Will we make it?
EAST COWES, UK TO BENICASSIM, SPAIN – 1181 MILES
Miles travelled: 1181 miles
Toll costs: 90 euros
Fuel costs: 228 euros
Bottles of wine drunk: 4
Cans of beer drunk: 10
13th December – Set up stop at home
Will we, won’t we? It was at least six months ago when we decided that we would like to spend Christmas and New Year in Spain, it was all going very well, too well. A month or so earlier France wanted UK visitors to take and upload a lateral flow test along with a sworn declaration that you didn’t have Covid. No problem really, quite simple. Find a test centre, get a test and upload all the forms. What we didn’t expect was the test centre would cancel our appointment the day before departure. A few stern words with them soon brought them around to our way of thinking, even though we had already found an alternative. They agreed to pick up all of the extra costs incurred and do our test. Whew.
But what’s this? A new variant of Covid is running wild through the population, highly infectious but so far too early to know how many people will end up in hospital. Just another thing for us to add into an already stressful mix. Is there something telling us that we shouldn’t be doing this? We’ve had our negative test returned, the forms of nonsense have been uploaded to Eurotunnel. WE ARE GOING!!!
We collect Jess from storage, having already pre-loaded some stuff on her we spend a less stressful, but anxious night a mere quarter of a mile from our home in a campsite called Waverley Park. Despite the worry, we have a good nights sleep.
14th December East Cowes – Neufchâtel en Bray – 273 Miles
The alarm is loud and shrill. It’s 5:00 am. Yes, 5 in the morning. Today is a busy day. Our ferry to the mainland is at 06:40. We then need to get across southern England to Folkestone to the Eurotunnel for our 3:20 pm crossing to Calais, France.
Oh, and on the way to Folkestone we need to stop in Canterbury to get Hayley her booster. Why Canterbury? Good old Isle of Wight NHS couldn’t do it, like most things! So we had to find another site on the route.
The day could not have gone better. We were pushed onto an early ferry to Portsmouth. Hayley got her booster jab early and to make things even better, Eurotunnel put us on an early train meaning that we would be arriving in France in daylight hours. Perfect, better than we thought.
More potentially bad news coming from France. The new Covid variant, Omicron is causing some concern for the French now. We are getting nervous that the border with Spain may shut. We press on through France after a non-event crossing. The only item that was checked was our passports. Easy!
After a 273 mile drive and a 13 euro toll, we arrive at the peaceful town of Neufchâtel en Bray and find a spot in the lovely Aire camping Saint Claire. Once settled in we toast to our success of finally making it to France and dinner is steak, frites with a bearnaise sauce with a French red of course! All in all a bit of a rollercoaster but we are relieved to be here and we have a great night’s sleep. Whew!
15th December Neufchâtel en Bray – Issoire 379 Miles
We wake up to a cold, crisp morning. Grey skies, but dry and pleasant despite the cold temperature. It’s perfect. Hot coffee and breakfast will see us right. We had a plan to spend 5 days making our way south to the French – Spanish border, however, the news from home isn’t good and the French are making noises about possible restrictions, yes we are already here in France, but the Spanish may start making similar noises and we could end up being trapped in France. No big deal really, but our aim is to get winter sun in Spain not winter in France. There is a difference. Hayley is brilliant at finding stops en route. We always end up in excellent places for the night, she finds lots of options. We need options as we have decided to make our French stay as short as possible and to get over the border as quickly as possible.
After 379 miles of driving, 100 quid in diesel and 51 euros in motorway tolls we finally arrive at the pleasant town of Issoire.
The nights are now very cold. Tonight it’s zero degrees and damp. We are parked in an excellent overnight Aire along with another 5 vans all doing similar things, all wanting to be somewhere else.
Tonight we will eat out at a French restaurant and we find a cracker. 60 euros lighter but heavier with all the food and drink. Christmas beer, red wine, steak, duck and the local dish of Truffard which is potatoes cooked in goose fat and covered in local cheese.
What a feast we had in this lovely town that looked great for Christmas, with projections on the old buildings, Christmas trees and a local Christmas market. Wonderful. We shiver as we do a quick walk back to our home on wheels, fire up the heating and have another great night’s sleep. So far so good.
16th December Issoire – Camping l’albera – Capmany Spain 273 miles
Today the temperature is between zero and -2. Who knows, who cares, it’s freezing cold. Del is dispatched to the local shop for pastries. Today we decided that we will break for the border as we are getting more concerned, not about the virus, but more about what governments will do. We set off via a supermarket for some supplies and fill up with diesel and set off, taking turns on our 273-mile journey to somewhere in Spain.
