Horticultural Hero

I have been nagged (repeatedly) by The Smart One because I haven’t written anything since April; as I’m about to go driveabout again I decided to humour him. Here’s the story …

As I said in my last missive I had a great few days with the Mad Dutch couple in Anduze. We ate a lot, drank a lot, laughed a lot, walked a bit and visited a couple of flea markets. We also diagnosed me with a nasty case of hayfever. The beautiful weather we were enjoying came to an end and as the forecast for Anduze and France in general was for “beaucoup de pluie” the eminently sensible Mad Dutch decided to head south in search of the sun. I was feeling the need for family time and headed towards Dieppe and the ferry via Florac and the Cevennes with a return visit to Bonneval for veterinary purposes. The weather was cold and windy with torrential rain and the so called hayfever sneezing turned into an extremely heavy cold; my misery was compounded when one morning the boiler flatly refused to fire.

The Cevennes and a mural on the side of houses in Florac

Bonneval in (a very cold and wet) spring

I arrived in Somerset cold, damp and dirty and spent the next couple of days in bed.

Upon recovery my thoughts turned to the, neglected since well before we got here, state of our courtyard garden. K is very happy to have a minute garden as, although she loves flowers, trees and shrubs, she’s definitely no gardener and over the years even potted plants have succumbed to her (lack of) ministrations. I’ve redesigned the patio and mainly concreted area, decorated with all the blue pots I’ve collected for other gardens, planted said pots and the two very small flower beds and permanently placed the hooked up hose where she can reach it! (Not that the hose has been necessary for the past few days as the English summer has arrived) Just give me the (Chelsea) Gold medal!!

Courtyard (not quite finished)

I was much relieved when a new fuse sorted the malfunctioning boiler issue, I’d had visions of major repairs costing hundreds and plans for future travel being totally scuppered for months. With the garden sorted and no longer needing to save up for a massive boiler repair, ( £1.80 bought me a replacement fuse and a spare) my thoughts turned to travelling plans. According to my Denmark guide it is inadvisable to try camping there from mid-June to mid-August as all sites are pretty well full during the school holidays; so Denmark is delayed until mid-August. Instead I’m off to … Cumbria …never been to the Lake District. I’ve decided to treat the trip as if I’m abroad and shall be using lesser roads and Britstops (similar scheme to Passion France). First five stops are planned, also a meet up with BB who’s on a canal somewhere in the West Midlands.

Here’s hoping the rain stops …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Hellos and Goodbyes

LWD couldn’t contain herself when the descendants arrived, there was the whole body wag, the excitement yips and whimpers, the allover quivering and the gasping for breath. Yea, the pack is together!! The following Wednesday morning she couldn’t quite understand why the rest of the pack didn’t turn up. We left for pastures new rapidly; before she could get depressed.

Whilst the descendants were here we did did a trip into Barça so that the football fan could visit Nou Camp, wearing his Maidenhead United supporters gear of course! I think I’m safe in saying that that is the closest Maidenhead United will ever get to Nou Camp! (They did also visit several other tourist must visit sites.)

We went to a couple of markets, sat on the beach, mooched and generally holidayed for the six days they were here. I took The Smart One on a train trip to Mataro which, it being Monday, was almost closed but he enjoyed himself, and all too soon their Departure Day arrived.

In the meantime having heard from the Mad Dutch Couple that they’d had enough of the Northern European weather and were headed south, when the descendants left I headed north and am now in Anduze (France) and am typing this whilst well under the influence – situation normal for being with Meriam and Paul! They are both well and it’s lovely to see them again. LWD has forgotten that the descendants have gone and is delighted to be reunited with her favourite Dutch friends (faithless bitch!).


P.S. I am happy to report that K did NOT buy the red sombrero but she did buy a fabulous red handbag.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Purple Panda

Well, dear Regular Reader, I did promise to explain why I interrupted my trip around the Natural Volcanic park of Garrotxa, so here goes. Those of a squeamish disposition may prefer to go straight to the photos at the bottom.

