Friday, 25 May 2007

Camping with yer Pensioners

Bob says: As most of our trip so far is in the off season, the majority of the other campsite guests are pensioners with campervans and caravans. These are what is known as Yer Grey Nomads. Typically yer Grey Nomad is very wary of young campers. They assume you will disturb their peace, raving all night. Over the last few weeks I have attempted to make contact with yer Grey Nomads and have picked up a few tips on carrying out conversations. Upon approaching you will have to make the first move due to yer Grey Nomads apprehension of youth. A good opening line should involve a comment about the weather. The weather is yer Grey Nomads top topic, and a simple comment about it may result in up to half an hours´ conversation. Should the conversation start to wane comments involving food in particular English food e.g ."you can´t get a good cup of tea round here." "You can´t get bacon/sliced bread/baked beans(or other heinz products) like you do at home." Comments involving foreign food should follow along the lines of, "Why do they have to put so much garlic/ sauce/ spice on everything?" "They" being Jonny foreigner.
When talking about foriegners on the campsite, express some surprise at how friendly and helpful they can be (yer Grey Nomads are not just apprehensive of youth, foreigners provoke a lot of suspicion, in particular Germans).
Following this easy guide will lead to many a friendly conversation.

Yer grey nomad is also fond of pets. This is due to children leaving the nest and needing a replacement. This sometimes manifests itself in some strange behaviour towards their pets. Strange behaviour noted so far: a couple walking their two little dogs in a pram, yes a dog pram! a dog pram designed for dogs!! I cannot believe there is such a thing, but i saw it with my own eyes. Also a frenchman walking his cat on a lead around the campsite, waiting for it to do its business.

Wild camping

Ruth says: After the Picos De Europa ( another one of our 1001 things to see), we drove to the Potuguese border near a little town called Miranda on the Duero river. (Ribero Del Duero Country). Bob had spent the previous couple of days convincing me that it was a good idea to camp out in the wild while we were in Spain because it is perfectly legal and it would be good practice for when we are in the wilderness of Kazakhstan, plus it´s free. I was really reluctant. It is one thing camping on a campsite where you have toilets and showers and mown grass so there are fewer insects, but something else completely when you have to dig a hole to go to the loo. Anyway, i finally agreed and we found a spot that i deemed suitably isolated. We set up the tent and were about to start cooking dinner when a car drove past on a road that we had completely missed, about 100 metres away! I wasn´t happy. My answer to this was to get drunk, as you can see in the picture. It worked.

The next morning we used our solar shower for the first time , aided by a kettle due to the lack of sun after a night of thunderstorms. A lovely site for any passing motorists. Bob particularly enjoyed his wilderness camping experience. By the time we left there were four holes in the ground with his name on!
Bob says: The top two pictures show our day trip to Portugal in the rain. We went on a river cruise up the Duero on a boat with a glass ceiling that you couldn´t see out of because of the rain. The commentary was in Portuguese and Spanish, all in all a bit of a failure, although very amusing to see how excited yer Portuguese and Spanish get when empty nests are pointed out to them. We also got some free Portuguese sherry whilst watching the bird show at the end. So all was not lost.

Ruth says: After our boat trip we drove to our next destination, but forgetting it was sunday we managed to miss the supermarket opening hours. We drove into one of the biggest villages we passed, which was tiny, and went into the only bar to ask about food. The guy behind the bar told us (in Spanish) that he didn´t do food and the only place in the village that did was Casa Carmen. He gave us directions (in Spanish) so off we went. We weren´t exactly sure what he had said and when we found ourselves wandering up a tiny narrow street where there couldn´t possibly be any restaurants we were sure that we had misunderstood. However, one house we walked passed had Casa Carmen in ceramic tiles outside. We kind of hung around outside not really sure what to do. It certainly wasn´t a restaurant. Anyway, some bloke came outside and looked at our little lost faces and asked us (in Spanish )if we wanted to eat. He led us into the house right into the kitchen where his whole family were assembled for sunday lunch. The old woman at the table, jumped up and cleared a table for us, put out a table cloth and proceeded to bring us a three course meal, all while the famnily carried on eating their lunch and with the tv blaring out dubbed spanish westerns in the corner. This was our little taste of real spain.

More Picos De Europa

Bob says: Part of the walk was cut into the rock face, going through tunnels. As you can see above, and yes the fruits of the season were indeed peaches!

