Category: Artwork and/or sculptures

Bacares and Sanctuary

Finally a warm and sunny day – I did a load of laundry and hung it on the line, then we decided to take another day trip, this time west to the town of Seron.  One of the houses we were going to view was just outside the town and George had told us how lovely the town centre was.  As we’d bought the other house on the spot we didn’t need the viewing of the Seron house but we thought we’d like to see the town anyway.

The drive west wasn’t the most picturesque as there’s a lot of industry and gravel pits, etc but the further we went the nicer the countryside got.

You can see Seron from a distance as it’s clustered around a castle at the top of a hill.  We drove along the base of the hill but decided not to take the campervan up into the centre as we were concerned about how narrow the roads were likely to be.

Since it was still early we chose to drive south a ways and do a loop back before going home.  The road wasn’t too bad as it wound up and up to the summit, with an elevation gain of over 1400 meters.  There were quite a few cyclists making the effort and it couldn’t have been easy.

The views along the way were fantastic but there was nowhere to stop and take photos from – a couple of view points would have been great, or even just a pullout.

Stopping in the village of Bacares we had a walk around – it’s not a bad little place, but very isolated.

After our walk we sat down outside the cafe/bar and had a coffee.  There were a bunch of birds in cages on the windowsill – the cages are so small the birds can barely turn around in them and they make little noises at each other.

It seems very mean to me – I wondered what kind of bird they are, and if they’re perhaps on the menu of the restaurant, or what else their purpose might be.

The sparrows come and land near the cages – wonder if they’re communicating with them or just trying to steal their food.

After leaving Bacares we stopped partway along the road north and had a nice lunch on a flat wide spot with a great view.

Nearing the town of Olula del Rio I actually got a decent photo of a sculpture that’s outside a museum/art gallery.  She’s called ‘La Mujer de Almanzora’ (The Woman From Almanzora) by spanish artist Antonio Lopez.

When we returned to the campground it was sunny and warm enough to actually get the lawn chairs out and sit outside under the canopy.  We weren’t out there very long before the wind became too much and we had to wind-in the canopy and retreat inside again.  I’ve still been wearing my winter coat and the lighter black jacket hasn’t been out once yet – so much for warm southern Spain!

We’ve now signed some papers at a notary’s giving our solicitor power of attorney to get our tax numbers and other house-related things for us such as sorting out utilities, etc.  We also met him at a bank and he helped us open some accounts so we’ll be able to deal with a local spanish bank – things are moving along rather nicely.

Rain, rain and more rain – spending lots of time inside watching YouTube videos.  Finally sometime during the night the rain let up and there’s actually a bit of blue sky this morning.

A couple of nights ago Mo fell out of bed and seemed a bit out of it when I hauled her back up.  We think she’s injured something on her right side – if you pick her up in the wrong position she yelps.  Nothing seems broken or anything as she’s walking fine, but just a bit tender.  She now has pink marks on the back of her head as I’ve been kissing her more than usual.

This morning we took a drive up to the sanctuary – El Santuario del Saliente – a work crew was clearing some of the rock falls caused by the recent rains but the drive was worth it.

The sanctuary is on a promontory with fabulous views of the valley below to the south.

I went inside and it was lovely – a tiled inner courtyard and then the ‘church’ part.

I was all alone and it was a very peaceful feeling – as near a ‘religious’ experience as I’ve ever had.

We stopped at the local restaurant on the way back to the campground and had a lovely lunch of fried calamari.  Back at the campground we watched two races on GCN – the Scheldeprijs and then the third stage of Itzulia Basque Country.  

A Brief House Hunt

We got hold of the estate agents and they managed to book three viewings for us mid-week.  

As we had a day before the viewings we drove to the nearby village of Arboleas and had a coffee.

There are lots of brits here but the village was lovely none-the-less (hahaha – just kidding – I love brits).

There seemed to be an extra large number of cats in the village, some of which were quite cheeky – sitting on parked cars, and sauntering by slowly taunting the dogs.

After our coffee we walked around a bit, then got driving again and just kept going.  It’s less than an hour to the sea, so we drove past Vera and north a bit along the coast to Villaricos.

