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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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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2 Responses to “Picnics and punctures”

  1. Kevin TOO said

    Why so many oranges on the ground? Windfalls or an old abandoned orchard? Free fruit… 🙂 Near Prades (in France) the predominant fruit trees are Peaches and Cherries… the farmers sell at the roadside for ridiculously low prices, yummy, and the aroma in the air is something else 🙂

    Like

    • All windfalls and a very common sight; also lemons. Given that they are being sold at 2 or 3 euros per huge bag, I can’t see how they can possibly make a profit on either – “pull over and help yourself” the locals said (well, they did use different words, but that’s a rough translation).

      Like

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