3 Days in San Sebastián by Lara

  View of Monte Igueldo from our van

View of Monte Igueldo from our van

I loved San Sebastián. It’s small enough to be charming, with the intertwined streets of Parte Vieja enticing you, as well as the multitude of lively pintxo bars. The laid back, utterly cool Zurriola beach and the masses of even cooler surfers give you the perfect spot for sunset, all a stones throw from Gros where the locals like to hang out. All that’s enough to seduce you without even mentioning the food markets, the Michelin star restaurants and the incredible people. 

There’s so much culture here and so much class, but because we’re in Spain things are easy, there’s no pressure to be anything but yourself. I wish we’d had the money and the time to stay longer, but we didn’t. So we set aside 3 days and crammed in as much as we could.

When you have time to wander and roam with very little haste, you really get to experience places as they should be experienced, with the little time that we had we really needed to do our research and be quite selective.  This was difficult. Luckily for us, San Sebastián has an incredible online city guide that’s more than detailed and we were also left ‘A Lonely Planet’ guide by our friends (Thank you!) and being such a sought after city means it has been the star to many blogs, so making sure we got the most out of our visit was easy.

Arriving late on the Wednesday we were fortunate enough to get a parking space at the (free overnight) car park by Mount Urgall.  Waking up here was an absolute dream, waking to the sound of waves crashing was glorious, as was the view over the bay of La Concha. We used the free facilities (open 10-9 daily) and checked the forecast, since arriving on the North coast we discovered the weather can be a bit temperamental.

With San Sebastián offering us a cloudy day and not too hot we decided we would tackle the hike to Pasajes de San Juan, a delightful fishing village a mornings walk over the Ulía mountain.  The hike itself forms part of the Camino de Santiago so was pretty busy, but there were plenty of moments there was no one around so we could enjoy our surroundings and the views. Taking us around 3 hours (with many a photo stop), it was challenging at times but doable for most and thoroughly enjoyable. You arrive into the bay of Pasajes across the estuary, we celebrated with a Cider (Sidra) from a little bar that was rammed with locals called the Muguruza Ardoak (Falcon Crest). 

  Taken on the hike to Pasajes de San Juan

Taken on the hike to Pasajes de San Juan

Aware that we only had very limited time to spend in this pleasant place we finished up, boarded the small ferry on the quay (€1.40 for 2 persons) and enjoyed the view on the short boat ride.   Having heard so much about the fish being served up we headed to Ziaboga, on the main square to fill up before heading back to San Sebastián.  We sampled the Ajoarriero Cod, their version of Ropa Vieja (reliving memories from our trip to Cuba) and with hesitation the ‘Spoon Food’, which we later discovered was their translation for soup and when it arrived we enjoyed a fish and potato bisque like dish.

Happy, full and now running late we dashed to the bus stop before heading back to the van, in hope we wouldn’t have a ticket.  TAKE NOTE: Parking wardens in San Sebastián are on it, however if you buy your tickets without prompt and say hello with a smile they are very nice and actually go out of there way to help you.   During our stay there was some sort of rowing contest off La Concha beach so we had to move the van once we’d returned from Pasajes, the lovely parking man told us where we could park all day which was in view of where we’d previously parked.  Bonus!

A little bit of downtime in the van and a spruce, we then headed out for the evening.  I’d found a blog, which detailed an itinerary of Pintxo bars so thought this would be a good place to start exploring the old town.  If you are heading to San Sebastián make sure you find out which bars are offering Pintxo and a pot (pot refers to a drink in San Sebastián and you can choose wine or beer, or whatever you fancy within reason).  Bars will offer a pintxo and a drink for a reduced price: Thursday nights head to Gros for this as most bars will be running this offer, however there are a few places in the old town and surrounding area that have offers on Fridays and Wednesdays also.

What I love about Spain is the sunset strolls and the pre dinner jaunts that people take, it’s so refined and a great way of soaking up the ambience. Once the sun had retreated we joined the crowds on the promenade and headed towards the port, passed a few waterside restaurants, that were already full and superbly lively, and through the city walls into a maze of places to eat and drink. I was in heaven. The itinerary I’d found was out the window and it was more than satisfying discovering locations on our own. 

