Sunday, 22 October 2017

From England to France and Spain – October 2017

Ivy, Steph, Jackie and Brian
Ivy's Christening and first birthday was a lovely event, great to be able to say cheerio to that side of the family before heading off on our travels again. With our usual efficiency we had managed to go via Go-Outdoors in Coventry to buy a new ski jacket and new lightweight walking boots for me and then to Sainsbury's to buy Marmite and mustard for dad in Spain. Monday was the usual round of cleaning and baking before saying goodbye to Bella, Coco and Sue, while keeping track of hurricane Ophelia. We didn't think it was going to affect our sailing on Tuesday, but would it affect Sue's journey south, Dad and Elizabeth's flight to the UK or our French ski apartment owner Caroles return to France? Fortunately no, on all counts.

Brians niece Steph with Ivy
Brians daughter Fiona with Jenny, Becky and her boyfriend Harry
So having tried and failed to get our winter tyres on Friday and being promised they would be in on Monday, they weren't, we had to trust they really would be on Tuesday! We decided against starting to pack on Monday, instead cutting the hedge and going round to Sarah and John for a cuppa before out for a final curry.

Strange red sun as hurricane Ophelia approaches
Finally got the winter tyres on the car (its those 4 behind the single tyre)
Tuesday finally have to pack, both bags, and the car, so just starting the final sort when B got the call that the tyres were there, so off he went to get them leaving me to pack. In one way this was really good, no bickering, but obviously if anything is missing....... Now don't get me wrong, the car was rammed but it all went in, and without impeding the view out of the rear window. We must be getting better at this! 

The Tardis compartment in the boot
It Included 30 paperbacks in what appears to be one small pocket on the RHS of the boot that I have claimed as my own. He puts a can of oil in and says it's full, ha! if you have a Vectra see what you can fit in?

All these books (30) went into that small space
Packed and ready to go, incl skis on the roof (a bit wierd in October in England)
Quick bite to eat and we set off to Portsmouth, earlier than Brian would have liked but with an assault on both ears from me and mother he decided to give up the unequal struggle. Yes we were early but at least I wasn't stressed!

It's the second time we've got the overnight ferry and yet I still haven't explored the boat. Well with departure at 23.30 and disembarkation at 08.30 that doesn't give much time to sleep, which is the point, though sadly it eluded me this time, fortunately not him, and he does most of the driving anyway!

Day 1: Le Havre to St Jean d'Aulps in the French Alps. Toll charges €53
View from the back of the car park at the apartment
We couldn't believe the ETA the sat nav gave us, but checked that she was on French time and off we went buoyant and happy. The journey was pretty good until we finally realised that the ETA was to a way point we had marked to take us off the motorway to avoid some of the toll charges, it worked but perhaps not the best plan at rush hour, but it did only add the hour we had originally expected the journey to take. 
View from the front of the car park at the apartment. Ski slope is still green!
Fortunately Carole wasn't waiting for us at the apartment, she'd popped in and left it open so we were free to come and go at will. Unloading didn't take long and I'd just finished chopping veggies for our quick dinner when Jeremy arrived, we don't know Jeremy but he seemed very nice, and very appreciative of the two tins of Hammerite we had brought him. He'd posted a message on the valley expats email group asking if anyone was coming and could fit them in. It didn't seem much to ask!

View from our apartment window. A familiar scene, but much better with snow
It was lovely being back in the apartment, I so wanted to unpack, but that didn't seem in the spirit of the thing as we are not officially there till December, but it will make our arrival back so much easier. A good nights sleep and we set off for Perpignan, our elected midway stop in the south of France very close to the Spanish border. Nothing special but very convenient, and much better than doing it in one, though what we saved in tolls we probably spent on accommodation, but at least we didn't feel like a hazard on the road.

Day 2: St Jean d'Aulps ski resort to Perpignan in south of France. Toll charges: €53
View from our hotel window in Perpignan
Day 3: Perpignan to Altea-La-Vella, Spain
Friday, day three, and we arrived in good time in Altea directly behind Jane, who had come to let us in. We have slipped on our housesitting duties, we were meant to have been here from Monday to look after Pepa cat, but all agreed that Brian getting his lump removed was more important, so Jane had been on feeding duties. I guess it had to happen at some point in our housesitting career, so much better with an understanding family than a complete stranger. It was lovely, there was homemade breaded chicken, taken out of the freezer ready to fry, and we could relax and stare at the view with a G&T in hand, and breathe.

Relaxation was relatively short lived, we had to be up and back from the supermarket by 11.30 to ensure we were here when Jonathan, Lucy, Charles and Caroline arrived. Mission accomplished, we had lunch for all and dinner for us for Saturday and Sunday. We'd just finished a bit of sweeping as it's not only the UK that has had weird weather, hailstones the size of golf balls had given the trees a battering on Thursday. The family arrived, fortunately leaving before Tropical Storm Brian upset various planes and ferries. We've hosted Charles and Caroline at various houses (all with the owners permission of course) but it felt really odd hosting here with D&E (Dad and Elizabeth) away! We had a lovely afternoon, after lunch J&L went food shopping and to find the villa (which took a lot more finding than expected) leaving us with the kids. They very bravely went in the pool, we very bravely watched! Just as well they did as today is windy and a lot cooler with a bit of cloud, but after their hideously early start yesterday they were planning an easy day, and we too had a lovely lie in. It's hard to wake at 07.00 when it's pitch dark till at least half past.
Richard (dad) and Elizabeths lovely house in Altea-La-Vella with the Bernia ridge mountains behind
Little Pepa cat makes a rare appearance for a stroke

Even Brian got a stroke

Charles (with his 6 pack and pecs) and Caroline about to go swimming

Bravely in the water. Its sunny with an air temperature of about 24C, but the water is a bit chilly

Jackie contents herself with a swing

It does feel a bit like paradise here, sunny, warm and relaxing with plenty of rock climbing, mountain scrambling, hiking, drinking and eating. We're here until the snow falls in the Alps, possibly until Christmas or the New Year. It'll be hell!

The familiar view from the balcony as the sun sets. We have so many photos of this, but every night we just want to take more! Nice to look at the highest pointed mountain on the left and know we have stood on the very top of that!

The Bernia Ridge from the terrace as the last rays of the setting sun bathe it in orange light

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