Post 5 Last days in Sri Lanka…chilling!

Our last few days in Sri Lanka were spent in 2 contrasting places. We treated ourselves to one night of relaxation at the Turtle Bay Hotel at Kalametiya. Situated on an unspoilt beach, it was very peaceful, topped off by a delicious dinner by candlelight around a twinkling pool! Of course, we can’t sit still for too long, so at dawn we were taken for a punt on a small local boat around the bird reserve. It was stunning. So peaceful. Just us, a multitude of birds, water buffalo and some monkeys!

Then it was off to Galle. A delightful town inside 17th century dutch fortifications. Our hotel, Fort Bliss, was a charming 4 room old colonial house inside the walls. We did the 3km walk around the ramparts with Tissa explaining the Portuguese/Dutch/British history. We were also retracing the steps of Chris’ father, who visited here on his way to his posting on the Cocos Islands in WW2. It is still partly used as a military base, and at 6.30 am a large group of army guys came running past, shouting motivational slogans, Platoon style.

The town is charming, with museums, historic buildings and cafes. We had an excellent meal at Chambers – a Lebanese / Asian fusion of delicious mezze for about £10 pp.

It looked so delicious we ate half of it before we remembered the photo!

4 poster bed Sri Lankan style!

We were intrigued to see Morris minor cars dotted around, in apparently jolly good condition. Turns out the Morris minor repair shop is down the road, making spare parts for them… and sending them to the UK too!

Then to the airport. A sad farewell to Tissa – he has been amazing. We can tell he disapproves of us going to India! He is a Sri Lankan Buddist, so the Indians have always been the Invaders!

We won’t say anything. He is kindly looking after a suitcase for us while we are in India so we can ‘travel light’. We come back to Colombo for a night before Australia… and it turns out that in a complete coincidence, we have booked an air bnb with a good friend of his!

We absolutely loved Sri Lanka, and I really hope we can return.

A few other things we loved… the children in their school uniforms, Post boxes from the British era, and the FOOD!




South in 15 days, North in 2!

We left Seville Tuesday morning and headed north, using the excellent, and toll free, route 66 through eastern Spain. We had a stop at the fascinating city of Merida, which was once a hugely important Roman city. This is evident from the extensive buildings which remain interspersed with more modern buildings. We could only visit the amphitheatre, classic theatre, temple of Diana and casa del Mitrio, however  you can buy an inclusive ticket to all the monuments. and the museum.

In addition, the 9th century moorish castle contains a fascinating well. It is housed in a building and reached by a divided descending stairway so that donkeys could be brought down to collect water and go up the other side.

After Merida we pressed on Northwards to a city I have always wanted to visit, Salamanca.

We arrived at 8pm and found the free parking under the bridge. We walked into town because we had heard it was wonderful at night.  We were immediately bowled over by the network of historic syreets and beautiful sandstone buildings, all illuminated. The Plaza Major is a jewel. We ate delicious tapas at the Vegetarian Cafe Atelier and wandered back to Boris.

Salamanca is full of history, and home to one of the oldest universities in the world. The next morning we explored the city again, climbing the Bell Tower and visiting the Old and New Cathedrals, which are woven into one. They contained some of the best mediaeval wall painting and altar paintings that we have ever seen.

Our time was limited so we did not visit inside the Old University buildings or the architectually lovely Art Deco museum ..  we are saving that for next time!

We did find a super restaurant, En La Parra, for a final special lunch… a delicious and creative tasting menu for 37 euros. A great end to the Iberian part of our holiday. Luckily we have done lots of walking so we havent put any weight on! The food has been marvellous everywhere.

LThen a long drive north almost to the Spanish border with France. Another free night opposite Orio before some Spanish supermarket shopping to buy ‘essentials’ like my favourite Salmorejo soup!Crossing into France we stopped at a bird reserve and with the help of a Grey wagtail, a Greylag goose and a humble blue tit took our bird list total over 100 for the trip. 

Finally our drive north continued to Pons for 2 days with friends before sailing home from Cherbourg on Saturday. What a great trip!