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We sampled some tasty fare at many a bar but the standouts for me has to be Baztan. We stumbled in here after a few bars already and tried to order the non alcoholic beer (they love that in Spain). Thank goodness for the waiter who gently asked are we sure we wanted this? I assumed he was trying to cut me off, but nope, was merely pointing out we’d chosen the non alcoholic one. He poured two caña’s, gave us a plate and pointed to the countertop covered in delicious pintxo. We loaded the plate with a few bites (the mini hamburger was great from what I remember as was the tempura prawn).  We were more than happy. We were more than full too, this being our 4th stop. I can definitely recommend the upmarket Ganbara. This venue served a fruity grapefruit IPA alongside moreish jamon croissants, vegetable sandwiches (which actually contained ham).  They also offer more substantial feastings of fish and chargrilled meats. We were on a tasting tour of the whole old town so decided against filling up on their grilled foie gras and the cod cheeks with clams.  I regret this decision still.

Our Satisfied bellies headed to Hamabost, where we were promised great tunes and energetic punters. What we found was a quiet bar on Plaza Constitución, with okay tunes but nothing special. We downed our drinks before clumsily making our way to anywhere that looked like it offered something for the after hours.  We couldn’t be bothered to hop in a taxi to the revered Le Bukowski so followed the neon light beaming from Pub Dinosti Gin Club. We always seem to end up in places like this. In the hideous Mantanzas in Cuba we found ourselves in a black light den with Russian memorabilia and crazy cocktails I didn’t even want to try.  Well we had found another in San Sebastián, bizarrely lit with neon and furnished in white leather. However the gin and tonic was delicious, not delicious enough to stay for another, I couldn’t bare all the petting with the other punters that was going on so we called it a night.

Of course we woke with a hangover, just in time to buy a new parking ticket. We laid in silence for a bit before deciding food was what we needed and so we ventured out. Through the old town and out the other side we came across a delightful eatery, loaded up on green tea, carbs and some incredible cardamom veal cheeks before sauntering around the shops. If you have the money to spend there are some extremely lovely boutique clothes shops here.  We stuck to the surf shops and those we could afford before taking a walk over Mount Urgall. From the old town you can stare up at the mountain and see the Sacred Heart Statue (Cristo de la Mota), the hill is fortified and the wall still remains. The winding walk to the top doesn’t take too long but you may need to catch you breath at times, especially if like us you are massively hungover.  You can also visit the Castillo de la Moto and the Casa de la Historia. All worth doing. For us we took in the sights and quickly headed back to the promenade where our van (and our comfy bed) was. 

  The delicious beer at    KAÑABIKAÑA

The delicious beer at KAÑABIKAÑA

A disco nap later we headed to KAÑABIKAÑA Craft Beer Shop. Walls full of bottled goodness, we perused the shelves and checked out what was on tap. I went for the Mad Clown IPA, but so did Paul so I did the gentlemanly thing and got another (slightly stronger) IPA…Miel something (?). They don’t have a license so you can’t drink on the premises, but they will give you a lovely glass and bottle your beer in a way like never before (they can get the beer from the tap into the bottle with no interference. no air, no nothing). You can then head across the road with your brown-bagged beer, embossed glass and sit on the beach while you perv on all the surfers. I mean watch the fantastic sunset.

Still feeling delicate there was only one thing we could do. Go and get a curry…I know what you’re thinking, a curry in Spain? But, we have tried and tested a curry house in the majority of stops (blog post coming soon. Hopefully) and this one did not disappoint.

A well deserved sleep later we woke to rain, not the mizzle we’d encountered the day before or the light showers, but full on rain. We checked all the leak zones were taken care of in the van and attempted to see a break in the cloud outside. Blue sky spotted. As the rain lightened we bolted out the van and headed into town to start day 3, we didn’t get far when the heavens opened again so we made a run for the nearest Pintxo bar. Great news, it was the one we’d been at on the first night. Even better news… we were so drunk the first time around it was like we were visiting somewhere new!  2 plates later, a lot of rain and a frantic search on every weather forecast website I know.

