Pam & John's birthday was a good start to the month, celebrating with all our friends 12 of us had lunch out at La P'tite Auberge, four course meal, including as much wine as you wanted, and this splendid birthday cake made by the chief at no extra charge 13 euro's each good value we thought. We came away merry. We had a celebration meal too on Lea crest on the Saturday night and David cooked a typical French meal,for John & myself, it was wonderful.
Snow still around the marina, took this photo on one of my lone walks up the Canal de Bourgogne early one morning in Feb.
John and I decided we did not like this cold weather and wanted to get away for some sunshine, top up the body batteries too. We also wanted to see the south of France by car and look for a winter mooring if possible for the following winter.
We had arranged to meet other boater's down south at different marina's willing to share their experiences with us. We began to plan a trip for a month looking at all possibilities, what would we like to do, having enjoyed the drive to Switzerland so much, we thought we might like a driving holiday, we did not think our old faithful car would be up to a month of driving especially to Spain, and it would not be fair on Pam and David to be without a car for a month.
We hired a car from Europe car, and Reneta and David said they would like to drive us to Dijon to pick the car up so we arranged for a day out and a meal, which we all enjoyed. We have made some wonderful friends in St Jean this winter, and this mooring is one of the best we have had so far.
Our central heating boiler decided to pack up just before going, thankfully we had our stove and electric heating, but we did miss it very much. We managed to get an engineer with the help of H2O to come repair it within a week, so we decided we needed to wait and make sure the boiler was fixed before setting off. Yes all fixed we can set off, lets go before the bill arrives John!!! Or we might not be able to afford the holiday. Judy and Paul invited us around for dinner, night before we went and gave us a wonderful send off, since they might not be here when we get back, though we will see them in Canada in April, they are coming to our daughter's show. Gosh we will miss them very much.
John's friend Peter from Leeds was over at his place in South of France, so we were invited over to join them, another kind offer, we feel so lucky how things just happen.
What a place to start our holiday... a wonderful warm welcome too, Champaign on the patio to watch the sunset, photos don't do the place justice. We visited some wonderful villages,and met the local building team too. Shared lots of wine and good memories and stories together with Moira & Peter, some late nights too, as you do.
Chantemerle Les Grignan the village was called in the Provence of France.
Oh the lavender... I was in heaven, though this photo of lavender I took in Leeds, office lock. I will be in the Provence, hopefully to see a harvest of lavender, it's my soul plant. Peter & Moira have a field full of lavender that they harvest for the oil.
Peter and Moira gave us a wonderful time and introduced us to the ways of South of France, they have a stunning place, they have been working hard on this home for 7 years, it shows too, they still have lots of projects still in the making with this property. The views and terraces on all four sides of the house were breath taking, stretching as far as the eye could see. We spent two nights with them before heading further south.
We booked into a hotel at the side of the canal in Beaucaire, which is just off the Rhone River. We were meeting Mike Hofman, a mine of information, and very helpful he was too, we first met him in St Jean through a boater we met in Migennes. Here he is sorting through his mountain of information, we had lunch together then he showed us around the marina and all it had to offer. Not much chance of getting a good spot at this mooring as it's full, though you never know. We will bear this mooring in mind. We met another couple Terry & Carol quite by chance while eating out in Beaucaire the night before, they invited us back to their boat the following day, and were most helpful as we shared coffee, John was really interested in the air conditioning unit he had installed on his boat, so we have another mission while away, hunting for air conditioning units for our boat.
We are really enjoying the driving very much, roads in France are wonderful, and I have my faithful Auto Route planner, could not have traveled with out this CD and my lap top. We can find any were with this tool, including hotel's places to eat.
We visited many villages and town's driving through France, came across some interesting, rounded locks on the midi see photo below,some of the wall's were constructed in the 1660's and collapsed, so they rebuilt them with rounded sides for strength like an arch on it's side.
Carol and Neil back at Saint Jean de Losne had given us books and lots of helpful information, which has help us in our journey down south and our quest and search for a mooring, hopefully some sunshine in the winter months. Though not much sunshine here at the present moment. Hit some really bad weather, when we were visiting the Canal du Midi, we did not like the strong winds down here, it was a bit off putting.