The journey was amazing. We drove along the A75 south which includes a section of road that climbs to just over 1100 meters high. We drove through thick, but very thick fog and some snow, but only a bit of snow. The temperature dropped to -2 and at times became challenging, but it’s all part of the adventure as we pushed on for what felt like hours. Then suddenly the sun started to poke through and after a while revealed a beautiful blue sky with some spectacular scenery of small towns in valleys shrouded in low fog. We even took in the Millau viaduct which is a spectacle in itself, even if it does cost 13 euros! What an amazing drive.
We finally cross the border at La Jonquera, a madhouse of trucks. We have never seen so many trucks. In fact, that was the one thing that we noted driving through France, the number of haulage trucks. The UK is supposed to be short. They are all here!!
Again the crossing was uneventful, no stops, no checks. Once again Hayley has found us a brilliant campsite in the town of Capmany only a couple of miles off the main motorway. It was time to stop, it had been a long tiring and expensive day. 273 miles, 75 euros in fuel and 13 in tolls. Well worth it though.
17th December 2nd day in Capmany
Our decision to get a move on was well-founded. Noises from home are that the French are indeed going to ban travel from the UK into France for holidays. You can only come to France from the UK for “Exceptional reasons”. What’s that? We made it by the skin of our teeth, a very close shave. We got into France in the nick of time. With all the trouble at the start of the trip we thought about a postponement for a week, if we had have done that then the trip would have been cancelled.
We are a good day or two ahead of the original plan so we decide to stay here for another day. It’s a beautiful place, a small wine-producing area in Catalunya. We take a walk into the small town of Capmany. It’s great to be here. The weather is bright and crisp with clear blue skies and a temperature of about 12 to 14 degrees. The nights are cold, however, dropping to 2 to 4 degrees but the heating on Jess keeps us warm.
Today we get the bikes off the van. Hayley has a new one, a birthday gift from you know who. It’s a belting bike and one she well deserves.
We circle the local area, nothing too stressful but it’s good to be out and about exploring the local area, even though we get barked at by the local dogs!
Dinner tonight will be in the village of Capmany, Cal Ferrer, a lovely little place that serves local food and wine at a reasonable price. The walk home is cold but we are content and happy if that’s not too much to show off about in these times?
18th December Capmany – Cambrils – 160 miles
Today is the day the French ban comes into force, stopping British tourists.
The pictures and news of people trying to get on trains and ferries yesterday have been staggering. Considering the ban on travel is to stop the spread of Omicron, it’s a bit odd watching thousands of people cramming onto trains and boats. Someone, somewhere didn’t think that through?
We are pushing south today but we are now sticking to the plan. Our first stop is Cambrils, not too far south of Barcelona. Our stop is a campsite right by the sea.
Again the weather is lovely, blue skies and the daily temp is up another degree or two from yesterday. Lovely.
19th December Cambrils day 2
We like out here, and we could do with the rest, the days have been long and it’s nice here. There is a good cycle route from Cambrils to Salou, a total of 14 miles, 7 each way. It’s good and flat all the way. We are still lucky to have such wonderful weather with us, yes it’s a bit chilly at night but the days are just fantastic.
With the sea on our right, we head north on the cycle route to Salou. We take a short break once there, sitting on a bench looking out over the sparkling flat sea and reminiscing about our days when we used to sail along these very waters between the south of Spain to Barcelona. Now with the sea on our left, it’s back south to our home on wheels for turkey steaks, fries, salad and wine, simple but delicious after a great day.
20th December Cambrills – Benicassim – 96 miles
A couple of years ago we did a trip to Germany and we visited a place called Todtnau. Just a quick note here -the inventor of the perm hairstyle came from Todtnau. Yes really. In Todtnau they have an alpine coster which is basically a plastic car that you sit in and go down a steel track at lightning speed. It’s great fun. This is where H rediscovered her love for rollercoasters. She loves them and everywhere that we go we have to go to the nearest theme park and spend some time on some of the most terrifying rides.
In Cambrils, we are less than a 20-minute drive from Portaventura. After some discussion and re-planning, we pack up and head back south to Portaventura so that H can get her fix of rollercoasters. It’s a great day, H completes 21 rides on some of the world-famous and most popular rides. She has a permanent grin on her face all day while Del carries her bag! Great.
By 4:30 it’s time to move on as we have a two-hour drive to our next stop in the town of Benicassim for a one night stay. It’s motorway all the way and by 7:30 we are parked up in a charming little campsite in the middle of a residential area, very peaceful and a great place to end the day.