A Travellerspoint blog

EuroCamp - Costa Brava

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After driving through Andorra and most of the Pyrenees we thought it was clear driving now down to Costa Brava and our EuroCamp Site. Everyone told us it would be only 1.5hrs to get to the site, and that we assumed would be pretty much a straight road.
It became apparent that the most direct route was not the fastest, nor the straightest journey. We zig-zagged our way down the Pyrenees, through long tunnels whilst watching the Spanish scenery pas by for the next 2.5 hours
Whilst Doug was having fun driving the roads, Lauren’s stomach began to feel queazy. After a short break it was decided that we should look for a calmer drive.
Unfortunately our road map showed roads that were still under construction and we found ourselves driving through more twists and turns. Finally off the mountain and back on to a familiar toll road that led directly to Girona, Lauren’s stomach returned to normal: craving for lunch.
Checking into El Delphin Verde was simple enough and the high expectations we had of “glamping” were finally realised when our safari tent was the biggest around with a fully equipped kitchen, fridge, lights, gas fire, double bed and two very comfortable deck chairs.
Arriving early afternoon, we had loads of time to do our shop for the 3 days of our stay which mostly consisted of cold Spanish meats and BBQ delights.
Now we have to say that at this point we were expecting a few nights “glamping” as a stop off to Barcelona, however if we were to do the same journey again we would certainly stay longer.
The surrounding area was full of medieval villages such as Pals and the market in Toreolla was a laugh to walk about and barter; however the 6 euro star tomato didn’t live up to its hype of nutritional value; we managed to put together an amazing lunch from the mass of fresh produce available. Aware that it is early in the season we didn’t expect things to be as quiet as they were, which was probably a blessing.
The pool was cold and the sea was colder but at least we had sunshine all day and a mad rush to get our washing done on the last day paid off....enough pants in reserve till the end of our journey!

Posted by lozz 08:54 Archived in Spain Tagged road_trip camping eurocamp Comments (0)

A good nights sleep solves all

and a dip in a Thermal Spa

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After a restful nights sleep on our new air mattress we were ready to tackle the climb over the Pyrenees and onto Andorra.

We were surprised to see snow still on the mountain-tops as the Pyrenees grew before our eyes. Along the motorway we drove, looking across bright green pastures spotting castles and old French chalet’s out to each other. At the end of the motorway we took a quick turn for a picnic lunch in the carpark of a Prehistoric Discovery Museum.

The drive over the Pyrenees definately has to be Dougs favourite drive so far. The higher we drove, the windier the roads got, as we criss-crossed up the mountain side. The towns here seem to be far between, but built on top of each other to take advantage of the limited space between mountains and ski slopes.

Andorra-la-Vella is a tax free haven. Its streets are lined with shops of all sorts at lower prices then normal. Even petrol is only 1.22euros/litre (For a quick comparison France was 1.52euros; Spain is 1.36euros; UK is 1.42pounds).

Our main objective here was to visit Caldea - made famous by its use of natural spring water. It is set as a health spa, different pools of water at various temperatures to help ease your muscle aches along with saunas and hot beds. I guess some people could see it as just a big pool, but we really did have a good time here. We were fascinated to find an ice pool, where pieces of shaved ice were literally falling out of the roof and being swept into the pool below. The source temperature of the water is 70degC, then cooled by Caldea as required. In an after dinner stroll around town we happened to find the spring steaming out of the ground - at 70degC!

Dinner was at one of Caldea’s restaurants. The food was fantastic, probably over priced in the first instance however we had the Chef’s Menu, a much more responsibly priced alternative. Had we paid top dollar we would have been disappointed by the lack of interest offered by the waitstaff. The highlight of the evening, after our mains were thrown in front of us by a waiter racing past, was to be beckoned by the Maitre’d to “come here” to choose our desserts from the fridge.

Redeeming the restaurant was the view overlooking the entire centre. We’d been disheartened earlier to miss out on the Light Show Lauren had seen on YouTube. But just as we were about to pay the bill it started. We had backstage seats to watch the creation of the universe, starting with the Big Bang and going all the way through to mankind's arrival.

Posted by lozz 10:09 Archived in Andorra Tagged water france pool spring spa andorra caldea Comments (0)

Sometimes, just buy a new one

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Having woken up with our backsides on the ground we decided that our air mattress just wasn’t holding up its end of the bargain. We headed out to Doug’s favourite store, Decathlon (a store filled with all the supplies Bear Grilles wished he’d taken with him). We walked out with not only a new mattress, but also a new tent claiming to be set up in two seconds flat. Doug chose not to watch the instructional video.

Our drive south was expected to be a long one, through Tours, Poitiers and Limoges. But first we needed to find the 24hr Le Manns Track, Doug is very proud to say he over took someone on the home strait!

Driving through the towns with ease we were constantly amazed by the luscious countryside. We were making good time so decided to push on to Brive-la-Gaillarde. After asking directions we found the only campsite in town and swapped poor French for poor English we were able to book in. Asking for recommendations for dinner we were directed back to Brive, with the campsite managers simple reasoning “bigger city, better choice.” We chose to ignore his suggestion and headed straight for the tiny Donzenac.

