Author: 2017onceinalifetime

Atlantic Coast

7th November – 12th November 2017

We decided to head to the coast again, we can’t seem to keep away and we are getting like Chloe the dog, loving a beach. We stayed in a couple of places the first for two nights where we could see the beach from where we were staying and it ran for miles, the very small town of Pedrogao. Now this town had no life in it, what so ever. We took a walk in the evening and not a sole to be seen. Obviously it is a seaside resort, we are in the middle of November and therefore I would expect a lot to be closed but everything ! The next stop was the town of Ericeira and what a difference, we loved it here. Just north of Lisbon and a complete jewel in terms of a traditional seaside Portuguese town. We stayed a 15 minute walk from the centre but next door to us was this great surf shop with a bar, a huge terrace with loungers to watch the sun go down and an old fashioned bath with the side cut out with a couple of seats in. Yoga and Pilates classes, a skateboard track and music in the evening. We did manage to get into our first attempt at exercise, after nearly 8 weeks ! There was a park we passed to go into town that had a selection of fitness machines, a great idea looking out to sea as you are pushing some weights (well me trying!). So we jogged to the park, went on all the machines and then sat in the bar for a coffee ! Oh this is the life. The town had a scattering of traditional shops and the most fantastic food shop that had everyone queuing outside the door on Saturday. I could have bought loads of lovely food (including Heinz Baked Beans !) but lack of space in the Motorhome and having to walk back with a heavy bag of shopping was a no go as far a David was concerned. I did buy some Amoy Sweet Chilli Sauce but still no ground nut oil to be found anywhere. We ate a fantastic traditional lunch, we couldn’t understand the menu and so just said to the waitress we would have what the couple next to us were eating, which turned out to be the dish of the day for €5.00. Wine and coffees and total cost €14.00, eat your heart out Prezzo ! The weather was amazing, a chilly wind but great for the surfers that were braving the waves. Ericeira had a wonderful feel about it, relaxed, great food at even greater prices and surfers with bare chests everywhere.

Douro Valley

2nd November 2017 – 6th November 2017

The reason why we headed west from Salamanca and not travel through Spain to the South was because David had always wanted to drive along the Douro River in Portugal. We needed afew groceries so we stopped very near the border, these places always remind me of the Wild West somehow, an outpost in the middle of nowhere. Well I wish there were more of these outposts because they sold Heinz Baked Beans cheaper than France and a Litre of Absolute vodka for €12.40 ! We loaded up and we were on our way. We drove through the terrible devastation of the forest fires, we had heard about them but to see the landscape barren and black is a very sad sight to witness and must have been horrendous for the local people. We headed to the small town of Lamego as a base for the Douro valley and stayed up in the hills in a lovely site, with piped Portuguese music from 8.30am which wasn’t so nice ! Lamego is a must see if you are anywhere near for the sight of Santuario dos Remedios. A shrine high above the town, which dominates the landscape. Inside it is a calm and tranquil place to visit, David waited outside with Chloe, all churched out ! We walked down the steps to the town, had a mooch round sat and had 2 coffees and 2 cakes all for €3.40, I thought the waitress had made a mistake. Amazing how much things cost when you are not in a tourist area. The climb back up to the top of Santuario dos Remedios all 686 steps took a while, we are so unfit. I though my heart was going to burst out of my chest.

After a good nights sleep and the lovely music to wake us up we headed east along the Douro Valley. It is beautiful sight and with the autumn turn the changing colours of the vines made it even more spectacular. We parked up and had lunch beside the river in the sunshine. I do drive the motorhome but mainly on motorways as the smaller roads freek me out, especially when the roads are only wide enough for one vehicle. In the afternoon we had two near misses with lorries on blind bends, hats off to David for keeping his cool. We started to make our way to a place to stay for the night, right next to the Douro River, our Snooper Sat-Nav, which in theory should know our Motorhome size and weight took us down what I can only describe as farm track through a forest. I was screaming to David, don’t go down here, don’t go down there, but we did. I was gripping the seat, with my eyes shut and prayed. All I was worried about was, were we ever going to get out again. We finally came through it, mud all up the sides of the Motorhome and finally found where we should be staying and parked alongside the Douro River with not a sound to be heard except for the church bells in the distant village. We sat and watched the birds swooping and diving for fish and in the morning we had the company of two cruise boats slowly making their way down the river. It was a beautiful spot to stay but one that will be remembered for the farm track rather than the view.

