Moving Further South to Guardamar Del Segura, Costa Blanca Spain

Moving Further South to Guardamar Del Segura, Costa Blanca Spain

The trials of moving on. Facing my past. Mr Know It All. Oranges, nets and kiwi. Secret “winterers”free masons and hitting the matting jackpot!

We pack up in Benidorm, we have enjoyed our three days. I don’t think my opinion of it not being my cup of tea has gone down so well but I did say I’d be honest when I started this blog and it is after all only my opinion. I realise its loved by many, a lot of which, my friends.

After setting off on a short journey of 79km we are heading towards Torrevieja or La Marina on the Costa Blanca, two hours from Benidorm. We are actually going to visit Baxter’s sister and brother-in-law (Vicky and Tim) for a couple of weeks, who have had a villa in La Marina urbanisation for many years but are now moving there permanently, so its exciting times for them. We are looking at staying on the campsite near there but I have always had a soft spot for Guardamar Del Segura, which is literally over the road from them, so we decided to look at both. It is in fact ten years since I have been in the Torrevieja area and in all honesty, I never intended to go back there. If it wasn’t for visiting Vicky and Tim I wouldn’t have. I have nothing against the area at all, just bad memories of years gone by.

I’ll briefly explain. I decided in 2005 it would be a great idea to leave my very well paid job in Leeds and move to the Costa Blanca region of Spain. It was the 2nd of January, I was having a cigarette (I no longer smoke) looking out towards the dark arches in Leeds, on one of those days where grey sky meets grey land, there’s grey fog, grey miserable faces at work (mine well and truly amongst them) after two weeks Christmas cheer and the first day back at work everyone feels . . . well . . . grey! Rather than ride out the grey mood I decide there’s more to life and right there and then have the brain wave to leave the UK for sunnier climes! It appeared my niece also caught the “grey bug” because she decided to come too. I’m not sure you want to hear a brief account of my life in Spain but lets just say it was not a good one. Within three months I sold my house and car, put a deposit down on an apartment in Formentera, off plan. I dragged my dad to Spain on a moments notice (bless him he was bossed by us girls) to come and look at properties with me. We went on one of those trips where they pick you up at the airport and put you up in a hotel for 2 nights, they ferry you around to areas you’ve never seen before and don’t have the foggiest clue about, while they chew your ear off, laugh a lot about nothing, take you out to dinner and fill you full of . . .  how do you say politely?.. shit. Well that’s how they did it in the boom, so to speak. They still do actually, as whilst having a coffee on Guardamar sea front, I heard a woman (I was totally eavesdropping actually) in full sales pitch, doing the exact same crap to an older couple. Don’t get me wrong you have to make money and we chose to go but it was so sickly sales its unbelievable. And I’m sales! Never like that though – honest! I digress again, anyway I moved into a rented apartment in an urbanisation in Torrevieja whilst my apartment was being built. To cut a very long story short, a lot happened in that time. I could write a book on that period alone but anyway it turned out to be the worst time of my life, some of the decisions I made were plain stupid and mistakes many. As all this was going on I lost my dad very quickly and un expectantly to cancer. I cut my loses here in Spain and returned back to the UK after two years, a wiser, sadder (temporarily), more sceptical person than when I left. For a long time I wouldn’t and couldn’t talk about it, I hated Spain with a passion, for some reason it was partly ITS fault (ridiculous) and I really was fighting with myself having to return even for two weeks, ten years later!!!!!! Turns out it wasn’t Spain’s fault after all (obviously). I spent the first day showing Baxter where I used to live and where I had the business and told him some of the times I had (good and bad). It was the first time I really talked to him about this time in my life so it was actually quite therapeutic. I’m not going to go all hippy on you, start wearing tie dye dresses, dreadlock my hair, start chanting, and burning incense sticks (although I do have some for aroma purposes) but it was good to go back and face it. I realised I didn’t see anything whilst I lived here, I was always at work, very unhappy, wrapped up on my small world and unwilling to give in on a failing business etc. I didn’t even recognise some of the places that were right on my doorstep. Yes it had changed obviously. There are more buildings and commercial centres, a lot unfortunately are empty, a sign of the times and hopefully better to come shortly but even so, I realised I didn’t know the place I lived. I know more in the 8 weeks I have been here (I’m still well behind on this blog I know but we haven’t moved far and things are changing as we speak!) than I did whole time I lived here. It’s all actually a haze. I hope that wasn’t information overload but I felt you need to know a bit of my past times here in Spain, which I have actually fallen in love with again. I did pick myself up and dust myself off, as you do. I returned to my previous career in recruitment and within six months was seconded to work in Australia, which I did for three wonderful years.

