty French butane tank is brought out and we are negotiating with the shopkeeper about exchanging this butane tank for a propane tank.
We noticed the disadvantages of butane gas in winter and now we only want to have propane in our tanks. Except for their color (propane tanks are green or gold) the tanks look the same but it turns out that it is not possible to exchange them, so we conclude a new contract, this time for a propane tank, and a little later we walk back to the Frankia with between us the heavy propane tank.
There Dick connects this tank and I walk back to the store with our old butane contract. After all, the shopkeeper said that the deposit for the old tank will be returned. Unfortunately, that old contract causes confusion because the deposit of 15 euros is not in proportion to the deposit of 9 euros that is levied in this mountain village. Finally, after at least 20 minutes of talking, I don’t get a deposit (I have to request it back from the manufacturer myself). I leave the empty tank and a store with a line of people, reproachfully looking at me because I caused this traffic jam. It has now become dark and it started to rain gently, but in each of the towns we walked 2 miles. We attach our insulation blanket again in front of the window and have a nice meal in the Frankia.

Saturday December 4th it is still gray outside and there is some drizzle. We are back in the country with a bakery on every street corner so we have breakfast with fresh baguettes and after dumping and filling up with water, we drive to Cadillac, just south of Bordeaux. Although we can use our toilet cassette for three days and also have a spare cassette, we try to empty it when the possibility of dumping is available and the same with fresh water. This is not available in every parking and sometimes, when driving in the winter, water is shut off. Of course, in this region around Bordeaux the road leads through endless vineyards. When we arrive at the parking on the edge of the town of Cadillac, we are not very impressed by the place. Maybe because it’s also raining so the weather is not cooperating and even though this town must be worth a visit, we decide to drive on to Creon, only 13 miles away.

Square with arcades in Creon

The parking here is not big, only 5 spots, but considerably more pleasant than in Cadillac and we even have electricity. The sun slowly emerges and so, after a nice cup of coffee (we need that because it is now 2 pm) we walk into the town. Fortunately, we have put our rain jacket on because when we arrive in the city center it starts to rain. We take shelter under the arcades, but after a while we can walk around past the Christmas stalls, set up everywhere. Mainly wine and pate are sold here. The town is small and outside the pleasantly busy arcade square there is little to see, so after two hours we are back where, once again, we focus on our administration.

Maroccan food diner in the RV

At 7 pm I walk back to town where next to the square is a Moroccan restaurant where I order food. I have to wait a long time for our meal, but after half an hour I get a huge bag of food. At home Dick unpacks the bag and we can enjoy a more than delicious meal. Everything tastes so refined. Another address to return to. During the evening and night at this parking next to the former train-station it is dead quiet.

Sunday, December 5th, again the sky is gray, but it is dry and despite the fact that the thermometer shows only 43 degrees, it does not feel cold because there is little wind. While Dick helps our neighbor to load his car on the trailer behind the Motorhome (that also exist in Europe) I walk to the bakery. All the bread there looks blackened, so I walk on to the other bakery on the Arcade square where the bread has a golden-brown color.
After a delicious breakfast with a fresh egg, we leave. The narrow backroads lead us through endless vineyards that look a bit desolate at this time of the year without any leaves. When we pass a supermarket on the way, we stop to do some shopping. All the wine brands we passed this morning are for sale in this shop. Just before the store closes at 12.30 pm we pay for our groceries and continue our way. Meanwhile the sun shines and the clouds completely disappeared.

Laundry in Rochefort

In Rochefort we stop at the car park near the marina. It is dead quiet here so we can park on the edge. It’s my favorite place because when it gets busy you always have an unobstructed view on one side and that’s not unimportant if others are parked close by. Then we walk to the harbor in search of a laverie (laundromat). Because the Marina is next door, less than 350 feet from the parking is a laundromat. Our laundry bag is quite full so we walk over to it and a little later the washing machines are running at full speed. The rest of the afternoon we are busy with our laundry, but at 5 pm everything can be stored clean and dry in the lockers and we cover our bed with fresh linen. Because I also want to look for the nearby geocache, I walk to the train-station of Rochefort. Unfortunately, the cache is nowhere to be found and I return home with shoes that are completely covered with dog poop. Bah, bah, bah. But as Dick says, it’s my own fault because I cut off the road and walked across a piece of grassland. I spend more than 20 minutes outside scraping my shoes.