Burgos & Salamanca, Spain

28th October 2017 – 01 November 2017

First stop on the little history tour of Spain was Burgos. We were only going to spend one night here but we found that Spain is not as dog friendly as France. We had walked into Burgos a mere 3 miles only to find that the cathedral and restaurants do not allow dogs. We therefore sauntered around the city and at last found a restaurant with a covered terrace that would allow dogs. The day was cold and cloudy and the young waitress could see we were a little cold, me in my puffa waistcoat and David still in his shorts ! She put the two gas heaters on full blast and with a bottle of red wine consumed, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon.

The following day we cycled into the city, leaving Chloe to relax in the Motorhome. The Cathedral de Burgos is simply stunning. It has an amazing display of icons, paintings, sculptures and silver objects. It also the place where El Cid sleeps for eternity. What I couldn’t get my head around was how small El Cid was, his iron and wooden coffin was well preserved but tiny. Charlton Heston certainly would not have fitted in there ! We had a history lesson via the free audio guide to enlighten us but to be honest by the 3rd Chapel I couldn’t listen to anymore and David pants has been bored off (he told me to write this). When collecting our bikes to cycle home, we met Mario an 18 year old that is travelling solo to Thailand on his bike, amazing.

We then travelled South West to Salamanca it’s Old City being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. We stayed just over 4 miles from the centre and this was the first time we used Chloe’s Wheels. Basically a dog carrier that David tows behind his bike. She has taken a little time to get use to this mode of transport but she is clever enough to remember that by jumping in and out she gets a treat. Now Salamanca is a great city to visit, the large plaza which has plenty of bars are restaurants to enjoy the different architectural styles. We sat in the morning sun, yes it was back out and enjoyed a cafe con leche . We meandered through the streets and had our first paella which was gorgeous. The old Cathedral is a stunning site externally, although we didn’t go in (no dogs and we didn’t think it would top Burgos !) We returned to our bikes to find Chloe’s wheels had a puncture, nightmare. Anyway, luck was on our side, David kept pumping it up and we made it back along the off road trail. Quite chuffed with ourselves with a 10 miles bike ride. Next stop Portugal.

A Memory to treasure……

25th October 2017 – 27th October 2017

We checked the weather and it was staying sunny and warm and so we delayed heading South, deciding to keep to the coast of Northern Spain as we are just as excited to be on a beach as Chloe the Dog now. David as always found a great site, small but literally a stone’s throw from the beach and we went to bed each night listening to the waves. We thought we would stay one day but ended up staying 3 as the weather was so good and we just chilled out. We have seen afew beaches now but Playa de Loredo, close to Santander is up the top – might do our top 10 beaches when we finish this trip ! It stretches as far as the eye can see and it is another beach great for surfers. Now these surfers are fit, both men and woman and it did cross David and my mind very briefly that maybe we should have a go, but instead of going in the direction of the surfing school we headed for the beach bar !. I could have sat on this beach forever, just watching the waves rolling in, there is something memorising about being by the sea and we were so lucky with the weather, clear blue skies and sunshine.

We walked along the beach to the little village as we needed afew groceries, now I thought the French had a long lunch break but they have nothing on the Spanish. Open at 11am, shut at 2pm open at 6pm and shut at 8pm. I think I might open a shop here !

Each evening we walked along the beach, took the ball and played with Chloe, David tried out the drone. Hoping for some footage sometime soon ! Chloe did lose her pink ball though – disaster. So, we are on a mission to find a new one.

When we arrive somewhere, we never know what to expect but Playa de Loredo is a memory to treasure, top of the list so far….

