View from the Balcony at Kasbah Caid Ali Asslim
Kasbah Caid Ali Asslim
Not far to go then
Tina and I at Todra Gorge
The Hills of Human Bodies
Egyptian Sand Dance
Kissing the Sphinx
The only time I’ve got Tina in my hand!
The Four Mummies
Touching the Pyramid
The Awesome Ait Benhaddou Kasbah
Inside Ait Benhaddou Kasbah
A Donkey in Ait Benhaddou Kasbah
The Incredible Harmonica Kettles
Ait Benhaddou Kasbah from above
Storks Nest on the Kasbah at Ouarzazate
The Four Gladiators at Ait Benhaddou Kasbah
Ait Benhaddou Kasbah with the Sunsetting
On the way to Ouarzazate
Window at Kasbah Caid Ali Asslim
Viiew from Kasbah Caid Ali Asslim
Recycled Tyres and Oil Drums
Cheeky Lunch stop on the way to Marrakech
Stepping Stones to Ait Benhaddou Kasbah
The Drive over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech
Pete’s Expedition Home
day 161 – Ouarzazate to Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
Sunday 12th February 2012. Before leaving the campsite we had a long chat with Pete and Gill who are travelling around for a few months. Pete used to own a car accessories business with over 125 employees in the greater Manchester area. He sold the business when he was 47 and retired to spend time travelling. Gill gave up her job at a bank and they have been travelling and living the dream for the last 9 years. They have had some fabulous adventures. They have driven the length of Africa, toured America and Australia in a motorhome. They have South America in the planning but are first going to rent a place and spend 6 months in San Francisco. Just shows that there are lots of people out there who do it and don’t just dream it!
Today was Atlas Film Studio day we had heard it was worth a visit and it was on the way to Ait Benhaddou so we pulled up in excited anticipation outside. At 50 Dirhams each including our guide it was a worthwhile tour. The place is getting a bit shabby and its years since it was lasts used but the sets that we saw were awesome and great films like ‘Gladiator’ have had excerpts filmed there. Jay did a fabulous rendition of Russell Crow’s famous ‘I am Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the armies of the north’ speech in the slave market it was like we were all part of the film!
I was surprised to learn that it took about 3 weeks to film 3 minutes worth of film. Apparently the studios have been favoured because of the perfect light that you get in this area of the world but I fear that sadly due to the technological developments in the film industry where most stuff is computer generated the days for big old film studious are numbered. So if you are planning a visit get there quick before it is all reclaimed by the desert that it backs on too.
After the studious we headed to the Ait Benhaddou Kasbah which according to all the guide books is a must see. We parked up in the car park at the Kasbah Jay negotiated an overnight tariff with power supply of 30 Dirham (less then £3) so we were well set. We walked down the main street with the dogs to look for a lunch stop before we took on the mighty Kasbah which was apparently also a location shoot for the film the ‘Gladiator’ . You reach the Kasbah by running a gauntlet of shops and traders selling miniature versions of what we had come to see in real life among other things then you cross a river using stepping stones all designed to slow your progress so that as many potential guides as possible have chance to approach you with their services. We had however already made a ‘pact’ not to take a guide this time but to take our lives into our own hands and wander about this wonderful monument at will. The fascinating thing about Kasbahs is that they are made of mud and they need to be repaired/refurbished continuously and in the case of this one bits hav been added on for films. Rather like the 20 year old broom story that has had its broom head and broom handle replaced 10 times over that period so how old is the broom and how old is the Kasbah? The first one was certainly built hundreds of years ago and as is usual for Kasbah’s it guards the main water supply (river) which in the desert is a source of wealth and power. This Kasbah has no electricity and as we saw when it got dark no street lighting or illumination of any kind so at night it just blends into the desert. We learnt that the reason buildings in this part of Morocco are mud or desert coloured is because if they were painted white for example due to the power of the suns rays it would be very bad for the eyes.
We climbed to the top of the hill that the Kasbah has been built on to see fabulous views over the surrounding countryside and we met a very nice Welsh couple Andy and Sacha while we were up there. They are travelling Morocco for 7 weeks and they had paid for a guide so they did us a tour on the way back down and showed us where the ‘Gladiator’ film set had been built. It turns out Andy is a professional photographer so we learnt something about taking photos too and it didn’t cost us a thing!
We all felt we had earned a cheeky cold beer and as there was a fab bar with a window overlooking the Kasbah we made our way up there. We obviously have loud voices because another couple we had met at another campsite Roger and Sandy heard us coming up the stairs so it ended up 8 of us having a drink and a chat. Andy and Sacha were travelling independently in a hire car and were booked into a hotel down the road so they ate at the restaurant bar and we headed back to Dave’s Diner for dinner.
If you are looking for a professional wedding photographer in the Cardiff area have a look at www.alsphotography.co.uk Andy does some fabulous landscape photos from their extensive travels too. [Camping Morocco, page 179, AIT BENHADDOU, Parking in front of Hotel la Kasbah 40002 from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 160 – Zagore to Ouarzazate, Morocco
Saturday 11th February 2012. We managed to get ourselves organised by quite a respectable hour and headed off in convoy to the famous sign in town that Jay had scouted out. Apparently Michael Palin has been here in Zagore and was filmed next to the 52 days to Timbuktu sign so we decided to get a few photos too.
We headed back north through the fabulous Draa Valley to Ouarzazate stopping for lunch at a fab look out point on the way.
We reached the French/German stronghold of a campsite at Ouarzazate in the early afternoon and discovered that we were parked next to a couple of Brits (Pete and Gill) who we had met very briefly at the campsite in Zagore. They are a fascinating and inspirational couple more details later.
We needed more supplies so Jay, Ju and I walked into town in search for a certain super market which apparently sold beer. As I write this I feel like it sounds like we are all alcohol dependant but its strange how much you want something when you are not supposed to have it. Or is that just me! After a long walk we did find the supermarket which did yield some very decent food and beer too. It is quite a rigmarole to purchase alcohol in Morocco in a Supermarket. They have ‘the guardian of the beer’ who is usually large, grumpy and aggressive looking and after looking you up and down reluctantly consents to letting you chose your beer from shelves which range in pricing regardless of the brand of beer that’s stored on the shelf. Jay and I went for the 15 Dirham shelf and excitedly waited until we got back to the campsite to compare what brand of beer we had ended up with.
We bought some chicken on the way back from the market which is a slight challenge because Moroccans like their chickens freshly killed and plucked so its hard to find a ‘dead’ chicken. However we did find one pre-killed version and got it chopped up and bagged to go.
Jay and Ju did the honors for dinner and we had a splendid SpagBol at Dave the Diner accompanied by our very special beers. [Camping Morocco, page 111, OUARZAZATE, Camping Municipal Ouarzazate, 45000 Ouarzazate from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 159 – Zagore, Morocco
Friday 10th February 2012. Feeling a little worse for wear and I blame Jay he lead me astray!
Jay and I took Loli and Charlie for a walk in the Palmerie which was a real adventure because we soon got lost and one palm tree starts to look much like another. We did eventually make it back to the campsite with a pair of very muddy dogs. Strangest incident of the dya was when loli lierally ran ‘through’ Charlie it was almost as if she didn’t see him and hse left him sprawled on the floor. I wonder if her eyes are deteriorating with her age.
We registered our intent with Abdula to eat at the campsite restaurant which also advertises live music every night. We wrapped up watm and ate really well and when we had finished our meal the musicians arrived. The star of the show was a big guy playing a Moroccan Sitar accompanied by Abdula and his mates on numerous drums. It was a really fun evening and if I can get to grips with the technology you should be able to listen to a bit here. [Camping Morocco, page 116, ZAGORA, Camping Prends ton Temps, BP167 Zagora 45900, www.prendstontemps.com from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 158 – Agdz to Zagore, Morocco
Thursday 9th February 2012. We had a tour of the Kasbah with Gale who is the French wife of the Moroccan guy who’s family owns the Kasbah. They run the campsite and tours of the Kasbah to raise money for the up keep and renovation of the Kasbah and its grounds. We walked through the gardens and although the small walled fields seem to be a bed of weeds to me it turns out there is actually a complete system irrigation system for making the most of the soil and more importantly the water available. This is also a big ‘date’ area and we learnt that there are 100’s of different types of dates ranging in price from a few Dirham per kilo to 100’s of Dirham per kilo. Unfortunately we didn’t find out how to tell the difference between the cheap and the expensive ones and apparently the only way to know is to taste them but where do you start? We also learnt that it takes a very long time to grow a palm tree. From a seed the palm tree takes 4 years to grow its roots and during this time there is no sign of life above the surface. The Kasbah has been owned by Gale’s husband’s family for 100’s of years and to own a Kasbah you need to be a ‘Lord’ so the family was seriously well connected. This is a great story to demonstrate the result of in-decision; apparently Gales’s husbands grandfather died at a time of political reform when the ‘Lord-domes’ were being broken up and wealth redistributed. However the King of Morocco was willing to grant ownership of the land to the next lord, but during an audience with the king his three sons couldn’t decide who it should be. The King told them to go away and come back when they had decided which of them would be the new Lord but unfortunately the then King of Morocco died before they had decided and as a result they lost all the family’s land which had at one time stretched 20 km in one direction and 30 km in the other. Luckily they retained the one Kasbah and grounds which is now the family home. In the past it used to house over 200 family members but now just a few of the remaining family members eek a living from the grounds.
After a cheeky Mint tea with Gale and her husband we headed south direction Zagore via the local souk. The souk or market was just outside of town on the left after crossing the bridge over the river and it was a hive of activity. Apparently people come from miles around to trade goods and there were literally hundreds of people milling around along with goats, sheep and donkeys. They were selling some fascinating stuff. The Moroccans’ really know about recycling because nothing goes to waste. Its amazing to see the things that they can craft from old tyres, oil barrels and plastic bottles.
We left the souk and had a spectacular drive along the awesome Vallee du Draa to Zagora and our campsite.
Abdula gave us a warm welcome and invited us for a mint tea not before he had pointed out with an extremely concerned look on his face that Christina had a problem with her rear suspension. Apparently what she needed was some additional leaf springs and I was in luck because Abdula’s cousin was a mechanic and had such a thing in stock and could fit them for me. How lucky am I? I have to say I really love the way the Moroccans are always trying to sell you something. They don’t sit around waiting for hand outs (not that they would get any from the state) they take matters into there own hands. As Jay noted they are all running their very own small business.
After our cheeky mint tea and filling in the necessary paperwork Julie, Jay and I popped into town on the hunt for alcohol! We did find a supermarket which wasn’t that ‘super’ especially as it didn’t sell alcohol but luckily for us Jay in his best French which is really good found out that the local hotel across the road had a bar. So we sneaked over to the hotel and at reception were directed left and right and behind a screen to a very seedy looking bar which was packed with the local men folk who it appears had ‘forgotten’ that they aren’t supposed to drink beer because each table that they sat at was piled high with empty beer bottles. We ordered 3 cheeky cans of beer at 16 Dirham each (about £1.50) which was also what the locals were paying. It made me wonder how the locals can afford it when you think the average wage is between €100 and €200 per month. It wasn’t the most comfortable place to relax and have a drink as most of the men were smoking and staring at us or was it Julie they were looking at, or was it our imagination? After we had downed our beer we enquired about a ‘carry out’ and were able to buy a couple of bottles of red wine for 65 Dirham each (about £6) which we concealed very carefully about our persons so we wouldn’t get embarrassed about or obvious alcohol dependency.
We went to the ‘butchers’ which is a term I would use very loosely its more like some guy selling meat on the corner of the street. With Jays help we got some nice chunks of what looked like beef hacked off the carcass that was hanging up over the counter. Its fascinating the way the Moroccans keep and present their meat. There is no doubt its very fresh but they hang the sides of meat above the counters rather like large three dimensional fly papers and no one seems to bat an eyelid.
Tina turned our meat into a fab curry for dinner which we ate in Dave’s Diner accompanied by copious amounts of the red wine that we had just bought. In fact I think we drank ALL the red wine we had just bought and finished off a box of white wine too. This rendered Jay and I seriously under the influence (I blame the fact that I hadn’t had a drink for weeks) but our conversation deteriorated and I know it did because Julie videoed us discussing our brilliant money making scheme of how we were going to become goat traders and buy a goat in a low cost goat area and add value like adding a kettle and transporting it to a high cost goat area to sell and make a killing in profit. As I write it, it sounds really stupid but you had to be there to appreciate how funny Jay and I thought it was. [Camping Morocco, page 116, ZAGORA, Camping Prends ton Temps, BP167 Zagora 45900, www.prendstontemps.com from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 157 Ouarzazate to Agdz, Morocco
Wednesday 8th February 2012. We were planning to head south to Agdz today on our way to Zagora but first we were going to pop into town to see the Kasbah but more importantly to deal with the Catastrophic kettle Saga! Very often in life you don’t realize how important something is until you don’t have it. Well we now have personal experience of that because we lost the complete use of our kettle. It all started when Tina dropped our stove top kettle and it broke. No problem we though we can use the electric kettle as we have mostly been on hook uop. Next thing we know the electric kettle packs up well Ju and Jay being the generous couple they are lent us their gab looking kettle which we boiled dry and literally melted I just don’t understand whats happening in our kettle world. It was all very inconvieneient and embarrassing so my priority was to buy two new kettles. the scenery on the drive over the hills was again awesome. We stopped at a recommended campsite right in the grounds of an old Kasbah it was quite full with the French brigade who seemed to expand as we pulled up to park. We eventually found a couple of parking spots. I spotted another Expedition Motorhome, it was a German registered Bi-Mobile so I popped over for a chat to the owners. Peter was a lovely guy and gave me a full tour of his fabulous van. The Germans really do think of everything. His motorhome was built on a 4 wheel drive Mercedes Sprinter and it had everything you could wish for to drive the length of Africa or across the silk road to China. He had considered selling it for a meager €95,000 last year but then changed his mind and decided to keep it. I gave him a card just in case he decided to sell it again. A service that the campsite offered was a tagine in the van so we ordered one to be brought along to Dave’s Diner and ate in Moroccan style. [Camping Morocco, page 114, AGDZ, Camping Kasbah de la Palmeraie, BP23, 45050 Agdz, www.casbah-caidali.net from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
156 – Dades Gorge to Ouarzazate, Morocco
Tuesday 7th February 2012. We headed back down the gorge and stopped off at some amazing rock formations that we had spotted on the way up. We parked up and took a walk along the river to get a better look. Apparently they are known as the ‘hills of human bodies’ and if you use your imagination they could be!
The drive to Ouarzazate was very picturesque with the snow topped Atlas mountains in the background. The campsite at Ouarzazate was the usual French/German stronghold but the Brits found a space never the less although we were surprised that it was so full.
We chilled in the afternoon then ate a dinner of bangers and mash in style in Dave’s Diner with Ju and Jay. [Camping Morocco, page 111, OUARZAZATE, Camping Municipal Ouarzazate, 45000 Ouarzazate from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 155 – Todra Gorge to Dades Gorge, Morocco
Monday 6th February 2012. Dades Gorge day and we were really looking forward to it. We did wonder how Christina and Dave would cope with the switchback bends but they were wide enough to park up and have a picnic on so no problem. We followed Dave up and Tina got some fab photos on the drive. We stopped at the top at a restaurant with a great view over the road where Tina took the compulsory photo of the road after giving me a heart attack by standing on a chair right at the edge of the wall to get the best shot. We tucked into a tagine of chicken, mixed vegetables with eggs which was the only meal on the menu followed by a cheeky mint tea.
Jay had been consulting his Rough Guide and found a recommendation for a hotel where you could park in the car park for free and this hotel had an open fire which was what finally seduced us. We parked up as the sun went down behind the gorge walls and we were looking forward to a ‘warm’ dinner at the hotel.
We had a fab meal at a table very close to the fire but moved in even closer when the other guests had left so we could finish our cheeky bottle of red wine in the warmth of the fire. [Car park, Hotel La Kasbah de la Vallee, Dades Gorge, N31.52107, W5.92985]
day 179 of the BIG trip the first picture of Baby Williams
The BIG news is that Tina and I are expecting! I think we are officially what’s known as ‘geriatric’ parents to be. So what is a 53 year old (me) and a 40 something year old (Tina) thinking of. I already have 3 wonderful children and my original life plan was when they all grew up to travel the world, do all the things I’ve always wanted to do, when I want to do them.
However my purpose in life is to help people achieve their dreams and that starts especially at home with the family. As you know I always recommend that you have a written ‘Dream List’ and its good to share your dreams. Up until we went on the BIG trip I have always had the dream lists of Tina, Daisy, George and Harry stuck on the inside of my wardrobe door. As a result slowly but surely many of the family dreams have been achieved and ticked of.
On the top of Tina’s dream list has always been to have a baby. Originally that wasn’t on the top of my dream list but over a period of time when you love someone and you are planning to spend your life together very often your individual dreams merge together and now our dream is set to become reality.
Maybe the relaxing chilled out nature of the BIG trip has helped, maybe it’s the visits to the chiropractors before we left or maybe its just fate. It looks like it all started in Spain and we found out the day after my birthday on 8th January that Tina was indeed pregnant. However we decided to head of to Morocco for a chill and have waited before letting anyone know family included because we wanted to get the first 12 weeks over. I can now confirm that Tina is now over 14 weeks pregnant and after having various scans and blood tests it looks like we are expecting a healthy BIG baby sometime in August.
So what does this mean for the BIG trip? We plan to head back to the UK for the beginning of August which will mean we have been exploring Europe for 11 months not the originally planned 12 months but you are allowed to change your plans!
What does our exciting future hold? When you think about it life is a ‘BIG trip’ so as soon as we have got into a routine with ‘Baby Williams’ and from memory that takes a while we don’t see the the BIG trip ever ending whatever we are doing, wherever we are in the world we will be making the most of our 4000 weeks!
day 154 - Todra Gorge
day 154 - Todra dog
day 154 - Todra Squirrel
day 154 - The Tuareg, Tina and Jay at the Todra Gorge
- day 153 – The Giant ‘Mole Hills’
day 152 - campfire in the desert with the Lobsters & Europe by Camper
day 152 - She loves me yeh yeh yeh!
day 152 - Me flying
day 152 - Jay flying
day 152 - ready to fly
day 151 - We meet Adam, Sophie, Chris & Catherine
day 149 - The well known sport of Dune Polybag Riding
day 149 - Camel Train
day 149 - Loli, Tina and I watching the Sahara Sunset
day 149 - Tina & I 'Dune with a view'
day 149 - View from the top
day 149 - Jay & Ju joined us in the Sahara
- day 148 – Shadows on our way back at Sunset
day 148 - Lunch in the Oasis
- day 148 – Post Snow/sandboarding down the Dune
day 148 My camel
day 148 - Tina's camel
day 148 - We're going on a camel ride!
day 154 – Todra Gorge, Morocco
Sunday 5th February 2012. We headed up the road to experience the gorge today courtesy of Dave as he is the shorter and narrower of the terrible two motorhomes although as it turned out there is plenty of room on the road up to the gorge.
We drove up the gorge until it started to begin to look a bit narrow and parked up next to a ‘touristic’ minibus near what seemed to be the centre of the village. As it happens we could have driven further we know this because we were passed by full size coaches as we walked up the road but it was nice to have a walk.
The narrow part of the gorge was awesome with towering walls on either side of the river and the perfect wind funnel too so a great opportunity to don my Tuareg scarf.
As we walked along we noticed people with ropes around them and as we turned the corner where the gorge walls started to open out again there were a number of climbers scaling the gorge walls. The gorge has been cut out by the river at some stage but it was now nothing more than a trickle and had obviously seen better days.
We ambled back towards Dave and found a nice terraced restaurant for lunch which was a fab omelet and chips. We bought some groceries on our way back to dave who was safe and sound when we got back.
We decided to large it up and go out for a meal so we wrapped up warm and wandered up the road to find the nearest welcoming restaurant. We found a tiny and cold restaurant with a warm welcome. The food was fabulous and really good value for money as most of Morocco is. [Camping Morocco, page 128, TINERHIR, Hotel-Camping Le Soleil, 45800 Tinerhir, Maroc, www.hotelcampinglesoleil.com from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 153 – Merzouga (Erg Chebbi) to Todra Gorge, Morocco
4th February 2012. We left our haven of tranquillity after seven fabulous days today heading in the direction of the ‘Todra Gorge’ for the next leg of our journey. We had planned to travel in convoy but to use Jay’s description after he picked up a couple of French hitchhikers he forgot about us and drove off. The drive over to the campsite at Todra Gorge was fabulous. We passed some really interesting rock formations which were like giant mole hills over an underground river. When we arrived at the campsite Jay and Ju were settled in and we had a great spot. We ate in Dave and planned to ‘ride’ the Todra Gorge the next day. [Camping Morocco, page 128, TINERHIR, Hotel-Camping Le Soleil, 45800 Tinerhir, Maroc, www.hotelcampinglesoleil.com from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 152 – Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), Morocco
3rd February 2012. Another beautiful day in the Sahara even though Chris Evans who we can listen to was telling us all about the snow in the UK and how 4 inches had fallen in the Sahara. Well it wasn’t the bit we were in!
We did have a bit of wind which meant Jay and I could have a go at flying my power kite. It was our last day at the Kasbah so the ‘Europe’s’ and ‘Lobsters’ came over again and we had a few cheeky beers. Bari our ‘host’ popped to see us and organised a camp fire for us in the desert. As we sat round the fire Hassan who owns the hotel next door popped over to see us with his friend. The Moroccans seem to have an amazing skill to grasp languages he could speak English, Berber, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Spanish and bit of Japanese and has never been to school. I was really interested in how you could not go to school and end up owning a hotel in Morocco but I never got to find out! [Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou, N13 just before Merzouga, N37.137250, W4.727864]
day 151 – Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), Morocco
2nd February 2012. We all decided to take advantage of the wonderful hotel facilities so it was Hammam day. We had the Hammam to ourselves, it was hot and an experience having a layer of skin rubbed off you but I did feel clean afterwards. Jay, Ju and I walked into the village with Loli and Charlie to pick up more supplies. As we walked around we saw a sign for a campsite and suddenly realised that Adam & Sophie of the blog ‘Europe by Camper’ and Catherine & Chris of the blog ‘The World is our Lobster’ were staying close by so we popped in for a visit and a cheeky mint tea.
In the evening the ‘Europe’s’ and the ‘Lobsters’ walked over to our hotel for a drink and a chat. It was really good to catch up with them and exchange stories. [Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou, N13 just before Merzouga, N37.137250, W4.727864]
day 150 – Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), Morocco
1st February 2012. Jay & Ju arrived this morning so we had tea and a catch up. We then walked up dune for the sunset. [Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou, N13 just before Merzouga, N37.137250, W4.727864]
day 149 – Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), Morocco
31st January 2012. Chillin day today with such a great view we read and relaxed. We needed a few supplies so ‘Brommie’ came to the rescue and I rode to the nearest village for supplies. Other than main roads there are no tarmac roads near Erg Chebbi a 4X4 is a really useful thing so it made for a really exciting ride on the brommies little wheels with 6 bottles of water on the rack. [Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou, N13 just before Merzouga, N37.137250, W4.727864]
day 148 – Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), Morocco
30th January 2012. Today we went on our long awaited camel ride. You can’t go all the way to the Sahara without riding a camel. We decided to do the ‘day tour’ which meant a trip to an oasis for lunch and then catching the sunset on the way back. The weather was perfect our camel guide Ali was really nice and we arrived at our oasis to meet another Ali who welcomed us with a fabulous ‘Berber Whiskey’. The oasis appeared to be literally in the middle of the desert although we were fascinated by the number of people wandering across our path with their shopping. Behind the oasis was a massive dune and leaning against a tree there were snowboards and ski’s which were just inviting me to have a go. WE had heard that people skied in the desert but had never seen it. As I hadn’t brought my ski boots on the camel I grabbed the snowboard and started the long walk to the top of the dune. I had probably got two thirds of the way up before I realised that the best way to climb a dune is not straight up but to zig zag side to side. The view from the top was amazing you could clearly see Algeria across the ravine. The ride down was huge fun see video Snowboarding in the Sahara
We had a typical lunch of tagine watched by about 10 cats who were Ali’s pets and who looked very well fed and then chilled on beds outside.
We climbed back on our trusty camel steeds for the ride back and it was then I noticed how uncomfortable it is to ride a camel for a few hours. However we took a slow walk back and caught the sunset on the way back.
Lots of Japanese tourists used the hotel and they were treated to food, live music and a campfire. Thing was most of the tourists were old and they didn’t want to sit outside round a fire in the cold so Tina and I grabbed a chair and we had the whole fire to ourselves until Bari and his friend cam along for a campfire chat. We learnt that Hilary Clinton and Chelsea had stayed at the hotel and been on the camel ride while Bill stayed at home smoking cigars with Monika l or that’s what the Moroccans believed. [Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou, N13 just before Merzouga, N37.137250, W4.727864]
Action step two – I didn’t work so hard. Antidote to: Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed
I didn’t work so hard OR I have a great life/work balance Instead of ‘I wish I didn’t work so hard’ I suggested replacing that thought with ‘I didn’t work so hard’. This is an OK affirmation but I would prefer a more positive one because the subconscious mind can’t process a negative so it could interpret “I didn’t work so hard” with I worked so hard. I would prefer to use I have a great life/work balance
One way to create a great life/work balance is to use the ‘wheel of life’ exercise.
Wheel of Life – Imagine a wheel with 6 spokes and each spoke represents one of the 6 areas of life.
- Discovery & Adventure
- Family & Relationships
- Fitness & Wellbeing
- Giving Back
- Learning & Growth
- Work & Finance
Let me give you some examples of what each area of life is about.
Discovery & Adventure is about travel, it’s understanding and experiencing other cultures, visiting museums, maybe going to the ballet or opera just something you haven’t done before it could even be trying new things like new foods. Think of it as ‘jumping into your adventure zone’ as opposed to getting out of your comfort zone.
Family & Relationships is spending time with your children or family or friends, developing relationships, meeting up with old friends or long lost relatives.
Fitness & Wellbeing is the area of life that is important for your energy levels. You need energy to achieve the things you want in life. You should be eating a good healthy diet and taking exercise that is appropriate for you.
Giving back is about contribution, rather than taking, what are you doing to give back? Do you help youngsters by maybe running a local soccer team or club, do you give blood, do you work with a local charity or do you raise money through sponsorship for a specific event?
Learning & Growth means if you’re learning and growing, you’re not dying. So, this is an important area, what new skills are you learning, what are you reading, what are you listening to?
Work & Finance. It is important to create the income to help you do all the wonderful things that you want to do.
Have you got a good balance between each area of life? A great way to check is to refer to your dream list
Categorising your dreams and goals
In Action Step One – I have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me. I asked you to consider writing your dream list. One way of working towards a healthy balance in your life is to firstly categorise your dreams into the six areas of life. The way to do this is to take your journal and simply write down the areas of life as headings and then transfer from your dream list the dreams that are appropriate for the heading.
As an example using the sample dream list from Action Step One your list might look like this:
Discovery and Adventure
Explore America by car or bike
Explore New Zealand
Fly in a hot air balloon
Go on a cruise
Do a tandem skydive
Family and Relationships
Holiday home by the sea for the family
[In this example this area of life is lacking a few dreams so a good idea would be to think of what more could be done here]
Fitness and Wellbeing
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Cycle the UK coast to coast.
Work for and / or donate to a charity
Donate to a charity
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity
Cycle the UK coast to coast for charity. (One dream can fit in more than one category.)
Learning and Growth
Learn to speak a second language
Write a book
Learn to fly a plane or a paraglider
Learn to play a musical instrument
Be a confident public speaker
Learn to SCUBA dive
Learn to ski
Work and Finance
Get to the top of your compensation plan
Receive a residual income of at least £10,000 a month
Own a property portfolio
Own my dream car
Own your dream home overseas
Build your own house
Why should you bother to do this exercise? Let’s go back to the wheel of life analogy and those six spokes and I want you to imagine if you’ve got one spoke shorter than another, what you could get is a wobbly wheel. Have you ever felt that you go through life on a bit of a wobbly wheel? In other words life is giving you a little bit of a rough ride. What if you had a spoke missing? Could it be possible that your wheel could collapse? Do you know anybody whose wheel of life has collapsed, maybe because they focussed too much on their Work and Finance area of life and have neglected the Fitness and Wellbeing area of their lives?
Now that you’ve done that exercise, do you feel that you’ve got some things missing? (In the example above there was certainly room for improvement in the family and Relationship area). Have you got an area of life where you haven’t actually got many dreams? You might ask yourself the question is that area of life important to me? If it is, you might think about putting some more dreams in that particular area of life.
Prioritising your dreams and goals
Now that you’ve categorised your dreams into the six different areas of life, what I would like you to do is to prioritise your dreams. To do this take just one single dream from each area of your life one that is really important to you, one that you really really want and that you would like to start work on now. You should then have a list of six dreams/goals.
Why have I asked you to prioritise your dreams/goals? Well have you ever had that feeling that you are overwhelmed because you’ve got so many things to do? By writing down your six most important dreams/goals it will help you focus on the six most important things that you would like to get started on now.
Could you now commit to work on each of your six goals over the next four weeks? It doesn’t mean you need to complete each one if it’s a big goal, but can you work towards it?
If you did work on 6 goals every single month for 12 months you could have worked on 72 goals. Is that more than you work on right now?
Over a period of time if you are working on 6 goals every single month you will as a result get a more rounded wheel of life and have a much improved life/work balance and ultimately on your death bed you will never say ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’
Something to think about:
‘My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.’ - Steve Jobs
As I write this we are on the edge of the Sahara Desert it is truly awesome here and so peaceful and still with the biggest starryist night sky I have ever experienced. While we have been here I have finished one of the most inspirational books I have ever read called ‘Unbroken’ A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption written by Laura Hillenbrand about Olympic Athlete, Bombardier and Japanese prisoner of war, Louie Zamperini. The reason I downloaded the book to my kindle was because when Darren Hardy of Success Magazine interviewed Louie who is now in his 90′s he described him as the most amazing man he has ever interviewed. That is an amazing accolade when you consider that Darren Hardy has interviewed all the greats such us Jim Rohn, John Maxwell, Paul J Meyer, Anthony Robins and many many more.
Listening to the interview and reading the book reminded me about the ‘3 attributes of successful people
I am assuming that if you are reading this you are not deliberately trying to be unsuccessful!
If you do want to be successful then a great way to achieve our own version of success is to find out what successful people do and copy them. It’s worth reading about Louie because if you just copied one tenth of his attitude I’m sure it would make a massive difference.
It has been established through numerous studies that people who are successful have three common attributes. They of course have others but these are the top three.
1. Successful people have a positive mental attitude.
They look at the way things can be done, not at the way things can’t be done.