Since arriving in Asturias we were told (warned) to expect a lot of rain. Locals share this fact with us in hope that if they forewarn us it won’t put us off this region. We remind them we’re from England so a little rain isn’t a problem. And since landing in San Sebastián we were fortunate to have had a full day and a half without any, which is pretty good for September.  Had it not rained we had planned on heading over to Monte Igueldo, for a ride on the vintage train up to the top; the views over San Sebastián are supposed to be incredible, especially at sunset, however the rain duped us.  We could barely see 200m in front so gave this a miss, when the rain started to ease off we decided to head back.

  We get van envy a lot... this one was particularly good

We get van envy a lot... this one was particularly good

Giggling through the empty streets, splashing myself with my flips flops (that damned flop) it seemed quite appropriate to grab an ice cream we’d been eyeing up the entire stay. We sheltered underneath an overhanging roof overlooking the port, complained the cone was nothing to write home about and once finished, slowly headed back to the van…

Bilbao, here we come.

Holiday Mode by Lara

  Sunset at Zaragoza vineyard

Sunset at Zaragoza vineyard

Three months to the day since we left the UK and started our drive around Europe. In these three months we’ve learnt a huge amount about the van, each other and how to sustain a balanced and positive outlook. We’ve learnt how much stress the van can withstand, in terms of hours on the road as well as roads we really should be avoiding in this heavy beast, and of course we now know the answers to “Is that creaking sound okay?” and “That clunk that just happened, that’s nothing right?” We’ve learnt that depending on the weather we tackle different tasks and chores; there’s no point in doing laundry when it’s pissing it down, and we get it done first thing if the suns out, who wants to miss the day? When the weathers not so great we tidy the van, maybe review some places online, and try and write a blog! We still need to work on the tidying of the van but we’re both messy creatures and you got me, I bought way too much stuff. We also split the jobs that need doing and have certain roles in the van that we undertake.

We are continually learning how to live in a confined space with each other. So far so good, I’m going to give a lot of credit to Paul for it being so harmonious because he’s super chilled most of the time. The biggest factor in us having a happy home is because we actually really like each other, it’s not just about being in love, we have a mutual respect that keeps us balanced and grounded. It’s all pretty perfect.

So by all accounts we are winning. You’d think wouldn’t you, but no, we are struggling with something that could make or break this trip that we really need to get a handle on… Our budget. We are still in holiday mode; we’re still making allowances for spending on this or that. But we aren’t on holiday, we live in Claude and have a plan to spend at least a year living and travelling through Europe. At the rate we’re going, we won’t make it to Christmas.

  Claude parked up at the vineyard

Claude parked up at the vineyard

We spent far too long on the Mediterranean and far too long staying at campsites with showers and pools and other luxuries we just can’t afford. Our plan was to wild camp and as much as possible and from all our research it’s very easy to do so in Europe, what I failed to read was that along the Med there is very little leniency with wild camping and a campsite every few miles who charge extortionate rates during the school summer holidays. What I also neglected to realise when planning this trip is that I’ve turned into a bit of a scaredy cat and don’t want to get into trouble, and rumour has it there is more of a van culture in the Basque Country.

So we fled the Med and headed North. We stumbled upon a lovely family run Vineyard just outside Zaragoza, which was free for the two nights we stayed. We also stopped at an incredible cliff top car park in San Sebastián, that was also free but that’s not the only thing we were spending money on. I love food, and in Spain and certainly San Sebastián you have some incredible chefs, restaurants and food; you can’t go into a bar without glaring at the counter full of pintxos or tapas options that would compliment that beer so nicely. You go online and type in San Sebastián and the majority of hits will be food related. Whether it’s learning about all the Michelin stars and regional seafood on offer or the markets you must venture to. I am determined to get out of holiday mode though. 

  San Sebastián coastline

San Sebastián coastline

For me, cooking a bean chilli in the van would be outrageously offensive to the food that is on offer in this City or so I tell myself. I have to weigh up the predicament I am in, a glorious meal with a price tag out of my range or a fairly delicious, within budget meal that will keep me from starving. It is a real struggle and I need to reign myself in If we are to see more of Europe than just Spain.   