San Sebastián

22nd October 2017 – 24th October 2017

Wow, what a find this petite city is, it wasn’t on my radar as a city to visit but David had read about it and suggest we go. What a jewel it is. The provincial capital of Spain’s Gipuzkoa region and food to die for. San Sebastián has the highest number of Michelin Star restaurant per square mile in the world. The bars and restaurants are nothing like we have experienced and a complete culinary heaven. We had read up on the Pintxos and headed out early evening to explore the small streets crammed with bars and places to experience Pintxos. We immersed ourselves in Sirimiri Atari Akademy, tasted the most amazing Pintxos, watched the barman make the most intricate Gin & Tonic combination, filling the goldfish bowl with ice and swirling it round to create the right temperature, filling with gin and tonic and then lighting orange peel and orange leaves and swirling them round the goldfish bowl before handing to a very loud American Lady saying “Gin makes you sin”. We left for the next bar.

It has the most amazing beach which spreads along the bay of the city and a Nespresso Shop. You may ask what the significance is. Well, before we left the UK we decided to purchase a small Nespresso machine. We are not massive coffee drinkers but we quite like a coffee in the afternoon and end up paying for a disgusting coffee in a service station when on the road. Well it was the best purchase we made but the only thing is and great marketing by Nestle that owns the brand, is that you can only purchase the coffee pods online or in one of their stores. On line if fine if you have a home to send it to. So we googled the store and made a trip. Get this, you have to get a ticket on the way in and wait your turn, reminds me of the Apple Store ! But what service, free tasting and a bag full of pods later we left happy.

San Sebastián is a wonderful place to visit, if you get the chance go. It comes alive at night in the bars, the people are lovely and the food and wine is first class. Enjoy.

St Jean De Luz – Basque Coast

19th October 2017 – 21st October 2017

Now this is a gorgeous place to stay. I wish we had stayed longer because the site we stayed at was 5*. Tamaris Plage was right on the beach, you could hear the sea from your bed, it had a beautiful swimming pool, sauna and steam room. In addition to best fresh baguettes we have tasted so far each morning. We also met a very funny Frenchman on his way back to Normandy who gave us a Beatles rendition of ‘When I am 64’ .

This area is obviously a surfers paradise and even in late October the surfers were catching the waves late into the evening. Chloe the dog loved the beach but at one stage the waves were so strong they took her ball and Chloe with it. David was the hero retrieving the ball but got a complete soaking as well though and Chloe has now had her annual bath ! There are bars scattered all along this coast, buses converted into tapas bars, strings of coloured lights, deckchairs and live music. It must be amazing in the summer if you can get anywhere near.

The town of Jean De Luz is a lovely small seaside town with beautiful shops – luckily for David when we hit a town it is usually lunchtime, shops are shut for 3 hours and so it’s just window shopping for me ! There are a host of places to eat and drink and to people watch. Quite an affluent area judging by the number of Range Rovers we spied. St Jean De Luz is on the list for places to return to, obviously when the shops are open.

No1 on My Bucket List ……

6th October 2017 – 15th October 2017

We promised two sets of special friends that we would visit and so we de-camped for over a week, visiting them both. Debs & Gaz live 40 minutes west of Limoges having moved to France 12 years ago from the UK with their two girls, Charlotte and Catherine. Chloe the dog was also fully entertained with Charlotte’s Labrador Rossco – a 4 year old bullet charging through the house. We visited the lovely town of Angouleme whilst we were there, France’s cartoon capital, with comic festivals and amazing paintings on the sides of buildings everywhere you turn. To top it all we were drinking and dining outside in mid October. Oh, this is the life ! It was lovely to visit, spend time with everyone, eat, drink, more eating and more drinking until we departed.

A day in between staying in a small hamlet we then made our way South to stay with another set of dear friends Lynn & Dennis. Both retired and living in a lovely part of France with their dog Tilly, this time a golden Labrador with the longest legs I have seen on a Labrador and the best eye liner around her eyes ! We had a wonderful stay relaxing, eating and learning from a master how to make the perfect bread rolls. We visited a couple of restaurants for lunch the popular Plat Du Jour in France, a 3 course lunch with wine that works out cheaper than a pizza in the UK – how does that work ?