Right, carry on with the here and now Dicko.  So we arrive (without a hitch – good eh? Its us I’m talking about) at La Marina Camping International which is €34 per night (not in ACSI) its huge, too expensive and not really what we want. In summer it would be horrendous. It’s got amazing facilities but full of kids (great if that’s what you want, me personally? that’s a no) it has slides, pools, playgrounds, in fact everything you can think of. We decide to look at Majal in Guardamar. It’s a 5* resort with 162 pitches and bungalows. Its beautifully well-kept, has a large outdoor pool, heated indoor pool with spa, gym, on site shop and restaurant. We couldn’t get in the first evening but they were very accommodating on reception and allowed us to park just outside the complex until a pitch became vacant the following day. This is one of the most reasonable sites in Spain for what you get for your money. With ACSI its €19 all in, including WIFI. Again it was full of “winter campers” who couldn’t wait to tell us, you have to book years in advance to get in for the full winter season. It appears they all have the same pitch every year. Being new to all this it was mesmerising. They all had perfectly manicured pitches, with this floor matting (it’s like Benidorm all over again) that we can not find (even though we’ve covered every shop in the Costa Blanca so far) I’ve got floor matting envy! You HAVE to have this stuff or you’re just SO not with it! Where are they buying this stuff? Is there a “winter campers” free masons club meeting in secret at midnight??? Each pitch has small manicured bushes and the real serious “winterers” were quite easily spotted as they sported a net bag full of oranges swinging from their vans. I felt quite left out and wanted to go immediately buy a dozen oranges and add a few kiwi’s to keep up with the Jones’s.

We arrive at our pitch, this being only the second one we have manoeuvred into being newbies to all this . Having a brand new van is like a flashing light saying “look at us trying to get in here, we’re crap so watch it’ll be a good laugh” Within minutes we had an audience, arms crossed, nodding and shaking their heads, proudly displaying their bags of oranges. We finally get in, decide to put up the awning, which is enormous, it’s never made an outing before and clearly wont fit but Baxter insists on giving the neighbour’s more entertainment value by insisting it will fit on an angle. It’s at this point our next-door neighbour appears. Now to say he’s a “know it all” is an understatement. This is where the low bush dividers come in. NOT GOOD! Everytime we step out we’re told snippets of advice. Now don’t get me wrong, all advice is gratefully accepted, we had great people opposite we will stay in touch with forever, who gave us great advice but this guy could give Harry Enfields’s “ah you don’t wanna do it like that” character a run for his money (80’s Harry Enfield TV character along with loadsamoney and Stavros, I’ll add a photo to refresh your memory). At one point you daren’t step out in fear of getting ambushed. Baxter stepped out one morning thinking all was quiet next door when he got pounced upon and endured an hour lecture on sweeping brushes! I would have rescued him but I was too busy killing myself laughing on the floor of the van. We had five days peace when they went on holiday to the mountains, which was heeeeeaven.  Unfortunately there are no Mountain lions or bears in Spain for him to irritate, therefore he didn’t get eaten and returned intact. Not even a passing Bull! He wouldn’t need a red flag, just opening his mouth would be enough for a good rear end puncture. If you ever want to know everything about everything or everything about nothing, go to Majal, Guardamar in winter, pitch 17 or 19 and bobs your uncle, Fanny’s you’re aunt. You may lose the will to live but you’ll definitely know how to cook muscles!

We stayed three weeks, saw Johns family which was great. Met a fantastic couple from Wales, Gary and Sharon with the singing dog (Sooty) who should be on Britain’s got talent (the neighbours opposite who gave us much-needed valuable advice and many laughs over a few rosado’s)  We cycled a lot, although the cycle paths aren’t great, It’s a shame actually as it would make a big difference to the site, plus the beach is a 10 minute walk away which isn’t far at all and a pleasant if walking isn’t a problem and it is spectacular. It rivals any beach I’ve ever seen. The site is brilliant value for money and Guardamar is a lovely Spanish town, with lovely restaurants and cafes. A negative to the campsite is there’s a lot of stagnant water around, which is a nightmare for mozzie sufferers like me but it’s also a natural nature reserve so the wildlife is also a big bonus especially for birdwatchers.

