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 May, 2019

Picnics and punctures

Posted by contentedsouls on 13/05/2019

We made our slow way back to the apartment; sightseeing, lunching out and then finding some nice little overnight places to park. In the early hours of one morning we were woken by a light knock on the door (my first thought was, ‘oh no; not the police saying we can’t stop here – as happened one night in the Netherlands) which sent Muttley ballistic (good boy Muttley). It turned out to be a pretty little yellow breasted wag tail knocking for food; rather like swans at your side-hatches.

The night we arrived back, we had rain overnight – the only rain the whole time we were there – and a howling gale which was strong enough to blow the skips outside up the hill. The wind kept us awake for two consecutive nights and, although  the apartment didn’t rock, it shared many similarities with boat life: the water pressure (never good in the first place) reduced and reduced until, finally, stopping altogether. This involved an emergency summoning of Geronimo and a lot of sympathetically standing with him scratching our heads and looking sadly at his water tanks – which were, apparently, the Spanish equivalent of the bane of his life. Having mustered my sympathetic face for as long as I could manage, I beat a hasty retreat before my supressed giggles exploded; leaving Graham and Geronimo to some extra male bonding time. We also quickly found out that the electric circuits were inadequate. Any attempt to run more than 1 appliance in the kitchen at a time (or any room) resulted in overloading the circuits. However we swiftly developed a morning routine of boiling the kettle for tea, then the toaster, then the coffee machine before running the washing machine when necessary. In the saloon, obviously, Daisy’s fan heater took the ‘one appliance only’ slot but we were able to run the oil filled radiators from other rooms and put them in the saloon (we always have extension leads in the camper).

For the first time in 12 years, since giving up the day job, I started to really feel retired as there was no boat to work on, so our spare time was our own and, once I got over the guilt of such self indulgence, really rather loved it. With only cooking about 3 days a week and making up picnics, our time was our own and I devoured a significant number of books in the sun whilst Graham flew his drone. Not all our picnics were ‘picnics’ though and we did get into a few scrapes due to G’s over enthusiasm for boldly taking a Ford Transit van where no Transit vans should go. There are a lot of marshy national parks which are quite water logged under the apparently dry, firm, surface and we only just managed to extricate ourselves by putting the foot mats under the front wheels when we discovered this the hard way. Another day we set off and drove through a flooded track; only to discover that the bottom was covered in sharp flints!

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Whilst G was wrestling with this ‘little opportunity’, Muttley Daisy and I took ourselves off out of earshot and whiled away an entertaining hour watching a couple trying to persuade their respective horses that they would enjoy a swim – horses 1, people 0!

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G’s plight was helped by the weather as it was one of only two cloudy, chilly days – perfect for when you have heavy, physical work to do. He was also spurred on by the fact that the Rugby 6 Nations would be on later in the afternoon.

This turned out to be the world’s most expensive picnic because, when we went to get the tyre repaired, it was too badly damaged. So we left it at the garage for two new tyres (couldn’t match the other one of course) and to put the new ones on the front and swap the fronts to the back, whilst we toddled off for lunch and a bit of sightseeing. Returning at the appointed hour, we were informed that they couldn’t get the front locking bolt off, so had to put the new tyres on the back. My first thought was delight that the puncture hadn’t been in the front tyre – we really would have been in the do do! We then had to take it somewhere else where they couldn’t sort it out whilst G waited either, but they did commandeer another customer to drive him home and they collected him the next day when it was fixed. In the end it was neither cheap, nor easy, with only the help of my Spanish phrase book.

On another day, a young Italian couple joined our picnic spot, and made the same mistake as us with the marshy stuff. Except, when they felt the front wheels spin, he put his foot down and sank all 4 wheels up to their axles a long way in. International Rescue couldn’t help without getting stuck ourselves, so we called our Spanish friend (previously the son’s au pair) who lived just up the road. She went to a great deal of trouble (including providing an Italian speaker who lived in the village as translator) and got a farmer out on his tractor to pull them out – we only found out later that the rescued couple not only didn’t give him drinks money, but didn’t even recompense him for his petrol. We were mortified as this reflected so badly on us; both as individuals and as Brits.

Around this time, G had a date for his pre-op for his knee replacement. We arranged it so that my friend Wendy could fly out for a week and then they would both drive back to Valencia together to catch their respective flights home. Having booked all this (plus car parking at Valencia and coach ticket to Northampton for G). They promptly cancelled it and the flight was non- refundable! Fortunately, they re-booked his pre-op for the day before his op, so we didn’t have to fork out a second time.

Wendy came out and we had a ball – taking her to our favourite places and finding new ones. It’s such a delight to travel with a ‘native speaking’ friend who can ask the chef to, “choose us food that you would serve your friends”. He chose well! The time flew and all too soon G drove her back to the airport. Shortly after, Mick stopped by overnight (we hadn’t seen him since we wintered together in France when we bought Francoise.