We loved staying with both our friends and it is so nice to be able to spend some quality time with people that mean so much.

16th October 2017 – 18th October 2017


Ok, so I have had to put our visit to Lourdes in bold letters because this is a place that I have wanted to visit for a long time and to be honest has been No 1 on my bucket list. David asked me where I wanted to visit on our ‘Once in a lifetime’ trip and all I said was Lourdes. We stayed very close to the small market town lying at the foothills of the Pyrenees, got up early, well early to us retirees ! David set up our bikes and Chloe’s trailer (photo to follow) and we were off. We didn’t even get out of the campsite and Chloe’s trailer had a puncture. So instead of cycling we caught the bus (no dogs allowed but with Chloe fluttering her long eyelashes she was on !) We arrived in the centre and I had read a lot about the awful tacky shops selling everything you could possibly think of relating to religion and it was true. Nothing very tasteful, but it is nothing any different to anywhere else with a huge attraction. Lourdes has the 2nd largest hotel capacity in France and over 200 million people have visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

What we didn’t know though, was that you could not take dogs into the area, David waited outside. It is a very beautiful place to walk around, it brings a great sense of calm. There are people from all over the globe visiting and it was humbling to see their faith displayed. The highlight for me was the torchlight Marian procession at 9pm, which we returned to in the evening minus Chloe the dog. Thousands of people lined up with their lit candles and wind down the street to finish at the Esplanande where they line up in front of the sanctuaries. This brought tears to my eyes to see hundreds of people in wheelchairs, nurses and nuns followed by a river of light. I loved Lourdes. David did say it was very beautiful, in a peaceful setting but not somewhere for him, but worth a visit to see a smile on my face. I love him.

Two weeks into the adventure….

1st October 2017 – 5th October 2017

Leuven – Belgium.

We decided to stay in Andre’s yard for another night after our trauma. The following day on Andre’s recommendation, we made our way by a long walk and a bus journey into the town of Leuven. By car it would take around 30 minutes but our journey took around an hour and a half. But it was well worth it, it has one of the oldest universities in Europe or the world (founded in 1427) and the 15th Century Gothic Town Hall is absolutely stunning. The Town Hall has been copied in Brussels and the Brussels Town Hall itself has been copied in Vienna. They should have patented it ! The carved figures and filigree work is amazing and there are a scattering of bars, brasseries and restaurants all around the large square to take in the view of this amazing building. We witnessed a real live Belgium wedding, what a place to get married in, the hi-light for us though was the VW Camper that the bride arrived in. (Check out the photo) Friday is market day as well, an added bonus in my book, not so much David’s.

Troyes – Champagne France

This was a visit that was en route after leaving Belgium to start heading South. We covered the journey in two stages staying the previous night in a small but pretty site surrounded by trees, a splattering of small fishing lakes and poisonous mushrooms I was later to find out, very pretty they were though.

We stayed within walking distance of Troyes and walked in to the small town. It has a total of six churches and the Cathedrale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul. Now, I love a church or a cathedral and go in them all and David bless him waits patiently outside with Chloe while I go inside. The same happened in Troyes as I went into the Cathedrale. It took my breathe away, it was beautiful. The sun was shining and the light was bursting through the stained glass onto me. I do not think I have been in a Cathedrale as beautiful, I came out and my enthusiasm was so great, that David went in to take a look. After meandering round, a very nice lunch with more alcohol we then tackled the 110 outlet shops just outside the town ( David did take alittle persuading !) The trouble is, with a Motorhome that is bursting at the seams with mainly my clothes, I was good and only purchased some running trainers. A runner, I hear you say. Well it was quite funny as the woman in the shop did ask how often did I run ? Never I said, but I was going to start. How often am I going to run? 3-4 times a week I said. David just laughed !

The first week ….