HOW could I nearly forget . . . Baxter returned from the camp shop after nipping off for a french stick and milk with a huge triumphant smile on his face, I thought he’d won a scratch card (he’d never do a scratch card EVER. Those who know him will get this. It’s a con and not worth the odds bla de bla) plus he is a walking money computer brain as previously mentioned, so I tend to go along with him on such topics. Anyway NO! its better than a scratch win! . . . Its floor matting!!! Whoop de whoop. Turns out the camp shop sold it. He bought enough to cover Japan but we have it. Net bag, oranges and kiwi’s here we come! Must tell Baxter a small net bag will suffice for fruit, not enough to catch a weeks tea in the Mediterranean.

Well I hope you enjoyed the blog. Please feel free to ask any questions. If you like it please click and press like. If you leave your email address when you click into wordpress you get the posts automatically

Paula

 

Guardamar8
Neighbour
Guardamar5
Beach Front
Guardamar4
Costa Blanca
Guardamar2
Port
Guardamar1
Walk to the Beach
Guardamar7
Welcome to Guardamar

 

 

 

 

Next stop Benidorm -Valencia, Costa Blanca

Next stop Benidorm -Valencia, Costa Blanca

The One and Only Benidorm

The laughs, joys and scooters of little Britain

 

From Segorbe to Benidorm. Should be a relatively easy day. It is only two hours away after all, but this is us were talking about. Now it amazes me, Baxter is ex army, so you would think his sense of direction would be amazing. I mean, I watch Bear Grylls (I do have a minor/medeocre/totally in love with crush on Bear I must admit, the man is a real life Bond) maybe I’m setting the bar a tad high here and it is a 100 years since Baxter left HMS, but I at least expect him to get us to get to Benidorm without the sat nav bitch. He can tell the time by where the sun is (ish, give or take an hour) directions by means of the big bright ball in the sky, knows weather fronts better than Michael Fish, river flows etc etc, so why not the road to Benidorm (no tolls obviously! It’s Baxter the human money brain) which, is two hours away?!  Now I’m sounding like a sad, pathetic, useless women again I know, “why don’t you direct then” I here you cry, which I do, (poorly) but the mans a trained walking compass for gods sake. Anyway, what was to be a two hour mini trip turned into four hours and the sat nav bitch (I’ve decided to call Dorothy, who, was a very obnoxious annoying woman I worked with many years ago, MANY years ago, so she wont be reading this, I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings). Dorothy sent us on a goose chase, the previous threat of violence towards her, and the warning of dismantling her wires, obviously didn’t work. She was again abandoned and the traditional way of reading the suns position in the sky . . . . . I mean a map, prevailed.

We arrive at the first site which is in the ACSI – let me explain. ACSI is a membership for campers where you get ridiculous discounts at many campsites around Europe. Its an annual cost of £30 which you get back in the first week. For example the first site which was called Benisol has a cost of €32 per night, with ACSI its €17, so you see its a massive saving. I was stunned to find there was no room at the inn. We didn’t realise just how popular winter sun is here in Spain. Off we toodled to the next site on our list, the 4* Villasol, which was slightly more expensive at €35 without ACSI and €19 plus €3.60 with electricity. It really is an absolute must for travelling. It literally costs from €11, 13, 15, 17 and  19 euros per night which can be up to 50% lower.

We choose our pitch, have a walk around and realise it was the actual campsite on the series of Bargain Brits Abroad. After realising this we laugh, cant believe we recognise the plots and the facilities, pay the really helpful pleasant man at reception  . . . NOT! I ask if this is indeed the TV campsite, to which he replies “yes, that’s why we are so busy” I look at him in disbelief and think I would expect it to do the total opposite. I had only commented to Baxter the week before Id rather chew off my left arm than stay somewhere like that! Anyway, in its defence its very clean, good facilities but very, very, clicky.