I called in at Banyoles to admire the lake and do a bit of walking for a couple of days before moving on to Vic but got a bit delayed …

In the early evening of my second day here, having just had the successful photo session with the fishing huts, I arrived back at the campsite intending to pop into reception and get a token for the washing machine. As I approached the tiled concrete steps I tripped over the very low, almost invisible kerb and crashed onto the aforementioned steps. Thoroughly winded I accepted help (which appeared apparently from nowhere) to change into a sitting position, and was given paper towel and told to apply it to my right eye, I was also informed that an ambulance was on it’s way. Why, thought I, still rather breathless, on earth would I want an ambulance? What my helpers could see, and I obviously could not, was that I had a deep gash on my eyebrow which was losing a lot of blood and folk were saying it needed stitching. Still winded and dazed I was soon in the ambulance on my way to the local community medical centre where everyone was very kind. Thankfully my EHIC card still had a few days to run (I didn’t know until they looked at it, that the damn thing even had an expiry date – K’s bringing my new one with her when she comes this week) so all eleven stitches through my eyebrow were free (unfortunately I had to pay to have them removed! I suppose I could’ve tried removing them myself … then again …). By the time I was leaving it was closing time and staff were starting to depart. I’d arrived in an ambulance and had no idea where I was, I was also feeling very shaky, my wound felt fine but my ribs were beginning to hurt and I was starting to feel a little lost (literally!). When I asked at the reception for directions to the campsite one of the staff insisted on giving me a lift back – way above and beyond bless her – my plan to walk back was vetoed by just about everyone. So a huge thank you to the ambulance guys, and all the staff there for taking care of me and being so kind.

The next morning my right eye was a stunning shade of purple and somewhat swollen. Later that day the left eye decided it wanted the same shade of eyeshadow and turned purple as well, which I didn’t mind, I do like to be well coordinated! My ribs were extremely painful and bruised as were my knees and my right boob; I felt everyone of my 90 years! However I managed to keep moving with the aid of over the counter meds and did deep breathing exercises religiously, no pneumonia for me. My stitches are now out (€30) and finally my ribs are starting to hurt a bit less, but the boob remains in glorious technicolour.

The site manager informed me that I was by no means the first person to trip over their low flying kerb, but of course I was the first to do it such a spectacular fashion, and that my stay would be free until I’m fit enough to continue my travels. I’m off the day after tomorrow to meet up with the family, it’s not a long drive, so I’ll be fine. I’ve been able to walk around and continue sight seeing and have managed to circumnavigate the lake (7kms) a couple of times.

Spring has arrived in Catalunya!

P.S.  Nearly forgot to mention that in the middle of all this my habitation water pump died and for a few days before I felt able to drive to a camper repair place a short way away I was having to carry jerry cans of water to R0X1.

Olympic venue

Formed in a tectonic depression and fed by several springs, L’Estany de Banyoles (The Lake of Banyoles) at 11.42sq.km., with a depth of 62.4m. and a circumference of 7km, is the largest natural lake in Catalunya. Home of the rowing events in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, it still hosts an annual triathlon and other national and regional events. The lake is zoned and all sorts of watersports take place with rowing training on the lake occurring most days except Sundays when the “grockles” appear to take over.

The backdrop is spectacular, the lake being completely encircled by mountains of the not very high variety with the Pyrenees peeking over the tops. (LWD and I will be tacking a fairly low peak sometime later this week.)


Training on the rowing course



The Pyrenees peeking …

Dotted along the eastern and southern lakeshores are over 20 pesqueres, fishing huts, which range from very simple single rooms with a tiny jetty to elaborate houses with a large dock. No two are the same.


We’re here for at least the next 9 days, so lots more exploring to do and explanations for the unexpectedly long stay later.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Garrotxa 2

Breathtaking views, medieval villages, forested volcanos, basalt rock – the photographs took themselves …

Who wouldn’t pull over to get these views?



Medieval village built on an outcrop of basalt.


St Joan les Fonts

Three lava flows lie on top of one another here – the oldest dated to around 700,000 years ago, the next at 170,000 years and the last at 130,000. Given the lengths of time between each eruption – how can they say the volcano is definitely extinct?