We will have driven nearly 3000 miles.. this map shows our route.

Finally… a proper Bimble in Boris. Hurray!

Chris restaurant Le VeyWe are finally doing a proper Bimble in Boris.

As usual, we waited until 24 hours before departure to decide on a destination. Our choices were the Isle of Man and Ireland, or Brittany. Long range weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable, but although things looked more promising for South and Eastern England, the northwest was cool and unsettled. So… France won!

June 8th/9th/10th 2017

Thursday night saw us having the most amazing evening out with some of the family. We went to Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant, the Fat Duck for Dinner. Oh My. We loved it. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but for us – Definitely the best dining experience EVER!

Dinner finished at Midnight, then it was a 2 hour drive home (thanks to road closures), bed at 3am with the alarm set for 6.00am. Up we got and set off for Poole to catch the Barfleur ferry to Cherbourg!

So glad we booked a cabin! We slept for 4 hours and were fairly refreshed on arrival.

With no set itinerary we decided to head for an area in Normandy that had always intrigued me – Suisse Normande.

It did not disappoint. An area of deeply cut river gorges about 40km Southwest of Caen, it was charming, beautiful and best of all, fairly quiet despite it being a summer weekend evening. We found a fantastic Aire just outside the village of Pont d’Ouilly (prizes awarded for correct pronounciation!). Aires are the super system of cheap or free areas for motorhomes across France. It was on the riverbank, with pitches separated by hedges. Electricity and water included for the grand sum of 9 euros. It was SO peaceful.  We went for a walk along the pretty river Orme and then slept very well…not waking up until 8.45 – very unusual for me!

Next morning we drove to La Vey, a pretty village near the river cliffs. Our objective was to climb Sugar loaf Mountain (Pain de sucre). This was quite a pull uphill but the views from the top were splendid. We walked along the ridge, past a paragliding launching site, marvelling at them leaping off the top. We weren’t tempted by the offer of a tandem flight though!

After working up an appetite, and achieving my desired step count by lunchtime, we found a lovely café by the river, Au fil de l’Eau, and reacquainted ourselves with the ‘Menu du jour’ – 3 courses for 16 euros. Excellent – no need to cook in the van tonight!  We sat by the water on a flower bedecked terrace sipping “une pression et un panache” and watching birds, boats and canoes!

I should point out that our decision to head to France was now totally vindicated – a lovely French lunch and the temperatures were around 25 degrees so I was happily wearing shorts and a short sleeved blouse. The fleeces were packed away – for now anyway!

After lunch, Chris could hardly contain his excitement… I had discovered that in the next village, Clecy,  there was one of the largest model railways in Europe! We walked up to see it. Even I was impressed. It was HUGE. 350 square metres of layout and half a kilometre of track  with so many beautifully crafted scenes. Lots of locomotives whizzing round, moving scenery AND they put the lights out and it was illuminated for night time!

Oh Dear… Chris has now got even grander designs, and wants a bigger cabin for his train layout!

Then we said goodbye to Suisse Normande and headed for our main objective – Brittany. A beautiful early evening drive across country for 2 hours, hardly seeing anyone else, brought us to Nozay, north of Nantes and on the edge of Brittany. We were aiming for another aire, again with water and electricity, but just 8 euros, and alongside 4 lakes. One of the lakes was for watersports and we spent the lovely sunny evening watching the automated tow machine taking wake boarders around the circuit and over the jumps – some more successfully than others. Again we slept like logs!

March Mini-Bimble



I am trying a new format this month which is hopefully more useful as a reference and information tool! Do let me know your thoughts..
Places visited : Lyme Regis, Dorset;           Beer, Devon.
Car Parking: Lyme Regis- excellent. Both the Charmouth Road and Holmbush carparks have dedicated spaces for motorhomes. £2 per day at this time of year. Both are up hills though.
Beer – motorhomes can use clifftop carpark £1 in winter. Railway shop at Pecorama has its own carpark.
Overnight: A Britstop Farm shop – excellent.
Eating Places: The Penny Black cafe in Lyme Regis – excellent.
Activities: Walking the Undercliff path at Lyme Regis 8/10; visiting the model railway shop at Beer 7/10

Our main purpose for this trip was to visit the Peco model railway shop at Beer. We set off on a glorious March morning and decided to visit Lyme Regis and do the Undercliff walk.