We decide to stay three days, which for us, is enough of Benidorm. I’m not being a snob, its great in small doses, Its just not my cup of tea, or should I say breakfast and a pint for a euro! It is actually remarkably clean, the beach is lovely, and the shops sell everything. Whilst on a particular 7.5km hike (we got lost . . . yes actually lost, on foot, in Benidorm) Whilst on our hike, I nearly lost possession of a limb. I was simply walking on the foot path, minding my own business, when a motor scooter, ploughed over me, at speed! What the hell is going on here????? You hire these things like you used to hire those bikes for four in the 80’s. You remember the ones? they had a canopy on the top and you couldn’t steer the bloody things and even they had to go on the road. I’m digressing again. These mobility scooters are available for everyone, you literally risk your life every time you step in the street. Now I know some people need them and are an absolute necessity for those who do, but pleeeeeeeease! There’s more of these than walkers and believe me, 90% are able to walk. Unless you count the legless stags and hens tearing around the place adorned with printed T Shirts, plastic penis’s and condoms. You get my drift?! A woman actually had the audacity to run over my foot (with my new sketchers on) and said “well you just stepped on the path love” I DID indeed step on the path, a footpath! what an inconsiderate bitch I am to walk on a path! Ok, I’m off my soap box. Just be warned people.

We did enjoy our three days and enjoyed saying “hasta luego” or more appropriately “adios” to the beautiful, picturesque, quintessential traditional Spanish resort of Benidorm!!!!!!!

Note to self; Don’t be a snob, its horses for courses, hey, my dad loved it. I liked it for three days, I’ll go again but I wouldn’t live there and it may not want me either. I will NOT however return until the mobility scooter trend is over. That’ll be never then . . . Ok, never mind.

Biarritz to Segorbe – Over the Border into Northern Spain

Biarritz to Segorbe – Over the Border into Northern Spain

Well would you believe the day we move on from Biarritz its glorious sunshine. This was the day I was supposed to wake up to yesterday! Anyway, really?! What audacity do I have to complain? Shut up Dicko (Paula, me) you ungrateful bitch. We have decided to head for an overnight stop in Segorbe, which is forty three miles North West of Valencia. Its a good 400km, so we are up and batten down the hatches by 8.30am (we will still be hit by a flying objects later in the day, when we are that tired and forget to be cautious of concussion by innocently opening a cupboard). We are over the border in 20 minutes and into Northern Spain. Its a climb of 4,100ft over the Iberian mountain Chain. Normally I would be seriously hyperventilating, as heights and me don’t get along, but it was all motorway so I was relatively calm, in fact I was absolutely chilled (spectacular for me in the best of times). The year previous, when we went to Gran Canarias and Baxter decided to take me on a white knuckle ride over the mountains, AFTER, I specifically stated I do not do heights, but he decided, I must be exaggerating the extent of my dislike. He soon found out NOT! Now I don’t consider myself a girly girl, but heights, disappearing into clouds, mountain goats and swerving to avoid aircrafts whilst hanging onto the edge of a mission impossible style film scene (OK, now I’m exaggerating) is just not my bag. I had him so stressed out he couldn’t wait to get me back at sea level (probably to drown me) So you see now he knows its just not worth dangling me off the edge of a mountain, as I simply go slightly neurotic.

We arrive at the Aire in Segorbe which is free and again has all services apart from electric hook up. Its quiet roadside parking on the outskirts of the town, which is actually quaint and rather pretty. There was a few other vans there, so I could imagine you may struggle to get space in high season. It did state in the Aire guide, that it had a lovely area at the side, which is ideal for boules, or relaxing in a chair and soaking up the sun. It mentioned the only thing that spoilt it was it had a bit of dog mess. OK, there’s a bit of dog mess and then a dog bog. Now I like dogs, in fact I love dogs, I had one for 18 years and still miss my faithful four legged friend but pleeeeeease! I don’t want to sit next to what comes out of their arse, let alone squish metal boules through it. Such a shame because its lovely. It wouldn’t particularly stop me going again for a overnight stay, plus it was winter and evening, so we wasn’t up for chucking boules about, or lounging in the frangrant eau de poo aroma in February, but you get my drift. I’m sure some dog owners have those fully equipped leads complete with poo bags (sorry responsible dog owners, I know there’s a lot of you about, I see you proudly swinging the proof of the product around in your specially equipped for the purpose bags). Even after the moan we would use this Aire again. Its free, its equipped and pleasant (apart from above moan obviously). I sound a right moaning misery guts, and dog moaners really irritate me normally. Sorry doggie peeps but I’m sure you wouldn’t want me sending Baxter to do his morning ablutions outside your motorhome door (not that he would of course) sorry John, just an example.

Travelled: 402km

Note to self: Get a dog and stop moaning you miserable bitch.

