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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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!

8 Responses to “Road trip to Spain–Part 2”

  1. Sally Ellis said

    Daisy is the most amazing cat that has ever lived. INCREDIBLE.
    And your travels make a fantastic read.
    Looking forward to the next chapter!
    Sally.

    Like

    • She IS extraordinary. The next chapter (I think) has some lovely photos of her walking the beach. She is, however, understandably and sensibly wary of the ferral cats but nothing really phases her so long as I’m about. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog – it takes up a lot of time and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it but it does make nice memories for me too – to look back on when Daisy and I hit the rocking chair with our crochet blanket

      Like

  2. Wendy Paskell said

    I read them

    Like

  3. Gill Stollery said

    Jill, I do enjoy your blogs……make them up into a book!

    Like

    • Thanks Jill, but I think that the auto biography travelogue market has more than reached saturation point. I’m reading ‘Fat dogs and French Estates’ at the moment which is well written and quite funny at times; but they do get a bit ‘samey’

      Like

  4. We were also baffled about the late eating hours on our trip to Spain this February! In San Sebastian – Donostia we settled for Tapas, too. Happy to have done so 😉

    Like

    • I bet Spanish indegestion tablet sales are way above the European average. Really sorry guys; I only just found your comment stuck in pending – further comments should go straight through now!

      Like

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