Lyme Regis is a lovely place to explore, and it was sheltered from the Northeasterly wind, so we had a lovely picnic sat in the sun of the promenade! Our lunch was some excellent sandwiches from the Penny Black café which is tucked behind the Post Office in the main Street.

Then we walked west, heading into a lost world known as the Undercliff nature reserve, which is one of the most important wilderness areas in Britain. The overgrown landslips form a jungle-like habitat which is fun to explore: a path leads from behind the harbour up a steep flight of steps into the woodlands of the Undercliff, riven with streams and valleys, and sudden open grassy areas affording dramatic sea views. There are rare plants here, lots of birdlife, and the temperature is usually 3 degrees higher than the countryside around.

We walked a total of 6 miles out and back – you cannot continue to Axmouth at the moment due to a landslip, but they are hopeful the full path will reopen by mid 2016.

Lyme Regis is also an excellent place for Fossil hunting, and there are several museums who organise workshops and walks.

After the walk we sat in the sun – inside Boris – enjoying the sun and reading. Then off to a local Farm Shop which is part of the Britstops scheme. We have used this for several years to find free places to spend the night. membership is just £27 per year – we make or money back in 2 nights.

The shop was excellent , containing a vast array of fresh produce, much of it local or home grown. Also much in evidence was genuine French produce, the product of regular trips to France.

After a very peaceful night, we awoke to discover the temperature had dropped to -3.5 degrees. Thank goodness for a thick duvet and a hot water bottle. We were lovely and snug.

The next morning we headed off to the objective of our visit – a visit to the Peco model Railway shop at Beer. Chris is building a layout and he wanted ideas about design, tunnels etc. I however bought 5 teeny boy scouts with a hand cart, some 1950’s schoolboys and some gates – all 00 guauge.

Playtime over, we headed back home on what was now a very grey and cold day indeed.

17. Last legs! Charente Maritime to Christchurch, England!

Another day catching up with Jenny and Tim (I wish they would stop running off!), and visiting the lovely and historic town of Saintes (rhymes with pant!). Roman and gothic relics abound and the newly pedestrianised centre makes it a super place to Bimble away a morning. The formal planting was quite impressive too!20150918_115743The serious business of the trip was to find a good lunch spot. We can wholeheartedly recommend La Terrasse, by the river, whose 18 euro 3 course lunch was exceptionally good quality and value.20150918_13130420150918_140343

Rain was forecast for the rest of the  afternoon so we headed back to the house and had a good session of cards and nattering.

Saturday September 19th

My birthday! A nice breakfast and a lovely gift of a picture frame from Jenny and Tim, before our sad departure 😔. Thank you to Jenny, Tim, Mimi and Monti for a super stay, but Mimi…. you need to improve your hide and seek technique before our next visit!20150918_103452

We headed north via the outskirts of Rochefort and La Rochelle. This is an excellent way to avoid motorway tolls!

We used to own a cottage in the Vendee and as we drove by we resisted the pull to go and see the village …We had a more important mission!

When we had the cottage we also had a favourite vineyard.. Chateau de Rosnay. We wanted to get there before it shut for lunch!

We made it in time, and soon 2 boxes of our favourite white wine – Tendresse – were installed in Boris. Time to head north again, picking up the autoroute just south of Nantes from where it is free all the way to Rennes and Caen.

It was a good drive. We stopped to picnic on the Nantes – Brest canal, but that was our only pause before arriving at Carrefour at Ouistreham to stock up with cheese and other ‘essentials’.

