Monday, May 1st, 2017
ADELAIDE TO SINGAPORE
Left home at 6 am and checked in with no problems. Plane loaded on time but about 15 mins
late leaving. Row 42 over wings again. Airbus with 2 - 4 - 2 configuration. Breakfast was chicken rice and lunch was beef with veges - OK. Dessert of
drumstick ice cream, so not the gourmet food described in the menu.
Arrival in Singapore was smooth but quickly
learnt the error of my ways with the new carry bag without wheels - it got very heavy. Peter started sneezing on the plane (and didn't stop all
night.) Telfast didn't help. Went to Hotel Mandarin Orchard. Had a rest and then out for tea after complaining at the front desk (which was on about
floor 5 for some reason) about all the lights that didn't work in our room. When we walked along Orchard Rd, the main street, we couldn't cross as it
was blocked with fencing for a long way.
We had to trudge back to the start of the street and a pedestrian
crossing. Ate at Lucky Mall with the ordinary people. Bought a new roller bag for $35. Back in the room all lights were working. When we tried
adjusting them they wouldn't work again. Finally we realised that there was a small room control panel on Peter's bedside table and that was how you
fixed them. It would have helped if the staff had explained or if the directions in the room folder had mentioned it. The room folder was way out of
Mandarin Orchard Hotel, Singapore
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
SINGAPORE TO BARCELONA
Breakfast was quite good but not like 1976! The fruit was cut up in bowls and pretty plain.
You could get bacon, all sorts of eggs and lots of Chinese foods. They had an urn of tea but no hot water to add. Rang Singapore Airlines to find out
if 2 bags were OK - they were, as long as within weight. Caught a taxi to Gardens by Bay.
first before it got too hot. Spectacular. Then toured mountain dome and flower domes. Very beautiful.
taxi to Chinatown and ate in Chinatown food street before walking around area. Fabulous souvenir shops. Bought a watch for $4, 2 necklaces for $7.
I'll be going back on the way home. Left hotel about 6 pm for airport. Went upstairs to eat at what we thought was the food court. It was done as a
street market and you had to buy a card charged with money before you could eat - it wasn't explained properly and we were not sure if you could get
money on the card back if you didn't spend it all. It was painful. Sat around near a TV reading until about 9.15 pm and then moved to the A15 area.
The gate wasn't open so we waited outside and talked to a woman returning to Australia from London. On board we were in a group of 3 seats - window
seat occupied by an Italian man who watched movies and steadily consumed Singapore Slings and beer but didn't go to toilet once on the whole trip. He
talked to himself, slept and watched his screen, smiling, and seemed very happy. The Christian 'lady' in front of me put her seat back before the
plane was hardly off the ground and left it there the whole trip except for about half an hour. She was off on the Camino like a couple of other
determined looking ladies with short grey hair and sensible clothes. Tea served quickly - beef, rice and bok choy - OK. Dessert of choc cake came
some time later - hard and dry. Peter slept quite well but I ended up watching '28 Days Later' and 'Hidden Figures.' In Milan, many passengers
deplaned and the rest of us had to stay on board for an hour and a half. It was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere while the plane was tidied and
customs came on board, checking that we all had boarding passes and identifying all the hand luggage before more passengers travelling to Barcelona
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
On arrival in Barcelona it was a quick trip to the carousel to get the luggage and a taxi to Hotel Colon
with a driver who spoke not a word and had the radio on full volume the whole way. I was hoping he'd ask for a tip and I was going to say, 'Turn down
your radio next time' but he didn't. Hotel was right opp. Barcelona Cathedral in Catedral Square. Room not ready but we could leave our luggage and
change. It was quite cold. Peter didn't change or take a top and was feeling a bit disoriented with his cold and travel. We went into the cathedral
and walked around the beautiful gothic area
with tiny streets and fabulous old buildings, then down to La
Rambla street. We were very hungry so we had an all - you - can - eat for €12.95 each. It was quite good, especially the fresh veges but they
wouldn't let us help ourselves to hot dishes - they served - each in tiny containers. Washing up must be horrendous. Went back to hotel and got
our room - vinyl floor was a bit unpleasant and wardrobe had lights which went on when opened but wouldn't go off. The desk was too small, no luggage
racks and nowhere to charge devices. All brand new renovation but not very practical. When we went out again I asked at the front desk that the
wardrobe be fixed. He said 'Madam, you need to close the doors.' I said, 'I did close the doors a number of times and the light was still shining
through brightly.' Patronising dick. Had tea at a cafe near hotel - modern and clean. Peter had spaghetti and I had a pizza - paid extra for ham.
When it arrived the ham was raw Iberian and put on after the pizza was cooked, together with raw aragula. I was so looking forward to it but nearly
chucked up at the sight - not a fan of raw meat.
We walked around, saw some opera singing which was lovely and
had a waffle with strawberries and banana and dark chocolate. I'm sure they were being kind giving us a lot of melted dark chocolate, but it was
sickening - more is not always better. Back in room Peter organised the water in the new age shower so it wasn't freezing. I was feeling wobbly.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Breakfast at hotel. Expensive but good with delicious fresh bread, fruit and cold meats. The oranges were
especially good and little pots of jam worthy souvenirs. We went to info centre nearby and bought tickets for the hop - on bus then walked about half
a km to a square to catch it. The upper deck was full but we soon got off anyway, for Casa Battlo, the Gaudi house.
Thousands of tourists but it didn't take too long to get inside. We had headphones and a mobile phone - like device which gave details of
exhibits. I found it most distracting trying to get it to work and felt it detracted from the experience. The headphones were a nuisance and managing
them, the device and my camera was very difficult with the cords getting tangled. What is the point of looking at a device when the actual thing is
right there for you to see and appreciate? Just give me a sheet of paper with a sentence or 2 of explanation. The house was delightful - art deco
chandeliers, windows and doors, central air tunnel with mosaic work and tiles. Caught bus on quite a few stops to Maritime Museum in old ship yards.
Fantastic location but they seemed to have lost the plot with exhibitions. Areas were blocked off and it was very hard to know where to go. In the
centre was a magnificent oared galleon made to scale in 1971 - it was just awesome.
They needed a much better
viewing area. The other displays were OK. Had lunch at their cafe - shared a small ham roll. Walked over to the harbour and caught hop on bus back to
hotel, area - barre gotica. Had a rest in room and went out to tea at about 7.30 pm. Walked down to La Rambla. Bought a scarf. After looking long and
hard went into a restaurant that looked good but didn't have any prices. They sat us at the very back and when Peter ordered a drink the blond, pony
- tailed waiter said he couldn't have a glass, had to have small bottle for €14. Peter was annoyed and since we hadn't been given the menus yet,
we left. Went to an Italian cafe where we had tried to get pasta the previous day for lunch - they had it this time, for tea. The lasagna was
delicious, Peter's chicken escalope not so much - too dry. We had profiteroles for dessert. It was a lovely place with about 6 other couples our age
from all over the world humming along to the same tunes. We then walked around the tiny streets in the area thronged with tourists and full of lovely
small shops selling fantastic things: souvenirs, plates, court shoes, scarves,
handbags, ties, etc - all
beautiful and colourful.
Colon Hotel - A few problems - the hairdryer and mirror were falling off the wall in the bathroom; there were not enough hooks to hang anything;
the safety notice behind door was luminous and glowed very brightly in the dark; windows faced the central fire escape which was lit by very bright
fluorescent lights at all times and made the room almost as bright as day; the desk space was half taken up by coffee making facilities and there
were no racks or stands for luggage although plenty of room on the floor as we were in a disabled room again; vinyl floor covering was gritty - would
have liked some carpet or at least a mat next to bed. Is it a booking thing that we often get the disabled room?
Hotel Colon, Catedral 7, Barcelona
Friday, May 5 2017
BARCELONA TO SAGUDA
Got up early. Peter checked route out of Barcelona via computer for hire car. Had breakfast and
went for a walk around church.