They focus on their strengths; they don’t focus on their limitations.
They focus on their powers; they don’t focus on their problems.
If an obstacle is put in the way of a successful person, they don’t give up; they find a way around the obstacle, under the obstacle, over the obstacle or even through the obstacle!
No successful person has ever achieved their success without having a few setbacks and dealing with a few obstacles. It is important to focus on your strengths and the things you are good at doing. If you enjoy what you do then you will do it well. If you love what you do you will do it brilliantly!
Instead of focusing on what you are not good at think about identifying your strengths the things that you do well, he things that you love and work on becoming brilliant at them.
2. Successful people are goal directed.
Successful people know exactly who they are, they know exactly where they are, they know exactly where they want to go and they know exactly how they are going to get there! I believe if you have the answers to these four questions then you are already successful.
Knowing who you are is important. It is important to maintain your integrity and don’t do anything that infringes your own set of beliefs and values.
Before you can create your future you need to know where you are now. What is your current skill set? What qualifications do you have? What have you achieved so far? What are your accomplishments?
Successful people know exactly where they want to go and how they are going to get there. They have written goals with a plan on how to achieve them. Jim Rohn says “when you know what you want and you want it badly enough, you will find a way to get it.” Cast your mind back to a time in your life when you really, really wanted something. Didn’t you make it your business to find out how to get it? It is of course important to have a plan on how to get it and you know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
3. The third attribute of successful people is self-motivation.
Successful people are self-starters, they wind their own clock. They leap out of bed every morning! Successful people understand that before they can help others to motivate themselves, they need to understand themselves and what motivates them.
I have a colleague that found out that millionaires get up at 6.00 am so he gets up at 5.00 am so he can keep ahead of those millionaires!
In summary there is an old saying that “the world will make way for a person who knows where they are going.” Find your passion, your desire, your purpose, your goal in life and make a plan to achieve it. Maintain your focus even though obstacles may get in your way. Always maintain your own belief, values and integrity and appreciate that you will need to work hard to create the future that you want for you and your loved ones.
You can learn more about Louie Zamperini the Indomitable Man and you can listen to the interview
day 147 – Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), Morocco
29th January 2012. We chilled today and agreed with Bari that we would do the day camel tour tomorrow which includes lunch and then a view of the sun setting over the dunes. We spent the day sitting in the sun reading and relaxing. We had a little walk in the dunes and I was surprised that the sand is much more ‘stable’ than dunes you experience on the beach at Aberdovey for example. Am I being naive? Well it is my first time in the Sahara.
Awesome view from our campsite
Another awesome view from our campsite
A view from our campsite showing a camel tour
We dressed for dinner and dined in the hotel which had a fabulous all you could eat buffet on. It feels like we are on holiday! [Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou, N13 just before Merzouga, N37.137250, W4.727864]
day 146 – Meski to Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), Morocco
28th January 2012. It had rained heavily in the night and we decided we would leave and head south to Erg Chebbi and the Sahara desert proper. We sorted some gifts out for Abdul, Mohammed and Idriss which were clothes that I don’t need now that I am half way to being a ‘minimalist’. I also sorted out an old mobile phone to barter with as we wanted a few things from their shop.
We had our last tea for a while with Idriss and Mohammed and bartered for the things we wanted to buy and after a bit of a drawn out negotiation we all got the deal we were happy with so we are now proud owners of a plastic mat for in front of Christina for when we are parked on sand, two Berber scarves, a Berber light and a Berber compass necklace for Tina. Its very cheap for Europeans in Morocco for example this campsite with electricity was only 40 Dh (€4) and we believe as responsible tourists we should at least spend some of the savings we make with the local community.
We will miss Mohammed and Idriss they will be off on tour from 20th February over on the Atlantic coast entertaining tourists in the hotels there but I’m sure we will be back.
A village on the edge of the Sahara
We headed south on the N13 which is a great road and almost straight all the way down to Erg Chebbi. We passed some amazing rock formations, dessert villages and we caught our first glimpse of the dunes from a distance it was an awesome drive.
Our brief stop in Erfoud
We planned to stop in Erfoud (on our map) Arfoud (on the road signs) as we had been told it was worth a look around. The N13 widens right out through the town so it’s easy to park at the side of the road. Tina was not feeling great with a tummy upset so I popped to the market in town to get some provisions.
Well if you don’t speak French or Arabic then market shopping is a fun and surprising experience. Surprising because you’re never sure what you will end up with but I managed Ok using my arms and legs.
The Sahara in the distance
Our first glimse of Erg Chebbi
The road to Erg Chebbi and our campsite
The entrance to Kasbah Tombouctou
We were that excited about getting to the dunes that we decided to skip the campsite at Erfoud and head straight for ‘Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou’ which was a recommendation from Mohammed.
There are campsites around Erg Chebbi but I gather that most of the hotels will let you park up and use all of their facilities which is great but then you are really spoilt for choice off-season. We asked for Bari when we arrived and he showed me around the hotel grounds and facilities. It is luxury compared to what we have been used too. We have access to the restaurant, 2 bars, a spa and swimming pool.
We were able to park Christina with a desert view surrounded by palm trees and overlooking the camels that are going to take us on our tour and all of this for 50 Dh (€5) per night with free Wi-Fi and electricity. Its heaven, we are staying here for a while!
Note to self: Next time we visit Morocco we will bring far more stuff with us to give away. The Moroccan people are not starving but they don’t have access to the stuff we take for granted as wages are low. For example an infant school teacher we met only gets paid the equivalent of about £100 per month. They can use old mobile phones, old laptops, and memory chips as I guess all these things cost about the same in Morocco as they do in the UK but their incomes are maybe a 10th of ours on average. They also welcome shoes, jeans and warm clothes as it does get cold there in the winter. The Belgian couple we met bring dolls and dolls clothes with them and they also had two old bikes to give away.
How to give: We were not sure how to treat children and adults with regards to gifts so we did some research by asking the various guides we have had and also a school teacher we met. This is what we found out. Never give money or gifts to children when they ask/beg. This encourages them not to go to school because they think they can survive by begging from tourists also they become abusive towards tourists who don’t give. The only exception is if they do you a favour or give you a service. We enquired about schooling as there always seems to be lots of children playing outside in the streets. We were told that the King wants every single child to be educated (up until recently this apparently was not the case). It is compulsory that they attend school and that they pray but because there are more children than schools they operate the schools on a two shift system so some children start at 7.30 to 10.30 am then go back 4.30 pm to 7.30pm and the other ‘shift’ does 10.30 to 4.30 pm that’s why it often looks like they are not in school. If you are not sure then give a donation of useful equipment to the local school and they will do the distribution.
Begging adults if they look genuinely needy and poor then its good to give them a few Dh but be careful because there are lots of fat rosy cheeked Berber women who have their hands out and also complain if you don’t give enough. Have a pocket of change ready it’s obvious but don’t be pulling out notes and sifting through them in public. The Belgian couple we met only give gifts when they have been helped. [Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou, N13 just before Merzouga, N37.137250, W4.727864]
day 145 – Meski, Morocco
27th January 2012. Mohammed delivered us fresh bread from home which was awesome toasted with butter and honey. The sun was shining and we did some Uke practice outside and Mohammed and Idriss popped over to see us. We made them a cup of English tea in return for them making us tea and Idriss had about 4 teaspoons of sugar in it. Mohammed offered to send his little brother Abdul to take us around the ruined Kasbah.
The walk along the blue water spring
We walked along the fresh clear spring water stream where local women were washing their clothes and by passed fields which were like paddy fields with raised walls until we needed to cross the stream using a bridge made of two felled palm trees.
The bridge walk with Abdul looking on
The bridge walk was very amusing – well she thought so because Abdul helped her across and I had to carry Loli across to howls of laughter from Tina.
The old Kasbah
View from the old Kasbah
We made it too the Kasbah which was abandoned in1965 by the Touareg tribe of Nomadic people. Idriss told us that they would travel for 6 months of the year only by night using the stars to navigate and they spent 6 months in the Kasbah which served as protection for them and their goods.
Our first siting of a camel in the desert!
The views were fabulous across the oasis to the desert the other side and we saw our first camel this really is a very special place. The whole oasis is ther because of the water from the Ziz river which splits the desert in two with a bright green gash.
The 'Belgian' Expedition Home
I did some more ‘motorhome spotting’ and came across a fabulous Belgian registered expedition home that was owned by a lovely Belgian couple and a very vicious sounding black Labrador. I had a chat to them and the husband Senator told me that he had the motorhome built over 20 years ago and that they had driven over 350,000 kilometres in it. They had visited all over Africa including Mali, Mauritania, and also Iran, Iraq, Egypt and were planning to ship their motorhome to South Africa in September and then drive all the way back home how inspirational.
We planned to have a fire in the evening so we gathered sticks and I got our mini portable ‘brazier’ ready and then we went for tea at Mohammed and Idriss’s shop and were treated to an impromptu drum concert and by the time we got out it had been raining and our wood was wet. Well we all know you can’t light a fire if you wood is wet so we retired inside.
[Camping Morocco, page 133, AR-RACHIDIA, Camping Source Bleue de Meski, Meski, Ar-Rachidia from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 144 – Azrou to Meski, Morocco
26thJanuary 2012. We passed the famous apes in the Ceder Forest just south of Azrou but there were about three coaches parked up and mounted ‘sellers’ waiting for the tourists so we didn’t stop but we did see the apes!
It was a great drive over the ‘Moyan Atlas’ mountains we had heard they were expecting snow but there were just a few flurry’s but the scenery was not to be missed.
We made far better progress than we thought we would as the roads were good and clear and the weather was kind so we skipped staying at Midelt and drove on south to Meski and a recommended campsite in an oasis next to the source of a spring.
We met Mohammed at the campsite who was very friendly and showed us where to park, he brought us a plastic mat to lay in front of Christina and invited us for ‘Berber tea’.
Tea with Mohammed & Idriss
We had tea in one of the shops that are at the edge of the campsite and we met Mohammed’s uncle Idriss a very fascinating man. He is a drama school teacher and is a member of a band that has played at the WOMAD festival in England. He had some fabulous philosophies as we chatted for example “The Europeans you have watches but we Moroccans have time!” The three most important things in life are “good health, love and patience” when you have all three then you are a rich man. The shirt that you are buried in has no pockets and the more money you have the more money you want so you work hard and you get one million then you want two million so you work harder then you want three million and you work even harder then you die and your money goes to someone who never has to work again!
Mohammed showed us a restaurant in the village where we could eat well and we ordered our dinner and went back to eat an hour later. We had the local speciality which is a tagine of chicken, onions, tomatoes, spices and two eggs. The meal was fabulous the service was with a smile by Zaid who worked for Alain and Denise who owned the restaurant. If you do stay at this campsite I would recommend that you go. Details are: Restaurant Alain & Denise, Ksar Meski Errachidia, email firstname.lastname@example.org. [Camping Morocco, page 133, AR-RACHIDIA, Camping Source Bleue de Meski, Meski, Ar-Rachidia from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 143 – Azrou, Morocco
25th January 2012. There was a knock on the door at 9.00 and it was one of the girls that looked after the site delivering a fresh baguette free of charge how fabulous.
The fab staff at 'Disneyland'
The sun was shining and we had some washing to do so we got that sorted and chilled on the ‘Disneyland’ campsite. This campsite has had the best facilities so far in Morocco. The toilet block was brand new, showers really clean and hot, the campsite really well laid out and they had rabbits and chickens and geese wandering about with 3 parrots in the office then at about 5.00 pm another knock on the door and they had cooked us dinner. A lovely pasta dish served up in a Tagine what fabulous hospitality. [Camping Morocco, page 139, AZROU, Euro Camping, Emirates Tourist Centre, Azrou. www.camping-morocco.com from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 142 – Fes to Ifrane to Azrou, Morocco
24th January 2012. We were the only motorhome on the campsite and although we enjoyed our guided tour of Fes with both felt we should move on. We headed south on the N8 direction Ifrane which is known as the Switzerland of Morocco.
Snow in Morocco on the way to Ifrane
We had a fab drive down and sure enough we started to climb and we started to spot snow at the side of the road which was lined with pine trees. When we reached Ifrane there was snow all around and the houses were all built in the Swiss chalet type style. The roads and pavements where immaculate and clean and the air was cold but absolutely fresh which was a great change from Fes. We parked up and wandered through a fabulous park with Loli where there was a lake with ducks and almost out of nowhere came mounted Moroccan sellers on their horses offering us a ride which we politely declined.
Tina & Loli in the park in Ifrane
The town was very clean and well kept for Moroccan standards with some very nice looking hotels and bars. Clearly this is where the well heeled Moroccans come for a day or weekend away. We also found a Maroc Telecom shop that sold the infamous 3G tinterweb stick so we got one of those for just 200 Dh (€20) for one month unlimited supply of streaming tinterweb access which means we can get back in touch with everyone again. Although I am finding it rather refreshing and liberating that I don’t use my iPhone here in Morocco as I think I may have been getting addicted to facebook and twitter and that’s not good!
Not the road to Azrou
Neither was this the road to Azrou
We drove out of Ifrane very impressed with the oasis of calm and tranquillity past another Palace of the King direction Azrou or at least that’s what we thought. As we found out about 20 km later we were actually heading for El-Hajeb along a yellow road on the map so we had to turn back and retrace our steps. However the scenery had been awesome really wild with snow capped mountains in the distance and rugged plains either side of the road punctuated with bunches of sheep and goats with a shepherd, donkeys pulling and carrying ‘stuff’, women wrapped up against the cold and working and men in the familiar ‘roman lying down propped up on one arm peel me a grape position’ which they all seem to adopt all of the time. Every so often there were little settlements which weren’t even big enough to call villages with dwellings which were just low brick walls with roofs made out of what looked like polythene. I guess they don’t have running water or electricity and its cold – I’ll never complain about being cold at night in Christina again!
The 'Disneyland' Campsite
We got all the way back to Ifrane and managed to find the Azrou road using a process of elimination and came across the ‘Disney’ campsite just before Azrou. The entrance to the site was really impressive and the security guard was really nice and helpful and we were soon parked up, plugged in and settled for the night. [Camping Morocco, page 139, AZROU, Euro Camping, Emirates Tourist Centre, Azrou. www.camping-morocco.com from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 141 – Fes, Morocco
23rd January 2012. We had decided to ‘order’ our guide from the campsite as this had been recommended and he turned up bang on time at 9.30 to take us on ‘the tour’ his name was Idriss he spoke the good English script that we are realising many guides speak. They have learnt a script off by heart in about 5 different languages which is in its self impressive but in the case of our guide if you deviated from the script it all got terribly confusing. The script started with Fes has one million inhabitants and is the spiritual, intellectual and handcraft capital of Morocco. Spiritual because back in 900 Moulay Idriss a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed established the first Mosque outside of Mecca in Fes and that was one of the places we were going to visit. Fes also has the earliest established university and is a seat of learning much older than Oxford as it too dates back to the 900’s. Fes is also famous for its hand crafts which been passed down from generation to generation and we ere going to get a chance to see some examples. Fes is actually three cities in one you have the ancient medina dating back to the 900’s you have the old Medina dating back to the 1400’s and the new city which is new. We drove up to a great vantage point overlooking the Ancient Medina which was a great way to start the tour.
Painted Mini Tagines
We then drove to the ‘School of Pottery’ and had a guided tour around the longest established pottery in Fes. It was really interesting for example the apprenticeship takes 10 years to be a fully qualified potter, painter or mosaic cutter.
A Finished Mosaic
The Mosaic Pieces
The Mosaic Cutters
We were really impressed with the skill level and had no idea what went into a mosaic before. We were naturally led through an Aladdin’s Cave of a shop after our tour and out of courtesy bought two egg cups which can double as tea light holders much to the amazement of Tina because we are supposed to be ‘minimalist’ and we threw a couple of egg cups out before we left!
Koran School, Fes
The Mosque, Fes - first one in Morocco
The Tomb Of Moulay Idriss
We then went into the Ancient Medina where we visited the Koran School which was awesome, the Mosque only from the outside, the tomb of Moulay Idriss descendant of Mohammed and the old wood museum housed in a building that has been completely and tactfully renovated with the Kings personal money. The best bit was the terrace on the roof where we sat and hat a cheeky mint tea in the sun overlooking the rooftops of the Medina.
The Tannery, Fes
Drying Skins at the Tannery
Next stop was the tannery which Fes is famous for and we got to take pictures of the tanning process and then again we had the ‘option’ to buy some of the leather goods manufactured there. Tina was genuinely interested in a handbag which before battering was going to be 4,300 Dh (€430) until we bartered and then it became 2,800 Dh (still €280) to which we laughed out load and said we were going. I think that they think that ‘Europeans’ have al lot more money to spend than we really have. It was a bag which was worth maximum €40 which is what you would pay in the UK.
The Carpet Factory
Next stop was the carpet factory where we watched in awe at the speed that the women who hand knot the carpets worked. The carpet factory was housed in a traditional Fes Medina house which was amazingly spacious with 4 floors and a terrace that you could see over the whole Medina and an indoor courtyard which they sat Tina and I in, made us a Mint tea and then started the ‘Carpet Sales Presentation’. The presentation was brilliant I loved it! You can learn so much about sales from the Moroccans ad they have been doing it this way for centuries. The way it works is they will start laying carpets down on the floor in front of you of all colours, designs and sizes made from wool, cashmere and silk. I must say the quality is excellent and some of the designs especially now we have seen how they are hand woven and that a large carpet can take one year to complete were awe inspiring. So you end up with a huge pile of carpets in front of you and they have gone to a lot of effort to explain each one and lay it down at your feet. Then they get you to tell them which ones you don’t like and which ones you would like to put to one side to have another look. So you end up with a smaller pile, then they get you to say which colour you like best always assuring you along the way that the price they are going to offer you will be so good you will probably have two! I’m not saying the carpets weren’t worth the prices but we cant fit one in the motorhome and we don’t right now have a house to have them shipped too so we finished our tea, explained that English people never made decisions on the spot and left.
Next stop was the herbalist who gave us the tour including a couple of Berber ladies who were cracking open the Argan nuts and extracting the oil by hand. Again all really fascinating, then came the sales presentation which again was good and this time we bought some Argan Body Oil after a drawn out barter with the intervention of Idriss our guide who had got fed up of listening to the backwards and forwards and just told them to give it us for the price we wanted so we could get on with the tour.
Next stop was lunch at a really nice restaurant where we had a fab tagine each and then on to the silk weaving and a shop which housed a loom where we got to watch the cloth being woven on the hand loom which I’ll have you know we can still do in the UK with ‘Harris Tweed’ for example.
We got some good video and then had fun being fitted with turbans in preparation for our visit to the desert. Tina was interested in getting some lose fitting ‘air-conditioned’ trousers and we were going to buy a couple of pairs except that although we had a fab barter their expectations were so high that we left with nothing. I’m actually not sure now as it happened to us three times if we are being really tight or have lost touch with prices or that the traders of Fes just think we ‘Europeans’ have so much money we will pay anything. For example the trousers Tina wanted you would pay £20 for in the UK maximum and they wanted £45.
That was the last stop on the tour and Idriss drove us back to the campsite where we handed over our 300Dh (€30) which was worth every penny because we had seen some fabulous sights, yes we had been sold too but we had also learnt a lot from seeing the hand crafts first hand. [Camping Morocco, page 51, FES, Camping International de Fes, Routede Sefrou, Fes from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Fes the old Medina from above
day 140 – Moulay Idriss to Fes, Morocco
22nd January 2012. We were greeted by the usual morning mint tea from Abdul and his brother and we got ready to leave. Tina had a chat to Di who is travelling down to Mali with her husband Neil who I had chatted to last night. They have bought a Hotel in Timbuktu and had a house built as well as building a school for the local children so they are going to be very busy working on their projects when they get down there. I had a chat to Neil about funding the donkey and cart and he is going to run the idea by the ‘village chief’ when they get there.
We said our goodbyes to Abdul who has made our stay really enjoyable and headed off to Fes. The drive there was wonderful as we went back over the mountains. It’s just so fascinating to be sharing the road with donkeys and carts, lorries, mopeds and a few other motorhomes too. One thing we have noticed on our travels is that before every town and after every town there is a police road check. They make you slow down, they have ‘stingers’ at the ready and it’s as if they are looking for someone. Luckily it’s not us as we have always been waved through.
Driving tip for Motorhomers: If you have experience of Morocco you probably know this already but there is an unwritten rule that lorries don’t make way for Motorhomes on narrow roads (most of the roads are a bit tight for a widish vehicle going in both directions because the asphalt on the shoulder of the road falls away in big chunks thus narrowing the road). The best strategy is when a lorry is coming towards you slow right down or even stop if there isn’t traffic behind you and pull well over to the right so they can pass. After all we are having fun enjoying ourselves and are in no rush and they are working. Allow time between destinations so that you don’t end up driving in the dark or having to rush as the potholes in the roads can be large and should be avoided. They are hard enough to see in the day time to take evasive action in time so you could damage a wheel or tyre at night. We have also noticed that lorry’s will also indicate right when you are behind them showing you if its safe to pass them on inclines when they are literally crawling up the hill (really helpful if you have a right hand drive motorhome like us). All the lorry drivers we have come across have been really friendly and we give and always get a smile and a wave.
We arrived on the outskirts of Fes and spotted the sign for the commercial zone and the big Supermarket Marjane so we were heading for that when a moped rider started to try and flag us down shouting something about the campsite and going the wrong way. We ignored him and headed for the supermarket but he followed us and then explained that free of charge he will guide us to Camping International and maybe if we would like, his brother who has a car could take us on a tour around Fes. We politely declined said we were OK and went shopping. As soon as we got out he was there again explaining that we might got lost and all the wonderful sights his brother could show us. I was getting a bit tired of the whole thing and was starting to raise my voice because a quiet NO didn’t seem to register. Eventually he disappeared and after we had a snack I took Loli for a walk only to see him waiting for us at the edge of the car park. I spoke to him again and it turns out that the Campsite pay a tip if they guide people in so his name was Abdulas and I agreed just to help him that he could guide us in. Well we got to the campsite safe enough and checked in OK and then Abdulas’s brother turned up from no where. By this time Tina had reverted to her tactic of hiding in the bathroom. I was introduced to Abdulas’s brother who could do a tour for 200Dh. I declined politely and his brother was fine and at last we got to park up and relax with a cuppa. Its just the way the Moroccans are but it can be a bit nerving! [Camping Morocco, page 51, FES, Camping International de Fes, Routede Sefrou, Fes from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 139 – Meknes, Morocco
21st January 2012. Another sunny day and we decided to take the bus into Mekenes.
The bus - what do you expect for 60 pence for a 45 minute ride
That was a fun trip the bus had seen better days but for just about 60 pence each we got a 45 minute bus ride into town. Meknes is a very impressive walled city with beautiful arch ways all mostly intact.
One of the many fabulous gates into Meknes
Fruit market, Meknes
It reminded me if the type of city you read about in Sinbad or Ali Babar. We wandered through the ancient Medina and got completely lost until a kind Moroccan guy said follow me and we ended up in the main square.
Spices in the Medina
This man sold us tea!
We did some shopping and bought some ‘Berber Whiskey Tea’ so we can make our own mint tea.
Tina enjoyed her sausages until she found out what they were made of!
After all that we needed a cheeky mint tea and ended up having a meal overlooking the square and all the activity. There were horse and camel rides, a monkey man arrived and a snake charmer it was a real hive of activity.
The King has a big photo on all of his palace's he has so many he may forget where he lives!
A carriage passing the main gate of the Kings Palace
We were going to take a horse drawn carriage ride around the city as this had been recommended to us as a cheap and interesting way to see the sights but Tina was upset about the condition of the horses, they did all look rather thin and emaciated so we walked instead. We saw the big mosque and we walked round the massive and well guarded royal palace. Apparently the King of Morocco has a Palace in every city! If they are all that size then you can see where some of the money disappears.
Tina and I in the stables, notice the olive tree said Hamed
As we were trying to find our way back to the bus station I made the mistake of asking a guy outside the Sahrij Soumi which are the old stables that used to house over 1,300 horses. Next thing you know we are paying the 10 Dh (€1) entrance fee to go in and then after the usual negotiation we knocked our ‘guide’ Hamed down from 50Dh (€5) to 20Dh (€2). The building must have been impressive when it was being used and full of horses but it’s been empty and unmaintained since the 70’s and even Hamed’s ‘tour’ didn’t leave us that impressed however he did insist on taking loads of pictures of us and then at the end asked for an extra 10Dh (€1) which we of course declined – the pictures he took were rubbish anyway
You probably know this already if you have visited Morocco or any other Arab countries but negotiating is really important to them but it’s a bit alien for us. Our tactic is to have a small denomination note in the ‘negotiating pocket’ and just say we only have this so either take it or we won’t take the tour. They give you the tour for the money because it’s off season or whatever but a deal is a deal and they don’t ask for the money until they have delivered the tour so that’s fair.
When we got back I was walking Loli around the campsite and I met a nice couple who had an ‘expedition truck’ with GB plates and they are on their way to Mali and Timbuktu how fabulous is that! I always remember my grandmother referring to Timbuktu being a very far off place and it was going to take them 3 weeks to get there. They have built a school out there and they own a hotel and are heading back out to build up the hotel business and help the school more. They are after the money for a donkey and cart to take the children to school. It turns out some of them have to walk 10km in 45 degree heat to school and back without being fed and it’s just too much for the little ones so they don’t go to school. [Camping Morocco, page 54, MOULAY IDRISS, Camping Bellview, Route Moulay Idriss – Zerhoun from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 138 – Moulay Idriss, Morocco
20th January 2012. It was a beautiful sunny day so we took the opportunity to do some washing – how exciting! I walked into the local village in the afternoon to pick up a few supplies and what an experience that was. This was the real Morocco the Souk (Market) was housed under tubes of polythene sheeting nearly all the food on offer seemed to be alive so cages of chickens and pens of goats and sheep. When I got to the end of one ‘tube’ I found the butcher who was happy to take your live purchase and turn it into chops for you. It was unusual not to be approached and whistled in fact it was hard to buy stuff as nobody seemed that bothered. I bought tomatoes, onions, bread and I even managed to get 6 eggs after they understood that I didn’t want an omelette all for the princely sum of about £1.20.
We ate in the campsite restaurant in the evening it was one of the best meals we have had. The campsite owner really goes out of his way to make you feel welcome. He brings sweet mint tea to your van in the morning and bread if you have ordered it and we were made to feel like a king and a queen especially as we were the only ones in the restaurant. [Camping Morocco, page 54, MOULAY IDRISS, Camping Bellview, Route Moulay Idriss – Zerhoun from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 137 – Chefchaouen to Volubilis to Moulay Idriss, Morocco
19th January 2012. We moved on today, south in the direction of the oldest Roman ruins in Morocco at Volubilis. The drive was fabulous down the N13 through the mountains; we got a real taste for how the people living in the area live and work. The donkey is still really the main stay of the economy here. They are used for transport, for ploughing fields, for carrying a whole host of things from gas bottles, to water, to olive oil, to produce. We also saw them being used walking around a grinding mill. There are literally hundreds of them everywhere. In many areas it looks like people just about manage to eek out a living from what doesn’t appear to be that fertile land. Fields have been cultivated right up and over the hills and mountains every last little bit of land is being used to yield something. As we drove we also got a wave from young children and adults alike everyone seemed really friendly.
Watch your motorhome in service stations this guy had his truck stolen from under him!
We stopped for a cheeky mint tea and some lunch at a Moroccan Service Station. It was clean, the food and the tea was excellent and just like service stations all over the world you pay a bit more than you would in a local restaurant however compared to the prices in Europe its still cheap.
Volubilis equivalent of the Arch de Triumph according to Abdul
Volubilis equivalent of the Champs Elyse according to Abdul
Enjoying the sun on the Volubilis Champs Elyse
The storks or 'Clack Clack' birds nest everywhere
We arrived at Volubilis the sun was shining and there were already a couple of motorhomes parked outside so we parked up and paid the man who watches your car his 10 Dh (€1). Then we went inside and paid our 10Dh (€1) each to walk around the wonderful looking Roman Ruins and then we were approached by Abdul. Abdul was happy to show us around for 140 Dh (€14) the price in the ‘tourist book’. Well we only had 50 Dh (€5) with us so we declined and walked on but Abdul wouldn’t give up and in the end because it was quiet he would do the small tour for 50Dh (€5) and would accept a gift from England. Abdul was actually very good and it was really worth having a guide because there were no guide book or information signs that were readable. We ended up getting the big tour because we were so nice! Volubilis is really worth a visit it doesn’t match Pompey or Ephesus but you can get a clear idea of what life was like living in Roman times.
View from the brothel
This sign pointed you in the right direction for the brothel
For the first time we saw Roman Manhole Covers which was cool and a rude brothel sign (see picture). We paid Abdul his money and his gift from England was a bag of clothes we had been planning to donate anyway. [Camping Morocco, page 54, MOULAY IDRISS, Camping Bellview, Route Moulay Idriss – Zerhoun from www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 136 – Chefchaouen, Morocco
Tina with JW and Marion and their expedition home
18th January 2012. We were leaving to go for a walk around the town and visit the Kasbah when I noticed that the owners of expedition home that I liked the look of were about and I got chatting to them and they invited Tina and me for coffee. They were a lovely adventurous retired Dutch couple JW and Marion. They also had a sailing boat, both were experienced sailors and travellers and JW had even crossed the Atlantic single handed. They gave us a ‘tour’ of their home and explained all the good and bad bits which was so helpful.
We just love the mint tea (Berber Whiskey)
We or actually probably more like I left inspired and we went down into town for lunch and a cheeky mint tea. The Moroccans call mint tea ‘Berber Whiskey’ and it has become my favourite drink.
Lunch was Chicken Coscous - The food is fab in Morocco
After lunch we had a look around the Kasbah which is a fortress right in the centre of the town which is now a museum. Unfortunately all the descriptions of the fascinating photographs were either in Arabic, French or Spanish so we had to satisfy ourselves with just looking at the photos.
View of the Mosque from the Kasbah
View from the Kasbah
As we left the Kasbah and walked across Uta el-Hammam square direction the famous springs we were accosted by Mohammed. Just a word of warning if you visit Chefchaouen that the square is full of people who just want to ‘help’ tourists. They will offer to be your guide to show you this, that or the other. Or try and sell you a carpet, hashish or lunch it doesn’t really matter what it is because they are all on commission from the surrounding shops and restaurants. I am fine with this because you can always say no but for some reason when Mohammed approached us we didn’t say no. I think it was probably because he didn’t try and sell me drugs. Instead he helped us shop for vegetables, then took us to his ‘brothers’ shop who was also called Mohammed so that we could see the locally woven rungs and blankets. He was actually an OK guy, he spoke 5 languages and we got the full carpet/rug treatment at the shop. However although we had talked about ‘themeing’ Christina in a Moroccan style we had no dimensions of the seats with us so were un sure about sizes so I declined and the more I declined the lower the price became – fascinating. Anyway we didn’t buy there but we couldn’t shake off Mohammed who wanted to show us the way to the springs just in case we got lost.
