From Parrots to the Pyrenees

The motorhome parking at Casa de Fusta on the Ebro Delta is a great place for anyone who enjoys nature, bird watching, walking or cycling. It has rice fields along the banks of the Ebro river and you can cycle through the countryside and enjoy the amazingly flat landscape and the blissful quiet. I say that like we did it – in fact, it was cold and windy with occasional heavy rainstorms so we only managed to take other people’s word for the great cycling and dash out two or three times a day to walk the dogs. Shirley did get some bird pictures though and we enjoyed our usual puzzlement, trying to work out what they were. We did recognise the flamingos however and we know a duck when we see one.

We don’t know what it is but we liked it …
Flamingo coming in to land

On the second day, Melanie and Biz joined us and we enjoyed another evening of chat and laughter with them over stuffed peppers and jacket potatoes. That came out all wrong – there was nothing to laugh at in the stuffed peppers – honestly. They brought some cakes from their last stopover, which was just great as it was Sunday and we’d forgotten to get the necessary items for Sunday Bunday.

The next morning we joined them for coffee and polished off the rest of their cakes before saying rather sad goodbyes as we were heading in different directions from there on. They are on their way to Italy and beyond whilst we are heading back to France then Scotland, via Sitges to visit Shirley’s brother Chris and enjoy a stay in that lovely town. Since our last visit, the council has provided a ‘Provisional Motorhome Parking’ close to the College of Art. It has no services but it is in a prime spot, an easy and pleasant walk to the beach and to the town. The only other options available are two campsites a good way further out of town and a truly horrible Aire for Camping Cars near to Lidl right out by the motorway. Last year we were here earlier in the year so we parked up near to the seafront, something that is tolerated out of season. We were thrilled to find the new one and discover that it was flat and convenient. Yes, it’s right by the railway line but after the first couple of trains went by we stopped noticing them. how much this had to do with the amount of wine we drank is anyone’s guess.

Yes the trains were this close

We stayed in Sitges for three nights, met Chris for several rounds of drinks, meals, snacks, dog walks and had a thoroughly good catch up. Chris has a little dog called Buggie, named by her previous owner for the slightly surprised bug-eyed expression on her face. We all agreed that she would have been better named Yoda – you can see why.

Buggie

Before we met up we were a bit worried about how Poppy and Buggie would get on as they’re both mature females and can be inclined to be a bit short on patience around dogs they don’t know. To our relief and delight, the three dogs were immediately friendly and had a great time on the beach together.

Three happy pups

Buggie is a chihuahua cross and is very small, making our two look enormous in comparison. Chris adopted her from the dog rescue centre and was surprised and a little alarmed when ten days after he arrival she presented him with four puppies. Fortunately, homes were found for them all relatively quickly and she is now spayed and can be allowed to run around with other dogs quite safely. By the time we left, we had fallen in love with Buggie. Her obvious attachment to Chris is wonderful to see. If he leaves the room for two minutes, she stands, keeping her eye on the point where she last saw him, until he comes back.

Cava on Chris’s terrace – two peas in a pod

Sitges is famous for the flocks of parrots that live in the trees in the town. The story goes that their ancestors were escapees from Barcelona airport where they were brought in as pets from Africa. I can’t vouch for their roots but the evidence of their successful breeding is everywhere. Sitges is also famous for a bar called Parrots where we met Chris each night for drinks and a chat. On the last evening, we met up with Lee, one of his friends, and spent the evening talking about the motorhoming life. More on that later.

As always, we loved our stay in Sitges. Famous for being gay friendly, it is fun and vibrant with lots of bars, cafés, shops and restaurants and, much to our two dogs’ dismay, a good dog grooming parlour or three. We booked ours in for a wash and trim and three hours later picked up two smart, fluffy beauties. These groomers didn’t want to trim them short, because it was ‘too cold’ so they were tidied up and lightly trimmed, although we couldn’t help noticing they had both been given a Brazilian. That’s Sitges for you.

Note Boo’s Brazilian

On Thursday morning we drove out of the town, stopping at Lidl’s on the way, and headed up towards the Pyrenees to a vineyard in Arbeca where motorhomes are welcomed to stay free of charge in exchange for tasting some of the wines and buying a bottle or more. Maria, the owner of the vineyard is young and knowledgeable, giving us an interesting insight into the wines and the history of the vineyard.

Lovely parking at the vineyard

From the parking we could see the snow on the mountains of the Pyrenees in the distance as we looked over the vines, all clipped back for the winter. Maria told us that temperatures up there range from -7c in the winter to 44c in the summer. Apparently, it had snowed only two days before we got there. Given that the day before we had been sitting outside on Chris’s terrace sipping cava this seemed amazing. We slept peacefully amongst the trees, plugged into electricity and close to all facilities and left in the morning with six bottles tucked into the space under the seats and a warm feeling to keep out the cold.