St Joan des Abbdesses

I was a little caught out by the nighttime temperatures here – but then realised the altitude was 786 metres; the heating got switched on and we left after just the one night!


Santa Pau

The medieval village here is separate from it’s modern counterpart, something I really appreciated.

🙂 🙂 🙂


The first town as one enters the Garroxta, Besalú’s history goes back to the ubiquitous Romans but it’s better known for its medieval buildings and bridge over the R Fluvia. The current inhabitants are proudly and fiercely Catalan.

Protest against the imprisonment of Catalonian separatist politicians

Some parts of the bridge date back to the C11th

It’s a good place to wander

I’m now heading into the area of 30 (hopefully) extinct volcanos in the Garrotxa natural park …

🙂 🙂 🙂

A Fan … (or a stalker!!)

My first impressions of Roses were that it was a little disappointing and I have to admit that I’ve seen many places that are cuter, more picturesque, less concrete touristy and to be frank, just plain better. But there really is something about this place that has got to me. Some of that is undoubtedly the convivial company, I’ve new pals in John, Iris and Graham. And then there is Sue; Sue is one of my regular readers and, bless her, followed my route from Mirepoix, via Argeles to Roses just to come spend a couple of nights here and meet me. She even took the twisty windy route. How fabulous is that? I’ve got a fan …  (or a stalker!!) Safe journey home Sue, see you in Yorkshire!

I think one of Roses (pronounced Rosas locally) charms is that it remains a working fishing port and town; it therefore has a heart, unlike Argeles Plage which is pure tourist spot/marina. Roses has a lot of history; its first invaders, long after the Stone Age peoples left their hill-top settlement, were the Greeks. They left their mark with the first harbour. After them it was quiet hereabouts for a few hundred years until the Romans turned up (as they did, everywhere) and built on top of the Greek ruins. All went quiet again for a few more hundred years after the Roman Empire collapsed, until the Moors arrived. The Moors got overthrown by the Christians after another few hundred years. Things then went relatively quiet again for yet another few hundred years and Roses became a quiet, backwater fishing village … until the tourist hordes “discovered” it.

Doing the mending

Backdrop Pyrenees

The “quiet” season

I’m having a good time, thanks to having a social life, my three night stop is turning into three weeks. Current (and as usual, flexible) plan is to stay for a bit longer before heading down towards Barça. I can’t believe it’s only three weeks til the descendants arrive …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Holá Roses

There are three choices of road to take from Argeles-sur-Mer to get into Spain. First route, the A9, the toll road, is the fastest. Second route is the 900 which runs close to the A9 but is non-motorway, non-toll and a bit slower. Third route is the coastal route, slowest of the three BUT the most spectacular (and one of my favourites). It twists round the cliffs, not often terribly steeply but drops down into coastal villages and then back up the cliffs again about seven times. The twists are frequently 180° and the last time I drove it there were a lot of places where there were no crash barriers on the cliff edge; the road surface was appalling and the camber not so great at times. Definitely not the road of choice for wet and/or windy days as its not overly wide either.

So on Saturday it was great to wake up to bright sun, cloudless sky and no wind. I’ll say no more, you know which road I chose don’t you, dear Regular Reader? I’ve never before thought of the French as spoilers of fun, but they have and still are taking some of the  scary out of the route. It’s being widened, resurfaced, re-cambered with concrete barriers being installed to save the unwary from driving off into the Mediterranean. Needless to say French car drivers are increasing their speed accordingly and very annoyed by the drivers of 3.5 ton trucks holding them up! (I did pull over in the villages to let the not-very-long queues pass me.) I grinned maniacally all the way and admired the views as much as one dares on hairpin bends!

I was reminded again, as I passed another memorial just over the border in Spain, of the Basque refugees coming over these passes 80 years ago to escape Franco’s troops. They didn’t have the modern day choices of route to follow or the time to pick decent weather to traverse them, and I bet they weren’t that impressed by the views either.