We found the springs!
How caring, kind and considerate of him. However coincidentally we passed another rug shop this time well off the beaten track where the blankets were better quality and cheaper because no tourists found their way there alone. How convenient I thought. Well to cut a long story short we did buy 3 throws/blankets and we got 3 cushions covers thrown in. It wasn’t an amazing deal but we were happy with the final price, Mohammed was going to earn some commission and Christina has now got a very Moroccan looking interior. The way I look at it we were supporting local craftsmen and the local economy isn’t that what tourism is all about? [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 135 – Chefchaouen, Morocco
17th January 2012. Went for a walk in the National Park whose entrance is right next to the camp site in search of ‘the viewing platform’. We didn’t actually find the viewing platform but we had a fab walk. The three of us headed into the hills and after we got past the rubbish dump and the poor dead donkey the landscape opened out to display the Rif mountains.
Tina under the rainbow
It was raining a bit which was great because we had a fabulous rainbow to follow. You could actually see where it began and where it ended however it kept moving so we didn’t actually get to the end of that either.
As we got further into the mountains we came across bunches of young boys who were looking after herds of sheep and goats who on our approach with Loli started to scatter. As a result we got followed a number of times by bunches of them chatting away to us although we couldn’t naturally understand a word.
What we have noticed though is that in this area rather than French being the second language they all appeared to be able to speak Spanish and addressed us in Spanish as we passed by.
Although the road was just a gravel track there was a local bus service which carried people between the villages and Chefchaouen. The houses in the mountains had electricity and satellite dishes but didn’t seem to have running water because there were loads of hose pipes running down the mountains into the villages providing fresh spring water.
It's a hard life for the Berber women of the Rif mountains
Out here the women have a really hard life they were either carrying huge bundles of sticks on their backs or working in the fields or washing clothes in the stream and hanging them on bushes. While in contrast the men sat around watching sheep and goats, laying the odd brick on the many unfinished buildings or trying to persuade me to smoke this hashish stuff.
A wooden plough pulled by two donkeys still used today
After we had walked for a couple of hours and the road had dwindled to a path we stopped for our picnic lunch and then headed back.
They've not invented the clothes line yet
When we arrived back at the campsite it was full gain with a bunch of new and interesting motorhomes including a troupe of Germans and a fab Dutch registered expedition motorhome. I could never understand train spotting but now I have a bit more empathy because I have become an avid motorhome/camper spotter. They do fascinate me because of the huge variations that they come in. This expedition home was based on a blue Iveco chassis with a white habitation unit on it, with big chunky tyres and a huge diesel tank it looked all set to cross deserts. The manufacturers name and website was on it so I looked straight up on the internet as I really do fancy one of those.
We spent what was left of the day drinking tea, chillin and on the tinterweb. [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
We were going to walk up to the Spanish Mosque if it hadn't poured with rain
day 134 – Chefchaouen, Morocco
16th January 2012. We can’t believe it! It had rained all night which is really fun in a motorhome because it pitter patters on the roof and makes you feel extra snug and dry and secure but it didn’t stop all day. We planned to wait until it eased off a bit but it didn’t and as a result motorhomer’s started to leave the camp site in droves including our favourite ‘double decker’ van which it turned out collapses down for travelling.
Tina having a cuppa and doing Computer stuff
We caught up with blogging, I finished the ‘Kite Runner’ which is a brilliant book and Tina practiced Beatle songs on her Ukulele.
We were just sitting drinking tea looking out of our window when a small VW camper pulled up. It had a high top, was clearly 4 wheel drive and had one of those snorkel air filter things and big chunky tyres. On the side of the van was a world map and it was clear that the owners of this fab little expedition van had already been to China along the silk route and down the length of South America because they had put their route on the map. As Tina said we think we are having an adventure but compared to the Dutch owners of this van our BIG trip is rather like popping down to the local supermarket! [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Antidote to: Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed
Action Step One – I have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me.
There’s a great saying from James Dean and he said, “Dream as if you’ll live forever and live as if you’ll die today.”
Do you still dream? I’m sure most of us still dream, but maybe as children, we had the dreaming knocked out of us a little bit. Maybe when we said we wanted to be an astronaut or fly to the moon we were told, “don’t be stupid”. A negative statement like that is often then associated with any dreams we subsequently have and some of us have become ‘conditioned’ not to dream, not to get any BIG ideas.
Despite possible negative conditioning that you may have been subject to I would like you to write all of your dreams down. I would like you to create your BIG dream list. When you make your list I want you to be absolutely outrageous! I don’t want any logic to come into your thoughts.
If you want to be a helicopter pilot, I don’t want you thinking “how will my mother climb up the step and who’s going to look after the kids while I’m flying around?” Just write down what you want. Don’t think about whether you can afford it or how you are going to get the money.
Your dream list is the sort of list that you make in your mind, for example, if you play the lottery. You know, with the lottery there’s only a fourteen million to one chance of actually winning anything, but some of us still play it and they say, “you’ve got to be in it to win it!” But what are the thoughts that you would have if you had won the lottery? Have you ever sat down with friends in the evening over a glass of wine and said, “when I win that lottery, I’m going to buy my dad a new car and my mum a new house?” Those are the type of things that actually go on your dream list.
Go for it, grab your journal and write down all the things that you would like to have, see, do, experience, buy, give or share.
To help you, here are some examples of dreams that have cropped up in goal getting workshops that I have facilitated.
· Getting to the top of your compensation plan
· Be a confident public speaker
· Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
· Cycle the UK, coast to coast
· Explore America by car or bike
· Explore Australia, New Zealand
· Fly in a hot air balloon
· Go on a cruise
· Have a holiday home by the sea
· Keep fit and healthy
· Learn to fly a plane or to paraglide
· Learn to kite surf
· Play a musical instrument
· Learn to SCUBA dive or to ski
· Do a tandem skydive
· Own a dream home overseas
· Build your own house
· Own a property portfolio
· Own my dream car
· Receive a residual income of at least ten thousand pounds per month
· Speak a second language
· Work for or donate to a charity
· Write a book
Hopefully, these will give you a few ideas.
Practical tips: Start and brand new page in your journal or with a clean sheet of paper. This should be hand written list because the act of writing and making contact with the paper using a pen is far more stimulating than tippy tapping on a keyboard. Leave a margin to both the left and the right hand side of your dream list. When you have completed your dream list date each item in the left margin with the date when you wrote your dream. Then think about how important each dream is to you and rank your dreams in order of importance and urgency to you. For example 1 = I will achieve within one year, 3 = I will achieve within 3 years, 5 = I will achieve within 5 years, 10 = I will achieve within 10 years. Write this number in the right hand margin. I recommend that you continuously add to your dream list as you think of new fab things you would like to have, see or do.
If you need any more incentive to make your list just think about this. When you go shopping do you write a shopping list? If you answered “yes” why do you do that? You write a list so that you don’t forget. Have you written your dream list? What are the consequences of when you go shopping maybe forgetting the teabags? Is it the end of the world? But what if you are lying on your deathbed and you’ve not actually done some of the things that you would have liked to have done with your life because you forgot?
You use lists every day, shopping lists, to-do lists you are good at writing lists, but sometimes we get our priorities wrong, so I would encourage you to write your dream list, keep it with you and keep adding to it.
I mentioned earlier about the lottery and that there was a fourteen million to one chance of winning the lottery. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories, such as there’s more chance of getting struck by lightning twice than winning the lottery! Think about this; you either will achieve the dreams that you write on your list, or you won’t. Now to me, that sounds like odds of 50/50. You either will or you won’t. Do you prefer the odds of 50/50 to 14,000,000 to 1?
Your time is limited; don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs
I published a post a couple of weeks ago called ‘Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed’. The thought behind it was to make you think and not just think, but to take action so that you can avoid these regrets. Well I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about sending it so I have come up with the antidote to the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed.
As a reminder the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed are:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Here is the antidote:
I noticed that each one of these statements begin with ‘I wish’ and I have a philosophy never to have to say ‘I wish…’
So a great start would be to remove ‘I wish’ and state them in the present tense then we get these fabulous affirmations:
1. I have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me.
2. I don’t work too hard.
3. I have the courage to express my feelings.
4. I stay in touch with my friends.
5. I let myself be happier.
So if you already know what the top 5 regrets are then you have time to address them and avoid them before you reach the end of your 4000 weeks how fabulous is that?
Over the next few months I will address each one of the above and call the series the top 5 action steps to making the most of your 4000 weeks.
I think you know by now that I love collecting and using inspirational quotes and one of my favourites is
Some of the best things in life are not ‘thing’s but ‘feelings’
This is a fab story which I ‘borrowed’ from the Knowledge is King Website that reminds me of this.
the 7 wonders of the world
Junior high school students in Chicago were studying the Seven Wonders of the World. At the end of the lesson, the students were asked to list what they considered to be the Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following received the most votes:
1.Egypt’s Great Pyramids
2. The Taj Mahal in India
3. The Grand Canyon in Arizona
4. The Panama Canal
5. The Empire State Building
6. St. Peter’s Basilica
7. China’s Great Wall
While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student, a quiet girl, hadn’t turned in her paper yet. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The quiet girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.”
The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:
1. to touch…
2. to taste…
3. to see…
4. to hear… (She hesitated a little, and then added…)
5. to feel…
6. to laugh…
7. and to love.
The room was so quiet; you could have heard a pin drop.
This should be a gentle reminder to all of us that the things we overlook as simple and ordinary are often the most wonderful – and we don’t have to travel anywhere special and we don’t have to go on ‘a BIG trip’ to experience them.
Enjoy your feelings!
What makes a successful person? Well firstly success is personal so we all have a different definition of what success is and how we measure it. Success is what it means to you it can be what you want it to be. It doesn’t mean having loads of money. Money is a way of keeping score but lottery winners are not successful, you can’t inherit success, you can’t marry into success and you can’t buy success you can only achieve it yourself.
However whatever your definition of success is, one thing I have noticed that all successful people have and that is the ability to stay focused on one thing and to see it through to its conclusion.
Successful people have laser focus.
In a past life I used to sell laser cutting systems and I was thinking about the term laser focus and realised that all the successful people I have met or read about have laser focus, they don’t let things distract them or obstacles get in their way.
A laser beam can cut through almost any material no matter what depth. It can slice through 6 inch steel plates for example.
However to do this miraculous stuff a laser cutting system must have a number of things present.
1. A laser beam needs loads of power which means that if we want to have laser focus we need to keep ourselves fit and healthy and powerful.
2. A laser beam can’t do everything on its own it needs a support gas such as oxygen. When we want to maintain our focus we need to have support from other people and we need to fill our lungs with the oxygen of life.
3. The beam in a laser cutting system is directed by a series of mirrors. For the laser beam to be effective these mirrors need to be spotlessly clean. For us to remain focused we need a positive self image when we look in the mirror we need to be spotless in mind and love and appreciate the person looking back at us.
4. The laser beam needs a lens to help it focus this needs to be clean and of high quality. For us to be laser focused we need to eliminate negativity and fill our minds with positive high quality thoughts using all forms of personal development like books, CDs and training courses.
5. To cut through a thick piece of steel a laser beam needs to be focused not on the surface of the metal but at the bottom. If we want to accomplish great things we need to have our focus on the end result not the surface details.
6. A laser cutting system needs regular preventative maintenance where it is taken out of service and parts are replaced and levels are topped up, just like we need regular breaks we need downtime to recharge our batteries and get topped up and regular medical checkups if we want to remain focussed.
7. A laser cutting system needs an expert who knows how to set it up and get the best out of it and if we want to perform at our best and remain laser focussed we need an expert who may be a coach or mentor to help get the best out of us.
Without power, without support, without a clean mirror, without a clean high quality lens, without focusing on the end result, without regular maintenance and without an expert to set it up a laser cutting system will lose its laser focus and cannot function correctly and it won’t even open a tin can let alone cut through a 6 inch steel plate.
It’s the same for us if we don’t stay fit and healthy we lose power, we need support of the oxygen of life and the people around us, we need to have a positive self image, we need high quality personal development, we need to focus on the end result not surface detail, we need to take a break every now and then to recharge and we need a coach and/or mentor to help us deliver our best.
day 133 – Chefchaouen, Morocco
15th January 2012. Today we walked into town to explore and there is a path and steps down which made it easy. We were approached by some nice young and friendly Moroccan men that tried to convince us of the virtues of smoking hashish but we were having non of it so they just gave us the best directions into town instead.
Blue Arch, Chefchaouen
Blue door, Chefchaouen
Blue Street, Chefchaouen
Another Blue Door, Chefchaouen
Another Blue Street, Chefchaouen
Well the Medina as its called is amazing and we don’t of course know yet if all Moroccan towns are the same but it really was like something from ‘Disney’ I just felt like I was on a film set! We wandered around and around Tina taking loads of pictures until we felt we needed a sit down and a cheeky mint tea. Tina wanted to try falafels for lunch so we wandered around until we found the big square were the main Mosque and restaurants are. There was plenty of choice and plenty of willing vendors but apparently Falafel is only available in Tanger so we settled for a gorgeous chicken, lemon and olive terrine and soaked up the fabulous atmosphere of the square.
Life in the Square, Chefchaouen
When you visit Morocco you really get the feeling you are experiencing a different culture, different foods and a completely different way of life compared to the countries we have visited so far which are really just a variation on the same theme.
I think the photos Tina took tell the story and if you want to know more about this wonderful place then we found a great website http://www.chaouen.info/in-medina.html [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
View of Chefchaouen from the camp site
We loved this Double Decker Camper
day 132 – Martil to Chefchaouen, Morocco
15th January 2012. Martil is a very pleasant coastal resort and a ‘soft’ start to touring Morocco but we felt one day was enough and we should move on to visit the blue town of Chefchaouen.
Tina and I normally have quite in depth ‘discussions’ when travelling that revolve around directions so I anticipated an interesting journey as we only had a map! Can you imagine!
The journey was fab and very interesting. After we by-passed Tetouan we drove inland on the N13 and a climb up to Chefchaouen. Now this was more like it – proper Morocco with laden donkeys and women bent double with the weight of their loads of what just looked like green twigs.
You get a great view from Christina’s cab and the landscape in Morocco is not manicured as it is in the rest of Europe. Buildings just pop up, shepherds look after their goats and sheep as there are no fences, walls and hedges everything seems more natural. Roads are not as good as we had previously experienced so you just need to allow a bit more time but time is something we have plenty of.
Again ‘Sat Navless’ we still managed to find our way easily to the campsite recommended in ‘Camping Morocco’ and after negotiating a couple of very steep roads behind a huffing and puffing lorry we settled in our new camp up on the hill with a beautiful view over the town. [Camping Morocco, page 55, CHEFCHAOUEN, Camping Azilan, Rue Sidi Abel Hamid, Chefchaouen, www.campingchefchaouen.com from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 131 – Ceuta, Spain to Martil, Morocco
14th January 2012. We set off early and we made it across the border! We had been given lots of advice and heard different stories about how easy or difficult it was going to be but our tactic of over-nighting in Ceuta and getting to the border early before the rush worked well. We would recommend it if you ever make the trip yourself. We ignored the con men that try and flag you down to offer their help. You don’t need ant help and it costs nothing to clear customs unless you want to support the local Moroccans of course and make life difficult for the next visitor that comes along.
Both Tina and I have spent a bit of time in developing countries and there is a noticeable cultural difference between Spain and Morocco but the roads from the border are good and flanked by well kept and well watered grassy borders. There is lots of development going on including a new Ritz Carlton Hotel being built along the N13. For the first time on the trip we were using just a map as Garmin don’t have a map for Morocco and neither does autoroute we followed the excellent directions given in our ‘Camping Morocco’ book from Vicarious Books to the campsite at Martil – no problem.
We hadn’t realised that it wasn’t 9.30 when we arrived but 8.30 as we gained an hour driving into Morocco – no wonder the whole campsite was still asleep! We discovered it’s great to arrive early at a site because you can get sorted and out to explore.
We walked up to the beach with Loli and then wandered into town on the look out for a bank and Maroc Telecom so we could get a 3G SIM. We found a bank and got some Dirham but not a Maroc telecom office that was open but we needn’t have worried because when we got back to the campsite we found out we had a fab Wi-Fi signal better than we have experienced in Spain or Portugal.
The campsite restaurant did a ‘Menu de Jour’ for 50 Dh or €5 so we tried it out and it was amazing Couscous Chicken we couldn’t eat it all there was so much and I discovered ‘Mint Tea’ Moroccan style which is now officially my favourite drink! [Camping Morocco, page 57, MARTIL, Complexe Touristique Al Boustane, BP 727, Tetouan Principal from, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 130 – Tarifa to Algeciras to Ceuta, Spain
13th January 2012. It’s very windy in Tarifa which is perfect if you are a wind or kite surfer but apparently there is a very high suicide rate among residents due to the incessant wind so we have ruled it out as a potential place to settle.
We had a wander around the old town near the port. It was very ‘hippyish’ and Tina mentioned that for people who don’t or can’t go to Morocco they go to Tarifa instead for a taste of Africa which is only 35minutes away by ferry and clearly visible. We had a walk along the fabulous beach which stretches for miles with Loli and then headed back to café Central for a cheeky coffee and a snack.
We passed a few offices selling ferry tickets and popped in to compare prices which were €240 return. However one of the guys came out of one office when he saw us pass again and offered us a special price of €220 so clearly it’s negotiable so we decided to go to the agent recommended in @camping Morocco by Vicarious Books in Algeciras.
The agent was extremely helpful we only got charged €180 return and they produced all the required import papers for the motorhome they gave us all the other forms needed in a nice wallet and a chocolate cake and a bottle of Cider what fab service.
We needed to get at least a months supply of dog food for Loli at Carrefour which is her favourite make and I noticed at least 40 motorhome parked up in the Lidl car park across the road all set to stay the night before taking the ferry the next morning. So rather than get caught up in big queues we decided to take an evening ferry and beat the rush. Why wait!
We were the only motorhome on the boat which was empty so it made for a pleasant crossing. At Ceuta we filled up with duty free diesel and asked where we could park overnight and were directed along the coast to a car park where there were already a few motorhome sparked up so we settled down for the night. [Car Park on sea front, Ctra Nacional 352, Ceuta, N35.880280, W5.326529]
day 129- Ronda to Tarifa, Spain
12th January 2012. We got Christina ready for the off but before we went we were invited to tour around Jo Jo and Andrews van. It was fabulous inside with loads of nik naks, a shrine to the trip and a Spain shelf. It inspired us to ‘theme’ Christina in some way.
Tina with Andrew, Jo Jo in their fab van
The 'Shrine' to their trip
A Shrine to Spain!
We paid up and headed away from Ronda which we had enjoyed so much towards Tarifa on a different road to the one we had come in on. The scenery was awesome we have been so impressed by the area that we both felt we need to come back and spend even more time there.
Now our original plan had been to stop on the beach near Tarifa where apparently all the cool surfers hang out so we headed to the recommended co-ordinates to find what seemed more like a gypsy encampment. Yes it was on the beach and there were surfers around but it just wasn’t us and we were worried that Loli might catch something form the mangy looking dogs that patrolled the space so we turned and left.
We had noticed a few motorhomes parked up on the side of the road that we had passed so we went back there and felt much better despite the howling wind that persisted all night.
I also met a Dutch guy who had an expedition camper based on an old army truck which has apparently used in the desert who was also off to Morocco[Field on right about 3 to 5 km going West out of Tarifa on the Ctra Nacional 340, I forgot to get the coordinates]
day 128 – Ronda, Spain
11th January 2012. Our 7th day in Ronda and our last so we got Christina ready for the off the next day, caught up with more blogging and computer stuff and planned our trip to Morocco some more.
We were up for one last night out on the town so we mounted ‘Taz’ headed out of the camp site but before we got out we bumped into Jo Jo and Andrew the fab couple with the lime green tent and decorated bike and colourful van. It was their last night too and like Tina Jo Jo was craving pizza so they said they would probably see us in the town.
It was a very cold night and we were glad to park Taz up and walk. I took us straight to the two Pizza restaurants I had spotted before and both were closed. We thought it may be because we were a bit early so we nipped into a Tapas bar and had a cheeky drink and Tapas. Jo Jo and Andrew must have had the same idea and saw us in the bar and came in for a chat. Jo Jo is a hairdresser and Andrew an Art teacher and they were both really good fun. We separated to look for another Pizza restaurant and eventually met up again when we saw Jo Jo heading determinedly down a street on her ‘can’t be missed bike’ decked in flowers and a squeaky duck bell. We gave chase and sure enough they found the only pizza restaurant in town open so we ate Pizza together and caught up. They are also travelling for a year and were leaving the next day to go to Marbella. [Camping ‘El Sur’ Carretera Ronda-Algeciras, Km1.5, 29 400 RONDA, N36.72111, W5.17138]
day 127 – Ronda, Spain
10th January 2012. We found out that if we stay for a full week which will be the longest we have camped anywhere on the trip then we would get a discount so as Tina was not feeling brilliant we decided to stay an extra day and chill. [Camping ‘El Sur’ Carretera Ronda-Algeciras, Km1.5, 29 400 RONDA, N36.72111, W5.17138]
day 126 – Ronda, Spain
8th January 2012. A day chillin at the campsite and catching up on computer stuff in the sun. Guess what we found out? The laws for moving about Europe with your pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) changed on 1st January 2012 which meant that we would be able to take Loli to Morocco. Tina phoned DEFRA to check and we got the OK so we spent the time planning what we were going to do, organising our insurance cover and the route.
We met a Dutch guy on the campsite who had been to Morocco many times and told us that his wife cried tears every time they left because they loved it that much. What a recommendation we had to go! [Camping ‘El Sur’ Carretera Ronda-Algeciras, Km1.5, 29 400 RONDA, N36.72111, W5.17138]
day 125 – Ronda, Spain
7th January 2012. Well what can I say I turned 18 again this time with 35 years experience. We had a good Wi-Fi connection so I Skyped with Daisy and Harry and had loads of messages from my facebook friends. My treat was to be able to do nothing and then go into town in the evening for a look around the shops (the sales start on 7th) and to have a birthday meal out.
We tandemed into town did some shopping and had a few cheeky drinks including a Weiss bier at the Irish pub (I don’t think I have ever visited a European city that doesn’t have an Irish bar!).
One of the best parts of the evening was to see all the children out on their new bikes, or pushing their new prams or skating in their new inline skates just fabulous.
Tina loved her rabbit!
We looked round for a restaurant and decided to go to our favourite one in San Francisco. We went for the local speciality which was a whole rabbit and chips – yummy! [Camping ‘El Sur’ Carretera Ronda-Algeciras, Km1.5, 29 400 RONDA, N36.72111, W5.17138]
Chillin at the campsite
day 124 – Ronda, Spain
6th January 2012. I went for a run in my ‘new’ sports trek vibrams five fingers along a road which ran parallel to the gorge. The sun was shining the views were awesome, the shoes felt good and it was a great way to start the day.
Because the weather was so good and it was a bank holiday with literally everything closed we stayed on the campsite to chill and take our Christmas decorations down because it was twelfth night and of course my birthday eve. I popped Santa and the tree next to the bin and it wasn’t long before he disappeared and reappeared on a camper van that we had spotted which was very colourful, with a fab lime green tent outside and a madly decorated flowery bike. We later got to know the owners Jo Jo and Andrew.
We sat in the sun and caught up on the blog and generally relaxed. Strange as this sounds it felt like we were on holiday, we have been travelling at such a fast pace, seeing so many things then dashing over to La Herradura it was nice to have a cultural and social break. [Camping ‘El Sur’ Carretera Ronda-Algeciras, Km1.5, 29 400 RONDA, N36.72111, W5.17138]
Fab view of Puento Nuevo
day 123 – Ronda, Spain
5th January 2012. Today was walking day it was hot and sunny so we took plenty of water and a picnic and walked to the walls of the town through the ‘San Francisco’ quarter and did a left to walk down along the gorge. The views were amazing and we got to the spot where all artists and photographers get their picture of the Puente Nuevo. Carrying on we reached open fields and olive groves and walked along the river until we found a suitable spot under the shade of olive trees for our picnic. It seemed to be getting hotter and hotter around 26 degrees which isn’t bad for January.
View from our walk
After our lunch we turned back but instead of walking back the exact way we had come we ‘scaled’ the hill up to the walls of Ronda just like the Christian invaders would have done! We still had a couple of kilometres back to the campsite so we had a cheeky cold beer sitting outside in the shade before we walked back. Loli was glad of the rest she is getting old now and a bit wobbly when we go on a longish walk.
Here comes the procession
The kids love it!
Even more Kings
The Kings throwing their balls!
Chris and his ball
We headed back into town for the three kings procession on ‘Taz’ the tandem, it was all down hill we didn’t have to pedal once although we did think about what it was going to be like pedalling back!
We locked ‘Taz’ up by the bull ring and got our places outside a shoe shop for the procession. Although my Spanish is non existent its amazing how you can communicate. Everyone was getting so excited and that was just the adults! The children were beside themselves as they saw the floats coming towards them from the distance. The tradition in Spain is that the three kings took a while to reach the baby Jesus so they weren’t actually there when he was born as they had to come a long way. So apparently they arrived on the evening of the 5th January and baby Jesus got his prezzies on 6th January when he woke up. The procession reached us made up of a brass band, dancers, and donkeys carrying huge wrapped gifts and a float for each of the three kings. The best bit and the bit that everyone was getting so excited about was that the kings threw out sweets and soft toys and footballs and there was mayhem with everyone trying catch, grab and pick stuff up off the floor. I got loads of sweets the most of which gave to the lady from the shoe shop for the kids and I caught a ball which I gave away too. The 6th January is a bank holiday because it’s like our Christmas day all the children wake up to their presents. It was a really fun and exciting night, it made us feel all Christmassy again so on our way back to the campsite we had a celebratory drink at what is now our favourite bar in San Francisco! [Camping ‘El Sur’ Carretera Ronda-Algeciras, Km1.5, 29 400 RONDA, N36.72111, W5.17138]
day 122- Ronda, Spain
4th January 2012. The sun was shining and we were looking forward to seeing more of Ronda so set off to look for a good parking place. Ronda is a city of two halves divided by a spectacular gorge (El Tajo), the newish half the Mercadillo quarter (not that new really) which is laid out in a grid of narrow roads most of them one way with loads of underground car parks non of which Christina at nearly 3 metres high would fit in. Then there is the old medieval town or Ciudad across the Puente Nuevo ‘new bridge’ where the streets are cobbled, steep and narrow with overhanging balconies so there is almost no chance of parking there. So we ended up parking by the railway station again and walking back into the town.
The view from the bottom of the 365 steps
We wanted to explore the old town and after crossing the bridge took a left and came across the ‘Casa del Rey Moro’ which is an early eighteenth century mansion who’s gardens have been renovated and they lead to an underground stairway of 365 steps cut into the solid rock by Christian slaves which drop down to the river 130 meters below and guaranteed an water supply in times of siege. Well the lady on the entrance must have been in a good mood because she let us in with Loli. We clambered down the steep and slippery steps right to the river and back up again it was cold and dark and damp and I imagined what it must have been like for the slaves who had to haul the water up.
Puerto de Almocabar
We got a really good feeling about Ronda and we wanted to spend a bit more time there to explore the area, do some walking and in particular catch the three kings procession that was happening on the evening of the 5th so we decided to ‘lash out’ and go to the campsite which is about 2 kilometres outside of town. The campsite was excellent extremely clean, well laid out, organised and with loads of rules. It was therefore not a surprise to find out that it was German owned! It was quite empty and we found a sunny spot for Christina and chilled for the evening. [Camping ‘El Sur’ Carretera Ronda-Algeciras, Km1.5, 29 400 RONDA, N36.72111, W5.17138]
Ronda from the cliff top paseo
day 121 – Malaga to Ronda, Spain
3rd January 2012. Left Sue and Dads and dropped Harry and Emma at Malaga Airport and drove direction Ronda. It was a very windy road with a few very steep drops but Christina made it up there. We parked up near the railway station and went for an explore with Loli taking a walk along the spectacular cliff top paseo. Ronda is an awesome place an old and a new town built right on a gorge. It was one of the last places that the Christians managed to get back from the Moors as it was just naturally so inaccessible. We moved Christina from what was a busy road and free camped at a quiet parking spot for the night. [Calle Guadalimar, Ronda, N36 45' 7", W5 9' 40"]
day 120 – La Herradura, Spain
2nd January 2012. Harry and Emma wanted to do a bit of shopping so I borrowed dad’s car and took them to a shopping centre where we seemed to spend most of the day! It was fun and we had a little snack – not too much though because Sue was cooking us pork for when we got back.
We had a fabulous dinner after which we popped to the bar in the square for a last celebratory drink before we all left the next day.
I deliberated about sending this because I’m ‘Mr Positive’ and this article talks about death but my posts are about thoughts, ideas and experiences and if you live in the real world with me then this is reality. It is especially pertinent as its 12 months ago today that I lost a good friend and mentor. So I hope this does make you think and not just think but to take action so that you can avoid these regrets.
Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.
I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Harry & Emma on the beach on New Years day
day 119 La Herradura, Spain
New Years Day, 1st January 2011. A nice slow paced day. [The Williams Residence, La Herradura]
La Herradura Beach
day 118 La Herradura, Spain
New Years Eve, 31st December 2011. Today we had a Christmas day. Sue did a great lunch and we opened our presents. We had a great Moroccan Tagine (cooking pot) to use whilst travelling, can’t wait to give it a go.
New Years Eve on the Terrace Jimmy & Vicky's
Then we saw the new year in with Jimmy and Vicky and nipped over afterwards to Antonio’s for a drink. [The Williams Residence, La Herradura]
day 117 – La Herradura, Spain
30th December 2011. This was a great time for Chris to catch up with Harry and his Dad, while I had the chance to do all the washing, and give Christina a good clean up. Loli’s coat has grown long for the winter, so its much harder keeping it all clean these days, but I don’t want to have her clipped as she’ll need it for when we go skiing later in the year.
Best tapas on the Costa Tropical
We all had chance for another visit to Almuneca and do tapas again at Restaurante la China Romeloda, best tapas on the Costa Tropical. [The Williams Residence, La Herradura]
Palicio Episcopal, Cordoba
day 116 – Cordoba to La Herradura, Spain
29th December 2011. After leaving the campsite we parked up near the University and walked back into the old town from the direction of the river this time. It was great to see Cordoba from another perspective, and made us realise that you probably need to spend a week here. We ambled past the Royal Stables, and Fortress of the Christian Kings, through the Jewish Quarter.
