And the winner is …

We thought we would be writing this back in the UK but’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind and we changed ours. It seemed important somehow to reflect on the trip while we’re still here in La Belle France.

Since last week we’ve slept on the banks of the Loir as well as the Loire and then on the banks of the Seine. Parking up beside water has it’s own very special appeal.

La Mailleray sur Seine where massive ships pass you by

And then, rather reluctantly, we headed for our final stop of the trip.

Today is our last day in France. We’re back at Neufchatel en Bray, where we begin and end most of our European adventures, getting ourselves ready for the ferry tomorrow from Dieppe.

Sunday Bunday a Relgieuse experience in Neufchatel

Yesterday the dogs spent half a day at our favourite French vet’s being checked over, wormed and groomed. They are cut so short that they’re almost bald but it will last a long time. Ever practical… although the poor wee scones were cold last night and slept curled up together.

Boo before …
… and after
Hair Poppy
… ‘barely’ recognisable

While they were being treated to a dog’s version of a spa day we were cleaning the van ready for its return to the UK. You might be wondering why we hit upon this idea. Here’s how it went:

“We’ll have four hours without the dogs. What shall we do?”

“It’ll be a great opportunity to open all the doors and windows and give the place a thorough clean.”

“You’re right – let’s do it.”

The days of romance might not be so frequent but the van is as neat as can be.

Reflecting on the Highlights – our favourite places

Aside from the many delightful people we have met along the way, an important highlight of this trip has been discovering new places and knowing that we want to revisit them in the future. Here a few of our absolute favourites organised by country.

Portugal:

Braganca

Braganca – beautiful free parking beside the castle, friendly people, a warm welcome and the freshest of fresh air.

Peso de Regua – the best aire ever at the fishing club by the bridges on the river Douro. Fully serviced pitches for 3€ per night, fabulous views and walking on the river bank, a good bar and the place where we made several friends.

Coimbra – beautiful old city, free parking in an attractive park and being entertained watching water sports within yards of the van.

Lagos Aire – just great for spending time in the town and we met new and old friends there. We loved it more than seemed sensible. Sometimes you just can’t explain why you love a place – this was one of them.

Almada D’ouro Club – just north of the Algarve. Quiet, cool and beautiful. Great if you like walking. If we return to the Algarve we would probably choose this as our base and hire a car to dip in and out of the busy tourist places.

Spain:

Vinuela

Vinuela – simple and beautiful site in the hills. Great walks and a big highlight was eating breakfast looking out over a sun-drenched valley.

Las Lomas – Sierra Nevada – aside from the disastrous error of driving past the site gates and into the middle of a town that was too narrow for us, we loved this excellent site – the bus to Granada stops at the gates.

Casa de Fusta Ebro Peninsula – bird watching, walking and cycling on wide, flat landscape. Somewhere completely different to the rest of Spain and the chance to chill for a while.

Arboleas – and visiting our friends, Pam and Jeremy. Here we had a few days off and slept in a proper bed, in a proper house. We were well fed and had gargantuan gins on the terrace in the afternoon. This felt like a holiday.

Sitges – our all time favourite place in Spain. We’re slightly biased because Chris, Shirley’s brother, lives here, but even if you’re not fortunate enough to have a Chris it’s still a wonderful place to visit. Go there for some sophisticated seaside fun, some of the best camp bar staff and fabulous people watching.

France:

Beautiful La Roque Gageac

Neufchatel en Bray – sophisticated motorhome parking with all facilities including wifi. Great vets, shops, a voie verte to walk or cycle miles and wonderful Normandy rolling countryside within easy reach.

Jonzac – a public spa where you can float in hot water warmed by natural springs, a nicely equipped aire, a pretty market town and, if you’re very lucky, you might be able to watch people beggaring up the entire electronic entry system. This seemed to happen several times a day. Comedy value is high, but only to the observers.

Blaye – park up beside the Gironde, watch the boats, visit the citadel, drink cold beer in pavement cafés and, if you’re there on a Saturday, a fabulous market. Look carefully and you might find a Johnny Depp look-alike selling wine here.

La Roque Gageac – on the banks of the Dordogne river. Take a boat tour, eat ice cream, sit with your mouth open looking at the rocks overhanging the river. Duck if you hear a loud rumbling.