Any suggestions on how to keep costs low would be greatly appreciated, and hopefully by the next blog we will have tightened our purse strings to enable more travelling and then more blogs!

France Vs Spain (the drivers) by Lara

  Claude in Barcelona, Spain

Claude in Barcelona, Spain

We’ve clocked 3,000 miles so far in the van. I’ve driven through towns with streets so narrow and balconies so low we just get under them, slowly trundled up mountains with winding roads and sudden drops that give me vertigo, and made it under a bridge that was clearly signposted as lower than our Claude, yet the most stressful driving I’ve been faced with certainly has to be on motorways. 

I’m a terrible passenger, so for everyone’s benefit I am designated driver. Lucky for me, Paul is an excellent passenger who for the most time is an excellent map reader/google map navigator. Me behind the steering wheel also gives us the added bonus of extra storage space behind the seat. Perfect. This has also meant that for 3,000 miles I have been the one dealing with the brunt and blessing of the other road users. 

Driving through France was pretty awful at times. Out of all the places I’ve ever travelled I would say France is definitely up there with most amount of horn honking, not a patch on Mumbai but still super stressful. I’m driving a 15-year-old, long wheelbase, maxi roofed campervan, with 2 kayaks hitched to the roof and (admittedly) way too much stuff, all contributing to weighing the damn thing down. When on a dual carriageway, I’m in the right hand lane travelling at 40mph not because I enjoy going that slow and want to take our time, but because that’s the maximum poor Claude can go. You may be flying passed us beeping your horn, but with the slightest gradient our speed diminishes rapidly and we hope and pray it all flattens out soon. We’ve had Belgium Drivers call me an arsehole, French drivers giving me the finger and at first I admit I was affected by these taunts. But Paul reminded me that there’s absolutely nothing we can do, or that they can do. Apart from maybe throw an apple at them

  Claude after his first mountain climb...

Claude after his first mountain climb...

Is it just me or are there a lot of HGVs in France? Because I seemed to pass so many of them and then of course uphill they would thunder passed me, never abusive but a few frustrated arms signals were given as I tried overtaking them on the descent. If you come across us on your road trip please be aware we have to pick up speed downhill in order to make it uphill! It seems Spain already got that memo though. The drivers have been the polar opposite and in this heat boy am I glad, I’m sweating enough as it is!

In fact, in the 6 weeks we’ve been in Spain I haven’t heard one horn. Folk are just a lot more chilled out it seems, and while drivers seem to be right up Claude’s bum, they don’t seem to mind the pace… I’m not sure they’re even aware! I have even had a few laughs with the HGVs that pass me, and then I pass. Even the huge lorry I pulled out on, on the roundabout didn’t mind (yes I did this. Lara don’t get cocky!)  

I wonder what drivers are like in Portugal?

70 Days and counting by Paul

  Rooftops in Gruissan, France

Rooftops in Gruissan, France

So its been nearly 40 days and close to 2,500 miles travelled in the van since I last sat down to write a blog entry so it’s probably safe to say it has slightly slipped down the list of priorities while we've been on the road.

I’m currently staring down at a list I’ve been keeping of each place we’ve stayed in the van, something which I thought would come in handy when writing my regular blog entries…

However, here I sit, in a field near Girona, Spain trying to put together some words on what we got up to in French towns like Bonleiu or Gruissan.

I’ll summarise a little and can confirm a plethora lakes, mountains, beaches and bars were heavily involved in the large majority of all the locations.

We managed to watch two stages of the Tour de France which was an incredible if not rather long experience. Hiking half way up a mountain to sit and wait for a group of roughly 200 cyclists to race past might not seem the most entertaining way to spend a day but I think (and hopefully Lara does too) it was worth it. That seems like a lifetime ago when writing about it now.

  Team Sky's Sebastian Henao

Team Sky's Sebastian Henao

As ever, some of the most best places we’ve stayed and visited have been places we’ve literally stumbled across whether it’s the fantastically named Peniscola (which turns out was a regular Game of Thrones filming location) or the mountain range close to La Senia, where we went for a rather long cycle through the whole mountain range.