Puerta del Puente and Puente Romano
We lingered for photos at the Bridge gate and the Roman Bridge. The day just whizzed by and after lunch we made our way back to Christina, and on to La Herradura.
Dinner at the Williams residence, La Herradura
By 9pm we were at Sue and Martins enjoying homemade mousakka, yum! [The Williams Residence, La Herradura]
Cathedral-Mosque at Cordoba
day 115- Cordoba, Spain
28th December 2011. Today we did Cordoba the Spanish way. We were well positioned to walk into the old historic part of the City, and headed straight for the Cathedral. This is probably the most interesting, fascinating and unusual cathedral we have visited so far, or I have ever seen.
Moorish Arches in the Mosque
This Cathedral is on the original site of the Saint Vincent Basilica, which was destroyed during the Islamic occupation and rule. It was destroyed to make way for the mosque which now still stands here today. Building started in 785 and then over time was extended and enhanced by the three successive Islamic rulers. Finally in 1236, when Cordoba was re-conquered a Cathedral was built in the middle of this mosque. So what is left today is basically a Cathedral inside 4 layers of Mosques.
The awesome interior
What can you do after a long morning of culture? If you are with Chris it has to be time to stop for a “cheeky coffee” and then a slow wander back to Christina for a siesta (or a “fiesta” as Chris keeps calling it).
So early evening in true Spanish style, we did the shopping thing, in a big way, and then moved on to a few bars for a little drinkie or two before dinner.
Our final, and best, stop was at Taberna San Miguel (fondly know as El Pisto), one of the city’s most legendary bars, over 100 years old. Chris and I tried the local drink; mantilla, which seemed like a cross between a white wine and a very dry sherry. To eat I had the rabo de torro (ox tail) which was wonderful, but we all had dish envy when it came to Chris’s another local speciality pigs cheeks. Sadly he didn’t want to share. This was a wonderful meal and thanks to Julie, Emma’s mum, as it was on her. [Camping Munciple. ‘El Brillante’, Av. Del Brillante 50, 14012 Cordoba, N37.90002, W4.78733].
Chris, Harry & Emma
day 114 – Malaga to Cordoba, Spain
27th December 2011. We were up and away early this morning and picked up Harry (Chris’s youngest son) and Emma his girlfriend. It was so nice to see them both again, but it was especially nice to see Chris and Harry together; Chris hasn’t seen Harry since last July when Harry went on a 3 month holiday to Australia.
Our Christmas Prezzies from Daisy & Mark
It was another long drive then to Cordoba, not the hour Chris had initially anticipated. We booked into our campsite, way the most expensive so far, and definitely not the best! We were all tired from the travelling and so just had dinner at the van tonight and played “Pigs”, and cards. Emma was the sneaky winner of all rounds. Be warned do not play against this girl for money, you could loose your shirt! [Camping Munciple. ‘El Brillante’, Av. Del Brillante 50, 14012 Cordoba, N37.90002, W4.78733]. NOTE: You don’t have much choice in Cordoba as this was in walking distance of the town centre but it was expensive, they were inflexible and the Wi-Fi was at a café down the street].
day 113 – Caiscais Portugal to Malaga Spain
Boxing day 26th December 2011. So this morning we had to pack up the Santa’s grotto and head out across Portugal to Malaga, from the picture you can see Loli helping us to pack, in her own little way. So it was a heart felt goodbye to Jacquie, Marc, Julie, Jason, and not forgetting little Charlie. Who knows when we will all meet up again. The journey was much longer than Chris had planned for and it took a lot of hours to get to the outskirts of Malaga. We passed a lot of beautiful scenery through Portugal, and both agreed that we are looking forward to returning and exploring here further. Chris had planned for us to stay in a parking Aire, he’d found on a database we use. So despite being tired and stiff from the constant driving we pushed on, but were devastated to find that it wasn’t there on our arrival. The area looks as it has been through some recent building developments, and I guess that was end of the Aire. I think its fair to say we were a bit short and snappy with each other by this point, it was dark, late and all 3 of us had had enough. So we just parked where we stopped in the street and made camp for the night. Was it a problem, noisy or safe? We have no idea, we just slept thorough. [Av de Malaga, Fuente de Piedra, N37.137250, W4.727864]
We are still here in sunny Ronda, Spain but planning to be in Morocco later on this week how exciting is that? However it may mean I can’t write to you for a bit but I won’t know until we get there.
I’ve been working on my 5 year plan and came across something in ‘5 Where will you be in five years from today?’ which reminded me of a post I wrote back in February 2010.
Live each day as if it’s your last…because one day you’ll be right.
Why not get your calculator out and try this test.
1. Multiply your age X 52 weeks (that will give you your current age in weeks)
2. Subtract that number from 4000 weeks (That’s approximately the average lifespan of the male/female population in the UK)
3. Write down how many weeks that you’ve got left.
I just had a birthday and I have worked out that I’ve got approximately 1,244 weeks left.
How many weeks have you got left? Is it a depressing figure? Don’t worry read my post ‘live longer with happy thoughts’ for a possible solution!
Just one more thing – this has to be one of my favourite quotes of all time:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming…………..WOW! What a ride!!
If you havn’t got your copy of ‘5 Where will you be in five years from today?’ you can buy one on line at Knowledge is King.
Fire on Christmas Day
Christmas day AFTER the dip with cheeky beers
Christmas day DURING
Christmas day BEFORE
Christmas day on the beach
Christmas Eve Lunch
day 110, 111, 112 – Cascais, Portugal
23rd , 24th , 25th December 2011. We spent four nights on the campsite the weather was awesome and we had a fab time partying with Ju, Jay, Jacqui and Marc, playing controversial games like ‘know your partner’ and ‘pass the pigs’ and making fire with the pine cones in our newly acquired burners. We had lunch on Christmas Eve at a fab local restaurant and on Christmas day we skyped with the family then had a dip in the Atlantic followed by a barbeque. All in all a great way to spend a Christmas and I’ll let the photos do the talking (writing). [Camping Card ASCI, 8th Edition 2011, p.716, #1877, Cascais/Guincho, P-2750-053, Costa de Lisboa, N38, 43’18”, W9, 27’59”]
Cabo da Roca
day 109 – Cabo da Roca to Cascais, Portugal
22nd December 2011. In the morning the view from the Cabo was spectacular and we took some Christmas photos with our Santa hats on to mark the occasion of being at the most westerly point to the amusement of another bus load of young Japanese tourists. We also bumped into a Dutch couple who arrived in their motorhome who we had met at Nazare.
Europes most westerly point
We explained how we had missed Sintra by accident and that we would head back there and then on to the campsite we had agreed to all meet up at for Christmas. They knew the campsite and explained that it was only about 6 kilometres away around the coast while Sintra was 18 kilometres away over a mountain range. At that moment Tina and I had the same thought it was time to chill we had done so much culture so we decided to head straight to the campsite and arrive a day earlier than planned.
The campsite was only a short distance away just outside Cascais but it was clean, sheltered and sunny with a Wi-Fi room, bar and laundrette and the ASCI camping card was accepted so it ticked all our boxes.
We set up proper camp for the first time on the trip. Our day tent got its first airing so it took a while to put up but it was worth it especially as it morphed into a fabulous Santa Party Grotto for our planned Christmas celebrations with Ju, Jay, Jacqui and Marc. [Camping Card ASCI, 8th Edition 2011, p.716, #1877, Cascais/Guincho, P-2750-053, Costa de Lisboa, N38, 43’18”, W9, 27’59”]
Cabo Carvoeiro view from Christina
day 108 - Cabo Carvoeiro to Ericeira to Mafra to Cabo da Roca, Portugal
21st December 2011. We woke up to the most amazing view and took a walk right to the end of the peninsula with Loli. Our parking spot had by now become a hive of activity with, swimmers, surfers and snorkelers’ parking up and heading down into the clear blue Atlantic.
Christina, Chris & Loli at the Cabo Carvoeiro
We moved off the peninsular direction Sintra and planned to drive along the coast via Ericeira. The drive along the coast was again beautiful and we came across a fab parking spot with a great view over Praia de S. Lourenco and parked up for lunch. After lunch we went down on the beach with Loli to get a better view of the surfers. The sand on the beach was the most unusual, colourful and biggest grained sand I have come across and I wanted to take a sample back to Christina but Tina reminded me of my minimalistic ideals so I didn’t.
The Hunting Room
Next stop was Mafra and the royal convent or PALACIO E CONVENTO DE MAFRA which we had heard was one of the biggest palaces ever constructed. The build started in 1717 and it became the biggest employer of the region at one point emplying over 50,000 people in one year and it was all funded by Brazilian gold. With over 1200 rooms, more than 4,700 doors and windows and 29 courtyards and a bascilica in the middle we are talking big. We didn’t get there until 4.00 pm and it closed at 5.30 pm so we weren’t sure if we would make all 1200 rooms however the ticket office assured us that we would have plenty of time. They were right because only a few rooms were open but they were impressive, such as the gallery which was over 200 metres long, the hunting room and the most impressive of all the library housing over 40,000 books.
The Library with 40,000 books
We then set off direction Sintra and a parking place which was recommended on the tinterweb. It was a strange drive because we seemed to drive way past Sintra and we ended up at the Cabo da Roca which although is in the Sintra area is 18 kilometres away! However there were lots of Japanese tourists milling around the still open Tourist office because the peninsular is in fact the most westerly point of Europe and you can even get a certificate just for being there if you are happy to part with €10. It was dark when we arrived so we couldn’t see the extent of the view but all over the carpark were no motorhome and overnight camping signs. As there was a security guard in the tourist office I thought it wise to ask if we could stay overnight and they were very helpful and said as long as we stayed on their carpark and not the private carpark we would be OK. [Cabo da Roca, N38.781581, W9.496661]
day 107 – Nazare to Sao Martinho do Porto to Obidos to Cabo Carvoeiro, Portugal
20th December 2011. Ok so I was nursing a very very slight hangover but we decided to head south following the awesome Portuguese Atlantic coast. We were heading for Sao Martinho do Porto which Charles and Barbara had recommended and the drive there was dotted with old windmills which Tina tried to convince me were old gun turrets! Sao Martinho do Porto is in a perfect horseshoe bay and is a natural harbour it has a lovely beach and it was a perfect spot for us to stop for a picnic on the beach for lunch.
Obidos & Me
We continued to drive south but started heading inland to reach our destination of Obidos which had also been recommended and was a not to be missed old medieval walled town. There also happened to be an Aire there which was convenient. We arrived about 3.30 pm parked up next to Jacqui and Marc on the Aire and headed straight into the walled town of Obidos with very high expectations. Now I don’t want to put anyone off Obidos but at Christmas time it was just one big Santa’s Grotto with shops selling tourist tack at extortionate prices. There was a Santa around every corner and fake snow cannons spewing snow out.
Obidos walls and pathway
Despite all that the town its self has been maintained in its original medieval form and the walls which you can walk around are basically completely intact. However we had walked the walls and the town within about 90 minutes and we both decided it really wasn’t worth staying on the Aire and that we should push on south.
Obidos an overview
A parking place had been recommended in Peniche which was only a few kilometres away so we headed off following the co-ordinates on the sat nav and eventually arrived after driving along some very narrow roads and dirt track right on the Cabo Carvoeiro peninsular. It was getting dark and we wondered where we had ended up but there was a French Motorhome already parked up and we have learnt that the French are by far the best at finding the best free camping spots so we parked up for a fabulous night under the crystal clear sky. [Cabo Carvoeiro peninsular an awesome spot with an awesome view N39.372231, W9.376526]
Tina and I with Nazare bay behind us
day 106 – Nazare, Portugal
19th December 2011. We had arrived in the evening and it had been a bit chilly so we weren’t immediately over impressed with Nazare however in the morning with the sun out we walked along the fabulous deserted beach and it was heaven. We had dressed for cool weather so we were well warm but the weather made our Christmas photo of Loli, Tina and I on the beach with our Santa hats on even more impressive. We walked along the beach to the harbour and marina and found a fab café on the marina out of the wind for our cheeky coffee and the sun was really scorching. It was so hot that we needed to return to Christina to change into cooler clothes and grab lunch.
Jay and Ju turned up in the afternoon and we all walked along the beach in the other direction to take the vernacular up the cliffs to the village at the top. Unfortunately they would only allow dogs on if they were in a cage so jay and I decided to walk the dogs up the hill while the girls took the easy way up. The views from the top were spectacular if you don’t mind heights and breathtaking away if you do. It was amazing to see how roads, homes and walkways had been built on the over hanging rocks. It looked like they could all fall into the sea way below at any moment.
The sun setting over the bay
We walked up to the light house and then it got a bit chilly when the sun went down so we all walked back down together. It was Tina’s birthday eve and Jacqui and marc turned up to help us ‘einfeiern’ which means you party the night before past midnight and into the birthday. We started with a Chinese meal at a restaurant we had spotted that looked very reasonable and then ended up in our favourite bar we post dinner drinks. Some of us overdid the post dinner drinks but it was a fab evening and the owner treated Tina to a birthday Margarita and we staggered back to our respective Motorhomes or at least that is my recollection of the evening. [Car park, Av. Do Municipio, Nazare N39.597021, W9.069930]
The Knights Templar Fortress and Gardens
day 105 – Tomar to Batalha to Nazara, Portugal
18th December 2011. The main attraction for us in Tomar was Tina’s fascination with the Knights Templar so we visited the Convent of Christ and the Knights Templar Fortress. It always makes me wonder in amazement that these structures were built so long ago so high up and with such beauty.
Convent of Christ, Tomar
The great thing about Sundays in Portugal is that most museums are free before 2.00 pm so for Motor Homers on a budget that is quite a saving. So we were up early and as soon as we had finished at the convent we headed straight over to Batalha to visit the monastery which we had heard so much about.
Construction on the monastery of Santa Maria began in 1386 and was still being extended well into the 16th century by various Portuguese Kings. It was a very impressive building especially the ‘Unfinished Chapels’ with their amazing detail. The cathedral has one of the highest ceilings in Europe and is one of the most impressive cathedrals we have visited.
We arrived at a car park in Nazare that had been recommended as a good spot to free camp and there were already a few Motor homes parked there. It was just light enough still for me to tie Santa on to Christina’s ladder and as I was doing so John a Brit from one of the parked up Motorhomes came over for a chat. He and his wife had been parked there for a few days and this was not their first visit. They came back most years ever since his retirement when they swapped their boat in Whitby for a Motorhome and planned to spend 5 years travelling around Europe. They only managed to do 18 months in one go as his wife became home sick but they had given it a good go apparently never stopping on campsites and free camping only. Again what fabulous inspiration and shows that we are definitely not the only ones doing this.
There was also another what you could sort of call a motorhome parked up it was more a converted lorry but I was really envious of it because it had a wood burning stove. How awesome!
We had a quick wander around the town and found a bar with a covered patio area which allowed dogs which meant we could have a cheeky beer with Loli in tow. [Car park, Av. Do Municipio, Nazare N39.597021, W9.069930]
The University on the hill at Coimbra
day 104 – Coimbra to Tomar, Portugal
17th December 2011. We went of to explore Coimbra in the daylight with Loli. It is a lovely town and we spent a fabulous morning walking around the old streets popping into the numerous old churches and even taking in the local market. We finished off by walking up to and around the university campus which is the oldest in Portugal with a reputation in Portugal that our Oxford and Cambridge have.
On the way back to Christina we struck lucky at the Chinese shop and found a ‘Climbing Santa’ to attach to Christina’s ladder how fab!
The Roman ruins at Condeixa
The main reason we had stopped at Coimbra was to visit the Roman Ruins at Condeixa so we drove the few kilometres there and spend a very informative couple of hours looking around the museum and the ruins. Did you know that the Romans used scissors over 600 years ago just like the ones we use today?
Me in ruins
Jay and Ju and Marc and Jacqui had found a car park to overnight in Tomar so we met up with them there and had a quiet evening out at a café that served the most amazing hot chocolate so thick that your spoon literally stood upright in it. [Car park in Tomar, N39.602492, W8.408896]
The festive look in Christina
day 103 – Porto to Coimbra, Portugal
16th December 2011. Coimbra the famous university town was next on our list and we knew Jay and Ju and Marc and Jacqui were at an Aire down there so with the Garmin and the Autoroute all programmed ready we headed out of the campsite. Well it’s not the first time we have had conflicting information from the Garmin, Autoroute and Tina’s map so we weren’t too worried and decided to go with the Garmin which ahs always turned out to be the best way. Well you know the streets I didn’t want to be seen dead in where we as passengers all had to breath in so we could get through well you can guess where the Garmin took us. We found ourselves in a labyrinth of narrow cobbled, car and low balcony lined streets literally a motorhome nightmare. Because of it all being a one way system it was like a maze we just kept going deeper and deeper in and found ourselves on the exact same roads the bus had travelled. As we turned a corner two cars coming in the opposite direction started waving frantically and gesturing for us to stop and go back. One driver was kind enough using hand gestures alone to get us to turn and follow him. So we found ourselves following an unknown Portuguese driver on an unknown route for about 5 kilometres with him slowing down at every junction and waiting patiently for us until we got onto a real road. What an amazing relief to be heading in the right direction on a wide road.
We arrived at the Aire in Coimbra at about 15.00 and had a catch up with Ju and Jay and Marc and Jacqui who were parked up. Then Mike and Liz turned up in their super Hymer home so as it was Friday night we arranged to go out as an eight some to paint the town a shade of pink. Ironically the nearest bar to the Aire was an Irish bar on the riverside so after a quick drink there we headed into the town for the authentic Coimbra experience that we had read about. Trouble was we were a day late because all the cape clad students has celebrated end of term the night before and the town was empty. We came across a café next to the church which looked rather original even if it was a little empty but easy enough to get a table for eight. It turned out we had stumbled across the ‘Fada Mecca’ of Coimbra and at 21.00 three very glum looking men dressed in black took to the stage to serenade us with misery and sadness and even though we didn’t understand a word it had the desired effect of being on the one hand fascinating and on the other downright depressing so we moved on and made our way back to Christina. [Coimbra Aire, near the swimming pool at the river side, Avda Ines de Castro, Coimbra, N40.199330, W8.429008]
View of Porto from the prison (Photography Museum)
day 102 – Porto, Portugal
15th December 2011. We took the bus into Porto from just around the corner of the campsite just €1.50 for a 40 minute ride and boy what a ride. After experiencing how the bus driver managed to throw his bus which is wider and longer than Christina around tight bends and weave around parked cars and hurtle down narrow streets with literally only inches to spare either side I felt a right wimp of a driver but stilled vowed never to go near those streets in our Christina. The bus dropped us right in Porto centre by the tourist office so we popped in there and picked up a map with all the ‘must see’ sights marked on and then went for a cheeky coffee to plan out attack.
We decided to teat ourselves to a typical Porto lunch in the back streets of the Barredpa area. Tina had ‘Tripas a Moda do Porto and I had ‘Alheiras com Batatas e Arroz. Well mine was a sort of black and white pudding, with chips and egg and Tina’s was ‘tripe’ and we both agreed it was tripe. So the accompanying Vino Verde really helped.
View of the bridge at night in Porto
As Tina was just taking a picture of me outside Cris’s bar in Porto out walked Mike and Liz from the shop next door who were parked next to us at the campsite so we introduced ourselves and had a chat as we wandered down towards the river to catch the bus back to the campsite. On Mike’s suggestion we popped in to one of the riverside bars for a cheeky beer which turned in two but it was fascinating to hear their backgrounds. They say the world is small but its getting tiny because as we walked across the bridge to get the bus we bumped into John and Clare who we fist met in A Coruna and then again in Ponte de Lima and now again in Porto. After a brief chat and introductions to Mike and Liz we headed to the bus stop to see the bus wiz by us which meant yet another cheeky beer before the next one came. (I’m suddenly realising as I write this that our time in Porto seem to involve lots of drinking which I suppose is appropriate when you think the town is named after a drink!). The ride back on the bus was just as hairy as on the way in and both Mike and I agreed we wouldn’t be seen dead on those roads in our motorhomes. [Camping Card ASCI, 8th Edition 2011, p.720, #1888, Orbitur Madalena, Rua de Cerro 608, Praia da Madalena, P-4400-736, N41,6’29”, W8,39’19”]
day 101 – Porto, Portugal
14th December 2011. We did suffer from the excess of the 100 day celebration but we had a good clean up in Christina and I cleaned up Taz the Tandem who had got a bit rusty in the chain area after being hung on the back of Christina in the wet weather. By the time we had done all that it was late afternoon so as Tina was still suffering a bit from a cold and the previous nights escapades had got both of us we had a cheeky siesta. Dinner was roast chicken and properly rested and fed we are all set to hit Porto properly tomorrow for some serious sight seeing. [Camping Card ASCI, 8th Edition 2011, p.720, #1888, Orbitur Madalena, Rua de Cerro 608, Praia da Madalena, P-4400-736, N41,6’29”, W8,39’19”]
day 100 – Guimaraes to Porto, Portugal
13th December 2011. It was a wet day ideal for exploring museums. We visited the castle which was originally built in the 10th century whose car park we stayed in and Tina climbed to the very top. We then walked into town to visit the Alberto Sampaio Museum which had been recommended by the tourist office. It was full of school children when we arrived but they were on there way out and we had our own guide who didn’t say a word but walked ahead of us pointing us in the right direction and opening and closing doors for us. The museum had some fabulous art but the silver alter pieces from the 14th century were unbelievably beautiful and I loved the tunic on display that was worn by King Joao I at the battle of Aljubarrota over 600 years ago.
We then looked around for somewhere to have lunch but decided we had enjoyed the bread so much from a little bakery that we found yesterday that we would buy some more rolls and eat in Christina especially as we had left Loli on her own.
Christina the Adventure Home visiting Guimaraes Castle
After lunch we headed out direction Porto to a campsite located near the beach just south of the city so we could do some washing and charge Christina’s battery’s.
We arrived about 6.00pm Tina got to work on the washing and I cooked ‘favourite pasta’ and we celebrated 100 days travelling with drinks and ‘pass the pigs’. Only thing is I think we may have over done it with a bottle of Vino Verde, a bottle of red wine and then Port (well you have to) to finish off. [Camping Card ASCI, 8th Edition 2011, p.720, #1888, Orbitur Madalena, Rua de Cerro 608, Praia da Madalena, P-4400-736, N41,6’29”, W8,39’19”]
day 99 – Ponte de Lima to Guimaraes, Portugal
12th December 2011. We find it easier to wake up in Portugal than we did in Spain being on UK time seems to make a difference. Perhaps it’s because it’s lighter in the mornings. We got Christina ready for the off and I programmed the Garmin with the co ordinates of a good overnight car park that Marc had recommended and off we went. It was a fab drive along the N201 we were chatting, listening to ‘Swing Out Sister’. After about 30 minutes of driving things didn’t appear to be right and when we pulled over to consult the map in detail we had been travelling on the right road but in the wrong direction! So lesson learned the Germans don’t always get it right and DON’T rely on a Sat Nav! We had that de ja vous feeling as we drove back direction Ponte de Lima and we got a chance to see the town again so that was positive. We stopped for lunch just outside Guimaraes and found the correct co ordinates for the car park by the Castle and parked up for a cuppa.
Checked out Guimaraes next year’s city of culture. They are doing a lot of work getting it ready. It is a fabulous medieval city but everything is closed on a Monday so we stayed the night so we can visit a few museums tomorrow. [Big parking behind the Castle, R. Dona Teresa, N41.448642, W8.289326]
These are my reflections on 2011 have you done yours?
I am sitting here on a campsite in Ronda, Spain in a baking 26 degrees of sunshine writing to you on January 6th and as I mentioned in my last post fail to plan, plan to fail I think it’s a good idea to reflect on last year and remind yourself of all of your accomplishments (well at least those you can remember because we achieve things every day) and give your self a massive pat on the back for doing so well. The process will help you reflect and it will also get you into a positive mind set for planning 2012. To check if I have a reasonable balance in life I have looked at 2011 based on the six main areas of life for me. Reminding myself about what I have achieved also made me realise what I love doing (so I can plan to do more) and what I have learnt (so I can plan to improve).
So why bother? It may seem a bit self-centred to some people but most people at some stage in their lives suffer from low self-esteem? I know I do but when you appreciate yourself and write down all of all the amazing things that you have done your confidence in your own abilities and your self-esteem will grow. This is all part of the cycle of success which I have written about. So here goes:
we did it!
discovery & adventure
Tandemed Lands End to John O’Groats with Tina unsupported except for our inspirational mate Pete on his solo bike who was very good at making us laugh and helping with our numerous punctures.
Set off on ‘the BIG trip’ an adult GAP year touring around Europe with Tina and Loli in Christina the Adventure Home and Taz the Tandem.
Did my first Paraglide with my brother Rob
Canoeing on the Dordogne with Tina
Walking in the Picos Mountains
family & relationships
Supported my good friend and mentor Chris Mallee who stayed positive to the end.
Supported my brother Steve through his illness challenge
2 week skiing holiday in Christina the Adventure Home with Tina and my son Harry and met up with my sister Jackie and my nephew Nick.
Went to La Herradura, Spain for my Dads birthday and met up with my daughter Daisy and Mark her partner
Spent New Year for the first time ever with my Dad in La Herradura, Spain and my son Harry and Emma his partner who flew over to celebrate the New Year too.
In June my son George and his partner Jess flew back from Australia for his 21stBirthday and I was able to spend loads of time with him.
fitness & wellbeing
Trained for and ran the London Marathon and achieved a world record as the only 52 year old to complete it dressed as ‘Mr Incredible’ (I made the record up)
Tried and finished the raw food diet
Started the 4 hour body diet and lost too much weight!
Discarded my trainers and have been running in Vibram Fivefingers
Visited a chiropractor regularly
Had a health check – its free in the UK just contact and your local Doctor and make an appointment
Raised £3,000 for St Giles Hospice with the London Marathon and LEJOG
Continued my role as a ‘Trustee of the Norman Laud Charity up until I left the UK in September
Spoke at the YES Group, Birmingham
Facilitated 3 Charity Goal Getting Workshops raising money for St Giles Hospice, The Make a Wish Foundation, YES group – basket brigade
Facilitated 8 people to Success with LMI programs
Facilitated 19 Goal getting Workshops
learning & growth
Assisted in the organisation of a fabulous ‘Kick Off’ Event and co hosted for over 600 delegates
Spoke to over 1000 people at Express Day about Goal Setting
Attended a ‘Go For No’ seminar with Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz
Promoted and attended a Tom ‘Big Al’ Schreiter seminar
Attended a Peter Thomson ‘Goldmine’ Seminar
Jointly organised and hosted the ‘Live Love Laugh Group’ event with 200 delegates
Reading highlights: 4 Hour Body, Unfair Advantage, The Outliers, started the Bible, The Secrets of Shelter Island, 5 – Where will you be five years from today, Success Magazine, Zen Habits Blog, The Minimalists Blog
Published a regular ‘don’t just dream it…do it! Newsletter
work & finance
Rented the house out for 12 months turning it into an asset
Sold, car-booted and gave away excessive possessions and bought a kindle each with the proceedes.
Reviewed pensions and investments
Saved 10% of everything I earned for investing
My network marketing business grew by 13%
what did I love doing in 2011?
Travelling and discovering new places, meeting new people, walking, canoeing, tandeming, skiing, paragliding, facilitating goal getting workshops, running the marathon, raising money for charity, speaking at events, helping and supporting people to achieve their dreams, reducing clutter and disposing of unnecessary materialistic stuff, the freedom of running in my Vibram Fivefingers.
what have I learned?
Even the death of a very close friend can have a positive outcome in that it spurred me into action, people are more important than places, don’t park irresponsibly in Spain, I should of spent more time with my Mum, I should have weighed Christina the Adventure Home before we set off, we don’t need half the stuff we have brought with us, be very careful when driving a motorhome in a fuel station, we need to slow down, wear rubber gloves and turn your face away when emptying the poo tank, you can drink too much red wine and even 2 and 3 year olds can speak French in France and Spanish in Spain and I can’t – yet.
Travelling around Europe in Christina our Adventure home gives me plenty of time to think and reflect especially as we have just driven from Lisbon to Malaga which is was about 500 kilometres to meet up with my son Harry. On the journey Tina and I were discussing the New Year and how there is always lots of advice and talk about New Years resolutions. Unfortunately resolving to do things in 2012 without thinking things through and taking the time to reflect can often set us up for failure.
Harry mentioned that one thing that he notices about the New Year is that the gym gets really full and that’s true. Just like last year there will be many people who voluntarily fork out hard earned cash for a gym membership and at the time they join they have the intention of getting fit and losing weight but most of them will be back to their old ways in February or latest March.
So instead of over promising and under delivering (because a goal is simply a promise to yourself to achieve something), why not reflect on last year? Give yourself a massive pat on the back for all the fab things that you have done. The experiences you have had, books you have read, journeys you have made, challenges that you have overcome, people you have helped, family events that you have organised, things that you have learnt and the charities or good causes that you have supported.
Then because we are all natural goal seekers set just one goal.
I have set a goal to make a plan for 2012 and I will be using a fabulous book to help me called ‘5, Where will you be five years from today?’
There is more to life than making promises that we have no chance of keeping and I don’t know what its like for you but I know ‘stuff’ will get in the way of my goals. I know that I can be easily distracted but if a have a plan and a tool to help me plan then I have a much greater chance of achieving the things that I want for myself and my family.
I know that things won’t always go according to my plan, I know that I may overestimate what I can do in the short term but underestimate what I can achieve over the next five years so I will be happy to change my plan because I can guarantee that by following a plan I will get closer to where I want to be in the next five years than if I had no plan at all.
If you would like a copy of ‘5 – Where will you be five years from today?‘ Visit www.knowledgeisking.co.uk
Wishing you and your loved ones an awesome 2012
After 101 days there has been plenty of time to reflect on our travels so here are 10 things I like best about ‘the BIG trip’ so far and the 10 worst things.
10 best things about the BIG trip
1. Don’t have to change my underpants everyday
2. The minimalist lifestyle
3. Ability to exercise regularly
4. The ‘Spendometer’
5. No alarm clock
6. No suit and tie
7. No TV
8. Loads of books
9. Discovered the iPhone
10. Running on the beach
10 worst things about the BIG trip
1. I miss Daisy, George and Harry
2. I miss my fabulously positive business partners
3. I miss ‘fish & chips’
4. The baddies in Valencia who tried to break into Christina
5. I can’t speak French or Spanish
6. The steering wheel is on the wrong side
7. Emptying the poo tank
8. Reversing Christina
9. My lack of progress playing my Ukulele
10. Trying to see and do too much
If you have been, thank you for following us on Facebook, Twitter and the Blog and for all your fab comments of support
Its December 13th 2011 and we are in Guimaraes, Portugal and lovin it! We have never been away for 100 days before so its a record for us!