Picos De Europa

Bob says: Following the shite weather on the coast we headed for the mountains and found beautiful sunshine and amazing views in The Picos De Europa. We spent a couple of nights there and did what is regarded as the finest walk in Spain through the Cares Gorge. The gorge was around 9km long starting at the top where the walls of the gorge were only about 10 feet apart running through to the end where the river was cutting through 2 huge mountains about 2500 metres in height. At the beginning of the gorge the river was ciphoned off into a canal that ran the length of the gorge. The canal weaved in and out of the rock face and close to the end of the gorge, as far as we walked, was around 400 feet above the river. Simply an amazing piece of engineering.

Comillas in Cantabria

Ruth says: This was our attempt to go to the beach after our night out in Pamplona. The weather was rubbish so we ended up wandering around the little town looking at old buildings. Nice old buildings, but still just old buildings.


Bob says: Pamplona, home of the Bull Run. Visiting Pamplona without the Bull Run run felt a bit like having a bacon sandwich without the bacon. However we had a great night visiting several tapas bars, my favourite being the Vegan Bar above.
Ruth says: This was the first night where we didn´t camp but far from being luxurious we stayed in a pension that was so filthy and dusty that we were both coughing and sneezing all night. It was run by a little old lady who didn´t give us a key and told us just to ring on the doorbell at any time of day or night and say"numero cinco " and we would be let in. In our lack of same language speaking she also mistook us for pilgrims on the road to Santiago!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A word on yer French

Bob says: Parisians? Think of every preconception you have about Frenchmen, unless of course you are French, and times by 10. Typical Parisian: barely a minute goes by without lighting a cig, shrugs shoulders raising arms with elbows at 90 degrees and hands out in a nonchalent manner at least 50 times a day, unhelpfully speaking French while clearly knowing English ( although as soon as the wife comes out with a bit of Francais, they will speak English), an indifference to personal hygiene and so on and so forth.
My point is that Parisians give Frenchmen a bad name. Apart from the odd nonchalant shrug frenchmen are none of the above. I write this while camping in the pyrenees near the Spanish border having travelled through much of France, and yer Frenchman is only too pleased to speak English to a language illiterate yorkshireman like myself, only too pleased to throw in a free tin of pate as i buy my foie gras at the market, and only too pleased to inflate my car tyres for free and to offer sound advice on directions that i subsequently ignored. Not only this, yer French have life sorted as it should be; pleasure before work, including 2 hour lunches, more time with family and friends etc. Ruth and i had a beautifully cooked simple meal for lunch, "Plat Du Jour", in the only cafe in a small village on the Loire. The cafe was mainly filled with local workers, all having the Plat du Jour consisting of 3 courses plus wine for just over 10 euros. A cheese board was passed around from table to table before dessert, and everything was very civilised. I´m pretty sure this would happen every working day. How nice is that? We (the British) have got a lot to learn from yer French.

The Pyrenees

Ruth says: after a long drive down, leaving the Dordogne in the pouring rain we got to the most beautiful campsite in the world, ever. It was right up in the pyrenees, about 1000metres above sea level. We were surrounded by snowcapped peaks, the sun was shining, the bathrooms were heated and there was a free Sauna. What more could you want. We took this opportunity to do a bit of walking, and so for the first time ever i bought a pair of walking boots. This is a big deal. The last couple of times i have climbed mountains, it was in flip flops. As you can see from the photos it was absolutely stunning. The first walk we did was very very hard. We managed to lose the path and we ended up scrambling up the rocks on our hands and knees (the rocks you can see behind us in the photo of the two of us. That photo is taken on the way down hence the happy faces.) We didn´t quite reach the peak, although we got to about 2500 metres. It just got to the point where we´d either have to scramble over snow or rock climb. But the stunning views were worth it.
The second walk was to the first of our "1001 natural wonders to see before you die" (thank you Nina and Nial) : The Cirque De Gavernie. You really can´t see how amazing it was from the photos.
Bob says: Imagine taking Malham cove in Yorkshire, times it by 10 throw a load of snow at it, add the highest waterfalls in Europe and add a hundred foot gorge to the river running from it. And that is pretty much it.
Ruth says: we still have blisters.


