Our travels will continue as will the blogging…….please switch to:
…………..we are Portugal bound tomorrow……………
Our travels will continue as will the blogging…….please switch to:
…………..we are Portugal bound tomorrow……………
(25-12-16, Happy Christmas!)
The arrival of December meant we have been travelling for 9 months. The last 3 months though have been the most varied as it included walking the Camino, brief motorhome tours of west France and a small patch of England, winter campsite care taking in Folkestone and a week holiday in Wales.
The Pembrokeshire coastal path at Trefin, Wales.
Staying stationary for almost two months in Folkestone made us realise that we prefer touring, after all a motorhome has wheels. The positive though was that we were able to earn some money and it gave us plenty of time for us to form conclusions of what we have experienced and achieved this year.
One thing that has struck us is the complexity of trying to transition from our current tourer status to part timers. It is as if that any step away from the normal (full time job, house, utility bills, council tax, PAYE, insurance, having a place to store ‘things’, the electoral role and more subtly what people think of you) is set full of traps and preconceptions that prevent you from stepping outside of the conventional system. The isolation and time whilst at Folkestone has helped us outline a staged plan to arrange things more permanently, enabling us to share the next year in stages of touring, voluntary work, earning money and being close to family.
The Warren bay, Folkestone – location of the Camping and Caravanning Club site.
On the motorhome front, the typical English weather meant that we were exposed to much more rain. This extra water has raised to our attention some weaknesses with the motorhome and currently as I write this the vehicle is back with the dealer to have a series of repairs made under warranty. Hopefully the Suntor will return to us early in the New Year when we plan to embark on the much belated tour of Portugal. Furthermore, the mention of Portugal has made us think about the possibility of walking part of the Camino Portuguese……….we must be glutens for punishment………
The last three month block has allowed us to enjoy many places and people in the motorhome but speaking personally it has been the Camino that will be my highlight of this recent period. It is not that I found some spiritual awakening or a journey to inner peace but that I just simply enjoyed the walking. It has left me yearning to do something similar again as the sense of freedom of completing something so fundamentally basic as walking a long distance with your rucksack on your back is having a lasting effect on me.
An experience of freedom on the Camino
So finally, lets raise a glass to 2017, let the motorhoming continue and I wished now I had not limited the name of this website!
The EuroSuntor rolls on into 2017….
This is a surprise section as we did not think we would be writing our memories about motorhoming in the UK. We have been back in England now for a month, which was not the plan. Also, more interestingly we have been living in the motorhome too, bar a few nights in our families’ spare rooms.
This impromptu tour of the UK has taken us to spending time in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Lincolnshire, the Peak District and we are currently in Kent. To cut a long story short, we also find ourselves employed by the Camping and Caravanning Club as Holiday Site Assistants and we are currently winter site sitting until Christmas. The views here are amazing as we are a stone’s throw away from the sea and we enjoy both sun rises and sunsets from the comfort (?) of our van, although the weather is somewhat more challenging than sunnier climes of south Europe. An electric heater has been required for the first time in 2016! It’s a funny old world isn’t it and it seems, for a short while at least, we will explore the world of motorhoming and camp sites in the UK, postponing Portugal until January…
Parked up on the out skirts of Wolverhampton
Silence! The Angel in Cotton Dell, Staffordshire
Driving by the Roachies, The Peak District
Parked up at Alton, The Star, a Camping and Caravanning Club holiday site. Thanks to Wendy, Rob and the team.
Sun rise on the Kent coast
Parked up, winter campsite sitting. I’ve always wanted to have a sea view 🙂
Either side of the Camino, during mid August and early October, we made a ‘V’ type shape motorhome tour across France.
The first leg of this was from Basel to St Jean Pied de Port, where we entered France from Switzerland on the D419 near/towards Altkirch in the Sundgau region. We wanted to travel pretty quickly so we set ourselves the target of covering the 1200 Km journey across three days. The first day’s driving was slightly strained due to the later than expected start from Basel combined with a mildly throbbing head caused by our slightly later than expected last night spent on Steve’s and Maryann’s balcony where we all pondered at great length whether grass hoppers can fly – I recommend Swiss wine by the way!!! Due to this we only covered around 200 kms through Besancon and finally touched into the Burgundy wine region, staying the first night in Chalon-Sur-Saone.