However we were not heading straight for the ferry. By using the ferry at 8.30am next morning we saved £140, and having the camper we could sleep in an aire free of charge so didn’t need to pay for a hotel room. So we crossed the river at the site of Pegasus bridge and went a few miles east to Cabourg, where we enjoyed a bracing walk along the promenade and the dunes before returning to Boris to get changed.20150919_18582220150919_190601

I had booked a restaurant for dinner using their Internet booking site. Au pied des Marais had super reviews and we were very excited. When we arrived  it was a bit of a shock when they said they had not received the booking and were full. My face fell and they took pity on us and found us a table. Wow am I glad they did. The food was exquisite and very unusual. Presentation was excellent and the service was so courteous and helpful. The owner / head chef was charming – he takes all the orders and serves the main courses , and is often clearing tables and serving drinks and chatting to his guests. There was a roaring fire which some of the dishes were cooked upon.

For our foodie fans, here are some photos of our choices. Nibbles were followed by 2 amuse bouche – a veloute of carrot, pleurotte and broccoli and a broccoli, and chorizo mix with tomato cream on top.20150919_205435

Starters – Chris had Oysters while I had a tower of Lisette (tiny fish) with vegetables and asparagus topping in a gazpacho coulis. 20150919_210943Then the Trou normande. . A delicious apple sorbet over which they drizzled Pommeau (16%) or Calvados (42%) – your choice!

Entrée –  we both had Skate in a tower with vegetables, spinach puree and a sensational apple cream sauce. 20150919_214600Then cheese – a bon bon Normande  which was a parcel of melting camembert.20150919_221015

Finally, the dessert and to my astonishment mine arrived with a candle and Birthday greetings piped around the edge, and served by the owner..who offered to sing but said he didn’t recommend it!20150919_22301420150919_223023

Finally coffee with home made bonbons!

Sublime. And the price of that whole menu was 36 euros..  about £27.50.

What a treat. Thank you again Chris as this was the second half of my birthday present!

Finally, we left at 11pm, and went from the sublime to the ridiculous. We drove back to the port at Ouistreham and Boris crept in to the aire next to the docks, where about 40 other campers were already hunkered down for the night. We found a spot and snuggled down for our last night in Boris for this holiday. We set the alarm for 6.45 and both slept like logs!

Sunday September 20th

The alarm worked and we were soon queueing at the ferry terminal. It was a foggy start but it soon lifted and we had a flat calm crossing, arriving into Portsmouth by lunchtime. Best of all, we spotted a gannet and an arctic tern which took our bird total from a frustrating 149 to a brilliant 151 for the holiday!20150920_124925

Then home, and after some unpacking etc. Jen arrived home and cooked us a delightful birthday dinner. 20150920_19275320150920_195739Delicious. 💗 A fabulous end to a great trip.

16. A roof over our heads!! St. Emilion to Pons, Charente Maritime

Wednesday September 16th

The Yelloh campsite at St Emilion was excellent and we got all our chores done before leaving and driving West,  through Libourne and out along the Dordogne estuary to Bourg. From there we followed the Gironde corniche road to Villeneuve and on to Blaye. It was narrow in places but very quiet, and it was interesting to see the houses built here, with their gardens down to the water.

At Blaye the Dordogne river has merged with the Garonne river to form the huge Gironde estuary. Blaye was first defended by the Romans. Subsequently a significant 12th century castle was built when the area was under English rule, but today what can be seen is a huge citadel built in 1685.

Boris at the citadel at Blaye.
Boris at the citadel at Blaye.

King Louis XIV wanted to defend the estuary and he commissioned Sebastian Le Prestre Vaubon to devise a plan. The estuary was wider than the range of cannon fire, so Vaubon devised a plan to bolt the estuary shut. He built the citadel at Blaye, Fort Medoc on the opposite bank and a small fort on a reclaimed sandbank in the middle. These were not subjected to attack until 1814!

We explored the citadel, dodging a few spots of rain. There is ample free parking  for campers just outside the gates, and it is a nice overnight stop as well. There is also a municipal campsite inside the citadel!!

