|13th May at Bois Chaudron, France.
Little did we think when we set off that there would be so much to write in one day. We'd had more than enough excitement for one day when a drug smuggler's boat ran aground in front of our campsite on the Saturday night; the operation to secure/recover it by the police went on from the early hours of Monday right through to our departure at lunchtime.
The boat apparently had been chased by the police and abandoned, the drugs had already been transferred. It had 4 x 200 horsepower outboard motors, no lights or markings, just painted dark blue. We had to leave the scene before the boat was crane lifted onto a low-loader, having watched, as we packed up the Bus, the winching up from the shore to the recovery vehicle. There must have been a hundred onlookers, scattered around, including mums with pushchairs, local businessmen, teenagers and whole families.
So, after goodbyes and hugs from some of the staff and Rudi the manager, and our new friends, we made our way down to Algeciras, Roy cautiously handling the Bus, stopping to check tyres again after an hour or so of driving. Then we turned north and the fun began!
Motorbikes by the hundreds, (Roy said there must have been thousands in the area we travelled across) crowds gathered on all the bridges we went under and at the roadsides, everyone waving and cheering as we went past. Felt like Rod Stewart must've at Stirling! We have no idea what was so special about the day, but Spanish flags were being waved and the police presence was maximum but very tolerant and in the background. No internet so we couldn't do any research to see what the occasion was, and the traffic was being kept moving so we couldn't stop to ask.
When we reached Seville, we found the overnight parking for motorhomes by the river in a large carpark. Roy took the dogs for a walk while I stayed in the Bus; we weren't sure how safe the area was, and when he got back we opened everything that would open, as the thermometer was at 40° - dogs were uncomfortable and my face wasn't just wet, it was a dripping tap! There was no shade but by that time it was gone 5 pm so we thought it must cool down so we stayed. Then I got a fright when the two men who were just hanging around, trying to get money from people wanting to park, suddenly became a bit more sinister. One seemed to stand guard while the other crouched down by an unoccupied motorhome, dropping a large toolbag, and getting out a claw hammer. Roy didn't see it so I told him and we watched to see what they were doing - we still have no idea - and it was a hammer - they just seemed to mess around, of course no police in sight when needed, we think the very old red van parked at the end, behind the unoccupied one, out of our view must have been their home. They didn't make any attempt to be hidden and there were lots of families, joggers, cyclists and tourists around so deduced they weren't a threat, but to make sure, Roy took Blue out again with his muzzle on, walking straight past both them, acknowledging them so they could see weren't intimidated (good job they couldn't see me hiding with Lewis)! So we settled down, had a stIr fry meal and watched people instead of tv, keeping the boys cooled down with wet kitchen roll, as it was still 30° at gone 7pm. It was an interesting evening as there was lots of families & couples coming and going, and the two guys still trying to get a "look after your car " fee from everyone who parked, interestingly they only succeeded with younger generation, the seniors all without exception, refused and walked on by.
About ten thirty we were thinking of our bed, but a car with a large trailer came hurtling into the carpark, making a right racket, driving down to the end where there was, near the old red motorhome, what looked like an animal transporter some kind. It parked at a right angle to it and four men got out, ran to the lorry, opened it up, getting ramps out then a door opened behind the front passenger door. The trailer sides and tail were dropped too, then the four men lit cigarettes and stood around obviously waiting for Lord knows what!! After a good fifteen minutes, by now it's after eleven, just when we were thinking this MUST be something illegal and on the verge of phoning the police, honestly couldn't have made this up, along came a beautiful black and gold carriage with huge golden painted wheels, driven by two "Victorian" dressed grooms in black and gold livery, pulled by four immaculate and stunning horses, chestnut with black manes and tails. It was like something out of a tv serial! We were amazed, so carried on watching the whole performance of the grooms using the front lit up part of the lorry as a changing room, the four men looking after the horses, after unhitching them from the carriage, then getting the carriage loaded onto the trailer, before all driving away carefully into the night. We presumed the whole thing was the aftermath of providing a service for a wedding, or other occasion, it was professionally carried out by the team, obviously their jobs.
Wow-.-what a day and night! We were still very hot, so decided to sleep on the sofas instead on the bed, and settled down. By then, nearly midnight, the days events were rolling around in my head and I couldn't sleep, so at gone 1 am I was still awake when 3 cars pulled in and parked right by us, all playing thumping music at top volume, different renditions of course, and 5 lads got out, stood by their cars, got out eats & drinks, thankfully turned off 2 lots of music, then stood around till gone half past two, talking, laughing, then arguing then singing and banging something along to the "beat": finally leaving me with a thumping head and frazzled nerves. Roy fortunately was fast asleep, but he did hear them when they first arrived, not even the heaviest sleeper could sleep through that, but of course couldn't go ask them to move or be a wee bit quieter, as that would've been asking for trouble. Peace came and we both slept till 6am, when the city dawn chorus woke us, and by 7am official car park attendants arrived, in time for the city workers. We departed Seville shortly after that, heading north for Caceres. The motorway was the best driving we'd encountered in Europe, no tolls, and very little traffic apart from all the motorbikes leaving Seville to get home. We saw plates from Ireland, France, Germany, UK and Scotland as well as hundreds of Spanish ones.
On to Briviesca on Tuesday, good drive again, find a great Aire near sports ground, only 4 of us and safe to let dogs off lead for a run. Lovely town.
Wednesday - a busy road up to and across the border into France. Headed for the shopping village of Col L'Imbardin, where the Aire is free yet again with all facilities at nearby garage. Great long walks for dogs, wild ponies all around, fantastic views of the coast St Jean de Luz & Biarritz. Thursday, we had two long walks with steep climbs, did 9 miles altogether-.-and shopping!
Friday, we left there and travelled north, via some parts of the Dordogne area. Made a note to stay near Les Eyzies de Tavac, to visit some of the caves there next time. By Tuesday we were at the Aire du Bois Chaudron, where we stayed in November. Will leave here Thursday morning after I've caught up with laundry. So we have internet today - already been on the phone with agents in Wales and solicitor in Scotland trying to get things moving. Jenny and Douglas are doing some alterations to their front garden/access so that we can park there for the summer, which will be wonderful; she was going to have her veg garden there, so thanks Jenny, we appreciate the sacrifice! So I'll be able to get a bus almost outside their house to go to Montrose or Arbroath to see my friends.
Just a bit of family catch up now.... The really good news is that Maggie's recent scans have shown that remarkably her elbow bones are starting to heal on their own, which apparently can happen so it's just waiting and keeping regular checks. Jenny is having a tough time with baby bump still, often ill, but scans are good and no surprise that baby has long limbs with Douglas being sooooooo tall, I think he's 6'6"+. Billie and boyfriend split up and she quit college, but now she has moved into a better flat with a friend and has enrolled to restart college in August on a social studies course, no idea which, Nanas don't get to know much these days, probably a good job too!