Author: sallymckenzieblog

Back to Mansle

We got up and going very early after a very rainy night. Little Mo, after seeming to have recovered from her tummy upset, is now scratching fleas that she picked up in the farmer’s field. The first evening here Colin got over 10 off of her, and now the count is up to about 40!
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We headed north towards the coast, most of the way in pouring rain, then east, noticing we’d crossed into France only because the road signs were different. We didn’t go very far after that, stopping at the lovely little campground just outside Souraide that we’ve stayed at a couple of times now.
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I had a very nice hot shower while the wind started to pick up, making it back to the campervan before the rain started.
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We had a really good dinner of salad with fried chicken strips, then turned in early after the long drive.
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It rained off and on during the night but we weren’t in such a hurry to get on the road as yesterday, leaving around 9:30.
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We took the motorway up to Bordeaux, managing to skirt the city right around noon without much slowing down.
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We arrived back to Mansle in the early afternoon, and it turns out that Neil Sr. had also returned from his trip. We started a couple loads of laundry and relaxed a bit, then ended up going to Tony and Joyce’s (Neil’s ex-inlaws) for bbq dinner.

I’ve met them several times already, and we’d brought back a couple of cases of Rioja for them from Spain. They’re always nice to visit with, and dinner was lovely – pork chops, sausages, fries and salad, all washed down with an excellent beaujolais. And the best part was dessert – rather than sorbet I opted for the fresh figs in amaretto – a bit sweet but totally delicious.
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La Vuelta from Casa Angel in Espinedo

Even with the duvet on top of my sleeping bag I was a bit chilly in the early morning. It hadn’t rained but everything needed a bit of drying out. Luckily we weren’t in a hurry to leave, and even watched the day’s stage on tv at the campground’s bar. There was actually a bit of a crowd watching with us – the owner was kept busy.
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Once the race on tv was over we headed out, going east a bit, then north to get on a side road. Traffic marshalls were already out controlling who could go where up the one road – we were directed to parking area 8, which is a farmer’s field several km up the mountain.

We were happy to pull in and pay the small fee, and after getting settled we walked back down the road a few hundred meters to the cafe/bar we’d passed. They had an excellent Rioja that went down very smoothly.

Scrambled eggs with bacon and onion for dinner, then an early night.
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The morning was a bit grey, but it hadn’t rained. After our morning tea and a bit of breakfast we walked down to the little village again, and someone hailed us. It was a fellow that had been at the same lovely campground we’d been at near Foz last week! It really is a small world – he and his wife live in a house right up the hill from the bar.
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We sat down at an outside table at the Casa Angel bar/restaurant and soaked in the sun and the atmosphere. As the afternoon progressed it became more and more busy, and cyclists by the dozens were going by us up the mountain.
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At some point we decided to just stay put for the race – it was so nice where we were, and the gathering crowd was great. They had the race on tv in the bar so we knew the exact progress and when they were getting near.
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There was no caravan today, as I don’t think there’s any room for them to park at the top, which is about 23 km of brutal climbing above us.
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The small breakaway reached us at 4:48, followed by another small group, then the peloton. A few stragglers passed just after 5:00.
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Once the riders had all passed the crowd moved indoors to watch the last bit on tv . The bar was extremely crowded so we checked out the restaurant, which had much more room – we even got a table.
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I must say that the bar staff was just excellent – I’m not sure they realized quite how busy they would get, but they and the kitchen staff hustled their butts off and it was great. I think that several of the locals also pitched in from time to time when things were especially hectic so it was really nice to see.

We didn’t stay too long afterwards, but went back to the now deserted farmer’s field and had hamburgers for dinner. Not wanting to drive down the narrow road at night we were the only ones left in the field until morning.

La Vuelta at La Madera, and Sick Mo (sob sob!)

Upon waking early I had to take Mo out to do some business, which was unusual since she normally just waits, but at 6:30 she indicated very strongly that she needed to go out.

I quickly got dressed and put on my shoes – no socks – and took her for a little walk. There are no lights around here so the stars were spectacular, even without my glasses on. Back at the campervan Mo settled down and we got another couple of hours of sleep.
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We had been hearing one of the cows in the field next door – it was making more than the usual mooing sounds, and just after 10:00 we saw why. One of the mama cows was being led across our parking lot and we assume she’d been separated from her calf or something and wasn’t terribly happy about it.