Took more photos then back to hotel
and packed up. Taxi to Avis. Very difficult driving in Barcelona - narrow roads, heavy traffic, insane pedestrians. Waited an hour at Avis as 2 staff
fiddled around with paperwork for about 7 customers. They were absolutely hopeless. It seemed as though it was the software but who knows? Eventually
got a silver Skoda Octavia with a scratch at front. Seemed quite comfortable and 2 suitcases fitted easily flat in boot. Very, very stressful getting
out of town because there were traffic lights all over the place in weird locations and pedestrian crossings everywhere too, often right next to or
just around corner from traffic signals. We had close calls on 2 occasions. We couldn't follow the GPS which was behaving badly - worked out it was
set to avoid toll roads. Took me forever to find the setting to turn this off. The trip was long and tiring but got to Saguda eventually. Pretty
horrified by the slum like look of the streets the GPS led us down - graffiti riddled and overflowing king sized rubbish bins everywhere. We wound
about for 1½ hours - because some roads were blocked off. We ended up driving through orange groves and past a big paddock of loquats. We asked a
farmer for directions but he spoke fast in Spanish and we couldn't understand anything. Eventually the GPS got us there. The hotel was a tired,
white, 3 storey edifice next to the beach. The girl in reception was on the phone. She nodded to show she knew we were there but talked on and on.
Eventually served us and was business like. Didn't ask about our luggage or offer to help with anything. Buffet tea available for €15 at 8.30
pm. Since there was nothing else nearby we didn't have much choice. Had a rest in our very average room with plugged in room deodorizer, went for a
walk to beach and then had the disgusting buffet. The pizza was cold, there was rice, a few cold salad veges, fish and tuna or something. You even
had to pay extra for a cup of tea or coffee at this buffet. Room had a bath, but it wasn't very clean. It was a big place with many rooms down long
corridors so they must expect a lot of guests in season.
Hotel Els Arenals, Felisa Longas 1, Sagunto, Spain.
Saturday, May 6, 2017
SAGUDA TO XATIVA
Awake fairly early feeling quite depressed but an excellent breakfast buffet cheered us up a lot
after the previous night's debacle. The bread rolls were delicious as were the oranges and the pastries were decadent and fresh. We soon organised
our luggage and headed for the castle on the hill to have a look. You could only drive so far and it was impossible to climb such a steep hill.
We drove around town to have another look. The banks of rubbish bins, graffiti and washing hanging over the
balconies did not look good. It must be hell living in such cramped conditions. Drove on to Xativa. Checked in at hotel after parking at a
supermarket car park. It was unbelievable - a spiral entry so steep you couldn't see where the floor was and we were cms from the walls. Peter coped
well. We went up through the Consum shop to the hotel next door. Reception guy was friendly but spoke meagre English. Saw a few more kids behaving
badly and parents doing nothing. We had to collect the car and park it in hotel car park for €12. Had to buy groceries for parking in Consum car
park, but we needed stuff anyway. Walked up to next street to tourist office and she gave us a good map of the town and explained some of the sights.
The 'train' to the castle only goes up twice a day and we had to wait until 4.30 pm for that so we looked at the buildings and walked around the
fantastic medieval streets. Many houses run down but overall beautiful. Had tapas at a bar - Peter had ham sandwich and I had patatas bravas.
Walked around and had a look at ancient churches etc but everything closed - you couldn't go inside. I did
manage to get some stamps from a tobacconist (that's where you buy stamps) just before they shut. It was a perfect day and many people were sitting
out at cafes and enjoying the sun. Eventually we decided to check out the 'train.' It was a funny looking pink car with about 3 trailers joined on.
The driver spoke no English and wouldn't sell us tickets but indicated time with fingers - 4.30 pm. We had a juice and icecream at a cafe and finally
went back and waited and watched. We were alarmed to see the train was now full and it was still 20 mins to go, but it turned out he was taking a
booked group up and would be back for us at 4.30 pm. We understood why the train only goes up twice a day when we felt the springless carriages
pounding over the rough cobbles. The noise and roughness was hard to take. It seems weird to wait until so late in the day to go up. The castle was
spectacular but under organised - no guidebook, no souvenirs. Sensational views and awesome location.
was getting hot and I couldn't climb another hill to the tower so we waited by the 'train' and watched people. Had a rest and decided to eat at
hotel. What an effort. I ordered lamb and asked for it to be well done. Finally got ipad out and looked that up to explain. (muy coccina?) I got 2
pork chops. I also got a salad of lettuce, tinned corn, tuna, olives, grated carrot and tomato. Peter had steak. It was very, very basic home cooking
but OK. We were both tired and Peter pretty sick with cold so we went to bed after booking a place for Sunday. Meanwhile locals were celebrating
outside to the small hours - mainly screaming and shouting but about 4 am there was the sound of heavy furniture being moved and it got worse and
worse. I looked out and so did another woman. Found out next morning that there was a Spanish dancing competition for teenagers and it could have
been them. This room was OK but no tissues, no hairdryer, no tea making facilities. Decided we would buy an electric jug when we could find one.
Vernisa Hotel, Academico Maravall, 1, 46800, Xativa, Spain
Sunday, May 7, 2017
XATIVA TO GRANADA
Left hotel about 10 am after a very bad breakfast. Cook kind but not gourmet - toasted baguette
with 2 huge thick slices of cheese on each. Managed to get out of town amidst usual arguments re GPS - the problem is it has to warm up and can't do
so when surrounded by buildings, just when you most need it. Eventually it came good and we followed its directions for Granada. Freeways very good.
Stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant and hotel called La Paz. It was buffet style for min €10 and quite hard to work out what we were
supposed to do. All these dishes just sit around on the counter and are not very inviting. Peter had curried meatballs and a plate of macaroni and I
had chicken paella which was in a different part of the restaurant - they heated it up in microwave. It was good. Also had a piece of yellow cake
which seems to be everywhere. Saw one of the famous bulls on a hill on the way but couldn't get a good shot. Lining the freeways are flowering
oleander bushes kept trimmed and looking pretty.
The weather is quite hot and unpleasant. Cars are
travelling at 120 kph. Stopped for a rest at a hotel/restaurant just off road. Packed with seniors on bus trips. Wanted a bottle of water but too
many waiting. At back had animals - sad sheep, donkeys and peacocks. Could see snow on mountain peaks as approaching Granada. Still kms of every kind
of fruit tree as far as the eye could see. Finally reached Granada and followed GPS to destination OK. The receptionist was friendly. They helped us
with the luggage and parked the car - €16 per day. The receptionist booked tickets for Alhambra but it turned out they were for Tues not Mon
because none were available on Monday. We decided against it. Rested and went out for tea along a street they recommended - all for tourists and all
touting expensive food. We eventually settled on one place with a handsome and amusing waiter but the food was disgusting - Peter had curried chicken
and I had lasagna - both made from leftovers. They also charged us for the drinks which were supposed to be free but apparently only if we got the
set plates - they love their set menus. Bed was uncomfortable and small but slept not badly in end.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Walked to square to catch Alhambra bus. We couldn't see interior of the palace - no tickets available but
lovely views and cute cats (gatos) everywhere outside - skinny and not desexed, obviously, with so many kittens. Disgraceful. We saw the interior in
1976 when we parked out the front and wandered around with just a few others. Gardens lovely.
Caught C3 bus
down again and walked to square with cathedral. Saw part of university where there were original Moorish decorations similar to those at the Alhambra
- very lovely.
Looked at more buildings and bought magnets. Had lunch which included bread we did not
request and didn't want - 2 pan with butter at 0.70 euros each. Walked back to hotel, rest and then took clothes a long walk to laundromat. It was an
hour and €12. Hung P's socks on balcony because they did not dry in dryer as usual. On way back to hotel went into a delicatessen and I picked
out a couple of loquats but a girl called out "Senora!" I left because lots of them were no good and I wasn't going to have them forced on me. They
like to serve you themselves. Had a rest and went out for tea. Checked out the supermarket down the road but it didn't have an electric jug. Went
back towards main square and stopped to eat at Chikita which we had seen previous night.
It was nicely set
out and the service was good, one particular bald waiter in white glasses dashing around and being a personality. They had to cross a road to get the
food and bring it to us. I had entrecote and Peter had pork medallions. His pork tasted like lamb and my entrecote, which I expected to be a
schnitzel, was very thick so we swapped. No veges. For dessert Peter had a flan again and I had choc cake - thin layers of sponge with hazelnut cream
and coated in light ganache - beautiful. It was a nice evening watching the other diners. Hotel reception was pleasant and staff helpful. Room was
oldish but comfortable apart from the horrendous foam bed and hard foam pillow - I felt like I'd been beaten sleeping on that mattress. Breakfast,
desayuno, was good with meats, bread and Danish. Could have had more fruit.