We found a large space next to a beautiful sandy beach and had our lunch, then took the doggies for a walk into the town.

The next day we viewed three properties, all of which are ‘country houses’ as we requested but as we drove to the first one we wondered if we’d chosen the wrong category.

Part of the drive to the first house was on a ‘ramblas’, which is a dry river bed – well, dry most of the time other than a few times a year when it’s briefly flooded.  The road is maintained and not too terribly bad, but the house was quite remote.

The house had a lovely pool area and lots of rooms but was rather dark inside and other than the terrace around the pool there was no outdoor space.

The second house was even more remote, and badly needed a lot of work before being habitable.  The owner was a brit who gave up during covid and basically abandoned the house to the lizards and the elements.  While we could see great potential if fixed up, there was just too much to do.

The last house of the day was on a better road, but the house itself as well as the pool, while nice, was quite small – the koi pond wasn’t enough to make up for it.

As we discussed it later and the next morning we decided to look for ‘villas’ rather than ‘country houses’ but had to eliminate quite a few as they were right in a town.  We visited the office and had a good chat with George, who is british but speaks fluent spanish.

He helped us narrow down what we should actually be looking for, and mentioned a large country house that had recently lowered the asking price.  We hadn’t noticed it before as it had been above our budget at the time, but now wasn’t.  Someone was viewing the house that afternoon, and we indicated that we were eager to see it also, as soon as possible.

The next morning we got a call from George – the homeowners were open to seeing us in less than an hour!  They had received one offer on the house, and it was insultingly low – they are desperate to sell so wanted to see us asap.

We met Andy, the very nice fellow that had taken us around the other day, and he led us to the house which was about 20 km out of town.

The only hitch was the side road up to the driveway – it wasn’t paved and with the amount of rain recently the dirt road was a bit soft and the campervan couldn’t make it up.  As we tried repeatedly to back up and get more speed a tractor came behind us.  He realized we weren’t going to make it so pulled back and over a bit so we could back down past him to the paved road and pull over on a conveniently placed wide spot.

We walked the short way up to the house and one of the owners was waiting for us.  As we’d watched a video about the house on the website earlier we kind of knew what to expect – and we weren’t disappointed.

After a tour of the grounds, pool area, and the house we had a quick private discussion and made an offer on the spot.  It took about two minutes for the agent to get a positive response from the owners and we shook hands on it!  And for less than the asking price, which was already discounted quite a bit from the original.

We were in the office later that same day signing the papers and are already waiting for a response from a solicitor to take care of the legal paperwork, etc.  We own a house in Spain!!

From El Berro to Albox – Narrowing down for the House Hunt

We were lucky to get a small break in the nearly constant rain and took a nice walk through part of the village.

We could imagine that in better weather the views would be spectacular, and the campground was excellent in so many ways.

We did manage to get our laundry done, but it wasn’t fast or easy.  It poured rain all night and all the next day, and after putting the first load in the washer I went down three times before it was finally done – getting soaked to the skin each time.

In all it took 5 ½ hours to do two loads, but it was free, and we actually didn’t have much else to do.

Leaving the next day under slightly clearer skies we took the other road in order to avoid snaking our way through the village again.  We’d decided to head as far west as we might want a house and work our way back, crossing just into Almeria to start the hunt.

Picking an aire/sosta in the village of Canjayar we went on a bit of a diversion, passing several small mud/rock slides and ending up with a blocked-off road, then realizing we’d gone too far.

We pulled into a place where we could turn around, right after I’d said “what the f*** is that in the middle of the road?”.  Well – it was a giant Smurf, very dirty but right in the road – he was smiling but was not budging.

I got out to take a photo of dirty Mr. Smurf when I noticed movement on the hill above me – several large dogs had seen me and were starting to make their way down.

I quickly went to get back in the campervan but the side door has a stupid automatic lock thing and I couldn’t get in.  I pounded on the door and screamed but Colin was using the loo and couldn’t let me in.  I ran around to the driver’s door and jumped in just before the dogs arrived.

Taking a different route we finally made it to the aire, but it looked very bleak so we turned around and drove further down the road hoping to find a better place.

Luckily Colin saw a campervan sign several miles along at winery/bodega Fuente Victoria so we pulled in to their very large, flat and almost empty parking area.

