Escaping the UK
Another month has passed so here is a blog update on my journey from the UK via Luxembourg to collect Sadie in France, our short time there and then our trip onwards via Andorra & Spain towards Portugal.
I didn't mention this in the last blog, but I can't forget to mention the amazing meal I had at a hotel on the way up to Scotland, it was called the White Swan which is just off the A1 between Alnwick and Berwick.
I had a 3 course meal, 3 ciders and a G&T and it was under £45 and it was top quality food. Totally recommend this place if anyone is travelling up that route, plus they were happy for me to park Daisy out the back too.
Then I had a nice relaxing time at my parents for a few days and I also managed to catch up with a couple of friends who I hadn't seen for around 20 years or so which was great.
And I also managed to purchase a drone which was delivered whilst I was there, and the plan was to use this on our travels around to get some nice overhead footage of locations we visit, land we might view etc.
I left the farm on the Sunday afternoon and drove straight down to Dover, around a 4 hour drive and found a car park near the ferry port for the morning,
After having a pizza and a couple of beers, it was an early night as I had to catch the 06:00 departure to Dunkirk.
The ferry crossing was around 2 hours and with a complimentary breakfast included, it meant I was in France and on the road by around 09:00 local time.
I had given myself 3 nights to travel the 800 miles and with a total journey time of approx 16hrs, it meant around 200 miles and around 4 hours or so driving per day to get there by Thursday afternoon as planned.
I also wanted to visit the capital as I heard it was pretty, so in the morning I found a Park & Ride nearby and was surprised to find out that all public transport is free in the country which is amazing!
I spent a couple of hours wandering around the old town, with it's impressive views, ancient ruins and beautiful buildings, before jumping back on the free bus back to Daisy and then onwards bound.
Next planned stop was at a little French village called Mirebeau-sur-Bèze, which is just outside of Dijon, which is another city I wanted to visit. This stop was another free Aire, no EHU this time but a much prettier little village.
I went for a wander round in the evening, and it had a lovely river and typical small French village feel about it.
After easy 30 minute drive into Dijon the next morning, I parked up and went for a quick walk round the historic town famous of course for it's Mustard! This was the main reason for coming here, although it was a beautiful city even in the dull grey weather I had endured since getting off the ferry.
Sadie loves mustard (am not a fan tbh but will tolerate it in small doses), so I googled the best place to get some and found Moutarde Maille, a famous mustard producer in the region. So I went into the shop and the lovely French sales lady helped me spend a small fortune on 2 lovely porcelain jars full of mustard which were hand pulled from what I can only describe as a mustard bar!
I got one which is made with White Wine and the other one is made with Rosemary Honey, however I didn't taste them due to Covid and the fact the lady told me they are 2 of their hotest ones!
And I wasn't dissapointed, the journey was far nicer and despite an obvious slower pace, it was worth it. I did want to go via Geneva, however the extra distance and time involved was just too much for a day, but the nearer to Grenoble I got, the views got more stunning!
It was the shortest distance of the last few days at 192 miles, but the longest driving time of around 5 hours 30 minutes, but I was soon to see why!
I later discovered that a lot of this part of the route is called Route Napoléon, and it was spectacular. I probably took a lot longer than I should have, as I had to keep stopping and taking photos of the stunning scenery. It was by far the most enjoyable part of the journey so far!
This did allow us to just chill out in the house and I also managed to get some drone practice during the nicer spells of weather.
However with a rumour that the Spain/Portugal border might get closed at somepoint soon, along with the execptionally high cases in both France & Spain, we both decided that we would do this stage as quickly as possible.
The next morning we made the decision to detour slightly via Andorra, it's an independent country that sits between France & Spain in the middle of the Pyrenees. It would only add on an extra hours travelling time, approx 330 miles to cover that day and it would be a far prettier route than the usual dull motorways in Spain, which we would see plenty of over the next couple of days anyway.
It wasn't long before leaving Perpignon that we started to hit the beautiful mountains and we knew we had made the correct decision to go this way
On our way out of the country, we arrived at a border control point and suddenly a uniformed gent asked us to pull over. Seems he was from the Spanish customs and was clearly in to look for a hoard of duty free! Obviously we didn't have any, but I did have a load of cider from the UK and an unopened bottle of Baileys which he took particular interest in... though after we explained where we got it and also that UK spirits do not have the duty paid paper label over the top, we were allowed to go!
We clearly didn't want to stop near Madrid due to the huge number of Covid cases there, however Calatyud had very little reported cases on checking local government websites etc. I felt as long as we took the usual precautions of wearing a mask, washing hands etc then it would be safe enough to eat out that evening, no worse than the UK or the South of France to be honest.
I had actually noticed on my journey so far that they seem to be taking it more serious in Europe with everyone wearing masks indoors, a huge majority wearing them outside walking about too.
We went for a set menu which was the 3 courses, bread and Sadie even got a bottle of wine to herself. The food was really nice, it felt safe with plenty room between tables and all staff wearing masks too and the bill was about £45 in total.... with another #smugpuddinface 😋
We knew we would be arriving fairly late, so decided to head to a little campsite nearby for the evening so we could sort the water etc out in Daisy, and then also go into the nearby town of Fundao the next morning to get some supplies and LPG before heading into Penamacor. We have used this site a few times, it's got everything we need and is free, sadly though due to Covid the toilet/shower block was closed this time.
Journey to Portugal Photos
We've been here for over a week now, and to be honest it feels a lot safer already and despite the rising cases overall here in Portugal, the people do seem to be listening to the Governments advise and hopefully the cases and more importantly, the deaths remain low. This municipality has only had 18 cases so far and zero deaths, so long may that continue.
We will of course do a blog update of our time in Portugal next month.
Take care all and stay safe x