contentedsouls

Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

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Archive for February, 2019

Road trip to Spain–Part 2

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/02/2019

We had travelled through Luxembourg en route and filled up all the gerry cans in the trailer with diesel at 1.03 euros – this lasted both the van and the generator (used to run the fan heater whilst away from houses) but, whilst my ‘catering department one pots’ were also doing well, the wine and pet food departments were both swiftly depleting so it was supermacado time. We pulled off the main road and found one where we could park the van and trailer; not always that easy and, leaving G in the van, trundled off for my first Spanish catering department experience. Only a small supermarket but the fresh fish counter had me dribbling; I couldn’t utilise it in the van (my smelly socks were bad enough) but it foretold, very accurately, of the delights in store for us when we reached Oropesa. If I only want a few things I just take a bag in with me; emptying out my purchases at the till; it seems the Spanish do this too. Unfortunately, the lady in front of me at the checkout queue had done the same but had managed to break something in her bag which was full of a sticky liquid. I stood and twitched, aware that G was waiting for me, as a long Spanish dialogue ensued whilst each item of her shopping was meticulously cleaned off with copious amounts of kitchen roll; followed by the checkout conveyor, the checkout scales between each item and,finally, her ‘bag for life’ meticulously disinfected! When I finally returned to the waiting G I expected to be greeted with, ‘where the hell have you been?’ or, at least, ‘I thought you only wanted a few things!’ but, to his credit, he never said a thing (I mentioned in the previous blog that we were being nice to each other – aware of our small living space!).

We really weren’t far from our destination now so, in much need of showers and dinner out (I, for one, was pretty fed up with the ‘one pots’), we booked into an hotel in Tortosa for two nights. This went fairly well given that we were on the 4th floor with the cat and the dog as we had a lift – except it was the only lift, and the demands on it by both guests and domestic staff were extreme; one cleaning person and associated cleaning/laundry trolley left no room for guests – let alone Muttley – and the wait could be interminable. So what with the 4 flights AND the 3 steep flights up to the main entrance I found it pretty hard going; especially after spending 18 months in the flat lands of the NL. Daisy slept happily in the bidet with no concerns for my pain.

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After soaks in the bath and a nap, we headed down to reception about 5.30 to enquire as to where we could get the best Paella. One of the biggest delights about travelling for me is that a) you have no idea what anyone is talking about b) you have no idea how anything works and c) you don’t understand what anything is on the menu. Our first mistake was that we had become used to the Dutch early eating hours (5.30 – 6.00 pm with everywhere closed by 9.00pm – not in major cities, obviously; but we are not ‘major city’ types of people).

We head off for recommended restaurant and it was closed, so we found a local bar and consumed a beer in leisurely fashion before returning to said restaurant; still closed. No problema (see how quickly I am picking up the lingo), we’ll walk up into the main town and eat there. By now it’s 7 pm and all the shops are open and all the restaurants closed. Somehow we got tied up with young Spanish tourists who spoke English and were heading to a restaurant highly recommended by Trip Advisor so we followed them gladly at their invitation – it was closed. They informed us that it would be open about 8 ish but, by then, we were a long way from the hotel and shattered so we left them to it and headed back. En route home we found a covered market with food stalls open and we sat and picked out delicious Tapas (unlike any I have eaten before or since); we engaged in conversation with two Spanish policemen who were eating there before going on night duty who informed us that we had, ‘found the best Tapas in town’ and we certainly enjoyed them, so all was well that ended well.

Breakfast in the hotel was a sumptuous buffet; the coffee fabulous with the expected choice of juices, cold meat, cheeses, fruit etc. Now, I’m not much of a one for cold foods at anytime of the day, let alone breakfast, so my eyes lit up when I spied eggcups and a big bowl of eggs. I handed my egg, joyfully, to the lady and returned with my coffee to the table to make my bread and butter soldiers whilst I waited the 5 minutes (well 5 fingers held up anyway – so one assumes) that she indicated it would be. I waited and waited. Nothing. I tried to re-engage the conversation with her but she stoically avoided all contact with me. The following day at breakfast I saw a lady pick up an egg and put it in an eggcup – I pounced on her and she was very happy to show me how to squeeze the top of the egg and shell it!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why one needs an eggcup for a sub zero temperature hard boiled egg I’ll never know; it would appear that she had been trying to tell me that the eggs had already been cooked for 5 minutes. However, I’ve jumped the gun and missed our first full day there.

The hotel was right next door to a lovely huge park with an avenue of beautiful Plane trees which was perfect for Muttley and, once again, gloriously warm if you stayed in the sun and out of the wind. Although it did hold one potential hazard – what appeared to be a pergola at the entrance to the park, contained rather a lot of domestic rabbits, so I needed a bit of a detour to find an alternative entrance/exit for fear of frightening the children when Muttley tried to eat them.