Ruth says: The top photo is the little village, about two hundred metres from our campsite which was again on the banks of a river. It was where the Dordogne and The Vezere converged.
The other two were taken on a little canoeing trip that we did down the Dordogne, where Bob managed to steer us into a tree and nearly capsized the boat.

Bob says: The extravagent Dordogne. Everything in the Dordogne appears to be luxurious, not least the food. Whatever your thoughts on the production of Foie Gras, I think you will all agree, my sister-in-laws included that it is worth it. We blew our daily budget on a visit to the Foie Gras market in Sarlat-La-Canada. We do have a photo of this but the wife refused to let me put it on because her face looks funny on it. Women!

The Loire

Bob says: The magestic Loire. A very royal river, surrounded by Chateaux, that whilst very beautiful charge a fortune to get in. I much prefer the lovely rolling countryside as it costs nowt. We camped on the banks of the Loire river that was about 170 yards wide at the point of the campsite. I know this beacuse i creamed a 7 iron from outside our tent to the opposite side. ( For non-golfers let me explain...I hit a golf ball, striking it perfectly with a no. 7 golf club) Thus enabling me to win a bet with the wife. She did the washing up that night. The following night i did the washing up following a dubious defeat to the wife at crazy golf, not saying she cheated...but she did!
Ruth says: The bottom picture is from the town Amboise, a little way from our campsite where we spent the morning in the market buying a hundred and fifty million different kinds of dried meats, and then had traumas when we couldn´t find a shop open to buy wine. It was after 12 on a sunday. It was all right in the end though and Bob finally got over the panic when we found a very nice pattiserie that just happened to also supply the all important wine.


Ruth says: Our second stop was Paris. We stayed in a campsite in the Bois de Boulogne ( wrong spelling i know). It was a bit of a ropey place but it was right next to the Seine so ideal for getting into the city. I was starting to get used to camping, and apart from the dramas involved in having to go to the loo in the middle of the night, our bed was super comfy and the whole Al Fresco lifestyle thing is pretty cool.
We did a lot lot lot of walking in Paris ( we worked out we walked about 12km each day). In an attempt to save money and to keep ourselves from turning into lumps of lard we walked into Paris which took us about an hour and a half as we got lost and managed to walk past a lady of the night touting for business in a short skirt and bra in the middle of the day.

Paris was beautiful. We did pretty much all of the touristy stuff, walking to it all...( the Birkenstocks are holding up well) including Montmatre which I absolutely loved. Sitting on the hill in front of Sacre Coeur in the sunshine overlooking Paris was just gorgeous.

Bob says: As we did our first longish stint of driving towards Gay Paris, we happened to be listening to the best of Bob Marley. It was very apt i thought that Bob should be singing about "Moving Yorkshire People" on his "Exodus" track. Although I said nothing to Ru, I´m sure it was a poignant moment for us both. Just for the record, although the wife is not Yorkshire, she has acheived Honorary Yorkshire Status by being married to a True Yorkshireman. A status that she is rightly proud of as she comes from ye London!

Whilst obviously being a magnificent structure, i feel the Arc de Triumph as a name is way off the mark. Originally conceived by yer Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century during the time he was rampaging through Europe following the first revolution in 1792 (yer French love a revolution. There have been at least 5 up to this present day). The Arc was finally finished in 1826. By this time France had been defeated by the Russians with the final insult coming when they met their Waterloo. In the mean time Napoleon fled into exile to a small island in the South Atlantic, hardly a glorious end to his time as emporer. Since then apart from a few colonial disputes, the French have largely concentrated on La Cuisines and Les Arts, and why not? Any serious skirmishes have quickly ended in surrender for yer French. So, I hereby by rename it The Arc de Surrender before Defeat.
N.B. I take no responsibility for the historical innacuracies of the above.


Bob says: Beautiful Bruges. The so called Venice of the North, although Huddersfield has more canals so I think it has some stiff competition for that title....Perhaps Venice is the Huddersfield of the South?
Ruth says: This was our first stop and as you can see it happened to be on May day, so there was a rather half hearted attempt at a parade which consisted of a few brass bands, but no floats, much to Bob´s disappointment. We spent a lovely day in the sunshine eating chips and mayonaise, boating along the canal and generally soaking up the atmosphere. Oh and beer...lots of lovely beer ( Bob´s word´s not mine).