Monday, 4 December 2017

Monday 4 December - Laredo and Bilbao Port

Where's Bertie? He's in Lane 11 of the ferry queue for tomorrow's 10.30am sailing to Portsmouth (rough location: 43.35378, -3.07035).
Weather: Disappointingly, some drizzle this morning after a fair start. Clearing to sunshine later.

In anticipation of not getting much exercise over the next couple of days, we forewent our rest day and ran this morning. 'Twas a nice morning for it.

Dawn view from the beachside promenade, about 30m from Bertie.

That didn't excuse us a walk into town later. Those postcards weren't going to reach their destinations unless we bought stamps and found a postbox.

Our language skills are improving, and today, despite fluffing my lines a little, I managed to ask for stamps in a manner that got me exactly what I wanted without confusion (previously I've pointed to the corner of an envelope and muttered 'sellos'). We didn't do so well in the pastelaria, mainly because there were no labels for us to even try to describe what we wanted. Pointing came to the rescue and we came away (piggishly) with two cakes apiece. All have now been eaten. Oink.

Brittany Ferries opens check-in from 4-7pm on a Monday afternoon, before the Tuesday morning sailing, allowing people to stay in their vehicles in the queuing lanes overnight. That gave us an obvious and easy place to stay tonight, which will avoid the need for an early start or any stress about getting here in the morning. With the 50km journey here behind us, we had completed in two days (i.e. from Santander) a journey of 100km that took us 11 days in the other direction!

I can't say that the signage at the port was particuarly clear, but we managed to locate the one open check-in booth, and here we are. The next motorhome to pull up behind us was a Hymer B444DL - remarkable as that's exactly what Bertie is, and whilst we've encountered many others from the Dynamic Line (DL) range on our travels, that's the first other 444 we've seen.

I'll try to remember to write one more post, once we get home, reviewing the trip (not to mention the ferry ride - provided that I'm not too traumatised to mention it...), but given my past performance in blogging laziness as soon as we reach home, there's no guarantee. In anticipation of failing to pen that last post, I'll just record here that it's been a very enjoyable trip and we're both looking forward to returning to Spain at some point next year.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sunday 3 December - Laredo

Where's Bertie? He's back in the dead-end road/car park at Laredo, where he's already been on two other occasions on this trip (exact location: 43.4149, -3.42815)
Weather: Periods of rain.

We managed to run in the dry this morning, and it seems that Sunday is the popular day for the activity. Lots and lots of people were seen doing the same, although only one other woman. That explains how*, even at today's pace (it was Long Slow Run day) I managed to achieve the second fastest female on that circuit this year on Strava (Strava = a very popular exercise tracking app that I only got around to downloading last week).

By the time we had run, breakfasted, showered and all that gubbins, it was knocking on for lunchtime. Thinking we'd best squeeze in elevenses, the kettle was put on, whereupon Mick suggested we should go out for coffee and croissant instead. That we did, making it half way to the same cafe as yesterday before walking back to check we had turned the kettle off (of course we had!).

The cafe was heaving, and plenty were on the beach and the promenade too. Far more than yesterday. The result of shops being closed in Spain on a Sunday, thus there are few distractions in a nation that already likes its exercise and its social eating/drinking?

Had we not returned to Bertie due to kettle paranoia, we would have got our croissant. As it was, we'd just missed the last ones. We settled for the suggested substitute of toast instead.

After a walk back in the rain (didn't wear waterproofs today, hence it rained on us!), and a spot of lunch, it was mid-afternoon by the time we got Bertie ready to move on and thus a decision had to be made as to where to go. The short-list was: 1) to the other side of Santander to an Aire where a pitch and electric can be had for €6; 2) to Liérganes - a place we particularly liked but a bit of a detour; or 3) Laredo, again.

Laredo obviously won, although we could be anywhere as the weather is such that we have not stepped out of Bertie since we arrived. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow, for our last full day in Spain.

(*It's also probable that women are less likely to use gadgets, gizmos and technology to the same extent as men, but I think the main factor is the lack of women running in Santander. My lower standing on the 'leaderboard' for yesterday's much-faster run reflects that most people run around the park in a clockwise direction, so I had more competition; today we ran in the unpopular anti-clockwise direction.)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Saturday 2 December - Santander

Where's Bertie? He's still at the Aire in Santander.
Weather: Showers, some of hail, but with some good sunny spells in between. The heaviest hail/thunder shower was at 2.09 this morning; gosh, it was loud!

The main reason we came back to Santander was because there's a really good place to run right opposite the Aire. This morning, we each did a couple of circuits of the parkland, in opposite directions, in a relay stylee. Mick, setting off well after me (he was still in bed as I was ready to go) managed to pass me the keys on his way past without either of us needing to break stride.

That was all good fun, and I only got slightly wet in one shower (Mick avoided all rain).

After our late breakfast, we opted for the beachside promenade for our next leg-stretch, but without repetition of where we went on our previous visit. This time we turned left when we hit the coast.

