This blog follows on from the one I wrote about the journey through France to the Spanish border here. Leaving France we decided to use the (paid) autoroute for a while at least. The drive over the edge of the Pyrenees is easier on the autoroute and, to a degree, so is getting around Barcelona. We did actually hear a story about attempted theft from a vehicle on that autoroute later so it might not be a route we would choose again. The original plan would have put us at the border some 4/5 days earlier than we managed and we had no real plan at all for the rest of the trip – something we love about trips in the motorhome. In the end we decided we would head on down the coast past Tarragona to a campsite that had good reviews.
We would not realise until rather later in the trip just how lucky the decision to stop at Estanyet was.The welcome was very warm and there was a reasonable number of pitches free. Really our only reservation about this campsite would be that getting on and off pitches in a larger unit might be rather challenging however we found ourselves one easily enough. The campsite is situated about a kilometre from the small (& working) fishing village of Les Cases d’Alcanar. The walk to the village is along a flat promenade and, although small, the village had all the shopping basics we needed.
One of the things mentioned in a number of reviews was the quality of the food in the restaurant so we decided to try it as soon as possible. We were not disappointed! There was also a pleasant bar and a good swimming pool that was open. Throw in a “7 nights for 6″ deal and we decided we would stay a week anyway. The campsite was literally the width of a road from the sea so it was great to be able to stroll along there and also to just pop out for quick photographs too.
We enjoyed walking the coast in both directions from the campsite and shopped in the village most days. We also walked inland to the town of Alcanar. Parts of it were very old and it was worth a look around. The land between the coast and the town (& much of the coastal plain generally) had very large areas of fruit trees of various sorts. The bonus was that oranges, tangerines and the like were easily and cheaply available in both small shops and the supermarkets and were very enjoyable. We would certainly return to the campsite (Estanyet) again for the welcome, the location and the food!
After our time there were moved a little further down the coast to Peniscola. It really was something of a shock to the system. Having left a tranquil site on an undeveloped coastal strip we arrived at something quite the opposite. The coastal strip at Peniscola is fairly well developed with high rise apartments extending quite a long way. However the beach there really was long and lovely and the old town of Peniscola was really worth wandering around. The castle there featured in the film El Cid. The campsite there was perfectly adequate and very inexpensive (the cheapest of the whole trip) but really didn’t have the charm of Estanyet. However the fact that Peniscola was a much larger town meant the there were plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops around. For the whole of the time of this section of coast we enjoyed really quite good weather. Although it was not warm in the mornings the afternoons tended to be quite hot – lovely for March. We decided to move inland a bit from here and that blog should be along quite soon.
Late February and we are off in the motorhome again. The plan this time as far as we have one is to drive down through France and find out what it’s like on the Spanish coast at this time of year. It’s something we have not done before however the attraction of some sun at the time of year drew us to it.
We crossed the Channel fairly early in the morning with the plan being to get to a campsite south of Paris on the Loire for that evening, using autoroutes most of the way. Getting around Paris in the motorhome was no pleasure at all however we managed it and arrived at the campsite mid afternoon. While the site felt very “out of season” the location was pretty good on the bank of the Loire and the facilities were ok. The Château at Sully-sur-Loire – an easy walk from the campsite – was attractive although the weather was mostly cold and rather wet at times.
From this site we headed west a little towards the free autoroute which runs down to Limoges and then the paid section crossing the valleys of the Lot and Dordogne and then on down to Toulouse. we broke the journey at a campsite at St Germain les Belles which was close to the autoroute in the Haute-Vienne department.
We have stayed in some very well located campsites however the situation of this one, right on a lake, was lovely and we decided to stay for a couple of nights. The next day was quite literally freezing cold however it made for some good pictures. There was really not a lot to do in the small village there but we would certainly stop there again to break the journey up – very peaceful and a great setting.