Chalon proved to an unexpected surprise. First of all, it had ample free motorhome parkings with services, a sign that we were back in France. Secondly, the town was lively with a combination of tourists and locals eating in the various restaurants and bars dotted around the old town, river side, and small island set in the middle of the river Saone. We undeservedly treated ourselves to another meal out in the main square where we sampled ‘faux fillet avec frites’ (plat de jour for 9 euros) and of course the local burgundy wine. After watching the sun set from the river island we trundled back to the van with the hope that the next day brings a little more driving!
Sunset over Chalon, taken from the island
Refreshed, day two did bring a long drive through the Auvergne, Limousin and into the Aquitaine ending near Bordeaux in a small isolated hamlet St. Romain La Virvee. The hamlet did have a small shop and bar combo where I was made very welcome by the locals, in fact when a new person entered the bar they made a point of shaking everyone’s hand, even mine, even though I was obviously a stranger.
The friendly local bar at St. Romain La Virvee
Finally, on day three we arrived a St Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees Atlantiques, our gateway to the Camino Frances. Our initial task upon arrival was to find a storage place the van for a month whilst we were walking and the Pilgrim office suggested enquiring at the local Gendarmerie. Using no time like the present logic we trekked off to find the police station. Once there we were buzzed into the main office through the glass door where to my horror I caught a glimpse of the t’shirt I was wearing, which probably was not the most suitable especially when asking for their help.
The Leveller’s ‘Wake the World’ T-Shirt
Whilst covering the print as best I could with my man bag strap we plodded on (excuse pun) and enquired in French about where we could park the motor home. The police man at the desk really struggled to understand what we were staying and after several minutes, much to his frustration, so he called his supervisor. To our amazement, we over heard the local Gendarmerie supervisor groan loudly in French, who was sat behind an adjoining office wall, as he unenthusiastically got up from his chair first removing his feet off the nearby desk, to help out the tourists. As you can expect he was pretty useless and between the two of them they offered little help and seemed to have patchy knowledge of the parking regulations in their town. However, the ‘Camino’ provides, and as we were trying to exit the police station a local man overheard our conversation and he pointed us to a woman in the town that stored pilgrims cars in her garden. This seemed to too good to be true and once we arrived our fears were alieved. We were met by a really friendly old French lady who offered parking for a motorhome at 2 euros a day which was much less than I expected, so soon the van was parked up in it’s new home alongside presumably other Pilgrims cars.
Parking for the van in St. Jean
Phase two of our French trip (1st Oct to 9th Oct) started on our return to St. Jean after we had completed the Camino. The Camino proved to be quite expensive so our plan was to stay in free stop overs all the way back to the UK (we had planned to make a flying visit back to home to visit family and friends) before setting back off to Portugal. The aim of staying on free Aires meant we had to give St. Jean a miss, driving a short distance to St. Palais and this town was our base for a two night post camino recovery.
Back in the van again. Sun rise at the Le Teich port
Heading north we stayed two nights on the Basin de Arcachon at the port of Le Teich where we completed a cycle ride through the wildlife reserves and small fishing towns.
Then we were La Rochelle bound only to find the free winter time parking by the new port still had the summer exhibition tents erected. This meant we had to miss La Rochelle again, choosing the free parking stop at pleasant Mauze sur le Migon about 30kms north east. From here we drove, remaining toll free, to La Fleche in the Sarthe. The free stop over with services lies directly next to the river, again, proving to us that in-land France throws up some interesting a pretty Aires for free.
View from the van whilst parked up for the night at La Fleche
Next stop was small town Gace, whose Aire is in the grounds of an old Chateaux (now town hall).
Another ‘signature’ from inside the van shot, this time the Chateaux in Gace.