Monday December 6th the sky is still blue and the sun is shining.
After breakfast we drive further north on narrow roads. We park the Frankia in Les Sorinieres, a town near Nantes. This place is actually too small and when it starts to drizzle, we decide to drive on. A second parking spot, 19 miles further west, on the side of a large super market, is not a success either because of the heavy noise of an air treatment unit, so we drive on again and finally at 2 pm we arrive in the town of Pont-Chateau. Here at the foot of a quarry is a large plain where we park the Frankia and then we walk to the center. It is not an unpleasant town and we enjoy our walk. At the end of the afternoon, we are back home. Then I can’t resist looking for a geocache hidden somewhere near the entrance of the quarry on the hill. But where is the access? I walk around, climb the hill and everywhere I get stuck against a high fence.

View on the parking place in Pontchateau

But I have a beautiful view of the surroundings and look at our motorhome from above. Despite the fact that prohibition signs are everywhere, I crawl anyway through a hole in the fence and along narrow overgrown paths I climb steeply to the entrance of the quarry. But when I see the tunnel going down, I dare not enter the quarry now. Not only because I have no flashlight, but the twilight already set in and Dick has no idea where I am at this moment. Next time we’re back here Dick also has to crawl through the hole in the gate and climb to the entrance of the quarry so that when I descend the tunnel, he can keep an eye on me. It is already dark when I climb back the steep path and struggle through the gap in the fence.

After having breakfast on Tuesday morning, we want to dump but have to wait. We need some patience. A Frenchman is extensively polishing his toilet cassette, with a toothbrush, and after a long brushing, the extensive rinsing starts but finally, after waiting 15 minutes, we can dump our gray and black water and fill up the clean water tank. We stop in the town of Pontivy. There is a nice parking on the bank of the river Blavet, where is sufficient space at this time of year. Unfortunately, the weather is not really nice and rain showers alternate with dry periods. When we have a cup of coffee, a dry period appears which we use to cross the bridge and walk around the winding streets of this medieval city. Again and again, we discover other half-timbered houses and medieval facades, it is a lovely town to walk around and that while we don’t even visit the enormous castle of the Breton family Rohan. We will save that for our next visit. Unfortunately, the clouds are getting darker and when a huge downpour breaks again, we walk back and at home we read and write again.  In the evening I pick up Turkish food in town. It tastes, but in Creon we are spoiled with real quality. Here we won’t order food again. Of course, we also attach the insulation blanket in the evening. It cools down to 39 degrees and then extra insulation is not an unnecessary luxury.

The weather doesn’t change much and on Wednesday December 8th, the sky is gray and it drizzles every now and then, but the landscape through which we drive is beautiful. We are on our way to Tregastel, on the Cote de Granit Rose. Unfortunately, the parking at the super market can no longer be used as an overnight place and the other parking is completely empty.
Dark threatening clouds hang over the sea and sometimes some wet snow is falling so we decide to drive further along the coast. After 31 miles we find a beautiful spot to park at the port of Longuivy de la Mer.

Longuivy de la Mer

I’m sure you won’t find a place here in the summer (too busy) but now it’s quiet with only two other motorhomes. Of course, we want to get some fresh air and when the Frankia is levelled, we walk over the beach to an island that is now accessible by the low tide. Despite the icy cold wind, it is great to walk on the beach. Because part of the harbor is now without water, we soon find the first St Jacobs (scallop) shells. Of course, we take some with us. The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela is signposted with such shells, so Hannah and Henk might want to have some as a souvenir of their cycling trip this fall. After walking around for 2 miles we are, despite our layers of clothing, half frozen and we walk back over the stones to the camper. It’s strange that I ‘ll be back dry while Dick who takes another road almost 500 feet further (so he avoids the stony slope in the harbor) ends up in a hailstorm. After we have ordered bread for our breakfast tomorrow morning at the only shop in the village, we stay inside for the rest of the afternoon and cherish us by the warmth inside. When it gets dark, we enjoy a beautiful blue lit Christmas tree. It is dead quiet here at the harbor except for a few moments when, very early in the morning, trucks arrive to collect the cargo of fish and crustaceans that have just been taken out from the sea.