We got going north shortly after, and had dialed our destination into Miss GPS. However, it seems there are several little towns with very similar names and we were taken to the wrong one.
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After we picked a slightly different destination on Miss Wayz we drove about 30 km to the top of the final small climb of the day’s race, near La Madera. Upon arriving we found that Mo had been sick – discreetly on the floor beside her sometime during the drive.

We found a great place to park several hundred meters from the top, and had a nice lunch of salmon, fried potatoes and salad.
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About an hour before the race arrived the caravan/cavalcade passed. As usual it was nothing like the Tour’s is, but I still got a few things, including a Movistar bag and a packet of olives that I love. And for the first time in a long time we were able to put our flags up.
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Several team cars pulled up and had guys available to hand out bidons if needed. One of the fellows from Education First – Cdn Michael Woods’s team – stopped almost right in front of me and I promptly asked him, very politely of course, if he would please move to the other side of me so he wouldn’t get in the way of my shots and he happily complied. I then pointed out the Cdn flag flying proudly from the campervan and told him where I’m from and asked if he might have a bidon left after the race had passed and he said that if he did he would give me one.
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The race itself arrived at 5:05 with a breakaway of 5 or 6 riders, and the peloton only 1 minute behind, including current world champion Alejandro Valverde right near the front.
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I got one very interesting shot of a tv moto interviewing the Bora Directeur Sportif as they drove past. The peloton took only about four minutes to pass us and then they were gone. True to his word the EF fellow gave me a bidon as he went back down to his team car.

When we got back to the campervan, which wasn’t very far, we discovered that Mo had had another accident – this time a very bloody poop inside on the floor, and she never poops inside the campervan. We are both very concerned but are hopeful that it’s a stomach thing from her hoovering anything she can find on the ground, rather than something serious.

Once we had gotten the flags down and were on our way it was clear sailing back south to the little campground that we loved at Rio Luna.

Valles del Oso

I woke up to another wet morning, but at least after the rain in the night I wasn’t surfing in my sleeping bag.
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I started taking my tent apart nice and early so I could hang the fly and groundsheet to dry before packing it up. I also must confess to a slightly embarrassing, painful, yet funny incident from yesterday. Colin had gone for a shower after our nice bike ride to Foz, and I thought it would be a good idea to open a nice cold bottle of red to sip on while I sat in the sun.

Well – there has been more than one problem with the cork in a few of the last bottles, and this proved to be no exception. I got the cork almost out and it broke, so I reinserted the corkscrew but instead of catching the cork it just pushed it down to the bottom of the neck. So I thought ok – I’ll just push it right in and it’ll be alright, so I grabbed the wooden spoon and used the handle to push the cork down. Except perhaps I pushed harder than needed, or it was almost free, because the cork shot quickly down while the wine shot quickly up.

Not only did it splash all over my favourite turquoise shirt it also got in my eyes, especially the right one. It stung so bad I couldn’t believe it – I cried and cried and I guess my tears flushed it out as I didn’t go blind and the pain did subside.

By the time Colin returned from his shower I had changed my shirt and cleaned up the counter, as well as the cutlery drawer that had been open. As I recounted to him what I had happened I was laughing so hard I cried again, but laughing tears are so much nicer than pain tears!

Anyway, I was able to pack up my tent stuff that was pretty dry and we were on our way by about 10:30. I’m sad to be leaving San Rafael campground as it’s been really lovely here.

We stopped in Ribadeo for some groceries, then continued on east before turning south to go past Oviedo, then onwards to the ‘Valley of the Bears’. This is the valley we came down last week that has the beautiful walking/cycling trail that we’d both thought would be wonderful to ride on.
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We stopped at a cafe near the bottom of the trail to ask about having our bikes and Mo’s chariot hauled up so we could ride down but we were told no, unless we also rented the equipment from them.

We then drove to near the top of the trail to the town of Entrago and were told the same thing at a different company – we think it’s an insurance issue. We walked down to a small cafe/bar and had a drink and decided to drive back down and find a nice place to stop for the night, then ride up as far as we felt the next day.
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At the bar there was a female boxer dog that was quite friendly, although she had tumours or growths of some kind on her back and legs. Mo didn’t mind her, however, which is a bit unusual as she normally doesn’t care for other female dogs.