  Storm Clouds above Peñíscola

Storm Clouds above Peñíscola

To give you up an update of how the van is coping with all these miles and mountains we’ve currently needed to fix/replace:

  • All four tyres
  • Two engine coolant tubes (I think thats what you call them)

I should add a caveat here when I say ‘we’ve’,  I mean a variety of lovely Spanish men have achieved these jobs. I however must take credit for selotaping the headlight back into place after it kept falling out. So far so good on that one…

Up next is a fantastic weekend of football. Thank you Lara! Tomorrow we're seeing Girona FC's first ever game in La Liga against Athletico Madrid and then on Sunday it's Barcelona v Real Betis.

See you in another 40 days or so...

The key to blogging is writing by Lara

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I'm just not good at updating blogs. I thought with all the time it the world  I would love sitting there, sharing stories about our travels. But it turns out even when there's nothing on the agenda, there's always something else to do.  I once started a blog and the first post (which has never seen the light of day) was called sailing &  procrastinating. I haven't done much sailing since my circumnavigation but I have done plenty of procrastinating.

What's been occurring? Well we made it to Spain, driving through glorious fields of Sunflowers as we headed south west through France, stopping for a frivolous meal at Maison Jeunet in Arbois, an incredible 2 star degustation which left our bellies full and wallets empty. A pit stop at more cascades and a few days spent in Gruissan where we enjoyed the meander through the old town, forked out too much in the market for some saucisson and had our first proper swim in the sea after spending much time in the mountains.  Perfect!

 Snail and Kolhrabi,   Maison Jeunet

Snail and Kolhrabi,  Maison Jeunet

 Tomato and Hogweed,  Maison Jenet    

Tomato and Hogweed, Maison Jenet

 

 Poached Duck Fois Gras with Danané Pepper,  Maison Jenet

Poached Duck Fois Gras with Danané Pepper, Maison Jenet

Van loaded up and off to Spain we headed.  Whizzing through the Costa Brava as fast as Claude can take us and thrilled to catch up with friends in Benicàssim for a good ole stomp at a festival and taking full advantage of the air conditioning at the villa. Bliss!  A few intoxicated days and then a few more after that in the blistering heat, stumbling upon a Game of Thrones filming location.  After getting caught in a huge thunderstorm and Paul being disappointed by the size of a pizza we decided to flee the coast and the tourists that come with it. 

We drank a lot of bubbles by Lara

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3 weeks to the day since we left for France.  820 miles (or there abouts) later, Claude is still going, even got up a mountain.  And despite not hearing from us in a while Paul and I haven’t killed each other.  Yet.  

After having absolutely no idea of where we were going and what we were doing we realised that, unfortunately, we did have restrictions on time, which meant having to plan a little more than we’d hope to.  We gave ourselves four and a half weeks to travel from England down to Benicàssim so our original want of heading East towards Czech Republic was scundered.  Not all bad as we’ve decided instead to try and catch some of the Tour de France.  Paul’s a very happy man (fingers crossed we see something)

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After lolling in the lake for a few days, a little research into towns with the ‘Tour’ I realised we’d driven right passed Reims and Épernay, home to the makers of Champagne.  There was only one thing to do - turn around and head back.  And what a brilliant idea that was!   We found a great spot to park up for a few days, jumped on our bikes and headed to the centre of beautiful Épernay.   Walking up the grand Avenue de Champagne, we had a brief peek around the park and then spotted Moët & Chandon.  With so many other Champagne houses to peruse we were probably wrong in walking in the first we came to, but I was thirsty!

 Champagne stacked in the vast cellars of Moët & Chandon

Champagne stacked in the vast cellars of Moët & Chandon

A tour for two and a tasting later we were loaded with all the history you could want on Champagne production, the Moët & Chandon brand and a few titbits on Napoleon, I really liked hearing what he thought about Champagne: “Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it.”  I love this, but honestly I’m not sure I can agree … what do you think Paul?  After a night quaffing all the Champagne in various establishments we hit the sack and were faced with a pretty lethal hangover the following day.