We got out and went to the bar, asking if we could stay there.  The very nice lady said yes so we sat down and asked for two glasses of their red.  When Colin tried to pay she said no, no charge and we drank them outside while looking at the excellent view across to the hills.  We could see not one, but two distant peaks with snow still on them.

We bought a nice bottle of red and then moved the campervan to a different part of the lot – we originally were very close to another campervan that had three small children and wanted nothing to do with the noise – two dogs are enough!

After a very nice night we took time to decide where we really wanted to house hunt.  

We took another look online and zeroed in on an area that seemed to have everything we wanted – lower elevation (ie:  warmer in the winter), with several properties with what we consider essentials.  We sent an email to a local agent and drove to the general area.

Taking, as we frequently do, the ‘scenic route’ we went past the area where many of the old ‘spaghetti westerns’ were filmed.  It was hilarious – ‘Mini Hollywood’ which was packed with cars, followed a few miles later by ‘Texas Hollywood/Fort Bravo’.

We arrived in Albox at a decent time and found a very large flat parking area walking distance to the centre of town.  After lunch we took a walk around, and to find the estate agent’s office just so we knew where it was.

There’s a sculpture/display near the centre that bothered me – I believe it depicts a quarreyman and his mule pulling a load up a hill.  The mule doesn’t look very happy and it looked very cruel – I know that’s the case today in many places and situations and it’s horrible.

We found the estate agents office and headed back to the campervan for a light dinner.  There was a certain amount of activity in the large parking area we were in, but nothing that was too loud or lasted too long, thankfully.

The local church bells chime all night long and are very tinny sounding – not lovely and melodical like some.

From Italy to France to Spain – Long Drives and Lots of Rain

Leaving Poggio early we headed to the peage and crossed into France – no border guards or anything so passports and covid certificates put away again.

While we thought it could take up to three days to cross southern France we just kept going.  We made it past Narbonne before stopping for the night at an aire/sosta in the marshy area at the western end of Carmargue, next to a salt-water lagoon.  

There were a lot a flamingoes but we only saw a few of the horses that are famous for running through the surf.

After a quiet night – despite the thunderous surf and storm, we got another early start.  We found a Lidls in Rivesaltes for a few groceries and then a pharmacy in Alenya so Colin could fill one of his prescriptions, then went south along the coast and into Spain.  

It was a very beautiful drive, winding around through lovely towns and up and over.

Crossing was, once again, not a problem – this was the border point between Cerbera, France and Portbou, Spain:

There’s a huge railway station and yards, including a hotel and other stuff in Portbou that the Spanish government spent millions and millions designing and building but somehow missed one crucial thing – the gauge on spanish and french railways are different so it’s a gigantic white elephant.

Taking the peage south we made good time and didn’t leave the main road until around Tarragona, finding a nice little aire/sosta in El Catllar.

There were already several campervans there so we pulled onto the car parking area which was empty.  Right then a local cop drove up and told us it was only for cars so we had to ask one of the other campervans to move over a bit so we could squeeze in.  By morning three more had arrived so the place was really packed – the car park was still empty.

There are quite a few hiking/biking trails marked, and also looks like some Roman ruins with an aqueduct in the distance.

Deciding to get away from the coast we took slightly smaller roads and headed west, travelling through varied terrain and changing vegetation – all beautiful in different ways.

Just before noon we saw our first Camino sign while passing through a town – in Spain for over a day before spotting one!  After a long day of driving we ended up at a lovely aire/sosta on the edge of the village of Benageber.  

It was a bit off the main road that had been very steep with many hairpin turns – as well there’d been a small rockslide that we stopped and cleared a bit so we could get by.

Once again it poured rain all night long, but otherwise was a peaceful place.  We got turned around a bit when leaving, looking for a different road than we came in on.  Eventually finding it we were glad to not be going down the hairpin road as this one was much straighter and less steep.

There are signs now and then warning of short fat cows from Canada – and they don’t mean me!  I know that’s not what the signs mean but they struck me as very funny – I wish I had a sticker of the maple leaf to put on one.  We never saw any cows though, short, fat or otherwise.

After a small diversion near Utiel we got going south and on to the village of Ricota that had another nice, but empty aire/sosta.  