If you think that an average we have 20 days holiday per year then we have already had 5 years worth. How fabulous is that!
Today we thought we would give you some geeky 100 day statistics
Total mileage so far 4,987
Total Euros spent on:
Eating & Drinking out €999.25
Total spent €4,339.99
Average spent per day €43.40
Countries visited so far
Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal (we are in no rush)
Favourite city so far
San Sebastian, Spain
Best night out so far
San Sebastian with Ju and Jay and Pontevedra with Marc and Jacqui
Best experiences so far
Para Gliding with Rob at Pyla Dunes
Tandeming the peace route Ypers
Canoeing on the Dordogne
Walking in the Picos Mountains
Best museum so far
Caen Memorial, France
Sights to make you think
Menine Gate, Ypres, Belgium
Normandy, France the cemetery’s and beaches
Sights to take your breath away
Griffin vulture at Pincos Mountains
Plaza del Pilar, Zaragoza
Best bit of all
The people we have met
Here is a 100 day thought;
There is an old saying that ‘Success is a journey not a destination’
They also say that a journey is more about the people you meet than the places you visit.
Therefore the more people you meet the more successful you must be!
We have met some fabulous and inspirational people on ‘the BIG trip’ and are looking forward to meeting many more.
I am currently reading ‘The Secret of Shelter Island by Alexander Green’ in one of the chapters ‘Are You Suffering From Affluenza’ he talks about how the human condition is to strive for more stuff often focusing on our standard of living rather than our quality of life.
Alexander Green refers to the Greek Philosopher Diogenes who taught that ‘no man needed much’.
One story talks about Diogenes sitting eating a simple meal of porridge at the side of the road. A court philosopher came over to him for a chat and said “You know, Diogenes, if you learned to play up to the king like the rest of us, you wouldn’t have to live on porridge.” Diogenes didn’t even glance up from his bowl; he just said, “If you learned to live on porridge, you wouldn’t have to play up to the king!”
This story reminds me of a favourite story of mine about the Greek Fisherman and the Havard business man. It’s a story that my mentor and very good friend Chris Mallee and I used to talk about as a principle for life as we coached each other for success. Chris was a very successful property developer and had taken 10 years to build a substantial property portfolio and we were both looking for the ‘next’ project. We talked about maybe it was time to be the ‘Greek Fisherman’ instead of the ‘Havard Businessman’. There were lots of things Chris wanted to do with his family, experiences to enjoy and countries to be explored but up until now he had struggled to find time to do it as he was so busy working. At the time of our conversation Chris was in remission from cancer. Sadly within a few months of our conversation Chris passed away at the age of 46 leaving a young wife and two young children and a substantial property portfolio.
I havn’t been able to write about this before as it affected me so much but in a positive way what happened to Chris was the catalyst for ‘the BIG trip’.
I found out that life is often about timing and it was ‘time’ for me to not just to talk about it and help others achieve their goals but time for me to take action and do it!
So how is it for you? Here is a coaching question that I have always asked myself a couple of times a year.
If I only had 12 months to live and I was going to be in perfect health for the whole 12 months would I carry on doing what I was doing or would I do something else? The answer for me had always been ‘yes’ because I loved my life and what I did.
The last time I asked myself the question the answer came back ‘NO’. I would rather be travelling, exploring, discovering new places, meeting new people, experiencing new countries and cultures. So that’s exactly what both Tina and I decided to do.
If you asked yourself the question ‘If I only had 12 months to live and I was going to be in perfect health for the whole 12 months would I carry on doing what I was doing or would I do something else?’ What would your answer be?
Are you a ‘Greek Fisherman’ or a ‘Havard Businessman’? If you would like to read the full story about the Greek Fisherman and the Havard business man just follow this link .
A boat docked in a tiny Greek village. An American tourist complimented the Greek fisherman who was resting in his boat on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
“Not very long,” answered the Fisherman.
“Then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.
The Fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, dance a little, drink a bit, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.” Said the Fisherman
The American interrupted, “I am a businessman and have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you. You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch and with the revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
“What do I do then” asked the Fisherman?
“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant” answered the Businessman.
“What do I do then” asked the Fisherman?
“You can then leave this little village and move to Athens, London or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”
“How long would that take?” asked the Fisherman.
“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the Businessman.
“And then what happens then?” asked the Fisherman
“That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the Businessman, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”
“Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the Fisherman
“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings singing, dancing, playing and drinking with your friends…”
“Which is exactly what I do already” replied the Fisherman
Disclaimer – Just so you know this is not my story that I made up it’s available all over the internet and I’ve seen it also as the Mexican Fisherman. Its the principle thats important and the best way to make a point is with a story! Thanks for reading.
Ponte de Limo - Can you see Christina?
day 98 – Ponte de Lima, Portugal
We woke today to see that not for the first time we were surrounded by cars and the town was full of visitors. Tina went for a run and I did my exercises and when Tina got back she reported that there was a big flea market in town which seemed to be the thing attracting so many visitors or was it the fact that it was Sunday and Ponte de Limo has to be one of the loveliest towns we have visited on our trip so far and the Portuguese think so too.
The three of us had a walk around town and across the bridge following a route that was well sign posted listening to Christmas music on the way. We then headed back to Christina as it started to rain and get colder but we have such a fabulous parking spot overlooking the river and the bridge that its a pleasure to sit and drink tea and watch the world go by. WSitting in Christina we noticed a white Ford Transit van park along side and we recognised it as Clare and John who we met at A Coruna. Clare used to live in Guimaraes and she says they have the best Christmas lightsever so its a must! We will stop another night here and move on tomorrow. [Car park next to the Roman Bridge, Ponte de Lima, N41.768243, W8.586207]
The Roman Bridge at night
day 97 – Seixas (nr Caminha) to Ponte de Lima, Portugal
We were sad to leave our friends Charles, Barbara and Caroline today but we were really happy after topping up with Radio 2, Barbara’s most amazing homemade Chicken and Mushroom Pie and Chips for dinner and Bacon and Egg Sarnies for Breakfast. How fab!
If you fancy visiting them they have a fabulous house next door which they rent out and sleeps 8 to 9 people check it out at www.rentinportugal.com.
Barbara gave us a book on ‘the loveliest towns and villages in Portugal’ and as we have no other guide we are going to ‘do’ as many as we can.
Caminha was in it so we drove into own and parked up to have a look around in the day. It really is a lovely town and we also managed to get an up to date map of Portugal there which always helps when you are touring a country.
We then drove on to Ponte de Lima also recommended in the book. We parked on the river side overlooking the ancient Roman Bridge for which it is famous and after which it is named. It was the first bridge to span the Rio Lima built in Roman times so the pilgrims could get to Santiago de Compostela.
It’s pouring with rain so we are chillin, drinking tea and reading. I love the cosiness of Christina when it’s pouring with rain outside we sit dry and warm listening to the rain drops on the windows and roof. I’m so glad we are not in a tent on days like this.
The rain stopped and the three of us ventured out to explore the town. It really is quaint with lots of little shops, bars and restaurants of small lanes some of which have red carpet. We had a walk around and then back along the river and we could hear Christmas music. We suddenly realised that the lamp posts must have built in speakers and Christmas music was being piped through them all around the town. It started to get dark and all the Christmas lights came on including the bridge being fully illuminated. It created a wonderful Christmassy scene. Tina thinks it’s the best place ever and wants to stay! Not only that the council provide free Wi-Fi which we can pick up in the car park so we love Ponte de Lima and we love Portugal! [Car park next to the Roman Bridge, Ponte de Lima, N41.768243, W8.586207]
day 96 – Seixas (nr Caminha), Portugal
We had decided to sleep in Christina and when I woke I heard the barking of Jacky and Lucky and the howling of Obi the husky and guessed Charles was getting them in the car for their walk so Loli and I got ready and went along too. We dropped Caroline off to her bus first then went to the beach to run the dogs. To get to the beach we first walked through a pine forest with so many trees to sniff and wee on that Loli was lagging behind. Interestingly Obi was a bit concerned about this so he kept running back to her to fetch her along. They all had a fab time on the sandy, deserted, beach; Obi was Loli’s hero so she followed him and chased him around the beach. Charles and I picked some pine cones on the way back for the fire. Inspect the rest of the day planning our route through Portugal to include all the places that has been recommended by Charles and Barbara and their friends.
Went out for lunch I also uploaded the last asks blog post and photos so it was a very productive day.
The Smalls have a satellite which means they get English radio and TV so in the evening Tina got a good dose of Chris Evans and other Friday night stuff. Barbara bakes homemade pies as a little side line and we had Chicken and Mushroom Pie which tasted amazing. It’s a shame we don’t have a cooker in Christina otherwise we could have bought a few to take with us. After dinner we all slobbed out in front of the TV. [The square outside the Smalls residence, Calcada do Cancelo, Caminha]
The 'Smalls' Barbara and Charles outside their residence
day 95 – Pontevedra, Spain to Seixas (nr Caminha), Portugal
We didn’t wake bright and early this morning but it wasn’t that late either considering we came home with the birds early this morning. Tina went for a run and I did my exercises in the van as my Achilles tendon is still sore. The parking Aire had grey and black waste disposal but we weren’t keen on filling up with water there so we headed to the Aire at Tui for water after saying good bye to Marc and Jacqui.
The Aire at Tui was full (it is small) but we parked up only to find the water tap was a push button thing with no hose attachment. However the Germans came to the rescue because Marc and Jacqui turned up and I borrowed their watering can which is a number one tip for motorhoming (why hadn’t I thought of it before). After filling up with water we headed to our Charles and Barbara Small in Portugal at Seixas but not after filling up with diesel in Spain surprisingly it’s cheaper than Portugal as confirmed by the number of Portuguese registered cars queuing to fill up.
Charles had warned me not to turn where the Sat Nav wanted me to as the roads were rather narrow around his place so we parked Christina in a nice wide street and walked up to find his house. We rang the bell on two large gates which prompted lots of barking from their three dogs, Obi the Husky, Jacky and Lucky all of them rescued by Charles and Barbara. Loli was introduced to her new friends too and we parked Christina in a smashing spot in a small square in front of a magnificent house which was un occupied but right next to the Small’s residence.
Charles wanted to give us a quick tour so Tina, Loli and I and Charles, Barbara and their daughter Caroline piled into the car and headed down to the fabulous beach at Caminha for a walk and then we popped to ‘Bar Central’ in the square in Caminha for a drink. Bar Central seemed to be the ‘social hub’ of Caminha and we met some fabulous friends of Charles and Barbara including Paul and Dimple and Budweiser the Jack Russell Terrier.
The Parrot festival of Pontevedra
As Barbara and I were chatting she mentioned the Parrot festival in Pontevedra and I remember seeing a large statue of a parrot in the town centre so I did a little research:
The owner of the parrot called Ravachol was the chemist from the Peregrina district. The parrot died during the Carnival celebration in 1913; from that moment Pontevedra commemorates this death every year with an already traditional funeral. On the last Saturday of Carnival, Ravachol will pass by the streets of Pontevedra to end at the Plaza da Ferrería, the place where the parrot will be cremated.
We do not the exact date when the parrot was born but we are sure about the fact that he spent part of his live at a barracks. After this short period of time the parrot reach to the hands of a bagpiper called Perfecto Feijoo, the founder of “Aires da Terra”, a traditional music group. With this new owner, the parrot was christened with the name of the famous French anarchist Françoise Ravachol. The owner, Perfecto Feijoo, apart from bagpiper was chemist, so the parrot had the chemistry as his new house. Here the parrot provided entertainment for the clients with his chat, turning tedious winter afternoons into pleasant days. When the parrot died someone wrote these heartfelt verses in the parrot’s honour: “Here with coloured, short and sharp language, delighted the neighbourhood the chemist’s parrot.”
Every year the city of Pontevedra ends the Carnival Festival with a parade in honour of the virtuous parrot. For the parade, the parrot, made with thousands feathers, is disguised in a special way. Depending on the year, the parrot wears a disguise or another.
Ravachol is an emblem of Pontevedra. [The square outside the Smalls residence, Calcada do Cancelo, Caminha]
Marc and Jacqui
day 94 – Santiago de Compostela to Pontevedra, Spain
We awoke to find ourselves surrounded by cars jam packed into the car park. As we had parked the motorhomes it was a bank holiday and today was a working day so clearly people working in the city used this free car park. There was no way we could get out which was OK because we were planning to explore the city a bit more anyway. It was raining which was god because it meant we could see the city in all its ‘glistening’ beauty. We left Loli to guard Christina and walked to the pilgrim museum which was free and informative. As a result of The St James Way pilgrim route bridges were built, towns and villages grew along the way. The Jet and silversmith industries flourished in Santiago as well as all those associated industries like shoe shops! There are literally hundreds of routes from all over Europe it’s rather like century’s old tourist route with pilgrims coming from all points of Europe. People have walked it not just for religious reasons but for adventure, discovery, for a challenge too just like the BIG trip! We met Marc and Jacqui in the Museum who were heading back to the car park and Marc and I agreed a joint strategy to get out of the car park so they agreed to wait for us.
We went over to the Cathedral to visit the museum there but decided to stop for a coffee and a relax on the way which turned out to be an error because the Cathedral museum closed at 2.00 pm till 4.00 pm so we didn’t get to visit it. Actually though just to go into the Cathedral was enough it really is a must see monument. We did the pilgrim route and saw where thousands had touched the marble pillar supporting a statue of St James resulting in a hand shape being worn it the marble. We went behind the altar and touch the gold statue of St James and we visited the crypt and saw the solid silver case that held his relics.
I would love to come back and do the St James Way- Tina said she would like to do Wainwrights UK coast to coast walk so that’s something else to add to our dream list.
We got back to Christina and the red and white cars that had been blocking the car park entrance had gone so Christina and the Germans made it out of the car park safely. However a lesson learned when choosing a free camping place don’t forget to take easy access in and out into account, we could have been stuck there for weeks!
We followed marc and Jacqui to Pontevedra where a parking Aire had been recommended for the next leg of our adventure. The Aire was a huge car park with easy access and exit and was empty except for a coach. It even had a waste disposal point.
Now according to the rough guide Pontevedra is a pretty town best viewed at night as it has a great party scene. So we ate in and headed out for a wild night out at 8.00 pm. The Christmas lights were on in the town and we saw our fits lit up Christmas tree. It was a busy with lots of people milling about as the shops were just shutting. We went to Rua Figueroa an area of town recommended in the rough guide and found a fab bar in Praza Vedura and sat outside to watch the world go by. It ended up being one of those nights that you don’t feel like going home and neither did it seems most people out that night so it was nearly 4.00 am when we left the last bar to the sounds of the birds waking up. It was a fab night.[Car park, Avenida de Marin, Pontevedra, N42.42307, W8.65633]
The Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela
day 93 – Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Tina, Loli and I headed out early to explore Santiago we were rather excited based on everything we had heard and read about the city. It wasn’t raining but it was damp and cold which was disappointing as it is apparently a city best appreciated when it’s raining! It was a fiesta (bank holiday) so dead quiet as we walked into town following the shells on the pavement indicating the pilgrims way. We had only a few kilometres to walk some people have walked hundreds of miles at this point as they enter the city. We did as the guide book said and looked at all the buildings first before going to the cathedral. We even managed to stop and sit outside and have a cheeky coffee at the back of the Cathedral overlooking an artificial ice rink which was heaving with shrieking kids. Tina was the ultimate professional tour photographer while Loli and I wandered around taking it all in. The buildings are all the same lime stone colour coated with green moss, small wall clinging ferns and yellow lichen which gives u an idea how much it must rain here.
The cathedral was magnificent and although we planned to save the proper look round for the next day when we didn’t have Loli I and a sneaky peek inside and it is awesome especially the huge swinging incense burner thingy.
We had a walk around the Paseo de Herradura which had been recommended in the rough guide and bordered a large green park area so Loli could be let off the lead. However Tina and eye were chatting about our day strolling along without a care when we realised we had lost Loli. We found her running down the road upsetting all the local dogs we were lucky the roads weren’t busier. We got back to the campsite about 5.00 pm and had planned to stay another night at the campsite but Marc and Jacqui had spotted a car park nearby where a couple of motor homes had been parked so we decided to pay up and move on. Sure enough the car park was just down the road and nearer to the city centre and there were two Spanish registered motor homes parked up so we parked up with a little difficulty due to the length of Christina plus tandem rack.
Tina wanted to do some night time photography so we waited till dark and left Loli to guard Christina while we took the tri-pod to get some fab pictures. I played Tina’s little tripod carrier and helper for the evening but it was worth it because the whole town had a different atmosphere at night. Lots more people wandering around and al the fabulous buildings lit up in their splendour.
We got back to Christina for a late evening snack and then popped over to the Germans for a drink and a chat and to eat all their white chocolate biscuits! [Car park, Av de Rodriguez de Viguri, Santiago de Compostela, N42.888562, W8.531773]
Albondigas tin attacked by Birmingham man with a big knife
day 92 – Louro to Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Monday 5th December 2011. By the time we got ourselves sorted we left the campsite quite late after a last minute clean up and more tinterweb. We headed out following the Garmin to a campsite recommended in ‘The Rough Guide to Spain’ which was also where Ju and Jay were planning to go to. There didn’t seem to be a suitable Aire centrally located in Santiago. We did some shopping on the way and arrived at the campsite to park net to Dave and the crew who were next to the South Africans; Bucks and Sonja and opposite the Germans; Marc and Jacqui – how international are we? The campsite wasn’t cheap and electricity was extra which we didn’t need but they had free Wi-Fi so Tina went for a walk to the shops with the guys and I got some more tinterwebby stuff done to get us up to date. We all ate in the comfort of our own motorhomes and agreed to meet in the bar at 9.00pm for a farewell drink as we were all planning to go our separate ways the next day. Our dinner was very eventful as it involved me fighting with a can of Albondigas that our old fashioned can opener wouldn’t look at but a big knife did the trick. We had a nice evening in the campsite bar which was attached to a rather posh bistro and they sold large beers so Jay my NBF and I had a few celebratory pints. [Camping As Cancelas, Rua do Vintocinco de Xullo, 35, Santiago de Compostela, N42.88945, W8.52433]
Celebrating the 'freeing' of the Motorhome
day 91 – Louro, Spain
As it had rained pretty much all day, it turned out to be a great day for updating the bog, and catching up on emails with the free Wi-Fi, while Tina was doing the laundry and organising the photographs. Julie, Jason, Sonja and Buks all moved on this morning, so it was just us, Marc and Jacqui in the campsite bar for a few quiet drinks at the end of the evening. [Camping Card ASCI, 8th Edition 2011, p.696, #1825, A Vouga, Louro, E-15291, N42,45’39”, W9,3’44”]
The Lighthouse at Finisterre
day 90 – Camerinas to Louro via Finisterre, Spain
So it was goodbye Cabo Vilan, and hello Finisterre, just saying it makes me think of the Shipping Forecast! Being British and a fan of BBC Radio 4 we couldn’t pass by and not visit there could we. We drove straight up to the headland, where the lighthouse sat perched high above the cliffs. As we parked it was a bright clear day, by the time we got the camera and got out it had turned; the wind had picked up and brought dark clouds and heavy rain. So we walked around the cape shrouded in rain and mist, with the eerie sound of the fog horn in the distance. It was great. As we got back to Christina and started to take off our wet clothes, wouldn’t you know, the sun came back out, the rain stopped and it was all calm again? I guess that’s why the lighthouse is here. So back on the road and we headed further south to a camp site at Louro. We met up with Julie, Jason, Marc and Jacqui, and arranged to all go out for drinks and tapas. Just as were getting ready to leave I heard the recognisable sound of a motor home colliding with a tree. Being totally British we tried not to interfere as they were surrounded by Spanish people all helping, shouting and gesticulating at the driver and seemed to have it under control. As we came out Jason ran over asking to help as he thought the driver was German and couldn’t speak Spanish, so I went over. That was how we met Sonja and Buks, from South Africa, standing with their motor home looking on in horror as it sat wedged firmly underneath a branch of a tree. So how many people does it take to free a motor home from the grips of a tree? The answer is eight! One driver, four girls and a guy on the bed in the back, and two guys pushing. So with a deflated tyre and the weight in the back we got the motor home low enough to drive out. So, and then we were eight. Hopefully for us all here is a start of a new friendship. Together we walked into town and enjoyed drinks and tapas. Sonja is such fun to be with, so very positive, and she’s read the Secret! Sonja and Buks are travelling round Europe for a few months to see if they would like to do it more permanently, and guess where they are heading? Yes Portugal! Meeting people and making new friends is one of the best things about travelling. [Camping Card ASCI, 8th Edition 2011, p.696, #1825, A Vouga, Louro, E-15291, N42,45’39”, W9,3’44”]
day 89 – A Coruna to Camerinas, Spain
We arose rather late due to the rather late night we had painting the town just a slight shade of red. The weather was raining and Marc and Jacqui popped round for tea so we chatted most of the morning before we decided to drive over to the ‘official Aire’ to dump waste and fill up before heading for Camerinas.
The weather really brightened up during the drive and although it wasn’t that scenic as the Garmin took us inland as opposed to the tiny coast roads it was interesting. Especially as we found put what one of the uses was for the strange looking small houses on stone mushroom stilts was. That is to store sweet corn cobs and Tina thinks the stone mushroom topped stone stilts stop the mice climbing in and eating all the corn.
We then deliberated about what a great place those little storage houses would be if you had a pet mouse and you couldn’t afford to feed it you could pop it into one of those store houses and your pet mouse would have food for life. And because wild mice can’t get in it would mean that your pet mouse couldn’t get out which means you could go back and visit it anytime you want.
As we drove towards the coordinated spot as per our Garmin we both thought that I had possibly typed in the wrong coordinates because we drove way outside of town up narrow and windey roads until we reached the very top of a steep hill with amazing views where the Cabo Vilan lighthouse was. It didn’t look much like our expectation of a parking Aire as we seemed to be actually in the light house car park. We did ask an old Spanish guy who had been occupying a near by bench but as soon as we parked he started walking round Christina staring in all her windows and even trying to read the netbook through the window as we were double checking the coordinates. However not only didn’t he speak a word of English (why should he if course) but he also spoke Spanish with a stutter so we nodded lots until he sat back down. Google translator came in really handy because the French description of the Aire actually said park just outside the lighthouse car park which is what we did and as promised the views were awesome.
We had a cuppa and I walked Loli and I settled in the front passenger seat to look at the view and watch the spot of the lighthouse light trace the shore line as if it was a huge stage.
Even on the BIG trip which is also supposed to be a time to reflect I have in the last 89 days rarely just sat and done nothing as we always seem to be so busy.
It made me think about the purpose and meaning of the BIG trip and I just wondered how high on the priority list is it for other people to travel because for me it seems to represent the ultimate lifestyle.
Travel incorporates discovery and adventure it really is exciting to discover new towns, city’s, beaches, mountains, walks, bars, restaurants and meet new and fascinating people. We move on when we want to, we stay if we want to, we get up when we want to and we go to bed when we want to. We and the laws of the land are the only things that dictate our next move. We are realising we don’t need half as much ‘stuff’ as we thought to survive and we really don’t have that much. This is helping us down the path of ‘minimalism’ too. [Faro De Cabo Vilan, Camerinas, N43.15946, W-9.21028]
Tina at Picasso's house
day 88 – A Coruna, Spain
It’s Happy December the 1st of the month and I got to open my advent calendar. I had a walk along the wonderful coast and around the sculpture park. The sun was shining on our backs as Loli and I walked down towards the big sea with its awesome swell. I was gone quite a long time and I had just put the kettle on when I got back when there was a knock on the door from the German guy who was parked up a bit from us who also arrived yesterday. I said ‘hi’ and he said ‘hi Chris’ which I thought meant He was called Chris so I said ‘I’m Chris too’ to which he replied that his name was Marc not Chris and that he and his partner had been reading our blog after they saw the stickers on Christina so they knew my name and all about Tina and Loli and our trip so far. How cool is that! Marc and his partner Jacqui have given up their jobs to travel Europe for a year in a motorhome. They had never owned a motorhome before and only took delivery of theirs a week or so before they were due to travel. When we compared notes apart from the fact that they have toured England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland they have followed the same route almost exactly as we have.
We agreed to meet at 6.00 pm to go for a drink and tapas in town to share our experiences.
We decided to tandem to Picasso’s house where he moved with his family at the age of 10. It took some finding but it was worth it. I had always associated Picasso with Malaga his birthplace and Barcelona but it was in A Coruna that he held his first exhibition at the age of 13, and where he learned to paint.
We then tandemed to the ‘old town’ and grabbed a bite to eat and a coffee at a really basic cafeteria. We checked out the old town which of course was having a siesta although it appeared to be mostly residential apart from the military zone right in the centre. Then the rain came down so we headed back to Christina and a siesta of our own.
Marc and Jacqui appeared at our door at 6.00 pm as agreed but the rain was still lashing down so we decided to take the bus into town. It was really big fat wet rain being blown horizontal and we were soaked by the time we got to the bus stop!
By the time the we got off the bus the water was running like a stream down the road and our feet got totally soaked just crossing the road. We were very glad to get in the first bar we could find on ‘Galera.’ We had a great chat and moved on to another bar and then on to a grill restaurant where we had a fabulous mixed grill. It was probably the biggest meal we have eaten since we started the trip. There were a number of celebrations going on and it was very loud to talk so we paid and found another bar on the way back to Christina and before we knew it, it was 2.00 am before we were in bed. [Near the Torres Hercules Lighthouse, Ave Navarra, A Coruna, N43.38378, W8.40228]
A Coruna Surfer
day 87 – A Coruna, Spain
We started the day with a 4 mile run, along a Paseo following the seafront, totally invigorating. We initially thought we would just stay overnight and move on, thinking that the city didn’t have too much to offer. How wrong could we have been? Seeing the place in daylight, revealed that there was a lot more to it than we realised. The paseo took you straight into the city centre offering may historic sights, museums and attractions, most of them free! On our return we met up with another two fellow Brits; John and Claire from Cornwall. We all seem to be heading south for the winter. So we decided to stay an extra few days and move to a parking Aire in the city so that we were even closer to the main areas. First stop was Torres de Hercules, the only working Roman lighthouse, and there we sat watching the waves crashing against the rocks as the fishing boats passed. We spent the whole day in A Coruna and got back at 8pm shattered. A Coruna is great in the day and even better at night, all lit up, and heaving with activity. [Near the Torres Hercules Lighthouse, Ave Navarra, A Coruna, N43.38378, W8.40228]
Wind Farm on the Cabo Ortegal
day 86 – Carino to A Coruna, Spain
We drove all around the peninsular, on our way to A Coruna, there is a monument to the actor Leslie Howard here, having been shot down in his aeroplane during World War II after being on a secret mission to prevent Franco from joining Hitler in WWII. It was the last place we expected to see a war memorial.
After negotiating Ferrol, the supermarket, and filling up with LPG in A Coruna we arrived late at our Aire right on the seafront looking down on the small fishing port of San Pedro de Vismo. It was great to sit with a cup of tea, watching the waves as I checked my emails. The best office view yet. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 69, LA CORUNA, No. 29, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk]
Porto de Barquiero
day 85 – Luarca to Carino, Spain
Monday 28th November. Tina and I were up early today and started with a run into town and along the harbour, a great way to start the day. We were back and all ready for the off with Christina leading the way for a coastal drive, looking for some interesting places to stay along the way. Sadly we went off course and saw more of the hills around than the coast, but it all added to the journey, and in the afternoon we ended up at a very small fishing village called Porto de Barquiero. It was so quaint and off the tourist trail we ignored the no parking signs and parked up for a while to wander round and watch the fishermen bringing in their haul of Oysters over a coffee. The harbour was so small there was no way we could stay overnight, so as the sun lowered we moved on along the coast towards Cabo Ortegal free camping overnight there along the sea front with many wild grasses and euphorbias growing in the dunes. [Rua Rio Sil, Carino, N43.737660, W7.873049]
day 84 – Cudillero to Luarca, Spain
We all decided to explore the town, Jay and Ju had already done a recki the day before so we followed them and ended up following a set of orange arrows which took us on a very interesting walk. Of particular note were the vicious dog and the pornographic graffiti on the road signs. Cudillero is a working fishing town and second a tourist attraction many buildings are in need of a little TLC but it has charm and after we had had a cheeky coffee in the square we walked up to the look out point across the town and the harbour wit the sun shining and music coming from down below as the restaurants filled up for a long lazy lunch and we all agreed it was a nice place.
We went back to Dave for ‘smorgass board’ lunch before heading off west along the coast to look for the next free camping stop however there was a slight hitch and that was in the bowels of Christina the toilet cassette was full (the red warning light informed us) so we needed to dump some waste. It was not long into our journey when we spotted a service station with outside toilets so we pulled in parked up and sneakily used their loo to empty Christina’s bowels. For the eco warriors amongst you we use special green chemicals in our loo that you can put down a regular flushing toilet. Suitably relieved we then set of in convoy free as birds or elephants the way we climb hills to find the next free camping spot. Jay had a ‘special’ free camping list which identified a quiet car park in Luarca so we headed there and parked up. The car park its self was a little non descript and was actually parking for the local football club but when Jay and I walked into town and the port for a quick look round it turned out to be a fab stop.
Jay and I got back to inform Tina and Ju about the fabulous craft market we had found in town so they headed off to explore it and jay and I relaxed in our respective cosy travelling homes. [Car park, N43.53662, W6.53332]
day 83 – Leon to Cudillero (via IKEA), Spain
We woke to a gorgeous autumn day the sun was shining and we had a fab walk along the river with Loli to the awesome Cathedral. It was a good job the sun was shining because we needed to take turns to go in and I got to sit outside with Loli first. Sitting on the bench outside the cathedral in the fabulous square was a good opportunity to do some people watching and there were plenty of characters to watch. I got my turn to go in after what seemed an age the reason being Tina is the BIG trip official photographer and for once she had decided to take the camera in to the cathedral and take some pictures. Normally every cathedral we have visited has a sign saying no photography so we being good Brits abide by the rules while hundreds of other nationalities just snap and flash away to their hearts content but not at Leon and not today it was our turn to capture some of the fantastic stain glass windows on film that the cathedral was famous for. After the cathedral we did the tourist bit and walked around the fabulous city visiting the Pantheon and the Monastery San Marcos which has been turned into a 5 star hotel so therefore sadly no access to tourist only residents. We walked back along the river to Christina and got ready to set off up North again but this time we were taking the toll road!
The toll road cost just 10 Euros and took 45 minutes off our journey and instead of having to climb up to 1600 meters we passed effortlessly through mountains via fabulous tunnels. We like tunnels!