We drove back down about 13 km to just past the town of Proaza, where we found a nice large parking area right next to a park, and more importantly there was access to the trail. After settling in we had a nice early night.
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The next morning was a bit overcast and somewhat chilly, but there was no rain forecast so we headed out on the bikes before noon. After proceeding less than 1 km along the trail we came upon a very large group of walkers, mostly older folks. They were totally blocking the path, although when I rang my bell repeatedly they happily made way for us to pass.
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As we made our way by we saw why they’d stopped – one of the bears the trail is now famous for was just on the other side of the fence right above the trail. A little further on I saw the second bear on the other side of the road, also behind a nice high fence.
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Since I’d stopped more than once to take photos Colin had gotten ahead of me – I couldn’t believe how long it took me to catch up. The trail is in pretty good condition in parts, but some stretches are very rough and full of potholes and ruts, especially in the tunnels.

We passed tons of folks, both walkers and riders, mostly coming down towards us. Just after exiting one tunnel I saw a small crowd of people gathered – they were watching some mountain climbers going up the cliff.
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A little further on I stopped and asked a lady and her daughter how far it was to Entrago, and while the lady didn’t speak english the girl did. She told me it was another 2 or 3 km, and she was right. The trail does go gradually up the whole way, and although I didn’t notice it so much Colin sure did, having to pull Mo in her chariot.
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We sat down at the same cafe we’d been at the night before and had a really nice lunch. Colin had chips and egg while I went for the chicken breast with chips – both were excellent, and the boxer got a fair amount of my chicken as it was a huge portion.

The ride back down was considerably easier than the ride up had been – much of the way I hardly needed to pedal. As it had been a fairly tiring day we decided to stay another night in the nice parking area and head out in the morning.

Little Frog and Fabulous Foz

As I was dozing in my tent in the morning not quite ready to get up I heard a slight noise – kind of like the wind blowing a tent flap or something. I ignored it, then it happened again, then again. I rationalized that no spider would make such a sound so continued to ignore it until I decided to actually get up and go to the loo.

When I turned on my little night light and went to grab my pants something moved right by my hand – I stifled my scream as I saw that it was a little frog that was trying to get back out of the tent! I had – very unusually – left the zipper open several inches and the poor little guy had been able to jump in but was stymied on getting back out. I was able to hold the opening enough for him to eventually make it over and out, and he happily hopped away.
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After our usual tea and breakfast we got on the bikes and rode into Foz again, heading for an electronics store I’d seen. I had followed the instructions that I’d gotten by email on how to get my keyboard working again, but rather than fixing the problem I seemed to have lost the keyboard itself.

Asking at one large store the older fellow told me to go across the street to a small store that should be able to help me, and he was right. The young lady inside tried several things, and was eventually able to establish bluetooth contact so that at least my ipad acknowledges the keyboard again, even though the five keys are still ‘dead’.
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After that we went to one of the cafes we’d been to a couple of days ago – sitting outside across from the ocean, drinking excellent coffee and watching the people go by.
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Back at the campground Colin started a bolognese sauce, and we retreated to the bar to watch another stage of the Vuelta. After yesterday’s rest day today’s stage was the individual time trial, and the order of the top contenders has changed.
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Pasta dinner with the sauce was delicious and afterwards we went for a nice walk to the ocean, even going down to the beach. Colin took his sandals off and actually waded in but I chose to stay on a rock and just enjoy the view
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When we returned to the campground and I was just turning in inside my tent I asked Colin what time it was and he was very surprised when he went to look at his watch – it wasn’t there. Realizing it must have come off during our walk he retraced our steps and actually had no problem finding it just sitting there on the grass. In any case it wasn’t his Rolex but only an Omega – ha ha.

After another good sleep in the tent I woke to a beautiful blue sky with a nice breeze. We took another nice bike ride into Foz, where we dismounted and walked our bikes along the seaside.
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It’s a working port, with lots of little fishing boats, etc.
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There are also many interesting sculptures in small parks, as well as some wall murals. After exploring a bit we decided to stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants.
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The first one we stopped at only served tapas and they had no menu so we went next door – it was a good choice. Colin ordered the sardines and I got the scallops – they brought the sardines first, possibly as a first course for both of us. I did try a bit and it was very tasty.
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Then my scallops arrived, and I have to say they might be the best scallops I’ve ever had. They were served in their shells and had been seared perfectly. Washed down with a lovely glass of Rioja it was an extremely enjoyable lunch.
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On our way back to the campground we stopped for a beverage at our favourite cafe, then continued back to the campground facing a bit of a headwind.