Another 200 km northwards took us to Picardie where we stayed ocean side at Le Hourdel for free. It was here we decided to do a camino style pre-breakfast walk to near by Cayeux sur Mer, covering a round trip of 12 Kms. We also spotted several seals!
Sunrise on our morning walk at Le Hourdel
Finally, we arrived at Dunkirk to catch our early morning ferry on the 10th October, choosing the free Aire at Malo Les Bains as a night before stop over. The evening stroll brought some interesting people watching as Malo’s sea side promenade was packed with locals enjoying the sun shine, if not the blustery winds. So, we are now UK home bound for approximately two weeks and we are hoping that we don’t have to dig out the winter coats that have been stored under the rear seats for more than 7 months!
A collection of Camino memories beyond blisters, bed bugs and bunk beds 🙂
Sharon setting off from St Jean
My turn to pose on day 1
Mist in the French Pyrenees
Sunday mass, Pyrenees’ style
Soothing the pain after the 1st day’s walk to Roncesvalles
Typical early morning start, Roncesvalles Albergue
Getting back before the Albergue curfew, Pamplona
Sightseeing on our ‘rest day’ in Pamplona.
Sculptures in the hills outside Pamplona
Sunrise to inspire the early morning walker
The infamous fountain that dispenses free wine to pilgrims was closed. Apparently the monks were holidaying in Ibiza. It was pretty lucky really, as we passed it at 8am.
During early September it was still very hot and at times there is little shade on the Camino. On this day it was 36 degrees.
The traditional pilgrim way to drink wine is out of a cows bladder. Sharon demonstrating the official camino supping technique enroute to Estella, to the horror of the bar man, see hand, even though he was supplying the free wine!!
Arty shadow shot
We had a bit of a party in the Albergue’s kitchen with Montse to the amusement of a very strange Dutchman. Viana….
….errr, we were last to leave the Albergue in Viana, the sun is already up.
….to the next town
The Camino always seems to be up….
….and rest breaks are needed
The graffiti varies greatly along the camino, this is one of the better ones.
Sleeping on the church’s floor, Granon
Walking out of Granon in the morning, leaving unfortunately the Rioja wine region.
Most of the time we walked together!!!
Jana and Sharon entering ‘Castilla y Leon’
Town festival at Belorado with our friends Jana and Dan
My trusty walking shoes brought from home were causing heel pain so they were recycled in Belorado.
Pilgrim ‘donativo’ refuge on the way to St Juan. Note cheap blue running shoes purchased in Belorado which for a time alieved the heel pain
Sun setting on the Monastery Albergue in St Juan
One of several crosses along the camino, this one enroute to Burgos.
My UK friend Sven’s Spanish double walking across the main plaza in Burgos.
Multilingual Buen Camino sign at Burgos cathedral
New for old. At Burgos Sharon swapped out her old walking shoes for a pair of trekking trainers.
Typical camino way marking
At the top of the hill that hits you early when leaving Castrojeriz
The Mesetas get a lot of bad press for being flat and boring. We really enjoyed them and found them expansive in both sky and land…..
….which helped me find some rare wisdom. “Sharon, I think I’ve changed….” Oh dear, it must have been the heat.
Sharon next to one of the many pilgrim statues, near Fromista/Carrion.
Matt now demonstrating the official camino supping technique……
….along with our friend Claus. Terradillos monastery.
After the wine we all had a bit of a sing song. We did not have any idea who the guitarist was, he just appeared, sat down and played, and then disappeared…….power of the camino?
My favourite community meal along the Camino was at Terradillos. We are sitting in the street outside the old monastery…..
….and luckily for all of us they served pig’s ear stew.
On the way to Leon
Paella in Leon…..
….ill in Leon the next day. Sharon came up with the idea of using a Spanish Tortilla to cool down my forehead as I slept. Forget all the hangovers, this was by far my worst day walking as I had both the trots (excuse the pun) and was vomiting.
There were some interesting buildings in Astorga, for example a Gaudi palace….
….and Sharon’s shop.
Another important cross, the Cruz de Ferro. Here you are supposed to leave your burdens behind in the form of a stone carried from home. I was tempted to leave my rucksack!