 

 

Onward to Biarritz – South West Border of France

Onward to Biarritz – South West Border of France

From Oradour we set off to Biarritz in Southern France. We have decided to stay there for a whole two days to chill and just refuel the batteries (ours). We still have a fair amount of ground to cover from Central France so we batten down the hatches (I know it’s a shipping term but it fits for motor homes too as you’ll see). Everything is new to us at the moment, so we seem to be making so many cock ups. Too many to count, but here’s a few.  First of which, being, whilst driving along on the dual carriageway in France, listening to the music I downloaded before the journey, singing to Barry Manilow (Yes, Barry) thinking what a great job I’d done with the playlist and giving myself a satisfactory pat on the back  – sad I know (you see I’m a complete technophobe). Anyway, When my nieces husband, JJ, showed me how to do it, and by IT, I mean download music, then how to play it through Billy (the van in case you’re new), I thought I was so hip and clever! Literally, I couldn’t believe it worked and I did it! ME!. I know I didn’t invent windows or google, but hey, still, an achievement for me. Ok, back to the story. So whilst singing my head off, we start to hear an accompanying bang. Now it wasn’t part of the music because it was out of time with Barry and seemed to be louder with every gust of wind. Off I go to investigate to find the central skylight wide open! flapping away in the wind, nearly off its new hinges.  Or every time you set off, no matter how much time you spend securing the cupboards, thinking everything is hunky dory, and you may survive when you open a cupboard when you stop, but still, either a pan, a jar of coffee, or a first aid kit or tins comes flying out on your head. Or not locking the bathroom cupboard, so the whole contents fall out and crash around you, or fall into the toilet or worse when you’re on it (the loo) and cant move . . . with mousse, soap, detergent etc., etc. etc  on your knees.  I have even been blamed for Baxter’s hair wax going down the loo!!! It didn’t and hasn’t and besides, he’s the one who empties the toilet cassette (as mentioned in previous post, I wont go into that procedure again)) so therefore upon emptying the cassette, wouldn’t his wax come toodling out instead of . . . well . . . wee, or a very heavy oddly shaped poo with styling qualities? So you see, batten down the hatches is quite fitting for a motor home.

We reach the Aire at Biarritz at approximately 4.30, as you come around the corner at the top of the town their is the most amazing view, its breath-taking. The sun was shining, it felt a few degrees warmer and the Aire we stayed at was right on the sea front, at the bottom of the beautiful town. This Aire cost €12 per night with electric hook up. They are literally a carpark with facilities as mentioned before, but safe and secure. We parked up, strolled along the sea front and onto the beach, feeling like we were actually getting to sunnier climes, we had a beer in the beach bar, strolled back to Billy hand in hand, breathing in the sea air, feeling so lucky and at peace with the world. Off we go to bed, all chilled, knowing we’re staying the day after and looking forward to a leisurely walk around the town. Off I slip into peaceful slumber, dreaming of sunshine, sea and shops, ahhhhhhhh . . . . We woke up to gale force winds and pouring rain! . . . and I mean pouring rain!. ALL day!. We still walked 5km uphill, into town, looked around, had lunch( managed a bit of French, which Baxter was SO impressed with) got blown back to the van like drown rats, but still had a good day. I love Biarritz and will definitely go again. Hopefully in better weather. Onward to Spain.

 

 

The WWII Massacre of Oradour Sur Glane – France

The WWII Massacre of Oradour Sur Glane – France

THE WWII Massacre of Oradour Sur Glane. The Perfectly Preserved Village in rural France, which on the orders of General De Gaulle has been left as it was found as a reminder of the barbarity of war following the massacre by the S.S Panzer Regiment that fateful day on 10th June 1944.

As we step out of the van in day light, at the Aire near Oradour Sur Glane we realise just how close we are to the original village. It was actually right there. All we could make out was a damaged wall surrounding the old village. Not what actually was within its walls, but definitely quite obvious, this was a place time had left behind. I’m not sure that makes sense to you, that I was able to detect that by a wall, but if you saw it, I’m sure you would understand. I was awake quite early contemplating the day ahead and what we were about to see, and the effect it would have on me. You see, John had told me a lot of the story of Oradour whilst travelling the day before, but me being me, I had to research and read in detail, what happened right here, on the 10th June 1944.

I hope I tell it’s story justice.