We were heading for Cudillero to meet back up with Dave and his crew everything was going just fine until we saw a sign for IKEA! We were on the hunt for a dog bed for Loli and some sheepskins for us so we could use them on our deck chairs to sit in the sun while we are skiing and keep our bums warm. We had forgotten it was Saturday so not a good day to go to the shops but we managed to park Christina and we battled through IKEA and did the normal IKEA thing which is to go in to buy something specific and come out without that but we bought Christmas Lights and decorations for Christina so we were happy.
By now it was dark so we were relying on the Garmin to get us to the Aire in Cudillero. Another lesson we have learnt is it’s always good to try and arrive at your overnight Aire in day light in case the sat nav gets lost which it did and so did we. Jay and Ju were not reading their text messages so it took a while to find them. However we did find them eventually parked up in a fab spot bang in the middle of the car park on the fishing port.
We had a great evening catching up and sharing info from our escapades so now we feel we know Gijon without even having visited! Jay and Julie are very good at describing things. [Cudillero, Car park at the harbour, N43.566144, W6.150674]
day 82 – Cangis de Onis to Leon, Spain
Dave and his crew had decided to go to north Gijon and west along the north coast and we were going to go south with Christina to see the cathedral at Leon before heading north up to the coast.
I popped into ‘Granddad’s’ restaurant first thing to get on the tinterweb to catch up on a few webby things and have a coffee. Granddad came over and said I could sit there as long as I liked and even plug my net book into the power wish I’d had the power cable with me because my battery only lasted two coffees! Did a bit of food shopping on the way back to the Aire then after a swift cuppa we were on our way to Leon. I’m sure the Kings of Leon must have been inspired by the place because the Kings and knights of Leon fought against the moors in the 12 century to save it from Muslim domination.
The drive over was very interesting. The Garmin wanted us to go one way, autoroute another way and Tina the navigator with the map a third way. It made for a very interesting journey. We also discovered that you need to cross a very large mountain range and climb over 1600 metres to get from the North coast to Leon which is higher than we drove while we were exploring the Picos Mountains. We had decided not to take the toll road which made for a hair raising journey as the single carriage way road was full of huge lorries and there were areas where the crash barriers were missing leaving a sheer drop which Tina enjoyed pointing out to me and again I was right near the drop how does that work?
We arrived at the recommended Aire in Leon and were all excited as it was opposite a rather large looking shopping centre. We just couldn’t wait to get parked up and across the road to check out the shops and get some free Wi-Fi and maybe some fast food. What a disappointment when we got in there and saw that there were only about 4 shops open and one was a supermarket. Rather dejectedly we decided to walk into Leon town centre and we just followed our noses in there. We found the cathedral lit up in all its splendour as were may of the surrounding buildings too. It was very atmospheric. Unusually we had also arrived in a city when the tourist office was open so were able to get a stock of maps and guides so we were ready for the next days sight seeing.
The highlight of the day – egg, chips and mushy peas for dinner never thought that would be possible in a motorhome but Tina has really mastered ‘the skillet’! She really needs to write a motorhome cookbook. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 64, LEON, No. 20, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 81 – Cangis de Onis to the lakes, Spain
We had planned another walk today with Jay, Ju and Charlie and were heading up the mountain to walk around lakes Enol and Ercina. We prepared a fab picnic and headed up the mountains in the mist thinking it might be a repeat of the wet gorge walk. When we got near the top the sun was shining there was snow on the peaks and we had the place to ourselves. Well almost apart from the small tourist buses taking people to the very top car park. The views were really spectacular and it made the heart in the mouth windy roads worth it. Note to self when you drive a right had drive motorhome you always seem to be right on the edge of the road where the drop is!
We parked Dave and Christina and made our way to the tourist office who provided a map of a fab walk which would take a couple of hours. The whole area seemed very organised and well laid out for tourists but luckily our walk took us away from the crowds of pensioners that had been bussed in for the day. We ate our picnic at the side of the lake much to the excitement of Loli and Charlie and continued around the mountain soaking up the sun and commenting on what a contrast this was to the wet gorge walk. We had discussed about free camping in the car park so jay and I went to ask permission at the tourist office however Jays Spanish didn’t help because the woman in the office was more interested in a private phone call she was having on her mobile and so she ‘forced’ us to walk round the little exhibition that they had in the visitors centre. It was quite interesting – well for me anyway because it wasn’t until we got outside that jay told me he couldn’t see anything because he had his sun glasses on! Well at the end of our swift tour of the stuffed animals there was a more accommodating lady who spoke a bit of English and she told us that we should look at the signs which of course said ‘Motorhomes Forbidden’ but we knew that generally didn’t apply out of season. We were still a bit undecided about what to do but it was getting colder up there and we had had a wonderful day say we drove back down to Cangis to the Aire.
We had a great idea and that was to go to ‘Granddads’’ restaurant which had free Wi-Fi have a cheeky beer and blog away. Well the reality was that granddad had decided not to open so we got to sit outside in the dark and cold to blog away which takes all the fun out of it especially as it was such a slow connection because jay was sucking all the bandwidth up!
We ended up retreating back to Dave for cheeky drinks there. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 65, CANGAS DE ONIS, No. 22, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
A Griffin Vulture
day 80 – Car park on N625 to Cangis de Onis, Spain
We woke up to an amazing view the mist had cleared and we could see a second mountain range behind the one we saw last night. We could hear the tinkling of the goat’s bells in the distance and when we looked up realised the goats were literally thousands of feet up precariously perched on the side of the mountain. Not far away was a griffin Vulture surveying the mountain I guess just waiting for a goat to fall to its death and provide him with a meal. I wonder if they ever do fall?
We drove on to Cangis de Onis where we knew there was an Aire and on our way we stopped at an amazing waterfall at Vidosa. There was a walk up along the side of the fall so we walked up with the dogs and to take a few photos. When we came back down the sun was shining there was a terrace overlooking the falls and a restaurant offering a ‘Menu del Dia’ for just 10 Euros. We were very tempted but decided to carry on to Cangis and treat ourselves to lunch there. We followed trusty Dave straight to the Aire which was four spaces on a large car park reserved for motorhomes with water and a place to dump waste so that was great. We parked up and went in hunt of a ‘Menu del Dias’ for 10 euro or less but came across a great looking place called ‘Granddads’’ in Spanish. We ate well and Granddad really looked after us. He knew exactly which sweet I would like and told me what I was having and he was right I did enjoy the homemade cheese mousse.
After our fabulous lunch we headed back to Christina for a ‘fiesta’ life is tough when you are on the road. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 65, CANGAS DE ONIS, No. 22, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
The Cares gorge walk - Photo by Julie
day 79 – Pantano de Riano to Posada de Valdeon to Car park on N625, Spain
One of the recommended walks in the Picos is the gorge walk along the Rio Cares so we headed to Posada de Valdeon which was the town where the walk started. It was raining when we pulled into Posada so not ideal walking weather but jay and I went into the tourist office to get some info. The guy in the office was very helpful although it was a little worrying when he got a map of the walk out of his drawer for us a spider fell out so I guess not to many tourist passed this way at this time of year. He said we could drive a little closer to the start of the walk at Cain de Valdeon but when we explained we had motorhomes he frowned and said perhaps not but we could drive part way before the roads got really narrow. Jay offered to take us all in Dave so we set off along narrow roads to find car park that the guy in the tourist office ahead said we should park at. The drive was slightly tight but Jay commanded the road in Dave and we arrived at the lay-by in pouring rain. Like all good ramblers we carried on regardless and walked along the river in anticipation to the town of Cairn. It was a really nice walk and would have been brilliant if not for the rain but we were looking forward to sitting in a warm bar and having a hot drink. Well there was only one bar open in the town, it wasn’t warm and they didn’t let dogs in so we found shelter next to a closed restaurant and we broke out the chicken and noodle soup that Tina had prepared in a flask earlier. That was a welcome meal and jay came up trumps with snickers for pudding so spot on! Now that we were there and even though we were soaked through we decided we must attempt the gorge walk. We followed the signs along the river only to be welcomed by a large ‘eon’ sign at a small hydro electricity plant which pleased Ju and jay as that’s exactly the company they had escaped from! We walked about one kilometre along the gorge walk it was a well kept path and partly covered but Charlie was shivering cold and we realised we had the same distance again to walk back to Dave so we did an about turn and headed back although I think we had seen most of it. The walk back seemed longer than the walk there but we made it back to Dave after passing very interesting ‘Wolf trap’ which the guy in the tourist office had tried to explain to us but we hadn’t understood but on seeing it everything became clear on how the local community in a team effort would capture the wolves presumably to stop them eating their livestock. After a jolly ride back to Posada we transferred back into Christina for a cuppa. There were no free camping possibilities in the town so we headed out back to the main road and direction of Cangas de Onis. We were following Dave and keeping a look out for good free camping sites when we got a message via the walky talky that they were pulling in to a car park and view point just after a tunnel on the N625. It was an amazing view and high enough to make me feel wobbly but a perfect free camp spot so Dave parked right in front of the ‘Motorhomes Forbidden’ sign and we pulled along side for a well earned rest after our what must have been a good 10 kilometre walk. We had an undisturbed nights sleep except for the ringing of goats bells as a bunch of inquisitive goats decided to surround Christian and Dave.
Stayed at parking spot with an amazing view on the N 625 on the way to Cangis de Onis [Car park with a view, N 625, N43.129663, W5.031655]
A tight squeeze - Photo by Julie
day 78 – Playa de Troenzo to Llanes to Pantano de Riano, Spain
Monday 21st November. Jay and Ju took off early to get to the garage in Llanes for 9.00 am so that he could have his annoying squeak looked at. We had a leisurely breakfast then drove to Llanes to meet up with Jay and Ju before driving off into the Picos Mountains to do some walking.
We met up with Dave and his relieved crew in Llanes, the garage had said he was fine. We stocked up with some shopping from our soon to become favourite supermarket Alimerka with the €0. 55 cents cartons of wine.
We drove to Potes described as one of the ‘gateways’ to the Picos de Europa mountain range. Jay had spotted a windy route with a great view symbol on the map at a place called ‘Cucayo’ so we went for it. It turned out to be a very very steep climb with lots of shear drops which got my palms sweating especially when they were on my side (always a slight challenge outside of the UK with a right hand drive motorhome).
As we came through a tunnel there was a parking area and view point to the left so we pulled over to enjoy the fabulous view. As we were looking around we spotted a strange looking rock formation which on closer examination turned out to be a Griffin Vulture perched right on a ridge. As we watched he opened his wings to full width an awesome sight. We watched him for ages hoping for some action but no luck even when we got Loli to play dead in the car park he just didn’t seem hungry.
We continued up the windy road and in no time the village of Cucayo appeared and as we got closer we realised that it was a dreaded dead end! Not only was it a dead end there was no where to turn around in the village and no convenient turning circle so after a great example of manoeuvring and going a multi-point turn Jay managed to turn Dave around in the road. So it was Christina’s turn now except with the tandem rack she was at least a metre if not more longer than Dave. It was very tight (see photo) but with Tina’s hand signals we made it in about 20 turns! We left Christina and Dave parked up while we explored the village of Cucayo. We then started driving back direction Potes and on to the Riano lakes which looked like a good place to free camp. We arrived just as it was getting dark at a car park next to a very empty looking lake. The car park had the usual no motorhome sign which we had now learnt to ignore off season and we parked up for a cosy night.
Interesting note to the lakes they were actually manmade reservoirs and in Franco’s time the homes in the villages had been compulsory purchased so the valley could be flooded to create a reservoir but the work never went ahead until about 30 years later when the children of the families who had sold their properties and been compensated suddenly found that they had to move out. There was rather a carfuffle but it went ahead and that explained why as the lakes were quite empty you could see trees and bridges in the lake bed. [Car park/picnic spot next to Riano lakes, N42.970235, W4.972998]
They did not know it was impossible so they did it – Mark Twain
This is one of my favorite inspirational sayings and it makes me think of the true story about the ‘Unlikely Competitor’ Cliff Young.
Every year, Australia hosts a 543.7-mile (875 kilometer) endurance race from Sydney to Melbourne. It is considered among the world’s most grueling ultra-marathons. The race takes five days to complete and is normally only attempted by world-class athletes who train specially for the event. These athletes are typically less than 30 years old and backed by large companies such as Nike.
In 1983, a man named Cliff Young showed up at the start of this race. Cliff was 61 years old and wore overalls and work boots. To everyone’s shock, Cliff wasn’t a spectator. He picked up his race number and joined the other runners.
The press and other athletes became curious and questioned Cliff. They told him, “You’re crazy, there’s no way you can finish this race.” To which he replied, “Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d always catch them. I believe I can run this race.”
When the race started, the Nike clad pros quickly left Cliff behind. The crowds and television audience were entertained because Cliff didn’t even run properly; he appeared to shuffle. Many even feared for the old farmer’s safety.
Now all of the professional athletes knew that it took about 5 days to finish the race. Traditionally the athletes would run about 18 hours a day and sleep the remaining 6 hours but no one told Cliff Young he didn’t know that!
When the morning of the second day came, everyone was in for another surprise. Not only was Cliff still in the race, he had continued jogging all night.
Eventually Cliff was asked about his tactics for the rest of the race. To everyone’s disbelief, he claimed he would run straight through to the finish without sleeping.
Cliff kept running. Each night he came a little closer to the leading pack. By the final night, he had surpassed all of the young, world-class athletes. He was the first competitor to cross the finish line and he set a new course record.
When Cliff was awarded the winning prize of $10,000, he said he didn’t know there was a prize and insisted that he did not enter for the money. He ended up giving all of his winnings to several other runners, an act that endeared him to all of Australia.
Today, the “Young-shuffle” has been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more energy-efficient. At least three champions of the Sydney to Melbourne race have used the shuffle to win the race. Furthermore, during the Sydney to Melbourne race, modern competitors do not sleep. Winning the race requires runners to go all night as well as all day, just like Cliff Young.
Cliff Young didn’t know it was impossible so he did it! – What could you do?
The walk to Poo
day 77 – Playa de Troenzo, Spain
Sunday 20th November 2011. We had decided to stay another night because Dave had a ‘squeak’ and even after a considerable amount of bouncing and poking and prodding by Jay it was relentless so whether he liked it or not Dave was going to pay another visit to the garage and they aren’t open on Sundays so Monday it was going to be. I wonder of it’s the same with motorhomes when they visit the garage as it is for dogs when they visit the vet? They roll in there cowering and shivering while they get lifted up on a big table and have their underbellies prodded.
I went for a good 40 minute run in the morning in the fivefingers and spotted a fabulous coastal path route so Tina and I decided we would like to do a long walk along the coast to Llanes but as it turned out we only made it to Poo! The scenery was fabulous it really is a nice coastline and Loli enjoyed it in Poo too!
Loli and Tina on our Beach
day 76 – Playa de Troenzo, Spain
Saturday 19th November 2011. We chilled a bit today taking in the fabulous views, catching up on ‘stuff’. Brommie came to the rescue and accompanied Ju and Jay to the local supermarket to replenish our alcohol supply as I could feel far too much blood running around the old alcohol stream. We had a few drinks and tapas in the camp bar and then back to the vans for dinner. [Camping Playa de Troenzo, Celorio - Asturias, Crta. de Celorie a Barro s/n - CP 33595, www.campingtroenzo.com]
The practicalities of living in a motorhome
day 75 – San Vicente de la Barquera to Playa de Troenzo, Spain
Went for a run with my NBF (new best friend) as Tina calls him Jay along the beach at San Vicente de la Barquera the sun was reflecting off the Picos mountains in the background this is a really fab area of Spain.
We then drove west with ‘Dave the Motorhome’ following, heading for the one campsite we had found open with electric, hot showers and a laundry and hoping for a Wi-Fi connection too at Camping Playa de Troenzo. The Garmin was leading us with the camp site co ordinates programmed in but not for the first time it took us all over the place we even managed to lose Dave with his occupants but found them again luckily. So we resorted to using road signs just like the old days and got straight there!
When we arrived there was no one at reception despite us being there well before siesta time. However we found a Spanish only speaking guy who was very helpful having left his seat at the bar to direct us to a free space. What a space right at the back of the site overlooking the sea a fabulous view and our own path to go down to the beach. However it wasn’t going to be a ‘beach day’ today because there was work to be done like washing and cleaning.
We decided as it was such a wonderful site with such fab views and even though the Wi-Fi they had didn’t even stretch out of the reception office when you were sat outside let alone down to us bloggers with the sea view we decided to stay another night.
And because it was Friday night it was going to be curry night! We re-laid out Christina with the BIG table so we can host Jay, Ju and Charlie how exciting!
The curry night was bang on to use Jay’s saying and we even got to go and have a lad’s cheeky beer before dinner at the camp bar. [Camping Playa de Troenzo, Celorio - Asturias, Crta. de Celorie a Barro s/n - CP 33595, www.campingtroenzo.com]
San Vicente de la Barquera
day 74 – Camillas to san Vicente de la Barquera, Spain
Thursday 17th November 2011. Next on the list of coastal towns to visit was Camillas and there were a few campsites there too although we couldn’t tell whether they would be open so Dave and Christina headed off in convoy formation. As usual due to the late nature of the evening before and our leisurely approach to life right now we arrived in Camillas at ‘fiesta time’ which meant everything was closed including the campsites and we couldn’t quite tell if they had been open or not. We found a good parking spot had a bite to eat and then explored the town. This was a ‘proper’ town not just a tourist trap however they were doing an awful lot of work on numerous buildings to get it ready for the season next year. After viewing the town and the well marked points of interest we headed down to the beach with the dogs. We could help noticing there was a Motorhome parked right on the sea front again next to a sign that said ‘Motorhomes Forbidden’. Are we just too British? We knew the tourist office opened again at 4.30 pm so we pottered over to it to get the run down on where there was an open campsite or Aire. This is where we learnt some very useful information. The tourist office said that out of season it would be OK to park on the sea front where it said ‘Motorhomes Forbidden’ if out of courtesy we just ask the permission of the local Police. As it happened Tina wanted access to power for the hairdryer so we decided to move on to campsites marked further along the coast in the hope of finding an open one. Well we did find an open one but after Ju and Tina had inspected the toilet and shower block and listened to a massive row between two caravan owners we decided not to stay there and head back to a free camping spot on the beach at San Vicente de la Barquera. What a small world the world of motorhomes is because we bumped into a Dutch couple who had been on the Aire in Caberceno. [San Vicente de la Barquera, on the beach near a closed for the season campsite, Camping El Rosal, N43.389614, W4.384892]
Santillana Del Mar
day 73 – Cabarceno to Santillana Del Mar, Spain
Wednesday 16th November 2011. There had been an annoying generator noise during dinner the previous night coming from a large RV parked on the Aire although it did go off at 11.00 pm and in the morning we got a chance to meet the owners of ‘Marvin’ a lovely couple called Shelagh and Barry Brooks. They spend 8 months of the year every year travelling around Europe and they had just got back to Spain from touring Italy and Sicily and were on their way to Portugal then Morocco and then back up to Germany in spring. They have been all over the place in their travelling home you could tell by the stickers on their back window. It really put things in perspective for me as Barry had obviously had no problem negotiating the windy roads of Italy and Sicily so with Christina it would be a breeze. They gave me their business card on the back of the card was written the following:
Life is for living, it’s not a dress rehearsal. Never put off till tomorrow, for what you can do today.
When you are lying on your death bed, you should never need to say “I wish I’d done…
Dave and Christina headed out from Aire number 2 direction the coast to visit a recommendation from the lonely planet guide which was Santillana Del Mar in excited anticipation of one of the only campsites we could find in the area that was open so we could charge up, do some washing and get some Wi-Fi.
The campsite which shall remain nameless was open but it should have been closed so we decided not to stay there and parked up in the coach car park by the town for a look around. Dave and his owners had joined us by now and I can’t quite recollect why we had travelled there separately but we had. The town was very picturesque and quaint but you couldn’t help thinking that being the nearest ‘quaint’ coastal town to Santander it was a bit too quaint and touristy with far too much tack in the numerous shops. The tourist office opened again at 4.40 so we enquired as to where we could stay in the motorhomes and got a pleasant surprise when we were told we could just stay in the adjacent car park. The car park was flat; clean it had water and bins so it might as well have been an Aire except for the big ‘No Motorhomes’ signs everywhere. We had a fun make your own tapas night and ate ‘out’ in Dave. [Santillana Del Mar, car park behind the tourist office].
Finger Lickin Chicken
day 72 – Santander, Spain
Tuesday 15th November 2011. Well we all did manage to get up early and we set off a little later than Dave so that Jay and Ju could sort things out with the mechanics and we followed along shortly afterwards armed with the co-ordinates for the garage. Well it was an interesting drive because of the continuous road building epidemic in Spain our sat nav (who we should give a name too but we don’t have the voice turned on and it has no personality as a result so we will refer to it as ‘The Garmin’) went a bit barmy and was taking us all over the place but eventually we did pull up by the garage to see Ju and Jay in full animated flow with the motorhome fixer man so we parked just round the corner and went to meet up with them. Dave was going to be fine the mechanic had assured and he would let them know when he was fixed so we drove into Santander to discover the city.
We found a fab parking space right by the beach on the west side of town and wandered back into the city with both Loli and Charlie in tow. Santander is a really nice and clean looking city right on the sea which you would expect from a large and busy port. It’s where many people arrive by ferry from the UK for their first taste of Northern Spain but I suspect not many people bother to take the time to discover it. Today we were going to be different. We came across the tourist information as we walked into town so were armed with all the points of interest but we ignored those and just pottered around in stead. We found ourselves at an open air market which seemed to specialise in selling oversize underpants and there were hundreds of potential customers for them because we had to negotiate our way around loads of big fat backsides. As non of us were in need of oversize pants I had spotted a ‘Ferriteria’ across the road and using the excuse that I needed a hose fitting to fit the tiny screw thread on the tap at Number 2 Aire we all wandered over to it. It was the men’s job to go in and scout the place out and we soon recognised the hose fittings display. Jay then went into overdrive with his fundamental Spanish and using loads of words which I couldn’t understand but the man in the Ferriteria obviously could we came out with two shiny hose fittings at an amazingly low price. Which meant either Jay’s Spanish was brilliant and he negotiated an amazing deal with a discount for two or they just couldn’t understand a word and wanted to make a kind gesture to the incomprehensible Brit. I prefer to believe it was the former because jay had been studying a Spanish phrase book.
On our way back to we all smelt a very enticing smell of roast chicken so we followed our noses to what looked like an off licence which sold freshly cooked roast chickens as a bit of a side line. Well they smelt so good the consensus was that we should purchase one with some bread and make that our lunch. The chicken smelt so good and we had gravy that we just couldn’t wait to get back the motorhome to eat it we just needed to devour it there and then. We spotted a bench in a small park which turned out to be outside the bullring and we sat down to enjoy our feast.
We then headed back towards the Christina stopping on the way for a cheeky coffee.
The sun was shining but there was quite a strong wind and as a result as we walked towards Christina we could see loads of kites flying with kite surfers hanging underneath them. We settled down in a wind sheltered spot on the beach to await the call about Dave. How ever we realised that it was now siesta time or as I prefer to call it ‘fiesta time’ so we knew Dave wouldn’t be ready until after 6.00 pm. So we set off to discover the rest of the beach withy the dogs.
As the weather was closing in a bit and the sun was going down we decided to drive back to the garage to get an update on Dave. He was doing fine so we all ended up back at Number 2 for a cosy night in with dinner and drinks to celebrate the new Dave. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 55, CABARCENO, No. 2, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Mum, Dad and baby Jumbo - Photo by Julie
day 71 – Cabarceno, Spain
Monday 14th November 2011, Met up with Al and Val who we had met on the Aire in San Sebastian in the morning who were just leaving. They said they had had a great day going round the animal park in their motorhome so we decided to do the same especially as Jim and Julie from Bewdley also recommended it. It now seems we are now meeting more and more travelling ‘Brits’ most of them heading south to Portugal for winter.
We had a great day in the Cabarceno Nature Park which used to be an old iron mine and was rather interestingly landscaped as a result so they decided to turn the large open pits that had been left as a result of the mining into huge animal enclosures. Tina and I are not normally fans of Zoos where animals are confined in small places but the enclosures were vast. For the highlights were an impromptu private bird of prey display because just as we had parked up and walked over to see them the keepers were feeding them and flying them which was very impressive. The other highlight was the bear enclosure and seeing the bears which are now protected in Spain enjoying themselves in safety in a massive enclosure.
After a full day at the park we remembered we needed to do some shopping so we headed to the nearest ‘Commercial Zona’ to stock up with food and fuel which was interesting because it wasn’t very motorhome friendly with loads of height restrictions.
Well just as we got back to the motorhome after a hectic day I checked my email only to find a series of emails from Jason and Julie explaining how they had had a disaster with Dave their motorhome in the form of a rear tyre throwing its tread which resulted in a huge hole in their floor and the seat panelling pushed forward and a damaged wheel arch and Charlie the King Charles flying through the air as jay braked. Luckily for them the emergency services and insurance company performed which was more than we did because it was all dealt with by the time I read the emails. However as a result of the challenge Jay, Ju and Dave had decided to drive to what we now affectionately called Aire number 2. We dashed back there arriving at about 9.00 pm to see them safe and sound and cosy in Dave. Dave was temporarily repaired and road worthy but needed to go to a motorhome garage in Santander in the morning so Tina and I suggested we went along to in Christina and spend a day in Santander while Dave was made better. We needed to be up early for the first time in 71 days so we all had an early night. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 55, CABARCENO, No. 2, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
We are now travelling along the north coast of Spain it is a wonderful coast line and the sea and waves and wind buffets the shore and the rocky outcrops. We are facing the ‘Bay of Biscay’ which is very hazardous to cross in a boat at this time of year because there is such a high chance of stormy weather. However for the last few weeks during the day and night thousands and thousands of birds make the journey migrating south to spend the winter months in the sun. Among the many birds are hundreds and hundreds of geese, and as they fly they ‘honk’ so it draws your attention to them and you look up. Now I haven’t observed this migration in the past as it appears the geese must fly around Birmingham on their way south so it’s fascinating for me to see this mass exodus for the first time. I have christened the geese ‘The Slight Edge Geese’
This is because their exploits reminded me of a book that I would highly recommend which is ‘The Slight Edge, The Secret to a Successful Life’ by Jeff Olson. There are some fabulous learning points in the book but the one principle that sticks with me is that I often used to beat myself up because I expected too much of myself. How about in your case do you sometimes beat yourself up if things aren’t going fast enough for you? In fact some of us beat ourselves up so much we actually stop because things aren’t moving along.
In the world that we live in, most people are always looking for the quantum leap. We try and cheat nature and instead of cultivating the land and then sowing the seed, nurturing that seed and then reaping our harvest, what we want to do is to sow and reap straight away missing out as many steps as we possibly can. And when it doesn’t happen, we give up and move on. It’s rather like the Channel swimmer, who swam halfway across the Channel and then decided to give up and swim back. That’s what some of us are actually doing in our businesses and our lives but if we just kept going we would achieve the result and the success that we were looking for.
So what has that got to do with geese? Well like me you may have heard about how geese always fly in a perfect ‘V’ formation to conserve energy and how they honk to encourage each other to keep flying and that they have an amazing built in guidance system which ensures they head directly due south.
This may be because the way geese fly is often used in personal development training as an example of great team work, support, focus, and goal setting.
Well can I let you into a secret? Geese don’t fly in a perfect ‘V’ formation all the time and they don’t even fly in the right direction and they are not always flying south in fact they are continuously changing their course and their leader and they don’t look very energy efficient either. They can do two things at once though which is to fly and honk at the same time which is quite annoying as it goes on all night!
So why am I telling you this? Well I believe very often with ‘personal development’ we are led to believe that it is easy to achieve. All you have to do is read a few books, listen to some CD’s, follow a few rules and you will get there. However if you live in the real world like me and the geese, things won’t always go perfectly in formation, sometimes we will be a little off course even heading in the wrong direction and the continuous ‘honking’ of encouragement can sometimes get on our nerves.
BUT just like the geese if we don’t give up, if we commit just like the geese do over the Bay of Biscay. If we continuously track, measure and correct our course. If we accept and give praise, encouragement and work as a team. If we listen to and act on wise words, we will be able to migrate (just like the geese) to the place where we want to spend our futures.
If you would like to learn more great concepts and get a copy of ‘The Slight Edge, The Secret to a Successful Life’ by Jeff Olson you can buy it as a book and a set of 3 CD’s just pop along to www.knowledgeisking.co.uk
Tina outside the Guggenheim Museum
day 70 – Elantxobe to Bilbao to Cabarceno, Spain
Had our cup of tea outside on a bench overlooking the Atlantic sea and Tina finished cutting my hair the best view for a haircut ever!
To get out of the town because the streets are so narrow they have fitted a turntable in the town square which spins the bus in 180 degrees so we took Christina down there and drove around it to get out of town. I had everything organised for our visit to Bilbao apparently there is no parking for motor homes near the museum but the website recommended a car park with a bus connection so I programmed that into the sat nav feeling very confident. Well we left the motorway and drove into the city only to find a road block and diversion just where we wanted to go and each time the sat nav redirected us there was a road diversion we tried getting back on the motorway and taking another exit but ran into another road black and diversion when we realised there was a huge run going on right where we wanted to park! So we followed signs to the Guggenheim and eventually found a car park down the river a bit with loads of room for coaches and motorhomes and within easy walking distance.
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao is just an amazing building the architecture is outstanding in my opinion the building is art in itself and it’s far better than the art that is displayed inside! We had an audio guide included in the entrance fee and that was really interesting and really added to the experience especially listening to Frank O Ghery describe how and why he conceived and designed the building as he did.
We walked back along the river from the Museum to Christina to let Loli out before we moved on. We decided to head for an Aire just south of Santander in the Nature Park Cabarceno. The Aire is in a lovely setting right next to a lake and an animal park. We also kept in touch with Jay and Ju to let them know what we were doing and that we would probably be at ‘Aire No.2’ as they had done a detour south inland. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 55, CABARCENO, No. 2, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Elantxobe harbour at night
day 69 – San Sebastian to Getaria to Elantxobe, Spain
Moved on from San Sebastian today after getting some info on the Mercedes Benz Zetros which would be an ideal bas e vehicle for an expedition vehicle from the nice German couple Herbert and his partner.
Because we were being stingy and tight we had wanted to wait to get fuel in Spain instead of France because its cheaper we wre really really low on fuelk because we didn’t pass a convenient fuel stop before we reached the Aire in San Sebastian and our DTE was reading just 4 km when we parked up. However when I started Christina up there was 0 km to empty and seeing as the nearest fuel station was 1.5 km away I was a bit nervous. On the way to fill up Christina was spluttering and we only just made it by coasting into the petrol station.
We drove west along the coast to Getaria which is a fab town with a lovely working harbour. There was some sort of festival on, a market and a band was playing hits from yester year so that was different.