We headed on down the autoroute and had one night in Toulouse and then drove east to the Mediterranean coast. We had decided that we would probably spend a night or two somewhere before the Spanish border and went to a site near Elne (in the Pyrénées-Orientales department). The site itself was fine however it was on a busy road which was not ideal. We did walk into the town itself and had a memorable coffee sitting the old town walls in the sunshine looking out at the snow capped Pyrenees. Certainly sitting out in the sunshine in such a setting was a real treat and made us feel that the decision to try a trip at this time of year was a good one. A bonus was the fact that the cherry trees was just blossoming in the area which was a lovely sight when whole orchards came into view. Next stop would be on the coast of Spain and that blog is here.
For a number of reasons we were looking for a fairly short and easy walk and decided to head to Dawlish to walk the coast path around to Dawlish Warren at least. At the start of February 2014 winter storms washed away a large part of the railway embankment at Dawlish in Devon. I visited the area not long afterwards and the whole of the coastal section around to Dawlish Warren was blocked off to public access because of the renovation works. We decided it would be interesting to see how the area looked long after the line had re-opened. Because of that we were a little surprised to find that a section of the walk along the beach was still closed off with work still going on to strengthen the coastal defences. In practice the work is no longer along the railway line itself but on the path that runs alongside the line. It seems that this path is being widened in order to provide additional protection for the railway line. At the time of writing this it is not possible to walk this section of the line/beach and you need to take the bridge that goes inland, then walk the road and then back across another bridge over the line to return to the coastal path after the section of work (if heading east from Dawlish). I actually thought that the work platform looked quite interesting from a photographic point of view both in the mistiness early in the day and in full sun when we came back.
The other aspect of the walk was from Dawlish Warren around to the point which looks over towards Exmouth. We arrived here just after the tide had turned and the water was running quite fast at times. The photograph above that looks over the river Exe to Exmouth looks quite tranquil however the water had been running very fast for some time and had only just started to ease. We sat in the sun here for a while having lunch. Both before and after the stop the light varied quite considerably with sun and clouds creating light and shadow most of the time. Again these seemed to make for interesting scenes. We headed back to the car at Dawlish, again having to go inland to avoid the work on the coastal section. All in all a very nice walk along the coast and interesting to see the work on the railway line. I’m sure I’ll be back there again and you can look here and here for blogs I’ve written about the area previously.
The forecast for a bitterly cold day after some snow might not be a sign for taking a walk in fairly remote open spaces for some however it acts as a magnet for me! In practice the forecast also included sun which was good news and fairly strong winds, less good. One of the issues was where to set off from to ensure that we didn’t find ourselves on one of the many steep approach roads to Dartmoor in such icy conditions. In the end we decided to set off from Owley Corner which is relatively low down however it does mean that the walk starts with a climb up Ugborough Beacon. Getting out of the car we realised it was very cold; by the time we were at the top we realised that, with wind chill, the temperature was noticeably below zero despite some winter sun. However the moors really did look lovely and it was a pleasure to be out in such conditions. The ground under foot was hard, however on the moors that has a benefit of making the walking less damp than usual. On some of the ponds the ice was really quite thick and would take my weight – on others it wouldn’t! It was obvious as the ice broke that it had thawed and then frozen again a time or two at least given the layers in the ice. We walked from Ugborough Beacon over towards Weatherdon and then on to Hangershell Rock mostly in sunshine although the temperature seemed to remain below freezing in the wind.
We decided we would stop rather more often than usual on this walk to top up on food and drink whenever we found some shelter – relatively – from the wind. From Hangershell Rock we made our way loosely north and roughly along the line of the Redlake tramway (long disused). For this section of the walk the fairly faint sun mostly disappeared and something like very fine snow was striking our faces although it was so fine it was not actually visible.We walked on north past Piles Hill and then Sharp tor to our west and then struck off the track up towards Three Barrows (named as there are three barrows there). Both looking north and moving north it was clear that there was more snow than to the south of us and the same applied as we climbed. At 460 metres Three Barrows is one of the higher points on the south of Dartmoor and it certainly felt exposed when we reached the top. In better conditions we would have stopped for a break up there but today it was a case of grabbing some pictures and then heading back down the ridge again. We varied the route for the return trip heading rather more directly for Ugborough Beacon and then from there to the car. It had been a great winter walk in generally very good conditions if you have the right equipment so I guess it was not that surprising that we saw a number of other people out while we walked.