Having had such a lovely, slightly late lunch we didn’t do much for dinner, and afterwards took another nice walk to the ocean.
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River in the Night

During the night I could hear the wind howling and the rain pouring, even over the sound of the surf pounding, but I was sure I was safe and dry in my tent. Well – it turned out that wasn’t exactly the case. I was safe, and mostly dry, but there was a veritable little river running from right to left under the middle of the tent.

No rain had gotten in from above, but half of the floor of the tent was completely soaked, as was the bottom of my sleeping foamy. Fortunately my sleeping bag, camera and ipad were still dry, but everything else had to be hung out once the rain stopped.

After a much needed cup of tea and a bite to eat we went for a walk along the trail to the west of the campground. After a couple of km we came to a village but there was no cafe or anything open so we returned to the campground.
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And I must admit that this was the first time, I believe, that I forgot to take my camera. It’s usually practically another appendage, but I’d moved some of my stuff to my backpack so I could take water bottle, etc, and at the last moment we left with my camera sitting in the campervan. I attempted a few photos with the ipad camera but it kind of sucked – perhaps with practice I could do a bit better, but I do prefer my real camera.

Back at the campground I set my tent up in another spot, hoping to avoid another flood. Another viewing of the Vuelta in the campground’s bar, with the sky looking stormy most of the afternoon.
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The next day we drove to Ribadeo for some groceries, then came back along the smaller road that follows the coast.
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We stopped at a nice pull-out and had lunch, then continued on, finding the restaurant La Barrica where we’d been two years ago, just down the road from the campground Gaivota that we’d stayed at.
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Everywhere along this coast is just beautiful, but we both agree that the campground we’re now at is just perfect – so near the ocean, can’t hear any traffic and – NO KIDS!

San Rafael and Foz

While enjoying our morning tea we discussed the campground we were in and agreed it would be best if we left. If the loudspeaker blasting and children screaming are a nightly occurrence then we don’t want to listen.

Packing up was easy as it hadn’t rained and all my stuff was nice and dry. We drove west and a bit north along the coast as far as the town of Viveiro before deciding that we actually preferred the area around Foz better so backtracked to a very small campground just west of the town.
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The campground is right on the ocean and is quiet, and most importantly – no kids! It has a nice little bar/cafe, although unfortunately Mo isn’t allowed inside. And I’ve suddenly got a problem with the nifty bluetooth keyboard I have attached to my ipad mini – five of the keys are not responding anymore. I can probably do without the q and the x, but I do miss the r,y and h.

For now I’m using the keyboard on the screen but it really slows me down – I’m used to about eighty or ninety words a minute and the four finger ‘hunt and peck’ method sucks. A good cleaning of the keyboard hasn’t solved the problem, so I’m awaiting a response from the maker of it.
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The day we arrived at the campground we asked if the owner would put the Vuelta on for us in the bar, but by the time we found the proper channel the day’s stage had just ended. It looked like a very exciting stage, too, with Valverde victorious on one of the mountain finishes. At least we now know what channel it’s on, though.
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After a blissfully quiet night we decided to go for a bike ride into Foz – the road winds right along the coast next to a great walking path.
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We stopped at a cafe for a nice cup of coffee, than rode around looking for a bank.
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We wondered if there was a festival on or something as we’d seen more than one person with face paint.
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At one point we heard some drumming and came upon a large group that were all dressed up with painted faces and were drumming, along with a couple of tamborines, etc. It was very cool!


We stopped at another cafe and had a small bite to eat – I got some ham and cheese croquettes and they were very tasty, although quite filling.
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Upon leaving we had a nice ride back to the campground in time to watch the day’s race on tv – at least as soon as the basketball game ended that Spain won by 40 points. We couldn’t change the channel just in case the other country scored as many points in the last few minutes as they had in the last two quarters.

It was very windy and threatening rain for hours, but didn’t materialize before I retreated to my tent for the night.