We had an enjoyable stay touring the Mediterranean. Sete a large town, interesting commercial port with many canals lined with boats of all sort. Very busy fishing harbour. Large export trade in wine here too. We tried some very interesting fish dishes, John was not impressed with his selection of fish.
Valentines night was spent in a hotel next to the castle in Carcassonne, this is an outstanding example of a fortified medieval town. It has an enclosed fortress with a town inside, wonderful place to visit, put it on your list of towns.
We booked into a very nice restaurant for a romantic dinner that evening, and we were not disappointed. We loved the city and the history, tons of it, but not the weather, we were having right now. Dark cold and very windy.
We visited Carcassonne, Agde, Beziers, Capestang, Le Somail, Homps, Trebes, as we looked at possible mooring sites, also important how easy it was to travel from these places e.g. train's planes, roads and was it good for shopping too, we were looking for a community too. Well St Jean de Losne has it all, why not here too... was it too much to hope for!
We decided to move on to Spain, and see if we could get some better weather, and get away from these gray skies. As we drove towards Barcelona, the degree's started to climb, and the prices started to get cheaper, food, diesel, hotel's, we were surprised.
We drove through Valencia, picking up a huge bag of oranges, drove through fields of oranges and lemon growing country... divine smell especially driving over the lemons on the floor, picked a few too. Oh and now we had to stop saying merci... and learn a few Spanish word's. I did understand some word's.
We stopped in this hotel in Barcelona for two nights in this wonderful city, with a great harbour...
got on the underground and tourist bus and visited all the sites we could in the short time we had. But oh the traffic,I thought I did well driving into this huge city and finding our hotel but the noise. We love cities to visit but two days and we have had enough of culture and want to retreat to calmer water's and much less traffic. We walked our little legs of too.
Next stop was to be the Carney's (Mick & Pam) residence in Gran Alicante, Santa Pola, other side of Alicante but oh did we make a mistake, no address, (did not use auto route) we just headed for Torrevieja following Mick's (good) instructions, passing his place altogether. We added two hours onto our journey and the only time we have been so stressed and tired, it was a long drive from Barcelona without now getting lost. Poor Hazel was waiting to give us the key, in the end she came to meet us and guide us into this huge estate. I think we were so tired by this point. I am not sure what we expected, certainly did not know the Costa Blanca was so huge. Never mind we have a place to settle into for the next 2-3 weeks. Mick and Pam will join us on 2nd March, we cannot wait to see them.
We were very disappointed with the weather,(not the blue skies plenty of them) not as warm as it should be for this time of the year. But bad weather every where just now, especially in England. Also it's 5 below in St Jean right now,a boaters toilet froze during the night, so we should just enjoy what ever it is here, much better than most other places.
It did reach 19 degrees one day in Santa Pola and we were on the beach, but it was as low as 4 and very windy other days. We had such a storm one night, we thought cars were being thrown around, it howled all night, the next day it was a mess, tiles every where, boats thrown all over on one beach we visited up at Santa Pola.
We enjoyed long walks on the beach when we could, drove to lots of little towns along the coast, visited different beaches and just wandered around, exploring and touring. We visited properties for sale, went to see a builder,and see what they had to offer in Spain, we were just gathering information as we do. We never rule any possibility out.
We also hunted down air conditioning units again gathering info and installation instructions. We also used the local Internet cafe at times for information.
I also, spent a great deal of my time writing up my journal, and taking stock of how far we have come and what we have done. Loved catching up with our web site, hopefully all be up dated when we get back. It was great having my lap top, I felt like a writer writing a book. John read tons of books. We indulged in meals out, as it is so cheap. My Favourite being Thai/Chinese, just wonderful 4 course meal's including a two drinks 7. 50 euro's wonderful value and best Thai food I have eaten, and it's on the door step.Did not need to go to Thailand after all.
We met some great couples and enjoyed time with different people, but mainly with each other, just talking and walking, and eating. Not a lot you can do when it's raining and cold. We bought some DVD and watched the latest films out, which we really enjoyed too.