There were lots of references to the Knights Templars along the way. One of their swords apparently.
The old monastery albergue in Villafranca where we slept.
In the mountains nearing La Faba. By now our camino fitness and suntans were pretty strong. Note, the blue cross country trainers that I purchased in Leon. These were to be my third and final set of camino shoes and by far the most suited (and most expensive, typically) to the walk.
Both of us feeling a sense of achievement and relief as we reach Galicia, the final region to walk through. Only about 150 Kms to go now before Santiago. A weary “buen camino”.
But Galicia brought more mountains and colder weather…..
…..but we were prepared with rain coats. Finally it was worth carrying them all this way!
Another Pilgrim statue in the mountains
A typical ending to a day’s walk. Just when you don’t need it, a stair case to climb to enter Sarria’s old town…..
…..but charismatic Giovanni was waiting at the top for us, with wine!
Less than 100 kms to go, or four days walking.
Sharon ate Galician Pulpo (octopus) in Palais de Rei.
Its been a long time on the road and a celebratory feeling starts to engulf us all. Nina and Bianca ‘saluting’ the way at Ribadiso, only two days away from our destination
Almost there! We pass the first stone sign the states ‘Santiago’ on our last day of walking from the town of Pedrouza. We are about 5 kms from the cathedral.
Finally, we have arrived in the main catherdral square in Santiago after 36 days on the road. Shame about the scaffolding!
Meeting up with friends made along the Camino. The celebration starts……
…..and ends with suckling pig.
Day break on our final rest day in Santiago
Waiting for the Pilgrim mass to start at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela. There is a first for everything….
It was a long way but this gave us time to see some great places in Spain and meet a lot of different people. The camino bubble was an amazing experience…..
….an experience which we reflected on during the 18 hour journey back to St. Jean.
15th Aug 2016.
We are making our way to St Jean Pied de Port to start the Camino. The Eurosuntor2016 web page will be dormant until we return back to the motorhome, hopefully in late Sept/early Oct. Buen Camino!!!!
………..So belatedly, picking up where we left off, we arrived in Santiago on the 28th September after 36 days on the road and over 800 km’s covered by foot. We are both really pleased with our achievement as we walked every step, carried our rucksacks and never booked the pilgrim albergues ahead. We met many great and interesting people on the way and to be honest I am going to struggle with words to describe the experience, so I am simply going to upload the photos which will hopefully prompt our memories when we look back at this blog in the future………..
21st Aug: we left St Jean Pied de Port (Fr) and walked the ‘Route de Napoleon’ over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles (Sp).
22nd Aug: Roncesvalles to Zubiri
23rd Aug: Zubiri to Pamplona
24th Aug: Pamplona (rest by day, bar crawl by night)
25th Aug: Pamplona to Puente la Reina
26th Aug: Puente la Reina to Estella
27th Aug: Estella to Los Arcos
28th Aug: Los Arcos to Viana
29th Aug: Viana to Navarette
30th Aug: Navarette to Azofra
31st Aug: Azofra to Granon
1st-Sept: Granon to Belorado
2nd Sept: Belordao to San Juan
3rd Sept: San Juan to Castanares
4th Sept: Castanares to Burgos
5th Sept: Burgos (rest by day, bar crawl by night)
6th Sept: Burgos to Hornillos
7th Sept: Hornillos to Castrojeriz
8th Sept: Castrojeriz to Fromista
9th Sept: Fromista to Carrion
10th Sept: Carrion to Terradillos
11th Sept: Terradillos to Bercianos del Real Camino
12th Sept: Bercianos to Mansilla de las Mullas
13th Sept: Mansilla to Leon
14th Sept: Leon (rest by day, bar crawl by night)
15th Sept: Leon to La Virgin del Camino
16th Sept: La Virgin to San Martin del Camino
17th Sept: San Martin to Astorga
18th Sept: Astorga to Rabanal
19th Sept: Rabanal to Molinaseca
20th Sept: Molinaseca to Villafranca dal Bierzo
21st Sept: Villafranca to La Faba
22nd Sept: La Faba to Triacastelo
23rd Sept: Triacastelo to Sarria
24th Sept: Sarria to Portomarin
25th Sept: Portomarin to Palas de Rei
26th Sept: Palas to Ribadiso
27th Sept: Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo
28th Sept: O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (no rest, just bar crawl)
29th Sept: Santiago (rest day, no bar crawl)
30th Sept: Bus back to St Jean Pied de Port to pick up the van.