Oradour was a prosperous pretty little village in the Limousin district, 15 miles west-north-west of Limoges. The village church, which was very old, was a remarkable building and very famous. The architecture was in harmony, as the shops and houses ran side by side along the streets of the village.  Oradour was very self-sufficient and boasted a wide range of shops, including butchers, bakers, hairdressers, even a motorcar garage and fuel pump. There was even a weekly market where neighbouring traders could sell their wares. Before the war it boasted numerous hotels and restaurants, which welcomed customers who had come to rest, stay a while, or just enjoy its picturesque surroundings and hospitality. A tram ran from the nearest town of Limoges and its inhabitants enjoyed spending a few hours in the café bars, which adorned its streets, gossiping to the locals, or picnicking and fishing in the Glane, where the fish stocks were known to be plentiful. In the 1936 census the population stood at 1574 inhabitants, this was of course pre war, most of these lived close together in the main part of the village. On the fateful day on 10th June 1944 there were a large number of people in Oradour, as the men from local villages had come to sell their tobacco and the children from neighbouring hamlets were at the school. Since 1940 people who has been expelled from the Moselle distract, had been staying in Oradour, they had suffered the tragic fate many French towns  had endured during German occupied France. An annual fairground was also in town at this time, causing much excitement within the village and the tram carrying people from Limoges to the little tram station at Oradour, was working its usual daily timetable.

The inhabitants of Oradour hadn’t really been effected by the war so much. They didn’t tremble in fear at the German officers who passed by rarely, they were of course wary of them, but up until now they lived in relative peace. Why would they be interested in this little village in the middle of nowhere??? It was four days after the D Day landings, word had reached the village, they were in fact hopeful and excited as they waited for further news. Meanwhile life carried on as normal.

The Massacre of Oradour Sur Glane – 10th June 1944

At 2pm the SS Panzer Division surrounded the village of Oradour and began gathering all its inhabitants to gather in the fairground. They were told this was purely for an identity exercise so people began to move as ordered and gather at the fairground whilst chatting to each other and discussing their day and the fair.

At 3pm machine guns were installed at  the assembly point to which men and women from neighbouring towns were also directed. The children were being assembled in lines, following their teachers. It was now hot and some were complaining of the heat but still they were under the illusion this was for identity purposes. A baker even went to an SS officer and told him his bread was in the oven and burning, to which the officer replied he would sort it out (I have this information from a book I read from one of the six survivors Robert Hébras, who was waiting at this assembly point).

At 3.30pm The soldiers separated the group into women and children and men separately. The women and children were directed to the church, whilst the men were rounded up and put into numerous places for execution, predominantly barns.

At 4pm An explosion was heard, at this signal the machine guns fired at the men in the various places they were ordered . Those who didn’t die immediately were finished off with bullets and then set fire to their broken bodies.

At 5pm The massacre of the women and children began. The S.S set down a box from which cords were exposed, when these were set alight it caused suffocating smoke to engulf the church. As panic set in and the women began to try to escape, machine gun fire forced them back inside the church. This, was brutal killings of innocent beings. Most of whom perished in the fires, the youngest being only eight days old.

These few hours on this day of the 10th June 1944 was sufficient to kill 642 human lives and 328 constructions were destroyed. Only one woman and five men escaped the vigilance of the killers as they hid wherever they could.

General De Gaulle wanted to preserve the ruins of Oradour to bear whiteness to the rest of mankind the consequences of the barbarity of war.

There has to this day been no official reason or explanation for the actions of the S.S Panzer that day in Oradour. They burnt and destroyed every bit of  the village in order to cover there actions. They even slept and drank in the burning village that very night and checked the area again in the morning to ensure they covered there tracks and indeed everything was destroyed. This was commanded by General Lammerding, who amongst other things, on the 9th June 1944, had ordered the death by hanging of 99 hostages in Tulle. It is certain that he gave the action for the massacre of Oradour. Why? to this day there is still no answer to that question.

My Visit to Oradour

The village, as promised by  General De Gaulle is left as it was that day. As you walk around the village and look at the bruised, burnt buildings it is immensely sad to see. There are tiny plaques, on the broken building stating what was once their proud trades. Tools hang where butchers once stood, bakers ovens, even scissors in the hairdressers and kitchen utensils all clearly burnt but visible in their resting place. Most homes had a sewing machine and irons, prams and bicycles are left right where they were. There is even the doctors car, burnt out in the road, as he was gunned down whilst rushing to help his fellow villagers. The tram line through the village, now leads to nowhere and the station where loved ones met thier partners from work or greeting people from Limoges stands alone.