Dauro Hotel, Acera Del Darro 19, Granada, Spain
Tuesday 9th May
GRANADA TO RONDA
Left hotel about 9 am headed for Torremolinos. It was difficult to navigate because of so much traffic
and the awful roundabouts. Finally managed to find a street park in Torremolinos and went for a walk. There were hundreds of small tourist shops on
the non beach side of the main front street, selling bags, Indian type clothing, souvenirs, beach stuff. No public toilets but you could use those in
bars, I think. We did in the end - I asked a man cooking sardines outside a bar and he said, 'inside, downstairs beside the cigarette machine in the
corner.' He'd done it before, I think. Along the beach, each bar has a fenced off area supplied with lazeboys and that's where people lie under Bali
type hut umbrellas - all different styles at each bar.
The sand was pale but much of it was darker and looked like
it had been brought in. But the most amazing thing was the sheer density of dwellings. It made you feel claustrophobic just being there - the tall
buildings, the traffic, the jammed roads. We headed on to where it would be quieter for lunch but the whole coast was just packed with high rises in
all forms. Finally we decided to head for Ronda, and were sure we were on a winner as there was no traffic at all on the road up. On arrival the GPS
directed us through the most amazing narrow streets and through a castle. We reached the hotel in a square and parked illegally to go in. We were
told we could park for 10 mins and then take the car to a car park. Did that and then searched for lunch. €8 each sounded good. It was sunny and
windy outside and an Asian tourist stopped to take a picture of a local (me) expertly eating spaghetti. The ironic thing was that the town was packed
with tourists who had come in buses and trains via other routes. Our meal was supposed to include pan and coffee and tea but they charged us extra
for the coffee and bread. We were being constantly ripped off and were getting pissed off about it. Looked at a nearby church, walked through a
lovely park with stunning views and then checked out the bull ring. It was very good. Bought 2 T shirts and back to room for a rest. Walk to bridge
and around sights. Fantastic views and city walls.
Ate at Burger King as both feeling off food. Watched
Eurovision semi final. Hotel room had heavy dark furniture and bathroom cramped with no shelf for toiletries bag. Good view out over roof. Boss who
signed us in worked so hard he didn't have a spark of humour left, poor guy.
Hotel Plaza de Toros, Calle José Aparicio 3, Ronda
Wednesday May, 10
RONDA TO ALGECIRAS
Had breakfast in hotel across the street under the verandah - obviously both hotels run by same
owner though different names. It was buffet style but fairly simple.
Set off for Gibraltar and on arrival had
to wait in a long queue for ages. Building going on everywhere, packed with cars and motor bikes and traffic non stop. There were public car parks
but they were too far away for me to walk to the cable car. There was a big park at the cable car but a worker said to park on the other side as they
were cleaning. We couldn't find a park on the other side so went back to where we started. A workman came up and told us that they clean the car park
every day from 1 - 3 pm and that if your car is there then they will clamp it or tow it away and charge you €150. Must pay better than car
parking and seemed ridiculous. We weren't sure if he was serious but he seemed genuine and there were incomprehensible signs everywhere. Other people
were moving cars, but not all. So after 41 years we made it into Gibraltar this time, but left. The fortifications looked interesting but the place
was a mess and I couldn't be bothered with the hassle. We drove straight out and on to Algeciras to our hotel which was low rise in a big open garden
- a conference type centre in a Victorian style but looked to be run by Arabs, so close to Morocco. We walked into town for some lunch.
It was a long way and everything was closed for 4 hours from 1.30 to 5.30 pm, but one street had a couple of open
cafes. Peter had a tiny Iberian ham roll and I had tapas - 3 croquettes - god knows what they were made of, a leg of chicken in a watery gravy and a
plate of chips. It was pretty awful, as usual. Walked a long way back to hotel and rested. The desk staff were rude again. When we booked in they
served 2 lots of people who pushed in before us including a stupid young man who had a huge back pack on his back. It stuck out about 50 cms. He kept
whirling around vivaciously and just about taking me out with a big bottle of water that stuck out sideways even further - he did this about 3 times
in complete oblivion. Finally I held on to the bottle and asked him to be careful. A true gentleman, he rolled his eyes without apologising, and so
did the two Spanish ladies who had pushed in and were out of range of the back pack. On our return from the walk I asked the staff if they had a copy
of the menu for the a la carta restaurant. The girl said "They open at 7.30 pm and you can find out then." Very helpful. We went back at about 7.45
pm and the restaurant was humming with what must have been a couple of busloads of guests. Looked bright and cheerful. Bad luck - it was as bad as
Els Arenals, if not worse.
There were grey bits of beef in a red sauce, 'hamburgas' with a slice of cheese on top, a noodle dish with squid and tortellini, a dish of slimy
spinach and a bowl of black rice. All of the food was luke warm if it was hot and warm if it was cold. The desserts were mousse, custards, and
various other wobbly things. There were some little packs of ice cream which were OK and I found some fresh fruit and ate 2 nectarines. You couldn't
get tea and coffee there but had to buy it in the bar. The atrium area was rather beautiful so we found a place and I got tea and coffee from the
Holiday 2008 Beijing, Europe, Delhi
Holiday 2010 H. Kong, Germany, Dk, USA
Holiday 2012 England, IOM, Ireland, Denmark
Holiday 2013 USA, Canada
Holiday 2015 Scandinavia
Holiday 2016 New Zealand
Holiday 2018 Germany, Denmark, Czech Repub, Netherlands, Belgium
Holiday 2019 USA
It was just like something from Fawlty Towers. The barman was desperately trying to do things but never
finished one task first without being interrupted. The girl barmaid was struggling to make martinis in a shaker. I think the bus tours were English
tourists on an adventure and they were ordering exotic cocktails to match. Our room was comfortable and nice. We opened the window but I had to close
it during the night as it was rainy and windy.
Globales Reina Cristina, Paseo De La Conferencia SN, Algeciras 11207, Spain
Thursday, May 11, 2017
ALGECIRAS TO SEVILLE
Had a restless night. I think I was hungry after the terrible buffet. The breakfast buffet
was good, however, with a variety of fresh meats but not enough fruit. There were a lot of people there again. We left about 9.45 am and headed for
Seville. Managed OK using GPS and stopped at a country roadside town to see what a proper small town was like - lots of small, ugly (because of the
closed metal shutters covered with graffiti over all the windows - and we are not talking the heat of summer here), white houses right on the
footpath and not a person in sight - closed for siesta. At least the roadside oleanders looked pretty.
on to Seville and followed the GPS. The streets became narrower and narrower but there was no way to go back until a shopkeeper came out and said we
couldn't go further so Peter had to reverse. It was awful.
We decided to leave town, find a park somewhere
and get a taxi, but on the road out found an underground carpark and went down there. We hailed a cab just as it started to rain heavily. The driver
didn't have a clue where the hotel was so rang them for directions and took us there most nicely - didn't speak English but friendly, commented on
rain etc. The hotel was OK - a bit smelly but room very big with lounge. We went straight to Royal Alcazar palace. It was very beautiful,
particularly Moorish rooms.
The number and beauty of decoration of rooms was amazing and it doesn't seem
to be very carefully preserved since it is open to the atmosphere. Went back to hotel and asked to extend room stay but they were booked out. Peter
computer booked a room just over the border in Portugal. Had a short rest and then went to look at cathedral. Very spectacular. Took a ride in a
horse and buggy - €45 for 40 minutes.
It was lovely clopping along. Had tea at a bar near square. I
had lamb chops and Peter had steak - nice to get real food. The waiter was pleasant and sensible. Walked back to apartments and found them with
difficulty, even with Peter's navigating. All the beautiful narrow street looks the same with souvenir shops and tapas bars. Main souvenirs are
Spanish dresses and aprons, plates with gold edges, magnets etc. They vary in price greatly. The hotel was very hard to find and no possibility of
parking anywhere. Room large but kitchen not as shown on advertising. Curtains grubby, bathroom cramped and bathtub hard to negotiate and dangerous.