Sunrise in Longuivy de la Mer

After a beautiful sunrise where the sky turns a beautiful red, I walk to the shop to buy bread. The shop should be open from 7 am, but because the only employee also has to supply the schools, I have to wait until I can pick up our baguette and croissants. After being patient for 15 minutes we really can have breakfast and then we leave this lovely place.
91 Miles further we arrive in Saint Malo. We first look for a parking closer to the center but this place is not that attractive so we quickly drive to our trusted parking along the coast. Only 1 motorhome is parked here. It’s cold outside and not really inviting to go out.

Found this geocache

 

Yet the geocache hidden somewhere on the beach beckons. Dick doesn’t want to take a walk so I leave alone and look for a place where to descend to the beach, not far from the hidden geocache. Finally, after a lot of searching, I find this place and descend over steep steps to the beach. The tide is getting low so it is possible to walk between the rocks, although I regularly have to wade through some seawater, but finally I can climb the rock wall. That’s not easy because the rocks are wet and therefore slippery. Yet I manage to climb all the way to the top of the rock and after some searching, I find the geocache. Climbing down is even more difficult but I ‘ll be back safe on the beach and because the tide is even lower and the water has receded further, I can continue my walk over the beach until I can climb back to the boulevard where we are parked. Although we also want to walk together, we don’t go out in the afternoon. It started to rain hard and there are regular hail showers, so staying indoors feels much more pleasant. Towards the evening we again attach our insulation blanket for the windscreen. It hails and rains and the storm continue to rise. So, Dick adds additional attachment points to this blanket to prevent it from being blown away. The motorhome shakes back and forth all evening and night, watching TV is no longer possible and again it feels like we are on a ship.

Friday, December 10th, the storm is raging in full force and regularly there are strong gusts of wind. It is 48 degrees. When I take a look at the coast, I can’t even stand up straight. Today it’s no weather to go to Saint Malo by bike and we decide to leave after breakfast with old Oroweat bread. We drive on highways to Cherbourg in Normandy where we arrive at 2 pm.

Christmas market in Cherbourg

 

There are only 5 motorhomes parked and we have never seen it so quiet here in the parking lot of La Cité de la Mer. After a nice cup of coffee, we walk into the center. It is pleasantly busy; all shops are open and we look around everywhere.
There is a Christmas market on the main square where we naturally want to look around. This is possible if we wear a mask (which is also required everywhere in the city center), our QR code is scanned and my backpack is checked (France has a history of bomb attacks).
On the square we walk past pleasantly decorated stalls where the sale of hot wine, chocolate milk, pâté and crêpes predominate.
We see nice hoodies in the colors of the French flag and I hope Dick likes it too. Unfortunately, he thinks it’s nonsense to buy one so we finally leave the store with only one hoodie. Of course, I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy and that’s while Dick really needs new hoodies. When dusk falls, we tear ourselves away from the many lights in the center and walk back. At 7 pm we walk back again (it’s a good thing that our parking is so close to the center) to have a nice meal at a Thai restaurant that just opened its doors two days ago.

Diner in a new Thai restaurant

It turns out to be a good choice to have dinner here because the food is really excellent. We found another restaurant to return to. Even though we are parked next to the harbor from where the ferry to England and Ireland departs, which sometimes causes some noise, we sleep like roses.