Wine tasting in Arbeca

Apologies if I led you astray

This apology is to all the people that I told about Sabinanigo, a town high up in the Pyrenees not far from the Somport tunnel. Here there is motorhome parking next to the Perinarium (not to be confused with perineum). We have waxed lyrical about the place to several people, explaining that it is a good parking with all facilities including electricity and costs 5€ for two nights. All of this is true but on this occasion, we realised two things. One is that the town is rather sad and dreary and although the parking is safe and convenient you would be hard pushed to find enough to entertain you for two days, the other is that the really lovely town of Jaca, only 10 miles further on in the direction of the tunnel has an excellent motorhome parking place, lovely shops, interesting historical buildings and, is free of charge. The latter may change shortly as there are signs that an electronic barrier and electricity is being installed but even if we had to pay for it we would say the same. It’s a great wee place where you can noodle around the shops to your heart’s content and then get a surprise when you step outside and see snow covered mountains.

It was very cold when we wandered through the town on the day before we left Spain to go through the Somport tunnel into France. By rights, it shouldn’t be this cold but most of Europe is in the grip of unseasonable weather and it was three degrees colder than Edinburgh up there in the mountains. We were well wrapped up but after spending six months in the south of Europe we have become used to the warmth and we were frozen. We also needed a pee and there are no public loos in Jaca. It was a long way downhill to our motorhome so we decided that we had the perfect excuse to hop into a creperie, making weak jokes like “Do you want a crepe?” “No just a pee.” – sorry about that.

Turn a corner in the town and you see this …

It was warm in there and the person who served us was also the cook and indeed anything else that needed doing. There was only one other couple in the shop and they were young fit looking types that are probably here for the skiing or extreme cycling. They nodded at us and resumed the perusal of their mobile phones until the waiter/cook/owner/ appeared. He spoke in rapid Spanish so we smiled and asked if he spoke English. He smiled back and asked if we spoke French. “Un peu” we replied and he broke into a broad grin and told us that the other couple were French. So there we were, two English speakers in Spain trying to speak French to a Spaniard while two French people looked on with mild disinterest. Somehow we managed to order two savoury galettes and coffee. We tried to explain what an Americano was but the waiter misunderstood and returned with two coffees and two cups of hot water. So much for “Deux cafés longues avec l’eau chaude”. We tried …

Talking about Motorhoming

Chris’s friend Lee was very interested in the motorhoming life and asked us lots of questions about how things worked. His final question to us took us by surprise. “What are the disadvantages?” he asked and we looked at one another, lost for words. Try as we might we couldn’t get beyond the fact that we miss our family and friends and there are some hobbies we enjoy that can’t be done in a motorhome. Shirley misses her garden and I miss my clarinets. After that, we were stumped. We’re in the final four weeks of our seven-month tour of Europe and getting ready to go back to Scotland and make decisions about our future. How are we going to balance our life in Scotland with our love of travel and adventure? We have no idea. This certainly won’t be the last time we take off into the blue yonder without making many plans as to where we’re going and when. Somehow we have to achieve some sort of balance between our love of Scotland, family and friends with our love of the open road. Right now it feels like a huge challenge but we’re too busy enjoying our last four weeks over here to worry too much about it.

So, next time you hear from us we’ll be back in France, trying to make our heads shift from our very few words of Spanish to our slightly more words of French without making too many faux pas.

Au revoir!

 

9 thoughts on “From Parrots to the Pyrenees

  1. Good shot of a Glossy Ibis…well done Shirley! Envy you being in France, though not the cool Pyrenees! Watch out for the steep downhill from the Somport Tunnel, hope the brakes are good on the Miami!! Cheers, Jo and Doug

    1. We’re down and in one piece! We chose a Sunday to come through the tunnel because the trucks aren’t on the road. Quite a descent! Thanks for the info on the Glossy Ibis – beautiful bird. x

  2. I look forward to reading all your news! What am I going to do in 4 weeks time? You will have to keep this blog going with updates on your decisions on where you’re going to live. We’re still in limbo! Finding someone to do our loft conversion without charging us a small fortune is proving to be a challenge! Hopefully we’ll see you before you head up to Scotland and we can catch up! X

    1. I know Rachel. I don’t know how I’ll stop blogging – it’s kept me out of mischief now for months. Hope you get your loft conversion done soon. x x

  3. Brilliant once again, Shirley your brother Chris is very like you in looks, although he is bigger than you. You look great together in the photo. And his wee dog buggy is so cute I’m glad yours all got on. Keep the stories coming Margaret. I enjoy every one. Keep on enjoying yourselves, both of you and hopefully see you both at some point on your return. The Boys n Belles will need to organise a night to celebrate your return and your trip. Also we haven’t had a reunion for a long time. TTFN xxx

  4. Another wonderful adventure. Glad you managed some time with Chris. Hope we can meet up when you get back to bonnie Scotland. Bien viaje/ bon voyage. Were you not learning more French or Spanish at one point or did I dream that? x

    1. Yes John, we do try to learn Spanish when we’re in Spain using Duolingo and we’ve done some courses in French at the French Institute in Edinburgh but it doesn’t come easily and moving from country to country is a challenge to the old brain cells. We’ll just keep trying. Yes let’s meet up when we get back. x x

  5. Yes, so Yoda. Showed J the pic and it was the first thing he said.
    Interesting about what you miss. Of course, friends and family… garden for me and sport on TV for J, which to be honest we could sort, if we felt it important enough. Can’t imagine doing anything else now.

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