Bed another foam mattress and very uncomfortable. Windows opened which was nice for fresh air and view was pleasant. The second floor was only
accessible by a very steep set of stairs but the receptionist did help carry our bags up when we arrived. The room smelled of mould.
Apartamentos Murillo, Lope de Rueda 16, Seville 41004, Spain.
Friday, May 12, 2017
SEVILLE TO ELVAS, PORTUGAL
Had breakfast at the Murillo apartment across the street. It was very nice as usual -
favourite meal of the day. We got the receptionist man to order us a taxi and he said that the taxi driver would come for us but after a while he
told us that we had to meet the driver where we had been dropped off previously down the lane at the Murillo gardens. It was a block or so to drag
our cases. The taxi driver was younger and spoke a bit of English. I asked him if he got sick of tourists but he said he loved them. They were
Spain's way out of economic difficulties. When we said we were going to Portugal he asked us to stay in Spain! It was surprisingly easy to get out of
the carpark - just paid at the machine before reversing out on the squeaky rubber floor. The trip to Elvas was also fairly direct using the GPS. We
stopped for lunch at a roadhouse at Badajoz where they weren't used to English but they eventually produced an English menu. I ordered chicken breast
and Peter had eggs and pork. The chicken was just a hunk cut off the breast and fried in a pan. They were nice but the food not. We stopped at a
smart new service station and saw stands of the much valued Iberian ham and some interesting wine.
Once again the streets when we got to Elvas were very narrow but the traffic was more relaxed and the roads a
bit wider. We found the hotel, Hotel Sao Joao de Deus. It is a former nunnery from 1640 and most spectacular in furnishings and presentation.
We even had a spa bath. There were huge old 16th Century chests in the hallway and the furniture in our
room looked very old - either real stuff or good imitation. Even the light fitting was a metal 5 pronged candelabra.
The old town itself looked a hole - dilapidated buildings, paint peeling, graffiti, stained walls in need of paint. When we got there it
was just closing down time - we have only struck it twice - fortunately most tourist places have realised that closing for 4 hours during the
afternoon isn't that good for business. We walked around and some of it looked awful but we hiked up
castle and had a look at the fantastic old building with the walk around the top of the fortifications.
There were 2 huge loquat trees in the courtyard. It was a long, long way back to the hotel. When we went back out for dinner, nothing was
still open. We hadn't realised it was an hour behind Spain in time! The restaurants looked very bad and our hearts were sinking about what to eat.
Finally we saw a place which looked a bit better with newish dark red paint, went inside and it was sensational. Beautiful building with fantastic
The food was awful. They really can't cook. I had a veal chop - it was as big as the plate and
that was all there was on the plate, apart from a piece of lemon. They bring you a plate of salad to start with but take it away before the main
course arrives. This one was squid salad. Peter had pork. They just get a hunk of meat and fry it in a pan - that includes chicken breast. It is like
leather. Still, it was a lovely place and the waiter was very nice. The interior was an unbelievable contrast to the exterior. We noticed many home
wares shops. I suspect that some of the houses might be glamorous inside despite their stained, graffitied and paint crumbled facades. I have tried
to send post cards but it is impossible - if you can get the stamp, you have to find a post box. I haven't managed to have the cards with me at the
same time as I have seen a rare post box. I was about to post the last ones when Peter pointed out we were now in Portugal and I had Spanish stamps
on them. It must be so hard for Europeans to keep their correspondence on all their holidays.
Hotel São João de Deus, R. de João de Quintal 1, Elvas,
Saturday, May 13, 2017
ELVAS to LISBON
Woke up early - the one hour time difference seems to have changed our internal clocks. Had
breakfast at hotel restaurant - very good for a free continental breakfast - had the usual fare, scrambled eggs and sausages, meats, cheese and
assorted jams, breads and pastries plus an actual kettle to boil for hot water for tea! Packed up and left via the glorious bougainvillea adorned
courtyard and drove without great difficulty towards Lisbon. Saw storks on electricity towers along the way as we sped past - only about 7 lots.
Stopped off at a newish roadhouse where I had a cup of tea and we bought a roll each for lunch. The young male
assistant was very proud of his excellent English and served us most politely. Navigated our way reasonably to the hotel where we were informed we
could park but that the room was not available until 2 pm. Most people haven't enforced this and found us a room. We walked towards the old area, ate
our rolls on the Avenida of Liberty and then lined up, when we eventually found it, to catch the famous 28 tram
as recommended by the receptionist. It took a while but we eventually got on for €5.80 and it was a rattly windy trip around the town
right next to shop windows as we passed.
Many lovely buildings covered in graffiti & falling apart.
We were finally told to get off by the driver who kept saying "Get off, trip over, fini, finished, get off" again
and again. We had no idea where it was as we thought we would return to the square where we started. It was raining and a bit cold. Peter hailed a
taxi and that took us back to the hotel for about €7 though Peter gave him €10 in a burst of gratitude. Had a good rest in our room -
smelly but you could open the window and it was quite well set up. The next battle will be where to eat! New guy at the front counter gave us a new
map and pointed out good cafes nearby. The football crowds were everywhere and bombs were going off and lots of loud noises. We ate at a very trendy
hamburger place - but hamburger was just meat in a patty with a bit of salad and chips. I sent mine back because it was raw but they did a new one
which was nice. (I hope) We had a look at the shenanigans in the square and then walked back to hotel to watch Eurovision. Portugal won the European
final and the noise went on and on outside all night.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Went down to breakfast and it was a battle to get in the door. You had to use your room key which had to have
been updated with info that you had paid for breakfast. Walked down to town and along the marina to the commercial square. It was all very fine with
really spectacular and grandiose architecture.
We walked back along the main mall and then caught a tuk tuk
for half an hour because of my sore feet. The girl looked a bit kinky with half shaven hair and mutiple earrings but was a very efficient driver and
described the sights well. We went up to the highest point in Lisbon. A fantastic view.
The bridge, Bridge
Salazar, was built in 1970s, and changed after revolution and the statue of Christ is 50 years old. Had lunch at a cafe in main mall - a cheese and
ham roll and a small ice cream. We went to a pink building which we thought was a museum from the notice outside. We thought you had to line up to
get advice on museums but it was actually an office for tourist police!
Don't know where the museums and
monuments office was. Caught a taxi to the royal Coach Museum which I suddenly remembered. Peter asked the driver and he said it was open. He dropped
us at a big new building after a long expensive drive during which he said not a word. It was closed. We saw that another part was still open so we
walked on and it was the old museum we had seen last time we were here, but with considerably less on display. The old royal coaches were beautiful,
I took lots of photos. It was too late and too far to maritime museum so we had a beer and tea
in an outdoor cafe in beautiful weather with lots of locals. Next to it were dog trials. They were mostly kelpies, very expert in what they did, but
looked high maintenance from the way they were grabbing their toys from their owners. A taxi back to the hotel was cheaper than the one from town,
thank goodness. Silent taxi driver once again. Had a rest and organised ourselves. We found a Chinese restaurant just down the street - called Hong
Kong Palace 2 so later we went there. The staff were very weird, standing around watching soccer on TV and not serving us until we asked. They looked
pretty grubby in dark pants and vests and short sleeved shirts with very cheap looking sneakers. I had beef and veges (actually beef and bok choy)
and P had sweet and sour pork. They were both quite tasty. Had coffee, no black tea, and a banana fritter between us. Walked around block on way
home. The place is a horrible mess with rubbish disposal. Multiple big bins in the street with rubbish bags all around them. You'd be really pleased
to have one of those in front of your place! Must be a big problem in these high rise complexes. The cobble stone footpaths are full of holes and you
have to watch where you're walking all the time - there are cobblestones everywhere we've gone from the centre of town right out to hotel area. Slept
well - tired after sleepless night on Saturday. Room comfortable and neat but dated. A nice window that let in fresh air and the noise of Saturday
night celebrations. Bathroom was pretty bad with low water pressure and mouldy tiles around bath. Bed comfortable. Front desk staff officious but OK.