I almost felt I was prying on this village and its people, that I had no business to be there looking at all this tragedy. These were people’s belongings and lives, cut to such an immediate end. As I continued to walk around I could imagine the place as it once was, alive with the hustle and bustle of daily life. Its beauty and the Glane so near and so pretty. Such a self-sufficient little village, where everyone knew everyone, apart from the passing visitors of course, who loved its charm and the tradesmen selling their wares. It was so clear to see this sad place in its former glory.

A poignant part of the experience for me, was whilst john was looking at a monument, a Frenchman in his 80’s I would say, was walking through to the park and towards the new village. He was chatting so passionately to me and pointing to various parts of the village. When I told him I spoke very little French (in fact that’s and understatement) he continued to point to an underground monument. Seeing how utterly frustrated I was I couldn’t speak to him and how touched i was, he smiled, patted me on the shoulder and carried on his way. I have never been so frustrated at not being able to communicate in my life. What would this man have told me???  I’ll never know . . . .

Picture Gallery

Oradour 17
Restaurant
Oradour 16
Doctors Car
Oradour 11
Barn
Oradour 15
Motor Garage
Oradour 10
Car Yard

Oradour 9

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Village Shop
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Village

Oradour 3

Oradour 6
Church
Oradour 8
Memorial
Oradour 1
Doctors Car

 

Day 2 & 3 – Our First Trip in Billy

Day 2 & 3 – Our First Trip in Billy

I must have fallen asleep at some point because I woke up to the “bing bong” on the ferry. We couldn’t wait to get started, even though I think Baxter was slightly apprehensive. Its a brand new van and not a small vehicle, so the first time in Europe driving this it, had to be a bit daunting. He didn’t mention it if he was but that’s men for you.

Bruges was absolutely freezing with gale force wind and sleet. We crossed over Calais to hit France and head south but OMG the van swayed and blew across the roads, being rather high above sea level on the way over with no inland protection, I felt more like I was on a boat then than the night before! After seven exhausting hours driving (ok I didn’t drive but it’s as hard navigating and worrying about impending van rolling down a cliff). I was trying to make john chill out by being all calm  (I’m sure he thinks that’s utter rubbish)whilst I was a nervous wreck! I could have done with a Valium sandwich.

So I’ll take this time to explain a couple of things. Across France and parts of Spain, there are Aires. These are free overnight parking facilities for mobile homes, well most of the time they’re free but anyway they are a marvellous thing. You generally have a place to park safe and get rid of your dirty water (that’s washing water I’m referring to at the moment). There is of course body waste (wee and poo obviously) which goes into what is called a “cassette!” I have no idea why it has that name, unless the person who invented it listened to a lot of crap music in his youth, but anyhow, that’s its name and generally there are places to remove it or empty it should I say. Not the music cassette the waste water cassette – keep up!. It’s actually very clever, it’s a small box, on wheels which looks nothing like what it is (am I really going into such detail about a sewerage box?) it appears I am, but hey you need to know these things, don’t you agree?. . . No? ok, I’ll shut up. I must point out that this is not my line of duty, its Baxter’s. Not that I’m not in with the whole women are equal debate and I’m sure I would have burnt some bra’s in the day,  it’s just I chose to be a laaaady in this particular matter – women’s prerogative I say.  Anyway before we set off through France we had a particular Aire in mind, only we couldn’t find the damn thing. We saw one initially which was in a supermarket car park but thought no, we can find the one we marked off in a lovely French village, so we carried on to find it. After trailing through what could only be described as boggy farmers fields, nearly getting stuck in the mud, pouring with rain and the dark setting in fast, Baxter declared “well shall we wild camp here”. Wild camping is where you just literally park, no campsite, no Aire, no nothing. looking around to see where he was proposing we “wild park” I can only see a metal gate that leads to a sheep pen!!!! now that’s just stupid camping to me, so obviously we trek back to the supermarket in sées and bunker down there for the night. Not the most glam of places but at least we wouldn’t get shot in the ass by an angry farmer in the morning, plus we had  warm french sticks, ham and cheese with beef tomato all purchased from the very handy supermarket which was gorgeous.

373km completed

Note to self: Do not wait until dark to get a park for the night.