Another night of unending rain, but again a very quiet area so slept well.  It’s a good thing we go to bed early as Henry is a very early riser – 6:00 is a late sleep-in for him, or if we’re very lucky perhaps 6:30.

With not far to go for the day we reached a campground in mid-morning, after passing workmen clearing a mud/rock slide and splashing through several small washouts, then winding our way along very narrow roads through the village of El Berra.  We get to have showers and do laundry – luxury!

Lido de Camaiore for Tirreno-Adriatico ITT

Leaving the aire before 8:00 we headed north towards Lido de Camaiore, stopping along the way for a fabulous cappuccino at a highway rest stop.

We got to Camaiore in good time and drove along the Lido, passing several of the team buses in the best parking areas.

Most of the parking areas were taped off for the teams and other race officials but we came to a perfect place near the Hotel Joseph.

There were some other campervans there already so we figured it was a good place to stop.

After a bite to eat we went for a walk back towards the start of tomorrow’s ITT – it was a bit of a ways and there were no cafes open or anything.  We did enjoy the excercise and fresh air, however.

There are several teams staying at the Hotel Joseph, and the mechanics, etc. are all in process of washing the time trial bikes and everything.

There are all sorts of sculptures and art pieces along the Lido – some of them are quite nice and some of them a bit puzzling.

Also, because we’re so close to Carrara there’s lots of marble – some of the sidewalks are actually made of it!

After a very early night and a good quiet sleep we were up early again.  Wanting a cappuccino we walked north this time along the Lido, eventually asking a policeman where a cafe might be found.  

Following his directions we shortly were seated outside a very nice, and increasingly busy cafe at one end of a large plaza.

Across from the plaza were more sculptures, and a lovely long pier that was very well made with stainless steel handrails – quite impressive.

There was a fellow playing the harp partway down – I think I even recognized the song he was playing which was something Italian and classical that I don’t know the name of.  

The beach here looks excellent – very wide and flat with fine white sand.

For a few hours in the late morning most of the riders were doing re-con of the course, then the police motos and photo motos took their turns.

The first racer left around 2:00 – it’s a straight north ride for almost 7 km, then a hairpin turn and back south to the finish, so each rider passes us twice, once in each direction.  I got the Cav…

…a heli – what??  They’re alway sneaking into my shots…

…someone coming from the beach who didn’t care at all about the race…

…Alaphilippe…

As some of the riders finished they slowly rode back to their hotels – sometimes on the race road and sometime on the sidewalk.  At one point I looked up and coming towards me was Richie Porte!  I waved and smiled (not having time to take a photo) and he smiled back and said ‘Hi’! – almost the highlight of my day.  I also got Ganna…

…Evenepoel…

…and Pogacar…

A very fine day of race watching, followed by another very early night.

Razo to Trabadelo

The morning was a bit misty on the beach in Razo but the surfers were already out.  We got going before noon, looking for the isolated beach aire we were originally trying to find.

We wound up and over some very narrow roads and finally saw the lovely beach, but there was nowhere to park and we almost got stuck in a field.  After I’d gotten out so I could direct Colin back to the road he started shouting ‘Get in!  Get in!’ so I quickly jumped in and shut the door – there was a swarm of very large, very angry hornets at the front of the van and they followed us, attacking the windshield as we got going up the road.

We finally got onto a better road and had a little break at the beach just outside the town of Ponteceso.  It was a lovely area, but marred slightly by an older fellow telling us we couldn’t take the dogs onto the beach – which we weren’t going to do anyway.  Another older guy got into a discussion with the first one and we wondered if it was going to get physical they got so heated about it.  We just continued on and went to the cafe/bar where we had a very nice coffee.

After our short break we continued around the northwestern point of Galicia, and stopped at a nice campground just outside the town of Louso.

We took a walk along the beach – dogs are allowed here! – and had a nice chat with a couple originally from Wales that now spend three months a year here – they have their own spot reserved and everything.

The next day we took a walk back into the town, all on paths and sidewalks overlooking the ocean.  Partway along one of my flip-flops broke – I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to walk with a broken flip-flop!