3K Hotel Madrid, Rua Conde de Redondo 24, Lisbon, Portugal
Monday, May 15, 2017
LISBON TO PORTO
Left after breakfast. Got out of town reasonably but it was very stressful. Soon we were on the way
to Porto. The road was a toll and very good. We stopped off for a rest at one servizio and then stopped at a second for lunch. There was a nice girl
who spoke English. We got soup and a roll and I asked about a mosaic picture of a palace on the wall. She said it was quite near and beautiful so we
decided to go there. It was a very windy road, past the first real supermarket we had seen. It was amazing. Turns out the nunnery at Buçaco
dates from about 1644 and the rest from 1888. The main building is now used as a hotel.
Hard to believe that
such fantastic stone work was built so recently. Lovely gardens. A public park. We wanted to find out more but they only had a map, no information
sheet of any kind! The only books were in Portuguese and there were no postcards or souvenirs. I can only think the hotel wants to actively
discourage tourists wandering around. We drove back on the road to Porto and made it into the town where the parking was as bad as expected. In the
end, Peter found a parking station about 3 blocks away from our hotel. We decided to use it and get a taxi. Of course, we couldn't find one so had to
walk it - cobblestones all the way and uphill. We did eventually haila taxi but he wouldn't take us - said it wasn't far so we kept going over the
cobblestones. The hotel was retro aka dated, but it seemed comfortable enough. Lots of signs and rules. Had a rest and went out for tea. Looked at
about 6 places then walked to a square where there were 3 cafes in a row. We ordered from a picture menu and it was very tasty and normal. We had a
piece of cake for dessert. Our waiter was particularly lazy. The floor was littered with rubbish - paper serviettes, paper cups etc and he didn't
bother to clean up. He was most uninterested in doing any work. Bought one scoop of icecream from a shop. Back to hotel. TV pretty poor but at least
a few English stations.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Slept quite well. Bed OK. Basin in bathroom still blocked. Reported it on our way to breakfast on 6th floor
via ground floor. We were on 3rd floor. Breakfast OK - no hot food but everything else we needed. Went out and walked towards the water - quite far
but stopped at a church
and the archbishop's palace on the way. Church was rather plain except for altars
which were huge and spectacular – carved wood covered in gold leaf - apparently it is baroque, this over the top decoration. We then had a personal
tour of the bishop's palace next door. It was built on then remains of a 14th C in 1702. A beautiful ceiling in the main hall done in a much lighter
rococo style - light coloured paint, bows and
flowers in carvings and mouldings. Interesting place - still
the home of the bishop and about 9 other clergy. Walked down to the metal train bridge and looked at the river then back up to catch the funicular
but decided that was more effort than needed so caught the 22 tram instead. We were first on. It was just a trip past shops and various squares but
in the narrow streets the shops were almost in touching distance. Had lunch at a pasteleria and it was very nice - they made us a ham and cheese roll
each and we had a couple of small cakes and orange juice. Beautiful cakes on display.
The sweets and cakes
are really special. They take a great pride in their sweets and offer them each time at meals. Walked back to hotel. It was all pretty hard because
of the hilly terrain. Had a rest and then went out nearby to do the large amount of washing. You needed a degree to understand the many instructions
in Spanish - all the detergent etc was supplied. For tea went to a cafe we had checked out at lunch time. They gave us a free port, bread and olives.
Peter liked the yellow port but it was very sweet and strong. The fish was cold and awful, chips OK, rice (why would you have rice with chips?) hot.
The salad had fruit in it but it was OK. We went for a walk and saw all the most glamorous buildings
town and returned via different streets.
Pão de Açúcar Hotel, Rua do Almada 262, Porto, Portugal
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
PORTO TO SALAMANCA
Ate breakfast and saw our French friends again on 6th floor. Left hotel reasonably early and
wheeled our suitcases to the car park up and down dale along the stupid footpaths which are almost completely all 10 cms square stones set in not
sure what - could be dirt or some kind of concrete dust. Car park was easy enough to negotiate but the cost was €56 - ridiculous - no wonder
no one parks there. I photographed the beautiful blue and white building opposite while waiting for the lift.
Negotiated out of town with usual difficulty because GPS can't locate satellites. Drove along quite well and stopped at several Servicios
and at border to get souvenirs, but there were none, even at the border apart from some small things - that was the end of the cork handbag we had
wanted to buy. Scenery very attractive with huge plantings of blue gums everywhere. Apparently they are considered an environmental menace in
Portugal because there are no native animals that feed on them. Arrived at the Hotel Exe Salamanca without too much trouble and it was very nice -
car park available, pleasant room, space to move so we booked another night because we felt very tired. The woman at the counter was very good -
explained everything clearly re parking, breakfast etc and supplied us with a (bad) map. The room actually had carpet, nice bathroom and a window you
could open to the fresh air. Had a rest and then walked uphill most of the way into the main square, Plaza Mayor. It was sensational - just the same
as San Marco Square in Venice in size though newer. The whole town is beautiful and built in lovely golden coloured stone blocks. We walked around
but felt irritable so looked and looked for somewhere to eat. It is best not to be too early. We ate at a place just behind square. I had lamb chops
and Peter had pork - a hunk of pork fried in pan again. Salad was cut up lettuce, large slices of tomato and a little capsicum, for a change.
We set out to walk home and had a tea at a cafe but Peter got lost for the first time ever and we had to get help.
No one who lived there could read the map either. Had to close the window as outside lights were very bright which made the room very stuffy. We had
already taken the thick and heavy dunas out of their covers and slept with the covers only, but I woke up sweating in the night.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Woke up about 7 am. Went down to an ordinary breakfast. They had lots of sweet things but not enough
savoury. Got going reasonably early towards the national archives of Franco era. We went on to the tourist bureau in the square and he said today was
international museum day so they were free, but how many museums can you take in one day? We went to the Art Deco Museum and it was very beautiful.
Had too many dolls but glorious stained glass though you weren't allowed to take any photos. Idiots. You can
take photos in unforgettable churches but not of some 1930s displays. It seemed to be very popular with tourists. Then we looked at the aqueduct
because the archives weren't open until 12.00! While leaving the archives the first time I walked into a glass door. It was a fair crack on the
forehead. The archives were quite interesting - a big section about masons whom Franco didn't like. Then we went through the new cathedral and the
old. Really, what can you say? They were both magnificent though the old cathedral was more moving for being so old.
I took a few pictures though I don't think you were supposed to. Most cathedrals allow it. There is just so much to see and take in that
you need to be able to look at photos. After the cathedrals we headed back home.
All the time the sun was
coming out and going in and it was hot then cold, coats on then off - most annoying. We stopped at a nice little cafe and had a delicious pizza
between us for lunch. Entertained by some upper class American tourists at next table. Kept walking a long way home back to the hotel uphill again.
Very tiring. Rested and quite late went back out for tea. Stopped at a cafe near square and ate inside as it was cold. We were next to an English
couple and then some French came in and I was trying to eavesdrop but didn't understand much. The English lady got quite friendly as they were
leaving. They have a camper and had been away for about 2 weeks from Bristol and still had a couple more weeks. When they left I continued to listen
to the French. I had lasagna - quite good but dry and Peter had spaghetti. We asked for a salad and got the usual, Lettuce, tomato chunks, capsicum,
tuna, olives, onion, asparagus on top - not very appetising but very typical - no salad dressing. They charged about €7.50 for that. Had
profiteroles and tea and coffee and it was quite expensive but still a nice meal and atmosphere on the main drag.
Exe Hotel Salamanca, Calle Álava 8 - 14, Salamanca
Friday, May 19, 2017
SALAMANCA TO ALCAZAR DE SAN JUAN
Woke up at 7 am after not a bad sleep apart from some lunatic screaming in the
middle of the night at the top of his voice what sounded like a call to prayer. Room hot. For the second time they were out of English breakfast tea
or any kind of normal tea and only had chamomile, blackcurrant and that sort of stuff. I went back to the room and got my own tea bag. Set off to
Alcazar but as usual the GPS can't work in among the tall buildings. Peter had checked it up and we were soon on the way. Long and tiring drive as we
went around Madrid and the roads were very busy.