Thank goodness we only had a short hike to contend with.  Rule No 1.  DO NOT listen to me when going on hikes, they will be far longer than you planned, you will not be prepared, and you will certainly feel like you’re not going to make it!  What was supposed to be a 12km hike with maximum temperatures reaching 26 degrees (this is important information when travelling with a ginger), actually turned into a 12 mile hike with temperatures reaching 34 degrees with no shade anywhere - Just lots of hills and vineyards and not much else.

Having both picked up some very interesting tan lines, perhaps a touch of heat exhaustion and a need for full water immersion on our van doorstep we decided that we would pack up and move on to the nearest lake.  After a much needed rest of course.

Mishaps and hiccups by Lara

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Not even here a week and the bikes are out already.  Anyone who knows Paul will know he's a keen cyclist, me on the other hand I give myself an 'A' for effort and certainly enthusiasm.  I also give myself an 'A' for polishing off nearly a bottle of wine before a blink of an eye. The looks Paul was giving me as he asked, 'Are you sure you want to go for a ride?' 'Yeah!' I said. Which is when the hiccups started. Not a great look stumbling around the campsite, getting a helmet on, and setting off on your new road bike I assure you. But off I went... hiccupping until at least a couple of miles down the road.  First hill got rid of them in a jiffy and sobered me up too. Bollocks.  Are we nearly there yet?!

 Road to Albert

Road to Albert

Second day at the lovely Albert saw us walk 8 miles to and from town, purchasing a second pair of shoes for me (Do not, I repeat do not go for a walk with brand new shoes on.  Twice). A stop at a lovely bar for some great people watching and a walk around the Somme Museum before heading to Carrefour to pick up a pan, because yes we left one on the seat of my car at home and yes the other one cracked whilst mid cooking last night. Seated at the dinner table, sore feet and an urge to cool off in some water we decided it best to move on and find some swimming spots.

Day five, third location and all is going well so far. Claude is still moving, admittedly very slowly but we're enjoying the journey nonetheless.  I wish I could say the same of the French drivers behind us! Oh well! 

Found a great spot by 'Lac Du Der', by great I mean a peaceful, gorgeous space with creepy crawlies EVERYWHERE! We even took the kayaks out for a spin. And I do mean spin; for some reason Paul and I kept spinning on every 4th paddle. (Canoe believe it!) I found this utterly hilarious. Paul did not.  But onwards we went.  A paddle across the lake to a beach, a swim and then back again.

The heavens have opened so we've taken refuge in the van. Its okay, we have red wine. 

We have a lot of spare time, so you seem to observe everything.  Here's a list of things I've noticed:

  • I haven't bought too many clothes but I do think a birdcage may not be necessary.
  • A chilli pepper in the van is great. So is this sweet pepper plant we have.
  • Paul's beard and tash are doing remarkably well. He wants to take part in Movember this year, which may be how long it takes for him to grow it. 
  • Washing up is still my job abroad.
  • My new chair is bloody ace. Probably why Paul keeps stealing it! 

So this is France by Paul

 Berck Lighthouse

Berck Lighthouse

If you hadn’t guessed already, we’ve left the wonderful British Isles for Europe, so as of last Saturday it’s Bienvenue vers la France!

After a bit of a delayed departure we rocked up at the Channel Tunnel without any booking, or still any real plan, but boarded without any issue and before we knew it we were on the continent and driving on the right side of the road.

We’d already decided to get away from Calais as quickly as the van would go, which isn’t all that quick (especially up hill) and after consulting Google and the European road map decided to head down the coast toward the town of Berck.

Berck, which is just over 50 miles South-West of Calais is a small seaside resort which boasts incredibly large sandy beaches and, at least on last Saturday, night amazing sunsets. Our residence for the weekend was a gravel car park slotted in between a variety of winnebagos with their satellites TVs and on board toilets rivalling our games of shithead (Lara’s currently winning) game of cards and dashing to the nearest bush looking toilet.  A bargain at €5 a night!

Before pitching up at ‘Hotel La Gravel’ we’d driven to a few camping sites and were either turned away by the owner for not having a big enough van or we were put off by the scantily clad old men who were patrolling their patch.