It was then time to head for a supermarket to stock up on some essentials… wine, Normandy cider, confit de canard…. before taking the excellent D137 north to Pons to avoid the motorway tolls. Every other vehicle seemed to be a campervan heading south. British, German,  French and Netherlands. It made us sad to be heading home, but first we were heading to our friends in Villars-en-Pons for a few days.

We had a lovely afternoon and evening catching up on news and enjoying a scrumptious Fruits de mer supper. I’ve never seen so many Oysters and Prawns, and the Crab was wonderful.20150916_181815

Now to sleep in a bed for the first time in a long while.

Thursday September 17th

We heard on the news about terrible rainstorms to the south of us which had resulted in 2 deaths, and then saw that there had also been torrential rain in the UK with flooding in Bournemouth and Boscombe at home. We were obviously very lucky to have missed most of it!

Today we headed out to Talmont, a lovely village on a promontory founded by King Edward I. The old church is lovely – very simple, and looking out over the estuary as it has done for nearly 1000 years. The town is quite a tourist trap but still very pleasant. The streets are lined with flowers and there are some excellent artisan shops and eateries.

Fishing was a major industry here, and the adjoining cliffs have traditional carrelets or fishing huts.20150917_150131

We had excellent and very reasonable  galettes for lunch at La Talmontaise, and then drove to Palmyre  for a blustery walk along the cliffs, again looking out to the estuary, but much nearer the open Atlantic now. There is a beautiful sandy beach here which is dotted with the remains of Nazi blockhouses from their Atlantic Wall defences in WW2.20150917_142922

Following the walk we headed back to Jenny and Tim ‘ s via a garden centre where we spotted the latest must have accessory to enable you to take your dog or cat for a walk…20150917_165742..the doggy pushchair!

Then back to Jenny and Tim’s for another excellent supper and then a very giggly evening of cards!

12. Twists and turns and roads that are possibly not meant for Campervans? Lumbier to Itxaspe via Hondarriba

We awoke to find a very normal looking campsite in the daylight, if rather empty. We set off promptly for our main objective of the day – The Foz de Lumbier!  A foz is a gorge!

Parking was easy by the entrance, and as we started to walk towards the gorge, a huge bird swept through the sky and flew through the opening in front of us… a Lammergeier. The largest vulture in the Pyrénées with a wingspan of 2.7 metres! Fantastic, especially as they are only occasional visitors to this gorge. The main residents were waiting for us around the corner. Griffon vultures. Lots and lots of them at different places along the magnificent gorge.20150909_094544Flying, soaring on thermals or just perched on the crags, they were amazing to see. 20150910_100642We saw egyptian vultures and a booted eagle too. The sky was also alive with Crag Martins and Swifts. You could walk the whole length of the gorge, because amazingly a railway had been laid high along one side, and the path followed the old track. Through 2 long tunnels as well! It was incredible from start to finish for both the spectacular scenery and the birds. 20150910_110008Total cost…2 euros for parking!

We had been expecting rain by 11am, and so had planned to spend a wet afternoon in the city of Pamplona… BUT by 11am it was still sunny so we changed plans and headed up into the mountains for some more walks, birds and scenery.

Next stop the Foz de Abayon about 10km up the road. Not possible to walk here, but the view from the mirador was so beautiful.20150910_122846

And still the sun shone, so we decided to test Boris on mountain roads and follow a tour I had found in a book!!

Chris was a hero for braving it! He drove miles and miles through gorgeous valleys and hills, with twists and hairpin bends everywhere! Spain has used it’s EU money wisely, and the roads are really good quality, they just kept getting narrower! Suddenly we were on a remote pass on top of the Pyrénées. The views were awesome, but there were some very menacing clouds in one direction.20150910_153714

We were aiming for a nature reserve…the Bosque d’Irati, in one of the most remote and untouched forests in Europe. We got there in the end… the very end of the road! Truly in the middle of nowhere.

We did a 4 mile hike through beautiful natural forest. 20150910_165531It had a Jurassic park feel about it, and that was only compounded when we saw a stunning Salamander on the path. Ok…it isn’t a dinosaur…but you don’t see one of those everyday.