Stopped at a servizio station bar and restaurant. We
couldn't understand how the money worked for the food so I asked for a hamburger and in the end Peter just had a ham and cheese roll. They brought
his out and then after about 20 mins, mine. The hamburger was a huge thick chunk of dry, semi cooked mince and not at all appetising. It was served
with chips. They didn't seem used to making it. Peter ate most of it. Drove on to see the lovely windmills at the town nearby. They were sweet and
unspoilt with not much tourist hype - only a few other cars around and no information about them at the place.
Looked at the lovely poppies growing beside the road then drove back to Alcazar de San Juan which wasn't looking promising until we found
our hotel out of town.
Inner town was dilapidated and hotel smelt of room deodorisers as soon as you
entered. We found one in our room and turned it off at once and opened a window. Had a rest and then later headed out for a walk but you could see it
was quite a long way so got the car. The hotel was a convention hotel with quite a few rooms for meetings and a big central courtyard. Looked rather
smart but worn. Had tea at an Irish pub and it was terrible. We couldn't make any sense of the menu at all - usually you can work out some words.
Peter got an omelette but it was all chopped up with limp asparagus, mushrooms and god knows what. I had an entrecote with something laminades - a
big hunk of steak with a few chips and a couple of slices of cooked capsicum. The orange juice and wine were OK. We then went to a pasteleria and had
a small choc eclair and a custard eclair and tea and coffee. That was better. Mine was actually a churro with cream and choc icing but tasted good.
Back to hotel and a couple of other TV stations that worked.
Hotel Intur Avenida Herencia s/n 13006, Alcázar de San Juan Ciudad Real
Saturday May 20, 2017
ALCAZAR DE SAN JUAN TO SEGOVIA
Had a restless night - I was cold. Bathroom not very convenient and bath slippery.
Had breakfast and waiter was just like Manuel. He was running all over the place and the phone kept ringing. We discovered on return to room that he
was doing room service too. Loaded up car and left. Had a look at bull ring and then on way out of town stopped and bought an electric jug at
Carrefour. Also bought some fruit and 2 mugs. I think we will still get our value out of them for cups of tea. Drove to Segovia. Stopped for diesel
and were going to eat at a restaurant but could find nothing we wanted.
Trip was fast although an effort
around Madrid. So many towns can be seen in valleys and almost all have rows of multi storey flats. Segovia was easier to negotiate than we expected
and the hotel quite civilised - you had a space to drop off luggage and then had to go to parking which was reasonably convenient. Changed and then
went out to look at aqueduct. Peter suggested getting a taxi to Alcazar Palace. He sped round and it cost about €3.5. He seemed annoyed when he
didn't get a tip but he didn't say a word and was most unfriendly.
The palace was very lovely, and we got
in after waiting about half an hour in a long queue while one calm but painstaking clerk handed out the tickets and asked if you wanted headphones.
Parts were very old and other parts rebuilt after various fires. Ceilings were most amazing - huge and ornate and lots of gold with friezes
underneath statues and pictures.
Walked back very tired to hotel over cobbled and rough streets. Had a
rest and then went out at 8 pm for tea. The sky was an amazing shade of blue behind the aqueduct.
and looked but none of menus appealed so ended up at Hungry Jack's again. It was OK. Walked around square, had an icecream and back to hotel.
Hotel Acueducto, Avenida del Padre Claret 10, Segovia, Spain
Sun May 21, 2017
SEGOVIA TO MIRANDA DE EBRO
Had expensive €10 breakfast on ground floor. Just OK - kept running out of stuff. Seemed
to be some marathon runners there. Packed up fairly quickly in room which was old but comfortable. I opened window but the noise from outside was
very bad - quiet once we went to sleep. Wheels on cobbles sounded like a plane taking off. Made it out of town despite marathon being held on
streets. Lunch at a servizio - shared a ham roll and a cinnamon Danish. It was expensive as always at service stations. I wanted some nougat, a
national sweet, but they only sell huge amounts. We weren't sure about way to hotel as GPS wouldn't accept address. Made it by using N1 and Miranda
directions. Paid quite a bit in fees for autopista. Learning a bit of language by necessity. The hotel was quite high - we were on the 7th storey but
it was OK. Hot but it had air conditioning and you could also open the door even though the balcony overlooked ugly scenery and a car park where a
bus idled for about an hour making a huge racket. Walked into town along riverside. It was disgustingly filthy. The water was covered in a white
foam, there was graffiti and rubbish everywhere and the multi storey flats looked like hell holes. In the centre of town it was much better with nice
buildingsand public art.
We sat in a park for quite a while and watched 3 dogs, 2 black and a bassett. We walked
a long way back to the hotel checking out restaurants and longing for a decent meal. Ate at the cafeteria at the hotel. I had fish and chips and
Peter had steak. Fish was awful and the salads were lots of large chopped lettuce, some bits of pale tinned asparagus, grated beetroot, tasteless
tomato wedges, tinned corn - very similar to every salad we had in Spain. The waitress would only let us eat in the cafe part as they were expecting
a busload. She worked very hard, didn't understand a word of English but was rather cute in her sincerity. She was actually running, she had so much
to do. We tried to drag out our meal long enough to see the busload but it was a bunch of senior and sour looking Spaniards, so not very exciting.
Room quite comfortable and slept well.
Hotel Tudanca, Miranda, Route N1, Miranda de Ebro, Spain.
Monday May 22, 2017
MIRANDA DE EBRO TO ASCAIN, FRANCE
Woke up about 7 am with noisy road. Had continental breakfast in cafe - glass of
orange juice, beverage of choice and a pastry for €4. We didn't want the sweet pastry so she gave us a small cheese and pork roll which was OK.
Drove first to Gernika which was quite difficult because we had to make many road changes on the way. We couldn't find a park in Gernika because it
was market day or something and it turned out to be a big, modern busy town. Finally Peter parked and we went into a supermarket and asked about
stamps. They sent us to a tabac across the road but the woman had stamps only for Europe. Drove on to Ascain, France. Stopped a couple of times for
diesel and to look at food but none was appetising. Saw a cat with its carry plastic cage being cleaned out. I guess it had had an accident in the
car and that would not be a nice smell. It meowed at us when we spoke to it. Finally arrived at Ascain and it was charming. Just what I had been
expecting the whole holiday. Lovely buildings, pretty gardens, cafes, clean and wholesome with birds whistling etc. Hotel room was up a lot of stairs
with no elevator. Pretty basic but right next to a wonderful old church, with bell tower, and lovely garden.
Went for a walk all over town and eventually found the post office and posted my 2 post cards. Bought 4 more French stamps. Many of the
houses were a bit different with the cement render sloped back from corner bricks or stonework - possibly new render to cover old work. It looked
Back to hotel and got an expensive plate of cheese and biscuits in absence of anything else open. Peter
booked hotel for next night south of Bordeaux. Dressed and went out to eat about 8 pm to the cafe down the road called La Terrasse. Quite busy. They
wanted us to have fish but I had lamb chops and Peter had entrecote served with salad and chips. Both had a whitish topping when served. I soon
realised it was garlic - Peter brushed his off, I ate it.
Enough to dry up the sinuses. Peter had a creme brulee
for dessert and I had the traditional 3 icecream Carte d'Or banana split. It was covered in cream and was really sublime. The ice cream is heaven. I
can't believe I didn't take a picture but I suppose I was too ashamed. It was an expensive tea but probably worth it. We still haven't had gravy and
veges and are hanging out for them. Back to room. Quite cool.
Hôtel de la Rhune, Place Pierre Loti , 64310 Ascain.
Tues May 23, 2017
ASCAIN TO BAZAS, FRANCE
Had breakfast in room after a very restless night. I slept very little and was both hot and
tingling in the mouth from all the garlic. It kept me awake for hours. For breakfast I had fruit and a cup of tea and Peter had oats with the milk
they seem to use here - preserved in bottles. They don't seem to have fresh milk in the shops - or very little. Had another look at the church and
the garden of hotel before setting off for Céron. Quite complicated driving as usual between freeways and local roads. Mainly pine forests. Stopped
at a patisserie in small town and got a ham roll which was nothing special though expensive. Drove on to Céron to the winery and finally found how
to get in - surrounded by high walls and very narrow streets. It was all very old. The chateau dated from 1600s. it was stripped of much decoration
during the French revolution to save it from damage otherwise.