 

Day 3

We woke up at 7am in the car park and had a look around sées it is beautiful in the daylight, typical old French town with café’s,  pâtisserie and boulangerie’s, a beautiful church and town square with a river running through it. The only problem is it was  so quiet and not a thing open. We then realised it was Sunday! After a stroll round we got back in Billy and set off for another long drive. we were heading to Le Mans then on to Oradour-Sur-Glane, next to the nearing town of Limoges in Central France.

John loves the history of WWII. He has had this interest from being a little boy and can tell you so many historic facts about the subject its unbelievable. He amazes me with the amount of information he can spill out on whatever battle or fact is mentioned. My dad would have loved him. As we travel through Northern France he is constantly pointing out places and the atrocities suffered here and there in the war. He has such passion about it, you can’t help but picture everything, and fills me with goose bumps. He had always wanted to go to Oradour-Sur-Glane (although its now mainly abbreviated to Oradour). We had an Aire to aim for to get us to the new village of Oradour, the only problem was getting there. I will spend a lot of time on my next blog about Oradour, as I must do this place justice and give it the respect it deserves to tell you it’s story to the best of my ability. I will add many photographs to illustrate it.

My Garmin sat nav decided to go nuts and sent us on a wild goose chase around the tiniest streets, in the smallest villages in France. Lovely to see, but a bugger to manoeuvre  Billy around. It seems we managed to do a 10km radius in four hours! Now to say I was loosing my cool is an understatement. In fact, if you know me, you already know patience is not my virtue. I developed a need to abuse the said sat nav for hours, until eventually I pulled her off the window and gave  her a good going over (Basil Faulty springs to mind I know).  And her French pronunciation is appalling! Eventually we ignored her for a while and follow signs, would you credit it?! the thing has worked ever since. She just needed some Dicko wrath.

We arrive in the new village of Oradour -Sur – Glane just before dark, not long enough to walk around and put into perspective just how close we was to the origional village. We had a very early night as we were up early in the morning to visit Oradour.

370km covered

Note to self: if it looks like you are going around in circles following our sat nav, then we probably are!

John Booked the Ferry

John Booked the Ferry
IMG_3563
Off We Go

So whilst still in preparation stage in Hull (Ull) living like part time travellers, John (Baxter) announces he has booked the ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge. Now obviously I knew this time was coming, but I expected it to be in a few more weeks, so I was a tad taken aback when he declared we were going in a week! Shock set in a tad, as I looked at him agog thinking, what are we doing?! I don’t think he actually thought we’d ever get off, so in true Baxter style, hey presto, we are seriously going! In a week!!!

My sis and Trevor came over two days before we left, for the grand tour of Billy, which took all of two minutes, we cracked open the champs (well brandy and coke actually) and had a few drinks in the van. It is in fact really cosy in here, if not a little snug for four of us but we managed it, thoroughly enjoyed it, then left to get into a taxi slightly tipsy for a few drinks in Ull. We had arranged prior to go to Ye Olde White Heart public house in the old town, It’s the most historic pub in the city, dating back to 1550 and in 1642 was notoriously known for the plotting of the refusal of entry to the city of the then king Charles I, which, precipitated the first siege of Hull. You can actually go into the plotting room upstairs which is incredibly eerie, and a skull in a glass box behind the bar, which was found whilst renovating the building. Anyway other than the fact it is one of the most haunted pubs in the country (not that I have witnessed anything myself) although many people have, it sells Old Peculiar, which for those of you not in the know, is a gorgeous beer, it’s actually the only beer I like, it isn’t sold very often in Yorkshire, so Baxter and I could be found in there enjoying a pint or two. I’m seriously digressing again . . . . . anyway my sis, Trevor, Baxter and I all piled into the pub, it was freezing and the fires were burning away. My sis, who has always had a bit of a fascination with the after life (even though she isn’t physic in the slightest) was so excited about being in there, she decided to have herself a tour of the plotting room. Now I’m a bit of a wuss so I wasn’t keen on the idea, the Old Peculiar is enough for me, I don’t need to poke my nose in any spirits business, when they may be having a peaceful evening and not in the mood to be pestered. So after having a few drinks we left (not before my sis had decided to antagonise a few spirits first), so much so, I think they just wanted us to leave and take my annoying sister with us. joking apart we had a fab evening and said goodbye in the morning as we were heading off two days later on 19th February 2016 (I know, I know,  I’m so far behind but I’m getting there I promise.