We saw the famous statue of the first man to sail around the world Juan Sebastian Elcano who was born in Getaria in 1487.
We were both a bit knackered so we had lunch and a siesta and didn’t wake up until 4.00 pm.
We then headed to Elantxobe which was supposed to be an original quaint fishing town perched on a cliff. We didn’t get there until 6 and actually it’s completely un-touristified we literally climbed down into the town and there was not a shop or bar or restaurant open. Tina took some photos of the harbour and the guys fishing and we were going to drive to an Aire but we had a nice parking spot on the road above the town overlooking the sea we even had a bench outside with a view where we had a cup of tea and watched the moon rise so we decided to stay the night. [The road leading to Elantxobe town centre, N43.401190, W 2.637240.]
Jay and Ju loving owners of Dave the Motorhome and Charlie the dog
day 68 – San Sebastian, Spain
We said goodbye to Tom (the canoe – because he had a red canoe on the top of his motorhome) and Sarah from Dunleary, Ireland today who were heading south following the route of Steve Green who had written a blog on his travels in his motor home the website is www.stevegreenphotography.wordpress.comif you want to take a look.
Today was ‘Loli Trolley’ day and we hooked Loli and the trolley up to Taz and headed off to explore the easterly headland of San Sebastian and a walk up the ‘Monte Urgull’ to see Jesus. It was very windy so a nice cool walk. There was a museum known as ‘History House’ in the La Mota Castle on the top with displays on the history of San Sebastian at the top and although it was all in Spanish it was interesting and they had some really interesting show reels of how life was and how it now is with glimpses of the festivals and celebrations they have through out the year. Two big dates are the film festival and the jazz festival. You could also access the very top of the castle for a closer look at the statue of Jesus and the wonderful view. After the walk we had a picnic lunch overlooking the sea and then decided to tandem all the cycle paths in town. It brought us to the football stadium and round in a big loop back to the bay so we had a chill on the beach before tandeming back to Christina.
Fitted our new lock correctly just needed to file a tiny amount off the end of the sticky out thing to get it to fit properly. *Anyone with an Abus lock you can fit the a cylinder from CISA no. 02500-00-0-12 made in Italy. I notice that the Abus lock has got ‘made in Italy’ stamped on it to.*
We had our night on the town with Julie and Jason and left to walk into town at 6.30 the strange thing is we didn’t get into town until 7.45!!
We went to the famous Pintxos eating and drinking street called Kalle de Fermin and one of the bars we went to was the Sports Bar which was recommended for being good value in the Europe on a shoe string guide that Jay and Ju had.
We then found another recommended bar but I can’t remember the name because we spent the main part of the evening in there enjoying the red wine and having a good old chat and a right laugh. We got thrown out at 12.00 so we thought it sensible to walk home however we kept passing bars on the way back and getting distracted so it was 2.00 before we staggered into Christina. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 98, DONOSTIA SAN SEBASTIAN, No. 79, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
View of San Sebastian
day 67 – San Sebastian, Spain
Another sunny day in San Sebastian and we tandemed in the direction of the old town and do some exploring.
On the way we called into a Feriterea to see if they had a cylinder for our habitation door lock. They didn’t have one but they directed us to ‘lejarreta seguridad, Ramon Ma Lili, 3 – 20002 Donostia – San Sebastian, www.lejarreta.com. It is the most awesome lock shop I have ever seen and if they didn’t have a lock then nobody would. They were really helpful and they even drilled the lock to fir the weather cover how technically fabulous is that! We bought a second lock too just in case the baddies try to get in again although may be on reflection that is tempting fate! As we had had quite a late night we tried out the third of three beaches the Playa de Zurriola and chilled for a bit. This beach was Tina’s favourite beach and I think it had something go do with the fact there was a bunch of nudists sun bathing and wandering about and although I didn’t see it myself there were apparently some fit naked guys so she was well occupied. I found the hundreds of surfers far more interesting the waves were excellent and they made it look so easy but I have tried surfing in the past and I know it’s not!
When we got back to Christina there was a British registered Hymer parked near us which was exciting in itself. The owners introduced themselves as Jason and Julie and they too were travelling for a year and they were younger than us! How fab because I don’t want to appear ageist and although we have met some wonderful people many of them have been in the ‘Autumn’ of their life and we are still doing ‘Summer’ so it was really refreshing to meet a young couple. We got an invite to pop over to their van for a drink later which was fab.
I attempted to fit the new lock but it didn’t fit quite right as the sticky out bit in the cylinder seemed too long. A file was required but I didn’t have one so that would have to wait until tomorrow.
After dinner we popped over to see our new friends and had a really nice evening drinking their wine (we have been drinking that much we thought it best to have no temptation on our van). Jason and Julie who are in their late 30′s have done a wonderful thing and simply packed up their jobs, rented their house out and left the rat race and are on tour with their dog Charlie a smashing looking King Charles Spaniel and their motor home ‘Dave’ for the next 12 months. As Friday night was coming up we arranged to have a wild party night in town and meet at 6.30 p.m. the next day.
[All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 98, DONOSTIA SAN SEBASTIAN, No. 79, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Result of the storms on San Sebastian Beach
day 66 – San Sebastian, Spain
We decided to walk into town with Loli and check out the beach. We arrived at ‘Playa de Ondarreta’ beach the sun was shining and it looked like there were sculptures on the beach. What the sculptures turned out to be were rubbish from the recent bad weather which had all been washed up onto the beach. It was a right mess and it’s amazing what gets thrown in the sea. Loli loved it she had so many things to pee on and she loved the huge haystacks that had been washed up best. We thought we would take the funicular up Monte Igueldo which is the westerly headland with wonderful views over the bay. Well turns out it doesn’t run on Wednesdays so we took a stroll up instead. The views were awesome and it was interesting to walk past dome of the wonderful homes built on the hillside. We arrived at the top to find an unmanned barrier across the road and we weren’t sure what to do as it appeared there was a charge to walk to the top. I walked under the barrier and in no time at all a lady appeared from an adjacent house to collect the €1.80 charge per person to walk the 100 meters to the castle on the top. On top of the hill was a ‘seen better days’ 4 star hotel and amusement park but everything was shut except for one bar. We had a little look around and planned go have a cheeky coffee only to find the only bar shut for siesta! It was really beautiful weather and it didn’t seem at all out off season as it so obviously was. After a strapping lunch of one whole apple each we made our way back down the hill. On the way back down we came across a police cordon in the road and there had been a rock slide just like those signs you see on the edge of mountain roads. There were loads of rather large rocks strewn on the road and two rather lazy but official looking police motorcyclists standing guard. We remembered as we had walked past that point on our way up the hill that we heard lots of noise from the bushes and we now realise what the noise was. Luck we weren’t a few minutes later otherwise we would have been dodging boulders.
San Sebastian is famous for its food and especially ‘Pintxos’ which is the Basque version of tapas but better so we got back to Christina to chill before our big night out.
We tandemed into town and had a great night tasting various ‘Pintxos’ and although you are supposed to move around we landed in a fab bar playing great Jazz music where we met Rory and Lisa Holland from Vancouver, Canada who were travelling for 3 months around Europe. We drank so much that we couldn’t remember how many ‘Pintxos’ we had had so ended up paying for too many. The ride back on Taz the tandem was very interesting! [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 98, DONOSTIA SAN SEBASTIAN, No. 79, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 65 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France to San Sebastian, Spain
We packed up Christina and headed west to towards Bayonne learning French on the way courtesy of Michel Thomas. We couldn’t get autoroute working with the sat nav unit and the Garmin only had Spain on and the part of the map we needed was covered by the map legend so it didn’t take us long to get lost. However it did mean we had a very scenic drive! We arrived at the Aire in San Sebastian with just DTE (distance til empty) 4km! We were both rather tired from our late last night in Oloron in fact Tina was in bed at 7.00 pm and I caught up with some writing and reading.
I am currently reading the John Maxwell Leadership Bible on the basis that most of the wonderful personal development books I have ever read refer to the bible and or take ideas from the Bible so I thought I would get the story first hand and have a look at the source. It’s something that has been on my dream list for a while especially after Tina read it cover to cover last year while she was volunteering in India. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 98, DONOSTIA SAN SEBASTIAN, No. 79, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 64 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
Monday 6th November and its ‘Lock Day!’ The lock arrived this afternoon and I fitted it OK. I wrote Monsieur Arruebo Serrurier who drilled the damaged lock out and loaned us a temporary lock a thank you card and popped in his €100 payment and Tina dropped the envelope off on her way to the shops with Nannette. I spent most of the day planning the route for the next few months of the BIG trip. We are touring Northern Spain next.
Originally we didn’t want to plan anything but a bit of a rough plan regarding the approximate direction we want to go makes the most of the time we have and as long as we remain flexible on timing then that seems to work OK.
We had the last supper with Noel and Nannette and ended up staying up until 4.00 a.m. drinking red wine and putting the world to rights. We now have the solution to education if anyone is looking for it! [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
day 63 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
Its still raining not stopped all night and now getting reports of local flooding. We have had a fab day again catching up with ‘stuff’ loading CD’s on to iTunes so we have better access to music in Christina and updating our blog. It’s a long time since I have spent time relaxing so much. I think I could get used to life in France. No news on our lock but hope it will be here tomorrow. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
Preparing the boiled kitten
day 62 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
Its pouring with rain today and after several enquiries it doesn’t look like the lock will be delivered today so we spent the day updating the blog, doing a bit of income generating stuff and sorting my iPod out so that I had some space to load some ‘Learn French’ CD’s. I never want to have to say ‘non parle Francais’ again.
I also for the first time decided to by an album off iTunes why anyone didn’t tell me that it takes days to down load!!! I’m pretty excited though because it’s ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ which is my favourite song ever by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole on the Uke.
We had boiled Kitten for dinner tonight. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
day 61 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
After so long having fun and chilling I felt like doing a good days graft and Noel so I offered to help out in Nan and Noels garden. Well it’s more of an urban jungle really. Well the brambles stood no chance with noel and I so we spent the day hacking down brambles and digging their roots up and by the time I had finished I wish I hadn’t started but I got the ‘I need to do a good days work feeling’ sorted. Jean Paul the kitchen man was coming so we all got scrubbed up in time for his visit. Found out from the tinter web that the carriers had supposedly attempted to deliver the lock we are waiting for but we were in the whole time and they left no card so not sure what went wring there.
For the evening we invited Noel and Nan out to dinner and went to the Relais Aspoire for a fab meal and a cheeky bottle of wine. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
The King of Swedens sink is not as good as Christina's
day 60 – Pau, France
We decided to drive over to Pau which is only about 20 kms from Oloron to see if we could pick up a lock. We took the back road there and headed for an Aire in the centre of town. When we arrived there was a fair on the aire! Which meant we ere very lucky to get a place to park. We headed for the tourist office who were very helpful. Pau has a number of claims to fame it became a very popular resort after some war and the brits loved to go there which is probably why I spotted a few Irish and English pubs. It was the first town in France to get a golf course and the Wright Brothers opened their first flying school there. We went on the ‘garden’ walk and walked around the fabulous châteaux and then along the boulevard de Pyrenees to the Casino. We had fabulous views out to the Pyrenees. I loved the architecture in Pau and for a city of just 100,000 it had bars, restaurants and shops a plenty. We had lunch back at Christina and a kip as we have now learnt that it’s between 12 and 2.00pm in France and 2.00 to 5.00 pm in Spain when nothing happens. We the popped into the Bernadotte Museum and were greeted by the most enthusiastic curator ever. What we learnt was that the Swedish royal family are actually descendants from this French guy Bernadotte who through a series of fascinating events became King of Sweden. I can’t wait until I meet up with my mate Per in Sweden and remind him! [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
The picture that Freddie saw!
day 59 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
I drove into Oloron in Christina to go to the ironmongers to see if I could pick up a replacement lock cylinder for our Abus deadlock. I went on my own with no French speaker to translate. I parked Christina up in The La Gare car park and went in the store with the lock cylinder in hand. I found the locks on a shelf and as I was looking an eager and helpful guy asked if he could help well that is what I assume he said. In my very best and enthusiastic French I said bonjour monsieur non parle France, angleterre. But I showed him my lock and he took from there and found something similar he then beckoned me up to the till where a lady did speak some English and the question was is this lock from a letter box? I explained it was a ‘Camping Car’ which is French for motor home and that it was outside. So he came out with me to look at the lock location and advise me. We understood each other really well but he didn’t have a lock but thought I could get one on Pau. So Pau it will be. I said loads of thank you’s (merci’s) and smiled a lot and got away with it.
It was then off to find Freddie at the Citroen garage who had helped Nan and Noel in the past with their Jaguar. I found the garage from their directions and used a bit of technology to communicate. I took a photo on my phone of the eurolock who’s cover I needed re riveting on and with the cover in hand I popped into the reception which is and using my very best French I said’ bonjour Madam, mes ami Monsieur and Madame Griffin – Jaguar! The receptionist said ‘qui’ and I said Freddie and she said ‘ah qui’ and fetched Freddie. I went through the same script again with Freddie and showed him the cover and the photo and he knew straight away what was needed. We went outside I showed him Christina and her poorly lock and he beckoned me to drive into the garage and it was done in a few minutes. I felt like the Oloron version of Peter Mayle. I need to write a book ‘My year in Oloron! [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
The 'Killer' Hornets nest!
day 58 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
Rabbits! The 1st November and a bank holiday in France for ‘All Saints Day’ and it’s a very big day in France where family’s visit their loved ones graves with arm full’s literally of chrysanthemums. Doing more work on the blog as it’s a rainy ‘stay in doors’ type of day. Having a really relaxing time still at Nanette and Noels it’s like our French home here they make us feel so welcome. The big news the Griffins have a massive hornets nest in the garden which is the talk of the area they need to report it to the ‘Marie’ in the village and the a ‘man’ is going to come to take it away. These hornets are killers!! [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
Awesome! Would you like this view at the bottom of your garden?
day 57 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
Monday 31st October the sun is shining in Oloron and I can see the Pyrenees! It’s a Bank Holiday tomorrow so the shops are closed so can’t look for a lock. Have ordered a lock from the UK which should be here by the end of the week so we can be on our way. In the meantime we have brought the blog even more up to date and loaded loads of pictures on to the lap top. Noel also recommended we put a map on the blog so has been busy sorting that too!
We have been invited to John and Elizabeth Cheeseboroughs home for drinks at 4.00 pm. They live in a house near the village of Lasseube and we decided to drive over in Christina so they could take a look. They live in an awesome house with views over the Pyrenees to die for. John has just retired and he and Elizabeth have spent a lifetime living all over the world and they have now chosen to settle in their wonderful home. We had a right laugh and a few cheeky wines before we headed back to the Griffin residence.
Another reminder that the BIG trip is much more about the people you meet than the places you see. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
a step to help you achieve financial peace
‘The Compound Effect’ by Darren Hardy is a book I would highly recommend and there are loads of fab lessons to be learnt from it but I just wanted to highlight one idea.
‘we should track and measure how much we spend’
Darren Hardy passes on advice that he got from his financial advisor and that was to keep a track of everything we spend.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this advice but I find I often need to hear things a few times from different sources before I actually commit to doing it.
The idea is that you keep a note of literally everything that you spend in a pocket book. The principle being just the act of thinking about what we spend our hard earned cash on when we write it down will often make us think twice about spending the money in the first place.
The point being is that for every £1 we spend it actually costs us at least double that in lost investment opportunities. So a £2 coffee costs us £4 and a £30 shirt or blouse costs us £60 and so on.
Now that is all great but how many of us men are realistically going to carry a pocket note book and pen around with them all the time?
How many women will be able to find a pocket note book and pen in their handbags when they need it?
But how many of us carry an iPhone or Android phone with Apps on them about with us every day everywhere we go?
I’m not a technical person or a geek but I have found an App called ‘Spendometer’ from Moneybasics. Its free, it’s really simple to set up and use and it helps us keep track of everything that we are spending on ‘the BIG trip’. It’s easy enough to pop in the amounts as we go because we text and twitter and facebook as we go quite naturally now.
So why bother? Well to achieve financial peace (I am making an assumption that it’s a goal you may have) we need a two pronged approach. A definition of financial peace would be when all of our expenses are covered by our residual or passive income. So in other words everything we need to spend per month on things such as groceries, fuel, eating and drinking out, experiences, mortgage or rent, utilities and other sundries are covered by our monthly passive income. Meaning that if you never worked and exchanged your time for money again it wouldn’t matter because your wealth (which is measured in time) is infinite.
So what I mean by a two pronged approach is that
a) we need to reduce our expenses and
b) increase our passive income streams.
Very often it is easier to reduce our expenses than it is to increase our passive income streams over the short term.
So if you do want to be free to travel and make choices and spend time doing the things that you want to do with the people you want to do them with when you want to do them then how about starting with the ‘Spendometer’
If you want to download ‘Spendometer’ then do what you do on your phone to do that and if you want to read ‘The Compound Effect’ by Darren Hardy you can buy it at the Knowledge is King website if you click here and I earn some passive income too.
Foire aux Livres
day 56 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
We had a very productive morning on the blog, updating it with photos etc. Then we went down to the Foire du Livre, a hive of activity. There were many stalls of old books, cards and posters, real collectors stuff, and of course refreshments. Nanette makes Irish whiskey cakes every year for the stall to sell. They are obviously very popular as they had all gone by the time we arrived. Tina picked Claude’s brain again about photography, while I rummaged in the books, I picked up a copy of “watching the English” as recommended by Sue Tonks. We went back with Noel in the evening so that we could help to pack away, and returned to a wonderful meal cooked by Nannette. Then we had a late night or should I say early morning putting the world to rights over many bottles of red wine. Nannette is a bad influence or is it us?. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
The workers Noel and Regis
day 55 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
More work on the blog today, still trying to catch up, note to self must do a little each day in future, it’s the “Slight Edge” effect you know!
Noel and Nannette are heavily involved with the Rotary Club here in Oloron, and this weekend it is their annual Foire aux Livre (book fair). We all went down together to help set up the hall and tables. This was nice, as we got to meet some of the locals, some spoke English and some not. Mind you, when you are being directed where to carry tables and chairs, it made no difference that we don’t speak French. The universal language of pointing, nodding and guess work sorted it all out in the end. Jean Pierre, looked like a man in charge with his list. Tina met another sweet man, Claude, he spoke great English and was very helpful about our camera and gave her a few tips.
After that we went along to a the local Château de la Lamothe, Rue de l’Embarry, 64400 Moumour, www.chateau-de-lamothe.eu with Noel and Nannette and met the owners a fabulous couple Laurent (Larry) and Chrstine who had invited a number of people for drinks to celebrate the official opening of the Conference Centre at the Chateau. Larry and Christine are a glamorous and successful artistic couple, Christine is a sculptor, and had numerous pieces displayed around the centre and Larry is a painter, and some of his work was on display all very impressive. This was no ordinary conference centre and had been finished to a very high standard, clearly they are set up for the high end client. We met loads of really nice people during the evening. We had chance to chat more to Stephie and Steven, who are interesting couple, that come from a film production background. Steven is about to go to Australia involved in the production of a film written by and about, and using the aboriginal people. We also met John and Elizabeth Cheesborough, who have a great home and gardens nearby. They are the sort of couple you instantly can get a good rapport with. Hopefully we will meet them again before we leave as we hear their garden is really quite something to see.
That’s what is so great about this trip, not only the places you see, but the people you meet. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
day 54 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
We have been updating our blog and downloading thousands of photos.
Tina and Nanette took Loli to the vet today, she had pulled a big chunk of fur off her tail yesterday, so one injection, tube of crème and 42 euros later, that all sorted. Later in the after noon Nanette sorted us out with a visit to a locksmith to get one of the damaged locks out. Its toughened metal and took him 40 minutes, numerous drill bits and another 100 euros! Today is not a good day for the budget. Back to Noel and Nanette, and finished the day with a great meal, wine and good company. So all well, that ends well.
The drive over the Pyranees
day 53 – Zaragoza, Spain to Oloron Sainte Marie, France
We had a fab drive from Zarogoza, Spain to Oloron Sainte-Marie, France through some awesome scenery and over the Pyrenees yesterday. It’s great to be back at Nannette’s and Noels, since our last visit they have a new addition to the household, Minnie the kitten, rescued from a plastic bag by the river. This is one lively kitten, poor Loli, she doesn’t quite know what to make of her. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
day 52 – Zaragoza, Spain
So here we are in a new city, which clearly doesn’t have many English tourists. Tina’s Spanish has been really useful today for the bus and information centre. True to form we arrived in the city during Siesta. Tina like this, however, as it means there are less people in her way when she’s trying to photograph the area. The claim to fame for this city all dates back to when St John the apostle witnessed the Virgin Mary descend from heaven to a pillar in the city. Around this pillar an amazing Cathedral has been built. We approached the Cathedral from Calle Alfonso, and as it opened into the square to reveal the Cathedral, it was breath taking. We took a good walk to the Aljaferia, a Moorish palace built at the height of their reign. It has been wonderfully restored, its interesting to think that this was built before the Alhambra in Granada. [camping Ciudad de Zaragoza C/San Juan Bautista de la Salle, s.n. 50.012 Zaragoza, www.campingzaragoza.com, GPS 41.6358719, -0.9386449]
day 51 – Teruel to Albarracin to Daroca to Zaragoza, Spain
A lovely scenic drive from Teurel to Albarracin; autumn is hear and you could tell from the colour of the trees. A beautiful picturesque walled town perched high uphill well worth a visit. After a wander round there we were soon on our way to Daroca, not a pretty town like the others, but it’s said to have 114 towers, this place is having some work done on its walls and towers, and it needs it; don’t think much has been done since the 15th Century. We had a good walk around the walls and some of the towers and before we knew it we were heading for Zaragoza. We were originally planning to stay at an Aire on the north side of Zaragoza but as we drove through the city we saw some signs to a municipal campsite. [camping Ciudad de Zaragoza C/San Juan Bautista de la Salle, s.n. 50.012 Zaragoza, www.campingzaragoza.com, GPS 41.6358719, -0.9386449]
day 50 – Teruel, Spain
Monday 24th October It has rained all day today. We drove into Teruel, the provincial capital of Aragon. Guide books describe it as a backwater, where until recently deaths outnumbered births. However this place has received World Heritage Status from UNESCO for its Mudejar features in its buildings and decoration of its Cathedral and churches. Mudejar is the name given to the Moors, who remained in Spain after the Catholic conquest. This place had a great relaxed feel to it, and the people were so friendly. No one and I mean no one speaks English, thankfully we got by on Tina’s basic Spanish. Our favourite thing here was the Mausoleo de Los Amantes. This is a 13th Century sad and romantic tale of two lovers that ended in their death. When you hear the tale, you can understand why it is believed this tale was Shakespear’s inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. Wondering through the small Moorish streets, dimly lit through alablaster lanterns was so atmospheric. We ended up wild camping just outside the old historic part of town. [A street in Teruel]
La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
day 49 – Valencia, Spain
Went for a fab run back into the city, passing a couple of guys who were clearly walking home after a night out. Is it me or am I getting old? When we reached the old dried up river in Valencia we saw the marathon go by and it got me thinking about how much I love running them, it’s a great way to see a city. We ran back to Christina for breakfast and I think I might enter Tina and I for another marathon. Valencia has a relatively new landmark development which includes a Science Museum which we really fancied a look around so we left the Aire to find it. We couldn’t park in the car park but found a fab spot not far away. Left Loli to look after Christina all locked in and secure and explored the science Museum and watched the Hubble telescope film on an amazing globe shaped screen called the Hemisphere. This area of the city has been redeveloped with amazing modern architecture. I think the architect was a Trekkie. We had really loved everything about Valencia, and we were even planning a revisit our mood was euphoric. Only to return to Christina to find that some baddies had tried to beak in and damaged the door locks which put a real damper on the day. Tina believes Loli scared off the would be thieves. However, I say its due to the extra safety locks I had fitted before we set off from England! (Thank you Daniel at Van Locked, www.van-locked.co.uk) As we set off towards Teruel, the mood was quiet. We wild (free) camped at our favourite service station that we had used on the way down. [Service station near Teruel, Spain N40.219304, W0.940372]
View from the Catedral
day 48 – Valencia, Spain
Here in Valencia an awesomely vibrant city with fabulous architecture and picturesque avenues. Stayed at an unofficial Aire (meaning it wasn’t in the Aires book) right in the centre of Valencia recommended by ‘Do Your Dream’ (Thank you Ryan and Mel, www.doyourdream.co.uk) it was convenient, near the main railway station. A tad noisy and at 25 euros for 24 hours, with electric we felt a bit ripped off until we realised that normal city centre parking is 15 euros per day so we got to stay overnight and have power for 10 euros!
We walked into the city and visited all the stuff a good tourist should visit including climbing the Catedral tower for a wonderful view over Valencia. Sort of forgot how much we like city’s after being so rural and small town it was very refreshing! [Valencia Aire, Coordinates N38 52'13.0" W000 00'54.0"]
day 47 – Denia, Spain
The aire is really clean and tidy although it’s sort of a campsite too with showers and toilets. It’s 12 euros per night but if you stop a month they cahrage just 210 euros which works out at 7 euros per night which is not bad!
A little bread man comes in the morning so bought croissants and a baguette for breakfast and then went for a fab run along the beach in my vibrams.
Took advantage of the internet connection we had at the aire and set up Autoroute. Also found my dream overland adventure home on the internet see my dream adventure home
Tina took Loli to the beach while I was on the computer to do some writing. Before long she came running back, dragging Loli, both looking harassed. It seems that a very big wild dog had got designs on Loli and kept jumping her and became most insistent. Tina decided to leave, but they ended up being followed all the way back – poor Loli. We decided to stay another day, to take advantage of the signal and we gave Christina her first wash of the trip. Tina decided the best attire for washing Christina was a bikini and sarong which intrigued most of the men on the aire. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 104, LES DEVESES, DENIA (Odissea Camp Area), No. 91, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 46 – Cartegna, Spain
Cartegna which was recommended by Sue to visit is so much more than just a naval port or city. It has a dense history reflecting occupation by the Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors. We had a cheeky coffee at the port and then walked along the tree lined Paseo de Alfonso XII, along the remains of the old city walls. We then took a steady walk up the side streets to La Concepio Castle taking in the views of the Naval Port, the Roman Theatre and the old bull ring, which is built on top of an old Roam Gladiatorial arena before winding our way back to Christina. We all loved it here, and would come back again. So we set sail again, this time heading for Denia and made it to the Aire in time for Dinner and an early night. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 104, LES DEVESES, DENIA (Odissea Camp Area), No. 91, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 45 – San Jose, Spain
I have just finished Outliers The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell very interesting I would recommend it. The weather is beautiful again so we moved Christina to the empty town centre car park and we walked with Loli into town to find the tourist info. They were not too forthcoming so we had a wander around the town along the beach to the Marina and then had a cheeky coffee and watched a mummy cat feeding and washing her little kitten.
We popped Loli back in Christina the adventure home so we could go on the beach as dogs are not allowed only to walk down on to the beach to see about 5 dogs on there!
The rock pool – when was the last time you took the time to paddle in a rock pool and just observe the creatures that collect in it? It’s a sign that I really am slowing down and chilling out that I have got the time and inclination. But to slow down and watch and listen means we are learning. I counted numerous creatures in the rock pool. Little fish, shrimps, crab, snails, a fishy looking thing stuck to the rock and a pair of eyes on stalks staring out from a hold in the rock. It just made me think how many of us take the time up slow down watch and learn? I think the last time for me was when I was a child. What if I never slowed down? What would I miss? So glad I have taken time out to paddle in the rock pool of life and to look, listen and learn.
Here’s a thought ‘Live, Love, Laugh – Look, Listen, Learn’
Finally time to leave the beach and set off to Cartagena. The drive was nowhere near as bad as the guide books describe. The multi coloured soils of the different areas, and the groves of lemons, olives, and oranges were all rather pretty. When we arrived in Cartagena, I decided to have a drive round to get our bearings, the further we went into the old town the narrower the streets got, with balconies jutting out it all got very tight for Christina and really got my pulse racing hoping we didn’t get stuck down a tiny street. [All the Aires Spain and Portugal, page 87, CARTAGENA, No. 57, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk – Electrical hook up is included in the 10 euro fee].
Dad and Sue
day 44 – La Herradura, Spain
Woke this morning with two things on my mind. The first a hazy recollection of Dad having a chat with me about it being time Tina and I got married, and the second a real worry about us cycling back across Spain at this time. There are so many issues, many of the campsites are closed out of season, hotels don’t seem that dog friendly in Spain and it might be too much for Loli. So we decided to postpone the cycle trip and do it on another occasion.