I managed to make it to the restaurant where we ended up – finally – having a nice lunch.  The place was very busy and apparently they only had one waitress that spoke english to serve us, although we could have made ourselves understood to anyone – it took forever, but ended up being pretty good.

After a very hot afternoon it finally cooled down a bit, but we noticed that we suddenly had very little battery power left.  In fact we had to shut down the lights and the fridge even went off.  The solar panel should have been plenty so we hadn’t hooked up to the electrics – we think there’s a problem between the solar panel and the battery – it works fine in the daytime, and charges while we drive, but suddenly seems to be losing power quickly as soon as the sun goes down.

Wednesday morning we left the campground and headed inland past Santiago de Compostela and on to an aire in the town of Portomarin, another of the many large stops on the Camino.

This close to Santiago there are now hundreds and hundreds of walkers as the various trails converge.

We walked around a bit, then chose a restaurant to have dinner in – it was quite nice.

The town is just packed with walkers – almost every business in the place is something catering to them – cafes, bars, pensions/auberges, pharmacies (we’ve seen the walking wounded, with every kind of bandage possible!) – good business for the locals, I hope.

Again in the night the power all failed, with the fridge going out in the very early morning.  We can’t even make tea in the morning as the gas goes out automatically when the power fails.

We took the ‘scenic route’ to Ponferrada the next day to stock up on groceries – the GPS spent almost an hour trying to get us to turn back and go north thru Lugo before giving up and acknowledging that we were taking the more southerly route.

Along the way we experienced an interesting incident – we got behind a line of vehicles that were all slowed down because of a very large, wide loaded truck ahead.  There was a huge dump truck on the deck of a low-bed, with the tires stacked with it.  It was moving extremely slowly and then it wasn’t moving at all – it had become stuck under an overpass that was just inches too low.

Luckily it was right near a slip road that everyone behind snuck around on, but the oncoming traffic was held up by police as the low-bed was going down the middle of the road where the overpass was supposed to be high enough to clear – not!

We made it to Ponferrada, did our shopping, then continued northwest a bit to a campground we’d found four years ago just outside the town of Trabadelo.

From Rio Luna to Foz, with Lots of Aires in Between

On Saturday we took another ride into San Emiliano and Colin watched the barking/howling dogs – he thinks they’re enjoying the ride and are actually making happy noises.  I like that idea a lot better – they’re sitting up and looking forward, their ears flapping in the wind – who wouldn’t enjoy that?

There’s a large rock outcropping at the edge of the village and on top are some storks roosting – very large nests and all, but I couldn’t actually glimpse any babies.

On the way back one of the wheels on the chariot came a bit loose and began to rub against the side so I had to stop – it took Colin a bit to return for us as I pushed the bike along the edge of the road.

I envisioned him starting his second beer by the time we got to the cafe, but he did notice we weren’t behind him anymore and turned around fairly shortly.

He fixed the wheel and we were on our way, stopping for a refreshing beverage at the cafe in Rabanal de Luna.

In the late afternoon we headed down to the campground bar and asked if the tv could be changed from the soccer game to the Vuelta a Espana – it’s the first stage and is a time trial around Burgos.

At half time of the soccer game we got our wish and were able to watch the last hour or so of the time trial, with Roglic putting in the best time and taking the red jersey on day one.  We were told – in a very friendly way – that the channel would not be changed for us again tomorrow as some of the locals were coming to the bar to watch the next soccer game on the big screen.

Two of the little boys staying next to us approached me one evening offering me one of several braided strings they’d made but I said no.  I regretted my dismissal of them and as they came back around a little later I waved them over.  They were so sweet – I chose one in purple and pink and it cost me a whole euro.  I’ve tied it to my camera case and when I showed them the next morning they were thrilled.

We weren’t in any great hurry to leave on Sunday morning and didn’t get away until almost noon – we followed the same road north that we’d taken two years ago towards Oviedo.

There’s a nice pullout near the border of Castillo Y Leon and Asturias with great views south back towards San Emiliano.

We had intended to stop at one of the aires near the top of the Bear Trail so we could take a ride, but it was so packed we didn’t even try – we kept going downhill to just past the town of Proaza where we’d stopped two years ago.  Once again the lot looked very full but we pulled into a space marked ‘bus’.

