Saturday, 12 April 2008

I'm back

If you want to hear about my holiday and me nag about how terrible it was then please continue reading this post. If you rather hear about my quilting activities you will have to wait till my next posting.

On Sunday the 30th we left for Spain. Our first night was spent in the Notre region, in a little village called Fontevraud-l’Abbeye. It was a long drive. More then 800 km. This wouldn’t have been too bad if it hadn’t rained all day. It was really pouring, visibility wasn’t too good. We avoided the Peage, taking the country roads. The Loire Valley is beautiful, even in the rain. Sadly I have no pictures to show you. Can you believe it, something went wrong while saving the jpg’s to the image tank (a kind of memory key). This however I didn’t discover till I got back. Lucky me, Hubby has some software that enabled us to recover some of the photos that were on the memory card. Of the 350 photo’s I took, we recovered 50!

While driving from Fontevraud-l’Abbeye to Hondarribia my car all of a sudden stopped driving, it just stopped and the alarm lights went on telling me that the fuel system needed to be checked. Here I was standing with my car somewhere in the country far away from home. Words can’t explain how I felt. But my heart was beating at a faster rate and I started swearing. I couldn’t contain myself. I always need to swear when I lose control (this is my coping trait). Luckily I was able to steer the car to the curb. While frantically searching for my phone, I thought, why not try to start the engine again. Somehow everything worked again and so we continued our journey to Hondarribia.

This little town is situated just across the border into Spain. It is an old fortified town. The next day we did some exploring of the region. We stayed two nights in Hondarribia. We saw more rain. This part of the coast isn’t what I had expected. It seems that everyone lives in apartments or high rises. You don’t see any houses in the cities or towns. To be truthful, it is kind of depressing. I really would not be able to live there.

On our 4th day we continued our travels further down south. We first had to travel through the mountains. It was pretty misty and at certain points visibility was really poor. You could hardly see the cars in front of you. After an hour or two we finally found ourselves in the Alava / La Rioja region. The countryside is completely different to the northern Basque country. Here you drove through stark plains, vineyards, sliced by high sierras with coxcombs of raw limestone. We saw lots of windmills (the kind they use for wind energy) and fields that were filled with photovoltaic cells. I hadn’t expected the Spaniards to be into wind and solar energy.

After a long drive we found Consuegra. Isn’t a GPS a fantastic invention? I just enter the street name and without too much trouble we found the hotel. After checking in we decided to climb the stairs to the Molinos de Vientos (windmills) on top of the hill. A little out of breath but the climb was worth it. Luckily some photos were recovered.

The next day we left early, after enjoying a very Spanish breakfast. What can go wrong after such a good start, yes my GPS died. I only saw a black screen even after pressing the ‘on’ button numerous times. Luckily, my mum still has some good map reading skills and she guided me to Cordoba. There we visited the Catedral de Cordoba. The Mesquita is an old mosque and is known as one of the great creations of Islamic architecture. It was indeed beautiful. However, we were unable to recover the photos I took of this mosque. I think I really lost some beauties. After visiting the mosque we walked back to the car and continued our drive to Benagalbon. Did I forget to mention that I had to pump up the front left tire! The air pressure light indicated there was not enough air in the tire.

We had some trouble finding our B&B. That happens when you have become too dependent on a GPS. It was situated high in the mountains and we had to travel some roads that are more suitable for a 4WD. It was pretty scary as the path (road) was very narrow and steep. After some phone calls the owner of the B&B guided us to her place. My mum straight away voiced her opinion. She was not very happy with this situation. As it was late, we decided to stay for one night and continue our travels the next day. Initially we were meant to stay 5 nights at this B&B. As the facilities didn’t meet our standards and there was hardly any privacy and the access to this B&B was pretty bad, we continued our travels pretty early the next day. If I had it my way, I would have driven home, but my mum encouraged me to stay positive. We decided to take the coastal route towards Valencia and start searching for a hotel around 4 pm.

There is only one word to describe the southern coast of Spain; terrible. It is amazing how the Spanish have ruined this countryside. You only see greenhouses everywhere, these steel framed constructions covered in plastic cover vast areas. Lucky for you I can’t show the photos to prove it.
Late in the afternoon, after first getting lost in the city of Torrevieja, we found this hotel in Guardamar del Segura. It was situated along the beach. We first booked a room for one night but the next day we decided to stay a little longer, after spending a whole day lazing on the beach and near the pool. I finally found some sun!! I even have a little tan to prove it.
As we really enjoyed our day we decided to stay another night. Lucky for us, the hotel wasn’t fully booked. We stayed 3 days at this hotel. Sunday, 7 days after leaving home, we spent another nice day on the beach, reading and soaking up the sun. In the afternoon sadly the wind and clouds found us.

Monday we started with our trip back home. Once I turned on the ignition, the alarm lights went off again. Total feelings of panic came across me. Yes, the left front tire was too flat to drive according to the car system. I ran back into the hotel asking where the next fuel station was. I really didn’t want to change the tire! With lots of hand language (not many Spaniards speak English) the receptionist tried to explain where I had to go to. After driving more kilometres then I wanted to, we found the fuel station. I pumped up the tire and hoped for the best.
From Guardamar del Segura we drove up north to Castelló d’Empúries. A nice B&B but they had no parking facilities. We had to leave the car unattended and as the B&B had no lift we also had to leave our luggage in the car. There were too many stairs to carry the bags up to the room. I didn’t sleep very well that night! I couldn’t wait to get home.

The next morning we left early to be able to cover as many miles as possible. We eventually decided to find a B&B near Langres, France. Without too much trouble we found a B&B. If you ever need to find a B&B, go to the site of Logis de France or use their manual. We had a lovely diner at AUBERGE DES 3 JUMEAUX ET JUM'HOTEL and had a very restful night (we were not bothered by snoring men in other rooms!).

As you can guess, the tire was flat again when we decided to leave. We went looking for another fuel station. At the third attempt, we found a fuel station which a working air pomp. This time I also had to pump up the tire in the rain. The whole drive from Langres to Holland was wet. We saw the sun again, once we crossed the border at Maastricht. Wednesday, two whole days earlier then planned, we returned home.

What have I learned from this trip? I’m not going to undertake another trip that covers 4300 kilometres. I need a new GPS and camera.

What springs to mind when I look back on these two weeks:
- I’m very dependent on my car, gps, camera, and mobile phone.
- I love my home and I love the Netherlands
- I missed Hubby

Next time I’m just going to book a package deal. Fly to the sun, stay at one hotel (full board), and hope for the best.

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