Saturday, November 6, 2010

Helen and Peter in Spain and France

Holiday time, a road trip across Spain into the Pryenees then across France to Bergerac. 3,000 kms, lots of wine and more chorizo than is healthy for you!

On day one we drove across Spain to Toledo, we left early (after an almost tearful farewell to the dog, who is being looked after by neighbours) and arrived in the city a little after 4pm. Just enough time to take a good look around this stunning and monument filled city. Despite being a heritage gal, there is sometimes just too much heritage to fit into one day.

So, after a disco nap, we headed out for the night of tapas and red wine. For some reason in Spain (well the cities we have seen so far) they will serve you a beer in a wine glass and the portion control on the red wine is harsh. To say I could have drunk all my glass full in one gulp (yes I'm a gulper not a sipper) is no understatement. La Mancha area is famous for Manchego cheese so we had a 9.50 euros worth (cites are expensive) along with my thimble of wine!

From Toldeo we headed out across the plains of Spain towards the Pryenees, boy oh boy that is a long journey! Pretty dull landscapes for much as the plains stretch out for miles and miles on all sides. Just a small town with a fantastic church or monastery thrown in for good measure on the side of the main road. As the Seat Ibiza ate up the miles we decided to stop for the night in a small town on the outskirts of Catalyuna. Barcelona were playing football and the streets were empty, the bars were quiet too, and when we tried to get something to eat the places were closed or dead. We ended up with a dreadful pizza watching the football.

I seem to just be eating bread, ham and cheese at the moment. Breakfast - cheese roll, lunch - cheese and ham baguette, dinner - cheese and ham on a pizza! Someone give me a proper meal!

We drove onwards through the top part of Spain passing Monserate, a very expensive place on the outskirts of Barcelona (where the city folk go for weekends in the mountains). After a lunch of (you guessed it) ham and cheese baguette (!) we headed for Mike and Jan's place just over the boarder from Spain on the French side of the Pryenees. Mushroom country!

Jan and Mike were great hosts, taking us on a tour of the Spanish side one day, then the French side the following day. I preferred the French side, it felt more relaxed than the Costa Brava side of Spain. Some wonderful areas to explore. More important that that though - I didn't have ham and cheese for dinner, instead we had some lovely food (thank you Jan and Mike).

We went mushroom hunting with Mike and collected some wonderful mushrooms. This area is well known for mushrooms with cars littering the roads as people drive up into the mountains to hunt the mushrooms over the weekends. Pharmacys have posters with edible and poisonous mushrooms on display in a bid to stop people killing themselves!

France is expensive! The local bar in the sleepy village on top of a mountain sells a beer for 2.20 euros (our bar here sells it for 70 cents).

Saying good bye to our hosts we headed across France (in the rain) to Bergerac where my step mum (Pat) had hired a cottage for a week. Pat's birthday was on the Friday and her close friends and family were there to celebrate with her in style. The low moment for me during the trip was stopping in a rain soaked lay by having to eat bloody ham and cheese baguettes, with the car steaming up as you couldn't open the windows as the rain would come through....if that was not bad enough I had to deal with French toilets...why oh why in this modern world do the French still insist on you squatting over a hole in the ground with your trouser legs pulled up so they don't dangle in the pee on the floor from many other weary motorists! I just don't understand why they cannot fit a normal flushing loo! Rant over!

We arrived in Bergerac with the sun coming to great us and found the cottage (despite the sat nav sending is round the back roads of France). Stunning, stunning place, with wide open fields surrounding us, and more importantly a well stocked fridge and enough red wine to sink 8 grown people! Pouring myself a decent (or should that be indecent) glass of red, we took a look round. Totally stunning, take a look.

Touring the area over the next few days we decided this area of France is very neat! Neat because it is so well manicured. Lines of vines surround you, trees planted in neat straight lines, clean, well looked after. The place is simply littered with stunning chateaux's, from large wine estates in St Emillion (where we decided we did not want to part with hundreds of euros for wine) to the country homes and holiday homes of Europe's rich people! All that wealth everywhere but it still has a lot of charm.

Deciding not to take out a mortgage to pay for lunch and dinner, we all took in turns to cook each night. It worked well. For a group of 10 people it was a great way of having time to yourself during the day but sitting round a big kitchen table in the evening, drinking wine and eating far too much food - which always included stinking cheese at the end! For some reason I didn't mind cheese baguettes here for lunch and dinner (fickle aren't I?).

After a wonderful week we left Le Brandau and a huge thank you to Pat for a wonderful time, and headed towards Portugal. We drove and drove then finally stopped in a place in Spain called Burgos. The rough guide told us it was a great place to stop, it was. We fell out a bit while trying to find somewhere to stay, but fell on our feet at the tourist office as they called a local Pension and we found a room for the night for a bargain 27 euros! Peter was well happy!

It was Saturday night and Halloween! Burgos was busy. We had a wonderful time going to bar after bar sampling the tapas on offer. From fried chorizo, to chorizo in red wine, to a bar that just sold mussels in three different sauces (packed to the rafters). As normal in Spain the football was on and the bars full of people eating, drinking, watching football and smoking! Ahhh to smell smoke in a bar again - actually it was not unpleasant until the next morning when I put the same jumper on again and the smoke was clinging to the jumper! At about 10pm with stumbling across the cathedral which is so famous in Burgos! Impressive! Not a lot more I can say!

Heading home the next morning the rains started. A massive low across Europe brought thunder, wind and rain. Home in good time to a ravaged back garden and a soaking wet dog who'd been well cared for by Ana and Joaquim.

Loved the trip, spent too much money, drank too much wine, lovely to be home!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great trip! We will make it to Spain one of these days.

    Thanks for last night - had a great time and great food.