There were so many people coming and going off the trail that we decided we’d take our ride some other time – August seems to be when everyone in Spain takes their vacation all at once and we can’t stand the crowds!

We did spend the night in the parking area, along with about a dozen other vans.  It’s a fairly busy little road but nothing kept us awake.

There’s a very interesting mural on the side of a building in one of the towns on the way to Oviedo – all about the mining that was prevalent in the area in days gone by.

We had a bit of a time finding the Lidl’s store as the campervan’s GPS took us miles and miles from where we were meant to be.  Luckily we have the backup of Waze and eventually got where we were going.

All stocked up once again we headed west and a bit south to find another aire, intending to stay away from the north coast a bit longer in order to avoid the crowds.  And once again we got mis-directed, so had to back-track and try a different aire.

Along our ‘scenic route’ we did get to enjoy some great sites, and much of it was, of course, near one of the many Camino routes.

The aire we ended up at was not bad, and was located in the lovely village of Sta. Eulalia de Oscos.  We parked the campervan and walked the doggies to a nice bar with outdoor seating for refreshments.

They had a large tv that I could see from my outside chair and the bartender eventually gave in and changed channels to the Vuelta so we could see the last of the day’s stage up Picon Blanco.

The village itself has put some effort into being attractive – there are several displays and murals, and all of the buildings are well maintained and don’t look derelict, like in some places.

There’s a large field next to where we’re parked and it has a very lonely donkey in it – they’re much happier if they have a friend, even if it’s a goat or horse.

Colin fed it some carrots and we saw that it has some sort of skin condition, maybe cysts or tumours.

As we left the village just after 11:00 we saw yet another interesting sculpture – I like that the cow is wearing her helmet, and is also signalling a left-hand turn – haha!

As I walked down to take a photo of the cow-on-moto I also some more wall art.

We still wanted to stay a bit away from the coast so headed to our next chosen aire in the village of Taramundi.  The village looked quite nice but seemed to be teeming with visitors so we kept going.

The next aire on our list was in A Pontenova – yes, that is the name of the place – but we couldn’t find it.  There was an occasional sign saying ‘800 metres’ but then nothing but going in circles so we continued on to the next place – Mondonedo.

We found the aire but the spots weren’t really big enough for campervans – we parked temporarily to have a bite to eat and I did a bit of exploring with Mo.

The town seems fairly nice and has some interesting buildings – also it’s a big stop on the Camino.

There was an adorable little kitten on the ‘Juliet balcony’ of an apartment across from where we were parked – it was out on the ledge for a bit and wasn’t concerned about the drop.

He made it safely back inside and we left shortly after.  We changed our minds about going to the coast and decided to head to a campground we like just west of Foz, stopping in Ribadeo on the way to refill our cooking-gas supply.

It was an extremely frustrating endeavour, but successful in the end, finding what we needed at a Peugeot garage.

The San Rafael campground was open and quite busy, although the nice bar – with the big tv – was closed.  We got settled and I made a vegetable soup with bacon and mushrooms for dinner – it was pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I took a nice walk to the ocean after dinner, encountering a couple of kite-flyers on the way.

I don’t doubt that kites fly well here as the wind was fierce.

Monpaple Art, Tusson Cap, Hope Charity Hat

On Sunday morning we had lots of time for a bike ride before the final stage of the Tour started – they have it a little later now so that the presentations can be done near sunset at the Arc de Triomphe..

Our ride took us past the nearby village of Monpaple, which was having an art exhibition.  

We rode by and on to Aunac where we stopped for another of the very strong coffees.

On our return to Mansle we did stop in Monpaple and had a look around.

There was an abundance of clown paintings – including clown’s painting – but lots of other subjects as well.

The final TdF stage was the usual boring bunk for the first couple of hours – the winner and his team riding side-by-side drinking champagne, etc.  I always hope someone’s going to go for it but it never happens.

The only exciting part is when they hit the Champs-Élysées and do the eight circuits to the finish.  I was, of course, loudly cheering on Cavendish, but he was pinned in and couldn’t get past Wout van Aert, who won yet another stage.  That’s now a very difficult mountain stage, the individual time trial, and the final sprint that he’s won – seems like the young Belgian can do it all.  Still, even though he didn’t break Merckx’s record the Cav did tie it, and what a comeback Tour it was for him!