Our other remote hope was to see a very rare bird… a white backed woodpecker. Suddenly we heard a bird calling. We scanned the trees and there it was. We were able to watch it for about 10 minutes. 20150911_110321There was not another person for miles. It was an astonishing place.

We then had to drive 24 kms back along the twisty road… still having dodged the rain, but the pass was in cloud for our return. As we descended out of the mist we went by a really isolated farm, where all the sheep had newborn lambs!20150911_110109

Another 35kms of twists and turns brought us to Roncevalles and Camping Urrobi.   This was an excellent site and enabled us to catch up on all the usual ablutions and jobs.

Friday September 11th

We had a lie in!! Set off at 11.30 and headed on across the Pyrénées. More twists and turns but then… a small autoroute with tunnels to iron out the bends. A welcome rest for Chris’ arm muscles and for my vertigo… I was a quivering mass of jelly on some of the bends yesterday! I must say though,  that there is so little traffic on these roads that we had hardly any need to stop or reverse on the narrow ones.

Our first stop was the Jardin botanique de Senorio Bertiz, high in the mountains. Laid out in the 19th century in a tiny corner of his vast family estate (which is now a national park), it was a sweet garden with many thriving  examples of trees from around the world.  We picnicked here in the hot sun and watched pied and spotted flycatchers swooping by.

Then we headed down out of the mountains, knowing that we also left peace and tranquility behind. We hit the Atlantic Coast at Irun so that we could visit an unlikely bird reserve. It is in the centre of town, sandwiched between the airport and the railway depot!

Txingudi (This is not a spelling mistake. We are now in Basque country. .X’s everywhere!)  is, however,  an internationally important wetland, especially at migration time, when it serves as a stop off point and watering hole for migrants on their long journeys north or south.

It was a magical place as it also looked out onto the Bidasoa estuary with Hendaye in France to the right and Hondarriba in Spain to the left. We added several birds to the list here, but the stand out one was an Osprey perched on a pole in the harbour eating his recently caught fish.

We then drove round to Hondarriba where we had been told we could park for 10 euros in an aire. As we drove in, the roads got busier and busier. Obviously something was ‘going on’.  We reached the aire at the far end of town which was part of an enormous carpark by the beach. There were campervans everywhere. We found a space and it was time for Google!

It turns out we had arrived on the final day of the 4 day festival of the Virgin of Guadaloupe, a major event in the Basque town’s calendar, because she saved them from a seige by the French.

We couldn’t see where to pay so I went to ask the van next door. They were french, and asked me if I knew why it was so busy. I knowledgeably explained about the festival….but left out the part that they were celebrating escaping the french!!

Anyway…the good news was…there was no charge for the night’s stay!

We walked into the town. 20150911_194328It was a truly delightful old town of Basque houses with little verandas. 20150911_195724Definitely worth a visit. The whole town was en fête,  and there were lots of photos up of the previous day’s parade, where everyone was in Basque national dress. 20150911_195943We came upon musicians, singers, dancers, a fair, a market, and hundreds of people everywhere enjoying the party.

We came back to Boris, when, at 10.30pm, the whole car park shook and several van alarms went off. The fireworks had started. We had a grandstand view from Boris.. wasn’t it kind of them to lay on such a great welcome!

Saturday September 12th

We had been worried that the party would make it a noisy night, but all was quiet and we slept well. The new mattress topper in Boris is SO comfortable!

A grey day with rain forecast. We planned to go to a Basque boat building museum in San Pedro but another fête meant parking was impossible so we headed to Carrefour to do some Spanish shopping and fill up with fuel…79p a litre! Even with all the mountain driving Boris is still managing nearly 30mpg which we are very happy with.

I secured a reservation for lunch at a traditional Basque restaurant Agorregi jatetxea Continue reading “12. Twists and turns and roads that are possibly not meant for Campervans? Lumbier to Itxaspe via Hondarriba”