Thursday, 20 October 2011


Crikey, it's over 2 weeks since I last blogged! But we finally arrived home on Monday so hopefully I will get back into the rhythm now and post more regularly. But for now, a summary of our 'Travels in Sadie' over the past 2+ weeks.

The main point of our second visit to the UK in the van this year was to attend Andy's dad's wedding to Lynne in Tamworth at the beginning of the month. After a lovely few days in Dorset with mum and Jamie, we headed North, spending the night before the wedding in the Malverns where we had a good but very undulating and hot 10km run in the morning. Hard work! A shower in the van then up to Tamworth for the 5pm wedding followed by a few hours at the reception and then a 1 1/2 hour drive to All Stretton below the Long Mynd in Shropshire where we visited back in June. We parked up in the same spot and had a quiet night but were awoken in the morning by the National Trust representative placing a note underneath our windscreen wiper, informing us that overnight parking was not allowed and that our reg had been noted. Great. Thanks. No matter that the 'byelaws' that they referred to were at the bottom of the back of a tattered, weather-worn, practically illegible sheet of A4 at the entrance to the parking area. No matter that it was 'out of season'. Arse. So, we moved down the road and bit the bullet of 2 nights' campsite fees. From there, we managed a stiff 13km mountain bike straight up onto the Long Mynd from Little Stretton which really tested the legs followed the next day by a lovely 12km walk up on to the Mynd in fantastic weather which I wished later we had run!

The weather was glorious but after 2 days on the campsite we decided to head down towards Exmoor. We found a fantastic spot to park up up on the moor above Minehead with great views and managed to get in a very windy run along the coastal path towards Bossington before the weather closed in

It was way too windy to contemplate riding the bikes so, after a brief detour to Bristol to pick up Andy's repaired HTC, we headed back down to Dorset where we stayed for another few days before catching the ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. I had wanted to explore Brittany on this trip but the weather in the North Western corner of France was overcast and cold and the forecast for the foreseeable future was not good either. Sun was however promised from the Poitou Charente region southwards. So we headed South and ended up in a lovely spot at Talmont-sur-Gironde on the coast just south of Royan in Pineau country. Pineau is one of my favourite aperos so I was a happy bunny! The bonus was that we had a fantastic, free parking spot on a big parking area dedicated to campervans. Great!

The area has some waymarked mountain bike circuits which I was keen to explore now that we had found the sun again. We managed two circuits while we there, one of 21.5km and the other 33km, both of which lacked waymarks at critical points which made for a frustrating time! But still, it was good to be back on the bikes again and to explore more of this undulating area which is dominated by vineyards and agricultural land.

From there, we headed South again to the mountains South of Pau for our final few days away. The smaller ski resorts are perfect areas in which to park up at this time of year. They generally have spacious, flat parking areas which are deserted and from where you can easily get up high into the mountains for a walk. We parked up at Gourette, a few kilometers below the Col d'Aubisque and followed the GR on the stiff climb up to the Etang d'Anglas and then onwards and upwards to our high point of the Hourquette d'Arre at 2465m, a total climb of over 1100m in just over 6kms. It was stunning and just amazing to be back up in the mountains again in perfect conditions! We stopped a couple of times to soak up the peace and quiet and the breathtaking scenery.

We ran just about the whole of the 1100m descent which was tough on the legs and which would result in me being in a great deal of discomfort for the following two days! But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We popped up to the Col d'Aubisque while we were in the area which was, again, a beautiful spot

Then, it was time to head home. We had two more days of lovely warm, still weather which allowed me to get the washing dried and the van unpacked. But then a quick blast of winter which saw the first proper dusting of snow on the local mountains. Andy took this lovely panoramic photo from our walk up to the Cap des Campets from Peguere this afternoon - chilly! Time to light the woodburner, methinks!

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