On Tuesday morning we heard sirens rushing along the highway and when we drove up to Ruffec to do some shopping we saw why.  A semi-truck had flipped into the ditch and looked like it had caught on fire.

There were several fire trucks and other emergency vehicles and it looked like they were trying to decide how to get the trailers uprighted.

On our ride on Wednesday we went to Tusson for coffee.

Along the way we saw a couple more of the ‘mannequins’ lounging around.

The coffee shop we ended up going to was awesome – it looked quite small from the outside but had a lovely fairly large terrace area at the back.

Most of the folks that came in for coffee and cake were brits, and we enjoyed the best cappuccino we’ve had since we left Italy.

For the first time I ventured into the church that’s on one side of the main square in Mansle.

It actually has some nice stained glass windows, and was wonderfully cool and quiet.

On Thursday we went to the Hope Charity shop in Sauze-Vaussais and picked up a few jigsaw puzzles and some books.  On the way out Colin pointed to the hat section and I scored a great black sun hat – I could have used it last weekend and avoided the raccoon eyes.

Finally Mansle

After a bit of a sleep-in we had a morning cappuccino at one of the beach bars, then headed off at 10:00.

In no particular hurry we had a leisurely drive generally west and a bit north, passing through Gap, which was a bit of a drag.

The current highway goes right through the city, although they are finally building a bypass.  Maybe next time we come this way we won’t encounter the same issue.

Somewhere between Gap and Die we encountered a road incident – several police cars were gathered near a dump truck that hadn’t quite made a curve in the road and had run headon into a barrier at the side – totally smashed the front-end in.

Our last night on the road (this time) was spent at the edge of the village of Le Champs de Raphael, where we’ve stayed before.  I recall that last time I set up my tent and spent half the night wondering if I was going to get blown away in the wind. 

The view is awesome, and you can just hear the clanking of the cow bells in the valley below.

When leaving in the morning we encountered a ‘deviation’ that was somewhat confusing.  After going about 10 km in the direction we wanted we had to turn around and retrace our route almost completely, as did at least a couple of other vehicles.

We eventually joined the road that Colin was familiar with and made it up to Clermont-Ferrand where we turned west for the rest of the journey.

Whether new or old, viaduct or bridge building use the same basic structure….

We stopped for a quick bite to eat at a small park that had some interesting wood sculptures.

Continuing on refreshed we reached Mansle in the early evening.  Had a very welcome hot shower and a nice dinner of salmon with new potatoes and green beans cooked by Neal – very good ‘homecoming’.

TA Stage 2 – Canneto

When taking Mo for a walk in the morning I came across an old man that tried to warn me about something.  I understood that there was a danger to the little dog, but didn’t think it was wolf or wild boar – I know the words for those in Italian and this was something different.  I did understand that I should not take Mo into the field, so hustled back to the campervan along the road.

Colin googled dangerous animals in Italy and it’s the porcupine!  They’re usually active at night and tend to sleep in the bushes at the edges of the fields but they can be very fierce, especially when taken by surprise.

After breakfast we went back into Canneto and had a cappuccino, then went for a walk around the older part of the village.  

It was quite lovely with beautiful potted plants and flowers, as well as a couple of fountains and sculptures.

We backtracked about 1 km to find a roadside spot – it was nice and wide as well as flat, although it did get pretty hot.

A breakaway of three riders arrived at 2:57, followed about two minutes later by the entire peloton, and they were moving pretty fast.

I finally spied Froome in one of my photos, and he didn’t look too great – although it’s almost a miracle he can even ride again after his horrific crash at the Dauphine last year. 

Once again I scored some bidons – this time AG2R and Lotto Soudal.

We packed up quickly as we had a slightly longer drive south to our next stop.  A very large bright green grasshopper tried to hitch a ride on our table leg.

We’re still in Toscana (Tuscany) and have been travelling through very beautiful countryside and some lovely villages.  We drove as far south as Poggio Murella, a village on the next day’s route.  We had a nice drink with complimentary appies at a bar and spent the night at a pullout right in the village.