Last time we were here there were lots of bikini/shorts clad people playing a bat and ball game on the beach. There was no bat and balling today. The beach dwellers were instead mainly clad in jackets, hats and gloves - even some of these chaps who had installed two sets of goalposts (made out of waste pipes) and drawn a pitch on the sand:

Some of the footballers were wearing jackets, hats and/or gloves; one roughty-toughty was wearing shorts and a had a bare chest.

We had reached the end of the promenade and were just looking at where the cliff-top path went, when it came to our notice that the sky was going awfully dark again. An about turn was swiftly made and to a cafe we went. Over coffee and croissant, at a table with Christmas decorations, we looked through the rain-lashed picture windows, watching two chaps strip off their t-shirts and dive into the waves.

The rain was, of course, irrelevant whilst they were swimming, but, personally, I would want it to be dry when I emerged. But then I'd want the air temperature to be about 15 degrees warmer too.

I had good intentions to go back out this afternoon, to take some recycling to some communal bins and to find a Tabac to buy stamps. With showers coming through regularly, and with a trashy novel gripping me, I didn't make it. I absolutely have to get stamps on Monday; I've got postcards written, and we leave on Tuesday.

A rugged 4x4 Hymer (on a Merc base). Never seen one of these before.

(We've got a close neighbour again tonight. I nipped out and looked at the state of fullness: to our left there's a space, a van, then five empty spaces. To our right there was a space, a van, then four empty spaces. Yet, they opted to take the single space to our right. As I've said before, I've no cause to complain and they have every right to park there (and it's not as extreme as the van that parked right next to us in an otherwise empty 150-space car park in Comillas), but I'm fascinated as to why they would choose to park so close to two other vans, when could have had an empty space either side of them.)

Friday, 1 December 2017

Friday 1 December - Santander

Where's Bertie? He's back in the municipal Aire at Santader, where he spent a couple of nights in early November (exact location: 43.47218, -3.80276).
Weather: Awful start, with rain, hail and high winds. Some sunny spells between violent showers (rain, hail, sleet) later.

We were rudely awoken early this morning by hail battering Bertie's roof. Along with rocking as if he was at sea, it was enough to have me declare "I'm not going for a run in that!".

It was tempting to ask the Aire owner if we could stay another night (the max stay is officially 3 days), but the lack of certain groceries was the push we needed to move on.

Grocery shopping and LPG filling proved trying. I'd wanted to nip into the Carrefour in Santander, but found its (and all of the nearby) car parks guarded by height barriers. So, we proceeded to a Lidl, where the car park was full and so tight that we would have struggled to squeeze Bertie into a spot anyway.

Temporarily abandoning our supermarket needs, a diversion was made for LPG, to the same petrol station we used previously. The decision to go back there was slightly against our better judgement, but the experience was even worse today. I'll gloss over a detailed description of the shenanigans, but just mention that this is a manned station, where an attendant fills your vehicle for you. That's not an unusual scenario in Spain, but it's incredibly inefficient as everyone is waiting around for one man to do all of the filling, then to write out a chit, to be taken into the kiosk for payment. The whole inefficient scenario is not helped by all of vehicle manoeuvring that needs to go on due to the poor design of this particular filling station.

Groceries were finally procured from another Lidl (bizarre, inefficient parking barrier system there), then it was just a stop for diesel before our errands were run. Yes, we could have got diesel at the same place as the LPG, but that would have required us to turn around and queue for another pump, and we had almost lost the will to live just in getting LPG.

On the bright side, that's the first time we've put any fuel in Bertie's tank since San Sebastian on 16 October.

Settled into the Aire here, we were just finishing up a late lunch when a patch of blue sky was spotted. Making the most of it, we dived into our waterproofs and went out for a leg-stretch, making one full circuit and one mini-circuit of the park opposite before the sky started looking too ominous to continue. Good call: I hadn't had Bertie's door closed behind me for more than five seconds before the rain came down.

Eeeh, that's another lot of wittering on a day when we have essentially done nothing!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Thursday 30 November - Cóbreces

Where's Bertie? He's still at the commercial Aire at Cóbreces.
Weather: Heavy rain, with some hail and thunder, but with a nice bright spell in the middle of the day.

Lying in bed this morning listening to hail pelting the roof, and thunder crashing just to the east of us, I opined that there was little point in moving on today. It was clearly going to be another day of doing very little, and if we were going to sit inside Bertie, we may as well do it somewhere with electricity.

With that settled, I then set about making a major change of plan. The shipping forecast told me that there's going to be a spell of fine weather from Sunday until Wednesday morning across the Bay of Biscay, and the Brittany Ferries website told me that they had space on their crossing from Bilbao to Portsmouth on Tuesday. It's a more expensive way of getting back to the UK than driving up to Calais, but it saves around 800 miles and a few days. So, I bit the bullet and booked it. From 'I don't go on ferries' to over a dozen boat trips this summer in Scandinavia, to commiting myself to 24 hours on board. Yikes! I'll be drinking a pint of milk next*.