Donzenac is a hill-top medieval village. We quickly found the only bar in town and enjoyed deux biers in the brilliant sunshine. A quick walk around yielded us with baguette and frommage whilst we waited for the pizzeria to open (another deux biers to kill more time).

A word on our new tent - it was superb! Doug threw the tent in the air, and after a little bit of additional manipulation, our tent was completely built. Maybe not in the two seconds as advertised, but definately in under a minute. And out butts stayed above the ground all night too!

Posted by lozz 10:07 Archived in France Tagged france road camping trip Comments (0)

Sometimes asking for help isn't so bad

You might even be surprised by the kindness of strangers

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Bright and early we headed out to cross the English Channel aboard a DFDS Ferry from Dover. Most people use the P&O Ferry to Calais, but we were headed for Dunkirque. Lauren was expecting a ferry similar to our Sydney Harbour Ferry, long lines of uncomfortable chairs on a very flat surface and thought Doug was mocking me when saying it was “just like a mini cruise.” Lauren says for once; Doug says usually; either way (unfortunately) - Doug was right.
A leisurely 2hour ferry ride across the Channel gave us not only onboard breakfast, shopping and a newspaper but also a constant view of our journey.

Once upon the French side Doug worked out what side of the road to drive on, and we were off. The aim was to camp in Le Manns for the night. Who knows where the camping site was, but we were sure we’d work it out once we arrived as everyone camps for the 24 hour races ... Don’t they?

Warned off from the Toll Roads due to the “extortionate” cost we were hesitant to use them, but with time against us we found ourselves “sucking up” the price and looming on. At one point we decided the cost must be skyrocketing after flying along at the recommended speed limit for close to two hours and chose to excite the motor way and find a cheaper (ie free) alternative route. With a 50euro note in hand, Doug ventured off to the paystation expecting little in change. The cost? 9.50euro! Obviously we used the Toll Road’s more!

We took a random turn at the request of our growling stomachs, stumbling upon the tiny village of Neufchatel. After noting the public invitation to a local funeral we found an opportunity to practice our French in a local cafe. To success I might add! (well, we ate Steak and Frites at least.)

As the hand of time wasn’t waiting for us we knew we had to start looking for that “obvious” campsite. We expected finding a campsite via the Satnav would be easy. Oh how wrong we could be! The search term camping just wouldn’t yield a result, camping was not even a preset Point of Interest!. We drove round and round the town of Le Manns looking for either signage, or at least a Tourism Information Centre.

Talking of Tourism Information Centres don’t be fooled into thinking that an Office de Tourism is anymore than a map on a board. However there are the occasional exceptions to add an element of surprise.

At one point we somehow found ourselves sitting outside a sports centre debating what to do next. A sweaty man jogged into our sight and we beckoned him in our finest French, unsure we’d be able to understand the response. To our astonishment we must have found the only Frenchman within 10kms who could not only speak English, but was willing to admit it.

This man had no clue about a local campsite ... Could you direct a foreigner to your local campsite? More than willing to help he disappeared, only to return with his iPhone and two friends with Google at hand to assist. When they found the site online it became apparent that we were right on closing time. His three fingered running partner was kind enough to call ahead for us, imputing the address into our satnav whilst also dripping sweat down the inside drivers door frame. 15mins later, with a quick detour out of a Moroccan gypsy village, we were finally pitching the tent.

This in itself caused enough problems so late in the day. But, eventually 1 hour later we were setting ourselves up with a baguette avec jambon et frommage and a glass of red wine watching the sun set, looking onto another day.

Posted by lozz 10:00 Archived in France Tagged france road camping trip ferry Comments (0)

“Over-preparation is the foe of inspiration” Napoleon

Preparing for the Big Barcelona Boulevard Bound

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With less than three weeks until we head to Barcelona the preparations are really heating up. This is our first properly planed holiday, and whilst we are both lucky enough to travel extensively with work having time to actually plan our own trip to our own destination of choice is a blessing.

The plan is simple - ferry from Dover to Dunkerque, camp our way for 2 nights through the South of France, visit Andorra (for the pure reason of ticking another country off the list) then three nights of "Glamping" in a Safari Tent at EuroCamp in Costa Brava before hitting six nights in Barcelona. Then for the trek back, through a very different part of southern France and finally back to our UK home.

Parts are booked, parts are not. And that is the fun of a road trip. It is a tricky balance between over preparing and letting the car, as you may, take us where it wants. But hopefully we've found the right balance. Accomodation in Spain is fully organised, and where to stay in Andorra is on the edge of being booked. France is guess work. Here we'll take it as it comes, with a rough idea of direction we'll hope for the best in meeting those destinations. And in plenty of time.

But it is exciting at the moment to be looking at "possibilities" - what can we do? what can we see? where shall we go? and getting court up in the excitement of this.

Today has been filled of Google Research Tabs into Andorra - places to stay and things to see. Mountains appear to be apparent, along with a little bit of snow. But Caldera has really taken my fancy - a natural thermal spa designed to look very "space-age" with a top restaurant included. Now that does sound like a winner!

We'll have to see. Hopefully booking that tomorrow and then onto investigating the possibilities of France.


Posted by lozz 22:30 Archived in Spain Tagged travel research preparing Comments (0)

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