The days drifted away gloriously and we felt that we had all the time in the world but, suddenly, the days were gone and there wasn’t enough time left to do another road trip – it was time to pack up and start the long drive back. Would I do it again? Oh yes!!!!!! I’ve loved this little bit of non-English speaking Spain; the people, the language, the food and the weather.

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A rude awakening by the locals

Posted by contentedsouls on 01/05/2019

I crashed out of a deep sleep by the noise of full pelt bang, thump, base music. Soon followed by shouts of “Orlando, beunos dias” and loud volume, rapid responses in all things Spanish that I couldn’t decipher. Then another radio – again full volume – on a conflicting channel. Within another 5 minutes, the apartment reverberated with the sounds of grinding machines.

We should have thought about this; it was out of season and the time when the apartments are re-furbished for the summer rentals – sitting out on the balcony was impossible for fear of flying debris (i seem to have lost the photos of great chunks of masonry on our balcony from the floor above) and paint! The other thing we should have thought about was the aspect of the apartment; North facing, so it never got a jot of sunshine and was permanently cold. Fortunately we were left 3 oil filled radiators and we had the electric fan heater off of the van – all of which we ran round the clock (even though it was lovely and warm outside). If our rental hadn’t included utilities we’d have been seriously in the do do! Daisy was apalled and took to her ‘cocoon’ in front of the fan heater by day and the bidet next to the radiator, when it was switched off overnight.

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It only took us 2 hours to come to the conclusion that ‘Orlando’ was either hard of hearing or very lazy and we did, quite quickly, get heartily sick of hearing his name being shouted. We were, sort of, pre-warned about the need to access our apartment to paint the balcony by a ring at our doorbell one evening. An elderly gentleman with a beard presented himself with the name of Geronimo – after all the ‘Orlando’ stuff, this was too much for me and I had to remove myself to another room in paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter, leaving G to wrestle with Geronimo’s, self professed, perfect English! I’m sure, when he was born, he was the apple of his Mother’s eye and Geronimo seemed a perfectly good name; or maybe, her labour was so long and so hard that, when he eventually popped out, she shouted Geronimo and the name stuck – I suppose it could have been worse; he could have introduced himself as Eureka! Either way I was, by now, in total hysterics and requiring an emergency supply of Tenna Lady. Needless to say, his ‘perfect English’ took a phone call to our landlady to unravel (and yes, his English was a lot better than my Spanish). We agreed to take ourselves out for the day to leave them access and we packed a picnic and drove down to a deserted beach where Daisy could run free outside. The odd hiker that we encountered was highly enchanted by the idea of me walking a dog and a cat.

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Needless to say, having purposely stayed out of the way all day, they hadn’t got around to starting on our balcony when we arrived back.

Mike and Annie turned up to stay for a couple of nights, which was fabulous as we hadn’t seen them since the ‘excitement’ of Utrecht’s narrow, bendy bridges. We didn’t have a lot of choice re taking them to lunch, but we did find a little pavement bar doing a menu de dias; a beer each, bread, salad, a choice of starters, mains and puds – all in, for 10 euros each. We went back their several times and found that a whole bottle of wine between the two of us was also included!

After their visit, we went on a road trip in the van to visit an old Air Force pal of G’s and take in some of the scenery further South. We had planned to be gone for a week, but told the builders we would be gone for 3 days and wanted the balcony sorted before we arrived back.

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Gary and Rita’s place was lovely and they looked after us so well. Their area was much more geared to English speakers (including a book shop stocking only books in English where I finally managed to purchase a Spanish/English phrase book) than ours, and far more restaurants and shops open. After lunch we watched the fishing boats coming in and going straight through to the auction room.

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Each crate went passed on a conveyor belt and the buyers bid via a hand held device for each numbered crate. A number of species was still alive, like squid, and climbed into adjacent trays – so some would have gained a bit and some lost! Amongst the buyers were the people who owned the adjacent wet fish stall who opened it up and put it straight on sale – doesn’t come much fresher than that and it is all so cheap; very easy to eat both well and cheap in Spain.

We then went up to look at a little, remote, finca which G had seen for sale – just because we could – but the details failed to mention that it was 1 of 3 terraced cottages. Not much point in being beautifully remote if you have two lots of neighbours attached.

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Back at the apartment, the builders had finished with us, but not the rest of the building – we looked forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings when they didn’t work and we could have a lie in….oh no. A bit more into the season now, so the local ‘events’ started up on the beach (a few yards down the road) at the weekends.Whether it be horse racing, cycling, mountain bikes, roller skating, et al; the common denominator was the loudest PA system I’ve ever encountered.

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