Our first day on Spain’s south coast wasn’t quite as relaxing as I hoped. We spent the afternoon sheltering in the Hymer from torrential rain. Two scruffy guys in their early twenties shared a suspicious looking cigarette leaning against the car park’s graffiti covered wall. We spent the night with pillows over our heads as rain drumming on the roof competed with noise from three lanes of continuous traffic passing twenty feet from our bedroom wall.
At 6am we woke to shouts and the clang of steel against concrete. The car park was a hive of activity. Half erected market stalls stretched as far as the eye could see, with a solitary motorhome, us, stranded in the middle.
We drove further into the Pyrenees towards the spa town of Vernet Les Bains. Before we left our Esperaza aire we checked Google Street view to make sure that the roads were navigable, but we didn’t check any of the turns onto them.
We needed to turn off a narrow main road in Estegal village onto an even narrower street between two stone buildings. The Hymer simply wouldn’t fit. Much to the joy of the lengthening queue of cars behind us, we dallied a while until we realised that the only way we could negotiate the corner would necessitate scraping the length of the Hymer along an overhanging stone window sill.
At the end of my last blog post I wrote about our latest electrical problem. We appeared to have a loose battery terminal or some faulty wiring. I managed to start the engine by fiddling around with the battery leads for a minute or two and hoped that I wouldn’t have to turn the engine off again before we reached our destination
We left our aire in Durfort for a forty minute drive south through heavy showers to a municipal campsite on the outskirts of Castelnaudary. We stopped briefly at a filling station to replenish our depleted generator petrol supply. We’re using the generator far more now that we are driving less and can’t rely on the alternator charging our battery bank. The generator is far more fuel efficient for battery charging, so €15 to fill our 20 litre jerry can was money well spent.
My dear Paul is BIG on practicality and I can’t agree more that this way of looking at life has its merits. On the other hand, to balance it out, I adamantly believe one must incorporate a good sense of folly in one’s life on a regular basis. This is the stuff dreams are made of!
A dear friend of mine once told me a couple of years ago that I am probably the only person he knows that really does make their dreams come true–and I have to agree. For without my dreams, I would not be where I currently am doing the things I am doing.
At the end of my last post, I mentioned the market at Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val and Cynthia’s excitement at the prospect of visiting another authentic, bustling French market. She visited several in Provence during her week long stay earlier in the year. She expected the market in this small mid Pyrenees town to be just as vibrant.
Because I am the embodiment of kindness and consideration, and because I have an all encompassing knowledge of French markets, having seen one once on a 1980’s television travel guide, I warned her not to expect too much. As we walked towards the town square through narrow cobbled streets, I demonstrated my intelligence and perception by pointing out clues that Cynthia probably hadn’t noticed; not a sound marred the early Sunday silence other than the gentle peals of a distant church bell, the streets were empty apart from an occasional dog walker and a solitary lost and perplexed tourist and, tellingly, the town’s main car park, all twenty narrow spaces, was mostly empty.
Shortly after we tore ourselves away from the tranquil and beautiful paradise of St. Antonin Noble Val, we realised that neither one of us was too excited about the day ahead. Going to a fairly large city (Toulouse) was not exactly what we wanted to do, but we found it a necessity. We were in need of LPG gas straight away, as well as making a stop at an organic food store, which we had found online, and a pet food store.
Our first stop was for the LPG. As soon as we spotted the LPG dispensing station we knew we had some careful manoeuvring to do—there was a van parked by it that we would be blocking. We proceeded to hook the nozzle up to our connection when the van owner appeared. My first thought was oh-oh, he’s going to want us to move so he could get out. But, no, he wasn’t a bit put off, he said to take our time. Well, a few minutes later we were still having difficulty with the connection. So the van man went inside and came back escorted by the owner of the Total station himself! He couldn’t have been nicer, showing Paul how to connect the pistol to the nozzle. He went back inside and then Paul found he couldn’t get any more gas to come out.
Markets, outdoor markets. The French are famous for them and my first introduction to these marvellous places was this past summer when I was in Provence. I was lucky enough to visit several markets–some quite small, and one, in Bedouin, very extensive.
Paul and I made the decision to stay in St. Antonin Noble Val until Sunday morning so that we could incorporate the market experience for the first time together.
It was a bit of a dreary, cold morning, so we bundled up, grabbed our shopping bag and headed out at 9:00AM. I knew it was important to get there early, and besides, I knew Paul had a lot of work to accomplish later in the morning. Not to mention we wanted to miss the rain that was forecast for later in the morning.
I’m sitting on our Hymer’s fixed double bed with my MacBook resting on my Lavolta folding bed table straddling my legs. Cold autumn rain is drumming on the thin plastic roof three feet above my head. I can see an open meadow through my bedroom window dipping down to the gently flowing water of the L’Aveyron. A granite cliff cloaked in pine towers high above me.
We’re parked at a free aire in the delightful medieval town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val forty miles northeast of Toulouse on day four of a five day rest stop in the south of France. Slowing down to a pace appropriate for leisurely exploration has taken me a while, but I’m slowly getting there. Cynthia tells me that I’m much more relaxed now, and less likely to blow a fuse at a moment’s notice. I certainly feel much calmer than I did ten days ago when I had to make an overnight trip from Calais to Folkestone to sort out yet another of what felt like an endless row of hurdles ahead of us.
…….until you’re Dead”–has been one of my themes of life for a long time, and it is So True! It often goes along with “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” And in this most recent case both applied.
On Wednesday 26 October we were on our way from the Netherlands to Calais France where I was booked in to stay at another Airbnb. Paul had to return briefly to the UK in order to obtain our much-needed travel insurance. As I couldn’t keep the dogs with me, we had them checked at the vets on Monday 24 October to see that all would be in order for the crossing for both of the girls. Tasha already had her passport, and Florence was just getting hers for the first time. We left the vets happy and secure in the knowledge that all was in order–NOT!!
At the end of my last post I mentioned that we had one more immediate hurdle to overcome before we could relax into our new lifestyle. We now have to overcome an additional hurdle as a result of bureaucratic ineptitude, but I’ll come to the second problem shortly.
I knew that we would need some distraction free time to resolve our problem so we booked ourselves into a very comfortable camp site on the outskirts of one of our favourite towns in the Netherlands, Dokkum. Our campsite stay also allowed us to replenish our water supply and empty our grey water and black water tanks.