On Saturday December 11th, the wind has died down, it is dry and cloudy but sometimes we also see refraction in the sky and some sunbeams. We will stay another day in Cherbourg. Unfortunately, I can no longer buy bread at my regular bakery, just across the bridge. Repairing their kiln, which broke down in the summer, would cost too much, so the “for sale” sign is now to be seen in the shop window. A pity because now I have to walk further to the large shopping center Eleis to buy fresh bread. But it is a nice walk along the harbor where there is always something to do and the freshly caught fish and crabs are sold on the quays. After our tasty breakfast we walk to the city. This time not to shop, but to look for some geocaches that are hidden nearby. It takes us on a journey of discovery through Cherbourg, we pass imposing old field hospitals, wander through narrow streets and see beautiful courtyard gardens before returning to the Christmas market where it is considerably busier on Saturday afternoon and where, of course, we walk around. At the end of the afternoon, we are back at the Frankia where we read and do something about our overdue administration.
I constantly feel this holiday that we are running out of time, too few hours in a day. In the evening it starts to drizzle a bit, so we put on a rain jacket over our down jacket and walk back to our Thai restaurant. Tonight, it is busier than yesterday but nevertheless a table is available and a second night in a row we enjoy an excellent meal. While Dick takes another dish, I ordered red curry again and it’s even better than yesterday. After a lot of walking around and this delicious food I don’t have to tell you that we sleep like roses before 10 pm.

Unfortunately, we are now in a place and in a season where the sun shines less and also on Sunday December 12th the sky is gray and clouds have the upper hand, although there is some drawing in the sky. After our breakfast (the shops are still closed so today we eat old Oroweat bread) we dump and fill with fresh water. The latter takes a lot of time because the water tap runs very slowly, but finally we are on our way via the highway to Bayeux. We park the motorhome in a residential area next to the center and then walk into the city center. Every now and then we see blue sky and some sunbeams and the thermometer shows 54 degrees. A much more pleasant temperature than at the beginning of December 2019 when we also walked around here. Then an icy wind was blowing and the temperature was far below zero degrees (Celsius).

Coffee and cake at “La Reine Mathilde”

Once again, we walk through this pleasant town, pass old houses that surround the cathedral, walk along a fast-flowing river and enjoy the pleasant shopping streets where, in the month December, all shops are open and everywhere its pleasantly busy. When we pass a bakery with delicious cakes and the eloquent name” La Reine Mathilde” (and Mathilde is my given name) we (I mean I) cannot resist the temptation and soon we drink a cappuccino with, of course, a delicious cake from “la Reine Mathilde”, Yammie.
At three pm we are back at the parking and we decide to drive a little further to the town of Rots. Here, in the large parking lot of a Hyper Cora, motorhomes are allowed to spend the night.
Thanks to the December month this large hypermarket is also open.
Walmart still beats other stores when you consider the range of items, but this hyper market is also very extensive and it is wonderful to stroll around. Unfortunately, the cafeteria is closed so we buy food and prepare our dinner in the motorhome. When the supermarket closes at 7 pm, it becomes dead quiet outside, but also pitch dark because all the lights are turned off.

Monday, December 13th the sky is gray again, but we regularly see some refraction in the sky. There is practically no wind and it is 50 degrees so we don’t complain. Because I would like to buy a new Tefal frying pan with stamps (you get them when buying groceries) we drive to a Super U in Caen. Unfortunately, this supermarket doesn’t have pans, but they do have baguettes, so we have breakfast and then drive on and at noon we arrive in Honfleur.

Honfleur harbor

The fairground cars that are still parked here, leave one by one, so there is soon enough space to park.
After the motorhome is levelled, we paid for the place and the electricity is connected, we walk to the town that continues to charm us. It’s very quiet there. There is no one to see at the picturesque harbor in the center and even most of the restaurants are closed. So, we walk to the beach where no one is to be seen either. The absence of people really stands out. Unfortunately, the supermarket as well as our Turkish restaurant are closed on Mondays, so in the evening we cook ourselves. Very simple because I open a can of sauerkraut and potatoes. However, it tastes fine. Only when we arrived here in Honfleur I found out that we forgot our outdoor mat, we left it in the parking lot in Rots. Too bad because it was a good mat. The time to complete a checklist before departure (did we do everything to make the motorhome travel-worthy, are all the lockers locked and didn’t we forget anything) is fast approaching.

