Homeward via France!

Sadly our year of adventure is almost over and the last leg is towards the Eurotunnel. 

Biarritz was our first stop. No photos due to torrential rain but a great night out sampling the local bars and nosh. Blaye was next and a wonderful couple of nights parked in the grounds of Chateau Marquis du Vauban. It snowed the second day but we’d bought a box of wine by then. The cat is called Marquis and was a stray in the vineyard. She now, rightly, rules the roost!

Staying wherever we could find an inviting aire, Coulon and Brissac Quince were next. Both villages were pretty closed down and sleepy. The first had canals and the later a splendid chateau. It was closed for winter but we managed a photo before being shooed away. 

Our last major port of call was an area we wanted to visit from the start, Normandy. Mainly for the beaches but Argentan was a fortuitous stop as we caught a stage of the Tour of Normandy cycling.

This is Utah beach and our van..

And our final new stopover before the passport vets and Calais, Omaha Beach…

A sobering visit, we really are exceptionally lucky.

Dogs on the way back home – me and 2 terriers next door.

Santiago to Pamplona

Via checking out the beach at San Sebastian, from which I was barred. Not because of local law but due to my ears already being full of sand. 

Anyway we’d left the wonderful Santiago de Compostela and driven across the northern coast of Spain. Essentially a return pilgrimage. Tapia de Casariego was our first stop and has a huge tidal beach. The source of my too-much-sand-in-ears problem..

Followed was a rainy night in Candas and a noisy night in a Gijon car park. Boy racers in ‘not so hot’ hatches, are a common feature in Spain!

Fancying some peaceful sleep and countryside we found the only campsite open in Los Picos de Europa. We we on the edge of the park but it was stunning and the best cycling yet. A really beautiful national park which phone cameras don’t do justice. 

After a few days we dragged ourselves away towards San Sebastian via Cobreces. Elaine had been before but the €3 a night motorhome parking couldn’t be missed for such a pleasant town. One night in a local establisment, one in a touristy pintxos bar.

Our final stop in Spain was to be Pamplona, famous for it’s bull running and where I met up with my friend Kio the galgo.  

It’s a maze of dark, cobbled streets with lots of bars and restaurants. It’s boho, interesting and a great place for galgo runs. Thanks to a lovely day with Kio and his humans we got a local’s insight into a great city. 

Dogs in car parks – me, 2 cocker spaniels and a van with 8 cats (so their polite notice read!)

Camino Portugués 

After leaving pretty Porto Covo we headed north along the Portuguese coast. One night in Comparta’s dusty car park followed, and a long drive skirting Lisbon (they’d been before and Elaine had no desire to see the impressive, but huge, bridge again). 

Wanting more beach time we found a lovely free aire right on the beach near Lavas. An immense surfing beach just outside the van…

Now, although the beaches are dog friendly in winter, Portugal as a rule isn’t. It’s not the people, but their laws, that ban dogs from all pubs, cafes and many public areas. Such a shame as it became a tad restrictive. Maybe it’s something to do with the amount of loose, barking dogs? 

Driving north we stopped overnight on Praia do Costa Nova, nr Aveiro.  It had a rather splendid boardwork, seen in the first photo. Vila Cha further up had the same…

It was then it dawned on us, we’d inadvertently started following the pilgrim’s way to Santigo de Compostela, the Portuguese route. Miles and miles of these boardwalks have been built along the coast to aid the camino followers. They are pretty impressive. 

So in a rain soaked Portugal it gave us a new route. Slightly inland to Ponte de Lima and, naturally, to Santiago. 

Ponte de Lima, as it’s name suggests, has a bridge over the river Lima. It’s a medieval footbridge on the pilgrim’s route. It is a lovely old town and goes back to Roman times. Still doesn’t allow dogs in bars though, pfft.

And the finale, Santigo de Compostela …..

It poured with rain, the cathedral had scaffolding but what a truly wonderful old city. It’s tiny but perfectly formed. Stone arches, walkways and narrow streets surround the stunning cathedral. I imagine if you’d walked all the way it would be quite emotional. We spent a great afternoon exploring and toasting the city.  

Dogs resting after El Camino – just the one..