The first 2 weeks were spent near a little village not too far from Toulouse and nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. For scenery this was pretty good with loads of scenic pictures being taken by Mum. For this fortnight we had Mum, Dad and Adam with us. Early in the week, Dad and Adam were harnessing Sydney in the awning. Then Sydney managed to escape and having flown 2 lengths of the awning she flew out and landed close by in a tree. She was happily sat there but Adam, not wanting her to fly off, jumped a wire fence to get to her and split his shorts (hehehe)!!! She was as good as gold though and as soon as Adam got to her she just stepped up. From that point onwards the harnessing was done in the caravan – just in case. I don’t know what she thought she was doing, letting the side down! We portray this image that we are both too lazy to fly and then she goes and does that! The site was really nice, right at the end of a little lane and we were right at the far corner with a very quiet pitch (until me and Syd decided to change that!!!) under a Walnut Tree. A few dropped off but Dad didn’t know whether we were allowed to eat the green fleshy part so he decided we should not have any :-( . On one of our trips up to Le Pic de Midi which is 2215 metres high we saw some horrific flood damage. Firstly in Saint Beat there were a row of houses in the main street that backed straight onto the river with no gardens. The back wall of most of these houses had been washed completely away with rubble left on what was left of the floor. There are some pictures below. Then we went on to Bossost which is actually in Spain and there was literally half a house and a garage had been washed completely away. Then we climbed still further and near Le Pic de Midi (also in Spain) there was half a hotel washed away and a complete road bridge washed away. In June following some weeks of uncharacteristically heavy rain the water in the Pyrenees flooded every river down out of the mountains and there was lots of flood damage all around. When we got to Le Pic de Midi there was a lot of snow and ice still all around and it looked beautiful. Another stunningly beautiful place we visited was St. Bertrand de Cominges. We had to go up to this village on a Noddy train as there were no vehicles allowed and it was too far for Dad to walk but me and Syd enjoyed the Noddy Train! There were fantastic views from up there with an old Monastry taking pride of place in the village. Another really nice village we visited was Rieux-Volvestre. Adam decided that the best places were highlighted in Yellow in our map book so we tended to feature on them. I have to say that whilest that worked out 65% of the time, the other 35% it didn’t and the respective tourist boards had done a superb job of promoting seemingly uninteresting and unattractive places. Oh, I nearly forgot – we also went to Foix which is the main centre locally for Paté. The highlight of the second week was our visit to Tarbes. WE had planned to visit 3 places but having got to Tarbes we spent all day there, it was so nice! We did also visit Toulouse but were very disappointed. It didn’t help that they were doing extensive works on the inner ring road and there were bollards and barriers everywhere and neither did it help that there was nowhere to park but when we came away we realised that only a few photos had been taken as, to be blunt, there wasn’t much worthy of photographing. Needless to say, we didn’t go back there.
Our third and fourth weeks were spent near (on the outskirts of) Bordeaux. The site was nice albeit a tad small. There were no facilities like bar, club, pool there but that suits us better. We had our own water supply and drainage and none of the pitches were that far from the toilets. All in all a nice quiet site which we have already recommended to someone else. Bordeaux, in stark contrast to Toulouse was a beautiful place with an integrated transport system and an excellent park and ride. We did mistakingly drive into the centre on one occasion but with the amount of traffic and also having to look out for trams also using the roads, Adam decided that it would be Park & Ride in future. In France they seem to have Park & Ride sorted! €3.60 (approx. £3.00) was all it cost and for that you got a day’s parking in a multi-storey (and therefore cool) car park plus a return ticket to anywhere on the Tram network for each and every one of the car inhabitants. You could use this ticket for 2 separate journeys and each journey consisted of as many separate journeys as you could make in an hour which allows for having to change trams to reach your chosen destination. Or, for €12.00 (£11.00) we got parking plus a 24 hour ticket each which meant you could use any tram as often as you like within a 24 hour period. Our first visit, we took the cheaper ticket, went to the Centre Ville and walked around from place to place and got absolutely knackered (well dad did – me and Syd were fine of course! Incidentally, we didn’t have to pay on the Trams and were made very welcome on them!). The second time we visited, we got the all-day tickets as there were some peripheral places we wanted to visit and we made good use of them. The third time we just got the cheap ticket and the fourth time was just to a Chateau and Park on the outskirts and, as it was a quiet Sunday, Adam drove. Other highlights this time were Cadillac, Créon, La Hume and St Emilion. On the Tuesday of the second week we had to take Adam to the Airport as he was flying home for Exam Results day for his students and to help Stacey look after the other fids. Having taken Adam, Dad went back, hitched up the Caravan, collected Mum and we left to head further south to Spain. WE made very good progress but rather than risk getting to our next site a day early and finding they had no pitches, we spent the night in a Spanish Motorway Services where Mum & Dad had a surprisingly good meal. WE awoke leisurely to find most of the lorries who were parked beside us, had gone and Mum & Dad went for Breakfast. They had Breakfast in the Caravan but decided to eat out! We then made our way to our next site just 45 kms from Santander at a place called Noja. This was, on first impressions, our worst site being huge (we had pitch number 902! And there were just loads of kids on bikes and scooters rushing around, not looking for cars etc etc. It’s one saving grace was it had its own private beach which was VERY clean, sandy and well kept. It also had a bar serving very nice food and where me and Sydney were made to feel very welcome. There were just 4 of us now so Mum had to do the driving – something Dad wasn’t looking forward to in Spain! There were so many nice places around that we didn’t get around to going to Bilbao. Mum & Dad have been there before but they wanted to go back and to take me and Syd there but, perhaps next year! Yes, Dad has made the plans for next year already. For the first 2 weeks it will be Dad & Adam in Noja. Then Mum will fly out for weeks 3-6 and we will move to near Madrid. After week 4, Adam will fly back and Stacey will fly out and we will stay near Biarritz as Stacey hasn’t been there. Then Mum, Dad and Stacey will return home. Anyway, back to this year. One very nice place was Isla – the next village over. Whereas Noja has been over commercialised and over built, Isla is the opposite and a very nice place. A stunningly beautiful place is Santillana del Mar, which Dad nicknamed the Lacock of Northern Spain. Castro-Urdiales was very nice as was Laredo and Suances. Suances reminded us of Cornwall – it even rained a bit! The other highlight was Santander. The main town is very disappointing when you compare it with the western and coastal strip which is incredibly beautiful with lovely clean and sandy beaches. Around the turn of the century the King of Spain used to like visiting Santander so they built him a very sumptuous palace. It is on a peninsula (almost an island) and perched on top of the hill. No cars are allowed so we were faced with a choice of walking or the Noddy Train. We chose the Noddy train as Dad was worn out. This was a bit of a shame because it didn’t stop. Had we walked up we could have looked more closely at the palace but perhaps next year. It is now used for Council Business, functions and weddings. Further west is a lighthouse right on a point with a restaurant with stunning views both east and west.
Well that’s my blog covering our summer holiday. I’ll be back next month after one or possibly two more holidays. See you then!