Tuesday December 14th, after breakfast, we drive over the Pont de Normandy to the other side of the Seine. We want to try to find some geocaches here but now from the parking lot along the Pont de Normandy. This summer we took our bikes from Le Havre and did not succeed due to the heavy truck traffic everywhere. And yes, after entering the coordinates in our Hakuna, we find the parking at the foot of the bridge and a little later we cycle to the first cache. Fortunately, there is a separate path for cyclists so we are not bothered by the constantly passing heavy traffic.

Angling a geocache along the road

Unfortunately, the cycle route along the caches hidden high in the trees is not such a success. Of the 16 geocaches, we only find 10 and with these bare trees without leaves, the “not-finding” is not up to us. Disappointed we return after two hours, load the bikes in the motorhome and drive on to Fecamp. In this town, next to the harbor, is a nice parking for motorhomes. We walk into the town. Although the sky is uniformly gray, it is not cold because there is no wind and we can drink a nice coffee outside a bakery.  Because we did not eat or drink since breakfast and we already had some exercise, we also order a pastry.

Cliffs at the background in Fecamp

After half an hour we walk further on along the harbor to the beach. There, in the distance, you can see the white cliffs for which this part of the coast in France is known. After some pictures we turn around and walk back into the town, passing the castle of the Benedictines. It is an imposing building and when we are back, we read that there are guided tours here and that the famous drink Dom Benedictine comes from here, we will return. At 8 pm we walk to a restaurant at the harbor “Le Barbican” where we luckily can get a table. It’s a good thing we arrive so early (for French terms) because all the tables are quickly occupied. No wonder because the dinner is excellent.

Wednesday December 15th, we leave at 9.30 and drive north on the narrow roads along the coast. We regularly catch a glimpse of the coast, but because the sky and the sea are both uniformly gray there is no spectacular view. On the way we fill up with diesel at a supermarket. The price of diesel is $ 6.35  per gallon and cheaper than the surrounding gas stations. Unfortunately, the price just switches when we fill up so we pay in the end $ 6.50 per gallon. That’s just the way it is, but the next day, when we arrive in the Netherlands, this last price is even lower than in our country.

Walking in Boulogne sur Mer

After 125 miles we arrive in Boulogne sur Mer where we park behind the casino. Not really a nice place to stay, also because of the many constructions works, but we stay close to the center and a little later we walk in the main shopping streets. It is quite busy in the center and many people skate on the ice rink on the square. When dusk falls, we are back. In this town is an eatery where we have been regularly, so in the evening I walk to “Istanbul” order kebab dishes and get this food back home. As always it tastes good.

Thursday December 16th, we leave Boulogne with gray skies. Just before the border with Belgium we stop in Lumbers at a super market. Dick wants to exchange the French propane tank, it indicated this morning that it was empty and I love to enter the supermarket here to buy some bottles of Festillant, non-alcoholic champagne. I really like that drink. When the camper is loaded with a full tank of propane and some bottles of Festillant, we continue our trip north. Soon the sky breaks and when we pass the border with Belgium all the clouds disappear and blue sky appears.
It’s great to drive in the sun again after looking at a gray sky for the past week. We have a short delay in Antwerp. Due to road works here is a huge traffic jam, but we arrive in Bergen op Zoom at 2 pm. It’s our favorite last stop for the night. And already quite pleasant with this steel blue sky and sun. It is also a good place to leave the books we have read in little free libraries. End of the afternoon we enjoy a beautiful sunset and a little later Chinese food. A good ending to a nice tour through France and Spain.

Cleaning the RV at home

Friday morning, we first enjoy breakfast with croissants before we drive home. We park behind our home at 11.30 am and after unloading all our stuff we spend a few hours cleaning both the inside and the outside of the Frankia and end of the day we park it clean and shiny. Tomorrow we will bring the motorhome to our dealer Raema in Nederweert. There are still a few things to do.

We drove this trip almost 4536 miles. Because we normally stop around 1 pm, we did not feel like we were driving that much. Obviously, the colder weather affected the way we moved because we only cycled 69 miles but walked 206 miles.

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