Vers  – Stay on the aire on the riverside, have a wonderful dinner in La Truite D’Oree, drink enough to drown out the hourly bells that go on right through the night.

Gastes – an absolute gem of an aire beside a lake in the south west of France. Feels like you’re truly on holiday and the hairdresser round the corner is brilliant. Cycling and walking on safe paths, dark nights and star gazing. Lovely

Moissac – this is the joint winner of our Favourite Places in France 2018 Award. A wonderful aire right beside the Canal du Midi with the Tarn river on the other side. An exquisite little town, a busy canal basin, the best ice cream of the trip. If we’d been brave enough and weren’t missing our family and friends so much, I think we would have just bought a place here and stayed.

Cormatin – and here’s the other winner …   We couldn’t decide between the two because they offered us so much, each in their own way. We love Burgundy and this town especially. We stayed in the simple, traditional campsite here, enjoyed a meal in a local hotel,  walked and cycled the voie verte, took some spiritual refreshment at Taizé and floated in the lovely peace of the gentle countryside all around us. It was hard to leave and we wished we had allowed more time to just sit still and be. Bliss …

And now it’s time to go back to the UK and home to Scotland where we must make some decisions about our future, particularly where we’ll buy a house. We have no idea what the next step is, so we can only wait and see.

One of the many birds that have perched nearby

This seems like a good time to talk about the impact these long trips have had on our lives.

In the last two years, we have been travelling in the motorhome for 17 months and lived in our house for 7 months. By the time we sold our house last September, we knew it was time to let it go and rethink our need for space. The place was just too big for us. We didn’t initially plan to be away for such a big chunk of time yet we were delighted to be able to let life unfold as we went on our way, exploring and seeing what was around the next corner. What we didn’t expect was the absolute delight of living simply, spending days just walking about, chatting with people, looking at beautiful countryside or across rivers and oceans and then choosing what to have for dinner. Life has been simple in more ways than the obvious. Sometimes we’ve been frustrated by living in a small space and felt at the mercy of the weather. Wet days in a motorhome with two small dogs can be a bit depressing. Sometimes we’ve really missed sleeping in a big bed with a proper flushing toilet and a shower that you can stand under as long as you like, just a few steps away. Often we’ve felt homesick for the people we left behind and wished we could just pop home to see them.

It was Autumn when we started out.
… and now it’s spring and this little chap loves it

The feeling that remains, now we’re coming to the end of this trip, is that doing this has changed us. We have been happy living simply, enjoying the simplest of pleasures such as buying local fresh food and wine, finding a little spot in the sun beside a river, a walk on the beach early in the morning and the knowledge that around the next corner there is another view and another possibility of learning something new or making new friends. Living like this brings you out more than life in a house. You walk over to the shared bins, or to get a watering can full of water and you meet someone else doing the same. Unless you’ve noticed the registration plate on their motorhome you have no idea what language they speak but you can usually find a way of making a connection.  Sometimes the connections feel like they’ll last a  lifetime. We’re changed by the experience and we’re not sure how we’ll fit back into life in a house. Of course, we’ll continue to travel but we don’t know if any of our trips will be this long again. Who knows? We certainly don’t. Watch this space …

Thank you to all the many people who have followed us on our travels. Without you, this blog would be just words and pictures on a screen – it’s knowing you are there that makes it all the more special.

Keep following us as we turn the next corner.

A bientot!

 

 

 

21 thoughts on “And the winner is …

  1. Another fabulous blog summing up your travels. Much food for thought there. Safe travels home and home we can catch up again. Bon voyage a tout les deux. X

  2. Bravo, bravo. Wonderful blog start to finish, though not quite finished yet. Margaret and Shirley. You are both an inspiration, this last or penultimate blog is a map of places to see, and in following your blogs they are also places of interest and beauty.
    It’s also sad that your at the end of this journey. However there is much more to come and do in the next part of your adventures. Good luck with those. And hope we all can get together when your home in bonny Scotland.xxxx Sandy and Grant.
    On your return we will wish a welcome home Bonnie Lassies.

