Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Fabada: a taste with memories.

Yesterday I enjoyed my first taste of authentic Asturian Fabada for almost 15 years. It’s a traditional mountain stew made with fava beans, pork, smoked ham, black pudding and chorizo sausage that is cooked slowly in a big pot. It is a little spicy, salty and delicious and it inspired the bean and chorizo stew that appears in The Camper Van Coast.
I ate my first Fabada on my first long trip to northern Spain in the late nineties, in a bar at Rodilles, not far from Gijon.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Chilling out on the road to Potes

We arrived in Spain on Monday, crossing the border at Hondaye. It’s just a few miles south of Labene Ocean, where we stayed for five days with old friends. It was a mighty wrench to prize ourselves away from the soporific routine of endless cuppas, surf sessions and nights drinking rose on the veranda, such was the hospitality of our hosts. With the van parked on the drive we had everything: five minutes’ walk to one of the heaviest breaks in Aquitaine, an ever whistling kettle, friends for the kids to play with and a hammock under the cork trees. It’s a good life they live, these friends of ours.
Even so, we packed up the van and headed south, stopping only for a lunch of chorizo and moules in Guethary, one of Europe’s more famous big wave spots.

Friday, 20 July 2012

May Poles. An overnight celebration.

I have seen a few of these poles recently. Appearing in people’s front gardens, they are always the same: pine branches decorated with blue flowers and with a garland hanging like a chandelier from near the top.  Curious as to the significance, I took the opportunity to ask a woman coming out of the house where this particular one was planted in Contis Plage, one of our recent stops.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Aires, spaces and overnight places.

A few days ago we hit Contis Plage. It’s a small holiday town on the south west coast of France with a few bars, a fruit stall, a boulangerie for our daily croissants, a few surf shops, a great pizzeria and a couple of what we would call in England, ‘bucket and spade shops’. It took us about two weeks to get there from home, but we are not particularly counting. We've been taking things as they come.
But the reason for this post is to talk about where we have stayed so far. These include Cool Camping sites, aires de camping cars and local campsites.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The course of true love...

Thinking of buying a VW camper van? Read this first.

As I write I am sitting in the passenger seat of my little red and white VW camper van on a campsite in western France. The seat, a recent addition that revolves so I can face the rear of the van, is a first class place to sit and relax or write or look out of the side door. The site we are on is set high on a ridge, enclosed by pine forest and overlooking the Arcachon Basin. It is adjacent to the Dune Du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe. If I glance up from my screen I can see the ocean to my right whilst cicadas chirp away in the trees and paragliders float silently by on their wings of cloth. The kids are doing their homework and Joanne is preparing tea. From time to time other campers stroll by, smiling at our van. I guess they don’t see so many classic vans in France these days.

It’s a blissful scene, especially now that the children have been hard at work doing their homework for a few minutes. Tonight’s tea is in the cooler, if it’s not in the sea as I fully intend to cast my line once I have written this post. Those who know me well (I count my family among them) will know that whatever is in the cooler will turn out to be tea. There will be no last minute change of plan after my fishing trip.

It’s a good life, this campervanning lark, and I’ve had about the best of it recently. We’ve also had a few heart-stopping moments. It’s why this post is about to take a turn for the worse for those of you who fancy having a go and think it’s all hearts and flowers, sunburn and sausages.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Toes in the mud. Cockle picking on the Ile de Noirmoutier

We arrived on the island just a few days after landing at at Roscoff following a recommendation from ‘Cool Camping France’. The island, which is a little south of the mouth of the Loire, is beautiful, with lovely coastal scenery, dunes, salt flats and pine forest. The camp site - as recommended to us as being cool - is right next to the sea and is very nice. Not amazing, just very nice. We had a good spot under the pines about 50 yards from the sea so I shouldn’t complain, although camper vans aren’t allowed right next to the beach as they are trying to protect the dunes from erosion.

The first clue that this is a famous place for cockle picking was the shower block on the camp site, where there is an area reserved for cockle cleaning.