Now a family lives in one half. We had a
tour and tasted some wine. I bought 3 pouring slips and a carry bag as souvenirs. The girl who took us around was very nice, an intern. The wines
were very strong tasting and did not appeal to me. She gave us 3 to sample - red, white and fortified. We ate lunch in the grounds
and then drove to our hotel at Bazas. Went down to town which was old and rather beautiful. The church dated from
1200s and town 2000 years old.
The restaurants looked dead so we went back to the hotel for a gourmet style tea - 3 courses for €22. I had vegetable lasagna, some kind of duck
confit, 3 dense hunks, with a cherry jam and zucchini, asparagus and capsicum in very small amounts on side and cut up strawberries with lime jelly
crystals round edge of bowl. Peter had terrine, filets of pork with mashed potato and a creme caramel. It was all beautifully presented and served
and tasted near perfect. The place is a conference centre with a pool and outside areas and quite nice, like the place at Algeciras. We slept OK
apart from the usual bright light outside. The bathroom was in very bad repair and rather dirty, with grout missing between tiles and awful plastic
covering the join with the bath. The balcony was nice with a lovely view of the garden. The chairs were low and not high enough for the desk which
had some kind of raised top. The room was small with barely enough room for the suitcases.
Domain de Fompeyre, Route De Mont - De - Marsan Bazas 33430, France
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
BAZAS TO MIRAPOIX
Left soon after 9am. Peter had booked a chalet and we were confident we would reach it in a
couple of hours. Early on we took a wrong highway but the GPS seemed to adjust and took us along OK, through road after country road through half the
French countryside with wheat and veges growing right up beside us.
Finally we reached our destination and
it was some factory. We drove to the closest town just after 12 noon. The public toilets were closed but we went into the mairie where a lady was
quite pleasant and let us use the toilet there and offered to ring for us before closing down for the siesta. Nothing was open. Peter realised he had
gone wrong once we found where we were, so we headed off again for a very long drive. Stopped at a supermarket and got some snacks that kept me going
and after about 7 hours of endless route changes we finally reached the camp out in the middle of paddocks. We decided we would stay another day but
couldn't because it was some special feast day the next day. The man at the park was quite friendly but the wife seemed really angry that we had been
accepted and would not let us extend the stay - he had to ride down and tell us later. We went into Auch (Oush), about 15 mins away, more driving for
poor Peter, and bought chicken and veges for tea and I made a chicken stew. It was very good. We had a long roll and butter and a couple of cups of
tea and coffee.
The park was very quiet and the evening perfect. Peter booked a hotel nearby – an attic room.
It was a very stressful and hard day but ended pleasantly. Cabin OK. Not particularly clean but commodious and equipped with everything we needed.
Mattress of foam sagged badly in middle and was hard. Hot inside but OK when window open letting in insects. There was some kind of laundry but no
dryers from the sound of it. We knew it wouldn't be possible to manage washing.
Chalets de Mousquetaires, Mirepoix, Gers, France
Thursday, May 25, 2017
MIRAPOIX TO LECTOURE
Had left over roll and cheese and jam for breakfast. Set out about 9 am after cleaning up the
chalet. We were entertained by the TV playing an ad for a miracle whirly brush used to clean filthy tiles - you can only wonder what people have been
doing to get them in that state in the first place. Drove straight to Lectoure, and parked in a carpark near the post office. We were lucky with our
timing as lots of people soon started to arrive. It was Ascension Day and a public holiday. We looked at the very old church, the town hall and the
ramparts and walked along the street several times looking forpatisseries. We saw lots of very old houses with many
pale grey shutters. Everyone was out drinking and chatting loudly at the bars and it was a lovely atmosphere. We finally decided to have
lunch at an 'Italian' place that had baguettes. We ordered one between us as they were quite expensive. When it arrived it was huge with chips and
salad, of course. It was bread with tomato paste, a layer of undercooked ham and a thick layer of cheese - not appetising. We then walked up the
street to find the laundry and back to the hotel. Peter moved the car to a difficult car park because tomorrow there would be a big market in town
and the main street would be completely blocked. You might not be able to get out of town. Hotel was very old, belonged to the Bastard family, and we
were on the 3rd floor up stairs - no lift. Luckily Peter is fit. We had a rest and then took our washing down the street (a long way) to be done.
It was so lovely to have clean clothes. Went back to hotel and asked about dinner as we could not comprehend the menu (very long winded descriptions
with words I had never seen). The male receptionist explained it all to us in painful detail and I was doubtful whether we were suited but we decided
to do it and economise on breakfast. They brought us all sorts of dibs and dabs of stuff (amuse bouche) which did not taste particularly spectacular.
There was a small plate with 2 little squirts of yellow paste in Chinese spoons and a tiny bowl of black stuff - some kind of olive paste, I think,
and the other 2 things tasted awful. Then they gave us a tiny straight glass of cold soup - also tasted horrible, but Peter was game. I had lamb and
Peter had chicken. Small pieces of meat on big white plates with smears of jus and sauces but very good. The setting in the courtyard was perfect,
the weather glorious and the mood relaxed and cosmipolitan. We couldn't help but feel like jet setters.
The poor staff had to go up and down about 6 steps bringing all this stuff from the kitchens and across the uneven cobbled courtyard, but it was a
gourmet experience. Most of the people there were French and seemed friendly. People we met along the way also were nice and always said bonjour
Hôtel de Bastard, Rue Lagrange, Lectoure 32700, France
Friday, May 26, 2017
LECTOURE TO MILLAU
Awoke about 7.30 am after a horrible night on another awful foam mattress. Had breakfast in our
room and then paid meal bill. Receptionist was an English girl on her gap year so we had a nice conversation. Trundled bags to car in car park,
posted 2 post cards and then looked at the amazing stalls all along the main street of Lectoure - absolutely fabulous - clothes, bags, flowers,
veges and fruit, linen, including some ladies' mouchoirs which Peter saw. I bought 12 but should have bought the other lot for €5 too.
Back to car and headed for Millau via Agen, Albi, Rodez and didn't let the GPS dictate. Had lunch at a
fabulous old town we found by chance - beautiful church and fantastic town square. It was called Naucelle. Went down towards Toulouse, then up
towards Millau. Stopped off to do walk up to Millau lookout and buy some souvenirs. They were pretty bad. Got a mouse pad.
Drove back to Millau without going over the bridge again as it was quite expensive. The GPS was desperate
to get us back onto bridge. Made it to Le Bowling Hotel - looked pretty bad but room OK. Peter booked a cabin for 2 days over the weekend as it is
hard to get hotels - even this one booked out. Had tea at restaurant at Bowling Hotel. I had pizza and P had duck confit. It was basic but tasty. I
had 2 scoops ice cream and cream and P had apple pie. Both delicious. Back to room. Outside the front door were 2 pots full of cigarette butts plus
butts all over the ground. Bed comfortable and shower good - sensible design with shower curtain.
Hôtel du Bowling de Millau, 33 Chemin de Salléles, Millau, France
Saturday, May 27, 2017
MILLAU TO MILLAU CAMPING
Woke up early and got a bit organised. Went down to breakfast in breakfast room which was
small and crowded. They had basic stuff but no cheese or savoury spread. Belgians and cheerful French travelling in groups - not sure what kind of
groups. Went back to room, packed up and went into town to see tourist office and find a pair of bathers for Peter. There are quite a few
haberdashery type shops like we used to have in Australia.
The guy at the tourist office was very kind and we got some bathers from an H and M shop - not much choice. Walked around town a bit and looked at
old buildings then drove to Roquefort to the cheese caves. Did a guided tour of the main one. It was very long and wordy and she kept talking about
champignons which I took to be the growth of the green fungus.
Later we had a degustation of 3 different types they produce. It was quite nice if I left out the green bits.
Bought a magnet. Climbed back up to car then drove back to Millau to a LeClerc store where we bought groceries for breakfast and tea. The camp was a
rip off. No towels were supplied so we had to pay €5 each for them. If we didn't want to do the cleaning they charge €45 - we said we'd do
it, but in the wooden chalet there was no cleaner and no broom and the floor was already dirty.