Final note, to rub salt into the blisters, it only took us 18 hours to get back to St Jean using a combination of coach, public bus and taxi.
Road sign in Roncesvalles, after the 1st day’s walking. In short, it was a long walk!
Overall we still love our lives on the tour, but we have definitely ‘motorhome life’ matured a little over the previous 3 months. First of all, the heat has now become a factor, especially over the last month and a half. We have found that the van can get too hot to enjoy a good nights sleep and this is made worse if you are staying on a public car parks as we feel reluctant to leave the windows open during the night. Also the heat has affected our sight seeing and often we have returned from walking through a city completely ‘boiled’ and unable to return back to a cooler state.
Our 12 volt fan. It is badged up a Marshall (Chinese) and it powerful and relatively silent.
On a practical side, the 12 volt fan that we purchased for the trip has been excellent and has proved to be very reliable as often it has been left on for hours at a time. We would definitely think twice in the future about where we would travel in the summer months and from our experience Italy, more precisely the Venice region, proved to be just too hot and humid for us and probably would be better leaving for the months in the autumn or spring.
Typical motorhome stop over scene. German beer is excellent!
On the budget front we are still slightly ahead of target by about 80 euros only. The French Rivera and Italy in general proved to be more expensive. We found that fewer of the stop overs were free, especially on the French coast and our 40 euro per day budget would be heavily compromised just to ensure we could park. For this reason we found that ‘weaving’ between coast and inland helped and more often than not we found stunning small villages inland that were free to stop over and this diluted the expense of staying on the coast. Another observation is that there are many more motorhomes on the road from June onwards obviously as people take their annual holidays. However, this increased population has not effected us and nearly always we have arrived at our destination and there has been space for us, be it at times the last one. Some motorhomers have passed on tips to us about trying to arrive at the next destination by noon or early afternoon at the latest to ensure they can park. Even though this makes complete sense to us we find it difficult to stick to. Often we arrive at random times, sometimes in the early evening, but this haphazardness has not affected our stop overs on this trip so far.
Returning to costs, Italy certainly consumed more money, and upon analysis of this we have come to the conclusion that we spent more time out of the van, and defiantly more time in bars and restaurants!!! Generally, though the supermarkets and fuel are more expensive than France, Spain and Portugal but this is a small difference in price to pay to enjoy such a great country in our opinion. Conversely, Germany proved to be really cheap and after a few weeks there we managed to get back on track, several times we only spent 200 euros in total per week between us – long live Netto!!!
We could not resist the giant Schnitzels from Netto!
The van on the whole is going well and any minor interior problems have been rectified. We have found the fridge really capable running on gas during the summer months and often turn down ‘paid for’ hook ups as we believe it costs less to keep it on gas. The twin 12 litre LPG tanks seem to last forever, keeping us ‘cooking on gas’ for between 15 – 20 days and at roughly 0.5 euros per litre cost very little to fill. Finally, on the consumption note, the 2.8 diesel roughly returns 28mpg, which on the face of it seems low, but when you consider that we rarely use toll roads and prefer to tootle down the A and B roads taking in all the towns and villages enroute, seems more reasonable (note we have covered circa 10,000 Kms so far).
This is what it is all about, meeting people out on the road.
More recently we have become a little ‘Camino’ obsessed and we are really excited that this part of the tour is upon us. Are we pleased to be leaving the van after 6 months? I don’t think so overall, the touring experience has been wholly positive for us, after all it is our home and we are now used to thinking about it in this way. For sure, we are looking forward to picking up the motorhome tour again in early October, be it with a few blisters maybe!
Our Swift Suntor parked up. For next few weeks we are swapping wheels for feet…….