Luckily our next destination proved to be a real find as we made our way inland and Eastward. We had a rough plan after finding what looked like a decent site in the motorhome guide but with most travel scenes, it ends up looking completely different than how the guide describes.

Deciding upon trying to find something different we literally stumbled into the town of Albert and the wonderful campsite of Bellevue. We ended up driving through some small villages which provoked thoughts of those featured in some of the many WWII films and if you’ve seen it ‘The Family’ with Robert De Niro.

Rolling up to Bellevue we were greeted by the manager who declared he could offer showers, electricity, wifi and running water; pure luxury!

  Lara and Claude at Bellevue campsite close to Albert

Lara and Claude at Bellevue campsite close to Albert

We settled down for lunch of salad, tuna and freshly picked chilli peppers from the plant we’re currently growing in the van before heading out on the bikes for a bit of an explore of Albert and a visit to Lidl for some parmesan cheese. How else is Lara going to make her amazing carbonara?!

Today we spent the day in Albert town centre firstly to find Lara plasters for her feet, secondly to visit the Battle of the Somme museum and thirdly to find a pan for the stove after a minor disaster with the other one last night. There’s a really good foldable sauce pan in the passenger side of Lara’s car back in Kent which would be ideal,  also a colander, that’s just FYI.

So as I type Lara is expertly creating our first van carbonara while we both crack into the bottle of Champagne which the lovely people at Salad Creative gave me for a leaving present from the Clipper Race. It also just so happens the bottle is from only an hour away and might be our next destination.

But deciding our next destination is tomorrow mornings decision.

  Lara's excellent carbonara

Lara's excellent carbonara

I hope you are now happy Richard, a blog entry is finally done!

With this being the first blog from the van I’d thought I’d do a list of things I’ve noticed:

  •  Lara’s brought too many clothes
  • A chilli pepper in the van is great
  • I’m not particularly keen on French winnebago owners
  • Lords of Dogtown is still a great film
  • Lara’s duvet sharing skills are something to be worked on
  • It really is worth investing in a decent camping chair (my back hurts)

"What are you up to at the moment?" by Lara

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I get asked this question every time I go out with Paul's colleagues, and not just by one person but pretty much all of them. It's such a dull question and I'm having to reply with an even duller answer.  But that's the way it has to be, for now.

What I want to tell them is that we bought an amazing van, apparently called Claude, and as of May we plan to cruise around Europe until we get bored, cold or our Claude breaks down, and that I've taken a temp role a stones throw from our flat with end dates that match our leave dates. I want to tell them we're undecided about whether we're going to get the Ferry over to Santander, and start our adventure in Spain or whether we drive through France first. I want to share with everyone, not just my friends, that I can't wait to scoff pintxos in San Sebastien, visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao then coast along the coast to Portugal, through the mountains of Asturias and later the lush green sights of Galicia. I would share our plan to cycle at stopovers, giving us enough time at each to really enjoy the place whilst setting our own pace. I want to squeal with excitement about the no agenda, no pressure and no end date of our journey, and ask them for their suggestions and must dos. Summer in Spain and then a coin toss between Morocco or travelling East, exploring all possibilities out loud, boasting with enthusiasm.

But what I have to tell them is I'm working as an admin assistant and I'm really happy about it.   Not exactly glamorous.  But until Paul plucks up the courage to hand his notice in I can't spill a thing!

We bought a van by Paul

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Our new home is a 2002 Vauxhall Movano with just a touch over 83,000 miles under the wheels.

‘Claude’ as I have affectionally named him (Lara may say otherwise), started life as retirement home transport in Dorset before being converted into a camper van by a couple living in Scotland.

So why ‘Claude’ I hear you ask, well the Vauxhall Movano is a reliable, hard working and often misunderstood vehicle so to me there’s no one better to name our new home after than Southampton Football Club’s First Team Manager, Claude Puel.

The Frenchman has taken a bit of flack in his first season in English football but has managed to take Saints to the League Cup final and still looking hopeful (at time of typing) for a top half finish. Anyway, just before I get back on track with this blog, what’s a better way to pay tribute to the man from Castres?