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Quick to learn, we went in search of somewhere to buy full fat milk for Daisy before the shops closed at 1.30; I don’t think I have ever seen so many different varieties of milk and, inevitably, I picked up fully skimmed instead of full fat (it clearly said so in English in the small print….doh!). We sat out and had a light lunch of squid and prawns, and I was going to leave the ‘useless’ milk on the table but G handed it to a man begging on the streets, before retiring for our siesta. This time we left for dinner at 8.30pm and the recommended paella restaurant still wasn’t open, so we walked back to the place that the Spanish people had guided us to the night before. By then, of course, it’s well gone 9pm and the place is packed; not a seat to be had if you hadn’t made a reservation! The look on our faces must have been priceless and they took pity on us and said we could eat at the bar if we wished; we did wish, and very good the food was too, but it was way passed my bedtime by the time we left. On the way home we found the begging man had drunk his milk (or tipped it down the drain) and slung the empty carton on the pavement!

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Road trip to Spain

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/02/2019

It didn’t start well! it was lunchtime by the time we set off having winterised the boat and we were both pretty stressed but we found a lovely place to moor park overnight by lake Roermonde. Catering and housekeeping department had cobbled up some decent ‘re-heat in one pan’ meals which we scoffed and walked Daisy and Muttley before assembling the bed for an early night. Happily and soundly asleep, we were woken by the Dutch police who said that we couldn’t stay the night; it was illegal in their province. So poor old G got dressed and, by then wide awake again, drove 1 1/2 hours to a service station near Maastricht on the Dutch/Belgian border. The lady in the van stayed in bed with Daisy. An extremely noisy night with lorries coming and going; so not a lot of sleep.

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The second night we used an app for overnight parking and stayed by the Moselle in Gironde without being hassled and it was really nice to be back in the land of happy bonjour Monsieur/Madame territory and engage with some people playing boule. To our shame, we couldn’t stay awake long enough to avail ourselves of the village bar which would have been nice; but we were so tired after the previous night’s debacle and we re-heated another catering department one pot.

Daisy has taken to sitting on my lap the whole time we travel; which is fine on the motorways but I turn into a pincushion on back roads and roundabouts – it gives a whole new dimension to, ‘3 points of contact’.

It has taken some adjusting for me to live on the van – and no doubt for G too because it has been a bit of a ‘man cave’ for him as he travels to and fro from the NL to England and, usually, sleeps on it whilst there. By the third night we had a bit of a system going; the bed started to free up and pull out more easily and we had learnt that only one of us could move at a time. We also learnt to be gentle with each other because it is not a big enough space to have a row.

Then, of course, there is the toilet issue – l bet you wondered how long it would take me to get around to that subject? I have the porta pottie and we tended to get on the road about 9 ish and stop for breakfast and coffee mid morning and avail ourselves of the facilities. I must have been in my early 20’s when I last did a road trip through France; I remember the service stations as being really clean and with great food compared to their British equivalents – not so anymore. Now I was encountering loos without toilet seats and loos full of men rectifying plumbing; thank goodness the ‘holes with footprints’ days have gone as my knees can’t handle that procedure anymore!!!!! We won’t dwell any longer on this subject; suffice to say it did become a bit of an ‘issue’!

These photos were taken at an overnight stop by the Rhone at Cruas, just outside Montelimar and we were going to go into the city in the morning to load up with sweeties but, to be honest, it was too bloody cold and we wanted to push South to warmer climes asap.

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It was still very cold and, when the wind blew, it was icy as we climbed over the mountains and into Spain. Being ‘off grid’ we couldn’t use the fan heater so relied on the two gas hob rings to warm up the van in the mornings. Unfortunately Daisy (being a heat seeking missile) also gravitated to the gas rings and doesn’t have a lot left in the way of eyebrows or whiskers!

Once we crossed into Spain the motorway service stations took a marked upturn; immaculate loos and bacon and eggs for breakfast AND their coffee is the best I’ve ever drunk. Looking for our place to stay the night we ended up in the craziest, tightest, windiest, mountain village (trailer on the back) with the sat nav playing silly sods and I have no idea how G managed to negotiate through it without taking out someone’s doorstep or window box. He stuffed the phone into my hand and said ‘which way do we go?’. ‘I don’t know where we are so I don’t know’ I responded. ‘Where the blue triangle is’ he replied sharply. ‘If there was a blue triangle I’d know where we were’ I replied angrily. Our first ‘nearly’ a row though; so we’d done well. We did find our ‘place for the night’ but we couldn’t open the doors for the strength of the wind so had to drive back into the valley to find shelter – a shame though as the views were fabulous up top. By the end of our journey the next day the sun was (and continues) shining and the icy winds had gone. Time to slow down and start enjoying ourselves.

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