Wimeraux – Pas-De-Calais France
21st September 2017 – 23rd September 2017
We were recommended to visit here by dear friends and it must be good as they have been coming back now for over 45 years. Only 30 minutes from Calais and it is a beautiful little seaside town. A beach as long as the eye can see and a promenade filled with little beach huts. Now there are varying degrees of accommodation, from the Four Star Atlantic Hotel with the near Michelin star restaurant which would set you back 275 euros a night or a very nice campsite at 18 euros per night. Take your pick.
We were very lucky with the weather, the sun shone, clear blue skies and the shorts were out (well David at least !) Chloe the dog just loved the beach, but then she would be happy on any beach as long as someone was throwing a ball. The first evening we walked down to the beach we were followed by a horse and rider, who then proceeded to collect his small child when he got to the beach and give them the ride of their life along the sand.
We stayed in Wimeraux for 3 nights and then the problems started.
David had the heating system flushed out and new anti-freeze added before we left the UK but when we came to put the heating on when we were in Wimeraux, it just did not work. We thought it was a simple air block, David bled all the radiators and telephoned the person who carried out the work in the UK and still no joy. We decided to contact the Company that we purchased the Motorhome from in Belgium and they fitted us in to take a look. This meant a journey going North instead of going South, something that we had not envisaged for several months. We packed up and set off to Lokeran in Belgium.
All over Belgium
24th September 2017 – 30th September 2017
We arrived at Campingshow Verveat and spent all afternoon in the garage. We thought it would only take an hour or so to clear the air lock and then we would be off in search of the sun. Oh no, things never go to plan do they. David was so stressed, it has been a complete reversal. In the UK, I was the one that was completely stressed and David was the level headed one, always calming me down and being the one put it all in perspective. We have crossed the English Channel and I am now the one trying to stop David’s stress levels hitting the roof. It turned out that the pump was broke and we would need to have it replaced, fine, replace it. But no, the garage did not have one in stock and the wait time for the delivery from Germany to Belgium would be 5-6 weeks. David did say that he could cycle there and back in less time, even at current fitness levels. David then telephoned a supplier in the U.K. And guess what, next day delivery. Now how does that work, can someone enlighten me please. So we decided to leave the garage get to a campsite pour a gin and tonic and a vodka and orange and assess the situation.
Afew drinks later and a nights sleep, we decided to order the part in the UK have it delivered to the garage, have it fitted and off we go. It would mean hanging around in Belgium a little longer as we did not know when the garage would be able to fit us back in. However, when we rang the UK stockist back this morning there was a whole realm of forms to fill in to get the pump delivered to Belgium and it turned out that the pump we needed wasn’t actually in stock. They didn’t know when it would be in stock either. Guess how David’s stress levels are now !
Now David, always forwarded thinking and unknown to me had emailed three motorhome repair garages last night and one emailed back. Motorhome V.E.E in Varentstraat still in Belgium and they had the pump we needed and could fit it straight away, like today. It was like winning the lottery. We packed up with the speed of lightening and set off for the 2 hour drive to meet Andre our saviour (hopefully).
Now if you look at the website for V.E.E in Varentstraat you see a mass of motorhomes for sale and a huge operational site. We arrive via our trusted Motorhome Sat Nav to find a huge site that looked deserted with around 5 Motorhomes for sale and no life. It didn’t look promising. David ventured inside and afew minutes later I met Andre, a Belgium man in his mid-sixties. He works with his son who also makes parts for F-16 aeroplanes no less. We tell Andre what has happened so far and he gets to work after making coffee for us and piling us with loads of Belgium chocolate. No good for the diet ! Andre changes the pump quite easily but then he comes into the office shaking his head saying that it is a bigger job than he thought, as there is a blockage in the system. Could it get any worse, oh yes. It turns out that we didn’t need a new pump, there was just a huge air lock in the system.
So with a new pump fitted that we didn’t need, nearly £700 lighter in our pockets after two trips to garages, we are now sitting in our motorhome roasting. Andre was our complete saviour, it just goes to show never judge a book by it’s cover. If we had found Andre before going back to the garage we bought the Motorhome from we would have saved ourselves a new pump, money, time but more importantly less stress for David. We are now sitting in Andre’s yard drinking alcohol again.