Thus, we will be back in the UK a few days earlier than planned, but those days would have been spent driving to Calais, rather than having frivilous fun.

Late this morning, coffees were hastily necked, and waterproofs donned. We could see a big chunk of blue sky approaching, and whilst we didn't expect that it would last for long (hence the waterproofs), we thought we would at least get some exercise partially in the dry.

Not only did that sunny spell last, but by the time we were finishing our circuit it had warmed up considerably.

A few days ago, during a discussion on eating out, we agreed that, as much as we like a good Menu del Dia, we couldn't manage to eat that quantity on two consecutive lunchtimes. Today we disproved that theory. In the interests of not sitting around in Bertie for all of the rest of the day, we wandered back up to the local restaurant and indulged again. It will probably be our last meal out for this trip.

Except for a couple of short-ish showers, the fine period lasted a good couple of hours (maybe even three), but as I type it's heavily overcast again and the rain is drumming down. Even so, a hardy peacock has just wandered past...

(*Ha! No chance!)

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Wednesday 29 November - Cóbreces

Where's Bertie? He's still at the commercial Aire at Cóbreces.
Weather: Mainly heavy rain, with a few hail showers mixed in, and just a few sunny spells.

By quarter past eleven this morning I had all my running gear on, including trainers, but was procrastinating on getting out the door. Rain always sounds worse on Bertie's roof than it is in reality, but even so, there was no denying that it was very wet out. At half past eleven I bit the bullet and ran.

There was one flood and countless unavoidable puddles to splash through, and by the time I got to the top of the hill and turned into the wind, I could no longer feel my thighs. Shorts are my legwear of choice in the rain as it's less fabric to need to get dry (and they're made of Pertex, so are very quick drying), but finding that not only was it wet and windy, but also only 4 degrees, they may not have been the best choice.

Mick went out when I got back and he got caught in the first hail shower of the day, as well as catching a particularly torrential downpour.

By the time we went out for lunch, Bertie's bathroom had thus become a drying room.

Lunch was at the same restaurant as we visited a couple of weeks ago. We both chose badly on the starters, but that was put entirely right by swapping with each other. I also failed to be specific enough on my coffee and, for the first time ever, was served one made with milk. As milk is, to my mind, a substance of the devil, I donated it to Mick, pouring most of his espresso into it, as mine was a decaf. All in all though, another excellent meal and for €9.20 a head.

We loitered in the restaurant beyond lunch, waiting for the rain to abate enough to make a dash back to Bertie. Meanwhile, a pilgrim walking the Camino left, then a while later came back to shelter some more. It was not a nice day for a walk today.

The weather wasn't conducive to doing anything after lunch, beyond hotfooting it back to Bertie. It's not forecast any nicer tomorrow either.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Tuesday 28 November - Cóbreces

Where's Bertie? He's back at the commercial Aire in Cóbreces where he spent three nights a couple of weeks ago (exact location: 43.38896, -4.21078).
Weather: Frosty but glorious start, with a band of cloud slowly moving in from the north in the early afternoon. Rain from around 6pm. Gloriously warm mid-afternoon when in the sun and out of the breeze.

There's probably not going to be much to say during the rest of this trip. For the next few days we are going to be revisiting places we stayed on our westbound journey. We then plan on visiting one new place before our northwards journey begins in earnest, which - given that it's not going to be warm in France at this time of year - will be mainly driving.

Today's revisit is (as you will have seen above) Cóbreces, chosen because, at a time of year when there are almost no campsites open, this Aire has electric hook up. Our timing in returning here has been spot on - the window vac (one of the few items that we cannot currently charge from the solar panel/leisure battery) ran out of power this morning. With the cold nights, our cab windows are acting as very effective dehumidifier elements, making the window vac a very valuable tool.

Talking of cold nights, remember that summer duvet we bought back in France, at the beginning of this trip, when we realised we had erred by bringing a winter duvet? Last night (well, 5 this morning) was the first time when I woke up feeling not warm enough. Last night was also the first time that the temperature has dropped low enough inside Bertie for the heating to kick in (we set it for 7 degrees overnight when it's forecast to be cold, to make sure the frost thermostat on the hot water tank doesn't dump our water).

Anyway, enough wittering about stuff and nonsense!

We've been for a couple of walks, but nothing noteworthy. Running kit and PJs have been washed and got dry in the sunshine (variously under the windscreen wipers and on the dashboard, as 'Parking, not Camping' rules apply here, so you're not allowed to put 'stuff' outside, like the rotary airer). And, just as I've been typing, a Spanish motorhome has arrived and - you'll be unsurprised to hear - has rejected all of the large (multi-space) gaps between motorhomes that it could potentially have taken, and has squeezed itself into the single space between us and the office/amenities building.