Gary & Lorraine's Overland Journey from Devizes to Sydney travel blog

Too much food and so little time

Apparently there is sand under all those people

Overdressed couple in San Sebastian

One of San Sebastian's many river bridges

Gary about to purchase tonight's dinner - paella

The car & passenger ferry from Le Verdon to Royan

Cathedral in Saintes

Delicious lunch of crab with Liz & Mike

Swordfish anyone?

Our hospitable hosts in Varzay - Liz & Mike


August 6th

[Lorraine]

We spent the morning hanging around the van to see if we would be cleared from the waiting list to move from the overflow car park (where we'd spent the previous night) into the salubrious surrounds of the actual campsite. This is our first experience of rocking up at any old campsite and being denied entry because of the August holiday crowds. With all of France and Italy taking August off it felt as if they'd all converged on San Sebastian at the same time. Our patience paid off and we were finally admitted and given a good pitch too - near all of the amenities. With that sorted we headed back into town and walked around the city's 3 beaches and alongside its lovely river. The Spanish certainly love their seaside experience. I've never seen such crowded beaches in all my life. Clothing seems to be optional as is sunscreen. The briefer the bathing costumes and the more leather like the skins, seems to be the way to go. No slogans of slip, slop, slap here. But everyone seemed happy and was having a fantastic time.

(Gary)

A pleasant day wandering the alleyways, bars and beaches was followed by another night of heavenly food. As a city I would have to rate San Sebastian's food/atmosphere way up there in my top ten alongside legends like Bangkok & Cape Town.

August 7th

[Lorraine]

We left Spain today and headed back into France for what should be our final time. The weather is fabulous - 30 degrees plus, blue skies and a nice sea breeze so we hugged the coast to make the most of it. We drove up to Biarritz and took a walk along the wide sandy beach, crowded with holiday goers. From Biarritz we continued north into the Lande region which is south of Bordeaux and parked up in an Aire de Camping Car Parc, along with perhaps another hundred vans. These car parks for motor homes are so popular and why not at €6.00 per night to stay? We cycled to the nearest beach of Seignosse and caught some rays and people watched before satisfying the thirsts we built up with a beer and kir royal at the local beach bar. What a lovely way to finish a wonderful day.

(Gary)

A shame to be heading north out of San Sebastian but as we have both seen a good amount of Spain in the past it's not so bad as the time saved can be spent exploring Romania and Bulgaria before the winter sets in.

(Can you satisfy a thirst with a 'kir royal'?)

((Of course you can, Champagne is the only way to quench a thirst dahling!))

August 8th

[Lorraine]

Today brought us to Bordeaux and we were the last people to be admitted to the one and only campsite in the entire city which was a lucky break. We're quite a distance out of the centre of town so we caught a bus then a tram downtown. Bordeaux is a lovely looking city with lots of architecture reminiscent of Paris and the Belle Époque. There are plenty of museums to see but as mentioned previously, Gary and I aren't huge museum goers so we just walked around the city and soaked up the atmosphere. It was kind of eerie walking around as there weren't that many people about and I had to remind myself it was because France goes on holiday en masse in August so I guess everyone was back on the beaches that we'd just driven along.

August 8th and 9th

(Gary)

Two days of fine beaches, charming towns, elegant chateaux and picture postcard scenery, I would say France at its very best (bar the some what over rated local wine).

Not to worry though as we had a bottle of cheap but good Jacob's Creek to wash down a rather classy feast of ham, egg and chips, Ooh la la!

August 9th

[Lorraine]

The summer weather continues which is terrific. We've driven northwest from Bordeaux into a wine region called the Medoc. It is from this region that most of the wines from the Bordeaux region come. The drive has taken us through spectacular scenery of vineyard after vineyard, the red grapes starting to ripen on the vines and past chateaux after chateaux. Just about every house of wine is linked to a chateau and they are absolutely gorgeous. Huge houses with steep, slate roofs, French doors covered by wooden shutters, some buildings with turrets and towers and all full of character and romance. The French certainly like to build beautiful structures. We stopped at one Chateaux, took the tour to find out how the wine is made and sampled some wine. We then headed further north to another beachside town called Soulac-sur-Mer. We finally found space for our van at the 4th campsite we visited. It sure is crowded with holiday makers in this part of France!

August 10th - 13th

(Gary)

Leaving the vineyards of the Medoc we took the ferry across to Royan and travelled the short distance inland to the delightful village of Varzay where friends of ours, Liz and Mike have a holiday home. Time for a rest from driving and enjoy a few days of good food and wine in the company of good friends.

August 10th

[Lorraine]

This is a day I have been looking forward to for some time. Gary and I used to work with Liz at Guerba and she and her husband have an absolutely charming holiday house which they visit as often as they can and I can't blame them because the house, village and surrounding area are just perfect. Varzay is just a small village well off the tourist path but it has the ubiquitous church, a simple and plain stone building but at night it is lit up and is the village's beacon. We spent the afternoon and evening eating freshly caught seafood and quaffing large quantities of wine whilst catching up on all the gossip. Oh I do like this lifestyle we have.

August 11th

[Lorraine]

This morning we took Liz & Mike for a spin in the van and drove to the nearby town of Saintes which has possibly the most impressive local market I have yet seen on our journey. The seafood especially was incredible. Fish of every type on display including a huge swordfish with its head and tail intact but fillets cut up nicely and on display where its body previously had been. There were prawns of every size, cockles, mussels (there's a song there), squid, langoustines the list goes on. As well as fish there was every type of meat including my old favourite horse, cheeses and wines from the region, in short, it was spectacular and my eyes were bulging taking it all in (not to mention my stomach). The rest of the day was spent eating what had been purchased at the market. Happy Days!!

(Gary)

To underline the rural setting we also sighted a couple of wild deer which have probably been attracted to the fringes of Varzay due to the water shortage. Southern Europe is currently having a terrible time with unusually high temperatures, drought, and forest fires and as such, a warmer Mediterranean, which means many more jelly fish and unpleasant bacteria closing some of the beaches. Having said that, neither of us are doing a rain dance round the van and I bought shorts rather than an umbrella today.

August 12th

[Lorraine]

We explored further a field today and visited the coastal town of Fouras which overlooks Fort Boyard. (English readers will probably recall the TV show of the same name). We strolled along the beachside looking at the fishing nets and the beachside homes, glad of the sea breeze that was keeping things relatively cool. We then headed inland and along a river to a town called Mornac sur Seudre which is filled with arts & crafts shops and local artisans selling everything from raffia hats and bags to mosaic mirrors and stained glass windows. We meandered down cobblestone roads admiring the shop displays and the gorgeous whitewashed houses with their colourful shutters. Yet another picture postcard French town but I never tire of visiting them.

August 13th

[Lorraine]

We sadly bade farewell to Liz & Mike this morning. Anyone who knows them from the UK knows that their hospitality & company is legendary and they were on fine form as always. We were completely spoiled, not to mention well fed and watered. We enjoyed our time with them thoroughly however the road beckons us once again and we headed through France's Cognac region and eventually settled in a campsite alongside the Dordogne River.



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