Our last night in Vilanuova was memorable as the Spanish people were still in a party mood, and boy were they partying.  At about 1 30 am Tim went to have a little moan at our neighbours and they quietened down a little.  Then the dogs started barking and when they quietened down there was a thud and a scream as some poor child fell out of bed.  Not the best rest just before a drive.

Monday morning was perfect (if you don’t mention how cold it was)

1 last breakfast

2 busy campsite

and the tent was about as dry as it has ever been, no dew at all, so it was a nice easy strike. 

We then drove over the Pyrenees to go and visit some friends in France.  The route over the mountains was spectacular, and very bendy. 

4 route

5 route 2

6 route 3

7 route 4

There was a little rain, but we were glad not to have been travelling the day before, as it looked as if there had been quite heavy snow. 

9 route 7

It was also lovely to have such clear roads in our direction.  The traffic the other way was horrendous.  

3 queues

We noticed that every car in the miles of queues was Spanish and we worked out that it had been a national holiday, hence the noisy Spanish people on a Sunday night.  The queue contained everyone heading home after a long weekend away.  There is something pleasurable about driving for miles in the opposite direction to a ginormous traffic jam.  (I am still waiting to pay for my Schadenfreude.) (That could be why we got gridlocked in a Worthing car park on Saturday.)

Our friends, David and Helen live in a tiny hamlet called Hameau de Canterugue quite close to Andorra on the French side of the Pyrenees.   The sat nag didn’t believe it exists and, without David’s very clear instructions (the road behind the DIY shop, only one sign etc) we would never have found it.  (If ever I get into any trouble with the mafia, that is the place I will hide out!).  I worked with Helen for nearly 13 years until she retired last Easter and I first heard about this house right at the start.  They had just bought an old house with a barn attached and were intending to renovate it, thinking it might take three or four years to do a good job.  After 13 years, they are nearly there; we were honoured to be the first people to stay in their immaculate guest room and they were still waiting for the kitchen people to fit their work surfaces and appliances in the kitchen.  For all that it is absolutely beautiful and you can see that they have a real sense of style.

12 Helen and David

On the second day there we went for a walk in her neighbour’s woods to help Helen choose a Christmas tree.  It is a lovely place.

10 woods

Apparently in the season there are loads of mushrooms growing there and Jacques  gets fed up with people taking crates away, not for personal use, but to sell them.  Also we found out that nearly all of rural France is rent with people squabbling about land because each estate has to be split up due to the laws inheritance.  That would certainly explain the strange shapes of some of the vineyards and market gardens we saw.

The house overlooks a beautiful valley and you can hear the sound of cowbells on the wind

11 valley

We had a great couple of days with them and had a fun evening with their neighbours (Christiane and Jacques).  It’s amazing how well we got on despite the fact that I have barely any French and the husband had no English.  Helen was having problems with her kitchen fitters and Christiane was having fun kicking their butts (verbally, of course!)

We split the drive back to UK into two, as it was over 750 miles to the Chunnel. 

13 route 9

14 route 10

15 route 11

The weather was appalling, with really heavy rain on the first day

16 route 12

and high winds on the second

20 high winds

We found out what is in the pot at the end of the rainbow

18 pot of gold

17 route 13

It was pretty nerve-wracking as we drove across the exposed bridges along the northern French coast.  It felt like we could easily go over the side, despite the fact that Camel has a mass of about 2500 kg.  OK, in English (not Physics) she weighs two and a half tonnes.

I made the mistake of not booking the Chunnel ahead and we were charged about 3 times what we normally pay when we rolled up there. OUCH! won’t do that again!

So now we are home and rather glad to sleep inside for a few weeks as the weather is getting pretty bad out there at the moment.  Still, we are looking forward to part three of our travels, but will it be down through Italy to Tunisia or back through Spain to Morocco…. Ant thoughts anyone?