  3. I have loved following your travels , you truly have lived the dream and will continue to do that whatever you decide to do as long as you two are together !! Can’t wait to see you both , safe travels home xxx love you both xxx

  4. Wonderful words as always Margaret. You express your feelings and emotions so well and we can identify with many of them. It was a privilege to meet all four of you ( the dogs are part of your team after all) and we certainly wish to keep in touch and hope to meet up again sooner or later…but who knows where!?
    Scotland awaits your return…enjoy it! We just might be there before you!!
    Hasta luego, a la prochaine, see you…Doug and Jo

  5. I hate it when you two head for home and I know the wonderful updates are going to end …. perhaps you could break protocol and sneak in a couple of UK-based posts letting us know you are OK?

    Compared to your trip, the four days I just spent in my campervan are nothing, but it was enough to be reminded of how lovely life can be when you pare it down to the basics. Especially when, once back home, it feels as if all I do is look after “stuff” – clean it, tidy it, put it away, maintain it . . . And whilst I am mindful that I am luckier than millions that I do have all this “stuff”, I often wonder just how much of it we all really need?

    Good luck with the decisions you make over the coming months. X X

  6. Have so enjoyed following your travels and look forward to many more. Have a good journey home and look forward to catching up with you all. Xx

  7. Going to miss reading your updates. Safe journey home ladies. Our French adventure will be starting soon. Longing for some sunshine – perhaps you can sneak some back for us. xx

  8. It has been both educational and entertaining reading your blogs over the preceding months.You are real motorhomers who have taken time to explain how you overcame the ” real” situations we all encounter some time or another. Wish you both a safe journey back to UK and who knows we could pull up beside you one day.

  9. What a talented writer you are Margaret: you have brought you and Shirley’s adventures really alive for all to share. Thank you and we look forward to even more. Xx

  10. Oh no…………NO MORE VLOGPOSTS………? will miss being a part of your fabulous adventure so much Margaret,I heartily agree with all the previous comments,it really has been a pleasure to read.Would you consider updating us occasionally as Jayne suggested ?
    Wishing you all a good journey home and happy househunting too x

  11. Thank you all you lovely people for the encouraging messages and kind remarks. I have a wee lump in my throat … There is no danger that we’ll stop blogging, or indeed stop travelling. Keep watching and we’ll give a blow by blow account of what happens next. Promise …

  12. What a lovely read – Thankyou for sharing your travels they have certainly been an inspiration to us and it seems ironic you are finishing this one just as we are starting. So far we have found it to be as fantastic as you have made it look. Thank you – Take care and safe journey Jan, Andy and our glorious Esther van .

  13. I think you are being very unkind to us blog readers, what are we going to do when you are not travelling for a while? I think you should turn straight round and start another trip!

    In a reply to another post Margaret you mentioned you lived in Harrogate. My wife and I lived there for a couple of years way back in the late 70s, Tewit Well Road to be precise, nice town.

    Anyway, I hope you ladies find what makes you happy.

  14. All the above are my sentiments too especially the one about “stuff” which I can totally relate to! We will miss your entertaining, humourous news and your thoughts on the pleasures of living the simple way of life in a motor home! Safe journey back to the UK and looking forward to an update on your lives when you have made some decisions for your future! Hope to see you soon! X

  15. Hello Folks, Thanks again for all your lovely comments and encouragement. I’ve edited the first line of the post because I’ve obviously given everyone the false impression that there will be no more. We’ll keep putting up occasional posts as we make our decisions about the future and we’re also planning some trips around Scotland before heading south again for a tour of France in the autumn. We’re delighted (and amazed) that so many people want us to keep posting.
    Thanks again. M x x

  16. Just caught up with your last 3 entries and now going to check the map to see where your favourite spots are. 4 of us Flloras are heading to France in June for about 3 to 4 weeks. Still beginners and a little nervous but your blogs are so inspiring! Maybe we’ll meet up again before your next trip . xx

  17. Hope all goes well for you have enjoyed your blogs look forward to hear what you do next xx

  18. Hi ladies, I’ve just caught up on your last blogs. I’ve really enjoyed reading them and experiencing your travels through your good natured and humorous lense. Good luck with the big decisions ahead and hope you’ll keep us updated via your blog.

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