So today we set off to San Jose, an idea from Sue, it’s the only place in Spain where the Fan Palm naturally grows wild. Passing frist through poly tunnel city around the Almeria area and then towards Cabo de Gata, and then through a conservation area, there were huge Aloe Vera plants and of course the fan palms. We arrived in san Jose to find the campsite had shut for the season, so we found our own place to free camp on a road not far from the campsite with great views. [San Jose, a road near Tau Campsite]
Gavin and Sandra's Cortijo
day 43 – La Herradura, Spain
Monday 17th October and we are still chillin in La Herradura. Today we went to see Gavin and Sandra at their Cortijo. Once we were on our way, I realised why Dad was so adamant that he wanted to go early, so that he could drive back before it was dark. Once we had turned off the main road we were on a nail biting, narrow and windy stretch of road. Did I say road? I mean rubble track. When we arrived we were rewarded with stunning views across the bay. The cortijo had been wonderfully converted. Of course the roads are nothing to Gavin, he used to be a rally driver. Sandra is a keen and expert gardener, and she has done an amazing job with the grounds, with an interesting mix of fruit trees and plants. The grounds must be a real challenge, but I think Sandra is winning. We had a cheeky beer with some fab tapas before heading back along the track to the safety of La Herradura. [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
La Herradura - The Horse Shoe Bay
day 42 – La Herradura, Spain
So an exciting start to the day, cleaning the motor home and getting it ready to be on the move again. A bit more planning on the cycle route through Spain, was done but I started to get concerned that out of season campsites won’t be open. Need to do a bit more planning on that. Then later in the evening we drove out to see Marcel and Margot, who now live in the suburbs of Malaga. I used to work with Marcel, years ago, we worked hard and played hard. It was years ago, and even though some may say we look different it was as if no time had passed in many ways. Over a few beers, and a great meal cooked by Marcel we soon laughed over old tales and caught up on who we still keep in touch with. Really nice to catch up and see his beautiful family. It was late by the time we drove back. Good news. Gavin and Sandra have been in touch, while we were out and we’ve all been invited over of Tapas tomorrow. Can’t wait to see their cortijo in the hills. [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
day 41 – La Herradura, Spain
We didn’t leave the apartment today, instead we got down to some serious route planning. Sue was a great help, she is very good with routes, logistics and ideas. [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
Me and Daisy
day 40 – La Herradura, Spain
Today was Daisy and Mark’s last day. They have been really good company. I’m will miss their kooky ways and sense of humour. They left after morning coffee, almost as soon as they’d gone it seemed very quiet. We walked along the beach, found a bar with wifi and tried to get an app on the iphone working. [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
Sunset at La Herradura
day 39 – La Herradura, Spain
Sue arranged a picnic today, at a nearby lake, well I’d call it a reservoir. Just as we sat down to eat, out of nowhere, a swarm of wasps seemed to surround us. We had to eat as fast as we could, and when the food was gone like magic, so were the wasps. There was a lot of rubbish around, it’s a shame, but seems to be a problem in southern Spain. It was Daisy and Marks last night here, so we all popped back to the scene of the crime (the bar). We ended up meeting a lovely couple, Gavin and Sandra. They have a cortijo in the hills and come over to Spain a month at a time several times a year. They have done; sky diving, diving , rock climbing, you name it. Made us want to spend more time with this couple. As we left they said they’d call and invite us over to their place, I hope they do, but you know how it is, some people say that but don’t follow through. We’ll see. [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
day 38 – La Herradura, Spain
Wednesday 12th October, Dad’s birthday and a bank holiday in Spain. All was very quiet in the apartment this morning, can’t think why. We went with Daisy and Mark to Torrox, and wandered around the sleepy narrow streets of the little white pueblo. A good way to come round to the day. We all went out to dinner this evening, to celebrate Dad’s birthday, to be honest it was a much quieter celebration this evening. [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
Daisy and Mark
day 37 – La Herradura, Spain
A hot sunny day today,we went to the beach with Daisy and Mark, and caught a few rays! Dad was at home preparing onion bajhis, for our dinner. Tina made a chicken biryani (using one of her recipes from India) and Sue made a beef curry. So we all ate and drank a lot again. Dad suggested we pop out for a quick night cap, which should have warned us, that we were in for a night of partying. Rather predictably one drink became two, became three, became changing bars to Antonio’s…..need I say more? The night ended after much red wine, brandy, singing happy birthday to Martin after midnight, and then an impromptu sing along with a local guitarist called Geoff. We also met a sweet couple called Ann and Andrew, who were visiting their relative Trevor and Marleen ( Sue and Martins neighbours). I hear Andrew recorded the singing, oh dear! [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
Flamenco in Almuneca
day 36 – La Herradura, Spain
Monday 10th October we woke up with a slight hangover after our evening of celebration! We all drove into Almunecar for a mooch around the town and a cheeky coffee and watched an impromptu flamenco dancer. We then went to a fab bar on the beach for a hair of the dog and got fed huge plates of tapas which just didn’t stop coming and we didn’t stop eating! [The Williams Household, La Herradura, Spain]
Altura our first Spanish Town
day 35 – Service Station near Teruel to La Herradura, Spain
We are in Spain! We had a quick breakfast and then headed south on the motorway direction La Herradura as we drove along we spotted an interesting looking church dome and as Tina had been reading stuff out about the influence of the Moors in this area we thought we would pull off the motorway and investigate the town of Altura. We found a parking space and took Loli on an explore to find the church. It was an interesting town and such a contrast to France not a touristy place just typically Spanish. We found the church and interestingly it was surrounded by buildings with the entrance into a quaint square. Tina managed to get a few photos and we decided to carry on south. We arrived in La Herradura at about 9.00 pm Sue had held dinner up so we could all eat together and catch up. It was fab to see Dad, Sue, Daisy and Mark and the night wouldn’t have been complete if we hadn’t rounded it off with a drink at Antonio’s. [The Williams Household, La Herradura]
Our fabulous hosts Noel and Nannette
day 34 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
Got up early to watch the Ireland versus Wales World cup rugby game great result for me as a distant relative is welsh! Then watched France beat England very bad result for me because I am English although Noel being Irish didn’t seem to perturbed. We decided to leave our tandem, the Loli trolley and the camping gear at Nan and Noels so we could leave Christina in Spain with my Dad and make our way by train back to Oloron so we could then tandem back across Spain. After we had got the stuff stored in the garage we headed off at about 4.00 pm south over the Pyrenees.
The scenery was awesome we travelled through the 8.5 kilometre long Somport tunnel and popped out the other side to a very different looking Spain, still very nice but different. We drove on the motorway as we wanted to get down to Dad and Sue’s quickly as mark and Daisy were arriving. I now realise what a skewed view of the Aragon area of Spain we got by sticking to the motorway because after we had cleared the Pyrenees it all appeared very barren and desert like almost like the moon. It got dark at 8.00 pm and we pushed on until just south of Turuel where we found a service station off the motorway where a couple of motor homes were already parked up for the night so we felt it safe to do the same and join them. [Service station near Teruel, Spain N40.219304, W0.940372]
Stainglass window at Oloron cathedral
day 33 – Oloron Sainte Marie, France
Visited the two cathedrals of Oloron and went for drinks and canopies in the evening with Jean, Stephanie, Stephen, little Charlotte and big Charlotte and Jack the dog. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
A welcome bed at the Griffin residence
day 32 – Saint Jean Pied de Port to Oloron Sainte Marie, France
We are heading over to Oloron Sainte Marie today and are popping in to see Shannon’s Mum and Dad before we head south over the Pyrenees to Spain. [The Griffin Household, Eysus near Oloron Sainte Marie]
View from the pilgrims way
day 31 – Saint Jean Pied de Port, France
We walked a tiny section of the ‘Camino de Santiago’ in the Pyrenean foothills today with Loli and decided we need to come back and do the whole 777km pilgrimage.
I am reading ‘Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth’ so I tried my first barefoot run. I only ran a few hundred yards without my vibrams and it felt fine according to the book less is more so you build up slowly to develop pads on your feet. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 71, ST JEAN PIED PORT, No. 128, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Saint Jean Pied de Port
day 30 – Saint Jean de Luz to Saint Jean Pied de Port, France
We stayed a second night at the loudest Aire ever and got up for a morning run again along the harbour, along the beach and back through the town. We are heading off to Saint Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees today. Interesting fact of the day just finished the Rooibos tea bags which means in 30 days we have drunk over 200 cups of tea!
We arrived about 4.00 pm in Saint Jean Pied de Port and found the Aire next to the sports ground. Another 30 day milestone is that I accidentally found out how to input co ordinates into the Garmin Satallite Navigation device how mad is that? It just shows you don’t have to be a technical whizz to travel around Europe in a Motor Home although thinking about it we’ve only been in France and Belgium so far. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 71, ST JEAN PIED PORT, No. 128, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Shopping for lunch in Saint Jean de Luz
day 29 – Saint Jean de Luz, France
Monday 3rd October woke up in Saint Jean Deluz to a beautiful morning and we decided to have an exploratory run around the harbour, along the beach and up to the chapel on the hill before breakfast.
It was glorious weather and we had done our days exercise so we headed to the beach with Loli to relax and read. As usual dogs were not allowed on the beach and we didn’t actually see any other dogs but we went right to the north end of the beach and concealed Loli under an umbrella and managed to get away with it. After a day on the beach you build up a thirst so we had a cheeky beer at a road side café on the way back to Christina. Although the Aire is noisy it is so centrally located that we stayed another night. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 61, ST JEAN DE LUZ, No. 85, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 28 – Grenade Sur L’Dour to Biarritz to St Jean de Luz, France
Woke up in the shade this morning which was slightly annoying as I thought I had worked out where the sun was going to rise still you never stop learning. We had breakfast and headed out in direction of our next destination Biarritz.
Biarritz is impressive our friend Noel calls it the ‘Brighton’ of France but it has nicer beaches and you can surf so its not that much like Brighton! We were heading to an Aire on the south side of Biarritz and planned to stay the night but we found suitable on road parking within walking distance of the beach so we parked up and spent a wonderful lazy Sunday afternoon lying on the beach. Of course as with most beaches dogs were not allowed but there were plenty of dogs on the beach but for safety’s sake we hid Loli from view and the sun under Tina’s sarong. As the sun was going down we decided to walk into Biarritz centre along the promenade. It was a lovely walk as we watched the stalwart swimmers and surfers getting the last waves before it got dark. We had a fab day in Biarritz and it ranks up there with the places we have enjoyed most. The combination of ‘Le Surf’ atmosphere and the rugged Atlantic coast, the Art Deco buildings and fabulous beaches made us want to revisit.
Tina photographed the sun setting on the sea before we walked back to Christina and although we were just around the corner from the Aire we thought we would stay parked on the road side and save ourselves the fee. However after cooking dinner and experiencing the speeding cars and bikes wizzing by us and shaking Christina we decided at about 10.00 pm to move on down the road to St Jean de Luz which Rob and Amy had recommended.
We headed for an Aire which was well located but didn’t have a fab write up due to its proximity to the train line and main road and arrived there about 11.00 pm to take the last available space and we can confirm it is the noisiest Aire we have stopped at so far. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 61, ST JEAN DE LUZ, No. 85, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 27 – Beynac et-Cazenac to Sarlat to Grenade Sur L’Dour, France
It was lovely sunny morning but we had forgotten to pre order our bread and croissants the night before. Never fear because ‘Brommie’ is here so he came to the rescue and I rode to the Patisserie in town and treated Tina to a chociolate croissant. It was then time to leave so we got packed up and headed to Sarlat.
Sarlat is another fabulous old medieval town and as it was Saturday it was market day so we had a wander around the market and a walk around the town before heading back to Christina for lunch and our next port of call which was an Aire in Grenade Sur L’Dour. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 49, GRENADE SUR L'ADOUR, No. 39, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 26 – Beynac et-Cazenac, France
The campsite was so peaceful and quiet and instead of rushing off for the next leg of our adventure we decided to stay another night and catch up with the blog well the truth is learn how to do a post as it’s ages since I had used wordpress. [Les Deuex Vallees, email@example.com, Camping Card ACSI 2011, 8th edition, page 496, Vezac, F-24220 / Aquitaine (Dordogne), No.1237]
Canoeing on the Dordogne
day 25 – Beynac et-Cazenac, France
We had noticed on our tandem ride lots of ‘canoeing’ signs and you can’t go to the Dordogne without paddling down the river can you? The owners of the campsite had a friend who did canoe trips so we were picked up at 11.00 and driven to a wonderful spot up river to start our river adventure in a Canadian canoe. The weather was perfect and the river was so peaceful, we had awesome views of the beautiful buildings as we paddled and drifted our way down river. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a bend in the river before meandering our way down to the disembarking point. It really was a fabulous trip. [Les Deuex Vallees, firstname.lastname@example.org, Camping Card ACSI 2011, 8th edition, page 496, Vezac, F-24220 / Aquitaine (Dordogne), No.1237]
New haircut - what do you think?
day 24 – Beynac et-Cazenac, France
We woke up to a fabulous sunny day and started with bread and cheeky croissants as the campsite allowed us to pre order the night before and they deliver to your door! We then tandemed from the campsite along the Dordogne river to Domme with Loli and the trolley. It was a fabulous flat ride all the way along the river valley until we reached Domme which is perched on a hill. A two kilometre climb on a tandem towing the Loli trolley in scorching hot weather helped us burn a few calories. Domme is a beautiful walled medieval town and we sat in the main square and had our picnic with a wonderful view out over the bend in the Dordogne river. We had parked the tandem and trolley so we could stroll around the town and let Loli stretch her legs. As a reward we thought we would treat ourselves to an ice cream or at least I did. We found a suitable shady café and in my best French I ordered by strawberry ice cream and waited in excited anticipation only to find out when the waiter returned with my order that I had ordered a strawberry cordial! Events like these are the things that help you make decisions like ‘I need to learn French’. We returned to the tandem (just thought we haven’t got a name for the tandem) and rode down the hill out of town but before we could get through the impessive city gate there was a very load bang which was our back tyre blowing out so I got to replace my first inner tube since LEJOG. On the way back to the campsite we passed a small hairdressers at the side of the road and I had been saying to Tina how hot I felt and how I felt like having my hair shaved off so we stopped and I popped in to get a crew cut. The haircut blew our budget but I felt cooler! [Les Deuex Vallees, email@example.com, Camping Card ACSI 2011, 8th edition, page 496, Vezac, F-24220 / Aquitaine (Dordogne), No.1237]
day 23 – Beynac et-Cazenac, France
Went for a walk from the car park in the morning with Loli up to Beynac Castle the views over the Dordogne were beautiful. We saw a campsite by the river from the ramparts and walked back down to take a look it was nice but 19 Euros. We then bumped onto a couple Chris and Lindsey who mentioned they were at an ASCI site for 13 Euros with pool and free wifi so we walked back through the town and picked Christina up and headed to the campsite Les Deux Vallees Campsite in Vezac a fabulous site with wifi and a pool and an awesome view to Beynac Castle. Had a great afternoon in the hot sun wifiing and cooling down in the pool. [Les Deuex Vallees, firstname.lastname@example.org, Camping Card ACSI 2011, 8th edition, page 496, Vezac, F-24220 / Aquitaine (Dordogne), No.1237]
day 22 – Saint Emilion, France
Monday 26th September – tandeming into Saint-Emilion today sky is blue, sun is yellow just having a cheeky coffee at our Chateau
The Medieval town of Saint-Emilon it’s cobbled narrow streets and its sandstone buildings are beautiful. Rather than just do the wine thing we booked on a tour of the ‘underground’ Saint-Emilion where our guide took us round the monuments of the town that were carved out of solid rock. Including the monolithic church which was 20m high and 38m long all carved out of solid stone. We then had a leisurely tandem back to the Aire picking up groceries on the way.
We headed east from Saint Emilion to spend some time in the Dordogne and do some tandeming along the river. Found a car park to free camp in a lovely town Beynac et-Cazenac right next to the river. [Car park in Beynac et-Cazenac, France forgot to get the co-ordinates but through the town up the hill on the right signposted for coaches and motorhomes]
With our fab travels the living area windows in Christina the Adventure Home were getting a bit grubby. Being parked along the coast the wonderful sea air leaves clues. So I decide to actually clean the windows and as we had just had a rain shower I thought perfect timing the windows are wet and I can conserve water. So out came the sponge and the shammy and those windows got cleaned. When I sat inside to admire our beautiful sea view while enjoying a coffee I noticed lots of little scratches on the windows. I then realised that in my efforts to conserve water instead of rinsing the windows first as I should have done and because unlike car windows the habitation windows are plastic not glass I had actually scratched them.
As a result of my handiwork all I could see as a gazed through the window were lots of little scratches. It then made me think about when we bought Christina how new, clean, pristine and scratch free she was then and what had I done!!! But then I noticed on the grass outside some beautiful little birds feeding they had beautiful yellow markings on their heads and white markings on their tails and guess what I didn’t see the scratches anymore.
It just made me think how we all start off in life clean, pristine and new and as a result of our experiences and our conditioning the windows of our life become a little scratched. Of course if we focus on the scratches all we can see is scratches and we worry ourselves over missed opportunities and mistakes made and negative stuff.
So how about focusing on our opportunities and possibilities and the beauty of life and living and fun and growth that way you don’t notice the scratches.
Too much wine does this
day 21 – Saint-Emilion, France
The other three campers that were on the Aire moved off in the morning so we had it all to ourselves. The weather was fab we had a sunny secluded spot surrounded by vines so we chilled and caught up with some reading and fixing stuff like the gears on the tandem. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 426, ST PEY D’ARMENS, No. 119, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 20 – Pyla Sur Mer, France
We were all a little hung over but we were soon put right by Tina’s awesome pancakes which seemed to go on forever. The weather was perfect for Rob to do his paragliding so we walked to the beach/dunes. Rob looked like an aerial ballet dancer under his wing and as the weather was so good Rob helped me do my first paraglide flight off the Pyla dunes. I actually flew 6 out of 7 goes not bad for my first attempt although rather than a ballet dancer I looked more like a frozen star fish. It was an awesome day thanks to a great teacher by bro Rob. I can feel a new hobby coming on! After all that excitment we headed east direction the Dordogne hoping to find a nice Aire on the way near Saint-Emilion and sure enough we found one a few kilometres outside in a vineyard at Chateau Gerbaud. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 426, ST PEY D’ARMENS, No. 119, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 19 – Ile de Re to Pyla Sur Mer, France
Leaving the isle today but got up early adventure home workout done, vibrams on and ran east along the beach along Plage Nord and around the point at Sablanceaux under the bridge and then west along South Plage and back while listening to Zig Ziglar awesome! Left the Aire about 12.00 to head South to meet up with my bro Rob and Amy in Pyla. Got to the camp site after 18.00 so had to negotiate our way in and met with Rob and Amy after climbing the 117 metre high sand dune behind us with the most amazing views from the top we settled down to a fab evening over a few bottles of red wine. [Pyla Camping, Route de Biscarrosse, 33115 Pyla Sur Mer, www.pyla-camping.com].
La Flotte, Ile de Re*
day 18 – Ile de Re, France
Tandeming with Loli and the Loli trolley around ‘Il de Re’ today. The island is a fab place to cycle and the coastal villages of La Flotte and St Martin were awesome. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 544, RIVERDOUX PLAGE – Ile de Re, No. 132, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 17 – Ile de Re, France
We moved Christina in the morning when a place became free over looking the sea and the beach on the wonderful Ile de Re and decided to have a chillin day. We popped across the road to get fresh fish from the Market to cook outside we were determined to eat outside overlooking the beach even though it was a bit windy and did get a bit chilly wasn’t the sort of chillin we had in mind! [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 544, RIVERDOUX PLAGE – Ile de Re, No. 132, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Ile de Re
day 16 – Ile de Re, France
Leaving Le Mont Saint Michel today we were going to visit the Abbey at Mont St Michel today before we headed south but decided that with the mozzy bites and the hoards of people thronging along the causeway we would give the abbey a miss and head south to Ile de Re. Which even though it was dark when we arrived at the Aire just over the bridge we really liked. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 544, RIVERDOUX PLAGE – Ile de Re, No. 132, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Le Mont Saint Michel
day 15 – Le Mont Saint Michel, France
Monday 19th September camped on an Aire/campsite just outside Le Mont Saint Michel, UNESCO world heritage site and rode in on the tandem in with the Loli dog trailer it was awesome and Loli loved the beach. Came back to Christina and had some dinner then headed back out to the Mont to see it lit up at night and get some photos it really comes alive at night as do the annoying mosquitoes but it is much quiet and Tina got some lovely photos. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 430, LE MONT SAINT MICHEL 2, No. 114, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Pointe de Hoc
day 14 – Bayeux, France
Sunday 18th September 2011 – We woke early to find we hadn’t been drugged and went for a run along Omaha beach towards Pont de Hoc. Its is now a wonderful beach with beautiful residences with awesome sea views all along it. Sailing clubs and cafes dotted along it, a far cry from what it must have been like in 1944.
There is one thing I remember vividly from history at school and that is the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Bayeux Tapestry so as we were so close we thought it would be rude not to pop and see this UNESCO example of world heritage.
We parked in a fab Aire right in the city centre again free and would have been a great place to stay overnight. I have to say the French are so amazingly motor home friendly and you feel so welcome it makes you want to tour around France permanently [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 426, BAYEUX, No. 98, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
It was a perfect day for a museum because it rained non-stop but Bayeux is a fabulous town with an awesome cathedral and of course that famous tapestry. How lucky were we it was the museum’s ‘get in free’ day so we got to see the tapestry along with an audio guide for nothing. It is fabulous to actually see something that you only learned about at school it is 70 meters long but actually is much narrower than I thought it would be not that that takes anything away from it. It really is amazing to think that it dates back nearly 1000 years.
Another great tip from our motor home friends and the ‘1,000 Places To See Before You Die’ by Patricia Schultz which incidentally the Bayeux tapestry is in too is Le Mont Saint Michel so we left late afternoon in direction of the famous ‘Mont’. We arrived in the evening and rather than stay on the Aire which is literally right on the causeway leading to the island we stayed at a fabulous Aire which is actually part of the campsite across the road so has power and washing up facilities. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 430, LE MONT SAINT MICHEL 2, No. 113, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
A date never to forget
day 13 – Arromanches, France
We left the Memorial early this morning to get to Arromanches to visit the D-Day Museum. Parked at the Aire in Arromanches to walk to the Museum. It was an interesting display especially the film and model of how they built the Mulberry harbour amazing how innovative the human race can be. We then had some lunch back at Christina and then took Loli for her dose of culture too and she got to wee all around the guns and old bits of bridge.
We then headed off to Pointe Du Hoc and passed the American Cemetery on the way so thought we should pop in. It was a really brilliant visitor centre after going through tough security we found it really informative and well done. It really hit home how many US soldiers perished on Omaha beach especially at Pointe Du Hoc where he Rangers scaled cliffs to get to the gun positions. They took the positions but only about 20% of them made it which is not great odds. The Cemetery itself and the monuments and crosses were impactful so much care and attention gone into them. We then headed out to Pointe du Hoc which when we walked round showed us the scale and power of the defences that our forces overcame. We then headed back towards Bayer and found a fab cheeky wild camp spot right next to the US Cemetery with sea views. [Moulins, 14710 Colleville-sur-Mer].
We had a lovely experience in the night. The idea of wild camping or ‘free’ camping as I prefer to call it is to be very discreet and leave no trace and sometimes you’re not sure if you may get moved on so we are being all discreet blinds down and its pitch black outside and we hear the sound of a car pull up. Tina looked out of the window and says there is a van outside and a man with a hat on has just got out. So we switch all the lights off and site as quiet as mice hoping the security don’t notice Christina parked in the middle of the car park. Well there was a knock on the door so as all brave men would do I got Tina to answer the door and to our relief it wasn’t security or the police but an entrepreneurial farmer selling his home made bottled cider. So rather than be rude we bought a bottle of his brew and drank it with our dinner. However we both had the same thought which was ‘what if it’s drugged and he come back with a gang to steal all our belongings?’ So that night we made sure we were well securely deadlocked!
Caen memorial flags
day 12 – Caen, France
Feeling really French today fetched fresh baked croissants from the bakers wearing a scarf! Headed out to Caen to visit the ‘Museum for Peace’ today.
A big tip if you do this trip is that you don’t have to drive into the centre of Caen as we did to locate the tourist info as we usually do you can take the ring road around Caen and the ‘memorial’ is well sign posted.
The CAEN-NORMANDIE MEMORIAL CITE DE L’HISTOIRE POUR LA PAIX to give it its full name was truly awesome probably one of the best museums with the most impact that I have ever been to. Tina and I spent over 6 hours in there and were the last to leave! The tourist office had told us that it was fine to overnight in the motor home car park at the Museum so we had a night of reflection and I took Loli for a walk around the grounds before dinner.
Chris & Loli, Honfleur
day 11 – Honfleur, France
A great start to the day had a run around Honfleur in my vibrams listening to Paul J Meyer in the sun it’s a beautiful town can’t wait to walk back in with Loli and Tina for a cheeky coffee.
Walked back into the town it really is absolutely beautiful and picturesque and as it is day 11 Tina thought it was time to do some washing so in one of the most picturesque towns I have ever been too we did our laundry and had a cheeky coffee at a café across the road taking in the atmosphere.
After dropping our sweet smelling clothes back off at Christina we spent the afternoon exploring Honfleur and I can’t recommend it enough.
Another recommendation from our fabulous facebook friends and from another great book we are using as a guide ‘Europe in a Motor home, A Mid-Life Gap year Around Southern Europe by H.D. Jackson was to visit the peace memorial museum in Caen so we headed off as the afternoon cooled in the direction of Caen. We started keeping an eye out for a place to stay outside Caen and about 20 kilometres away cam across an Aire in Herouvillette which was fab and free! [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 410, HEROUVILLETTE, No. 36, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Tina and Tandem on the ferry
day 10 – Jumieges, France
Had best nights sleep of the trip to realise that I woke an hour later than planned. Felt so much better for it will set it for an hour later every night!
Went for a fab tandem along the Seine took a ferry across the river from Jumieges to Heurteaville and cycled north along the river on the ‘fruit route’ crossing the river again on the fabulous ‘Pont de Brotonne’ bridge and across to the other bank of the river to pick up the ‘fruit route’ again following the river round and back to Jumieges via Les Mesnil Sous Jumieges. We did 30 and a bit miles (need to start thinking in kilometres now) and had fab day out.
Then relaxed with a cuppa and headed west to Honfleur which was another tip we got and a place listed in ‘1,000 Places To See Before You Die, A Travelers Life List’ by Patricia Schultz which is proving to be an awesome guide.
We arrived in Honfleur around 8.00 after a shopping stop in LeClerc who seem to sell the cheapest diesel in France and stopped in a massive Aire right by the harbour. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 414, HONFLEUR, No. 51, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
Le Crotoy Beach Chris and Loli
day 9 – Le Crotoy, France
Awoke to a sunny day in Le Crotoy and had a run along the beach to the harbour. Wonderful beach massive expanse of sand but not seen the sea yet! One of the fab tips we got at the campsite in Ypres was to visit Jumieges right next to the river Seine as it is apparently a fabulous cycling spot so we headed out after breakfast direction Jumieges.
Arrived in Jumieges which is where William the Conqueror was educated before he won the battle of Hastings in 1066 and became King of England. The recommended parking spot for Christina was an Aire and it was free so we parked up had a cuppa and then unpacked the Loli trolley and the tandem for an exploratory ride around the area.
Had a lovely cycle although we did manage to get a bit lost but decided to stay the night and tandem the ‘Fruit Route’ the next day. [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 424, JUMIEGES, No. 89, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 8 – Le Touquet, France
Monday 12th September 2011 – Leaving Ypres today and heading south to France. Christina the adventure home is recharged after our first night on a campsite and we are heading for Le Touquet Paris Plage.
Le Touquet was fab and windy with lots of ‘face stinging’ sand blowing about so we had a walk around the picturesque town and had a cheeky coffee in a sheltered spot.
We then headed south to Le Crotoy and stopped the night on an Aire right on the beach [All the Aires France, 3rd edition, page 440, LE CROTOY 1, No. 1, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk].
day 7 – Ypres, Belgium
(Sunday 10th September 2011) it’s a big day in Ypres they have a fun run going on and its going along exactly where we are parked so we decided to move to the campsite round the corner to charge the batterys up. [Jeugdstadion camping, Bolwerkstraat 1, 8900
This is first time we have camped on a campsite which is great because in 7 days we only spent 7 Euros on one Aire’s fee. The campsite was 12 Euros power included and was excellent. We went to the Stedelijk Museum and the Belle Godhuis which were very interesting.
We met loads of motorhomers on the campsite and got given loads of useful advice and ideas on ‘must see’ places to go so we spent the evening planning our next move.
A soldier of the great war, Tyne Cot
day 6 – Ypres, Belgium
Still in Ypres, Belgium and loving it. Tandemed the ‘Vredes Fietsroute’ a 45 km peace route around the war memorials yesterday although we got lost and ended up doing 43 miles after finding ourselves in the French speaking part of Belgium and meeting some nice people in a cafe who helped us find our way. It was very sad to see all those war graves I really hope we never ever forget. Missed the shops for shopping and ended up popping out for a cheeky beer and having three after meeting some nice folk originally from Northern Ireland who had come to visit their great grand fathers grave at Tyne Cot cemetery. The Tyne Cot cemetery (short for Tyne Cottage which was a gun post named by the Geordies who manned it left the biggest impression on me with 12,000 Hero’s buried there.
The BIG trip is as much about taking time out to reflect as well as discovery and adventure and today was a big day for refection. Why? And especially why that after only 21 short years of the great war of all wars ending with the loss of 20 million lives the second world war
started what were they thinking? It must have still been very fresh and sore in people’s minds yet they still went for it.
The memorials and the cemetery’s made me think, there are Allied cemetery’s and memorials and German ones too all being visited by sombre relatives and tourists alike. So you fight a war loads of people get killed on both sides then the dead get a neatly laid out cemetery a head stone and a statue or pillar. Does that make everything OK? I think the lesson must be that we should never forget.
day 5 – Ypres, Belgium
Ypres, Belgium we were planning to tandem the ‘Vredes Fietsroute’ a 45 km peace route to take in the memorials in the area but it rained all morning so we decided to go for a run instead. Had a fab run around the moat and ramparts of the city then spent the afternoon at the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’. Eye opening even shocking what the soldiers had to go through in the 1914 to 1918 WW1.
day 4 – Ypres, Belgium
It’s raining so personal development today was the Adventure Home workout and reading ‘Unfair Advantage’ Robert Kiyosaki.
We left Damme and drove to Ypres (Ipres) which really turned out to be one of the jewels in Belgiums crown. A walled city dating back 10 century’s now most famous for the Menin Gate memorial to all the fallen Hero’s from WW1 who lost in action had no grave. 56,000 are inscribed on the walls of the memorial and it’s a big memorial before they ran out of room. Most nations lost loved ones not just the British but India, Australia, Canada too.
Watching the last post ceremony which happens every single night at 8.00 pm makes you think and reflect on the fact that maybe if it wasn’t for these Heros we wouldn’t be able to make the trip we are making now and Europe would have been a very different place. We found a great little bar just across from the gate where we had a couple of cheeky Belgian beers after the last post and watched the gate illuminate into a stunningly lit and fitting memorial.
So far we have done the Belgian thing where we can. We have tried Belgian Frittes Belgian Waffles, Belgian Chocolate and Belgian Beer and we are still not sure if we like it so we decided to stay a bit longer and try them all again!
Found a great place to wild camp (or should I say ‘free camp’ because it wasn’t exactly wild!) just by the Menin Gate go through the gate turn right onto Hoomwerk which leads to Leopold II-Loon actually recommended by the tourist information.
Bruges has nearly as many canals as Birmingham
day 3 – Bruges, Belgium
Walked Loli into Damme along the river it was dry morning after a very wet night. Got the tandem ready and we tandemed into Bruges along the tree lined canal it was fab. Parked the tandem and had a wander, ate some Belgian frites and a waffle then went to the beer museum ‘Halve Maan’ as recommend by the tourist info. Then we went to the Groeningemuseum as recommended to see paintings from the old and new Flanders masters. Never thought I would say this but I preferred the beer museum to the art culture!
day 2 – Calais, France
Woke up to a wonderful beach and sea view and could see the port so with a cuppa tea in hand we watched the ferries take the holiday makers home while we get to stay. How fabulous is that?
We drove from Calais to Bruges, parked on the ring road and took a walk into town. We had a fab day out in Bruges it is a beautiful city even in the rain. The Aire in Bruges is as expensive as the campsite so we drove out of the city about km North East to the town of Damme and stopped at an Aire there that was free. [All the Aires Benelux and Scandinavia, page 21, DAMME, No. 7, www.vicariousbooks.co.uk]