Peter went (had to drive as it was so far uphill to
office) and complained and got some cleaning gear (another €5) and a lady came back and sprayed the sink - said she couldn't get it clean. I
used the quarter scourer provided later and got it a lot better. Peter went for a swim and I made tea of steak with onion and capsicum gravy with
boiled potatoes, carrot and zucchini. Nothing much to do then - no English TV stations, no other campers to look at. The camp was supposed to be full
but we couldn't see anyone. We read and did diary for evening with the bridge in sight.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Woke about 8am after a good night's sleep but it was cold in the morning. The mattress was firm but
comfortable and it was reasonably dark. Skyped, had breakfast and decided to go to the supermarket to get food in case it closed at midday. We headed
into town but the supermarket was among the high end shops we had seen the day before so decided to go to LeClerc again after various wrong
directions, only to find Leclerc closed. I did a GPS search and we headed for a Netto - but couldn't find it. If it was there it was closed and as we
were in the right street I suspect it had been taken over by some other supermarket as there was no Netto (which we know from Denmark.) We tried one
more time and made it to a Carrefour which we had passed earlier without seeing. There was drama in the parking lot because people were desperate
for parks, there were one way directions and some people wanted to reverse in rather than go straight in. There were actually enough parks for all
because there was lots of coming and going. We bought food for lunch and tea as closing time was 1 pm. I bought mince, veges and fruit, 4 table mats
to use and give to Michael, soap and a few other odds and ends. It was a very nice supermarket but the veges were not as good as ours. One lady was
looking at the fruit and saying "Espagne - Espagne!" She wanted French produce - obviously a big thing there too. We had our carry bag from
previous day. Took the food home and decided to have lunch before we went out. We were going to see some fortified castles owned by knights Templars
and Hospitallers but both felt tired and decided to stay home and sleep and relax. I did some Facebooking. We would be staying at a mediaeval type
place tomorrow so would see similar there. It was very windy and the clothes horse kept blowing over - it was gusts which you could hear starting in
the big trees across the road. Made tea of beef mince rissoles in gravy, boiled potatoes and carrots and also fried up last night's potatoes carrots
and zucchini to make a bubble and squeak.
It all tasted very good. Later we went for a short walk along the
River Tarn where we saw a couple of men fly fishing. Back to camp and it was quiet and lonely. I was worried that no one knew we were there. It was
very boring as I had to read the computer and there was no one to look at, no radio, nothing. Couldn't get to sleep for ages.
Domaine de Saint - Estève, Avenue de Millau Plage, Millau, 12100, FR
Monday 29 May, 2017
MILLAU TO CARCASSONNE
Had breakfast and cleaned up as best I could with the limited equipment. It was cleaner when we
left than when we arrived. An absolute rip off charging that price at this off time of the year and there weren't even any other campers. So many
things wrong with the place but the location was pleasant. Drove towards Montpelier and then in various other directions towards Carcassonne which
didn't look grand. Found hotel without difficulty but drove around trying to find a park to have lunch in as we were too early - eventually returned
to hotel and were able to book in. Had lunch in room and then walked up to castle - very close. Inside the castle looked magnificent but no
furnishing, just objects displayed.
We must have taken a wrong direction because we ended up walking all
the way about the ramparts up huge staircases one after another, forever. I wanted to stop but there was no choice - as far to go back as to go
forward. Coming down was via a spiral stone staircase. There was nothing much in the castle so they could actually have put in some lifts. Walked
along streets and checked out souvenirs - bought some lovely nougat at about €5.40. She cut it in small pieces, "pour la bouche." Hobbled back
to hotel for a much needed rest. Met Tasmanian couple in car park of castle. They had tried to change money and been up and down all over the place.
Not only wouldn't places change Australian money, they wouldn't change large euro notes either and a machine had eaten their credit card. Had a good
rest in room which was small but well appointed. Drove into town and there was plenty of parking this time. The meal was good at a tiny Chinese
restaurant with only room for about 30. Walked around streets. Looked more like Spain with some graffiti but some lovely high end shops together with
many empty ones. Streets were narrow and houses built right on footpaths and so close. Can't imagine what living like that must be like. Castle lit
up at night.
Looked at BBC TV news for some time. Bed foam but not too uncomfortable.
Les Oliviers Carcassonne La Cité, 2 rue Darius Milhaud, Carcassonne
Tuesday May 30, 2017,
CARCASSONNE TO ANDORA LA VELLA
Breakfast was OK - they had cheese and ham but no white bread. Headed for Toulouse,
then Foix and finally Andorra La Vella via GPS.
The road was bad because they were doing work and it was
very, very winding and long.
Made it to the hotel. Parked in car park but guy in hotel said it was €22 while if we parked in public
car park across road it was only €10 a day so we moved car. Room big and luxurious but a bit grubby in the corners (always a good test) - they
need to learn to use a broom. After we got luggage, went out for lunch. Walked around shops, and went to tourist office and she only told us about a
village to visit - nothing in town except shopping and old town. Had a rest then went out to tea to an Italian place. Peter had steak, chips, egg
and salad and I had lasagna. They were both OK. Mine tasted good at first but the centre was cold. We walked around what shops were open including a
supermarket. A lady told me not to take photos (officious so & so. She didn't own the shop, just a shop assistant.) I was filming the Iberica
ham/bacon stuff as there was so much and it was interesting. Weather cold and raining. It rained very hard in morning while we were driving so that
you could hardly see at times but then it eased off. It was just spitting most of the evening. Back to hotel. Had BBC news on television.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
ANDORRA LA VELLA
Room too noisy on main street to have window open. Went down for breakfast about 8 am and
although it was not the best ever as suggested on trip advisor, it was pretty good. They had well cooked bacon (cold) eggs, sausages and tomatoes,
cold meat and cheese, fruit etc and the usual choux pastries which leave me cold. When you look hard in the shops there is not a particularly good
range of products - just a lot of different ones made of choux. I tried the chocolate one morning but it was awful - very dark chocolate. We walked
up to the Casa La Vella
in the old part of town. It was a big climb up slanting stairs - not too bad but
exhausting. We could go on an English tour at 11 am so had to wait half an hour. Looked around at old building from around 1580, new gov building and
view with ugly yellow men on poles. The guide was very nice in manner and did a good job. We saw the entrance room, dining room/waiting room,
parliament type room, kitchen and courthouse. We were not allowed to take pictures - a bit weird given that most of the artefacts etc were modern or
from somewhere else. The building itself was very impressive. The cobbled floors were only done in about 1960s. Had lunch at the supermarche we had
been to previously, from a cafe counter - not very good. Checked out the luxury shops. Unbelievable how many perfume, jewellery and handbag shops in
the streets. Peter suggested the LeClerc shop might have books and it did, just not any in English. Trudged back to hotel and a much needed rest. Ate
at a restaurant we saw in morning near the casa. It was a cut above last night.
I had schnitzel and Peter
had chicken. The waiter had to keep going up and down 6 very deep stairs without railing. Had profiteroles for dessert. Nice - he prepared them on
the spot with oodles of whipped cream sprayed on and chocolate topping. Walked home.
Acta Art Hotel, Prat de la Creu 15 - 25, Andorra la Vella, Andorra
Thursday, June 1, 2017
ANDORRA LA VELLA TO BERGA, SPAIN
Breakfast generous but not sumptuous and breakfasters decidedly uncheerful - not
as nice as French. Packed up and left pretty smartly. When we tried to pay at carpark cash machine, we put our ticket in and realised the machine
only had notes marked on it. We tried €20 about 3 times and it was spat out but then it accepted a €10 and we saw that it had to be 10 or
lower - someone pointed it out. The entry gate was not working so the man was there to fix it. He told us to put our credit card in the slot used for
the ticket. We tried but it wouldn't go in. Finally he marched over - of course our ticket was still in there so the credit card didn't fit too. He
pressed the 3rd silver button and the ticket came out and then we could put in the card. None of this was explained on the machine in any language or
in pictures so how were you supposed to know? They are not big on signs in Andorra. Almost no streets had street names - usually only squares were
named. Not sure how their yearly 10 million visitors cope. Moved out of town quickly and on through the
border to the Spanish Pirinees (their spelling). The scenery was really beautiful because of the multiple tiers of mountains and villages lying in
their midst. We went through a number of tunnels, one at least 10 kms long. Soon got to Berga and found our hotel. Girl at the front desk had to
answer the phone and help someone with photocopying while she was serving us, of course.