It’s been difficult to realise that Roses is in Spain, French motorhomers having the vast majority of the pitches here. It’s a nice enough place but without much character as the cute fishing village it once was is now a concrete “paradise” of hotels and apartment blocks. There are still a lot of working boats in the port which is quite distinct from the marina. There’s a nice long promenade for strolling, dog walking, cycling, roller blading, and skateboarding, whichever is your bag, and once again the bar, restaurant and shop owners are making preparations for the tourist onslaught.

Roses fishing port and the marina

Sunday early evening stroll and teensy little aperitif

(LWD was miffed I didn’t share the peanuts)

The cultural diversion inland starts tomorrow, how long it lasts will depend entirely on nighttime temperatures. I admit to being a wuss – at my age I’m entitled!

🙂 🙂 🙂


That’s it. Done. Finished. I’m never using it again. Opium; awful stuff.

And if, dear Regular Reader, you are wondering why I ever started; the answer is I didn’t realise how bad using it would be. And getting my head together afterwards each time, was an absolute nightmare.

Hey ho, and on we go. Tomorrow actually. LWD and I are finally going up and over into Spain. Now not on the original plan, we’re going via Figueres and then inland a bit to do some cultural explorations (see the improvement in language use when my head’s not screwed up by opium?) I’ve looked at overnight temperatures in the area and we should be OK but I’ll probably add the extra duvet to make sure. In any case I shan’t be quite so far away from LPG sources.

It’s been a good time in Argeles. The place is busy with grockles at weekends but lovely and quiet midweek; well, apart from the noise of hammering, drilling and sawing going on everywhere this week in preparation for the new season opening very soon. All sorts of refurbs, cleaning and re-stocking going on in the businesses that have been closed overwinter.

Seasonal preparations in Argeles


Opium – looks pretty tho’

Today’s crêpe, with dark chocolate, more than made up for the previous one. I went to a different place and was able to watch the lady make it for a start; it was absolutely gorgeous. My excuse is that it had to be done, I missed pancake day last Tuesday. Good job we’re off really, otherwise I’d be going there daily to work my way through the fillings list …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Very different reflections on the past.

I’m not sure what I think about the refurbishment of the shops in Mirepoix’s medieval centre. At first I thought the new all glass fronts and revamped interiors were too modern; then I realised that the “old shabby chic” shopfronts and interiors weren’t original and that maybe I was just reacting from the point of view of my love of shabby chic. It might even be I disliked the new look because not all the shops have been completed. I shall defer from opinion until I see it finished. Anyway I found it hard to wander round with the usual enjoyment with all the plant around and decided to hightail it to the coast.

Mirepoix before the recent renovations

It wasn’t much of a hardship to drive one of my favourite routes running parallel to the Pyrenees, the views quite make up for the parts where the road surface is extremely poor and the camber frequently wrong, especially as I suspect that is what makes the road so fabulously underused!

On Sunday, the day after arriving at Argeles Plage, right down in the corner of south western France, I meandered through the pine trees heading for the promenade when I was, at first distracted by a heavy Gendarme presence, and than told I couldn’t proceed along my chosen route. There appeared to be some sort of demonstration (which I was politely informed would be over in 30 minutes) and from the flags I saw I thought it must be the Basque Separatists protesting. LWD and I detoured round and walked the promenade to the port – where I was unable to finish more than a few mouthfuls of the disappointingly cold leathery crepe that arrived along with my drinkable tea.

The next day I took LWD on the same walk up to where the beach and pinewood had been cordoned off. On the beach I discovered an exhibition of photos of the camp that was set up in 1939 to house the 100,000 Basque refugees who escaped over the mountains from Franco’s forces in Spain. The previous day had not been a protest but the 80th anniversary of the events. The camp was set up right on the beach, it was early  February when the first refugees arrived and the conditions must have been horrendous. Exposed to the elements, families were split, as women and children were housed in one camp and men in another, taking up 1.5 kilometres of beach. The camp remained open for two years before all the refugees were dispersed to more permanent accommodation.

Argeles Plage

And I, 80 years later, find myself camping in almost the exact spot, although parked somewhat more comfortably and for far more pleasant reasons. The story does go to show that in 80 years dictators have not disappeared, and that ordinary folk are always the ones who suffer most. The more things change, the more they stay the same.